Articles By Braden Gall

All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

Al Golden is entering a critical fourth season at The U.

 

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

 

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

 

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

2014 Miami Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Miami Schedule

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

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

 

Non-conference build up

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

 

October road trips

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

 

November is at home (at least)

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

Related: 2014 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

2014 Baylor Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Baylor Schedule

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

Non-conference beatdown

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

 

Big 12 outposts

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

 

Austin and Norman

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

 

Down the stretch they come

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

 

Related: 2014 Baylor Bears Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Voters:

 

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

Bryan Fischer, NFL.com (@BryanDFischer)

Chris Huston, HeismanPundit.com (@HeismanPundit)

Kyle Ringo, The Daily Camera (@KyleRingo)

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

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)
 

The Results:

 

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

 

The Stadiums:



 

1. Autzen Stadium, Oregon

Opened: 1967 Capacity: 54,000

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

Listen to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 college football podcast:

 

2. Husky Stadium, Washington

Opened: 1920 Capacity: 70,138

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

 

 

3. Rose Bowl, UCLA

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 92,542

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

 

4. Folsom Field, Colorado

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 53,750

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

 

 

5. Los Angeles Coliseum, USC

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 93,607

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

 

6. Memorial Stadium, Cal

Opened: 1923 Capacity: 62,717

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


7. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah

Opened: 1998 Capacity: 45,017

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

 

8. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State

Opened: 1958 Capacity: 66,000

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

 
9. Arizona Stadium, Arizona

Opened:1928 Capacity: 51,811

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


10t. Stanford Stadium, Stanford

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 50,000

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

 

10t. Reser Stadium, Oregon State

Opened: 1953 Capacity: 45,674

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

 

12. Martin Stadium, Washington State

Opened: 1972 Capacity: 32,248

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

The Voters:


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

David Hood, TigerNet.com (@MDavidHood)

Mark Ennis, ESPN 680 Louisville (@MarkEnnis)

David Glenn, ACC Sports Journal (@DavidGlennShow)

Greg Barnes, InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina)

Jerry DiPaola, Pitt Tribune-Review (@JDiPaola_Trib)

Gary Ferman, CaneSport.com (@CaneSport)

Bob Ferrante, BleacherReport (@BobFerrante)

Adam Powell, TarHeelIllustrated.com (@HeelIllustrated)

Nate Mink, Syracuse.com (@MinkNate)

Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSteven)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)

 

The Results:

 

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

The Stadiums:



1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson

Opened: 1942 Capacity: 81,500

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


Listen to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast:

 


2. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State

Opened: 1950 Capacity: 82,300

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


3. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech

Opened: 1965 Capacity: 65,632

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

 

4. Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville

Opened: 1998 Capacity: 55,000

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

 

 

5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State

Opened: 1966 Capacity: 60,000

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

 

6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech

Opened: 1913 Capacity: 55,000

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

 

7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 62,980

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

 

 

8. Scott Stadium, Virginia

Opened: 1931 Capacity: 61,500

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

 

9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Opened: 1980 Capacity: 49,262

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

 

10. Sun Life Stadium, Miami

Opened: 1987 Capacity: 80,120

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

 

 

11. Heinz Field, Pitt

Opened: 2001 Capacity: 65,050

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

 

12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College

Opened: 1957 Capacity: 44,500

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

13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest

Opened: 1968 Capacity: 31,500

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

 

14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 33,941

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

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC Stadiums for 2014 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-football-2014-schedule-analysis
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

2014 Texas A&M Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Texas A&M Schedule

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

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

 

No worries in the non-conference

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

 

October in the West

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

 

Home cooking

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

 

Related: 2014 Texas A&M Aggies Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

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

Teaser:
Texas A&M Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/experts-poll-ranking-sec-stadiums-2014
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Voters:


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

Steven Godfrey, SBNation (@38Godfrey)

Billy Liucci, TexAgs.com (@BillyLiucci)

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

Jon Cooper, SaturdayDownSouth (@JonSDS)

Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph (@SethEmerson)

Barrett Sallee, BleacherReport (@BarrettSallee)

Reed Carringer, FootballTimeInTennessee (@FootballTimeMag)

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports (@AthlonMitch)

David Fox, Athlon Sports (@DavidFox615)

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports/SiriusXM (@BradenGall)

 

The Results:

 

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

The Stadiums:
 


1. Tiger Stadium, LSU

Opened: 1924 Capacity: 100,000

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

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2. Kyle Field, Texas A&M

Opened: 1904 Capacity: 102,500*

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


3. Sanford Stadium, Georgia

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 92,746

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

 

4. Neyland Stadium, Tennessee

Opened: 1921 Capacity: 102,455

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

 
5. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama

Opened: 1929 Capacity: 101,821

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

 

6. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida

Opened: 1930 Capacity: 88,548

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


7. Jordan-Hare Stadium, Auburn

Opened: 1939 Capacity: 87,451

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

 

8. Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina

Opened: 1934 Capacity: 80,250

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


9t. Donald W. Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium, Arkansas

Opened: 1938 Capacity: 72,000

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

 

9t. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss

Opened: 1915 Capacity: 60,580

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


11. Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium, Missouri

Opened: 1927 Capacity: 77,000

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

 

12. Davis Wade Stadium, Mississippi State

Opened: 1914 Capacity: 61,337*

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


13. Commonwealth Stadium, Kentucky

Opened: 1973 Capacity: 67,692

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

 

14. Vanderbilt Stadium, Vanderbilt

Opened: 1922 Capacity: 40,350

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


2014 Pitt Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Pitt Schedule

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

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

 

Starting unblemished

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

 

Crossover play

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

 

Coastal round-robin

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

 

November road trips

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

 

Related: 2014 Pitt Panthers Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

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

 

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

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

 

3. Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

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

 

4. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

7. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

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

 

8. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

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

 

9. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

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

 

10. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

13. Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)

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

 

14. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)

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

 

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

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

 

16. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

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

 

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

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

 

18. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

21. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

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

 

22. Northwestern at Notre Dame (Nov. 15)

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

 

23. BYU at Boise State (Oct. 24)

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

 

24. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29)

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

 

25. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

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

 

26. Tennessee at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)

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

 

27. Minnesota at TCU (Sept. 13)

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

 

28. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

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

 

29. Arkansas at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

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

 

30. Nebraska at Fresno State (Sept. 13)

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

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Kirk Ferentz enters 2014 with a very different attitude than he did a year ago.

 

Iowa walked into 2013 having lost eight games the year before and talk about Ferentz' job security was bubbling over. But on the strength of three star linebackers and an improved offense, the Hawkeyes bounced back in a big way.

 

Iowa won more games than it had in four seasons and both sides of the ball showed mark improvement. The defense went from ninth in the Big Ten to second while the offense went from 310.4 yards per game (11th in the Big Ten) to 376.9 ypg.

 

The task at hand for Ferentz and company now is to maintain success and show his team can compete in a new division. The good news for Iowa fans is the schedule sets up very well for the Hawkeyes to do just that in 2014:

 

2014 Iowa Schedule Analysis

 
2014 Iowa Schedule
DateOpp.
Aug. 30Northern Iowa
Sept. 6
Sept. 13
Sept. 20at 
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4Bye
Oct. 11
Oct. 18at 
Oct. 25Bye
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at 
Nov. 15at
Nov. 22
Nov. 28

No joke non-conference

There is no marquee showdown with, say, Oregon or Notre Dame like some other Big Ten teams, but Iowa plays a pretty interesting and tricky non-conference slate. Despite dominating the game last year, anything can happen against Iowa State when those two in-state rivals battle for the Cy-Hawk. And the road trip to Pitt will be extremely testy on Sept. 20. An unblemished record out of the conference would be a significant victory for both Iowa and the Big Ten and would give Ferentz and company a lot of momentum heading into the B1G slate.

 

Lucky crossover

There is no Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State or Michigan on the schedule for Iowa this year. Those are the best four teams in the East Division and Iowa will miss all four. The Hawks will host Indiana on Oct. 11 and visit Maryland on Oct. 18. In fact, the entire month of October should be a breeze for Iowa as those will be the only two games on the schedule during that month. A bye week to begin (Oct. 4) and to end (Oct. 25) October should allow for Iowa to regroup after the first five weeks and get refreshed for the toughest portion of the schedule — which is…

 

Beware of November

There is an outside shot that Iowa is perfect heading into the final month of the season. November is when things get interesting for the Hawkeyes with the hardest four Big Ten games of the season taking place in the final five weeks. The month begins with a visit from Northwestern before Iowa goes on the road for back-to-back games with Minnesota and Illinois. But after 12 weeks of play, the entire season for Iowa likely comes down to the final two games.

 

Season Finale(s)

A case could easily be made that Iowa will play a two-game schedule in 2014. The last two games of the year will feature home games with West Division front-runner Wisconsin and heartland rival Nebraska. These two games were decidedly different last year for Ferentz, as Iowa was trounced by the Badgers at home (28-9) and smoked the Huskers in Lincoln (38-17). The win last year over Nebraska was the first in the series for Iowa since 1981 and, actually, the Hawkeyes have lost three of the last four against both Big Reds in Iowa City.
 

Related: 2014 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

Iowa is picked to finish second in the division due in large part to the luck of their Big Ten schedule. With none of the best teams (other than Wisconsin) on the slate, the Hawkeyes should be able to pile up wins in ’14. If Iowa can reverse the recent trend against both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home, then it has a good shot of winning the West and playing in its first Big Ten title game. Even if the Hawkeyes don’t win the division, a nine-win season is well within reach for the once embattled coaching staff.

Teaser:
Iowa Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 13:00
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Scheduling played a huge role in Kliff Kingsbury’s first season as the head coach at Texas Tech.

 

He began his career with seven straight wins but didn’t win a single game over a team who went to a bowl game last season. Then Texas Tech faced Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor and Texas over the final month of the regular season, and lost all five contests. The Red Raiders came up short in every game they played against a bowl team (until the actual bowl game).

 

The season-ending Holiday Bowl upset over Arizona State, a team that posted the best record in the Pac-12 last year, has buoyed expectations for Kingsbury and Texas Tech in 2014. The second-year coach has his quarterback situation settled with Davis Webb already named the starter and, with a more balanced schedule this year, could show improvement over the 4-5 Big 12 record from last year.

 

2014 Texas Tech Schedule Analysis

 

2014 Texas Tech Schedule

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

S-E-C, S-E-C, S-E-C

The non-conference slate features Central Arkansas and a road trip to UTEP, both of which should be easy wins for Texas Tech. A visit from SEC program Arkansas in Week 3, however, provides some serious intrigue. The Razorbacks were winless (0-8) in the SEC last year but are still talented and physical. A convincing win over an SEC team is something to celebrate no matter how good or bad the opponent is. A 3-0 non-conference mark is likely and Texas Tech fans will know a lot more about this team by Week 3.

 

Road trips to start Big 12

Tech starts Big 12 play with back-to-back road trips to Stillwater and Manhattan. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 title in 2011 and was one play away from winning the league last year. Kansas State won the Big 12 title in 2012 and is eyeing another run at the crown this season. Tech lost to both teams last year and allowed a total of 101 points against the Pokes and Wildcats. An 0-2 start to the season would be a disappointing start to conference play this year but may be likely. Ok-State is rebuilding more than KSU and an upset in the Big 12 opener on the road with two weeks to prepare could launch Texas Tech into a great season because…

 

October provides wins

Should Tech figure out a way to split with Oklahoma State and Kansas State on the road, things set up nicely for the Red Raiders to make a strong run in October. West Virginia and Kansas at home are must wins and should pose little threat to Texas Tech in Lubbock. The month wraps up with a road trip to TCU — another shot at a key upset — following a bye weekend. On a side note, the Xs and Os battle between Gary Patterson’s defense and Kingsbury’s offense should be must-see TV every year.

 

Nasty November

Should the Red Raiders make it to November still in Big 12 contention, the final month of the season should provide plenty of fireworks. Texas Tech will host both Texas and league favorite Oklahoma in back-to-back games with an off weekend between the two. This gives two weeks for Kingsbury to prepare for the Sooners. A long road trip to a distant Big 12 outpost (Ames) is the only comfort in the final month as a neutral site game in Arlington with Baylor looms on the final weekend.

 

Related: 2014 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview

 

Final Verdict

There is a good chance that 2014 has a similar path for Kingsbury as '13 did, although, it won’t be nearly as lopsided. There are a lot of wins to be had in the first three months of the season and with one upset (Oklahoma State, for example), Tech could be right in the thick of the Big 12 title race entering November. With three of the best teams in the league on the schedule in the final month, it’s this part of the schedule that will define the Red Raiders' season.

Teaser:
Texas Tech Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Friday, June 13, 2014 - 11:00
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Vanderbilt has been to three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and is breaking in a new head coach. Derek Mason is possibly the only first-year head coach in school history who is faced with expectations and pressure to win right out the gate.

This, from a traditional bottom feeder in the nation’s toughest league. Yes, times have certainly changed in Nashville.

That said, the fans’ optimism about the Dores chances at reaching the postseason is justified. Mason returns arguably the most talented roster in school history with a great backfield and excellent front seven on defense. And those two strengths set up perfectly for what Mason wants his program to be. His identity at Stanford was about being physical up front on both sides of the ball, running the rock and playing sound defense. This roster sets up nicely to quickly develop a personality similar to that of the Cardinal.

It helps, of course, that there are a lot of wins to be had on the 2014 schedule as well.

2014 Vanderbilt Schedule Analysis

Cakewalk non-conference

2014 Vanderbilt Schedule

WkDateOpp.
1.Aug. 28
2.Sept. 6
3.Sept. 13
4.Sept. 20
5.Sept. 27at 
6.Oct. 4at 
7.Oct. 11Charleston So.
8.Oct. 18Bye
9.Oct. 25at 
10.Nov. 1
11.Nov. 8
12.Nov. 15Bye
13.Nov. 22at 
14.Nov. 29

The first thing about the Commodores schedule to point out is the non-conference schedule. Vanderbilt is a team and Mason is a coach who needs to pick up wins out of the SEC the ’14 slate provides that opportunity. Temple, UMass, Charleston Southern and Old Dominion are as easy a non-con slate as there is in the SEC and Vandy should easily be 4-0. Any loss in that group would be considered a tremendous disappointment.

Early swing games at home

Vandy won’t leave the friendly confines of Nashville until a trip to Kentucky in Week 5. Two of those four home tilts, however, will come against SEC title contenders in South Carolina (Week 4) and Ole Miss (Week 2 - at LP Field). The Dores have played very well against these two programs at home but have lost to both in Nashville the last two visits. Expect a lot of fans dressed in some shade of red to be at both games. An 0-2 start to the SEC schedule is very possible.

On the road in October

The trip to Lexington on Sept. 27 will be tough as the Wildcats are improving and may be the only SEC win Vandy can pencil in during the first two months of the season. The game against Kentucky marks a tough road stretch that will feature three road SEC games in a four-game span, including trips to East Division frontrunner Georgia (Week 6) and defending division champ Missouri (Week 9) during the month of October. The good news is what amounts to back-to-back off weekends in between. Vandy hosts Charleston Southern and gets an off weekend between games with the Dawgs and Tigers. 

Finishing strong is a must

Three of the last four games in 2014 will come at home and will feature a must-win (ODU), a rivalry swing game (Tennessee) and best chance for an upset (Florida). Vandy beat both Tennessee and Florida last year but both expect to be much improved, so wins are not locks this year. Mix in a very difficult trip to Starkville to face Mississippi State between the Gators (Week 11) and Vols (Week 14). Again, the good news is a bye week falls on Week 12, giving Mason and his staff two weeks to prepare for the important final two week stretch.

Related: 2014 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview

Final Verdict

The non-conference slate all but assures that Vandy will return to a bowl game. A 2-6 record is likely all Mason will need to get to the postseason. That said, the East Division continues to improve around Vanderbilt and the crossover slate is really tough with both Magnolia State schools showing marked improvement. Another nine wins seems like a long shot but there is no reason to think Vandy can’t have another winning season.

 

Teaser:
Vanderbilt Football 2014 Schedule Analysis
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There are some concerning trends in Big 12 football these days. Elite recruits aren’t signing with the league like they used to, they aren’t getting drafted into the NFL and this league took it right on the chin in the non-conference a year ago.

 

Texas lost to BYU, Ole Miss and Oregon in out-of-league play a year ago. TCU lost to LSU, West Virginia was crushed by Maryland, Kansas State was upset at home by North Dakota State, Iowa State lost the Cy-Hawk Trophy to rival Iowa and Kansas even lost to Rice.

 

The state of Oklahoma won the two best non-con games in the regular season last year when the Sooners won at Notre Dame and the Cowboys topped Mississippi State in Houston in the season opener. That’s it, folks. Otherwise, the Big 12 completely wet the bed in non-conference play.

 

Even the bowl season was a mixed bag. Oklahoma’s win over Alabama was huge, Texas Tech pulled a major upset over Arizona State and Kansas State topped Michigan. But the conference champion Baylor Bears gave up 53 points to UCF in a Fiesta Bowl loss, Texas was crushed in the Alamo Bowl by the Ducks and Oklahoma State allowed 41 points in a loss to Missouri in the Cotton Bowl.

 

There are marquee showdowns in the non-conference again this year but the Big 12 needs to win some of these big-time games to improve the overriding trajectory of the league.

 

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

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

 

2. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

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

 

3. BYU at Texas (Sept. 6)

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

 

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

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

 

5. Tennessee at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)

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

 

6. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

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

 

7. Minnesota at TCU (Sept. 13)

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

 

8. TCU at SMU (Sept. 27)

The Battle for the Iron Skillet may not seem like a big-time rivalry game nationally, but inside the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, there is a long history between these two programs. The Frogs and Mustangs have played 93 times with TCU leading the series 46-40-7. TCU has won two straight and 12 of the last 14, so SMU is looking to end the Horned Frogs' recent run of domination.

 
9. Arkansas at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

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

 

10a. West Virginia vs. Alabama (Aug. 30, Atlanta)

This game is worth noting just because any time Alabama is on a football field it matters to the nation. Unfortunately, the Crimson Tide has dominated games in Atlanta to kick off the season and West Virginia might be its worst opponent yet. This one will be really, really, really ugly.

 

10b. Kansas at Duke (Sept. 13)

Charlie Weis is dealing with some major heat as the head coach at Kansas and David Cutcliffe is now dealing with expectations in Durham for the first time in program history. If the Jayhawks don’t at least look respectable in a non-conference tilt against the traditionally weakest ACC program, Weis' time in Lawrence could be kaput.

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Big 12's Top 10 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
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The 20th World Cup is upon us and you don’t care at all, do you?

 

I know it is going to be an uphill battle trying to convince you, a proud American, lover of freedom, democracy and contact sports, that you should watch the FIFA World Cup. I realize this is a fool’s errand but I am going to give it the old college try.

 

Because I love the World Cup. And so should you. Here are 10 reasons you should tune in to the 2014 World Cup:

 

World’s Largest Sporting Event

It’s not called the South American Cup or the European Cup, it’s The World Cup, people. The Olympics is the only sporting event that really even comes close to the international intrigue and passion that this event offers. Futbol — hereto for called soccer — is the most popular sport in the world and is akin to religion for most countries not called America. Fans and teams from 32 different nations all converge on one country every four years to earn the most coveted international trophy in sports. Cultures clash, fans mingle, beverages are consumed and only one nation can stand above the rest after a month-long battle. These are the greatest players in the world all playing in one unified tournament. What’s not to love about that?

 

The FIFA Commentary

John Oliver of HBO went off on FIFA last weekend. He began, “I want to talk to you about the sausage principle. It says, if you love something, never find out how it’s made.” Oliver then went on to point out the unbelievable layers of corruption that course through the world’s largest soccer organization. The good broadcasters should cover the 2014 World Cup in its entirety and that includes the dark side of FIFA. Among the topics that will likely be discussed at some point are: local economies, bribes, poverty, protests and a $270 million stadium that will be used for four games and can’t be really be reached by car since it’s so far into the Brazilian jungle. So keep your ears peeled for talking heads destroying the international soccer organization. It should be must-see TV and Oliver could be just the beginning:

 

Because you love your country

The United States is the biggest dog on most sporting blocks. But not in soccer, where we are consistently one of the bigger underdogs in the world. The US Men’s National Team (USMNT) hasn't finished inside of the top eight in the World Cup since the debut event in 1930 (3rd) — the best we've done is 10th (1950) and eighth (2002). Our country has only reached the quarterfinals twice ('30, ’02) in the eight-decade history of the event. Should we emerge from the Group of Death this time around, all insufferable Americans would go berserk — much to the chagrin of every other nation in the world. The United States dominates most major sports on this globe and soccer is the last remaining field (or pitch, as they say) we’ve yet to conquer. We begin the World Cup on June 16 at 6 p.m. ET against Ghana. U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

 

Jurgen Klinsmann

After the US finished a disappointing 12th in 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the USMNT hired one of the most famous European soccer names in the business to be their coach. Klinsmann, from Goppingen, Germany, was a striker on zee West German team that won the 1990 FIFA World Cup championship and went on to coach Germany’s national team from 2004-08, including a third-place finish in the 2006 World Cup. Now, charged with rebuilding American soccer, Klinsmann has to face his own country in group play. The US will play Germany Thurs., June 26 at noon ET.

 

Brazilian Fans

The people of Brazil love soccer. They also love bikinis, beaches and the sunshine. The Brazilian culture is one of the most vibrant in the world and the images from South America should be spectacular. The crowd shots during every game will be loaded with beautiful scenery in the stands and the cutaways to the local beaches will be even better. Just look at her. Or them.

 

No commercials

Uh, hello? We all hate commercials and one of the coolest reasons to watch World Cup soccer matches is that they can fly by free of commercial interruption. There is a short break at halftime obviously that will be full of advertisement, but during the first and second half of action, we will not be inundated with 30-second spots. What a great way to watch a sporting event.

 

Julian Green and the new faces

One of the reasons Klinsmann was hired was his influence on luring semi-German players to the US Team. Julian Green is a 19-year old phenom who is one of 17 players making their World Cup debut this year. Green is also one of four players with deep ties to Germany, either growing up or being born there. Defensemen John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin are only 21 and 20 years of age respectively. Fabian Johnson (26) is another name to watch as well. However, it’s not just the youth that will be fun to watch as a guy like Kyle Beckerman, at age 32, is making his WC debut. He is second all-time among midfielders in MLS history with 335 games played.

 

Tim Howard can do this

The best player on the US team is goalkeeper Tim Howard. He has 100 caps and is the third longest tenured player on the team behind only Clint Dempsey (105) and DeMarcus Beasley (116). He is one of the best keepers in the world and this is all you need to know about how good he is: 

 

Corruption and the favelas

There has been no hiding the corruption that runs through both the Brazilian government and FIFA alike. And when millions of fans pour millions of dollars into a corrupt and dangerous economy, anything can happen. No other place in the country will exhibit this strange dichotomy of glitzy night life and extreme poverty than in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Favela is a term used to describe the different slums or neighborhoods surrounding Rio and each is controlled with brutal authority by a different drug cartel. Something is bound to occur that will steal headlines from the best soccer players in the world.

 

There's nothing else on

The NBA Finals, NHL Stanley Cup Final and the College World Series will all be over in less than two weeks. At that point, the average sports fan will enter the slowest portion of the sports calendar year. Other than regular season baseball games, the World Cup has very little to compete with on the television set in terms of your daily sports diet. So tune in, folks, and cheer for your country.

 

Please? (I promise, you won't be disappointed.)

Teaser:
10 Reasons You Should Watch the 2014 World Cup
Post date: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 07:15
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If there is one league in college football this season that needs to take it easy in the non-conference slate, it’s the Pac-12.

 

Larry Scott has built what could be the best conference in college football in 2014 and it would make sense for most of the programs to take it easy outside of their league. But, for most of the contenders out West this fall, that couldn't be further from the truth.

 

The Pac-12 will play marquee showdowns with the Big Ten, Big 12 and three times with Notre Dame. Here are the best non-conference games to watch in the Pac-12 this fall:

 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

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

 

2.Stanford at Notre Dame (Oct. 4)

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

 

3. Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 29)

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

 

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

UCLA has South Division title hopes and possibly more as Brett Hundley enters his third season under center. Texas will be three weeks into the Charlie Strong Era in Austin and will provide a nasty early-season test for the Bruins on a “neutral field” in Dallas. The Longhorns will be a much more disciplined and focused team under the new regime, so if the Bruins expect to compete for a playoff spot this fall, an early season slip-up must be avoided.

 

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

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

 

6. Colorado vs. Colorado State (Aug. 29, Denver)

West of the Mississippi, this is one of the more heated and underrated rivalries in the college game. And with two quality, semi-new head coaches in Jim McElwain (3rd year) and Mike MacIntrye (2nd year), this game should develop into a M(a)cShowdown every year in Denver. Colorado State won (22-17) two years ago before MacIntrye got the Buffs back on track (41-27) last fall.

 

7. Big Ten Round-Robin (September)

The Big Ten and Pac-12 won’t just face off in Eugene or the Rose Bowl this year. Utah visits Michigan on Sept. 20. Washington State and Rutgers will meet in Seattle on Aug. 28. And Illinois will visit Washington on Sept. 13. While there is no marquee team in the bunch, there are conference bragging rights on the line in this trio of Big 5 games. Both Michigan and Utah expect to be respectable teams and fans certainly haven’t forgotten the last time the Utes visited the Big House. In 2008, Utah, led by quarterback Brian Johnson, topped the Wolverines 25-23 en route to a perfect season.

 

8. Nevada at Arizona (Sept. 13)

Neither team is an elite squad nationally but both offenses are traditionally extremely productive and entertaining to watch. The Wolfpack are expected to be a contender in the Mountain West Conference's West Division and Arizona is trying to get over the hump in the Pac-12 South. This might be the best non-conference game Rich Rodriguez has played since arriving in Tucson — he’s 6-0 in non-conference play and 8-10 in Pac-12 games in two years.

 

9. USC at Boston College (Sept. 13)

The Trojans' three non-conference foes in 2014 will all be rematches from a year ago (Fresno State not listed here). Boston College and Heisman finalist Andre Williams went out to L.A. last September and got crushed 35-7. Despite that loss, Steve Addazio still took a two-win team from 2012 and led them to seven wins. Despite losing Williams, Boston College could sneak up on USC early in the year if the Men of Troy aren’t careful.

 

10. UCLA at Virginia (Aug. 30)

Wait, a preseason top 10 team in the nation visiting a bad ACC team with a head coach that is teetering on the brink of unemployment? Well, backed into a corner, Mike London and the Cavaliers pulled a huge upset over BYU in the season opener last year at home. To have a chance against UCLA, London and the Wahoos better pray for more rainy conditions. Or else the Bruins will do what Oregon did to Virginia in Week 2 (which was a 59-10 win).

Teaser:
Pac-12's Top 10 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
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The ACC may be the defending champion of college football but it has a long way to go before it earns the type of respect its regional rival, the SEC, gets nationally. Some of that can be attributed to the struggles the league has had outside of its conference — especially, against the SEC.

 

Florida State rolled up a big number on Florida and outlasted Auburn in the BCS title game, however, the rest of the league hasn’t been as fortunate. Clemson has lost five straight to South Carolina. Georgia Tech has lost five straight and 12 out of 13 to Georgia and was beaten by Ole Miss last year in the Music City Bowl. Both North Carolina and Virginia Tech were stomped in season openers against South Carolina and Alabama respectively. Duke lost to Texas A&M in a memorable Chick-fil-A Bowl. Even Vanderbilt has beaten up on the ACC of late, going 4-0 over the last three years against the league.

 

There is reason for optimism, however, and it’s not just Florida State. Clemson beat Georgia in the season opener last year and then topped Ohio State in the Orange Bowl for its first and only BCS bowl win. Miami did beat Florida early in the year, albeit one of the worst Gator teams in school history. Notre Dame has been added to four schedules every season, offering multiple teams a chance to knock off a quality opponent. And Louisville joins the mix this year with its annual Bluegrass State bout with Kentucky.

 

The ACC on the whole is getting better, there is no doubt, but key wins over quality non-conference opponents might be the only way to gain national respect. Like most years, there will be plenty of great opportunities for that very thing in 2014:

 

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

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

 

2. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

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

 

3. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

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

 

4. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

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

 

5. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

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

 

6. Louisville at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)

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

 

Related: Complete ACC Football Predictions for 2014

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 
10. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

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

 

11. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29)

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

 

12. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

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

 

Others games to watch:

 

USC at Boston College (Sept. 13)

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame (Sept. 27, East Rutherford)

Cincinnati at Miami (Oct. 11)

UCLA at Virginia (Aug. 30)

Teaser:
ACC's Top 12 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
Post date: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-tens-top-10-must-see-non-conference-games-2014
Body:

The Big Ten is in desperate need of some non-conference success.

 

This league has begun to fall behind the rest of the biggest boys in college football and some marquee non-conference wins — along with expansion — is a great way to regain some national respect.

 

In 2014, the Big Ten has plenty of opportunities for headline grabbing wins against national powerhouses (like LSU or Oregon). Because after what happened to the Big Ten a year ago outside of the league was downright shameful.

 

Michigan beat Notre Dame and Wisconsin beat BYU. That’s about it as far as marquee non-conference wins for the league. (For the record, Notre Dame also beat Michigan State and Purdue).

 

The B1G went 5-4 against Power 5 teams and those five wins came against 1-11 Cal (twice), 6-6 Syracuse (twice) and 3-9 Iowa State. The league lost to every quality opponent it faced from a Big 5 league — UCLA, Missouri, Arizona State and Washington — while also taking losses to Navy, UCF, Northern Illinois and Cincinnati (well, mostly just Purdue, but you get the point).

 

Not only are there marquee showdowns on the slate for this league in ’14 but the matchups are fairly even and the Big Ten could easily win one or two meaningful non-conference tilts. Here are the top 10 most important out of league bouts for the Big Ten in 2014:
 

1. Michigan State at Oregon (Sept. 6)

It cannot be overstated what a win for Michigan State in this game would mean for the Big Ten. Not only would it give the league a marquee non-conference win over a playoff contender on the road, but Mark Dantonio would send a massive shot across the B1G bow that Sparty isn’t going anywhere. A win would put MSU in the Big Ten driver’s seat and would immediately place the Spartans in playoff contention. That said, with a rebuilt defense, stopping Oregon on the road in Week 2 will be a tall order.

 

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

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

 

3. Michigan at Notre Dame (Sept. 6)

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

 

4. Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20)

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

 

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

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


Related: Complete Big Ten Football Predictions for 2014

 

6. Iowa at Pitt (Sept. 20)

Pitt is going to be one of the most improved teams in the ACC this year and will give Iowa all it can handle at home in Week 4. The Hawkeyes are spying a run at a West Division title and while games with Pitt and Iowa State don’t impact the standings, two wins over those foes will catapult Kirk Ferentz’s squad into conference play with tremendous confidence.

 

7. Iowa State at Iowa (Sept. 13)

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

 

8. Northwestern at Notre Dame (Nov. 15)

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

 

9. Nebraska at Fresno State (Sept. 13)

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

 

10. Minnesota at TCU (Sept. 13)

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

 

Other games to watch:

 

Penn State vs. UCF (Aug. 30, Dublin)

It’s James Franklin’s debut, the game is in Ireland and there will be revenge on the mind of Penn State.

 

Bowling Green at Wisconsin (Sept. 20)

The Falcons are going to be sneaky good and UW better not take them lightly.

 

Cincinnati at Ohio State (Sept. 27)

The Bearcats are the frontrunner for the AAC crown and the regional rivalry adds some interest.

 

Indiana at Missouri (Sept. 20)

Two great passing offenses could rack up a boatload of points in an SEC-Big Ten bout.

 

West Virginia at Maryland (Sept. 13)

An under-the-radar rivalry that needs to be dubbed the Steve Slaton Bowl.

Teaser:
Big Ten's Top 10 Must-See Non-Conference Games of 2014
Post date: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/top-10-must-see-non-conference-sec-games-2014
Body:

Obviously, non-conference games have zero impact on conference championships.


But in the SEC, the nation's best and most cut-throat league, a critical non-conference win or loss can mean the difference between playing for a national championship or being relegated to just another bowl game.


Many are quick to point out the SEC's dearth of atrocious matchups in the non-conference in November — Eastern Kentucky (Florida), Charleston Southern (Georgia), South Alabama (South Carolina), Old Dominion (Vanderbilt), Western Carolina (Alabama), Samford (Auburn), UT-Martin (Mississippi State) and Presbyterian (Ole Miss).


But Nick Saban, Les Miles, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina have all challenged themselves year in and year out when it comes to their non-SEC slates. Here are the 10 best non-conference games to watch in the SEC in 2014:


1. South Carolina at Clemson (Nov. 29)

As far as deeply entrenched rivalries and overall importance of the game to the national landscape go, it's hard to argue the Palmetto State season finale won't be the biggest non-conference game in the league. Carolina and Steve Spurrier are eyeing an SEC East title and possible playoff berth, so a loss to the Tigers for the first time since 2008 would be crippling to those hopes. During the five-game winning streak, the Gamecocks have scored between 27 and 34 points while holding Clemson to 17 points or fewer.


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

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


3. Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29)

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


4. Auburn at Kansas State (Sept. 18)

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


5. Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)

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


Related: 2014 SEC Football Predictions


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

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


7. Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29)

Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate featured one of the best comebacks and finishes of the season last year. After leading 20-0 for most of the first half, Georgia finally got on the board with a Hutson Mason to Todd Gurley TD pass with 34 seconds left in the second quarter. Mason, who was making his first career start, kept the rally going, eventually sending the game into overtime tied at 27. In double-overtime, Gurley rumbled 25 yards for the improbable win. Anything close to that in '14 and this Peach State battle will be one of the top non-conference games of the year.


8. Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29)

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


9. Tennessee at Oklahoma (Sept. 13)

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


10. Arkansas at Texas Tech (Sept. 13)

Fans in Fayetteville and around the SEC may learn all they need to know about the Hogs in Week 3. Should Bret Bielema's team play well in Lubbock or even pull the upset, then Arkansas could be a much bigger factor in the SEC than expected. If not and Kliff Kingsbury out tempos the Razorbacks, it could signal a long year for Pig Sooie. This is a huge game for Bielema and his staff.


Other games to watch:


Indiana at Missouri (Sept. 20)

There should be a lot of offense in what is Mizzou's toughest non-conference tilt.

Utah State at Tennessee (Aug. 31)

Vols fans will get to watch Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton's return to college football in what should be a sneaky good Week 1 game.

West Virginia vs. Alabama (Aug. 30, Atlanta)

It won't be the matchup many thought it would be when it was scheduled, but anytime Nick Saban or Dana Holgorsen is on the field, fans need to pay attention.

UCF at Missouri (Sept. 13)

The Knights want to prove they have staying power after a 12-win season and BCS bowl victory. A trip to Mizzou is a good way to do it.

East Carolina at South Carolina (Sept. 6)

Ruffin McNeil historically plays very well against the big boys of his region. Spurrier and company better be ready.

Teaser:
Top 10 must-see non-conference SEC games of 2014
Post date: Monday, June 9, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/colin-kaepernick-best-qb-nfl
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As far as headlines go, that one is a doozy, right?

 

However, the San Francisco 49ers made it all possible by making fourth-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick the highest paid signal-caller in the NFL this week. This, for a guy who has made 23 professional regular season starts in his career.

It has been reported by many outlets (ESPN’s Adam Schefter, NFL’s Ian Rapoport) that the 49ers inked Kaepernick to a six-year, $110 — or $126 million, depending on who you read — contract this week with an NFL-high $61 million in guaranteed money. The deal keeps him entrenched in the Bay Area through 2020.

 

In the NFL, the overall value of the deal is always extremely nebulous unlike contracts in Major League Baseball or the NBA. So analyzing the guaranteed money is the best way to compare this deal with other massive quarterback contracts in the NFL.

 

The $61 million makes the SanFran QB the highest paid player in the NFL with Matt Ryan ($59 million), Tom Brady ($57 million), Drew Brees ($55 million), Tony Romo ($55) and Aaron Rodgers ($54 million) playing second fiddle to No. 7 in terms of guaranteed money.

 

Clearly, no one can intelligently argue that Colin Kaepernick is a better player than Ryan, Brady, Brees or Rodgers. So how can the 49ers justify a nine-figure investment in a player who hasn’t been a starter for two full seasons yet — on a team that was last in the NFL in pass attempts a year ago no less?

 

Related: Order your San Francisco 49ers 2014 preview magazine

 

While he is extremely young and extremely inexperienced, Kaepernick, at times, looks like the future of the position with his elite athletic ability and big-time throwing arm. He has set NFL playoff rushing records for a quarterback and has totaled 937 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in 23 regular season starts. While he has just two career 300-yard passing games and 11 starts in which he failed to even reach 200 yards passing, Kaepernick has proven to be an efficient passer in short order.

 

Since becoming the starter in Week 11 two years ago, the $61-million man has been the fourth-winningest quarterback in the NFL with 17 wins and the third-rated passer in the league behind only Peyton Manning and Rodgers. He has 31 touchdown passes against just 11 interceptions in his career and has proven to be an extremely effective postseason player. Try 1,374 yards passing, 507 yards rushing and 11 total TDs in six postseason games (4-2). Still, the highest paid player in the NFL?

 

Former San Francisco great and broadcasting star Steve Young, for one, has been outspoken about Kaepernick’s need to learn to work through his progressions and to hang in the pocket more consistently. The former Nevada great saw his completion percentage drop from 62.4 percent in 2012 to 58.4 percent a year ago. Both numbers sit significantly behind the league’s best and highest paid like the elder Manning (68.3), Brees (68.6), Ryan (67.4) and Rodgers (66.6). In fact, Kaepernick was 31st in the NFL in completion percentage a year ago, a clear indicator that he still has plenty of work to do within the passing offense.

 

The good news for Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the 49ers, is that Kaepernick is aware of his shortcomings and, ideally, should continue to improve.

 

"Colin's hard work and dedication have played an integral role in the recent success of the 49ers organization," general manager Trent Baalke’ statement read. "His work ethic, leadership and on-field production have positively influenced our team, and we look forward to his continued growth in all areas."

 

Clearly, Baalke and Harbaugh are excited to have locked up their QB through 2020. (Although, Andrew Luck might have been the happiest guy on the planet when he heard about the $126 million pact this week.) Kaepernick was due just $1 million in 2014, the final year of his rookie contract. But the 49ers were willing to ante up an eye-popping amount for a deal structured in a way that would allow flexibility to negotiate with other future free agents on the team — something that was very important to Kaepernick.

 

It’s just an added bonus that the new deal puts the screws to their archrival in Seattle, who will need to negotiate Russell Wilson’s contract in less than two seasons.

 

It sounds like Kaepernick knows that the money is an extraordinary blessing but that winning a championship — something he’s come up just short of doing in two consecutive seasons — is what will define him as a quarterback. Joe Flacco was considered “overpaid” when he signed his enormous deal, but his Super Bowl ring validates his net worth.

 

Maybe that makes Kaepernick worth every penny. Maybe not. Only time will tell if the San Francisco 49ers made a savvy business decision or horrific professional gamble.

Teaser:
Is Colin Kaepernick the best QB in the NFL?
Post date: Friday, June 6, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/its-time-washington-redskins-change-their-name
Body:

Matthew McConaughey doesn’t look like he cares. Daniel Snyder certainly appears to have no cause for concern. Robert Griffin III doesn’t have time to worry. And I don’t really care either.

 

But, the thing is, it really isn’t up to any of us to decide if the Washington Redskins should change their name.

 

It’s up to our Native American brethren to decide — maybe, with a little help from some corporate sponsorship (or lack there of) — if the name “Redskins” is offensive.

 

Is the term offensive to me? Not particularly. I've never lost one minute of sleep over what any of our sports teams, college or pro, are called. But as a white male in this country, it’s not my place to decide if the name is hateful or not.

 

(Photo by Dianna Marie Russini)
 

As Snyder and many others have reported, there is plenty of support for the Redskins name among Native Americans. That is their prerogative and their right and we should all respect that. But that opinion is not one that is shared amongst all Native Americans, and if there is just one cross-section, one group or one tribe who deem this term insulting, then isn’t changing the name the right thing to do?

 

When Snyder created The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF), the National Congress of American Indians responded:


“This foundation will only contribute to the problems in Indian Country if it does not address the very real issue of how Native people are consistently stereotyped, caricaturized and denigrated by mascot imagery and the use of the R-Word slur.”

 

Look up the word “redskin” in any dictionary. The one word that is consistent throughout all definitions is “offensive.” It doesn’t take an Ivy League professor of sociology to understand that the word isn’t meant as a compliment. Even if it is just used to describe a football team.

 

Imagine how horrific the response would be if “red” was changed to describe any other race of American citizen? We would, rightly so, explode in outrage.

 

From a moral standpoint, the decision seems pretty clear. Even if I’ve only ever used the word to describe a bunch of grown men running head-first into each other at full speed for millions of dollars.

 

As much as I don’t want this type of debate to be removed from the court of public opinion and placed into the hands of politicians, unfortunately, it’s the powerbrokers in D.C. and Corporate USA who could control the future of the name. Recently, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter urging the NFL to formerly support a name change. In a perfect world, these elected officials are representing their constituents. In a perfect world, their motives would be completely pure and for the betterment of the people.

 

We all know this isn’t a world we live in and that money, not moral obligation, is the driving force behind most major decisions. The NFL won’t be forced into action based on a letter signed by Harry Reid. No, it would formally support a name change if — and only if — the debate begins to impact the bottom line. That means sponsorship dollars.

 

A recent social media ploy/blunder from the Redskins to garner public support over NOT changing their name completely backfired. If the responses to the below tweet are indicative of how the greater Native American population feels — which may still be up for debate — then the discussion has reached a tipping point.
 

Teaser:
It's Time for the Washington Redskins to Change Their Name
Post date: Thursday, June 5, 2014 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /2014-college-football-summer-media-days-schedule
Body:

The Athlon Sports preseason Top 25 has been unveiled. This means that the next big date on the college football calendar will be summer media events.

Media Days are more matter of fact than breaking news but no matter how you view these kickoff luncheons, they signify the beginning of the season for most coaches, administrators, coaches and fans.

Here is a complete summer media days schedule for 2014:

SEC: July 14-July 17
Hoover, Ala. (Wynfrey Hotel)

Monday will feature Mike Slive and defending champ Gus Malzahn as well as Florida’s Will Muschamp and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason. Steve Spurrier, Dan Mullen, Kevin Sumlin and Butch Jones will visit with the throngs on Tuesday. Gary Pinkel, Les Miles and Bret Bielema go on Wednesday and Mark Richt, Hugh Freeze, Nick Saban and Mark Stoops show up on Thursday.

ACC: July 20-21
Greensboro, N.C. (Grandover Resort)

Always revolving around golf, the 14 schools will provide coaches and players as well as plenty of sunshine on the links.

Sun Belt: July 21
New Orleans, La. (Superdome)

Mountain West: July 22-23
Las Vegas, Nev. (The Cosmopolitan Hotel)

C-USA: July 22-23
Irving, Texas (TBD)

MAC: July 22-23
Detroit, Mich. (Ford Field)

Big 12: July 23-24
Dallas, Texas (Westin Galleria)

Wednesday will feature TCU, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech while Thursday will be Baylor, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Texas and West Virginia.

Pac-12: July 23-24
Los Angeles, Calif. (The Studios at Paramount)

Few events are held at a cooler place than The Studios at Paramount. Players and coaches hobnob with media types from all over in the most laid back media days in the country.

Big Ten: July 28-29
Chicago, Ill. (Hilton Chicago)

The 43rd annual Kickoff Luncheon is always a highlight of the summer media tour as the keynote player speech has turned into a highlight. Kirk Cousins, Denard Robinson and John Urschel (last year) have given excellent performances of late.

American Athletic: July 28-29
Newport, R.I. (Hyatt Regency)

The final media event is always one of the more enjoyable from a media standpoint. Monday will feature a golf outing and dinner at the Hyatt Regency Newport while all players and coaches will visit with the media on Tuesday.

Teaser:
2014 College Football Summer Media Days Schedule
Post date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfl-defensive-rookies-year-candidates-2014
Body:

Four rookies went to the Pro Bowl in 2013. Three played on offense and they all were from the NFC North — the Packers' Eddie Lacy, the Bears’ Kyle Long and Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson. The lone defensive Pro Bowler was San Francisco thumper Eric Reid.

However, the NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year was Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson. The former Mizzou star and first-round pick (13th overall) was just the second non-linebacker to win the DROY award since 2002 (Ndamukong Suh in 2010). A linebacker has taken home nine of the last 11 DROY honors and no defensive back has won the award since Charles Woodson in 1998.

Additionally, the last seven DROYs were not only first-round picks but were all top-15 selections. DeMeco Ryans in 2006 was the last NFL DROY taken outside of the first round (33rd overall). So the best bets for 2014 ROY on defense would have to be a linebacker or a defensive lineman taken in the first half of the first round.

With that in mind, here are our favorites for AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014:

Note: Odds courtesy of Sportsbook.com

1. C.J. Mosley, LB, Baltimore (15/1)
He was taken with the 17th overall pick — basically, the halfway mark — and plays a pure linebacker position for a defense traditionally built around the position. Mosley is incredibly instinctual, will stuff the stat box, will play on a team pushing for a division title and/or playoff spot and should start from the first week of the season. Mosley is already a high-profile name after two national championships at Alabama, so he should be a household name quickly on the NFL level as well.

2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston (2/1)
Both literally and figuratively, the biggest name in the ’14 draft class is the star defensive end from South Carolina. The No. 1 overall pick could play a variety of spots for the Texans and is the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors according to Vegas lines. Clowney is a physical specimen the draft hasn’t seen since Julius Peppers won ROY a decade ago. With J.J. Watt opposite of Clowney, the Texans' hybrid pass-rusher has a great chance to live up to the remarkable hype.

3. Ryan Shazier, LB, Pittsburgh (8/1)
From a playmaking standpoint, few players were as good in college as the former Ohio State Buckeye. Shazier posted 144 tackles, 23.5 for a loss, seven sacks and four forced fumbles last year. He was taken in the top 15 (15th) and lands on a team that is known for developing linebackers. Look for Shazier to play all over the defense, to stuff the stat sheet and find himself in the heart of the ROY race at year’s end.

4. Khalil Mack, LB, Oakland (4/1)
Mack is an explosive edge player that may get lost on  a really bad team. The former Buffalo Bulls linebacker could finish with admirable stats — 50 tackles, 12.0 TFL and 8.0 sacks, for example — and still not find himself atop the ROY charts. Playing in the Bay Area on a bad team is a recipe for obscurity. Barring a monstrous first season, Mack won’t win Rookie of the Year honors despite what many believe is electric playmaking ability.

5. Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis (8/1)
The former Pitt Panthers nose guard posted arguably the most productive and decorated single-season in NCAA history for a D-lineman. He won every award and posted 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles while stepping up in competition from the former Big East to the ACC. And with opposing offensive lines focused on Robert Quinn and Chris Long, Donald has a chance to have a Richardson-like season in St. Louis.

6. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Green Bay (25/1)
Few safeties step into a better situation than Clinton-Dix in Green Bay. He will learn alongside a great player in Morgan Burnett and comes from a school known for producing elite defensive backs. Clinton-Dix will start from day one and has a long track record of elite talent (five-star recruit) and big-time success (two-time NCAA champion). It’s tough for a defensive back to win the award but a playmaking safety in Titletown might be the best bet.

7. Anthony Barr, LB, Minnesota (10/1)
Barr is a lengthy, prototypical hybrid edge rusher who was a terror getting after quarterbacks at UCLA. He posted 23 sacks over the last two seasons and has only been playing defense for a few seasons after entering college as an offensive player. Barr will have some development to get through but his size, athleticism and playmaking ability on a defense that is rebuilding quickly should make him a factor in the ROY race next year.

8. Deone Bucannon, S, Arizona (40/1)
On a team with an excellent front seven and plenty of other playmakers in the secondary, Bucannon has a chance to step right into a starting role and make a huge impact. What will make Bucannon a candidate for ROY, however, will be his highlight-reel hits. The former Washington State Cougars safety is arguably the hardest thumper in this class and his game film will stand out among most rookies.

9. Dee Ford, LB, Kansas City (15/1)
Normally, a first-round defensive lineman for the Chiefs would be a recipe for disaster but Ford should break that mold. First, he will play both end and linebacker but his bread and butter in college was rushing the passer. He will make plays off the edge for a team that is loaded with first-round picks all over the defense. He won’t be asked to be a star — which will help him develop into a better player but likely won’t get him into the ROY conversation.

10. Calvin Pryor, S, NY Jets (25/1)
As previously mentioned, defensive backs rarely win the ROY award but there is a trio of safeties in this class who are excellent players stepping into big roles on quality teams. Pryor is one of them as he should start right away for the defensive-minded Jets. He was a big-time winner and produced at an elite level for a Louisville team that won a lot of games during his career (try 23-3 in the last two seasons).

Other names to consider:

Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago (15/1)
DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Dallas (40/1)
Timmy Jernigan, DE, Baltimore (30/1)
Darqueze Dennard, CB, Cincinnati (20/1)
Bradley Roby, CB, Denver (25/1)

Teaser:
Ranking the NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year Candidates for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfl-offensive-rookies-year-2014
Body:

Four rookies went to the Pro Bowl in 2013. Three played on offense and they all were from the NFC North — the Packers' Eddie Lacy, the Bears’ Kyle Long and Vikings’ Cordarrelle Patterson. The lone defensive Pro Bowler was San Francisco thumper Eric Reid.

Lacy, the former Alabama running back, was the 61st overall pick in the NFL Draft and was the NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was the first Offensive Rookie of the Year (OROY) not taken in the first round since Anquan Boldin won the award for the Cardinals in 2003 with 101 receptions, 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns. Boldin was the 54th pick in the second round of the ’03 draft.

Otherwise, the modern OROY comes from the first round and is most likely a quarterback. From 1971 to 2003, not one quarterback won Rookie of the Year honors but six of the last 10 winners were signal-callers. In fact, Lacy was the first non-QB to win the award since Percy Harvin in 2009. Additionally, Harvin and Boldin are two of the three wide receivers (Randy Moss) to win OROY honors since Carl Pickens in 1992.

With that in mind, here are our favorites for AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2014:

Odds as of 4 p.m. ET, Monday, June 2 according to Bovada.

1. Johnny Manziel, QB, Cleveland (6/1)
Manziel is one of only three players who is both a first-round pick and a quarterback. He is also the biggest rock star of the ’14 draft class, which could both help or hurt his chances at ROY. He has the most big-play ability of anyone in this class at any position and he should earn his way into the starting lineup fairly quickly. He has a chance to perform very similarly to Robert Griffin III two years ago. Win some games, post huge numbers and get hurt at the end of the year.

2. Bishop Sankey, RB, Tennessee (12/1)
A running back has won 32 of 47 NFL OROY awards and Sankey is the best option in the ’14 draft class. He was a workhorse for Washington, carrying over 600 times in the last two seasons for over 3,300 yards and 36 touchdowns. Most importantly, he was a star against Stanford twice — the toughest defense he faced each year — with 265 yards and three scores on 47 carries (including one win in ‘12). Sankey has the clearest path to extended carries of any rookie back and the Titans are out to prove there was a reason they took him as the first RB off the board in this draft.

3. Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans (10/1)
Only two wideouts since 1999 have won OROY and only eight pass-catchers have ever won the award (since 1967). But if I had to bet on a rookie wide receiver in this class, it would be Cooks. There is a reason the Saints traded up to get the Biletnikoff winner. Cooks caught an absurd 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 touchdowns last year and is as hard a worker as this class has to offer. He also falls into a great system with a Hall of Fame quarterback under center. Look for big numbers from the rookie out of Oregon State.

4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota (12/1)
Bizarre Pro Day workout aside, there are many who believe that Bridgewater is the best quarterback in this class. With Matt Cassel the only obstacle standing in his way, the odds are Bridgewater is the starter in the Twin Cities very quickly. He has toughness, great leadership, a grasp of the pro offense and an excellent arm. With a superstar at tailback to take the pressure off, Bridgewater might be the best option for Rookie of the Year — if I was a betting man (which I’m not).

5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo (4/1)
Watkins is tied with Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans as the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year in 2014. However, unlike Evans, Watkins has the ability to do everything for his offense, despite potential quarterback issues. The former Clemson star can be lined up in the slot, given the ball in the backfield and could be a star on special teams a la Patterson last year. Watkins has rare playmaking ability and he will be put to good use right away in Buffalo. He is a much better bet to succeed than Evans in Tampa (more on him later).

6. Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia (18/1)
Chip Kelly may be many things but stupid isn’t one of them. Matthews was the most productive wideout in SEC history and now he is playing in an offense known for huge numbers, big plays and lots of scoring. The consummate professional, Matthews is as stable and consistent a draft pick as any in the entire ’14 class. Look for an excellent season, regardless of ROY consideration, for the pass-catcher known as J-Matt.

7. Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit (14/1)
The former Tar Heel standout was clearly the most gifted player at his position in this class. And Ebron couldn’t have asked for a better situation than having Matthew Stafford throwing him passes while defenses focus on Calvin Johnson on the outside. Ebron is an instant impact player at a position not known for instant offense. A tight end has never won Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and Ebron might be one of the best bets to snap that trend in quite some time.

8. Jeremy Hill, RB, Cincinnati (33/1)
Giovani Bernard is the starter and will likely command more than 200 touches but there is plenty to go around for Hill — a guy with a totally different skill set at 235 pounds. The former LSU workhorse ran for nearly seven yards per carry in the nation’s toughest league and he has plenty of tread left on the tires (just 345 carries in only two college seasons). Hill might be the best back in this class and he should get his fair share of carries this fall, especially around the goal line. The Bengals' bruiser is the best long-shot bet in this draft class.

9. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina (14/1)
Carolina was in desperate need of playmakers after releasing Steve Smith and it went and got one in Benjamin. He won’t flash Megatron-like speed or burst but he has a massive frame and came up big in big-time spots at Florida State. Benjamin should be the go-to target for Cam Newton right away and that alone should put him into the mix for OROY honors in 2014.

10. Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay (4/1)
Evans is a nice talent. He has a huge frame and posted big numbers for the Aggies. He also played in a pass-happy system, ran one of two routes, was completely shut down at times, has maturity issues and is playing for a team with a questionable quarterback situation. Again, Evans is a nice player but I wouldn’t bet a penny on him for Rookie of the Year and certainly won’t own him in any fantasy leagues.

Other names to consider:

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, New York Giants (16/1)
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville (20/1)
Cody Latimer, WR, Denver (20/1)
Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Chicago (off)
Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville (14/1)
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay (20/1)

Teaser:
Ranking the NFL Offensive Rookies of the Year for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/greatest-college-football-hype-video-ever
Body:

theSeanGshow is already winning the internet this week.

It is the beginning of June and College Football is still more than 80 days away from getting started. But that hasn't stopped one guy from getting the entire country jacked up for the start of the season. 

The compilation features the famous "Kick Six" and "Prayer at Jordan-Hare" but also remembers the greatest plays of the 2013 season. Johnny Manziel vs. Duke, Nebraska's Hail Mary, Carlos Hyde, Nick O'Leary, Jeremy Gallon, a host of one-handed catches, huge truck-stick hits, turnovers and critical performances make this one of the must-see summer internet videos. 

For pure college football fans, this might be the greatest hype video ever produced. Trust us, kick back and enjoy:

Teaser:
Greatest College Football Hype Video... Ever?
Post date: Monday, June 2, 2014 - 11:23
Path: /college-football/what-we-learned-sec-meetings-destin
Body:

The SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., every year normally bring very little in the way of news.

But with the NCAA and the SEC on the verge of sweeping reform as well as a new era of postseason football, the 2014 version was anything but boring.

Every topic from autonomy to NFL agents to spread offenses to beer sales to recruiting calendars to basketball schedules to the new playoff system was addressed and discussed at length.

In attendance were College Football Playoff czar Bill Hancock, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, athletic directors and 14 head coaches from around the game’s most powerful conference. So there was no shortage of interesting topics to seep out of the panhandle this week.

Here is what you need to know about the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin:

Autonomy leads the way

This is easily the biggest issue for commissioner Slive. The SEC boss is always calculating in his speech and the resounding theme of his visit in Destin this week was autonomy. He danced around other issues like an early signing period and scheduling, but his thoughts on self-governance for the Big 5 and Notre Dame is pretty clear.

“Today, we began the conversation about NCAA governance and restructuring, which I’ve said before, is the primary issue.”

In fact, he called it the “cornerstone of their discussions” this week. When Slive normally speaks, he does so very directly and there is no doubting his stance on the issue.

“The NCAA committee put forth a model and we are in the comment period. We will respond to it sometime after this meeting in preparation of the NCAA Board of Directors voting on a revised governance process in August,” Slive told the media in Destin.

Let’s be clear. This is going to happen. And it will impact things like the size of the coaching staff — there was a push for a 10th member of the staff this week — cost of attendance stipends, academic policies and player health coverage. This will be a sweeping change in the college football landscape and it’s going to happen. Be prepared.

Let’s control the agents

One of the biggest and most unifying concepts in college football today is the reformation of NFL agent policies. Nearly everyone agrees that something needs to be changed. Prospective employees (aka, the athletes) have a right to seek advice, build relationships and, for lack of a better term, interview prospective employers (aka, the NFL).

Slive agrees, "The NCAA's current rules are really part of the problem, not part of the solution." The SEC commish wants to provide “quality and timely advice” to his student athletes in all sports.

And there is no reason why there cannot be dead periods, signing periods and interview periods for current athletes and professional agents just like on the recruiting calendar. Instead of trying to fight a part of the process that will never go away and only gets all three parties into NCAA trouble, why not embrace it, monitor it and legislate it. It helps the agent, the school and the athlete. What could possibly go wrong?

“Unanimous” support for an early signing period

Or so said LSU head coach Les Miles. The reports from individual coaches don’t seem to be as “unanimous” as Miles has reported, however, most coaches in the SEC (and around the nation) are in favor of some sort of early signing period. The proposal from the SEC involves the Monday following Thanksgiving and only if a recruit hasn’t taken an official visit in the fall. Otherwise, said recruit will have to wait to sign two months later on National Signing Day. Garnering support from athletic directors and presidents is a totally different issue all together.

"I think we need to vet that out and see if the conference wants to change its position,” commissioner Slive said to reporters, “but up until now the SEC has been opposed to it."

The only time an early signing period works is after the regular season sometime. Coaches change jobs and players develop during their senior year, so a summer signing date would be nearly impossible to implement effectively and intelligently. This is likely still a few years away but could be coming quickly once autonomy is established for the bigger programs.

Florida really, really hates Georgia Southern

“We’re probably going to move forward without playing FCS opponents,” Florida coach Will Muschamp told reporters. While his athletic director Jeremy Foley may not fully agree with him, many people believe this is the overall direction of scheduling. And, no, it actually has nothing to do with the Gators' loss to an FCS opponent in 2013. It has everything to do with delivering a better quality product to the fans in the stands as well as the TV partners who pay billions to broadcast the games and eventually gaining value among the College Football Playoff selection committee.

Strength of schedule is going to continue to gain more importance as the Playoff moves forward and beating significantly inferior teams by 60 points will no longer garner favor with the postseason decision-makers. By nearly all empirical measures — with the exception of coaches trying to keep their jobs — scheduling tougher, better games is good for the sport. It’s good for the fans, good for the local businesses and economies, better for TV negotiations and makes your favorite team’s case for a playoff berth more substantial.

“I’m in favor of our strength of schedule being as good as it can be," Slive said.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban agrees, “No, we do not want to play those types of teams.”

Getting rid of FCS opponents — particularly from November, when the SEC seems to backload its schedule with horrible games — is the first step towards extensive schedule modification. The next step will be to eliminate “low-major” games before adding a ninth conference game and scheduling only Big 5 opponents.

Who doesn’t want to see the best face the best every single week?

No playoff expansion looming

Bill Hancock is the Executive Director of the College Football Playoff and he was in Destin this week to speak with coaches and ADs about how the Playoff Selection Committee will work, what the parameters will be moving forward in deciding the newly minted four-team postseason tournament and the future growth of the postseason. It’s great that decision makers, both on the sidelines and in the “front offices,” get to hear firsthand from Hancock what exactly the committee will be looking for when it comes to deciding the four teams who will earn postseason berths.

While those meetings were behind closed doors, Hancock did address publicly the potential for expansion — or the lack thereof.

“It is going to be four [teams] for 12 years,” Hancock said, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy. “There is no talk in our group about [expanding the playoff].”

While Hancock has been very firm with his statements about playoff expansion during the current 12-year contract with ESPN, there are many — like Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson — who believe that expansion is eminent.

There are two overriding reasons to believe expansion will happen before 2026. (A) The money will be astronomical and too great to pass up with expansion and (B) Those who get left out, be it a blue blood snuff or small school playoff-buster, are going to fight tooth and nail for the playoff to include more teams.

I lean towards expansion taking place well before ’26 rolls around.

Listen to a complete Playoff breakdown on this week's Cover 2 podcast:

Quarterback movement

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones announced this week that redshirt freshman quarterback Riley Ferguson will not be back with his program in fall. Rumors have swirled about why Ferguson is back home in North Carolina this week and why he won’t be back. The timing is certainly interesting and something tells me there is more to this story coming soon.

Ferguson was considered by many to be the best pure passer on the Vols' roster and his departure has cleared things up a bit in the Tennessee backfield. Now, Justin Worley and Joshua Dobbs appear to be in a two-horse race for the reins of Mike Bajakian’s offense.

Alabama also lost a signal-caller this week as redshirt freshman Parker McLeod is set to transfer as well, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports. This one is much less surprising as the Bama backfield is very crowded and someone had to decide to try their luck elsewhere. McLeod, who hails from Marietta, Ga., was a three-star recruit and the 37th-ranked pro-style quarterback prospect in the nation by 247Sports' composite rankings (2013).

ShowMe what you got

The SEC basketball tournament schedule has been set through 2025 and there was one interesting twist in the announcement this week. The state of Missouri will play host to the tourney in 2018 at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. This is a prime basketball area of the country and getting his tournament in front of a new audience was key for Slive and company in the SEC offices.

Additionally, the 2022 tournament will be headed to the Tampa Bay Times Forum in Florida. It will be the second such event in Tampa as the 2009 championship was held there for the first time. Every other tournament between 2015 and 2025 will be held in Nashville.

Hoops scheduling gets a makeover

It’s not a huge change but fans should applaud the new basketball conference schedule that was announced this week. The SEC has done away with the 1-4-8 conference scheduling structure for a rivalry-supportive 3-2-8 format. So instead of one permanent home-and-home rivalry each year, schools will now get three such guaranteed home-and-homes. Instead of four rotating home-and-homes within the league, there will now be two. The eight home-OR-road games will still exist and will still rotate in the same manner as they have in the past. This is good news for programs that have more than one rival with in the league — say, like, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU, Alabama and Kentucky.

Teaser:
What We Learned From the SEC Meetings in Destin
Post date: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 12:20
Path: /college-football/only-12-college-football-playoff-contenders-2014
Body:

Just reading the words “playoff contender” warms the soul, doesn’t it?

Or “playoff berth,” “playoff contention” or “postseason bid.”

No one really knows what to expect from the College Football Playoff or Playoff Selection Committee — not the fans, not the media and not the coaches. But we all can agree that it’s going to be exciting no matter how many teams are left unbeaten at season’s end.

The 2014 Athlon Sports Top 25 has been released and Florida State (1), Alabama (2), Ohio State (3) and Oklahoma (4) are our picks to make the inaugural CFP. But getting to those four teams, the editorial staff — much like the selection committee — had to sift through copious amounts of data on all 128 teams.

What we learned is that there seems to be a clear line of demarcation between the top 12 teams and the rest of the nation. The first dozen teams in the Top 25 appear to be true playoff contenders and the rest feel like they are operating on a lower tier of expectation. Could someone outside of the top 12 make a playoff run? Of course, but history shows us that champions rarely come from outside the top dozen or so teams.

During the 16-year BCS Era, only twice did the national champion begin the season ranked outside of the top 15 in the preseason and never lower than 22nd (Auburn, 2010, No. 22; Oklahoma, 2000, No. 19). Only four times did the champion come from outside of the top 11 and nine of the last 10 champs were ranked 11th or better in the preseason AP Poll. Even further, eight of the last 10 crystal football winners were ranked seventh or better in the first ranking of the season.

Here is a breakdown of the only 12 teams we deem to be playoff contenders, why we like them and what could be their potential downfall.

Florida State Seminoles
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Projected Record: 13-0, 8-0
Key Games: Clemson, Notre Dame, at Louisville, Florida

Why we like them: The list is long. This roster is one of the top two in the nation along with Alabama. The Seminoles boast the best player in the nation under center, six first-team All-American selections and 11 total All-Americans. One shouldn’t need to explain oneself when talking highly of the defending national champions.

Potential downfall: Complacency and all that comes along with it. That means lack of focus on and off the field. It can mean playing not to lose rather than playing to win. The Noles should be a solid favorite in every game they play so they need to be on guard against a possible letdown.

Alabama Crimson Tide
Returning Starters: 6 offense, 3 defense
Projected Record: 12-1, 7-1
Key Games: Florida, at Ole Miss, at LSU, Auburn

Why we like them: The Crimson Tide still have the best coach in the nation, arguably the best roster in the nation and will be playing a fairly manageable SEC schedule in 2014. Fans can bet Nick Saban will use the way his team ended last year (0-2) to motivate them this offseason. Anyone remember what happened the last time Alabama missed the national title game by losing the last two games of the year? Yup, it won the ’09 national title the following year — the only perfect record of Saban’s SEC tenure.

Potential downfall: Quarterback play and the secondary. Jacob Coker is largely an unknown but won’t be asked to do too much for Saban’s offense so if he can simply not turn the ball over, Bama should be fine under center. The cornerback position also was an issue last year and doesn’t appear to be back to 2009 or '11 strength. Covering big wideouts has been an issue for Bama the last two seasons.

Ohio State Buckeyes
Returning Starters: 5 offense, 6 defense
Projected Record: 12-1, 7-1
Key Games: at Penn State, at Michigan State, Michigan

Why we like them: Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer and the best defensive line in the nation. The schedule also sets up very nicely with two quality (but very beatable) non-conference games and only three tough conference games with a possible letdown alert coming at Minnesota after the rematch with the Spartans. Few teams in the nation boast a head coach-quarterback duo like the Buckeyes.

Potential downfall: The offensive line is returning just one starter and the secondary is replacing first-round talents at both linebacker (Ryan Shazier) and cornerback (Bradley Roby). And the schedule might actually hurt Ohio State should it slip up somewhere along the way. A one-loss OSU team would likely be left out for a one-loss SEC, Big 12 or Pac-12 team due to lack of schedule strength.

Oklahoma Sooners
Returning Starters: 5 offense, 9 defense
Projected Record: 11-1, 8-1
Key Games: Texas, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Why we like them: The defensive front is as good as Bob Stoops has had in a decade and Trevor Knight flashed brilliance against Alabama to end the year. If Knight can stay healthy, the schedule sets up very well for Oklahoma to win the league. All of the key challengers in the league apart from Texas will come to Norman.

Potential downfall: The road schedule includes trips to distant Big 12 outposts in Morgantown, Lubbock, Ames and not-so-distant Fort Worth. Strange things happen to a lot of good teams in those towns. Additionally, many feel that this team could simply be overrated due to one great bowl performance against a less-than-motivated Alabama team.

Listen to a complete playoff breakdown on this week's Cover 2 Podcast:

Oregon Ducks
Returning Starters: 8 offense, 5 defense
Projected Record: 11-2, 7-2
Key Games: Michigan State, at UCLA, Washington, Stanford

Why we like them: Marcus Mariota might be the best player in the nation and, if he stays healthy, could smash Oregon record books this fall. The Ducks also get three of their four biggest games at home, including critical Pac-12 North Division games against the Cardinal and Huskies. From a talent standpoint, there are few teams on offense that can match the Ducks' prowess, speed and athleticism.

Potential downfall: Leadership from the sidelines and a dependency on one player could prove to be just enough to keep Oregon from the postseason. Mark Helfrich is still very much an unknown and when Mariota wasn’t healthy last year, Oregon lost both games with the division crown hanging in the balance. Toss in a nasty overall schedule and the Ducks will need to play near perfect football to reach the playoff. Also, much like Oklahoma, Oregon faces trap games on the road in tough places likes Pullman, Salt Lake City and Corvallis this season.

UCLA Bruins
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 7 defense
Projected Record: 10-3, 7-2
Key Games: at Arizona State, Oregon, at Washington, USC, Stanford

Why we like them: Getting critical swing games with Oregon, Stanford and USC at home is a huge positive for the Bruins, especially with the Trojans and Cardinal visiting in the last two weeks of the season. Brett Hundley is an elite player and the both lines of scrimmage appear to be developing around him.

Potential downfall: There is an overall lack of playmakers on offense and a lot of young faces dotting the starting lineup on defense. This is an extremely talented team but names in the secondary, along the defensive line and at wide receiver need to take big steps forward. Especially, against a schedule that features six games against preseason Top 25 teams.

Auburn Tigers
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Projected Record: 10-2, 6-2
Key Games: Too many to list

Why we like them: Gus Malzahn is a genius and Nick Marshall runs his unstoppable option offense to perfection. In fact, this offense could be even better this year with a deeper receiving corps and four starters back along the offensive line. Marshall should only continue to add balance with his arm as well.

Potential downfall: The defense allowed 420 yards per game last year, gave up over 35 points per game in the final month and the schedule is as tough as any in the nation. Getting through road trips to Kansas State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama unscathed will be virtually impossible while LSU, South Carolina and Texas A&M all come to The Plains. Lastly, after one full year of game tape to study, Auburn won’t sneak up on anyone this year and won’t be nearly as fortunate as it was a year ago.

Michigan State Spartans
Returning Starters: 5 offense, 5 defense
Projected Record: 10-2, 7-1
Key Games: at Oregon, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio State, at Penn State

Why we like them: Mark Dantonio has built a tradition of defensive prowess that should be able to withstand a lot of key departures. The offense is more stable than a year ago with star power returning in the backfield (Connor Cook, Jeremy Langford). And the schedule sets up nicely with critical conference home tests coming against Ohio State, Michigan and Nebraska.

Potential downfall: While the roster is in great shape, there are some heavy losses it must withstand on defense to be the nation’s best unit again in 2014. The offensive line also needs some work with just two returning starters. If nothing else, it will take some time for these units to return to form and an early road trip to nasty Autzen Stadium leaves Sparty’s margin for error razor thin within the Big Ten.

Georgia Bulldogs
Returning Starters: 5 offense, 9 defense
Projected Record: 10-3, 6-2
Key Games: at South Carolina, at Missouri, Florida, Auburn

Why we like them: Jeremy Pruitt steps into run a defense with nine returning starters after having a hand in three of the last four national titles. The offense, although filled with plenty of unknowns, should also be much healthier with Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Malcolm Mitchell clicking on all cylinders this year.

Potential downfall: Georgia has to break in a new quarterback after four full seasons of Aaron Murray. Hutson Mason should have some nice talent to work with at the skill positions but three starters are gone from the O-line as is star tight end Arthur Lynch. The defense tends to underachieve and it’s unknown if Pruitt can simply flip the switch. Clemson and Georgia Tech are tough non-conference games and hosting Auburn in crossover is brutal. Throw in a normally difficult SEC East slate, including road trips to both Columbias, and UGA has one of the harder paths to a playoff berth.

South Carolina Gamecocks
Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense
Projected Record: 10-2, 6-2
Key Games: Georgia, Missouri, at Auburn, at Florida

Why we like them: The offensive line returns entirely intact with Mike Davis fully healthy and ready to churn out yards. The linebackers are now a strength of the defense after being a liability last year. And the Ol’ Ball Coach is still running the show. On the whole, Steve Spurrier has built his program to a new level where it can finally withstand key departures at key positions. Important SEC East games against Tennessee, Georgia and Missouri all come at home as well.

Potential downfall: Key departures at key positions. Connor Shaw, Jadeveon Clowney, Bruce Ellington, Kelcy Quarles and both cornerbacks are all gone and filling those holes will be very difficult. Dylan Thompson has some experience at quarterback but took a small step back last year while the D-line is easily the biggest concern entering the summer against a nasty schedule that features half-a-dozen excellent running attacks.

Baylor Bears
Returning Starters: 4 offense, 4 defense
Projected Record: 10-2, 7-2
Key Games: at Texas, at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State

Why we like them: Art Briles and Bryce Petty are as good a duo in the nation and the offense should once again be the Big 12’s best. The overall talent on the roster has been elevated to unprecedented levels and the new stadium will bring with it serious energy and expectations in Waco, including key swing home games against TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. This team did pound Oklahoma 41-12 last year.

Potential downfall: Heart and soul leaders are gone from the first Big 12 title team in school history and they will be difficult to replace, especially on defense. The schedule is also much more difficult this year with five tricky Big 12 road trips, including to conference front-runner Oklahoma — a place Baylor has never won (0-11). Fans across the nation will learn about Baylor’s staying power this fall.

Stanford Cardinal
Returning Starters: 4 offense, 7 defense
Projected Record: 9-3, 7-2
Key Games: USC, everyone else on the road

Why we like them: The overall depth of this roster is excellent and the physical attitude of this program is unlike any other in the conference. Stanford is the two-time defending champ for a reason. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is back for what should be his best season and the skill players around him are better than they have been in years as the tight end might be back in the playbook this year.

Potential downfall: The Cardinal road schedule is probably the toughest in the nation. Key divisional games against Washington and Oregon as well as important crossovers with UCLA and Arizona State and a non-conference tilt with Notre Dame all take place on the road (read that again). The offensive line and front seven on defense have major holes to plug even if those gaps are being filled with very talented prospects. And defensive coordinator Lance Anderson has big shoes to fill now that Derek Mason is in Nashville.

Next best options: USC Trojans, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Wisconsin Badgers, Ole Miss Rebels, LSU Tigers

Teaser:
The Only 12 College Football Playoff Contenders in 2014
Post date: Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 07:15

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