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Athlon Sports is celebrating the 50th volume of its inaugural SEC annual this year. Throughout the summer and fall, we’ll look back at some of the players, coaches, teams and images from our early years.

 

Back then, Florida running back Larry Smith was the SEC’s preseason MVP in that . We caught up with Smith to talk about his time at Florida, his pro career and his post-football pursuits.

 

Larry Smith’s most famous play as a Florida football player is a matter of dispute.

 

In the Sugar Bowl following the 1966 season, Smith managed to steal the spotlight from his quarterback, who was a month removed from winning the Heisman Trophy.

 

With Florida up 7-6 in the third quarter against Georgia Tech, Smith took a handoff from Steve Spurrier at the 6, scored a few blocks and ran 94 yards for a touchdown. In Florida’s first Orange Bowl and only its second major bowl appearance, Smith ran for 187 yards on 23 carries to beat Georgia Tech 27-12.

 

The image of that 94-yard run though — or at least the story of it — persisted. According to the legend, Smith made the run with his pants falling down, a fact Smith says was more or less an optical illusion.

 

“They had those old hip pads back then and they were sliding up, making it look like my pants were falling down,” said Smith from his law office in Tampa, Fla. “I honestly don’t think I could have run that far if my pants were falling down.”

 

So why did that legend persist? Norm Carlson is a genius, says Smith.

 

Norm Carlson was Florida’s sports information director at the time, and as Florida’s liaison to the press, he was happy to make the star running back larger than life even if Smith would have nothing to do with such praise.

 

“His pants did start falling down,” Carlson said. “He had small hips. They didn’t fall down, but they started slipping and you could see his hip pad. It didn’t affect the run, but you could clearly see them slipping. I just reported the truth. It’s all about truth in journalism.”

 

That run and his MVP performance in the Orange Bowl set up Smith as one of the SEC’s biggest stars going into the 1967 season. With Spurrier — the SEC’s second Heisman winner in seven years — graduating, Smith had big shoes to fill.

 

 

Conference coaches felt Smith was up to the task when they voted him the preseason MVP in the inaugural issue of Athlon in 1967.

 

“He’s the best college back I’ve been around,” then-Florida coach Ray Graves told Athlon.

 

In Smith’s 1966 sophomore season — his first on the varsity as freshmen were ineligible at the time — he rushed for 742 yards, caught 23 passes and accounted for 12 total touchdowns in 10 games.

 

Smith rushed for 754 yards as a junior and accounted for eight touchdowns, but Florida struggled to find a quarterback in the absence of Spurrier and finished 6-4 without a bowl game.

 

The reputation of the Florida running back continued into his senior season when Athlon wrote: “With all due apologies to O.J. Simpson, Larry Smith may be the greatest running back in college football.”

 

Perhaps there was some provincialism at work in the SEC, but Carlson says this was no hyperbole.

 

“He was a great football player, proved it in every way on the field,” said Carlson, who is semi-retired but still listed as Florida’s historian and an assistant athletic director. “To take in all the categories of what he did, statistically maybe not the best, but he didn’t care. That’s what made him one of the best.”

 

 

Smith finished with 2,186 career rushing yards and 607 receiving yards, leaving school as the program’s all-time leader in rushing and yards from scrimmage. The 6-foot-4, 217-pound running back was also known for completing passes on what started as end sweeps.

 

Since then, Smith’s notoriety would fade as Emmitt Smith, Errict Rhett and Fred Taylor passed him in the record books, and quarterbacks and receivers became the superstars under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer.

 

After Florida, Smith was drafted eighth overall by the Rams in the 1969 NFL Draft. Injuries limited him throughout his career, and he never topped the 599 rushing yards from his rookie season He retired in 1974, but before then he split time living in Los Angeles and Gainesville, Fla.

 

Smith’s heart was always in Florida, anyhow. His father was a Florida graduate — he still has his season tickets that they first purchased when Smith was eight years old.

 

After 10 years in Gainesville, Smith worked in the business world in his hometown of Tampa before going to law school in his early 30s. After changing gears in his career, Smith graduated law school at age 34 and has worked in commercial real estate law in Tampa ever since.

 

Other names in Florida history loom larger, particularly his former quarterback, but in 1967 and 1968 few were better than Athlon’s first SEC MVP.

 

“All around, he was one of the best we have ever had at Florida,” Carlson said.

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Catching up with Florida's Larry Smith, Athlon's first MVP in 1967
Post date: Thursday, June 16, 2016 - 09:00
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For Athlon Sports, the offseason is one of our favorite times of the year.

Of course, we enjoy the season as much as any crazed college football fan, but the bread-and-butter for Athlon since 1967 has been helping readers prepare for the season, helping them get to know the teams and players they need to watch.

This is the time of year we get to share our preseason annuals, our national edition and regional previews for five conferences. Countless hours of study and work from dozens of individuals went into the 2016 editions, and we still have room for debate on the outlook for every team.

Of course, Athlon isn’t the only publication out there. And just like anyone we like to compare how everyone evaluates the season ahead. Here’s how the top 25 and conference champions shook out in the various publications.

 

We’ll continue to update the grid as more rankings are released through the offseason. (Note: Athlon, Lindy's, Sporting News and ESPN went to press before coach Art Briles was fired at Baylor.)

 

Athlon's college football preview magazines are available on newsstands now and in .

 

2016 Preseason College Football Rankings
 
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2016 Conference/Division Champion Picks
*projected conference championship game winner
 
ACC Atlantic * * *
ACC Coastal
AAC East
AAC West * * *
Big 12
Big Ten East * * *
Big Ten West
C-USA East *
C-USA West *
MAC East
MAC West * * *
MW Mountain * *
MW West *
Pac-12 North * *
Pac-12 South *
SEC East
SEC West * * *
Sun Belt

 

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Comparing All 2016 Preseason College Football Rankings and Picks
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 SEC Preview is 

 

Were there thoughts on not picking OU?

 

Not really — due in part to our confidence in the Sooners and in part to a lack of confidence in the other top teams. Oklahoma did lose some key personnel last year — most notably wide receiver Sterling Shepard, linebacker Eric Striker and cornerback Zach Sanchez — but this is still the most complete team in the league. A year ago, Oklahoma outgained Big 12 opponents by an average of 192.2 yards per game — by far the best in the league — en route to an 8–1 record. The offensive line could be an issue, but OU boasts one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and an elite running back duo in Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon.

 

How did the situation at Baylor affect the Bears’ ranking?

 

We ranked Baylor second in the Big 12 during the spring. Obviously, things have changed with the firing of Art Briles, the hiring of Jim Grobe and the turmoil with what’s left of the current roster. Grobe is a fine coach, and he’ll have a talented quad. That said, Baylor doesn’t seem likely to contend for the Big 12 without Briles’ command of the offense, never mind the toll on morale for the remaining players. There are simply too many variables to make any kind of informed decision on Baylor. We originally projected Baylor to go 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the Big 12, a feat that would probably earn Grobe Big 12 Coach of the Year consideration. Baylor is probably closer to seven or eight wins. Given the non-conference schedule and games against Kansas and Iowa State, 5-7 would be the worst case scenario. We split the difference and moved Baylor to fourth behind Oklahoma, TCU and Oklahoma State.

 

 

Why did TCU get the nod over Oklahoma State?

 

TCU endured a string of significant injuries last season yet still went 11–2 overall and 7–2 in the league — a testament to Gary Patterson’s coaching and the overall talent in the program. The Horned Frogs return only one starter on offense, but the drop-off in production shouldn’t be too great. There are plenty of talented returning players at running back and wide receiver to help ease the transition for quarterback Kenny Hill, a transfer from Texas A&M who posted gaudy numbers with the Aggies in his half-season as the starter. And the TCU defense, with seven starters back, should be among the most improved in the nation. Oklahoma State, after winning 10 games a year ago, figures to receive some love in the preseason polls. The Cowboys have some quality talent at quarterback and receiver, and their defense should be decent, but this team still has some significant areas of concern. And it must be noted that the Pokes were fortunate to win seven league games; they outgained league opponents by only 10.9 yards per game, and four of their seven Big 12 wins came by seven points or fewer. One more note: Oklahoma State’s road schedule includes trips to Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma. That is not easy.

 

What went into picking West Virginia fifth?

 

Sorting out the middle of the Big 12 was very difficult. After much debate we settled on West Virginia at No. 5 over Texas Tech and Texas. There is some unrest in Morgantown — head coach Dana Holgorsen isn’t on the firmest of ground — but this is a team that could surprise in 2016. Despite last year’s 4–5 Big 12 record, West Virginia was rated highly by some of the advanced metrics; the F/+ rating used by Football Outsiders ranked the Mountaineers 31st nationally and fourth in the league. There are holes to fill in the secondary, but the offense has a chance to be very good thanks to the return of quarterback Skyler Howard (who played his best game in the bowl win over Arizona State) and a quality offensive line. The schedule also sets up nicely: Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU all visit Morgantown.

 

Texas at 7, really?

 

Yes, Texas is predicted to finish closer to the bottom than the top. The Longhorns should be improved on defense, but there isn’t much evidence to suggest the offense will take a big step forward under new coordinator Sterlin Gilbert. It’s a positive that this offense will finally have an identity, but it will take time for the Horns to adapt to Gilbert’s version of the up-tempo spread. There have been a few nice wins in Charlie Strong’s two seasons, but the Horns have also been really bad far too often; they’ve lost nine games by 17 points or more under his watch — nine too many for a coach at Texas.

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Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 SEC Predictions
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 Pac-12 Preview is 

 

UCLA was a relatively easy pick in the South. Why are we so confident?

 

At first glance, the Bruins’ 8–5 record last season might be considered a disappointment. They went only 5–4 in the Pac-12, lost to crosstown rival USC by 19 points and dropped their bowl game to a Nebraska team that had a losing record. But we can’t forget that UCLA started a true freshman at quarterback and was ravaged by injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Now, Josh Rosen — the No. 1 QB in the 2015 recruiting class — is a sophomore with 13 starts under his belt and figures to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation in 2016. And the defense returns nine starters — not including standout tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, who went down with a torn ACL in early September. His return should help UCLA improve against the run, an area of weakness last year. Also, the schedule is very, very forgiving; the Bruins do not play Washington or Oregon — two of the top three teams in the North — and host both USC and Utah. The UCLA pick also indicates our lack of confidence in USC. The Trojans will once again have a ton of talent, but there are questions at quarterback and with the coaching staff.

 

Why did Utah get the nod over the Arizona schools for third in the South?

 

The Utes loses some key players from last year’s surprising 10-win team, but Kyle Whittingham has built a solid foundation that will keep this program competitive. The overall offensive numbers were not good last season, but Utah still managed to run the ball with consistency and play well defensively — two staples of the Utes in recent years. And while All-Pac-12 tailback Devontae Booker is gone, Joe Williams appears more than ready to step into the role as primary ball-carrier. Arizona State was one of the more disappointing teams in the league last season and has some significant holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Arizona will continue to score a ton of points, but the Wildcats have issues on defense — again.

 

 

How did Washington get the nod over Stanford, a team that has either won or shared the Pac-12 North title in four of the last five seasons?

 

The record wasn’t overly impressive — 7–6 overall and 4–5 in the league — but Washington showed significant improvement in Chris Petersen’s second season. For the most part, when the Huskies won, they won impressively, and when they lost, they lost close games to good teams. UW returns two of the top young skill-position players in the league in quarterback Jake Browning and tailback Myles Gaskin and welcomes back explosive receiver John Ross from injury. Stanford isn’t going anywhere, but the Cardinal suffered too many key personnel losses and must identify a new starting quarterback. Washington also has the easier conference schedule and gets Stanford at home (on Sept. 30).

 

Why no respect for Oregon?

 

It’s not time to panic, but the Ducks lost four games in 2015 — the most since 2007 when Mike Bellotti’s penultimate Oregon team went 9–4. The positive spin? Three of the four losses came by seven points or fewer and two of the three losses came with quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. either slowed by an injury or out with an injury. The negative spin? Adams is no longer around, and the team has significant concerns on both the offensive line and defensive line. Dakota Prukop put up huge numbers at Montana State, but there is no guarantee he will be as successful as Adams, last year’s FBS transfer. There is also a coaching transition, with a new offensive coordinator (Matt Lubick) and defensive coordinator (Brady Hoke). Hoke figures to be a significant upgrade over Don Pellum — demoted to linebackers coach — but don’t expect too big an improvement in 2016.

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Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 SEC Predictions
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 Big Ten Preview is 

 

 

What separated Ohio State and Michigan?

 

Not much. It was basically a choice between the upstart program with a ton of momentum vs. the old guard that lost a bunch of talent but still possesses a loaded roster. Michigan was one of the surprise teams in the nation last season, winning 10 games overall and recording a 6–2 mark in the Big Ten. We must keep in mind that the Wolverines were fortunate to beat Minnesota (29–26) and Indiana (48–41, 2OT). But we also can’t forget that the loss to Michigan State came on one of the flukiest plays in the history of college football. Jim Harbaugh will have a good team — he always does — but the Wolverines still lag behind Ohio State in overall talent. There are questions at quarterback and some significant holes to fill at linebacker (though Jabrill Peppers’ move to a hybrid backer/safety spot could alleviate some of those concerns). Ohio State needs to replace some elite talent — only six starters return — but Urban Meyer has been stockpiling top-five recruiting classes. Talent will not be an issue in Columbus. Experience might, but it’s a positive that J.T. Barrett will be back to run the offense after sharing the position in 2015 with Cardale Jones. One more reason to like the Buckeyes: Michigan visits Columbus on Nov. 26. 

 

Why isn’t Michigan State, with a 22–2 Big Ten record the last three years, considered more of a contender?

 

Michigan State has made a habit of defying preseason expectations, but this figures to be the season the Spartans take a step back in the Big Ten. The defense should be able to survive some key personnel losses, but the offense must replace quarterback Connor Cook as well as two all-conference linemen. Also, Michigan State might not have been as good as its gaudy record — and spot in the CFB Playoff — suggests. Six of their 12 wins in 2015 came by seven points or fewer, including two against Big Ten lightweights Purdue (three) and Rutgers (seven).

 

 

 

Was Iowa the easy choice in the West?

 

Iowa is far from the sexiest pick, but in the end it was the smartest (we hope). The Hawkeyes return many of the key players who contributed to their 12–0 regular-season run. Among them is quarterback C.J. Beathard, who battled through various injuries yet was still productive in his first season as a starter. There’s also the schedule, which is once again very kind. Kirk Ferentz’s team does not play Ohio State or Michigan State and gets four of its five toughest opponents at home — Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska. The trip to Penn State, which comes after a bye, is by far Iowa’s most challenging road game. We gave serious thought to Nebraska (more on the Huskers to follow) and some thought to Wisconsin, but all signs continued to point to Iowa.

 

Which team was the toughest to project?

 

Nebraska. There’s no denying that Mike Riley’s first season in Lincoln did not go well: The Cornhuskers went 6–7 overall (3–5 in the Big Ten) and lost four games at Memorial Stadium. But there might not have been an unluckier team in college football. Nebraska opened the season by losing on a Hail Mary to BYU and then proceeded to lose five Big Ten games by an average of 4.6 points, including three losses by two points or fewer. Yes, two of those came against Illinois (on an inexcusable coaching blunder) and Purdue (when the Huskers were without starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong), but this team could very easily have won more games. The talent level at NU isn’t up to par with the top teams in the Big Ten East, but the Huskers are good enough to compete with Iowa and Wisconsin for supremacy in the West. This team could win the division, or — if the bad luck and coaching mistakes continue — finish as low as fourth. 

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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 SEC Preview is

 

 

Was there any thought to picking any team other than Tennessee in the East?

 

Not really. The Volunteers, from a talent and experience standpoint, are clearly the best team in the SEC East. They have the right quarterback (Joshua Dobbs) in place — which gives them a huge advantage over every other team in the division — complemented by an outstanding running back duo and what should be an improved offensive line. The defense was solid last year and should be even better thanks to the addition of Bob Shoop as coordinator. There are a few reasons for concern, however. The schedule is very difficult once again: The Vols play Alabama (home) and Texas A&M (road) from the SEC West and visit Georgia, which figures to be their biggest challenger in the division. Also, this program will be under immense pressure to win big in 2016. Last year, Tennessee did not play well in crunch time, losing well-documented leads against Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas. How the Vols handle the spotlight, and the expectations that come with it, will go a long way in determining just how successful this team can be.

 

 

Kentucky is No. 4 in the East. That seems a bit high for a program that has won four SEC games in the past four seasons.

 

Yes, that does seem a bit lofty, but the prediction makes more sense when you consider that Kentucky has the most forgiving league schedule of the four teams jockeying for fourth place in the SEC East. The Wildcats host South Carolina and Vanderbilt — two games they should be favored to win — and they also get Mississippi State at home. That could be three wins right there, and three wins could be enough to edge out Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Missouri for fourth place. But it’s not just about schedule. Mark Stoops recruited well early in his tenure at UK, and the program is stocked with solid talent, most notably at the skill positions. Also, we can’t forget that this team was very close to winning several more games in 2016; the Cats lost by five to Florida, three to Auburn and four to Vanderbilt. A play here or there would have resulted in another win or two and a trip to a bowl game. We don’t expect Kentucky to be a factor in the SEC East race, but this is a team that should return to the postseason for the first time since 2010.

 

LSU has been a trendy pick as a national title contender in the offseason. How close were the Tigers to edging Alabama for the top spot in the SEC West?

 

Not too close. LSU will have a ton of talent — but talent has not been the issue in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have signed top-six recruiting classes in four straight seasons yet have a 14–10 record in the SEC since the start of the 2013 season. During that same stretch, Alabama is 21–3 in the SEC — including three wins over LSU. So while LSU has the makings of a really good team in 2016, there are more than enough reasons not to jump on the bandwagon and label this team as a legitimate national title contender.

 

Mississippi State has averaged 3.7 SEC wins per season under Dan Mullen and has yet to finish in last place under his watch. Still, the Bulldogs are the pick for last in the SEC West for the second straight season. Why?

 

It’s safe to say that our expectations for this program — as it relates to the finish in the division — would be much higher if it played in the SEC East. But the Bulldogs find themselves swimming in the brutal waters of the toughest division in football. And while they’ve continued to prove the prognosticators wrong, especially last year, the Dogs make the most sense at No. 7 this season. Through improved recruiting, MSU might be better positioned than in previous years to overcome some key personnel losses, but it’s tough to ignore the fact that the team must replace arguably the best player in school history (Dak Prescott) at the most important position (quarterback) on the field and that the top wide receiver (De’Runnya Wilson) and most talented defensive player (Chris Jones) are also gone.

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Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 SEC Predictions
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Last season was a banner year for the under-40 coaching set.

 

Justin Fuente coached his last season in his 30s by winning nine games at Memphis and then taking the Virginia Tech job. Kirby Smart landed one of the best jobs in college football at Georgia and then won a national title as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. Willie Taggart may have saved his job with an 8-5 season at USF. Kalani Sitake landed his dream job as BYU’s head coach.

 

All four will start the 2016 season after hitting the big 4-0, so they’re moving off this list.

 

There remain plenty of head coaches and coordinators in their 30s who will make a major impact in college football this season. Two of them (Matt Campbell and Kliff Kingsbury) are in the Big 12 alone, and that doesn’t count two offensive coordinators (Lincoln Riley and Sonny Cumbie) who could add to their stash of conference championship rings.

 

In other conferences, 35-year-old P.J. Fleck will be in contention for a MAC title. Bryan Harsin is looking to win his second Mountain West championship at Boise State.

 

A number of other under-40 coaches are in tough rebuilding jobs or seeking their first head coaching gig.

 

All ages are as of Sept. 1, 2016

 

All editions of the Athlon Sports college football 2016 preview magazine are .

 

1. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan head coach

Age: 35

Fleck has already been a hot commodity for also-ran Big Ten programs. It seems Fleck, a former Greg Schiano assistant, is going to pick his spot for a jump to a major job. Of course, what he’s got going now at Western Michigan is pretty good. After starting 1-11, the Broncos are 16-10 overall and 12-4 in the MAC the last two seasons. Fleck already has the reputation of a , and he’s lapped the MAC in recruiting the last three cycles.

 

2. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech head coach

Age: 37

Kingsbury is 19-19 overall and 10-17 in the Big 12 since his return to Texas Tech. Despite a 7-6 record in 2015, there were signs the Red Raiders are ready to make a move. Texas Tech beat Texas and Kansas State in back-to-back weeks in November after recording just one November win (over Iowa State) in Kingsbury's first two seasons. The Red Raiders are starting to improve their defense. Tech has proven it can beat the Big 12’s lower class. Time to start putting fear in the league’s contenders.

 

3. Matt Campbell, Iowa State head coach

Age: 36

Campbell has been on the ascent almost as soon as he took over at Toledo for a bowl win in 2011. In four seasons, Campbell never took the Rockets to the MAC title game, but he finished with fewer than nine wins just once, going 7-5 in 2013. Toledo has ranked in the top four in the MAC in yards per play every year since 2010, when Campbell became offensive coordinator. Iowa State hopes Campbell will bring a dose of energy to one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in the country.

 

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4. Bryan Harsin, Boise State head coach

Age: 39

The Broncos’ 9-4 finish and 5-3 mark in the Mountain West in 2015 were not what Boise State fans are accustomed to seeing. The bar is set plenty high, but there’s plenty of evidence that Harsin can more often than not cross it. Boise State is just two years removed from a 12-2 season, a Mountain West title and a win over Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. True, four losses and losing to New Mexico and Air Force is seldom-visited territory for a Boise State coach, but there was plenty of silver lining last season. Harsin beat his mentor, Washington coach Chris Petersen, in the opener, and the Broncos crushed Northern Illinois 55-7 in the Poinsettia Bowl.

 

5. D.J. Durkin, Maryland head coach

Age: 38

Few coaches have a better pedigree than Durkin. He a native of Youngstown, Ohio, (a coaching hotbed that counts the Stoops family among others) and has spent most of his career under Urban Meyer (at Florida) and Jim Harbaugh (at Stanford and Michigan). In his last three years as a defensive coordinator with the Gators and Wolverines, his units have finished no lower than 14th in total defense. Durkin surely has picked up a ton of organizational know-how from Meyer and Harbaugh that he’ll need to apply at Maryland.

 

6. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma offensive coordinator

Age: 32

Even before arriving at Oklahoma, Riley was on course for a breakout. Air Raid coordinators tend to be on the fast track to big-time coordinator and head coaching jobs — Riley backed up Kliff Kingsbury and B.J. Symons at Texas Tech and served under Mike Leach for six years. Riley hit his stride in his fourth season as East Carolina’s offensive coordinator, improving the Pirates from 56th in total offense to 25th and finally fifth. In his first season at Oklahoma, the Sooners improved from 25th to seventh and reached the College Football Playoff.

 

7. Dave Aranda, LSU defensive coordinator

Age: 39

Aranda’s creative defenses have made him one of the nation’s top coordinators over the last four years. Three of his last four teams at Wisconsin and Utah State have ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed per play. A move to LSU puts him at the helm of enviable defensive talent. The sky’s the limit if the Tigers make a run at the SEC and national titles.

 

8. Sonny Cumbie, TCU co-offensive coordinator

Age: 35

Along with Doug Meacham, Cumbie has been credited with a major shift in TCU’s offensive philosophy to a no-huddle spread. The move turned the Horned Frogs into one of the top three teams in the Big 12 the last two seasons. Meacham is the playcaller, but Cumbie — a former Texas Tech quarterback — was courted by Texas in their OC search.

 

9. Mike Norvell, Memphis head coach

Age: 34

Two of Todd Graham’s former offensive coordinators are head coaches now: Gus Malzahn (who went to Auburn as OC) and Chad Morris (who went to Clemson). Norvell didn’t have as much notoriety as the other two, but he’s been with Graham every step of the way from Tulsa to Pitt to Arizona State.

 

10. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina head coach

Age: 38

Montgomery has only coached two places — Duke on two separate stints and with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Having bosses like David Cutcliffe and Mike Tomlin isn’t a bad start. He’s a stickler for details and discipline, which is necessary to even the odds at a place like Duke.

 

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11. Barry Odom, Missouri head coach

Age: 39

A former Missouri player, Odom worked his way from administrative roles to defensive coordinator under Gary Pinkel. Even as he ran a standout defense at Memphis, he seemed like a natural fit to take over for his mentor. He probably didn’t think it would be this soon and under difficult on- and off-field circumstances.

 

12. Neal Brown, Troy head coach

Age: 36

Troy went only 4-8 in Brown’s first season, but the Trojans improved over the course of the season. Troy went 3-3 in the final six games and took Appalachian State to overtime on the road during that span. A former offensive coordinator at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky, Brown actually had more success on the defensive side of the ball.

 

13. Mike Sanford Jr., Notre Dame offensive coordinator

Age: 33

Sanford was already well traveled before he landed on the staff at Notre Dame. He coached at Western Kentucky under Willie Taggart for a year, at Stanford for three under David Shaw and at Boise State for a year under Harsin. At Notre Dame, Brian Kelly has his hands all over the offense, but the Sanford deserves some of the credit for the quick development of Deshone Kizer and C.J. Prosise last season. Kelly’s offensive coordinators have had little trouble getting head coaching jobs, but they have not been particularly successful. Sanford may break the mold.

 

14. Walt Bell, Maryland offensive coordinator

Age: 31

In Bell’s two seasons as Arkansas State’s offensive coordinator, the Red Wolves led the Sun Belt in total offense in conference games. He got his start under Larry Fedora at Oklahoma State, Southern Miss and North Carolina.

 

15. Tee Martin, USC offensive coordinator

Age: 38

The quarterback of 1998 national champion Tennessee has been moving up the coaching ranks from high schools to Kentucky to the offensive coordinator post. He’s been in demand as a recruiter, but this will be his first season as a playcaller.

 

College Football: Others Receiving Votes



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College Football's 15 Best Coaches Under 40 for 2016
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Before each college football season, Athlon Sports hears from readers wanting to know why one team was favored over another in our preseason rankings. Why this team was ranked so high or that team so low.

 

Some of these questions are in — um — colorful language.

 

That’s why Athlon takes you inside our decision process for some of the biggest questions you ask. Believe it or not, some of these questions are the ones we grappled with through our rankings meeting.

 

Here are the questions we anticipated about our .

 

The Athlon Sports 2016 ACC Preview is 

 

 

What gave Florida State the edge over Clemson?

 

We spent more time, thought and energy on this pick than any other this season. This is no exaggeration: This was Athlon’s toughest pick in a division or conference in several years. Not only are Florida State and Clemson incredibly close in our eyes, but the winner of the Atlantic has the edge in the ACC as a whole and has an excellent shot at the CFB Playoff. In the end, we still had both FSU and Clemson in our national top four. The arguments boiled down to this: One team has Deshaun Watson; the other one is loaded at every other position. We ended up picking Florida State due in part to the experience factor with nine returning starters on offense and six on defense. Deondre Francois should stabilize the quarterback position enough so the offense isn’t so reliant on Dalvin Cook. Clemson has recruited back-to-back top-10 classes, but Florida State has stacked three consecutive top-five national classes. We’re giving Clemson the benefit of the doubt that the Tigers’ D will be solid again, but 13 freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep defense is a concern. Clemson overall has the easier schedule, but Florida State gets the all-important head-to-head at Doak Campbell Stadium.

 

How many teams did you seriously consider for the Coastal Division title?

 

As usual, the ACC Coastal is one of the most difficult divisions to pick in the country. Three teams — North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech — received serious consideration for the division title. A look at our national rankings of those three teams, all between Nos. 22 and 29, shows how close this was. And even then, our staff considered Pittsburgh, ranked 38th nationally, to be a legitimate sleeper for the division. The X-factors in the division will be the new coaches, particularly Mark Richt at Miami and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech. Richt should bring a steady hand to Miami that’s been lacking as predecessor Al Golden had been under pressure for two years, and Fuente brings offensive credibility back to the Hokies. Virginia Tech has an immediate advantage as the only Coastal team to avoid Clemson, Florida State and Louisville from the Atlantic.

 

 

In the end, what gave North Carolina the edge in the Coastal?

 

We could argue that the Tar Heels were the safest pick in the division. North Carolina went 8–0 in the ACC last season (helped by avoiding Clemson, Florida State and Louisville) and has an entrenched coaching staff. Quarterback Marquise Williams is gone, but we’re confident UNC will still put up points like Larry Fedora’s offenses always do. New QB Mitch Trubisky walks into a great situation with Elijah Hood at running back and an offensive line that’s second only to Clemson in the ACC. The defense still has its holes, but coordinator Gene Chizik already worked wonders by improving this unit from terrible to adequate last season.

 

The top three in the Atlantic Division seem clear. Is there a team among the bottom four of that division that could surprise?

 

Louisville is the clear No. 3 in the division, and, frankly, could be better than any team in the Coastal. NC State, Syracuse, Wake Forest and Boston College last season went 0–20 against Florida State, Clemson, Louisville and the entire Coastal Division. We don’t think that’s going to happen again. Dino Babers brings a shot of energy and instant offense to Syracuse. With 15 returning starters, Wake Forest is inching back to respectability under Dave Clawson. Boston College should be significantly improved on offense with Kentucky transfer Patrick Towles at quarterback and Jon Hilliman healthy at running back. Of those four teams, only NC State, without quarterback Jacoby Brissett, is in a position to regress.

Teaser:
Explain Yourselves: Athlon Answers Questions About 2016 ACC Predictions
Post date: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
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Body:

For dozens of coaches and players in college basketball, the last few weeks have been nerve-wracking.

 

After the season, 117 underclassmen entered their names into the NBA Draft. A majority of these players needed more information on whether to hire and agent and test the pros or to return to school. In the end, 57 will return to college (though not necessarily the same one for which they played in 2015-16).

 

The coaches, too, have been left wondering what kind of roster they might have in 2016-17 and if they would need to continue to recruit or pursue transfers to fill a roster spot.

 

Now that all the decisions have been made, Athlon Sports taking a quick look ahead for 2016-17.

 

1. Duke (25-11, 11-7 ACC)

Top Returners: G Grayson Allen, G Luke Kennard, F Amile Jefferson, G Matt Jones, F/C Chase Jeter

Newcomers: F Harry Giles, F Jayson Tatum, G Frank Jackson, C Marques Bolden (all freshmen)

Buzz: Duke had little drama around the NBA Draft early entry deadline as Player of the Year contender Grayson Allen didn’t put his name in at all. A star-studded freshman class makes Duke the clear No. 1 heading into 2016-17. An additional year of eligibility for Amile Jefferson is an added bonus.

 

2. Villanova (35-5, 16-2 Big East)

Top Returners: G Josh Hart, G Jalen Brunson, F Kris Jenkins, G Phil Booth, F Mikal Bridges

Newcomers: C Omari Spellman (freshman)

Buzz: Josh Hart’s decision to return to school means Villanova has a legitimate shot for back-to-back national titles. Losing Ryan Arcidiacono’s leadership and experience hurts, but second-year point guard Jalen Brunson was a five-star talent as a recruit.

 

3. Kentucky (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Top Returners: G Isaiah Briscoe, F Derek Willis, G Dominique Hawkins, F Isaac Humphries

Newcomers: G De’Aaron Fox, F Bam Adebayo, G Malik Monk, F Wenyen Gabriel (freshmen)

Buzz: Isaiah Briscoe returned to school, giving Kentucky at least one key piece returning from last year’s squad. Forward Marcus Lee elected to transfer rather than return to another crowded situation in the frontcourt. As usual, Kentucky brings in a loaded recruiting class with five top 25 prospects.

 

4. Kansas (33-5, 15-3 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Devonte Graham, F Landen Lucas, G Frank Mason, G Svi Mykhailiuk, F Carlton Bragg

Newcomers: G Josh Jackson, C Udoka Azubuike (freshmen)

Buzz: Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden are gone, but this is a Bill Self team. There’s more than enough to contend for another Big 12 title behind a veteran backcourt. The Jayhawks also added the No. 1 prospect in the class of 2016 in shooting guard Josh Jackson.

 

5. Oregon (31-7, 14-4 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G/F Dillon Brooks, G Tyler Dorsey, F Jordan Bell, G Casey Benson

Newcomers: F Kavel Bigby-Williams (junior college), G Dylan Ennis (transfer from Villanova)

Buzz: Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey both put their name in the draft, and both returned. The high-scoring Ducks will be the favorite to repeat as Pac-12 champions and should be able to set their sights even higher.

 

6. North Carolina (33-7, 14-4 ACC)

Top Returners: G Joel Berry, F Isaiah Hicks, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, G Theo Pinson

Newcomers: C Tony Bradley, G Seventh Woods (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing double-double machine Brice Johnson and senior Marcus Paige drops the ceiling a bit. The Heels will look to Justin Jackson to be the team’s next star.

 

7. Virginia (29-8, 13-5 ACC)

Top Returners: G Devon Hall, G London Perrantes, F Isaiah Wilkins

Newcomers: F Austin Nichols (transfer from Memphis), G Kyle Guy, G Ty Jerome (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing Malcolm Brogdon hurts, but Tony Bennett teams remain steady despite changing personnel. Having London Perrantes leading the way and adding Austin Nichols in the frontcourt will keep the Cavs in ACC contention.

 

8. Xavier (28-6, 14-4 Big East)

Top Returners: G Trevon Bluiett, G Edmond Sumner, G Myles Davis, F J.P Macura

Newcomers: F RaShid Gaston (transfer from Norfolk State)

Buzz: The return of Trevon Bluiett means Villanova will have a worthy foil atop the Big East standings. The Musketeers return their top three scorers from last season and add an efficient scorer in RaShid Gaston.

 

9. Arizona (25-9, 12-6 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G Allonzo Trier, G Kadeem Allen, C Dusan Ristic

Newcomers: G Terrance Ferguson, G Rawle Alkins, F Lauri Markkanan, G Kobi Simmons (freshman)

Buzz: The return of shooting guard Allonzo Trier was huge. Adding guard Terrance Ferguson in April gives the Wildcats a recruiting class loaded with four five-star prospects.

 

10. Indiana (27-8, 15-3 Big Ten)

Top Returners: C Thomas Bryant, G James Blackmon, F Collin Hartman, G Robert Johnson, F OG Anunoby

Newcomers: G Curtis Jones, F De’Ron Davis (freshmen), G Josh Newkirk (transfer from Pittsburgh)

Buzz: James Blackmon returned to school, Troy Williams did not. The big question will be how the Hoosiers replace veteran point guard Yogi Ferrell. Getting Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby back means IU can contend for the Big Ten title.

 

11. Michigan State (29-6, 13-5 Big Ten)

Top Returners: G Eron Harris, G Lourawls Nairn, F Gavin Schilling

Newcomers: F Miles Bridges, G Josh Langford, G Cassius Winston, F Nick Ward (freshmen)

Buzz: Losing a top three of Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello will hurt. Eron Harris and Tum Tum Nairn are poised to lead the backcourt, and Tom Izzo brings in a top-five recruiting class.

 

12. Wisconsin (22-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: F Nigel Hayes, F Vitto Brown, F Ethan Happ, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

Buzz: The return of Nigel Hayes means Wisconsin brings back almost all of the team that went 13-4 after Jan. 12.

 

13. Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: F Caleb Swanigan, C Isaac Haas, F Vince Edwards, G P.J. Thompson

Newcomers: G Carsen Edwards (freshman), G Spike Albrecht (transfer from Michigan)

Buzz: Caleb Swanigan elected to return to school, giving Purdue a pair of elite big men in Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Adding Spike Albrecht from Michigan gives some aid to a lackluster backcourt.

 

14. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC)

Top Returners: G Donovan Mitchell, G Quentin Snider, F Mangok Mathiang, F Raymond Spalding, F Deng Adel

Newcomers: G Tony Hicks (transfer from Penn), G/F V.J. King (freshman)

Buzz: Forward Chinanu Onuaku left for the draft, meaning the Cardinals must replace their top three scorers (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis were Nos. 1-2). Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider will lead a backcourt-oriented team.

 

15. SMU (25-5, 13-5 American)

Top Returners: G Sterling Brown, G Shake Milton, G Ben Moore

Newcomers: F Semi Ojeleye (transfer from Duke)

Buzz: SMU was a solid top-25 team all year despite the postseason ban. The Mustangs must replace point guard Nic Moore, but return three players who averaged double figures.

 

16. Iowa State (23-12, 10-8 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Deonte Burton, G Monte Morris, G Matt Thomas

Buzz: With Fred Hoiberg gone one year and Georges Niang the next, Iowa State can’t help but fall back to the pack. Morris is still an elite distributor running the show.

 

17. Creighton (20-15, 9-9 Big East)

Top Returners: G Maurice Watson, F Cole Huff, G Isaiah Zierden, F Zach Hanson, G Khyri Thomas, F Toby Hegner

Newcomers: G Marcus Foster (transfer from Kansas State)

Buzz: Maurice Watson quietly averaged 14.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.5 assists last season. The Bluejays should be a bounce-back team after returning a veteran-laden squad and adding point guard Marcus Foster from K-State.

 

18. Maryland (27-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Top Returners: G Melo Trimble, F Damonte Dodd, G/F Jared Nickens

Newcomers: G Anthony Cowan, G Kevin Huerter, F Justin Jackson

Buzz: Maryland never really clicked as a national championship contender last season, but with point guard Melo Trimble returning to school, the Terrapins are a solid top-25 squad. Losing seniors Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman, junior Robert Carter and one-and done big man Diamond Stone is notable, but the Terps have a top-10 recruiting class coming in.

 

19. UCLA (15-17, 6-12 Pac-12)

Top Returners: G Bryce Alford, G Isaac Hamilton, G Aaron Holiday, C Thomas Welsh

Newcomers: G Lonzo Ball, F T.J. Leaf (freshmen)

Buzz: Steve Alford is under pressure after a losing season in his third year with the Bruins. Four double-digit scorers are back from last year’s team, but more important: Point guard Lonzo Ball and forward T.J. Leaf are top-20 signees.

 

20. Saint Mary’s (29-6, 15-3 West Coast)

Top Returners: C Evan Fitzner, F Calvin Hermanson, C Jock Landale, G Emmett Naar, F Dane Pineau, G Joe Rahon

Buzz: Every key player returns to a team that beat Gonzaga twice during the regular season and claimed the West Coast Conference title.

 

21. Gonzaga (28-8, 15-3 West Coast)

Top Returners: G Josh Perkins

Newcomers: C Zach Collins (freshman), F Johnathan Williams (transfer from Missouri), G Nigel Williams-Goss (transfer from Washington)

Buzz: Josh Perkins is the only returning player who averaged more than 6.6 points per game last season. Nigel Williams-Goss was a highly recruiting point guard before he landed at Washington, and Williams averaged 11.9 points and 7.1 rebounds during his last season at Mizzou.

 

22. Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6 Big 12)

Top Returners: G Dante Buford, C Khadeem Lattin, G Jordan Woodard

Newcomers: F Kristian Doolittle, G Kameron McGusty, G Austin Grandstaff (transfer from Ohio State)

Buzz: The Sooners all too often went as Buddy Hield did. They’ll have to learn to win without him in 2016-17.

 

23. Dayton (25-8, 14-4 Atlantic 10)

Top Returners: G Charles Cooke, F Dyshawn Pierre, G Scoochie Smith, F Kendall Pollard, G Kyle Davis

Newcomers: F Josh Cunningham (transfer from Bradley)

Buzz: The Flyers return their top five scorers and add Cunningham (7.9 points, 7.5 points in the Missouri Valley). Dayton had a solid top-25 season last year before running into Final Four-bound Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

 

24. Virginia Tech (20-15, 10-8 ACC)

Top Returners: F Zach LeDay, G Seth Allen, G Justin Bibbs, G Chris Clarke, G Justin Robinson, F Kerry Blackshear Jr.

Buzz: The rebuild is nearly complete for Buzz Williams in Blacksburg. The Hokies upset Virginia in January closed the ACC regular season with five consecutive wins, including Pitt and Miami. The Hokies return seven of their top eight players.

 

25. UConn (25-11, 11-7 American)

Top Returners: G Rodney Purvis, C Amida Brimah, G Jalen Adams

Newcomers: G/F Terry Larrier (transfer from VCU), G Alterique Gilbert, F Juwan Durham (freshmen)

Buzz: The Huskies still have a solid inside-outside duo with Rodney Purvis and Amida Brimah. Kevin Ollie adds two top-50 prospects for a run at the AAC title and another Tourney bid.

Teaser:
An Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2016-17
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Not all games between major college football teams and their brothers in the lower division are created equal.

 

There’s plenty of evidence for this beyond just the handful of FCS-over-FBS upsets each year. Five-time FCS champion North Dakota State has a five-game winning streak against FBS competition that predates the Bison’s national title streak. One of the quarterbacks of those teams, Carson Wentz, went second in the NFL draft. FCS quarterbacks — like Vernon Adams and Dakota Prukop — have been coveted graduate transfers.

 

Then there is the other side of the coin: Power programs using FCS teams for easy wins, glorified scrimmages and schedule filler.

 

As usual, the games that make our most shameful game list are between Power 5 programs and clearly overmatched FCS opponents. Extra “shameful points” were awarded to FBS teams asking an FCS opponent to travel across state lines to do the deed.

 

It is also worth mentioning that we factored no extenuating circumstances in this ranking: We don’t care if this game falls in a tough part of the schedule or if the FBS school got into a bind making its schedule. These games are here and they’ll be ugly.

 

10. UC Davis at Oregon, Sept. 3

Scheduling out West can be tough, with only the Mountain West around for non-conference games. The Ducks are scraping the bottom of the barrel for a UC Davis team that is 4-18 the last two seasons. This will be a reunion of sorts — UC Davis coach Ron Gould is a former Oregon player and GA — but it won’t be an enjoyable one.

 

9. Missouri State at Kansas State, Sept. 24

Early in Bill Snyder’s tenure, Kansas State was renowned for its light non-conference schedules. Yet in recent years, Kansas State has faced Auburn, Miami (twice) and UCLA in September. The Wildcats open 2016 at Stanford. A game against Missouri State proves K-State can still find room for a patsy. Missouri State won only one game last season — against Division II Chadron State — and lost by a combined score of 140-14 to Memphis and Arkansas State.

 

8. Furman at Michigan State, Sept. 2

Furman went 4-7 last season but actually ranked higher in the Sagarin Ratings (No. 182) than Eastern Michigan (No. 184) last season. The shameful part of this game is Michigan State — winners of two of the last three Big Ten titles — importing an FCS team from South Carolina for a Friday night game to open the season.

 

T-7. Idaho State at Colorado, Sept. 10

T-7. Idaho State at Oregon State, Sept. 17

Idaho State is a regular for shameful games. And, yes, Oregon State and Colorado need all the wins they can get. Few wins are more automatic than Idaho State. The Bengals lost 52-0 to Boise State last season and 80-8 to UNLV a week later. Aside from an 8-4 season in 2014, Idaho State is 16-85 since 2006.

 

6. Austin Peay at Kentucky, Nov. 19

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops might need a game like this to get to bowl game and perhaps save his job. Of course, any sign of struggle against Austin Peay would be a red flag for Stoops. Austin Peay went 1-34 under former coach Kirby Cannon and replaced him with 30-year-old Will Healy.

 

5. Delaware State at Missouri, Sept. 24

Missouri brings in the second-best FCS team in Delaware for an easy September win. The Hornets have gone 3-20 the last two seasons. At least second-year coach Kenny Carter has plenty of major college experience as a former assistant at Louisville, Florida, Vanderbilt, Penn State, Pittsburgh and LSU.

 

4. Chattanooga at Alabama, Nov. 19

Chattanooga isn’t a bad team. Actually, the Mocs are pretty good. They’ve won three Southern Conference titles in a row and ranked No. 100 in the Sagarin Ratings last season — ahead of teams bowl teams like Akron, Colorado State, Nevada and Georgia State. The Mocs are a good enough team to upset a handful of FBS teams, and the SEC vs. FCS challenge in late November is a tradition at this point. But this is Alabama, and there’s nothing to gain from a game against an opponent the Tide beat by a combined score of 94-0 in 2009 and 2013.

 

3. Northwestern State at Baylor, Sept. 3

Northwestern State actually beat an FBS team in 2014, defeating Louisiana Tech 30-27 — a game that happened to be just two weeks after a 70-6 loss to Baylor. The result won’t be much different this year. Baylor can’t even grab a good FCS team for its annual routs against the lower division. Northwestern State has had just one winning season since 2004.

 

2. Nicholls State at Georgia, Sept. 10

Kirby Smart’s first six weeks as a head coach will be brutal: North Carolina, at Missouri, at Ole Miss, Tennessee and at South Carolina. The Nicholls State game is the breather his team will need, but it doesn’t make the game any less shameful. Nicholls State, a Southland Conference from Thibodaux, La., has lost 24 of its last 27 games. Five of its last six games against FBS competition have come by scores of 47-0 (ULM), 49-0 (Colorado), 77-3 (North Texas), 73-7 (Arkansas) and 70-7 (UL Lafayette).

 

1. Presbyterian at Florida, Nov. 19

If Steve Spurrier were to take a shot at Florida, it might go something like this: “You can’t spell BYE without Presbyterian.” Indeed, this game is a glorified bye week for the Gators in between the SEC finale against South Carolina and a road trip to Florida State. Presbyterian went 2-9 in 2015, finished 218th in the Sagarin Ratings, and scored more than 20 points only twice (23 against Campbell, 21 against Western Carolina) last season. Only two years ago, a decent Presbyterian team that finished 6-5 played three FBS teams, losing by a combined score of 145-3 to Northern Illinois, NC State and Ole Miss. Despite sharing a state with FAU, FIU, UCF and USF — not to mention a decent FCS program in Bethune-Cookman and legacy program in Florida A&M — Florida is importing a bad FCS team from South Carolina for an easy "W" in November.

 

Teaser:
The Most Shameful College Football Games of 2016
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If you’re one of the lucky college football fans out there who has already picked up this year’s Athlon Sports SEC preview (and if you haven’t, ), you may have noticed a notable anniversary.

 

This year’s SEC preview is the 50th edition Athlon has published. Back in 1967, the first issue of what became Athlon focused primarily on the SEC and Southeastern football. Over the years, we’d added editions featuring other conferences and sports, but in 1967, our bread-and-butter has been college football in the Southeast.

 

To mark our 50th edition, we’re looking back at Athlon’s early days. Over the next weeks and months, we’ll show off some of our archives — the good, the bad and the unintentionally funny.

 

For those of us who weren’t around back then, this is quite the illuminating exercise, if only because so little seems to have changed in 50 years.

 

In 1967, the SEC was then in its classic 10-team lineup — no South Carolina or Arkansas, never mind Texas A&M or Missouri. A year earlier, Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy, the SEC’s first Heisman winner since LSU’s Billy Cannon in 1959 and last until Auburn’s Pat Sullivan in 1971.

 

The league also was in a relative national title drought. Alabama won a split national title with Michigan State in 1965. An SEC team wouldn’t win another championship until Alabama split the title with Notre Dame in 1973.

 

The league’s coaching lineup was dotted with legends: Bear Bryant was entrenched at Alabama, Vince Dooley was just getting started at Georgia, and John Vaught was entering his twilight years at Ole Miss.

 

This is a bygone era, but some things never change. Here are few clips from that first issue of Athlon that prove as much.

 

1. The SEC was already trolling the Big Ten

 

 

Long before satellite camps were the SEC’s way to needle a Big Ten team, Athlon put it right on the cover.

 

“The Really Big Ten” sure seems like an attempt to throw shade on the conference up north.

 

2. We were tired of Alabama being great

 

 

From this headline, it seems like there was a bit of Alabama fatigue even then. Even fans of the SEC might be a bit tired of Alabama being so darn good.

 

By 1967, Bryant had already led Alabama to national titles in 1961, ‘64 and ’65. He’d add three more titles in ’73, ’78 and ’79. The Tide had won at least a share of three straight SEC titles heading into the 1967 season and were Athlon’s preseason favorite. And guess what? The defense in Tuscaloosa was dominant.

 

3. We picked Alabama to win the league

 

 

Athlon’s pick of Alabama to win the SEC in 1967 probably wasn’t a great omen. Tennessee ended up winning the SEC that year.

 

So, yes, we were a little off even in our first issue.

 

4. Florida has a quarterback problem

 

 

“Florida seeks QB” could have been a headline in every issue of Athlon since 2009, only the main heading would have been “Come Back Tim Tebow.”

 

5. A prominent player for a prominent school had off-field questions during the offseason

 

 

Every season seems to have a key player or two who is an offseason liability. Some players are knuckleheads. Some are dealing with more critical issues.

 

In the past, the Johnny Manziel circus was the offseason storyline, and one that would become more serious in his pro career. This year, Alabama is dealing with legal issues surrounding Alabama left tackle Cam Robinson.

 

Back in 1967, these kinds of issues tended to be less public, but we nonetheless knew something was going on.

 

Coming off of his first full season as a starter, then-Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler was suspended during the offseason. He was already a star in his own right as the MVP of the Sugar Bowl and his record-breaking accuracy, which by the way was a whopping 64.9 percent on 114 passes in 1966.

 

The Snake, of course, played in 1967, passing for 1,214 yards and nine touchdowns on the way to an 8-2-1 season and trip to the Cotton Bowl.

 

6. An eight-team playoff was already on people’s minds

 

 

We’re entering the third year of the College Football Playoff, but coaches were talking about it even in 1967. And administrative types were worried about how payouts might impact the respective conferences (sound familiar, Big 12 fans?).

 

The “proposed NCAA playoff” mentioned here was courtesy of then-Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty. The Spartans coach noted the popularity of the early Super Bowls and thought the college game was falling behind with its traditional bowl games. It was no coincidence that in 1966 Alabama (11-0), Michigan State (9-0-1) and Notre Dame (9-0-1) all finished undefeated but only the Irish claimed a national title.

 

Daugherty’s vision was for an eight-team tournament that would start in November on the home field of teams ranked higher in the polls and end in the middle of December. The plan, though supported by many prominent coaches, was disregarded thanks to pressure from the bowls and television executives and resistance from administrators.

 

7. The SEC was “too tough”

 

 

Today, fans from the SEC like to think players from the Big Ten, Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 could never withstand a full season in the SEC.

 

Back in 1967, even SEC freshmen weren’t tough enough for the SEC.

 

8. LSU also is seeking a quarterback

 

 

“LSU needs a quarterback most of all.” There’s another phrase that’s all too familiar in 2016.

 

Auburn, too, wasn’t satisfied with its starter early in the 1966 season, a storyline that’s familiar to the Tigers fans who watched Jeremy Johnson last season. That ill-fated ‘60s QB, Larry Blakeney, ended up getting moved to the secondary and then coached at Troy for more than 20 eyars.

 

9. SEC teams were looking to technology for an edge

 

 

Remember when coaches texting recruits was considered a major breakthrough? That was thanks to then-Florida coach Urban Meyer in the mid-2000s.

 

Now, we have Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin tweeting bitmojis and Texas A&M recruits calling out assistants on social media.

 

Those computers in 1967? Tennessee coach Doug Dickey used them to produce scouting reports. “Within 10 or 15 minutes, the computer will show an opponent is likely to do on third and 3 on his own 35,” this article read.

 

10. Vanderbilt was still waiting for its big moment

 

 

Unfortunately for the Commodores, James Franklin wouldn’t be born for another five years.

Teaser:
10 Ways the First Issue of Athlon Proves the SEC Never Changes
Post date: Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
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Athlon Sports last week released its season. Now, it’s time to look at the teams that just missed the cut.

 

These are teams that we could see on the fringes of the top 25 this season or perhaps even contending for a division in a Power 5 conference. On this week’s podcast, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox go conference-by-conference looking at teams ranked 26-50.

 

This includes teams like Arkansas, Miami, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Washington State, Nebraska, Utah, Wisconsin, Texas, Auburn, Penn State and many, many more.

 

What are these teams’ strengths and weaknesses and what would need to happen for these teams to crack the top 25?

 

Reminder: All of Athlon’s rankings and team previews are available in this year’s preseason magazines, which can be purchase  or on newsstands everywhere.

 

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to  @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email . The podcast can be found on  and our .

Teaser:
College Football Podcast: The Others Receiving Votes in the 2016 Athlon Top 25
Post date: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Magazines
Path: /college-football/where-and-how-buy-2016-athlon-sports-college-football-previews
Body:

The moment we’ve been waiting for all year is here: The arrival of the . We’ve been working since the end of last season to get you ready for 2016, and now you can purchase all six editions today.

 

Every edition — the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and National magazines — is .

 

Can’t wait for the issue to get the magazine on newsstands on May 24? You can buy it online now.

 

Are you an SEC fan living in Big Ten country? A Big Ten fan living out West? Or do you just want to make sure you get your favorite team on the cover? All editions and covers featuring nearly every Power 5 team are available in the store.

 

Also, Athlon is the only magazine in 2016 with editions for the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12.

 

Below are some of the features you will find in this season’s Athlon Sports 2016 college football previews.

 

 

In the SEC edition, you will find:

 

• Six pages previewing each SEC team featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.

 

• A look at the Alabama football dynasty and how it compares historically.

 

• An examination of the SEC-wide quarterback issues.

 

• A look at Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Les Miles as they’ve made their journey from hero to hot seat.

 

 

In the Big Ten edition, you will find:

 

• Four pages previewing each Big Ten team, plus Notre Dame, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.

 

• A play-by-play look at Michigan State’s epic drive to win the Big Ten championship.

 

• A new face on the Michigan defense.

 

• A look at new blood on the coaching staff at Penn State.

 

 

In the ACC edition, you will find:

 

• Four pages on each ACC team, plus four pages on Notre Dame, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.

 

• A Q&A with Clemson star Deshaun Watson.

 

• A profile of rising Florida State star Josh Sweat.

 

• A breakdown of new coaches at Virginia Tech, Miami, Virginia and Syracuse.

 

 

In the Big 12 edition, you will find:

 

• Six pages previewing each Big 12 team, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.

 

• An examination of the quarterback drought.

 

• Why TCU and Baylor are here to stay.

 

 

In the Pac-12 edition, you will find:

 

• Four pages previewing each Pac-12 team, plus Notre Dame and BYU, featuring exclusive scouting reports from opposing coaches and advanced stats.

 

• 10 storylines that will shape the Pac-12 in 2016.

 

In the national edition, you will find:

 

• Previews and rankings of all 128 FBS teams and all 10 conferences.

 

• An analytical breakdown of the teams that are certain to surprise in 2016.

 

• One-on-one Q&As with Heisman contenders Deshaun Watson of Clemson and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma.

Teaser:
Where and How to Buy the 2016 Athlon Sports College Football Previews
Post date: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 15:27
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL
Path: /nfl/2016-nfl-draft-carson-wentz-not-only-small-school-player-keep-eye
Body:

If you can play, the will find you, or so the adage goes. Rarely are players from Alabama and Grand Valley State on equal footing, but when the draft process comes along, front offices will dissect each player for signs that he can help win football games on the professional level.

 

Every season brings dozens of players who are unknown to even the most ardent football fans.

 

Here’s a look at four of the most interesting prospects from the FBS small conferences and FCS ranks. Each is listed among Athlon Sports' .

 

 

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Brock Jensen won three FCS national championships as the starter at North Dakota State from 2011-13 — but he might not have been the best quarterback on the roster according to one member of the Bison’s staff.

 

Chris Klieman, NDSU’s secondary coach in 2011, couldn’t help but be impressed with a young true freshman named Carson Wentz.

 

“He carved us up with a bunch of young scout team receivers,” says Klieman, who was promoted to the program’s head coach two years ago. “He was the best quarterback we faced all year.”

 

Jensen remained NDSU’s starting quarterback for two more national championships while Wentz remained the backup.

 

“We saw great promise in Carson,” says Craig Bohl, who won three national titles at NDSU before leaving for Wyoming in 2014. “When you’re in a winning phase, it’s not like you’re going to change horses in the middle of the race. Carson was always watching and observing and playing the game vicariously.”

 

And when it was time to play the game for real, Wentz guided the Bison to a 20–3 record and two FCS national championships in his two seasons as the starter. Wentz, however, was still a relative unknown in the college football world until he showed up at the Senior Bowl in early January.

 

He had the size (6-5, 232), and his record as a winner was impeccable. There were questions, though: How would he fare against FBS defenders (and with FBS receivers)? And how would he handle this first big moment in the draft process? After all, this was a kid who graduated from Bismarck (N.D.) Century High, whose father played linebacker at Northern State in Aberdeen, S.D., and whose brother was a four-year starting pitcher at NDSU.

 

“I think there’s, obviously, a lot of doubts coming from the FCS level,” Wentz said at a Senior Bowl press conference. “I want to address that right away. Prove I can play at a high level, play at a fast level, compete with these guys and just really excel. I feel I have the mental and physical abilities to play at this level, and I’m ready and really excited to prove that.”

 

Wentz more than answered questions in Mobile. He became the story of the week, improving his status from one of the top five QB prospects to a potential top-10 pick.

 

The Senior Bowl wasn’t the first time in the month of January he had to ease doubts.

 

In 2015, Wentz led North Dakota State to a 4–2 start, the first loss by three in the opener to Montana. In the second, he suffered a wrist injury early in the game. After the 24–21 loss to South Dakota, Wentz learned that he had suffered a broken wrist that would keep him out 6-8 weeks.

 

Backup Easton Stick led North Dakota State on an eight-game winning streak through the FCS semifinal against Richmond. The layoff between the Dec. 18 semifinal and the Jan. 9 championship game against Jacksonville State opened a window for Wentz. After the Christmas break, Wentz returned to practice, and by the Monday before the title game he was medically cleared.

 

Wentz completed 16-of-29 passes for 197 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions while rushing for 79 yards and two scores to help North Dakota State win its fifth consecutive national title.

 

“People asked if I was worried about him being rusty or throwing off the team chemistry so to speak. Not one bit,” Klieman says. “It’s Carson Wentz, and he’s the best player on the field every time he’s on the field.”

 

Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky

Even though Dean Hood had known Ohio State coach Urban Meyer since their days growing up in Ashtabula, Ohio, he had never known Meyer to call in many favors.

 

That is, Meyer never called on behalf of a player until Noah Spence, a former top-10 recruit, had seen a promising career at Ohio State end due to off-the-field issues.

 

“He’s never texted me or called me about a player ever, anywhere he’s been,” says Hood, then the coach at Eastern Kentucky. “He texted me on Noah, so I knew it was a special case right away.”

 

Other than Carson Wentz, Spence may be the most intriguing FCS prospect, and that’s mainly because of where he started.

 

Spence was the top signee in Meyer’s first recruiting class at Ohio State, signing the same year as quarterback Cardale Jones, defensive tackle Adolphus Washington and offensive linemen Taylor Decker and Pat Elflein. Spence was a star player as a sophomore with 7.5 sacks in 2013 (tied for the team lead with Joey Bosa) and 14 tackles for a loss (second on the team to eventual Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier).

 

But his abuse of the drug Ecstasy meant that his days as a Buckeye were numbered.

 

He tested positive for Ecstasy after the 2013 Big Ten title game. He told coaches and family that he suspected someone slipped it into his drink. By the time he tested positive a second time in September 2014, he couldn’t hide anymore. Per league policy, he was permanently banned from the Big Ten.

 

“I didn’t know where I was going,” Spence says. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

 

Meyer connected Spence with Hood, and together they started to lay out a recovery plan. Spence would meet with an off-campus counselor. He would be put in the pool any time EKU drug tested. The staff would also monitor his class attendance, something usually reserved for underclassmen.

 

Spence bought a calendar and wrote different goals — numbers of sacks, tackles for a loss, All-America nods and an invitation to the Senior Bowl among them.

 

He had one slip-up at Eastern Kentucky, a charge of alcohol intoxication and second-degree disorderly conduct. The record was later expunged.

 

On the field in 2015, Spence picked up where he had left off. He was fifth in the FCS in sacks (11.5 in 11 games) and fourth in tackles for a loss (22.5). He was an FCS All-American, earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl and graduated.

 

Spence hasn’t lost the explosiveness that made him a top recruit, but there’s a question of where he fits in a pro system. At 6-foot-2 and 254 pounds, he could be a designated pass rusher or play weak-side linebacker for some teams.

 

Spence also knows he will continue to face non-stop questions about his troubled past and the circumstances that led him to Eastern Kentucky. He must convince NFL teams that he’ll be able to continue his progress while making the move from Richmond, Ky., to an NFL city with more distractions.

 

Spence says his support system — family, friends and coaches — is firmly in place, and the fast life has no allure for him anymore.

 

“I’m in a better place mentally right now,” Spence says. “I don’t need to go out to have a good time. Certain things don’t excite me like they would before. I’d rather go to the movies than go to a party. I’d rather go out

and get good food than go out (and socialize). That’s the biggest change.”
 

Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah

If Killebrew didn’t look the part of an NFL prospect when he graduated from Henderson (Nev.) Foothill, it was by design.

 

Killebrew’s father, David, kept his son away from weights even though Miles was an all-state running back and safety. David Killebrew was an elite athlete in his own right, making it to the Olympic trials for velodrome cycling. At his peak, he squatted 750 pounds, but he steered his son to more cardio work and warned him against pushing himself to the max in the weight room.

 

Like any teenager in that situation, Miles doubted this philosophy. But as Killebrew went through his college career at Southern Utah, he never had any ligament or joint issues, and for that, he credits his father’s hardline stance.

 

“He knew what he was doing, man,” Killebrew says. “He just wanted my body to develop. He knows I’m a late bloomer just like he was. He didn’t want to stress out my joints and ligaments.”

 

Southern Utah coach Ed Lamb, now an assistant at BYU, didn’t know if Killebrew could play running back at the collegiate level, but thought he had the length, athleticism and speed to contribute somewhere once he filled out.

 

The 6-foot-1, 219-pound Killebrew finished his senior season as an All-Big Sky safety and has been compared as a prospect to Arizona Cardinals 2014 first-round pick Deone Bucannon out of Washington State. With his big-hitting ability, Killebrew could fit as a big nickel back or as a safety playing closer to the line of scrimmage.

 

Deiondre’ Hall, CB, Northern Iowa

When Hall was in his final two seasons at Blue Springs High School in Kansas City, he didn’t play enough football to get looks from major conference schools.

 

Up to that point, he focused more on basketball and track than football and didn’t have the grades for Power 5 programs.

 

By the end of his time at Northern Iowa, he had all the football he could handle.

 

When Hall was a sophomore, Northern Iowa played him at cornerback and as a small outside linebacker. When he was a senior, the Panthers needed him to play corner, return punts and line up at receiver.

 

“Sometimes I didn’t come off the field,” Hall says. “The transition from defense to special teams to offense to special teams to defense — you’re taking twice as many snaps as other guys on the team. It came down to taking more snaps than everyone else. I was OK with that. That’s what you want. I look at it as a blessing to do all that.”

 

In the NFL, he’ll likely stay at corner, where he could excel as a playmaker and disruptor. He had six interceptions as a senior despite playing most of the year with a broken hand. Thanks to his long arms (34 3/4 inches) and wingspan (82 1/4) — the latter a figure closer to that of a defensive end — he’ll be one of the more intriguing physical prospects in the 2015 draft.

 

This is just one of the features found in Athlon Sports' 2016 NFL Draft Preview Magazine. The most complete preview of this year’s draft, Athlon has once again enlisted the expertise of Dan Shonka from Ourlads Scouting Services, to provide our scouting reports and rankings. With his guidance, our perview magazine dives deep into the 2016 draft class with in-depth scouting reports on 218 of the top prospects and position-by-position rankings of 554 draft-eligible players. We also take a detailed look at every NFL team with depth charts and needs for the upcoming season. Our draft magazine also includes a profile of sure first-rounder Joey Bosa, a mock draft, a draft board, a peek ahead at the 2017 draft and much more.

 

(Noah Spence photo courtesy of Eastern Kentucky Sports Communications, Carson Wentz photo courtesy of North Dakota State Sports Communications; Miles Killebrew photo courtesy of Southern Utah Sports Communications)

Teaser:
2016 NFL Draft: Carson Wentz Not the Only Small School Player to Keep an Eye On
Post date: Monday, April 25, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/very-early-college-basketball-top-25-2016-17
Body:

Even as Villanova is still basking in the glow of its first national championship since 1985 and fans are catching their breath after a wild NCAA Tournament, it’s still a good time to start looking ahead.

 

This upcoming season is a little bit different for those of us in prediction land, as we have even less of a picture than we’ve had in recent years.

 

The NCAA returned to its old stance regarding the NBA Draft, allowing underclassmen to start the evaluation process and return to school, as long as they do not hire an agent.

 

Many freshmen, sophomores and juniors have already ended their eligibility by hiring agents, but many others are leaving us playing the waiting game as they work through the possibilities.

 

That said, the most important news for the top 25 came from a player staying in school. Grayson Allen didn’t even test his prospects in the NBA Draft, meaning a National Player of the Year favorite will return to school. He’ll join a star-studded recruiting class that makes Duke the easy call as preseason No. 1 at this point.

 

Here’s a snapshot of the landscape for 2016-17 — at least until the deadline for underclassmen to return to school on May 25.

 

1. Duke (25-11, 11-7 ACC)

Key Returners: G Grayson Allen, G Luke Kennard

Departures: F Brandon Ingram, F Marshall Plumlee, G Derryck Thornton

Wild Card: F Amile Jefferson

New Arrivals: F Harry Giles, G Frank Jackson, F Jayson Tatum

Buzz: The return of National Player of the Year contender Allen solidifies Duke as the preseason No. 1. The arrival of the No. 2 recruiting class gives Duke six five-star prospects on its roster, not including Allen.

 

2. Kentucky (27-9, 13-5 SEC)

Key Returners: G Isaiah Briscoe, F Marcus Lee

Departures: G Jamal Murray, F Skal Labissiere, F Alex Poythress, G Tyler Ulis

New Arrivals: F/C Bam Adebayo, G De’Aaron Fox, F Wenyan Gabriel, G Malik Monk

Buzz: Expect more the same at Kentucky. Ulis, Murray and Labissiere are headed to the draft. They’ll be replaced by the top recruiting class in the country. Fox and Monk are top-five talents in an elite 2016 class.

 

3. Villanova (35-5, 16-2 Big East)

Key Returners: G Phil Booth, F Mikal Bridges, G Jalen Brunson, F Kris Jenkins

Departures: G Ryan Arcidiacono, C Daniel Ochefu

Wild Card: G Josh Hart

New Arrivals: C Omari Spellman

Buzz: The Wildcats lose the inside-out duo of Arcidiacono and Ochefu. Brunson, a five-star guard in 2015, will see more time at the point, and Bridges flashed his potential in the run to the title. If Hart returns, Jay Wright's team will be in the mix again.

 

4. Kansas (33-5, 15-3 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Devonte Graham, F Landen Lucas, G Frank Mason, G Svi Mykhailiuk

Departures: F Perry Ellis, G/F Brannen Greene, G Wayne Selden, F Jamari Traylor

Wild Cards: F Carlton Bragg, F Cheick Diallo

New Arrivals: C Ukoka Azubuike, F Josh Jackson, F Mitch Lightfoot

Buzz: Losing veterans like Ellis, Selden and Traylor is a concern, but Kansas is able to reload as well as any program in the country. The backcourt will lead the way, but KU will need its young frontcourt to contribute immediately. Adding five-star freshman Josh Jackson a week after the title game was a major get.

 

5. Oregon (31-7, 14-4 Pac-12)

Key Returners: F Jordan Bell, G Casey Benson

Departures: F Dwayne Benjamin, F Chris Boucher, F Elgin Cook

Wild Cards: G/F Dillon Brooks, G Tyler Dorsey

New Arrivals: F Kavel Bigby-Williams

Buzz: Brooks will be a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate after averaging 16.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists last season. Dorsey was an unsung hero as a freshman. If both pull out of the draft as expected, Oregon is the Pac-12 favorite and a Final Four contender.

 

6. Virginia (29-8, 13-5 ACC)

Key Returners: G Devon Hall, G London Perrantes, F Isaiah Wilkins

Departures: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey

New Arrivals: G Kyle Guy, G Ty Jerome, F Austin Nichols

Buzz: Losing Brogdon is a major blow on both ends of the court. Gill’s departure shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Virginia under Tony Bennett has replaced major players before, so the system should be trusted. This is Perrantes’ team now, but Nichols, a former Memphis Tiger, could be the most important transfer in the country.

 

7. North Carolina (33-7, 14-4 ACC)

Key Returners: G Joel Berry, F Isaiah Hicks, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, G Theo Pinson

Departures: F Brice Johnson, G Marcus Paige

New Arrivals: C Tony Bradley, G Seventh Woods

The national runners-up have enough veterans returning to contend, but the Tar Heels will need to find a new guy who can take over a game late with Johnson and Paige gone. Jackson is the next man up.

 

8. Xavier (28-6, 14-4 Big East)

Key Returners: G Myles Davis, F J.P. Macura, G Edmond Sumner

Departures: G Remy Abell, F James Farr

Wild Cards: G Trevon Bluiett, F Jalen Reynolds

New Arrivals: F RaShid Gaston

Buzz: Bluiett’s decision on whether or not to enter the draft will determine if Xavier is a Big East title contender again or merely a solid NCAA Tournament team.

 

9. Indiana (27-8, 15-3 Big Ten)

Key Returners: G James Blackmon, C Thomas Byrant, F Collin Hartman, G Robert Johnson,

Departures: F Max Bielfeldt, G Yogi Ferrell, G Nick Zeisloft

Wild Cards: F OG Anunoby, F Troy Williams

New Arrivals: G Curtis Jones, F De’Ron Davis, G Josh Newkirk

Bryant’s decision to stay for his sophomore year is huge. If Anunoby and Williams make the same call, Indiana could be the Big Ten favorite. Newkirk, a Pittsburgh transfer, takes over Ferrell’s point guard spot.

 

10. Michigan State (29-6, 13-5 Big Ten)

Key Returners: G Eron Harris, G Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn, C Gavin Schilling

Departures: F Matt Costello, G Bryn Forbes, F Denzel Valentine

Wild Cards: F Deyonta Davis

New Arrivals: F Miles Bridges, G Josh Langford, G Cassius Winston, F Nick Ward

Buzz: Few teams lose more than Michigan State’s Valentine, Costello and Forbes. The Spartans’ backcourt of Nairn and Harris should emerge next season, and Tom Izzo brings in four top-50 freshmen.

 

11. Arizona (25-9, 12-6 Pac-12)

Key Returners: G Kadeem Allen, G Allonzo Trier, C Dusan Ristick

Departures: F Ryan Anderson, C Kaleb Tarczewski, F Mark Tollefsen, G Gabe York

Wild Card: G/F Terrance Ferguson

New Arrivals: G Rawle Alkins, F Lauri Marrkanen, G Kobi Simmons

Buzz: Trier’s return is key as Arizona replaces veterans Anderson, York and Tarczewski. Three top-50 recruits join a team that should contend in the Pac-12 again.

 

12. Louisville (23-8, 12-6 ACC)

Key Returners: F Deng Adel, G Donovan Mitchell, G Quentin Snider

Departures: F Damion Lee, G Trey Lewis

Wild Card: F/C Chinanu Onuaku

New Arrivals: G Tony Hicks, G/F V.J. King

The draft decision of Onuaku will loom large. If he returns, he could average a double-double. Former Penn guard Hicks will fill the void left by Lewis alongside Snider and Mitchell.

 

13. Wisconsin (22-13, 12-6 Big Ten)

Key Returners: F Vitto Brown, F Ethan Happ, F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter

Departures: None

Buzz: The Badgers went 13-4 after Jan. 12, upsetting Xavier in the second round. Everyone returns from a team that will have all of 2016-17 under head coach Greg Gard.

 

14. Texas (20-13, 11-7 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Eric Davis Jr., G/F Tevin Mack, G Kerwin Roach

Departures: G Javan Felix, C Prince Ibeh, F Connor Lammert, C Calvin Ridley

Wild Card: G Isaiah Taylor

New Arrivals: G Andrew Jones

Buzz: If Taylor returns to school, he’ll be the senior leader on a team with up-and-coming talent in sophomores Davis, Mack and Roach. Despite the loss to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament, Texas finished the season in fine form, beating Oklahoma and West Virginia down the stretch.

 

15. Syracuse (23-14, 9-9 ACC)

Key Returners: F Tyler Lydon, G Malachi Richardson, F Tyler Roberson

Departures: G Trevor Cooney, F Michael Gbinije

New Arrivals: G Tyus Battle

Buzz: Syracuse will try to ride the wave of its surprising Final Four run. Lydon and Richardson need to carry their star status through the entirety of the season.

 

16. SMU (25-5, 13-5 American)

Key Returners: G Sterling Brown, G Shake Milton, G Ben Moore

Departures: F Markus Kennedy, G Nic Moore, F Jordan Tolbert

New Arrivals: F Semi Ojeleye

Buzz: The postseason ban is over, and SMU should contend in the American again. Losing Moore leaves a major void at point guard. The arrival of Ojeleye, an import from Duke, keeps Larry Brown’s transfer pipeline moving.

 

17. USC (21-13, 9-9 Pac-12)

Key Returners: F Bennie Boatwright, G Julian Jacobs, C Nikola Jovanovic, G Jordan McLaughlin, G Elijah Stewart

Departures: F Katin Reinhardt

Buzz: USC will return four players who averaged double figures from a team that improved from 3-15 in the Pac-12 to 9-9. The goal in Andy Enfield’s fourth season will be to keep a consistent level of play into February and March.

 

18. Seton Hall (25-9, 12-6 Big East)

Key Returners: G Khadeen Carrington, C Angel Delgado, F Desi Rodriguez, F Ismael Sanogo

Departures: G Derrick Gordon

Wild Card: G Isaiah Whitehead

New Arrivals: G Myles Powell, G Jevon Thomas

If Whitehead returns, the Big East Tournament champs would bring back all five starters. Powell, a standout shooter, and Thomas, a former starter at Kansas State, will look to fill the void left by Gordon.

 

19. Oklahoma (29-8, 12-6 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Dante Buford, C Khadeem Lattin, G Jordan Woodard

Departures: G Isaiah Cousins, G Buddy Hield, F Ryan Spangler

New Arrivals: F Kristian Doolittle, G Kameron McGusty, G Austin Grandstaff

Buzz: Hield’s supporting cast showed its limitations at times last season, so Woodard and Lattin will need to take a step forward. Grandstaff, a transfer from Ohio State, will try to fill the biggest perimeter shooting void in the country.

 

20. Purdue (26-9, 12-6 Big Ten)

Key Returners: F Vince Edwards, C Isaac Haas, G P.J. Thompson, G P.J. Thompson

Departures: G Rapheal Davis, C A.J. Hammons

Wild Card: F/C Caleb Swanigan

New Arrivals: G Carsen Edwards

Buzz: Keeping Swanigan is the key piece. His return would mean Purdue returns three of its top four scorers. The freshman Edwards could take over point guard duties.

 

21. Iowa State (23-12, 10-8 Big 12)

Key Returners: G Deonte Burton, G Monte Morris, G Matt Thomas

Departures: F Jamel McKay, F Abdel Nader, F Georges Niang

New Arrivals: G Donovan Jackson, F Emmanuel Malou

Buzz: The return of Morris at point guard will give Iowa State a fighting chance in the Big 12. No more Niang lowers the bar. Transfers, this time JUCOs, will continue to play a role.

 

22. Notre Dame (24-12, 11-7 ACC)

Key Returners: F VJ Beachem, F Bonzie Colson, F Matt Ryan, G Steve Vasturia

Departures: F Zach Auguste, G Demetrius Jackson

New Arrivals: G Temple Gibbs

Beachem, Colson and Vasturia were all double-digit scorers last season, but losing a point guard and a double-double machine is significant.

 

23. Gonzaga (28-8, 15-3 West Coast)

Key Returners: G Josh Perkins

Departures: G Kyle Dranginis, G Eric McClellan F Domantas Sabonis, F Kyle Wiltjer

Wild Cards: C Przemek Karnowski

New Arrivals: C Zach Collins, F Johnathan Williams, G Nigel Williams-Goss

Buzz: Gonzaga will be a new-look team from the Wiltjer-Sabonis-Pangos squads of the last two years. Transfers Williams (from Missouri) and Williams-Goss (from Washington) will be a standout inside-out duo.

 

24. Saint Mary’s (29-6, 15-3 West Coast)

Key Returners: C Evan Fitzner, F Calvin Hermanson, C Jock Landale, G Emmett Naar, F Dane Pineau, G Joe Rahon

Departures: None

Buzz: The Gaels swept Gonzaga during the regular season but didn’t have enough on the non-conference schedule to earn an at-large bid after losing to the Bulldogs in the WCC tourney. With everyone back, Saint Mary’s should make another run.

 

25. UCLA (15-17, 6-12 Pac-12)

Key Returners: G Bryce Alford, G Isaac Hamilton, G Aaron Holiday, C Thomas Welsh

Departures: F/C Tony Parker

New Arrivals: G Lonzo Ball, F T.J. Leaf

Buzz: UCLA’s first losing season since 2010 has Steve Alford feeling the heat. This season will be key to his long-term future in Westwood. With only one notable loss (Parker) and two top-20 recruits arriving, UCLA will have to turn things around immediately.

Teaser:
A Very Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2016-17
Post date: Tuesday, April 12, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ranking-college-basketballs-national-champions-1985-2016
Body:

Not all national champions are created equal, especially in .

 

With 64 teams — and now 68 — competing for a national title, the odds for a random result in the postseason is almost certain.

 

In some ways, that makes sustained greatness through the course of the season even more impressive. Only one team since the field expanded has gone wire-to-wire as a No. 1 team in the country, far fewer than the number of .

 

Thanks to the three weeks of the NCAA Tournament, a handful of teams that won a national title might not end up on a list of the top 40 or 50 teams of the era. Instead, they got hot that the right time, caught the right matchups or got lucky that upsets in the bracket helped clear the way for a title.

 

In ranking the top national champions of the 64-team era, starting in 1985, we attempted to look at the entire picture — chiefly, how the team performed from beginning to end during the season, who each team had to beat in the Tournament and the overall talent on the roster.

 

1. 1992 Duke

Record: 34-2, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 71-51

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke won the national title a year earlier, vanquishing undefeated UNLV in the Final Four. That was only the beginning. The Blue Devils went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country, ending the season with a rout of the Fab Five in the championship game. Before that, national player of the year Christian Laettner hit the the greatest shot in NCAA history for the Blue Devils to defeat Kentucky in overtime in the Elite Eight. In the next game, Mike Krzyzewski had to out-duel mentor Bob Knight in an 81-78 win over Indiana in the Final Four.

 

2. 1996 Kentucky

Record: 34-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 76-67

Coach: Rick Pitino

“The Untouchables” outscored opponents by 22 points, and their only regular season losses came to teams that reached the Final Four. Kentucky atoned for one of those losses by defeating UMass, national player of the year Marcus Camby and coach John Calipari in the national semifinal. Led by Tony Delk, Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker, Kentucky finished off Syracuse in the title game for the Wildcats’ first national title since 1978.

 

3. 2001 Duke

Record: 35-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Arizona 82-72

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils featured two national players of the year in Shane Battier and Jay Williams, who won the award a year earlier. Duke spent the entire season in the top five but needed the biggest comeback in Final Four history to that point to advance to the title game. Duke trailed Maryland by 22 in the first half before rallying for a 95-84 win to face Glibert Arenas and Richard Jefferson for Arizona in the title game.

 

4. 2012 Kentucky

Record: 38-2, 16-0 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 67-59 

Coach: John Calipari

Perhaps the Kentucky team with John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe a year earlier was more talented, but this squad was pretty darn close. Anthony Davis won pretty much every award in the sport before being the No. 1 overall draft pick. Despite the two losses, Kentucky defeated every team it faced — the Wildcats lost in the SEC tournament to Vanderbilt, a team it had defeated twice during the regular season, and then atoned for its one-point loss to Indiana in December with a 102-90 win over the Hoosiers in the Sweet 16. Teammates Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the top two picks in the following NBA draft.

 

5. 2009 North Carolina

Record: 34-4, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan State 89-72

Coach: Roy Williams

Led by national player of the year Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, North Carolina was a dominant team for most of the season but especially in the postseason. The Heels’ 72-60 win over Blake Griffin and Oklahoma was their closest game in the NCAA Tournament.

 

6. 1990 UNLV

Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big West

Championship game: Defeated Duke 103-73

Coach: Jerry Tarkanian

The 1991 team that went to the Final Four with a 34-0 record was the better UNLV team of the two during this stretch, but the 1990 squad won the national title behind the play of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. The Rebels stunned Duke 103-73, setting the stage for the Blue Devils’ win over UNLV the following year in the Final Four.

 

7. 2005 North Carolina

Record: 33-4, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Illinois 75-70

Coach: Roy Williams

North Carolina’s first championship team since 1993 and Roy Williams’ first title-winning team spent most of the season in the shadow of 37-2 Illinois. The Tar Heels settled that once and for all with a 75-70 win over the Illini in the national title game. In the following NBA draft, four Tar Heels (Marvin Williams, Raymond Felton, Sean May and Rashad McCants) were lottery picks.

 

8. 2008 Kansas

Record: 37-3, 13-3 Big 12

Championship game: Defeated Memphis 75-68 (OT)

Coach: Bill Self

Kansas’ first championship team in 20 years wasn’t quite a sure thing, even though the Jayhawks spent all but one week of the season ranked in the top five. To reach a Final Four that included all No. 1 seeds, Kansas had to survive Stephen Curry-led Davidson with a 59-57 win in the Elite Eight and then needed a Mario Chalmers miracle shot and missed free throws from Memphis to clinch the title.

 

9. 1999 UConn

Record: 34-2, 16-2 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Duke 77-74 

Coach: Jim Calhoun

After knocking on the door several times, UConn won the national title in its first trip to the Final Four. Led by Rip Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin, the Huskies spent the entire season ranked in the top four before defeating Elton Brand, Shane Battier and Duke in the national title game.

 

10. 2004 UConn

Record: 33-6, 12-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgia Tech 82-73

Coach: Jim Calhoun

Calhoun’s second national title team was loaded with NBA Draft picks. Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon were selected second and third overall, respectively, in the 2004 draft, and Charlie Villanueva followed as a first-round pick in the 2005 draft. Josh Boone and Marcus Williams, late first-rounders in 2006, were both freshmen on this team.

 

11. 1987 Indiana

Record: 30-4, 15-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Syracuse 74-73

Coach: Bob Knight

The first season with the 3-point shot was indeed a game-changer as this Final Four was marked more by run Rick Pitino’s Providence team made to the national semifinal. Knight’s team, led by Steve Alford, showed plenty of ability to adjust, defeating UNLV 97-93 in the semifinals and Syracuse 74-73 in the title game.

 

12. 2015 Duke

Record: 35-4, 15-3

Championship game: Defeated Wisconsin 68-63

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

This Duke team will be remembered for what it accomplished for Krzyzewski — his fifth national title and his 1,000th career win, among other records broken this season. It was also one of his most unique teams, starting three freshmen and playing zone from time to time. The Blue Devils spent all season in the top five and lost twice after Jan. 13, both to the same Notre Dame team that took Kentucky to the wire in the Elite Eight. All-American Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow could be top-five picks, and Tyus Jones could be a first-rounder.

 

13. 1991 Duke

Record: 32-7, 11-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 72-65

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

The Blue Devils made up for a 30-point loss to UNLV in the title game a year earlier by spoiling UNLV’s undefeated season in the Final Four. Though this was a team amid a run of five Final Fours and on the front end of back-to-back titles, this Duke team spent most of 1990-91 chasing UNLV, Ohio State, Arkansas and Indiana in the rankings.

 

14. 2007 Florida

Record: 35-5, 13-3 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Ohio State 84-75

Coach: Billy Donovan

The second of Florida’s back-to-back champions had the tougher mountain to climb, not just because the Gators were the preseason No. 1. This Florida team needed to defeat Aaron Brooks-led Oregon in the Elite Eight, UCLA in the Final Four and then a Greg Oden/Mike Conley Ohio State team in the championship game.

 

15. 1994 Arkansas

Record: 31-3, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Duke 76-72

Coach: Nolan Richardson

Arkansas and the 40 Minutes of Hell won the first title for the SEC since 1978, going through Michigan (with four of the Fab Five still remaining), Arizona and Duke (led by Grant Hill).

 

16. 1993 North Carolina

Record: 34-3, 14-2 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 77-71

Coach: Dean Smith

Smith’s final national championship run had to go through four coaches who would finish their careers with national titles or Hall of Fame inclusion or both: Nolan Richardson, Bob Huggins, Roy Williams and Steve Fisher. The title game would end on Chris Webber’s infamous timeout blunder.

 

17. 2016 Villanova

Record: 35-5, 16-2 Big East

Championship game: Defeated North Carolina 77-74

Coach: Jay Wright

After two years of gaudy records, high seeds and early NCAA Tournament exits, Villanova answered with a run for the ages. The Wildcats knocked off Iowa, Miami as well as Big 12 champion and No. 1 overall seed Kansas to get to the Final Four. Once there, Villanova handled National Player of the Year Buddy Hield for a 44-point win over Oklahoma and then saved the best for last with Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beating 3 to beat North Carolina. Villanova didn’t have a roster stocked with draft picks, but the Wildcats had an unforgettable season.

 

18. 2002 Maryland

Record: 32-4, 15-1 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Indiana 64-52

Coach: Gary Williams

This might not be the most memorable national champion for a handful of reasons. Juan Dixon lost out on national player of the year to Duke’s Jay Williams, and the team had few other prominent players (Steve Blake ended up as this team’s best pro). The Terrapins lost only one ACC game (at Duke) during the regular season before defeating Kentucky, UConn, Kansas and Indiana in the Tournament.

 

19. 1995 UCLA

Record: 31-2, 16-2 Pac-12

Championship game: Defeated Arkansas 89-78

Coach: Jim Harrick

UCLA’s championship team and the only Bruins title team not coached by John Wooden was saved in the second round by a layup from Tyus Edney for a come-from-behind win over Missouri.

 

20. 2013 Louisville

Record: 35-5, 14-4 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Michigan 82-76

Coach: Rick Pitino

The 2013 Cardinals were the rare national champion to endure a three-game losing streak at some point during its championship season (to Syracuse, Villanova and Georgetown in January). The Cards also faced only one top-three seed (No. 2 Duke in the Elite Eight) in its Tourney run.

 

21. 1998 Kentucky 

Record: 35-4, 14-2 SEC

Championship game: Defeated Utah 78-69

Coach: Tubby Smith

For Kentucky’s second title in three seasons, the Wildcats needed to overcome double-digit deficits in each of their final three games. 

 

22. 2010 Duke

Record: 35-5, 13-3 ACC

Championship game: Defeated Butler 61-59

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Duke has had better championships teams and better teams that didn’t win a title. That said, Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler gave us a classic title game that was also one of the sport’s great what-if moments when Gordon Hayward’s final shot attempt fell short.

 

23. 1989 Michigan

Record: 30-7, 12-6 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Seton Hall 80-79

Coach: Steve Fisher

One of the truly bizarre national championship runs in the history of the sport. Michigan was a preseason top-three team and then went through a 5-5 stretch in the conference season. All of that was before athletic director Bo Schembechler replaced coach Bill Frieder, who had accepted the job at Arizona State, with Steve Fisher for the NCAA Tournament.

 

24. 2003 Syracuse

Record: 30-5, 13-3 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Kansas 81-78

Coach: Jim Boeheim

One may ask why a Syracuse team led by Carmelo Anthony, Hakim Warrick and Gerry McNamara is this low. Before the Tournament, this was was not one of Boeheim’s best teams. Those three great players lost to Rutgers in January and spent the first two months of the season unranked.

 

25. 1997 Arizona

Record: 25-9, 11-7 Pac-10

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 84-79 (OT)

Coach: Lute Olson

Even with Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson, Arizona didn’t have many guarantees entering the 1997 Tournament. They lost seven conference games during the regular season but defeated three No. 1 seeds and a handful of future pros on the way to the title — Kansas (with Paul Piece and Raef LaFrentz), North Carolina (with Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison) and Kentucky (with Scott Padgett, Ron Mercer and Nazr Mohammed)

 

26. 2000 Michigan State

Record: 32-7, 13-3 Big Ten

Championship game: Defeated Florida 89-76

Coach: Tom Izzo

This was the high point of Izzo’s magic touch in March. The Spartans won the Big Ten and earned a No. 1 seed, but they were hardly a dominant team all season. They also had a draw that included a No. 8 seed and a No. 5 in the Final Four.

 

27. 2006 Florida

Record: 33-6, 10-6 SEC

Championship game: Defeated UCLA 73-57

Coach: Billy Donovan

Between his first Final Four and his first national title, Donovan was snakebit for several years in the first weekend of the Tournament. This run from a team that lost six games in the SEC was a major surprise.

 

28. 1988 Kansas

Record: 27-11, 9-5 Big 8

Championship game: Defeated Oklahoma 83-79

Coach: Larry Brown

How can a team coached by a Hall of Famer and led by a national player of the year, Danny Manning, be this low? Danny and the Miracles were 18-11 and unranked entering the NCAA Tournament.

 

29. 1986 Louisville

Record: 32-7, 10-2 Metro

Championship game: Defeated Duke 72-69

Coach: Denny Crum

A great nickname (“Never Nervous” Pervis Ellison) and an upset of Duke in the title game made this Tournament run memorable. Otherwise, Louisville spent only three weeks of the season ranked in the top 10.

 

30. 2011 UConn

Record: 32-9, 9-9 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Butler 53-41

Coach: Jim Calhoun

The Big East was loaded in 2010-11, so that .500 league record has to be taken in context. Still, UConn went 4-7 in its last 11 games before the Big East Tournament. Kemba Walker caught fire in the postseason before a dud of a national title game against Butler.

 

31. 2014 UConn

Record: 32-8, 12-6 American

Championship game: Defeated Kentucky 60-54

Coach: Kevin Ollie

A pedestrian regular season became special when Shabazz Napier led UConn to wins over No. 2 Villanova, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 4 Michigan State, No. 1 Florida and No. 8 Kentucky. The latter was the last time the Wildcats lost a game.

 

32. 1985 Villanova

Record: 25-10, 9-7 Big East

Championship game: Defeated Georgetown 66-64

Coach: Rollie Massimino

A Big East team winning a title wasn’t a surprise in a year when Georgetown and St. John’s spent time as the No. 1 team in the rankings. Villanova, led by top-10 draft pick Ed Pinckney, remains the lowest-seeded team to win the national championship (eighth).

Teaser:
Ranking College Basketball's National Champions since 1985
Post date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-cover-catch-wayne-simien-talks-big-12-championships-joining-ministry-0
Body:

In the long history of Kansas basketball, Wayne Simien will have a special place. In his first two seasons, he played for two Final Four teams under Roy Williams. When Williams left for North Carolina, Simien was the first great player of the Bill Self era, reaching the Elite Eight in 2004.

 

In 2004-05, Simien was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American, but more important he was the leader of Kansas’ Big 12 championship team that year. That Jayhawks’ squad started a run of 12 consecutive conference titles. If KU wins a Big 12 title next season, the Jayhawks will tie John Wooden’s UCLA teams for the record of 13 consecutive titles.

 

Simien played two seasons in the NBA before returning home to Kansas when he quickly became involved in the Called to Greatness ministry. A transformative meeting during his sophomore year led him on a path that now sees him as the campus director of Called to Greatness back at his alma mater.

 

Before Kansas plays in the Sweet 16, Athlon Sports talked to Simien, who appeared on our College Basketball preview cover in 2004-05, about his call to ministry and his connection with Kansas now.

 

 

I understand you’ve been traveling for mission work earlier this week.

 

I was gone six days. Now I’m getting my feet under me and getting caught up on emails and messages. Of course, we’ve got the NCAA Tournament and we’re alive in it. The Madness isn’t just happening on the basketball court. It’s all over.

 

Where were you for your mission?

 

We took a group of 50 students who are involved in our campus ministry and took them to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region. We were doing some campus outreach there at the University of Northern Kentucky and then we were doing some service projects in the Cincinnati area.

 

What kind of organization is Called to Greatness and how did you get involved with them?

 

It’s a campus ministry. We do ministry mentoring and leadership development with college students. I had something like that really impact my life when I was a college student here at KU. That was something that gave me and my wife an affinity to do that sort of thing. We’ve been doing that the last seven years since transitioning out of professional basketball. Our main focus is here at the University of Kansas, but we also have some chapters at some other college campuses with in the Midwest.

 

What happened in college that led you down this path?

 

I really had someone when I was in a difficult time at the end of my sophomore year to come alongside me and mentor me and shared the gospel with me about who Jesus is and what he’s done for life and how that impacts every part of our life. I had someone mentor me, not just in faith-related things but in character and how to handle responsibility and how to walk as a leader in every part of my life. My wife had a similar kind of experience at Florida State where she went. That gave us an excitement and passion to see those kinds of things happen in the next generation.

 

Was faith a big part of your life before that sophomore year in college?

 

It was all new. I would say prior to that basketball was my god. It was the No. 1 priority in my life. I came to a point where I had everything that the world says should make you happy as a 20-year-old big-time college athlete at one of the top programs in the country. I had it all, but I was bored and broken and looking for something greater to live for than myself and basketball. It wasn’t until someone shared the gospel with me that I was able to recognize that. It was also an identity transfer. I used to get so much of my identity in how I performed and what people what people would say about me and future potential. Really finding my identity in the opinions of others led me on a roller coaster ride. I was looking for something that was steady and stable and would anchor my life and emotions and motivations beyond the game of basketball.

 

Was this a goal to get into ministry when you were in your final years at Kansas or in the NBA?

 

I would say it happened more than when I was in the NBA. My passion changed. My competitive nature changed. I would come back during the offseason and come back to Lawrence and train, but I would be working and doing things on the college campus. When that became more exciting to me than putting a ball through a hoop, I knew that’s when it was time to make that transition full time.

 

Is Called to Greatness athletic-focused?

 

No, we serve all students. There’s an athletic niche to it because we have some guys with collegiate and professional athletic backgrounds, but we serve regular students, international students, graduate school students. It’s not exclusive to athletes.

 

Was it also a goal to get back to Lawrence?

 

I’m from Kansas. I grew up not too far away from here. I have a lot of relationships here. I would say it was the relationships that brought us back.

 

Obviously, this has been another big year for Kansas. It looked like their streak of Big 12 titles would come to an end, and they ended up winning by two games. You were at the started of that run under Bill Self. What does that mean to you that Kansas is on this streak of Big 12 championships?

 

It’s something that’s unprecedented. I don’t think that anyone, myself or coach Self included, would have thought that this run would have been sparked in 2005. We’re certainly glad it has. It’s just a real testament to coach Self and his coaching staff and they’re vision and core values and continuing to bring in guys who play the game the right away, tough and unselfishly, and really value all the things this program has had to offer.

 

What were your initial impressions of Bill Self when he got there? You were recruited by Roy Williams and played two years for him. Self before he got to Kansas was an established coach, but not to the degree of Williams. Was there a little bit of anxiety with the new coach?

 

Of course, I didn’t know him. Coming off a tremendous amount of success with coach Williams, back-to-back Big 12 championships, back-to-back Final Fours, it’s one of those things were if it isn’t broke, why fix it. Why do we have do things different? It was pretty jarring at first. Quickly we came to realize that he’s great coach and that he does care about his players. It was an honor to play for two Hall of Fame coaches and usher in a new generation of KU basketball which is still being played at a high level. [Williams was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame 2007. Self is not yet in the Hall of Fame, but likely to be inducted once eligible.]

 

I’d image the list of guys who played for two Hall of Fame coaches in their college careers is pretty short. How much did you recognize that it was part of your college experience?

 

I got a chance to play for coach Self for two years, but once he started bringing in his own guys and sustain the winning culture here and winning a national championship in 2008 and getting to the championship game in 2012 and winning coach of the year honors and pumping out All-Americans, you can’t argue that. If anything, it’s made me appreciate him more.

 

You mentioned watching the NCAA Tournament coming up. What is your experience watching Kansas? Do you get nervous, do you have watch by yourself, are you pacing around?

 

I watch it in a variety of settings. Sometimes I’m with my family. Sometimes I’m with college students. Sometimes I’m by myself. I don’t have a ritual or routine. My experience is different in that I grew up a fan. I had a chance to play here and experience the highs and lows of March, and now I’m back to being a fan. I just enjoy it like anyone else.

 

When you’re around the Kansas program, do the players know who you are and that you were there at the start of this run?

 

I’m around quite a bit. One of the things I appreciate about coach Self is that there’s no one player or one coach that’s bigger than the entire program. He’s constantly having former players around, former coaches and letting the current guys now that they’re stewards of things that were built before they got here. He reminds them of things I did when was there back in the day. There’s an understanding. He even orchestrated it this year that once they clinched the Big 12 championship, they had myself and a few my other teammates from 2005 that started the streak hand the trophy to the guys.

 

Did you every have an experience like that at Kansas, where you met someone from an earlier time who made an impact on you?

 

I can remember meeting, after I signed a letter of intent and was coming to games as a high school player, Raef LaFrentz, Jacque Vaughn and Paul Pierce when they came back over All-Star Break. It was up to me to carry the baton. Meeting guys like that is pretty cool for 17-year-old at the time, especially growing up in Kansas. There’s a lot of generational transfer that happens at Kansas. We make an effort to make it a family environment, to have former coaches and players to be encouraging and challenging the next guys coming up.

Teaser:
Athlon Cover Catch-Up: Wayne Simien talks Big 12 Championships, Joining a Ministry
Post date: Thursday, March 24, 2016 - 13:17
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, Magazines
Path: /college-basketball/everything-athlon-sports-got-right-and-wrong-2015-16-college-basketball-season
Body:

In many ways, this has been an unpredictable first weekend — Middle Tennessee’s historic upset of Michigan State, Northern Iowa’s one-of-a-kind collapse, rare NCAA tournament wins for Yale and Hawaii.

 

At the same time, the Sweet 16 field is totally predictable. All four No. 1 seeds advanced to the second weekend. Blue bloods like Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Indiana are in every bracket. The lowest-seeded teams to make it this far are familiar names — Wisconsin, Syracuse and Gonzaga.

 

As the NCAA Tournament moves into its second weekend, this is a perfect time look back at Athlon’s picks for the 2015-16 season. Like many college basketball coaches looking back on their own seasons, we saw some things we liked and some things we didn’t.

 

Our preseason No. 1 team (Kentucky) is already out of the field. Our preseason No. 2 team (Duke) played with fire against UNC Wilmington and Yale, but still advanced to the second round.

 

Yet, Kentucky is the only team in our top preseason seven that didn’t reach the Sweet 16.

 

We’ll take that.

 

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of how Athlon’s preseason college basketball preview stacked up with the Sweet 16 and the overall field.

 

• Athlon had 13 teams from the Sweet 16 in our preseason top 25. Miami, Notre Dame and Syracuse are the only Sweet 16 teams we did not have in our preseason top 25, though we projected all three in the field. 

 

Here’s how our top 25 compared with the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament:

 

Athlon's Top 25 in the Sweet 16 Other Athlon Top 25 Teams  
No. 2 Duke No. 1 Kentucky Lost to Indiana in the second round
No. 3 North Carolina No. 8 Arizona Lost to Wichita State in the first round
No. 4 Maryland No. 12 Michigan State Lost to Middle Tennessee in the first round
No. 5 Virginia No. 13 Cal Lost to Hawaii in the first round
No. 6 Kansas No. 14 Wichita State Lost to Miami in the second round
No. 7 Iowa State No. 15 Vanderbilt Lost to Wichita State in the First Four
No. 9 Oklahoma No. 16 Purdue Lost to Little Rock in the first round
No. 10 Villanova No. 18 UConn Lost to Kansas in the second round
No. 11 Gonzaga No. 20 Butler Lost to Virginia in the second round
No. 17 Indiana No. 22 Michigan Lost to Notre Dame in the first round
No. 19 Wisconsin No. 23 Louisville Ineligible
No. 21 Oregon No. 24 SMU Ineligible
No. 25 Texas A&M    

• Athlon's preseason bracket predicted 43 of the 68 teams in the field. Among the 25 teams Athlon predicted to be in the field that didn’t make it were the two ineligible teams that would have made the field under normal circumstances (Louisville and SMU). The Mustangs were banned form the postseason Sept. 30, and the Cardinals announced their self-imposed ban in February.

 

Our preseason picks included eight regular season champions in one-bid leagues that were upset in conference tournaments: North Florida (Atlantic Sun), Hofstra (Colonial), UAB (Conference USA), Valparaiso (Horizon), San Diego State (Mountain West), Belmont (Ohio Valley), Texas Southern (SWAC) and New Mexico State (WAC).

 

A generous reading, then, would say Athlon pinpointed 53 NCAA Tournament-caliber teams: The 43 teams that actually made the field, the two teams that were banned from the post season and eight one-bid conference champions.

 

• Athlon missed on nine teams from major conferences that made the field as at-large bids. Seeding-wise, Seton Hall was our biggest miss. The Pirates won the Big East tournament and earned No. 6 seed, but lost to Gonzaga in the first round. We projected Seton Hall as the No. 8 team in the Big East and going to the NIT. USC probably was the biggest overall miss, as Athlon picked the Trojans to finish 11th in the Pac-12. Andy Enfield's team ended up making the tournament safely as a No. 8 seed.

 

These are the major teams that we projected for the NIT or worse that made the NCAA Tournament:

 

  We predicted... What actually happened...
Colorado Eighth in Pac-12, NIT No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 UConn
Pittsburgh 10th in ACC, NIT No. 10 seed, lost to No. 7 Wisconsin
Seton Hall Eighth in Big East, NIT No. 6 seed, lost to No. 11 Gonzaga
St. Joseph's Seventh in A-10 No. 8 seed, beat No. 9 Cincinnati, lost to No. 1 Oregon
Temple Seventh in AAC No. 10 seed, lost to No. 7 Iowa
Texas Tech Eighth in Big 12 No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 Butler
Tulsa Fourth in AAC, NIT No. 11 seed, lost to No. 11 Michigan
USC 11th in Pac-12 No. 8 seed, lost to No. 9 Providence
VCU Fourth in A-10, NIT No. 10 seed, lost to No. 2 Oklahoma

• Athlon predicted seven major teams to make the field, but they ended up in the NIT or worse (not counting Louisville and SMU)

 

  We predicted... What actually happened...
Florida Fifth in SEC, NCAA First Four Tied for eighth in SEC, NIT
Florida State Sixth in ACC, NCAA second round 11th in ACC, NIT
Georgetown Fourth in Big East, NCAA second round Eighth in Big East
LSU Fourth in SEC, NCAA second round Tied for third in SEC
NC State Ninth in ACC, NCAA First Four 13th in ACC
Rhode Island Second in A-10, NCAA first round Seventh in A-10
UCLA Fourth in Pac-12, NCAA second round 10th in Pac-12

 

Teaser:
Everything Athlon Sports Got Right and Wrong in the 2015-16 College Basketball Season
Post date: Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 11:49
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-nations-top-30-football-basketball-coaching-duos
Body:

 

Fans in East Lansing, Mich., and Norman, Okla., have something in common — they’re spoiled.

 

The last year or so has been a great time to pull for Michigan State or Oklahoma. In football and men’s basketball, the Spartans and Sooners have been final four contenders in both sports.

 

While neither team could claim the ultimate prize of a championship, Michigan State and Oklahoma State are among the few schools who are in contention for conference and national championships in both sports at the same time.

 

As we finish our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Michigan State

Football: Mark Dantonio

Basketball: Tom Izzo

Here’s what makes up an elite coaching tandem: In four of the last five seasons, the football team has reached a major bowl (two Cotton Bowls, a Rose Bowl and Capital One Bowl) in the same season the basketball team reached the Sweet 16 or better. Since Jan. 2014 alone, Michigan State has accounted for:

• A Rose Bowl win and Big Ten football championship,

• An Elite Eight appearance and Big Ten tournament championship,

• A Cotton Bowl win,

• A Final Four and

• A College Football Semifinal appearance and Big Ten title.

 

2. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops

Basketball: Lon Kruger

After one of his worst seasons at Oklahoma in 2014, Stoops reinvented his offense with a new coordinator and landed in the College Football Playoff. In 17 seasons, Stoops has led OU to 10 top-10 finishes and nine Big 12 titles. His basketball counterpart knows even more about longevity: He’s the only coach who has taken five teams in the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma). With Buddy Hield on board, Kruger might reach his second Final Four in what could be a Hall of Fame career.

 

3. Ohio State

Football: Urban Meyer

Basketball: Thad Matta

In many years, Ohio State could get the nod as the top college coaching tandem. But Meyer, a year after winning the third national championship of his career, saw his chance to repeat end with a loss to Michigan State and Dantonio. Meyer still has an absurd 50-4 mark (31-1 in the Big Ten) at Ohio State. Matta is perhaps the nation’s most underrated coach, but his program is in a three-year downswing. The Buckeyes averaged more than 30 wins with a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s from 2010-13. The Buckeyes haven’t topped 25 wins since and could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

4. Michigan

Football: Jim Harbaugh

Basketball: John Beilein

Harbaugh has arguably transformed the Big Ten even more than Meyer. The Ohio State coach brought SEC-style recruiting to the Big Ten, and Harbaugh is one-upping even one of the most ruthless recruiters in the business. Oh, and he can coach, too. Michigan exceeded expectations in his first season as 10-win team and top-15 finisher. Michigan hasn’t matched the heights of the 2013 national title game and 2014 Elite Eight, but Beilein has reached the NCAA Tournament five times in seven seasons at Michigan — the best run since the Fab Five-fueled ‘90s.

 

5. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe

Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

Hard to believe, but Krzyzewski’s stature has only grown since this time last season. Coach K won his fifth career national championship in 2015 and did it in a new way using one-and-done talent. This season has been bumpy, with the Blue Devils going unranked for the first time since 2006-07. David Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with Duke football, producing three consecutive winning seasons for the first time and the program’s first bowl win since the early ‘60s.

 

6. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino

Basketball: Rick Pitino

The off-field/off-court exploits — failed professional careers, extramarital affairs gone public and the most recent basketball postseason ban stemming from allegations a staffer used prostitutes to lure recruits — are troubling. Their coaching ability, though, is unquestioned. Pitino averaged 30.8 wins from 2011-15, including a national championship and a Final Four. In his third year on his second tour of duty, Petrino should have the Cardinals ready to take the next step after going 10-6 in the ACC in the first two seasons.

 

7. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly

Basketball: Mike Brey

Brian Kelly has brought Notre Dame back to national prominence with at trip to the national championship game in 2012. The Irish have spent time in the top five in each of the last two seasons despite playing two years snakebit by injuries. Mike Brey is on the short list of most underrated coaches. In the last two years, Brey has defeated Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino with regularity.

 

8. Arizona

Football: Rich Rodriguez

Basketball: Sean Miller

After Arizona football went 10–4, won the Pac-12 South and reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, last year’s 7–6 campaign, the worst under Rodriguez, was a major let down. It was an injury-plagued year, and Rodriguez still managed to reach a bowl game in each of his four seasons at Arizona. Miller has restored Arizona to national power status with three Pac-10/12 championships, three Elite Eight appearances and one Sweet 16 in his first six seasons.

 

9. Baylor

Football: Art Briles

Basketball: Scott Drew

A decade ago, Baylor was a non-factor in both college football and basketball. These days, Baylor is doing things that a program like Texas should be doing. Football has topped 10 wins and been ranked in the top 15 in four of the last five years. Basketball hasn’t shown the same year-in-and-year-out consistency, but two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 in seven seasons is a notable achievement for a program with four NCAA appearances before Drew arrived.

 

10. Alabama

Football: Nick Saban

Basketball: Avery Johnson

With four national championships at Alabama, one title at LSU, and eight consecutive top-10 finishes, Saban is the top coach in either football or men’s basketball right now. There’s no sign this streak is going to slow down any time soon. The former NBA coach Johnson seemed to be a questionable pick for Tide (especially as he was the program’s second choice after Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall). Now, Johnson could be the Coach of the Year in the SEC if the Tide reach the NCAA Tournament in his first year. He also had a standout recruiting class coming in for 2016-17.

 

11. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora

Basketball: Roy Williams

Williams has his best North Carolina team in at least five years, the last time the Tar Heels won the ACC. Williams is looking to reach his eighth Final Four and first since 2009, an eternity for the Hall of Fame coach. It probably took Fedora longer to turn the corner with the football program than UNC fans would have hoped, but the Heels are coming off their best season since 1997.

 

12. Utah

Football: Kyle Whittingham

Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

When Utah joined the Pac-12, few expected the Utes to be one of the league’s best football/basketball programs. Instead, Whittingham and Krystkowiak have navigated various challenges to produce top-25 programs in both sports. Krystkowiak took Utah to its first Sweet 16 since 2005 and could deliver a Pac-12 title for the Utes. Whittingham’s team never matched the 62-20 rout at Oregon, but they finished with 10 wins for the fourth time under Whittingham and the first time as a Pac-12 member.

 

13. Iowa

Football: Kirk Ferentz

Basketball: Fran McCaffrey

This is possibly the most overachieving duo in the Big Ten. Ferentz led the football team to a 12-2 season and the Big Ten title game. True, Iowa won the easier division and the team may never has been as good as its top-10 ranking, but Ferentz’s fifth 10-win season comes after averaging 6.8 wins in the five seasons prior. McCaffrey has Iowa on pace for its third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, the best streak for Iowa since 1991-93. If the Hawkeyes secure a top-two seed, it will be the first time for the program since 1987.

 

14. Miami

Football: Mark Richt

Basketball: Jim Larranaga

If Richt does for Miami what he did for Georgia — averaging 9.6 wins per year and fielding regular top-10 teams — he’ll be in the College Football Hall of Fame. Larranaga already has an ACC title and Sweet 16 at Miami and a Final Four at George Mason on his résumé, and he has a top-15 team again in Coral Gables. Fun fact: Larranaga has more career wins than Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

 

15. Oregon

Football: Mark Helfrich

Basketball: Dana Altman

With all the success Altman has had at Oregon, it’s hard to believe that the Ducks’ coaching search in 2010 was a comedy of errors. After bigger names passed, Altman turned out to be the right guy. He has topped 20 wins in all six of his seasons in Eugene. All other Oregon coaches have 11 20-win seasons. He’s also heading for a fifth consecutive top-three finish in the league. Helfrich proved a perfect steward of the football program in 2014, taking the Ducks to the national championship game in his second season. In 2015, Oregon slipped back to 9-4, the Ducks’ worst record since 2007, but there’s reason to believe the season would have been different if Vernon Adams had been healthy all year.

 

16. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher

Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Florida State football is an all-around powerhouse — in recruiting, on the field and on draft day — again with Fisher in charge. His 68-14 record through six years gives him one of the hottest starts in college football history. Hamilton breathed life into the Florida State program with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 from 2009-12. Since then, the Seminoles topped 20 wins just once.

 

17. Mississippi State

Football: Dan Mullen

Basketball: Ben Howland

This is rare territory for Mississippi State to be among the top coaching tandems in the SEC. Usually a place like Florida would be near the top. The case for Mississippi State is pretty clear: Mullen has taken the Bulldogs to unthinkable heights with 19 wins in a two-year span and six consecutive bowl games in a two-year span. Howland’s first season at Mississippi State may be somewhat of a disappointment considering the fanfare surrounding his hire and the presence of a five-star recruit (Malik Newman), but this is still a three-time Final Four coach in Starkville.

 

18. Syracuse

Football: Dino Babers

Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Syracuse’s NCAA issues — the postseason ban in 2015, scholarship limits and Boeheim’s suspension earlier this year — cast a shadow on the latter years of his tenure. Syracuse might not get to the Final Four or win 30 games again before he retires in 2018. Babers, an Art Briles protégé, who has two conference championships in four seasons at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois under his belt, could be a transformative hire for Syracuse football.

 

19. Ole Miss

Football: Hugh Freeze

Basketball: Andy Kennedy

Freeze has done what no coach at Ole Miss has been able to do since John Vaught in the ‘60s — turn the Rebels into a consistent heavy hitter in the SEC. Ole Miss’ win total has increased every year under Freeze, giving the Rebels only their second 10-win season since 1971. Kennedy isn’t competing for championships, but he’s turned the moribund Ole Miss basketball program into a consistent postseason contender, including two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons. He’s the school’s all-time wins leader by a wide margin.

 

20. San Diego State

Football: Rocky Long

Basketball: Steve Fisher

Fisher keeps getting it done at San Diego State. The Aztecs have made the NCAA Tournament six times in a row and reached the Sweet 16 twice in that span. He has twice as many NCAA Tournament wins (six) as all of his predecessors had trips to the Tournament combined (three). Long picked up the torch from Brady Hoke in 2011 has done even better than his predecessor, leading the Aztecs to 11 wins and a Mountain West title last year. In his last 10 years as a coach at New Mexico and SDSU, Long has missed a bowl game just twice.

 

21. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn

Basketball: Bruce Pearl

A year ago, we could have ranked this as the top duo in the SEC. Now, we’re wondering where Malzahn and Pearl really stand. After a trip to the 2013 national title game, Auburn has gone just 6-10 in the SEC since then including a five-game losing streak at one point. Coaching turnover presents another challenge to Malzahn only two years after he was on top of the profession. Pearl’s program seemed to show momentum in the SEC Tournament last year, but they’re headed to another losing season. Pearl, though, can recruit and will have more talent next year than in either of his first two seasons.

 

22. Virginia

Football: Bronco Mendenhall

Basketball: Tony Bennett

Bennett has remade Virginia basketball with his pack-line defense. Of the Cavaliers’ three 30-win seasons in school history, two are under his watch in the last two seasons, and the Cavs could make it three 30-win seasons in a row this year. They’ve won back-to-back ACC regular-season titles and an ACC tournament for Virginia’s best run since Ralph Sampson played in Charlottesville. Mendenhall was an outside-of-the-box hire for a moribund football program. He has plenty of questions about recruiting in the East, but he averaged nine wins per season at BYU.

 

23. Virginia Tech

Football: Justin Fuente

Basketball: Buzz Williams

There’s a ton to love about the combo of Fuente and Williams. The reason they’re ranked lower than one might expect is because both have done their best work at other places. Obviously, Fuente hasn’t even coached spring practice in Blacksburg, but he’s making all the right moves (i.e., retaining Bud Foster). He was a miracle worker at Memphis. Williams has already topped his first-year win total with the basketball program, and a trip to the NIT would be a major step forward. Still, he’s a long way from turning Virginia Tech into the consistent overachiever Marquette was.

 

24. UCLA

Football: Jim Mora

Basketball: Steve Alford

Mora has lifted UCLA out of a funk, winning 37 games in his first four seasons. No other Bruins coach has won more than 29 in his first four years. At 23-13 in the Pac-12 (and never better than 6-3), however, the Bruins haven’t become the conference elite. Alford hasn’t proven he’s an upgrade over predecessor Ben Howland, but back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances (buoyed by three wins over double-digit seeds and a controversial finish against No. 6 SMU) still count for something.

 

25. Houston

Football: Tom Herman

Basketball: Kelvin Sampson

Herman is the hot new thing in college coaching after a 13–1 season, a championship in the competitive American Athletic Conference and a win over Florida State in the Peach Bowl in just his first season. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for Ohio State’s national title team. Sampson, who has reached the NCAA Tournament 14 times as the head coach at Washington State, Oklahoma and Indiana, has had modest success in his return to college basketball. After going 4-14 in the American in Sampson’s first season, Houston topped 20 wins for the second time since 2009.

 

26. Clemson

Football: Dabo Swinney

Basketball: Brad Brownell

Wait, how can Dabo Swinney — a coach who led Clemson to the national title game and 56 wins in five years — be ranked this low? Swinney would be near the top of football coach rankings, but this is a tandem. The basketball program is never going to get the same love as the football program, but aside from a couple of nice weeks and upsets here and there, Brownell’s program hasn’t done much to draw attention. The Tigers have reached the NCAA Tournament just once in his six-year tenure – as a No. 12 seed in Dayton in his first year.

 

27. Penn State

Football: James Franklin

Basketball: Pat Chambers

Recruiting has raised the pressure on both coaches. Granted, recruiting to both Penn State football and Penn State basketball is a challenge for wildly different reasons. After going 7–6 in each of his first two seasons, Franklin will essentially re-boot with two new coordinators and a new quarterback in his third season. Chambers averaged just four Big Ten wins during his first four seasons, but he has a top-20 class signed for 2016-17. 

 

28. West Virginia

Football: Dana Holgorsen

Basketball: Bob Huggins

Holgorsen hasn’t matched the 10–3 season and an Orange Bowl win in 2011, WVU’s last year in the Big East. Life in the Big 12 has been tougher (20-23 in four years). In the last two seasons, Huggins has shown again why he’s a 700-win coach, reinventing his program into “Press Virginia.” West Virginia has reached the Sweet 16 or better three times under Huggins, including the 2010 Final Four. No other West Virginia coach has been in the final 16 more than twice.

 

29. Pittsburgh

Football: Pat Narduzzi

Basketball: Jamie Dixon

This tandem for Pittsburgh just seems so … right. Narduzzi and Dixon are two defensive-minded coaches whose teams tend to grind their way through a season. Narduzzi led Pitt to eight wins for the first time since 2010, and he should have enough returning to make a run at the ACC Coastal. After Pitt basketball was the most overachieving team in the Big East (nine NCAA appearances in 10 years), Dixon’s program is hovering around .500 in ACC play the last three years. That’s a bit of concern.

 

30 (tie). Temple

Football: Matt Rhule

Basketball: Fran Dunphy

Rhule has led a four-win improvement in each of his first three seasons at Temple from 2-10 to 6-6 to 10-4. He’s been a part of the entire Temple renaissance from 2006-11 as an assistant and the last three years as head coach. Dunphy, who reached the NCAA Tournament for six consecutive seasons, is aiming to return for the first time after a two-year absence.

 

30 (tie). Cincinnati

Football: Tommy Tuberville

Basketball: Mick Cronin

Both Cincinnati programs are solid, if unspectacular. Tuberville has reached a bowl game every year with the Bearcats, though last year’s 7-6 season was the worst of his three-year tenure. Cronin’s teams have an identity of a grinding defensive squad, and that’s been enough for five consecutive NCAA appearances.

Teaser:
Ranking the Nation's Top 30 Football-Basketball Coaching Duos
Post date: Monday, February 29, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-football-basketball-coaching-duos
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The Pac-12 is generally considered the top all-sports conference in college athletics.

 

Stanford alone has won the NACDA Directors’ Cup every year since 1994-95. The top three schools in the 2014-15 Directors’ Cup all came from the Pac-12 (Stanford, UCLA, USC).

 

That is one heck of a bragging right, but we’re not concerned with fencing, rowing, water polo or rifle.

 

The top football and men’s basketball coaching tandems in the Pac-12 come from two of the schools not recently associated with the Directors’ Cup.

 

As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Arizona

Football: Rich Rodriguez

Basketball: Sean Miller

After Arizona football went 10–4, won the Pac-12 South and reached the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, last year’s 7–6 campaign, the worst under Rodriguez, was a major let down. It was an injury-plagued year, and Rodriguez still managed to reach a bowl game in each of his four seasons at Arizona. Miller has restored Arizona to national power status with three Pac-10/12 championships, three Elite Eight appearances and one Sweet 16 in his first six seasons.

 

2. Utah

Football: Kyle Whittingham

Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

When Utah joined the Pac-12, few expected the Utes to be one of the league’s best football/basketball programs. Instead, Whittingham and Krystkowiak have navigated various challenges to produce top-25 programs in both sports. Krystkowiak took Utah to its first Sweet 16 since 2005 and could deliver a Pac-12 title for the Utes. Whittingham’s team never matched the 62-20 rout at Oregon, but they finished with 10 wins for the fourth time under Whittingham and the first time as a Pac-12 member.

 

3. Oregon

Football: Mark Helfrich

Basketball: Dana Altman

With all the success Altman has had at Oregon, it’s hard to believe that the Ducks’ coaching search in 2010 was a comedy of errors. After bigger names passed, Altman turned out to be the right guy. He has topped 20 wins in all six of his seasons in Eugene. All other Oregon coaches have 11 20-win seasons. He’s also heading for a fifth consecutive top-three finish in the league. Helfrich proved a perfect steward of the football program in 2014, taking the Ducks to the national championship game in his second season. In 2015, Oregon slipped back to 9-4, the Ducks’ worst record since 2007, but there’s reason to believe the season would have been different if Vernon Adams had been healthy all year.

 

4. UCLA

Football: Jim Mora

Basketball: Steve Alford

Mora has lifted UCLA out of a funk, winning 37 games in his first four seasons. No other Bruins coach has won more than 29 in his first four years. At 23-13 in the Pac-12 (and never better than 6-3), however, the Bruins haven’t become the conference elite. Alford hasn’t proven he’s an upgrade over predecessor Ben Howland, but back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances (buoyed by three wins over double-digit seeds and a controversial finish against No. 6 SMU) still count for something.

 

5. Stanford

Football: David Shaw

Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Shaw has been the coach at Stanford five years, and only one of those ended without 11 or more wins and a major bowl game. NFL suitors will continue to pursue him, but it’s starting to seem like he’ll be a campus institution at Stanford for a long time. One of the few highlights of Dawkins’ eight-year tenure was an upset of No. 2 seed Kansas and a trip to the Sweet 16 in his only Tournament appearance in 2014.

 

6. Cal

Football: Sonny Dykes

Basketball: Cuonzo Martin

Dykes has led a quick turnaround at two different programs. Cal went 1-11 in his first season (and 3-9 the year before he arrived) and 8-5 in this third season. He also went 17-8 in his final two seasons at Louisiana Tech. The only question is how long he wants to stay at Cal. The hopes for a Pac-12 basketball title this season never panned out for Martin, but he should head to the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three seasons at two schools.

 

7. Washington

Football: Chris Petersen

Basketball: Lorenzo Romar

Petersen has lost as many games in his first two seasons at Washington (12) as he did in his eight years at Boise State, but there’s clear momentum here. His team will be in contention in the Pac-12 North in 2016. Romar has 286 wins and three Sweet 16 appearances at Washington, but he hasn’t reached the Tournament since 2011.

 

8. Oregon State

Football: Gary Andersen

Basketball: Wayne Tinkle

Given his track record at Utah State and Wisconsin, Gary Andersen’s 2-10 debut at Oregon State should be viewed as an aberration and an indication of the lack of talent in Corvallis. In just two seasons, Tinkle has brought life to one of the Pac-12’s worst programs. If the Beavers get to the NCAA Tournament, it will be their first trip since 1990.

 

9. Arizona State

Football: Todd Graham

Basketball: Bobby Hurley

Arizona State was one of the most disappointing teams in the country last season, falling to 6-7 after back-to-back 10-win seasons. Graham’s fifth season at Arizona State in 2016 will be the longest he has stayed at any school. Hurley needed only two seasons to take Buffalo to its first NCAA Tournament, but it’s been a rough first season at Arizona State.

 

10. USC

Football: Clay Helton

Basketball: Andy Enfield

USC twice went with young and flashy for its head coach, and it didn’t work out. Helton is young-ish (43) and solid. USC was better under his watch last year (5-4), but the Trojans will have to be even better if he’s going to be the answer in Los Angeles. Rare is the basketball coach who makes the leap from the Atlantic Sun to a Power 5 job, but Enfield is starting to look like the real deal with a team that’s solidly in the NCAA Tournament field after going 5-31 in the Pac-12 in his first two years.

 

11. Washington State

Football: Mike Leach

Basketball: Ernie Kent

In 2015, Leach led Washington State to its best season since 2003. And if it’s possible, his teams are even more pass-oriented than they were at Texas Tech. Basketball’s questionable hire of the veteran Kent isn’t looking any better as the Cougars are headed to a last-place finish in the Pac-12.

 

12. Colorado

Football: Mike MacIntyre

Basketball: Tad Boyle

Colorado is better under MacIntyre but still a non-factor in the Pac-12 (10-27 overall). On the basketball side, Boyle led Colorado to an unprecedented three consecutive NCAA Tournaments from 2012-14, but last year’s losing season sapped a ton of momentum from the program.

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's Football-Basketball Coaching Duos
Post date: Friday, February 26, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-football-basketball-coaching-duos
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In some ways, the Big Ten could argue it has become the best combined football-basketball conference in recent years.

 

True, the conference has produced just one football championship since 2002 and no basketball championships since 2000. But at the same time, the Big Ten has had more programs in the running for mix big prizes, especially since Kentucky has become the lone basketball power in the SEC.

 

Michigan State was in the College Football Playoff in 2015, the same year the Spartans were in the Final Four, also the same year Wisconsin reached the basketball national championship game. And of course, Ohio State won the college football national championship in 2014.

 

The Big Ten has produced at least one Final Four team in each of the last four years. Since 2007, only twice has the Big Ten been shut out of the Final Four.

 

Michigan State and Ohio State’s recent success notwithstanding, football has some catching up to do — and judging by the first calendar year of Harbaugh-mania, Michigan will be the next school to catch up.

 

As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Michigan State

Football: Mark Dantonio

Basketball: Tom Izzo

Here’s what makes up an elite coaching tandem: In four of the last five seasons, the football team has reached a major bowl (two Cotton Bowls, a Rose Bowl and Capital One Bowl) in the same season the basketball team reached the Sweet 16 or better. Since Jan. 2014 alone, Michigan State has accounted for:

• A Rose Bowl win and Big Ten football championship,

• An Elite Eight appearance and Big Ten tournament championship,

• A Cotton Bowl win,

• A Final Four and

• A College Football Semifinal appearance and Big Ten title.

 

2. Ohio State

Football: Urban Meyer

Basketball: Thad Matta

In many years, Ohio State could get the nod as the top college coaching tandem. But Meyer, a year after winning the third national championship of his career, saw his chance to repeat end with a loss to Michigan State and Dantonio. Meyer still has an absurd 50-4 mark (31-1 in the Big Ten) at Ohio State. Matta is perhaps the nation’s most underrated coach, but his program is in a three-year downswing. The Buckeyes averaged more than 30 wins with a Final Four, an Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s from 2010-13. The Buckeyes haven’t topped 25 wins since and could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

 

3. Michigan

Football: Jim Harbaugh

Basketball: John Beilein

Harbaugh has arguably transformed the Big Ten even more than Meyer. The Ohio State coach brought SEC-style recruiting to the Big Ten, and Harbaugh is one-upping even one of the most ruthless recruiters in the business. Oh, and he can coach, too. Michigan exceeded expectations in his first season as 10-win team and top-15 finisher. Michigan hasn’t matched the heights of the 2013 national title game and 2014 Elite Eight, but Beilein has reached the NCAA Tournament five times in seven seasons at Michigan — the best run since the Fab Five-fueled ‘90s.

 

4. Iowa

Football: Kirk Ferentz

Basketball: Fran McCaffrey

This is possibly the most overachieving duo in the Big Ten. Ferentz led the football team to a 12-2 season and the Big Ten title game. True, Iowa won the easier division and the team may never has been as good as its top-10 ranking, but Ferentz’s fifth 10-win season comes after averaging 6.8 wins in the five seasons prior. McCaffrey has Iowa on pace for its third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, the best streak for Iowa since 1991-93. If the Hawkeyes secure a top-two seed, it will be the first time for the program since 1987.

 

5. Penn State

Football: James Franklin

Basketball: Pat Chambers

Recruiting has raised the pressure on both coaches. Granted, recruiting to both Penn State football and Penn State basketball is a challenge for wildly different reasons. After going 7–6 in each of his first two seasons, Franklin will essentially re-boot with two new coordinators and a new quarterback in his third season. Chambers averaged just four Big Ten wins during his first four seasons, but he has a top-20 class signed for 2016-17. 

 

6. Indiana

Football: Kevin Wilson

Basketball: Tom Crean

Say this for Indiana’s duo: They will be entertaining. Both Wilson’s teams and Crean’s teams can score with anyone. Defense, though, is optional. Wilson has been on hot seat lists, but he led the Hoosiers to only their second bowl game since 1993. Crean, too, has been under pressure, but he led Indiana to back-to-back Sweet 16s in 2012-13 for the first time since 1991-94.

 

7. Northwestern

Football: Pat Fitzgerald

Basketball: Chris Collins

Northwestern’s 2015 football season may have been a bit of a mirage, but two 10-win seasons in a four-year span is a notable achievement for the Wildcats. Fitz, the school’s all-time wins leader, is two years away from being Northwestern’s longest-tenured coach. Northwestern basketball is a long way from making its first NCAA Touranment, but Collins could lead the Wildcats to their first 20-win season since 2011.

 

8. Nebraska

Football: Mike Riley

Basketball: Tim Miles

This might be the most congenial pairing in the Big Ten, but it’s not one that’s brought a ton of consistency. Riley’s first season was a series of unfortunate events at best, but it still ended with a bowl win thanks to a waiver allowing the five-win Cornhuskers to play in a bowl. We expected the basketball program to turn the corner after the 2014 NCAA Tournament appearance, but the Huskers are facing the possibility of a second consecutive losing season.

 

9. Wisconsin

Football: Paul Chryst

Basketball: Greg Gard

In his first year, Chryst pieced together a 10-win season despite a shockingly inept run game. Now, he’ll have to find away to replace the coordinator (Dave Aranda) of a defense that carried his team. Gard may or may not be the permanent coach after the abrupt retirement of Bo Ryan, but he has the Badgers in contention for the NCAA Tournament, something the Ryan-version of the team couldn’t say this year.

 

10. Maryland

Football: D.J. Durkin

Basketball: Mark Turgeon

The first two seasons in the Big Ten have been better than the last 12 in the ACC for Maryland basketball. In 2015, Turgeon led Maryland to its best season since the 2002 national title, and he has a team with Final Four potential this year. Maryland football has a major climb ahead of it in a division with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State, but Durkin, a former Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh assistant, should understand the terrain better than most.

 

11. Purdue

Football: Darell Hazell

Basketball: Matt Painter

After back-to-back losing seasons in 2012-14, Painter has Purdue on the upswing again. The Boilermakers have their best team since the Robbie Hummel era, which included back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances. Hazell is 2-22 in the Big Ten, and there’s little reason to believe that mark will improve anytime soon.

 

12. Illinois

Football: Bill Cubit

Basketball: John Groce

With the hiring of a new athletic director, Illinois’ coaching duo could be facing some changes. Cubit went 5-7 as an interim head coach, and Groce is facing the worst season of his mediocre four-year tenure with the Illini.

 

13. Minnesota

Football: Tracy Claeys

Basketball: Richard Pitino

Minnesota made a continuity hire with Claeys, who went 2-4 after Jerry Kill’s sudden retirement last year. Meanwhile, Minnesota basketball has regressed in three seasons under the once-promising Pitino. The Gophers have gone from 25 wins to 18 and might not get to 10 wins this season.

 

14. Rutgers

Football: Chris Ash

Basketball: Eddie Jordan

Ash is a first-year coach from the Urban Meyer coaching tree who hopes to inject life into a program that sorely needs it. Rutgers basketball has had many bad seasons over the years, but this year’s Scarlet Knights are one of the worst Power 5 teams in decades.

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's Football-Basketball Coaching Duos
Post date: Thursday, February 25, 2016 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-football-basketball-coaching-duos
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Not long ago, one SEC program could easily claim having the best football-basketball coaching tandem in the nation. From 2006-08, Urban Meyer and Billy Donovan won four national championships for Florida.

 

Eight years later, Meyer and Donovan are in different jobs, and the SEC looks quite a bit the same and yet different. No tandem really towers over any other.

 

Sure, football — or at least Alabama football — is still on top of the world, and Kentucky basketball has Final Four hopes year in and year out. But no SEC school can hope to do both in the same year like Florida once did.

 

As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Alabama

Football: Nick Saban

Basketball: Avery Johnson

With four national championships at Alabama, one title at LSU, and eight consecutive top-10 finishes, Saban is the top coach in either football or men’s basketball right now. There’s no sign this streak is going to slow down any time soon. The former NBA coach Johnson seemed to be a questionable pick for Tide (especially as he was the program’s second choice after Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall). Now, Johnson could be the Coach of the Year in the SEC if the Tide reach the NCAA Tournament in his first year. He also had a standout recruiting class coming in for 2016-17.

 

2. Mississippi State

Football: Dan Mullen

Basketball: Ben Howland

This is rare territory for Mississippi State to be among the top coaching tandems in the SEC. Usually a place like Florida would be near the top. The case for Mississippi State is pretty clear: Mullen has taken the Bulldogs to unthinkable heights with 19 wins in a two-year span and six consecutive bowl games in a two-year span. Howland’s first season at Mississippi State may be somewhat of a disappointment considering the fanfare surrounding his hire and the presence of a five-star recruit (Malik Newman), but this is still a three-time Final Four coach in Starkville.

 

3. Ole Miss

Football: Hugh Freeze

Basketball: Andy Kennedy

Freeze has done what no coach at Ole Miss has been able to do since John Vaught in the ‘60s — turn the Rebels into a consistent heavy hitter in the SEC. Ole Miss’ win total has increased every year under Freeze, giving the Rebels only their second 10-win season since 1971. Kennedy isn’t competing for championships, but he’s turned the moribund Ole Miss basketball program into a consistent postseason contender, including two NCAA Tournament appearances in the last four seasons. He’s the school’s all-time wins leader by a wide margin.

 

4. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn

Basketball: Bruce Pearl

A year ago, we could have ranked this as the top duo in the SEC. Now, we’re wondering where Malzahn and Pearl really stand. After a trip to the 2013 national title game, Auburn has gone just 6-10 in the SEC since then including a five-game losing streak at one point. Coaching turnover presents another challenge to Malzahn only two years after he was on top of the profession. Pearl’s program seemed to show momentum in the SEC Tournament last year, but they’re headed to another losing season. Pearl, though, can recruit and will have more talent next year than in either of his first two seasons.

 

5. Arkansas

Football: Bret Bielema

Basketball: Mike Anderson

Neither Arkansas football nor basketball are the best programs in the SEC, but both keep things interesting. For all of Bielema’s bluster, it gets overlooked that Arkansas has improved from 0-8 in the SEC to 2-6 to 5-3. Arkansas basketball probably could be better than one NCAA Tournament appearance in five years under Anderson, but the Razorbacks are just one year removed from a 27-win season and a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

 

6. Kentucky

Football: John Calipari

Basketball: Mark Stoops

Calipari has a national championship and four Final Fours at Kentucky (plus two more at UMass and Memphis), but again this is a tandem ranking. The SEC’s top basketball coach is paired with Stoops, who is 12-24 overall and 4-20 in the SEC. Stoops has improved Kentucky’s recruiting, but his third season ended with a thud — a five-game SEC losing streak and a loss to rival Louisville.

 

7. Tennessee

Football: Butch Jones

Basketball: Rick Barnes

Some football fans might consider last season to be a disappointment, but the Volunteers are right where they should be in the rebuilding process. The 9–4 Vols lost to the national champion (Alabama), a playoff team (Oklahoma), the SEC East champion (Florida) and an eight-win team from the West (Arkansas). The Volunteers clobbered just about everyone else, and 2016 should be the season his standout recruiting classes will bring UT back to the top of the SEC East. Tennessee might sneak into the NIT this season, but if there’s any sign of life, it’s the Volunteers’ toughness at home, where they beat Florida, South Carolina, Kentucky and LSU this season.

 

8. Texas A&M

Football: Kevin Sumlin

Basketball: Billy Kennedy

Sumlin’s program has garnered plenty of skepticism as the Aggies have gone 11-13 in the SEC during the last three seasons. The 2015 mess at the quarterback position could have ramifications into 2016 if Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight doesn’t pan out. After five seasons, Kennedy’s program has been building to this year when the Aggies at times looked like the best team in the SEC. They may still finish behind Kentucky, but they’ll be back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Kennedy’s tenure.

 

9. Florida

Football: Jim McElwain

Basketball: Mike White

McElwain impressed in his first season at Florida, leading the Gators to the SEC East title. By the end of the season, the flaws were plenty evident that the offense has a long way to go for the Gators to be true SEC contenders again. Billy Donovan essentially handed his successor a blank slate after the Gators went 16-17 in his final season. Florida’s not a factor in the SEC race but could reach the Tournament as an at-large — a nice change of pace for White, whose three-time conference championship teams at Louisiana Tech stalled in the league tournament.

 

10. LSU

Football: Les Miles

Basketball: Johnny Jones

LSU has every reason to believe it’s not getting the most out of its coaching tandem. Since the 2012 title game, the football program under Miles has pulled in five top-15 signing classes, yet LSU is 20-12 in the SEC in that span. Under Jones, LSU likely won’t make the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team despite having Ben Simmons on the roster. The Tigers squeaked into the NCAA Tournament last year, but bizarre losses to Missouri, Mississippi State and Auburn (twice) sent LSU to an 8-9 game.

 

11. South Carolina

Football: Will Muschamp

Basketball: Frank Martin

This would rank as the most combustable coaching tandem in the SEC as both have explosive personalities on the sideline. Martin’s gamble to leave Kansas State for one of the toughest jobs in the SEC is paying off as the Gamecocks should make the Tournament for the first time since 2004. Muschamp was a puzzling hire as he flamed out in the same division at Florida. South Carolina is banking on the promise that the defensive guru learned from his mistakes in Gainesville.

 

12. Georgia

Football: Kirby Smart

Basketball: Mark Fox

Smart’s hire is a mystery as coaches from the Saban tree have been a grab bag. After Georgia parted with Richt, Smart has a good idea of the expectations at his alma mater. Fox is a solid coach, but Georgia doesn’t have the commitment to basketball to help him reach the next level.

 

13. Vanderbilt

Football: Derek Mason

Basketball: Kevin Stallings

Mason’s move to take over the defense himself may have taken some of the heat off a coach who went winless in the SEC in his first season. The Commodores went 2-6 in his second year. Stallings is the longest-tenure SEC coach in either sport, but he’s facing the most disappointing season of his career. The Commodores were a preseason top 20 team, but they’re fighting for an NCAA bid. If this is his last year, Stallings would have reached the NCAA Tournament six times in 17 years. Not terrible for Vanderbilt, but enough to leave fans wanting more.

 

14. Missouri

Football: Barry Odom

Basketball: Kim Anderson

Odom has been groomed for the Missouri coaching job for a while now, playing linebacker for the Tigers in the 90s and spending 10 of the last 12 years on the staff in some capacity. Anderson was a questionable hire from the get-go, moving up from Division II ranks. With player defections and fallout from the Frank Haith era, he’s had little chance to succeed. Both coaches will need to navigate a host of issues brought to the forefront by student protests and ensuing administrative resignations last fall.

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At this point last season, we ranked Oklahoma as the top coaching duo in the Big 12. It was a pretty easy call.

 

Although the football program was coming off an 8-5 season, Bob Stoops presided over a program that won 10 games or more nine times in 16 years to that point. And although Lon Kruger rarely led spectacular seasons, he had a long track record of taking over troubled programs and turning them into contenders.

 

A year later, the stature of the Stoops-Kruger tandem has only grown. Stoops led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff, and Kruger has at times this year had the No. 1 team in the country. It wouldn’t be a surprise if OU produces a final four team in both sports.

 

As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops

Basketball: Lon Kruger

After one of his worst seasons at Oklahoma in 2014, Stoops reinvented his offense with a new coordinator and landed in the College Football Playoff. In 17 seasons, Stoops has led OU to 10 top-10 finishes and nine Big 12 titles. His basketball counterpart knows even more about longevity: He’s the only coach who has taken five teams in the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma). With Buddy Hield on board, Kruger might reach his second Final Four in what could be a Hall of Fame career.

 

2. Baylor

Football: Art Briles

Basketball: Scott Drew

A decade ago, Baylor was a non-factor in both college football and basketball. These days, Baylor is doing things that a program like Texas should be doing. Football has topped 10 wins and been ranked in the top 15 in four of the last five years. Basketball hasn’t shown the same year-in-and-year-out consistency, but two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 in seven seasons is a notable achievement for a program with four NCAA appearances before Drew arrived.

 

3. West Virginia

Football: Dana Holgorsen

Basketball: Bob Huggins

Holgorsen hasn’t matched the 10–3 season and an Orange Bowl win in 2011, WVU’s last year in the Big East. Life in the Big 12 has been tougher (20-23 in four years). In the last two seasons, Huggins has shown again why he’s won more than 700 career games, reinventing his program into “Press Virginia.” West Virginia has reached the Sweet 16 or better three times under Huggins, including the 2010 Final Four. No other West Virginia coach has been in the final 16 more than twice.

 

4. TCU

Football: Gary Patterson

Basketball: Trent Johnson

Considering where TCU started under Patterson — moving from the WAC to Conference USA in his first year — perhaps no program’s rise into a national power is more astonishing. The Horned Frogs have won 10 games or more 10 times since 2002, a feat topped only by Alabama, Boise State, Ohio State and Oklahoma. TCU basketball, on the other hand, has been left behind.

 

5. Kansas

Football: David Beaty

Basketball: Bill Self

Self may wrap up Kansas’ 12th consecutive Big 12 title, a streak in a power conference that may never be matched again. If the Jayhawks win a conference title next year, they will match UCLA’s run of 13 consecutive conference titles under John Wooden. Again this is a tandem ranking so one of the top coaches in college basketball is balanced with a former position coach who went 0-12 in his first season with the worst Power 5 football program.

 

6. Texas

Football: Charlie Strong

Basketball: Shaka Smart

After back-to-back losing seasons, Strong is under pressure to turn Texas around. With a strong close on National Signing Day and a shake-up in the athletic department, Strong may have the resources to do so. Smart, meanwhile, is exceeding meager expectations in his first season with the basketball program and has the Longhorns on track for the NCAA Tournament.

 

7. Kansas State

Football: Bill Snyder

Basketball: Bruce Weber

Snyder is college football’s greatest miracle worker. Under Snyder, Kansas State has won 65.6 percent of its games with 17 bowl appearances. Without Snyder, K-State has won 38.9 percent of its games with two bowl appearances. The basketball program won 27 games in Weber’s first season, but it has been treading water since that year ended with a first-round upset loss to La Salle in the NCAA Tournament.

 

8. Oklahoma State

Football: Mike Gundy

Basketball: Travis Ford

Gundy should become the first 100-win coach in Oklahoma State history. The Cowboys haven’t matched the 2011 Big 12 championship season, but Pokes have won 10 or more games in four of the last six years. A bad contract (from Oklahoma State’s perspective) has saddled the Cowboys with a basketball coach with a losing Big 12 record and one NCAA Tournament win in eight seasons.

 

9. Texas Tech

Football: Kliff Kingsbury

Basketball: Tubby Smith

The return of Kliff Kingsbury has yet to produce a breakout season for the Red Raiders. Kingsbury’s 10-17 Big 12 record includes a 1-11 mark against Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. The hire of an aging Tubby Smith to one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12 was a head-scratcher. If the Red Raiders reach their first NCAA Tournament since 2007, the Smith hire will look like a stroke of genius.

 

10. Iowa State

Football: Matt Campbell

Basketball: Steve Prohm

Campbell (Toledo) and Prohm (Murray State) both proved their ability to run programs at a lower level. Campbell has the tall task of winning at one of the Power 5’s toughest jobs. Prohm has the impossible task of stepping into the shoes of a wildly popular predecessor.

 

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Few would argue that Duke is college basketball royalty. Even fewer would argue that one coach is the primary reason Duke is among the bluest of the blue bloods.

 

At the same time, few would argue that Duke is one of the toughest jobs in college football. The program’s overall record attests to that.

 

And yet although Mike Krzyzewski and David Cutcliffe have drastically different sets of expectations, they make up the top coaching tandem in the ACC. Coach K expects to compete for championships every season, winning his most recent in 2015.

 

Meanwhile, Cutcliffe has elevated Duke football into a consistent bowl contender, something that hasn’t been done since the '50s and '60s.

 

As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.

 

1. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe

Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

Hard to believe, but Krzyzewski’s stature has only grown since this time last season. Coach K won his fifth career national championship in 2015 and did it in a new way using one-and-done talent. This season has been bumpy, with the Blue Devils going unranked for the first time since 2006-07. David Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with Duke football, producing three consecutive winning seasons for the first time and the program’s first bowl win since the early ‘60s.

 

2. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino

Basketball: Rick Pitino

The off-field/off-court exploits — failed professional careers, extramarital affairs gone public and the most recent basketball postseason ban stemming from allegations a staffer used prostitutes to lure recruits — are troubling. Their coaching ability, though, is unquestioned. Pitino averaged 30.8 wins from 2011-15, including a national championship and a Final Four. In his third year on his second tour of duty, Petrino should have the Cardinals ready to take the next step after going 10-6 in the ACC in the first two seasons.

 

3. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly

Basketball: Mike Brey

Brian Kelly has brought Notre Dame back to national prominence with at trip to the national championship game in 2012. The Irish have spent time in the top five in each of the last two seasons despite playing two years snakebit by injuries. Mike Brey is on the short list of most underrated coaches. In the last two years, Brey has defeated Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino with regularity.

 

4. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora

Basketball: Roy Williams

Williams has his best North Carolina team in at least five years, the last time the Tar Heels won the ACC. Williams is looking to reach his eighth Final Four and first since 2009, an eternity for the Hall of Fame coach. It probably took Fedora longer to turn the corner with the football program than UNC fans would have hoped, but the Heels are coming off their best season since 1997.

 

5. Miami

Football: Mark Richt

Basketball: Jim Larranaga

If Richt does for Miami what he did for Georgia — averaging 9.6 wins per year and fielding regular top-10 teams — he’ll be in the College Football Hall of Fame. Larranaga already has an ACC title and Sweet 16 at Miami and a Final Four at George Mason on his résumé, and he has a top-15 team again in Coral Gables. Fun fact: Larranaga has more career wins than Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.

 

6. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher

Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Florida State football is an all-around powerhouse — in recruiting, on the field and on draft day — again with Fisher in charge. His 68-14 record through six years gives him one of the hottest starts in college football history. Hamilton breathed life into the Florida State program with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 from 2009-12. Since then, the Seminoles topped 20 wins just once.

 

7. Syracuse

Football: Dino Babers

Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Syracuse’s NCAA issues — the postseason ban in 2015, scholarship limits and Boeheim’s suspension earlier this year — cast a shadow on the latter years of his tenure. Syracuse might not get to the Final Four or win 30 games again before he retires in 2018. Babers, an Art Briles protégé, who has two conference championships in four seasons at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois under his belt, could be a transformative hire for Syracuse football.

 

8. Virginia

Football: Bronco Mendenhall

Basketball: Tony Bennett

Bennett has remade Virginia basketball with his pack-line defense. Of the Cavaliers’ three 30-win seasons in school history, two are under his watch in the last two seasons, and the Cavs could make it three 30-win seasons in a row this year. They’ve won back-to-back ACC regular-season titles and an ACC tournament for Virginia’s best run since Ralph Sampson played in Charlottesville. Mendenhall was an outside-of-the-box hire for a moribund football program. He has plenty of questions about recruiting in the East, but he averaged nine wins per season at BYU.

 

9. Virginia Tech

Football: Justin Fuente

Basketball: Buzz Williams

There’s a ton to love about the combo of Fuente and Williams. The reason they’re ranked lower than one might expect is because both have done their best work at other places. Obviously, Fuente hasn’t even coached spring practice in Blacksburg, but he’s making all the right moves (i.e., retaining Bud Foster). He was a miracle worker at Memphis. Williams has already topped his first-year win total with the basketball program, and a trip to the NIT would be a major step forward. Still, he’s a long way from turning Virginia Tech into the consistent overachiever Marquette was.

 

10. Clemson

Football: Dabo Swinney

Basketball: Brad Brownell

Wait, how can Dabo Swinney — a coach who led Clemson to the national title game and 56 wins in five years — be ranked this low? Swinney would be near the top of football coach rankings, but this is a tandem. The basketball program is never going to get the same love as the football program, but aside from a couple of nice weeks and upsets here and there, Brownell’s program hasn’t done much to draw attention. The Tigers have reached the NCAA Tournament just once in his six-year tenure – as a No. 12 seed in Dayton in his first year.

 

11. Pittsburgh

Football: Pat Narduzzi

Basketball: Jamie Dixon

This tandem for Pittsburgh just seems so … right. Narduzzi and Dixon are two defensive-minded coaches whose teams tend to grind their way through a season. Narduzzi led Pitt to eight wins for the first time since 2010, and he should have enough returning to make a run at the ACC Coastal. After Pitt basketball was the most overachieving team in the Big East (nine NCAA appearances in 10 years), Dixon’s program is hovering around .500 in ACC play the last three years. That’s a bit of concern.

 

12. NC State

Football: Dave Doeren

Basketball: Mark Gottfried

Of Doeren’s six ACC wins in three years, four are over Wake Forest and Syracuse. Gottfried has led NC State to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in five seasons. Although this will be the first year under Gottfried NC State failed to make the NCAA Tournament, his career ACC record will likely dip under .500 after a disastrous 2015-16 season.

 

13. Georgia Tech

Football: Paul Johnson

Basketball: Brian Gregory

Johnson never got a chance to celebrate his second 11-win season and first top-10 in eight seasons. His team bottomed out at 3–9, the worst season for the Yellow Jackets since 1994. According to KenPom.com, this is Georgia Tech’s best team since 2009-10, but the Yellow Jackets have never finished better than 6-12 in the ACC under Gregory. Time is running out.

 

14. Wake Forest

Football: Dave Clawson

Basketball: Danny Manning

Things looked promising for Wake Forest basketball when the Deacons started 10–5. They’ve since lost 11 in a row and will finish close to the 13–19 mark in Manning’s first year. He’s still a bright young coach with a major rebuild. The story is the same on the football side where Clawson has gone 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC in each of his first two seasons.

 

15. Boston College

Football: Steve Addazio

Basketball: Jim Christian

After back-to-back 7–6 seasons, BC football dropped to 3–9 due to an inept offense, which is supposed to be Addazio’s side of the ball. Boston College could hold the distinction of going winless in conference play in both football and basketball.

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The end of the year is a time of reflection, a time to make promises to ourselves to do better in the next year.

 

For us at Athlon Sports, we like to take stock of the predictions we made back in May and June to see how they panned out. Which teams did we get right? Which teams did we get wrong? Which teams repaid or betrayed our faith in them this season?

 

In looking at the results, we try to get better for future seasons and maybe find some warning signs or predictors for success. Did we not put enough stock in teams with returning linemen or more depth than we realized? Did we put too much trust in untested quarterbacks?

 

One tool we track closely is . The site is not only a wealth of historical information, but it also grades preseason accuracy. Stassen grades accuracy based on predictions within a conference or a division.

 

In this year’s Stassen evaluation, Athlon Sports ranked second among preseason magazines and tied for fourth among the 21 preseason rankings Stassen tracks. Here’s how Athlon :

 

Stassen's 2015 Preseason Accuracy Rankings
1. Phil Steele
2. Athlon Sports
T3. ESPN
T3. Sports Illustrated
5. Lindy's
6. Conference media polls
7. USA Today
8. The Sporting News

Beyond the conference picks, we also like to check in with the top 25. Of Athlon’s preseason top 14 teams, 11 were ranked in the final College Football Playoff top 25. Each of the semifinal teams was ranked in our top 17.

 

Clearly, there’s a flip side in all of this. Iowa, ranked 53rd, was our biggest top 25 miss, and our No. 4 team Auburn finished 6–6. If there’s any silver lining those rankings, .

 

Athlon would never claim to have perfect rankings, though that’s certainly our goal. In fact, a season that lined up completely with our expectations would probably be pretty boring.

 

Nevertheless, it’s still fun to look back on all the picks that panned out and the ones that fizzled.

 

So let’s get this over with and start with the picks we got wrong, followed by the fun part of looking at the teams we got right:

 

Preseason picks Athlon (and everyone else) got wrong

 

Ohio State . The Buckeyes were No. 7 in the final CFP rankings but didn’t even make the Big Ten title game. This is perhaps the easiest mistake to make in the preseason rankings: A defending national champion with loads of returning starters (Ohio State returned 14).

 

We’d look like we’re making a statement if we didn’t put Ohio State at No. 1. Maybe one day we won’t fall in the trap of picking a repeat national champion. Unless it’s Alabama.

 

Auburn at No. 4. Every preseason magazine and both polls had Auburn in the top 10, so at least Athlon isn’t alone in buying the Tigers’ Kool-Aid. Heck, even coach Gus Malzahn sent his green starting quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, to represent Auburn at SEC Media Days. Let that be a lesson that defenses don’t get fixed overnight and we need to tread lightly around new starting quarterbacks.

 

Georgia at No. 10 and No. 1 in the SEC East. Another SEC pick everyone missed. The injury bug hit the running position back again. The defensive staff never seemed to be on the same page with the head coach. And a Virginia quarterback castoff didn’t turn into Matthew Stafford or Aaron Murray overnight.

 

Oklahoma winning the Big 12. Everyone loved either TCU or Baylor (mostly TCU) in the Big 12. OU was a preseason top 25 team — No. 17 in Athlon — but almost no one had the Sooners toppling last year’s Big 12 co-champs. OU was coming off its worst season since 1999 and lost in a bowl rout to Clemson. Clearly, we should have put more stock in the marriage of new coordinator Lincoln Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield — both Air Raid guys — making over the OU offense.

 

The ACC Coastal race. The ACC Coastal was considered in the preseason to be one of the tightest division races in the country. Then how come everyone got it so wrong? Georgia Tech was a consensus top 25 team. Most everyone picked the Yellow Jackets or Virginia Tech to win the Coastal, which was eventually won by North Carolina. Georgia Tech (3–9) was out of the race by October and had its worst season since 1994. Oops.

 

Iowa, North Carolina and the rise of the American Athletic Conference. Iowa and North Carolina played for conference titles and perhaps spots in the College Football Playoff in the last week of the season. They were nowhere to be found in any preseason top 25. Neither was the American Athletic Conference, and yet by September and October, it was clear the AAC champ would grab a major bowl bid. Houston, Navy, Temple and Memphis all spent time in the top 25.

 

Most Underranked
TeamAthlon RankFinal CFP RankDifference
Iowa535-48
Northwestern5813-45
Houston5018-42
Temple6224-38
Navy5721-33
North Carolina4210-32
Most Overranked
TeamAthlon preseason rankFinal record
Auburn46-6, 2-6 SEC
Georgia Tech183-9, 1-7 ACC
Arizona State136-6. 4-5 Pac-12
Georgia109-3, 5-3 SEC
Arkansas167-5, 5-3 SEC
Missouri275-7, 1-7 SEC

 

Athlon rolled the dice… and was wrong

 

Clemson at No. 14. Consider this: At press time, Clemson returned only six starters, had a quarterback coming off an injury and had lost arguably the game’s top offensive coordinator to a head coaching job. A No. 14 ranking would seem generous for other teams. For this year's Clemson team, a No. 14 ranking and second-place finish in the ACC Atlantic was also quite wrong. Watson recovered just fine, and Clemson had built enough depth to absorb all those personnel losses.

 

Overall SEC strength. Athlon ranked the entire SEC West in the preseason, not to mention Georgia and Tennessee from the East. With all those SEC teams, we still missed Florida in the top 25 (in fairness, Florida was No. 26 and was in our top 25 until shortly before press time). Only No. 2 Alabama, No. 12 Ole Miss, No. 19 Florida and No. 22 Tennessee actually finished the season ranked. Athlon underestimated the quarterback woes in the league for teams like Auburn, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU and overestimated the impact of new coordinators at Auburn and Texas A&M.

 

Oddly enough, the team that had the best coordinator hire in 2015 may have been the one that got the least traction: Dan Enos at Arkansas effectively turned a run-first and run-second offense into a unit with one of the top three passers in the league in Brandon Allen.

 

Stanford at No. 24 and No. 2 in the Pac-12 North. Few tabbed Stanford as a top 10 team, but Athlon was on the lower end of the spectrum for the Pac-12 champs. That’s partly because Oregon wasn’t nearly good as expected, especially when Vernon Adams was hurt. We didn’t put enough stock in Christian McCaffrey’s breakout season, Kevin Hogan’s improved play at the end of 2014 or the four returning offensive linemen.

 

Arizona State at No. 13. The Sun Devils finished 6-6. Why we didn’t consider that possibility when the Sun Devils lost every impact defensive player and a starting quarterback is a mystery.

 

Athlon rolled the dice … and was right

 

Alabama at No. 2. While we picked Auburn in our top four, we still picked Alabama at No. 2 and the champion of the West. No one else had Alabama this high in the preseason. The Tide have stacked top recruiting classes for years, and Lane Kiffin had worked wonders with Blake Sims last season. We expected the same with Jake Coker in 2015.

 

A Big 12 champion not named TCU. The Horned Frogs were a near-unanimous pick to win the Big 12 with Athlon as the only holdout. The Frogs also were ranked No. 2 in a number of preseason rankings. We were skeptical of TCU’s luck with turnovers in 2014 and the possibility that the rest of the Big 12 would catch up to the Frogs’ offense in 2015. Injuries limited TCU’s ceiling more than anything, but we’ll take the correct prediction anyway. We still picked TCU at No. 5 and second behind Baylor in the Big 12.

 

We were more skeptical of preseason No. 25 Boise State and No. 26 Missouri than others … but not skeptical enough, it seems.

 

We nailed Conference USA East. How about that?

 

If you're really interested how we did, here's how each of our preseason rankings lined up with the actual results.

 

*indicates conference champion/actual champion

 

ACC AtlanticACC Coastal
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Florida State*1. Clemson*1. Georgia Tech1. North Carolina
2. Clemson2. Florida State2. Virginia Tech2. Pittsburgh
3. Louisville3. Louisville3. Pittsburgh3. Miami
4. NC State4. NC State4. North CarolinaT4. Duke
5. Boston College5. Syracuse5. MiamiT4. Virginia Tech
6. Wake Forest6. Wake Forest6. Duke6. Virginia
7. Syracuse7. Boston College7. Virginia7. Georgia Tech
AAC EastAAC West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Cincinnati*1. Temple1. HoustonT1. Houston*
2. Temple2. USF2. NavyT1. Navy
3. UCFT3. Cincinnati3. Memphis3. Memphis
4. East CarolinaT3. UConn4. SMU4. Tulsa
5. USF5. East Carolina5. TulaneT5. SMU
6. UConn6. UCF6. TulsaT5. Tulane
Big 12
Athlon predictionActual finish
1. Baylor*1. Oklahoma
2. TCUT2. Oklahoma State
3. OklahomaT2. TCU
4. Oklahoma State4. Baylor
5. TexasT5. Texas Tech
6. West VirginiaT5. West Virginia
7. Kansas StateT5. Texas
8. Texas Tech8. Kansas State
9. Iowa State9. Iowa State
10. Kansas10. Kansas
Big Ten EastBig Ten West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Ohio State*T1. Michigan State*1. Wisconsin1. Iowa
2. Michigan StateT1. Ohio State2. NebraskaT2. Northwestern
3. Penn State3. Michigan3. MinnesotaT2. Wisconsin
4. Michigan4. Penn State4. Iowa4. Nebraska
5. Maryland5. Indiana5. NorthwesternT5. Illinois
6. IndianaT6. Maryland6. IllinoisT5. Minnesota
7. RutgersT6. Rutgers7. Purdue7. Purdue
C-USA EastC-USA West
Athlon predictionActual finishAthlon predictionActual finish
1. Western Kentucky*1. Western Kentucky*1. Louisiana Tech1. Southern Miss
2. MarshallT2. Marshall2. Rice2. Louisiana Tech
3. Middle TennesseeT2. Middle Tennessee3. UTEPT3. UTSA
4. FAUT4. FAU4. Southern MissT3. Rice
5. FIUT4. FIU5. North TexasT3. UTEP
6. Old DominionT4. Old Dominion6. UTSA6. North Texas
7. Charlotte7. Charlotte  
MAC EastMAC West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Bowling Green1. Bowling Green*1. Toledo*T1. Northern Illinois
2. UMassT2. Ohio2. Northern IllinoisT1. Western Michigan
3. AkronT2. Akron3. Western MichiganT1. Toledo
4. Ohio4. Buffalo4. Ball StateT1. Central Michigan
5. BuffaloT5. Kent State5. Central Michigan5. Ball State
6. Kent StateT5. Miami6. Eastern Michigan6. Eastern Michigan
7. MiamiT5. UMass  
MW MountainMW West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Boise State*1. Air Force1. San Diego State1. San Diego State*
2. Utah StateT2. New Mexico2. NevadaT2. Nevada
3. Colorado StateT2. Utah State3. Fresno StateT2. San Jose State
4. Air ForceT2. Boise State4. San Jose StateT4. Fresno State
5. WyomingT2. Colorado State5. HawaiiT4. UNLV
6. New Mexico6. Wyoming6. UNLV6. Hawaii
Pac-12 NorthPac-12 South
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Oregon1. Stanford*1. USC*T1. USC
2. Stanford2. Oregon2. Arizona StateT1. Utah
3. Washington3. Washington State3. UCLA3. UCLA
4. CalT4. Cal4. Arizona4. Arizona State
5. Washington StateT4. Washington5. Utah5. Arizona
6. Oregon State6. Oregon State6. Colorado6. Colorado
SEC EastSEC West
Athlon predictionsActual finishAthlon predictionsActual finish
1. Georgia1. Florida1. Alabama*1. Alabama*
2. TennesseeT2. Georgia2. Auburn2. Ole Miss
3. FloridaT2. Tennessee3. Ole MissT3. Arkansas
4. MissouriT4. Vanderbilt4. LSUT3. LSU
5. South CarolinaT4. Kentucky5. ArkansasT5. Texas A&M
6. KentuckyT6. Missouri6. Texas A&MT5. Mississippi State
7. VanderbiltT6. South Carolina7. Mississippi State7. Auburn
Sun Belt
Athlon predictionsActual finish
1. Arkansas State1. Arkansas State
2. Georgia Southern2. Appalachian State
3. UL Lafayette3. Georgia Southern
4. Appalachian State4. Georgia State
5. Texas StateT5. South Alabama
6. South AlabamaT5. Troy
7. ULMT5. New Mexico State
8. TroyT5. Idaho
9. New Mexico StateT5. UL Lafayette
10. Idaho10. Texas State
11. Georgia State11. ULM

 

Teaser:
Athlon's 2015 College Football Predictions: What We Got Right, What We Got Wrong
Post date: Friday, December 18, 2015 - 07:00

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