Articles By David Fox

Path: /college-football/now-what-clemson-and-georgia-look-back-top-10-openers

Clemson fans may still be partying in the streets, and Georgia fans may still be sulking even into the middle of the week after a wild season opener. But there’s still a long way to go before the rare top-10 Week 1 matchup is put into its proper context.

Since the formation of the BCS in 1998, only six season openers have involved two top-10 teams as then-No. 8 Clemson’s 38-35 win over No. 5 Georgia did on Saturday.

Though the top-10 matchup in the first week is rare, a top-10 team starting 0-1 is not. At least one top-10 team has lost its opener each season since 2002. All Georgia has to do is look at the resumes of those teams to know the Bulldogs are at a crossroads.

Preseason No. 3 Oregon in 2011 lost its opener to LSU 40-27 but went on to win the Pac-12. In 2010, preseason No. 10 Virginia Tech lost its opener to Boise State 33-30, but — after a detour losing to James Madison — the Hokies went on to win the ACC.

And as for Clemson, a top-10 team that defeated another preseason top-10 team in the opener, good things may be on the way. The last two teams to accomplish that feat, Alabama in 2012 and LSU in 2011, played for national championships.

Here’s a complete list of top-10 teams that lost their openers and how they fared. Some quick observations follow below.


*denotes team that also lost its second game

YearLosing TeamWinning TeamLosing team's final record (bowl)
2013No. 5 GeorgiaNo. 8 Clemson 
2012No. 8 MichiganNo. 2 Alabama8-5, 6-2 Big Ten (Outback)
2011No. 3 OregonNo. 4 LSU12-2, 8-1 Pac-12 (Rose)
2010No. 10 Virginia Tech*No. 3 Boise State11-3, 8-0 ACC (Orange)
2009No. 3 OklahomaNo. 20 BYU8-5, 5-3 Big 12 (Sun)
2008No. 9 ClemsonNo. 24 Alabama7-6, 4-4 ACC (Gator)
2007No. 5 Michigan*Appalachian State9-4, 6-2 Big Ten (Capitol One)
2006No. 9 CalNo. 23 Tennessee10-3, 7-2 Pac-10 (Holiday)
2005No. 7 OklahomaTCU8-4, 6-2 Big 12 (Holiday)
 No. 9 MiamiNo. 14 Florida State9-3, 6-2 ACC (Peach)
2004No. 4 Florida StateNo. 5 Miami9-3, 6-2 ACC (Gator)
2003No. 6 Auburn*No. 8 USC8-5, 5-3 SEC (Music City)
2002No. 7 ColoradoColorado State9-5, 7-1 Big 12 (Alamo)
2000No. 3 AlabamaUCLA3-8, 3-5 SEC
1999No. 4 ArizonaNo. 3 Penn State6-6, 3-5 Pac-10
 No. 9 Ohio StateNo. 12 Miami6-6, 3-5 Big Ten
1998No. 5 Michigan*No. 22 Notre Dame10-3, 7-1 Big Ten (Citrus)
 No. 8 Arizona State*No. 18 Washington5-6, 4-4 Pac-10

• Georgia is the SEC's first preseason top-10 team to lose its opener since 2003 Auburn when the Tigers lost to eventual AP national champion USC.

• The average record for preseason top-10 teams who lost their season openers is 9-4 overall and 6.2-1.8 in conference since 2002. All 12 of those teams made bowl games, but only two reached BCS games — 2011 Oregon and 2010 Virginia Tech.

• Top-10 teams that lost in Week 1 during the BCS era are 12-5 in their second games of the season, but none turned around to face a second top-10 team as Georgia will against No. 6 South Carolina. Three of the teams listed above faced ranked teams after their top-10 loss: 2005 Miami lost to Florida State, but turned around to beat No. 20 Clemson, 1999 Ohio State lost to Miami but defeated No. 14 TCU in Game 2, and 1998 Michigan lost to Notre Dame and defeated No. 19 Syracuse the following week.

• Of the 17 preseason top-10 teams that lost their openers, only six returned to the top-10 sometime during the season. Only one of those teams finished in the top 10: Oregon finished the 2011 season ranked fourth in the AP, only one spot lower than where the Ducks started in the preseason before losing to LSU.

• The top-five teams that lost their openers actually fared worse than teams ranked between sixth and 10th in the preseason. Top-five teams that lost in Week 1 went 57-31 (.648). Teams ranked sixth through 10th went 81-37 (.686). The top-five teams, though, are dragged down by the 2000 Alabama team that started the season No. 3 but finished 3-8. Without that outlier on their overall record, the top-five teams are 54-23 (.701).

• The best example of a second week hangover in a top-10 game situation is 2010 Virginia Tech. The 10th-ranked Hokies lost to No. 3 Boise State before losing to James Madison 21-16 the following week.

• In an ironic twist of fate, one of the more recent preseason top-10 teams to lose its opener was Clemson in 2008. The Tigers lost to No. 24 Alabama to start that season, which was the beginning of the end for Tommy Bowden. The Tigers fired Bowden midseason and replaced him with assistant Dabo Swinney, who led Clemson in its win over Georgia on Saturday.

• It’s worth noting the last time Georgia started 0-2, the Bulldogs won the SEC East. In 2011, Georgia started the season with a 35-21 loss to Boise State in Atlanta and a 45-42 loss to South Carolina at home before reeling off 10 consecutive wins.

• Now what of the top-10 teams that defeated another top-10 team in their opener? It’s happened six times with, in general, good results. Two teams preseason top-10 teams that began the season with a top-10 win ended up winning the national championship, 2012 Alabama and 2003 USC.


*denotes national championship team

YearWinning TeamLosing TeamWinning Team's final record (bowl)
2012No. 2 Alabama*No. 8 Michigan13-1, 7-1 SEC (BCS Championship Game)
2011No. 4 LSUNo. 3 Oregon13-1, 8-0 SEC (BCS Championship Game)
2010No. 3 Boise StateNo. 10 Virginia Tech12-1, 7-1 WAC (MAACO)
2004No. 5 MiamiNo. 4 Florida State9-4, 5-3 SEC (Peach)
2003No. 8 USC*No. 6 Auburn12-1, 7-1 Pac-10 (Rose)
1999No. 3 Penn StateNo. 4 Arizona10-3, 5-3 Big Ten (Alamo)


After the rare top-10 season opener, what’s in store for the Tigers and Bulldogs?
Post date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-week-2-episode-2

In episode 2 of the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast, Braden Gall and David Fox talk about the ups and downs from the first week of games, plus a quick lookahead for Week 2.

Our topics in this episode:

• What was impressive about Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia and what would constitute of the Tigers’ patented letdowns.

• Where does Georgia go from here with South Carolina in Week 2 and why
we’re concerned about fatigue in the second week of September.

• A quick pass through the Johnny Manziel drama of the weekend: Why Braden is tired of the coverage and why David is craving more.

• Why Washington was the biggest statement win of the weekend.

• A request for really, really upset Georgia fans to contact the podcast.

• Why David changed his pick from Miami to Florida ahead of this week’s game and why Braden is feeling a little more confident about Miami, but still picking the Gators.

• In a not-so-cleverly named segment, our hosts each pick an overlooked game for Week 2 they’re going to watch.
The podcast can be found on and our RSS feed. And coming soon to iTunes.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.

Thanks to Moon Taxi for sharing their tunes for bumper music. Their new album Mountains Beaches Cities will be available Sept. 10.

This week's podcast looks back at Clemson and Washington and takes a peek at week 2
Post date: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 07:05
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-week-1-national-awards-boyd-takes-top-honors

Maybe this season will be different. That’s the talking point coming out of Clemson after the Tigers defeated Georgia 38-35 on Saturday.

And with Tajh Boyd running the show as a senior, fans at the Esso Club have someone they may be able to buck the Clemson trend of raising expectations only to see the Tigers’ hopes and dreams crumble later in the season. Boyd’s been there — the 2010 team that started 8-0 before losing three of the last five, including an embarrassing 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

Clemson’s long-term goals have yet to materialize, but Boyd is the player for right now, earning Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

“This team is a veteran team,” Boyd said. “We have been every situation you could possibly image. We have been down 18. We have been up and lost. We just got absolutely blew out. It's situation like these where you know what type of team you have.”


National Player of the Week: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Boyd was the catalyst for Clemson’s 38-35 victory over Georgia. The senior quarterback took advantage of a rebuilt Bulldogs’ secondary, throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns on 18 completions. Boyd also added 42 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. With Boyd at the controls, Clemson’s offense is one of the nation’s best. And the senior quarterback should be near the top of the Heisman watchlist after his Week 1 performance. 

National Defensive Player of the Week: Collin Ellis, LB, Northwestern
They may have been on tipped passes but when you score two defensive touchdowns, you are the P.O.W. The first came at a critical time late in the third quarter with Northwestern down by four, when Ellis took a Jared Goff pass 59 yards to paydirt to give the Wildcats the lead. Then again, this time up by three with eight minutes to go in the game, Ellis plucked another Cal throw out of the air and went 40 yards for six points to essentially end the game. This was the best win of the weekend for the league.

National Freshman of the Week: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
The offseason hype certainly lived up to Winston’s debut. The redshirt freshman was nearly flawless in his debut, completing 25 of 27 passes (and one of the incompletions was debatable) for 356 yards and four touchdowns. Winston also added 25 yards and one score on the ground. The Alabama native was incredibly poised in his first start, and his emergence will make Florida State a factor in the national championship picture.

National Coordinator of the Week: Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State
The Oklahoma State offense needed time to figure out its personnel and an approach that would work against Mississippi State. Glenn Spencer’s defense, though, did more than just hold serve. Oklahoma State limited Mississippi State to 333 total yards and a field goal, the first time the Cowboys held a major conference opponent to less than a touchdown since 1995. Oklahoma State was at its best in the third quarter when it held Mississippi State to 10 total yards and no first downs. The Cowboys added 10 tackles for a loss after averaging 6.9 per game last season.


Offense: Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Defense: Anthony Harris, Virginia
Freshman: Jameis Winston, Florida State
Coordinator: Mike Locksley, Maryland

Big 12
Offense: J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
Defense: Corey Nelson, Oklahoma
Freshman: Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech
Coordinator: Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State

Big Ten
Offense: Allen Robinson, Penn State
Defense: Collin Ellis, Northwestern
Freshman: Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
Coordinator: Pat Narduzzi, Michigan State

Offense: Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Defense: Dion Bailey, USC
Freshman: Addison Gillam, Colorado
Coordinator: Justin Wilcox, Washington

Offense: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Defense: Robenson Therezie, Auburn
Freshman: Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
Coordinator: Cam Cameron, LSU

The Clemson quarterback earned our National Player of the Week in Georgia win
Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 11:33
Path: /college-football/big-12-post-week-1-power-rankings-2013

Two Big 12 teams lost to FCS programs, and a third had a scare. TCU lost its marquee game to open the season.

Yet the Big 12 is more or less where though it would be.

The teams at the top are flawed, and there remains little obvious separation. Oklahoma State, our preseason pick to win the league, remains on top after its first game despite a sputtering effort from its offense. Oklahoma and Texas won in routs, but both the Sooners and Longhorns showed enough room for improvement to make us wary.

If we learned anything, the bottom half of the league — Kansas State, Iowa State and West Virginia — showed that they’re a ways off from competing with the top half of the conference.

More Post-Week 1 Power Rankings: ACC | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 Post-Week 1 Power Rankings

1.Oklahoma State (1-0, 0-0): The Cowboys didn’t look like a finished product on offense in the first game as J.W. Walsh took over the starting role. Parker Graham moved over from guard to play left tackle, vacated when Devin Davis suffered as season-ending knee injury. Despite the shifting on the line, though, the Cowboys didn’t give up a sack. Oklahoma State will have plenty of opportunities to tinker more against UTSA and Lamar in the next two week. This week: at UTSA
2.Oklahoma (1-0, 0-0): Bob Stoops insisted his team would have a similar offensive approach to years past with Trevor Knight at quarterback. Baloney. Knight was shaky as passer (11 of 28) with one interception and three more near-picks. But OU was content to let him run, though, as he rushed for a team-leading 103 yards on 13 carries, a rare feat for a Sooners QB. Oklahoma’s run defense was excellent against ULM, something that will be in focus in Game 2. This week: West Virginia.
3.Texas (1-0, 0-0): Texas has to wonder which offense is going to show up at BYU this week. David Ash threw two interceptions in the first half as the Longhorns trailed 7-0. Thereafter, Texas needed only 16 plays and less than 5:30 of game time to score five touchdowns in the second and third quarters. A matchup against BYU looks little less formidable, though, after the Cougars lost 19-16 at Virginia. This week: at BYU
4.TCU (0-1, 0-0): The Horned Frogs kept the loss to LSU close on a turnover and kickoff return for a touchdown, perhaps masking an ineffective passing game and lackluster defense. Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin combined to complete 15-of-28 passes for 5.2 yards per attempt as the Horned Frogs had difficulty sustaining drives with either quarterback. This week: Southeastern Louisiana.
5.Baylor (1-0, 0-0): Baylor had little trouble in its opener against Wofford. Even if it was against an overmatched FCS program, Bryce Petty looked like he’ll fit into the Art Briles' quarterback tradition as he completed 19-of-24 passes for 312 yards with two touchdowns. Week 2 matchup we’re waiting to see: Lache Seastrunk against Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, the best player on the field in the opener against Ohio State. This week: Buffalo
6.Texas Tech (1-0, 0-0): Kliff Kingsbury may have a dilemma when presumptive starter Michael Brewer returns from injury next month. Baker Mayfield flourished in his first start, which ended with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Kingsbury treated Mayfield nothing like a true freshman walk-on, entrusting him to throw 60 passes in Texas Tech’s 87 plays against SMU. The Red Raiders get a warm up before facing TCU on Sept. 12. This week: Stephen F. Austin
7.Kansas State (0-1, 0-0): An uncharacteristic Bill Snyder performance in so many ways for the Wildcats in the opener. The offensive line and run game were a mess as K-State rushed for only 41 yards on 1.8 yards per carry. K-State finished 2 of 10 on third down and reached the red zone only once as North Dakota State scored the final 17 points. The Wildcats will be on upset alert again in week 2. This week: UL Lafayette
8.West Virginia (1-0, 0-0): At least Houston transfer Charles Sims delivered in the opener, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. The Mountaineers went for a balanced offense as the simplified passing game looked, well, simple against William & Mary. Odds are quarterback Paul Millard will need to be more productive Saturday. This week: at Oklahoma
9.Iowa State (0-1, 0-0): The overachieving Cyclones may be returning to Earth. The front seven is clearly rebuilding after allowing 6.9 yards per carry against Northern Iowa and 21-of-28 passing. Quarterback Sam Richardson showed potential in the Pistol formation, but the Cyclones still settled for field goals late. This week: Off
10.Kansas (0-0): The Jayhawks need all the perpetration they can get after losing 11 in a row last season. Kansas’ last win was over South Dakota State on Sept. 1 last year, so maybe that’s a good omen. This week: South Dakota

Big 12 Week 1 Awards

Offensive player of the week: J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy started his season with Clint Chelf at quarterback against Mississippi State, but only two series later, Oklahoma State needed a change. That’s no problem for J.W. Walsh, who was the second man up last season when then-freshman starter Wes Lunt went down with an injury. Oklahoma State inserted the dual-threat Walsh into the lineup Saturday and added a few tweaks that turned out to spark the Cowboys to a 21-3 victory. Running the option out of the shotgun in a four-man backfield, Walsh led the Cowboys in rushing with 125 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also completed 18-of-27 passes for 135 yards.

Defensive player of the week: Corey Nelson, Oklahoma
Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson led a stifling effort against UL-Monroe, an encouraging development for a Sooners defense that struggled last season. Leading the way to bottle up quarterback Kolton Browning, Nelson had eight tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sacks as ULM averaged 1.7 yards per carry in the 34-0 win.

Freshman of the week: Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech
When Mike Leach coached Texas Tech, it seemed he could just plug any quarterback into his system and get a 400-yard passing day. It’s fitting then that Leach’s first quarterback at Tech has the same touch as a head coach. In his head coaching debut, Kliff Kingsbury sent out Baker Mayfield, a true freshman walk-on to take the first snaps. Mayfield looked neither the part of a freshman nor a non-scholarship player as he completed 43 of 60 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns in a 41-23 win over SMU on Friday. Both Mayfield and SMU starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert graduated from high school powerhouse Lake Travis (Texas).

Team of the week: Oklahoma State
The Big 12 favorite scored the biggest non-conference win for the league with a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Cowboys again showed their ability to adjust on the fly on offense and showed a new look with a standout defense.

Coordinator of the week: Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State
The Oklahoma State offense needed time to figure out its personnel and an approach that would work against Mississippi State. Glenn Spencer’s defense, though, did more than just hold serve. Oklahoma State limited Mississippi State to 333 total yards and a field goal, the first time the Cowboys held a major conference opponent to less than a touchdown since 1995. Oklahoma State was at its best in the third quarter when it held Mississippi State to 10 total yards and no first downs. The Cowboys added 10 tackles for a loss after averaging 6.9 per game last season.

Despite upsets, Big 12 still crowded on top
Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 07:13
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-tens-coaches-2013-14

The Big Ten once again has perhaps the deepest bench of coaches in the country.

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, then that teams like Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin had a hotly contested battle for the regular season title in the Big Ten last season. Each week in 2013-14 seemed to feature a different Big Ten team in the national spotlight.

In other words, if you’re going to get angry at Athlon for ranking your team’s coach third, fourth or fifth in the Big Ten, at least wait to see the national rankings.

The league features Tom Izzo and Thad Matta, whose longevity, consistency, regular season success and postseason wins put them at the top. Not far behind are Tom Crean and John Beilein, who revived proud programs, and Bo Ryan, who defies the odds each season with a contender each year despite a lower recruiting profile.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American | Big 12 | Big East

1. Tom Izzo, Michigan State
Record (all at Michigan State): 439-178 overall (.712), 209-95 Big Ten (.693)
NCAA Tournament: 39-16, six Final Fours, one national championship
Tom Izzo will have two McDonald’s All-Americans on his roster in 2013-14 in Keith Appling and Gary Harris, a rarity for the longtime Spartans’ coach. Few coaches have weathered the changes in college basketball as well as Izzo — the changes in the NBA Draft rules, the ups and downs in the Big Ten and all the challenges that come with recruiting. Izzo has assembled the Big Ten’s most consistent program without a glut of first-round draft picks (none since 2006) or early entries to the NBA Draft (none during the one-and-done era). Consider this: Appling and Adreian Payne are looking to avoid becoming the first senior class to play all four years with Izzo and miss the Final Four.

2. Thad Matta, Ohio State
Record: 352-104
Record at Ohio State: 250-73 overall (.774), 111-45 (.712)
NCAA Tournament: 22-11, two Final Fours
More often than not, Matta has had the most talented roster in the Big Ten, especially since the Thad Five led the Buckeyes to the national championship game in 2007. The Buckeyes have advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in four consecutive seasons, though the 2011 team that stalled in the Sweet 16 was a major postseason disappointment. In 13 seasons as a head coach at Xavier, Butler and Ohio State, Matta has claimed at least a share of a regular season title an astoudning eight times.

3. John Beilein, Michigan
Record: 415-260
Record at Michigan: 112-85 overall (.589), 55-53 Big Ten (.509)
NCAA Tournament: 13-8, one Final Four
Beilein is, in college basketball coaching terms, a self-made man. He’s never been an assistant, making his route to Michigan that much more unique. But now that he’s made the journey from community college to Le Moyne to Canisius to Richmond to West Virginia to Ann Arbor, we’re getting an idea of what Beilein can do at a Big Ten powerhouse. Beilein is the most successful coach at Michigan since the Fab Five days, and he shows little signs of slowing down. He’s signed elite recruits like Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III while developing a point guard Ohio State ignored in its own backyard (Trey Burke) into the national player of the year.

4. Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Record: 321-140
Record at Wisconsin: 291-113 overall (.720), 144-60 Big Ten (.705)
NCAA Tournament: 16-12
The 2013-14 season was further testament that no matter what happens, Bo Ryan will have a top-four team in the Big Ten. Point guard Jordan Taylor moved on, then heir apparent Josh Gasser was lost for the season with a torn ACL in October. No matter, Wisconsin still finished 12-6 in the Big Ten, finishing in the top four in the league ever season under Ryan. Ryan has good reason to be confident in his formula: He’s been able to develop players in his system year in and year out. In 11 seasons at Wisconsin, Ryan’s teams have ranked in the top 10 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency eight times and in the top 30 of offensive efficiency eight times. The only knock, though, is Wisconsin’s bad luck in the NCAA Tournament. The Badgers haven’t advanced beyond the Sweet 16 since 2005.

5. Tom Crean, Indiana
Record: 274-178
Record at Indiana: 84-82 overall (.506), 33-57 Big Ten (.367)
NCAA Tournament: 9-7, one Final Four
Crean has brought Indiana back to national prominence in a way that’s been lacking since the Bob Knight era. Crean reestablished Indiana’s recruiting clout in state, starting with the signing of Cody Zeller and continuing with Yogi Ferrell and Jeremy Hollowell. After a breakthrough season which saw Indiana win only its second post-Knight Big Ten title, it’s time to see if Crean can keep Indiana on top.

6. Matt Painter, Purdue
Record: 201-100
Record at Purdue: 176-95 overall (.649), 84-56 Big Ten (.600)
NCAA Tournament: 8-7
Painter knew he would be rebuilding after the Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore class left campus. The Boilermakers performed admirably under the circumstances in a loaded Big Ten last season, finishing 8-10. This could be a key season for Painter, though, as his program enters the second season of the post-Hummel era.

7. Fran McCaffery, Iowa
Record: 305-227
Record at Iowa: 54-50 overall (.519), 21-33  Big Ten (.389)
NCAA Tournament: 2-5
McCaffery resurrected Iowa to NIT status the last two seasons, and he should have the Hawkeyes in contention for their first NCAA Tournament since 2006. If Iowa reaches the Tourney, it will be the fourth reclamation job McCaffery has led to the Big Dance, joining Lehigh, UNC Greensboro and Siena.

8. John Groce, Illinois
Record: 108-69
Record at Illinois: 23-13 overall (.639), 8-10 Big Ten (.444)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
Groce made an immediate impact at Illinois, leading the Illini to a win in the Maui Invitational, a 12-0 start and victories over Ohio State and Indiana. Not bad for a team that wasn’t nearly as balanced as other top Big Ten programs last season. Groce has an all-time conference record of 42-40 in five seasons as a head coach at Ohio and Illinois.

9. Tim Miles, Nebraska
Record: 86-106
Record at Nebraska: 15-18 overall (.455), 5-13 Big Ten (.278)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Nebraska and Penn State are the Big Ten’s toughest jobs, but Miles has two things on his side: Plenty of enthusiasm and a new arena. Miles has already rebuilt one program, improving his win total at Colorado State every season from 2007-08 through 2011-12 and recruiting the core of last season’s 26-9 team.

10. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Record: 18-14
Record at Minnesota: First season
NCAA Tournament: None
Pitino showed immediately why he’s more than just a famous name. FIU’s basketball program was a mess after three seasons under Isiah Thomas, but Pitino led the Golden Panthers to the brink of the NCAA Tournament in a two-point loss to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Tournament final. The 11-9 season in conference was FIU’s first winning league record since 1999-2000.

11. Chris Collins, Northwestern
Record: First season
Northwestern is as hopeful as it’s been in a while with Collins taking over the only major conference program that has never made the NCAA Tournament. For better or worse, Collins takes over a program that has made the NIT in four of the last five seasons, but the former Duke assistant is hopeful to push Northwestern over the edge.

12. Pat Chambers, Penn State
Record: 64-69
Record at Penn State: 22-41 overall (.349), 6-30 Big Ten (.167)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
As if the Penn State job isn’t tough enough, Chambers has dealt with a season-ending injury to Tim Frazier and a transfer from Jermaine Marshall.

Michigan State's Izzo headlines deep crop of coaches
Post date: Tuesday, September 3, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-1-recap-and-awards

The standouts in Week 1 in the Big 12 were hardly the most logical suspects.

Our award winners this week include a quarterback who started the game on the bench, a true freshman walk-on, a linebacker from a team that struggled on defense last season and a defensive coordinator at a program where offense is king.

In short, a strange first week for the Big 12 wasn't limited to FCS wins over Kansas State and Iowa State.

Offensive player of the week: J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy started his season with Clint Chelf at quarterback against Mississippi State, but only two series later, Oklahoma State needed a change. That’s no problem for J.W. Walsh, who was the second man up last season when then-freshman starter Wes Lunt went down with an injury. Oklahoma State inserted the dual-threat Walsh into the lineup Saturday and added a few tweaks that turned out to spark the Cowboys to a 21-3 victory. Running the option out of the shotgun in a four-man backfield, Walsh led the Cowboys in rushing with 125 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. He also completed 18-of-27 passes for 135 yards.

Defensive player of the week: Corey Nelson, Oklahoma
Oklahoma linebacker Corey Nelson led a stifling effort against UL-Monroe, an encouraging development for a Sooners defense that struggled last season. Leading the way to bottle up quarterback Kolton Browning, Nelson had eight tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sacks as ULM averaged 1.7 yards per carry in the 34-0 win.

Freshman of the week: Baker Mayfield, Texas Tech
When Mike Leach coached Texas Tech, it seemed he could just plug any quarterback into his system and get a 400-yard passing day. It’s fitting then that Leach’s first quarterback at Tech has the same touch as a head coach. In his head coaching debut, Kliff Kingsbury sent out Baker Mayfield, a true freshman walk-on to take the first snaps. Mayfield looked neither the part of a freshman nor a non-scholarship player as he completed 43 of 60 passes for 413 yards with four touchdowns in a 41-23 win over SMU on Friday. Both Mayfield and SMU starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert graduated from high school powerhouse Lake Travis (Texas).

Team of the week: Oklahoma State
The Big 12 favorite scored the biggest non-conference win for the league with a 21-3 victory over Mississippi State. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Cowboys again showed their ability to adjust on the fly on offense and showed a new look with a standout defense.

Coordinator of the week: Glenn Spencer, Oklahoma State
The Oklahoma State offense needed time to figure out its personnel and an approach that would work against Mississippi State. Glenn Spencer’s defense, though, did more than just hold serve. Oklahoma State limited Mississippi State to 333 total yards and a field goal, the first time the Cowboys held a major conference opponent to less than a touchdown since 1995. Oklahoma State was at its best in the third quarter when it held Mississippi State to 10 total yards and no first downs. The Cowboys added 10 tackles for a loss after averaging 6.9 per game last season.

Fifth Down

• Half of the Big 12’s primary quarterbacks were not the odds-on favorites when preseason camp began. Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and Kansas State’s Jake Waters were named starters in preseason practice despite more seasoned players on the roster. Texas Tech’s Baker Mayfield filled in for the injured Michael Brewer. Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh relieved Clint Chelf early. And West Virginia’s Paul Millard was not revealed as the starter until he trotted onto the field.

• Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight rushed for 103 yards becoming the first Sooners QB to top 100 yards rushing since Jason White in 2001 — before the eventual Heisman winner had two knee surgeries. Knight also became the first quarterback of the Stoops era to rush for more than he passed (86 yards).

• Oklahoma had its best defensive performance against the run since September 2011. The Sooners held ULM to 1.7 yards per carry and 38 yards on the gorund, the lowest figures since OU held Florida State to 1.04 yards per carry and 27 rushing early in 2011.

• Texas’ 715 total yards against New Mexico State was a school record and the first 700-yard game in school history. Not bad considering that three of the Longhorns’ first five possessions ended in a turnover.

• Baylor’s 69 points against Wofford was the Bears’ highest-scoring game since an 88-0 win over Stephen F. Austin in 1929. That may not seen to be a big deal against an FCU steam, but given the Big 12’s results against other FCS teams, Baylor has reason to be proud.

• Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk has rushed for 100 yards in five consecutive games, a school record. Seastrunk rushed fro 112 yards on 11 carries against Wofford.

Oklahoma State's J.W. Walsh and Oklahoma's Corey Nelson take top honors
Post date: Sunday, September 1, 2013 - 15:41
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-1-recap-clemson-lsu-make-statements

The first weekend of college football season delivered in all the ways we hoped it would.

Clemson gave us a legitimate party-crasher for the SEC’s dominance and raised the bar for a Tigers fan base used to having their dreams crushed in the unlikeliest of ways.

LSU and TCU delivered on gamesmanship early as neither suspended stars, Jeremy Hill and Devonte Fields, played, but both TCU quarterbacks did. And a series of wild sequences from the end of the first half to a key turnover to a kickoff return kept things interesting for TCU.

In the personality department, Johnny Manziel was Johnny Manziel and he did so efficiently in less than a half of play.

And then there was the ongoing story of FCS teams rising up to defeat FBS program. The day Saturday ended with eight FBS teams losing to lower-division programs.



Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Clemson could be in for a special season. The offense is special, no doubt: Tajh Boyd (right) can get the big play, but he also picked up third downs on the ground late in the game, Sammy Watkins flashed his 2011 form, and Roderick McDowell picked up where Andre Ellington left off. The defense needs work, but few teams will be able to stress Clemson like Georgia did. The Tigers have proven they can go toe-to-toe with SEC teams with three wins in four matchups in the last year, but can Clemson get through the ACC unscathed?

The Clemson secondary is still a question. Todd Gurley rushed for a 75-yard touchdown on his first carry of the game, but Georgia averaged 3.6 yards per carry thereafter. That’s a good sign for the Clemson front seven. However, this looks like the same old Tigers’ secondary. Aaron Murray completed 20-of-29 passes for 322 yards, signaling Clemson’s pass defense could be a liability for yet another season.

Georgia could be in trouble next week. Georgia was gassed at times in the second half in the humidity as the defense spent 76 plays on the field against Clemson. Now the Bulldogs have to turn around from a deflating loss to face South Carolina. The Bulldogs potentially will be without starting receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who suffered a knee injury early in the game.


The LSU offense: We don’t want to know how the sausage is made. The Tigers have to love the end result with 401 yards and 5.6 yards per play against the stout TCU defense, but there were still signs of the same old LSU offense. Zach Mettenberger (right) made a beautiful behind-the-shoulder throw to Odell Beckham in the second half, but Mettenberger also completed fewer than half of his passes (15 of 32). At the end of the first half, LSU turned a third and goal from TCU’s 2 to a third down at the 12 when the Tigers were called for a delay of game after their own timeout and then were flagged for a false start. And later, Alfred Blue fumbled inside the Tigers' 10 to set up a TCU touchdown — a rare fumble by an LSU running back, but a momentum-changing fumble nonetheless.

TCU is still going to contend in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs lost, but they don’t look like they’re eliminated from Big 12 contention by any means. TCU closed the deficit to a field goal with 8:44 remaining despite playing without its top defensive player Devonte Fields. Meanwhile, the rest of the Big 12 looked far from perfect.

Crazy things happen. LSU brought us the wildest sequence of the weekend at the end of the second half and that was after LSU was called for a delay of game after its own timeout. Then, the Tigers moved back another five yards on a false start. LSU risked letting the clock run out on a scoring attempt when a player lost a helmet, resulting in a 10-second runoff, on a third down play before the presumptive field goal. The officials at first ruled the end of the half thanks to the helmet removal (there were 5 seconds remaining at the time). Nearly the entire TCU team made it off the field before officials reversed the call, noting LSU’s incomplete pass stopped the clock to negate the runoff. After TCU retook the field, LSU kicked a field goal to end the half.


Maryland’s C.J. Brown. The Terrapins finally got a look at what their offense could be when the quarterback position isn’t a revolving door. Even if it was against FIU, C.J. Brown gave Maryland the quarterback play it had been lacking in his first start since missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Brown completed 20-of-24 passes for 276 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns. For better or worse, Maryland’s best playmaker, Stefon Diggs, had only six touches on offense, most of which after the 43-10 win had been decided.

Northwestern without Kain Colter. Northwestern played most of its week 1 game without Kain Colter, who was out with an “upper body injury,” and Venric Mark contributed little. Their absence was felt, particularly in the red zone, but Northwestern still managed to defeat plucky Cal 44-30 on the road. A big heap of the credit goes to Collin Ellis, who had two interceptions returned for touchdowns.

Allen Robinson’s second half. Robinson was suspended for the first half against Syracuse for reasons Bill O’Brien says are between the receiver and the coach. In any event, Robinson transformed a stagnant Penn State offense in the second half.  Robinson caught seven passes for 127 yards with a touchdown in Penn State’s 17-point second half in the Nittany Lions’ 23-17 win. Robinson’s return was boost for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who completed 22-of-31 passes for 278 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut.


Texas A&M’s defense. Johnny Manziel’s first-half suspension was not the biggest concern for the Aggies. Not even close. Texas A&M allowed Rice to put up 508 yards as the defense stayed on the field for 86 plays. Rice averaged 6.1 yards per carry and pushed the Aggies’ defensive line around early in the game. Some of the issues were due to suspensions as nose guard Kirby Ennis, safety Floyd Raven and cornerback Deshazor Everett were suspended for the first half due to offseason arrests. Linebacker Steven Jenkins, defensive end Gavin Stansbury and cornerback De’Vante Harris — all starters — were also suspended for the first two games. Everett returned for the second half, enough time to pick up another suspension after being flagged under the new targeting rule. All those absences will either help build experience among the backups or could end up being a liability when the SEC schedule starts.

Nebraska’s defense. Bo Pelini is having trouble selling his bona fides as a defensive coach these days with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers were shredded at the end of last season by Wisconsin and Georgia. The opener, though, was a new low. Wyoming, a team that went 4-8 last season and ranked 70th in total offense last season, amassed 602 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per play against the Huskers in the 37-34 loss. Making Wyoming’s outburst most puzzling, the Cowboys went 1 of 8 on third down. Nebraska faces UCLA in two weeks.

Boise State. The Broncos have had heartbreakers and losses to inferior teams, but Boise State has never had a performance this bad during the Chris Petersen era. The Broncos lost 38-6 to Washington, giving Boise State its first loss of more than four points since a 39-27 loss to Hawaii in 2007 and its worst loss since 48-13 to Georgia in the 2005 opener.


Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Five total touchdowns in the marquee game of the weekend is enough to put Boyd near the top of the conversation if he wasn’t there already.

AJ McCarron, Alabama. McCarron will have opportunities to make up ground to make voters forget his forgettable performance against Virginia Tech. Receivers dropped passes, the offensive line struggled — Cyrus Kouandjio in particular — and Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller had a standout game with an interception and two pass breakups. But McCarron’s stat line will stick out as he finished 10-of-23 for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois. A loss to Iowa won’t be on the NIU resume this season. And if Lynch is going to make a bid to be a Heisman finalist, he needed a game like he had against Iowa — even if he played little role in the dramatic finish. Lynch completed 25-of-41 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns while rushing for 55 yards on 23 carries.


2. Return game touchdowns for Alabama’s Christion Jones. It takes a special effort to do something that’s never been done at Alabama, but junior receiver Christion Jones managed that. He took the first touch of Alabama’s season back for a touchdown on a punt return. Then he added a 94-yard kickoff return for a score in the second quarter to become the first player since at least 1944 (that’s how far complete records go back) to return a punt and a kickoff for a score for the Tide. Oh, and he added a 38-yard touchdown catch.

5. FCS teams defeating major conference teams. To put that in perspective: No more than four FCS teams have defeated major conference teams in a season since 1985, according to The action started Thursday when Towson defeated Connecticut 33-18 for the most lopsided FCS-over-FBS win since 2000. That mark was crushed Saturday when McNeese State defeated USF 53-21. Two-time FCS champion North Dakota State defeated Kansas State 24-21 on Friday, Eastern Washington defeated Oregon State 49-46, and Northern Iowa defeated Iowa State 28-20.

6-13. Iowa’s record in one-score games since 2010. Iowa’s signature ability to win close games is a distant memory. With 1:24 remaining in a tie game, Jake Rudock threw an interception to set up Northern Illinois at the 30-yard line. After two run plays, NIU kicked a 36-yard game-winning field goal for a 30-27 win. Iowa has lost seven in a row and has lost six games decided by one score since the start of the 2012 season.




Khalil Mack, Buffalo. A name to remember around the NFL Draft: Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack. He was the best defensive player on the field in Ohio State’s 40-20 win over Buffalo. Mack returned an interception 45 yards for at touchdown to go with 2.5 sacks and nine tackles. The MAC isn’t all about offense.

Southern Miss’ losing streak goes on. The nation’s longest losing streak hit 13 games and figures to go a bit longer. Southern Miss lost 22-15 to Texas State in Hattiesburg, a game that was the Eagles’ best chance for a win until at least October. Southern Miss rounds out September at Nebraska, at Arkansas and at Boise State.

Louisville’s schedule got worse. Everyone knew the Cardinals’ schedule was going to be a liability for their perception and their postseason. Before the Cards even played a game it got worse: Louisville’s opponents went 4-7 in the first week, and the most impressive by a wide margin win was Cincinnati’s 42-7 victory over Purdue. Louisville’s opponents’ other three wins were over Akron, Southern and Robert Morris. Meanwhile, USF and Connecticut lost decisively to FCS teams. Rutgers had the best chance for meaningful win for the American Athletic Conference, but the Scarlet Knights lost 52-51 in overtime to Fresno State.

Nebraska 37, Wyoming 34
West Virginia 24, William & Mary 17
Illinois 42, Southern Illinois 34
Baylor 69, Wofford 3
Oregon 66, Nicholls State 3
Michigan 59, Central Michigan 9
Florida at Miami
Georgia at South Carolina
Notre Dame at Michigan


J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State. Clint Chelf spent all of two possessions as Oklahoma State’s primary quarterback, but it’s tough to argue with Mike Gundy sticking with J.W. Walsh, no matter what Chelf’s family members may say. Once inserted into the lineup, Walsh gave the Cowboys offense a lift running the zone read out of a diamond formation late in the first half. Walsh completed 18 of 27 passes for 135 yards and led Oklahoma State in rushing with 125 yards and a touchdown ion 13 carries. Gundy left little room for controversy by saying Walsh would start the Cowboys’ next game against UTSA.

Jordan Hall, Ohio State. The Ohio State offense isn't all Braxton Miller. With power backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith suspended for the opener, Hall took over. The senior rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in the 40-20 win. Hall missed most of all of last season with a foot injury and then a knee injury. He’s expected to occasionally play the H-back role when Hyde and Smith return to the lineup, but this day will be tough to ignore.

Mack Brown, Florida. Thanks to suspensions and injuries, the Gators were shorthanded throughout the offense. Running back Mack Brown adequately provided the power run game attack Will Muschamp prefers. With Matt Jones out with a viral infection since July, Brown rushed for 112 yards with two touchdowns on 25 carries in the 24-6 win over Toledo. The Gators had been hoping for Brown to take on a greater role in recent years, but entering Saturday, the senior had only 40 carries in three seasons.

Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M
Chris McCain, Cal
Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
Bret Bielema, Arkansas
Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky
Darrell Hazell, Purdue
Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
Willie Taggart, USF


Denzel Nkemdiche, Ole Miss. The Rebels defeated Vanderbilt 39-35 in a thrilling Thursday night opener, but all is not well in Oxford. Star linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche is out for four to six weeks after suffering a torn meniscus. Meanwhile, starting offensive lineman Aaron Morris is likely done for the season after a torn ACL. Ole Miss has a brutal start to the season after facing Southeast Missouri State next week. The Rebels are at Texas (Sept. 14), at Alabama Oct. 28), at Auburn (Oct. 5), vs. Texas A&M (Oct. 12) and vs. LSU (Oct. 19).

Brandon Mitchell, NC State. If first-year coach Dave Doeren didn’t have enough challenges in turning NC State into an ACC contender, he was dealt another blow with an injury to starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell. The senior was 3-for-3 for 93 yards before leaving the opener with a broken bone in his foot. The Wolfpack still defeated Louisiana Tech 40-14, but NC State rounds out September with Richmond, Clemson and Central Michigan.

Tyler Russell, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs quarterback walked off the field in a daze after a shot to the head in the second half against Oklahoma State. Even if Russell is held out of the next week, the Bulldogs might not be in serious trouble against Alcorn State.

Clemson raises stakes for season, LSU ready to contend for SEC
Post date: Sunday, September 1, 2013 - 11:44
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-easts-coaches-2013-14

The new Big East has a leg up on other basketball leagues that don’t have major college football. That’s clear. Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John’s and even Butler and Xavier are established basketball brands.

The resumes of the league's coaches, though, may be a bit lacking compared to the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12.

Only two Big East coaches have a Final Four appearance, and neither claimed the top spot in our league coach rankings. That honor belongs to Buzz Williams.

The Marquette coach is accomplished as anyone during the last three seasons, but he has a grand total of eight NCAA Tournament wins in his career.

Beyond Williams and mainstays Jay Wright at Villanova and John Thompson III at Georgetown, there’s an interesting dynamic to watch in the reformed league. Steve Lavin and Ed Cooley have rebuilt their programs in the shadow of Louisville and Syracuse, and now could be poised to take a major step up in a league without a clear power program on top.

Doug McDermott and Chris Mack have accomplished much at the Missouri Valley and Atlantic 10 levels, but the day-to-day competition will be improved in their new conferences (at least on days when they’re not facing DePaul).

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American | Big 12

1. Buzz Williams, Marquette
Record: 136-71
Record at Marquette: 122-54 overall (.693), 60-30 Big East (.667)
NCAA Tournament: 8-5
Buzz Williams’ name keeps getting thrown out for other major jobs, but the stat-minded Texan is doing just fine in Milwaukee. Marquette is one of only four teams to reach the Sweet 16 in each of the last three seasons, joining Florida, Kansas and Ohio State. And he’s done this without the benefit of McDonald’s All-Americans. And despite the departure of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom before last season, Marquette won a share of the Big East title. 

2. John Thompson III, Georgetown
Record: 277-131
Record at Georgetown: 209-89 overall (.701), 99-57 (.635)
NCAA Tournament: 8-9, one Final Four
Thompson’s tenure at Georgetown has been marred by early NCAA Tournament exits, but consider three of the last five teams that knocked the Hoyas out of the Tournament: Florida Gulf Coast, a Final Four-bound VCU and a Stephen Curry-led Davidson. Thompson’s career shouldn’t be defined by those exits. Georgetown surprised last season by winning a share of the Big East title, the third time the Hoyas have won the regular-season championship under Thompson.

3. Jay Wright, Villanova
Record: 379-229
Record at Villanova: 257-144 overall (.641), 114-90 Big East (.559)
NCAA Tournament: 12-10, one Final Four
Villanova bounced back from a losing 2011-12 season by going 20-14 overall and 10-8 in the Big East last year. The Wildcats aren't competing at the same level as they were in the late 2000s, but they’re showing signs of getting back. Villanova defeated each of the Big East’s tri-champs (Louisville, Marquette and Georgetown) at least once last season plus Syracuse. Wright also has a point guard in Ryan Arcidiacono who is poised to be one of the league’s breakout stars. After reaching the NCAA Tournament in eight of the last nine seasons, 2011-12 was an aberration.

4. Chris Mack, Xavier
Record (all at Xavier): 90-44 overall (.672), 48-16 Atlantic 10 (.750)
NCAA Tournament: 4-3
This could be a critical season for Mack’s momentum at Xavier. A Cincinnati and Xavier product through and through, Mack led Xavier to A-10 titles in his first two seasons and to the Sweet 16 twice in his first three seasons. With a depleted roster, Xavier slipped to 17-14 last season. The Musketeers have a potential All-American in sophomore Semaj Christon, so Mack should expect to return to form in his fifth season.

5. Steve Lavin, St. John’s
Record: 196-125
Record at St. John’s: 51-47 overall (.520), 26-28 Big East (.481)
NCAA Tournament: 11-7
Lavin’s record technically includes the majority of the 2011-12 season when he missed all but the first four games while recovering from successful treatment for prostate cancer. The Red Storm’s record with Lavin on the bench is 20-17 in the Big East. Beyond the record, Lavin has brought momentum back to St. John’s. Lavin took a veteran team to the NCAA Tournament in 2011, but he has replenished the program with standout recruiting classes in recent years. St. John’s should be a consistent contender in the new Big East.

6. Greg McDermott, Creighton
Record: 229-161
Record at Creighton: 80-30 overall (.727), 37-17 Missouri Valley (.685)
NCAA Tournament: 2-5
McDermott may be best suited as a mid-major coach. There’s no shame in that, but it will be interesting to see how he and Creighton perform in the new Big East, especially once his son Doug McDermott is gone. Greg has an 86-58 all-time conference record as a Missouri Valley coach at Northern Iowa and Creighton compared to 18-46 against the Big 12 while at Iowa State. He’s the big question for McDermott: Will the level of competition in the new Big East be closer to the MVC or the Big 12?

7. Ed Cooley, Providence
Record: 126-101
Record at Providence: 34-32 overall (.515), 13-23 Big East (.361)
NCAA Tournament: None
The Rhode Island-born Cooley has coached in the Northeast most of his career, and may be the perfect fit in returning Providence to contention. The Friars improved from 4-14 in the Big East in his first to 9-9 in his second, and that was without one of his top recruits, Ricky Ledo. This season could end a decade-long absence from the NCAA Tournament for the Friars.

8. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Record: 94-98
Record at Seton Hall: 49-49 overall (.500), 18-36 Big East (.333)
NCAA Tournament: None
Willard’s rebuilding job at Seton Hall hit a snag last season as the Pirates went 3-15 in the league after an NIT appearance a season earlier. We know Willard can rebuild — Iona went 2-28 the year before he arrived and 21-10 four years later. He hopes he’s a point guard away from getting closer to .500 in the league.

9. Brandon Miller, Butler
Record: First season
Given Butler’s track record of hiring coaches, we wouldn’t be shocked if Miller quickly moved up the rankings, even if duplicating Brad Stevens’ run would be an impossible task. Miller took a year away from college basketball two seasons ago, but Butler knows what it’s getting in its new coach. He’s an alum who coached at Butler and under a former Bulldogs coach Thad Matta at Ohio State.

10. Oliver Purnell, DePaul
Record: 424-343
Record at DePaul: 30-64 overall (.319), 6-50 Big East (.107)
NCAA Tournament record: 0-6
Programs know what they get with Purnell. He’s taken over rough situations at Radford, Old Dominion, Dayton and Clemson. He’s made them competitive in their respective leagues. Then he takes the next rebuilding job. DePaul, though, may be a job too difficult to salvage. The only hope is that the new Big East will be more forgiving than the last one for the Blue Demons.

Marquette's Buzz Williams takes top spot in new conference
Post date: Friday, August 30, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-week-1-preview-and-predictions-2013

In a conference as tightly contested as the Big 12 should be in 2013, a number of decisions and developments leading up to week 1 could have major consequences.

No pressure, Big 12 coaches.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen Bob Stoops surprisingly opt for a redshirt freshman quarterback and Gary Patterson play coy with his starting lineup. Mike Gundy now has to find a new starting left tackle in addition to juggling two QBs he knows can win Big 12 games. And Mack Brown, well, no one really knows what to expect from his talented but underachieving squad.

No Week 1 games will count in the Big 12 standings, but there are plenty of games for national prestige, chiefly TCU’s and Oklahoma State’s neutral site games against SEC West teams. If the Big 12 is going to back up Stoops’ bold talk in the offseason concerning the SEC, Week 1 would be a good time to clear up any misconceptions.

Elsewhere, nearly every other Big 12 team is guarding against an upset. Oklahoma and Kansas State will face a pair of teams that have shown they’re not intimidated my major conference competition.

Big 12 Week 1 Game Power Rankings

All games Saturday, unless noted.

1. LSU vs. TCU in Arlington (9 p.m, ESPN)
Who’s going to play and when will be the theme early for TCU and LSU. Horned Frogs’ coach Gary Patterson says he’s confident in using both quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin. Both will be on the field for the coin flip, whatever that means. Pachall has been the favorite to reclaim his starting spot since spring practice, but Boykin, who rushed for 417 yards last season, brings an added dimension. Patterson also returned star defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks last season) to the depth chart as an alternate starter, though the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Fields is not likely to play. Les Miles was similarly vague on running back Jeremy Hill, who will play, but it’s not clear how much. Once the personnel is settled, TCU will hope its quarterback tandem, running back Waymon James and an experienced receiving corps has an edge over a rebuilding LSU defense.

2. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State in Houston (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Oklahoma State was Athlon’s pick to win the Big 12. But the Cowboys were ranked outside the top 15 and were closely bunched with Oklahoma, Texas and TCU in the national top 25. In theory, a Big 12 favorite should be able to handle a second-tier team in the SEC West, but there are plenty of question marks for Oklahoma State. Two new coordinators will be in play for Oklahoma State. On offense, Mike Yurcich, a former offensive coordinator at Division II Shippensburg, will juggle a pair of quarterbacks in Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh who have more Big 12 wins than he does. The Mississippi State defense has a new coordinator of its own in Geoff Collins, who was an assistant on last year’s staff but intends on using a more blitz-centric scheme.

3. ULM at Oklahoma (7 p.m., Fox Sports Net)
Trevor Knight gets his first career start for Oklahoma, so that will be the focal point on the offense (more on him in the pivotal players section). Instead, the Sooners’ defense will be worth watching in its second season under Mike Stoops. ULM’s Kolton Browning was magical against Arkansas, Auburn and Baylor to start last season. OU’s defense wasn’t quite as bad as those three teams, but the Sooners ranked sixth in the Big 12 in yards per play.

4. Texas Tech at SMU (Friday, 8 p.m., ESPN)
Few games this season will have more pass-offense oriented minds in one stadium with new coach Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech and June Jones and Hal Mumme at SMU. Texas Tech’s passing game, though, may be in question. Receiver Jakeem Grant let slip that quarterback Michael Brewer had missed practice time with a back injury. Freshman Davis Webb had been taking first-team snaps, Grant said, but Kingsbury wouldn’t reveal if Brewer, Webb or freshman Baker Mayfield would take the first snaps against SMU.

5. North Dakota State at Kansas State (Friday, 8:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Kansas State is coming off a Big 12 title and back-to-back major bowl appearances, but North Dakota State has reason to brag, too. The Bison have won two consecutive FCS titles and are Athlon’s preseason No. 1 in that division. New Wildcats quarterback Jake Waters faces a defense that led the FCS in scoring defense the last seasons while the K-State defense takes the field with only two returning starters. K-State won’t be able to pencil in a win against a North Dakota State that has defeated two FBS opponents by at least two touchdowns in the last two seasons (Minnesota and Colorado State).

6. New Mexico State at Texas (8 p.m., Longhorn Network)
Texas should make easy work of New Mexico State, but this will be a critical season for the Longhorns. A week before facing BYU’s standout defense on the road, the Texas offense will be under the microscope as Major Applewhite unveils a new up-tempo approach against New Mexico State. And two weeks later, the defense with a healthy Jordan Hicks at linebacker will be in focus against Ole Miss.

7. Wofford at Baylor (7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net)
Baylor shouldn’t have too much trouble with Wofford, but this will be the debut of quarterback Bryce Petty as the starting quarterback for the Bears. Wofford runs the option, which may at least make things for a Baylor defense that struggled last few seasons.

8. William & Mary at West Virginia (noon, Fox Sports 1)
The West Virginia offense enters a new era with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey gone. With Andrew Buie likely to redshirt, the running back position — and the direction for the offense as a whole — is in the hands of Houston transfer Charles Sims. The next question is at quarterback where Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and Paul Millard are listed as co-starters.

9. Northern Iowa at Iowa State (8 p.m.)
Iowa State is hopeful a move to the Pistol formation will jumpstart the offense. Teams have tried it with mixed success over the seasons, but Iowa State at least went to someone familiar with running out of the formation. New offensive line coach Chris Klenakis was an offensive coordinator at Nevada under Chris Ault, the coach who devised the Pistol in the first place.

Big 12 Week 1 Pivotal Players

Trevor Knight, QB, Oklahoma
The redshirt freshman quarterback is a pivotal player for the entire season for Oklahoma. Knight passed short-yardage specialist Blake Bell and sophomore Kendal Thompson to take hold of the starting quarterback spot last week, but Knight began to impress coaches as a stand-in for Johnny Manziel during practice for the Cotton Bowl. After a quarterback run of Landry Jones, Sam Bradford and Jason White, Oklahoma will have a quarterback who can make plays in the ground game for the first time in a long time.

Oklahoma State’s left tackle
Offensive tackle has been a position of strength for the Cowboys in recent seasons, but they will need to make a sudden adjustment with a season-ending knee injury to starter Devin Davis. Parker Graham started at left tackle last season but was moved to guard. The other potential replacements are Michael Wilson, a redshirt freshman, and Chris Grisbhy, a junior college transfer who has been on campus for a year. Whoever the Pokes choose, he’ll be under pressure against an underrated Mississippi State defensive line led by rising star end Denico Autry.

TCU’s linebackers
The Horned Frogs’ linebackers were a question mark before returning starter Joel Hasley left the team. TCU has tried to get more athletic at the position against the spread offenses in the Big 12, moving former safety Jonathan Anderson to one of the starting spots. The adjustments for Big 12 offenses might not help against LSU’s physical run game.

Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
As noted, Pachall and Boykin have been mentioned equally for TCU, but it’s tough to imagine the Horned Frogs defeating LSU or winning the Big 12 without Pachall in his 2011 form. Pachall will face two standout safeties led by Craig Loston against LSU, along with a pair of younger cornerbacks that should be more seasoned than when they struggled in the bowl game against Clemson.

John Hubert, RB, Kansas State
Hubert hasn’t exactly been a game-breaking tailback over the last two seasons. Kansas State’s offense has been equally dependent on Collin Klein. Klein is gone, and the Wildcats have gone with Jake Waters over Daniel Sams, who is skilled as a runner. It’s up to Hubert to anchor the run game alone.

Big 12 Week 1 Predictions Grid

 David FoxBraden GallSteven LassanMitch Light
Texas Tech (-5.5) at SMUTech 35-31Tech 34-28Tech 34-24Tech 41-24
North Dakota St (+13) at Kansas StateKState 24-17 KState 30-21KState 30-20

KState 37-17

William & Mary (+32) at West VirginiaWVU 35-10WVU 41-17WVU 51-10WVU 41-10
Mississippi St (+12.5) vs. Oklahoma StOSU 31-21OSU 31-21OSU 34-24OSU 38-24
ULM (+21) at OklahomaOU 31-17OU 34-24OU 38-24OU 37-24
Wofford (+28) at BaylorBaylor 42-10Baylor 45-10Baylor 50-17Baylor 51-3
Northern Iowa (+9.5) at Iowa StateIowa St 24-13Iowa St 24-14Iowa St 34-17Iowa St 33-13
New Mexico State (+42) at TexasTexas 49-7Texas 37-7Texas 52-7Texas 44-6
LSU (-4.5) vs TCULSU 21-14LSU 27-17LSU 27-20LSU 24-10


TCU, Oklahoma and more keep drama going until kickoff
Post date: Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 07:14
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-episode-1

Athlon Sports is proud to be the multimedia hub for college sports coverage: From our preseason annuals that begin the countdown to the season starting in June, to everyday during the season and offseason, to the Athlon Sports monthly.

We’d like to be a part of your podcast rotation, too, during the season.

The Athlon Sports Cover 2 podcast will feature the editorial staff of host Braden Gall and a rotating cast of co-hosts David Fox, Mitch Light and Steven Lassan.

In our debut podcast, Gall and Fox talk about:

3:34 On what excites us most for the 2013 season (non-Manziel division).
6:19 A cool year for the hot seat
8:40 Why no one knows what to expect from Georgia-Clemson
13:51 Breaking down the rest of a big week 1 for the SEC, including TCU-LSU, Mississippi State-Oklahoma State
17:34 Talking week 1 undercards, including Northwestern-Cal, Ohio-Louisville and Boise State-Washington
22:04 Why Florida, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Louisville and Arkansas need to be on upset alert in week 1

The podcast can be found on and our RSS feed. And coming soon to iTunes.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter.


The Athlon editorial staff will keep you in the know, on the go
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-games-first-weekend-college-football

By Monday evening, a good portion of an offseason’s worth of predictions and debates may be out of date.

That’s part of the anticipation for the first weekend of the season, which will stretch from Thursday through Monday night. Plenty of games with plenty to learn, pretty much.

Here’s a quick guide to the games we watching closely and what lessons he hope to gain for each team.

1. Georgia at Clemson
Need to know: Saturday, 8 p.m., ABC
What we will learn about Georgia: A great deal about Todd Grantham’s defense. The results didn’t match the talent last season. The Bulldogs allowed 4.1 yards per carry last season, ranking 11th in the SEC. And that was with first-round draft picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree (granted, Ogletree was suspended the first four games). Missing oversized safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is serving a one-game suspension, and returning only three starters will put stress on the Georgia defense against one country’s best quarterbacks.
What we will learn about Clemson: If the secondary is good enough for a top-10 team. The Tigers’ secondary is the weak link on the defense. Safety Travis Blanks is the only returning starter here, and he needs to have a breakout season as a sophomore. The lingering pass defense problem from 2012 can’t extend into the 2013 opener against Georgia’s Aaron Murray.

2. LSU vs. TCU in Arlington, Texas
Need to know: Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about LSU: Who is ready to take charge. Will the young defense be ready to play at normal LSU levels? Will Zach Mettenberger be able to take the next step under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron? TCU's Casey Pachall and Waymon James have proven they can put stress on a defense when healthy and available. And Mettenberger will be tested against a Gary Patterson defense that proved it could translate success from the Mountain West to the Big 12.
What we will learn about TCU: What’s up Patterson’s sleeve. Patterson’s not offering many clues for his plans against LSU. He hasn’t announced a starting quarterback between Pachall and Trevone Boykin, though Pachall appears to be the favorite. Patterson also snuck defensive end Devonte Fields, who was supposed to be suspended, onto the depth chart. TCU has been hit by player departures (projected starting linebacker Joel Hasley) and injuries on the offensive line, so perhaps Patterson is grabbing any advantage he can get.

3. North Carolina at South Carolina
Need to know: Thursday, 6 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about North Carolina: The line is a major question mark for North Carolina’s offense, which was one of the most consistent in the ACC last season. If the offensive line can anchor an ACC contender. Three starters are gone, including first-round draft pick, Jonathan Cooper. Left tackle James Hurst will have his hands full with Jadeveon Clowney, but the good news is he won’t face anyone better for the rest of the season.
What we will learn about South Carolina: Are the defensive players not named Jadeveon ready to win the SEC? South Carolina has some holes at linebacker and to a lesser extent in the secondary. South Carolina needs to prove it can handle North Carolina and quarterback Bryn Renner before facing Georgia and Aaron Murray in the second week of the season.

4. Boise State at Washington
Need to know: Saturday, 10 p.m., Fox Sports 1
What we will learn about Boise State: If Joe Southwick is ready to carry Boise State. The quarterback was much improved in the final games of last season, throwing nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the final four games last season. He was 26 of 38 for 264 yards with two TDs in the bowl game against Washington, but Southwick will need to be a road performer. Besides Washington, the Broncos face Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State on the road this season.
What we will learn about Washington: If more experience will turn the offense around. The Huskies repaired one of the worst defenses in the Pac-12 during the 2012 offseason. They’ll need to upgrade the offense this season if they’re going to get over the seven-win hump. A banged-up offensive line didn’t help Keith Price at all last season. Now, Washington has a healthy line, skill position talent (especially if Mackey Award contender Austin Seferian-Jenkins plays) and up-tempo tweaks in the scheme.

5. Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
Need to know: Thursday, 9:15 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Ole Miss: A bit about how this brutal start will go. Ole Miss has a ton of momentum after closing last season with a win over Mississippi State, a bowl victory and a star-studded signing class. But the Rebels have to play games, and the early part of the schedule includes four of the first five on the road. If the Rebels can’t defeat Vanderbilt, how confident will they be against Texas (Sept. 14) and Alabama (Sept. 28)?
What we will learn about Vanderbilt: Who is Austyn Carta-Samuels? Vanderbilt won nine games under Jordan Rodgers last season, and now the job is being handed to a Wyoming transfer. Carta-Samuels had a nice freshman season in Laramie, but that’s a long way from reaching a bowl out of the SEC. Carta-Samuels will be without his No. 2 receiver in Chris Boyd, who was indicted in connection to the campus rape case. Police accuse Boyd of advising another defendant in covering up the crime.

6. Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State in Houston
Need to know: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ABC
What we will learn about Mississippi State: If the Bulldogs are ready for the big-time. Mississippi State folded against the top competition in the SEC last season. Oklahoma State is in the crowd atop the Big 12, but Mississippi State can still make a statement in Houston. The Bulldogs have a standout defensive line that will go up against an OSU unit that’s missing starting left tackle Devin Davis, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
What we will learn about Oklahoma State: An intro to a new offense. On one hand, Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh have had the entire offseason to prepare for starting this season — a year ago, freshman Wes Lunt, who has since transferred, was named the starter in spring. That’s good news, but those veterans are working under new coordinator Mike Yurcich.

7. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama in Atlanta
Need to know: Saturday, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Virginia Tech: Not much, really. The Crimson Tide embarrassed Michigan 41-14 to open last season. That’s a mark Virginia Tech may strain to avoid.
What we will learn about Alabama: How dominant this team could be. Frank Beamer has said Alabama is the best team Virginia Tech has faced during his tenure. If there’s a breakout offensive star — T.J. Yeldon or Amari Cooper — doing something big against Virginia Tech may be enough to put one or the other in the Heisman conversation along with AJ McCarron.

8. Florida State at Pittsburgh
Need to know: Monday, 8 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Florida State: What role Jameis Winston may play. The redshirt freshman quarterback could be one of the breakout stars for 2013, but there may be little reason for coach Jimbo Fisher to play that hand, at least not yet. The Seminoles should have one of the best defenses in the ACC plus plenty of running back depth so Winston doesn’t need to be a star in his first start.
What we will learn about Pittsburgh: The direction of the running back position. Pittsburgh has had a number of deficiencies in its final seasons in the Big East, but running back hasn’t been one of them from LeSean McCoy to Dion Lewis to Ray Graham. The baton could have been passed to decorated recruit Rushel Shell, but he elected to transfer. When he wanted to return, coach Paul Chryst didn’t take him back. Pitt also had injuries to the top two running backs, junior Isaac Bennett and freshman James Conner, during fall practice.

9. Ohio at Louisville
Need to know: Sunday, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
What we will learn about Ohio: The Bobcats’ status as a MAC team to watch. Consistency has been the biggest trademark for Ohio in recent years. The Bobcats have won between eight and 10 games in each of the last four seasons. Frank Solich has been here since 2005. But a MAC title has been elusive as flashier teams with transient coaches have won the league. Ohio may have what it takes to win the league this season.
What we will learn about Louisville: If the defense is ready to go undefeated. Teddy Bridgewater and the offense will be fine, but Charlie Strong’s D had its lapses last season. The Cardinals allowed 524 total yards in a loss to Syracuse and struggled to find a pass rush at times last season. Ohio returns the backfield duo of Tyler Tettleton and Beau Blankenship, who combined for 480 total yards against Penn State in the opener last season.

10. Rutgers at Fresno State
Need to know: Thursday, 10:30 p.m., ESPNU
What we will learn about Rutgers: How the defense will replace its stars. The Scarlet Knights lost Big East defensive player of the year Khaseem Greene, lockdown corner Logan Ryan and veterans Scott Vallone and Steve Beauharnais. That’s a lot for Rutgers to lose in one offseason, especially when the first game of 2013 is on the road against Fresno quarterback Derek Carr.
What we will learn about Fresno State: A bit about Fresno State’s Mountain West prospects. The Bulldogs hasn’t won an outright conference title since it’s been the same league with Boise State. The Bulldogs are expected to go toe-to-toe with the Broncos this season, possibly meeting in the first Mountain West title game. Defeating Rutgers at home in the opener would be a signal that Fresno is ready to take on Boise State and San Diego State.

Our picks of the top 10 games this weekend and what we may learn
Post date: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-big-12s-coaches-2013-14

The Big 12 coach rankings start with Bill Self.

That’s the easy part.

After that, ranking the Big 12 coaches is a chore. Three of the league’s most accomplished career coaches — Bob Huggins, Rick Barnes and Tubby Smith have more than 1,700 wins among them — are coming off of lackluster seasons. Smith was let go from his last job, and Barnes will be under pressure to turn things around at Texas in a hurry.

A decade ago, Scott Drew took on one of the toughest rebuilding projects in the country at Baylor, succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations but still kept the Bears wanting more.

Lon Kruger and Fred Hoiberg are two Big 12 coaches who have impressed. Kruger did at Oklahoma what he’s done everywhere — stay competitive, get into the NCAA Tournament and, well, that’s about it. Hoiberg hasn’t led Iowa State beyond the Round of 32 in the last two seasons, but that still better than anyone else in Ames in the last decade.

Indeed, after the top tier of Big 12 coaches, any of the others in the league could plausibly sit in the second or third group.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

Other conference coach rankings: ACC | American

1. Bill Self, Kansas
Record: 507-164
Record at Kansas: 300-59 overall (.836), 137-27 Big 12 (.835)
NCAA Tournament: 35-14, two Final Fours, one national championship
The names and faces outside of Lawrence keep changing, but Kansas hasn’t fallen from its perch in the Big 12. Self has won at least 30 games in four consecutive seasons and reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven seasons. Even when the Jayhawks looked vulnerable for 2013-14 after losing all five starters, they signed the presumptive No. 1 draft pick, Andrew Wiggins, and landed transfer Tarik Black from Memphis. The new faces, including a signing class that ranked only second to Kentucky, will present a challenge for Self. He’s had the luxury of developing players like Cole Aldrich and Thomas Robinson from role players to All-America-type stars. Perry Ellis fits that mold for KU, but he's one of the few players with experience in the Big 12.

2. Bob Huggins, West Virginia
Record: 651-261
Record at West Virginia: 133-75 overall (.635), 60-48 Big East/Big 12 (.556)
NCAA Tournament: 27-20, two Final Fours
West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12 truly was an aberration for Huggin. The 13-19 season was only the second losing season of his career and second losing conference season (the first for both being his first season at Akron in 1984-85). Perhaps Huggins had a mix that simply didn’t jell last season with Deniz Klicli trying to mesh with a handful of transfers and freshmen. Still, Huggins has made things work with wayward souls throughout his career, and he’ll try to do the same in 2013-14. The Mountaineers have regressed each season since reaching the 2010 Final Four, so there’s an element of concern here.

3. Lon Kruger, Oklahoma
Record: 514-332
Record at Oklahoma: 35-28 overall (.556), 16-20 Big 12 (.444)
NCAA Tournament: 14-14, one Final Four
Oklahoma knew what it would get when it hired Kruger, and the well-traveled coach delivered. No coach is more reliable at taking over a tough situation and putting the program on the right track. Kruger went 11-7 in the Big 12 in his second season at OU and became the first coach to take five different teams to the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois and UNLV were the others). Kruger has done his work with a minimal amount of flash — he’s never coached a consensus All-American, hasn’t won a regular-season conference title since 1998 and hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2008. But programs don’t hire Kruger expecting John Calipari.

4. Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State
Record (all at Iowa State): 62-39 overall (.614), 26-26 in the Big 12 (.500)
NCAA Tournament: 2-2
Only Iowa State could have hired “The Mayor,” who spent more time in NBA front offices than on the coaches’ bench at any level. Hoiberg returned to Ames to make his alma mater competitive, going 23-13 in the Big 12 in the last two seasons. Iowa State needs to be creative to stay competitive, and that’s what it got in Hoiberg. He’s succeeded with Division I transfers in Royce White, Korie Lucious, Will Clyburn, Chris Babb and now DeAndre Kane. And Hoiberg has beeing among the best in applying advanced statistical analysis and scouting to his program. The Cyclones led the Big 12 in points per possession and effective field goal percentage last year.

5. Rick Barnes, Texas
Record: 560-289
Record at Texas: 358-155 overall (.698), 164-75 Big 12 (.686)
NCAA Tournament: 20-20, one Final Four
Before last season, Barnes had a remarkable streak of 17 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament. Then the Longhorns bottomed out at 16-18 capped off with a loss to Houston in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational. Most coaches with Barnes’ raw numbers would be permitted one bad season, but Barnes has had too many recent seasons in which the results haven’t matched the potential. The Longhorns have failed to reach the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in five consecutive seasons despite having five first-round NBA Draft picks and a handful of other highly touted recruits during that span. With Texas’ in-state recruiting base (which Barnes is losing hold of) and ample resources, these are meager results in a conference with only one true powerhouse.

6. Bruce Weber, Kansas State
Record: 340-163
Record at Kansas State: 27-8 overall (.771), 14-4 Big 12 (.778)
NCAA Tournament: 11-9, one Final Four
One thing we can say about Weber: He can win quickly. In his first season at Kansas State, Weber took Frank Martin’s players and won the Wildcats’ first share of a conference title since 1977. In his second season at Illinois, Weber went 37-2 with a national championship game appearance with a team recruited by Bill Self. Weber’s results at Illinois, however, dwindled in his final five seasons, but he will get a second chance for longevity in Manhattan.

7. Scott Drew, Baylor
Record: 200-149
Record at Baylor: 180-138 overall (.566), 63-95 Big 12 (.399)
NCAA Tournament: 6-3
Drew not only brought Baylor back from the brink but also brought the Bears to their most successful era since the 1940s and early ‘50s with two Elite Eights in the last five seasons. At the same time, though, Baylor arguably should be even better. Look at the end of last season as an example: Baylor drilled Kansas by 23 points and then won the NIT, but the Bears had a roster that shouldn’t have been in the NIT in the first place. Baylor has had a top-25 signing class in each of the last five seasons, according to, but has reached the NCAA Tournament only twice during that span.

8. Travis Ford, Oklahoma State
Record: 227-179
Record at Oklahoma State: 104-64 overall (.619), 44-40  (.524)
NCAA Tournament: 1-4
Ford has at least brought Oklahoma State back to relevance in the Big 12. With Marcus Smart returning to Oklahoma State, all eyes will be on Ford to lead the Cowboys to the next steps: Contending for the Big 12 title and making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Ford has a potential top-10 team on his hands, and Oklahoma State is hungry for a winner. The Cowboys haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament since 2005.

9. Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Record: 511-226
Record at Texas Tech: First season
NCAA Tournament: 30-16, one Final Four, one national championship
Maybe we’d be more optimistic if Smith were at a job that played better to his strengths. A program with little recent success on an island out in Lubbock, Texas Tech, is in need of an infusion of energy. A fine coach Tubby Smith may be, but he’s not a personality that generates much enthusiasm. On the court, the results have dwindled since his early years at Kentucky. Smith never had a winning conference season in his last stint at Minnesota and hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2005 with the Wildcats.

10. Trent Johnson, TCU
Record: 237-207
Record at TCU: 11-21 overall (.344), 2-16 Big 12 (.111)
NCAA Tournament: 5-5
Johnson has quite the rebuilding job at TCU, but there are glimmers of hope. The Horned Frogs’ only Big 12 wins came against NCAA Tournament teams Kansas and Oklahoma, and TCU signed a top-100 center in Karviar Shepherd. Johnson pulled Nevada out of the depths of the WAC, but rebuilding in that conference is different than rebuilding in the Big 12.

Bill Self an easy No. 1 in interesting cast of coaches
Post date: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football-2013-comparing-all-preseason-rankings-and-picks

Hope is plentiful during the college football offseason. Every practice is great. Every signing class brings promise. Most players are injury-free and improving.

Just as healthy and vibrant is offseason debate. Who’s No. 1? Who is the preseason conference favorite? Who is headed for a fall?

Athlon Sports is proud to be part of your offseason preparation with our national and regional preview annuals. We understand we’re not the only game in town.

Everyone has opinions, and we figured we would provide a quick snapshot of how things are shaking out in those top 25 rankings, months before the season starts.

A few picks lined up across the board — Alabama is a unanimous preseason No. 1 — but a handful of top-25 and conference champion predictions varied wildly.

Now that all publications are on newsstands, we wanted to see how Athlon compared to preseason rankings and picks for other major publications. We looked at rankings for Lindy's, The Sporting News (TSN), USA Today (USAT) and Phil Steele.

If you're the kind of person who buys every preseason magazine or just the ones that rank your favorite team the highest, here's your guide to the guides for 2013 college football.




1. Alabama1111111
2. Ohio State2522224
3. Oregon4855335
4. Georgia612495512
5. South Carolina931114766
6. Clemson798158810
7. Stanford32311442
8. Notre Dame*1410141011148
9. Texas A&M57713673
10. Louisville1011127997
11. Boise State1715633191920
12. LSU8161817131214
13. Florida124101810109
14. Michigan16131524171718
15. Florida State1318173121113
16. Oklahoma State1161981413--
17. Oklahoma1519--19161619
18. Texas1814134151511
19. Wisconsin2624--202323--
20. TCU22--1621202016
21. Nebraska21219161818--
22. Fresno State33--2222------
23. Arizona State37----27------
24. Northwestern28----32222222
25. Oregon State3123--292525--
Other notables:       
26. USC25----62424--
27. UCLA2320----212121
28. Vanderbilt32----48----23
29. Miami2422--25------
30. Virginia Tech38----12----25
31. Kansas State36--2439------
32. Michigan State20----23----15
33. Ole Miss2925--28------
36. Baylor1917--36----17
44. Northern Illinois27--2326----24
50. Tulsa57--2536------

*Notre Dame was ranked No. 8 in Athlon's preseason magazine but moved to No. 10 in an updated ranking following the departure of starting quarterback Everett Golson.

# Published a top 25 only.

%Derived from Phil Steele's Preseason Top 40.


*Indicates conference title game winner

 AthlonLindy'sTSNUSATSteeleMedia picks
ACC AtlanticClemson*ClemsonClemsonClemson*Florida StateClemson*
ACC CoastalMiamiMiamiMiamiVirginia TechVirginia TechMiami
Big 12Oklahoma St.Oklahoma St.Oklahoma St.TexasTexasOklahoma St.
Big Ten LeadersOhio State*Ohio StateOhio StateOhio State*Ohio StateOhio State*
Big Ten LegendsMichiganMichiganMichiganNebraskaNebraskaMichigan
C-USA EastMarshallEast CarolinaEast CarolinaEast CarolinaMarshallEast Carolina
C-USA WestTulsa*TulsaTulsaTulsa*TulsaTulsa
MAC EastBowling GreenOhioBowling GreenOhioBowling GreenOhio
MAC WestNorthern Ill.*Northern Ill.Northern Ill.Northern Ill.*Northern Ill.Northern Ill.*
MW MountainBoise State*Boise StateBoise StateBoise State*Boise StateBoise State
MW WestFresno StateFresno StateFresno StateFresno StateFresno StateFresno State
Pac-12 NorthOregon*StanfordStanfordStanford*OregonOregon
SEC EastGeorgiaGeorgiaSouth CarolinaGeorgiaGeorgiaGeorgia
SEC WestAlabama*AlabamaAlabamaAlabama*AlabamaAlabama
Sun BeltUL LafayetteULMWestern Ky.UL LafayetteUL LafayetteULL/ULM (tie)

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College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
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College Football 2013 Team Rankings: No. 1-125

Athlon is but a seat at the table in offseason debate. Here are everyone else's picks.
Post date: Monday, August 26, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/12-overlooked-trends-college-football-2013

The 2013 season is upon us, but there’s still plenty to dissect from recent seasons that may give us a hint of what’s to come after the first kickoff Thursday.

Returning starters, points per game, yards per play and recruiting rankings give us a slice of what’s going on in the college football landscape, but there are a few others numbers that deserve attention.

We’ve been through nearly the entire offseason, and a handful of numbers and trends have slipped through the cracks. Further indications of Alabama’s dominance, a potential weakness for Heisman contender Braxton Miller and signs of vulnerability for Louisville.

Every team has been dissected, every conference previewed, every bowl game projected, but there are still a few notes left in the Athlon notebook before the season gets started.

Alabama’s dominance everywhere
Over the last 10 seasons, only 21 teams have outscored home and road opponents each by an average of 20 points per game in a season. Only two programs have done it in back-to-back seasons in the last decade: Alabama in 2011-12 and Boise State in 2009-10. A third consecutive season of the feat would be unprecedented during that span.

Braxton Miller’s weakness
If Ohio State is going to make a run at the national title and Braxton Miller is going to contend for the Heisman, the quarterback will need to improve his sack numbers. Ohio State was sacked on 9.5 percent of drop backs, the ninth-highest rate in the country. Moreover, Miller was sacked 21 times in the last seven games despite never attempting more than 20 passes in a game. The offensive line improved as the season went along, and Miller is a mobile quarterback. Is this the case of a sophomore trying to do too much? Ohio State at least improved from a year earlier when the Buckeyes were sacked on 15.8 percent of drop backs.

Aaron Murray’s record chase
SEC coaches named Georgia’s Aaron Murray their first-team all-conference quarterback this week. Maybe the pick was due to uncertainty surrounding Johnny Manziel. Or maybe it was to acknowledge Murray’s chase for the record books. With Manziel’s record-breaking season and AJ McCarron’s chase for a third national title, Murray’s career achievements have been overlooked. If Murray keeps up his season averages as a senior, he’ll break SEC’s career records passing records held by four different quarterbacks: passing yards (Georgia’s David Greene), touchdowns (Florida’s Danny Wuerffel), attempts (Kentucky’s Jared Lorenzen) and completions (Florida’s Chris Leak).

Wide receiver is a forgotten position at Stanford
Most avid college football fans know of Stanford’s reliance on tight ends Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener in recent seasons, but the move away from receivers as only become more pronounced over the last four years. In 2009 (Andrew Luck’s first season as quarterback), Stanford completed 32.2 passes to non-quarterbacks, that number jumped to 44 percent in 2010, 57.2 percent in 2011 and then an astronomical 63.8 percent in 2012. With Ertz and Toilolo gone, that number could fall back to earth, otherwise new starting tight end Luke Kaumatule and running back Stepfan Taylor (97 career receptions) will be quite busy.

Boise State hits the road
In Athlon’s piece on the toughest road schedules, Boise State is mentioned for its toughest road schedule. The Broncos will face five teams that went to bowl games last season (Washington, Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State). If all five go to bowl games this season, as projected, it will be the first time in school history Boise State has faced five bowl teams on the road.

Auburn need Gus Malzahn in the worst way
The Tigers’ offense crumbled when Malzahn left for Arkansas State, but it’s more than just ranking 11th in the league in yards per play (5.3). In this era of up tempo offense, Auburn’s offense averaged the fewest plays per game in the country last season at 60.5, nearly four fewer than the next worst team (Central Michigan). Running a low amount of plays isn’t bad — Alabama doesn’t run its offense at a breakneck pace — but Auburn averaged 67.3 plays per game during Mazlahn’s stint as offensive coordinator.

Lucky Louisville
Overrating Louisville’s rout of Florida in the Sugar Bowl may not be the only reason to be wary of the Cardinals’ high ranking in 2012. The Cardinals recovered 76.6 percent of their fumbles last season. A high fumble recovery rate is generally considered a product of luck. The Cardinals recovered 25 of all 36 fumbles (their own and their opponents’ fumbles) last season. On the other side of the spectrum, South Carolina recovered only 30.6 percent of its fumbles and did just fine last season.

Fewer yellow flags for Arizona State
Todd Graham’s biggest impact in his first season at Arizona State was a dramatic reduction in penalties. The Sun Devils lost 44.5 fewer yards per games to penalties in 2012 compared to 2011, going from last in the nation in penalties per game to a tie for 12th fewest. Arizona State averaged at least eight penalties per game in each of Dennis Erickson’s final three seasons. In Graham’s first, Arizona State averaged 4.3 flags per game. And as Erickson’s teams racked up penalties, the Sun Devils were dismal in close games.

Overrating Baylor’s defense
Baylor may get a bump in the preseason projections after its late-season surge with wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State and UCLA, but don’t overrate the defense. Baylor 13 sacks and 46 tackles for a loss during the season, ranking ninth and 10th in the Big 12, respectively. With six sacks and 12 tackles for a loss against UCLA alone in the Holiday Bowl, Baylor moved to seventh in the Big 12 in sacks and eighth in tackles for a loss.

Miami settling for field goals
With Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson in the backfield and a standout offensive line, Miami has perhaps the ACC’s best offense outside of Clemson. But the Hurricanes settled way for way too many field goals in the red zone last season. In Miami’s 52 trips to the red zone, the Hurricanes settled for three points 34.6 percent of the time. That’s a high field goal rate for a good offense. Consider some of the other teams that got more than a third of their red zone scoring off field goals: Connecticut, USF, Virginia Tech, Boston College and LSU.

Spurrier has dropped the Fun ‘n’ Gun. You should, too.
For whatever reason, Steve Spurrier remains associated with a pass-happy offense. Every now and then, a pundit will mention that Spurrier would prefer to air it out. That’s just not the case anymore, and it’s pretty well-established the South Carolina coach isn’t interested in recreating what he ran at Florida. South Carolina ran the ball 60.5 percent of the time the last two seasons and 53.2 percent of the time during his tenure with the Gamecocks.

Washington’s futile return games
Washington has not had a touchdown in the return game since 2007 when Louis Rankin returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Washington State. The Huskies’ haven’t had a punt return for a touchdown since 2003.

With the offseason almost over, these numbers didn't get much attention
Post date: Friday, August 23, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-toughest-road-schedules-2013

Yesterday, Athlon looked at the most beneficial home schedules in college football for the 2013 season. We considered the best home schedules to be those that would be most helpful to a team’s goals by bringing the toughest opponents to the program’s home stadium.

This is the flip side.

These road schedules may hinder these 10 team’s goals for the season. These road schedules are so tough, fans must wonder what they’ve done to offend someone in the conference office.

But on top of these rigorous road conference schedules, many of the top 10 have thrown a non-conference road trip into the mix.

If these teams win a conference championship game, win a division or, for some, reach a bowl game, the season will be a major accomplishment. Though there are handful of teams from the Sun Belt and Conference USA and the like with grueling guarantee games on the road, we turned our eye primarily to he major conferences.


Ole Miss
Aug. 29 Vanderbilt
Sept. 14 Texas
Sept. 28 Alabama
Oct. 5 Auburn
Nov. 28 Mississippi State

Ole Miss’ only road wins last season were over Tulane and by three over the worst Arkansas team since 2005. Now, the Rebels start 2013 with three road games in the first four with one of those against the defending national champion. It will get better, though, we Ole Miss has six home games, including Texas A&M and LSU, before a final road trip to the Egg Bowl.

Sept. 14 Oregon
Sept. 21 Florida
Oct. 26 Alabama
Nov. 2 Missouri
Nov. 30 Kentucky

Tennessee has not won a road game since 2010. That losing streak in all likelihood will extend to 11 road losses in a row when the Volunteers face Athlon's No. 3 Oregon, No. 13 Florida and No. 1 Alabama in the first three road games in 2013. First-year coach Butch Jones will try to show progress in Tennessee’s first trip to Missouri in school history.

Oct. 12 Michigan State
Oct. 19 Michigan
Nov. 16 Wisconsin
Nov. 23 Ohio State

We had Indiana on a list of the best home schedules in 2013, so maybe those eight games in Bloomington make up for this slate of Big Ten road games. Indiana has lost 16 in a row in Ann Arbor, 10 in a row in Columbus and four in a row in East Lansing and Madison.

Sept. 14 South Carolina
Sept. 21 UMass
Oct. 26 Texas A&M
Nov. 9 Florida
Nov. 23 Tennessee

Vanderbilt has a history of heartbreak on the road against Florida and Tennessee, losing 26-21 in its last trip to Gainesville and in overtime in  its last trip to Knoxville. Vanderbilt has improved in the last two seasons, but defeating powerhouses on the road has not been the Commodores’ specialty.

Sept. 28 Notre Dame
Oct. 19 Kansas
Nov. 7 Baylor
Nov. 23 Kansas State
Dec. 7 Oklahoma State

For a defense that struggled last season, Oklahoma gets to face two of the top six teams in the nation yards per play last season (Baylor and Oklahoma State). And for an offense with a new starting quarterback, the Sooners catch a Notre Dame team that held five teams to less than a touchdown last year. With the Texas game in Dallas, Oklahoma will face only one of Athlon’s top six Big 12 teams in Norman (TCU).

Boise State
Aug. 31 Washington
Sept. 20 Fresno State
Oct. 12 Utah State
Oct. 25 BYU
Nov. 2 Colorado State
Nov. 23 San Diego State

Six road games, five against teams that went to bowl games last season. Athlon has projected the same five (all but Colorado State) to go to bowl games again in 2013. To put that in perspective: Boise State has played five true road games against bowl teams in the last three seasons combined. Boise State knew the schedule would get tougher in the Mountain West, but the Broncos added Washington and BYU on top of that.

Texas Tech
Aug. 30 SMU
Oct. 5 Kansas
Oct. 19 West Virginia
Oct. 26 Oklahoma
Nov. 28 Texas

Welcome back to the Big 12, Kliff Kingsbury. Oklahoma and Texas do not appear to be in top form, but visiting both Norman and Austin in the same season won't be easy. Texas Tech is a combined 3-14 at Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12 era with only one of those wins coming since 1997. Throw in the Big 12’s longest road trip to West Virginia and another against a team used to dealing with pass-happy offenses (SMU), and this is a challenging road schedule.

North Carolina
Aug. 29 South Carolina
Sept. 21 Georgia Tech
Oct. 5 Virginia Tech
Nov. 2 NC State
Nov. 16 Pittsburgh

The bowl ban is over, but perhaps the road schedule is fair penance for the academic scandal for now. The Tar Heels face only one of the other three ACC Coastal division contenders in Chapel Hill (Miami on a Thursday in Oct. 17). North Carolina has a seven-game losing streak at Georgia Tech, a three-game losing streak at NC State and has defeated Virginia Tech in Blacksburg just once since the Hokies joined the ACC. Oh, and South Carolina opens on Thursday at South Carolina.

Sept. 14 Nebraska
Oct. 3 Utah
Oct. 19 Stanford
Oct. 26 Oregon
Nov. 9 Arizona
Nov. 30 USC

UCLA had a nice road record last season, but that included wins at Rice, Colorado, Cal and Washington State. Back-to-back games against against title contenders Stanford and Oregon is going to be the biggest barrier to UCLA’s Pac-12 title aspirations, but USC is just as bad. UCLA is 0-6 at the Los Angeles Coliseum since Pete Carroll era, losing by an average score of 40-9.

Sept. 28 Oregon
Oct. 12 UCLA
Oct. 26 Washington
Nov. 16 Colorado
Nov. 23 Stanford

Cal is the other Pac-12 team that catches both Oregon and Stanford on the road this season. At least Cal gets its two Big Ten opponents (Ohio State and Northwestern) in Berkeley.

These road slates could break seasons for 10 teams
Post date: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-americans-coaches-2013-14

For a conference cobbled together from remnants of the Big East and Conference USA plus one Atlantic 10 program, the American Athletic Conference naturally has a disparate collection of coaches.

In the Big East, Louisville’s Rick Pitino was in the mix with Hall of Famers Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun and overachievers like Jamie Dixon and Buzz Williams. In the American, he’s the clear No. 1 coach. His only peer in terms of career coaching achievement is SMU’s Larry Brown, who has coached one season in the college ranks since 1988.

Fran Dunphy and Mick Cronin are steadying influences who rebuilt programs but haven’t had deep runs into the postseason. Josh Pastner and Kevin Ollie are up-and-comers. Stan Heath and James Dickey had great seasons in the past, but results at their current stops have been mixed.

Like we said, the American Athletic Conference has a grab bag of coaching resumes.

*Athlon’s rankings of the coaches in each major conference begins continues with the American Athletic Conference. The rankings began yesterday with the ACC, and we will continue in the coming weeks with several conferences before we unveil our list of the top coaches in the country.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.

1. Rick Pitino, Louisville
Record: 662-235
Record at Louisville: 310-111 overall (.736), 137-67 Conference USA/Big East (.672)
NCAA Tournament: 48-16, seven Final Fours, two national championships
Pitino further added his name to the record book by becoming the first coach to win an NCAA title at two different schools. He’ll have a chance to add a third title to the mantle as the Cardinals enter 2013-14 as a top-three team. In the AAC, he has no peer has an Tournament coach. His 48 NCAA wins are 15 more than the other nine coaches in the league combined. His teams are generally among the best defensive squads in the country with their ability to force turnovers. Pitino also is an excellent in-game tactician. But the legendary coach also has softened his demeanor in recent years. Just ask Peyton Siva and Russ Smith.

2. Fran Dunphy, Temple
Record: 468-238
Record at Temple: 158-75 overall (.678), 80-32 Atlantic 10 (.714)
NCAA Tournament: 3-15
A staple of Philadelphia’s Big 5, Dunphy is as consistent as they come. In the last 24 seasons at Penn and Temple, Dunphy has finished outside of the top three of the conference standings only twice. While he has a reputation as a good defensive coach, he’ll adjust: His 2010 team, for example, was a slow-it-down team that excelled in defensive efficiency. With Khalif Wyatt the last two seasons and with Dionte Christmas early in his tenure, his teams have pushed the tempo (relatively speaking) and have been stronger on the offensive end. With a young group in a new league, Dunphy will have to find a new formula for 2013-14.

3. Larry Brown, SMU
Record: 192-78
Record at SMU: 15-17 overall (.469), 5-11 Conference USA (.312)
NCAA Tournament: 19-6, three Final Fours, one national championship
Here’s a dilemma: Where should Larry Brown rank as SMU’s coach? His past credentials are impeccable with a national title at Kansas and a Final Four at UCLA (both were in the 1980s), plus an NBA championship and NBA coach of the year with two different franchises. Coaching in college and coaching in the NBA require different skill sets. Moreover, coaching in college in 1988 requires a different skill set than in 2013. Can Brown be as good a program CEO as Fran Dunphy, who we have listed ahead of him? We don't know right now. Brown's debut season at SMU was unimpressive, but the Mustangs were building for their new conference. Brown has brought in a slew of transfers and a major recruit in Keith Frazier. With better personnel against tougher competition in the American Athletic Conference, Brown will have a better gauge of what his third stint as a college coach will bring.

4. Mick Cronin, Cincinnati
Record: 204-124
Record at Cincinnati: 135-100 overall (.574), 57-67 Big East (.460)
NCAA Tournament: 3-5
Cronin doesn’t have look of an intimidating coach, but the Cincinnati native successfully whipped his alma mater back in shape. In the last three seasons, Cincinnati went 32-22 in the Big East, reached the NCAA Tournament each year and upset No. 3 seed Florida State to reach the Sweet 16 in 2012. The recruiting connections Cronin has built into New York and New Jersey will be tested as the American Athletic Conference is geographically separated from the area.

5. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record (all at Memphis): 106-34 overall (.757), 52-12 Conference USA (.813)
NCAA Tournament: 1-3
Pastner had the unenviable task of following John Calipari at a pressure situation at Memphis. By his fourth season, Pastner turned in his best year at Memphis, winning 31 games, going undefeated in Conference USA and defeating Saint Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament. Pastner’s record against ranked teams and major conference competition isn’t great, but he’s about to get a few more chances to show his mettle against teams like Louisville, UConn, Temple and Cincinnati. With Pastner's recruiting prowess, Memphis should have the talent to go toe-to-toe with this programs on a regular basis.

6. Kevin Ollie, Connecticut
Record (all at Connecticut): 20-10 overall (.667), 10-8 Big East (.556)
Ollie is helped by taking over at Connecticut when expectations aren’t sky high. Few coaches who follow a legend like Jim Calhoun receive that kind of patience. The NCAA Tournament ban was an obstacle, but it meant no one around UConn was expecting Calhoun-like results. The Huskies held their own, though, defeating two Final Four-bound teams in Syracuse and Louisville. With a talented backcourt and the postseason ban lifted, Ollie will be expected to get the Huskies back into the Tourney.

7. Stan Heath, USF
Record: 197-187
Record at USF: 85-110 overall (.436), 34-74 Big East (.315)
NCAA Tournament: 5-4
USF never was a good fit for the old Big East basketball lineup. The Bulls don’t have the resources or recruiting presence to go toe-to-toe with Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut on a regular basis. Still, Heath was able to cobble together a squad that went 12-6 in the league without a double-digit scorer in 2012, and recruiting has improved. Otherwise, it’s been a rollercoaster ride. Heath is now more than a decade removed from taking Kent State to the Elite Eight.

8. Donnie Jones, UCF
Record: 118-75
Record at UCF: 63-34 overall (.649), 25-23 Conference USA (.452)
The former Marshall coach was dealt a setback early in his tenure at UCF when the Knights were hit with NCAA sanctions that cost the Knights' athletic director his job. UCF and its new AD saw enough out of Jones, though, to give him a contract extension. Jones has won 20 games in four consecutive seasons, going back to his final year with the Thundering Herd.

9. James Dickey, Houston
Record at Houston: 47-46 overall (.505), 18-30 Conference USA (.375)
NCAA Tournament: 2-2
Dickey was as surprise hire by Houston, but the ex-Texas Tech coach has started to pull the Cougars out of their funk. Houston has improved its win total each season under Dickey and defeated Texas last season in the CBI.

10. Eddie Jordan, Rutgers
First season
After nine seasons as an NBA coach and four in the playoffs with the Washington Wizards, Jordan will try his hand at the college game. After Mike Rice was fired amid a player mistreatment controversy, Jordan’s demeanor will be watched as closely as wins and losses. After decades of irrelevance, Rutgers will hope the hire of a former player (he will end up finishing his degree) with pro experience will be the one that turns the program around.

Louisville's Pitino easy pick in grab bag group of AAC coaches
Post date: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-best-home-schedules-2013

News this week that season ticket sales at Vanderbilt were down shocked anyone who’s been paying attention to the college football landscape.

The Commodores are enjoying their best run in decades at a time when the SEC is on top. They’ve recruited their share of top-100 recruits. And their coaching staff will never be accused of lacking PR savvy.

Yet season ticket sales at Vanderbilt are down. One theory is the lack of marquee home games for the ‘Dores. In a league full of top-25 teams, Georgia is the Athlon preseason top 25 team coming to Nashville. The next best team a Vanderbilt season ticket holder will see is Ole Miss. And after that Missouri or Wake Forest.

A good home slate for wins, perhaps, but not sizzle.

These teams won’t have Vanderbilt’s problem.

As the season nears, we took a look at the best home schedules in college football for 2013. We considered a few key factors: most important, which home schedule will be most beneficial for a team to accomplish its goals. And as more big-time non-conference games move to neutral sites or replaced altogether by easy wins, we considered which season ticket holders will get the most bang for their buck.


Sept. 7 San Jose State
Sept. 21 Arizona State
Oct. 5 Washington
Oct. 19 UCLA
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 23 Cal
Nov. 30 Notre Dame

Stanford won’t have very many easy wins in Palo Alto this season, but it’s sure to be an entertaining ride. A Thursday night game against Oregon will be wild, but Stanford brings in three other Athlon top-30 teams (Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame). Then throw in another bowl team (Washington), a rivalry game (Cal) and a mid-major darling (San Jose State). Stanford may have the best defense in the Pac-12, and it will need to be on display in front of the home crowd.

South Carolina
Aug. 29 North Carolina
Sept. 14 Vanderbilt
Oct. 5 Kentucky
Nov. 2 Mississippi State
Nov. 16 Florida
Nov. 23 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 30 Clemson

South Carolina finally gets the break its been looking for with its schedule. In the past four seasons, the Gamecocks have faced LSU at home, in 2012 a Bobby Petrino-led Arkansas team on the road in 2011 and Auburn and Alabama in 2010. Carolina gets Georgia on the road, but the other serious SEC East contender (Florida) and two toughest non-conference opponents (North Carolina and Clemson) visit Williams-Brice Stadium.

Aug. 29 Indiana State
Sept. 7 Navy
Sept. 14 Bowling Green
Sept. 21 Missouri
Oct. 5 Penn State
Nov. 2 Minnesota
Nov. 9 Illinois
Nov. 30 Purdue

Indiana is a trendy pick to move into bowl contention this season, and the schedule is a big reason. The Hoosiers have eight home games, and only three of those are against FBS teams that finished last season with winning records (Penn State, Navy and Bowling Green). If Indiana can get its defense in order, this could be an opportunity to pick up key wins.

Aug. 31 Central Michigan
Sept. 7 Notre Dame
Sept. 14 Akron
Oct. 5 Minnesota
Oct. 19 Indiana
Nov. 19 Nebraska
Nov. 30 Ohio State

Michigan season ticket holders will get their money’s worth with Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State visiting the Big House. The series with Notre Dame has been a back-and-forth affair, but the Wolverines have won six of the last seven in Ann Arbor. Ohio State, of course, is a different story.

Oklahoma State
Sept. 14 Lamar
Oct. 5 Kansas State
Oct. 19 TCU
Nov. 9 Kansas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

Oklahoma State will face only one of Athlon’s top six Big 12 teams on the road, and the Cowboys have defeated that team, Texas, twice in a row in Austin. Oklahoma State gets Oklahoma, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor all in Stillwater.

Sept. 2 Florida State
Sept. 14 New Mexico
Sept. 28 Virginia
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Nov. 9 Notre Dame
Nov. 16 North Carolina
Nov. 29 Miami

Pittsburgh’s first home schedule as an ACC program is a little reminiscent of the Panthers’ schedule as an independent — Florida State, Notre Dame and Miami. All three faced Pitt regularly in the ‘70s (Notre Dame has been on the schedule more or less continuously since the ‘60s.). Throw in ACC contender North Carolina, and Pitt could be upset central in the league.

Sept. 7 Texas
Sept. 21 Utah
Sept. 28 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 12 Georgia Tech
Oct. 26 Boise State
Nov. 16 Idaho State

One question when BYU went independent would be how the Cougars would get teams to visit Provo. BYU has only six home games, but the Cougars could do worse than having four of them against Texas, Utah, Georgia Tech and Boise State.

Arizona State
Sept. 5 Sacramento State
Sept. 14 Wisconsin
Sept. 28 USC
Oct. 12 Colorado
Oct. 19 Washington
Nov. 16 Oregon State
Nov. 30 Arizona

Arizona State has tough road trips against last season’s Pac-12 division winners in Stanford and UCLA plus a game against Notre Dame at Arlington. Facing its next toughest league opponents at home — USC, Washington and Oregon State — isn’t a bad trade. Arizona State won its last meeting at home against USC, has defeated Washington seven times in a row and is 18-4 all-time against Oregon State in Tempe. Catching Wisconsin at home early in the season probably isn’t a bad matchup either.

Sept. 7 Syracuse
Sept. 14 Western Michigan
Sept. 21 Maine
Oct. 5 Ohio State
Oct. 19 Minnesota
Nov. 15 Michigan
Nov. 23 Michigan State

If you’re an upset-hungry Northwestern team that has to face Ohio State and Michigan, may as well get both at home.

Aug. 31 BYU
Sept. 7 Oregon
Sept. 21 VMI
Oct. 5 Ball State
Oct. 19 Duke
Oct. 26 Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Clemson
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech

Virginia might not be very good, but at least a season ticket holder will have a chance to see a few good teams come through Charlottesville, including two West Coast teams in ACC country. If the Cavaliers were a division contender, getting Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech at home would be a major advantage.

Which programs will give their fans the best bang for their buck?
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 13:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-ranking-accs-coaches-2013-14

ACC expansion solidified the league and added to the depth of both the football and basketball lineups.

The basketball benches, though, is where ACC fans may notice the biggest upgrade. Both of the country’s 900-win coaches now work in the same conference, thanks to the addition of Syracuse and Jim Boeheim. In Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, the ACC also adds two of the nation’s most consistent coaches who have the reputation of doing more with less.

And those are just the three coaches who arrive in 2013-14. Next season, the league will add Louisville’s Rick Pitino.

The lineup of coaches in the ACC has rarely been stronger or deeper, especially considering that in the last two seasons the coaches at Florida State and Miami got the best of their Hall of Fame brethren.

Athlon’s rankings of the coaches in each major conference begins today with the ACC and will continue in the coming weeks before we unveil our list of the top coaches in the country.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.


And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.


1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Record: 957-238
Record at Duke: 884-238 overall (.788), 350-153 ACC (.696)
NCAA Tournament: 82-25, 11 Final Fours, four national championships
Since 2007, Duke has lost in the NCAA Tournament to an 11th-seeded VCU, seventh-seeded West Virginia and 15th-seeded Lehigh. In that span, Mike Krzyzewski still managed his fourth national title and four 30-win seasons. Krzyzewski has passed Bob Knight on the all-time wins list and now chases Pat Summitt’s 1,098 wins in NCAA basketball. With a preseason top-five team on his hands in 2013-14, Krzyzewski remains at the top of his game.

2. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Record (all at Syracuse): 920-314 (.746) overall, 362-191 (.655)
NCAA Tournament: 52-29, four Final Fours, one national championship
Last season was quite a year for Jim Boeheim. He crossed the 900-win mark (joining KrzyzewskI and Knight) and became the fourth coach to take a team to the Final Four in four different decades (joining Rick Pitino, Dean Smith and Krzyzewski). Now, one of the founding fathers of Big East basketball will try his hand at the ACC. In case you were wondering: Boeheim is 3-4 all-time against Duke and North Carolina.

3. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Record: 700-180
Record at North Carolina: 282-79 (.781) overall, 117-45 ACC (.722)
NCAA Tournament: 62-21, seven Final Fours, two national championships
Despite his stellar record, Roy Williams gets knocked for a few things: His teams crumble in the NCAA Tournament, and his teams don’t play defense. To those, we have two retorts. Williams has a better NCAA Tournament record at North Carolina (28-7) than he had at Kansas (34-14), a difference of nearly 10 percent and two national titles. And in 10 seasons under Williams, North Carolina has ranked in the top 25 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings eight times.

4. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Record (all at Pittsburgh): 262-86 overall (.753), 115-57 (.669) Big East
NCAA Tournament: 11-9
The 2011-12 season turned out to be a blip for Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh. The Panthers went 5-13 in the Big East and missed the NCAA Tournament for his worst season as Pitt’s head coach. The Panthers quickly rebounded in 2013-14. Overall, a few numbers to consider: Dixon has one more Big East win than Boeheim since Dixon became head coach in 2003-04. Dixon also had 16 more Big East wins than Jim Calhoun from 2003-04 through the UConn coach’s retirement last season. And lastly, Dixon had only three fewer Big East wins (92) than Louisville’s Rick Pitino (95) when both programs were in the league. The only thing that’s missing is postseason success: Dixon has reached the Elite Eight and won Big East Tournament only once each.

5. Jim Larranaga, Miami
Record: 491-329
Record at Miami: 49-20 overall (.710), 24-10 ACC (.706)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four
When Larranaga left George Mason for Miami, it seemed to be a cushy last job before he retired. Turns out Larranaga had a few more surprises. Seven years after taking George Mason to the Final Four, Larranaga won an ACC Tournament and regular-season title at Miami — the last ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to do both in the same season was a David Thompson-led NC State team in 1974. Nearly as remarkable: Larranaga has had one losing conference season since 1993-94 while at Bowling Green.

6. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Record: 419-353
Record at Florida State: 219-143 overall (.605), 89-89 ACC (.500)
NCAA Tournament: 6-7
Hamilton knows something about degree of difficulty: He has won a share of the Big East regular-season title at Miami and an ACC Tournament title at Florida State. After losing seasons in ACC play in five of his first six years at FSU, Hamilton has gone 52-30 in the conference in the last four seasons. The defensive-minded Hamilton turned FSU into a factor in the ACC after more than a decade of irrelevance.

7. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Record: 384-194
Record at Notre Dame: 285-142 overall (.667), 136-79 Big East (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 6-11
Stability is the name of the game here as Notre Dame has won 20 games in each of the last seven seasons, reached in the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven years and protected its homecourt. Still, Notre Dame has not reached the second weekend of the NCAA since Brey’s third season in 2003.

8. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record: 145-86
Record at Virginia: 76-53 overall (.589), 32-34 ACC (.485)
NCAA Tournament: 3-3
Bennett’s preferred style of play isn’t the most exciting, but it is effective. He’s reversed the fortunes of Washington State and Virginia while making stars of Klay Thompson, Mike Smith and Joe Harris. The Cavaliers went 11-7 in the ACC last season, but this could be a breakout season for program that hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 1995.

9. Steve Donahue, Boston College
Record: 192-190
Record at Boston College: 46-52 (.469), 20-30 ACC (.400)
NCAA Tournament: 2-3
Donahue is building Boston College in a similar fashion as he did at Cornell — from the ground up. Donahue reached the NIT in his first season at BC, but he’s had one of the nation’s youngest rosters the last two years, and it’s shown. This season could be the turning point after BC went from 4-12 to 7-11 in the ACC a year ago. By his eighth season at Cornell, Donahue began a run where he led the Big Red to three consecutive Ivy League titles and the Sweet 16 in 2010.

10. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Record: 292-187
Record at Maryland: 42-28 overall (.600), 14-20 ACC (.412)
NCAA Tournament: 5-5
Turgeon hasn’t completed his rebuild of Maryland, but hopes are high even without the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft in Alex Len in 2013-14. Turgeon took Texas A&M to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments but hasn’t finished higher than seventh in the ACC in two seasons at Maryland.

11. Mark Gottfried, NC State
Record: 326-179
Record at NC State: 48-24 overall (.667), 20-14 ACC (.588)
NCAA Tournament: 7-9
Gottfried raised expectations for a hungry NC State fanbase as the Wolfpack reached the Sweet 16 in 2012 and added a second standout recruiting class. The ACC media’s preseason favorite ended up 11-7 in the league in 2013, and the program lost the core of its team to transfers and the NBA Draft.

12. Brad Brownell, Clemson
Record: 218-130
Record at Clemson: 51-45 overall (.531), 22-28 ACC (.440)
NCAA Tournament record: 1-4
Clemson’s not an easy place to win big, but the Tigers’ win totals — overall and in conference — have decreased in three seasons under Brownell. Clemson went 5-13 in the league last season, and they don’t project to get much better. These are puzzling results or a coach who was a hot commodity for his work at UNC Wilmington and Wright State.

13. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech
Record: 199-129
Record at Georgia Tech: 27-35 overall (.435), 10-24 ACC (.303)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Gregory has Georgia Tech on the upswing, but it’s a long way up from five or six conference wins to NCAA Tournament contention. A former Tom Izzo assistant, Gregory hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2009 at Dayton.

14. Jeff Bzdelik Wake Forest
Record: 145-165
Record at Wake Forest: 34-60 overall (.362), 10-39 ACC (.204)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Bzdelik isn’t a fan favorite at Wake Forest, but the veteran coach hung onto his job after going 6-12 in the ACC. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more conference wins than Bzdelik had his first two seasons combined. Four of those wins last season came over NCAA or NIT teams (Miami, NC State, Florida State and Virginia), but Bzdelik is seven seasons removed from his last winning season at Air Force.

15. James Johnson, Virginia Tech
Record (one season at Virginia Tech): 13-19 overall (.406), 4-14 ACC (.222)
Johnson’s tenure is off to a disastrous start after finishing last in the ACC and then getting hit with a second wave of player transfers and recruiting losses in his second offseason.

Where do Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim rank with Coach K?
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-backstory-games-2013

College football is all about the stories — the rivalries, the personal connections and the connection to history.

Alabama’s trip to Texas A&M, provided Johnny Manziel plays, is notable for the title implications and the rematch from the most exciting game from 2012.

But it’s also a game between programs that despite their shared history with Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Dennis Franchione, have played only five games all time. Alabama is making only its second trip to College Station after winning there in 1988.

That is the underlying backstory of that game, and it’s not the only game with an intriguing storyline attached.

Sure, every rivalry game or conference game has their own story. We tried to look a little beyond that in our list of 15 Backstory Games for 2013 — connections between the two programs, a history between the coaches or just recent news that could give the game an extra edge.



Aug. 29 North Carolina at South Carolina
The "What Could Have Been" Bowl

North Carolina has faced Steve Spurrier only once since he returned to the college game, but the Tar Heels have to wonder what may have been if things turned out differently. After he was fired by the Washington Redskins, Spurrier kept an eye on the North Carolina job, but the Heels elected to keep John Bunting for one more year. And during his feud with a Columbia, S.C, columnist last season, Spurrier casually mentioned waiting for the North Carolina job to open while he was looking to return to college football.

Aug. 31-Sept. 7 Georgia at Clemson, South Carolina at Georgia
Aaron Murray’s Last Chance

South Carolina fans may be quick to mention Aaron Murray is 0-3 against the Palmetto State (all South Carolina matchups). Murray will have a chance to remedy his 0-fer against the Palmetto State twice early in the season.

Aug. 31 Boise State at Washington
The "Haven’t We Met Before" Bowl

Bowl organizers say they try to avoid rematches, or in this case, a pre-match. Boise State defeated Washington 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 and now meet in the 2013 opener. And this isn’t the first time bowl games disregarded Washington’s schedule: Washington faced Nebraska three times between Sept. 18, 2010 and Sept. 17, 2011 thanks to a Holiday Bowl meeting in between a home-and-home series.

Aug. 31 LSU vs. TCU
The Suspension Bowl

TCU coach Gary Patterson was openly critical of the way LSU’s Les Miles handled the suspension of running back Jeremy Hill, who was allowed to play in the opener after a team vote. Miles has not committed to levying a suspension as part of Hill’s punishment after the running back violated probation by being charged with simple battery, but Patterson was not impressed. Patterson, it’s worth noting, suspended defensive end Devonte Fields for two games for a violation of team rules and kicked key players off the team last Februrary when they were arrested as part of a campus drug investigation. “My whole team would vote Devonte to be back on the team because they all want to win,” Patterson told reporters. “But that don’t teach life lessons.”

Sept. 7 Florida at Miami
Sunshine State Sayonara

Florida and Miami used to play each other every season, but it’s been an on-again, off-again series since 2000. The Gators and Hurricanes have met five times since the end of the 2000 season, including two bowl games. This will be the last game until the powers-that-be agree to a new series, and that appears unlikely. Will Muschamp will be the fifth Florida coach to face Miami since 2000 (Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, interim coach Charlie Strong and Urban Meyer). Al Golden will be the fourth coach to face Florida in that span (Butch Davis, Larry Coker and Randy Shannon).

Sept. 14 Maryland at Connecticut
The Edsall Bowl

Randy Edsall bolted town after leading UConn to the Fiesta Bowl, and the Huskies were not that understanding. Edsall later said he regretted leaving without meeting with his players, but we’re still curious what kind of reception the former coach gets at Rentschler Field. Maryland lost 24-21 to UConn last season in College Park.

Sept. 14 Ole Miss at Texas
The Most Rare Road Trip

Ole Miss hasn’t played in Austin since 1925 when the Longhorns won 25-0. Last season’s meeting in Oxford (a 66-31 Texas win) was the first regular season meeting since then.

Sept. 21 Michigan at Connecticut
Michigan Heads East

Michigan has played out West, in the Southeast and at Syracuse and Boston College in recent decades. All of those games were against established programs more or less. This trip to Connecticut may be Michigan’s most bizarre non-conference road trip since playing at Marquette in 1944 (Michigan won that game 14-0).

Oct. 5 Ole Miss at Auburn
The "How Far We’ve Come" Bowl

Joneboro, Ark., is the Cradle of SEC Coaches after the last two Arkansas State coaches stayed there one year before getting SEC jobs. More striking, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn where high school head coaches less than a decade ago.

Oct. 5 Washington State at Cal
The Lubbock Bowl

Mike Leach has built himself quite a coaching tree, but he’s rarely faced any of his disciples on a regular basis. That changes with Sonny Dykes now in the Pac-12 at Cal. Leach and Dykes go back to Leach’s first major coaching job as offensive coordinator at Kentucky. Moreover, Dykes is the son of Leach’s predecessor at Texas Tech, Spike Dykes.

Oct. 10 Rutgers at Louisville
The "See Ya" Bowl

Louisville’s win over Rutgers last season determined the Big East championship in the final season for the league under that name. The same matchup might determine the American Athletic Conference, though neither team would be around to defend a potential league title as Louisville heads to the ACC and Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten. These two teams also delivered one of the most memorable moments in Big East football history when an undefeated Rutgers knocked off an undefeated Louisville on a Thursday night in November in 2006.

Oct. 19 Florida at Missouri
Gators Go North

Columbia, Mo., is the northern-most destination in the SEC, which makes it the furthest north Florida has traveled for a game since 1991. That’s not to be confused with the longest regular-season road trip Florida takes, which remains Arkansas in terms of mileage. The last time Florida played this far north was a 38-21 in 1991 to Syracuse.

Nov. 9 Boston College at New Mexico State
The Questionable Game of the Year

Minnesota visits New Mexico State on Sept. 7, and that’s not even the strangest game on New Mexico State’s schedule. Boston College visits Las Cruces, N.M., in early November for the where-did-this-game-come-from event of the year. Keep in mind, this is generally the time of year when SEC teams invite New Mexico State to campus for an easy win for Homecoming.

Nov. 16 San Jose State at Nevada
David Fales’ Return

San Jose State quarterback David Fales is an NFL draft prospect and perhaps the top QB playing outside of the major conferences, but he started his career at Nevada in 2009. He had a bit of trouble cracking the starting lineup with a junior named Colin Kaepernick already entrenched.

Nov. 30 Boston College at Syracuse
The Orange Envy Bowl

Steve Addazio’s big coaching break came in 1995 when Paul Pasqualoni hired him from the high school ranks to coach the offensive line at Syracuse. His son, Louie, started his career at Syracuse. Even at Temple, Addazio spoke glowingly about Syracuse. Boston College perhaps has reason to be thankful it hired Addazio more than a month before Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills. Otherwise, would Addazio #BeADude for the ‘Cuse instead?

Coaching connections, grudge matches and more will shape these 15 games
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/critical-stretches-2013-key-games-acc

Two ACC teams will play in the highest-profile games of the first week when Clemson hosts Georgia and Virginia Tech faces Alabama in Atlanta. The deciding conference title, though, will wait until mid-October.


That’s when Clemson, Florida State and Miami will all begin key stretches that could determine their division title status.

Clemson and Florida State again will duke it out for the Atlantic division title, but Miami will have an idea of what it needs to do for the Coastal after contenders Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Georgia Tech begin their key runs in September.

Our series looking at critical stretches for every team continues today with a look at the two-, three- and four-game stretches that will make or break seasons in the ACC. We're taking a look at the key series of games that will determine a division title, ability to reach a bowl game or at least avoid embarrassment. We’ve already examined the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.

*presented in Athlon’s ACC projected order of finish



Oct. 19 Florida State
Oct. 26 at Maryland
Nov. 2 at Virginia
Nov. 14 Georgia Tech

The key game for Clemson’s national relevance is the Georgia opener. Win that, and the Tigers won’t face another Athlon top-50 team until Florida State on Oct. 19. The ACC, though, won’t be decided until this stretch in late October and early November. Clemson-Florida State may end up determining the Atlantic, but Georgia Tech has won four of the last six games against Georgia Tech. This could be a difficult stretch for the Clemson offense as the Tigers play three teams (FSU, Maryland and Virginia) who ranked in the top four in the ACC in fewest yards allowed per play. The exception, Georgia Tech, changed defensive coordinators since last season.

Related: Clemson game-by-game picks

Florida State
Oct. 19 at Clemson
Oct. 26 NC State
Nov. 2 Miami
Nov. 9 at Wake Forest

In a four-week span, Florida State draws its toughest conference games (Clemson and Miami) and two teams that have successfully spoiled FSU seasons in the past (NC State and Wake Forest). The Seminoles should have a standout secondary again, but the defensive backs will be tested against the top two passers in the ACC in Tajh Boyd and Stephen Morris. The ‘Noles have lost to either NC State or Wake in each of the last three seasons, but all of those have come on the road.

Related: Florida State game-by-game picks

Sept. 14 at Connecticut
Sept. 21 West Virginia (Baltimore)
Oct. 5 at Florida State
Oct. 12 Virginia
Oct. 19 at Wake Forest
Oct. 26 Clemson

Maryland appears to be ready for a turnaround season after going 6-18 under Randy Edsall. A healthy quarterback situation and a dynamic offensive playmaker in Stefon Diggs could make the Terrapins a bowl team. Before ACC play begins, however, a pair of games could be a referendum on the Edsall era when he faces his old team for the second team (UConn beat Maryland 24-21 in College Park last season) then a down West Virginia team that has won seven in a row in the series. Once ACC play begins, upsetting either Florida State or Clemson would be a major statement.

NC State
Nov. 2 North Carolina
Nov. 9 at Duke
Nov. 16 at Boston College
Nov. 23 East Carolina
Nov. 30 Maryland

Homecoming against North Carolina will be a key game for first-year coach Dave Doeren. The Tar Heels ended the Wolfpack’s five-game winning streak last season. Escape that, and NC State will be hoping for a 5-0 finish to season. By missing Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, NC State is set up for a good record.

Wake Forest
Aug. 29 Presbyterian
Sept. 6 at Boston College
Sept. 14 ULM
Sept. 21 at Army

Starting with four wins in a row will be mandatory if the Demon Deacons are going to head to a bowl game. A road game against a conference opponent and a non-AQ team with a dynamic quarterback (ULM’s Kolton Browning) means it won’t be easy. Wake won’t play on a Saturday until the third week of the season.

Nov. 23 Pittsburgh
Nov. 30 Boston College

With Penn State and Northwestern on the non-conference schedule, Syracuse may have a tough time getting to a bowl game. Home games against its former Big East brethren could be key games for Scott Shafer’s early tenure.

Boston College
Nov. 16 NC State
Nov. 23 at Maryland
Nov. 30 at Syracuse

Boston College has a brutal schedule in Steve Addazio’s first season -- at USC, Florida State, at Clemson, at North Carolina and Virginia Tech in a six-game span in September and October. If Addazio is going to instill toughness, it will be evident late in the season against second- and third-tier ACC teams NC State, Maryland, Syracuse. The game against the Orange, also under a first-year coach, could be a key game for momentum in the Northeast.


Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech

Miami will face the top two contenders in the Coastal (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) and its biggest rival (Florida State) all in a four-week span starting with the Thursday kickoff against Carolina. The FSU and Virginia Tech games will be most intriguing as Miami, a team with little depth behind the starting backfield of Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris, face the league’s top two defenses in back-to-back games late in the season.

Related: Miami game-by-game picks

Virginia Tech
Sept. 26 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 5 North Carolina

Virginia Tech’s opener against Alabama will be the Hokies’ most high-profile game, and Miami on Nov. 9 will play a key role in the Coastal. Still, Virginia Tech’s status as ACC contenders will be answered in this two-game stretch. The development of Logan Thomas may be the key to the season, but the Hokies’ defense will be tested against Georgia Tech’s option one week and North Carolina’s spread the next.

Related: Virginia Tech game-by-game picks

Georgia Tech
Sept. 21 North Carolina
Sept. 26 Virginia Tech
Oct. 5 at Miami
Oct. 12 at BYU

The Yellow Jackets will have an idea of where they stand in the division by the first week of October after facing North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Miami in consecutive weeks. Ted Roof’s Georgia Tech defense, shredded last season under Al Groh, will have an early test against the Tar Heels’ skill position talent.  On a short week, Georgia Tech draws the Hokies on a Thursday night game. The Yellow Jackets have lost three in a row in a game that used to determine the Coastal division title. BYU is a rare non-conference road game in the middle of October, but it's a return trip from a year ago. The Cougars held Georgia Tech to a season-low 3.3 yards per carry last season.

North Carolina
Sept. 21 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 28 East Carolina
Oct. 5 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 17 Miami

North Carolina lost road games to Wake Forest, Louisville and Duke, three games decided by five points or less. If Carolina is going to challenge for the Coastal title, the Tar Heels will need good showings against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech away from Chapel Hill. Keep in mind: North Carolina defeated Virginia Tech and Miami in back-to-back games last season. This year, the Heels get a bye week between the two ACC Coastal contenders.

Oct. 12 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 Old Dominion
Oct. 26 at Navy
Nov. 2 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 Notre Dame

Last season, Pittsburgh lost to Youngstown State, beat Virginia Tech and nearly upset Notre Dame. This stretch has the most potential for chaos.

Oct. 26 Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Clemson
Nov. 9 at North Carolina
Nov. 23 at Miami
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech

Mike London may have to salvage something out of this brutal five-game stretch to avoid hot seat talk going into 2014.

Sept. 21 Pittsburgh
Sept. 28 Troy
Oct. 12 Navy
Oct. 19 at Virginia

The Blue Devils will need to win at least three of these if they are to make consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.

Which three- and four-game stretches will determine the ACC title?
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/critical-games-2013-key-stretches-pac-12

As Oregon and Stanford have taken over the post-Pete Carroll Pac-12, so have the Ducks’ and Cardinal’s divergent styles. Facing Oregon’s track meet offense and Stanford grinding, physical attack means headaches for coordinators and strength coaches alike.

Schools like Washington and UCLA must wonder what they’ve done wrong to deserve playing both Oregon and Stanford in back-to-back games. Those will be tough two-game stretches, and they're among the key games that will determine the Pac-12 race.

Our series looking at the critical stretches for each major conference continues with the Pac-12 and a look at the two-, three- and four-game stretches that will play a role in division titles, bowl appearances or just any kind of positive development. We’ve already examined the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and SEC.

*presented in Athlon’s Pac-12 predicted order of finish



Oct. 12 at Washington
Oct. 19 Washington State
Oct. 26 UCLA
Nov. 7 at Stanford

Oregon will face bowl teams in back-to-back weeks only once all season when the Ducks face Arizona and Oregon State in the last two games. Three bowl teams in a five-week stretch, then, is the most taxing part of the Ducks’ season. An off week to break up a matchup against UCLA and Brett Hundley before facing the physical Cardinal offense on a Thursday works helps Oregon, but Stanford has the week off as well before the Thursday showdown.

Oct. 19 UCLA
Oct. 26 at Oregon State
Nov. 7 Oregon
Nov. 16 at USC

Stanford won’t play consecutive home games until the final two weeks of the season. This will be the toughest stretch against a pair of South Division contenders, plus Oregon. Stanford’s defense is up to the task, but the Cardinal will face a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks (Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley) and two traditional pro-style attacks with elite receivers in USC and Oregon State.

Oregon State
Oct. 26 Stanford
Nov. 1 USC
Nov. 16 at Arizona State
Nov. 23 Washington
Nov. 29 at Oregon

Oregon State traditionally plays better late in the season, but that’s going to be awful tough in the final five games of the season. The Beavers face Athlon’s division winner picks on the road (Arizona State and Oregon). If the Beavers are going to reach a bowl game of note, they’ll need to pile up wins early in the season, which includes a span of four road trips in five games.

Oct. 5 at Stanford
Oct. 12 Oregon
Oct. 19 at Arizona State

How well Washington handles the Stanford game could determine the way the remainder of the season goes. The Huskies will face the league’s most physical team on the road and then must prepare for the track meet against Oregon. Arizona State on the road won’t be easy, either.

Oct. 12 at UCLA
Oct. 19 Oregon State
Oct. 26 at Washington
Nov. 2 Arizona

Sonny Dykes won’t get a great welcome as the Bears face Northwestern, Ohio State and Oregon in three of the first four games. A key sign of progress could be when the Bears take on the second-tier of Pac-12. No one would expect Cal to win all four, but one or two would be nice.

Washington State
Nov. 16 at Arizona
Nov. 23 Utah
Nov. 29 at Washington

Expectations for Mike Leach have been tempered since everyone (including Athlon) tabbed Washington State for a quick turnaround last season. A bowl game may be too much to ask from a Wazzu team with an undermanned offensive line and defense, but Leach may need the final three games to build some kind of momentum into 2014.


Arizona State

Sept. 14 Wisconsin
Sept. 21 at Stanford
Sept. 28 USC
Oct. 5 Notre Dame (Texas)

Athlon likes Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South, but the Sun Devils may have trouble getting through the first five weeks of the season with a winning record. The most remarkable part of this stretch is that Arizona State won’t face an up-tempo team: In these four games, only Notre Dame averaged more than 70 plays per game last season, and the Irish ranked 75th nationally in that category at 71.2 plays per game.

Sept. 28 at Arizona State
Oct. 10 Arizona
Oct. 19 at Notre Dame

USC had its difficulties stopping spread teams last season (including a 39-36 loss to Arizona last season), and now the Trojans will face two spread teams back-to-back, one of which happens to be a South division contender. USC hasn’t lost in South Bend since 2001, but the Irish have finally turned things around vis a vis USC.

Oct. 19 at Stanford
Oct. 26 at Oregon

UCLA put itself on the right path last season, but the Bruins weren’t exactly ready for primetime by losing to Stanford twice and Baylor in the final three games. Here’s a chance to prove otherwise.

Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

The Wildcats may struggle to reach a bowl game, and the struggling Arizona defense will wrap up its season against three of the top four teams in the Pac-12 in yards per play last season (Oregon, UCLA and Arizona State) and two Heisman-contending quarterbacks (Brett Hundley and Marcus Mariota).

Aug. 29 Utah State
Sept. 7 Weber State
Sept. 14 Oregon State
Sept. 21 at BYU

Utah has won three in a row against BYU, but ended a 12-game winning streak over Utah State last season. Meanwhile, Utah is 7-11 in the Pac-12. The Utes need to establish themselves on two fronts at the start of 2013, both in state and and in the conference.

Sept. 1 Colorado State (Denver)
Sept. 7 Central Arkansas

It’s really tough to set the bar lower for Colorado than to hope the Buffaloes can defeat a middling Mountain West team and an FCS program, but Colorado did neither last season.

Which two- and three-game stretches will determine the Pac-12 title?
Post date: Friday, August 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/critical-games-2013-key-stretches-sec

A handful of SEC teams know all too well how much the schedule plays a role in the success or failure of a season. Even before the SEC expanded to 14 teams, the draw between East and West divisions played an outsized role in determining the league title.

In a league where the talent base runs deeper and the pressure on coaches is higher, who a team plays and when can change the course of the season.

At the top of the league, Alabama benefits from an advantageous schedule in 2013, perhaps making up for 2010 when the Tide played a handful of opponents off bye weeks. In the East, Georgia finally gets the tougher schedule draw compared to South Carolina. And for the lower tier, the SEC schedule can be too brutal to generate momentum.

In our series looking at the critical stretches for major-conference teams, we examine the games in the SEC that will determine division titles, bowl games or simply a successful season. We’ve already examined the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten.

*presented in Athlon’s SEC projected order of finish



Aug. 31 at Clemson
Sept. 7 South Carolina

Conventional wisdom says we’ll know a lot about Georgia’s season after the first two weeks, but the last time Georgia started 0-2, the Bulldogs won 10 in a row to win the East in 2011. Meanwhile, South Carolina won the last two matchups and Georgia won the East anyway thanks to some fortunate scheduling. Still, if Georgia wins both games, the Bulldogs will be BCS title contenders. Lose both, and Georgia’s out of the discussion.

Related: Georgia game-by-game picks

South Carolina
Aug. 29 North Carolina
Sept. 7 at Georgia
Sept. 14 Vanderbilt

For whatever reason, South Carolina hasn’t been as sharp early in the season in recent years as its been late. Steve Spurrier has the upper hand against Georgia (three in a row) and Vanderbilt (four in a row), but they haven’t always been easy. The Gamecocks finally got a gift from the schedule-makers by avoiding Alabama and LSU, but they won’t be able to ease into the season. Perhaps a good reason for some gamesmanship on the part of Spurrier earlier this week?

Related: South Carolina game-by-game picks

Oct. 12 at LSU
Oct. 19 at Missouri
Nov. 2 Georgia (Jacksonville)
Nov. 9 Vanderbilt
Nov. 16 at South Carolina

Florida’s toughest stretch of opponents includes only one game in Gainesville, and it’s worth noting Vanderbilt lost by only five points its last trip to the Swamp. Road trips to South Carolina and LSU, teams that allowed the third- and fourth-fewest yards per carry in the SEC, will be barriers to an SEC East title. But it’s worth keeping an eye on Missouri. Florida’s trip to Columbia, Mo., will be a rare 1,000-mile road trip for the Gators (only Arkansas is a further destination from Gainesville).

Related: Florida game-by-game picks

Oct. 19 Georgia
Oct. 26 at Texas A&M
Nov. 9 at Florida

OK, Vanderbilt, you have our attention. Win one of these games, and you’ll be impossible to ignore. The Commodores’ defense will have their hands full against Georgia’s run-pass balance, A&M’s spread and Florida’s power run game.

Nov. 2 Missouri
Nov. 9 Auburn
Nov. 23 Vanderbilt
Nov. 30 at Kentucky

The Volunteers face Oregon, Florida and Alabama on the road before November, plus South Carolina and Georgia in Neyland. The final month of the season, however, is when Butch Jones should have a chance to show real progress, especially against a run of four teams that aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts.

Related: Tennessee game-by-game picks

Sept. 7 Toledo
Sept. 21 at Indiana
Sept. 28 Arkansas State
Oct. 5 at Vanderbilt

The Tigers aren’t about to compete for the SEC, but the early segment of the season against a MAC contender, a Big Ten upstart, the defending Sun Belt champions and Vanderbilt will be a key gauge of what a healthy Tigers team can do. Missouri is still settling a quarterback competition, so all eyes will be on James Franklin or Maty Mauk to hold onto the job.

Related: Missouri game-by-game picks

Aug. 31 Western Kentucky (Nashville)
Sept. 7 Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 14 Louisville

Beat Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky, take care of Miami U and put a scare into Louisville, and everyone should be happy in Lexington.

Related: Kentucky game-by-game picks



Aug. 31 Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
Sept. 14 at Texas A&M

What could we say about a critical stretch to determine Alabama’s schedule? Perhaps we should just say the SEC Championship Game and the BCS Championship Game instead of anything during the regular season. Alabama has an off week before its top two opponents (Texas A&M and LSU) and gets them nearly two months apart. The Crimson Tide draw Kentucky and Tennessee from the East. And the best individual player Alabama will see all season, Johnny Manziel, may be ineligible in Week 3. For Alabama, these schedule breaks just aren’t fair for the rest of the SEC.

Texas A&M
Nov. 9 Mississippi State
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri

The Alabama matchup on Sept. 14 is the game of the year, but Johnny Manziel’s eligibility remains a question. Instead, let’s skip to the end of the season when the Aggies would have to face two more standout defensive lines (Mississippi State, LSU) in back-to-back weeks to end the season. No one is expecting much out of Mizzou, but strange things have happened to title contenders on the road in the final week of the regular season.

Related: Texas A&M game-by-game picks

Sept. 28 at Georgia
Oct. 5 Mississippi State
Oct. 12 Florida
Oct. 19 at Ole Miss

LSU’s games against Alabama and Texas A&M in November may be more important, but they won’t mean much if LSU struggles to get out of this four-game stretch. The LSU offense has its questions, but the new-look defense will get a workout in a contrast of styles against Georgia’s balanced attack, Mississippi State’s veteran backfield, Florida’s grinding run game and Ole Miss’ spread. So if you’re keeping track: That’s four returning starters at quarterback and three road games before the Tigers even get to AJ McCarron and (maybe) Johnny Manziel.

Related: LSU game-by-game picks

Ole Miss
Aug. 29 at Vanderbilt
Sept. 7 Southeast Missouri State
Sept. 14 at Texas
Sept. 28 at Alabama
Oct. 5 at Auburn

No doubt, the start of Ole Miss’ schedule is brutal (the Rebels also catch Texas A&M and LSU in back-to-back weeks in mid-October). But out of this five-game stretch to start the season, Ole Miss wouldn’t shock anyone if it defeated Vanderbilt, Texas or Auburn. With a healthy Bo Wallace and shaky depth early in the year, maybe Ole Miss is lucky to catch these games earlier on the season.

Related: Ole Miss game-by-game picks

Mississippi State
Nov. 2 at South Carolina
Nov. 9 at Texas A&M
Nov. 16 Alabama

Mississippi State proved it wasn’t quite ready to compete with the SEC’s best last season, losing to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU by a combined score of 103-37 in a three-week span. Here’s another crack at the national elite in November.

Aug. 31 Washington State
Sept. 7 Arkansas State
Sept. 14 Mississippi State

Close calls at home with West Coast teams (Utah State) and Sun Belt teams (ULM) forced Gene Chizik out of town. Gus Malzahn opens with Washington State's Mike Leach and then his former employer in the first two weeks of the season. But the biggest statement may have to wait for Mississippi State: Auburn hasn’t scored in an SEC game since Oct. 27 in the third quarter against Texas A&M.

Related: Auburn game-by-game picks

Nov. 2 Auburn
Nov. 9 at Ole Miss
Nov. 23 Mississippi State

Arkansas draws three Athlon top-15 teams (Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama) during one stretch this season. That’s a potential four-game losing streak or more heading into November (the Hogs go to Rutgers on Sept. 21). If Arkansas is going to salvage something in Bret Bielema’s first season, the Hogs will have to do it against the second-tier of the SEC West in November.

Related: Arkansas game-by-game picks

Which three- and four-game stretches will determine the SEC title?
Post date: Thursday, August 15, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-secs-best-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14

The new faces around the SEC illustrate a major problem that could develop in the league.

Kentucky brought in its historic haul of six top-10 prospects and five of the top-10 prospects in the 247Composite rankings. Florida was no slouch, adding two elite transfers and two five-star prospects of its own.

After the Wildcats and Gators, the rest of the SEC is reaching for scraps.

Tennessee, Missouri and LSU all signed key freshmen and transfers. The Volunteers are getting one of their best players back from injury. Even then, it may be tough for the rest of the league to keep up with the conference’s top two programs.

Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with the SEC. Earlier, we profiled the new faces in the ACC, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and the Pac-12.

Andrew Harrison and Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
The Harrison twins are the foundation of Kentucky’s record recruiting haul. Point guard won’t be the issue for Kentucky it was last season with Andrew Harrison on board. He’ll be a good fit in John Calipari’s system with his ability to score in transition. The 6-5, 210-pound guard also has great size.  Aaron Harrison is, naturally, an idea backcourt mate at shooting guard with his ability to hit jumpers.

Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida
Transfer from Virginia Tech
With his versatility and 6-9, 205-pound frame, Finney-Smith comes to Florida in the mold of ex-Gator wing Corey Brewer. Expectations are already sky high for the sophomore who averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game as a rookie at Virginia Tech two seasons ago. The McDonald’s All-American signed with Seth Greenberg out of high school but elected to transfer after the Hokies’ coaching change.

Julius Randle, Kentucky
An intimidating power forward at 6-9 and 225 pounds, Randle will be a high-effort cog in the frontcourt. He’ll be a force with his ability to drive to the basket from any spot on the court. Randle was the No. 2 prospect in the country after Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins in the 247Composite rankings.

James Young, Kentucky
Another lefty in the Kentucky frontcourt along with Randle, Young is a versatile wing. He’ll be able to shoot from outside and get to the free throw line.

Kasey Hill, Florida
Point guard Scottie Wilbekin remains suspended for a violation of team rules. If he’s not available or if he remains in Billy Donovan’s doghouse, Hill is the only other point guard on the roster. Florida kept possessions low last season, but Hill’s speed may allow the Gators to push the pace.

Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Transfer from Tulsa
Frank Haith has taken in a handful of transfers, but at least Clarkson will be available for two seasons. The 6-4, 193-pound guard averaged 14.2 points and 2.3 assists per game at Tulsa. He’ll be the top candidate to replace Phil Pressey at point guard.

Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee
Injured last season
Maymon and Jarnell Stokes were supposed to be bash brothers up front for Tennessee last season, but Maymon missed all of last year when he struggled to return from knee surgery. Maymon averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 2011-12, but it may take a while before he’s ready to contribute at that level again.

Damontre Harris, Florida
Transfer from South Carolina

Harris is a rare intra-conference transfer, coming to the Gators from South Carolina. Along with Finney-Smith, Harris will lead a big, physical frontcourt. Harris averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds with 71 blocks in 2011-12, earning a spot on the league’s all-defensive team at South Carolina.

Jarell Martin, LSU
Alum Johnny Jones was welcomed back to LSU as a coach who would be able to recruit the local area. That happened with the signing of five-star power forward Martin from Baton Rouge (La.) Madison Prep Academy. The Tigers expect Martin to rebound both sides of the court and form a strong frontcourt duo with Johnny O’Bryant. The 6-9, 220-pound Martin could flourish in the pick-and-pop game.

Antonio Barton, Tennessee
Transfer from Memphis
Barton steps in to replace Trae Golden at point guard after the starter transferred to Georgia Tech. Per NCAA graduate transfer rules, Barton will be immediately eligible. Barton lost out on the starting point guard job at Memphis with the return of Joe Jackson, but he’ll be a welcome addition on the other side of the state. He averaged 5.6 points and 1.1 assists in 16.7 minutes per game with the Tigers last season.

Alandise Harris, Arkansas
Transfer from Houston
Harris averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in two seasons at Houston. The Hogs hope the 6-6, 230-pound forward from Little Rock will provide Arkansas with toughness in the frontcourt.

Eric McClellan, Vanderbilt
Transfer from Tulsa
The Commodores were put in a bind when their best player, Kedren Johnson, was suspended for the season. McClellan was expected to be a difference-maker after the combo guard averaged 8.5 minutes as a freshman at Tulsa, and more will be on his shoulders with Johnson out.

Johnathan Williams III and Wes Clark, Missouri
A 6-9 power forward out of Memphis, Williams was Missouri’s top recruit, but he’ll need to add to his 210-pound frame before he’s ready to contribute at a high level. The same could be said of 6-foot freshman guard Wes Clark, who weighs in at 170 pounds.

Bobby Portis and Moses Kingsley, Arkansas

Portis is a 6-10 McDonald’s All-American. He and the 6-9 Kingsley will lead a reformed Arkansas frontcourt after the departure of Marshawn Powell. Those are two big bodies for a team that ranked 12th in the SEC in defensive rebound percentage and 11th in offensive rebound percentage.

Other new faces to watch in the SEC:

Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee, Kentucky

The Wildcats continue their embarrassingly good haul with two more five-star prospects who are the fifth- and sixth-ranked recruits on their own team.

Robert Hubbs, Tennessee
The five-star rookie is a big-time scoring prospect for a Volunteers team that already returns guard Jordan McRae.

Dwight Coleby and Sebastian Saiz, Ole Miss

The two 6-9 forwards need to contribute immediately to replace the Rebels’ underrated frontcourt of Murphy Holloway and Reggie Buckner.

Eli Carter, Florida
Transfer from Rutgers

Another Rutgers transfer to land in Gainesville, Carter is awaiting a decision from the NCAA on his request to be eligible immediately.

Jacoby Davis and I.J. Ready, Mississippi State
The two newcomers will vie for Mississippi State’s point guard spot with returning starter Trivante Bloodman. Davis missed last season with a knee injury and redshirted.

Antwan Space, Texas A&M
Transfer from Florida State
The former Seminole will give the Aggies toughness and rebounding to go with Kourtney Roberson.

Sindarious Thornwell, South Carolina
A top-50 national recruit, Thornwell will be a key building block as South Carolina attempts to remake its roster after another round of transfers.

Tim Quarterman, LSU
The rookie can play point guard, shooting guard and the wing for the Tigers.

Kentucky isn't the only program adding big-time players
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/critical-games-2013-key-stretches-big-ten

Every now and then, the college football schedule is a kingmaker. Or it turns conference title hopefuls into paupers.

In our series examining critical stretches across the country, we take a look at the Big Ten. Each team will have its string of make-or-break games for its season.

For Ohio State, it’s a pair of games in November. For Michigan, it’s the entire month. No one said this was fair.

*presented in Athlon’s Big Ten projected order of finish


Ohio State

Nov. 23 Indiana
Nov. 30 at Michigan

It’s a telling note about the Ohio State schedule that the Buckeyes won’t have a truly grueling stretch of three consecutive tough games and one of the toughest stretches for Ohio State involves Indiana. Michigan is the most important game on the schedule, followed by a potential Big Ten title game. Here’s why Indiana might be important: It could be a look-ahead game for a team resting on its laurels. And the Hoosiers may be one of the few teams before Michigan that can test a vulnerable Ohio State secondary: Indiana led the Big Ten in pass plays of 20 yards or longer with 47.

Related: Ohio State game-by-game picks

Sept. 14 at Arizona State
Sept. 21 Purdue
Sept. 28 Ohio State
Oct. 12 Northwestern

Gary Andersen will have UMass and Tennessee Tech to warm his team up for an important stretch early in the year. The Badgers visit a Pac-12 school for the second consecutive season, and this one is against Athlon’s pick to win the South Division. With two tough road trips, Andersen probably would prefer to have his QB situation settled by then. Wisconsin’s secondary also is a major concern, especially against a Sun Devils team that led the Pac-12 in yards per pass attempt. Ohio State and Northwestern return Heisman-contending quarterbacks.

Related: Wisconsin game-by-game picks

Penn State
Nov. 9 at Minnesota
Nov. 16 Purdue
Nov. 23 Nebraska
Nov. 30 at Wisconsin

Penn State faces Michigan and Ohio State in back-to-back games earlier in the season, albeit with an off week in between. We picked this late stretch because of the upset potential against a quick Minnesota defense on the road and two games against Big Ten contenders in the final two weeks. By this point of the season freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg should be settled in, but attrition also could be taking effect.

Related: Penn State game-by-game picks

Sept. 21 Missouri
Oct. 5 Penn State
Oct. 12 at Michigan State

Optimism is high for the Hoosiers, but their bowl hopes depend on a defense that was a mess last season. During this stretch they’ll face two teams that ranked in the 90s in total offense (Mizzou and Michigan State) and a rebuilding group at home (Penn State).

Sept. 14 Notre Dame
Sept. 21 at Wisconsin
Sept. 28 Northern Illinois
Oct. 12 Nebraska

The Boilermakers will look to salvage anything in a span of three consecutive games against teams that made BCS games last season, plus Nebraska.

Aug. 31 Southern Illinois
Sept. 7 Cincinnati
Sept. 14 Washington (Chicago)
Sept. 29 Miami (Ohio)

Anything worse than 2-2 in this stretch could put Tim Beckman on the hot seat awfully early in his first season.


Nov. 2 at Michigan State
Nov. 9 Nebraska
Nov. 16 at Northwestern
Nov. 23 at Iowa
Nov. 30 Ohio State

November will be the make-or-break month for Michigan with three road games and two rivalry games, all before a potential Big Ten title game. Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will have his work cut out for him planning for this gauntlet. Michigan State isn’t a great offensive team, but the Spartans will try to shorten the game with physical play, then it’s Nebraska and its multifaceted run game, followed by Northwestern’s dynamic spread attack, another grinding team in Iowa and finally a potential Heisman contender in Braxton Miller.

Related: Michigan game-by-game picks

Nov. 2 Northwestern
Nov. 9 at Michigan
Nov. 16 Michigan State
Nov. 23 at Penn State

In the first six games, Nebraska plays only one bowl team from last season (UCLA). The November stretch will determine if the Cornhuskers return to the Big Ten championship game. The Huskers visit Ann Arbor and Happy Valley while Northwestern has been a thorn in the side of Bo Pelini since he arrived in the Big Ten. Northwestern won the last meeting in Lincoln 28-25.

Related: Nebraska game-by-game picks

Oct. 5 Ohio State
Oct. 12 at Wisconsin
Oct. 19 Minnesota
Oct. 26 at Iowa
Nov. 2 at Nebraska
Nov. 16 Michigan

Northwestern will need to take care of business against Minnesota and Iowa otherwise this stretch could get out of hand. This stretch includes a BCS team, an undefeated team and two New Year’s Day bowl team. The Wildcats have been good for an upset or two in recent seasons, but they also coughed up fourth quarter leads last year against Nebraska and Michigan.

Related: Northwestern game-by-game picks

Michigan State
Oct. 5 at Iowa
Oct. 12 Indiana
Oct. 19 Purdue
Oct. 26 Illinois

Michigan State gets a good draw in the schedule by avoiding Ohio State, Wisconsin an Penn State. Better take advantage in October before facing Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern.

Related: Michigan State game-by-game picks

Nov. 2 at Indiana
Nov. 9 Penn State
Nov. 23 Wisconsin
Nov. 30 at Michigan State

Minnesota went 1-3 in the final four games of the regular season. This stretch is just as difficult with no guaranteed win (Minnesota beat Illinois during that four-game stretch last season).

Aug. 31 Northern Illinois
Sept. 7 Missouri State
Sept. 15 at Iowa State
Sept. 21 Western Michigan

It took Northern Illinois playing in the Orange Bowl to remind people Iowa defeated the Huskies last season. NIU will be favored this year. Kirk Ferentz needs a good showing early to avoid the hot seat watch.

Which three- and four-game stretches will determine the Big Ten title?
Post date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013 - 07:13
Path: /college-football/critical-games-2013-key-stretches-big-12

It’s a long season, but three or four games could change the whole thing.

The Big 12 looks to be crowded at the top: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor all have legitimate reasons to believe they can win the league title.

In the first look at critical stretches for each major conference, we examined the most important set of games for each team in the league.

For the teams at the top, it means the stretches when they’ll face the other contenders. For the teams at the bottom, it’s where they’re looking for signs of progress.

*presented in Athlon’s projected order of finish.

Oklahoma State
Nov. 16 at Texas
Nov. 23 Baylor
Dec. 7 Oklahoma

The Cowboys have a beneficial stretch against the bottom three Big 12 teams (at Iowa State, at Texas Tech, Kansas) before the stretch that likely determines the Big 12 title. The Cowboys lost all three of these matchups last season and now faces all three in the final games of the season. The Cowboys’ defense was gashed in all three games, including giving up 600 yards and six yards per play against the Bears and Sooners. Oklahoma State was in shootouts against OU and Baylor, but Clint Chelf completed only a combined 49-of-88 passes with three interceptions. On the other side, Texas returning quarterback David Ash had one of his best games of the season against Oklahoma State.

Related: Oklahoma State game-by-game picks

Sept. 28 at Notre Dame
Oct. 5 TCU
Oct. 12 Texas (Dallas)

A critical stretch for Blake Bell and the Oklahoma offense. The Sooners’ offensive line is expected to be a strength, but facing Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix will be a key barometer for the Sooners after OU rushed for only 15 yards on 24 carries against the Irish last season. TCU has had attrition on its defense, but the Horned Frogs still allowed allowed a Big 12-low 4.9 yards per play. Texas is the great mystery. With linebacker Jordan Hicks back, the Longhorns can’t be as bad as the group that gave up 677 yards and 63 points to OU last season, can they?

Related: Oklahoma game-by-game picks

Sept. 7 at BYU
Sept. 14 Ole Miss
Sept. 21 Kansas State
Oct. 3 at Iowa State
Oct. 12 Oklahoma (Dallas)

The conventional wisdom may be that the season — and perhaps Mack Brown’s tenure — hangs on Kansas State and Oklahoma. Those are critical games with Kansas State winning five in a row over the Longhorns and Oklahoma winning the last two meetings by a combined score of 118-38. But things will be much more difficult: Going to BYU against the No. 2 run defense from 2012 and then facing an Ole Miss no-huddle spread in back-to-back weeks aren’t guaranteed wins.

Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas

TCU can thank the schedule-makers for that breather against Kansas in between Oklahoma road trips. That would be a trap game situation, if KU is good enough to pull of a trap game win. Not only does TCU face Athlon’s top three Big 12 teams in a span of four weeks, two of those games are on the road. Casey Pachall could end up the top quarterback in the Big 12, but his only games in the league were against Kansas in 2012 (a 20-6 win) and against Baylor in 2011 (a 50-48 loss in the opener).

Kansas State
Sept. 21 at Texas
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 12 Baylor

Facing Texas and Oklahoma State on the road isn’t a great situation for a new starting quarterback, but all the pressure will be on the home team as Texas tries to get over its Bill Snyder problem and Oklahoma State goes for a conference title.

Nov. 7 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas

With an untested quarterback in Bryce Petty, Baylor has to be happy with its backloaded schedule. This defining stretch begins with a Thursday game against Oklahoma that’s sure to have Waco at a fever pitch. The Bears have improved depth, especially on defense. That will be tested.

Texas Tech
Oct. 5 at Kansas
Oct. 12 Iowa State
Oct. 19 at West Virginia

No one is projecting vintage Texas Tech despite the return of Kliff Kingsbury. Take care of business against the lower tier of the Big 12 early, and the Red Raiders should feel pretty good.

Related: Texas Tech game-by-game picks

West Virginia
Sept. 21 Maryland (Baltimore)
Sept. 28 Oklahoma State
Oct. 5 at Baylor
Oct. 19 Texas Tech

West Virginia has won seven in a row over Maryland, so a matchup against an improved Terrapins team could be an early referendum on the season. The Mountaineers’ home dates against Dana Holgorsen's former employers Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will at least be interesting television.

Iowa State
Sept. 14 Iowa
Sept. 26 at Tulsa
Oct. 3 Texas
Oct. 12 at Texas Tech

A limited cast of playmakers on offense and four returning starters on defense will be major concerns for the Cyclones. Facing an in-state rival and holding the line against the Conference USA favorite Tulsa will be key barometer games on Iowa State’s bowl hopes.

Sept. 7 South Dakota
Sept. 15 at Rice
Sept. 21 Louisiana Tech

If the Jayhawks are going to show any improvement, they’ll need to end the 11-game losing streak. KU opens with an FCS team, a Rice team that beat the Jayhawks 25-24 in Lawrence and a Louisiana Tech team with one returning starter on offense. Two wins would be nice.

Which three- and four-game stretches could determine the Big 12 title?
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 07:15