Articles By David Fox

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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

ACC ATLANTIC

Clemson

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

Maryland
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.

Syracuse
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.

ACC COASTAL

Miami
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.

Pittsburgh
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.

Virginia
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.

Duke
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.

Teaser:
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
Body:

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

PAC-12 NORTH

Oregon

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.

Stanford
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.

Washington
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.

Cal
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.

PAC-12 SOUTH

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.

USC
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.

UCLA
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.

Arizona
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).

Utah
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.

Colorado
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.

Teaser:
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
Body:

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

SEC EAST

Georgia

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

Florida
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

Vanderbilt
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.

Tennessee
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

Missouri
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

Kentucky
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

SEC WEST

Alabama

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

LSU
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.

Auburn
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

Arkansas
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

Teaser:
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
Body:

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
Freshmen
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
Freshman
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
Freshman
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
Freshman
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
Freshman
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
Freshmen
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
Freshmen

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

Freshmen
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
Freshman
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
Freshmen

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
Freshmen
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
Freshman
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
Freshman
The rookie can play point guard, shooting guard and the wing for the Tigers.

Teaser:
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
Body:

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

LEADERS DIVISION

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

Wisconsin
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

Indiana
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).

Purdue
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.

Illinois
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.

LEGENDS DIVISION

Michigan
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

Nebraska
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

Northwestern
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

Minnesota
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).

Iowa
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.

Teaser:
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
Body:

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

Oklahoma
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

Texas
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.

TCU
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.

Baylor
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.

Kansas
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.

Teaser:
Which three- and four-game stretches could determine the Big 12 title?
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-pac-12s-best-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

The new faces that will dominate the discussion in the preseason in the Pac-12 may be the new coaches in Los Angeles. In a quiet coaching carousel, UCLA’s Steve Alford and USC’s Andy Enfield were two of the biggest movers.

But they might not be the biggest movers among new faces in the Pac-12.

Arizona will build off a 27-win season and a Sweet 16 appearance with two of the best freshmen in the league and one of the Pac-12’s most important transfers. Indeed, Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and T.J. McConnell could put Arizona into Final Four contention.

Elsewhere, Oregon will once again look to a frontcourt transfer to remain among the top programs in the league. Arizona State hopes a guard transfer will get the Sun Devils over the hump and into the NCAA Tournament. And Washington will against pin its hopes on a freshman point guard.

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

Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Freshman
The Pac-12’s most valuable freshman is getting used to the “most valuable” title. He was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and MVP of USA Basketball’s U19 gold-medal winning teams. Gordon will play small forward, but the 6-foot-8, 210-pound product of Archbishop Mitty in San Jose could also play power forward. Gordon was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the 247Composite rankings.

Mike Moser, Oregon
Transfer from UNLV
Before last season, hardcore college basketball fans knew Arsalan Kazemi was a good player stuck on a bad team at Rice. His transfer to Oregon gave him additional prominence and helped transform Oregon’s season. Moser is not nearly as anonymous. At UNLV, he was a preseason All-American before getting caught in a numbers crunch in the Rebels’ frontcourt. Moser isn’t replacing Kazemi as much as he’s replacing wing E.J. Singler's versatility in Eugune, a tall order unto itself. Moser averaged 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in 2011-12 before dipping to 7.1 points and 6.1 in 2012-13.

T.J. McConnell, Arizona
Transfer from Duquesne
Point guard was an issue last season for the Wildcats with neither Mark Lyons nor Nick Johnson being a natural fit for the position. That changes with McConnell. He was the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year in 2010-11 and averaged 4.9 assists and a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio in two seasons with the Dukes before sitting out last season. McConnell also averaged better than 50 percent shooting from the field and 2.3 assists in two seasons.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
Freshman
Hollis-Jefferson is another McDonald’s All-American in Arizona’s recruiting haul. Like Gordon, the 6-7 forward is a versatile defender whose offensive game is developing. Hollis-Jefferson is the brother of former Temple forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson.

Jermaine Marshall, Arizona State
Transfer from Penn State

Shooting guard Evan Gordon unexpectedly transferred to Indiana, but Arizona State may have upgraded in a de facto trade with the Big Ten. Marshall arrives from Penn State to team with potential All-American Jahii Carson in the ASU backcourt. Marshall’s a good fit. He averaged 15.3 points per game but struggled from 3-point range (33.9 percent on 174 attempts).

Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Freshman
The Huskies’ have had issues at point guard for a few years, but Williams-Goss brings a good package of size (6-4), passing and leadership on the floor. He’ll lead the Huskies' three-guard lineup. Washington seems to do better when its recruits fly under the radar. We’ll see if the trend continues with the four-star Williams-Goss.

Anthony Brown, Stanford
Returning from injury
Brown needed hip surgery in late November and missed all but five games last season. The Cardinal returns all five starters, but Brown’s return to the lineup will still be valuable. The fourth-year junior wing averaged 8.4 points per game as a freshman and sophomore.

Jabari Bird, Cal
Freshman
Bird steps in to replace the Bears’ leading scorer last season, Allen Crabbe. Cal returns guard Justin Cobbs, but Bird could become a prolific scorer right off the bat. The 6-6, 190-pound guard from Richmond, Calif., is one of the top prospects Cal has signed in recent seasons.

Richard Amardi, Oregon
Junior college transfer
Amardi adds to a remade Ducks frontcourt that loses Arsalan Kazemi, E.J. Singler, Tony Woods and Carlos Emory. The 6-9 forward who originally signed with Iowa State will give the Ducks added athleticism up front.

Other new faces to watch:

Wanaah Bail, UCLA
Transfer from Texas Tech
UCLA’s all-namer has a handful of hurdles to clear before contributing in the Bruins’ frontcourt. He had knee surgery in June that will keep him out for four months, and he’s still seeking a waiver to play immediately after transferring form Texas Tech (even though he never played for the Red Raiders).

Pe’Shon Howard, USC
Transfer from Maryland
Howard is still seeking clearance to play this season after transferring West to care for an ill grandmother. Howard could start at point guard, where he averaged 3.6 assists per game for the Terps.

Joseph Young, Oregon
Transfer from Houston
The guard averaged 18 points per game at Houston, but he’s awaiting word on immediate eligibility in Eugene.

Brandan Kearney, Arizona State
Transfer from Michigan State
The small forward is a  key defender who won’t be eligible until the second semester.

Ricky Kreklow, Cal
Returning from injury
The Missouri transfer played only nine games last season before a foot injury. He was a potential starter for his energy and defense.

Angus Brandt, Oregon State
Returning from injury
Brandt missed most of last season with a torn ACL. Before his injury, the 6-10 center was averaging 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds in four games.

Danny Lawhorn, Washington State
Junior college transfer
Lawhorn led junior colleges in assists last season and should become the Cougars’ point guard.

Teaser:
Arizona's Sean Miller will contend for Final Four with new arrivals
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 10:01
Path: /college-football/20-good-players-bad-college-football-teams
Body:

When the 2012 season started, no one would have picked Eric Fisher as any kind of star. He played offensive tackle, and he did it for a team that went 3-9 the previous season.

But the Central Michigan lineman clearly was special as he ended up the top pick in the NFL draft after a 7-6 season with the Chippewas.

With 125 teams in college football, elite players are bound to fall through the cracks. They end up in mid-December bowl games, if they land in the postseason at all.

Here’s our list of the top players who won’t spend time in the top 25 or even the also receiving votes category. While not all these teams mentioned are truly awful, many of them may limp their way into a bowl if they make it that far. And even if none end up the No. 1 pick in the Draft, these players will be worth watching on Saturdays.

OTs Tiny Richardson and Ja’Wuan James and LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
Tennessee only won one SEC game last season despite these three frontline players, plus departed quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Justin Hunter. That says something about the situation Butch Jones inherits (and the Volunteers’ defense). The key number on Richardson, an Athlon first-team All-American, and James: Tennessee allowed the fewest sacks per game in the SEC last season, despite the most pass attempts per game. Johnson led the league with 138 tackles. These three could start for any contender in the conference.

C Travis Swanson and DE Chris Smith, Arkansas
Swanson will be a Rimington contender, but he plays on an untested offensive line. He’ll give Bret Bielema a rock for the power run game he’ll want to run at least. Meanwhile, Arkansas quietly has the makings of a solid defensive line with three starters returning, led by Smith. The senior had 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss last season, including six sacks in the final five games last year.

WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
The former No. 1 prospect is familiar to Missouri fans and recruitniks, but Green-Beckham didn’t look the part in 2012, especially early in the season. That said, he caught 14 passes for 242 yards with four touchdowns in November. His athleticism and 6-6, 220-pound frame still screams elite receiver. He should grow into that role this season, especially with more stability at quarterback and on the offensive line.

WR Paul Richardson, Colorado
On many other teams, this 6-1, 170-pound junior from Los Angeles would be a realistic Biletnikoff contender. But injuries and the mess of Colorado’s roster as overshadowed his career. Richardson returns after a knee injury kept him out of the 2012 season. He’s had few opportunities to match an 11-catch, 284-yard performance against Cal early in the 2011 season.

RB James Sims, Kansas
Sims was one the few — perhaps the only  — positive developments for Kansas last season. As KU gave up on the passing game, Sims kept racking up yards. The senior tailback rushed for 1,013 yards in nine games, including six consecutive games over the 100-yard mark.

DLs Bud Dupree and Donte Rumph, Kentucky
The defensive line isn’t a bad place to build a team that can win SEC games. Trouble is, Kentucky may have little else. Dupree had 12.5 sacks shuffling from linebacker to end, but now moves to the line full time. Rumph is a big body at tackle at 6-5, 323. Together, they combined for 10.5 sacks. No other UK lineman had more than three.

LB James Morris, Iowa
Iowa has three standout linebackers — all seniors, all returning starters. Morris is the best of the bunch. Morris finished with 113 tackles last season, putting him on a long list of productive Hawkeyes linebackers.

WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Imagine what Diggs would do if he played for a good quarterback — or even one mediocre quarterback through the course of an entire season. Despite Maryland’s constant injury problems at quarterback, Diggs still caught 54 passes for 848 yards. And when he wasn’t the only threat in Maryland’s passing game, he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, averaged 10.1 yards on punt returns and threw a touchdown pass.

CB Ricardo Allen, Purdue
Allen dealt with injuries last season, but when healthy, he’s one of the Big Ten’s best cover corners. Allen had six interceptions and three touchdowns in his first two seasons in 2010-11.

DT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
Whitlock was hampered by an ankle injury last season, but don’t forget how good he was as a freshman and a sophomore. Whitlock had 14 tackles for a loss in 2011 and 10.5 tackles for a loss in 2010.

RB Brendan Bigelow and WR Bryce Treggs, Cal
For whatever reason, Bigelow carried the ball only 44 times last season, despite averaging 9.8 yards per carry. The two seniors ahead of him are gone, and Sonny Dykes may be more apt to get one of his most explosive players the ball in creative ways. Treggs caught only 21 passes as a freshman, but he had better reasons to be buried in the game plan (Keenan Allen and subpar quarterback play).

DE Aaron Lynch, USF
Lynch was a rising star as a freshman at Notre Dame in 2011 when he led the Irish with 5.5 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. He’ll restart his career with the Bulls, where he’ll be an All-AAC-caliber player on a solid front seven.

QB Brett Smith, Wyoming
Hopes are high Smith can help Wyoming turnaround a 4-8 record. He missed two games last season — losses to Cal Poly and Air Force, games decided by a combined three points. Smith had his ups and downs last season, but he still finished with 27 touchdowns to six interceptions. His 8.6 yards per pass attempt led the Mountain West.

QB Corey Robinson, Troy
Troy has fallen way behind other Sun Belt programs after winning at least a share of five consecutive league titles. Robinson still has a career completion rate of 63.8 percent as a three-year starter, topping the 3,000-yard mark each year.

K Cairo Santos, Tulane
How does a kicker on a 2-10 Tulane team win the Lou Groza Award? He makes 20 of 20 field goals, including two from 50-plus yards and 10 more from 40 or more yards.

Teaser:
We scoured the standings to find diamonds in the rough
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/12-ex-head-coaches-who-will-make-impact-assistants
Body:

The SEC leads college football in many things, but one of the strangest categories may be former head coach reclamation projects.

Not all assistants are cut out to be head coaches, but the five aforementioned programs clearly see strengths that didn’t translate into being program CEOs. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida and LSU all hired previously fired head coaches to work on some of their biggest deficiencies.

That’s not a surprise, of course, even guys like Ellis Johnson and Joker Phillips were doing something right to be named head coaches in the first place.

The SEC isn’t alone, but it was the most prominent example of a league recycling former head coaching on its staffs. Here are 12 former head coaches hired as assistants for the 2013 season.

Tim Brewster
Former head coach at: Minnesota
Now: Florida State tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator
After all the changes on Florida State’s coaching staff, Brewster gives Jimbo Fisher a coach who has been around the block, most recently the wide receivers coach at Mississippi State. Brewster was a standout recruiter for Mack Brown at North Carolina and Texas and gives the coaching staff the bit of frenetic energy it needed to replace when James Coley left for Miami.

Cam Cameron
Former head coach at: Miami Dolphins, Indiana
Now: LSU offensive coordinator
Cameron returns to his first college head coaching job since he went 18-37 at Indiana from 1997-2001. LSU intended to hand the offense to another former head coach last season in Steve Kragthorpe before the ex-Louisville coach was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Greg Studrawa led the offense last season, but he has been returned to his former position of coaching the line. Cameron’s job now is to help develop Zach Mettenberger. Cameron has a strong reputation of working with quarterbacks, but LSU has struggled in this area since Matt Flynn led the Tigers to the BCS title in 2007.

Mario Cristobal
Former head coach at: FIU
Now: Alabama offensive line coach
FIU made the puzzling decision to fire the best coach in its brief history, a coach who happened to have deep Miami ties. Alabama scooped him up quickly to coach the team’s greatest weakness on the offensive line. Before becoming a head coach, Cristobal coached tight ends and offensive line with great success at Rutgers (2001-03) and Miami (1998-2000). This may only be a quick stop for Cristobal before his next head coaching opportunity, but for now, he’s one of three former head coaches on Saban’s coaching and support staff — Bobby Williams (Michigan State) coaches tight ends and special teams, and Kevin Steele (Baylor) is the director of player personnel.

Bill Cubit
Former head coach at: Western Michigan
Now: Illinois wide receiver coach
Offense was rarely an issue during Cubit’s eight seasons at Western Michigan. With the Broncos, Cubit did a good job of developing young quarterbacks (Tim Hiller, Alex Carder) and playing them through their veteran years. At Illinois, Cubit inherits two veterans in Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O’Toole, who have started during the last two seasons.

Dennis Erickson
Former head coach at: Arizona State, Idaho, San Francisco 49ers, Oregon State, Seattle Seahawks, Miami, Washington State, Wyoming
Now: Utah co-offensive coordinator
A true football lifer, Erickson can’t stay out of the game. After being fired at Arizona State, Erickson landed at Utah where he’ll make up half of one of the most interesting assistant coach pairings. The Utes’ other co-coordinator is Brian Johnson, who was born the same year as Erickson’s first Pac-10 coaching job in 1987 at Washington State. Utah has ranked 11th and 12th in yards per play since joining the Pac-12. Whether that’s personnel or youth on the coaching staff could be determined with Erickson on board.

Steve Fairchild
Former head coach at: Colorado State
Now: Virginia offensive coordinator
Tom O’Brien
Former head coach: NC State, Boston College
Now: Virginia associate head coach for offense/tight ends coach
Part of a coaching staff overhaul in Charlottesville, O’Brien and Fairchild will try to turn around an offense that ranked ninth in the ACC in yards per pass attempt and eighth in yards per carry. With the background of both — Fairchild was an NFL offensive coordinator before a 16-33 stint at Colorado State, O’Brien ran a balanced offense at NC State and Boston College — Virginia is going to run a traditional pro-style offense. Fairchild will have to settle on a quarterback after the competition between Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims dragged on through last season.

Ellis Johnson
Former head coach at: Southern Miss
Now: Auburn defensive coordinator
Johnson’s first FBS coaching gig could not have been much worse as Southern Miss went 0-11 in his lone season in Hattiesburg. Before that debacle, though, Johnson’s defenses at South Carolina and Mississippi State ranked fifth or better in the SEC in four of five seasons. The 2011 Gamecocks defense ranked third in the country in total defense. In contrast: Auburn hasn’t ranked better than seventh in total defense in the SEC since 2007.

Hal Mumme
Former head coach at: New Mexico State, Kentucky
Now: SMU passing game coordinator
Do you think SMU wants to throw the ball around a bit in the American Athletic Conference? The Mustangs coaching staff now has the godfather of the Air Raid offense (Mumme) with one of the most successful run-and-shoot coaches (Jones). They’re not exactly the same, but they’re not all that different. As Mumme told CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman: “Air Raid is an attitude, not a playbook.” Worth noting: SMU was merely fourth in Conference USA in pass attempts in the last two seasons.

Joker Phillips
Former head coach at: Kentucky
Now: Florida wide receivers coach
Florida’s wide receivers coach position has been a revolving door in recent years, so the hope is that Phillips will bring stability. The Gators need it. Florida hasn’t produced a first-team All-SEC receiver in four seasons. Phillips played receiver at Kentucky and was a highly regarded offensive coordinator before his disastrous tenure as the Wildcats’ head coach. He’s also made an impact on the recruiting trail with is eccentric “#ComePlayWRfortheJoker” Twitter posts.

Larry Porter
Former head coach at: Memphis
Now: Texas running backs coach
After a 3-21 stint at Memphis, Porter quietly returned to a comfort zone as a running backs coach. He worked with Marion Grice, Cameron Marshall and D.J. Foster at Arizona State last season, helping them become a prolific trio as runners and pass-catchers. He’ll do fine at Texas, but the Longhorns have more pressing issues than running back.

Ron Prince
Former head coach at: Kansas State
Now: Rutgers offensive coordinator
Prince has coached two NFL starting quarterbacks in college (Virginia’s Matt Schaub and Kansas State’s Josh Freeman). Rutgers coach Kyle Flood is hoping for that tutelage to work on Gary Nova, who started last season with a steady hand before a late-season turnover binge. After three seasons in the NFL as an offensive assistant, Prince is back in the college ranks for the first time since coaching special teams at Virginia in 2009.

Randy Shannon
Former had coach at: Miami
Now: Arkansas linebackers coach
Shannon spent only five months as the linebackers coach at TCU before leaving to Arkansas. The Razorbacks can use all the help they can get on defense after regressing in each of the last three seasons. For a program with scant amounts of local talent and a head coach with little experience recruiting in the Southeast, the addition of Shannon and his deep Miami roots could be a major asset.

Teaser:
Joker Phillips was fired at Kentucky, but Florida scooped him up quick
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-college-football-teams-wed-see-hard-knocks
Body:

The NFL’s seventh season of Hard Knocks began yesterday with a second go-round inside training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The series brings all the drama of the NFL preseason with rookies making their way onto rosters, the tough decisions on who to keep and who to cut and players dealing with off-field issues.

The HBO program brings us closer to an NFL team each year, but we think the series would be a little more interesting if there were a college football version — the coaches have bigger personalities, the players are more raw on the field and less familiar with the business angle and professionalism off of it.

Behind-the-scenes access isn’t unheard of during the college football preseason. ESPN gets access from time to time; most major programs share videos through official web sites. But we want an unfiltered, warts-and-all look. Here are the teams we’d like to see:

1. Texas A&M
The Aggies would have been No. 1 before Johnny Manziel’s eligibility was thrown into question Sunday night. What a week ago looked like would be simply the Johnny Football Show now brings added NCAA drama. For better or worse, Hard Knocks: Texas A&M would present a look at the NCAA investigation process and the school’s response as they try to keep Manziel eligible for the Sept. 14 game against Alabama. Kevin Sumlin says he’s in the fact-finding stage, but it would be intriguing to see how he prepares Manziel’s backups for the opener. And for a dose of reality away from all-Manziel, all the time, let’s not forget that A&M players are grieving for the loss of teammate Polo Manukainiu after a car accident claimed his life last week.

2. USC
What kinds of decisions does a coach make just before a critical season in his career? Lane Kiffin hass already closed regular season practices to the media, though that’s not a decision the average fan will find too intriguing. More than that, Kiffin is overseeing a rare quarterback competition at USC. The last one was four seasons ago when Matt Barkley quickly dispatched Aaron Corp early in the 2009 season. Perhaps more interesting than Kiffin picking between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler would be the reactions of one of the nation’s best receiving duos in Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor to each QB candidate. If the offensive side of the ball isn’t interesting enough, new coordinator Clancy Pendergast is installing a new 5-2 scheme. And finally, two words: Ed Orgeron.

3. LSU
Les Miles is a character, and that would be enough to carry any Hard Knocks season. But this preseason would be intriguing even if Miles were cut in the mold of deadpan coaches like Mark Dantonio or Kirk Ferentz. LSU’s trademark defense is full of new names and faces. The assumption is that the Tigers will pick up where they left off, but it’s going to be a young group. On offense, Miles recently reinstated his top running back (Jeremy Hill) following to legal issues and has a quarterback (Zach Mettenberger) who has a new coordinator and a spotty history on and off the field.

4. Alabama
We’re not sure if “The Process” would be compelling television or a football version of “The Joy of Painting.” The most entertaining part may be watching players interact with a state and fan base basking in Roll Tide euphoria and then returning to a disapproving Nick Saban. And after that, Hard Knocks: Alabama would be a chance to get to know the Alabama coaching staff, which is shut down from media interviews once the season begins. Fans somewhere should have a reason to be excited to hire defensive coordinator Kirby Smart.

5. Notre Dame
Hard Knocks: Notre Dame might lose a ratings battle with The Bachelor: Manti Te’o, but we’re still watching the Irish try to navigate their return to national prominence and how Notre Dame deals with the BCS Championship Game embarrassment. Brian Kelly has a quarterback battle on his hands between the veteran Tommy Rees (who the fans aren’t totally excited to see) and Malik Zaire (who the fans didn’t expect to see taking snaps until 2014 or 2015).

6. Ole Miss
Ole Miss is kind of Hardcore SEC Fan Central this season. The Rebels need their top-10 signing class to contribute immediately, both as starters and for depth. We know Robert Nkdemdiche through the recruiting process, but Hard Knocks: Ole Miss will give us the first look at the top freshman in the SEC, playing on the defense as his brother, Denzel, who is a star in his own right. Hugh Freeze has only be a college head coach for two seasons, but his homespun qualities have been a perfect fit in the SEC. He’s a positive guy, but he may have to prepare his team for a rough start to the season thanks to the Rebels’ brutal schedule. Moreover, Ole Miss is one of the rare college teams that still does two-a-day practices in preseason camp, though the Rebels don’t exactly go full speed for those sessions.

7. South Carolina
There’s Steve Spurrier wisecracking and Jadeveon Clowney flipping sleds with teammate Gerald Dixon. And Manziel isn’t the only big-time player dealing with fame and everyone wanting a piece of him: Spurrier closed practices and declared a moratorium on talking about “The Hit.” And beyond the Spurrier/Clowney dynamic, Carolina is trying to win an SEC championship and national championship with a quarterback who missed all of spring practice and portions of last season.

8. Washington State
Mike Leach hasn’t changed in his second season at Washington State — he says he’s working on a book on Geronimo — so that will bring ample entertainment. On the field Washington State went 3-9 last season and may have the same record in 2013. Leach won seven games in each of his first two seasons at Texas Tech and nine in his third, so he’s in uncharted territory in Pullman.

9. Texas
Few teams are under more pressure than Texas. The Big 12 is wide open, but there’s little consensus Texas, one of the most talented teams in the league, can win it. Four seasons removed from their last Big 12 title, the Longhorns have also lost ground to Oklahoma State, Baylor and Texas A&M, never mind being firmly under the thumb of Oklahoma. How Brown coaches for his job and how Manny Diaz tries to repair one of the nation’s worst run defenses would be intriguing storylines.

10. Vanderbilt
James Franklin is cliff diving, and Herb Hand is Tweeting and angling for a spot on Chopped. But meanwhile the Commodores are in the midst of one of the best runs in school history. Although Vanderbilt swiftly dismissed the four players at the center of a campus sex crimes investigation, the program is growing accustomed to people paying attention to what’s going on in Nashville for a change.

Teaser:
Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin has the most interesting preseason camp
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-big-tens-best-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

A year after being the nation’s most competitive conference at the top, the Big Ten is counting on a handful of new faces to remain so in 2013-14.

Michigan State returns nearly intact, but most of the Big Ten wasn’t so lucky. Indiana is counting on freshmen and a transfer making his third Division I stop to replace NBA Draft lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller. Michigan also will look to a pair of rookies to take spots vacated by the National Player of the Year and another first-round draft pick.

Wisconsin lost players in its frontcourt, but the Badgers’ biggest new face for 2013-14 is an old one in guard Josh Gasser, who will return from a torn ACL. And Illinois, who was one of the surprise teams of last season, will try to replace its Big Ten veterans with imports from the Missouri Valley Conference.

 

Turnover — or lack thereof for teams like Michigan State and Ohio State — could play a major role in the Big Ten title chance in 2013-14.

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

Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Freshman
Indiana lost Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and the bulk of a team that spent a good portion of last season ranked No. 1. The freshman Vonleh, though, means Indiana isn’t going to sink back to the bottom of the Big Ten. At 6-foot-9, he’s a natural power forward with impressive length — he has a 7-4 wingspan. Vonleh recently participated in the LeBron James Skills Academy and held his own despite being one of the youngest players there at age 17.

Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
Returning from injury
Wisconsin’s season looked like it would go south when Gasser, the projected starting point guard, sustained a season-ending knee injury in October. But this is Wisconsin, and consistency is the Badgers’ forte. Recovery from the ligament tears has been slow, but Gasser still expects to be ready for the start of the season. As a shooting guard for his first two seasons, Gasser still had a 1.95 assist-to-turnover ratio. He also picked up the first triple-double in Wisconsin history with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists against Northwestern in 2010-11.

Derrick Walton, Michigan
Freshman
Walton may be the captain of the All-Shoes-to-Fill team as he takes over at point guard for National Player of the Year Trey Burke. Walton was committed to Michigan for two years, so he had plenty of time to study Burke’s style of play. He has a few similarities with Burke — he and his predecessor both stand at 6-feet and have excellent court vision, but Walton comes to the program with higher expectations after reaching last season’s national title game.

Zak Irvin, Michigan
Freshman
Irvin can play both shooting guard and small forward, but Michigan coach John Beilein may have to find ways to get him in the lineup. Glenn Robinson III plays the 3 and stretch 4, and Michigan has options at the two guard with Nik Staustaks, who was a sharpshooter last season, plus sophomore Caris LeVert.

Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Returning from injury
Crawford considered a transfer, and he would have been eligible immediately as a graduate student. Instead, he’ll return to Northwestern, where he missed all but 10 games last season with a shoulder injury. A season earlier in 2011-12, Crawford was a third-team All-Big Ten selection who averaged 16.1 points per game.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
Transfer from Drake
Illinois coach John Groce won’t shy away from putting a ton of responsibility on his backcourt. With Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson gone, that puts some of the onus on Rice, who transferred back home to Champaign from Drake. Former Illinois coach Bruce Weber overlooked Rice even though the guard was the state’s Mr. Basketball, but Rice returned when John Groce was hired. At Drake, Rice used the sleight to fuel him on the way to 15.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds in two seasons at Drake. The 6-4, 240-pound junior could lead Illinois in scoring.

Tim Frazier, Penn State
Returning from injury
Frazier was a first-team All-Big Ten selection two seasons ago when he averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists, but he missed all of last season with a left Achilles injury. His return moves D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) to his more comfortable position at the two guard. That’s the good news. The bad news is Jermaine Marshall elected to transfer to Arizona State, leaving Penn State with one fewer Big Ten-caliber player in the starting lineup.

Evan Gordon, Indiana
Transfer from Arizona State
The brother of former Hoosiers one-and-done Eric Gordon, Evan Gordon has landed at Indiana after playing for Liberty and Arizona State. Gordon is looking to grab the starting off guard spot along rising sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell. What Gordon lacks in size (6-1, 187), he’ll make up for it in experience on a young Hoosiers team. Gordon has averaged 12.1 points per game in his three-season career.

Jon Ekey, Illinois
Transfer from Illinois State
Ekey, who started 75 games in three seasons at Illinois State, will be one of the top newcomers on an Illinois team full of them. Ekey led the Missouri Valley in blocks as a freshman (52), but the 6-7, 220-pound forward can also step out to knock down the 3-point shot. He hit 90 of 234 (38.5 percent) shots from 3-point range in his final two seasons in the Valley before becoming immediately eligible at Illinois as a graduate student.

Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
Transfer from Wisconsin
Uthoff hasn’t played in a game since his senior season at Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Jefferson in 2011 after redshirting his first season at Wisconsin and then sitting out a year at Iowa. Uthoff also became a lightning rod in the debate over NCAA transfer rules when he elected to pay his own way to play for Iowa after the Badgers restricted his transfer to play for the Hawkeyes. Finally able to play, Uthoff is a 6-9 versatile forward who can play inside and out.

Malik Smith, Minnesota
Transfer from FIU
Smith followed his coach, Richard Pitino, from FIU to Minnesota. The guard averaged 14.1 points per game at FIU, but he’ll have to fight his way through a crowded backcourt that includes Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins (no relation).

Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Transfer from Texas Tech
Petteway gives Nebraska versatility and a secondary scoring option the Cornhuskers lacked last season. A 6-6 wing, Petteway can rebound and play point guard, if needed, but Nebraska also signed New Zealand freshman Tai Webster to help at the point.

Other new faces to watch in 2013-14:

Marc Loving and Kameron Williams, Ohio State
Freshman
Ohio State doesn’t struggle to bring in top recruits, but the Buckeyes are a veteran team with only two newcomers. The power forward Loving needs to develop a physical game while Williams may be a role player as an outside shooter.

Walter Pitchford and Lelee Smith, Nebraska
Transfers
The Cornhuskers had trouble re-stocking a frontcourt that lost its top two players. At least Pitchford, an athletic forward who sat out last season after his transfer from Florida, will be eligible this season. Smith is a strong 6-8 forward who started his career at SMU before transferring to junior college. This pair will have make up a new-look Nebraska frontcourt.

Luke Fischer, Indiana
Freshman
He won’t replace Zeller’s ability to run the floor, but Fischer could give the Hoosiers a true center to allow Vonleh to play power forward.

Bryson Scott, Purdue
Freshman
Scott is a standout combo guard from Fort Wayne who should play his way into the rotation immediately.

Allen Roberts, Penn State
Transfer from Miami (Ohio)
Roberts averaged 12.3 points last season for the RedHawks and will be eligible in December.

Teaser:
Tim Frazier was an All-Big Ten performer before missing last season. He'll be one of the new faces in the Big Ten to make an impact in 2013-14.
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-offseason-news-roundup
Body:

The start of the college football season is less than a month away and the offseason didn’t contain any new realignment or any coach motorcycle/coed scandals (fingers crossed).

That doesn’t mean it was a quiet offseason, certainly not for the sports most visible player down in College Station.

The offseason is long and new falls through the cracks. Here’s everything you need to know to get caught up.

1. Johnny Manziel: The important stuff
Johnny Manziel’s offseason activities are well-established, and we’re still not sure if any of it really matters to the product on the field. If anything is going to jeopardize Manziel's season, it may be the news that broke Sunday evening. The NCAA is investigating if Manziel was paid for signing autographs and memorabilia during a trip to South Florida in January. If the NCAA finds a violation, Manziel could be ineligible for all or part of the 2013 season. Before that, the Texas A&M quarterback faced the media barrage at SEC Media Days where he was neither apologetic nor defiant about being a 20-year-old Heisman winner with (parental) money in his pocket. Also, ESPN’s Wright Thompson gave us the definitive profile of what it’s like within the Manziel family right now as the family and the player attempt to cope with the pressures of being a college football superstar. And for the one bit of Manziel news that actually entered the legal system, Manziel pleaded guilty for failing to identify himself to police following a dispute prior to the 2012 season when he was still anonymous enough to do such things.

2. Running backs on the move
As if Louisville didn’t need another edge over its American Athletic Conference opponents, the Cardinals added a former five-star running back and BCS Championship Game MVP. Bringing in Michael Dyer (right) isn’t without risk, though. He hasn’t played football since 2011 when he left Auburn amid a drug suspension. He was also dismissed by Arkansas State before landing at Arkansas Baptist College where he was mentored by former San Jose State coach Fitz Hill. ... In a less controversial move, West Virginia added former Houston running back Charles Sims, who will be eligible immediately. Sims gives Dana Holgorsen an intriguing new toy: Sims has accounted for 1,672 rushing yards, 948 receiving yards and 27 total touchdowns in 22 games. West Virginia also added Rushel Shell, one of Pittsburgh’s top signees before last season. Shell visited UCLA and asked about returning to Pittsburgh, but landed in Morgantown.

3. Quarterback transfers
There will be more quarterback transfers after training camp starts to determine starters and backups, but two already felt the squeeze. Connor Brewer left Texas for Arizona, and Wes Lunt left Oklahoma State for Illinois. The latter drew attention after Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy forbade his 2012 opening day starter from transferring to the SEC, Pac-12, Central Michigan or Southern Miss in addition to the Big 12. Both will be eligible in 2014.

4. The Eddie Vanderdoes saga ends
Notre Dame has had most of the summer to prepare for a 2013 season without starting quarterback Everett Golson, but he’s not the only key personnel departure. Freshman defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes, expected to play a major role for the Irish this season, had a change of heart after signing to play in South Bend, but coach Brian Kelly attempted to block the lineman from leaving and playing immediately for UCLA. The NCAA appeals process favored Vanderdoes, and he’ll suit up for the Bruins.

5. Suspension season
Two of the top games in the first week of the season will be impacted by suspensions. TCU defensive end Devonte Fields (10 sacks, 18.5 tackles for a loss) is suspended for the first two games, knocking him out of the LSU game (and Southeastern Louisiana). ... Georgia safety Josh Harvey-Clemons will be suspended in the opener against pass-happy Clemson. ... Florida suspended linebacker Antonio Morrison, a potential breakout player, for the first two games (Toledo, at Miami) even though charges for resisting arrest were dismissed for reasons evident on the police dashcam video. ... Ohio State suspended running back Carlos Hyde for at least the first three games (Buffalo, San Diego State, at Cal) for his role in an altercation in a Columbus night club, though he won’t face charges. Star cornerback Bradley Roby is also facing a suspension following misdemeanor battery charges.

6. Also around the police blotter
Potential starting Virginia Tech running back Michael Holmes was “permanently separated” from the university after he was found guilty of misdemeanor assault and battery. ... Four Vanderbilt players, none starters, were dismissed and banned from campus amid a sex crimes investigation. ... Texas A&M cornerback Deshazor Everett and safety Floyd Raven were charged with misdemeanor assault and criminal mischief after an apartment altercation, but coach Kevin Sumlin has not announced any disciplinary action. ... LSU's top running back, Jeremy Hill, was reinstated thanks to a convenient team vote to bring him back despite his second arrest as a Tiger. ... Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, a Mackey Award contender, pleaded guilty to a DUI in July, but he may not be suspended for the opener against Boise State.

7. Tragedy at Texas A&M, Utah
Three football communities were devastated when Texas A&M’s Polo Manukainiu, Utah’s Gaius Vaenuku and Euless (Texas) Trinity High’s Lolo Uhatafe were killed in a rollover crash in New Mexico. Manukainiu and Vaenuku were Trinity graduates. Two other passengers — Utah signee Salesi Uhatafe and his father — survived the crash. Manukainiu’s final Tweet before his death indicated he was driving back to Texas on “no sleep.”

8. Oregon gets NCAA closure, Miami does not
The most serious penalty Oregon faced as a result of the Willie Lyles scandal impacted the coach who’s gone to the NFL anyway. Chip Kelly (right) was slapped for a an 18-month show cause, making him unhirable in the college ranks during that time. Also making him unhirable: Coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. Oregon got off light despite paying $25,000 for Lyles’ quesitonable scouting services — no bowl ban and only the loss of one scholarship in each of the next three seasons. ... Miami hasn’t been quite as lucky. The Hurricanes are starting their third season with the cloud of NCAA sanctions over the program, self-imposing bowl bans the last two seasons in the wake of the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

9. And behind the scenes...
Gordon Gee stuck one foot too many in his mouth. The Ohio State president, who once joked he hoped Jim Tressel wouldn’t fire him, retired after comments about Notre Dame and Catholics. “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell on the rest of the week ... You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday,” Gee said during a meeting of Ohio State’s athletic council. ... Elsewhere, Colorado hired Rick George as its new athletic director. For a program needing a lift, the Buffaloes looked outside the box by hiring George, the president of business operations for the Texas Rangers. ... Florida State is also in the market for a new athletic director after Randy Spetman stepped down in June.

10. Active players join O'Bannon lawsuit

Six active players agreed to join former UCLA star Ed O'Bannon's lawsuit against the NCAA over the use of athletes' names and likenesses in video games. Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer, Arizona kicker Jake Smith, Clemson cornerback Darius Robinson, Vanderbilt linebacker Chase Garnham, Minnesota tight end Moses Alipate and Minnesota wide receiver Victor Keise all joined O'Bannon's class action lawsuit. The NCAA also ended its contract with EA Sports effective after the NCAA Football 2014 video game, though the move effectively turned licensing to the Collegiate Licensing Company and individual schools and conferences for future video games.


11. The Summer of Stoops
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was one of the most vocal coaches during the offseason. He told The Sporting News he didn’t think players should be paid. He said the perception of SEC dominance is based on “propaganda.” He complained about Northern Illinois going to the BCS instead of Oklahoma. And just so we’re clear that he didn’t spend the entire summer as a cranky football coach, he tried to quietly participate in tornado cleanup in Moore, Okla. It took about 30 minutes before he was recognized.

12. And finally, FIU is the gift that keeps on giving
FIU, the school that hired Isiah Thomas to coach its basketball team, fired Mario Cristobal from coaching its football team and replaced him with one of the worst coaches in Illinois history, gave us the best press release of the offseason:

Early this morning, our football team had a workout and barbecue on Crandon Park Beach to conclude our summer conditioning program under the supervision of our strength and conditioning staff. Following the workout, some of our athletes went to rinse off at a designated public shower area and a few of them made a poor decision and changed their clothes in public. I want to apologize to the community and anyone who was at the beach this morning for this unfortunate incident. We are committed to helping our student athletes grow as gentlemen while preparing them for their careers. We are looking into this incident, and if appropriate, will take disciplinary action.

Ron Turner
Head Football Coach
FIU


FIU also dismissed it starting running back for discharging a weapon on school property earlier that week.

Teaser:
Catching you up on all the important storylines from the summer
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-big-ten
Body:

The SEC rules the recruiting rankings, but three big-time Big Ten signees from the last two seasons could play major roles in how the league is decided.


Michigan and Ohio State are both plugging in five-star signees from the class of 2012 in redshirt freshman guard Kyle Kalis and sophomore defensive end Noah Spence. And although Penn State can’t go to to the postseason, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg could determine the Big Ten race as the Nittany Lions face Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Those names aren’t the only ones who could determine the Big Ten title. We’ve picked six players from six Big Ten contenders who may be pivotal to league or division titles.

As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, and finally we turn our eye to the Big Ten.

Zaire Anderson, LB, Nebraska
Nebraska played four games where the Cornhuskers allowed more than six yards per play, and lost all five (UCLA, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Georgia). Linebacker will be a major question as the Cornhuskers rebuild with only four returning starters on the defense. Anderson started at one point early last season before missing most of the year following knee surgery. While recovering, he gained 22 pounds without losing speed, and he’s drawn comparisons to another prominent junior college transfer linebacker, Lavonte David.

Riley Bullough, RB, Michigan State
Le’Veon Bell accounted for 78.6 percent of Michigan State’s rush attempts and 91.9 percent of the Spartans’ yards on the ground. Unless Michigan State is turning to the Air Raid, Mark Dantonio needs to find production at running back to replace Bell. If Bullough has a familiar name, it’s because his brother Max is a starting linebacker. There may be a familiar style of play from Riley, though on the opposite side of the ball. A former linebacker, Riley is a bruiser. The redshirt freshman Riley will be the lead back in a committee approach to the position.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The transfer of Steven Bench left Penn State without experience at quarterback, so the assumption is that the Hackenberg era will begin immediately. While Penn State doesn’t exactly begin the season with a gauntlet, the Nittany Lions face Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., and two teams that can score in UCF and Kent State. Hackenberg’s importance to the program is a long-term storyline, especially as sanctions will cut deeper in his upperclassman seasons. But how he performs early as a rookie will determine momentum for his first season in Happy Valley.

Darius Hillary, CB, Wisconsin
Don’t be too concerned with a backfield that loses Montee Ball and must decide on a quarterback. Wisconsin’s defensive backfield is a major concern. Three starters were gone last season, and two key players the Badgers expected to start won’t be on campus (Reggie Mitchell and Donnell Vercher). Hillary played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman, recording 23 tackles, mostly early in the season. Hillary and Peniel Jean are further on the spot to solidify the cornerback position in a secondary that includes one sure thing in safety Dezmen Southward.

Tony Jones, WR, Northwestern
Tony Jones has deep-threat capabilities, but he averaged only 11.6 yards per catch last season. Sure, much of this will be on starting quarterback Kain Colter’s ability to get the ball downfield as much as Jones’ play, but averaging better than six yards per pass will be critical if Northwestern is going to challenge for a Legends Division title.

Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan
All three of the Wolverines’ starting interior offensive linemen are gone, so any could be pivotal to Michigan’s hopes of winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. We’ll point to right guard Kyle Kalis, who was a top-three guard in the class of 2012. Michigan tailbacks averaged only 72.8 rushing yards last season, but the Wolverines think they can turn that around with more consistency from Fitz Touissaint and the arrival of freshman Derrick Green. Kalis delivering on his immense talent could go along way to reestablishing the run at Michigan.

Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
Urban Meyer went to great lengths to get Spence out of Pennsylvania during his first recruiting cycle, and now the defensive end should be ready to deliver. Spence has all-conference honors or more in his future, but it may need to happen now as the Buckeyes replenish their entire starting defensive line. He’s a pivotal player, but also one of the breakout candidates in the league.

Teaser:
Six players who could swing the Big Ten race
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-big-12
Body:

The conventional thinking in the Big 12 may be that the team whose quarterback takes the reins will win the league.

Indeed, only one of the top six passers, Texas’ David Ash, in the Big 12 returns for 2013.

But in our exercise in picking the pivotal players to a Big 12 championship, we tended to look more toward the defensive side of the ball, and specifically the front seven. Part of that is intentional: It’s clear teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State won’t have a chance at the conference title if their new starting quarterbacks don’t perform.

What may be overlooked, though, is that four of the top six teams in the Big 12 need a player in the front seven to adjust to a full-time job, return from an injury or simply clear academic hurdles to help their teams to a Big 12 title.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Big 12.

Joel Hasley, LB, TCU
It’s tough to imagine TCU going back-to-back seasons where linebacker is an issue, but the Horned Frogs enter another year where this is the primary concern. Hasley was second on the team with 79 tackles, but the guy ahead of him, Kenny Cain, is gone. With the stable of quality running backs in the Big 12 (plus LSU in the opener), it’s tough to see the Horned Frogs competing for a conference title if its linebackers struggle for a second consecutive season. Hasley is under pressure with converted safety Jonathan Anderson competing for his spot at middle linebacker. Despite linebackers being a weak link, TCU allowed 3.3 yards per carry last season, best in the Big 12.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Texas waited and waited for Hicks to return after he went down in the third game of the season, but the outside linebacker never returned. The Longhorns run defense unravelled in Big 12 play, allowing 215 rushing yards per game in conference play. Hicks is back for 2013, and Mack Brown hopes his run defense will be back, too.

Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
The easy answer for Kansas State’s pivotal player is either Daniel Sams or Jake Waters replacing quarterback Collin Klein. Nearly as critical is rolling with the changes in the front seven. All four starting defensive linemen are gone, including ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis (who combined for 16.5 sacks). Mueller showed flashes as a pass rusher, but the junior has never been a full-time player.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Around this time last season, no one projected much out of Nick Florence, and he passed for a school-record 4,309 yards. Petty has far less experience than Florence did when he took over as the starter last season, but Petty also has the running back duo of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin in tow. Petty, a junior with 14 career pass attempts, will have time to grow into his role before the Bears’ critical stretch in November and December.

Quincy Russell, DT, Oklahoma
For most pivotal players in this series, performance and health are the most pressing concerns. For Russell, it’s if he’ll be around to make an impact. The junior college transfer is still waiting to be cleared academically. Whether or not he’s available, defensive line is Oklahoma’s most pressing question other than quarterback. At 6-4, 315 pounds, Russell is one of the biggest bodies on the offensive line, especially considering his linemate at tackle is converted defensive end Chuka Ndulue.

Jeremy Smith, RB, Oklahoma State
The potential stability at quarterback — provided Clint Chelf starts all season — will be a change for the Cowboys. But we’re watching the change at running back where Joseph Randle hands the baton to Jeremy Smith. Oklahoma State has had a 1,200-yard running back for six consecutive seasons. Smith has averaged 6.2 yards per carry during his career, but he’s deal with nagging injuries through his career. His durability could determine if Oklahoma State has the balanced offense it craves.

Teaser:
The Big 12 title won't be determined by quarterbacks alone
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-big-easts-top-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

One thing is pretty clear about the new Big East: Projecting the league is going to be difficult.

Georgetown and Marquette tied for the Big East title in the old conference, but both teams lose key players. Villanova, which defeated Georgetown and Marquette late last season, brings back most of its key players. Creighton won the Missouri Valley and has most of its roster intact, including the top player in the league.

And those are just the top teams. The league pecking order could be determined by a hodgepodge of newcomers — five-star freshmen, junior college players, transfers from teams as different as UCLA and Rice.

Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with a look at the Big East after we’ve profiled the ACC, American and Big 12.

Josh Smith, Georgetown
Transfer from UCLA
At UCLA, Smith’s weight was a more pressing issue than his play on the court. Smith averaged 10.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman in 2010-11, but his playing time dwindled to 13.5 minutes per game before he left the Bruins early last season. Smith routinely weighed more than 300 pounds at UCLA. He’ll be eligible in December with hopes that a move East will give him a fresh start.

Jameel McKay, Marquette
Junior college transfer
Buzz Williams, a JUCO product himself, has a soft spot for junior college transfers. McKay is yet another to follow Williams to Marquette. He’s a 6-8, 205-pound forward who will bolster Marquette’s frontcourt, which is expected to be the strength of the team in 2013-14. A high-energy player, McKay was a two-time first-team All-American at Indiana Hills Community College after playing high school ball in Milwaukee.

Duane Wilson, Marquette
Freshman
Wilson could take over the point guard spot and give Marquette a scoring punch there. He can knock down 3s, hit free throws and get to the rim. Like McKay, Wilson is a hometown product from Milwaukee.

Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
Freshman
St. John’s returns better than 90 percent of its scoring, but Jordan will have plenty of opportunities to play minutes immediately. D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV played point guard last season, but Jordan may be the best option there. Provided he’s not suspended as he was at the end of last season, Harrison is better suited for shooting guard.

Carson Desrosiers, Providence
Transfer from Wake Forest
Ed Cooley laid the groundwork for reviving Providence on the recruiting trail, but transfers will also play a role if the Friars are going to make an NCAA Tournament run in 2013-14. Desrosiers is a seven-foot, 235-pound transfer who started 38 games in two seasons at Wake Forest. He’s a standout shot blocker (1.8 per game), but he can also step outside and make 15-footers.

Jaren Sina, Seton Hall
Freshman
Landing Sina, a former commitment for Northwestern and Alabama, was something of a coup for the Pirates. Problems at point guard sunk Seton Hall a year ago, and the hope is that Sina can eventually stabilize the position.  

Brandon Austin, Providence
Freshman
Austin is yet another high-profile freshman Cooley has signed, joining Kris Dunn (who will be his starting point guard) and Ricky Ledo (who left for the draft after never playing for the Friars). Austin is a versatile guard who could be one of PC’s top scorers.

Dylan Ennis, Villanova
Transfer from Rice
The brother of Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, Dylan will back up budding star point guard Ryan Arcidacono, but he has the versatility to contribute at three different spots. Ennis averaged 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a freshman at Rice in 2011-12.

Matt Stainbrook, Xavier
Transfer from Western Michigan
Stainbrook will give Xavier a key body in the frontcourt after shedding more than 50 pounds during his redshirt season. He suffered a knee injury in February, but he’s still expected to be major contributor. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in two seasons at Western Michigan.

Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall
Transfer from Texas
Gibbs averaged only 7.5 minutes per game at Texas but transferred back home to New Jersey after only one season in Austin. The brother of former Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs could join Sina in solidifying Seton Hall’s point guard spot.

Other new faces to watch:

God’sgift Achiuwa, St. John’s
Redshirt
The all-name teamer redshirted last season but averaged 9.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds in 18 starts in 2011-12.

Elijah Brown, Butler
Freshman
The son of former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is capable of playing both guard spots and the wing.

Tyler Harris, Providence
Transfer from NC State
Harris was caught in a crunch for playing time at NC State, but Providence believes he can contribute quality minutes. He’s a 6-9 forward who can shoot like a guard.

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
Ineligible last season

Reynolds was tabbed as a hidden gem after winning a one-on-one battle with Mitch McGary, but the forward was ineligible last season.

Reggie Coleman, Georgetown
Freshman
The top-100 freshman small forward should boost the Hoyas from 3-point range.

Teaser:
Reformed league could be determined by key new players
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-pac-12
Body:

USC is used to having prolific quarterbacks. Stanford is used to big-time tight ends. UCLA is used to productive running backs. And Oregon State can usually count on its defensive tackle position to hold its own.

In 2013, all four of those positions are in question. Key players at those position groups could help determine if their teams win their division or more.

In our ongoing series of pivotal players we took a look at four key players from those schools, plus three others who are in Pac-12 contention.

As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12 and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Pac-12.

Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
The biggest question on the Ducks' defense is replacing inside linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Coleman appeared slated to start on the outside at one point, but necessity forced him to move to the inside. His teammates voted him the most improved player last year as a redshirt freshman, but the inside presents new challenges, especially considering some of Oregon’s top opponents this season — Washington, Stanford and Oregon — should all have above-average run games.

Luke Kaumatule, TE, Stanford
Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are gone, and beyond that, the top returning receiver Ty Montgomery averaged only 8.2 yards per catch on 26 receptions. Kaumatule played nine game last season, but didn’t catch a pass. Still, the 6-7, 260-pound Hawaiian is already on the Mackey Award watch list, thanks to Stanford’s recent reputation. Kaumatule played defensive end and wide receiver in high school, and now he’s expected to be one of the breakout players in Stanford’s passing game.

Edwin Delva, DT, Oregon State
Any one of four defensive tackles could be Oregon State’s pivotal player after starters Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai left. For this spot, though, we’ll pick Delva, the junior college transfer originally from Miami. His fellow JUCO transfer slated to start, Siale Hautau, missed part of the spring with a broken hand. Good thing the Beavers’ new defensive tackle tandem faces only one top-40 rushing team (San Diego State) in the first seven games.

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Let’s assume returning starting quarterback Keith Price will be better this season with more stability on the offensive line. The next major question in defensive tackle, particularly against the run. Shelton is a returning starter at tackle, but he hasn’t shown much consistency. The junior accounted for four tackles for a loss last season, half of them coming against USC.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Arizona State’s wide receivers were barely a factor last season. Only one wide receiver was among the Sun Devils’ top four pass-catchers, and Rashad Ross is gone. That has to gnaw at Todd Graham, who’d like to run a more dynamic pass offense. Graham signed five receivers, but two junior college transfers — Strong and Joe Morris — need to contribute immediately if Arizona State is going to win the Pac-12 South.

Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Few times in the last decade has USC had a legitimate quarterback competition. If Lane Kiffin has an inkling of which quarterback he’ll start, he’s not telling anyone. Wittek was Matt Barkley’s backup last year and started in his place late in the season, but Kessler outperformed Wittek during the spring. Someone will need to get the ball to elite receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor if the Trojans are going to have a chance at the division.

Malcolm Jones, RB, UCLA
Jones is the most interesting name in a group of running backs looking to replace Johnathan Franklin. Jones signed under Rick Neuheisel, left the program under Jim L. Mora and returned as a walk-on later in the season. In losses last season, UCLA averaged 3.7 yards per carry (down from 4.8 in wins) and 118 yards per game (down from 231.2 in wins).

Teaser:
Seven players who could determine the North and South champions
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregons-new-football-facility-insane
Body:

The Oregon football uniforms are now the second-most garish thing about Oregon football. GoDucks.com released a slideshow for the Football Performance Center where the Ducks will move this season.

You know how Google or other Silicon Valley giants have over-the-top offices full of amenities? The Oregon Football Performance Center would make them blush.

Keep in mind, this facility was once reported to have a hot tub video room. After looking at the slideshow, we’re wondering why not.

This place needs a name, and we have some suggestions:

• Duckingham Palace

• Duck-ri-la

• The Battlestar Quacklactica

• The Knight House

• The Duck Star

• Castle Duckskull

• The Quack Mahal

• The Fortress of Duckitutde

• The Webbed Foot Locker

• The House Rich Brooks Built

• New Quack City

• Gracepond

• The Neverland Pond

(We'll add more nicknames if you have them, tweet us at @AthlonSports or post to our Facebook page).


Among the key captions from Oregon's slideshow:

• The 145,000-square-foot facility features black glass to signify stealth and 40-foot cantilevers that illustrate the various building blocks necessary to build a successful program.

• Many of the high-profile trophies won by Oregon are housed in the lobby's trophy case. Others are featured elsewhere in the building. (Ed. note: You cannot find a Heisman here)

• The lobby's ring room is not to be missed, with LED lighting and 3D sound enhancing the presentation of Oregon's bowl and championship rings. (Ed. note: You cannot find a national championship trophy here)

• Yes, among the stalls in the locker room is one designated for 'Uncle Phil.'

• Just off the locker room is a barber shop, which will over on-site haircuts at student rates.

• Press conferences and postgame interviews will take place in a new media room that features theater-style seating, and four 'confessional' booths for one-on-one interactions.

• The War Room sits 22 around a grand table, has six 80-inch monitors and, like much of the rest of the facility, black magnetic walls that are also writable/erasable.

• The sixth-floor skybridge features a flock of ducks representing Oregon's NFL draftees, identified by their initials on each individual duck.

• Just inside the player lounge's outdoor deck are a pool table crafted in Portland and two foosball tables, each with one 11-player team in green and yellow and the other representing the rest of the Pac-12.

Teaser:
The Ducks released a slideshow for their new over-the-top facility
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 12:02
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-sec
Body:

The difference between the SEC and other conferences, at least on the field, is often the play on the offensive and defensive lines. Recent national championship programs at Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida all had standout line play.

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that of the six players we’ve tabbed as pivotal to a conference or division title, five play offensive and defensive line. Three are pass rushers, one is a nose guard and one is an offensive tackle. Teams like Alabama, Georgia and LSU seem to be stocked in linemen every year, but there’s always an element of mystery when the new names take the field.

Some of our picks for pivotal players are obvious, such as Alabama’s offensive line, other are not — why does South Carolina need another defensive end? — but we feel all six are critical for a trip to Atlanta.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, the Big 12 and Pac-12. Now we turn our eye to the SEC.

Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
The Aggies must replace offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, and receiving mainstay Ryan Swope. But another major loss will be on the defensive side of the ball in Damontre Moore. Obioha started throughout the regular season opposite Moore before a back injury knocked him out of the bowl game. He isn’t the only question on A&M’s defensive front, but the Aggies need much more than his 1.5 tackles for a loss from last season. The 6-4, 255-pound sophomore from New Orleans will be put on the spot on Sept. 14 against the green Alabama offensive line.

Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU
Rasco is the latest in an endless pool of elite defensive linemen in Baton Rouge. Names like Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are already getting thrown around in comparison to the junior from Shreveport. Three LSU defensive ends were drafted in the first five rounds last season, but Rasco is one of the reasons the SEC expects LSU to continue to field one of the league’s best defenses.

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Mike Gillislee is a major loss, but Matt Jones and others should give the Gators a productive ground game. Instead, we’ll focus on receiver. The Gators have had a drought at the position in recent seasons, failing to produce an all-league wideout in the last four years. Robinson, a freshman, is a sign of hope after an impressive spring practice. The Gators need someone to break out at receiver, and Robinson is the best candidate to come around so far.

Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
Ryan Kelly (center) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) have all but locked down vacant positions on the Tide’s offensive line, leaving right tackle as the most hotly contested position. Shepherd is a veteran backup, but he’s being pushed by junior college transfer Leon Brown.

Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
South Carolina has bigger questions in the back end of its defense, but Jadeveon Clowney’s linemate may be the most important position on the field. Sutton replaces Devin Taylor, who had 18.5 career sacks. Sutton had three sacks last season, but if he can’t keep opponents honest, they’ll do everything they can to neutralize Clowney. Sutton, who had three sacks last season, may be the key if Clowney is going to flourish in 2013.

Mike Thornton, NT, Georgia
Georgia’s season could take a major swing based on the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. In the Tigers and Gamecocks, Georgia faces two offensive lines that return every starter except their center. That puts the focus on the Bulldogs’ nose guard situation with John Jenkins. The Bulldogs expect a rotation at the position, but Thornton is the leading candidate despite being smaller than the other nose tackles on the roster (6-1, 302).

Teaser:
Six players who could make their teams SEC champions
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/rutgers-retire-eric-legrands-no-52-jersey
Body:

Rutgers will retire the jersey number of defensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in 2010 while making a tackle. The school, which played in the first college football game in history in 1869, has never retired a number until now.

Rutgers will honor LeGrand by retiring his No. 52 during a ceremony at halftime during the Eastern Michigan game.

Scarlet Knights sports information director Jason Baum tweeted: “Once Eric walks again, his No. 52 will be issued again on special occasions.”

Teaser:
LeGrand's jersey is first to be retired in school history
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 12:08
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-big-12s-top-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

With one school claiming the top three returning scorers in the Big 12, the rest of the league will depend on newcomers to challenge Oklahoma State’s veteran roster.

Nowhere is that more clear than at Kansas where the Jayhawks’ outlook changed in an instant when super-freshman Andrew Wiggins signed to play for Bill Self. He’s not the only big-time newcomer going to Lawrence, but he might be the most important new face for any team in the country.

Beyond Kansas and Oklahoma State, the league’s two frontrunners, other teams are counting on transfers to keep them in NCAA contention (Iowa State) or to return them to the field after a rare one-year drought (West Virginia, Texas).

Our series has looked at the key transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury in the ACC and the American. Now we take a look at the new faces in the Big 12.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Freshman
Before March 3, Kansas’ streak of nine seasons with at least a share of the Big 12 title was in question. After March 3, the Jayhawks became an instant top-10 contender with the signing of Wiggins. He’s the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he’s already predicted to be the next Kevin Durant in the college game. Like Durant, Wiggins is a long forward who can play all over the court. The bar is high — Durant averaged 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds in one season at Texas — but Wiggins can reach it.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Marshall transfer
Few teams have had more success in the transfer market than Iowa State. The Cyclones have added Royce White and Will Clyburn for NCAA Tournament runs, and now Iowa State adds Kane. Kane was a major recruit to sign with Marshall, but the Thundering Herd never made the NCAA Tournament despite Kane’s 15.6 points per game average in three seasons. The statsheet stuffer averaged 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, including seven helpers per game last season.

Tarik Black, Kansas
Memphis transfer
Black wasn’t the top player on a Memphis team that lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t make him any less of a coveted transfer after the season. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Tigers, but Kansas believes he can provide a physical presence for the Jayhawks’ frontcourt. After Kansas lost all five starters, Black's experience will be an asset.

Kenny Chery, Baylor
Junior college transfer
With center Isaiah Austin returning, Baylor’s biggest hole to fill was left by point guard Pierre Jackson. The Bears will fill it with Chery, a productive point guard from the junior college ranks. He averaged 16.4 points per game at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., but he’s going to have to be a distributor with Baylor’s talent in the frontcourt plus long-range shooter Brady Heslip.

Jonathan Holton, West Virginia
Junior college transfer
Bob Huggins will try his hand at another Atlantic 10 product in the frontcourt after La Salle’s Aaric Murray flamed out in Morgantown this past season. Holton averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds at Rhode Island in 2011-12 before going to junior college. In 2013-14, he could be West Virginia’s top player, but he also has off-court issues in his past. Holton pleaded no contest to charges of voyeurism in May and was placed on probation.

Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Joel Embiid, Kansas
Freshmen
Wiggins and Black were the latest additions to Kansas’ group of newcomers, but it would be foolish to overlook the rest of the No. 2 signing class in the country after Kentucky. Selden will see plenty of minutes with his ability to play point guard and shooting guard, especially if Naadir Tharpe can’t hold down the point. Embiid is raw but an outstanding shot-blocker, while Greene and Frankamp will give KU a presence from 3-point range.

Kendal Yancy-Harris, Texas
Freshman
Texas is looking for any answer it can find after collapsing to 16-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12 last season. Yancy-Harris is ready to contribute immediately, but the Longhorns have not had the best recent track record with highly touted guards, from Avery Bradley to Cory Joseph to Myck Kabongo.

Karviar Shepherd, TCU
Freshman
Shepherd's season was in limbo until the weekend, when he was declared academically eligible to play for the Frogs. The 6-10, 225-pound center is a top-100 recruit leading a freshman class the Frogs hope will turn around the program in the Big 12.


Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma
Gonzaga transfer

Spangler averaged only 6.6 minutes per game in his time at Gonzaga, but he’s being asked to fill the shoes of All-Big 12 performer Romero Osby with the Sooners. Osby has given Spangler, who starred in high school at Blanchard (Okla.) Bridge Creek, a resounding seal of approval.

Devin Williams, West Virginia
Freshman
The Mountaineers' top signee comes from Huggins’ old stomping grounds in Cincinnati and could be a key building block as West Virginia tries to regain its footing in the Big 12. The 6-8 power forward also considered Ohio State and Memphis, but he could be a force in the paint for West Virginia as a rookie.

Amric Fields, TCU
Returning from injury
TCU is going to struggle, but the outlook is better with Shepherd and Fields available. TCU is looking to Fields to make a full recovery from a knee injury that knocked him out after the third week of the season. Before his injury, the 6-9, 220-pound Fields had played in 69 consecutive games, averaging 9.6 points per game as a sophomore.

Other new faces to watch:

Ishmael Wainright, Baylor
Freshman

Baylor’s top recruit could fill a spot immediately on the wing. The Bears also added Denver transfer Royce O’Neal (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg last season) to boost depth at small forward.

Stevie Clark, Oklahoma State
Freshman
Clark may become a big-time scorer, but for now he’s backing up Marcus Smart at the point.

Gary Gaskins, Oklahoma State
Junior college transfer

The Cowboys have a handful of athletic forwards starting with Mike Cobbins and Kamari Murphy, but the 6-10 Gaskins will offer more help off the bench.

Trey Zeigler, TCU
Pittsburgh transfer
The former top-100 recruit has bounced from Central Michigan to Pittsburgh to TCU.

Aaron Ross, Texas Tech

Redshirt freshman/returning from injury
The Red Raiders had to wait a year for one of their top prospects when Ross went down with a torn ACL last season. Ross is a 6-8, 235-pound forward with a nice outside shot.

Teaser:
The Big 12 adds more than just freshman Andrew Wiggins and Memphis transfer Tarik Black
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-american-athletic-conference
Body:

Believe it or not, Louisville has not been crowned the American Athletic Conference champions quite yet.

The Cardinals are the presumptive favorite in the league and one of a handful teams in the country capable of going undefeated during the regular season. But Louisville does have holes. The Cards ranked last in the Big East in sacks and tackles for a loss last season, contributing to a run defense that ranked sixth.

Moreover, Louisville’s opponents don’t want to see the Cardinals win a league title in their final season in the league. A Sugar Bowl dismantling of Florida may have built momentum for Louisville for 2013, but many AAC opponents remember Louisville losing to Syracuse in convincing fashion and to bowl no-show Connecticut.


Our pivotal players for the American pinpoints a player Louisville needs to assert its dominance in the league, plus three other players other AAC contenders will need to step up in order to challenge Louisville.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We continue our look at pivotal players with the American after we profiled the ACC yesterday:

Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati made things work last season despite changing quarterbacks from Munchie Legaux to Brendon Kay largely because of workhorse back George Winn, who rushed for 1,334 yards on 243 carries last season. Abernathy is a about 60 pounds lighter than Winn, so expecting another 200 carries from him may be a bit optimistic. Still, Abernathy has been a multi-faceted offensive threat, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 69 attempts and 12.1 yards on 28 catches last season. Junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams will take some of the pressure off his workload at tailback, but Abernathy needs to be a breakaway threat.

Demetris Anderson, DT, UCF
UCF isthe only Conference USA import ready to compete for an American Athletic Conference title this season. And after Louisville’s Teddy Bridgwater, UCF’s Blake Bortles is the top quarterback in the league. UCF had one of the better defenses in Conference USA, but that unit returns only four starters. One of the key new faces will be the defensive tackle Anderson, who was recruited by Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois before grayshirting with the Knights.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers
A nationally prominent recruit in 2011 who elected to stay in New Jersey, Huggins has yet to break out with Rutgers. He’s shown flashes, most notably a 179-yard effort against Cincinnati last season, but Huggins has yet to play a full season. With Jawan Jamison gone, now is the time for Huggins to deliver on his potential.

Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville
The Cardinals had 19 sacks during the regular season and nine of those came in a two-game span against Pittsburgh and USF. They mustered only two in the losses against Syracuse and UConn. Even though Louisville loses standout cornerback Adrian Bushell, the pass rush and run defense has to be one of the most worrisome parts of the Cardinals team. Mauldin led the way up front on defense in the wins over Pitt and USF, so he’ll be closely watched in 2013.

Teaser:
Who does each AAC contender need to step up in 2013?
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-acc
Body:

Despite what coaches have said at media days in the last two weeks, not all position battles and breakout players are equal. Some will be more pressing than others.

That’s why Athlon Sports is taking a look at what we’re calling “pivotal players.” We took a look at teams that are a piece or two away from a conference or division title and the players those teams need to perform in order to win big.

Last season in the ACC we tabbed Florida State offensive tackle Cameron Erving as a pivotal player to the Seminoles’ ACC title hopes. Erving didn’t earn All-ACC honors, but he started all season for the conference championship-winning Seminoles.

We also picked Clemson cornerback Bashaud Breeland as a pivotal player for the Tigers, who needed to improve play on the back end of the defense. Breeland struggled with injuries, and Clemson shows up here again looking for someone to step up in a leaky secondary.

In other words, a pivotal player can go either way and be the difference in a title-winning season.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We begin our look at pivotal players with the ACC with other conferences to follow:

Anthony Chickillo, DE, Miami
Chickillo’s sophomore slump wasn’t the only reason the Hurricanes slipped in sacks (from 2 per game to 1.1) and tackles for a loss (from 6.2 to 4.4). His fellow starting end didn’t have a sack all season. Still, Miami needs Chickillo to return to his form from his freshman season to contend for an ACC title. The 6-4, 269-pound defensive end led Miami with four sacks last season, which is a  pretty clear indictment of the Hurricanes’ pass rush. As the the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, Chickillo had eight tackles for a loss and five sacks in 2011.

Trey Edmunds, RB, Virginia Tech
Logan Thomas didn’t play like the first-round draft pick he was projected to be, but the Hokies’ running game didn’t produce last season, either. The 3.7 yards per carry was their worst since 2007. With Michael Holmes dismissed, Virginia Tech’s numbers at a position of weakness are already down. The redshirt freshman Edmunds could solidify the position if he can improve ball security. He’s shown nice potential, and he has the frame at 6-1, 215 pounds to take a pounding. That’s good news since projected starter J.C. Coleman stands at 5-8, 177 pounds.

Caleb Peterson, OG, North Carolina
Left guard Jonathan Cooper, the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft, was the Tar Heels’ top offensive player last season. He’ll be replaced by a redshirt freshman in Peterson on a team that has aspirations of reaching the ACC title game. A strength last season, the Heels’ offensive line returns only two starters (left tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine). North Carolina has ample skill position talent, so Peterson’s development on the offensive line could be a key to the Heels’ success in the ACC.

Darius Robinson, CB, Clemson
Clemson’s pass defense was pressing issue before the 2012 season and never really got fixed, even though the Tigers went 11-2. Clemson allowed 7.3 yards per pass attempt (ninth in the ACC) and 23 touchdowns through the air (tied for eighth). Robinson missed the final six games last season, but he’ll be one of the Tigers’ DBs front and center in the opener against Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. If Robinson can’t solidify the Clemson secondary, the Tigers have promising freshman Mackensie Alexander waiting in the wings.

Darren Waller, WR, Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets would like to be able to take advantage of Vad Lee’s ability as a passer, but Georgia Tech needs a receiver to emerge. Waller has only eight career catches, but the 6-5, 228-pound receiver has a size and speed mix reminiscent of Damaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Expectations for the redshirt freshman Winston are already high for Winston, who is slated to be Florida State’s first rookie starting quarterback since Drew Weatherford in 2005. FSU’s skill talent on offense hasn’t been bad — the last two Seminoles starting quarterbacks were first-round draft picks — but the Noles haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn, a first-team All-ACC receiver since Craphonso Thorpe or a first-team All-ACC quarterback since Chris Weinke. That's a crazy drought for a Florida State team used to swimming in top talent. Winston, the freshman at quarterback from Hueytown (Ala.), is the key to Florida State’s long-term plans, but he’ll be put on the spot early when he tries to keep up with Clemson’s high-powered offense on the road on Oct. 19.
 

Teaser:
Who does each ACC contender need to step up in 2013?
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 07:10
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-americans-top-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

Most coaches would envy Rick Pitino. Louisville won the national championship and returns every key player other than Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. Those are major losses, for sure, but the Cardinals may start the season ranked in the top three.

The determining factor in Louisville’s ability to repeat may be a handful of new key players. Junior college transfer Chris Jones takes over Siva’s point guard spot. Freshman Terry Rozier will bolster backcourt depth. Redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang isn’t the veteran Dieng was, but he could be a solid shotblocker.

The Cardinals will be the overwhelming favorite in the first season of the American, but how newcomers perform elsewhere in the conference may determine how much the other teams in the league challenge Louisville. Memphis, as usual, has highly touted freshmen. So does Connecticut. SMU has a slew of transfers ready to make the Mustangs relevant.

Our series on new faces started earlier this week with the ACC. We continue today with the American.

Chris Jones, Louisville
Junior college transfer
Few newcomers have bigger shoes to fill. Point guard Peyton Siva is one of the few departures from the national title winners, and more than that, he was one of Rick Pitino’s all-time favorite players. Jones was a junior college All-American who committed to Tennessee out of high school but took a detour since then. He’s a relentless defender who will be a good fit in the Cardinals’ press.

Terry Rozier, Louisville
Freshman (Hargrave Military Academy)
Another addition to the Louisville backcourt, Rozier adds a scoring touch with his ability to attack the rim. That was pretty evident in January when Rozier scored a Hargrave-record 68 points in a double-overtime game on 19-of-37 shooting and 22-of-24 free throws.

Jermaine Lawrence, Cincinnati
Freshman
Cincinnati scored fewer than half its points from 2-point range last season (49.6 percent, ranked 247th nationally). Adding the 6-9 power forward Lawrence, a top-25 recruit, should help the Bearcats in the low post. From Sparta, N.J., Lawrence is another big-time prospect Mick Cronin has pulled from the New York/New Jersey area, joining Lance Stephenson and Sean Kilpatrick.

Austin Nichols, Memphis
Freshman
With Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson and Shaq Goodwin, Memphis has a strong backcourt despite a pair of player transfers and an NBA Draft early entry. Memphis needs Nichols, the Tigers’ top recruit and a local product from Briarcrest Christian, to step into the frontcourt right away.  The Tigers also signed two other 6-9 top-50 forwards Kuran Iverson and Dominic Woodson.

Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah, Connecticut
Freshmen
The Huskies got little production out of their frontcourt last season, so this pair of freshman will have the opportunity to push veterans DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander. Facey is a good rebounder while Brimah is a lanky shot-blocker.

Lasan Kromah, Connecticut
George Washington transfer
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright return to lead the UConn backcourt, but adding Kromah gives the Huskies some nice depth on the perimeter. Kromah averaged 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in three seasons at George Washington.

Keith Frazier, SMU
Freshman
SMU has decided it’s serious about basketball, hiring Larry Brown, renovating its arena and signing a local McDonald’s All-American in Frazier. On a team that returns all five starters, the 6-5 shooting guard Frazier could end up the top scorer on a team that hopes to make a splash in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

Nic Moore, SMU
Illinois State transfer
Moore followed his coach at Illinois State, SMU’s head coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich, to Dallas. The Mustangs didn’t have a true point guard last season — SMU ranked 11th in Conference USA in assist-to-turnover ratio — so Moore will have a chance to take over point guard duties immediately. Moore had a 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio and 135 assists as a freshman at Illinois State in 2011-12.

Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, Houston
Ineligible last season
Knowles was the rare top-100 recruit to sign at Houston, but the 6-10 power forward was ineligible last season. Houston is also hoping former Baylor guard L.J. Rose will receive a waiver to be eligible immediately. If both are ready to play this season, Houston will be competitive in its new league. Without them, Houston went 7-9 in a bad Conference USA — and that was before leading scorer Joseph Young transferred.

Josh Brown, Temple
Freshman
Brown, a graduate of the St. Anthony program coached by the legendary Bob Hurley, committed twice to Temple, both before and after his junior season breakout. He could be the Owls' best perimeter scorer only a year after Temple lost the backcourt duo of Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo.

Greg Lewis, Rutgers
Redshirt
Rutgers has brought in a handful of transfers to help ease the roster turnover from the Mike Rice era, but Kerwin Okoro (Iowa State) and J.J. Moore (Pittsburgh) are still seeking immediate eligibility. Lewis is a big body at 6-9, 240 pounds who missed last season with a knee injury.

Others of Note

John Egbunu, USF
Freshman
The Bulls signed Egbunu, a top-100 center, but coach Stan Heath may sweat a bit. USF is pushing back his enrollment a semester as an academic precaution.

Yanic Moreira and Markus Kennedy, SMU
Transfers
Moreira transferred from junior college and Kennedy transferred from Villanova to bolster SMU’s frontcourt.

Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Freshman
Cashmere Wright was a fixture at point guard for Cincinnati, and now the Bearcats turn to a freshman to run the position. He’ll have every chance to take over there to set up Sean Kilpatrick.

Mangok Mathiang, Louisville
Redshirt
The 6-10 center still needs to develop offensively, but he’s ready to contribute now as a shotblocker.

Mark Williams, Temple
Freshman
The Owls are doing some major rebuilding in the frontcourt, so the 6-8, 230-pound Williams will play immediately. He’ll be a big body inside.

Teaser:
We continue our look at the new faces who will shape each conference race
Post date: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-close-game-analysis-who-best-worst-clutch
Body:

Nothing swings a season in college football like a close game.

Every time a national championship contender wins by a touchdown or a field goal over a lesser opponent, like clockwork the talking heads say every champion has a game like that through the season, mainly because it’s true. Notre Dame had five of them leading into the national championship game. Alabama gutted out wins over LSU and Georgia and lost a close one to Texas A&M.

On the other side, a sure-fire way to lose a job as a head coach is to lose a string of close games. Jeff Tedford’s Cal teams lost five games decided by one score in a row. Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson finished his tenure going 3-13 in one-score games over his final four seasons. Skip Holtz lost eight of his last 10 at USF before being shown the door.

Indeed, the heartbreaking loss or out-of-nowhere upset make up the fabric of college football. They influence athletic directors’ decision-making and fan and perception. Here, though, are the raw numbers. We decided to look at every major conference program, their coaches and how they’ve fared in close games over the last five seasons.

A few things to consider:

1. Close games are considered to be one-score games (i.e. games decided by eight points or fewer).

2. Unless noted, all records are from the last five seasons (since 2008).

3. Our research focused on teams in the six major conferences and active coaches at those programs.

4. We didn’t spend much time considering why the game was close — did a lesser team put a scare in a more highly ranked team? Did an elite team play down to an opponent? Over the span of five seasons, these close games more or less balanced out.


Here’s what we learned:
 

BEST WIN PERCENTAGE  
1. Kansas State19-5.792
2. Utah14-5.737
3. LSU19-9.679
T4. Alabama8-4.667
T4. Oklahoma State10-5.667
T4. Penn State8-4.667
WORST WIN PERCENTAGE  
1. Arizona State4-15.211
2. Ole Miss4-13.235
3. Memphis4-10.286
4. Indiana7-16.304
5. Tennessee6-12.333
FEWEST CLOSE GAMES  
Alabama128-4
Oklahoma State128-4
Washington State138-5
Florida148-6
Memphis144-10
Oregon148-6
MOST CLOSE GAMES  
Connecticut3417-17
Louisville3316-17
Northwestern3119-16
Maryland2916-13
MOST CLOSE WINS  
Kansas State19 
LSU19 
Northwestern19 
Connecticut17 
Notre Dame17 
MOST CLOSE LOSSES  
Connecticut17 
Louisville17 
Indiana16 
Iowa16 
Pittsburgh16 
UCF16 
Wake Forest16 
ACTIVE COACHES (min. 10 games)  
1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State17-4.810
2. Brian Kelly, Cincy/Notre Dame19-5.791
3. David Shaw, Stanford10-3.769
4. Dave Doeren, NIU/NC State9-3.750
5. Kyle Whittingham, Utah14-5.737
6. Urban Meyer, Florida/Ohio State8-3.727
T7. Bronco Mendenhall, BYU14-6.700
T7. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia7-3.700
9. Les Miles, LSU19-9.679
T10. Steve Sarkisian, Washington12-6.667
T10. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State10-5.667
T10. Nick Saban, Alabama8-4.667
WORST WIN PERCENTAGE  
1. Kevin Wilson, Indiana2-8.200
2. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame/Kansas7-14.333
3. George O'Leary, UCF9-16.360
4. David Cutcliffe, Duke8-14.364
5. Jerry Kill, NIU/Minnesota11-16.407
6. Todd Graham, Tulsa/Pitt/ASU9-13.409
7. Brady Hoke, Ball St/SDSU/Michigan7-10.412
T8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa12-16.429
T8. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest12-16.429
T8. Paul Pasqualoni, UConn4-8.429

• Brian Kelly’s 4-0 record in one-score games at Notre Dame last season was no fluke. The Notre Dame coach is 19-5 in games decided by eight points or less in the last five seasons, dating to his days at Cincinnati. And once Kelly is entrenched, the better success rate he has. Notre Dame has won eight of its last nine one-score games, and Cincinnati won nine in a row before Kelly left for South Bend.

• At what point should Lucky Les Miles shed the “lucky” tag? There has to be a skill to winning close games, right? LSU is 19-9 in one-score games in the last five seasons. Miles’ 11-4 mark in 2009-10 alone included more close games than Alabama has played in five seasons (8-4). The opponent who has played LSU the closest hasn’t been Alabama or Auburn as one might expect: LSU has split its four one-score games against Arkansas the last five years.

• Kansas State’s record in close games is staggering. The Wildcats are 19-5 in one-score games in the last five seasons for a 79.2 win percentage, by far the best in the major conferences. Kansas State has gone 17-4 in those games under Bill Snyder. But the Collin Klein era was another level: With Klein as the starting quarterback in 2011-12, Kansas State went 10-1 in one-score games.

• Arizona State is the anti-Kansas State. The Sun Devils are 4-15 in one-score games over the last five seasons. Dennis Erickson may have won two national titles at Miami, but he was 3-13 in close games in his final four seasons at Arizona State. That was more than enough to cost Erickson his job. The Sun Devils hired Todd Graham, whose record is a bit better, but not great: 9-13 in the last five seasons at Tulsa, Pittsburgh at ASU.

• The biggest surprise among teams on the right side of the ledger in close games is Utah. Aside from K-State, the Utes are the only other team to win more than 70 percent of their one-score games. Utah is 14-5 in close games the last five seasons, doing most of that damage as a Mountain West member at  10-2.

• Jim Harbaugh built Stanford into a contender, but David Shaw knows how to win the tight games. Shaw is 10-3 in one-score games as the Stanford coach; Harbaugh finished his tenure on a 6-7 note.

• Washington fans may be getting bored with seven win seasons, but Steve Sarkisian is winning when his back is against he wall. The Huskies won 10 one-score games before back-to-back losses to end the 2012 season (31-29 to Washington State, 28-26 to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl).

• Looking for another Brian Kelly, whose close game turnaround indicates a big season? Try Al Golden and Charlie Strong. In his final three seasons at Temple, Golden in close games went 2-5, 3-1 and 4-1. In that case, the last two seasons should be a bellwether for Golden at Miami. The Hurricanes went 2-6 in close games in 2011 and 3-2 in 2012. Meanwhile, Louisville went 5-11 under Strong in such games early. The Cardinals went 6-1 with their backs against the wall last season.

• If you’re looking for other teams trending in the right direction, Florida has won five of six one-score games dating back to the 2011 Gator Bowl against Ohio State. And further illustrating the point that opponents in close games even themselves out, two of those close games in 2012 were against Texas A&M and LSU; the others were Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. Another impressive turnaround has been Nebraska: The Huskers went 5-10 in close games in the first four seasons under Bo Pelini before going 4-1 last year.

• Wisconsin is 14-14 overall in close games in the last five seasons, but the Badgers have lost 10 of 13 dating back to the 2011 Rose Bowl against TCU. Wisconsin, though, hired a coach in Gary Andersen who won eight of his last 10 one-score games at Utah State, one of those loses coming in Camp Randall.

• Michigan State and Iowa get the most attention for playing close games in the Big Ten. But they don’t play the most, and they don’t have the best success rate. That belongs to Northwestern, which is 19-16 in one-score games the last five seasons (albeit 0-3 in bowl games). Michigan State is 16-11, padded by an 8-1 mark in 2011. Iowa is 12-16 with a 6-12 mark the last three seasons.

• Bob Stoops is taking his lumps at Oklahoma, but the Sooners are 11-4 in one-score games since the 2009 Sun Bowl win over Stanford.

• Let’s give credit to Dabo Swinney for being able to avoid the heartbreakers. Tommy Bowden finished on a 1-7 skid in one-score games at Clemson. Swinney has won has last five one-score games.

• TCU is a strange case, aided by the Horned Frogs defensive dominance of the Mountain West. The Frogs have played only 16 one-score games in the last five seasons. Five have come in bowl games (TCU is 3-2), six came in the first year in the Big 12 (3-3).

• BYU is 14-6 in close games, which is mighty impressive. But consider that Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougars won 14 consecutive one score games from 2007-10.

• New Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz is a strange case. He went 10-4 in one-score games in his last two seasons at East Carolina in 2008-09. Then, he won six of his first nine close games at USF. But the Bulls squandered second-half lead after second-half lead to lose eight of their last 10 close games in 2011-12. That skid doomed Holtz at USF, but he’s still 18-15 overall in one-score games in the last five seasons.

• With its triple option offense, it’s not shocking Navy has played more close games than most, going 18-12 under Ken Niumatalolo in those games. Niumatololo’s predecessor, Paul Johnson, has gone 15-12 in one-score games at Georgia Tech, also running the option.

Teaser:
Kansas State's Bill Snyder owns staggering record in one-score games
Post date: Thursday, July 25, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-accs-top-transfers-freshmen-and-more-2013-14
Body:

The ACC will be defined by new faces more than most: Primarily the arrival of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame for 2013-14.

Beyond the arrival of one basketball power and two consistent Big East programs, the ACC will have a handful of key new players who could determine the league race in the upcoming season.

Freshmen, transfers, redshirted players and key guys returning from injury can define a season. Today, we start our series highlighting the impact new faces for each league, starting with the ACC.

Fans didn’t see a much from these players this past season, if they saw anything at all. In 2013-14, they could define a season.

Rodney Hood, Duke
Mississippi State transfer
Hood will be one of two forwards asked to fill a handful of spots on the court. The 6-8 sophomore displayed his versatility as a freshman at Mississippi State, where he averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists before the coaching change. Hood suffered an Achilles injury before the World University Games, but he’s expected to be healthy enough to contribute at shooting guard and both forward spots when he’s back.

Jabari Parker and Semi Ojeleye, Duke
Freshman
Duke signed an outstanding freshman duo that will keep the Blue Devils in national title contention. Parker is a 6-8 forward who will be one of the top freshmen in the ACC. He’s unselfish, versatile and will be a good complement for the lankier Hood in the frontcourt. Ojeleye is a good defender and rebounder.

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Freshman
With Michael Carter-Williams gone, Ennis is one of two point guards on the roster, both freshmen. That’s a tough proposition for a Syracuse team heading into its first season in the ACC, but Ennis was the leading scorer for Canada in the Under-19 World Championships.

Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina
Freshmen
North Carolina didn’t start to put its season together until the Tar Heels went to a four-guard lineup into ACC play. After the frontcourt struggled last season, North Carolina added the league’s top freshman power forward (Hicks) and center (Meeks). Adding the 6-9 Hicks and 6-10 Meeks could enable James Michael McAdoo to play in a comfort zone on the perimeter. In other words, don’t expect North Carolina to rely on the small lineup anymore: With Reggie Bullock and Dexter Strickland gone and P.J. Hairston’s status uncertain, North Carolina will have six players at 6-8 or taller.

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State
Freshman
Rathan-Mayes is a friend of super freshman Andrew Wiggins, but that wasn’t enough to lure Wiggins to Florida State. Still, expect Rathan-Mayes to play a major role as a rookie. Michael Snaer is gone, so Florida State is looking for the scoring lift Rathan-Mayes can provide.

Anthony Gill, Virginia
South Carolina transfer
Gill averaged 7.6 points and 4.7 rebounds as a freshman at South Carolina before leaving when Frank Martin took over. He had his fair share of suitors when he transferred, and the year away from game action has appeared to give Gill a chance to refine his skills. Virginia just missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago, so adding the 6-8, 231-pound forward to the top five returning scorers from this past season should put the Cavs in the top half of the ACC.

Angel Rodriguez, Miami
Kansas State transfer (pending NCAA waiver)
Miami loses nearly every key player from last year’s ACC championship season, not least of which was point guard Shane Larkin. Rodriguez will help to fill the void — if he is granted immediate eligibility —after his transfer from Kansas State. Rodriguez went to high school in Miami and wanted to be closer to ailing family members in Puerto Rico. Rodriguez averaged 11.4 points and 5.2 assists for a Wildcats team that tied for the Big 12 lead this past season.

Michael Gbinije, Syracuse
Duke transfer
Gbinije’s had a little trouble finding a home. He started at Duke, where the Blue Devils experimented with him at small forward. And at Syracuse during his redshirt year, he tinkered with playing point guard. Practicing at those positions has given him versatility, but he’s probably going to find a home at shooting guard in a new starting backcourt for the Orange.

Mike Young and Detrick Mostella, Pittsburgh
Freshmen
Picking even highly rated freshmen to make major impacts as rookies at Pittsburgh is a tricky proposition (see: Adams, Steve). Young, the top signee in the class, will step in for Adams in the interior. Mostella was a late addition to the class who could end up being a big-time outside shooter.

Cat Barber, NC State
Freshman
Mark Gottfried has signed McDonald’s All-Americans before, but that (along with a Sweet 16 appearance) only raised expectations the Wolfpack failed to meet. Projections for Barber will be more tempered as he tries to take over the point guard spot.

Roddy Peters, Maryland
Freshman
The Terrapins’ point guard rotation of Seth Allen and Pe’Shon Howard produced meager results last year. Maryland ranked 10th in the ACC for assist-to-turnover ratio in conference games last season. Howard is gone, meaning Allen and Peters will man the point, but the freshman missed the second half of his senior year at District Heights (Md.) Suitland with a shoulder injury.

Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson
Redshirt freshman
Brad Brownell’s top signee last season missed all of his freshman year due to a slow recovery from compound leg fracture in May. The 6-7 forward has had two procedures on his leg, so his progress will be watched closely.

Adam Smith, Virginia Tech
UNC Wilmington transfer
A 6-1 guard, Smith averaged 13.7 points per game at UNC Wilmington in 2011-12. Virginia Tech is counting on him to be one of their top scorers, which is probably an indication of how things are going to go for the Hokies this season.

Andre Dawkins, Duke
Redshirted
Dawkins will give Duke a perimeter presence after averaging 8.2 points per game and shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore and junior. He also came of the bench for the 2010 title team. Dawkins, whose sister died in a car accident in 2009, announced in April he is ready to rejoin the team.

Ralston Turner, NC State
LSU transfer
Turner averaged 11.2 points per game in two seasons at LSU and will be expected to provide outside shooting on a rebuilding NC State team. Turner, however, shot 36.9 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from 3-point range with the Tigers.

Evan Smotrycz, Maryland
Michigan transfer
As one would expect from a Michigan signee under John Beilein, Smotrycz is a 6-9 forward who can stretch the floor.

Coron Williams, Wake Forest
Robert Morris transfer
Wake Forest did enough with a 6-12 ACC season to show progress under Jeff Bzdelik, but the heat is still on. Williams is a sharp-shooting 3-point specialist who joins a team that returns the bulk of its key players.

Trae Golden, Georgia Tech
Tennessee transfer (pending NCAA waiver)

Golden announced Saturday he’d return home to Atlanta be closer to his ailing father. He’s seeking an NCAA hardship waiver to play immediately, which would be a boon to Georgia Tech’s NCAA Tournament hopes. The Yellow Jackets already return Marcus Georges-Hunt and Robert Carter in the frontcourt. Golden was a streaky player last season, who averaged 12.1 points per game.

Teaser:
We begin our look at the new faces that will define each conference race
Post date: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 - 10:00

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