Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/cincinnati-unveils-new-uniforms-2015
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Cincinnati is making the switch from Adidas to Under Armour this season, and the Bearcats officially unveiled their new uniforms on Monday.

 

The Bearcats’ black uniform is one of the best in the American Athletic Conference, and Under Armour kept the overall look intact with a few tweaks.

 

Check out Cincinnati’s new uniforms for 2015:

Teaser:
Cincinnati Unveils New Uniforms for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 14:18
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-preseason-quarterback-rankings
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With fall camps set to open in August for all 128 college football teams, the 2015 season is officially around the corner. There’s no shortage of position battles or schemes to work on this fall, but quarterback competitions will steal the spotlight in August.

 

The Big Ten has a solid group of quarterbacks returning in 2015, starting with the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett duo at Ohio State. While it’s uncertain which quarterback will take the first snap, this duo is the top quarterback depth chart in college football. Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg round out the top three passers in the Big Ten this fall.

 

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big Ten for 2015. 

 

Big Ten Quarterback Rankings for 2015

 

1. J.T. Barrett/Cardale Jones, Ohio State

 

Regardless of whether Barrett or Jones takes the first snap for Ohio State in 2015, the Buckeyes will have the Big Ten’s top quarterback. Jones delivered under pressure last season, guiding Ohio State to three consecutive victories to end 2014 after Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury. Prior to his leg injury, Barrett averaged 314.3 total yards per game last year.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

2. Connor Cook, Michigan State

 

Cook enters 2015 with a stellar 23-3 career record as Michigan State’s starter. After passing for 2,755 yards and 22 scores in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback, Cook topped those numbers in 2014 with 3,214 yards and 24 touchdown tosses. Cook is a big reason why Michigan State will be in the mix to play in one of college football’s top bowl games this postseason.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State

 

Hackenberg didn’t have the most productive 2014 campaign, but the Virginia native’s performance was tough to evaluate with a shaky offensive line. Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Hackenberg, as he’s regarded as one of the top quarterback prospects for next year’s draft. As a freshman, Hackenberg threw for 2,955 yards and 20 scores. However, despite exceeding his 2013 yardage total (2,977) in 2014, Hackenberg tossed 15 interceptions to only 12 touchdowns. Assuming the offensive line is better in 2015, Hackenberg should show marked improvement in coach James Franklin’s second year.

 

Related: Big Ten 2015 Predictions

 

4. Tommy Armstrong, Nebraska

 

It’s a close call for the No. 4 spot on this list. A case could be made for Armstrong, Lunt or Sudfeld. Armstrong gets the nod before fall practices open, but the junior has to adapt to a new offense and play-caller this season. Armstrong recorded 3,400 total yards in 2014 and 28 overall scores. Increasing his completion percentage (53.3 percent in 2014) is a priority in the new offense.

 

Related: College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2015

 

5. Wes Lunt, Illinois

 

If Lunt stays healthy, the junior should post huge numbers in coach Bill Cubit’s offense. However, keeping Lunt’s jersey clean will be a challenge for Cubit, as Illinois gave up 37 sacks in 2014, and this unit remains a concern headed into fall camp. Lunt played in only eight games last season due to a leg injury and finished with 1,763 yards and 14 scores.

 

Related: College Football's Top Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015

 

6. Nate Sudfeld, Indiana

 

Similar to Illinois’ Wes Lunt, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Sudfeld climb a couple of spots on this list in 2015. A shoulder injury limited Sudfeld to just six games last season, but he threw for 2,523 yards and 21 scores as Indiana’s starter in 2013. Finding Sudfeld help at receiver is a priority for coach Kevin Wilson, especially after J-Shun Harris was lost for the year with a torn ACL.

 

Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015

 

7. Jake Rudock, Michigan

 

With Jim Harbaugh taking over in Ann Arbor, expect Michigan’s offense to take a step forward in 2015. Harbaugh won’t elevate this attack into one of the best in the Big Ten in one year, but improvement should be noticeable. Rudock transferred from Iowa after throwing for 2,436 yards and 16 scores in 2014. Shane Morris is expected to push Rudock for the starting job in fall camp.

 

8. Mitch Leidner, Minnesota

 

Minnesota’s strengths are no secret. Coach Jerry Kill plans to lean on the rushing attack and defense to contend in the Big Ten’s West Division. But if the Golden Gophers want to take the next step, improving the passing attack is a must. Leidner threw for 1,798 yards and 11 scores last season and added 452 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Minnesota doesn’t need 300 passing yards a game, but Leidner has to improve in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

9. C.J. Beathard, Iowa

 

The Iowa coaching staff handed the keys to the offense to Beathard after the TaxSlayer Bowl loss against Tennessee. As a result of Beathard promoted into the starting role, Jake Rudock transferred to Michigan. The Hawkeyes hope Beathard adds more big-play ability to the offense, and the junior has played well in limited action, completing 52 of 92 throws for 645 yards and five scores in 2014.

 

10. Joel Stave, Wisconsin

 

Stave might be the biggest beneficiary of Paul Chryst’s return to Madison. Chryst is regarded for his work as an offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, and the Badgers hope the new coaching staff helps to spark a passing attack that averaged only 148.7 yards per game in 2014. Stave doesn’t have to be overly prolific with Wisconsin’s defense and rushing attack in place, but the senior has room to improve after completing only 53.4 percent of his passes and tossing 10 picks in 2014.

 

11. Caleb Rowe, Maryland

 

Rowe suffered a torn ACL last season but is on track to return at full strength by the opener. The junior has 12 touchdown passes over the last three years and completed 63 percent of his throws (34 of 54) in 2014. He will be pushed for time by Oklahoma State graduate transfer Daxx Garman and junior Perry Hills.

 

12. Zack Oliver/Clayton Thorson/Matt Alviti, Northwestern

 

The Wildcats have a three-way battle for the starting job entering fall camp. Oliver has the most experience (61 career pass attempts), but the upside in this battle rests with Alviti and Thorson. Will Northwestern finish the fall with a clear starter? Or will this battle continue into the year? The guess here is Alviti or Thorson takes the first snap of 2015.

 

Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team

 

13. Austin Appleby, Purdue

 

Some clarity to Purdue’s quarterback battle was provided after Danny Etling transferred to LSU at the end of spring ball. With Etling out of the picture, the Boilermakers are down to Appleby, redshirt freshman David Blough and true freshman Elijah Sindelar. Appleby is the favorite to start after completing 144 of 272 passes for 1,449 yards and 10 scores last season. However, if Appleby struggles, Blough is an intriguing option for coach Darrell Hazell.

 

14. Chris Laviano, Rutgers

 

Laviano isn’t guaranteed to start, as LSU transfer Hayden Rettig will push for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart in the fall. Laviano worked as Gary Nova’s backup last season and completed 11 of 28 passes for 107 yards and one interception. The sophomore finished spring with a slight edge over Rettig, and both quarterbacks have to adjust to a new play-caller in Ben McDaniels.

Teaser:
Big Ten 2015 Fall Quarterback Rankings
Post date: Monday, August 3, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/arizona-coach-rich-rodriguez-tells-hilarious-story-about-mike-leach-pac-12-media
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College football media days are always better when the coaches and players set out to enjoy the moment and not take the interviews too seriously.

 

Count Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez as one who was enjoying the moment on Friday.

 

The Wildcats’ head coach was interviewed by the Pac-12 Network and had quite the story to tell about Washington State coach Mike Leach.

 

Check out Rodriguez’s story, which involved goggles, a lagoon and some swim attire: 

Teaser:
Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez Tells Hilarious Story About Mike Leach at Pac-12 Media Days
Post date: Friday, July 31, 2015 - 15:19
Path: /college-football/ohio-states-suspensions-put-braxton-millers-position-change-spotlight
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The one-game suspension of four potential starters for Ohio State has slightly altered the outlook for the opener against Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes won’t need any reminder about how difficult of a matchup this is, as Virginia Tech won in Columbus 35-21 last season.

 

Joey Bosa’s name was by far the biggest in Ohio State’s release of the suspensions for the opener against Virginia Tech. Bosa is considered one of the top players in college football and is a huge loss for defense. While it’s easy to overlook the three other players involved, receivers Dontre Wilson, Corey Smith and Jalin Marshall accounted for 79 catches last season.

 

Needless to say, that’s a lot of receptions to replace in one game, especially against a secondary pegged by most to be among the best in the nation.

 

With Wilson, Smith and Marshall all sidelined, Ohio State will have to turn to a familiar face as an impact player: Braxton Miller.

 

Junior Michael Thomas (54 catches) will be the most-established target for J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones, but Miller has a chance to make an immediate impact in his first game as a receiver.

 

While Miller is still recovering from a shoulder injury and is just beginning his transition to receiver, Ohio State needs the senior to be ready for a full workload against the Hokies.

 

Miller is expected to play in the H-back role and could see 10-15 touches in the opener in a variety of ways. Throwing a pass? A rushing attempt? Both should be on the table.

 

The timetable for Miller’s transition has been altered with the news of the suspensions. Ideally, Ohio State would like to ease Miller into the gameplan and not ask too much in Week 1 – especially for a player that missed all of 2014 due to a shoulder injury.

 

While the Buckeyes aren’t solely relying on Miller to anchor their receiving corps in the opener, Miller’s position move is under the spotlight against a tough Virginia Tech defense. Without three key playmakers, the importance of Miller's transition and Thomas' development are critical to Ohio State's hopes of starting 1-0.

 

How quick can Miller go from quarterback to dynamic playmaker? The guess here is right away. But Miller is just starting to learn and develop as a receiver and it may take a full year for the senior to learn all of the nuances of the position.

 

Against Virginia Tech - a team with a good secondary and defensive line - Miller's first opportunity to be a dynamic playmaker at receiver is going to get tested right away in a tough environment. The opener already had plenty of intrigue for the Buckeyes, but there's added pressure and interest in how Miller performs with the news of three receiver suspensions. 

Teaser:
Ohio State's Suspensions Put Braxton Miller's Position Change in Spotlight Against Virginia Tech
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 16:20
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-suspends-four-key-players-opener-against-virginia-tech
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Ohio State will begin its national title defense without a couple of key players. According to a release from the school, defensive end Joey Bosa and receivers Corey Smith, Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will be suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech.

 

Bosa is the biggest loss for the Buckeyes, as the junior is one of college football’s top players and a first-team All-American for 2015. In 15 games last season, Bosa recorded 55 tackles (21 for a loss) and 13.5 sacks. Bosa’s absence is an even bigger concern with the departure of last year's other starter at end (Michael Bennett) off to the NFL. Without Bosa, Ohio State is thin on proven experience at defensive end.

 

The quarterback battle is going to dominate the offseason headlines in Columbus, but the receiving corps is a concern for the opener with Marshall, Smith and Wilson suspended. The Buckeyes still have Michael Thomas (54 receptions in 2014), but Marshall, Smith and Wilson accounted for 79 catches last year.

 

With three key targets sidelined for the opener, Ohio State needs Braxton Miller to make a quick transition to receiver. The converted quarterback is now one of the Buckeyes’ top options in the passing attack (at least for the opener).

 

Before the suspensions were announced, Ohio State was considered a 13 or 14-point favorite in Vegas. Expect that line between the Buckeyes and Hokies to drop over the next month. 

 

Repeating as a college football national champion isn’t easy. And Ohio State’s road to another title just got a little tougher. Virginia Tech’s defense is good enough to pull off another upset over the Buckeyes. And without Bosa, Ohio State’s defense needs sophomore end Tyquan Lewis and senior tackle Adolphus Washington to elevate their performance.

 

One loss won't end Ohio State's national championship bid. After all, the Buckeyes lost to the Hokies in 2014 and still reached the playoffs and won the title game. 

 

There’s still a month to dissect the on-field matchup between Virginia Tech and Ohio State. However, it’s safe to say this game now has some added intrigue and upset potential.

Teaser:
Ohio State Suspends 5 Key Players for Opener Against Virginia Tech
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 12:23
Path: /college-football/why-florida-state-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
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Florida State is coming off one of the best two-year runs by a program in recent memory. The Seminoles won 27 games from 2013-14, claimed the 2013 national championship and reached the playoffs last season. Additionally, Florida State has claimed three consecutive ACC titles and has four double-digit win seasons over the last five years.

 

Even though the Seminoles lost a handful of key players from last season, another run at the playoffs isn’t unrealistic. Of course, Florida State needs to answer several personnel questions and navigate a few tricky road tests, but coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best in the nation and is primed for a quick reload in 2015.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Florida State will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Seminoles won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Florida State Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Talent

Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate, but there is plenty of value in the data. Using the 247Sports team rankings from 2011-15, Florida State’s five-year recruiting average (4.4) ranks No. 2 behind Alabama (1.0). There’s more to a roster and judging teams in the preseason than just pure talent from a recruiting perspective. However, there’s no shortage of potential and talent for the Seminoles. How quickly will coach Jimbo Fisher and his staff develop the young talent on the roster into key contributors? On paper, most of Florida State’s talent is in the freshmen and sophomore ranks for 2015.

 

2. Jimbo Fisher Will Find a Quarterback

The last three full-time starters at quarterback for Florida State under Fisher have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Extending that streak to four seems unlikely, but it’s safe to assume Fisher will find the right answer at quarterback. Sean Maguire finished spring at the top of the depth chart, and the junior has three seasons of experience within Fisher’s system. He also started the Sept. 20 showdown against Clemson – arguably the best defense in the nation – last year, completing 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards. However, Maguire isn’t guaranteed the starting job after former Notre Dame signal-caller Everett Golson announced he would transfer to Florida State in May. Golson is clearly more established as a quarterback on the FBS level, but he also faces a tough transition to a new offense. Regardless of whether Golson or Maguire takes the first snap, Fisher deserves the benefit of the doubt in finding the next quarterback.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

3. Jalen Ramsey + Playmakers on Offense

While one player isn’t able to transform a defense into a shutdown group, defensive back Jalen Ramsey can make up for a lot of deficiencies for the Seminoles. The junior is arguably the best player in college football and is shifting from safety to cornerback in 2015. Ramsey’s all-around versatility on defense is a huge asset for second-year coordinator Charles Kelly. On the other side of the ball, the Seminoles have a core of young playmakers ready to emerge in 2015. The status of Dalvin Cook is uncertain after an off-field incident, but Jacques Patrick and Mario Pender should prevent a drop in the rushing performance. At receiver, sophomores Travis Rudolph and Ermon Lane are rising stars. True freshmen George Campbell and Da’Vante Phillips are also worth watching as key contributors this season.

 

Florida State's 2015 Schedule
DateOpponentLogoAthlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 5Texas State937-5
Sept. 12USF994-8
Sept. 18at Boston College566-6
Oct. 3at Wake Forest824-8
Oct. 10Miami437-5
Oct. 17Louisville387-5
Oct. 24at Georgia Tech188-5
Oct. 31Syracuse853-9
Nov. 7at Clemson149-3
Nov. 14NC State399-3
Nov. 21Chattanooga--
Nov. 28at Florida268-4
Three Reasons Why Florida State Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Too Many Holes to Fill

Even though the rankings indicate just how well Fisher and this staff have performed on the recruiting trail, this team is losing a ton of key players from last season. Offensively, quarterback Jameis Winston is the biggest loss, but receiver Rashad Greene and tight end Nick O’Leary must be replaced, along with four starters on the offensive line. The defense ranked ninth in the ACC in points allowed last year and lost both starting cornerbacks, end Mario Edwards Jr. and tackle Eddie Goldman to the NFL. The linebacking corps is also thin on depth.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

2. Road Schedule

If Florida State is going to return to the playoffs in 2015, it will have to win a handful of critical games on the road. Trips to Georgia Tech, Clemson and Florida are key swing games for the Seminoles this season, and there’s an intriguing mid-September trip to Boston College – a team that has played Florida State tough over the last two years. Catching Miami, Louisville and NC State at home softens the road schedule a bit, but this is not an easy path for a rebuilding team in 2015.

 

3. Defensive Concerns

Charles Kelly’s first season as the defensive signal-caller had its share of ups and downs. The Seminoles finished ninth in the ACC in scoring defense and allowed 5.5 yards per play. However, Kelly’s halftime adjustments were a key cog in some of Florida State’s close victories. But this unit still has a ways to go in 2015, and a handful of key players left for the NFL. The defensive line may not have a dominant, first-team All-ACC performer this year, but there is depth and some promising young talent. The linebacking corps is arguably Kelly’s biggest concern with Reggie Northrup and Matthew Thomas recovering from offseason surgeries. Even though this unit has promising talent in spots and one of the nation’s top players in Ramsey, the Seminoles need another year of seasoning on defense.

 

Final Verdict

 

Florida State is a team built to win in 2016 or 2017. Sure, there’s a lot of promising talent in place and a standout freshman class will add to the depth for Fisher. However, the Seminoles must replace four starters on the offensive line, break in a new quarterback and improve a defense ranked near the bottom of the ACC in the four main statistical categories. And there’s a schedule featuring road trips to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida. That's a lot to overcome. Finishing with 11 wins in the regular season isn’t out of the question. However, a 10-2 campaign is more realistic considering all of the personnel question marks and roster turnover this year.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 9

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-2 (6-2 ACC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9.5

Teaser:
Why Florida State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-top-10-heisman-candidates-2015
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The SEC is in a two-year drought without a Heisman winner. After winning three trophies from 2007-10, the SEC has just one winner from 2011-14.

 

Can the SEC claim a Heisman winner in 2015? The conference has a few options among the nation’s leading candidates, especially at the running back position with Georgia’s Nick Chubb, LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

 

Quarterbacks Dak Prescott (Mississippi State) and Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) are also squarely in the mix. 

 

Here's a look at the top Heisman candidates from the SEC for 2015.

 

The Five Clear Favorites

 

1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

Chubb was slated to spend 2014 as a backup to Todd Gurley, but an early-season suspension and torn ACL to Gurley elevated Chubb into the starting lineup. The No. 33 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite ensured Georgia’s rushing attack didn’t miss a beat, recording 1,547 yards and 14 scores on 219 attempts. Chubb averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the last eight games of 2014.

 

Related: SEC Breakout Players for 2015

 

2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

A strong case could be made for Fournette as college football’s most talented running back. As a true freshman in 2014, Fournette rushed for 1,034 yards and 10 scores on 187 attempts. The former five-star recruit should see even more carries as LSU’s No. 1 back in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

3. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama

Henry led Alabama with 990 rushing yards and tied for the team lead with 11 touchdowns on the ground. With T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry will anchor the rushing attack for coordinator Lane Kiffin. The 6-foot-3, 242-pound running back is a handful for opposing defenses to tackle, and he’s due for his first 1,000-yard campaign in Tuscaloosa.

 

4. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State

Quarterbacks are always going to have an advantage in the Heisman race, and Prescott is one of the leading candidates under center in 2015. Mississippi State is losing a handful of key players from 2014, but the Bulldogs will be a factor in the SEC West title picture. Prescott guided Mississippi State to just its third double-digit win campaign in school history last year and passed for 3,449 yards and 27 scores, while adding 986 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

5. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

Johnson has only two career starts, but the junior should be among the top 10-15 favorites to win the Heisman in 2015. The Montgomery native is a different quarterback than Auburn’s last starter (Nick Marshall), as the junior is more of a drop-back passer and is poised to keep Gus Malzahn’s high-powered attack among the best in the nation. No. 5 might be too low for Johnson.

 

The Next Five Candidates

 

6. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

All signs point to Treadwell returning to full strength from a serious leg injury suffered in 2014. In nine games last season, Treadwell caught 48 passes for 632 yards and five scores. Quarterback play is under the spotlight for the Rebels in 2015 and will determine just how high Treadwell climbs in the Heisman discussion. He could be the best receiver in the nation in 2015.

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

7. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M

Allen is the favorite to start for the Aggies in 2015, but touted freshman Kyler Murray will push for snaps. Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns in limited action last year, with his best performance (294 yards) coming against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl. The sophomore should have a breakout year at the controls of a high-powered offense in College Station.

 

Related: SEC Breakout Players for 2015

 

8. Alex Collins/Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Splitting carries hurts the Heisman outlook for Williams and Collins, but both players should push for 1,000 yards in 2015. If Arkansas continues to improve in coach Bret Bielema’s third year, the stock of Williams and Collins will continue to rise.

 

9. Duke Williams, WR, Auburn

Expect to see Williams’ numbers increase in 2015 with the departure of Sammie Coates, along with the addition of quarterback Jeremy Johnson into the starting lineup. In his first year from the junior college ranks, Williams averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 45 receptions.

 

11. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina

Cooper is among the nation’s top all-purpose players, averaging 108.5 total yards per game in 2014. The junior needs more help in the win column to jump into the Heisman race.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

12. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

Pencil in a Tennessee candidate here. Dobbs gets a slight nod over running back Jalen Hurd as the favorite on Rocky Top to contend for the Heisman. Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine scores over the final six games of 2014.

 

Three Darkhorses to Watch

 

Jalen Hurd, RB, Tennessee

Hurd led the team with 899 rushing yards last season but will face increased competition for carries from junior college recruit Alvin Kamara.

 

Related: College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2015

 

Maty Mauk, QB, Missouri

Mauk has a revamped receiving corps but should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter. He threw for 2,648 yards and 25 scores in 14 games last season.

 

Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky

Rising star for the Wildcats should be in for a bigger workload after averaging 6.6 yards per attempt on 74 carries last season.

 

Defensive Players to Watch

 

(A defensive player winning the Heisman is unlikely. But here’s a look at the best candidates if a defensive player will get into the Heisman discussion).
 

1. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida

Hargreaves III is arguably the top cover cornerback in the nation. The junior has earned back-to-back All-SEC honors.

 

2. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Barnett was outstanding as a true freshman, ranking second among defenders in SEC games with 10 sacks. 

 

3. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

Don’t expect huge stats from Nkemdiche as the anchor of Ole Miss’ defensive line, but the junior is a force on the interior and a handful for opposing offensive linemen.

 

4. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

Garrett ranked as one of the top prospects in the 2014 signing class and didn’t disappoint in his first year with the Aggies. Garrett recorded 11.5 sacks in 12 games last season.

 

5. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama

Either Ragland or teammate A’Shawn Robinson deserves a mention here. The Crimson Tide should have one of the best defenses in college football.

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's Top 10 Heisman Candidates for 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/graham-rahal-has-awesome-ohio-state-themed-helmet-indycar-race
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IndyCar driver Graham Rahal will have the best-looking helmet in Sunday’s race at Mid-Ohio SportsCar Course.

 

Rahal is a big Ohio State fan and unveiled on Wednesday night a Buckeye-themed helmet, complete with the college football playoff and stickers.

 

A couple of interesting details about the helmet were the No. 15 sticker on the back – Rahal’s number (which also happens to be Ezekiel Elliott’s number) and the 18 Buckeye stickers. The 18 stickers represent Rahal’s career podium finishes in the IndyCar series. 

Teaser:
Graham Rahal Has an Awesome Ohio State-Themed Helmet for IndyCar Race
Post date: Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 08:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-coordinator-hires-2015
Body:

Coordinator changes in college football can have an immediate impact on either side of the ball. Every year, it seems a handful of teams show significant improvement in the win column or on the stat sheet as a result of a coordinator change.

 

Last season, TCU’s offense improved to one of the best in the nation after the hire of Doug Meacham as the team’s play-caller. Which teams will see the biggest jump from a coordinator hire in 2015? Texas Tech’s David Gibbs (defense), Texas A&M’s John Chavis (defense), Auburn’s Will Muschamp (defense) and Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley are just a few names to watch this fall.

 

Here’s a look at some of the top coordinator hires to watch in 2015 from the Power 5 and Group of 5 teams in college football:

 

Top Coordinator Hires from Power 5 Programs

 

Tim Beck/Ed Warinner, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Beck and Warinner have big shoes to fill in 2015. This duo is tasked with replacing Tom Herman after he left to be the coach at Houston. Urban Meyer is always involved prominently with the offense, but the Beck/Warinner combination should be a good setup for the Buckeyes. Beck and Warinner worked together at Kansas from 2005-07, helping to guide a Jayhawk offense that averaged 42.3 points per game in 2007. Warinner is regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive line coaches.

 

Tom Bradley, Defensive Coordinator, UCLA

Bradley was a long-time assistant at Penn State from 1979-11 and departed Happy Valley prior to Bill O’Brien’s arrival in 2012. After sitting out the 2012-13 seasons, Bradley resurfaced at West Virginia as a defensive assistant in 2014 and was hired by coach Jim Mora to call the defensive signals in 2015. Under Bradley’s watch, the Nittany Lions led the Big Ten in fewest points allowed in 2009 and 2011.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Kendal Briles, Offensive Coordinator, Baylor

Briles inherits the play-calling duties after Philip Montgomery left to be the head coach at Tulsa. Briles has worked on his father’s staff since 2008 and guided the Bears’ offense to an average of 7.9 yards per play in the Cotton Bowl against Michigan State.

 

Jim Chaney, Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh

Chaney is on his fourth stop in the FBS ranks as a play-caller, joining new coach Pat Narduzzi’s staff after a two-year stint in Arkansas. Chaney also called the plays at Purdue and Tennessee prior to joining the Razorbacks. The Missouri native has a versatile background, which includes experience with the spread and power rushing attacks.

 

John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Defense has been Texas A&M’s biggest issue since joining the SEC in 2012. The Aggies gave up 36.5 points in SEC contests in 2013 and 36.6 in 2014. However, improvement should be noticeable in 2015. Chavis is regarded as one of the top defensive coordinators in the nation and has worked as a play-caller in the SEC since 1995. The South Carolina native was a huge hire for coach Kevin Sumlin, and the Aggies are starting to trend in the right direction on defense.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Gene Chizik, Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Chizik returns to the sidelines for the first time since he was fired as Auburn’s head coach at the end of the 2012 season. Even though Chizik’s stints as a head coach were mixed – he did win a national championship with the Tigers and spent two years as the head coach at Iowa State – he is regarded for his work as a defensive coordinator. Chizik has previously called the plays at Texas, Auburn and UCF. He’s tasked with improving a defense that allowed 6.5 yards per play and surrendered 39 points a game last season. 

 

Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Florida

The “Minister of Mayhem” should keep Florida’s defense near the top of the SEC. Despite a sluggish offense under former coach Will Muschamp, the Gators never finished lower than sixth in the SEC in points allowed from 2011-14. Mississippi State’s defense was a big reason why the Bulldogs won 10 games in 2014, and Collins inherits a solid core of defensive talent in Gainesville.

 

Josh Conklin, Defensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh

Conklin is a rising star in the assistant ranks and was picked by defensive guru Pat Narduzzi to call the signals for Pittsburgh’s defense. The Wyoming native started his coaching career in 2003 and was hired at Tennessee in 2012, before landing his first FBS coordinator position at FIU in 2013. The Panthers ranked third in Conference USA in scoring defense and generated 33 turnovers last season.

 

Related: College Football's Top Coordinators on the Rise for 2015

 

Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State

Diaz was considered a rising star when he was hired by Mack Brown at Texas in 2011. However, the Longhorns regressed on defense after a promising 2011 season, and Diaz was removed as the coordinator in 2013. Even though his tenure in Austin was a disappointment, Diaz bounced back at Louisiana Tech in 2014, as the Bulldogs led the nation with 42 turnovers and held opponents to 24.7 points per game. The Miami native returns to Starkville after working as the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator in 2010.

 

D.J. Durkin, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan

The play of Florida’s defense was overlooked during the Will Muschamp era due to the struggles of the offense. Although Muschamp played a huge role in developing the defense, Durkin also deserves a lot of credit. The Ohio native is a highly-regarded assistant and is reunited with Jim Harbaugh after working at Stanford with the former Michigan quarterback from 2007-09.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

Enos’ decision to leave his position as head coach of Central Michigan for a coordinator job came as a surprise. However, the Michigan native was a good hire for an Arkansas’ offense hoping to increase its passing output in 2015. Enos worked as a quarterback coach from 2004-05 at Cincinnati and 2006 at Michigan State. And at Central Michigan, the Chippewas averaged at least 25 points per game in MAC contests from 2011-14.

 

David Gibbs, Defensive Coordinator, Texas Tech

Defense has been a major issue at Texas Tech in recent years. Since 2010, the Red Raiders have never ranked higher than seventh in the Big 12 in scoring defense and allowed a whopping 41.3 points per game in 2014. Gibbs takes over in Lubbock after coordinating an aggressive, turnover-driven Houston defense from 2013-14. The Cougars also limited opponents to 20.6 points per game last year. This should be one of the nation’s top hires in 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Coordinators on the Rise for 2015

 

Danny Langsdorf, Offensive Coordinator, Nebraska

Langsdorf is back in the collegiate ranks after a one-year stint with the Giants. Prior to 2014, Langsdorf worked as Oregon State’s coordinator from 2005-13 and also has stops on his resume from the CFL (Edmonton) and in the NFL (Saints). Langsdorf was a valuable assistant for coach Mike Riley in developing quarterbacks and passing attacks at Oregon State. The Beavers led the Pac-12 in passing offense in 2013 and finished second in 2012.

 

Jim Leavitt, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado

Leavitt is back in the collegiate ranks after a four-year stint as an assistant with the 49ers. The Texas native previously worked as the head coach at USF from 1996-09 and made a stop as a co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State from 1992-95. Leavitt has a wealth of experience on defense, which is a huge asset to Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre as he looks to improve a defense that allowed 43 points per game in Pac-12 action in 2014.

 

Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Auburn in coach Gus Malzahn’s two-year tenure. However, the defense allowed 32.8 points per game in SEC contests in 2014 and surrendered 29.6 points per contests in 2013. Muschamp’s arrival should pay huge dividends for the Tigers this season, as he’s regarded as one of the top defensive minds in college football. Muschamp didn’t work out at Florida as a head coach, but he should have more success calling the defensive signals for Auburn.

 

Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri

Memphis showed significant progress under Justin Fuente’s watch over the last three seasons. Fuente has been instrumental in the turnaround, but he also hired a good staff, including Odom as the defensive coordinator. The Tigers gave up 19.5 points per game in 2014 and limited opponents to 4.7 yards per play. As a former Missouri linebacker and Gary Pinkel assistant, Odom should provide Missouri with a seamless transition from Dave Steckel at coordinator.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Lincoln Riley, Offensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

After last year’s disappointing 8-5 record, Bob Stoops wasted no time in overhauling Oklahoma’s coaching staff. Riley plans on implementing an Air Raid attack similar to the one he coordinated at East Carolina and learned under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The Sooners want to jumpstart their passing attack after ranking eighth in the Big 12 last season, but Riley won’t abandon the rushing game, especially with talented sophomore Samaje Perine leading the way. Under Riley’s watch (2010-14), East Carolina averaged at least 30 points a game in three out of the last four seasons.

 

Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

Sanford is considered a rising star among coordinators and has been on a fast track through the assistant ranks. Sanford worked as a graduate assistant with UNLV in 2005-06 and later spent two seasons with Stanford from 2007-08. After one season at Yale, the former Boise State quarterback spent a year at WKU and returned to the Cardinal to work under David Shaw from 2011-13. Sanford coordinated Boise State’s offense last year, guiding the Broncos to an average of 39.7 points per game.

 

Related: Neutral-Site Dream Matchups for Notre Dame Football

 

Kalani Sitake, Defensive Corodinator, Oregon State

Gary Andersen inherited a rebuilding project at Oregon State, but future looks bright in Corvallis with the former Utah State and Wisconsin head coach leading the way. Andersen also hired an outstanding staff, including Sitake as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Hawaii native was hired away from Utah after spending 10 years with the Utes, including six as the play-caller on defense. In 2014, Utah ranked No. 4 in the Pac-12 in scoring defense.

 

Related: Kalani Sitake is a Defensive Coach on the Rise

 

Top Group of 5 Coordinator Hires

 

Kent Baer, Defensive Coordinator, UNLV

A veteran coordinator like Baer is a huge asset to UNLV, as new coach Tony Sanchez makes the transition from the high school ranks. Baer was hired to Las Vegas away from Colorado after a two-year stint with the Buffaloes. In addition to his last job, Baer has worked as the defensive coordinator at San Jose State, Washington, Notre Dame, Arizona State, California, Idaho and Utah State.

 

Brian Borland, Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo

Buffalo made one of the offseason’s top hires with the addition of Lance Leipold from Wisconsin-Whitewater, and a few coaches followed Leipold to the FBS level. Borland worked as Wisconsin-Whitewater’s defensive play-caller from 2002-14, with the Warhawks holding opponents to just 12.2 points per game last season.

 

Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State

Clune coached at Utah State from 2009-13 before leaving for a season to coordinate Hawaii’s defense in 2014. The Rainbow Warriors defense showed significant improvement under Clune’s direction, allowing 26.8 points per game in 2014 after giving up 38.8 in 2013.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Brent Key, Offensive Coordinator, UCF

Key is known for his work on the recruiting trail but now has a chance to call the plays for UCF’s offense in 2015. The Birmingham native has worked as a full-time assistant at UCF since 2006.

 

Todd Orlando, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Houston

Orlando is part of a solid staff pieced together by new coach Tom Herman. The Pennsylvania native has worked as a defensive coordinator in the FBS ranks since 2005, including the last two with Utah State. The Aggies limited opposing offenses to 19.7 points per game last year.

 

Tyson Summers, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado State

Summers was picked by new Colorado State coach Mike Bobo to coordinate the Rams’ defense after a successful one-year stint as UCF’s defensive signal-caller in 2014. Under Summers’ watch, the Knights held opponents to 19.2 points per game.

 

Don Treadwell, Offensive Coordinator, Kent State

Treadwell struggled as a head coach at Miami (Ohio), but the Ohio native is regarded for his work as a play-caller, especially during a four-year stint at Michigan State from 2007-10.

 

Bryant Vincent, Offensive Coordinator, South Alabama

Vincent returns to South Alabama after one season at UAB. In 2014, Vincent guided the Blazers to an average of 33.2 points per game and ranked fourth in Conference USA with 17 plays of 40 yards or more.

 

Brian Ward, Defensive Coordinator, Bowling Green

Bowling Green’s defense struggled mightily last year, giving up 33.5 points per game in coach Dino Babers’ first season. Ward returns only four starters, but the Falcons should be better on this side of the ball in 2015. Under Ward’s direction, Western Illinois ranked seventh nationally in total defense in 2013.

 

Bill Young, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Tulsa

Young is sharing the co-defensive coordinator title with former Baylor assistant Brian Norwood, and the veteran assistant should be a huge asset for new coach Philip Montgomery. Young has a wealth of experience as a coordinator, including recent stops at Oklahoma State (2009-12), Miami (2008) and Kansas (2002-07).

Teaser:
College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/dana-holgorsen-and-pat-narduzzi-trade-jabs-over-scheduling-backyard-brawl
Body:

Rivalry games are a huge part of college football, but recent conference realignment has changed the outlook for some of these annual matchups. Missouri-Kansas and Texas-Texas A&M aren’t scheduled to play anytime soon, and Pittsburgh-West Virginia – known as the Backyard Brawl – is also in hiatus.

 

The Backyard Brawl is among the best rivalries in college football, but it’s future is up in the air.

 

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen wants to play Pittsburgh and renew the annual rivalry, but is the feeling mutual?

 

New Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi was asked about the future of the rivalry when the ACC coaches visited ESPN this week: 

After Narduzzi’s comments were circulated, Holgorsen took to Twitter to issue a (rather perfect) response:

While the back-and-forth between the two coaches makes for excellent offseason discussion, there’s no reason for either program to avoid scheduling the other to renew the rivalry. After all, scheduling this game would meet two criteria: Better non-conference games and selling tickets.

 

Sounds like a win-win proposition doesn’t it?

 

Let’s get this game scheduled as soon as possible.

Teaser:
Dana Holgorsen and Pat Narduzzi Trade Jabs Over Backyard Brawl
Post date: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/sec-football-breakout-players-2015
Body:

Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.

 

Related: College Football’s Top 50 Players for 2015

 

The SEC lost some big names at quarterback, which opens the door for new stars to emerge like Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen, Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs. On the defensive side of the ball, there’s no shortage of talent for college football's No. 1 league in 2015. Texas A&M’s Otaro Alaka is a rising star in the sophomore ranks, while true freshman defensive tackle Trent Thompson is poised to be a key part of the line rotation for Georgia.

 

Predicting the SEC's Breakout Players for 2015

 

Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams was an impact freshman for coach Les Miles in 2014, and the expectations are even higher for the Texas native in 2015. In 13 games last season, Adams recorded 66 tackles, one sack and five pass breakups. The sophomore is expected to start this year and help anchor a secondary that is among the best in college football.

 

Related: Why LSU Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M

New coordinator John Chavis inherits a defense that allowed 28.1 points per game last season but has promising young talent to build around. Alaka is one of the players for Texas A&M’s core on defense, as the Houston native had an underrated debut with the Aggies in 2014. As a true freshman, Alaka recorded 33 tackles in 12 games and also forced two fumbles. After earning Defensive MVP honors in the Liberty Bowl, Alaka is poised to push for All-SEC accolades this year.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M

Talented true freshman Kyler Murray is going to see some snaps this season, but Allen is expected to hold onto the starting spot this fall. Allen was one of the top quarterbacks in last year’s signing class and eventually replaced Kenny Hill as the Aggies’ starter. The Arizona native played in nine games and finished the year with 1,322 yards and 16 scores. Allen’s best performance came against West Virginia in the Liberty Bowl, tossing four scores in a 45-37 win by the Aggies.

 

Jeb Blazevich, TE, Georgia

Georgia’s receiving corps is a question mark, but the concerns over this unit could be eased if Blazevich is more involved in the passing attack in 2014. As a true freshman last year, Blazevich caught 18 passes for 269 yards and two scores. The North Carolina native should be in the mix for All-SEC honors in 2015.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC Offensive Lines for 2015

 

Tony Bridges, CB, Ole Miss

The Rebels’ pass defense was among the stingiest in college football last season. While there’s a few personnel tweaks coming to the secondary in 2015, this unit should once again rank among the best in the nation. Bridges was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for coach Hugh Freeze, ranking as the No. 7 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite. The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College transfer was a first-team NJCAA All-American last year and is penciled in as one starter at cornerback this season.

 

Nate Brown, WR, Missouri

There’s no shortage of available playing time in Missouri’s receiving corps in 2015. The Tigers must replace their top four statistical options in the passing game from 2014, with tight end Sean Culkin (20 catches) as the team’s most proven option. Brown played in nine games as a true freshman last season and caught five passes for 45 yards. He could emerge as the go-to target for quarterback Maty Mauk this fall.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Non-Conference Games for 2015

 

Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee

If Dobbs picks up where he left off in 2014, Tennessee should be in the race to win the SEC East. Over the final six games of last season, Dobbs threw for 1,206 yards and nine scores and rushed for 469 yards and eight touchdowns. After posting big numbers against South Carolina and Kentucky in 2014, Dobbs is tasked with increasing his production against some of the SEC’s top defenses this year.

 

Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU

LSU isn’t hurting for talent at receiver, but the success of the passing attack heavily depends on the development of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. Dupre was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class and played in 12 contests last year. The New Orleans native caught 14 passes for 318 yards and five scores in his first season on campus and could easily double those totals in 2015.

 

Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster is known for his punishing hits, but the junior could be much more than a highlight-reel player in 2015. The Alabama native played in 11 contests last year and recorded 22 stops and one sack. Foster is expected to push for a starting job on the interior of the Crimson Tide’s linebacking corps and is primed for his best season in Tuscaloosa.

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2015

 

Robert Foster, WR, Alabama

Alabama’s passing attack has to be retooled this offseason. Quarterback Blake Sims has expired his eligibility, and the Crimson Tide must replace the top three receivers from last year, including No. 1 target Amari Cooper (124 catches in 2014). Foster could be the new go-to receiver for coordinator Lane Kiffin after catching six passes for 44 yards in nine games last season. The former five-star recruit is just scratching the surface of his potential.

 

Gerri Green, LB, Mississippi State

The Bulldogs have to replace some key pieces from last year’s defense, starting with star linebacker Benardrick McKinney. However, the linebacking corps has plenty of talent in place, and coordinator Manny Diaz has to be excited about the potential of Green and fellow freshman Leo Lewis. Green redshirted in 2014 and should push for a starting job in the fall.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

Even though Shane Ray and Markus Golden have departed, there’s not a ton of concern at defensive end for Missouri. After all, the Tigers continue to produce standout ends under line coach Craig Kuligowski. All signs point to Harris as the next star off the edge. The sophomore played in all 14 games as a reserve last season and recorded 19 tackles and two sacks.

 

Jason Hatcher, LB/DE, Kentucky

With Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith off to the NFL, Kentucky is replacing two key members from a pass rush ranked No. 9 in the SEC in sacks last year. Needless to say, Dupree and Smith leave big shoes to fill, but there’s promise in the form of Hatcher. As a sophomore last year, Hatcher recorded 28 tackles (5.5 for a loss) and 1.5 sacks. The hybrid end/linebacker is due for his best statistical year for coach Mark Stoops.

 

Bijhon Jackson, DT, Arkansas

With the departure of standouts Trey Flowers and Darius Philon, the Razorbacks are looking for new players to emerge up front. This group may not have a star performer in 2015, but Arkansas has solid depth and plenty of talent for coordinator Robb Smith. Jackson is a name to watch after playing in all 13 games as a true freshman last season. The Arkansas native finished 2014 with nine tackles and one pass breakup and will be a bigger part of the rotation in the trenches this year.

 

Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

Johnson’s mention in this column should come as no surprise. The junior has received plenty of offseason hype, and all signs point to Johnson emerging as an All-SEC quarterback in 2015. In limited action over the last two seasons, Johnson has passed for 858 yards and nine scores.

 

Related: 10 First-Year Starters at QB That Could Win the National Title in 2015

 

Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee

Jalen Hurd returns after leading Tennessee with 899 rushing yards in 2014, but the Volunteers’ backfield will be even deeper with the addition of Kamara from the junior college ranks. Kamara started his career at Alabama and transferred after one year in Tuscaloosa. In nine games in 2014, Kamara rushed for 1,211 yards and 18 scores with Hutchinson Community College. Expect Kamara and Hurd to share the workload in Tennessee’s backfield, which has the potential to emerge as one of the best in the SEC this season.

 

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Texas A&M’s receiving corps was already one of the best in the nation, and the rich are about to get a little richer in 2015. True freshman Christian Kirk is expected to push for a starting job at one of the inside spots in Texas A&M’s receiver lineup. The Arizona native ranked as the No. 25 recruit in the 2015 247Sports and is expected to be one of the SEC’s top freshman performers in 2015.

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2015

 

Marquavius Lewis, DE, South Carolina

Improving the performance of the defensive line is a huge priority for new co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke this offseason. The Gamecocks registered only 14 sacks last year and surrendered 212.2 rushing yards per game. Lewis is expected to be an impact junior college recruit for Hoke after two standout years at Hutchinson Community College. The South Carolina native was the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year and registered 11 sacks in 2014.

 

Alex McCalister, DE/LB, Florida

The strength of Florida’s team in coach Jim McElwain’s first year clearly rests on a defense that allowed only 21.1 points per game in 2014. Seven starters are back for coordinator Geoff Collins, but standout end Dante Fowler must be replaced. However, the drop in pass rush may be minimal with McCalister’s emergence last year. The North Carolina native recorded 23 tackles and six sacks in 12 contests and is due for a bigger role in the trenches this fall.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Markell Pack, WR, Ole Miss

With Laquon Treadwell returning to full strength from a leg injury by the fall, along with the return of proven targets Cody Core and tight end Evan Engram, the Rebels should boast one of the top receiving corps in college football. This group could get even deeper if Pack continues to develop. As a true freshman in 2014, Pack caught 14 passes for 173 yards, with four of those coming in the bowl against TCU. After a strong finish to 2014, bigger things are expected of Pack in 2015.

 

Jamal Peters, S, Mississippi State

Mississippi State’s cornerback duo of Taveze Calhoun and Will Redmond should be among the best in the SEC in 2015. But there’s some uncertainty at safety entering fall camp. Peters is a touted true freshman, ranking as the No. 58 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite. The Mississippi native will compete for a starting job in the fall.

 

Ross Pierschbacher, OG, Alabama

Alabama must replace three starters on its line, but this unit already has two of the better building blocks in the SEC with the return of left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly. Pierschbacher is penciled in as a starter at one of the guard spots, and the Iowa native is ready to be a key contributor for Alabama’s offensive line after a redshirt year in 2014. Pierschbacher ranked as the No. 74 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.

 

Brandon Powell, WR, Florida

The Gators are looking for a spark on offense after averaging 24.9 points in SEC games last season. Redshirt freshman Will Grier is the favorite to start at quarterback and could be another breakout candidate to monitor. However, Powell is an intriguing player for new coach Jim McElwain. A foot injury sidelined Powell for part of spring practice, but the sophomore made a successful transition from running back to receiver. He should be a solid No. 2 option in the receiving corps behind Demarcus Robinson.

 

Jovon Robinson, RB, Auburn

The Tigers have good depth at running back, but Robinson is likely to handle the bulk of the carries this season. The Memphis native ranked as the No. 1 junior college prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite and rushed for 2,387 yards at Georgia Military College in 2013. Roc Thomas and Peyton Barber are expected to spell Robinson, but the junior college recruit will be tough to unseat at the top.

 

Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions

 

Fred Ross, WR, Mississippi State

Mississippi State already has one of the SEC’s top receiving corps, and this unit is going to benefit from the continued emergence of Ross this fall. In 13 games last season, Ross grabbed 30 passes for 489 yards and five scores. The 16.3 yards per catch average also ranked ninth among receivers in the SEC. Ross caught only nine passes as a freshman but showed steady progress as a sophomore and finished with 11 receptions over the final two games. Expect the junior to be more involved in the offense in 2015.

 

Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina

Pharoh Cooper is one of the SEC’s top playmakers, but South Carolina lacks proven options outside of its star receiver. Samuel is pushing for a starting spot after a redshirt year in 2014, and the South Carolina native finished spring by catching three passes for 94 yards in the final scrimmage.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas

The Razorbacks hope to upgrade their passing attack after managing only 188 yards per game last season. New coordinator Dan Enos needs more targets to emerge in the passing game to help quarterback Brandon Allen, and Sprinkle is a name to watch after a strong spring. Sprinkle caught seven passes for 84 yards and one score last year and should be more involved with the offense in 2015.

 

Related: Why Arkansas Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia

Thompson ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the 2015 247Sports Composite and is expected to play a key role in Georgia’s defensive line rotation this fall. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, the Georgia native is a good fit as the anchor for coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s 3-4 scheme.

 

Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt

Second-year coach Derek Mason is taking over the defensive play-calling after Vanderbilt allowed 33.3 points per game in 2014. Weatherly is one player for Mason to build around after the Georgia native recorded 55 tackles (12.5 for a loss) and 4.5 sacks last season. Mason needs edge rushers to emerge for the 3-4 approach to succeed this year, and Weatherly has the potential to double his sack total this fall.

 

Boom Williams, RB, Kentucky

If last season’s finale against Louisville was any indication of what to expect from Williams in 2015, the sophomore is in for a huge year. On 18 carries against the Cardinals, Williams recorded 126 rushing yards and two scores and caught three passes for 13 yards. Williams only received 74 carries, but he averaged a healthy 6.6 yards per carry and accumulated 115.9 all-purpose yards a game in 2014. 

Teaser:
SEC Football Breakout Players for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-body-slams-kid-pool
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With fall practice right around the corner, coaches and players are trying to squeeze in the last bit of free time or vacation before the season begins in force. Even though Ohio State is focused on winning another national championship, there’s still plenty of time for the Buckeyes to relax and get away from the summer heat.

 

Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones is locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback job with J.T. Barrett, but the junior isn't one to be bothered by pressure. 

 

On Sunday, Jones and a few teammates were hanging out at a pool. And needless to say, just a simple hangout at the pool wasn’t in order for Jones. Instead, the quarterback had a little fun and put a couple of WWE moves on a child at the pool.

 

Teammate Tyvis Powell captured the wrestling moves on video:

 

Teaser:
Cardale Jones Body Slams Kid Into Pool
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 11:07
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-coaches-hot-seat-2015
Body:

College football coaches are always on the hot seat. The pressure to win now is greater than it was 15-20 years ago. With the 24-hour news cycle, social media and message boards, coaches, teams and players are always on the spotlight.

 

The terms “hot seat” and “under pressure” don’t necessarily mean a coach is entering a year with concerns about job security, but there are a handful of coaches needing a big season to return in 2016.

 

Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Virginia’s Mike London and Miami's Al Golden top the hot seat list from Power 5 programs for 2015, while Hawaii’s Norm Chow and San Jose State’s Ron Caragher lead the way from Group of 5 teams. 

 

College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015

 

1. Tim Beckman, Illinois

Record at Illinois: 12-25 (3 years)

 

It’s been a difficult offseason for Beckman, as allegations of player mistreatment surfaced in May, adding to the pressure for a program that is just 12-25 over the last three years. Illinois has showed some improvement under Beckman, jumping in wins from just two in 2012 to four in 2013, followed by a 6-7 mark last season. The Fighting Illini needs to get back to a bowl in 2015 to save Beckman’s job.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

2. Mike London, Virginia

Record at Virginia: 23-38 (5 years)

 

Recruiting talent to Virginia hasn’t been a problem for London. Since 2011, the Cavaliers rank No. 6 among ACC teams with an average of 31.8 in recruiting rankings. However, there’s room to improve in the on-field performance. Virginia has only one winning season during London’s tenure (2011) and has just five ACC victories over the last three years. London’s 5-7 record in 2014 bought him another season, but the Cavaliers need to get to a bowl in 2015.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

3. Norm Chow, Hawaii

Record at Hawaii: 8-29 (3 years)

 

Chow was a popular hire for the Rainbow Warriors, but the Hawaii native and long-time assistant needs to show progress in 2015. Hawaii is just 8-29 under Chow’s watch but recorded its best mark (4-9) of his tenure last year. Prior to taking over as the head coach for the Rainbow Warriors, Chow was regarded as an assistant during stops at UCLA, USC, Utah, NC State and BYU. 2015 is a make-or-break year for Chow in Honolulu. 

 

Related: Mountain West Predictions for 2015

 

4. Al Golden, Miami

Record at Miami: 28-22 (4 years)

 

Is Miami ready to win the ACC Coastal? That question has surrounded the Hurricanes each offseason in recent memory, and the pressure on Golden is increasing in intensity after a 6-7 record last year. Simply, Miami has too much talent to finish with a losing record in ACC play two times in the last four years. Golden inherited a few issues in Coral Gables, including the NCAA/Nevin Shapiro investigation. However, Miami ranks as the No. 3 roster in the ACC and is just 16-16 in conference play over the last four seasons. 

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

5. Ron Caragher, San Jose State

Record at San Jose State: 9-15 (2 years)

 

Mike MacIntyre set the bar high for Caragher at San Jose State. In three years with the Spartans, MacIntyre went 16-21, including a 10-2 mark (prior to the bowl) in 2012. While reaching 10 wins at San Jose State isn’t easy, Caragher and San Jose State are trending in the wrong direction. After a 6-6 mark in 2013, the Spartans regressed to 3-9 last season. Caragher reeled in a solid recruiting class in the spring, and the third-year coach may need big contributions from a handful of freshmen in 2015.

 

6. Willie Taggart, USF

Record at USF: 6-18 (2 years)

 

Taggart was a promising hire for a USF program coming off an 8-16 record from 2011-12 under Skip Holtz. However, the Bulls are only 6-18 over the last two seasons and is picked by most to finish near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference’s East Division. Taggart has recruited well, so talent isn’t an issue. However, there’s a lot of youth on the roster, and assistant/scheme changes on both sides of the ball. USF has enough returning talent to reach a bowl. But there’s also enough concerns to finish 4-8 again.

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2015 Predictions

 

7. Kevin Wilson, Indiana

Record at Indiana: 14-34 (4 years)

 

Indiana is one of the Big Ten’s toughest jobs, and Wilson was handed a serious setback after quarterback Nate Sudfeld was lost midway through 2014 with a shoulder injury. The Hoosiers have made progress under Wilson’s watch and nearly made a bowl in 2014 with a 5-7 mark. After a 1-11 record in Wilson’s first year (2011), Indiana has won at least four games in each of the last three seasons. The pressure on Wilson is building, but progress has been noticeable and a postseason trip is within reach for 2015.

 

Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015

 

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Record at Iowa: 115-85 (16 years)

 

Ferentz is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the nation, entering his 17th season at the helm in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes have played in 12 bowls under Ferentz, finished in the Associated Press poll five times and posted four years of double-digit wins. That’s the positive side of Ferentz’s tenure. However, the Hawkeyes have not won more than eight games and have only one winning mark in Big Ten play since 2009. Ferentz has done a lot of good things for Iowa. But it’s not easy to maintain success at one program for an extended period of time. 2015 probably isn’t a make-or-break year, but Ferentz needs to show this program isn’t growing stale under his watch. 

 

9. Paul Haynes, Kent State

Record at Kent State: 6-17 (2 years)

 

Maintaining success as been difficult at Kent State. Darrell Hazell guided the Golden Flashes to an 11-3 mark in 2012, which was the program’s first double-digit win total in school history. However, Kent State has struggled under Haynes’ direction, going 6-17 over the last two years. The Golden Flashes went 2-9 last season and won only one game in conference play. 

 

10. Ron Turner, FIU

Record at FIU: 5-19 (2 years)

 

Turner was a surprising hire at FIU, and the program slumped to a 1-11 record in his first season (2013). However, there were some signs of life by the Panthers last year, as Turner guided the program to a 4-8 mark. With 14 starters returning, FIU has a chance to show more progress in 2015.

 

Getting Warm?

 

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech

Record at Virginia Tech: 231-115-2 (28 years)

 

This will be an interesting scenario to watch. It’s unlikely Virginia Tech will fire Beamer, but the Hokies have been trending in the wrong direction since 2011. This program is 22-17 over the last three years and is coming off its worst conference record (3-5) since joining the ACC.  

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Record at Vanderbilt: 3-9 (1 year)

 

James Franklin set the bar high after three successful years in Nashville, and Mason is looking for improvement after a 3-9 record in his debut.

 

Paul Rhoads, Iowa State

Record at Iowa State: 29-46 (6 years)

 

Iowa State is easily one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in college football. However, since guiding the Cyclones to three bowl appearances in four years, Rhoads is just 5-19 over the last two seasons.

 

Scott Shafer, Syracuse

Record at Syracuse: 10-15 (2 years)

 

Shafer had a solid debut (7-6), but the Orange regressed to 3-9 last season. Injuries hit this team hard last year, and the offense managed only 17.1 points a game. With a new athletic director, Shafer needs to make a good first impression.

Teaser:
College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/usf-unveils-new-uniforms-and-alternate-jerseys-2015
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USF is searching for improvement in coach Willie Taggart’s third season, and the Bulls hope their quest for a turnaround is bolstered by some sharp new uniforms for 2015.

 

Some of these designs have been used before, but USF appears to have a new alternate, which features yellow and green stripes on the shoulders (along with bright yellow numbers).

 

Check out USF’s sharp new uniforms for the 2015 season: 

 

Teaser:
USF Unveils New Uniforms and Alternate Jerseys for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/why-baylor-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Baylor is a program on the rise under coach Art Briles. The Bears have won at least 10 games in three out of the last four years and just missed out on a playoff appearance last season. There’s no doubt Briles has raised the expectation level in Waco, and this program has staying power as an annual contender to win the Big 12 and compete for playoff appearances.

 

As the 2015 season approaches, Baylor should be considered one of the favorites to claim a spot among the four playoff teams. The offense will be explosive once again, and the defense should improve with nine starters returning.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Baylor will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Bears won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Baylor Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. New Quarterback, No Problem

TCU has been picked by most as the preseason favorite in the Big 12, and it’s no secret the Horned Frogs have the league’s best quarterback in senior Trevone Boykin. While quarterback play is always a critical component to winning a conference championship, the turnover under center isn’t cause for concern at Baylor. Coach Art Briles is one of the top offensive minds in the nation, and the Bears have reloaded with ease at quarterback in recent years, as Nick Florence and Bryce Petty kept the offense firing on all cylinders after Robert Griffin III left for the NFL. Has Baylor developed into a program that can easily transition between starters and suffer little or no drop in production for the passing attack? It certainly seems that way. Expect Seth Russell to thrive in his first year under center for the Bears.

 

2. Abundance of Playmakers

It’s not unrealistic to think Baylor might have the nation’s top collection of skill talent. Running back Shock Linwood returns after rushing for 1,252 yards and 16 scores last season, and there’s plenty of depth in the form of Devin Chafin, Johnny Jefferson and Terence Williams. At receiver, the Bears boast the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps. Corey Coleman and KD Cannon are All-America candidates after combining for 19 touchdown scores last season. Antwan Goodley will be missed, but Jay Lee (15.4 ypc in 2014), Davion Hall, Ishmael Zamora and Chris Platt are more big-play threats ready to emerge in 2015.

 

3. Best Line of Scrimmage in the Nation?

It’s an overused cliché at times, but teams have to be strong in the trenches to compete for a national title. Baylor’s lines of scrimmage are the best in the Big 12 and among the top teams nationally. The Bears return five starters on an offensive line that allowed 19 sacks in nine Big 12 contests, with senior All-American Spencer Drango anchoring the line from the left tackle position. Briles and coordinator Phil Bennett have significantly upgraded the talent on defense in recent years, starting with a line that is tough against the run and also capable of getting to the quarterback. This unit is headlined by end Shawn Oakman, while tackle Andrew Billings might be one of the nation’s most underrated players.

 

Baylor's 2015 Schedule
DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 4at SMU1024-8
Sept. 12Lamar--
Sept. 26Rice897-5
Oct. 3Texas Tech (Arlington)486-6
Oct. 10at Kansas1031-11
Oct. 17West Virginia368-4
Oct. 24Iowa State743-9
Nov. 5at Kansas State447-5
Nov. 14Oklahoma179-3
Nov. 21at Oklahoma State288-4
Nov. 27at TCU510-2
Dec. 5Texas337-5

Three Reasons Why Baylor Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. November Road Schedule

The biggest obstacle to Baylor’s college football playoff hopes has little to do with its personnel. Instead, the Bears playoff bid could be derailed by a brutal November road slate. Baylor plays at Kansas State on Nov. 5, followed by a home date against Oklahoma, then back-to-back road games against Oklahoma State and TCU. While non-conference scheduling has been a source of criticism for Baylor, the Bears will have one of the nation’s toughest November stretches in the nation.

 

2. Quarterback Play Isn’t an Easy Transition

All signs point to Seth Russell having an easy transition into the starting role for Baylor. After all, Robert Griffin III to Nick Florence was easy, followed by a seamless transition from Florence to Bryce Petty. But what if it doesn’t go well? Russell should cruise through the first three games against non-conference opponents. How will he perform in his first Big 12 start against Texas Tech? Will he be completely settled into the starting job against Kansas State on Nov. 5?

 

3. Defense Doesn’t Improve

Baylor’s defense certainly wasn’t bad last year. The Bears held opponents to 25.5 points per game, ranked 16th nationally in rush defense and gave up 5.3 yards per play in 2014. However, there’s certainly room to improve. Baylor allowed at least 40 points in two out of its last three games and surrendered 34 passing plays of 30 yards or more. With nine starters back, improvement should be noticeable on the stat sheet for coordinator Phil Bennett. However, if this unit doesn’t improve, stopping TCU’s high-powered offense in a game that could decide the Big 12 title will be a huge challenge. 

 

Final Verdict

 

Don’t expect a repeat of 2014. The Big 12 will get one team into the college football playoff. TCU is getting most of the preseason attention as the favorite in the Big 12, but Baylor has all of the necessary pieces to win the conference crown. Sure, replacing quarterback Bryce Petty is going to be a challenge. However, Seth Russell looks to be a capable option, and the Bears have a loaded receiving corps and supporting cast to ease the transition. And of course, Baylor hasn’t had much trouble replacing starting quarterbacks recently. The defense has to improve, but Briles has reason to be optimistic with nine returning starters. The road trip to TCU will be a huge challenge and could decide which team wins the Big 12. If the transition to Russell is seamless, and the defense continues to improve, Baylor will repeat as Big 12 champions and earn a spot in the playoff. 

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 3

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big 12)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 10.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 10

Teaser:
Why Baylor Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 27, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/cardale-jones-or-jt-barrett-who-should-start-ohio-state-2015
Body:

Ohio State's quarterback battle is officially down to Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett. Although coach Urban Meyer didn’t fully commit to Braxton Miller at receiver in interviews on Thursday night, all signs point to the senior playing in an all-purpose/receiver and special teams returner for the Buckeyes in 2015.

 

While coach Urban Meyer’s decision got a little easier with Miller moving to receiver, there’s still a huge decision to make between Jones and Barrett. Should Meyer stick with Jones? After all, Barrett wasn’t at full strength in the spring, and Jones had the opportunity to work with the first-team offense. Or should Barrett return to the starting spot? Remember, prior to his season-ending leg injury, the redshirt freshman was among the nation’s top quarterbacks.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Regardless of who starts, Ohio State’s offense is going to be among the best in the nation. However, will one quarterback see the majority of snaps? Or will the Buckeyes find a way to involve both signal-callers in game action this fall?

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of both quarterbacks:

 

Cardale Jones

Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

- Finished the year as Ohio State’s No. 1 quarterback after injuries to Miller and Barrett.

 

- Thrived under pressure by guiding Ohio State to wins in each of its last three games, including the national championship over Oregon.

 

- Possesses big-time arm and tough for opposing defenses to bring down at 250 pounds.

 

- Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s performance increased after Jones was the starting quarterback.

 

J.T. Barrett

Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

- Placed into difficult role last year after Braxton Miller was lost due to injury and grew into one of the nation’s top quarterbacks. Barrett threw for 2,834 yards and 34 scores and added 938 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.

 

- More dynamic runner than Jones and also connected on 23 passing plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.

 

- Limited in spring due to leg injury but is expected to be at full strength by fall practice.

 

- Accurate. Completed 64.6 percent of his throws in 2014. 

 

Who Should Take the First Snap of the Year for Ohio State?

 

Should Meyer stick with Jones after his impressive three-game stretch to close 2014? Or should Barrett – regarded for his leadership and dynamic play-making ability – as a redshirt freshman in 2014 – regain the starting job?

 

Athlon’s editors and contributors chime in with a few picks before fall camp starts for Ohio State on Aug. 10:

 

J.P. Scott (@TheJPScott): J.T. Barrett

The Buckeyes would not have been in position to make the College Football Playoff in 2014 without Barrett's play. The offense is designed to be run most efficiently by a player with his skill set, regardless of the success Jones had in the postseason.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games in Ohio State's Quest to Repeat in 2015


Chip Minnich (@ChipMinnich): J.T. Barrett
Both quarterbacks will play, especially in the early portion of the season, but look for Barrett to emerge as the starter.  Not only did Barrett have an exceptional 2014 season before his injury, but Barrett may have the edge on Jones with regards to leadership that Urban Meyer wants from his quarterback.

 

Related: Why Ohio State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Cardale Jones

This is a good problem for Urban Meyer. Two quarterbacks with the potential to be the best in college football or win the Heisman Trophy are vying for the starting spot this fall. I’ve gone back and forth on this question, but I would stick with Cardale Jones as the starter – at least for the opener. I think both quarterbacks make a start this year, but my guess is Jones takes the first snap against Virginia Tech.

 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB): Cardale Jones

You really cannot go wrong with either option if you are Urban Meyer, which must be nice. Even if J.T. Barrett’s ankle is in good shape and despite his experience of leading the offense in the regular season, Cardale Jones has shown what he can do with a big arm and frame against the best of the best and he certainly is not lacking in confidence.

 

Related: James Franklin is Setting the Foundation for Future Success at Penn State

 

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR): Cardale Jones

J.T. Barrett didn't do anything to "lose" the starting job, but you also can't ignore what Jones did in the College Football Playoff after starting out the season as the third-string guy. The Buckeyes will be just fine at QB regardless of who starts, but the opening assignment should go to the guy who ended the season with the gig.

Teaser:
Cardale Jones vs. J.T. Barrett: Who Should Start for Ohio State in 2015?
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 12:19
Path: /college-football/nebraska-big-ten-west-divisions-sleeper-team-2015
Body:

It’s a new era for Nebraska football in 2015. Mike Riley was hired to replace Bo Pelini, and the former Oregon State coach inherits a team that has won at least nine games in each of the last seven seasons. However, the bar in Lincoln is higher than just getting to nine victories. Competing for conference championships is a must, and the Cornhuskers have all of the necessary resources to be a top 15-20 team on a consistent basis.

 

As Riley heads into his first year, Nebraska isn’t considered the favorite in the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin is a consensus favorite among the preseason prognosticators, with Ohio State the clear pick to win the Big Ten.

 

Related: Nebraska’s Maliek Collins Ranks as One of College Football's Top 50 Players

 

While the Badgers are the favorite in the West Division, the Cornhuskers shouldn’t be overlooked and could be a sleeper pick to make the trip to Indianapolis in early December.

 

Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?

 

(Here are a few reasons to buy the Cornhuskers as a West Division title contender in 2015)

 

1. Manageable Big Ten Schedule

A crossover game against Michigan State is challenging, but Nebraska misses Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State from the East Division, and Wisconsin and Iowa visit Memorial Stadium in 2015. The upcoming slate certainly isn’t easy, especially with the crossover matchup against the Spartans and the road trip to Minnesota. However, if Nebraska knocks off Wisconsin in October, it would give Riley’s team a chance to position itself for a run at the West Division title in November.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

2. Improvement Behind a First-Year Coach

Every year, it seems there are a handful of teams that make a jump in the standings based on the strength of a new coaching staff and schemes. Could Nebraska get the first-year bump in 2015? Riley’s career record at Oregon State was just 93-80, but winning in Corvallis is no easy task. Riley knows how to get the most out of a roster and discover hidden gems on the recruiting trail. Both of those tactics should work well in Lincoln. Riley’s biggest challenge in terms of personnel will be getting quarterback Tommy Armstrong to adapt to the new pro-style approach.

 

Related: Setting the Expectations for Mike Riley in 2015

 

3. Dangerous Offense…If the Pieces Fall Into Place

Make no mistake: There are question marks about Nebraska’s offense. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to play better and adapt to the new scheme, standout running back Ameer Abdullah must be replaced, and three new starters must be found on the offensive line. But if all of the pieces fall into place, this is a dangerous offense. After all, the Cornhuskers averaged 37.8 points per game last season. That number could climb in 2015 if Armstrong develops, and Terrell Newby, Imani Cross and Adam Taylor handle the workload at running back. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is a rising star to watch this fall.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

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4. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine

Stopping opposing offenses starts in the trenches for most defenses. Nebraska needs to develop a few pass rushers, but the tackle combination of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine is among the best in the nation. Both players check in over 300 pounds and should have no trouble wreaking havoc against opposing offensive linemen or quarterbacks. Some teams may choose to add double teams to Collins or Valentine, which should help alleviate some of the pressure on the younger players, allowing more one-on-one matchups to get to the quarterback. 

 

Related: Big Ten's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

5. Turnover Margin

Nebraska lost two of its three conference games by five points or less last season. What could be the difference in close matchups? Turnovers. In Big Ten games last year, the Cornhuskers were a minus-two in turnover margin. Luck plays a big part in recovering turnovers, but Nebraska could do a better job of holding onto the ball. In eight conference matchups, the Cornhuskers gave away 20 turnovers.

 

6. Talent

Recruiting rankings are never going to be 100 percent accurate, but there is some truth in the data. Earlier this offseason, Athlon examined the Big Ten team recruiting rankings, with Ohio State and Michigan ranking as the top two rosters in the conference. But No. 3 could be a surprise to some: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have averaged a No. 27 finish nationally in recruiting rankings over the last five years, with Wisconsin – Nebraska’s biggest challenger in the West – at No. 41. Again, the recruiting rankings aren’t everything. But there is plenty of talent for Riley to work with in his debut in Lincoln.

Teaser:
Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-states-qb-battle-takes-shape-braxton-miller-shifts-receiver
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Ohio State’s quarterback battle is officially down to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Braxton Miller was expected to push Barrett and Jones for the starting job in the fall, but in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, the senior has indicated he will shift to receiver/H-back in the fall.

 

“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. …God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”

 

Although Miller was one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks prior to his injury, recovering from shoulder surgery complicated his return under center, and the Buckeyes have two talented and proven options in Jones and Barrett. Miller missed all of 2014 due to injury and was limited in spring recovering from shoulder surgery.

 

Miller’s future in the NFL was at receiver or running back and the transition in 2015 allows the senior to grow into the receiver/H-back position and develop before reaching the next level.

 

Podcast: ACC, Big 12 Media Days and Talkin’ Season



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Miller’s shift to receiver adds another versatile weapon in coach Urban Meyer’s arsenal. The Buckeyes had one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten headed into 2015, and Miller’s playmaking ability adds to a group that already features Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson.

 

With Miller officially transitioning to receiver, Jones and Barrett will compete to take the first snap of the season. While the decision gets a little easier for Meyer, both Jones and Barrett are capable of contending for the Heisman Trophy and leading Ohio State to a national championship. Could there be packages for both players to get on the field at the same time? Or perhaps Jones starts with a package of plays for Barrett? That's the task for Meyer and co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner. 

 

Ohio State’s quarterback battle was college football’s biggest storyline headed into fall practice. Even though Miller has moved to receiver, the battle between Barrett and Jones is just beginning. Regardless of who starts under center, the Buckeyes are loaded for another run for the national title. And the addition of Miller to the receiving corps just adds another weapon for Barrett or Jones in the passing attack. 

Teaser:
Ohio State's QB Battle Takes Shape as Braxton Miller Shifts to Receiver
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 22:13
Path: /college-football/10-first-year-starting-qbs-who-could-win-college-footballs-national-title-2015
Body:

Projecting the outcome of a college football season, playoff teams and national champion is no easy task. Several factors go into predictions, including the schedule, coaching changes, returning starters, in-depth statistics, results from the previous year, breakout players and recruiting – just to name a few.

 

Experience and star power at quarterback is another factor that most would consider important for preseason predictions.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

However, just how important is quarterback experience? Six of the last 10 teams to play in the title game had a first-year starter at quarterback.

 

Since the BCS era, 12 quarterbacks played for the national title or reached the playoffs in their first season:

 

1998: Tee Martin, Tennessee - W

1999: Michael Vick, Virginia Tech - L

2002: Craig Krenzel, Ohio State - W

2007: Matt Flynn, LSU - W; Todd Boeckman, Ohio State

2009: Greg McElroy, Alabama - W

2010: Cam Newton, Auburn - W; Darron Thomas, Oregon

2011: AJ McCarron, Alabama – W

2012: Everett Golson, Notre Dame – L

2013: Jameis Winston, Florida State – W; Nick Marshall, Auburn – L

2014: Blake Sims, Alabama – L

 

Will the trend of successful first-year starters continue in 2015? Here are 10 teams that fit the mold this year:

 

Top 10 Contenders to Win National Title as a First-Year Starter at QB


(Note: To be considered a returning starter at quarterback, a player must have started seven overall games or the last six contests of last season)

 

1. Cardale Jones, Ohio State

It seems odd to list Jones here, but by the definition of a returning starter, the junior fits the criteria. The Ohio native opened 2014 as the third-string quarterback for coach Urban Meyer, but an injury to Braxton Miller in fall camp pushed Jones into the backup role. Jones attempted only 14 passes through the first 11 games but was pressed into the No. 1 spot after J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury against Michigan. Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and threw for 243 yards in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. And Jones was solid once again in the national championship, recording 280 total yards in the 42-20 win over the Ducks. Will Jones pickup where he left off? Or will the Buckeyes turn to Miller or Barrett under center? Let the quarterback battle begin in Columbus.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn

All signs point to Johnson as one of college football’s breakout stars of 2015. The junior is the triggerman for a high-powered offense and started one game for Auburn last season. In seven appearances in 2014, Johnson threw for 436 yards and three scores. He also started one game in 2013, passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns against Western Carolina. The Montgomery native brings a different skill-set to the offense than former starter Nick Marshall, as Johnson – a 6-foot-5 quarterback – should add to the explosiveness of the Auburn passing attack and allow Duke Williams to make even more plays downfield this season.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

3. Seth Russell, Baylor

Art Briles has developed one of college football’s top offenses at Baylor, and while Bryce Petty expired his eligibility and is taking snaps in the NFL, the Bears won’t miss a beat on offense. Russell is the next standout quarterback for Briles, and the junior already has a good chunk of snaps under his belt. Petty missed one start due to injury, allowing Russell to torch Northwestern State for 438 yards and five scores in 2014. While Russell still needs to show he can be successful in Big 12 games, the supporting cast and scheme is among the best in the nation. 

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

4. Jake Coker, Alabama

Alabama is projected to finish No. 2 in the final 2015 rankings by Athlon Sports, but Coker drops a few spots on this list due to the ongoing quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. Coker was expected to win the job last season after transferring from Florida State. However, Blake Sims edged Coker and started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide. Coker finds himself in a similar spot this fall, as he enters practice as the favorite to take the first snap. However, redshirt freshman David Cornwell isn’t far behind. Regardless of which quarterback wins the job, expect Alabama to lean heavily on its defense and rushing attack.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson

It’s a tossup between Florida State and Clemson for the No. 1 spot in the ACC Atlantic. However, a healthy year from Watson would boost the Tigers’ title chances as they hope to unseat the Seminoles in 2015. Injuries limited Watson to eight games last season and his 2014 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL suffered against Georgia Tech. Watson was one of the top recruits in last year’s signing class and threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even though play-caller Chad Morris left to be the head coach at SMU, Clemson’s offense should be lethal with Watson under center.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

6. Vernon Adams, Oregon

Adams hasn’t officially arrived on campus in Eugene as of July 22. However, all signs point to the Eastern Washington transfer participating in fall practice and pushing Jeff Lockie to be the new starter for the Ducks. Marcus Mariota leaves big shoes to fill, but Adams is a dynamic option to keep Oregon’s high-scoring offense on track. The senior accounted for 11,670 yards and 121 total scores in three years with the Eagles. How quickly will Adams adjust to the FBS level?

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top Graduate QB Transfers for 2015

 

7. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

Zaire’s path to the starting job was cleared after Everett Golson left South Bend for Florida State at the end of spring practice. After playing sparingly for the first 11 games in 2014, Zaire completed 9 of 20 passes against USC and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s bowl win over LSU. Zaire has dual-threat ability, but the Fighting Irish have to be careful about the wear and tear on their sophomore quarterback. Without an experienced backup, the Fighting Irish need a full (and healthy) year from Zaire to challenge for the College Football Playoff. 

 

Related: Why Notre Dame Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

8. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State

Arizona State’s offense averaged 36.9 points a game in 2014 and won’t miss a beat despite the departure of quarterback Taylor Kelly. Bercovici started three games after Kelly was injured in 2014 and finished the year with 1,445 yards and 12 scores. Adding to the impressive stint for Bercovici was key performances against USC (510 yards in a 38-34 win) and a 245-yard effort in a 26-10 victory over Stanford. The senior will be throwing to a revamped receiving corps, but the Sun Devils will be explosive on offense once again.

 

Related: Why Arizona State Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

9. Brice Ramsey, Georgia

Ramsey and Faton Bauta concluded spring practice locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback spot. However, the Bulldogs added competition to the quarterback battle with the addition of Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert. Ramsey completed 24 of 39 passes for 333 yards and two scores in a relief role last season. He’s the favorite to start, but Georgia will continue to lean on its defense and rushing attack until the passing game takes a step forward.

 

10. Sean Maguire, Florida State

Maguire left spring with the edge to replace Jameis Winston. However, Everett Golson transferred to Tallahassee from Notre Dame and is expected to win the starting job in the fall. Maguire has one career start (Clemson, 2014) and completed 25 of 49 passes for 339 yards last season.

 

5 Others to Watch in 2015

 

Kyle Allen, Texas A&M

Emerging star in the SEC but also has to hold off talented freshman Kyler Murray. Aggies also need to significantly improve defense to challenge for a playoff spot.

 

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee

Tennessee is improving, but the Volunteers are likely a year away from winning the SEC East. Dobbs played well over the second half of 2014, including a huge effort (301 passing yards, two scores and 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns) against South Carolina.

 

Brandon Harris, LSU

Talent certainly isn’t an issue for the Tigers. However, the passing attack remains the team’s biggest mystery going into fall practice. Can Harris pass Anthony Jennings this fall?

 

Chad Kelly, Ole Miss

Kelly isn’t guaranteed to start, as the junior college product (and former Clemson signal-caller) has to hold off Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Expect the defense to carry the Rebels in 2015.

 

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Mayfield left spring as the favorite to start this fall, but there’s still work to be done as Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas remain in the mix. The Texas Tech transfer passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Red Raiders in 2013.

Teaser:
10 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title in 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-breakout-players-2015
Body:

Projecting college football’s breakout players for any given season is no easy assignment. After all, each person has a different take on what a “breakout player” is, and college football is always home to several new faces throughout the season. While it’s difficult to label breakout players, the new stars of any season can have a huge impact on conference championship or national title races.

 

Related: College Football’s Top 50 Players for 2015

 

The Pac-12 is loaded with potential breakout stars at some of the top title contenders in the conference. USC receiver JuJu Smith could vault into All-America consideration as quarterback Cody Kessler’s go-to target. Oregon defensive back/receiver Charles Nelson is also one of the top dual-threat players in the nation. Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici and running back Demario Richard should lead an explosive offense for coach Todd Graham.

 

Predicting the Pac-12's Breakout Players for 2015

 

Mike Bercovici, QB, Arizona State

Bercovici is no secret in the Pac-12 after a solid stint as Arizona State’s starting quarterback last season. After Taylor Kelly suffered a foot injury against Colorado, Bercovici threw for 488 yards against UCLA in a 62-27 loss and passed for 510 yards and five scores in a thrilling 38-34 win over USC. Bercovici has a strong arm and isn’t afraid to take chances downfield. He won’t have top receiver Jaelen Strong, but Bercovici could push for a spot among the Pac-12’s best at quarterback.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

DJ Calhoun/Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State

Arizona State’s linebacker unit should be among the best in the Pac-12. Coach Todd Graham and coordinator Keith Patterson should have no trouble finding four starters and capable backups this year, and the development of Calhoun and Sam can only add to the potential of this group. Both players enter their sophomore year on the rise, as Calhoun recorded 35 stops and two sacks last season, and Sam registered 16 tackles and a sack in 13 games.

 

Related: Why Arizona State Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

Tevin Carter, S, Utah

Utah enters fall practice with a few question marks at cornerback, but the safety position should be a strength. Even though Carter enters 2015 with just four appearances in his Utah career, the senior is poised to be an impact player. Before a season-ending injury last year, Carter recorded 16 tackles (3.5 for a loss) and two interceptions. Carter should be a difference maker in the secondary for coordinator John Pease.

 

Related: Pac-12's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

Seth Collins, QB, Oregon State

Collins still has some work to do in order to win the starting job, but the future is bright at Oregon State with this freshman at the controls. In the Beavers’ spring game, Collins completed 12 of 22 passes for 208 yards and two scores and added 84 yards on the ground. Collins ranked as a three-star prospect in the 2015 signing class, and the dual-threat California native is expected to take the first snap for new coach Gary Andersen.

 

Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015

 

Deon Hollins, LB, UCLA

UCLA’s pass rush needs a spark after recording only 29 sacks in 13 games last season. Could Hollins be the answer for new coordinator Tom Bradley? The Texas native led the team with nine sacks, with six of those coming over the final four games of 2014. Hollins recorded three sacks against Kansas State and one in the 38-20 win over rival USC. The junior’s ability to get to the quarterback should help UCLA create a lot of havoc at the line of scrimmage. 

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

Jones and fellow sophomore Budda Baker are two critical pieces in an improving Washington secondary. Although Baker is getting most of the preseason hype, Jones shouldn’t be overlooked. In 13 games as a true freshman last year, the California native recorded 61 tackles and two interceptions. 

 

Peter Kalambayi, LB, Stanford

Kalambayi should be the next star linebacker for coach David Shaw. After a redshirt year in 2013, the North Carolina native played in all 13 games last season and finished with 32 tackles and 6.5 sacks. With A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters departing, there should be more snaps available for Kalambayi in 2015.

 

Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015

 

Alex Kelley, C, Colorado

With quarterback Sefo Liufau and receiver Nelson Spruce returning, Colorado’s offense should continue to improve after averaging 28.5 points per game in 2014. The line is also in good shape with the return of three starters, and Kelley could emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top centers in 2015. The California native started all 12 games for the Buffaloes in 2014 and earned a mentioned on the Rimington Award watch list for 2015.

 

Robert Lewis, WR, Washington State

Lewis didn’t post monster numbers last season, but he was a valuable security blanket for the Washington State passing attack. In 12 games, Lewis grabbed 41 receptions for 370 yards and two scores. After working as a backup to Rickey Galvin at the “H” position in 2014, the starting spot is expected to go to Lewis this fall. And it’s no secret: Starting receivers in Washington State’s offense usually post big numbers.

 

Related: Pac-12 Wild Card Players for 2015

 

Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah

Despite the departure of end Nate Orchard and tackle Sese Ianu, the Utes still have one of the Pac-12’s top defensive lines. A big reason why Utah ranks among the best in the league is the return of end Hunter Dimick, but Lotulelei is an unsung hero and key piece of the defensive front. As a freshman in 2014, the Utah native recorded 33 tackles (4.5 for a loss), four sacks and one forced fumble. Lotulelei should be an all-conference performer this season and is a tough matchup for opposing offensive linemen at 310 pounds.

 

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

Stanford’s string of six consecutive seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher was snapped in 2014. But the Cardinal could reverse that trend with McCaffrey a bigger part of the offense in 2015. As a true freshman last season, McCaffrey rushed for 300 yards on 42 carries and caught 17 passes for 251 yards and two scores. McCaffrey is poised to emerge as one of the nation’s top all-purpose players.

 

Steven Mitchell/Isaac Whitney, WR, USC

Even though JuJu Smith is mentioned later in this column, Mitchell and Whitney are both deserving of a spot. Mitchell caught seven passes for 82 yards and two touchdowns last season and continued his development with a huge spring. Whitney was a key pickup on the recruiting trail for coach Steve Sarkisian and ranked as the No. 33 junior college prospect in the 247Sports Composite.

 

DaVonte’ Neal, CB, Arizona

Considering the depth and talent at receiver for Arizona, Neal is making the switch from the offense to defense to see an increased role in 2015. Neal played in 13 games for the Wildcats last season and recorded 27 receptions. Playing cornerback in the offensive-minded Pac-12 won’t be easy, but Neal is too talented to sit on the bench and should transition well to the defensive side.

 

Charles Nelson, DB/WR, Oregon

There’s no doubt Nelson is poised to see a bigger role for Oregon in 2015. However, where Nelson plays the majority of snaps is uncertain. The two-way threat will see time at defensive back or receiver this season or could be utilized on both sides of the ball in any contest. Nelson caught 23 passes for 327 yards and five touchdowns last season and scored twice on punt return touchdowns.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Hardy Nickerson, LB, California

Identifying breakout players for California is a challenge, as the offense is largely set and the defense enters the fall with a handful of positions up for grabs. Michael Barton has already established himself as one of the leading candidates for All-Pac-12 honors at linebacker, but Nickerson is due for his best season at California. In 12 games last year, Nickerson recorded 69 tackles and one interception. It’s no secret the Golden Bears have to improve on defense. With Nickerson improving, along with Barton returning at linebacker, this unit should be a strength for coordinator Art Kaufman.

 

Peyton Pelluer, LB, Washington State

New coordinator Alex Grinch is tasked with improving a defense that allowed 38.6 points a game in 2014. Grinch plans on making a few tweaks to the scheme and a handful of positions are up for grabs. Pelluer had a solid debut in 2014, playing in all 12 games for the Cougars and recording 39 stops (5.5 for a loss) and one sack. The Washington native started the final five games at middle linebacker last year and should be a key cog in Grinch’s revamped defense.

 

Dante Pettis, WR, Washington

With John Ross out for the year due to injury, Washington will be relying on Pettis to take on an increased role in the receiving corps. Pettis grabbed 17 receptions for 259 yards and one score last year and should easily see those numbers increase in 2015.

 

Related: The Pac-12's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015

 

Elijah Qualls, DT, Washington

Washington’s front seven needs an overhaul after the departures of linebacker Shaq Thompson, rush end Hau’oli Kikaha and tackle Danny Shelton. Qualls played sparingly as a backup last season, recording 13 tackles (two for a loss) in 14 games. The No. 116 recruit in the 2013 signing class has a lot of untapped potential and needs to have a big season to replace some of the production lost by Kikaha, Shelton and Thompson.

 

Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State

Just how high is Arizona State on Richard and fellow sophomore Kalen Ballage at running back? The coaching staff moved senior D.J. Foster out to receiver for the 2015 season. There was a huge need at receiver with the loss of Jaelen Strong, but there’s plenty of confidence in the available options at running back for coach Todd Graham. Richard averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 84 attempts last year, finishing 2014 with 478 rushing yards and four scores.

 

Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015

 

Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

Erick Dargan departs after leading the team with 95 stops in 2014, but the Ducks have a capable replacement in Robinson ready to emerge in 2015. As a backup to Dargan last season, Robinson played in all 15 games and recorded 36 tackles. The sophomore is penciled in as one of the starters at safety and has the talent to push for All-Pac-12 honors.

 

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen still needs to win the job, but it’s hard to imagine the true freshman sitting for long this season. The California native was a five-star recruit in the 2015 signing class and the No. 1 ranked quarterback by the 247Sports Composite. Rosen enrolled in time for spring practice and is expected to take the first snap of the year in UCLA’s opener against Virginia. If Rosen is as good as advertised, the concerns about the quarterback spot after losing Brett Hundley will dissipate.

 

JuJu Smith, WR, USC

It’s a bit of a stretch to consider Smith here since he grabbed 54 receptions for 724 yards and five touchdowns last year. However, expect Smith to go from all-conference contender to a potential All-American receiver in 2015. The sophomore should be quarterback Cody Kessler’s No. 1 target this fall.

 

Related: Contenders to Keep the Heisman Trophy in the Pac-12

 

Freddie Tagaloa, OT, Arizona

Arizona must replace three starters from last year’s solid offensive line. Tagaloa is a name to watch as one of the replacements, as the California transfer is penciled in as the new starter at left tackle. Tagaloa started seven games at California from 2012-13 and sat out 2014 as a result of NCAA transfer rules. The 6-foot-8 tackle could be an all-conference candidate in 2015.

 

Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

The defensive line is the biggest concern for coordinator Lance Anderson. Needless to say, the Cardinal will be asking a lot from Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett, as well as Thomas after a redshirt season. The Texas native was a five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class, and the 6-foot-3 end should be an impact performer for the Cardinal in a position of need in 2015.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Bright Ugwoegbu, LB, Oregon State

Oregon State’s defense is desperately looking for new standouts to emerge with just two returning starters set for 2015. Ugwoegbu redshirted last season and was regarded for his work with the scout team defense. The Texas native should be able to build off a strong spring and find a starting spot in Oregon State’s linebacking corps in 2015.

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Florida is one of the premier jobs in college football. The location in a fertile recruiting area allows the Gators to have access to some of the nation’s top talent, and the program won two BCS national championships under Urban Meyer. However, Florida slipped under former coach Will Muschamp. After winning 13 games in three out of four seasons from 2006-09, the Gators went 28-21 in Muschamp’s four years in Gainesville. Jim McElwain was hired from Colorado State to return Florida back into a SEC title contender, along with pushing the Gators back into the national title conversation.

 

McElwain went 22-16 in three years at Colorado State and has experience in the SEC from his time as a coordinator at Alabama. McElwain is known for his ability to coach offense, which is an area of significant concern for the Gators in 2015.

 

While all of the positives for Florida as a program are clear, the Gators have their share of roster concerns for 2015. Just because the recruiting rankings suggest the talent is in place, Florida has a lot of work to do and obstacles to overcome to contend for the SEC title.

 

Is McElwain the right fit at Florida? Can he elevate the program to win SEC Championships? Let’s take a look at the former Colorado State coach and his outlook for 2015 and beyond.

 

Jim McElwain's Job History

 

2012-14: Colorado State – Head Coach

2008-11: Alabama – OC/QBs

2007: Fresno State – OC/QBs

2006: Oakland Raiders – QBs

2003-05: Michigan State – Asst. HC/WRs/Sp. Teams

2000-02: Louisville – WRs/Sp. Teams

1995-99: Montana State – OC/WRs/Sp. Teams

1987-94: Eastern Washington – QBs/WRs

1985-86: Eastern Washington – Graduate Assistant

 

Key Obstacles to Overcome in 2015

 

Quarterback Play

Considering the high school talent in the state of Florida, along with the success of Florida’s offense under Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer, it’s hard to imagine the Gators struggling to score points. However, that’s been the case in recent years. In each of the last four seasons, Florida has ranked seventh or worse (SEC-only games) in scoring offense. Reversing that trend starts in the trenches and at quarterback. Last year, the Gators threw only seven touchdown passes and completed just 50 percent of their throws in SEC contests. Treon Harris replaced Jeff Driskel as the starter last season, but the job could switch hands again, as Will Grier (a redshirt freshman) is expected to start. Grier is a good fit for McElwain’s offense and will have two non-conference games as tune-ups before Florida’s SEC opener at Kentucky on Sept. 19.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Offensive Line

While most of the offseason attention on Florida is focused on the quarterback battle, the play in the trenches is a bigger concern for McElwain. This unit was hit hard by departures, as D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore left for the NFL, Rod Johnson’s career was cut short by injury and Max Garcia and Chaz Green expired their eligibility. Senior Trip Thurman is the lone returning starter, and depth is a major concern. True freshman Martez Ivey could start at one of the tackle spots this season, and Fordham graduate transfer Mason Halter should find a spot on the two-deep. Needless to say, line coach Mike Summers has his work cut out for him in 2015. This group is young, inexperienced and lacking in overall proven options. How quickly will Summers and McElwain find the right answers?

 

Playmakers…?

In addition to the positions above, finding playmakers is going to be a priority this fall for McElwain and new coordinator Doug Nussmeier. Kelvin Taylor, Adam Lane and Jordan Scarlett are a capable trio at running back, but more punch is needed from this group. At receiver, can the Gators find another go-to target to help take the pressure off of Demarcus Robinson? 

 

Team Strengths for 2015

 

One of the Top Defenses in the SEC?

Lost in all of the offensive woes under Will Muschamp, Florida’s defense remained one of the best in the SEC. And that’s quite an accomplishment considering the bad situations the defense inherited throughout the year. Last season, the Gators held SEC opponents to 25.8 points per game and finished second in the conference in 2013. New coordinator Geoff Collins inherits seven returning starters, including one of the nation’s top defensive backfields. End Dante Fowler will be missed, but there’s enough returning talent to keep this unit near the top of the SEC.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Playmakers…?

This section of the roster was also mentioned under obstacles to overcome, but there’s also reason to be optimistic. Demarcus Robinson is one of the SEC’s top receivers, tight end Jake McGee is back from injury, and running back Kelvin Taylor has recorded back-to-back 500-yard seasons. While Florida needs more from its playmakers, there’s a solid core in place to build around. 

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

Florida's Roster Rank in the SEC for 2015: 5

 

YearConference RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
201510211732
2014791581
20132313132
2012248132
20115117111

Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but it’s notable the Gators have ranked No. 7 and No. 10 among SEC teams over the last two years. The overall five-star prospects brought to Gainesville has remained steady, as three have arrived over the last two seasons. However, the four-star prospects have dropped from at least 11 each year from 2011-13 to just 11 over the last two seasons. Florida finished No. 21 in last year’s signing classes, but it’s tough to evaluate the Gators recruiting efforts since McElwain didn’t have a full year to build a class. While the talent level has dipped slightly, attrition is also a concern at certain spots, especially on the offensive line. 

 

Schedule Analysis

 

Crossover Games Versus West Division: Ole Miss, at LSU

Bye Week: Oct. 24

 

Five Critical Conference Games for Florida in 2015

 

1. Georgia (Jacksonville, Oct. 31)

2. at Tennessee (Sept. 26)

3. at Missouri (Oct. 10)

4. Ole Miss (Oct. 3)

5. at LSU (Oct. 17)

 

Best Non-Conference Game: Florida State (Nov. 28)

 

Final Analysis

 

Georgia is the favorite in the East, with Tennessee picking up steam as a darkhorse candidate. In order for Florida to challenge for the division title, a lot has to go right. The schedule certainly isn’t easy, as Ole Miss and LSU are the crossover opponents, and road trips to Kentucky and Missouri will be a challenge. Not only is the schedule an obstacle, but Florida has to find a quarterback and develop an offensive line short on depth and experience. McElwain is known for his background on offense and should help to improve a struggling Florida attack in 2015. But expectations need to be lowered. While this is one of the best jobs in college football and recruiting talent won’t be a problem, patience is needed in Gainesville. The Gators need another season to bolster the depth up front and find a quarterback, and the schedule isn’t friendly for a coach breaking in new schemes. Athlon’s 2015 projection has Florida on the optimistic side of the win total at eight victories. However, if the quarterback play and offensive line are slow to develop, a 7-5 or 6-6 record is realistic. McElwain is the right fit for Florida, but the former Colorado State coach could have his share of ups and downs in year one. 

 

Athlon 2015 National Projection: No. 26 nationally, No. 3 SEC East

Athlon 2015 Record Projection: 8-4, 5-3 SEC

Bovada Over/Under Odds: 7.5

CG Technology Odds: 7

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 7.5

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Bo Pelini won at least nine games in each of his seven seasons as Nebraska’s head coach. But the standard in Lincoln is much higher than just nine wins a year. Mike Riley was hired away from Oregon State to elevate the Cornhuskers back into Big Ten title contention and return the program into a factor on the national scene once again. Nebraska has finished in the final Associated Press top 25 poll three times in the last four years. However, 24th was its highest finish. 

 

Riley has a different coaching style than Pelini, but will it translate into success at Nebraska? Riley’s ability to develop talent and find underrated prospects on the recruiting trail should help the Cornhuskers over the next few years. But is that enough to knock off Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin on a consistent basis?

 

Related: Ranking the Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Is Riley the right fit at Nebraska? Can he elevate the program to win Big Ten Championships? Let’s take a look at the former Oregon State coach and his outlook for 2015 and beyond.

 

Mike Riley’s Job History

 

2003-14: Oregon State – Head Coach

2002: New Orleans Saints – Assistant Head Coach/Secondary

1999-2001: San Diego Chargers – Head Coach

1997-98: Oregon State – Head Coach

1993-96: USC – Assistant Head Coach/OC/QB

1991-92: San Antonio Riders (WLAF) – Head Coach

1987-90: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Head Coach

1986: Northern Colorado – Defensive Coordinator

1983-85: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) – Secondary Coach

1977-82: Linfield College – Defensive Coordinator/Secondary

1976: Whitworth College – Graduate Assistant

1975: California – Graduate Assistant (Defense)

 

Key Obstacles to Overcome in 2015

 

Adapting to New Schemes

As with any coaching change, the biggest obstacle to immediate success is how quickly a team adapts to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Nebraska is switching to a pro-style offense, while Mark Banker plans on a more aggressive approach on defense. The transition on offense is a bigger obstacle for the Cornhuskers, as quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to become more of a pocket passer and rely less on mobility. The junior threw for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and must increase his completion percentage after posting a 53.3 mark in 2014. Will there be a seamless transition to the pro-style attack on offense? Or will it take a year for the offense to adjust?

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

Replacing Ameer Abdullah

There’s no doubt Nebraska will miss Abdullah in 2015. In 13 games last season, Abdullah rushed for 1,611 yards and 19 scores. Talent certainly isn’t an issue at running back, as Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross are a capable trio to rely on in 2015. However, Abdullah was one of the best in the nation. Will the Cornhuskers match their production on the ground through the committee approach? Or will one of those players emerge as a consistent go-to option and keep the rushing game at a similar level (240.2 ypg in 2014)?

 

Linebackers

This is the biggest personnel concern for new coach Mike Riley. Nebraska does not return a player with a full season of starts from 2014. Senior David Santos was expected to anchor this group but transferred in June. The departure of Santos leaves juniors Josh Banderas (50 tackles) and Michael Rose-Ivey as the top options. Assuming Banderas and Rose-Ivey stay healthy, the Cornhuskers should be set at two of the starting spots. However, depth is a major issue here, with freshmen Dedrick Young, Luke Gifford, Adrienne Talan, Mohamed Barry and Tyrin Ferguson expected to push for snaps or crack the fall two-deep.

 

Team Strengths for 2015

 

Skill Position Talent

There’s no doubt Ameer Abdullah will be missed. However, Nebraska isn’t hurting for talent on offense. The ground attack could be more of a committee approach, and Terrell Newby, Adam Taylor and Imani Cross should be a capable trio. Assuming quarterback Tommy Armstrong settles into the new offense, there’s a lot of potential for the passing attack. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats, and junior Jordan Westerkamp is back after catching 44 passes for 747 yards and five scores in 2014.

 

Related: Big Ten Predictions for 2015

 

Defensive Tackles

Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine might be the nation’s most underrated duo at defensive tackle. Both played in 13 games last season and combined for 21 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. Depth and proven options are short at defensive end for coordinator Mark Banker. It’s a bit of a cliché, but you have to be strong in the trenches to win in the Big Ten. Having Collins and Valentine is a good place to start for Banker as he searches for answers at defensive end.

 

Favorable Schedule

This aspect differs from the roster pieces mentioned above, but Nebraska has a favorable path to push Wisconsin in the Big Ten West. The Cornhuskers host the Badgers in a game that could decide the division title, along with home matchups against Michigan State and Iowa in November. The road trip to Minnesota won’t be easy, but the schedule could be a boost for Nebraska’s division title hopes. 

 

Roster Talent/Recruiting Trends

 

Nebraska's Roster Rank in the Big Ten for 2015: 3

 

YearConference RankNational RankThree-Star ProspectsFour-Star ProspectsFive-Star Prospects
20154311630
20146362220
20133221670
2012430980
20112161190

* All rankings from 247Sports Composite

 

Nebraska’s recruiting rank has consistently ranked in the top half of the Big Ten. However, what’s notable about the recruiting trends is the drop in four-star prospects. The Cornhuskers signed 24 from 2011-13 but have only five over the last two years. Can Riley reverse that trend going forward? 

 

Schedule Analysis

 

Crossover Games Versus East Division: at Rutgers, Michigan State

Bye Week: Nov. 21

 

Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

Four Critical Conference Games for Nebraska in 2015

 

1. Michigan State (Nov. 7)

2. Wisconsin (Oct. 10)

3. at Minnesota (Oct. 17)

4. Iowa (Nov. 27)

 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Miami (Sept. 19)

 

Final Analysis

 

Wisconsin is the consensus favorite in the Big Ten’s West Division. But how big is the gap between the Badgers and Nebraska? Maybe not as much as some think. The Cornhuskers rank No. 29 in Athlon’s projected final 2015 poll, while Wisconsin ranks No. 19. With a home game against the Badgers, the Cornhuskers have an opportunity in early October to stake their claim for the division title. A crossover matchup against Michigan State is difficult, but Iowa visits Lincoln this year. The schedule isn’t overly taxing. However, the adjustment to new schemes on both sides of the ball will define just how high Nebraska climbs in the Big Ten West. Can quarterback Tommy Armstrong adapt quickly to the new offense and become the necessary passer needed in the pro-style attack? Will the Cornhuskers fill the voids at defensive end at linebacker? Recruiting rankings aren’t everything, but the trends suggest this roster is the best in the West. However, just having talent isn’t going to win games. Nebraska got an upgrade when it hired Riley. But year one could have its share of growing pains with the transition on both sides of the ball. Eight or nine wins is a realistic expectation for the first year. If the transition is smooth, and Armstrong develops into an all-conference quarterback, 10 victories is certainly within reach.

 

Athlon 2015 National Projection: No. 29 nationally, No. 2 Big Ten West

Athlon 2015 Record Projection: 8-4, 5-3 Big Ten

Bovada Over/Under Odds: 8

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

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LSU TigersLSU’s win total in SEC play has declined for three straight seasons, and the Tigers are coming off an 8-5 campaign, which was the lowest overall victory total for the program since 2008. However, there’s no shortage of optimism for coach Les Miles’ team.

 

The Tigers are loaded with promising young talent, starting on offense with running back Leonard Fournette and receivers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre. On defense, LSU is anchored by sophomore tackle Davon Godchaux, junior linebacker Kendell Beckwith and defensive backs Tre’Davious White and Jamal Adams.

 

While the talent is there, LSU must adapt to a new defensive coordinator and generate more production from the passing attack.

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why LSU will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Related: SEC Predictions for 2015

 

Three Reasons Why LSU Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Roster Talent

Recruiting rankings aren’t 100 percent accurate or the most effective way to evaluate a college football team. However, according to the final class rankings from the last five years, LSU ranks No. 4 in the nation in overall talent. The only teams ahead of the Tigers? Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – the last three national champions. Assembling elite talent is only half of the battle for college coaches, as development and building successful schemes also come into play. LSU has the necessary talent in place to win a national title. Can the coaching staff squeeze big contributions out of the young players on this roster?

 

2. Best Secondary in College Football?

It’s a close call between Florida and LSU for the No. 1 spot as the best defensive backfield in college football in 2015. Even if the Gators edge the Tigers in most preseason ranks for best secondary, new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has an elite group. Two starters – cornerback Tre’Davious White and safety Jalen Mills – return from a unit that held opposing quarterbacks to just 10 touchdown passes last year. The two open spots in the secondary could go to elite recruits (safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Kevin Toliver II). And there’s no shortage of depth with Ed Paris, Donte Jackson, Rickey Jefferson and Dwayne Thomas competing for snaps.

 

3. Leonard Fournette

Fournette showed why he was arguably the best recruit in the 2014 signing class last season, rushing for 1,034 yards and 10 scores in 13 games. However, 187 carries simply isn’t enough work for the sophomore. Expect coordinator Cam Cameron to have Fournette more involved this year, and the New Orleans native will be running behind a line that returns three starters and should be among the best in the SEC. There’s no doubt Fournette has elite talent and will challenge for the Heisman if he has enough opportunities. Even with the question marks at quarterback, Fournette can carry LSU’s offense into SEC West title contention. 

 

LSU's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank
for 2015
Projected Record
Sept. 5McNeese State--
Sept. 12at Mississippi State217-5
Sept. 19Auburn410-2
Sept. 26at Syracuse853-9
Oct. 3Eastern Michigan1271-11
Oct. 10at South Carolina377-5
Oct. 17Florida268-4
Oct. 24WKU699-4
Nov. 7at Alabama212-1
Nov. 14Arkansas168-4
Nov. 21at Ole Miss119-3
Nov. 28Texas A&M207-5

Three Reasons Why LSU Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Quarterback Play

LSU’s quarterback position might be the biggest wild card in the SEC. In conference-only matchups last season, the Tigers averaged only 19.1 points per game. The passing attack ranked 13th in the SEC by averaging a paltry 140.6 yards a game in conference action. Additionally, LSU quarterbacks tossed only seven touchdowns in SEC games. While the Tigers don’t have to pass for 300 yards each week, improvement is a must here. Anthony Jennings had an off-field incident in the summer but is expected to be available for the opener. However, Jennings will be pushed by talented sophomore Brandon Harris. With a strong rushing attack and solid defense in place, the passing attack is the missing piece on a LSU roster built with enough talent to challenge for the SEC West title.

 

2. Discovering a Pass Rush

Athletic edge rushers with the ability to get to the quarterback seemed to be in abundance in Baton Rouge just a few years ago. The Tigers led the SEC with 38 sacks in 2011, but that number has declined significantly over the last few seasons. LSU recorded only 27 in 2013 and then dropped to 13th in the SEC by generating just 19 sacks in 2014. New coordinator Kevin Steele plans on utilizing more 3-4 looks this season, and this unit will be a work in progress with players adjusting to new positions and schemes. Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal are considered the favorites to start at end but combined for zero sacks in 2014. Could true freshman Arden Key push for snaps in the fall?

 

3. The November Schedule

Every schedule in the SEC is difficult. However, LSU’s slate in September and October is relatively manageable. Catching Mississippi State in Week 2 is ideal with the Bulldogs’ personnel losses, and Auburn has to visit Death Valley the following Saturday. However, take a look at the November stretch. LSU has to play at Alabama, followed by a physical affair against Arkansas the next Saturday, a road trip to Ole Miss on Nov. 21 and the regular season finale against Texas A&M (and former defensive coordinator John Chavis). That’s a tough four-game stretch for any team, especially without a bye week after physical affairs against Alabama and Arkansas. 

 

Final Verdict

 

On paper, it seems LSU has too much talent to finish 8-5 once again. However, it’s also fair to consider this team the biggest wild card in the SEC. The Tigers have the talent to win the SEC and earn a playoff spot. But there’s also enough question marks to finish 8-5. How high LSU climbs in the SEC West will depend on two factors: Quarterback play and the defensive line. In a brutal division, there’s little margin for error. Will those two areas emerge as a strength for Les Miles? Or will quarterback concerns hinder this offense once again?

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 15

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 8.5

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8.5

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8

Teaser:
Why LSU Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-unveils-new-adidas-uniforms-2015-season
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Miami officially joined forces with Adidas on Saturday night at the Fontainebleau’s LIV nightclub. The Hurricanes unveiled their new uniforms under the Adidas banner, and the new designs aren’t a drastic switch from the color scheme the program has used in previous years. Miami will have orange, white and green uniforms and alternate looks are expected during the year.

 

Even though the Hurricanes have made a few alterations to their uniforms in recent years, the “U” is still one of college football’s most recognizable helmets. While the color scheme didn't change much, these uniforms are much closer to the design the top Miami teams wore in the 1980s and 1990s.

 

Here’s an overview of Miami’s new uniforms with Adidas for 2015:

Teaser:
Miami Unveils New Adidas Uniforms for 2015 Season
Post date: Saturday, July 18, 2015 - 21:29
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/why-clemson-will-or-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Clemson enters 2015 looking to reload after the departure of several key players from last year’s team. However, momentum in Death Valley remains strong, as the Tigers have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons. Quarterback Deshaun Watson is a Heisman contender, and there’s no shortage of young talent in the mix for a breakout season on both sides of the ball. Even with five returning starters for 2015, Clemson is one of the favorites to win the ACC

 

The first season of the college football playoff was a huge success. With less than 50 days until kickoff, it’s time to evaluate some of the top contenders for the 2015 playoffs.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

Here’s a look at three reasons why Clemson will make the playoff, followed by its schedule and three reasons the Tigers won’t finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Clemson Will Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

1. Deshaun Watson and a Loaded Group of Skill Players

It’s not far-fetched to suggest Deshaun Watson could be the nation’s best quarterback by the end of 2015. The No. 41 overall recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite lived up to the hype as a true freshman, completing 93 of 167 passes for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions. Watson also added 200 rushing yards and five scores. An ACL injury from November will be healed in time for the opener, and the sophomore is Athlon’s pick to be the first-team All-ACC quarterback in December. But it’s not just Watson leading the way on offense for Clemson. Sophomore running back Wayne Gallman is back after rushing for 769 yards last year, and the Tigers are loaded at receiver. Sophomore Artavis Scott and junior Mike Williams are the top targets for Watson, but freshman Deon Cain is too talented to sit on the sidelines. The offense should be explosive once again in 2015.

 

Related: ACC 2015 All-Conference Team

 

2. Talent Waiting in the Wings

Similar to Florida State, Clemson has a promising core of young talent waiting to emerge. But here’s the million-dollar question: How quickly will the young talent mesh? Can everything come together before the road trip to Louisville on Sept. 17? Or is the Oct. 3 date against Notre Dame more realistic? Using team recruiting rankings over the last five years, Clemson ranks as the No. 2 roster in the ACC. The five-year average among all 128 teams is 13.2, while Florida State has a 4.4 mark. The Tigers won’t have many senior starters this season, but that’s not a bad thing considering all of the talent in the freshman, sophomore and junior ranks.

 

Related: ACC Predictions for 2015

 

3. Schedule

It’s unfair to say Clemson’s schedule is easy, but the Tigers did catch a few breaks. Florida State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech all visit Death Valley this year, and coach Dabo Swinney’s team should be favored in its other crossover game with the Coastal (Miami). A road trip to Louisville in mid-September will be tough, and the rivalry matchup at South Carolina certainly won’t be easy. Clemson is 0-3 in its last three trips to Columbia and has won just one out of the last six meetings against the Gamecocks. 

 

Clemson's 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent Athlon Projected Rank for 2015Projected Record
Sept. 5Wofford--
Sept. 12Appalachian State908-4
Sept. 17at Louisville387-5
Oct. 3Notre Dame129-3
Oct. 10Georgia Tech188-5
Oct. 17Boston College566-6
Oct. 24at Miami437-5
Oct. 31at NC State399-3
Nov. 7Florida State911-2
Nov. 14at Syracuse853-9
Nov. 21Wake Forest824-8
Nov. 28at South Carolina377-5

Three Reasons Why Clemson Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. The Offensive Line

The Tigers had question marks up front at the conclusion of spring practice, and the concerns grew after Isaiah Battle declared for the NFL supplemental draft. With Battle leaving, Clemson returns only one starter (center Ryan Norton) and true freshman Mitch Hyatt will likely start at left tackle. Additionally, this unit wasn’t necessarily a strength in 2014. The Tigers allowed 27 sacks last season, while rushers only generated 3.5 yards per carry. With Deshaun Watson coming off a torn ACL, protecting the quarterback is even more essential for Clemson’s offense in 2015. This unit will be under the spotlight early in the year.

 

Related: Position Groups on the Hot Seat in the ACC

 

2. Too Many Holes to Fill on Defense

As mentioned above, it’s no secret Clemson has a plethora of promising young talent. However, will the personnel losses on defense be too much to overcome? The Tigers were hit hard with departures at each level. End Vic Beasley and tackle Grady Jarrett will be missed up front, the linebacking corps must replace Stephone Anthony, and the secondary lost second-team All-ACC cornerback Garry Peters. On the positive side for Clemson, coordinator Brent Venables is one of the best in college football. Junior end Shaq Lawson is a good place to start the rebuilding effort up front, and sophomore cornerback Mackensie Alexander is already one of the best in the ACC. However, can this unit count on bring contributions from true freshmen like Albert Huggins, Mark Fields and Christian Wilkins?

 

3. Departure of Chad Morris

This is the biggest x-factor surrounding Clemson in 2015. Chad Morris was one of the premier play-callers in college football and will be missed. Swinney promoted from within to fill Morris’ position, tapping Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott as co-coordinators. Elliott is expected to call the plays, and his first audition in the Russell Athletic Bowl (40 points against Oklahoma) was a huge success. However, developing a gameplan for a bowl with weeks to prepare is a different task than the grind of the regular season. How much will Morris be missed in Death Valley this year? If Elliott and Scott continue to keep this offense performing at a high level, Clemson will push Florida State for the ACC title. 

 

Final Verdict

 

The Sept. 17 game at Louisville will be a huge chance for Clemson to show its offensive line and rebuilt defense is up to the task of winning the ACC title. With Watson under center, combined with one of the best sets of skill talent in the nation, scoring points shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, Morris’ departure is something to watch. Athlon Sports picked Florida State to win the ACC in 2015 but little separates these two teams. The oddsmakers like Clemson around the nine-win mark this year. If that scenario plays out, the Tigers’ losses could look something like this: at South Carolina, Florida State and at Louisville. That’s reasonable. However, it’s also reasonable to expect Clemson to win all three of those games but lose against Georgia Tech or at NC State. The Tigers will be entertaining and explosive on offense. However, there’s just enough personnel concerns to miss out on a playoff spot.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 14

Athlon’s Projected Final Record: (9-3, 6-2 ACC)

Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9

CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9

5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8.5

Teaser:
Why Clemson Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 17, 2015 - 11:00

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