Articles By Steven Lassan

All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcu-de-devonte-fields-indefinitely-separated-team

TCU defensive end Devonte Fields has been separated from the school after allegations stemming from a domestic disturbance case. Fields is under investigation, but no charges have been filed in the case so far. The Star-Telegram reported the details on Fields' status on Tuesday.

Fields is indefinitely separated from TCU pending the outcome of the investigation into the allegations.

The off-the-field incident comes at a bad time for Fields, as he was picked as the Big 12 preseason defensive player of the year for 2014.

Fields played in only three games due to injury in 2013 and recorded two tackles for a loss. In 2012, Fields was voted as the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and won AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.

If Fields returns in time and at full strength for the season opener, he has a chance to be one of the top defensive ends in the Big 12 once again.

Even without Fields, TCU’s defensive line will be among the best in the conference. The Horned Frogs return experience at end with James McFarland and Terrell Lathan, with Chucky Hunter and Davion Pierson anchoring the interior.


TCU DE Devonte Fields Indefinitely "Separated" From Team
Post date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 15:13
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-most-improved-teams-2014

Every college football season brings a surprise or two each fall. And if you need evidence of that statement, take a look at the two teams that played for last year’s national championship: Florida State and Auburn.


While both programs had claimed previous championships during the BCS era, neither team was picked to win the national title last August.


So whether it’s a team finishing in the top 10 that no one expected in the preseason or another program struggling to reach .500 after a successful stretch, each year presents many different case studies when trying to project teams for the upcoming season. And some teams quickly rebound after a disappointing year to contend for a conference title or crack the top 25 once again.


Projecting which teams will fill those categories and show significant improvement is no easy task.


When it comes to judging improvement in college football, it doesn’t always come in the form of wins and losses. Improvement can simply come as a result of a team being more competitive within its conference and reducing the margin of defeat.


Kickoff for college football’s 2014 season is less than 40 days away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which teams will be some of the most improved in the nation.


College Football’s Most-Improved Teams for 2014



Just based on talent, Florida can’t be any worse than it was last season. According to the recruiting rankings, the Gators are tied with Florida State for the No. 2 roster in college football. If Florida wants to contend in the SEC East this year, improving the offense has to be the top priority. The Gators averaged only 18.8 points per game and 4.7 yards per play (in conference games) in 2013. Help is coming in the form of a healthy Jeff Driskel at quarterback, along with the addition of Kurt Roper as the team’s new play-caller. Roper plans to utilize Driskel’s rushing ability more in 2014, while new line coach Mike Summers is tasked with fixing a unit that struggled mightily last year. Any improvement on offense should be enough for Florida to at least reach the postseason, especially since the Gators lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2013. The defense returns seven starters from a unit that allowed the fewest yards per play (5.09) in SEC games last year. Will Muschamp needs a big year to save his job. With a schedule that features crossover games against LSU and Alabama, along with a road trip to Tallahassee in November, drastic improvement in the win column will be tough. However, with a strong defense and more production from the offense, the Gators should be able to get to 7-5 or 8-4.



High expectations surrounded Northwestern going into 2013, as the Wildcats were coming off a 10-3 mark and a Gator Bowl victory over Mississippi State. Northwestern started the year in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll and opened 4-0 with victories against California, Syracuse, Western Michigan and Maine. However, the injury bug took a toll on the Wildcats, and Pat Fitzgerald’s team lost seven out of its last eight games. Running back Venric Mark barely played in 2013 due to an ankle injury, and starting cornerback Daniel Jones was lost for the year due to a knee injury suffered in the opener against California. Northwestern used a two-quarterback system with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian last season, but the job is Siemian’s in 2014 with Colter expiring his eligibility. While Colter’s rushing ability will be missed, settling on one quarterback could benefit the offense. Seven starters return on defense, which should help this unit improve after allowing 27.1 points per game in 2013. Also, Northwestern is due for better luck in 2014. The Wildcats lost four games by eight points or less last year and gave up a late touchdown to Ohio State to lose 40-30.


Penn State

By no means was 2013 a bad season for Penn State. The Nittany Lions were still dealing with NCAA sanctions and had no possibility of a bowl. However, Penn State managed to finish 7-5 with a true freshman at quarterback and closed the year by defeating Wisconsin 31-24 in Madison. New coach James Franklin should make an immediate impact in Happy Valley, as he’s inheriting a roster that ranks No. 4 in the Big Ten. Depth is suspect – especially on the line – but the Nittany Lions aren’t hurting for talent in the starting 22. Franklin squeezed the most out of his rosters at Vanderbilt, winning nine games in each of the last two seasons. Penn State’s schedule also sets up favorably, missing Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska in crossover play in 2014. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg should thrive under Franklin’s watch, and the defense should show improvement on the stat sheet behind new coordinator Bob Shoop. The offensive line needs some work, but line coach Herb Hand is one of the best in the nation. If Franklin can get everything out of the roster like he did at Vanderbilt, finishing 9-3 or 10-2 isn’t out of the question for Penn State.


NC State

Dave Doeren’s first season in Raleigh was a tough one. The Wolfpack went winless in ACC play for the first time since 1959 and finished the year on an eight-game losing streak. A lot of factors went into NC State’s losing mark in 2013, but the biggest was the quarterback position. Brandon Mitchell was injured in the opener and there was never any consistency under center. That should change in 2014, as Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett will stabilize the quarterback position and allow coordinator Matt Canada to install more of his spread offense. The Wolfpack also have a solid group of skill players – running back Shadrach Thornton and receiver Bryan Underwood – while freshman Bo Hines had a strong spring and is expected to contribute in the receiving corps. Left tackle Rob Crisp also returns after missing nearly all of 2013 due to a concussion. The defense allowed 30.2 points per game last season, but six starters are back, and the defensive line should emerge as a strength. The non-conference schedule is favorable. NC State plays four winnable games outside of the ACC, while swing games against Georgia Tech, Boston College and Wake Forest are at home.



On paper, a 4-8 record isn’t appealing for any coach or team. However, TCU was much closer to 7-5 than some may realize. The Horned Frogs lost by three points to West Virginia, two points at Kansas State, three points to Baylor and by three points at Oklahoma. After losing six games by 10 points or less last year, TCU just needs a little improvement from its offense to get back into bowl contention. And improvement should come in the form of new offensive co-coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie, along with the addition of quarterback Matt Joeckel. Major improvement isn’t expected in the new spread attack, but the Horned Frogs can’t be any worse on offense. Assuming Joeckel can stabilize the quarterback spot, Trevone Boykin could move back to receiver to give the offense another playmaker on the outside. Even without Jason Verrett at cornerback, TCU’s defense should be one of the best in the Big 12. With slight improvement on offense, the Horned Frogs will be back in a bowl. And TCU has a chance to play spoiler with Oklahoma and Kansas State both visiting Amon G. Carter Stadium in 2014.


Better…But it May Not Show in Win Column

Bret Bielema’s SEC debut wasn’t pretty. The Razorbacks finished 3-9 overall and went winless in conference play. Arkansas finished 2013 on a nine-game losing streak, but this team didn’t quit at the end of the year. The Razorbacks lost in overtime to Mississippi State and nearly defeated LSU (31-27) on Nov. 29. Bielema and his staff have a lot of work to do on the recruiting trail to upgrade the overall talent, but there are reasons for optimism for this team. Sophomores Dan Skipper and Denver Kirkland headline a solid offensive line, and the running back corps ranks as one of the top 10 in the nation. Quarterback Brandon Allen should be better in his second year as the starter, especially if he can stay healthy after battling a shoulder injury in 2013. The schedule certainly isn’t kind for Arkansas, as crossover games against Georgia and Missouri are challenging. The Razorbacks came close to winning two SEC games last year. A bowl game would be a surprise, but Arkansas should close the gap some in the SEC West and find a way to win a game or two in conference play. 



Everything that could go wrong seemed to in Sonny Dykes’ first season at California. Not only were the Golden Bears battling through scheme changes on both sides of the ball, they were hit hard by injuries on defense, started a true freshman at quarterback (Jared Goff) and finished with a minus-15 in turnover margin. After hitting rock bottom, California can only go up in 2014. A tough non-conference schedule awaits the Golden Bears, as a road trip to Northwestern starts the season, followed by the finale against BYU. Dykes’ team also plays Arizona, UCLA and USC in crossover play with the Pac-12 South Division. Both sides of the ball have question marks, but the passing attack should be a strength, especially with Goff healthy and having another offseason under his belt. The defense allowed 45.9 points per game in 2013, but new coordinator Art Kaufman should bring immediate improvement. Don’t expect drastic steps forward in the win column for California, but this team should find a way to win a game in Pac-12 play after going winless in 2013.



After going 1-11 in Kevin Wilson’s first season (2011), Indiana has made improvement in the win column in each of the last two years. The Hoosiers went 4-8 in 2012 and finished 5-7 last season, barely missing out on a bowl game. With 16 starters back, Indiana should be a better overall team in 2014 but getting to six or seven wins will be difficult. The Hoosiers were aligned in the Big Ten’s East Division, which features annual matchups against Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland. Home games against Penn State and Maryland are winnable, but Indiana also gets a road trip to Iowa in crossover play. In addition to a challenging schedule, Wilson has to fix a struggling defense. The Hoosiers allowed 38.8 points per game last season and allowed 7.4 yards per play in conference matchups. With one of the Big Ten’s top offensive lines, along with a standout backfield (quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Tevin Coleman), Indiana’s offense won’t be a concern. However, if the defense struggles again, a challenging schedule will keep the Hoosiers at home for the bowl season.



It’s going to take coach Mark Stoops a few years to build Kentucky’s roster into one that can consistently compete for bowl games in the SEC. However, the Wildcats are trending in the right direction. Kentucky signed the No. 22 class in 2014, an improvement after inking the No. 34 recruiting haul in '13. Those two totals are the best two classes the Wildcats have brought in over the last five years, and all signs point to another standout group coming to Lexington in 2015. With the improvement in talent, it should start to show on the field for Stoops. Kentucky went 2-10 in Stoops’ debut but lost two SEC games by a touchdown or less. Finding a quarterback is the top priority for coordinator Neal Brown, and Patrick Towles, Reese Phillips and touted freshman Drew Barker will all contend for time in the fall. The talent at the skill positions has improved, and Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard should team with Jojo Kemp to form an effective one-two punch in the backfield. Stoops’ specialty is on defense, and that’s an area of focus this offseason after allowing 6.8 yards per play in SEC games. Kentucky should be able to win three of its non-conference matchups and could steal a win in conference play this year.



The Utes are still working to get acclimated to their new Pac-12 surroundings, so it’s no surprise the program has struggled to get bowl eligible in the last two years. Since winning four Pac-12 games in its conference debut, Utah is just 5-13 in league play. Some bad luck and injuries have prevented the Utes from getting into the postseason the last two years but that could change in 2014. New play-caller Dave Christensen should bring stability to an offense that averaged only 29.2 points per game in 2013 and help junior quarterback Travis Wilson develop after an up-and-down season. Wilson was injured late in the year but was cleared to play earlier this summer. The Utes always seem to find replacements on defense, so getting back to a bowl in 2014 will hinge on Wilson’s progress and how well this team navigates a schedule that features crossover games against Oregon and Stanford. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Utah went 5-7 again but was competitive against the top teams in the conference.

West Virginia

Transitioning to the Big 12 has been a challenge for West Virginia, as the Mountaineers are just 6-12 in conference play over the last two seasons. After winning seven games in 2012, Dana Holgorsen’s team regressed to 4-8 last year. However, West Virginia lost two games in overtime in November. It seems odd for a Holgorsen-coached team to have question marks at quarterback, but that’s the storyline facing the Mountaineers’ offense in 2014. Clint Trickett is slated to start, assuming his surgically repaired shoulder is at full strength. The strength of West Virginia’s offense is at running back, and the defense should improve with the return of six starters. Even though West Virginia is due to be a better team in terms of on-field performance, it may not show in the win column. The Mountaineers play Alabama and Maryland in non-conference play and swing games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Iowa State are away from Morgantown.


Four Teams Outside the Power 5 Conferences to Watch



The Tigers are making steady progress under third-year coach Justin Fuente. After winning just five games from 2009-11, Memphis has won seven in the last two years and lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2013. With 15 starters back, the Tigers could push for a bowl in 2014. The defense finished No. 5 in the American Athletic in points allowed, and end Martin Ifedi is one of the nation’s most underrated defenders. Memphis needs more from its offense – especially quarterback Paxton Lynch – but with the turnover at the bottom of the conference, combined with improvement on both sides of the ball, the Tigers have the potential to win six games in 2014.



The Wolf Pack slipped to 4-8 in Brian Polian’s first season in Reno, but there’s plenty of optimism for a turnaround in 2014. Nevada’s schedule in conference play is favorable, as Fresno State and San Diego State both visit Mackay Stadium, and the Wolf Pack won’t have to play Utah State from the Mountain Division. Quarterback Cody Fajardo battled leg injuries for most of last season and a full offseason to recover will benefit the entire offense. New defensive coordinator Scott Boone is tasked with fixing a unit that allowed 6.8 yards per play in Mountain West games last season, and he should have plenty of help with eight returning starters.



The Zips showed marked improvement in Terry Bowden’s second season. Akron finished 1-11 in 2012 but went 5-7 last year and 4-4 in conference play. The Zips had a couple of close calls, including a four-point defeat at Michigan and a seven-point loss to Northern Illinois. Bowling Green is the clear front-runner in the East, but Akron could surprise with another offseason of improvement. Kyle Pohl is one of the top returning passers in the MAC, and running back Jawon Chisholm has rushed for at least 860 yards in each of the last three seasons. The defense returns only four starters, so there are holes to fill for coordinator Chuck Amato. 

South Florida

Willie Taggart didn’t inherit a ton of talent from previous coach Skip Holtz, and the Bulls slumped to 2-10 in Taggart’s debut. USF’s offense managed only 13.8 points per game and lost 17 turnovers in eight American Athletic Conference contests. Despite all of last year’s problems, the Bulls are positioned for immediate improvement. Taggart signed the No. 40 recruiting class in 2014 – the No. 1 haul in the conference – and a handful of young players saw extensive playing time in 2013. Sophomore quarterback Mike White is promising, and the offensive line could be one of the best in the American Athletic with four returning starters. The middle of the conference is wide open, and USF has a good collection of young talent waiting to emerge. Taggart needs more time to build the roster to his liking, but the door is open for the Bulls to get back into the postseason in 2014.

College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-football-game-game-predictions-2014

Virginia Tech has been one of the ACC’s most consistent programs under Frank Beamer’s watch.


The Hokies won at least 10 games in every season from 2004-11 and made five appearances in the ACC Championship game since 2005.

The last two years haven’t been up to Virginia Tech’s usual standard, as the Hokies are just 15-11 since 2012. A struggling offense has been the primary issue for Beamer, as Virginia Tech averaged just 22.5 points per game in 2013.

Once again, offense is the Hokies’ biggest concern. Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer is expected to push for the starting quarterback job, but the offense as a whole has to pickup their play in 2014.

With a wide open Coastal Division, Virginia Tech’s defense and favorable schedule could be enough to return to the conference title game.

Related: 2014 Virginia Tech Team Preview2014 ACC Predictions2014 All-ACC Team


Expert Panel:

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven),
Chris Coleman (@ChrisColemanTSL),
John Cassillo (@JohnCassillo),
David Fox (@DavidFox615),
Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall),
Matt McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky),
Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),


Early Virginia Tech Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
William & Mary
at Ohio State
East Carolina
Georgia Tech
Western Michigan
at UNC
at Pittsburgh
Boston College
at Duke
at Wake Forest
Final Prediction:9-38-47-59-38-49-39-39-3
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

It’s anyone’s guess which team is the favorite in the Coastal Division this year. Any of the projected top six teams in Athlon’s 2014 ACC predictions have a good shot at winning the division. Despite the overall uncertainty of the Coastal, Virginia Tech should be near the top of most projections. Yes, the offense is a concern (5.3 yards per play in conference games last year), but can it really get worse? The Hokies have options at running back and the top three receivers from 2013 are back. Finding answers on the offensive line and settling on a starting quarterback are the biggest offseason priorities for coordinator Scot Loeffler. The defense is once again the anchor for Virginia Tech’s division title hopes, especially with a secondary and defensive line that will be among the best in the nation. A huge factor in the Hokies’ favor is a schedule that misses the projected top four teams in the ACC Atlantic. It’s hard to envision a Coastal team winning more than nine games, so 6-2 might be enough to claim the division. Even though road trips to North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Duke won’t be easy, Virginia Tech’s crossover schedule with the Atlantic is a huge advantage in 2014.


Chris Coleman, (@ChrisColemanTSL),

Virginia Tech’s schedule sets of favorably. They have a couple of tough road games in the middle of the season, but they have the opportunity to close strong. Turnovers and the running game will be the key for the Hokies. With more options at running back and a more experienced offensive line, the running game should improve. The big questions are will Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer win the job, and if so, will he be a better passer than Logan Thomas?

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo),

While I want to give Virginia Tech's excellent defense the benefit of the doubt here, it's simply too tough to ignore this lack of an offense any longer. Last year's group already struggled to score (put up just 22.5 points per game), and now the Hokies need to replace seven of those players -- including QB Logan Thomas. There's a lack of leadership and ability on that side of the ball, and in an ACC that has its fair share of stout defenses, that's a big problem. The defense will obviously be fine, and Bud Foster will work his magic on that side of the ball yet again (as he has every year since 1995). But that defense and the division's mediocrity are the only things keeping them in the hunt for another ACC Championship Game berth.

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),

When I first looked at their schedule, I initially thought the Hokies could finish with a record as good as 10-2, but these aren’t the Hokies of a few years ago when double-digit wins were the norm. I saw a group of three games where I think Tech will have more trouble than most expect: East Carolina at home (the Pirates can score and gave the Hokies a scare last year, although it was in Greenville), at North Carolina (I don’t think the Tar Heels will be as good as some, but they’ll be contenders in the Coastal) and against Miami in Blacksburg (although the Hurricanes quarterback situation scares me). There’s a chance the Hokies could win all of them or go 1-2 in this stretch, but I’m leaning towards 2-1, which puts them at 9-3 on the year. They lucked out with their crossover games (Boston College, at Wake Forest) and that could allow them to nab a spot in the ACC Championship game.


Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis),

I know Stewart Mandel with Fox Sports was probably the first person to really call these years the end of the Frank Beamer era at Virginia Tech, but I would like to join him. After the school's incredible run of double-digit win seasons came to an end two years ago, it seems like things are headed in the wrong direction without much hope to turn around in the short term. For the life of me I can't grasp why Beamer turned to Scott Loeffler to revive his offense and now without Logan Thomas, inconsistent as he was, the offense could actually find a way to be worse. I'm picking the Hokies to lose almost every game against an opponent with a competent offense. I want to be wrong and will freely admit it if I am. Nevertheless, until the Virginia Tech can scare people offensively, there will only be middling results from here on out. 


David Fox (@DavidFox615)

I’m not sure if it says more about the Virginia Tech defense or the ACC that the Hokies won eight games with that offense last season. Bud Foster should have another strong defense on his hands, especially in the back end. But I don’t envy the defensive coordinator in September, going from facing Braxton Miller in Columbus, to East Carolina’s Air Raid to Georgia Tech’s triple option in three consecutive games. To their credit, the Hokies handled both Georgia Tech, East Carolina plus the Marshall hurry-up in a three-week span last season. Can that happen again? With new faces in the front seven, this offense is going to have to produce more than it did a year ago.


Matt McClusky (@MatthewMcClusky),

After 28 years in Blacksburg, this truly may be the beginning of the end for Frank Beamer's run at Virginia Tech. A couple of years of slippage in the program have people genuinely wondering about the future of Hokies football and its 67-year-old coach.


But there is always a "but" isn't there? Here, the cause for pause is two fold. First, Virginia Tech may be something of a darkhorse due to its defense. Players like Kendall Fuller, Brandon Facyson and Luther Maddy (who lead Va. Tech in sacks in 2013) will all return for Bud Foster's typically stout defense. And then there's the schedule, which is important for what is missing -- as in Florida State, Clemson and Louisville. So maybe things aren't as bleak as they seem.


I mean, the ACC's Coastal is effectively wide open this season and, given the returning defensive talent and the '14 slate, Virginia Tech should be considered the favorite to get back to the ACC title game. Will winning a rather weak division in the ACC be enough for some people to stop thinking this is the final chapter for Beamer? Probably, but how long will that sentiment last?


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Virginia Tech still has one of the best defenses in the nation and certainly one of the best in the ACC. The Hokies have major issues on offense, however, so holding serve at home in Lane Stadium will be key. Miami, Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Boston College are must-win games. Tech will lose some games away from home with trips to Ohio State, North Carolina, Pitt and Duke looming.

Virginia Tech Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Friday, July 18, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-players-returning-injury-2014

Injuries are a significant part of every college football season. Whether it’s a key starter or solid backup, an injury could derail a team’s national or conference title hopes.

Several teams suffered major injuries to key players last season, including Texas with quarterback David Ash, Georgia with running back Keith Marshall and receiver Malcolm Mitchell, TCU with standout defensive end Devonte Fields and Florida with quarterback Jeff Driskel.

Those injuries were just a small sample of the key injuries that occurred either before or during the college football season.

To help prepare for the 2014 season, we examined some of the top players returning from injury and the impact they could make this year. Note: Players that were injured in November (Miami running back Duke Johnson) were not eligible for this list. Instead, this list is focused on players that missed the entire season or a majority of the schedule.

Top 20 College Football Players Back from Injury


David Ash, QB, Texas

The health of David Ash is critical for first-year coach Charlie Strong. Ash threw for 2,699 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012 but played in only three games due to concussions last season. Prior to his injury, Ash completed 60.9 percent of his throws and tossed seven touchdowns to only two picks. If Ash is injured again in 2014, true freshman Jerrod Heard or sophomore Tyrone Swoopes – two inexperienced players – would get the call under center for Strong.


Brian Blechen, S, Utah

Blechen has been an under-the-radar performer in Salt Lake City, and his return will help a Utah defense that allowed 28 points per game in 2013. The California native missed 2013 due to knee issues but has 35 career appearances and 203 tackles as a Ute. Blechen’s best season came in 2012, recording 78 stops, eight tackles for a loss, three forced fumbles and three interceptions. Expect Blechen to push for all-conference honors at safety in 2014.


Stefon Diggs/Deon Long, WR, Maryland

Maryland heads into its first season of Big Ten play with one of the top receiving corps in the conference. Diggs is a threat to score every time he touches the ball and caught 34 passes for 587 yards and three scores in just seven games last year. Long was also injured in Maryland’s seventh game last year and finished 2013 with 32 catches for 489 yards and one touchdown. With Diggs and Long back at full strength, expect the Terrapins’ offense to take a step forward in its Big Ten debut.


Jeff Driskel, QB, Florida

Will Muschamp’s long-term future in Gainesville could hinge on Driskel’s health. After a 4-8 mark in 2013, there’s enormous pressure on Muschamp to get the Gators back in contention for the SEC East title. Driskel was one of the top quarterbacks in the 2011 signing class and led Florida to a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2012 after completing 63.7 percent of his throws and 12 touchdowns. However, Driskel was off to a slow start in 2013 (477 yards, three interceptions in three games) when he suffered a season-ending leg injury against Tennessee. New coordinator Kurt Roper is tasked with fixing Florida’s offense, which has ranked eighth or worse in the SEC (conference-only games) in yards per play over the last four seasons. Driskel should be a good fit in Roper’s offense, but he also needs more help from the receiving corps and offensive line.


Devonte Fields, DE, TCU

Fields had a breakout freshman campaign in 2012, recording 18.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, two forced fumbles and earned AP Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. The bar was set high for Fields in 2013, but he played in three games due to injury and finished with four tackles (two for a loss). When healthy, Fields is one of the top linemen and defenders in the Big 12. He anchors a TCU defensive line that should be among the best in the conference this year.


Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas

Talent certainly isn’t an issue for Texas’ defense, but the Longhorns have room to improve after allowing 5.2 yards per play in conference games last season. Hicks was a key piece of the defense in 2011 with 65 tackles, but he has played in only seven games the last two years due to injury. Coming off an Achilles injury, Hicks may need a few contests to knock some of the rust off.


Austin Hill, WR, Arizona

Uncertainty rules Arizona’s offense heading into fall camp, as coach Rich Rodriguez is searching for a starter at quarterback and at running back. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap, the starter will have a deep – maybe the best in the Pac-12 – group of receivers to target. Hill is the headliner for Rodriguez after catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 scores in 2012. He missed 2013 due to an ACL tear, but all signs point to Hill returning to full strength for 2014.


D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida

Humphries is the second starter from Florida’s offense to make this list, as the North Carolina native played in seven games last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The Gators need more productivity from the quarterback spot, but the offensive line also has to improve after allowing 22 sacks in SEC play last year. Humphries rated as the No. 7 high school prospect by ESPN in the 2012 signing class.


C.J. Johnson, DE, Ole Miss

Combine Johnson’s return with the development of Robert Nkemdiche at tackle, and it’s easy to see why Ole Miss should have one of the top defensive lines in the SEC this season. Johnson played in 13 games in 2012 and recorded 55 tackles, 6.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. Prior to his season-ending ankle injury in 2013, Johnson had 12 tackles (four for a loss). The Mississippi native could be one of the top defensive ends in the SEC this year.


Isaiah Johnson, S, Georgia Tech

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof plans on switching Georgia Tech’s defensive alignment to more of a 4-2-5 look in 2014. And that scheme shift is certainly made easier with the return of Johnson and junior safety Jamal Golden from injury. Johnson recorded 87 stops and one interception in 2012 and is projected to earn third-team All-ACC honors by Athlon Sports in 2014. With a full year to recover from knee surgery, Johnson should be 100 percent for the season opener against Wofford.


Chuckie Keeton, QB, Utah State

Keeton is one of the top quarterbacks outside the Power 5 conferences, and his return from ACL surgery should have Utah State in the mix to win the Mountain West title in 2014. In three seasons with the Aggies, Keeton has tossed 56 touchdowns to just 13 interceptions. He has also completed at least 60 percent of his passes in every season and rushed for 619 yards in 2012. Keeton is an Athlon Sports’ first-team All-Mountain West selection for 2014.


Curt Maggitt, LB, Tennessee

The unquestioned strength of Tennessee’s defense in 2014 is the linebacking corps. Senior A.J. Johnson will push for All-America honors, while Maggitt returns after missing 2013 due to a knee injury. Maggitt recorded 56 stops in 2011 and made 30 tackles (five for a loss) in just nine games in 2012. A healthy Maggitt is critical for the Volunteers’ front seven, as he is expected to slide between defensive end and linebacker this year.


Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern

Mark is one of the Big Ten’s top big-play threats, and a return to full strength in 2014 would be a huge boost for Northwestern’s offense. In 2012, Mark rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also taking two punt returns for scores. The Texas native never had a chance to build on those totals in 2013, as a leg injury suffered in the opener limited him to just four games. If Mark is healthy, another 1,000-yard season is within reach.


Keith Marshall, RB, Georgia

Georgia’s backfield was hit hard by injuries in 2013, as Todd Gurley battled an ankle injury for most of the year, and Marshall suffered a season-ending knee injury against Tennessee. Marshall averaged 6.5 yards per carry as a true freshman in 2012 and recorded 246 yards prior to his injury in 2013. If Marshall is healthy, Georgia should have one of the top one-two tandems at running back in the nation.


Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia

Mitchell was just one of a handful of key players on Georgia’s team last season that missed time due to injury. Prior to 2013, Mitchell caught 85 receptions in his first two years at Georgia and was poised to be an All-SEC performer. The Georgia native suffered a torn ACL in the first quarter against Clemson and missed the rest of the year. The junior should be one of the top targets for new quarterback Hutson Mason in 2014.


Aaron Morris, OG, Ole Miss

With only two starters returning, the biggest concern for coach Hugh Freeze’s offense is the line. But the news isn’t all bad in Oxford this preseason, as the Rebels will regain the services of Morris for the opener against Boise State. The Mississippi native started all 13 games in 2012 and was expected to be one of the top guards in the SEC in 2013. However, a torn ACL suffered against Vanderbilt ended Morris’ season before it got on track. If Morris is at full strength, the left side of the Rebels’ line is in great shape with Laremy Tunsil anchoring the group at left tackle.


Demetrious Nicholson, CB, Virginia

Nicholson was quietly one of the ACC’s top defensive backs in 2012 but an injury forced him to sit on the sidelines for most of the 2013 season. In five games, Nicholson recorded 20 tackles, four passes defended and one interception. Those numbers were a big drop-off from his 2012 totals, as Nicholson made 56 tackles and defended 15 passes. The Virginia Beach native is a third-team All-ACC selection by Athlon Sports for 2014.


Owa Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA

In addition to the emergence of sophomores Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes, the return of Odighizuwa should ensure UCLA’s defense doesn’t suffer a drop in production without linebacker Anthony Barr. Odighizuwa missed 2013 due to a hip injury but played in 38 games from 2010-12. The Oregon native recorded 44 tackles in 2012 and was poised for a breakout year prior to his injury in 2013.


Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

Phillips was expected to play a key role in stopping the run for Oklahoma's defense in 2013. He anchored the line through the first four weeks with two tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks, but a back injury forced Phillips to sit out the remainder of the 2013 season. Without Phillips anchoring the interior, the Sooners finished sixth in the Big 12 (conference-only games) against the run. Assuming Phillips returns to full strength, Oklahoma’s defensive line could be the best in the Big 12 this year.           


Ricky Seals-Jones, WR, Texas A&M

Even without Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans, Texas A&M’s offense is still going to score plenty of points in 2014. The Aggies have a deep collection of skill players, and this group should get even better with a full year from Seals-Jones. He was the No. 25 player in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 but played in only two games due to injury. Seals-Jones grabbed three passes for 84 yards and a score last year. 


Other Key Players Returning from Injury in 2014:


Mehdi Abdesmad, DT, Boston College

Abdesmad started fast in 2013, recording 17 tackles and two sacks through the first four games. However, a knee injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. Expect Abdesmad to push for All-ACC honors in 2014.


Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

Alexander ranked as the No. 30 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 and was slated for a significant role in the Clemson secondary before a groin injury sidelined him all year. Expect a breakout season from Alexander in 2014.


Rob Crisp, OT, NC State

NC State should be one of the most improved teams in the ACC this year. The addition of quarterback Jacoby Brissett should spark the offense, while Crisp returns after missing 10 games due to a concussion. According to his NC State bio, Crisp did not allow a sack in 413 snaps in 2011.

Akeem Daniels, RB, Northern Illinois

Without Jordan Lynch piloting the offense, the Huskies will lean more on their running backs in 2014. Daniels rushed for 447 yards and averaged a whopping 6.6 yards per carry in 2012. After missing 2013 due to a foot injury, Daniels will join Cameron Stingily as key cogs in the Northern Illinois’ rushing attack.


Devin Davis, OT, Oklahoma State

Davis was poised to start at left tackle in 2013 but missed the season due to a knee injury. Getting Davis back to full strength is crucial with just two starters returning for Oklahoma State’s offensive line in 2014.


Peyton Eckert/Dan Feeney, OL, Indiana

Wisconsin and Iowa will likely get the most consideration for the top offensive line spot in the Big Ten this year, but don’t forget about Indiana. The Hoosiers return three starters up front and regain Eckert and Feeney after both missed all of 2013 due to injury. Both players started 12 games in 2012.


George Farmer, WR, USC

Farmer was a big-time pickup on the recruiting trail for USC, but the Los Angeles native has just five catches in two seasons. With Marqise Lee departing, Farmer – if he’s healthy from a knee injury – could be a key part of the Trojans’ passing game.


Jake Fely, LB, San Diego State

Fely is one of the top defenders in the Mountain West, and his return will help San Diego State push for a division title. Fely was limited to 20 tackles in four games due to injury last season, but he started all 13 games and made 11.5 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in 2012.

J.J. Gaines, S, Texas Tech

Gaines is expected to be one of the leaders for Texas Tech’s secondary in 2014. He played in only five games last season due to injury but recorded 16 tackles and two picks.


Justin Garrett, LB/S, Auburn

Garrett was plagued by foot injuries last season but was expected to play a significant role in Auburn’s defense at the linebacker or star position.


Jamal Golden, S, Georgia Tech

Golden has made only 44 stops in three seasons on defense for the Yellow Jackets, but the Alabama native is one of the ACC’s top return men. In 2012, Golden averaged 28.3 yards per kickoff return and is back to full strength after missing nearly all of 2013 due to injury.


Jay Hughes, S, Mississippi State

Hughes was slated to start at safety last year but suffered a torn Achilles in the opener against Oklahoma State. The Mississippi native played in 13 games and recorded 32 tackles as a sophomore in 2012.


Tyler Hunter, S, Florida State

Hunter’s return bolsters a secondary that is already one of the best – if not No. 1 – in the nation. The Georgia native missed 11 games in 2013 due to a neck injury but played in 14 games in 2012.


Jeremiah Johnson, CB, Maryland

Injuries have hit Maryland hard over the last few years, and 2013 was no exception with Johnson missing 11 games due to a toe injury. In 2012, Johnson recorded 43 tackles and broke up eight passes. If he can stay healthy, Johnson should push for All-Big Ten honors and lead a much-improved Maryland secondary.


Jordan Johnson, CB, BYU

Johnson’s return should bolster a BYU secondary that allowed 19 passing scores in 2013. The Massachusetts native started 12 games in 2012 and recorded 15 pass breakups.


Mike Matulis, OL, South Carolina

Matulis entered last season with 10 career starts and was considered the frontrunner to start at guard. However, Matulis redshirted due to a shoulder injury.


Charone Peake, WR, Clemson

With Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant off to the NFL, Clemson is looking for new faces to emerge at receiver. Peake could be one of the top targets for new quarterback Cole Stoudt after missing nearly all of 2013 with an ACL tear. He caught 25 passes for 172 yards in 2012.


Avery Sebastian, S, California

Sebastian and teammate Stefan McClure missed significant time due to injuries last season, but both players are expected to push for a starting role in 2014. Sebastian played in only two games prior to an Achilles injury and recorded 10 tackles and one interception.


Matthew Thomas, LB, Florida State

Keep an eye on this redshirt freshman in 2014, as Thomas could be one of the ACC’s breakout players. The Miami native played in four games before taking a medical redshirt due to a shoulder injury. Thomas made four tackles (two for a loss) and one sack in limited action.


Jeffrey Whitaker, DT, Auburn

Whitaker appeared on the verge of a breakout year in 2013, but a knee injury sidelined him for the entire season. The Georgia native has 18 career starts and will be a key cog in Auburn’s defensive tackle rotation. 

College Football's Top Players Returning from Injury for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Wildcats, College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/arizona-football-game-game-predictions-2014

Arizona is making steady progress under coach Rich Rodriguez, as the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons.

Rodriguez is known as an offensive mastermind, which is crucial for a team that enters fall practice with uncertainty at quarterback, along with the departure of running back Ka’Deem Carey.

The strength of Arizona’s offense rests with a line that returns four starters, including standout tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele. The receiving corps is also one of the best in the Pac-12, and Austin Hill is back after missing all of 2013 due to a torn ACL.

With the personnel losses at Arizona State, the coaching turnover at USC, and a favorable home slate for the Wildcats, Arizona has a chance to make some noise in the South Division.


Related: 2014 Arizona Team Preview | Pac-12 2014 Predictions | Pac-12 2014 All-Conference Team


Expert Panel:

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven),
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45),
David Fox (@DavidFox615),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall),
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR),


Early Arizona Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
at Oregon
at Washington
at Utah
Arizona State
Final Projection7-58-47-58-47-5
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Arizona is an intriguing team to watch this season. I projected the Wildcats to finish 7-5, but this team could easily finish 8-4 or even 9-3. The defense is getting better under the watchful eye of Jeff Casteel, and the offensive line and receiving corps should be among the best in the Pac-12. However, Arizona’s biggest question marks are on offense, as a quarterback didn’t win the job in the spring, and there’s no clear replacement for standout running back Ka’Deem Carey. Of course, those concerns are lessened by the fact Rich Rodriguez will be calling the plays. However, it’s reasonable to expect some growing pains on that side of the ball. If Jesse Scroggins or Anu Solomon claims the job at quarterback and settles into the offense early in the year, Arizona will be a dangerous out in the second half of the season for the Pac-12.

Kyle Kensing (@kensing45),

It's fair to say Rich Rodriguez exceeded expectations in his first two seasons at Arizona with back-to-back 8-win campaigns. However, UA has yet to finish above .500 in Pac-12 play. The next step for this program is getting to the positive side of the ledger in an increasingly difficult conference. An outstanding offensive line and deep receiving corps will buoy the offense through a very manageable nonconference slate, and the young talent in Jeff Casteel's defense should continue to build on the major strides made last season. With five home Pac-12 games, the Wildcats have a favorable road to that magic 5-win mark in the league, including that all-important victory over Arizona State Rodriguez currently lacks.


Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

Rich Rodriguez has dealt with quarterback uncertainty before in Tuscon, but this fall he has to replace one of the nation's most productive running backs (Ka'Deem Carey) too. Offense is RichRod's calling card and he should be able to cobble a productive attack with the collection of experienced wide receivers he has returning, but quarterback and backfield production will be key. The defense returns half of its starters and made progress last season, but a pretty tough Pac-12 road slate figures to take its toll on the Wildcats' win total. A third straight bowl bid should be pretty easy to achieve, but any sort of climb in the South Division standings will come down to the offense's development and how well the defense holds up against the likes of Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington. Get two or more wins out of that quintet of games and it could be a memorable season for Wildcat fans.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

Arizona should be poised for a hot start before a rude awakening at Autzen. That August/September schedule good news for a team that exited spring practice with logjam at quarterback. The question is how Arizona can take advantage of the fortuitous home schedule against USC, Washington and Arizona State. Arizona generally finds a way to win a game it shouldn’t at home late in the year. I’ve picked Washington as that game for the Wildcats this season.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

I really like Arizona to make some noise in the Pac-12 South. No, that doesn't mean winning the division but they will win a game or two that they aren't supposed to (like, say, USC at home). Rich Rodriguez has been 4-5 in each of his first two seasons in the league and he has a chance to be over .500 this year if the Cats defense can improve. USC, Arizona State and Washington are prime upset candidates in Tucson this year.

Arizona Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/stanford-football-game-game-predictions-2014

Stanford has claimed back-to-back Pac-12 titles, and despite a bevy of personnel departures, the Cardinal should be in good shape to contend once again in 2014.

Coach David Shaw continues to raise the profile of the program with three consecutive double-digit win seasons, and the program simply reloads after losing key players. There’s no more rebuilding under Shaw’s watch.

While Stanford has finished in top 11 of the final Associated Press poll for three consecutive years, that streak could be in jeopardy in 2014.

The Cardinal has several key players to replace on both sides of the ball, and the schedule is one of the toughest in the nation.

Related: 2014 Stanford Team Preview | 2014 Pac-12 Predictions | 2014 All-Pac-12 Team | 2014 Pac-12 Breakout Players


Expert Panel

Steven Lassan, (@AthlonSteven),
Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45),
David Fox (@DavidFox615),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall),
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR),

Early Stanford Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014 
UC Davis
at Washington
at Notre Dame
Washington State
at Arizona State
Oregon State
at Oregon
at California
Final Prediction9-38-49-310-29-3
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Stanford’s schedule is the biggest drawback for this team in the Pac-12 title race. The Cardinal plays five projected teams in Athlon’s final top 25 for 2014 on the road this year. In addition to the personnel losses on both sides of the ball, coach David Shaw must also replace standout defensive coordinator Derek Mason. With the losses on defense, Shaw needs more from his offense in 2013, starting with quarterback Kevin Hogan. The offensive line should be fine despite the departure of four starters, and a running back (or two) should emerge. However, Hogan needs to take the next step in his development, which could be the difference between Stanford finishing 8-4 or 10-2 and winning the North. I still think this is one of the top teams in the Pac-12 and a fringe top-10 squad this year. However, the brutal road schedule might be the difference in a tight division race between the Ducks and the Cardinal.


Kyle Kensing (@kensing45)

I have trepidation in pegging Stanford for its worst finish since 2009. Firstly, that season was the last the Cardinal failed to qualify for a BCS bowl. Secondly, David Shaw has improved upon the foundation Jim Harbaugh laid, turning Stanford into a program built to win consistently. The Cardinal have one of the best offensive lines in the conference, the defense remains stacked despite losing key pieces like Shayne Skov, Ed Reynolds and Trent Murphy, and quarterback Kevin Hogan should take strides with a year-and-a-half of experience under his belt. Hogan is also working with a diverse receiving corps. And yet, the schedule is brutal. An 8-4 projection is less an indictment on the Cardinal in a reloading year, but rather a testament to how nasty this slate is. Oregon and UCLA are preseason top 10 teams, Washington is one of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12, and Notre Dame is a Playoff contender. Oh, and Stanford gets all four on the road.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Stanford is still in great shape despite big losses along the offensive line and on the defense. The running game should still be nasty and the defense returns a lot of big time recruits who are ready to step into staring roles as upperclassmen. The issue is the home-road splits for Stanford could be very painful as the Cardinal have to face all of the biggest Pac-12 contenders and Notre Dame on the road this year. This includes two critical games within in the North Division in Eugene and Seattle.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

David Shaw has done an exceptional job in his first three seasons at Stanford, but this fall could pose an entirely new challenge for him. Although Stanford doesn't lack for talent, the Cardinal lost quite a bit of it and experience along its offensive line, at running back and on every level of the defense. The defense also will be led by a new coordinator, Derek Mason departed to take over at Vanderbilt. Even with these personnel losses, I'm not expecting Stanford to take a huge step backwards, but I do think the Cardinal's margin of error has narrowed considerably. Of course the Nov. 1 date in Eugene with Oregon is huge, but the early-season tilt with USC, back-to-back visits to Seattle and South Bend, Ind., and the season finale at UCLA could each be equally important, especially if junior quarterback Kevin Hogan struggles to lead the offense.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

Stanford is too well built to fall off too much, but I could still see this as a transition year. The offensive line is full of great recruits, but there’s still just one returning starter here. Inexperience there and at tight end and running back puts more on the shoulders of Kevin Hogan, which may be a problem on the road against teams like Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.

Stanford Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-switches-fieldturf-new-field-design-unveiled

Notre Dame is switching from natural grass to FieldTurf in 2014, and the Fighting Irish will also have a new field design.

The traditional blank field with diagonal striping in the endzones has been a staple at Notre Dame Stadium, but there will be a slight alteration to the FieldTurf in 2014.

The FieldTurf will feature a Notre Dame logo at the 50-yard line, along with shamrocks at the 35-yard line for kickoffs.

Check out the school’s release for more information on the new field design for 2014:

Notre Dame Switches to FieldTurf; New Field Design Unveiled
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 14:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/ucla-unveils-alternate-la-steel-uniforms-2014

UCLA’s uniforms haven’t changed much in recent seasons, but the Bruins used an alternate “LA Midnight” look last season and recently unveiled a new “LA Steel” uniform for 2014.

These uniforms are quite a change from the classic UCLA jersey and helmet and feature metallic design additions to the shoulder pads and around the numbers, which is a tribute to the bright lights of Los Angeles.

According to the release on the official school website, this will be the first gray uniform in school history.

Here’s a look at UCLA’s new alternate jerseys for 2014: 

UCLA Unveils Alternate "LA Steel" Uniforms for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 10:32
Path: /college-football/byu-football-game-game-predictions-2014

BYU enters its fourth season of independence poised to push for 10 wins for the second time in four years.

The Cougars are coming off back-to-back eight-win campaigns, but the return of 13 starters, combined with the development of quarterback Taysom Hill, should allow Bronco Mendenhall’s team a chance to finish in the final top 25 poll.

Hill is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, and junior running back Jamaal Williams could push for All-America honors with another 1,000-yard season.

BYU’s biggest question mark is on the offensive line, and the defense needs to find a linebacker to replace Kyle Van Noy.

Related: BYU 2014 Preview | 2014 Bowl Projections | All-America Team for 2014

The Expert Panel:

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven),
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR),
Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall),
Jeremy Mauss (@JeremyMauss),
David Fox (@DavidFox615),
Kevin Schaefer (@KevinVTF),
Kyle Kensing (@kensing45),

Early BYU Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
at UConn
at Texas
Utah State
at UCF
at Boise State
Savannah State
at California
Final Prediction10-210-29-310-211-19-310-29-3
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

BYU is going to be a fascinating team to watch in 2014. The Cougars have a realistic shot at winning every game on the schedule, and in college football’s new playoff format, 11 wins has to at least get them in the conversation for one of the top bowl games on New Year’s Day. While I don’t expect BYU to go unbeaten, getting to 10 wins in the regular season would be a solid year for Bronco Mendenhall’s team. Quarterback Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams form an explosive backfield, with a revamped receiving corps and offensive line the biggest question marks on offense. Hill is a dynamic dual-threat quarterback, but he still needs to take the next step as a passer. And with the losses at receiver, it may take a couple of games for the passing attack to improve. Standout linebacker Kyle Van Noy is gone, but six starters return on defense. The schedule is favorable, as BYU should be favored to win at least 9 or 10 games. I do think the late-season road trip to an improving California team is tougher than some expect, but dates at Boise State and UCF are manageable. In Athlon’s projected final top 25 for 2014, we projected BYU to finish No. 35. However, if the pieces fall into place on offense, the Cougars should have a good shot at finish in the final top 25 poll.

Kevin Schaefer (@KevinVTF),

I'm really curious to see how BYU's offense looks this season. The Cougars had a very exciting rushing attack last season, led by two 1,000+ yard rushers in QB Taysom Hill and RB Jamaal Williams. Unfortunately, the Cougars passing game couldn't match that success and the offense as a whole left too many points on the field in the their losses. Now with a full year under offensive coordinator Robert Anae's uptempo offense and a few new weapons at wideout, the Cougars should have the improved passing attack they will need to have a more successful season than they did a year ago.


BYU's schedule isn't nearly as demanding as it was last season and it should set the Cougars up nicely for double digit wins. The trip to Austin in the second week of the season will likely be the most difficult test the Cougars will face, but BYU should also watch out for UCF, Houston, and Boise State.

Mitch Harper (@Mitch_Harper),

This schedule sets up very well for BYU. There’s not one team on this schedule that BYU can’t beat. But there are some trap games. The biggest game though is in Week 2 against Texas. If BYU gets out of the gates with a 2-0 start, and one of those wins coming against the Horns in Austin; the nation will be talking about the Cougars as a team to get one of the at-large spots in the New Year’s Day bowls. As the last true independent in college football, that’s all BYU can ask for at this point is being in the national conversation on a weekly basis. With all that said, picking that BYU-UT game today, I have the Cougars falling in a close one. BYU is only 1-6 in games away from Provo in the month of September since becoming independent in 2011.


BYU will go undefeated at home this season without breaking much of a sweat. The game against Houston on a Thursday night in week three could be dicey. UH and BYU put on a 47-46 shootout last year in Reliant Stadium, so expect more offensive fireworks in BYU’s home opener on ESPN.


The other two games that raise concern on this 2014 slate are Central Florida and Boise State. UCF obviously lost Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson to the NFL, but the Knights were one of the youngest teams in the country last year, and everyone returns this season. Then with Boise State, it’s all about the blue turf. In BYU’s two visits to Boise in program history the Cougars have came up short in both games. Losing by a total of two points in those games.  Remember the 7-6 thriller in 2012? I try to forget as well.


The key for BYU, as it always has been under Bronco Mendenhall, will be to get off to a fast start with a pair of wins on the road. All the pieces are in place for BYU to have a big season with QB Taysom Hill, RB Jamaal Williams, & a pair of transfer wide receivers in Jordan Leslie (UTEP) & Devon Blackmon (Oregon) at the skill positions. The Cougar offense will continue to “go fast & go hard” and the defense has built an identity of being one of the most consistent defenses in the country.

Kyle Kensing, (@kensing45),

BYU's 2013 schedule was pretty much the gold standard the program was striving for when it went independent in 2011. There were teams from the Pac-12, Big 12, Big Ten and ACC on the docket, as well as quality non-AQ opponents. The strong Group of Five teams like Boise State, UCF and Utah State remain, but the matchups with the Power 5 aren't quite as impressive. The exception is a rematch of BYU's marquee win since leaving the Mountain West, the return against Texas. That Week 2 contest will speak volumes about the potential of this BYU team. An undefeated season isn't inconceivable--but neither is a disappointing 7-win campaign.

Jeremy Mauss, (@JeremyMauss),

The 2014 schedule takes a giant step back form 2013 and anything less than 10 wins should be seen as a disappointment for the Cougars. BYU's offense should be in full swing in the second year of offensive coordinator's Rober Anae's go fast, go hard offense. Everyone has another year in the system which will make everything go much more smoothly, and the only question is how the new wide receivers will step up with transfers Jordan Leslie, Ashanti Blackmon and Nick Kurtz. If those wide receivers can pick up the offense then this offense could be one of the best in the country.

Mark Ross, (@AthlonMarkR)

BYU's status as an independent helps create one of the more interesting schedules in the nation. The Cougars will play teams from the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12, as well as the American Athletic, C-USA and Mountain West. With dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill a potential dark horse Heisman Trophy contender and running back Jamaal Williams an explosive threat out of the backfield, the Cougars should be a handful for opposing defenses. The defense has some key personnel to replace, but given the schedule, the only games that should pose any challenge appear to be Texas, Utah State and Boise State. Only two of these matchups are on the road, so as long as Hill stays healthy and the defense can stand its ground, Bronco Mendenhall's team could reach double digits in the win column before the bowl season.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

BYU might be the best non-Big 5 in the nation. The Cougars might have the best shot of reaching the playoff or going unbeaten of any team outside of the Big 5. Games on the road against Texas and Boise State look like the toughest games this team will face all year. Otherwise, it's a lot of home cooking and winnable games against solid but beatable mid-major teams like UCF, Utah State and Nevada.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

This could be a mighty interesting season for BYU. There are few games on the schedule that I would say is a lock for a loss, and that’s not something easy to say about a team that went 8-5 the last two seasons. And the game I picked BYU to lose — a road trip to Texas — is a rematch of the game that was the beginning of the end for Mack Brown. Certainly, there’s not a lot of heavy lifting here for BYU. Cal is the lone representative from the Pac-12, Virginia the only team from the ACC and three from the American. If BYU can continue to have a steady defense and a playmaking offense with quarterback Taysom Hill, the Cougars should surpass the 10-win mark.

BYU Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Baylor Bears, College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/baylor-football-game-game-predictions-2014

Baylor is coming off its first outright conference title since 1980. The Bears finished 11-2 last year, which included victories over Oklahoma and Texas, along with a 35-25 win over Kansas State in early October.

The expectations at Baylor are on the rise. Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have played in four consecutive bowls, upgraded their recruiting, and there’s a new stadium on the way for 2014.

Baylor is considered by most to be a frontrunner for the Big 12 title, but there are holes to fill. The offensive line lost standout guard Cyril Richardson, and the defense returns only four starters.

With a trip to Oklahoma in late November on tap, Baylor should have plenty of time to fill the voids on both sides of the ball.

Related: Baylor 2014 Preview Big 12 Predictions Big 12 All-Conference Team 


The Expert Panel:


Steven Lassan, (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Allen Kenney, (@BlatantHomerism),
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Aaron Dickens (@AaronDickens),
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports


Early Game-by-Game Predictions for Baylor in 2014
NW State
at Buffalo
at Iowa State
at Texas
at West Virginia
at Oklahoma
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech
Kansas State
Final Projection:10-210-210-29-311-110-210-2


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

It’s a close call for the No. 1 spot in the Big 12 this season, but I think Baylor is just a small step behind Oklahoma. Offense and scoring points won’t be a problem in Waco in 2014, as Bryce Petty is considered the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12, Shock Linwood is set to breakout at running back, and the receiving corps is among the best in the nation. The offensive line should be fine (eventually this year), but there’s definitely concern anytime you have to replace a guard of Cyril Richardson’s caliber, and left tackle Spencer Drango is coming off season-ending back surgery. And it’s a good thing Baylor’s offense is among the nation’s best, as the defense is a work in progress. In conference games last year, the Bears held opponents to only 4.8 yards per play. With just four starters back, the defense has significant holes to fill and leadership voids to replace. The defensive line could be the best in the Big 12, which should help ease the losses in the secondary. I think the road trip to Oklahoma will decide who wins the conference, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Baylor stumbles at Texas or even to TCU in early October. This program is in good shape overall, as improved recruiting has upgraded the depth on the roster. The defense has its share of concerns, and the offensive line has a few question marks. However, Baylor should be a top-10 team in 2014 and could push for the Big 12 title if coordinator Phil Bennett quickly finds the right answers.

Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247),

Bryce Petty and Company will still be scoring points with the best of them, but a lack of depth on defense will result in a couple late season losses - and a couple close wins that should have been blowouts.

Aaron Dickens, (@AaronDickens),

No team looked better through the first two months of last season than Baylor. The Bears' assault on stats and records tailed off once the scheduled toughened in November but, outside of a 49-17 drubbing in Stillwater and the Fiesta Bowl meltdown to UCF, the wins kept coming.


Baylor has had a better four-year run than any other team in the Big 12 and there are plenty of reasons to expect that trend to continue for Art Briles' program.


I'll be interested to see how the Bears' defense fares this season. The team's defensive front should be among the league's best but the secondary was decimated by graduation and, obviously, that's always a concern in the Big 12. BU will also be facing a much-improved crop of quarterbacks in the Big 12 -- Bryce Petty and Kansas State's Jake Waters were the only quarterbacks in the league to start every game last season -- so it wouldn't surprise me much to see Phil Bennett's defense be a bit less aggressive than it was in 2013.

Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism),

After years of building a program that could challenge for the top of the Big 12, everything came together for Art Briles and his Bears in 2013. The Baylor offense scorched the earth en route to the league title, but it was the defense's emergence that really put the Bears over the top. BU still has the conference's reigning offensive player of the year, quarterback Bryce Petty, and plenty of weapons. The D, on the other hand, lost a host of standout veterans.


Petty and Co. have more than enough firepower to stay in the upper echelon of the Big 12. However, Briles and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett probably haven't stocked the other side of the ball well enough to repeat as champs. Catching Oklahoma and Texas on the road this year hurts the Bears' chances, too.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Baylor's entire schedule really comes down to two massive road games at Oklahoma and at Texas. The trip to Austin won't be nearly as challenging but the trip to Norman will likely end up exactly how the first 11 have gone — with Oklahoma wins. Still, if Baylor wins every other game, not only could it share a Big 12 title but could possibly sneak into the playoff. Can you imagine the backlash if two Big 12 teams landed in the playoff?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

Baylor should cruise through the non-conference again. Buffalo is a strange road trip, but no Khalil Mack means no problem for Baylor. I like the way the conference schedule sets up. Matchups against TCU and Kansas State could give Baylor trouble, but both are in Waco. And that TCU matchup is early enough in the year where the Horned Frogs’ offense may be taking shape. That’s why I picked Texas Tech in Arlington as the upset. Teams have to be able to score 35 points or more to beat Baylor. The Red Raiders can do that.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

There's little doubt in my mind that Baylor will score a bunch of points again. Bryce Petty could very well earn an invite to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York in December even though he will be throwing to a relatively inexperienced group of pass-catchers. My concerns with Baylor, however, come on the other side of the ball. Losing eight starters from a defense that more than held its own last season will be tough to replace, especially in a offensive-minded conference like the Big 12. Still, the Bears should score enough to get to double-digit wins, provided they take care of business in their new home, McLane Stadium. The Nov. 8 visit to Norman will be tough and could be what ends up deciding the Big 12 title, but Art Briles' team can't overlook a tricky back-to-back in October with Texas and TCU either.

Baylor Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-game-game-predictions-2014

West Virginia enters its third season in the Big 12 with plenty of work to do. The Mountaineers are just 6-12 in conference play over the last two years and finished 4-8 overall in 2013.

Coach Dana Holgorsen is regarded as one of the top offensive minds in the nation. However, quarterback play is a question mark for West Virginia in 2014, especially if Clint Trickett struggles to return to full strength early in the year.

The Mountaineers weren’t as bad on defense as the numbers indicated last season. Injuries played a role in the final statistics, but this unit is primed for improvement under the direction of first-year coordinator Tony Gibson.

Coming off a 4-8 mark last year, there’s enormous pressure on Holgorsen to show improvement in 2014.

Of course, that’s not going to be easy with a schedule that features games against Alabama and Maryland in non-conference play.

Related: WVU 2014 Preview Big 12 Predictions Big 12 All-Conference Team 

The Expert Panel:


Steven Lassan, (@AthlonSteven), Athlon Sports
Allen Kenney, (@BlatantHomerism),
David Fox (@DavidFox615), Athlon Sports
Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247),
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports
Aaron Dickens (@AaronDickens),
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR), Athlon Sports


Early Game-by-Game Predictions for West Virginia in 2014
Alabama (Atlanta)
at Maryland
at TTU
at OK State
at Texas
at Iowa State
Final Prediction:3-93-95-78-43-94-82-10
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Outside of Texas, West Virginia is the biggest wildcard in the Big 12 this year. The Mountaineers have the talent to top last year’s record, but the schedule is just brutal. I think it’s likely this team will be more competitive on the field and struggle to show any improvement on the win column. Non-conference games against Alabama and Maryland leave little room for error to get to a bowl, and West Virginia plays swing games against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Iowa State on the road. Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell should help the rushing attack, and the defense returns six starters, while rising stars in cornerback Daryl Worley and safety Karl Joseph should help bolster a secondary that finished last in the Big 12 in 2013. Admittedly, my projection of West Virginia to get to three wins seems low. However, I’m just not sure the schedule is conducive to major improvement in the win column. This will be a better team in 2014, but it may not show in the final win tally.

Aaron Dickens, (@AaronDickens),

Fit is an extremely underrated aspect of any coaching hire in college football -- just ask Tommy Tuberville -- and I think West Virginia's last 18 games have shown that Dana Holgorsen isn't a great fit for the Mountaineers. Holgorsen hasn't forgotten how to coach in the last two years, but for whatever reason the 'Eers are trending downward and his tenure seems destined to end sooner than later.


The cruel part is that WVU would probably be a bowl team were it not for non-conference games away from Morgantown against Alabama and Maryland. Give Baylor's non-conference schedule to the 'Eers and there's little doubt in my mind that the Mountaineers would hit the six-win mark.


Clint Trickett is an obvious X-factor for WVU. He was seemingly learning Holgorsen's system on the fly last season and was further limited by a nagging shoulder injury. Trickett is fully healthy -- he sat out spring practice -- and is presumably more comfortable in Holgorsen's Air Raid offense, so it will be interesting to see how much he has improved.


Chris Anderson (@CMAnderson247),

Dana Holgorsen was an offensive genius for over a decade. I don't believe he suddenly lost it. I look for WVU's offense to get back up and running, and an improved defense will be adequate enough to help when the offense sputters.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

The Mountaineers should be much better in 2014 but I'm not sure if the record will show that. A brutal non-conference slate makes getting to a bowl game or improving on last year's record highly unlikely. Kansas and TCU at home are the best shots at wins within the league while road wins in Ames and Lubbock will be tough to come by. Five wins feels like a best case scenario and that feels like a big reach for a team that has fallen off the map competitively.


Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism),

After a disastrous end to the 2012 season and an equally awful 2013, West Virginia should be an improved team in 2014. Unfortunately, that won't show up in the Mountaineers' record.


WVU was plagued by subpar quarterback play last season, enabling opposing defenses to key in on what could have been a decent running game. If senior Clint Trickett can stay healthy, it should at least give Dana Holgorsen's team a little stability under center. The players at the skill positions won't exactly keep opponents up at night, though, which means Holgo will have to rely on this patented creativity to manufacture some points. Defensively, the 'Eers have experience and should be solid. A wildcard will be what long-time Penn State assistant Tom Bradley brings to the D as WVU's new defensive line coach.


The biggest hurdle for Holgo's crew looks to be the schedule. Notably, WVU is playing almost anything resembling a 50-50 game on the road: Maryland, Texas Tech, OSU and ISU all host the Mountaineers this year. Factor in almost assured loss to Alabama in a neutral site contest and bowl eligibility starts to appear more and more remote.


On the whole, the last 18 games or so haven't been kind to West Virginia. Right now, it's hard to see things turning around quickly.


David Fox (@DavidFox615)

West Virginia still has a long way to go before the Mountaineers get back to where they were before joining the Big 12. Enough went wrong last season that it’s tough to picture West Virginia struggling as much as it did last season with losses to Kansas and Iowa State. A bowl game is an uphill battle. Clint Trickett’s toughness and the arrival of Rushel Shell should solidify the backfield, enough to tease a bowl game as long as West Virginia can beat teams like Maryland, TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas State here. I’ve picked West Virginia to split those toss-up games to fall to 5-7.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

It could be another long season for West Virginia fans, and that doesn't bode well for head coach Dana Holgorsen. The Mountaineers sputtered on offense and imploded on defense last season, and it's tough for me to see things getting better this fall. A strong start to the season would be huge, but that's not going to happen with Alabama on tap in the Georgia Dome. The one home non-conference game (Towson) and the date with Kansas are the only "guaranteed" wins that I see. I'm not saying that West Virginia won't finish with more than two wins, but with a home slate that includes Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU and Kansas State, it's hard for me to see this Mountaineers team pile up the wins on the road.

West Virginia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-qb-nick-marshalls-status-uncertain-2014-season-opener

Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was recently cited for possession of marijuana and was replaced at SEC Media Days by tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Marshall’s citation raised questions about his status for Auburn’s opener against Arkansas on Aug. 30, and coach Gus Malzahn did not clarify his quarterback situation in Hoover, Ala. on Monday.

“It is a privilege and a reward to represent Auburn here at the SEC Media Days,” Malzahn said. 

“Last Friday Nick lost that privilege. We have high expectations for our players, but specifically our quarterback, being the face of our program.

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Up until last Friday, Nick has been a model student, teammate, and citizen. Nick made a mistake and he'll have to deal with the consequences. I'm not ready to say what those consequences are at this time, but he will deal with it. I know he's regretful and he feels very bad about it.”

In his first season at Auburn in 2013, Marshall threw for 1,976 yards and 14 touchdowns and added 1,068 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

Marshall began his career at Georgia but was dismissed from the team due to off-the-field issues.

If Marshall is suspended or benched for the opener against Auburn, the Tigers will turn to sophomore Jeremy Johnson.

Johnson threw for 422 yards and six touchdowns in limited action last year.

Auburn QB Nick Marshall's Status Uncertain for 2014 Season Opener
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 14:36
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/carl-lawsons-acl-injury-huge-blow-auburns-defense

Auburn’s defense is expected to improve in its second year under the direction of veteran coordinator Ellis Johnson, but the Tigers have suffered their first setback of the 2014 season. Coach Gus Malzahn announced at SEC Media Days that defensive end Carl Lawson suffered a torn ACL and is expected to miss most of the 2014 season.


“I'd like to confirm that Carl had successful ACL surgery the first part of May,” Malzahn said at SEC Media Days. 

“He injured his knee the last week of spring practice.  Dr. Andrews looked at it, wanted to wait a couple weeks till the swelling went down to be sure.  He confirmed he needed surgery.  It was successful.

Carl is working extremely hard and he's determined to come back towards the end of this year.”

Lawson is expected to return at some point during the 2014 season, and it would be a surprise if he spent the year as a redshirt, especially with a likely early entry into the NFL Draft after his junior year. The sophomore could target a late-season return, especially with key conference games against South Carolina, Ole Miss and Georgia in the final half of the year.


As a true freshman last season, Lawson played in all 14 games, registered 20 tackles (7.5 for a loss) and recorded four sacks.

Lawson was projected to be a third-team Athlon Sports All-SEC performer in 2014. His emergence was critical for an Auburn defense that was already losing first-round pick Dee Ford and defensive tackle Nosa Eguae.

With Lawson out indefinitely, the Tigers need more from sophomore Elijah Daniel and senior LaDarius Owens off the edge.

Auburn’s defense allowed 5.9 yards per play last season and gave up 29.6 points per game in SEC contests.

Despite the yards and points allowed, the Tigers made stops when it counted. Auburn led the SEC in third-down defense and finished second in redzone defense.

Carl Lawson's ACL Injury a Huge Blow for Auburn's Defense
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-championship-trophy-unveiled

There’s a new era upon college football in 2014. The BCS era ended with Florida State’s victory over Auburn in Pasadena, and the playoff era is set to begin at the end of this season.

There are plenty of changes for the new format, which features a four-team playoff, with a championship game that’s bid out to cities similar to the Super Bowl.

And of course, there’s the hardware.

The crystal ball trophy was an easily recognizable piece of hardware that was awarded to the champion in previous years. However, starting in 2014, the champion of college football’s playoff will get to hoist a new trophy.

Check out college football’s new trophy, which was unveiled on Monday in Dallas:




College Football Playoff Championship Trophy Unveiled
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 11:16
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Duke Blue Devils, News
Path: /college-football/duke-updates-uniforms-2014

The 2014 season represents the 25th anniversary of Duke’s ACC Championship team from 1989.

To honor the 1989 team, Duke is making a few alterations to its jersey for the 2014 season.

The Blue Devils recently unveiled three new (white, blue and black) jerseys for 2014, a new chrome decal on the black helmet, and stripes on the jersey sleeves.

Here are the new photos from Duke’s uniform release for 2014:



Duke Updates Uniforms for 2014
Post date: Monday, July 14, 2014 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-coach-hot-seat-rankings-2014

Hot seat talk among any college football fanbase never seems to end. Of course, it’s the offseason, so everyone is discussing preseason expectations and predictions. And with expectations of records and bowl games comes the pressure on head coaches.

Every head coach is faced with a different set of obstacles and expectations. For example, Alabama’s Nick Saban is held to a higher standard than Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason.

Keeping realistic program expectations in mind is something that factors into the hot seat talk every year.


As the 2014 season approaches, it’s clear the No. 1 coach on the hot seat is Florida’s Will Muschamp. The Gators went 4-8 last season, which included a surprising defeat to FCS (now FBS) opponent Georgia Southern. Despite all of Florida's injuries, going 4-8 with one of the nation's top rosters (in terms of recruiting rankings), didn't sit well in Gainesville. Muschamp needs to show the program is headed in the right direction in order to return in 2015.

After Muschamp, Virginia’s Mike London, Kansas' Charlie Weis, Illinois’ Tim Beckman, Rutgers’ Kyle Flood and West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen are just a few names to remember for the hot seat watch in 2014.

Which coaches have the hottest seats in the nation? Athlon Sports has ranked the top 10 coaches on the hot seat for 2014, along with a few names that are starting to feel a little pressure. 


College Football’s Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings for 2014


1. Will Muschamp, Florida (22-16, 3 years)

Even though Florida was hit hard by injuries last season, it’s still difficult to comprehend how this team went 4-8. Yes, the offense struggled, and the injuries took a toll, but the Gators recruit as well as any team in the nation. With the talent in place at Florida, losing records in SEC play should be rare. However, in three years, Muschamp is only 22-16 and has two 3-5 records in SEC play. Fixing the offense has to be Muschamp’s top priority in order to return to Gainesville in 2015. Kurt Roper (hired from Duke as the new play-caller) has to provide a quick repair on an offense that has finished eighth or worse in the SEC in scoring four consecutive years. Considering four of the Gators’ eight losses came by a touchdown or less, any improvement on offense should result in a bowl. Another losing season or 6-6 record would likely spell the end of Muschamp’s tenure in Gainesville. With crossover games against Alabama and LSU, Florida won’t have much margin for error if it hopes to double its win total from 2013.

2. Mike London, Virginia (18-31, 4 years)

London appeared to have Virginia’s program moving in the right direction after winning 12 games in his first two years. The Cavaliers won four games in London’s debut (2010) and finished 8-5 with an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2011. Virginia’s 5-3 record in ACC play in 2011 was only its second winning record in conference games since '05. Since 2011 however, this program has been trending the wrong way. The Cavaliers are 6-18 in the last two years and went winless in ACC play in 2013. But despite the on-field struggles, Virginia’s recruiting hasn’t suffered. London has signed four consecutive top-35 classes, and the Cavaliers’ roster ranks No. 6 in the ACC. Tough non-conference scheduling, inconsistency at quarterback and staff turnover have all contributed to London’s struggles at Virginia. Without a winning record, it’s tough to see London back in Charlottesville in 2015.

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3. Tim Beckman, Illinois (6-18, 2 years)

There have been small signs of progress through Beckman’s first two years in Champaign. The Fighting Illini went 2-10 in a disastrous debut for Beckman in 2012, with only one of the eight Big Ten losses coming by 13 points or less. Illinois was more competitive in 2013, largely thanks to the hire of Bill Cubit as the team’s offensive coordinator. The Fighting Illini ranked second in the Big Ten in passing offense and averaged 29.7 points per game. But the defense continues to be problematic for Beckman, as Illinois has allowed at least 30 points per game in back-to-back seasons. A similar theme could play out in 2014, as Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt should thrive at quarterback in Cubit’s offense, while the defense has question marks at each level. Although a winning record would serve Beckman well, getting to 5-7 and being more competitive against the top teams in the Big Ten might be enough to save his job.

4. Charlie Weis, Kansas (4-20, 2 years)

Much like Tim Beckman at Illinois, Weis has made small bits of progress over the last two years. But small progress has resulted in just one Big 12 win for the Jayhawks and an overall 4-20 mark. Weis didn’t inherit a wealth of talent, but the program has yet to take a big step forward. Kansas lost nine games in 2013 and only two – Rice and TCU – came by 10 points or less. Weis is handing over play-calling duties to new coordinator John Reagan, which should allow the third-year coach to be more of a program CEO. Considering Weis went 35-27 in five years at Notre Dame, doubts exist about his ability to turn Kansas into a consistent winner. With 14 starters back, the Jayhawks should have enough returning talent to be more competitive in conference play. But if this team goes winless in the Big 12, Weis may not see a fourth season in Lawrence.

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia (21-17, 3 years)

With the program shifting from the Big East to the Big 12, it’s tough to evaluate Holgorsen as a head coach after just three seasons. West Virginia went from being the No. 1 program in the Big East to the No. 5 program in the Big 12. And it’s not easy being at a geographic disadvantage in a tougher conference. Holgorsen’s tenure started with a promising 10-3 record and a Big East championship, along with a huge Orange Bowl win over Clemson in 2011. The Mountaineers carried that momentum from the bowl win in 2012 by starting 5-0, but West Virginia finished the season 2-6 and was dominated in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. In 2013, the Mountaineers slipped to 4-8 and won just two conference games. In an odd storyline, West Virginia has struggled to find a quarterback since Geno Smith expired his eligibility. Considering Holgorsen’s background, it’s a surprise quarterback play is a concern heading into 2014. There is hope for West Virginia to get back to the postseason this year, especially if Clint Trickett can stay healthy at quarterback, and the defense takes a step forward under new coordinator Tony Gibson. Interestingly enough, athletic director Oliver Luck is trying to downplay expectations for 2014. The Mountaineers need some time to get acclimated to their new conference, as well as improve their recruiting to push for a Big 12 championship. If Holgorsen can show on-field progress – which figures to be difficult with a challenging schedule – in 2014, he should move safely away from the hot seat for 2015.

6. Kyle Flood, Rutgers (15-11, 2 years)

The Scarlet Knights were one of the biggest winners of the latest round of realignment, landing in the Big Ten’s new 14-team setup. But moving from the Big East/American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten means the stakes and competition are higher. Flood was appointed to the top spot after Greg Schiano left for the NFL in late January (2012) and managed to sign the No. 24 recruiting class. The Scarlet Knights tied for the Big East title in Flood’s first season (2012) and finished 9-4 overall. Rutgers slid to 6-7 in Flood’s second year and its recruiting class dipped to No. 60 nationally in 2014. Both sides of the ball will have new coordinators this season, including former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen as the offensive play-caller. Friedgen should help bolster an offense that managed only 26.5 points per game in 2013, but the defense – especially the secondary – will be a work in progress. Flood has a tough assignment ahead, as he guides the program through a difficult conference transition. With Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State on the schedule every year, Rutgers is facing an uphill battle just to get to a bowl game on a consistent basis.

7. Norm Chow, Hawaii (4-20, 2 years)

Chow’s hire was greeted with much fanfare in Honolulu. As a native of Hawaii, this was viewed as a good fit for a program looking to rebound after Greg McMackin posted three seasons of at least seven losses from 2008-11. However, two years into his tenure with the Rainbow Warriors, Chow has struggled to get the program on track. Hawaii went 3-9 in Chow’s debut and won just one game in 2013. The Rainbow Warriors were more competitive on the scoreboard last year, losing five games by a touchdown or less. For Hawaii to increase its win total in 2014, Chow needs to find a quarterback and hope new defensive coordinator Kevin Clune can solidify a unit that gave up 38.8 points per game in 2013. With three Pac-12 non-conference games, along with a road trip to Rice in early October, Hawaii could be 1-4 before opening Mountain West play against an improving Wyoming team. Chow likely has a longer leash than some coaches on this list, but he needs to show the Rainbow Warriors are moving closer to the top teams in the Mountain West this year.

8. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa (22-17, 3 years)

Blankenship inherited plenty of talent from former coach Todd Graham and went 19-8 in his first two seasons at Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane went 14-2 in conference play during that span and won the Liberty Bowl in 2012. However, Tulsa struggled mightily last year. The Golden Hurricane had a significant amount of roster turnover and slumped to 3-9 (2-6 in C-USA play). Blankenship isn’t to blame for all of the struggles last year, but with Tulsa moving to the American Athletic Conference, he needs to show marked improvement in 2014. Of course, that’s easier said than done with a non-conference schedule that includes Oklahoma and a tough road date at Colorado State, while road trips to UCF and Houston await in American Athletic play.

9. Ron Turner, FIU (1-11, 1 year)

Turner was an odd hire after the surprising dismissal of Mario Cristobal. Prior to the 2013 season, Turner had stops as a head coach at San Jose State and Illinois, recording a 42-61 mark in nine seasons. Turner was hired at FIU after one season as an assistant at Tampa Bay, and the Panthers finished 1-11 in his debut. FIU’s only win was a one-point victory over Southern Miss (1-11 in 2013), and the Panthers lost to FCS opponent Bethune-Cookman 34-13. FIU also ranked near the bottom nationally in scoring offense (9.8 points a game) and scoring defense (37 points allowed per game). The Panthers still have talent in the program and 15 starters return for 2014. If Turner can win a couple games and show the team is headed in the right direction, he should be safe in the 2014 offseason. However, another one- or two-win season would likely end his tenure at FIU.

10. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech (47-32, 6 years)

Considering Johnson has never finished below .500 in ACC play at Georgia Tech, it seems odd to place the seventh-year coach on the hot seat. But the Yellow Jackets failed to build off a strong start to Johnson’s tenure, which included a 19-7 mark and an ACC title (2009) through the first two years. Only once over the last four seasons has Georgia Tech finished with more than seven wins, while the program has just one bowl victory under Johnson’s watch. Recruiting has slipped over the last two years for Johnson, as he inked two top-50 classes from 2010-11, but the Yellow Jackets have signed the Nos. 52, 76 and 54 recruiting hauls over the last three seasons. Although the option offense is often criticized, Georgia Tech has ranked among the top five in the ACC in yards per play (conference-only games) in six out of the last seven years. 

Getting Warm?


Dan Enos, Central Michigan (19-30, 4 years)

After starting his tenure 6-18, Enos has made slight improvement in the win column over the last two years. The Chippewas have gone 13-12 the past two seasons and won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2012. However, a deeper look at Enos’ results shows Central Michigan has defeated only two teams with winning records over the last two years. With 16 starters returning, along with Northern Illinois and Ball State losing some key personnel, the Chippewas have the potential to climb in the MAC West standings this year. Central Michigan went 32-7 in MAC games from 2005-09 but is only 13-19 under Enos in conference play over the last four years.


Brady Hoke, Michigan (26-13, 3 years)

Hoke’s tenure at Michigan started on a high note, as the Wolverines finished 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl in 2011. But that’s been the peak of Hoke’s three-year run in Ann Arbor so far. Michigan is just 15-11 over the last two seasons and finished 3-5 in Big Ten play in 2013. Recruiting certainly hasn’t been an issue for Hoke, as the Wolverines have inked two top-10 classes over the last three years. Despite the edge in talent, Michigan’s win total has declined since the 2011 season, and the offense ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten in total yards per game last year. The talent is there for the Wolverines to make a jump in wins. But can Hoke find answers on the offensive line and help the defense reach its potential in 2014?


Bo Pelini, Nebraska (58-24, 6 years)

Pelini might be the toughest coach in the nation to judge for either of these sections. He’s 58-24 in six seasons with the Cornhuskers and has won at least nine games every year. Nebraska has also finished in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll for five consecutive years. Despite all of Pelini’s highlights, there are lofty expectations in Lincoln. Is nine wins the best-case scenario for this program in the current climate of college football? Or is Nebraska still capable of being a top 10-15 team on a consistent basis? If you believe the recruiting rankings, the Cornhuskers are winning at an appropriate level relative to their talent (No. 26 nationally over the last five seasons).


Kyle Whittingham, Utah (76-39, 9 years)

It’s hard to place Whittingham anywhere near the hot seat given his track record at Utah prior to the move to the Pac-12. But since joining the Pac-12, the Utes are 18-19 and the win total has declined in conference play for two consecutive years. Moving from the Mountain West to the Pac-12 wasn’t an easy task for Utah, so it will take some time to recruit and develop depth to compete with the top teams in the Pac-12 South. However, in a slight surprise, the Utes have not improved their national recruiting since joining the Pac-12. Utah inked the No. 42 class in 2010 and slipped to No. 47 in '13 and No. 63 in '14. Whittingham shouldn’t be in any danger, but he could move to the hot seat section if the Utes miss out on a bowl for the third consecutive year.


Kevin Wilson, Indiana (10-26, 3 years)

Indiana has made noticeable improvement in Wilson’s three years. The Hoosiers went 1-11 in 2001 but improved to 4-8 in '12 and 5-7 last year. Indiana was just a few plays away from making the postseason, losing to Navy by six and to Minnesota by three points. Make no mistake: This is not an easy job. Wilson has transformed Indiana into one of the Big Ten’s best offenses (38.4 points per game in 2013), but the defense continues to struggle. Although there has been progress, the Big Ten’s new divisional alignment will present a challenge for Wilson. Playing Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State every year won’t leave much room for error in terms of wins and losses for Indiana. Wilson shouldn’t be on the hot seat, but with a tough division, the Hoosiers can’t afford to slip too far behind in 2015.

College Football's Coach on the Hot Seat Rankings for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-coordinator-hires-2014

Coaching changes are a big part of any college football offseason, and several big names switched addresses.


And whether it was coaching moves in the SEC or the Sun Belt, this offseason wasn’t short on impact additions or subtractions among teams. Several of these coordinator hires could help a team win a couple of extra games in 2014.


Utah and Rutgers were two of the biggest winners in the coordinator carousel, as the Utes added former Wyoming coach Dave Christensen as their offensive play-caller, while the Scarlet Knights hired Ralph Friedgen as their offensive coordinator.

Georgia also made one of the top hires of the offseason by pulling defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt away from Florida State.


Athlon examines the top 15 coordinator hires for 2014, as well as some of the other notable moves from the offseason.


College Football’s Top 15 Coordinator Hires for 2014


Chris Ash, Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Fixing the defense is a priority for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes allowed 24 points a game last year (conference-only games) and allowed 34 or more points in each of the last three contests. Ash returns to the Big Ten after a season at Arkansas, and he is expected to help coordinate the defense with Luke Fickell. Ash’s specialty is coaching defensive backs, which is a specific area of need for the Buckeyes after this unit gave up 20 passing scores in Big Ten games in 2013. Ash isn’t the only key addition to Ohio State’s coaching staff, as former Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr. was also hired in the offseason.


Dave Christensen, Offensive Coordinator, Utah

The former Wyoming coach takes over the reins of a Utah offense that averaged less than five yards per play in conference games in two out of the last three years. Prior to his stint as Wyoming’s head coach, Christensen worked as the play-caller for Missouri from 2001-08 and at Toledo from 1997-2000. The veteran assistant is tasked with fixing an offense that has struggled to find consistency since joining the Pac-12. Christensen wants to speed up the tempo, and in order for that to happen, he needs to help quarterback Travis Wilson take the next step in his development.


Ralph Friedgen, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers

Friedgen is easily one of the top – if not No. 1 – coordinator hires for 2014. Rutgers has not averaged more than 5.2 yards per play in a season since 2008, and the Scarlet Knights lost 30 turnovers in 2013. Friedgen has been out of coaching since 2010, but he had a strong track record of success at Georgia Tech and Maryland as a play-caller. The New York native has a tough assignment to fix Rutgers’ offense, but there is talent at the skill positions and an experienced quarterback in Gary Nova returning.


Art Kaufman, Defensive Coordinator, California

Injuries played a role in California’s defensive struggles in 2013, but this unit needed a change at coordinator. In steps Kaufman, who was surprisingly fired after a solid 2013 season at Cincinnati. And prior to his one year with the Bearcats, Kaufman’s defense at Texas Tech allowed 5.4 yards per play in 2012. Kaufman’s arrival should immediately help the Golden Bears take a step forward on defense, but it’s unrealistic to expect a quick turnaround to finish as one of the Pac-12’s best defenses for 2014.


Lane Kiffin, Offensive Coordinator, Alabama

Without question, Kiffin is the most polarizing coordinator hire of the offseason. After a failed stint as USC’s coach, Kiffin will attempt to rebuild his resume with a stop at Alabama. Although Kiffin’s shortcomings are documented, this role is a good landing spot for the embattled coach. Yes, Kiffin’s offenses were criticized at USC, but he should be able to put the Crimson Tide’s playmakers in position to succeed. Also, Kiffin’s recruiting ability should shine in Tuscaloosa.

Athlon's Cover 2 Podcast: Coaches on the hot seat, on the rise and top coordinator hires for 2014:


Pete Kwiatkowski, Defensive Coordinator, Washington

Kwiatkowski followed Chris Petersen from Boise State to Washington and inherits a defense that ranked fourth in the Pac-12 by holding opponents to 22.8 points per game in 2013. Kwiatkowski called the plays for Petersen’s defense in Boise from 2010-13, and the Broncos did not finish a season by allowing more than 25 points per game. There’s plenty of talent returning to Seattle, and Kwatkowski’s track record suggests Washington’s defense will be among the best in the Pac-12 in 2014.


Seth Littrell, Offensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Littrell was an excellent addition for coach Larry Fedora. The Oklahoma native started his coaching career as a graduate assistant under Mark Mangino at Kansas and spent time at Texas Tech under Mike Leach from 2005-08. Littrell worked under Mike Stoops at Arizona from 2009-11 and left for Indiana in 2012. Over the last two seasons, the Hoosiers have averaged at least 30 points per game and led the Big Ten (conference-only matchups) in 2013 with 22 touchdown tosses. Littrell’s background in developing passing attacks should be a huge boost for quarterback Marquise Williams.


Mark Mangino, Offensive Coordinator, Iowa State

Mangino returns to the Big 12 after a four-year absence. After he was forced out at Kansas (50 wins in eight years), Mangino did not coach on the collegiate level from 2010-12 and landed at Youngstown State in 2013. He is tasked with fixing an Iowa State offense that managed just 4.7 yards per play in conference games and averaged just 24.8 points per game in 2013. Mangino has a strong track record of success from stops at Oklahoma and Kansas as a play-caller, and Iowa State’s offense should be better in 2014.


Doug Meacham, Offensive Coordinator, TCU

Meacham shares the offensive coordinator title with former Texas Tech quarterback Sonny Cumbie, but the former Houston and Oklahoma State assistant will call the plays. Meacham worked from 2005-12 as an assistant under Mike Gundy in Stillwater and served as Houston’s play-caller in 2013. The Cougars averaged 33.2 points a game last year and had 14 passing plays that went 40 yards or more – with a true freshman at quarterback (John O’Korn).


Doug Nussmeier, Offensive Coordinator, Michigan

Not only is Nussmeier one of the top coordinator hires for 2014, but he’s also one of the play-callers under the most pressure in the nation this year. Michigan’s offense averaged only 5.4 yards per play in 2013, which was the team’s lowest mark since 2008 when the offense averaged just 4.4 yards per play. Nussmeier comes to Ann Arbor after two seasons with Alabama, where the Crimson Tide averaged 7.4 yards per play in SEC games in 2013. And he also had a stint as Fresno State’s play-caller in 2008 and at Washington from 2009-11.


Jeremy Pruitt, Defensive Coordinator, Georgia

Pruitt inherited a veteran defense at Florida State and certainly made all of the right calls in 2013. The Seminoles’ defense allowed only 4.1 yards per play and only two opponents scored more than 20 points, as Florida State closed out the BCS era with a national championship. Prior to his one-year stint in Tallahassee, Pruitt worked under Nick Saban at Alabama and plans to implement a similar 3-4 approach in Athens. Pruitt has work to do this offseason, as Georgia allowed 31.8 points per game in eight SEC contests in 2013. The Bulldogs aren’t as strong in the secondary as Florida State was last year, but this team should be set in the front seven in 2014. Expect Pruitt to make a big impact on Georgia's defense this year.


Kurt Roper, Offensive Coordinator, Florida

Roper is a pivotal hire for Florida coach Will Muschamp. After the Gators finished 4-8 and averaged only 18.8 points per game last season, Muschamp needs a big year or there could be a coaching change in Gainesville at the end of 2014. Roper plans to speed up Florida’s tempo and allow quarterback Jeff Driskel to work more out of the shotgun. Under Roper’s direction, Duke’s offense averaged at least 30 points per game in 2012-13. Roper also has experience in the SEC, spending 1999-04 as an assistant on David Cutcliffe’s staff at Ole Miss.


Bob Shoop, Defensive Coordinator, Penn State

Most of new Penn State coach James Franklin’s staff followed him to Happy Valley from Vanderbilt, including Shoop who worked as the defensive coordinator for the Commodores for the last three years. Vanderbilt’s defense was underrated during Shoop’s watch, as the Commodores ranked fifth in the SEC in 2012 by holding opponents to 18.7 points per game. Vanderbilt also twice ranked among the top-five teams in the SEC against the run from 2011-13. Shoop inherits a Penn State defense that is short on depth, but the starting unit could be one of the best in the Big Ten.


Joe Wickline, Offensive Coordinator, Texas

Wickline carries the offensive coordinator title, but Shawn Watson is expected to call plays. Even though Wickline won’t be calling the plays, he remains a key piece of new coach Charlie Strong’s staff. Wickline is regarded as one of the best offensive line coaches in the nation, which is a valuable asset for a Texas team that has struggled to develop talent in the trenches in recent years and has not had a lineman drafted since 2008.


Justin Wilcox, Defensive Coordinator, USC

Wilcox followed Steve Sarkisian from Washington to USC, and the former Oregon safety is a rising star in the coaching ranks. Wilcox started his coaching career in 2001 at Boise State and made a stop at California from 2003-05 before returning to work with Chris Petersen. From 2006-09, Wilcox worked as Boise State’s defensive coordinator and later spent two seasons (2010-11) at Tennessee. Washington’s defense finished No. 4 in the Pac-12 in fewest points allowed in 2012 and allowed only 4.9 yards per play in 2013. In the year prior to Wilcox’s arrival (2011), Washington ranked No. 11 in the Pac-12 in total defense. Wilcox made a huge impact with the Huskies in just two years, and he should coordinate one of the nation’s top defenses at USC in 2014.


Other Key Coordinator Hires for 2014


Lance Anderson, Defensive Coordinator, Stanford

Much like Pac-12 North rival Oregon, Stanford stayed in-house to fill a vacancy at defensive coordinator. Derek Mason left to become the head coach at Vanderbilt, and David Shaw promoted Anderson to play-caller. Anderson has worked on Stanford’s staff since 2007.


Manny Diaz, Defensive Coordinator, Louisiana Tech

Solid hire for Skip Holtz, as Diaz looks to rebound after a rough stint as Texas’ defensive coordinator.


Mike Elko, Defensive Coordinator, Wake Forest

Elko followed coach Dave Clawson from Bowling Green to Wake Forest. Under Elko’s direction, the Falcons defense led the MAC in fewest points allowed for two consecutive seasons (2012-13).


Hank Hughes, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati

Hughes will share the defensive coordinator title with Robert Prunty, and the New York native joins Cincinnati’s staff after spending the 2001-11 seasons at UConn.


Charles Kelly, Defensive Coordinator, Florida State

Kelly was promoted to call the defensive signals in Tallahassee after Jeremy Pruitt left for Georgia. Kelly has a wealth of experience as an assistant, including stops at Jacksonville State, Henderson State, Nicholls State and Georgia Tech. Kelly has been regarded as an excellent teacher, and he should ensure Florida State’s defense will continue to rank among the best in the ACC. 


Scottie Montgomery, Offensive Coordinator, Duke

A rising star in the coaching ranks, Montgomery takes control of the offensive coordinator role for the Blue Devils.


Don Pellum, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon

Coach Mark Helfrich stayed in-house to replace veteran defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Pellum has over 20 years of coaching experience in Eugene, but this will be his first chance to coordinate the Ducks’ defense.


John Reagan, Offensive Coordinator, Kansas

Coach Charlie Weis plans to hand the play-calling duties to Reagan, who returns to Lawrence after four years at Rice. Reagan helped coordinate an offense that averaged 31.4 points per game in C-USA play last season.


Mike Sanford, Offensive Coordinator, Boise State

Sanford is known as an ace recruiter and joins Bryan Harsin’s coaching staff after spending the last three years at Stanford.


John Thompson, Defensive Coordinator, Texas State

A key pickup for Texas State and coach Dennis Franchione. Thompson has a wealth of experience in the coordinator ranks and coordinated an Arkansas State defense that led the Sun Belt in fewest points allowed in 2012.


Brian VanGorder, Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

VanGorder is a well traveled assistant, as his defensive coordinator assignment will be his third job in three years. Prior to taking over the Notre Dame defense, VanGorder worked as the Jets’ linebackers coach in 2013 and coordinated Auburn’s defense in 2012.  VanGorder worked with coach Brian Kelly at Grand Valley State from 1989-91.

Brent Vigen, Offensive Coordinator, Wyoming

Vigen followed Craig Bohl from North Dakota State to Wyoming after coordinating one of the top offenses in the FCS in 2013. The Bison averaged 38.7 points per game last year. Vigen was the play-caller for each of North Dakota State’s three FCS titles.


Paul Wulff, Offensive Coordinator, USF

Wulff returns to the college ranks after two years with the 49ers. The former Washington State coach will help Willie Taggart ignite a USF offense that averaged just 13.4 points per game in American Athletic games last season.

College Football's Top Coordinator Hires for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-breakout-players-2014

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Whether it’s a true freshman playing for the first time, a junior college recruit stepping into the lineup or a player on the roster that’s finally ready to assume a starting job, predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.


The Pac-12 is top heavy at quarterback in 2014, featuring Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly. But there’s room for some of the names to move around in the middle of the quarterback rankings, including Colorado’s Sefo Liufau or California’s Jared Goff.


On the defensive side, keep an eye on players like Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, USC’s Delvon Simmons and Arizona State’s Salamo Fiso.


Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2014 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar.


Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2014


Devon Allen, WR, Oregon

With a knee injury expected to sideline Bralon Addison for the 2014 season, the Ducks need new targets to emerge for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Addison isn’t the only loss at receiver in Eugene, as Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins (85 receptions in 2013) have expired their eligibility. Allen closed out a breakout spring with two catches for 94 yards and two scores in the spring game. And the gridiron isn’t the only place Allen is making news this offseason. He won the U.S. track title in 110 hurdles in late June and won USA Track & Field athlete of the week honors in early July. Allen has the speed and athleticism to become one of the Ducks’ top playmakers in 2014.


Victor Bolden, WR, Oregon State

Brandin Cooks earned the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s No. 1 receiver last season, so Bolden and the other Oregon State receivers have big shoes to fill in 2014. Despite the loss of Cooks, the Beavers still have options in the passing game. Junior Richard Mullaney caught 52 passes last season, and tight end Connor Hamlett is back after grabbing 40 catches in 2013. Bolden caught only six passes for 62 yards, but he averaged 20.6 yards per kickoff return. The sophomore is projected for a bigger role in the passing game in 2014, and his explosiveness will help quarterback Sean Mannion stretch the field this year.


Devontae Booker, RB, Utah

Booker has traveled an interesting route to Utah, as he signed with Washington State out of high school but failed to qualify. After a stint at American River College, Booker is finally in Salt Lake City. The Sacramento native capped a breakout offseason with 103 yards and two scores on 19 attempts in the spring game. Utah averaged only 3.7 yards per carry in Pac-12 contests last year. Booker should help that total in 2014 and will push Bubba Poole for the starting job this fall. 


DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon

New coordinator Don Pellum’s first assignment this offseason was to solidify the defensive line after the departures of Taylor Hart, Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi. The Ducks still need to bolster the depth in the trenches, but Pellum’s starting trio could be among the best in the Pac-12. Buckner played in all 13 contests in 2013 and recorded 39 tackles and 2.5 sacks. After starting the final eight games last season, Buckner is still developing as a player but continued to progress with a sack and a forced fumble in the spring game. We mentioned Buckner as a breakout player here, but junior Arik Armstead is another name to remember. Entering his junior year, Buckner is poised to emerge as one of the Pac-12’s top defensive ends.


Su’a Cravens, S, USC

Cravens was one of the top defensive players in the 2013 recruiting class and ranked as a five-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite. And as a true freshman, Cravens certainly didn’t disappoint last year. He earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors after recording 52 tackles, four interceptions and one forced fumble. Cravens should benefit from the addition of coordinator Justin Wilcox, as well as another year to participate in offseason practices. Expect Cravens to push for All-America honors this year.


Salamo Fiso, LB, Arizona State

Fiso was a standout freshman performer for Arizona State last season, recording 71 stops and three sacks in 14 games. Fiso only got better throughout the 2013 campaign and is one of just two returning starters for the Sun Devils in 2014. Fiso will anchor a linebacking corps that is talented, but inexperienced. The sophomore should be in the mix for all-conference honors and could lead the team in tackles after finishing third on the stat sheet last year. Another Arizona State linebacker to keep in mind for this list: D.J. Calhoun.


Joshua Garnett/Kyle Murphy, OL, Stanford

Four starters depart from a Stanford offensive line that was one of the best in the nation last year. However, there’s not much concern from coach David Shaw about the protection for quarterback Kevin Hogan. Left tackle Andrus Peat is an Athlon Sports All-American for 2014, and the line has breakout players like Garnett and Murphy ready to emerge. Murphy played in 13 contests last year, while Garnett made an appearance in 14 and started against Washington State. Both Garnett and Murphy should push for All-Pac-12 honors this year.


Jared Goff, QB, California

Some may not consider Goff a breakout player after he threw for 3,488 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. However, with California expected to improve overall in the second year under coach Sonny Dykes, along with the return of a talented receiving corps, Goff could approach 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2014. As expected with any freshman quarterback, Goff had his share of ups and downs last season. He threw for 336 yards and one touchdown against Washington and completed 32 of 58 passes for 489 yards against Washington State. Goff finished the year by throwing for less than 200 yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and Stanford. With another offseason under his belt, look for Goff to take a step forward in his development and show a better overall command of the offense.


Tahaan Goodman, S, UCLA

We could pick a number of UCLA defenders here, but let’s go with Goodman as the breakout player from Jim Mora’s defense. Goodman ranked as the No. 65 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and played in 13 games as a true freshman. The California native recorded only 12 tackles and one forced fumble last season, but he is primed for a bigger role in UCLA’s secondary. With Fabian Moreau returning at cornerback, along with talented players like senior Anthony Jefferson, junior Randall Goforth and sophomore Priest Willis, the Bruins’ secondary should be one of the best in the Pac-12 this season.


Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado

It’s not easy being a true freshman quarterback in the Pac-12, but Liufau was thrown into the fire in 2013 and performed well in his first season in Boulder. Liufau finished with 1,779 yards and 12 touchdowns on 149 completions. The Washington native threw for 364 yards and three scores against California and finished the season by completing 23 of 46 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns against Utah. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre and coordinator Brian Lindgren helped to turn David Fales from a two-star junior college quarterback into one of the top passers in the WAC/Mountain West. Top receiver Paul Richardson will be missed, but MacIntyre and Lindgren should help Liufau take a step forward in his development in 2014.


Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State

With quarterback Connor Halliday and one of the Pac-12’s top receiving corps returning, the Cougars’ offense will be tough to stop in 2014. Washington State led the nation with 756 pass attempts last year, so there’s plenty of opportunities for players like Mayle to catch passes. Gabe Marks led the team with 74 receptions last season, but Mayle is a name to remember after finishing his first season in Pullman with 42 catches for 539 yards and seven scores. The 6-foot-3 target slimmed down during the offseason, and all signs point to Mayle becoming a more prominent target for Halliday.


Cyler Miles, QB, Washington

Miles was suspended for spring practice due to an off-the-field incident but was reinstated to the team in May. The sophomore is behind Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams in learning Washington’s new offense, but Miles is expected to claim the starting job by the season opener. The Colorado native ranked as the No. 105 overall prospect in the 2012 signing class by the 247Sports Composite and worked as the backup to Keith Price in 2013. Price missed time against UCLA due to injury, and Miles completed 15 of 22 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns in relief. A week later, Miles threw for 162 yards and one score in a 69-27 victory over Oregon State. The sophomore has plenty of upside, and with an ability to hurt defenses through the air or on the ground with his legs, Miles is a quarterback to watch in 2014.


DaVonte’ Neal, WR, Arizona

After a one-year stint at Notre Dame, Neal transferred to Arizona and sat out the 2013 season due to NCAA transfer rules. Neal didn’t make a huge impact in his one year with the Fighting Irish, but he’s poised to emerge as a key contributor for the Wildcats. Arizona is loaded with talent at receiver, including senior Austin Hill who returns after missing all of last season due to a torn ACL. In addition to Hill, the Wildcats return Nate Phillips, Samajie Grant and Trey Griffey in the receiving corps. With a crowded receiving corps, expect Arizona coaches to use Neal some in the backfield to take advantage of his athleticism and speed.


Tyree Robinson, S, Oregon

The Ducks have a few holes to fill in the secondary, but this unit is headlined by All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Three starting spots were up for grabs this spring, with Robinson in the mix at the safety position. The California native ranked as the No. 150 recruit in the 2013 247Sports Composite and used a redshirt year in his first season on campus. At 6-foot-4, Robinson has the size and athleticism to be a future star in Oregon’s secondary.


Delvon Simmons, DL, USC

With Leonard Williams on one side, and Simmons expected to emerge at the other end position, USC’s defensive line will be among the best in the nation. Simmons sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules but recorded 27 tackles (six for a loss) at Texas Tech in 2012. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound defensive end should help to anchor USC’s 3-4 scheme under new coordinator Justin Wilcox.


Other Breakout Players to Watch


Budda Baker, CB, Washington

Baker was a huge pickup for new coach Chris Petersen. The Washington native ranked as the No. 55 prospect in the 247Sports Composite and has the athleticism to line up at defensive back or on offense at receiver. Marcus Peters is the only proven commodity in the secondary, which means three jobs will be up for grabs in the fall. Expect Baker to push for time at cornerback or safety.


Marcus Ball, S, Arizona State

Ball was expected to play a significant role in the Arizona State secondary last season, but a shoulder injury forced him to take a redshirt year. The Ohio native is poised to start in 2014, as the Sun Devils have a significant amount of turnover on defense this year. Ball has the necessary speed and athleticism to quickly blossom into one of the top freshman defensive backs in the Pac-12.


Bryce Bobo, WR, Colorado

The Buffaloes are searching for a new No. 1 receiver after the departure of Paul Richardson to the NFL. Bobo and teammate Nelson Spruce appear to be up to the task, as this trio combined for 13 receptions in the spring game. Bobo’s eligibility is a concern, but all signs point to him playing in the opening game against Colorado State in August.


Daquawn Brown, CB, Washington State

Washington State’s secondary must be revamped after the departure of four starters, including standout safety Deone Bucannon. Brown should be the headliner for the Cougars’ secondary after playing in 13 games as a true freshman last year. Brown recorded 50 tackles, two interceptions and five pass breakups in 2013 and is poised for an even bigger sophomore campaign.


Thomas Duarte, WR, UCLA

Duarte played in 13 games as a true freshman last season and caught 16 passes for 214 yards and three scores. Expect Duarte to be an even bigger part of the passing attack this year, especially if UCLA’s offensive line plays with more consistency and gives junior quarterback Brett Hundley more time to throw.


Gionni Paul, LB, Utah

Miami transfer was slated to play a significant role at linebacker for the Utes in 2014. However, Paul suffered a broken foot in April and is expected to miss at least five months. If Paul returns to full strength in time for the season opener, he should be able to regain a spot in Utah’s starting 11 on defense.


John Ross, WR, Washington

With Kasen Williams returning from a leg injury, along with the departure of Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ross is primed for a bigger role in Washington’s offense in 2014. As a true freshman last year, he caught 16 passes for 208 yards and one score. Ross also averaged 23.2 yards per kickoff return in 2013.


Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona

There’s not much in the way of proven options in Arizona’s running back stable for 2014. Ka’Deem Carey left early for the NFL, and Pierre Cormier retired due to a medical condition. Wilson and fellow freshmen Zach Green and Jonathan Haden will compete for carries this fall, but Wilson – the No. 246 prospect in the 247Sports Composite – could emerge as the No. 1 back. 

Pac-12 Football Breakout Players for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-projections-2014


College football’s postseason format has changed significantly last year, with 2014 the first season of a four-team playoff.

As a result of the new playoff format, the changes in the postseason extended to the bowl games.

Whether it was a change in date or conference affiliation, nearly every bowl game was impacted by the new format.

While there will be an adjustment period on remembering all of the new tie-ins and bowl affiliations, the bowl lineup for 2014 and beyond has improved.

Counting the three playoff games, there will be 39 bowl games for 2014. The postseason is set to start on Dec. 20, with five games scheduled to take place, starting with the New Orleans Bowl between the Sun Belt and Mountain West.

Listen to the latest Athlon Sports' Cover 2 College Football Podcast:

Related Content: Everything You Need to Know About the College Football Playoff

Conference Predictions: ACC American Big 12 Big Ten C-USA | MAC MW Pac-12 SEC | Sun Belt

College Football's 2014 Bowl Projections

New Orleans
Dec. 20Sun Belt vs.
Mountain West
 UL Lafayette  vs.
Utah State 
New MexicoDec. 20C-USA vs.
Mountain West
 North Texas vs.
San Diego State 
Las VegasDec. 20Mountain West
vs. Pac-12 No. 6
 Arizona vs.
Boise State 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 20MAC vs.
Mountain West
 Ball State vs. 
CamelliaDec. 20MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Arkansas State vs.
Miami BeachDec. 23American vs.
  BYU vs.
East Carolina 
Boca RatonDec. 23C-USA vs. 
 FAU vs.
Northern Illinois 
PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
 Fresno State vs. 
BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs.
 MTSU vs.
HawaiiDec. 24C-USA vs. 
Mountain West
 Colorado State vs.
Heart of DallasDec. 26Big Ten vs. 
Maryland vs. 
Bitcoin St. PetersburgDec. 26ACC No. 10 vs.
 Georgia Tech vs.
MilitaryDec. 27ACC No. 7-9 vs.
American Athletic
Cincinnati vs.
SunDec. 27ACC No. 3-6 vs.
Pac-12 No. 5
 Miami vs. 
PinstripeDec. 27ACC No. 3-6 vs.
Big Ten No. 5-7
 Nebraska vs.
North Carolina 
IndependenceDec. 27ACC No. 7-9 vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Duke vs.
HolidayDec. 27Big Ten No. 2-4 vs.
Pac-12 No. 3
 Michigan vs.
LibertyDec. 29Big 12 No. 5 vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Oklahoma State vs.
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC No. 2 vs.
Big 12 No. 3
 Notre Dame vs. 
Kansas State 
TexasDec. 29Big 12 No. 4 vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Texas A&M vs.
DetroitDec. 30ACC No. 7-9 vs.
Big Ten
 Northwestern vs.
BelkDec. 30ACC No. 3-6 vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Louisville vs.
Mississippi State 
San FranciscoDec. 30Big Ten No. 5-7 vs.
Pac-12 No. 4
Arizona State vs.
Music CityDec. 30ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Iowa vs.
Capital OneJan. 1SEC No. 2 vs
Big Ten/ACC
Ohio State vs.
Ole Miss 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten No. 2-4 vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Florida vs. 
Armed ForcesJan. 2American/Army vs.
Big 12 No. 7
 Houston vs.
Oregon State* 
TaxSlayerJan. 2ACC/Big Ten vs.
SEC No. 3-8
 Virginia Tech vs.
AlamoJan. 2Big 12 No. 2 vs.
Pac-12 No. 2
 Stanford vs. 
CactusJan. 2Big 12 No. 6 vs. 
Pac-12 No. 7
 Texas Tech vs.
Washington State 
BirminghamJan. 3American vs. 
SEC No. 9
 UCF vs.
GoDaddyJan. 4MAC vs. 
Sun Belt
 Bowling Green vs.
South Alabama 
Related Content: Everything You Need to Know About the College Football Playoff
New Year's Bowls
Chick-fil-A PeachDec. 31At-large vs.

 Georgia vs.

FiestaDec. 31At-large vs.
 UCLA vs.
South Carolina 
OrangeDec. 31ACC No. 1 vs. 
Big Ten/ND/SEC
 Clemson vs.
CottonJan. 1At-large vs. 
 Michigan State vs. 
College Football Playoff
RoseJan. 1Playoff SemifinalAlabama vs.
SugarJan. 1Playoff Semifinal Florida State vs.
CFB ChampionshipJan. 12Semifinal Winner vs.
Semifinal Winner
 Florida State over
College Football Bowl Projections for 2014
Post date: Monday, July 7, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-lands-impact-transfer-wr-dorial-green-beckham

Former Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham has officially landed at Oklahoma. Green-Beckham was dismissed at Missouri after an off-the-field incident in April and will have to sit out the 2014 season as a result of NCAA transfer rules.

Green-Beckham was regarded as one of the top receivers in the nation in 2013, catching 59 passes for 883 yards and 12 scores. As a junior entering 2014, Green-Beckham was expected to be a first-team All-American and the top target for new Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk.

There’s no question Green-Beckham comes with baggage. His dismissal at Missouri stemmed from an incident where he allegedly pushed a woman down the stairs. He also had two marijuana arrests during his time with the Tigers, but charges from the first arrest were never filed.

Bringing Green-Beckham to Oklahoma is a big risk for coach Bob Stoops. But considering Green-Beckham’s talent level and upside, it’s a risk that could pay off.


The Sooners are a young team in 2014 and could have only five or six senior starters this year.

Barring a surprise win on his waiver for eligibility, Green-Beckham will have to sit out the 2014 season. Add Green-Beckham to an offense that features quarterback Trevor Knight and receiver Sterling Shepard and it’s easy to think Oklahoma could be picked near the top of most preseason polls in 2015.

Of course, this move could backfire for Oklahoma. If Green-Beckham lands in trouble again, this move will be a hit in public relations for Stoops. But there’s also a solid support system in place in Norman, including Stoops and receivers coach Jay Norvell.

If Green-Beckham manages to stay out of trouble in 2014 and has a huge season, it will go a long way to improving his draft stock that took a hit after the dismissal in April.

Oklahoma Lands Impact Transfer in WR Dorial Green-Beckham
Post date: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 15:11
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-running-backs-2014

The Big Ten is well-stocked with talent at running back for 2014. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is a projected first-team All-American, while Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah isn’t far behind. Gordon and Abdullah each averaged over six yards per carry in Big Ten games last year.

The depth at running back extends beyond Gordon and Abdullah with Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford, Northwestern’s Venric Mark and a rising star in Indiana’s Tevin Coleman.

To help prepare for the 2014 season, Athlon Sports has ranked the top 20 running backs in the Big Ten.


How were the rankings compiled? Glad you asked.

Something important to remember: This is not a career ranking heading into the 2014 season. Instead, several factors were considered. How the player projects in 2014, value to the team, overall talent level and production so far in his career. Past performance is critical, but a large portion of the rankings was based on what we think these running backs will do in 2014. And a slight bump in ranking was handed to the projected starter of a team. 


Ranking the Big Ten's Running Backs for 2014

1Melvin GordonGordon will assume the No. 1 role in the Wisconsin backfield after sharing time with James White last year. In 125 carries during conference play, Gordon rushed for 903 yards and eight scores. He finished No. 2 in the Big Ten with a 7.8 yards per carry and recorded six runs of 40 yards or more.
2Ameer AbdullahIf Melvin Gordon is No. 1, then Abdullah is No. 1A. In eight Big Ten games last season, Abdullah finished No. 2 in the conference with 1,103 yards. Abdullah scored only five times in conference play but showcased his versatility by finishing 2013 with 26 catches. 
3Jeremy LangfordThe emergence of Langford and quarterback Connor Cook were a big reason why Michigan State claimed the Big Ten title. Langford rushed for 1,070 yards in nine Big Ten contests and led all backs within the conference with 292 carries in 14 games. 
4Venric MarkMark was expected to be one of the top running backs in the Big Ten last season, but his 2013 campaign never got on track due to injury. Mark finished with just 97 rushing yards and earned a medical hardship after missing nine games. When healthy, Mark is one of the Big Ten's most explosive runners and is a valuable asset on returns.
5Tevin ColemanColeman was on his way to a 1,000-yard season when an ankle injury forced him to miss the final three games. In 131 carries, Coleman averaged a healthy 7.3 yards per carry and led the Big Ten with eight runs of 40 yards or more.
6Ezekiel ElliottSince we are all about projecting what will happen in 2014, it's safe to say Elliott is in for a breakout year. As a backup to Carlos Hyde last season, Elliott rushed for 262 yards and two scores. Elliott was a top-100 recruit in the 2013 signing class and has the skill-set to thrive in Urban Meyer's offense. Yes, Elliott needs to prove he can handle 220-250 carries in a season, but the potential is there for a huge year.
7David CobbWith Abdullah, Hyde, Gordon, Langford and James White stealing the headlines in the Big Ten last year, Cobb's numbers were overlooked. The Minnesota back rushed for 1,202 yards, seven scores and posted six 100-yard performances. 
8Mark WeismanWeisman started 2013 with three consecutive 100-yard efforts and rushed for 147 yards on 24 attempts against Minnesota in late September. However, Weisman did not record a 100-yard performance the rest of the way and fell just short of a 1,000-yard season. Weisman leads a deep Iowa backfield that includes Jordan Canzeri and Damon Bullock.
9Corey ClementClement impressed in limited action last season, averaging 8.2 yards per carry on 67 attempts. With James White departing, Clement is set to be the top backup to Melvin Gordon in 2014. Clement will likely see at least 150 carries in this role, and all signs point to this sophomore becoming a star in Madison over the next two years.
10Zach ZwinakIt's a tossup for the No. 1 spot in the Penn State backfield. Zwinak, Belton and Akeel Lynch are all in the mix. Zwinak rushed for 692 yards and four scores in Big Ten play and finished the year by recording four consecutive 100-yard efforts. If new coach James Franklin settles on one running back, the leading rusher could finish higher on this list. 
11Bill BeltonBelton finished just 186 yards behind Zach Zwinak in last year's rushing totals and should push for a split in carries in 2014. Belton recorded only 20 carries through his first three games in 2013 but rushed for 201 yards against Illinois and 98 against Ohio State. The senior had a good spring and appears poised to build off his best statistical season.
12Josh FergusonConsidering Illinois won only six games over the last two years, Ferguson has been overlooked at times among the stable of Big Ten running backs. But after finishing with back-to-back 100-yard efforts in 2013, the junior is primed for a breakout year in 2014. In addition to his solid 5.5 yards per carry, Ferguson is one of the team's top receivers (50 catches in 2013).
13Imani CrossCross is one of the top backup running backs in the Big Ten. The 230-pound I-back scored 10 touchdowns and rushed for 447 yards on 85 attempts last season. Cross will work as the backup to Ameer Abdullah once again but should see his share of carries (85-100) in 2014. 
14Derrick GreenIf Michigan's offense wants to take a step forward in 2014, improving the rushing attack is a priority. The Wolverines averaged only 2.5 yards per carry in Big Ten play and had only one run of 40 yards or more the entire season. Green was a huge recruit for coach Brady Hoke and managed only 270 yards in his debut. Even though Green has the talent to be a 1,000-yard rusher, he needs more help from the offensive line to reach that potential in 2014.
15Wes BrownUpside is the keyword to remember here. Brown rushed for 382 yards on 90 attempts as a freshman in 2012 but was suspended for all of 2013. The Baltimore native was a four-star recruit in the 2012 signing class and showed plenty of promise by recording a 100-yard effort against NC State and a 74-yard effort against UConn as a freshman. Brandon Ross, Albert Reid and Jacquille Vei will also factor in the mix with Brown.
16Paul JamesJames has an interesting backstory, starting at Rutgers as a walk-on and eventually moving into the starting lineup last season. Despite missing three games, he rushed for 881 yards and nine scores on 156 attempts. If James can stay healthy, and regains the form that led him to three 100-yard efforts to start 2013, he will rank higher on this list in December.
17Jordan CanzeriCanzeri will team with Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock to form one of the Big Ten's top backfields in 2014. The New York native missed 2012 due to a torn ACL but quickly rebounded in 2013 by recording 481 yards and two touchdowns. Canzeri averaged 6.5 yards per carry and gashed Purdue for 165 yards. 
18Rod SmithSmith was regarded as a four-star prospect coming out of high school, but he's yet to rush for more than 215 yards in a season. Could that change in 2014? With Carlos Hyde departing, the Buckeyes will turn to Ezekiel Elliott and another running back to carry the workload. At 6-foot-3 and 231 pounds, Smith has the talent and size to produce when called upon in 2014. 
19Damon BullockBullock is the third Iowa back to make this list. He's rushed for at least 460 yards in each of the last two years and recorded 85 yards on 10 carries against Purdue in 2013. Bullock is also a solid receiver out of the backfield (39 catches in three years).
20Akeem HuntConsidering Purdue was often playing from behind last year, the Boilermakers never had a chance to establish the run. However, coach Darrell Hazell has two intriguing options in Hunt and Raheem Mostert. Hunt averaged at least eight yards per carry in 2011 and 2012 but managed only 3.8 yards per rush in 2013. 
Others to Watch: Raheem Mostert, Purdue; Nick Hill, Michigan State; Bri'onte Dunn, Ohio State; Warren Ball, Ohio State; Akeel Lynch, Penn State; Brandon Ross, Maryland; Trevyon Green, Northwestern; De'Veon Smith, Michigan; Delton Williams, Michigan State

Note: Dontre Wilson, Ohio State was considered a wide receiver for this article


Ranking the Big Ten's Running Backs for 2014
Post date: Thursday, July 3, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-sec-offensive-lines-2014

The SEC is home to four of Athlon Sports’ national top-five offensive lines for 2014. The top spot belongs to Florida State, but Auburn, Texas A&M, LSU and South Carolina rank among the best offensive lines in the nation.

As cliché as it sounds, elite offensive line play is common in the SEC and critical to a national championship. Auburn’s featured one of the best groups in the nation last year and guided the Tigers to an appearance in the BCS Championship.

Six offensive linemen on Athlon Sports’ 2014 All-America team hail from the SEC, including guard A.J. Cann and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi.

Line play should be a strength in the SEC this year, especially if groups like Ole Miss, Missouri and Mississippi State replace some key losses from 2013. And the conference’s overall depth extends to teams like Arkansas and Vanderbilt, as both teams should be better in the trenches in 2014.

To help prepare for the 2014 season, we will take a look at the 14 teams in the SEC and rank the offensive lines for the upcoming year. An important note: This is not a preseason ranking of accomplishments so far. This is a projection of what will happen in 2014.


Ranking the SEC’s Offensive Lines for 2014

(Note: This is a projection of how these lines will perform in 2014 – not a preseason ranking of where they stand.)

1. Auburn

First-round pick Greg Robinson is a huge loss at left tackle, but the Tigers return four starters from a unit that paved the way for rushers to average 5.9 yards per carry in SEC play last season. Center Reese Dismukes is an Athlon Sports second-team All-American for 2014, while sophomore guard Alex Kozan is one of the SEC’s rising stars. According to Football Study Hall’s Bill Connelly, Auburn’s line ranked No. 3 nationally in 2013 in stuff rate and No. 2 in adjusted line yards.


2. Texas A&M

Another year, another first-round tackle departs. But just like 2013, there’s little concern in College Station about the offensive line. With Jake Matthews taking snaps for the Atlanta Falcons, the Aggies will turn to senior Cedric Ogbuehi to anchor the left tackle position. Ogbuehi is expected to be one of the top linemen selected in the 2015 NFL Draft. Three other starters return, including senior Jarvis Harrison at guard and right tackle Germain Ifedi. Center Mike Matthews should be in the mix for All-SEC honors after starting all 13 games in 2013.


3. LSU

Considering the inexperience at quarterback, expect to see coach Les Miles and coordinator Cam Cameron lean on the ground game and offensive line in 2014. This group is plenty capable and should rank among the best in the nation. Four starters are back from a unit that helped LSU rushers average 4.5 yards per touch in SEC play last season. Left tackle La’el Collins is an Athlon Sports third-team All-American for 2014, guard Vadal Alexander is projected to earn third-team All-SEC honors, while right tackle Jerald Hawkins returns after starting all 13 games as a redshirt freshman. Hoko Fanaika is expected to replace Trai Turner at right guard. Improving the pass protection is a priority after allowing a sack every 11 pass attempts in SEC play last year.


4. South Carolina

This unit has made considerable progress for coach Steve Spurrier in recent years. The Gamecocks are expected to take another step forward up front in 2014, as four starters return from a unit that helped running back Mike Davis rush for 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013. A.J. Cann is one of the top guards in the nation, and tackle Corey Robinson is projected to earn third-team All-SEC honors. The return of guard Mike Matulis should help to stabilize the right side of the line.

5. Alabama

The Crimson Tide enter 2014 with just two returning starters in the trenches, but there’s no doubt this unit will emerge as a strength. Center Ryan Kelly is the anchor after starting nine games in 2013, while right tackle Austin Shepherd is expected to be in the mix for all-conference honors. The other three spots on the line are up for grabs, but there’s no shortage of talent. Freshman Cam Robinson – the No. 4 incoming freshman in the 247Sports Composite – could start at left tackle. Alabama’s line allowed the fewest sacks in SEC play last year (four), while paving the way for rushers to average 6.4 yards per carry.

6. Ole Miss

Health will be critical to Ole Miss’ offensive line this season, as there’s little in the way of proven depth. However, if the starting five stays healthy, the Rebels should have one of the top groups in the SEC. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil started nine games as a true freshman last year and earned second-team All-SEC honors. Expect Tunsil to only get better as a sophomore. Guard Aaron Morris was lost for the season due to a knee injury in the opener against Vanderbilt, but he should return at full strength for 2014. When healthy, Morris is an All-SEC performer. Junior Justin Bell is expected to start at right guard and could slide to center if Ben Still struggles. Coach Hugh Freeze needs incoming recruits Fahn Cooper (JC) and Rod Taylor (freshman) to provide depth.


7. Missouri

What a difference a year makes. After injuries took its toll on Missouri’s offensive line in 2012, the Tigers had better luck in the health department and performed as one of the better groups in the SEC. Left tackle Justin Britt and guard Max Copeland are huge losses, but three starters are back for coach Gary Pinkel. Center Evan Boehm has started all 26 games in his career and is expected to be one of the top centers in the league this year. Mitch Morse and Conner McGovern are proven options at the tackle spots, with Anthony Gatti and Mitch L. Hall leading the way at guard. The Tigers averaged 5.5 yards per carry in SEC play and allowed a sack every 16.6 pass attempts in 2013.

8. Georgia

The No. 7-9 spots in this ranking are very close, so we could easily switch Georgia, Missouri and Mississippi State around in a different order. The Bulldogs need more help from their line, especially with a new quarterback (Hutson Mason) taking over. Center David Andrews is one of the best in the SEC, and junior John Theus is ready for a breakout year at left tackle. The other three spots are up for grabs this fall, but there are experienced options (Mark Beard and Kolton Houston) vying for spots on the line. The Bulldogs ranked No. 4 in Football Study Hall’s power success rate last season.

9. Mississippi State

Coach Dan Mullen has some work to do upfront this fall, but the Bulldogs should be solid in the trenches. Guard Gabe Jackson (first-team All-SEC in 2013) is a huge loss, and Justin Malone, Jamaal Clayborn and Ben Beckwith are likely vying for the right to replace Jackson, as well as start on the other side. Malone missed nearly all of last season due to injury, and his health is crucial to this unit performing at a high level post-Jackson. Seniors Blaine Clausell and Dillon Day are back as Mississippi State’s top linemen and both should push for all-conference honors.


10. Arkansas

Line coach Sam Pittman is one of the best in the nation, and the Razorbacks have some promising young talent on the way. There’s a good bit of potential with this group, especially if tackle Dan Skipper and guard Denver Kirkland build off promising freshman campaigns. Senior Brey Cook is expected to start at right tackle and could push for all-conference honors. UNLV transfer Cameron Jefferson joins the competition for time at left guard, while Mitch Smothers and Luke Charpentier will battle to replace Travis Swanson at center.

11. Vanderbilt

Wesley Johnson will be tough to replace, but the Commodores return four starters from a group that has made significant strides over the last few seasons. Sophomore Andrew Jelks is expected to replace Johnson at left tackle, while Spencer Pulley and Jake Bernstein anchor the guard spots. Senior Joe Townsend is back at center after starting all 13 games in the middle last season. Vanderbilt has room to improve on the stat sheet, allowing 3.6 sacks per game and averaging only 3.1 yards per carry in SEC play.

12. Florida

In addition to Jeff Driskel’s injury and inconsistency at wide receiver, the struggles of the offensive line factored prominently into Florida’s 4-8 record in 2013. The Gators ranked No. 102 in adjusted line yards and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry in SEC games. This unit also allowed 22 sacks in conference play. Even with just one returning starter, there’s hope for improvement in 2014. Left tackle D.J. Humphries was a key pickup on the recruiting trail in 2012 and missed most of last season due to a knee injury. With Humphries and right tackle Chaz Green back to full strength, Max Garcia is expected to slide to center. This unit is also under the direction of a new coach in former Kentucky and USC assistant Mike Summers.

13. Tennessee

Butch Jones has some work to do this fall. All five starters from Tennessee’s offensive line are gone, leaving little in the way of proven options. Guard Marcus Jackson redshirted last season after playing in 24 games from 2011-12, and the Florida native is expected to be one of the leaders for this unit in 2014. Junior college transfer Dontavius Blair was a key pickup on the recruiting trail and is penciled in at left tackle. With a tough schedule, this unit will have little time to jell.

14. Kentucky

The Wildcats rank last on this list, but there’s plenty of optimism. Four starters are back, and guard Zach West (21 career starts) is a candidate for all-conference honors. Senior Darrian Miller and junior Jordan Swindle should form a solid duo at tackle. Kentucky tied Vanderbilt for the most sacks allowed in SEC play last year (29), and its rushers averaged only 3.2 yards per carry. 

Ranking the SEC Offensive Lines for 2014
Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-unveils-new-alternate-uniforms

Oklahoma’s uniforms and helmets haven’t changed much in recent years, but that’s about to change. Somewhat.

On Tuesday, the Sooners unveiled new alternate uniforms, which are a slightly different look at the usual appearance for the program.

The alternate uniforms feature two different helmets (red and white), along with small tweaks to the jersey and pants. Oklahoma’s usual uniforms read “Sooners” across the front of the jersey, but the alternate jersey will feature “Oklahoma” in that space.

The new red helmet for the alternate uniform also features a wood-grained pattern.

Below are a few photos of the new uniforms. Be sure to visit Oklahoma’s official site for more background on the new release for the Sooners.

Oklahoma Unveils New Alternate Uniforms
Post date: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-realignment-winners-and-losers-2014

A rocky period in college football has recently passed. Conference realignment seemingly dominated the headlines since 2011, forcing changes in membership for every league.

The Big East and WAC are no more in football, and the SEC, ACC and Big Ten have all expanded to 14 teams.

BYU decided to go Independent in football, while Notre Dame joined the ACC as a partial member.

Those are just a few of the changes that have taken place over the last few years.

What has the last few seasons in college football brought in realignment and what is the impact for the future? Let’s take a look at the changes, impact and grades for each of the Power 5 leagues in realignment over the last few years.

Grading College Football’s Conferences in Realignment



The Changes: The ACC added Louisville (2014), Syracuse and Pittsburgh (2013). Maryland left for the Big Ten (2014). Notre Dame joined as a member in all sports but football and hockey.

The Impact: Maryland was a founding member of the ACC, and the decision to leave for the Big Ten caught some off guard. However, Louisville is a solid all-around addition to the conference and ranks higher on Athlon’s program ranking (No. 29 for Cardinals, No. 40 for Terrapins). Syracuse and Pittsburgh help the ACC increase its footprint in the Northeast.

As a 14-team league, along with the Notre Dame affiliation, the ACC has stabilized after a period of uncertainty. The conference also has a solid bowl setup, including an agreement with the Orange Bowl. Having a period of 10-15 years without any changes would help the conference continue to develop its identity. The divisional alignment has been a source of debate in recent years, and there could be changes to the Atlantic-Coastal setup.

What’s Next: Will the ACC stay as a 14-team league? Unless there is a major shift again in conferences, the ACC seems unlikely to expand. Of course, if the ACC wanted to expand, Notre Dame would be its first call to become a full-time member. UConn was mentioned with Louisville as a possible replacement for Maryland, and if the ACC wanted to expand to 16, the Huskies would likely be in the mix again.

Grade: B. Losing a founding member was a surprise, but the ACC added three solid programs in Louisville, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Most importantly, the rumors about Florida State and Clemson possibly leaving the conference never came to fruition.

Related Content: History of ACC Realignment


Big Ten

The Changes: The Big Ten hasn’t seen many changes in its conference history. Penn State officially joined the league for football in 1993, but prior to that, the last addition to the conference was Michigan State in 1950. However, there have been three changes to the league's membership in the last four years. Nebraska joined in 2011, and Maryland and Rutgers will debut in the Big Ten in 2014.

The Impact: The reaction to the Big Ten’s additions were mixed. Nebraska – a top 25 program – was a huge positive for the conference on the gridiron. Maryland and Rutgers? Not so much excitement among college football fans. Since 2000, the Terrapins are 93-80, and the Scarlet Knights are 86-86. While both programs have upside, neither is expected to make a huge impact in terms of winning a national championship on a consistent basis. Instead, the additions of Rutgers and Maryland are a key component for the Big Ten’s Northeast/East Coast expansion. Even though success on the field matters, realignment isn’t necessarily about wins and losses. Media markets and expanding the footprint can be just as valuable for a conference.

What’s Next: Much like the ACC, the next question for the Big Ten is to stay at 14 or expand to 16? If a 16-team set up is in the Big Ten’s future, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Grade: B. Again, not everything in conference realignment makes sense in terms of wins and losses. Adding Rutgers and Maryland adds two valuable media markets, along with a key recruiting area. Nebraska had one of the top dynasties of the Associated Press poll era and can be a consistent contender for the Big Ten title. Also, the additions of Rutgers and Maryland helped to align the Big Ten into an easier-to-remember East/West format. 

Related Content: History of Big Ten Realignment

Big 12

The Changes: The Big 12 has been reduced from 12 teams to 10. In 2011, Nebraska left for the Big Ten and Colorado departed for the Pac-12. Missouri and Texas A&M departed for the SEC in 2012. TCU and West Virginia joined the Big 12 to bolster the league’s lineup to 10 teams. 

The Impact: With Nebraska, Texas A&M and Missouri departing, the Big 12 has lost three top-30 programs. West Virginia and TCU are solid additions, but the conference no longer has some outstanding rivalry games between Texas A&M-Texas, Baylor-Texas A&M, Nebraska-Oklahoma and Missouri-Kansas. Not having a conference title game could hurt the Big 12 in the future, especially if that factors into the playoff committee’s criteria.  
What’s Next: Expect the debate about the Big 12 and a 10- or 12-team set up to continue. The conference continues to insist it's content with a 10-team setup, but realignment rumors will never go away – at least from the fans. If the Big 12 does decide to expand in the future, it’s all about adding value. So which programs could do that? BYU and UCF? South Florida? Cincinnati? Perhaps the Big 12 would make a run at teams like Florida State and Clemson (igniting old message board rumors again). Adding East Coast teams to bridge the gap from West Virginia to the rest of the conference would seem to be a top priority – if the Big 12 expands.

Grade: C. The Big 12 has two things going for it. The conference seems to be stable – for now – and Oklahoma and Texas are still in the conference. Losing Texas A&M, Missouri and Nebraska was a setback, but West Virginia and TCU are good additions, especially after both programs have time to adjust to their new conference. The Big 12 probably isn’t as powerful as it once was. However, as long as Oklahoma and Texas are top-20 teams on a consistent basis, the conference should be in good shape. 

Related Content: West Virginia Searches for Answers After Rocky Start in Big 12



The Changes: The Pac-12 didn’t lose a member and added Colorado and Utah to become a 12-team league in 2011.


The Impact: The Pac-12 is one of the biggest winners in college football over the last five years. Colorado and Utah haven’t experienced a ton of success so far, but the rest of the conference is on the rise. Thanks to an improved television deal, improved revenue and better facilities, the Pac-12 is now the No. 2 conference in college football. Expect Colorado and Utah to improve over the next few years, adding to what is one of the deepest conferences in the nation.


What’s Next: Further realignment seems unlikely, largely because there are few candidates that could join the conference. Remember the Pac-16 proposal that included Texas and Oklahoma? Maybe that’s a possibility in the future. However, the Pac-12 is stable and clearly entrenched as one of the premier conferences.


Grade: B+. We could easily upgrade this to an A. The Pac-12 has moved up the ladder in conference hierarchy, and Utah and Colorado will improve over time. Not much has gone wrong for the conference over the last few seasons.



The Changes: The SEC made its first changes in membership since 1991 by adding Missouri and Texas A&M in 2012. The league did not lose any members.

The Impact: The addition of the Aggies and Tigers gave the SEC two valuable media markets in Missouri (St. Louis/Kansas City) and Texas (Houston). And both programs also have experienced plenty of success over the last two years. Texas A&M is 20-6 since joining the SEC and had a Heisman winner in Johnny Manziel, while Missouri claimed the East Division title in 2013.

What’s Next: Just like the ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12, the only question surrounding the SEC in the future is whether or not the conference will expand to 16 teams. If the SEC does expand to 16 teams, there has been plenty of discussion that teams in Virginia and North Carolina are the next targets.

Grade: A+. The SEC was the No. 1 conference in the nation prior to realignment and solidified its place at the top with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri. The conference is deeper and has expanded its footprint into Texas – one of the nation’s most fertile recruiting areas. 

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers for 2014
Post date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ball-state-adds-black-helmet-uniform-combinations-2014

The offseason is an ideal time to unveil any new uniforms, helmets or logos for college football teams.

Ball State is the latest to showcase a new look for 2014, as the Cardinals unveiled on Friday a black helmet to go with their black jersey.

Here’s a look at the helmet, along with the full black uniform.

Ball State Adds Black Helmet to Uniform Combinations for 2014
Post date: Friday, June 27, 2014 - 11:08