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2013 ACC Predictions ACC Overall
Atlantic Division  
1. Clemson 8-0 12-1
2. Florida State 7-1 10-2
3. Maryland 4-4 7-5
4. NC State 3-5 7-5
5. Wake Forest 3-5 6-6
6. Syracuse 2-6 4-8
7. Boston College 1-7 4-8
     
Coastal Division    
1. Miami 6-2 9-4
2. Virginia Tech 5-3 8-4
3. Georgia Tech 5-3 8-4
4. North Carolina 5-3 8-4
5. Pittsburgh 3-5 6-6
6. Virginia 2-6 4-8
7. Duke 2-6 5-7
   
ACC Championship  
Clemson over Miami   

With only two teams expected to be ranked in most preseason polls, 2013 may not be a banner year for the ACC.

Clemson and Florida State are the only ACC teams ranked in Athlon’s Top 25 for 2013, with the Tigers predicted as the conference champion. The Seminoles are the defending ACC champs, but Jimbo Fisher’s team must replace quarterback EJ Manuel and a handful of key contributors on defense.

While there is some clarity in the Atlantic Division, the Coastal is a wide-open race.

Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina each deserve consideration for the top spot. But the Hurricanes get the edge in Athlon’s predictions for 2013. Coach Al Golden seems to have Miami moving in the right direction, and the program could have some clarity by kickoff to the NCAA investigation that has been hovering over the school. The biggest concern for the Hurricanes is a defense that allowed 30.5 points a game last year.

Virginia Tech’s offense needs to play better if the Hokies are to push for the Coastal Division title. But the defense could be the best in the ACC in 2013.

Keep an eye on Maryland, NC State and Virginia. The three teams are the biggest wildcards to watch in 2013. The Terrapins are making progress under coach Randy Edsall and return quarterback C.J. Brown from a knee injury. The Wolfpack have one of the ACC’s most-favorable schedules, and new coach Dave Doeren was one of the offseason’s top hires. Virginia has a tough schedule to navigate, but coach Mike London has assembled some promising young talent. 

Prep for the 2013 season on Twitter @AthlonSports

Inside the War Room: Key Questions That Shaped Athlon's 2013 Predictions

There were four teams that were in the discussion for first place in the Coastal Division. Why was Miami the pick?

The Hurricanes should be strong offensively with the return of quarterback Stephen Morris and arguably the league’s top offensive line. Morris, in his first full season as the starter, played very well down the stretch in 2012. In his final four games, he completed 60 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and no interceptions. We also expect a big season from sophomore tailback Duke Johnson, who averaged 6.8 yards per carry as a true freshman. The defense will no doubt be an issue, but we believe the Canes have enough talent on that side of the ball to show at least modest improvement. The schedule is in Miami’s favor: The Canes host Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, two teams they will be battling for supremacy in the Coastal, and they don’t play Clemson, the team to beat in the Atlantic.

Can Logan Thomas live up to his vast potential? If so, can Virginia Tech win the league?

Virginia Tech should once again field one of the best defenses in the ACC, but it’s difficult to get too excited about the Hokies because of how much this team struggled on offense last year. Quarterback Logan Thomas regressed as a junior after a strong sophomore season, and the Virginia Tech offense struggled to score — especially in the latter half of the season. If new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler can coax a big season out of Thomas and the rest of the offense, Virginia Tech will be a legitimate threat to win the league. If not, the Hokies will have a tough time holding off North Carolina and Georgia Tech for second place in the Coastal Division.

Maryland has won a total of six games the last two seasons. Why are the Terps projected to win seven in 2013?

It hasn’t been the smoothest ride, but Maryland is showing signs of progress under Randy Edsall. Last year, the Terps improved dramatically on defense, jumping from 108th in the nation (457.2 ypg) in 2011 to 21st (336.8) in ’12. And while there are some key losses (tackle Joe Vellano and linebackers Demetrius Hartsfield and Kenny Tate), the Terps have recruited well in recent years and should still be strong on defense. The offense was a disaster last year, due in large part to a rash of injuries at quarterback. This year, expect dramatic improvement. Ricardo Young, who began his career at New Mexico, will try to unseat C.J. Brown at quarterback.  Keep an eye on Stefon Diggs, an emerging star at wide receiver. The Terps’ slow climb back to relevance will continue in 2013.

Syracuse won eight games last season. This year, we have the Orange projected to go 4–8. Why so pessimistic?

The move from the Big East to the ACC is a factor, but the bottom line is that we don’t think Syracuse will be as good in 2013. The Orange lost three elite offensive players to the NFL Draft — quarterback Ryan Nassib, wideout Alec Lemon and left tackle Justin Pugh — and also have to deal with a coaching change. Out is the highly respected Doug Marrone. In is the unproven Scott Shafer. Syracuse’s first season in the ACC could be a struggle.

Why won’t Duke be more of a factor in the ACC Coastal Division after breaking through and playing in a bowl game in 2012?

Duke was a nice story last year, but the Blue Devils weren’t a very good team when you really look at the numbers. They managed a respectable 3–5 record in the ACC but were outgained by an average of 140.5 yards in those eight conference games — the biggest margin in the league. (Wake Forest was next at minus-127.7). And they lost six of their last seven games, with the six defeats coming by an average of 21.7 points. Veteran coach David Cutcliffe has done a very good job elevating the profile of this program, but Duke will have a tough time reaching bowl-eligibility for the second straight season.


2013 ACC Team Previews

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke 
Clemson Georgia Tech
Florida State Miami
Maryland  North Carolina
NC State  Pittsburgh
Syracuse Virginia
Wake Forest  Virginia Tech


ACC Notebook

Bowl season redemption
The ACC has been pilloried, and deservedly so, for its efforts against quality non-conference opposition in recent years. That wasn’t eased by the league’s 6–17 mark against automatic qualifying conference teams and Notre Dame during the 2012 regular season, including a 1–5 mark against SEC teams.

But the league redeemed itself somewhat in the postseason. For the first time, ACC teams won their top four bowl games. Florida State beat Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl, Clemson rallied late to beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Virginia Tech eked by Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl and Georgia Tech beat USC handily in the Sun Bowl. In fact, the ACC went 4–2 in the bowl season, tying for the best winning percentage among BCS conferences with the SEC (6–3).

Quarterbacks aplenty 
Even though the ACC lost Florida State’s EJ Manuel, NC State’s Mike Glennon and Duke’s Sean Renfree, it still has a healthy number of experienced quarterbacks who have reached significant career milestones already. For the first time in league history, the ACC has five returning quarterbacks who have thrown for at least 6,000 yards in their career. That list includes Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (8,053), Wake Forest’s Tanner Price (6,666), North Carolina’s Bryn Renner (6,456), Boston College’s Chase Rettig (6,258) and Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (6,096).

Lucky with Louisville 
While the ACC fortified itself by adding Syracuse and Pittsburgh this season, those schools have hardly been football powerhouses lately. The scheduling agreement that will bring pigskin monolith Notre Dame into the fold for five games a year was another boost to the league, which is trying to hold off poachers.

But the addition of Louisville once Maryland announced it was leaving for the Big Ten might be the best of the bunch. The Cardinals, who 10 years ago were in Conference USA, reached new heights in Charlie Strong’s third season in 2012, going 11–2, winning the Big East title and pounding Florida 33–23 in the Sugar Bowl.

Louisville might not have the TV market that Maryland has, but its football product and overall athletic budget — $84.4 million in the 2011-12 academic year, according to the most recent available data from the Office of Postsecondary Education’s Equity in Athletics, and higher than the ACC’s top school, Florida State, at $81.4 million — suggest that the league added more than it lost in the most recent conference reshuffling. The Cardinals will join the ACC before the 2014 season.

Bowl bound, up and down 
When Duke snapped a 17-year bowl drought by making the Belk Bowl last season, it also put the ACC in the same category as the SEC and Big East as the only conferences to have all of their members go to a bowl game at least once in the last three years.

Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Georgia Tech and NC State have made bowls in each of those seasons. The Seminoles, in fact, have the longest active bowl streak in the country at 31 years. Virginia Tech is third (20) and Georgia Tech is tied for fourth (16).

An offensive explosion 
The additions in recent years of offensive-minded coaches like North Carolina’s Larry Fedora, Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris seem to be finally having a major impact.

The ACC saw an explosion of offense in 2012. Teams topped the 500-yard mark 38 times last year, more than double the previous high of 15 set in 2011. The league also saw teams reach the 40-point mark 42 times, a single-season record that dwarfed the previous mark of 30 set in 2010.

The offensive highlights included a 68–50 win by Georgia Tech over North Carolina, a game in which the teams set an ACC record with 118 combined points and combined for 1,085 yards. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris threw for 566 yards against NC State. North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard ran for 262 yards against Virginia Tech. Clemson topped 700 yards twice, in wins against Duke and NC State. And Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner’s career 154.59 quarterback efficiency rating would be an ACC record if maintained through 2013.


Coordinator Carousel

Boston College

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Doug Martin; New: Ryan Day Martin is now the head coach at New Mexico State. Day previously served as the offensive coordinator at Temple, where he worked for new Boston College coach Steve Addazio.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Bill McGovern; New: Don Brown McGovern had accepted a position to coach linebackers under Steve Addazio but then left to become the linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Brown, a former head coach at UMass, was the defensive coordinator at UConn the last two seasons.

Clemson

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Brent Venables, Charlie Harbison; New: Brent Venables, Marion Hobby Charlie Harbison left to become the defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator at Auburn. Hobby was promoted to co-defensive coordinator after coaching the Clemson defensive ends last season.

Duke

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Kurt Roper; New: Kurt Roper, Scottie Montgomery Montgomery, a former star wideout at Duke, was the wide receivers coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers from 2010-12. Roper will still call plays.

Florida State

Offensive Coordinator
Old: James Coley; New: None Coley, an FSU graduate, left to become the offensive coordinator at Miami, where he will call plays. Head coach Jimbo Fisher will continue to call the plays.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Mark Stoops; New: Jeremy Pruitt Stoops is now the head coach at Kentucky. Pruitt had been the defensive backs coach at Alabama the previous three seasons. He will also coach the DBs at Florida State.

Georgia Tech

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Al Groh; New: Ted Roof Groh was fired in the middle of the 2012 season. Roof was the defensive coordinator at Penn State in 2012. He is a Georgia Tech graduate and previously served on the Jackets’ staff from 1998-2001.

Miami

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Jedd Fisch; New: James Coley Fisch left Miami to become the offensive coordinator with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coley previously served as the OC at Florida State, though he didn’t call the plays. He will do so at Miami.

NC State

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Dana Bible; New: Matt Canada Bible was not retained by the new staff at NC State. Canada was the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin in 2012 and previously served as the OC at Northern Illinois (on two occasions) and Indiana.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Mike Archer; New: Dave Huxtable Archer was not retained by the new staff at NC State. Huxtable was the defensive coordinator at Pittsburgh in 2012. He also has had stints as the DC at UCF, North Carolina and Georgia Tech in the FBS ranks.

Pittsburgh

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Dave Huxtable; New: Matt House Huxtable left Pittsburgh to become the defensive coordinator at NC State. House was promoted to DC after serving as the Panthers’ secondary coach in 2012.

Syracuse

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Nathaniel Hackett; New: George McDonald Hackett followed his boss, Doug Marrone, to Buffalo, where he will serve as the Bills’ offensive coordinator. McDonald coached the wide receivers at Miami the past two seasons. He had accepted a position at Arkansas in December 2012 but left to join the Syracuse staff in January.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Scott Shafer; New: Chuck Bullough Shafer is now the head coach at Syracuse. Bullough spent the past two seasons as a defensive assistant with the Cleveland Browns. He was the DC at UCLA in 2009-10.

Virginia

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Bill Lazor; New: Steve Fairchild Lazor left Virginia to become the quarterbacks coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. Fairchild, a former head coach at Colorado State (2008-11) and offensive coordinator in the NFL (Buffalo, 2006-07), was an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers in 2012.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Jim Reid; New: Jon Tenuta Reid was fired after three seasons at Virginia. He is now a defensive assistant at Iowa. Tenuta, a Virginia grad, coached the linebackers at NC State last season.

Virginia Tech

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Mike O’Cain; New: Scott Loeffler O’Cain was fired after seven seasons on the Hokies’ staff. He is now the offensive coordinator at James Madison. Loeffler spent last season as the offensive coordinator at Auburn.


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College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

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Teaser:
<p> ACC Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 3, 2013 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-81-100
Body:

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

Appearing in the 81-100 range is a mixture of BCS and non-BCS programs. After a strong second half of the season, Rice checks in at No. 81 and should be Tulsa's biggest challenger in Conference USA's West Division. Connecticut, Boston College, Colorado, Illinois and Kansas are some of the BCS teams that appear in this range, and each program wants to erase a disappointing 2012 season. The Jayhawks are relying on a handful of JUCO transfers, while the Buffaloes welcome standout receiver Paul Richardson back to the team after a one-year absence due to a torn ACL.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-4041-60 and 61-80

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 81-100

81. Rice
The Owls won their last five games to finish 2012 with a 7–6 mark, and coach David Bailiff believes there will be a carryover this season. The offense has weapons and a solid offensive front, while 10 returning starters should be enough to help Rice be more formidable on defense.

Having quarterback Taylor McHargue around helps, because of his leadership, but if the Owls want to be more than just a hair over .500, they must be more effective at every position. Rice showed it could do that in the bowl win. It’s time to do it for 12 games.

2013 Rice Owls Team Preview


82. Air Force
If Kale Pearson wins the quarterback battle, the Falcons’ option attack will be dangerous, with the possibility of Pearson and Jon Lee sprinting to 60-yard gains. If Jaleel Awini emerges, the Falcons’ passing attack might be more dangerous than their rushing attack for once. But the defense must transform. Last season, the Falcons rushed for 4,111 yards, averaged 27.4 points per game and finished with a losing record.

During his first four seasons, coach Troy Calhoun pushed his teams beyond their talent while excelling in winning close games. Calhoun and his program have tumbled into a slump, but this edition of the Falcons has the potential for revival. If Lee can hang on to the football and defensive end Alex Hansen can harass quarterbacks, the Falcons could surprise.

2013 Air Force Falcons Team Preview


83. Connecticut
This is a critical season for Paul Pasqualoni and his staff. The Huskies have recorded consecutive 5–7 seasons since Randy Edsall took the Huskies to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010. UConn fans are hoping for some new wrinkles from offensive coordinator T.J. Weist in his first season in charge of what has been a predictable and conservative attack. The schedule is challenging, with home games against Michigan, Maryland, Rutgers, South Florida and Louisville. The Huskies probably need to win three of those five to entertain thoughts of a postseason game.

2013 Connecticut Huskies Team Preview


84. Boston College
Coach Steve Addazio doesn’t have a lot to build around. The Eagles’ last three recruiting classes have lacked an impact player, so there’s not much depth behind a strong senior class. The Eagles can score points with their passing attack, but they lack an effective running game or a tight end to exploit the middle of the field. The Eagles have liabilities at all three levels of defense and are destined to endure a third straight losing season. 

2013 Boston College Eagles Team Preview


85. Colorado
After a failed two-year run with Jon Embree, Colorado made one of the offseason’s best coaching moves by hiring Mike MacIntyre. He will have his hands full this season, as the Buffaloes were one of the worst major conference teams of the BCS era in 2012. The quarterback position is a question mark, and Colorado needs to replace its best offensive lineman. Last season, the defense allowed 46 points per game (most in the nation), and even with seven starters back, this unit may not be much better in 2013. The Buffaloes will show improvement, but wins could be difficult to come by this year.

2013 Colorado Buffaloes Team Preview


86. Illinois
Coach Tim Beckman inherited a team that won back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. He went 2–10. In the “win now” age, some fans actually wanted Beckman dismissed after one season. The school leaders didn’t listen. To limit the negative talk, Beckman’s second team will need to show improvement. Changes to the staff should provide a boost, especially on offense with the addition of offensive coordinator Bill Cubit. Beckman also added immediate help with 10 mid-year enrollees, five from the junior college ranks. While a bowl game is always the goal, four wins is a more realistic expectation as Beckman tries to rebuild the program. 

2013 Illinois Fighting Illini Team Preview


87. Bowling Green
The Falcons should continue moving up the ladder in the MAC, and the top rung is next. Bowling Green went 8–5 last season, after going 5–7 and 2–10 in the previous two years, respectively. With eight starters back on offense, nine on defense, and a pair of veterans returning in the kicking game, fifth-year coach Dave Clawson has his program in position to win a division title for the first time since 2003, when Bowling Green won the MAC West.

The Falcons’ schedule is favorable. They don’t play Northern Illinois and Ball State — two of the top teams in the MAC West — and they host fellow East contender Ohio. 

2013 Bowling Green Falcons Team Preview


88. Kansas
Buoyed by the return of a group of running backs that made KU one of the top rushing teams in the Big 12, coach Charlie Weis is confident that, with Jake Heaps now eligible at quarterback, the Jayhawks will be more productive on offense. The defense should be improved as well, thanks to an influx of ready-made junior college players. Still, the 2013 season figures to be a struggle. Kansas was by far the worst team in the league last year and will need to show significant progress this fall to climb out of the Big 12 basement.

2013 Kansas Jayhawks Team Preview


89. Ohio
Ohio was 7–0 and flying toward the MAC East title when an abnormal number of injuries helped to send the Bobcats to a 1–4 regular-season finish. Their dominant Independence Bowl performance has renewed hopes for another assault on the elusive MAC crown that hasn’t happened since 1968. Presuming the lines mature as coach Frank Solich projects, every game on the schedule is winnable — including the opener at Sugar Bowl champ Louisville.

2013 Ohio Bobcats Team Preview


90. Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech should expect another season of bowl-eligibility, but winning Conference USA in its first year in the league under a new coach may be too much. The offense has potential with the explosive Kenneth Dixon at running back, but the offensive line and quarterback positions are still question marks. The schedule is not overly challenging, with the toughest league games coming late in the year. So if the newcomers can get acclimated, Louisiana Tech may find itself playing in some very meaningful league games in November.

2013 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Team Preview


91. Western Kentucky
Western Kentucky made a big splash when it hired Bobby Petrino to replace Willie Taggart, who parlayed the school’s first trip to a bowl game into the head coaching position at South Florida.

Petrino sees the WKU opportunity as a step in rehabilitating his career after departing Arkansas in disgrace for non-football (and highly publicized) indiscretions. He might not be the most popular guy, but he can coach football, especially offense. With Petrino and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm running the show, the Hilltoppers should feature one of the top offenses in the Sun Belt. If the defense cooperates, Western can challenge for the title in its final season in the league.

There will be lots of eyes — locally and nationally — on how Petrino’s team fares, and how he conducts his business in the process.  

2013 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Preview


92. Houston
There are many reasons for optimism around the Cougar program. Houston moves into the American Athletic Conference, where as coach Tony Levine says, “the winner goes to a BCS bowl.” The school is building an on-campus, 45,000-seat stadium that will open in 2014, and the last two recruiting classes have brought in plenty of talent.

But if the Cougars want to compete in the American — or anywhere else, for that matter — they must tighten up the defense. Houston should be able to score plenty of points, thanks to its surfeit of skill performers, although quarterback David Piland needs to be more accurate. The Cougars’ ultimate success depends on whether or not they can stop people.

2013 Houston Cougars Team Preview


93. Wyoming
After a 4–8 finish last fall (3–5 in the MWC), this is a pivotal season for the Pokes. And coach Dave Christensen knows it. With the revamped Mountain West bringing new talent to the competition — and with more eyes focused on the league — the Cowboys need to finish in the upper half to prove that last year was a misstep, not a preview of more disappointing seasons to come.

There’s a lot on the line in Laramie this season. Expect Christensen’s team to play like it.

2013 Wyoming Cowboys Team Preview


94. SMU
The June Jones era has featured four straight bowl games. Reaching a fifth could be difficult as the program makes the move from Conference USA to the more challenging American Athletic Conference. A tough non-league slate that includes Texas Tech, Texas A&M and TCU means SMU likely will be 1–3 entering league play. For the bowl string to continue, the Mustangs would then have to go 5–3 in the American against some unfamiliar opponents. For that to happen, quarterback Garrett Gilbert must take a step forward as a senior, a leader needs to emerge in the receiving corps and some playmakers must develop on the defensive line.

2013 SMU Mustangs Team Preview


95. Colorado State
Coach Jim McElwain, the former Alabama offensive coordinator, cobbled together four wins in his first season, including three in league play. That marked progress for a program that had won a combined three MWC games in the previous three seasons. On closer inspection, however, you realize that the Rams’ victories came over teams that went a combined 10–40, while they lost eight games by an average of 19.4 points.

Unlike last year, McElwain has two experienced quarterbacks, which should help immensely. The running backs and line should be good, and if the receivers come through, the Rams should be able to score enough to be in most games. Defense remains the primary concern. Unless they can find a way to stop the run and get off the field on third down, every game will be a struggle.

Realistically, the Rams are a year or two away from having a legitimate chance of cracking the MWC’s upper echelon. In the meantime, they should be better in 2013 — even if it doesn’t show in their record.

2013 Colorado State Rams Team Preview


96. Memphis
Coach Justin Fuente made significant strides in his first season, and this year’s team should show similar improvement. A big key will be continuity: Fuente was able to retain each member of his coaching staff even though several received job offers from bigger programs. Still, the Tigers will be playing in a more difficult league and may not be able to better last year’s record of 4–8 despite an upgrade in talent. 

2013 Memphis Tigers Team Preview


97. Temple
Last year, the Owls transitioned to a new league. Now, the transition is to a new coach. Coach Matt Rhule, who was on the Temple staff from 2006-11, was a popular choice, given his ties with the program and familiarity with most of the players on the roster. Temple won 26 games from ’09-11, and Rhule played a vital role in the team’s renaissance. Now, it’s his show, and the first-time head coach has some lofty goals. “We’re here to win championships,” Rhule says. “We’ve been to bowl games and won bowl games, but that’s the one thing that’s missing from the trophy case.”

A conference title, even in the reconfigured (and weaker) league, likely is not in the Owls’ immediate future, but this program will have an opportunity to raise its profile in the newly named American Athletic Conference in the coming years.

2013 Temple Owls Team Preview


98. MTSU
Last season’s Middle Tennessee squad overachieved with an 8–4 record, but it suffered a bowl game snub in its final season in the Sun Belt Conference. Now 14 starters return from that team, which still feels vexed by the exclusion as it enters Conference USA. The schedule includes several unknowns, as the Blue Raiders have not played seven of its 2013 opponents in the past decade. But head coach Rick Stockstill still believes his team could contend for a title in its debut season.

“Our goal is to win this conference,” Stockstill says. “Are we good enough to do that? I don’t know because I haven’t seen the other teams in Conference USA. There’s an unknown there of how we stack up, but our mindset is on winning the conference.”

Middle Tennessee’s C-USA slate should be comparable to past Sun Belt competition, so bowl-eligibility is realistic. But the Blue Raiders must keep quarterback Logan Kilgore and running back Jordan Parker healthy and develop more playmakers on defense to make a serious run at the conference crown.

2013 MTSU Blue Raiders Team Preview


99. UTEP
A softer non-conference schedule (New Mexico, Colorado State and Texas A&M replace Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ole Miss) and a revamped league schedule that includes five C-USA newcomers should give the Miners a chance to be competitive in coach Sean Kugler’s first year. Much will depend on how quickly the new staff can implement new schemes on both sides of the ball.

A good start in a manageable first four games, when UTEP will probably be leaning on running back Nathan Jeffery and its tight ends, will be a key. An offense that struggled last year returns most of its big names, but a defense that was much better loses most of its starters, resulting in an upcoming season that is hard to predict.

2013 UTEP Miners Team Preview
 

100. New Mexico
There was nowhere to go but up when coach Bob Davie came in last season to a program that had won only one game in each of the previous three seasons and was routinely blown out. Not only did the Lobos win four in Davie’s debut season, but they also lost five others by seven points or less. Can the improvement continue? The staff has certainly proven to be an upgrade, so one year under its belt should help. But there are still significant personnel issues. The defense, once Davie’s calling card, and the passing game must improve for the Lobos to break through and reach .500.

2013 New Mexico Lobos Team Preview



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College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

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Teaser:
<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 81-100</p>
Post date: Monday, June 3, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/bret-bielema-and-tim-brewster-trade-jabs-over-twitter
Body:

Bret Bielema is one of the most active college football coaches on Twitter, and the newly-appointed Arkansas coach isn’t afraid to back down from anyone on social media. Whether it’s opposing fans or coaches, Bielema has provided plenty of memorable tweets this offseason.

The first-year Arkansas coach continued to provide college football fans with offseason entertainment by trading jabs with Florida State assistant Tim Brewster on Thursday night.   

And make no mistake: These two coaches aren’t friends. Bielema and Brewster have a history, dating back to 2010 and a disagreement over a two-point conversion. Despite a 25-point lead in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin went for two when Brewster was the head coach at Minnesota, drawing the ire of the Golden Gophers’ coaching staff.


Just like Bielema, Brewster isn't afraid to promote his program on Twitter, as he works as an assistant under Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. And Brewster started the back-and-forth with a notice that the Seminoles weren't afraid to play anyone in the SEC. Of course, this could have something to do with the fact Georgia and Florida State were rumored to be scheduling a game for 2016, but it appears that matchup won't happen.

 

So Bielema responded...


And here's what Brewster had to say in return:

 

And Bielema caps it off with a clear message it's not about Florida State and more about Brewster. 


So there you have it. Bielema isn't afraid to throw a few jabs in Brewster's direction, and the Florida State assistant is going to continue to promote his program. And for both coaches, this style should work well at their respective schools. Brewster is regarded as one of college football's top recruiters and isn't afraid to get his message out via Twitter. For Bielema, he needs to promote his program as much as possible, especially since he's trying to create a new identity for Arkansas in his first year.

Needless to say, a Florida State-Arkansas meeting in a bowl game sometime in the near future (assuming both coaches are in their current positions) would be an entertaining possibility. 

Just another day in college football's long offseason. 
 

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College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Arkansas' Bret Bielema and Florida State's Tim Brewster Trade Jabs Over Twitter</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 08:25
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-61-80
Body:

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, No. 26-40 features a handful of teams that just missed. And 41-60 showcases plenty of teams fighting to move up college football's food chain or improve after a disappointing season. 

But it's a different story in the No. 61-80 range.

Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia all make an appearance in this range, as all three look to improve off disappointing 2012 seasons. For other teams - San Jose State, San Diego State and UL Lafayette - climbing this high in 2013 rankings shows all three could be among the top non-BCS teams in college football for this season.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-4041-60 and 61-80

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 61-80

61. Minnesota
They haven’t won a Big Ten title in 46 years, haven’t been to the Rose Bowl in more than half a century. Yet Minnesota’s long-suffering fans fervently believe that history is finally on their side. Not their own history. Their coach’s.

Jerry Kill’s records during his first three seasons at Southern Illinois were 1–10, 4–8 and 10–2, the latter commencing a streak of seven straight I-AA playoff appearances. Kill’s records during his three seasons at Northern Illinois were 6–7, 7–6 and 10–3, and he left behind the nucleus of a team that reached the Orange Bowl last January.

Kill has the Gophers on a similar trajectory so far, going 3–9 and 6–7 his first two seasons. The Gophers were noticeably improved last year, particularly on defense, and though they remain overmatched against the Big Ten’s elite, they still managed to qualify for a minor bowl game. So after two seasons of what he describes as “baby steps,” can Kill take a giant leap forward once again?

“You’ve got to have high expectations,” says Tracy Claeys, Kill’s defensive coordinator at every stop.

2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview


62. Virginia
A six-game losing streak and 4–8 finish sapped the momentum coach Mike London had built over the previous two years. The overhaul of his staff smacked, if not of desperation, then clearly of a need for stronger direction and identity.

London has recruited well but has been criticized for his game management and lack of a consistent vision. His new hires have a combined 135 years of coaching experience. It feels a bit like a new start. Entering his fourth year, it’s probably the last one London will get.

2013 Virginia Cavaliers Team Preview


63. San Jose State
Ron Caragher has some big shoes to fill, taking over a Spartans squad that went 11–2 under Mike MacIntyre, who then bolted for Colorado. The 11 wins were the most by a San Jose State football team since 1940.

Still, with a top-notch quarterback in David Fales, an outstanding group of wide receivers and key returnees at several other spots, the Spartans figure to be very competitive in their first year in the Mountain West. The schedule, which features non-conference games against Pac-12 heavyweight Stanford, Navy and a road date at improving Minnesota of the Big Ten, is a tough one. One break for the Spartans is that they skip Boise State in conference play.

2013 San Jose State Spartans Team Preview


64. San Diego State
San Diego State has appeared in three consecutive bowl games for the first time in its history. And with the school finally deciding to remain in the Mountain West and rather than depart for the Big East, the opportunity is there for the program to position itself as the second-best program in the conference behind Boise State. Winning a share of the Mountain West crown last season earned coach Rocky Long a two-year contract extension through the 2017 season, and the belief is that bowl bids will continue to be the norm.

The Aztecs will again have a strong defense this season and one of the top running backs in the West in Adam Muema. If Adam Dingwell can again avoid mistakes, and one or two receivers can emerge as a consistent threat, San Diego State will again battle for the conference crown. Regardless, a fourth straight bowl appearance would seem to be well within reach.

2013 San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview


65. Kentucky
Mark Stoops has made all the right moves. He’s reinvigorated the fan base (season ticket sales are way up), signed the program’s highest-rated recruiting class in at least a dozen years, vowed to fix the defense and installed a (theoretically) high-powered offense. But he knows the roster, which got the last guy fired, leaves a lot to be desired. There’s also the matter of the schedule, which at one point features Louisville, Florida, at South Carolina, Alabama all in a row. Anything above five wins would constitute magic.

2013 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview
 

66. UL Lafayette
The Cajuns led the Sun Belt in scoring last season (35.5 ppg) and could be even better offensively this year. They will need to be, since ULL’s defense ranged from mediocre to bad in 2012. Coach Mark Hudspeth is confident that the new scheme will solve some of his team’s defensive issues. Still, it’s clear that the Cajuns will have to score a bunch of points to win games this season — something they are more than capable of doing. The school’s first Sun Belt title since 2005 is well within reach.

2013 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Team Preview


67. Navy
Navy has displayed remarkable consistency over the last decade, posting winning records in nine of 10 seasons and capturing the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy eight times during that span. However, such sustained success has not come easy — the Midshipmen played in 56 games that were decided by eight points or less from 2002-12.

Navy owns a 32–24 record in such games during that span, which is a major reason why it played in nine bowl games during the most successful period in program history. That ability to win the close ones will be key again this season against a rigorous schedule that features seven schools that went to bowl games in 2012.

Navy has an agreement to appear in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas if it posts a winning record. 

2013 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview


68. Washington State
Leach arrived in Pullman last year with warranted fanfare. The new Washington State coach had led Texas Tech to 10 bowl games. But Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense sputtered.

The season was marked with big losses and a controversy involving WSU’s all-time leading receiver, Marquess Wilson, who left the team in November after claiming verbal, mental and physical abuse by the coaching staff. That prompted Washington State and Pac-12 investigations, which cleared the staff of any wrongdoing.

Most Cougar fans support Leach’s disciplined approach, believing that a culture change was necessary after Washington State went 9–40 during the previous four seasons under Paul Wulff.

From all indications, players know what to expect from Leach now. They’re all on board, pulling in the same direction. That is a good start, but the Cougars still have work to do. They should be improved, but it would be a bit of a surprise if they flirted with a .500 record. 

2013 Washington State Cougars Team Preview


69. Iowa
Kirk Ferentz enters his 15th season as the Iowa coach with his once-proud legacy now hanging in the balance. The Hawkeyes closed the 2012 season with six consecutive defeats en route to a 4–8 record, their worst since 2000.

While there are some bright spots — the running game should be solid and there is decent talent on the defense — it’s tough to envision a big turnaround in 2013. With questions at quarterback and receiver, and a much tougher schedule — Ohio State and Wisconsin replace Indiana and Penn State — the Hawkeyes appear headed toward a second straight losing season.

2013 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview


70. Wake Forest
This is a crucial season for the program. Coach Jim Grobe hasn’t had a winning record since the 2006-08 bowl streak, and last year was filled with problems, including uncharacteristic off-the-field issues. This year’s team fits Grobe’s formula, though, relying on at least 14 seniors to play key roles. He loves the redshirt freshmen challenging for spots and admits that a better attitude surrounds the program. “You can sense that there’s a lot of guys who like to play football,” he says. “That’s maybe something we’ve missed for a little while. We haven’t quite had that spark that makes you feel that everybody’s loving it.”

2013 Wake Forest Team Preview


71. South Florida
“Do something.’’ It’s the mantra of coach Willie Taggart — and it’s appropriate for a South Florida program that hasn’t done nearly enough in recent seasons. The Bulls, picked for second place in last season’s Big East poll, were 3–9 and 1–6 in the league. Skip Holtz was fired after losing 14 of his last 16 conference games.

The Bulls, in the retooled American Athletic Conference, just need to do something, as Taggart might say. The recruiting and energy level already have picked up considerably. A winning record and a bowl-game appearance — not seen at South Florida since 2010 — are achievable steps in the right direction.

2013 South Florida Team Preview


72. Marshall
This looks like a team that can win the reconfigured and depleted Conference USA. Quarterback Rakeem Cato has a shot to be the league’s best player again, and the offense should be able to put up big points if the outside receivers can be productive and stretch defenses away from receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins.

Defensively, the unit is more experienced and has a new coordinator, so there is at least hope it can hold up its end of the bargain one year after surrendering over 50 points five times.

With UCF off to the Big East and the game with East Carolina at home, the East Division title is certainly within reach for the Herd.

2013 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview


73. Duke
The good news is that the 2012 Duke season was not a flash in the pan. If anything, the 2013 team has more experience and more talent across the board. But there are still issues that need to be addressed — run defense, anyone? — and there is the fact that the rest of the ACC has improved right alongside the Blue Devils. 

Duke is certainly capable of running the table with its non-conference schedule, and there are several winnable ACC games out there — Pittsburgh at home on Sept. 21 comes to mind — but Duke doesn’t have much margin for error if it wants to reach a bowl game for the second straight season. 

2013 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview


74. Ball State
For the first time in school history, Ball State knocked off back-to-back BCS conference foes (Indiana and South Florida) last year. That’s a sign of where the Cardinals are headed. If the defense takes a step forward and the new specialists hold their own, Ball State will challenge for MAC West supremacy.

2013 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview


75. Syracuse
With Doug Marrone guiding the 2012 team to a 6–1 finish, the stage was set for a smooth transition to the ACC. Marrone’s departure clouded the optimism. That noted, new coach Scott Shafer was part of Marrone’s staff and understands the program and personnel well. He knows the onus will shift from the offense to defense and special teams this season. The ability of those units to offset the inexperience on offense holds the key to SU’s season.

2013 Syracuse Orange Team Preview


76. Nevada
A new regime makes Nevada tough to predict. The offense should still be formidable, and the Wolf Pack’s porous defense could be improved. But with a brutal road schedule that includes trips to UCLA, Florida State, Boise State, Fresno State and San Diego State, even a modest defensive improvement might not be enough for the Wolf Pack to return to a bowl for a ninth consecutive season.

2013 Nevada Wolf Pack Team Preview


77. East Carolina
Quarterback Shane Carden seems primed for another big year in coordinator Lincoln Riley’s spread offense. Receiver Justin Hardy is a dynamic, game-changing player, and NFL scouts are drooling over Justin Jones, who could bust out big this season.

The question marks are on defense, where new coordinator Rick Smith begins his second tour of duty at East Carolina. He was the school’s defensive backs coach from 2005-09 and has 32 years of experience. If he can shore up the pass defense, East Carolina will be in position to earn its seventh bowl bid in the last eight years and contend for the Conference USA East Division title. 

2013 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview


78. Purdue
Coach Darrell Hazell and his staff weren’t left with an abundance of talent, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. The non-conference schedule is difficult with home games against Notre Dame and Northern Illinois in addition to the trip to Cincinnati.  We’ll get an idea if Purdue has a chance to be any kind of factor in the Big Ten when it plays its conference opener at Wisconsin on Sept. 21. A winning record equals a successful season. Make that very successful.

2013 Purdue Boilermakers Team Preview


79. Toledo
Toledo has a 26–13 record overall and 20–4 mark in the MAC over the past three seasons with three straight bowl appearances. The only thing missing is a conference title, something this program has not won since 2004.

The offense is loaded, with four all-conference players back, plus a veteran quarterback in Terrance Owens. The Rockets, however, might have to overwhelm the opposition to reach a championship. The strength of the defense remains in doubt, following the loss of Dan Molls, the nation’s leading tackler in 2012, and eight other starters.

Second-year coach Matt Campbell contends he has the talent on hand to finally conquer the MAC West Division, but his defense will need to show up early and often for that to happen.

2013 Toledo Rockets Team Preview
 

80. UL Monroe
Injuries to arguably ULM’s top six players derailed last season’s Sun Belt title hopes. The Warhawks still played in their first FBS bowl, but that ended with a surprisingly lopsided 45–14 loss to Ohio in the Independence Bowl.

This season represents the best shot at a conference crown for coach Todd Berry and quarterback Kolton Browning, who guided the program to its best season in two decades of FBS competition in 2012.

“I think this group is hungry. They are not arrogant, but there is a little more swagger than before,” says Berry, who received a new four-year contract in the offseason. “We had to get through some injuries, and we did not end last year like we wanted. So our team doesn’t like how people are talking about them. But those injuries forced other guys to play a lot, and that’s led us to where we are now.”

The Warhawks have pivotal home conference games against Western Kentucky and Arkansas State, both bowl teams a year ago, and a season-ending trip to rival UL Lafayette that could have conference title implications. 

2013 ULM Warhawks Team Preview


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Teaser:
<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 61-80</p>
Post date: Friday, May 31, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-41-60
Body:

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, No. 26-40 features a handful of teams that just missed. And 41-60 showcases plenty of teams fighting to move up college football's food chain or improve after a disappointing season. Auburn was one of the SEC's worst teams last year but expects to rebound with the hire of Gus Malzahn. Missouri struggled in its SEC debut, and the Tigers hope a healthy James Franklin at quarterback can make a big difference in 2013.

Another intriguing team to watch in this range is West Virginia. The Mountaineers must replace quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. With so many new faces stepping into key roles in Morgantown, West Virginia could struggle just to get to a bowl game.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-40 and 41-60

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 41-60

41. Mississippi State
MSU has won 29 games in four years under coach Dan Mullen, earning bowl berths each of the last three seasons. That’s a big step forward for this program, but there is a hunger for much more. The Bulldogs just moved into a $25 million football-only facility, which could be viewed as symbolic of their effort to join the SEC’s elite.

To do that, both lines must play at a much higher level, because the SEC will always expose weaknesses in the trenches. As it was last year, the back end of MSU’s schedule is loaded, with games against South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss. That closing stretch will define the Bulldogs’ season and show just how far the program has come under Mullen.

2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs Team Preview


42. Auburn
There is talent at Auburn, which has signed many highly rated classes in recent years. The most telling factor of coach Gus Malzahn’s tenure will be whether he can coach up and retain that talent, two areas where Gene Chizik failed before his firing.

Most likely, Malzahn’s first year will see too many SEC teams that are more talented and have more depth than Auburn at too many positions. The Tigers do play in the SEC West, after all. But expect Malzahn and his offense to have some fun along the way. Auburn will beat someone it shouldn’t because of Malzahn’s fast-paced offense.

2013 Auburn Tigers Team Preview
 

43. BYU
Staging a slideshow to illustrate his points, coach Bronco Mendenhall outlined BYU’s success on and off the field in his first eight seasons with a Signing Day news conference that served as an impassioned defense of his program. Of course, BYU’s most pressing issue is upgrading the offense. Its ineffectiveness kept the Cougars from capitalizing on the best defensive performance in school history.

Matching last season’s 8–5 record will be a challenge in 2013, even if coordinator Robert Anae’s fast-tempo offense is more productive. The Cougars are facing what Mendenhall labels their toughest schedule ever, with home games against Boise State and Texas and visits to Wisconsin and Notre Dame. 

2013 BYU Cougars Team Preview


44. Northern Illinois
New coach Rod Carey inherits a program with a fan base thirsting to follow in the footsteps of BCS crashers Boise State and TCU. Expectations have reached unreal levels at Northern Illinois after three straight seasons with at least 11 wins, five consecutive bowl appearances — including last year’s Orange Bowl — and two MAC championships in a row. The 2012 season was a perfect combination of a favorable schedule, weakened conference and some key late developments — most beyond NIU’s control — that allowed the Huskies to elbow their way into a BCS bowl.

The offense faces a new set of questions in 2013. Opponents won’t be caught off guard after spending the offseason game-planning to stop quarterback Jordan Lynch. The success of the season might hinge on NIU finding playmakers to take pressure off of their record-setting quarterback. There’s also the question about Carey’s ability to handle the transition from assistant coach to CEO at what is now a high-pressured job.

The pieces are in place for a third straight MAC title, but it won’t be as easy as many NIU fans envision.

2013 Northern Illinois Team Preview


45. Texas Tech
Things changed in Lubbock the night Kliff Kingsbury was announced as Texas Tech’s new head football coach. With one move, a fan base that had been fractured since the tail end of the Mike Leach era suddenly became united.

But a united fan base doesn’t guarantee success. The Red Raiders have some nice pieces, but there might be a few too many questions — Can Michael Brewer shine at quarterback? Can the offensive line replace three starters? Can the secondary hold its own? — for this team to be a significant factor in the Big 12 race in 2013.

2013 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview


46. Tennessee
Butch Jones inherited a questionable roster and a brutal schedule, but his first year might also come with an unusual gift in the cutthroat SEC — very reasonable expectations from a win-starved fan base. If the Vols can pull off six wins and make a bowl, fans would be thrilled. (So would bowl executives, because ticket sales would be brisk.)

A large senior class that seems to have eagerly embraced the new coaching staff offers hope that this group can overachieve. And after three seasons in which every close SEC game seemed to go the other way, the Vols are due for some better luck.

2013 Tennessee Volunteers Team Preview


47. Rutgers
These are heady times for Rutgers. A year removed from a share of the program’s first league title, the school is Big Ten-bound after this season. That makes this year — in the newly named American Athletic Conference — a transition year. That could be the case on the field as well for coach Kyle Flood, whose team staggered to a 2–4 finish despite featuring six players invited to the NFL Combine.

The development of quarterback Gary Nova and the revamped back seven hold the keys to this season. If both areas turn out to be a strength, Rutgers can compete for a league title and a BCS berth. If not, the Scarlet Knights could have trouble breaking the .500 mark.

2013 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Team Preview


48. Missouri
Missouri’s first year in the SEC was rife with change, and it wasn’t for the better as the Tigers suffered their first losing season since 2004. The changes continued in the offseason with the abrupt resignation of offensive coordinator David Yost, a longtime Gary Pinkel assistant. Former offensive line coach Josh Henson is now in charge of a Missouri attack that found life in the SEC to be more physical — and low scoring — than the Big 12. 

As Pinkel enters his 13th year at Missouri, faith in the Tigers boss could be floundering. The Tigers haven’t suffered back-to-back losing seasons since Pinkel’s first two years in Columbia, but their transition to the SEC was hardly smooth. After a clear step back in 2012, Missouri needs to move forward in 2013 or be left in the dust by their new conference foes.

2013 Missouri Tigers Team Preview


49. Arkansas
The Razorbacks have question marks in too many areas to be considered a contender. Having three head coaches in an eight-month span in the aftermath of the Bobby Petrino scandal has seemingly sidetracked a program that passed its way into the top 10 for a couple of seasons. Expecting a well-oiled transition to a stronger drive-blocking running game would be unreasonable. In a best-case scenario, quality blockers emerge across the board, quarterback play is efficient, the running game is unleashed and playmakers rise up on all three levels on defense. Even if several of those scenarios take place, the Razorbacks have a long trip back to SEC West contention.

2013 Arkansas Razorbacks Team Preview


50. Tulsa
Tulsa has quietly become a solid football program. The Golden Hurricane have won 10-plus games in four of their last six seasons and have been to a bowl game in seven of the past eight years. In his second season, coach Bill Blankenship led the school to its first C-USA title since 2005 and second top-25 ranking in three seasons.

Blankenship often said in the spring that maintaining the championship level is more difficult than chasing a title. He has challenged his team to repeat in its final season in Conference USA before it leaves for the American Athletic Conference in 2014.

For that to happen, Tulsa must identify some new playmakers on defense and continue to have success running the ball on offense.

2013 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Team Preview


51. UCF
The knock on UCF has long been its inability to string together winning seasons. With quarterback Blake Bortles at the head of an experienced and versatile offense, the Knights feel like they’re primed to match their 10-win output from 2012 and silence those critics.

The key will be the growth and development on the other side of the ball, however.

If UCF can develop its defense and find the right players to plug into several key holes in the secondary and at linebacker, it might find a way to challenge for a conference title with the likes of Louisville and Cincinnati. If not, the Knights could struggle against a consistently higher level of competition than they ever faced in Conference USA.

2013 UCF Knights Team Preview


52. Pittsburgh
Change is sweeping through the Pittsburgh football program as it moves from the Big East to the ACC. But the absolute biggest storyline is what remains the same: Paul Chryst. By returning, Chryst ended a tumultuous three-year odyssey in which Pittsburgh saw three different coaches lead its program. The next step for Chryst is to elevate a team that has been mediocre the past three seasons.

With uncertainty at quarterback and running back — and with the transition to a new conference — Pittsburgh likely will endure growing pains. The Panthers, though, could go a long way toward building instant momentum by defeating ACC foe Florida State in a nationally televised season opener at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh nearly pulled off a triple-overtime win at Notre Dame last season, so an upset isn’t out of the question. Nor is a slight improvement in Chryst’s second season.

2013 Pittsburgh Panthers Team Preview


53. Maryland
It’s the final go-round in the ACC for Maryland, which moves to the Big Ten in 2014. The Terrapins has six victories to show for coach Randy Edsall’s first two seasons and enough injuries to fill medical manuals for years. Maryland lost 10 players to season-enders last year, including four quarterbacks. Now, the Terps have some speed and some big-play potential but a lot of questions.

C.J. Brown, the first of the four quarterbacks to go down last year, is an inspirational team leader who seems to rally those around him. If he can do that — and get the ball in the hands of wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long and those running backs in space — Maryland should at least be fun to watch.

The defense looks faster, too, but that doesn’t necessarily mean improved. Special teams weren’t so special last year, either. Edsall has back-to-back top 35 recruiting classes, but he may need at least one more before the Terps can be a real threat. And then they’ll have to do it in the Big Ten.

2013 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview


54. NC State
NC State athletic director Debbie Yow has already said she expects 2013 to be a rebuilding season, but coach Dave Doeren won quickly at NIU with a roster he inherited from another coach. The offense will have to run the ball more effectively, and quarterback Pete Thomas will have to learn a new scheme. The defense should be able to carry the mail, especially with the first four games at home, as the team adjusts to the new staff. Don’t expect State to be a significant factor in the ACC Atlantic Division race, but there is enough talent on the roster to return to a bowl game for the fourth straight season.

2013 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview


55. California
Coach Sonny Dykes needs to find a quarterback, but he is inheriting enough talent at running back and wide receiver to have immediate success on offense. The defense, however, could be an issue, especially with some expected growing pains with a new coordinator and a new system.

The schedule is also extremely difficult — the Bears play USC and UCLA from the South and host Ohio State and Northwestern in non-conference action. There will be progress, but it might not show up in the win column. Reaching bowl-eligibility will be a challenge. 

2013 California Golden Bears Team Preview



56. West Virginia
Early in spring drills, coach Dana Holgorsen said his team “lost a lot of star power, but we have a lot of hungry kids.” It’s a good thing. Holgorsen, his players and Mountaineers fans have a lot to chew on. One can always expect offense from Holgorsen. But this might be his toughest challenge in years. Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rewrote WVU’s offensive records. Holgorsen will have to rely not only on a young quarterback, but also young receivers and a rebuilt offensive line. His defense is getting better talent, but not much should be expected there this season. On top of it all, Holgorsen has five new assistants.

2013 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview


57. Iowa State
The Cyclones have reached the postseason three of the last four years, and each time they outperformed expectations to get there. That will have to be the case again this season in their quest for (at least) six wins and a bowl bid.

The pieces are in place offensively to improve upon last year’s production (24.5 points and 364.2 yards per game), and it has to in order to be a factor in the Big 12. The defense lost a number of important players whose absence will be felt tremendously. Untested players will have to step in and have an impact right away for ISU to have any shot at reaching its goals.

The program is on the up-tick, in a lot of ways. Fan support has always been strong, and with the success under coach Paul Rhoads it’s reached unprecedented heights. Fans should expect growing pains, especially on defense, although there’s a chance to once again be playing and practicing in December.   

2013 Iowa State Cyclones Team Preview


58. Utah
The Utes became known for their major bowl breakthroughs and high national rankings as a Mountain West power, but they have found life in the Pac-12 to be much more demanding. Utah has gone 7–11 in two seasons of conference play. How Dennis Erickson’s product performs against Pac-12 defenses will determine whether the Utes can get back to a bowl game in 2013. They face a more difficult challenge, with Oregon and Stanford on their schedule for the first time since the Utes joined the league. “We have a lot of work to do, addressing our deficiencies,” coach Kyle Whittingham says. 

2013 Utah Utes Team Preview


59. Indiana
Coach Kevin Wilson is tired of merely coming close and knows that this is the season that the Hoosiers should at least enjoy bowl-eligibility. The schedule is loaded with eight home games, and Indiana does not play away from Memorial Stadium until Oct. 12. Wilson and his staff recruited the highest-ranked class in IU history, packing it with the speed and size that his defense has lacked to stop the run.

But winning with freshmen is difficult in the Big Ten, so offense will remain Indiana’s calling card for at least one more season. Indiana’s best offensive players — Tre Roberson, Stephen Houston, Ted Bolser, Kofi Hughes — are starting their third season in Wilson’s high-tempo system, mastering the necessary deceptions. If the defense can make modest improvement, Indiana could score its way to six victories.

2013 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview


60. Utah State
The Aggies return plenty of experience from a team that won 11 games and was ranked No. 16 in the final AP poll. However, the move to the stronger Mountain West will pose plenty of challenges. The non-conference schedule is difficult as well, with trips to Utah and USC and a home date with BYU.

There could be a few hiccups with the transition from Gary Andersen to Matt Wells, but there have been no significant changes in philosophy, which should help this veteran team pick up where it left off. USU has won 16 of its last 19 games, and the three losses were by a combined six points. Another bowl game should be in the Aggies’ sights.

2013 Utah State Aggies Team Preview



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Teaser:
<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 41-60</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-26-40
Body:

The start of the college football season is just weeks away, and Athlon Sports is counting down the top teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

While there is always plenty of intrigue in filling out the top 25, Nos. 26-40 feature a handful of teams that just missed. USC and UCLA should push Arizona State for the Pac-12 title and will be among the top 30 teams in college football this year. This range also finds a handful of teams from the ACC Coastal, including projected division champ Miami. 

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with Nos. 26-40. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 26-40

26. USC
Lane Kiffin is feeling considerable heat after 2012’s disappointing 7–6 finish for a team some ranked No. 1 nationally heading into the season. Now he has the unenviable task of trying to return to prominence with an inexperienced quarterback, a major question mark at left tackle and a defense that could be vulnerable in the secondary.

If nothing else, at least he gets a break in a schedule that doesn’t include national power Oregon and opens with four games that the Trojans should win — three of them at home.

After that, though, things get difficult. The feeling is Kiffin needs nine or 10 victories, or his job could be in serious jeopardy.

2013 USC Trojans Team Preview


27. UCLA
The path to a division title is tougher in 2013, especially with a schedule that features road games at USC, Stanford and Oregon. Quarterback Brett Hundley will be better as a sophomore, but the Bruins need to find a replacement for running back Johnathan Franklin. The defense, which returns five starters, has room to improve after giving up 415.9 yards per game last year. The Bruins could be a better team, yet fail to repeat as division champs.

2013 UCLA Bruins Team Preview


28. Vanderbilt
James Franklin has accomplished something most thought was not possible: He’s made Vanderbilt football relevant in the SEC. The Commodores went 9–4 overall and 5–3 in the SEC. The nine wins were the most since 1915, and the winning record in the league was the school’s first since 1982. And there was nothing fluky about Vanderbilt’s breakthrough season — the Dores ranked fifth in the league in total defense and a respectable eighth in total offense. While a few key players must be replaced on both sides of the ball, there is more than enough returning talent to take this program to a third straight bowl game.

2013 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview


29. Miami
It’s been a decade since Miami last won 10 games in a season, and the lack of success has gradually eroded expectations. But things could be on the upswing in Coral Gables despite a never-ending NCAA investigation that has dogged Al Golden in his two-plus seasons as coach. With eight starters returning for a potentially explosive offense, four starters back on a rebuilding defense and a manageable schedule, the Hurricanes are a legitimate contender for a Coastal Division title and their first trip to the ACC title game.

2013 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview


30. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech made changes to its staff in hopes that the shuffling gets the offense closer to the decades-long success of Bud Foster’s defense. The reality is that with completely new offensive tackles, a revamped receiving corps and question marks at running back, it might be more of the same until the new coaches can get a few recruiting classes under their belts.

Virginia Tech still has quarterback Logan Thomas and a defense that returns nine starters from a group that finished 18th nationally last year. An ACC title isn’t out of the question.

2013 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview


31. Kansas State
K-State has improved its record each and every season since coach Bill Snyder came out of retirement in 2009. From six wins his first year back to seven victories and a bowl game to 10 wins and the Cotton Bowl to 11 victories and a Big 12 championship last season — the Wildcats have continually gotten better.

But that upward trend will be difficult to continue with the losses of Heisman finalist quarterback Collin Klein, wideout Chris Harper, linebacker Arthur Brown, and several other key defensive starters.

The Wildcats return enough talent to be a threat in the Big 12, but not enough for another BCS bowl.

2013 Kansas State Wildcats Team Preview


32. Michigan State
Michigan State’s close losses last season (five by four points or fewer) are well documented. But the Spartans also won four games by four points or fewer. The margin for error for this team was razor thin. The 2013 season could look a lot like the ’12 campaign. The Spartans will once again be outstanding on defense, but issues remain on offense. The hope is that the improved offensive line will help the rest of the unit flourish. The schedule is favorable, but on paper it’s tough to project this team to finish higher than Michigan, Nebraska or Northwestern in the division. 

2013 Michigan State Spartans Team Preview


33. Ole Miss
Quarterback Bo Wallace can be a star if he cuts down on his interceptions. The Rebels need him to do that to be successful on the road early — they play at Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama and Auburn — so that they’re not forced to climb uphill in the standings in a late string of home games.

Ole Miss exceeded expectations last year largely because it stayed relatively healthy. A similar dose of good fortune would be helpful again. The starters are talented, but the Rebels do not have quality depth across the board.

2013 Ole Miss Rebels Team Preview


34. Georgia Tech
With 16 returning starters and a team loaded with seniors, the 2013 Yellow Jackets could be coach Paul Johnson’s best team since the 2009 Orange Bowl squad. Much depends on how consistent quarterback Vad Lee can be, and if Georgia Tech can handle a tough schedule in which it will play four Coastal Division opponents in a row, including Virginia Tech on five days’ rest. The Jackets will need to find a way to handle division rivals Miami and Virginia Tech as well. While there have been a number of close calls, Johnson is a combined 2–8 against the Canes and Hokies. Georgia Tech is hardly a favorite, but it has the ingredients to win the division and play for the ACC title.

2013 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Team Preview


35. Cincinnati
The 58-year-old Tommy Tuberville seems energized by his move to Cincinnati. Tuberville went 20–17 at Texas Tech and was never truly embraced by the fans, but Cincinnati boosters are thrilled to have him. UC never has had a coach with anything resembling Tuberville’s national pedigree, which includes an 85–40 record at Auburn from 1999-2008.

There is a solid core of returnees, but the unknown is how much impact to expect from several transfers. Rodriguez Moore (all-purpose back) and Jeff Luc (linebacker), at one point or another, were rated No. 1 nationally at their positions by various recruiting services.

The Bearcats had 10-win seasons in both 2011 and 2012 under Butch Jones, who parlayed his success into the Tennessee job. With a relatively kind schedule, Cincinnati fans could see another season of double-digit wins. 

2013 Cincinnati Bearcats Team Preview


36. Baylor
Admittedly, coach Art Briles is biased, but he likes his team — a lot: “I feel like we’re going to win (the league title) every year,” he says. Quarterback Bryce Petty seems more than capable of taking the Bears to their fourth straight bowl game. And the Bears are loaded with talent at the skill positions, including running back Lache Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese. But the offensive line will have to hold up, and the defense has to be much better if Baylor plans on being a factor in the Big 12 title chase.

2013 Baylor Bears Team Preview


37. Washington
With a more imposing Husky Stadium, a new era of Washington football excellence is expected. The Huskies have nearly everyone back, but they need quarterback Keith Price at the top of his game.

Anything short of eight or nine wins and more serious title contention will be disappointing for a program eager to return to the national conversation.

2013 Washington Huskies Team Preview


38. North Carolina
Fans who like offense should get ready for another exciting season in Chapel Hill. Points should be plentiful once again — on both sides of the scoreboard.

The Tar Heels have sufficient firepower on offense as long as the offensive line can hold its own during a transition year up front and quarterback Bryn Renner can stay healthy. The latter, of course, is at least somewhat dependent upon the former.

On the other side of the ball, UNC players and coaches believe that a year of experience will lead to fewer missed assignments and penalties. With little proven talent on defense, the question is whether the Tar Heels can produce enough stops to emerge victorious from shootouts. The answer will go a long way in determining whether UNC can contend for the ACC Coastal Division crown.

2013 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview


39. Penn State
The Nittany Lions have the potential to score a lot of points if they’re able to find a reliable quarterback. They averaged just under 30 points per game last season, and that was while everyone was adapting to a radically new offense. This year, the schemes are familiar and players have adjusted to strength coach Craig Fitzgerald’s modernized weight program, so optimism is running high. That said, Penn State may need all the points the offense can muster. An injury or two at linebacker, where depth is precariously low, could create major problems.

2013 Penn State Nittany Lions Team Preview


40. Arizona
Somehow Arizona won eight games, including a bowl game, with the worst defense in school history by balancing it with the most prolific offense in school history. Those numbers aren’t likely to be as extreme this year. With Matt Scott gone, the quarterbacking situation is worrisome, but on defense the Wildcats appear to be improved. 

Arizona’s most telling advantage is its non-conference schedule; the Wildcats open against Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA. That should allow coach Rich Rodriguez the time to select a starting quarterback for the Pac-12 season, and replace receiver Austin Hill’s pass-catching load from among a group of five capable receivers. This is a veteran team looking for a quarterback to lead it. By November, when Arizona plays powers UCLA and Oregon in Tucson, the Wildcats could be good enough to upset either.

2013 Arizona Wildcats Team Preview

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Teaser:
<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 26-40</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/everett-golsons-departure-big-loss-notre-dame
Body:

After throwing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season, Everett Golson was poised to emerge as one of Notre Dame’s top players for 2013. The Fighting Irish expected their defense to rank among the best nationally once again, but the offense was supposed to shoulder more of the burden this fall.

However, that outlook has changed significantly. Golson has been suspended for the 2013 season due to an academic issue, dealing the Notre Dame offense a huge setback three months before kickoff. While the Fighting Irish offense will miss Golson this season, the sophomore plans on returning to the team in 2014.

Although Golson wasn’t going to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football this year, it was clear he made progress in the second half of 2012 and held his own (21-of-36, 270 yards, TD, INT) against Alabama in the national championship game.

Everett Golson's 2013 Statistics

  Rush Att Rush Yds TDs Comp Att Yards Comp. % TDs INTs
First 7 Games 42 81 2 79 135 968 58.5 4 3
First 6 Games 52 217 4 108 183 1,437 59.0 8 3


Where Does Notre Dame Go From Here?

Losing Golson is a clear setback for Notre Dame’s offense. However, if there is any good news surrounding this situation, it’s the fact that backup Tommy Rees has played in 33 career games and has 18 starts under his belt.

Rees has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career, along with a 63.5 completion percentage. With Golson sidelined against BYU last year, Rees completed seven of 16 passes for 117 yards and one score.

There’s no question Rees has the experience necessary to lead Notre Dame to 10 wins in 2013. However, in terms of talent, Golson clearly had the edge and his mobility added an extra dimension to the offense.

Rees should open fall practice atop the depth chart, but junior Andrew Hendrix (304 career passing yards) and true freshman Malik Zaire will compete for time. Hendrix is a good runner but has yet to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm.

Zaire was rated as Athlon's No. 21 quarterback and has dual-threat ability. But would a true freshman be a better option than Rees this season? Probably not.

Considering Brian Kelly’s experience at Cincinnati and at Notre Dame, during which he has won with multiple quarterbacks, the Fighting Irish offense should be solid regardless of who is under center. No, Notre Dame isn't going to score 35-40 points a game, but the offense should do just enough to keep this team in every game. Rees may not bring much dynamic ability to the position, but he has experience and played well when called upon last year. If Zaire has to start, the Fighting Irish will have to lean on their defense even more than last season.

Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect Notre Dame to lean more on its ground attack – even with the departure of running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. USC transfer Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson III and true freshman Greg Bryant should be a capable trio, and Notre Dame returns three starters on one of the top 15 offensive lines in the nation.

How Many Games Will Notre Dame Win in 2013?

Make no mistake: Notre Dame has one of the toughest schedules in college football for 2013. The Fighting Irish must play 11 bowl teams, with road trips to Michigan, Pittsburgh and Stanford. And there’s a neutral site matchup against Arizona State, who is picked as the favorite by Athlon Sports to win the Pac-12 South.

Considering Notre Dame has one of the nation’s top defenses, along with a reliable rushing attack and offensive line, winning 10 games is certainly possible. Had Golson returned, the Fighting Irish would have to be considered a national title contender. However, without Golson, Notre Dame will take a step back on offense.

Athlon ranked Notre Dame as the No. 8 team for 2013 and projected the Fighting Irish to finish 10-2 prior to Golson’s suspension. But that may be too optimistic with Rees, Zaire or Hendrix under center.

Despite the loss of Golson, the Fighting Irish should have a chance to play for a BCS game. The strength of schedule will help in the polls, and the defense should be able to carry Notre Dame while the offense settles on a quarterback.

There’s not much room for error for Notre Dame in 2013. However, if the defense matches last year’s performance, the Fighting Irish should be able to finish 9-3 or 10-2 and rank among the top 14 teams at the end of the regular season.

After last year's appearance in the national championship game, it was clear Notre Dame was headed on the right track under Brian Kelly. Losing Golson is a setback, but nothing that should derail the Fighting Irish from becoming a consistent top 10-15 team.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Everett Golson's Departure a Big Loss for Notre Dame</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:25
Path: /college-football/what-alabamas-biggest-obstacle-national-title-2013
Body:

With college football’s postseason set to change after the 2013 season, Alabama could finish the BCS era as the only team to win three consecutive national titles. The Crimson Tide has claimed back-to-back championships thanks to dominating wins over LSU and Notre Dame.

Considering it’s no easy task to win a national title, every year presents new challenges and obstacles for a team to overcome. Alabama has one of the best rosters in college football, with depth overflowing at each position. But a few injuries could change the outlook for this team. The schedule isn’t overwhelming this year, but a road trip to Texas A&M on Sept. 14 will play an early role in determining how the SEC West title picture will unfold in 2013.

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Alabama ranks as Athlon's No. 1 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What is Alabama's Biggest Obstacle to a National Title in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Alabama’s biggest obstacle to a three-peat is Alabama. Yes, Johnny Manziel presents a difficult challenge, and Les Miles usually finds a way to bring it against Nick Saban. But the machine that Saban has built in Tuscaloosa can only be stopped by itself.

Alabama is in completely uncharted territory. There’s no script to follow to ensure that there’s no complacency within the players and that leadership is evolving the way it needs to. There’s typical player personnel turnover and a potential showdown with whoever wins the SEC East. But again, it all comes back to Alabama taking care of business.

Only two times in the past 15 years has the SEC Champion even made it back to Atlanta to defend their conference crown, and both of those teams lost. Alabama is rewriting the script, again. I guess that’s just part of ‘the process’. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Alabama has its question marks, chiefly the offensive line and what happens against an elite passing offense. The secondary is a spot where Alabama is merely “very good” rather than elite. If Alabama can survive Texas A&M’s best shot on Sept. 14 and Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 28, the Tide don’t look to be tested by a great passing game for the remainder of the season. So that means Alabama’s greatest adversary in 2013 may be complacency. Alabama has the experience, talent and coaching to win a title. Getting too satisfied with back-to-back titles and a feeling that a fourth title in five seasons is a certainty would be enough to cause a slip up. Alabama is justifiably the national title favorite, as overwhelming a preseason favorite as Florida was in 2009.  The Gators title chase was ended by Alabama, which should be a reminder that as good as a team looks in June, it means little by December.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
For a two-time defending champion that plays in the vaunted SEC, Alabama's schedule isn't all that daunting at all. LSU at home will be a game full of elite players and electric energy, but the gap between these two programs seems to be growing ever so slightly. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide will be a heavy favorite in every other game except the trip to College Station. However, because Nick Saban has been preparing for Johnny Manziel for over a year now and revenge could play a huge role, I will go out on a limb and say the SEC Championship game will be their biggest hurdle. Yes, Ohio State or Oregon or Stanford or Clemson could pose a threat in the BCS National Championship game, but either Georgia or South Carolina in Atlanta will be the toughest challenge Alabama will face in 2013. The regular season will be in the rearview and the stakes will likely be as clear as they were a year ago: Win in the Georgia Dome on Championship Saturday and you likely win the BCS National Championship.
 

John Pennington, MrSEC.com, (@MrSEC)
The list of obstacles is long.  Winning in the toughest division in college football is obviously a pretty big issue.  Rebuilding the offensive line must be considered.  For a third-straight year, Alabama will need to get some breaks, the lucky bounces and scheduling quirks that all title-winning teams require.  In addition, the media spotlight on a team going for it's third crown in three years will be blinding.

But the biggest issue facing the Tide in 2013 can be found between the ear holes of Bama's players' helmets.  It's attitude. 

In 2010, Alabama returned a good chunk of its 2009 BCS championship squad, but the chemistry was not the same.  Nick Saban spent the entire 2010 offseason telling his team that it was a new year and that his current team -- as it was put together in 2010 -- hadn't won anything yet.  Ultimately, the message was not received.

Last year, Saban's squad remained hungry, even after collecting the 2011 national title.  Will players who've now won two-straight titles work just as hard and study just as long as they have the last two years?  Will young players mistakenly believe that they can just roll their crimson helmets out onto the field and win simply because they represent Alabama?

The biggest obstacle for Bama in 2013 is a mental one.  Will Crimson Tide players remain hungry, driven and focused?
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There are many obstacles to a third consecutive national championship for Alabama. While I think all will be overcome by the Crimson Tide as they are my pick to win the national title this season, let’s keep this in mind: It’s very, very difficult to go undefeated. Needless to say, winning a third straight title will require some luck and favorable bounces.

The schedule isn’t too taxing, but matchups at Texas A&M and the SEC Championship will be a challenge. Most of the key personnel is back from last season, but the offensive line and secondary are two areas to watch in terms of development early in the year. And of course, there’s the issue of complacency. Coach Nick Saban continues to push this team to make that a non-issue, so I doubt that’s going to prevent Alabama from winning a title this year.

While the schedule, personnel and complacency are concerns, I think the biggest obstacle is health. Alabama has one of the deepest rosters in the nation, but the backup quarterback spot is a concern. What happens if quarterback AJ McCarron is forced to miss a couple of games? Would the Crimson Tide offense continue to thrive with Blake Sims or Alec Morris under center? Luckily for Alabama, having a deep backfield and receiving corps takes the pressure off of the quarterback, but an injury to McCarron could prove very costly. 
 

Mark Ross
The biggest obstacle to Alabama winning a third straight national championship is one thing that is really out of Nick Saban's, the rest of the coaching staff's and even the players' hands - health. The Crimson Tide can take care of business on the field, and off of it for that matter, but there's only so much that can be done to prevent injury, especially the freak ones. As good as Alabama is and as deep as their roster goes, this is an entirely different team if it were to lose one of its key pieces, say quarterback AJ McCarron? If something were to happen to McCarron, Saban would then have to turn things over to junior Blake Sims, who has thrown a grand total of 10 passes and started out as a running back.

McCarron is probably the one player Alabama can least afford to lose, but he's not alone as any injury could result in a shuffling of the depth chart at one or more positions. Alabama has a lot of talent throughout its roster and returns 14 starters from last year's championship team. But in the SEC the stakes are always high, especially in Tuscaloosa as one loss could be the difference between a shot at a three-peat or some other bowl game.

 

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Teaser:
<p> What is Alabama's Biggest Obstacle to a National Title in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/where-does-braxton-miller-rank-among-best-quarterbacks-nationally
Body:

Braxton Miller thrived in his first season under coach Urban Meyer, throwing for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 scores.

Miller carried Ohio State to a 12-0 mark last year and should be one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy in 2013.

With another offseason to work with Meyer, Miller should take another step forward as a passer in 2013. Combine improved passing skills with dynamic ability on the ground, and it’s easy to see why Miller is one of the top quarterbacks in college football.

Even though Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is considered by many to be the top returning quarterback this year, is there a chance Braxton Miller holds that title by the end of the season?

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason.

Ohio State ranks as Athlon's No. 2 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Where Does Braxton Miller Rank Among the Best Quarterbacks Nationally?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Braxton Miller has a way to go before he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country. He may be a Big Ten title-winning QB -- as he could have been last season -- and he fits the profile of a Heisman contender. Still, he needs to improve his output as a passer. In the final seven games last season, Miller completed 60 percent of his passes against only two opponents (Illinois and Michigan). In the same span, he completed fewer than half of his passes in two games (Purdue and Penn State). And this was behind an offensive line that continued to improve as the season went along. Miller’s growth as a passer from his freshman season to his sophomore season, plus another year under Meyer, suggests he’ll take another leap as a junior, but for now, quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Marcus Mariota are more dynamic commodities.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Braxton Miller may not be the top NFL quarterback prospect in the nation, but neither Urban Meyer nor Ohio State fans would trade him for anyone else in the nation. Yes, that includes the two-time defending champ in AJ McCarron and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Miller has rare electric athletic ability and the toughness of a nose tackle. He singlehandedly carried his team to a 12-0 record as just a sophomore and he is still getting better. His skills fit the Meyer spread system perfectly and he is Athlon Sports' front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy in 2013 — especially if he leads his team to the BCS National Championship game as many have predicted. In my opinion, there are seven "elite" quarterbacks in college football and it's nearly impossible to rank McCarron vs. Manziel vs. Miller vs. Tajh Boyd vs. Marcus Mariota vs. Aaron Murray vs. Teddy Bridgewater. But Miller is one of seven signal-callers whose coaches wouldn't trade for anyone else in the nation. The more interesting question might be would Bo Pelini, Jim Mora, Brady Hoke or Tim DeRuyter trade their starter for Miller? 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With names like Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Taylor Martinez and Brett Hundley returning, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the deepest collections of quarterbacks for a college football season in recent memory.

It’s hard to dispute Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel as the top quarterback in the nation. However, depending on your preference of an offense, a case could be made for any of the nine quarterbacks mentioned above. If a pure pocket passer is your pick, then McCarron, Murray and Bridgewater might rank a little higher on your list. If being mobile is the offensive system, then Mariota, Manziel and Miller have the edge.

Considering Manziel is the reigning Heisman winner, I would still rank him as the No. 1 quarterback for 2013. But considering how difficult it will be to repeat his numbers, and SEC defenses have a full offseason to gameplan for Texas A&M’s offense, Manziel may not finish 2013 as the top quarterback.

Miller is a perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread offense, has an improving set of weapons around him and should make strides as a passer in 2013. With all of those factors in play, I think there’s a good chance Miller is a first-team All-American quarterback and a Heisman Trophy winner at the end of this season.


Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
Braxton Miller may not be one of my top five quarterbacks in 2013, but he could very well be one of the three most important quarterbacks in the country. My top five right now, in no particular order, include Alabama's two-time BCS championship-winning AJ McCarron, Georgia's record-setting Aaron Murray, Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy-winning Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater as locks. The fifth spot is up for some debate, and you can make a strong case for Miller to be in there ahead of another worthy candidate such as Clemson's Tajh Boyd.

Miller is the key cog in Ohio State's plans for a successful 2013 season.  Entering his junior season, Miller will have nearly two full seasons under his belt as Ohio State's starting quarterback. That experience should pay off for the Buckeyes. He does have some room for improvement, though. Among eligible quarterbacks last season, Miller was ranked 78th in pass completion percentage and he passed for more than 2,000 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He did add more than 1,200 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, which proves he is a dual threat every time he is on the field. If Miller is going to be seen as an elite quarterback this season, then he will have to improve his passing production.
 

Mark Ross
Johnny Manziel may have the Heisman and AJ McCarron the national championships, but Miller is right up there with both when it comes to the best quarterbacks in the nation. Miller, like Manziel, is a dual threat who finished fourth in the Big Ten last season with 1,271 yards rushing and scored 13 touchdowns. He also threw for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The junior completed better than 58 percent of his passes and finished 34th in the nation in total offense despite ranking 95th in pass attempts. He's had a full season running Urban Meyer's spread offense and should be even more dangerous this season with eight other returning starters on that side of the ball.

When it comes to the best quarterbacks in the nation, I think the list has to start with Manziel because of the hardware and McCarron because of the championship resume. After that, I think you can make a strong case that Miller is next, even before the likes of reigning ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd, electric dual-threat sophomore Marcus Mariota at Oregon and potential Heisman darkhorse contender Teddy Bridgewater, to name a few. All six of these quarterbacks have one thing in common - they have the potential to lead their team to the BCS National Championship Game. And in the end, that just may be the determining factor in separating this talented sextet of signal-callers in 2013.

 
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Teaser:
<p> Where does Braxton Miller rank among the best quarterbacks nationally?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 06:44
Path: /college-football/will-georgia-have-secs-best-offense-2013
Body:

The SEC is known for its defense. But let’s not forget about the players on the other side of the ball this year.

The SEC is home to the 2012 Heisman winner in Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, while Georgia and Alabama both averaged over 32 points a game in conference contests last year.

Considering all three teams rank among the best offenses in the nation, which team takes the title as the best in the SEC?

Is it Texas A&M with Manziel at the controls? Is it Georgia with its balanced offensive approach? Or is it Alabama?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Georgia ranks as Athlon's No. 4 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
What constitutes the greatest offense? Is it scoring offense, total offense or yards per play? Once you decide what truly makes the best offense, you can decide whether Georgia should start as the No. 1 offense in the SEC. Texas A&M owned two of the three categories. Oh, and they’re returning some kid named Johnny Manziel.

With the Bulldogs returning 10 starters off last year’s offense that shelled out over 467 yards per game and scored nearly 39 points per game, Georgia is in a terrific spot to be crowned as the SEC’s best offense. With Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall and all five returning offensive linemen, how could you bet against Georgia as the most electrifying offense in the SEC?

There’s no debating Georgia has the best offense in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs should certainly be the most balanced offense in the SEC. I’m not sold they are the ‘best’ offense, but they certainly could become just that throughout 2013.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This question is supposed to make me say, “No way, Texas A&M has the best offense in the SEC.” I’m going to go against my first impulse and say Georgia will have the best offense in the SEC. The Bulldogs were right up there with Texas A&M last season in everything but wow factor and Heismans won. Both topped seven yards per play as the top two teams in the nation in that category. Texas A&M converted a ridiculous 54 percent of its third downs in SEC play. Georgia turned three-quarters of its red zone attempts into touchdowns against SEC defenses. But I’ll give the nod to Georgia for its balance. The Bulldogs have a top-flight quarterback and two elite running backs. I like Ben Malena, but Johnny Manziel is so overwhelming in the A&M offense. Drop the average quarterback on either team, and I’d give Georgia the edge. And in the year ahead, I’d give the nod to the Georgia offensive line over Texas A&M with Luke Joeckel off to the NFL. Like I said, the knee-jerk pick is A&M, but the safe bet is Georgia.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great question, and like many debates, beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder. If you want to run 100 plays per game and spread the field, say, like Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze or Dan Mullen, then Georgia's personnel may not be the best in the SEC. However, National Championships are won — even with Cam Newton and Tim Tebow under center — with a dominate offensive line and power running game. In that mold, Georgia and Alabama are the top two offenses in the league with Texas A&M a close No. 3. No one in the nation has a more talented roster than Alabama and Georgia's starting line-up returns nearly intact while Johnny Manziel loses five offensive starters, including all-time greats Luke Joeckel and Ryan Swope. Both the Dawgs and the Tide have a deep and talented skill corps, an All-American signal caller and an extremely gifted offensive line. But while Bama's O-line has plenty of upside and potential, Georgia gets the nod as all five starters return up front. Manziel and the Aggies should lead the SEC in total offense and scoring offense once again in 2013 but that doesn't necessarily make them the best.

Certainly, defense played a huge role in both Alabama's and Georgia's success last year, but there is a reason these two met in the SEC Championship game. Being able to line-up and overpower defenses like Florida and LSU was how the Tide and Dawgs made it to Atlanta and I don't see any reason why that will change this fall. I will take a dominate, physical, balanced pro-style attack over a one-man spread offense any day of the week — even one captained by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Georgia may boast the most complete, most talented pro-style attack in the nation and the only thing that will stop Mark Richt's squad this year won't be a Heisman winning spread offense, it will be a Heisman winning defensive line — like the one in Columbia, S.C.
 

John Pennington, MrSEC.com, (@MrSEC)
On paper, there are two SEC offenses that appear ready-made to put up points with ease in 2013 -- Georgia (with most everyone back) and Texas A&M (with magician Johnny Manziel back behind center).

We'll give the nod to Georgia because they return more starters on the offensive line, always a key in the Southeastern Conference.  Granted, the line struggled this spring -- only two players have been locked in as starters so far -- but the Dawgs go six or seven deep up front.  If O-line coach Will Friend can find the right combination, look out.  The same group of players helped UGA finish third in the SEC in rushing last season and second in passing.  In other words, there's enough talent to succeed as long as all the right buttons are pushed.

At the skill positions, the Bulldogs look strong.  Veteran quarterback Aaron Murray ranks among the top three quarterbacks in the SEC.  Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return for Year Two of The "Gurshall" Show.  And while both Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett will have to bounce back from knee injuries -- an increase in dropped balls could be a mental side effect -- UGA still has more than enough weapons around Murray to succeed.  On paper.

Barring problems with injuries and attitudes, Georgia should burn out some scoreboard bulbs this fall.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering the returning skill players at Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama, there is simply no wrong way to answer this question.

The Bulldogs return eight starters on offense, including all five on the line and Malcolm Mitchell is slated to spend all season at receiver instead of sharing his practice time with the defensive backs. Quarterback Aaron Murray is in his fourth year as the starter, and the running back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall could be the best in the nation.

While there’s a strong case to be made for Georgia, I can’t disagree with anyone who picks Texas A&M or Alabama. After all, the Aggies return the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel, along with one of the deepest running back corps in the nation. Texas A&M’s offense averaged 546.3 yards per game in SEC play – just over 100 more than Alabama (ranked No. 2 in the SEC last season). The Aggies held a slight edge in scoring, generating 39.1 points a game.

So what does it all mean? All three teams are very, very good on offense. But I have to give the nod to Georgia, especially with all five starters back on the offensive line and the emergence of tight end Arthur Lynch. Texas A&M and Alabama will be outstanding, but the rest of the SEC may close the gap on the Aggies’ offense with a full offseason to study Johnny Manziel. And the Crimson Tide lost three starters from one of the best offensive lines in recent memory, so there will be some transition at the beginning of the season. 


Mark Ross
In the SEC East? Yes. But in the entire SEC? As much as I like Georgia and think the Bulldogs will be one of the top teams in the country powered by its offense led by quarterback Aaron Murray, I think both Alabama and Texas A&M have more complete offenses. Georgia can match up with anyone in the country at its skill positions - quarterback, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. The offensive line, however, is still somewhat of a work in progress.

On the other hand, in the SEC West you've got Alabama and Texas A&M, who are led by a two-time national champion and reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, respectively. Both the Crimson Tide and Aggies also have talented backfields and All-American-caliber wide receivers. The difference between the two West teams and Georgia is in the offensive line. Nick Saban has put together one of the nation's best offensive lines for several years in a row. For proof, look no further than the three NFL draft picks in April, including two first-rounders in Chance Warmack (10th overall) and D.J. Fluker (11th). Not to be outdone, Texas A&M had Luke Joeckel go second overall and his replacement, Jake Matthews, could follow suit in 2014.

Even though they aren't considered playmakers, the offensive line is critical to the unit's success, as evidenced by Alabama's recent national title run and the record-breaking numbers Texas A&M posted on offense last season, it's first in the SEC. To that end, I think Georgia lags a little behind their two peers when you look at overall offensive talent and depth. Because of Alabama's consistent recruiting success and ability to churn out NFL-ready offensive linemen, not to mention AJ McCarron, the Crimson Tide's field general who I think doesn't get enough credit, I would cast my vote for the current BMOC in the FBS when it comes to the best offense in the SEC. No (ahem) offense there Johnny Football.


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Teaser:
<p> Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 07:05
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/what-will-be-clemsons-record-against-sec-2013
Body:

With quarterback Tajh Boyd turning down the NFL for one more season at Clemson, the Tigers are poised to make a run at playing for a national championship.

Even though receiver DeAndre Hopkins left for the NFL, Sammy Watkins is poised to rebound after a disappointing season and emerge as one of the top playmakers in the nation. In addition to Watkins, Clemson has plenty of other talent in the receiving corps, led by juniors Adam Humphries and Charone Peake.

With a down year ahead for the ACC, Clemson has a chance to run the table and finish with an unbeaten mark in conference play. However, if the Tigers finish 8-0 against ACC opponents during the regular season, SEC contests against Georgia and South Carolina will determine their place in the national title landscape. 

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Clemson ranks as Athlon's No. 6 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What Will be Clemson's Record Against the SEC in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d pick Clemson to split it’s two SEC games with the opener against Georgia the most troublesome. I like Georgia a lot, but it’s going to be tough for a Bulldogs’ defense that underachieved last season to open the year on the road against Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line. Georgia returns only three defensive starters, and the up-tempo offense will be an immediate test for conditioning. As for the finale against South Carolina, Steve Spurrier just has Dabo Swinney’s number. No matter what’s going on with the Gamecocks -- injuries to Marcus Lattimore, uncertainty at quarterback -- South Carolina finds a way to beat Clemson. And that’s largely on the strength of the defense. The Tigers haven’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game against Carolina since 2008. That said, I could easily see Clemson winning both SEC games or losing both. A split, though, seems the most likely.
 

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Clemson could very well be the class of the ACC next fall with quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins back to lead an explosive offense. That should serve the Tigers well and keep them in most games, but two questions sit front and center in my mind — can that prolific offense keep pace against SEC defenses and can the Clemson defense make strides from last year?

I can see the Georgia offense simply producing more than Clemson in the season-opening showdown behind experienced signal caller Aaron Murray and two-headed tailback monster Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. I think it will be close since the Bulldogs must replace the majority of last year’s defense, but I don’t know if Clemson can stop the UGA ground attack.

I do think Clemson has a much better chance of getting a win at South Carolina, despite the game’s location — but if I had to place a wager, I would still be more inclined to take the Gamecocks. I expect Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina to all be ranked in the top 15-20 this year, at the absolute worst, but I also think the SEC squads are a little stronger, and the league will continue to flex its muscle on the ACC. Mark me down for predicting Clemson to go 0-2 against the SEC.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
If Clemson manages to win both of its games against the SEC this year, there’s a good chance the Tigers will be ranked in the top five or even higher in the final BCS standings. However, winning both contests will be no easy task.

Clemson catches Georgia in the season opener, which is a good time to play the Bulldogs. With Georgia breaking in eight starters on defense, the Tigers' offense - led by likely All-Americans in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins - should have the edge in that matchup. While Clemson has the edge against Georgia, I'm not sure they can get by South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four in a row over the Tigers and the outcome of each of those contests wasn't really close. South Carolina’s four consecutive victories have come by at least 10 points or more, including a 34-13 win in Columbia in 2011.

Clemson is a national title contender, but I can’t see the Tigers knocking off both South Carolina and Georgia, so a 1-1 split seems like the most likely outcome.
 

Mark Ross
Fittingly, Clemson opens the season (Georgia) and closes out the regular season (South Carolina) against SEC East teams. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks figure to battle with Florida for supremacy in the East, while the Tigers are the early favorites not only in the ACC Atlantic, but to win the conference title and earn the league's automatic BCS bid. Fortunately for Clemson, these two SEC games have no impact on the ACC race whatsoever, but obviously a win or two would go a long ways towards building confidence and beefing up its BCS resume.

To that end, I'll say Clemson breaks even against the SEC, which is nothing to be ashamed about, especially given the competition. I think Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs will put up just enough offense to get by the Tigers in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31, but the in-state battle against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks on Nov. 30 goes Dabo Swinney's way for the first time since he took over as head coach back in 2008. Honestly, if you were to ask Swinney he would probably say he would be OK with 1-1 for these two games, as long as that W came against that other school in the Palmetto State.


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Teaser:
<p> What Will be Clemson's Record Against the SEC in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/oregon-or-stanford-who-wins-pac-12-north-2013
Body:

The Pac-12 North Division is set to be one of the most interesting conference title races in 2013.

Stanford and Oregon could both rank in the top five of some preseason polls and should be the top-two teams in the Pac-12 for 2013.

The Cardinal is the defending Pac-12 champions, but some key players must be replaced. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are huge losses, while the offense has to generate more of a passing offense in 2013.

The Ducks return most of their personnel, but coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Stanford ranks as Athlon's No. 7 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Oregon or Stanford: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Mark Helfrich is one of the great unknowns of the Pac-12 for 2013. He’s been an assistant for decades, and promoting the offensive coordinator at Oregon has been a successful strategy since Rich Brooks passed the baton to Mike Bellotti in 1995. A decline may happen, but an immediate fall doesn’t seem likely. Now, Stanford is right up there with Oregon, defeating the Ducks 17-14 in Eugene last season. But Oregon defeated opponents by 26.2 points last season with a redshirt freshman quarterback. Only three teams defeated opponents by 20 points or more -- the other two were Alabama and Texas A&M. Only the Ducks and the Tide beat both their home and road opponents by more than three touchdowns. Oregon’s not going to forget how to move the ball. Meanwhile, Oregon has a criminally underrated and consistent defense, placing in the top three in the Pac-12 in yards per play and takeaways in each of the last four seasons. I’ll stick with Oregon for now.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great debate that won't be settled until the first Thursday in November when the Ducks fly south to Palo Alto to avenge their only loss of the 2012 season. Both are national title contenders and both are preseason top 10 teams. The road team has won each of the last two and the 2013 edition could feature unbeaten teams in a pick 'em situation. Oregon lost offensive mastermind Chip Kelly, but new coach Mark Helfrich has what many are calling the best offense in Oregon history returning. Unfortunately, championships are won on the defensive side of the ball and in the trenches. Here is where Stanford has a large edge. Stanford plays a tougher non-conference schedule and tougher cross-over slate with the South — facing Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah — while the Ducks miss the top two teams from South in Arizona State and USC. I think Stanford will win the Nov. 7 primetime tilt but, much like last season, will finish behind Oregon in the polls. A repeat of late year's bowl trips to Pasadena for Stanford and Glendale for Oregon is very possible.
 

Kyle Kensing, Editor at SaturdayBlitz.com, (@kensing45)
Over the past decade, every conference champion has won consecutive Pac-12 crowns. Stanford has the make-up to continue that trend. The cliche "defense wins championship" carries weight. In the Cardinal's case, it should carry it back to Pasadena. Stanford returns Ed Reynolds (six interceptions), Shayne Skov (81 tackle, nine for loss), Trent Murphy (18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks) and a host of others. The 2013 Cardinal defense should actually be better than last season's unit, which ranked No. 11 nationally in points allowed.

The Nov. 7 clash with Oregon looms large, obviously. And the Ducks are the primary contenders, seeking a fourth Pac-12 championship in five years. But Oregon State and Washington can both play spoiler, thus UO's Nov. 7 trip to the Farm might not be the be-all, end-all of this race. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oregon and Stanford are clearly two of college football’s top-10 teams for 2013, but both programs also have fairly significant question marks to answer. The Ducks lost Chip Kelly – one of the best coaches in college football - to the NFL, while the Cardinal have to find a way to jumpstart a passing attack that lacks proven weapons at receiver or tight end. Neither of those question marks should derail Oregon or Stanford in 2013, but I give a slight edge to the Ducks to win the Pac-12 North.

A coaching transition is a much bigger question mark than having to replace talent at wide receiver or tight end, but new Oregon coach Mark Helfrich worked under Chip Kelly and should keep the program on the right track for 2013. Of course, Helfrich has plenty of talent at his disposal, including quarterback Marcus Mariota and dynamic running back De’Anthony Thomas.

Although Stanford could have the conference’s best defense and the nation’s top offensive line, the offense needs to develop more of a passing attack. And that’s no easy task with the departure of tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Another factor working in Oregon’s favor is the schedule. The Cardinal has to play Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State, along with potential top-25 teams in UCLA and USC in crossover play. The Ducks have to play UCLA but miss Arizona State and USC.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stanford win the meeting between these two teams on Nov. 7, but I think Oregon finds a way to win the division. 
 

Mark Ross
It is entirely possible that just like last season, both of these teams will end up in BCS bowls when all is said and done. In 2012, Stanford went to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champs, while Oregon ended up in the Fiesta Bowl with just one loss, which came at the hands of the Cardinal. This fall, the head-to-head matchup takes place in Palo Alto, Calif., on Nov. 7. While the Cardinal surely have this Thursday night home game circled on their calendars, what catches my eye more is their crossover slate in Pac-12 play.

Stanford will play Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah from the South division, while Oregon gets Arizona, Colorado, UCLA and Utah. The difference between Stanford playing Arizona State and USC and Oregon getting Arizona and Colorado should not be overlooked from a competitive balance standpoint. On paper alone, the Ducks seems to have an advantage as the Cardinal appear to have the much more difficult road.

Both of these teams should be very good this fall, but I'll give the slightest of edges to Oregon even with the coaching transition. Chip Kelly may be gone, but Mark Helfrich has been a part of this team for several years and knows the offense inside and out. More importantly, Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and a host of other talented players are still in Eugene, as is a defense that returns seven starters and has a chance to be pretty good in its own right. Stanford has plenty of talent still on campus too, starting with its defense and offensive line, but not as much experience on offense, especially at running back, wide receiver and tight end. As last season showed, it only takes one game to decide the Pac-12 North and as far as 2013 goes, I'll take Oregon to be the team atop the standings come the end of November.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Oregon or Stanford: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 06:59
Path: /college-football/will-notre-dame-play-bcs-bowl-2013
Body:

Notre Dame had a disappointing end to the 2012 season, but the loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship shouldn’t overshadow what’s taking place in South Bend.

The Fighting Irish have made major strides under coach Brian Kelly, and there’s plenty of talent on the roster to make another run at a national championship in 2013 and 2014.

Most of the personnel from last year’s team returns, but the defense must replace linebacker Manti Te’o, while the offense must find a new go-to back with the departure of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.

Notre Dame has a tough schedule. But with quarterback Everett Golson returning, can the Fighting Irish get back to a BCS bowl in 2013?

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Notre Dame ranks as Athlon's No. 8 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
That question essentially asks if Notre Dame will finish in the top 14, the threshold for a team to receive at-large consideration to the BCS. No BCS game is going to pass on an eligible Notre Dame team if the Irish are available. Athlon has ranked the Irish eighth -- which is good enough for automatic BCS eligibility. Notre Dame may not finish the regular season that high -- especially with a finale at Stanford -- but the Irish should be able to crack the top 14. The defense might not be as dominant as it was last season with its headline player, Manti Te’o gone. But a trendy commentary on the Irish defense was that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt were the key players. Time to see if that’s true. The Irish are going to face a lot of teams that will be physical up front and run-oriented -- Stanford, Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.  The key may be Everett Golson. He has the potential to be the best quarterback on the field in nearly every game this season.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Considering all Notre Dame has to do is win nine games and land in the top 14 of the BCS, the odds are the Irish return to a BCS bowl this fall. The offense will be better with Everett Golson starting for the second season and the talent around him developing. The defense, despite the loss of Manti Te'o, won't take much of a step back as Brian Kelly has recruited at an elite level in the front seven. With Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, this defensive line is one of the best in the nation. So the only thing preventing Notre Dame from another double-digit win season is a yet another brutal schedule loaded with bowl teams and national brands. Games with Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan, Arizona State, USC, BYU and Michigan State makes this the toughest slate in the nation yet again. However, the Irish will only lose two of those games at most and, at 10-2, will have enough to snag a coveted BCS bowl berth.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Brian Kelly has Notre Dame moving in the right direction. The Fighting Irish is coming off an appearance in the national title game, and the on-field success has translated to top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.

Even though Notre Dame was easily handled by Alabama in the BCS Championship, this team should be in the mix for 10 or 11 wins in 2013. The offense played better in the second half of the season, and quarterback Everett Golson is due to break out with another offseason to work under Brian Kelly. While linebacker Manti Te’o must be replaced, the defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and the secondary allowed under 200 yards per game last season.

The schedule is challenging, with road games against Michigan and Stanford, home matchups against Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and a neutral site affair versus Arizona State. However, Notre Dame should be able to rank inside of the top 10 in the BCS standings before the bowl games, which will ensure the Fighting Irish a chance to play in one of college football’s top postseason destinations. 
 

Mark Ross
Notre Dame surprised many a college football observer last season with its unexpected undefeated regular season that culminated in a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Lackluster title game performance aside, the only reason the Fighting Irish were even in that position in the first place was because they went undefeated. With no conference affiliation to boost its BCS standing, Notre Dame is truly measured by its wins and losses. In other words, Brian Kelly's team can't afford many if they want to be a part of the BCS discussion by season's end.

The counter to this disadvantage, if you will, is the fact that as an independent, Notre Dame usually gets plenty of chances to show how good a team it is based on its schedule. To that end, this season is no different as the only team the Irish will face that did not play in a bowl game this season is Temple. To put it another way, the Irish will play a team from every "big six" conference except the SEC and several of these teams are expected to either be a contender in their respective conferences (namely Arizona St., Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford) or top-25-caliber teams (BYU, Michigan St., USC).

Notre Dame certainly has a BCS-worthy schedule, the question is will the Irish get the wins they need to earn one of these coveted spots? My thinking is that ND would need no fewer than 10 wins in the regular season to be a serious part of the discussion. Even with all of the talent this team is returning, especially on defense, I see too many potential pitfalls for this team to put together double-digit wins by the end of November. It's another strong season for Kelly and the Irish, but they won't end it by fighting in a BCS game come January.  
 

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Teaser:
<p> Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 06:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/will-texas-am-match-last-seasons-win-total-2013
Body:

Texas A&M took the SEC by storm in his debut season, recording an 11-2 record and producing a Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel.

After last year’s 11-win season, the Aggies are setting their goals even higher for 2013. Texas A&M is one of the top-10 contenders for the national title, and Manziel should be one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy once again.

The schedule isn’t too daunting, but the rest of the SEC has a full offseason to study Texas A&M’s offense.

Can Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel repeat last year’s win total?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Texas A&M ranks as Athlon's No. 9 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Texas A&M Match Last Season's Win Total in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
On paper, I penciled in 10 regular season wins for Texas A&M, leaving the bowl game as a chance for No. 11. Clearly, the 11-win mark and perhaps an SEC title is possible for the Aggies, but A&M may have trouble matching last season. Nick Saban told the Dan Patrick Show last week that the preparations for Johnny Manziel is an “ongoing process.” In May. That’s a pretty scary thought. It seems when Alabama and Saban looks to rectify a past loss -- the rematch with Florida in the 2009 SEC championship game, the rematch with LSU for the 2011 national title -- the Tide rarely repeat the same mistakes. That’s just one team. The rest of the SEC is also playing catchup after Kevin Sumlin and Manziel ran all over the league. Some defensive coordinator is going to find something that works in the Aggies’ second season in the league. The Aggies have the potential to get back to the 11-win mark, but it’s going to be far more challenging the second time around.


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Texas A&M was one of the SEC’s biggest surprises last season. But the Aggies go into 2013 with a bullseye on their back. Defenses in the conference now have a full season of gametape on quarterback Johnny Manziel, offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury is now the head coach at Texas Tech, and the defense must replace key contributors in defensive end Damontre Moore, linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart and defensive backs Dustin Harris and Steven Terrell. Considering all of those factors, I think it will be difficult for Texas A&M to exceed last season’s 11 victories. However, it’s reasonable to expect the Aggies to at least match 2012’s win total.

The non-conference schedule should provide four victories, while SEC contests against Arkansas, Auburn, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri are likely wins. If that holds true, Texas A&M would be sitting at nine victories, needing to win two games out of this group: Alabama, at Ole Miss and at LSU and the bowl game. It’s likely the Aggies are headed into the bowl game with 10 victories and need a win to get to 11. If the defense makes strides this offseason, Texas A&M could exceed 11 wins, but I think it’s more likely this team finishes 11-2 or 10-3 overall. 


Sean Lester, The Dallas Morning News, (@s_lester14)
The 2012 season at Texas A&M was spectacular for many reasons but most prominently because of all the swirling changes the A&M program was going through. Everything was new from coaches to jerseys and most importantly - the conference.

For the Aggies to win 11 games was more than a coupe, it was unthinkable entering the season.

The schedule will largely be in their favor in 2013, as Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel try to expand on what they accomplished a season ago. But this time they will be marked by their expectations, not the newness that defined a season ago.

In order to win more than 11 games this year A&M doesn’t have to beat Alabama or LSU, while trying to take down both. Defeating one of them could put them in the SEC Championship game and beating both could mean a BCS national championship bid.

Winning 11 games is not only doable for this A&M team, it is very likely given the team’s favorable schedule. Behind the legs of Manziel, anything can happen for this A&M team. Something we’ve seen once before.  
 

Mark Ross
Last season the Aggies made their transition from the Big 12 to the SEC look fairly easy, as they went 6-2 in the conference and 11-2 overall, highlighted by an upset of eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa and routing Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. They have the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in dynamic, dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel and one of the nation's most explosive offenses directed by its mastermind, Kevin Sumlin. What could possibly go wrong in 2013, right?

Not that I am predicting them to revert to a .500 or worse team, I do think Texas A&M is due for a bit more of an adjustment period in Year 2 in the SEC. First, for the Aggies to match last year's win total of 11 that means they have to win at least 10 in the regular season again. The non-conference schedule should be a breeze, but you know Alabama has got that Sept. 14 date at Kyle Field circled. Also, Manziel and company have a fairly difficult closing stretch to the regular season with Mississippi State at home and then a visit to Baton Rouge to play LSU, who defeated the Aggies at home last season, followed by the finale at Missouri. Yes, there is no Florida or Georgia or South Carolina from the SEC East on this schedule, but it's still the SEC and it's not like Texas A&M, or Manziel for that matter, is sneaking up on anyone this fall.

Also, don't overlook the fact that even though Manziel and several key offensive weapons, namely wide receiver Mike Evans and running backs Ben Malena and Trey Williams, are back, Texas A&M is having to replace five starters on offense and six on defense from last season's team. Those losses include left tackle Luke Joeckel, the second overall pick in April's NFL Draft, defensive end Damontre Moore (third round) and linebacker Sean Porter (fourth). That's a lot of talent for any team to lose, let alone one that's still new to the SEC.

Texas A&M will be a very good team in 2013 and should put plenty of points on the scoreboard. However, just as history has shown that the odds are pretty stacked against Manziel repeating as Heisman winner, I think the Aggies will be hard-pressed to match last season's 11 wins. Then again it's not like a 10-3 or even 9-4 campaign, especially in the SEC, is anything to be ashamed about, right?
 

Related College Football Content

Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West?
Is Florida's Jeff Driskel a top-five SEC quarterback for 2013?

Georgia, Florida or South Carolina: Who Will Win the SEC East in 2013?
Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013

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Teaser:
<p> Will Texas A&amp;M Match Last Season's Win Total in 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 20, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/will-louisville-cardinals-go-undefeated-2013
Body:

Thanks to a win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, Louisville entered the offseason with momentum for its final season in the Big East/American Athletic Conference.

The Cardinals return a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and one of the nation’s best receiving corps. The offensive line is a question mark, as center Mario Benavides and left tackle Alex Kupper must be replaced.

The defense returns nine starters and should be one of the best in the American Athletic Conference in 2013.

If Louisville can run the table and finish 12-0, it should have a chance to claim a top-five finish. However, even if the Cardinals have a perfect record, it may not be enough to earn a spot in the national title game.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Louisville ranks as Athlon's No. 10 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will the Louisville Cardinals Go Undefeated in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Louisville has one of the softest schedules for a team contending for a major conference title and a top-10 ranking. With a group of veterans -- many of whom are multi-year starters -- the Cardinals also have the players for an undefeated run. At the same time, I wonder if we’ve overreacted to Louisville’s rousing bowl win over Florida. Think of what everyone though of West Virginia at this time last year, when the bowl rout of Clemson was fresh in our minds. Now, the Cardinals may not be as clearly flawed as 2012 West Virginia was. Louisville should be a legitimate run-pass team, and its defense should be able to win games. That said, Louisville found away to lose to Syracuse by 19 and to Connecticut at home in triple overtime in back-to-back weeks. This team isn’t immune from slipping up in shocking ways, and if Louisville loses Teddy Bridgewater, the Cardinals’ undefeated hopes are gone. It’s certainly possible, but I’d take the over on zero losses.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It's pretty hard to see Louisville finishing anything worse than 11-1 in the 2013 regular season. Road games at Kentucky, USF, UConn and, most importantly, Cincinnati in the season finale provide the biggest hurdles away from Papa John's Stadium. Rutgers, Ohio, UCF and Houston are the most challenging home games this season. Meaning Louisville should be favored in every game it plays this year. The Cards are well coached, young talent is developing into upperclassmen and Teddy Bridgewater is a potential superstar at quarterback — so an unbeaten season is well within reach. An 11- or 12-win season would put Louisville squarely in the BCS National Championship game hunt, but to land in the title game, however, the Cardinals will likely have to be perfect. And in a league known for bizarre upsets and unforeseen twists, one loss somewhere — Rutgers, USF, Cincinnati — is my prediction.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Louisville has one of the most favorable – if not the easiest – path to an unbeaten season in 2013. The Cardinals non-conference schedule consists of Ohio, Eastern Kentucky, Kentucky and FIU, and the American Athletic Conference is unlikely to have another team in most preseason top 25 polls. Kentucky and Ohio aren’t guaranteed victories, but the Cardinals will win both contests to claim a 4-0 start in non-conference play.

Despite the favorable schedule, I think Louisville will lose one game this season. The most likely chance for a loss is the Dec. 5 showdown against Cincinnati. The Bearcats return 13 starters, including the conference’s best offensive line, an emerging quarterback in Brendon Kay and a defense that returns six starters, including first-team all-conference linebacker Greg Blair.

In 2011, Louisville lost at home to FIU and Marshall. In 2012, the Cardinals were handled by Syracuse 45-26 on the road and lost 23-20 to Connecticut. The last two years have provided a head-scratching loss for Louisville, which isn’t a complete surprise considering Charlie Strong is still building this program. The path is favorable for an unbeaten season, but I think Louisville stumbles once during the regular season. 
 

Mark Ross
The Cardinals won't be sneaking up on anyone this season, not after their impressive victory over Florida in the Sugar Bowl in January and not with potential Heisman Trophy contender Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. And an undefeated regular season would certainly do nothing but buoy Bridgewater's candidacy to win said stiff-armed trophy. However, Louisville, and Bridgewater for that matter, will go into this season with a bull's-eye squarely on their backs as their conference foes would like nothing more than to spoil their first, and only, season in the new American Athletic Conference.

Rutgers and UCF will likely be the first teams to test Louisville, but the Cardinals get both of these teams at home. Fittingly, the Cardinals' toughest game could also end up being the only thing standing between them and an undefeated regular season. It's entirely possible that the Thursday, Dec. 5 date in Cincinnati could have conference title and BCS Championship Game implications, especially if Louisville is 11-0 at that point. Do you think Nippert Stadium would be rocking for that one? Don't get me wrong, Louisville is without question a top-25-caliber team led by Bridgewater and Charlie Strong, one of nation's top coaches. However, I just don't think an undefeated regular season is in the (ahem) cards this fall.

 

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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Will the Louisville Cardinals Go Undefeated in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 17, 2013 - 07:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/what-will-lsus-sec-record-be-2013
Body:

LSU had national title aspirations in 2012 but losses to Florida and Alabama pushed the Tigers to a 10-2 mark at the end of the regular season.

Getting LSU to a spot in the national championship will be even more challenging for Les Miles in 2013, as the Tigers lost a handful of key contributors on defense, and the offense is still a question mark.

A schedule featuring a non-conference matchup against TCU, along with SEC games against Alabama, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Georgia and Florida won’t be easy. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

LSU ranks as Athlon's No. 12 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What Will LSU's SEC Record Be in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
LSU has the most questions of any of the big six teams in the SEC entering 2013. The offense is going through a change in coordinators, albeit a good change, and the offense’s best player in running back Jeremy Hill may not even suit up because of legal issues. And replacing six starters on defense, five of whom went in the first three rounds of the draft, will be very tough. The Tigers are still talented enough to compete for a championship, though, because Les Miles has recruited so well.

Then, we can throw in the schedule aspect: LSU has one of the toughest in-conference slates of any team. Not only do they play the yearly Alabama and Texas A&M, but when you toss in Florida and Georgia from the East, and it becomes a brutal schedule. Also, Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas will improve upon last year. Finishing .500 in league play isn’t out of the question, but LSU should win five SEC games.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I have major concerns about LSU being able to maintain its recent level of elite national championship contention. This roster has loads of talent on both sides of the ball but is 10-4 in it's last 14 games and just watched more than a dozen elite players depart the roster for the NFL. The game's most important position is still manned by Zach Mettenberger, who has done little to prove to me that he is capable of winning big-time football games in the nation's toughest conference. He has excellent receivers so there is no excuse for him to be so inaccurate and inefficient. And finally, this schedule is downright nasty. While LSU appears to be trending in the wrong direction, every other SEC team appears to be getting better. Road games at Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are all extremely difficult while home tilts with Florida and Texas A&M are no joke. Toss in a neutral site game with TCU in the season opener and always heated divisional rivalrly tests with Auburn and Arkansas and the Tigers have the making of a four-loss season. An 8-4 regular season may be the ceiling for a team that appears to be well past its best days.
 

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
I see three SEC losses for LSU this year. Arkansas and Auburn look to be the only sure conference wins for LSU, which faces a brutal SEC schedule.

The Tigers play Florida and Georgia, the top two teams in the SEC East last year. LSU will be fortunate to split those two games. Road games at Alabama, Ole Miss and Mississippi State will be challenging, and Texas A&M will be looking for revenge from last year’s loss in College Station.

There’s still a lot to figure out about LSU, which has to replace seven starters on defense. While coordinator John Chavis believes his starting lineup will be as good as any in the nation, he admits there are concerns about the defense’s depth. There is optimism on the offensive side of the ball with first-year coordinator Cam Cameron, but questions still remain. Is quarterback Zach Mettenberger ready to win big in the SEC? And how will the off-field issues involving running back Jeremy Hill affect LSU’s backfield rotation?

With questions on both sides of the ball and a challenging SEC schedule, a 5-3 finish in conference play should be considered a successful season for LSU. Of course, Tiger fans probably won’t see it that way at the end of November.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
LSU has one of the toughest schedules in the nation, so reaching double-digit victories for the fourth consecutive season will be a challenge. Making matters worse was the departure of several key players to the NFL Draft, leaving only 10 starters returning to Baton Rouge for 2013. The defense was hit the hardest by departures, with defensive ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo, linebacker Kevin Minter, cornerback Tharold Simon and safety Eric Reid all leaving early for the next level. New offensive coordinator Cam Cameron could help spark a struggling passing attack, but the status of running back Jeremy Hill is a concern.

The Tigers have three guaranteed victories in non-conference play with UAB, Kent State and Furman. TCU will challenge LSU in the opener, but Les Miles’ team will eventually pull away from the Horned Frogs in the second half. While the Tigers should be 4-0 in non-conference games, there’s a good chance they go 4-4 in SEC play. Losses at Georgia and Alabama are likely, with home games against Texas A&M and Florida placed in the tossup column. The road trip to Ole Miss on Oct. 19 is another swing contest, especially after the Rebels nearly won in Baton Rouge last year.

Anything from 5-3 to 3-5 wouldn’t surprise me for LSU’s SEC record. However, I think the Tigers find a way to get to 4-4 and finish 8-4 overall this season.
 

Mark Ross
With the exception of 2008 (3-5), Les Miles has gone no worse than 5-3 in SEC play in his eight seasons with the Tigers. Ironically, that also is the only season in which Miles' Tigers finished lower than a tie for second in the SEC West. While I do think there's a good chance this year's Bayou Bengals could finish third behind Alabama and Texas A&M in their division, I don't see that happening due to a below .500 conference mark.

LSU does have Florida and Georgia from the East on its schedule, but the Gators and aforementioned Aggies will both have to venture to Death Valley. Even with the questions surrounding the offense and the seven defensive players (eight if you include Tyrann Mathieu) that were taken in April's NFL Draft, Miles always seems to find a way to win a game (or two) that he has no business doing so. "The Mad Hatter" pulls out another one of those this fall (against the Gators? Aggies?), as the Tigers finish 5-3 in the SEC.


Related College Football Content

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Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

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Teaser:
<p> What Will LSU's SEC Record Be in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 07:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/floridas-jeff-driskel-top-five-quarterback-sec
Body:

If Florida wants to win the SEC East, its offense has to take a step forward in 2013. The Gators ranked last in the SEC in passing offense last season and averaged only 334.4 yards per game.

Quarterback Jeff Driskel was solid in his debut year as the starter, throwing for 1,646 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 413 yards and four scores.

Although Driskel shined against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, he didn’t play well in the Sugar Bowl versus Louisville, throwing two interceptions on 29 attempts.

There’s a lot of pressure on Driskel, especially with a largely unproven receiving corps.

Can he take the next step in his development this year?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Florida ranks as Athlon's No. 13 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Is Florida's Jeff Driskel a Top-Five Quarterback in the SEC?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Jeff Driskel really did all the Florida coaching staff asked him to do in 2012. He protected the ball (just five INTs), became the second-leading rusher with 408 yards and four touchdowns and won 11 football games as a first-year starter. But it was obvious at times that Driskel was underdeveloped as a passer and locked on to one receiver much throughout the season, often getting him and the offense into trouble.

Driskel should improve as both a passer and a runner this season, but I’m not sure he’s going to put up top-five numbers as a passer. Seven other returning quarterbacks finished with better numbers last year. So, if we’re talking numbers, Driskel will probably be on the outside of the top five looking in.

Florida should have another strong running game but still have limited playmakers at receiver. Driskel could still win 10 games and only throw for 1,700 to 1,900 yards. And who wouldn’t take that?
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s go ahead and pencil in Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray as top-five quarterbacks in the SEC. I like Jeff Driskel as a potential top-five talent, but he won’t have the receiver talent to put up the numbers of an upper-echelon SEC quarterback. And this is an offense that looks to be a ball-control attack once again. Give me Bo Wallace, Tyler Russell or Connor Shaw to maximize their opportunities this season. Driskel will be fine, especially if he gets anything out of a receiver position that’s been a mess for some years now, but other SEC quarterbacks have higher ceilings for regular-season production right now.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Top five in the SEC isn't the same today as it has been for the last few decades. In a league that has long struggled with producing elite signal callers, the nation's toughest league has begun to churn out All-Americans, Heisman Trophies and National Champions under center of late. So will Jeff Driskel be better than Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron or Aaron Murray? Certainly not, however, could he pass Connor Shaw, Tyler Russell or Bo Wallace and finish as one of the five best quarterbacks in the SEC? Absolutely. He is an extraordinary athlete who will be an upperclassman for the first time this fall. Driskel has always been able to make big plays with his legs and will continue to do so this season, but he showed flashes of brilliance as a passer and leader of the offense a year ago. He needs to be more consistent in the pocket and within the framework of the offense, but there is a reason Driskel was the No. 1 QB recruit in the nation coming out of high school. He already has an 11-1 season under his belt and I think analysts tend to forget he was just a true sophomore last year. I'm expecting big things from the burly Gators passer in 2013 and that likely makes him the fourth or fifth best QB in the SEC.


Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
There are only three quarterbacks in the SEC I would take over Jeff Driskel: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray of Georgia. Those three quarterbacks have established an elite tier for themselves in the SEC.

Driskel would be next on my list. He has enormous potential entering his second season as a full-time starter. Driskel is a big (6-4, 237) quarterback with a strong arm and great athleticism. He rushed for 408 yards last season, including a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to help secure a win against Vanderbilt. Driskel threw for only 137.2 yards per game last season but was accurate and took care of the football, completing 63.7 percent of his passes while throwing only five interceptions.

Florida coach Will Muschamp has continued to express confidence in Driskel, who coaches believe has taken on more of a leadership role as his understanding of coordinator Brent Pease’s offense has grown. But Driskel won’t be able to carry Florida’s offense by himself. The Gators are still waiting on someone to step up at wide receiver. If Driskel gets the proper help, he should establish himself as one of the SEC’s top five quarterbacks.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Jeff Driskel’s debut season certainly wasn’t awful, but Florida needs more from him in 2013. A late-season injury slowed his progress in the final month of the year, finishing with 1,646 yards and 12 passing scores. Driskel added 413 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, which included a 177-yard rushing effort against Vanderbilt.

Although Driskel was efficient and completed 63.7 percent of his throws, the Gators averaged only 146.3 passing yards per game. And in SEC contests, Driskel threw for only 139 yards per game. It’s not out of the question for Florida to win the SEC East with a similar performance, but the defense might take a small step back with the departure of safety Matt Elam, tackle Sharrif Floyd and linebacker Jon Bostic, and the offense loses running back Mike Gillislee and first-team All-SEC tight end Jordan Reed.

Although Driskel isn’t asked to win a lot of games with his arm, he should be better by default in his second year as a starter. However, making progress as a passer also hinges on Florida developing a go-to receiver or two.

Numbers aren’t necessarily a good indicator of how to rank quarterbacks, but it does play a role in establishing a pecking order. I think Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s AJ McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray are clearly the top three quarterbacks in the SEC. After that, South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is probably No. 4, with Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell and Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace fighting it out for fifth place. I think it’s unlikely Driskel posts top-five numbers, but the talent is certainly there to rank among the top five in the conference. Is it possible? Yes. But I think Driskel falls just outside of the top five at the end of the season.
 

Mark Ross
I have nothing against Driskel and think he is perfectly capable of doing his part to help Florida win the SEC East in 2013. However, when it comes to the quarterback competition, Driskel is already facing an uphill battle before he even takes a snap this fall. When it comes to the likely all-conference picks at the position, it's pretty safe to assume, barring injury, the primary candidates are Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray, not necessarily in that order. This means that Driskel is already looking at no better than fourth place in this "race." And while there is quarterback uncertainty at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, that's not the case at LSU (Zach Mettenberger), Mississippi State (Tyler Russell), Missouri (James Franklin), Ole Miss (Bo Wallace) and South Carolina (Connor Shaw). Among this group, I like Shaw and Wallace the best, although I also think Russell and Franklin are capable of staking a claim to a top-five spot as well.

There's no disputing Driskel's talent and ability, but there's also no lack of depth at the quarterback position in the SEC as evidenced by the presence of the reigning Heisman Trophy recipient, a two-time national champion and the player most likely to hold all of the conference's passing records when his career is over. In the end, Driskel's caught up in a numbers game and just misses out on being a top-five quarterback in the SEC this season.
 

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Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

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College Football's Top 10 Defensive Players on the Rise for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Is Florida's Jeff Driskel a Top-Five Quarterback in the SEC?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 08:14
Path: /college-football/will-michigan-play-bcs-bowl-2013
Body:

After recording an 11-2 record in Brady Hoke’s first season, Michigan slid to an 8-5 mark in 2012. A challenging schedule certainly hurt the Wolverines’ win total, as they lost to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio State and South Carolina.

With a lighter slate coming for 2013, Michigan should have a chance to get back into the mix for 10 victories.

The Wolverines play only one top-25 opponent in their non-conference slate (Notre Dame) and host Nebraska and Ohio State in November. Quarterback Devin Gardner should emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in 2013, and the defense should be steady despite the departure of a couple of a couple of starters.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Michigan ranks as Athlon's No. 14 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
More often than not, the Big Ten finds a way to produce two BCS teams. Ohio State sure looks like a favorite to lock up one of those spots, perhaps the Rose Bowl or a national title game slot. After that, there are only a handful of teams that can claim the second slot. The Legends Division is going to be a tough race with Nebraska being the main foil for Michigan this season. I’ve thought about scenarios where Michigan loses back-to-back games to Ohio State, and Nebraska swoops in to grab an at-large BCS bid. Or Michigan -- a five-loss team last year -- simply isn’t ready to contend for the Big Ten title and ends up in the Outback Bowl again. Michigan’s certainly capable of winning the Big Ten, assuming Devin Gardner settles in as starting quarterback. But the Wolverines could lose three Big Ten games and not even be a factor in the BCS.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I'd have to lean towards no. To make a BCS bowl, Michigan at minimum needs to win 10 games and the Legends Division — both of which are well within reach. And in fact, the Wolverines made a BCS bowl appearance not two years ago when it DIDN'T win the Legends Division. However, to land in a BCS bowl the Maize and Blue likely has to start the year 11-0 because back-to-back losses to Ohio State in the season finale and Big Ten title game are also well within reach. Unfortunately, the schedule looks entirely too daunting to pick the Wolverines to begin the year with 11 straight wins. If Michigan loses just one game against, say, Notre Dame, Nebraska, at Penn State, at Northwestern or at Michigan State, a three-loss season is likely. It is hard to see anyone landing an at-large BCS bowl bid with three losses.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan may not be a top-10 team in terms of talent, but the Wolverines certainly have the schedule to make a run at a BCS bowl. And it may be strange to say this, but Ohio State could help Michigan’s case, especially if the Buckeyes finish No. 2 nationally and a spot in the Rose Bowl is available for the Big Ten.

Michigan’s non-conference schedule is very favorable. Central Michigan, Akron and Connecticut are all wins, with Notre Dame a key swing game. The Wolverines have three wins in a row over the Fighting Irish in Ann Arbor, including a 35-31 thriller in 2011. If Michigan knocks off Notre Dame, it should be 5-0 heading into a road trip to Penn State. Considering the Nittany Lions will have a new quarterback and need to replace a few key leaders on defense, the Oct. 12 matchup should be a win for Michigan.

The final month of the season will determine where Michigan needs to plan for its postseason destination. The Wolverines play at Michigan State, Northwestern and Iowa, while hosting Nebraska and Ohio State. It’s not going to be easy, but I think Michigan can go 4-1 or 3-2 in that stretch. Even if the Wolverines finish the regular season 10-2 and lose close to Ohio State in the regular season finale and Big Ten Championship, a berth in a BCS bowl is very realistic.

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
There is only one way Michigan gets a chance to play in a BCS bowl game this season, and it is not going to be easy. For the Wolverines to make a BCS bowl they must beat Ohio State at least once, and possibly twice. A win in the Big Ten championship game would send Michigan to the Rose Bowl of course, but I am not even sure Michigan will get a chance to play for that trip. I still give an edge to Nebraska for now out of the Big Ten Legends Division and if Michigan can't get by the Huskers in the division I do not like their chances at being eligible for an at-large BCS bid despite their high profile brand.

However, if Michigan can advance to the Big Ten Championship game, the odds may be pretty good they would at least be within striking distance of at-large eligibility. If they happened to lose to Ohio State in the conference championship game by a close margin, perhaps that would help them stay in the running. Getting the Buckeyes at home the previous week could play to their advantage, but the odds Ohio State loses to Michigan twice is not something I would be willing to bet on. And with that, I would consider it a surprise if the Wolverines are booking any trips to a BCS bowl game in January.
 

Mark Ross
The ironic thing here is that Ohio State, Michigan's hated rival, could play a huge role in whether the Wolverines end up in the BCS or not. Should things go according to plan, Michigan, one of the contenders in the Big Ten Legends Division, and Ohio State, the overwhelming favorite in the Leaders, could end up meeting twice in a span of two weeks. The first matchup will be the regular-season finale in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Nov. 30. The encore could come the following week in the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis, provided each teams wins its respective divisions.

In most cases, an Ohio State win over Michigan would seemingly eliminate the Wolverines from the BCS picture, but not if the Buckeyes end up in the national championship game as a result. Should that happen, then the Maize and Blue could end up in the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten representative. As far as consolation prizes go, they wouldn't get much better than that for Wolverine fans. Since I have already laid out the path for Brady Hoke's team, I'll say they take care of the rest on the field this fall and do what's necessary to earn that coveted trip to Pasadena, Calif., in January.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - 07:29
Path: /college-football/how-many-games-will-florida-state-win-2013
Body:

Despite a revamped coaching staff and a handful of new starters, hopes are high in Tallahassee for the Seminoles to win 10 games in 2013.

New quarterback Jameis Winston turned in a terrific performance this spring and appears to be headed for a breakout year in his first season as a starter. In addition to Winston, Florida State’s offense returns a solid one-two punch at running back with James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. The receiving corps is also one of the nation’s best, while the defense has plenty of talent to replace the departed starters.

The schedule is favorable for Florida State to push for double-digit wins. However, with so many changes, can the Seminoles get to that mark? Or will Florida State slip to eight or nine victories this year?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Florida State ranks as Athlon's No. 15 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Florida State has the pieces to get to 11 wins, the question is if a season like that is considered a big victory for the Seminoles or if it leaves fans in Tallahassee unfulfilled. FSU is not a national-title contending team thanks to a handful of questions on offense, and the Noles’ ACC championship hopes aren’t ironclad, either. A road trip to Clemson will make things tough in the division. But quarterback Jameis Winston could be a special player for Jimbo Fisher, but he’s a redshirt freshman who could make his first career start on the road at Pittsburgh -- a manageable game, but no guarantee. Only four starters returning to the defense is worrisome at first glance, but the group coming back played enough last season to believe FSU can field a top-20 defense or better after fielding a top-two unit a year ago. Beyond road trips to Clemson and Florida and perhaps the home date against Miami, the schedule shouldn’t be too daunting for a team with talent on both sides of the ball. But this is FSU. Nothing is easy. An inexperienced quarterback, a lack of depth on offensive line and new coaches on both sides of the ball mean an injury or a loss to NC State or Wake Forest isn’t out of the question. 
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
10. Road games against Clemson and Florida are obviously the two toughest games on the schedule and it's hard to pick a Seminoles win in either. Four other tricky "swing" games could provide an upset — Miami on Nov. 2, the season opener in Pittsburgh, at Achilles Heel Wake Forest team on Nov. 9 and an improved Maryland team on Oct. 5 in Doak Campbell. However, Florida State should be a fairly heavy favorite in all four games.  So with a manageable schedule, the Noles are almost guaranteed nine wins but should lose the nasty road trips to The Swamp and Death Valley when facing the best two opposing quarterbacks on the schedule. So a 10-win season seems all but certain — either a 10-2 regular season or a 10-3 year with a win in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even with the loss of a handful of key players from last season’s team, Florida State is in great shape to make a run at 10 victories. Opening the year at Pittsburgh on a Monday night won’t be easy, but the Seminoles should have the edge in that matchup. And after playing the Panthers, Florida State should win its next four games to get to 4-1 by the time it has to travel to Death Valley to play Clemson. The Seminoles have lost five straight at Death Valley, and considering the Tigers are a heavy favorite to win the Atlantic Division, it would be a surprise to see Florida State win that game. However, after playing at Clemson, the Seminoles should be favored in the rest of their games, with the exception of the finale at Florida. A Nov. 2 matchup against Miami could be the toughest crossover game with the Coastal Division, but Florida State should finish with 10 victories and have a chance to position itself for an at-large spot into a BCS bowl.

 
Anson Whaley, Founder and Editor of Cardiac Hill@AnsonWhaley
With games against Bethune-Cookman, Idaho, Boston College, Syracuse, and Nevada, the path to bowl eligibility should come fairly easily for Florida State. The Seminoles should also be favored in games against Pitt, Maryland, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest. Contests against Miami, Clemson, and Florida will be decidedly more difficult, but FSU should be able to compete there, too. My bet is on the Seminoles winning those first five, three of those next four, and one of the last three to get to nine victories. But with so many winnable games, ten isn't out of the question, either.
 

Mark Ross
The Seminoles had 11 players taken in this year's NFL Draft, the most of any team, but the cupboard is far from bare in Tallahassee. Jimbo Fisher's bunch should be right in the mix of things in the ACC's Atlantic Division, with the Oct. 19 showdown at Clemson potentially deciding who goes to Charlotte, N.C., in December to play for the conference title. FSU's schedule isn't that daunting with the regular-season finale at Florida and a Nov. 2 visit from fellow in-state rival Miami shaping up to be the only other tough matchups on its slate. Even with a new quarterback and seven starters on defense, this team should still find a way to reach double digits in the win column before the bowl bids are handed out.


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Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

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Teaser:
<p> How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /college-football/texas-am-or-lsu-which-team-finishes-higher-sec-west-2013
Body:

With Alabama expected to be the No. 1 team in most preseason polls in 2013, combined with potential top-10 teams in LSU and Texas A&M, the SEC West should be one of the deepest divisions in college football. That also doesn’t include an improving Ole Miss squad, and Arkansas and Auburn – two teams that should also get better under the direction of new head coaches.

Texas A&M took the SEC by storm last season, winning 11 games and upsetting Alabama 29-24 in Tuscaloosa. The Aggies return a good chunk of personnel from last year, but the defense is a question mark.

LSU was predicted by most to be a top-five team in 2012 and may have underachieved with a 10-3 record. The Tigers have some key personnel losses on defense and need more from quarterback Zach Mettenberger. 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Texas A&M and LSU open in 2013 with the same goal: dethrone the Crimson Tide. The Tigers are the prom queen who has been around for a few years and will always be a contender, while Texas A&M is the sexy new transfer who’s getting the most attention.

LSU just presents more questions. The offense is going through a transition in coordinators, the defense lost six starters and arguably the SEC’s best back in Jeremy Hill may not even play in 2013 because of legal issues. And we haven’t even started talking about LSU’s hellacious schedule, which features five preseason ranked teams and includes road trips to Alabama and Georgia.

Texas A&M should finish first or second in the West, depending largely on the outcome of the Alabama game. The Aggies should score 40 points or more per game, and the schedule sets up nearly perfect, with just two preseason ranked teams. Obviously losing five front seven starters on defense is a major concern, but anytime teams score the way Texas A&M does, they will always be in the game. The weak schedule alone screams more wins, and add in Johnny Manziel and an electrifying offense, and it makes it even tougher to bet against the Aggies.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Texas A&M has a much greater chance of matching last season’s 6-2 record in the SEC while I would be surprised to see LSU match last year’s performance in the conference. The Aggies are hoping for a national title run, a prospect that may be too optimistic without a playmaker on defense like Damontre Moore. But the Aggies still have Johnny Manziel, who again will be a great equalizer in the league. LSU just has too much rebuilding to do to expect six SEC wins against a schedule that includes road trips to Alabama and Georgia, plus Florida and Texas A&M at home. LSU reloads every year on defense, but have really seen the Tigers need to replace this much muscle on that side of the ball? Kevin Minter, Eric Reid, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, plus the ace special teams duo of Brad Wing and Drew Alleman, are all gone. Even Alabama would have trouble recruiting well enough to make a seamless transition with that many losses. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I don’t think this debate is even close. Texas A&M will finish ahead of LSU and could challenge for an SEC West title while the Bayou Bengals could lose as many as four games. Every team in the SEC could be as good or better in 2013 than it was in 2012 with the exception of LSU. A massive exodus of talent, a mediocre starting quarterback and improving SEC schedule leads me to believe that the Tigers will once again underachieve. The Aggies, too, must replace some big names — Joeckel, Swope, Moore, Porter — but have the core of their 10-win team back, including a superstar quarterback. Many around the league are concerned about the overall direction of the LSU program since the national title loss to Alabama and the rest of the SEC has gained significant ground on the Tigers. Games at Georgia, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Alabama are nasty while home games with Florida, Texas A&M, Auburn and Arkansas provide plenty of challenges as well. And if TCU catches Les Miles’ bunch napping in Week 1, things could unravel quickly in Louisiana. Gig ‘Em.
 

Josh Ward, MrSEC.com, (@Josh_Ward)
LSU will have home-field advantage when the two teams play in Baton Rouge on Nov. 23, but Texas A&M will face a more favorable schedule in league play. LSU has the misfortune of having to play Florida and Georgia, the top two teams in the Eastern Division in 2012. Texas A&M will play Missouri and Vanderbilt from the East, a pair of opponents much easier to handle. Texas A&M also gets Alabama at home while LSU has to travel to Tuscaloosa.

LSU and Texas A&M both have to replace several key starters on defense. The advantage for Texas A&M lies on offense, starting at quarterback. Johnny Manziel returns from his Heisman season with more offensive weapons around him. The addition of transfer running back Brandon Williams and wide receiver signee Ja’Quay Williams (no relation) will make Manziel’s job even easier. LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger returns with a year of experience, but he doesn’t present the same kind of threat to opposing defenses as Manziel.

Texas A&M’s depth of talent on offense and less-challenging conference schedule should help the Aggies finish higher than LSU in the SEC West.


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Despite question marks about the defense and the loss of left tackle Luke Joeckel to the NFL Draft, I like Texas A&M to finish ahead of LSU in the SEC West. Quarterback Johnny Manziel may not have the monster season that he had in 2012, but the sophomore is still the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback and will be a handful for opposing defenses. The backfield is one of the deepest in the nation, and the offensive line should be solid with the return of Jake Matthews, Jarvis Harrison and Cedric Ogbuehi.

The biggest concern for Texas A&M is a defense that ranked ninth in the SEC in yards allowed and loses end Damontre Moore and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart. However, the Aggies have a favorable schedule, as they miss Georgia, Florida and South Carolina in crossover play, and Alabama visits College Station on Sept. 14.

While the Aggies have some fairly significant personnel issues on defense, the Tigers could be without running back Jeremy Hill for an extended period of time, quarterback Zach Mettenberger is a question mark, and the defense returns only three starters. LSU has a challenging schedule, including a non-conference game against TCU and crossover SEC matchups against Georgia and Florida.

LSU will reload and should end up with eight or nine wins by the end of 2013. However, the Tigers will finish behind Texas A&M and could be pushed by Ole Miss for third place in the SEC West. 
 

Mark Ross
Texas A&M will have to venture into Tiger Stadium for the first time since 1994 to play LSU, but the Bayou Bengals have both Georgia (road) and Florida (home) as their crossover games in conference play. The Aggies' East opponents this season are Vanderbilt (home) and Missouri (road). The Bulldogs and Gators went a combined 23-4 overall and 14-2 in the SEC last season and will enter this fall as preseason top 10 teams. The Commodores and Tigers from the SEC East went a combined 14-11 overall and 7-9 in conference play in 2012 and only Vandy will receive any top-25 preseason consideration. Who do you think has the advantage here when it comes to schedule?

If that's not enough, Texas A&M gets Alabama at home, while LSU will travel to Tuscaloosa to face the two-time defending national champions. Yes, the Tigers were victorious the last time they played in Bryant-Denny Stadium in 2011, but don't forget the Aggies won there last season too. Last I checked, the man largely responsible for that impressive victory is still playing quarterback for A&M. Johnny Football may not win the Heisman again, but I expect him to lead the charge as the Aggies show for a second straight season they belong in the SEC by finishing ahead of the Tigers.


Related College Football Content

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Ranking the SEC Head Coaches for 2013

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Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West in 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-states-clint-chelf-big-12s-best-quarterback-2013
Body:

The Big 12 should have one of the most wide-open battles at quarterback for first-team all-conference honors in 2013.

TCU’s Casey Pachall is back after a suspension, but he isn’t guaranteed the starting job. Oklahoma’s Blake Bell has a lot of talent and should thrive in his first year as the No. 1 quarterback. However, he has yet to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm.

Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer is another intriguing name to watch. But just like Bell, Brewer does not have a start under his belt.

With the uncertainty surrounding the other options, is Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf poised to become the top quarterback in the Big 12? 

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Oklahoma State ranks as the No. 16 team in Athlon's Top 25 Countdown for 2013.

Is Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf the Big 12's Best Quarterback for 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Chelf is going to have to put more distance between himself and J.W. Walsh before becoming the Big 12’s top quarterback. Walsh, a more credible running threat, had better efficiency numbers in his stint as the starter, but Chelf drew the tougher starting assignments against Kansas State and Oklahoma. Chelf -- or Walsh, for that matter -- will play in a proven system, but another QB in the league could just as easily take first-team all-conference honors. TCU’s Casey Pachall has much to prove. First, he’ll have to prove he can quarterback his team after leaving midseason to deal with substance abuse. Second, he’ll have to prove he can beat Big 12 teams. He’s 16-2 as a starter with a 35-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but he hasn’t faced a Big 12 defense tougher than Kansas in 2012 or Baylor in 2011. Texas’ David Ash started last season on a hot streak. If he can carry the same over the course of a full season, he could be the top QB in this league. And I’m not ready to write off new quarterbacks at Oklahoma, Texas Tech or Baylor. Chelf may be the clubhouse leader in May, but there will be plenty of competition by November and December. I’m just not sure where it comes from.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Since he may not even be the best quarterback on his own team, I have to say no. Oklahoma State's system is the real star as it produces numbers no matter who is under center. For me, this battle comes down to Casey Pachall at TCU and Blake Bell at Oklahoma. Bell is a monster who will wow scouts with his size, mobility and arm. He has 24 career rushing touchdowns before even starting one game and has arguably the best supporting cast in the league. Two years ago, Pachall made fans in Ft. Worth nearly forget about Andy Dalton by taking over and producing from the word go. He was second in the Mountain West (Kellen Moore) in passing efficiency as just a sophomore. Pachall was off to an elite start last year — two 300-yard games in his first four — before getting suspended indefinitely for off-the-field issues. If he can stay the course off the field, he might be the Big 12's most talented quarterback — and could be a Big 12 champion by season's end. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Projecting who will be the Big 12’s No. 1 quarterback at the end of 2013 is no easy task. With Collin Klein, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Seth Doege and Nick Florence all departing, there’s no clear top signal-caller returning to the conference.

Although Clint Chelf has yet to start a full season, he is my pick to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12. Outside of Chelf, TCU’s Casey Pachall, Oklahoma’s Blake Bell or Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer are in consideration for first-team honors. However, Pachall is locked into a tight battle with Trevone Boykin for the starting nod, while Brewer and Bell have yet to make a start. Bell is an intriguing option, but he has yet to prove he can be a consistent passer.

With Wes Lunt transferring, Chelf is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in Stillwater. After taking over the job late in the season, the senior averaged 256.1 yards per game and tossed 14 touchdowns over the final six contests. Chelf had a good performance against Baylor (333 yards) and threw for 253 yards and one score against Oklahoma.

There’s no sure-fire candidate to be the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 or the preseason favorite to be picked as first-team all-conference. However, with one of the nation’s top receiving corps returning and a solid offensive line, Chelf should post huge numbers in 2013, along with leading Oklahoma State to a Big 12 title.
 

Mark Ross
Even though Chelf should be able to put up big numbers leading a Cowboys offense that led the Big 12 in scoring and finished second in total yards last season, I am going to take TCU's Casey Pachall as the conference's top quarterback this season. Pachall is hoping to write a fairy-tale ending to what started out as a tragedy when he left school last October following some off-the-field issues related to substance abuse. Fortunately for Pachall, he got the treatment he needed and has worked hard to his earn second chance.


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Teaser:
<p> Is Oklahoma State's Clint Chelf the Best Quarterback in the Big 12 for 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, May 13, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/georgia-south-carolina-or-florida-who-wins-sec-east-2013
Body:

With three likely top-10 teams in 2013, the battle to win the SEC East is going to be one of the most heated conference battles in college football.

Georgia is the defending East Division champ, but South Carolina and Florida each have a strong case to be picked as the division favorite.

The Gamecocks return the best player in college football in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and manhandled Georgia 35-7 in Columbia last year.

Florida finished 11-2 last season, and Will Muschamp seems to have the Gators moving in the right direction. However, the defense lost a few key performers, and the offense still has no proven playmakers at receiver.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Georgia, South Carolina or Florida: Who Wins the SEC East in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
What a loaded question to speculate on in May, but I’ll bite. The schedule screams South Carolina; the eye test yells Georgia, and Florida says don’t count me out, either.

But ever since Aaron Murray announced he was returning for his senior season, I’ve contested that Georgia should be the favorite. After all, they host South Carolina the second week, and the winner will immediately become the in-season favorite. The offense will be loaded again with the return of Murray, Todd Gurley and eight other starters, including all five offensive linemen.

I know what you’re thinking – how can Georgia be the favorite with losing so many NFL defensive stars? Well, they didn’t exactly play like NFL studs in 2012. In fact, they weren’t even a top-five overall defense, nor were they ranked even a top-ten rushing defense in the SEC. Egos, missed assignments and NFL dreams clouded the ‘12 Dawgs. A younger, inexperienced defense is an exciting new challenge, and overall, even though I’m in the minority, I think the defense will improve upon last season.

Georgia is my May favorite!


David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Florida’s offense is still too one-dimensional, and the Gators flirted with disaster too many times during an 11-2 season for me to feel to comfortable picking Will Muschamp’s team. South Carolina finally got the edge from the schedule-makers in 2013, facing Mississippi State and Arkansas from the West while Georgia plays LSU on the road and Auburn. Still, I’m going with Georgia to win the East again. The offense should be the best in the SEC other than Texas A&M. Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and five offensive line starters are back on a team that led the nation in yards per play at 7.09 (Texas A&M was No. 2 by a hundredth of a yard). The defense is young and underachieved last season despite plenty of high draft picks. That needs to change for Georgia to be a title-contending team, but Florida and South Carolina have more flaws to overcome. Besides, Georgia already has proven it can win the SEC East despite problems on defense.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
All three teams are excellent and will be within one or two games of each other, but I am taking the South Carolina Gamecocks to break through in 2013. The defensive line is the best in the nation, quarterback Connor Shaw is wildly underrated and, packaged with Dylan Thompson, will provide plenty of spark on offense. Finally, the schedule finally sets up for Steve Spurrier. There is no LSU, Alabama, Texas A&M or Ole Miss — the best four teams in the West. Meanwhile, games with Florida and Mississippi State come at home in Williams-Brice Stadium. It likely means that the division crown will be decided on the trip to Georgia in Week 2. However, Carolina has owned the Dawgs of late, winning three straight over UGA by a combined score of 97-55. The Cocks have scored 80 points in the last two against what was considered one of the best defenses in the nation. A win Between the Hedges and Carolina finally has an inside track on a legitimate shot at its first SEC Championship. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
All three teams – Georgia, South Carolina and Florida – could be ranked in the top 10 of most preseason polls. And the winner of this race should be in the mix to play for the national title, provided it beats the champion of the SEC West in Atlanta.

Although a strong argument could be made for each team, I have to go with Georgia as my favorite to win the SEC East. The Bulldogs return one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Aaron Murray, and the one-two punch of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall may be the best running back tandem in college football. There’s plenty of talent in the receiving corps, while the offensive line should be better with everyone coming back for 2013.

The biggest question mark for Georgia is a defense that must replace eight starters. Linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree were the biggest losses, but don’t overlook the absence of linemen John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, as both were key cogs in the line last season. Despite having only three starters back, I think Georgia’s defense will be fine this year, especially if linebacker Jordan Jenkins, cornerback Damian Swann and safety Tray Matthews continue their development from spring practice.

Another reason to like Georgia: The Bulldogs host South Carolina in the SEC opener for both teams.

Mark Ross
Both divisional races in the SEC should be fairly entertaining, but the East may offer the most intrigue and potentially play the biggest role in determining the national title outcome. If things go according to plan, Alabama will hold off Texas A&M and other challengers in the West division to advance to the SEC championship game in Atlanta yet again. There it will be up to whichever team ends up representing the East to put an end to any three-peat talk as a loss by the Crimson Tide would, in all likelihood, keep them out of the BCS title game.

To that end, who will emerge from the East with a chance to potentially dethrone mighty Alabama? I'll go with Georgia and its experienced quarterback, Aaron Murray, who has an opportunity to make his last season in a Bulldog uniform special. The knock on Murray during his career has been his inability to win the "big one," despite the fact he will more than likely own the majority of the SEC's passing records when he's done. The defense lost a lot of NFL talent, but the cupboard is far from bare and maybe a perceived lack of star power, if you will, is just what this unit needs to perform on a consistent level throughout the season.

Florida and South Carolina have some pretty stout defenses of their own, but I'll take Murray, and the Bulldogs' running game for that matter, over what the Gators and Gamecocks have at their disposal on offense. One thing's clear, though, should Georgia make me look good and make it to the SEC title game, Mark Richt's crew will have earned it. The Bulldogs open the season at ACC favorite and possible national title contender Clemson followed by a visit from South Carolina, a game on the first Saturday of September that could very well end up determining who wins the East. LSU also is on the conference slate as well as the always-anticipated Cocktail Party showdown with Florida in Jacksonville on Nov. 2. The road won't be easy, but I like the Bulldogs' chances of making this season one for the memory and record books.

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Teaser:
<p> Georgia, South Carolina or Florida: Who Wins the SEC East in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-or-texas-which-team-will-have-more-wins-2013
Body:

With uncertainty looming over the top of the Big 12 in 2013, should Texas and Oklahoma still be considered the favorites? Or is it Oklahoma State or TCU? What about Kansas State or Baylor?

All six teams should be in the middle of the Big 12 title picture, but Texas is the biggest wildcard. The Longhorns have the talent to win the league but underachieved last year.

The Sooners lost a handful of key players, including quarterback Landry Jones, receiver Kenny Stills, left tackle Lane Johnson and safety Tony Jefferson. Despite the personnel losses, Oklahoma still remains one of the top teams in the Big 12.

Is Texas ready to reclaim the top spot in the Big 12? Or is Oklahoma still a safer pick to have more wins in 2013?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Texas ranks No. 18 in Athlon's Top 25 poll for 2013. Oklahoma checks in at No. 17.

Oklahoma or Texas: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The 2013 season looks like the point where Texas and Oklahoma will trade fortunes. Texas’ defense can’t be as bad as it was a year ago, especially with Jordan Hicks, Dalton Santos and Peter Jinkens stabilizing the linebacker group. That’s going to improve the run defense, and the dearth of experienced quarterbacks in the Big 12 will make it a little bit easier than it was a year ago. No more Landry Jones, Geno Smith, Seth Doege or even Nick Florence. That makes David Ash a grizzled veteran by comparison. Now, he just needs to play with more consistency. Meanwhile, Oklahoma has a tough schedule with Notre Dame in South Bend early (Texas gets a more manageable matchup against BYU on the road). The Sooners also catch Baylor and Kansas State on the road in November, which will be tough matchups at that point in the year, to say nothing of a trip to Stillwater.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Give me the Horns. And, as usual, it will likely come down to the Red River Shootout — as well as one nasty non-conference game. Road trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are brutal for the Sooners and will likely provide two losses. Meanwhile, Texas visits BYU, TCU, Iowa State, West Virginia and Baylor. Both are difficult schedules, but I will give Texas a slight edge in this department. They will win their tough non-con road game (BYU) while Oklahoma will lose (Notre Dame). So the question becomes has the Burnt Orange closed the 63-21 gap on the Crimson and Cream from a year ago? With most of the key players returning to Austin and most of the key players departing Norman, I will take the Horns both to finish 9-3 as Texas wins the tie-breaker by winning Shootout at The Texas State fair.
 

Allen Kenney, @BlatantHomerismBlatantHomerism.com
Let's set aside the actual Red River Shootout for a second and look at all the other games that these two rivals play.

Oklahoma will need to replace some key contributors from recent teams -- most notably quarterback Landry Jones and defensive stalwart Tony Jefferson -- and do so while facing a flat-out nasty schedule. OU's slate includes road trips to Notre Dame, Baylor, Kansas State and a season finale in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, which seems to be emerging as the consensus favorite to win the conference. The Sooners also catch what should be a dangerous TCU team the week after the game in South Bend. Even the supposed cupcakes on the schedule, Louisiana-Monroe and Tulsa, aren't exactly gimmes.

On the other hand, if Mack Brown can't get Texas back on track this year, he never will. The Longhorns return a ton of experience at all the key positions. More importantly, the schedule sets up awfully well for UT. A road game at BYU should provide a decent early test. There are also trips to TCU and Baylor on the docket. All in all, Texas has a pretty friendly road to travel, most of which will be paved through Darrell K. Royal Stadium.

Call the Red River Shootout a toss-up. I think that probably caps OU's possible win total at 10. Texas would actually have a decent shot at winning all 12 regular season games. As such, I'd bet the Longhorns end up with more wins this fall.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Can I say a tie? I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams finish with the same amount of wins (9 or 10), but I have to give Oklahoma a slight edge over Texas.

The Longhorns have a slightly more favorable non-conference schedule, especially since Oklahoma has to play at Notre Dame, while Texas’ toughest game outside of the Big 12 is at BYU.

In conference play, the Longhorns might have a slight edge, as Texas has to play at TCU and Baylor, while Oklahoma has to play at Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.

While I’m giving Texas a slight edge in the conference and non-conference schedule portions, I still think the Sooners end up with more victories. Oklahoma should go 3-1 in non-conference play, with wins in Big 12 action against TCU, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech, Iowa State and either Kansas State or Baylor. Although Texas has a favorable path in Big 12 contests, I think the Longhorns could lose at TCU, at Baylor, home against Oklahoma State and the Red River Rivalry matchup against Oklahoma.
 

Mark Ross
Texas' non-conference slate, which is highlighted by a road game at BYU and a visit from Ole Miss, appears to be a little tougher than Oklahoma's. The Sooners go to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame in late September, but they can't afford to overlook Tulsa at home two weeks earlier either. Both teams play the same conference schedule, with OU having road games against Kansas State and in-state rival Oklahoma State to close out the regular season, while the Longhorns will have to go to Forth Worth to play TCU and Morgantown, W.Va., to take on the Mountaineers.

It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this two-team race ends up getting decided by the Red River Rivalry matchup, which will take place on Oct. 12, but don't lose sight that both the Sooners and Longhorns will have to go to Waco, Texas, to play Baylor this season. The Bears should be fairly dangerous once again on offense, and always seem to play at their best at home. In the end, I think Oklahoma finishes one or two wins ahead of Texas, thanks in large part to a fourth straight Red River Rivalry victory.

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Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma or Texas: Which Team Will Have More Wins in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 10, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/who-should-start-quarterback-wisconsin-2013
Body:

Wisconsin had three different quarterbacks make a start last season.

Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien was thought to be the answer, but he struggled early in the year, which prompted the coaching staff to turn to Joel Stave. The former walk-on was solid in his performances, until suffering a broken collarbone against Michigan State.

With Stave sidelined, Curt Phillips was pushed into the starting lineup. Phillips was steady in his stint as the No. 1 quarterback, but Stave or incoming junior college transfer Tanner McEvoy could win surpass him on the depth chart this fall.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. Wisconsin checks in as the No. 19 team for 2013

Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This is going to be a tough decision, but Joel Stave seemed to be the quarterback coaches trusted the most last season. Granted, that’s a different coaching staff. Gary Andersen may see something he likes in Danny O’Brien, who struggled the most of Wisconsin’s three starters. Curt Phillips was the best of the three starters in terms of third down efficiency (45 percent in his five starts) and red zone efficiency (85 percent touchdowns in his starts), but that was when Montee Ball and the Wisconsin run game finally regained form. The Badgers rushed for 200 yards four times in Phillips’ starts including twice running for 500. Stave’s numbers tell a different story. Stave averaged 9.3 yards per pass attempt and 14.9 passes per game, both way ahead of the numbers for O’Brien and Phillips. Simply put, Wisconsin’s last staff thought Stave gave the Badgers a better chance to run a more effective balanced offense. While handing the offense to Ball and James White was enough to beat Penn State and Nebraska, I don’t think that’s going to be enough for Wisconsin to stay competitive over the course of the season, especially with Ball gone.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I would be shocked if anyone other than Joel Stave was the starter in Madison. The walk-on redshirt sophomore was the only player on the roster last season who gave the Badgers offense any balance whatsoever. He was leading the Big Ten in efficiency before getting hurt against both Nebraska and Michigan State — the only two games UW lost when Stave started. Curt Phillips has some nice athletic ability and proved he could lead clutch drives but is one cut away from a fourth knee injury. And he was very Tebow-ish in that he struggled for the first 59 minutes of the game before leading game-tying drives (Penn State, Ohio State). Does Stave, and his lack of mobility, fit into Gary Andersen's offensive scheme perfectly? No, but he is the most polished passer and gives Wisconsin the ability to accurately go down the field more so than any other option on the roster. Look for Stave to take most of the snaps with Phillips' legs earning him a few snaps from time to time. There are worse problems to have than multiple quarterbacks with starting experience.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Although Curt Phillips was steady in his late-season stint as the starting quarterback, I think Joel Stave is the answer for Wisconsin. New coordinator Andy Ludwig and coach Gary Andersen want a little mobility from their passer, but Stave gives this team the best chance to win. In eight games last season, the former walk-on threw for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns, while completing 58.8 percent of his throws. The Wisconsin native had three consecutive games of 200 or more passing yards (UTEP, Nebraska and Illinois) and threw for 127 yards on 9 of 11 passes before suffering an injury that kept him out of game action until the Rose Bowl.

Junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy was recruited by Andersen to add to the competition right away, and he seems to be the best fit for the offense. However, McEvoy has no experience on the FBS level, and junior college recruits usually have an adjustment period to the increased competition.

Stave might not be perfect for what the coaching staff wants to do. But with one of the nation’s top backfields returning and a solid defense, having a quarterback that is capable of being efficient and steady in the pocket is a huge plus for new coach Gary Andersen. 
 

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
It's that time of the year again when the Wisconsin quarterback question tends to yield no answers. I have joked about this topic with a few people already but it is really anybody's guess who will be leading the offense when the season kicks off in Madison. I think the competition between Joel Stave and Curt Phillips is a draw, with each having certain qualities the other doesn't that would lead to a potential dual-QB offense if nothing is figured out before the start of the year.

It sounds as though JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy is going to get every opportunity to compete for the starting job, and with neither Phillips or Stave making it an obvious choice to go with them, that would lead me to consider McEvoy will be Gary Andersen's guy at some point. Part of me also wants to think Danny O'Brien somehow rebounds but until he does anything to prove he is worthy of the starting job I'll have to wait and see.

So we have a situation where Wisconsin is looking to pick a name out of a hat, and that's generally not a great sign. When push comes to shove, I'll go with the guy who got the most out of the offense last season and that is Stave.
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
So we're absolutely sure that Russell Wilson is out of eligibility? What about Scott Tolzien? In that case, I'll have to go with the guy who made the most starts under center for the Badgers last season - Joel Stave. The sophomore was doing just fine before breaking his clavicle against Michigan State, becoming the first freshman quarterback at Wisconsin since Jim Sorgi (2000) to start a game.

Not only did Stave win his first start against UTEP, he led the Badgers to a 4-1 record in the five games he completed (which included three conference victories) and was leading the Big Ten in passer efficiency rating (149.6) at the time of his injury. He also became the eighth QB in school history to throw for more than 200 yards in three consecutive games and the first to do so in his first three starts since Tyler Donovan (2006, '07).

Stave may not be as athletic as senior Curt Phillips or the ideal fit for new head coach Gary Andersen's system like redshirt freshman Bart Houston is reported to be, but he has shown that he's more than capable of leading the team to victory when he's on the field. He didn't do anything performance-wise to lose the job last season, so I see no reason to make a change on the depth chart to start off 2013 either.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Who Should Start at Quarterback for Wisconsin in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 06:33
Path: /college-football/how-many-big-ten-games-will-northwestern-win-2013
Body:

With Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern each deserving of consideration for the No. 1 spot, the Big Ten Legends Division should be one of the most competitive conference title races in college football.

Nebraska won the Legends Division with a 7-1 mark last season, while Northwestern finished two games back at 5-3. Although the Wildcats were just over .500 in conference play, they were just a few plays away from going 8-0. Northwestern lost by 11 to Penn State, by seven to Michigan and by one point to Nebraska.

Pat Fitzgerald’s team returns 15 starters for 2013, including quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. The defense showed improvement last season and ranked 29th nationally in points allowed.

With a challenging schedule ahead, can Northwestern beat last year’s five wins in conference play?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. Northwestern checks in as the No. 24 team for 2013. 

How Many Big Ten Games Will Northwestern Win in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d be surprised if Northwestern finishes with a losing Big Ten record. I see four conference wins on the schedule (Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan State and Illinois), but that’s due to my pessimism about Iowa and Michigan State as much as anything else. The Wildcats look pretty good for 4-4 in the Big Ten with an outside shot at 5-3, but I know I’m a little more optimistic about Northwestern than most of my Athlon colleagues. I should know better, but it’s tough to ignore the skill position talent on offense with Kain Colter and Venric Mark. And that's just the start. Northwestern returns 15 starters from a team that won 10 games, led the Big Ten in takeaways, beat Mississippi State by two touchdowns in a bowl game and lost two of their three games in overtime and by one point. Throw in Northwestern’s chance to score an upset in Big Ten play, and I’ll take the over on four wins for the Cats.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The first thing to understand about the 2013 Northwestern team is that it might be the most talented squad ever assembled in Evanston. The coaching staff is excellent and the depth is better than it has ever been before. However, the schedule is nasty. Every team in the Legends Division with the exception of Iowa has gotten better around them while crossover play includes the best two teams in the Leaders Division — Ohio State and at Wisconsin. The good news is three crucial divisional showdowns with Minnesota, Michigan State and Michigan will take place at home. There is a lot to be excited about with this team and if the offensive line can come together quickly, the Wildcats could develop into a surprise contender. But until this team proves it can consistently defeat teams that are clearly more talented — aka Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan a year ago — I can't pick Pat Fitzgerald's group to win more than three or four Big Ten games. Games on the road against Nebraska and Wisconsin as well at home tilts against conference championship game favorites Ohio State and Michigan mean anything over .500 in Big Ten would be a big success for Northwestern in '13. Give this team Michigan State's schedule and it could push for a Rose Bowl berth.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering how close Northwestern was to finishing 12-1 or even 13-0 last season, the Wildcats have to be in the discussion to win the Big Ten Legends Division in 2013. The only problem? A challenging schedule that features crossover matchups against Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Wildcats also have to play Nebraska on the road but host Michigan and Michigan State in Evanston.  

With the challenging crossover slate, matching last season’s 5-3 mark in conference play seems like the most realistic scenario. I think Northwestern can beat Michigan and Michigan State in November, although it won’t be easy with the games in back-to-back weeks. Assuming the Wildcats win those two matchups in November, that leaves Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin as the losses. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pat Fitzgerald’s team pull off an upset over the Buckeyes or Badgers, but I have to go with 5-3 as the final record in Big Ten play.
 

Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
I have said for years that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald gets more out of his available talent than anyone else in the Big Ten. My biggest question about the Wildcats though is just how high is the ceiling?

Last year Northwestern was the master of blowing second half leads, but I think Fitzgerald has a good shot at finding ways to finish the job with a somewhat experienced roster coming back with 15 starters from a year ago. The Wildcats have players that can cause some problems for opposing defenses (Kain Colter, Venric Mark) but I have concerns about their offensive line and their defensive backs. Those two units are going to cost Northwestern at some point.

A quick look at the schedule shows a somewhat challenging year ahead of Northwestern. I would pencil in losses to Ohio State and Michigan but Northwestern gets those games at home. Road trips to Wisconsin and Nebraska could be losses if I were to pick right now, and there is something about going on the road to Cal to open the season against Sonny Dykes and his new-look Bears that worries me. I may be a bit of a pessimist looking at Northwestern this season, but I think they would be fortunate to end the regular season with eight wins, but I think seven is more realistic.
 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
The Wildcats will probably start the season as a top-25 team and I think they have a good shot of finishing as one too. I fully expect this team to make it six straight bowl games under coach Pat Fitzgerald and I also think they have a chance to match last year's win total of 10 when all is said and done. However, to accomplish the latter they will need to likewise match 2012's Big Ten record of 5-3, and based on this season's conference slate, this will be no easy task.

Northwestern can't avoid Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State since they are all in the Legends Division. Those three games should be the toughest in their own division, although the Wildcats catch a slight break by getting the Wolverines and Spartans at home. That's pretty much where the breaks stop, however, with Fitzgerald's team drawing Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders side, along with what should be a gimme at Illinois to close out the regular season. Northwestern needs to win at least two of the Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin matchups to have any shot at repeating last season's 5-3 Big Ten mark.

I am a big Fitzgerald fan and also think the Wildcat offense led by running back Venric Mark and the quarterback tandem of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian has a chance to be pretty special. The optimist in me has Northwestern successfully navigating the aforementioned difficult games on its Big Ten schedule while taking care of business during the other weeks. In the end, these Wildcats find a way to do no worse than last season's third-place finish in the Legends division by going 5-3 in conference play.


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Ranking the Big Ten Quarterbacks for 2013

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College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> How Many Big Ten Games Will Northwestern Win in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 - 06:58

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