Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-wide-receivers
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Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. West Virginia – With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee returning, USC should own the top receiver duo in college football, but West Virginia can’t be too far behind. The Mountaineers bring back senior Tavon Austin and junior Stedman Bailey, and both players are coming off 1,000-yard seasons. Austin is one of college football’s top all-purpose threats, as he caught 101 passes last year, while rushing for 182 yards and averaging 14.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 on kickoffs. Bailey led the team by averaging 17.8 yards per catch and recorded 1,279 yards on 72 receptions. This group could be even better in 2012 if junior Ivan McCartney improves upon his 49 catches from last year. The final starting spot in the receiving corps could go to senior J.D. Woods, who caught seven passes in nine contests in 2011. Freshmen Deontay McManus, Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell all could figure into the rotation this season.

2. Baylor – Quarterback Robert Griffin and receiver Kendall Wright are gone, but the Bears should push for 275-300 passing yards a game once again. With senior Nick Florence taking over under center, Baylor won’t be rebuilding from scratch on offense. There’s no shortage of capable targets for Florence, starting with Terrance Williams. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 59 receptions last year and recorded 11 touchdowns. The senior should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Senior Lanear Sampson and junior Tevin Reese finished spring practice locked into starting spots, with Reese the team’s top big-play threat after averaging 17.2 yards per catch last year. Sophomore Levi Norwood will likely start at the second inside receiver spot, while Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Clay Fuller will provide depth. Tight end Jordan Najvar caught 15 passes last season and will return as the starter in 2012.

3. Oklahoma
The depth isn’t Sooner-esque after Ryan Broyles graduated and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks were removed from the roster. But the starting talent is all Boomer Sooner. Kenny Stills is an All-American candidate and should be in for a huge year as a junior. Consistency is really the only missing piece to his game. Newcomer Trey Metoyer was an elite signee in the 2011 class but needed a year at prep school. All signs point to immediate contribution from Metoyer in 2012. Junior college transfer Courtney Gardner is also cut from the same big, physical mold as Metoyer and will help with depth right away. A stellar true freshman class, featuring top 100 names Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, will be a welcome sight come fall camp. Derrick Woods should also contribute as well. This is a very talented group with loads of upside but has very little experience and proven depth.

4. TCU
This Horned Frogs group is as deep as any collection in the league and is one of the positions of strengths on the roster. Josh Boyce could be a superstar after 61 catches, nine of which were touchdowns, and coming just two yards shy of 1,000. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter are outstanding No. 2 and 3 options for Casey Pachall after combining for 68 catches, 852 yards and eight scores last fall. The coaching staff is excited about redshirt elite talent, try 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, LaDarius Brown joining the ranks as well. Each of the four names can offer something unique to the offense and they mesh perfectly together. Corey Fuller and Stephen Bryant will get the reps at tight end.

5. Texas Tech – Darrin Moore was one of college football’s leading receivers through the first two weeks of 2011, catching 21 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns. However, a leg injury against Nevada limited his effectiveness and he missed the next three games before returning for the Oct. 22 upset win over Oklahoma. Although Moore returned to the lineup, he was never the same until the last two weeks of the season. With the senior back at full strength, and Eric Ward returning after a standout sophomore campaign, the Red Raiders should have no shortage of targets for quarterback Seth Doege. Senior Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL late in the year, but is expected to return in time for opener. Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez, Javares McRoy and Aaron Fisher will provide depth, while tight end Jace Amaro is back after catching seven balls last season. This is a solid group, but with the depth at receiver in the Big 12 this year, it’s hard to rank Texas Tech any higher.

6. Texas
This was an alarming stat: Texas went without a 50-catch receiver for the first time since 2006 last fall. Considering the elite level recruiting Mack Brown has done at the position, this is completely unacceptable. Certainly, quarterback play needs to improve but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis need to continue to develop into the stars most expected they would be coming out of high school. They combined for four total touchdowns last fall and should at least double that in 2012. Marquise Goodwin, John Harris and DeSean Hales also will vie for heavy reps while another talented collection of freshman, led by uber-recruit Cayleb Jones, try to make a name for themselves. D.J. Grant looks like the starting tight end but M.J. McFarland could be a rising star. Like always, there is loads of depth and talent, but Brown and Bryan Harsin need play-makers to step up.

7. Oklahoma State – Not only are the Cowboys losing quarterback Brandon Weeden, but they also have to replace standout receiver Justin Blackmon and No. 2 option Josh Cooper. The good news for coach Mike Gundy is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Tracy Moore caught 45 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns last season and was shifted to outside receiver in the spring, which should allow him to be a bigger factor in the offense. Senior Isaiah Anderson is back after catching 28 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns last year, but the breakout candidate to watch will be Josh Stewart. He grabbed 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last season and will team with junior college recruit Blake Jackson to man the inside receiver spots. Charlie Moore has been quiet in his career (6 receptions) but had a huge performance in the spring game and should factor more into the offense.

8. Kansas State
Chris Harper, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, is as physically talented wideout as any in the Big 12 conference and should be poised for his best season in (Eugene) or Manhattan. He will be the top target for KSU this fall. Tramaine Thompson offers a different skillset and will utilize elite speed and agility to produce big plays. Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett was lost for the season in November but proved his all-purpose skill will be on display for three more seasons. These three are talented but there are few proven options behind them as names like Curry Sexton and Torell Miller try to carve out a role in the offense. Travis Tannahill is a dependable option at tight end.

9. Iowa State
Despite losing leading wideout Darius Reynolds, Iowa State’s cupboard isn’t bare. Transfer Aaron Horne was the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the year after 38 catches for 431 yards. Josh Lenz, and to a lesser extent Jerome Tiller and Albert Gary, provide veteran presence and leadership. Second-year players Tad Ecby, Jarvis West, Quenton Bundrage and Ja’Qaurius Daniels are all going to fight for playing time as well. 

10. Kansas – Charlie Weis’ offensive acumen will be put to the test this year. Getting Dayne Crist as a transfer from Notre Dame is a positive, but the Jayhawks lack a No. 1 receiver. Weis was hoping Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay would gain immediate eligibility, but the NCAA ruled he has to sit out 2012. Daymond Patterson missed nearly all of last year with an injury and his return will help bolster the receiving corps. Seniors D.J. Beshears and Kale Pick are expected to start, while juniors Chris Omigie and Christian Matthews and sophomore JaCorey Shepherd will contribute in the rotation. The Jayhawks will miss tight end Tim Biere, but Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone and junior college recruit Charles Brooks will give Crist two experienced options.
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

The History of Big 12 Realignment

Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Unit Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Pac-12's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. USC – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back to form college football’s top one-two receiver combination. Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 scores last season, while Lee recorded 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Matt Barkley returning for another year at USC, it’s not crazy to think Woods and Lee could improve upon their numbers in 2012. The Trojans’ receiving corps isn’t just Woods and Lee, as the depth is solid with sophomore George Farmer, junior De’Von Flournoy and freshmen Victor Blackwell and Nelson Agholor. With all of the accolades surrounding Woods and Lee, it’s easy to overlook tight end Randall Telfer. He ranked third on the team with 26 catches for 273 yards and five touchdowns last year. Telfer will be joined at tight end by promising sophomore Xavier Grimble.

2. Washington
When a team has to replace two receivers who rank in the top 10 all-time in school history, they normally don’t feel this excited about the unit the next year. But there is good reason for Husky Nation to be fired up about Keith Price’s weaponry. Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation by season’s end after setting freshman school records a year ago. Fellow sophomore Kasen Williams also has All-American-type upside after a 36-catch, 427-yard, 6-TD freshman season. Veterans James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Cody Bruns provide much needed experience and depth. This is as talented a group as there is in a league that is loaded with powerful receiving corps.

3. Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a superstar. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as an underclassmen and now has Mike Leach calling plays for him. Oh yeah, it was Wilson, in a league with names like Allen, Woods and Lee, who led the Pac-12 in receiving a year ago. He will be supported in Leach’s spread-it-around offense from Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff and Gino Simone. The 250-pound Andrei Lintz is a wideout in a tight end’s body and could pay big dividends in 2012. Leach has never had an issue finding productive pass-catchers and fans shouldn’t expect any issues with this talented collection in Pullman.

4. Oregon State – With Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson and Marqise Lee returning, it’s easy for other receivers in the Pac-12 to get overlooked. Markus Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards and one touchdown last season and largely went unnoticed. With quarterback Sean Mannion more comfortable in his second season as a starter, look for Wheaton’s numbers to increase. Brandin Cooks turned in a solid freshman year in 2011, catching 31 passes for 391 yards and three scores. Oregon State’s depth at receiver took a hit with the departure of Jordan Bishop in late June, but sophomore Obum Gwacham is a promising player. Senior Colby Prince is expected to start at tight end after catching 12 passes for 66 yards last year.

5. Utah – With quarterback Jordan Wynn sidelined for most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense. With Wynn back under center in 2012, Utah should have a more balanced attack, especially if running back John White rushes for 1,000 yards once again. Senior DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards and one score in the Week 2 loss to USC but failed to record more than five in a single game the rest of the year. With Wynn returning, look for Christopher to push for 60 catches in 2012. Seniors Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn combined for 32 receptions last year and return as dependable threats. Sophomore Dres Anderson finished second on the team with 23 catches for 355 yards and three scores last season and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. Tight end is a strength with Kendrick Moeai, Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy back in the mix. 

6. Oregon
Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t exactly been a safe haven for wide receivers, but the 2012 group looks to provide new punch to the high-flying offense. Josh Huff, who dealt with a stress fracture in his leg this spring, should be the team’s top target. Daryle Hawkins had a big spring and youngsters Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley are looking to break into the starting lineup in a big way. Rahsaan Vaughn could be the veteran presence that a green quarterback might need, however. Look for sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla to become one of the league’s best after a 5-TD freshman season.

7. California – The Golden Bears rank of No. 7 in the Pac-12 receiver units is really due to one player – Keenan Allen. Take away Allen and California owns one of the worst receiving corps in the conference. However, the good news for the Golden Bears is Allen is back for at least one more season. The junior ranked second in the Pac-12 with 98 receptions last year, while recording 1,343 yards and six scores. Allen will once again be the go-to target for quarterback Zach Maynard, but he needs help. Freshmen Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs could inject some much-needed athleticism and ability into this group. Spencer Hagan will start at tight end, but Richard Rodgers will push him for time in the fall. 

8. Stanford
After Chris Owusu’s injuries, the Cardinal’s wide receivers were entirely too unproductive. Now, the only two dependable options, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener, are gone. Yet, there is loads of talent. Ty Montgomery got much-needed experience a year ago and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell need to deliver on their lofty recruiting hype. The saving grace is the tight end position, despite Fleener’s departure. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz form the Pac-12’s top 1-2 punch at the position and both could be playing on Sundays after combining for 10 scores a year ago.

9. Arizona State – Not only are the Sun Devils replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but they also have a new scheme and lose three key receivers from last year – Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Senior Jamal Miles is the group’s best returning player, recording 60 receptions for 361 yards and six scores last year. Miles will be a steady threat, but the Sun Devils need senior Rashad Ross to emerge a downfield threat. He caught 18 passes and averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year. In addition to Ross, Arizona State’s coaching staff is looking for a big year from junior Kevin Ozier and senior A.J. Pickens. 

10. UCLA
Three productive names have moved on from the Bruins, but this group could be a sneaky area of strength in 2012. Tight end Joseph Fauria, who has more of a wide receiver skillset than most tight ends, could be one of the nation’s best players at his position. He will make big plays from the slot all season long en route to potential Mackey Award recognition. Juniors Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will have to hold off talented up and comers in redshirt freshman Devin Lucien and incoming freshman Jordan Payton and Javon Williams. Payton and Lucien have loads of upside and will press for playing time almost instantly. Senior Jerry Johnson brings a veteran name to the list.

11. Arizona
The Wildcats have to replace three players who caught at least 60 passes for at least 600 yards including star Juron Criner. Yet, in the new Rich Rodriguez scheme, the passing game clearly figures to be featured less than with Nick Foles at the helm last year. Dan Buckner has NFL talent and should be the go-to target this fall. He will be backed by talented sophomores Austin Hill, Garic Wharton, Austin Morrison (who also gets snaps at QB) and Tyler Slavin as well as senior Terrence Miller. Wharton could be the team’s fastest player. This group has plenty of options, however, the offensive system doensn’t lend itself to big production at the position.

12. Colorado – Any chance the Buffaloes had of contending for a bowl game was likely lost in the spring when receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In his first two years in Boulder, Richardson caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns. Making matters worse for Colorado is Toney Clemons and tight end Ryan Deehan both expired their eligibility after the 2011 season. With Richardson out of the picture this year, it’s up to an inexperienced group of receivers to pickup the slack. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch caught 10 passes last season and will have to be the new go-to target for quarterback Connor Wood. Freshmen Nelson Spruce, Gerald Thomas, Peyton Williams and Jeffrey Thomas will be allowed to compete right away for playing time. 
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related Pac-12 Content

Pac-12 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Examining the Rising Cost of Assistant/Coordinator Salaries

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-its-zach-mettenbergers-time-shine-2012
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At the ripe old age of 20, Zach Mettenberger surprised himself. The LSU quarterback figured out the person he had become by going through a season like he’d never experienced in his football life.

The strong-armed Georgia kid overflowing with potential was a spectator as the 2011 Tigers pieced together one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history. A strange thing happened as Mettenberger stood and watched LSU roar to a 13–0 regular season that was capped by a dominating 42–10 win over Georgia — his former school — in the SEC Championship Game.

He enjoyed the ride.

“As a competitor, you always want to play and it definitely hurt to not play as much as I wanted,” says Mettenberger, who appeared in only five games in 2011. “But it made me realize I was patient, and I’m a better team player than I realized I could be.

“Not being the guy for the first time in my life, it showed me no matter how much you’re playing, you have to be supportive of your teammates and that the team is bigger than you. You play the game to win and be a part of something special.”

This is the same Mettenberger who in his freshman season at Georgia in 2009 showed up as a brash 18-year-old who had literally grown up in the Bulldogs’ program?

Yep. And it was also the same Mettenberger whose life on and off the field took an abrupt and potentially irreversible detour on March 7, 2010, when he was arrested and charged with a series of misdemeanors, including two counts of sexual battery after he fondled a female patron at a bar in Remerton, Ga.

His attorney pled the case out, and Mettenberger received two concurrent 12-month probation sentences. But Georgia coach Mark Richt — close to the family for years, due to the fact that Mettenberger’s mother Tammy had been a longtime administrative aide in the football office — had no choice but to kick Mettenberger out of the program.

Just that quickly, a promising career that had kicked into high gear during Georgia’s spring practice when Mettenberger battled Aaron Murray for the starting job was in serious jeopardy.

 “My plan at Georgia was to be the starter for four years,” Mettenberger says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not going to lie. I was really devastated when it was all going down. At one point, I thought I should just give up and quit playing football and go work for my dad and work construction the rest of my life. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to drive nails for a living. I wanted to play football. I had to realize the sun was coming up on the horizon and that I just had to get through the hard times.”

So Mettenberger got back on his football feet.

Instead of transferring to another Division I program and sitting out another full season (he redshirted in 2009), the one-time rising star went the junior college route and wound up at Butler Community College, tucked away in El Dorado, Kan. Out of the spotlight, Mettenberger rebuilt his image and revived his career. He passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns, often sitting out second halves as the Grizzles marched to the NJCAA national championship game.

Like Cam Newton the year before, Mettenberger was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail after the 2010 season. He landed at LSU, in part because the Tigers’ coaches were dogged in their pursuit, but more so because of the chance he saw with LSU.

A second chance, but also a chance to be the leader of a program on the cusp of winning a national championship or two while he was on campus.

While Mettenberger was toiling in El Dorado, LSU was plowing through an 11–2 season that culminated with a rout against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. Entering the 2011 campaign, the two quarterbacks who had taken almost every snap since the Tigers’ 2007 BCS National Championship season were seniors. And neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrett Lee had ever really distinguished himself as an elite SEC signal-caller, giving Mettenberger the hope he could step in and play right away.

“I wanted the opportunity to play with them and more than anything I wanted to be a winner,” Mettenberger says. “LSU was a great opportunity for me to come to a powerhouse, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could play for a winner.

“Anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete to get on the field, and that didn’t scare me at all. I came with the attitude that I was going to start every game last year. It didn’t work out that way because Coach (Les) Miles had a different plan, and that was fine with me. We were 13–1 and I had a great time with my teammates.”

Many of those teammates are back in 2012, and for the first time since 2006 and ’07, the Tigers will be led by an NFL-caliber quarterback.

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe says there’s no question Mettenberger can take that quantum leap into elite status.

“The biggest thing with Zach, he’s very accurate on deep balls,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s got a big arm. He’s going to make the throws outside the numbers on the hash. He’s learning to become a better passer. Everybody knows he can throw the football, but there’s not a lot of guys who can pass it. His fundamentals have gotten a lot better, and he’s throwing better passes and more catchable balls.

“The one word that always comes to mind with Zach is ‘competitive.’ He loves playing the game, and he’s very hard on himself. I didn’t see that as much last year because he wasn’t getting the same number of snaps and he wasn’t the guy. It’s there now because he wants to succeed and he wants this team to win.”

What was also camouflaged last fall as Mettenberger developed patience and waited for his turn was how much he was learning every day during practice. As the No. 3 quarterback, he often drew the task of working against the Tigers’ physical, aggressive and nasty first-unit defense.

Not only did that fuel the competitive juices, but it also forced Mettenberger to improve. Understandably, the 6'5", 222-pound gunslinger’s confidence is as high as ever after a spring as the Tigers’ leading man.

“When the lights are on and the cameras are on me, that’s when I think I’ll perform the best,” he says. “I’ve prepared myself to be the best quarterback I can be and I think I definitely have the talent and want-to to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and I hope my hard work pays off this season.

“I like the pressure. It feeds me and keeps me motivated every day.”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of an LSU offense that has had its ups and downs the last four years has also thrust Mettenberger into the role of a leader, something he has embraced.

He talked about scrutiny not affecting him, about understanding the microscope a big-time college quarterback operates under and — perhaps most important — about staying level-headed and making the right decisions on and off the field.

“Whether you want to be or not, when you’re the quarterback at LSU, you’re one of the faces of the program,” Mettenberger says. “I have to play that part well.”

So far, so good.

“He’s become a very good leader for our football team,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s embraced the idea that the quarterback has to be the leader, and he knows that people are going to look at him differently.”

Makes sense, because after a difficult road to get this far, Mettenberger is different, even more than he realized when his redirected road led him to Baton Rouge.

“To finally get my shot, I’m really excited for this and I’ve been working my tail off for it,” he says.

“What I’ve been through made me realize I can’t take it for granted. It made me appreciate what I do every day and who I get to hang out with. It reminds me I can’t screw this up because I may never get this opportunity again.”


This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Preview Annual.

Related SEC Content

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LSU Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

The History of SEC Realignment

Getting to Know Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> It's Zach Mettenberger's Time to Shine at LSU.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 09:11
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/texas-ams-welcome-sec-video-disaster
Body:

There's no question Texas A&M is fired up to be in the SEC. After dealing with the soap opera known as the Big 12, the Aggies finally have some stability in terms of conference alignment.

While it's a good thing Texas A&M is excited to join the SEC, this video is not. It's truly a disaster. The Aggies try to welcome each of their 13 new conference mates by repeating the school's chant and the results is an awkward and rather ridiculous video.

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M's Welcome to the SEC Video is a Disaster</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 09:38
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Tennessee
The SEC pass-catchers discussion has to begin with the Big Orange. Da’Rick Rogers has had off-the-field issues, but his powerful 6-3, 210-pound frame is dripping with ability. When focused (less often than not), Rogers has All-American talent. Yet, he isn’t the best receiver on his own team. That distinction goes to Justin Hunter, who returns to the field fully healthy after missing all but two games due to a torn ACL in 2011. When at full speed, there may not be a better wideout in the entire nation. Adding to this deep group is dependable tight end Mychal Rivera and senior Zach Rogers, giving Tyler Bray plenty to work with. And depth won’t be an issue as newcomers Cordarrelle Patterson - who appears to be ready to live up to his lofty No. 1 JUCO recruiting status - Drae Bowles, Alton Howard and Jason Croom give the Vols the SEC’s best collection of pass-catchers.

2. Georgia
The Dawgs have to replace two veteran tight ends in Orson Charles and Aaron White, but stud athletes Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome should be more than capable of filling the void at the position. Senior Tavarres King finally delivered on his immense talent with 705 yards and 8 TD last fall and leads the way for a deep corps of receivers. Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley all have shown flashes of ability, but the upside of this group lies in the dynamic arms of Malcolm Mitchell. He was shifted to defense to account for suspensions and injuries this spring, but Mark Richt insists he will play wideout. But for how many plays per game? His electric, explosive play-making skill is unmatched by any other Bulldog and makes this group as dangerous as any in the SEC.

3. Texas A&M
The Aggies enter SEC play with a new quarterback and offensive scheme but return plenty of weapons on the outside. Senior Ryan Swope led the team with 89 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 scores last year. He will be expected to provide leadership, as well as remain one of the offense’s top playmakers in 2012. Uzoma Nwachukwu has 126 receptions in his career and ranked third on the team with 639 receiving yards last season. Swope and Nwachukwu are entrenched as starters, with the third spot likely going to Kenric McNeal. Senior Brandal Jackson will also be in the mix, while sophomore Malcome Kennedy or freshman Mike Evans are potential breakout candidates.

4. Arkansas
It’s never easy replacing two first-team All-SEC receivers (Joe Adams and Jarius Wright), but Arkansas still has plenty of weapons for quarterback Tyler Wilson. Senior Cobi Hamilton averaged 15.9 yards per catch on 34 receptions last season and should be the new No. 1 option for Wilson. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon are expected to grab the other two starting spots and have a combined 23 career catches. Both players have potential to be difference makers in 2012. With Adams and Wright departing, tight end Chris Gragg should exceed his 41 catches from last season. Depth is a concern at receiver, as sophomore Marquel Wade and junior Maudrecus Humphrey are facing felony burglary charges and may not return in 2012.

5. Alabama
With Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks departing, Alabama’s top returning wide receiver is Kenny Bell, who caught 17 passes for 255 yards last year. While the losses of Maze and Hanks are a concern, it’s possible the Crimson Tide will have more depth, speed and athleticism at receiver in 2012. Bell and Kevin Norwood took the early lead for playing time, but sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White will be in the mix. Freshmen Marvin Shinn, Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams were all highly-touted recruits and will have a shot to crack the depth chart in the fall. Michael Williams is expected to start at tight end and should see his catches increase after nabbing 16 receptions last year. While this group has some youth, there’s also more potential than last season.

6. LSU
It took a few seasons but Rueben Randle finally developed into the elite talent many expected to see from the former five-star recruit. Replacing him won’t be easy, but LSU has plenty of options in 2012. In only one year, Odell Beckham Jr. proved to be one of the league’s top receivers and is a superstar in the making. He catches everything, can take the top off of any defense and plays a physical brand of football. Speedy counterpart Jarvis Landry played in every game as a freshman and will line-up opposite of Beckham. If Russell Shepard could consistently deliver on his big-play potential, Zach Mettenberger will have no trouble finding open Tigers. Chase Clement and Travis Dickson offer some upside at tight end and newcomer Avery Johnson, the younger brother of Patrick Peterson, is ready to contribute right away.

7. Missouri
Gone is Michael Egnew, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, but 14 different Tigers return after catching a pass last fall. T.J. Moe is the team’s top target after catching 146 passes for 1,694 yards over the last two seasons. Marcus Lucas started three games and tied for the team lead with five scores and has loads of upside. L’Damian Washington can contribute big plays as well after averaging 18.0 yards per catch in 2011. Eric Waters, who dealt with a knee issue all spring, will attempt to continue the long line of tight end success at Mizzou. The real kicker will be the addition of impact freshman Dorial Green-Beckham come the fall. Affectionately known as DGB, the newcomer comes to college as the most prolific and talented American prep receiver in history. His 6-6, 220-pound frame might be the most talented in the SEC the second he steps on campus in Columbia.

8. Vanderbilt
Going into last season, the Commodores ranked near the bottom of the SEC in receiver rankings. This group turned out to be a surprise, as two players caught over 31 passes and helped the offense produce more big plays. Jordan Matthews led the way with 41 catches for 778 yards. He also averaged 19 yards per catch in 2011 and could contend for All-SEC honors this year. Chris Boyd was impressive as a redshirt freshman, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and recording eight touchdown receptions on 31 catches. Jonathan Krause and Josh Grady are expected to make significant contributions in 2012, while Austin Monahan and Dillon van der Wal will battle to replace tight end Brandon Barden.

9. Auburn
With a switch to a pro-style attack and a quarterback question mark, the Tigers could rank near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense once again. There’s some talent returning in the receiving corps, but depth is a concern. Emory Blake led the team with 36 catches for 613 yards and will be the go-to option for quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Senior Travante Stallworth and sophomore Trovon Reed will likely be the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, with Reed catching 21 receptions as a freshman last year. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen only caught 24 passes in 2011, but made the most of those opportunities, as he took seven receptions for scores.

10. South Carolina
Alshon Jeffery is gone, but he failed to build on his huge sophomore season and was consistently out of shape last year. While no one is as talented as Jeffery, this group should be more balanced than last year. Ace Sanders is a versatile, speedy slot man who gets involved in a variety of ways. DeAngelo Smith will attempt to fill Jeffery’s shoes, with Damiere Byrd and Lamar Scruggs fighting for reps as well. The tight ends are in great shape as starters Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, as well as upside freshman Jerell Adams, give the Gamecocks one of the best tight end groups in the SEC.

11. Florida
It just feels weird to write, but the Gators desperately need play-makers to develop and step forward in this department. Andre Debose, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar must deliver on their immense talent that led to lofty recruiting status for all three. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring but has yet to log an actual snap in game action. Solomon Patton and Ja’Juan Story will also get plenty of chances as new coordinator Brent Pease tries to find the right rotation. There are a lot of former four- and five-star prospects playing wideout for Florida, so someone has to emerge quickly if the offense is expected to improve. Tight end Jordan Reed is a stellar talent who needs to continue his growth and development.

12. Mississippi State
In order for the Bulldogs to finish higher than ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, the passing attack has to get better. New quarterback Tyler Russell is a better passer than the player he is replacing (Chris Relf), but the receivers also need to step up. Chad Bumphis has been solid, but has yet to become the difference maker most expected when he committed to Mississippi State. Seniors Arceto Clark and Chris Smith are expected to start, while redshirt freshman Joe Morrow is coming off a strong spring, and the coaching stuff thinks he can contribute significant snaps in 2012.

13. Kentucky
Finding personnel who can make big plays is a must for the Wildcats in 2012, considering they finished last in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more a year ago. Senior La’Rod King will be the top target and the most dependable one after a 40-598-7 line last fall. But names like sophomore Demarco Robinson and freshman Daryl Collins need to step into bigger roles if Joker Phillips’ offense is going to improve. Phillips also wants and expects to see more from his tight ends as Ronnie Shields and Anthony Kendrick provide some athleticism. Tyler Robinson will play plenty as well, but is closer to an offensive lineman than pass-catcher. 

14. Ole Miss
The Rebels’ offense is littered with question marks, but there’s some upside with this unit. Donte Moncrief led the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (454) and touchdowns (4) as a freshman last year. Moncrief will be the No. 1 option once again, but the depth took a hit with Nickolas Brassell’s decision to transfer after spring practice. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year and should fill the No. 2 role. Converted quarterback Randall Mackey will be in the mix for significant playing time in 2012 as the No. 3 receiver. Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen combined for 18 receptions last year, but tight ends were not featured prominently in Hugh Freeze’s offense at Arkansas State last year.

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:11
Path: /college-football/college-football-examining-skyrocketing-coordinator-salaries
Body:

There’s more money than ever in college football, and assistant coaches are reaping the rewards, with compensation levels rising at a rapid pace

If you happen to score an invitation for dinner at Dabo Swinney’s house, expect a feast, complete with a fine entree, premium beverages and a nice dessert. The climate will be comfortably controlled, and the roof won’t leak. His children will be neatly dressed, and his car won’t be up on blocks in the front yard.

Swinney’s decision to give back some of the bonus he earned for leading Clemson to the ACC championship, in order to provide raises for some assistants and fund some truly remarkable salaries for his offensive and defensive coordinators, has led some to wonder whether that move will force Swinney to make some budgetary sacrifices. He and his family will have to scrape by on his $1.9 million salary in 2012, but major cutbacks are not on the horizon.

“I’m not missing any meals,” Swinney says. “For me, it was a business decision. I’m investing in my staff. I’m in really good shape in terms of my contract. It’s very important to take care of these guys.”

Swinney’s 2012 compensation package places him 46th among FBS coaches, despite the Tigers’ winning last year’s league title. But it doesn’t matter to Swinney that he’s about $3.7 million behind college football’s Rockefeller, Alabama’s Nick Saban, who will make $5.62 million this year. Thanks to a clause in his contract, Swinney was able to redirect $265,000 of the bonus he earned for taking the ACC title to the assistants’ pool to help fund a $450,000 increase for the staff, something he considers vital to Clemson’s long-term success. Some of that was spent on new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who will make a reported $800,000 this season, and second-year offensive boss Chad Morris, whose salary vaulted from $450,000 a year to $1.3 million per, making him the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

“(Head coach) is such a big, big job,” Swinney says. “It’s very public, especially at a school like this. We’re running multi-multi-million dollar corporations, and we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.

“We have to delegate and have confidence in the people we delegate to. It’s very competitive to hire and keep coaches, and (the salaries) are just a result of how it has grown.”

Though Morris’ gigantic leap in compensation is rare, coordinators across the country are seeing significant gains in their paychecks. What was a largely anonymous position a couple decades ago is now a high-profile job that carries great responsibility and pays big-time cash.

Morris takes over the top spot on the offensive coordinator pay chart from Gus Malzahn, who also made $1.3 million last year at Auburn. Malzahn has moved on to be the head coach at Arkansas State, where he is making at least $450,000 year less than the Tigers paid him. Talk about a man who loves the Natural State. Though the only other coordinator to earn more than a million dollars in 2012 is USC defensive leader Monte Kiffin (at least $1.2 million), plenty are edging near the magical, seven-figure mark.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart received a $100,000 raise after the Tide’s national title season and will make $950,000. LSU’s John Chavis is expected to be north of $900,000 this season (and will be paid a reported $1.1 million in ’13 and $1.3 in ’14) after earning $708 grand last season. New Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri signed a three-year, $2.4 million deal. Georgia’s Todd Grantham received a significant raise from last year’s $755,900 salary. And so on. As TV money floods into the upper reaches of the college football world, coordinators at top programs are benefiting at unprecedented rates.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt says. “(Coordinator) is a very big responsibility, and you want a guy who can be at the top of the spear with his unit he’s responsible for.

“I think the market goes where it goes for a reason. It’s not just because somebody got a wild hair. There is value in these people. When you do your job with excellence, there’s a lot to be gained. They earn it.”

Coordinators aren’t the only ones making more dough. According to USA Today, all assistants’ salaries rose 11 percent from 2010-11, a rate of increase that surpassed that of head men, whose pay went up 7.3 percent. At a time when fans know more about coaching staffs than ever before, and recruiting is as competitive as it has ever been, it’s vital for bosses to have people around them capable of doing the job well. To get those good people, they have to pay, especially when it comes to the coordinators, who serve as the executive VPs of programs.

“If you look at a corporation of any size, the top executives are paid accordingly,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says. “These are our top executives. They’re going to be head coaches some day.”

In part, that prospect has driven the coordinator salary surge. When small and mid-major programs look for new leaders, they often turn to coordinators at the top level. Although Malzahn took a big cut to head to Arkansas State, many other top assistants would prefer not to drop down a tax bracket, even if it does mean being in charge. By paying them a lot more than they could make at smaller schools, BCS head coaches can secure their services and the continuity that comes with their presence. Coaches and ADs have decided that in order to keep cashing in on the growing football revenue tide, they need the best people possible.

“The overriding factor here is that college football, particularly in the BCS conferences, is a huge business,” says a prominent agent who represents several BCS coaches and requested anonymity. “Programs are making a lot more money than they thought they would even five years ago. Since they don’t pay the players, who are they going to pay? The coaches.”

One of the reasons the salaries are growing so quickly is that the marketplace is highly competitive. Clemson had to give Morris such a huge raise because new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was reported to have offered him the same position for $1.5 million. Although the Tigers checked in a couple hundred thousand short of Meyer’s reported offer, Morris chose the familiarity of the Clemson program and the chance to continue what he started during his 2011 debut season, when he helped Clemson improve from 88th to 26th nationally in total offense.

“If you pay guys well, this is a place guys may stay a little longer and maybe for a little less money,” Swinney says. “There’s a great quality of life here.”

When David Brandon played linebacker for Michigan back in the mid-1970s, head coach Bo Schembechler would spend the first half of the practice with the defense and the second half with the offense. Under his watchful eye, the Wolverines waged a near-constant assault on the upper reaches of the Big Ten. And though his staffs produced 12 future head coaches — Bill McCartney, Gary Moeller, Don Nehlen, Jim Young and Les Miles among them — the identities of his assistants and even his coordinators were largely unknown to all but the most devoted U-M fans.

“It’s no longer Bo walking back-and-forth at practice,” says Brandon, who is now Michigan’s athletic director. “(Football) CEOs need leaders on both sides of the ball.”

Brandon understands the current climate of the coordinator salary race enough that when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke needed a big number to secure the services of Greg Mattison to run the defense when Hoke was hired in 2011, Brandon signed off on a $750,000 salary, then the highest assistant’s payday in the conference. The move paid off handsomely. In 2010, Michigan ranked 108th nationally in scoring defense; last season, it finished sixth. Without Mattison at the defensive helm, it’s unlikely Michigan would have played in the Sugar Bowl and received the fat BCS payout.

“You need to make this kind of investment to stay competitive at the top level,” Brandon says.

It’s interesting that Brandon and his fellow ADs had to be convinced that beefing up coordinators’ salaries was a good idea. Obviously, administrators keep a close eye on the bottom line, so any increase in expenses is going to cause a small disturbance in the force. But head coaches have become adept at convincing their bosses that the extra outlay is worth it.

“It’s a little different model,” Swinney says. “When I got the job here, I told them I didn’t care what they paid me. It was about trying to get things from a staff standpoint to where they have to be.”

That holistic approach to staff compensation is driving a lot of this. Alabama’s staff was paid a total of $3,866,350 last year, still short of the $5.62 million Saban will make this season but certainly a strong statement. At LSU, three assistants made more than a half-million in 2011, led by Chavis. Tennessee’s and Florida’s staffs both earned more than $3 million combined. UT defensive boss Justin Wilcox (who has since moved to the University of Washington) earned $625,000 last year, while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was paid $525,000.

“It’s fair to say that coordinators don’t just necessarily run the offense and run the defense,” LSU coach Les Miles says. “There’s a lot more to it. It requires a specialization. When you’re competing at the highest level, you require a guy with great experience, ability and continuity.

“You have to find a guy who can represent a school well, recruit at the highest level and fulfill a role that will prepare the players.”

It’s no coincidence the lion’s share of the nouveau riche at coordinator positions can be found in the SEC, and many of the top salaried coaches are on the defensive side. With some exceptions — see Auburn, 2010 — the conference remains a defense-first concern, and that has been rammed home by Alabama’s two national titles in the past three seasons.

Since the last six national title winners have come from the SEC, it makes sense that coaches will pay top coordinators. “If you want to get the right guy and keep him, you have to pay him,” Richt says. It won’t be long before that philosophy will creep northward. Clemson is already on board, and if Meyer was willing to throw $1.5 million at Morris to lure him to Ohio State, and Mattison is collecting three-quarters of a million at Michigan, expect the Big Ten to adopt the model.

“A lot of it is driven by the market,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says. “It all trickles down and begins with the coordinators in the NFL. Things have started to escalate, and it showed up first in the SEC. That’s usually how it goes.”

When Monte Kiffin started coaching, back at Nebraska in the late 1960s and early ’70s, he certainly wasn’t a wealthy man. In fact, when he saw what his son, USC head coach Lane, made in his first coaching job three decades later, Monte wasn’t too happy.

“It wasn’t fair,” he says. “But that’s just life.”

Since the elder Kiffin is making north of a million bucks each season, he can afford to be philosophical about the escalating salaries in the coaching world. “Football hasn’t changed,” he says. “It’s just that the salaries have gone up, but everything has gone up.” 

There is no question, however, that his job is more demanding than it was when he was coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense during Tom Osborne’s early years in Lincoln. First of all, Osborne was a lot more engaged in the daily operations of the program than many head coaches are today — and not because they are aloof or disengaged. For many years, Osborne called all the plays the Cornhuskers ran. Though some program chiefs have that level of hands-on involvement today (Saban comes to mind), few have the ability to run either side of the ball, not with all the fundraising and administrative responsibilities they have.

So, Kiffin and his coordinator brethren are charged with making the Xs and Os come to life on the field. We know who they are and are aware they make the big money. At their core, however, these guys are still ball coaches, and though they may harbor dreams of running their own programs some day and certainly don’t mind being well compensated, they care more about doing their jobs than anything else.

Last winter, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi removed himself from consideration for the vacant Akron head coaching spot to return to East Lansing. Though his $300,000 salary at MSU is less than the $375,000 former Zips coach Rob Ianello was paid annually to go 1–11 twice, Narduzzi decided it would be better to be a lieutenant in the Big Ten than a big cheese in the MAC. He’s happy and well compensated at MSU. And if the Spartans continue to play great defense, he may just find his paycheck heading toward those SEC totals. Narduzzi isn’t kidding you; he’d like that. But he’s more interested in doing a good job. “I’ve coached the same whether I was at Rhode Island (from 1993-99) or at Michigan State (from ’07-present),” Narduzzi says.

And he isn’t missing any meals, either.

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 College Football Annuals.
 

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Football: Examining the Skyrocketing Coordinator Salaries</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /college-football/northwestern-football-revisiting-1995-wildcats-rose-bowl-team
Body:

It was midnight on the eve of the 82nd Rose Bowl in Pasadena. A lone figure sat in the partially lit stands gazing out at the fabled field in the near darkness.

Gary Barnett was fulfilling a personal wish to visit the stadium the night before the 1996 Rose Bowl game. Alone with his thoughts, the Northwestern coach couldn’t help but smile at seeing the purple-painted end zone that saluted his Cinderella Wildcats. “We’re taking the Purple to Pasadena,” he had boldly predicted four years earlier, when he first stepped onto the Evanston, Ill., campus. Few believed him then. Now, incredibly, Northwestern had burst from the constraints of a dead-and-buried program and shocked the world of college football. Twenty-four eternally long seasons had come and gone since the Wildcats’ last winning season. It had been 47 years since the school’s last bowl appearance, when halfback Frank Aschenbrenner was the hero in the 1949 Rose Bowl win over California; 59 autumns had intervened since Northwestern had last captured a Big Ten championship. But all that changed when the Wildcats went 10–1 through the 1995 regular season, stunning such perennial powers as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State to claim the Big Ten title and the automatic Rose Bowl invitation that went with it.

“We were the school that wasn’t supposed to be able to do it,” says Barnett, now 66. “We took a lot of pride in that.”

It was easy to remember when there was little pride in the Purple. A deep-seated pigskin pall had fallen over the Northwestern student body in the preceding decades that had hardened into a shell of apathetic disinterest.

“We had given them really no reason to expect winning,” says Chris Martin, an All-Big Ten cornerback on that Rose Bowl team. “On most Saturdays, the library was more crowded than our football stadium.” Barnett, he said, had taken over “a moribund program.”

Far from being embraced, football was viewed as a scourge on campus. “We were a necessary evil, I suppose,” remembers Darnell Autry, a sophomore star that year, whose 1,785 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns brought him All-America recognition and a fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

“And the professors there … you ­didn’t want to go in and tout that you were a football player,” recalls Mike McGrew, a fullback and ’96 co-captain.

Beating the odds

The season started with a shocking 17–15 victory over Notre Dame at South Bend. “We were 29-point underdogs,” remembers quarterback Steve Schnur. “There was a big third-down conversion we threw a pass on. Barnett let me call my own play and that was telling.”

Indeed, that belief in his quarterback and the game’s eventual outcome told a nation that Barnett, improbably, could field a team of winners at an elite academic institution. In the first year of full recruiting following his initial 1992 campaign at Northwestern, Barnett ran smack into the reality of what he was up against: Ninety-five percent of kids playing Division I football were athletes he could not recruit. Strict Northwestern standards demanded that players maintain a 3.0 GPA and score well over 1,000 on their SATs.

“We had Hines Ward and a bunch of guys we were recruiting,” recalls Barnett. “We took 100 applications over to the admissions office and they only let us have 10 of those in school.”

The Wildcats coach nearly made a fateful mistake. “We almost said, ‘Well, there you go. That’s why we can’t win here. We can’t get kids in school.’ But instead we said, ‘Okay, we now know what that profile looks like, so let’s not worry about those other 90. Let’s just make sure that the rest of the guys we recruit look like the profiles of these 10.’”

That meant Barnett and his staff would have to scour the country for their talent. The athletes they signed were not being courted by the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan, but rather second-tier football programs like Tulane, Iowa State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Cincinnati. Still, to come to this center of football inertia, Barnett had to attract them in some way.

“We sold the city. We sold Michael Jordan. And we sold Mike Ditka,” says Barnett, laughing. “We just tried to make a city school into something attractive and looked at it from a different perspective than how it had been conventionally looked at.”

Some players came for a chance to play in the Big Ten; some came for the challenge of playing at a school like Northwestern. “Of course, we probably got a kid or two because of the academics, but for the most part it was just something within our program that we found a way to use to attract.”

That something, for many of the recruits, was the coaches. “We had Gary Barnett,” says Autry simply. “He had a different vision for what he saw in this program. He changed the culture in terms of how we thought about ourselves and how we thought about the program.”

Expect victory

Still, after all the players were assembled, something made that team of good-but-not-great athletes very special. “Great chemistry,” says Schnur, in a response echoed by McGrew and others. “Chemistry and teamwork can take you further than a collection of individual talents. That’s what signified that team. We got as high as third in the country and felt like we could compete with and beat anyone. It was just a bunch of guys who believed in each other. We were willing to outwork anybody.”

That philosophy has carried over into the adult lives of those ’95 Wildcats, who are now between 35 and 37 years of age and have displayed resounding success in their respective career fields (see below). Though 10 players eventually went into the NFL, only one (Barry Gardner) played more than four years. But all, regardless of profession, find parallels today with their Northwestern football experience.

“The ability to inspire and motivate people, to tap into things that resonate with them, to get the most out of your folks to help cultivate an atmosphere that helps get people working together and focused on a common goal, those are all things I went through as part of that team at Northwestern,” says McGrew, now with W.W. Grainger, a Fortune 500 company. “It prepared me in helping our people achieve their goals and objectives.”

For McGrew and the other ’95 Wildcats, a Northwestern diploma has been a degree of difference.

“When I look back on our team, the one thing that strikes me is that most of the guys are successful, whether they’re teachers or CEOs or presidents of companies,” notes Justin Chabot, an offensive lineman in ’95. “Northwestern offers a national degree. And it translates everywhere you go.”

Pat Fitzgerald, heading into his seventh season as head coach of the Wildcats, sees instances everywhere of the positive influences from his playing days at Northwestern. “We’re all incredibly successful professionally now not just because of what we experienced on the field but because of what we experienced together as a group and how we were able to earn our degrees at such a great school,” says the former two-time consensus All-America linebacker, a defensive mainstay on the ’95 team. “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in recruiting, but I can say wholeheartedly everything that Coach Barnett and his staff sold us on has come true.”

“Expect victory,” Gary Barnett once preached. To a man, his 1995 Northwestern Wildcats still do.

The 1995 Wildcats: Where They Are Now

Darnell Autry, running back - Online radio show host, “Outside the Spotlight,” on VoiceAmerica

Gary Barnett, head coach - Broadcast analyst, Sports USA Radio Network

D’Wayne Bates, wide receiver - Football defensive assistant/special teams coordinator, Evanston (Ill.) Township High School

William Bennett, defensive back - Branch manager, Scottsdale, Ariz., Kelly Services, a global workforce staffing company

Paul Burton, punter - General assignment reporter, WBZ-TV News, the CBS affiliate in Boston

Justin Chabot, offensive lineman - College scout, Southeast area, San Francisco 49ers

Darren Drexler, tight end - Vice president of operations, Courtesy Products, St. Louis, Mo., a provider of operating supplies to hotels and motels in the United States and Canada

Pat Fitzgerald, linebacker - Head football coach, Northwestern University

Rob Johnson, center - Sales manager and overseer of purchasing, operations, and marketing for Illco, Inc., a Countryside, Ill.-based privately held wholesale distributor of refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, pvc, and hydronic supplies

Brian Kardos, tackle - Security and assurance manager, BP, Houston

Keith Lozowski, defensive end - Regional director, Bankers Life and Casualty Co., Jacksonville, Fla., an insurance needs provider for the retirement market

Chris Martin, defensive back - Football analyst, Big Ten Network

Mike McGrew, fullback - Director of communications for W.W. Grainger, the largest supplier of industrial supplies and maintenance equipment for businesses and institutions in North America

Tucker Morrison, linebacker - Chief operating officer, Flightstar Aircraft Services, Inc., a heavy aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brian Musso, wide receiver - Co-founder and managing partner, Promus Capital LLC, a family wealth management and alternative investment group in Chicago

Ryan Padgett, guard - Seattle-area emergency room doctor

Steve Schnur, quarterback - Senior vice president, Chicago operations, Duke Realty, a public real estate investment trust

Sam Valenzisi, kicker - Director, Lincoln International LLC, Chicago, specializing in merger and acquisitions advisory services

Jason Wendland, tackle - Senior futures and options broker, JP Morgan Chase, New York City
 

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.
 

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Big Ten All-Conference Team

Northwestern Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

Teaser:
<p> Looking back at the 1995 Northwestern Wildcats team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 04:48
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-Conference USA teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB David Piland, Houston

RB Zach Line, SMU

RB Charles Sims, Houston

WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall

WR Darius Johnson, SMU

TE Luke Willson, Rice

C Trent Dupy, Tulsa

OL Jacolby Ashworth, Houston

OL Joe Duhon, Southern Miss

OL Theo Goins, UCF

OL Jason Weaver, Southern Miss


First-Team Defense

DL Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

DL Cory Dorris, Tulsa

DL Victor Gray, UCF

DL Margus Hunt, SMU

LB Ja'Gared Davis, SMU

LB Trent Mackey, Tulane

LB Taylor Reed, SMU

CB D.J. Hayden, Houston

CB Deron Wilson, Southern Miss

S Kemal Ishmael, UCF

S Dexter McCoil, Tulsa


First-Team Specialists

K Chris Boswell, Rice

P Ian Campbell, UTEP

KR Rannell Hall, UCF

PR Tracy Lampley, Southern Miss


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Conference USA Team
 

  First Second Overall
East Carolina 0 4 4
Houston 4 2 6
Marshall 1 2 3
Memphis 0 1 1
Rice 2 1 3
SMU 5 0 5
Southern Miss 5 2 7
Tulane 1 2 3
Tulsa 3 5 8
UAB 0 2 2
UCF 4 3 7
UTEP 1 2 3



Second-Team Offense

QB Blake Bortles, UCF

RB Orleans Darkwa, Tulane

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

WR Bryan Burnham, Tulsa

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

TE Willie Carter, Tulsa

C Jordan Rae, UCF

OL Brander Craighead, UTEP

OL Rowdy Harper, Houston

OL Chris Hubbard, UAB

OL Will Simmons, East Carolina


Second-Team Defense

DL Michael Brooks, East Carolina

DL Troy Davis, UCF

DL Horace Miller, UTEP

DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

LB Jeremy Grove, East Carolina

LB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa

LB Derrick Mathews, Houston

CB Bryce Callahan, Rice

CB Ryan Travis, Tulane

S Jacorius Cotton, Southern Miss

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa


Second-Team Specialists

K Ty Long, UAB 

P Tom Hornsey, Memphis

KR Andre Booker, Marshall

PR Andre Booker, Marshall

 

Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

Related Content: Conference USA 2012 Predictions

East West
East Carolina Houston
Marshall SMU
Memphis Rice
Southern Miss Tulane
UAB Tulsa
UCF UTEP

Teaser:
<p> Conference USA Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 03:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mountain-west
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Mountain West in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Mountain West All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Brett Smith, So. (Wyoming)

Last season:  Passed for 2,622 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 710 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St

 

QB—Cody Fajardo, So. (Nevada)

Last season:  Passed for 1,707 yards and 6 TDs, rushed for 694 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

RB—D.J. Harper, Sr. (Boise State)

Last season:  Rushed for 568 yards and 9 TDs as the primary backup to Doug Martin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

RB—Robbie Rouse, Sr. (Fresno State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,607 yards and 13 TDs, 32 receptions for 228 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Wyoming, @ New Mexico, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Nevada, Bye, Air Force

 

RB—Stefphon Jefferson, Jr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Rushed for 442 yards and 5 TDs as a backup to Lampford Mark and Mike Ball.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

WR—Matt Miller, So. (Boise State)

Last season:  62 receptions for 679 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ New Mexico, @ Southern Miss, Fresno St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

WR—Chris McNeill, Sr. (Wyoming)

Last season:  42 receptions for 504 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St

 

WR— Brandon Wimberly, Sr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Missed 2011 season due to injury (gunshot wound).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Wyoming, @ UNLV, San Diego St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

TE—Gavin Escobar, Jr. (San Diego State)

Last season:  51eceptions for 780 yards and 7 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; San Jose St, @ Fresno St, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Air Force, Bye, @ Wyoming

 

FLEX—Chris Nwoke, Jr. (Colorado State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs, 23 receptions for 143 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; North Dakota St, @ San Jose St, Utah St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UNLV, @ Boise St, New Mexico

 

K—Parker Herrington, Sr. (Air Force)

Last season: 15-for-18 on FG attempts, 45-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UNLV, Colorado St, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ San Diego St, Hawaii, @ Fresno St

 

DEF/ST—Boise State Broncos

Last season:  No. 12 scoring defense, No. 16 total defense, only two starters return.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Derek Carr, Jr. (Fresno State)

QB—Joe Southwick, Jr. (Boise State)

RB—Mike DeWitt, Sr. (Air Force)

WR—Rashad Evans, Sr. (Fresno State)

WR—Colin Lockett, Jr. (San Diego State)

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Mountain West</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:32
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /news/charles-barkley-hoped-recruit-dirk-nowitzki-auburn
Body:

Dirk Nowitzki is one of the NBA's top players, but he switched in his sneakers for cleats and a bat for the 2012 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game in Frisco, Texas. The event featured a handful of noteable athletes outside of Nowitzki, including Vince Carter, Terrell Owens, Mike Modano and Daryl Johnston.

While the game was a good way to pass the offseason time for the NBA players, the highlight has to be Charles Barkley's account of playing Nowitzki in Germany. 

In addition to dropping some memorable quotes about playing Nowitzki ("Dude who the hell are you?"), Barkley recounted his "pitch" to steer him to Auburn.

Barkley also jokes about the reported $200,000 that was offered to former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as a "good d@mn investment." 

Needless to say, this video of Barkley dishing on Nowitzki in Germany, and hoping he would play for Auburn is another good one in Sir Charles' quotable library. 

Teaser:
<p> Charles Barkley Hoped to Recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Auburn</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 09:18
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-al-golden-has-hurricanes-back-track
Body:

Recruiting is a contact sport not meant for the weak-hearted. Al Golden knows this. But even with that in mind, Golden was startled by the level of malice he and his Miami Hurricanes staff encountered from fellow coaches last winter on the recruiting trail.

With the Hurricanes facing an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits provided to athletes by rogue booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, opposing recruiters went after Miami like a piñata at a kids’ party.

Golden says his coaching counterparts “absolutely crushed” Miami with attacks that “entered the realm of vicious.”

Players pursued by Miami were warned, not only of imminent NCAA-imposed scholarship cuts and bowl bans, but also of a potential death penalty ruling, a possibility few take seriously.

“There was a lot of negative recruiting,” Golden says. “We don’t have a lot of Achilles’ heels. They saw a soft spot and they took it.”

Golden reacted to the low blows — not by complaining, but by getting even.

Despite looming NCAA sanctions, a 6–6 record in 2011 and the cut-throat tactics applied by competitors, Golden pulled in a recruiting class listed in virtually everyone’s top 10 and one that includes six players ranked among ESPN’s Top 150.

Golden responded to Miami’s talent haul by taking a victory lap while warning his program’s detractors “to get your licks in now.”

“What has everybody else worried is that we did this despite everything that was being used against us,” Golden says. “Basically we told everybody, ‘Here’s the tee and here’s the ball,’ and we still were able to get a top-10 recruiting class.”

Those who have followed Golden’s coaching career are not surprised at what the 43-year-old coach was able to accomplish despite the circumstances. Long-time recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBSSports/MaxPreps says Golden built a reputation as “one of the top four or five recruiters in the country” while serving as Al Groh’s defensive coordinator at Virginia from 2001-05.

That rep was further bolstered during six seasons as Temple’s head coach, as Golden turned what was arguably the nation’s most decrepit program into one of college football’s unlikeliest success stories.

Golden brought Temple back from the dead by attracting prospects who prior to his arrival would never have considered the Philadelphia school and by finding unheralded players like Muhammad Wilkerson, a 2-star defensive tackle who developed into a 2011 first-round draft pick of the New York Jets.

But Golden says that what faced him at Miami last winter made the situation at Temple look easy. The NCAA investigation that resulted in the suspension of eight key players and a self-imposed bowl ban had nothing to do with Golden, but he was left to put out the fire while school administrators hid behind carefully crafted statements.

The Shapiro story had more than its share of lurid elements — prostitutes, abortion and strip clubs, to name a few — and provided chum for Miami’s competitors in the shark-infested waters of recruiting. Golden’s approach was to attack the NCAA issues proactively.

“We went after guys that understood we weren’t responsible for it, but understand that we’re responsible enough to clean it up,” Golden says.

The message resonated with recruits. Not only did Golden keep most of his oral commitments after the scandal broke in August, but he also closed like Mariano Rivera, guaranteeing a top-10 class on Signing Day by getting Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard, ranked as the No. 18 prospect nationally by Athlon Sports, to change direction and sign with the Hurricanes instead of Florida.

“There aren’t many guys that can pull that off,” Lemming says. “Golden is a younger version of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer as a coach and a recruiter. Like Saban and Meyer, Golden never stops working. He has an uncanny knack for knowing what kids are looking for, which requires a lot of time and effort. That, combined with a work ethic that is second to none and a great personality, makes Golden unique. There’s only a few of them like him.”

The Hurricanes signed 33 players, but Brennan Carroll, Miami’s national recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, says the key pair were running back Randy “Duke” Johnson and defensive back Deon Bush, a couple of local area products.

Johnson, Florida’s 5A Player of the Year after leading Miami Norland to an undefeated season and state championship, committed to the Hurricanes as a junior in high school and didn’t budge despite the firing of coach Randy Shannon, two lackluster seasons, the NCAA investigation or the best attempts by other schools to sway him.

Bush, a consensus top-5 safety, committed to Miami a month before Signing Day, then worked hard to get Howard, his buddy and former teammate on a 7-on-7 all-star team, to ditch the Gators and stay in South Florida.

“Those were really two guys that were turning points for us — Duke Johnson, who was such a rock, and Deon Bush,” says Carroll, the son of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “They were the story. They got some other guys to say, ‘Let’s do it right here.’”

Of Miami’s 33 signees — nine enrolled in January and technically count toward the 2011 scholarship limit — more than half are from the South Florida area. Golden has made it a point to re-connect with local coaches, some of whom felt like their schools and players were ignored during Shannon’s four seasons in charge of the Canes program. Whether that’s a legitimate beef or not, Golden has doubled down in South Florida by assigning his entire nine-man staff to recruit the area and personally communicating to his high school counterparts that “interaction, trust and communication with the local coaches has got to be elite. It can’t be good.”

Whatever the formula, it seems to have worked with the 2011 class, which includes most of South Florida’s best talent.

“We’re going to be tough to beat down here,” Golden says. “And we should be.”

Golden, who signed an extension in November that runs through the 2019 season, has gotten off to a fast start toward building next year’s freshman class. As of early May, Miami had received commitments from five players, including two ranked in ESPN’s Top 150 and Ray Lewis III, son of the NFL great and Hurricanes legend.

With recruiting going very well, Golden sees sunny days ahead despite an impending date with the NCAA Committee on Infractions and an expected rebuilding season.

“We just need to weather the storm,” Golden says. “Don’t flinch and just have a stick-to-it-iveness and determination that’s going to be able to overcome it.

“We are undaunted by this. At the end of the day, it’s still one of the most special places in college football.”

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual

Related ACC Content

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

Miami Hurricanes 2012 Team Preview

College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 48 Miami

Teaser:
<p> Al Golden has the Miami Hurricanes back on track</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big East's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. South Florida – The Bulls ranked second in the Big East in passing offense last season and could push for the conference lead in 2012. Quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for a career-high 2,604 yards last season, while tossing 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Daniels should eclipse those numbers in 2012, as South Florida returns nearly all of its pass catchers from last year. Despite missing four games due to injury, Sterling Griffin led the team with 43 catches for 530 yards. Griffin should push for All-Big East honors in 2012, and has plenty of help with the return of Victor Marc, Deonte Welch and Andre Davis. The wildcard to watch in the receiving corps will be Florida transfer Chris Dunkley. Tight end Evan Landi caught 29 passes last year and will be a dependable threat over the middle in 2012.

2. Rutgers – There’s really not a clear No. 1 receiving corps in the Big East, and a case could be made the Scarlet Knights should rank at the top. Mohamed Sanu departs after catching 115 passes last season, but the cupboard is far from bare for new coach Kyle Flood. Brandon Coleman finished 2011 on a tear, catching six passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Connecticut, while taking his only reception against Iowa State for 86 yards and a score. Joining Coleman as key contributors will be Mark Harrison, Quron Pratt and Tim Wright. Harrison caught only 14 passes last season after nabbing 44 receptions in 2010. If he returns to form and Coleman continues to emerge, Rutgers should be in great shape at receiver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson is another weapon to watch, and he has 22 receptions over the last two years.

3. Louisville – If there’s a group that could take a big step forward in 2012, look no further than Louisville. The Cardinals lose receiver Josh Bellamy and tight end Josh Chichester, but return a handful of talented youngsters. DeVante Parker only caught 18 passes as a freshman last year, but took six of those for scores and averaged 16.2 yards per reception. Eli Rogers also made a big impact as a freshman last season, leading the team with 41 receptions. Rogers and Parker will join fellow sophomore Michaelee Harris as the likely starters, while Jarrett Davis, Andrell Smith and Scott Radcliff will provide depth.

4. Syracuse – The Orange must replace running back Antwon Bailey, but the offense returns quarterback Ryan Nassib and All-Big East tackle Justin Pugh. Syracuse ranked fifth in the conference in total offense last year, so getting improvement from this unit will be crucial if the Orange want to return to a bowl game. Departing as key weapons in the receiving corps are receivers Van Chew and Dorian Graham and All-Big East tight end Nick Provo. Alec Lemon was the No. 1 target for Nassib last season and earned second-team All-Big East honors. He is once again expected to be the go-to target, while the receiving corps should receive a boost with the return of Marcus Sales, who missed all of 2011 due to a suspension. There’s not a ton of depth, but Syracuse should have one of the conference’s top duos with Sales and Lemon returning.

5. Pittsburgh – The Panthers didn’t suffer any huge losses from this group and with the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh could have one of the Big East’s most-improved offenses in 2012. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan are the headliners for this group and both players should be in the mix for All-Big East honors. Street led the team with 53 receptions and 754 yards last year. Cameron Saddler caught 19 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in 2011 and is back in the mix as a No. 3 returner and weapon on special teams. Ronald Jones turned in a solid freshman campaign last year, catching 17 passes for 143 yards. Jones and Saddler will backup Street and Shanahan, but sophomore Darius Patton could work his way into playing time. Tight end Hubie Graham should have a breakout year in Chryst’s offense. 

6. Cincinnati – With quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead departing, 2012 figures to be a rebuilding year on offense for the Bearcats. Cincinnati also loses receiver DJ Woods, but returns Anthony McClung (49 catches in 2011) and Kenbrell Thompkins (44 catches). In addition to leading the team in catches, McClung paced Cincinnati receivers with 683 yards and six receiving scores. Sophomores Alex Chsium and Dyjuan Lewis are intriguing talents, while tight end Travis Kelce is back after catching 13 passes last year. Another option to watch will be converted quarterback Jordan Luallen, who made the switch to receiver in spring practice. Coach Butch Jones would like to see more consistency and fewer dropped passes from this group in 2012, but there’s plenty of options to keep this unit ranked among the best receiving corps in the Big East.

7. Connecticut – Quarterback play was a huge issue for the Huskies last year, but the receiving corps didn’t give the passers much help either. Connecticut loses Isiah and Kashif Moore (the top two receivers from last season), but this group could be improved in 2012. Michael Smith led the Huskies with 615 receiving yards and 46 catches in 2010 but missed 2011 due to academic suspension. Smith is back in the mix, and is joined by transfers Shakim Phillips (Boston College) and Bryce McNeal (Connecticut). Senior Nick Williams caught only 11 passes last season but averaged 21.5 yards per catch. Tight end Ryan Griffin caught 33 passes last year and is a steady performer for whichever quarterback wins the job.

8. Temple – With the departure of running back Bernard Pierce, Temple will have to lean a little more on its passing attack in 2012. Matt Brown is a capable rusher, but the Owls need more from quarterback Chris Coyer and the receivers. No Temple player caught more than 35 passes last season, and the top two statistical leaders (tight end Evan Rodriguez and receiver Joe Jones) from 2011 have departed. Deon Miller averaged 14.1 yards per reception on 18 catches and needs to play a bigger role in the offense. Seniors Malcolm Eugene and C.J. Hammond are expected to have prominent roles in 2012, but keep an eye on Jalen Fitzpatrick. The sophomore had a good spring and should provide some big-play ability to the offense. 

 

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Related Big East Content

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers for 2012
College Basketball Realignment Winners and Losers for 2012

Ranking the Big East's Running Backs for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Big East 2012 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:38
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-conferences-2012
Body:

Once again, the SEC ranks as college football's best conference. LSU and Alabama are expected to be national title contenders, while Georgia and South Carolina should finish the year ranked as top-10 teams. While the SEC is college football's No. 1 conference, the Big 12 isn't too far behind. Oklahoma is the favorite to win the conference title, but Texas is on the rise, and the league welcomes West Virginia and TCU as new members in 2012. 

1. SEC
Favorite: LSU

The league has produced the national champion in each of the past six seasons. And while USC out of the Pac-12 is our preseason No. 1 team, there are four SEC schools in the top 10, so don’t be surprised if the league extends the streak to seven next January in Miami Gardens. The West will be a battle once again, with LSU and Alabama both well-positioned to make a title run. A favorable schedule — plus a talented roster — makes Georgia the favorite in the East, but don’t count out South Carolina, which welcomes back Marcus Lattimore. 

2. Big 12
Favorite: Oklahoma

The Big 12 isn’t as formidable as the SEC at the top — Oklahoma appears to be the only legit national title contender — but the league has great depth. Including OU, six league teams can be found in Athlon Sports’ preseason top 25, including newcomers West Virginia (No. 12) and TCU (No. 22).

3. Big Ten
Favorite: Michigan

If Michigan and Ohio State continue to recruit at their current rate, another ‘Ten Year War’ could soon be in store between these two traditional powers. Ohio State is ranked higher in the preseason top 25, but the Buckeyes aren’t eligible for postseason play and thus can’t play in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska and Michigan State figure to give Michigan a battle in the Legends Division, while Wisconsin poses the biggest threat to Ohio State in the Leaders.

4. Pac-12
Favorite: USC

The Pac-12 boasts two of the elite teams in the nation in USC and Oregon, but there is a significant drop-off after those two. Stanford figures to take a step back with Andrew Luck now with the Colts, but the Cardinal will still be strong. It should be a tight race for second place in the South. Utah is our pick, though UCLA should be improved under first-year coach Jim Mora.

5. ACC
Favorite: Florida State

Florida State once again looks rock-solid on paper, but we’ve been through this drill before. Is this the year the Seminoles finally break through? Clemson, the defending ACC champ, has the talent to return to a BCS bowl. Virginia Tech is once again the favorite in the Coastal Division.

6. Big East
Favorite: Louisville

West Virginia’s departure to the Big 12 makes Louisville the favorite in the Big East. Charlie Strong has done a masterful job in two short years and has his program well-positioned for the future. Rutgers and South Florida figure to be in the hunt as well, and don’t count out Pitt under new boss Paul Chryst.

7. Mountain West
Favorite: Boise State

Star quarterback Kellen Moore is gone, but Boise State remains the class of the Mountain West. The loss of TCU to the Big 12 will hurt, but the addition of Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State should add some beef to the middle of the league. This year, watch out for Wyoming, which returns 13 starters from a team that won eight games in 2011.

8. Conference USA
Favorite: UCF

Watch out for the usual suspects in the final year of Conference USA football as it’s currently configured. Houston and Tulsa are the favorites in the West, while UCF and East Carolina appear to be the teams to beat in the East.

9. MAC
Favorite: Ohio

Ohio is the easy pick to the win the MAC East, thanks to a talented roster and a schedule that does not include the top teams in the West. Western Michigan loses elite wideout Jordan White, but the Broncos’ attack should still be explosive with quarterback Alex Carder running the show. Toledo will also score a ton of points.

10. Sun Belt
Favorite: Arkansas State

Arkansas State, the defending Sun Belt champ, made big news in the offseason by hiring Gus Malzahn to replace Hugh Freeze. FIU should bounce back into contention after going 5–3 in the Sun Belt last year. And UL-Lafayette, which won nine games in ’11, will be strong again.

11. WAC
Favorite: Louisiana Tech

The WAC has been gutted in recent years, losing Boise State after the 2010 season and Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada after the ’11 campaign. Louisiana Tech is the best of the leftovers, followed by Utah State. 

Related College Football Content

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Teaser:
<p> Ranking College Football's Conferences for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 04:58
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-c-usa
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Conference USA in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Conference USA All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—David Piland, So. (Houston)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

QB—Rio Johnson, Jr. (East Carolina)

Last season:  Only 157 yards passing as QB #2 behind Dominique Davis.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Memphis, @ UAB, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Tulane, Marshall

 

RB—Zach Line, Sr. (SMU)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,224 yards and 17 TDs, 15 receptions for 139 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Tulane, Houston, Memphis.

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Miss, @ Rice, Tulsa

 

RB—Charles Sims, Jr. (Houston)

Last season:  Rushed for 821 yards and 9 TDs, 51 receptions for 575 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; @ SMU, UTEP, @ ECU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

RB—Orleans Darkwa, Jr. (Tulane)

Last season:  Rushed for 924 yards and 13 TDs, 37 receptions for 305 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; UAB, Rice, @ Memphis

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Memphis, ECU, @ Houston

 

WR—Darius Johnson, Sr. (SMU)

Last season:  79 receptions for a team-high 1,118 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ UTEP, @ Tulane, Houston

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Miss, @ Rice, Tulsa

 

WR—Justin Hardy, So. (East Carolina)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions and receiving yards (64-658), 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Memphis, @ UAB, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Tulane, Marshall

 

WR—Daniel Spencer, So. (Houston)

Last season:  12 receptions for 171 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

TE—Luke Willson, Sr. (Rice)

Last season:  29 receptions for 313 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Houston, @ Memphis, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, SMU, @ UTEP

 

FLEX—Aaron Dobson, Sr. (Marshall)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (49-668-12)

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; Memphis, @ UAB, Houston

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ UAB, Houston, @ ECU

 

K—Matt Hogan, Sr. (Houston)

Last season: 13 of 17 on FG attempts, 91 of 92 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

DEF/ST—Central Florida Knights

Last season:  No. 9 scoring defense and total defense, No. 16 rushing defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; ECU, So. Miss, @ Memphis

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ UTEP, @ Tulsa, UAB

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Cody Green, Jr. (Tulsa)

QB—Jonathan Perry, Jr. (UAB)

RB—Latavius Murray, Sr. (UCF)

WR—Deontay Greenberry, Fr. (Houston)

WR—Dewayne Peace, Jr. (Houston)


 

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining The Top Players in C-USA</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 02:41
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-fcs-top-25-and-predictions
Body:

College football isn't just about the FBS division and the BCS. The FCS division settles its national champion with a playoff and a familiar name tops the rankings for 2012.

1. Sam Houston State (14–1, 7–0 Southland)
After their perfect season was derailed in the national championship game, the Bearkats have one goal this year: Win it all. They return the Southland Player of the Year (running back Tim Flanders), Offensive Player of the Year (wide receiver Richard Sincere) and Defensive Player of the Year (safety Darnell Taylor). Quarterback Brian Bell is another of the 18 returning starters. Coach Willie Fritz’s squad will play Texas A&M and Baylor.

 2. Georgia Southern (11–3, 7–1 SoCon)
The only team more frustrated than Sam Houston State is Georgia Southern, which has been stopped in each of the last two national semifinals. To take the next step, the Eagles need a new quarterback — perhaps Jerick McKinnon — to be precise running the triple option. He will be sure  that backs Robert Brown and Dominique Swope get plenty of touches. Opposing offenses want no part of nose tackle Brent Russell. 

3. North Dakota State (14–1, 7–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Craig Bohl is confident that the loss of 11 starters won’t prevent the reigning national champs from challenging for back-to-back titles. Junior cornerback Marcus Williams was electrifying for last year’s stingiest defense in the FCS (12.7 ppg). Third-year quarterback Brock Jensen keeps improving for an offense that will be run-heavy behind 1,000-yard back Sam Ojuri.

4. Montana State (10–3, 7–1 Big Sky)
The Bobcats have some flash with junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, but their program is more about flexing its muscles. Cody Kirk (1,351 rushing yards and 14 TDs) is the key cog offensively, and defensive linemen Brad Daly, Zach Minter and Caleb Schreibeis and linebacker Jody Owens form the nucleus of a dominant stop-unit.

5. James Madison (8–5, 5–3 CAA)
The Dukes believe they have solved recent inconsistency. Quarterback Justin Thorpe, who came back strong after a university suspension last season, will team with versatile running back Dae’Quan Scott (1,304 rushing yards, 13 total TDs) on an improved offense. The defense has a star in middle linebacker Stephon Robertson and an emerging standout in safety Dean Marlowe.

6. Old Dominion (10–3, 6–2 CAA)
Year 2 in the CAA should be as good as last year’s debut for the Monarchs. Taylor Heinicke fired 25 touchdown passes with only one interception over the final nine games of his true freshman season, and he has plenty back in the skill positions. Craig Wilkins flies around at linebacker, and the special teams are always outstanding.

7. Towson (9–3, 7–1 CAA)
Coach Rob Ambrose led the Tigers to a stunning CAA title after going a combined 3–29 in conference in the previous four seasons. There won’t be a letdown with the return of running back Terrance West, who scored an FCS-high 29 touchdowns as a freshman, and fellow All-CAA standouts Frank Beltre (defensive end) and Jordan Dangerfield (safety).

8. Appalachian State (8–4, 6–2 SoCon)
A senior-laden defense, featuring linebackers Brandon Grier and Jeremy Kimbrough and defensive backs Demetrius McCray (five interceptions) and Troy Sanders, will get to the ball in waves. Veteran coach Jerry Moore will need some new playmakers to develop for quarterback Jamal Jackson.

9. Youngstown State (6–5, 4–4 Missouri Valley)
The only team to beat FCS champion North Dakota State last season, the Penguins are primed for their first playoff appearance since 2006. All-MVC selections Kurt Hess (quarterback) and Jamaine Cook (running back), along with big-play receiver Christian Bryan, return from the most prolific offense in school history.

10. New Hampshire (8–4, 6–2 CAA)
The Wildcats seek to extend the longest active streak of playoff appearances (eight) in the FCS, behind senior linebacker Matt Evans, the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award recipient. The transition of new quarterback — Andy Vailas or James Brady — will be eased by wide receivers R.J. Harris and Joey Orlando.

11. Delaware (7–4, 5–3 CAA)
The FCS version of Quarterback U is looking for better production at the position this season. No matter what, coach K.C. Keeler will put the ball in the hands of junior running back Andrew Pierce (2,934 yards in two seasons). Linebacker Paul Worrilow leads the defense.

12. Eastern Washington (6–5, 5–3 Big Sky)
Decimated by injuries last season, the 2010 FCS champions seek significant improvement. SMU transfer quarterback Kyle Padron will replace another former SMU Mustang, Bo Levi Mitchell, the 2011 Walter Payton Award recipient. Padron will have three different 1,000-yard receivers at his disposal — Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman.

13. Jacksonville State (7–4, 6–2 OVC)
Having underachieved in recent seasons, the talented Gamecocks hope to put it all together. Coach Jack Crowe is patching up the defense, but his offense will be outstanding with 1,000-yard back Washaun Ealey and quarterback Marques Ivory, who will share time with Coty Blanchard.

14. Indiana State (6–5, 4–4 Missouri Valley)
Catch him if you can: Junior tailback Shakir Bell averaged 7.3 yards per carry while amassing 1,670 yards. The Sycamores’ defense will be led by end Ben Obaseki and linebackers Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington.

15. Illinois State (7–4, 5–3 Missouri Valley)
Snubbed out of a playoff berth last season, the Redbirds plan to leave no doubt this year. They have a superb passing combo in Matt Brown-to-Tyrone Walker and get after opposing quarterbacks with defensive end Nate Palmer and linebacker Evan Frierson.

16. Stony Brook (9–4, 6–0 Big South)
Two running backs are better than one. Miguel Maysonet (1,633 yards, 15 TDs) has a new tag-team partner in Iowa transfer Marcus Coker, the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher in 2011. The Seawolves may lead the FCS in scoring once again.

17. Montana (11–3, 7–1 Big Sky)
The offseason firing of coach Robin Pflugrad rocked a national semifinalist squad that had lost nine defensive starters already. The running game remains strong with the undersized duo of Peter Nguyen and Jordan Canada.

18. Eastern Kentucky (7–5, 6–2 OVC)
A dominant offensive line, featuring 6'6" tackles Aaron Adams and Patrick Ford, will pave the way for fourth-year quarterback T.J. Pryor and running back Matt Denham, who averaged 184.5 rushing yards over the final eight games of last season.

19. Wofford (8–4, 6–2 SoCon)
Fullbacks Eric Breitenstein (3,695 career rushing yards) and Donovan Johnson get into opponents’ defensive backfields, and linebacker Alvin Scioneaux (16 tackles for a loss) gets into opponents’ offensive backfields. The Terriers have led the FCS in rushing for two straight seasons.

20. Northern Iowa (10–3, 7–1 Missouri Valley)
This perennial FCS power must work in 11 new starters against a brutally tough September schedule that includes Wisconsin and Iowa. Running backs David Johnson and Carlos Anderson fuel a strong ground attack.

21. Murray State (7–4, 5–3 OVC)
The Racers believe they have the FCS’ best quarterback in Casey Brockman, who threw for 3,276 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. Linebacker and leading tackler Sam Small leads a defense that must replace several key pieces.

22. Harvard (9–1, 7–0 Ivy)
Each of the Crimson’s Ivy League wins was by double digits last season. Quarterback Colton Chapple and running back Treavor Scales work behind a veteran offensive line. Harvard’s 37.4 points per game set a school record.

23. Stephen F. Austin (6–5, 5–2 Southland)
Opponents probably can’t believe that veteran wide receivers Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson haven’t graduated yet. Sack specialist Willie Jefferson leads the defense of a team that won its final five games.

24. Chattanooga (5–6, 3–5 SoCon)
The Mocs need to start winning the close games behind quarterback Terrell Robinson, the 2011 SoCon Freshman of the Year. The defense is stocked with end Josh Williams, linebacker Wes Dothard and cornerback Kadeem Wise.

25. Lehigh (11–2, 6–0 Patriot)
Senior quarterback Mike Colvin hopes to run the Mountain Hawks’ high-flying passing attack and will target All-America wide receiver Ryan Spadola (96 receptions for 1,614 yards). They haven’t lost a league game since 2009.
 

2012 Projected FCS Playoff Qualifiers

Appalachian State (at-large)

Bethune-Cookman (MEAC champ)

Bryant (Northeast champ)

Delaware (at-large)

Eastern Washington (at-large)

Georgia Southern (Southern champ)

Illinois State (at-large)

Indiana State (at-large)

Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley champ)

James Madison (CAA champ)

Lehigh (Patriot champ)

Montana State (Big Sky champ)

Montana (at-large)

New Hampshire (at-large)

North Dakota State (Missouri Valley champ)

Old Dominion (at-large)

Sam Houston State (Southland champ)

Stony Brook (Big South champ)

Towson (at-large)

Youngstown State (at-large)

Teaser:
<p> Sam Houston State ranks as Athlon's No. 1 team in the FCS poll for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 01:43
Path: /college-football/college-football-realignment-winners-and-losers
Body:

It has been another busy year in college football realignment. The SEC and Big 12 made significant moves, while the Big East was one of the biggest losers in the latest round of realignment.

Which teams and conferences were the big winner or loser from the last year of realignment?

College Football 2012 Realignment Winners and Losers

Winners

Big 12 – At one point last year, it seemed appropriate to write an obituary for the Big 12. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State appeared to be on the verge of joining the Pac-12, while Texas A&M and Missouri decided to jump to the SEC. Fast forward to 2012 and the Big 12 has emerged from its deathbed to rank as college football’s No. 2 conference. The members have granted their television rights to the Big 12, which should ensure for some stability for the next 10 years. Although the conference lost two solid programs in Missouri and Texas A&M, West Virginia and TCU offer plenty in terms of football value. The Big 12 cashed in on a rich television contract and has positioned itself with the new “Champions Bowl” with the SEC. New commissioner Bob Bowlsby was a solid hire to keep the conference on stable footing, while deciding if it needs to expand to 12 teams, or stick with 10 for the immediate future.

Boise State – The Big East is not what it once was, but it’s still an upgrade for Boise State and its football program. The Broncos should see an increase in television revenue, and the Big East will help bring more exposure, especially with games against Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers. Automatic BCS bids are gone, but if Boise State can continue to reel off double-digit win seasons and claim the Big East title, this program will continue to find itself ranked among the top 10 teams in college football. And who knows, in 10-15 years, maybe the Pac-12 will come calling. The Big East is not a huge improvement, but this is another step up the ladder for the Broncos.

Conference USA defectors – SMU, UCF, Houston, SMU, Memphis – Sure, it’s not a huge leap in terms of conference realignment, but the Big East is an upgrade for these five teams. Each school brings a solid television market, while Memphis is a boost for the basketball side with Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving. Although the BCS access is changing with the new championship format, SMU, UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis will have a better shot at qualifying for the playoffs in the Big East than Conference USA. Although the Big East is losing West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, playing Louisville, Rutgers, Cincinnati and Connecticut is an upgrade over UTEP, Tulane, Rice and UAB.

Missouri – It will be a challenge to win the SEC title, but the positives outweigh the negatives in this move for Missouri. The Tigers left behind a league with stability question marks for one that is the most prestigious college football conference. While the concerns about Missouri winning the SEC title are legitimate, the last time the school won an outright conference crown was in 1960s, so it's not like the Tigers were winning championships in its former home (Big 12). 

New Conference USA Members - Louisiana Tech, FIU, North Texas, Charlotte, Old Dominion – Louisiana Tech has been a geographic misfit in the WAC for years and will be a much better fit with the teams in Conference USA. North Texas and FIU are making the jump from the Sun Belt Conference and are located near two key television markets – Dallas and Miami. Charlotte is starting its football program in 2013, while Old Dominion recently restarted its program in 2009.

Notre Dame – Another round of realignment and once again Notre Dame remains Independent. The Irish have no desire to join a conference, although rumors have persisted for months they may explore moving their non-football programs to another league. Notre Dame’s access to the best bowls and playoffs will remain the same, but challenging schedules could prevent the Irish from getting into the top four or five.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse – The decision to bolt from the Big East to the ACC was an easy one for both schools. With the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, joining a conference with more stability and a solid long-term television deal was a no-brainer. Syracuse has only 43 wins over the last 10 years, while the Panthers have won at least eight games in three out of the last four seasons. Neither team provides much of a boost for the football product, but landing in a stable conference and reigniting Big East rivalries with Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College is a victory for both Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

San Diego State – The Aztecs have played in back-to-back bowl games, and the program is poised to move from the Mountain West to the Big East. While San Diego State is a geographic misfit in the conference, they will see an increase in television revenue and exposure by leaving the Mountain West. Contending in the Big East will be more difficult, but this should end up being a good move for the Aztecs.

TCU – It’s been a long road for TCU since being left out of the initial Big 12 setup in 1995. The Horned Frogs played in the WAC, Conference USA and Mountain West but still emerged as an annual top-25 team under Gary Patterson. TCU has recorded at least 11 wins in six out of the last seven seasons. The competition is going to be tougher in the Big 12, so double-digit win totals won’t be easy to come by. However, TCU is a clear winner in realignment, as it has upgraded to one of the premier conferences in college football and can go head-to-head against former Southwest Conference rivals Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech.

Temple – After getting kicked out of the Big East in 2004, no one could have predicted the turnaround the Owls have experienced. After winning seven games from 2002-05, Temple has won at least eight contests in each of the last three years. Moving to the MAC and playing weaker competition certainly helped, but the Owls have emerged from college football’s deathbed to a spot in a BCS conference. It will be tough for Temple to compete for a bowl game in the Big East in 2012, but this program won’t slip back into the abyss that it fell in the 1990s.

Texas A&M – Moving to the SEC is a huge plus for Texas A&M. Although the Aggies will never be the top program in the state, playing in college football’s most prestigious conference should help Texas A&M move slightly out of Texas’ shadow. The Big 12 doesn’t appear to be in danger of breaking up as some anticipated last summer, but the SEC has more long-term stability. Competing for the SEC title won’t be easy, but the Aggies have only won outright conference championship since 1994, so just like Missouri, it's not like Texas A&M was dominating conference titles in the Big 12.

Texas State – Just like current WAC foe (and rival) UTSA, the Bobcats will experience a quick rise through the FBS ranks. Texas State is making its FBS debut this year and is ineligible to play in a bowl game. The Bobcats will be on the move again next season, as they will play in the Sun Belt Conference. Texas State will have an upgraded stadium, and with a prime location in Texas (near San Antonio and Austin), this program should emerge in a few seasons as a conference title contender in the Sun Belt.

UTSA – The Roadrunners have been on a meteoric rise over the last few seasons. UTSA just finished its first season of football and is moving to the WAC in 2012. The Roadrunners are making a short stop in the WAC, as they will join Conference USA in time for the 2013 season. UTSA needs some time to build the overall roster depth, but with the tremendous recruiting base, this is one of college football’s top rising programs in a non-BCS conference.

Utah State, San Jose State – With the defections of Boise State, Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State in recent years, the WAC is a sinking ship, and the remaining teams are all shopping for new homes. Utah State and San Jose State landed in a perfect conference in terms of geography, and with both teams on the rise, they can be a factor for the 2013 Mountain West title. Although the Mountain West’s television deal is a concern, finding a stable home is a huge plus for the Aggies and Spartans.

West Virginia – The Mountaineers had a messy departure from the Big East, but landing in the Big 12 is a win for the school. With the uncertainty surrounding the Big East, the Big 12 will provide more stability and more exposure. West Virginia should also see an increase in television revenue with the new Big 12 television contract. The Mountaineers are an odd geographic fit, but will bring a solid brand to the conference and will be a factor for a conference title race in 2012.

Related: The History of SEC Realignment
Related: The History of Big East Realignment
Related: The History of Big 12 Realignment

Losers

ACC - At least for now, commissioner John Swofford has managed to keep his conference intact. However, the rumors will continue to persist about Florida State and Clemson’s long-term future with the ACC, especially if the Big 12 looks to expand in the future. Also, the additions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse were good for basketball, but doesn’t move the needle on the gridiron. The ACC expected super-conferences to emerge when it added Pittsburgh and Syracuse, but instead of firing the first shot in realignment, the conference was left with two extra teams that aren’t doing much for its football product.

Big East – The departures of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia dealt the Big East a heavy blow to remain one of the power conferences in college football. The conference was reluctant to expand in previous years, but was forced to add six new members for 2013, while asking Temple to rejoin the league for 2012. The Big East picked up four members from Conference USA (Houston, SMU, UCF and Memphis), while adding San Diego State and Boise State from the Mountain West. Navy is scheduled to join the conference in 2015. While the Broncos are a national power, the conference as a whole is not as strong and could be in danger of losing more members as realignment continues across college football.

Conference USA – Realignment had been relatively quiet in Conference USA, as the league managed to keep the same 12-team alignment since 2005. However, Houston, UCF, SMU and Memphis will depart for the Big East in 2013, with the conference replacing those four teams with Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UTSA, Charlotte and Old Dominion. While UTSA and North Texas are solid additions to add more value in Texas, Old Dominion (recently started its football program), and Charlotte (will start playing in 2015), don't add much to the league. Louisiana Tech is a program on the rise, but the depth of the league took a hit with the recent departures.

East Carolina – The Pirates desperately wanted to be a part of the Big East, but were passed over by Conference USA foes Houston, SMU, UCF and Memphis. East Carolina averaged over 50,000 fans per game last season, but does not have a major television market like Houston, Orlando or Dallas to bring to the conference. Although the Pirates bring solid fan support and a program that has five bowl games in the last six years, East Carolina is on the outside looking in – at least for now.

Idaho – Unless the WAC can find a handful of new members to make the jump (and fast) from the FCS ranks, Idaho and New Mexico State will likely spend 2013 in the Independent ranks. The Vandals made overtures to the Mountain West, but the conference is not interested in adding anyone other than Boise State or San Diego State into the mix. The Vandals have struggled lately and won’t bring much to the table in terms of television value. Idaho is hoping for a revamped WAC, but it could be forced to drop to the FCS ranks or hold out for an invitation to the Mountain West or Sun Belt.

Louisville – West Virginia was selected over Louisville as the Big 12’s No. 10 team, and the Cardinals were left with no other conference options. In a revamped Big East, Louisville should be one of the premier football programs, but expect the Cardinals to keep looking for a new home. The Big 12 has been rumored as a possible destination, especially as the conference looks to bridge the geographic gap to West Virginia. With Charlie Strong at the helm, Louisville is a program on the rise. However, the Cardinals are struggling to find an escape route from the Big East.

Mountain West – TCU, Utah, BYU and now Boise State. The Mountain West has lost some heavy hitters and while some of the replacements (Nevada, Fresno State, Hawaii Utah State and San Jose State) aren’t bad, the conference won’t have an annual BCS contender. The Mountain West is clearly the best of the conference outside of the BCS, but not having Boise State or TCU in the mix is a huge loss.

New Mexico State – Just like Idaho, the Aggies have been left out of the conference shuffle and now face an uncertain future. New Mexico State has expressed interest in the Mountain West and had in-state rival New Mexico pushing for its inclusion in the conference. However, the Mountain West is content to stick with 10 teams – at least until Boise State or San Diego State express interest in returning. Unless the WAC can quickly find new members, the Aggies will likely spend 2013 as an Independent.

Rivalry Games/Fans – Rivalry games are a huge part of college football, but conference realignment has ended some series for the immediate future. Texas-Texas A&M was among the top 15 rivalries in the nation, but the Longhorns have indicated to the Aggies their non-conference slate is full until 2018. Kansas is not interested in scheduling Missouri with the Tigers moving to the SEC. The Backyard Brawl between West Virginia-Pittsburgh is on hold, but both sides seem interested in continuing the series at a later date. Although new rivalries will pop up, it’s unfortunate to see long rivalries such as these disappear off the schedule.

WAC Conference – It’s fourth-and-long and the WAC needs a Hail Mary to survive. The defections of Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada in recent years, combined with the upcoming departures of Louisiana Tech, Texas State, UTSA, San Jose State and Utah State, has left the WAC with just two football members (Idaho and New Mexico State) for 2013. The conference is exploring potential expansion candidates, but has yet to announce any additions for next season. However, the conference appears to be on the verge of extinction, unless a handful of FCS teams want to make the move to the FBS ranks.
 

Incomplete

BYU – It’s still too early to know whether or not BYU’s move to Independence was a good or bad decision. The Cougars have a solid television deal with ESPN and sit in the driver’s seat for the next round of conference realignment. However, scheduling could get more difficult as more teams switch to a nine-game conference slate. Going Independent was a good move for the immediate future, but the long-term success will rest with how well BYU can schedule and if its access to bowls will improve.

SEC – There’s nothing wrong with adding Missouri and Texas A&M. Both are solid programs and add two new markets to the conference. However, neither addition is expected to provide much of a boost for the football product. Although the SEC will likely be able to reel in a few more dollars on a television contract, did the conference really get a lot better after the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M? 

-By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Realignment Content

What's Next for College Football Realignment?
College Basketball Realignment Winners and Losers
Redrafting College Football's Conferences
Will Notre Dame Ever Join a Conference?
Was Independence a Mistake for BYU?
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
SEC Football: Getting to Know Missouri
SEC Football: Getting to Know Texas A&M
TCU Football Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> College Football 2012 Realignment Winners and Losers</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/whats-next-college-football-realignment
Body:

College football realignment has dominated the headlines throughout parts of the last two years. The biggest move before last season's moving day was Nebraska's decision to leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten. On July 1, 2012, it will be a busy moving day across college football, as West Virginia and TCU will join the Big 12 and Missouri and Texas A&M become members of the SEC.

Although realignment may take a back seat for a couple of months, there's no question it will jump back in the headlines in the next few years. 

What’s Next in College Football Realignment?

1. Waiting on the Big 12: 10, 12 or 14? That’s the million-dollar question facing new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. Will the Big 12 expand to 12 or 14 teams? Or will it stand pat at 10? Florida State and Clemson have been rumored as possible candidates to leave the ACC for the Big 12, but the No. 1 target is clearly Notre Dame. The Big 12 seems content with 10 teams, but a lot could change in the next couple of years. In addition to Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame, Louisville is also believed to be on the radar for Big 12 expansion. Although it’s not a necessity, the Big 12 should add another team or two to bridge the geographic gap to West Virginia. It may not happen in 2012 or 2013, but expect the Big 12 to explore expansion once again in the near future.

2. The Big East: Much has changed in the Big East over the last year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse decided to bolt the conference for the ACC, while West Virginia sued to leave for the Big 12 in 2012. The departures left the Big East with only five football members for 2013, and the conference restocked by adding Houston, SMU, Memphis, San Diego State, Boise State and UCF. Navy will join the Big East in 2015, and Temple was able to join for 2012, which keeps the conference at eight football members. While the Big East has some stability with these additions, it could be short lived. Boise State is struggling to find a home for its non-football sports and could be forced to return to the Mountain West. Also, the Broncos’ quest to find a home for its non-football sports will also have an impact on San Diego State’s conference alignment for 2013. Even if Boise State and the Aztecs join the Big East, the conference could be under siege once again in the coming years, especially if the ACC decides to expand to 16 teams. Some have already dismissed the Big East as a power conference, but getting Boise State to join and keeping Louisville in the mix will be crucial to its long-term success.

3. ACC Stability?: Rumors about Florida State and Clemson’s future with the ACC persisted throughout this offseason. The Big 12 has commented it is not interested in expanding, but that could change quickly. The ACC added Pittsburgh and Syracuse, giving the conference 14 teams in 2013. The Panthers and Orange won’t add much in terms of football value, but will help the ACC on the hardwood. The ACC may look to expand to 16 teams in the future, with Connecticut and Rutgers frequently mentioned as possible targets. Although Florida State and Clemson have underachieved at times, keeping these two programs in the mix is a must for the ACC. All signs point to both teams staying, but as we have seen with conference realignment, things can change in a hurry.

4. Impact of a Playoff: Could the news of the four-team playoff have an impact on conference realignment? The initial feeling is that the new postseason format won’t ignite a new round of changes. However, who knows what will happen after a couple of years in the new system. Adding more teams to a conference decreases the money for each member, and there has to be a concern about making the road too difficult to reach a national title game. This is one area that can’t be evaluated now, but is worth monitoring over the next five years.

5. Super conferences: Much has been made about super conferences and the future of college football. Could we see a 16-team league in the next few years? It’s certainly possible. However, let’s consider the Pac-12 and Big Ten. Are there really four new members that fit each conference? At this point, both leagues would be adding teams just for the sake of getting to 16 teams. The SEC doesn’t seem to be overly interested in expanding, but could look to add teams in the North Carolina or Virginia markets. Is that anytime soon? Probably not. Maybe the ACC or Big East will expand to 16 teams, but the talk of super conferences seems to be overblown.

Related College Football Realignment Content

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
A History of Realignment in the Big 12 Conference
A History of Realignment in the SEC
A History of Realignment in the Big East

College Basketball Realignment Winners and Losers
Redrafting College Football's Conferences
Will Notre Dame Ever Join a Conference?
Was Independence a Mistake for BYU?
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
SEC Football: Getting to Know Missouri
SEC Football: Getting to Know Texas A&M
TCU Football Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> What's next in college football realignment?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 05:29
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-football-will-irish-ever-join-conference
Body:

Notre Dame remains committed to Independence, but will that ever change? The BCS will be eliminated when a four-team playoff begins in 2014 and more realignment could happen in several BCS conferences. The Irish are the main target of expansion for the Big 12, ACC and Big Ten, but they do not appear interested in joining a conference - at least for now.

Will Notre Dame Football Ever Join a Conference?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
If college football is going to have a playoff, Notre Dame could certainly give up on independence. To be clear, it’s not going to happen immediately and it may end up being a matter of last resort. If the new playoff format diminishes Notre Dame’s ability to compete, I could see the Irish joining a league -- and of course, they would have no shortage of suitors. For now, Notre Dame still has the clout to be a part of the decision-making process of the playoff even if the Irish haven’t finished in the top four since 1993. At some point, especially if Notre Dame struggles to get over the eight-win mark, Notre Dame may need to move into a conference simply to recruiting -- meaning the Irish may look outside of Big Ten territory in order to gain a foothold in Texas or the South. I would never say Notre Dame will always remain independent, but something seismic, be it more realignment, a conference-champion only playoff system or more losing seasons, to force the hands of the Irish.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Swirling rumors right now are that Notre Dame will switch all of its Olympic sports to the Big 12 — a monumental move that means very little to the immediate layout of college football but will have far-reaching, long-term effects. It sets up Fighting Irish football for a potential move into a stable, lucrative power conference when it does finally need to join a league. This won't take place for years, maybe even decades, but eventually the Golden Domers will need to join a power conference for football and the Big 12 is a much more attractive option than the Big East. Notre Dame football will join a league at some point down the road or it will be left out of the big playoff pie that is coming down the pike. But it looks like the back-from-the-ashes Big 12 is the likely destination, not the Big East or Big Ten.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
In the next 5-10 years? No. At some point? Yes. I know Notre Dame values its Independence, but college football will change. A four-team playoff may morph into an 8 or 16-team tournament and there may be more of an incentive to join a conference. New presidents, athletic directors and other leaders in 25 years may feel differently about Independence. Also, if more leagues decide to go to nine conference games, scheduling could get more difficult. The ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 have all been rumored as possible landing spots if Notre Dame wants to join a conference, and there’s no question the Irish are the biggest domino waiting to fall. The rumors will persist about Notre Dame joining a conference, but I think it will be a while before the Irish agree to give up Independence.  

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Ever is a strong word, but my guess is that Notre Dame will not join a conference in the next 10 years. With no barrier to entry into a four-team playoff, there really is no incentive for Notre Dame to join a league at this point. The Fighting Irish consistently play a schedule that is strong enough to warrant a bid into the postseason — assuming of course that they win enough games — so why would a school that has taken so much pride in its status as an Independent decide at this point to join a conference? It just doesn’t make sense. 

Mark Ross
I think Notre Dame will eventually join a conference, but when it does, it will definitely be on its terms. Notre Dame has been an independent since 1978 and while the Fighting Irish may not be the dominant football power they once were, they have been able to maintain their status as one. Look no further than the school's presence in the BCS.

Still, with the way the college football landscape has changed during the past few years and the fact that it will continue to evolve in the future, I believe the day will come when Notre Dame sees its in their best interests football-wise to join one of the so-called super conferences. Given its history, tradition and status, there's little doubt in my mind that any conference looking to make a statement or solidify its standing wouldn't give Notre Dame a serious look and/or roll out the red carpet for the Fighting Irish to come join them.

Not many schools can say they control their own fate when it comes to this game of conference musical chairs. But as the past 34 years have shown us, Notre Dame is in a class of its own when it comes to the college football landscape. 

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 Top 25 Rankings: No. 20 Notre Dame
College Football Countdown to Kickoff

Notre Dame's Top 10 Players for 2012

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings

College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Will Notre Dame Ever Join a Conference?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /college-football/byu-football-independence-mistake-cougars
Body:

BYU is coming off a solid 10-3 season in its first year as an Independent. The Cougars played a soft schedule in the second half of 2011, which helped the team to rebound after a 1-2 start. Although BYU is a solid program, choosing the Independence route over a conference is an interesting debate for the next 15-20 years. 

Is Independence a Mistake for BYU?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Few schools could leave a conference -- particularly a non-power conference -- and improve their standing. BYU did. BYU’s recruiting base of Mormon athletes and/or athletes seeking the honor code is going to be attracted to Provo no matter the league. If anything, independence helps BYU’s recruiting cause by giving the Cougars a unique cachet. Utah goes to the Pac-12, BYU is independent. At least compared to its chief rival, BYU won't have to battle the perception problem of being in an inferior league. The Cougars will have trouble scheduling, but they’ll have their share of marquee games, too. BYU has played Florida State and Oklahoma, it has a series with Notre Dame and Texas, not to mention a handful of games against Pac-12 opponents. Moreover, BYU has more national exposure than it ever did as a team in the Mountain West. BYU was on an ESPN network just five times from 2006 to 2010. In one season as an independent, BYU was on an ESPN network 10 times. Will this be a long-term solution for BYU? Probably not. BYU eventually will end up wherever it can best compete for a national title. I assume that will be a conference. But for now, the Big 12 and Pac-12 aren’t interested. At least as an independent, BYU doesn’t have to deal with the revolving door of Mountain West membership.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
My instincts tell me that long-term Independence for BYU is a major mistake. The Cougars are a unique brand that plays nationally, attracts a very specific audience and will be just fine in the short-term. But Mark Emmert has openly spoken about his concerns about the growing gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in college football. And to be one of those "haves," BYU will need to be in a power conference. Aside from not getting huge conference-based TV payouts each year, scheduling might be the most obvious issue. Finding good games in the early months won't be an issue, but getting quality opponents to come to Provo in late October and November will be virtually impossible. So if the Cougars are consistently playing Fresno State, Wyoming and New Mexico in the second half of the season, they will likely never land in the Top 4 at the end of the year. Which, in case you missed it, is the only thing any football office in America cares about now.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
For now, I think this is the right move for BYU. The Cougars are able to schedule nationally and have upgraded television exposure with an ESPN contract. I do have doubts about this decision as a long-term move. Scheduling will be more difficult if conferences continue to go to nine league games. A weak schedule also won’t help BYU’s hopes of getting into the four-team playoff or access into one of the premier bowls.

I’ve always thought the move to Independence was a short-term decision as the program bides time until the next round of realignment hits college football. The Big 12 and Big East have been mentioned as possible landing spots, but the Cougars can take some time and pick their next home. It may take 10-20 years, but I expect BYU will join a conference again – whether it’s the Big East, Big 12 or a new league on the west coast with Boise State and the Cougars as the anchors. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
It depends what other legitimate options the school had at the time it made the move. I think being an Independent, for BYU, is favorable to being the Mountain West (as it is now constructed), but I believe the Big 12 would be a better solution than being an Independent. For BYU, and really for every school in the nation, it comes down to the following in the new landscape of college football: Is your schedule good enough to get you invited to the new four-team playoff. Right now, it’s debatable whether BYU’s 2012 schedule would be strong enough to put the Cougars in position to be a Final Four team (can we call it that?) even if it runs the table. There would be no worries if BYU was in the Big 12; the schedule in that league will always be strong enough to warrant inclusion in the postseason.

Mark Ross
As far as the here and now goes, I don't think BYU made a mistake by going independent in football. With a four-team playoff going into effect in 2014, the Cougars' independent status doesn't impact their chances of getting into the playoff any more than it would if they were still in the Mountain West or another mid-major conference. So as it stands right now, BYU has total control over its schedule, and, more importantly, doesn't have to share any of the revenue generated from its TV deal with ESPN. After all, this sort of arrangement has worked pretty well for Notre Dame and NBC, right?

Also, BYU's independent status should put them in prime position to capitalize on the next wave of conference expansion, if it chooses to do so. Chances are the move to a four-team playoff will do little, if anything, to put an end to the evolving landscape that college football conferences have become. If this movement continues and say the Pac-12 or Big 12 gets serious about adding more teams, then BYU should be one of the first schools to get a call. Should that happen, BYU doesn't have to worry about breaking its contract with any conference as it pertains to football, making any such transition basically seamless. The Cougars' other sports are participating in the West Coast Conference, but if we've learned anything during this latest wave of conference realignment and expansion it's that football is the straw that stirs the drink.

In the end, I would rather be wanted by someone than feeling like I have to make a move just for the sake of making one or because of other circumstances. The former is the position I see BYU in, meaning the school is in the driver's seat the next time the opportunity presents itself to find the Cougars a new home.

Related College Football Content

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BYU Cougars 2012 Team Preview

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College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Teaser:
<p> Is Independence a Mistake for BYU?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 04:17
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-football-isaiah-crowells-future-doubt-after-arrest
Body:

Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell’s future with the team is in doubt after an arrest early Friday morning on three weapons charges. The sophomore-to-be was arrested on charges of possessing a weapon in a school zone (a felony) and carrying a concealed weapon (a misdemeanor). The weapon Crowell had in possession had an altered identification mark, which is another felony. He was booked into Athens-Clarke County Jail, with bond set at $7,500.

As a result of his arrest and three charges, Crowell is facing an immediate suspension. Head coach Mark Richt has yet to issue a statement regarding the running back’s arrest.

Crowell’s incident isn’t the first bit of offseason trouble for Georgia. Cornerback Branden Smith was arrested on marijuana drug charges in March, while fellow corner Sanders Commings pled guilty to charges of battery and disorderly conduct. Commings is expected to miss the first two games of 2012.

In addition to the issues at cornerback, linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety Bacarri Rambo are facing suspensions for violating team rules.

Crowell came to Georgia ranked as one of the top running backs in the 2011 recruiting class. He played in 12 games as a true freshman, rushing for 850 yards and five touchdowns. Although Crowell had a solid debut, he was suspended one game for a failed drug test and dealt with injuries throughout the second half of last year.

Considering Crowell’s inability to stay on the field last year, Georgia has experience using other running backs and wasn’t counting on him to carry the entire workload this year. Richard Samuel is moving to fullback in 2012, but rushed for 240 yards and one touchdown on 82 attempts in 2011. Ken Malcome closed out last season by rushing for at least 37 yards in each of the last four games. He recorded a season best 51 yards in the Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State.

Will Georgia’s SEC Title Hopes Suffer Without Crowell?

Crowell was a top talent, but Georgia’s SEC East title hopes remain intact. And frankly, losing Crowell isn’t a huge blow to the team. The Bulldogs return quarterback Aaron Murray, along with 10 starts on defense. The schedule is very favorable, as Georgia misses Alabama, Arkansas and LSU in crossover games with the West.

While Crowell’s playing career in Athens could be finished, the Bulldogs won’t miss a beat on the ground.

Coach Mark Richt recruited two highly-rated backs, with Keith Marshall ranking as the No. 15 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100, while Todd Gurley checked in as the No. 11 running back in the nation.

Marshall checks in at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, while Gurley is a bigger option at 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. Both backs have good speed and can contribute right away in 2012.

In addition to Marshall and Gurley’s arrival, Georgia has other potential contributors in Samuel and Malcome. Although neither player possesses the gamebreaking ability of the freshmen, both are expected to figure into the workload.  

The Bulldogs are the early favorites to win the SEC East in 2012, but it won't be easy to hold off South Carolina once again. The Gamecocks have some key losses on both sides of the ball, and running back Marcus Lattimore is returning from a torn ACL. However, quarterback Connor Shaw played well in the second half of 2011, and the defensive line is one of the best in college football.

Georgia’s biggest question mark is its offensive line, which loses center Ben Jones and tackles Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson.

Considering this isn’t Georgia’s first incident this offseason, Crowell’s arrest should be a big deal for Richt. Although Crowell has five-star talent, Richt has to wonder if it’s really worth the trouble to keep him around.

Whether or not Crowell is on the team in 2012, it shouldn’t have a major impact on Georgia’s 2012 SEC and National Title hopes.  

Related Georgia Content

Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Team Preview
2012 SEC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

Teaser:
<p> Georgia Football: Isaiah Crowell's Future Doubt After Arrest</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 02:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-big-east
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for the Big East in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Big East All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

 

QB—B.J. Daniels, Sr. (South Florida)

Last season:  Passed for 2,585 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 601 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Chattanooga, @ Nevada, Rutgers

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Miami, @ Cincinnati

 

QB—Chris Coyer, Jr. (Temple)

Last season:  Passed for 463 yards and 6 TDs, rushed for 562 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 11-12-13; Cincinnati, @ Army, Syracuse

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Cincinnati, @ Army, Syracuse

 

RB—Lyle McCombs, So. (Connecticut)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,151 yards and 7 TDs, 19 receptions for 172 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Maryland, @ W. Michigan, Buffalo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Pitt, Bye, @ Louisville

 

RB—Ray Graham, Sr. (Pitt)

Last season:  Rushed for 958 yards and 9 TDs, 30 receptions for 200 yards, missed five games (knee).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; @ Buffalo, Temple, @ Notre Dame

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ UConn, Bye, Rutgers

 

RB—Matt Brown, Sr. (Temple)

Last season:  Rushed for 916 yards and 6 TDs as primary backup to Bernard Pierce.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; Villanova, Maryland, Bye, @ Penn St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Cincinnati, @ Army, Syracuse

 

WR—Alec Lemon, Sr. (Syracuse)

Last season:  Led the team with 68 receptions for 834 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5-6; Stony Brook, @ Minnesota, Bye, Pitt

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Louisville, @ Missouri, @ Temple

 

WR—Brandon Coleman, So. (Rutgers)

Last season:  17 receptions for 552 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10-11; @ Temple, Kent St, Bye, Army

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Army, @ Cincinnati, @ Pitt

 

WR—Anthony McClung, Jr. (Cincinnati)

Last season:  Led the team with 49 receptions for 683 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Miami (OH), Fordham, @ Toledo

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Temple, Rutgers, S. Florida

 

TE—Ryan Griffin, Sr. (Connecticut)

Last season:  33 receptions for 499 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; UMass, NC St, @ Maryland

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Pitt, Bye, @ Louisville

 

FLEX—Demetris Murray, Sr. (South Florida)

Last season:  Rushed for 503 yards and 8 TDs, 18 receptions for 205 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Chattanooga, @ Nevada, Rutgers

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Miami, @ Cincinnati

 

K—Maikon Bonani, Sr. (South Florida)

Last season: 15-for-17 on FG attempts, 50-for-50 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Chattanooga, @ Nevada, Rutgers

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Miami, @ Cincinnati

 

DEF/ST—Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Last season:  No. 8 scoring defense, No. 9 passing defense, No. 14 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10-11; @ Temple, Kent St, Bye, Army

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Army, @ Cincinnati, @ Pitt

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Teddy Bridgewater, So. (Louisville)

RB—Jawan Jamison, So. (Rutgers)

RB—George Winn, Sr. (Cincinnati)

WR—DeVante Parker, So. (Louisville)

WR—Devin Street, Jr. (Pitt)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

 

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Big East</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 02:07
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Big Ten teams for this season.

Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
 
First-Team Offense
 
QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
 
RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
 
RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska
 
WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
 
WR Keenan Davis, Iowa
 
TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
 
C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
 
OL Taylor Lewan, Michigan
 
OL Spencer Long, Nebraska
 
OL Chris McDonald, Michigan State
 
OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin
 

First-Team Defense
 
DL William Gholston, Michigan State
 
DL Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
 
DL Kawann Short, Purdue
 
DL John Simon, Ohio State
 
LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
 
LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
 
LB Mike Taylor, Wisconsin
 
CB Johnny Adams, Michigan State
 
CB Ricardo Allen, Purdue
 
S C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
 
S Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
 
 
First-Team Specialists 
 
K Brett Maher, Nebraska
 
P Brett Maher, Nebraska
 
KR Raheem Mostert, Purdue
 
PR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
 
 
The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
 
  First Second Third Overall
Illinois 0 3 2 5
Indiana 0 0 3 3
Iowa 1 2 1 4
Michigan 2 2 5 9
Michigan State 4 4 2 10
Minnesota 0 0 2 2
Nebraska 4 3 5 12
Northwestern 0 2 3 5
Ohio State 4 6 1 11
Penn State 1 2 0 3
Purdue 3 1 0 4
Wisconsin 7 1 2 10
 
 
Second-Team Offense
 
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
 
RB Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
 
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
 
WR Kenny Bell, Nebraska
 
WR Roy Roundtree, Michigan
 
TE Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
 
C James Ferentz, Iowa
 
OL Dan France, Michigan State
 
OL Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
 
OL Brian Mulroe, Northwestern
 
OL Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
 

Second-Team Defense
 
DL Michael Buchanan, Illinois
 
DL Jordan Hill, Penn State
 
DL Akeem Spence, Illinois
 
DL Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska
 
LB Denicos Allen, Michigan State
 
LB Max Bullough, Michigan State
 
LB Jonathan Brown, Illinois
 
CB Micah Hyde, Iowa
 
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
 
S Christian Bryant, Ohio State
 
S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern
 

Second-Team Specialists
 
K Drew Basil, Ohio State
 
P Cody Webster, Purdue
 
KR Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
 
PR Justin Brown, Penn State
 

Third-Team Offense
 
QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
 
RB Stephen Houston, Indiana
 
RB James White, Wisconsin
 
WR Demetrius Fields, Northwestern
 
WR Kofi Hughes, Indiana
 
TE Kyler Reed, Nebraska
 
C Graham Pocic, Illinois
 
OL Ed Olson, Minnesota
 
OL Patrick Omameh, Michigan
 
OL Bernard Taylor, Indiana
 
OL Patrick Ward, Northwestern
 

Third-Team Defense
 
DL David Gilbert, Wisconsin
 
DL Cameron Meredith, Nebraska
 
DL Craig Roh, Michigan
 
DL Marcus Rush, Michigan State
 
LB Will Compton, Nebraska
 
LB Kenny Demens, Michigan
 
LB James Morris, Iowa
 
CB Blake Countess, Michigan
 
CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois
 
S Jordan Kovacs, Michigan
 
S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska
 
 
Third-Team Specialists
 
K Dan Conroy, Michigan State
 
P Ben Buchanan, Ohio State
 
KR Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
 
PR Venric Mark, Northwestern

 

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Leaders Legends
Indiana Iowa
Illinois Michigan
Ohio State Michigan State
Penn State Minnesota
Purdue Nebraska
Wisconsin Northwestern

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-introducing-mountaineers-big-12
Body:

West Virginia is packing its bags and moving from the Big East to the Big 12. The Mountaineers will fit in well in their new conference, especially with a high-powered offense led by quarterback Geno Smith.

Not familiar with West Virginia? Here's an introduction on the Mountaineers from a West Virginia point of view:

Consider this a primer on West Virginia athletics for Big 12 fans. A Mountain State 101, if you will. A “Mountaineers for Dummies” guide.

It should prove helpful — because WVU and its fans are different breeds.

Perhaps we should stop right there. If you ever feel inclined to call residents here in-breds or hillbillies, or crack jokes about teeth, outhouses or the state flower being a satellite dish, here’s some advice: Save it. Those here will yawn. We’ve heard it all. The jokes are as old as our hills. “Deliverance” was filmed in Georgia; we have wireless, dental plans and, yes, indoor plumbing.

Just don’t misunderstand. West Virginia isn’t North Carolina. It isn’t Ohio. It is different. Coal is king, yet WVU athletics are the passion, the maypole for the small state’s residents. When times are rough, residents rally around their Mountaineers. And times are plenty rough economically.

You might ask about reports of fans allowing their exuberance to get out of hand. You might ask if those reports are true. The answer: damn straight. There indeed have been couches burned in celebration. A team bus or two might have been shaken. And, yes, Bobby Bowden was hung in effigy and chased out as coach, pushed to Florida State. (How did that work out?)

Yet here’s the catch: Bowden still returns regularly. He loves the place. See, West Virginia is a place where people say hello on the street. Residents are known for their friendliness and hard work — as well as their sports passion.

One can trace much of that back to a man named Jack Fleming. He was the “Voice of the Mountaineers,” but a man you might remember as the radio voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still doesn’t ring a bell? This will: He made the call on the “Immaculate Reception.”

Fleming lived in Pittsburgh but made the hour trek each Saturday to call WVU games. He hated rival Pitt and allowed that to seep into his broadcasts. He hooked listeners with his passion and loyalty to the Mountaineers. On game day, Fleming’s voice echoed throughout the hills. One could walk the neighborhood and not miss a play. Every house was tuned in.

Yet there was something missing: success. In the late 1950s, WVU experienced tremendous hoops success via a skinny native kid named Jerry West. You might’ve heard of him. Dallied around with the NBA and Lakers. Did some modeling, I believe, to become the NBA’s logo.

However, after West became a real-life “Beverly Hillbilly,” Mountaineer fortunes steadily dropped. There was a serious lull. Even Bowden couldn’t pump life into the football program.

And then something happened. Former governor and current state senator Jay Rockefeller (yes, of those Rockefellers) helped WVU build a new stadium. John Denver was flown in to christen it by singing “Country Roads.” (If you live here, by the way, you hear that song as much as the national anthem.)

Also, a Bo Schembechler assistant named Don Nehlen was hired to take over the football program. And WVU sports haven’t been the same since.

At first, there was slow improvement. A team that went 2–9 in 1978 moved to 6–6 in Nehlen’s first season in 1980. The next season, the Mountaineers went 9–3 and defeated Florida, 26–6, in the Peach Bowl. It caught the attention of all WVU fans.

But the real birth of Mountaineer sports in the modern era took place smack in the middle of Big 12 country. In Norman, Okla., to be specific. While WVU was impressive in defeating Florida, the Gators weren’t of the Urban Meyer ilk. The Oklahoma Sooners were.

Set up as an opening day patsy in 1982 for OU coach Barry Switzer and new recruit Marcus Dupree, Nehlen and quarterback Jeff Hostetler stunned all with a 41–27 victory.

For the most part, the good times have rolled ever since. There were down years, but things started to crackle. A dazzling quarterback named Major Harris hit Morgantown and turned the place upside down, leading WVU to its first unbeaten, untied record and a 1988 national championship appearance in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. (WVU lost after Harris was injured early in the game.)

When Nehlen’s magic began to disappear, Rich Rodriguez returned to his home state and picked up the wand. Like Nehlen, he found a dazzling quarterback in Pat White. RichRod unearthed a keeper in tailback Steve Slaton. At the end of the 2005 season, WVU stunned  heavily favored Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. All of a sudden, West Virginia was the darling of a downtrodden Big East. The Mountaineers defeated Georgia Tech the next year in the Gator Bowl.

Then came the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows for WVU football. In 2007, the Mountaineers were on track for another national championship appearance. All they had to do was defeat a sub-par Pittsburgh team at home in the regular-season finale to secure a BCS title game berth.

But on a dark night in Morgantown, the Panthers stunned WVU, 13–9. It crushed the team. It crushed the fans. It is still regarded as one of the biggest chokes, if not the biggest, in college football history. It was a body blow that sent the program to the canvas. Rodriguez announced shortly afterward that he was leaving for Michigan.

A folksy assistant, however, took over in the aftermath. Bill Stewart became a home-state hero by leading the beleaguered team to a 48–28 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Stewart was given the head coaching job. He led the team to three 9–4 records. And was summarily fired. It wasn’t enough. Stewart’s down-home act, which lifted the program in the Rodriguez aftermath, got stale.

Now, all is different. Oliver Luck, a slick businessman, ex-WVU quarterback and father of wunderkind Andrew Luck, is the athletic director. He hired the new breed of coach, Dana Holgorsen, who installed his “Air Raid” offense.

And the new breed is mixing well with WVU’s different breed of fans. When the Mountaineers scored 70 points on Clemson in last season’s Orange Bowl, Holgorsen became one of The Men.

He is not, however, The Man. There is another: basketball coach Bob Huggins.

While many nationally see Huggins as a grump, West Virginians love the guy. After John Beilein lifted WVU, much like Rodriguez, and then left for Michigan, much like Rodriguez, Huggins saved the day by leaving Kansas State to return to his alma mater.

While Beilein took the Mountaineers to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, Huggins took them to the Final Four. Today, WVU’s athletic fortunes are as healthy as ever.

How do WVU fans feel about leaving the Big East for the Big 12? Well, thrilled in football and skeptical in basketball.

There is also an unfamiliar feel. Those here haven’t followed Baylor football or Iowa State basketball. It’s, well, weird. No Backyard Brawl? No visits from Syracuse?

But West Virginians will follow their Mountaineers with fervor. That’s a promise. They’ll turn their attention west instead of north and south.

And, yes, if need be, re-position those satellite dishes.

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predicitons
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 12 West Virginia

Is Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

Teaser:
<p> Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-whats-biggest-unanswered-question
Body:

The BCS is no more, and college football will have a playoff beginning with the 2014 season. Although the new format and structure was officially announced on Tuesday, many questions remain for college football fans across the nation.

What's the Biggest Unanswered Question With College Football's New Playoff Format?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I could start with questions of the composition of the selection committee or how the revenues are distributed and if any of those revenues will go to a player stipend. But all those questions are a little inside baseball at this point. I want to know what a college football season is going to look like once the playoff is in place. Oregon (ranked fifth) essentially was punished in the rankings last season for losing to LSU to open the season, compared to Stanford (ranked fourth, who lost to Ducks by 23 points at home). Will the new system encourage more marquee non-conference games or discourage them? If the system discourages them, what happens to perennial games like USC-Notre Dame or Florida-Florida State and so on? As for the remaining teams in the non-Big Six -- the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt -- will those teams be able to schedule enough quality non-conference opponents to make a run at a playoff should they go undefeated? Or will they be further designed to being second-class citizens?

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It won't be the most important aspect for fans — that will be the selection committee, timing, the bowl sites or host cities — but the flow of revenue is easily the largest, most influential decision yet to be made. The 2011 BCS television contract was worth $174 million and the new TV deal could easily triple that figure in two years when this playoff party gets started in 2014. So over the course of the 12-year lifespan of the playoff contract, the TV agreement could be worth upwards of $6 billion dollars. How is that money divided? Who does the dividing? And what criteria will be used to determine where the money is shipped? So while fans will be consumed with the selection process, where games will be played or future expansion, the only thing the decision makers are concerned with is dollars and cents. And it is this flow of cash that will shape the future landscape of college football more than anything else.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The makeup of the selection committee is my biggest concern. Several options have been thrown out for the committee but none particularly stand out. Are we really sure former head coaches are knowledgeable about current teams? When you throw conference commissioners, university presidents and athletic directors onto the committee, bias and objectivity will be a major source of concern for the fans. The selection committee is going to be heavily scrutinized and rightfully so. The people choosing college football’s top four teams need to be knowledgeable about each team, as well as watching several games each week. I’m not sure former head coaches or athletic directors fit that qualification. Although a selection committee will probably work out fine, I think concerns will always exist over this aspect of the new playoff format. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
For me, it's the make-up of the selection committee. I would rather see some sort of formula that combines a poll (or polls) and a computer ranking. But that isn't happening, so it's time to focus on the committee: Who will be on it and how will they go about selecting the teams? This will be a much more difficult task than selecting the 68 teams for the NCAA Tournament in basketball. The sample size is far greater in hoops; you have 30-plus games to evaluate teams. In football, there are 12 or 13 games, and maybe only four or five of those games were against top-25 caliber teams. It will be far more difficult — and the ramifications much greater — to differentiate between teams No. 4 and No. 5 in football than it is to sort out teams No. 68 and No. 69 in basketball. I hope the selection committee is up to the task.

Mark Ross
To me the biggest question that remains is the one that will produce the most debate and scrutiny come December - choosing the four playoff teams. Because in the end, regardless of how the money ends up being distributed amongst the conferences and how the selection committee ends up looking, what matters most, to conferences, schools and fans alike, is which four teams get that shot at a national title?

For all its detractors and naysayers, the BCS system did its job. It identified the top two teams in all of college football using a formula made up of different pieces of information and measurements. One can find fault with the different components in the formula itself, but in the end, the BCS did what it was created to do. Now instead of two teams, the playoff selection committee will be tasked with identifying the top four teams, while also defending their reasoning for not picking the other 120. No pressure, right?

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<p> College Football Playoff: What's the Biggest Unanswered Question?</p>
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College football will finally settle the championship on the field. No more BCS and computer polls deciding No. 1 vs. No. 2. Although the playoff is expected to be an improvement, is this the right move for college football?

Did College Football Get it Right With a Four-Team Playoff?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
In the barest sense, college football got it right by establishing a four-team playoff. It’s a system that presumably keeps the regular season relevant, enhancing it in some cases, while giving two more deserving teams a shot at a national title. However, I’m concerned about the unintended consequences -- how the selection committee selects its four teams could impact the regular season. Conference realignment already has devastated rivalries and led to awkward geographic partnerships. I worry the playoff may push those trends further. And the process of subjectively selecting four teams to play in bowl games -- the same outdated and sometimes corrupt ventures we've had for decades -- is hardly the ideal solution. A four-team playoff gives twice as many teams a chance to play for a title, but the system doesn’t look that much different to me if it proceeds in the same way the BCS did 14 years ago.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will go to my grave fighting for an NFL-style, six-team playoff that features two bye weeks, two total extra games, home sites for every game with the exception of the rotating National Championship game. But alas, the powers that be in college football haven't asked me yet. So, for my money, the next best thing was a four-team playoff with a seeded bracket that features the four best teams in the nation. This has been our wish as college football junkies for more than a quarter of a century and now we have it. Money, selection process, TV contracts, bowl games, timing and site locations, while very important, are all secondary to the simple fact that we have a playoff in college football. The rest of the process will fall into place and will likely create dissension, but don't miss the forest through the trees. The second your eyes fall upon a Football Four bracket with Michigan-Alabama on one side and Texas-USC on the other, you will instantly understand who the biggest winner was in all of this: The Fans.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I have to admit, I never thought the BCS was that bad of a system. Sure, it had negatives, but what system doesn’t? There’s no perfect format for the college football postseason and controversy will exist every year. However, I think a four-team playoff is a good move. The college football regular season is easily the best in sports and there’s no reason to change that. I have concerns about the selection committee, but the real issues would start if college football expanded to an 8- or 16-team playoff. When you start expanding the field, that’s when the regular season will be devalued – and hopefully college football’s postseason format never gets bigger than four teams. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Well, I would have preferred to see an eight-team playoff, and I am not in favor of a selection committee, so it’s hard for me to say that college football “got it right.” But I believe that this is a big step in the right direction and will add a tremendous amount of excitement to what is already a great sports. If I had to give college football a grade, I’d go with a solid B+.

Mark Ross
Truthfully, I don't know if we'll know this answer until after the initial four playoff teams are chosen. I am very curious to see how the playoff selection committee is put together and what criteria they will use in determining the four-team field. That said, I do think replacing the BCS with a playoff is certainly a step in the right direction.

I am a big proponent of settling things on the field rather than through computer-generated formulas. It remains to be seen how much of a role "human error" will potentially play with the selection committee, but in the end four teams, and not two, will get a shot at winning the national title, and that's a good thing. Personally, I would like to see the field expanded to eight to allow more teams a chance, but four is a good start.

Related College Football Content

College Football Ditches Playoff for BCS
What Should the Composition of a Selection Committee Be?

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012
College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Did College Football Get it Right With a Four-Team Playoff?</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 04:43

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