Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-quarterback-rankings

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving touchdowns = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Ranking Player Team
1 Ryan Aplin Arkansas State
2 Tyler Tettleton Ohio
3 Geno Smith West Virginia
4 Matt Barkley USC
5 Collin Klein Kansas State
6 Denard Robinson Michigan
7 Tajh Boyd Clemson
8 Jeff Tuel Washington State
9 Cody Fajardo Nevada
10 David Piland Houston
11 Alex Carder Western Michigan
12 Seth Doege Texas Tech
13 James Franklin Missouri
14 Brett Smith Wyoming
15 Keith Price Washington
16 Logan Thomas Virginia Tech
17 Landry Jones Oklahoma
18 Braxton Miller Ohio State
19 Marcus Mariota Oregon
20 Blaine Gautier UL Lafayette
21 Aaron Murray Georgia
22 Tyler Wilson Arkansas
23 Riley Nelson BYU
24 Kain Colter Northwestern
25 Derek Carr Fresno State
26 Zac Dysert Miami, Ohio
27 Jordan Lynch Northern Illinois
28 Taylor Martinez Nebraska
29 Casey Pachall TCU
30 Colby Cameron Louisiana Tech
31 Nick Florence Baylor
32 Matt Scott Arizona
33 Tyler Bray Tennessee
34 Mike Glennon NC State
35 Tevin Washington Georgia Tech
36 Wes Lunt Oklahoma State
37 Rio Johnson East Carolina
38 Matt Schilz Bowling Green
39 Joe Southwick Boise State
40 Cody Green Tulsa
41 Bryn Renner North Carolina
42 B.J. Daniels South Florida
43 EJ Manuel Florida State
44 Jonathan Perry UAB
45 Corey Robinson Troy
46 Connor Shaw South Carolina
47 Terrance Owens Toledo
48 Kolton Browning UL Monroe
49 MarQueis Gray Minnesota
50 Keith Wenning Ball State
51 Jameill Showers Texas A&M
52 Chuckie Keeton Utah State
53 James Vandenberg Iowa
54 Zach Maynard California
55 Nathan Scheelhaase Illinois
56 Jordan Rodgers Vanderbilt
57 Ryan Radcliff Central Michigan
58 Dayne Crist Kansas
59 Sean Mannion Oregon State
60 Alex Gillett Eastern Michigan
61 Trey Miller Navy
62 Zach Mettenberger LSU
63 Teddy Bridgewater Louisville
64 C.J. Brown Maryland
65 Everett Golson Notre Dame
66 Kiehl Frazier Auburn
67 Ryan Nassib Syracuse
68 Munchie Legaux Cincinnati
69 AJ McCarron Alabama
70 Taylor McHargue Rice
71 Eric Soza UTSA
72 Connor Dietz Air Force
73 Garrett Gilbert SMU
74 Tanner Price Wake Forest
75 Tre Roberson Indiana
76 Trent Steelman Army
77 Danny O'Brien Wisconsin
78 Chris Coyer Temple
79 Ryan Katz San Diego State
80 Michael Eubank Arizona State

<p> College Fantasy Football 2012 Quarterback Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 04:27
Path: /college-football/tennessee-football-how-many-wins-does-derek-dooley-need-return-2013

With Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012 released, it's time to take a look at some of the hot topics around the nation. Tennessee is coming off a disappointing 5-7 season, and coach Derek Dooley is on the hot seat. The Volunteers have the talent to return to the postseason, but aren't ready to challenge for the SEC title.

How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return at Tennessee in 2013?

Clay Travis (@ClayTravisBGID),
Derek Dooley has to win at least eight regular season games to be back as Tennessee coach in 2012. The reason is simple, he's sucked so far and the 2012 Vols schedule is just about as easy as an SEC schedule can get.

How easy?

UT could win nine games without beating a ranked opponent.

So eight's the bare minimum and I believe that Dooley's fate will be determined by the middle four games of the Vol season. UT will probably be 3-1 at worst after the first four games.

But then comes the deciding four game stretch. The Vols go on the road at Georgia, at Mississippi State, home against Alabama, and on the road at South Carolina.

UT will probably be an underdog in all four of those games.

If Dooley loses all four of these games, I think he'll end up fired. If he wins just one of the four then he'll have a very good chance of getting to eight wins. If he loses all four, he has to win the other eight on the schedule. I don't see that happening.

So eight wins is a must.

But even if Dooley wins eight, 2013 looks awfully scary.

Road games at Alabama, Florida, and Oregon?

Good luck with that.   

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As usual, so much of the perception of the win total depends on the teams the Volunteers beat. If one of those happens to be Alabama, Derek Dooley’s probably in good shape. That’s probably not going to happen, but Tennessee probably needs to defeat Florida in week three just to keep the Derek Dooley-hot-seaters at bay. That said, early losses didn’t seem to harm Mark Richt and Georgia early last season. Probably more important than the wins for Dooley are the losses. If the Vols lose to Kentucky again, he’s going to have a hard time sticking around. If the Vols are getting too excited for an overtime win over Vanderbilt again, that’s probably not a good sign, either. I’d probably set the arbitrary bar at eight wins -- three of those are a given with Georgia State, Akron and Troy. Avoiding a second consecutive loss to Kentucky would bring Tennessee halfway to eight wins, a three-game improvement from last year and a threshold the Vols haven’t hit since 2007. Can Tennessee get those other four wins? It’s going to be close. Not much wiggle room in games against N.C. State in Atlanta, Florida and Missouri in Knoxville and Mississippi State and Vanderbilt on the road. Tennessee can get there, but not if potential NFL quarterback Tyler Bray is hurt again. If he’s healthy and he has Justin Hunter and Da’Rick Rogers catching passes, Tennessee has a great shot to get to eight or nine wins. If that happens, Dooley is back for 2013.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Eight is the magic number for me, with or without a bowl win. An 8-4 regular season would keep his job totally secure this fall. That would mean at least a 4-4 conference record which would undoubtedly feature road wins over bowl teams Mississippi State and Vanderbilt with home wins over bowl team Mizzou and, of course, a revenge victory over Kentucky (I would not want to be Joker Phillips in that season finale). It would also mean a win over NC State, a very good football team that Tennessee fans will likely overlook and undervalue.

Anything more would be a tremendous coup for the program. If his team finishes 7-5 in the regular season, it might take a bowl win for Dooley to feel secure at the Neyland-Thompson Center.

Dooley has stated that "significant improvement" is what he has to accomplish in order to keep his job in Knoxville. Keeping his team healthy, eliminating any dissension within the locker room and playing more competitive football against upper-tier competition would all constitute "significant improvement" — whether that translates into wins or not. The bottom line is fans should have a clear picture of who and what Dooley is as a head coach by the end of the year. It will be blatantly obvious if the Vols are a more competitive football team in 2012. One key upsets — e.g., Florida — would go a long way to entrenching the current regime. But if this team cannot run the football (again), continues to fail at making halftime adjustments and loses a game it shouldn't, Dooley's tenure as the head coach of the Tennessee Vols will be short lived.

It's not all doom and gloom, however, the program is in dramatically better shape today than it was two years ago when Dooley was hired.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s not easy determining how many wins Derek Dooley needs to return for 2013, but I think seven seems to be the magic number. The key word surrounding the Volunteers in 2012 will be progress. Close the gap on Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama and Dooley is probably safe for another season. Fail to show much progress against some of the SEC's top teams and a coaching change could be in order on Rocky Top.

There’s no question there’s a lot of unrest in Knoxville and rightfully so after losing 10-7 to Kentucky in last year’s regular season finale. The Volunteers were hit hard by the injury bug last season, as Tyler Bray suffered a thumb injury and missed five games. Standout receiver Justin Hunter tore his ACL against Florida and did not play in the final nine contests of 2011. With Bray and Hunter back in the mix, Tennessee could have one of the SEC’s top offenses in 2012. However, coordinator Jim Chaney has to find a way to jumpstart a lifeless rushing attack, while the offensive line also has to perform better. The defense returns seven starters, but will miss tackle Malik Jackson and is under the guidance of new coordinator Sal Sunseri.

The opener in Atlanta against NC State could set the tone for the year. If the Volunteers can defeat the Wolfpack, this team can build some momentum for a key early stretch, which features matchups against Florida and Georgia. If Tennessee stumbles, the questions about Dooley’s job will only get louder. Outside of the matchup against NC State, the non-conference slate is manageable, as Georgia State, Troy and Akron visit Knoxville. Catching Mississippi State from the West Division is favorable for the Volunteers, while new conference foe Missouri visits Knoxville in mid-November.

With a favorable schedule and Bray and Hunter back in the mix, anything less than seven wins would be a disappointment for Tennessee fans. There are high expectations in Knoxville, and this is a huge year for Dooley to show the program is back on track. He didn’t inherit a great situation, but it’s time for Dooley and the Volunteers to make some progress and become a factor in the SEC East race once again.

Mark Ross
I think Dooley needs to find a way to get to at least seven or eight wins, and certainly to a bowl game, if he wants to return as Tennessee's head coach in 2013. Very little has gone right for Dooley in his first two seasons, but that doesn't change the expectations of Big Orange Nation. To make matters worse, Dave Hart, Tennessee's current athletics director, isn't the guy who hired Dooley in the first place. So besides winning over the fan base this season, Dooley probably needs to convince his boss that he's the right man for the job as well.

Unfortunately for Dooley and his Volunteers, seven or eight wins is anything but a guarantee looking at this season's schedule. For one, the season opener against NC State in the Georgia Dome won't be a cakewalk. Tennessee should win its other three non-conference games, at home against Georgia State, Akron and Troy, but besides its SEC East slate, the Vols also have conference games against defending national champion Alabama and Mississippi State.

Speaking of the SEC East, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida figure to be tough opponents and then there's newcomer Missouri, whose offense will be a difficult test for Tennessee's defense to try and slow down. And at this point, even UT's match ups against Kentucky and Vanderbilt, which were pretty much foregone conclusions until last season, can't be taken for granted.

So assuming Tennessee wins three out of its four non-conference games, the Vols would still need to do no worse than .500 in SEC play to get to that magic number of seven or eight wins. Again, considering who's on UT's conference schedule in 2012, .500 in league play would definitely be an improvement over last season's 1-7 mark. If anything, it certainly wouldn't hurt Dooley's chances of getting another year in Knoxville.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not think there is an automatic number like many media members or fans try to portray, but obviously Dooley’s Vols must show significant progress in his third season at the helm. Eight wins against a challenging Tennessee schedule would seem to ensure a 2013 return for the likeable head coach, and a seven-win campaign would cause heavy debate on Rocky Top. If the anemic running game (116th in the nation at 90 yards per game) improves and Sal Sunseri’s defense shows promise in his first season as coordinator, then the Big Orange fan base might have to deal with some close and competitive losses to SEC heavyweights for another year. However, there can be no more inexplicable defeats like last year’s Kentucky head-scratcher.

Dooley was left a bare-bones program from the (lack of recruiting) end of the Phil Fulmer era and one season of Lane Kiffin, who signed way too many questionable-character kids trying for a quick fix. Tennessee’s recruiting has been solid under Dooley, but that just means you’re treading water when competing in America’s toughest conference. The offense has a ton of potential this season but cannot afford any key injuries like the ones last year to quarterback Tyler Bray and top receiver Justin Hunter. The defense has some talent, and it will be interesting to see how the players develop in Sunseri’s hybrid look.

When new athletic director Dave Hart took over in Knoxville, many speculated that Dooley’s seat got much warmer. However, the veteran AD knows how down the program was when Dooley was hired. If the ’12 Vols show progress and compete like a top-tier SEC team, I believe there will be no change. But a 7-5 regular season with an unexpected loss may force Hart’s hand as Tennessee football tries to return to national relevance.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012
College Football Rankings: No. 26-35
ollege Football Rankings: No. 36-45

<p> Tennessee Football: How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 07:06
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-46-60

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 46-60. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

46. Rutgers
On paper, Rutgers has the look of a contender, though the uncertainty over all the newness (new coach, eight new assistants) casts some uncertainty over the Knights’ hopes. This was a team pointed for a big season in 2012 by former coach Greg Schiano. He’s gone, but the expectations are not. How ironic would be it be if Flood won the league in his first year after Schiano failed to do so in 11 seasons? 
47. Mississippi State
Dan Mullen has the best depth and most overall talent he’s had during his tenure in Starkville. The offense, with a true pocket passer under center and more playmakers at wide receiver, should be more balanced, and the defense figures to be stout once again. But life in the SEC West can be very difficult. The Bulldogs are 0–12 vs. division rivals not named Ole Miss during Mullen’s three seasons. There’s a chance that MSU might be much improved without seeing much progress — if any — in the win column.
48. Miami
With huge personnel losses to overcome and a very youthful roster, the Hurricanes appear to be in rebuilding mode. There’s good young talent and more coming in from a top-10 recruiting class, but it’s going to take time to develop. The schedule includes nonconference games with Notre Dame, Kansas State and South Florida. The Hurricanes will likely also have to deal with the distraction of imminent NCAA sanctions. Matching last season’s 6–6 record won’t be easy.
49. Northwestern
Northwestern has reached a team-record four consecutive bowl games but also has seen its win total drop in each of the past three seasons. Has the team lost momentum? Pat Fitzgerald doesn’t believe so, but he’ll need a young and potentially more talented roster to grow up in a hurry this fall. The offense has had a nice run of success and a potential superstar in Kain Colter at quarterback. But Northwestern must rectify its issues at running back and see its strong recruiting at offensive line start paying off. The defense has been a major liability for the past year-and-a-half, and if young players don’t make strides and start making plays, it could be a rough season. 
50. Iowa
There is without question a new attitude with all the coaching changes and with Iowa coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons. But what hasn’t changed much is the personnel, and that’s why Iowa could be headed for another season like a year ago. James Vandenberg might be the best pocket passer in the Big Ten, but he struggled on the road last season. The schedule is favorable, but that was also the case last season, and Iowa still failed to contend in the Legends Division.
51. Washington State
With Mike Leach, the Cougars could return to their first bowl game since 2003 when they beat Vince Young and Texas in the Holiday Bowl. Given an abundance of talent at the skill positions, WSU should be in a number of shootouts. The success of the season hinges on the protection that Tuel gets from his offensive line, which was hit by injuries in the spring. The switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense will be key as well, particularly at linebacker, where the Cougs need several players to step up after Leach dismissed two projected starting linebackers — C.J. Mizell and Sekope Kaufusi — for off-field transgressions. Based on Leach’s record at Texas Tech, an eight-win season is not out of the question, though a six-win season would be acceptable for the bowl-deprived Cougs.
52. Illinois
Early in his tenure, Tim Beckman handed out orange bracelets to the players and staff. “One” was written in large letters along with “12-01-12.” That’s the date of the Big Ten title game at Indianapolis. “If you don’t have that goal, why do you play?” Beckman says. If Illinois is ever going to break through in the Leaders Division, this would be the year. Ohio State is ineligible for the title. Wisconsin lost starting quarterback Russell Wilson and three-fifths of its powerhouse offensive line. And Penn State continues to try to recover from the Jerry Sandusky scandal. 
53. Purdue
Danny Hope never needs a reason to be optimistic. Purdue’s fourth-year coach always has a positive spin on the state of Boilermaker football. But heading into 2012, there seems to be some basis for such an attitude. The Boilermakers are brimming with confidence after reaching their first bowl game since 2007. With proven experience at quarterback for the first time in Hope’s tenure and a defense littered with potential all-league talent, a second straight winning season is a realistic goal. 
54. Nevada
Nevada is taking a step up in competition by joining the Mountain West Conference. But before the Wolf Pack even get to conference play, they will have to navigate a non-conference schedule that includes a road game against California and a home game against South Florida. On the plus side, the Mountain West no longer has TCU, and two of the league’s better teams, Wyoming and Boise State, travel to Reno. If Nevada can jell, it has a chance to compete for a league title and should be in line for an eighth consecutive bowl appearance.
55. Arizona State
This is clearly a transitional year for Todd Graham and the Sun Devils. ASU lost a ton of talent on both sides of the ball; it has to break in a new, inexperienced quarterback, and there will be an adjustment period as the players get used to the new coaching staff and its schemes. The schedule isn’t as favorable as it was last year, either. ASU ends the year with three road games in four weeks. A .500 record would be a successful first season for Graham.
56. Cincinnati
Cincinnati is riddled with question marks, especially on offense. If the Bearcats are going to continue their recent success in the Big East, a lot of things will have to break right, beginning with the development of Munchie Legaux at quarterback. With no star players, Cincinnati will look to distribute the ball more equally on offense. Defensively, ends Walter Stewart and Dan Giordano must have productive years. The best thing the Bearcats have going for them is a less-than-demanding schedule that includes two home games against FCS opponents (Delaware State and Fordham). With West Virginia gone to the Big 12 and replaced by Temple, the league’s toughest foe year-in and year-out is no longer around. This soft slate will give Cincinnati’s newcomers ample opportunity to grow into their new roles. “The expectations and standards for us never change,” says Cincinnati coach Butch Jones. “Do we have a lot of new faces? Yes. But that adds to the level of excitement.”
57. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe stopped a two-year slide with a bowl bid last year, and he’s brought in four new assistants over two years to rejuvenate the program. His emphasis on recruiting speed shows across the field, but the Deacons’ season will likely be decided by whether they can control the line of scrimmage. Across both lines, Grobe might start at least five players with no game experience. On defense, a lockdown secondary could free up blitzing options. On offense, Tanner Price’s savvy will have to make up for what could be some chaotic situations up front. The good news is that the Deacons will field their most talented team in recent years, boasting several players on each side of the ball with All-ACC potential. Grobe has to figure out how to overcome the team’s inexperience and lack of depth.
58. Texas Tech
Texas Tech missed a bowl game in 2011 for the first time in 12 seasons, which is putting some pressure on third-year coach Tommy Tuberville. Tech must make a bowl game in 2012 to meet Red Raider fans’ minimum standards. Fortunately, there are several weapons in the offensive cupboard, and the coaches did their best to revamp the defense with a new coordinator, a new scheme and some new players from the junior college ranks. The Raiders might cut it close, but they should make it to a bowl game this year. 
59. Ohio
Ohio won a bowl game for the first time in school history last season, beating Utah State 24–23 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. It also produced 10 wins for the first time in 43 years. But the Bobcats failed to bring home their first MAC title since 1968 as they squandered a 20–0 halftime lead to Northern Illinois. That gives this experienced and talented Ohio squad plenty of motivation to bring home its third MAC East title in four seasons. 
60. Iowa State
Much of the focus this season will be on the quarterback position, as it should be — after all, at this point it appears that the starting spot could be decided by the flip of a coin. It’s always come down to trust with coach Paul Rhoads, and who can protect the ball while still being able to produce enough points to stay competitive in the loaded Big 12. The offense has potential, and the defense over the years has made up for its limited number of difference-makers with great schemes and timely stops in the red zone. As usual, expectations outside the program won’t be high. But as usual, Rhoads’ team will find a way to overachieve and knock off one (or more) of the league’s powers.
<p> College football 2012 preseason rankings: No. 46-60.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 8, 2012 - 07:02
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-36-45

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 36-45. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

36. Virginia
Mike London was a deserving pick for ACC Coach of the Year last season, keeping the surprising Cavaliers in Coastal Division title contention until the final weekend. Building on that momentum will require another stellar coaching job, with several gaps to fill on both sides of the ball and a more difficult nonconference schedule. London has made all the right moves so far, recruiting well and reviving interest in the program. The general trend is up, but the Cavaliers could level off for a year before really surging.

Read the full Virginia Cavaliers 2012 Team Preview

37. Tennessee
Tennessee has a strong passing game, but establishing the run is paramount to keeping defenses honest and protecting quarterback Tyler Bray. The defense aims for more impact plays, but that often comes at the risk of surrendering big plays. A more forgiving schedule — Alabama and LSU are replaced by Missouri and Mississippi State — makes eight wins a realistic goal.

Read the full Tennessee Volunteers 2012 Team Preview

38. California
This is a big season for Cal. The Bears are moving back into their renovated stadium after playing last year’s home games at AT&T Park in San Francisco. There is excitement around the program because of the improved facilities. The question is whether the team itself is worthy of the same excitement. Cal will need at least one other receiver to produce alongside Keenan Allen and get continued improvement from quarterback Zach Maynard. Meanwhile, a handful of players on defense who are being called upon to take on greater roles will need to emerge. The Bears have been around the .500 mark in each of the past three seasons, and this team doesn’t look much different than those.

Read the full California Golden Bears 2012 Team Preview

39. BYU
The 2011 football season was very different for the Cougars, even though their record looked familiar. BYU’s first year of independence resulted in its fifth 10-win season in six years, even without the incentive of a conference championship. BYU hopes quarterback Riley Nelson’s presence will make the offense more efficient from the start, while an experienced defense tries to continue its high level of play. The schedule is more daunting, with road games against Utah, Boise State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech, so matching last season’s win total will be difficult. 

Read the full BYU Cougars 2012 Team Preview

40. Baylor
While coach Art Briles is “eager to sustain” and build on the momentum of back-to-back bowl berths, at least a small drop-off is expected after losing many of the most dynamic offensive players in school history. The schedule is also demanding with eight bowl teams and 2011 FCS runner-up Sam Houston State. Contending for a Big 12 championship might be the goal, but a berth in another bowl game seems much more realistic.

Read the full Baylor Bears 2012 Team Preview

41. Vanderbilt
There was nothing fluky about Vanderbilt’s improvement from two wins in 2010 to six wins in the first year of the James Franklin era. The Commodores ranked seventh in the SEC in total offense and sixth in total defense, and four of their six league losses came by six points or less. There was no smoke. There were no mirrors. But the big question: Can they do it again? Can the Commodores maintain this momentum and go to a bowl for the second straight season (for the first time in school history)? The talent is there, especially on offense, where the Commodores feature a veteran quarterback, an All-SEC running back and nice collection of wide receivers. The big key will be on defense, where some key players — and outstanding leaders — must be replaced. 

Read the full Vanderbilt Commodores 2012 Team Preview

42. UCLA
Ultimately, the talent level is not going to be the concern for the Bruins, who recruited well under Rick Neuheisel and had a top-10 class in 2012.  Rather, concentration, toughness and discipline will be the deciding factors. Can Jim Mora bring them? UCLA went a long way to find out.

Read the full UCLA Bruins 2012 Team Preview

43. Arizona
Although Arizona has little depth, its front-line players are skilled and experienced. If quarterback Matt Scott remains healthy, this is a team that projects to be productive offensively and play in a bowl game. Coach Rich Rodriguez said that the Wildcats were out of shape and not strong enough to compete in the Pac-12 when he evaluated the returning players. He changed that with a boot camp-type of offseason. The potential for trouble is in the linebacking crew and in the thin secondary. Eight home games will help.

Read the full Arizona Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

44. Penn State
When Penn State hired Bill O’Brien away from the New England Patriots’ staff, it gave him free rein to change what he felt needed to be changed in order to reinvigorate a program that had fallen into decline in the waning years of the Joe Paterno era. O’Brien has taken that mandate seriously, retaining only two members of the previous coaching staff, revamping the strength program and installing a new offensive system. Players have responded enthusiastically, but it’s probably unrealistic to expect those changes to bear immediate fruit. 

Read the full Penn State Nittany Lions 2012 Team Preview

45. Pittsburgh
One word: stability. That is what the Pittsburgh program covets. It has been a tumultuous year-and-a-half, with the firing of Dave Wannstedt, the hiring and firing of Michael Haywood after 16 days due to a domestic violence charge, the one-year tenure of Todd Graham, who bolted for Arizona State, and now the Paul Chryst era. Unlike the smooth-talking Graham, Chryst is more of a blue-collar Pittsburgh-style guy. He has done a solid job of restoring faith among the fan base, but his biggest challenge will be re-focusing a group of players who have witnessed a revolving door of coaches. Pittsburgh, in its final year in the Big East before moving to the ACC, could compete for a league title, but Panthers fans would probably take stability over winning in Chryst’s first year as a head coach. 

Read the full Pittsburgh Panthers 2012 Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012
College Football Rankings: No. 26-35

<p> College football preseason rankings No. 36-45.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/sec-commissioner-mike-slive-talks-realignment-playoffs-and-national-titles

There has never been a football dynasty like the SEC. While many fans tuned out the Alabama-LSU BCS Championship Game,  SEC Commissioner Mike Slive got to an enjoy an all-SEC affair. The SEC sits at six straight national titles (and perhaps still counting). But times are changing in college sports. Schools continue to shift conferences. BCS commissioners are talking about a playoff. The NCAA is trying to provide athletes with more benefits. In this exclusive interview, Slive discusses those topics and more, as he considers how to keep the SEC on top.

Note: This interview was conducted in April and appears in Athlon's 2012 SEC Regional magazine. 

Athlon Sports: Could you have ever envisioned this run by the SEC after not getting undefeated Auburn into the BCS Championship Game in ’04 and barely getting Florida into the 2006 game to start this period of dominance?

Slive: I don’t think anybody could have imagined it. In 2004, it was watershed. The discussion started about the SEC and having an undefeated team (Auburn) that was left out. Then LSU makes it to the game (in 2007 season), wins the game with two losses. I think the fact they could get there with two losses indicates the voters began to respect the fact it’s a very tough league to play your way through. It’s hard to imagine now, based on past history, that an undefeated SEC team would not make it to the championship game, unless there’s something unusual.

So what’s changed since 2004? Has the SEC pushed its message more? Is the league simply better in football?

Slive: It’s hard to pinpoint. I think it’s a combination of outstanding coaches, great athletes, and we’ve exposed them.

Back in 2005-06, the SEC’s average payout to its members was $10.2 million. By 2010-11, that reached $19.5 million. How much do you think additional money factors into the SEC’s success?

Slive: There was at least one other conference (the Big Ten) during the same timeframe that was in the same place financially. It’s not a controlled experiment. Certainly the ability to have significant recruiting budgets, the ability to have outstanding facilities, the ability to hire outstanding football coaches, that all helps. We have weather. We have tradition. We have passion.

There was some SEC fatigue around the country with the Alabama-LSU matchup. How cognizant are you of that, particularly when talking about the SEC’s success?

Slive: A lot of your colleagues ask me about that. What’s the question aimed at? If it’s aimed at the BCS, I think you saw the two best teams (Alabama and LSU). The voters said they’re the two best teams. It (SEC fatigue) may be a concept out there, but I don’t feel it. And the BCS didn’t feel it.

Can you understand how people around the country would say they’ve already seen Alabama and LSU play, so let’s see another conference take a shot at the SEC?

Slive: I can understand that. But when I listened to the radio or read stories, that isn’t what came across.

You proposed the plus-one model, a four-team playoff, in 2008. Do you still support it?

Slive: I certainly will have the plus-one foremost in my mind. I want to see compared to what. For the last six years in looking at it from our own prism, we were better off without it. It worked great for us. If I knew that for six more years it was going to work this way, then I wouldn’t be for the plus-one. But I think the law of averages catches up over time. Knowing that any team in our league with one or two losses is one of the top two teams in the country, then I’d have to think very hard about the plus-one in absence of other kinds of changes.

You’ve always called it a plus-one. Can you finally just call it a playoff?

Slive: I’ve never considered it a playoff — or the so-called ‘p’ word — because it fit within the structure of the BCS at the time that I raised it. It didn’t require any fundamental change. I thought about it as a modification of the postseason.

So as the BCS commissioners discuss a playoff, are we closer than ever to a modification of the postseason?

Slive: I said before (the BCS commissioners) met there was going to be change and there was going to be substantial change. I still believe that. This process is a marathon, not a sprint.

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott has floated the idea of seeding only conference champions in a playoff. How would you feel about that considering Alabama won the national title last season without winning the SEC?

Slive: I’m willing to have a conversation about it, but if you were going to ask me today, that would not be the way I want to go. It really is early in the discussions, notwithstanding what some commissioners say publicly. There’s still a lot of information that needs to be generated.

The Big Ten has proposed campus sites for semifinal games instead of neutral sites. Could the SEC support that concept?

Slive: There are plusses and minuses to that concept. One is that you’re playing a couple games to determine the national champion and to make it a home game for somebody has always been perceived as a competitive advantage. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is not played at the homes of the higher seeds. So you have to look at that. The other side is there would be the question of fan travel and the ability to travel to one or more games. You guarantee good attendance (at a campus stadium) — for one team. It needs to be looked at carefully. It’s on the table and it should be on the table.

You’re welcoming Texas A&M and Missouri into the SEC this season. There is a lot of shifting lately in conference alignments. Do you think this is good for college sports?

Slive: Whether it’s good or not good I think will be something we’ll be able to judge in the future. Is it good for the SEC? I think it will be very good for the SEC. Is it good for college sports? I think it might. The question of rivalries is always underlying these questions. We would love Kansas to play Missouri and Missouri would like to play Kansas. It’s not the SEC or Missouri that’s not making that happen. We would like A&M to play Texas. It’s not the SEC or A&M. It’s Texas that says they don’t want to play A&M.

Do you think expansion is done nationally, and is the SEC finished at 14 members?

Slive: I still view 14 as an extension of 12. Going beyond 14 is no longer an extension of 12. Maybe the Pac-12 and Big Ten scheduling alliance may be their way of answering that question. I can only speak for us. I think it’s going to take us some time to absorb these two institutions. At this point, I don’t see us adding more. We’ve never been trying to get 14 so I don’t see us necessarily trying to get to 16.

You’ve been in favor of giving athletes an extra stipend to cover the true cost of attending college. Politically, it got delayed by the NCAA membership. Do you still support the idea?

Slive: I do. What concerned me is the process the NCAA used to get to this point and not providing sufficient time for us to analyze all of the issues related to it. Hopefully it will be reconsidered again by the board and we’ll be able to address how it relates to Olympic sports, Title IX, the actual amount — all of that should have been vetted out in a much more significant way than it was.

The option to provide multi-year scholarships, which you also support, passed but the majority of Division I schools opposed it. What do you like about the idea?

Slive: The point is the prospective student-athlete gets the opportunity to have a significant conversation with an institution and vice versa, and some of the bargaining power is on both sides of the table, which is appropriate. Part of the opposition was a protest against how it was done, being put on the table right before Signing Day. Hopefully, (NCAA President) Mark Emmert and the NCAA folks have gotten the message you can decide to do something and mandate it, but you have to give membership the chance to fully vet it.

One of your basketball coaches, John Calipari of Kentucky, says he doesn’t believe the NCAA will continue to control major college athletics by the time he retires. Do you envision such drastic changes in the governance of college sports?

Slive: I don’t anticipate those. I do see at the moment — and hopefully a passing moment — that some of the discussion you and I just had has raised questions about the NCAA and how it operates and maybe has shaken the confidence of some of its membership. But I think that can be, and should be, a temporary problem. Mark Emmert is a very talented, skillful person. That will be fixed.

What’s your biggest challenge moving forward?

Slive: One thing about being a commissioner is there’s no today. Today doesn’t really exist for me. When I wake up in the morning, everything that’s going to happen today has been done. So it’s the ability of trying to think ahead and what I can do with the conference that will make tomorrow successful.

Related SEC Content

College Football Preseason Rankings: No. 26-35
College Football Preseason Rankings: No. 36-45

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 2 LSU

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 3 Alabama

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 8 Georgia

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 10 South Carolina

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 13 Arkansas

<p> SEC Commissioner Mike Slive Talks Realignment, Playoffs and National Titles</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-rankings-no-26-35

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-35. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

26. Florida
At schools like Florida, baby steps draw winces. In the microwave world of college football, the slow cooker is unacceptable. But Will Muschamp knows that transforming the Florida football team from what it was to what it needs to be isn’t going to happen overnight. “It’s coming,” he says. “We’re getting there. I like the guys we have. I like the team we have a lot better than the one we had last year. We’re getting better.” Just getting better, however, won’t be good enough to get these Gators to Atlanta to play in the SEC title game. 

Read the full Florida Gators 2012 Team Preview

27. Kansas State
Improving on a 10-win season that ended with a trip to the Cotton Bowl won’t be easy — but don’t bet against Kansas State, which makes a habit of defying the odds. The Wildcats should be improved on offense, provided Collin Klein has improved as a passer and the offensive line comes together. The secondary is the big concern on defense. Nigel Malone is solid at one cornerback spot, but the Cats ranked 103rd in the nation in pass defense. That has to improve if K-State wants to be a serious threat in the Big 12.  

Read the full Kansas State Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

28. NC State
In 120 years of football, only one NC State team has posted a double-digit win total — Philip Rivers led the Pack to 11 wins in ’02 — but given the returning talent and the relatively soft schedule, winning 10 games is a realistic goal. Coach Tom O’Brien is not prone to hyperbole, high praise or predictions, but the NC State coach likes what he sees in his team, which has combined to win 17 games the past two seasons. “The whole key, once again, is staying healthy,” O’Brien says. “As long as we stay healthy, I think we have a chance to be a pretty good football team.”

Read the full NC State Wolfpack 2012 Team Preview

29. North Carolina
The Tar Heels aren’t going to a bowl game, regardless of how many games they win, thanks to NCAA sanctions stemming from Butch Davis’ tenure as head coach. But they want to make a positive impression in Larry Fedora’s first season at the helm. They have an offense with the potential to put up big point totals, but the question is whether their defense can keep opponents from scoring even more. The combination should make for an exciting season.

Read the full North Carolina Tar Heels 2012 Team Preview

30. Auburn
Armed with three consecutive top-10 recruiting classes, Auburn hopes to show that 2010 wasn’t an aberration but the start of a run of sustained excellence. The schedule is more favorable this season, but many of the questions that Auburn hoped to resolve during last year’s “rebuilding” remain unanswered. Frazier threw sparingly (and often to opponents) in 2011. Michael Dyer has moved on. The offensive line will be a bit deeper but just as young and inexperienced. Two new coordinators are trying to put their imprint on the team. The talent is there for the Tigers to push their way back into the nation’s top tier, but Auburn is probably a year away from becoming a legitimate threat in the SEC West. 

Read the full Auburn Tigers 2012 Team Preview

31. Missouri
While Missouri has made major strides during Gary Pinkel’s 11 years as coach, the Tigers never quite reached elite status in the Big 12. Coming off an 8–5 season and following a controversial move to the SEC, Missouri will now attempt to crack the top of the country’s most elite football conference — beginning with a Week 2 home meeting against reigning SEC East champion Georgia. The Tigers return 10 starters, plus two others who started in 2010, but the soundness of quarterback James Franklin’s surgically repaired right shoulder will figure prominently in Missouri’s hopes. 

Read the full Missouri Tigers 2012 Team Preview

32. Texas A&M
The Aggies simply do not appear to have enough depth to be a serious contender for the SEC West title in 2012, but there is enough talent in place for A&M to be highly competitive on a week-to-week basis. A&M’s up-tempo offensive pace — along with its tremendous offensive line — will give opponents plenty of headaches. But the defense may cause some self-inflicted wounds. Expect the Aggies to win anywhere from six to eight games. 

Read the full Texas A&M Aggies 2012 Team Preview

33. Utah
Utah came within a missed field goal of forcing overtime with a chance of advancing to the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game. As it was, they finished with a losing record (4–5) in conference play in their first season in the Pac-12  but remained in the South race only because USC was ineligible for postseason play. “We had a good start,” says coach Kyle Whittingham, “but we have to continue to do everything better.” Utah’s defense matched up well with most Pac-12 offenses and returns mostly intact. If the offense improves as much as expected, the Utes should rank among the conference’s top teams.   

Read the full Utah Utes 2012 Team Preview

34. South Florida
Heading into its eighth Big East football season, South Florida remains on the clock. The Bulls haven’t seriously contended for a conference championship. For a change, no one is picking South Florida to win the Big East. Maybe the prognosticators don’t want to get fooled again by the Bulls. They have constantly teased throughout non-conference success, such as last season’s win at Notre Dame and a 4–0 start, only to fall flat during the Big East slate. South Florida’s progress will be predicated on quarterback B.J. Daniels’ consistency, better third down production and defensive improvement, particularly in the fourth quarter. In other words, all the elements that generally help to win games (or lose them).

Read the full South Florida Bulls 2012 Team Preview

35. Georgia Tech
A year ago, most predicted six or seven wins from a young team. The Yellow Jackets responded with eight, and it could have easily been 10. This season, nine wins and a strong shot at the ACC title are not unreasonable goals. The Jackets have experience and the sour taste of losses to rivals Virginia Tech and Georgia, as well as a seventh consecutive bowl loss, to drive them. If quarterback Tevin Washington and running back David Sims, in particular, can raise their level of play, and the defensive line delivers, there’s no reason they won’t be in the mix in the ACC.

Read the full Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2012 Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012

<p> Athlon continues its release of 2012 preseason rankings with No. 26-35.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 06:24
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-assistant-coach-hires-2012

The college football coaching carousel wasn't just busy among head coaches, as the assistant ranks saw plenty of changes as well. Changing coordinators or hiring a key positional coach can have a big impact on any team.

Athlon takes a look at the top coordinator hires for 2012:

Chuck Amato 
Defensive Coordinator, Akron

It’s not often that a school like Akron has an opportunity to bring in a coach with as much experience as Amato. The long-time Florida State defensive coordinator and one-time head coach at NC State has been out of coaching the past two seasons.

Matt Canada 
Offensive Coordinator, Wisconsin

Highly respected offensive coach returns to the Big Ten after spending the 2011 season as the coordinator at Northern Illinois. Prior to that, he was at Indiana, his alma mater, for seven seasons.

Jeff Casteel
Defensive Coordinator, Arizona

Casteel heads out West after 11 years at West Virginia, the last 10 as the Mountaineers’ defensive coordinator. He worked for new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez at WVU from 2001-07.

Billy Gonzales 
Co-Offensive Coordinator, Illinois

Regarded as a great recruiter, Gonzales spent the previous seven seasons in the SEC, two at LSU and five at Florida. He has nine years of experience working for Urban Meyer.

Tom Herman 
Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

Rising star in the coaching world comes to Ohio State after a three-year stop as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Iowa State. Urban Meyer likely will call the plays, but Herman will be a key part of the Buckeyes’ staff.

Kliff Kingsbury 
Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

The first of Mike Leach’s record-setting quarterbacks at Texas Tech is one of the top young assistants in the game. He comes to College Station after a three-year stop at Houston.

Vic Koenning 
Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

Well-traveled coordinator (and one-time head coach at Wyoming) lands at North Carolina after a two-year stop at Illinois. Has also been the defensive coordinator at Kansas State, Clemson, Troy and Wyoming.

Doug Martin 
Offensive Coordinator, Boston College

Martin, the former head coach at Kent State, did a tremendous job in his only season as the offensive coordinator at New Mexico State. The Aggies’ production improved from 15.7 points and 296.5 yards in 2010 to 24.5 and 398.1 in ’11.

Tyrone Nix
Defensive Coordinator, Middle Tennessee

Nix, a former defensive coordinator at Southern Miss, South Carolina and Ole Miss, is charged with turning around a defense that gave up 441.1 yards and 36.8 points per game in 2011.

Mike Nesbitt
Offensive Coordinator, Houston

A former punter at New Mexico, Nesbitt spent the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator at Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks ranked ninth in the FCS in total offense and 10th in scoring offense.

Paul Petrino 
Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

Petrino returns to Fayetteville after a two-year stop as the offensive coordinator at Illinois. And now that his brother is no longer the boss at Arkansas, Petrino will have an opportunity to call the plays.

Nick Rolovich
Offensive Coordinator, Nevada

Rolovich, a former quarterback at Hawaii (2000-01), had been on the staff at his alma mater since 2008, the last three years as the offensive coordinator. He is now in the charge of the Wolf Pack’s Pistol offense.

Mark Snyder 
Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Snyder’s run as the head coach at Marshall didn’t go too well (22–37, 2005-09), but he is a quality defensive coordinator who was on Jim Tressel’s staff at Ohio State from 2001-04.

Mike Stoops 
Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

Stoops returns to Oklahoma to serve on his brother’s staff after an eight-year run as the head coach at Arizona. The Sooners were 33–7 in the Big 12 during his first go-round in Norman, when he shared coordinator duties with Brent Venables. 

Chris Tormey 
Defensive Coordinator, Wyoming

Most recently the linebackers coach at Washington State, Tormey has nine years of experience as a head coach — Idaho (1995-99) and Nevada (2000-03). He is a perfect fit in Laramie.

Brian VanGorder
Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

VanGorder returns to the SEC after a seven-year absence. The former Georgia defensive coordinator spent the past five years with the Atlanta Falcons. He has plenty of talent to work with at Auburn.

Brent Venables 
Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

The Sooners’ defense wasn’t quite as formidable in recent seasons, but Venables has a great track record after more than a decade on Bob Stoops’ staff.

Justin Wilcox 
Defensive Coordinator, Washington

Rising star in the coaching ranks returns to the Pacific Northwest after a two-year stint as the defensive coordinator at Tennessee. Oregon grad previously served on Chris Petersen’s staff at Boise State. He has a big job: The Huskies were brutal on defense in 2011.

Related College Football Content

LSU or USC: Which Team Will Finish No. 1 as College Football's No. 1 Team?
ACC Expansion: No Buyer's Remorse

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

<p> College football's top assistant coach hires for 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 6, 2012 - 06:21
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-usc-no-1-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the USC Trojans being named No. 1, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Lane Kiffin’s USC Trojans conclude the countdown at No. 1 with seven preseason All-Americans and 13 players selected as All-Pac-12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts USC will finish first in the Pac-12’s Southern Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Matt Barkley and the nation's best set of receivers have USC looking like the top team in the country,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Trojans have talent throughout the roster, and they are the favorite to win the Pac-12 and compete for a national title.”

Seven USC standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with quarterback Matt Barkley, wide receiver Robert Woods and defensive back T.J. McDonald being voted to the first team. Offensive lineman Khaled Holmes and defensive back Nickell Robey were named to the second team, and wide receiver Marqise Lee and linebacker Dion Bailey made the third team. In addition, the Trojans quarterbacks and wide receivers units were ranked No. 1 nationally. The offensive line was rated No. 4 in the country and best in the Pac-12, while the defensive backs group was tabbed No. 6 in the nation and tops in the conference.

Thirteen Trojans earned preseason All-Pac-12 honors, including Barkley, Woods, McDonald, Holmes, Robey, Bailey, offensive lineman Kevin Graf, defensive lineman Wes Horton and kicker Andre Heidari on the first team. Lee and linebacker Hayes Pullard were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Marcus Martin and defensive lineman Devon Kennard garnered third-team honors.

USC Team Preview

USC's Top 10 Players of 2012

USC’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<p> <strong style="color: rgb(34, 34, 34); font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; text-align: -webkit-left; background-color: rgb(249, 249, 249); "><span style="font-family: verdana, geneva; font-size: 11pt; ">Athlon Sports Names USC No. 1 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 09:24
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-lsu-no-2-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the LSU Tigers being named No. 2, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Les Miles’ LSU Tigers continue the countdown at No. 2 with seven preseason All-Americans and 11 players selected as All-SEC performers. Athlon Sports predicts LSU will finish first in the SEC’s Western Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“The power running game and a nasty defense will lead the Tigers once again this season,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “As long as the passing game is sound, LSU will be the team to beat in the SEC.”

Seven LSU standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with offensive lineman Alex Hurst, defensive lineman Sam Montgomery, defensive back Eric Reid, punter Brad Wing and punt returner Tyrann Mathieu being voted to the first team. Mathieu was also named to the second team at defensive back along with offensive lineman Chris Faulk, and defensive lineman Bennie Logan made the third team.  In addition, the Tigers running backs unit and defensive line were ranked No. 1 nationally. The defensive backs unit was rated No. 2 in the country and best in the SEC, while the offensive line was tabbed No. 2 in the nation.

Eleven Tigers earned preseason All-SEC honors, including Hurst, Montgomery, Reid, Wing, defensive lineman Barkevious Mingo and Mathieu at both defensive back and punt returner on the first team. Faulk, Logan, defensive back Tharold Simon and kicker Drew Alleman made the second team, while wide receiver Odell Beckham garnered third-team honors.

LSU Team Preview

LSU's Top 10 Players of 2012

LSU’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names LSU No. 2 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 09:21
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-football-depth-trojans-biggest-hurdle-national-title-2012

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 1 USC. The Trojans are off probation and hungry to return to national prominence. 

Is Depth USC's Biggest Hurdle to a National Title in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The biggest obstacle for USC’s title run is probably the presumptive SEC team waiting for the Trojans in the national championship game. Or at least Oregon on Nov. 3. USC’s frontline talent is second to none, but after that, USC may have some trouble. Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee probably will be everyone’s favorite passing trio, but after that the Trojans are awfully young. The same is true at running back. Curtis McNeal was fantastic over the second half of the season, but there’s not much behind him. Lane Kiffin has excelled in making the most of his limited signing classes. Just about everyone here was a four- or five-star recruit, but it’s all quality and not much quantity. Somewhere, the lack of depth is going to catch up to USC this season. There’s no telling if it’s going to hit an area where USC could take a hit or if at a spot where it would be a crippling blow to the season.

The area where USC could have the most trouble is on the defensive line. The Trojans are young, inexperienced and thin here, especially at defensive tackle. If we’ve learned one thing over the past few years, the key to winning a title -- and beating Oregon under Chip Kelly -- is strong play at defensive tackle. USC is counting on sophomores and freshmen to fill out this position. That may be the Trojans’ downfall. Perhaps they’ll find an answer by the time they face the Ducks in November. That’s the storyline I’m watching as USC tries to end the SEC’s dominance in the title game.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Large hurdles are a part of any historic national championship run in college football. Having to defeat Oregon — a team that has lost four regular season games in three years — twice in one year will be a tall order. But both of those could come at home. Tricky road trips to Stanford, Washington and Utah, combined with Notre Dame at home, also could provide some interesting moments this fall. But USC's biggest obstacle to winning a BCS National Championship will be its defensive line and overall lack of depth.

In the Pac-12, the loaded back-seven of the Trojans' defense should be plenty capable of winning games. With the firepower on offense, limiting the opposition to 21-24 points per game will be more than enough to win the West Coast crown. Stopping the run won't be imperative to winning a conference title. However, the defensive line is rebuilt with three new starters and will feature five underclassmen in the seven-man rotation. Stopping the ground game, oh say, against an SEC team with a power rushing attack that would make Lombardi giggle with joy, will be the deciding factor in the 2012 BCS National Championship game.

USC is loaded for bear on offense, has an awesome coaching staff and a manageable schedule, but any sort of key injuries could completely derail a deep title run. And in a one-game situation, I have major concerns about the young and inexperienced defensive line getting stops against the likes of Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker, Chris Faulk or Alex Hurst. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Trojans are finally off of probation and are hungry to return to national prominence. There’s no question USC has one of the best starting lineups in the nation, but depth is an issue thanks to NCAA sanctions. It’s nearly impossible to make it through a full season without a significant injury, which is why depth has to be giving Lane Kiffin a few offseason nightmares.

As long as quarterback Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee stay healthy, the Trojans will be one of college football’s top scoring teams. However, there are reasons to be concerned on offense. Depth at running back is perilously thin, especially with the loss of Tre Madden in spring workouts with a knee injury. If Curtis McNeal is forced to miss any significant time, there is very little experience behind him. The offensive line has one of the best returning groups in the nation, but will miss left tackle Matt Kalil. Aundrey Walker appears capable of filling in on the left side, but true freshmen will be in the two-deep this fall.

The biggest concern for USC has to be the depth on the defensive line. Nick Perry and Christian Tupou are gone, but the Trojans return Wes Horton, Devon Kennard and George Uko. After those three, coordinator Monte Kiffin will have to rely on talented freshmen Leonard Williams and Greg Townsend, along with inexperienced sophomore Antwaun Woods for depth.

USC could certainly dodge a major injury throughout all of 2012, but this is a team that can’t afford to get into a 60-minute battle in the trenches. If the Trojans play for the national championship, facing off against LSU or Alabama would be a difficult matchup. Both teams are strong on the lines, which can exploit USC’s biggest weakness.

Expect the Trojans to try to jump on teams early, while relying on Barkley and the passing attack to light up the scoreboard. USC could be involved in several shootouts this year, but that formula is more than enough to make a trip to play for the national title.

Mark Ross
Barring injuries at a few key positions, most notably quarterback, I think USC has more than enough depth to do what it needs to do to get to the national title game. Let's face it, if Matt Barkley goes down to injury, the Trojans' title hopes probably go with him.

That said, I think USC's biggest obstacle to the national title game is whichever team it ends up playing in the Pac-12 Championship game. The contenders out of the Pac-12 North figure to be Oregon, Stanford and Washington (not necessarily in that order), and USC will have to play each of them in the regular season before facing the division winner again in the conference title game.

It's not easy to beat the same team twice in one season, just ask last year's LSU team, and obviously in the conference title game, the stakes are even higher. It's entirely possible for USC to lose one game in the regular season and make it to the national title game (see Alabama, 2011).

If the Trojans go undefeated in the regular season only to lose in the Pac-12 Championship Game, however, I think the chances of them following the same path that Alabama took to the BCS title last season are very slim. For the Trojans to lose in the final week of the BCS standings and still finish ahead of not only its own conference winner, but also the conference winners from the other Big Six conferences, not to mention the other top teams, and still finish in the top two of the BCS standings seems highly improbable, at least to me. What happened last year with Alabama and LSU is the exception, not the norm, in my opinion.

USC needs to do what every other team with national title aspirations needs to do - win. If the Trojans take care of business in the regular season AND Pac-12 Championship Game, then I fully expect to see them play on Jan. 7 in Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., for the BCS National Championship.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Yes, depth is definitely the top concern that would prevent USC from playing for a national title. The talent on the Trojans roster is elite, and the schedule is not easy but it’s very manageable. The SC offense is loaded, led by Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley at quarterback and the best receivers unit in the country. Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, George Farmer and tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier Grimble should all be solid targets for Barkley, who will be protected by the Pac-12’s best offensive line. Tailback Curtis McNeal returns after a 1,000-yard campaign, but the depth at running back is a major concern. Tre Madden (season-ending knee injury) and Amir Carlisle (transfer) are out, and D.J. Morgan played sparingly last season.

The Trojans defense has a stellar back seven, including All-America candidates like T.J. McDonald, Nickell Robey and Dion Bailey. However, the top question mark for Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron will be the line. Ends Wes Horton and Devon Kennard will be solid, but there is a ton of inexperience with young defensive tackles George Uko, J.R. Tavai and Antwaun Woods. Those players have talent, but depth could be a huge issue with the line rotation.

USC opponents Oregon, Stanford and Notre Dame have questions at quarterback, and the Trojans should be the favorite in every game on their schedule. If the Men of Troy stay healthy while the young prospects develop, they should win the Pac-12 crown and compete for a national title.

Related USC Content

USC Trojans 2012 Team Preview
USC Trojans Top 10 Players for 2012

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Top 10 Greatest USC Trojans Since 1967

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<p> Is Depth USC's Biggest Obstacle to a National Title in 2012?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 05:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-les-miles-one-college-footballs-best-coaches

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 2 LSU. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing performance in the national title game, but the roster returns nearly intact.

Is Les Miles One of College Football's Best Coaches?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
For a few months in 2011, it was not fashionable to dump on Les Miles. For the first time since Miles arrived at LSU, even the skeptics had to watch Miles as the Tigers beat Oregon, West Virginia, Arkansas and Alabama (the first time around) and relent that maybe Miles is more than just a lucky eccentric with heaps of talent. Then came the drubbing in the national championship game, and Miles’ star fell from elite coach to simply very good. The 21-0 loss in the title game and how woefully underprepared LSU was in that game remains a mark against Miles. But shouldn’t we at least consider that Nick Saban is just in a league of his own, especially in these revenge situations? After all, no one seemed to hold it against Urban Meyer when the Tide answered Florida’s 31-20 SEC championship victory in 2009 with a 32-13 drubbing in the rematch a year later.

While there may be better coaches than Miles in the SEC -- if Bobby Petrino were still at Arkansas, there were at least two better in the West alone -- Miles is a top-10 coach nationally. We can chuckle as Miles sometimes struggles to put together coherent sentences in front of the cameras. We can deride him as lucky on fourth-down attempts or fake kicks. We can say it would be tough to lose with that much talent on defense. All of which may be true, but we’re talking about a coach who hasn’t had a losing season since his first at Oklahoma State and has led LSU to a top-10 finish in five of the last seven seasons. (Funny, though, how Saban seems to get a ton credit for setting the table for Miles at LSU while Miles gets none of the credit for setting the table at Oklahoma State for Mike Gundy). Miles will always be in the shadow of Saban, but so are 123 FBS coaches right now. Take Miles on his own merits and he’s clearly a top-10 coach.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Define 'best?' Is Les Miles one of the top 10 coaches in the nation? Absolutely not. Is he one of college football's better coaches who is capable of winning a whole lot of games? Yes. Miles took the foundation that Nick Saban laid and maintained an elite level of success with four 10-win seasons in six years. With a national title, multiple SEC titles and various national awards, the resume is about as complete as it gets nationally. He certainly is a character whose personality wins over players and leads to massive success on the recruiting trail. Having built arguably the best roster in America, The Hat has a reputation based on energy, flamboyance, swagger and an uncanny ability to entertain.

However, he has also developed another reputation based on bizarre eating habits, poor end-game management, vocal gaffes, and now, the worst BCS performance in the series' 14-year history. Questions about his teams’ mental focus, discipline and overall ability to adjust were beginning to subside after the 13-0 romp through the regular season last fall. However, those issues resurfaced after the most under-prepared, poorly managed title game of the BCS era. Relatively speaking, Miles is one of the better coaches in the nation. But in the Southeast, the stakes — and standards — are higher (sometimes unfairly so), and after LSU became the first and only two-loss team to win a BCS title, that team from Tuscaloosa has clearly been the best program in the SEC. Miles has lost 12 games in four years, and with what could be perceived as the best roster in the nation, three losses per season cannot be perceived as the "best in the nation."

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
When it comes to ranking college football coaches, Les Miles is perhaps one of the most polarizing points of discussion. He has amassed a 75-18 record in seven seasons in Baton Rouge and led LSU to three BCS bowl appearances. In addition to his success with the Tigers, Miles does not get enough credit for his tenure at Oklahoma State. He inherited a team that won 13 games from 1998-2000, but led the Cowboys to at least seven victories in three out of his four years in Stillwater.

Despite his success with Oklahoma State and LSU, Miles still has plenty of detractors. His 17-9 record from 2008-09 was surprising for the recruiting classes he has amassed in Baton Rouge, while there have been some questionable game management situations throughout his tenure. Miles’ team was also embarrassed mightily in the national championship game against Alabama.

Is Les Miles the best coach when it comes to developing gameplans? Probably not. But he can certainly recruit and his players love playing for him. Nick Saban sets the bar high for the rest of the coaches in the SEC, so it’s impossible for Miles or any other coach to challenge him for the No. 1 coach spot in college football.

Miles can be a little wacky at times, but let’s give him some credit for going 75-18 in seven seasons. I wouldn’t place him among my top five coaches in the nation, but Miles probably gets too much criticism and not enough credit for his success at LSU.

Mark Ross
I will admit I am not a Les Miles fan and generally would be the last to defend him. However, in this case, I think we need to give the "Mad Hatter" his due. Love him or loathe him, the man has won 103 games in 12 seasons as a head coach. He went 28-21 in four seasons at Oklahoma State, which may not seem like much, but remember this was before the Mike Gundy era, which has produced the most successful football seasons in Cowboys' history.

He took over at LSU in 2005 and all he did was win 34 games in his first three seasons including a the BCS National Championship in 2007. He took the Tigers back to the national title game last season, and yes they laid an absolute egg in losing ugly to Alabama, but that was still the only game they lost all season. Bottom line is he's 75-18 in seven seasons in the Bayou with two SEC titles and one national title on his resume.

Miles may not be one of top tacticians in college football and he has certainly made his share of game management errors. He also may not be the smartest guy in the room, although you can bet he's usually one of the more quotable ones.

However, he's also never had a losing season, won more than 72 percent of the games he has coached in his career and has done so in two BCS conferences, including the SEC, the nation's toughest. Most importantly, he's one of six current head coaches who have won a national championship. Put it all together and I think we should all give a tip of the hat to Miles, one of college football's top head coaches.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Absolutely. Many critics around the college football world will focus on Miles’ funny quotes, grass-eating or the bad game plan against Alabama in the national championship, but his accomplishments in Baton Rouge are on an elite level. The Mad Hatter has gone 75-18 in seven seasons at LSU, winning 11 games or more five times and going 5-2 in bowl games. Miles has one national title and two SEC Championships in Baton Rouge, and he owns 13 victories over coaches who have won a national title.

Obviously LSU has a ton of tradition and a fertile recruiting base, but Miles’ track record in seven seasons stacks up with any of the past Tigers coaches. One underrated aspect of his teams is their physical nature with the running game and defense. That attitude to punish opponents into submission does not just happen — it starts with the head coach. Even though the Tigers lost in the BCS title game last season, they did win at Alabama, smacked around the Pac-12 and Big East champions and blew out 10-win teams in Georgia and Arkansas. Those feats require more than just talent on the roster. While his entertaining personality on and off the field gets a lot of attention, Les Miles has proven to be one of the best coaches in college football.

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<p> Is Les Miles one of college football's best coaches?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 05:23
Path: /college-football/lsu-or-usc-which-team-will-be-college-footballs-no-1-team-2012

Athlon's College Football Top 25 countdown for 2012 concludes on Tuesday with the release of No. 1 and No. 2. LSU and USC were picked by Athlon's staff to play in the national championship game - but which team should be ranked No. 1?

LSU or USC: Which Team Will Win the 2012 Title?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
At some point during 2012, I’ll get seduced into believe this is the year to end the SEC’s national dominance. Texas looked the part of a usurper before Colt McCoy got hurt against Alabama. Oregon teased me before we learned that the only offense Auburn could stop in 2010 was the one from Eugene. I even subscribed to the notion Oklahoma State deserved a shot at LSU a year ago. In the preseason, it’s just time to relent. I’m going to keep picking the best team in the SEC to win the title until the best team from the SEC stops winning titles. USC is as worthy a contender as there is, but the Trojans still have to contend with Oregon and the limited depth wrought by NCAA sanctions. That’s why my pick for No. 1 will be LSU -- a tough pick over Alabama in the SEC alone. The Tigers’ convincing loss to Alabama in the BCS title game is disconcerting. But LSU is too good to ignore. The Tigers’ biggest liability from one of the most impressive regular seasons of the BCS era was the quarterback, and that looks to improve, or at least not get any worse under Zach Mettenberger. If Tharold Simon can free up Tyrann Mathieu to be the star playmaker as Morris Claiborne did last season, LSU should suffer much of a drop off. Throw in another potentially dominant season for the defense, the stout offensive line, the interchangeable parts at running back, and of course Brad Wing, and LSU could be just as strong as the Tigers were a year ago. As for Alabama -- well, it’s another season. Alabama is going to cycle in another group of first-round draft picks to make up for the five players who were drafted in the first 35 in April, but they’re still going to be first-year starters in the country’s toughest division of the toughest conference. In 2010, that was enough to cost the Tide three games. This season, the drop off might only cost the Tide one or two games, which would be enough to give LSU a trip to the title game.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
In a year that could be wide open across the nation, it feels like four teams sit above the rest: Oregon, USC, LSU and Alabama. Most agree that the Oregon Ducks won't be able to beat USC twice — something it would have to do to land in the national title game with at least one coming on the road. The Ducks defense should be improved and possibly better than it has been over the last three years, and the ground game should certainly pressure that rebuilt Trojan defensive line, but quarterback play will be the difference on November 3 when Oregon flies South to The Coliseum. Lane Kiffin's team should emerge from the West Coast Game of the Century victorious and will likely allow them to host the Pac-12 title game.

The new playoff system won't be implemented until 2014, but 2012 will do its best to provide fans with a national semifinal. While Matt Barkley and John Boyett do battle out West, the SEC will supply the other half of the equation when Alabama visits the bayou on the same day in Baton Rouge. So if the Men of Troy win their way to Miami Gardens, the winner of the LSU-Alabama game will be the likely opponent.

LSU is the best "situation" in college football heading into 2012. It has the best backfield in the nation and likely only trails Bama nationally when it comes to offensive line prowess. The Tigers could also claim the country's best defensive line, one of the top secondaries in the land and the all-important "unfinished business" motivating moniker. And it gets Bama at home in Death Valley. However, the fact remains, if Nick Saban was the head coach at LSU, they would be my clearcut, no doubt, unquestioned No. 1 team in the land. But the winner of two of the last three Crystal Balls resides in Tuscaloosa, not Louisiana. The only thing more important to winning in college football than talent is coaching, and Saban is the best. So as I stated last week, Alabama is my pick to the win the 2012 National Championship.

That said, whether USC faces the Crimson Tide or the Bayou Bengals, Kiffin's bunch will find it very difficult to slow the opposition's power rushing attack. My only concern with the Trojans is the aforementioned defensive line, especially with the overall lack of depth on the roster. There couldn't be a worse area of weakness if you are trying to be the team that snaps the SEC's six-year run atop college football. Can Barkley score enough on LSU to off-set USC's inability to stop the lawfirm of Ware, Ford, Blue and Hilliard? So while I'm sticking with the Tide to repeat, if the match-up is USC-LSU, I am still taking the SEC to win its seventh straight crown.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
All good things must come to an end right? The SEC’s run at the top of college football has provided six national champions and there’s a good chance the conference can provide No. 7. However, I’m going to take USC as my national championship pick for 2012.

After a two-year ban from postseason play, the Trojans are hungry to return to national prominence. USC closed out 2010 by winning four consecutive games, including a 38-35 shootout against Oregon. The only loss over the last two months of 2011 came in a three-overtime duel against Stanford.

Much of the core returns intact for the Trojans in 2012, including Heisman frontrunner Matt Barkley at quarterback, along with the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps. The offensive line will miss Matt Kalil, but four starters return up front. The defense needs to be better, but the back seven should be among the best in college football. Restocking the line is the top priority for coordinator Monte Kiffin, especially after losing Nick Perry, DaJohn Harris and Christian Tupou.

Assuming USC and LSU make it to the national title game, the biggest concern for the Trojans has to be the depth in the trenches. LSU or Alabama presents a difficult test for the frontlines of USC, but the Trojans can counter with an offense that can score with anyone. Knocking off the SEC from the top perch won’t be easy, but with Barkley returning to Los Angeles for one more year, the Trojans are in good shape to win the national title. 

Mark Ross
My vote for No. 1 is USC over LSU. Both the Trojans and Tigers will be loaded with talent, but I give the edge for the top spot in our preseason poll to the team out west, if anything because of who's under center.

USC's Matt Barkley is one of the frontrunners for the Heisman Trophy entering the 2012 season, and arguably considered the favorite at this point. He is without question one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and should have a huge senior season as he has two of the country's top wide receivers - Robert Woods and Marqise Lee - to throw to. USC also returns four starters along the offensive line and a 1,000-yard running back in Curtis McNeal. Expect the Trojans to score early and often this fall.

On the other hand LSU's starting quarterback will be Zach Mettenberger, who was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school in 2009, but has yet to start a game under center at the FBS level. Menttenberger originally signed with Georgia, but he ran into some off-field trouble and never suited up for the Bulldogs.

He transferred to Butler (Kan.) Community College where he played one season before enrolling at LSU in January 2011. He saw limited action in five games last season, but now with Jordan Jefferson gone, Les Miles has turned the reins over to Mettenberger. He will be helped by a strong running game and four returning starters on the offensive line, but that doesn't change the fact that Mettenberger is still relatively inexperienced. One thing is clear, however, we will find out quickly how good Mettenberger is since LSU opens the season at home against Washington and its first two SEC games are at Auburn and Florida.

Both USC and LSU feature two of the nation's best defenses, which will certainly help the Tigers survive any early-season struggles Metternberger may encounter. And by the end of the season, Mettenberger may emerge as one of the SEC's top quarterbacks. However, in the end, when it comes to No. 1 and winning it all in January, I will always lean towards experience, which is why Barkley and the men of Troy get my vote.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
This is obviously a very difficult call, with both teams returning loaded rosters that are capable of winning every game on the schedule. It seems illogical to bet against an SEC team that pummeled quality opponents not named Alabama last season, but I’ll go with a USC bunch that has the top quarterback in the land and an easier path to the championship game. Matt Barkley will be the Heisman frontrunner in 2012, and he has the best receivers unit in the country with Robert Woods, Marqise Lee, George Farmer and tight end Randall Telfer. The Trojans defense will be led by a nasty back seven and should be much improved from last year. Top opponents like Stanford, Oregon and Notre Dame all have questions at quarterback, and USC should be favored in every game.

An easy case can be made for LSU as the top team in the nation as well, with many of the stars from last year’s SEC Championship team returning. The running game and defense — led by All-America candidates Sam Montgomery, Tyrann Mathieu and Eric Reid — will be formidable, and Tigers fans are anxious to see how new quarterback Zach Mettenberger fares against a tough schedule. Trips to Auburn, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas loom large, and physical home battles with South Carolina, Mississippi State and Alabama will be challenging.

USC may have issues with depth at running back and defensive line, but the Trojans do not lack for talent anywhere on the roster. Getting past Oregon twice will not be easy, but Barkley looks ready to lead his team to a title and wrestle the national championship away from the SEC for the first time since 2005.

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<p> Will LSU or USC finish No. 1 in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/acc-expansion-no-buyers-remorse

Some might say it’s a darn good thing Pittsburgh and Syracuse cast their lots with the ACC last September, because if the conference had seen how the 2011 football season turned out for the schools, it might have had second thoughts by January. Big second thoughts.

As it turns out, given the events of mid-May, when Florida State started grumbling about the conference’s new TV deal, its “North Carolina-centric” outlook, and how life in the Big 12, SEC or English Premier League might be better, some of that recalculating is already happening.

The 2011 Panthers staggered home 6–7, lost the BBVA Compass Bowl classic to SMU and saw their coach bolt for Arizona State after just one season at the helm. Syracuse, meanwhile, failed to build on its 2010 success and finished 5–7, a record that assured the Orange would be home for the holidays for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. Clearly, the ACC wasn’t getting the Pitt of Johnny Majors or the Syracuse of Ben Schwartzwalder — or even Paul Pasqualoni, for that matter. Since conference expansion doesn’t often come with a money-back guarantee, it might appear as if the ACC had been stuck with a couple of schools that it might not want after all — especially in a climate in which football dictates policy. Call it expander’s remorse.

When FSU expressed its dissatisfaction, a significant part of it was due to the conference’s new TV deal with ESPN, which should bring members about $17.1 million/year from 2020-27 and reflects the league’s gridiron status behind the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 — all of which deliver more to their schools in television revenue.

The decision to add the Panthers and Orange, which have had much more basketball success than gridiron fortune over the past couple decades, didn’t provide a huge boost in contract negotiations — something that did not please Florida State. But along Tobacco Road and the other conference destinations the thought process is different. The Panthers and Orange aren’t charging into the league with gridiron fortunes high and the promise of fat BCS paydays in the near future, but the expansion game doesn’t work that way these days — at least not in leagues that can afford to be choosy.

It’s one thing for the Big East to enter into a marriage of convenience with Boise State and quite another to make a salient argument that BSU fits with the conference’s other members. Even if Pitt and Syracuse take five or 10 years to return to football prominence, the ACC feels it has made a good move bringing them aboard. FSU may be upset that the league’s inability to expand its football fortunes cost it some television dough, but the rest of the conference is pleased. To them, fit and geography matter most.

“(Pitt and Syracuse) may not have had good seasons last year, but over time, you have teams that are good and bad,” North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham says. “You want to associate with schools you can work with.”

That’s the key to the Pitt-Syracuse entrance into the ACC. This is not about making the conference stronger in football, although it is reasonable to think the schools won’t struggle long term. This is about fit. It’s about increasing recruiting opportunities. It’s about adding markets to become more attractive to television networks. About bringing aboard schools with similar academic missions and profiles. If the ACC wanted simply to make itself better on the gridiron (and some maintain that should be the goal of every expansion), it could have looked elsewhere, perhaps to West Virginia. But when it comes to the bigger picture, the league made a good move and has solidified itself for the future. Even if the Seminoles skate to “greener” pastures, trading expanded travel (hello, Lubbock!) for a bigger TV payday, the ACC will still be strong.

“(Being successful on the field) isn’t the main philosophical reason why we expand,” Virginia Tech AD Jim Weaver says. “Once we decided to expand, we wanted to get institutions of like backgrounds and philosophical approaches.”

Weaver’s fellow ADs share his sentiments. They point to the schools’ successes in other sports; for instance, both have been extremely successful in men’s basketball, although Pitt’s 2011-12 season wasn’t up to its recent standards. Syracuse’s men’s lacrosse team is a perennial powerhouse, something that fits in well in a conference with national contenders Virginia, North Carolina, Duke and Maryland. Most important is the fact that both schools are committing the resources necessary to be competitive. Last spring, Pitt opened the $29 million Petersen Sports Complex, which features top-shelf baseball, softball and soccer fields.

“Pitt and Syracuse have great histories associated with their (football) programs,” Georgia Tech AD Dan Radakovich says. “One thing intercollegiate athletics teaches us is that all things are cyclical. Are they making the right investments to get back to becoming power schools? Yes, they are.

“But you have to do more than just look at one particular sport. You have to look at the entire athletic program and how it fits into the whole institution.”

Even if the Panthers and Orange aren’t ready to bring BCS bowl checks into the conference coffers, they provide a big help thanks to their locations. Right now, Boston College is the ACC’s northern outpost and lacks a rival within eight hours of its campus. The Eagles can now tell recruits that they will be playing in the Northeast, while other ACC schools can start looking at players to the north and sell them on having the opportunities to play closer to their homes than they would have been able to before. “If you look across the rosters of our teams, we don’t have a lot of kids from that area,” Florida State AD Randy Spetman says. “This lets us look into that area. It will help (football coach Jimbo) Fisher reach out into that region.”

Pitt isn’t particularly close to Boston, but it isn’t far from Central Pennsylvania or even Philadelphia, and that means BC can enter the fertile Keystone State recruiting fields, as can member schools from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Boston College’s joining the conference extended the ACC footprint to New England, but the Eagles were sort of like an extra toe on that foot. With Pitt and Syracuse aboard next year, the northern end of the conference is much stronger.

“Schools in the south want to go into the north to recruit,” says NC State coach Tom O’Brien, who was at BC when the Eagles joined the ACC. “We can tell players they’ll get a chance to play in the northeast and New England, in New York and Pennsylvania. If you come to our school, you’ll get the chance to come home, and your family and friends can see you.”

Even if they can’t see you in person, there is always TV, and the arrivals of Pitt and Syracuse allowed the ACC to renegotiate its contract. FSU may not look at the new deal as perfect, but it is better than what the league had. What the Seminoles have to weigh is whether the estimated $3 million more they would get from Big 12 membership would offset the perks of being closer to home. Of course, if FSU somehow convinced the SEC to admit it (and perhaps Clemson), it would be a completely different story, since SEC schools are reportedly receiving $25 million/year from the conference’s new TV agreement.

“Television was not the overriding decision,” Spetman said about the decision to expand. “But Commissioner (John) Swofford’s decision to look this way allowed us to (renegotiate). Every day it seems like a conference is getting a new deal. We don’t want to be left on the back porch wondering what happened.”

Although Pitt and Syracuse aren’t yet members of the ACC — the Big East has a 27-month waiting period before a school can leave; that may be shortened — there are already those who are wondering if a 14-team league will be unwieldy and whether adding two more schools might create more symmetry. Spetman, who was at Utah State before FSU, remembers life in the 16-team WAC as having “some problems,” although the league’s geography (from Dallas to Honolulu) was likely the biggest hurdle. Radakovich is taking a wait-and-see approach, while Cunningham thinks “18 might be the ideal number.” Whatever the case, the carousel continues to spin, and the ACC has proven it is eager to take a ride. And getting stronger by adding the two schools could well lead to interest from the expansion Holy Grail: Notre Dame, which might be looking for a convenient home (read: one that will allow it to keep its NBC deal) once the new college football playoff system is finalized.

If Florida State leaves the fold, the ACC will likely move ahead, perhaps looking at Louisville and Cincinnati. Or Connecticut and Rutgers. Or Notre Dame. As always, fit will be a big factor.

And maybe a problem.

<p> ACC Expansion: No Buyer's Remorse</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 05:41
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-kicker-rankings

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50 yards and beyond = 5 points
Extra point = 1 point

Updated: August 12

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College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Rank Player Team
1 Quinn Sharp Oklahoma State
2 Matt Weller Ohio
3 Dustin Hopkins Florida State
4 Caleb Sturgis Florida
5 Brett Maher Nebraska
6 Drew Alleman LSU
7 Michael Hunnicutt Oklahoma
8 Zach Hocker Arkansas
9 Matthew Sims Northern Illinois
10 Chandler Catanzaro Clemson
11 Dan Conroy Michigan State
12 Matt Hogan Houston
13 Tyler Bitancourt West Virginia
14 Jeremy Shelley Alabama
15 Andre Heidari USC

<p> College fantasy football: 2012 kicker rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:07
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-alabama-no-3-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Alabama Crimson Tide being named No. 3, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide continue the countdown at No. 3 with two preseason All-Americans and nine players selected as All-SEC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Alabama will finish second in the SEC’s Western Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Nick Saban's coaching and recruiting has Alabama sitting on top of the college football world,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Crimson Tide did lose some major talent to the NFL, but they will be right back in the hunt for another national title.”

Two Alabama standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with offensive lineman Barrett Jones being voted to the first team and offensive lineman Chance Warmack making the third team. In addition, the Crimson Tide offensive line was ranked No. 1 nationally. The running backs unit was rated No. 5 in the country, while the linebackers’ group was tabbed No. 6 and the defensive line No. 10 in the nation.

Nine Crimson Tide players earned preseason All-SEC honors, including Jones and linebacker Nico Johnson on the first team. Warmack, running back Eddie Lacy and defensive back Robert Lester made the second team, while offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, defensive lineman Jesse Williams, linebacker C.J. Mosley and defensive back Dee Milliner garnered third-team honors.

Alabama Team Preview

Alabama's Top 10 Players of 2012

Alabama’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<p> Athlon Sports Names Alabama No. 3 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Friday, June 1, 2012 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/alabama-football-can-crimson-tide-repeat-or-look-2010-team

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 3 Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the defending national champions, but suffered some key losses. Nick Saban has recruited well, so Alabama shouldn't suffer too much in the win column.

Can Alabama Repeat or Will it Revert Back to its 2010 Record?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The answer in the end may be neither, though Alabama will be in the national title race all season. Alabama looks much closer to playing for a second consecutive title than “slipping” to 10-3 as the Tide did in 2010 after the 2009 national title. That defense was stocked with talent (Marcel Dareus, Courtney Upshaw, Dont’a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick) but not experience (one starter). Alabama is restocking its defense again this season, but the Tide at least have four starters back. It’s going to be unreasonable to expect Alabama to approach the defensive dominance of 2011, but there’s no way it’s going to drop off much. Even the 2010 defense finished in the top five. As for the offense, what we saw out of A.J. McCarron against LSU in the national title game gives me reason to believe it will be fine. The Tide won’t have the centerpiece of Trent Richardson, but I could see the offense being more balanced between run and pass and even within the run game with Eddie Lacy and Dee Hart splitting carries. On top of that, the Tide will be running its offense behind perhaps the best line in the SEC.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
My current personal pick to win the 2012 BCS National Championship is the Alabama Crimson Tide. Alabama has the best head coach in the nation, and after two national titles in three years, has taken over as the top program in the nation.  Will this defense be as historically dominate as last year's group? Of course not. But Bama isn't hurting for athletes and Saban will insert a plethora of prep All-Americans into starring roles with relative ease. Even with Michigan and Arkansas on the schedule in the first month, the Tide should have little trouble breaking in new starters on that side of the ball. Expect former four- and five-star recruits like Trey DePriest, Adrian Hubbard, C.J. Mosley, Dee Milliner and Xzavier Dickson to be plenty capable of getting stops.

What will make this team dangerous, however, is the offense. Even without Trent Richardson and William Vlachos, the Crimson Tide should feature what could be the top running game in the nation. Saban has the best offensive line in the country and a deep and talented backfield to lean on once again. Saban also has a second-year quarterback in A.J McCarron who earned BCS national title game MVP honors after finishing the year as the SEC's most accurate passer (66.8%) as a sophomore. With the addition of speed and explosiveness to the receiving corps, Alabama's offense has a chance to be dramatically more dynamic in 2012. A truly scary thought considering how strong the defense should be once again.

The solid offenses Bama will face — Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and the Wolverines — simply do not match-up with the Crimson Tide on the defensive side of the ball. Saban's team will dominate the line of scrimmage against those teams. Auburn and Mississippi State, who should be strong at the point of attach, must visit The Capstone and don't have enough offensive firepower to scare too many Crimson Tiders. That leaves the trip to Baton Rouge on November 3 as this year's Game of the Century. But until proven otherwise, I will take the defending national champions to repeat — and make it a cool seven straight titles for the SEC.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
As long as Nick Saban is roaming the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide will be one of the top contenders for the national title every year. Despite the loss of 12 starters, I expect Alabama will end the year as one of the top four teams in the nation and not see a repeat of the 10-3 record in 2010.

With linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont’a Hightower, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and safety Mark Barron departing, it’s going to be very difficult for the Alabama defense to repeat last season’s No. 1 ranking in total defense. However, the cupboard is far from bare. The line needs to find a replacement for nose guard Josh Chapman, but Jesse Williams and Damion Square form a solid combination up front. The linebacking corps needs to be revamped, but Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are solid, while Xzavier Dickson, Adrian Hubbard and Trey DePriest are future stars. Replacing Kirkpatrick won’t be easy, but Dee Milliner is a solid corner, with John Fulton and junior college recruits Deion Belue and Travell Dixon filling out depth in the secondary. It’s unfair to expect a similar statistical year, but this defense will still rank among the top 10 nationally.

While the defense could take a step back, the offense is ready to breakout. Quarterback AJ McCarron is coming off a standout performance in the National Championship and while his receivers are young, there’s a lot of talent waiting to step up in 2012. Trent Richardson will be missed, but Eddie Lacy, Dee Hart and T.J. Yeldon are more than capable of carrying the load on the ground. Even with the departure of center William Vlachos, the offensive line remains one of the best in the nation.

Although this Alabama team has a handful of question marks to address, I think the Crimson Tide will only lose one game in 2012.  

Mark Ross
Alabama should at the very least be in a position to have a chance at two national titles in a row considering the fact that the winner of the BCS National Championship Game has come from the SEC in each of the past six years. The bigger question is this: is this season's Crimson Tide team capable of doing what last year's team didn't - win the SEC Championship?

It's entirely possible that we could have another national title match up that features two teams from the same conference, but for the sake of argument, I am going to call that the exception rather than the rule. To that end, the clearest path for Alabama to take to have a chance at consecutive national titles is to win the SEC crown, which is what the 2009 team did.

Of course winning college football's toughest conference is easier said than done. Four different teams have been crowned SEC champion the past six years - Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU. The Gators and Tigers are the only ones to have won it twice during this span. Although it should be pointed out that last year's LSU team is the only team to not take home both the SEC and national titles during this stretch, right 'Bama fans?

That said, I think it's a rather tall order to expect the 2012 Crimson Tide to follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, if you will. For one, NIck Saban lost quite a bit of talent on both sides of the ball as evidenced by the five players who were taken in the first 35 picks of April's NFL Draft. Don't get me wrong, the cupboard's certainly not bare by any stretch, but there will be a lot of new faces in starting roles this fall and I think it's a stretch to not expect some sort of drop off for both the offensive and defensive units.

That's not to say that Alabama won't be a top 10 or even top 5 team by season's end, but in a stacked SEC that includes other national title contenders like LSU and Georgia, and perhaps even Arkansas, not to mention newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M, a dip in offensive production and defensive strength, even if it's just a slight one, may end up being enough to keep Alabama out of the SEC title game and more than likely, the national championship hunt. Besides, the difference between 'Bama's 2011 and '10 seasons in terms of wins is just two. Is a 10-win season and a January bowl win really all that bad?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think the 2010 team is a good comparison. The Crimson Tide should be right back in the hunt for another national title because of a scary talent base, but they did lose some major talent to the pros. When you have five of the first 35 picks in the NFL Draft (Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw), plus three other players selected, there has to be some effect. The defense still has a ton of ability, but there is no way it will be as dominant as the 2011 group that finished No. 1 nationally in pass defense, run defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense and of course, total defense.

Alabama’s recruiting and coaching will still produce a top defensive unit, and the offense has a chance to be solid as well. A quality stable of running backs and an efficient quarterback will be led by the best offensive line in the country. If AJ McCarron finds some weapons on the outside, the Tide will have a shot to win every game. While it’s difficult to see Bama claiming a third national title in four years, a double-digit win season looks like a certainty as Nick Saban reloads in Tuscaloosa.

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<p> Can the Crimson Tide Repeat or Look Like the 2010 Team?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 1, 2012 - 05:59
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2012-team-predictions

The Alabama Crimson Tide check in at No. 3 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: AJ McCarron, QB
A case could be made that center Barrett Jones deserves this honor, but McCarron’s development is the key to Alabama’s chances at a repeat. The junior didn’t throw for a touchdown pass in the national championship game against LSU, but his play was the difference in the game. New coordinator Doug Nussmeier should provide a seamless transition from Jim McElwain, and Alabama is expected to allow McCarron to throw more in 2012. Although the Crimson Tide is replacing some key players from last year’s team, a more experienced and poised McCarron will allow Alabama to remain in the mix for the national title.

Upset Alert: at Arkansas (Sept. 15)
It wouldn’t be a shock to see Arkansas knock off Alabama this season, but the Crimson Tide should be favored to win. Alabama won five in a row over the Razorbacks, including a 38-14 victory in Tuscaloosa last season. Arkansas is still reeling from the sudden departure of coach Bobby Petrino, but the offense is loaded with playmakers, including quarterback Tyler Wilson and running back Knile Davis. With several new faces stepping into playing time on the Crimson Tide’s defense, it will be put to the test early against Arkansas’ high-powered offense.

Biggest Game: at LSU (Nov. 3)
These two teams split the two meetings last season, but Alabama won the most important matchup in the national title game in New Orleans. A berth in the SEC title could be on the line in this one, as the Crimson Tide and Tigers are expected to be the teams to beat in the West Division. Alabama has not won in Baton Rouge since 2008 and is 1-2 in its last three matchups against LSU. The loser of this game could still sneak into the national title game again, but the winner will take a significant step toward finishing the regular season as the No. 1 team.

Defensive MVP: Nico Johnson, LB
There’s really not a clear candidate to take this honor, but Johnson’s performance will be critical to the success of Alabama’s defense. Matching last season’s statistics are probably out of the question, but there’s enough talent to remain among the top 10 nationally. Rolando McClain and Dont’a Hightower were both first-round picks and the torch has been passed to Johnson to anchor the linebacking corps in 2012. With seven new starters on defense, the senior’s experience in the scheme will be valuable to getting everyone lined up properly and ready to attack opposing offenses this season.

Breakout Players: Adrian Hubbard, Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson
Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are the veteran leaders in the linebacking corps, but Hubbard, DePriest and Dickson will be three potential breakout candidates. DePriest played in all 13 contests last season and recorded 14 stops. Hubbard and Dickson played sparingly last year, but were ranked among the top 100 players in their recruiting class. DePriest will anchor one of the inside spots, while Hubbard and Dickson will play off the edge and help to replace the pass rush void vacated by Courtney Upshaw.

Unsung Hero: Chance Warmack, OG
Those familiar with the SEC certainly know about center Barrett Jones, but Warmack has quietly emerged as one of the conference’s top linemen. He has 26 consecutive starts, and the SEC coaches selected him as a second-team all-conference lineman last year. Right tackle D.J. Fluker should be in for a breakout year, but Warmack’s steady play on the interior should not be overlooked.

Freshman to Watch: T.J. Yeldon, RB
Trent Richardson will be missed, but Alabama’s rushing attack will remain one of the best in college football. Eddie Lacy will start and should rush for over 1,000 yards. However, there’s no shortage of depth, as redshirt freshman Dee Hart is poised to become a change-of-pace threat, and Yeldon is ready to contribute after a strong performance in the spring game. Although he may not see 100-200 carries, Yeldon should be a factor in Alabama’s rushing attack.

Comeback Player: Dee Hart, RB
Eddie Lacy will be the team’s No. 1 back, but expect Hart to play a large role in the offense this year. He was supposed to play in a change-of-pace role last season, but suffered a torn ACL in summer workouts and was sidelined for the entire 2011 campaign. Hart probably won’t accumulate 150 carries, but will be a weapon on third downs and could see some time on special teams.

Newcomer to Watch: Deion Belue/Travell Dixon, CB
Alabama doesn’t recruit many junior college prospects, and when it does, those players are brought in to play right away. Dee Milliner and John Fulton appear to be locked into the two starting cornerback spots, but Belue and Dixon will help to fill out the depth and contribute significant snaps in the nickel position. Both players ranked among the top 10 junior college prospects by one service, so talent isn’t an issue; however, adapting to playing in the SEC might be.

Position Battle: Wide Receivers
Alabama still has a few positions up for grabs in the fall and some incoming freshmen could figure into the mix. The receiving corps is in flux, as the Crimson Tide must replace Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks. Although both players will be missed, the new receivers could be more athletic than the previous group. Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, Christion Jones and DeAndrew White hold an edge to be the top four receivers, but will face a battle for playing time with freshmen Chris Black, Amari Cooper, Marvin Shinn and Eddie Williams. This group lacks senior leadership, but plenty of promising talent for quarterback AJ McCarron to target.

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<p> Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Friday, June 1, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-oregon-no-4-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Oregon Ducks being named No. 4, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Chip Kelly’s Oregon Ducks continue the countdown at No. 4 with three preseason All-Americans and 11 players selected as All-Pac-12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Oregon will finish first in the Pac-12’s Northern Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidates Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, plus an improved defense have Oregon looking like the clear favorite in the North Division,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Ducks lost some big-time offensive stars, but Chip Kelly has built this program into a perennial title contender.”

Three Oregon standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with De'Anthony Thomas being voted to the first team at the all-purpose position. Defensive back John Boyett was named to the second team, and running back Kenjon Barner made the third team. In addition, the Ducks running backs unit was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Pac-12. The defensive line was rated No. 9 in the country and tops in the conference, while the offensive line was tabbed No. 8 and the linebackers’ group No. 10 in the nation.

Eleven Ducks earned preseason All-Pac-12 honors, including Boyett, Barner, defensive lineman Dion Jordan, linebacker Michael Clay and Thomas at both all-purpose and kick returner on the first team. Offensive lineman Nick Cody, defensive lineman Taylor Hart and punter Jackson Rice were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Carson York, linebacker Kiko Alonso and defensive back Terrance Mitchell garnered third-team honors.

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 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Oregon No. 4 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 09:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2012-team-predictions

The Oregon Ducks check in at No. 4 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: De’Anthony Thomas, RB (SO)
There may not be a more versatile, more explosive player in the nation than The Black Mamba. He proved his big-time play-making ability as only a freshman. He finished with 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total touchdowns. He averaged nearly 11 yards per carry on 55 attempts and caught 46 passes for 605 yards. His highlight reel talents were on full display in the 45-38 Rose Bowl win over the Badgers in which he touched the ball six times on offense for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas is listed as a wideout and running back and fans can bet Chip Kelly is much more confident in his open-field dynamo. Expect a heavy increase in touches in 2012.

Trap Game: at Cal (Nov. 10)
Berkeley hasn’t been a kind place for the Oregon Ducks. The closest regular season game Oregon played en route to it BCS national championship game appearance in 2010 was the 15-13 defensive struggle — which was the last time Oregon visited Cal. Before that, the Ducks had lost three games on the road against the Golden Bears. With Jeff Tedford’s back (and rear end) firmly placed against the wall in 2012, and a host of talented offensive weapons to utilize, Cal will be a dangerous out. Especially, considering when this game will be played. Oregon will have to get-up to compete after emptying the tank the previous week against USC in L.A. without looking ahead to a potentially huge battle with Stanford the following week. November 10 could be a dangerous day for Ducks faithful.

Upset Alert: at Washington State (Sept. 29)
Mike Leach won’t be messing around as he brings his air raid offense to Pullman, Wash. It should take very little time getting his team into a position to compete every week as Wazzu has a quality signal caller (when healthy) and a superstar wide receiver. Getting the Ducks early in the season helps the Cougars chance at pulling an upset because Carson York may not be fully healthy and the Ducks’ quarterback situation may still be unsettled. Oregon will need to be on full upset alert when they head to the semi-neutral field in Seattle, Wash. The Cougars have been able to score on Oregon of late, 52 points in last two losses, and were closer to the Ducks (43-28) last year than they have been since 2006.

Unsung Hero: Taylor Hart, DT (JR)
The junior nose guard started all 14 games along the defensive line a year ago and is one of the most dependable players in the conference. The 6-foot-6, 289-pounder registered 44 total tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to an honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. He is fundamentally sound and never takes a snap off. His toughness and leadership makes him one of the most underrated players in the conference.

Biggest/Revenge Game: at USC (Nov. 3)
The first clash of West Coast titans will take place on the same day Alabama and LSU battle in Baton Rouge, La. The trip down to Los Angeles to face what could be the nation’s No. 1 team is the biggest game on the 2012 schedule for multiple reasons. First, the Trojans defeated the Ducks in Autzen Stadium a year ago — something no Duck has forgotten. The revenge factor will be in full effect. Second, home field advantage in the Pac-12 title game should be on the line. The Pac-12 is the only BCS league that plays its title game at a home site and earning its fourth straight conference crown will be much easier for Chip Kelly and company in the not-so-friendly confines of Autzen. Finally, not only could a Pac-12 title be on the line but a trip to the national title game could be at stake as well. There are two Games of the Century in college football this fall and they both take place on November 3.

Freshman To Watch: Arik Armstead, DL (FR)
The 6-foot-8, 297-pound monstrosity from Elk Grove, Calif., was a huge recruiting coup for Chip Kelly when he picked the Ducks over other Pac-12 powers. He is the No. 8 prospect in the nation and took very little time this spring proving his mettle. He is a basketball star and has the agility and raw athletic ability to match. Expect him to earn plenty of playing time in only his first year, considering the tendency of Nick Aliotti to rotate so many bodies.

Comeback Player: Carson York, OL (SR)
The senior offensive guard’s status heading into the fall might be the biggest story other than the quarterback battle the entire summer up in Eugene. The Ducks need the stud blocker to recover from his shredded knee, which he suffered in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The injury was so vicious, however, that he may not be ready to roll until mid-season. York, when he returns to full strength, gives Oregon a tremendous baseball-style mid-season addition.

Defensive MVP: Michael Clay, LB (SR)
John Boyett certainly deserves plenty of praise for his ability to lead this defense and protect the back end, but Clay is the heart and soul of the front seven. The “cat-quick, cerebral player” lines-up at the most important position on the field. The San Jose, Calif., native is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds but is also incredibly productive. He finished 2011 with 102 total tackles, including 13 against Wisconsin, 8.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Look for another steady, dependable, leadership-laden season from the senior linebacker.

Newcomer To Watch: Marcus Mariota, QB
The 6-foot-4, 196-pound signal caller from Honolulu, Hawaii, has a chance to be THE guy in Eugene this fall. He will be in a heated position battle with Bryan Bennett, but dramatically outplayed Bennett in the spring, completing 18-of-26 passes and scoring on a 82-yard romp. He has less experience (try none on the college level), but will undoubtedly elicit Dennis Dixon comparisons the second he takes a snap.

Battle To Watch: Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota, QB
Mariota is a tremendous athlete who played the best football in spring, but has only played one football season in the last four years (his senior year in high school). Bennett certainly didn’t play as well during the competition in spring but has much more experience after leading the Ducks back from a deficit against Arizona State and starting the Colorado game last fall. Mariota has the slight edge heading into summer camp, but you can bet all eyes in the Pac-12, particularly the defensive coordinators, will be watching this position battle closely. With an easy non-conference slate, expect Chip Kelly to attempt to settle on one name by Week 4 when Arizona comes to town.

Season Defining Moment: Pac-12 Championship Game
If the Ducks are going to win their fourth straight conference crown, they are going to have to top the USC Trojans — twice. While there are plenty of speed bumps in the Pac-12 North — Washington, at Washington State, at Cal, at Oregon State, Stanford — the Ducks still feel like the heavy favorite to make it to the league’s title game. So even if Oregon goes down to Los Angeles on November 3 and gets pummeled by the USC Trojans, Oregon can maintain its strangle hold of the conference, and earn its fourth straight BCS Bowl, by defeating the Men of Troy on Friday, November 30, in the Pac-12 Championship Game. And who knows, if they can beat USC twice, they could be playing for a trip to Miami Gardens.

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<p> Oregon Ducks 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, News
Path: /college-football/lamichael-james-or-darron-thomas-which-oregon-footballs-bigger-loss

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 4 Oregon. The Ducks have to replace quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, but remain one of college football's top-five teams for 2012.

LaMichael James or Darron Thomas: Which is Oregon Football's Bigger Loss?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Considering the way Chip Kelly has been able to plug any combination into his backfield  with success over the years, the biggest loss for Oregon this season may be the receiving duo of Lavasier Tuinei and tight end David Paulson or linebacker Josh Kaddu and safety Eddie Pleasant on defense. Going back to Kelly’s days as offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, his quarterbacks consistently have been among the conference leaders in pass efficiency and total offense. Darron Thomas finishing ninth in the Pac-12 in total offense last season was an aberration and likely more a result of having James, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas in the offense. Replacing running backs has been just as seamless for Kelly’s offense from Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson to LeGarrette Blount to James and part-time work for Barner. Statistically, the Barner and Thomas combo still gives Oregon the big-play ability vacated by James -- James broke off a 20-yard run every 13 carries (Barner/Thomas did it every 16 carries); James ran for at least 10 yards every 5.5 carries (Barner/Thomas did it every 5.8 carries). Of course, most of those runs of at least 20 yards came from DeAnthony Thomas, not to mention Thomas’ contributions to the passing game. I’d argue the sophomore Thomas is the key to the offense more than Darron Thomas or James. I would say James is the bigger loss to the Oregon offense only because it cuts into the big-play ability that has taken Oregon to the top of the Pac-12. The conventional wisdom would be the departure of a veteran quarterback would be the bigger loss, but if Thomas was going to need to fight off competition from Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota this offseason anyway, it shows the quarterbacks were even more interchangeable than we thought.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This one is easy, quarterback Darron Thomas will be much harder to replace than running back LaMichael James. First, running backs are much easier to replace, find and develop than a quarterback. James was a remarkable player, a Heisman Finalist, a Doak Walker Award winner and led the nation in rushing twice in his three-year career. But Pac-12 defensive coordinators aren't taking any deep breaths now that James is gone. No, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas are the West Coast's version of Trent Richardson. The transition from James to Barner/Thomas should be just as seamless as Mark Ingram to T-Rich. Barner has played 36 games but only started three times. Yet, when he did start, he was nearly as productive as James. Try 58 carries, three receptions, 433 yards rushing, 102 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns in three starts. And while Barner will play the more conventional role, fans can expect Thomas to the be the brightest star, and, like Richardson, might be as good if not better than James. As a true freshman, Thomas rolled-up 2,235 all-purpose yards and scored 18 total touchdowns. There will be little to no drop-off with the Black Mamba.

While the quarterback position hasn't been difficult to fill for Chip Kelly either, replacing Thomas will most assuredly be more complicated. First, Barner and Thomas have loads of experience and talent while Thomas replacements Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota have a combined one career start and 46 career pass attempts (all from Bennett). Both are talented options, likely are more athletic than Thomas and both should execute the Kelly offense well enough to compete for a Pac-12 title. But can the match his production while battling each other for playing time?

Thomas' production still feels wildly underrated. His 66 career touchdown passes top the school record book while his 5,910 yards passing are seventh all-time. He accounted for 71 total touchdowns in two seasons and is one of only three players in Pac-12 history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in two seasons (Matt Leinart, Andrew Luck). He led the Ducks to back-to-back conference crowns, its first-ever BCS National Championship appearance and capped his career with Oregon's second Rose Bowl title (1917). No pressure for a redshirt freshman and a sophomore.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though LaMichael James was a special player, I think Darron Thomas is a bigger loss for the Ducks. Good skill players are never easy to replace, but finding a new starting quarterback always provides for more headaches for coaching staffs.

Even though Bryan Bennett started one game last year, Colorado didn’t represent the toughest competition in the Pac-12. Bennett also played well in relief of Thomas against Arizona State and Washington State, but has yet to start for a full season. Marcus Mariota made a push for playing time in the spring and seems likely to begin fall practice as the No. 1 quarterback. Whether it’s Mariota or Bennett, I think Oregon will be in good hands at the quarterback position. However, anytime you have to break in a new starter under center, there is a transition period.

James was one of college football’s top players during his career, but the ground attack won’t miss a beat with Thomas and Barner leading the way. Oregon has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last five seasons and return two capable running backs in De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner.

The Ducks shouldn’t suffer much (if any) of a drop off in the transition from Thomas and James to Mariota/Bennett and Thomas/Barner. However, the new quarterback has yet to make a start in a road environment like USC, California or Washington State. Having Thomas’ experience could have been enough for Oregon to topple the Trojans in the Pac-12 pecking order this year. Chip Kelly’s high-powered attack might suffer a few hiccups with a new quarterback early in the year, but should rank near the top of the nation in scoring by the end of the season.

Mark Ross
Darron Thomas, hands down. Yes Chip Kelly lost a 5,000-yard rusher in James, but the Ducks' backfield cupboard is anything but bare. First there's Kenjon Barner, a senior who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards himself last season and for his career is averaging better than six yards per carry.

While Barner may be the starter, he may not finish the season as Oregon's top rusher. Barner will share the load with De'Anthony Thomas, the ridiculously talented sophomore who rushed for 155 yards on just two carries in the Ducks' Rose Bowl win, and averaged nearly 16 yards every time he touched the ball (rushing attempts, receptions, punt and kickoff returns) in 2011. He also scored 18 touchdowns (seven rushing, nine receiving, two on kickoff returns) as a freshman. There's not a coach in the country who wouldn't love to have Kelly's "problem" at running back.

As far as quarterback goes, Kelly has, well Kelly's not really sure what he has just yet as the battle for the starting job remains wide open. Thomas shocked everyone when he declared he was foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, it's a decision Thomas would probably like to take back considering he was bypassed by all 32 NFL teams in the draft. Instead of lighting up the scoreboard and aiming to lead Oregon to its first national title this fall, Thomas is faced with the tough task of trying to make a lasting impression in some NFL team's minicamp this summer in hopes of earning an invite to training camp.

Meanwhile, the early favorite to take over as the Ducks' starting quarterback was sophomore Bryan Bennett. Bennett made one start last season and put up respectable stats (25-46, 369 yards, six TDs, no INTs) overall. However, it's no small task replacing Thomas, who threw for more than 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011 and left as Oregon's all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 66.

That's where redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota comes in. The athletic Mariota, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, apparently made enough of an impression during spring practice that at worst he has forced the coaching staff to hold off on naming the starting quarterback until fall practice begins. And depending on who you ask, it may now be Mariota's job to lose.

Either way, the combination of Barner and Thomas in the backfield means Oregon fans will happily root for James as he starts his NFL career with San Francisco, while Duck supporters will be go through the fall wishing Thomas, and not Issac Dixon, was wearing No. 5 and still under center.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
James has the bigger name and was drafted by into the NFL, but I think Oregon will miss Thomas more in 2012. It simply comes down to the fact that the Ducks have multiple weapons who can make big plays running the ball, but the quarterback position remains a question. Thomas was awesome over the last two seasons, throwing for 5,642 yards and 63 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. Bryan Bennett may be the next UO star signal caller, but most of his limited experience has been in mop-up duty. He did throw for 156 yards and two scores against Colorado last year, but we will have to see how Bennett plays on a consistent basis.

Obviously James stats were off the charts, running for over 5,000 yards and 53 scores during the last three seasons. However the Ducks have other stars waiting to become household names. Kenjon Barner had 939 yards and 11 scores in a backup role last season, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. When James missed two starts last year, Barner starred against Arizona State (171 yards and 1 TD) and Colorado (115 yards and 2 TDs). Additionally, all-purpose machine De’Anthony Thomas totaled 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns – on just two carries – in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Both former stars will be missed in Eugene, but Thomas’ departure looms larger for this season.

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<p> LaMichael James or Darron Thomas: Which is Oregon Football's Bigger Loss?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:26
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-oklahoma-no-5-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Oklahoma Sooners being named No. 5, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma Sooners continue the countdown at No. 5 with three preseason All-Americans and 16 players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Oklahoma will finish first in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Landry Jones and one of the most athletic defenses in the nation will lead the Sooners this season,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “As long as the running game is sound, Oklahoma will be the team to beat in the Big 12.”

Three Oklahoma standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with offensive lineman Gabe Ikard being voted to the first team. Defensive back Tony Jefferson was named to the second team, and wide receiver Kenny Stills made the third team. In addition, the Sooners offensive line was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Big 12. The secondary was rated No. 9 in the country and tops in the conference, while the quarterbacks unit was tabbed No. 9 and the wide receivers group No. 10 in the nation.

Sixteen Sooners earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including Ikard, Jefferson, Stills and offensive lineman Ben Habern on the first team. Running back Dominique Whaley, offensive lineman Tyler Evans, defensive linemen David King and R.J. Washington, linebackers Corey Nelson and Tom Wort, defensive back Demontre Hurst and kicker Michael Hunnicutt were named to the second team, while quarterback Landry Jones, running back Trey Millard, offensive lineman Lane Johnson and punter Tress Way garnered third-team honors.

Oklahoma Team Preview

Oklahoma's Top 10 Players of 2012

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 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Oklahoma No. 5 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 10:12
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2012-team-predictions

The Oklahoma Sooners check in at No. 5 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Landry Jones, QB
The veteran quarterback holds the key to the Sooners aspirations of a Big 12 and national title. It was an interesting 2011 season for Jones, who passed for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions and saw backup QB Blake Bell’s running often take over in the red zone. Leading receiver Ryan Broyles has departed, but OU has a solid offensive line and plenty of weapons for its1 all-time passing leader to succeed in his final season.

Upset Alert: at TCU (Dec. 1)
For the first time since 2004, the Sooners’ final regular season will not be the Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State. Instead OU will visit league-newcomer TCU, a program that Gary Patterson has built into being a national contender. Quarterback Casey Pachall and the Horned Frogs will be tough to beat, and this contest concludes a brutal three-game stretch where the Sooners will travel to West Virginia, host the aforementioned Cowboys and then end the season in Fort Worth.

Trap Game: at Iowa State (Nov. 3)
The Sooners should beat the Cyclones for the 14th time in a row, but hated-rival Oklahoma State found out last season that underestimating the trip to Jack Trice Stadium can have consequences. Paul Rhoads has done a solid job in Ames, and this road trip is wedged between a national spotlight game against Notre Dame and a revenge mission versus Baylor. OU cannot afford to take ISU for granted.

Defensive MVP: Tony Jefferson, DB
The uber-talented Californian will be moving back to safety this season, after playing a hybrid linebacker position much of the time during his first two years in Norman. Jefferson compiled 74 tackles with 4.5 sacks last year, while also adding a team-high four interceptions and a forced fumble. His versatility and sure tackling will make Jefferson an All-America and All-Big 12 candidate, and he will be a leader for new coordinator Mike Stoops.

Breakout Player: Trey Metoyer, WR
It’s unusual to have a breakout candidate who has yet to play a game at Memorial Stadium, but Metoyer’s talent has him projected to be OU’s next big-time receiver. He originally signed as part of the 2011 recruiting class but spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy improving his academics. Now in Norman, Metoyer had six receptions for a team-high 72 yards in the Sooners’ spring game and looks like a future star.

Unsung Hero: Trey Millard, RB
The Big 12’s best fullback is known more for lead blocking and special-teams play than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), but the league’s coaches thought highly enough of his play to select him first-team All-Big 12 last season. Look for Millard to continue paving the way for a stellar Sooners offense, as well as being a special-teams star (team-high 14 tackles).

Biggest Game: Texas (Oct. 13)
You may have noticed this one on the schedule. The Red River Rivalry is always one of college football’s best spectacles, especially with the Cotton Bowl being split between crimson and burnt orange. Additionally, the Sooners and Longhorns battle will likely determine the Big 12 champion. OU has won two in a row since dropping four of five from 2005-09, and Bob Stoops’ bunch would like to build on a new winning streak over the hated Horns.

Revenge Game: at Texas Tech (Oct. 6)
There are three main candidates here, but the Texas Tech loss last season was especially painful. The Sooners were 6-0 and thinking Big 12/national title when Tommy Tuberville’s Red Raiders pulled off the shocker in Norman, 41-38. OU has lost in its last three trips to Lubbock, so there will plenty of revenge motivation for the Sooners in early October.

Freshman to Watch: Durron Neal, WR
Much of the attention on Signing Day went to fellow receiver Trey Metoyer, but Neal was rated as the No. 74 prospect in the nation in this year’s AC100. The Missouri native played all over the field at De Smet Jesuit High School, and he caught 35 passes for 825 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 716 yards and 11 scores during his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound athlete should compete for early playing time.

Newcomer to Watch: Chaz Nelson, DE
Ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis accounted for 32 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season, so there is plenty of production to replace. Nelson was the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Garden City Community College, compiling 96 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. The starters are set, but the 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior should earn early playing time in the Sooners defensive end rotation.

Position Battle: Wide Receiver
With the departure of leading pass catcher Ryan Broyles and some off-the-field issues, there are question marks at this position past Kenny Stills. Obviously Stills’ numbers (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) project him as the group’s leader, and the hope is that newcomer Trey Metoyer lives up to the hype. Returners Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were all suspended in the offseason. There will be competition here, including freshmen wideouts Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

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<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-football-landry-jones-national-championship-quarterback

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners suffered some losses in the receiving corps, but the passing attack should be in good hands with quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Kenny Stills returning. The defense will have a revamped front seven, but remains one of the best in the Big 12.

Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
So much of Landry Jones’ success in the fall probably will be determined by seven on sevens with his receivers this summer. Jones is a quality quarterback, but he was lost without Ryan Broyles. Without Broyles, Landry Jones didn’t simply struggle. He statistically was one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big 12. In the four full games without Broyles, Jones had a passer rating of 116.5, more than 30 points lower than his his rating through the first nine games. Over a full season, that pass efficiency rating would have been the worst among Big 12 starting quarterbacks. Jones’ passing yards per attempt dropped from 8.5 yards to 6.6, which was fewer yards per attempt than Kansas’ Jordan Webb. Losing a receiver like Broyles threw the offense into disarray, not just Broyles, too. Kenny Stills needs to be ready to assume the No. 1 receiver role, a spot that’s going to be even more critical than it was a year ago. With third-leading receiver Jaz Reynolds suspended indefinitely, the position behind Stills is awfully inexperienced. If Reynolds is gone for any appreciable amount of time, Jones and Stills will need to be a championship-caliber duo because it’s a mystery what Oklahoma will get out of the rest of the receiver group. Of course, they were all major recruits, but guys like Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard are all freshmen. I believe Jones can become a championship-level quarterback despite all these variables in the Oklahoma offense. Jones has the experience and he’ll have talent around him, even if some of it is untested. There are questions here, but I don’t think we can take Jones’ experience and career production lightly.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes, but if the Oklahoma Sooners win, or even simply play, in the BCS National Championship game this fall, Mike Stoops and Tim Kish will deserve more credit than Jones. The senior quarterback has been incredibly productive in his career in Norman and should only post another statistically stellar season for the Sooners. But not many players have ever entered their final season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones.

I've written about his numbers numerous times this summer, but just in case you missed our Big 12 quarterback rankings, here it goes. The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (one INT every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories — to 63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT. Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish last year, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless.

Certainly, a healthier running game, featuring Dominique Whaley, and full receiving corps will help Jones get back on track. The emergence of Kenny Stills and expected contributions from newcomer Trey Metoyer will only help stabilize the Broyles-less wide receiver position. Additionally, Jones worked with quarterback guru George Whittfield over the off-season and should be at his best as a senior. Still, Jones needs to prove he can win the key games on the road in key situations — e.g., at West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State and the all-important neutral site contest in Dallas against Texas.

Jones can absolutely be a national championship quarterback, but if the Sooners are to go undefeated and play in Miami Gardens next January, I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more because of defense — aka Mike Stoops and Kish — than Jones himself. Hmm? A Mike Stoops-led stifling Sooner defense that ends up playing in South Florida for a national title? Sound familiar?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma can win the national title with Landry Jones as its quarterback, but he does need to play better. Consistency and cutting down on the interceptions are two areas that Jones needs to improve upon this year but that could be tricky with some uncertainty at the skill positions.

Jones was having a solid 2011 season prior to receiver Ryan Broyles suffering a torn ACL in the victory against Texas A&M. He threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 victory over Missouri and completed 31 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-17 rout against Texas. However, the offense came unglued after losing Broyles and posting 38 points in a loss to Baylor, as Jones tossed six interceptions and failed to throw for more than 256 yards in each of the final three games. With a full offseason to work on replacing Broyles, I expect Oklahoma’s passing attack to be better this year – even if it has some true freshman in the rotation.

As with any quarterback, Landry Jones gets too much of the blame when things go bad and too much credit when things go right. As a senior, Jones should put together a solid season, and if the Sooners are the Big 12’s best team, then they will be in the national title hunt. However, the Sooners’ quest to play in Miami at the end of the year could rest on running back Dominique Whaley’s health and a rebuilt front seven on defense. Jones is the least of Oklahoma’s concerns, but he does need to take his play up another level if the Sooners want to finish in the top two of the BCS standings.

Mark Ross
Absolutely. Since Oklahoma is a preseason top 10 team, by our own (Athlon's) estimations, the Sooners figure to be in the national title hunt all season long, provided they take care of business in the Big 12 conference. Texas looks to be very strong on defense, but the annual Red River Shootout could be just the game where Jones, the seasoned senior quarterback, is the difference. Jones' experience may also come up big at the end of the regular season when OU finishes up with road games at Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU, sandwiched by a home date against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Outside of their Big 12 slate, the Sooners' toughest non-conference foe will be Notre Dame, who comes to Norman on Oct. 27.

As far as Oklahoma's national title aspirations go, I think the least of the Sooners' worries is Jones. Here's a kid who's averaged more than 4,100 yards passing and 31 touchdowns in his first three seasons, and has completed more than 63 percent of his passes in his career. He's led the team to a 22-5 record the past two years, including a 11-5 mark in the Big 12 and the 2010 Big 12 title.

Last season, even though All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles missed four games because of injury, Jones still finished second in passing yards (4,463) and tied for second in touchdowns (29) in the Big 12. The quarterbacks who finished ahead of him? Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden.

Broyles is gone, but Jones appears to have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including wide receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Metoyer, among others. The Sooners' running game still needs to sort itself out, but the offensive line returns three starters including All-American candidate Gabe Ikard. The defense also should be strong as seven starters return, including three in the secondary.

So the pieces appear to be in place for Oklahoma to make a run at another national title. There's still plenty of business to take care of on the field, but to that end I think the Sooners could do a whole lot worse than having Jones as their quarterback.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It will be difficult for the Sooners to win it all, but I definitely think that Jones is a good enough signal caller to lead OU to a title. He is already Oklahoma’s s all-time passing leader with 12,379 career yards, and the New Mexico native owns 13 school passing records. Some critics point to “his” road record being subpar, but Jones does not get enough credit for what he does do. If the 2008 Sooners offense is the standard, then every QB in the land would fall short of expectation. Jones’ record as a starter over the last two seasons is 22-5, and the defense allowed 33, 36, 41, 45 and 44 points in those defeats.

The offensive line and running game should be improved this season as Jones searches for new weapons on the outside with Ryan Broyles’ graduation. Kenny Stills (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) is a proven receiver and newcomer Trey Metoyer looks like a player, but there are off-the-field questions with the suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. Jones should lead another powerful offense, while new coordinator Mike Stoops takes over the defense. The run game and defense must be better to win it all, and OU has a brutal three-game stretch to end the season at West Virginia, hosting Oklahoma State and at TCU. However if his teammates play to their potential, Jones can lead the Sooners to a BCS crown.

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<p> Can Landry Jones lead Oklahoma to a national title?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-ohio-state-no-6-2012-preseason-top-25-poll

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Ohio State Buckeyes being named No. 6, will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes continue the countdown at No. 6 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Ohio State will finish first in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“It won't take long for Urban Meyer to have the Buckeyes back on top in the Big Ten,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Ohio State isn't eligible for the postseason, but this looks like the best team in the league in 2012.”

Two Ohio State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins both being voted to the second team. In addition, the OSU defensive line unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The secondary was rated No. 5 in the country.

Ten Buckeyes earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Simon, Hankins, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive back C.J. Barnett on the first team. Quarterback Braxton Miller, offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell, kicker Drew Basil and defensive backs Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant garnered second-team honors.

Ohio State Team Preview

Ohio State's Top 10 Players of 2012

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 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

<h1 class="ha" style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 12px 1px 9px 0px; padding: 0px 0px 0px 8px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background: inherit; border-right: inherit; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.917969); font-weight: normal; "> <span class="hP" id=":6v" style="padding-right: 10px; ">Athlon Sports Names Ohio State No. 6 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 09:06
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2012-team-predictions

The Ohio State Buckeyes check in at No. 6 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Braxton Miller, QB (SO)
Uber recruit Miller did very little to dispel his title of heir apparent in Columbus. While it might have come one year sooner than Bucknuts would have hoped, Miller’s experience in 2011 was invaluable. He showed flashes of brilliance in the second half of the season both on the ground and through the air. Now, he has a coach who knows exactly what to do with the lightning quick 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat dynamo. Meyer’s spread system is the perfect fit for Miller, who will use 2012 as a practice field for potential greatness in 2013.

Trap Game: Illinois (Nov. 3)
The Buckeyes two biggest games of the year should be a road trip to Wisconsin and Michigan at home in the final two weeks of the year. Coming off a tough road trip to Happy Valley and with a bye week looming, the Bucks could be in for a letdown against division foe Illinois as they prepare for their brutal two-game season finale. The Orange Crush is a talented roster and should be dramatically better coached under Tim Beckman. It wouldn’t be the first time a Fighting Illini team went into the Horseshoe and toppled an undefeated OSU squad.

Upset Alert: at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Braxton Miller had one of his worst passing games of the season last fall in the 20-14 home loss to Penn State. He completed only 7-of-17 passes for 83 yards as the Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards. Fans can bet that Miller will be better and the Bucks rushing defense will be better, but if Ohio State isn’t careful heading into Halloween weekend, it could be looking at another upset. The PSU defense will be stout as usual and the Buckeyes will be playing on the road on primetime national television. This game could either carry divisional implications for the Lions — or, if they are out of it, could be considered their Super Bowl of 2012.

Unsung Hero: Jack Mewhort, OL (SR)
On a unit that is lacking for depth, star power and consistency, Mewhort might be the most important. The Toledo, Ohio, native has played at every position along the offensive line and will now be asked to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside. The outside of the offensive line will be the major question mark and it falls to Mewhort to stabilize the edge. Meyer believes that “he is probably our best lineman and he is our most consistent lineman.”

Biggest Game: Michigan (Nov. 24)
The Wolverines could be the only thing any Buckeye is thinking about this fall. With little to play for but respect, revenge and honor, beating Michigan — and, say, knocking it out of the Big Ten title game — would be the sweetest victory Ohio State faithful will taste all season. With nothing else to play for on the final weekend of the regular season, fans can bet that every ounce of energy will be poured into beating that team from up North.

Revenge Game: Nebraska (Oct. 6)
The Buckeyes were up 27-6 in Lincoln last year with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter. But Braxton Miller sprained his ankle and the OSU offense went into the tank. The Huskers ended up scoring 28 straight points and winning 34-28. The Bucks finished 3-4 down the stretch after the loss and will now have a chance get revenge on the title contending Big Red on its home turf.

Freshman To Watch: Taylor Decker, OL
The offensive line is the only major area of concern for Urban Meyer heading into this season. He has had to shuffle players around, switch tight ends to tackles and is banking on two young freshman to bolster his spotty front line. Decker has already, through one spring practice in Columbus, found himself as the third tackle on the roster behind Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel. Expect him and fellow freshman Kyle Dodson to become regulars in the OSU offensive line rotation.

Comeback Player: Nathan Williams, DL (SR)
The senior will battle with sophomore Michael Bennett — and his rehabbing knee — for starting time opposite of John Simon all summer long. Williams missed all but one game last year with a knee injury. The 2011 preseason All-Big Ten selection posted 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks back in 2010 and will be either a starter or top reserve on arguably the best defensive line in the Big Ten.

Defensive MVP: Johnathan Hankins, DT (JR)
John Simon might be the best leader, the most consistent and the strongest force up front for the Bucks, but Hankins is the most talented. The massive defensive tackle has trimmed his weight to 317 pounds and all reports are he is much quicker. In fact, one of the best quotes in the Athlon Sports 2012 Big Ten preview magazine comes from veteran center Corey Linsley. “Hank is now a little bit less of an immovable object and is more of an unstoppable force.” The more explosive Hankins could easily be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft with an outstanding season this fall.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Thomas, WR (FR)
The wide receiving corps has no clear playmaker to speak of heading into 2012. The tight ends are very talented but Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields don’t exactly inspire greatness. While they are solid players, none are elite All-American talents. Thomas, who caught 12 passes in the spring game, has coaches raving about the 6-foot-2, 193-pounders ability to contribute right away. Braxton Miller clearly had no problems finding him on the field this spring.

Season Defining Moment: at Michigan St (Sept. 29)
Does November 28, 2011 count? The day Urban Meyer accepted the Ohio State job may not be eligible for this list but it might be more than just a season-defining moment but a program-defining moment. And Meyer’s impact could be no more evident than in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. If the Spartans can beat Boise State and Notre Dame, they will be 4-0 when Ohio State comes to town. If the Buckeyes can go into East Lansing and beat what will likely be a top 15 team, the rest of the conference will be warned. Especially considering how well the offensive line will have to play to defeat Sparty on the road.

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<p> Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:56