Articles By Steven Lassan

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-robert-nkemdiche-looks-sec-ready

Ole Miss is expecting big things from freshman defensive end Robert Nkemdiche.

And the nation’s No. 1 recruit is certainly showcasing his talents in fall practice in this short video from Jackson Clarion-Ledger writer Hugh Kellenberger:

Ole Miss' Robert Nkemdiche Looks SEC-Ready
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/louisville-unveils-new-jerseys-2013

The Cardinals enter their last season in the American Athletic Conference as a heavy favorite to win the league title.

And Louisville will try to make a run at the national title with a slightly updated look for 2013:


Louisville Unveils New Jerseys for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 08:50
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-football-game-game-predictions-2013

With a wide-open Big 12 title race ahead, don’t count out Texas Tech from making some noise in 2013.

As evidenced by his stints at Houston and Texas A&M, new coach Kliff Kingsbury is one of the nation’s top minds on offense. And the former Texas Tech quarterback has plenty to build around in 2013, as running back Kenny Williams returns after rushing for 824 yards last year, while receiver Eric Ward is a first-team All-Big 12 selection by Athlon Sports.

The Red Raiders will be on their fifth defensive coordinator in five years and are switching to a 3-4 scheme this season. The front seven took a hit after spring practice, as Delvon Simmons decided to transfer to USC. Although Simmons will be missed, Texas Tech’s line will be in good hands with seniors Kerry Hyder and Dartwan Bush.

Texas Tech’s early schedule sets up favorably for a 7-0 start, but the slate is considerably tougher late in the year.

What will Texas Tech's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Texas Tech's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven LassanChris LevelMark Ross
8/30 at SMU
9/7 Stephen F. Austin
9/12 TCU
9/21 Texas State
10/5 at Kansas
10/12 Iowa State
10/19 at West Virginia
10/26 at Oklahoma
11/2 Oklahoma State
11/9 Kansas State
11/16 Baylor
11/28 at Texas
Final Projection7-58-46-6

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Texas Tech should be one of college football’s most intriguing teams to watch in 2013. New coach Kliff Kingsbury is a great fit in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders are going to score plenty of points. And in a year when the Big 12 is wide open, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Texas Tech push for a top-five finish in the conference standings, provided the team can address a few personnel issues. The offensive line returns only two starters, the secondary has some holes to fill at cornerback, and there’s some uncertainty under center. Whether it’s Michael Brewer or Davis Webb at quarterback, Texas Tech’s offense should be one of the best in the conference, especially with receiver Eric Ward and underrated running back Kenny Williams leading the way. Defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt was a good hire for Kingsbury, but he will have his work cut out for him in 2013. Expect the Red Raiders to pull an upset or two – Oklahoma State? – but 7-5 seems like the most likely regular season outcome.

Chris Level, (@ChrisLevel),
The Kliff Kingsbury era will provide some freshness to a program that fizzled over the past few seasons. The offense was potent last season, but the explosiveness should be back under the tutelage of Kingsbury. Health will play a big factor in how far this team can go, and they’ll need key players like Jace Amaro, Eric Ward, Le’Raven Clark, Jakeem Grant, and DeAndre Washington in good form to become unstoppable. The defense should come away with more turnovers under a more aggressive havoc wreaking scheme, which will pay dividends throughout the season. Aside from road trips to Norman and Austin, the schedule breaks nicely, and the Red Raiders will have some home field advantage working in their favor in fringe games against TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Kingsbury and his staff will keep the competitive juices flowing on a weekly basis, and fans will see a fearless attitude from their football team. That could be the difference in an extra win or two this season. I may be on the optimistic side of the consensus predictions, but if a few things swing Tech’s way, nine or more wins could be a reality.

Mark Ross
Kliff Kingsbury comes back to Lubbock to take over at his alma mater. It's a great story and I'm sure the former Red Raider star will have his share of success, but it also will take some time for Kingsbury to mold this into his program, especially considering the change in offensive and defensive systems compared to what Tommy Tuberville ran last season. Quarterback play will be key to Texas Tech's success, as there are weapons to work with. The defense has several players in new positions and a secondary that will be doing a lot of on-the-job training. That said, there are opportunities for wins, especially early in the season, and the optimist in me says that Texas Tech will collect at least one signature home win. If said victory also coincides with the clinching or securing of a bowl berth, than I think Red Raider nation will happily signal thumbs up, rather "Guns Up," on Kingsbury's first season back on the South Plains.


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Post date: Monday, August 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/byu-changes-jersey-then-reverses-decision

In most cases, changes to the uniform or helmet are a big hit with the players. But that wasn’t the case with BYU this week.

Instead of leaving the last names on the jerseys, three words – tradition, spirit and honor – were set to become what the Cougars wore on the back this season.

The changes drew some complaints from players:


BYU Changes Jersey, Then Reverses Decision
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 11:35
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-breakout-players-2013

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The Pac-12 is filled with talent on both sides of the ball. But there's always room for another superstar or two from each team to emerge. USC receiver Nelson Agholor is off to a good start this fall and should fill the void left behind by Robert Woods. Three candidates are competing for time at California, but redshirt freshman Zach Kline should emerge as the team's top option.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

Pac-12 Breakout Players for 2013

Bralon Addison, WR, Oregon
With running back Kenjon Barner out of eligibility, and quarterback Marcus Mariota returning for his sophomore season, the Ducks may look to pass more in 2013. Oregon has no shortage of options at receiver, including senior Josh Huff and tight end Colt Lyerla. But the player to watch is Addison, especially after he caught 22 passes for 243 yards and three scores as a true freshman last year. Addison will also factor into the mix on returns, giving Oregon another dynamic playmaker on special teams. With the Ducks taking to the air, Addison, Huff and Lyerla are all in for big seasons.

Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
There’s no question that USC will miss Robert Woods, but the Trojans still have one of the nation’s top receiving corps. Marqise Lee is an Athlon Sports first-team All-American for 2013, and Agholor is poised to push for all-conference honors this year as well. As a true freshman last season, Agholor caught 19 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. The Tampa native had his best performance against Oregon, recording six catches for 162 yards and one score. With defenses aiming to stop Lee, look for Agholor to see more passes in his direction this year.

Brendan Bigelow, RB, California
Injuries have hindered Bigelow throughout his career, but if can stay healthy, the junior is a threat to rush for 1,000 yards in coach Sonny Dykes’ wide-open offense. On 44 attempts last year, Bigelow recorded 431 yards and three scores. He also averaged 23 yards per kickoff return and caught seven passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. Bigelow is a dynamic playmaker when he has the ball in his hands, so expect Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin to get him at least 20 touches a game – provided he can avoid the pesky injury bug.

Alex Carter, CB, Stanford
In an offensive-minded league like the Pac-12, it’s not easy for any true freshman to step onto the field at cornerback. However, Carter did just that last year, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors in the process. In 14 games (with eight starts), the Virginia native recorded 46 tackles and three forced fumbles. With another offseason under his belt, Carter should continue to develop into one of the Pac-12’s top cornerbacks this season.

Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
The linebacking corps is Oregon’s biggest concern on defense, as Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso will be missed. But the cupboard is far from bare for coordinator Nick Aliotti. Coleman recorded 34 tackles in 13 contests last season and is poised to develop into the Ducks’ top linebacker in 2013. The sophomore suffered a foot injury in spring practice but is expected to be at full strength once the season begins. Coleman isn’t the only Oregon defender that could breakout, as sophomore lineman Arik Armstead is another player to watch this fall.

Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Arizona State had three running backs record over 100 carries last season, but with Cameron Marshall expiring his eligibility, Grice is due for an increase in touches. In his first year after transferring in from a junior college, Grice rushed for 679 yards and 11 scores and caught 41 passes for 425 yards and eight touchdowns. The Texas native came on strong at the end of the year, gashing Arizona for 156 yards and three scores and Navy for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Although DJ Foster will see plenty of work, Grice should be Arizona State’s leading rusher and could push for All-Pac-12 recognition in 2013.

Jaxon Hood, DT, Arizona State
Will Sutton is one of college football’s premier defensive players, but the Sun Devils had another player turn some heads on the interior last season. Hood played in all 13 of Arizona State’s games as a true freshman, recording 26 tackles and three sacks. At 6-foot and 287 pounds, the Arizona native isn’t the biggest defensive tackle in the conference. However, his quickness off the ball is tough for opposing offensive linemen to match, and the sophomore will benefit from all of the attention Sutton will get from offenses.

Zach Kline, QB, California
It’s a new era in Berkeley in 2013. Jeff Tedford was fired after 11 seasons at California, and he was replaced by another offensive guru – Sonny Dykes. The Golden Bears struggled to get consistent quarterback play in recent years, but that should change under Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin. Under their watch, Louisiana Tech led the nation with an average of 51.5 points a game last season. Can California replicate that total in 2013? Probably not. However, the Golden Bears should see improvement on offense, especially at the quarterback spot. Kline holds a slight edge over Jared Goff and Austin Hinder for the starting spot, and the winner of this battle will have a chance to post big numbers in this scheme. Kline ranked as the Pac-12’s No. 9 recruit by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class, and while the California native may have a few ups and downs, expect the redshirt freshman to emerge as a strength by the end of 2013.

Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State
No, Mannion certainly isn’t a mystery or unknown product to most around the Pac-12. However, after throwing for 3,328 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011, Mannion took a step back in the production department last year. Mannion threw for 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2012 and struggled to hold off Cody Vaz for the top spot on the depth chart. Mannion has all of the talent necessary to keep Oregon State’s offense averaging over 300 yards through the air each week. But can he cut down on the interceptions and hold off Vaz this fall?

Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon
Replacing Kenjon Barner is likely to be a three-man task in Oregon’s backfield. Junior De’Anthony Thomas is a dynamic all-around threat but won’t handle 25-30 carries a week. True freshman Thomas Tyner will see plenty of time, but the Ducks’ workhorse could be Marshall. As a true freshman last season, he recorded 447 yards and four touchdowns. Marshall had one 100-yard effort in 2012, gashing Tennessee Tech for 125 yards on 13 attempts. Expect the California native to factor prominently into Oregon’s ground attack this year.

Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA
With the departure of Datone Jones and Owamagbe Odighizuwa sidelined by a hip injury for 2013, UCLA’s front seven will require some remodeling this offseason. Senior Cassius Marsh is a good place to start the rebuilding effort, but the Bruins would like to see a standout year from McCarthy. The California native ranked as the No. 17 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and recorded 10 tackles and one sack in nine appearances last year. McCarthy will help anchor the interior of the line, and his continued development is crucial to UCLA’s defensive success.

Terrence Miller/Garic Wharton, WR, Arizona
The Arizona offense suffered a huge setback when Austin Hill was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the spring. With the Wildcats missing one of their key offensive weapons from last season, there’s pressure on Miller and Wharton to fill the void as the go-to target. Miller has played in 34 games in his career but was granted an extra season after participating in just four contests in 2012. Miller has 55 receptions in his career and his 6-foot-4 frame will be valuable for the new quarterback, while Wharton’s speed off the edge will help Arizona stretch the field.

Darryl Monroe, LB, Washington State
Yes, that’s correct. A defensive player gets the nod for Washington State’s breakout candidate even though the Cougars have one of the league’s top offensive-minded coaches. Monroe suffered an Achilles injury in 2011 but rebounded with 80 tackles and three sacks last year. With an offseason to continue building strength in the weight room, Monroe figures to be even more prepared for the rigors of defending Pac-12 offenses. If the sophomore builds on a successful freshman campaign, he should be in the mix for all-conference honors.

Ryan Murphy, S, Oregon State
Jordan Poyer expired his eligibility at the end of last season, but Oregon State’s secondary is still in good shape. Senior Rashaad Reynolds is the headliner, and junior college transfer Steven Nelson will team with Sean Martin to form a solid duo at cornerback. And the safety position should be solid for coordinator Mark Banker, as Tyrequek Zimmerman and Murphy are back. Murphy finished third on the team last season with 67 stops and two picks. The Pac-12 has a solid group of safeties returning, but the junior from California should work his way into all-conference contention.

Jordan Payton, WR, UCLA
Quarterback Brett Hundley is poised to become one of the nation’s best signal callers in 2013, and the sophomore has no shortage of weapons to utilize in the passing attack. Senior Shaquelle Evans is one of the Pac-12’s top receivers, while coordinator Noel Mazzone is hoping for a big season from Payton and fellow sophomore Devin Fuller. Payton ranked as the No. 19 receiver in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports and caught 18 passes for 202 yards and one score. With tight end Joseph Fauria and running back Johnathan Franklin moving on, Payton is expected to see a larger role in the UCLA offense.

Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
With four starters returning, Stanford’s offensive line is expected to be one of the best in college football in 2013. But what’s even scarier for the opposition: This unit still has room to improve, especially at left tackle. There’s where Peat comes into play. As a freshman in 2012, the Arizona native didn’t make a start but played in 13 games. With David Yankey sliding back to guard, Peat is poised to step into the lineup and solidify Stanford’s left tackle position.

Jeremiah Poutasi, OT, Utah
The Utes have a tradition of developing players on both the offensive and defensive lines in recent years, and Poutasi could be Utah’s next standout in the trenches. The Las Vegas native had a standout freshman season, starting the final 10 games at right tackle. Poutasi earned honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors and is expected to be even better in 2013 with a chance to work in the weight room for a full season. Poutasi will slide from the right side to anchor the left tackle spot this year.

Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado
Richardson was well on his way to becoming one of the Pac-12’s top receivers prior to a knee injury suffered in spring practice last year. After sitting out last season, Richardson is due for a bounce-back campaign under new coach Mike MacIntyre. In 2011, Richardson caught 39 passes for 555 yards and five scores, including 11 receptions for 284 yards and two touchdowns against California. The Buffaloes need better quarterback play for Richardson’s numbers to significantly increase, but MacIntyre and coordinator Brian Lindgren should bright some improvement to the offense for 2013.

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
After a freshman year that saw him garner honorable mention All-Pac-12 accolades, it’s time for the rest of the nation to take notice of No. 7 in Seattle. Thompson recorded 74 tackles, two sacks and three picks last season and ranked second on the team with 8.5 tackles for a loss. The 6-foot-2 linebacker’s speed and athleticism is crucial for Washington’s defense, especially when it comes to defending the spread offenses in the Pac-12. The Pac-12 already knows all about Thompson, but look for the sophomore to push for All-American honors this season.

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Pac-12 Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:16
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-football-game-game-predictions-2013

USC was one of college football’s biggest disappointments last season. The Trojans were picked as a top-five team in the preseason but finished 7-6 and closed out the year with three consecutive losses.

Although USC was a major disappointment, there’s still plenty of talent in Los Angeles, and coach Lane Kiffin could have the Trojans back into contention for a Pac-12 South title in 2013.

USC returns 15 starters, including All-American receiver Marqise Lee and standout defensive end Morgan Breslin. But the big question for Kiffin will be under center. Max Wittek and Cody Kessler finished spring practice in a dead heat for the starting job, with true freshman Max Browne just behind.

With no Oregon on the crossover schedule USC has a favorable path to the Pac-12 South title. But can the Trojans quickly erase the disappointment from last year?

What will USC's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

USC's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/29 at Hawaii
9/7 Washington State
9/14 Boston College
9/21 Utah State
9/28 at Arizona State
10/10 Arizona
10/19 at Notre Dame
10/26 Utah
11/1 at Oregon State
11/9 at California
11/16 Stanford
11/23 at Colorado
11/30 UCLA
Final Projection9-49-49-48-5

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though coach Lane Kiffin got the vote of confidence from athletic director Pat Haden, there’s still considerable pressure for USC to win eight games in 2013. The Trojans won’t have to play Oregon and host Arizona, Stanford and UCLA. Even though quarterback Matt Barkley will be missed, USC still has enough talent to win the Pac-12 South. The Trojans have a solid group of skill players returning on offense, and the defense should be better under the direction of new coordinator Clancy Pendergast. Kiffin will have some time to find the right answers on offense before a huge South Division road game against Arizona State on Sept. 28. With plenty of talent returning, anything less than eight wins would be a major disappointment for USC.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Men of Troy will be one of the most fascinating teams to track in 2013. Lane Kiffin enters a critical year with an extremely talented starting 22 and loads of expectations. His defense should be much improved and there are tons of playmakers for whoever is under center. And the schedule is equally as intriguing. There is no Oregon or Washington to deal with from the North and the UCLA game will come at home to end the year. But road trips to key division rival Arizona State, Achilles Heel Oregon State and arch-rival Notre Dame gives this team a limited upside. Pull an upset at home over Stanford or on the road in Corvallis and USC could easily win the division. Lose a couple it's not supposed to and Kiffin could be out on the street.

Mark Ross
This much is clear: it can't get much worse for USC, because if it does, Lane Kiffin will definitely be looking for a new job. If anything, the Trojans should be able to bounce back from a disastrous 2012 campaign because the expectations for the '13 team are much lower. There is still plenty of talent on this roster, but the uncertainty at quarterback and a new defensive coordinator and scheme can't be ignored either. USC should run into little trouble jumping out to a 4-0 start, but don't forget last year's team started 6-1 before losing five of its last six games. The Trojans catch a break on their Pac-12 slate by missing Oregon, but I still expect they will run into some trouble in conference, especially on the road. Still, five Pac-12 home dates and a fairly light non-conference slate (with the obvious exception of Notre Dame) should provide enough opportunities for USC to get to nine wins in the regular season. It's now up to Kiffin and his team to capitalize on them and show that last season was the exception and not the rule.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Barring disaster, USC should be off to a good start. The first four games are all winnable, and for a team with USC-talent, winnable by a significant margin. And other than Hawaii, they’d all be decent wins. But as USC learned last season, the grind of the season can take a toll on sanction-limited depth. That may catch up with USC, but the Trojans just might not be as good as Arizona State or Oregon State, much less Stanford or Notre Dame. The Trojans will have an unproven quarterback and a line that may be a question without center Khaled Holmes. I think the difference is going to be on defense. I like the pieces of Morgan Breslin, Leonard Williams, Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard, but this is still the same group that was mediocre for most of that season. Was that a function of personnel or difficulty in leadership with Monte Kiffin? We’ll find out against Arizona State.

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USC Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 9, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-8

Plenty of happenings from fall camps today.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 8th

The latest on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel: Who is Nate Fitch?

Eddie Vanderdoes is happy to be at UCLA. And the Bruins may need Vanderdoes to play a lot, especially now that Owamagbe Odighizuwa is done for the year with a hip injury.

Two North Carolina defenders will miss the season due to an injury.

Georgia Tech safety Fred Holton has been dismissed from the team.

Ohio State is working to match the SEC's physical advantage on the defensive line.

TCU coach Gary Patterson disagrees with how Les Miles handled Jeremy Hill's suspension.

Which incoming freshmen could make an impact at LSU?

USF defensive end Ryne Giddins is poised for a big year.

Miami has added another transfer to its defensive line.

Penn State's rushing attack is expected to get a boost from Bill Belton. And here's a good breakdown of coach Bill O'Brien's comments on Penn State's media day.

Iowa State has quiet confidence in its rebuilt defensive line.

Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is frustrated with quarterback Bo Wallace.

Texas Tech is looking for the right pieces on the offensive line this fall.

College Football's Link Roundup: August 8
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 14:46
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-lsu-finalize-two-game-series

College football’s playoff has forced most BCS programs to upgrade their non-conference schedule. Good news isn’t it?

LSU and Wisconsin have agreed on a two-game series for 2014 and 2016. The Tigers and Badgers will meet in Houston in 2014. But the best part? Both teams are scheduled to play in Lambeau Field in 2016.

It would be great to see this matchup happen in the home stadiums for both teams. However, credit to both programs for scheduling this series, as it should feature matchups between top-25 teams.


Wisconsin-LSU Finalize Two-Game Series
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 13:18
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Arkansas had a year to forget in 2012. After crashing his motorcycle and lying about the details of the incident, Bobby Petrino was fired as the team’s head coach in April. Athletic director Jeff Long hired former assistant John L. Smith to be the interim coach, but the Razorbacks weren’t the same team.

Fast forward to 2013 and there’s a different feeling surrounding this team.

After a successful seven-year run at Wisconsin, Arkansas pulled Bret Bielema away from Madison. And Bielema should be a good fit in Fayetteville, especially with his run-first mentality on offense.

Arkansas was ranked by most a top 10-15 team before Petrino’s dismissal, so there’s still talent in the program.

Can Bielema get the Hogs back on track in 2013?

What will Arkansas' record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Arkansas' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 UL Lafayette
9/7 Samford
9/14 Southern Miss
9/21 at Rutgers
9/28 Texas A&M
10/5 at Florida
10/12 South Carolina
10/19 at Alabama
11/2 Auburn
11/9 at Ole Miss
11/23 Mississippi State
11/29 at LSU
Final Projection5-75-74-85-74-8

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
New coach Bret Bielema didn’t get many favors from the schedule makers in 2013. Arkansas drew Florida and South Carolina – two top-15 teams – in crossover play with the East Division, and the Razorbacks have to play at Alabama, LSU and Ole Miss. Additionally, Arkansas has tough non-conference games against UL Lafayette and Rutgers. Considering the Razorbacks have a new coaching staff and must break in a new quarterback, getting to a bowl game would be a successful year in Fayetteville. Arkansas does have some pieces to work with, including freshman running back Alex Collins, along with one of the SEC’s best offensive lines. I have the Razorbacks beating South Carolina – Arkansas has won the last three in Fayetteville – but it’s more of a feeling this team only wins one game in SEC play. The Razorbacks certainly have some potential. But the transition to a new coaching staff and the first year for Brandon Allen at quarterback will keep the Razorbacks out of a bowl game. 

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
This could be the most difficult SEC team to figure out, new QB, coach and all. In 2011 they went an impressive 11-2 and followed that up last year going 4-8. Getting Bret Bielema was the biggest hiring surprise of the off season. What does Bret get in return? These 5 games starting week 4: at Rutgers, Texas A&M, at Florida, South Carolina, at Alabama. Now with that stretch laid out, I feel they could go 4-0 to start the season in their non-conference game. I like the direction of the program under Bret (Stay away from motorcycles), just not this season. Name to remember:  Alex Collins, RB 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

The cupboard is more stark than fans in Fayetteville realize and it could mean a long, rough season for Arkansas this year. Bobby Petrino is an elite coach who levels the "talent' playing field with his game management on Saturdays, but he destroyed the roster in the process. Huge swing games like a road trip to Rutgers could shape this season very quickly. Otherwise, there are very few chances for upsets for this rebuilt team — Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, at best. One or two upsets and the Hogs have an outside chance at a bowl game, but make no mistake, six wins is the high water mark for this team.

Mark Ross

Arkansas reeled in a pretty big fish when it lured Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, but the former Big Ten coach is going to find out two things fairly quickly - 1) the cupboard is a little more bare right now in Fayetteville compared to Madison and 2) why the SEC is considered the toughest league in the country. Whether Bielema can build a Wisconsin-type program at Arkansas and succeed in the SEC is its own separate question, and one that will have to wait because it's going to take a few recruiting classes for him to even get to that point.

As far as 2013 goes, the season may get off to a promising start thanks to a light non-conference slate, although that road trip to Piscataway to play Rutgers will be tough, but that is probably the lone highlight that Razorback fans can look forward to. Otherwise, it could be a long and painful three months of SEC play, especially with Texas A&M, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama lined up out of the gates. With the lack of experience and production returning on offense and a lot of unproven options on defense, Bielema may be "one and done" this season, in terms of SEC wins.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
We said the same thing about Kentucky and Ole Miss: The SEC schedule does these teams no favors in helping them trying to reach the next step. Arkansas can’t even catch a Kentucky, Missouri, Auburn or Mississippi State during late September and October. Arkansas is going to struggle, but there’s a glimmer of hope there, especially once Bielema gets things moving. He’ll have an OK defensive line and an elite center, which isn’t a bad place to start. Trouble is, he has little else. Arkansas may have some success later in the season if they can get through that October gauntlet in one piece. But facing the Sun Belt favorite in the opener and a quality AAC team on the road in September will be problematic.


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Arkansas Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 8, 2013 - 06:23
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-state-upgrades-helmets-pistol-pete

New Mexico State is likely in for a long season in its first (and only) season as a FBS Independent.

But the Aggies scored a victory this week with the release of their new helmets for 2013.

These helmets are a major upgrade over last year’s version, as New Mexico State has its mascot Pistol Pete on the side, as well as a white stripe in the middle of the helmet.


Pistol Pete Returns to New Mexico State Helmets
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-7

Plenty of happenings from fall camps today.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, August 7th

Autograph gate: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has been cleared by the school over some autographs that showed up online. And Ohio State found no NCAA violations with autographs by Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller.

Jeff Woollard of takes a look at West Virginia in 2013. Does Dana Holgorsen feel confident about his team?

Florida receiver Andre Debose is out this year due to a torn ACL.

Colorado receiver Tyler McCulloch sports the "Wild Thing" haircut in fall practice.

Here's an interesting story: California is sending its former season ticket holders Rocky Road candy bars.

ESPN The Magazine has an interesting player survey.

Saturday Down South takes a look at the top freshmen to watch in the SEC West.

Cody Kessler, Max Browne and Max Wittek present an interesting debate for USC coach Lane Kiffin.

Florida State has a new athletic director.

Florida State running back Mario Pender was not at practice on Tuesday due to a grade issue. The redshirt freshman was cleared to practice on Wednesday. 

Another Oklahoma defender is out for a few games this year.

The Seminoles also opened up their new indoor practice facility.

Another Georgia linebacker is dealing with an injury.

Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder has agreed to a new five-year contract.

What a difference a few months can make: Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf was ready to quit last year.

Virginia Tech running back/receiver Joel Caleb has been suspended for the season opener.

LSU receiver Avery Peterson suffered an ankle injury in practice this week.

JUCO transfer Randy Gregory has been impressive in fall practice for Nebraska.

Ole Miss' offensive line is starting to take shape.

Rutgers defensive end Jamil Merrell isn't worried about his position change this year.

Bidding for the 2016 and 2017 college football championship is now open.

Who is impressing for Michigan State at running back this fall?


College Football's Link Roundup: August 7
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 13:38
Path: /college-football/boise-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Boise State has seven consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins and is 84-8 under coach Chris Petersen.

The Broncos had to replace a handful of key players last season – including quarterback Kellen Moore and running back Doug Martin – yet still finished with an 11-2 record. Boise State’s only losses came by four points to Michigan State and by two points against San Diego State.

Although Boise State returns only nine starters, there’s plenty of talent for Petersen to lead this team to a BCS bowl once again. The offense has plenty of firepower, especially with the return of quarterback Joe Southwick and receiver Matt Miller. Five starters return from a defense that ranked eighth nationally in points allowed, but cornerback is a position of concern for coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski.

Boise State’s schedule is challenging, but Petersen should have his team in the mix for an unbeaten record. 

What will Boise State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Boise State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 at Washington
9/7 UT Martin
9/13 Air Force
9/20 at Fresno State
9/28 Southern Miss
10/12 at Utah State
10/19 Nevada
10/25 at BYU
11/2 at Colorado State
11/16 Wyoming
11/23 at San Diego State
11/30 New Mexico
Final Projection11-110-212-011-111-111-1

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though Boise State returns only eight starters, this team still has plenty of talent to make a run at an unbeaten record and a BCS bowl. In a “rebuilding year” last season, the Broncos finished 11-2, with their only losses coming by four points or less. Quarterback Joe Southwick should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter, and the rest of the supporting cast on offense is solid. The biggest concern for coach Chris Petersen is a secondary that will have two new starters at cornerback. Boise State’s schedule isn’t easy, especially with road dates at Washington, Fresno State, Utah State, BYU and San Diego State. The opener in Seattle is a revenge game for the Huskies, but the Sept. 20 date against the Bulldogs could decide who hosts the Mountain West title game. I think Boise State loses once during the regular season. However, the Broncos will play in a BCS bowl this January.

Drew Roberts, (@MyBrainIsSmart),
Do I actually think Boise State will go undefeated this year? Probably not, but it's well within the realm of possibility and even though they could drop roadies at Fresno, Utah State, BYU or UW—I honestly don't know which one is "most lose able" because frankly, they're all winnable. Boise State is used to being the best team in the league and I don't think this year is any different, but all the toughest games this year happen to be on the road. Generally, that's a recipe for an upset or two, but I think Boise State can get on a roll if they handle business in Husky Stadium at the end of the month. Even if my belief in an undefeated season is tepid, you need at least one homer on this thing and Bronco fans are known to never stop believin', just like that Journey song "Lovin' Touchin' Squeezin.'"

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Boise State lost two games a year ago while in complete rebuilding mode and fans are ready for more. Nothing could indicate more where expectations have been placed in Idaho than that. The schedule is more intriguing this year than last and the team, especially on offense, should be better as well. The Mountain West has gotten much better around the Broncos and it will create a few more "tougher" challenges than this team is accustomed too. That said, a perfect league record is well within reach. In fact, road non-conference games with Washington and BYU are more likely to determine the overall upside of this team. Look for this team to be on the fringe of the BCS with an outside shot at something special.

Mark Ross
Even with just eight starters returning on both sides of the ball, I fully expect Chris Petersen to do what he has done in his previous seven seasons leading Boise State — win a bunch of games. In my opinion, the Broncos only have to truly worry about three games on their schedule. The season opener at Washington won't be easy, especially if the Huskies are able to move the ball early and often on the Boise defense, and the trip to Provo to face BYU also will be a tough test.

Outside of those two games, the Sept. 20 date in Fresno to play the Bulldogs is probably the only other matchup all season in which the Broncos won't be favored. Fresno State has more than enough offense to make things tough for the Petersen's defense, and it remains to be seen if the Broncos can match the Bulldogs' firepower. Win or lose, this most likely will be just the first of two meetings between Boise State and Fresno State, with the other coming in the inaugural Mountain West championship game in early December. If the Broncos don't want to make a return trip to central California, then they need to make the most of their first one.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Boise State’s conference opponents — chiefly Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada — have improved at the same time the Broncos have dipped ever so slightly. Still, I think Boise State gets out of 2013 with only one blemish against a Fresno State team that stacked on offense. I like Boise in the opener against Washington simply because its tough to bet against Chris Petersen in an opener, despite an ugly-for-both-teams loss to Michigan State before last season. Road trips to BYU and San Diego State will be tough, but Joe Southwick has had a year as the starter. People forget he threw nine touchdown passes and no interceptions in the final four games last year.

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Boise State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/tulsa-has-shiny-gold-helmet-2013

Tulsa is the reigning Conference USA champions and enters 2013 as Athlon’s favorite to win the league title.

The Golden Hurricane unveiled a new helmet for the upcoming season this week, which takes the word “Golden” to a new level.

Tulsa’s helmet is not only gold, but also very shiny. And credit to the school for not changing the overall look of the helmet, as the script Tulsa and stripes are a solid appearance.

Thumbs up to Tulsa on this helmet.

Tulsa Has Shiny Gold Helmet for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013

After back-to-back 11-win seasons, Michigan State slipped to a 7-6 mark in 2012. The Spartans expected to take a tumble with the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins, but most expected coach Mark Dantonio to keep Michigan State among the top-25 teams in the nation.

Michigan State’s offense was the main culprit of last year’s 7-6 record, finishing 10th in the Big Ten in scoring. The Spartans also ranked ninth in the conference in total yards per game (359.3). But the defense was one of the nation’s best, as coordinator Pat Narduzzi led this unit to a top-10 national finish in the four main defensive categories.

The Big Ten Legends Division should be one of the most competitive conference battles in 2013. Four teams – Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern – have a legitimate case to be ranked as the preseason favorite.

What will Michigan State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Michigan State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/30 Western Michigan
9/7 South Florida
9/14 Youngstown State
9/21 at Notre Dame
10/5 at Iowa
10/12 Indiana
10/19 Purdue
10/26 at Illinois
11/2 Michigan
11/16 at Nebraska
11/23 at Northwestern
11/30 Minnesota
Final Projection8-48-410-29-38-48-47-58-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Michigan State’s Legends Division title hopes rest solely on an offense that averaged only 20 points per game last year. Although the Spartans figure to be better on offense by default, that task isn’t easy with running back Le’Veon Bell leaving for the NFL. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell had his struggles last season but is working with an improved receiving corps, and an offensive line that returns three starters. The strength of Mark Dantonio’s team is on defense, and with six starters back, the Spartans should once again rank near the top of the Big Ten in fewest points allowed. Michigan State’s schedule is backloaded, with matchups against fellow Legends Division contenders Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern in November. If the offense improves, the Spartans have a chance to convert some of the close losses into wins. But there’s still plenty of uncertainty about quarterback Andrew Maxwell, along with which running back steps up as a workhorse to replace Bell.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
Give Michigan State an average offense to pair with its filthy defense, and it might be the favorite to meet Ohio State in the 2013 Big Ten title game. The offense isn’t average, though; in fact, it was one of the Big Ten’s worst a season ago, and that was with stud Le’Veon Bell taking handoff after handoff. Bell’s in the NFL now, as is Dion Sims, the team’s best pass-catcher. So, how are the Spartans going to move the ball, keep their defense from wearing down? That’s TBD. The good news: Andrew Maxwell and the receivers can only get better. Even with the likely offensive struggles, Michigan State’s defense is good enough to carry the team, particularly early on. The Spartans have a backloaded schedule, meaning they could gain confidence and—believe it not—bring an 8-0 or 7-1 record into their grueling final stretch (vs. Michigan; at Nebraska; at Northwestern; vs. Minnesota).

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), and
Michigan State's defense deserved better last year. The Spartans had the top defensive unit in the Big Ten (first overall, first against the run, third against the pass and first in scoring). The defense in 2013 should once again be solid and among the best in the Big Ten, but an ability to bring a pass rush needs to be emphasized early on for the Spartans. On the other side of the football, as poor as the Spartans were on offense in 2012, I have a good feeling that things will almost have to be better with the coaching staff and talent available. I think last year was a bit of a mirage for Michigan State's offense and have faith in Mark Dantonio and his staff to make at least some tweaks and improvements on the offense to step up from putrid to average.

The beginning of the season should see the typical solid start by Michigan State before things start to get tough. A road game at Notre Dame is always going to be tight but I'll give the edge to the Irish right now. And I can't help but think the second game against South Florida will end up being a closer bout than most will suspect. Same with a road game at Iowa. Michigan State should be in contention in a wild Big Ten Legends Division, with late games against Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern all playing a huge factor in to the division outcome. I have two losses in the road contests and Nebraska and Northwestern but a win at home against the Wolverines. You can probably flip the Michigan and Northwestern outcomes but either way I have them going 1-2 in that key three-game stretch.

Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q),
You know the defense will be there, especially with six starters returning. But what improvements will Michigan State make on offense without Le’Veon Bell? Dion Sims is also in the NFL, leaving quarterback Andrew Maxwell without his top receiving target from a year ago. A backloaded schedule could give the Spartans time for things to gel, though a trip to Notre Dame does loom Sept. 21. The last four weeks are killer, though: vs. Michigan, at Nebraska, at Northwestern and vs. Minnesota. The potential for Michigan State is wild, in varying respects: 7-5 and 10-2 seasons both seem within the realm of possibilities.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Spartans will be extremely recognizable in 2013: salty on defense, physical along the line of scrimmage and mediocre on offense. Quarterback Andrew Maxwell returns to this offense but has to prove he can develop into a dependable playmaker before anyone can make the case for this team to win the Legends Division. Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern boast elite offenses, and Michigan State will have to score points to upset one of the big three contenders in the division. Otherwise, the schedule is actually very manageable as Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin are noticeably absent from the slate.

Mark Ross
Michigan State lost a bunch of close games last season (five by four points or less), but also won its share of close ones (four by four points or less). That is one of the reasons why I am expecting the Spartans to finish this season with a record along the same lines as the 7-6 mark they posted in 2012. One thing MSU does have going for it this fall is that Ohio State and Wisconsin aren't on the schedule, as they have been replaced by Illinois and Purdue. That could be a two-game swing in and of itself.

That said, Notre Dame is still on tap, as is a brutal November that has Mark Dantonio's team facing Michigan, Nebraska and Northwestern in a row, with the last two coming on the road. As good as the defense should be, led by an experienced and talented back seven, the offense has plenty of question marks, such as who will replace Le'Veon Bell and his 1,700 rushing yards? Unless quarterback Andrew Maxwell makes some huge strides in his final season, the ceiling for this Spartans team is probably around eight wins, not including its bowl outcome.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

I don’t think Michigan State is all that great of a team, but they’ve got a nice stretch to start the season. Tough to beat a four-game Big Ten stretch against Iowa, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois, plus the first two games against teams with new coaches. Michigan State’s offense isn’t going to be that great, so they’re going to have trouble scoring on a team like Notre Dame and keeping up with teams like Indiana, Nebraska and Northwestern. So why is that Michigan win sitting there? Well, I picked it on a lark back in the game picks for the Wolverines. Besides, what’s a college football season without some inexplicable upsets in rivalry games?

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Michigan State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-6

Fall camps underway....more Johnny Manziel news. College football never stops.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, August 6th

The latest on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel - and it's more bad news for the Aggies.

Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum is likely out until October.

What do scholarship offer letters look like? Check out this story from SB Nation

The Big Ten Network continues its ranking of the top 25 players in the conference for 2013.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong has a zero-tolerance policy for transfer running back Michael Dyer.

In light of the recent Johnny Manziel news, Texas A&M has retained the same law firm that helped keep Cam Newton eligible at Auburn.

Auburn safety Demetruce McNeal is out for a few days after minor surgery.

Maryland coach Randy Edsall has already indicated C.J. Brown will be the starting quarterback.

Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit is uncertain who will start at quarterback this year.

Oklahoma freshman defensive end D.J. Ward is missing practice due to a spleen issue.

Here's a look at 10 key questions to watch as California opens up fall camp.

True freshman Tyler Boyd could be looking at significant playing time for Pittsburgh this year.

Speaking of true freshmen, Virginia Tech has big plans for Kendall Fuller.

Ole Miss is getting No. 1 recruit Robert Nkemdiche ready to play in the season opener.

Connor Cook is making a good impression in the race to win Michigan State's starting quarterback job.

In a bit of a surprise, a quarterback battle appears to be brewing at Bowling Green.

Here are 10 things to watch as Florida State opens fall practice.

BYU running back Michael Alisa has suffered a setback in his recovery from a broken arm.

College Football's Link Roundup: August 6
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 14:06
Path: /college-football/iowa-state-breaks-out-awesome-throwbacks-iowa-game

Some college football fans aren’t huge fans of the latest fashion crazes with different helmets and uniforms for several teams.

But even if you aren’t a huge fan of changing uniforms, you have to admit these throwback Iowa State outfits are a solid look.

The Cyclones will wear these uniforms against rival Iowa on Sept. 14.


Iowa State Breaks Out Awesome Throwbacks for Iowa Game
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/northern-illinois-launches-heisman-campaign-jordan-lynch

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch went from an unknown commodity in the preseason to one of college football’s top quarterbacks last year.

Lynch finished seventh in the Heisman voting last season, and Northern Illinois hopes to help its quarterback’s stock a little more in 2013. 

The Huskies have launched a Heisman campaign for Lynch, which includes a twitter page (@LynchFor6), and the school has mailed promotional lunch bags to Heisman voters.

Check out Northern Illinois' campaign, as tweeted out by West Virginia beat writer Mike Casazza

Northern Illinois Launches Heisman Campaign for Jordan Lynch
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/willie-taggart-brings-blue-collar-approach-usf

Don’t adjust your vision – the photo below is of South Florida coach Willie Taggart.

No, Taggart isn’t heading out to change the oil in his car. Instead, the shirt is a symbol of the blue-collar approach Taggart plans to bring to South Florida.

With Taggart at the helm, expect the Bulls to be one of college football’s most-improved teams in 2013.

Willie Taggart Brings Blue-Collar Approach to USF
Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-darkhorse-national-title-contenders

Predicting college football's national champion is never an easy task. In addition to combing through schedules, returning starters, players lost and statistics, there are several factors impossible to account for. Injuries and luck will have a major impact on the 2013 season - and neither can be projected. 

Most of college football's national title winners will come from within the top 10 of most preseason polls, but there are always a few darkhorses sneaking into the top 10 at some point during the season. 

What teams could be a darkhorse national title contender in 2013? Using Athlon's projected 125 for 2013, the criteria was simple - the teams must be ranked anywhere outside of the top 10 to qualify

College Football's Top-10 Darkhorse National Title Contenders

Arizona State
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 8

Why Arizona State is a Title Contender:
Hiring Todd Graham paid immediate dividends for Arizona State last season. The Sun Devils improved their win total by two games and cut down on the mental mistakes that plagued this team in recent years. After closing out 2012 on a three-game winning streak, hopes are high in Tempe for Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South. Provided the offense develops a few playmakers at receiver, the Sun Devils could average over 40 points a game. The defense returns eight starters, including All-American tackle Will Sutton and linebacker Carl Bradford (11.5 sacks last year). The schedule isn’t easy, but allows for marquee victories by Arizona State. Games against Stanford and Notre Dame should be opportunities to pull upsets against top-10 teams.

Why Arizona State Isn’t a Title Contender:
Making the leap from an eight-win team to an 11 or 12-win team isn’t easy. Despite the talent in the front seven, Arizona State ranked 10th in the Pac-12 against the run. The Sun Devils also need to find more depth at cornerback this fall. While the schedule allows for some huge victories, winning at Stanford, UCLA and in a neutral site affair against Notre Dame won’t be easy. Arizona State is certainly a longshot to play for the national title, but Graham and his staff clearly has this program moving in the right direction.

Florida State
Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4

Why Florida State is a Title Contender:
EJ Manuel was a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but there’s not much concern about quarterback play for the Seminoles. Redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is a potential superstar and even though there will have some growing pains, he is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC this year. Winston is surrounded by one of the nation’s top offensive lines, and there’s no shortage of weapons at running back and receiver. The defense lost a handful of players, but there’s talent waiting in the wings. Sophomore end Mario Edwards Jr. is due to become a prominent factor in the pass rush, while the secondary – despite the loss of Xavier Rhodes – will be stingy. Florida State’s national title hopes are certainly helped by a favorable schedule, as the Seminoles should be favored in at least 10 games this year.

Why Florida State Isn’t a Title Contender:
As mentioned above, the Seminoles have plenty of fresh talent waiting to step into the starting lineup. But what if it takes that talent longer to develop than some may expect? The coaching staff also has six new assistants, including defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Florida State cannot afford an injury on its offensive line, as there’s very little proven depth behind the starting five.

Kansas State
Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 2

Why Kansas State is a Title Contender:
Two words: Bill Snyder. Never count out Kansas State in the Big 12 title picture as long as Snyder is on the sidelines. The Wildcats have to replace quarterback Collin Klein and linebacker Arthur Brown, but haven’t we heard this story before when it comes to Kansas State? Key players leave, new stars emerge. The Wildcats have a quarterback battle between Daniel Sams and Jake Waters set to begin this fall, but the offense should be in good shape regardless of which player starts. The skill players are solid, and the offensive line could be the best in the Big 12. Road trips to Texas and Oklahoma State won’t be easy, but Kansas State can make up some ground in the Big 12 with November home dates against Oklahoma, TCU and Iowa State.

Why Kansas State Isn’t a Title Contender:
Although Sams and Waters appear capable of leading this offense, Klein’s leadership and play will be missed. A slight drop off on offense should be expected. But the bigger question mark for Kansas State has to be a defense that must replace a handful of key contributors. Linebacker Arthur Brown, cornerback Nigel Malone, defensive ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis won’t be easy to replace. Brown’s departure is huge, but the return of Tre Walker and Blake Slaughter has eased the concerns about the linebackers. With a wide-open Big 12, can the champion of the conference climb high enough in the polls to make a run at the national title? There’s a ton of parity in the league this year, so a 9-3 or 10-2 record might win the conference title.

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5

Why Michigan is a Title Contender:
After an 11-2 mark in coach Brady Hoke’s first season in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines took a step back in the win column last year. A tougher schedule resulted in an 8-5 mark in 2012, with three losses by a touchdown or less. The future looks bright at Michigan, especially as Hoke continues to reel in elite talent. The Wolverines return only 10 starters, but there’s plenty of capable players waiting to step into the lineup. Quarterback Devin Gardner shined after taking over for an injured Denard Robinson last year and should be even better in 2013 with an offseason to work as the starter. Gardner is a better fit than Robinson for what Michigan wants to do on offense, and there’s some potential in the receiving corps with sophomore Amara Darboh and senior Jeremy Gallon. The defense finished 13th nationally in yards allowed last season and even though a handful of players must be replaced, the Wolverines have the talent to rank near the top of the Big Ten. The pass defense will get a boost with the return of cornerback Blake Countess, who missed nearly all of 2012 with a knee injury.

Why Michigan Isn’t a Title Contender:
With most of the roster slated to return in 2013, Michigan may be a year away from contending for a national title. And even though there’s talent stepping into the lineup, it may take some time for it to perform at an All-Big Ten level. The offensive line should be solid with the return of tackles Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, but the interior will feature three new starters. Linebacker Jake Ryan is also out until at least October with a torn ACL. The schedule is backloaded, which isn’t a bad thing for a team breaking in a handful of new starters. However, Michigan has to make trips to Michigan State and Northwestern – two of its top contenders in the Legends Division. 

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Why Nebraska is a Title Contender:
Offense, offense and offense. The Cornhuskers led the Big Ten in total offense at 460.8 yards per game last season. And the same cast of characters returns for 2013. Quarterback Taylor Martinez made significant strides last year, and running back Ameer Abdullah filled in admirably for an injured Rex Burkhead. Nebraska has one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps, and the offensive line is solid with the return of three starters. Considering the Cornhuskers have a handful of players to replace on defense, the offense may have to win some shootouts in Big Ten play this year. The biggest factor working in Nebraska’s favor is the schedule. If the Cornhuskers get by UCLA on Sept. 14, they could be 7-0 going into November. The final month isn’t easy, but Northwestern and Michigan State – two of the top contenders in the Legends Division – will visit Lincoln.

Why Nebraska Isn’t a Title Contender:
There’s no question Nebraska’s offense will be outstanding in 2013. However, the defense is littered with concerns. The Cornhuskers allowed 115 points over their final two games last year and return only four starters. The front seven needs to be revamped, and several young players could be pressed into action. Kicker Brett Maher won’t be easy to replace, which is a concern as Nebraska heads into a difficult November schedule.

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 4

Why Oklahoma is a Title Contender:
The talent level may have slipped just a tad in recent years, but the Sooners remain a dangerous team in the national title picture. The Big 12 is wide-open, with no clear preseason favorite. Quarterback Blake Bell has yet to prove he can be an every-down option, but the junior has upside and could develop into one of the Big 12’s top offensive players with more experience. Oklahoma also has one of the nation’s best offensive lines, along with a deep receiving corps and a talented group of backs. The defense is a work in progress, but coordinator Mike Stoops should be able to find some answers this fall. The schedule isn’t easy, although the Sooners will have an opportunity to earn a marquee non-conference win at Notre Dame in late September.

Why Oklahoma Isn’t a Title Contender:
Defense. Even though Mike Stoops is a good coordinator, the Sooners are thin on proven talent (and bodies) on the defensive line. Cornerback Aaron Colvin is one of the Big 12’s best defense players, but the secondary is a concern with the departure of safety Tony Jefferson and cornerback Demontre Hurst. The schedule isn’t overly challenging. However, matchups at Baylor, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State are all potential losses.

Oklahoma State
Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 7

Why Oklahoma State is a Title Contender:
Considering how wide open the Big 12 is, you could list the predicted top six teams for 2013 in this article. Oklahoma State is Athlon’s projected Big 12 champion this season, but the Cowboys are picked to finish outside of the top-10 in the final poll before bowl games. New offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich should keep Oklahoma State’s offense among the best in the Big 12, and running back Jeremy Smith is a capable replacement for Joseph Randle. The defense returns seven starters, including one of the Big 12’s top linebacking corps. With Glenn Spencer promoted to coordinator, the Cowboys expect a more aggressive defense in 2013. And a secondary that ranked 110th nationally against the pass will be improved.

Why Oklahoma State Isn’t a Title Contender:
The uncertainty at the top of the league certainly makes for an interesting title race, but it could also hurt the champion of the Big 12. Too much parity could hurt the conference in the polls, leaving the champion on the outside of the top five. While quarterback Clint Chelf played well in limited action, can he handle the starting job for a full season? While the pass defense should be better, Oklahoma State is thin on depth and proven talent at defensive end. A road game at Texas could decide the Big 12 championship.

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 8

Why TCU is a Title Contender:
As expected, the transition from the Mountain West to the Big 12 wasn’t easy. And despite losing quarterback Casey Pachall early in the year due to a suspension, the Horned Frogs finished a respectable 7-6. With Pachall returning to the team, TCU’s passing attack will be more dangerous in 2013. The Horned Frogs have a good group of receivers returning, while the ground game will get a boost with Waymon James back at full strength from a knee injury. Nebraska transfer Aaron Green is expected to help James and B.J. Catalon shoulder the workload in the backfield. Defense is always a strength under coach Gary Patterson, and TCU allowed the fewest yards per game in conference play last year (323.9). Nine starters are back on defense, including the Big 12’s top secondary.   

Why TCU Isn’t a Title Contender:
While the return of Pachall and James will help the offense, the line is a major concern. Tackle Tayo Fabuluje quit the team in the summer, leaving the Horned Frogs with just two starters returning up front. Although the defense should be one of the best in the Big 12, end Devonte Fields is suspended for the first two games, which will leave the pass rush shorthanded against LSU. If TCU wins the Big 12, it will certainly earn it, as road trips to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State are brutal.

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 9

Why Texas is a Title Contender:
The Longhorns are the most difficult team to figure out this preseason. There’s no question coach Mack Brown has assembled elite talent, but Texas is just 22-16 over the last three years. Did this team turn a corner in the bowl win over Oregon State? For Texas to top last year’s nine victories, it all starts at the quarterback position. David Ash showed progress last season, but is he ready to make the jump to be an elite quarterback in the Big 12? The Longhorns don’t need Ash to be Colt McCoy, especially with one of the nation’s deepest backfields at his disposal. The offensive line has made progress in recent years and all five starters are back. The defense underachieved in 2012 but nine starters are back, and linebacker Jordan Hicks returns after missing most of last season with an injury. Texas also has one of the most favorable schedules in the Big 12, as Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech all visit Austin.

Why Texas Isn’t a Title Contender:
Can Texas be trusted? That’s the key question when it comes to preseason picks in the Big 12. The Longhorns have the most-talented roster in the conference, but questions still remain about this team’s ability to take the next step. Ash doesn’t have to be one of the nation’s top quarterbacks for Texas to win the Big 12, but he also has to cut down on his mistakes (seven interceptions in eight Big 12 games). Not only does the defense have to get tougher against the run, it has to eliminate some of the mental mistakes, including a plethora of missed tackles last year. The best barometer of Texas will likely come on Oct. 12 against Oklahoma. The Longhorns have lost 118-38 in their last two meetings against the Sooners.

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Why USC Is a Title Contender:
Last year was a huge disappointment for USC. But there’s no question the Trojans have plenty of talent on the roster to make a quick rebound. If Max Wittek or Cody Kessler settles into the starting quarterback role, the offense should rank in the top half of the Pac-12 once again. Silas Redd is capable of rushing for 1,000 yards, and the receiving corps is loaded at the top with the return of Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor. The defense struggled last year, but coach Lane Kiffin’s decision to hire Clancy Pendergast as the coordinator should pay dividends. USC does not have to play Oregon this year and UCLA, Arizona and Stanford all come to the Coliseum.

Why USC Isn’t a Title Contender:
Even though athletic director Pat Haden gave Kiffin a vote of confidence, what happens if things start to go bad early in the year? The Trojans fell apart in the bowl loss to Georgia Tech and have to regain the form that saw this team finish 10-2 in 2011. Although Kessler and Wittek are talented quarterbacks, USC needs to settle on one and not go through an entire season of changing starters. The offensive line has to play better, which will be a challenge with the departure of center Khaled Holmes. The Trojans are thin in the secondary, but the additions of freshmen Su’a Cravens and Leon McQuay should help.

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Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Wisconsin enters 2013 with a hint of mystery surrounding the team. The Badgers have played in three consecutive Rose Bowls, but there’s a new coach on the sideline and different schemes on both sides of the ball.

New coach Gary Andersen comes to Madison from Utah State, where he recorded a 26-24 record in four seasons. Although Andersen’s record wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive, the Aggies were 6-30 in three seasons prior to his arrival. Andersen clearly improved Utah State, but his task at Wisconsin won’t be about rebuilding – at least in 2013. With 11 starters back, the Badgers can make a run at the Leaders Division title and 10 wins this year.

The biggest question mark surrounding Wisconsin is quarterback play, especially with the addition of junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy. The defense is switching to a 3-4 scheme, but the Badgers have plenty of talent in the front seven to weather the transition.

Wisconsin’s schedule isn’t too challenging, but a road trip to Ohio State on Sept. 28 could decide who wins the Leaders Division.

What will Wisconsin's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Wisconsin's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 UMass
9/7 Tennessee Tech
9/14 at Arizona State
9/21 Purdue
9/28 at Ohio State
10/12 Northwestern
10/19 at Illinois
11/2 at Iowa
11/9 BYU
11/16 Indiana
11/23 at Minnesota
11/30 Penn State
Final Projection9-310-29-311-19-39-39-3

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Wisconsin hit a home run by hiring Gary Andersen to replace Bret Bielema. Andersen elevated Utah State to a conference title contender during his time in Logan and inherits a Badgers’ team that’s capable of finishing in the 10-15 range in the final BCS poll. The biggest question marks for Wisconsin rest at quarterback and how this team transition to new schemes on both sides of the ball. Joel Stave would seem to have a slight edge on Curt Phillips and Tanner McEvoy for the starting quarterback spot, but all three could see playing time this year. Moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme in one offseason could present some headaches, but Wisconsin has enough talent to handle the transition. The biggest issue on defense is the secondary, which will have three new starters for 2013. The Badgers have a favorable schedule, but road trips to Arizona State and Ohio State won’t be easy. I also have Wisconsin stumbling at Iowa, but I’d keep a close eye on the Oct. 12 matchup against Northwestern.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
I hate to simplify things this much, however one can argue Wisconsin’s season comes down to two games: at Ohio State (Sept. 28) and vs. Northwestern (Nov. 12). Yes, at Arizona State is hardly a walk in the park, but it’s a nonconference game. We’re talking about Wisconsin, the program that’s represented the Big Ten in the last three Rose Bowls. Pasadena is the goal, and it’s a possibility again—especially if the Badgers show up in the aforementioned marque games. Seriously, take away the Ohio State and Northwestern dates, and Wisconsin will be the heavy favorite in its other six Big Ten games. Considering the manageable schedule and the talent the Badgers return, both on offense (James White, Melvin Gordon, Jared Abbrederis, Jacob Pedersen) and defense (Chris Borland, Ethan Armstrong, Beau Allen, Dezmen Southward), a 10-win regular season could be in the cards.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), and
Wisconsin may have won a Big Ten championship last season, but let's not forget the Badgers actually finished third in the Leaders Division in 2012 behind Ohio State and Penn State, losing the head-to-head match-ups to each. That said, the Badgers figure to have a team worthy of giving the Buckeyes a bit of a tussle this year in the race to Indianapolis if things fall according to plan. Though Wisconsin loses Monte Ball, a player that never really got the attention he probably should have, the Badgers will rely on a strong running game behind a proven James White. The Badgers also have one of the Big Ten's top wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis, so it's time once again to ask the annual question; Does Wisconsin have a quarterback? I think they do with Joel Stave, but we'll see which way new head coach Gary Andersen goes with this. One thing I do feel confident in with Wisconsin is their defense. The Badgers had a defense that was pretty overlooked last season despite finishing third in the Big Ten in total and scoring defense. I suspect Andersen and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will keep that theme moving forward in Madison with a guy like linebacker Chris Borland anchoring things in the middle of the field.

Wisconsin should get off to a fast start against some weak opponents but a road trip to Arizona State looks very dangerous. BYU also looks to be a real difficult non-conference game, and who knows what the season will look like for either team when that game comes around in November. I'll give Wisconsin a split in those two, and I'm putting the Badgers on upset alert at Iowa right now. I look for Wisconsin to finish strongly though. If the Buckeyes stumble, Wisconsin can take advantage.

Mike Fiammetta, (@B5Q),
With a coaching staff that's entirely new outside of two retained assistants and questions at quarterback, receiver and in the secondary, Wisconsin's one of the hardest teams to pick in the Big Ten. That's probably true for all of college football, as well. A few things are certain, however. The Badgers return a ton of all-Big Ten-worthy talent, including running backs James White and Melvin Gordon, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, linebacker Chris Borland and safety Dezmen Southward. The schedule is also incredibly soft, with non-conference play presenting only one threat (at ASU, though BYU could be considered a challenge) and the Big Ten slate having just one game in which Wisconsin will clearly be an underdog (at Ohio State). The early returns on the Gary Andersen era have been remarkably positive, though of course things could always not gel for the problem areas, namely receiver, offensive line and the secondary. If it does, though, the Badgers very well could find themselves in Indianapolis fighting for a fourth straight Rose Bowl berth.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Not many new head coaches step into a "BCS" job for a team looking to become a four-time defending champion but that is what Gary Andersen has done in Madison. The Badgers have won three-straight Big Ten titles and have a roster — and schedule — capable of competing for another one in 2013. Road games with Ohio State and Arizona State early will really test the rebuilt secondary and efficiency of whoever is playing quarterback. Other tricky tests like Penn State, Indiana and Northwestern at home or rivalry road games with Iowa and Minnesota could all provide slip-ups for a team with new leadership. Most everyone in the industry respects Andersen and the Badger way of winning is proven. But it will be hard-pressed to win a division in which Ohio State resides.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I don’t know if Wisconsin is going to be dramatically better than it was last season, but the season I’ve picked (9-3 in the regular season) is two games better than the Badgers were last year (7-5). The Badgers’ record wasn’t great, but they were awfully close in the losses — three in overtime and the other three away from Madison by six points or less. More competent quarterback play could be the difference, even though the Badgers move on without Bret Bielema. The Arizona State game will be interesting, but that doesn’t set up well for Wisconsin: A decimated secondary against a veteran quarterback, a redshirt freshman center against defensive tackle Will Sutton and an untested quarterback on the road. The experience issues will get better, which is why Wisconsin can hope for a hot finish. Northwestern could shape up to be a key game. The Badgers’ quarterback and offensive line could be in good shape by that point of the year, but the Badgers are still going to have a tough time stopping teams that can throw the ball.

Mark Ross
Wisconsin made a great hire in luring Gary Andersen away from Utah State to replace the departed Bret Bielema. Although it may take a couple of seasons for the Badgers to be completely Andersen's team, I'm not expecting much of a drop off in terms of results our of Madison this fall. UW won't break a sweat until heading out west to the desert to face Arizona State and even though the opening of its Big Ten slate could be somewhat rocky, the rest of the schedule shakes out nicely. The Badgers get a break by not having to face either Michigan, Nebraska or Michigan State from the Legends Division, and the toughest conference road date by far is against Ohio State. The Buckeyes will more than likely win the Leaders Division, but the Badgers should be able to claim second and at least match last season's win total before their bowl game.


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Post date: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-5

Fall camps already underway. The 2013 season is almost here.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Monday, August 5th

Here's the latest in the ongoing saga surrounding Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. 

Interested in hearing more about Athlon's picks for 2013? Check out this podcast I did with Sports Week Live this weekend, as we talked about each of the BCS conferences, national championship and some Heisman implications. 

Saturday Down South takes a look at the top 25 players in the SEC for 2013.

LSU running back Jeremy Hill has avoided jail time from a recent off-the-field incident.

Ole Miss receiver Vince Sanders suffered a broken collarbone in practice.

How did South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney get his childhood nickname? It's an interesting story to say the least.

Andy Bitter takes a look at some key position battles to watch as Virginia Tech opens fall practice. And here's a look at the Hokies' updated depth chart.

A potential starter on Georgia's defense will undergo thumb surgery.

Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning will miss some practice time after having knee surgery.

Tomahawk Nation answers some key questions surrounding Florida State's fall practice.

NC State running back Shadrach Thornton is facing a court date for misdemeanor assault charge.

Adam Jude of the Seattle Times takes a look at five key questions facing Washington this fall.

Bucky's 5th Quarter takes a look at three freshmen who could play key roles for Wisconsin in 2013.

All signs point to Tom Savage winning Pittsburgh's starting quarterback job.

Will California's offensive line improve in 2013?

Here are five question marks to watch as Penn State opens fall practice.

Ohio State should have more weapons than just quarterback Braxton Miller in 2013.

College Football's Link Roundup: August 5
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-unveils-new-uniforms-2013

Texas Tech is making some slight tweaks to its football uniforms for 2013. The Red Raiders have added a red stripe to the helmets and made a few changes to the jerseys.

But is that all? Remember this photo circulating back in the spring, it appears the school may have a few more uniforms to unveil for this season. And according to, Texas Tech could have a gray jersey for 2013.



And here's a video of the big reveal:

Texas Tech Unveils New Uniforms for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/byu-breaks-out-royal-blue-jerseys-2013

The BYU-Utah matchup is always one of the top rivalry games in college football each year. The series will be on hiatus for 2014 and 2015, so this season’s game will have a little extra meaning.

BYU is planning a slight uniform tweak for the 2013 matchup against the Utes, as the Cougars will wear their royal blue scheme.

Here’s a look at athletic director Tom Holmoe modeling the jersey, along with a shot from Nike:



BYU Breaks Out Royal Blue Jerseys for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-unveils-jerseys-shamrock-series

Notre Dame has unveiled a new uniform for 2013. No, it’s not an entire revamp of the Fighting Irish’s uniforms, but rather a one-time change for the Shamrock Series game against Arizona State on Oct. 5.

Notre Dame’s uniforms are one of the most classic looks in college football each year. However, these Shamrock Series uniforms are pretty sharp.

Notre Dame Unveils Jerseys for Shamrock Series
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 10:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-qb-johnny-manziel-under-ncaa-investigation

The ongoing saga that is Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel’s offseason continued on Sunday, as ESPN’s Outside the Lines reported the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner is under NCAA investigation.

The report alleges Manziel agreed to sign memorabilia for an autograph broker in Miami in January. Manziel was reportedly paid five figures for the signatures, but witnesses never saw an exchange of money.

An interesting tidbit in the report was the authentication companies and the Manziel items on the internet. According to’s report, PSA/DNA and JSA have authenticated the autographs, and the items are numbered sequentially. And Outside the Lines also mentions large quantities and numbered autographs are generally done for sale.

What Does This Mean for Texas A&M?

Right now, nothing. As the past few months have showed, the NCAA’s investigative arm doesn’t have the best reputation (see the Miami case).

Being under investigation doesn’t mean a suspension is coming, but this is something that will play out over the next few weeks. And considering all of the factors in play, it may take some time for the NCAA to sort this out.

Needless to say, Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel have to hope for a quick investigation, especially with the season just a few weeks away. 

What if Johnny Manziel is Suspended?

Again, it’s too early to know if Manziel will be suspended. But if the sophomore quarterback is ruled ineligible, the consequences on Texas A&M’s 2013 season are huge. The Aggies are picked in the top 10 of most preseason polls and were projected to be one of the teams in the mix for a BCS bowl.

There have been similar cases in recent years, as Georgia’s A.J. Green was suspended for four games in 2010 for selling a jersey, and six Ohio State players were suspended under Jim Tressel for trading memorabilia for tattoos.

What if Manziel is suspended four games? He would be forced to sit out contests against Rice, Sam Houston State, Alabama and SMU.

Obviously, the Sept. 14 matchup against Alabama is expected to shape the national title picture and is one of the most-anticipated SEC contests for 2013. But games against Rice, Sam Houston State and SMU are winnable without Manziel. A six-game suspension would be a bigger problem for Texas A&M, as road games at Arkansas and Ole Miss won’t be easy.

If Manziel misses a bigger portion of the schedule, Texas A&M’s SEC West title hopes are finished.

What’s Next?

The waiting game. It’s important to note that Manziel is simply under investigation, and none of the allegations have been proven as fact. And it's entirely possible this investigation could turn up nothing, and Manziel won't have to miss any games. 

Obviously, Texas A&M has to prepare for the worst. With fall practice starting, Matt Joeckel and Matt Davis will be under extra scrutiny by the coaching staff.

Although Manziel has spent plenty of time in the headlines this offseason, none of the previous stories, photos or tweets had any impact on Texas A&M’s season. But with a NCAA investigation hanging over Manziel, a season that looked so promising in Aggieland in April has begun to erode.

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Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel Under NCAA Investigation
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 09:00