Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/mac-football-2013-predictions
2013 MAC Predictions    
East Division   MAC Overall
1. Bowling Green 7-1 8-5
2. Ohio 6-2 9-3
3. Kent State 4-4 6-6
4. Buffalo 4-4 5-7
5. Miami (Ohio) 4-4 4-8
6. Akron 1-7 2-10
7. UMass 0-8 1-11
West Division      
1. Northern Illinois 7-1 10-3
2. Ball State 6-2 9-3
3. Toledo 6-2 8-4
4. Western Michigan 5-3 6-6
5. Central Michigan 2-6 3-9
6. Eastern Michigan 0-8 1-11
MAC Championship    
Northern Illinois over Bowling Green    

You can’t blame the MAC for not wanting 2012 to end after the league enjoyed its most successful season ever. Not only did the MAC send a team (Northern Illinois) to a BCS bowl for the first time, but league teams also combined to win a record 18 games against FBS opponents in non-conference action and had four different schools nationally ranked at some point during the season.

You could make the argument that last season the MAC was the second best non-AQ conference in the nation after the Mountain West.

Don’t expect another BCS bowl qualifier in 2013, but the MAC has a chance to be just as strong overall.

Northern Illinois is the favorite to repeat in the West thanks in large part to the return of dynamic quarterback Jordan Lynch. As a junior, Lynch ranked fourth in the nation in total offense with 3,138 yards passing and 1,815 yards rushing and a combined 44 touchdowns. Six other starters return on offense, including tailback Akeem Daniels and speedy wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Defensively, NIU returns only three starters, one on each level.

Ball State and Toledo will be the biggest threats to Northern Illinois in the West. The Cardinals are loaded at the skill positions, with the return of quarterback Keith Wenning, wideouts Willie Snead and Jamill Smith, tight end Zane Fakes and running back Jahwan Edwards. Third-year coach Pete Lembo has done a tremendous job rebuilding this program. Toledo, like Ball State, will be explosive on offense but has issues on the defensive side of the ball. Only two starters returns from a defense that allowed 473.2 yards per game in 2012. The Rockets will be tested early with a Week 1 trip to Florida.

No team in the MAC has done less with more over the past few seasons than Western Michigan. As a result, there is new leadership in Kalamazoo, with former Northern Illinois star P.J. Fleck, 32, talking over for Bill Cubit. Central Michigan hopes to build off its surprising late-season run that was capped off with a win over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Zurlon Tipton is one of the most underrated tailbacks in the nation. Eastern Michigan has not had a winning season since 1995 and will struggle again in the rugged West Division.

Bowling Green is searching for its first division title since 2003. The Falcons will be outstanding on defense, even with the loss of tackle Chris Jones and linebacker Dwayne Woods. If the offense (11th in the MAC last season) improves, the Falcons will be the team to beat in the East. 

Under Frank Solich, Ohio has been the most consistent team in the division, but the Bobcats have yet to deliver in the MAC Championship Game. The return of quarterback Tyler Tettleton and tailback Beau Blankenship will keep the Ohio offense humming.

Kent State boasts the best one-two punch at tailback in the league with speedster Dri Archer and 250-pound bruiser Traylon Durham. Expect the Golden Flashes to be a run-oriented team once again as they break in a new quarterback under first-year coach Paul Haynes.

Buffalo played well down the stretch in 2012, winning three straight before losing by 14 at Bowling Green in the finale. With 15 starters back and a soft MAC schedule — no NIU or Ball State from the West — don’t be surprised if the Bulls make a move in ’13. Miami will rely on its speedy playmakers to overcome the graduation of QB Zac Dysert, a four-year starter who threw for 12,013 yards and 73 TDs.

Akron coach Terry Bowden had a rough first season in his return to the FBS ranks, but the Zips showed improvement and should be better in 2013. UMass struggled mightily in its first full season in the league — though the Minutemen did beat Akron in early November to avoid an 0–12 campaign.

2013 MAC Team Previews

East Division West Division
Akron Ball State
Bowling Green Central Michigan
Buffalo Eastern Michigan
Kent State Northern Illinois
Miami (Ohio) Toledo
Ohio Western Michigan

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<p> MAC Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/elijah-hood-recruit-flushes-letter-alabama-notre-dame

Despite winning back-to-back national championships, not every elite recruit wants to play at Alabama. No, seriously.

One of the nation’s top running back recruits for the class of 2014 – Elijah Hood – poked a little fun at Alabama on Tuesday night. On his Vine account, Hood flushed one of the recruiting letters sent to him from the Crimson Tide and closed the video with a Roll Toilet – a humorous take on Alabama’s usual Roll Tide motto. His closing to the video also sparked the #RollToilet hashtag on Twitter.

Hood is committed to Notre Dame and ranks as the No. 13 national recruit by

Needless to say, if the Fighting Irish continue to improve under Brian Kelly, and Nick Saban stays on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, Hood should have a chance to matchup against Alabama in one of college football's top bowl games in the near future.


<p> Notre Dame Commit Elijah Hood Flushes Alabama Recruiting Letter&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/american-athletic-conference-football-2013-predictions
2013 American Predictions    
    American Overall
1. Louisville 7-1 11-1
2. Cincinnati 6-2 9-3
3. Rutgers 5-3 7-5
4. UCF 5-3 7-5
5. South Florida 5-3 7-5
6. UConn 3-5 5-7
7. Houston 3-5 5-7
8. SMU 3-5 4-8
9. Memphis 2-6 4-8
10. Temple 1-7 4-8

The conference formerly known as the Big East is still one in transition for the 2013 season.

There’s a new name and logo for 2013, along with more changes in the lineup of teams. Pittsburgh and Syracuse departed for the ACC, but the American Athletic Conference welcomes UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis into the league for 2013. Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) will leave after this year, but the conference has already secured Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane to join the league for 2014.

While the transition has cast a large shadow on this league, the American Athletic Conference does have a legitimate national title contender for 2013 – Louisville. The Cardinals return 14 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville needs to fill a couple of key voids on the offensive line, but Bridgewater and a solid defense should carry the Cardinals to the league championship.

Louisville’s biggest challenger appears to be Cincinnati. The Bearcats have a new coach (Tommy Tuberville), but the pieces are in place to push for 10 victories. Brendon Kay stabilized the quarterback spot in the second half of last season, and the defense should have the best linebacking corps in the conference for 2013. Cincinnati also hosts Louisville in the regular season finale, which could be a huge opportunity for the program to knock the Cardinals out of the national title picture.

Rutgers and UCF round out the top four in Athlon’s projected American Athletic Conference standings for 2013. The Scarlet Knights suffered some key personnel losses on defense, and need to get quarterback Gary Nova back on track after a disappointing finish to the season. The Knights could surprise this year, especially if the defense fills a few key voids in the front seven.

Behind new coach Willie Taggart, South Florida should be one of the most-improved teams in college football. The Bulls have an All-American caliber defensive end in Aaron Lynch, along with a transfer quarterback in Steven Bench to bolster the roster for 2013. The Bulls should benefit from a weak bottom of the league to get bowl eligible this year.

The final five spots in the conference are a tossup. Connecticut had one of the nation’s top-10 defenses last year, but the Huskies managed only 17.8 points a game. Coach Paul Pasqualoni hopes new coordinator T.J. Weist can push the right buttons on offense this year. If the Huskies are slightly better on offense in 2013, getting to a bowl game isn’t out of the question.

Houston and SMU could easily be switched in our projections, especially after the Cougars lost running back Charles Sims. Houston also needs to address a defense that ranked last in Conference USA in yards allowed last year. The Mustangs return quarterback Garrett Gilbert, but the defense must replace a couple of key performers, including end Margus Hunt.

Memphis and Temple round out the American projections for 2013. However, both teams appear to be on the right track. The Tigers showed big improvement under Justin Fuente last season, and Matt Rhule was a popular hire among the Temple fanbase.  

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut SMU
Houston South Florida
Louisville Temple
Memphis UCF

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<p> American Athletic Conference Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2013-predictions
2013 MWC Predictions MWC Overall
Mountain Division    
1. Boise State 8-0 12-1
2. Utah State 6-2 7-5
3. Air Force 4-4 6-6
4. Wyoming 4-4 7-5
5. Colorado State 3-5 5-8
6. New Mexico 1-7 4-8
West Division    
1. Fresno State 6-2 10-3
2. San Jose State 5-3 7-5
3. San Diego State 5-3 7-5
4. Nevada 5-3 6-6
5. UNLV 1-7 3-9
6. Hawaii 0-8 1-11
  MWC Championship    
  Boise State over Fresno State  

One of the underrated winners of the recent wave of conference realignment has been the Mountain West. Not only did the league keep Boise State and San Diego State after both schools flirted with — and even temporarily joined — the Big East, but the Mountain West has also poached four programs from the WAC in the last two years (Fresno State and Nevada after the 2011 season and San Jose State and Utah State after the ’12 season). These additions helped mitigate the losses of TCU, Utah and BYU.

Boise State is the best team in the league and the overwhelming favorite in the Mountain Division, but the balance of power — at least in the short term — is in the West Division. Fresno State, which quietly went 7–1 in its first year in the league last fall, is the pick to win the division thanks to an explosive offense that features elite talent at quarterback (Derek Carr) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). The race for second figures to be tight between San Jose State, San Diego State and Nevada. Both the Spartans and Wolf Pack are under new leadership, with Ron Caragher taking over for Mike MacIntyre in San Jose and Brian Polian now in charge in Reno.

There is quite a bit of fall-off after the “Big Four” in the West as UNLV and Hawaii might be two of the worst FBS teams in the nation. Bobby Hauck needs to show significant progress at UNLV after winning exactly two games in each of his first three seasons. Norm Chow’s first season at Hawaii did not go well — the Warriors went 1–7 in the league — and the prognosis for 2013 isn’t much better.

After taking a small step back last season, Boise State should be back to its usual explosive ways on offense with the return of quarterback Joe Southwick and a veteran offensive line. The Broncos’ toughest league test will be a trip to Fresno State for a Friday night showdown in late September.

League newcomer Utah State could be Boise’s biggest challenger in the Mountain Division. The Aggies lost coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin but welcome back quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Air Force, as usual, is a bit of a mystery with so many new faces, but the Falcons will once again be a tough out in league play. Wyoming is poised to bounce back from a disappointing 4–8 season — if the Cowboys can keep talented junior quarterback Brett Smith healthy. Dave Christensen, entering his fifth year in Laramie, needs a strong season to stay off the hot seat.

Colorado State returns 15 starters from a team that won three of its last five games under first-year coach Jim McElwain. The Rams are getting better but are probably a year away from being a factor in the league race.

New Mexico won only one league game last year but showed marked improvement in the first year of the Bob Davie era. The Lobos, however, will have a tough time escaping the Mountain Division basement in 2013 unless they can find a way throw the ball with some success. Last season, UNM completed a total of 79 passes in 13 games.

2013 Mountain West Team Previews

Mountain Division West Division
Air Force Fresno State
Boise State Hawaii
Colorado State Nevada
New Mexico San Diego State
Utah State San Jose State
Wyoming UNLV


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<p> Mountain West Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2013-predictions
2013 SEC Predictions SEC Overall
East Division    
1. Georgia 7-1 10-3
2. South Carolina 6-2 10-2
3. Florida 5-3 9-3
4. Vanderbilt 4-4 8-4
5. Tennessee 3-5 6-6
6. Missouri 1-7 5-7
7. Kentucky 1-7 4-8
West Division    
1. Alabama 8-0 13-0
2. Texas A&M 6-2 10-2
3. LSU 5-3 9-3
4. Ole Miss 4-4 7-5
5. Mississippi State 3-5 6-6
6. Auburn 2-6 6-6
7. Arkansas 1-7 5-7
SEC Championship    
Alabama over Georgia    

The SEC looks to close out college football’s BCS era with an eighth consecutive championship.

Alabama has won two in a row and is a heavy favorite to claim the title in 2013. The Crimson Tide return 14 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback AJ McCarron and running back T.J. Yeldon. The defense ranked No. 1 nationally in 2012 but must replace cornerback Dee Milliner and lineman Jesse Williams.

Chasing Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the SEC will be a trio of teams. Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M appear to be the Crimson Tide’s biggest challengers. The Aggies return reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel, but the defense is a big question mark. Georgia’s defense has to be revamped, while the offense could be the best in the SEC. South Carolina didn’t suffer any huge losses from last year, but receiver Ace Sanders and end Devin Taylor, along with the linebacking corps won’t be easy to replace.

In addition to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M, Florida and LSU should be among the best 15 squads in the nation. The Tigers suffered some heavy departures on defense, but LSU always seems to reload on that side of the ball. Florida also suffered some key losses on defense, and the offense needs to find a spark in the passing attack.

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt rank just outside of Athlon’s top 25 teams for 2013, and both programs are steadily improving behind two of college football’s rising stars at head coach in James Franklin (Vanderbilt) and Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss).

Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas will all break in a new head coach this year. All four programs should benefit from the coaching change in 2013 over the next couple of seasons. However, each still has a ways to go before climbing into SEC title discussion.

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

Three teams were discussed for the top spot in the SEC East. Why was Georgia the pick?

It was a tough call, but Georgia got the nod over South Carolina and Florida because of its prowess on offense. The Bulldogs feature an elite quarterback (Aaron Murray), two All-SEC-caliber tailbacks (Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall), a deep collection of wide receivers and a veteran offensive line. The Bulldogs, assuming the key players remain healthy, will score a ton of points this fall. Georgia must replace some outstanding players on defense, but the Dawgs still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball and there shouldn’t be too much drop-off. South Carolina should be very good on both sides of the ball and would be a worthy pick for No. 1, but we were a bit concerned about the lack of proven playmakers on offense. The concern for Florida is an offense that ranked 12th in the SEC last year with 334.4 yards per game. The Gators must become more balanced to emerge as a national title contender.

Alabama was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the SEC and the nation. Is there any reason to believe the Crimson Tide will stumble?

Not really. Alabama has recruited so well over the past five years and is so well-coached that it’s tough to find a reason not to pick the Crimson Tide to win yet another SEC title. The biggest cause for concern is the offensive line, which must replace three All-SEC first-teamers — Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack. However, the two returning starters — Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen — are preseason All-SEC picks, and there are plenty of talented players ready to emerge. The biggest hurdle on the schedule is a September trip to Texas A&M, but Alabama still won the SEC title last year despite losing to the Aggies in the regular season.

Most teams that suffered the type of personnel losses that LSU did would get penalized more heavily in the preseason rankings. Do the Tigers get the benefit of the doubt?

It’s fair to say we might make some assumptions about a program like LSU — which has been so good for the past decade — that we don’t make about other teams with less of a track record. This year’s team must replace nine key players on defense. That would cripple most programs, but LSU is not like most programs. The Tigers have been so consistently strong on defense that we can assume there will be enough quality replacements to keep the defense among the best in the league. Now, we don’t expect LSU to be as dominant as it’s been in the past three years, but we’d be surprised if the Tigers didn’t finish in the top-five in the SEC in total defense. Having said all that, we did pick LSU third in the SEC West and No. 12 overall — not exactly among the elite of the elite. That, however, has as much to do with our concerns about LSU’s rather ordinary offense as it does the exodus of talent on defense.

Vanderbilt is picked ahead of Tennessee in the SEC East for the first time ever. What was the rationale?

Vanderbilt was clearly the better team last year, and based on the personnel returning to both programs, there’s no reason to believe the 2013 season will be any different. The Commodores went 5–3 in the league last year and outgained their SEC opponents (plus-5.3 yards per game) for the first time in at least four decades. Tennessee stumbled through a 1–7 SEC record and was outgained by 80.3 yards per game. Despite suffering some key losses on offense — quarterback Tyler Bray and their top four pass-catchers — Tennessee should be improved under new coach Butch Jones. Vanderbilt, however, should still finish ahead of the Vols in the standings.

Are you projecting Auburn to bounce back?

The quick answer: Yes. The tougher question: How much? This was hotly debated in our meeting. We ended up picking the Tigers to finish sixth in the SEC West (up from seventh) and project a 2–6 league record (up from 0–8). We believe this team will be vastly improved, but it’s tough to find too many wins on the league schedule.

2013 SEC Team Previews

East Division West Division
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

SEC Notebook

Talking Some Trash
You know Nick Saban is “The Man” on the SEC pedestal when multiple coaches take shots at him in the offseason. And you know Saban is feared enough that those coaches quickly take it back.

First, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin referred to the Alabama coach as “Nicky Satan” during a speaking engagement. He later apologized to Saban, and Franklin said he had been joking. (Which clearly he was.)

Then Arkansas’ Bret Bielema caused a stir by telling a local Razorback Club that “I didn’t come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama. You can take Saban’s record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and it can’t compare.”

Bielema was technically correct: He was 68–24 overall and 37–19 in the Big Ten while at Wisconsin from 2006-12, while Saban was 34–24–1 overall and 23–16–1 in the conference at Michigan State from 1995-99.

But Bielema still felt the need to take to Twitter and say: “Alabama quotes were a joke to a question from a fan at pep rally. #wow.”

Saban didn’t respond publicly to either slight, which seems to be following a recent pattern in the SEC.

And the Bielema jabs weren't the last comment lobbied in Saban's direction this offseason. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis referred to Saban as the "devil himself"at a booster club meeting in May.

Remember how Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer threw verbal volley back and forth in the ‘90s? (Mostly Spurrier towards Fulmer.) And then how Lane Kiffin’s one year in the conference resulted in a memorable verbal war with Urban Meyer, and even Spurrier on one occasion?

The SEC has a rich history of coaching trash talk, but the tendency lately has been to turn the other cheek.

Take last year, when Spurrier was quoted as saying he was unhappy his game with Georgia was moved to later in the season because the Bulldogs usually had players suspended for the first two games. Georgia’s Mark Richt laughed off the shot, saying, “That sounds like Steve.”

It did sound like Spurrier, but in this day and age the fun and quotable coaches are becoming more and more rare. And Spurrier probably won’t be on the scene much longer.

But perhaps if Bielema and Franklin stick around the conference long enough, and enjoy a high level of  success, the bulletin board will fill up a bit more.

The New World

This marks the final year of the BCS era. So why would the SEC, having won seven BCS championships in a row, have led the fight for a four-team playoff?

Because there’s nothing to suggest the conference won’t dominate the coming format, and make even more money in the process. SEC teams went 6–3 in bowls last year, and since 1996 the conference has a .614 bowl winning percentage. The only bowl season it had a losing record was 2002.

Yes, there have been some duds for the conference. Those have usually involved games against upstarts from outside the five major conferences: Florida losing to Louisville last season, Alabama falling to Utah in January 2009.

But the SEC is not only unbeaten in the last seven BCS Championship Games (not counting LSU losing to Alabama in 2012), but the conference has won four out of the past five Capital One Bowls, nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls and three of the past four Outback Bowls. Those are the SEC’s top bowl tie-ins after the BCS. (SEC teams have lost three of the past four Sugar Bowls, but prior to that the league had won six of the previous seven.)

Given all that, the SEC is pretty confident it can still dominate the new system. That’s why it also pushed to de-emphasize conference affiliation when it comes to picking the BCS bowls that don’t involve the four-team playoff. Last year’s final BCS standings (prior to the bowls) had six SEC teams in the top 10.

So if that many teams potentially could have been in BCS bowls, but only two made it in the BCS last year, what reason did the SEC have to keep the old system? None, that’s why Mike Slive and company led the charge for change.

Third Time's A Charm?

Georgia is obviously hoping to get back to the SEC Championship Game, and will be favored by many to do so. But if the Bulldogs get there and lose again, they will have a strange distinction: The first team in major conference history to lose three straight championship games.

Alabama is the only other SEC team that has lost it twice in a row, 1993 and 1994. (The Crimson Tide also lost in 1996 and 2008.)

But Georgia is also seeking to become just the third SEC team to reach the championship three times in a row, and the first since Florida and Alabama met in the first three SEC championship games. (Florida made it five in a row, winning it from 1992-96.)

Coordinator Carousel


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Paul Petrino; New: Jim Chaney
Petrino is now the head coach at Idaho. Chaney previously served as the OC at Tennessee, with one year under Lane Kiffin and three under Derek Dooley.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Paul Haynes; New: Chris Ash
Haynes is now the head coach at Kent State, his alma mater. Ash spent the previous three seasons on Bret Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Scot Loeffler; New: Rhett Lashlee, Dameyune Craig
Loeffler, who was only at Auburn for one season, landed on his feet as the offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech. Lashlee was the offensive coordinator under Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State last season. Craig was the quarterbacks coach at Florida State. Malzahn will call the plays.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Brian VanGorder; New: Ellis Johnson, Charlie Harbison
VanGorder returned to the NFL as the linebackers coach with the Jets. Johnson was fired after one season as the head coach at Southern Miss. Harbison was the co-defensive coordinator at Clemson for the past four seasons.


Defensive Coordinator
Old: Dan Quinn; New: D.J. Durkin
Quinn is now the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Durkin previously was the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Florida.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Randy Sanders; New: Neal Brown
Sanders is now the running backs coach at Florida State. Brown, a Kentucky grad, had been the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech the past three seasons.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Rick Minter; New: D.J. Eliott
Minter, not retained by the new staff, is now the linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Eliott previously was the defensive ends coach at Florida State, where he worked for new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Greg Studrawa; New: Cam Cameron
Studrawa, the offensive coordinator at LSU the past two seasons, will remain on staff as the Tigers’ O-line coach. Cameron was the OC with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 through Week 14 of the 2012 season, when he was fired.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: David Yost; New: Josh Henson
Yost resigned under pressure in December after Missouri averaged 356.4 yards per game in 2012 — the lowest at the school since 2004. He was hired in January by Washington State as the inside receivers coach. Henson had been Missouri’s co-offensive line coach since 2009.

Mississippi State

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Geoff Collins, Chris Wilson; New: Geoff Collins
Wilson was stripped of his title as co-defensive coordinator and then left the school to take the a job as defensive line coach at Georgia. Collins had been the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

Ole Miss

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Dave Wommack, Wesley McGriff; New: Dave Wommack, Jason Jones
McGriff left after Signing Day and is now the secondary coach of the New Orleans Saints. Jones had been the cornerbacks coach at Oklahoma State for the past five seasons.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Jim Chaney; New: Mike Bajakian
Chaney was not retained by the new staff, but landed as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. Bajakian was previously the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati (2010-12) and Central Michigan (2007-09).

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Sal Sunseri; New: John Jancek
Sunseri is now the defensive ends coach at Florida State. Jancek was the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati from 2010–12. He previously served in the SEC from 2005-09, as a linebackers coach (’05-08) and a co-defensive coordinator (’09).

Texas A&M

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Kliff Kingsbury; New: Clarence McKinney, Jake Spavital
Kingsbury is now the head coach at Texas Tech. McKinney was the Aggies’ running backs coach last season. Spavital had been the quarterbacks coach at West Virginia the previous two seasons. He was a grad assistant at Houston in 2009 under Kevin Sumlin.


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

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<p> SEC Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-101-125

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

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

Athlon finishes its release of its college football rankings with a look at teams No. 101-125.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-4041-6061-80, and 81-100. 

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

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 101-125

101. Kent State
Kent State won a school-record 11 games, captured its first title of any kind (MAC East) since 1972 and spent three weeks in the BCS rankings. Expectations are high once again in 2013.

On offense, running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham must produce, especially since the Flashes will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. The offensive line, a major asset last season, must develop in a hurry. On defense, the line and secondary are deep and talent-laden. Defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is a force who changes game plans. Much will depend on finding linebackers. Special teams should be strong once again.

The schedule provides Kent State with little help. In non-league games, the Flashes travel to LSU and Penn State in back-to-back weeks. In the league, they play two of the top teams in the West (Northern Illinois and Ball State) and must travel to Ohio. Repeating as East champs will be difficult, but Kent State should reach bowl-eligibility for the second straight season. 

2013 Kent State Golden Flashes Team Preview

102. Western Michigan
For eight seasons, the Broncos produced exciting offense and tantalizing moments under Bill Cubit, but never quite put it all together. Alex Carder’s hand injury early last fall led to a 4–8 season, the worst of Cubit’s tenure.

P.J. Fleck has fewer years on earth than Cubit does as a coach. But he’s made a number of stops in a short time — coaching in the MAC, at the BCS level and in the NFL. The former All-MAC wideout at Northern Illinois is selling to his players that he’s been exactly where they are and where they want to be.

“We’ve got to prove to them why we should be trusted, why this scheme will work for us. It’s a two-way street,” Fleck says.

Trust is only part of the equation. Like with most of Cubit’s teams, there are a few big-time weapons on the roster. But depth and defense are in question.

2013 Western Michigan Broncos Team Preview

103. Buffalo
For the last 10 seasons, Buffalo rarely has had a lack of athletes on the field. The biggest problem for the Bulls has been putting it all together, and in 2012, that didn’t happen until late last season. After a 3–9 season in 2011 — including a win over East Division champion Ohio — the Bulls took a slight step forward in 2012, and Jeff Quinn was rewarded with a three-year contract extension. With a solid returning group and a year of experience, the Bulls could take a another step forward in the MAC East.

2013 Buffalo Bulls Team Preview

104. UNLV
Many eyebrows were raised when former UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood brought back Bobby Hauck for a fourth season following back-to-back-to-back two-win seasons that included home losses to FCS teams Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Hauck has tried to rebuild using mainly high school recruits and finally has some experience with 14 returning starters and solid depth on both sides of the ball. He likely needs to get to six wins and a bowl game to be invited back for another year.

The schedule, which features two well-positioned byes, is favorable for a momentum-building quick start with four of the first six games at home and another at rebuilding New Mexico.

2013 UNLV Rebels Team Preview

105. Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn set a high bar for Bryan Harsin, the former offensive coordinator at Boise State and Texas. They didn’t leave the roster barren, either. David Oku, J.D. McKissic, Ryan Carrethers, Qushaun Lee and Sterling Young are among the Sun Belt’s best at their positions.

A coaching transition is nothing new for the Red Wolves, who are on their fourth head coach in as many seasons, but they haven’t lined up without Ryan Aplin since the middle of the 2009 season. Finding an adequate replacement at quarterback is the key to their hopes of earning a third straight bowl bid and making a push for the Sun Belt title.

2013 Arkansas State Red Wolves Team Preview

106. Troy
Larry Blakeney has 169 career wins at Troy, more than the rest of the current Sun Belt coaches combined at their respective schools. But the last two seasons have been very un-Trojan-like, especially after Troy had won or shared the league title the previous five years. Troy surrendered 29 or more points nine times in 2012 and was last in the league in red zone defense, prompting a retooling of the defensive staff and scheme.

With Corey Robinson’s arm, the Trojans will be a threat on every offensive possession, but they won’t be in title contention unless the defense makes a quantum leap forward.

2013 Troy Trojans Team Preview

107. UAB
UAB will be better in Garrick McGee’s second season as the head coach. Will that show in the win-loss column? It should, even though the Blazers’ non-conference slate includes trips to SEC members LSU and Vanderbilt and in-state rival Troy during the first four weeks of the season. If the Blazers are healthy after that stretch, they could threaten to finish in the upper echelon of the revamped Conference USA. If not, then it could be another difficult season.  

2013 UAB Blazers Team Preview

108. Southern Miss
Not only does Todd Monken inherit a team that was winless in 2012, but he also faces an early season challenge with consecutive road games against Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. Expect Monken to quickly restore some credibility on offense, where the Golden Eagles managed only 19.7 points and 322.8 yards per game a year ago. And expect the return of David Duggan as defensive coordinator to address deficiencies there. The Eagles allowed a very un-Southern Miss-like 37.8 points and 426.5 yards per game in 2012.

2013 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Team Preview

109. Tulane
Curtis Johnson was 2–10 in his maiden season as a college head coach. It was a difficult year, even discounting the 10 losses, since the toughest thing he faced was the terrifying spinal cord injury suffered by senior safety Devon Walker. Johnson had to hold his team together while working through his own grief over Walker’s devastating injury.

Now Johnson prepares for his second season with a roster that should be improved. If Nick Montana or Devin Powell plays well at quarterback and Orleans Darkwa remains healthy, the Green Wave could double their win total from a year ago.

2013 Tulane Green Wave Team Preview

110. North Texas
The schedule sets up reasonably well. North Texas plays its season opener at home for the first time since 2001, as Idaho comes to Denton. And in their first year in Conference USA, the Mean Green will play three straight home games against Texas schools with late-season contests versus Rice, UTEP and UTSA.

“The first game being at home is a big deal,” Dan McCarney says. “Every offseason, we sell our program and all the excitement around it, and then the first thing we do is get on a plane to play somewhere else. But this year is our 100-year celebration. We have intrastate rivalries starting up. And the program is getting where we want it to be. There are good vibes in the air here.”

Regardless of the optimism, UNT remains a solid yet unspectacular team. The Mean Green went 4–8 last season and have shown moderate improvement under McCarney, and they seem to be on the same steady path in C-USA this season.

2013 North Texas Mean Green Team Preview

111. Central Michigan
In early November, it looked like Dan Enos might not see a fourth season as CMU’s coach. The Chippewas were 3–6, coming off of a home loss to rival Western Michigan, and appeared headed for their third losing season under Enos. Then, improbably, CMU won three straight and snuck into the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, where it upset Western Kentucky.

Suddenly Enos had a four-year contract extension. “It was a great thing for our program at the right time,” Enos says of the late-season run and bowl victory.

The vibe is now about taking the next step, rather than rebuilding. The schedule, though, isn’t kind. After a rare seven-home-game slate in 2012 (followed by an in-state bowl game), the Chippewas only have five home games this fall — with two of them coming against MAC West powers Northern Illinois and Toledo. A return to the postseason is unlikely. 

2013 Central Michigan Chippewas Team Preview

112. Miami (Ohio)
Significant strides have been lacking in Don Treadwell’s first two seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, and the climb is shaping up to be steep again in 2013, the 125th season of Miami football. After completing 12 consecutive winning campaigns, the RedHawks have finished below .500 in six of the last seven seasons. The non-conference schedule seems to be a little easier, with Kentucky and Illinois replacing Ohio State and Boise State.

Quarterback Austin Boucher proved his raw talent in 2010, but he’s going to have to quickly knock off the rust to get the most out of his one season at the helm. He might end up among the team’s rushing leaders again unless one (or more) of the top three returning ball-carriers shows dramatic improvement. The running game will be better, but not eye-popping.

Defensively, good health will go a long way toward overcoming inexperience issues.

2013 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Team Preview

113. Army 
There are a few new faces and several revamped job descriptions on the coaching staff. Still, the most anticipated change will be at quarterback. An occasional shotgun look will allow A.J. Schurr to utilize his strong arm and give opposing defenses something to think about beyond the option. The defense has nowhere to go but up, which it will do if enough of the young players who were forced into action in 2012 emerge as difference-makers in 2013. If they fail to do so, it will not matter how Schurr — or any other quarterback — performs.

2013 Army Black Knights Team Preview

114. Akron
The second year of the Terry Bowden Era likely will produce the program’s eighth consecutive losing record. Road games at Michigan and UCF can dim anyone’s lights, and the MAC crossover games are against Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ball State — which could be the best three teams in the West.

The offense was exciting last season in a move to the spread and likely will be a fun to watch again. Kyle Pohl must follow Dalton Williams’ example  — get the ball to his playmakers while limiting turnovers. Jawon Chisholm needs to approach (or surpass) the 1,000-yard mark, and it would be nice if one or two receivers separated themselves from the pack. The defense is generally undersized and may only be better if some of the returnees improve drastically or are pushed aside by newcomers.

2013 Akron Zips Team Preview

115. Texas State
Coming off a 6–6 campaign as an FBS independent in 2011, Texas State opened its second year under coach Dennis Franchione (in his second stint with the school) with an upset of Houston but finished 4–8 overall and 2–4 in conference play in the program’s only season as a WAC member. This season the Bobcats are on the move again as they join the Sun Belt.

This year’s schedule could be a challenge as Texas State will play five bowl teams, including road games against Texas Tech, New Orleans Bowl winner UL Lafayette and two-time Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. The Bobcats hope to build off last season when they had six losses to bowl-eligible teams.

Franchione is optimistic Texas State will have a breakout season after adding eight 3-star recruits (according to Rivals) and 11 junior college transfers. For the Bobcats to improve, they must answer questions at quarterback and running back and make big strides defensively.

2013 Texas State Bobcats Team Preview

116. FAU
Prior to replacing program patriarch Howard Schnellenberger, Carl Pelini served as the defensive coordinator for Nebraska. Still, he didn’t inherit anywhere near the same talent that he had in Lincoln, and the progress of the defense proved uneven in 2012. The offense was uneven, too, as Wright was limited in what he could do with Wilbert.

Now Pelini has a few more of his players, bringing in a recruiting class widely regarded as among the best in school history. FAU appears to be moving in the right general direction in some areas — its penalty yardage, for instance, was way down in Pelini’s first season. The out-of-conference schedule, while still including an opener at Miami, isn’t quite as brutal as in 2012, when the Owls faced Georgia and Alabama on the road in consecutive weeks.

Yet the move to Conference USA, a year ahead of schedule, could make the ride bumpy, as could the inexperience at quarterback.

2013 FAU Owls Team Preview

117. South Alabama
The USA program, which played its first game in 2009, is now eligible for the for the Sun Belt title and a bowl bid. But it will be difficult to compete for either, unless the newcomers are fast starters. A 2–11 record last season included five losses of 10 points or less, but Jones warns that USA must move beyond moral victories.

“If our players think those close losses are suddenly going to flip into wins the next year, they are sadly mistaken,” Joey Jones says. “We have Sun Belt experience now. We’ve been competitive, and that’s good. But now we need to win.”

USA has one win over a full-fledged FBS member in its two seasons of transition to the highest division, but it could be aided by turnover in Sun Belt membership. Texas State and Georgia State will be the newcomers, instantly promoting USA’s status in the league. Most teams making the FBS transition suffer during roster turnover. USA’s evolution will be determined by how much the junior college transfers contribute.

2013 South Alabama Jaguars Team Preview

118. FIU
Last season was a downer, with FIU falling well short of expectations. Still, the dismissal of the popular Mario Cristobal — who ended up at Alabama after a brief stop at Miami — was not well-received by many Panthers backers, who felt he’d done enough to elevate the program that he should have gotten another shot. Now Ron Turner, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year back in 2001, takes over during a transitional time, with the move from the Sun Belt to Conference USA, a low number of starters returning, and a rather small recruiting class.

The Panthers had better beat Bethune-Cookman early on, or else they could be 0–4 before the bye. Then it will be even harder to bring back the enthusiasm that was prevalent around this program only two years ago.

2013 FIU Golden Panthers Team Preview

119. Hawaii
Norm Chow’s first season as Hawaii’s head coach was a struggle, and the schedule only gets tougher for 2013. Chow  used the offseason to shake up his coaching staff on the offensive side with the addition of line coach Chris Naeole, coordinator Aaron Price and quarterbacks coach Jordan Wynn. It’s imperative that Hawaii shows significant improvement on offense after scoring 14 points or less in six of its 12 games last season. The Warriors must also start to win the turnover battle; they ranked 110th in the nation last year. 

The schedule won’t allow for Chow’s team to ease into the season. The first five games are against bowl teams. Hawaii will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the new MWC West division.

2013 Hawaii Warriors Team Preview

120. Eastern Michigan
After going 6–6 overall and 4–4 in the MAC in 2011, Eastern Michigan appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough last fall. Didn’t happen. The Eagles slumped to 2–10 in 2012 and won only one game in the league.

With some chemistry issues that hurt last year’s team apparently solved, there is plenty of desire to right the ship in 2013. Desire is one thing. Talent is another. There are some bright spots — the running game should be strong and the secondary has a chance to be solid — but there are too many hurdles for this team to climb. The Eagles will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the always tough MAC West.

2013 Eastern Michigan Eagles Team Preview

121. UTSA
Larry Coker, who won a national championship at Miami, needed only one season to work his magic at UTSA. On the heels of the program’s 4–6 inaugural campaign, the Roadrunners went 8–4 overall and 3–3 in the WAC to finish fourth in the league. All four of their losses were to teams that were bowl-eligible.

Coker now leads UTSA into the new-look Conference USA. The Roadrunners will not be a full FBS member and bowl eligible until 2014, but they are experienced (51 returning letterwinners) and have intriguing non-conference home games against Oklahoma State and Houston. The schedule will be challenging. After facing four non-FBS opponents last year, UTSA will play no lower-level schools and five teams that were bowl-eligible in 2012. The Roadrunners could surprise again, but the offense must continue to thrive and the defense must do a better job limiting big plays.

2013 UTSA Roadrunners Team Preview

122. New Mexico State
These Aggies should be improved in 2013, if for no other reason than they’ll have a more effective gameplan offensively. While there is talent on defense, a new scheme is in place on that side of the ball as well, and there could be growing pains. Doug Martin has brought in a breath of fresh air and a positive outlook since taking over in February.

After the implosion of the WAC, New Mexico State will play as an Independent in 2013 before moving to the Sun Belt (for its second stint in the league) in 2014. The schedule features four games against BCS conference opponents plus tough dates against San Diego State, UL Lafayette and Rice. It’s hard to find more than two wins for the Aggies. 

2013 New Mexico State Aggies Team Preview

123. Idaho
This is a true transition year for the Idaho program. It will play as an FBS Independent before moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The good news for Paul Petrino is that he’ll have a number of young players who’ll get experience and exposure to his system, which should help the Vandals when they make the move back to the conference they called home from 2001-04.

Without a conference championship to play for or an automatic bowl tie-in, Idaho must find motivation from within to make this season meaningful. The schedule features four games against teams from AQ conferences as well as three games against a trio of non-AQ schools (Northern Illinois, Fresno State and Arkansas State) that combined to win 31 games last season. The Vandals could struggle to win more than a game or two.

2013 Idaho Vandals Team Preview

124. UMass
This is UMass’ first season where it’s eligible to qualify for a bowl. But with Wisconsin, Kansas State and Vanderbilt on the non-conference schedule and the MAC coming off its best year ever, playing after November seems like an extreme long shot for the Minutemen.

2013 UMass Minutemen Team Preview

125. Georgia State
There is no question that coach Trent Miles faces an uphill climb in Year 1 with the move from FCS to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State struggled to compete in the CAA last season, finishing 1–7 and losing six of those games by at least 20 points.

But Miles is no stranger to rebuilds. Indiana State was the worst FCS program in the nation when he was hired in 2008, with a 1–32 record in the three seasons prior to his arrival. He struggled early, but went 19–14 (13–11 in the Missouri Valley) in his final three seasons. The guy clearly knows how to coach.

2013 Georgia State Panthers Team Preview

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<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 101-125</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 07:35
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2013-predictions
2013 ACC Predictions ACC Overall
Atlantic Division  
1. Clemson 8-0 12-1
2. Florida State 7-1 10-2
3. Maryland 4-4 7-5
4. NC State 3-5 7-5
5. Wake Forest 3-5 6-6
6. Syracuse 2-6 4-8
7. Boston College 1-7 4-8
Coastal Division    
1. Miami 6-2 9-4
2. Virginia Tech 5-3 8-4
3. Georgia Tech 5-3 8-4
4. North Carolina 5-3 8-4
5. Pittsburgh 3-5 6-6
6. Virginia 2-6 4-8
7. Duke 2-6 5-7
ACC Championship  
Clemson over Miami   

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prep for the 2013 season on Twitter @AthlonSports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2013 ACC Team Previews

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

ACC Notebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coordinator Carousel

Boston College

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

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


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


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

Florida State

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

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

Georgia Tech

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


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

NC State

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

Virginia Tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 81-100

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

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

2013 Rice Owls Team Preview

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

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

2013 Air Force Falcons Team Preview

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

2013 Connecticut Huskies Team Preview

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

2013 Boston College Eagles Team Preview

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

2013 Colorado Buffaloes Team Preview

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

2013 Illinois Fighting Illini Team Preview

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

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

2013 Bowling Green Falcons Team Preview

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

2013 Kansas Jayhawks Team Preview

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

2013 Ohio Bobcats Team Preview

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

2013 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Preview

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

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

2013 Houston Cougars Team Preview

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

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

2013 Wyoming Cowboys Team Preview

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

2013 SMU Mustangs Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Colorado State Rams Team Preview

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

2013 Memphis Tigers Team Preview

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

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

2013 Temple Owls Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 MTSU Blue Raiders Team Preview

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

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

2013 UTEP Miners Team Preview

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

2013 New Mexico Lobos Team Preview

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

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

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

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

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


So Bielema responded...

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


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

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

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

Just another day in college football's long offseason. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 61-80

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

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

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

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

2013 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

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

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

2013 Virginia Cavaliers Team Preview

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

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

2013 San Jose State Spartans Team Preview

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

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

2013 San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview

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

2013 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

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

2013 UL Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

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

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

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

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

2013 Washington State Cougars Team Preview

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

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

2013 Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

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

2013 Wake Forest Team Preview

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

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

2013 South Florida Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview

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

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

2013 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

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

2013 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

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

2013 Syracuse Orange Team Preview

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

2013 Nevada Wolf Pack Team Preview

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

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

2013 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview

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

2013 Purdue Boilermakers Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Toledo Rockets Team Preview

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

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

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

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

2013 ULM Warhawks Team Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 41-60

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

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

2013 Mississippi State Bulldogs Team Preview

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

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

2013 Auburn Tigers Team Preview

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

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

2013 BYU Cougars Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Northern Illinois Team Preview

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

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

2013 Texas Tech Red Raiders Team Preview

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

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

2013 Tennessee Volunteers Team Preview

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

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

2013 Rutgers Scarlet Knights Team Preview

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

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

2013 Missouri Tigers Team Preview

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

2013 Arkansas Razorbacks Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 UCF Knights Team Preview

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

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

2013 Pittsburgh Panthers Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

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

2013 NC State Wolfpack Team Preview

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

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

2013 California Golden Bears Team Preview

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

2013 West Virginia Mountaineers Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Iowa State Cyclones Team Preview

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

2013 Utah Utes Team Preview

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

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

2013 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

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

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

2013 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

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

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

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

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

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

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

College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 26-40

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

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

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

2013 USC Trojans Team Preview

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

2013 UCLA Bruins Team Preview

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

2013 Vanderbilt Commodores Team Preview

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

2013 Miami Hurricanes Team Preview

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

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

2013 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Kansas State Wildcats Team Preview

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

2013 Michigan State Spartans Team Preview

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

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

2013 Ole Miss Rebels Team Preview

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

2013 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 Cincinnati Bearcats Team Preview

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

2013 Baylor Bears Team Preview

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

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

2013 Washington Huskies Team Preview

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

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

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

2013 North Carolina Tar Heels Team Preview

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

2013 Penn State Nittany Lions Team Preview

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

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

2013 Arizona Wildcats Team Preview

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

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

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

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

Everett Golson's 2013 Statistics

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

Where Does Notre Dame Go From Here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Games Will Notre Dame Win in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Does Braxton Miller Rank Among the Best Quarterbacks Nationally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will the Louisville Cardinals Go Undefeated in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will LSU's SEC Record Be in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Michigan Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?

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

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

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

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

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

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<p> How Many Games Will Florida State Win in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 06:40