Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

First-Team Offense

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

RB Lyle McCombs, Connecticut 

WR Sterling Griffin, South Florida

WR Alec Lemon, Syracuse

TE Ryan Griffin, Connecticut

C Mario Benavides, Louisville

OL Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers

OL Adam Masters, Connecticut

OL Mark Popek, South Florida

OL Justin Pugh, Syracuse


First-Team Defense

DL Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

DL Ryne Giddins, South Florida

DL Scott Vallone, Rutgers

DL Trevardo Williams, Connecticut

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB DeDe Lattimore, South Florida

LB Sio Moore, Connecticut

CB Adrian Bushell, Louisville

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers

S Jarred Holley, Pittsburgh

S Hakeem Smith, Louisville


First-Team Specialists

K Maikon Bonani, South Florida

P Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati

KR Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati

PR Nick Williams, Connecticut


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
 

  First Second Third Overall
Cincinnati 2 4 2 8
Connecticut 6 2 4 12
Louisville 4 4 2 10
Pittsburgh 3 3 4 10
Rutgers 4 5 1 10
South Florida 5 2 7 14
Syracuse 2 3 4 9
Temple 0 3 2 5


Second-Team Offense

QB B.J. Daniels, South Florida

RB Matt Brown, Temple

RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

TE Hubie Graham, Pittsburgh

C Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh

OL Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

OL Zack Chibane, Syracuse

OL Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh

OL John Miller, Louisville


Second-Team Defense

DL Dan Giordano, Cincinnati

DL Jesse Joseph, Connecticut

DL Marcus Smith, Louisville

DL Walter Stewart, Cincinnati

LB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers

LB Preston Brown, Louisville

LB Marquis Spruill, Syracuse

CB Kayvon Webster, South Florida

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

S Drew Frey, Cincinnati

S Duron Harmon, Rutgers


Second-Team Specialists

K Ross Krautman, Syracuse

P Brandon McManus, Temple

KR Jeremy Deering, Rutgers

PR Matt Brown, Temple


Third-Team Offense

QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

RB Dominique Brown, Louisville

RB Demetris Murray, South Florida

WR Anthony McClung, Cincinnati

WR Devin Street, Pittsburgh

TE Evan Landi, South Florida

C Macky MacPherson, Syracuse

OL Danous Estenor, South Florida

OL R.J. Dill, Rutgers

OL Quinterrius Eatmon, South Florida

OL Martin Wallace, Temple


Third-Team Defense

DL Levi Brown, Temple

DL Deon Goggins, Syracuse

DL Roy Philon, Louisville

DL Elkino Watson, South Florida

LB Sam Barrington, South Florida

LB Maalik Bomar, Cincinnati

LB Jory Johnson, Connecticut

CB Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut

CB K'Waun Williams, Pittsburgh

S Jon Lejiste, South Florida

S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse


Third-Team Specialists

K Kevin Harper, Pittsburgh

P Cole Wagner, Connecticut

KR Nick Williams, Connecticut

PR Ronald Jones, Pittsburgh
 

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcu-football-horned-frogs-come-home-big-12
Body:

It really wasn’t that long ago when TCU football was barely a topic of discussion around Fort Worth.

For 38 years — from 1960 to 1997 — the Horned Frogs had seven winning seasons and three bowl appearances. Oh, sure, there were a few moments of glory. The ’65 team went 6–5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth. The ’67 team won at Texas. In 1984, after 12 consecutive losing seasons, TCU finished 8–4 and earned a trip to the Bluebonnet Bowl under coach Jim Wacker. But for every high point, there were 20 lows. For a 10-year stretch — from 1974 to 1983 — a third of the Frogs’ wins (five of 15) came against Rice, the Southwest Conference doormat. Otherwise, TCU was the doormat. The Frogs went 1–20–3 in road games from 1979 to 1983.

When Dennis Franchione left New Mexico to take over TCU in 1998, he inherited a 1–10 team. The lone win was Pat Sullivan’s last at TCU, a regular-season finale against SMU in front of 19,000 indifferent fans in a “rivalry” game.

From Albuquerque, Franchione brought with him a little-known defensive coordinator. Three years later, when Franchione bolted for the job at Alabama in December 2000, that coordinator, Gary Patterson, was named TCU’s coach before the Frogs played Southern Miss in the Mobile Alabama Bowl.

Patterson wasn’t a unanimous choice, either. Although his defense led the nation in 2000, he was unpolished, and some at TCU weren’t sure if he was ready for a head coaching job after a less-than-stellar interview. Finally, one major donor spoke up and declared that TCU didn’t need somebody who interviewed well, but someone who knew how to coach. Patterson, then a 40-year-old who had coached at 10 other places before arriving at TCU, was their man.

Now, with 109 wins and 10 bowl appearances since he was hired on a full-time basis, Patterson has become something of a mythical figure in the eyes of Frog fans, who have watched their team go from upstart, to conference juggernaut, to legitimate BCS contender in 12 years. Young fans weren’t even alive when TCU was left for dead when the Southwest Conference broke up in 1995 to form the Big 12.

“The omission, sort of being left out of the club, was a kick in the pants,” says former player and longtime TCU radio analyst John Denton. “It got people’s attention. The alums and the school realized we weren’t as well positioned, nor did we know what was going on. Our reputation and how people looked at us from the outside in was poor, and it wasn’t just football. The entire program needed to be looked at.”

So the school set out on a 12-year conference affiliation odyssey, beginning with the Western Athletic Conference in 1996. TCU joined Conference USA in 2001 and then the Mountain West in 2005. After undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010, TCU accepted an invitation to the Big East, an awkward geographic fit, but no more so than trips to San Diego State and UNLV in the MWC.

When conference realignment started up again in the summer of 2011, an invitation to the Big 12 came to fruition and TCU, finally, was asked back into the club with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

“I’d like to welcome you home,” Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told a packed ballroom full of TCU administrators, donors and alumni on Oct. 10.

The return “home” wasn’t just a result of winning, although that undoubtedly had a positive effect. It was also a culmination of a rededication to the football program, including facilities and coaching salaries, that began with the hiring of Franchione.  

Until then, TCU football was given little consideration.

“The entire athletic department was a backburner operation,” Denton says of the ’70s and ’80s. “It was part of the university, but it wasn’t invested in.”

About the time Texas’ Darrell Royal and Arkansas’ Frank Broyles began to ratchet up the importance of their programs in the early 1960s, TCU began to slowly fade to the background, only occasionally fielding a competitive team. In one brutal stretch from 1974-76, the Frogs won two games.

“The leaders of the university just decided they weren’t going to get caught up in the arms race,” Denton says. “Texas and Arkansas kind of took the Southwest Conference to a new level and kind of left TCU, SMU and Baylor behind. They ruled the roost for the better part of 20-25 years starting in the early ’60s.”

A turning point came in Franchione’s first year in 1998. After a 1–10 season the year before, TCU won its last two regular-season games, both on the road, to earn a trip to the Sun Bowl against USC. The Frogs upset the Trojans 28–19 for their first bowl win since the 1957 Cotton Bowl.

In the next two years, TCU continued to improve, winning a share of the WAC title and earning a bowl bid each season. Since taking over, Patterson has led his team to a bowl in 10 of 11 seasons, including two BCS bowls — the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season, and the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season. TCU defeated Wisconsin in the Rose to cap a 13–0 season, its first undefeated campaign since 1938.

People are talking TCU football now. The school will unveil its $164 million renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium during the season opener Sept. 8 against Grambling State. A brand new locker room, training room, and equipment room are set to open in July. A state of the art weight room opened last fall.

The Frogs are the talk of the town again. They sold a record 22,000 season tickets in 2011 and hope to reach 30,000 in 2012. Pretty impressive for a school with an enrollment of about 9,500.

Only two programs — Alabama and Oregon — rank ahead of TCU in average final Associated Press ranking since 2008. Patterson’s next win will make him the all-time leader in TCU history, surpassing Frog legend Dutch Meyer, who went 109–79–13 from 1934-52. Patterson has lost only 30 times and has shepherded a defense that has led the nation five times since 2000.

The move from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test TCU’s depth and athletic ability at nearly every position. But compared to the travels the team has been on since 1995, the move back “home” feels right.

Patterson often spoke during spring practice of the challenge the Big 12 would pose for his team. After the team’s last practice in April, his encapsulation of his team’s progress stood also as a metaphor for his program.

“We grew the team up,” Patterson said. “We still have a long way to go to be what we want to be, but we’re not where we were.”

Related Big 12 Content

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

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 101-124

Teaser:
<p> TCU football has made quite a climb in recent years.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:26
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The Mountain West will have yet another new look in 2012. The ever-changing conference lost TCU — which went 48–7 during its seven-year stay — to the Big 12 and added Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii from the WAC. Next year, it will be time for another makeover when Boise State and San Diego State make their move to the Big East.

For now, the MW is a 10-team league that features one top-25 team (Boise State), a solid second tier (Nevada and Fresno State), and four other teams (Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and San Diego State) that are good enough to play in a bowl game.

Boise State is in rebuilding mode after losing seven first-team All-Mountain West picks, most notably record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore and first-round NFL draft pick tailback Doug Martin. Still, the Broncos remain the team to beat. Junior Joe Southwick is next in line at quarterback, and he will spread the ball around to a talented group of skill players led by tailback D.J. Harper and wide receivers Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs. The defense, which returns only one starter, is the biggest concern for coach Chris Petersen’s club.

Nevada, which went 19–4 in its final three seasons in the WAC, will lean on sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo, who earned 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year honors after throwing for 1,707 yards and running for 694 out of Chris Ault’s Pistol attack. The Wolf Pack have a favorable league schedule, with both Fresno State and Boise State visiting Reno in November.

For the first time since 1996, Pat Hill will not be roaming the sidelines at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are now under the control of Tim DeRuyter, who spent three years (2007-09) in the MWC as the defensive coordinator at Air Force before taking over the same position at Texas A&M in ’10. Fresno State will feature two of the league’s top offensive players — quarterback Derek Carr (26 TDs in 2011) and tailback Robbie Rouse (1,549 yards).

Wyoming was the biggest surprise in the MWC in 2011. Led by true freshman quarterback Brett Smith (2,622 yards passing, 710 rushing), the Cowboys went 5–2 in the league, with the only losses to TCU and Boise State.  After struggling through its third straight 3–9 season, Colorado State fired Steve Fairchild (a former CSU quarterback) and hired Jim McElwain, who picked up two national title rings as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. The Rams’ offense will feature tailback Chris Nwoke, a second-team All-MWC pick last year after rushing for 1,130 yards.

Air Force, as usual, has major holes to fill. The Falcons must replace quarterback Tim Jefferson (a four-year starter) and halfback Asher Clark, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. A big key for Air Force will be on defense, where it ranked 109th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011. San Diego State is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time as a Division I program. To make it three straight, the Aztecs will need a productive season from quarterback Ryan Katz, a post-graduate transfer from Oregon State who will step in for Ryan Lindley.

Hawaii is now under the leadership of Norm Chow, a longtime offensive coordinator who is getting his first opportunity to run his own program. The Warriors figure to struggle due in large part to the loss of eight players who received either first- or second-team All-WAC honors in 2011. With a 4–21 record in two seasons, Bobby Hauck will need to show some significant improvement at UNLV this fall. The Rebels’ 10 losses in 2011 came by an average of 30.1 points. Not good.

The train wreck known as the Mike Locksley era at New Mexico mercifully ended late last September. It’s up to former Notre Dame boss Bob Davie to pick up the pieces. Davie, who went 35–25 in five seasons with the Fighting Irish, has been out of coaching since 2001.

Athlon's 2012 Mountain West Team Previews

Air Force Nevada
Boise State New Mexico
Colorado State San Diego State
Fresno State UNLV
Hawaii Wyoming

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 101-124

Teaser:
<p> Mountain West 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:20
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Pac-12 teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB Matt Barkley, USC

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

RB John White, Utah

WR Keenan Allen, California

WR Robert Woods, USC

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

C Khaled Holmes, USC

OL David Bakhtiari, Colorado

OL John Fullington, Washington State

OL Kevin Graf, USC

OL David Yankey, Stanford


First-Team Defense

DL Wes Horton, USC

DL Dion Jordan, Oregon

DL Travis Long, Washington State

DL Star Lotulelei, Utah

LB Dion Bailey, USC

LB Michael Clay, Oregon

LB Chase Thomas, Stanford

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

CB Nickell Robey, USC

S John Boyett, Oregon

S T.J. McDonald, USC


First-Team Specialists

K Andre Heidari, USC

P Jeff Locke, UCLA

KR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

PR Jamal Miles, Arizona State

AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

  First Second Third Overall
Arizona 0 0 2 2
Arizona State 1 2 3 6
California 1 2 2 5
Colorado 1 1 1 3
Oregon 6 3 3 12
Oregon State 1 1 3 5
Stanford 2 6 1 9
UCLA 1 1 3 5
USC 9 2 2 13
Utah 2 1 1 4
Washington 1 5 3 9
Washington State 2 2 2 6

 

Second-Team Offense

QB Keith Price, Washington

RB Isi Sofele, California

RB Stepfan Taylor, Stanford

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA

C Drew Schaefer, Washington

OL Nick Cody, Oregon 

OL Evan Finkenberg, Arizona State

OL Cameron Fleming, Stanford

OL Matt Summers-Gavin, California


Second-Team Defense

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State

DL Ben Gardner, Stanford

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon

DL Hau'oli Jamora, Washington

LB Jon Major, Colorado

LB Hayes Pullard, USC

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford

CB Damante Horton, Washington State

CB Desmond Trufant, Washington

S Brian Blechen, Utah

S Sean Parker, Washington


Second-Team Specialists

K Jordan Williamson, Stanford

P Jackson Rice, Oregon

KR Jamal Miles, Arizona State

PR Drew Terrell, Stanford


Third-Team Offense

QB Jeff Tuel, Washington State

RB Johnathan Franklin, UCLA

RB Cameron Marshall, Arizona State

WR Markus Wheaton, Oregon State

WR Kasen Williams, Washington

TE Levine Toilolo, Stanford

C Kyle Quinn, Arizona

OL Josh Andrews, Oregon State

OL Marcus Martin, USC

OL Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA

OL Carson York, Oregon


Third-Team Defense

DL Deandre Coleman, California

DL Devon Kennard, USC

DL Will Pericak, Colorado

DL Josh Shirley, Washington

LB Kiko Alonso, Oregon

LB Eric Kendricks, UCLA

LB Chris McCain, California

CB Osahon Irabor, Arizona State

CB Terrance Mitchell, Oregon

S Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Arizona

S Deone Bucannon, Washington State


Third-Team Specialists

K Coleman Petersen, Utah

P Josh Hubner, Arizona State

KR Kevin Smith, Washington

PR Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
 

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2012 All-Conference Team.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/wac-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

First-Team Offense

QB Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech

RB Hunter Lee, Louisiana Tech

RB Kerwynn Williams, Utah State

WR Noel Grigsby, San Jose State

WR Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

TE Ryan Otten, San Jose State

C Tyler Larsen, Utah State

OL David Quessenberry, San Jose State

OL Kevin Saia, Louisiana Tech

OL Eric Schultz, Utah State

OL Davonte Wallace, New Mexico State


First-Team Defense

DL Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech

DL IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech

DL Travis Johnson, San Jose State

DL Donte Savage, New Mexico State

LB Bojay Filimoeatu, Utah State

LB Robert Siavii, Idaho

LB Keith Smith, San Jose State

CB Aaron Grymes, Idaho

CB Jumanne Robertson, Utah State

S Chad Boyd, Louisiana Tech

S McKade Brady, Utah State
 

First-Team Specialists

K Matt Nelson, Louisiana Tech

P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

KR Lyle Fitte, Louisiana Tech

PR Justin Veltung, Idaho
 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-WAC Team

  First Second Total
Idaho 3 5 8
Louisiana Tech 10 2 12
New Mexico State 2 1 3
San Jose State 5 5 10
Texas State 0 5 5
UTSA 0 2 2
Utah State 6 6 12

 

Second-Team Offense

QB Chuckie Keeton, Utah State

RB De'Leon Eskridge, San Jose State

RB Terrence Franks, Texas State

WR Matt Austin, Utah State

WR Kam Jones, UTSA

TE Chase Harper, Texas State

C Stephen Warner, Louisiana Tech

OL Nicholas Kaspar, San Jose State

OL Jordan Mills, Louisiana Tech

OL Oscar Molina-Sanchez, Utah State

OL Thaddeus Watkins, Texas State


Second-Team Defense

DL Al Lapuaho, Utah State

DL Anthony Larceval, San Jose State

DL Benson Mayowa, Idaho

DL Travis Raciti, San Jose State

LB Joplo Bartu, Texas State

LB Alexander LaVoy, New Mexico State

LB Conrad Scheidt, Idaho

CB Nevin Lawson, Utah State

CB Darryl Morris, Texas State

S James Orth, San Jose State

S Gary Walker, Idaho


Second-Team Specialists

K Trey Farquhar, Idaho

P Bobby Cowan, Idaho

KR Kenny Harrison, UTSA

PR Kerwynn Williams, Utah State
 

Athlon's 2012 WAC Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 WAC Predictions

Idaho Texas State
Louisiana Tech UTSA
New Mexico State Utah State
San Jose State  

Teaser:
<p> WAC Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Friday, June 22, 2012 - 03:25
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack, News
Path: /college-football/nc-state-football-can-wolfpack-win-acc-2012
Body:

NC State finished 2011 by winning four out of their final five games. The Wolfpack return quarterback Mike Glennon, and a secondary that could be one of the best in the ACC. 

Is NC State an ACC Title Contender in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
As strange as it may seem, we may figure out how seriously to take NC State after the first two weeks of the season when the Wolfpack face Tennessee and Connecticut both away from Raleigh. Granted, these two teams each finished 5-7. If the Wolfpack is going to contend for the ACC, it should handle the rebuilding Volunteers. The Vols’ biggest strength on offense -- Tyler Bray and his receivers -- faces NC State’s greatest strength with David Amerson leading four returning starters. Connecticut should be easy work, but that’s a road game. Like Tennessee, Connecticut has some key players returning from injury, but Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon should feast against that secondary. If NC State wins both games comfortably, watch out.

We’re going to hear a ton about Amerson’s 13 interceptions for good reason, but turnover margin is fluky. NC State ranked sixth nationally in that category at plus-14. As much as Tom O’Brien would love for his veteran secondary to repeat its 27 interceptions, he can’t depend on it. That means every other position group is going to need to step up, starting with the run game (11th in the ACC) and offensive line (10th in the ACC in sacks allowed). And of course, there’s Glennon, whose name is unfairly linked to Russell Wilson. He’s one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks and finished last season on a tear with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions in the last three games against Clemson, Maryland and Louisville. He’ll be the key. Florida State and Clemson have proven they’re not immune to letting good things slip away. NC State could be a team ready to pounce.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I am very high on NC State and think they can absolutely compete for an ACC crown in 2012. This is due entirely to how it is constructed. An excellent offensive line, a tremendously talented veteran quarterback, a solid defense and hard-nosed head coach. These are the most important aspects to any football team when trying to pinpoint sleepers in any league. The Wolfpack has tremendous leadership with Mike Glennon under center in his second full season as the starter and steely-eyed ACC stalwart Tom O'Brien steering the entire ship. And Wolfie will be stout up front at the point of attack – both offensively and defensively - as Athlon has ranked the O-line No. 2 in the league and the D-line No. 3 in the ACC.

Clemson and Florida State are the top picks in the Atlantic Divison, but NC State gets a few scheduling breaks in 2012. First, the Seminoles must visit Raleigh in what could be a decisive ACC bout. Second, there is no Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech on the schedule at all. And with the recent domination of instate rival North Carolina - O'Brien hasn't lost to the Tar Heels as the Wolfpack headman – NC State should feel optimistic about its ACC crossover play. It also finishes with three of the final four conference games at home.

Yes, the one road game in Novmeber is a trip down to Death Valley on November 17, but if that game turns into an Atlantic Division title game, well, just ask Tigers fans what happened when these two met last year. NC State 37, Clemson 13.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State are the best teams in the ACC, but NC State isn’t too far behind. The Wolfpack got off to a 2-3 start last season, but rallied to win four out of their final five games. However, while NC State had an impressive finish, it also lost to Boston College and needed a furious second-half rally to beat Maryland.

There are a lot of positives for this team going into 2012, especially with Mike Glennon returning under center. The Wolfpack has one of the conference’s best offensive lines, but playmakers need to be found in the receiving corps. Running back James Washington was steady last season, and has plenty of help on the ground from sophomore Anthony Creecy and Mustafa Greene.

The defense allowed 24.7 points a game last season, but forced 39 turnovers and ranked eighth nationally with 3.1 sacks a game. With seven starters returning, this unit should be solid once again. Cornerback David Amerson is among the best in college football at his position, while solid depth has been established on the defensive line. Although the Wolfpack may give up some yards, if they can continue to force turnovers and sacks, they should keep this team in the hunt for the ACC title.

Will NC State win the ACC in 2012? I’d be surprised if it did. However, I could see this team finishing with nine wins and pulling off an upset against Florida State in Raleigh on Oct. 6. The Wolfpack catch a break in the crossover opponents, as they miss Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Considering NC State was 5-5 heading into the final three games of last year, it’s a testament to how much this team improved in the last half of 2011 and should better in 2012.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
I believe NC State will be among the top three or four teams in the league, but I don’t know if I’d call the Pack a true ACC contender because they play in the more difficult Atlantic Division, home to both Florida State and Clemson.

There is, however, a ton of positive momentum in Raleigh after State won four of its last five games in 2011, highlighted by the dominating 37–13 victory over Clemson. Mike Glennon is poised to have a big senior season after throwing 31 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions. The defense, solid last year, should be strong once again. There are some concerns at linebacker, but the secondary, led by David Amerson, should be among the best in the league.

Barring a surprising rash of injuries — which has happened to this team in the past — Tom O’Brien’s club figures to win eight or nine games overall and finish over .500 in the ACC. 

Mark Ross
No. Don't get me wrong, I expect NC State to win about eight games once again this and go to its third straight bowl game under head coach Tom O'Brien. But as far as the ACC race goes, I see the Wolfpack finishing third, possibly second, in the Atlantic division.

This is a well-balanced football team with an offense led by quarterback Mike Glennon and a defense led by All-American cornerback David Amerson and the rest of the secondary, but the sum of these parts doesn't beat the strengths of the top two teams in the Atlantic - Clemson and Florida State. Clemson has the best offense in the ACC while Florida State has the best defense, and each of these units rank up there when it comes to the best in the nation.

To be an ACC title contender, NC State will have to go through both Clemson and Florida State. The last time the Wolfpack beat the Tigers and Seminoles in the same season was 2002, and I don't see that changing in 2012. This year's NC State team is a good team, but not an ACC title contender.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
Tom O’Brien’s club has a great shot at eight or nine overall wins, but I do not see the Wolfpack as a major contender for the league title. Clemson and Florida State project as the top two teams in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, and NC State looks like a clear third. To be better than that, the Wolfpack will need to be more consistent across the board. The Mike Glennon-led offense was awesome in the last three games (37, 56 and 31 points) of last season, but scored only 10, 13, and 0 in the three prior contests. The defense was great against Clemson, North Carolina and Virginia but faltered badly versus Wake Forest, Cincinnati and Florida State.

Glennon and a veteran offensive line will give the NC State attack a chance to put up big numbers, especially if Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood can become big-time targets at the receiver position. The defense, a group that produced 39 takeaways in 2011, may be the key to contending in the ACC. The secondary is excellent and brings back all four starters who helped lead the nation with 27 interceptions last year. The line should be solid, but there are some holes to fill with the linebacker unit.

The Wolfpack will need to at least split with tough division foes FSU and Clemson to contend in the conference. They avoid Virginia Tech in the Coastal, but road games at Miami and North Carolina as well as hosting a scrappy UVA bunch will not be easy. If NC State gets production from its front seven on defense and develops some outside threats on offense, then O’Brien’s club will be a tough out in ACC play.

Related ACC Content

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions
2012 NC State Team Preview

College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 28 NC State

ACC Expansion: No Buyer's Remorse

Teaser:
<p> Can NC State contend for the ACC title?</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 05:49
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-predictions
Body:

Editor's Note: Athlon's 2012 predictions were completed before UCF's postseason ban was announced.

After eight seasons of stability, Conference USA will be ripped apart in 2013 when Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU bolt for the Big East. There will still be some solid programs in the league — Southern Miss, Tulsa and East Carolina stand out — but the conference will never be the same.

So who takes the title in the final season of the current 12-team, two-division format? UCF and East Carolina are the teams to beat in the East Division, while Houston and Tulsa appear to be the class of the West.

UCF slumped to 3–5 in the league last season after winning the East with a 7–1 mark in 2010. The ’11 record, however, was a bit deceiving; the Knights lost four league games by seven points or less and actually outgained C-USA foes by an average of 39.7 yards per game. UCF boasts a solid quarterback in sophomore Blake Bortles, but George O’Leary’s team will lean on the running game with a deep corps of tailbacks (Latavius Murray, Storm Johnson and Brynn Harvey) and a veteran offensive line. Although the Knights should be improved in 2012, the NCAA has placed a one-year postseason ban on the program.

East Carolina made a dramatic improvement on defense last season, jumping 64 spots in the national rankings from 120th in 2010 to 56th in ’11. The Pirates will have to be solid on D once again, because they must replace standout quarterback Dominique Davis, who threw for over 7,000 yards in two seasons at ECU.

Defending C-USA champ Southern Miss is under new leadership, as former South Carolina assistant Ellis Johnson steps in for Larry Fedora, now the head coach at North Carolina. Johnson inherits a team that is losing a three-year starter at quarterback (Austin Davis) and several key pieces on defense.

Marshall continues to take small steps forward under third-year coach Doc Holliday. The Thundering Herd have the personnel to finish in the top half of the East, but a tough schedule — they play both Houston and Tulsa from the West — will be difficult to overcome. UAB and Memphis both made coaching moves. Garrick McGee, the former offensive coordinator at Arkansas, is the new boss in Birmingham, while Justin Fuente, the co-offensive coordinator at TCU the past three seasons, takes over at Memphis.

Houston will attempt to defend its C-USA West crown with a new quarterback (David Piland takes over for Case Keenum) and a new coach (Tony Levine replaces his former boss, Kevin Sumlin). The Cougars, who were 12–0 in 2011 before a loss to Southern Miss in the C-USA title game, still have a ton of talent at the skill positions and will be tough to beat.

Bill Blakenship guided Tulsa to an impressive 7–1 record in the league in his first season as a collegiate head coach. Quarterback G.J. Kinne is no longer around, but the Golden Hurricane have a quality replacement, former Nebraska Cornhusker Cody Green.

SMU went 5–3 last year, but the Mustangs lost three league games by at least 24 points and didn’t beat a C-USA team that had a winning conference record. With major concerns on both the offensive and defensive line, it might be tough for June Jones’ club to contend in 2012.

UTEP, Rice and Tulane will battle for the final three spots in the West. The Miners welcome back quarterback Nick Lamaison and four starters on the offensive line, but they have a very tough C-USA slate (at ECU, at Southern Miss, vs. UCF). Rice has struggled on the offensive end since its breakthrough 2008 season that ended with a win in the Texas Bowl. David Bailiff is under to pressure to win. Tulane is under new leadership, with former Saints assistant coach Curtis Johnson taking over for Bob Toledo. Johnson will lean on senior quarterback Ryan Griffin and junior tailback Orleans Darkwa.

Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

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

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Conference USA Football predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 21, 2012 - 05:47
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Related: Athlon Sports All-SEC Team As Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

First-Team Offense

QB Aaron Murray, Georgia

RB Knile Davis, Arkansas

RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

WR Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas

WR Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee

TE Chris Gragg, Arkansas

C Barrett Jones, Alabama

OL Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

OL Alex Hurst, LSU

OL Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

OL Larry Warford, Kentucky


First-Team Defense

DL Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DL Corey Lemonier, Auburn

DL Sam Montgomery, LSU

DL Barkevious Mingo, LSU

LB Jon Bostic, Florida

LB Nico Johnson, Alabama

LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia

CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

CB Tharold Simon, LSU

S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia

S Eric Reid, LSU
 

First-Team Specialists

K Caleb Sturgis, Florida

P Brad Wing, LSU

KR Andre Debose, Florida

PR Dustin Harris, Texas A&M

 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

  First Second Third Overall
Alabama 2 4 3 9
Arkansas 4 2 3 9
Auburn 1 3 1 5
Florida 3 3 2 8
Georgia 3 0 5 8
Kentucky 1 0 0 1
LSU 6 3 1 10
Mississippi State 1 3 1 5
Missouri 0 1 0 1
Ole Miss 0 0 2 2
South Carolina 2 2 1 5
Tennessee 1 1 2 4
Texas A&M 2 3 2 7
Vanderbilt 0 1 3 4

 

Second-Team Offense

QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas

RB Eddie Lacy, Alabama

RB Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt

WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee

WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M

TE Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn

C T.J. Johnson, South Carolina

OL Chris Faulk, LSU

OL Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

OL Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

OL Chance Warmack, Alabama


Second-Team Defense

DL Josh Boyd, Mississippi State

DL Shariff Floyd, Florida

DL Bennie Logan, LSU

DL Devin Taylor, South Carolina

LB Alonzo Highsmith, Arkansas

LB Jelani Jenkins, Florida

LB Sean Porter, Texas A&M

CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

CB Dee Milliner, Alabama

S Matt Elam, Florida

S Robert Lester, Alabama


Second-Team Specialists 

K Drew Alleman, LSU

P Steven Clark, Auburn

KR Tre Mason, Auburn

PR Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State


Third-Team Offense

QB Tyler Bray, Tennessee

RB Onterio McCalebb, Auburn

RB Christine Michael, Texas A&M

WR Odell Beckham, LSU

WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

TE Jordan Reed, Florida

C Travis Swanson, Arkansas

OL Chris Burnette, Georgia

OL D.J. Fluker, Alabama

OL Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt

OL Xavier Nixon, Florida


Third-Team Defense

DL Abry Jones, Georgia

DL Rob Lohr, Vanderbilt

DL Damontre Moore, Texas A&M

DL Jesse Williams, Alabama

LB Cameron Lawrence, Mississippi State

LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama

LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia

CB Prentiss Waggner, Tennessee

CB Trey Wilson, Vanderbilt

S Charles Sawyer, Ole Miss

S Shawn Williams, Georgia


Third-Team Specialists

KR Zach Hocker, Arkansas

P Tyler Campbell, Ole Miss

KR Dennis Johnson, Arkansas

PR Ace Sanders, South Carolina
 

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 SEC Predictions

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

Teaser:
<p> 2012 SEC All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 06:23
Path: /college-football/mac-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

First-Team Offense

QB Tyler Tettleton, Ohio

RB Branden Oliver, Buffalo

RB Anthon Samuel, Bowling Green

WR Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)

WR Bernard Reedy, Toledo

TE Garrett Hoskins, Eastern Michigan

C Zac Kerin, Toledo

OL Eric Fisher, Central Michigan

OL Eric Herman, Ohio

OL Dann O'Neill, Western Michigan

OL Brian Winters, Kent State


First-Team Defense

DL Austin Brown, Miami (Ohio)

DL Chris Jones, Bowling Green

DL Roosevelt Nix, Kent State

DL Sean Progar, Northern Illinois

LB Khalil Mack, Buffalo

LB Dan Molls, Toledo

LB Dwayne Woods, Bowling Green

CB Travis Carrie, Ohio

CB Dayonne Nunley, Miami (Ohio)

S Jahleel Addae, Central Michigan

S BooBoo Gates, Bowling Green


First-Team Specialists

K Matthew Sims, Northern Illinois

P Brian Schmiedebusch, Bowling Green

KR BooBoo Gates, Bowling Green

PR Demarius Reed, Eastern Michigan
 

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

  First Second Total
Akron 0 1 1
Ball State 0 4 4
Bowling Green 6 1 7
Buffalo 2 2 4
Central Michigan 2 1 3
Eastern Michigan 2 2 4
Kent State 2 1 3
Miami 3 0 3
Northern Illinois 2 4 6
Ohio 3 3 6
Toledo 3 3 6
UMass 0 0 0
Western Michigan 1 4 5


Second-Team Offense

QB Alex Carder, Western Michigan

RB Jawon Chisholm, Akron

RB David Fluellen, Toledo

WR Perez Ashford, Northern Illinois

WR Cody Wilson, Central Michigan

TE Jordan Thompson, Ohio

C Skyler Allen, Ohio

OL Dominic Flewellyn, Bowling Green

OL Jordan Hansel, Ball State

OL Gokhan Ozkan, Buffalo

OL Logan Pegram, Northern Illinois


Second-Team Defense

DL Freddie Bishop, Western Michigan

DL T.J. Fatinikun, Toledo

DL Steven Means, Buffalo

DL Nathan Ollie, Ball State

LB Justin Cudworth, Eastern Michigan

LB Travis Freeman, Ball State

LB C.J. Malauulu, Kent State

CB Marlon Pollard, Eastern Michigan

CB Lewis Toler, Western Michigan

S Johnnie Simon, Western Michigan

S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois


Second-Team Specialists

K Matt Weller, Ohio

P Scott Kovanda, Ball State

KR Tommylee Lewis, Northern Illinois

PR Bernard Reedy, Toledo


Athlon's 2012 MAC Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-MAC Team

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

Teaser:
<p> MAC Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 04:38
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-worst-head-coaches-2012
Body:

Whether a college football coach is entering his first season or coming off a national championship, all are under heavy scrutinty. And just like the best coaches in the NCAA, the record isn't always a true indicator of success or bad coaching. As the 2012 season inches closer, Athlon continues its spring preview with a look at the 10 worst coaches in college football. Although some of these coaches are unproven, their resume is unproven and on paper, a bad hire for the program. If we had to make a head coaching hire tomorrow, these 10 coaches would be at the bottom of our list. 

College Football’s Top 10 Worst Coaches

1. Carl Pelini, FAU (First Year)
Considering FAU has watched its win total decline in each of the last four seasons, hiring Pelini to rebuild the program is a curious move. Pelini has no head coaching experience on the collegiate level and one has to wonder how much control he had over the defense at Nebraska despite the title of defensive coordinator the last four years. Pelini also has no ties to the Florida area, which is certainly a concern for the Owls in recruiting. Although he has yet to coach a game, it’s hard to find reasons to think Pelini will work out as FAU’s head coach.

2. Kevin Wilson, Indiana (1-11, 1 year)
Indiana is not an easy place to win, but Wilson’s first season in Bloomington was not pretty. The Hoosiers lost to Ball State and North Texas, with their only victory coming against South Carolina State (38-21). Indiana did not win a Big Ten game for the first time since 1995 and only one conference game was decided by seven points or less. The Hoosiers played a handful of young players last year, so there’s plenty of hope for 2012 and beyond. Wilson still has plenty to prove, as this is his first head coaching gig on the college football level, and the Hoosiers may have been the worst BCS team last year.

3. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (6-18, 2 years)
Enos inherited a program that won at least eight games in each of the last four seasons prior to his arrival and claimed three MAC titles during that span. Instead of building upon that success, Enos has led the program to a disappointing 6-18 record and finds himself squarely on the hot seat in 2012. Although Enos came to Mount Pleasant after the departure of some key players (quarterback Dan LeFevour and wide receiver Antonio Brown), Central Michigan has underachieved the last two years and will struggle to finish higher than fourth in the MAC West in 2012.

4. Bobby Hauck, UNLV (4-21, 2 years)
Hiring a coach from Montana hasn’t exactly turned out well for a couple of FBS programs. Mick Dennehy compiled a 39-12 record with the Grizzlies, but went 19-37 in five years with Utah State. Joe Glenn went 39-6 in three years with Montana, but went 30-41 in six seasons with Wyoming. Hauck followed Glenn in Missoula and posted an 80-17 record, but has experienced very little success since coming to UNLV. Although the cupboard was less then full when Hauck inherited the team, the Rebels have failed to show much progress and was blown out by FCS opponent Southern Utah last year. Hauck will be allowed a few years to right the ship, but there’s little to suggest UNLV will post a winning mark in 2012.

5. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (20-19, 3 years)
Boston College has been trending in the wrong direction over the last three seasons, and Spaziani will likely need a winning record to return in 2012. The Eagles won 20 games in two seasons under Jeff Jagodzinski, but Spaziani has been unable to continue that momentum, and Boston College’s win total has declined over the last three years. Jagodzinski didn’t exactly leave a full cupboard for Spaziani, but the Eagles have shown little progress under his watch and a very challenging 2012 schedule will make it difficult for this team to get bowl eligible. 

6. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (11-14, 2 years)
Thanks to the victory over Tennessee in the season finale, Phillips may have bought himself a little more time in Lexington. However, there’s definitely some uneasiness over the direction of the program. Phillips inherited a team that was coming off four consecutive bowl appearances, but the win total has declined over the last two years. Although Kentucky ended up with five victories last season, there were close calls against Western Kentucky and Central Michigan and a 30-point loss to Vanderbilt in SEC play. Unless Phillips gets the Wildcats back in a bowl in 2012, Kentucky could be looking for a new coach in December. 

7. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-19, 2 years)
Wins have been difficult to find at Buffalo, as the Bulls have only two winning records since 1996. Success has also eluded Quinn during his two years with Buffalo, as he has just three wins in MAC play. Another 2-10 or 3-9 season could spell the end of Quinn’s tenure with the Bulls, but there are reasons to believe Buffalo could be better in 2012. Running back Braden Oliver should be the MAC’s leading rusher and seven starters are back on defense. If Quinn can get Buffalo to four or five wins this year, he should be safe and easily move off this list for 2013. 

8. David Bailiff, Rice (23-38, 5 years)
Bailiff has experienced some high points during his career, but has mostly been a .500 or worse coach. He led Texas State to a 5-6 record in 2004 and followed that up with an 11-3 record in 2005. Despite a 5-6 mark with the Bobcats in 2006, he was hired to follow Todd Graham at Rice. Bailiff went 3-9 in his first year with the Owls, but posted an impressive 10-3 mark in 2008. However, the last three years have been mediocre, as Rice is just 10-26 during that span. Unless Bailiff shows progress, the Owls will likely have a new coach roaming the sidelines in 2012.

9. Curtis Johnson, Tulane (First Year)
With its last winning season in 2002, the Green Wave is desperately needs a shot of energy and someone who can rebuild Tulane into a consistent bowl team. Johnson brings some positives to Tulane, as he is a native of New Orleans and is regarded as a good recruiter. However, Johnson has never been a head coach or coordinator and his last stop in college was in 2005 with Miami. Just like Carl Pelini, it’s hard to judge anyone that has yet to coach a game. However, Johnson’s resume leaves a lot to be desired and plenty of doubts about whether he can rebuild Tulane.

10. Norm Chow, Hawaii (First Year)
Chow is a well-respected assistant, and is returning home to Hawaii as the Warriors make the jump from the WAC to the Mountain West. However, his offenses the last few years have been so-so, especially as his style and scheme did not mix with UCLA and Rick Neuheisel’s pistol attack. The biggest question surrounding Chow is why he is getting his first head coaching opportunity at age 65. Chow’s background makes him a perfect fit at Hawaii, but this being his first head coaching opportunity this late in his career is certainly troubling.

Ranking the Coaches: Top 25 Nationally
Ranking the Coaches: ACC
Ranking the Coaches: Big East
Ranking the Coaches: Pac-12
Ranking the Coaches: Big 12
Ranking the Coaches: Big Ten
Ranking the Coaches: SEC

Teaser:
<p> Athlon ranks the 10 worst coaches in college football.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 04:19
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-2012-all-conference-team-2
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first, second and third All-Big 12 teams for this season.

Related: Athlon All-Big 12 Team As Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

First-Team Offense

QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB Malcolm Brown, Texas

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

WR Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

C Joe Madsen, West Virginia

OL Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

OL Cyril Richardson, Baylor

OL Lane Taylor, Oklahoma State

OL LaAdrian Waddle, Texas Tech
 

First-Team Defense

DL Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

DL Stansly Maponga, TCU

DL Alex Okafor, Texas

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

LB Jordan Hicks, Texas

LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State

LB Jake Knott, Iowa State

CB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

 

First-Team Specialists

K Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
 

  First Second Third Overall
Baylor 1 3 2 6
Iowa State 2 1 0 3
Kansas 0 2 2 4
Kansas State 2 3 3 8
Oklahoma 3 8 4 15
Oklahoma State 5 1 6 12
TCU 1 2 3 6
Texas 6 2 4 12
Texas Tech 1 2 0 3
West Virginia 5 2 2 9


Second-Team Offense

QB Collin Klein, Kansas State

RB Eric Stephens, Texas Tech

RB Dominique Whaley, Oklahoma

WR Josh Boyce, TCU

WR Darrin Moore, Texas Tech

WR Terrance Williams, Baylor

C Ivory Wade, Baylor

OL Tyler Evans, Oklahoma

OL Blaize Foltz, TCU

OL Tanner Hawkinson, Kansas

OL Mason Walters, Texas
 

Second-Team Defense

DL David King, Oklahoma

DL Toben Opurum, Kansas

DL R.J. Washington, Oklahoma

DL Meshak Williams, Kansas State

LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State

LB Corey Nelson, Oklahoma

LB Tom Wort, Oklahoma

CB Demontre Hurst, Oklahoma

CB Nigel Malone, Kansas State

S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor

S Terence Garvin, West Virginia
 

Second-Team Specialists

K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma

P Kirby Van Der Camp, Iowa State

KR Tavon Austin, West Virginia

PR Quandre Diggs, Texas

 

Third-Team Offense

QB Landry Jones, Oklahoma

RB Waymon James, TCU

RB Trey Millard, Oklahoma

WR Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State

WR Tevin Reese, Baylor

WR Jaxon Shipley, Texas

C BJ Finney, Kansas State

OL Jeff Braun, West Virginia

OL Lane Johnson, Oklahoma

OL Nick Puetz, Kansas State

OL Duane Zlatnik, Kansas

 

Third-Team Defense

DL Will Clarke, West Virginia

DL Ashton Dorsey, Texas

DL Vai Lutui, Kansas State

DL Nigel Nicholas, Oklahoma State

LB Kenny Cain, TCU

LB Steve Edmond, Texas

LB Alex Elkins, Oklahoma State

CB Carrington Byndom, Texas

CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

S Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State

S Bradley McDougald, Kansas

 

Third-Team Specialists

K Aaron Jones, Baylor

P Tress Way, Oklahoma

KR Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

PR Brandon Carter, TCU

 

ALSO CHECK OUT Big 12 2012 All-Conference Team As Recruits

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Big 12 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-2012-predictions
Body:

With the defections in the WAC, the Sun Belt is no longer college football’s worst conference. The addition of South Alabama brings the Sun Belt to 10 football members for 2013, and this conference will undergo a bit of a makeover next year, as North Texas and FIU will be moving to Conference USA, with Texas State and Georgia State picked as replacements.

Arkansas State will be one of the most intriguing teams to watch outside of the BCS. Former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is taking over as head coach, and has the perfect triggerman for his spread attack in quarterback Ryan Aplin. The senior should post monster numbers under Malzahn’s watch, but the Red Wolves have to replace two all-conference performers on the line. The defense also suffered some key departures, as seven starters are gone from last season’s unit.

Arkansas State is Athlon’s projected Sun Belt champion for 2012, but FIU and Louisiana-Lafayette aren’t far behind. The Golden Panthers must replace quarterback Wesley Carroll and receiver T.Y. Hilton, but should have the Sun Belt’s best defense. Mark Hudspeth proved to be a terrific hire for Louisiana-Lafayette last year, and the Ragin’ Cajuns will be in the mix to earn another bowl trip.

There’s a drop off after the top three teams in the projected standings, but Louisiana-Monroe, Western Kentucky, North Texas and Troy are all capable of pushing for a fourth-place finish and a winning record. The Warhawks are led by junior quarterback Kolton Browning, who should be healthy after dealing with a sternum injury most of the 2011 season. The Hilltoppers are on the rise, but must replace star running back Bobby Rainey. The Mean Green is in a similar position to Western Kentucky, as they have to replace running back Lance Dunbar, but should have an improved passing attack in 2012. Troy was the conference’s biggest disappointment last year and need a big year from quarterback Corey Robinson to get back in the mix for the conference title.

MTSU has watch its win total decline over the last two years, and the pressure is starting to build on coach Rick Stockstill. Only eight starters return, but quarterback Logan Kilgore will be surrounded by a handful of playmakers. The Blue Raiders struggled on defense last season and brought in former Ole Miss defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix to help solve some of the problems.

FAU and South Alabama are expected to finish at the bottom of the conference in 2012. Legendary coach Howard Schnellenberger retired at the end of 2011, and the school picked Nebraska assistant Carl Pelini to be its next head coach. Pelini is a curious fit at FAU and will have his hands full with an offense that averaged just 248.8 yards per game last year. South Alabama is one of four new FBS teams this season and has recorded an impressive 23-4 record in three seasons under coach Joey Jones.

Athlon's 2012 Sun Belt Team Previews

Arkansas State MTSU
FAU North Texas
FIU South Alabama
Louisiana-Lafayette Troy
Louisiana-Monroe Western Kentucky

Teaser:
<p> Sun Belt Football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 - 04:04
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2012-predictions
Body:

Conference realignment has brought changes to the Big East in 2012 and more is coming for 2013 and beyond. West Virginia departed for the Big 12, while Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be joining the ACC (most likely before the 2013 season). Temple was brought in to replace West Virginia, which kept the conference at eight football members for the 2012 season. The Big East will get bigger next year, as UCF, Houston, SMU, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State will join to give the conference two divisions and a title game.

Louisville got off to a slow start last season, but Charlie Strong’s team finished with a share of the Big East title. Much of the core returns intact, and big things are expected from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The sophomore should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter and will be throwing to a talented group of receivers. The Cardinals need to improve their rushing attack, and there’s no shortage of options with Jeremy Wright, Dominique Brown and Senorise Perry returning. The defense returns six starters from a unit that ranked 17th nationally in points allowed last year.

With a new coach and two new coordinators, Rutgers might be the biggest mystery team in the Big East. Greg Schiano’s departure to the NFL just before Signing Day left Rutgers in a difficult position, which promoted assistant Kyle Flood to head coach. The Scarlet Knights have the talent to win the conference title, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty with a first-year coach. Chas Dodd and Gary Nova shared the quarterback duties last season, and this battle is expected to continue into fall camp. The Scarlet Knights should have a stingy defense, led by senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. If Nova or Dodd is able to provide steady play at quarterback, the Nov. 29 showdown against Louisville in Piscataway could be a de facto Big East title game.

South Florida had an up-and-down 2011 season, starting 4-0 in non-conference play, but posting a disappointing 1-7 record in the final eight contests. Although the Bulls went 1-6 in Big East play, four of the losses were by six points or less – which gives hope for a quick turnaround in 2012. Quarterback B.J. Daniels is back after passing for a career high 2,604 yards last season and should be throwing to one of the Big East’s top receiving corps. Running back Darrell Scott is gone after rushing for 814 yards last year, but Demetris Murray and Lindsey Lamar form a capable one-two punch. The Bulls have an intriguing non-conference schedule, which features matchups at Nevada and Miami, along with a home date against Florida State. The conference slate isn’t overwhelming, but a date at Louisville on Oct. 20 could decide the Big East crown.

Pittsburgh could be the sleeper team to watch in the Big East race. Former coach Todd Graham’s schemes were a bad fit for the personnel in place, and the team was hit hard by bad luck in late October when running back Ray Graham was lost for the season with a torn ACL. New coach Paul Chryst was one of college football’s top offensive minds at Wisconsin and will adapt his scheme to fit quarterback Tino Sunseri’s strengths. There’s no question Sunseri needs to play better, but the Panthers also have to stabilize the offensive line. Defense is usually a strength in Pittsburgh, but six starters are gone, including end Brandon Lindsey, linebacker Max Gruder and defensive tackle Chas Alecxih. The Panthers have a favorable Big East schedule, catching expected frontrunners Louisville and Rutgers in Heinz Field.

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

With quarterback Zach Collaros, running back Isaiah Pead and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe departing, 2012 appears to be a rebuilding year in Cincinnati. The Bearcats bring back 11 starters, but replacing Collaros’ production and leadership won’t be an easy task. While the offense may take a step back, Cincinnati’s defense should remain solid, especially with seven starters returning. Wolfe and linebacker JK Schaffer will be missed, but ends Dan Giordano and Walter Stewart will create plenty of havoc up front.

Syracuse was one of the Big East’s biggest disappointments last season, but there’s hope for improvement in 2012. Quarterback Ryan Nassib is back after throwing for 2,685 yards and 22 touchdowns, while the receiving corps gets a boost with the return of receiver Marcus Sales from suspension. Finding a running back to replace Antwon Bailey and filling voids on the defensive line will be some of the top priorities for coach Doug Marrone.

Connecticut wasn’t able to build on its 2010 Big East title, falling to a 5-7 record and missing out on a bowl game for the first time since 2006. If the Huskies want to get back to the postseason, they have to find a way to jumpstart a sluggish offense. Junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer is expected to start at quarterback, while receiver Michael Smith is back from academic issues that sidelined him all of 2011. Running back Lyle McCombs is one of the best in the conference, and the defense returns eight starters. If the offense is better, the Huskies should easily improve upon last year’s five wins.

Temple re-enters the Big East in much better shape than how it left in 2004. However, the Owls were hit hard by losses on both sides of the ball. Bernard Pierce was one of the nation’s most underrated running backs over the last three years, and his production will be missed. Although Pierce is gone, Matt Brown is back after rushing for 916 yards last season, while quarterback Chris Coyer is a dangerous runner. The offensive line is a big concern with just one starter returning. Temple will be competitive, but with only seven starters returning, it may need a year to rebuild before contending for a bowl appearance.

Related Big East Content

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

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 36-45

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 46-60

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012: No. 61-80

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football 2012 Predictions</p>
Post date: Friday, June 15, 2012 - 06:52
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-football-behind-scenes-james-franklin-signing-day
Body:

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin recently signed what is considered to be the top recruiting class in school history. Athlon Sports spent National Signing Day in the Commodores’ War Room with Franklin and his staff.

There was no reason to worry. Andrew Jelks assured the Vanderbilt coaches that he was solid. Yes, other schools were still interested — very interested. But his mind was made up. The son of longtime Tennessee season ticket holders was sold that Vanderbilt — not Tennessee — was the best option for him. In recruiting, however, it’s never over until the fax machine rings. So while the coaches act like they aren’t really worried, they are worried.

But when Charles Huff, Vanderbilt’s offensive quality control coach, makes the short trip from the fax machine to the podium in the Commodores’ “War Room” just a few minutes before 8 a.m. on Feb. 1, and makes like NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Draft Day, it is finally over: “Lucky No. 13 — the Vanderbilt Commodores have won the in-state battle — Andrew Jelks.” Jelks has done what very few thought was possible — sign with Vanderbilt despite offers from Tennessee and Alabama. This simply doesn’t happen. But it did.

Huff’s announcement is greeted by loud cheers in the War Room. James Franklin, Vanderbilt’s head coach of just one year and the architect of the best signing class at the school in decades, yells the loudest. Offensive line coach Herb Hand, the proud “father” of the future left tackle, hugs every coach in sight.

“I am excited to coach him,” Hand says while relaxing in his office, about an hour after Jelks’ fax arrives. “The big thing with Andrew is that he saw the big picture. He took his time and did the research and visited the places numerous times before he made his decision. And for him to go anywhere but Tennessee was big. But he knew what he wanted, and he found it here. I am proud of him.”

Barton Simmons, a recruiting analyst at 247sports.com, calls Jelks “the most important guy on that signee list.” There were players who were more highly rated. And players with more offers. But Jelks, who played at Henry County High School about 110 miles west of Nashville, is the most significant.

“He is a kid that grew up a Tennessee fan, and Tennessee wanted him,” says Simmons. “He went to Tennessee games his whole life, and he chose Vanderbilt. That speaks volumes to the ability of the Vanderbilt staff to go out and compete with anyone.”

Jelks’ fax elicits the biggest cheer of the day, but there is also tremendous excitement in the room when Huff announces at 7:22 a.m., “With the 11th pick in the draft, the Vanderbilt Commodores have selected ‘Lightning in a Bottle,’ Brian Kimbrow.”

A 4-star running back from Memphis with offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, USC and Notre Dame, among others, Kimbrow is the most highly regarded of the Commodores’ 21 signees. He was also among the first commitments of the class, when he, along with wide receiver Corey Batey and defensive end Caleb Azubike, pledged with Vanderbilt at a press conference on July 1 in Franklin, Tenn., that was carried live on local radio.

Kimbrow remained rock-solid throughout the seven-month courtship, but when a player in such demand commits to a school like Vanderbilt (which has averaged 1.1 SEC wins per season since 1960), there will be constant rumors that the prospect is wavering.

“He was sold on Vanderbilt,” Simmons says. “The only reason to sweat was because he had offers from virtually every school in the country. When Urban Meyer is calling and offering and wants you to come up for a visit, that is tough to turn down.”

Kimbrow texted Franklin the night before Signing Day just to let the staff know there was no cause for concern. It read, in part: “What’s good coaches? I know you won’t be able to respond, but I would like to say thanks for the opportunity and believing in me. … I know you will bring the best out of me not only as a football player, but as a student and as a person. By the way, if you don’t get anyone else’s signature, you will have mine.”

Kimbrow’s signature, of course, is not the only one that Franklin receives, but it is no doubt of paramount importance.

“The kids that committed early will always hold a special place for me because they jumped on before we had anything to show them,” says Franklin during some rare down time in the War Room. “We had a plan and a vision, but we had yet to play a game. Those guys jumped on and made it okay to commit to Vanderbilt.”

Indeed, the bulk of Vanderbilt’s class was built before the 2011 season kicked off — before the Commodores opened with a 3–0 record, before they lost their final four SEC games by an average of 4.8 points, and before they qualified for only the school’s second bowl game since 1982. “Many of these kids picked Vanderbilt before we ever played a game,” says defensive coordinator Bob Shoop, who spends the morning juggling phone calls to recently signed players in the Class of 2012 with incoming calls from high school juniors who might be part of the Vanderbilt Class of ’13. “Hopefully, with the modest success we had this year, that validated their choice for them. If you were looking at a 3–9 or 2–10 Vanderbilt, things may have been a lot different.”

Minutes after Kimbrow becomes official, the fax machine rings again. Huff smiles as he approaches the podium. “With the 12th pick,” he says, “the Vanderbilt Commodores have added another Wild Dog. From McGavock High School, Caleb Azubike.”

“That’s a big one,” Franklin belts out. “The Nigerian Nightmare. Get him on the phone.”

The Wild Dogs are Vanderbilt’s defensive linemen, tutored by Sean Spencer, or as his players call him, Coach Chaos. Azubike, who with Batey is one of two Nashville products in the class, is a Wild Dog with a very bright future. A 4-star recruit by Rivals and a 3-star by Scout and 247Sports, Azubike is a 6'4", 250-pound end who some believe could blossom into the best player in the class.

“I think Caleb is a kid that could end up being a guy we have underrated,” says Simmons. “He could end up being an NFL defensive lineman. He absolutely has a 4-star body and 4-star athleticism. He is very impressive at the camps. But he is still raw. On Friday nights, his film in pads sometimes doesn’t live up to what he has done in camps. But he is certainly a guy that can blossom into an NFL prospect.”

While Spencer and Franklin work to get Azubike on the phone, Shoop speaks to Paris Head, a defensive back from Lawrenceville, Ga., who was the third official member of the class.

“Paris, welcome to the family,” Shoop says. “Today is your day. My commitment to you is that I will work my hardest to make you a better man and a better football player. That relationship will last a lifetime. Congratulations.”

For Shoop, a veteran of more than two decades in collegiate coaching, Signing Day never gets old. “There is a feeling of closure when you finally get that letter of intent in the building,” he says. “But what I really enjoy is getting that kid on the phone. It’s his big day, more so than for us coaches. It’s his day. I want to recognize him and thank him and his family for the trust they have shown in us as his coach.”

Shoop has spent time in the ACC and Big East, as well as many years in the FCS ranks, both as a head coach (Columbia, 2003-05) and an assistant. Nothing compares to what he has experienced over the past year.

“This is my first full recruiting cycle in the SEC,” he says. “This is cutthroat, baby. This is big time. This is as competitive as you can believe. The word commitment seems to mean different things to different people. Until you get that fax, you can’t take anything for granted.”

There is one fax that Vanderbilt doesn’t receive on Signing Day. Josh Dawson, a 4-star defensive end/linebacker from Tucker, Ga., who originally committed to Vanderbilt in June, signs with Georgia at a ceremony at his high school. Dawson had informed the staff the night before that he intended to become a Bulldog, not a Commodore.

“It’s difficult,” Franklin says. “I make sure that when a player commits to us that they understand what it means. I don’t care if any other college offers them. I don’t care if the Atlanta Falcons try to draft them. We got engaged. You are not dating anymore. When we get married, we are not getting divorced. When we lose a guy it’s upsetting and frustrating, but that is part of the business. We keep working.”

Dawson’s flip to Georgia creates the need for another linebacker, a position that was alarmingly thin in 2011. At 10:30 a.m. the newest linebacker is announced to the War Room.

“The pick is in,” Huff says. “The No. 16 pick is a surprise pickup. The Vanderbilt Commodores have selected Harding Harper.”

Harper is a Montgomery, Ala., native who reportedly also had offers from Arkansas, Georgia Tech and Ole Miss. He did not take an official visit to Vanderbilt but jumps at the opportunity to join the class when a spot opens up.

“Harper,” Franklin yells. “I like it. That’s a good one right there.”

Huff, who has been ridiculed (good naturedly) by Franklin throughout the morning for his lack of creativity at the podium, is demoted. In steps Sam Williams, the defensive quality control assistant. Dressed in a suit, Williams is taking his position seriously. Perhaps an audition for first-string duties next February?

“With the 19th pick, Vanderbilt selects offensive lineman Adam Butler,” says Williams, who then dons the Mr. Commodore mascot head to celebrate.

A few minutes later, the fax machine rings. Williams has another opportunity to impress the boss.

“This young man had been committed to another school for months,” he says. “We are going to call him a Vanderbilt Commodore. His name is Ja’karri Thomas.”

Thomas, a linebacker from Tallahassee, Fla., committed to Arkansas in July, but changed his mind after making an official visit to Vanderbilt in late January.

Thomas is Vanderbilt’s 20th official signee of the day. There isn’t much suspense remaining. The Commodores are expecting only one more fax, from Kevin McCoy, an offensive lineman from the Tampa area. This is good news and bad news for Hand. McCoy, when his fax comes in, will give Hand another quality big man to work with in the coming years. But it will also cost him. Franklin is making the position coach of the final signee buy the first round of drinks when the staff heads out to celebrate later in the evening.

“Who’s buying the first round?” Franklin says. “Herb, it’s looking like it’s you. I know what you are making now. You can afford it.”

And the Vanderbilt staff can afford to celebrate. This class, ranked as high as No. 26 in the nation, is regarded by most as the best in school history. Some will point out that Vanderbilt’s recruiting haul ranks no higher than ninth in the new 14-team SEC, but that’s still a significant upgrade from every other Commodore class of the Internet recruiting era. And keep in mind that Vanderbilt’s class was rated higher (by Rivals) than all but three Big Ten teams, all but three Big 12 teams, all but five ACC teams and all but one Big East team.

“I’m just really proud of the staff,” Franklin says. “It’s like a 365-round heavyweight title fight. This coaching staff fought and competed and sold all the wonderful things Vanderbilt has to sell.”

How did he do it?

James Franklin’s sales pitch is quite simple.

“A young man doesn’t have to sacrifice,” says the Commodores’ second-year head coach. “He can have the best of everything, which is a world-class education and an opportunity to play in the best college football conference in America. After all, there are three conferences in football that matter: The NFC. The AFC. And the SEC.”

Sounds convincing. But every football coach at Vanderbilt has delivered a similar message. And other than Gerry DiNardo, who signed multiple top-25 recruiting classes in the early 1990s, every other coach has failed to attract top-flight talent.

So why does Franklin’s message resonate?

Coach Franklin has unique people skills in that he can relate to people of all socio-economic backgrounds,” says Vanderbilt defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. “He is very sincere, and he has an unbelievable work ethic. He is also very persuasive, and he won’t take no for an answer.”

Franklin’s persuasiveness was the driving force in Vanderbilt’s 2012 class, ranked as high as No. 26 in the nation. Every one of the recruits received at least a 3-star rating by Rivals, and several picked Vanderbilt over multiple offers from other SEC schools — something that rarely happened in the past.

“When I started playing high school football, when I started getting good, I didn’t think about Vanderbilt,” says defensive end Caleb Azubike, a Nashville native who chose the Commodores over Miami (Fla.) and Mississippi State. “But Coach Franklin really changed my thinking. He has his way with words. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He is just a very confident man; he believes in himself and what he is doing.”

DiNardo, who coached at LSU and Indiana after a four-year stop at Vanderbilt (1991-94), is an analyst for the Big Ten Network. He believes that now, more than ever, a head coach at a school like Vanderbilt has to be an elite recruiter.

James Franklin is absolutely a difference-maker and a game-changer at Vanderbilt,” DiNardo says. “You have to be that at Vanderbilt. There is more pressure on the head coach to be a good recruiter at schools that have struggled historically.”

DiNardo says one of the keys to recruiting success at Vanderbilt is to not worry about the players you can’t recruit for academic reasons. “We had a saying, that we stole from someone else: ‘It’s not the one that you lose who will beat you. It’s the ones you take that can’t play who will defeat you.’”

The Model Program

Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s baseball coach, was among the small gathering in the War Room looking on as his good friend, James Franklin, put the finishing touches on his first full recruiting class. He knew what Franklin was going through.

Corbin arrived in Nashville in 2003 to rebuild a program that had slipped to the bottom of the food chain in the highly competitive SEC.

In his first season, Vanderbilt qualified for the SEC Tournament for the first time in seven years. In his second season, the Commodores reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1980. By his fifth season, the program earned its first-ever No. 1 ranking, and in 2012, the school reached the College World Series for the first time.

Simply put, Franklin’s dreams for Vanderbilt have become a reality for Corbin.

“Our sports are very different, but he has been a great mentor to me,” Franklin says. “Tim’s a guy who gets it. He’s not just committed to his baseball program, he’s committed to this whole Vanderbilt family, which is kind of how we look at it. We just hit it off right from the beginning, and I think what he’s been able to do with his program, where it started to where it is now … there are a lot of parallels to what we’re trying to do, so he’s been a really good resource to us.”

Corbin has routinely signed recruiting classes ranked in the top five nationally, but he still marvels at what Franklin and his staff have accomplished.

“The intensity of recruiting on this level, at least on Signing Day, is greater,” he says. “Baseball gets a little more strung out over the course of time. The other thing about baseball is that if you make a verbal commitment, it’s pretty much set in stone. For someone to break that commitment is a rarity, so in football, if someone verbally commits, it just means the teams around you work a bit harder to try to get your services. So the excitement of finally getting that piece of paper is like Christmas Day for a football coach. I can only imagine the angst you go through.”

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

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

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<p> Vanderbilt coach James Franklin recently signed what is considered to be the top recruiting class in school history. Athlon Sports spent National Signing Day in the Commodores’ War Room with Franklin and his staff.</p>
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WAC football is officially on life support. The defections of Boise State, Fresno State, Nevada and Hawaii over the last two years have left the conference with just seven members for the 2012 season. With Louisiana Tech and UTSA joining Conference USA for the 2013 season, Texas State moving to the Sun Belt and San Jose State and Utah State moving to the Mountain West, New Mexico State and Idaho are the only remaining members of the WAC. The Aggies and Vandals are searching for a new conference but may have to play as an Independent in 2013.

While the future of the conference is gloomy, Louisiana Tech has a chance to make some national noise this season. The Bulldogs won seven out of their last eight games last year and return several key players. Quarterback Colby Cameron was solid in the second half of the season, while the receiving corps will be among the best in the WAC. The defense must replace seven starters, but there’s plenty of experience returning. Louisiana Tech has a challenging non-conference slate (Texas A&M, at Illinois and at Virginia) but could spring an upset in any of those games.

Gary Andersen has Utah State headed in the right direction, but the Aggies must replace the WAC’s 2011 Offensive Player of the Year – running back Robert Turbin. Quarterback play is a strength with Chuckie Keeton and Adam Kennedy returning, while the defense could be the best in the WAC with seven starters coming back.

While Louisiana Tech and Utah State are clearly the conference’s best teams, the rest of the WAC is up for grabs. San Jose State is a team on the rise, but must replace quarterback Matt Faulkner and safety Duke Ihenacho. However, the Spartans return first-team All-WAC receiver Noel Grigsby and gain the services of Minnesota transfer DeLeon Eskridge at running back.

New Mexico State is making progress under DeWayne Walker, but the Aggies return only four starters. Quarterback Andrew Manley is back from a torn ACL, but he will have a new coordinator and there’s no proven go-to running back. The defense is a major concern with 10 starters departing.

Idaho is coming off a disappointing 2-10 season but there’s hope this team could improve upon that total in 2012. Quarterback play is an issue, but the Vandals are hoping junior college recruit Dominique Blackman can provide a spark. The return of linebacker Robert Siavii should bolster the defense.

Texas State and UTSA enter the first season of FBS play and it will be an uphill battle to reach a winning record. The Bobcats could have a dangerous offense, but lost three starters on the offensive line. UTSA is only in its second season of fielding a team, but there’s certainly no shortage of talent to recruit in Texas. Quarterback Eric Soza posted solid numbers last year (2,148 yards and 14 touchdowns), but depth could be an issue for the Roadrunners in their debut (and only) season in the WAC.

Athlon's 2012 WAC Team Previews

Idaho Texas State
Louisiana Tech UTSA
New Mexico State Utah State
San Jose State  

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Landry Jones might have been a first-round pick in April’s NFL Draft. Instead, he’s still a Sooner, giving Oklahoma an elite quarterback and the inside track to the Big 12 title. Jones already owns 13 school passing records and must be considered a Heisman candidate. The Sooners will be looking for playmakers to go with him, which proved difficult a year ago once Ryan Broyles went down with an injury. And new/old defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has some shoring up to do on his side of the ball. Still, the pieces appear to be in place.

Texas possesses no such comfort or certainty at quarterback, a condition that has plagued it during a two-year slump that seemed impossible in Austin. Still, the Horns are otherwise well-stocked on offense and can count on the league’s top defense to put them back in the mix.

How will West Virginia’s act play in the Big 12? Don’t discount the former Big East beasts from the title chase — Big 12 and nationally. League defensive coordinators are more than familiar with Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen from his days at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And they’re dreading facing him, with quarterback Geno Smith and a slew of offensive weapons ready to take off in Year 2 of Holgorsen’s madcap system.

After winning their first Big 12 championship and downing Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, it looks like a rebuild at Oklahoma State, where Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and more must be replaced. Or, with stacked years of better recruiting classes, the Cowboys could just reload. A heavy burden falls on new quarterback Wes Lunt, yet skill players are present. This could be the year the Pokes lean on a stout defense — yes, defense.

TCU finally got the invitation to the big time it so sorely craved. Now the Horned Frogs will have to show they can play with the big boys week-in and week-out. Maybe it’s time to quit counting Kansas State — and Bill Snyder — out. The magic show continues in Manhattan, where Snyder does more with less, although quarterback Collin Klein is the real deal at quarterback. Robert Griffin III took his Heisman and face-of-the-program status to the NFL, leaving many to wonder if the clock has struck midnight on Baylor. The sense is that Art Briles has built a program, not a one-man gang.

Aside from a stunning upset of Oklahoma, Texas Tech’s 2011 season was a disaster, and there’s little reason to believe the Red Raiders are upwardly mobile. Not only is Iowa State in rebuilding mode, but the Cyclones are also looking for a quarterback to build behind. Charlie Weis is trying to pump life and hope into the program at Kansas. It will take time.

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Previews

Baylor Oklahoma State
Iowa State TCU
Kansas Texas
Kansas State Texas Tech
Oklahoma West Virginia

Take Me Home, West Virginia

For most West Virginia players and fans, their maiden season in the Big 12 will be a journey into the unknown. But they have their coaches to lead the way. At least partly by design, Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen has assembled a staff loaded with knowledge and insight into the Big 12.

Of course, it starts with Holgorsen himself, a former assistant at Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. And it extends to five staff members, including co-defensive coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. DeForest, a dynamic recruiter in the Houston area, joined Holgorsen from OSU one year after coaching alongside him with the Cowboys. Patterson is a former Tulsa aide who recruited the area and prepared game plans against several Big 12 squads. Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts is a Texas alum, while running backs coach Robert Gillespie left OSU with Holgorsen. Quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital has been with Holgorsen at Houston, OSU and West Virginia.

“We probably know a lot more about the Big 12 than the Big 12 knows about us,” Holgorsen said. “We know a bunch about it. We’re not going to go into a hornet’s nest without knowing about it. Now, that in itself isn’t going to win you any games, but I do think it will be beneficial in the long run.”

QB Comings, Goings

The league lost marquee quarterbacks with Heisman winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State off to the NFL. Still, quarterback remains a position of strength league wide, thanks in part to the latest round of conference realignment. The Big 12 already had Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Kansas State’s Collin Klein coming back. The addition of West Virginia’s Geno Smith and TCU’s Casey Pachall provides four legitimate all-conference candidates.

Gundy On The Climb

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is on the rise. Entering this season, Gundy sits just four wins shy of becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach. With 59 wins through seven seasons, Gundy trails his former coach, Pat Jones, who is the leader with 62 career victories.

The 2011 season provided a major checkpoint for Gundy, who led the Cowboys to a school-record 12 wins, a first Big 12 championship and a first BCS bowl berth, won over Stanford. Gundy won both the Bear Bryant Award and Eddie Robinson Award as national Coach of the Year.

All that success earned Gundy a contract extension to the tune of eight years, $30.3 million. The deal is frontloaded, featuring a salary of $3.275 million this season, putting him third in the Big 12 behind only Mack Brown and Bob Stoops.

“I am humbled and appreciative for the new extension,” Gundy says. “Oklahoma State means a lot to me and my family. My duty is to continue building on the success we have enjoyed the past few years and make sure our program complements the academic mission of OSU.”

Giving Back, Big

Adrian Peterson had been thinking about doing something for his alma mater, Oklahoma. And just like he did during his playing career at OU, Peterson produced a record, pledging a $1 million donation to the athletics department. The funds will support the construction of Headington Hall, the school’s new student housing facility, as well as establish the Adrian Peterson Football Scholarship Endowment. The gift is the largest single donation ever from a former Sooners player. “I always hoped to be in a position to be able to donate back to the University of Oklahoma and make it an even better place — do whatever I could to help the university that did so much for me,” Peterson says.

Longhorn Running Mates

Heisman Trophy winners Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams were decades apart at Texas, but they now stand together outside Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. Bronzed.

Before the Longhorns’ Spring Game, the school unveiled a statue of Williams near the one of Campbell that has greeted visitors to the stadium since 2006. The Texas stars have previously been linked by their rushing prowess and their Heismans. Now they’re linked permanently.

The Williams statue is an 8-foot, 1,000-pound piece commissioned in honor of his outstanding years as a Longhorn from 1995-98. At UT, Williams produced a then-NCAA record 6,279 rushing yards, highlighted by a 2,124 total his senior year. As for the likeness?“Close enough,” Williams said.

“Words can’t describe how honored I am. Having a statue at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium is something I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams when I came here from San Diego.”

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The inaugural Big Ten title game featured the teams widely regarded as the league’s best. This season’s race could be less clear-cut. The Legends Division looks rock solid, while the Leaders is filled with more than a few question marks. Michigan and Michigan State both come off 11-win seasons that resulted in bowl victories (Sugar and Outback, respectively). Nebraska, with seven starters back on both sides of the ball, will be formidable as well.

After a transitional year on offense, Michigan should be more comfortable in Al Borges’ system and returns a dynamic backfield in senior quarterback Denard Robinson and junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Maturity is a big theme for Nebraska after some breakdowns in 2011, and the Huskers will be older and wiser on offense. Quarterback Taylor Martinez returns for his third season as the starter, and Nebraska will be more seasoned at spots like receiver and offensive line.

Michigan State loses more star power, namely three-year starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and All-America defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. But Mark Dantonio’s squad also is loaded with difference-makers on defense — end William Gholston and linebacker Denicos Allen among them — and has built a culture of winning in East Lansing.

The Leaders division is murkier after significant personnel turnover with both coaches and players. Ohio State is banned from the postseason, but the Buckeyes could have the division’s top team. New coach Urban Meyer has energized a program coming off its first seven-loss season since 1897. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman usher in an offense that should help quarterback Braxton Miller, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year in 2011.

Wisconsin likely will be the favorite to return to the Big Ten title game despite losing several key players and six assistants from the 2011 team. The Badgers will count on another transfer quarterback (Danny O’Brien) to lead the offense, but they return a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Montee Ball and several veteran defenders, including linebacker Chris Borland.

Penn State and Illinois both went through coaching changes, but both teams could make noise in the division because of their defenses. The Nittany Lions return one of the nation’s best linebacker groups, headlined by Gerald Hodges. Illinois must replace All-America end Whitney Mercilus but should once again be strong in the front seven.   

Purdue returns defensive tackle Kawann Short and most of its core pieces from 2011. The Boilers could be a sleeper team in the Leaders. Both Northwestern and Iowa lose several experienced players but could make some noise in the Legends.

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

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

Coaching Turnover

The Big Ten coaching ranks have a dramatically different look after another historic offseason. For the second consecutive year, three league squads made coaching changes, including Penn State, which dismissed the late Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Bill O’Brien’s first head coaching job poses unique challenges, as he tries to establish his vision during a fragile time for the university and win over a Penn State fan base mostly skeptical about his hiring. A strong season in Year 1 of the post-Paterno era will accelerate the healing process.

Although Ohio State won’t go bowling this year, the worst appears to be over in Columbus. Ohio State emerged from all the Jim Tressel turmoil with Urban Meyer, a two-time BCS national championship-winning coach who has Buckeyes fans giddy in his return to his home state. No stranger to lofty expectations, Meyer has set the bar high and inherits a young but talented team in 2012.

One of Meyer’s coaching disciples, Tim Beckman, takes over at Illinois following Ron Zook’s firing. The Illini have recorded bowl wins in consecutive seasons for the first time, but they flat-lined late last season and haven’t built momentum from their Rose Bowl trip after the 2007 season. It’s up to Beckman to foster more consistent success in Champaign.

After relative quiet in 2008 and 2009, the Big Ten coaching carousel has been spinning out of control. This year alone, the league had 40 changes at head coach or assistant coach.

Kirk Ferentz, who enters his 14th season at Iowa, is now the dean of Big Ten coaches, having held his position seven years longer than anyone else. Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, 42, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, 37, are the league’s second-longest-serving coaches.

Transfer Pass

Three Big Ten teams have bolstered their passing attacks with coveted transfers.

For the second consecutive year, Wisconsin added a quarterback from the ACC to lead its offense. Former Maryland signal-caller Danny O’Brien follows former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson to Madison. Like Wilson, O’Brien has completed his degree, so he won’t have to sit out a season at Wisconsin. O’Brien, who picked Wisconsin over Penn State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, has two years of eligibility remaining. He’ll enter preseason camp as the frontrunner to win the job.

Michigan State and Northwestern, meanwhile, both added talented wide receiver transfers. DeAnthony Arnett transferred from Tennessee to Michigan State to be closer to his ailing father in Flint, Mich. Arnett, whom Michigan State had targeted in recruiting but couldn’t land, recorded 24 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns for the Vols in 2011. He has been granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA that will allow him to play immediately. The Spartans lose their top three receivers from 2011 and could use a playmaker like Arnett.

Northwestern also added a big piece to its receiving corps in Kyle Prater, a transfer from USC. Prater, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2010, grew up in the Chicago area but headed west to play college ball. He struggled with injuries the past two seasons and wanted to play closer to his family. Prater chose Northwestern ahead of both Wisconsin and Illinois. As of early June, he had not yet heard from the NCAA regarding his request for immediate eligibility.

A Rosey Partnership

After the last round of realignment fever, the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided to strengthen their relationship beyond the traditional Rose Bowl bond. The leagues in December announced a major scheduling partnership across all sports, billing it as a brand-building alternative to further expansion.

By 2017, the leagues plan to have a complete 12-game schedule pitting Big Ten teams against their Pac-12 counterparts. The Big Ten had planned to adopt a nine-game conference schedule in 2017 but shelved the idea when the Pac-12 partnership surfaced. Games will be played in the schools’ home stadiums, and the leagues are also exploring neutral-site contests at certain venues.

In addition to the Rose Bowl, the 2012 slate includes four Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups, and additional scheduling agreements between the conferences — such as Michigan State’s home-and-home series with Oregon — have been finalized since the partnership was announced.

Welcome Returns

The Big Ten returns nine of its top 10 rushers from 2011, including Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and three quarterbacks (Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez). The league returns seven of its top 10 passers, just two of its top 10 receivers, seven of its top 10 tacklers and five of its top 10 sack leaders. 

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<p> Big Ten Football 2012 Predictions.</p>
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Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-tight-end-rankings
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Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.


Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

Rank Player Team
1 Tyler Eifert Notre Dame
2 Austin Seferian-Jenkins Washington
3 Chris Gragg Arkansas
4 Gavin Escobar San Diego State
5 Ryan Otten San Jose State
6 Jacob Pedersen Wisconsin
7 Joseph Fauria UCLA
8 Andrei Lintz Washington State
9 Jack Doyle Western Kentucky
10 Luke Willson Rice
11 Crockett Gillmore Colorado State
12 Blake Jackson Oklahoma State
13 Jake Stoneburner Ohio State
14 Levine Toiolo Stanford
15 Philip Lutzenkirchen Auburn
16 Zach Ertz Stanford
17 Jordan Reed Florida
18 Dion Sims Michigan State
19 Brandon Ford Clemson
20 Hubie Graham Pittsburgh
21 Randall Telfer USC
22 Colt Lyerla Oregon
23 Ryan Griffin Connecticut
24 Gabe Linehan Boise State
25 C.J. Fiedorowicz Iowa
26 Kolby Arendse Nevada
27 Kyler Reed Nebraska
28 Michael Williams Alabama
29 Matt Furstenburg Maryland
30 Arthur Lynch Georgia

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /college-football/mac-football-2012-predictions
Body:

Conference realignment finally reached the MAC, with Temple departing for its second stint in the Big East and UMass joining the league as it moves up from the FCS ranks. The MAC is coming off its most successful postseason in league history after recording a 4–1 record in bowl games. This year, there is no clear-cut league favorite, but the power still resides in the West Division. The West has posted a dominating 28–11 record (including title games) against teams from the East over the past two seasons, and that trend should continue in 2012.

Traditional powers Toledo and Northern Illinois will once again be strong, but don’t be surprised if Western Michigan sneaks up and steals the West title. The Broncos must replace their entire receiving corps, but they return splendid quarterback Alex Carder and should be very strong on the offensive line.

Toledo suffered heavy personnel losses and will have a new head coach (Matt Campbell), but the Rockets still have enough playmakers to contend. Northern Illinois must replace Chandler Harnish, the most decorated quarterback in school history, but new signal-caller Jordan Lynch and a veteran receiving corps will keep the Huskies in the hunt.

Ball State and Eastern Michigan are two improved teams that may have breakout seasons. Pete Lembo led the Cardinals to six wins and bowl-eligibility during his first season. Ron English continues to work wonders in Ypsilanti, taking a program that was 0–12 in 2009 to 6–6 in 2011. Dan Enos needs to get things turned around quickly at Central Michigan. After winning 38 games from 2006-09, the Chips are just 6–18 on Enos’ watch. 

Ohio, led by veteran coach Frank Solich, is the team to beat in the East. The Bobcats are still beaming after recording their first bowl win in school history and now have their sights set on a MAC title, something that has eluded the school since 1968.

Bowling Green and Kent State look to be spoilers. The Falcons feature standout quarterback Matt Schilz and have a friendly league schedule that doesn’t include Western Michigan or Northern Illinois. Kent State made dramatic improvement late in Darrell Hazell’s first season and is looking for its first bowl berth since 1972.  Miami is the league’s most storied program, and the RedHawks hope veteran quarterback Zac Dysert, who has 8,530 career passing yards and 48 touchdowns, can lead them to their 16th MAC title.

Buffalo, led by talented running back Branden Oliver, could be a sleeper. The Bulls will be improved on the field, but a brutal schedule — they play Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan out of the West — could prevent a big jump in the standings. Tommy Bowden takes over a dreadful Akron program, and he will make the Zips fun to watch — just not this year. MAC newcomer UMass is fortunate to be on the weaker side of the league, but the Minutemen lack the talent and depth to be a factor in 2012.

Athlon's 2012 MAC Team Previews

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

Teaser:
<p> MAC football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 04:57
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-team-defense-rankings
Body:

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point
Field goals 39 yards and under = 3 points
Field goals 40-49 yards = 4 points
Field goals 50+ yards = 5 points

Defense scoring -

0 points allowed = 15 points
2-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 7 points
14-20 points allowed = 4 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 points
28-34 points allowed = 0 points
35+ points allowed = -2 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles/Interceptions recovered = 3 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams touchdowns = 6 points

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

Rankings Team
1 LSU
2 Alabama
3 Florida State
4 Virginia Tech
5 Georgia
6 South Carolina
7 Ohio State
8 Texas
9 Oregon
10 Florida
11 Michigan State
12 Boise State
13 Oklahoma
14 South Florida
15 USC
16 Rutgers
17 Michigan
18 Nebraska
19 Wisconsin
20 Oklahoma State
21 Utah
22 BYU
23 NC State
24 Stanford
25 Vanderbilt
26 FIU
27 Penn State
28 Notre Dame
29 Miami
30 TCU

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Team Defense Rankings</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 02:14
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The SEC is bigger than ever, with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, but one thing hasn’t changed: The balance of power is still in the West. LSU still has the Honey Badger and a strong defense — and now it may have the quarterback who can take the offense to another level in Zach Mettenberger. Perhaps most important: LSU gets Alabama at home.

Alabama, which is recruiting at a different level each year, is also reloading on defense. The Crimson Tide may return only four starters on defense, but last year’s backups could have started for most SEC teams. And quarterback AJ McCarron showed in the BCS Championship Game that he is more than a game manager.

Arkansas took a big step last year by having a serviceable defense, and if it can stay that way the Razorbacks have a chance to break through this year. Tyler Wilson has a year under his belt, and the offense should be bolstered by the return of tailback Knile Davis. LSU and Alabama also both have to travel to Fayetteville.

The drop-off between the division’s top three and the rest of the group is considerable. Auburn, with two new coordinators, should improve on last season, and Texas A&M has some talent. But if the top three aren’t LSU, Alabama and Arkansas in some order, it will be a surprise. 

Georgia looks like the team to beat in the East, but the Bulldogs do have some issues — a retooled offensive line, two new specialists, suspensions on defense, and the health and behavior of the tailbacks. But Mark Richt’s club still has a schedule gift-wrapped for a second straight division title. The toughest matchups will be at Missouri and at South Carolina, but for a second straight year they don’t have to play Alabama, Arkansas or LSU. And with quarterback Aaron Murray, ample talent at receiver, and a defense returning nine starters, that should be enough to carry the Bulldogs.

South Carolina, meanwhile, has to deal with the loss of several key defensive starters, receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive boss Ellis Johnson. But the Gamecocks still have Marcus Lattimore (presumably healthy), Jadeveon Clowney and Steve Spurrier. Florida and Missouri are dark horse candidates to win the division. The Gators would need to make a big improvement in Will Muschamp’s second year, and the key to that will be production at quarterback. Missouri’s hopes may depend on the health of quarterback James Franklin.

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

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

Expansion talk

The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri was greeted with much pageantry by the SEC. There were big welcome ceremonies, with excited talk about what each school brings to the conference, and how great this was for the SEC.

And then came the details.  The move to 14 teams proved to be a headache for those charged with coming up with a new scheduling philosophy. The conference athletics directors logged plenty of miles flying to meetings, trying first to agree on an overall philosophy and then to hammer out logistics. About the only thing that they ended up agreeing on was to keep the traditional, cross-division rivalries. After some brief worries, Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama were saved.

“I’ve been in this league a long time,” says Larry Templeton, the former Mississippi State athletics director who was the SEC’s point man on scheduling. “I think this league has a tendency to do what’s best for the league over the long haul. I think there’s a strong feeling among the league to keep that (Georgia-Auburn) game, as well as a couple other cross-division rivalries.”

The league is also clinging to an eight-game schedule, even as other conferences moved towards nine games. Why so stubborn? Because the SEC sees itself as having some unique factors. The biggest one, as usual, was money: Nearly every SEC school, save Vanderbilt and perhaps Kentucky, can sell out any home game. So why go to nine SEC games, leaving only three non-conference games, and less of a chance to schedule a Sun Belt team for a sure sellout?

Detractors claim it’s more about the SEC not wanting to have more difficult schedules. But Templeton says that if the conference went to nine games, the non-conference game most likely to be jettisoned wouldn’t be that Sun Belt matchup, but one against another BCS conference school.

“I’m an eight-game guy,” Templeton says. “In this league, the game that’s gonna get given up are the big games that we put together, intersectional across the country. Mississippi State’s not gonna play a BYU or Oregon or teams that you’ve played in the past.”

The year of the quarterback

There was a considerable lack of star power at the game’s most visible position in 2011. The conference lost Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, Greg McElroy and Jevan Snead to graduation or the NFL, and South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia was booted during the season.

But the star power should be back in 2012. Both the first-team All-SEC quarterback (Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson) and second-teamer (Georgia’s Aaron Murray) are back. The addition of Missouri brings in James Franklin, who excelled in the spread last year. Tennessee hopes to get a full season out of Tyler Bray, who was an All-SEC candidate before being hurt.

Alabama’s AJ McCarron has a chance to capitalize on his strong finish to last year, including his coming-out party in the BCS championship. LSU is hoping for a strong season from Zach Mettenberger — who might be starting over Murray if he hadn’t been dismissed from the team at Georgia. South Carolina has high hopes for Connor Shaw, who was solid in relief of Garcia last year. And at Vanderbilt, Jordan Rodgers ignited the Commodores’ offense with his ability to run and pass when he took over the starting role in October.

Wilson was an underwhelming choice as the SEC’s top quarterback last season. If he repeats this year, it won’t be because of a lack of good competition.

Progress on another front

Here’s one little-noticed fact about Texas A&M joining the SEC: The conference now has three black head football coaches, the most it has ever had in the sport, and tied for the most of any FBS conference.

Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin, formerly of Houston, in December, after firing Mike Sherman. Kentucky’s Joker Phillips is entering his third season, and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is entering his second. Phillips and Franklin downplayed last year’s game, which was the first in SEC history between two black head football coaches. Their meeting this year, on Nov. 3, will be the only one this year, because neither is scheduled to play Texas A&M.

Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference have three black head coaches. The Pac-12 is the only other BCS league that has as many as two.

Related SEC Content

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive Talks Realignment and Playoffs
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 2 LSU

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> SEC Football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:20
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-101-124
Body:

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time conclude the rankings, continuing with No. 101-124. 

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

101. Western Kentucky
Third-year coach Willie Taggart received a four-year contract extension after guiding WKU to the best turnaround in Sun Belt history. Yet, the sting remains of being snubbed for a bowl invitation despite posting a 7–5 record that included a 7–1 mark in the Sun Belt. Taggart has used that snub to motivate his team in the offseason. The Hilltoppers can no longer sneak up on the rest of the league. Last season proved that WKU is now a program that can compete in the improving Sun Belt. Contending with Bobby Rainey no longer around will be tough, but the Hilltoppers should still be one of the better teams in the league.    

Read the full 2012 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Preview

102. Ball State
Pete Lembo admits that his team might have overachieved last year, but he thinks they deserved it after buying in so readily to their new coaches. With virtually the same coaching staff in place for the second year in a row — a first for Ball State’s veterans — the arrow should keep pointing upward as long as the intangibles remain in place. “We won five close games,” Lembo says. “We scored on seven or eight two-minute drives. We were the least-penalized team in the conference. There were a lot of good signs, but we know we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Read the full 2012 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

103. Eastern Michigan
Last year’s six wins represented the most the program has posted in a single season since 1995. Ron English has seemingly moved past many of the distractions that hindered his team early in his tenure, making it possible for him to focus solely on on-the-field matters. Despite the relative success last year, EMU struggled down the stretch, losing three of its four games in November. All three losses were by six points or less, and all were defined by the missed opportunities that come with the kind of inconsistency English harps on. “As a team right now, we do not consistently do what we’re coached to do,” says English, the MAC’s reigning Coach of the Year. “So that’s going to be the biggest emphasis.” The schedule won’t be as friendly in 2012. There are two road games against Big Ten foes (Purdue, Michigan State) in September, and the Eagles have to play both Toledo and Western Michigan, two of the top teams in the MAC’s West Division. Eastern Michigan might be a better team in 2012 but not win as many games. 

Read the full 2012 Eastern Michigan Eagles Team Preview

104. North Texas
Dan McCarney has plenty of believers, and for good reason. A 5–7 record in a new stadium last season brought optimism. But now the Mean Green must try to be a dominant running team without a proven running back, and they must slow down opposing passing attacks without their best pass-rusher and all four starters in the secondary. Road games at LSU, Kansas State and Houston offer little breathing room. McCarney’s plan appears to be on track, but it will take baby steps, and he knows it. “Thirty scholarship players were out the door last year, so we have depth issues, and we’re still 11 under the 85 scholarship limit,” McCarney says. “But that’s why I’m here, to fix a lot of the problems at North Texas. But we believe in our plan.”

Read the full 2012 North Texas Mean Green Team Preview

105. UTEP
UTEP’s unspoken formula — to win three nonconference games and cobble together three more victories to get to bowl eligibility — is rendered just about impossible by a slate that includes Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ole Miss. On the bright side, the five wins a year ago were more than many predicted in a complete rebuilding season, and 2012 could see the fruits of that in the final year of the 66-year-old Mike Price’s contract. The offense returns most of the key pieces, and the defense seems poised to make another incremental improvement, but the Miners will have to overachieve to put themselves in position to become bowl-eligible.

Read the full 2012 UTEP Miners Team Preview

106. UAB
UAB received a scare in the spring when Garrick McGee was rumored to be returning to Arkansas to replace his mentor Bobby Petrino. That didn’t happen, and the Blazers surge forward with an excitement level from the fan base that hasn’t been seen in Birmingham since the year after UAB played in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl. Playing with a quick tempo will be an emphasis for the Blazers. McGee and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm have installed an offensive system that should produce a lot of points. But will UAB be able to stop anybody? The Blazers seem to have taken a step forward on the defensive side, but it will be hard for defensive coordinator Reggie Johnson to completely turn things around in one year.

Read the full 2012 UAB Blazers Team Preview

107. Rice
If you believe David Bailiff, the Owls are coming on. Well, they had better be improving, because following up 2008’s 10-win season and Texas Bowl triumph with a 10–26 record over the next three campaigns has made even the most patient Rice fans a little antsy. The offense must become more proficient, especially through the air. Taylor McHargue will benefit from last year’s experience, but if the line doesn’t perform, he could be a target. The defense must get tougher up front, or teams will again gash Rice on the ground and have plenty of time to attack through the air.

Read the full 2012 Rice Owls Team Preview

108. Hawaii
At his introductory press conference, broadcast live statewide, Norm Chow declared he had come home to “chase championships.” But given the difficulty of the move up to the Mountain West, a nonconference schedule that sends Hawaii on the road to USC and BYU in the first month and the amount of retooling necessary to install a new offense, Chow has his work cut out for him. Just getting to a break-even mark on its 12-game schedule, which would assure an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, would be quite an accomplishment in Chow’s inaugural season. 

Read the full 2012 Hawaii Warriors Team Preview

109. Troy
A lot of Trojan faithful want to either forget 2011 or cast it aside as an anomaly. Troy won at least eight games in the five seasons before last year’s collapse, and with a skilled offense and an influx of new talent on defense, there’s little doubt the Trojans should be improved in 2012. Improvement, however, might not be enough to make a big jump in the Sun Belt standings. The league is better than ever, with Arkansas State, FIU and UL Lafayette expected to contend for the conference title. A realistic goal for Troy, in the short term, should be to beat out the likes of UL Monroe, Western Kentucky and North Texas for fourth place.

Read the full 2012 Troy Trojans Team Preview

110. Central Michigan
CMU has put together one of the better home schedules in MAC history for the 2012 season, with seven home games — a rarity in the mid-major world. It features Navy, rival Western Michigan and, most notably, Michigan State. “Just because you’re playing them at home, you’re still playing them,” Dan Enos says, laughing, at the prospect of facing the Spartans. It’s the sort of home slate that’ll put butts in seats and put eyes on Enos’ program, which probably needs a .500 season to take the heat off of the third-year coach. That, however, isn’t likely to happen. The MAC West is loaded, with Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois at the top and improving Ball State and Eastern Michigan not far behind. It will be a struggle for the Chips to escape the cellar.  

Read the full 2012 Central Michigan Chippewas Team Preview

111. Buffalo
A 5–19 record over the last two years is not what the Buffalo faithful expected after hiring Jeff Quinn away from Cincinnati three years ago. The program’s biggest adjustment has been on offense, where players haven’t fully taken to Quinn’s pass-heavy spread. While Branden Oliver is one of the MAC’s premier tailbacks, Quinn is breaking in another quarterback, a position where results so far have been a mixture of wild inconsistency and occasional doses of promise. Defensively, Khalil Mack could emerge as the conference’s best player, and there’s enough talent to keep Buffalo competitive until the offense grows. Nevertheless, this is a critical year for Quinn. Warde Manuel, the man who hired Quinn, is now the athletic director at Connecticut, and new AD (Danny White) probably won’t be enamored with five wins over two seasons. It doesn’t help that the schedule is more challenging than it was last season.

Read the full 2012 Buffalo Bulls Team Preview

112. UNLV
Bobby Hauck hasn’t taken any shortcuts in trying to build UNLV’s football program, sticking almost exclusively to high school recruiting. That has meant taking a lot of lumps with a young squad in back-to-back two-win seasons. Expectations around Glitter Gulch are for a run at bowl eligibility in Year 3. That, however, could be asking for too much too soon. The Rebels will be better, but they could be another year away from returning to the postseason. 

Read the full 2012 UNLV Rebels Team Preview

113. Tulane
What would be a successful season for a Tulane program stuck in neutral since playing in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl? The honest answer would be a one- or two-game improvement over 2011, when the Green Wave went 2–11 and lost their final 10 games. New coach Curtis Johnson has some experienced players in key areas, and the change at the top has created some excitement on the Tulane campus, something that’s been missing for a while. But he’s also a first-year head coach, and anything more than a small step forward would be a pleasant surprise.

Read the full 2012 Tulane Green Wave Team Preview

114. MTSU
Middle Tennessee played in three bowl games in five years under Rick Stockstill before plummeting to last season’s 2–10 record, the program’s worst mark in more than 30 years. The extent of the letdown suggested that there were more issues with chemistry and character than talent. To turn the tide, Stockstill made some staff changes, implemented a new offseason weight program and put positions up for grabs more than in previous seasons. Stockstill hopes lessons of last season have been learned. “We had a sense of entitlement, and that can never happen again,” Stockstill says. “We flushed away 2011, but we can never ever forget it. That was gut-wrenching, and we never want to go through that again.” Aside from all the mind games, Middle Tennessee must correct its horrendous turnover margin of the last two seasons to return to past success. The Blue Raiders will play only five home games, but they can build some much-needed confidence with a soft early schedule against McNeese State, Florida Atlantic and at Memphis. A 3–0 start is not out of the question before the competition stiffens.

Read the full 2012 MTSU Blue Raiders Team Preview

115. Memphis
A former quarterback at Oklahoma and Murray State, Justin Fuente faces the challenging task of resurrecting a program that went to five bowls in six seasons under Tommy West but has won only five total games in the past three years. Fuente also has the added responsibility of bulking up a team that joins the Big East in 2013. Fuente understands that he has taken command of a program in disrepair. The number of scholarship players is low, and depth is practically non-existent. But the first-year coach brings an innovative offensive mind and has put together a solid staff that includes former North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey as offensive coordinator. Fuente also will be helped by a forgiving schedule that makes winning four games a realistic goal.

Read the full 2012 Memphis Tigers Team Preview

116. New Mexico State
The Aggies took a big step forward a season ago. They were a much more competitive team and could have won more than four games with a few breaks. It’s critical that NMSU continues to move forward under coach DeWayne Walker, who’s entering his fourth year at the school. If the Aggies improve as much this year as they did last year, bowl-eligibility isn’t out of the question thanks to a much kinder schedule in a new-look WAC that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada.

Read the full 2012 New Mexico State Aggies Team Preview

117. New Mexico
Bob Davie, who last coached at Notre Dame in 2001, knows what is in front of him. He is taking over a team that ranked 120th in scoring offense and 119th in scoring defense and has had 34 of the 67 players signed in the last three years leave the program. “This is a complete rebuilding job,” Davie says. “No one is going to argue that point. I’m comfortable with that. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity.” Discipline and attention to detail have been the themes since he took over, two areas that were apparently non-existent in the disastrous Mike Locksley era. The Lobos are lacking in personnel to make any sort of an immediate jump, but it is imperative for Davie to make some progress in the statistical rankings and in the win-loss record. He needs to be able to sell his next recruiting class on the hope that the program is headed in the right direction. 

Read the full 2012 New Mexico Lobos Team Preview

118. Idaho
After a pair of disappointing seasons, the pressure is on Idaho to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009. A watered-down WAC should help, as the Vandals drop Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii from their schedule and add FBS newbies UT-San Antonio and Texas State. Still, with only five home games and two games at BCS conference schools, the schedule isn’t exactly easy. Idaho will need its offense to improve significantly and for its defense and special teams to carry the load until the offense starts clicking. If things do fall into place, the Vandals could contend for a top-four finish in the WAC.

Read the full 2012 Idaho Vandals Team Preview

119.  Akron
Akron is headed for its seventh consecutive losing season. The 1–11 marks in 2010 and ’11 under Rob Ianello represented the worst two seasons for the Zips since they joined college football’s top division in 1987. That’s a big hole to climb out of, and even the presence of the much-ballyhooed Terry Bowden will not change the fortunes that quickly. The offense has some potential playmakers, but they will get a chance to produce only if the line develops. Chuck Amato must perform some magic on defense for the unit to be successful. Bowden seems to be a good fit for the job, but Zips fans must be patient.

Read the full 2012 Akron Zips Team Preview

120. FAU
Howard Schnellenberger will be long revered in Boca Raton, as he is in Coral Gables, for what he did to establish a program. Yet, while he built what would become a perennial power on the field at the University of Miami, his legacy at FAU will be the field itself. The product on it has slipped over the past five years, and now it’s up to Carl Pelini, who has only been a head coach at the high school level, to reverse the direction. He replaced all but one assistant, and he has tossed out the old schemes on offense and defense. “We have come a long way,” Pelini says. “We still have a long way to go, though.” That will be evident this season, especially in visits to Alabama and Georgia. Some Sun Belt progress would be sufficient. 

Read the full 2012 FAU Owls Team Preview

121. Texas State
After a 5–2 start last season under coach Dennis Franchione — in his first year in his second stint at the school — the Bobcats stumbled down the stretch to finish 6–6 as an FCS independent. Texas State now takes another step forward in 2012, joining the WAC for one season before moving on to the more stable Sun Belt Conference in ’13. The schedule will certainly be more challenging this season for the Bobcats, who will play only one FCS opponent — local rival Stephen F. Austin — after facing nine FCS foes and one Division II school last year. This season’s first two weeks include a Sept. 1 opener at Houston and Sept. 8 home game against Texas Tech. Texas State has been preparing for its move to the FBS ranks and expanded the seating capacity of Bobcat Stadium from 16,000 to 30,000 in the offseason. Franchione took New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M to bowl games before arriving in San Marcos. The Bobcats may eventually find similar success, but there will likely be some growing pains in the short term. 

Read the full 2012 Texas State Bobcats Team Preview

122. UMass
Under the hyper-energetic Charley Molnar, the Minutemen are taking a unique approach to their transition to the FBS. They aren’t scheduling any FCS opponents, and every nonconference game they will play over the next few years is against a BCS conference opponent. On top of that, the Minutemen will play home games in Gillette Stadium, hoping that the allure of playing in an NFL stadium will counter the fact that “home” games will be almost 100 miles from campus. UMass won’t be eligible for a MAC championship or a bowl appearance until 2013 as it completes its transition, but just being competitive figures to be challenge enough in 2012.

Read the full 2012 UMass Minutemen Team Preview

123. South Alabama
After going undefeated in its first two seasons of football, South Alabama went 6–4 last year against a more difficult schedule that included its first games against FBS opponents (losses at NC State and Kent State). South Alabama won’t be eligible for the Sun Belt championship or the postseason until 2013, but the Jaguars will play a full league schedule. They open the season Aug. 30 against recent start-up program Texas-San Antonio, coached by former Miami (Fla.) boss Larry Coker. Joey Jones has built a solid foundation since being hired in February 2008. The Jaguars have a veteran team, with 47 returning lettermen and 13 returning starters, but their first season against a full Sun Belt schedule will be tough. A last-place finish is likely.

Read the full 2012 South Alabama Jaguars Team Preview

124. UTSA
Former BCS national championship-winning Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker helped lead UTSA to a 4–6 mark in its first year while playing as an FCS Independent. The Roadrunners don’t count as an FBS opponent until 2013 — when they are expected to join Conference USA after a one-year stop in the WAC — and won’t be a full-fledged FBS member or eligible for a bowl until 2014. Last season, UTSA played tough at eventual FCS national runner-up Sam Houston State before losing 22–7, and beat FCS member Georgia State 17–14 in overtime. Start-up programs traditionally face a tough road, but UTSA is already making some steady progress. Still, it’s a stretch to believe the Roadrunners will be any kind of a threat in the WAC in their first (and only) season in the league.

Read the full 2012 UTSA Roadrunners Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
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thlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100

Teaser:
<p> College football 2012 predictions: No. 101-124</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 04:09
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-wide-receiver-rankings
Body:

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

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

Rankings Player Team
1 Robert Woods USC
2 Marquess Wilson Washington State
3 Sammy Watkins Clemson
4 Nick Harwell Miami (Ohio)
5 Tavon Austin West Virginia
6 Stedman Bailey West Virginia
7 Marqise Lee USC
8 Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech
9 Keenan Allen California
10 Kenny Stills Oklahoma
11 Darrin Moore Texas Tech
12 Terrance Williams Baylor
13 Ryan Swope Texas A&M
14 Da'Rick Rogers Tennessee
15 Darius Johnson SMU
16 Cody Hoffman BYU
17 Cobi Hamilton Arkansas
18 Josh Boyce TCU
19 Justin Hardy East Carolina
20 Rashad Greene Florida State
21 Bernard Reedy Toledo
22 Javone Lawson UL Lafayette
23 Tevin Reese Baylor
24 Kasen Williams Washington
25 Matt Miller Boise State
26 Markus Wheaton Oregon State
27 Tracy Moore Oklahoma State
28 Dewayne Peace Houston
29 Eric Ward Texas Tech
30 Eric Thomas Troy
31 Ronnie Williams Houston
32 Erik Highsmith North Carolina
33 Trey Metoyer Oklahoma
34 Justin Hunter Tennessee
35 DeAndre Hopkins Clemson
36 Tavarres King Georgia
37 Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt
38 Aaron Dobson Marshall
39 Titus Davis Central Michigan
40 Alec Lemon Syracuse
41 Noel Grigsby San Jose State
42 Jackie Williams UAB
43 Keenan Davis Iowa
44 Emory Blake Auburn
45 Julian Horton Arkansas
46 Josh Stewart Oklahoma State
47 Josh Schaffer Western Michigan
48 Michael Campanaro Wake Forest
49 Bryan Burnham Tulsa
50 Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin
51 Shaun Joplin Bowling Green
52 Cody Wilson Central Michigan
53 Jaxon Shipley Texas
54 Eric Monette Western Michigan
55 Kristoff Williams Washington State
56 Odell Beckham LSU
57 Colin Lockett San Diego State
58 Josh Jarboe Arkansas State
59 Taylor Stockemer Arkansas State
60 Conner Vernon Duke
61 Marcus Davis Virginia Tech
62 Demetrius Fields Northwestern
63 T.J. Moe Missouri
64 Uzoma Nwachukwu Texas A&M
65 Malcolm Mitchell Georgia
66 Brandon Coleman Rutgers
67 Kelvin Benjamin Florida State
68 Charlie Moore Oklahoma State
69 T.J. Jones Notre Dame
70 Devin Smith Ohio State
71 DeVante Daniels Notre Dame
72 Deontay Greenberry Houston
73 Roy Roundree Michigan
74 Jamal Miles Arizona State
75 Billy Ray Stutzmann Hawaii
76 Daniel Spencer Houston
77 Martel Moore Northern Illinois
78 Aaron Bradley Nevada
79 Ivan McCartney West Virginia
80 Geraldo Boldewijn Boise State

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 03:55
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-predictions
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The obstacles were well-documented. USC would be crippled for multiple seasons by NCAA penalties — after all, it had happened before. De’Anthony Thomas’ recruiting defection to Oregon was a program crusher. Lane Kiffin was an overrated coach. For all of the above reasons, impending doom was predicted for the Trojans for seasons to come. But a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity: SC, under Kiffin and without Thomas, has put its football house back in order with a vengeance — possibly all the way to a national championship.

With 15 of 24 starters returning from a 10–2 team, led by prolific pro-style quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Barkley and a wide receiving corps unmatched in college football, the Trojans are heavy favorites to claim the Pac-12 title and more after serving hard time for Reggie Bush’s indiscretions. If USC can run the ball effectively and plug a few other holes, it just might run the table and disrupt the SEC’s long-running dominance of college football.

Barkley’s commitment to another college season was unexpected and enthusiastically welcomed by the Trojans who have now accelerated their efforts to reclaim what they once had. “The 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to,” Barkley said in announcing his return.

The Trojans easily should rule the Pac-12’s South Division, keeping top challenger Utah and the league’s best defensive lineman Star Lotulelei at arm’s length. The Utes will be formidable because they have the schedule on their side, not playing North contenders Oregon and Stanford while getting USC at home. Plus, quarterback Jordan Wynn is healthy again from shoulder injuries.

In the North, the first one among the Ducks and Cardinal to find a suitable quarterback replacement for Darron Thomas and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Andrew Luck, respectively, likely wins. Oregon gets the early North nod because of Thomas’ explosive presence in the backfield. Washington will be a factor largely because it has its quarterback issues already resolved, welcoming back the highly productive Keith Price for another season, though defensive shortcomings will keep it from title contention.

With a third of the conference undergoing coaching changes, bringing high-profile and up-tempo leaders to Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, upsets could be far more prevalent than usual.

The Cougars’ Mike Leach, after inheriting promising quarterbacks in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, plus the remnants of Paul Wulff’s long-term rebuilding efforts, will be especially worrisome for the Pac-12’s upper echelon.

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

Playmaker

Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas started only six of 14 games as a freshman running back. Closing out the season, he rushed the ball just twice against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. This is the résumé for a potential Heisman Trophy candidate?

More lightning bolt than workhorse, Thomas made the most of his limited opportunities for the Ducks, scoring 18 times and thus positioning himself among the college football elite for 2012. On his two Rose Bowl carries, Thomas, a player christened “the Black Mamba” as a kid by rapper Snoop Dogg, zinged the Badgers for electric 91- and 64-yard scoring jaunts, the first run ranking as the longest in Rose Bowl history.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid who averaged 77.5 yards per carry,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly wisecracked. “I’ll see if (this season) we can get him an extra carry or two.”

Secondary Violations

What’s up with the barren stretch of straightaway Interstate 5 freeway that cuts through Albany, Ore., and pedal-to-the-metal defensive backs?

In February, Oregon State cornerback Malcolm Marable was suspended by the Beavers after he was cited for driving 104 mph in Albany, a half hour from campus, at 1 a.m. while in a 2005 Nissan Altima registered to a family member. A potential starter, he is expected to be reinstated for the 2012 season. Eight months earlier, Oregon’s Cliff Harris, an all-conference cornerback, was pulled over south of Albany, an hour from his campus, for driving 118 mph at 4:30 a.m. He was suspended by the Ducks. His car of choice? A rented 2011 Nissan Altima.

Leach’s Law

WSU’s Mike Leach, who inherited a pair of promising quarterbacks in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, had them throwing almost exclusively throughout spring practice, far more than the often air-minded Cougars had done in recent seasons. “I had a lot of fun doing it,” says Tuel, a senior. “It’s only going to make us better, and the more throwing the better, for me.”

To prepare the WSU players for his breakneck approach, Leach subjected them to conditioning drills from 10 p.m. to midnight leading up to spring practice, working toward a wardrobe incentive. Cougars were forced to wear pink T-shirts if a subpar performance was turned in during these late-night encounters, gray shirts for average effort and black shirts for above average.

Not His First Rodeo

A rodeo résumé might not be all that unusual for a high-profile player at, say, Texas or Wyoming, but it is at Stanford. Trent Murphy, a 6'6", 255-pound starting linebacker from Phoenix and potential Cardinal defensive mainstay, counts horseback riding, team roping, steer wrestling and rattlesnake skinning among his diverse talents.  Of manhandling a steer, Murphy says, “They’re a little smaller than you think, only about 500 or 600 pounds. The trick is you try to use their momentum against them. As they’re running, you get the right leverage and twist their head right around so they kind of fall over on their back.”

Dan’s the Man

Dan Buckner, Arizona’s top receiver, one-time Texas transfer and resident funnyman, is playing for his fourth college head coach — Mack Brown at Texas, Mike Stoops, Tim Kish (interim) and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Yet Buckner should be used to people coming and going in his world: He has nearly 1,900 Twitter followers and roughly 5,000 Facebook friends. He’s a social media maven. He’s definitely his own man, too. “There are good leaders and bad leaders. I just want to be viewed as a positive one,” Buckner said.

Trojan Genes

In the spring, USC toyed with moving Kevin Graf from starting right tackle to the all-important left tackle slot — to replace NFL-bound Matt Kalil — but opted to keep the 6'6", 295-junior on the right side, at least for now. If the staff revisits the plan in the fall, Graf should be more than up to fill the role.

His father, Allan, was a starting offensive guard and member of USC’s 1972 national championship team before embarking on a career as a Hollywood stunt coordinator. Graf’s brother, Derek, was an offensive guard, center and part-time Trojans starter in 2002 before the sibling likewise became a stunt double. 

Related Pac-12 Content

Oregon's Top 10 Players for 2012
USC's Top 10 Players for 2012

Stanford's Top 10 Players for 2012

Washington's Top 10 Players for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2012 Predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-81-100
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With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 81-100. 

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

81. Kansas
There’s no question the Jayhawks are in better shape entering 2012 than they were during the past two seasons, but better shape does not necessarily mean good shape. As long as quarterback Crist stays healthy, the offense should put points on the board, which is vital in the Big 12. The question that will loom all season is whether the defense can make enough stops to allow that offense to compete. The addition of defensive coordinator Dave Campo, a former NFL head coach, helps, and the KU defense appears to be more disciplined and organized. But unless it can find a way to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, winning conference games could remain a struggle.

Read the full 2012 Kansas Jayhawks Team Preview

82. Southern Miss
Southern Miss is coming off a school-record 12-win season, a league title, a bowl win and top-20 year-end national ranking. New coach Ellis Johnson won’t be expected to repeat that magical run, especially with Nebraska, Boise State and Louisville on the non-conference schedule. Johnson will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and playing without his leading rusher. Also, the defense must replace several key pieces. Southern Miss still has talent — more than most teams in the league. But the Golden Eagles figure to take a small step back in 2012.

Read the full 2012 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Team Preview

83. Marshall
Marshall did not make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 under Doc Holliday, but finishing 6–6 after a 5–7 mark the year before meant a bowl berth, and when the Herd won the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, tangible progress was felt. Marshall has a chance to continue that upward trend if the offensive line can allow the team’s talented skill players to thrive, particularly Aaron Dobson. Defensively, Marshall is deeper and better prepared for some of the difficult offenses it will face. Another bowl berth for the Herd in 2012 would not be a surprise, but a C-USA championship still looks to be at least a few years down the road.

Read the full 2012 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview

84. Colorado
Colorado will be one of the youngest teams in the nation with a new quarterback and nearly all of its toughest games on the road. It’s difficult to expect Buffalo fans to have any more patience after six straight losing seasons, but the program is at least a year away from being more competitive with the rest of the Pac-12 and reaching the postseason.

Read the full 2012 Colorado Buffaloes Team Preview

85. Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren didn’t need a spring practice to notice the difference between last year’s offense-dominated team and the 2012 edition. “This team is really a flip of last year’s team,” he says. The Huskies return only three starters from an offense that scored 40 points or more in nine games. Jordan Lynch’s progress hinges on the development and chemistry of a revamped offensive line and unproven group of running backs. The defense allowed 30.3 points and 415.2 yards per game last year but should help the offense during an early transition period. The defense is filled with enough talent and depth to carry the team, but it must force turnovers at a higher rate than the last few years. A favorable schedule that includes four of the first five games at home (including the season-opener against Iowa at Soldier Field) and does not include any of the contenders in the MAC East should help the Huskies’ quest for a third straight trip to the MAC title game. 

Read the full 2012 Northern Illinois Huskies Team Preview

86. Boston College
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani won’t be collecting his mail on Chestnut Hill if the Eagles experience a repeat of last season, when BC endured its first losing campaign since 1998. Sitting out the postseason after a run of 12 straight bowl appearances was especially galling to the boosters, alumni and student body, who were clamoring in unison for the guillotine. They may get their wish after the 2012 season.

Read the full 2012 Boston College Eagles Team Preview

87. Fresno State
For 15 years, Pat Hill and his Fu Manchu moustache were synonymous with Fresno State. But last year’s 4–9 mark, on top of years of dwindling attendance, forced AD Thomas Boeh’s hand. Thus the Bulldogs begin their first season in the Mountain West Conference with a clean slate. With Derek Carr and Robbie Rouse, the Bulldogs boast two of the elite offensive players in the league. This should be a good offense, provided the players get comfortable with the new system. Based on a rough spring practice, it’s not down pat yet. The defense, too, should be improved, based on Tim DeRuyter’s track record. Boise State is clearly the class of the MWC. Fresno State is among a group of teams seeking to be the best of the rest.

Read the full 2012 Fresno State Bulldogs Team Preview 

88. Wyoming
In Dave Christensen’s first three seasons, the goals focused mostly on earning a trip to the postseason. The Cowboys accomplished their mission twice, and now — with Christensen receiving the program’s largest contract ever — the expectation level has increased. “I think we’re getting closer now, and where our focus has to be is playing for a conference championship,” he says. Brett Smith could be the top quarterback in the conference, and an experienced, hungry defense could be in for a special year. With TCU moving to the Big 12 and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore having graduated, the Cowboys could be surprise contenders in the Mountain West.

Read the full 2012 Wyoming Cowboys Team Preview

89. Indiana
Tom Crean needed four seasons to turn the Indiana basketball team around, so it’s unrealistic to expect miracles from Kevin Wilson in Year 2. His most important decision will be at quarterback. Although Tre Roberson provided thrills and some long plays, he’s not a perfect fit for the pro-style passing game that Wilson and new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell prefer. They’ll be tempted to go with Cameron Coffman or Nathan Sudfeld. But Indiana allowed nearly 43 points per game while going winless in the Big Ten. Unless the Hoosiers start to hold their own on either line of scrimmage, major improvement will have to wait another season.

Read the full 2012 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

90. Utah State
As Gary Andersen prepares for his fourth season at the USU helm, he is pleased with the work ethic of his team. The goal is a WAC title, which is not out of the question with the departure of Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State to the Mountain West. While two stud running backs are gone, this team still should be able to run the ball. Plus, with two experienced quarterbacks, the offense should be able to score points and keep fans excited. The Aggies had some problems early last season closing out games in heartbreaking losses at Auburn and BYU and a home defeat against Colorado State. However, USU reeled off five straight wins to make the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Winning eight games this year should not be a stretch.

Read the full 2012 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

91. Colorado State
Talk about a leap of faith: Jim McElwain is leaving a program that has won two of the past three national championships for one that produced three consecutive 3–9 seasons under Steve Fairchild. McElwain’s No. 1 goal during the spring was to change the culture and instill an attitude of commitment and accountability. Some players, including some projected starters, departed, but those who stayed bought in and swear by McElwain’s leadership. “Coach Mac brings a lot of passion and excitement,” Nwoke says. “We want to do great things next year, but it’s on us do the work over the summer to get there. Nobody wants to be 3–9 ever again.” The good news is the Rams have a schedule that should be friendly to improvement — perhaps even the first .500 finish since 2008. But with a largely untested quarterback and a defense facing numerous questions, it’s clear that McElwain’s first season will be filled with lots of uncertainty. 

Read the full 2012 Colorado State Rams Team Preview

92. Air Force
Connor Dietz leads an offense that returns only three starters. He must remain healthy, which is a large question considering his reckless style, and he must be more generous. In past seasons, Dietz has been too eager to call his own number on the option. The bigger question is defense. The Falcons averaged 34.9 points in 2011, but their defense — which struggled mightily against the run — doomed them to disappointment. Jamil Cooks and Brian Lindsay must reach their considerable potential if the Falcons hope to record a winning record.

Read the full 2012 Air Force Falcons Team Preview

93. SMU
June Jones says he is happy with the progress of the program, which has been to three straight bowl games. As for this season, he says a fourth straight bowl is the goal, though he admits that early in the season, “we’ll be a rebuilding team, but I think we’ll rebuild pretty fast because we’re going to be pretty good on defense.” Jones has yet to put up the pinball offensive numbers he did at Hawaii, though his teams have set several SMU passing records in his tenure. To him, it boils down to the quarterback, and that is an unknown entering the season. “Until you get one of those quarterbacks that can shoot the lights out, you’ll float around in the top 20 or 25 in passing,” Jones says. “When you get one of those quarterbacks like Case Keenum, (Houston) went from No. 30 to No. 1. We’ve had good production out of the quarterbacks, but we haven’t had a great one yet.” SMU fans are hoping Garrett Gilbert is the first.

Read the full 2012 SMU Mustangs Team Preview

94. Bowling Green
Dave Clawson’s first season at Bowling Green, in 2009, produced a 7–6 record and a spot in the Humanitarian Bowl. Since then, however, the Falcons are 7–17. “We’ve played a lot of young guys the past couple of seasons, and they gained some very valuable experience,” Clawson says. “Now that they have been through it and seen what playing at game speed at the college level is all about, we expect good things from them. Assuming that quarterback Matt Schilz remains healthy, the offense should have little trouble putting points on the board. If the defense, which brings back nine starters, can simply pull its weight, then the Falcons should be in position to battle Ohio for supremacy in the MAC East. 

Read the full 2012 Bowling Green Falcons Team Preview

95. San Diego State
San Diego State has failed to win a conference title in its 13 seasons in the Mountain West and won’t be expected to do so this fall in its final campaign before moving to the Big East. The goal this season is to play in a bowl game for the third straight year, something that has never happened during the program’s 43 seasons in the Division I ranks. For that to occur, Ryan Katz will have to play well at quarterback, Adam Muema must emerge as threat at tailback, and the defense will have find some able replacements in some key spots. 

Read the full 2012 San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview

96. Army
Keeping Trent Steelman healthy is of paramount importance, but Rich Ellerson has placed much emphasis on finding the right parts for the defensive line and improving the play on special teams. “If we stay healthy, then physically we will be more competitive because we have matured with guys getting older and stronger,” says the coach. “It will be all for naught, however, if we don’t have other fundamental issues resolved.” If those things are resolved, the Black Knights could be back in the bowl picture, especially with a schedule that features seven games at Michie Stadium.

Read the full 2012 Army Black Knights Team Preview

97. Kent State
Kent State has had three consecutive 5–7 seasons, but the 2012 edition of the Golden Flashes could be the team to break through and record the school’s first winning record since 2001. Darrell Hazell is a coach on the rise and has brought a winning mentality with him from Ohio State. The offense should be improved, thanks in large part to the running attack that will feature both Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. And an improved ground game will no doubt help Keith and/or Fisher be more productive throwing the ball down the field. The defense, led by Roosevelt Nix, will once again be stout. Ohio is the team to beat in the MAC East, but Kent State is in that next tier of teams that could put some pressure on the Bobcats. A winning league record is a reasonable goal. 

Read the full 2012 Kent State Golden Flashes Team Preview

98. San Jose State
Mike MacIntyre signed a well-deserved contract extension through 2017 after leading the Spartans to a respectable 5–7 finish, a four-win improvement over 2010 that included road wins at Colorado State and Fresno State and a home win over Navy. The Spartans lost three other games by a field goal or less. With a solid nucleus returning that includes four starters who earned all-conference recognition a year ago and a much more favorable schedule in the revamped WAC, look for the Spartans to make a strong run at bowl-eligibility this year. 

Read the full 2012 San Jose State Spartans Team Preview

99. Miami (Ohio)
Don Treadwell, the former Michigan State offensive coordinator who briefly served as the Spartans’ head coach when Mark Dantonio had a heart attack, is counting on a large group of seniors not only to lend experience on the field, but also to school the younger RedHawks in the Miami tradition, of which he is very fond. It won’t make a difference if Miami can’t put together some type of sustained rushing attack that would give Zac Dysert some much-needed space and limit the number of minutes the defense has to spend on the field. The RedHawks defense will face enough punishment in their opener at Ohio State in what will be Urban Meyer’s ballyhooed debut as the Buckeyes’ coach. Visits to Boise State and Cincinnati won’t be helpful going into the meat of Miami’s MAC schedule.

Read the full 2012 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Team Preview

100. Louisiana-Monroe
Hampered by cuts to scholarships and practice time due to previous academic penalties, ULM struggled to get over the hump in Todd Berry’s first two seasons. Now with those penalties in the past, the Warhawks hope to contend. There’s plenty of youth on the roster, but now ULM has a full allotment of scholarships. That should help with depth, but the Warhawks still might be another year away from their first bowl trip. “We had high expectations last season, but we couldn’t overcome injuries,” Berry says. “We still need to be healthy, but we have a deeper team now, and we have a chip on our shoulder because of some close games we lost last year. We had to bite the bullet with scholarships in the past, but we’ve got the team we want now.” Early momentum will be hard to come by with trips to Arkansas and Auburn to start the season and only one home game in the first five weeks.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Team Preview

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A
thlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80

Teaser:
<p> College football preseason rankings: No. 81-100</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 05:19

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