Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-tight-end-rankings

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 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

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

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

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

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 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
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

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

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

<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

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

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Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
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<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

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

<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

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


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

<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

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

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

<p> College football preseason rankings: No. 81-100</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 05:19
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-running-back-rankings

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 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

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback 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

Updated: August 12

Rankings Player Team
1 Montee Ball Wisconsin
2 Joseph Randle Oklahoma State
3 Robbie Rouse Fresno State
4 Kenjon Barner Oregon
5 Marcus Lattimore South Carolina
6 Branden Oliver Buffalo
7 De\'Anthony Thomas Oregon
8 Rex Burkhead Nebraska
9 Giovani Bernard North Carolina
10 Zach Line SMU
11 Knile Davis Arkansas
12 Le'Veon Bell Michigan State
13 Eddie Lacy Alabama
14 D.J. Harper Boise State
15 Charles Sims Houston
16 Stepfan Taylor Stanford
17 Ray Graham Pittsburgh
18 John White Utah
19 Andre Ellington Clemson
20 Orleans Darkwa Tulane
21 Zac Stacy Vanderbilt
22 Cameron Marshall Arizona State
23 Chris Nwoke Colorado State
24 Cierre Wood Notre Dame
25 David Fluellen Toledo
26 Silas Redd USC
27 Isi Sofele California
28 Lyle McCombs Connecticut
29 Michael Holmes Virginia Tech
30 Perry Jones Virginia
31 Ka'Deem Carey Arizona
32 Kedrick Rhodes FIU
33 Fitzgerald Toussaint Michigan
34 Onterio McCalebb Auburn
35 Kerwynn Williams Utah State
36 Stefphon Jefferson Nevada
37 Christine Michael Texas A&M
38 Jawon Chisholm Akron
39 Malcolm Brown Texas
40 Jawan Jamison Rutgers
41 Johnathan Franklin UCLA
42 Hunter Lee Louisiana Tech
43 Dominique Whaley Oklahoma
44 Lache Seastrunk Baylor
45 Jyruss Edwards ULM
46 Jahwan Edwards Ball State
47 Carlos Hyde Ohio State
48 Montel Harris Temple
49 Matt Brown Temple
50 Alonzo Harris UL Lafayette
51 Jesse Callier Washington
52 Mike James Miami, Fla.
53 Brandin Byrd North Texas
54 Orwin Smith Georgia Tech
55 Antonio Andrews Western Kentucky
56 Ja'Terian Douglas Tulsa
57 Devonta Freeman Florida State
58 Anthon Samuel Bowling Green
59 Spencer Ware LSU
60 Michael Ford LSU
61 Matthew Tucker TCU
62 Demetris Murray South Florida
63 Kevin Parks Virginia
64 Keith Marshall Georgia
65 David Oku Arkansas State
66 John Hubert Kansas State
67 Latavius Murray UCF
68 Malcolm Agnew Oregon State
69 Curtis McNeal USC
70 Jarred Salubi Baylor
71 James Washington NC State
72 Joe Bergeron Texas
73 Stephen Houston Indiana
74 Mike Gillislee Florida
75 James White Wisconsin
76 Jordan Hall Ohio State
77 Kendial Lawrence Missouri
78 Waymon James TCU
79 Tony Jones Colorado
80 LaDarius Perkins Mississippi State

<p> College fantasy football: 2012 running back rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 03:38
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2012-predictions

The media and others may have jumped the gun by anointing Florida State as the class of the ACC’s Atlantic Division in 2011, but the rest of the division will be hard-pressed to keep the Seminoles out of the conference title game again this fall. FSU brings back nine starters from a defense that ranked among the top five in the country in several categories. The offense is led by a senior quarterback, a senior tailback and an abundance of talented skill-position players. And special teams again will be a plus, with an All-America candidate at kicker and a dangerous return specialist in Greg Reid. If the Seminoles’ offensive line is just adequate, they could be the team to beat.

Of course, at this point, it’s hard to call any team other than Virginia Tech the favorite to win the conference. The Hokies have been to five of the seven ACC title games — including four of the last five — and they should be very good again in 2012. Scoring points will be a concern in what will be a rebuilding year for the Virginia Tech offense, but Bud Foster’s defense returns nearly intact.

Clemson deserves respect for being the surprise winner of the ACC last season, but it’s difficult to imagine the Tigers pulling off a repeat. As much as everyone loves the chemistry between quarterback Tajh Boyd and receivers Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, there are major questions about who is going to block up front. And the Tigers’ defense was pretty poor all season — even before West Virginia hung 70 points on them in the Orange Bowl. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who was lured away from Oklahoma, will have to undo a lot of problems to make Clemson’s defense respectable in one year.

NC State and Wake Forest could make things interesting in the Atlantic — the Wolfpack won six of their last eight games last season, and the Demon Deacons should be very good on defense — but neither is much of a threat to win the division.

The biggest challenges to Virginia Tech in the Coastal likely will come from North Carolina and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets should be very difficult to stop on offense and solid on defense, and the Tar Heels could follow that model as well. New head coach Larry Fedora has a track record of building explosive offenses, and he has some quality material to work with in Chapel Hill.

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews

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

Georgia Tech goes deep

On the average game day at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech will throw the ball a little more than a dozen times. Trying to recruit wide receivers could be a challenge, but Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson can brag about a couple of receivers who have thrived despite the option offense.

In Johnson’s four seasons at Georgia Tech, Yellow Jackets receivers have been among the ACC leaders in yards per catch. First, Demariyus Thomas averaged 20.9 yards per reception in two years playing for Johnson. Although Stephen Hill never caught as many passes as Thomas in a season, he set a new standard for punishing teams crowding the line of scrimmage to stop Georgia Tech’s run game. Hill led all NCAA receivers last year — that’s NCAA, not just FBS — with 29.3 yards per catch, nearly eight yards per catch more than the next best receiver. Among receivers with enough catches to qualify, Hill’s 29.3 yards per catch was the best average since 2007.

The NFL doesn’t seem to mind the small sample size for the two Georgia Tech receivers, either. The Denver Broncos drafted Thomas with the 22nd pick in the first round in 2010. In the 2012 draft, Hill was the only Georgia Tech player selected. The New York Jets drafted him with the 11th pick in the second round.

Draft not shining on Sunshine State

Draft day used to be cause for celebration in the Sunshine State, but Florida State and Miami aren’t the powerhouses they once were in this area. Miami once set a record with a first-round selection in 14 consecutive drafts, but the Hurricanes in 2012 went without a first-rounder for the fourth consecutive year. The Miami Dolphins selected running back Lamar Miller with the fourth pick of the second round, leaving safety Kenny Phillips (31st pick in 2008) as the last Hurricane taken in the first round.

Florida State had to wait even longer to see one of its former players drafted. Linebacker Nigel Bradham wasn’t drafted until the fourth round, the first time Florida State had been shut out of the first three rounds since 1987. If there’s any consolation, rival Florida had the worst draft of the state’s Big Three with the fewest picks (two). By the time the first Gator was selected — defensive tackle Jaye Howard with the 19th pick in the fourth round — four Hurricanes and one Seminole had already been drafted.

League of linebackers

When former Boston College star Luke Kuechly (right) was selected with the ninth pick of April’s NFL Draft, he joined a long and growing list of ACC linebackers playing at the next level. In 2011, there were 45 linebackers from the conference on NFL rosters — that was the most of any college conference.

The Big Ten ranked just behind the ACC with 44, and the SEC surprisingly had only 38. It marked the third consecutive year that more NFL linebackers came from the ACC than any other conference.

Tweet beef

While some college coaches already have banned their players from social media outlets such as Twitter, the dust-up between Clemson quarterback Cole Stoudt and 2012 signee Chad Kelly raises a new question: What about the players who aren’t even on campus yet?

Kelly, the nephew of former Buffalo Bills star Jim Kelly, took a thinly veiled shot at Stoudt just before National Signing Day on Twitter, saying the sophomore was, “on the bench for a reason,” and that Kelly was “coming soon.”

Stoudt, who is the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, responded almost immediately, tweeting that he didn’t like players who talk big, “when they haven’t done anything yet.”

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn’t take any public action regarding the beef, but the players did apparently patch things up the next time Kelly visited campus.

Spicing things up

Larry Fedora was born in Texas and went to college in the state, but it ­didn’t take him long to make himself part of the North Carolina-NC State rivalry.

While speaking to UNC boosters this spring, the first-year head coach was asked several times about the Tar Heels’ recent struggles against the Wolfpack — NC State has won five consecutive games in the series. Fedora, who was hired away from Southern Miss, explained that he understood the significance of the rivalry, but he added that he didn’t want to talk too much about it because he didn’t want to “legitimize their program.”

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Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012

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2012 College Football Rankings: No. 46-60

<p> ACC Football 2012 Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 06:09
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-61-80

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. 61-80. 

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

61. Oregon State
Riley’s 12th season in Corvallis isn’t make or break, but his seat definitely gets warm if Oregon State follows disappointing 5–7 and 3–9 campaigns with another clunker. If the Beavers finish above .500 and get back to a bowl game, much will be forgiven. Riley says that if the young players thrown to the wolves last season have grown up and become bigger and stronger (he raved about OSU’s offseason work ethic), “then we’re going to have a good team.” How good? It depends on the offense being balanced, the offensive line blocking somebody, and the defense stopping the run. That’s a lot of what-ifs, but given the athletes on the roster and Riley’s body of work in Corvallis, no one will be surprised if the Beavers surprise.

Read the full 2012 Oregon State Beavers Team Preview

62. Minnesota
The enduring image of Jerry Kill’s first season at Minnesota is of him rolling on the ground during a game, in the throes of an epileptic seizure. It was a frightening episode, but Kill is tough and adaptable. “We’ve put that in the past,” Kill says. “I’m doing what I have to do to get healthy.” Not a bad way to describe his program. The Gophers aren’t healthy yet, not even close. Kill spent his first season installing his system and changing the culture, but boosting the talent level takes far longer. The Gophers have barely a dozen scholarship seniors, and virtually no meaningful experience at playmaking positions. This is a team built for 2015, so the benchmarks this fall are modest: Win their “guarantee” games for a change, shock an occasional Big Ten opponent and perhaps sneak into a bowl game.

Read the full 2012 Minnesota Golden Gophers Team Preview

63. Louisiana Tech
After years of coming close, the Bulldogs broke through and won the WAC championship — their first since 2001 — with a 6–1 mark in league play. Anything less than a repeat, in a watered-down league that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada, would be a major disappointment. There are also some opportunities early in the season for the Bulldogs to make a splash nationally with a schedule that includes a game vs. Texas A&M in Shreveport and road trips to Houston, Illinois and Virginia.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Team Preview

64. Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze moved on to Ole Miss after leading the Red Wolves to their best season in a quarter-century. ASU moved on with Gus Malzahn, a former Broyles Award winner who stunned observers when he returned to his home state to take over in Jonesboro. Malzahn, who signed what most consider the Sun Belt’s top recruiting class, has built on the enthusiasm generated by last year’s 10–3 record. The former Auburn offensive coordinator has talked about building the “Boise State of the South” and encouraged ASU fans to make plans for another bowl trip this year. With Ryan Aplin running Malzahn’s offense, the Red Wolves shouldn’t have trouble scoring. They may give up plenty of points, too, especially in September games at Oregon and Nebraska, but their firepower makes them a threat to repeat in the Sun Belt.

Read the full 2012 Arkansas State Red Wolves Team Preview

65. Navy
Navy established a program record of appearing in eight straight bowl games by not beating itself and doing all the little things right. Last season, the Midshipmen hurt themselves with costly mistakes, untimely turnovers and poor special teams. There is always a small margin of error for a service academy program, and the Mids, who routinely find themselves in close games, need to get back to playing mistake-free football.

Read the full 2012 Navy Midshipmen Team Preview

66. UCF
The Knights firmly believe they underachieved last season and should have earned a bowl invitation. UCF wants to make sure it ends its final season in Conference USA on the right note before jumping to the Big East. “We didn’t finish last year like how we wanted to,” says Jordan Rae, who will be in his third season as the Knights’ starting center. “Leaving the conference this year, we want to leave with a bang. We want to make a statement. We’re definitely going for a conference title.” If the defense and offensive line improve, UCF has the potential to make some noise in Conference USA. 

Read the full 2012 UCF Knights Team Preview

67. Syracuse
The momentum gained from winning eight games and winning a bowl in 2010 didn’t carry over to last season. Now, Doug Marrone, entering his fourth season, is faced with a difficult nonconference schedule that includes games against national title contender USC, Missouri, Minnesota and Northwestern. The coach says he’d rather face a tough lineup, even though his team has issues on both sides of the ball. “The challenge is getting the talent level up to the schedule,” Marrone says. “When you look at our history, we’ve done this before. It almost forces you to become better — right out of the gate.” More offensive production would be a good first step.

Read the full 2012 Syracuse Orange Team Preview

68. FIU
Some were surprised that Mario Cristobal stuck around. They shouldn’t have been. The fiery coach, who was born and raised in Miami before starting for the University of Miami, has built something special and seemingly stable in his backyard. Expectations soared after FIU started 3–0 in 2011, with wins against Louisville on the road and UCF at home. And while FIU couldn’t sustain its play, especially after T.Y. Hilton’s injuries, it enters 2012 poised to exceed the past two seasons’ accomplishments. The schedule is forgiving, the speedy Florida-based talent keeps coming, and the defense has a chance to be dominating.

Read the full 2012 FIU Golden Panthers Team Preview

69. Connecticut
Connecticut’s enthusiasm from the Fiesta Bowl appearance following the 2010 season quickly tapered off after the blowout loss to Oklahoma, the unexpected departure of coach Randy Edsall to Maryland and, finally, the 5–7 season in 2011. With all that behind him, coach Paul Pasqualoni will try to prove the Huskies are moving back in the right direction. With an injection of transfers to the offense to go with a strong running game and a solid defense, Pasqualoni may have the pieces to return to the postseason. 

Read the full 2012 Connecticut Huskies Team Preview

70. Houston
Expecting Houston to repeat — or even approach — its 2011 win total (a school-record 13) is asking a lot considering all the talent and leadership that graduated. The Cougars can still be a good team, however, and it is easy to draw comparisons to the 2008 team, which won eight games. Like that team, the 2012 Cougars will have a new head coach (Tony Levine), a mostly new coaching staff, a sophomore quarterback (David Piland) and a batch of unproven receivers. The advantage this year’s team has is an experienced defense and special teams unit. Regardless of the new parts, the goals remain the same. “Our goal will continue to be to win the championship,” Levine says. “Win our side of Conference USA and not only play in, but win, the Conference USA Championship Game.” 

Read the full 2012 Houston Cougars Team Preview

71. Ole Miss
Talent is thin, depth is a concern, and academic issues leave a number of unknowns heading into the fall. Hugh Freeze has taken a strong disciplinary stance and has praised his players for their attitude and effort. With a nonconference schedule that includes Texas and an SEC slate that includes, well, the SEC, this is not the season to expect a return to a bowl game. The Rebels need to find a way to win nonconference games against Central Arkansas, Tulane and UTEP, then focus on being competitive in the league and picking off a game, perhaps two, to end a 14-game SEC losing streak. Those are realistic goals.

Read the full 2012 Ole Miss Rebels Team Preview

72. Maryland
Randy Edsall spent the offseason trying to wash away memories of one of the worst first seasons of any college coach in recent memory. His decision to replace both coordinators was met with applause from a frustrated fan base. He brought a familiar face back to College Park in offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who installed a pro-style offense and helped Edsall haul in a sterling recruiting class. And Maryland attempted to recast Edsall’s image amid the steady stream of negative media. Now comes the hardest part: winning. Edsall likely will need to lean on promising freshman playmakers to navigate a daunting schedule and win back the fan base during a critical second season.

Read the full 2012 Maryland Terrapins Team Preview

73. Temple
Temple never got over the hump in the MAC. But the conference provided a lifeline, allowing the Owls to become relevant. And now they’re back in the Big East after a seven-year absence. So, how much better could life on North Broad Street really be? “These kids, they all want to play at the BCS level,” Steve Addazio says. “They understand the challenges. They came here hoping this would happen one day, and it has. Things are coming together.” Given that they never made it to a MAC Championship Game, it might not happen right away. Yet there’s no reason to believe the Owls can’t at least be competitive almost from the start.

Read the full 2012 Temple Owls Team Preview

74. Tulsa
Tulsa finished with eight wins in Bill Blankenship’s first season, and expectations will remain high for a program that has advanced to bowl games in seven of the past nine seasons. Success will depend on Cody Green’s ability to manage the offense behind a line that is seasoned but a bit unproven. The running backs will provide Green the ability to get comfortable, but the wide receivers must make an impact. Defensively, the Golden Hurricane should be even better than last year, when they were a pleasant surprise. 

Read the full 2012 Tulsa Golden Hurricane Team Preview

75. Kentucky
Kentucky saw its streak of five consecutive bowl games snapped last season with a 5–7 record. Even if the Cats are better this fall, a tougher schedule that includes road games at Louisville, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee means that any improvement might not show up in the record. Season-ticket sales and attendance dipped last season, and only 4,500 fans showed up for the Spring Game. Joker Phillips’ message: “Just wait and see. Don’t give up on this football team. We’ll battle. We’ll fight. We’ll scratch. We’ll claw. Just don’t give up on this football team.” 

Read the full 2012 Kentucky Wildcats Team Preview

76. Louisiana-Lafayette
Cajun football has never been in better shape or attracted more support, but Mark Hudspeth knows how close the storybook 2011 season came to being another break-even proposition. Six of the Cajuns’ games were decided on the final minutes, and UL Lafayette pulled out wins in five of those six. Three of those five came on the road, though, and a perfect 5–0 home record last year bodes well in a season in which three major players in the Sun Belt title race — Arkansas State, FIU and Western Kentucky — all come to Cajun Field. Replacing tight end Ladarius Green’s talents won’t be easy, but the Cajuns are loaded offensively and on special teams, and that might be enough to cover for a revamped and inexperienced defense.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Team Preview

77. Western Michigan
There was perhaps no team in college football that produced such statistical extremes in 2011. It was all very entertaining but only modestly effective. The Broncos returned to the postseason with a Little Caesars Pizza Bowl loss to Purdue but came up well short again of a league title. It’s been written before in the Bill Cubit era, but this season WMU has a strong chance to change that. The Broncos have a quarterback who’s done everything but win big, experience in the trenches and six home games (rare for this program), including visits from West Division rivals Northern Illinois and Toledo. 

Read the full 2012 Western Michigan Broncos Team Preview

78. East Carolina
Here’s a twist to put a smile on the Jolly Roger — it’s the defense that will decide how far East Carolina goes. Most of the big stat defenders are back, and they’re in the second year of a system that obviously suits them. The offense, rather than out-gunning opponents and dominating C-USA, will try not to muck it up this time around. The first step is coach Ruffin McNeill settling on a quarterback who can keep turnovers at a minimum and maximize a pretty good receiving corps. Improved special teams play will augment the emphasis on defense, and limiting penalties is another key. East Carolina’s passionate fan base is counting on a return to the bowl circuit after missing out last year despite a fast finish. Bowl-bound the previous five seasons, the proud Pirates may see someone walking the plank if they fail again.

Read the full 2012 East Carolina Pirates Team Preview

79. Toledo
The 32-year-old Matt Campbell, the youngest head coach in the FBS, inherits a talented and experienced team from his boss Tim Beckman, who moved on to Illinois. Campbell was the players’ choice to direct the program, and he led the Rockets to a 42–41 win over Air Force in the Military Bowl. Campbell, previously the Rockets’ offensive coordinator, knows his team is capable of scoring points. After all, Toledo averaged more than 50 points over the final six games of the ’11 season. He would like to see the defense improve so the offense doesn’t have to carry the load. “Offensively, defensively, and special teams — we are one,” he says. “I think when you get to that point, you’ve got a chance to be pretty good.” The coach is right — Toledo should be good. Good enough to challenge Western Michigan and Northern Illinois for the MAC West title. 

Read the full 2012 Toledo Rockets Team Preview

80. Duke
Despite its 3–9 record in 2011, Duke was actually very close to earning its first bowl berth since 1994. Time and again, the Blue Devils failed to seize opportunities in close games. A missed chip-shot field goal, a blown coverage, a botched fourth-down conversion … a play here and a play there, and who knows? “We’re that close,” David Cutcliffe said in the spring. “We’ve come to the edge over and over and over again.” But getting to the edge is one thing. Getting past it — and on to bowl eligibility —  is something else entirely. Even though Cutcliffe is an optimist, he knows that the next step for his football program is, in reality, a giant leap.

Read the full 2012 Duke Blue Devils Team Preview

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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

<p> College football 2012 preseason rankings: No. 61-80.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-quarterback-rankings

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

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

Updated: August 12

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College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

How easy?

UT could win nine games without beating a ranked opponent.

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

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

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

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

So eight wins is a must.

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

Road games at Alabama, Florida, and Oregon?

Good luck with that.   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full Virginia Cavaliers 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Tennessee Volunteers 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full California Golden Bears 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full BYU Cougars 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Baylor Bears 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Vanderbilt Commodores 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full UCLA Bruins 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Arizona Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Penn State Nittany Lions 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Pittsburgh Panthers 2012 Team Preview

Related College Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s your biggest challenge moving forward?

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

Related SEC Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full Florida Gators 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Kansas State Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full NC State Wolfpack 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full North Carolina Tar Heels 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Auburn Tigers 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Missouri Tigers 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Texas A&M Aggies 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Utah Utes 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full South Florida Bulls 2012 Team Preview

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

Read the full Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 2012 Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012

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

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

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

Chuck Amato 
Defensive Coordinator, Akron

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

Matt Canada 
Offensive Coordinator, Wisconsin

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

Jeff Casteel
Defensive Coordinator, Arizona

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

Billy Gonzales 
Co-Offensive Coordinator, Illinois

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

Tom Herman 
Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

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

Kliff Kingsbury 
Offensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

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

Vic Koenning 
Defensive Coordinator, North Carolina

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

Doug Martin 
Offensive Coordinator, Boston College

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

Tyrone Nix
Defensive Coordinator, Middle Tennessee

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

Mike Nesbitt
Offensive Coordinator, Houston

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

Paul Petrino 
Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas

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

Nick Rolovich
Offensive Coordinator, Nevada

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

Mark Snyder 
Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

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

Mike Stoops 
Defensive Coordinator, Oklahoma

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

Chris Tormey 
Defensive Coordinator, Wyoming

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

Brian VanGorder
Defensive Coordinator, Auburn

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

Brent Venables 
Defensive Coordinator, Clemson

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

Justin Wilcox 
Defensive Coordinator, Washington

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

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Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USC Team Preview

USC's Top 10 Players of 2012

USC’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LSU Team Preview

LSU's Top 10 Players of 2012

LSU’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 * analysis of college football preseason publications.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Athlon's Top 25 for 2012
2012 College Football Rankings: No. 3 Alabama
2012 College Football Rankings: No. 4 Oregon

2012 College Football Rankings: No. 7 Georgia

2012 College Football Rankings: No. 10 South Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And maybe a problem.

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

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

Scoring system rankings based upon -

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

Updated: August 12

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College Fantasy Football: 2012 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 Quinn Sharp Oklahoma State
2 Matt Weller Ohio
3 Dustin Hopkins Florida State
4 Caleb Sturgis Florida
5 Brett Maher Nebraska
6 Drew Alleman LSU
7 Michael Hunnicutt Oklahoma
8 Zach Hocker Arkansas
9 Matthew Sims Northern Illinois
10 Chandler Catanzaro Clemson
11 Dan Conroy Michigan State
12 Matt Hogan Houston
13 Tyler Bitancourt West Virginia
14 Jeremy Shelley Alabama
15 Andre Heidari USC

<p> College fantasy football: 2012 kicker rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, June 4, 2012 - 02:07