Articles By Steven Lassan

Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2012-spring-preview
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Oklahoma State Cowboys 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 12-1, 8-1 Big 12

Spring practice: March 12-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 3, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Clint Chelf, 20 of 30, 307 yds., 3 TD, 0 INTs
Rushing: Joseph Randle, 208 car., 1,216 yds., 24 TDs
Receiving: Tracy Moore, 45 rec., 672 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Daytawion Lowe, 97
Sacks: Two players tied with 2
Interceptions: Two players tied with 5

Redshirts to watch: QB J.W. Walsh, CB Miketavius Jones, LB Kris Catlin, OL Devin Davis, WR Torrance Carr, WR David Glidden

Early Enrollees: TE Blake Jackson, DT Calvin Barnett, QB Wes Lunt, LB Jeremiah Tshimanga

JUCO Transfers to watch: DT Calvin Barnett, OL Chris Grisbhy, TE Blake Jackson

Transfer to watch: S Shamiel Gary (Wyoming)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Savannah State
Sept. 8 at Arizona
Sept. 15 UL Lafayette
Sept. 29 Texas
Oct. 13 at Kansas
Oct. 20 Iowa State
Oct. 27 TCU
Nov. 3 at Kansas State
Nov. 10 West Virginia
Nov. 17 Texas Tech
Nov. 24 at Oklahoma
Dec. 1 at Baylor

Spring Storylines Facing the Cowboys

1. Coming off a 12-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl victory over Stanford, Oklahoma State has some work to do if it wants to win the Big 12 title in 2012. The Cowboys return 11 starters, but suffered some key losses on both sides of the ball. While Oklahoma State will certainly struggle to match last year’s win total, the program is on stable footing and has won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons. A drop off in victories is certainly expected considering the personnel losses from last season. However, don’t completely write off the Cowboys from finding a way to be a factor in the Big 12 race, especially with coach Mike Gundy recruiting well and some key pieces back in the mix for 2012.

2. All eyes in Stillwater this spring will be on the battle on to replace quarterback Brandon Weeden. The former baseball player had a terrific two-year run as Oklahoma State’s starting quarterback, throwing for 9,004 yards and 71 scores. Junior Clint Chelf is the early frontrunner to replace Weeden and has fared well in limited action, throwing for 520 yards and five scores on 34 completions. Although Chelf has the most experience, incoming freshman Wes Lunt – a four-star prospect by Rivals – and redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh will get every opportunity to win the job this spring. Luckily for the new quarterback, the Cowboys have a deep group of running backs that can help take the pressure off the passing attack. Joseph Randle returns to Stillwater after rushing for 1,216 yards and 24 scores last season, and will be expected to challenge for All-Big-12 and All-American honors.

3. Outside of the quarterback position, Oklahoma State has two other burning questions to answer on offense this spring. The Cowboys must replace two key receivers, including All-American Justin Blackmon. Michael Harrison was expected to be one of the main contributors to Oklahoma State’s receiving corps, but he left the program this spring. Tracy Moore, Josh Stewart and Isaiah Anderson are the early favorites to start in 2012, while junior college recruit Blake Jackson brings an interesting blend of size (6-foot-3, 238 pounds) and speed to the position. Outside of developing a pecking order at receiver, the Cowboys have to settle on a starting front five. Tackle Levy Adcock and center Grant Garner were two of the best in the Big 12 last year and will be missed. However, line coach Joe Wickline is one of the best in college football, and has some pieces to work with, including guard Lane Taylor and the return of Jonathan Rush from injury.

4. With eight starters back on defense, it’s not out of the question this group should be better in the big four statistical categories – scoring, pass, total and rush defense. The linebacking corps is rock solid with the return of Shaun Lewis, Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey. The secondary will miss safety Markelle Martin, but Daytawion Lowe is back at free safety and transfer Shamiel Gary has two years of starting experience from Wyoming. Brodrick Brown is quietly one of the top cornerbacks in the nation and should contend for All-American honors. The biggest question on the defense is the line and production from the end spots. Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones combined for 12 sacks last year and will be missed off the edge. Nigel Nicholas has been moved from tackle to help with the depth at end, but the Cowboys need Ryan Robinson, Cooper Bassett and Tyler Johnson to emerge as solid contributors.

Related Content Links

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Big 12 Predictions

2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> With Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon no longer in Stillwater, the Cowboys will have a tough time repeating last year's win total.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 12, 2012 - 06:47
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-3, 5-2 Big East

Spring practice: March 11-April 21

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Geno Smith, 346 of 526, 4,385 yds., 31 TD, 7 INTs
Rushing: Dustin Garrison, 136 car., 742 yds., 6 TDs
Receiving: Tavon Austin, 101 rec., 1,186 yds., 8 TDs
Tackles: Darwin Cook, 85
Sacks: Terence Garvin, 3.5
Interceptions: Four players tied with 2

Redshirts to watch: DL Kyle Rose, LB Jared Barber, DB Terrell Chestnut, WR Dante Campbell, LB Isaiah Bruce

Early Enrollees: DL Imarjaye Albury, QB Ford Childress, S Karl Joseph, WR Jordan Thompson, S Sean Walters

JUCO Transfer to watch: OL Mark Glowinski

Transfer to watch: DL Derrick Bryant (UCLA)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Marshall
Sept. 15 James Madison (Washington, D.C.)
Sept. 22 Maryland
Sept. 29 Baylor
Oct. 6 at Texas
Oct. 13 at Texas Tech
Oct. 20 Kansas State
Nov. 3 TCU
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 17 Oklahoma
Nov. 24 at Iowa State
Dec. 1 Kansas

Offensive Strength: In the first year executing coach Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack, the Mountaineers averaged 346.9 passing yards per game last season. With another spring to pickup and tweak the pass-first attack, West Virginia should be even more comfortable with the offense in 2012. Quarterback Geno Smith should contend for All-American honors, while Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin form one of the top receiving duos in the nation.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line was a source of criticism and frustration for the coaching staff last season, and the jury is still out on this group in 2012. Three starters return up front, but left tackle Don Barclay – a first-team All-Big East selection – and right tackle Tyler Rader are gone. Center Joe Madsen is a good building block for this group, and guard Josh Jenkins is back after missing all of last season with an injury. However, the line is still one of West Virginia’s biggest question marks going into 2012. Running back is also an issue, especially with Dustin Garrison recuperating from a torn ACL suffered in Orange Bowl practices.

Defensive Strength: Despite the loss of cornerback Keith Tandy and safety Eain Smith, West Virginia’s secondary is in relatively good shape. Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins will get the nod at cornerback, while Darwin Cook and Terence Garvin should be one of the Big 12’s top safety combinations.

Defensive Weakness: New co-defensive coordinators Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest have some rebuilding to do in the front seven. Ends Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin combined for 14.5 sacks last season and will be missed. Linebacker Najee Goode is another departed standout on defense, as he recorded 87 stops and picked up first-team All-Big East honors last year.

Spring Storylines Facing the Mountaineers

1. Goodbye Big East. Hello Big 12. Change is in the air in Morgantown this spring, as West Virginia has left the Big East in favor of the Big 12. The Mountaineers are somewhat of an odd geographic fit for the Big 12, but that could change with more expansion in the next few years. Regardless of geography, West Virginia should be a good addition to the Big 12 and will be in the mix to claim the league title in 2012. Change wasn't relegated just to the Mountaineers' conference, as defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel departed to Arizona, forcing the Mountaineers to bring in Joe DeForest from Oklahoma State and Keith Patterson from Arkansas State to share the co-defensive coordinator title. Holgorsen and DeForest have experience coaching in the Big 12, which will certainly come in handy as the Mountaineers adjust to life outside of the Big East.  

2. Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for the Mountaineers in 2012. Quarterback Geno Smith should surpass last season’s yardage mark (4,385), while receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will both push for first-team All-Big 12 honors. Ivan McCartney had a strong sophomore year in 2011 and will build upon that success in 2012. However, the offense isn’t without concerns, especially on the line where two starters are gone. The offensive line was considered a weakness last season, but the return of guard Josh Jenkins from injury and the second year in Holgorsen’s scheme should be enough to expect some improvement from this group. While the offensive line won’t be an issue against most teams in the Big 12, the play of this unit will be an issue once Texas, Oklahoma and TCU come calling.

3. Outside of the offensive line, the biggest question mark on offense will be the rushing attack. Dustin Garrison had a solid freshman year, rushing for 742 yards and six touchdowns, but suffered a torn ACL in Orange Bowl practices. With Garrison’s status uncertain for preseason workouts, the Mountaineers need to figure out a contingency plan for the 2012 season. Shawne Alston ranked second on the team with 416 rushing yards last year and would figure to be the early frontrunner to replace Garrison. Sophomore Andrew Buie is also in the mix for playing time. The Mountaineers don’t need a 1,000-yard rusher to emerge, but they have to have someone who can help to take the pressure off quarterback Geno Smith. With Garrison sidelined indefinitely, it’s important for Alston and Buie to have a strong spring.

4. With a new defensive scheme and a change at coordinator, preseason workouts is an important time for the Mountaineers to find the right mix on defense for 2012. DeForest and Patterson have a tough rebuilding job up front, as ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller have finished their eligibility. The linebacking corps will miss Najee Goode, but there’s experience returning with Jewone Snow, Doug Rigg and Jared Barber back in teh mix. With the move to a 3-4 scheme, the linebackers will be a greater area of focus, especially in establishing a pass rush. The secondary ranked 35th nationally in pass defense last season, but that will be put to the test with better quarterbacks and receivers in the Big 12. With six starters returning, there’s plenty for Patterson and DeForest to work with. However, the Mountaineers need to quickly adjust to the new defensive scheme if they want to contend for the Big 12 title. 

Related Content Links:

Top Transfers to Watch in 2012
Early Top 25 for 2012
College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Very Early Big 12 Predictions

2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia is on the move from the Big East to the Big 12. Athlon previews what's in store for the Mountaineers as spring practice begins in Morgantown.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 9, 2012 - 07:17
All taxonomy terms: Temple Owls, News, Big East
Path: /college-football/temple-football-gets-redemption-whats-next-big-east-expansion
Body:

The Big East has arguably been college football’s most active conference with it comes to realignment, but it appears the final piece (at least for now) is in place. Temple will move its football program from the MAC to the 

Big East in time for the 2012 season. The Owls will bring the rest of their sports to the Big East in time for 2013-14. Temple’s exit fee from the MAC will be paid for by the Big East.

With the defection of West Virginia to the Big 12, the Big East was left with only seven football members for 2012. With most of the teams in the conference having trouble filling out their schedule, bringing in an eighth team for Big East play was the only logical option. Boise State was rumored as a candidate to join a year early, but the Broncos chose to stick around in the Mountain West for another season.

Considering the history between Temple and the Big East, it’s certainly strange to see the Owls helping to bail the conference out of a jam.

Temple joined the Big East for football in 1991, but never found success. The Owls won just overall eight games from 1991-96 and never managed more than four wins in a season during its original tenure in the Big East.

With the lackluster performance on the field and sluggish attendance, Temple was booted from the Big East and forced to play as an Independent in 2005-06 with disastrous results. The Owls won one game during those two seasons, but eventually found their footing with the hire of Al Golden as head coach and the move to the MAC.

While Temple never won a MAC title, the program has made significant progress from where it was in 2005. The Owls have won at least eight games in each of the last three seasons and posted two bowl appearances – 2009 EagleBank Bowl and the 2011 New Mexico Bowl.

Considering where Temple was in 2005 (0-11), the school deserves a ton of credit for working its way back into the Big East and becoming relevant on the national scene in football. Sure, the Big East isn’t going to threaten the other five BCS conferences in any preseason power ranking, but it’s an upgrade over the MAC. And with a boost in funding thanks to the Big East revenue, Temple isn’t going back to the days of finishing 0-11 or 1-10. The Owls are sitting in a good area for recruiting, and playing games in Lincoln Financial Field is much more appealing than Veterans Stadium.

How Will the Owls Fare in 2012?

Although the Owls are on the rise, it might be too much to ask for this team to contend for the Big East in 2012. Running back Bernard Pierce decided to bolt early for the NFL and the offense loses four key senior contributors on the offensive line. The defense should be solid, but must replace end Adrian Robinson. Coach Steve Addazio has done a good job recruiting, and while a conference title is probably out of reach, playing in a bowl game isn’t out of the question.

The Big East Does What It Needs To Do

While commissioner John Marinatto has taken his share of heat for the defections of West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, his expansion decisions have been the right ones for the future of the Big East. Although the conference would have been thrilled to land BYU or Air Force, gaining Boise State, Houston and UCF on the football side is a huge positive, while Temple and Memphis are two solid additions for hoops. The Tigers and Owls also have potential on the gridiron, and their improvement will be critical for the league’s overall standing in the next couple of seasons.

SMU and San Diego State have each had its struggles, but both appear to be back on the right path. The Mustangs have made three consecutive bowl appearances, while the Aztecs are coming off back-to-back bowl bids. Both teams reside in good media markets, and have the potential to grow should they continue to have success on the field.

Expansion was long overdue for the Big East, but this will be an intriguing conference when 2013 rolls around. Boise State has emerged as a national power and will anchor the Western Division. UCF and Houston have proven capable of finishing with 10 wins, but moving to the Big East is a step up in competition. The pieces are in place for both teams to do well in the new conference. And with 12 members, the Big East tentatively plans on having a conference championship game in New York City.

What’s Next For the Big East? More Expansion?

The addition of Temple certainly addresses a major hole in the Big East schedules for 2012, but the conference may not be done with expansion. Commissioner John Marinatto mentioned the Big East would like to get to 14 football members, creating two divisions of seven teams. Team No. 14 is likely to be located out west, which keeps the door open for Air Force or BYU to join.

But there’s another curveball that could be thrown Marinatto’s way. Louisville is believed to be the Big 12’s No. 1 expansion target and could be invited in the next couple of years. With the Cardinals on the rise once again in football, their departure would be a huge blow.

If Louisville leaves, the conference could look at bringing Villanova up to the FBS level. The Wildcats have been exploring the possibility of making the jump, and according to the press release announcing Temple’s move to the Big East, the conference is willing to waive the entry fee if they join within the next three years. The Big East is also offering some financial help to Villanova as it continues to explore moving its football program up to the FBS level.

If the Wildcats don’t work out, East Carolina would seem like a logical fit to become team No. 14.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse

Although Marinatto has pledged to hold Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Big East’s 27-month exit agreement, there have been signs both teams will be allowed to leave for the ACC before the start of next season. Barring a complete change of heart, 2012 will be the Orange and Panthers last season in the Big East. With the conference bringing in six teams next season, losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh would give the Big East 12 football members.

Here’s a scorecard of the Big East’s expansion moves:

The Big East’s football members for 2012

Cincinnati
Connecticut
Louisville
Pittsburgh
Rutgers
South Florida
Syracuse
Temple

The Big East’s football members for 2013:

Boise State
Cincinnati
Connecticut
Houston
Louisville
Memphis
* Pittsburgh
Rutgers
San Diego State
SMU
South Florida
* Syracuse
Temple
UCF

Navy is expected to join the conference in time for the 2015 season.

* Syracuse and Pittsburgh are expected to leave for the ACC in time for the 2013 season.

Teaser:
<p> After being kicked out of the Big East in 2004, the Owls are back in the conference for the 2012 season.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 06:18
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 12-1, 7-1 SEC

Spring practice: March 9-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 4

Returning Leaders:

Passing: AJ McCarron, 219 of 328, 2,634 yds., 16 TD, 5 INTs
Rushing: Eddie Lacy, 95 car., 674 yds., 7 TDs
Receiving: Kenny Bell, 17 rec., 255 yds., 2 TDs
Tackles: Nico Johnson, 47
Sacks: C.J. Mosley, 2
Interceptions: Dee Milliner, 3

Redshirts to watch: RB Dee Hart, WR Marvin Shinn, WR Bradley Sylve, RB Brent Calloway, TE Malcolm Faciane

Early Enrollees: LB Ryan Anderson, DB Deion Belue, WR Chris Black, WR Amari Cooper, DB Travell Dixon, LB Dillon Lee, DL Alphonse Taylor, RB T.J. Yeldon

JUCO Transfers to watch: DB Travell Dixon, DB Deion Belue

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Michigan (Arlington)
Sept. 8 Western Kentucky
Sept. 15 at Arkansas
Sept. 22 FAU
Sept. 29 Ole Miss
Oct. 13 at Missouri
Oct. 20 at Tennessee
Oct. 27 Mississippi State
Nov. 3 at LSU
Nov. 10 Texas A&M
Nov. 17 Western Carolina
Nov. 24 Auburn

Offensive Strength: AJ McCarron entered last season locked into a battle with Phillip Sims for the starting job, but clearly emerged early in the year as Alabama’s No. 1 quarterback and should be one of the SEC’s top passers in 2012. Although running back Trent Richardson could be one of the first 10 picks off the board in the NFL Draft, Alabama won’t miss much of a beat on the ground. Eddie Lacy rushed for 674 yards and seven scores last year, while Jalston Fowler chipped in 385 yards, and the running back corps will get a boost with the return of Dee Hart from a knee injury. Replacing center William Vlachos won’t be easy, but the line is in good shape with first-team All-SEC lineman Barrett Jones returning.

Offensive Weakness: Although there are some significant losses (Richardson, Vlachos and receiver Marquis Maze), Alabama shouldn’t slip too much in offensive production. The biggest question mark will be getting receivers Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White and a cast of talented freshmen acquainted with McCarron. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has plenty of talent up front, but has to find the right mix. New coordinator Doug Nussmeier likely won't make many changes to the scheme, but there's always concern about transition. 

Defensive Strength: Only four starters are back from the best defense in college football last season, which means coordinator Kirby Smart has some work to do. However, there’s plenty of talent ready to step into key positions. The defensive line is in good shape with the return of ends Damion Square, Jesse Williams and Quinton Dial. Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley will anchor a young, but talented linebacking corps.

Defensive Weakness: Considering how successful the Crimson Tide was on defense last year, it’s going to be nearly impossible to repeat those statistics with seven starters gone. While the front seven should be solid, the secondary is going to miss safety Mark Barron and cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie. 

Spring Storylines Facing the Crimson Tide

1. Repeating as national champs is never an easy task. However, the mission for Alabama is even more difficult when you consider the personnel losses. The Crimson Tide lose four first-team All-SEC players and three that earned second-team honors. The good news? Alabama has recruited as well as any team in college football, with each of its last five hauls ranking in the top five of Athlon Sports’ top 50 signing classes. In addition to player losses, Alabama had to replace offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who departed to become the head coach at Colorado State. There's no lack of talent in Tuscaloosa, but could the youth and inexperience be too much to overcome in 2012? The schedule isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, but two road trips – at Arkansas and at LSU – could make or break Alabama’s hopes of repeating.

2. With AJ McCarron ready to take the next step in his development at quarterback, Alabama’s receivers will be under the microscope this fall. Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks depart, while tight end Brad Smelley is also gone after catching 34 passes for 356 yards last season. Kenny Bell, DeAndrew White and Christion Jones are the top returning targets at receiver, but this year’s crop of incoming freshmen will provide competition in preseason workouts. Eddie Williams, Chris Black and Amari Cooper each ranked among the top 60 prospects of the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. Highly-touted redshirt freshmen Marvin Shinn and Bradley Sylve will also figure into the mix. The 2012 group of Crimson Tide receivers might have more overall talent than the 2011 bunch, but there could be a few growing pains until they gain more experience.

3. Who will fill the shoes of running back Trent Richardson? The answer probably doesn’t rest with one player, but rather a committee approach. Eddie Lacy will miss spring practice due to an injury, but is expected to anchor Alabama’s rushing attack in 2012. Lacy may finish with the team lead in rushing yards, but Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler will contribute. Hart missed last season due to a knee injury, but will give the backfield a different element with his speed and elusiveness. True freshman T.J. Yeldon enrolled for spring practice and could also figure into the mix. Although Alabama will certainly miss Richardson, there’s plenty of talent and options to keep the rushing attack among the best in the SEC.

4. Odds are stacked against Alabama finishing as the nation’s best rush, pass, total and scoring defense. However, that doesn’t mean this defense will slip back to the pack in the SEC. While coordinator Kirby Smart has a lot of work to do this spring, the defense won’t be a weak link. The line is strong, thanks to the return of Jesse Williams, Quinton Dial and Damion Square. The biggest question up front will be finding an anchor in the middle, as Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry have both finished their eligibility. The linebacking corps loses three contributors, but there’s plenty to work with thanks to the return of Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley. Sophomores Trey DePriest, Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson are future stars and will figure prominently into the rotation.

5. While the front seven appears to be in good shape, the secondary will be under the spotlight early in 2012. Cornerbacks Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie and safety Mark Barron will be missed, especially with the Crimson Tide visiting Arkansas on Sept. 15. Dee Milliner has 17 career starts and is expected to anchor one of the open cornerback spots. The other side is up for grabs, but keep an eye on junior John Fulton and incoming junior college recruits Deion Belue and Travell Dixon. This unit will eventually figure things out, but an early season matchup against Arkansas will give the secondary an early baptism by fire. 

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012
Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2012

C
ollege Football Coaches on the Hot Seat: Spring Practice Edition
College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch

2012 SEC Schedule Analysis
2012 Recruiting Class Rankings: No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Teaser:
<p> The defending national champions have some holes to fill, but expect Alabama to be back in the national title picture once again in 2012.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 07:10
Path: /college-football/2012-usc-trojans-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

USC Trojans 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-2, 7-2 Pac-12

Spring practice: March 6-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Matt Barkley, 308 of 446, 3,528 yds., 39 TD, 7 INTs
Rushing: Curtis McNeal, 145 car., 1,005 yds., 6 TDs
Receiving: Robert Woods, 111 rec., 1,292 yds., 15 TDs
Tackles: Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey, 81
Sacks: Hayes Pullard and Wes Horton, 4
Interceptions: T.J. McDonald, 3

Redshirts to watch: DT Antwaun Woods, DE Charles Burks, WR Victor Blackwell, RB Javorious Allen, DE Greg Townsend, DT Christian Heyward, CB Ryan Henderson

Early Enrollees: LB Scott Starr, DE DeVante Wilson, DE Morgan Breslin, OT Chad Wheeler

JUCO Transfers to watch: DE Morgan Breslin, S Gerald Bowman

Transfers to watch: DB Josh Shaw – may not be eligible until 2013

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Hawaii
Sept. 8 Syracuse (East Rutherford)
Sept. 15 at Stanford
Sept. 22 California
Oct. 4 at Utah
Oct. 13 at Washington
Oct. 20 Colorado
Oct. 27 at Arizona
Nov. 3 Oregon
Nov. 10 Arizona State
Nov. 17 at UCLA
Nov. 24 Notre Dame

Offensive Strength: Thanks to the return of quarterback Matt Barkley and two of the top receivers in college football, USC will have one of the top passing attacks in the nation. Running back Curtis McNeal also returns after rushing for 1,005 yards and six scores last season, while the offensive line is in good shape with four starters returning.

Offensive Weakness: With the Trojans dealing with scholarship reductions, depth is an issue on the offensive line and at running back. Even though four starters are back on the line, losing left tackle Matt Kalil to the NFL Draft was a huge blow for this group.

Defensive Strength: The Trojans showed improvement last year on defense and seven starters return for 2012. The linebacking corps is led by sophomores Dion Bailey and Hayes Pullard and both are expected to challenge for first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2012. Cornerback Nickell Robey and safety T.J. McDonald anchor a secondary that ranked 102nd nationally in pass defense, but should be improved in 2012.

Defensive Weakness: It may seem like a tired cliché, but the success to any defense starts up front. Unfortunately for USC, three starters are gone, including first-team All-Pac-12 end Nick Perry and tackles Christian Tupou and DaJohn Harris. The cupboard isn’t completely bare, but this unit will be a concern for coordinator Monte Kiffin. 

Spring Storylines Facing the Trojans

1. The postseason ban is over, and USC should begin 2012 as one of the top contenders for the national title. The Trojans are still dealing with scholarship reductions, but this year’s team is loaded for a run at the preseason No. 1 ranking. Coach Lane Kiffin’s biggest recruit wasn’t a freshman, but rather the return of quarterback Matt Barkley. Although Barkley was considered one of the top prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft, he decided to return for his senior year and will be among the preseason favorites to win the Heisman and first-team All-American honors. The Trojans also caught another break with the NFL Draft, as safety T.J. McDonald also decided to stay for his senior year. The news wasn’t all positive in relation to the roster, as left tackle Matt Kalil and defensive end Nick Perry decided to bolt for the NFL. Although there’s still the sting of scholarship reductions, Barkley’s return and the finish of the 2010 season have USC on the rise going into 2012.

2. Kalil’s departure leaves a mammoth hole on the left side of the line, but there is promising talent ready to step into action. Right tackle Kevin Graf started all 12 games last season and is the early favorite to fill Kalil’s old spot. Guard Aundrey Walker could figure into the mix, but he could fill Graf’s vacated right tackle position. The Trojans could receive immediate help from incoming freshmen Jordan Simmons (No. 47 on the Athlon Consensus 100), Zach Banner (No. 50) and Chad Wheeler on the line this fall. There’s no question Kalil will be missed, but USC has enough returning talent to keep the offensive line playing at a high level.

3. With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee returning next season, there’s no shortage of weapons for Matt Barkley. However, the Trojans could be even more dangerous on offense next year if two wildcards (George Farmer and redshirt freshman Victor Blackwell) step up at receiver. Farmer moved between running back and receiver last season, but has settled at receiver for 2012. With little depth behind running back Curtis McNeal, keep an eye on incoming freshman Nelson Agholor. He won’t arrive until the fall, but the freshman ranked as the No. 26 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and could split snaps at receiver and running back.

4. Just like the offense, the focus on defense this spring will be the battle in the trenches. Three key contributors from last season are gone, leaving end Wes Horton as the team’s lone returning starter. Horton collected second-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, registering 22 stops and four sacks. Senior Devon Kennard moved back to defensive end from linebacker last season and picked up 29 tackles and two sacks. With another spring practice at end under his belt, expect Kennard to make an even bigger contribution to the line next year. Kennard and Holton is a solid combination at end, but there’s not much in the way of proven depth. Redshirt freshman Charles Burks, junior college transfer Morgan Breslin and incoming freshman Leonard Williams will figure into the mix this year. Depth at tackle seems to be a little better, but George Uko is the only proven commodity. Needless to say, the Trojans need big contributions at tackle from redshirt freshmen Antwaun Woods, Christian Heyward and Cody Temple. It’s not unrealistic to think the progress of the defensive line could be the difference between playing for the national title or the Rose Bowl.

Related Content

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 10 USC Trojans
Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012

Athlon's Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2012
College Football's 10 Biggest Spring Storylines for 2012
College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat
College Football's Transfers to Watch for 2012

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<p> Athlon previews USC's spring practice and some of the key questions facing the Trojans in 2012.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 - 05:53
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Transfers can make a big impact on the college football scene and 2012 is full of players that can make an instant contribution. Several quarterbacks could start for their new team next season, including Dayne Crist at Kansas and Garrett Gilbert at SMU. Quarterback isn't the only position with impact transfers, as Baylor's Lache Seastrunk could be a dynamic running back in the Big 12 next season, and Brian Wagner is expected to contend for a starting job in Arizona's linebacking corps. 

Here's a look at some of the key transfers in 2012, as well as others to watch:

Quarterbacks

Austyn Carta-Samuels, Wyoming to Vanderbilt – Carta-Samuels was Wyoming’s starting quarterback from 2009-10, throwing for 3,655 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also added 758 yards and six scores on the ground. Carta-Samuels will have two seasons of eligibility remaining and is expected to compete with Jordan Rodgers for the team’s starting quarterback job in the spring.

Dayne Crist, Notre Dame to Kansas – Charlie Weis’ biggest recruit for 2012 wasn’t a freshman. Landing Crist as a transfer from Notre Dame was a huge coup for Weis, as Kansas ranked ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense. Crist has never started a full season, as injuries to his ACL and patella tendon have limited his playing time. Crist threw for 2,327 yards and 16 touchdowns during his career at Notre Dame and should be an upgrade over Jordan Webb at quarterback for the Jayhawks. However, Kansas needs more receivers to emerge, and the offensive line has to keep Crist healthy if this team wants to challenge for a bowl appearance in 2012.

Tyler Gabbert, Missouri to UCF – Gabbert was believed to be neck-and-neck with James Franklin for Missouri’s starting quarterback job exiting spring practice last season, but decided to transfer and finally resurfaced at UCF on Signing Day 2012. Gabbert has an excellent opportunity to earn playing time, as Jeff Godfrey decided to transfer and while Blake Bortles played well in limited action last season, he has yet to make a start. Even if Gabbert doesn’t win the job, he will provide valuable depth for UCF.

Garrett Gilbert, Texas to SMU – Gilbert showed flashes of promise at Texas, but never lived up to the hype as one of the top quarterback recruits in the class of 2009. After Colt McCoy was injured against Alabama in the 2010 National Championship game, Gilbert showed poise leading Texas back into the game, but completed only 15 of 40 passes and tossed four picks. He also never seemed to get comfortable as the starter in 2010, finishing with 2,744 yards and 17 picks and got off to a sluggish start in 2011, before injuring his shoulder and missing the rest of the year. Gilbert played in a wide-open passing offense under Chad Morris (Clemson’s offensive coordinator) at Lake Travis High School and landing at SMU under June Jones should be a good fit. With J.J. McDermott finishing his eligibility and Kyle Padron transferring, Gilbert is considered the frontrunner to start for SMU in 2012.

Cody Green, Nebraska to Tulsa – With G.J. Kinne finishing his eligibility, Tulsa will be breaking in a new starting quarterback for 2012. Green, a Nebraska transfer, will battle with Kalen Henderson to replace Kinne and keep Tulsa’s offense among the best in Conference USA. Green started four games for Nebraska during his two seasons in Lincoln and finished with 657 passing yards and five touchdowns over that span. He also added 254 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in his Nebraska career. Although Henderson has more experience at Tulsa, look for Green to take the first snap in 2012.

Jacob Karam, Texas Tech to Memphis – With Seth Doege firmly entrenched as Texas Tech’s starting quarterback, playing time was going to be limited for Karam. Since he already graduated from Texas Tech, Karam is eligible to play right away at Memphis and will have two seasons of eligibility remaining. The Tigers ranked as the worst passing offense in Conference USA last year, but with the addition of Karam and new coach Justin Fuente, Memphis should be a much-improved offensive attack in 2012.

Ryan Katz, Oregon State to San Diego State – Katz was considered a rising star after his sophomore season at Oregon State, throwing for 2,401 yards and 18 scores in 2010. However, he got off to a slow start last year and was benched early in the season in favor of Sean Mannion. Katz ended his Oregon State career with 14 starts and completed 59 percent of his throws over three seasons. Katz will compete with Adam Dingwell for San Diego State’s No. 1 quarterback spot and is considered the frontrunner to take the Aztecs’ first snap of 2012.

Danny O’Brien, Maryland to ? – O’Brien spent only two years at Maryland, but his time in College Park was quite a roller coaster ride. He threw for 2,438 yards and 22 scores and earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman, but followed that up with a disappointing sophomore effort (1,648 yards, 7 touchdowns and 10 interceptions). O’Brien's struggles in 2011 were largely due to a lack of help around him, as Maryland’s receivers were inconsistent and the team struggled to adapt to new coordinator Gary Crowton. O’Brien is believed to be heavily interested in Vanderbilt, but Penn State, Michigan State, Arizona, Oklahoma State and Wisconsin have all been mentioned as possible destinations. Maryland hit Vanderbilt coach James Franklin with a tampering allegation, so expect O’Brien to wait on announcing a destination until the investigation has finished.

Ryan Williams, Memphis to Miami – With Stephen Morris sidelined with a back injury for spring practice, Williams will have an opportunity to close the gap and make his case for the No. 1 job. Williams started 10 games as a true freshman at Memphis in 2010, throwing for 2,075 yards and 13 scores. He is a native of Pembroke Pines, Fla. and played his high school ball just down the road from Miami in Miramar. At 6-foot-6, Williams has the size to develop into a solid pocket passer and figures to push Morris for a starting job in the fall. 

Connor Wood, Texas to Colorado – Wood made a push for playing time last spring with Texas, but eventually fell behind David Ash, Garrett Gilbert and Case McCoy in the fall. With playing time unlikely in Austin, Wood transferred to Colorado and will be expected to contend for the starting job this season. He ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation coming out of high school, but never found his way onto the field with Texas. Wood will have to compete with Nick Hirschman for the No. 1 job, but Hirschman might miss spring workouts with a foot injury, giving the Texas transfer an early edge in the quarterback battle.

Others to watch

Terrance Broadway, Houston to UL Lafayette
Jeremy Higgins, Utah State to Hawaii
Ross Metheny, Virginia to South Alabama
Kevin Newsome, Penn State to Temple

Running Back

Mike Blakely, Florida to Auburn – Blakely ranked as the No. 67 overall player in the 2011 Athlon Consensus 100 and as enrolled at Florida for the spring semester. However, he chose to transfer in early May and was granted a release to Florida. Blakely should be able to contend for playing time in 2012, especially with Michael Dyer transferring to Arkansas State. Expect Blakely, Onterio McCalebb and Tre Mason to share the workload for the Tigers this season.

Storm Johnson, Miami to UCF – The Knights were already deep at running back for 2012 with the return of Brynn Harvey and Latavius Murray. However, the backfield added another potential standout with Johnson transferring in from Miami. Johnson was rated among the top 150 players coming out of high school, but received only nine carries as a freshman in 2010. Johnson may not start this year, but expect him to figure into UCF’s gameplan.

Lache Seastrunk, Oregon to Baylor – Art Briles has Baylor on the move in the Big 12, and while quarterback Robert Griffin will be missed, the Bears aren’t going to slip back to 3-9 or 4-8 next year. Seastrunk was a huge catch for Baylor, as he has a chance to become a difference-maker in the backfield. He ranked as the No. 11 overall prospect and the No. 3 running back in the class of 2011 by Athlon Sports. The Temple, Texas native was also an elite high school track athlete, recording a time of 10.3 in the 100 meters. Seastrunk spent one year at Oregon but did not play a snap. The Bears have two solid backs returning in Glasco Martin and Jarred Salubi, but Seastrunk will get his opportunities in every game this year.

Others to watch

Jeremiah Bryson, Pittsburgh to MTSU
Drayton Calhoun, LSU to MTSU
DeLeon Eskridge, Minnesota to San Jose State
Hunter Furr, North Carolina to East Carolina
Corey Grant, Alabama to Auburn
Daquan Hargrett, West Virginia to FIU
Mister Jones, Texas A&M to Colorado State
Austin White, Michigan to Central Michigan
Toney Williams, Tennessee to Ball State

Wide Receivers

DeAnthony Arnett, Tennessee to Michigan State – Arnett spent one season at Tennessee, catching 24 passes for 242 yards and two scores in 2011. He is petitioning the NCAA for immediate eligibility at Michigan State, but there has been no announcement of his status for 2012. If Arnett can get eligible for this upcoming season, it would be a huge boost to a Michigan State offense that not only has a new starting quarterback, but a receiving corps that loses its top three receivers and No. 1 tight end.

Brice Butler, USC to San Diego State – The Aztecs could have two Pac-12 transfers make a significant contribution to the offense in 2012. Oregon State transfer Ryan Katz is locked in a tight battle for the starting quarterback job, while Butler figures to work his way into immediate playing time with the receiving corps. He caught 41 passes for 554 yards and three touchdowns over the last three years while at USC and should push Dylan Denso and Colin Lockett for playing time in San Diego this year.

Chris Dunkley, Florida to South Florida – If Dunkley lives up to his high school billing, he could become a difference-maker in the receiving corps for South Florida. He redshirted with the Gators in 2010 and transferred before playing a down in 2011. Dunkley was rated by Rivals.com as a top-10 receiver coming out of high school, but he has no playing experience at the FBS level.

Josh Gordon, Baylor to Utah – If the Utes want to push USC for the Pac-12 South title, jumpstarting the passing attack is priority No. 1 for coach Kyle Whittingham and new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson. Even though Gordon had off-the-field issues at Baylor, he’s a huge addition for the Utes’ passing game. Gordon caught 42 passes for 714 yards and seven scores in 2010, while averaging 17 yards per catch. As long as Gordon doesn’t get into any incidents off the field, he will be one of 2012’s top impact transfers.

Javares McRoy, Florida to Texas Tech – McRoy’s transfer resembles former Florida teammate Mike Blakeley, as he decided to leave Gainesville following spring practice last year. McRoy has excellent speed, and his quickness will be a valuable asset for quarterback Seth Doege this season. McRoy is expected to challenge for playing time at one of the inside receiver positions during preseason workouts.

Bryce McNeal, Clemson to Connecticut – The Huskies desperately need to find some improvement in the passing game in 2012, but it looks like coach Paul Pasqualoni has taken steps to get the offense back on track. Connecticut will bring in two quarterbacks to compete for the starting job, and the team picked up McNeal as a transfer from Clemson. In two years with the Tigers, McNeal caught 19 passes for 187 yards. He should bring some much-needed speed to the receiving corps and will have an opportunity for playing time with the Huskies losing their top two receivers.

Tyson Williams, West Texas A&M to Texas Tech – Williams is one of the most intriguing transfers of 2012. He dominated the competition in two years at West Texas A&M, catching 162 passes for 2,168 yards and 13 scores. The Red Raiders are counting on Williams to be an impact player at one of the inside receiver spots and rank among the Red Raiders’ leading receivers in 2012. If Williams is able to translate his production to the FBS level, Texas Tech's receiving corps will be dangerous, especially with Eric Ward returning and Darrin Moore back to 100 percent.

Others to watch

D.J. Banks, Tulane to Louisiana Tech
Neal Barlow (Arkansas basketball) to Kansas
Bradley Brown, Northwestern State to UL Lafayette
Brandon Felder, North Carolina to Pittsburgh
Devin Figaro, Tulane to UL Lafayette
Austin Fuller, Virginia Tech to SMU
James Louis, Ohio State to FIU
Shakim Phillips, Boston College to Connecticut
Je'Ron Stokes, Michigan to Bowling Green

Tight Ends

Brock DeCicco, Pittsburgh to Wisconsin
Michael McFarland, Florida to South Florida

Offensive Linemen

Brent Benedict, Georgia to Virginia Tech – With four starters gone from the offensive line, Benedict will have an opportunity to earn playing time with the Hokies in 2012. The Jacksonville, Fla. native was ranked as a top 100 recruit by Rivals.com, but suffered a knee injury in high school that required rehab during his freshman year at Georgia. Benedict has three years of eligibility remaining and will likely contend for snaps at tackle in 2012.

R.J. Dill, Maryland to Rutgers – Dill was a staple on Maryland’s offensive line over the last three years, collecting 33 starts and appearing in 37 overall contests. Dill started at right tackle in 2011, but is capable of playing on the left side. With the Scarlet Knights needing to replace three starters up front, look for Dill to emerge as one of the anchors on the line in 2012.

Others to watch

Tayo Fabuluje, BYU to TCU
Cam Feldt, Arkansas to North Texas
Cameron Fordham, LSU to NC State
Sam Longo, Ohio State to Cincinnati
Alex Mateas, Penn State to Connecticut
Jordan Prestwood, Florida State to Notre Dame
Tom Ricketts, Penn State to Pittsburgh
Phil Smith, Georgia Tech to UCF

Defensive Lineman

Forrest West, Colorado to NC State – West’s transfer to NC State didn’t gather much fanfare, but this was quietly a solid pickup for the Wolfpack defense. West registered 19 tackles and 5.5 sacks with Colorado in 2010 and contributed valuable snaps to the defense as a freshman in 2009. The Wolfpack have good depth returning at defensive end, but West should work his way into the rotation.

Brandon Willis, North Carolina to UCLA – Willis has transferred from North Carolina to UCLA twice, but finally appears to be staying with the Bruins and will be eligible in 2012. Willis has yet to play a down of college football, but ranked as one of the top defensive linemen coming out of high school. Willis is expected to contribute to the UCLA defensive line rotation this season.

Others to watch

Derrick Bryant, UCLA to West Virginia
Gerrand Johnson, Missouri to UL Monroe
James Kittredge, Vanderbilt to Michigan State

Linebackers

Brian Wagner, Akron to Arizona – Wagner didn’t gather the fanfare of some of the transfers on this list, but he could end up being one of Arizona's most productive defensive players in 2012. He was a tackling machine in his three seasons at Akron, collecting at least 100 stops in every year. Wagner also picked up All-MAC honors in two out of his three seasons with the Zips.

Others to watch

Ryan Donahue, Maryland to Connecticut
Jonathan Newsome, Ohio State to Ball State
Ryan Paxson, Cincinnati to Buffalo
Uani Unga, Oregon State to BYU
Taylor Walstad, Arizona to UNLV

Defensive Backs

Jonathan Dowling, Florida to Western Kentucky – Coach Willie Taggart has done a terrific job turning around the Hilltoppers and landing players like Dowling will only help this program continue to climb the ladder in the Sun Belt. Dowling was rated as a four-star prospect coming out of high school, but played in only two games at Florida in his freshman year. Dowling certainly has the ability and figures to immediately crack Western Kentucky’s defensive depth chart in 2012.

Shamiel Gary, Wyoming to Oklahoma State – After two successful seasons at Wyoming, Gary transferred back home to Oklahoma to play with the Cowboys in 2012. The Tulsa native picked up 192 tackles and four interceptions during his time with Wyoming. Gary will have two seasons of eligibility and will be counted upon to help ease the loss of first-team All-Big 12 safety Markelle Martin.

Demetri Goodson, Gonzaga to Baylor – Goodson may not make a huge impact at Baylor, but his story to play college football is noteworthy. He started 68 of 69 games during two seasons with Gonzaga’s basketball team, while averaging 5.2 points a game in 2010-2011. Goodson has two seasons of eligibility remaining, but hasn’t played football since his sophomore year in high school. Baylor has been trying to upgrade its speed, depth and athleticism in the secondary, and Goodson should help the Bears’ depth in this unit.

Others to watch

E.J. Banks, Notre Dame to Pittsburgh (may play quarterback this spring)
Darius Barksdale, Jacksonville State to UL Lafayette
Cullen Christian, Michigan to Pittsburgh
Vlad Emilien, Michigan to Toledo
Jay Fullam, Vanderbilt to Air Force
Kolby Gray, Pittsburgh to Baylor
Jordan Haden, Florida to Toledo
Jajuan Harley, Florida State to MTSU
Lazarri Middleton, Nebraska to SMU
Robert Nelson, UL Monroe to Arizona State
Marcus Trice, Oklahoma to North Texas
Ray Vinopal, Michigan to Pittsburgh

A Look Ahead to the Top Transfers to Watch for 2013

QB Daxx Garman, Arizona to Oklahoma State
QB Jake Heaps, BYU to Kansas
QB Tom Savage, Arizona to ?
QB Pete Thomas, Colorado State to NC State
QB Scotty Young, Texas Tech to ?
RB Amir Carlisle, USC to Notre Dame
RB Tra Carson, Oregon to ?
RB Michael Dyer, Auburn to Arkansas State
RB Crusoe Gongbay, New Mexico to Maryland
RB Brandon Williams, Oklahoma to Texas A&M
WR Robert Clark, Florida to Louisville
WR Josh Doctson, Wyoming to TCU
WR Marcus Grant, Iowa to Boston College
WR Justin McCay, Oklahoma to Kansas
WR Matt Milton, Tennessee to Louisville
WR Kyle Prater, USC to Northwestern
WR Darius White, Texas to Missouri
TE Gerald Christian, Florida to Louisville
OT Max Garcia, Maryland to ?
LB Jordan Whiting, Ohio State to Louisville
DB Josh Shaw, Florida to USC

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012
Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2012

C
ollege Football Coaches on the Hot Seat: Spring Practice Edition
College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon takes a look at some of college football's top transfers for 2012 and a look ahead to 2013.</p>
Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 07:24
All taxonomy terms: AFC South, Indianapolis Colts, News
Path: /news/peyton-manning-close-full-strength-and-ready-return-2012
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Peyton Manning’s health has been one of the most-discussed topics of the NFL’s offseason and barring a change of heart by Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, No. 18 won’t be suiting up for the Colts in 2012. Manning’s recovery from neck surgery has been slow and reports from earlier this offseason weren’t positive about his arm strength and ability to throw to his left. However, some interesting footage has appeared online and you can bet the Redskins, Dolphins and Seahawks are taking notice.

The short (27 seconds) video appears to be of Manning throwing at Duke University last week. The clandestine shot doesn’t provide a clear picture of Manning’s rehab, but there are encouraging signs. Manning appears to be showing good zip and arm strength in the short clip, which is certainly a positive sign in his recovery.

Related: Where Will Peyton Manning Play in 2012?

Although the neck injury has been a slow rehab process for Manning, all signs point to him returning to the NFL in 2012 and with a team other than the Colts – especially if the quarterback in this video continues to improve:

Teaser:
<p> Peyton Manning Close to Full Strength and Ready for Return in 2012?</p>
Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 06:05
Path: /college-football/2012-miami-hurricanes-spring-preview
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Miami Hurricanes 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 6-6, 3-5 ACC

Spring practice: March 3-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Stephen Morris, 26 of 37, 283 yds., 0 TD, 2 INTs
Rushing: Mike James, 72 car., 275 yds., 7 TDs
Receiving: Allen Hurns, 31 rec., 415 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Denzel Perryman, 69
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo, 5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 1

Redshirts to watch: DB Dallas Crawford, DE Ricardo Williams

Early Enrollees: QB Gary Crow, QB Preston Dewey, DE Dwayne Hoilett, CB Larry Hope, OL Ereck Flowers, OL Taylor Gadbois, LB Raphael Kirby, DB Ladarius Gunter, LB Josh Witt

JUCO Transfer to watch: DB Ladarius Gunter (JC)

Transfer to watch: QB Ryan Williams (Memphis)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 at Boston College
Sept. 8 at Kansas State
Sept. 15 Bethune Cookman
Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 29 NC State
Oct. 6 Notre Dame (Chicago)
Oct. 13 North Carolina
Oct. 20 Florida State
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech
Nov. 10 at Virginia
Nov. 17 South Florida
Nov. 24 at Duke

Offensive Strength: There is a lot of turnover surrounding Miami’s offense in 2012, but the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Mike James, Eduardo Clements and Duke Johnson will be a capable trio at running back, while Allen Hurns is a promising receiver. The offensive line should benefit immensely with a healthy year from tackle Seantrel Henderson.

Offensive Weakness: While the cupboard isn’t bare, Miami has several question marks to answer. Jacory Harris has finished his eligibility, leaving an open quarterback competition this spring. Although Hurns, Phillip Dorsett and tight end Clive Walford is a good start in the receiving corps, there’s not a ton of depth.

Defensive Strength: Even with the departure of All-ACC member Sean Spence, the Hurricanes should have a solid linebacking corps. Denzel Perryman had a solid freshman year, collecting 69 tackles and six tackles for a loss. Ramon Buchanan started the first four games, but missed the rest of the year due to an injury. Jimmy Gaines capped off a steady sophomore year with 58 tackles and made nine starts. The Hurricanes also have to be excited about the potential of sophomore end Anthony Chickillo with another spring practice under his belt.

Defensive Weakness: The Hurricanes are losing some key contributors from last season’s group, including Spence and defensive linemen Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo. Depth up front could be an issue, as well as replacing the leadership from the departed players.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hurricanes:

1. Jacory Harris took a lot of criticism (and rightfully so) throughout his career, but he turned in a solid senior year. Harris finished with 2,486 yards and 20 scores, while tossing nine picks. The battle to replace him wasn’t expected to be sorted out until the fall, but the most likely replacement (Stephen Morris) will miss spring practice due to a back injury. With Morris sidelined, Miami will get an extended look at Memphis transfer Ryan Williams and incoming freshmen Preston Dewey and Gary Crow. Williams started 10 games as a freshman at Memphis in 2010, throwing 2,075 yards and 13 touchdowns. With Morris sidelined, it’s unlikely the Miami coaching staff will develop a ton of clarity related to the quarterback battle. However, the door is open for Dewey, Crow and Williams to make an impression. In addition to the quarterbacks stepping up, the coaching staff needs to find a few more playmakers in the receiving corps.

2. Lamar Miller’s first season as the No. 1 running back proved to be quite a success, rushing for 1,272 yards and nine scores and earning second-team All-ACC honors last year. Miller decided to bolt to the NFL, but Miami doesn’t lack options at running back. Veteran Mike James is back for his senior year and has 719 yards and 11 scores through his first three years. Junior Eduardo Clements was among the top running backs coming out of high school and should capitalize on the opportunity for more playing time. Miami will also get an extended look in preseason workouts at incoming freshman Duke Johnson and redshirt freshman Dallas Crawford. Johnson won’t join the team until the fall, but ranked as the No. 36 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. Miller will be missed, but Miami’s rushing attack shouldn’t suffer much of a drop in production this year.

3. Three starters are gone from an offensive line that gave up an average of 1.6 sacks per game and paved the way for rushers to average 4.4 yards per carry. Center Tyler Horn earned second-team All-ACC honors last year and will be missed. Brandon Washington was expected to be one of the top linemen in the conference in 2011, but was a disappointment and chose to enter the NFL Draft a year early. Harland Gunn also departs after making 12 starts. While this group loses some key cogs, this unit shouldn’t be a weakness. Guard Brandon Linder started 12 games last year, while Jon Feliciano started eight games at tackle. Seantrel Henderson had offseason back surgery and never appeared to be 100 percent last season. However, assuming Henderson returns to full strength, he should become one of the ACC’s top linemen and the anchor of the front five. Malcolm Bunche, Shane McDermott and Jermaine Johnson will also figure into the mix and have previous experience. With any turnover on the line, it’s important to develop some cohesion throughout preseason workouts – especially with a new quarterback taking over.

4. Five starters return on defense in 2012, but this group will be missing some key contributors. Linebacker Sean Spence earned first-team All-ACC honors last season and was one of leaders for this unit. The defensive line loses a couple of key contributors, but sophomore end Anthony Chickillo is a rising star. The secondary returns two starters and could get a boost if safety Ray-Ray Armstrong lives up to his potential. Miami ranked 17th nationally in points allowed and 45th in total defense last season. However, considering the losses in the front seven, this unit could be more susceptible to the run in 2012. Also, there’s not a ton of depth returning, so this will be an important spring for coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. The defense will also get a boost in the fall, as top cornerback recruit Tracy Howard will join the team. Howard ranked as the No. 18 overall prospect in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100.

5. There is one dark cloud hanging over the Miami program as spring practice kicks off. The NCAA has yet to rule on any penalties as a result of the Nevin Shapiro scandal, leaving the administration and coaching staff uncertain as to what will happen. The Hurricanes chose to sit out a bowl game in 2011 and could be forced to do the same in 2012. Miami may also have to give up some scholarships over the next few seasons as a result of the investigation. However, coach Al Golden and his staff continue to do a good job on the recruiting trail, and the Hurricanes have a lot of promising young talent in the pipeline. There has been varying degrees of reports on any possible sanctions, but until something is decided, its going to be something that hangs over the program.

Related Content Links

2012 ACC Schedule Analysis
Early Top 25 for 2012

College Football's Top Spring Storylines for 2012

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 8 Miami

2012 Very Early ACC Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Can Miami rebound after a 6-6 record in 2011? Athlon takes a look at the Hurricanes biggest question marks and storylines for spring practice.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 2, 2012 - 06:59
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-coaches-hot-seat-spring-practice-edition
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

With spring practice kicking off across college football, it's never too early to start thinking about the coaches on the hot seat for 2012. Athlon's editors recently met to vote on their top 20 coaches on the hot seat as preseason workouts begin, with Boston College's Frank Spaziani topping the first release for 2012. Stay tuned to AthlonSports.com as we will update the hot seat watch during the offseason and throughout the regular season.

College Football's Coaches on the Hot Seat Ranking: Spring Practice Edition

1. Frank Spaziani, Boston College (20-19, 3 years)
Spaziani’s win total has been on a steady decline over the last three years, and the Eagles got off to a miserable 1-6 start in 2011. An injury to running back Montel Harris hampered the offense, but the team also didn’t get much improvement from quarterback Chase Rettig. The Eagles return 16 starters for 2012 and finished last season by winning three out of the final five games. With the ACC moving to 14 teams, Boston College can’t afford to watch the program slip too far.

2. Mike Price, UTEP (45-52, 8 years)
The Miners returned only nine starters and were picked to finish last in Conference USA’s West Division last season. However, UTEP showed some signs of life and escaped the cellar of the division with a 5-7 record. Although Price has a successful resume, the Miners have not won more than six games since posting eight in 2005. Price’s tenure started off well, as UTEP posted 16 wins in his first two years in El Paso. However, the program seems to have leveled off and considering Price will be 66 when the 2012 season kicks off, it may be time for a change.

3. Joker Phillips, Kentucky (11-14, 2 years)
Phillips may have bought himself some time with the 10-7 victory over Tennessee in the season finale. However, the win total has declined over the last two years and with some heavy personnel losses and question marks, the Wildcats will struggle to reach a bowl game in 2012. With Vanderbilt on the rise in the SEC East, Kentucky fans have to be feeling a little restless about the future of the program.

4. Derek Dooley, Tennessee (11-14, 2 years)
Although Dooley has been on the job only two years in Knoxville, he will have one of the hottest seats in college football in 2012. After posting four double-digit win seasons from 2001-07 under Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee has not won more than seven games in each of the last four years. Dooley didn’t inherit a full cupboard, but losing to Kentucky in the season finale raised the pressure on him going into next season. Assuming the Volunteers can win eight games and reach the postseason, Dooley should be safe for 2013. However, another 5-7 or 6-6 season could be enough for new athletic director Dave Hart to make a change.

5. George O’Leary, UCF (50-51, 8 years)
With UCF moving to the Big East next season, 2012 is going to be an important season for O’Leary. If the Knights slump to 5-7 again, the program will likely make a coaching switch to build some momentum for the change in conferences. O’Leary’s teams have been inconsistent throughout his tenure, and the team failed to build off the momentum from the 11-3 season in 2010.

6. David Bailiff, Rice (23-38, 5 years)
Outside of winning 11 games with Texas State in 2005 and 10 with Rice in 2008, Bailiff has never won more than five games in any of his six other seasons as a head coach. Winning at Rice is not an easy task, but the Owls should be able to reach the postseason more frequently in Conference USA. Another mediocre 4-8 year will probably spell the end of Bailiff’s tenure at Rice.

7. Randy Edsall, Maryland (2-10, 1 year)
There’s really only one word to describe Edsall’s first year in College Park: Disaster. The Terrapins won only one contest in conference play and finished the season on an eight-game losing streak. Edsall does not seem to be well-liked by the players, and his handling of Danny O’Brien’s transfer was a public relations nightmare. Edsall did a good job at Connecticut, but another 2-10 or 3-9 debacle will be tough to take.

8. Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech (13-12, 2 years)
In 17 years as a FBS head coach, Tuberville has recorded only four losing seasons and odds are in his favor that the Red Raiders will bounce back in 2012. Last season’s 5-7 record didn’t sit well in Lubbock, especially since Texas Tech missed out on a postseason appearance for the first time since 1999. The defense has been a disaster through Tuberville’s first two years, and the Red Raiders are on their third defensive coordinator in three seasons. While it may turn out to be nothing, Tuberville is part of a group that is being sued for investment fraud. Although Tuberville may be cleared, it's a distraction for a team that needs all of its focus on the field in 2012.

9. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (6-18, 2 years)
The Chippewas won three MAC titles under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, but have posted just six wins over the last two years. Enos is regarded as a good recruiter, and the Chippewas have some promising talent returning in 2012. However, Central Michigan needs to win more than three games next season for Enos to stick around in 2013.

10. Jeff Tedford, California (79-48, 10 years)
After posting 28 victories from 2004-06, hopes were high in Berkeley that the Golden Bears were ready to emerge as a national power. While California has posted at least seven victories in four out of the last five years, the program is danger of getting passed by Washington in the pecking order of Pac-12 North powers and hasn’t been a factor the last two years in the conference title race. A renovated stadium and the defection of assistant Tosh Lupoi to Washington has only ratcheted up the pressure on Tedford going into 2012.

11. Robb Akey, Idaho (19-43, 5 years)
Akey led the Vandals to 14 wins in 2009-10, but has just five victories in his three other seasons.

12. Rick Stockstill, MTSU (35-40, 6 years)
After winning 10 games in 2009, the Blue Raiders have posted just eight wins in their last two seasons. The two victories posted by MTSU are the program’s worst since 1980. Stockstill needs to show this team is back on track in 2012.

13. Bobby Hauck, UNLV (4-21, 2 years)
Hauck inherited a difficult situation, but the Rebels haven’t shown much progress over his first two years.

14. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (96-66, 13 years)
Ferentz has a solid record and has built up some job security after taking the Hawkeyes to 10 bowl appearances. However, Iowa’s win total has slipped the last two years and there are concerns from the fanbase that the program has gone stale.

15. DeWayne Walker, New Mexico State (9-29, 3 years)
The Aggies have only two winning seasons since 1999 and with the future of the WAC uncertain, this program needs to turn things around to make it more attractive for a spot in the Sun Belt or the Mountain West/Conference USA merger.

16. Todd Berry, UL Monroe (9-15 (2 years)
Coming off a 5-7 season and with 14 starters back, expectations were a bowl game for the Warhawks in 2012. However, ULM regressed to 4-8, leaving Berry’s career record at a dismal 38-74.

17. Dabo Swinney, Clemson (29-19, 3 years)
Swinney has led Clemson to two ACC Atlantic titles and is coming off a solid 10-4 season. With two of college football’s highest-paid coordinators – Chad Morris and Brent Venables – there’s no excuse for the Tigers to win seven games in 2012.

18. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (5-19, 2 years)
The Bulls improved their win total by one game in Quinn’s second year, but he has yet to continue the momentum Turner Gill established during his four seasons in Buffalo.

19. Dave Clawson, Bowling Green (14-23, 3 years)
Clawson opened his tenure at Bowling Green with a bang, finishing 7-6 with an appearance in the Humanitarian Bowl. The Falcons won only two games in 2010, but bounced back with five victories last year. Bowling Green seems to be back on the right track and should be in contention for the MAC West title. However, another 2-10 season may make it difficult for Clawson to keep his job.

20. David Cutcliffe, Duke (15-33, 4 years)
It’s not easy winning at Duke, but Cutcliffe is still looking to get the Blue Devils back to the postseason. After winning nine games in his first two years in Durham, Cutcliffe has led Duke to just six wins over the last two seasons.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012
Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2012

Teaser:
<p> With spring practice kicking off across the nation, Athlon takes a look at the top coaches on the hot seat and who needs to have a big season to return for 2013.</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/2012-cincinnati-bearcats-spring-preview
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By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer.

Cincinnati Bearcats 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 10-3, 5-2 Big East

Spring practice: March 1-April 17

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Munchie Legaux, 55 of 116, 749 yds., 5 TDs, 4 INTs
Rushing: George Winn, 40 car., 219 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Anthony McClung, 49 rec., 683 yds., 6 TDs
Tackles: Maalik Bomar, 61
Sacks: Walter Stewart, 6
Interceptions: Two players tied with 3

Redshirts to watch: OL Parker Ehinger, OL Daniel Murray, DL Brandon Mitchell

Early Enrollees: DB Kevin Brown, RB Deionte Buckley, DL Jonathan Burt, LB Errol Clarke, QB Bennie Coney, TE DeShawn Dowdy, DB Marcus Foster, QB Trenton Norvell, DL Josh Posley

JUCO transfer to watch: RB Aaron Harris

Transfers to watch: OL Sam Longo (Ohio State)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 15 Delaware State
Sept. 29 Virginia Tech (Landover)
Oct. 6 Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 20 at Toledo

Big East conference schedule for 2012 has yet to be released.

Offensive Strength: The Bearcats suffered some heavy losses through graduation and return only four starters on offense in 2012. The receiving corps should be a strength, especially with Anthony McClung (49 catches) and Kenbrell Thompkins (44 catches) back in the mix.

Offensive Weakness: With so many losses, a number of positions need to be highlighted as a weakness. Munchie Legaux has experience, but Zach Collaros will be missed at quarterback. Isaiah Pead is gone after earning Big East Offensive Player of the Year honors last season. The Bearcats lose three starting offensive linemen, including guard Randy Martinez and tackle Alex Hoffman (both All-Big East selections last year).

Defensive Strength: Some key players are gone, but Cincinnati returns enough of a core to remain one of the best defenses in the Big East. Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills, Jordan Stepp and Walter Stewart is a good starting point up front, while three starters return in the secondary. Pass defense was a weakness for Cincinnati last season, but safety Drew Frey is back (a first-team All-Big selection last year), and help could come in the form of Malcolm Murray, a junior college transfer that missed last season with a knee injury.

Defensive Weakness: Although Cincinnati feels good about this group in 2012, it won’t be easy replacing linebacker JK Schaffer and tackle Derek Wolfe. Schaffer and Wolfe were both first-team All-Big East selections in 2011. While the secondary has a lot of bodies returning, it’s uncertain if that will translate into improvement.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bearcats:

1. The Bearcats engineered quite a turnaround last season. After finishing 4-8 in 2010, Cincinnati was predicted by most to finish in the second half of the Big East standings. However, credit coach Butch Jones and the staff for making the proper adjustments throughout preseason, as the Bearcats finished 2011 with a 10-3 record and a Liberty Bowl victory over Vanderbilt. Jones appears to have Cincinnati on the right track and received a contact extension in January, ensuring he should stick with the Bearcats for the next couple of seasons. Stability for Cincinnati is important, as Mark Dantonio was there for only three years before bolting for Michigan State, and Brian Kelly spent three seasons before jumping to Notre Dame. One concern for Jones and the coaching staff was the loss of co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks to Illinois. John Jancek shared the defensive coordinator title with Banks last season, but will be in charge of the all of the playcalling duties in 2012.

2. The glaring offensive question mark for Cincinnati in 2012 will be who replaces quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead? Munchie Legaux started three games in relief of Collaros last year and finished with 749 yards and five touchdowns through the air. He also added 185 yards and two scores on the ground, but completed only 47.4 percent of his throws. Jordan Luallen threw only four passes as a backup last year, but will also get a chance to compete for the No. 1 position. Luallen has excellent mobility, but the coaching staff needs to find out if he can be a consistent threat as a passer. Legaux was rated as the No. 12 dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school by one recruiting service and will get better with more playing time. If Legaux and Luallen are unable to secure the No. 1 quarterback spot, the Bearcats will have to turn to true freshmen Trenton Norvell and Bennie Coney or redshirt freshman Patrick Coyne under center. The early frontrunner has to be Legaux, but how much he improves as a passer during the year will be critical to Cincinnati’s Big East title hopes.

3. It’s unlikely Cincinnati will be able to replace Isaiah Pead’s production (1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns) from just one player in 2012. George Winn is the team’s top returning rusher after recording 219 yards and two scores last year. Winn will likely share carries with sophomores Jameel Poteat and Ralph David Abernathy IV. Poteat averaged 4.7 yards on 23 attempts last season, while Abernathy made his biggest impact on special teams with an average of 26.5 yards per kick return. Poteat has a good mix of size and speed, while Abernathy is best suited as a change of pace option at 5-foot-6. The Bearcats won’t need 1,000 yards from one back, but they have to spread that production among Winn, Poteat and Abernathy. One other concern for the rushing attack will be three new starters on the offensive line.

4. After finishing seventh or worse in the Big East in scoring, passing and total defense in 2010, Cincinnati had one of the most improved defenses in the conference last season. The Bearcats ranked sixth in the Big East in total defense, but held opponents to 20.3 points a game and ranked second nationally with an average of 3.5 sacks a game. With a couple of key players and co-defensive coordinator Tim Banks gone, can Cincinnati continue to improve on this side of the ball? Four starters depart, including All-Big East first-team selections in linebacker JK Schaffer and tackle Derek Wolfe. However, the defensive line is solid with four key contributors back, and the secondary cannot be any worse than it was last year. A big reason for the improvement on defense was 33 forced turnovers last season. The Bearcats need to stay aggressive and keep their forced turnovers and sack numbers high in 2012. With inexperience stepping in at quarterback and running back, the defense may need to carry the day for Cincinnati early next season.

5. Assuming the Big East finds an eighth team for 2012, the Bearcats figure to catch a break in the schedule. Cincinnati had an unbalanced home/away schedule in conference play in 2011, as it hosted three games and played four Big East foes on the road. If the schedule from last season is reversed, the Bearcats will host Rutgers, South Florida and Pittsburgh – all teams predicted to be in the same tier next season. Cincinnati will have to travel to Louisville, but the schedule seems to be very manageable for a run at the Big East title. 

Related Content Links

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Athlon's Early Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon takes a spring overview of the Cincinnati Bearcats - a team expected to challenge for the Big East title in 2012.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 - 07:42
Path: /college-football/2012-acc-schedule-analysis
Body:

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012
Related: Athlon's Early ACC Predictions for 2012

Boston College

Sept. 1 Miami
Sept. 8 Maine
Sept. 15 at Northwestern
Sept. 22 Bye Week 
Sept. 29 Clemson
Oct. 6 at Army
Oct. 13 at Florida State
Oct. 20 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 27 Maryland
Nov. 3 at Wake Forest
Nov. 10 Notre Dame
Nov. 17 Virginia Tech
Nov. 24 at NC State

* The Tom O’Brien Bowl. The Eagles will close out the 2012 season with a road trip to Raleigh to take on former coach Tom O’Brien. Boston College has won four out of the last five games against the Wolfpack, including a 14-10 victory in Chestnut Hill last season.

* Coach on the hot seat? There’s no question coach Frank Spaziani needs to get into a bowl game to save his job. If the Eagles are to get back into the postseason, they will have to make up some ground in the early portion of the schedule. November is a brutal month with road trips to Wake Forest and NC State (likely bowl teams) and home games against Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.

* A tricky non-conference schedule. Boston College should be able to beat Maine on Sept. 8, but there’s no guarantee it beats Army, Northwestern or Notre Dame. The Black Knights are a difficult team to prepare for after a short week, while the Wildcats beat the Eagles 24-17 in Chestnut Hill last season.

* The Eagles finished 2011 with a 24-17 victory over Miami. The first opponent for 2012: the Hurricanes. These two should be quite familiar with each other by the end of the game on Sept. 1.

* Road trip. The Eagles didn’t get a break in terms of the schedule in October as they have to travel for back-to-back games against Florida State and Georgia Tech.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Clemson

Sept. 1 Auburn (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 Ball State
Sept. 15 Furman
Sept. 22 at Florida State
Sept. 29 at Boston College
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Virginia Tech
Oct. 25 at Wake Forest
Nov. 3 at Duke
Nov. 10 Maryland
Nov. 17 NC State
Nov. 24 South Carolina

* The Tigers will open the 2012 season in Atlanta as the second game in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff. NC State and Tennessee will meet in the first matchup of the ACC-SEC/Chick-fil-A challenge on Friday night in Atlanta. Clemson hosted Auburn last season, posting a 38-24 victory on Sept. 17. Last year’s win snapped a 14-game losing streak to Auburn. 

* ACC Atlantic title game? Clemson and Florida State are the early favorites to claim the 2012 Atlantic Division and the Sept. 22 matchup will be huge for both teams. The Tigers’ revamped offensive line will face a huge challenge as it goes against Florida State’s defensive line. Clemson has not won in Tallahassee since 2006.

* The open date comes at a good time for Clemson. The Tigers are off on Oct. 13, one week before hosting Virginia Tech. Clemson easily handled the Hokies in two meetings last year, but this will be a key matchup as both teams try to stay alive in the national title picture.

* The back half of the schedule isn’t overwhelmingly easy, but getting Wake Forest, Duke, Maryland and NC State is a pretty favorable run for Clemson.

* Trap game? After hosting Virginia Tech on Oct. 20, the Tigers have a five-day turnaround to take on Wake Forest in Winston-Salem.

* As usual, Clemson will close out the year with South Carolina. The Tigers have lost the last three matchups to the Gamecocks. The season finale with South Carolina is the final matchup in a three-game home-stand to close out 2012.

Duke 

Sept. 1 Florida International
Sept. 8 at Stanford
Sept. 15 North Carolina Central
Sept. 22 Memphis
Sept. 29 at Wake Forest
Oct. 6 Virginia
Oct. 13 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 20 North Carolina
Oct. 27 at Florida State
Nov. 3 Clemson
Nov. 10 Bye Week
Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 24 Miami

* The schedule doesn’t start with any favors. Mario Cristobal has built FIU into a Sun Belt power and a 2,800-mile trip to Palo Alto — with or without Andrew Luck — will be downright impossible for Duke.

* An 0-2 start is likely before winnable non-conference tilts with North Carolina Central and Memphis.

* The road schedule, while impossibly brutal in conference, actually works out for a team of Duke’s stature. The Blue Devils have little chance of upsetting ACC powers Virginia Tech, Florida State or Georgia Tech, so why not play them on the road? That gives Duke a better chance of upsetting lesser teams like Virginia, North Carolina and Miami at home. It feels like fuzzy logic, but if Duke wants to make a bowl, it has to upset the “lower-tiered” teams in its division.

* Surprisingly, the Blue Devils don’t end the 2012 season with North Carolina. Duke has played the Tar Heels in the season finale six out of the last seven seasons.

* Duke caught a bad break in scheduling as its bye week is two weeks before the season finale.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Wake Forest, at Florida State, Clemson

Florida State

Sept. 1 Murray State
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 Wake Forest
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 at South Florida
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 Boston College
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 Florida

* Two FCS opponents. With West Virginia backing out of a scheduled non-conference matchup, the Seminoles were forced to scramble and add Savannah State to fill the Sept. 8 date. Only one FCS win will count to bowl eligibility for Florida State in 2012.

* Home cooking. The Seminoles won’t have to leave Florida until their Oct. 6 date against NC State. The first four games are at home, with a trip to South Florida on tap for the fifth week of the season.

* Trap game? One week after traveling to take on South Florida, the Seminoles have to hit the road to play NC State on Oct. 6. The Wolfpack has defeated Florida State two out of the last three times in Raleigh.

* Rematch? It’s interesting the ACC scheduled the Florida State-Virginia Tech showdown so late in the season (Nov. 8). These two teams are the early favorites to meet for the ACC title on Dec. 1, so there could be two meetings within three weeks between the Seminoles and Hokies.

* A trip to Blacksburg. Florida State’s trip to Blacksburg on Nov. 8 will be only the third meeting with Virginia Tech as an ACC member during the regular season (not counting ACC Championship Game appearances). The Seminoles lost their last appearance at Virginia Tech, falling 40-21 in 2007. However, the schedule makers gave Florida State a break, as the Seminoles have a bye before playing the Hokies this season.

* ACC Atlantic Championship Game? With Clemson and Florida State expected to be the frontrunners to win the ACC Atlantic, the Sept. 22 meeting could have a significant impact on the division race. Considering the Tigers have some heavy losses on the offensive line, Florida State catches a break by getting Clemson early in the season.

* Instate rivals. Can the Seminoles continue their string of recent success against their rivals in the Sunshine State? Florida State has won three out of the last four against Miami and two in a row against Florida.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: at Miami, Duke, at Virginia Tech

Georgia Tech

Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Presbyterian
Sept. 15 Virginia
Sept. 22 Miami
Sept. 29 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 6 at Clemson
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Boston College
Oct. 27 BYU
Nov. 3 at Maryland
Nov. 10 at North Carolina
Nov. 17 Duke
Nov. 24 at Georgia

* Either Virginia Tech or Georgia Tech has represented the Coastal Division in all seven ACC Championship games with the winner of the Techie Bowl earning the division crown all seven years. The game holds even more importance in 2012 as these two budding rivals will play on Labor Day night to wrap-up the first weekend of the 2012 season. Fans won’t have to wait long for what could be the most important Coastal Division contest of the year.

* Georgia Tech didn’t want to be victim of a FCS upset after a Labor Day matchup. Remember Virginia Tech in 2010? The Yellow Jackets will have to play on a short week after matching up against the Hokies, but Presbyterian should pose little threat to Georgia Tech.

* The top three teams in the Atlantic Division will be Florida State, Clemson and NC State. While the Jackets have to play at Clemson to start October, Paul Johnson’s bunch misses Florida State and NC State this fall.

* The Yellow Jackets will need to have a great summer camp because the first month of the season will determine just how good they will be in 2012. After the brutal opening weekend trip to Blacksburg, Georgia Tech plays key division foes Virginia and Miami before the calendar flips to October. And with a road trip to Clemson looming on October 6, Tech plays its toughest four ACC games in the first six weeks of the season.

* The non-conference slate for Georgia Tech is always highlighted by some clean, old-fashioned hate and 2012 is no different. The season culminates with a trip to Athens — which isn’t a bad thing for Tech, where three of the last four wins in the series have come Between the Hedges. An intriguing visit from BYU at the end of October will offer an interesting change of pace in the heart of the ACC schedule.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Clemson, Boston College, at Maryland.

Maryland

Sept. 1 William & Mary
Sept. 8 at Temple
Sept. 15 Connecticut
Sept. 22 at West Virginia
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Wake Forest
Oct. 13 at Virginia
Oct. 20 NC State
Oct. 27 at Boston College
Nov. 3 Georgia Tech
Nov. 10 at Clemson
Nov. 17 Florida State
Nov. 24 at North Carolina

* The Terrapins finished 2011 riding an eight-game losing streak. Maryland should be able to start the year 1-0 with William & Mary visiting College Park on Sept. 1. The Tribe finished 5-6 last year and was decked 40-3 by Virginia in the season opener.

* The Randy Edsall Bowl. Edsall’s tenure at Maryland is off to a horrible start, but how much more scrutiny will he face if Connecticut beats the Terrapins on Sept. 15? Edsall coached the Huskies for 12 seasons, leading them to a 74-70 record and one BCS bowl appearance. Remember when Edsall took over he proclaimed Maryland to be his dream job? You can bet the Huskies haven’t forgotten that or how Edsall left them for Maryland after the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

* Maryland and West Virginia is a solid rivalry, but it’s a series that has been dominated by the Mountaineers recently. West Virginia has won six in a row over the Terrapins and this year’s game will be the final non-conference game for both in 2012. With conference play starting up after this matchup, it’s the final tune-up opportunity for both teams.

* Maryland has met Virginia every year since 1957. The Terrapins have lost four out of the last five games in this series.

* The Terrapins have a brutal stretch to close out the 2012 season – Georgia Tech, at Clemson, Florida State and at North Carolina. A lot can change before November, but it’s not out of the question the Terrapins will be at least a touchdown underdog in each of those matchups.

* Insignificant note: Maryland’s schedule alternates home and road games all year.

* Crossover opponents with the Coastal: at Virginia, Georgia Tech, at North Carolina

Miami

Sept. 1 at Boston College
Sept. 8 at Kansas State
Sept. 15 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 29 NC State
Oct. 6 at Notre Dame (Solider Field, Chicago, Ill.)
Oct. 13 North Carolina
Oct. 20 Florida State
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech
Nov. 10 at Virginia
Nov. 17 South Florida
Nov. 24 at Duke

* For a young team that has to replace most of its leaders, Miami gets no favors in non-conference play. A nasty trip to the Little Apple in Week 2 is a likely loss. A long road trip to Solider Field in Chicago to face Notre Dame has loads of national appeal, but the Irish should be a heavy favorite. And a home test against in-state rival South Florida is never easy — in fact, the only time these two have played in Miami Gardens, USF won 23-20 back in 2010. Bethune-Cookman is the only clear-cut non-conference win for Al Golden.

* The last regular season matchup between Miami and Notre Dame occurred in 1990.

* The Hurricanes are set-up for a strong second half push, but it might come at the expense of early season losses. Four of its first six games are on the road, including a key division game against Georgia Tech. Those types of road games — at Kansas State, Georgia Tech and Notre Dame — can be great learning tools for a young team. Yet, most learning experiences are losses and that could be the case with this first month of play. Toss in a home game against a quality NC State team and 3-3 becomes a very likely first half record for Miami.

* With those road tests out of the way early on, the Canes have a chance to make some big statements over a four-week period of time. Right in the heart of the conference slate, Miami plays three straight home games and gets its bye week. Now, those games are North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech, but should Miami learn from its tough first month, it could easily pull off a key upset during its four-week home-stand.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Boston College, NC State, Florida State

NC State

Aug. 31 Tennessee (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 at Connecticut
Sept. 15 South Alabama
Sept. 22 The Citadel
Sept. 29 at Miami
Oct. 6 Florida State
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Maryland
Oct. 27 at North Carolina
Nov. 3 Virginia
Nov. 10 Wake Forest
Nov. 17 at Clemson
Nov. 24 Boston College

* The Wolfpack will open the 2012 season in Atlanta as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Challenge. NC State and Tennessee will play on Friday night, while Clemson and Auburn will meet on Saturday. NC State and Tennessee have met only twice, with each team winning once. The last meeting came in 1939.

* NC State will be the first of two ACC teams to take on Connecticut in 2012. The Wolfpack take on the Huskies on Sept. 8 and Maryland hosts Connecticut on Sept. 15.

* South Alabama (NC State’s Week 3 opponent) is transitioning to FBS status and will play a full Sun Belt schedule in 2012.

* NC State is riding a five-game winning streak over rival North Carolina.

* The Wolfpack have not played Miami since 2008. NC State has won the last two matchups against Miami.

* Three of NC State’s last four games are at home.

* The Wolfpack’s matchup against Florida State on Oct. 6 could be a sneaky game in the Atlantic Division title race. NC State was shutout by the Seminoles in 2011, but knocked off Florida State in 2010. 

North Carolina

Sept. 1 Elon
Sept. 8 at Wake Forest
Sept. 15 at Louisville
Sept. 22 East Carolina
Sept. 29 Idaho
Oct. 6 Virginia Tech
Oct. 13 at Miami
Oct. 20 at Duke
Oct. 27 NC State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech
Nov. 15 at Virginia (Thur.)
Nov. 24 Maryland

* The road schedule isn’t all that daunting in conference for the new Tar Heels staff. Trips to Miami, Virginia, Wake Forest and Duke should all be manageable for a team that expects to compete for eight or nine wins.

* Another huge schedule break for the Tar Heels: Three of the top five teams in the ACC will visit Chapel Hill: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State.

* The crossover schedule is very manageable as well. The aforementioned trip to Wake Forest is no gimmie and NC State is a quality opponent, but there is no Florida State or Clemson on the slate. This should make adjusting to life in the ACC just that much easier for new head coach Larry Fedora — who has plenty of offensive talent to work with in 2012.

* The Tar Heels have a tricky non-conference date against Louisville in Week 3. The Cardinals should be the favorite to win the Big East title in 2012. North Carolina defeated Louisville 14-7 in Chapel Hill last year.

* By playing Georgia Tech on Nov. 10, North Carolina won’t have much time to prepare for Virginia on Nov. 15. The Tar Heels will only have five days of rest. 

* Crossover opponents from the Atlantic: at Wake Forest, NC State, Maryland

Virginia Cavaliers

Sept. 1 Richmond
Sept. 8 Penn State
Sept. 15 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 22 at TCU
Sept. 29 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 6 at Duke
Oct. 13 Maryland
Oct. 20 Wake Forest
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 3 at NC State
Nov. 10 Miami
Nov. 15 North Carolina
Nov. 24 at Virginia Tech

* The Cavaliers feature maybe the toughest non-conference schedule in the ACC this fall. Penn State at home will be a tough challenge, despite all that the Nittany Lions have gone through over the last year. A trip to Fort Worth to battle TCU is a tall order. And don’t forget about a visit from WAC champion Louisiana Tech. Those are winnable games for a team that wants to compete for an ACC title. With a road test against Georgia Tech slipped between games with Penn State and TCU, fans in Charlottesville should know all about their 2012 team by September 22.

*  The good news for Virginia in conference play is what isn’t on the schedule. Like North Carolina, the Cavs miss both Florida State and Clemson. The only way Mike London’s squad will face the Noles or Tigers will be in the ACC Championship game — a test that London would be happy to see.

* After a brutal start to the season, Virginia gets a stretch where four of five ACC games will be played at home. Divisional swing games against Miami and North Carolina, as well as must-wins against Maryland and Wake Forest, will come in the comforts of Scott Stadium. This all, of course, leads up to a nasty season-ending road trip to Blacksburg for the Commonwealth Cup.

* The Cavaliers’ final three opponents are all from the Coastal Division.

* Crossover opponents from the Atlantic: Maryland, Wake Forest, at NC State

Virginia Tech

Sept. 3 Georgia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Austin Peay
Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 22 Bowling Green
Sept. 29 Cincinnati (Landover)
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Duke
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 at Miami
Nov. 8 Florida State
Nov. 17 at Boston College
Nov. 24 Virginia

* In each of the seven ACC Championship game seasons, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game has gone on to win the Coastal Division. This fall should be no different as these two enter 2012 as the favorites once again. However, this year they will square off in Week 1 and I can think of no better way to end kickoff weekend with the most important game in the Coastal Division in primetime on Labor Day night. The good news? Frank Beamer will have all summer long to prepare for the Jackets’ triple option attack — which has worked well for bowl teams of late.

* There will be a three-game stretch as the calendar flips to November that will determine if Virginia Tech is a national power or merely another quality Frank Beamer squad. A road trip to Clemson to face the only team that beat the Hokies in the regular season in 2011 will resonate across both ACC divisions. Then back-to-back primetime Thursday night games following the bye week will give voters plenty of chances to see the Hokies against quality competition. First, a trip to Miami could carry division implications and finally Florida State comes to Blacksburg on November 8 in what could be an ACC title game preview. This game could carry National Championship repercussions as well should both teams develop as expected along the offensive line.

* Virginia Tech is playing its second game in Landover in the last three seasons. The last meeting in Landover was a 33-30 loss to Boise State.

* Florida State and Miami take on Virginia Tech after a having a bye week.

* Overall, this is a tough schedule that features two intriguing non-conference tests, a huge Coastal swing game right out of the gate, two potential ACC championship game previews, the Commonwealth Cup and two road trips to North Carolina and Miami. Should Hokies continue their run of ACC dominance, it will have most assuredly earned it in 2012.

* Future ACC opponents. Pittsburgh will likely join the ACC in time for the 2013 season and is slated to be in the Coastal Division. The Panthers and Hokies have not met since 2003.

* Crossover opponents with the Atlantic: at Clemson, Florida State, at Boston College

Wake Forest

Sept. 1 Liberty
Sept. 8 North Carolina
Sept. 15 at Florida State
Sept. 22 Army
Sept. 29 Duke
Oct. 6 at Maryland
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Virginia
Oct. 25 Clemson
Nov. 3 Boston College
Nov. 10 at NC State
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame
Nov. 24 Vanderbilt

* Wake Forest opens the year with a solid FCS opponent in Liberty. Interestingly enough, the Flames are led by former Buffalo and Kansas coach Turner Gill. Former North Carolina quarterback Joe Dailey is also on Gill’s staff.

* The Sept. 8 matchup with North Carolina is the only ACC conference game that weekend. The rest of the ACC will be playing non-conference games.

* The Demon Deacons have had solid success against Florida State recently, knocking off the Seminoles 35-30 last season and claiming two out of the last three matchups in Tallahassee.

* If the Demon Deacons want to get back to a bowl game, there’s an important three-game stretch in the early part of the season. Wake Forest will be favored to beat Army and Duke, and will have to travel to College Park to take on Maryland. If the Demon Deacons can pick up three wins in that stretch, combined with a win in the opener against Liberty, this team should be in good shape to reach the postseason in 2012.

* Short week. Wake Forest has to play at Virginia on Oct. 20 and then hosts Clemson just five days later.

* The Nov. 17 meeting with Notre Dame will only be the second time the Demon Deacons and Fighting Irish have played. The first matchup took place last season with Notre Dame winning 24-17.

* Wake Forest will close out the regular season against Vanderbilt for the fifth time in six seasons. The Demon Deacons have won three out of the last four against the Commodores, but lost 41-7 in Winston-Salem last season. 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon takes a look at some of the key matchups, notes and observations for the 2012 ACC schedule.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 28, 2012 - 05:54
Path: /college-football/2012-acc-football-schedules
Body:

Click here to read more ACC coverage by AthlonSports.com

Boston College

Sept. 1 Miami
Sept. 8 Maine
Sept. 15 at Northwestern
Sept. 22 Bye Week 
Sept. 29 Clemson
Oct. 6 at Army
Oct. 13 at Florida State
Oct. 20 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 27 Maryland
Nov. 3 at Wake Forest
Nov. 10 Notre Dame
Nov. 17 Virginia Tech
Nov. 24 at NC State

Clemson

Sept. 1 Auburn (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 Ball State
Sept. 15 Furman
Sept. 22 at Florida State
Sept. 29 at Boston College
Oct. 6 Georgia Tech
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Virginia Tech
Oct. 25 at Wake Forest
Nov. 3 at Duke
Nov. 10 Maryland
Nov. 17 NC State
Nov. 24 South Carolina

Duke 

Sept. 1 Florida International
Sept. 8 at Stanford
Sept. 15 North Carolina Central
Sept. 22 Memphis
Sept. 29 at Wake Forest
Oct. 6 Virginia
Oct. 13 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 20 North Carolina
Oct. 27 at Florida State
Nov. 3 Clemson
Nov. 10 Bye Week
Nov. 17 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 24 Miami

Florida State

Sept. 1 Murray State
Sept. 8 Savannah State
Sept. 15 Wake Forest
Sept. 22 Clemson
Sept. 29 at South Florida
Oct. 6 at NC State
Oct. 13 Boston College
Oct. 20 at Miami
Oct. 27 Duke
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 8 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 17 at Maryland
Nov. 24 Florida

Georgia Tech

Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Presbyterian
Sept. 15 Virginia
Sept. 22 Miami
Sept. 29 Middle Tennessee
Oct. 6 at Clemson
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 Boston College
Oct. 27 BYU
Nov. 3 at Maryland
Nov. 10 at North Carolina
Nov. 17 Duke
Nov. 24 at Georgia

Maryland

Sept. 1 William & Mary
Sept. 8 at Temple
Sept. 15 Connecticut
Sept. 22 at West Virginia
Sept. 29 Bye Week
Oct. 6 Wake Forest
Oct. 13 at Virginia
Oct. 20 NC State
Oct. 27 at Boston College
Nov. 3 Georgia Tech
Nov. 10 at Clemson
Nov. 17 Florida State
Nov. 24 at North Carolina

Miami

Sept. 1 at Boston College
Sept. 8 at Kansas State
Sept. 15 Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 22 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 29 NC State
Oct. 6 at Notre Dame (Solider Field, Chicago, Ill.)
Oct. 13 North Carolina
Oct. 20 Florida State
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 Virginia Tech
Nov. 10 at Virginia
Nov. 17 South Florida
Nov. 24 at Duke

NC State

Aug. 31 Tennessee (Atlanta)
Sept. 8 at Connecticut
Sept. 15 South Alabama
Sept. 22 The Citadel
Sept. 29 at Miami
Oct. 6 Florida State
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Maryland
Oct. 27 at North Carolina
Nov. 3 Virginia
Nov. 10 Wake Forest
Nov. 17 at Clemson
Nov. 24 Boston College

North Carolina

Sept. 1 Elon
Sept. 8 at Wake Forest
Sept. 15 at Louisville
Sept. 22 East Carolina
Sept. 29 Idaho
Oct. 6 Virginia Tech
Oct. 13 at Miami
Oct. 20 at Duke
Oct. 27 NC State
Nov. 3 Bye Week
Nov. 10 Georgia Tech
Nov. 15 at Virginia (Thur.)
Nov. 24 Maryland

Virginia Cavaliers

Sept. 1 Richmond
Sept. 8 Penn State
Sept. 15 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 22 at TCU
Sept. 29 Louisiana Tech
Oct. 6 at Duke
Oct. 13 Maryland
Oct. 20 Wake Forest
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 3 at NC State
Nov. 10 Miami
Nov. 15 North Carolina
Nov. 24 at Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech

Sept. 3 Georgia Tech (Labor Day)
Sept. 8 Austin Peay
Sept. 15 at Pittsburgh
Sept. 22 Bowling Green
Sept. 29 Cincinnati (Landover)
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Duke
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Oct. 27 Bye Week
Nov. 1 at Miami
Nov. 8 Florida State
Nov. 17 at Boston College
Nov. 24 Virginia

Wake Forest

Sept. 1 Liberty
Sept. 8 North Carolina
Sept. 15 at Florida State
Sept. 22 Army
Sept. 29 Duke
Oct. 6 at Maryland
Oct. 13 Bye Week
Oct. 20 at Virginia
Oct. 25 Clemson
Nov. 3 Boston College
Nov. 10 at NC State
Nov. 17 at Notre Dame
Nov. 24 Vanderbilt

Teaser:
<p> 2012 ACC football schedules.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 27, 2012 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

Stanford Cardinal 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-2, 8-1 Pac-12

Spring practice: Feb. 27-April 14

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Brett Nottingham, 5 of 8, 78 yds., 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Stepfan Taylor, 242 car., 1,330 yds., 10 TDs
Receiving: Ryan Hewitt, 34 rec., 282 yds., 5 TDs
Tackles: Jarek Lancaster, 70
Sacks: Chase Thomas, 8.5
Interceptions: Three players tied with 1

Redshirts to watch: QB Evan Crower, QB Kevin Hogan, DE Charlie Hopkins, S Wayne Lyons, OT Brendon Austin

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 San Jose State
Sept. 8 Duke
Sept. 15 USC
Sept. 27 at Washington
Oct. 6 Arizona
Oct. 13 at Notre Dame
Oct. 20 at California
Oct. 27 Washington State
Nov. 3 at Colorado
Nov. 10 Oregon State
Nov. 17 at Oregon
Nov. 24 at UCLA

Offensive Strength: Stanford will certainly miss Andrew Luck, but there’s plenty of reasons for optimism that this team can stay in the Pac-12 North race. The Cardinal should have one of the top running back corps in the nation, led by Stepfan Taylor, Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney. Losing tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro was a huge blow, but three starters are back up front.

Offensive Weakness: Obviously, it will be nearly impossible for Stanford to replace Andrew Luck’s production and leadership at quarterback. Brett Nottingham is the expected successor, but he will be pushed in spring practice by a handful of candidates. In addition to breaking in a new quarterback, the Cardinal desperately need to find some playmakers at receiver.

Defensive Strength: While the offense gained all of the accolades last year, the defense was quietly solid. Stanford finished fourth nationally in run defense and ranked second in the Pac-12 in points allowed. The linebacking corps will be among the best in college football, while the line can build around All-Pac-12 end Ben Gardner.

Defensive Weakness: The biggest question mark on the defense last season was the secondary. The Cardinal ranked 95th nationally against the pass and three starters must be replaced going into 2012, including first-team All-Pac-12 safety Delano Howell.

Spring Storylines Facing the Cardinal:

1. With 13 starters returning, don’t expect Stanford to fall completely off the national radar. Sure, replacing Andrew Luck is going to be a difficult task, but coach David Shaw has done a good job of recruiting and there’s enough talent in place to expect at least eight wins in 2012. Repeating a berth in a BCS bowl is unlikely, but Stanford isn’t about to slip back into Pac-12 mediocrity. The bigger question for Shaw and this coaching staff will be 2013 and beyond. Stanford football is riding a wave of momentum - can they keep that going?

2. There’s no question all eyes will be on the quarterbacks this spring. Brett Nottingham is the early leader to replace Andrew Luck after completing 5 of 8 throws for 78 yards and one score last year. The sophomore has the size (6-foot-4) and skill set to be a solid player for Stanford over the next couple of years. He ranked as one of the top quarterbacks coming out of high school and showed solid poise in limited action last season. Nottingham will be pushed by redshirt freshmen Evan Crower and Kevin Hogan, along with upperclassmen Robbie Picazo and Josh Nunes. The coaching staff wants this to be an open competition, but the odds are heavily in favor of Nottingham ending the spring as the No. 1 quarterback.

3. Whichever quarterback takes the first snap in 2012, they will have the benefit of working with a solid supporting cast. Running back Stepfan Taylor should challenge for All-American honors this year, while David Yankey, Sam Schwartztein and Cameron Fleming is a good trio to build around on the offensive line. Tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz are both capable of leading the team in receptions this year. The bad news? Stanford lacks playmakers at receiver and will miss Jonathan Martin and David DeCastro on the offensive line. Although there are some significant losses, the cupboard is far from bare for the new quarterback (likely Nottingham) this year.

4. Last season’s co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver left to go to the NFL, but fellow co-coordinator Derek Mason is back, which means the defense won’t see too many changes in 2012. Mason will have seven starters to work with, including the return of linebacker Shayne Skov from an injury that forced him to miss nine games. Skov is facing a suspension from an off-the-field incident, but his return will only strengthen a solid linebacking corps. Mason’s biggest focus this spring will be finding some answers in the secondary. Safeties Michael Thomas and Delano Howell and cornerback Johnson Bademosi have finished their eligibility. Cornerback Terrence Brown collected 43 stops last year and will be the new leader in the secondary. Jordan Richards had a solid freshman year as he picked up 31 tackles, but overall, this group needs more speed and athleticism.

Related Content Links

2012 Very Early Pac-12 Predictions
Athlon's Very Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Recruiting Rankings: No. 7 Stanford

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Even though Andrew Luck is gone, Stanford should still be in good shape to contend for at least eight wins in 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 27, 2012 - 06:59
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/missouri-kansas-highlights-big-weekend-college-basketball
Body:

by Jordan Coleman

With March Madness right around the corner, everyone can’t help but speculate about the 2012 NCAA tournament. Everyone wants to know who’s in, who’s slipped off the bubble, and who held onto the reigns tight enough to earn a #1 seed. For some teams playing this weekend, these last few games serve as a way to handle unfinished business just before the big dance. Here are just a few match-ups you won’t want to miss this weekend:

Vanderbilt at Kentucky – After a disappointing 69-63 loss on Feb. 11, Vanderbilt will have another shot at the nation’s leading contender, the Kentucky Wildcats, this Saturday. When these teams matched up earlier this year, Calipari told reporters that Stallings’ Commodores were the first team in conference play to challenge his squad. “They went nutty,” he said when asked to describe Vanderbilt’s hellacious comeback in the second half.  While the Dores’ ‘nutty’ performance wasn’t enough to top the Cats at Memorial, the Commodores will seek to avenge their loss. The Cats have not lost at home all year, but the Dores have the veterans and experience to give them a run for their money.

Missouri at Kansas – Kansas will have one last crack at the Missouri Tigers on their domain before the conference shift. As this conference rivalry comes to a close, it seems that these teams are not only playing for final bragging rights. Because both teams make up the upper echelon of the Big 12 standings, the rivals will also battle for pivotal positioning for post-season play. For Kansas, the win against Mizzou would mean ideal positioning for the conference tourney, and very possibly, NCAA play as well. As for Missouri, after a substandard loss to Kansas State earlier this week, another blemish on their resume could more than likely cost the Tigers a  No. 1 seed in the tournament.  Needless to say, with much at stake for both teams; as well as, the mutual disgust between these programs infers that fans are in for a 40-minute brawl this Saturday.  

Syracuse at Connecticut – As Syracuse barrels through conference play, it seems like no team in the Big East (besides Notre Dame, apparently) has the ability to derail their success. And at first glance at their match-up versus Connecticut, a majority of people wouldn’t associate the competiveness of this game with the two mentioned above. And with good reason because Connecticut has lost 9 of its last 14 games. And while the Huskies seems to be well on their way to achieving a .500 conference record similar to that of their 2010-2011 season, analysts are still hesitant to deem the Huskies as “out for the count.” Given that Kemba Walker led Connecticut’s 2010-2011 team to a national championship after finishing conference play 9-9, basketball experts argue that the Huskies’ talented squad (without Kemba) still has the ability to turn their game on any day now in order to resemble the national contenders they were 11 months ago. With the game being played on the Huskies’ hardwood, I’d say this would be a perfect opportunity for Connecticut to finally turn it on.

Teaser:
<p> Missouri at Kansas Highlights A Big Weekend of College Basketball</p>
Post date: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 16:28
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

TCU Horned Frogs 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 11-2, 7-0 MW

Spring practice: Feb. 25-April 5

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Casey Pachall, 228 of 343, 2,921 yds., 25 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Waymon James, 121 car., 875 yds., 6 TDs
Receiving: Josh Boyce, 61 rec., 998 yds., 9 TDs
Tackles: Kenny Cain, 72 tackles
Sacks: Stansly Maponga, 9
Interceptions: Two players tied with 1

Redshirts to watch: WR LaDarius Brown, OG Jamelle Naff, WR David Bush, OT Carter Wall, LB Laderice Sanders, OG Brady Foltz, S Jamie Byrd

JUCO Transfer to watch: CB Keivon Gamble

Early Enrollees: QB Tyler Matthews, CB Keivon Gamble, ATH Kolby Listenbee, RB B.J. Catalon

2012 Schedule

Sept. 8 Grambling
Sept. 15 at Kansas
Sept. 22 Virginia
Sept. 29 at SMU
Oct. 6 Iowa State
Oct. 13 at Baylor
Oct. 20 Texas Tech
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 3 at West Virginia
Nov. 10 Kansas State
Nov. 17 at Texas
Dec. 1 Oklahoma

Offensive Strength: Scoring points shouldn’t be a problem for the Horned Frogs in 2012. Quarterback Casey Pachall is back after a terrific sophomore year, throwing for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns. Pachall has plenty of support around him, as TCU returns three running backs with at least 700 yards last year and dynamic playmakers at receiver in Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson.

Offensive Weakness: While the Horned Frogs have plenty of skill players and quarterback Casey Pachall returning, only two starters are back on the offensive line. Guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry are back to anchor the line, but both tackles and All-Mountain West guard Kyle Dooley must be replaced.

Defensive Strength: Despite the dismissal of tackle D.J. Yendrey, TCU should be solid on the defensive line. End Stansly Maponga is back after recording nine sacks and five forced fumbles last year. Ross Forrest registered 32 stops last year and should start at the other end spot. Jon Lewis and David Johnson turned in solid freshman campaigns last season and will be in charge of anchoring the middle of the line.

Defensive Weakness: Only two starters return in the back seven, and this group was hit hard in the spring when linebacker Tanner Brock and defensive back Devin Johnson were dismissed from the team. With the pass-first tendencies of most teams in the Big 12, the secondary will be under fire early and often in 2012.

Spring Storylines Facing the Horned Frogs:

1. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in Fort Worth this spring, as the Horned Frogs are on the move from the Mountain West to the Big 12. And TCU has the pieces in place to contend for the conference title in its first season in the league. The offense finished ninth nationally in scoring last year and returns five key starters. Quarterback Casey Pachall should contend for all-conference honors in 2012, while the Horned Frogs return All-Mountain West receiver Josh Boyce and three running backs with over 700 rushing yards last year. TCU has fought its way from being left out of the Big 12 in 1994 to emerging as one of the top non-BCS programs in college football. With coach Gary Patterson at the helm, the Horned Frogs are poised to make some noise in the Big 12 in 2012 and beyond.

2. Some of the energy and excitement with the move to the Big 12 was quieted with the recent drug scandal on campus, which resulted in four players being dismissed from the team. Linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, defensive back Devin Johnson and offensive lineman Ty Horn were booted from the team after their arrest, leaving the Horned Frogs with some voids to fill. Brock was expected to be the leader in the linebacking corps, while Yendrey was TCU’s top returning defensive tackle. While this incident has been a black eye for the Horned Frogs, this shouldn’t affect the program in any long-term capacity. However, the defense will miss Brock, Yendrey and Johnson's contributions in 2012.

3. For the first time since 2007, TCU finished outside of the top 12 nationally in pass defense. The Horned Frogs’ secondary allowed 223.6 yards per game and surrendered 23 passing scores last season. TCU also picked off only 10 passes, and allowed quarterbacks to average 12.4 yards per completion. Considering quarterback play is stronger in the Big 12 than it was in the Mountain West, this group will be under fire to perform right away in 2012. Cornerback Jason Verrett earned honorable mention All-Mountain West honors last season and will be counted on for leadership in the secondary. Junior college transfer Keivon Gamble is expected to contribute right away and could earn a starting spot this spring. Tekerrein Cuba and Johnny Fobbs are both gone at safety, leaving the Horned Frogs with some work to do this spring in revamping this group.   

4. There are few question marks about the offense, but the offensive line figures to get the most attention in the preseason. Guard Blaize Foltz and center James Fry is a solid duo to build around, but three other starters must be replaced. With all of the talent TCU returns at the skill positions and under center with Casey Pachall, it’s important for this group to jell. If the line struggles, it’s fair to wonder if this offense will match last season’s average of 40.8 points a game.

5. One of the most intriguing elements of conference realignment is the adjustment period teams on the move will have with their new conference foes. TCU has recently played some of the teams in the Big 12, but the every week grind is going to be much tougher in this conference than it was in the Mountain West. The Horned Frogs have a lot of time to study their new nine conference foes and are built to contend right away. However, developing depth to handle the tougher week-to-week schedule is going to be crucial for TCU’s chances at winning the Big 12 in 2012.

Related Big 12 Content Links

Texas Spring Preview
Very Early 2012 Big 12 Predictions
2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis

Athlon’s Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Texas Tech Spring Preview
2012 Recruiting Rankings No. 2: Texas Longhorns

Teaser:
<p> What should be expected of the Horned Frogs as they play their first season in the Big 12?</p>
Post date: Friday, February 24, 2012 - 06:51
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

Texas Longhorns 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 8-5, 4-5 Big 12

Spring practice: Feb. 23-April 1

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: David Ash, 98 of 173, 1,068 yds., 4 TDs, 8 INTs
Rushing: Malcolm Brown, 172 car., 742 yds., 5 TDs
Receiving: Mike Davis, 45 rec., 609 yds., 1 TD
Tackles: Kenny Vaccaro, 82
Sacks: Jackson Jeffcoat, 8
Interceptions: Quandre Diggs, 4

Redshirts to watch: OL Garrett Greenlea, TE M.J. McFarland

JUCO Transfers to watch: DT Brandon Moore, OL Donald Hawkins

Early Enrollees: QB Connor Brewer, LB Alex De La Torre, OL Donald Hawkins, OL Camrhon Hughes, DT Brandon Moore, CB Duke Thomas

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Wyoming
Sept. 8 New Mexico
Sept. 15 at Ole Miss
Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 6 West Virginia
Oct. 13 Oklahoma
Oct. 20 Baylor
Oct. 27 at Kansas
Nov. 3 at Texas Tech
Nov. 10 Iowa State
Nov. 24 TCU
Dec. 1 at Kansas State

Offensive Strength: The Longhorns ranked eighth in the Big 12 in scoring last year, but the rushing attack was a bright spot. Running backs Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron combined for 1,205 yards and 10 scores last season, and will be joined by incoming freshman Jonathan Gray – the No. 7 overall recruit in the Athlon Consensus 100.

Offensive Weakness: Three quarterbacks received a start last year and none turned in a particularly impressive final resume. Garrett Gilbert threw for 247 yards in two games, but injured his shoulder and later transferred to SMU. David Ash and Case McCoy showed a few glimpses of promise, but finished with 12 picks and enter spring practice locked into a tight battle for the No. 1 job.

Defensive Strength: With six starters back and solid depth returning, the Longhorns should field one of the top defenses in college football in 2012. The defensive line has two potential All-Americans at end with the return of Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat. With nearly everyone returning in the secondary, Texas will be stingy against the pass next season.

Defensive Weakness: The Longhorns only have few issues on defense, but they do have to replace two stalwarts at linebacker in Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. The interior of the line could be a concern, especially with Calvin Howell unexpectedly leaving and Kheeston Randall finishing his eligibility. There's plenty of talent at defensive tackle, but the Longhorns will have some youth stepping into a key role next year.

Spring Storylines Facing the Longhorns:

1. If Texas is to make the jump from eight wins to winning the Big 12 next year, quarterback play has to improve. The offense figures to get better with another year to learn under coordinator Bryan Harsin, but quarterbacks David Ash, Case McCoy and incoming freshman Connor Brewer need to jumpstart the passing attack. The Longhorns averaged only 189.2 yards per game through the air last season, which simply won’t work if this team wants to win the Big 12 in 2012. Ash seemed secure the early lead on the No. 1 spot after leading Texas to win over California in the Holiday Bowl. However, McCoy and Brewer will be given every opportunity to win the job in preseason workouts. The quarterbacks figure to get more help from the receiving corps this year, as Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin all return after posting solid numbers in 2011.

2. Although the passing attack needs to get better, the offense will lean heavily on a trio of talented running backs. Sophomores Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron will team with incoming freshman Jonathan Gray to form one of the Big 12’s top backfields in 2012. The offensive line showed improvement last season and with four starters back, the coaching staff expects this group to take another step forward. Gray won’t arrive until fall practice, but it will be important for Harsin and the offensive assistants to develop a pecking order and maximize this group’s potential in 2012.

3. The Longhorns should have the Big 12’s best defense next year, but this group has a few question marks to address in preseason practices. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat should form one of college football’s top combinations at defensive end, but the interior of the line is a concern. Kheeston Randall and Calvin Howell are gone, leaving Ashton Dorsey, Desmond Jackson and former running back Chris Whaley as the most experienced tackles in 2012. This group is expected to get a boost from junior college transfer Brandon Moore and incoming freshman Malcom Brown – the No. 10 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100. There’s no shortage of talent in the middle of the line, but coaching staff would like to see how it stacks up on the field this spring.   

4. Filling voids in the linebacking corps is often one of the easiest tasks for any defensive staff. However, the Longhorns have to replace two reliable players with the departure of Keenan Robinson and Emmanuel Acho. Robinson collected 106 stops last season, while Acho earned first-team All-Big 12 honors and recorded 131 tackles. Jordan Hicks is ready to emerge as the leader of this corps, but two other starters need to emerge. Steve Edmond had a solid freshman campaign last year, picking up 16 stops and one forced fumble. Kendall Thompson backed up Acho last season and recorded nine tackles. Thompson and Edmond should open the year as the new starters in the linebacking corps, but incoming freshmen Peter Jinkens, Dalton Santos and Alex De La Torre will have a chance to earn playing time.

5. Justin Tucker handled the kicking and punting duties last year, but he has finished his eligibility. The Longhorns lack a proven candidate at either position, with the most experienced player (William Russ) punting once in 2011 against Kansas. Ben Pruitt was listed as the backup to Tucker on field goals last year and played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as a high school senior. Pruitt would figure to get first crack at field goals, while Russ handles the punting duties. However, incoming freshman Nick Jordan is expected to compete right away for playing time. Considering the Longhorns could be involved with several close games this year, the special teams cannot be ignored.

Related Big 12 Content Links

Very Early 2012 Big 12 Predictions
2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis
Athlon’s Early Top 25 for 2012

2012 Texas Tech Spring Preview
2012 Recruiting Rankings No. 2: Texas Longhorns

Teaser:
<p> The pieces are in place for Texas to challenge for a Big 12 title in 2012. However, the Longhorns need a much-improved passing attack to get back to a BCS bowl next season.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 23, 2012 - 06:10
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-10-spring-storylines-watch
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

It wasn't that long ago that Alabama celebrated its national title victory over LSU in New Orleans. And now it's already time to turn the page to 2012. Spring practice is underway across the nation and will continue into late April for several college football teams.

Here's a look at some of the key storylines to watch over the next couple of months.

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012

1. Change is in the air as 124 FBS teams get ready to open up spring practice. Conference realignment has shifted the landscape of several conferences and you might need a scorecard to keep up with the changes. The SEC expanded to 14 teams, bringing Texas A&M and Missouri in from the Big 12. West Virginia bolted the Big East and TCU left the Mountain West to get the Big 12 back to 10 teams. Thanks to the Mountaineers’ departure from the Big East, the conference is trying desperately to add Boise State for 2012. Without the Broncos, the Big East will play this upcoming season with just seven teams. The changes weren’t limited to BCS conferences, as Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii are joining the Mountain West. And finally, Texas State (WAC), UTSA (WAC), UMass (MAC) and South Alabama (Sun Belt) are making the jump from the FCS to the FBS ranks. However, conference realignment isn’t finished by any means and there could be more shock waves throughout college football during the 2012 season.

2. The SEC has claimed the last six national titles and there’s certainly no shortage of options to claim No. 7 in 2012. However, each of the four likely contenders – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and LSU – has significant question marks. For LSU, how will new quarterback Zach Mettenberger perform? Alabama will have several new faces on defense and must replace running back Trent Richardson and center William Vlachos. Georgia got off to a slow start last year, but rallied to finish with 10 wins and the SEC East title. For the Bulldogs to contend in 2012, they have to rebuild an offensive line that loses three key players. Arkansas has inched closer to the top of the SEC West, but its defense must make strides in order to challenge for the national title.

3.  If the SEC West is going to be the most competitive division in college football, the Big Ten Legends can’t be too far behind. Deciding the pecking order between Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska isn’t going to be easy and there’s not a ton of separation between these three teams. The Wolverines need to utilize the spring to rebuild the defensive line and develop weapons in the receiving corps for quarterback Denard Robinson. The Spartans need to get quarterback Andrew Maxwell comfortable, while improving a rushing attack that ranked 11th in the Big Ten last year. The Cornhuskers enter spring workouts with more question marks than Michigan and Michigan State, but should be more acclimated to Big Ten play in 2012. With Ohio State ineligible for the Big Ten title, the winner of this division should be a heavy favorite to win the conference title game and play in a BCS game.

4. The Pac-12 is usually one of the most entertaining conferences to watch on a week-to-week basis, but this league gained even more intrigue with four coaching changes this offseason. Arizona State replaced Dennis Erickson with Todd Graham, while Arizona canned Mike Stoops and hired former West Virginia and Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez. UCLA made a run at Boise State’s Chris Petersen, but ended up with former NFL head coach Jim Mora, and Washington State hit a home run with the hire of former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach. And the intrigue doesn’t stop there. How about Washington plucking defensive line coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi away from California? And there’s also Oregon coach Chip Kelly’s brief flirtation with the NFL. Spring practice is only the start of what is shaping up to be a season full of intrigue in the Pac-12.

5. The college football coaching carousel was busy this offseason, as 27 teams changed head coaches. While that group of new coaches should have job security going into 2012, there are a handful of coaches entering a potentially program-defining season. Boston College’s Frank Spaziani, UCF’s George O’Leary, California’s Jeff Tedford, Kentucky’s Joker Phillips, Tennessee’s Derek Dooley and Rice’s David Bailiff top the early hot seat watch for 2012 and all need a big spring (and season) to stick around for 2013.

6. Once again, it’s time to dust off the seemingly annual question about Florida State: Are the Seminoles back and ready to contend for a national title? On paper, the Seminoles are poised to challenge for a finish among the top 10 teams. There's plenty of proven depth with 16 starters returning and coach Jimbo Fisher is bringing in another elite recruiting class. The defense is among the best in college football, especially up front where end Brandon Jenkins should be a preseason All-American. But whether or not the Seminoles are ready to win the ACC and play in a BCS bowl rests solely on an offensive line that will be very young in 2012. Center Bryan Stork and guard Jacob Fahrenkrug will provide the veteran leadership, but the Seminoles need sophomores Bobby Hart, Austin Barron, Josue Matias, Sterling Lovelady and junior Garrett Faircloth to step up. If this group holds up, the Seminoles should be able to get back into the BCS for the first time since 2006.

7. Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe how the last few months have gone at Penn State. From the Jerry Sandusky scandal to the passing of legendary coach Joe Paterno, the Nittany Lions have had to deal with enough bad news to last several years. Spring football kicks off in Happy Valley on March 26, and new coach Bill O’Brien will have his hands full with this team in 2012. O’Brien wants Penn State to throw more, but quarterback play was not been the strength of this team in recent years. The Nittany Lions also lose leading receiver Derek Moye and four starters are gone on the offensive line. Following a legend like Paterno won’t be easy, but O’Brien also has to deal with significant question marks on offense and there will be an adjustment period to the new coaching staff for the players. Unless O’Brien can find the right answer at quarterback, the offense figures to keep Penn State from challenging for the Big Ten Leaders Division title in 2012.

8. Thanks to a 5-7 2010 campaign, Texas was off the national radar going into last season. However, the Longhorns rebounded with an 8-5 record and a victory over California in the Holiday Bowl. If Mack Brown’s team wants to challenge Oklahoma in the Big 12 title race, it has to start with getting better quarterback play. David Ash seemed to wrestle the No. 1 spot on the depth chart after finishing with 142 passing yards and one touchdown in the bowl game. Ash isn’t guaranteed to finish spring as the top passer, as Case McCoy and incoming freshman Connor Brewer will get every opportunity to knock him off the No. 1 position. If Texas can generate more offense in 2012, it’s not out of the question this team can compete for the Big 12 title.

9. There have been a lot of changes at Ohio State over the last year, and it may be a while before the Buckeyes go 6-7 once again. New coach Urban Meyer is off to a terrific start on the recruiting trail and should continue to reel in top talent to Columbus. Meyer is well-rested after a year away from coaching, and the health issues that bothered him at Florida seem to be under control. The future certainly looks bright for the Buckeyes, but there’s also a sense of disappointment before the 2012 season kicks off. Due to NCAA violations, Ohio State is ineligible to play for the Big Ten title and is also banned from postseason play. Although the Buckeyes can’t play for a championship, Meyer and his staff should keep this team motivated all year, and the schedule is favorable enough to expect 10 wins in 2012. There’s certainly a learning curve for the offense as it adapts to Meyer’s spread attack and some holes to fill on the offensive line, but Ohio State is poised to make a lot of noise once the bowl ban is lifted going into 2013.

10. And of course, we can’t close a spring practice preview article without mentioning the quarterback battles.

Athlon will have a more in-depth look at some of the battles over the next few weeks, but here’s a quick snapshot of some of the top quarterback competitions to watch:

Auburn: New coordinator Scot Loeffler will have his hands full this spring, as the Tigers finished 100th nationally in total offense last year and have no clear No. 1 quarterback. Barrett Trotter gave up his final year of eligibility, leaving sophomore Kiehl Frazier, true freshman Zeke Pike and junior Clint Moseley to battle for the starting spot under center. The Tigers don’t need to have an elite passing attack, but it has to be better than it was last year.

Boise State: Replacing Kellen Moore is no easy task for head coach Chris Petersen and new coordinator Robert Prince. Sophomore Grant Hedrick, redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea, junior Joe Southwick and true freshman Nick Patti will compete this spring.

Florida: The Gators are searching for a spark on offense this spring, along with adjusting to new coordinator Brent Pease. Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel combined to throw for 354 yards in relief of Jeff Brantley last year, but nether completed more than 48 percent of their throws.

Miami: Stephen Morris has started five games at Miami, but will be pushed by Memphis transfer Ryan Williams and incoming freshmen Preston Dewey and Gary Grow.

Stanford: It will be impossible to replace Andrew Luck’s production in 2012, but the Cardinal has plenty of candidates, and an offense that’s built around the rushing attack to take the pressure off a young quarterback. Brett Nottingham will open spring workouts as the No. 1 passer, but Robbie Picazo, Josh Nunes, Evan Crower and Kevin Hogan will all get a shot.

Oklahoma State: The Pokes will miss quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon, but don’t expect this offense to fall too far in 2012. Clint Chelf completed 20 of 30 throws for 307 yards and three scores last year and opens as the frontrunner to replace Weeden. However J.W. Walsh and true freshman Wes Lunt will get an opportunity to unseat him in spring practice.

Oregon: Bryan Bennett was impressive while filling in for Darron Thomas last year and opens spring workouts as the favorite to start the opener in 2012. However, redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota and incoming freshmen Jake Rodrigues will have an opportunity to push him this spring.

Texas A&M: As if joining the SEC wasn’t tough enough, the Aggies have to break in a new quarterback. Jameill Showers has the most experience (five passes), but Matt Joeckel, Johnny Manziel and incoming freshman Matt Davis will have every opportunity to earn playing time.

Teaser:
<p> Spring practice is underway and Athlon takes a look at the 10 biggest storylines to watch over the next couple of months.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/2012-big-12-football-schedules
Body:

Click here to read more Big 12 coverage from AthlonSports.com.

2012 Big 12 Schedules

Baylor

Sept. 1 SMU
Sept. 15 Sam Houston State
Sept. 22 at UL Monroe
Sept. 29 at West Virginia
Oct. 13 TCU
Oct. 20 at Texas
Oct. 27 at Iowa State
Nov. 3 Kansas
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma
Nov. 17 Kansas State
Nov. 24 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Dec. 1 Oklahoma State

Iowa State

Sept. 1 Tulsa
Sept. 8 at Iowa
Sept. 15 Western Illinois
Sept. 29 Texas Tech
Oct. 6 at TCU
Oct. 13 Kansas State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 27 Baylor
Nov. 3 Oklahoma
Nov. 10 at Texas
Nov 17 at Kansas
Nov. 24 West Virginia

Kansas

Sept. 1 South Dakota State
Sept. 8 Rice
Sept. 15 TCU
Sept. 22 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 6 at Kansas State
Oct. 13 Oklahoma State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma
Oct. 27 Texas
Nov. 3 at Baylor
Nov. 10 at Texas Tech
Nov. 17 Iowa State
Dec. 1 at West Virginia

Kansas State

Sept. 1 Missouri State
Sept. 8 Miami (Fla.)
Sept. 15 North Texas
Sept. 22 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 27 Texas Tech
Nov. 3 Oklahoma State
Nov. 10 at TCU
Nov. 17 at Baylor
Dec. 1 Texas

Oklahoma

Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 Florida A&M
Sept. 22 Kansas State
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
Oct. 13 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 20 Kansas
Oct. 27 Notre Dame
Nov. 3 at Iowa State
Nov. 10 Baylor
Nov. 17 at West Virginia
Nov. 24 Oklahoma State
Dec. 1 at TCU

Oklahoma State

Sept. 1 Savannah State
Sept. 8 at Arizona
Sept. 15 UL Lafayette
Sept. 29 Texas
Oct. 13 at Kansas
Oct. 20 Iowa State
Oct. 27 TCU
Nov. 3 at Kansas State
Nov. 10 West Virginia
Nov. 17 Texas Tech
Nov. 24 at Oklahoma
Dec. 1 at Baylor

TCU

Sept. 8 Grambling State
Sept. 15 at Kansas
Sept. 22 Virginia
Sept. 29 at SMU
Oct. 6 Iowa State
Oct. 13 at Baylor
Oct. 20 Texas Tech
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 3 at West Virginia
Nov. 10 Kansas State
Nov. 24 at Texas
Dec. 1 Oklahoma

Texas

Sept. 1 Wyoming
Sept. 8 New Mexico
Sept. 15 at Ole Miss
Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 6 West Virginia
Oct. 13 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 20 Baylor
Oct. 27 at Kansas
Nov. 3 at Texas Tech
Nov. 10 Iowa State
Nov. 24 TCU
Dec. 1 at Kansas State

Texas Tech

Sept. 1 Northwestern State
Sept. 8 at Texas State
Sept. 15 New Mexico
Sept. 29 at Iowa State
Oct. 6 Oklahoma
Oct. 13 West Virginia
Oct. 20 at TCU
Oct. 27 at Kansas State
Nov. 3 Texas
Nov. 10 Kansas
Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 24 Baylor (Arlington)

West Virginia

Sept. 1 Marshall
Sept. 15 James Madison (Landover)
Sept. 22 Maryland
Sept. 29 Baylor
Oct. 6 at Texas
Oct. 13 at Texas Tech
Oct. 20 Kansas State
Nov. 3 TCU
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 17 Oklahoma
Nov. 24 at Iowa State
Dec. 1 Kansas

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, February 17, 2012 - 11:08
Path: /college-football/texas-tech-red-raiders-2012-spring-preview
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

The journey to claim the 2012 national title begins in February, March and April, as 124 college football teams open up spring practice over the next three months. Athlon will preview some of the top teams and storylines across the nation, as the countdown to 2012 inches closer. 

Texas Tech Red Raiders 2012 Spring Preview

2011 Record: 5-7, 2-7 Big 12

Spring practice dates: Feb. 17-March 24

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Seth Doege, 398 of 581, 4,004 yds., 28 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: Eric Stephens, 108 car., 565 yds., 8 TDs
Receiving: Eric Ward, 84 rec., 800 yds., 11 TDs
Tackles: Cody Davis, 93
Sacks: Dartwan Smith, 2
Interceptions: D.J. Johnson, 2

Redshirts to watch: WR Javares McRoy, WR Jakeem Grant, DE Branden Jackson, OL Tony Morales

Transfer to watch: WR Tyson Williams (West Texas A&M)

Early Enrollees: DE Lee Adams (JC), WR Javon Bell (JC), OL Rashad Fortenberry (JC), ATH SaDale Foster (JC), OL Jared Kaster, DB Thierry Nguema, LB Christofer Payne (JC), LB Will Smith (JC), S Austin Stewart (JC)

2012 Schedule

Sept. 1 Northwestern State
Sept. 8 at Texas State
Sept. 15 New Mexico
Sept. 29 at Iowa State
Oct. 6 Oklahoma
Oct. 13 West Virginia
Oct. 20 at TCU
Oct. 27 at Kansas State
Nov. 3 Texas
Nov. 10 Kansas
Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 24 Baylor (Arlington)

Offensive Strength: Quarterback Seth Doege was solid in his debut season, throwing for 4,004 yards and 28 scores. Doege finished seventh nationally in total offense with 337.5 yards per game. Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL late in the 2011 season, but the receiving corps is still in good shape with the return of Darrin Moore and Eric Ward.

Offensive Weakness: With Eric Stephens and DeAndre Washington nursing significant knee injuries this spring, the Red Raiders are short on depth in the backfield. The offensive line also loses two starters, including guard Lonnie Edwards and is shuffling some players around this spring.

Defensive Strength: It’s hard to call any unit on the defense a strength after ranking 117th nationally in points allowed last year. However, the Red Raiders have some young talent returning in 2012, and Cody Davis and D.J. Johnson could both contend for all-conference honors this season.

Defensive Weakness: Six starters are back, but the coaching staff still has a lot of work to do with this group in 2012. The Red Raiders were one of the worst defenses in the country and six junior college players were brought in to help immediately this spring.  

Spring Storylines Facing the Red Raiders:

1. For the first time since 1992, Texas Tech is coming off a season in which it did not win at least six games. The Red Raiders got off to a solid 5-2 start, including a surprise 41-38 upset over Oklahoma in mid-October. However, the upset over the Sooners was the highlight of the season, as Texas Tech dropped its final five games to finish with a losing record and no bowl appearance for the first time since 1999. It’s important for the Red Raiders to build some confidence this spring and get back on the winning track in 2012.

2. Generating yards and points hasn’t been an issue for several years in Lubbock and 2011 was no different. The Red Raiders finished 13th nationally in total offense and averaged 33.8 points a game. However, this unit suffered some key injuries last year and will be a focal point through preseason workouts. Running back Eric Stephens was off to a fantastic start – averaging 113 yards through the first five games of last season – but suffered a significant knee injury against Texas A&M and was forced to sit out the remainder of the 2011 season. Stephens will sit out spring practice and could redshirt this season. Making matters even worse is the status of sophomore DeAndre Washington. He suffered a torn ACL late in the year against Missouri and may also sit out 2012. With Stephens and Washington sidelined, sophomores Kenny Williams and Ronnie Daniels will be expected to take on a bigger role in the rushing attack. With concerns about depth, receiver Bradley Marquez may see some time in the backfield this spring. At 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, Marquez has the size and speed to fit perfectly as a running back in Texas Tech’s spread attack. The Red Raiders finished last in the Big 12 in rushing offense last year and the injuries may make it difficult for this group to see much statistical improvement in 2012.

3. The Red Raiders have the firepower on offense to get back to a bowl, but whether or not they can climb into the top five of the Big 12 depends on the defense. Texas Tech will have its fourth defensive coordinator in four years, as Art Kaufman was appointed from North Carolina to fix a defense that ranked 120th nationally against the run and 117th in points allowed. Kaufman has a lot of work to do this spring, but will have six returning starters. The Red Raiders’ pass rush was almost non-existent last year, as they averaged only 1.3 sacks a game. The front four was inexperienced last season, but the return of sophomore tackle Delvon Simmons, junior tackle Kerry Hyder and senior Leon Mackey is a good building block. After using the 4-2-5 defensive scheme last year, Texas Tech plans to switch back to a 4-3 look in 2012. Making improvement on this side of the ball will be the difference between finishing 5-7 again or jumping to 7-5 or 8-4.

4. The secondary wasn’t much better than the run defense, as the Red Raiders ranked 113th nationally in pass efficiency defense and intercepted only five passes. Cornerback is a concern, especially with Tre Porter moving back to safety and converted receiver Cornelius Douglas likely entrenched as one starter. Douglas should benefit from a full spring to work on the defensive side, but he will be tested early and often in 2012. Safety is in good shape with D.J. Johnson and Cody Davis returning. Terrance Bullitt started nine games at safety last season, but is expected to move to linebacker. Although the secondary needs help from the defensive line, this group has to play better and force more turnovers next season.

5. With the injury concerns at running back, quarterback Seth Doege is going to have much of the offensive workload on his shoulders. The senior’s numbers figure to only get better in his second year as the starter, but he has some injury concerns in the receiving corps as spring practice begins. Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL against Missouri and will be sidelined for spring workouts. However, Eric Ward is back after catching 84 passes and earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last season. Darrin Moore caught 21 passes in the first two games last year, but suffered an injury against Nevada and finally got back to full strength late in the year. Ward and Moore will form a solid duo of options for Doege, but the team hopes redshirt freshmen Javares McRoy and West Texas A&M transfer Tyson Williams can help add playmaking ability to the inside receiver spots. 

Related Content Links

2012 Big 12 Schedule Analysis
Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012

Athlon's 2012 Early Big 12 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> After a disappointing 5-7 record, Texas Tech hopes to bounce back with a winning record in 2012. However, the team has significant issues on defense and injury concerns on offense.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 17, 2012 - 07:29
All taxonomy terms: SEC, News
Path: /news/sec-coaches-meeting-creates-awkward-photos
Body:

Who doesn’t love a good awkward photo? Some of the best photos are the ones where it’s supposed to be a serious shot. And that’s where we can thank the SEC for creating a bit of offseason humor.

The 14 coaches of the SEC met in Birmingham this week and took two rather awkward photos. What’s worse than trying to smile your way through a photo with some of your top rivals and fellow coaches around?

Some observations:

While most of the coaches are wearing a suit jacket or button-up shirt, the two coaches from Mississippi (Dan Mullen and Hugh Freeze) decided to wear a school-affiliated shirt. Hey, nothing wrong with always keeping the logo and team in the spotlight.

And it looks like Freeze missed the memo on where to place his hands. Dooley, Petrino, Spurrier, Miles, Pinkel and Phillips all chose the legs, while Freeze decided to fold and place in his lap.

Auburn coach Gene Chizik recently had shoulder surgery, which would help to explain his odd pose in this photo. If you didn’t know Chizik had surgery, it looks like he is ready to give Les Miles a slap to the back of the head.

Speaking of Chizik, we are normally used to seeing him rock the leather jacket. However, Florida’s Will Muschamp upstaged him this time, wearing the black jacket over a blue polo. Certainly an interesting look.

Vanderbilt’s James Franklin looks quite ecstatic to be there. And wouldn’t that be the case for any coach coming off a bowl season and a top recruiting class with the Commodores?

And here’s the SEC’s newest coaches: Missouri’s Gary Pinkel and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

This photo is awkward thanks to the beam in the middle. Why not have the coaches stand with the helmets and instead of cutting them in half?

And needless to say, Pinkel doesn’t look too excited to be here. 

Teaser:
<p> The SEC coaches meeting in Birmingham provided a few awkward photos.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 20:12
All taxonomy terms: TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /news/tcus-drug-scandal-hampers-2012-big-12-title-hopes
Body:

What a difference a day makes. Just one day after TCU’s basketball team scored a huge victory over UNLV and the schedule for its inaugural season in the Big 12 was released, the athletic department is dealing with a significant drug scandal.

On Wednesday, 17 TCU students were arrested in a drug bust at the school, which included four football players: Linebacker Tanner Brock, defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, cornerback Devin Johnson and Ty Horn. The four players were later dismissed by head coach Gary Patterson.

But the trouble may not end with the four players arrested and dismissed.

According to the arrest affidavit, the TCU coaching staff required all players to take a drug test on Feb. 1, 2012, and Brock told the informant “about 60 people would be screwed.” Johnson allegedly told an informant that 82 players from the team failed the drug test administered on Feb. 1. There's nothing that's been confirmed true about those two numbers thrown out, but it is something that will hang over the program until any further suspensions or dismissals have been announced or TCU clears the rest of the football team.

Needless to say, this is a black eye for a program on the rise. The Horned Frogs were poised to make a lot of noise in their first season in the Big 12 and was widely-regarded as one of the top 25 teams for 2012. However, the four player dismissals were a huge loss for this team and if those statements by Brock and Johnson are true, Patterson and his coaching staff may have to suspend some players for the start of 2012.

Brock missed nearly all of 2011 due to an injury, but was expected to return as one of the leaders for the defense. He led the team with 106 tackles in 2010 and gathered first-team All-Mountain West honors. With Tank Carder finishing his eligibility, Brock was expected to be the anchor and a likely All-Big 12 performer in 2012.

Yendrey was coming off back-to-back seasons of earning honorable mention All-Mountain West honors and was expected to anchor the interior of the defensive line. He recorded 39 tackles and three sacks last season, while starting 12 games. Without Yendrey, Jon Lewis, Ray Burns, David Johnson and Chuck Hunter will have to take on a bigger role on the interior of the line.

The secondary was a weakness for the defense in 2011 and Johnson’s dismissal was a big loss for a team already losing cornerback Greg McCoy and safeties Tekerrein Cuba and Johnny Fobbs. Johnson recorded 47 stops last year and collected 2.5 sacks.

Horn was the least decorated of the players dismissed, starting only one game in 2011. However, he was expected to contend for a starting spot in 2012.

What does this mean for TCU going forward? There’s still a lot to sort out, but this is a down moment for a program that waited and fought hard to get into a BCS conference. The Horned Frogs will be fine in the long run under Patterson, but there will be an impact on the field. The defense has ranked near the top of college football in the Mountain West, but will take a step back facing the high-powered offenses in the Big 12. And this group only has five returning starters, so there’s a lot of pressure on the new faces in the linebacking corps and secondary to step up.

Until all of the allegations are sorted out, it’s too difficult to say whether or not TCU will remain in the preseason top 25. However, there is still a talented core returning to Fort Worth in 2012 and the schedule isn’t too overwhelming to expect a season with eight or nine wins.

TCU’s 2012 Schedule

Sept. 8 Grambling State
Sept. 15 at Kansas
Sept. 22 Virginia
Sept. 29 at SMU
Oct. 6 Iowa State
Oct. 13 at Baylor
Oct. 20 Texas Tech
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 3 at West Virginia
Nov. 10 Kansas State
Nov. 24 at Texas
Dec. 1 Oklahoma

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012
Related: Athlon's 2012 Early Big 12 Predictions
Related: Big 12 2012 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> TCU's Drug Scandal Hampers 2012 Big 12 Title Hopes.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 16:41
Path: /college-football/big-12-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Finally. After a long wait and rumors of its release for the last few weeks, the Big 12 schedule for 2012 has been distributed. The conference has experienced a handful of changes over the last two years, with Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado departing, and TCU and West Virginia joining. After an expensive settlement with the Big East, the Mountaineers were cleared to join in time for the 2012 season and should be one of the frontrunners to claim the conference title. After winning at least 11 games over the last four seasons, the Horned Frogs are ready for the increased challenge and the week-to-week grind of playing in a BCS conference.

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012
Related: Athlon's 2012 Early Big 12 Predictions

Baylor

Sept. 1 SMU
Sept. 15 Sam Houston State
Sept. 22 at UL Monroe
Sept. 29 at West Virginia
Oct. 13 TCU
Oct. 20 at Texas
Oct. 27 at Iowa State
Nov. 3 Kansas
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma
Nov. 17 Kansas State
Nov. 24 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Dec. 1 Oklahoma State

* With a new quarterback taking over, it’s good news for Baylor the first conference game is on Sept. 29. Barring an upset, the Bears should start 3-0 and build some momentum with the new pieces on offense for Big 12 play.

* The Baylor-TCU matchup was one of college football’s best games of 2011. With Robert Griffin no longer taking snaps in Waco, a 50-48 shootout victory is probably unrealistic. However, this is a big test for both teams midway through the 2012 season. And of course, there’s plenty of bad blood between these two teams. With the Horned Frogs in the Big 12, this should become a good rivalry.

* The Bears will play two out of their last three games at home and the other contest is a neutral site affair in Arlington against Texas Tech. Considering Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are all winnable games, it’s a favorable draw for Baylor’s hopes of reaching its third consecutive bowl game.   

Iowa State

Sept. 1 Tulsa
Sept. 8 at Iowa
Sept. 15 Western Illinois
Sept. 29 Texas Tech
Oct. 6 at TCU
Oct. 13 Kansas State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 27 Baylor
Nov. 3 Oklahoma
Nov. 10 at Texas
Nov 17 at Kansas
Nov. 24 West Virginia

* If the Cyclones are going to make their third bowl appearance under coach Paul Rhoads, they will need to get a good chunk of their wins in the first half. Iowa State should get at least two victories in the non-conference portion, with winnable games against Texas Tech and Kansas State in Ames before the midpoint of 2012.

* The back half of the schedule isn’t too kind for Iowa State. The Cyclones play arguably the top three teams in the Big 12 for 2012 – Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia – in November. Ouch.

* Revenge game. After knocking out Oklahoma State from the ranks of the unbeaten in 2011, it’s a safe bet the Cowboys will be hungry for revenge on Oct. 20 in Stillwater.

* New members. The Cyclones are 0-3 in three previous matchups against TCU and have never played West Virginia.

Kansas

Sept. 1 South Dakota State
Sept. 8 Rice
Sept. 15 TCU
Sept. 22 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 6 at Kansas State
Oct. 13 Oklahoma State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma
Oct. 27 Texas
Nov. 3 at Baylor
Nov. 10 at Texas Tech
Nov. 17 Iowa State
Dec. 1 at West Virginia

* The Charlie Weis era should get off to a quick start, as the Jayhawks will be favored to start 2-0.

* Kansas’ first Big 12 game will be against new member TCU on Sept. 15. The Jayhawks have not played the Horned Frogs since 1997. After going winless in conference play last year, the Big 12 didn’t do Kansas in favors by scheduling a top 25 team for its conference opener.

* Bragging rights in Kansas. Weis will be looking to make some noise in his first year as the Jayhawks’ head coach and what better way to do that than to beat Kansas State on Oct. 6. Kansas will be big underdogs, but it’s a key game for this team in 2012.

* The Jayhawks have one of the most difficult two-game stretches in the Big 12: at Oklahoma on Oct. 20 and Texas on Oct. 27.

* The Jayhawks close out 2012 with a road date against West Virginia. With no interest in scheduling Missouri for a non-conference series, it will be an odd sight to see Kansas playing the Mountaineers or any other team on the final regular season weekend.

Kansas State

Sept. 1 Missouri State
Sept. 8 Miami (Fla.)
Sept. 15 North Texas
Sept. 22 at Oklahoma
Oct. 6 Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 27 Texas Tech
Nov. 3 Oklahoma State
Nov. 10 at TCU
Nov. 17 at Baylor
Dec. 1 Texas

* A rematch with Miami highlights the non-conference portion of the schedule. The Wildcats defeated the Hurricanes 28-24 last season, and with the Hurricanes rebuilding, Kansas State should have a good shot at winning this matchup.

* The Wildcats didn’t catch a break for the Big 12 opener, as they have to travel to Norman to take on Oklahoma.

* The Wildcats and Jayhawks renew their annual rivalry on Oct. 6, with Kansas hoping to snap a three-game losing streak in this series.

* Kansas State and West Virginia have met only two times – 1930 and 1931.

* A difficult November will likely make-or-break the Wildcats’ Big 12 title hopes. Kansas State hosts Oklahoma State, then hits the road for games against TCU and Baylor, before closing the regular season with a home game against Texas. All four games are winnable, but none should be considered guarantee wins.

Oklahoma

Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 Florida A&M
Sept. 22 Kansas State
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
Oct. 13 Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 20 Kansas
Oct. 27 Notre Dame
Nov. 3 at Iowa State
Nov. 10 Baylor
Nov. 17 at West Virginia
Nov. 24 Oklahoma State
Dec. 1 at TCU

* Revenge? After losing to Texas Tech last season, expect the Sooners to be motivated for the rematch on Oct. 6 in Lubbock.

* Trap game? After playing Notre Dame on Oct. 27, Oklahoma has to travel to Ames to take on Iowa State on Nov. 3. We’ve already seen one Oklahoma team have trouble against the Cyclones in November.

* Backloaded schedule. If the Sooners are going to win the Big 12, they will have their work cut out in the last stretch of the season. Oklahoma faces West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU in its final three games – with two of those on the road.

* Red River Rivalry. Texas is getting better, but are the Longhorns ready to challenge the Sooners (the likely preseason favorites in the Big 12) on Oct. 13?

Oklahoma State

Sept. 1 Savannah State
Sept. 8 at Arizona
Sept. 15 UL Lafayette
Sept. 29 Texas
Oct. 13 at Kansas
Oct. 20 Iowa State
Oct. 27 TCU
Nov. 3 at Kansas State
Nov. 10 West Virginia
Nov. 17 Texas Tech
Nov. 24 at Oklahoma
Dec. 1 at Baylor

* The Cowboys couldn’t have picked a better opening opponent. Savannah State was 1-10 last year and gave up 40.2 points a game last year. Yikes. Look for Oklahoma State’s new quarterback to have a field day against this defense.

* The second game of the year is an intriguing non-conference matchup against Arizona. The Wildcats have to adjust to new coach Rich Rodriguez, but won’t be an easy out in Tucson.

* The Cowboys’ first Big 12 matchup is against Texas on Sept. 29. Oklahoma State has won back-to-back games against the Longhorns after winning only twice in the previous 24 matchups.

* Upset potential? Don’t sleep on Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 15. The Ragin’ Cajuns had a respectable showing in a loss against the Cowboys in 2011 and return much of their core for 2012.

* Former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator (now West Virginia head coach) Dana Holgorsen makes his return to Stillwater on Nov. 10.

* Three of Oklahoma State’s final four games are at home. However, the Cowboys have to hit the road for their annual matchup against Oklahoma. After last year’s thumping in Stillwater, you can bet the Sooners will be looking forward to that matchup on Nov. 24.

TCU

Sept. 8 Grambling State
Sept. 15 at Kansas
Sept. 22 Virginia
Sept. 29 at SMU
Oct. 6 Iowa State
Oct. 13 at Baylor
Oct. 20 Texas Tech
Oct. 27 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 3 at West Virginia
Nov. 10 Kansas State
Nov. 24 at Texas
Dec. 1 Oklahoma

* The schedule sets up favorably for a quick start, as the Horned Frogs should sweep their non-conference games and will likely be favored against Kansas, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech in the Big 12 portion.

* Revenge? After losing to SMU in Fort Worth last season, the Horned Frogs will no doubt circle the Sept. 29 matchup against the Mustangs.

* While TCU could get off to a quick start, the last five games are going to test this team. The Horned Frogs have a difficult closing stretch, starting with a date at Oklahoma State on Oct. 27 and closing on Dec. 1 at home against Oklahoma. If the finale against the Sooners wasn’t tough enough, TCU has to play at Texas the week before.

* The new-member bowl. TCU and West Virginia have played only once (1984 Bluebonnet Bowl), but will play every year – provided there is no more expansion – in the Big 12.

* One interesting tidbit to consider about TCU in 2012. Its defenses have ranked near the top of college football under coach Gary Patterson. But will that continue with an offensive-minded Big 12?

Texas

Sept. 1 Wyoming
Sept. 8 New Mexico
Sept. 15 at Ole Miss
Sept. 29 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 6 West Virginia
Oct. 13 Oklahoma (Dallas)
Oct. 20 Baylor
Oct. 27 at Kansas
Nov. 3 at Texas Tech
Nov. 10 Iowa State
Nov. 24 TCU
Dec. 1 at Kansas State

* With an offense that needs time to improve, the first three games are a good wakeup call for Big 12 play. The Longhorns will be heavily favored to start 3-0 and figure to roll up some big offensive numbers along the way.

* The Longhorns will play their first Big 12 game on Sept. 29 against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have won the last two meetings in this series.

* The Nov. 24 date against TCU is rumored to be moving to Thanksgiving for 2012. It’s not Texas A&M-Texas, but it’s a solid (and likely) top 25 matchup next season.

* Is this the year the Longhorns snap a four-game losing streak to Kansas State? Texas has to travel to Manhattan for the regular season finale on Dec. 1, and it’s a game that could have significant implications in the Big 12 bowl pecking order.

* West Virginia and Texas have played only once (1956), with the Mountaineers winning 7-6.

Texas Tech

Sept. 1 Northwestern State
Sept. 8 at Texas State
Sept. 15 New Mexico
Sept. 29 at Iowa State
Oct. 6 Oklahoma
Oct. 13 West Virginia
Oct. 20 at TCU
Oct. 27 at Kansas State
Nov. 3 Texas
Nov. 10 Kansas
Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 24 Baylor (Arlington)

* After a disappointing 2011 campaign, the Red Raiders should have an opportunity to build some early momentum. Texas Tech should start 3-0 and has a good chance to beat Iowa State and move to 4-0 before taking on Oklahoma on Oct. 6.

* The middle of the schedule is going to define Texas Tech’s 2012 season. The Red Raiders have a brutal stretch, starting with Oklahoma on Oct. 6 and closing with Texas on Nov. 3. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Texas Tech 4-5 going into the final three games of the season.

* Bowl eligibility could be on the line when the Red Raiders play Baylor in Arlington on Nov. 24.

* The Red Raiders have not played TCU since 2006, a game they lost 12-3 in Fort Worth.

* Texas Tech’s only meeting with West Virginia occurred in 1938. The Red Raiders knocked off the Mountaineers 7-6 in that game.

West Virginia

Sept. 1 Marshall
Sept. 15 James Madison (Landover)
Sept. 22 Maryland
Sept. 29 Baylor
Oct. 6 at Texas
Oct. 13 at Texas Tech
Oct. 20 Kansas State
Nov. 3 TCU
Nov. 10 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 17 Oklahoma
Nov. 24 at Iowa State
Dec. 1 Kansas

* The Mountaineers open their first season in the Big 12 with a date against Baylor – a team they have never played before. A favorable non-conference slate should have West Virginia at 3-0 before they play in the Bears on Sept. 29.

* After playing Baylor, West Virginia has to travel for back-to-back games against Texas and Texas Tech.

* Mark it down: Nov. 3 is the meeting of the Big 12’s newest members, as TCU visits Morgantown.

* Nov. 10 – The Dana Holgorsen Bowl. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen served as Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator in 2010.

* Although the Mountaineers draw a difficult start to the final stretch of the season – TCU, at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma – they close with games against Iowa State and Kansas.

* Seeing a West Virginia schedule with no Pittsburgh is certainly strange, but closing the year with a game at Kansas is even more bizarre. However, that’s the price of realignment, as rivalries across college football are disappearing. 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon breaks down the Big 12 schedule and highlights some of the games to watch, potential upsets and tidbits to keep in mind for 2012.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:32
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, SEC, News
Path: /news/kentucky-vanderbilt-highlights-big-weekend-college-basketball-action
Body:

by Jordan Coleman

This Saturday, thousands of college basketball fans will flood arenas and sports bars in order to catch some of the greatest games of the season. While this week has been full of conference rivalries, this weekend’s competition is sure to liven up the social calendar of any college basketball fan. Though this may be a social gathering for fans,  For these teams, these games are not only an opportunity that can either make or break their chances of dancing in March, but also an opportunity to claim (or reclaim) bragging rights within their conference. Here is a preview of some of the most anticipated match-ups this weekend:

Kentucky at Vanderbilt - Vanderbilt has yet another opportunity this weekend to prove they are a force to be reckoned with in the SEC as they take on the nation’s top contender, the Kentucky Wildcats. Coming off a disappointing week of two losses to Arkansas and Florida, Kevin Stallings and the Commodores are itching for a win. However, the good ole’ shellacking the Wildcats put on the Gamecocks last weekend, followed by the thumping of No. 7 Florida on Tuesday night, have propelled Calipari’s Wildcats to a perfect 10-0 conference record. Therefore, slowing the momentum of the Kentucky’s high-powered offense, while maintaining offensive flow against their hellacious defense, won’t be an easy feat for the Dores. 

Connecticut at Syracuse- While the 2011 National Champion Huskies have experienced a few lulls in their season—losing games against UCF and Seton Hall— they must bring their ‘A’ game against the No. 2 ranked Orangemen this weekend. Regardless of the location, the contest between these two teams is always hotly contested; therefore, Orange and Huskie fans alike should be in for a treat Saturday.

Michigan State at Ohio State- All-American Jared Sullinger fueled his team passed the Badgers last Saturday with a double-double, adding 24 points and 10 rebounds to secure the 58-52 win in the Kohl Center. While the Buckeyes took on their conference rival last weekend, Draymond Green and the No. 12 Spartans salivate at their opportunity to stun Big Ten’s top dogs and tie-up their conference records. Sullinger and the rest of the Buckeyes will have to muster up some intestinal fortitude in order to top Michigan State.

Baylor at Missouri – Coming off an incredible win against their border rival, the Kansas Jayhawks, the Tigers must regain focus fast in order to take on yet another fierce conference competitor, the No. 6 Baylor Bears. While the Tigers escaped the Ferrell Center with a 1-point victory over Baylor in their last meeting earlier this season, they will have to use their experience and team coalesce to pull-off another win over Pierre Jackson and the Bears.

Miami at Florida State –Reggie Johnson’s career-high of 27 points lead the Hurricanes to their first victory over Duke at Cameron Arena. Despite this commendable feat, their in-state rival, No. 17 Florida State, who not only have a win against Duke, but impressive wins over North Carolina and Virginia to as well, will definitely have their number. It will be interesting to see whether Miami’s momentum on the road can carry them past the Seminoles, or will the co-conference leaders make a statement as to who really dominates the ACC.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon previews the top action in college basketball this weekend.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 14:02
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-new-coaches-2012
Body:

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

When the 2012 season kicks off, 27 teams will have a new coach roaming the sidelines. Athlon examines each hire and grades the moves by each school. Grading new hires is never an exact science, but one can get a good snapshot of a coach by looking at his resume and previous experience. 

Related: Athlon's Early College Football Top 25 for 2012

Best BCS Coaching Hires

Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh – Chryst lacks head coaching experience, but this is still one of the top hires of the offseason. He served as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator from 2005-11, and has made other stops at Oregon State and in the NFL with the Chargers. Under Chryst’s direction, the Badgers led the Big Ten in scoring offense in each of the last three seasons. For a team that needs stability – after having three head coaches over the last year – and a much-needed jolt on offense, Chryst seems to be a perfect hire for Pittsburgh.

Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss – For the first time since 1946, the Rebels are coming off a season with just two victories. And the SEC isn’t getting any easier, especially with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri. Freeze was an important hire for Ole Miss, and while the track record is limited, he has proven to be a winner at each stop. He led Lambuth to a 20-5 record from 2008-09 and recorded a 10-2 mark as Arkansas State’s head coach in 2011. Freeze has a lot of work ahead of him, but he’s young (42), energetic and a bright offensive mind. The only downside in Freeze’s short tenure was not assembling a top-notch coaching staff.

Mike Leach, Washington State – In 10 years at Texas Tech, Leach led the Red Raiders to an 84-43 record, 10 bowl appearances and some of the top passing attacks in the nation. Leach had a rocky end to his tenure in Lubbock – largely not his fault – but don’t expect that to have any impact on his time at Washington State. The Cougars showed small progress under previous coach Paul Wulff, and the pieces are in place for Leach to lead this team to a bowl game in 2012. Out of the 27 new coaching hires for 2012, Leach landing at Washington State has to be considered one of the best fits for any new coach.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State – Perfect fit. Terrific hire. That’s the easy way to sum up Meyer landing at Ohio State. Health issues prompted Meyer to leave Florida, but after a year away, he appears to be refreshed and ready to go once again. The Buckeyes won’t be eligible to compete for the Big Ten title in 2012, but Meyer is stockpiling talent for a run at the national title in 2013. Expect the Buckeyes to show improvement in the win column in 2012, and it won’t be long until Meyer has a chance to build upon the two national championships he earned while at Florida.

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona – The easy way to sum up Rodriguez’s tenure at Michigan: Good coach, bad fit. After compiling a 60-26 record in seven seasons at West Virginia, Rodriguez posted a 15-22 mark in three years with the Wolverines. While his teams improved their win total by two games each season, it wasn’t enough to keep Rodriguez around in Ann Arbor. Rodriguez needs time to implement his system, as well as recruiting the talent necessary to run his spread offense. Much of the struggles at Michigan were due to bad fits in the personnel, but Arizona has some pieces in place that should allow this team to compete for a bowl game in 2012. The only downside? Rodriguez has never coached west of Michigan, so it will be important to establish recruiting pipelines right away.

Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M – Change is in the air in College Station. The Aggies are moving from the Big 12 to the SEC, and Sumlin takes over as head coach after Texas A&M compiled a 25-25 record in four seasons under Mike Sherman. Sumlin is no stranger to College Station, as he spent two years as an assistant (2001-02) with the Aggies and coached in the Big 12 at Oklahoma from 2003-07. Texas A&M will need some time to get acclimated to life in the SEC, but Sumlin’s 35-17 record at Houston suggests the Aggies will be in good shape for the future.

Above Average Marks

Tim Beckman, Illinois – As an Ohio native and someone that has worked at Ohio State, Beckman is certainly familiar with life in the Big Ten. He spent the last three years as the head coach at Toledo, registering a 21-16 record and a share of the MAC West title in 2011. Beckman has worked with top-notch head coaches, spending time with Urban Meyer at Bowling Green, Jim Tressel at Ohio State and Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. Beckman pieced together an interesting coaching staff, especially on the offensive side where Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty will serve as co-coordinators and neither have much experience as a play-caller.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina – After a successful four-year stint as the head coach at Southern Miss, Fedora lands in a very good situation in Chapel Hill at North Carolina. The Tar Heels are still waiting to hear about possible penalties from an NCAA investigation, but the cupboard isn’t bare, especially on offense, which is Fedora’s specialty. In four years at Southern Miss, he compiled a 34-19 record and led the team to a 2-2 mark in bowl games. The Tar Heels have not won more than eight games since 1997, but this is a program that should consistently compete for the ACC title.

Todd Graham, Arizona State – The criticism of how Graham left Pittsburgh is certainly warranted. And a 6-6 regular season record last year wasn’t exactly a hit with Panther fans either. However, the personnel wasn’t in place to run Graham’s schemes and the offense struggled to find any consistency. Despite the rocky end to his short tenure at Pittsburgh Graham is actually a solid coach, as evidenced by his 49-29 record over the last six years, and should do well over time at Arizona State.

Jim Mora, UCLA – At the time of his hire, this seemed like a strange fit and a bad move by UCLA. However, Mora acquired a solid staff and brought in one of the Pac-12’s top recruiting classes. Considering Mora has spent most of his career in the NFL, it will be interesting to see how he transitions to the college game. This hire could backfire, but Mora is off to a good start and deserves a chance to prove he can turn the Bruins into a Pac-12 title contender.

Best non-BCS hires

Terry Bowden, Akron – After winning just two games over the last two years under Rob Ianello, the Zips made one of the top coaching moves of the offseason by getting Bowden from North Alabama. In 18 years as a head coach, Bowden has recorded a 139-63-2 mark, including two bowl appearances while at Auburn. Considering his success, it’s strange that Bowden has not landed back on the FBS radar until now. However, this a good fit and a solid hire by Akron – and one that should have this team moving back into MAC East contention in the next few seasons.

Matt Campbell, Toledo – At 32 years old, Campbell is college football’s youngest head coach. However, he’s spent the last eight years as an assistant at Mount Union, Bowling Green and Toledo. Campbell’s head coaching career is off to a good start, as he led the Rockets to a 42-41 victory in the Military Bowl over Air Force. Considering this is his first head coaching gig, there will be a few bumps in the road for Campbell. However, he fits the mold of a good up-and-coming coach, and his high-scoring offenses will continue to keep Toledo near the top of the MAC West.

Justin Fuente, Memphis – Larry Porter’s two-year stint was a disaster, but the Tigers picked a terrific replacement by plucking Fuente from TCU. This will be Fuente’s first head coaching position, but he has built a solid resume, serving as an assistant at Illinois State from 2001-06 and working as TCU’s offensive coordinator for the last three seasons. Fuente’s coaching experience in Texas should help with recruiting and his background on offense should help jumpstart a Memphis offense that averaged just 16.3 points a game last year.

Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State – Malzahn has been one of the top assistant coaches in the nation over the last five seasons, leading Tulsa and Auburn’s offenses among of the ranks of the best in college football. Considering Malzahn’s name popped up in BCS job searches, it was a little surprising he chose to land at Arkansas State. However, this is a good position for Malzahn to gain head coaching experience, as he coached at three Arkansas high schools (Shiloh Christian, Springdale and Hughes), and the Red Wolves are positioned to be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt in 2012.

Jim McElwain, Colorado State – After helping Alabama win two national titles over the last three years, McElwain is ready to lead his own program. This is his first head coaching gig, but McElwain has worked under one of the top coaches in college football (Nick Saban) and has experience out West, playing and coaching at Eastern Washington and coaching at Montana State and in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders. Although Colorado State has been down recently, don’t be surprised if McElwain engineers a quick turnaround in 2012.

Garrick McGee, UAB – McGee has been a rising star in the assistant ranks over the last 10 years, making stops at Toledo, UNLV, Northwestern and Arkansas. With low fan support and a stadium in bad shape, UAB isn’t an easy place to win. However, McGee’s experience in the Southeast should pay dividends in recruiting, and at 38 years old, he should breathe some much-needed life into the program.

Wait and See

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State – DeRuyter is a California native, so landing at Fresno State was a good spot for his first head coaching position. DeRuyter is known as a solid defensive coordinator, and led Texas A&M to a victory over Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in December. The Bulldogs seemed to hit a plateau under former coach Pat Hill. Is DeRuyter the guy to take them to the next level?

Kyle Flood, Rutgers – With Greg Schiano’s decision to depart Rutgers a week before Signing Day, filling this coaching void was especially difficult for athletic director Tim Pernetti. Flood does not have any head coaching experience, but has been a solid asset on the recruiting trail and helped to keep the 2012 class intact. Only time will tell whether Flood can keep the momentum going from Schiano’s tenure or if Rutgers will slip back to the bottom of the Big East.

Curtis Johnson, Tulane – The Green Wave has struggled to find success in recent years, with their last winning record coming in 2002 under Chris Scelfo. Johnson is a curious hire, as he has no head coaching or coordinator experience. However, he is from New Orleans and has coached with the Saints for the last six years. Johnson is regarded as a good recruiter, which should be a valuable asset for Tulane as it looks to get back into bowl contention.

Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss – Johnson has a wealth of experience as an assistant and served as The Citadel’s head coach for three years (2001-03) and one year at Gardner-Webb (1983). Although his resume is solid, Johnson isn’t the youngest hire (60) and posted a 12-22 record in his tenure at The Citadel.

Charley Molnar, UMass – This is Molnar’s first head coaching gig, but he’s compiled a wealth of experience from stops at Illinois State, Kent State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. As a native of New Jersey, Molnar should be familiar with the Northeast and the recruiting grounds for the Minutemen. Considering 2012 will be the first year for UMass on the FBS level, the first two or three seasons could be a real challenge for Molnar.

Failing Marks

Norm Chow, Hawaii – As a native of Hawaii, this is the perfect spot for Chow to land after spending all of his career as an assistant coach. However, that’s exactly the problem. Why is Chow getting his first head coaching gig at age 65? Chow’s offenses at Utah and UCLA were underwhelming, but he has the potential to put together some prolific attacks in the Mountain West.

Bob Davie, New Mexico – After Mike Locksley’s disastrous tenure, this is a good hire in the sense it should bring some stability to the program. However, Davie’s last head coaching gig came in 2001 and he posted a 35-25 record in five seasons at Notre Dame. Davie’s ability to recruit Texas certainly helped his ability to land this position, but after sitting out the last 10 years, this is a strange hire.

Tony Levine, Houston – Levine is well-liked by the players and is certainly familiar with the team after spending the last four years as an assistant with the Cougars. However, Levine has zero head coaching experience outside of the TicketCity Bowl win over Penn State. Also, Levine has never been a coordinator on the college level. Former coach Kevin Sumlin has laid the groundwork for the Cougars to be successful in the next few seasons and now it's up to Levine to continue that momentum. While neither experience guarantees success, Levine is a curious hire for a program moving up to the Big East in 2013.

Bill O’Brien, Penn State – Considering the circumstances at Penn State, there wasn’t many top coaches willing to jump to Happy Valley. However, O’Brien is largely unproven and other New England assistants (Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels and Charlie Weis) haven’t exactly done well away from Bill Belichick. O’Brien has a difficult job ahead of him and following a legend like Joe Paterno won’t be easy.

Carl Pelini, FAU – Considering FAU has won just five games in the last two years, Pelini is going to get a chance to rebuild and put his stamp on the program. However, he has no head coaching experience and has not coached in Florida before. The Owls have the ability to pluck some solid talent from the area, but it may take Pelini time to build the recruiting pipelines, especially after getting off to a rough start with one area coach. Also, Pelini was listed as the defensive coordinator at Nebraska, but how much control did he have over the gameplan with his brother (Bo) one of the top defensive minds in college football? Good coaches can come from anywhere and with a variety of backgrounds, but this is a strange fit for a program that could have used a higher-profile assistant, especially one with ties in Florida.

Charlie Weis, Kansas – After a disastrous two-year stint under Turner Gill, the Jayhawks desperately needed a new face of the program and someone who could get this team back on the map. Mission Accomplished. Weis has raised the profile of Kansas football, but now has to prove he can win in a stacked Big 12. Weis compiled a 35-27 record in five seasons at Notre Dame, but slumped to a 16-21 mark in the final three years. Landing transfers Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps have immediately boosted the Jayhawks’ quarterback play for the next couple of years. However, can Weis recruit well enough on defense to turn Kansas into a consistent bowl team? The results from South Bend suggest that won’t be the case.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon grades college football's best and worst new coaching hires for 2012.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 10, 2012 - 07:12
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregons-coaching-candidatesif-chip-kelly-had-gone-nfl
Body:

What if Chip Kelly had left Oregon for the NFL? Here are some candidates the Ducks might have looked at as their next head coach.

Mike Bellotti, former Oregon head coach – Bellotti’s name was in the rumor mill for openings at Arizona and UCLA, but it’s uncertain if he was ever a serious candidate. Bellotti worked at Oregon from 1989-94 as the team’s offensive coordinator and then served as the head coach from 1995-08. He compiled a 116-55 record and earned one outright Pac-10 title during his 14-year tenure as the Ducks’ head coach. It could be a little awkward for Bellotti to return to the sidelines after choosing to retire as a head coach and become the school’s athletic director after the 2008 season. However, he’s certainly a good fit in Eugene and would likely keep many of the assistants and schemes the Ducks ran under Kelly. Going from Bellotti to Kelly would seem to be a pretty easy transition.

Pete Carroll, head coach, Seattle Seahawks – If you are Oregon, don’t you at least have to try to nudge Carroll back to the college game? Yes, it's a longshot, but why not? Although the Seahawks improved during the second half of the year, they probably aren’t ready to make a Super Bowl run in 2012. And if the Seahawks struggle to earn a winning record next year, would that be enough to lure Carroll back to the college game? His resume at USC was impressive, recording an 83-19 record over nine seasons and a BCS title in 2004. The Ducks can throw a lot of money in Carroll’s direction, but it’s certainly a longshot that he leaves the NFL. However, it’s not too often one of the top 15 jobs in college football is open, especially on the West Coast.

Dave Christensen, head coach, Wyoming – Christensen inked a contract extension at Wyoming this offseason, but figures to have interest in BCS jobs on the West Coast. He has an 18-20 record in three years with the Cowboys, but has led the team to two bowl appearances with freshmen quarterbacks. Christensen is also familiar with the Pacific Northwest, playing at Washington (1980-1982) and coaching with the Huskies for one season (1988). Although Christensen has emerged as a solid coach and someone who will move up the ranks to a BCS job, he seems like a longshot to land in Eugene - if Kelly leaves for the NFL after the 2012 season.

Sonny Dykes, head coach, Louisiana Tech – Just like Wyoming’s Dave Christensen, Dykes received a raise and a contract extension after the 2011 season. Dykes has compiled a 13-12 record in two seasons in Ruston, including an 8-5 mark and an appearance in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2011. Dykes has experience coaching in the Pac-12, as he worked at Arizona from 2007-09. He also has stops as an assistant at Kentucky and Texas Tech. It’s only a matter of time before Dykes makes the jump to a BCS program, but if the Ducks have to replace Kelly next offseason, it seems unlikely he would be one of the top choices.

Mark Helfrich, offensive coordinator, Oregon – The Ducks may not have to look far for Kelly’s successor. Helfrich is considered a rising star in the assistant ranks, making stops at Boise State, Arizona State, Colorado and Oregon. He joined the Ducks in 2009 as the team’s offensive coordinator. Although Kelly significantly shaped Oregon’s offense, Helfrich is well-versed in the up-tempo attack and would likely keep much of the same scheme and assistants in place. If the Ducks want to keep continuity, Helfrich could be a perfect choice to become the next head coach. However, Helfrich has no head coaching experience and one has to wonder if he is ready to take over at one of the top programs on the West Coast. Is he the next Chip Kelly or Bill Stewart? That’s going to be a key question facing Oregon if they have to replace Kelly next offseason.

June Jones, head coach, SMU – Jones was reportedly very close to landing at Arizona State, but he was eventually passed for the job in favor of former Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham. As a native of Portland, Ore., it would be very surprising if Jones didn’t have interest in this position. Jones compiled a 76-41 record in nine seasons at Hawaii and has a 24-28 mark in four years at SMU. He inherited a very difficult situation at both schools and turned both programs into consistent bowl teams. There’s very little downside to Jones, although the current personnel wouldn’t be a perfect fit with his pass-first offense. He will be 60 when the 2013 season starts, so Jones would be the oldest coach in the Pac-12.

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers – Roman is a wildcard candidate to watch in coaching searches for 2012. He is a highly-regarded assistant, working under Jim Harbaugh at Stanford from 2009-10, before following him to the 49ers last offseason. Roman was reportedly in the mix at Vanderbilt last year and interviewed at Penn State this season. He doesn’t have any head coaching experience, but is considered a bright offensive mind, which would certainly go over well in Eugene. Roman is a longshot, but is due for a shot to run his own program in the near future.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU – Patterson’s name may pop up in BCS job searches next offseason, but it is highly unlikely he leaves TCU. Most of his coaching career has been spent in the Midwest, playing at Kansas State from 1980-81 and becoming TCU’s head coach in 2000. Patterson is considered one of college football’s top defensive minds, which would be a contrast to Kelly’s offensive background. After he helped to guide TCU to a BCS conference (Big 12), it would take a lot to lure Patterson out of Fort Worth. A longshot, but his track record makes it hard to ignore when elite BCS jobs come open.

Chris Petersen, head coach, Boise State – Outside of Helfrich, Petersen seems to be the most likely candidate to take over in Eugene. Petersen has experience in Eugene, as he coached receivers at Oregon from 1995-00. He reportedly turned down UCLA, but Oregon would seem to be a much better fit, as he could stay in the Pacific Northwest. Combine his familiarity with the program and his success at Boise State, Petersen would be a home run hire for the Ducks (if Kelly was to leave). However, Petersen was granted a contract extension and a salary bump this offseason, while Boise State is in the process of updating the football facilities. Although Petersen has had tremendous success with the Broncos, there’s no question Oregon is one of the top 15 jobs in the country. And the commitment is certainly in place to win big (national championships).

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington – After spending two seasons at Tennessee, Wilcox has moved back to the West Coast to take the defensive coordinator position at Washington. If there’s a candidate that’s built perfectly to become the head coach at Oregon, Wilcox is it. He was born in Eugene, Ore. and played as a defensive back with the Ducks from 1996-99. Wilcox has no head coaching experience, but is very familiar with the Pac-12, as he coached as an assistant at California from 2003-05. The lack of head coaching experience could be the only downside to Wilcox’s resume, as he is considered one the top up-and-coming assistant coaches in the nation. 

Teaser:
<p> What if Chip Kelly had left Oregon for the NFL? Here are some candidates the Ducks might have looked at as their next head coach.</p>
Post date: Friday, January 27, 2012 - 08:08

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