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The 12 Most Shameful College Football Games of 2015

Big-time teams are still finding room on their schedules for these pointless games
The 12 Most Shameful College Football Games of 2015

Good news, everyone: Schedule-shaming works.

 

Those two weeks during the SEC schedule in November aren’t nearly as embarrassing as they used to be. Sure, every league team didn’t try to add another conference game or big-time out-of-conference game. But many of the FCS games that week have been traded out with Conference USA or Sun Belt teams.

 

They’re cupcakes for the most part, but it’s nice to see overmatched FCS teams depart schedules in September rather than setting up rivalry week.

 

SEC Win Total Projections for 2015

Take the over, under or push on SEC win totals?
SEC Win Total Projections for 2015

The 2015 college football season is still a few months away. However, the news cycle never stops, and there’s plenty to keep the conversation going this summer.

 

Athlon Sports is counting down its rankings for 2015, while 5Dimes Sportsbook has released some early win total over/under odds for the upcoming season.

 

College Football 2015 Rankings and Predictions: #26-40

Athlon releases its 2015 rankings from 26-40.
College Football 2015 Rankings and Predictions: #26-40

The 2015 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to project how the upcoming year will play out on the field. Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for this season and continues the countdown to September with a look at the teams ranked No. 26-128.

 

College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015

Which team has the best QB-RB-WR trio?
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Triplets for 2015

Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are glamour positions in college football. While offensive linemen and defensive players are just as important to winning a title, it’s no secret the skill players and quarterbacks grab the attention and headlines.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#28 Oklahoma State Cowboys

NATIONAL FORECAST

#28

Big 12 PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Mike Gundy, 84-44 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike Yurcich | DEF. COORDINATOR: Glenn Spencer

Oklahoma State stumbled through its worst season since 2007, finishing 7-6 for the first season with fewer than eight wins since Mike Gundy’s second season. The Cowboys entered the season knowing they were in store for a rebuilding season. The Cowboys enter this season hoping that rebuilding is well on its way to being complete. At least at quarterback — always a position of interest under Gundy at Oklahoma State — the personnel is settled and ready to rise.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Offense for 2015: 
 

Mike Gundy didn’t want to use quarterback Mason Rudolph in 2014. He still carries a trace of regret for doing so.

A tiny trace.

Rudolph, forced into action by injury in the season’s 10th game last fall, tossed aside his redshirt, fueled Oklahoma State’s late surge and provided much of the momentum that has the Cowboys as a stealthy pick to contend in the Big 12.

The Cowboys were mired in a four-game losing streak that would stretch to five in Rudolph’s first start, which became necessary due to injury. Yet even in that 49–28 loss to Baylor, Rudolph goosed a scuffling Oklahoma State offense with his live arm and moxie. 

Then he led an upset of Bedlam rival Oklahoma, pushing the Cowboys to 6–6 and bowl eligibility. And he was at it again in the Cactus Bowl against Washington, directing another win and driving optimism for a big season ahead.

“The best thing we did last year,” Gundy said, “was play him at the end of the year, when all the discussions were, ‘Do you play him or not?’”

Rudolph will have plenty of playmakers at his disposal, particularly at receiver, where nine of the top 10 pass catchers return, headlined by Brandon Sheperd and James Washington, physical and fast receivers who can dominate defensive backs. And there’s more, many more, including intriguing redshirt freshman Keenen Brown, a big wideout who wowed with the big spring.

The offensive line should be improved, bolstered by the addition of left tackle Victor Salako, a 6'6", 330-pounder with 23 career starts, freed to move when UAB dissolved its football program.

There are questions at running back, although one answer could come in August when four-star junior college recruit Chris Carson arrives.

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 National College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 128 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Defense for 2015: 
 

Overworked a year ago due to depth concerns and an offense that struggled through the heart of the schedule, the Cowboys defense now looks loaded.

There’s star power at every level, beginning with defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who emerged as a force in 2014. Using his strength and burst on the edge, he amassed 11 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

Ogbah is flanked by productive senior Jimmy Bean at the other end, giving the Cowboys strong bookends to accompany two new tackles. One of the major spring developments was sophomore Vincent Taylor’s emergence as a force inside.

Senior Ryan Simmons leads a promising young linebacking corps that runs three deep, while cornerback Kevin Peterson is the heart of a secondary that is also young yet talented.

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
 

Previewing Oklahoma State’s Specialists for 2015: 
 

Ben Grogan followed a shaky freshman season by missing three of his first five field goal tries a year ago. Then he drilled 20 of his last 23, finishing ninth nationally at 1.69 field goals made per game and transforming into a reliable weapon. The Cowboys will have a new punter. Return men are also needed, although capable candidates should be found from a surplus of receivers.

Final Analysis
 

With the loss of 28 seniors leaving an inexperienced cast to try and contend in the Big 12, the 2014 season always figured to be a rebuilding effort. And it played out as such, turning worse when injuries and a lack of depth left the Cowboys exposed.

But Rudolph’s arrival, both to the lineup and as a key piece to the future, reversed course and momentum. Now there’s talk that Oklahoma State, like TCU a year ago, could rise from seventh place to the top of the Big 12 in 2015.

The Debate

Where Does Mike Gundy Rank Among Big 12 Coaches?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#27 Missouri Tigers

NATIONAL FORECAST

#27

SEC East PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Gary Pinkel, 113-66 (14 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Josh Henson | DEF. COORDINATOR: Barry Odom

Doubt Missouri at your own peril. The Tigers weren’t thought to be any kind of prize for the SEC during conference realignment three seasons ago. After two trips to the SEC title game, Missouri has been one of the biggest success stories of conference-to-conference shuffling. A key to that success has been a pass rush that has produced two SEC Defensive Players of the Year. Missouri has won 23 games the last two seasons, but the Tigers will try to continue that momentum while rebuilding the cornerstone of the defense.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Missouri’s Offense for 2015: 
 

Maty Mauk is nothing if not resilient: Mizzou’s junior quarterback played his best ball late in games and late in the season. The Missouri offense didn’t dominate, but it did enough to get out of the defense’s way late in the year. Mauk will be asked to raise his game significantly in 2015, however, as his receiving corps is about as green as green can be.

Losing all three starters for the second consecutive season will take a toll on anybody’s receiver depth, and it has left Mizzou with a black hole on an otherwise seasoned two-deep. Returning wideouts have combined for just 10 career catches, five from the “leading” returnee, sophomore Nate Brown. The lack of experience at wideout could mean Mizzou leans more heavily on the tight end position that returns starter Sean Culkin and athletic backups Jason Reese and Kendall Blanton.

If the passing game can avoid becoming a complete liability, the run game could thrive. Senior Russell Hansbrough rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 touchdowns last season; his return will make the loss of all-purpose star Marcus Murphy a bit more palatable. 

Meanwhile, an offensive line that struggled early in 2014 jelled and became a strength as the season progressed. Potential All-SEC center Evan Boehm and three-year starter Connor McGovern return, as do three other seniors with starting experience.

 Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 SEC Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.
Previewing Missouri’s Defense for 2015:  
 

When defensive coordinator Dave Steckel left to take the head coaching position at Missouri State, Gary Pinkel didn’t have to look far for a replacement. He simply called up former Mizzou assistant Barry Odom, who had spent the last three seasons engineering a dramatic turnaround as Memphis’ defensive coordinator. And for the time being, at least, Pinkel was also able to retain highly regarded defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski.

Kuligowski’s ends will be awfully young, led by sophomore Charles Harris, freshman Walter Brady and junior college recruit Marcel Frazier. But the tackle position could be as strong and deep as it has ever been. Harold Brantley is an exciting weapon on the interior, man-mountain Josh Augusta should be ready for a larger role, and blue-chip freshman Terry Beckner Jr. is expected to quickly carve out a niche in the rotation the moment fall camp begins. Brantley's status for 2015 is uncertain after he was injured in a car wreck on June 21.

The line is greener than it has been for a while, but this might be the most battle-tested, experienced linebacking corps Pinkel has had at Missouri. Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer were steadying forces last fall, taking advantage of the attention blockers had to pay to linemen and combining for 113 solo tackles and 123 assists. Likely strong-side starter Donavin Newsom could become a key attacker in Odom’s aggressive defense.

The return of three experienced cornerbacks and senior safety Ian Simon might give Odom reason to get aggressive in the back of the defense. Kenya Dennis, Aarion Penton and John Gibson give Mizzou an experienced, confident trio of corners, but stalwart strong safety Braylon Webb’s graduation opens up opportunity for peril.

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
 

Previewing Missouri’s Specialists for 2015: 
 

Longtime placekicker and kickoffs specialist Andrew Baggett might take on more duty in 2015. He finished the spring listed as Mizzou’s starting punter, though incoming freshman Corey Fatony will be given an opportunity to unseat him in fall camp. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be looking for two new return men to replace Murphy.

Final Analysis
 

The Tigers boast solid experience at a majority of units on offense and defense, but they are young at defensive end and ultra-young at receiver, where they must replace all three starters for the second straight year. That seems like a lot to overcome in the battle for a third straight SEC East crown, but suddenly you don’t make much money betting against Pinkel.

The Debate

Is Gary Pinkel One of the Top Five Coaches in the SEC?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#37 South Carolina Gamecocks

NATIONAL FORECAST

#37

SEC East PREDICTION

#5

HEAD COACH: Steve Spurrier, 84-45 (10 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Steve Spurrier | DEF. COORDINATOR: Lorenzo Ward, Jon Hoke

South Carolina’s season was lost in essence before the first Saturday of the season. The Gamecocks lost 52-28 at home to Texas A&M on the first Thursday night of the year, exposing Carolina’s defense and derailing the Gamecocks’ bid for the SEC East. South Carolina finished 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC for its worst season since 2009. The defense was the main culprit, and Steve Spurrier hired Jon Hoke with hopes of a remedy. The question at South Carolina, though, seems to be more big picture: Was 2014 a minor speed bump for a program that won 33 games in the previous three seasons or was it the first season in a decline.

Previewing South Carolina’s Offense in 2015
 

First things first: South Carolina must find a quarterback. Dylan Thompson set the school’s single-season passing record last year with 3,564 yards. The frontrunner to replace him entering the fall is sophomore Connor Mitch. The former four-star prospect threw for 12,078 yards at Wakefield High School in Raleigh, N.C., with 63 touchdown passes in his senior season.

“Connor Mitch is tremendously improved from when he first got here,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier says. “He seems to have a little bit more confidence and knows what to do now. I think he’s ready to take some giant steps.”

Mitch threw six passes last year, completing two of them for 19 yards. He will be trying to hold off junior walk-on Perry Orth, who bags groceries at Publix to help offset his collegiate expenses, and freshman Michael Scarnecchia, a lightly recruited Floridian who redshirted last year.

Senior Brandon Wilds and sophomore David Williams will share carries at running back after Mike Davis’ early entry into the NFL Draft. Junior wide receiver Pharoh Cooper didn’t get much work in the spring because the Gamecocks already know what he can do. The All-SEC first-teamer will be Spurrier’s go-to guy after catching 69 passes for 1,136 yards in 2014.

Up front, the Gamecocks must replace stalwart A.J. Cann, who started 51 games at South Carolina. Senior right tackle Brandon Shell takes up the status of grizzled veteran thanks to his 36 career starts, twice as many as anyone else on the team.

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 SEC College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing South Carolina’s Defense in 2015
 

The defense was terrible last year, prompting Spurrier to hire old friend Jon Hoke, who coordinated defense for Spurrier at Florida from 1999-2001 and spent the last 13 years in the NFL as a defensive backs coach. 

“Jon fits in everywhere he goes because he’s a good person, good guy,” Spurrier says. “He’s been around a lot of really sharp coaches, and I think he’s a sharp coach. But he’s got a lot of work to do, he will tell you that.”

The Gamecocks were No. 92 in the nation in total defense last year, and Hoke already has made changes. South Carolina will use a base 4-3 rather than last year’s juggling between a 4-2-5 and 3-4 look, and several players have swapped positions. Safety T.J. Gurley is now a nickel back. Spur Jordan Diggs is a safety. Spur Larenz Bryant is a linebacker, and Bryson Allen-Williams is back to his natural position at strong-side linebacker. Graduate transfer safety Isaiah Johnson will be plugged in immediately.

None of that shuffling will matter, though, if the Gamecocks don’t improve their defensive line. They were No. 118 in the nation in sacks (14.0) and No. 121 tackles for a loss (52.0) last year. South Carolina recruited seven defensive linemen to help fix the problem. The most promising is junior college transfer Marquavius Lewis.

Previewing South Carolina’s Specialists in 2015
 

Kicker Elliott Fry, a 158-pounder who walked on out of Frisco, Texas, and won the job as a true freshman, is back for his junior season. He’s made 33-of-43 field goals for his career. Walk-on transfer Sean Kelly looks like the frontrunner for the punting job.

Final Analysis 
 

South Carolina opened spring practice with a sense of urgency that may have been lacking last season.

“Sometimes after you go 11–2 three years in a row, some people just assume, ‘We’re going to keep on winning,’ but it didn’t quite happen that way,” Spurrier says. “We were not a real strong team. We are by a long way not a finished product, but we’ve got time.”

The Gamecocks will be breaking in a new quarterback and rebuilding a defense that lost its morale along with a lot of games last year, so the time had better be well spent.

The Debate

Where Does Steve Spurrier Rank Among SEC Coaches?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#35 Virginia Tech Hokies

NATIONAL FORECAST

#35

ACC Coastal PREDICTION

#2

HEAD COACH: Frank Beamer , 231-115-2 (27 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Scot Loeffler | DEF. COORDINATOR: Bud Foster

Virginia Tech is at a crossroads of sorts. The Hokies went to the ACC championship game six times in their first eight seasons in the league. Since then, Virginia Tech is 12-12 in the league. A 6-6 season saved the Hokies from missing the postseason for the first time since 1992. A bowl win preserved a streak of 22 consecutive winning seasons. The streaks look good in the media guide, but Virginia Tech will be hard-pressed to reverse its slide.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports
 

Previewing Virginia Tech’s Offense in 2015
 

It’s now-or-never for the Hokies under third-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, who spent Year 1 introducing his system and Year 2 dealing with youth and injuries. All the major players are back, including quarterback Michael Brewer, a Texas Tech transfer whose good moments last year were often negated by bad ones. He threw for 18 touchdowns and 2,692 yards but also 15 interceptions, 11 coming in the first six games.

He’s more experienced now, as are his offensive weapons. Receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips combined for 96 catches, 1,207 yards and nine touchdowns as freshmen, and Bucky Hodges shattered all the school’s tight end records with 45 catches, 526 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Just who will carry the ball remains a question, with Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams coming off ACL injuries (and McKenzie some legal issues). But 2013 leading rusher Trey Edmunds is healthy again, and J.C. Coleman showed he could carry the load after rushing for 468 yards in the final four games last year.

As always, the offensive line is a question, but coaches were encouraged by the starting five in the spring, particularly left guard Wyatt Teller, a bruiser who entered the starting lineup midway through last year and earned O-line MVP honors. If the line jells, the stable of young playmakers makes a jump, and Brewer can cut down his turnovers, the Hokies have a chance to churn out a decent offense for the first time in years. 

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 ACC College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 14 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Virginia Tech’s Defense for 2015
 

The strength of Bud Foster’s group lies in the trenches and on the back end. The Hokies have four starting defensive linemen who have earned All-ACC recognition in their careers. Tackle Luther Maddy returns from a medical redshirt, paired with undersized but quick Corey Marshall on the interior. The ends are even more disruptive. Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem combined for 18.5 sacks and 33 tackles for a loss last year, the most productive D-line tandem in the ACC.

The secondary is in flux because of spring absences, but cornerback Kendall Fuller is a stud, an All-American who might be the best the program has produced. The big domino is cornerback Brandon Facyson, who missed last year with a stress fracture in his leg, which he reinjured at practice in December. If he returns to form, it allows Tech to move the versatile Chuck Clark to his more natural position at safety. This group gave up a ton of big plays last year, but it’s as talented as ever.

The biggest question mark is at linebacker, where Deon Clarke returns but Andrew Motuapuaka is a first-year starter. Nevertheless, the Hokies are set up to rush the passer and cover, two hallmarks of Foster’s defenses over the years. 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
 

Previewing Virginia Tech’s Specialists for 2015
 

Kicker Joey Slye (20-of-28 on field goals) has the leg to go 50-plus if his accuracy comes around. Punter A.J. Hughes had offseason back surgery, partly explaining why his average fell from 44.1 in 2013 to 39.9 last season. Greg Stroman nearly broke half a dozen punt returns for touchdowns last year, although the stagnant kick return game needs a jumpstart.

Final Analysis
 

Virginia Tech is 22–17 overall and a .500 team in the league since 2012, prompting the uncomfortable conversation about how much longer revered coach Frank Beamer will walk the sideline in Blacksburg. A return to prominence would quash that talk, and with 16 returning starters, including a promising group of up-and-coming playmakers on offense and Foster’s usual great defense, Virginia Tech has a chance to challenge in the Coastal Division again. Another middling season, however, will only intensify the chatter that perhaps it’s time for Beamer to pass the torch.

The Debate

Does Frank Beamer Rank Among the ACC's Best Coaches?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2015 PRESEASON TOP 25

#30 Arizona Wildcats

NATIONAL FORECAST

#30

Pac-12 South PREDICTION

#4

HEAD COACH: Rich Rodriguez, 26-14 (3 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Calvin Magee, Rod Smith | DEF. COORDINATOR: Jeff Casteel

Arizona fans undoubtedly felt a sense of optimism with the arrival of Rich Rodriguez to Tucson. The Wildcats hoped Rodriguez could do for them what he did for West Virginia in turning a program with pockets of success into one with staying power. Even 2014, though, had to come as a bit of surprise. In only his third season at Arizona, Rodriguez led the Wildcats to the Pac-12 title game and their first 10-win season and ranked season since 1998. Could Arizona be a contender for a second consecutive year? With the backfield of Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson, a Lombardi Award winner in Scooby Wright and RichRod in tow, Arizona can’t be counted out.

Follow Athlon Sports on Twitter: @AthlonSports

Previewing Arizona’s Offense in 2015
 

Sophomore quarterback Anu Solomon is the first holdover QB starter at Arizona since Nick Foles in 2010-11. He is not a fast runner, nor notably elusive, and he doesn’t have NFL-type arm strength. But as he was as a Las Vegas prep quarterback — 57–3 with four state championships — he has proved to be a winner at Arizona. 

Solomon’s numbers — 3,793 passing yards and 28 touchdown passes — broke school freshman records. Redshirt freshman Brandon Dawkins struggled with passing accuracy in spring practice. Fifth-year senior Jerrard Randall, once an LSU quarterback, is a running threat with explosiveness, but his decision-making and accuracy have kept him on the bench. 

Sophomore tailback Nick Wilson required little break-in time, gaining 1,375 yards as a freshman. He is a power runner with what coach Rich Rodriguez calls “good eyes,” adept at hitting openings and making something out of nothing. Fifth-year senior Jared Baker is the clear No. 2. 

Cayleb Jones is among the nation’s best receivers. In his first year as a starter, he caught 73 balls for 1,019 yards and was a go-to receiver in clutch situations. He heads a deep and experienced group, which is the strength of Arizona’s offense. Samajie Grant became a big-play receiver with 45 receptions, six for touchdowns. 

Losing three-year starting tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele hasn’t been a setback. Cal transfer Freddie Tagaloa will start at left tackle and is expected to play at an all-conference level. Guards Jacob Alsadek and Cayman Bundage are returning starters, and the new right tackle, Lene Maiava, has started at two positions up front. The uncertainty is at center; two former walk-ons, Carter Wood and David Catalano, are frontrunners.

Order a copy of Athlon's 2015 Pac-12 College Football Preview, which includes an in-depth look at all 12 teams, features and predictions for the upcoming season.

Previewing Arizona’s Defense in 2015
 

Senior end Reggie Gilbert was awarded a fifth year by the NCAA, which was one of the triumphs of spring practice for Arizona. He is the rock of Arizona’s three-man front. Junior Sani Fuimaono and sophomore Parker Zellers will likely split the nose guard job; both played extensively, although Zellers, listed at 247 pounds, gets by on instincts rather than strength.

If linebacker Scooby Wright can match his sophomore numbers — 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks — the Wildcats will be hard to beat. The Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year has considerable experience beside him: Juniors Cody Ippolito, Jake Matthews and Derrick Turituri all started at least six games.  

Arizona didn’t pause long to replace three starters in its secondary. Senior safeties Jamar Allah and Tellas Jones combined for 47 tackles last season and are physical players. Sophomore cornerback Jarvis McCall Jr., who started 12 games, might have difficulty reclaiming his job. Junior DaVonte’ Neal, who was a receiver/returner last year, moved to corner in spring ball and appeared to win the job. The Notre Dame transfer likely will be joined at the other corner by sophomore Cam Denson, also a former receiver/returner but now strictly a defensive player. 

Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
 

Previewing Arizona’s Specialists in 2015
 

Senior kicker Casey Skowron and senior punter Drew Riggleman were so good last season that Rodriguez awarded both with full scholarships midway through the season. Skowron made 20-of-28 field-goal attempts, including a game-winner against Washington. Riggleman was second in the Pac-12 in punting average, at 46.1.

Final Analysis
 

Arizona has won 26 games in Rodriguez’s first three seasons, the most of any three-year period in school history. “I’m not saying we’re ahead of expectations,” says Rodriguez, “because we need to get deeper and tougher.” This is Rodriguez’s top group at Arizona, but it must play 12 weeks in succession without a bye.

The Debate

Is Rich Rodriguez the Best Coach in the Pac-12?

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