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All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /draftkings-golf-lineup-quicken-loans-2017-pga-optimal-picks
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Fantasy Golf Lineup: Quicken Loans National Optimal Picks

It's time to pick your optimal daily fantasy DraftKings golf lineup for this week's PGA tournament (June 29-July 2), the Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm in Potomac, Md. Our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.

Here's what our optimal Travelers Championship 2017 lineup looks like:

 

Patrick Reed ($11,100)

PR was MIA for a while, but he’s resumed his annoying habit of making most of what he looks at, with top-22 finishes in five of his last six events, including a T13 at the U.S. Open and T5 at the Travelers. Tournament host Tiger Woods won’t be there, but Reed will be sporting Tiger red on Sunday.

 

David Lingmerth ($8,500) 

TPC Potomac is a new venue for this event, but it’s not new to Lingmerth, who won a Web.com event here in 2012. Like Reed, he comes in hot, with five finishes in the top 26 in his last six events. 

 

Danny Lee ($8,200)

Another flavor of the moment. Since a missed cut at The Players, Lee has been knocking on the door, with three top-6 finishes in five starts.

 

Graham DeLaet ($7,500)

At one time, he looked like the Next Big Thing, but DeLaet got derailed somewhere along the way. His putter has him back in the picture, though (21st in strokes gained, putting). 

 

Boo Weekley ($7,600)

We’re bullish on ol’ Boo after his T5 at the Travelers. He was T3 in greens in regulation at TPC River Highlands. 

 

Grayson Murray ($6,800)

This guy fired a caddie mid-round at the Wells Fargo; quit Twitter after calling out the haters; hit on a high schooler (and then apologized); and recruited an Instagram hottie to carry his bag at The Masters (but failed to qualify). Oh, and he’s also made eight cuts in a row.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/britt-mchenry-believes-espn-let-her-go-because-conservative-views
Body:

According to many viewers, ESPN is the worldwide leader in liberal views.

 

Britt McHenry is evidently one of those people. The former ESPN reporter recently commented on Clay Travis' piece about the network's perceived liberal agenda. McHenry still believes her exit was politically motivated and she even had to erase a picture of her and Paul Ryan at a GOP function a few months ago.

 

 

 

Although McHenry later deleted the tweet, nothing is erased from the internet.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-washingtons-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

When Chris Petersen was introduced as Washington's head coach in December 2013, the longtime Boise State sideline general's arrival came with lofty expectations. Petersen started with a solid foundation at BSU, but took the Broncos to unprecedented heights. They won two Fiesta Bowls to complete a pair of perfect seasons in his tenure, and occupied a regular place in the Top 10 of the Associated Press and Coaches polls.

 

Petersen seemed the right choice to return former West Coast powerhouse Washington to past prominence, and he delivered.

 

The Huskies embark on 2017 as defending Pac-12 champions, College Football Playoff participants, and credible contenders for the coming season's national championship. With returning talent like Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin, Dante Pettis and Trey Adams on offense; and Taylor Rapp, Vita Vea, Greg Gaines and Azeem Victor anchoring a top-10 defense, there's little doubt the Dawgs will hunt.

 

What's more, Washington plays a favorable schedule. The non-conference is one of the lighter in the Pac-12. The Huskies also draw quality opponents like Washington State and Utah at home, but must navigate through some difficult road trips. 

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Montana

Perennial Football Championship Subdivision contender Montana is the first visitor to Husky Stadium in 2017. Washington only began playing FCS opponents in 2011, but have faced one every season since. All came from the Big Sky Conference, and Washington's average margin of victory in those contests is 32 points. However, pass-happy Eastern Washington hung within a score of two Washington teams, including one coached by the current staff in 2014.

 

That game's relevant, as this Washington team must be prepared for a similarly dangerous passing attack when Montana visits. The Griz adopted a high-powered attack with the hire of air-raid offense guru Bob Stitt two years ago, and ranked fifth in the nation in passing yards a season ago.

 

However, Montana's breaking in a new quarterback after a few years of Brady Gustafson. All those passes coming from an inexperienced quarterback could be ripe for the picking from a Washington defense that led the nation in takeaways a season ago.

 

11. Sept. 16 vs. Fresno State

One-time non-power conference powerhouse Fresno State is trying to restore its former glory with a new coaching staff in 2017. On the Bulldogs' sideline is a familiar face, former Cal head coach and Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford.

 

Tedford takes over a Fresno State program that hasn't had a winning season since going 11-2 in 2013. The bottom fell out last season in a dismal 1-11 finish, which makes 2017, unquestionably, a rebuilding year. If it's any consolation for Tedford, it's that he inherits a veteran roster with nine starters returning on offense. Perhaps Tedford, once heralded as one of college football's most innovative offensive minds, can reconjure some of the magic that produced contending teams at Cal.

 

The bad news for the Bulldogs in this one? Recapturing that magic against the Washington defense is highly unlikely.

 

10. Sept. 1 at Rutgers

Chris Ash's first season as head coach at Rutgers could be described as trying, if we're being generous. The Scarlet Knights ran a brutal gauntlet, facing two College Football Playoff participants, and two more New Year's Six bowl participants. The first matchup in that vicious series was at Washington, and the 48-13 drubbing was the closest final score in a quartet of games that also included Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.

 

Rutgers should be improved in Ash's second season, particularly on defense. There's some talent in the front seven in Piscataway. Scoring points, however, may be an uphill climb.

 

While Pac-12 teams sometimes struggle with early-season, cross-country trips — including Rutgers going down to the wire with Washington State in 2015 — this opening weekend mismatch should be evident immediately.

 

9. Oct. 7 vs. Cal 

It's a reunion of different varieties when Justin Wilcox and Cal visit Husky Stadium. Wilcox was the Huskies' defensive coordinator in 2012 and '13. Under his guidance, one of the most porous defenses in college football improved dramatically. He's also reuniting with Petersen after having worked in the same job on Petersen's staff at Boise State in 2009.

 

This matchup also marks Beau Baldwin's return to Husky Stadium. Those two nail-biters Washington endured facing Eastern Washington in 2011 and '14? Baldwin was the Eagles' head coach for both. He's now running the Golden Bears' offense.

 

Washington's won all but two matchups in the series since 2017, including last year's game in Berkeley, 66-27. Don't expect the trend to change now.

 

8. Nov. 4 vs. Oregon

The Apple Cup and Washington State may conclude Washington's schedule every year, but a compelling case can be made that Oregon is the Huskies' most bitter rivalry. Hostilities are going to be accrued when two universities meet 109 times.

 

While this series dates back to 1900, it started to lose its luster as a rivalry from the 2000s through '16. Oregon won every meeting — many handily — in what amounted to little more than a speed bump on the way to the Pac-12 title.

 

The roles were reversed in 2017. Washington's 70 points last season in Eugene were a series record, with the six most exciting coming on Jake Browning's first-quarter touchdown scamper that earned him 500 push-ups.  Browning accounted for eight total touchdowns, including a Pac-12 record six passing scores. The Ducks' defense may improve under new coordinator Jim Leavitt, but it might not be enough to contain such a torrid attack.

 

7. Sept. 30 at Oregon State

Since going 3-7 against Oregon State in the 2000s, Washington has taken firm control of the series. The Huskies' 41-17 victory last season extended their winning streak over the Beavers to five games, which began with a 2012 upset to knock the previously undefeated OSU out of the top 10 of the polls.

 

That game offers fair warning. The roles will be reversed this year, with a potential dark horse Oregon State team hosting a Washington bunch likely to be ranked in the top 10 when the calendar reaches this date.

 

The Huskies deluged Oregon State early in last season's meeting, scoring 21 points in the first quarter, and taking a 31-0 lead into the locker room. The Beavers only scored after the outcome was decided. Establishing Ryan Nall and the running game is critical, but Oregon State needs to pose a legitimate passing threat — Washington snuffed that out to the tune of 12-for-27 with two interceptions a year ago.

 

6. Oct. 28 vs. UCLA 

Washington alum Jim Mora returns to Husky Stadium for the first time since 2014, when the Bruins won, 44-30. UCLA has a different look heading into this matchup — so does Washington. It's the first time the programs have met since that 2014 encounter, making this the first (and probably last) showdown between '15 quarterback recruits Browning and Josh Rosen.

 

Rosen dominated the headlines as the Pac-12's preeminent freshman quarterback that season, but it was Browning who led a conference championship team and earned some Heisman Trophy consideration as a sophomore.

 

Either could be at the forefront of the discussion when this Halloween week matchup rolls around. A win would send one of the two surging ahead in a hypothetical Heisman race.

 

5. Oct. 14 at Arizona State

The second half of last season was hard on Arizona State. The Sun Devils lost seven of eight, including six straight to finish below .500 for a second consecutive year. Among those losses was a 44-18 decision at Washington. Given the possibility of last season's struggles carrying over into 2017, this date might be a surprising entry in the top half of this list.

 

However, Washington has a long and trying recent history with the desert.

 

The Huskies went to overtime at Arizona a season ago to narrowly escape with their first win in the Grand Canyon State since 2006. Washington hasn't won at Sun Devil Stadium specifically since 2002, including a loss there two years ago in which UW coughed up a two-score lead.

 

4. Nov. 18 vs. Utah

Not many opponents challenged Washington last regular season, but Utah was among the few to do so. Credit the Utes' similar team makeup. Like Petersen, Kyle Whittingham is a head coach who preaches discipline, and his teams typically thrive on defense.

 

Two of the most talented lines in college football will make life difficult for the quarterbacks — who, in Utah's case, could be Washington transfer Troy Williams. He was the Utes' starter last season when they took the Huskies to the wire in Salt Lake City.

 

Hosting Utah is a major advantage, as Rice-Eccles Stadium has earned a reputation as one of the more difficult places to play in the Pac-12. But then, Husky Stadium has had a similar rep for years now. Add the bonus of this being a possible Pac-12 Championship Game preview, two weeks before the real thing, and the venue on Montlake should be rocking.

 

3. Sept. 23 at Colorado

Awaiting Washington in the Pac-12 opener is a rematch of the last conference game it played in 2016. The previous campaign was one of redemption for Washington, winning its first league crown in 16 years, but it was also a breakthrough year for South division champion Colorado.

 

Mike MacIntyre oversaw one of college football's most dramatic turnarounds, which fell just short of a run to the Rose Bowl.

 

Washington dominated the December championship tilt, though was rendered surprisingly ineffective on offense. The Huskies only began to break out on the scoreboard when the defense set the table. The Buffaloes' defense actually harassed Browning into a 37.5 percent completion rate (9-for-24) and got to the Husky quarterback for two sacks.

 

Finding a way to move the ball effectively on the stout Washington defense will be the key challenge. If the Buffs are able, this early-season showdown could be much more reflective of a championship contest than the last meeting.

 

2. Nov. 25 vs. Washington State

It wasn't out of the norm for the Apple Cup to have Pac-10 championship implications in the 1980s and '90s. These two in-state rivals played some classics in those decades, including a showdown of top 20-ranked teams in 1981; the 1992 Snow Bowl; the '88 nail-biter and a high-scoring shootout in '97.

 

With the Pac-12 North riding on last year's encounter, some of the old spark had fully returned to the Apple Cup. Some of it, at least. Washington thoroughly man-handled Washington State for a second straight season, punching its ticket to the conference championship game in a contest that won't go down in the annals of great Apple Cups.

 

But this matchup could more than compensate. With the Huskies returning as divisional front-runners, and Mike Leach retaining one of the most veteran rosters in the Pac-12, the North could once again come down to this Thanksgiving weekend matchup. For quarterbacks Browning and Luke Falk, there might also be Heisman implications — assuming either can withstand the onslaught coming from some of the conference's premier pass rushers. UW features the duo of Gaines and Vea, while Washington State boasts Hercules Mata'afa up front.

 

1. Nov. 10 at Stanford

The unofficial passing of the torch in the Pac-12 North came last September, when defending Pac-12 champion and recent three-time league winner Stanford visited Husky Stadium. The Cardinal were wholly overmatched in one of the most impressive blowouts scored by any team in college football last season.

 

Games like that can be "burn the tape" events for some coaches, but don't expect David Shaw to let his talented 2017 Cardinal forget about the depantsing they took in Seattle. Sept. 30, 2016 should loom large on Nov. 10, 2017, when the Farm plays host to the new kings of the North.

 

This should be a good, old-fashioned slugfest between two of the most physical defenses in the nation. In a conference where offenses are most celebrated, the one that can muster a few scoring drives could be the difference.

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Washington's College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/14-sec-stats-you-need-know-2017
Body:

The SEC is in need of a bounce-back season in 2017, specifically those of you located outside the state of Alabama, which appears to have two well-situated football programs after last season.

 

The rest? We’ll see. Six SEC teams are in Athlon’s preseason top 25, meaning success could be just around the corner.

 

Here are the most interesting and important stats for all 14 SEC teams going into the 2017 season.

 

959: Rushing yards given up by Alabama all of last season

Hold up: Didn’t we start this post last year the same way? Yes, we did. Except the 2016 version of the Crimson Tide’s run defense somehow managed to give up 177 fewer rushing yards than it did in a masterful 2015. Both were the tops in the nation... despite playing in 15 games both seasons. Incredible. (Once again, LSU finished a distant second in the SEC, giving up 1,407 rushing yards in 12 games.)

 

4.13: Rushing yards per game by Arkansas

If there’s one thing a Bret Bielema offense is usually outstanding at, it is running the football. But the Razorbacks struggled last season, posting the worst rushing offense of the four-year Bielema era. They finished 10th in the SEC in rushing, despite Rawleigh Williams’ 1,360-yard season. Williams was forced to retire after a second neck injury this spring, and Devwah Whaley is the only returning back on the roster this fall, although the Hogs did just add Dave Williams from South Carolina (239 yards last season).

 

271.31: Auburn’s rushing average

What’s with all these running stats? In this case, Auburn led the SEC in rushing last season (and was No. 6 nationally). The Tigers have every reason to believe they will do it again in 2017, as they return the league’s leading rushing tandem in juniors Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson, who combined for 2,119 rushing yards last season.

 

1991: Florida’s last out-of-state non-conference game

The Gators open 2017 against Michigan in Arlington, Texas. Florida has not played a non-conference game outside the Sunshine State since a loss at Syracuse in 1991. Additionally, the Gators haven’t opened their season away from home since 1987, when they lost to Miami.

 

86.6%: Georgia’s percentage of tackles returning in 2017

This is according to college football guru Phil Steele, who has Georgia as tops in the SEC (and third nationally) in this category. While that should mean good things for the Bulldogs in 2017, Steele also notes that he had Arkansas at No. 1 in this category entering last season (86.76)... and the Hogs surprisingly saw their record drop from 8-5 to 7-6.

 

75%: Kentucky’s fourth-down conversion percentage

The Wildcats made their first bowl game under Mark Stoops last year, and they made some bold moves along the way. Kentucky converted on 12 of its 16 fourth-down tries in 2016, tops in the Power 5 and third nationally, behind USF and Western Michigan.

 

111.7: Derrius Guice’s elusive rating

Guice had the second-best elusive rating in 2016 among returning running backs for 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. Iowa’s Akrum Wadley was first (120.9). PFF defines elusive as “a runner’s success beyond the point of being helped by his blockers.”

 

3,798: Nick Fitzgerald’s yardage output

The Mississippi State quarterback began his starting career with a bang, leading the SEC in total yards of offense while adding 37 touchdowns. Fitzgerald, a redshirt junior, will look to bring the Bulldogs to their eighth straight bowl game in 2017.

 

500.5: Missouri’s yards per game

Surprisingly enough, the Tigers finished 13th nationally in total offense last season and led the SEC — by a fairly wide margin, too. Texas A&M finished second with 467 yards per game. Despite that output, Mizzou finished just fifth in the league in scoring, posting 31.4 points per game. (Alabama was tops in that category at 38.8 ppg.)

 

59: Number of 20-plus-yard completions by Ole Miss

Last season was uneven for the Rebels, but they were dominant with the deep ball. They led the SEC in pass completions of 20 or more yards, good for 13th nationally. They led the league in pass completions of 10 or more yards, too, with 159 connections, good for 10th nationally. Chad Kelly may be gone, as are a number of key receivers, but if history is any indication, head coach Hugh Freeze could have Shea Patterson and the offense up and running at a high level very soon.

 

86.2: Jake Bentley’s passer rating under pressure

According to Pro Football Focus, the South Carolina quarterback is far and away the best returning SEC quarterback under pressure from last season, posting an 86.2 rating. The next-best returners are Arkansas’ Austin Allen (68.3) and LSU’s Danny Etling (62.1). Bentley also led all returning SEC QBs on non-play-action passes, with an 89.9 rating, according to PFF.

 

29: Tennessee fumbles

The Volunteers were either really careless with the football in 2016, really unlucky or, most likely, a combination of both. They lost the ball 29 times last season, the most in the SEC and the fifth most nationally. Tennessee only lost 14 of those fumbles, though — second in the league behind Kentucky’s 16.

 

25.36: Texas A&M’s average punt return

The Aggies were by far the national leader in punt returns last season, averaging nearly eight yards more per return than runner-up Western Kentucky (17.93 ypr). A&M was tied with Alabama for the most punt return touchdowns, notching four apiece (three of which were by A&M receiver Christian Kirk).

 

93.48%: Vanderbilt’s red-zone conversion rate

The Commodores made it inside the opponent’s 20 on 46 occasions last season and scored 43 times, tops in the SEC and sixth nationally. Of those 43 scores, 32 were touchdowns and 11 were field goals.

 

— Written by Matt Fortuna, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and spent six seasons covering college football for ESPN.com. Fortuna’s work has been honored by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) seven times. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_Fortuna and like his Facebook page.

Teaser:
14 SEC Stats You Need to Know for 2017
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-tennessees-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

While the Tennessee Volunteers’ 2017 football schedule should be less taxing than the one they faced last season, there are still plenty of significant challenges on the slate.

 

For starters, the Vols must go on the road to face both Florida and Alabama, the two SEC Championship Game participants a season ago. Matchups against Georgia, LSU and Georgia Tech also make for a tough row to hoe for Butch Jones and company. Not to mention, the remaining SEC East foes that provide potential pitfalls along the way. So, exactly how daunting will Tennessee’s schedule be in 2017? Let’s take a closer look.

 

Here now are Tennessee’s 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Indiana State

Tennessee’s annual FCS cupcake opponent comes early in 2017. The only challenging aspect of this matchup is that the Volunteers will have just four days to rest and prepare following a tough season opener in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. The Vols should have no issues delivering a dominant performance at home in their first-ever matchup against the Sycamores.

 

11. Sept. 23 vs. UMass

This game is sandwiched between matchups against archrivals Florida and Georgia. So, the Vols could have a difficult time turning all of their attention to the visiting Minutemen. Fortunately, Tennessee probably won’t need to be at its best to make easy work of a UMass team that has not won more than three games in a season since joining the FBS in 2012.

 

10. Nov. 4 vs. Southern Miss

A late-season matchup against Southern Miss in Knoxville should provide Tennessee with a welcome break from the rigors of SEC competition. That being said, Tennessee can’t afford to take the Golden Eagles lightly. Sub-par performances against similar opponents (Appalachian State and Ohio) last season almost proved very costly.

 

9. Nov. 11 at Missouri

Barry Odom’s Tigers return 10 starters from an offense that took a big leap forward last season and could easily be among the best in the SEC East in 2017. Regardless, Mizzou might find it very challenging to outscore Tennessee, even on its home turf. The Tigers return just three starters from an abysmal defense that ranked dead last in the SEC and gave up 63 points to the Vols in 2016.

 

8. Nov. 25 vs. Vanderbilt

The Commodores return most of their starters from a team that managed to put a dagger in the Vols’ 2016 season with a stunning 45-34 upset in Nashville. But if the Volunteers can stay relatively healthy leading into this matchup, they should be well-equipped to avenge last season’s embarrassing loss. Home-field advantage can only help that cause.

 

7. Oct. 28 at Kentucky

The Wildcats won’t be a pushover with 16 starters returning from a team that won seven games in 2016. The Vols could be heading into Lexington a little worse for the wear following a road trip Alabama as well. However, Tennessee has consistently had the Wildcats’ number and a Kentucky defense that ranked among the worst in the SEC last season still has plenty of question marks.

 

6. Oct. 14 vs. South Carolina

The Gamecocks’ 24-21 upset victory in Columbia put a serious damper on the Volunteers’ 2016 season. And South Carolina has enough talent returning to do it again. But unlike last season, the Vols should be well-rested and better prepared for this matchup following a bye. Neyland Stadium provides the additional advantage that Tennessee needs to exact its revenge.

 

5. Sept. 4 vs. Georgia Tech (Atlanta)

The new-look Volunteers will be put to the test early, opening the season against a dangerous Georgia Tech team in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in brand-new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tennessee has the edge in talent, but the Yellow Jackets’ aggressive option-based offense is a legitimate nightmare for any defense to defend. Additionally, Georgia Tech returns 17 starters from a team that went 3-0 against SEC East opponents (Vanderbilt, Georgia, Kentucky) in 2016.

 

4. Nov. 18 vs. LSU

If there is such a thing as a good time for Tennessee to draw LSU as its other SEC West crossover opponent, this would be it. The Tigers return only a handful of starters, and the Volunteers are fortunate to be facing them in Knoxville in the midst of a brutal part of their schedule. But this is still a talent-rich LSU team and Tennessee has not defeated any team from the other division since 2010.

 

3. Sept. 30 vs. Georgia

In what has been one of the more hotly contested rivalries in the SEC over the last few years, the 2017 SEC East favorite Bulldogs will be looking to avenge last year’s stunning Hail Mary loss to Tennessee in Athens. Not only will Georgia feature one of the best running back tandems in the country, the Bulldogs return 10 starters on a defense that projects to be one of the best in the nation. However, question marks remain for Georgia on the offensive line, at wide receiver and on special teams, leaving room for optimism that the home team can secure its third consecutive victory over the Bulldogs.

 

2. Sept. 16 at Florida

Tennessee will open SEC play on the road against arch-nemesis Florida. The Vols finally put an end to an 11-year drought against the Gators last season in Knoxville. But Tennessee will be hard-pressed to make it two in a row with this game taking place in The Swamp. While Florida is tasked with replacing the bulk of its starters from a potent 2016 defense, there’s no shortage of talent on that side of the football. And the addition of Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire at quarterback should go a long way in helping the Gators solidify what was previously thought to be their biggest weakness on offense.

 

1. Oct. 21 at Alabama

The Vols gave the Crimson Tide all they could handle the last time they made the trip to Tuscaloosa, lending hope that the Third Saturday in October could once again become one of the great rivalries in college football. Unfortunately, Tennessee took a big step backward against the Tide last season in Knoxville. And it doesn’t look particularly promising for the Volunteers to close the gap in 2017. Alabama is once again loaded with elite talent and well-positioned to make another run at a national championship.

 

— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Tennessee's College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-top-200-player-rankings-2017
Body:

Athlon Sports 2017 Fantasy Football Magazine

Well the NFL draft feels like ancient history now, and with it came plenty of fantasy-related questions on how depth charts and current players will be impacted by the incoming rookie class.

 

For example, Minnesota signed free agent running back Latavius Murray earlier in the offseason only to turn around and trade up to draft Florida State’s Dalvin Cook in the second round. For Vikings and football fans, this will be an interesting position battle to watch unfold once training camp begins. For fantasy owners, you now have yet another backfield that will more than likely involve a timeshare of some form, at least early on.

 

Speaking of other backfield situations that have been impacted by the draft what does Joe Mixon’s arrival mean for Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in Cincinnati? And what about in Washington? Will Rob Kelley get his chance to be the feature back or will rookie Samaje Perine end up being the No. 1 at some point?

 

There also have been other transactions that will impact the fantasy landscape, such as veteran running backs Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson, landing in Oakland and New Orleans respectively. Is Lynch ready to be an impact fantasy player after taking a year off? Can Peterson return from another injury and provide consistent production for the Saints while sharing carries with Mark Ingram?

 

And those aren’t even the biggest names to switch teams recently. Both Jeremy Maclin (Ravens) and Eric Decker (Titans) will be in a different uniform this fall after being cut by their former teams.

 

There are sure to be more moves to come as we get closer to training camp and once preparation for the 2017 season begins in earnest. But for now, here’s a top 200 list that includes rankings and takes into consideration all of the moves that have occurred to this point.

 

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Athlon Sports’ 2017 Fantasy Football magazine, available for purchase online and at newsstands everywhere.

 

 

 

 

— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including socalledfantasyexperts.com. Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Teaser:
Top 200 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheet 2017
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-wild-card-players-2017
Body:

It is true that Clemson won the national title in large part because of their stars. Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams and Ben Boulware were big producers as well as being leaders for the Tigers.

 

But it is very rare for a player to arrive at a school as a star and live up to the hype immediately. More often there is a development period before these players become household names.

 

Here are two wild card players from each ACC program that could blossom in 2017 and play a large part in determining their team's success.

 

ACC Atlantic

 

Boston College Eagles

 

Offense: Darius Wade, Quarterback

It is the position where Boston College has struggled the most over the past few years. Wade will be challenged by redshirt freshman Anthony Brown, but the junior will probably start and be the key to improving the Eagles’ offense.

 

Defense: Lukas Dennis, Defensive Back

A junior from Everett, Mass., Dennis is capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary. That alone makes him a valuable commodity, but a strong spring put him in position to be a starter at safety when the season opens.

 

Clemson Tigers

 

Offense: Hunter Johnson, Quarterback

The true freshman will not enter camp as the starter, but he will get an opportunity to win the job. The highest rated prep quarterback on the Clemson roster, Johnson better make hay right away with Trevor Lawrence – a quarterback with even more high school hype – coming in next year.

 

Defense: Trayvon Mullen, Cornerback

Mullen is long and athletic, possessing the physical attributes needed at his position. With Cordrea Tankersley at the next level, Mullen has a chance to be the next great Clemson cornerback.

 

Florida State Seminoles

 

Offense: George Campbell, Wide Receiver

Campbell came to Florida State as a five-star recruit but has done little so far, mostly due to injuries. He’s an athletic, big-bodied receiver that can change the complexion of the Seminoles’ offense if he can stay on the field.

 

Defense: Brian Burns, Defensive End

The Noles need to replace DeMarcus Walker at defensive end and the sophomore from Fort Lauderdale could be that guy. He needs to add some size and strength in order to hold up against the run, but he has sensational pass-rushing skills.

 

Louisville Cardinals

 

Offense: Seth Dawkins, Wide Receiver

Much of the talent that surrounded quarterback Lamar Jackson in 2016 is no longer around and the Heisman winner needs some playmakers to emerge. One of those guys is Dawkins, a sophomore that had a big spring.

 

Defense: Trevon Young, Linebacker

Young had 8.5 sacks as a junior but missed all of 2016 following a hip injury in the 2015 Music City Bowl. If Young returns to form, he is a difference-maker for the Cardinals’ defense.

 

NC State Wolfpack

 

Offense: Nyheim Hines, Running Back

Hines is an established player as both a receiver and a returner. But he’s moving to running back this year and is the most electric of the options the Wolfpack have at that position.

 

Defense: Nick McCloud, Cornerback

NC State is strong in the front seven but there are questions about the back end. Sophomore McCloud will be given the first chance to lock down an open corner spot.

 

Syracuse Orange

 

Offense: Airon Servais, Offensive Lineman

The first order of business for the Cuse this year is to keep quarterback Eric Dungey healthy. The Green Bay native that redshirted last year can play all along the front though he will probably line up at guard.

 

Defense: McKinley Williams, Defensive Tackle

The sophomore has put on the weight he needed to compete in the middle of the Orange defensive line. Williams had 14 tackles and a sack last season, numbers that should spike this fall.

 

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

 

Offense: Cortez Lewis, Wide Receiver

The Demon Deacons hope that the junior wide receiver can provide a big-play threat for their combo of quarterbacks. If Lewis can take a step forward, he will form a nice receiving trio with slot man Tabari Hines and tight end Cam Serigne.

 

Defense: Jaboree Williams, Linebacker

It is unlikely that any one player will step up and completely fill the void left by Marquel Lee. But Williams has the most ability on the second level and will be asked to improve on his 36-tackle, two-sack performance of 2016.

 

ACC Coastal

 

Duke Blue Devils

 

Offense: Evan Lisle, Offensive Tackle

Lisle played sparingly during his time at Ohio State. Now at Duke, the 6-foot-7, 308-pounder will probably be the starting right guard. Duke has some interesting skill weapons back, including quarterback Daniel Jones. If Lisle helps shore up the offensive line, head coach David Cutcliffe could have a pretty good offense.

 

Defense: Dylan Singleton, Safety

The sophomore came in as a consensus four-star prospect, choosing the Blue Devils over schools like Georgia, Ohio State, Auburn and Nebraska. With vacancies in the secondary, Singleton’s playing time should increase substantially.

 

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

 

Offense: Clinton Lynch, Running Back

With Dedrick Mills pounding the middle, big plays can be had to the outside. That’s where Lynch comes in. Lynch will get more chances this season after scoring eight touchdowns and averaging more than 17 yards on his 53 touches in 2016.

 

Defense: Anree Saint-Amour, Defensive End

Saint-Amour had just 16 tackles last fall. But four of those were sacks, showing that he has the ability to cause havoc. The Jackets had just 18 sacks as a team and 7.5 of those left when Patrick Gamble graduated, putting more pressure on Saint-Amour to produce this season.

 

Miami Hurricanes

 

Offense: N’Kosi Perry, Quarterback

Most expect Malik Rosier to be the starting quarterback for the season opener. But there’s a lot of buzz surrounding Perry, an exciting dual-threat option who impressed in spring drills.

 

Defense: Dee Delaney, Cornerback

An under-the-radar prospect out of high school, Delaney starred at The Citadel, where he was a two-time All-American. Following graduation, the Seabrook, S.C., product transferred to Miami. It will be interesting to see how this FCS standout transitions to the ACC.

 

North Carolina Tar Heels

 

Offense: Brandon Harris, Quarterback

Harris may be the ultimate wild card. He showed flashes every so often at LSU. But the talent never translated on a consistent level. He’s now at UNC, a team in desperate need of quality quarterback play with Mitchell Trubisky getting ready to play on Sundays.

 

Defense: Aaron Crawford, Defensive Tackle

Stopping the run has been a nightmare for the Heels in recent seasons. The 6-foot-1, 310-pound Crawford made an impact as a redshirt freshman in 2016. But with Nazair Jones gone, Crawford will have to do even more this year.

 

Pittsburgh Panthers

 

Offense: Qadree Ollison, Running Back

With James Conner out in 2015, freshman Ollison ran for 1,121 yards. Last year, with Conner back, Ollison had just 127 yards on the ground. It’s once again his job and head coach Pat Narduzzi would love to see the 2015 Ollison return.

 

Defense: Dwayne Hendrix, Defensive End

A huge recruit coming out of O’Fallon, Ill., Hendrix never thrived at Tennessee. He gets a new chance at Pitt and he has big shoes to fill with Ejuan Price finally gone after six years.

 

Virginia Cavaliers

 

Offense: Jake Fieler, Center

UVA’s offense was terrible last fall and the offensive line was a major part of the problem. The Cavs added three grad transfers, but for there to be significant improvement, Fieler must play well. With a lot of moving parts around him, the junior locked down a starting spot with a good spring.

 

Defense: Jordan Mack, Linebacker

Mack was a defensive back in high school that grew into a linebacker at UVA. Micah Kiser will get all sorts of attention this season, opening lanes for Mack to make plays.

 

Virginia Tech Hokies

 

Offense: Caleb Farley, Wide Receiver

An early enrollee, Farley was supposed to be a defensive back for the Hokies. By the end of spring ball, however, he was at wide receiver and turned many heads with his play. Receiver is a position where a freshman can contribute right away and receiver is an area where the Hokies need help.

 

Defense: Tim Settle, Defensive Tackle

The 6-foot-3, 328-pounder got his feet wet last season as a freshman and is now ready to make a bigger impact. Settle – a four-star prospect coming out of high school – will team with Ricky Walker in an attempt to replace the production of Woody Baron and Nigel Williams inside for the Hokies.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

Teaser:
ACC Wild Card Players in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/kirby-smart-instate-talent-return-georgia-national-prominence
Body:

It was a short time into Kirby Smart’s tenure, just a couple months, and he was in front of a gathering of Georgia fans in Macon. One fan rose to ask a pointed question: Why was he always watching other SEC teams play and seeing so many Georgia natives on other teams’ rosters? Why weren’t they staying home? 

 

Smart hesitated a second before deciding on his answer. “You gonna give me extra scholarships?” he asked. Then he went into a long story about how, during his long run as an Alabama assistant, they had studied the first and second strings of every SEC team, and ranked the states they were from, finding that Georgia was easily No. 1. “All right?” Smart said. “So everybody is coming in to come get players.” 

 

It was hard to tell whether the answer satisfied the questioner that night. A year later, however, that fan had to be very happy. 

 

On the field, Smart’s first year as Georgia head coach left plenty to be desired — five losses, including at home to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech, and a narrow escape from Nicholls State, an FCS team. But when it came to recruiting, Smart and his staff dominated: Georgia finished No. 3 in the 247Sports Composite rankings. That ties for the program’s highest ranking in the modern era (this century) of recruiting service rankings. 

 

It’s especially remarkable considering that it happened in only Smart’s second recruiting cycle, after an 8–5 season that ended in the Liberty Bowl.  

 

“I think there was a new philosophy, a different way of recruiting,” says Jimmy Smith, the head coach at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Ga. Two of Smith’s players, offensive linemen Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer, signed with Georgia. “I can’t figure out the best way to say it, but sometimes something fresh and something new is something fresh and something new. It was different for the guys, it was new for the guys. So there was a buzz around it. 

 

“Once you get a couple of them, then a couple more fall in, then a couple more. So you’re rolling downhill after that.” 

 

That was what happened in the state of Georgia, where — with a few exceptions — Smart and his staff dominated in a way that predecessor Mark Richt never had. Georgia signed three of the state’s top five players, five of the top 10, and 12 of the top 20, according to the 247Sports Composite. 

 

There had been years that Georgia kept most of the state’s top recruits home, such as the heralded 2011 Dream Team class. But what set the 2017 class apart was the next level: Georgia signed seven recruits ranked between Nos. 11-20 in the state, an area of the ranking that other states had routinely poached in the past. 

“Georgia really hammered the top 20 this year. And there’s always 20 SEC-level kids (in the state),” says Rusty Mansell, analyst for Dawgs247.com. 

 

Smith, the coach at Cedar Grove, remembers hearing from Smart within the first week that he was hired. Then offensive line coach Sam Pittman came by too, and practically never left. 

 

“Kirby understood what he was tasked with when he took over. I think he knew that winning the state was a mandate that he was given when he was hired,” Smith says. “Whether it was specifically articulated or not, it was something he had to get done. And I think he expressed that to his staff. I think the way they approached this process was indicative of that. They emphasized it, they prioritized it, and they’ve been able to generate a lot of momentum, energy and excitement within the state among the players.” 

 

One of the first to commit was five-star safety Richard LeCounte, and then four-star quarterback Jake Fromm flipped from Alabama, followed by more top 100-rated recruits: tacklew Andrew Thomas, safety Deangelo Gibbs and Johnson. 

 

“A big takeaway from this class is just absolutely dominant in-state effort. That’s something that Georgia just has been thirsting for, is being able to clean up in such a talented backyard,” says Barton Simmons, 247Sports national analyst. “For him to accomplish that in his first full cycle, landing four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 of the top 20 … that hasn’t happened at Georgia in 15-20 years.” 

 

But Georgia also struck it big with some major out-of-state talent. Isaiah Wilson, a five-star offensive tackle from Brooklyn, N.Y., chose Georgia over Michigan and Alabama. A major reason was that Pittman zeroed in on him the summer of 2016, and the two built a rapport. It also helped that Wilson would have the chance to play early. That tends to be a strong argument on an 8–5 team. But Smart and his staff could also sell job security, which Richt couldn’t the last few years. “The coaching staff is going to be there for the next three to five years,” Wilson says. “Coaching security was big. When I camped with Coach Pittman, I knew that I really liked the way he coached, and I could see myself playing for him.” 

 

For better or worse, Smart also brought a somewhat cutthroat mentality to recruiting that hadn’t existed under Richt. When tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel unexpectedly decided to return for their senior years, Georgia suddenly had an excess of both tailbacks and total scholarship players. So Toneil Carter, a longtime commitment from Houston, was informed there wasn’t room for him to enroll early anymore, and there was no assurance of there being a spot for him that summer. Carter took the hint and instead signed with Texas. It was a reflection of a different approach from Georgia — but also and indication of just how well the staff had recruited. 

 

More Secrets to Smart’s Recruiting Success


• More recruiting staff, a benefit that began the final few years under Richt. Georgia has beefed up the number of staffers who help with administrative and other recruiting-related tasks, allowing the full-time assistant coaches to concentrate on evaluating prospects and face-to-face interaction. 


• Smart’s knowledge of the state. He hit the ground running because he had already recruited much of the area for Alabama. 


• When Smart was hiring his staff, the ability to recruit was a high priority. Pittman, James Coley (receivers), Shane Beamer (tight ends and special teams) and Dell McGee (running backs) were all established as good recruiters. Glenn Schumann (inside linebackers) was in his first year as a full-time assistant, but Smart knew him, and it was apparent right away he was a great recruiter. 

 

One of the models for the overall strategy was Alabama and Nick Saban, and that’s no accident, considering how long Smart was in Tuscaloosa. Saban’s reputation may be coaching and The Process, but the first pillar of his approach is recruiting. The initial step is the evaluation process, and coaches around the state noticed and marveled at how many players Georgia coaches were able to see. “When they got an opportunity to get on the road, they came and saw as many kids as possible,” Smith says. 

 

From there, it became more focused. They honed in immediately on certain players, instead of taking a wide swath. “As a staff they do a good job of recruiting because they know what they want,” Smith says. “They really decide on what they want before they go out, and then they go get it.” 

 

Oh, there were a few misses: Defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon, the top-rated prospect in Georgia, went to Michigan. But generally it was the kind of recruiting class that makes people forget about five-loss seasons. Now, the trick is turning that talent into a team that does much better than 8–5. And Smart says he understands that recruiting, while perhaps the most important thing, is only the first step. 

 

“What you can’t do is say, ‘Oh we’re going to go have a great recruiting class,’ and it’s just automatically, magically going to happen. That’s not the case,” Smart says. “That’s part of coaching, is taking your players and making them better. That’s the development word. So can you develop your players better than the next guy?

 

“Look, Georgia’s been successful. We just want to take it another step. And we can do that through recruiting and getting the kids to buy in and play well.”

 

Written by Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) of DawgNation.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2017 SEC Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2017 season.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/former-braves-infielders-son-life-support-after-being-hit-face-baseball
Body:

The city of Atlanta is rallying around one of its own as a baseball accident put a former Braves player's son in the hospital.

 

Jason Lockhart, son of retired infielder Keith, was struck in the face by a baseball during a tournament on June 17. According to 11Alive News in Atlanta, the boy's nose was broken and he received stitches. It wasn't until they realized his nose wouldn't stop bleeding that something internally was going on. A CT scan showed a tear inside his nose from the impact, and doctor's diagnosed it as a lacerated artery. He was placed on life support so they could monitor and contain the bleeding.

 

 

Keith Lockhart thanked the fans for the outpouring of support after news spread.

 

 

 

The Lockharts are optimistic about Jason's recovery. 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 15:20
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/lebron-james-laughs-former-teammates-who-doubted-him-cleveland-cavaliers-instagram
Body:

There was a time in which even LeBron James' teammates doubted his abilities.

 

The Cavaliers superstar shared a video to his Instagram that showed the reaction of his then-teammates after he got drafted by the franchise. The response to the boy wonder was less than ideal. James finds it humorous looking back on the criticism these days.

 

 

So just imagine how hard is to fight off the naysayers, doubters, haters that u never see but u know they talking crazy behind tv screens, computers, phones, tablets. Then imagine fighting off naysayers, doubters, haters that u would think have your back and u see them everyday! Keep the grass cut, so u can see em when they coming. Then u heat they ass up. Cause they cats that u went to play with, will catch you in your new whip and your brains into cool-whip(Kiss said it best)! So basically no matter what u do just keep the blinders on at all times, work hard, push forward and I promise you'll have the last 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂 #StriveforGreatness🚀 #RWTW🏅

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

 

All of those guys would kill to be on the same squad as James these days.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 12:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-texas-ams-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

Each season brings a renewed sense of optimism to the college football landscape, but in College Station the Texas A&M Aggies will have their backs up against the wall from the opening kickoff. The pressure is squarely on head coach Kevin Sumlin to break a three-year streak of 8-5 showings that has the 12th Man rumbling about a better fit on the sidelines.

 

The 2016 season was a near identical repeat of the previous three, as the Aggies had an opening win against then- No. 16 UCLA followed by SEC victories against Auburn, No. 17 Arkansas, South Carolina, and No. 9 Tennessee. But once again the second half of the season was not kind, as Texas A&M dropped three of four games in November, the only victory coming against a non-conference opponent (UTSA). These repeating November crashes might be easier for fans to forgive if close losses in bowl games to Louisville (27-21) in 2015 and Kansas State (33-28) in ’16 had not capped these seasons.

 

Another recurring theme Sumlin and staff will have to overcome is a fourth consecutive season breaking in a new starting quarterback. It now seems like a while ago since fans enjoyed Johnny Manziel’s Heisman Trophy-winning season.  Whoever gets the starting job does have three returning starting linemen to protect him as well as an All-America candidate at wide receiver (Christian Kirk) and 1,000-yard rusher (Trayveon Williams). However, the defense must replace No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Myles Garrett up front.

 

The schedule is manageable, but still plenty difficult, as is life in the SEC West. Here’s a look at Texas A&M’s 2017 regular season slate, ranked from easiest to toughest game based on recent history, location and matchup.

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Nicholls State

On paper the Colonels, who hail from the FCS ranks and went just 5-6 last season, are greatly outmatched. However, Nicholls State nearly knocked off then- No. 9 Georgia in Athens in last’s season’s opener before falling 26-24. One thing in the Colonels’ advantage for a potential upset is that Texas A&M will be coming off of its West Coast opener against UCLA.

 

11. Sept. 16 vs. Louisiana

The Ragin’ Cajuns finished the 2016 season 6-7, but went 4-3 over the final seven games, including a close road loss to Georgia. The Cajuns have six starters back on offense and on defense, but must break in a new starting quarterback and running back.

 

10. Nov. 11 vs. New Mexico

After a brutal six-game stretch that starts with Arkansas and includes South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi State and Auburn, the Lobos will be a welcomed sight in College Station. But some caution for A&M fans. After five years in Albuquerque, head coach Bob Davie has turned things around and led New Mexico to back-to-back winning seasons. The nation’s top rushing attack (350.0 ypg) in 2016, this could be a tough matchup for the Aggies’ retooled defense.

 

9. Sept. 30 vs. South Carolina

The SEC offers no gimmes so the Aggies better be prepared for the Gamecocks. An undermanned South Carolina team put up a fight in a 24-13 home loss to Texas A&M last season and returns a total of 16 starters, including 10 on offense, while also getting All-SEC-caliber linebacker Skai Moore back from injury.  The Gamecocks get Louisiana Tech the week before while the Aggies will have just played Arkansas at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

 

8. Nov. 18 at Ole Miss

After posting four winning seasons in his first four years in Oxford, head coach Hugh Freeze is on the hot seat. A 5-7 finish in 2016, looming NCAA violations hanging overhead, and a porous defense that could not stop the run last year could spell doom for the Rebels. The continued development of sophomore dual-threat quarterback Shea Patterson might be the best hope for a winning season.

 

Texas A&M will look for revenge after falling 29-28 at home last year to Ole Miss. The Aggies get New Mexico the week prior, which should help, but Ole Miss also should be in good shape having just hosted Louisiana from the Sun Belt.

 

7. Oct. 28 vs. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs won last year’s matchup in Starkville, 35-28, one of three Texas A&M losses in November. This meeting comes in October and is at home, so maybe the result will be different. This will conclude a tough six-game stretch for Mississippi State, while the Aggies will be coming off of a bye after facing Alabama and Florida, but have Auburn looming.

 

6. Sept. 23 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, Texas)

Arkansas had a three-game winning streak against the Aggies (2009-11) but since then the Southwest Classic has been all Texas A&M. The games are always competitive but the Aggies have been able to make the big play in the fourth quarter to come away with the win. The Razorbacks will have two games and a bye week to tinker with their new 3-4 defense before facing Texas A&M in AT&T Stadium. Arkansas’ Sept. 9 home matchup with TCU could serve as a barometer for the Hogs’ readiness to face the Aggies’ up-tempo offense.

 

5. Sept. 3 at UCLA

The Bruins could be a tough opening draw for the Aggies, especially on the road. UCLA’s defense was supposed to be good last year with eight starters back, but A&M hung 31 points on it in College Station. The Bruins were bitten by the injury bug in 2016 with the team falling apart after the first week of October on the way to a 1-6 finish. High hopes are pinned on junior quarterback Josh Rosen to lead the way for a UCLA turnaround, starting with a win over the Aggies.

 

4. Oct. 14 at Florida

One thing SEC coaches and their respective fan bases have learned about Gators head coach Jim McElwain after two years in Gainesville is never count him or his team out. Two seasons and two improbable SEC East Division titles lends to great credibility in that respect. Florida once again has to break in a new starting quarterback but has great complementary pieces among the nine starters back on offense. However, a rebuilding defense might be the Gators’ weak link this fall.

 

This game wraps up three straight in the Swamp for Florida with Vanderbilt and LSU preceding. Texas A&M will have just hosted Alabama.

 

3. Nov. 4 vs. Auburn

Gus Malzahn and Sumlin have traded punches in this series with the Aggies getting Auburn at the right time last year, the third game of the season. Once again, the Tigers should be tough to stop on the ground with the running back duo of Kamyrn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson back. They were the main reason Auburn led the SEC in rushing with 271.3 yards per game. The Tigers’ defense was solid for the most part in 2016, but struggled against the pass.

The arrival of junior college transfer quarterback Jarrett Stidham to lead Auburn’s offense only adds to the intrigue of this game, which is the first (gulp!) in November for Texas A&M. If the Aggies can win this one, it should set up no worse than a 2-2 finish. But if they stumble at home, what does that mean for their head coach’s job security?

 

2. Nov. 25 at LSU

Death Valley is one of the toughest venues in college football for visiting teams. This has been true for the Aggies, who have dropped six games in a row to the Tigers. There could be plenty riding on this game for one or both teams, so momentum, especially for Texas A&M, could be key. LSU has the tougher road leading up to this game, with the rest of its November slate consisting of road games at Alabama and Tennessee and a home date with Arkansas. Last year’s meeting was a high-scoring affair, with the Tigers topping the Aggies at Kyle Field 54-39.

 

1. Oct. 7 vs. Alabama

Is it enough to simply write “it’s Alabama” and leave it at that? Sumlin snuck into Tuscaloosa in 2012, winning 29-24, but it’s been all Crimson Tide since. Nick Saban’s team will be more than a month removed from its opener against Florida State and will have just hosted Ole Miss the week prior. Alabama returns just 12 starters, but plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, including quarterback Jalen Hurts, wide receiver Cameron Ridley and running back Damien Harris. The Crimson Tide defense was No. 1 in the country in 2016 and even with seven members of last year’s unit going in the most recent NFL draft, there’s no reason to expect much different results this fall.

 

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Texas A&M’s College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army West Point Black Knights, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, James Madison Dukes, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami (OH) RedHawks, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Troy University, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-all-130-college-football-head-coaches-2017
Body:

Ranking all 130 college football head coaches is an impossible task. But with the 2017 season right around the corner, Athlon Sports is continuing its countdown to Week 1 by evaluating all 130 coaches and ranking them from best to worst.

 

When evaluating and ranking all 130 coaches, we established a simple criteria: Everything is considered when ranking head coaches. This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: Is the coach more involved with X's and O's or more of a CEO? In our rankings, we valued coaches who are more involved with X's and O's. How is the coach when it comes to the recruiting trail? Are there factors such as facilities or budget concerns that have an overall impact on the program? Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs? What type of shape was the program in when the coach took over the job? What is the overall trajectory of the program?

 

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins or the previous year's FBS coach rankings do not matter for this season's 130 list. 

 

Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences and the four FBS Independent programs. Here are the results for 130 teams:

 

College Football 2017 Coach Rankings by Conference

 

By Conference (Power 5): ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC 

 

By Conference (Group of 5): American | C-USA | MAC | Mountain West | Sun Belt

 

Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

 

130. Jay Norvell, Nevada

Norvell has been an assistant in the NFL and college ranks since 1986 and finally landed his first opportunity to be a head coach at the FBS level following the 2016 campaign. After Nevada parted ways with Brian Polian, Norvell was hired to help the program return to the top of the Mountain West. As an assistant, Norvell made stops at Northern Iowa, Wisconsin and Iowa State, while calling the plays or sharing the co-offensive coordinator title at Nebraska, UCLA, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona State. Additionally, he’s garnered valuable information from working under standout coaches like Bob Stoops and Barry Alvarez, while playing at Iowa under Hayden Fry. Norvell has a wealth of experience as an assistant, but the first-year coach figures to have a transition period in his debut in Reno. 

 

129. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State

With an improved stadium situation and a prime location in Atlanta for fertile recruiting territory, Georgia State is a job with potential in the Sun Belt. Elliott is just the third coach in program history and this will be his first full-time job. Before taking over in Atlanta, Elliott worked as an assistant at South Carolina from 2010-16 and Appalachian State from 1997-09. Elliott was regarded for his work as an offensive line coach and served as South Carolina’s interim coach in 2015 after Steve Spurrier resigned midway through the season. The Gamecocks went 1-5 under Elliott but lost all five games by 10 points or less.
 

128. Brent Brennan, San Jose State

As a California native with strong roots on the recruiting trail, Brennan seems like the right coach to get San Jose State back on track after the program failed to post a winning record under former coach Ron Caragher. While the 2017 season is Brennan’s first as a head coach, he’s no stranger to the program. From 2005-10, Brennan worked under Dick Tomey (2005-09) and Mike MacIntyre (2010) at San Jose State as an assistant coach. The California native spent the last six seasons at Oregon State as a receivers coach and also has previous stint at Cal Poly (2001-04).

 

Related: Mountain West 2017 Predictions

 

127. Everett Withers, Texas State

Withers and his Texas State staff promised a “Party in the End Zone” last year, but the Bobcats finished 2-10 and failed to win a game in conference play. As expected with any new staff, there was roster turnover and a transition in schemes, which certainly hindered this team’s ability to compete last season. The program’s only victories in 2016 came in overtime against Ohio and versus FCS opponent Incarnate Word. And as a sign of how much work Withers and this staff need to do in 2017: Texas State lost nine of its 10 games by 20 or more points. With the addition of graduate transfer quarterback Damian Williams, along with the No. 1 recruiting class by the 247Sports Composite, the Bobcats should take a step forward in 2017.

 

126. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

Jinks faced a tough assignment in his first year on campus in 2016. Not only were the Falcons replacing several key players from the 2015 MAC Championship team, Jinks was learning the ropes in his first season as a head coach at the FBS level. As expected, Bowling Green got off to a slow start. The Falcons opened with a 1-8 start before winning their final three games to finish 4-8. The end of the 2016 campaign provided optimism for Jinks and his staff, which should help this team take another step forward in 2017. With no previous head coaching experience at the FBS level and only three years of experience as an assistant, Jinks was a curious hire for Bowling Green (one of the MAC’s better coaching jobs). However, if Jinks and the Falcons pick up where they left off last season, the Texas native should move up this list in 2017.

 

125. Mike Neu, Ball State

Neu returned to his alma mater last season to take over as the program’s head coach after Pete Lembo left to be an assistant at Maryland. Neu’s first year had its share of ups and downs. The Cardinals started 3-1 but finished 4-8 and won only one game in MAC play. However, six of Ball State’s eight losses came by 10 points or less. The Indiana native previously worked in the NFL as an assistant with the Saints, spent two years at Tulane (2012-13) and also had a stint in the Arena Football League from 1998-08. The former Ball State quarterback hopes to get the Cardinals back in the postseason this year for the first time since 2013.

 

Related: MAC Football 2017 Predictions

 

124. Paul Haynes, Kent State

Haynes enters 2017 squarely on the hot seat. The former Kent State defensive back is just 12-35 at his alma mater over the last four years. Additionally, the Golden Flashes have managed only eight wins in MAC games during that span. Prior to taking over as Kent State’s head coach, Haynes worked at a handful of programs as a defensive assistant, including Arkansas, Ohio State, Michigan State and Louisville. Defense has been a strength for the Golden Flashes over the last two years, finishing second in the MAC in fewest yards per play allowed. However, Kent State’s offense hasn’t finished higher than 11th in the league in scoring.

 

123. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

Martin has the unique distinction of coaching at two of college football’s toughest jobs. Before taking over at New Mexico State, Martin guided Kent State to a 29-53 record from 2004-10. The Golden Flashes had three seasons of at least five wins (and one six-win campaign) under Martin’s direction but never recorded a winning mark. Progress has also been tough to come by in Las Cruces. The Aggies are 10-38 under Martin and have yet to eclipse three wins in a season.

 

122. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

Montgomery arrived at East Carolina regarded for his work as an offensive assistant at Duke (2006-09 and 2014-15) and also in the NFL with the Steelers from 2010-12. However, his debut resulted in a 3-9 record last season and the Pirates are likely to be picked near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference once again in 2017. To speed up the rebuilding process, Montgomery picked up a couple of graduate transfers, including former Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk, Clemson running back Tyshon Dye and Minnesota defensive end Gaelin Elmore. East Carolina has missed out on bowl games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004-05.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

121. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

It’s no secret high expectations surround the Georgia Southern job, as it’s one of the best in the Sun Belt and has a lengthy track record of success. With that in mind, it’s no surprise Summers is already under pressure to turn things around after a 5-7 record in 2016 – his first in Statesboro. The Eagles finished 2016 on a high note by beating Troy, but the five-win season represented a four-win regression from 2015. Prior to taking over at Georgia Southern, Summers worked as a defensive coordinator at Colorado State and UCF, while also spending time as an assistant at UAB. The Georgia native hopes to show progress in his second season in Statesboro.

 

120. Tim Lester, Western Michigan

Lester is the MAC’s only new coach for 2017. And the former Western Michigan quarterback has some big shoes to fill. Former coach P.J. Fleck elevated the program’s profile on the recruiting trail and led the Broncos to a MAC title, Cotton Bowl appearance and a No. 15 finish in the Associated Press poll in 2016. Can Lester continue the momentum in Kalamazoo? As a former player and assistant (2005-06) with the program, Lester has a good idea of what it takes to win at Western Michigan. Additionally, he’s accumulated experience as an assistant with Power 5 programs Purdue (2016) and Syracuse (2013-15) over the last four seasons. Lester has previous head coaching experience from a stint at Saint Joseph’s (2004) and Elmhurst (2008-12). He went 40-23 over five years between those two programs.

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2017

 

119. Brad Lambert, Charlotte

Starting a program from scratch is no easy assignment. That’s exactly the task Lambert has navigated over the last four seasons with the 49ers as the first coach in program history. After two years as a FCS Independent, Lambert guided Charlotte through a transition to the FBS ranks. The 49ers are 6-18 since joining the FBS level and 16-30 overall under Lambert. He’s yet to record a winning record, but the program took a step forward by winning four games overall and three in league play last season.

 

118. Sean Kugler, UTEP

Kugler took over at his alma mater prior to the 2013 season and is likely facing a make-or-break 2017 campaign. After a 2-10 debut, the Miners finished 7-6 and played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2014. However, UTEP is just 9-15 over the last two seasons and has won only five conference games in that span. Kugler came to El Paso after working for three years with the Steelers as the offensive line coach. However, the offense has not finished higher than ninth in the league in scoring in Kugler’s tenure and standout running back Aaron Jones must be replaced this offseason.

 

117. Major Applewhite, Houston

Applewhite has big shoes to fill in replacing Tom Herman at Houston. Under Herman’s watch, the Cougars went 22-4 over the last two years, won the Peach Bowl in the 2015 season and claimed the American Athletic Conference’s No. 1 recruiting class in 2016. While Herman won’t be easy to replace, Applewhite was also instrumental in the program’s success over the last two seasons as the program’s offensive coordinator. After leading the American Athletic Conference in scoring in 2015, the Cougars ranked fifth by averaging 35.8 points per game last season. The former Texas quarterback also has experience as an assistant from stints at Texas, Alabama, Rice and Syracuse. Applewhite already has one game as the program’s head coach under his belt (Las Vegas Bowl), but the real work begins in 2017.

 

116. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

Fickell has strong roots throughout Ohio. He’s a native of the state, played his college ball at Ohio State and also worked with the Buckeyes as an assistant coach. That experience and background should help Fickell continue to build on those connections on the recruiting trail for the Bearcats. The Ohio native also spent 2011 as Ohio State’s interim coach after Jim Tressel resigned prior to the season. Fickell guided Ohio State to a 6-7 mark that year and was retained on Urban Meyer’s staff as a co-defensive coordinator in 2012. Over the last couple of seasons, Fickell has teamed with Chris Ash and Greg Schiano to mold some of the nation’s top defenses. While Fickell was an interim coach for one season, this is his first opportunity to run a program on a full-time basis. With his experience in the state of Ohio, Fickell should be a solid hire for Cincinnati as it looks to rebound after winning 11 games over the last two years.

 

115. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

After a successful stint at Wisconsin-Whitewater, Leipold is looking to replicate that success at Buffalo. In two years with the Bulls, Leipold is 7-17 and 4-12 in conference action. That’s a far cry from the 109-6 record at Wisconsin-Whitewater, along with the six Division III championships. However, the track record of success from his previous stop should provide some confidence this coaching staff will help the Bulls take a step forward over the next few seasons. Buffalo returns 14 starters for 2017, including quarterback Tyree Jackson, standout linebacker Khalil Hodge and one of the MAC’s top offensive lines.

 

114. Mark Whipple, UMass

Life as a FBS Independent isn’t an easy path, and the Minutemen finished 2-10 in their first year since leaving the MAC after the 2015 campaign. Whipple has experienced plenty of success throughout his career, posting a 129-87 overall mark over three different programs. He previously guided UMass to 49 wins from 1998-03 and claimed the 1998 FCS National Championship. After coaching stops with the Steelers, Browns, Eagles and as Miami’s offensive coordinator, Whipple returned to UMass prior to the 2014 season. He’s struggled to rekindle the success from his first stint with the Minutemen, as UMass is just 8-28 over the last three years. 

 

113. Justin Wilcox, California

Wilcox returns to the West Coast for his first head coaching opportunity. The former Oregon defensive back spent most of his coaching career on the West Coast prior to a stint in 2016 as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator. Under Wilcox’s direction, the Badgers finished third in the Big Ten by limiting opponents to just 15.6 points a game last fall. The Oregon native’s one season at Wisconsin came after two years as the defensive play-caller at USC (2014-15). He also worked in the same role at Washington (2012-13), Tennessee (2010-11) and Boise State (2006-09). Wilcox also spent three years as California’s linebacker coach from 2003-05. Considering the Golden Bears have not finished higher than eighth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense over the last five years, choosing a coach with a solid defensive background should fix some of the issues on that side of the ball. And to help ease Wilcox’s transition to head coach, he hired two proven coordinators and former head coaches – Beau Baldwin on offense and Tim DeRuyter on defense.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

112. Geoff Collins, Temple

The outlook on Temple’s program has significantly changed over the last 10 years. After being dismissed from the Big East after 2004 and forced to spend time as an Independent (2005-06) and a stint in the MAC (2007-11), the Owls returned to the Big East in 2012 and remained in the league as it shifted to the American Athletic Conference. This program has taken a significant step forward on the gridiron in recent years, as Temple has four bowl appearances since 2009 and posted 20 wins over the last two years – the most in a two-year stretch in program history. Collins has big shoes to fill in replacing Matt Rhule but was one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks and is poised to keep the program performing at a high level. Collins helped Florida’s defense rank among the SEC’s best from 2015-16 and also had previous stops in his career at Mississippi State (2011-14), FIU (2010) and UCF (2008-09). This is the first head coaching job for Collins.

 

111. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

Entering his third year in charge, Sanchez has UNLV trending in the right direction. The Rebels went 3-9 in his debut but improved to 4-8 last season and could push for a bowl game in 2017. Prior to taking over at UNLV, Sanchez had a successful run as the head coach at Bishop Gorman High School. From 2009-14, Sanchez guided the high school to an 85-5 record and posted three undefeated seasons. Making the jump from high school coach to the collegiate ranks has been relatively seamless for the California native. Expect Sanchez to climb this list in future seasons.

 

110. Chris Ash, Rutgers

As expected, Ash’s first season at Rutgers was a struggle. The Scarlet Knights finished 2-10 overall and winless in Big Ten play (0-9). The problems weren’t just limited to wins and losses. A deeper look at the stats showed just how far this program has to go to catch the middle of the conference. Rutgers was held scoreless in four games and gave up 40 points a contest in Big Ten action. It’s no secret Ash is going to need another year or two to recruit and restock the roster. However, judging by his track record as an assistant at Ohio State, Arkansas and Wisconsin, Ash should help this program take a step forward in the next couple of seasons.

 

109. David Beaty, Kansas

Beaty only has two wins through his first two seasons in Lawrence, but Kansas is making progress. The Jayhawks ended a 19-game losing streak in Big 12 play by defeating Texas last year and finished 2-10 overall. While there are few moral victories, Kansas lost two other Big 12 games by seven points or less last fall. Beaty is accumulating the right pieces and upgraded his staff with the addition of play-caller Doug Meacham this spring. The Texas native needs more time to turn this program around.  

 

108. Paul Petrino, Idaho

The Vandals are moving back to FCS after the 2017 season, but Petrino and his staff have a chance to close out the FBS run with another solid year. Idaho had a breakthrough season last fall, finishing 9-4 and claiming a postseason victory over Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The nine wins represented the program’s first winning mark since 2009 and equaled the total number of victories recorded from 2011-15. Petrino is 15-33 overall at Idaho and returns enough talent to push for back-to-back bowl games for the first time in program history.

 

Related: Sun Belt Football Predictions for 2017

 

107. Tom Allen, Indiana

After Kevin Wilson’s dismissal in early December, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass didn’t have to look far for his replacement. Allen – an Indiana native – was promoted to head coach after spending 2016 as the program’s defensive coordinator. The Hoosiers’ defense showed marked improvement under Allen’s watch. After giving up 6.4 yards per play in 2015, Indiana cut that total to 5.1 last season. Even though Allen now carries the head coach title, he’s still going to play a key role in shaping the defense. However, this will be his first full year as the program’s head coach, and the Big Ten’s East Division is one of the toughest in college football. Prior to Indiana, Allen worked as a defensive coordinator for one year at USF (2015) and spent three years as an assistant at Ole Miss. He’s 0-1 in his head coaching career after Indiana lost 26-24 to Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl.

 

106. Lovie Smith, Illinois

It’s not often a program can hire a coach who led a team to a Super Bowl appearance, but that’s exactly the opportunity Illinois was awarded last season. Athletic director Josh Whitman aimed high after his arrival in March and secured Smith with a significant six-year deal. As expected with a late start and a roster in need of repair, Smith’s debut was a struggle. Illinois finished 3-9, with two of those wins coming in Big Ten action. And with less than 10 returning starters for 2017, Smith is facing a tough second act in Champaign. Prior to taking over at Illinois, Smith spent two years at Tampa Bay’s head coach and finished with an 8-24 mark. His tenure in Chicago was significantly better, as Smith guided the Bears to an 81-63 record and a berth in the Super Bowl for the 2010 season. Smith was a big-name hire at the right time for Illinois. However, it’s going to take a few years to turn this program around. 

 

105. Barry Odom, Missouri

Odom had a difficult assignment in replacing Gary Pinkel – Missouri’s all-time winningiest coach – prior to the 2016 campaign. And as expected, Odom’s debut had its share of ups and downs. The Tigers started 2-2 but lost five in a row to enter November with a 2-7 mark. Victories in two out of the last three games helped to close out the 2016 campaign on a high note and prevent a winless season in SEC play. While Odom’s debut resulted in the fewest wins for the program since 2001, there’s optimism for 2017. The offense returns nearly intact, and the defense played better after Odom assumed play-calling duties late in the season. Prior to taking over for Pinkel, Odom helped Memphis’ defense improve significantly from 2012-14 and also worked as an assistant at Missouri from 2009-11 and again in 2015 as the coordinator. Can Odom’s team build off a promising close to the 2016 season?

 

104. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

Moglia might have the most interesting background of any college football head coach at the FBS level. After a coaching career that spanned from 1968-83 at a few high schools and Lafayette and Dartmouth, Moglia decided to venture into business. He worked at Merrill Lynch and eventually became the CEO of Ameritrade in 2001 and remained in that role until 2008. Moglia went back into coaching in 2009 as an assistant in an off-field role at Nebraska and was later hired as the head coach with the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in 2011. Coastal Carolina picked Moglia as its head coach prior to the 2012 season and the move has worked out well for the program. The Chanticleers are 51-15 over the last five seasons and have won at least eight games every year. This is Coastal Carolina’s first year at the FBS level, but the program is in good shape with Moglia at the controls.

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

103. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

As a native of Mississippi and a former Southern Miss assistant, Hopson was a good pick to replace former coach Todd Monken after he left for the NFL last season. The Golden Eagles had their share of ups and downs in Hopson’s first year, as the program was picked to win Conference USA’s West Division in the preseason, yet finished 7-6 overall and 4-4 in league play. An injury to quarterback Nick Mullens and an unlucky minus-17 turnover margin played a huge role in the seven-win season, but Southern Miss finished on a high note by winning the New Orleans Bowl. Hopson previously went 32-17 in four years at Alcorn State and also has stops on his resume as an assistant at Memphis, Michigan, Ole Miss and Marshall.

 

102. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

Central Michigan was left in a difficult position following coach Dan Enos’ departure to Arkansas just before National Signing Day in 2015. However, the program was able to a familiar face in Bonamego as its next head coach. The veteran NFL assistant accumulated a wealth of experience at the next level working as a special teams coordinator and was a player at Central Michigan in the 1980s. Bonamego’s last collegiate experience prior to taking over as CMU’s head coach came in 1998 at Army. The Chippewas proceeded to go 7-6 in Bonamego’s first year and claimed a share of the MAC West title with a 6-2 mark in league play. The record in 2016 was nearly identical (6-7) but featured a slight regression in conference wins (three). Central Michigan has been to back-to-back bowl trips under Bonamego’s watch.

 

101. Matt Viator, ULM

Viator came to ULM after a successful 10-year run at McNeese State and guided the Warhawks to a 4-8 mark in his debut last fall. While the four-win season may not move the needle, Viator had to overcome the loss of his starting quarterback (Garrett Smith) in mid-October. ULM also showed progress late in the year by winning two out of its final four games. During his tenure at McNeese State, Viator led the Cowboys to a 78-33 record and five trips to the FCS playoffs.

 

100. Frank Wilson, UTSA

Wilson has always garnered plenty of praise and accolades for his work on the recruiting trail. But after one season at UTSA, the former LSU assistant is more than just a good recruiter. The Roadrunners showed marked progress in his first year, finishing 6-7 overall and 5-3 in league play. Additionally, UTSA earned its first bowl trip in program history and finished second in Conference USA’s West Division. Prior to taking over at UTSA, Wilson worked as an assistant at LSU, Tennessee, Southern Miss and Ole Miss. He also spent time as the head coach at O.P. Walker High School in Louisiana from 2000-03. The Roadrunners are trending up entering 2017.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

99. Seth Littrell, North Texas

Littrell was a rising star in the coordinator ranks before his hire last season at North Texas. And after his first year in Denton, it’s clear the Mean Green are trending in the right direction. After finishing 1-11 in 2015, Littrell guided North Texas to a 5-8 mark and a bid in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in his debut. The four-game improvement from 2015 to 2016 was the most by any team in Conference USA’s West Division last year. Prior to North Texas, the Oklahoma native worked at Texas Tech, Arizona, Indiana and North Carolina and emerged as one of the nation’s top offensive-minded coaches. Littrell’s 2015 offense with the Tar Heels led the ACC in scoring (40.7 ppg) and ranked third in 2014.

 

98. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

Northern Illinois set the bar high for the rest of the MAC in recent years. The Huskies reeled off six consecutive West Division titles and recorded at least 11 wins every year from 2010-15. Carey was promoted to head coach after Dave Doeren left for NC State, with this first game coming in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. Northern Illinois went 23-5 over Carey’s first two years and lost only one game in MAC play. However, the Huskies have been hit hard by injuries at the quarterback position over the last two years and slipped to 13-13 in that span. And for the first time since 2007, Northern Illinois did not make a bowl appearance last season. Can Carey get the Huskies back on track in 2017?

 

97. David Bailiff, Rice

With tough academic standards, maintaining and building a consistent winner at Rice is not easy. Bailiff has managed to navigate the difficulty of this job to deliver 56 wins since 2007 and guide the program to four bowl appearances, including a Conference USA title in 2013. Additionally, after having just one season of double-digit victories prior to 2007, the Owls also have two 10-win campaigns under Bailiff’s direction. However, since an 8-5 record in 2014, Rice is just 8-16 over the last two years and went 3-9 – its lowest win total since 2009 – last season. Can Bailiff turn things around for the Owls in 2017?

 

96. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State

After a four-year absence, Tedford is back as a head coach at the FBS level at his alma mater. While Tedford’s tenure at California ended with a 3-9 record in 2012 and his dismissal, he accumulated an 82-57 record from 2002-12 and guided the Golden Bears to nine winning seasons. Additionally, Tedford’s 82 wins are the most in California school history. Following his departure from Berkeley, Tedford had a limited role with the Buccaneers in 2014, worked as the head coach for the BC Lions in 2015 and was an offensive consultant for Washington last year. The state of California is familiar territory for Tedford and his background on offense should provide immediate help for a Fresno State attack that managed only 17.7 points per game last season. However, Tedford posted two losing records over his final three years as California’s head coach and has not worked in an on-field role at the college level since 2012.

 

Related: Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

95. Matt Wells, Utah State

Is 2017 a make-or-break year for Wells at Utah State? The former Aggie quarterback was promoted to head coach in 2013 after Gary Andersen left to take the top spot at Wisconsin. Wells guided the program to a 19-9 record in his first two seasons, which included a trip to the Mountain West Conference title game in 2013. However, Utah State is just 8-16 over the last two years and finished 1-7 in league play in 2016. Adding to the difficulty of a significant turnaround in 2017 is a depth chart that returns only nine starters. Can Wells get Utah State back in contention for a bowl in 2017?

 

94. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan is one of the nation’s toughest jobs, so it’s no surprise Creighton gets a significant bump in the coach rankings after a breakthrough season. After guiding the Eagles to a 3-21 record from 2014-15, Creighton led EMU to a 7-6 mark last season. The seven wins represented the program’s first winning record since 1995. Additionally, the trip to the Bahamas Bowl was Eastern Michigan’s first postseason bid since 1987. Creighton had three previous stops as a head coach on his resume prior to taking over at Eastern Michigan. He went 32-9 at Ottawa from 1997-00, 63-15 at Wabash from 2001-07 and 42-22 at Drake (2008-13).

 

93. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

Hawaii showed marked improvement in Rolovich’s first season. The Rainbow Warriors improved their win total by four games from 2015 and claimed the program’s first bowl bid since 2010. And with 13 returning starters in place for 2017, Rolovich’s team could be the biggest threat to San Diego State and the top spot in the Mountain West’s West Division. Prior to taking over at Hawaii, Rolovich worked as Nevada’s offensive coordinator from 2012-15 and had a previous stint at Hawaii from 2008-11. The former Rainbow Warrior quarterback is a coach on the rise.

 

92. Randy Edsall, UConn

Edsall is back at UConn after leaving the program after the 2010 season. Under Edsall’s direction from 1999-10, the Huskies won 74 games, claimed the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid in 2010 and won at least eight games from 2007-10. Edsall left Storrs as the program’s winningest coach and spent from 2011-15 at Maryland. The Terrapins went 2-10 in Edsall’s first year but showed progress with a 4-8 mark in 2012 and back-to-back bowl games in 2013-14. However, Edsall was dismissed after a 2-4 start in 2015 and spent the 2016 season in an off-field role with the Lions. While Edsall’s return came as a bit of a surprise, he knows what it takes to succeed at UConn. Additionally, his hire of Rhett Lashlee as coordinator should provide some immediate punch for an offense that averaged only 14.8 points per game last year.

 

91. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury is 24-26 through four seasons at his alma mater and enters 2017 squarely on the hot seat. The former Texas Tech quarterback took over the program in 2013 after joining the collegiate ranks as an assistant in 2008. Kingsbury spent four years at Houston, followed by a successful one-season stint at Texas A&M in 2012. The Red Raiders appeared to be trending in the right direction after an 8-5 mark in Kingsbury’s debut. However, the program has one winning record over the last three years and is just 13-23 in Big 12 play since 2013. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Texas Tech, but the defense has surrendered over 40 points a game in three consecutive seasons.

 

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

90. Terry Bowden, Akron

Bowden has an extended track record of success, accumulating a 164-99-2 career mark at five different coaching stops. The high point of Bowden’s five-year run at Akron came in 2015. The Zips finished 8-5 – the highest win total in Akron history – and earned the program’s first bowl victory with a win over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Bowden is 24-37 over five seasons with the Zips and has won at least five games in each of the last four years. The son of coaching legend Bobby Bowden started his career as a graduate assistant with the Seminoles in 1982 and landed his first head coaching gig at Salem in 1983. He guided the Tigers to a 19-13 record from 1983-85 and spent one year at Akron as the program’s quarterbacks coach in 1986 before taking over at Samford in 1987. Bowden went 45-23-1 with the Bulldogs and was hired at Auburn prior to the 1993 campaign. The Tigers went 47-17-1 under Bowden’s direction, including an 11-0 mark in 1993. Bowden resigned as Auburn’s head coach during the 1998 season and didn’t resurface on the sidelines until 2009 at North Alabama.

 

89. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana

Hudspeth started his tenure at Louisiana with four consecutive 9-4 seasons and a perfect 4-0 mark in New Orleans Bowl appearances. As a result, Hudspeth’s stock was on the rise, and the Mississippi native became one of the top Group of 5 coaches in the nation. But over the last two seasons, Louisiana is just 10-15 and has not finished higher than fifth in the Sun Belt. Despite the two-year setback, Hudspeth is still 46-31 overall at Louisiana. Prior to guiding the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth was the head coach at North Alabama (66-21) and had stints as an assistant at Mississippi State (2009-10) and Navy (2001).

 

88. Joey Jones, South Alabama

Entering his ninth season at South Alabama, Jones ranks as the Sun Belt’s longest-tenured coach. The Mobile native was hired to build the program from scratch in 2008 and has guided the Jaguars to a 48-42 record since 2009. Additionally, the program has two bowl trips in that span, as well as four straight seasons of at least five wins – not bad for a program that joined the FBS level in 2012. Prior to South Alabama, Jones had a short stint as Birmingham-Southern’s head coach and also spent time in the high school ranks in the state of Alabama.

 

87. Butch Davis, FIU

After a six-year absence, Davis is back on the sidelines and in familiar territory. The Oklahoma native has extensive experience and connections to the state of Florida, including a stint as Miami’s head coach (1995-00) and a previous four-year run as an assistant with the Hurricanes from 1984-88. Despite dealing with NCAA scholarship sanctions and a bowl ban in 1995, Davis guided the program to a 51-20 mark over six seasons. He was hired away from Coral Gables to coach the Browns in 2001 but lasted only four years, compiling a 24-35 record. Davis resurfaced at North Carolina in 2007 and inherited a program coming off back-to-back losing records. However, the Tar Heels quickly showed improvement under Davis, finishing 8-5 in three consecutive years. His tenure in Chapel Hill ended due to a NCAA investigation following the 2010 campaign. Davis is a proven winner and regarded for his past work on the recruiting trail. This should be a good hire for FIU.

 

Related: Conference USA Football Predictions for 2017

 

86. Mike Sanford, WKU

WKU is the only Conference USA program with at least eight victories in each of the last four seasons. While Jeff Brohm leaves big shoes to fill, the Hilltoppers won’t be slowing down anytime soon. That’s due to Sanford’s arrival, as the 35-year-old coach is one of the offseason’s top hires. Sanford takes over at WKU after two seasons at Notre Dame, where he helped the Fighting Irish average over 30 points a game in back-to-back years. He also has previous stints at Boise State (2014), WKU (2010) and Stanford (2011-13). Sanford has worked under a few standout coaches, including Brian Kelly (Notre Dame), Willie Taggart (WKU) and David Shaw and Jim Harbaugh at Stanford.

 

85. Scott Frost, UCF

In his first year in Orlando, Frost guided UCF to a six-game improvement in the win column, which tied for the biggest jump in victories among FBS teams from 2015 to 2016. Frost’s success with the Knights comes as no surprise. The former Nebraska quarterback quickly moved through the ranks as an assistant. After stints as a graduate assistant at Nebraska (2002) and Kansas State (2006), Frost was hired at Northern Iowa (2007-08) and at Oregon (2009-15). The last three seasons of Frost’s time in Eugene were spent as the team’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Ducks to the No. 1 spot in the Pac-12 in scoring for three consecutive years. UCF could be the biggest threat to USF in the American Athletic Conference’s East Division in 2017.

 

84. Bob Davie, New Mexico

Davie inherited a program in need of major repair after Mike Locksley’s three-year stint (2009-11) in Albuquerque. After winning just three games in that span, the Lobos won four in Davie’s debut (2012) and followed that season with seven victories over the next two years. While the rebuilding process wasn’t easy, New Mexico has now posted back-to-back winning records and claimed a share of the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title in 2016. The Lobos are 16-10 over the last two years and the nine-win campaign in 2016 was the program’s highest since 2007. Prior to New Mexico, Davie went 35-25 in five seasons at Notre Dame and has a career 62-61 record.

 

83. Chad Morris, SMU

SMU has made steady progress under Morris and appears primed for a breakthrough year in 2017. The Mustangs finished 2-10 in Morris’ debut (2015) but improved to 5-7 last season and just missed on a bowl after losing two games by eight points or less. After a lengthy career as a high school coach in Texas (1994-09), Morris was hired as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010. The Golden Hurricane averaged a healthy 41.4 points per game that season, which caught the attention of Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Morris was hired by Swinney prior to the 2011 campaign and was instrumental in the development of the Tigers’ high-powered offense from 2011-14. Additionally, Morris helped recruit Heisman finalist and NFL first-round pick Deshaun Watson to Death Valley. With plenty of ties and recruiting experience in the state of Texas, Morris is the right coach to transform SMU into a consistent winner.  

 

Related: American Athletic Football Predictions for 2017

 

82. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

Colorado State has finished 7-6 in each of Bobo’s two seasons in Fort Collins and seems poised to turn a corner in 2017. The Rams started 2-3 last year but rallied to win four out of their last six, including a 63-31 victory over Mountain West champion San Diego State. Additionally, four of Colorado State’s losses in 2016 came by 11 points or less. With most of the core returning for 2017, Bobo’s team should be able to push Boise State and Wyoming for the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title. Another positive sign for Bobo: Colorado State is opening a new stadium this season. That certainly won’t hurt his efforts on the recruiting trail or ability to elevate this program in the Mountain West.

 

81. Ed Orgeron, LSU

Orgeron is getting a second chance as a head coach in the SEC after a solid 6-2 stint as LSU’s interim coach last season. LSU is a dream job for the Louisiana native, and the Tigers are banking on Orgeron filling the CEO role, with well-paid coordinators Matt Canada (offense) and Dave Aranda (defense) essentially serving as head coaches on their side of the ball. The offense was a weakness under former coach Les Miles, but this unit played better after Orgeron loosened the reins last season, and the addition of Canada should pay immediate dividends. Orgeron’s first tenure in the SEC (2005-07) at Ole Miss did not go well. The Rebels were just 10-25 under his watch and won only three SEC games in that span. However, after a 6-2 run as USC’s interim coach in 2013, along with the stint last season, it seems Orgeron has learned a lot since the three-year run at Ole Miss. Orgeron should be better prepared for this stint at LSU, but is he the right hire to help the program close the gap on Alabama?

 

80. Lane Kiffin, FAU

Kiffin was instrumental in Alabama’s success and development on offense over the last three seasons. He helped the Crimson Tide average over 35 points a game in three consecutive years and led the SEC by posting 38.8 points per contest in 2016. Kiffin’s acumen on offense is no secret and he won’t have trouble attracting talent to Boca Raton. How will Kiffin handle his third opportunity to coach at the FBS level? There’s certainly some baggage with this hire, but Kiffin went 7-6 at Tennessee in 2009 – a two-game improvement from 2008 – and finished 28-15 at USC. This hire has a chance to pay big-time dividends for FAU.

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

79. Doc Holliday, Marshall

After leading Marshall to 33 wins from 2013-15, Holliday enters 2017 looking to get the program back on track. The Thundering Herd regressed to 3-9 last season, which was the fewest wins under Holliday’s watch. The West Virginia native is 53-37 in seven years at Marshall and has guided the program to four bowl trips. The Thundering Herd claimed the 2014 Conference USA title and also finished No. 23 in the final Associated Press poll that season. Holliday is a good recruiter and should be able to get the program back on track over the next two years.

 

78. Bill Clark, UAB

UAB’s football program has experienced quite a journey since the 2014 season. After the program was eliminated following the regular season finale in December of 2014, president Ray Watts reversed his decision and reinstated the team the following June. While the two-year shutdown was unnecessary, UAB’s program is back and in a much better position. Additionally, the Blazers still have the right man for the job in Bill Clark. The Alabama native has extensive coaching ties to the state, as he worked as a high school for several seasons before landing on South Alabama’s staff in 2008. After five years with the Jaguars, Clark was hired as Jacksonville State’s coach in 2013. He went 11-4 with the Gamecocks that year and left to take over at UAB prior to the 2014 season. The Blazers went 6-6 in Clark’s debut – a four-game improvement from 2013. With a new practice facility under construction, along with the ongoing talk of a new stadium, Clark has the necessary resources to build a solid program in Birmingham.  

 

77. Chuck Martin, Miami

The RedHawks were one of the nation’s most improved teams over the course of the 2016 season. After an 0-6 start, Miami finished with six straight wins in the regular season and barely lost to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl to finish 6-7. The six-win mark in Martin’s third season was the highest for the program since a 10-win campaign in 2010 and eclipsed the victory total (five) from his first two years (2014-15). Martin took over in Oxford after a successful stint as an assistant under Brian Kelly at Notre Dame (2010-13) and previously led Grand Valley State as the program’s head coach, recording two Division II titles and 74 wins from 2004-09. Martin clearly has Miami trending up entering the 2017 season.

 

76. Jason Candle, Toledo

Candle is a rising star in the MAC and leads a Toledo team that could be the favorite to win the conference in 2017. The Ohio native was promoted to head coach after the 2015 regular season when Matt Campbell left to take over at Iowa State. The Rockets won Candle’s first game (2015 Boca Raton Bowl) and finished 9-4 last year, with three losses coming by five points or less. From 2012-15, Candle called the plays for Toledo’s high-powered offense, which led the conference in scoring in 2014. He was hired by Tim Beckman at Toledo in 2009 and remained in an assistant capacity when Campbell was promoted to head coach prior to the 2012 season. He also has a previous stop on his resume from a stint at Mount Union (2003-08).

 

Related: MAC Football Predictions for 2017

 

75. Jeff Monken, Army

Monken is coming off a breakthrough season at West Point. Army finished 8-5, defeated rival Navy and claimed the Heart of Dallas Bowl trophy after a 38-31 overtime victory over North Texas. Last year’s bowl trip was Army’s first since 2010 and the eight-win season was the highest since the Black Knights posted 10 in 1996. Monken is 14-23 overall in three years at West Point. Prior to Army, Monken went 38-16 at Georgia Southern from 2010-13 and also had a stint at Georgia Tech and Navy as an assistant under Paul Johnson.

 

74. Jim Mora, UCLA

Last season’s 4-8 record was the first losing mark for UCLA under Mora’s watch. While the four-win season was the program’s lowest since 2010, it’s hard to dock Mora too much in the overall landscape since quarterback Josh Rosen was lost midway through the year with a shoulder injury. How quickly can Mora get the Bruins back on track? He’s 41-24 over the last five years, including two 10-win campaigns. Additionally, UCLA won the 2012 Pac-12 South title and has a winning record in league play in four out of the last five years. Recruiting talent hasn’t been a problem for Mora with a 13.8 average finish in national team rankings since 2013. However, the Bruins are just 25-20 in Pac-12 games from 2013-16.

 

73. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

Old Dominion returned to the gridiron in 2009 after the program was disbanded in 1941. Wilder was tapped as coach to build the program from scratch after spending nearly his entire coaching career as an assistant coach at Maine (1990-06). The Monarchs quickly showed how far Wilder was able to take this program in a short amount of time. Old Dominion started 17-5 from 2009-10 as a FCS Independent and later qualified for the FCS playoffs in the Colonial Athletic Association in 2011-12. After spending one season (2013) as a FCS Independent, the Monarchs made the jump to the FBS level and Conference USA. Wilder led the program to a 6-6 record in its FBS debut, followed by a 5-7 mark in 2015 and a breakthrough 10-3 season last fall. The Monarchs also scored the program’s first bowl trip and victory in the Bahamas Bowl.

 

72. Rick Stockstill, MTSU

Stockstill is Conference USA’s longest-tenured coach and has successfully led MTSU to five consecutive non-losing seasons. Since taking over the program in 2006, the Blue Raiders are 72-66 under Stockstill and have earned six postseason trips. Additionally, MTSU has just one season of fewer than five wins and recorded 10 victories – the program’s highest since joining the FBS level in 1999 – in the 2009 season. Stockstill should have the Blue Raiders in the mix to win Conference USA’s East Division title in 2017.

 

71. Mike Norvell, Memphis

Norvell is one of college football’s top coaches on the rise entering 2017. In his first year at Memphis, Norvell picked up where Justin Fuente left off, guiding the Tigers to an 8-5 record. The Tigers easily handled Kansas, beat eventual American Athletic champ Temple and defeated Houston in the regular season finale. And with the lethal pass-catch combination of quarterback Riley Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller returning in 2017, Memphis should be picked near the top of the conference and could be the favorite in the West Division. Norvell has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks after beginning his career at Central Arkansas in 2006. After spending one season there, Norvell was hired as a graduate assistant by Todd Graham at Tulsa in 2007 and was later promoted to an on-field assistant in 2009. After four years with the Golden Hurricane, Norvell worked as an offensive coordinator under Graham at Pitt (2011) and again to Arizona State (2012-15).

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2017 Predictions

 

70. Kalani Sitake, BYU

Sitake’s first season at the helm in Provo registered as one of the best debuts by a new coach in 2016. The Cougars finished 9-4, defeated FBS opponents Arizona, Michigan State and Mississippi State and lost all four games by three points or less. Sitake set the bar high at his alma mater following Bronco Mendenhall’s departure to Virginia after the 2015 season. With stints as an assistant under Gary Andersen and Kyle Whittingham, he’s also learned from two of the Pac-12’s top coaches. Expect Sitake to climb this list over the next few years.

 

69. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

Arkansas State experienced its share of coaching turnover since 2010. The program cycled through five different coaches from 2010-14, as Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin each left Jonesboro for a more high-profile job. While the coaching turnover created some headaches, stability isn’t a question anymore with Anderson entering his fourth season at the helm. Under Anderson’s watch, Arkansas State is 24-15 since 2014 and has played in three consecutive bowl games. Additionally, the Red Wolves are 20-4 in league play, losing only one Sun Belt contest over the last two seasons.

 

68. Neal Brown, Troy

Brown’s stock is on the rise after an impressive 2016 season. After replacing long-time coach Larry Blakeney, Brown went 4-8 in his first season at the helm in 2015. But the Trojans showed marked improvement last fall by finishing 10-3 and beating Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl. The 10-win campaign was the first double-digit victory total by the program at the FBS level. Additionally, the bowl win was Troy’s first since 2010. At 37-years-old, Brown is one of college football’s youngest coaches and has been on a fast rise through the coaching ranks after spending time as an assistant at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky prior to 2015. The Trojans should be co-favorites with Appalachian State for the league crown in 2017.

 

67. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

Louisiana Tech has emerged as one of Conference USA’s top programs under Holtz’s direction. He took over in Ruston prior to 2013 after Sonny Dykes left for California and guided the Bulldogs to a 4-8 record that season. However, Louisiana Tech has earned three straight seasons of nine victories and three consecutive postseason trips. The Bulldogs have also earned two West Division titles and have not lost more than two games in league play since 2013. Prior to Louisiana Tech, Holtz went 16-21 at USF (2010-12), 38-27 at East Carolina (2005-09) and 34-23 at UConn from 1994-98. Holtz has a career record of 119-93.

 

Related: Conference USA Football Predictions for 2017

 

66. Frank Solich, Ohio

Solich is the MAC’s longest-tenured head coach and has transformed Ohio into one of the most consistent programs in the conference. The Bobcats have not had a losing season since 2008 and made eight bowl games over the last nine years. Solich has accumulated an 88-67 overall mark at Ohio and guided the program to four MAC Championship appearances. Prior to taking over at Ohio, Solich went 58-19 at Nebraska from 1998-03 and worked under legendary coach Tom Osborne from 1983-97 as an assistant.

 

65. Kirby Smart, Georgia

Smart was hired to elevate Georgia into an annual contender in the SEC, and the former Alabama assistant has plenty of work to do after an 8-5 debut in 2016. The Bulldogs finished 4-4 in SEC play last season, which was the program’s first non-winning record in conference action since 2010. However, Smart’s team wasn’t too far removed from double-digit wins. Georgia lost three of its games by three points or less, including a one-point defeat to rival Georgia Tech. After coaching in the shadow of Nick Saban at Alabama for nine seasons, Smart landed the opportunity to coach at his alma mater after Georgia parted ways with Mark Richt. Smart is regarded for his work on defense, but his ability to land elite recruiting classes (No. 3 nationally in 2017) will help the Bulldogs quickly replenish the roster. After one season, plenty of questions remain about Smart and whether or not he can elevate Georgia in the national conversation. However, the work on the recruiting trail, along with the returning talent this season, should provide better insight into this tenure in 2017.

 

64. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

Mason’s tenure at Vanderbilt got off to a rocky start with a 3-9 record in 2014, but the Commodores have showed marked improvement over the last two years. The program finished 4-8 and snapped an 11-game losing streak in SEC play by defeating Missouri and Kentucky in 2014. The Commodores took another step forward in 2016 by finishing 6-7 and picking up victories against C-USA champion WKU, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee. The six-win campaign allowed Vanderbilt to snap a two-year bowl drought with a trip to the Independence Bowl. Mason came to West End regarded for his work at Stanford on the defensive side of the ball, and it’s no surprise Vanderbilt finished fifth in the SEC in scoring defense last season. The Commodores appear to have turned a corner under Mason and enter 2017 with momentum and an opportunity to earn a winning record and bowl trip.

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

 

63. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Not only is Riley the youngest coach at the FBS level, but he’s also taking over one of the nation’s top teams for 2017 after Bob Stoops decided to retire in early June. The Texas native has worked for the past two years under Stoops as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Sooners to an average of over 40 points a game in both seasons. Prior to joining the Sooners’ staff, Riley called the plays for five years at East Carolina (2010-14) and also had a stint as an assistant coach under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The 33-year-old coach is considered one of the nation’s top coaches on the rise and heads into his first opportunity as a FBS head coach with a chance to lead the Sooners to the CFB Playoff in 2017.  

 

62. Steve Addazio, Boston College

The ACC’s coaching depth is on display when Addazio ranks No. 14 among league coaches. The Connecticut native is 24-27 through four seasons in Chestnut Hill, with only one non-winning record (2015). Addazio started his tenure with back-to-back 7-6 campaigns and the one-year dip to 3-9 was followed by another solid seven-win season. The Eagles are only 2-14 in league play over the last two years and just 10-22 under Addazio’s four seasons. Prior to Boston College, Addazio went 13-11 in two years at Temple and also worked as an assistant at Florida, Indiana, Notre Dame and Indiana.

 

61. Dave Doeren, NC State

The outlook on Doeren’s tenure at NC State changed significantly late in the 2016 season. The Wolfpack entered mid-November with a 4-4 record but finished the year by beating Syracuse and rival North Carolina to reach six wins. A victory over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl gave Doeren back-to-back seven-win campaigns and three consecutive trips to postseason games. In four years with the Wolfpack, Doeren has a 25-26 record and a 2-1 mark in bowl appearances. Why the change in outlook? NC State has momentum for 2017 after last season's finish and returns a solid core to push for eight (or more wins) this fall. One area to watch this season is what transpires in league play. NC State is just 9-23 in ACC games under Doeren and has yet to defeat Clemson, Louisville or Florida State in that span.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2017

 

60. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

After showing small signs of progress through Stoops’ first three seasons in Lexington, Kentucky had a breakthrough year in 2017. The Wildcats finished 7-6 last fall and earned the program’s first bowl bid since 2010. Additionally, Kentucky recorded its first non-losing mark in league play since 2006 and snapped a five-game losing streak against rival Louisville. After four years, Stoops is 19-30 overall and 8-24 in SEC action. With a solid roster foundation in place, along with the momentum from last season, Kentucky should be able to take another step forward in the win column in 2017.

 

59. Willie Fritz, Tulane

Fritz likely needs another season to rebuild the roster, but the Kansas native has Tulane moving in the right direction. The Green Wave finished 4-8 in Fritz’s debut last year and wasn’t far from a winning record after losing four games by 10 points or less. Tulane is the fourth stop as a head coach in Fritz’s career. From 1997-09, he went 97-47 at Central Missouri and only had two seasons with a losing record during that span. His next stop came at Sam Houston State, where the Bearkats went 40-15 and played for the FCS Championship two times from 2010-13. Fritz helped Georgia Southern transition from the FCS ranks to the FBS level from 2014-15 and recorded a 17-7 record in an impressive stint in Statesboro.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 QBs for 2017: Spring Edition

 

58. Charlie Strong, USF

After a three-year stint at Texas, Strong has returned to familiar territory. The Arkansas native has extensive ties to the state of Florida, including a lengthy stint as an assistant with the Gators from 1991-94 and again from 2003-09. Strong also established connections on the recruiting trail from his stint with Florida, as well as a four-year run at Louisville. From 2010-13, Strong guided the Cardinals to a 37-15 record, including a 23-3 run over the final two seasons. While his tenure at Texas resulted in a 16-21 mark, Strong should be a better fit at USF and inherits a team capable of finishing 2017 ranked inside of the top 25.

 

57. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

Montgomery is just two years into his tenure at Tulsa, but the Golden Hurricane have showed marked improvement under his watch. After finishing 2-10 in 2014, Tulsa went 6-7 in Montgomery’s first year with a trip to the Independence Bowl. A full year to learn Montgomery’s high-powered offense paid big dividends for the Golden Hurricane last fall. Tulsa finished sixth nationally by averaging 42.5 points a game and became the only FBS team to have a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers and two 1,000-yard receivers. The Golden Hurricane’s 10-win campaign in 2016 was the first double-digit victory total by the program since 2012. Prior to Tulsa, Montgomery worked as an assistant at Baylor (2008-14), Houston (2003-07) and three different high schools in Texas.

 

56. DJ Durkin, Maryland

Durkin is one of the Big Ten’s rising stars, and it’s only a matter of time before he moves up in our rankings. Additionally, Durkin’s No. 11 rank among the Big Ten shows just how deep this league is in coaching talent. Prior to taking over as Maryland’s head coach before the 2016 season, Durkin gathered a wealth of knowledge and experience as an assistant at Stanford, Bowling Green, Florida and Michigan. He worked under some of college football’s top coaches in those stints, including Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer. The Terrapins finished 3-9 in 2015 but showed marked improvement in Durkin’s first year, finishing with a 6-7 record. The Terrapins also won three games in league play and earned a trip to the Quick Lane Bowl. Additionally, Durkin is upgrading the roster via the recruiting trail. Maryland’s 2017 class ranked No. 18 in the 247Sports Composite and is considered the best in school history.

 

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2017

 

55. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

Muschamp’s first head coaching job in the SEC resulted in his dismissal, but he’s off to a good start after one season at South Carolina. The Gamecocks finished 6-7 in Muschamp’s debut – a three-game improvement from 2016 – and earned a trip to the Birmingham Bowl. The emergence of talented true freshman quarterback Jake Bentley was a big reason why South Carolina played better in the second half of last season, and his development is a cornerstone for Muschamp to build around. From 2011-14, Muschamp went 28-21 at Florida and was only 17-15 in SEC play. Additionally, he’s had stints as an assistant at Auburn, Texas and LSU. Considering Muschamp’s pedesterian tenure at Florida, his hire at South Carolina was met with plenty of skepticism. He’s just one year into the job with the Gamecocks, but all signs suggest Muschamp has the program trending in the right direction.

 

54. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

After Chris Petersen left for Washington, the Broncos turned to a familiar face to lead the program. Harsin – a former Boise State quarterback – was hired as the head coach in 2014 and has guided the Broncos to a 31-9 record over the last three years. Prior to taking over at Boise State, Harsin worked as an assistant with the program from 2002-10 and spent two seasons as the co-offensive coordinator at Texas (2011-12). Additionally, Harsin recorded a 7-5 record in one season (2013) as the head coach at Arkansas State. One number to watch: Boise State has not finished in the top 25 of the final Associated Press poll in back-to-back years for the first time since 2000-01. Additionally, the Broncos have lost at least three games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1998-99.

 

53. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

As a former player and assistant under legendary coach Jerry Moore, Satterfield had extensive ties to Appalachian State when he was promoted to head coach in 2013. It’s no secret Moore left big shoes to fill, and Satterfield’s promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach had an added challenge of the program transitioning to the FBS level in 2014. While those obstacles were huge, Appalachian State hasn’t missed a beat under Satterfield. The Mountaineers finished 4-8 in the final year at the FCS level in 2013 but improved to 7-5 in Satterfield’s second season (2014). Over the last two years, Appalachian State has quickly emerged (as expected) as one of the Sun Belt’s top programs. Satterfield led the team to an 11-2 record in 2015, followed by a 10-3 mark last fall. The Mountaineers have also earned back-to-back bowl victories and should begin 2017 as a co-favorite with Troy to win the Sun Belt.   

 

Related: Sun Belt Football Predictions for 2017

 

52. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

After spending most of his coaching career out West, Mendenhall took on a new challenge in 2016 at Virginia. As expected, there was a bit of a learning curve in the ACC and a rebuilding project to tend to in Charlottesville. Mendenhall finished 2-10 and ended the year with a seven-game losing streak in his first season with the Cavaliers. Last season was the first time Mendenhall had a losing record and did not guide a team to a bowl game in his coaching career. Mendenhall accumulated an impressive 99-43 mark at BYU, but he will need another year or two to restock the roster and build the program in his image.

 

51. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

After transforming North Dakota State into a FCS powerhouse, Bohl has Wyoming on track to become a factor in the Mountain West on an annual basis. The Cowboys went 6-18 in Bohl’s first two seasons but finished 8-6 last year and claimed the Mountain West’s Mountain Division. Bohl is 14-24 over the last three seasons in Laramie. In 11 years at North Dakota State, Bohl recorded a 104-32 record and guided the Bison to three consecutive FCS national titles from 2011-13. With quarterback Josh Allen returning, along with Bohl’s overall roster development, the Cowboys will be one of the Mountain West’s top teams in 2017.

 

50. Rocky Long, San Diego State

The Aztecs are coming off one of – if not the best – two-year run in school history. Long has guided San Diego State to back-to-back Mountain West titles, 22 wins, two bowl victories and a No. 25 finish in the Associated Press poll from 2015-16. And since 2011, Long is 54-26 with the Aztecs with no losing seasons. Prior to taking over as head coach, Long worked as Brady Hoke’s defensive coordinator at San Diego State from 2009-10 and went 65-69 as New Mexico’s head coach from 1999-08. Long is also regarded as one of the top defensive minds in college football.

 

Related: Mountain West Football Predictions for 2017

 

49. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Brohm’s high-powered offense should provide a much-needed boost to Purdue. After earning 10 bowl trips from 1997-07, the Boilermakers have just two postseason appearances over the last nine years. Brohm is just one part of the rebuilding effort for the program, as Purdue is planning on providing a makeover to its facilities to keep up with the rest of the Big Ten. In three years at WKU, Brohm went 30-10 and guided the Hilltoppers to back-to-back Conference USA titles. Additionally, Brohm’s acumen on offense was on display, as WKU was the only team from 2014-16 to average over 40 points a game in three consecutive years. He also has two seasons of Big Ten experience as an assistant at Illinois from 2010-11. Brohm has a lot of work to do in 2017 and beyond, but he’s the right hire for Purdue.

 

48. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Iowa State’s 2016 record was only 3-9, but Campbell has this program trending in the right direction. The Cyclones won two of their games in November and five of the nine defeats came by 10 points or less. While a winning season or bowl berth is always preferred, Campbell’s team showed some fight in Big 12 play and just needs more overall roster talent to take the next step. Prior to Iowa State, Campbell went 35-15 at Toledo and won nine games in three out of his four seasons. Look for Campbell to push the Cyclones into contention for six wins this fall.

 

47. Clay Helton, USC

The outlook on Helton’s first full year at the helm changed dramatically during the course of the 2016 season. After a 1-2 start and a sluggish offense against Alabama and Stanford, Helton decided to switch quarterbacks. The move from Max Browne to Sam Darnold paid huge dividends for the Trojans, as this team went on to win its last nine games, including the Rose Bowl over Penn State. The 10-3 record in Helton’s first full season improved his overall total at USC to 16-7. With Darnold returning (and better as a sophomore), the Trojans are a legitimate playoff contender.

 

46. Mike Riley, Nebraska

After a 6-7 record in Riley’s debut in 2015, Nebraska took a step forward last year and finished 9-4 overall. Even though Riley is 15-11 and has a winning mark (9-8) in Big Ten play, the third-year coach isn’t sitting idle. He dismissed long-time assistant Mark Banker in favor of Bob Diaco as the program’s new defensive coordinator. Diaco is a standout hire, but it may take a year to transition to the new 3-4 scheme. Prior to Nebraska, Riley went 93-80 at Oregon State from 1997-98 and 2003-14. Considering Oregon State is one of the Pac-12’s toughest jobs, Riley has a good idea of what it takes to win at programs with fewer resources. But in Lincoln, the third-year coach has more to work with and a national recruiting base to acquire talent. With expectations of contending for Big Ten Championships, the next two seasons are critical for this coaching staff.

 

45. Dino Babers, Syracuse

Babers is just one year into his Syracuse tenure, but there are positive signs for this program following the 2016 campaign. The Orange finished 4-8 overall and 2-6 in league play, which was headlined by an upset victory against Virginia Tech in mid-November. Syracuse’s bowl hopes were dashed late in the year by an injury to starting quarterback Eric Dungey, while a young defense continued its learning curve by giving up at least 35 or more points in each of the last four games. Babers was regarded for his work on offense and with quarterbacks at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green, and Syracuse’s attack should take off in 2017 with another year to learn the scheme. In five seasons as a head coach, Babers has recorded a 41-24 record. He also has a wealth of experience as an assistant from stops at Baylor, UCLA, Pitt, Texas A&M, Arizona, San Diego State and Purdue. 

 

Related: Ranking the ACC's Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

44. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

Clawson came to Wake Forest with the reputation as a coach who knew how to rebuild a program. And after three seasons, it’s safe to say Clawson has the Demon Deacons trending in the right direction and poised to become a consistent bowl team in the ACC. After back-to-back 3-9 finishes to start his tenure, Clawson guided Wake Forest to a 7-6 record last season. Additionally, the Demon Deacons capped 2016 with their first bowl appearance since 2011. Wake Forest is the fourth program Clawson has successfully brought improvement to as a head coach. He inherited a Fordham program that went 0-11 in his first year (1999) but improved to 9-3 by 2003. Clawson went 29-20 at Richmond from 2004-07 and also accumulated a 32-30 record in five years at Bowling Green (2009-13).

 

43. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

Calhoun enters his 11th season at his alma mater with a 77-53 overall mark and nine winning records over the last 10 years. The Falcons also have nine bowl trips under Calhoun’s direction and claimed the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title in 2015. He’s also guided Air Force into two seasons of double-digit victories, with only one losing mark (2013). The former Air Force quarterback has a huge task in front of him in 2017. The Falcons return only seven starters and have a significant rebuilding assignment ahead on defense. However, as Calhoun’s tenure has indicated, Air Force should remain near the top of the Mountain West this year.

 

42. Matt Rhule, Baylor

Make no mistake: Rhule is inheriting a mess and a major clean up is needed from the Art Briles era. And while it isn’t a huge deal, Rhule faces a transition period since he has no previous ties to the state of Texas in his coaching career. Getting a feel for the landscape and recruiting battles may take a year or two. However, Rhule seems to be a good fit in Waco after a successful four-season stint at Temple. After a 2-10 debut in 2013, the Owls finished 6-6 in 2014, followed by back-to-back 10-win campaigns. Additionally, Temple claimed the 2016 American Athletic Conference title. The New York native played his college ball at Penn State under Joe Paterno and accumulated a wealth of experience as an assistant at UCLA, Western Carolina, Temple and with the Giants before becoming a head coach.

 

41. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

Few coaches in college football can match Fleck’s overall enthusiasm and energy level on a day-to-day basis, but the Illinois native is more than just a salesman for the program. After a successful playing career at Northern Illinois and a brief stint in the NFL, Fleck turned to the coaching ranks in 2006 as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. He returned to his alma mater in 2007 and remained in DeKalb until 2009. A two-year stint with Rutgers (2010-11) allowed Fleck to follow Greg Schiano to Tampa Bay in 2012. Fleck returned to college in 2013 as Western Michigan’s head coach and went 1-11 in his debut. However, the Broncos weren’t down for long. Fleck upgraded the team’s talent level with standout MAC recruiting classes and emerged as one of the top Group of 5 coaches over the last three seasons. Western Michigan posted back-to-back 8-5 campaigns from 2014-15, followed by a 13-1 season, a MAC Championship and an appearance in the Cotton Bowl last year. Fleck is a dynamic recruiter and has the right personality to take Minnesota’s program up a notch in the Big Ten West Division. 

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2017

 

40. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

Sumlin hasn’t matched the initial success from his first two years in College Station, but Texas A&M has won at least eight games in each of the last three seasons. In Sumlin’s first year (also the program’s first in the SEC in 2012), the Aggies finished 11-2 overall and finished No. 5 in the Associated Press poll. The emergence of Johnny Manziel certainly helped to ease Texas A&M’s transition into the SEC, and the program finished 9-4 in a solid second trip through the league in 2013. But equaling the initial success has eluded Sumlin over the last three years. Despite winning eight games each season, the Aggies have not recorded a winning mark in SEC play or a top 25 finish. Sumlin is 44-21 at Texas A&M and 79-38 overall in his coaching career. Is 2017 a make-or-break year?

 

39. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

After cycling through three full-time coaches (Paul Chryst, Todd Graham and Dave Wannstedt) from 2010-14, Pitt has found stability behind Narduzzi. The Panthers are 16-10 under Narduzzi’s direction and have recorded back-to-back winning marks in ACC play. Additionally, Pitt has finished outright or shared second place in the Coastal Division in both of Narduzzi’s seasons. While Narduzzi was one of the nation’s top assistant coaches (and defensive coordinators) at Michigan State, he’s still looking to find the right mix on that side of the ball in the Steel City. Pitt finished 10th in the ACC in scoring defense in 2015 and 13th in 2016.

 

38. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

Arizona is just two years removed from the Pac-12 South title, but there is building pressure on Rodriguez. The Wildcats were hit hard by injuries and struggled to find the right pieces for a new defense last season, finishing with a 3-9 record and just one win in league play. The losing mark was Arizona’s first under Rodriguez, but the program is just 10-15 since winning the South title. Adding to the growing pressure for 2017 is a new athletic director. Through five years, Rodriguez is 36-29 with four bowl trips in Tucson. Prior to Arizona, Rodriguez was dismissed after a 15-22 record at Michigan but had a successful run at West Virginia (2001-07).

 

37. Todd Graham, Arizona State

Similar to in-state rival Arizona and coach Rich Rodriguez, 2017 is shaping up to be an important year for Todd Graham and Arizona State. The Sun Devils started Graham’s tenure with an 8-5 mark in 2012 and back-to-back 10-win campaigns from 2013-14. Arizona State claimed the Pac-12 South title in 2013 and climbed to No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll in 2014. But the program has been trending down over the last two years. The Sun Devils are just 11-14 in that span and went 2-7 in Pac-12 games last season. Injuries to the quarterback position significantly hampered Graham’s offense, but the defense has ranked near the bottom of the Pac-12 in back-to-back years. Graham has a track record of success from previous stops at Rice, Tulsa and Pitt. Will Arizona State take a step forward in 2017?

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

36. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Armed with a contract extension, there’s stability in Morgantown between Holgorsen and the program. After taking control of the program in 2011, Holgorsen and his high-powered passing attack led by Geno Smith led West Virginia to a 10-3 record, Big East title and an Orange Bowl victory. But the transition to the tougher Big 12 produced a few speed bumps. The Mountaineers finished 7-6 in their new home, followed by a 4-8 mark in 2013. After finishing 15-11 in 2014-15, West Virginia claimed its best season since joining the Big 12. The Mountaineers finished 10-3 last year, ranked No. 18 in the final Associated Press poll and went 7-2 in league play. Even though Holgorsen is known for his ability to build an offense and the passing game, he’s transitioned West Virginia to a balanced attack and has one of the Big 12’s top defensive coordinators in Tony Gibson.

 

35. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

Fedora and the Tar Heels need to reload after the best two-year stretch in program history since 1996-97. However, Fedora’s acumen on offense should prevent a major drop off on that side of the ball. While North Carolina is likely to slightly regress in the win column with several new faces in key positions on offense, Fedora is still piecing together a solid tenure in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels started Fedora’s tenure with an 8-4 record in 2013, followed by a 7-6 mark in 2013 and a 6-7 season in 2014. But the program won the Coastal Division and claimed 11 wins in 2015 and finished 8-5 last fall. Prior to taking over at North Carolina, Fedora went 34-19 at Southern Miss. He’s 74-44 in nine seasons as a head coach at the FBS level.

 

34. Willie Taggart, Oregon

After successful stints at WKU and USF, Taggart inherits his third rebuilding project at Oregon. But the Ducks aren’t in need of major repair. After all, the program is just two seasons removed from playing for the national championship. However, make no mistake about the situation Taggart is walking into. Oregon has slipped in recent years, going 13-12 over the last two seasons and finishing out of the top 25 in 2016 for the first time since 2006. Taggart compiled a 16-20 mark at WKU from 2010-12, winning 14 games over the last two seasons and earning a bowl bid in 2012. He took over at USF in 2013 and went 6-18 through the first two years. But the Bulls showed marked improvement from 2015-16, winning 18 games and claiming a share of the AAC East Division last fall. Taggart’s background on offense should help Oregon regain its edge on that side of the ball, and the hire of Jim Leavitt as coordinator will immediately improve the defense.

 

Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

33. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

Andersen inherited a program in need of repair after Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and the Beavers have showed progress over the last two seasons. After a 2-10 debut in 2015, Oregon State doubled its win total to four and claimed three Pac-12 victories last season. Prior to Oregon State, Andersen went 19-7 in two years at Wisconsin and was 26-24 at Utah State from 2009-12. While the Beavers might be a season away from making a bowl, Andersen has this program pointed in the right direction and another step forward is likely in 2017.

 

32. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

Niumatalolo enters his 10th season at the Naval Academy already entrenched as the program’s winningest coach with 77 career victories. The Hawaii native was promoted to the top spot after Paul Johnson left for Georgia Tech at the end of the regular season in 2007, with Niumatalolo leading the team in the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl. The Midshipmen have won at least eight games in eight of Niumatalolo’s nine seasons, including an 11-2 mark in 2015. Navy finished 9-5 last season and claimed the American Athletic Conference’s West Division title. The program’s No. 18 finish in the final Associated Press poll was the first for Navy since a No. 24 rank in 2004.

 

31. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

As a native of Madison and a former Badger player and assistant coach, Chryst is the perfect fit at Wisconsin. Before landing his first head coaching gig at Pitt in 2012, Chryst worked under Barry Alvarez in Madison in 2002 and 2005 and with Bret Bielema from 2006-11. Chryst struggled to find the right formula at Pitt as a head coach and never eclipsed the seven-win mark over three years (2012-14). The Panthers finished 19-19 overall under Chryst and earned three bowl trips. However, Chryst is a better fit at Wisconsin and has this program entrenched as the Big Ten West Division favorite for 2017. Since taking over for Gary Andersen prior to the 2015 season, Chryst is 21-6 overall with just four losses in league play. Additionally, Wisconsin claimed the 2016 Big Ten West Division title. 

 

30. Butch Jones, Tennessee

High expectations surrounded Tennessee last season, and while the Volunteers fell short of winning the SEC East, the program recorded a 9-4 record and a No. 22 finish in the Associated Press poll. Contending for the East Division is certainly a fair and yearly expectation in Knoxville, but Jones has guided the program to back-to-back nine-win seasons. The 18 victories over the last two years are the most in Tennessee history since posting 19 from 2006-07. Despite falling short of preseason expectations, it’s clear Jones has helped this program take a step forward. He’s 30-21 overall in four years, and the Volunteers have recorded three consecutive bowl victories for the first time since 1994-96. Prior to Tennessee, Jones finished 27-13 in three years at Central Michigan and went 23-14 in three seasons at Cincinnati. He’s had just two losing records in 10 years as a FBS coach.

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

 

29. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

The 5-7 record by Ole Miss last season was the first losing mark in Freeze’s coaching career. Of course, there were a couple of factors that contributed to the five-win season, as injuries to starting quarterback Chad Kelly and a couple of other key players hindered the quest for another winning mark. While last year’s record was a disappointment in Oxford, Freeze and his staff are dealing with a bigger concern: An ongoing NCAA investigation. A cloud of uncertainty is likely to hang over this program in 2017, but Freeze has compiled an impressive 39-25 mark over five years in Oxford. The 19 wins from 2014-15 were the most in a two-season span since 1961-62 at Ole Miss. Additionally, Freeze guided the Rebels to a No. 10 finish in the Associated Press poll in 2015 and has two trips to New Year’s Six bowl games. Freeze was previously the head coach at Arkansas State for one season (2011) and at Lambuth for two years (2008-09). He’s 69-32 overall in his coaching career.

 

28. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

MacIntyre delivered a breakthrough season in his fourth year in Boulder. The Buffaloes finished 10-4 and No. 17 nationally last season, while also claiming the Pac-12 South title. The 10-win season equaled MacIntyre’s victory total (10) from the first three years with the program. It’s no secret MacIntyre inherited a program in need of major repair in 2013 and slow progress through the first couple of years was expected. This isn’t the first time MacIntyre has engineered a significant turnaround. From 2010-12, San Jose State went 16-21 under his watch, improving from a one-win team in 2010 to a 10-win program in the regular season in 2012.

 

27. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

Bielema took over in Fayetteville under less-than-ideal conditions in 2013. The program was reeling from the dismissal of Bobby Petrino prior to the 2012 campaign, and the Razorbacks slumped to 4-8 under John L. Smith that season. And as expected with the turmoil from 2012, Bielema’s first year at Arkansas was essentially a reset or transition year. The Razorbacks went 3-9 and winless in league play in 2013 but showed marked improvement in 2014. Arkansas rebounded to 7-6 and ended a two-year postseason drought, followed by a 15-11 mark over the last two years. Bielema previously recorded a 68-24 record during a stint at Wisconsin (2006-12) and has only one losing season in his career as a head coach.

 

Related: College Football All-America Team for 2017

 

26. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

Any lingering disappointment from Georgia Tech’s 3-9 season in 2015 was quickly erased last fall. The Yellow Jackets rebounded to 9-4, finished 4-4 in league play and defeated Kentucky in the TaxSlayer Bowl. The nine-win campaign bolstered Johnson’s overall mark to 70-48 at Georgia Tech. Additionally, the program has eight bowl appearances since 2008 and only one losing record in ACC action. Johnson previously went 45-29 at Navy from 2002-07 and 62-10 at Georgia Southern from 1997-01. Johnson has only two losing seasons in 20 years as a head coach.

 

25. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

Kelly enters 2017 at a critical point in his tenure with the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame slumped to 4-8 last fall, which was the program’s first losing mark under Kelly and the lowest win total since 2007. Can Kelly get this program (and his tenure) back on track in 2017? The smart money says yes. The Fighting Irish upgraded at coordinator with the additions of Chip Long (offense) and Mike Elko (defense) and lost six games last fall by eight points or less. Needless to say, there’s potential for a quick turnaround in 2017. Kelly is 59-31 overall and guided the program to three finishes in the Associated Press top 25 since taking over at Notre Dame in 2010. He also went 34-6 in a three-year stint at Cincinnati, guided Central Michigan to a 19-16 mark from 2004-06 and compiled an impressive 118-35-2 mark at Grand Valley State from 1991-03. 

 

24. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Ferentz is the nation’s longest tenured coach, with a tenure spanning 19 years at the start of the 2017 campaign. While Ferentz has experienced a few low points (4-8 in 2012), Iowa has been a consistent winner under his watch. The Hawkeyes have claimed 135 victories since 1999 and recorded five top-10 finishes in the Associated Press poll. Additionally, Iowa just missed on a playoff berth in 2015 after a close loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. Also notable: Ferentz has just one losing record since 2001, and the Hawkeyes have won at least four Big Ten games in nine out of the last 10 years.

 

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2017

 

23. Tom Herman, Texas

It’s a safe bet Herman is going to move up this list in the next few seasons. The California native has produced results at each of his coaching stops, including stints as an assistant at Texas State, Rice and Iowa State. Herman called the plays for Ohio State’s offense for three seasons, including the 2014 team that won the national championship. Herman took over at Houston in 2015 and guided the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Houston took a small step back in the win column in 2016 but still finished 9-3 in the regular season and defeated Oklahoma and Louisville. Herman should do what Charlie Strong struggled to do in Austin: Make Texas an annual Big 12 title contender once again.

 

22. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

Malzahn set the bar high for his tenure on the Plains after guiding the program to a 12-2 mark, an SEC title and an appearance in the national championship in 2013. But the Tigers haven’t matched that initial success, setting up a critical 2017 campaign for Malzahn. After the 12-2 season, Auburn is 23-16 over the last three years and has only one winning mark in SEC play (2016) during that span. After a 2-6 record in conference action in 2015, the Tigers took a step forward with a 5-3 mark last year. The addition of quarterback Jarrett Stidham should give Auburn’s offense some much-needed balance this fall. Will that be enough for the Tigers to return to double-digit wins?

 

21. Jim McElwain, Florida

McElwain has emerged as one of the SEC’s top coaches after just two seasons in Gainesville. The former Alabama assistant landed his first head coaching gig in 2012 at Colorado State and quickly transformed the Rams back into one of the Mountain West’s top teams. After a 4-8 debut in 2012, Colorado State improved its win total by four games in 2013 (8-6) and finished 10-2 in the 2014 regular season. With McElwain’s previous SEC experience working under Nick Saban, combined with his success at Colorado State, the Montana native seemed like the right fit to get Florida’s program back on track after Will Muschamp went 28-21 in four years. And so far, McElwain has pushed all of the right buttons over the last two seasons. The Gators are 19-8 under McElwain and have claimed back-to-back SEC East titles.

 

20. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

Replacing a coaching legend like Frank Beamer left Fuente with big shoes to fill in Blacksburg. But after one year, it’s clear the Hokies hit a home run with Fuente. Virginia Tech finished 10-4 in Fuente’s debut and claimed the Coastal Division title with a 6-2 mark in league play. Additionally, the Hokies defeated Arkansas in the Belk Bowl and finished No. 16 in the final Associated Press poll – the program’s first top 25 finish since 2011. Fuente’s strong resume extends to his four-year run at Memphis. After inheriting a team that won three games from 2010-11, Fuente brought immediate improvement to the program. The Tigers finished 4-8 in 2012 and recorded a 3-9 mark after transitioning to the American Athletic Conference in 2013. Memphis went 19-6 over Fuente’s final two years and claimed a No. 25 finish in the final Associated Press poll in 2014. Fuente also had a successful stint as an assistant at TCU under Gary Patterson from 2007-11.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

19. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

While Mississippi State is the SEC West’s toughest job, Mullen has carved out a consistent and successful stint in a brutal division. The Bulldogs are 61-42 under Mullen’s eight years and have earned seven bowl trips in that span. Additionally, Mississippi State’s 19 wins from 2014-15 were the most in a two-year stretch in program history. The Bulldogs also grabbed the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll for the first time in 2014, while earning the top spot in the first CFB playoff rankings that season. Last year’s six wins were the fewest since 2009, but 2016 was expected to be a transition year after quarterback Dak Prescott expired his eligibility. However, with 10 returning starters and the continued development of quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State will be a dark horse team to watch in the SEC this fall.

 

18. Mike Leach, Washington State

Leach is known for his high-powered passing attacks, but he’s also quietly building a program capable of contending for a top 25 spot on an annual basis. The Cougars are 29-34 under his watch and have won 17 of those games over the last two seasons. A 7-2 finish in conference play ranked second behind rival Washington in the Pac-12 North last year. Prior to Washington State, Leach recorded an impressive 84-43 mark at Texas Tech and guided the program to 10 consecutive bowl trips from 2000-09.

 

17. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

Northwestern is one of the toughest jobs at the Power 5 level, but there’s not a better coach to guide this program than Fitzgerald. The former Northwestern linebacker took over as head coach under difficult circumstances following the sudden passing of Randy Walker prior to the 2006 season. Fitzgerald went 10-14 over his first two years and guided Northwestern to five consecutive bowl trips from 2008-12. The Wildcats slipped to 5-7 in back-to-back seasons but have a 17-9 mark over the last two years. Northwestern has four 10-win seasons in its program history. Two of those have come under Fitzgerald.

 

16. David Cutcliffe, Duke

Duke is one of the toughest Power 5 coaching jobs, but Cutcliffe has brought significant improvement to this program since taking over in 2008. The Blue Devils went 15-33 through Cutcliffe’s first four seasons (2008-11), before recording four consecutive bowl trips from 2012-15. In that span, Duke won at least six games every year, including a 10-4 campaign and a Coastal Division title in 2013. The No. 23 finish in the Associated Press poll in 2013 was the first for the program since 1961. The Blue Devils slipped to 4-8 last year, but there’s no reason for concern in Durham. Cutcliffe returns a promising sophomore quarterback in Daniel Jones, and the program is in much better shape than it was when Cutcliffe took the job. With a 44-29 record from a previous stint at Ole Miss, Cutcliffe has a career mark of 96-90.

 

Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2017

 

15. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Whittingham’s tenure in Salt Lake City continues to bring consistency and success at a high level. Utah has won 28 games since 2014 and recorded a winning mark in Pac-12 play in each of the last three seasons. Additionally, for the first time in program history, the Utes have earned three consecutive top 25 finishes in the Associated Press poll. Whittingham was instrumental in the program’s transition to the Pac-12 in 2011, with his steady approach helping to quickly assimilate in the conference. Under Whittingham’s direction, Utah is 104-50 and has only two losing records since 2005. Additionally, the Utes are 9-1 in bowl games under Whittingham’s direction in that span.

 

14. Mark Richt, Miami

Richt’s debut season at his alma mater was a successful one, as the Hurricanes finished 9-4 and No. 20 in the Associated Press poll. A nine-win year is certainly a good start for Richt, but the next goal is something that has eluded Miami since joining the ACC: The Coastal Division title. Even though quarterback Brad Kaaya left early for the NFL, the Hurricanes should be picked near the top of the Coastal for 2017. Can Richt deliver a Coastal title in just his second year at the helm? Prior to taking over in Coral Gables, Richt had a 15-year stint at Georgia. The Bulldogs went 145-51 under Richt’s direction and claimed five SEC East titles. Expect Richt to help Miami’s program return to the top 25 and compete for the ACC title on a consistent basis.

 

13. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

After winning 11 or more games in five out of six seasons from 2010-15, the Spartans fell to 3-9 last year. While the Big Ten East is getting tougher with Penn State’s rise under James Franklin, and Jim Harbaugh’s arrival at Michigan, it’s hard to envision Michigan State staying down for too long under Dantonio. After all, he’s 90-42 since 2007 in East Lansing and has guided the program to nine bowl trips. Dantonio’s 2015 team won the Big Ten Championship and earned a trip to the CFB Playoff, while the 2013 version played in the Rose Bowl after beating Ohio State in the conference title game.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2017

 

12. James Franklin, Penn State

Penn State is trending up entering Franklin’s fourth season in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions are coming off an 11-3 record – the program’s first double-digit victory total since 2009 – a Rose Bowl berth and Big Ten Championship. The 11-win campaign was Franklin’s best at Penn State after starting his career with a 14-12 mark from 2014-15. And with a roster improving on depth after recovering from scholarship sanctions, the Nittany Lions are poised to become a bigger factor in the Big Ten East Division on a more consistent basis. Prior to taking over at Penn State, Franklin guided Vanderbilt – the SEC’s toughest job – to three bowl appearances and 24 wins from 2011-13. 

 

11. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Is Gundy the nation’s most underrated coach? He’s quietly won 104 games – the most in program history by a head coach – since taking over for Les Miles in 2005. Oklahoma State has only one losing record under Gundy and just missed on playing for the national championship in the 2011 season. The Cowboys have won at least 11 games in five out of the last seven seasons and have posted back-to-back 10-win campaigns.

 

10. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

Petrino’s second act at Louisville has been just as successful as his first stint from 2003-06. The Cardinals were in the mix for the CFB Playoff in early November and finished 9-4 overall. The 7-1 record in ACC play was the program’s best conference record since joining the league in 2014. And of course, quarterback Lamar Jackson claimed the Heisman Trophy after a dominant 2016 season. Since joining the ACC in 2014, Louisville is 26-13 and has not posted a losing mark in conference play. The Cardinals went 41-9 under Petrino’s direction from 2003-06 and claimed two finishes inside of the top 10. Petrino left Louisville for the NFL but lasted only one season (2007) with the Falcons. However, he wasn’t out of work for long, taking over the Arkansas job in 2008. After a 5-7 mark in his first year, Petrino guided the Razorbacks to 29 wins over the final three seasons, including a No. 5 finish in 2011. After his dismissal from Arkansas prior to the 2012 campaign, Petrino sat out that season and resurfaced at WKU in 2013. The Hilltoppers finished 8-4 in Petrino’s only year at the helm, with Charlie Strong’s departure to Texas opening the door for a return to Louisville in 2014.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

9. Gary Patterson, TCU

Regardless of whether TCU resided in Conference USA, Mountain West or Big 12, this program has been a consistent winner under Patterson’s watch. He took over as the head coach prior to the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl and won 32 games through his first four years (2001-04). The Horned Frogs joined the Mountain West in 2005 and won at least 11 games in five out of the next six years, including a perfect 13-0 mark in 2010. Transitioning to the Big 12 has produced some new challenges, but Patterson has reached a bowl game in four out of the first five seasons in the conference. TCU just missed on a playoff berth after a 12-1 record in 2014 and finished 11-2 in 2015. In addition to his success as a head coach, Patterson is regarded as one of the nation’s top defensive minds.

 

8. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Few coaches have had the type of influence on one team similar to the way Snyder has impacted Kansas State in his stint as the program’s head coach. The 77-year-old coach is in his second act after retiring after the 2005 season, and this stint is just as successful as the first one. The Wildcats have won at least six games every year since 2009 and claimed eight or more wins in five out of the last seven years. Snyder inherited a program that won only six games in the five seasons prior to his arrival in 1989. Kansas State finished 1-10 in Snyder’s debut, but the program showed steady progress in the following years. The Wildcats went 5-6 in 1990, followed by a 7-4 mark in 1991 – the program’s first winning record since 1982. Snyder guided K-State to 11 consecutive bowl trips from 1993-03 and one Big 12 title in 2003. With challenges on the recruiting trail and with its location, this is not an easy job to sustain success. Snyder is 202-105-1 in his career with the Wildcats.  

 

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

7. David Shaw, Stanford

With its rigorous academic standards, Stanford is one of the toughest jobs in the Pac-12. However, the difficulty of the job also underscores just how good of a coach Shaw has been for the program since 2011. The Cardinal are 64-17 under Shaw’s watch since 2011 and recorded four finishes inside of the top 12 of the final Associated Press poll. Additionally, Shaw has guided Stanford to three Pac-12 Championships and two Rose Bowl victories.

 

6. Chris Petersen, Washington

In just three seasons, Petersen has transformed Washington into one of the Pac-12’s top programs. The Huskies went 8-6 under Petersen in 2014 and finished 7-6 one year later. However, after building the team with a handful of young players from 2014-15, the youth movement paid off in 2016. Washington won its first Pac-12 title since 2000, claimed 12 regular season wins and a berth in the CFB Playoff against Alabama in the Peach Bowl. Success at a high level is nothing new to Petersen. He went 92-12 at Boise State from 2006-13. As a head coach, Petersen has only three years of fewer than 10 wins and has never recorded a losing record. 

 

5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

It’s a close call between Swinney and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher for the top spot in the ACC. We give a slight nod to Fisher, but these two coaches are essentially 1A and 1B. Swinney has transformed Clemson’s program into an annual top-10 team over the last five years. The former Alabama receiver replaced Tommy Bowden as the program’s coach in 2008 and remained in the full-time role after a 4-3 stint over the final seven games. After a 15-12 mark from 2009-10, Swinney has guided Clemson to six consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins and is 28-2 over the last two years. After a runner-up finish to Alabama in the national championship in 2015, the Tigers claimed the program’s first national title since 1981 by defeating the Crimson Tide in January for the 2016 title. Replacing quarterback Deshaun Watson won’t be easy, but with Swinney at the controls and elite recruiting classes filling in the voids, Clemson isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2017

 

4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

As we mentioned in the writeup for Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, it’s a coin flip for the top spot in the ACC. Fisher gets the nod as Athlon’s top coach in the ACC, as the West Virginia native enters his eighth season in Tallahassee with a 78-17 record. The Seminoles have won at least 10 games in six of seven years under Fisher and claimed the 2013 national championship. Additionally, Florida State has won the Atlantic Division four times since 2010, made one playoff appearance (2014) and claimed back-to-back New Year’s Six bowl trips (2015-16).

 

3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

With Harbaugh at the helm, it’s only a matter of time before Michigan is in the CFB Playoff and among the nation’s best every year. The Wolverines are 20-6 overall and 13-4 in Big Ten play under Harbaugh’s direction. One reason Michigan is poised for a return to the top of college football? Recruiting. The Wolverines have inked back-to-back top-five classes and another standout haul is on the way for 2018. Harbaugh also has a track record of success. At San Diego, he went 7-4 in his first year (2004) and proceeded to record a 22-2 mark over the next two seasons. After going 4-8 in his debut at Stanford (2007), Harbaugh improved the program’s win total in three consecutive years, culminating in a 12-1 finish in 2010. After a 44-19-1 mark with the 49ers from 2011-14, Harbaugh returned to his alma mater and is one of the nation’s best coaches.

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Quarterbacks for 2017: Spring Edition

 

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

Meyer continued to add to an already impressive resume by guiding Ohio State to an 11-2 mark and a CFB Playoff berth last season. Under Meyer’s direction, the Buckeyes are 61-6 and have won at least 11 games every year. Ohio State won the 2014 national championship and has claimed or won a share of the Big Ten East Division title in each of the last three seasons. The run in Columbus rivals Meyer’s tenure at Florida, as he went 65-15 from 2005-10 with two national titles. He also had a 22-2 mark at Utah from 2003-04 and a 17-6 record at Bowling Green from 2001-02. Simply, Meyer recruits and develops talent as well as any head coach in college football and consistently wins at a high level.  

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

Saban continues to build a resume worthy of earning the honor as the best coach in college football history. Since Saban took over at Alabama in 2007, the Crimson Tide are 119-19 and have claimed four national championships. The program has not finished lower than 10th in the final Associated Press poll since 2007 and has just two seasons of three or more losses. Alabama also has six SEC West titles under Saban’s direction and has lost only five conference games over the last six seasons. Saban’s ridiculous track record of success continues with a 48-16 mark at LSU from 2000-04, along with a 34-24-1 record at Michigan State from 1995-99. He also went 9-2 at Toledo in 1990. At 65-years-old, Saban is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With a recent contract extension to 2024, Saban is going to have plenty of time to add to his growing list of accomplishments in Tuscaloosa. 

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With Gary Patterson at TCU, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State, the Big 12 is home to some of college football's top coaches. And the depth in the league improved over the offseason, as Texas hired Tom Herman to replace Charlie Strong, and Baylor hired Matt Rhule as the program's new full-time coach after an interim year under Jim Grobe. And there was some summer intrigue, as Lincoln Riley was promoted to head coach after Bob Stoops retired at Oklahoma in early June.

 

Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.

 

This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.

 

A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?

 

Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking. Athlon's editorial staff has voted on a ranking of coaches for all 10 conferences. Here are the results for the Big 12:

 

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

10. David Beaty, Kansas

Beaty only has two wins through his first two seasons in Lawrence, but Kansas is making progress. The Jayhawks ended a 19-game losing streak in Big 12 play by defeating Texas last year and finished 2-10 overall. While there are few moral victories, Kansas lost two other Big 12 games by seven points or less last fall. Beaty is accumulating the right pieces and upgraded his staff with the addition of play-caller Doug Meacham this spring. The Texas native needs more time to turn this program around.  

 

9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

Kingsbury is 24-26 through four seasons at his alma mater and enters 2017 squarely on the hot seat. The former Texas Tech quarterback took over the program in 2013 after joining the collegiate ranks as an assistant in 2008. Kingsbury spent four years at Houston, followed by a successful one-season stint at Texas A&M in 2012. The Red Raiders appeared to be trending in the right direction after an 8-5 mark in Kingsbury’s debut. However, the program has one winning record over the last three years and is just 13-23 in Big 12 play since 2013. Scoring points hasn’t been a problem for Texas Tech, but the defense has surrendered over 40 points a game in three consecutive seasons.

 

8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

Not only is Riley the youngest coach at the FBS level, but he’s also taking over one of the nation’s top teams for 2017 after Bob Stoops decided to retire in early June. The Texas native has worked for the past two years under Stoops as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator, guiding the Sooners to an average of over 40 points a game in both seasons. Prior to joining the Sooners’ staff, Riley called the plays for five years at East Carolina (2010-14) and also had a stint as an assistant coach under Mike Leach at Texas Tech. The 33-year-old coach is considered one of the nation’s top coaches on the rise and heads into his first opportunity as a FBS head coach with a chance to lead the Sooners to the CFB Playoff in 2017.  

 

7. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

Iowa State’s 2016 record was only 3-9, but Campbell has this program trending in the right direction. The Cyclones won two of their games in November and five of the nine defeats came by 10 points or less. While a winning season or bowl berth is always preferred, Campbell’s team showed some fight in Big 12 play and just needs more overall roster talent to take the next step. Prior to Iowa State, Campbell went 35-15 at Toledo and won nine games in three out of his four seasons. Look for Campbell to push the Cyclones into contention for six wins this fall.

 

6. Matt Rhule, Baylor

Make no mistake: Rhule is inheriting a mess and a major clean up is needed from the Art Briles era. And while it isn’t a huge deal, Rhule faces a transition period since he has no previous ties to the state of Texas in his coaching career. Getting a feel for the landscape and recruiting battles may take a year or two. However, Rhule seems to be a good fit in Waco after a successful four-season stint at Temple. After a 2-10 debut in 2013, the Owls finished 6-6 in 2014, followed by back-to-back 10-win campaigns. Additionally, Temple claimed the 2016 American Athletic Conference title. The New York native played his college ball at Penn State under Joe Paterno and accumulated a wealth of experience as an assistant at UCLA, Western Carolina, Temple and with the Giants before becoming a head coach.

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Armed with a contract extension, there’s stability in Morgantown between Holgorsen and the program. After taking control of the program in 2011, Holgorsen and his high-powered passing attack led by Geno Smith led West Virginia to a 10-3 record, Big East title and an Orange Bowl victory. But the transition to the tougher Big 12 produced a few speed bumps. The Mountaineers finished 7-6 in their new home, followed by a 4-8 mark in 2013. After finishing 15-11 in 2014-15, West Virginia claimed its best season since joining the Big 12. The Mountaineers finished 10-3 last year, ranked No. 18 in the final Associated Press poll and went 7-2 in league play. Even though Holgorsen is known for his ability to build an offense and the passing game, he’s transitioned West Virginia to a balanced attack and has one of the Big 12’s top defensive coordinators in Tony Gibson.

 

4. Tom Herman, Texas

It’s a safe bet Herman is going to move up this list in the next few seasons. The California native has produced results at each of his coaching stops, including stints as an assistant at Texas State, Rice and Iowa State. Herman called the plays for Ohio State’s offense for three seasons, including the 2014 team that won the national championship. Herman took over at Houston in 2015 and guided the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Houston took a small step back in the win column in 2016 but still finished 9-3 in the regular season and defeated Oklahoma and Louisville. Herman should do what Charlie Strong struggled to do in Austin: Make Texas an annual Big 12 title contender once again.

 

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

Is Gundy the nation’s most underrated coach? He’s quietly won 104 games – the most in program history by a head coach – since taking over for Les Miles in 2005. Oklahoma State has only one losing record under Gundy and just missed on playing for the national championship in the 2011 season. The Cowboys have won at least 11 games in five out of the last seven wins and have posted back-to-back 10-win campaigns.

 

Related: College Football's Top 25 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2017

 

2. Gary Patterson, TCU

Regardless of whether TCU resided in Conference USA, Mountain West or Big 12, this program has been a consistent winner under Patterson’s watch. He took over as the head coach prior to the 2000 Mobile Alabama Bowl and won 32 games through his first four years (2001-04). The Horned Frogs joined the Mountain West in 2005 and won at least 11 games in five out of the next six years, including a perfect 13-0 mark in 2010. Transitioning to the Big 12 has produced some new challenges, but Patterson has reached a bowl game in four out of the first five seasons in the conference. TCU just missed on a playoff berth after a 12-1 record in 2014 and finished 11-2 in 2015. In addition to his success as a head coach, Patterson is regarded as one of the nation’s top defensive minds.

 

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

Few coaches have had the type of influence on one team similar to the way Snyder has impacted Kansas State in his stint as the program’s head coach. The 77-year-old coach is in his second act after retiring after the 2005 season, and this stint is just as successful as the first one. The Wildcats have won at least six games every year since 2009 and claimed eight or more wins in five out of the last seven years. Snyder inherited a program that won only six games in the five seasons prior to his arrival in 1989. Kansas State finished 1-10 in Snyder’s debut, but the program showed steady progress in the following years. The Wildcats went 5-6 in 1990, followed by a 7-4 mark in 1991 – the program’s first winning record since 1982. Snyder guided K-State to 11 consecutive bowl trips from 1993-03 and one Big 12 title in 2003. With challenges on the recruiting trail and with its location, this is not an easy job to sustain success. Snyder is 202-105-1 in his career with the Wildcats.  

Teaser:
Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2017
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Looking into the crystal ball for the 2017 ACC season, you see many of the same teams at the top of the food chain.

 

Programs like Clemson, Florida State and Louisville in the Atlantic Division look to be the favorites again, while Miami and Virginia Tech figure to stand out in the Coastal.

 

But statistically, even though Clemson returns maybe the best defensive line in college football, its skill positions from its national championship squad are virtually gutted due to graduation and the NFL draft.

 

Those numbers are just a few, though, of 14 — one for each team in the conference — worth keeping an eye on this fall.

 

67.8: Average number of plays per game run by the Boston College offense last season

Expect this number to shoot up, as offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler sped up the tempo both in the team's Quick Lane Bowl win over Maryland and in the spring game. Darius Wade took control of the quarterback race in the spring and seemed to have good command of the scheme, so the Eagles, ranked 115th in the nation in plays per game last season, should see an increase there.

 

74.9/98.5/58.4: Percentage of rushing/passing/receiving yards gone from Clemson's national title-winning team

All of Clemson's top offensive skill position players are gone. Running back Wayne Gallman, quarterback Deshaun Watson and wide receiver Mike Williams have taken their talents to the NFL. That leaves a whole lot of uncertainty on that side of the ball for the Tigers as they look to defend their crown. They have recruited well, so there's no denying they can fill those holes to an extent, but that is no sure thing given the lack of experience.

 

4.7: Penalties per game committed by Duke last season

The number of penalties committed by a team in any year reflects its discipline and, under head coach David Cutcliffe, that's precisely the type of group that the Blue Devils have been and, frankly, have to be to compete with schools who mostly out-recruit them on a yearly basis. The 4.7 penalties per game placed Duke 20th in the nation.

 

55.23: Time of possession percentage by Florida State last season

Time of possession percentage measures not how long a team holds on to the ball for, but how that statistic compares against its opponents. By this metric, the Seminoles were one of the top teams in the country last year, as they were first in the ACC and 13th in the nation. With quarterback Deondre Francois and a talented defense returning, expect this number to be strong again this season.

 

97.4: Percentage of games started over the last three years by since-graduated Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas

The Yellow Jackets return a good number of returning starters on both sides of the ball and can be considered a reasonable dark horse candidate to with the Coastal. However, one big missing piece will be at the quarterback spot, where Thomas only missed one start over the last three seasons. Juniors Matthew Jordan and TaQuon Marshall both have a shot at replacing Thomas, but until then, the position remains a question mark.

 

54.5: Opponents’ completion percentage allowed by Louisville last season

Concentrate all you want on quarterback Lamar Jackson, and that's fine, given the Heisman Trophy winner will again be in the mix for college football's most prestigious award. But what could put Louisville back in the national title discussion is its defense, which should again be stout in the back seven. That completion percentage was ranked 20th in the nation last year, and with players like cornerback Jaire Alexander returning, that number should be comparable again this fall.

 

3.1: Average number of fourth-quarter points the Miami defense allowed last season

That number was good for third in the nation last season. While the Hurricanes have to replace their entire secondary, they return six of their starters in the front seven, so the defense should once again be stingy late in games. With a schedule that is very manageable, the program under head coach Mark Richt, which continues to recruit well this cycle, can take another step forward this fall.

 

32.5: Combined tackles for a loss and sacks by NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb last season

The ACC is rich in NFL talent coming off the edge for this upcoming season, and Chubb is among the group of headliners that also includes last year's college football sack leader, Boston College’s Harold Landry. But Chubb is no slouch himself, as he made 10.5 sacks a year ago to go along with 22 tackles for a loss. Those numbers put him in elite company, and the Wolfpack, who return enough on offense to be a sleeper in the Atlantic, will need Chubb to replicate that kind of production to do so.

 

42.05: Opponents’ third-down conversion rate against North Carolina last season

Offense does not to really ever seem to be a problem for a Larry Fedora-coached team. However, defensively, the Tar Heels have some work to do before being considered an upper-echelon ACC program. Last year, teams hit on third downs against UNC at a 42.05 rate, which put it at 80th in the country. That number has to improve if the Tar Heels want to take the next step.

 

42.0: Points per game scored by the Pittsburgh offense last season

The Panthers were sixth in the nation and second in the ACC in racking up points a year ago, but there is a challenge ahead for Pat Narduzzi's program. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada? Gone to LSU. Quarterback Nathan Peterman? Lost to the NFL draft. Running back James Connor? Ditto. So new coordinator Shawn Watson may keep much of the skeleton of the old offense in place, but may have to rely on returning pieces like receiver Quadree Henderson more until the unit comes together.

 

83.8: Plays per game by the Syracuse offense last season

It's no secret that Syracuse head coach Dino Babers wants to run as fast an offense as possible. Tempo is a word he has preached since coming to central New York last season, so the number of plays the Orange ran last year — good for first in the ACC and seventh in the nation — should garner a similar ranking. Whether or not that turns into more than the four wins the Orange had last year is another issue, but with returning quarterback Eric Dungey starting again, they at least have an experienced triggerman running the show.

 

1.8: Punts per offensive score by the Virginia offense last season

The Cavaliers had their moments in head coach Bronco Mendenhall's first year in Charlottesville, but the offense had very few of them. Case in point, the number of drives that ended up in punts, which averaged out to be 114th in the nation. Quarterback Kurt Benkert returns, but three offensive linemen and the rest of the backfield must be replaced. In other words, Virginia may get better on offense this season, but it will need to do so without a lot of experience.

 

1.1: Fumbles lost per game by Virginia Tech last season

By all accounts, head coach Justin Fuente's first season in Blacksburg was a successful one, as he won 10 games and a Coastal Division title. However, the Hokies were able to accomplish all that while giving the ball up at an alarming rate, ranking 127th in the nation in fumbles lost. This is something that can be cleaned up and is the type of thing that doesn't generally repeat itself, so this could result in an extra win or two so long as the inexperienced offense finds its footing early on.

 

10.47: Sacked percentage by the Wake Forest offense last season

The Demon Deacons simply could not protect the passer a year ago, which was a knock against them in an otherwise successful season where they defeated Temple in the Military Bowl. But Wake returns three of its starting five offensive linemen from a year ago, so the hope is that results in better protection for John Wolford, who returns as the starting quarterback heading into his junior season.

 

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.

Teaser:
14 ACC Stats You Need To Know For 2017
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 09:30
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Bob Stoops stunned the college football world in June when he stepped down at Oklahoma, leaving the Sooners in the hands of 33-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

 

As the shock wears off and talk turns to the outlook for the program under Riley, observers will find that he has to navigate a treacherous slate in his first season at the helm.

 

OU is garnering College Football Playoff hype this preseason, but an early trip to Columbus and tough Big 12 road dates won’t give Baker Mayfield and the Sooners much room for error.

 

12. Sept. 2 vs. UTEP

The last time these two teams met to start the season in 2012, the Miners put a scare into the Sooners before succumbing late. Riley would probably rather avoid that in his head coaching debut. Not much reason to think UTEP will put up the same kind of fight this time.

 

11. Sept. 6 vs. Tulane

Year one didn’t go so well for head coach Willie Fritz at Tulane, as the Green Wave notched a 4-8 record. His team could add a few more to the win column this season, but this game at Oklahoma won’t be one of them. Notably, this matchup comes off a road trip to Navy for Tulane.

 

10. Nov. 18 at Kansas

The Jayhawks are taking tiny steps towards respectability. Still, a Texas-like collapse by OU in Lawrence would be stunning. The Sooners have throttled KU by an average of 54 points the last two years.

 

9. Oct. 28 vs. Texas Tech

The Sooners and Red Raiders staged a shootout in Lubbock last year, but OU’s 66-59 victory was far less entertaining than the score might indicate. Tech hasn’t given OU much trouble in Norman as of late, and with so many of last season’s stars gone, the same will likely be the case this time.

 

8. Oct. 7 vs. Iowa State

Head coach Matt Campbell should have the Cyclones in bowl contention this season after the squad took some strides in 2016. Unfortunately, ISU draws OU coming off a bye week. That sounds like a blowout in the making.

 

7. Sept. 23 at Baylor

The Bears are potentially looking at a long rebuild under Matt Rhule. With the transition to new schemes on both sides of the ball, they’re probably going to feel some growing pains early in the year, too. Waco has proven to be a tough place to play in recent years, but so much change will make it tough for BU to spring an upset.

 

6. Nov. 25 vs. West Virginia

OU closes the season at home with a visit from the Mountaineers. The Sooners rolled WVU last season in a game that saw pregame fisticuffs turn into a chippy affair for four quarters. The ‘Eers will be motivated and could surprise OU if its season takes a turn for the worse.

 

5. Nov. 11 vs. TCU

The Horned Frogs always play OU tough: Every meeting between the two teams since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012 has been decided by a touchdown or less. Gary Patterson’s team catches the Sooners in a potential letdown spot a week after their meeting with instate rival Oklahoma State. Don’t be shocked if this turns into a nailbiter.

 

4. Oct. 14 vs. Texas (Dallas)

Once we finally get a look at the Longhorns under new head coach Tom Herman, this matchup could move up or down a spot. Even if UT struggles out of the gate, though, Herman will have his team sky high for the annual showdown in the Cotton Bowl. The fact that two coaches in their first seasons in their jobs are meeting here adds an extra element of intrigue to this grudge match.

 

3. Oct. 21 at Kansas State

On the road. A week after the Red River game. Talk about a trap for OU.

 

The Wildcats will have to pull off at least one of their patented no-way-they-should-have-won-that-game upsets if they want to challenge for the Big 12 crown in what could be Bill Snyder’s last season. As such, OU can’t afford a letdown post-Texas.

 

2. Nov. 4 at Oklahoma State

In light of the reinstitution of the Big 12 conference title game, this game could turn out to be a warm-up in preparation for another tilt in December. The Cowboys will still be out for blood after the Sooners ruined their hopes of conference championships in 2015 and ‘16 campaigns. Count on a charged atmosphere in Boone Pickens Stadium in what should be a primetime clash.

 

1. Sept. 9 at Ohio State

It doesn’t quite carry the same gravitas as the Alabama-Florida State game in the opening week of the season. Even so, OU’s visit to Ohio State represents one of the season’s marquee non-conference clashes and a chance for both teams to solidify their early standing among the nation’s elite.

 

A year ago, the Buckeyes arguably put the worst beating ever on an OU team in Norman under Bob Stoops. Riley gets his chance to return the favor to Urban Meyer this year. Secretly, plenty of Sooner fans would admit that they hope the squad will just stay competitive after last season’s beatdown.

 

— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Oklahoma’s College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 09:00
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Kasey Kahne. Martin Truex Jr. Carl Edwards.

 

Sonoma Raceway, NASCAR’s first right-turn racetrack this season, has produced a number of surprising faces in Victory Lane on a road course. Kahne, known for his intermediate track success, took the old No. 9 team to the win here eight years ago. Truex, back with Michael Waltrip Racing, did the same in 2013 during a time he was struggling to run up front on a weekly basis.

 

Edwards, in 2014 earned his lone career road course victory in NASCAR’s Cup Series. Even with that performance his 15.4 career average finish at Sonoma stands as his worst at any track outside of Martinsville, Daytona and Talladega.

 

Next up was Kyle Busch, winning in 2015 despite serious leg injuries suffered at Daytona four months earlier. Tony Stewart pulled a similar stunt last season, a few lucky breaks combined with raw talent to make his recovery from a fractured vertebrae complete.

 

Add those names up and it’s clear Sonoma has become one of the sport’s most unpredictable tracks. And considering the sport’s best road course racers this century, Jeff Gordon and Stewart, are now sitting on the sidelines, it makes this race even more wide open.

 

You have the road course ringers, one-off performers like Billy Johnson in Richard Petty’s No. 43 driving with nothing to lose. You have an AJ Allmendinger, whose middle-class team pours every ounce of energy they have into this race as a gateway to the playoffs.

 

There are the stronger road course racers on the circuit, men like the Busch brothers, Clint Bowyer, and Denny Hamlin. But for them to stay up front they have to survive a barrage of pit strategy and crew chief maneuvers which will only increase with NASCAR’s division into three stages for 2017.

 

Bottom line, your favorite could be running 20th with 20 laps to go and then suddenly have a chance to win. Expect an event where the field is jumbled up until the final few moments of the race.

 

If only NASCAR could bring this element of unpredictability to their oval racing, well, then maybe we wouldn’t be talking about declining ratings and attendance. There’s a reason they wanted to add another road course race for 2018; it’s the one type of speedway these days where competitive balance seems to be consistently working.

 

Toyota/Save Mart 350

 

Time: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, Calif.)

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Chip Ganassi Racing

Kyle Larson is coming into his own as a Cup Series superstar. Winning at Michigan Sunday, he now has two wins this season to go with five runner-up finishes. At 24 years old, he leads the Cup Series standings and some outspoken comments toward USA Today Sports this week have showcased a new, speak my mind side of his personality NASCAR sorely needs.

 

 

Perhaps just as impressive is the performance of teammate Jamie McMurray. Fifth at Michigan Sunday, he’s run 15th or better in each of the 12 races where he has not wrecked. Sitting seventh in the standings, he’s solidly in playoff position and could easily win a race at a track like Kentucky or Daytona in the summer months.

 

No wonder why Ganassi’s not worried about Silly Season (he said both 2018 teams will “stay the same” on SIRIUS XM Radio this week). Why in the world would you make changes anyway when both teams are running so well?

 

Who’s at the Back: Danica Patrick

If Patrick didn’t have bad luck this season, she’d have no luck at all. An innocent victim of contact at the end of the Michigan race, that hard wreck was her sixth DNF of the season. Only Jeffrey Earnhardt, driving for a vastly underfunded team until recently, has more this season. Patrick’s average finish of 26.5, as of now is the worst of her full-time Cup career. The sport’s lone female driver in the series says she wants to continue with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2018 but you wonder if, in the end she’ll even have a choice.

 

News Briefs

 

Denny Hamlin’s nail-biting victory in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Michigan has been tarnished. Officials labeled the win an “encumbered finish” after they found the car’s splitter was not flat in post-race inspection. That caused a loss of 25 owner points, a two-race suspension for crew chief Chris Gabehart and a $25,000 fine.

 

Crew chief Chad Knaus was the victim of theft in San Francisco this week as someone broke into his rental car and stole a laptop (among other items). On that computer were setup notes for the No. 48 team as they prepped for the race at Sonoma this Sunday. Luckily, other team members had the same information so it didn’t cause much of a problem for them in practice.

 

FOX is pushing a Camping World Truck Series race next month over to its FOX Business network. That event happens to be Eldora, the most anticipated race of the season for that division, but a CONCACAF men’s soccer match featuring the U.S. Men’s National team will get higher ratings. That game will now end up on FOX Sports 1 July 19 while NASCAR, like it has so often in recent years, is getting sent to the back burner channel.

 

This race, like most road course events lends itself to “ringers” making a one-off start in the sport’s top series. Among those making an appearance this weekend are Billy Johnson, Boris Said, Kevin O’Connell, Tommy Regan, Alon Day and Josh Bilicki.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

5

Career top-10 finishes in 33 road course Cup starts for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He has never won at either Sonoma or Watkins Glen.

 

1.5

Last season’s average finish for Denny Hamlin at Sonoma and Watkins Glen.  That led all drivers on road courses.

  

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

I’d go Denny Hamlin for a couple of reasons. One: see above. Hamlin developed into one of the sport’s best road course racers the last few years and came one turn short of beating Stewart here last season. Two: he’ll have a chip on his shoulder after that Michigan XFINITY win now comes with an asterisk. Three: Joe Gibbs Racing has been held out of Victory Lane for 15 races now. The four-car team can’t experience this avalanche of bad luck forever.

 

If you’re hesitant, the Busch brothers also are pretty good options. Kurt has six straight top-12 finishes here; he won in 2011 while Kyle has been first and seventh the past two seasons.

 

Related: DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks for Toyota/Save Mart 350

 

Middle Tier

 

You wouldn’t think it but Ryan Newman has quietly built up a solid Sonoma track record with Richard Childress Racing. Runs of 11th, ninth and eighth since taking over the No. 31 Chevrolet make him a quiet dark horse to earn a top-10 finish for your roster.

 

The same goes for Jamie McMurray. Jamie Mac is fourth, 11th and 17th in his last three Sonoma races and enters the weekend with momentum from Michigan. Considering this track’s recent history of surprise winners? You can’t count him out.

 

Underdog Tier

 

AJ Allmendinger’s No. 47 team prepares all season for two tracks: Sonoma and Watkins Glen. They know it’s their only chance to reach Victory Lane and the ‘Dinger is almost always a contender here, bringing over his road course skills learned in open wheel. Just be aware that an average start of 1.7 the last three seasons hasn’t resulted in a single top-10 Sonoma result. This team goes boom-or-bust at the road course and if they make even a small mistake… watch out.

 

If you’re looking to take a road course ringer, a one-off effort Johnson is sitting in the best equipment. No, that’s not Jimmie, that’s Billy in the No. 43. Keep in mind Darrell Wallace Jr., subbing for an injured Aric Almirolawas 19th in this car last week in Michigan. There’s hope here a ringer could pull off a solid finish.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Martin Truex Jr. sits as the prerace favorite Friday night with 5/1 odds. Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick are close behind.

 

What I Think

After a season to forget for Joe Gibbs Racing, Denny Hamlin provides redemption. Expect the No. 11 car to cash in on the win it missed out on last season at Sonoma.

 

— Written by Tom Bowles, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and the Majority Owner of NASCAR Web site Frontstretch.com. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NASCARBowles.

 

(Photo by ASP Inc.)

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Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
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The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to California’s Sonoma Raceway for the Toyota Save Mart 350 Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. ET. It's the first of two road course races this season, a new curveball for your daily fantasy lineup.

 

Here are nine drivers to look out for during the upcoming race weekend as you set your DraftKings lineup, courtesy of Frontstretch.com's Corey Brewer:

 

ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up

 

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300)

Sonoma: 11 starts, one win, two top fives (18.2 percent), three top 10s (27.3 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 19.5

 

Martin won the first two stages of the race last weekend at Michigan, but ultimately came up short during the final stage, finishing sixth. He slipped back to second in series points, settling in behind race winner Kyle Larson. Those two have been swapping positions all season long while no one else is even close atop the charts.

 

Truex won Sonoma in his final season with Michael Waltrip Racing back in 2013. During that win, he led 51 of the 110 laps. Last season, Martin finished fifth after starting from the second row, his second top five in 11 races at this track.

 

Truex was impressive on the two road courses last season and his Furniture Row Racing team is running well everywhere. He has a chance to pick up his second career win at Sonoma on Sunday.

 

Kyle Busch ($10,200)

Sonoma: 12 starts, two wins, two top fives (16.7 percent), four top 10s (33.3 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 18.1

 

Busch is the only active driver with more than one career win at Sonoma. His last victory here came two seasons ago in 2015. Leading 17 laps, he climbed his way through the field from the 11th starting spot. Busch has led laps in the last two Sonoma races and finished seventh in this event last year.

 

Busch is still looking for that ever elusive first win of the 2017 season. He has led laps in seven straight races heading into Sonoma, and was in prime position to cash in last week. Unfortunately, a call by interim crew chief Ben Beshore to stay out on old tires during a late caution was the nail in the coffin.

 

Busch has five top-10 finishes in the past six races, and is running as good as possible without winning. Luckily for us, winning isn’t everything when it comes to DraftKings. All we need is another strong run on Sunday.

 

AJ Allmendinger ($9,500)

Sonoma: Eight starts, two top 10s (25 percent), five top 15s (62.5 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 20.9

 

Allmendinger is the resident “road course specialist” in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. His lone MENCS win came at Watkins Glen in 2014. He has two XFINITY Series wins in 10 career starts, both at road courses. He also made six IndyCar starts in 2013.

 

But when it comes to Sonoma, AJ has underwhelmed, even though he has been the favorite for the past three seasons. He has three straight front row starts, including the pole in 2015. But in 2014 and '15, he finished the race 37th, all despite leading 36 laps between the two races.

 

Allmendinger finished 14th last season, a bit better but still not meeting expectations. He started the race strong and was aggressive in getting up front early, leading 20 laps. As the race went on, he fell back through the pack.

 

This year, if the 'Dinger can remain aggressive he might be rewarded with a surprise victory. The No. 47 team puts all the chips on the table for this race.

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,400

 

Clint Bowyer ($9,400)

Sonoma: 11 starts, one win, six top fives (54.5 percent), eight top 10s (72.7 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 11.5

 

Bowyer was making a run at a top-10 finish last week when the caution flag flew for debris with 21 laps to go. After the ensuing restart, Bowyer hit the wall and ended any chance he had at a good finish. The result was the second time in three races he failed to crack the top 25.

 

Before an electrical issue just five laps into last season’s Sonoma race, Bowyer had a five race top-10 streak, one that included a win in 2012. He has a series best 11.5 average finish position through 11 starts here. Clint has mastered this track and now that he is back in top equipment, he will go into this weekend expecting a win.

 

Bowyer’s DraftKings salary was $6,800 last week, and even after the 26th-place finish, his salary is up to $9,400 for Sonoma. That is a testament to just how great he is on this track. Make sure you pick him.

 

Denny Hamlin ($8,900)

Sonoma: 11 starts, two top fives (18.2 percent), three top 10s (27.3 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 20.8

 

Last season, Hamlin was king at the two road courses. He finished runner up to Tony Stewart in this race after Stewart gave him a “love tap” on the last lap to secure the win. Later in the season, Hamlin took a win of his own at Watkins Glen. That 1.5 average finish at road courses last season led all drivers.

 

Hamlin has not fared well historically at Sonoma, but he has improved over the past two seasons. Prior to 2015, He had a five-race streak of finishes of 23rd or worse. Since then, he has finished 18th, and then earned the aforementioned second-place result.

 

Jamie McMurray ($8,500)

Sonoma: 14 starts, two top fives (14.3 percent), two top 10s (14.3 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 16.3

 

McMurray is another driver who has a sports car background, which comes in handy during the MENCS road events. He has a Weathertech SportsCar Championship series win under his belt, as well as a podium finish in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series. Both of those events were held at Daytona.

 

At Sonoma, McMurray has two top-five finishes in 14 starts. The latest came in 2014 when he finished fourth after starting from the pole. He led nine laps in that race.

 

McMurray has been one of the most consistent drivers this season, He has an average finish of 13.4, which ranks seventh among all series regulars. He is also tied for third with nine top-10 finishes.

 

BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $8,400

 

Kasey Kahne ($8,000)

Sonoma: 13 starts, one win, two top fives (15.4 percent), six top 10s (46.2 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 17.5

 

Over the past four seasons, Kahne has four straight top-10 results at Sonoma. In all four of those events, Kahne started 15th or worse. Positive position differential is the one stat to hope for with Kahne, since he has not been running up front with consistency over the past few seasons.

 

While Kahne’s average finish at Sonoma is 17.5 for his career, over the past eight races, that number is a much better 8.5. He had six top-10 finishes within that span, including a win in 2009.

 

It’s understandable to be hesitant when looking at Kahne for a middle-of-the-road driver. But his resume at Sonoma cannot be ignored.

 

Ryan Newman ($7,900)

Sonoma: 15 starts, two top fives (13.3 percent), seven top 10s (46.7 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 12.3

 

Newman sits in second behind Bowyer in average finishing position at Sonoma with a mark of 12.3. While he doesn’t have a win at the track, he does have seven top-10 finishes in 15 starts. He finished eighth in 2016 and ninth in 2015.

 

Newman is currently riding a four-race top-15 streak, which includes a fourth-place finish at Dover three weeks ago. Expect him to continue that Sunday.

 

Paul Menard ($7,400)

Sonoma: Nine starts, one top five (11.1 percent), three top 15s (33 percent)

Average finish at Sonoma: 18.0

 

Over the past four Sonoma races, Menard has an average finish of 12th. He set a career high with a fifth-place result in 2014. He led three laps early in the race last season, but tapered off after, which resulted in a finishing position of 16th, his worst in four races here.

 

If Menard can continue to finish around the 12th spot, that will be more than enough from a back end-of-the-roster type driver. In three of the past four races, he finished higher than his starting spot. If Menard has a tough day of qualifying, he will deserve a look for Sunday.

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup:

 

(Photo by ASP Inc.)

Teaser:
DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks: Toyota/Save Mart 350
Post date: Saturday, June 24, 2017 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /tom-brady-kids
Body:

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, 39, may be an all-time great football player, but he may be an even better dad. His Instagram is loaded with pictures of his three kids, John “Jack” Edward Thomas Moynahan (9), Benjamin "Benny" Brady (7) and Vivian Lake Brady (4), and it seems like there is never a dull moment in their lives. Here are five fast facts that you should know about Brady’s kids:

 

1. Jack is the son of Brady and Bridget Moynahan

In what was actually quite a bit of drama at the time, Brady’s long-time girlfriend, actress Bridget Moynahan, announced that she was pregnant a few months after they had broken up. Brady had already began to date his future wife, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen. While it turned out not to be a deal breaker for Gisele, this couldn’t have been a situation that anyone wanted at the time.

 

2. Jack had a star Falcons player on his fantasy football team last season

While Jack couldn’t have known the Patriots would end up facing the Falcons in the Super Bowl, Brady told ESPN that his son had a Super Bowl 51 opponent on his team.

 

“My oldest son, he really knows the game. He had [Falcons running back] Devonta Freeman on his fantasy team, so he knows how good he is,” Brady said.

 

Talk about a stab in the back, but luckily Brady got the last laugh, winning the Super Bowl by way of an epic comeback. Brady’s tensions with Jack may not quite be finished, as they faced off in a dohyō (sumo ring) as part of Under Armour’s 2017 Tom Brady Asia Tour.

 
 

Brady vs Brady #therecanonlybeone 🏆

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

 

3. Benny likes to dab… a lot

Benny has shown numerous times that he enjoys dabbing, and one could wonder who taught him the dance move. My guess is that he learned it from another NFL quarterback, Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton. But whoever taught Benny how to dab created a monster, as he stole the show during the Patriots parade.

 

 

This isn’t the only instance of him dabbing. In March Brady showed the world a skiing report card of his son’s from a family trip to the Yellowstone Club in Montana.

 

 

A+ for Benny's @yellowstoneclub skiing report card #DabOnEm

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

 

One can only hope that Benjamin can get his dad to use the dance move after a big play of his own next season.

 

4. Vivian gets what she wants

Brady may be able to take some hard hits on the football field, but off the field it seems as if he has a pretty soft spot for his daughter Vivian.

 

“That little girl owns my day — owns my life,” Brady said in an interview with Entertainment Today.

He went on to say, "[I] cannot say no to anything. Whatever she tells her dad to do, that's what I do. That's just the way it goes."

 

At four years old, Vivian seems to be interested in learning more about the sport her dad plays, and enjoys watching her dad play on Sundays.

 
 

💗Go papai go! #gopats

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

 

 

5. Their diet is not like a regular childs

Sure, one could say that their diet has to be different just because they have a personal chef, but the differences keep on going after that. As Brady’s personal chef Allen Campbell said in an interview with the Boston Globe, the family’s diet is not common in America. 

 

“80 percent of what they eat is vegetables,” Campbell said. ”[I buy] the freshest vegetables. If it’s not organic, I don’t use it. And whole grains: brown rice, quinoa, millet, beans. The other 20 percent is lean meats: grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken. As for fish, I mostly cook wild salmon.”

 
 

Thank you God ❤️🙏❤️ Obrigada Deus #happythanksgiving

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

 

Campbell did go on to say that he does make snacks for the kids, but you aren’t going to find anything unhealthy.

For snacks, I make fruit rolls from bananas, pineapple, and spirulina,” Campbell said.  "Spirulina is an algae. It’s a super fruit. I dehydrate it. I dehydrate a lot of things. I have three dehydrators in their kitchen. I also make raw granola and raw chocolate chip cookies.”

 
Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 12:42
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/nevada-reportedly-offers-9-year-old-scholarship-havon-finney-mike-evans
Body:

These recruits are getting younger and younger.

 

According to SB Nation, University of Nevada has offered 9-year-old Havon Finney Jr. a football scholarship. Former Louisville defensive back Mike Evans, who runs a training facility, tweeted out the news. Although it hasn't been confirmed by local media, it wouldn't be the first time a young player gets an offer. However, Finney would be the youngest if this offer stands firm.  

 

 

Here's a highlight reel of who Nevada reportedly feels will be a future star.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 12:27
Path: /college-football/12-pac-12-stats-you-need-know-2017
Body:

Football is a numbers game, as made evident in the Pac-12 Conference during the 2016 season. Statistics tell the stories of a fascinating season: Washington dominated with defense, USC engineered an impressive turnaround with offense and Colorado improved on... well, just about everything.

 

These numbers also reveal much about what the Pac-12's teams either must change or maintain this fall to come out on the positive side of the most important statistic kept in football: the final score.

 

26.4: Arizona's average margin in Pac-12 losses

Arizona finished above .500 in each of head coach Rich Rodriguez's first four seasons, but suffered a staggering decline in Year 5. The Wildcats plumetted to 3-9 and opened Pac-12 play with eight straight losses. The first of those defeats — an overtime contest against eventual champion Washington — was the only game decided by single digits.

 

Arizona was bullied throughout the conference schedule, especially on the back half of the season when it allowed more than 46 points per game. The climb back to contention in the Pac-12 South — or even competition — is a steep one. Rodriguez and Co. need the return of players battling injuries much of last season, like running backs Nick Wilson and J.J. Taylor, and dual-threat quarterback Brandon Dawkins.

 

357.4: Arizona State opponents' passing yards per game

New Arizona State defensive coordinator Phil Bennett faces a sizable task, retooling a defense that's ranked among the nation's most porous each of the last two seasons. The passing defense Bennett inherits is particularly dire, having finished dead last in the Football Bowl Subdivision (128 teams) in both 2015 and '16. 

 

What's more, the Sun Devils' passing yards per game yield last season actually jumped by 20, from 337 in 2015 to 357 last season. Explosive plays were Arizona State's undoing. The Sun Devils gave up a staggering 15 passing plays of 50 yards or more, worst in the nation.

 

Arizona State's struggles against the pass have in part been the result of an aggressive blitzing scheme, which often leaves defensive backs on an island. The new-look defense also will feature some new faces, with players like De'Chavon Hayes and Kareem Orr gone.

 

6.15: Rushing yards Cal allowed per attempt

On average last season, an opponent need simply call a rushing play on first down — any rushing play — and it ended up in second-and-short territory. The Golden Bears' 6.15-yard per carry yield ranked worst among all FBS defenses, and the 32 rushing touchdowns surrendered rank 11th among Pac-12 teams.

 

Cal's hire of defensive guru Justin Wilcox as head coach is meant, in part, to address the inadequacies in Cal's defense. Despite putting up impressive numbers on the other side of the ball, the Golden Bears have routinely ranked among the nation's worst defenses over the last few seasons. It came to a head last season when Cal allowed 90 rushing plays of 10-plus yards, and four of at least 60 yards.

 

11: Total interceptions gone from the 2017 roster

One of the most telling statistics behind Colorado's turnaround from worst-to-first in the Pac-12 South was that in 2014, the Buffaloes managed just three interceptions the entire season. In 2016, Colorado picked off 15 passes, 22nd in college football, and finished the season with a plus-six turnover margin.

 

For Colorado to repeat as Pac-12 South champions, the Buffs need another outstanding season from its defense. That includes continuing to generate turnovers, but first-year defensive coordinator D.J. Elliot must replace several proven playmakers. Gone are defensive backs Tedric Thompson, Ahkello Witherspoon and Chido Awuzie, who combined for nine interceptions. Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, who also is gone, picked off two passes in 2016.

 

9: Games in which Oregon opponents rushed for 200+ yards

Oregon's wasn't the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 at season's end — that dubious distinction went to divisional counterpart Cal — but the Ducks allowed more 200-plus rushing yard games than the Golden Bears. In three of these, Oregon's opponents eclipsed 300 yards: Washington (378), Cal (311) and Oregon State (310).

 

UO brass dismissed Mark Helfrich and his staff shortly after the Oregon State loss, and named Willie Taggart head coach a few weeks later. Taggart's overhaul of Oregon football included the coup of the offseason, luring defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt away from Colorado. Leavitt oversaw a drastic turnaround in just two seasons with the Buffaloes. In contrast with the Ducks, the Buffs allowed just three opponents 200-plus rushing yards, and never surrendered 300.

 

Leavitt's approach could maximize the abilities of linebacker Troy Dye, and force turnovers with an experienced secondary in Eugene.

 

54.7: Oregon State's passing completion percentage

Among the changes that had to be anticipated with Gary Andersen replacing Mike Riley as Oregon State head coach was an offense more reliant on a multifaceted rushing attack than aggressive passing. However, the Beavers' struggles implementing a consistent aerial attack are pronounced. They finished 2016 with a 54.7 completion percentage as a team, 11th in the Pac-12.

 

Some of the inconsistency is a byproduct of Andersen having to reshuffle quarterbacking duties. Five players have started at quarterback for Oregon State since 2015. Last year's primary quarterbacks, Marcus McMaryion and Darell Garretson, played in just eight and six games, respectively.

 

With Oregon State returning talented running back Ryan Nall, and a veteran defense, a more consistent passing attack is the one lingering facet that could separate the Beavers from being dark-horse challengers in the Pac-12 North or also-rans.

 

16: How many more PPG Stanford averaged with Keller Chryst

It may not have garnered the same amount of attention as another quarterback change made in the Pac-12 last season. However, head coach David Shaw's decision to abandon a committee approach between Ryan Burns and Keller Chryst, and entrust the offense exclusively to Chryst changed the outlook of the Cardinal offense dramatically.

 

Stanford averaged just 17 points per game in the seven games Shaw used both quarterbacks, reaching rock bottom in a 10-5 loss to Colorado. That output jumped to 33 in the latter part of the season, which Chryst captained most of the way before a knee injury.

 

A dual threat, Chryst had four multiple-touchdown games after becoming the starter, and two with both a passing and rushing score. While Stanford's uptick in production was in part the result of playing lesser competition — the Cardinal faced Washington, Washington State and Colorado while playing both quarterbacks — there was a decidedly more rhythmic flow to the offense under Chryst.

 

1,011: UCLA's total rushing yards in 2016

UCLA ran up against a bevy of problems with its offense in 2016. Erstwhile Heisman-contending quarterback Josh Rosen sustained an early-season shoulder injury, which accentuated a problem plaguing the Bruins before the talented signal-caller was sidelined: an inability to run with consistency.

 

UCLA finished with just 1,011 rushing yards as a team; only Texas State was worse among FBS teams. The Bruins totaled less as a team than five individual ball carriers in the Pac-12. Oregon State's Ryan Nall and Arizona quarterback Brandon Dawkins fell 60 and 67 yards shy of UCLA's team rushing figure — and both missed considerable time due to injury.

 

Restoring a running game that had previously been a strength is a top priority for new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. He inherits a lineup with returners Soso Jamabo, Bolu Olorunfunmi and Nate Starks at running back. All have shown flashes of brilliance in their UCLA careers, and now just need to sustain those flashes.

 

38.6: USC's points per game after Sam Darnold started

Head coach Clay Helton's decision to replace Week 1 starting quarterback Max Browne with Sam Darnold changed the complexion of USC's 2016 campaign. That's a well-documented fact, but the difference becomes especially pronounced when comparing the Trojans' scoring output over Darnold's 10 games as starter — 38.6 per game — against the three games in which Browne started, 20.3.

 

The pace of the Darnold-led USC offense would have tied Oklahoma State for the 17th-most prolific in college football over the course of the season. Darnold's dual-threat skill set extended plays and made for more diversified play-calling from offensive coordinator Tee Martin.

 

Darnold's back in the saddle in 2017, joined by breakthrough running back sensation Ronald Jones II, and Rose Bowl Game hero Deontay Burnett at wide receiver. Matching the 2005 Trojans' absurd 49.1-point per game average might be a stretch; however, considering USC nearly doubled its average after making the switch, there could be another jump in the future with this veteran offense.

 

47.7: Mitch Wishnowsky's average yards per punt 

A hallmark of Utah football in recent years is its outstanding special teams play. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky carried the mantle for the Utes in 2016, averaging an NCAA-leading 47.7 yards per punt.

 

The Australian Wishnowsky's ability to pin opposing offenses deep in their own territory plays a vital role in Utah's game plan, setting the table for a stifling defense. Wishnowsky contributed to more than 26 percent of all Utah opponents' possession beginning inside of their own 20-yard line.

 

For his efforts, Wishnowsky brought the Ray Guy Award back to Utah for a third straight season; Tom Hackett won it in 2014 and '15. Wishnowsky will go for a Utes grand slam in 2017.

 

33: Turnovers created by the Washington defense

Washington's tenacious defense led the Pac-12 almost across the board statistically in 2016. The Huskies also set the pace nationally in one key metric, turnover generation, creating 33 on the season.

 

Ironically, Washington excelled in this area not because it took a lot of risks. On the contrary, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski's conservative use of blitzing packages proved effective in forcing quarterbacks to make bad decisions, as the Husky front generated consistent pressure without bringing additional defenders.

 

That strategy proved most pivotal in the Pac-12 Championship Game. With quarterback Jake Browning struggling against the Colorado defense, the Washington defense turned Colorado possessions into Husky points. Defensive back Taylor Rapp, one of the leading returners for the 2017 Huskies, returned one interception for a touchdown, and set up a score with another pick. He'll be integral in creating more turnovers for Washington this coming season, with returning linemen Vita Vea and Greg Gaines generating the necessary pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

 

65.6: Percentage of plays in which Washington State passed 

A new look to the Washington State air-raid offense made the Cougars especially difficult to defend in 2016, as the three-man backfield of James Williams, Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks combined for 22 rushing touchdowns and 1,634 yards. Make no mistake, however: This is still very much a pass-first team.

 

Washington State's 65.6 percent of plays resulting in a pass attempt led the FBS, outpacing the second-most prolific passing team, Texas Tech, by almost three percent. Quarterback Luke Falk may have faced a heavier workload than any passer in college football, but the Cougars' standout was unfazed. His 70 percent completion rating ranked second in all of college football, trailing only Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma (70.9).

 

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of TheOpenMan.com. Follow him on Twitter @kensing45

Teaser:
12 Pac-12 Stats You Need to Know for 2017
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/five-ways-improve-national-football-league-2017
Body:

Despite the NFL’s undisputed status as the most dominant professional sports league, it needs some improvement. A few lingering issues still require some resolution. In particular, scheduling, both during the regular season and postseason should be changed. I offer five proposals for changes and explanations for why they are essential.

 

1. Seed playoffs based on overall records

Divisional winners do not necessarily deserve the top four seeds. Why should a team that managed to win a soft division automatically host a wild card playoff game against an opponent with more wins? What should matter more in seeding – having a record slightly above .500 or worse, along with the fortune of competing against three perceivably weaker teams, or having more wins in total?

 

And this is not a theoretical problem either. In 2002, the NFL split into four four-team divisions. Since then there has been a wild card tem with a better record that has played at a divisional champion in 13 of 15 seasons. The only times this did not occur is 2004 and ’06. In fact, in eight of the past 10 seasons two or more wild card teams have had a better record than the division champion they faced.

 

To address this disparity, I suggest the NFL model an approach similar to that which the NCAA uses for its postseason tournament. Champions of perceived weaker conferences are often seeded below at-large selections with superior records in the NCAA Tournament. This way, an NFL divisional champion is assured of an automatic berth in the playoffs, but not guaranteed one of the top four seeds. If a wild card team has a better record, that team should be seeded accordingly.

 

2. Schedule divisional games for every team over the final three weeks of the regular season

If the NFL wants to sustain interest among the fans of as many teams as possible through December, the league needs extend the drama of the playoff race. One obvious way is push half of everyone’s divisional games to the last three weeks. Playing those crucial games as late as possible is more likely to delay teams from being able to clinch divisional championships.

 

Therefore, a first-place team after Thanksgiving weekend could still be caught by one of those only a few games behind. If the divisional leader were to stumble in those final three regular season games, another in the division could sneak past the leader to claim the crown.

 

3. Change scheduling related to Thursday night games

Teams playing on Thursdays should have the weekend beforehand without a game. Football players need multiple days to both recuperate from the previous game and prepare for the next. Expecting a team to play on Sunday then play four days later is cruelly absurd. It is especially hard for the visiting team.

 

Also, there should be no Thursday night game in Weeks 2, 3, 17 or 18 (more on that in a moment). Every team will be able to play its required Thursday game during the other 14 weeks with three playing on Thanksgiving Day. To make this possible and to keep the regular season ending around the end of the calendar year, it will be necessary to start the season on Labor Day weekend with an additional week of regular season games. Which brings me too…

 

4. Give every team two bye weeks

This will be necessary partially due to giving the previous week off to those teams playing on Thursday. It would be grossly unfair to teams playing on Thursday night in September to have only one bye week and not having a break later in the season as most teams would have. This suggestion is not a new concept for the NFL since every team had two bye weeks during the 1993 season.

 

An exception would apply to those playing in the season opener. Every team finishes its final preseason game on a Thursday. Therefore, those playing in the regular season opener will have seven days between games anyway.

 

Additionally, the networks that broadcast games should love this idea. A second bye would add an extra week to the season. Therefore, they would have the additional revenue from sponsors for one more week. This move also allays pressure from the networks requesting more football to broadcast without actually adding more games to the 16-game schedule.

 

5. Pay a bonus to winners of every regular season game

What would motivate players to give an honest effort to win games despite having no chance at the postseason? What would keep players from claiming dubious injuries coinciding with their elimination from the playoff race? Simply put, money talks.

 

The NFL already pays players for participating in each postseason game, in effect, giving them a bonus for winning and advancing to the next round.

 

This reward would go to every player on the active roster of the victorious team. It would likely mean reducing base salaries. However, it would give a tangible incentive to players to continue to suit up when previously they only have pride on the line. The league needs to give them a reason to play and actually care about the outcome.

 

 

The NFL has demonstrated the willingness to change. The addition of Thursday games for every team and scheduling regular season games outside of the U.S. prove that attitude exists among the powerbrokers in the league office. However, with player safety becoming an openly acknowledged concern, permitting more time between games contributes to recovery from injuries. Additionally, changes need to be implemented that give fans’ hope in December that their team could still advance to the playoffs or at least that they will see sincere efforts to win every week.

 

— Written by John La Fleur, a contributor to AthlonSports.com, who focuses on the New Orleans Saints and Michigan State Spartans. He also frequently comments on other teams in the NFL and in NCAA football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur and read his viewpoints at gridironconnoisseur.wordpress.com and at gridiron-connoisseur.blogspot.com.

 

(Roger Goodell photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
5 Ways to Improve the National Football League
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-kansas-states-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

Following the shocking retirement of Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops and the revival of the conference championship game, the Big 12 is wide open in 2017. With a talented, veteran squad, momentum from a strong finish, and a manageable schedule, the Kansas State Wildcats are one of the teams capable of challenging the Sooners for the league title.

 

Kansas State, which finished 9-4 last season after winning six of its final seven games, is one of several teams that have a legitimate chance of making it to the Big 12 title game. Head coach Bill Snyder’s Wildcats are always a threat, but K-State is at its best with a veteran quarterback. Fortunately for Snyder, Jesse Ertz, who led the team in rushing as well as passing in 2016, is one of seven returning starters on an offense that ranked in the top half of the Big 12 in scoring (32.2 ppg, fifth) and ranked No. 22 nationally with 231.8 rushing yards per contest.

 

The Wildcats were the best in the Big 12 defensively last season, statistically speaking, though the unit must replace leading tackler Elijah Lee and conference defensive player of the year Jordan Willis among others. Nevertheless, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic K-State can slow down opponents well enough to compete for the title.

 

Here is Kansas State’s 2017 schedule, ranked from easiest to most difficult matchup.

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Charlotte

A fledging program entering its third FBS season, Charlotte was 4-8 last year, won three games against Conference USA opponents on the road and lost by a single point in two other league games. Led by former K-State defensive back Brad Lambert, the 49ers allowed 34.6 points per game, which ranked No. 102 in the nation, and 6.03 yards per play (89th in FBS). Charlotte struggled most against the pass, allowing 309.8 yards through the air per contest.

 

11. Sept. 2 vs. Central Arkansas

Usually a game against an FCS opponent would be the easiest on the schedule, but the Bears won 10 games last season, including a 28-23 victory over Arkansas State, and made it to the second round of the FCS playoffs. Also, Kansas State has slipped up against FCS opponents in season openers before. In 2013, the Wildcats lost 24-21 to North Dakota State.

 

10. Oct. 28 at Kansas

You know the schedule sets up well when an in-state rivalry game on the road is the easiest conference game of the season. The Wildcats have beaten Kansas eight straight times, and have won every matchup on the road since 2004. However, this year’s trip to Lawrence comes one week after K-State’s heavyweight clash with Oklahoma, which could make it a trap game.

 

Kansas has shown improvement under third-year head coach David Beaty, and the Jayhawks’ defense features All-Big 12 pass rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr., who had 10 sacks last season. KU may be a year away from making a real run at a bowl game, but the Jayhawks have done well to close the talent gap with some of the other teams in the league.

 

9. Nov. 25 vs. Iowa State

K-State’s other big natural rival is Iowa State, which, like Kansas, made progress in 2016 and has a more talented roster today than it did last year. Though, also like the Jayhawks, the Cyclones still sit toward the bottom of the conference pecking order.

 

The Wildcats host Iowa State in the regular season finale. It’s likely the Cyclones will have secured their eighth straight losing season and fifth straight without a postseason appearance by that point.

 

8. Sept. 16 at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt took a huge step forward in head coach Derek Mason’s third season. The Commodores beat SEC rivals Ole Miss and Tennessee in the final two games of the regular season to secure the first bowl game for the program since 2013. With a veteran roster, Mason has a chance to make it two in a row.

 

Mason welcomes back eight starters on offense, including talented running back Ralph Webb and quarterback Kyle Shurmur. Seven starters return on defense, though the team must replace star linebacker Zach Cunningham. It’s a game the Wildcats should win, but playing in SEC country is always difficult.

 

7. Sept. 30 vs. Baylor

After three non-conference games and a bye week, Kansas State opens its Big 12 slate by hosting Baylor. The Bears will have already faced conference favorite Oklahoma at home before their visit to Manhattan, which should play in K-State’s favor.

 

Baylor struggled last year and finished 7-6 under interim head coach Jim Grobe, including six straight losses to end the regular season before beating Boise State in the Cactus Bowl. The Bears scored 13.5 fewer points per game compared to Art Briles’ last season in charge, and new head coach Matt Rhule’s system isn’t likely to reverse that trend – though Rhule should produce better results on defense. Last year, Baylor allowed 430.8 total yards and 200.7 rushing yards per game, to the tune of 5.4 yards per play and 4.2 yards per carry.

 

6. Nov. 4 at Texas Tech

Even with the coaching change at Baylor, and a trip to Lubbock, few would think a game against Texas Tech would be tougher than hosting the Bears in the conference opener. However, the matchup with the Red Raiders will be the sixth of nine consecutive Big 12 games for Kansas State. On top of that, this game is uncomfortably sandwiched between a rivalry tilt with Kansas and a pivotal home date with West Virginia.

 

The Red Raiders must replace first-round NFL draft pick Patrick Mahomes II and leading receiver Jonathan Giles, who transferred, but Kliff Kingsbury’s squad is sure to continue to light up scoreboards even with Nic Shimonek leading the offense.

 

5. Nov. 11 vs. West Virginia

West Virginia gave Kansas State arguably its toughest loss of the season last year, overcoming deficits of 13-0 at halftime and 16-3 in the fourth quarter to win 17-16. There are a lot of new faces on the West Virginia roster, and it’s unlikely the Mountaineers reach 10 wins again in 2017, but there’s plenty of optimism in Morgantown. New quarterback Will Grier should have nine games under his belt by the time the Mountaineers travel to Manhattan, and a young defense that includes eight new starters will be similarly battle-tested.

 

4. Oct. 14 vs. TCU

Kansas State beat TCU 30-6 in the regular season finale in Fort Worth last year, as the Wildcats shut out the Horned Frogs in the second half. The 2017 matchup is slotted between a trip to Texas and a home game against Oklahoma, giving K-State one of the toughest three-game stretches of the Big 12 campaign.

 

The most experienced team in the Big 12, TCU returns nine starters on offense and 91.7 percent of its offensive production from last season, which ranks among the top 10 in the nation. The defense returns seven starters and three quarters of its tackles from last year, which is the second most in the league.

 

3. Oct. 7 at Texas

Despite three straight losing seasons under Charlie Strong, the Longhorns are arguably the most talented team in the Big 12, and it’s never easy to pick up a victory in Austin. K-State’s last road win against the Longhorns came in 2011.

 

New head coach Tom Herman and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando welcome back 10 starters from a talented defense that underachieved in 2016. The offense must replace star running back D’Onta Foreman, but quarterback Shane Buechele and three starters return up front, as well as a host of talented skill position players.

 

2. Nov. 18 at Oklahoma State

This could be the year for Oklahoma State, which won 10 (or 11 depending on where you fall on the Central Michigan debacle) games last season, and returns most of its firepower, namely quarterback Mason Rudolph and explosive wide receiver James Washington.

 

Kansas State gave the Cowboys all they could handle in Manhattan a year ago before falling 43-37 – the Wildcats’ lone blemish over their final seven games. This year’s clash in Stillwater – one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12 – could have title game implications.

 

1. Oct. 21 vs. Oklahoma

It’s rare for a team’s toughest opponent to be scheduled for Homecoming, but that’s the case when Kansas State hosts Oklahoma in October.

 

Even with the abrupt retirement of longtime head coach Bob Stoops, whom Bill Snyder never beat at home, the Sooners are still the heavy favorite to win the Big 12. Oklahoma has the inside track to the College Football Playoff, and quarterback Baker Mayfield is a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender.

 

A matchup of undefeated top-10 teams isn’t out of the realm of possibility, but the Wildcats would have to survive a tough three-game stretch against Baylor, at Texas and vs. TCU to do it. Nevertheless, every game on the schedule – including this date with Oklahoma – is winnable.

 

— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Kansas State's College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /overtime/jimmy-butler-trainer-goes-bulls-gm-after-trade-bulls-timberwolves-gar-forman
Body:

Jimmy Butler is headed to Timberwolves, and not everyone is taking it well.

 

The former Bulls star was quiet about it but his trainer, Travelle Gaines, took to Twitter to voice his frustration with the team's general manager, Gar Forman. 

 

 

There's no love lost in this trade but on the bright side, Butler is reunited with his former coach and the Timberwolves look great on paper heading into the 2017 season.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 09:44
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, NC State Wolfpack
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-nc-states-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

NC State needed to win its regular season finale against bitter in-state rival North Carolina to become bowl eligible. Not only did the Wolfpack go on the road and defeat the Tar Heels 28-21, but they followed that up with a convincing 41-17 victory over Vanderbilt in the Independence Bowl.

 

Now entering 2017, expectations are higher for head coach Dave Doeren and company. While the schedule isn’t easy, the Wolfpack will play some of their tougher games at Carter-Finley Stadium.

 

Here are NC State’s 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.

 

12. Sept. 16 vs. Furman

Playing the Paladins the week before facing Florida State was a smart move for NC State. This will give the Wolfpack a chance to iron out any kinks before they take on the Seminoles in Doak Campbell Stadium. Furman, who hails from the FCS ranks as a member of the Southern Conference, went 3-8 last season.

 

11. Sept. 9 vs. Marshall

After opening the season in Charlotte against South Carolina, NC State will host Marshall from Conference USA. The Thundering Herd are coming off of a disappointing 3-9 showing, their fewest wins in seven seasons under head coach Doc Holliday.

 

10. Sept. 30 vs. Syracuse

The Orange went 4-8 in Dino Babers’ first season, but there is optimism for better results this fall. Syracuse finished 42nd in total offense last year even though quarterback Eric Dungey missed several games because of injury. If Dungey can stay healthy, the Orange could field one of the better offenses in the ACC in 2017.

 

9. Nov. 11 at Boston College

The Eagles went just 2-6 in ACC play, but still finished with seven overall wins in 2016, including a victory over Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. Boston College once again figures to be led by its defense, which finished ninth in the FBS in yards allowed per game last season. Points could be hard to come by for NC State on the road against this defense.

 

8. Nov. 18 at Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons surprised a few people last season by going 7-6 and closing things out with a 34-26 win over Temple in the Military Bowl. Wake Forest’s defense led the way, ranking 40th in the country in total defense. The Demon Deacons are a young team, as only seven seniors played last season, so head coach Dave Clawson has plenty of experience to rely on this fall.

 

7. Sept. 2 vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

NC State kicks off its season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte against neighbor South Carolina. The Gamecocks won six games and played in the Birmingham Bowl in head coach Will Muschamp’s first season, but need to show significant improvement on offense. South Carolina finished 115th in the nation in total offense and 116th in scoring in 2016.

 

6. Oct. 28 at Notre Dame

The Fighting Irish were a disappointing 4-8 in 2016, making this a critical season for head coach Brian Kelly. Even though there will be a new quarterback following DeShone Kizer’s departure for the NFL, the Irish return eight starters on offense, including four up front. The defense brings back seven starters and its improvement could determine how much of a turnaround Kelly and company are able to orchestrate.

 

5. Nov. 25 vs. North Carolina

These two rivals usually provide entertaining matchups. The Tar Heels are replacing most of their offensive production and return a total of just 12 starters from a team that went 8-5 last season. Besides losing the second overall pick of this year’s NFL draft (QB Mitch Trubisky), head coach Larry Fedora is tasked with replacing 99 percent of North Carolina’s rushing and 71 percent of its receiving production from last season.

 

4. Oct. 14 at Pittsburgh

Even though the Panthers defeated both Clemson and Penn State last season, Pat Narduzzi’s team hast a few key players to replace. Quarterback Max Browne, a graduate transfer from USC who lost his starting job to Sam Darnold last season, is set to take over for Nathan Peterman. Former ACC Player of the Year and cancer survivor James Conner also has moved on to the NFL, but Pitt will have two of the most dynamic receivers in the country in Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson.

 

3. Oct. 5 vs. Louisville

If NC State is going to win the ACC Atlantic Division this is one of the three teams the Wolfpack are going to have to beat. The Cardinals feature the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in quarterback Lamar Jackson, but return a total of 10 other starters. Louisville entered the home stretch of last season 9-1 and in the College Football Playoff picture, but proceeded to lose its final three games. NC State has the defensive line that could give Jackson and the Cardinals’ offense trouble, so this should be a great game in the Thursday night spotlight.

 

2. Nov. 4 vs. Clemson

Out of all the games last season, this was the one that got away for NC State. The Wolfpack had a shot at the huge road upset, but Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation. Clemson scored on its first possession in overtime and then picked off Ryan Finley to escape with a 24-17 win.

 

The defending national champion Tigers will look different, especially on offense, but this is still a team that will enter the season ranked in the top 10. This time NC State gets Clemson on its turf, so can the Wolfpack pull off another upset at home?
 

1. Sept. 23 at Florida State

The Seminoles will enter the season as the favorite to win the ACC. They are replacing their all-time leading rusher in Dalvin Cook and several other key players, but quarterback Deondre Francois returns after throwing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2016. Depending on how things play out in the opener against Alabama, Florida State could enter this game undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation.

 

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on NC State's College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /nba/five-worst-number-one-draft-picks-nba-history
Body:

To no one’s surprise, the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Markelle Fultz with the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday night. Only time will tell if he will be a solid player, a Hall of Famer or an all-time bust.

 

However, even if his career does not pan out, he has to seriously underperform, make poor life choices or choose a different path to make this list. Here are the five worst No. 1 overall draft picks in NBA history.

 

5. Clifton McNeely, G , Texas Wesleyan

1947 Basketball Association of America (BAA) Draft – Pittsburgh Ironmen

The NBA includes the BAA draft as part of its history so McNeely is the first top pick in league history. He is also one of two No. 1 picks to never play pro basketball. McNeely chose to become head basketball coach at Pampa High School in Pampa, Texas, where he won four state titles. It was a noble choice indeed, but it does not exclude him from this list.

 

4. Andy Tonkovich, PG, Marshall

1948 BAA Draft – Providence Steamrollers

The second No. 1 pick actually signed with his team and played… in 17 games. After an injury cut short his rookie season, Tonkovich never had any success joining another BAA team and played a little minor league basketball before calling it a career.

 

3. Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV

2013 Draft – Cleveland Cavaliers

The first Canadian to ever be drafted No. 1 played for four different teams in four seasons and averaged 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds a game. Bennett last played for Fenerbahçe of the Turkish Basketball Super League, who cut him earlier this year.

 

2. LaRue Martin, C, Loyola (Illinois)

1972 Draft – Portland Trail Blazers

Martin rose to national prominence when he played against Bill Walton in a 1972 game against UCLA. The Blazers chose to sign him before the draft since they feared North Carolina center Bob McAdoo would opt to go to the American Basketball Association. After Martin averaged less than five points or rebounds a game in his first two seasons, Portland drafted Walton in 1974 and Martin was out of the league two years later.

 

1. Gene Melchiorre, PG, Bradley

1951 Draft – Baltimore Bullets

Melchiorre tops this list because of actions that tarnished the sport. On April 25, 1951, the Bullets drafted Melchiorre with the first pick. Then on July 24, 1951, Melchiorre admitted to taking bribes to keep the scores down in two Bradley games. He was one of 32 players from seven schools who admitted to point shaving in the infamous City College of New York (CCNY) scandal. Melchiorre received a misdemeanor and a suspended sentence, but NBA president Maurice Podoloff banned him and all the other players involved in the CCNY scandal for life. He and McNeely are the only two No. 1 picks to never play an NBA game.

 

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.

 

(Anthony Bennett photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
5 Worst No. 1 Draft Picks in NBA History
Post date: Friday, June 23, 2017 - 09:00

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