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It goes without saying that you need a good quarterback in order to be a successful college football team. While it may not wholly determine a team’s success each season if they have a quality signal-caller behind center, one doesn’t become a consistent winner without a quarterback making all the throws and executing the right decisions on offense.

 

That’s why the position is so important across college football and a big reason why each quarterback matchup is highlighted on the schedule each week of the season. Heading into 2017, a strong group of returning starters and a handful of big-time transfers across the country make for some extremely enticing meetings that are worth circling on the calendar. We made life a little easy on you and did just that for most major conferences so you know just what to watch for when teams hit the field this year.

 

Looking out across the vast expansion of Group of Five signal-callers, here are the 10 best matchups this season from quarterbacks outside the Power Five:

 

1. Josh Allen (Wyoming) vs. Brett Rypien (Boise State) – Oct. 21 (Boise, Idaho)

Allen is considered by some to be a potential No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft if he puts together a good season for the Cowboys and all eyes will be on him when he takes on Boise State for a game that likely decides the Mountain West Mountain Division. He’ll be taking on a QB with NFL bloodlines himself in Rypien, who has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns each of the past two seasons.

 

2. Riley Ferguson (Memphis) vs. Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Sept. 16 (Memphis, Tenn.)

Ferguson reignited his career last season and put up some big numbers (32:10 TD-to-INT ratio) in Mike Norvell’s pass-happy system for the Tigers. He’ll be able to showcase those skills when the Bruins make the trip east in what is an enticing matchup against one of the best the Pac-12 has to offer and a potential top pick in next year’s draft with Rosen.

 

3. Kyle Allen (Houston) vs. Quinton Flowers (South Florida) – Nov. 4 (Tampa, Fla.)

It doesn’t get better than this in the American Athletic Conference for a quarterback battle that may very well decide the conference title and a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. Flowers is a budding Heisman Trophy candidate after posting eye-popping numbers through the air and on the ground for the Bulls while Allen takes over the Cougars after transferring in from Texas A&M. Don’t miss the subplot of former Texas quarterback Major Applewhite taking on former Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong in this one either.

 

4. Brett Rypien (Boise State) vs. Luke Falk (Washington State) – Sept. 9 (Pullman, Wash.)

These two nearby rivals staged an entertaining game last season and round two should be just as fun given they’re two of the best in their respective conferences. While the receiving corps will be a bit different in 2017, expect both of these strong-armed, tough quarterbacks to put on a show through the air.

 

5. Brett Rypien (Boise State) vs. Tanner Mangum (BYU) – Oct. 6 (Provo, Utah)

The Broncos and Cougars have staged some absolute classics in recent memory and the latest edition has the chance to keep that streak going given who’s behind center for each side. Rypien played a big role in helping the team sneak by last season with an impressive 442 yards through the air while Mangum, an Idaho native, has an intimate history with Boise State after throwing a Hail Mary to beat the Broncos two years ago.

 

6. Josh Allen (Wyoming) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) – Sept. 16 (Laramie, Wyo.)

The Ducks are taking the Oregon Trail back to Laramie and this time around it will be quite the interesting matchup from two of 2016’s most underrated quarterbacks. Allen has all the tools to turn into a player that NFL scouts are drooling over and has to be excited at the prospect of picking apart the Oregon defense. Herbert may have a harder time keeping pace but he was quite the revelation last year for the Ducks and should be one to watch as a sophomore.

 

7. Kyle Allen (Houston) vs. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech) – Sept. 23 (Houston)

If you like points and yards through the air, look no further than this meeting of high-powered offenses. Allen takes over the Cougars’ offense after transferring two years ago from Texas A&M, a school where Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury just so happened to coach at and relished beating as a former Red Raider player. While all the parties won’t be able to beat up on the Aggies in this one, they can throw the ball a bunch and is a fascinating battle between a former five-star and a walk-on.

 

8. Hayden Moore (Cincinnati) vs. Wilton Speight (Michigan) – Sept. 9 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

New Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell is no stranger to beating Michigan after spending so many years at Ohio State but will face quite a challenge taking on the Wolverines and their quarterback Wilton Speight. Luckily for the Bearcats, they have a pretty good one behind center in Moore, who has plenty of starting experience and is capable of putting up some big numbers when given time to thrown.

 

9. Riley Ferguson (Memphis) vs. Kyle Allen (Houston) – Oct. 19 (Houston)

The AAC West is loaded with quality teams and star quarterbacks are a big reason why Memphis and Houston are two of the favorites in the division. The Tigers’ trip to Houston will go a long way in determining who winds up advancing to the title game and last season’s 48-44 thriller was a big statement win by Ferguson following a wild second half.

 

10. Nick Stevens (Colorado State) vs. Steven Montez (Colorado) – Sept. 1 (Denver)

The Rocky Mountain Showdown might have a more interesting quarterback competition than the one the Broncos have going on later at the same site in Denver next season. Stevens closed the year strongly for the Rams and really turned things on when passing for 445 yards in the team’s bowl game. He’ll take on a talented prospect in Montez, who played a key role filling in at QB during the Buffaloes’ renaissance season. 

 

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.

Teaser:
Group of Five's Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/lebron-james-alabama-football-nick-saban-championship-connection-cavaliers-crimson-tide
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Looking for the key to LeBron James' NBA Finals success? Look no further than Alabama football.

 

It seems there's a weird connection between Nick Saban's Crimson Tide and James' championship-winning teams. James has never won an NBA title in a year that Alabama didn't win one. Seeing as though Alabama lost to Clemson this past year, that stat doesn't bode well for the Cavaliers in the upcoming NBA Finals against the Warriors. 

 

 

If the Cavs lose, somehow people will find a way to blame Saban.

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Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/alabama-football-2017-crimson-tide-preview-and-prediction
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After dominating the opposition through the first 14 games, Alabama came up short late against Clemson in the College Football Playoff Championship Game. That Crimson Tide team also lost 10 players to the NFL, but don’t shed any tears for Nick Saban just yet. Everyone knows Alabama doesn’t rebuild, it reloads. Jalen Hurts gives Saban something he hasn’t had in some time – an experienced quarterback back to lead the offense – and even though the defense returns just six starters, there are plenty of guys who have been waiting for their chance. Once again, the path to the SEC Championship Game will go through Tuscaloosa and no one would be surprised to see the Crimson Tide return to Atlanta a month later to take care of some unfinished business.

 

Previewing Alabama Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll will have one advantage Lane Kiffin never had at Alabama: Jalen Hurts becomes the first starting Crimson Tide quarterback to return since AJ McCarron did so in 2013. It comes with a catch — all three of last year’s scholarship backups transferred. True freshmen Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones enrolled in time for spring practice, but they’re the only other quarterbacks outside of walk-on Montana Murphy. That makes Hurts’ durability all the more crucial in his second season.

 

Year 2 with Hurts needs to show more production from the passing game even after losing three of the top receivers from last season. That puts much of the burden on junior Calvin Ridley. He’s been a deep-ball threat in his first two seasons but could add the intermediate routes across to the middle to his game. That role fell to ArDarius Stewart and O.J. Howard in the past, but both are in the NFL. This creates an opportunity for veterans Cam Sims and Robert Foster — talented players who haven’t been able to crack the rotation with big names topping the depth chart. True freshman Jerry Jeudy is a five-star recruit to watch.

 

The running game, again, appears to be the offensive route to success. Hurts proved himself last fall as the second-leading rusher (954 yards) who added a challenging dimension for opposing defenses. Bo Scarbrough showed his enormous potential in the SEC Championship Game and Peach Bowl before going down with another injury in the national title game. Oh, and Damien Harris is back after rushing for over 1,000 yards on a 7.1-yard average.

 

Previewing Alabama Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ SEC magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

There’s a lot to replace in the front seven with five 2016 starters now in the NFL. Da’Ron Payne and Da’Shawn Hand will be critical pieces on a defensive line that’ll be without National Defensive Player of the Year Jonathan Allen for the first time in four years. Junior college transfer Isaiah Buggs will help along with young talents such as Raekwon Davis, Quinnen Williams and Joshua Frazier.

 

Shaun Dion Hamilton’s recovery from a December ACL tear will be crucial at middle linebacker. Rashaan Evans’ presence will help in the middle, with youngsters Terrell Hall, Anfernee Jennings and Christian Miller competing for time on the outside where Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams dominated previously. The departed players set a high bar for their replacements with their ability to impact opposing passers. Alabama led the nation with 54.0 sacks last season.

 

Key starters return in the secondary with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Ronnie Harrison and Anthony Averett protecting the back end. The secondary should remain a strength of the defense.

 

Previewing Alabama Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

The punting situation is covered with JK Scott back for his fourth year of service for the Tide. The 6'6" Colorado native has been a key asset in the field position battles during close games. Placekicking figures to come down to a competition between Andy Pappanastos, a transfer from Ole Miss, and true freshman Joseph Bulovas. Consistency has been fleeting here for years, so there’s a lot to prove for whoever comes next.

 

Final Analysis

 

This figures to be a classic Nick Saban team. The offense will be rooted in its ability to run the ball with a deep group of backs and a dangerous quarterback in Hurts. How Alabama rebuilds the front seven will say a lot about the effectiveness of a defense hit especially hard by graduation.

 

The opening weekend should be tremendous  — a matchup with Florida State in Atlanta’s new dome. The result won’t knock the loser from playoff talk, but it’ll add a degree of difficulty before conference play even starts.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 1

SEC WEST PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Alabama Crimson Tide 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-football-2017-buckeyes-preview-and-prediction
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Ohio State’s somewhat controversial inclusion in the College Football Playoff last season ended with a thud. However, it could be that the Buckeyes were just a year ahead of schedule. Three-fourths of a rock-solid secondary and the nation’s best center will have to be replaced, but Urban Meyer has 15 starters returning, including Heisman Trophy contender J.T. Barrett at quarterback. Talent’s not an issue and after how last season ended, motivation shouldn’t be one for Ohio State either. And Beating Oklahoma for the second straight time, getting payback against Penn State and winning at Michigan better not be if the Buckeyes want a chance at playoff redemption, as well as a shot at another national title.

 

Previewing Ohio State Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

If you’re guessing that the 31–0 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff didn’t sit well with Urban Meyer, you’d be correct. Meyer, who is an astonishing 61–6 so far at Ohio State, has suffered just 29 defeats in his 15-year head coaching career, and the Clemson loss was his first shutout. He wasn’t going to stew on it for the entire offseason without making changes.

 

Sure enough, play caller Tim Beck left to help out Tom Herman at Texas, paving the way for Meyer to hire former Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson to be his new offensive coordinator. That has fueled excitement in Buckeye Nation, which expects the offense to get back to a dynamic level.

 

Ohio State averaged 39.4 points and 459.2 yards per game but struggled down the stretch against Michigan State, Michigan and, of course, Clemson. Veteran quarterback J.T. Barrett couldn’t get in sync with green receivers, and the line broke down in pass protection.

 

There’s still every reason to expect a resurgence, though, with Barrett — and his 26–4 record as a starter — back behind center and Mike Weber just coming into his own as a running back after a quiet 1,000-yard rushing season. Youngsters J.K. Dobbins and Demario McCall look ready to add to the weaponry, while Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Binjimen Victor are among the wideouts who could emerge.

 

The line will miss the excellence and leadership of Pat Elflein, but Billy Price, who has logged 41 straight starts at guard, will move to center to replace him. 

 

Previewing Ohio State Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big Ten magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

Loaded up front and highly athletic in the back end, the Silver Bullets will be coming after people this season. The approach will be professional with Greg Schiano in control of the defense and longtime NFL assistant Bill Davis tutoring the linebackers. Chris Worley will shift inside to replace the departed Raekwon McMillan, the team’s leading tackler the last two seasons. Worley and outside backer Jerome Baker had a penchant for logging top performances against elite teams.

 

The line will be ferocious. Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard return, bringing 18.5 TFLs from 2016 with them, and position coach Larry Johnson also can rotate in pocket destructors Jalyn Holmes, Nick Bosa and Jonathon Cooper. Inside, OSU has the same wealth with seniors Michael Hill and Tracy Sprinkle able to rotate with Dre’Mont Jones and Robert Landers, who were freshman sensations last year.

 

The secondary is rebuilding with corners Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley and safety Malik Hooker all off to the NFL. However, there are plenty of rangy and talented defensive backs left on the roster.

 

Previewing Ohio State Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

With the Buckeyes breaking offensive records and sending scads of players to the NFL, many fans may forget that Cameron Johnston was one of the best punters in program history. Johnston’s booming leg and uncanny ability to pin teams deep will be missed. Youngster Drue Chrisman, though, could be an asset in his own right. Sean Nuernberger will have every chance to win his placekicking duties back after giving way to walk-on Tyler Durbin and a hip injury last year.

 

Final Analysis

 

Last year’s Buckeyes deserve credit for growing up quickly, finding playmakers on each side of the ball and advancing all the way to the College Football Playoff. However, a bad taste remains from the goose egg Clemson fed the Buckeyes and the fact that Meyer’s men didn’t get to play for the Big Ten championship. Therefore, there is emotional fuel for 2017. What remains to be seen is if the line can hold up, the receiving corps can develop and new defensive heroes can emerge.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 2

BIG TEN EAST PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Ohio State Buckeyes 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/florida-state-football-2017-seminoles-preview-and-prediction
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Florida State lost its all-time leading rusher, an All-American pass rusher and several other key pieces, but the Seminoles seem positioned to dethrone Clemson in the ACC and contend for another national title. A lot of the offensive burden will fall to sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois, but new playmakers need to emerge and the offensive line needs to take a step forward. The defense returns almost intact and boasts talent and depth on all three levels. Florida State opens the season against Alabama and must face Clemson and Florida on the road, so Jimbo Fisher’s team will have plenty of opportunities to show the Seminoles belong in the College Football Playoff.

 

Previewing Florida State Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

After passing for 3,350 yards and 20 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, quarterback Deondre Francois likely will be tasked with taking on an even larger role in the Seminoles’ offense this season. Gone is star tailback Dalvin Cook, top wide receiver Travis Rudolph and standout left tackle Rod Johnson. Fortunately for FSU, head coach Jimbo Fisher believes Francois is the type of quarterback he can build his offense around.

 

“The year he had, this guy’s a big-time player,” says Fisher, whose first three QBs at Florida State — Christian Ponder, EJ Manuel and Jameis Winston — all went on to be first-round NFL Draft picks.

 

The Seminoles will want to see Francois process reads quicker and get the ball out of his hands earlier. He also will look to improve upon his completion percentage (58.7), and the Seminoles likely will rely more on his running skills. Francois will be surrounded by a group that is long on talent but short on experience.

 

Junior wideout Nyqwan Murray has legitimate star potential, as he showed with two scores against Michigan in the Orange Bowl. But there undoubtedly will be a drop-off at running back with the departure of Cook, the school’s all-time leading rusher. Junior Jacques Patrick averaged 5.7 yards per carry as a backup in 2016, and celebrated freshman Cam Akers wowed teammates and coaches in spring drills.

 

The biggest question mark will be a rebuilt offensive line, which will have to be much better than a year ago for the Seminoles to become a legitimate title contender.

 

Previewing Florida State Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ ACC magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Three returning starters up front provide the nucleus of what could be one of the nation’s deepest defensive line rotations. The Noles must fill a huge void left by defensive end DeMarcus Walker (16.0 sacks), but Josh Sweat and Brian Burns combined for 16.5 sacks of their own last fall. FSU’s coaches believe they have enough quality depth to go three-deep at all four spots and wear down opposing offenses.

 

The Seminoles are perhaps even more well stocked in the secondary, where All-America safety Derwin James returns from a season-ending knee injury last September. James is joined by several other DBs with starting experience, including junior cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, who tied for first nationally with eight interceptions in 2016.

 

Starting linebackers Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins are both seniors, and the Seminoles have more depth at that position than they’ve enjoyed in years.

 

Previewing Florida State Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

The good news is that the Seminoles return placekicker Ricky Aguayo and punter Logan Tyler. The bad news is that both were extremely inconsistent as freshmen last fall. Aguayo, the younger brother of former Lou Groza Award winner Roberto Aguayo, struggled mightily with kicks beyond 40 yards; he was perfect on all 12 kicks inside the 40 but only 7-of-14 from that point and beyond. Tyler averaged a pedestrian 40.3 yards per punt and seldom delivered great hang time. FSU’s coaches were encouraged, however, by his improvement in the spring.

 

Final Analysis

 

Despite a somewhat disappointing 10–3 campaign in 2016, the Seminoles again will begin the season with sky-high aspirations. They bring back nearly everyone from a defense that ranked in the top 25 nationally, as well as a talented quarterback in Francois and some dynamic skill players.

 

If the offensive line can jell in time for a season-opening clash with Alabama in Atlanta, the Seminoles could be a legitimate national championship contender. A loss there wouldn’t knock them out of the race, but the remaining schedule is daunting with road trips to Clemson and Florida in a span of 14 days in November.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 3

ACC ATLANTIC PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Florida State Seminoles 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/washington-football-2017-huskies-preview-and-prediction
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Washington was hit hard by NFL departures, but the Huskies have plenty of talent on the roster as they look to not just only defend their Pac-12 title, but get back to the College Football Playoff. Quarterback Jake Browning and a potent one-two punch at running back will lead the way on offense, but new targets need to emerge for the passing game. The defense lost three standouts in the secondary alone, but the linebacking corps should be strong and there’s a NFL-caliber tackle to anchor the front line. Chris Petersen led UW back to national prominence and there’s no reason to think these Huskies are just going to disappear in 2017.

 

Previewing Washington Football’s Offense for 2017

 

The Huskies should have no trouble moving the ball and running up points. They have quarterback stability in Jake Browning, a two-year returning starter and still just a junior. He directed the league’s highest-scoring offense (41.8 ppg), threw a league-record-tying 43 touchdown passes and was selected conference Offensive Player of the Year. He comes off shoulder surgery that limited him in spring practice, but it shouldn’t keep him from making another run at a Heisman Trophy after finishing sixth.

 

 The Huskies are loaded at tailback with the league’s best one-two punch in junior Myles Gaskin and senior Lavon Coleman, who combined for 2,200 yards last season. Gaskin, the returning first-team All-Pac-12 pick, uses an uncanny blend of balance and speed to get his yards; Coleman is a power runner who bulled his way to a school-record 7.5 yards per carry.

 

The Huskies’ veteran line is poised for a breakout season. The centerpiece is 6'8", 320-pound junior left tackle Trey Adams, who has the NFL written all over him and carries such a lean frame he resembles a gigantic tight end. Huge and mobile, he was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and enters his third season as a starter. Senior center Coleman Shelton, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick, enters his fourth season as a starter and is a highly dependable player — he’s started at all five line positions. 

 

If there’s a question mark on offense, it’s at wide receiver. The Huskies have a good one in senior Dante Pettis, who had 53 receptions and 15 scores last season, but a reliable second option needs to step forward. 

 

Previewing Washington Football’s Defense for 2017 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Pac-12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

 

Vita Vea, a 6'5", 334-pound junior defensive tackle, was projected as a second-round NFL Draft pick but decided he wasn’t ready. He might be the only one who felt that way. While starting just five games last season, Vea made enough of an impression that he was named second-team All-Pac-12. He will team with junior defensive tackle Greg Gaines, deceptively good at stopping the run, to form another stout front wall.

 

The strength of the Huskies’ defense shifts from the secondary to the middle row. Three starting linebackers return, notably senior inside linebacker Azeem Victor, a highly aggressive player who was named first-team All-Pac-12 even after missing four-plus games with a broken leg. Victor will start for a third consecutive season alongside fellow senior inside linebacker Keishawn Bierria, a second-team All-Pac-12 pick. 

 

The secondary lost three highly decorated players. The Huskies return a budding star in sophomore free safety Taylor Rapp, but their biggest challenge will be to find two new cornerbacks, which could determine this team’s ultimate fate.

 

Previewing Washington Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Senior Tristan Vizcaino returns as both a dependable starter and untested newcomer. As the regular punter, he averaged 40.7 yards, dropping 15 kicks inside the 20. He takes over the placekicking with only a lone successful extra point to his name. The shifty Pettis remains one of the nation’s most feared punt returners, scoring a school-record five times in his career.

 

Final Analysis

 

After a College Football Playoff appearance, coach Chris Petersen returns 13 starters, including the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in Browning and a middle linebacker in Victor who might be the league’s best defensive player.

 

Petersen continues to recruit well. He has another soft non-conference slate and doesn’t have USC on the league schedule. If UW can restock the secondary and keep the momentum going, the Huskies will be a serious contender — both in the Pac-12 and nationally — again.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 4

PAC-12 NORTH PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Washington Huskies 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 09:00
Path: /college-basketball/whats-going-bobby-knight-he-seems-angrier-usual
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What’s going on with Bobby Knight? He seems angrier than usual.

 

Questions answered by our sports expertsBob Knight, 76, isn’t throwing chairs across gym floors anymore, but he isn’t done with his angry outbursts. The legendary coach was a guest on the Dan Patrick Show in March, when Patrick brought up the subject of Knight’s ongoing feud with Indiana University, where Knight won three national titles — including the last undefeated season (1976) in college basketball history. “Aren’t all those people (who fired you) out of there, coach?” asked Patrick. “I hope they’re all dead,” replied Knight, who coached at IU from 1971-2000.

 

We caught up with one of Knight’s biggest allies — ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale — and asked him what’s up with the man he reverentially refers to as Robert Montgomery Knight. “Indiana is a sore, sore spot with him. I wish he could let that go,” Vitale says. “I told him once on the phone, I was down there to do a game where they honored his great, great (1976) team, and I said, ‘Bobby, if you walk into the arena, that place, the roof will come off! The fans love you there!’ He doesn’t want to hear it. He’s very, very upset and bitter about what transpired and the way they let him go. And he just can’t let that go.”

Teaser:
Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight is still mad at Indiana, after all these years
Post date: Monday, May 29, 2017 - 15:06
Path: /nascar/coca-cola-600-charlotte-preview-and-fantasy-NASCAR-predictions-2017
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NASCAR may have been born in Daytona Beach, the result of a smoke-filled hotel in December 1947 but North Carolina is now its grown-up home base. Ninety percent of Cup Series teams make their home there, most with race shops just outside the Charlotte city limits. Its 1.5-mile oval is looked at as one of the sport’s crown jewels, the Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race NASCAR’s top division will run all year.

 

But this prime example of “cookie-cutter” intermediate in the sport’s modern era also is facing a long list of criticisms, all of which were at a fever pitch following the All-Star Race Saturday night. A lackluster performance ended with a Kyle Busch victory in which you knew the winner by turn 2 of the final 10-lap sprint. And that’s with a double-file restart, different tire options, an elimination-style format... all that was missing was a kitchen sink.

 

The key moment in this borefest, one that could lead to change featured a repeat “pass in the grass” attempt by rookie Erik Jones gone wrong. You remember the pass in the grass, right? The funny part is it wasn’t even a pass. Dale Earnhardt slid through the grass ahead of Bill Elliott in 1987, keeping his rival in check en route to winning the sport’s third edition of the All-Star Race. Elliott was incensed; the crowd was in an uproar. NASCAR had reached another level of growth.

 

Look at Jones’ attempt 30 years later. It’s so similar, yet with such a tragic ending. The car gets ripped into pieces; Jones loses it and spins out five seconds later. Instead of a three-wide finish to that Open segment, the sport uttered a collective yawn — and protest. None other than a retiring Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced on Twitter the sport needed to fix the handling on these racecars ASAP.

 

 

This brings us to the 2018 NASCAR schedule announced this week. Charlotte’s 600 was safe, but wait... what’s that I see? The fall edition at this track has been switched from the oval to its infield road course. Cars will turn left and right at CMS next year for the first time in the sport’s long history.

 

It’s a change met with cheers amongst many who felt the racing at CMS had gotten stale. What better way to renew interest in the sport’s home track then by opening up a brand new course? The 10-race playoff absolutely needed a right-turn track to better represent all the places drivers run on during the regular season.

 

But there’s another side to this gearshift. By abandoning the sport’s second oval race at CMS, NASCAR is admitting there’s a problem with the handling of the cars there. Instead of addressing the illness, they’re treating a symptom by just giving the cars a new playground. It’s following a pattern of the last dozen years: adding a playoff, changing the point system, adding stages during races... none of that addressing the actual side-by-side competition itself.

 

Look, it’s great CMS will have a new race to keep interest fresh. The region is an important part of the NASCAR landscape and, considering the nearly 40-week schedule on the road, I appreciate the sport trying to keep teams close to home as much as possible. But I also think it’s clear that, if the All-Star Race were held in California and the racing turned out like we saw Saturday night that event would be moved quicker than you could blink. Instead, it’s still on the 2018 schedule along with a 600-mile edition primed to produce the same type of boredom if we’re not careful. Hey, just ask Martin Truex Jr.; he led a race record 392 of 400 laps last year in a snoozer.

 

With the Indy 500 poised to once again pound NASCAR in the ratings, the sport needs to learn from what happened Saturday night. At some point, you run out of new cards in the deck and you have to work with the hand you have. If the handling on these cars doesn’t improve, in particular on cookie-cutter tracks no amount of new tricks will keep this old dog afloat in the competitive world of American sports.

 

That’s what the sport’s R&D Center should be spending every second of every minute trying to fix. Playing with the schedule and the rules only does so much.

 

Coca-Cola 600

 

Time: 6 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, NC)

TV: FOX

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Kyle Busch

After a season filled with near misses and perennial shots in the foot Busch found himself a bit of luck Saturday night. The right-timed restart combined with contact behind him sent Busch to his first-ever $1 million bonus in the sport’s All-Star Race. Combine that with a Truck Series victory the night before and he enters Charlotte’s main weekend red hot.

 

Busch has struggled on the Cup level with his Joe Gibbs Racing team; the organization as a whole has yet to score a victory there this season. But the 2015 series champ is the type of driver that can break out of a slump in a hurry, scorching the field and winning three of four. Conditions are favorable (see: two straight top-five runs in Cup heading into Charlotte) so the rest of the competition better watch out.

 

Who’s at the Back: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The All-Star Race was a sorry performance for the sport’s "Most Popular (soon-to-be-retired) Driver." Finishing 18th, he failed to make the final 10-lap segment and was never in contention, posting the worst average finish of all drivers through 60 laps.

 

In the regular season, Earnhardt now sits 24th in points with just one top-10 finish through 11 races. Seventy-seven (77) points outside a playoff spot, the push forward needs to start now. A win technically will get him in but when’s the last time the No. 88 was even capable of running up front outside of a restrictor plate track?

 

News Briefs

 

The 2018 NASCAR schedule was announced this week with some big changes. Indianapolis now moves to the final race of the regular season, replacing Richmond, which now moves into the 10-race playoff. Richmond displaces New Hampshire, shifted back from two dates to one as part of an expansion for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. LVMS gets a new second date, becoming the new playoff kickoff event while struggling Chicagoland Speedway moves back to a regular season race in July.

 

Regan Smith will remain the sub for Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford this weekend. (He failed to make the All-Star Race last weekend in the car). A long-term sub for Almirola, who will take 8-12 weeks to recover from his fractured T5 vertebra suffered at Kansas has not been announced.

 

NASCAR’s 2018 Hall of Fame class was announced this week. Red Byron, the final member of the original 25 nominees selected when the Hall opened in 2010 was among those selected. Byron, the original series champ in 1949, will be joined by legendary car owner and engine builder Robert Yates; Jeff Gordon’s championship crew chief Ray Evernham; all-time Truck Series leader in victories Ron Hornaday Jr.; and broadcasting legend Ken Squier. Jim France won the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR.

 

Danica Patrick’s employer, Stewart-Haas Racing, has tentatively settled a lawsuit with her former primary sponsor Nature’s Bakery. The corporation had pulled out of its final two years of a three-year deal in January claiming Patrick’s endorsement of rival products violated the deal (among other complaints).

 

Finally, in a long news week Kyle Larson, after running strong throughout the All-Star Race, will have to start this weekend from the back of the field. Larson hit the wall in practice and then did not pass technical inspection in time to make a qualifying lap. He’ll begin the 600 from 39th position.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

8

NASCAR winners crowned through the sport’s first 11 points-paying events. A maximum of 16 drivers can win to automatically make the sport’s playoff before “bumping” begins, as long as they each remain inside the top 30 in points.

 

6.9

Average finish of points leader Kyle Larson this season, best on the NASCAR circuit.

  

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

For Jimmie Johnson, the All-Star Race was a near miss but Charlotte has always been a hit. He has eight career victories at the track, including one last fall and posted an average finish of 2.0 at the track in 2016. While others at Hendrick Motorsports have been inconsistent, Johnson keeps humming along and with another solid track on the docket next week (Dover) he should be a mainstay on your roster.

 

See above for Kyle Busch; don’t count him out this Sunday. And keep in mind Martin Truex Jr. considering his dominating performance last season. Truex, though was underwhelming in the All-Star Race which have raised a few eyebrows he’ll be a step behind this Sunday.

 

Related: DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

 

Middle Tier

 

Kyle Larson isn’t in the top tier of some leagues yet. So grab him before he gets more expensive! This guy should have won the All-Star Race with a better restart and has one of the fastest cars at Charlotte this week. Starting at the back won’t stop him when there’s 600 miles to make your way through the field. For what it’s worth, Larson was fifth at CMS last fall and has a reasonable career average finish there of 17.9.

 

I always am a Kasey Kahne guy when it comes to CMS. While underwhelming in the All-Star Race, he has four career wins at the track and was third in the 500-miler last fall. Kahne’s the type of guy who can survive 600 miles and quietly log you a top-10 finish.

 

Underdog Tier

 

How about the rookies this weekend? Daniel Suarez made the All-Star Race last Saturday night and has discreetly logged five straight top-20 finishes. Erik Jones almost made it and is due after wrecks in three of his last four Cup starts (including the All-Star Open). And Ty Dillon did reasonably well here in the XFINITY Series with five top-11 finishes in six career starts.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., and Kyle Larson share the top of the Vegas charts with 11/2 odds.

 

What I Think

Truex has the history. Larson has the speed. But I’m going to go with the momentum of Kyle Busch to get hot and score a victory in the 600, locking him into this year’s version of the Cup playoffs.

 

— 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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Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
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This week's daily fantasy tackles the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series as they head to Charlotte Motor Speedway. One of the sport's crown jewels, the Coca-Cola 600, will run Sunday night at 6 p.m. Cars hit the track on Thursday at 2 p.m. for first practice; Coors Light Pole Qualifying begins at 7:15.

 

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

 

ELITE TIER: $10,000 and up

 

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,700)

Charlotte: 23 starts, one win, three top fives (13 percent), seven top 10s (30.4 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 16.2

 

Truex put on a show last spring at Charlotte. In one of the most dominating victories in series history, he started from the pole, led all but eight laps (392 of 400), and pulled off his first win of the season.

 

The expectations to replicate that Sunday are at an all-time high this weekend, highlighted by his pricey salary. Truex is rock solid at 1.5-mile tracks, topping all drivers in laps led at intermediates this season. Martin has three top-five finishes in the last four Charlotte races and should run up there again despite a rocky performance in the All-Star Race.

 

Kevin Harvick ($10,300)

Charlotte: 32 starts, three wins, seven top fives (21.9 percent), 14 top 10s (43.8 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 15.4

 

Before losing his engine in the Charlotte playoff race last fall, Harvick was riding a nice seven race top-10 streak. That included two wins and three second-place finishes. If you dig even deeper, Harvick has only two finishes outside the top 15 here since 2010.

 

A 2017 win has eluded the 2014 series champion to this point in the season. But he has four top-five finishes in the last five races on the schedule, most recently a third-place finish at Kansas. Harvick is hitting his stride heading into the middle part of the season and his salary here is justified.

 

Jimmie Johnson ($10,200)

Charlotte: 31 starts, eight wins, 15 top fives (48.4 percent), 19 top 10s (61.3 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 12.6

 

A 24th-place finish at Kansas ended Johnson’s four-race hot streak, one where he averaged a fifth-place finish. That included back-to-back wins at Bristol and Texas to clinch a spot in the playoffs.

 

It seems as though every week we talk about how Johnson is the all-time leader at a track and Charlotte is no different. The seven-time champion has the most wins in Cup history at this place with eight, once called Lowe's Motor Speedway and nicknamed "Jimmie's House." He led 155 laps en route to the win last fall and is looking to do the same Sunday night.

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,000 – $9,900

 

Kyle Busch ($9,800)

Charlotte: 26 starts, 10 top fives (38.5 percent), 15 top 10s (57.7 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 15.5

 

Busch has yet to win a points-paying race at Charlotte, one of the few tracks left where he has not scored an official victory. (Remember, last weekend's All-Star Race was technically an exhibition).

 

But Busch has raced well here. He has 10 top-five finishes at the track, including a sixth-place result last fall while leading laps in 18 of his 26 career starts.

 

He then took the broom to the track last weekend, winning both the Camping World Truck Series race and NASCAR's All-Star main event. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks through in a race like the 600.

 

Joey Logano ($9,600)

Charlotte: 16 starts, one win, five top fives (31.2 percent), nine top 10s (56.2 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 11.2

 

Logano is averaging just shy of an 11th-place finish in 16 races at Charlotte, a series best. He checked off his first win here in the 2015 playoff race in which he led 227 laps. Last season, Logano finished ninth in the spring race, and then in the fall he wrecked and finished 36th after spending half his time inside the top 10.

 

Since winning at Richmond three races ago, Logano has crashed out of two consecutive shows, making Charlotte the ideal spot to bounce back. The Team Penske Fords have been fast all season on 1.5-mile tracks, making Logano a legitimate threat to win Sunday.

 

Jamie McMurray ($8,400)

Charlotte: 29 starts, two wins, seven top fives (24.1 percent), 11 top 10s (37.9 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 16.4

 

McMurray found success at Charlotte early in his career. He won in his first ever Cup start at the track back in 2002, subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin. Since then, he has gone on to win another race (2010) and been a threat for victory several more times.

 

McMurray's average finish of 16.4 in 29 races at Charlotte sits him in 11th place amongst his peers. Over the last six Charlotte races, McMurray has an average finish of 11.3, which is much more consistent with the level he has been racing throughout 2017.

 

McMurray is quietly sitting fifth in the Cup point standings through 11 races. He has been the definition of consistency, notching seven top 10s, four of which came in the last five races. He was the runner-up at Talladega and has been running well. His salary is getting a little higher, but at this point this driver is still a great value play.

 

BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $7,900

 

Austin Dillon ($7,600)

Charlotte: Six starts, one top 10 (16.7 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 16.0

 

Dillon will head into Charlotte with a new crew chief, as Slugger Labbe left Richard Childress Racing altogether this week. A new face atop the pit box could be a welcome sign for Dillon. His 2017 campaign has not lived up to the hype following a great finish to the 2016 season. He only has one top-10 finish in 11 races and hasn't led a lap since the Daytona 500.

 

A 12-car pileup ended Dillon’s fall Charlotte race last season, dropping his average finish from what would be 12.8 down to 16.0. Dillon’s average start at the track is the focus of this weekend. If this driver starts outside the top 20, he'll be one to watch. In the three races here in which Dillon started 20th or worse, he finished 16th or better. Those are some valuable position differential points to have.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ($7,500)

Charlotte: 10 starts, five top 15s (50 percent)

Average finish at Charlotte: 20.8

 

Stenhouse is here because of consistency: the No. 17 Ford has not finished outside the top 15 since week five at Fontana. The Mississippi native has been tremendous this season both on the track and on DraftKings. He has two top-five finishes in the past three races, which includes the win at Talladega that likely landed him inside the playoffs.

 

The two-driver crew at Roush Fenway Racing has been a bright spot in the series during the young season. Stenhouse will look to continue his hot run at Charlotte.

 

Daniel Suarez ($7,400)

Charlotte: First career start at Charlotte

 

Suarez will be making his first MENCS start at Charlotte Sunday night. His exciting stage win to seal his spot in the All-Star Race last weekend also was a reminder of how well he ran at Charlotte in the XFINITY Series. In four XFINITY career starts at CMS, his worst finish was 12th place.

 

Suarez finished third in his last XFINITY start here in a race ultimately dominated by Cup peers: Kyle Larson, and winner Logano. He should finish behind those veterans again Sunday but remains a solid dark-horse pick for a top-10 finish.

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup:

 

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DraftKings NASCAR Lineup Picks: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte
Post date: Friday, May 26, 2017 - 11:30
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USC enters this season one of the hottest teams in the country after winning nine in a row to close out 2016, including a thrilling comeback victory in the Rose Bowl over Penn State. Expectations are high for the Trojans once again thanks to presence of quarterback Sam Darnold, who went from No. 2 on the depth chart to a Heisman Trophy contender in a little more than three months. USC returns only 10 starters and has lost several playmakers on both sides of the ball, but the Trojans have the talent to not only contend in the Pac-12, but also make their first trip to the College Football Playoff. 

 

Previewing USC Football’s Offense for 2017

 

After Sam Darnold took over as the starting quarterback in late September, the Trojans went 9–1, capped by a dramatic comeback to defeat Penn State in the Rose Bowl, as the dynamic passer breathed new life into a stagnant offense. In the 10 games he started, USC averaged 6.9 yards per play. Only seven FBS teams averaged a better clip over the full season.

 

Darnold will again need to lift USC, especially after key departures on the offensive line, including starting tackles Zach Banner and Chad Wheeler, and at receiver, where JuJu Smith-Schuster and Darreus Rogers have moved on.

 

The big question is whether Darnold can stay upright. He was the least-sacked quarterback in the Pac-12 last season. Part of that stemmed from his own ability to evade the rush and deliver accurate throws under pressure, but the veteran bodies up front helped, too.

 

It also remains to be seen if younger wideouts, including Deontay Burnett, Michael Pittman and Velus Jones, can replace Smith-Schuster and Rogers, who combined for 41 percent of the receptions and 45 percent of the receiving yards last season.

 

Ronald Jones II, who has amassed 2,069 yards in two seasons, headlines a potent rushing attack.

 

Previewing USC Football’s Defense for 2017 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Pac-12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

 

The Trojans will begin their second consecutive season under coordinator Clancy Pendergast, who will oversee a more experienced bunch with six returning starters from a group that was third in the Pac-12 in total defense.

 

The biggest concern will be up front, with the loss of Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, a burly nose tackle who frequently commanded double teams in his one season after arriving as a graduate transfer from Utah. Kenny Bigelow and Marlon Tuipulotu could assume his place, but Bigelow is coming off a second ACL surgery, and Tuipulotu, who ran with the first-team defense in spring practice, is a true freshman. Expect them to rotate.

 

The linebacker unit is the most proven group, led by Cameron Smith, who amassed a team-high 83 tackles as a sophomore. Porter Gustin and Uchenna Nwosu remain disruptive as well. Gustin and Nwosu at times line up as edge rushers in Pendergast’s 5-2 look. They combined for 20.5 tackles for a loss a year ago.

 

Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back, left early for the NFL. Jackson had five of the defense’s 14 interceptions last season, but most of the secondary remains intact. 

 

Previewing USC Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Placekicker Matt Boermeester made the game-winning field goal in the Rose Bowl, but he is unlikely to return for his senior season after he was suspended from the team in February for an unspecified “student conduct issue.” That would leave redshirt freshman Michael Brown to take over. Jackson, the dynamic cornerback who also returned two kickoffs and two punts for touchdowns, will also be missed on special teams.

 

Final Analysis

 

The resurgence of USC, coming off its best season since the Pete Carroll era, is expected to continue, with the program inching toward its first conference championship in nearly a decade and first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff.

 

Darnold, considered among the early favorites for the Heisman Trophy, adds credence to the hype. But the Trojans remain young. More than 50 of their 85 scholarship players will be underclassmen.

 

Coach Clay Helton has recruited well thus far, with two straight top-10 classes, so the Trojans are talented and have been free of NCAA sanctions since 2014. If USC is to become the third Pac-12 team in four seasons to make the CFB Playoff, it can thank a regular-season schedule that is more navigable, without Alabama and Washington. It’s likely the Trojans will be a factor in the race.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 5

PAC-12 SOUTH PREDICTION: 1

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USC Trojans 2017 Preview and Prediction
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Penn State may have been a surprise Big Ten champion last year, but the Nittany Lions aren’t sneaking up on anyone in 2017. The offense returns every starter but one while the defense brings back plenty of experience as well. Ohio State will get its shot at revenge against Penn State at home but Michigan, Nebraska and in-state rival Pitt all come to Happy Valley. The pieces and the schedule are in place for the Nittany Lions to repeat 2016’s success.

 

Previewing Penn State Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

The Nittany Lions enjoyed an offensive breakthrough in 2016 and return a pair of Heisman hopefuls in quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. McSorley threw for a school-record 3,614 yards in his debut season, with 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His average of 16.1 yards per completion led the nation.

 

Barkley appears poised to pick up where he left off after gouging USC for 194 yards and two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. The junior already ranks 12th in school history with 2,572 career rushing yards, including 1,496 last year.

 

The Lions also have a marvelous pass catcher in Mike Gesicki, whose 679 yards as a junior were the most ever by a Penn State tight end. The team will definitely will miss NFL-bound receiver Chris Godwin, but with DaeSean Hamilton, Saeed Blacknall, DeAndre Thompkins and three other scholarship players back, there’s depth at wideout. 

 

It also helps that the line is no longer a liability. The Lions return four Rose Bowl starters up front and two other players with extensive starting experience. 

 

Previewing Penn State Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big Ten magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Penn State has some holes to fill at defensive end and outside linebacker. But due in part to a wave of injuries, the Lions used a lot of players last fall, so while they’re still fairly young, they aren’t inexperienced.

 

Torrence Brown, Shareef Miller and Ryan Buchholz are vying for the starting end spots, with seniors Parker Cothren and Curtis Cothran back at tackle. Manny Bowen and Cam Brown were both thrust into the starting lineup last year at outside linebacker (Brown as a true freshman), and they’ll be back this fall. So will senior Jason Cabinda, a two-year starter who ranked third on the team in tackles last season despite missing five games with a wrist injury. 

 

The secondary got a big boost when free safety Marcus Allen announced that he would not be leaving early for the NFL. He’s been a starter since the seventh game of his true freshman season, and he was the third-leading tackler in the Big Ten last year with 110 stops. 

 

But the Lions suffered a major loss when standout cornerback John Reid went down with a potentially season-ending injury this spring. Penn State is deep at cornerback, but Reid won’t be easily replaced. The other back-end vacancy is at strong safety. Senior Troy Apke is the most experienced contender, but he’ll get a challenge from sophomore Ayron Monroe.   

 

Previewing Penn State Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Penn State returns nearly every noteworthy specialist from last season. Tyler Davis hit 22-of-24 field goal attempts, Joey Julius sent 45 of his 93 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks while also flattening a few return men, and Blake Gillikin averaged 42.8 yards per punt. If there’s an area where PSU still needs to improve, it’s on kickoff and punt returns. The Lions finished 10th in the Big Ten in the former (19.7 yards per attempt) and 11th in the latter (6.5) last season. 

 

Final Analysis

 

Penn State appears to have the potential, particularly on offense, to approach or maybe even surpass last year’s stunning 11–3 finish. Barkley and McSorley are the headliners, but the supporting cast, especially the offensive line, has made major strides, and those players are now versed in the intricacies of coordinator Joe Moorhead’s offensive system.

 

On defense, the losses are more significant, but there, too, the Lions have an abundance of young talent. So while they may not have re-established themselves as perennial powers, they’re trending up. Says coach James Franklin: “I think we can continue to build this thing and continue to do special things.”  

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 6

BIG TEN EAST PREDICTION: 2

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Penn State Nittany Lions 2017 Preview and Prediction
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The defending national champions will look different, but that doesn’t mean Clemson’s not a threat to repeat. Dabo Swinney and his coaching staff have done an incredible job of building a deep roster, as the Tigers return 12 starters and a host of young guys ready to make a name for themselves. On offense, all of the attention will be on whoever replaces Deshaun Watson, but Clemson also will have a new lead running back and needs playmakers to emerge in the passing game. The defense is in pretty good shape, especially up front. This clearly isn’t the same team that climbed back to the top of the college football mountain, but don’t expect these Tigers to give up their title without a fight.

 

Previewing Clemson Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Clemson’s offense played a key role in its first national title since 1981; the Tigers averaged 39.2 points and 503.7 yards per game. But Dabo Swinney and his staff face some major challenges in keeping the unit as potent as ever.

 

Gone are Heisman Trophy runner-up Deshaun Watson, one of the best players in program history, tailback Wayne Gallman (1,133 yards, 17 touchdowns) and three of the top four pass catchers, including Mike Williams (98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns) and one of the nation’s top tight ends in Jordan Leggett.

 

Junior Kelly Bryant, redshirt freshman Zerrick Cooper and five-star true freshman Hunter Johnson (an early enrollee) spent spring battling to replace Watson. All three are mobile passers, and while Bryant is the favorite to start, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the strong, accurate Johnson push to replace him.

 

In the backfield, sturdy C.J. Fuller will get first crack at carries, but if gamebreaking sophomore Tavien Feaster gets better without the ball, he’s a star in waiting.

 

Junior Deon Cain (38 catches, 724 yards, nine touchdowns as a sophomore) is an excellent deep threat, and Ray-Ray McCloud will fill the shoes of speedy Artavis Scott. Former walk-on and national championship hero Hunter Renfrow is the Tigers’ most dependable receiver.

 

The offensive line will be a cornerstone for the unit. Four starters return, led by All-ACC left tackle Mitch Hyatt and All-ACC right guard Tyrone Crowder. There’s plenty of offensive talent, but the question is how it will all fall into place. 

 

Previewing Clemson Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ ACC magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Brent Venables has turned Clemson’s defense from a liability into one of the nation’s best. The Tigers were a top-10 scoring and total defense last fall, yielding 18.0 points and 311.5 yards per game.

 

While there are a few key questions, the group should be a strength again in 2017, with a nasty defensive line as an excellent foundation.

 

Junior Christian Wilkins, who had 13.0 tackles for a loss last fall, will form one of the nation’s best defensive tandems alongside Dexter Lawrence, who looked NFL-ready as a true freshman. Clelin Ferrell looks to build on a breakout College Football Playoff as Clemson’s next great defensive end.

 

Linebacker Ben Boulware’s graduation after piling up 131 tackles will be felt, but junior Kendall Joseph, coming off a 124-tackle season, will be a capable replacement in the middle. Senior Dorian O’Daniel and sophomore James Skalski are athletic talents who’ll flank him quite well.

 

Seniors Ryan Carter and Marcus Edmond provide veteran leadership at cornerback, and watch out for Mark Fields and sophomore Trayvon Mullen, who emerged as a starter alongside Carter ahead of Edmond in spring. At strong safety, sophomore Tanner Muse appears to be in line to replace graduated Jadar Johnson.

 

Previewing Clemson Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Greg Huegel returns as one of the ACC’s most reliable kickers after hitting 14-of-19 field goals and 71-of-73 extra points. But Clemson needs to find a punter as well as a new long snapper and holder. Will Spiers, Michael Batson and Carson King competed this spring to replace steady punter Andy Teasdall. McCloud and Feaster are capable kick returners.  

 

Final Analysis

 

Clemson reached college football’s pinnacle with its win over Alabama, but staying there won’t be easy. Over the last 25 years, only two teams (Alabama and Nebraska) have repeated as consensus national champions.

 

The Tigers must overcome significant offensive skill position losses as well as the graduation of Boulware, the emotional leader of the defense. The schedule sets up well, with Auburn and Florida State at home, but given the offensive uncertainty, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a very slight step back this fall.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 7

ACC ATLANTIC PREDICTION: 2

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

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Clemson Tigers 2017 Preview and Prediction
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In recent weeks we've seen some of last season's top quarterbacks selected in the NFL Draft, while others set out preparing for the college football season ahead. To help you better understand this year's top QBs, Sporting News24/7 Sports, and, of course, Athlon Sports have you covered with their rankings of the top college quarterbacks on display in 2017. These rankings are based both on previous performances and writers' expectations for the year ahead. If these early outlooks are any indication, we're in for some exciting performances and QB battles. 

 

  Athlon Sports Sporting News 24/7 Sports
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville Lamar Jackson, Louisville Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
2. Sam Darnold, USC Sam Darnold, USC Sam Darnold, USC
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Jalen Hurts, Alabama Quinton Flowers, USF
4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Lamar Jackson, Louisville
5. Jake Browning, Washington J.T. Barrett, Ohio State Jake Browning, Washington
6. Quinton Flowers, USF Jake Browning, Washington Brandon Dawkins, Arizona
7. Mason Rudolph, Okla. State Trace McSorley, Penn State Deondre Francois, FSU
8. Luke Falk, Wash. State Mason Rudolph, Okla. State Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
9. Trace McSorley, Penn State Quinton Flowers, USF Logan Woodside, Toledo
10. Josh Rosen, UCLA Luke Falk, Wash. State Nick Fitzgerald, Miss. State
11. Jalen Hurts, Alabama Deondre Francois, FSU Mason Rudolph, Okla. State
12. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn Josh Rosen, UCLA Mike White, WKU
13. Deondre Francois, FSU Nick Fitzgerald, Miss. State Justin Herbert, Oregon
14. Austin Allen, Arkansas Josh Allen, Wyoming Wilton Speight, Michigan
15. Nick Fitzgerald, Miss. State Logan Woodside, Toledo Brent Stockstill, MTSU
16. Logan Woodside, Toledo Jarrett Stidham, Auburn Danny Etling, LSU
17. Brent Stockstill, MTSU Brett Rypien, Boise State Trace McSorley, Penn State
18. Mike White, WKU Mike White, WKU Jalen Hurts, Alabama
19. Brett Rypien, Boise State Shea Patterson, Ole Miss Luke Falk, Wash. State
20. Josh Allen, Wyoming Shane Buechele, Texas Sean White, Auburn
21. Jacob Eason, Georgia Wilton Speight, Michigan Josh Allen, Wyoming
22. Justin Herbert, Oregon Austin Allen, Arkansas Austin Allen, Arkansas
23. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss Justin Herbert, Oregon Ryan Finley, NC State
24. Jake Bentley, South Carolina Jesse Ertz, Kansas State J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
25. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State Jacob Eason, Georgia Taylor Lamb, App. State
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Oklahoma returns just about everyone on offense, including Heisman Trophy contender Baker Mayfield, as the Sooners look to make it three Big 12 titles in a row. Mayfield will need a new No. 1 target and the backfield is unproven, but a veteran offensive line should help this attack remain productive. There’s more pressure on a defense that features some standouts, but needs others to emerge if the Sooners are to not only defend their conference crown, but also get back to the College Football Playoff for new coach Lincoln Riley.

 

Previewing Oklahoma Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Baker Mayfield leads this Oklahoma team on the latest quest to meet the only acceptable preseason goal for any respectable Sooner player, coach or fan: an eighth national championship. Never mind that the Sooners suffered significant personnel and production hits. It’s always about the reload and never a rebuild in Norman.

 

So, yes, stars Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine and Dede Westbrook are gone, along with their combined 2,435 rushing yards and 2,168 receiving yards. Still, Mayfield is back, determined to maintain Sooner standards. “It’s up to me to make the most of my senior year,” Mayfield says. “This is my team and that’s the mindset I’m going to carry. One final run at the school that I love.”

 

Mayfield isn’t the only key player back, as the Sooners return all five offensive line starters and pass-catching tight end Mark Andrews to go with the next wave of playmakers.

 

The running back competition could involve as many as six players, although former four-star recruits Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson head into fall as the frontrunners.

 

There’s a search among veterans and newcomers for reliable receiving options alongside the big-play Andrews, who also lines up in the slot. Kentucky graduate transfer Jeff Badet could be a major wild card after totaling 82 catches, 1,385 yards and seven touchdowns in three seasons with the Wildcats.

 

Previewing Oklahoma Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big 12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Inexperience creates some concern among the front seven, yet there’s comfort in knowing a strong secondary has their backs. Jordan Thomas and Jordan Parker may be the best set of corners in the conference, providing Oklahoma with a luxury in a league loaded with spread passing attacks. Thomas is a star, controlling one side of the field as a physical cover corner who discourages throws his way. Steven Parker returns as a fixture at strong safety, carrying 30 career starts into this season.

 

The Sooners are moving toward more four-man fronts, an old-school approach to creating more quarterback pressure. It’s a shift that may also be necessary with the lack of a dominant figure in the trenches.

 

Veteran tackle Matt Romar fills one of the interior spots, while Neville Gallimore looks to make the move inside after working at end in Oklahoma’s old 3-4. D.J. Ward could thrive as an edge rusher in the new look.

 

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Caleb Kelly return as outside linebackers and flank redshirt freshman Jon-Michael Terry in the middle. Okoronkwo brings an attacking style, reflected in a team-leading nine sacks and 12 tackles for a loss.

 

Previewing Oklahoma Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Austin Seibert operates as the busiest man on special teams, handling punting, placekicking and kickoff duties. He’s solid in all areas, although inconsistency has plagued his work on field goals. The Sooners must replace two dynamic return men in Mixon and Westbrook. Anderson and Mykel Jones will get first crack at the runbacks.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Sooners enter 2017 as the favorites to win a third straight Big 12 championship. Still, the push is for much more. Mayfield and the standout offensive line give them a shot, although reliable weapons must develop, and the defense must prove capable. However, the outlook on Oklahoma took an interesting turn in June after coach Bob Stoops decided to retire. Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley was promoted into the new full-time role, ensuring continuity and little drop off for 2017. Riley is one of college football's top coaches on the rise and should thrive in his new role.

 

And there’s another potential problem area: a challenging road schedule that features a Sept. 9 visit to Columbus to meet an Ohio State team that thumped Oklahoma in Norman in 2016. And there are trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State, two of the other top contenders in the Big 12. And, if all goes well, there’s a rematch with someone in the resurrected Big 12 Championship Game.

 

And then something bigger? “The ultimate goal is to play for a national championship,” Mayfield says.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 8

BIG 12 PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Oklahoma Sooners 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, May 26, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburn-football-2017-tigers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn is hoping that a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback are just what the Tigers need to help them take that next step and emerge as a threat to Alabama in the SEC West. The good news is they will have plenty of help, as the Tigers boast one of the top running back tandems in the country. The offense will need to lead the way, at least early on, with the defense having to replace three key pieces. Just like last year, Auburn has enough talent to remain in the hunt in college football's toughest conference. Is this the season the Tigers dethrone their archrivals and win the SEC title?

 

Previewing Auburn Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Consistency. That’s what head coach Gus Malzahn was in search of when he lured Chip Lindsey back from the desert. The former Arizona State offensive coordinator made a name for himself as a high school coach in Alabama and is charged with transforming Auburn’s offense from a flash in the pan to a consistent force. The running game should be in good hands with the return of SEC leading rusher Kamryn Pettway (in yards per game) and the ultra-versatile Kerryon Johnson.

 

The addition of junior college transfer and former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham (12 touchdowns, two interceptions at Baylor in 2015) should add more depth at quarterback. Returning starter Sean White was solid when he was healthy last year, but four injuries in two seasons — including a broken arm suffered in the Sugar Bowl —  make it impossible to assume that he will be able to withstand a full season as the Tigers’ signal-caller. If Stidham can open up the offense on a consistent basis with his arm, the Tigers should achieve that much-needed balance and become an offensive power. 

 

Stidham made a smooth transition to the new offense during spring practice.

 

“Some of the similarities that (Coach Lindsey) has with what I’ve done at Baylor, some of the deeper passing game, it’s been a lot of fun,” Stidham says. “A lot of it, I’ve done before. Kind of second nature with some of it. He brings a lot of excitement to the offensive room.”

 

Previewing Auburn Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ SEC magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

There’s no question that the defense will take a step back without defensive end Carl Lawson, tackle Montravius Adams and safety Rudy Ford. Making sure it’s only a small step back is coordinator Kevin Steele’s biggest challenge.

 

The defensive front is loaded with talented players such as end Marlon Davidson — who started as a true freshman — tackle Derrick Brown and end/tackle Byron Cowart. Who will step up and be the focal point like Lawson was, though? Deshaun Davis and Tre’ Williams are entrenched at linebacker, and Tray Matthews has seen it all throughout his career at Georgia and Auburn. 

 

“We’ve got a defense coming back that has a lot of guys back with a lot of experience who were very successful and you know, just building a format,” Malzahn says. “In our league, there’s nothing like experience, especially quality experience. There’s been success, and when you look at our team, the thing I’m excited about is we’ve got a lot of experience back.”

 

The potential is there for this crew to be one of the SEC’s best, but some younger players up front have to grow up.

 

Previewing Auburn Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

There aren’t many kickers in the country more reliable than Daniel Carlson, and he returns after flirting with the NFL. Having a weapon like Carlson is huge for Malzahn, who can afford to take a few more chances with his play calling once the Tigers are in field goal range. Ian Shannon is an unknown at punter and is the biggest question mark. The Tigers have a host of candidates to fill the roles in the return game.

 

Final Analysis

 

Auburn was in the College Football Playoff mix well into November last season before injuries took their toll. The core of that offense is back, along with seven of 11 starters on defense. The addition of Stidham and presence of a new voice in Lindsey should propel the Tigers into that same conversation in 2017. If they’re not, athletics director Jay Jacobs will have some tough decisions to make after the season. This Tigers team is too loaded to be an afterthought on the national level.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 9

SEC WEST PREDICTION: 2

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Auburn Tigers 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, May 26, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/michigan-football-2017-wolverines-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Jim Harbaugh has turned Michigan into a recruiting force, and that’s a good thing considering all the talent the Wolverines are replacing. A total of just six starters are back with only one of those being on defense. Harbaugh does have a veteran quarterback in Wilton Speight and plenty of young, hungry guys ready to take advantage of more playing time. The key will be how quickly all of the pieces come together, as Michigan’s margin for error is small as it relates to the difference between being a good team and a College Football Playoff contender, especially in what figures to be a rugged Big Ten East Division.

 

Previewing Michigan Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Michigan loses a ton of experience across the board. That’s the bad news. The good news? Jim Harbaugh does bring back his quarterback in Wilton Speight, and he was able to get a boatload of younger players into games last season to develop critical experience moving forward.

 

Speight will be the team’s starting quarterback unless something unexpected happens, as he threw for more than 2,500 yards to go along with 18 touchdowns and a 61.9 percent completion rate a year ago. He’ll have all new receivers, though, as Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson and Jake Butt are off to the NFL. Michigan boasts plenty of young talent — players like Kekoa Crawford, Eddie McDoom and five-star freshman Donovan Peoples-Jones — but none of it is proven. Sophomore Chris Evans, who averaged 7.0 yards per carry last season, leads an experienced running back group, the only experienced group on this side of the ball.

 

Up front, things will be a challenge. And, frankly, the offensive line will once again be the determining factor in how far Michigan goes in 2017. Last year’s group was experienced, but it faltered in three losses against Iowa, Ohio State and Florida State. Michigan brings back versatile senior Mason Cole and talented sophomore Ben Bredeson, but Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will need three new starters. And the pool they’ll be choosing from has one combined start to offer. 

 

Previewing Michigan Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big Ten magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

Michigan loses 10 starters from the country’s top-ranked defensive unit, including Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers, captain Chris Wormley, star corner Jourdan Lewis and sack leader Taco Charlton. But it does bring back coordinator Don Brown, who helped push this unit to the next level with his high-pressure blitzing scheme last year. And, as was the case offensively, Michigan rotated a ton of youth here last season, so inexperienced players don’t have much to show on the start chart.

 

End Rashan Gary is an athletic freak and might be the best player on the team right now. Maurice Hurst turned down a chance to go pro early and is back as a leader up front at tackle. Elsewhere, hungry sophomores Devin Bush, Khaleke Hudson, Josh Metellus, David Long and Lavert Hill will look to make their mark in starting roles. They have big shoes to fill, but all of them got real-time reps last year at linebacker, safety and corner, respectively.

 

Previewing Michigan Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

When Michigan lost Kenny Allen and Peppers, it lost basically everything in terms of special teams. Allen handled all the kicking and punting duties last year. And Peppers’ ability as a punt returner was the main reason why this team led the country in field position last season. Redshirt freshman kicker Quinn Nordin will have to live up to his former No. 1-ranking as a recruit. And freshman Brad Robbins, the top-ranked punter in 2017, will have to adjust quickly.

 

Final Analysis

 

Harbaugh’s demanding enough as a coach to push a team to more wins than its talent and/or experience level typically produce. He’s proven this on numerous occasions. But he’ll be kicking himself for not getting more out of a supremely talented 2016 group.

 

Now, he’ll have to circle the wagons and live with growing pains — especially on offense — throughout 2017 as he’ll have one of the youngest squads Michigan’s had in some time. This team does get Ohio State at home, but a road trip to an improved Penn State squad won’t be easy. Neither will a season-opening game against Florida in Texas.

 

If Michigan can speed up its development process this offseason, it has the talent to grab double-digit wins. If not, it’s young enough to be staring an 8–4 year in the face.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 10

BIG TEN EAST PREDICTION: 3

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Michigan Wolverines 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, May 26, 2017 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-2017-all-conference-team
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Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Troy are projected as the clear frontrunners in the Sun Belt this year, and these three teams comprise a huge part of the 2017 All-Sun Belt team. The Mountaineers lead the way with 15 selections, while the Trojans and Red Wolves are tied with 13 apiece. South Alabama checks in third with 12 picks, and FBS newcomer Coastal Carolina features five selections on the 2017 All-Sun Belt team. 

 

Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for 2017. Now, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor the top players in the league with a release of first, second, third and fourth all-conference teams for 2017.

 

An important note on the all-conference teams: These are based on how players will perform in 2017. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2017 all-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.

 

Sun Belt Football 2017 All-Conference Team
 

First-Team

Offense

Second-Team

Offense

Third-Team

Offense

Fourth-Team

Offense

QB

Brandon Silvers

Troy 

Matt Linehan

Idaho 

Taylor Lamb

App. State 

Justice Hansen 

Ark. State 

RB

Jalin Moore

App. State 

Xavier Johnson

South Alabama 

L.A. Ramsby

Georgia Southern 

Johnston White

Ark. State 

RB

Larry Rose

NMSU 

Warren Wand

Ark. State 

Wesley Fields

Georgia Southern 

Aaron Duckworth

Idaho 

AP

Jordan Chunn

Troy 

Isaiah Saunders (RB)

Idaho 

Terrence Upshaw (RB)

App. State 

Osharmar Abercrombie (RB)

Coastal Carolina 

WR

Penny Hart

Georgia State 

Shaedon Meadors

App. State 

Keenan Barnes

Louisiana 

Alfonso Onunwor

Idaho 

WR

Emanuel Thompson

Troy 

Deondre Douglas

Troy 

Dijon Paschal

Ark. State 

Marcus Green

ULM 

TE

Blake Mack

Ark. State 

Maaseiah Francis

South Alabama 

Ari Werts

Georgia State 

Gabe Schrade

Texas State 

C

Aaron Brewer

Texas State 

Gabe Mobley

Georgia State 

Deontae Crumitie

Troy 

Curtis Rainey

Georgia Southern 

OL

Jordan Rose

Idaho 

Kevin Dotson

Louisiana 

Jeremiah Culbreth

Georgia Southern 

Robert Hunt

Louisiana 

OL

Victor Johnson

App. State 

Steven Rowzee

Troy 

Adam Lawhorn

Coastal Carolina 

Ryan Northrup

Georgia Southern 

OL

Beau Nunn

App. State 

Frank Sutton

ULM 

Sage Doxtater

NMSU 

Hunter Atkinson

Georgia State 

OL

Colby Gossett

App. State 

Noah Fisher

South Alabama 

Noah Johnson

Idaho 

Jaypee Philbert

Ark. State 

 

First-Team

Defense

Second-Team

Defense

Third-Team

Defense

Fourth-Team

Defense

DL

Aikeem Coleman

Idaho 

Tre Alford

South Alabama 

Jimmie Gipson

South Alabama 

Taboris Lee

Louisiana 

DL

Joe Dillon

Louisiana  

Baron Poole

Troy 

Kourtland Busby

NMSU 

Jamal Stadom

Troy 

DL

Tee Sims

App. State 

Dee Liner

Ark. State 

Myquon Stout

App. State 

Tyree Turner

South Alabama 

DL

Ja'Von

Rolland-Jones

Ark. State 

Mackendy Cheridor

Georgia State 

Finesse Middleton

South Alabama 

Caleb Tucker

ULM 

LB

Eric Boggs

App. State 

Michael Shaw

Georgia State 

Devan Stringer

App. State 

Gabe Loyd

Texas State 

LB

Bryan London

Texas State 

Terrill Hanks

NMSU 

Tony Lashley

Idaho 

Chris DeLaRosa

Georgia Southern 

LB

Kyle Wilson

Ark. State 

Kaden Elliss

Idaho 

David Griffith

ULM 

Shane Johnson

Coastal Carolina 

CB

Clifton Duck

App. State 

Chandon Sullivan

Georgia State 

Darrell Songy

South Alabama 

Blace Brown

Troy 

CB

Latrell Gibbs*

Kamryn Melton

Troy 

Jalen Thompson

South Alabama 

Jerome Smith

Georgia State 

S

Justin Clifton

Ark. State 

A.J. Howard

App. State 

Kris Weatherspoon

Troy 

Joshua Moon

Georgia Southern 

S

Jeremy Reaves

South Alabama 

Jaden Wright

NMSU 

Blaise Taylor (CB)

Ark. State 

Tracy Walker

Louisiana 

 

First-Team

Specialists

Second-Team

Specialists

Third-Team

Specialists

Fourth-Team

Specialists

K

Stevie Artigue

Louisiana 

Michael Rubino

App. State 

Parker Davidson

NMSU 

Gavin Patterson

South Alabama 

P

Payton Theisler

NMSU 

Brandon Wright

Georgia State 

Evan Rabon

Coastal Carolina 

Craig Ford

ULM 

KR

Jabir Frye

Troy 

Daryl 

Rollins-Davis

Ark. State 

Xavier Johnson

South Alabama 

Darrynton Evans

App. State 

PR

Blaise Taylor

Ark. State 

Chris Jones

Coastal Carolina 

Cedarius Rookard

Troy 

Marcus Green

ULM 

 

Team-by-Team Breakdown of Athlon's 2017 All-Sun Belt Team
  First Second Third Fourth

Appalachian State

Offense: 4

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Arkansas State

Offense: 1

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Coastal Carolina

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Georgia Southern

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Georgia State

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Idaho

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 1 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Louisiana

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0 

New Mexico State

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

South Alabama

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 4

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Texas State

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Troy

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

ULM

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 2

* CB Latrell Gibbs is not on Appalachian State's roster for 2017 and was not a member of the team in 2016.

Teaser:
Sun Belt Football 2017 All-Conference Team
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 12:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-2017-tigers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

After taking over for Les Miles early last season, Ed Orgeron has put his stamp on the LSU program, highlighted by the arrival of new offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The Tigers’ new $1.5 million man is promising to open up things up on offense, but to do so he’ll need to rely on a host of new starters. The defense once again was hit hard by NFL draft departures, but plenty of talent remains in Baton Rouge. How quickly this unit comes together will likely determine if the Tigers can be a threat to Alabama’s dominance in the SEC West.

 

Previewing LSU Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

New LSU coach Ed Orgeron sensed that a change of culture was needed at LSU after 12 years of being wedded to old-school, Power-I principles under former coach Les Miles. Enter new offensive coordinator Matt Canada from Pittsburgh. He’s an avant-garde offensive mind who helped hand national champion Clemson its only loss (43–42) last season. Canada is expected to deliver more passing and a lot more misdirection. Think jet sweeps and multiple pre-snap shifts.

 

Senior quarterback Danny Etling is LSU’s only experienced signal caller after former starter Brandon Harris transferred to North Carolina. Etling threw for 2,123 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions last season.

 

The offense will still depend heavily on a quality running game. Despite losing Leonard Fournette, the Tigers have plenty of power in reserve with the return of junior Derrius Guice. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 TDs as Fournette battled an ankle injury last season and has positioned himself as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.

 

The Tigers are retooling at wide receiver with the loss of their top two pass catchers, Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural, to the NFL. Canada talked senior D.J. Chark into returning, and he’s now poised to be Etling’s top target. 

 

On the offensive line, K.J. Malone (son of basketball Hall of Famer Karl Malone) flirted with moving on to his dream job of being a U.S. Marshal protecting national monuments, but he will return to protect Etling’s blind side at left tackle instead.

 

Previewing LSU Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ SEC magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
The good news: Christian LaCouture was talked into returning for his fifth season after missing all of 2016 with a knee injury. He’ll move from tackle to end in LSU’s 3-4 front. The bad news: There was at least some concern about the future of junior Buck (a hybrid of defensive end and outside linebacker) Arden Key. The SEC’s leader with 1.1 sacks per game, Key sat out spring practice for what LSU termed personal reasons. Key is expected to return in the fall, but it isn’t a guarantee.

 

The linebacker corps is the Tigers’ biggest rebuilding job after losing inside linebackers Duke Riley and Kendell Beckwith, who led LSU with 93 and 91 tackles, respectively. Senior Donnie Alexander, LSU’s No. 2 returning tackler with 45 stops plus an interception, takes over one inside spot. The other will be manned by sophomore Devin White, a promising talent. 

 

In the secondary, junior Donte Jackson (two interceptions) takes over the shutdown corner role from Tre’Davious White. John Battle is a returning starter at safety, but look for true freshman JaCoby Stevens to push for playing time after arriving in January.

 

Previewing LSU Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

The Tigers will break in a new placekicker, redshirt freshman Connor Culp. Josh Growden, LSU’s third straight Australian punter, returns after averaging 41.4 yards per kick. Orgeron promises a more aggressive approach to returning and blocking kicks under special teams analyst Greg McMahon, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, who will “coach” five position coaches who will handle a variety of special teams tasks.

 

Final Analysis

 

Orgeron retained defensive coordinator Dave Aranda (now the highest-paid college assistant coach at $1.8 million per year) and hired Canada to break LSU out of its predictable offensive patterns. Talent always abounds at LSU, although there’s still work to do to catch up with Alabama in the trenches.

 

A tough schedule awaits — the Tigers have only three SEC home games — so a 10–2 record would probably be the ceiling, which is not a bad goal in the Tigers’ first full year under Coach O.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 11

SEC WEST PREDICTION: 3

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
LSU Tigers 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2017-all-conference-team
Body:

The Pacific Northwest and the state of California are ground zero for the Pac-12’s top talent in 2017. Oregon and Washington take the top two spots on Athlon’s All-Pac-12 team for 2017, as the Ducks and Huskies combine for 27 overall selections. Oregon’s 14 picks are the most of any team in the conference. Washington State isn’t far behind its North counterparts, as coach Mike Leach’s team checks in with 11 selections. Stanford features 12 selections on the All-Pac-12 team, headlined by first-team cornerback Quenton Meeks. USC features 11 picks this season, including first-team quarterback Sam Darnold and linebacker Iman Marshall.

 

Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for 2017. Now, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor the top players in the league with a release of first, second, third and fourth all-conference teams for 2017.

 

An important note on the all-conference teams: These are based on how players will perform in 2017. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2017 all-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.

 

Pac-12 Football 2017 All-Conference Team
 

First-Team

Offense

Second-Team

Offense

Third-Team

Offense

Fourth-Team

Offense

QB

Sam Darnold

USC 

Jake Browning

Washington 

Luke Falk

Wazzu 

Josh Rosen

UCLA 

RB

Royce Freeman

Oregon 

Ronald Jones

USC 

Bryce Love

Stanford 

Nick Wilson

Arizona 

RB

Myles Gaskin

Washington 

Ryan Nall 

Oregon State 

Demario Richard

Arizona State 

Tre Watson

California 

AP

Phillip Lindsay

Colorado 

Charles Nelson

Oregon 

Kalen Ballage 

Arizona State 

James Williams (RB)

Wazzu 

WR

Dante Pettis

Washington 

Deontay Burnett

USC 

Tavares Martin

Wazzu 

Jamal Morrow (RB)

Wazzu 

WR

N'Keal Harry

Arizona State 

Darren Carrington

Oregon 

Demetris Robertson

California 

Darren Andrews

UCLA 

TE/

WR

Shay Fields (WR)

Colorado 

Dalton Schultz (TE)

Stanford 

Daniel

Imatorbhebhe (TE)

USC 

Jake Breeland (TE)

Oregon 

C

Coleman Shelton

Washington 

Jake Hanson

Oregon 

Jesse Burkett

Stanford 

Toa Lobendahn

USC 

OL

Trey Adams

Washington 

Jeromy Irwin

Colorado 

Jacob Alsadek

Arizona 

Gus Lavaka

Oregon State 

OL

Cody O'Connell

Wazzu 

Cole Madison

Wazzu 

Kaleb McGary

Washington 

Sam Jones

Arizona State 

OL

Tyrell Crosby

Oregon 

Nate Herbig

Stanford 

Tim Lynott

Colorado 

Calvin Throckmorton

Oregon 

OL

Scott Quessenberry

UCLA 

Viane Talamaivao

USC 

Salesi Uhatafe

Utah 

David Bright

Stanford 

 

First-Team

Defense

Second-Team

Defense

Third-Team

Defense

Fourth-Team

Defense

DL

Vita Vea

Washington 

Rasheem Green

USC 

James Looney

California 

Scott Pagano

Oregon 

DL

Lowell Lotulelei

Utah 

Kylie Fitts

Utah 

Jacob

Tuioti-Mariner

UCLA 

Kenny Bigelow

USC 

DL

Greg Gaines

Washington 

JoJo Wicker

Arizona State 

Filipo Mokofisi

Utah 

Tashon Smallwood

Arizona State 

DL

Hercules Mata'afa

Wazzu 

Harrison Phillips

Stanford 

Porter Gustin (LB)

USC 

Cameron Saffle (LB)

California 

LB

Azeem Victor

Washington 

Keishawn Bierria

Washington 

Manase Hungalu

Oregon State 

D.J. Calhoun

Arizona State 

LB

Cameron Smith

USC 

Koron Crump

Arizona State 

Joey Alfieri

Stanford 

Kavika Luafatasaga

Utah 

LB

Troy Dye

Oregon 

Kenny Young

UCLA 

Peyton Pelluer

Wazzu 

Ryan Moeller (S)

Colorado 

CB

Iman Marshall

USC 

Isaiah Oliver

Colorado 

Xavier Crawford

Oregon State 

Arrion Springs

Oregon 

CB

Quenton Meeks

Stanford 

Alijah Holder

Stanford 

Darrien Molton

Wazzu 

Jalen Thompson (S)

Wazzu  

S

Chase Hansen

Utah 

Taylor Rapp

Washington 

Brenden Schooler

Oregon 

JoJo McIntosh

Washington 

S

Justin Reid

Stanford 

Jaleel Wadood

UCLA 

Afolabi Laguda

Colorado 

Demetrius 

Flannigan-Fowles

Arizona 

 

First-Team

Specialists

Second-Team

Specialists

Third-Team

Specialists

Fourth-Team

Specialists

K

Matt Anderson

California 

Aidan Schneider

Oregon 

JJ Molson

UCLA 

Erik Powell

Wazzu 

P

Mitch Wishnowsky

Utah 

Jake Bailey

Stanford 

Nick Porebski

Oregon State 

Dylan Klumph

California 

KR

Charles Nelson

Oregon 

Kalen Ballage

Arizona State 

Bryce Love

Stanford 

Jordan Lasley

UCLA 

PR

Dante Pettis

Washington 

Charles Nelson

Oregon 

Adarius Pickett

UCLA 

Isaiah Oliver

Colorado 

 

Team-by-Team Breakdown of Athlon's All-Pac-12 Team
  First Second Third Fourth

Arizona

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Arizona State

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1 

Defense: 2 

Special Teams: 0

California

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Colorado

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Oregon

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 2

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Oregon State

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Stanford

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

UCLA

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 2

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

USC

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Utah

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Washington

Offense: 4

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Washington State

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

 

Teaser:
Pac-12 Football 2017 All-Conference Team
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 10:55
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2017-all-conference-team
Body:

WKU has claimed back-to-back Conference USA titles, so it should be no surprise the Hilltoppers lead the way in selections for the 2017 All-Conference USA team. New coach Mike Sanford inherits a strong foundation, as WKU places 15 players – the most of any team in the league – on Athlon’s 2017 All-Conference USA team. Louisiana Tech (12) checks in No. 1 among programs in the West Division, while UTSA and MTSU also have strong showings with nine overall selections apiece.  

 

Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for 2017. Now, it’s time to take a look at the best of the best and honor the top players in the league with a release of first, second, third and fourth all-conference teams for 2017.

 

An important note on the all-conference teams: These are based on how players will perform in 2017. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2017 all-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.

 

Conference USA Football 2017 All-Conference Team
 

First-Team

Offense

Second-Team

Offense

Third-Team

Offense

Fourth-Team

Offense

QB

Brent Stockstill

MTSU 

Mike White

WKU 

J'Mar Smith

La. Tech 

Chase Litton

Marshall 

RB

Ito Smith

Southern Miss 

Ray Lowry

ODU 

Jalen Rhodes

UTSA 

Alex Gardner

FIU 

RB

Devin Singletary

FAU 

Jeffery Wilson

North Texas 

D'Andre Ferby

WKU 

Samuel Stewart

Rice 

AP

Richie James

MTSU 

Jarred Craft (RB)

La. Tech 

Ty Lee (WR)

MTSU 

Nacarius Fant (WR)

WKU 

WR

Kalib Woods

FAU 

Lucky Jackson

WKU 

Josh Stewart

UTSA 

T.L. Ford

Charlotte 

WR

Allenzae Staggers

Southern Miss 

Thomas Owens

FIU 

Kam McKnight

La. Tech 

Kylen Granson

Rice 

TE

Ryan Yurachek

Marshall 

Jonathan Duhart (WR)

ODU 

Teddy Veal (WR)

La. Tech 

Tyre Brady (WR)

Marshall 

C

Nick Clarke

ODU 

Trey Martin

Rice 

Levi Brown

Marshall 

Derron Gatewood

UTEP 

OL

Will Hernandez

UTEP 

Reggie Bain

FAU 

Ty Pollard

Southern Miss 

Peter Godber

Rice 

OL

Brandon Ray

WKU 

Nate Davis

Charlotte 

Ethan Reed

La. Tech 

Carlos Johnson

MTSU 

OL

O'Shea Dugas

La. Tech 

Calvin Anderson

Rice 

Jordan Murray

North Texas 

Kai Absheer

FIU 

OL

Chandler Brewer

MTSU 

Dennis Edwards

WKU 

Austin Pratt

UTSA 

Antonyo Woods

FAU 

 

First-Team

Defense

Second-Team

Defense

Third-Team

Defense

Fourth-Team

Defense

DL

Jaylon Ferguson

La. Tech 

Chris Johnson

WKU 

Derik Overstreet

WKU 

Teko Powell

UAB 

DL

Marcus Davenport

UTSA 

Xavier Thigpen

Southern Miss 

Jordan Bradford

La. Tech 

Bryce English

North Texas 

DL

Oshane Ximines

ODU 

Ryan Bee

Marshall 

Fermin Silva

FIU 

Deldrick Canty

La. Tech 

DL

Walter Brady

MTSU 

Bunmi Rotimi

ODU 

Blain Padgett

Rice 

Kevin Strong

UTSA 

LB

Alvin Jones

UTEP 

Chris Melton

MTSU 

Shaq Jones

UAB 

La'Kel Bass

UTSA 

LB

Josiah Tauaefa

UTSA 

Azeez 

Al-Shaair

FAU 

Treyvon Williams

FIU 

DJ Sanders

MTSU 

LB

Emmanuel Ellerbee

Rice 

Anthony Wint

FIU 

Joel Iyiegbuniwe

WKU 

Joshua Wheeler

North Texas 

CB

Joe Brown

WKU 

Nate Brooks

North Texas 

Eric Jenkins

North Texas 

Isaiah Brown

FIU 

CB

Brandon Addison

ODU 

Rodney Allen

Marshall 

Raekwon Williams

FAU 

Cornell Armstrong

Southern Miss 

S

Jalen Young

FAU 

Nate Gaines

UTSA 

Ben DeLuca

Charlotte 

Secdrick Cooper

La. Tech 

S

Kishawn McClain

North Texas 

Devin Cockrell

UTEP 

Picasso Nelson

Southern Miss 

Marcus Ward

WKU 

 

First-Team

Specialists

Second-Team

Specialists

Third-Team

Specialists

Fourth-Team

Specialists

K

Jonathan Barnes

La. Tech 

Canon Rooker

MTSU 

Parker Shaunfield

Southern Miss 

Skyler Simcox

WKU 

P

Jack Fox

Rice 

Jake Collins

WKU 

Yannis Routsas

UTSA 

Alan Luna

UTEP 

KR

Kylen Towner

WKU 

Kerrith Whyte

FAU 

Tyler Wilson

North Texas 

Boston Scott

La. Tech 

PR

Nacarius Fant

WKU  

Terry Juniel

UTEP 

Thomas Owens

FIU 

Allenzae Staggers

Southern Miss 

 

Breakdown of Athlon's 2017 All-Conference USA Team
  First Second Third Fourth

Charlotte

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

FAU

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

FIU

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Louisiana Tech

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 4

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Marshall

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

MTSU

Offense: 3

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

North Texas

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Old Dominion

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Rice

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Southern Miss

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

UAB

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

UTEP

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

UTSA

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

WKU

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 2

Offense: 3

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

 

Teaser:
Conference USA Football 2017 All-Conference Team
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-football-2017-badgers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Wisconsin is the defending Big Ten West Division champion, but the Badgers’ customary running game will look different this fall with new primary ball carriers and left tackle. The hope is that quarterback Alex Hornibrook can take a step forward, and stay healthy. The defense will have a new coordinator and also must replace two standout linebackers. Still, the beat should go on for Paul Chryst's team, who will remain the favorite in the West thanks to a winning formula built around a strong ground game and physical, stingy defense.

 

Previewing Wisconsin Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

The Badgers ranked 39th nationally in rushing offense last season. While that production wasn’t up to their typical standards, it marked a jump of 56 spots from the previous season.

 

Whether Wisconsin can continue to trend upward in that category will depend largely on how a new-look backfield performs. Gone are Corey Clement, who rushed for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, and jack-of-all-trades Dare Ogunbowale. Taking their place are Bradrick Shaw and Chris James. Shaw averaged 5.2 yards per carry in limited action last season. James, a transfer from Pittsburgh, gives Wisconsin a speedy option in the backfield.

 

There’s plenty of experience returning on the offensive line, although Wisconsin has to replace left tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Taking Ramczyk’s place will be David Edwards, who began his career as a tight end and started seven games last season at right tackle. Michael Deiter, who has started 27 consecutive games, provides options because he can play either center or guard.

 

Wisconsin needs more consistent play at quarterback. Alex Hornibrook started nine games as a redshirt freshman and had some big moments, but he had almost as many interceptions (seven) as touchdown passes (nine) and needs to improve his completion percentage (58.6). The good news for Hornibrook is that his top two targets from last season — wide receiver Jazz Peavy and tight end Troy Fumagalli — are back.

 

Previewing Wisconsin Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big Ten magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Wisconsin will be under its third defensive coordinator in as many seasons. Jim Leonhard, who played for the Badgers, was promoted from within to run the unit after Justin Wilcox was named head coach at California.

 

Leonhard’s biggest challenge will be replacing outside linebackers T.J. Watt and Vince Biegel. Watt, who had 15.5 tackles for a loss and 11.5 sacks as a junior, left early for the NFL Draft. The rest of the front seven returns intact. The Badgers have loads of experience at the front of their 3-4 defense, and inside linebacker is an area of strength. Jack Cichy, who played inside linebacker last season but has the ability to play on the outside as well, may help fill the playmaking void left by Watt and Biegel.

 

The secondary was the Badgers’ strength last season under Leonhard’s watch. Cornerback Derrick Tindal and strong safety D’Cota Dixon are back, but Wisconsin has to replace two players who had fantastic final seasons with the Badgers. Nick Nelson, a transfer from Hawaii, will step in for four-year starter Sojourn Shelton at the other cornerback spot. The situation at free safety isn’t as clear. Natrell Jamerson, who began his career at wide receiver before moving to cornerback, is the leading candidate to replace Leo Musso. 

 

Previewing Wisconsin Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Rafael Gaglianone was off to a good start in 2016, connecting on seven of his eight field goal attempts, but a back injury ended his season prematurely. Gaglianone has been a huge weapon for the Badgers during his two-plus seasons, going 44-for-57 overall with 17 conversions from 40 yards and beyond. Punter Anthony Lotti was highly decorated when he arrived at Wisconsin last season and should only improve.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Badgers have won 21 games over Paul Chryst’s first two seasons despite inconsistency on offense. The defense, on the other hand, has been terrific, and Chryst doesn’t expect that to change under Leonhard’s leadership. Still, it would take some of the pressure off that group if the Badgers returned to the days where the offensive line wore down opponents.

 

One positive development for Wisconsin: Its schedule appears much more manageable than in 2016, when the opening two months included games against LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 12

BIG TEN WEST PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Wisconsin Badgers 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/texas-football-2017-longhorns-preview-and-prediction
Body:

After three straight losing seasons under Charlie Strong, Texas has turned to Tom Herman to turn the Longhorns around. Herman was 22-4 in two seasons at Houston and inherits plenty of talent that Strong left behind in Austin. However, there also is plenty of work to do on both sides of the ball, especially with a defense that gave up nearly 32 points and 450 yards per game last season. Herman’s certainly not starting over, but can he get the most out of his veteran roster in Year 1 to make Texas a legitimate threat in the Big 12?

 

Previewing Texas Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Texas is on its sixth offensive coordinator in six years. Let that sink in for a second as you stop wondering why the Longhorns have been largely irrelevant in college football since 2009.

 

But now it’s Tom Herman’s offense (being run by coordinator Tim Beck). And if Herman’s success as coordinator at Ohio State (a national title in 2014 with a third-string QB) and head coach at Houston (22–4 while averaging 38.2 points per game the past two seasons) is any indication, this could be a big year offensively for Texas.

 

The Longhorns have proven experience at quarterback (Shane Buechele), running back (Chris Warren III), receiver (Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay, Armanti Foreman and Jerrod Heard) as well as an offensive line with four returning starters, including All-America left tackle Connor Williams. 

 

Buechele took every rep with the first team in the spring game and clearly outpaced UT’s only other scholarship QB — early enrollee freshman Sam Ehlinger. But Herman, relentlessly demanding as an offensive coordinator, was in no mood to anoint Buechele in April. “As far as Shane being the starter? No way,” Herman said during spring practice.

 

The biggest concern for this offense will be staying healthy, because it is painfully thin at quarterback, tight end and at some spots on the offensive line.

 

Previewing Texas Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big 12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
Texas is coming off two of its worst defenses in school history under former coach Charlie Strong, giving up 30.3 points per game in 2015 and 31.5 in 2016. So, in a lot of ways, the 3-4 defense of UT’s first $1 million D-coordinator Todd Orlando has nowhere to go but up.

 

Orlando is confident in his defensive line that features rising-star defensive end Malcolm Roach, strong-as-a-fire-hydrant nose tackle Poona Ford and gritty defensive end Chris Nelson.

 

Orlando loves the secondary, especially vocal, hard-hitting junior safety DeShon Elliott, blazing sophomore free safety Brandon Jones as well as junior, do-it-all nickel back P.J. Locke and physical junior cornerback Kris Boyd. The other cornerback spot features a battle of 6'3" juniors — Davante Davis and Holton Hill — who emerged as stars as freshmen, only to suffer sophomore slumps.

 

The biggest question mark may be at linebacker, where Orlando has a lot of talent to work with but just needs to put guys in the right roles.

 

Previewing Texas Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Ray Guy Award finalist Michael Dickson returns at punter, and junior college transfer Joshua Rowland will handle the placekicking chores. The Longhorns struggled with both field goals and extra points last season. Receivers Foreman and Heard are leading candidates to return punts and kicks, respectively. The Longhorns have ranked ninth in the Big 12 in kickoff returns in each of the last four seasons and have not returned a kick for a touchdown since 2013.

 

Final Analysis

 

Herman is 22–4 as a head coach and is 6–0 against teams ranked in the AP top 25. He may also be a master of timing. At Houston, he took over a veteran team coming off an eight-win season and went 13–1 in his first year.

 

Now, Herman takes over a Texas roster returning 37 of the 44 in the two-deep from last season, stocked with back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes under former coach Charlie Strong. On his way out, Strong said whoever was coaching the Longhorns in 2017 would win 10 games.

 

Texas fans can’t take any more hype, only to be let down again. But things may be set up for Texas and Herman to crash the Big 12 party this season thanks to UT’s veteran roster, including experienced offensive and defensive lines and a laser-accurate quarterback. 

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 13

BIG 12 PREDICTION: 2

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Texas Longhorns 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-football-2017-cowboys-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Offense should not be an issue for Oklahoma State this season with quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receiver James Washington leading what should be a prolific attack whether the Cowboys decide to throw or run the ball. The defense returns only five starters, but it’s not short on athleticism and the coaching staff is optimistic about the unit’s potential. Oklahoma State has some tough tests, but the schedule for the most part should only help the Cowboys stay in the thick of the Big 12 race.

 

Previewing Oklahoma State Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Quarterback Mason Rudolph considered a jump to the NFL following last season but returned, giving Oklahoma State a premium triggerman for what should be an electric attack that feeds optimism for a special season.

 

The Cowboys return seven starters on offense, none more important than Rudolph, who enters 2017 as the nation’s No. 2 active leader in career passing yards per game (300.5), boosted by last year’s total of 4,091 yards, with 28 touchdowns against four interceptions.

 

And Rudolph has weapons in waves, led by game-breaking receiver James Washington, whose 19.4 yards per catch in 2016 led all FBS receivers with at least 70 receptions. Washington, with 26 touchdown catches through three seasons, leads all active Power 5 conference receivers with 2,923 career yards.

 

Beyond Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Marcell Ateman are multi-year starters with a combined 15 career touchdown receptions, while Chris Lacy starred in place of the injured Ateman last fall and produced both in the passing game and as a devastating downfield blocker. Then there’s Tyron Johnson, an LSU transfer and former five-star recruit who wowed coaches as a playmaker in the spring. “It’s pick your poison,” Washington says.

 

Running back Justice Hill returns after rushing for 1,142 yards, topping all FBS freshmen and earning Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and consensus Freshman All-America honors. Three starters are back on the offensive line. Cal graduate transfer Aaron Cochran should provide a boost at tackle.

 

Previewing Oklahoma State Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

Virginia Tech Football/ACC Magazine Athlon Sports’ Big 12 magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 college football coverage. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!
There are significant holes to fill on defense, yet premium pieces and athleticism, too, leading Cowboys coach Mike Gundy to suggest that this could be one of the better defenses of his tenure.

 

The defensive line should be a strength, with an abundance of quality ends, including all-conference candidates Jarrell Owens and Jordan Brailford (if he's healthy). Darrion Daniels, entering his junior year, showed in the spring that he could be ready for a major breakout.

 

Smart and savvy linebacker Chad Whitener enters his third season as a starter, and safety Tre Flowers is a rangy playmaker with 200 tackles and 17 pass breakups in his career. Ramon Richards, who’s started 23 games at cornerback, shifts to the other safety, leaving a cast of young and talented — yet inexperienced — players bidding to fill both corner spots. The addition of Clemson graduate transfer Adrian Baker alleviates some of the concern at cornerback. The scenario is similar on both sides of Whitener at linebacker. The overall success of the defense hinges on the development of the next men up.

 

Previewing Oklahoma State Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Punter Zach Sinor is a weapon, flipping field position both with length and an ability to pin opponents deep. The Cowboys ranked No. 1 nationally a year ago in opponent starting field position. A new kicker is needed, with Matt Ammendola set to battle incoming scholarship freshman Jake McClure. A boost in the return game is also needed, and Johnson may provide it.

 

Final Analysis

 

There are a lot of optimistic references to 2011 in Stillwater, with the look of this team bearing an obvious resemblance to that squad — at least on paper — with the array of offensive playmakers and the promise of an opportunistic defense.

 

Now, can it look and perform like that squad, which won the Big 12 and finished decimal points out of the national championship game?

 

The Cowboys will have to manage trips to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely. And they’ll have to find a way to beat Oklahoma, which has blocked their path the past two seasons. “That’s all we talk about around here,” Rudolph says. “That’s all we’re focused on. So, yeah, that’s a goal, the goal.”

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 14

BIG 12 PREDICTION: 3

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Oklahoma State Cowboys 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/2018-nascar-schedule-released
Body:

The 2017 NASCAR season is going full speed, but fans and drivers alike are able to look ahead, thanks to a recently released 2018 NASCAR schedule. Long-time fans may notice that some races aren’t on their usual weekends, the most notable being the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway which has been moved to the last race before the playoffs begin.

 

The Daytona 500 will be moved back to the President’s Day weekend that it had traditionally been held on. The “Great American Race” will be held on Sunday, Feb. 18, with both The Clash at Daytona and Pole Qualifying scheduled for one week earlier, Feb. 11.

 

The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ playoffs schedule also features a big change. For the first time ever, a road course will be featured. Charlotte’s playoff race will feature parts of the oval track combined with a road course through the infield, nicknamed a “ROVAL.”

 

Other changes include Las Vegas Motor Speedway now being featured in the postseason, with the race scheduled for Sept. 16. The following weekend will feature another new playoff track, Richmond International Raceway.

 

Due to these two additions, two tracks had to find new weekends on the schedule. Chicagoland was bumped out of the postseason, and the race is now scheduled for July 1. New Hampshire Motor Speedway also falls from the list of playoff tracks, with the race now scheduled for July 22.

 

Here's a look at the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule below:

 

DATE TRACK
Sunday, February 11, 2018

Daytona International Speedway                   

(Clash / Daytona 500 Qualifying)

Thursday, February 15, 2018 Daytona International Speedway (Duel)
Sunday, February 18, 2018 Daytona 500
Sunday, February 25, 2018 Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 4, 2018 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sunday, March 11, 2018 Phoenix International Raceway
Sunday, March 18, 2018 Auto Club Speedway
Sunday, March 25, 2018 Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, April 8, 2018 Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, April 15, 2018 Bristol Motor Speedway
Saturday, April 21, 2018 Richmond International Raceway
Sunday, April 29, 2018 Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, May 6, 2018 Dover International Speedway
Saturday, May 12, 2018 Kansas Speedway
Saturday, May 19, 2018 Charlotte Motor Speedway (Monster Energy All-Star Race)
Sunday, May 27, 2018 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, June 3, 2018 Pocono Raceway
Sunday, June 10, 2018 Michigan International Speedway
Sunday, June 24, 2018 Sonoma Raceway
Sunday, July 1, 2018 Chicagoland Speedway
Saturday, July 7, 2018 Daytona International Speedway
Saturday, July 14, 2018 Kentucky Speedway
Sunday, July 22, 2018 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sunday, July 29, 2018 Pocono Raceway
Sunday, August 5, 2018 Watkins Glen International
Sunday, August 12, 2018 Michigan International Speedway
Saturday, August 18, 2018 Bristol Motor Speedway
Sunday, September 2, 2018 Darlington Raceway
Sunday, September 9, 2018 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sunday, September 16, 2018 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Saturday, September 22, 2018 Richmond International Raceway
Sunday, September 30, 2018 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Sunday, October 7, 2018 Dover International Speedway
Sunday, October 14, 2018 Talladega Superspeedway
Sunday, October 21, 2018 Kansas Speedway
Sunday, October 28, 2018 Martinsville Speedway
Sunday, November 4, 2018 Texas Motor Speedway
Sunday, November 11, 2018 Phoenix International Raceway
Sunday, November 18, 2018 Homestead-Miami Speedway
Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 09:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-football-2017-bulldogs-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is a defensive-minded guy and that figures to be the Bulldogs' strength in 2017. The defense, which was top 20 nationally in both total and passing yards per game allowed last season, returns intact and should be among the best in the SEC, if not all of FBS. Georgia also has an impressive tandem to lead its running game but needs sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason to take the next step. New playmakers need to emerge to help Eason, but Smart and Bulldogs should be able to stay in the SEC East race until the very end, and don’t be surprised if they win it.

 

Previewing Georgia Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

Georgia fans figure their offense will improve this year, if only because it couldn’t get worse. Well, that’s what they thought entering last year, and it did get worse: 87th nationally in total offense, four spots worse than the season that got Mark Richt fired.

 

So how will it get better with three offensive line starters and the team’s most dynamic player (Isaiah McKenzie) all gone? There are reasons to believe in moderate improvement.

 

Jacob Eason will be more comfortable in his second year as the starting quarterback. He was solid as a freshman and now will be a better leader of the offense. But Eason will need to improve his footwork and accuracy, as he was a bit lucky to have only eight interceptions, and his 55.1 completion percentage needs to improve.

 

The unexpected returns of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel should keep the running game from falling off even more than it did last year, when the two were relatively healthy. But Chubb and Michel need blocking help.

 

So it ultimately comes down to the offensive line and receivers. The coaches have recruited well to those positions, but the impact there may not be truly felt until 2018. For this season, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has said he will “freshen up” the offense, featuring more run-pass options. And Chaney needs to do a better job of scheming around the weaknesses at receiver and line.

 

Previewing Georgia Football’s Defense for 2017 

 

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This has a chance to be one of the best defensive units in the SEC, and thus the country. It was pretty good last year, ranking 16th nationally in total defense. And it returns all but one starter (nickel back Maurice Smith), so the defense will be loaded with high-end players and has no obvious weak spot.

 

The front seven could be dominant, with a deep defensive line headed by Trenton Thompson and Jonathan Ledbetter. The edge rushers are both seniors who passed on entering the NFL Draft, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. And the inside linebackers are juniors who are adept tacklers, Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick.

 

The secondary doesn’t have as much star power. Safety Dominick Sanders was a first-team All-SEC pick in 2015, but his performance fell off last year, when he dealt with shoulder pain. But he’s back healthy and is joined by fellow seniors Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish, along with some talented freshmen who will push for playing time.

 

Given all that, it frankly will be a disappointment if Georgia isn’t among the top three defenses in the SEC. And it has a chance to be dominant.

 

Previewing Georgia Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship had a solid freshman season (14-for-18 on field goals). The question is whether he can kick it long; he didn’t hit any field goals longer than 46 yards, and his kickoffs need to improve. Punter Marshall Long was okay as a freshman, then broke his kneecap late in the season. Both will have competition in the preseason. The return spots, meanwhile, are both wide open. Receiver Terry Godwin, who has dabbled in returning punts, will get a shot to do it full-time. Mecole Hardman, a dynamic sophomore who didn’t play much last year, will begin as the favorite to return kickoffs.

 

Final Analysis

 

If the defense plays up to its potential, and the offense and special teams improve even a little, Georgia has a very good chance to win its first SEC East title in five years. There’s a chance to go even further, depending on how quickly the young talent develops, and how Kirby Smart improves as a head coach. And there’s also a chance to disappoint, which Georgia has tended to do lately.

 

NATIONAL RANKING: 15

SEC EAST PREDICTION: 1

Don't forget to check out Athlon Sports' entire college football Top 25.

Teaser:
Georgia Bulldogs 2017 Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, May 25, 2017 - 09:00

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