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Path: /college-football/mac-football-2017-all-conference-team
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The favorites to win the 2017 MAC title feature a couple of familiar faces in Toledo, Western Michigan and Ohio, but Miami is a team to watch after winning six of its final seven games last year. The RedHawks feature 14 players on Athlon’s 2017 All-MAC team, which is tied with Western Michigan for the most of any team in the league. Eastern Michigan and Ohio are tied for second with 12 selections, while Toledo is third with 10 players. 

 

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.

 

MAC Football 2017 All-Conference Team
 

First-Team

Offense

Second-Team

Offense

Third-Team

Offense

Fourth-Team

Offense

QB

Logan Woodside

Toledo 

Brogan Roback

EMU 

Gus Ragland

Miami 

Thomas Woodson

Akron 

RB

Jarvion Franklin

WMU 

Terry Swanson

Toledo 

Shaq Vann

EMU 

Warren Ball

Akron 

RB

James Gilbert

Ball State 

Jamauri Bogan

WMU 

A.J. Ouellette

Ohio 

Jordan Huff

NIU 

AP

Nick Holley

Kent State 

James Gardner (WR)

Miami 

Josh Cleveland (RB)

BGSU 

Alonzo Smith (RB)

Miami 

WR

Cody Thompson

Toledo 

Jon'Vea Johnson

Toledo 

Sergio Bailey

EMU 

Dieuly Aristilde

EMU 

WR

Scott Miller

BGSU 

Corey Willis

CMU 

Papi White

Ohio 

A.J. Wolf

Akron 

TE

Tyler Conklin

CMU 

Donnie Ernsberger

WMU 

Ryan Smith

Miami 

Jared Murphy (WR)

Miami 

C

John Keenoy

WMU 

James O'Hagan

Buffalo 

Derek Edwards

CMU 

Luke Shively

NIU 

OL

Jake Pruehs

Ohio 

Sam McCollum

Miami 

Kyle Ritz

Akron 

Stefano Millin

Kent State 

OL

Tim McAuliffe

BGSU 

Jimmy Leatiota

EMU 

Jordan Diamond

Miami 

Brandon Manosalvas

Buffalo 

OL

Max Scharping

NIU 

Elijah Nkansah

Toledo 

Vinnie Palazeti

Ball State 

Joe Lowery

Ohio 

OL

Chukwuma Okorafor

WMU 

Ryan Hunter

BGSU 

Nate Jeppesen

Toledo 

Luke Juriga

WMU 

 

First-Team

Defense

Second-Team

Defense

Third-Team

Defense

Fourth-Team

Defense

DL

Joe Ostman

CMU  

Ikeem Allen

Miami 

Kevin Robbins

Ohio 

Andre Turner

WMU 

DL

Jeremiah Harris

EMU 

Eric Assoua

WMU 

Cleon Aloese

Ohio 

William Lee

NIU 

DL

Anthony Winbush

Ball State 

Olasunkanmi Adeniyi

Toledo 

Marquise Moore

Toledo 

Darius Copeland

Akron 

DL

Jon Cunningham

Kent State 

Gus Schwieterman

BGSU 

Nate Trawick

Miami 

Chris Ford

Buffalo 

LB

Quentin Poling

Ohio 

Ja'Wuan Woodley

Toledo 

Junior McMullen

Miami 

Chad Moore

Ohio 

LB

Ulysees Gilbert

Akron 

Robert Spillane

WMU 

De'Andre Montgomery

Miami 

Jarrett Franklin

Buffalo 

LB

Malik Fountain

CMU 

Khalil Hodge

Buffalo 

Asantay Brown

WMU 

Kyle Rachwal

EMU 

DB

Darius Phillips

WMU 

Josh Cox

CMU 

Justin Tranquill

WMU 

Vince Calhoun

EMU 

DB

Heath Harding

Miami 

Javon Hagan

Ohio 

Trevon Mathis

Toledo 

Marc Walton

Ball State 

DB

Amari Coleman

CMU 

Tony Reid

Miami 

Jason Beck
EMU 

Demetrius Monday

Kent State 

DB

Shawun Lurry

NIU 

Jerrell Foster

Kent State 

Jamari Bozeman 

BGSU 

Zach Guiser

Akron 

 

First-Team

Specialists

Second-Team

Specialists

Third-Team

Specialists

Fourth-Team

Specialists

K

Louie Zervos

Ohio 

Paul Fricano

EMU 

Tom O'Leary

Akron 

Morgan Hagee

Ball State 

P

Joe Davidson

BGSU 

Austin Barnes* 

EMU 

Michael Farkas

Ohio 

Derek Adams

Kent State 

KR

Maurice Thomas

Miami 

Darius Phillips

WMU 

Van Edwards

Akron 

Blake Banham

EMU 

PR

Darius Phillips

WMU 

Chad Beebe

NIU 

Zaquon Tyson

Kent State 

Papi White

Ohio 

 

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

Akron

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 2

Offense: 3

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Ball State

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Bowling Green

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1 

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Buffalo

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Central Michigan

Offense: 1

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Eastern Michigan

Offense:  0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 2

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Kent State

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Miami

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 3

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Northern Illinois

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0 

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Ohio

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Toledo

Offense: 2

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 3

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 0 

Defense: 0

Special Teams: 0

Western Michigan

Offense: 3

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 2

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 1

Offense: 0

Defense: 2

Special Teams: 0

Offense: 1

Defense: 1

Special Teams: 0

 

* Eastern Michigan punter Austin Barnes is no longer with the team.

Teaser:
MAC Football 2017 All-Conference Team
Post date: Monday, May 22, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/jerome-bettis-football-bowling-and-healthy-lifestyle
Body:

Jerome Bettis did it all during his playing days. “The Bus” was a star at Notre Dame before becoming a six-time Pro Bowl running back and Super Bowl XL champion during a 13-year career with the L.A./St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers. Now 45, Bettis has teamed with Stryker Orthopaedics to go on a “Road Trip to a Healthier Lifestyle” with golfer Fred Funk. The duo has a three-part web series promoting staying active, regardless of age. We caught up with the Hall of Fame power back, whose new mission is to help people live a healthier lifestyle.   

 

What is the Road Trip to a Healthy Lifestyle?

It’s a series about living a healthier lifestyle. Basically, me and Fred Funk — a football player and a golfer — we’re doing everything except golf and football, just to try to show people that there’s things you can do out there that can help you live a healthier lifestyle. And all you have to do is to start thinking out of the box.

 

What is your personal experience with joint pain and how that has impacted your lifestyle?

After 13 years of playing in the NFL, I got beat up pretty good. I do understand that part of it. I don’t have a replaced knee, but I am on track for that. I was told when I retired that I would need a knee. They wanted to try to push it out as far as I can, but that’s just part of the business. I understand it. Right now, I’m with my doctor, we’re developing a game plan to deal with the pain.

 

When it becomes a point where now I cannot enjoy daily living, can’t enjoy playing with my family and the kids, that’s when you have to start looking at the next option. I’m here to let people know that you don’t have to live with that pain, that there are options that are available. Once you look at all those options and exhaust all of those options, then there’s one final option available to you.

 

What are some things that people with joint pain can do to stay active? What are you and Fred Funk doing, for example?

Yeah. We’re doing a lot of things. We had a spin class. We got some yoga in. Now we’ve got a little baseball. And we got some line dancing, which I have no idea of what I’m going to be able to do. I’m nervous there. I’m gonna be a fish out of water, with the line dancing. But I’m gonna give it a go.

 

You should do, use your bowling steps, use your bowling technique on the line.

Yeah, I’m glad you told me that. I’m taking all advice.

 

Do your Fred Flinstone move, go twinkle toes on them.

Exactly. You’re right. I say, “Yabba Dabba Doo!”

 

Are you still bowling these days?

I do still bowl. Not as much as I would like, but I’ve introduced my kids to bowling, so they enjoy it, so we go out every blue moon.

 

Do you still have your charity bowling?

I do. I still have it. This year I did not have it because I had back surgery, just had back surgery and now I’m all healed up. But I’ll have it again next year.

 

What’s your average?

I average about, I’m about 206 to 212, somewhere in that range.

 

Let’s talk a little football. Big Ben Roethlisberger, how much longer do you expect him to play?

I think he can play two, three more years. No question about it. I mean, I think he can play longer than that, but I think two, three more years, I think that’ll give him what he’s kind of been wanting to do, fulfill himself. Right now was a rough year, and so he reflected back on should he come out for another year or should he retire.

 

And I think that was a lot of frustration. You lose the AFC championship game, one step away from getting to the Super Bowl, it causes you to think about that, and I did the same exact thing. I said I was ready to retire, I decided to come back for one more year, we won the championship. I think it’s the same kind of idea with him.

 

How sweet was it for you to go out on top in Super Bowl XL, in your hometown of Detroit?

Yeah, that was a special moment. You can’t write a script that gets better than that. Because that was the goal all along, and then to have the opportunity to come back one last year, and then the Super Bowl was in Detroit, my hometown, where my career started. It started and it ended the same place and that was really fitting for me, as a football player, to play my last game in front of the same people that saw me start my career. I was in awe of that moment. It was special.

 

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, what did Dan Rooney mean to you?

He was special. He was really special. We had a great relationship, and it wasn’t owner-player relationship. It was on the friend relationship. I’ll never forget the year I went into the Hall of Fame, he wasn’t feeling particularly well, but he gave me a call. He gave me a call and told me he wanted to get up to the Hall of Fame, my induction, so that he could be there when I got inducted.

 

And it just meant the world to me that he was still, when he wasn’t feeling great, wasn’t feeling well, gonna still make the trip just to be sitting there when I gave my speech, and that was an honor. He was just that type of person, where he didn’t have to call me, but he wanted to call me and let me know, “Hey, if I don’t make it, I’m not feeling well, but I’m going to do everything I can to make it.” And he made it.

 

Your NFL career started in Los Angeles with the L.A. Rams, and you were part of that team that moved from L.A. to St. Louis. What’s your take on Los Angeles having two football teams to support now, and what do you think that process is going to be like?

You know what, the key word in what you said is “process.” It’s a process, you have to understand that. You gotta know that it’s not going to happen overnight. They have to build a new generation of fans. Think about it. The kids that are six, seven, eight, nine, ten, they don’t know the Rams, right? So they’ve gotta build a fan base there, and it takes time. But, it also takes winning, and so they’ve gotta do the winning part now. Because if they can do that now, then they have a better chance of getting that fan to gravitate to them versus the Chargers.

 

Because you gotta think, both teams are there, and they’re both trying to get the same fans, and that young six-, seven-, eight-year-old, he’s gonna go with the team that’s winning. And that’s the team he’s gonna fall in love with, and that’s the team that he’s gonna follow all the way up into his adulthood. So, they’ve got an opportunity to win some young kids’ hearts, but they’ve gotta win football games immediately because they got another team, the Chargers, in that same area.

 

You played for some legendary championship-winning coaches. Who was funnier when they got mad, Lou Holtz or Bill Cowher?

Neither guy was funny. But both guys have similarities in that when they both got mad, they were spitters. They get up on you, they’re “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.” They got the machine gun going from both of them. You didn’t want to be in their dog house.

 

What advice you would give to the next generation coming up?

What I would tell people is don’t sit on the sidelines of life, be an active participant. I think that’s the most important part. So many times people get scared to take a chance or to live out their dreams or to do something that inspires them. Don’t be a passenger in life’s car, you want to be a driver, get in the driver’s seat. Make your decisions, live with them and learn from them. And you’ll be successful.

 

And don’t be afraid to line dance!

I’m embracing it! I’m embracing it!

 

 

Teaser:
Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis has a new digital series with Fred Funk
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/espn-holly-rowe-says-her-cancer-has-return-spread
Body:

Sad news for many sports fans as Holly Rowe's cancer has returned.

 

The ESPN reporter told The Associated Press that her cancer has spread, but she intends to stay on with the worldwide leader in sports after they just extended her contract.

 

"I don't think about having cancer when I'm out there," Rowe said. "Monday, I have a CAT scan and have treatment. I'll be a cancer patient on Monday. I'm not thinking about it today."

 

Rowe is keeping her spirits high during this trying time and is going to stay busy when her health permits. Taking too much time off from something you love is a difficult thing. 

 

"I recently had five days in a row off," Rowe said. "That's a long stretch. I was a mess, I was sitting around thinking about having cancer. It's ridiculous. I've got to stay busy or I'll go crazy. This is the world's best therapy. Every single day I'm working, I'm absorbed in other people. Somebody wins. I need to see people winning and fighting through adversity. That helps me so much."

 

Rowe is already a winner in our hearts.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 11:54
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/monster-energy-all-star-race-charlotte-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions
Body:

Twenty-five years. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long since I was a wide-eyed 11-year-old, watching the last lap of the most famous All-Star Race in NASCAR history unfold on television.

 

 

It was then the race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway took on new meaning. Dale Earnhardt Sr., The Intimidator, was busy getting stalked by Kyle Petty down the backstretch. Heading into turn 3, Earnhardt’s No. 3 suddenly couldn’t handle the changing air; he got loose and spun out in front of the field.

 

Petty appeared to be home free; it was the son of The King taking a step forward in his career. Only... wait? Who’s that coming in the rear-view mirror? Davey Allison’s No. 28 Ford stormed up from behind. On the inside, he made a surprise power move, passing Petty only to be spun just past the start/finish line. Allison wound up with the trophy, paying a price in the process (concussion, bruised lung) but the crowd?

 

They couldn’t stop cheering.

 

It was one of the most dramatic, exciting endings in the sport’s long history. Perhaps nothing other than the 1979 Daytona 500 was more influential in winning fans over during the sport’s era of growth. By then, I had been hooked for a few years; that shower of sparks cemented my loyalty.

 

Problem is, ever since CMS has been searching for a redo of that magic moment, the once-in-a-generation YouTube classic to keep fans in their seats. Sadly, they haven’t quite delivered. Sure, plenty of the All-Star Races in the ‘90s came close to that Allison finish but couldn’t replicate it.

 

By the time this century beckoned, track changes in the form of levigation, an ill-conceived experiment on the track’s surface combined with the dreaded aero push, cut back quality competition throughout the field. The past decade has seen ratings tank in this event long before the rest of the tracks suffered through the same decline.

 

In its defense, NASCAR has truly tried everything. They’ve fiddled with the rules so much it would take pages to describe how much the format has changed over the past 15 years. They’ve debuted new handling packages, opened the rulebook for crew chiefs, and pushed elimination-style segments. But none of it was able to stop some All-Star events that have resulted in single-file parades at the front of the field. Ones where restarts determine the winner over the course of two turns, causing the leader to scoot away and fans to, well, take a nap.

 

There’s also the dilution of the All-Star field itself. Half the competitors of the 40 who compete each week will qualify for the main event Saturday night. Compare that to the fractions of the rosters in stick-and-ball sports leagues – MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL – select for “special” inclusion. If the Pro Bowl is suffering with its best athletes, it’s no surprise NASCAR is in the same boat with a bloated All-Star field.

 

Plenty of solutions have been offered. A move to Bristol or another short track has been strongly suggested but Charlotte is the teams’ home base. Asking them to travel in this crazy schedule, one where 38 weeks out of the year they’re running a race, seems a bit extraneous.

 

So we’ll slog it out Saturday night in Charlotte, under a new set of rules NASCAR again hopes will make it impossible for a boring race. There’s eliminations involved, average finish in each segment factoring into the final 10 laps for $1 million dollars. That’ll push people to run each and every lap at 110 percent. Add in different tire compounds, producing different speeds along with pit strategy and it’s hard to screw up.

 

At some point, the law of averages dictates we’ll have a 1992-type ending at Charlotte once again. The sport just needs to have it happen sooner rather than later. A quarter of a century is a really, really long time in between memorable All-Star Races.

 

Monster Energy Open & Monster Energy All-Star Race

 

Time: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway (Charlotte, N.C.)

TV: FS1

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Martin Truex Jr.

Truex finally conquered his demons at Kansas, a track where he posted 500 laps led and two runner-up finishes but no wins until last weekend. Leading 104 laps, he scooted by the short-run success of Ryan Blaney in a wild finish to score his second win of the 2017 season. That puts him in a tie with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski for most on the circuit but it’s been Truex who’s flashed more consistency this year. Take away a crash at Talladega, the most unpredictable track on the circuit and he has no result worse than 16th.

 

Who’s at the Back: Danica Patrick

For Danica, it’s hard to see any light in a dark 2017 to this point. She was a part of a major wreck involving Aric Almirola and Joey Logano at Kansas, one that left her shaken up. Logano’s No. 22 pummeled Patrick’s No. 10 when a part broke on his Ford; she was an innocent victim from that point on, a top-10 finish taken from her grasp.

 

But no one got the worst of it more than Almirola, who needed safety officials to cut him out of the No. 43 car. While Almirola was on his way to the hospital, suffering a broken back, Patrick was scrutinized for post-race comments that focused more on her sorry season than the condition of one of her competitors. Personally, I feel like people needed to give the poor woman a break – she had just hit the wall at 200 mph – but that hasn’t stopped the public commotion. Perhaps more importantly, Patrick has dropped to 33rd in points – low enough that under NASCAR rules she wouldn’t make the playoffs even with a surprise win later in the season.

 

Will she be racing in 2018? Those same post-race comments seemed to call that into question. That’s how frustrating a season it’s been for her; 11 starts, five DNFs, and a lost sponsor in Nature’s Bakery are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

News Briefs

 

Aric Almirola’s injury, one of the most serious suffered in NASCAR the last few years. is a compression fracture of the T5 vertebra. He’ll be out several weeks with Regan Smith filling in for him at Charlotte’s All-Star Weekend. Almirola, who was contending for a playoff spot, technically loses his ability to qualify the second he’s out of the car in next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. But, like Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart in recent years, he could still get a waiver from NASCAR that’ll allow him to make it. Almirola would need to win a race upon his return and stay inside the top 30 in points.

 

As for Danica Patrick, the lawsuit between her owners, Stewart-Haas Racing, and former backer Nature’s Bakery, appears to be nearing a settlement. The money given will help her finish the season, one where she’s had to run with a patchwork of sponsors replacing the funding Bakery promised before pulling out of the deal.

 

Two sons of former NASCAR drivers, Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland, highlighted the NASCAR Next list for 2017-18 released this week. Both hope to be racing in the Truck Series full-time within the next few seasons to follow in the footsteps of fathers Jeff and David.

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

17.3

Average finish of Aric Almirola this season, the best of his NASCAR career before getting hurt.

 

31st

Finishing position for Carl Long at Kansas, his best since 2001 in the Cup Series. Saturday night was Long’s first race since 2009 after a faulty engine and resulting $200,000 fine put his racing career on the skids.

 

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

So there’s not really a lot of contest surrounding the All-Star Race, the sport’s main exhibition other than the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash. There are a few drivers, though who stand out with All-Star Race performances. Kurt Busch has run top five in the last two All-Star Races while Dale Earnhardt Jr., still in need of a season-altering performance, has finished in similar position in two of the last three.

 

What are the rules they’ll be racing under? This year’s version of the race honors the 1992 edition that made the All-Star event so special. There are four segments of 20, 20, 20, and 10 laps. The winner of each of the first 20-lap stages will lock up a spot in the final 10 laps for a million dollars. The rest of the 10-car lineup will be set by average finish in those first three stages, meaning no one can lay back and expect to make it through.

 

Before that final segment, every driver will be given an option to pit. There are two sets of tires to choose from when they get there. One compound, called the “Option” clearly offers more grip. The catch is anyone who puts on this tire for the final 10 laps must start behind all drivers who choose the regular sets of Goodyears.

 

Sixteen drivers have already qualified for the race. The other four will come from the All-Star Open (winners of each of the three segments of that race) along with a fan vote. The fan vote advances one of the Open drivers remaining who hasn’t yet qualified for the main event.

 

What Vegas Thinks

Martin Truex Jr. once again holds a slim lead in odds to win, just like last week at Kansas. He’s got 6/1 odds with Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson right behind at 13/2.

 

What I Think

I think Truex keeps his streak of good runs going. Dominant in the Coca-Cola 600 last year, he checks another one off the bucket list with a first career victory in NASCAR’s biggest exhibition. Now, will it be a fantastic finish? I will say this much: with this new rules package, you have to have better competition. Otherwise, you need to move the race out of Charlotte. Period.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/kristine-leahy-death-threats-lavar-ball-fs1-herd-colin-cowherd-lonzo-fox-sports
Body:

The LaVar Ball saga continues. 

 

On Thursday's "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd and Kristine Leahy, the two discussed the aftermath of having Lonzo Ball's father on the show and the impact it had. After the two got into an odd and heated exchange about the Big Baller Brand, it's been ratings gold for FS1 but it comes with a price. According to Sporting News, Leahy has received death threats following her comments about Ball and how she may have played herself up to be a victim.

 

 

Many people forgot that Leahy went after Ball's parenting skills not too long before his appearance on the show.

 

 

Former NFL star Damien Woody even commented on the fact that Leahy may not be as innocent as she claims.

 

 

FS1 may not want to, but having Ball and Leahy go head-to-head again will only further prove the point that this is the kind of stuff that people want to see.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 10:49
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-best-quarterback-matchups-2017
Body:

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.

 

No league has a group of quarterbacks more talented or deeper at the position than the Pac-12 in 201. So here are the top 10 matchups involving the conference’s best signal-callers:

 

1. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Sam Darnold (USC) – Nov. 18 (Los Angeles)

This may be the best quarterback matchup in the country and one many scouts view as a potential battle to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen was injured for last season’s meeting between the two crosstown rivals so this likely one-and-done matchup will be all the more interesting when things kickoff at the venerable Coliseum.

 

2. Luke Falk (Washington State) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Nov. 25 (Seattle)

The Apple Cup is always one of the better rivalry games out there and it’s sure to be on everybody’s bucket list this season given the two signal-callers involved. Falk has been terrific on the Palouse in piling up numbers for the Cougars and will be looking to get the win over the Pac-12’s reigning Offensive Player of the Year in Browning.

 

3. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Oct. 28 (Seattle)

A Jim Mora trip back to Seattle may draw a lot of the attention in this one but the real stars of the show when the Bruins travel to play the Huskies in late October will be the players under center. Both Rosen and Browning had terrific debut campaigns as freshmen and will be hoping that their game takes the next step in 2017.

 

4. Sam Darnold (USC) vs. Luke Falk (Washington State) – Sept. 29 (Pullman, Wash.)

Size? Check. Rocket arms? Check. Tough as nails? Check and check. Yes, when the Trojans travel to face off against Wazzu, the quarterbacks involved will tick off just about every box you’re looking for at the position in a game that probably won’t be any fun for the defensive backs involved.

 

5. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Josh Rosen (UCLA) – Oct. 21 (Pasadena. Calif.)

The Pac-12 has a history of young quarterbacks bursting onto the scene and these two teams are acutely aware of that with these two signal-callers having done just that. Each side will be sporting a new-look offense for this year’s contest, adding to this top-tier matchup.

 

6. Luke Falk (Washington State) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) – Oct. 7 (Eugene, Ore.)

It’s not exactly a stretch to say that Falk helped usher in a coaching change in Eugene thanks to his big-time performances in surprising back-to-back wins over Oregon, throwing for six scores and averaging more than 400 yards a game. He’ll hope the third time also is the charm in facing off against the young but talented Herbert.

 

7. Josh Rosen (UCLA) vs. Blake Barnett (Arizona State) – Nov. 11 (Pasadena, Calif.)

Back in 2015, the two best high school quarterbacks in the country both hailed from Southern California in Rosen and Barnett. While both had forgettable 2016 seasons that were filled with ups and downs, the end result is meeting of these two on the field this fall for a fascinating Pac-12 South battle.

 

8. Justin Herbert (Oregon) vs. Jake Browning (Washington) – Nov. 4 (Seattle)

The schools involved in this Pacific Northwest rivalry really don’t like each other and another chapter was written last year when Browning threw for six touchdowns in a 70-21 blowout in Eugene. That just so happened to be Herbert’s first college start and he’ll be hoping for a bit of revenge this time around in Seattle.

 

9. Sam Darnold (USC) vs. Blake Barnett (Arizona State) – Oct. 28 (Tempe, Ariz.)

The quarterback dominoes related to the class of 2015 were fascinating to follow if you were a recruiting junkie and many thought that two of the best were these signal-callers from Southern California. The pair already played each other in last season’s opener when Barnett was still at Alabama, but this edition in conference play could be even more interesting.

 

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

This was a sneaky-good matchup a season ago when Falk nearly rallied the Cougars to an epic second-half comeback that fell just short in the end. Rypien helped his opponent out with two late interceptions to spoil a quality outing against a Power Five opponent and will no doubt be looking for a more consistent performance when both sides meet again in Pullman.

 

— 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.

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Pac-12's Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Life
Path: /life/pick-6-our-favorite-things-may-2017
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In each issue of Athlon Sports & Life, we pick six of our favorite things. They may be books, automobiles, games, gear, booze, apparel or whatever happens to be awesome. Here's what made our shortlist this month:

 

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon

Watch out, Dodge has unleashed a Funny Car masquerading as a street car. The stats are mind-blowing: 840-horsepower, 0-60 in 2.3 seconds, 0-100 in 5.1 seconds, and it's the first-ever factory production car to do a wheelie at launch. (Because why wouldn't it?) And yes, it's a one-seater to reduce weight. Of course, the automaker generously allows buyers to option in a passenger and rear seats for $1 each. There's no word yet on the final price tag, but some are speculating it'll clock in around $100k. Dodge.com  

 

 

Wilson Blade 98S Countervail Tennis Racket

Wilson Blade 98S Countervail Tennis RacketThere's a lot of information to unpack in the name of this green-and-black matte beauty. The "Blade" line is designed specifically for big-hitting, attacking-style players wanting aggressive control. The "S" stands for "Spin Effect" technology, which means it's a spin-friendly racket. "Countervail" is a special carbon layer that minimizes impact vibration. The result? Athletes have more control over shots and recover quicker once they leave the court. While we don't have the skills or stamina of Blade-user Milos Raonic, we were thrilled with the control, the touch and how quickly it felt right at home in our hands. Wilson.com, $219

 

Ballpark Blueprint Travel Mug

Ballpark Blueprint Travel MugNot sure what to get dad for Father's Day? Look no further. This 12 oz. stainless steel mug checks all the boxes: it fits in any standard cup holder, comes with a removable lid and snappable flap to sip your morning joe, and it keeps it all hot (or cold, if you prefer iced drinks) for hours. But the reason to buy one is what's on the mug: detailed blueprint designs. You can choose from favorite baseball stadiums like Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park, or blueprints for the entire American and National leagues. For dads who don't like our national pastime, they also offer options for football stadiums and iconic golf courses. Sports fans will love it. Ballparkblueprints.com, $35 

 

Lululemon Twill Chill Hoodie

Lululemon Twill Chill HoodieIt's sweat-wicking, four-way stretch material makes it ideal for a workout, while its stylish cut means it's also welcome on the street. We love the extra touches, like the reflective details to keep you safe on an evening jog, and the right-side kangaroo pocket which helps you securely store your phone. The hood itself forms snug around your head and won't pop off unless you command it. Choose from either navy blue or black options, and enjoy a hoodie ready for the gym and a beer with friends afterwards. Lululemon.com, $128 

 

Karl Meltzer: Made to be Broken

Karl MetlzerThis isn't your ordinary film about the Appalachian Trail. This engaging documentary chronicles the daring journey of ultrarunner Karl Meltzer as he breaks the speed record for completing the grueling 2,189-mile trek from Maine to Georgia in a body-ravaging 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes. To offer some perspective, most hikers anticipate four to six months to finish. Follow along as Meltzer braves the elements, overcomes unforgiving terrain and offers a glimpse at his intense willpower and the physical conditioning that's as impressive as the legendary trail itself. Watch at redbull.tv

 

ScoreArt

ScoreArtThese man-cave approved wall-hangers are ideal for showing off your fandom. They're lightweight and easy to hang, displaying unique designs that showcase each teams heritage, colors, and officially licensed logos. Choose from sports including MLB, NBA, NHL, and NCAA. Sizes include 12" x 26" vertical and 20" x 16" horizontal displays, as well as 36" x 6" street banners. Scoreart.com, prices range from $20-$60.   

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Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 09:44
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-college-football-coaches-2017
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With Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Gary Patterson at TCU, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State, the Big 12 is home to some of college football's top coaches. And the depth in the league improved over the offseason, as Texas hired Tom Herman to replace Charlie Strong, and Baylor hired Matt Rhule as the program's new full-time coach after an interim year under Jim Grobe. 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

10. David Beaty, Kansas

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

 

9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

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

 

8. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

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

 

7. Matt Rhule, Baylor

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

 

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

 

6. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

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

 

5. Tom Herman, Texas

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

 

4. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

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

 

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

 

3. Gary Patterson, TCU

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

 

2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

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

 

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

 

1. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma

Entering his 19th season in Norman, Stoops is college football’s longest-tenured coach. Extended success at one job in the current college football climate is a lot harder than it was 20-30 years ago. But Stoops is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Oklahoma is 22-4 over the last two seasons and has claimed back-to-back Big 12 titles. Additionally, the Sooners only have one year of fewer than eight wins under Stoops’ direction, which happens to be his first season in Norman. Oklahoma has 190 victories under Stoops, won the 2000 national title and has claimed three top six finishes in the Associated Press poll since 2013.

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Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-northwesterns-college-football-schedule-2017
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Northwestern has been in back-to-back bowl games, this coming after a two-year absence from postseason play. As Pat Fitzgerald looks to keep the program on an upward trajectory in his 12th season at the helm of the Wildcats, he’ll have to navigate a Big Ten schedule that, in addition to the annual West division opponents, will force Northwestern to host the league champions from each of the past two seasons in Penn State (2016) and Michigan State (2015).

 

The non-conference portion is three-and-out through the season’s first three weeks, with a game against Duke — the teams’ third straight meeting — highlighting that part of the schedule. Then comes an early bye before the Big Ten opener at defending division champ Wisconsin.

 

Here is how the entire Northwestern schedule stacks up, ranked from easiest game to most difficult.

 

12. Sept. 2 vs. Nevada

Jay Norvell makes his head-coaching debut with the Wolf Pack in Evanston, where Northwestern got off to a surprising 0-2 start last season. It’s tough, however, to imagine Nevada packing the kind of punch from the get-go that Western Michigan did last year when it upset the Cats in Week 1.

 

11. Nov. 11 vs. Purdue

Another first-year coaching regime awaits the Wildcats toward the bottom of this list, as Northwestern hosts Jeff Brohm and the Boilermakers, who have finished in last place of the Big Ten West in every year of the division’s existence. Brohm is an inspired hire, but the cupboard is pretty bare in Year 1.

 

10. Sept. 16 vs. Bowling Green

Mike Jinks’ bunch had an inspired finish last season, winning its last three games in his debut campaign as the Falcons’ head coach. Still, it’s a long climb from a 4-8 record to knocking off a perennial Big Ten bowl team, so BGSU will have its work cut out for it in Week 3.

 

Northwestern Football/Big Ten 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!

9. Oct. 14 at Maryland

This game is ranked lower than it should be based on opponent alone, as the Terrapins did manage to go bowling in DJ Durkin’s first season. But a run of nine straight games after the bye makes some of Northwestern’s late-season games tougher than they should be. This will be the first-ever meeting between Maryland and Northwestern.

 

8. Nov. 25 at Illinois

This is the example we were talking about above. Maryland should probably be better than Illinois in 2017. But this will be Northwestern’s ninth game in as many weeks, and the toll that can take on a football squad is hard to quantify. The fact that the Illini are a heated rival of the Wildcats scores them some points here, too.

 

7. Oct. 21 vs. Iowa

Iowa is as unpredictable as teams come, as the Hawkeyes followed a 12-0 regular season with an 8-5 mark in 2016. Who knows how Kirk Ferentz’s 19th Iowa team will look come this fall? The history between these two programs bears out as much: Ferentz is 8-8 all-time against the Wildcats (and 5-6 against Fitzgerald).

 

6. Oct. 28 vs. Michigan State

Another tough team to gauge, at least this year, is MSU. Who else goes from the College Football Playoff one year to a 3-9 record the next? Sparty will look different this year; it has to. Seeing which of its previous two outfits the 2017 Spartans resemble will be one of the more fascinating storylines in college football this season. It’s why MSU is stuck in the middle of the pack of these rankings, as things can go either way for Mark Dantonio’s team this fall.

 

5. Nov. 18 vs. Minnesota

The Golden Gophers went 9-4 last season but have a new head coach in P.J. Fleck, whose aforementioned WMU team stunned Northwestern in Week 1 last season. Can Fleck row the boat in Evanston once again? His jump to the Big Ten will be nothing if not exciting, and he should have a pretty decent team to work with, too.

 

4. Sept. 9 at Duke

A couple things about this ranking: One, it’s a road game. And two, Duke is coached by David Cutcliffe, whom we won’t bet against, especially coming off a disappointing 4-8 season. The fact the Blue Devils can call a four-win campaign a disappointment is telling of the culture change there, especially after having to essentially rush redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones into duty after Thomas Sirk tore his Achilles in camp. Even then, Duke did manage to upset Notre Dame and North Carolina last season.

 

3. Nov. 4 at Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are never an easy out at home. Northwestern is just 2-4 against Nebraska since the Huskers’ arrival to the Big Ten, although the Wildcats did win in their last trip to Lincoln, in 2015. Nebraska’s new-look defense under coordinator Bob Diaco should be tough to score on.

 

2. Oct. 7 vs. Penn State

The Nittany Lions are widely considered a preseason top-five team, and while they return an abundance of talent, there’s always the unknown of how a program will perform under the demand of high expectations — in this case, the first time for this team in the post-sanction era. The Wildcats have won their last two games against PSU, and get the Nittany Lions at home, but they’ll have their hands full trying to stop Saquon Barkley and Co.

 

1. Sept. 30 at Wisconsin

Even though it’s after a bye, this is a tough trip, as Camp Randall is one of the most raucous venues in the country. The Badgers should have a tough defense and will probably be considered the division favorites by the time most preseason forecasts have been publicized. They went 11-3 and won the Cotton Bowl last year, but they are just 2-2 against Northwestern over the last four years. (Paul Chryst is 1-1, losing at home and winning on the road.)

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Northwestern’s College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-top-25-toughest-schedules-2017
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Scheduling remains one of the most high-profile controversies surrounding college football, particularly in the new Playoff era. Like most college football controversies, it's not one the sport is likely to resolve any time soon, with anything resembling a consensus. The question for national title-aspiring programs remains: Do you schedule down in the non-conference and hope to pile wins ahead of league play, or do you test yourself against the best the nation has to offer?

 

The 25 teams with the nation's toughest schedules, ranked below, seem to adhere to the latter philosophy. In addition to challenging conference schedules, each of these squads also play some marquee dates outside of the conference. While not enough evidence exists to answer the question surrounding Playoff approach, these tougher schedules are certainly a win for spectators.

 

1. Maryland

No one can accuse the Terrapins of hiding in their shells. Head coach DJ Durkin's second season in College Park pits Maryland against one of the most brutal schedules any program has faced in recent memory. Playing the Big Ten East is bad enough, with games against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The Terps also draw road games at Minnesota and Wisconsin in cross-divisional competition — all that after opening the season at Texas. 

 

2. Florida State

A Week 1 dream matchup with Alabama sets the tone for Florida State's challenging 2017 schedule. The Seminoles book-end their campaign with non-conference dates against SEC competition, closing with the customary rivalry game vs. Florida. ACC play offers no reprieve: The conference proved to be the best in college football a season ago, with the Atlantic Division specifically setting the tone. The Seminoles have to deal with defending national champion Clemson on the road, as well as Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville in Tallahassee. Jackson solidified his case for the nation's top individual honor by running roughshod over Florida State a season ago.

 

Related: Ranking the ACC’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

 

3. Michigan

Michigan enters 2017 with lofty aspirations, and a difficult schedule that kicks off in Texas against an SEC opponent. The last time the Wolverines saw such a scenario was 2012, a disappointing campaign that started on the sour note of losing a blowout to Alabama in the Cowboys Classic. Florida presentes a more manageable Week 1 opponent for Jim Harbaugh's team this time around, but the Gators set a fitting tone for a challenging docket. Michigan's other non-conference dates are against an always-tough Cincinnati, now with former Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell at the helm, and against the unorthodox offense of Air Force.

 

In the Big Ten, Michigan draws Penn State and Wisconsin on the road, mixed in with the tough Big Ten East slate.

 

Related: Ranking the Big Ten’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

 

4. Oklahoma

Oklahoma plays 10 games against Power Five competition, which isn't rare for teams in the conferences that opt for nine league games. What differentiates the Sooners' slate from other 10-game Power Five dockets is a road trip to fellow powerhouse Ohio State. Just two weeks later, Oklahoma opens Big 12 competition away from home with a date against Baylor. That contest sets an interesting tone for the Sooners in conference, as they do not get back-to-back weekends in Norman at any point in the season. Games against contenders West Virginia and TCU are in Norman, but the Sooners travel to always-treacherous Manhattan, where Bob Stoops' mentor, Bill Snyder, awaits.

 

5. Syracuse

A first-year head coach tasked with rebuilding a program always faces an arduous job. When that job requires facing the national champion and Heisman Trophy winner, as well as an annual powerhouse, it's especially challenging. Such was the fate of Dino Babers, now in his second year at Syracuse. Babers' team again draws Clemson, Louisville and Heisman quarterback Lamar Jackson, and Florida State, while the Orange also travel to LSU in non-conference play.

 

6. Florida

Florida's scheduling has been a target for derision some in recent years — not because the Gators don't see competition in the SEC, nor for playing an annual date with Florida State. However, UF has built a reputation for not leaving the Sunshine State unless the conference mandates that. Jim McElwain's club refutes that in 2017, opening the season in Texas for the Cowboys Classic against Michigan.

 

Michigan and Florida State book-end a tough, but not overly cumbersome schedule. Florida avoids SEC West heavyweight Alabama, and gets each of Texas A&M, LSU and Tennessee at home.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

 

7. USC

Timing of games can be as taxing on a team as the quality of opponent. Such is the case for USC. The Trojans face an unusual slate in 2017 on two fronts: First, they play 11 games against Power Five opponents. The only deviation is Week 1 foe Western Michigan, which won 13 games a season ago. And while USC avoids defending Pac-12 champion Washington in league play, the Trojans have no bye week. That means 11 straight weeks of Power Five games for the presumptive preseason favorite in the Conference of Champions.

 

Related: Ranking the Pac-12's Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules for 2017

 

8. Ohio State

Ohio State dives head-first into the season with a road game in Big Ten play. Indiana has given the Buckeyes fits in recent years, and the Hoosiers get Urban Meyer's bunch in Week 1 — a week before the Buckeyes play Oklahoma in Columbus. Ohio State's Big Ten schedule is somewhat more manageable than some of its league counterparts, with Wisconsin missing from cross-divisional competition. 

 

However, the Buckeyes play Michigan on the road in the East, and go to both Nebraska and Iowa in matchups with the West. Two of the three come in the final month of the regular season. 

 

9. Penn State

We should learn within the first month if 2016 Big Ten champion Penn State is ready to compete for its first national championship in 30 years. James Franklin embarks on a surprising, breakout campaign with his best roster yet, and it will be challenged right out of the gate with games against Pitt and at Iowa in September. The first game of October takes the Nittany Lions to Northwestern, as well. The back half isn't much easier: Michigan and Nebraska are home dates, but Penn State must travel to Ohio State and Michigan State in consecutive weekends.

 

10. Alabama

Nick Saban's juggernaut never shies from impressive Week 1 dates — even if they're played exclusively on neutral field sites. The opener against Florida State in 2017 joins recent Week 1 contests against Michigan, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and USC in the pantheon of Crimson Tide tone-setters. The rest of the non-conference slate is unimpressive, including a late-November tilt with Mercer, but the SEC West presents its share of potential pitfalls. An October trip to Texas A&M and the annual Iron Bowl are the two road dates to watch. 

 

11. Cal

First-year (and first-time) head coach Justin Wilcox won't exactly ease into his new job. Cal travels across the continent to North Carolina Week 1, the first of 11 games against Power Five competition on the Golden Bears' slate. FCS Weber State is the lone deviation, with Ole Miss making a rare SEC-to-Pac-12 trip in Week 3. From there, Cal juggles a conference schedule that includes USC, Washington and Oregon in consecutive weeks, with the latter two on the road. The Golden Bears also finish on the road with back-to-back away games vs. Stanford and UCLA.

 

12. Clemson

Heavy is the head that wears the crown — and heavy is the 2017 schedule for defending national champion Clemson. The Tigers play a couple of SEC foes outside of the ACC, drawing traditional rival Auburn at home in September, and travelling to South Carolina to close the regular season. In between is an arduous ACC schedule, featuring Atlantic Division challengers Florida State and Louisville, as well as cross-divisional heavyweight Virginia Tech on the road.

 

13. Notre Dame

Notre Dame mixes its traditional rivalries like USC and Stanford, as well as brings back Michigan State, with a modified ACC schedule to face one of the more challenging regular seasons in college football. Among this year's ACC offerings are road trips to North Carolina and Miami, the latter of which is sure to bring up renewed conservation about Catholics vs. Convicts (whether you want it or not). Constant thorn-in-the-side Navy lingers late in the season, shortly after a favorable run of three straight home games.

 

14. Texas

New Texas head coach Tom Herman sees 11 Power Five opponents in his debut campaign, including a marquee non-conference showdown with USC 12 years in the making. The Longhorns' trip to Los Angeles highlights an early slate that also includes Maryland. In the Big 12, Texas draws a five-week stretch of Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU that will likely determine whether Herman's team goes bowling or spends the holidays in Austin.

 

Related: Ranking the Big 12’s Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2017

 

15. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets always close the season with out-of-conference rival Georgia, guaranteeing Georgia Tech at least one marquee non-conference date. This year, it's one of two big-time matchups with the SEC on the docket. Tech welcomes Tennessee to Atlanta on Labor Day evening for a "neutral" field game, kicking off a challenging slate that includes home games against Pitt, North Carolina and Virginia Tech; and a cross-divisional road test at Clemson.

 

16. Auburn

Reigniting an old rivalry with Clemson marked a victory for college football fans nationwide. Better yet, Auburn plays it Tiger counterparts home-and-home. A trip to Death Valley Week 2 is the definite highlight of Auburn's non-conference schedule, which is otherwise unimpressive. Still, that's one big-time date to draw outside of the tough SEC West.

 

The Tigers play LSU and Texas A&M on the road in conference, but close the season with three straight at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Among them are games against Georgia and Alabama, which — if Auburn's in the hunt — could determine the Tigers' SEC Championship Game credentials.

 

17. Rutgers

Chris Ash went through a veritable meat-grinder in his first season as Rutgers head coach. Not only was the Big Ten East loaded, but the Scarlet Knights traveled to Pac-12 champion Washington. In total, that's games against Rose (Penn State), Fiesta (Ohio State) and Peach (Washington) Bowl representatives. All three are back on the Scarlet Knights' docket in 2017, as well as Michigan and Michigan State. In cross-divisional competition, the Scarlet Knights travel to Nebraska.

 

18. UCLA

One of just three FBS programs to have never played an FCS opponent, UCLA has a longstanding tradition of challenging itself both in and out of conference. The latter slate this season includes Texas A&M's visit to the Rose Bowl, the return half of a Week 1 date last year that ended in overtime. The Bruins also travel to Memphis for a high upset-alert contest.

 

In the Pac-12, the Bruins see Stanford and Colorado early on in the schedule. Back-to-back road games at Washington and Utah highlight the post-bye week slate.

 

19. LSU

Upset-minded BYU awaits in Week 1 for LSU, kicking off a challenging first portion to the schedule in Ed Orgeron's first full season as head coach. The new era in Baton Rouge also gets going with games at Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss. The back half doesn't get much easier, with road trips at Alabama and Tennessee looming.

 

Related: Ranking the SEC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2017

 

20. Stanford

Stanford will have no shortage of frequent flyer miles racked up before September ends. The Cardinal open 2017 in Australia to face Rice. Two weeks later, they see USC in Los Angeles and San Diego State on Montezuma Mesa. Keep an eye on that trip to America's Finest City for a possible upset. Stanford won't play on the Farm until Sept. 23, when UCLA comes to town. The Bruins join defending Pac-12 champions Washington and Notre Dame as the Cardinal's marquee home games, with road contests at Utah and Washington State highlighting the rest of the slate.

 

21. Virginia Tech

The Hokies open 2017 on the national stage, facing off with border and former Big East rival West Virginia in an ACC vs. Big 12 showdown on Labor Day Sunday. The primetime affair kicks off an opening month of non-conference-exclusive dates, none of which jump off the page — unless you consider regional counterpart Old Dominion is coming off a 10-win season and looks like an early favorite in Conference USA. Don't sleep on upset potential for the Monarchs. Miami and Georgia Tech are road games in the Coastal, while the crown jewel of cross-divisional competition is a home date against Clemson.

 

22. Purdue

Purdue plays 11 games against Power Five opponents, beginning Week 1 in Indianapolis against Lamar Jackson and Louisville. The Boilermakers also travel to Missouri before playing Michigan in cross-divisional competition, and traveling to each of Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa in the Big Ten West.

 

It's a challenging slate to be sure, but to paraphrase first-year Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm: Is this or is this not the Big Ten? Let's play some football.

 

23. Nebraska

Big Ten East heavyweights Ohio State and Penn State both loom on Nebraska's difficult 2017 schedule, which also includes a non-conference road trip to Oregon. The Ducks may be coming off a down year, but Autzen Stadium remains one of the most inhospitable environments in the country — particularly for a team not familiar with the venue. The Cornhuskers do benefit from seeing Iowa, Northwestern and Wisconsin all at home in Big Ten West play, but those cross-divisional games could vex Nebraska's divisional title aspirations.

 

24. Pitt

A Week 2 date with Penn State looms large, but Pitt cannot overlook 2016 FCS runner-up Youngstown State Week 1. The Penguins stunned Pitt to open the 2012 season, and head coach Bo Pelini has a much more talented roster now. Those two games lead into a Week 3 home date with Oklahoma State. All told, the Panthers may play the most intriguing first three weeks of any team in college football.

 

The ACC Coastal lacks the star power of the Atlantic, and the Panthers manage to miss out on each of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville. However, they draw three of the Coastal's best in conseuctive weeks to close the regular season: vs. North Carolina, at Virginia Tech and vs. Miami.

 

25. North Carolina

North Carolina draws two Power Five opponents in the non-conference schedule, opening the season at home against Cal and hosting Notre Dame midway through the campaign. A third non-conference date against Old Dominion looms with upset possibility. The Tar Heels see just one of the Atlantic Division's top three teams, but Louisville appears early on the schedule in Week 2. In ACC Coastal play, North Carolina travels to each of Pitt, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking College Football's Top 25 Toughest Schedules for 2017
Post date: Friday, May 19, 2017 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/5-biggest-victims-madden-curse
Body:

This August, Tom Brady will make history as the first 40-year-old to appear on the cover of the popular Madden NFL video game franchise. And like all old dudes in horror movies, he is doubling down on his belief that curses aren’t real. Not only is Madden NFL 18 called the “G.O.A.T. Edition,” Brady also released a video reassuring fans that there is no “Madden Curse.”

 

 

While the 30-second spot was quite funny, I kept worrying that Jason Voorhees would appear with his machete or that shark with the big brain would fly out and snag him like it did Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea. Brady can refute it all he wants, but more players have succumbed to the “Madden Curse” than have overcame it. Here are the five biggest victims.

 

5. Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots

Cover: Madden 17, 2016 Season

After being named first team All-Pro in 2014 and ‘15, Gronkowski was sidelined most of his 2016 Madden cover season with hamstring and back injuries and a bruised lung. The Patriots staged the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history last January, but Gronk had to watch it from the sidelines in street clothes.

 

4. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta Falcons

Cover: Madden 2004, 2003 Season

Vick led the Falcons to the playoffs in 2002, and then fractured his right fibula in the second preseason game prior to the ’03 season shortly after Madden 2004 hit the shelves. He missed the first 11 games of the regular season, but won three of his last four games. The next year, Vick returned to his old form and led Atlanta to the NFC Championship Game. That’s better than the top three on this list, who never quite recovered.

 

3. Vince Young, QB, Tennessee Titans

Cover: Madden 08, 2007 Season

Young was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, but had an epic sophomore slump. Even though he won nine games with Titans, Young threw nine touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. More importantly, the season brought out the sporadic play, maturity issues and questions about his work ethic that would haunt him for the remainder of his career.

 

2. Shaun Alexander, RB, Seattle Seahawks

Cover: Madden 07, 2006 Season

Alexander had posted consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and received the league MVP award in 2005 after rushing for 1,880 yards and scoring 28 touchdowns. In August 2006, he appeared on the cover of Madden and never ran for 1,000 yards again. Plagued by injuries in 2006 and ‘07, Alexander gained a total of 1,612 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in those two seasons (23 games). The Seahawks parted ways with him after the 2007 season and he as out of the league for good after a brief (four games) stint with Washington in ‘08.

 

1. Peyton Hillis, RB, Cleveland Browns

Cover: Madden 12, 2011 Season

With a career-best season of 1,177 yards, Hillis wasn’t even in the top 10 in rushing yards in 2010, but he won a fan vote to make the game’s cover.  From there, he proceeded to become the Madden Curse’s greatest casualty. Hillis missed six games because of strep throat and a pulled hamstring and rushed for only 587 yards in 2011. The Browns decided they did not want to meet his salary demands and let him go as an unrestricted free agent. Hillis then spent his final three seasons with Kansas City and the New York Giants, rushing for a total of 671 yards (in 29 games).

 

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

Teaser:
5 Biggest Victims of the “Madden Curse”
Post date: Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/secs-best-quarterback-matchups-2017
Body:

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.

 

While the SEC has been criticized for quarterback play in recent years that may not be the case in 2017 with a strong group involved in the top 10 matchups this season:

 

1. Jalen Hurts (Alabama) vs. Deondre Francois (Florida State) – Sept. 2 (Atlanta)

Easily the non-conference game of the year, this battle between top-five teams should lay the early ground work for one or both runs at the College Football Playoff. Hurts burst onto the scene as a freshman in nearly leading Alabama to the national title and he seems to be even better based on flashes this offseason. Francois won’t be any pushover and will be looking to launch his Heisman Trophy campaign with a win in this one.

 

2. Jalen Hurts (Alabama) vs. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) – Nov. 25 (Auburn, Ala.)

The Iron Bowl might be the SEC’s fiercest rivalry and the quarterback battle in this one could be the best in some time thanks to the arrival of Stidham, who has buoyed the hopes of those on the Plains quite a bit. The talented Baylor transfer would certainly go down in Auburn history if he’s able to end Alabama’s dominance in the series and top Hurts for a victory.

 

3. Jalen Hurts (Alabama) vs. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) – Nov. 11 (Starkville, Miss.)

If you’re in the mood to catch two of the SEC’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, feel free to tune in for this meeting of West rivals. Hurts and Fitzgerald each were solid last year but are looking to take their all-around games to the next level this season and this will be a big test in proving they can threaten teams equally with their arms as much as their legs.

 

4. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) vs. Tanner Mangum (BYU) – Oct. 14 (Starkville, Miss.)

Fitzgerald pushed a tough BYU defense to double overtime out in Provo and will be looking for a bit of revenge this time around at home. Standing in his way will be one of the more electrifying quarterbacks from west of the Mississippi in Mangum, who has saved some of his most thrilling moments for meetings with schools from Power Five conferences.

 

5. Austin Allen (Arkansas) vs. Jalen Hurts (Alabama) – Oct. 14 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)

Allen was one of the big surprises in the SEC last season and really put the team on his back with strong performances through the air with the Razorbacks. He was one of only a handful of QBs to put up big numbers on Alabama’s secondary (400 yards, three TDs to go along with three INTs) during their meeting in 2016 and will be hoping for more of the same when he faces off against Hurts again in Tuscaloosa.

 

6. Jacob Eason (Georgia) vs. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) – Nov. 11 (Auburn, Ala.)

The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry might be a quarterback showcase in this season’s edition as both sides in this one are hoping for big strides being made behind center after last year’s offensive debacle. In beating the Tigers as a freshman, Eason delivered his signature SEC victory but will find things much tougher this time around in trying to out-duel the equally talented Stidham.

 

7. Austin Allen (Arkansas) vs. Jake Bentley (South Carolina) – Oct. 7 (Columbia, S.C.)

Bentley really jumpstarted the Gamecocks when he was inserted into the lineup as a true freshman and that spark is one reason there’s plenty of optimism around the program offensively. He’ll take on one of the league’s more established passers in Allen for a critical cross-division game for both teams.

 

8. Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) vs. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) – Oct. 7 (Auburn, Ala.)

Patterson is probably the chief reason to watch the Rebels this season as they navigate the tricky issue of self-imposed sanctions. He showed plenty of potential in the team’s final three games as the starter and has a chance to really make a jump by making some noise in the SEC West and pulling an upset or two along the way.

 

9. Kenny Hill (TCU) vs. Austin Allen (Arkansas) – Sept. 9 (Fayetteville, Ark.)

The last time these two old SWC rivals hooked up, they played an absolutely bonkers double-overtime game that was one of the more entertaining ones in the entire non-conference slate. Both signal-callers played a big role in keeping their team in the game and the second meeting could be even better than the first with Allen even more established under center and Hill looking to showcase his trill skills one more time against an SEC foe.

 

10. Shea Patterson (Ole Miss) vs. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State) – Nov. 23 (Starkville, Miss.)

The Egg Bowl will have an even bigger meaning for Ole Miss in 2017 as the Rebels deal with a postseason ban and nothing would be better for Patterson’s place in the program than beating the school rival in the final game of the season for a bit of revenge. Fitzgerald got the last laugh a year ago with five total touchdowns and more than 250 rushing yards and will be looking for a repeat performance.

 

— 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:
SEC's Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-tens-college-football-coaches-2017
Body:

College football’s best collection of head coaches resides in the Big Ten. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer boasts three national championships in his career and takes the top spot in Athlon’s rankings. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, Penn State’s James Franklin and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald round out an impressive top five. And the depth continues into the next tier with Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck and Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

14. Chris Ash, Rutgers

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

 

13. Tom Allen, Indiana

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

 

12. Lovie Smith, Illinois

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

 

11. DJ Durkin, Maryland

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

 

10. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

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

 

Related: Big Ten Returning Starter Analysis for 2017

 

9. Mike Riley, Nebraska

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

 

8. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

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

 

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

 

7. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

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

 

6. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

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

 

Related: Ranking the Big Ten's Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

5. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

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

 

4. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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

 

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

 

3. James Franklin, Penn State

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

 

2. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

 

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

 

1. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Big Ten's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/lavar-ball-herd-kristine-leahy-lonzo-stay-lane-colin-cowherd-fs1
Body:

LaVar Ball's playing days are over but he's making more appearances than his NBA prospect son, Lonzo.

 

On Wednesday's episode of "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd and Kristine Leahy, the Big Baller Brand founder was asked about the company's shoe sales. When he answered, Leahy had a follow up question to which a bizarre exchange between the two occurred. 

 

It all stems from an episode of FS1's "Speak For Yourself" in which Leahy said she, as a woman, would never wear something that said "Big Baller Brand" on it. A valid argument. Ball remembered those words and made it clear he didn't want to look or speak to the co-host.

 

 

 

No matter what Ball says, FS1 keeps on booking him to appear on its shows.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 14:06
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-coach-hugh-freeze-abruptly-ends-interview-after-ncaa-investigation-rebels
Body:

Ole Miss is currently being investigated by the NCAA, but don't ask Hugh Freeze about it.

 

The Rebels coach was asked how eager he was to get the investigation over with, but decided to answer with a quick "no" and walk off. Freeze was having none of that. 

 

 

Awkward.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 11:56
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-college-football-coaches-2017
Body:

The Pac-12 once again features a solid group of coaches at the top, with Washington’s Chris Petersen and Stanford’s David Shaw leading the way in Athlon’s rankings for 2017. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham, Washington State’s Mike Leach and Colorado’s Mike MacIntyre round out the next tier, with an intriguing group of coaches just outside of the top seven. Will Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Arizona State’s Todd Graham have a bounce-back season? And how will Clay Helton perform in his second full year at USC?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

12. Justin Wilcox, California

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

 

11. Jim Mora, UCLA

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

 

10. Clay Helton, USC

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

 

9. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

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

 

8. Todd Graham, Arizona State

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

 

Related: Ranking the Pac-12's Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

7. Willie Taggart, Oregon

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

 

6. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

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

 

5. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

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

 

4. Mike Leach, Washington State

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

 

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

 

3. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

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

 

2. David Shaw, Stanford

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Quarterbacks for 2017: Spring Edition

 

1. Chris Petersen, Washington

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Pac-12's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/mike-mike-espn-golic-greeny-greenberg-thank-fans-they-discuss-end-show
Body:

ESPN's "Mike & Mike" is one of those shows that feels like it's been on the airwaves forever. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

 

A staple of the worldwide leader in sports and the way many start their mornings, the iconic show is coming to an end at some point this year. Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic talked a little about what's next for them and send a special thanks to fans who have been with them since the beginning.

 

 

It's the end of an era at ESPN as the network tries to make room for a new crop of shows.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 09:43
Path: /college-football/accs-best-quarterback-matchups-2017
Body:

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.

 

The ACC has really been a league that has elevated itself thanks to strong quarterback play in recent years and this season’s crop will once again be an impressive one at the top with some quality depth to boot. With that in mind, here are the top 10 signal-caller matchups involving conference teams for 2017:

 

1. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) vs. Deondre Francois (Florida State) – Oct. 21 (Tallahassee, Fla.)

You don’t have to look too hard to find the early candidate for game of the year in the ACC, as Louisville’s trip to Florida State could very well determine who winds up in Charlotte later in the year. This matchup was one that contributed heavily to Jackson winning the Heisman Trophy last season and he’ll need an equally impressive outing if he wants to make history and defend that title. Francois had a really impressive debut in taking over for a Heisman winner himself and could insert himself into the award conversation if he can come up with a big performance in this one.

 

2. Deondre Francois (Florida State) vs. Jalen Hurts (Alabama) – Sept. 2 (Atlanta)

The non-conference game of the year pits two top-five teams against each other in a fantastic opener at the future home of this season’s national title game. While all the attention will likely be on the two head coaches, this will also be a fascinating meeting between two rising young signal-callers under center as well. Given the caliber of defenses involved, the winner between Hurts and Francois could emerge as the favorite to eventually wind up with the Heisman.

 

3. Kelly Bryant (Clemson) vs. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) – Sept. 9 (Clemson, S.C.)

The defenses ran the show during last year’s meeting between these two but something says that the offenses might have the last laugh this September. At Auburn, that optimism is buoyed by the arrival of Stidham, the highly touted transfer from Baylor. He’ll be watched closely as he gets to run Gus Malzahn’s offense and might be the most talented passer on the Plains since Cam Newton. Bryant figures to be the guy to replace departed star Deshaun Watson and will be tested right away in this one.

 

4. Max Browne (Pitt) vs. Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) – Sept. 16 (Pittsburgh)

NFL scouts will surely be interested in this meeting of quality quarterbacks who both have the tools to make the jump to the next level down the road. Rudolph has a big arm and gets the benefit of launching bombs to one of the most talented receiving groups in the country. Browne is a fresh face at Pitt after transferring from USC but the former five-star recruit has a chance to thrive under center for the Panthers.

 

5. Max Browne (Pitt) vs. Trace McSorley (Penn State) – Sept. 9 (University Park, Pa.)

McSorley put up some very impressive numbers in leading Penn State to a Big Ten championship a year ago and will once again be one of the conference’s top signal-callers in 2017. Browne will get his first taste of this in-state rivalry game in the difficult environment of Beaver Stadium but has a chance to win over Panthers fans early.

 

6. Deondre Francois (Florida State) vs. Kelly Bryant (Clemson) – Nov. 11 (Clemson, S.C.)

Clemson and Florida State have annually locked into the conference’s biggest game of the season for several years now and it’s possible they will again this year despite the departure of Deshuan Watson for the Tigers. Either way, this can become a statement win on the ledger for either Francois or Bryant. Both have plenty of talent and could turn some heads around the ACC with a victory.

 

7. Kelly Bryant (Clemson) vs. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) – Sept. 16 (Louisville, Ky.)

Jackson dazzled in leading a near-comeback against Clemson last season and is hoping that this time around he won’t need those late game heroics in order to secure a win. The Heisman winner will be the star in this matchup but that doesn’t mean likely Tigers starter Kelly Bryant should be overlooked as he could prove to be a capable replacement for Deshaun Watson by leading his team to a victory in this one.

 

8. Eric Dungey (Syracuse) vs. Ryan Finley (NC State) – Sept. 30 (Raleigh, N.C.)

A meeting between Syracuse and NC State will be overlooked by all but the most ardent of ACC supporters but it presents a sneaky-good pairing of quality quarterbacks. Dungey, when healthy, was impressive running Dino Babers’ high-flying offensive system and threw for nearly 2,700 yards and 15 touchdowns despite missing the final month of the season. Finley came to Raleigh from Boise State and posted an impressive 18:8 TD-to-INT ratio to help save his new head coach’s job in 2016.

 

9. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) vs. David Blough (Purdue) – Sept. 2 (Indianapolis)

A lot of the attention in this one will be paid to former Louisville quarterback-turned Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm but this meeting between area rivals also will be pretty fun behind center too. Jackson will rightfully be the guy folks will tune in to see given how dazzling he is with the ball in his hands but don’t sleep on what Brohm’s system can do for Blough, who had some big numbers on a bad team a year ago.

 

10. Daniel Jones (Duke) vs. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) – Sept. 9 (Durham, N.C.)

Jones is primed to make a big leap in 2017 after impressively jumping onto the scene as a freshman and throwing for nearly 2,900 yards and 16 touchdowns. The next star pupil under David Cutcliffe will be one to watch, as will his opposite number in this non-conference meeting of academic powerhouses. Thorson topped the 3,000-yard mark a season ago and could help lead the Wildcats to even greater heights in 2017.

 

— 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:
ACC's Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/cleveland-cavaliers-vs-boston-celtics-2017-nba-eastern-conference-finals-preview-prediction
Body:

Year in and year out, the NBA playoffs provide us plenty of twists, turns and the highly unexpected on the road to the Finals. While this year’s edition has had a few of those moments along the way, in the end the expected is what has played out in both sides of the bracket with the top two seeds meeting in each conference final for the right to play for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

 

Few know this hallowed ground quite like LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ superstar who is remarkably making his seventh straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals and is dead-set on defending his NBA title next month. He’s played near flawlessly so far in the postseason in back-to-back sweeps of Indiana and Toronto and will be hoping that the upcoming series will go just as smoothly as the past two have while also providing a bit of a test for the rest of the team as they gear up to face a likely rubber match with Golden State.

 

Looking to put a stop to James’ dominance over the Eastern Conference will be the rather upstart Boston Celtics and their electric guard Isaiah Thomas. Things haven’t quite gone as quick nor as smooth as head coach Brad Stevens would have liked the past few weeks but, in the end, the top seed is where they expected to be with a chance to dispatch their budding foes from the Midwest. While the Celtics may lack the star power of their opponent, this is a deep team that can throw plenty of different looks at you on both ends of the court and make things interesting from start to finish.

 

All of that will come together over the course of the next few weeks as each side battles it out for the conference crown. The two teams have combined for an interesting back-and-forth during the regular season but things should get ratcheted up even more given the stakes in this series. It doesn’t get much better than this in terms of a series featuring numerous superstars and it won’t be long before we can finally say with certainty who the best team in the East really is.

 

No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) vs. No. 1 Boston Celtics (53-29)

 

Game 1 - Wednesday, May 17, 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 2 - Friday, May 19, 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 3 - Sunday, May 21, 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 4 - Tuesday, May 23, 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

Game 5 (if necessary) - Thursday, May 25, time TBD (TNT)

Game 6 (if necessary) - Saturday, May 27, time TBD (TNT)

Game 7 (if necessary) - Monday, May 29, time TBD (TNT)

 

Note: Games 1, 2, 5, 7 will be played at TD Garden in Boston, while Games 3, 4, 6 will take place at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

 

Keys for Cleveland

One of the bigger developments in the Celtics’ playoff run has been the move to smaller lineups on the floor more consistently, which poses a unique challenge on the other end of the court for their opponents. That will put some pressure on Cleveland head coach Tyrone Lue to make the necessary moves to combat that during the game, whether it means rotating Kevin Love or even LeBron James down to the center spot if necessary. The Cavaliers figure to have a massive rebounding advantage in this series overall but they can’t lose that edge even if downshifting a bit to combat Boston’s moves.

 

Similarly, the team has to be aware of where Isaiah Thomas is at all times and create enough pressure to where he’s dishing instead of driving. Kyrie Irving is plenty capable of matching Thomas on the offensive end but both he and second unit guard Deron Williams will need to step up their game defensively to help out on the prodigious scorer. Finally, the long layoffs haven’t really hampered the hot shooting the team has had so far in the postseason so maintaining that kind of momentum — especially behind the arc — for this round should pay off quite a bit when it’s time for the Finals to roll around.

 

Keys for Boston

In Cleveland’s surprising late-season slide to the No. 2 seed, many pointed out the team’s defensive lapses as one reason to be at least a little worried when the playoffs rolled around. Those fears have proven unfounded so far in the Cavs’ 8-0 roll to the conference finals but will be put to the test thanks to the scoring prowess of Isaiah Thomas. The lightning-quick guard can put up shots in a hurry and set off scoring runs by himself time-after-time during a game. He averaged nearly 30 point per game against Cleveland in the regular season and will need similar heroic efforts each night if the Celtics harbor any hope of a shot when the fourth quarter rolls around.

 

The flip side to that equation is on the defensive end, where head coach Brad Stevens will need to work overtime in trying to slow down the Cavs’ big three on offense. The biggest issue is obviously James, who may see Jae Crowder, Gerald Green, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart all spend some time guarding the perennial MVP candidate. Complicating matters is his supporting cast has been stellar in catch-and-shoot situations from all over the floor. So while the offense may flow through James, he is far from the only one that Boston has to worry about over the course of this series defensively. 

 

Final Analysis

 

When the playoffs began, one could look at the overall body of work Boston and Cleveland sported and how well each was playing entering the postseason, and think they could combine for a pretty fun back-and-forth series down the road. Nearly a month later however, that notion has seemingly been turned on its head, with one side flipping the switch to look like world-beaters and the other having to rally in key moments after a slow start.

 

The Celtics still have enough to make this a compelling matchup but they’ll need to be at the top of their game each night in order for that to play out. Isaiah Thomas must be scoring at will, Al Horford needs to continue to play as stellar as he has been and the rest of the supporting cast will have to take the next step against the conference heavyweight.

 

It’s possible Boston does just that at times but it’s still hard to see the Celtics overcoming every wave that Cleveland can throw at you over the course of seven games. They still have the best all-around player in the game in LeBron James and his will to win is nearly unmatched. The Cavaliers may have struggled down the stretch earlier this year but they’ve been peaking in the postseason and the only team left that can stop them likely will be seen in the NBA Finals and not the Eastern Conference prelude. 

 

Prediction: Cavaliers in five

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Teaser:
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Boston Celtics: 2017 NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/draftkings-golf-lineup-picks-pgas-att-byron-nelson-2017-daily-fantasy
Body:

It's time to pick your optimal daily fantasy DraftKings lineup for this week's (May 18-21) PGA tournament: the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Resort, in Irving, Texas. Our fantasy golf experts are ready to help.
 

Here's what our optimal lineup looks like.

 

Sergio Garcia ($11,000)

Very tempted to go with Dustin Johnson here, but there are only two par 5s at Las Colinas for DJ to dismantle, so we'll go with the defending Nelson champ as our big-money option. In his last 14 appearances, Garcia has as many wins (two) as finishes outside the top 30.

 

Charley Hoffman ($8,500)

In three of his last four Nelson appearances, Hoffman has finishes of T12, T2 and T8. Has a feast-or-famine quality, but he's due to chow down.

 

Bud Cauley ($7,800)

Rapidly ascending player has top 10s in his last two outings and finished T4 at the Nelson last year. 

 

Gary Woodland ($7,700)

Personal issues have put a dent in a very promising season, but Woodland has made seven straight Nelson cuts. Was T12 here last year. 

 

Ryan Moore ($7,600)

Current active streak of seven straight made cuts includes three top-18 finishes. Limited history at the Nelson includes runner-up in 2008.

 

Billy Hurley ($6,900)

Has played very well since a missed cut at The Masters, with a T22 and a T8 among his finishes. Has made his last three Nelson cuts. 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 14:48
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/james-harden-sued-moses-malone-jr-alleged-robbery-houston-rockets
Body:

James Harden has been sued for his role in a robbery plot, according to Fox 26 Houston.

 

The Rockets star is being accused of orchestrating the robbery of NBA legend Moses Malone's son, Moses Jr. The suit alleges Harden paid people $20,000 to rob Malone at a strip club in 2016. According to reports, Harden didn't like the fact that Malone Jr. was criticizing his decision to charge for his basketball camp. One of the alleged robbers said Malone Jr. disrespected Harden and needed to "be taught a lesson."

 

 

Breaking: Fox 26 news has learned Houston Rockets' star player James Harden has been sued and accused of orchestrating a plan to assault and rob the son of an NBA legend... That suit was filed by Moses Malone Jr.  It alleges Harden paid a group of people $20,000 in cash to attack and rob Malone at V-Live strip club last year. The lawsuit says Harden was angry because Malone wrote a Facebook post criticizing the star player for charging children for his basketball camp.  Several people connected to the assault have already been charged criminally. More tonight at 10 pm on #IsiahFactorUncensored Rusty Hardin is James Harden's attorney and he sent me this statement: I am in Boston for depositions so I haven't seen the petition but I have previously discussed Mose's allegations with James and others, and I am totally comfortable that the allegations are untrue. Unfortunately, I am afraid this is just another example of people shopping for a deep pocket when they find that the people actually responsible have no money.

A post shared by Isiah Carey (@isiahcareyfox26) on

 

Malone Jr. said he was robbed of about $15,000 worth of jewelry and the investigation is ongoing.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 14:17
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/steph-curry-superstitious-kevin-durant-warriors-press-conference-spurs-game-1-golden-state
Body:

If you played sports you were probably a bit superstitious at times.

 

Steph Curry shows that superstition doesn't end just because you make it to the NBA. After the Warriors Game 1 win against the Spurs, Curry and Kevin Durant got ready for their press conference but something was off. 

 

Before things got settled Curry asked KD if he was superstitious, most likely because they were about to sit in an order they don't usually sit in. That prompted a little game of musical chairs.

 

 

There's a method to the madness.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/big-12s-best-quarterback-matchups-2017
Body:

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.

 

With the league’s emphasis on high-flying offense, the Big 12 in particular cranks out numerous quality quarterbacks every season so here are the top 10 matchups involving the conference’s teams for 2017:

 

1. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) vs. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) – Sept. 9 (Columbus, Ohio)

It seems like Mayfield and Barrett have been on the national college football scene forever but thankfully for fans of both sides everybody will be able to take in one last meeting between the two star quarterbacks this year in Columbus. Last season’s meeting resulted in a victory for Barrett behind his four touchdown passes so Mayfield will no doubt be looking for a little revenge and even better numbers when the rematch rolls around in September.

 

2. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) vs. Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) – Nov. 4 (Stillwater, Okla.)

The Big 12 has returned to having a championship game at the end of the year but for several seasons it wasn’t an issue for the conference as the Bedlam game acted as a de facto one at the end of the regular season. That won’t exactly be the case once again in 2017 but the thrilling annual rivalry contest will still bring the goods when it comes to a top-tier quarterback matchup between the flashy Mayfield and the strong-armed Rudolph.

 

3. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) vs. Shane Buechele (Texas) – Oct. 14 (Dallas)

The Red River Showdown is annually one of the must-see games on the Big 12 slate and more often than not comes with some serious national expectations. That will likely be the case once again this year with the addition of Tom Herman to spice things up on the Longhorns’ side but don’t overlook the fun battle under center between Austin native Mayfield and his opposite number in burnt orange who had an impressive freshman year in 2016.
 

4. Shane Buechele (Texas) vs. Sam Darnold (USC) – Sept. 16 (Los Angeles)

You would have to search far and wide to find a college football fan who doesn’t have fond memories of the epic national title game that Texas and USC staged over a decade ago and their rematch in 2017 will no doubt be one of the highlights of the non-conference slate. Darnold is considered by many to be a future No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft after a stellar debut for the Trojans a year ago that was capped off with a thrilling Rose Bowl comeback. Buechele is no slouch in this meeting though having thrown for more than 3,000 yards as a freshman himself.

 

5. Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) vs. Will Grier (West Virginia) – Oct. 28 (Morgantown, W.Va.)

In terms of pure throwing ability, these two might just be tops in the Big 12 and we’ll find out who can get the better of who when they meet in Morgantown late in the season. Rudolph is a top-tier NFL prospect at the position and gets the benefit of one of the best receiving corps in the country to throw to. Grier flashed plenty of talent as a true freshman at Florida (10 touchdowns in six games) and should operate a really dynamic offense under Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen and offensive coordinator Jake Spavital.

 

6. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech) vs. Blake Barnett (Arizona State) – Sept. 16 (Lubbock, Texas)

Shimonek will have big shoes to fill in replacing Patrick Mahomes but it goes without saying that Texas Tech’s starting quarterbacks are safe bets to put up big numbers and he’s next in line. The Red Raiders’ big non-conference test will come in Lubbock this year as they host the Sun Devils and that means a visit from Barnett, a former top recruit who started for Alabama last year before transferring. Neither team has sported much of a defense the past few years so be prepared for some big numbers from each QB in this one.

 

7. Will Grier (West Virginia) vs. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) – Nov. 25 (Norman, Okla.)

The regular season ends with a bang in the Big 12 thanks to these two quarterbacks squaring off in Norman for a game that very well could determine who’s going to the conference title game. Mayfield has been the league’s best player the past two seasons in leading the Sooners to a pair of titles but he’ll need to outplay Grier, who is one of the most intriguing players in the conference coming into the year.

 

8. Kenny Hill (TCU) vs. Jesse Ertz (Kansas State) – Oct. 14 (Manhattan, Kan.)

The days of Kenny Trill are long gone in Fort Worth but the TCU starter has a chance to close out his college career by putting up some big numbers once again for the Horned Frogs as they are set to make big strides on offense in 2017. Ertz likewise holds the keys to the Wildcats’ offense and played a huge role in leading K-State to that surprising 9-4 record last year while throwing and rushing for more than 1,000 yards. Neither one of these quarterbacks are your conventional pro-style signal-callers but each’s skill set means this will be one entertaining Big 12 game through the air and on the ground.

 

9. Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech) vs. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) – Oct. 28 (Norman, Okla.)

In last year’s meeting, the Red Raiders and Sooners put up video game numbers left and right in a 66-59 game that featured an NCAA record for offensive yards. While it would be crazy to suggest a repeat of that kind of offense again, it’s not truly out of the question considering Mayfield is back for another season and Shimonek threw four touchdown passes in a little over a quarter when he had to jump into action last year.

 

10. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) vs. Anu Solomon/Zach Smith (Baylor) – Sept. 23 (Waco, Texas)

Baylor’s on-field performance will be one of the more interesting storylines in the Big 12 this year as they make a stark break from the past under Matt Rhule. The new head coach will open conference play at home against one of the league’s best players in Mayfield and will have an interesting decision to make in terms of which QB will oppose him under center for the Bears. Smith showed flashes of a high ceiling last year at BU while Solomon has the legs and the arm to beat plenty of teams when he’s fully healthy. Don’t discount the different approaches to the passing game each team will bring to this matchup either.

 

— 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.

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Defensive coordinators have a hard enough time getting sleep when they’re facing a good defense.

 

When the best defensive player in the conference is awaiting them on a fall Saturday, there’s nothing but insomnia.

 

Yes, there is great defensive talent across the FCS, and not surprisingly, most of the best in each of the 13 conferences will have their team in contention for a championship this season.

 

Here’s a look at the most dominating defensive players by FCS conference – with a No. 2 choice as well.

 

Big Sky

Cole Reyes, North Dakota, SS (R-Sr., 6-2, 205)

The anchor of one of the better secondaries in the FCS, Reyes was named the Big Sky’s 2016 defensive player of the year despite missing two games with an injury. He comes from all directions and is excellent at anticipating the ball. He had three interceptions and eight pass breakups for last year’s conference co-champ Fighting Hawks.

Hardly a Second Choice: Deion Harris, North Dakota, CB

 

Related: Top FCS 2018 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

 

Big South

Anthony Ellis, Charleston Southern, DE (Sr., 6-1, 245)

Nobody in the Big South causes more disruption in an opposing backfield than Ellis, the conference’s 2016 defensive player of the year. Charleston Southern has won two straight conference titles and Ellis has had 33.5 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks over that period. He’s versatile enough to move inside if needed.

Hardly a Second Choice: Mike Basile, Monmouth, SS
 

CAA Football

Rob Rolle, Villanova, FS (Sr., 6-0, 190)

Villanova’s baseball program should consider Rolle for center field. He tied for the FCS high with seven interceptions as a junior, helping the Wildcats to rank first nationally in total defense and scoring defense. He uses excellent range and athleticism to cover a lot of ground.

Hardly a Second Choice: Andrew Ankrah, James Madison, DE/LB

 

Ivy League

Kurt Holuba, Princeton, DE (Sr., 6-3, 260)

Holuba saved his best for Ivy League games, recording seven of his eight sacks while finishing second in voting for the league’s defensive player of the year. He’s lean, but strong enough to play anywhere on the defensive line of the reigning league co-champion Tigers. He’s able to extend his arms to wrap up ball carriers and then power through them.

Hardly a Second Choice: Nick Gesualdi, Cornell, S

 

MEAC

Darius Leonard, South Carolina State, LB (R-Sr., 6-3, 200)

A hybrid linebacker, Leonard flies around the field with an instinctive feel for the ball. He collected 19 tackles in a loss against FBS champ Clemson last September. He went on to become the fourth straight South Carolina State player to win MEAC defensive player of the year honors.

Hardly a Second Choice: Jeremy Taylor, North Carolina A&T, LB

 

Missouri Valley

Nick DeLuca, North Dakota State, LB (R-Sr., 6-3, 248)

DeLuca would be playing in the NFL in 2017 if a shoulder injury hadn’t ended his senior season after three game. He’s been in the middle of NDSU’s vaunted defense and has shown a keen proficiency in tracking down ball carriers. When he was healthy in 2015, he racked up 135 tackles – 54 more than any teammate.

Hardly a Second Choice: Brett Taylor, Western Illinois, LB

 

Northeast

Nathan Stone, Duquesne, LB (Sr., 6-0, 255)

The aptly named defensive wall hasn’t missed a start in his Duquesne career. He plays with physicality at inside linebacker. Stone splashed onto the scene with a 100-tackle season as the 2014 NEC rookie of the year and has gone on to become a first-team all-conference selection.

Hardly a Second Choice: Jevon Elmore, Central Connecticut State, CB

 

Ohio Valley

Darius Jackson, Jacksonville State, DE (R-Sr., 6-3, 237)

Jackson made his presence known as a sophomore on Jacksonville State’s FCS runner-up squad. Last year, he grabbed the spotlight by earning Ohio Valley Conference defensive player of the year honors. He has explosive speed coming from the edge (15 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks), but will man outside linebacker in a combo role.

Hardly a Second Choice: Ebenezer Ogundeko, Tennessee State, DE

 

Patriot League

Pat Afriyie, Colgate, DE (Sr., 6-2, 240)

A terror in the Patriot League, Afriyie has led the league in sacks and tackles for a loss for two straight years, including a whopping 21 as a junior. His athleticism and quickness help set apart the 2016 Patriot defensive player of the year. He projects as an outside linebacker at the next level.

Hardly a Second Choice: Abdullah Anderson, Bucknell, DT

 

Pioneer League

Johnathan Peterson, San Diego, DE (R-Sr., 6-1, 230)

Pioneer Football League quarterbacks are tied of meeting up with Peterson, who had 23 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks and 13 QB hurries as a junior, when San Diego swept to the league title. The Toreros went on to earn the first FCS playoff win in league history (against Cal Poly) and Peterson totaled six tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble.

Hardly a Second Choice: Christian Searles, Dayton, CB

 

Southern

Kailik Williams, The Citadel, SS (Sr., 5-11, 185)

The Southern Conference media selected Williams as the 2016 defensive player of the year. His value has been evident during the last two FCS playoffs as he’s been a standout for the two-time defending SoCon champion. Playing the “rover” position, Williams led the Bulldogs with 103 tackles, including 10 for a loss, with two interceptions and five pass breakups.

Hardly a Second Choice: Miles Brown, Wofford, DT

 

Related: FCS' Southern Conference to Challenge Best in FBS in 2017

 

Southland

P.J. Hall, Sam Houston State, DE (Sr., 6-1, 280)

An absolute beast throughout his career, Hall has 36 sacks and 67 tackles for a loss heading into his senior season. The runner-up to Northern Iowa’s Karter Schult for the 2016 STATS FCS Buck Buchanan Award routinely faces double-teams, but gets through with a powerful drive. He is expected to move inside to defensive tackle on the NFL level.

Hardly a Second Choice: Tremon Smith, Central Arkansas, CB

 

SWAC

Keontre Anderson, Jackson State, DE (Sr., 6-4, 250)

Anderson wears No. 14, but don’t mistake him for a quarterback. Instead, he eats them up. As a junior, he led the FCS with 25.5 tackles for a loss while also posting nine sacks and six quarterback hurries. He frees himself with good decisions and possesses solid pass-rushing skills.

Hardly a Second Choice: Danny Johnson, Southern, CB

 

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for www.fcs.football. He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

 

(Darius Leonard photo by South Carolina State Athletics, P.J. Hall photo by Sam Houston State Athletics)

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Dominating Defensive Players by FCS Conference in 2017
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The coaching depth and talent has improved significantly within the ACC over the last five seasons. The top of the league is headlined by Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Louisville’s Bobby Petrino, and a solid second tier is in place with Miami’s Mark Richt, Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and Duke’s David Cutcliffe. But the real test of the league’s depth is at the back. Boston College’s Steve Addazio and NC State’s Dave Doeren take the last two spots in the rankings. That’s a pretty good illustration of how deep the ACC is in terms of coaching talent for 2017.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

14. Steve Addazio, Boston College

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

 

13. Dave Doeren, NC State

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

 

12. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

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

 

11. Dino Babers, Syracuse

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

 

Related: Ranking the ACC's Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

10. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

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

 

9. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

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

 

8. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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

 

Related: 25 Redshirt Freshmen to Watch in the ACC for 2017

 

7. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

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

 

6. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

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

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top 25 Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

5. David Cutcliffe, Duke

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

 

4. Mark Richt, Miami

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Quarterbacks for 2017: Spring Edition

 

3. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

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

 

2. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

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

 

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

 

1. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

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

Teaser:
Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 09:00

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