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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
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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
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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
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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.

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Post date: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 09:43
Path: /college-football/accs-best-quarterback-matchups-2017
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It goes without saying that you need a good quarterback in order to be a successful college football team. While it may not wholly determine a team’s success each season if they have a quality signal-caller behind center, one doesn’t become a consistent winner without a quarterback making all the throws and executing the right decisions on offense.

 

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

 

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.

Teaser:
Big 12’s Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/dominating-defensive-players-fcs-conference-2017
Body:

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)

Teaser:
Dominating Defensive Players by FCS Conference in 2017
Post date: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-college-football-coaches-2017
Body:

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
All taxonomy terms: NBA, Overtime
Path: /nba/gregg-popovich-spurs-zaza-pachulia-kawhi-leonard-dirty-player-golden-state-warriors-western-finals
Body:

You don't want to be on Gregg Popovich's bad side. The Spurs coach is known for being blunt in his opinions.

 

Warriors big man Zaza Pachulia closed in on Kawhi Leonard during a corner shot in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, causing the Spurs star to exit the game shortly after. Pachulia's foot was under Leonard when it landed, resulting in a rolled ankle. It was the play heard around NBA Twitter for much of Sunday afternoon, especially since the Spurs ended up losing the game that many thought they had in the bag at one point.

 

 

On Monday Popovich made his stance clear on the matter, likening it to "manslaughter" in reference of intent, and pointing to Pachulia's history as a dirty player. 

 

 

 

Leonard is expected to miss Game 2 of the series due to the ankle injury he sustained.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 14:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/former-espn-anchor-sara-sarah-walsh-miscarriage-sportscenter-college-gameday-story-live-television
Body:

Sara Walsh, although no longer employed by ESPN, will never forget the time she had a miscarriage on live TV.

 

The former ESPN anchor created a special Mother's Day post about a difficult time she went through in secret. She suffered a miscarriage on live television and was understandably scared, but never let it show. Walsh continued on and even had her husband text hospitals near her during the commercial breaks. To finish the show and enduring even more tragedy shows how strong Walsh truly was during her time at the worldwide leader in sports.

 

 

My mother bought them these onesies because she thought they were funny. For us, they're especially poignant. Finding a good egg didn't come easy for me, and I suspect there are many people out there facing the same struggle. The road down a dark path began while hosting Sportscenter on the road from Alabama. I arrived in Tuscaloosa almost three months pregnant. I wouldn't return the same way. The juxtaposition of college kids going nuts behind our set, while I was losing a baby on it, was surreal. I was scared, nobody knew I was pregnant, so I did the show while having a miscarriage. On television. My husband had to watch this unfold from more than a thousand miles away, texting me hospital options during commercial breaks. It would get worse. Two more failed pregnancies. More than once, I'd have surgery one day and be on SportsCenter the next so as not to draw attention to my situation. We then went down the IVF road of endless shots and procedures. After several rounds, we could only salvage two eggs. I refused to even use them for a long time, because I couldn't bear the idea of all hope being gone. I blew off pregnancy tests, scared to know if it worked. It had. Times two. It was exciting news, but we knew better than to celebrate. So I spent a third straight football season pregnant, strategically picking out clothes and standing at certain angles, using scripts to hide my stomach. There would be no baby announcement, no shower, we didn't buy a single thing in preparation for the babies, because I wasn't sure they'd show up. We told very few people we were pregnant, and almost no one there were two. For those that thought I was weirdly quiet about my pregnancy, now you know why. For as long as I can remember I hosted Sportscenter on Mother's Day, and the last couple years doing that have been personally brutal. An hours-long reminder of everything that had gone wrong. I wasn't on tv today, and I'm not sure when I will be again, but instead I got to hang with these two good eggs. My ONLY good eggs. And I know how lucky I really am.

A post shared by Sara Walsh (@sarawalsh10) on

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 12:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/former-wisconsin-commit-address-scholarship-controversy-twitter-ben-bryant-georgia-badgers-bulldogs
Body:

Ben Bryant found himself in a scholarship controversy stemming from a tweet.

 

Bryant, a three-star quarterback recruit in the 2018 class, had committed to Wisconsin and was excited about his future in Madison. Even though he was committed, offers from other schools were still coming in and that's when the trouble started. Bryant tweeted about receiving an offer from Georgia, although he had no initial interest of attending.

 

 

From there, he received word that his Wisconsin scholarship offer had been taken off the table and tweeted his thoughts on the matter.

 

 

No word from Wisconsin on the matter, and Bryant's recruitment remains open as of now

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 10:59
Path: /college-football/big-tens-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.

 

Few conferences can boast of the depth at the position quite like the Big Ten can so here are the top 10 quarterback matchups involving the conference’s teams for 2017:

 

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

It goes without saying that this rematch from last year will be one of the early games of the season and will likely come up prominently when discussing who’s in the College Football Playoff later in the season. Barrett got the better of the matchup when he threw for four touchdowns and ran for 74 yards in 2016, but don’t discount Mayfield, a Heisman Trophy finalist last season, stealing the show in Columbus for this year’s meeting.

 

2. Trace McSorley (Penn State) vs. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) – Oct. 28 (Columbus, Ohio)

McSorley came out of nowhere last season to lead the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten title and is no doubt set on keeping the team on the top of the conference standings in 2017. While last year’s meeting between the two teams was thrilling, it wasn’t exactly a showcase for either signal-caller. With all eyes on the pair this time around, something says that kind of repeat performance won’t be the case when two of the Big Ten’s best battle it out at the Horseshoe.

 

3. Trace McSorley (Penn State) vs. Wilton Speight (Michigan) – Oct. 21 (University Park, Pa.)

The offensive systems of Michigan and Penn State are an interesting study in contrasts but both need a good quarterback who can make all the throws in order to operate effectively. In McSorley and Speight, each team has a signal-caller who can do just that, which makes this a fascinating matchup in one of the Big Ten’s best games on the conference slate.

 

4. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State) vs. Wilton Speight (Michigan) – Nov. 25 (Ann Arbor, Mich.)

The annual rivalry game between the Buckeyes and Wolverines is always a must-watch no matter what part of the country you’re from and last year’s double-overtime thriller certainly showcased why. That hard-fought battle between two great defenses didn’t leave a ton of room for these two quarterbacks to show what they can do but this season’s edition could very well be a major exhibit for the two veterans in yet another must-see matchup.

 

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

This opener in Indianapolis probably gets overlooked by most in that compelling slate of Week 1 games but discount it at your peril because of the intriguing quarterback battle and numerous storylines involved. On one side lies Jackson trying to top last year’s Heisman Trophy-winning effort. On the other lies Blough, who put up some quality numbers despite being on a bad team in 2016 and should benefit immensely from the tutelage of new head coach (and former Louisville star) Jeff Brohm and his offensive system. 

 

6. Alex Hornibrook (Wisconsin) vs. BYU (Tanner Mangum) – Sept. 16 (Provo, Utah)

Hornibrook played a key role in the Badgers’ march to the Cotton Bowl a season ago and should be primed to make a big leap as a redshirt sophomore and full-time starter this year. He’ll travel west to take on BYU and a similarly big-armed quarterback in Mangum who always has his team in the game right down to the final few seconds.

 

7. Trace McSorley (Penn State) vs. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) – Oct. 7 (Evanston, Ill.)

McSorley blossomed into one of the Big Ten’s best quarterbacks last season as the Nittany Lions rode his hot streak to the conference title. While he’s set to be even better after an offseason of work, the same could be said of his opposite number on the Wildcats in Thorson, who threw for more than 3,000 yards and had 22 touchdowns to propel the Northwestern offense. You might overlook both if you were to run into them on the street but you won’t when they meet on the gridiron in 2017.

 

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

The return of this rivalry series to Beaver Stadium should be absolutely electric for those in the state of Pennsylvania and McSorley will no doubt be looking to make up for his late interception that stopped a thrilling fourth-quarter rally in a close loss to the Panthers last year. He’ll be battling a new face on the opposite sideline for this year’s matchup, as Browne, the former five-star recruit and ex-USC starter, likely takes over at Pitt and will be looking to leave an early impression with his new team.

 

9. Tanner Lee (Nebraska) vs. Justin Herbert (Oregon) – Sept. 9 (Eugene, Ore.)

Mike Riley returns to Eugene for the first time in years since leaving rival Oregon State but this time he’ll be doing so in very different colors as the head coach of Nebraska. What will be familiar to Ducks fans is him bringing with him a strong-armed quarterback in presumed starter Lee. The Tulane transfer should provide a much-needed shot in the arm for the Cornhuskers’ passing game and presents a juicy matchup with the talented Herbert, who is transitioning himself to a new offensive scheme under a new coaching staff.

 

10. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern) vs. Tanner Lee (Nebraska) – Nov. 4 (Lincoln, Neb.)

Maybe not the juiciest two names on this slate but in terms of being intriguing quarterback talents, but Northwestern’s early November trip to Lincoln certainly qualifies. Thorson turned a lot of heads as the Wildcats’ young starter and he could battle Lee as a contender to move up into the next echelon of Big Ten signal-callers.

 

— 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:
Big Ten’s Best Quarterback Matchups of 2017
Post date: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-secs-college-football-coaches-2017
Body:

Nick Saban is once again the unquestioned No. 1 coach in the SEC, but the debate begins at No. 2. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, Florida’s Jim McElwain and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn each have a case to earn the No. 2 spot, with Arkansas’ Bret Bielema, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Tennessee’s Butch Jones rounding out the next tier of options. As evidenced by the names in the mix, the SEC has a significant drop in coaching talent after Saban. Adding to the uncertainty in the league is a second-year coach at Georgia (Kirby Smart), and Ed Orgeron’s promotion to the top spot at LSU. 

 

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 SEC:

 

Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

14. Barry Odom, Missouri

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

 

13. Ed Orgeron, LSU

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

   

12. Kirby Smart, Georgia

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

 

11. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

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

 

10. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

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

 

9. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

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

 

8. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

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

 

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

 

7. Butch Jones, Tennessee

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

 

6. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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

 

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

 

5. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

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

 

4. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

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

 

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

 

3. Jim McElwain, Florida

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

 

2. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Quarterbacks for 2017: Spring Edition

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

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

Teaser:
Ranking the SEC's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Monday, May 15, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/san-antonio-spurs-vs-golden-state-warriors-2017-nba-western-conference-finals-preview-prediction
Body:

It doesn’t always work out due to injuries, bad luck or terrible matchups but, in the case of this year’s Western Conference Finals, we can certainly say that the two best teams in the regular season are meeting in the postseason for the right to move on to the NBA Finals. Even better for basketball fans across the world, it also presents us the rare opportunity to see that elusive meeting we’ve been wanting in the conference finals as the Golden State Warriors finally take on the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Unfortunately that battle of Western Conference titans doesn’t quite have the same shine it did when it was a possibility a few weeks ago. The Spurs not only lost Tony Parker for the rest of the year during their series with Rockets, but MVP candidate Kawhi Leonard also will certainly be less than 100 percent the rest of the way with an ankle injury. The Warriors are not unscathed either, with Kevin Durant still susceptible to having that calf strain flare up at inopportune times and head coach Steve Kerr unlikely to be found on the sidelines as he continues to deal with back issues.

 

Still, this is the matchup everybody wanted to see in the West and it should be a delight to anybody who loves crisp ball movement and excellent two-way play. Each franchise is intimately familiar with each other and probably relishes the fact that the road to the Finals will go through Oakland and San Antonio just like many predicted back when the two first met in the season opener. How will it all play out in the end? We’ll find out soon enough as the conference powerhouses go at each other in this series.

 

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 2 San Antonio Spurs (61-21)

 

Game 1 - Sunday, May 14, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)

Game 2 - Tuesday, May 16, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 3 - Saturday, May 20, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 4 - Monday, May 22, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 5 (if necessary) - Wednesday, May 24, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 6 (if necessary) - Friday, May 26, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 7 (if necessary) - Sunday, May 28, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

 

Note: Games 1, 2, 5, 7 will be played at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., while Games 3, 4, 6 will take place at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas

 

Keys for San Antonio

Health will be at the forefront of everybody’s minds in San Antonio as they look to see how well Kawhi Leonard’s ankle will be. While the extra rest afforded to him in skipping Game 6 of the Rockets series will likely help early on against the Warriors, it’s not an injury that lends itself to a quick recovery and the grind of running around to stop Golden State isn’t a walk in the park to say the least. Leonard likely gets first crack at defending Kevin Durant in the biggest one-on-one matchup of the conference finals so the Spurs have to hope the ankle is more of a nuisance for their MVP candidate than a real issue each game.

 

Outside of that battle, Gregg Popovich will no doubt be looking to maximize the advantage his team has down in the post. LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol both give San Antonio a notable presence in the paint and need to come up with big-time performances if they want to make this series interesting. Aldridge seemed to alternate between hot and cold during the six-game win over Houston so getting consistent play out of him will be key if the Spurs are to make a dint in the pairing of Zaza Pachulia and Draymond Green. Don’t discount the play of Jonathon Simmons on the wing on both ends of the court as well given the number of scoring options on the opposite bench. 

 

Keys for Golden State

When the Warriors assembled their “super team” over the summer, many thought they would be borderline unstoppable on their march to another NBA title. That notion was dismissed somewhat right off the back by the Spurs, who put a nearly 30-point whopping on the defending Western Conference champions in the season opener. The two teams met twice more during the regular season but that thrashing is bound to be stuck in the minds of every Golden State player when they take the court for this series. In short, expect a focused team that will do much more than just show up and play basketball over the course of the next four to seven games.

 

That said, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and the rest of the bunch are clearly the more talented squad in this meeting and need to continue doing what they’ve been doing the past three seasons in order to advance. That means hitting shots in transition, defending in the paint as well as the three-point line and making sure that the bench is able to help contribute on both ends of the court. Don’t overlook the coaching aspect for Golden State though, as Steve Kerr likely won’t be back around the team and former Spurs assistant Mike Brown will be left coming up with the in-game adjustments needed to close games out and take control of the series. The Warriors don’t have to be perfect in order to beat the Spurs but they do need to bring their A-games in order to get past their rivals from the great state of Texas.

 

Final Analysis

 

The Warriors’ rise into the NBA’s best team the past three seasons has come at the expense of many of their Western Conference rivals but the one franchise that has stuck around to make things interesting with them is the veteran group down in San Antonio. While we’ve missed out on chances to see the two teams meet in the postseason each of the past two years, the long-awaited battle is finally here for all to see.

 

As nice as it would be to see both sides fully healthy and really go toe-to-toe for the right to play for another NBA crown, that’s sadly not the case as this series is set to get underway. Stars in each starting lineup are banged up and Golden State head coach Steve Kerr likely won’t be around to go up against his former mentor and the league’s coaching dean in Gregg Popovich. We should still get a thrilling series that could be more competitive than the Eastern Conference counterpart will be but make no mistake, the top seed in the league will be heavily favored in this one for a reason.

 

If Kawhi Leonard is fully healthy and playing to his potential on both ends of the court, it’s certainly possible that San Antonio surprises everybody and makes a run at winning the series or at least make things interesting. Given the way Golden State has been playing ever since the postseason has arrived however, makes that unlikely and it seems like only a matter of time before they’re on their way to a third straight NBA Finals appearance against Cleveland.

 

Prediction: Warriors 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:
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors: 2017 NBA Western Conference Finals Preview and Prediction
Post date: Sunday, May 14, 2017 - 10:50
Path: /nba/nba-draft-lottery-rigged
Body:

The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls will be bouncing behind closed doors Tuesday, May 16, with the results unveiled at 8:00 p.m. ET prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. With the top three picks in this year’s NBA Draft (Thursday, June 22) at stake — as well as franchise-altering trade scenarios triggered by the results — this year's 33rd annual NBA Draft Lottery is in many ways more important than the NBA Draft itself. Yet ever since the New York Knicks won the first NBA Draft Lottery in 1985, the process has been a magnet for conspiracy theories.

“It’s too delicious. If you want to go on YouTube you can see the (1985) lottery where I supposedly had the frozen card. It’s all too delightful,” said Commissioner David Stern, discussing the NBA Draft Lottery with ABC during the 2012 NBA Finals and referencing the popular urban legend that the New York Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the 1985 lottery, ensuring that Stern would be able to pick the Knicks’ envelope for the No. 1 overall pick Patrick Ewing.

The NBA Draft Lottery has evolved from the Commissioner pulling envelopes out of a spinning bin to today’s complicated ping-pong ball method overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young — the pillar of integrity that paid $123 million to the feds in 2013 in order to squash a tax-fraud probe stemming from $2 billion in unpaid taxes.

The weighted system gives the team with the NBA’s worst record (Brooklyn Nets, whose pick is owned by the Boston Celtics) a 25 percent chance to win, the second-worst club (Phoenix Suns) a 19.9 percent chance, the third-worst (Los Angeles Lakers) a 15.6 percent chance and on down the line to the 14th and final non-playoff team (Miami Heat) with a 0.5 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick.

After the top three picks have been determined by lottery, picks 4-through-14 are placed in reverse order of record. The lottery is intended to give the worst teams a chance to draft the best players, without handing the worst team the No. 1 pick outright. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But the results can be the difference between LeBron James and Darko Milicic.

There have been many statistical anomalies over the years. And each long shot has had a suspicious story to tell.

1.52 %
1993 – Orlando Magic – Chris Webber

The Magic won their second of back-to-back lotteries, having selected Shaquille O’Neal with the top spot in 1992. Orlando traded Webber for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a castmate of Shaq’s in Blue Chips. Despite having the best record of any non-playoff team, the Magic won the lottery (and a Superman sidekick) despite having the longest odds. Doesn't take the Big Aristotle to do the math on this one, which was so shady it actually resulted in a rule change in the lottery process.

1.70 %
2008 – Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose
Shy Chicago native Derrick Rose landed in his hometown despite the odds. The joke was that the Bulls weren’t going to unretire Michael Jordan’s No. 23 — the jersey number that Rose wore at Memphis — but the local legend could wear No. 1.7 to honor his unbelievable lottery luck.

1.70 %
2014 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Andrew Wiggins
The Cavs' third No. 1 overall pick in four years (2011, 2013, 2014), Wiggins was flipped to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love after LeBron returned his talents to "The Land." The odds of winning the NBA Draft Lottery three times in four years? One in 13,467. You have a better chance of hitting a hole-in-one today (1 in 12,750) or bowling a perfect 300 game (1 in 11,500) than being as lucky as the Cavs were with random bouncing ping-pong balls. This was also Cleveland's fourth lottery win (LeBron had a 22.5 percent chance to go to his hometown team in 2003) in 12 years (1 in 10,000 odds).

2.80 %
2011 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving
The Cavaliers won the first post-LeBron Lottery, after King James' painful "Decision" to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. But dig deeper; Cleveland won not with its own lottery ball, but with that of the longshot L.A. Clippers, who traded the rights to their selection as part of a bad Baron Davis deal. So, the Cavs’ lottery winnings resulted in both the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 pick — which was used to select Tristan Thompson.

4.40 %
2000 – New Jersey Nets – Kenyon Martin
Rod Thorn went from being David Stern’s right-hand man in the league office to the top spot in the Nets’ front office, immediately winning the lottery in a one-man draft class. This was a must since the other top prospects included Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer in a draft generally regarded as one of the weakest in recent memory.

5.30 %
2007 – Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden
The Blazers were given the chance to carry on their tradition of drafting injury-prone 7-footers, winning the lottery and taking “can’t miss” center Greg Oden one spot ahead of Kevin Durant. Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and Arvydas Sabonis can empathize with Oden, who was viewed as a generational talent at the time.


It doesn’t take a longshot winning the lottery to raise a few eyebrows, however. There are a few other interesting winners and statistics.

– In 2012, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) won the lottery while technically owned by the National Basketball Association itself. The timing could not have been better. Adding Anthony Davis to the mix made the NOLA franchise much more appealing.

– Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away on Nov. 24, 2009. The Wiz won the very next lottery in 2010, with Abe’s widow Irene Pollin in attendance.

– Basketball history was altered by the bounce of a ping pong ball when Tim Duncan’s destination was David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs rather than coach Rick Pitino’s Boston Celtics, who owned two picks and had a 36 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick. Since then, Duncan has won five NBA championships and Pitino has gone back to school, where he led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA title.

There doesn't appear to be a LeBron James or Tim Duncan looming at the top of this year's draft, but the lottery results are arguably more important than they've ever been. Here's a quick overview of 2017 storylines (percentage being odds of winning No. 1 overall pick):

 

25 %
Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)
The No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference NBA Playoffs has a chance to land the top spot in the NBA Draft. Even if the Celtics whiff completely, they are guaranteed the No. 4 pick, at worst. A top-4 pick could be used to draft a cheap potential star, or flipped for Paul George or Jimmy Butler.

 

15.6 %
Los Angeles Lakers
Magic Johnson's first draft as President of the Lakers hangs in the balance. The Lakers' first-rounder is top-3 protected. If L.A. fails to land a top-3 pick, then the selection goes to the 76ers. The results of this lottery also impacts future draft picks. If the Lakers fail to land a top-3 pick this year, they will also lose their 2019 first-rounder. It's complicated, but it's crucial.
 

11.9 %
Philadelphia 76ers
"The Process" could be a big winner on NBA Draft Lottery night. The 76ers have the rights to their own pick, as well as the Lakers' pick if it falls outside the top-3, in addition to the option to swap with the Kings if Sacramento has a higher draft position.
 

1.1 %
New Orleans Pelicans
Like the Lakers, the Pelicans will only retain their pick if it falls within the top-3. Otherwise, the Kings own the selection as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade that also included the acquisition of Buddy Hield. If NOLA lands a top-3 pick, basketball fans will love Brow and Boogie teaming up with Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball. It's a long shot, but that's never mattered before. Long live the NBA Draft Lottery.
 

Teaser:
The suspicious historical results of the NBA Draft Lottery
Post date: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/tom-brady-patriots-everyone-know-theres-no-such-thing-madden-curse
Body:

Tom Brady is having an awesome year and it's not even close to being over.

 

The Patriots star has been granted the distinguished honor of being on the cover of Madden which may make some fans gasp when you consider the effects of the Madden Curse. 

 

 

Brady wants all of Patriots nation to know he doesn't believe in curses and just for a little extra reassurance, he put out a video to prove it.

 

 

Let's be real ... can anything really stop Brady at this point?

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 10:57
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/ecu-football-player-mom-best-mothers-day-surprise-kiante-anderson-tia-scottie-montgomery-east-carolina
Body:

It's always hard to find just the right gift for Mother's Day. 

 

Luckily for one East Carolina football player, he got an unexpected assist in that area. Pirates head coach Scottie Montgomery decided to go a different route rather than simply giving a player a scholarship ... he took it directly to the guy's mother.

 

Kiante Anderson is a standout defensive end for ECU and has certainly earned his spot on the field, prompting Montgomery wanted to honor the walk-on with a full athletic scholarship. Since it's close to Mother's Day the coach went directly to Anderson's mom's job to give it to her in person. Awesome gesture by the coach.

 

 

That gift is priceless. 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-south-carolinas-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

While the South Carolina Gamecocks finished 6-7 last season, it was a far better debut than most anticipated for first-year head coach Will Muschamp. The Gamecocks certainly took their lumps at times. However, a signature win over Tennessee and an unexpected bowl bid seemed to breathe some life back into a program that many believed was left for dead with the departure of the "old ball coach."

 

South Carolina returns many of the key pieces that helped exceed expectations in 2016. So, as Muschamp embarks on his second season in Columbia, there is even more optimism in the air for the Gamecocks to continue their trend back to college football relevance. The only thing standing in the way now is a schedule that ranks among the most difficult in the SEC and the nation for 2017.

 

Here now are South Carolina’s 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult:

 

12. Nov. 18 vs. Wofford

It has become commonplace for SEC teams to schedule a late-season matchup against an FCS opponent to help relieve some of the stress of an otherwise brutal schedule. The problem is that Wofford isn’t your typical lower-level cupcake opponent. They return 16 starters from a team that won 10 games in 2016 and feature an option offense that presents a real challenge for opposing defenses. The Gamecocks should win with relative ease at home. However, Wofford is not a team that South Carolina can afford to look past with Clemson looming the following week.

 

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

 

11. Sept. 23 vs. Louisiana Tech

This is another team that South Carolina would be ill advised to overlook. After going 9-5 in 2016, Conference USA Coach of the Year Skip Holtz now has three straight nine-win seasons to his credit to go along with three consecutive bowl victories. The good news for the Gamecocks is that Louisiana Tech lost much of its firepower from an offense that ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2016. That includes Conference USA MVP quarterback Ryan Higgins and his top two targets in receivers Trent Taylor and C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Carlos Henderson. South Carolina should have the edge in Columbia.

 

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

10. Sept. 9 at Missouri

The Gamecocks could have issues on the road with a Missouri offense that took a big leap forward in 2016 and returns 10 starters. On the other hand, the Mizzou defense ranked among the worst in the nation last season and returns just three starters. In a defensive-minded league like the SEC, that does not bode well for Barry Odom’s Tigers.

 

9. Oct. 28 vs. Vanderbilt

The Commodores return 15 starters from a team that showed promise late in 2016, knocking off the likes of Ole Miss and Tennessee to become bowl eligible for the first time in three years. They also took the Gamecocks to the wire last season in Nashville. But it will be a tall order for Derek Mason to replace All-American linebacker Zach Cunningham on defense. And running back Ralph Webb, Vandy’s top weapon on offense, has never surpassed 100 rushing yards or scored a touchdown against the Gamecocks in three previous matchups. I like South Carolina’s chances in front of the home crowd coming off of a bye week.

 

8. Oct. 7 vs. Arkansas

The Arkansas offense should be stout with the return of SEC passing leader Austin Allen at quarterback to go along with a formidable backfield. The only real question mark is at receiver with the departure of its top three pass catchers from 2016. The Razorbacks do, however, have plenty of question marks on defense. In addition to making a difficult transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads, Arkansas loses several of its top playmakers on that side of the football. The Gamecocks will probably need to put up plenty of points to get the win, but that looks promising against this defense at home.

 

7. Sept. 16 vs. Kentucky

While the Gamecocks have been highly competitive against Mark Stoops’ Wildcats, they have lost each of the last three contests to Kentucky. The good news is that South Carolina will have a legitimate opportunity to end that streak in Columbia in 2017. Despite the fact that Kentucky returns most of its starters on both sides of the football, the Wildcats ranked No. 85 in the nation last season in total defense. They were even worse against the run, ranking No. 110 in the country, and question marks linger in that regard. The Wildcats did not have to contend with quarterback Jake Bentley last season, and the Gamecocks’ run game should be much improved in 2017. For those reasons, I like South Carolina's chances at home this time around.

 

6. Sept. 30 at Texas A&M

The Gamecocks have never beaten the Aggies in their short three-game history. It’s also never an easy task to come away from a hostile environment like Kyle Field with a victory. That being said, this may be South Carolina’s best shot to make it happen. While there’s no shortage of talent in College Station, much of that talent is unproven. Texas A&M is charged with replacing most of its top playmakers on both sides of the football, including No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Myles Garrett and quarterback Trevor Knight. This should be the game where South Carolina fans find out if Jake Bentley can overcome the jitters that plagued him on the road last season.

 

5. Sept. 2 vs. NC State (Charlotte, NC)

While the Gamecocks' season opener isn’t technically an away game, it should still provide a significant early-season test for Jake Bentley away from the friendly confines of Williams-Brice Stadium. In fact, this matchup will serve as a nice barometer for the Gamecocks collectively. NC State will be the most experienced team that South Carolina will face in 2017 with 22 seniors returning (11 of them starters), including first-team all-conference DE Bradley Chubb and top target Jaylen Samuels. Standout junior QB Ryan Finley also returns to a Wolfpack team that was a mere missed field goal away from knocking off eventual national champion Clemson last season. There is no question that this will be a difficult matchup for the Gamecocks.

 

4. Nov. 11 vs. Florida

Florida returns just three starters from a star-studded 2016 defense. The Gator offense is once again questionable at best. And Will Muschamp has the luxury of facing his former team at home in 2017. These are all great reasons to be optimistic about South Carolina’s chances to knock off the back-to-back defending SEC East champs. However, the cupboard is far from bare in Gainesville, and the Gators still have more talent on their roster than the Gamecocks. That, and Florida always seems to find a way to prevail in spite of its shortcomings, particularly when it comes to facing equal or lesser competition.

 

3. Oct. 14 at Tennessee

South Carolina’s 24-21 victory over Tennessee in Columbia proved to be the highlight of the 2016 season. It was arguably Tennessee’s lowest point, ultimately eliminating the Volunteers from a shot at a division title and an invite to a major bowl game. That is exactly why I am not particularly fond of the Gamecocks’ prospects to upset the Vols again in 2017. Butch Jones will surely have this game circled on the schedule. And while the Volunteers have plenty of unknowns heading into this season, they have no shortage of talent. As long as Tennessee can stay remotely healthy, a repeat of last season will be very difficult for the Gamecocks to come by on the road in Knoxville. Additionally, the Vols will be coming off of a bye, giving them two weeks to rest up and prepare for this matchup.

 

2. Nov. 4 at Georgia

The Gamecocks have lost three of the last four meetings to the Bulldogs and have not won in Athens since 2011. And it will be a tall order for South Carolina to get over the hump on the road against its rival this fall. Georgia still has a few question marks, most notably along the offensive line and at wide receiver. However, if sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason can take the next step in his maturation, Georgia will be the team to beat in the SEC East in 2017. The Bulldogs feature one of the most potent backfields in the nation with the return of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. And a solid defense from 2016 returns completely intact. The Gamecocks will likely chalk this one up in the loss column.

 

1. Nov. 25 vs. Clemson

Clemson lost a wealth of talent from its national championship team, which will probably result in a step back in 2017. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, the Tigers’ decline won’t be nearly steep enough to close a gap that has widened significantly over the last few years. South Carolina is trending in the right direction and should fare much better against the Tigers in 2017 at home. Regardless, Clemson remains one of the most talent-rich teams in the country and the Gamecocks still have plenty of catching up to do before they can once again pose a legitimate threat to their hated in-state rival.

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on South Carolina's College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-sun-belts-college-football-coaches-2017
Body:

Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield takes the top spot in Athlon’s Sun Belt coach ranks for the second year in a row. The Mountaineers are 21-5 over the last two seasons and will be picked near the top of the league once again in 2017. Troy’s Neal Brown and Arkansas State’s Blake Anderson aren’t too far behind, giving the Sun Belt three rising stars on the sidelines. South Alabama’s Joey Jones and Louisiana’s Mark Hudspeth headline the next tier.

 

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 Sun Belt:

 

Ranking the Sun Belt's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

12. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State

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

 

11. Everett Withers, Texas State

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

 

10. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

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

 

9. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

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

 

8. Paul Petrino, Idaho

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

 

7. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

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

 

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

 

6. Matt Viator, ULM

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

 

5. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana

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

 

4. Joey Jones, South Alabama

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

 

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

 

3. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

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

 

2. Neal Brown, Troy

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 Quarterbacks for 2017: Spring Edition

 

1. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

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

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Ranking the Sun Belt's College Football Coaches for 2017
Post date: Friday, May 12, 2017 - 09:00
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It's easy to get frustrated with the media. 

 

Draymond Green, for the most part, has had his fill ... well, at least when it comes to ESPN. The Warriors star recently expressed his frustration with the network and its ability to twist his words.

 

"Everybody's always chasing a headline and a controversy," Green told The Mercury News. "Watching ESPN now is like watching a controversial reality TV show. It's pretty pathethic that that's the headline everybody wants: Draymond's disappointed with who Cleveland plays. Think I care how Cleveland plays or how the other team plays? But I am a basketball fan and I know what I want to watch as a basketball fan, so I don't understand how these things are always made so controversial, not that it alters my daily life. I still go home and have fun with my kids. But it's just ridiculous that everybody's always searching for controversy."

 

Some would say Green has a point because as of late the worldwide leader in sports has been showing fans things they may not be interested in. Recently ESPN has spent a lot of time talking about Tony Romo's transition to broadcasting as well as showing less game highlights and more debates.

 

Only time will tell if ESPN's new approach to sports will take more fans away from the media conglomerate, but Green seems well on his way.

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Post date: Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 12:53

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