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All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/former-braves-infielders-son-life-support-after-being-hit-face-baseball
Body:

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

The Lockharts are optimistic about Jason's recovery. 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Nicholls State

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

 

11. Sept. 16 vs. Louisiana

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

 

10. Nov. 11 vs. New Mexico

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

 

9. Sept. 30 vs. South Carolina

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

 

8. Nov. 18 at Ole Miss

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

 

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

 

7. Oct. 28 vs. Mississippi State

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

 

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

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

 

5. Sept. 3 at UCLA

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

 

4. Oct. 14 at Florida

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

 

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

 

3. Nov. 4 vs. Auburn

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

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

 

2. Nov. 25 at LSU

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

 

1. Oct. 7 vs. Alabama

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

College Football 2017 Coach Rankings by Conference

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017

 

130. Jay Norvell, Nevada

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

 

129. Shawn Elliott, Georgia State

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

128. Brent Brennan, San Jose State

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

 

Related: Mountain West 2017 Predictions

 

127. Everett Withers, Texas State

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

 

126. Mike Jinks, Bowling Green

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

 

125. Mike Neu, Ball State

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

 

Related: MAC Football 2017 Predictions

 

124. Paul Haynes, Kent State

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

 

123. Doug Martin, New Mexico State

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

 

122. Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

121. Tyson Summers, Georgia Southern

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

 

120. Tim Lester, Western Michigan

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

 

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

 

119. Brad Lambert, Charlotte

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

 

118. Sean Kugler, UTEP

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

 

117. Major Applewhite, Houston

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

 

116. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

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

 

115. Lance Leipold, Buffalo

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

 

114. Mark Whipple, UMass

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

 

113. Justin Wilcox, California

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

112. Geoff Collins, Temple

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

 

111. Tony Sanchez, UNLV

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

 

110. Chris Ash, Rutgers

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

 

109. David Beaty, Kansas

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

 

108. Paul Petrino, Idaho

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

 

Related: Sun Belt Football Predictions for 2017

 

107. Tom Allen, Indiana

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

 

106. Lovie Smith, Illinois

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

 

105. Barry Odom, Missouri

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

 

104. Joe Moglia, Coastal Carolina

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

 

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

 

103. Jay Hopson, Southern Miss

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

 

102. John Bonamego, Central Michigan

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

 

101. Matt Viator, ULM

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

 

100. Frank Wilson, UTSA

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

99. Seth Littrell, North Texas

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

 

98. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois

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

 

97. David Bailiff, Rice

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

 

96. Jeff Tedford, Fresno State

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

 

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

 

95. Matt Wells, Utah State

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

 

94. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan

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

 

93. Nick Rolovich, Hawaii

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

 

92. Randy Edsall, UConn

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

 

91. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

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

 

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

90. Terry Bowden, Akron

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

 

89. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana

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

 

88. Joey Jones, South Alabama

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

 

87. Butch Davis, FIU

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

 

Related: Conference USA Football Predictions for 2017

 

86. Mike Sanford, WKU

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

 

85. Scott Frost, UCF

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

 

84. Bob Davie, New Mexico

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

 

83. Chad Morris, SMU

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

 

Related: American Athletic Football Predictions for 2017

 

82. Mike Bobo, Colorado State

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

 

81. Ed Orgeron, LSU

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

 

80. Lane Kiffin, FAU

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

 

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

 

79. Doc Holliday, Marshall

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

 

78. Bill Clark, UAB

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

 

77. Chuck Martin, Miami

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

 

76. Jason Candle, Toledo

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

 

Related: MAC Football Predictions for 2017

 

75. Jeff Monken, Army

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

 

74. Jim Mora, UCLA

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

 

73. Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion

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

 

72. Rick Stockstill, MTSU

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

 

71. Mike Norvell, Memphis

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

 

Related: American Athletic Conference 2017 Predictions

 

70. Kalani Sitake, BYU

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

 

69. Blake Anderson, Arkansas State

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

 

68. Neal Brown, Troy

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

 

67. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech

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

 

Related: Conference USA Football Predictions for 2017

 

66. Frank Solich, Ohio

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

 

65. Kirby Smart, Georgia

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

 

64. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt

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

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

 

63. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

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

 

62. Steve Addazio, Boston College

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

 

61. Dave Doeren, NC State

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

 

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

 

60. Mark Stoops, Kentucky

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

 

59. Willie Fritz, Tulane

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 QBs for 2017: Spring Edition

 

58. Charlie Strong, USF

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

 

57. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa

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

 

56. DJ Durkin, Maryland

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

 

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2017

 

55. Will Muschamp, South Carolina

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

 

54. Bryan Harsin, Boise State

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

 

53. Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State

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

 

Related: Sun Belt Football Predictions for 2017

 

52. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia

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

 

51. Craig Bohl, Wyoming

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

 

50. Rocky Long, San Diego State

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

 

Related: Mountain West Football Predictions for 2017

 

49. Jeff Brohm, Purdue

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

 

48. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

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

 

47. Clay Helton, USC

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

 

46. Mike Riley, Nebraska

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

 

45. Dino Babers, Syracuse

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

 

Related: Ranking the ACC's Toughest Schedules for 2017

 

44. Dave Clawson, Wake Forest

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

 

43. Troy Calhoun, Air Force

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

 

42. Matt Rhule, Baylor

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

 

41. P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

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

 

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

 

40. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M

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

 

39. Pat Narduzzi, Pitt

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

 

38. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona

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

 

37. Todd Graham, Arizona State

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

36. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

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

 

35. Larry Fedora, North Carolina

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

 

34. Willie Taggart, Oregon

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

 

Related: Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

33. Gary Andersen, Oregon State

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

 

32. Ken Niumatalolo, Navy

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

 

31. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

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

 

30. Butch Jones, Tennessee

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

 

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

 

29. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss

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

 

28. Mike MacIntyre, Colorado

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

 

27. Bret Bielema, Arkansas

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

 

Related: College Football All-America Team for 2017

 

26. Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech

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

 

25. Brian Kelly, Notre Dame

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

 

24. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

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

 

Related: Big Ten Football Predictions for 2017

 

23. Tom Herman, Texas

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

 

22. Gus Malzahn, Auburn

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

 

21. Jim McElwain, Florida

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

 

20. Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

19. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State

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

 

18. Mike Leach, Washington State

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

 

17. Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

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

 

16. David Cutcliffe, Duke

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

 

Related: ACC Football Predictions for 2017

 

15. Kyle Whittingham, Utah

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

 

14. Mark Richt, Miami

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

 

13. Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

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

 

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

 

12. James Franklin, Penn State

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

 

11. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

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

 

10. Bobby Petrino, Louisville

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

 

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

 

9. Gary Patterson, TCU

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

 

8. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

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

 

Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017

 

7. David Shaw, Stanford

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

 

6. Chris Petersen, Washington

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

 

5. Dabo Swinney, Clemson

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

 

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

 

4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State

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

 

3. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

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

 

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

 

2. Urban Meyer, Ohio State

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

 

1. Nick Saban, Alabama

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

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Ranking All 130 College Football Head Coaches for 2017
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With Gary Patterson at TCU, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State, the Big 12 is home to some of college football's top coaches. And the depth in the league improved over the offseason, as Texas hired Tom Herman to replace Charlie Strong, and Baylor hired Matt Rhule as the program's new full-time coach after an interim year under Jim Grobe. And there was some summer intrigue, as Lincoln Riley was promoted to head coach after Bob Stoops retired at Oklahoma in early June.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ranking the Big 12's College Football Coaches for 2017

 

10. David Beaty, Kansas

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

 

9. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech

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

 

8. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma

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

 

7. Matt Campbell, Iowa State

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

 

6. Matt Rhule, Baylor

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

 

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

 

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

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

 

4. Tom Herman, Texas

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

 

3. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State

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

 

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

 

2. Gary Patterson, TCU

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

 

1. Bill Snyder, Kansas State

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

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Looking into the crystal ball for the 2017 ACC season, you see many of the same teams at the top of the food chain.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

4.7: Penalties per game committed by Duke last season

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

 

55.23: Time of possession percentage by Florida State last season

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

 

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

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

 

54.5: Opponents’ completion percentage allowed by Louisville last season

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

83.8: Plays per game by the Syracuse offense last season

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

 

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

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

 

1.1: Fumbles lost per game by Virginia Tech last season

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

 

10.47: Sacked percentage by the Wake Forest offense last season

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

 

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

Teaser:
14 ACC Stats You Need to Know for 2017
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-oklahomas-college-football-schedule-2017
Body:

Bob Stoops stunned the college football world in June when he stepped down at Oklahoma, leaving the Sooners in the hands of 33-year-old offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.

 

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

 

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

 

12. Sept. 2 vs. UTEP

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

 

11. Sept. 6 vs. Tulane

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

 

10. Nov. 18 at Kansas

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

 

9. Oct. 28 vs. Texas Tech

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

 

8. Oct. 7 vs. Iowa State

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

 

7. Sept. 23 at Baylor

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

 

6. Nov. 25 vs. West Virginia

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

 

5. Nov. 11 vs. TCU

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

 

4. Oct. 14 vs. Texas (Dallas)

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

 

3. Oct. 21 at Kansas State

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

 

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

 

2. Nov. 4 at Oklahoma State

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

 

1. Sept. 9 at Ohio State

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

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
Ranking the Toughest Games on Oklahoma’s College Football Schedule in 2017
Post date: Monday, June 26, 2017 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/toyota-save-mart-350-sonoma-preview-and-fantasy-nascar-predictions-2017
Body:

Kasey Kahne. Martin Truex Jr. Carl Edwards.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Toyota/Save Mart 350

 

Time: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

Track: Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, Calif.)

TV: FOX Sports 1

Radio: PRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90

 

Who’s at the Front: Chip Ganassi Racing

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Who’s at the Back: Danica Patrick

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

 

News Briefs

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

NASCAR by the Numbers

 

5

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

 

1.5

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

  

Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)

 

Top Tier

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Middle Tier

 

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

 

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

 

Underdog Tier

 

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

 

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

 

What Vegas Thinks

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

 

What I Think

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

 

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

 

(Photo by ASP Inc.)

Teaser:
Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Preview and Fantasy NASCAR Predictions
Post date: Saturday, June 24, 2017 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/draftkings-nascar-lineup-picks-toyota-save-mart-350-2017
Body:

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

 

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

 

ELITE TIER: $9,500 and up

 

Martin Truex Jr. ($10,300)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 19.5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Kyle Busch ($10,200)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 18.1

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

AJ Allmendinger ($9,500)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 20.9

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

ALL-STAR TIER: $8,500 – $9,400

 

Clint Bowyer ($9,400)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 11.5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Denny Hamlin ($8,900)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 20.8

 

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

 

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

 

Jamie McMurray ($8,500)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 16.3

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

BARGAIN TIER: $4,500 – $8,400

 

Kasey Kahne ($8,000)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 17.5

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ryan Newman ($7,900)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 12.3

 

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

 

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

 

Paul Menard ($7,400)

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

Average finish at Sonoma: 18.0

 

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

 

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

 

Pre-Qualifying Optimal Lineup:

 

(Photo by ASP Inc.)

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

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

 

1. Jack is the son of Brady and Bridget Moynahan

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 
 

Brady vs Brady #therecanonlybeone 🏆

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

 

3. Benny likes to dab… a lot

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

A post shared by Tom Brady (@tombrady) on

 

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

 

4. Vivian gets what she wants

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

 

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

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

 

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

 
 

💗Go papai go! #gopats

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

 

 

5. Their diet is not like a regular childs

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

 

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

 
 

Thank you God ❤️🙏❤️ Obrigada Deus #happythanksgiving

A post shared by Gisele Bündchen (@gisele) on

 

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

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

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

These recruits are getting younger and younger.

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

357.4: Arizona State opponents' passing yards per game

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

 

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

 

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

 

6.15: Rushing yards Cal allowed per attempt

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

 

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

 

11: Total interceptions gone from the 2017 roster

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

54.7: Oregon State's passing completion percentage

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

 

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

 

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

 

16: How many more PPG Stanford averaged with Keller Chryst

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

47.7: Mitch Wishnowsky's average yards per punt 

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

 

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

 

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

 

33: Turnovers created by the Washington defense

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

 

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

 

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

 

65.6: Percentage of plays in which Washington State passed 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

1. Seed playoffs based on overall records

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

3. Change scheduling related to Thursday night games

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

 

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

 

4. Give every team two bye weeks

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

(Roger Goodell photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

12. Sept. 9 vs. Charlotte

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

 

11. Sept. 2 vs. Central Arkansas

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

 

10. Oct. 28 at Kansas

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

 

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

 

9. Nov. 25 vs. Iowa State

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

 

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

 

8. Sept. 16 at Vanderbilt

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

 

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

 

7. Sept. 30 vs. Baylor

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

 

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

 

6. Nov. 4 at Texas Tech

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

 

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

 

5. Nov. 11 vs. West Virginia

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

 

4. Oct. 14 vs. TCU

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

 

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

 

3. Oct. 7 at Texas

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

 

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

 

2. Nov. 18 at Oklahoma State

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

 

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

 

1. Oct. 21 vs. Oklahoma

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

12. Sept. 16 vs. Furman

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

 

11. Sept. 9 vs. Marshall

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

 

10. Sept. 30 vs. Syracuse

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

 

9. Nov. 11 at Boston College

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

 

8. Nov. 18 at Wake Forest

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

 

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

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

 

6. Oct. 28 at Notre Dame

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

 

5. Nov. 25 vs. North Carolina

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

 

4. Oct. 14 at Pittsburgh

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

 

3. Oct. 5 vs. Louisville

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

 

2. Nov. 4 vs. Clemson

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

 

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

1. Sept. 23 at Florida State

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

5. Clifton McNeely, G , Texas Wesleyan

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

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

 

4. Andy Tonkovich, PG, Marshall

1948 BAA Draft – Providence Steamrollers

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

 

3. Anthony Bennett, F, UNLV

2013 Draft – Cleveland Cavaliers

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

 

2. LaRue Martin, C, Loyola (Illinois)

1972 Draft – Portland Trail Blazers

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

 

1. Gene Melchiorre, PG, Bradley

1951 Draft – Baltimore Bullets

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

 

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

 

(Anthony Bennett photo courtesy of Getty Images)

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

Patrick Peterson has a track record few NFL players can keep up with. He was USA Today Defensive Player of the Year out of Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla. He won the Chuck Bednarik Award and Jim Thorpe Award at LSU. He was a top-5 NFL draft pick, and has started his career with six consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. But if you think his football résumé looks good, you should see his car collection. We talked shop with Peterson, 26, who has a fleet of classic cars in the Phoenix area.

 

Did you always dream of having a car collection?

I won’t say a “dream,” but more of a “vision” to have the garage I have today. Growing up in South Florida, seeing donks [hi-risers with giant wheels], seeing dragsters, seeing all type of different cars, I had that vision. It’s really a blessing to be able to have the collection I have.

 

What was the first car you bought after getting drafted?

My 2010 Camaro.

 

Why so many Camaros?

I don’t know what it is about a Camaro. Maybe because the older ones have a muscle car and a European-type flavor to it. The thing about Camaros, they’ll continue to make those cars. You’ll never see a Nova again, like you’ll never see a Chevelle again. The Camaro will continue putting out those different generations. To be able to collect the different generations, that’s probably what I love most about Camaros.

 

What’s your most recent purchase?

My Rolls Royce. It’s a convertible. It’s white on white, with a red insert with some cherry wood on the door panels. My [18-month-old] daughter [Paityn] loves driving around in the car, especially when we drop the top and put her shades on. She swears she’s a big girl. The car speaks for itself. It’s probably the smoothest riding car that I have.

 

Patrick Peterson and his cars

 

In what condition do you usually buy your cars?

I always want my cars in mint condition. But I end up putting my own touch on my cars. I always have to put that P2 flavor. Obviously, I don’t want to buy a rust bucket or something that’s not able to drive right now. When I do get cars, I want to be able to enjoy them before I put the new components on it.

 

How fast did you build your car collection?

I’m very particular in what I buy. I have yet to buy a car that has let me down. I’ve gradually grown my collection. I normally buy one car, maybe two in a year. Not too many at once, because I love to travel. I have to make sure that I space my finances out. There are things I want to do besides buy cars.

 

Are all your cars in the Phoenix area?

Yes, sir. All my cars are in the same city. When I do end up traveling, I ship them to Florida, I ship them to Vegas, or wherever a car show may be. A lot of my cars are in shows. So if need be, I definitely ship them where they need to be.

 

What’s your favorite song to listen to when you’re driving?

“You’re My Latest, Greatest Inspiration.” Teddy Pendergrass is one of my favorites. I’m old school. I love old R&B, old-school funk.

 

What’s your favorite muscle car?

If you have any Chevelle between ’68 to ’72, you’re the man. You have power. You have what it takes. You have a real deal muscle car. That’s definitely the definition of a muscle car, the Chevelle.

 

Do you have any limited-edition cars?

My 2001 Camaro [Intimidator SS]. Dale Earnhardt Sr. It was his car. They made 83 of them. And he signed every car up to car 33, before he died in his tragic accident at the Daytona 500. My car is 55. And my car is the only one that has Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s signature on my gauge cluster.

 

Dale Jr.’s autograph is on your Dale Sr. Camaro?

Yeah. I became very good friends with Dale Jr. I actually tried to buy one of Dale Jr.’s cars, to put his car in my collection, as well. But he wanted a little bit too much money. But once I told him I wanted him to sign my gauge cluster, we sent it over to him and he sent it right back within a week. That’s definitely the car that is different. I would never, ever, in a million years sell that car. That car is going to get passed down to my daughter, to her kids. I want that car to stay in the family forever.

 

P2’s Car Collection

1968 Chevrolet Camaro

1969 Chevrolet Camaro

1970 Chevrolet Nova SS

1971 Chevrolet Cheyenne C10

1972 Chevrolet Cheyenne C10

1972 Chevrolet Chevelle

1973 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS

1973 Chevrolet Caprise

2001 Chevrolet Camaro Intimidator SS

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

2013 Chevrolet COPO Camaro

2013 Ferrari 458 Spider

2014 Chevrolet Corvette

2015 Cadillac Escalade

2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn

 

Teaser:
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has an impressive car collection
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 15:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-james-madison-wont-repeat-fcs-national-champion
Body:

The prospect that James Madison will win back-to-back FCS national titles is quite possible and the talent-laden Dukes can embrace the notion.

 

But the dreaming in June is a lot different than some of the realities in the fall.

 

An extra factor will come into play beginning Sept. 2 – pressure. Anything short of a second straight title will be disappointing, and so much can wrong in an opposite way that so much fell into place last season.

 

Here are five reasons why James Madison just may not reach its goal:

 

Everybody’s target

It’s tough enough that JMU plays in powerful CAA Football, but now the conference’s many strong programs really want to beat the Dukes. Game day is circled on all of those calendars. That added pressure can make a defending champion play not to lose instead of playing to win.

 

Everything’s about January

There’s a winnable season opener at FBS East Carolina, Villanova and New Hampshire are coming to Bridgeforth Stadium in October, and Richmond will provide a huge test in November. And yet the entire Dukes’ season is about what happens in Frisco, Texas, on the first Saturday in January. Of course, they have to get there first. But the big picture will always be front and center, even though the Dukes know it’s best to attack a season in steps.

 

No Khalid Abdullah

Yes, the Dukes return their No. 2 (Cardon Johnson) and No. 3 (Trai Sharpe) rushers and added Georgia Tech transfer Marcus Marshall to the backfield. But they’re still replacing Abdullah (above, right) and his 1,809 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns. It’s not a slam dunk they won’t miss Abdullah in pivotal games.

 

Missouri Valley Conference teams

It wasn’t that long ago most people considered North Dakota State, winner of five straight FCS titles from 2011-15, as the unquestioned team to beat. Well, the Bison did go all the way to the national semifinals before falling to JMU. They haven’t gone away and return the best defense in the nation. Add in South Dakota State bringing back its best Division I team on paper and Youngstown State coming off its national runner-up finish to the Dukes and the Missouri Valley Football Conference remains a big threat.

 

One bad day

The Dukes can go unbeaten in the regular season, but there’s no margin for error in the playoffs. Injuries… turnovers… weather, so many factors could halt their run to a second consecutive national title.

 

— 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.

 

(Photos by James Madison University Athletics)

Teaser:
5 Reasons James Madison Won’t Repeat as FCS National Champion
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/tom-brady-unsuccessfully-tries-move-sumo-wrestler-new-england-patriots
Body:

Tom Brady is good at many things, but sumo wrestling evidently isn't one of them.

 

During his tour around Asia, the Patriots quarterback tried his hand at sumo wrestling and this outcome was a little different than the ones he's used to. 

 

 

Stick to your day job, Tom. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 10:56
Path: /college-football/how-kevin-wilson-can-fix-ohio-state-offense-2017
Body:

Ohio State’s 2014 national championship under Urban Meyer was defined by two breakthrough games for the Buckeyes offense. The first was their regular-season takedown of fellow Big Ten contender Michigan State on the Spartans’ own turf. That victory was spearheaded by young quarterback J.T. Barrett, who threw for 300 yards on 26 attempts (11.5 yards per attempt), thoroughly wrecking Michigan State’s “load-the-box, stop-the-run” defensive strategy with explosive gains in the passing game.

 

The next breakthrough was their Big Ten Championship Game victory over the Wisconsin Badgers with backup Cardale Jones at quarterback. Jones threw only 17 passes, but they went for 257 yards and 15.3 yards per attempt, which easily exploited the Badgers’ strategy of focusing on the QB run game.

 

In hindsight, it’s clear that those impressive victories — and the explosiveness in the passing game — were the main indicators that Ohio State — and not Alabama — would go on to win the national title.

 

That explosiveness was absent in 2016 when the Buckeyes made their way to the College Football Playoff with a combination of stellar defensive play and quarterback runs — until an extremely talented Clemson defense handed Meyer the first shutout of his career. 

 

Now, Meyer has turned to Kevin Wilson, the former head at coach at Indiana, to engineer another breakthrough. There’s a lot for Wilson to fix — but also a lot of talent at his disposal.  

 

The Silenced Buckeyes Offense


The Barrett-led Buckeyes are responsible for one of the more dominant schemes in modern college football, the QB split-zone play from a four-WR formation.

 

 

With four receivers running routes to worry about, it can be very difficult for the opposition to get enough defenders in the box to stop the quarterback runs, particularly this split-zone scheme that Barrett can read and execute at a high level. When combined with the Buckeye quarterback’s 6'2" 222-pound frame and outstanding quickness, it was a nearly automatic conversion on 3rd-and-6 or less. With pass options attached, it could also become an easy way to isolate a speedy skill player or a big target in space.

 

The problem for the Buckeyes in 2016: They they were excellent at using quarterback runs and option plays, but they weren’t particularly good at anything else.

 

Barrett averaged only 6.7 yards per passing attempt, and two of the team’s top three targeted receivers included H-back (a slot back position) Curtis Samuel and tight end Marcus Baugh, both of whom roamed in the middle of the field. Their star receiver on the outside, Noah Brown, managed only 7.7 yards per target. Opposing defenses with good cornerback play didn’t have to worry about the vertical passing game.

 

Closer examination of Ohio State’s various failures on offense in 2016 reveals that Barrett and his receivers were not always on the same page. While the Buckeyes could execute a concert of blocks and reads in the spread-option run game, they did not enjoy a similar mastery of the passing game, and there wasn’t a go-to receiver they could trust to get open.

 

The issues came to the forefront when Ohio State faced teams that weren’t overwhelmed by the Buckeyes’ offensive line — teams such as Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, Michigan and Clemson.

 

Without the ability to grab chunk yardage with its running game, Ohio State failed to generate the type of explosive plays that have made Meyer-coached teams so effective in the past.

 

Related: Order a Copy of Athlon Sports' 2017 Big Ten Preview to Get Complete Analysis on the Upcoming Season

 

The Wilson Fix

 

Wilson earned his reputation as one of the game’s top offensive coaches while the coordinator at Northwestern, most notably during a memorable 54–51 win over Michigan in 2000 when the Wildcats rolled up an astounding 654 total yards. Northwestern operated an up-tempo spread built around the run game, which is now fairly ubiquitous in the college game.

 

Wilson next went to Oklahoma, where his greatest achievement was a 2008 season in which quarterback Sam Bradford threw for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns (and won the Heisman Trophy) and two OU running backs, DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown, ran for over 1,000 yards.

 

In 2011, he was named head coach at Indiana, where his offenses continued to thrive; the Hoosiers ranked in the top five in the Big Ten in total offense every season from 2012-16.

 

A look at Wilson’s work from his time at both Oklahoma and Indiana indicates that his strengths will go a long way in shoring up Ohio State’s weakness:

 

 

As you can tell from these S&P+ adjusted stats, despite building run-centric offenses, Wilson’s teams have consistently thrown the ball very well, even when they don’t run it effectively. When they do run the ball well, the passing game flourishes even more.

 

Wilson’s approach to the passing game has been quite different from what we’ve seen at Ohio State in recent years. Under Meyer, it’s been fairly obvious when the Buckeyes want to throw the ball. They’ve featured empty formations designed to create stress and simple reads before the snap. 

 

They used such a set early against Wisconsin last year.

 

It’s basically an isolation play, with the receivers lined up in an unbalanced 4x1 set but with the intention of setting up Samuel (“R” in this diagram) to work in isolation against a Badger linebacker in the middle of the field. However, the Badgers dropped a safety down, bracketed Samuel with the extra man, and used a stunt with linebacker T.J. Watt and defensive tackle Conor Sheehy to bring down Barrett for a sack when his easy read wasn’t open.

 

The Wilson passing game isn’t designed to create opportunities for easy tosses between the hash marks like Meyer’s empty formations. Instead, there’s a greater focus on developing chemistry between the quarterback and outside receivers to work the space outside the hash marks that teams vacate in order to stop the run. The comeback route and back shoulder fade are much more common in Wilson’s attack.

 

The three most targeted receivers for the Indiana Hoosiers last year were the two outside receivers and the main slot receiver, each of whom had as many targets (around 90) as Samuel, the lead Buckeye receiver.  They made heavy use of concepts in which the slot would attack the seam and command the attention of the deep safety(s) and thus free up the outside receiver(s) to work in the open grass outside the hash marks — concepts such as the dig/post route combination.

 

 

This kind of route distribution and formation presents four stress points for the defense that may require help from the safety. The first is for the cornerback who is isolated on the outside receiver on the boundary. The second is down in the box, where the defense has to worry about stopping the run. The third stress point is over the dig route by the slot receiver, who may not have the full attention of the nickel back if that defender has responsibilities against the run. The fourth is on the post route by the other outside receiver; if the safety is helping on the dig route by the slot, the cornerback will be left alone on the dreaded post route.

 

That’s four areas that may require safety help but only two players to address the issues. Plays like this take advantage of the natural spacing that occurs on the field when the defense has to worry about getting defenders to the point of attack on running plays while handling the stress of a spread formation. The key is that Wilson’s teams have generally shown a greater command of how to attack that space — both in the passing and running games — than Ohio State’s recent offenses. 

Many of these concepts are already present in the Ohio State playbook; they simply haven’t been an area of emphasis.

 

The Buckeyes Offense in 2017

 

In the long term, it’s clear that Ohio State will be running an offense that closely resembles Indiana’s attack under Wilson. The quarterbacks in the Buckeyes’ pipeline — Joe Burrow, Dwayne Haskins and incoming four-star freshman Tate Martell — were highly recruited for their abilities in the passing game, not just what they offer as runners.

 

The challenge in the short term will be fitting this paradigm into Meyer’s existing offense and getting Barrett and the outside receivers on the same page so that they can hit timing routes outside of the hash marks. It’ll be a fresh start, with Samuel and Brown both departing for the NFL and the Buckeyes looking to replace them with very green receivers. 

 

If they can get that dimension of their offense humming, then the option run game will once again be dominant and explosive, helping Ohio State contend for championships in the improving Big Ten.

 

Written by Ian Boyd (@Ian_A_Boyd) of SBNation.com for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2017 Big Ten Football Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2017 season.

Teaser:
How Kevin Wilson Can Fix Ohio State's Offense in 2017
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/5-things-need-happen-nebraska-be-top-25-team-2017
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The Southpoint Sportsbook in Las Vegas has set the over/under for Nebraska at seven wins in 2017, which should be a relatively low bar to clear for a program as steeped in history and expectations as the Cornhuskers.

 

But Mike Riley enters Year 3 in Lincoln looking to finish in the Top 25 for the first time with the Huskers, after coming oh-so close in 2016. (Nebraska went 9-4 last year and received the 28th-most votes in the final AP poll, 26th-most in the coaches’ poll.)

 

How can Nebraska make its mark this year? Glad you asked.

 

1. Tanner Lee makes an immediate impact

Riley named Lee his top quarterback after the spring. The redshirt junior transfer from Tulane beat out redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien and could have two seasons atop the Huskers’ depth chart if all goes well for him, as he was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA after starting 19 games for the Green Wave.

 

Lee completed 13 of 19 passes for 190 yards in the Huskers’ spring game, but more importantly, he threw for 3,601 yards and 23 touchdowns across two seasons in New Orleans, so he has seen a lot in his college career. As with any new starter, a lot of other potential problems across the roster can be mitigated pretty quickly if Lee is dominant.

 

2. The defense adjusts to the new staff

Bob Diaco’s last stint as a defensive coordinator could not have gone better, as he churned out a ton of NFL draft picks at Notre Dame while leading a unit that was the backbone of a perfect regular season in 2012. His defenses had moderate success in his first two years as head coach at UConn, with the Huskies finishing 36th and 38th nationally in yards per play in 2014 and ‘15, respectively. He brings aboard a familiar face in former Irish safeties coach Bob Elliott (who coached Diaco at Iowa) and another new assistant in corners coach Donte Williams from Arizona.

 

3. Defense must create turnovers

Speaking of those new hires in the defensive backfield: Elliott and Williams should have some talent to work with, as Nebraska was tied for 14th nationally last season with 16 interceptions and returns virtually everyone back there aside from Nate Gerry. Nothing can turn the momentum of a game like a big pick, but the Huskers were lagging in another, just as important (if not unlucky) area last season: Their three fumble recoveries were tied for 121st nationally.

 

4. The receivers grow up fast for the Huskers

Who is Lee passing to? That is the big question for a Nebraska receiving corps that lost three of its top four receivers from 2016. Stanley Morgan Jr. is back after a 33-catch, 453-yard sophomore campaign, and senior De’Mornay Pierson-El should see more opportunities as well. Oh, and not a single tight end on Nebraska’s roster owns a college reception. That needs to change.

 

5. The ground game picks it up

Lee doesn’t have the wheels that Tommy Armstrong Jr. had out of the backfield, so that’s one problem for a Husker rushing offense that was just 73rd nationally last season. Another? Leading rusher Terrell Newby is gone after an 879-yard season, leaving Devine Ozigbo as the leading returning ball carrier (412 yards, 5 TDs). You can usually survive without a proven rusher or a surplus of proven receivers, but it is difficult to survive without both, meaning the skill players need to answer the bell quickly this year for Nebraska.

 

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

Teaser:
5 Things That Need to Happen for Nebraska to be a Top 25 Team in 2017
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/uab-football-2017-blazers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

After a two-year hiatus, UAB football is back. Fortunately for the Blazers, head coach Bill Clark decided to stick around, but don’t forget that this is a team that last played a game that counts back on Nov. 29, 2014. UAB went a surprising 6-6 that season, but don’t expect similar results this time around. There are players for Clark and the coaching staff to work with and build around, but it will take time for everyone to get on the same page. Wins may be at a premium this fall, but they will be celebrated by anyone associated with the program, and with good reason.

 

Previewing UAB Football’s Offense for 2017

 

Veteran Les Koenning was hired to direct an offense that wants to make its mark with its toughness up front and with the running game. Former Middle Tennessee quarterback A.J. Erdely and 2015 Alabama Mr. Football Tyler Johnston are battling for the starting quarterback job. Both have good enough arms and can make plays with their feet but have to limit turnovers. UAB is in trouble if both players get hurt — and as much as they will run the ball, the quarterbacks will take some hits.

 

At running back, former walk-on James Noble outperformed scholarship players Lucious Stanley and Kalin Heath in the spring, and UAB moved Donnie Lee from linebacker to running back. Noble is only about 5'7" and 180 pounds, so Stanley and Lee will be counted on to get the tougher yards. Coach Bill Clark is looking for a go-to back out of those four, although if Cedric Battle (academics) returns this fall, there will be even more competition. Freshman Spencer Brown, at 230 pounds, is another one to watch. UAB had a playmaker at running back, but Greg Bryant Jr. was tragically killed in a highway shooting in South Florida in May 2016.

 

UAB’s run game will have to be on point, because the Blazers don’t have much proven depth at the receiver position. Collin Lisa, who began his career at UAB in 2014 before playing a season at Buffalo, will be the go-to receiver and is in line for a big season. Jonathan Haden, whose older brother Joe is an NFL cornerback, is electric in the open field. UAB is looking for consistency on the outside, and 6'5" late signee Justin Walker could provide that along with Xavier Ubosi and Ronnie Turner. UAB will use tight ends Logan Scott and Thair Blakes plenty in the passing game.

 

UAB signed four offensive linemen in December, and all four will factor into the rotation. The left side — tackle James Davis and guard Chris Schleuger — was the most consistent in the spring.

 

Previewing UAB Football’s Defense for 2017

UAB Football/National College Football Magazine Athlon Sports’ National College Football magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 coverage for all 130 teams. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

 

Shaq Jones is the veteran presence on a defense led by first-year coordinator David Reeves. Jones was UAB’s third-leading tackler in 2014 and stayed with the Blazers despite opportunities to transfer elsewhere. The Blazers are big up front and need 6'5", 352-pound Anthony Rush to take a big step forward.

 

Freshman Thomas Johnston is talented enough to play from Day 1 in the linebacker rotation. Walk-on Fitzgerald Mofor has been one of the top playmakers since he stepped foot on campus.

 

Veteran cornerbacks Jordan Petty and Darious Williams, who were both part of the 2014 UAB team, will lead the secondary. Darez Diggs is the brother of Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs and one of several long, versatile athletes in the back four. Louisville transfer Duke Culver will be the nickel.

 

Previewing UAB Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

Nick Vogel returned to UAB from Southern Miss and is unchallenged as the team’s placekicker. The Blazers signed Australian Joel Dixon to handle punting duties. Lisa, Andre Wilson and Demetrius Davis are shifty in the return game.

 

Final Analysis

 

You can never count out a team coached by Clark. The Blazers were among the worst teams in the country going into 2014, but he coached them to a six-win season. UAB has a deep front seven on defense and should be physical on the offensive line. With a new team, it’s hard to pinpoint many definite wins on the schedule, but Clark signed several junior college players and Division-I transfers so that the Blazers would be competitive from the start. If some playmakers can emerge on the offensive side of the ball, UAB can win a few games in its first season back from a two-year hiatus.

 

National Ranking: 130

C-USA West Prediction: 7

 

(Shaq Jones photo courtesy of UAB Athletics)

Teaser:
UAB Football: 2017 Blazers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 09:55
Path: /college-football/texas-state-football-2017-bobcats-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Texas State won just one game against an FBS opponent last season and needed overtime to do so. The Bobcats (2-10 in 2016) had their share of issues on both sides of the ball, ranking 124th in the nation in scoring offense and 125th in scoring defense. Texas State should be improved in head coach Everett Withers’ second season as head coach, but there are too many holes on this roster to expect a significant increase in the win column. Picking up at least one victory in Sun Belt play would be a step in the right direction.

 

Previewing Texas State Football’s Offense for 2017

 

After finishing 124th in scoring with an average of 18.6 points per game in 2016, the Texas State offense will return most of its starters with the exception of arguably the most important position on the field. Four-year starting quarterback Tyler Jones played his final season last year, leaving the Bobcats with a big hole to fill.

 

Damian Williams, a graduate transfer from Mississippi State, handled first-unit duties in the spring and is the expected starter, but the Bobcats have three freshman quarterbacks joining the team in June: Jaylen Gipson, Kishawn Kelley and Willie Jones III.

 

The biggest concern on offense will be on the line, which allowed 44 sacks in 12 games in 2016. This issue was addressed in recruiting as the Bobcats added five offensive linemen on Signing Day.

 

Junior running back Stedman Mayberry will return after leading the Bobcats in rushing last season with 593 yards. Mayberry will have to compete with six other running backs on Texas State’s roster, including sophomore Anthony D. Taylor, who was the primary running back in the spring.

 

Texas State’s top seven pass catchers from 2016 are returning, including junior Tyler Watts, who led the Bobcats in receptions with 43 catches out of the slot. Sophomore Thurman Morbley has moved from slot to flanker after catching 35 passes for 400 yards in 2016. Seniors Elijah King and Eric Luna are returning starters who have been injured and aren’t expected back until fall camp.

 

Previewing Texas State Football’s Defense for 2017

Texas State Football/National College Football Magazine Athlon Sports’ National College Football magazine delivers full team previews, schedules, scouting reports, conference predictions, national rankings, as well as complete 2017 coverage for all 130 teams. Click here to buy your copy today or visit your local newsstand!

 

Despite the efforts of freshman linebacker Bryan London (141 tackles, second in FBS), Texas State’s defense fared just as poorly as the offense. The Bobcats finished the season 125th in scoring defense, allowing 41.1 points per game.

 

Inside linebacker won’t be an issue for the Bobcats as they are returning their top two tacklers from a year ago, London and Gabe Loyd (102 tackles). The defensive line and backfield were problematic for the Bobcats, forcing London and Loyd to clean up a lot of missed assignments, hence the high tackling numbers.

 

Running a 3-4 base defense, the Bobcats were undersized along the line, especially at nose tackle. In the spring, they moved sophomore Jordan Mittie back and forth from end to tackle. Mittie is expected to stay at end when junior college transfer Sami Awad and freshman Gjemar Daniels join the team this summer. Junior Ishmael Davis and sophomore Dean Taylor were the primary ends this spring.

 

The defensive backfield lost some starters, with safety Javante O’Roy graduating and corner Brandon McDowell departing with one year of eligibility remaining. Junior A.J. Krawczyk moved to safety from wide receiver and ran with the first team in the spring along with senior Quinn Tiggs. Sophomores Anthony J. Taylor and JaShon Waddy emerged as starters at corner in the spring but will have competition when freshman Kieston Roach joins the team.

 

Previewing Texas State Football’s Specialists for 2017

 

With McDowell’s departure, there is a vacancy at kick returner. Watts and Morbley split time fielding punts in the spring, but freshman corner Kordell Rodgers is also expected to get into the mix. Texas State lost its primary punter (Lumi Kaba graduated) so Marcus Ripley and James Sherman split all the kicking duties this spring, with Ripley on punts and Sherman handling field goals.

 

Final Analysis

 

After a tumultuous 2–10 season, the worst by the Bobcats since going 0–8 in 1938, things should only get better in head coach Everett Withers’ second season. A winning record would be a major stretch in 2017, but with improvements to both lines and a new quarterback with experience in the SEC, they should be a little bit more competitive in the Sun Belt Conference.

 

National Ranking: 129

Sun Belt Prediction: 12

 

(Bryan London photo by Kelley Spencer)

Teaser:
Texas State Football: 2017 Bobcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/umass-football-2017-minutemen-preview-and-prediction
Body:

UMass’ initial season as an FBS Independent was a rough one, as the Minutemen won just two games with one of those victories coming courtesy of an FCS opponent. Head coach Mark Whipple has seven starters returning on each side of the ball, including a quarterback-tight end combination that could put up big numbers. The defense is switching to a 4-3 scheme under a new coordinator, but there’s one reality that the UMass can’t change – its schedule. The Minutemen are set to take on nine teams that went to a bowl game in 2016 meaning a big improvement from last year’s win total may be a little too hard to achieve this fall.

 

Previewing UMass Football’s Offense for 2017 

 

When tight end Adam Breneman announced he’d be returning for his senior year, expectations for the UMass offense took a little jump. Breneman, a Penn State transfer, caught 70 passes for 808 yards and eight touchdowns, all team highs. With a history of knee problems before UMass, many people thought he might enter the NFL Draft, rather than risk another injury. But he elected to stay in Amherst, keeping the program’s top target on the roster.

 

Junior quarterback Andrew Ford, a transfer from Virginia Tech, will be happy to have him. Ford and Breneman were high school teammates in Pennsylvania, and their chemistry returned at UMass. Ford didn’t win the job in camp, but he established himself as the starter in Week 3 early and finished with 2,665 passing yards and 26 touchdowns (14 interceptions) while completing 60.8 percent of throws. With a full season in the offense, Ford will try to help some young wide receivers, led by junior Andy Isabella and sophomore Sadiq Palmer, develop quickly. Isabella ranked second on the team in both receptions (62) and receiving yards (801).

 

If the passing attack can find success, things could open up for junior running back Marquis Young (198 carries for 898 yards, four touchdowns), who struggled at times against defenses designed to slow him down last year. He’ll need to be durable behind a young offensive line as the Minutemen are thin at running back behind him.

 

Previewing UMass Football’s Defense for 2017 

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UMass was looking for a new defensive coordinator after allowing 35.5 points and 452.7 yards per game last year. When Ed Pinkham, the architect of the defense that helped Western Michigan go undefeated prior to the Cotton Bowl, didn’t follow coach P.J. Fleck to Minnesota, UMass coach Mark Whipple pounced.

 

The Broncos led the MAC in scoring defense (19.8 ppg) and ranked second in total defense (353.6 ypg). They led the league with 15 interceptions. On top of that, Whipple and Pinkham worked together as coordinators at New Hampshire early in their careers, creating a comfort factor that made the hire that much smoother.

 

The Minutemen will switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 front. A veteran group of linebackers is led by inside backer Shane Huber and Tedrick Lowery, who’ll play a hybrid linebacker/safety role.

 

Senior Da’Sean Downey moves to defensive end in the new alignment and will have an opportunity to build off of last year’s team-leading 6.0 sacks.

 

Sophomore corner Isaiah Rodgers, who impressed last year with two interceptions and 40 tackles in eight starts (11 games overall), figures to be the top cover guy in the secondary, while Pitt transfer Patrick Amara Jr. has a chance to make an immediate impact.

 

Previewing UMass Football’s Specialists for 2017 

 

In three years back in Amherst, Whipple has never made it through an entire season with just one placekicker. He goes into 2017 with Mike Caggiano and Logan Laurent, who have each won and lost the job before, so it figures to remain a concern. Rodgers showed signs of stardom as a returner in 2016 and could be poised to break out.

 

Final Analysis 

 

After playing at least half of their home games at Gillette Stadium — 100 miles from campus — in their first five years in the FBS ranks, UMass will play five games in Amherst (and one at Fenway Park) in 2017. There’s more good news: The Minutemen, in their second season as an FBS independent, drop from four Power 5 opponents to two. Now the bad news: Nine of the 12 teams on the schedule played in bowl games last year. With this challenging slate, UMass will have to take considerable steps to better last year’s 2–10 campaign.

 

National Ranking: 128

 

(Andrew Ford photo courtesy of UMass Athletics)

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UMass Football: 2017 Minutemen Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, June 22, 2017 - 09:30

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