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Path: /college-football/texas-state-bobcats-vs-florida-state-seminoles-preview-and-prediction-2015

For Florida State, the best news of the year will arrive on Saturday night. That is when this tumultuous offseason will come to a close and the folks in Tallahassee can focus on what they do best — winning football games.


Related: College Football 2015 Conference, Playoff and National Championship Predictions


The Jameis Winston saga, the good and the bad, is in the rear-view mirror. De’Andre Johnson is no longer a part of the team. Dalvin Cook is still a Seminole and he is now joined by Everett Golson, who will be the starting quarterback.
The Seminoles open up with Texas State, a 7-5 Sun Belt team in 2014 that is coached by veteran Dennis Franchione. It will be the first-ever meeting between the Seminoles and the Bobcats.


Texas State at Florida State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN News
Spread: Florida State -30


Three Things to Watch


1. Everett Golson
The senior transfer from Notre Dame has won the battle with Sean Maguire and will be the starting quarterback on Saturday night. Which Golson is FSU getting? The one that was in Heisman contention midway through the 2014 season? Or the one that could not stop from turning the ball over at the end of the year? Head coach Jimbo Fisher said that he will not have a short leash, so Golson should be able to get into a rhythm in the opener.
2. Cohesion of the Florida State Offensive Line
Roderick Johnson is the only returning starter on the Seminoles' offensive front. While he is extremely talented, he is also just a sophomore. This could be the perfect opening game for the young Seminoles offensive line. Texas State was 102nd in rush defense last year and has to replace linebacker David Mayo, the 2014 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. The Bobcats will probably see a lot of the FSU offensive line firing off the line with running backs Cook, Mario Pender, and others following with the ball in their hands.

3. Seminoles Pass Rush

Florida State could have a dominating defense in 2015 if they can find a way to rush the passer. Last fall, the Noles had just 17 sacks, good for No. 108 in the nation. DeMarcus Walker was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and there have been positive reports about the junior coming out of camp. Projected starting defensive end Lorenzo Featherston recently had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, which may open the door for prized recruit Josh Sweat. Florida State has the athletes; the Seminole defenders just need to find their way to the opposing quarterback.

Final Analysis


Texas State has had a nice transition to the FBS level. In only their third season, the Bobcats went 7-5 last season and are now looking for their first bowl appearance. They have a solid quarterback in Tyler Jones and a good running back in Robert Lowe. But the question isn’t whether or not Texas State will win. They won’t. This game is about how Florida State will look in victory. With all the new personnel on offense, Golson entering the mix, and perhaps the ACC’s best player in Jalen Ramsey on defense, there will be a lot to watch this Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium. It may take some time for the offense to really click, but it eventually will. Texas State will have trouble generating much offense against the Seminoles' defense. FSU will build momentum as the game wears on and will win in a landslide.


Prediction: Florida State 42, Texas State 10


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

Texas State Bobcats vs. Florida State Seminoles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:05
Path: /college-football/bethune-cookman-wildcats-miami-hurricanes-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Miami Hurricanes will begin their 90th football season Saturday night at Sun Life Stadium against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. This will be the third time Bethune-Cookman and Miami have faced each other. In 2012, Miami defeated Bethune-Cookman 38-10 behind four Duke Johnson touchdowns.


Bethune-Cookman finished the 2014 season with a 9-3 record and a 6-2 conference (MEAC) mark. Miami ended last season with a 6-7 record (3-5 ACC), including a 24-21 loss to South Carolina in the Independence Bowl.


The biggest news from Miami prior to Week 1 is running back Gus Edwards will miss the entire 2015 season with an undisclosed foot injury. It was widely speculated that Edwards was going to be the Hurricanes' starting running back prior to his injury. 


Bethune-Cookman at Miami


Kickoff: 6 p.m. EST

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. How will Brad Kaaya perform?

During the offseason, Kaaya received a lot of preseason attention from the media. He was named to the Maxwell Award (College Player of the Year), the Manning Award (top quarterback) and the Davey O’Brien National Award watch list. Last season for the Canes, Kaaya threw for 3,198 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The sophomore will look to get off to a great start against a Bethune-Cookman defense that was among the best in FCS in 2014. With all the athletes Miami has on offense, Kaaya could have a 300-yard performance in Week 1.


2. Miami defense

In 2014, the Hurricanes finished the season ranked No. 14 nationally in total defense. The stats say Miami had an excellent defense, but that statistic is misleading. The Hurricanes finished 61st in the country in sacks and 97th in tackles. In three of Miami’s losses last season, the defense gave up more than 200 yards rushing to Nebraska, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. With only five returning starters on defense, the Hurricanes will look to began on the right foot against the Wildcats.


3. Quentin Williams

Yes, Bethune-Cookman is an FCS school but these Wildcats have some talent on offense. They are led by quarterback Quentin Williams, who threw for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Williams,  was Florida’s Mr. Football in 2010 while starting at Tampa's Jefferson High School, but he wasn’t highly recruited, mainly because of his 5-foot-11, 209-pound frame. He is a player the Hurricanes certainly have to be aware of.


Final Analysis


Miami will win the game, but the question is by how much. The Canes just have too much talent at the skill positions for the Wildcats to compete. Not only should Kaaya have a great game against the Bethune-Cookman defense, but so should the Miami running backs. Look for Joseph Yearby and true freshman Mark Walton to receive a lot of carries and maybe record a few touchdowns on Saturday night.


Prediction: Miami 54, Bethune-Cookman 14.


— 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, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.

Bethune-Cookman Wildcats at Miami Hurricanes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-virginia-tech-helmet-sticker-shooting-victims-alison-parker-adam-ward-buckeyes

Shortly after the Virginia shooting that left two dead, the Virginia Tech football team revealed the helmet sticker they would use to honor the victims and their family.



Now the very classy Ohio State Buckeyes will be wearing the same helmet sticker after granted permission to do so.



Ohio State announced they were granted permission to wear the similar stickers.


"Ohio State expressed a desire to show it's solidarity with Virginia Tech in remembering the vibrant lives of Alison Park and Adam Ward," Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said. "Coach Beamer and I both agreed it was a wonderful gesture on the part of Gene Smith, Urban Meyer, and the Buckeyes. We hope fans of both teams join us in hopefully providing some solace to the friends, families, and co-workers who continue to miss Alison and Adam."


The Buckeyes have a habit of showing unity with other teams in difficult times.



The game will be special in more ways than one.

Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:56
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-bulldogs-vs-southern-miss-golden-eagles-preview-and-prediction-2015

In Week 1 last season, Mississippi State dominated Southern Miss 49-0. The Bulldogs racked up 550 yards of total offense, which set the stage for a historic 10-win season that included the first No. 1 national ranking in school history. The Eagles have shown slow, but steady improvement over the last few seasons and finished 3-9 in 2014.


State lost several of its best players from last year’s team, especially on the defensive side of the football. However, head coach Dan Mullen has built a deep and talented roster capable of competing again in the SEC West. Plus, Mullen has one of the nation’s most explosive quarterback-wide receiver combos in Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott and 6-foot-5 wideout De’Runnya Wilson.


Mississippi State at Southern Miss


Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Mississippi State -21


Three Things to Watch


1. Another Record-Setting Performance for Dak Prescott
The 2014 season was arguably the greatest in Mississippi State football history, but the individual performance of quarterback Dak Prescott was unquestionably the best ever for a Bulldogs signal-caller. No player in MSU history had ever accounted for more than 3,000 total yards in a single season, but Prescott had 3,449 passing yards and added 986 rushing yards last year. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound dual threat took part in 41 touchdowns last season, which is another of the 17 school records he now owns. Through three seasons, Prescott also has 41 career passing TDs, which puts him just one behind Tyler Russell for the all-time school record. Expect that record to fall Saturday night in Hattiesburg.


2. Many New Faces on Both Sides
One of the biggest storylines of the offseason for Mississippi State was the loss of 15 starters combined on offense and defense. Southern Miss returns 15 starters from last year’s squad, but also brought in 21 total transfers from either junior colleges or other FBS programs to compete for starting positions. Former Rutgers and JUCO tight end Taylor Marini is listed as the starter at tight end on the Golden Eagles' Week 1 depth chart, while former TCU quarterback Tyler Matthews and Michigan transfer running back Justice Hayes are both still in the mix at their respective positions. Four transfers are expected to start on defense: former Kansas defensive tackle Andrew Bolton, and a trio of JUCO transfers in Spur Sherrod Ruff and defensive backs D’Nerius Antoine and Devonta Foster.


3. Manny Diaz and the New Mississippi State Defense
The Bulldogs lost a lot of personnel on both sides of the football, but one of the most important losses was defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, who left Starkville for the same position with the Florida Gators. That opened the door for the return of Diaz, who was State’s DC in 2010, but spent last season on the sidelines of C-USA Western Division champ Louisiana Tech. Diaz’ defense led the country in turnovers and tied for the lead in interceptions. He also helped Tech beat Southern Miss 31-20 by holding the Eagles to minus-31 rushing yards and sacking the quarterback five times.


Final Analysis


Mississippi State probably won’t be quite as good as it was last season, and Southern Miss has a chance to be quite a bit better than it was in 2014, plus the Eagles have a unique opportunity to host their in-state SEC opponent. But, the edge in this matchup is clearly on the side of the Bulldogs.


Prediction: Mississippi State 42, Southern Miss 14


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on and Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.


Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac-12
Path: /college-football/eastern-washington-eagles-vs-oregon-ducks-preview-and-prediction-2015

Eastern Washington's visit to Oregon for Week 1 is hardly the easy W one might anticipate of a lower-division matchup for a nationally prominent team. The Eagles are fixtures in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs and heavyweights in the competitive Big Sky Conference. They also visit Autzen Stadium with intimate knowledge of the Ducks' new-look offensive attack sans Marcus Mariota.


There may not be a more highly anticipated matchup of power conference program vs. FCS opponent ever — bear in mind, Appalachian State's upset of Michigan in 2007 was expected to be a cake walk before Armanti Edwards ran wild on the Wolverines.


Edwards established himself as a college football legend that Saturday in Ann Arbor eight years ago. Some years later, Vernon Adams became a star FCS quarterback with feats against power competition akin to Edwards' vs. Michigan.


Now, Adams is trying to take his star to another level as a graduate transfer at Oregon. He'll make his Duck debut against his former team.


Eastern Washington at Oregon


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Vernon Football on the Big Stage

Eastern Washington transfer quarterback Vernon Adams needed less than two weeks of practices with the Ducks to secure the starting job. Adams beat out Jeff Lockie, validating the former's decision to make the rare leap from the FCS to the FBS — and not just the FBS, but last year's national runner-up.


Adams arrives at Oregon, expected to fill some gigantic shoes. Marcus Mariota capped his third season as starter with the program's first Heisman Trophy, a Pac-12 title and a spot in the College Football Playoff title game.


Adams hasn't withered on big stages before arriving at Oregon. He shredded Pac-12 defenses at Oregon State and Washington in 2013 and 2014 for six and seven touchdowns. Can he do the same for an entire season is one question. The other? Can he do so against a defense that's practiced against him for the previous three years?


2. A Rebuilt Secondary vs. A Pass-Happy Offense

The secondary is often the strength of any Oregon defense, but this year's version is faced with replacing playmaker Troy Hill, interceptions leader Erick Dargan and All-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. This new-look unit starts right out of the gate against a pass-happy offense that won't shy away from attacking it, either.


Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin has overseen some of the most prolific passing offenses in the FCS over the years. The 2015 version should be no exception. The Eagles feature one of the best wide receiving corps in the subdivision, starting with All-American Cooper Kupp.


Kupp won the Jerry Rice Award in 2013, awarded to the most outstanding freshman in the nation, when he caught for 1,691 yards and 21 touchdowns. His encore in 2014 saw Kupp catch 11 more passes in total, for 104 on the year.


3. Who Rolls With Royce?

Royce Freeman broke out as Oregon's primary ball-carrier in 2014, his freshman campaign. He returns to shoulder the load in 2015, but he'll do so without running mate Thomas Tyner. Tyner sustained an injury in the offseason that will keep him out the duration of the season to come.


Oregon is not lacking for options to run in addition to Freeman. Who head coach Mark Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost tab to serve as Freeman's primary running back is an interesting facet of Saturday's game.


Talented freshman Taj Griffin joined the team for training camp despite a lingering injury, and he should see some carries. Veteran Kani Benoit offers a secondary power-back look, similar to that of Freeman. Either way, Oregon can continue to employ a multifaceted run game.


Final Analysis


Eastern Washington is among the better FCS programs, and the Eagles have had a knack for giving Pac-12 foes headaches. They nearly beat Washington both in 2011 and 2014, and knocked Oregon State out of the Top 25 in 2013. Baldwin's team will give Oregon a stiff challenge, but the Ducks' overall talent and depth should make relatively quick work of the visitors.


Oregon's typical third-quarter deluge should instead come in the second quarter, squeezing Eastern Washington out of contention early in order to give the back-ups some opportunities. Eastern Washington will score some points one way or another, but shouldn't contend for too long.


Prediction: Oregon 56, Eastern Washington 21


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

Eastern Washington Eagles vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:45
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-vs-arizona-state-sun-devils-preview-and-prediction-2015

Offensive fireworks are expected on Saturday night in Houston, as Texas A&M and Arizona State clash in one of Week 1’s must-see matchups. The Aggies and Sun Devils were mentioned throughout the offseason as dark horse candidates to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. A win on Saturday night would provide an early boost for one team’s early playoff resume, but both programs have question marks and personnel concerns that won’t be answered or solidified until a few games into this season.


Arizona State is a program on the rise behind coach Todd Graham. The Sun Devils won the Pac-12 South title in 2013 and have claimed back-to-back 10-win seasons. And the arrow on this program continues to point up, as Arizona State is picked by many to win the Pac-12 South. Similar things can be said about Texas A&M. The Aggies have won 28 games over the last three years and made a splash in the offseason by hiring John Chavis away from LSU to coordinate the defense. With a favorable schedule and a promising core of young talent, Texas A&M could be poised to make a move in the SEC West.


This is the first meeting between Texas A&M and Arizona State. Additionally, this is the only matchup between a SEC and Pac-12 team this season.


Texas A&M vs. Arizona State (Houston)


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Texas A&M -3.5


1. Texas A&M’s Defense

Coach Kevin Sumlin’s hire of John Chavis to coordinate the Texas A&M defense was one of the best assistant moves of the offseason. The Aggies have lagged on defense since joining the SEC, but Chavis is one of the best in the nation and should turn this unit around in the next few years. Improvement should be noticeable in 2015, especially if Chavis finds a way to eliminate some of the big plays allowed in the secondary. In 13 games last season, the Aggies surrendered 14 plays of 40 yards or more. Changes were made to improve the pass defense, as converted running back Brandon Williams is penciled in at one cornerback spot, and junior college transfer Justin Evans is expected to start at strong safety. While the coverage has to get better, the success of this unit still rests in the front seven. Ends Daeshon Hall, Myles Garrett and Qualen Cunningham should generate a pass rush against Arizona State’s offensive line, which is breaking in two new starters at the tackle positions. But how will the linebackers perform if A.J. Hilliard and Otaro Alaka sit out due to injury? Keep an eye on the health of the linebackers, as well as the overall progression of this group on Saturday night.


2. Arizona State’s Dynamic Offense

Arizona State’s offense has a couple of new faces stepping into key roles, but don’t expect this unit to slow in terms of production. New quarterback Mike Bercovici shined in limited action for the Sun Devils after Taylor Kelly missed a couple of games due to injury last season. The receiving corps is revamped, but converted running back D.J. Foster and UCLA transfer Devin Lucien should provide Bercovici with plenty of options. With Foster moving to receiver, the focus at running back shifts to Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage – two players on the verge of a breakout year. The skill talent and quarterback position should be a strength for Graham’s offense, but there’s concern up front with new starters and left and right tackle. Bercovici isn’t as mobile as Kelly was, which means protection is critical to attacking the Texas A&M secondary. There’s a lot of promise for Arizona State’s offense, and Saturday night’s matchup is the first look at Bercovici and Foster in their new roles.


3. Kyle Allen Versus Arizona State’s Aggressive Defense

It’s no secret Graham and coordinator Keith Patterson will be aggressive with their defensive approach. Last season, Arizona State forced 27 turnovers, generated 39 sacks and 98 tackles for a loss. However, an aggressive approach also lends itself to big plays. The Sun Devils ranked 12th in the Pac-12 by allowing 40 plays of 30 yards or more last season. Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen is one of the SEC’s rising stars, and the sophomore showed progress over the final few games of 2014. The former five-star recruit held off touted freshman Kyler Murray in the fall and could have an All-SEC season at the controls of one of the league’s top offenses. Can Allen find time to throw against the Sun Devils’ pass rush? Will the Aggies mix in the run more this year? If Allen has time to throw, his receiving corps is among the best in the nation and should find a way to hit on big plays against an Arizona State secondary that allowed 27 plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.


Final Analysis


This one should be high in entertainment value and points. Both offenses are capable of generating big plays, and the defenses should make their share of stops or turnovers. Don’t be surprised if the last team with the ball wins on Saturday night. Getting Chavis to call the defensive signals was a huge boost for Texas A&M. Combine Chavis’ arrival with the growth of Allen this offseason, and the Aggies should have just enough to knock off the Sun Devils in Week 1.


Prediction: Texas A&M 34, Arizona State 31
Texas A&M Aggies vs. Arizona State Sun Devils Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/georgia-southern-eagles-vs-west-virginia-mountaineers-game-preview-and-prediction-2015

Coming off a 9-3 record in its first season at the FBS level Georgia Southern is looking to solidify its existence on the big stage. Only two years removed from beating the Florida Gators in Gainesville the Eagles will look to complete yet another upset victory in Morgantown this Saturday. Anchored by one of the most potent rushing attacks in the nation the Eagles will look to dominate the line of scrimmage much like they were able to do last season. However, inexperience on the offensive line could lead to potential problems in the run game.


West Virginia comes into the season with the most depth on the team since joining the Big 12. Rated by many to be a dark horse in the Big 12 this season, the Mountaineers are expected to easily handle the outmatched Eagles. 


With a defense that is expected to be one of the top in the country the Mountaineers still have questions remaining on the offensive side of the ball though. Starting quarterback Skyler Howard will be looking to an inexperienced receiving corps to get downfield while relying on an experienced backfield to possibly carry most of the load.


Georgia Southern at West Virginia

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ROOT Sports
Spread: West Virginia -20


Three Things to Watch


1. Mountaineers' Defensive Front vs. Eagles' Rushing Attack
Georgia Southern loses five seniors from last season's offensive line that led the way to 381.1 rushing yards per game. The Mountaineers were ranked 63rd in the nation against the run last season. Favian Upshaw will get the start for the Eagles at quarterback after it was announced that starter Kevin Ellison would be ineligible for the first two games of the season. Despite the late change, Eagles head coach Willie Fritz has stated there would be no change in the game plan. Upshaw is possibly the fastest athlete on the team and could potentially be the best passer as well. Despite being the better passer Upshaw will have to contend with a West Virginia secondary that is easily one of the best in the country.


While the Mountaineers have experience along their defensive front their productivity against the run has been suspect at times. Georgia Southern junior Matt Breida finished last season with 1,485 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 8.7 yards per carry. With the speed of Breida and Upshaw the Mountaineers will have their hands full. 


Georgia Southern will have to rely on the running game to score. Fortunately for the Eagles that has not been a problem recently. Will the Mountaineer defense be able to contain a potent rushing attack or will Upshaw and the Eagles have to resort to spreading the field to keep up? Between Ellison and Upshaw the Eagles only attempted 155 passes in 2014.


2. Will Skyler Howard Solidify Himself as the Starter?
Howard is entering his first full season as West Virginia's starting quarterback after replacing departed Clint Trickett. While Howard has attributes that makes him dangerous on the ground questions still remain regarding his accuracy. Georgia Southern will show a 4-2-5 defense against the Mountaineers if the defense is able to shut down the running game. Will Howard be able to get the ball downfield to a receiving corps that is young and inexperienced?


Speaking of the Mountaineers' pass catchers, head coach Dana Holgorsen announced earlier this week that true freshman Jovon Durante and redshirt sophomore Shelton Gibson would be getting the starts at outside receivers. Durante will be playing in his first collegiate game and Gibson only totaled four receptions last season for 60 yards, two of which came against Towson early in the season. With highly talented redshirt freshman William Crest sitting at No. 2 on the depth chart Howard may have to shine against Georgia Southern to solidify his spot.


3. Will The Mountaineers Rely on Their Run Game?

The Mountaineers have some new faces on the offensive line in Michigan transfer Kyle Bosch at right guard and redshirt freshman Yodny Cajuste at left tackle. Redshirt junior Tyler Orlosky is possibly one of the best centers in the nation while left guard Adam Pankey and right tackle Marquis Lucas round out the front five. Despite a new look up front the Mountaineers have experience in the backfield in Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood. Both backs have the ability to get to the second level of any defense quickly. If Howard is unable to get into a passing rhythm West Virginia may rely heavily on its rushing attack that showed signs of explosiveness last season.


The Mountaineers will have to deal with a Georgia Southern defensive front that returns nine contributors from last season, including senior linebacker Antwoine Williams, who was second on the team in tackles. The Eagles' losses last season came mostly at the hands of teams that predominantly ran the ball (NC State, Georgia Tech, Navy). Will the Mountaineers be able to wear down a defense that although experienced has been susceptible to the run?

Final Analysis


This is far from an opening “tune-up” game for West Virginia. The Eagles will present an offensive scheme that the Mountaineer defense is not accustomed to seeing and has proved to be successful. This game may be closer than many would think and could come down to West Virginia simply wearing down a Georgia Southern team that is simply not as deep. 


Don’t expect the Mountaineers to give up many big plays through the air, as their secondary should have little trouble defending the Eagles' receiving corps. This game will be won in the trenches and will come down to which line dominates. To that end, the lack of experience on the Eagles' offensive line may prove problematic against a Mountaineer defense that likes to be aggressive. Despite their best efforts the Eagles will simply be outmatched in this game. Depth and experience will eventually provide the Mountaineers what they need to open the 2015 season with — a victory.


Prediction: West Virginia 34, Georgia Southern 17


— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.

Georgia Southern Eagles vs. West Virginia Mountaineers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:15
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-vs-temple-owls-preview-and-prediction-2015

Year two of the James Franklin era at Penn State commences on Saturday afternoon just across the street from where he once sold programs at Phillies games. Penn State kicks off the 2015 season in Philadelphia against the Temple Owls, coached by former Nittany Lion linebacker Matt Rhule, and the Owls are not there to simply host Penn State’s season opener.


Temple has the potential to give Penn State some real trouble with a young defense that returns experience and an offense that is expected to improve with consistency this fall. Penn State has had the decisive upper hand in this series, but Temple has made the Nittany Lions work for some of the more recent wins. Will that once again be the case, or will Temple end its long losing streak to the in-state rivals from State College? Or will Penn State come out flexing some improved muscle on the offensive line and be able to hit cruise control by halftime?


Penn State at Temple


Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Penn State -7


Three Things to Watch


1. How much has Penn State’s offensive line improved?

This is the biggest question mark for Penn State entering the 2015 season, and could be the best opportunity Temple has to create an advantage. After a deplorable season in the trenches last year saw quarterback Christian Hackenberg run for his life or end a play on the ground far more often than desired, offensive line coach Herb Hand has had his work cut out for him. Hand has a solid reputation developing offensive lines, so the prospects look promising for Penn State’s offensive line concerns. The additions of Kevin Reihner (Stanford graduate transfer) and Paris Palmer (junior college transfer) should help immediately add some depth to the line, and having a few starters back from 2014 should help as well. They will be put to the test early by Temple’s feisty defensive front.


2. Can Temple find any offensive consistency against Bob Shoop’s defense?

If Temple is going to score an upset of Penn State then the offense has to make some things happen. Temple has gone 12 straight meetings without scoring more than 14 points against the Nittany Lions, and it has not always been for a lack of opportunities. Turnovers are key in every game, and that should be the case here as Owls QB P.J. Walker looks to get in a groove against one of the best defenses he will see this season. Walker has been up and down at times but the junior returns with a chance to become a true player to watch.


3. Will Penn State’s kicking game be a concern?

Penn State bids farewell to the trusted leg of Sam Ficken and now hopes for the best with freshman kicker Joey Julius, who certainly is not lacking for size. Franklin calls Julius “Big Toe” and will have to hope for the best as the redshirt freshman looks to provide accuracy and distance in the kicking game.


Final Analysis


Temple is a scary team for Penn State out of the gate, perhaps more than most will give credit for being. If Penn State’s offensive line struggles to find some cohesiveness early on, Temple’s defense can set the tone. However, Penn State’s offense should have a few more reliable drives in them than Temple will be able to muster against the Nittany Lions defense. Look for a sluggish start, but Penn State to begin pulling away in the second half.


Prediction: Penn State 27, Temple 16


— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Temple Owls Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-vs-notre-dame-fighting-irish-preview-and-prediction-2015

Two of the biggest heavyweights in college football history square off in week one when Texas visits South Bend, Ind., to meet Notre Dame. Both programs are coming off disappointing seasons by their high standards. In their first season under head coach Charlie Strong, Texas had a 6-7 record.  After a 6-0 start, the Irish stumbled to the finish line. They wound up 8-5 but defeated LSU in the Music City Bowl.


Notre Dame enters 2015 with loads of optimism. Sports Illustrated put the team on the cover of its college football preview and selected them as a participant in this year’s College Football Playoff. For Texas, hope comes from the promise of a young group of talented athletes and the belief that Strong’s system will soon pay dividends.


The Longhorns and the Irish have met on 10 previous occasions and Notre Dame has won eight of those contests.


Texas at Notre Dame


Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC

Spread: Notre Dame -9.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Quarterback Play

Both teams have great unknowns at quarterback. Strong has named junior Tyrone Swoopes as his starter but stated that Jerrod Heard would also see action. Swoopes started 12 games as a sophomore after David Ash’s career was halted by concussion problems. The Longhorns offense sputtered for most of the year and Swoopes had to beat out the redshirt freshman in fall camp to reclaim his job. For Notre Dame, Everett Golson’s late-season struggles gave Malik Zaire an opportunity and the lefty was named MVP of the Music City Bowl. With Golson now at Florida State, the job is Zaire’s. All three players can make plays with their feet but the quarterback that is most accurate throwing the ball will give his team the best chance to win.


2. Texas Freshmen

Middle linebacker Malik Jefferson was the talk of spring practice in Austin. The early enrollee wowed everyone with his impressive talents and his knowledge of the game. But Jefferson will not be the only freshman starting for Texas this weekend. Two of the guys charged with protecting Swoopes were in high school a year ago. Patrick Vahe will start at right guard and Connor Williams will man the all-important left tackle position. True freshman John Burt will start at wide receiver and two redshirt freshmen will join Jefferson on the defense. In total, there are 23 freshmen (true or redshirt) on the Texas depth chart.


Related: The Big 12's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2015


3. Notre Dame Defense Against Texas' Up-Tempo Offense

It has been well documented how Notre Dame struggled to contain teams that played at a fast pace in 2014. Texas did not go at breakneck speed last season, but Strong has said that the Longhorns will speed things up in 2015 in an effort to energize a stagnant offense. Notre Dame defensive coordinator Brian Van Gorder was aware of the problem at the end of last year and has had all offseason to right the wrong. It may work out well for ND as the Irish get an up-tempo team right off, though it’s one that is still learning the nuances of the system. With an extremely experienced, deep crew on defense, the Irish should be able implement the changes needed to slow down Texas.


Final Analysis


There are some similarities between Notre Dame and Texas. They are both traditional programs with a lot of talent that have quarterbacks with something to prove. The big difference between the two teams resides in the experience factor. Notre Dame returns 10 starters on defense, has several backups that have seen considerable playing time, and also welcomes back KeiVarae Russell to the secondary, replacing the only defensive starter lost to graduation. Texas loses 11 starters from last year and a bunch of guys will be making their collegiate debuts at Notre Dame Stadium. Both teams will struggle offensively early on. Texas is deepest along the defensive line, but eventually the big Notre Dame offensive line will create lanes for running back Tarean Folston and co. Zaire may not be extremely accurate all the time, but he will connect down field with Will Fuller, Chris Brown, or other Irish receivers a couple times off play-action. Texas will have some success at times with Jonathan Gray in the running game, but the Irish will force Swoopes into a couple of mistakes and Notre Dame will march onward to victory.


Prediction: Notre Dame 24, Texas 13


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

Texas Longhorns at Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 13:00
Path: /college-football/louisiana-lafayette-ragin-cajuns-vs-kentucky-wildcats-game-preview-and-prediction

Now in year three, head coach Mark Stoops finally has an experienced group of players at Kentucky. The Wildcats, returning seven starters on both sides of the ball, have the potential to be a contender in the SEC East but a non-conference test in week one against Louisiana-Lafayette should not be overlooked. 


The Ragin' Cajuns, coached by Mark Hudspeth, have won nine games in each of the past four seasons. Included in those four seasons are four consecutive New Orleans Bowl victories and a Sun Belt championship in 2013. The Ragin' Cajuns have beaten the likes of East Carolina, Nevada and San Diego State along the way. 


The Wildcats will be looking for their first win since beating the Cajuns' Sun Belt rival, Louisiana-Monroe, in week seven of 2014. Kentucky lost six games to close out the season, while Lafayette won eight of its last nine. 


Louisiana-Lafayette has accomplished a lot during Hudspeth's tenure but have yet to beat an SEC team. Despite losing, the Ragin' Cajuns have given programs such as Arizona and Florida all they wanted in recent years. Saturday's matchup will be the first meeting between Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette.    


Louisiana-Lafayette at Kentucky


Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU

Spread: Kentucky -17


Three Things to Watch


1. Kentucky's offensive line vs. Lafayette's defensive line

The Wildcats should possess one of the SEC's most physically imposing offensive lines this season. Seriously, these guys are some pretty punishing run blockers. Pass protection, well, not so great. Nonetheless, the Ragin' Cajuns could have a difficult time replacing Christian Ringo and Justin Hamilton, a pair of stud defensive linemen a year ago. Also, they will be without linebacker Trae Johnson. Kentucky's pair of running backs, Stanley "Boom" Williams and Jojo Kemp, could have a field day. 


2. Patrick Towles vs. Lafayette's depleted secondary

If Lafayette is in some way able to slow Kentucky's ground attack, the defense will be faced with another massive challenge in slowing down the Wildcats' quarterback. Towles may be the best pure passer in the SEC East, so the Ragin' Cajuns may regret making him throw. He has a couple reliable targets on the outside. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky balances its explosive running backs' ability with the Wildcats' new version of the Air Raid offense in week one. Lafayette allowed a Sun Belt-worst 263.6 passing yards per game in 2014.   


3. Can the Wildcats stop Elijah McGuire?

The 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year, McGuire is an SEC-caliber player. He amassed 1,165 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground during the regular season. McGuire also led the way in receptions for Lafayette, snagging 40 catches for 414 yards. Kentucky lost a good deal of production on the defensive line in the offseason and frankly, this defense didn't do a very good job of stopping the run near the end of the 2014 campaign either. The Wildcats gave up 52 points per game in their final three contests. If the defense hasn't improved, McGuire has the ability to run wild.


Final Analysis


It's always tough to predict the first game for any team because coaching staffs have had ample time to prepare for their opponent. Given the quality of coach the Ragin' Cajuns have and their recent success, it would make sense to pick this to be a close game. However, while McGuire could certainly be a bright spot and help them put points on the board, Lafayette has lost too much defensively to stay in this game. I expect Kentucky to have one of the SEC's best offenses in 2015, at least statistically. After a quarter or two of letting Lafayette hang around, the Wildcats will start piling up touchdowns.  


Prediction: Kentucky 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 13 


— Written by Cody McClure, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a radio host and lead SEC Writer for Three Point Stance Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @CodyMcClureCFB.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:45
Path: /college-football/alabama-crimson-tide-vs-wisconsin-badgers-preview-prediction-2015

ESPN’s College GameDay will kickoff the year in Texas as Alabama meets Wisconsin Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to open the season. The two teams met once before in 1928 when the Badgers shutout the Tide 15-0 at Camp Randall Stadium.


There are no shortage of storylines heading into this one as Alabama, a model of consistency in recent history, enters the year with looming questions regarding its depth and contributions from several inexperienced players that will assume starting roles. Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban has yet to name a starter at quarterback and is unlikely to do so until kickoff. And even then, there’s a good possibility that he will continue to shuffle between two signal-callers before the night ends.


Wisconsin, which plays its second straight season opener against an SEC team, ushers in year one of the Paul Chryst era. Chryst served as Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator from 2005-11 before accepting the head coaching job at Pittsburgh. Chryst’s offenses at Wisconsin during his final two seasons averaged 42.9 points per game. His opening act will be a tough one as Wisconsin looks to replace the offensive production of running back Melvin Gordon with contributions from junior running back Corey Clement.


Alabama vs. Wisconsin


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC

Spread: Alabama -10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Who lines up under center for the Crimson Tide?

When Alabama released its depth chart for quarterback this week, four possible candidates were listed: Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman, Alec Morris, Blake Barnett or David Cornwell. Practice reports from Tuscaloosa have Coker and Cornwell tied neck-to-neck and it won’t be a surprise to see either of the two run out with the first team on Alabama’s opening series Saturday night. It also won’t be a surprise to see Saban alternate between two QBs as he did last season with Coker and Blake Sims. A strong opening from whichever quarterback gets an opportunity in Arlington could help force Saban’s hand in permanently naming his guy.


2. Can Alabama’s run game carry the offense while it searches for its quarterback?

At times last year, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin more closely resembled a mad scientist. With offensive weapons Blake Sims (quarterback), Amari Cooper (wide receiver) and Derrick Henry (running back) at his disposal, Kiffin experimented with a variety of offensive formations and play calls that typically netted successful results. Sims and Cooper are gone, but Henry returns and should shoulder the brunt of Alabama’s early-season offense. Behind Henry’s team-best 990 rushing yards in 2014, Alabama averaged 5.1 yards per rush and 206.6 yards per game. The Tide returns junior running back Kenyan Drake, who will join Henry in the backfield. Drake’s 2014 season was cut short after suffering a broken leg during a 10-yard reception in last year’s game against Ole Miss. While Henry provides Alabama the option of a bruising running game, Drake’s strength lies in his ability to make defenders miss. Kiffin has used Drake as a receiver in some of the team’s passing packages during practices and the shifty speedster is certain to see time again this year at the slot position. Production from both backs is needed Saturday to aid whichever Bama quarterback is thrust into action. While SEC defenses routinely receive accolades for being among the nation’s stingiest at stopping the run, Wisconsin’s defense in the last two years has allowed 100-yard rushing games to only six opposing backs. The Henry-Drake tandem will have its work cut out for it.


3. Will Wisconsin’s run game be effective against Alabama’s defensive line?

When facing any Wisconsin team, you can be certain of one thing: Expect a massive, physical offensive line to clear the way for a power-rushing attack. Wisconsin runs and everyone knows it. How to stop it, however, is the quandary. In the last four years, Wisconsin has churned out four consecutive 1,600-yard rushing seasons and its streak of 10 consecutive seasons of producing a 1,000-yard ball carrier tops the nation. The Badgers last year averaged 320.1 yards per game behind a gaudy 6.9 yards per rush. Gordon, who currently plays for the San Diego Chargers, amassed 2,587 yards in 2014 courtesy of an offensive line that returns four upperclassmen as starters. Wisconsin’s run game shouldn’t suffer much drop-off in 2015. Clement finally takes the reins from Gordon after stringing together a noteworthy 2014 campaign in which he ran for 949 yards and nine touchdowns on 6.5 yards per rush. Wisconsin’s offensive line will tangle with a ‘Bama defensive front that figures to be one of the best in the nation for yet another season. Alabama allowed just five rushing scores last season, and its defense under Saban has surrendered 100-yard rushing games to just 10 opposing backs.  


Final Analysis


The last time these two teams took the field in 2014, the potential reward for a victory was the chance to play at AT&T Stadium in the inaugural College Football Playoff final. Ohio State ended Wisconsin’s hopes after trouncing the Badgers 59-0 in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes thwarted Alabama’s chances one month later in the College Football Playoff semifinal. A twist of fate brings both teams to Arlington where they will begin another run at the title.


Despite Wisconsin’s continued success with its power brand of football, Alabama’s size and athleticism on the defensive line will be too much to overcome. Look for Wisconsin to hang with Alabama for much of the contest before the Badger defensive line wears down physically and is unable to stop the run later in the game. Saban’s quarterback doesn’t need to be perfect, just efficient enough to keep the Tide in control. Saturday’s SEC-Big Ten matchup should resemble a heavyweight fight — think Holmes vs. Norton. The Tide will win this one courtesy of a late rushing surge by Henry and Drake.


Prediction: Alabama 28, Wisconsin 17


— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A Washington, D.C.-based sports writer, Hayes is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and he also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wisconsin Badgers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:40
Path: /college-football/auburn-tigers-vs-louisville-cardinals-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic in Atlanta is once again host to one of the opening weekend’s best matchups, as Louisville and Auburn meet in a huge non-conference game. This ACC-SEC matchup is the second meeting between these two leagues in Week 1, with South Carolina edging North Carolina 17-13 on Thursday night.


The Cardinals finished 9-4 in coach Bobby Petrino’s return to Louisville and open 2015 looking to push Florida State and Clemson for the ACC Atlantic title. On the other sideline, Auburn hopes to rebound into playoff contention after an 8-5 mark last season. Fixing the defense was a priority for coach Gus Malzahn, and new coordinator Will Muschamp should help this unit take a significant step forward in 2015.


Related: Picks for Every Week 1 College Football Game


Louisville and Auburn have played only one previous time. The Cardinals and Tigers met in 1974 in Birmingham, with Auburn winning 16-3 at Legion Field.


Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: CBS

Spread: Auburn -10.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Louisville’s Quarterback Battle

Louisville coach Bobby Petrino isn’t tipping his hand at quarterback, as four players – Reggie Bonnafon, Kyle Bolin, Will Gardner and Lamar Jackson – were separated by an or on the first depth chart. While Petrino isn’t giving Auburn any clues to his starter, all signs point to Bonnafon or Gardner taking the first snap. Bonnafon showed promise as a true freshman in 2014, completing 61 of 120 passes for 864 yards and five scores. He also added 164 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Bonnafon’s mobility should be a valuable asset for Louisville, as its offensive line is the biggest question mark, and the sophomore is facing an improved Auburn pass rush with the return of end Carl Lawson from a torn ACL. Assuming Bonnafon gets help from his offensive line, big plays could be there against the Tigers’ secondary. In 13 games last season, Auburn surrendered nine plays of 40 yards or more. Can the Cardinals find a new big-play threat to replace DeVante Parker? That’s just another subplot to the intrigue surrounding Louisville’s offense on Saturday. The guess here is Bonnafon takes the first snap, but will he play the entire game if the offense sputters?


2. Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson

Jeremy Johnson has just two career starts under his belt, but the hype machine for the junior wasn’t tempered in the offseason. Johnson has been mentioned as a Heisman candidate, and the limited sample size suggests why the junior could lead Auburn to a playoff spot. In seven appearances last season, Johnson threw for 436 yards and three scores. The Montgomery native is a physically impressive quarterback at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds with a huge arm. Coach Gus Malzahn’s offense is also one of the nation’s most explosive attacks, which should give Johnson plenty of opportunities to shine this year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt his cause All-America candidate Duke Williams is back at receiver. Will Johnson live up to the hype this season? Saturday’s matchup against a good Louisville defense is a huge barometer test.


3. Louisville’s Defense

The matchup between Johnson and Louisville’s secondary is among Week 1’s most intriguing battles. The Cardinals have four new starters in the defensive backfield, including Georgia transfers Josh Harvey-Clemons and Shaq Wiggins. Will this secondary pickup where last year’s group ended? Having a stout front seven should take some of the pressure off of Louisville’s pass defense. The Cardinals own one of the top defensive lines in the ACC, and the linebacking corps is arguably the league’s best with Keith Kelsey and James Burgess leading the way. Can this unit carry the team in this game? With Louisville’s offense breaking in new starters up front and at receiver, the defense has to lead the way and keep Petrino’s team in this game. While Johnson and the passing attack will receive most of the pregame attention, Auburn’s offensive line and rushing attack is also among the SEC’s best. If the Cardinals win the battle up front and force Johnson into obvious passing situations, the pass rush will have opportunities to disrupt the Tigers’ attack. Junior college recruit (and former TCU) defender Devonte Fields is a name to watch in pass-rush situations.


Final Analysis


Louisville’s defense versus Auburn’s offense is the matchup to watch on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals have more than enough on defense to hang around, but can they force a turnover or two to give their building offense a chance? Regardless of whether Bonnafon or Gardner starts, Louisville has to take pressure off its quarterbacks with a successful ground attack. Will the offensive line hold up against Auburn’s defensive front? That’s a key question to be answered on Saturday. Johnson and the Tigers’ offense is held in check in the first half against the Cardinals’ salty defense, but Auburn has too much firepower and wins in the fourth quarter.


Prediction: Auburn 31, Louisville 20
Auburn Tigers vs. Louisville Cardinals Preview and Prediction 2015
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Tennessee Volunteers, SEC
Path: /college-football/tennessee-volunteers-vs-bowling-green-falcons-preview-and-prediction-2015

Nashville, Tenn. and Nissan Stadium will serve as a “neutral” venue for the first-ever meeting between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Bowling Green Falcons on Saturday. Ironically, Bowling Green has been designated as the home team for this matchup, but any home-field advantage will most certainly lie with Tennessee playing in the heart of the Volunteer State.


Tennessee will head into their 2015 campaign riding a wave of media hype and fanfare that has gone unrivaled in the last decade of Tennessee football. A young Volunteers team only managed to go 7-6 overall in 2014, but they showed vast improvement down the stretch with Joshua Dobbs at quarterback. Tennessee won four of its last five contests in 2014, culminating in a lopsided victory over Iowa in the TaxSlayer Bowl.


The Volunteers also return the vast majority of their starters on both sides of the football, and they are stockpiled with a wealth of young talent following back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in the top 5 nationally.


Like Tennessee, Bowling Green also concluded last season on a high note, celebrating a memorable 33-28 victory over South Alabama in the Camellia Bowl. The Falcons, who finished the season at 8-6, are also the reigning Eastern Division champions in the MAC.


Bowling Green returns every starter from a successful offense that averaged 30 points and 433 yards per game last season. The BGSU defense is a different story entirely. The Falcons will only have three returning starters in place against the Vols from a defense that ranked 115th nationally in 2014.


Tennessee vs. Bowling Green (in Nashville, Tenn)


Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: Tennessee -20.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Are the Vols legit?

Bowling Green is far from being Tennessee’s biggest test of the season. However, the Falcons will serve as the first real measuring stick to see if the Vols are truly worthy of all the preseason hype. Not only as a team, but also for a select group of individual players who have been touted for huge seasons. QB Joshua Dobbs, RB Jalen Hurd, DE Derek Barnett, DE/LB Curt Maggitt, and CB Cameron Sutton are just a few of the talented Vol players that will be under the microscope on Saturday.


The Vols, collectively and individually, will need to turn in a dominate performance in order to validate the pre-season hype. Anything short of that will likely bring the naysayers out in full force.


2. Can the Bowling Green offense pose a challenge?

As previously mentioned, Bowling Green returns all of its starters on offense from 2014, also welcoming the return of quarterback Matt Johnson, who led the Falcons to a MAC championship in 2013, throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and 25 touchdowns.


The Falcons also boast a talented roster of skill players and a veteran offensive line. A few players of note include WR Roger Lewis, who had over 1,000 receiving yards in 2014, RB Travis Greene, who has amassed close to 2,600 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns over the previous two seasons, and RG Alex Huettel, who anchors the offensive line with 45 consecutive starts.


The Falcons fast paced hurry up offense averaged a blistering 84 plays per game in 2014, ranking second in the nation. Bowling Green Head Coach, Dino Babers, also likes to spread opposing defenses out by using multiple receiver sets that will force the Vols to play one-on-one coverage most of the game. Bowling Green’s lightning fast tempo and enigmatic offensive scheme could very well present some challenges for the Tennessee defense on Saturday.


3. Volunteer Newcomers

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones stated on Tuesday that the Vols could play as many as 22 true freshmen in Saturday’s matchup against BGSU. That doesn’t even include highly touted JUCO transfers, RB Alvin Kamara and DB Justin Martin, who also will make their Vol debut.


Impact freshmen such as DT Kahlil McKenzie, MLB Darrin Kirkland, DT Shy Tuttle, WR Jauan Jennings, DE Kyle Phillips, and WR Preston Williams are just a few of the players that will be on display from the Vols' mega-talented 2015 recruiting class.


Colton Jumper, who will start at MLB for the Vols, is also one to watch. While he is not technically a newcomer, the former walk-on will be making his first start and only his second appearance ever in a game for Tennessee.


Final Analysis


The Bowling Green Falcons will bring plenty of firepower on offense to Nashville on Saturday, but the X factor for this matchup is the Falcons’ defense — or lack thereof. Everything that makes Bowling Green great on offense, it sorely lacks on the other side of the football. Even if the Falcon defense manages to show improvement under new defensive coordinator Brian Ward, they are still no match for the Vols’ offense.


Tennessee is just a far superior team overall. Expect a fast paced high scoring affair, with a valiant effort from the Bowling Green offense. But in the end, the Falcons can’t keep up the scoring pace with the Vols. Vegas nailed the point spread on this one.


Prediction: Tennessee 45, Bowling Green 24


— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McVey is a diehard Tennessee Volunteers' fan who loves singing "Rocky Top" every opportunity he gets. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Bowling Green Falcons Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/grambling-state-tigers-vs-california-golden-bears-preview-and-prediction-2015

When Grambling State and California collide on Saturday at Memorial Stadium two very proud programs, both finally trending in the right direction, will take the field with high hopes on the 2015 college football season.


Grambling State became an iconic school for several reasons, but on the gridiron the program became known due to Eddie Robinson. Robinson's spirit still looms over the collective mind of college football fans even though he has been off the sidelines since 1997. But when the curtain was pulled back on the sad state of affairs the Tigers’ program had come to be mired in behind the scenes, the legacy that Robinson had built seemed long gone. The Tigers forfeited a Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) game in protest but still finished the season 7-5.


The Golden Bears were the cardiac kids in 2014 finishing 5-7 but very easily could have been an eight- or nine-win team after close losses to Arizona, UCLA, USC and BYU. Now in his third year, head coach Sonny Dykes is seeking Cal’s first bowl appearance since the 2011 season.


Grambling State at California


Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET

Network: Pac-12 Networks

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. The Golden Bears' passing attack vs. the Tigers' defense

No matter who lines up against Cal in 2015 stopping its prolific offense led by junior quarterback Jared Goff will be the key. Goff has key targets Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler back as well as 1,100-yard rusher Daniel Lasco.


The Bears went into camp with three starters returning up front leading many to believe this unit will again be one of the top offenses in the nation after finishing No. 13 last season after averaging 495 yards a game.


2. The Golden Bears' defense

This is not so much a matchup per say but more of a question mark as to what Cal fans can expect this season. Statistically Cal was one of the worst teams in the nation, thus all the close losses, allowing 512 yards a game while giving up 40 points a game. Cal’s up-tempo offense was amazing but not amazing enough, averaging 38 points a game, which is one of the reasons the Bears missed out on a bowl game.


3. Grambling quarterback Johnathan Williams

Williams had 18 passing touchdowns last season with 2,454 yards and also led the Tigers in rushing yards with 484 and eight scores. For the Tigers to have a shot at winning, or competing, he will have to have a career day but someone else has to step up to take some of the pressure off Williams.


Final Analysis


The Tigers have not fared well against FBS opponents. Since 2000 Grambling State has posted a win-loss record of 0-13 against FBS teams and have been outscored a collective 544-95. The last FBS win for Grambling was in 1985 when they took down the Oregon Ducks.


Cal has a tough Pac-12 and non-conference slate with San Diego State and Texas still to play. Don't be surprised if offensive coordinator Tony Franklin tries to build a sizeable cushion on the scoreboard to give defensive coordinator Art Kauffman the opportunity to break in a few new players in key positions across the field.


Prediction: Cal 56, Grambling State 13


— 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 he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

Grambling State Tigers vs. California Golden Bears Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:05
Path: /college-football/byu-cougars-vs-nebraska-cornhuskers-preview-and-prediction-2015

One of the most anticipated games of college football's opening week happens to be Mike Riley’s first game as Nebraska’s head coach.  Keeping the Huskers’ season-opening win streak alive will be no easy task as Bronco Mendenhall brings stud quarterback Taysom Hill and the BYU Cougars to town.


The Blackshirts have just been issued under Riley’s rules revamped from the Bo Pelini era, so those who don them in practice will obviously be anxious to prove they deserve them. 


This game sets the tone for both teams’ seasons, as Nebraska could go on an undefeated tear for quite some time and BYU faces Boise State at home before traveling to UCLA and Michigan following the visit to Lincoln.


BYU at Nebraska


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Nebraska -6


Three Things to Watch


1. All Aboard The Suspension Train

Thanks to a brawl in last season’s Miami Beach Bowl and various honor code violations including linebacker Sione Takitaki, the Cougars will be holding out a few players, but head coach Bronco Mendenhall won’t name them until after the game. It’s impossible to say if those in the Quiet Corner will stay there for the entire game, the first half or only the first quarter.


On the Cornhuskers’ end, Mike Riley announced that outside linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, tight end Cethan Carter, cornerback Jonathan Rose, offensive lineman Robby Painter and defensive end Joe Keels will miss the contest with single-game suspensions.


2. Tommy Armstrong’s Passing vs. BYU’s Defense

To call Armstrong’s passing inconsistent up to this point would be… well, 100 percent accurate. However, with the addition of Danny Langsdorf to Riley’s staff, No. 4 may see a transformation similar to what he did for the New York Giants’ Eli Manning. 


In a recent scrimmage, Armstrong went 15-21 for 242 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Yes, these are scrimmage numbers, but such a stat line is unheard of until recently. The Cougars ranked No. 114 in pass defense last season giving up a generous 270 yards per contest, so accuracy from Armstrong could go a long way in keeping Hill off the field.


While Nebraska’s most dynamic playmaker is on the sidelines in De'Mornay Pierson-El, Jordan Westerkamp is healthy and considered one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten. The Huskers’ pass-catching corps runs deep as not only do they have go-to guys like Westerkamp, but packages developed under Riley designed for both receivers and tight ends.


Whether Armstrong succeeds or not has to do with his confidence and that’s where BYU’s strategy comes into play. The Huskers knows that the Cougars don’t tip their hand when they’re going to blitz or where the attack is coming from. In addition, an offensive line looking to gel also is ripe for a few false start or holding calls in the Cougars’ favor. 


3. BYU’s Offense vs. Nebraska’s Defense

If suspensions didn’t handicap BYU enough, running back Jamaal Williams’ departure from the program for 2015 due to personal reasons provided a sucker punch. He was on track to be the Cougars’ all-time leading rusher and was responsible for 22 percent of their 2014 rushing yardage. 


Hill has to be every bit the leader for this offense to purr as a result. He’s bouncing back from a broken leg suffered last season, but don’t think it’s suddenly turned to stone. He’ll be facing an overall inexperienced corps of linebackers and Nebraska’s defensive ends aren’t the fastest he’ll see. Gang-tackling will be the necessity of the day if the Huskers want to lock him down.


Wide receivers Terenn Houk, Nick Kurtz (both 6-5) and Devon Blackmon could end up being Hill’s best friends when it comes to taking pressure off the run game and putting points on the board. However, they’ll be going against a Cornhusker secondary that has praised Banker for allowing them to react and attack the ball. It’s also one of the Huskers’ deepest and most talented units across the board.


Final Analysis 


Nebraska’s running game has been inconsistent in practice, but thanks to any holes made by a one-game recess, the Huskers may be able to finally break a hole through that wall. BYU’s loss of Takitaki for this game is a major plus for Nebraska. He’s regarded as one of the Cougars’ best pass rushers.


Hill is a tremendous athlete and will help put up points on the board. BYU could’ve really used Williams to add to a potential upset bid as he would’ve helped provide longer drives to keep the Blackshirts off the field.


There will be good and bad for both teams, but the game will ultimately come down to the talent difference and turnover margin. One already belongs to Nebraska and the Huskers have a high chance of winning the second.


Prediction: Nebraska 38, BYU 20


— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Cavanaugh is the founder of, a site devoted to in-depth Nebraska coverage. Be sure to follow Brandon on Twitter @eightlaces and Periscope (eightlaces), and like his Facebook page.

BYU Cougars vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/akron-zips-vs-oklahoma-sooners-preview-and-prediction-2015

Oklahoma and Akron open the season in Norman this weekend in a contest that looks to be a lopsided affair. Vegas has installed OU as a 31-point favorite over what appears to be an overmatched bunch of Zips.


The Sooners are still feeling the sting of last year’s meltdown, which ended in a 40-6 spanking from Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. That led to a major shakeup in Bob Stoops’ coaching staff and brought about yet another change in OU’s offensive scheme. Entering his 17th season as head coach of the Sooners, Stoops may be looking to start one last run before stepping down at some point in the next few years.


Related: College Football 2015 Conference, Playoff and National Championship Predictions


Meanwhile, this will be the first visit to Norman for Akron’s veteran coach Terry Bowden. His first three years with the Zips have yet to produce a bowl berth, but Akron should be knocking on the door of the postseason in 2015. As unlikely as a win may be here, it will give Bowden and his staff a chance to evaluate a slew of new starters at receiver and defensive back before the Zips take on Pittsburgh in a winnable game in week two.


Akron at Oklahoma


​Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Pay-Per-View
Spread: Oklahoma -31


Three Things to Watch


1. Lincoln Riley’s Offense

Meet OU’s new boss on offense, same as the old boss. Riley may be new to Norman, but his offensive scheme is awfully familiar. After letting go of both offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and the Pistol offense earlier this year, Bob Stoops decided to return to the Air Raid, the pass-happy system that helped him get his fast start at OU. Stoops couldn’t bring back Mike Leach, so he settled on Leach’s protégé Riley as the offensive guru to get the Sooners back on track. After spending four years as East Carolina’s coordinator, Riley has never had such an abundance of weapons at his disposal. He might be as excited as Sooner fans to finally see what he can do with them.


2. Joe Mixon’s Role

Mixon might be the most explosive weapon in Riley’s arsenal. Sooner fans will get their first glimpse of OU’s ballyhooed freshman running back on Saturday after Mixon was separated from the team last year. Based on the scuttlebutt coming out of preseason camp, the California phenom won’t disappoint. Mixon possesses the ideal skill set for a running back in the Air Raid, although there’s no guarantee he will only line up in the backfield this year. Look for Riley to put him on the field together with fellow stud running back Samaje Perine and occasionally shift Mixon out to slot receiver to give defenses one more thing to think about.


3. The Defensive Scheme

Once again, the OU coaching staff opted to tinker with the Sooners’ defensive scheme, mixing in some 4-2-5 to go with their base 3-4 alignment. Akron should offer an early litmus test to see if the tweaks have done anything to help OU’s pass defense. The Zips run a fairly conventional version of the spread featuring a lot of four-wide sets, so the defensive backs should have a chance to show off what they’ve learned under new secondary coach Kerry Cooks. After relying heavily on loose coverage schemes last season, keep an eye on just how tight OU’s DBs line up against Akron’s wideouts.


Final Analysis


It’s difficult to find any way that this game becomes something other than a dress rehearsal for OU and a nice payday for the visitors. Everyone at Owen Field on Saturday night will want to wash the bad taste from last season out of their mouths, from the players to the fans. Even in the event of a blowout, don’t be surprised if OU quarterback Baker Mayfield and the rest of the first-string offense see extended action in an effort to get comfortable with their new offensive scheme. Just don’t expect Riley to dig too deep into the playbook.


Given Akron’s propensity to turn the ball over—the Zips finished 101st nationally a year ago with 26 giveaways in just 12 games—the Sooners could get a defensive score to add a little cushion to the final margin of victory.


Prediction: Oklahoma 44, Akron 13


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

Akron Zips vs. Oklahoma Sooners Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/virginia-cavaliers-vs-ucla-bruins-preview-and-prediction-2015

Outside expectations on UCLA football are not as high entering 2015 as they were a season ago. That's rather ironic, given the Bruins return a much more veteran lineup, particularly in areas that were question marks a season ago.


Nevertheless, head coach Jim Mora is probably just fine with flying somewhat under the national radar. He has arguably his best team since arriving at UCLA in 2012 — and that's saying something, given the Bruins have won 29 games over the last three seasons.


A promising 2015 campaign opens Saturday at the Rose Bowl with an opponent UCLA knows all-too-well can pose real problems. Despite a three-year bowl drought, the Virginia Cavaliers play an aggressive defensive style that very nearly derailed the Bruins' 2014 season in Week 1.


Virginia at UCLA


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV: Fox
Spread: UCLA -19.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Josh Rosen's College Debut

Months of speculation came to a head last week, when UCLA head coach Jim Mora named 5-star freshman quarterback Josh Rosen the starter for Week 1. Rosen replaces three-year starter Brett Hundley, the only starting quarterback Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone have known in their time at UCLA.


Related: The Pac-12's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2015


Aside from his lack of collegiate experience, the true freshman Rosen is a different style quarterback than his predecessor. Hundley was an excellent scrambler, whereas Rosen is renowned for his pocket presence. How much adjustment is required from the rest of the Bruin offense will be explained pretty quickly against a Virginia defense that blitzes frequently.


Mora noted that the Cavaliers succeeded in pressuring Hundley a season ago, adding: "And he was a three-year starter."


To deal with the blitz, expect the Bruins to rely on the Pac-12's leading rusher, Paul Perkins. Perkins should see a steady workload, particularly early.


2. Who Makes Big Plays in Ishmael Adams' Place?

Ishmael Adams' indefinite suspension for an alleged robbery leaves two sizable holes the Bruins must patch. The first is in the secondary, which is one of the nation's best with Adams in the lineup. The Bruins get back talented Randall Goforth, who joins veteran Fabian Moreau and sophomore Jaleel Wadood, who broke out late last season.


Without Adams, however, UCLA needs someone to step up to deliver game-changing plays. Adams had a keen knack for just that, including against Virginia last August when he took an interception for a touchdown. Moreau has been seeking his breakout since coming to UCLA. With Adams out of the lineup, Moreau will be looked upon to step up as the team's shutdown corner.


Also look for new defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, a linebackers guru, to get the most from the talented one-two punch of Myles Jack and Deon Hollins. With Hollins bringing pressure off the edge, Jack is more than capable of dropping back into pass coverage to make plays there. 


There is no shortage of answers on defense, but Adams' absence extends to special teams. Last season, he functioned as the primary kickoff returner, and the sole punt returner. His 100-yard run-back against Arizona State snapped a seven-year special teams touchdown drought for the Bruins.


3. Coming Up Roses at Home

The Rose Bowl is arguably the most picturesque venue in college football, and a record number of fans visited it for UCLA home games in 2014. Still, the beautiful venue in Pasadena was too often a house of horrors for the Bruins.


All three of UCLA's losses were at home, including the regular-season finale blowout against Stanford that kept the Bruins out of the Pac-12 Championship Game.


Defending the home turf is vital to UCLA's Pac-12 title aspirations in 2015. Setting the right tone in Week 1 is crucial. 


Final Analysis


Growing pains may be evident for the Bruin offense early, particularly against a stout Virginia defense. Perkins having solidified himself as a reliable No. 1 running back does help, and is something UCLA lacked a season ago in its visit to Charlottesville. It was only in the second half of that contest that Mora and Mazzone turned to him.


Playing a more conservative style on offense while establishing its authority on defense promises UCLA will be locked in a close contest through the first half. However, as Virginia fails to mount drives on a stout Bruin defense, look for the flood gates to open in the third or fourth quarter as UCLA wins a war of attrition.


Prediction: UCLA 31, Virginia 14


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

Virginia Cavaliers vs. UCLA Bruins Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/utep-miners-vs-arkansas-razorbacks-preview-and-prediction-2015

The Arkansas Razorbacks open up the 2015 college football season at home against the UTEP Miners. Both squads are coming off 7-6 seasons in 2014 but for the first time in three years Arkansas has hopes of contending for a SEC West title.


Related: Why Arkansas Will or Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015


When UTEP and Arkansas kick off on Saturday, a war of offensive line play will go into effect. The Miners and Razorbacks both have four offensive starters returning up front and each have a premiere back to feature. The unit that can impose their style of play will determine the flow of the game.


The Miners return junior running back Aaron Jones and his 1,300 yards on the ground from a year ago. Arkansas will highlight a junior as well, Alex Collins. Collins split time with Jonathan Williams in 2014 but will be the marquee guy in the backfield early in the season after a 1,100-yard season as a sophomore.


Both defenses are young but Arkansas heads into the game healthy. UTEP lost starting safeties Devin Cockrell and Ishmael Harrison to injuries leaving a void of 37 combined starts in the secondary. Arkansas is without its top four defenders from last year’s No. 10 ranked unit but returns six starters with a heavy mix of talented but young players ready to work their way into playing time in conference action.


UTEP at Arkansas


Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Network: ESPNU

Line: Arkansas -33


Three Things to Watch


1. Stopping UTEP Running Back Aaron Jones

The Razorbacks have key upcoming games against Air-Raid offenses in Texas Tech and Texas A&M but will get pushed in the ground game by the Miners. Stopping Aaron Jones will be a nice opening game test.

Starting UTEP quarterback Mack Leftwich redshirted last season but picked up four starts in 2013. If Leftwich is unable to move the chains with his arm expect to see up to eight Razorback defenders in the box devoted to stopping Jones.


2. Arkansas Establishing a Passing Attack

The Hogs return four starters along the offensive line and have Alex Collins in the backfield; this unit is set for a win with that group alone. Getting reps for junior running back Kody Walker and true freshman Rawleigh Williams cannot be understated, but getting senior quarterback Brandon Allen into a groove with his young but talented receiving corps is a must.


Arkansas’ passing attack was anemic, to say the least, last season averaging 188 yards a game. If SEC title hopes are to be achieved Allen and company will need to see their per game passing numbers in the 230 to 250 yard range.


3. Arkansas’ Defense — Can they be a Top 25 unit again in 2015?

Opening games are about setting tones for the season and establishing a team identity. What will Arkansas’ identity be in 2015? Can the Razorbacks’ six returning starters keep that momentum going this season?


The Hogs were successful limiting teams to 115 rushing yards per game and 209 passing yards. Can the revamped linebacker unit with junior Brooks Ellis at the weak-side, sophomore Khalia Hackett in the middle, and junior Josh Williams on the strong-side stop the run and cover in space on passing downs? Depth at linebacker, especially in the middle is a concern. Will the Hogs get a big enough lead early to get second and third-team guys on the field for needed reps?


Another undertone to the game for Arkansas is establishing a consistent pass rush. The Hogs are stacked with potential at defensive end but for now that is all they are, a great looking group with a lot of potential. The Miners could be an early confidence builder for JaMichael Winston, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Deatrich Wise, and Tevin Beanum.


Final Analysis


Arkansas should steamroll the Miners if turnovers and penalties are not a factor in the game. Seeing the defense gel and second-unit players step up into rolls as contributors going forward is key for Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema.


Although UTEP is in their second year under Sean Kugler, and much improved from 2013 when the Miners won just two games, they are still a couple of years behind potentially upsetting a ranked team. In 2014 the Miners were not competitive in losses to Kansas State (58-28) and Louisiana Tech (55-3) but did give a one-dimensional Texas Tech team a scare before falling 30-26.


Prediction: Arkansas 48, UTEP 14


— 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 he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.

UTEP Miners vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 11:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Pittsburgh Panthers
Path: /college-football/youngstown-state-penguins-vs-pittsburgh-panthers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Two promising head coaches begin their tenures at new schools when Youngstown State visits the neighboring Pittsburgh Panthers. Youngstown native Bo Pelini comes from Nebraska to guide the Penguins, who knocked off Pitt at Heinz Field just three years ago. Former Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi begins his tenure at Pitt ironically playing the program his father Bill guided to Division I status in the 1980s.


Youngstown State at Pittsburgh


Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Location: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA



Three Things To Watch


1. Who Steps up in Boyd's absence?

Pitt junior wide receiver Tyler Boyd will be suspended for this game due to his offseason DUI. despite establishing himself as a pro prospect last season after averaging more than 16 yards on 78 receptions. Unfortunately no other receiver of note returned to the Panthers this season, thus making junior Dontez Ford, who caught three passes in 2014, Pitt's most experienced receiver coming into the game. Zack Challingsworth is projected to start opposite Ford, which means the two starting receivers against YSU only played Class AA football in the WPIAL. Freshmen Quadree Henderson and Tre Tipton could also see action. Henderson is only 5-9, but Tipton, a quarterback at Apollo-Ridge, excelled in three sports and was the Class AA Pennsylvania long jump champion. Also look to Elijah Zeise, a redshirt freshman originally recruited as a defensive back, but also a top-100 recruit out of Class AAAA North Allegheny.

2. How much action does Conner get?

If Pitt were to have an outstanding season in 2015, junior running back James Conner will likely receive some Heisman attention. A player who rushed for 5.9 yards a carry in 2014 with 26 touchdowns and 1,800 yards would figure to be the main contributor to Panthers fortunes, and Pitt will go as far as he can take them. Furthermore, with a somewhat sketchy defense, the ability to run down the clock figures to be paramount. That said, if Pitt needs 30 carries from Conner against Youngstown State, something is wrong. Chris James rushed for 439 yards on 87 carries last year and is projected to see more action this year, if for no other reason than to save Conner from pounding. It might speak best for long-range Panthers fortunes for James and/or highly regarded Darrin Hall to be the leading rusher in this game.


3. Will Chad Voytik be protected?

Ideally the game plan would have junior quarterback Chad Voytik establish a rapport with a new receiver for a couple of long bombs, secure a 21-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and then be taken out sometime in the second half for an easy victory, much like Pitt won their tune-up game against Delaware 62-0 last year. That won't happen this season with Terrell Williams and Derek Rivers lining up at defensive end for the Penguins. Rivers had 13 sacks last year and Williams complied 10, while Pitt will play four new starters on the offensive line. Thankfully for Pitt, left tackle is not the position the Panthers must replace, as 6-6 305-pound Adam Bisnowaty returns for his junior year.


Final Analysis


Everyone knows Pitt lost to Youngstown State, 31-17, three years ago in Paul Chryst's debut as Panthers coach. But does a YSU victory really seem likely this time out? Yes, YSU has been projected to be a Top 25 FCS team, and new Pelini has brought in several quality transfers from FBS. But a Pitt loss? No. A close game? Perhaps.


Prediction: Pitt 35, Youngstown State 17


— Written by Marky Billson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. An experienced beat reporter and sports writer, Billson has been a contributor to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for 15 years. He has covered the Steelers, Panthers, MLB and more during his career. Follow him on Twitter @MarkyBillson.

Youngstown State Penguins vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 11:05
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/wofford-terriers-vs-clemson-tigers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Each season, Clemson schedules one of the FCS schools in South Carolina. Some years they play Furman, other years it is South Carolina State, and sometimes it is The Citadel. This year it’s Wofford, from just up the road in Spartanburg that will be coming to Death Valley.


Wofford returns 10 starters on offense and nine on defense from a 6-5 team. Last season the Terriers opened the season by going to Georgia Tech, where they lost 38-19 to the Orange Bowl champs. They run the triple option so Clemson’s defensive backs will be peeking into the backfield all day long.


The bar is set high this year at Clemson and the fans will be ready when the Tigers run down the hill on Saturday.


Related: Why Clemson Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015


Wofford at Clemson


Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ACC Network/ESPN3

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. The Health of Deshaun Watson

This will be Watson’s first real action since having his ACL repaired in December. Perhaps no team in America has its hopes tied to one player as much as Clemson does to Watson. The offense looked completely different with the freshman running the show last year and backup Nick Schuessler has very little game experience. Head coach Dabo Swinney will protect his star quarterback as much as he can, but we will see how well Watson moves around on Saturday.


2. Clemson's Offensive Line

The good news for Clemson is that the Tigers have three seniors starting on the offensive line. The bad news is that only one of those seniors is a true returning starter and the depth behind the first group is very young. Center Ryan Norton has played a lot of football in his career and will lead the unit. Watson’s blindside will be shielded by true freshman Mitch Hyatt. Protecting the quarterback was not an issue last year but blocking for Wayne Gallman and the other backs was. With skill talent aplenty, this is the biggest question mark for the Clemson offense.


3. The Defensive Front vs. Wofford’s Option

The questions that surround the offensive line hover over the defensive front seven as well. With the recent departure of defensive tackle D.J. Reader, Shaq Lawson is the only returning defensive lineman that was on last year’s two-deep. The linebacker unit was stung by the loss of Korrin Wiggins and Korie Rogers. There is more than enough talent here to contain Wofford.  But on Oct. 10, Georgia Tech will bring its option attack to Clemson. If the Terriers can exploit certain areas even a little, Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets will take notice.


Final Analysis


For a game that will not be competitive, there will be a lot to watch in this one. Watson’s every move will be dissected by Clemson fans as well as the Tigers' upcoming opponents. The play of both lines will also be analyzed closely. Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Wayne Gallman are always entertaining, even if we only see them for the first half. Clemson will win going away, but defending the run and offensive line play for the Tigers will be areas of intense interest.


Prediction: Clemson 48, Wofford 10


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

Wofford Terriers vs. Clemson Tigers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/norfolk-state-spartans-vs-rutgers-scarlet-knights-preview-and-prediction-2015

Rutgers kicks off their 2015 campaign under mass scrutiny after a late August internal investigation involving head coach Kyle Flood, and the suspension of five players for the first half of their opener against Norfolk State. If nothing else, Rutgers must come out with a bang against their season-opening FCS opponent, who’s coming off a 4-8 season and heads into 2015 with a new head coach in Latrell Scott, who went 29-5 during his three seasons at Virginia State.


Flood and the Scarlet Knights will be without leading receiver and team captain Leonte Carroo, who will sit out the first half while serving a suspension for breaking a team curfew rule. Joining him is linebacker Kevin Marquez, punter Tim Gleeson, cornerback Ruhaan Peele, and quarterback Chris Laviano. Laviano, unlike the four joining him on the sideline for curfew violations, was caught attempting to enter an establishment with a fake ID. In light of Laviano’s suspension, LSU transfer Hayden Rettig gets the nod under center to start the 2015 campaign.


While Flood would not commit to Rettig beyond the first half, many have given him the nod as the better quarterback. Laviano has the most experience of any quarterback on the roster, having thrown 11 passes in his collegiate career. Carroo, the aforementioned team captain, and team’s leading receiver will be the biggest loss to a team looking to follow the momentum gained from an unexpected 8-5 debut Big Ten campaign from 2014.


As for Norfolk State, they’re returning nine offensive starters, and five defensively from their 4-8 2014 squad. Florida Atlantic junior quarterback transfer Greg Hankerson gets the nod as the team’s starting quarterback after two seasons in Conference USA. Hankerson’s most notable accomplishment under center to date is his 12-19 for 88 yard performance against Alabama last season, a game Florida Atlantic lost 41-0.


Defensive captain linebacker Deon King returns for the Spartans after a stellar 2014 season where he tallied 104 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and a lone interception. Joining him are four fellow returning starters, including linebacker Lamar Neal (85 tackles, 35 TFL, 1 sack) and cornerback Brandon Walker, a cornerback who totaled 43 tackles last season.


Norfolk State at Rutgers


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

Location: Highpoints Solutions Stadium, Piscataway, NJ

Channel: ESPNews

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Hayden Rettig’s Scarlet Knights debut

Rettig, a 2014 transfer, has yet to throw a pass at the collegiate level after signing with the Tigers as a four-star recruit in 2013. He hopes to get his chance to prove to head coach Kyle Flood that he’s the quarterback to lead this team down the stretch through the 2015 season — one crucial for the entire program, especially Flood after the summer’s end he’s endured. Rettig will be without Leonte Carroo, who we mentioned will serve a first-half suspension. If Flood chooses to pull Rettig at halftime, we may not know what he could have done with a playmaker like Carroo on the field.


2. Defensive Efficiency

Rutgers has never allowed a single point against Norfolk State in any of the three contests they faced off in. Defense is going to need to show as a strong point for Rutgers if they’re going to compete at a high level in the Big Ten in 2015. The Scarlet Knights are in a good position against the Spartans, whose starting quarterback wasn’t on the team last season, and the team’s leading rusher from last season totaled 114 yards on the ground — good news for the nation’s 102nd-ranked defense from a year ago.


3. Greg Hankerson

Hankerson, as mentioned before, is a former FBS quarterback who transferred to an FCS school to avoid having to sit out an entire season after losing the quarterback battle with the Owls. Hankerson showed solid efficiency during his time at FAU, and completed nearly 67 percent of his passes against Alabama in a game that was over in the first quarter. If Hankerson can move the ball quickly and accurately, he could have Rutgers on their heels early, forcing them to play out of their comfort on their own side of the field.


Final Analysis


Rutgers has outscored Norfolk State 139-0 in the three contests they've faced off in. Rettig's first half could go either way for the inexperienced LSU transfer, but not bad enough to where the Scarlet Knights will be on heels on the verge of an upset. Rutgers has handled the Spartans with ease in the past, and this should be no different.


Prediction: Rutgers 35, Norfolk State 9


— Written by Chris Dougherty, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Dougherty also serves as a National Recruiting Analyst for and has written for other sites, including and Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @warontheweekend.

Norfolk State Spartans vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 10:55
Path: /college-football/stanford-cardinal-vs-northwestern-wildcats-preview-and-prediction-2015

This is a battle of contrasting styles, between a squad with a bruising running game and gritty defense versus a speedy team who likes to spread out and hurl the ball all over the field. Traditionally, the former would be from the Midwest while the latter hails from the West Coast. Actually, these two are the complete opposites of those stereotypes. The first team mentioned comes from the Pac-12 team while the second one belongs to the Big Ten.


This type of inter-sectional match matters in the minds of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. The Big Ten's reputation took a beating in September of last season in part due to the Pac-12's winning four of five of the regular season contests between the conferences. That tattered reputation could have cost Ohio State a berth in the playoffs if not for the co-championship mess in the Big 12.


Stanford leads this series 3-1-2. However, Northwestern is 1-0-1 against the Cardinal in Evanston.


Stanford Cardinal at Northwestern Wildcats


Kickoff: 11 a.m. CT (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Stanford +12


Three Things to Watch


1. Untried Wildcats' Quarterback versus Experienced Cardinal Secondary

Last week, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald announced that Clayton Thorson, a redshirt freshman, will start in the season-opener. He will be throwing against three seniors (Kodi Whitfield, Dallas Lloyd and Ronnie Harris), all of whom played in at least nine games during last season, plus a sophomore (Alijah Holder). If Thorson struggles, how long will Fitzgerald let that continue before inserting redshirt sophomore Matt Alviti or senior Zack Oliver into the game?


2. Senior Wildcat Skill Position Players Need to Alleviate Pressure on Young QB

Has fifth year senior wide receiver Christian Jones fully recovered from his torn ACL in order to serve Thorson as a dependable weapon downfield? The other upperclassmen at wide receiver, seniors Cameron Dickson, Miles Shuler and Pierre Youngblood-Ary plus juniors Mike McHugh, Andrew Scanlan and Austin Carr must do their utmost to break free of defenders and be open for passes. They cannot expect a quarterback making his first collegiate start to have pinpoint accuracy or squeeze the ball between his intended receiver and a defender blanketing his intended target. Also Dan Vitale will have to be able to serve as a safety valve for the neophyte under center. The knowledge that he does not throw perfectly and has running game to make the defense back off from blitzing frequently will maintain the confidence of the untested quarterback.


3. Early Kickoff Time

How will the 11 AM start affect the guys from the West Coast? Could the two-hour difference make the Cardinal sluggish in the first half? The fall quarter has not started yet so the crew from Palo Alto have not been waking up at the crack of dawn for classes. Have the players been mentally and physically preparing themselves for what will feel like a 6 AM wake-up call, if not earlier, for their season opener?


Final Analysis


As often happens when a Pacific Twelve team ventures eastward for an early kickoff, the visitors will seem lethargic. The Wildcats will also struggle on offense. The game should be low-scoring, in the single digits to the low teens, until the start of the second half. The Cardinal will have had their lattes at that point. Then they will proceed to pounding away with their running game, breaking off bigger gainers as the second half progresses. Stanford will run away with the game in the fourth quarter which is when the Cardinal will score the majority of its points.


Prediction: Stanford 34, Northwestern 12


— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.

Stanford Cardinal vs. Northwestern Wildcats Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 10:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC
Path: /college-football/ut-martin-skyhawks-vs-ole-miss-rebels-preview-and-prediction-2015

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has spent the last three seasons building the Rebels into one of the nation’s most talented teams. After a surprising 7-6 record in his first year in Oxford, Freeze landed the greatest recruiting class in school history, which included such supremely talented players as defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, tackle Laremy Tunsil, safety Tony Conner and tight end Evan Engram.


Because of their lofty professional prospects, it’s possible that each of those five players are playing their final seasons at Ole Miss as juniors, which means this is Freeze’s best shot for an SEC championship or possibly even a national title.


Related: Why Ole Miss Will or Won’t Win the SEC West in 2015


UT-Martin at Ole Miss


Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: SEC Network alternate
Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. Ole Miss Starting Quarterback Chad Kelly
Earlier this week, Hugh Freeze announced that quarterback Chad Kelly would get the start against UT Martin, but that Kelly’s top two competitors for the job - sophomores Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade – would also play and will still have an opportunity to wrestle the top spot on the depth chart away from Kelly. A junior in his first season in Oxford after beginning his college career at Clemson and spending 2014 at East Mississippi Community College, Kelly led EMCC to a 12-0 record and the NJCAA national championship last year. Expect him to shine against the Skyhawks and lock down the starting job for good by the SEC opener September 19 at Alabama.


2. Defensive Newcomers
By allowing an average of only 16 points per game, Ole Miss led the nation in scoring defense last season. However, four of the most important pieces of the unit - All-American defensive backs Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt and linebackers D.T. Shackelford and Serderius Bryant – have exhausted their eligibility. The linebacker replacements are familiar faces, specifically former starting defensive end C.J. Johnson who is expected to start in the middle and Denzel Nkemdiche, who will see early action on the outside, though both are listed as co-starters with Terry Caldwell and DeMarquis Gates, respectively.


The Rebels should lean on talented JUCO transfers Tony Bridges and Tee Shepard at cornerback this season (though Shepard, who was a member of the 2014 recruiting class that missed last season with a foot injury, is listed as a co-starter with Kendarius Webster). Fellow transfer D.J. Jones will serve as one of the primary backups at defensive tackle and should be a major contributer in the D-Line rotation.


3. Improvement in the Running Game
Last season, Ole Miss ranked tenth in the SEC and No. 73 in the nation in rushing offense (155.5 yards per game), but there is reason to believe that will improve in 2015. The Rebels have the SEC’s most experienced offensive line (120 combined career starts) and got even better with true freshman left guard Javon Patterson earning a starting spot. The depth at the running back position is strong thanks to last year’s top two leading returning rushers Jaylen Watkins and Jordan Wilkins, plus Akeem Judd is a developing contributor. Finally, Kelly is a mobile quarterback and should be a bigger threat in the running game than departed starter Bo Wallace.


Final Analysis


Ole Miss is a legitimate contender in the SEC West and UT Martin was 6-6 last season on the FCS level, and lost to Kentucky 59-13 and Mississippi State 45-16. This game is simply a warm-up for the Rebels that will allow Freeze and the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate the team on the field heading into a Week 2 matchup with a much tougher Fresno State squad, and then the SEC opener at Alabama.


Prediction: Ole Miss 45, UT-Martin 3


— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Allen's work on college football can also be found on and Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.

UT-Martin Skyhawks vs. Ole Miss Rebels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12
Path: /college-football/south-dakota-state-jackrabbits-vs-kansas-jayhawks-game-preview-and-prediction-2015

The honeymoon is over for new Kansas head coach David Beaty. On Saturday, he'll begin his first season at the helm of the Jayhawk program. He'll be leading a young and inexperienced squad into in a 2015 campaign where moral victories are going to be the norm. It's going to be a true rebuilding effort in Kansas — more so than any other time in recent memory.


In seasons like these, it's nice for a program in the Jayhawks' state to start off the year with a more manageable opponent — perhaps even an FCS school. Well, they got the FCS school, I'm just not sure about the manageable part.


Related: Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 1


South Dakota State is among the toughest FCS programs — year in, year out — as of late. They play in the Missouri Valley, considered by many as the "SEC of FCS." They hold their own in that conference, which is also home to 4-time defending FCS national champion North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits lost five games a season ago: two to North Dakota State, one to FCS runner-up Illinois State, one to fellow FCS powerhouse Youngstown State and one to SEC finalist Missouri. They averaged a 19-point margin of victory in their nine wins. South Dakota State is quite simply a sound program that does not lose to bad teams.


South Dakota State at Kansas


Kickoff: 11 a.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: N/A

Spread: N/A


Three Things to Watch


1. How effective will the Jackrabbit running game be without Zack Zenner?

As South Dakota State prepares for Kansas, Zenner is getting dressed in the Detroit Lions roster, trying to continue his career. Replacing the most prolific FCS running back from the past two seasons won't be easy. In fact, it will be done by committee. Brady Mengarelli and Reggie Gandy are expected to split carries — at least early on in the season. Both are smaller than Zenner with different running styles. They are nowhere near the bruiser Zenner was between the tackles, but they are every bit as quick into and through the hole. The Jayhawks defense — led by linebacker Jake Love — will need to stay loyal to their gap assignments to prevent the Jackrabbit duo from hitting home runs in the running game all afternoon.


2. Can the Jayhawks jump out to a lead early?

The quickest way to take a would-be underdog out of a game is to jump on them early and take the emotion out of the contest. Jayhawk quarterback Montell Cozart will need to pilot his offense to some long drives that yield points early. That will be easier said than done against a South Dakota State defense that returns nine starters. Kansas' inexperienced receiving corps — led by Tre' Parmalee — might need to grow up early and make a couple of big plays for the Jayhawks to start fast.


3. Can the Jayhawks slow down the Jackrabbit passing game?

In previous years, the running game has been the bread and butter of the South Dakota State offense. In 2015, however, the passing game looks to be the strength of the offensive attack. Quarterback Zach Lugan will have one of the most talented young receivers in the country in Jake Wieneke to throw to again. In 2014 as a true freshman, Wieneke caught 73 balls for 1,404 yards, earning him Missouri Valley Freshman of the Year honors. Kansas will attempt to counter the passing attack with a secondary that returns no starters.


Final Analysis


As you can tell, this game has bad news written all over it for Kansas. If they win, nobody cares, because you are supposed to beat FCS schools as a Power-5 program. The fact of the matter is, the Jackrabbits enter this game as the better coached, more experienced and arguably more talented team. It's going to be a long day followed by a long season in Lawrence. Brighter days are probably ahead, but not anytime soon — and especially not Saturday.


Prediction: South Dakota State 31, Kansas 20


— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. Kansas Jayhawks Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 10:40
Path: /college-football/boise-state-broncos-vs-washington-huskies-preview-and-prediction-2015

Washington coach Chris Petersen returns to familiar surroundings on Friday night, as the Huskies take on Boise State in one of the top matchups from Week 1. Petersen guided the Broncos to 92 wins from 2006-13 and left to take over for Steve Sarkisian prior to the 2014 season. Petersen’s debut wasn’t quite the year most expected (8-6), and the Huskies are in rebuild mode with only eight returning starters this fall.


On the other sideline, Bryan Harsin was tapped to replace Petersen, and the former Boise State quarterback and assistant is off to a great start after guiding the program to a 12-2 record and a Fiesta Bowl win last season. Despite breaking in a new quarterback and running back to replace Jay Ajayi, the Broncos are projected by most to be the top Group of 5 team in 2015.


Washington and Boise State have played three times, with the Huskies holding a 2-1 edge. The last meeting between these two programs came in 2012, and this will be the Huskies’ first trip to the blue turf for a regular season matchup.


Washington at Boise State


Kickoff: 10:15 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Boise State -13


Three Things to Watch


1. Who Starts for Washington at Quarterback?

Washington ended fall camp with three players locked into a tight battle for the starting job. True freshman Jake Browning, redshirt freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels and junior Jeff Lindquist battled all offseason for the No. 1 spot, and a clear frontrunner did not emerge prior to game week. Browning has the most talent, but Carta-Samuels and Lindquist bring more mobility to the offense, which could be a valuable asset behind a revamped offensive line. Regardless of which quarterback takes the first snap, they will be going against a tough Boise State defense and a raucous home crowd in Albertsons Stadium. This is not the ideal scenario for breaking in a new quarterback.


2. Ryan Finley’s First Start at QB/New RB for Boise State

Boise State usually has no trouble reloading at quarterback. Will that be the case once again in 2015? With Grant Hedrick departing, Finley is set to make his first start for the Broncos on Friday night. In limited action last season, Finley completed 12 of 27 passes for 161 yards and two scores. The Arizona native is surrounded by a strong supporting cast up front and has proven weapons in Thomas Sperbeck and Shane Williams-Rhodes to target in the passing attack. Similar to the quarterback spot, finding the next standout at running back usually doesn’t present many headaches for Boise State. While Jay Ajayi’s production (1,823 yards) will be missed, there are capable candidates in the mix. Jeremy McNichols is the frontrunner for carries, followed by Stanford transfer Kelsey Young and Devan Demas. Who will emerge as the clear No. 1? Or will this be a committee approach?


3. Washington’s Revamped Defense

An overlooked aspect of Washington’s offseason has to be the new faces stepping in on defense after the departures of standouts Shaq Thompson (LB), Danny Shelton (NT), Hau’oli Kikaha (DE/LB) and Andrew Hudson (end). That’s a lot of key pieces to replace in one offseason from a group that allowed 24.8 points per game in 2014. This unit returns four starters for 2015, including standout safety Budda Baker. But the front seven must be revamped, and the Huskies lost virtually their entire pass rush with the departures of Kikaha, Hudson and Shelton. While this unit must be revamped, there is talent in the mix – it’s just inexperienced. Will this unit quickly find the right mix? Or will the Huskies’ defense struggle on the road at Boise State?


Final Analysis


Chris Petersen and his return to Boise State will get most of the attention in this game. While Petersen seems to be the right coach for Washington, it’s going to take some time to rebuild the depth chart after heavy offseason departures. And it certainly doesn’t help the Huskies’ upset bid to enter this matchup with uncertainty at quarterback. Washington has too many new faces to win this one, but this team will get better as the year progresses. Finley and McNichols turn in a solid performance in their debut, and the Broncos begin their run to another New Year’s Six bowl game with 14-point victory.


Prediction: Boise State 34, Washington 20
Boise State Broncos vs. Washington Huskies Preview and Prediction
Post date: Friday, September 4, 2015 - 10:15