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The Deflategate circus continues to drag on this week, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell still waiting to release his verdict on Tom Brady's appeal from over a month ago. As we've seen numerous times this spring and into the summer, the void of a decision was filled once again by leaked reports, this time that Brady was negotiating with the NFL over a settlement.
That report was then undermined by another source saying the NFLPA had submitted a settlement proposal to the NFL, but heard nothing back.
This is all par for the course with Deflategate. As the official word from the NFL front office remains silence, those working behind the scenes through the media are the ones driving the perception on the story.
It didn't take long for the media to pounce on the latest settlement report, viewing acceptance of any penalty as an admission of guilt by Brady.
If the sourced reports are right that Tom Brady offered to pay a large fine in lieu of a suspension, isn't that an admission of guilt?— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) July 23, 2015
This is unavoidable now for Brady. He has no choice but to take the NFL to court unless his entire punishment is absolved. And with NFL owners reportedly lobbying for the commissioner to keep Brady's entire four-game suspension intact, it's unlikely that the Goodell will let Brady off scott-free regardless of how compelling a case he made in June behind closed doors.
It's understandable why Brady might consider accepting a game fine. For one, money is not an issue to him, and two, it removes all uncertainty from Brady suiting up for the entire 2015 season and effectively puts the whole thing behind him and the team, avoiding an unwanted distraction spilling over into another year.
If Brady does take the NFL to court, his chances of having the entire punishment wiped out are good, however they wouldn't be certain. He'd immediately need to get an injunction to stay his suspension until a judge could hear the case. Again, this could happen quickly, but you never know when putting it in the hands of the court.
Getting that initial injunction would be the key, because given the NFL's track record when they're taken to court, Brady would likely get a favorable ruling. But still, the proceedings would drag into the fall and remain an issue for the Patriots as they embark on their Super Bowl title defense.
Robert Kraft's capitulation on the team's punishment already set the table for the "acceptance is admission of guilt" crowd, Brady cannot go down that same road or those voices will become louder and permanent.
It's hard to imagine how the NFL could've handled Deflategate much worse. At every turn they've been internally undermined by leaks that drove the public perception, and there seems to be an entire set of sources looking to make things look as bad for Brady and the Patriots as they can.
This all leaves Brady no choice. His owner fell on his sword and apparently won no goodwill from the league or the public. Brady must fight to uncover the truth behind what's going on behind the scenes at the NFL and why Deflategate has been inflated into one of the sports crimes of the century.
Clearing his name completely in a court of law is the only way to preserve what's left of his legacy.
Ohio State’s quarterback battle is officially down to J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. Braxton Miller was expected to push Barrett and Jones for the starting job in the fall, but in an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, the senior has indicated he will shift to receiver/H-back in the fall.
“For the most part, it’s going to be H-Back and punt return,” Miller told Sports Illustrated. “It’s a long process to get back totally to throwing and throwing every day. …God blessed me with a lot of talent and different opportunities. I’m going to have fun with that and still score a lot of touchdowns and help the team out and be dominant at that.”
Although Miller was one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks prior to his injury, recovering from shoulder surgery complicated his return under center, and the Buckeyes have two talented and proven options in Jones and Barrett. Miller missed all of 2014 due to injury and was limited in spring recovering from shoulder surgery.
Miller’s future in the NFL was at receiver or running back and the transition in 2015 allows the senior to grow into the receiver/H-back position and develop before reaching the next level.
Podcast: ACC, Big 12 Media Days and Talkin’ Season
Miller’s shift to receiver adds another versatile weapon in coach Urban Meyer’s arsenal. The Buckeyes had one of the top receiving corps in the Big Ten headed into 2015, and Miller’s playmaking ability adds to a group that already features Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Corey Smith and Dontre Wilson.
With Miller officially transitioning to receiver, Jones and Barrett will compete to take the first snap of the season. While the decision gets a little easier for Meyer, both Jones and Barrett are capable of contending for the Heisman Trophy and leading Ohio State to a national championship. Could there be packages for both players to get on the field at the same time? Or perhaps Jones starts with a package of plays for Barrett? That's the task for Meyer and co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warinner.
Ohio State’s quarterback battle was college football’s biggest storyline headed into fall practice. Even though Miller has moved to receiver, the battle between Barrett and Jones is just beginning. Regardless of who starts under center, the Buckeyes are loaded for another run for the national title. And the addition of Miller to the receiving corps just adds another weapon for Barrett or Jones in the passing attack.
Colin Cowherd is leaving ESPN and putting a blazing trail behind him.
On "The Herd with Colin Cowherd," the radio host talked about the complexity of baseball and didn't hold back.
"It's too complex?" Cowherd asked. "I've never bought into that 'baseball is too complex.' Really? A third of the sports is from the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has not been known in my lifetime as having world class academic abilities."
My God pic.twitter.com/wajIN5Ft2h— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) July 23, 2015
Blue Jays rightfielder, and proud Dominican, Jose Bautista took issue with Cowherd's harsh take on things, and tweeted to him for an explanation.
Dear Mr. @ESPN_Colin before i rip you a new one i would like for you to explain what u meant to say about baseball and dominicans, please— Jose Bautista (@JoeyBats19) July 23, 2015
This won't be the last we hear about this matter.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Houston Astros have made the first major move, acquiring Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics. There had been plenty of speculation that the Astros were targeting a quality starting pitcher, and they did such. Just two games back in the AL West, the Astros lost their lead just before the All-Star break.
In the deal, the Astros traded away two prospects, pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. Kazmir is set to be a free agent at the end of the year, showing that the Astros are committed to winning now. As he was scheduled to start today’s game for the A’s before being traded, he should be slated to pitch soon.
See the Astros' welcome to him:
Preseason camp hasn’t started, but preseason talkin’ season is in full swing. With a little more than a month left before the season, the media day circus is still going. The ACC and Big 12 wrapped up their media days this week with some interesting picks at the top.
On this week’s Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast:
• ACC commissioner John Swofford reiterated his preference for an eight-team playoff, a stance echoed by a handful of coaches in other leagues.
• The ACC media picked Clemson to win the league, which is all sorts of wrong.
• Deshaun Watson was the ACC’s preseason player of the year pick ahead of last year’s winner, James Conner of Pittsburgh. That led us to consider which defending league players of the year have a chance to repeat in 2015.
• Steve Spurrier called a surprise press conference to complain about his “enemies.” This should surprise no one.
• The changing of the guard in the Big 12 was apparent as Art Briles and Gary Patterson enjoyed their time in the spotlight while Charlie Strong and Bob Stoops were on the defensive.
• On our kids' sports question segment, we talk about the proper age for a kid to start playing fantasy sports and why NCAA eligibility rules must be perplexing to a 6-year-old.
When St. Thomas Aquinas defensive end Nick Bosa verbally committed to Ohio State on Thursday few were surprised. The Buckeyes had an “in” with the Fort Lauderdale talent, who got a front row seat in watching older brother Joey amass one postseason honor after another in helping Ohio State win the first-ever College Football Playoff last season.
Despite offenses trying to run away from Nick throughout his junior season, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound, talent still came up with 56 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss, and five sacks. Offers came in from top schools despite many feeling Nick would follow older brother Joey to Columbus. Alabama, Michigan State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Boston College, Illinois, and in-state powers Florida, Miami and Florida State all took turns trying to court the 5-star recruit.
On April 28 Bosa named OSU his leader but still took unofficial visits to Florida and Florida State in July. Around noon Thursday the wait was over when Bosa posted his decision on Twitter:
Just wanted to let everyone know I'm committed to THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY !!! pic.twitter.com/XZNcjRPHbQ— Nick Bosa (@nbsmallerbear) July 23, 2015
Nick’s rating as the top defensive end in the 2016 recruiting class has pushed Ohio State to the top of several recruiting ranks. Urban Meyer now has two 5-star commitments with De Paul Catholic (Wayne, N.J.) running back Kareem Walker and Bosa. Of the 16 remaining verbal commitments 13 are considered 4-star recruits.
Many believe Nick can be an immediate impact player like Joey, although few doubt the two will be on the field at the same time. Joey (6-6, 275) was a unanimous All-American selection last year, winning the Big Ten’s Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award and the Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year honor. He also was a finalist for the Outland Trophy, Ted Hendricks Award, and the Lombardi Award after leading the conference with 21 tackles for a loss and 13.5 sacks.
Speculation has Joey declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft as an early entry candidate.
— 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, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.
Ole Miss will have a tough time in the SEC West this season but by the looks of things, they're ready.
The Rebels are giving an inside look at their summer workouts and they're pretty intense. UT Martin will be in for a tough time on September 5th. Hugh Freeze is definitely whipping his players into the best shape of their lives.
The weirdest thing happened on Sunday at New Hampshire, one of the slickest tracks on the NASCAR circuit. On a day with blistering heat, drivers struggling to maintain traction on the 1.017-mile oval, there was a total of two spins (Paul Menard and Alex Bowman, whose No. 7 car pancaked the wall on the final lap). Only one car failed to finish the race, as five of the seven cautions we saw were for “debris” or “fluid” on the track. In multiple cases, “debris” turned out to be nothing more than a driver water bottle.
NASCAR took the drivers to task this week, claiming they’ll take a “closer look” at drivers trying to manipulate yellow flags by throwing out debris. But how about taking a closer look at when you throw the yellow? Those bottles, positioned well off the racing line, were limited safety hazards to the competition. Any driver will tell you that if you want to find debris on the track, you can spot some; everything from excess rubber to hot dog wrappers accumulates throughout the day when there are 43 cars and 70,000 fans surrounding the racetrack.
At least NASCAR television is showing the debris each time, a simple courtesy fans didn’t get just a couple of years (or even races) ago. But there’s a huge difference between a water bottle and a giant piece of scrap metal on the racetrack. The latter will absolutely cut a tire down immediately; a plastic bottle outside the racing groove is far less of a risk. Throwing the yellow each time there’s a teeny piece of something somewhere sounds like excessive panic, the local school hall monitors gone wild.
Which leads us to the real reason “debris” has become such a big factor. When’s there’s limited passing, like on Sunday, limited unpredictability and little action on the racetrack, what better way to produce some than bunching up the field? Double-file restarts produce the best action under a rules package where passing is like Mission: Impossible. With no drivers losing control, the product of a car that may be too easy to drive at times the only way to produce those restarts is finding those water bottles.
No wonder why NASCAR needs that new rules package. They can crack down on plastic all they want but fans don’t come to the races to have drivers recycle. They want them side-by-side, slamming fenders and racing the bejesus out of each other.
Let’s hope the new rules produce that.
Through the gears we go…
FIRST GEAR: Kyle’s Killer Run Toward The Chase
I’ll admit, I was skeptical Kyle Busch could make the top 30 in points this season. Missing the year’s first 11 races put him at an incredible disadvantage. But now, after his third race win at New Hampshire, clearing that hurdle appears a mere formality. With seven races left, Busch needs to gain less than 60 points on rivals David Gilliland and Cole Whitt to reach 30th place. Considering how underfunded those drivers are it would take a series of wrecks and misfortunes for Busch to stay behind them at this point.
The question now becomes, with Busch entering the 16-driver Chase, whether he’ll be a title contender. Early returns say yes, considering New Hampshire is a Chase track and how Joe Gibbs Racing has closed the gap on the field with NASCAR’s new rule packages. The jury is still out on what setup the sport will use in the Chase but any sniff of a switch to low downforce and Busch may become (gulp) the title favorite. It’s a scary thought for NASCAR, worried about how fans will embrace a champion who missed the first third of the season.
SECOND GEAR: Big Miss For Michael Waltrip Racing
Sunday was supposed to be a big moment for Michael Waltrip Racing. Clint Bowyer, seemingly a longshot to make the Chase, had fought himself into the field in recent weeks. David Ragan qualified third in the No. 55 car, a team that’s a previous New Hampshire winner and was in position to pull a huge upset. It appeared MWR was riding JGR’s coattails at Toyota, as their four-car compatriots had found a surge in speed with the Camry.
Instead, MWR fell flat on their face Sunday. Bowyer, who hit Jeff Gordon during a bizarre incident inside the garage Saturday, never seemed to recover from that bout of bad luck. His car was all over the track, hitting the wall and other cars en route to damaging the right rear. A 34th-place finish actually took him out of the Chase, two points behind Aric Almirola and 28 behind Paul Menard. The distance between him and Menard is important; Busch’s charge to the Chase will make Menard, not Almirola the bubble driver the second the three-race winner climbs into the top 30.
For Ragan, his car was never competitive, sliding back at the start and needing to fight just to finish 18th. He’s failed to lead a lap since coming over to replace Brian Vickers in mid-May and done little to convince MWR executives he deserves a contract extension. So will Vickers, out due to blood clots, wind up returning to the seat at some point? Could the team make a run at Danica Patrick with Stewart-Haas Racing struggling to find her sponsorship? Or will Bowyer, frustrated over this season-long slump, start looking elsewhere? MWR has already switched crew chiefs but a more serious shakeup appears inevitable.
THIRD GEAR: Hendrick’s Road To Recovery
The past two weeks haven’t been kind to Hendrick Motorsports engines and chassis. Joe Gibbs Racing smoked them at Kentucky, taking four of the top five spots; then, no HMS driver led more than two laps Sunday at New Hampshire. Six-time champ Jimmie Johnson, who’s often struggled there, suffered through a pit road speeding penalty and wound up 22nd. Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne were invisible while Dale Earnhardt Jr., despite running fifth claimed “more speed” was needed from the outfit to stay competitive.
Are HMS and partner Stewart-Haas Racing, both of whom excelled under the old rules package, in trouble? Hold the phone. Indy’s up next, a track they’ve owned for much of the past decade and a place where the new “high-drag” rules package gives them a chance to redeem themselves. Chevy has won the last 12 Brickyard 400s and half of those have come courtesy of HMS. All eyes will be on Gordon, considered a native of both California and Indiana, as he wraps up his career on the 2.5-mile speedway. The race’s defending champ, Gordon has struggled this season and needs a victory to lock himself into the postseason without relying on points.
Should the No. 24 team falter, Johnson is there to step up; he’s won three of the last seven at Indy. And how about points leader Kevin Harvick? He’s got an Indy victory from 2003. Something tells me this Chevy outfit will be just fine….
FOURTH GEAR: Dirt Trackin’ It
The past few years, the best part of Indianapolis hasn’t been the big Cup race but rather a small one happening down the road over in Northwest Ohio. Eldora Speedway hosted NASCAR’s Truck Series Thursday night for a dirt track showdown held in front of a packed house. Young Christopher Bell held off Bobby Pierce as cars spread three-, four-, even five-wide to keep fans on their feet all night. It was the perfect mix of young drivers, series veterans and even Cup regulars, as Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski made the 32-driver field.
In the midst of another A+ performance, the question is raised again why NASCAR doesn’t have a dirt track race for the Cup Series. With so many struggles at intermediate tracks why not throw a midsummer classic in there for the Cup field and see what happens? Dirt track racing produces parity, allowing even the smallest teams like the Mittler Brothers’ No. 63 and Pierce to run up front. This race had fresh faces, continual action and an unpredictable finish, the type of competition the Cup Series badly needs these days.
Looking for Tony Stewart to turn the corner this weekend? Don’t bet on it. Indy may be one of Stewart’s best tracks, living up to his name as a hometown hero, but he hasn’t even led a lap there since 2011… The focus will be on Jeff Gordon at Indy but don’t forget about Kasey Kahne. Kahne, still searching for his first victory at the Brickyard 400 led a race-high 70 laps last year… Carl Edwards, Sunday’s pole sitter at New Hampshire, may finally be showing some signs of life. He’s quietly put together back-to-back top-10 finishes for the first time all year with his new No. 19 Toyota outfit…Behind Clint Bowyer, it looks like every other winless driver in the standings will have to reach Victory Lane to make the Chase. Greg Biffle, the next man behind Bowyer in the Chase race is 65 points back of Aric Almirola with seven races left and 91 behind Paul Menard. That deficit appears insurmountable.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
With the MLB Trade Deadline approaching, the most frantic few weeks in baseball are about to unfold. As always, several high-profile players could be headed to new destinations to help out a team that desperately needs an upgrade. Take a look at some players who will probably be headed elsewhere:
David Price, SP
With the recent reports that David Price will be made available for trade, he suddenly becomes the top available pitcher, if not overall player. Wherever he lands, he becomes an immediate impact in their rotation. He could be a No. 1 starter on most teams and will help a team’s chances immensely right away. His move to the trading block may shake up the entire trade deadline period.
Cole Hamels, SP
The Phillies’ ace is signed through 2018 with an option for 2019, so wherever he lands, he will be spending at least a few guaranteed years in that location. That adds to much of the appeal, as he’ll help any team for more than just the remainder of the season. He’s arguably been as good as ever this year with a great 3.02 ERA, although his team hasn’t given him much support. Hamels has been linked to potential trades on several teams since well before the season, and it’s only a short amount of time until its official.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP
As the Phillies hold baseball’s worst record, Jonathan Papelbon has stated his desire to play for a real contender. If he gets his way, he will be dealt elsewhere, and he’s been very good this year, despite being 34. He has been a perfect 16-16 in save opportunities with a 1.72 ERA, but that’s one of the lowest amount of saves for any premier closer in the MLB.
Johnny Cueto, SP
Since 2011, Cueto has maintained an ERA below 3.00 and is definitely worthy of near-elite status in the MLB. But with this season as the last on his contract, a team looking to make a late post season run will certainly vie for his help. A team that needs another strong pitcher will look his way, as he provides plenty of skill and depth.
Jeff Samardzija, SP
There’s little doubt that the Chicago White Sox are not completely satisfied with the performance Jeff Samadrzija has put up so far this season. After posting a 2.99 ERA last year with the Cubs and A’s, his ERA has skyrocketed to 4.33 this season. However, many still believe that he has dominant stuff and could help to deepen a rotation for a potential playoff team this year.
Scott Kazmir, SP
For a team looking for a solid, veteran presence with an efficient deal, Scott Kazmir certainly provides those qualities, as he posts some of the best numbers of his career. With Price, Hamels, and Cueto as the biggest names on the market, Kazmir should require less in a trade with the A’s. If he continues pitching as well as he is now, he could end up being one of the better deals this July.
Ben Zobrist, Utility
Very few players are as versatile as Ben Zobrist, and that’s what makes him a top trade deadline candidate. He can fill in at almost any spot and provides a pretty solid bat in the lineup. If a team is looking for somebody to help bolster their lineup, Zobrist might be one of the better players because of his consistency. 2015 is his last year on his contract, and he can fill a hitting or fielding hole on teams wanting to push into the playoffs.
Yoenis Cespedes, OF
Like David Price, Cespedes becomes a major player available with recent reports of his availability. He’s having one of the best seasons of his career and is being sought after aggressively by several teams interested in an outfielder. The Tigers can get a lot of value out of their two high-caliber trade chips if they ultimately decide to part ways with them.
Justin Upton, OF
There’s a strong chance that Justin Upton ends up on yet another team, after being traded to the Padres during the offseason. The Padres are almost certainly out of playoff contention in the strong NL West, so they may be looking to push Upton for their future. In the last year of his contract, he’s hitting for solid power and great speed. He would provide a playoff-contention team with a nice bat in the outfield.
Cameron Maybin, OF
Maybe leaving San Diego was a blessing, as Cameron Maybin is having the best season of his career by a significant amount. He is batting just under .300 with eight homeruns and 16 stolen bases. Maybin has certainly been one of the league’s biggest surprises and all of a sudden makes for an interest trade candidate with a contract set to expire in 2016 with an option for 2017.
Adam Lind, 1B
For the past three seasons, Adam Lind has been playing exceptionally and has already belted 15 home runs this year. He’s a very cost effective, veteran option that can produce well if a team has a need for a first baseman or designated hitter. He ranks in the top 10 on offense for first basemen and will help add value at the position.
Jay Bruce, OF
The Reds are way out of the division race at this point, and it looks like they are going to be sellers within the upcoming days. He would add decent power to a lineup, although he won’t add too much. He’s probably not the difference between making the playoffs and missing out, but he could be extra depth or a slight upgrade in a depleted outfield.
With the start of training camp on the horizon, several NFL teams will have some important decisions to make. The quarterback position is arguably the most vital to a team’s success, and some teams need time to name their starter. Here are the teams that have quarterback competitions from now and potentially throughout the season (ranked in order of competition level):
Buffalo Bills: Matt Cassel, EJ Manuel, Tyrod Taylor
Of all the quarterback battles, the Bills have the least foresight into who will be starting game one of the season. When the Bills traded for Cassel, it looked as if he would be the leading candidate for the job. Manuel was benched after an uninspiring start for Kyle Orton, who retired after the offseason. The battle so open that even free agent acquisition Tyrod Taylor has a good chance to start. Taylor has never started an NFL game in his career and has attempted just 35 passes in his four-year career. It’s really to soon to pick a favorite, but Cassel was a huge disappointment in OTAs and minicamp.
Houston Texans: Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
When the Patriots drafted Ryan Mallett, there was some speculation that he might one day follow in Tom Brady’s footsteps. Mallett replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Texans starting quarterback, but he succumbed to a season-ending injury during his second start. Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer started most of last season for the Browns and actually won over half his games. However, neither of them really shined long enough to create a standout choice. Hoyer should be the favorite early on because he has more experience and consistency.
Philadelphia Eagles: Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez
The Eagles gave up a lot to bring in Sam Bradford with the idea that he will be the team’s starter. But there have to be a lot of questions about whether or not Bradford is the right quarterback, especially with his injury history. In five NFL seasons, Bradford has only completed a full season twice. Two ACL tears in the past two years have to be extremely concerning. However, his upside his certainly much higher than Mark Sanchez, and he has been very good in the games he has played. Meanwhile, Sanchez played pretty well in half a season last year, putting up some of the best numbers of his career. A healthy Bradford takes the battle, but that’s assuming he’s 100% good to go.
New York Jets: Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick
Jets fans, like all New York fans, are tough. Geno Smith’s career has been very erratic, with ups and downs scattered throughout. Very much of the same can be said about Ryan Fitzpatrick’s career. Geno Smith is certainly the favorite and should be in line to start the season. But there has to be a lot of concern over his ability to play consistently for a full 16-game stretch. If the Jets struggle early on, when will they make a switch at quarterback?
Cleveland Browns: Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel
Maybe this will develop into a quarterback battle, but as of now, the focus is on giving Josh McCown the job and letting Manziel mature some more. McCown will start week one, but when will Manziel come in to play? He has never played a full season, so Manziel starting some games in inevitable. The question therefore isn’t “if”, it’s “when”. This isn’t a battle in training camp; rather, it’s a full season competition.
It's obvious Cardale Jones is an outspoken athlete. One thing people fail to realize is that he's also a human, not just a quarterback.
The Ohio State QB sent out a tweet related to recent social issues. Many people are changing out #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter. It's caused somewhat of an uproar and didn't sit well with Jones. On his own Twitter account, he simply put out his thoughts on it.
You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define "All" ?— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) July 23, 2015
One Buckeyes fan opposed to the quarterback getting involved in things such as this. He wanted him to keep his opinions on the matter to himself and "worry about getting us fans another championship." Jones responded in the only way he knew how.
Although the fan tried to issue an apology, it was a little too late. Members of Buckeye Nation mentioned this guy isn't a part, nor should he reflect the majority of their community. Jones finished with one simple tweet about his freedom of speech.
One thing about your own opinion, ITS YOURS!— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) July 23, 2015
One thing you can't argue with, Jones is never going to apologize for being himself, nor should he.
The public shaming has led the Twitter user to delete his account. A search for DanGustafson1 doesn't result in a profile anymore.
Let's get this out of the way right now... the Colts are going to win the AFC South title once again in 2015. It's a combination of Indy being that good and the rest of the division being that bad. That said, the Jags are building something nice and the Titans hope that Marcus Mariota is a franchise-changer.
Much like I did with the college football win totals, I will break down the schedules in terms of home and road opponents outside the division. In most situations, I'll give a split to each team in divisional play with them winning at home and losing on the road. Vegas is much more on the ball in the NFL compared to college football so the numbers are a lot sharper.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 8.5 wins -135, Under 8.5 wins +115)
Record Last Year: 9-7
Offense: Once again there is uncertainty at quarterback with Houston. The Texans appear set to go from Ryan Fitzpatrick to either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett under center. This is a battle to watch all training camp, although neither will cause me to change my prediction on this team. They will rely as always on Arian Foster, who continues to amaze at running back. Andre Johnson is no longer streaking down the sidelines so that means it's DeAndre Hopkins leading the way. Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington and rookie Jaelen Strong will add WR depth.
Defense: J.J. Watt has a new best friend in Vince Wilfork. The ex-Patriot should be able to clog up the middle for Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, who didn't really get the chance to show much in his rookie season. The secondary is stout with Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and rookie Kevin Johnson out of Wake Forest.
Schedule: Houston has one of the later byes in Week 9. The Texans' worst stretch is probably Weeks 13-15 when they play at Buffalo, host New England and travel to Indy. It's a quick turnaround for their home game against the Colts in October because it comes four days after a road game at the Falcons.
Prediction: Slight lean to the under although I'm not that confident in that. The quarterback uncertainty isn't good and nor is my confidence that Arian Foster will play all 16 games. The defense will keep them in a lot of games, but the offense will struggle at times.
(Over 10.5 wins -165, Under 10.5 wins +145)
Record Last Year: 11-5
Offense: There aren't enough words for how awesome Andrew Luck has been in so far in his career. Look for those numbers to go up even more this year as the team added a couple of WRs to help. Andre Johnson brings a veteran presence while first-round pick Phillip Dorsett brings the speed. When Indy decides to run the ball, Luck will hand off to Frank Gore, who figures to take over the carries from Trent Richardson (now in Oakland).
Defense: It's this side of the ball that experienced more losses this offseason. Leaving are Ricky Jean-Francois, LaRon Landry, Cory Redding and Sergio Brown. Trent Cole is a nice pick up to play linebacker for the Colts. The CBs are decent with Greg Toler and Vontae Davis. Getting pressure on the quarterback could be an issue at times.
Schedule: Indy also has a late bye, getting its breather in Week 10. After that time off, the Colts travel to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Jacksonville in a four-week span. The Colts get three of four games at home in late October into early November, hosting the Patriots, Saints and Broncos.
Prediction: The over is the play here although not at that price. It's a foregone conclusion that the Colts win at least three of their four games against the Titans and Jaguars, neither of which are ready for primetime. The question becomes when do they clinch the division and do they rest their stars.
(Over 5.5 wins -145, Under 5.5 wins +125)
Record Last Year: 3-13
Offense: Year two of Blake Bortles figures to produce better results compared to his rookie season. Bortles showed flashes of both brilliance and struggles, so the hope this season is for more consistency and fewer turnovers. The Jags improved his offensive line adding former Cowboy Jermey Parnell. The team also gave its young quarterback a legitimate weapon in tight end Julius Thomas, who thrived catching passes from Peyton Manning the past two seasons. Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee will all have to show some improvement in their second year.
Defense: Absolutely awful news for this side of the ball when No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler got hurt in offseason workouts. This unit is on its way to being respectable. They finished with the sixth-most sacks in the NFL and can point to Chris Clemons and Sen'Derrick Marks. Middle linebacker Paul Posluszny needs to play all 16 games in 2015 after missing half of last year with a torn chest muscle.
Schedule: Jacksonville's road games are grouped for the most part. The Jaguars play at New England, at Indianapolis and at Tampa Bay Weeks 3-5. The Jags also have a London trip against the Bills on Oct. 25. The friendliest home stretch is from Weeks 11-15 when they are home four times in five contests.
Prediction: While this is an improving squad, the under is still the play. This might be the most unfriendly schedule in the NFL. There will be some great times for the Jags, who are still growing, but there will be some ugly efforts against some of the better teams in the league.
(Over 5.5 wins -105, Under 5.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 2-14
Offense: With No. 2 overall pick Marcus Mariota finally signed, the starting quarterback job appears to be his to lose during training camp. By accounts, he's impressed in offseason workouts. Former Falcon Harry Douglas comes over to help Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker serve as weapons for the Heisman Trophy winner. The running game is a question mark with Bishop Sankey and rookie David Cobb likely to share carries in some fashion.
Defense: Tennessee addressed this side of the ball with the additions of Perrish Cox and Brian Orakpo. Jurrell Casey was a disruptor up the middle with five sacks in 2014. Michael Griffin is a solid veteran in the secondary.
Schedule: The Titans have their first two games on the road before four straight home dates with a bye interspersed. They don't leave Tennessee from Sept. 27 to Oct. 25. Tennessee plays three of its last four games on the road against possible playoff teams in the Jets, Patriots and Colts.
Prediction: The under is the play here. This is a squad with a rookie quarterback and a mediocre run game. That means the Titans will have to rely on Mariota's arm, which is not the way to go in his first season. There's improvement coming, but it's not going to be until 2016 or '17.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
Nebraska football is king in the state. With the way the team trains in the offseason, it's easy to understand why.
The Huskers are literally taking no days off as they prepare for the 2015 season. Nebraska will take the field at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 5 against BYU, and it's sure to be a game to remember.
With scenic views and a hardworking team, the whole city of Lincoln is ready for to see how this season plays out.
Every team has one player who, if he steps up and plays to or even above his potential, could be the catalyst for a championship season. The Group of Five teams are no different, as many of them have key players who could be the difference between another season of national obscurity and possibly playing with the big boys to ring in the new year.
Here now are the Wild Card players from the Group of Five:
Parker Ehinger, OT, Cincinnati
Ehinger is one of two bookend senior tackles on the Bearcat line. He'll be tasked with protecting Gunner Kiel's blindside.
Colton Freeman, C, Houston
The Cougars have high hopes in their first season under new head coach Tom Herman. They'll need their freshman center to play like an upperclassman if 2015 is going to be a success.
Jamir Tillman, WR, Navy
You don't usually think of "elite receivers" when you think of Navy. That said, Tillman is a tough matchup who will give Navy's offense an added deep-ball dimension that could make this offense pretty lethal.
Sandley Jean-Felix, OT, Marshall
The Herd will be working in a new quarterback for the first time in what feels like forever after Rakeem Cato. Protecting him will be key, and Jean-Felix will likely draw that assignment.
Dennis Edwards, C, Western Kentucky
The Hilltoppers are expecting big things from quarterback Brandon Doughty. They'll likely trust a freshman center in Edwards to lead the line in front of him. Like Colton Freeman at Houston, Edwards will need to grow up fast.
Xavier Woods, S, Louisiana Tech
The Bulldogs look to have one of the more complete rosters in the conference. Having an NFL-caliber safety like Woods roaming the secondary doesn't hurt. He could make it very difficult for opposing teams to get things done against Louisiana Tech through the air.
Jack Walz III, S, Bowling Green
The Falcons have serious conference title hopes in 2015. The freshman safety will play a critical role against the pass on a defense with very limited experience.
Cameron Clinton-Earl, DE, Northern Illinois
Clinton-Earl will be the leader on a relatively experienced D-line for the Huskies. His ability to disrupt the line of scrimmage and in the backfield could determine whether or not Northern Illinois can put together another double-digit win season.
Zach Quinn, LB, Toledo
The Rockets figure to be in the conference title mix as well, largely on the strength of their defense. Quinn is the "young man" of the linebacker corps. If he can exceed expectations, Toledo's defense could be on a whole other level than the rest of the MAC.
Dylan Sumner-Gardner, S, Boise State
Boise State's defense could quite simply be one of the best in all of college football in 2015. Some of that will depend on the play of Sumner-Gardner — the only member of the projected starting secondary without any starting experience.
Austin Albrecht, OT, Utah State
Chuckie Keeton is about as special as they come at quarterback in college football. His has the ability to carry the Aggies to new heights in 2015, but he'll need Albrecht — the only projected starter without a previous start — to excel at left tackle.
Eric Judge, WR, San Diego State
The Aztecs have the talent across the board to make noise on the national scene. In order to get that done, they'll need Judge to step up as the primary option in the passing game.
Daniel Keith, G, Arkansas State
The Red Wolves have a special, game-changing back in Michael Gordon. He'll be the focal point of the offense, but he'll need help up front. Keith has the least amount of experience on the offensive line. His ability to consistently open holes on the right side for Gordon will be key.
Kevin Ellison, QB, Georgia Southern
Ellison will need to set the tone for a team loaded with talent but short on experience. One of the most underrated dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, Ellis has the ability to lead to the Eagles to 10 or more wins if he can inspire the rest of the huddle.
Brooks Haack, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
Haack will need to step in and be effective in the passing game right away, as every defense will be keying on running back Elijah McGuire, the 2014 Sun Belt Player of the Year. Haack's failure to perform in the pocket could make the Cajuns an easy out from week to week, especially given the inexperience on defense.
With the MLB trade deadline just a little more than a week away, the hot stove is starting to heat up as teams are looking to make deals for an October run or to unload bad contracts for a better future. There are several teams that are ready to trade away big names and start planning for 2016 and beyond.
Here is a list of the top sellers in the MLB stock market as the July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaches.
The Reds have handcuffed themselves by signing the oft-injured Joey Votto and Homer Bailey along with the marginal Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce to a combined $453 million in contracts, without giving ace Johnny Cueto, slugger Todd Frazier, and closer Aroldis Chapman their own long-term deal.
Cueto and Chapman are both due big paydays once their contracts expire at the end of the season, which makes them hot commodities to contending teams that need arms. Cueto maybe the most desired arm on the free agent market who would fill a void for teams such as the Astros, Angels, Giants, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Orioles, Royals and Yankees, while Chapman could end up solidifying the Dodgers', Yankees', or Nationals' bullpen.
The biggest question and trade dark horse is that of Frazier, who recently captivated the fanbase by winning the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game festivities at Great American Ball Park. Frazier is the Reds' best player and is extremely underpaid, making $3.75 million in 2015, and is due $8 million next season before he is arbitration-eligible in '17. Frazier will no doubt be looking for a $100 million-plus contract, and rightfully so. The Reds are at a crossroads with Frazier if they can’t get rid of the contracts of say Bruce and Phillips, and depending on the return of other possible trade chips (pitcher Mike Leake, outfielder Marlon Byrd) in addition to Cueto and Chapman.
The Reds would be better off to sell sooner rather than later and set the market price high than have to sell too low closer to the trade deadline this year or next.
The World Series or bust Tigers are starting to realize their master plan is beginning to slowly backfire. The winners of the last four AL Central titles, the Tigers enter July 23 action at/below .500 (47-47/46-48) and are 9.5 games behind/staring at a double-digit deficit to the first-place Royals.
Reports have begun to trickle out that team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski is putting lefty ace David Price and slugger Yoenis Cespedes on the trade block — and why not? The Tigers are underperforming and aging, and the return for Price, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, and Cespedes, who is on pace for a career season, could be immense. Both Price and Cespedes have expiring contracts at the end of this season and won't come cheap to re-sign this winter — especially Price.
With the vast amount of talent that is sweeping the baseball landscape and judging by recent deals involving top prospects, the Tigers could restock their farm system rather quickly, which would help keep them relevant in the AL for years to come.
The Fightin’ Phils should have begun their rebuilding process in 2012. Here in 2015, General manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s job is running on fumes and the Phillies are the joke of the baseball realm, sitting in last place (…again) with immovable contracts of former All-Stars Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley continuing to weigh them down. Although it's probably to little too late for Amaro, he does have the opportunity to give Phillies fans a couple of parting gifts by trading ace Cole Hamels and closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Trade rumors surrounding Hamels have been swirling for the past couple of seasons, but right now has to be the time for the lefty ace to go. Simply put, there is no point in paying a pitcher $23.5 million a year for the next three and a half years to be on a 100-loss team — the same can be said for a $13 million a year closer.
Moving both pitchers before the trade deadline won’t bring any major league superstars to Philly or make the Phils better right away…or even in 2016. But moving Papelbon and Hamels should bring in at least a couple of top prospects from contending teams — which the Phillies’ marginal farm system desperately needs.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox were one of the more active teams this past offseason, making significant moves to improve the South Side ball club. The problem is, the Sox might have actually regressed from 2014.
The additions of Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche have fallen flat, as both are struggling at the plate this season. Cabrera is under club control until 2017 and is unlikely to move, but LaRoche’s contract could be a point of interest for some teams that may need a bat as the deadline nears.
The Sox not only attempted to add depth to their lineup, but also to their pitching staff by signing closer David Robertson and starter Jeff Samardzija. Robertson’s contract runs for the next three and a half years and may not be appealing to a team going in the wrong direction such as the Sox. Trading Samardzija makes a lot of sense. Too many contending teams will be willing to give away top, young talent for a top of the rotation arm even if Samardzija is set to become a free agent after the season.
San Diego Padres
No team in baseball has been as disappointing this season than the Padres. New general manager A.J. Preller made his mark early by completing a complete roster overhaul this past winter that brought in Derek Norris, Matt Kemp, Will Middlebrooks, Melvin and Justin Upton, Wil Myers, to go along with closer Craig Kimbrel and ace James Shields.
Kemp and Melvin Upton are essentially immovable at this point in their careers, while Norris, and former top prospects Middlebrooks, and Myers (injury) are sure to be stuck in San Diego as they all have vastly underperformed this season.
While the Padres’ 2015 season might be nearing the point of no return (44-51/45-50, 8.5 games back), there is still time to make moves for the future. Kemp and Upton’s careers are officially on the backslide, while the younger Middlebrooks and Myers are approaching bust territory, but Kimbrel, Shields, and Justin Upton have a ton of trade value that could turn things around for the Padres in the long term.
Throw away the 2015 season and start over in '16, San Diego. Too many contending teams will be willing to trade high-end youth for the likes of reliable, established innings-eater like Shields or a middle-of-the-lineup bat with pop such as Upton's. Shields is more likely to garner interest involving top prospects as his deal runs for four and a half more seasons, compared to Upton, who is a pending free agent. Shields will be chased after by the same clubs interested in Cueto, Price, Hamels and Samardzija,
Kimbrel’s situation is interesting as his game has slipped noticeably from the dominance he showed during his five-year tenure with the Braves. But make no mistake, Kimbrel will be an instant and significant upgrade to any bullpen that he joins — he just won’t garner the return that Shields and Upton would.
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. Follow him on Twitter @JakeRose24.
Projecting the outcome of a college football season, playoff teams and national champion is no easy task. Several factors go into predictions, including the schedule, coaching changes, returning starters, in-depth statistics, results from the previous year, breakout players and recruiting – just to name a few.
Experience and star power at quarterback is another factor that most would consider important for preseason predictions.
However, just how important is quarterback experience? Six of the last 10 teams to play in the title game had a first-year starter at quarterback.
Since the BCS era, 12 quarterbacks played for the national title or reached the playoffs in their first season:
1998: Tee Martin, Tennessee - W
1999: Michael Vick, Virginia Tech - L
2002: Craig Krenzel, Ohio State - W
2007: Matt Flynn, LSU - W; Todd Boeckman, Ohio State
2009: Greg McElroy, Alabama - W
2010: Cam Newton, Auburn - W; Darron Thomas, Oregon
2011: AJ McCarron, Alabama – W
2012: Everett Golson, Notre Dame – L
2013: Jameis Winston, Florida State – W; Nick Marshall, Auburn – L
2014: Blake Sims, Alabama – L
Will the trend of successful first-year starters continue in 2015? Here are 10 teams that fit the mold this year:
Top 10 Contenders to Win National Title as a First-Year Starter at QB
(Note: To be considered a returning starter at quarterback, a player must have started seven overall games or the last six contests of last season)
1. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
It seems odd to list Jones here, but by the definition of a returning starter, the junior fits the criteria. The Ohio native opened 2014 as the third-string quarterback for coach Urban Meyer, but an injury to Braxton Miller in fall camp pushed Jones into the backup role. Jones attempted only 14 passes through the first 11 games but was pressed into the No. 1 spot after J.T. Barrett suffered a season-ending leg injury against Michigan. Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship and threw for 243 yards in the Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. And Jones was solid once again in the national championship, recording 280 total yards in the 42-20 win over the Ducks. Will Jones pickup where he left off? Or will the Buckeyes turn to Miller or Barrett under center? Let the quarterback battle begin in Columbus.
2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
All signs point to Johnson as one of college football’s breakout stars of 2015. The junior is the triggerman for a high-powered offense and started one game for Auburn last season. In seven appearances in 2014, Johnson threw for 436 yards and three scores. He also started one game in 2013, passing for 201 yards and four touchdowns against Western Carolina. The Montgomery native brings a different skill-set to the offense than former starter Nick Marshall, as Johnson – a 6-foot-5 quarterback – should add to the explosiveness of the Auburn passing attack and allow Duke Williams to make even more plays downfield this season.
3. Seth Russell, Baylor
Art Briles has developed one of college football’s top offenses at Baylor, and while Bryce Petty expired his eligibility and is taking snaps in the NFL, the Bears won’t miss a beat on offense. Russell is the next standout quarterback for Briles, and the junior already has a good chunk of snaps under his belt. Petty missed one start due to injury, allowing Russell to torch Northwestern State for 438 yards and five scores in 2014. While Russell still needs to show he can be successful in Big 12 games, the supporting cast and scheme is among the best in the nation.
4. Jake Coker, Alabama
Alabama is projected to finish No. 2 in the final 2015 rankings by Athlon Sports, but Coker drops a few spots on this list due to the ongoing quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa. Coker was expected to win the job last season after transferring from Florida State. However, Blake Sims edged Coker and started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide. Coker finds himself in a similar spot this fall, as he enters practice as the favorite to take the first snap. However, redshirt freshman David Cornwell isn’t far behind. Regardless of which quarterback wins the job, expect Alabama to lean heavily on its defense and rushing attack.
Related: SEC Predictions for 2015
5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
It’s a tossup between Florida State and Clemson for the No. 1 spot in the ACC Atlantic. However, a healthy year from Watson would boost the Tigers’ title chances as they hope to unseat the Seminoles in 2015. Injuries limited Watson to eight games last season and his 2014 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL suffered against Georgia Tech. Watson was one of the top recruits in last year’s signing class and threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even though play-caller Chad Morris left to be the head coach at SMU, Clemson’s offense should be lethal with Watson under center.
Related: ACC Predictions for 2015
6. Vernon Adams, Oregon
Adams hasn’t officially arrived on campus in Eugene as of July 22. However, all signs point to the Eastern Washington transfer participating in fall practice and pushing Jeff Lockie to be the new starter for the Ducks. Marcus Mariota leaves big shoes to fill, but Adams is a dynamic option to keep Oregon’s high-scoring offense on track. The senior accounted for 11,670 yards and 121 total scores in three years with the Eagles. How quickly will Adams adjust to the FBS level?
7. Malik Zaire, Notre Dame
Zaire’s path to the starting job was cleared after Everett Golson left South Bend for Florida State at the end of spring practice. After playing sparingly for the first 11 games in 2014, Zaire completed 9 of 20 passes against USC and was a key cog in Notre Dame’s bowl win over LSU. Zaire has dual-threat ability, but the Fighting Irish have to be careful about the wear and tear on their sophomore quarterback. Without an experienced backup, the Fighting Irish need a full (and healthy) year from Zaire to challenge for the College Football Playoff.
8. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Arizona State’s offense averaged 36.9 points a game in 2014 and won’t miss a beat despite the departure of quarterback Taylor Kelly. Bercovici started three games after Kelly was injured in 2014 and finished the year with 1,445 yards and 12 scores. Adding to the impressive stint for Bercovici was key performances against USC (510 yards in a 38-34 win) and a 245-yard effort in a 26-10 victory over Stanford. The senior will be throwing to a revamped receiving corps, but the Sun Devils will be explosive on offense once again.
9. Brice Ramsey, Georgia
Ramsey and Faton Bauta concluded spring practice locked into a tight battle for the starting quarterback spot. However, the Bulldogs added competition to the quarterback battle with the addition of Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert. Ramsey completed 24 of 39 passes for 333 yards and two scores in a relief role last season. He’s the favorite to start, but Georgia will continue to lean on its defense and rushing attack until the passing game takes a step forward.
10. Sean Maguire, Florida State
Maguire left spring with the edge to replace Jameis Winston. However, Everett Golson transferred to Tallahassee from Notre Dame and is expected to win the starting job in the fall. Maguire has one career start (Clemson, 2014) and completed 25 of 49 passes for 339 yards last season.
5 Others to Watch in 2015
Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Emerging star in the SEC but also has to hold off talented freshman Kyler Murray. Aggies also need to significantly improve defense to challenge for a playoff spot.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Tennessee is improving, but the Volunteers are likely a year away from winning the SEC East. Dobbs played well over the second half of 2014, including a huge effort (301 passing yards, two scores and 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns) against South Carolina.
Brandon Harris, LSU
Talent certainly isn’t an issue for the Tigers. However, the passing attack remains the team’s biggest mystery going into fall practice. Can Harris pass Anthony Jennings this fall?
Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
Kelly isn’t guaranteed to start, as the junior college product (and former Clemson signal-caller) has to hold off Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade. Expect the defense to carry the Rebels in 2015.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield left spring as the favorite to start this fall, but there’s still work to be done as Trevor Knight and Cody Thomas remain in the mix. The Texas Tech transfer passed for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns with the Red Raiders in 2013.
TCU enters the 2015 season with possibly the best team in school history. Led by Heisman candidate Trevone Boykin the Horned Frogs return multiple offensive weapons from a team that was only three points away from going undefeated last season.
With the controversy surrounding TCU being snubbed from the inaugural College Football Playoff the Horned Frogs are set up to control their own destiny in the Big 12 this season. Or are they?
Here are three reasons why TCU will make the Playoff this coming season followed by three reasons why they will not.
Three Reasons Why TCU Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. Returning Offensive Talent
A legitimate dual-threat quarterback, Boykin has the ability to take over any game at any time. Leading receiver Josh Doctson returns along with running back Aaron Green, who rushed for close to 1,000 yards last season. The Frogs also return four starters on the offensive line. Put it all together and TCU returns 10 of 11 starters from an offense that was second in the country in scoring last season at 46.5 points per game.
2. Opportunity to Finish with a Flourish
TCU ended last season against a down Texas team and 2-9 Iowa State. Many felt the late-season schedule could have hurt TCU even though Gary Patterson’s team did what it was supposed to do — win and win big. This season ends with two huge marquee matchups against potential top-10 teams. Finishing off an undefeated season with a victory at Oklahoma and against Baylor would all but guarantee TCU a top-four finish.
3. Running Back Depth
Green should see a bulk of the carries this season. But Kyle Hicks also is a very capable back that is primed to get more work, and he’s not the only complementary option ready to emerge. Shaun Nixon, a 4-star prospect in last season’s recruiting class, is back from knee surgery, and Trevorris Johnson could be a breakout player this fall for the Frogs.
TCU’s 2015 Schedule
|Date||Opponent||Athlon Projected Rank for 2015||Projected Record|
|Sept. 3||at Minnesota||45||8-4|
|Sept. 12||Stephen F. Austin||—||—|
|Sept. 26||at Texas Tech||48||6-6|
|Oct. 10||at Kansas State||44||7-5|
|Oct. 17||at Iowa State||74||3-9|
|Oct. 29||West Virginia||36||8-4|
|Nov. 7||at Oklahoma State||28||8-4|
|Nov. 21||at Oklahoma||17||9-3|
Three Reasons Why TCU Will Not Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
1. Potential Trap Games
While TCU can use its tough schedule to its advantage, the slate also could be the Horned Frogs’ downfall. TCU needs those late-season marquee games to impress the committee. Unfortunately the toughest games on the schedule will come after running the gauntlet that is the Big 12’s nine-game conference slate. A late October date against a West Virginia team that always plays TCU tough and physical is followed by a trip to Stillwater against a much-improved Oklahoma State team. Getting to those last two games of the season undefeated will be a test in itself.
2. Offensive Line Depth
While TCU will return four starting offensive linemen this season any injury could result in trouble for the Frogs. The depth chart is full of young sophomores with little game experience behind the senior-laden starting five.
3. No Conference Championship Game
With the Big 12 still waiting on deregulation and whether the conference will implement a championship game and/or expand, TCU will have to state its case to the Playoff selection committee with the 12 games on the schedule. It is no secret the lack of that 13th data point hurt both TCU and Baylor last season. If TCU was to falter at any point this season that could be the end of the Horned Frogs’ Playoff hopes. Unfortunately, just like last season, 11-1 may not cut it.
TCU has the ability to control its own destiny in 2015. With late-season games against marquee opponents there will be no questions of “what have you done for me lately?” when it comes time for the selection committee to vote. Boasting a potent offense and a defense that only needs to hold teams to less than 40 points, TCU should be the first Big 12 representative in the College Football Playoff.
Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 5
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 10-2
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 10
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 10
5 Dimes Projected Over/Under Odds: 10
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.
Nebraska and adidas officially unveiled on Thursday a new alternative uniform that the Cornhuskers will wear for their Oct. 24 Homecoming game against Northwestern. The new Primekit Husker Bold look was produced in collaboration between the Nebraska athletic deparatment and adidas. Centered around black as the foundation, the Huskers' bold new design is a mix of modern design innovations paired with elements of Nebraska's classic style.
One of the more recognizable looks in college football, the Huskers' new alternative uniform features metallic red numbers with a forged steel outline, combined with a modernized, metallic version of the classic Nebraska stripes that accent the jersey and pants. The numbers and stripes are serrated, which allow for maximum ventilation and range of motion, accoridng to an adidas release. Other highlights of the new look include an oversized "N" logo that is integrated into the pant stripe. The look is topped off by the new Husker bold alternative black matte shell helmet complete with metallic red logos, stripes, numbers and facemask.
Here is an overview of Nebraska's new addias Primekit Husker Bold alternative uniform:
Here are some more images, courtesy of adidas:
In Miami, everything is a party.
The Hurricanes have switched from Nike to Adidas and that deserves a concert. Pusha T helps the Canes debut their new uniforms, and despite what you've heard about Adidas, they're not too shabby.
Despite what Gary Pinkel says, Notre Dame being independent could actually be a good thing for college football. It gives the Fighting Irish the ability to schedule pretty much anyone they want anywhere, anytime. We are seeing these neutral-site games popping up more and more every year, including this coming season when the Irish travel to Fenway Park to take on Boston College on Nov. 21.
Notre Dame has enough of a national following to take its show on the road against just about anyone and be comfortable knowing that the Irish faithful will be there to support them. This opens up the possibility for some iconic matchups in some iconic venues around the country — essentially some dream matchups for everyone who loves college football. Some of these matchups already happen, but an iconic venue would catapult them to the level of "must-see TV."
Here now are the top ten neutral-site dream matchups for Notre Dame:
10. Stanford at AT&T Park (San Francisco)
One of Notre Dame's regular opponents, this game would certainly benefit by playing against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful settings in baseball. It would certainly be a hot ticket in the Bay Area.
9. Navy at Aloha Stadium (Honolulu)
I can't think of a better way to continue this rivalry than playing it miles from one of the most sacred sites in American military history — Pearl Harbor. In addition to Irish fans, it would be pretty cool to look upon a sea of uniformed military members stationed in Hawaii enjoying this game.
8. USC at The Rose Bowl (Pasadena, Calif.)
This home-and-home rivalry would be even better played in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains at one of college football's most scenic and iconic venues.
7. Texas at the Alamodome (San Antonio)
Is there anything more "Texas" than the Alamo? The trip the Longhorns make to South Bend this season pales in comparison to the Texas-sized football festival this one would be.
6. Oklahoma at Arrowhead Stadium (Kansas City)
Two blue-blood teams and their fanbases converging in the tailgate and BBQ capital of the Midwest? Yes, please. The game would likely be entertaining, but the festivities in the parking lot would be Oktoberfest-like.
5. Michigan at Wrigley Field (Chicago)
I already miss this annual rivalry. When the two programs meet again, Wrigley seems like the most logical setting. Good luck getting tickets.
4. Nebraska at Lambeau Field (Green Bay, Wis.)
Two of the winningest college programs in history clashing in the NFL's Titletown would be another hot ticket. It would also likely spawn its own industry of panoramic posters memorializing the event.
3. Penn State at Yankee Stadium (New York City)
The two schools have plenty of alumni in the New York metropolitan area, not to mention the fact that the schools' colors would blend perfectly into the setting. Incidentally, Joe Paterno was born about 30 minutes away in Brooklyn.
2. Ohio State at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium (Canton, Ohio)
The small capacity of the stadium on the lawn of the Pro Football Hall of Fame would give this battle of historical juggernauts a "Friday Night Lights" feel. It would also send ticket prices through the roof — and rightfully so.
1. Alabama at Legion Field (Birmingham, Ala.)
Perhaps more so than any other game on this list, this would essentially be a road game in every sense for the Irish. You could argue that Alabama and Notre Dame are the two most important programs in the history of college football. Meeting in Birmingham in the venue that once had the words "The Football Capital of the South" on the upper deck would be a fantastic way to honor "The Old Gray Lady" and keep the iconic stadium relevant.
Jim Delany knew. Maybe he knew more than most. By the time Ohio State had wrapped up the national championship victory over Oregon — the Big Ten’s first in over a decade and first of the College Football Playoff era — he was far more subdued than a week prior in New Orleans, when the No. 4 seed Buckeyes came from behind to beat No. 1 Alabama and end a decade’s worth of unfriendly talking points against the Big Ten.
“College sports can be very cyclical. So maybe this is our time now,” Delany said on the field of the Superdome amidst an explosion of scarlet and gray relief.
It was one game, not even the national title game, but it was far more significant to a sport that’s been reduced to fierce provincialism. Ohio State’s win over Alabama silenced the foremost criticism of the league: That in a best-on-best situation, the Big Ten can’t hang with the SEC. Well, the Big Ten’s best beat the SEC’s best, and that’s the situation entering 2015 no matter if the Buckeyes’ quarterback is Cardale Jones, J.T. Barrett, Braxton Miller or even Urban Meyer himself.
“When the playoff was being formed in the final weeks of the season, I watched the tape and thought Ohio State was deserving of being one of the best four,” Big Ten analyst and former SEC and Big Ten head coach Gerry DiNardo says. “When the (semifinal) game was announced, I went right to the coaches’ tape for Alabama, then the coaches’ tape for Ohio State, and I came away thinking it was an even matchup athletically.”
Naturally, the 2015 offseason has featured a pendulum swing of bragging rights, but the Big Ten still has a tremendous amount of work to do.
“That game meant one thing: Ohio State is back. Ohio State is one of the nation’s absolute best programs. But it doesn’t mean the Big Ten is back, not yet,” DiNardo says.
In fact, the future of the Buckeyes likely won’t hinge on whatever team the SEC or Pac-12 produces to face them in the playoff. It will likely be more about how Ohio State’s own league fares. For the Buckeyes — and possibly Michigan State, Penn State and (eventually) Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan — to compete for a playoff spot, the well-being of programs such as Indiana is crucial.
Take a look at the 2014 top 50 rankings for Big Ten schools in Football Outsider’s F/+ advanced rankings, which weighs teams on everything from offensive drive efficiency to explosive plays.
And now compare that to the SEC’s top 50 F/+ ranked teams in 2014.
|2015 Football Outsiders F/+ Ratings|
|1. Ohio State||2. Alabama|
|11. Michigan State||4. Georgia|
|25. Wisconsin||5. Ole Miss|
|30. Nebraska||7. Auburn|
|37. Minnesota||9. Arkansas|
|45. Penn State||13. Mississippi State|
|38. South Carolina|
|42. Texas A&M|
Twelve out of 14 SEC schools finished in the top 50, while well more than half the Big Ten was missing. And regardless of the Buckeyes’ title, 2014 was representative of the norm: In a five-year average of season-ending F/+ rankings, the SEC places 12 of 14 teams in the top 50 and nine in the top 25 (including No. 1 Alabama). The Big Ten manages only seven in the top 50 and three in the top 25 (No. 5 Ohio State tops the league’s list).
Throw aside your politics, conspiracy theories and fan bias — when a one-loss Crimson Tide team seems incapable of dropping out of the playoff field while a one-loss Ohio State has to lobby, pray and sneak into the field in the final bracket, it’s not ESPN’s fault.
Now that the Big Ten has a statement win and regained the national championship, how does the league as a whole begin to close the gap? It’s a four-part struggle that can’t be faced by Brutus Buckeye alone.
1. Create three or four more Ohio States (at least).
Even Alabama falters once and again, and no one expects Ohio State to be perfect from here on out. In fact, imperfection might actually help. Save for a few elite names, the SEC trades top-tier contenders depending on the year. One season South Carolina might be a legit contender, then Mississippi State the next. The Big Ten might never have the ability to create the same depth of potential top-10 teams (we’ll get there in a second), but it can create a top tier to share space with Ohio State.
“On paper, this Ohio State title does the same for the Big Ten what Florida State’s did for the ACC last year: absolutely nothing,” DiNardo says. “The difference in those conferences, however, is that I think you can find a group of programs — Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and now Michigan again, with no ceiling. There is no ceiling on those teams. I think it’s hard to say the same about the ACC.”
The blueprint for the Big Ten might be closer to the Pac-12 than the ACC. As recently as the early 2000s, USC was the only perennial national title contender in the league. With six Pac-12 teams in the final AP top 25 in each of the last two seasons, that, obviously, is no longer the case.
“I always said you had to rise up or get left in the dust,” says first-year Nebraska coach Mike Riley, who witnessed the Pac-12’s renaissance while the head coach at Oregon State. “One of the things that helped that was that there was a tremendous investment in football. Just about every school made major moves in coaching, in salaries, in facilities. It’s vastly different than a decade ago. You’ve seen major moves in a lot of ways in that conference to help everything basically get better.”
The ingredients are in place at several Big Ten schools to make a significant leap in the near future.
Michigan State under Mark Dantonio has been criminally overlooked by the national media. The Spartans are 53–14 since 2010 and would’ve likely been a third or fourth seed had the Playoff started in 2013.
“Mark Dantonio is always going to do things differently than the Ohio States or the Michigan of old,” says Barton Simmons, director of scouting for 247Sports. “That program can take a three-star that might play like a three-star at another program who seems to somehow evolve into an elite-level guy in East Lansing.”
One thing Sparty needs: A clean September résumé. In the last four seasons, Michigan State has dropped a non-conference game (Oregon in 2014 and three consecutive losses to Notre Dame) and fallen off the radar. Their best chance for a statement in 2015: when the Marcus Mariota-less Ducks visit East Lansing.
It’s too early to determine Penn State’s worthiness as a national title contender under James Franklin, but his early returns in recruiting are inarguable. The Nittany Lions landed their second consecutive top-25 class in February (No. 14 nationally according to the 247Sports Composite, up from No. 24 in Franklin’s abbreviated post-hire debut). And don’t think PSU’s foray into Atlanta-area recruiting camps has gone unnoticed, either by rival league coaches or Franklin’s former neighbors down south.
Wisconsin has been the quiet bell cow of the league, but another coaching change raises larger questions about the program’s stability. Then again, Paul Chryst is, according to multiple coaching insiders, the most friendly hire yet to Barry Alvarez’s hands-on management style. And the Badgers stand to benefit for years to come in the East/West division alignment. Pick your metric: recruiting, coaching talent or wins. It’s hard to see the West as anything more than a two-team race between Wisconsin and Nebraska.
And those expectations for Jim Harbaugh? A seven-year, $35 million base contract in the offseason’s splashiest hire for an alumnus who has coached in the Super Bowl? No matter what Brady Hoke left for him, the time is already now.
2. Embrace the new pledges.
Delany’s expansion of the conference during college football’s era of radical realignment was arguably the most shameless of any commissioner’s resource grab. Utah and Colorado fit the Pac-12. Texas A&M fits the SEC. Maryland and Rutgers? They fit a Nielsen ratings list, a census flowchart and little else. But if you’re a Big Ten fan, learn to love it. Quickly.
“Those schools have a ton of potential now. Maryland and Rutgers already have more resources than Indiana, Purdue, Iowa, Minnesota, and I could make a case they’ve got more potential than Nebraska, believe it or not,” DiNardo says.
“No (Mid-Atlantic region) four- or five-star is going to unofficially visit Nebraska, but they are Rutgers and Maryland because it only costs them a tank of gas.”
The move also allows for more consistent television and recruiting exposure in the highly populated I-95 corridor of the Northeast. What the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights give Big Ten football on the field will be marginal at best for the next few seasons, but their additions bump the Big Ten footprint above 80 million people. That’s still third behind the SEC and the Boston-to-Miami reach of the ACC.
It’s no coincidence that Ohio State at Maryland, a lopsided affair to say the least, was a national game on ABC, or that the Buckeyes’ inaugural trip to Rutgers was moved into prime time on the newly expanded Big Ten Network.
Fans in Happy Valley might not like to hear it, but the new blood arguably benefits Penn State the most. Both additions could loosely be considered rivals for the near future (just ask the Terps, who refused to shake hands with PSU players before their game). Penn State wants to absorb Pennsylvania talent much the way Ohio State does in Ohio, but the I-95 additions allow for an uninterrupted region of football talent to be staked as Big Ten territory, much the same as the SEC across multiple states or Pac-12 along the West Coast.
Franklin has rebuilt Penn State into a homegrown machine, but the definition of where “home” ends has become a sticking point: He’s repeatedly told boosters and fans that he considers the state of Maryland to be Penn State’s territory, no doubt to tweak the Terps, Franklin’s former employer who passed on naming him head coach before he headed to Vanderbilt. Depending on which recruiting service you prefer, Penn State is fighting for as many as six top Maryland recruits for 2016. But the Terps aren’t backing down. “That staff is doing everything they can to win their state, and they can succeed that way,” Simmons says. “You have to get creative, but you also have to protect your home state.”
3. Fight for “have-not” legislation.
Oh, Nebraska. Once an inarguable inclusion on any list of national powers, the Huskers have seen isolated locale and coaching unease transform them into the Big Ten’s biggest question mark. They’re joined by a group of schools — Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue — that are fighting a national shift in population density toward warmer climates and more urban locations.
Some rival fans might shrug at these woes, but getting to the playoff is a lot easier when these teams are at least formidable. DiNardo, himself a former Indiana coach, offers a stark but simple plan: Change how you recruit, and recruit harder than you ever have before. Or else. Of 247Sports’ top 25 recruiters for the 2015 cycle, only two Big Ten assistants made the list, and both (Kerry Coombs and Stan Drayton) work for Meyer in Columbus.
“If you don’t like Twitter, too bad, like it. If you don’t like Facebook, too bad, go somewhere else. I don’t care about your ‘impressions’ about social media,” DiNardo says. “Go somewhere else. If I’m running one of those schools, the offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator would all be paid the same money. We can spend hours and hours debating who’s going to get the ball on 3rd-and-short, and only 20 minutes calling the top running back. It needs to be the other way around.”
It’s certainly no coincidence that the western half of the Big Ten features three names — Indiana’s Kevin Wilson, Purdue’s Darrell Hazell and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz — listed among the coaches on the hot seat in this magazine. For every feel-good, break-out year like Jerry Kill and Minnesota had last season, there are two more programs floundering to keep up with the modern game.
“And Minnesota doesn’t even have a 100-yard practice field! Build your facilities!” DiNardo adds.
And if you can’t recruit well enough to keep up? Get the lawyers.
“Every rule in the NCAA is a ‘have’ or ‘have-not’ rule. College basketball is different, it has 300 D-I schools. The ‘haves’ in basketball are in the extreme minority, whereas the ‘haves’ in football are at about 50 percent so it’s very hard to get legislation through.”
DiNardo, who routinely visits each school’s coaching staff, advocates for an aggressive overhaul of recruiting guidelines that would allow for high school juniors to take official visits at a school’s expense. “I’ve got to get that kid to my campus, away from his home in Florida or Louisiana, to see that whole new world. We’ve got to get him on our campus before he’s forced to make a decision by SEC schools he can drive to anytime.
“Show the best players in the country that new world. Maybe it’s not for them, but maybe it is. You have to show these players and their families what a Big Ten education is, what a Big Ten campus is. Then you’ve got as good a chance as anyone.”
4. Above all else, start your own chant.
Big Ten fans, administrators and even some coaches have expressed their annoyance with the “S-E-C!” chant. It’s braggadocio and it’s at times hypocritical (tell us how excited you are about that Bama conference title, Auburn!). But it’s one hell of a business mission statement.
Save for maybe Vanderbilt and Kentucky, every team in the SEC will enter 2015 with less-than-insane reasoning as to why it can win the conference this year. And because of the depth and parity in the SEC, winning the title game in Atlanta likely means your school will be invited to compete for a national championship.
When Alabama dismantled Missouri in Atlanta, after the game Nick Saban acknowledged the inevitable Playoff spot the Tide had earned. Contrast that confidence with a cold night Indianapolis. Ohio State pulled out every stop possible to humiliate Wisconsin 59–0 in an effort to lobby a skeptical Playoff committee.
“All I can speak to is, I’ve been around teams that have competed and won national championships,” Meyer said. “And this team, the way it’s playing right now, is one of the top teams in America.”
Meyer had to prove Ohio State’s worthiness on the field but also off of it. A stronger, deeper, meaner Big Ten prevents uncertainty. And we all know what happened to Alabama after that.
-By Steven Godfrey, SB Nation
The SEC West is a monster.
Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State are some of the toughest teams in all of college football. Grant Wiley created a "Vengeance" hype video to get people pumped for an amazing 2015 season. Judging by this video, that's exactly what it will be.
Good luck getting out of this division alive.
Brandon Armstrong is at it again.
After doing eerily similar impersonations of Russell Westbrook and Tim Duncan, the D-League player is back for more. This time it's James Harden as the subject.
This is definitely some of his best work since Westbrook.
If the whole basketball thing doesn't work out, let's hope this guy goes in to comedy.
The AFC North is always one of the most intriguing divisions in the NFL. The Ravens have taken a step back with the Bengals and Steelers always in the mix. Heck, the Browns have shown flashes of competitiveness. One thing is for sure, that every divisional game will be a battle in 2015.
Much like I did with the college football win totals, I will break down the schedules in terms of home and road opponents outside the division. In most situations, I'll give a split to each team in divisional play with them winning at home and losing on the road. Vegas is much more on the ball in the NFL compared to college football so the numbers are a lot sharper.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
(Over 9 wins -135, Under 9 wins +115)
Record Last Year: 10-6
Offense: The biggest change on this side of the ball may be the installation of Marc Trestman as offensive coordinator. Many believe he's going to make a difference in Joe Flacco, who will have to get used to some changes. Wide receivers Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith are gone with first-round pick Breshad Perriman in line to replace them. The offensive line is strong, having allowed just 19 sacks all of last season.
Defense: Another vital cog is out on the defensive side of the ball with Haloti Ngata going to Detroit. He'll be missed as well as Pernell McPhee, who went to the Bears in free agency. Still, the pieces that are there are pretty solid with Terrell Suggs leading the way. There can only be improvement in the secondary where Lardarius Webb and Jimmy Smith hope to stay healthy.
Schedule: Baltimore plays five of its first eight on the road before the bye week. The Ravens have three straight home games in Weeks 14-16 with Seattle, Kansas City and Pittsburgh coming to town. The Ravens are the road team for two MNF games (Arizona, Cleveland).
Prediction: Slight lean to the over. Baltimore has some rough stretches, but the Ravens will do enough to make the playoffs. It'll take some time for this offense to click, but by the end of the year, this will be a team that will make waves in the AFC.
(Over 8.5 wins -130, Under 8.5 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 10-6
Offense: Another year and the Bengals' offense stays relatively intact. There's excitement about year two with Jeremy Hill, who was a solid runner to go with Giovani Bernard. These two helped take the pressure off Andy Dalton. Marvin Jones and Tyler Eifert being healthy will be a big help as well as they provide targets to help A.J. Green not be the sole focus of opposing secondaries.
Defense: This is the side of the ball with the bigger changes. Coming in are A.J. Hawk, Michael Johnson and Pat Sims while Robert Geathers, Taylor Mays and Terrence Newman depart. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins will be particularly happy to see Johnson, as the two accounted for 11 of the team's league-worst 20 sacks in 2014.
Schedule: Cincy has road games at Buffalo, Arizona and Denver as challenges outside of the AFC North. The Bengals don't have too many menacing stretches nor are they home or away for more than two straight tilts.
Prediction: I like the under for Cincinnati. I'm not a Dalton fan and think defenses will stack the box to make him try and beat them. One of my early upsets is that the Bengals loses their season opener at Oakland. It's going to be an end to the four-year streak of playoff appearances.
(Over 6.5 wins +125, Under 6.5 wins -145)
Record Last Year: 7-9
Offense: There are some new weapons on this side of the ball. It all starts with Josh McCown under center, who will have to fend off Johnny Manziel. Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe come over to try and give the passing game a boost, as Josh Gordon is suspended for the season. Jordan Cameron is gone at TE, but Cleveland brought over Rob Housler. The backfield battle is intriguing with Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson and Terrance West all hoping to get carries.
Defense: This was an underrated group in the division and maybe across football. The Browns finished ninth in scoring defense while checking in eighth against the pass. Joe Haden gets help with Tramon Williams joining the secondary to go along with Justin Gilbert, who should only improve after a rough rookie season. Kicker is a huge question mark and could be a factor in close games.
Schedule: Cleveland has three straight home games from Weeks 13-15. The Browns also have three stretches of two straight road games. ESPN's "Monday Night Football" comes to the Dawg Pound on Nov. 30 when the Browns host the Ravens. The Browns have road matchups at Seattle, Kansas City and San Diego.
Prediction: There are a lot of question marks with Cleveland. How crisp will this offense be with McCown, who didn't do much in Tampa Bay, with more weapons? I just can't make a selection for this squad until some of these questions are answered.
(Over 8.5 wins -130, Under 8.5 wins +110)
Record Last Year: 11-5
Offense: There's no reason to think this side of the ball won't be even better than last year. Martavis Bryant should get more snaps and will provide a nice complement to Antonio Brown. DeAngelo Williams is a solid backup to Le'Veon Bell, who is slated to miss the first three games of the season. Ben Roethlisberger put up almost 5,000 yards through the air. This is the best offense in the division.
Defense: For as good as the offense is, the defense is almost that bad. Brett Keisel, Troy Polamalu, Ike Taylor and Jason Worilds have all departed, leaving a very young unit behind. Pittsburgh hopes first-round pick Bud Dupree can step in at linebacker to go with Lawrence Timmons and Jarvis Jones. Teams will be able to throw on the Steelers, who will play a lot of high-scoring affairs in 2015.
Schedule: Three of Pittsburgh's first five are on the road and are on days other then Sunday. It doesn't get much tougher then an opener in Foxborough against the Patriots. Weeks 8-10 are at home while the season finishes with three of four away from Heinz Field.
Prediction: Slight lean to the under. A stretch of Indianapolis, Seattle, Cincy, Denver and Baltimore will crush a defense still trying to find its identity without longtime coordinator Dick LeBeau. Almost every Steelers game has a chance to go over the total even if it's a high one.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
HBO has announced it has signed the most-desired sportscaster in Bill Simmons.
Simmons will begin in October as part of the multi-platform deal, allowing HBO to become the exclusive home to the Grantland founder. Simmons will host a weekly talk show, be a part of video podcasts and features. It will allow him to take part in the various outlets he's come to make a name in.
This move is particularly shocking to those who thought Simmons might be headed to Bleacher Report because of its television deal with Turner, but we all know he's full of surprises.
The best-selling author is one of the few ESPN personalities to recently find a new home elsewhere.
The full HBO statement can be read here.