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All taxonomy terms: NFL, Overtime
Path: /overtime/antonio-brown-rolls-steelers-training-camp-style-rolls-royce-phantom
Body:

Antonio Brown is flashy on the field, and now off.

 

The Steelers receiver showed up to training camp and put everybody else to shame. He came in a Rolls Royce custom Phantom decked out in the Steelers' black and gold. The icing on the cake is having his own signature splashed across it. #Boss.

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 12:03
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12
Path: /college-football/why-oregon-will-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich allowed his team some time to mourn the Ducks’ failed bid for the program’s first national championship. But with a loaded roster heading into 2015, Oregon has an opportunity to turn its disappointment into fuel for another run at the title.

 

The reigning Pac-12 champion and national runner-up Ducks are favorites to win the league crown for the fifth time in seven seasons. An embarrassment of riches at the skill positions promise that the high-powered offense to which Oregon has staked its identity will remain intact.

 

Oregon cannot simply score its way to another College Football Playoff appearance, however. The Ducks need to continue their defensive evolution while also establishing a new offensive identity without the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner and three-year starter, Marcus Mariota, at quarterback.

 

Three Reasons Why Oregon Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Skill Position Depth

Few teams in college football can deliver quite as potent a one-two punch out of the backfield as Oregon. The Ducks return two running backs who, if they were asked to shoulder more of a load in another offense, could contend for the national rushing title.

 

Royce Freeman established himself as Oregon’s No. 1 ball carrier as a freshman, gaining 1,365 yards with 18 touchdowns last season. Defenses cannot simply hone in on Freeman though.

 

Thomas Tyner showed his chops as a feature back in the Ducks’ College Football Playoff romp over Florida State, gashing the Seminoles for 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries. 

 

At wide receiver, there may not be a better collection anywhere in the nation. Oregon returns Byron Marshall, the converted running back who emerged as the No. 1 target when Bralon Addison was sidelined by a knee injury. Meanwhile, Addison, second to Josh Huff in the 2013 receiving corps, makes his return.

 

Add Devon Allen and Darren Carrington, as well as standout pass-catching tight end Pharaoh Brown on his way back from a brutal leg injury, and the learning curve for Oregon’s new quarterback is eased considerably.

 

2. Turnover Creation

The Oregon defense routinely ranks among the nation’s best in generating turnovers. Gaining takeaways was the hallmark of former coordinator Mark Allioti, and it’s remained a key metric by which the Don Pellum-led defense has flourished.

 

Pellum took over the job last offseason, after more than two decades as an assistant, promising renewed emphasis on strength up front. The resulting stymieing of opposing run games, combined with pressure on quarterbacks, led to plenty of takeaways.

 

Oregon’s 34 takeaways were the third most in the nation, behind only Louisiana Tech and TCU. The Ducks’ 1.53 per-game advantage in takeaways-to-turnovers was tops in all of college football.

 

Turnovers feed the Oregon offensive machine more effectively than anything else. Should the Ducks return to the Playoff, you can bet they’ll rank highly in turnover creation once again.

 

3. The System

“System” is used all too often as a derisive term in football: system quarterback, product of the system, etc. However, at Oregon, the system is responsible for the Ducks’ continued success through graduations, early NFL departures and coaching changes – seldom as the latter may come. Mark Helfrich became just the fourth Oregon head coach since 1977 when he replaced Chip Kelly in 2013.

 

Helfrich, entering his third year at the helm, endured a rough patch – at least, as rough as winning 11 games can possibly be. That’s as much of a hiccup as there’s been in Eugene post-Kelly.

 

When I asked Helfrich about the sustained success before last December’s Pac-12 Championship Game, he said:  “The bedrock foundation of our program has remained the same [from Rich Brooks to Mike Bellotti to Kelly to Helfrich]… The philosophy is to…constantly evolve.”

 

Oregon’s 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent 

Athlon Projected Rank

for 2015

Projected Record
Sept. 5Eastern Washington
Sept. 12at Michigan State710-2
Sept. 19Georgia State1263-9
Sept. 26Utah317-5
Oct. 3at Colorado675-8
Oct. 10Washington State664-8
Oct. 17at Washington466-6
Oct. 29at Arizona State139-3
Nov. 7California476-6
Nov. 14at Stanford248-4
Nov. 21USC611-2
Nov. 27Oregon State733-9

 

Three Reasons Why Oregon Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1.Missing Mariota

The up-tempo era in Oregon football has persisted from one quarterback to another, transitioning rather seamlessly from Dennis Dixon, to Jeremiah Masoli, to Darron Thomas. But at no time since Kelly introduced the scheme by which the Ducks are now defined has it functioned as fluidly as with Mariota behind center.

 

The Heisman Trophy winner and the second overall draft pick of the Tennessee Titans set the standard for all Oregon quarterbacks to come each of his three seasons as the starter, adding a traditional pocket-passer presence to the gadget-heavy scheme.

 

Whether Jeff Lockie or Vernon Adams replaces Mariota, Oregon needs that same dynamic from the passing game to balance with the multifaceted rushing attack – a running attack Mariota adeptly added to, scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground in 2014.

 

2. More Work in the Trenches

Though Pellum’s emphasis on physicality up front resonated, getting Oregon over the hump against imposing teams like Michigan State and Stanford that had previously given the Ducks trouble, the loss to Ohio State showed there’s still work to do.

 

Ohio State’s powerful offensive front battered Oregon, opening big holes for running back Ezekiel Elliott to pile up 246 yards and four touchdowns. It mirrored the 2013 loss at Arizona, when Ka’Deem Carey went for 206 yards and four scores, which really drove home the sense of urgency for a more physical style.

 

Returning DeForest Buckner in the middle certainly helps, but the Ducks must replace end Arik Armstead, as well as primary pass-rushing linebacker, Tony Washington.

 

Related: 12 Position Groups Under Pressure in the Pac-12 for 2015

 

3. Questions in the Secondary

As valuable as Mariota was to Oregon’s offense the previous three years, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was just as vital to the Duck defense. The Ducks began the transition to life without Ekpre-Olomu in the postseason, losing him to a torn ACL just before the Playoff.

 

Going into a full season without him poses its own challenge, particularly because the Ducks are also replacing Troy Hill and Erick Dargan.

 

Hill saw a lot of passes go his way, with opposing quarterbacks opting to throw away from Ekpre-Olomu. Hill answered the call with 18 pass breakups.

Dargan, meanwhile, powered Oregon’s excellent turnover-generation with seven interceptions to lead the team.

 

Reggie Daniels must continue his progression into the new star of this unit, but he’ll need help. Big years out of Arrion Springs and Chris Seisay are vital to Oregon’s Pac-12 title aspirations.

 

Final Verdict

 

Oregon's schedule is loaded with potential trap games, most on them on the road. The Ducks visit Michigan State in Week 2 for one of the most anticipated non-conference games of the season, and perhaps the earliest date with Playoff implications.

 

Arizona State and Stanford also loom on the road, though it's worth noting Oregon's lost more  games at Autzen Stadium since 2011 (USC 2011, Stanford 2012, Arizona 2014) than it has in true road games (Stanford and Arizona in 2013). To that end, a late-November showdown with USC could very well be the greatest potential for a slip-up the Ducks face in Pac-12 play.

 

That one could also be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game two weeks later.

 

Oregon can sustain a loss and still make the College Football Playoff, as last season proved. Moreover, one would have to go back to 2009 for the last regular season that ended with four or more teams undefeated. There's no precedent yet for a team that failed to win its conference making the final four, so the Ducks need to repeat as Pac-12 champions to ensure their place in the second Playoff.

 

Bank on Oregon doing just that. The Pac-12 has collectively elevated its game since the Ducks' run of dominance began, but last year proved that they're still ahead of the curve. Another one-loss season, with a defeat coming against either Michigan State or Arizona State, culminating in another Pac-12 title is the forecast.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 8
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 10-3
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 9.5
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 9.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 9.5

 

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

Teaser:
Why Oregon Will or Won't Make The College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /mlb/clayton-kershaw-continues-dominant-streak-along-zach-greinke
Body:

Clayton Kershaw just pitched his third straight game with 10+ strikeouts, no walks, and no runs allowed. That’s never been accomplished before. He’s pitched 29 straight scoreless innings. It shouldn’t be that surprising that Kershaw is this good, but he’s performing at historic levels. And this year, he’s not even the clear-cut best pitcher on his own team.

 

While Kershaw continues to dominate, his teammate Zack Greinke has been arguably outperforming him. Greinke has not allowed a run in 43 2/3 innings, as he inches closer to the all time record. In July, they have allowed just one run over 56 innings, for just a 0.16 ERA. That would be the lowest ever if it remains like that. Even with the two of the best pitchers in the game, the Dodgers are still reportedly looking for another starting pitcher in hopes to win their first World Series since 1988.

See why Kershaw is so good:
 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 11:59
Path: /nfl/examining-overunder-win-totals-afc-west
Body:

It'll be a three-team race in the AFC West with Denver, Kansas City and San Diego all in the mix. It'll be a long season for the Raiders once again, but they are on their way up with a young nucleus. Watch out for Oakland in 2016 and '17 when the other teams in the division will be trying to get younger.

 

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

 

AFC West

 

Denver Broncos

(Over 10.5 wins +120, Under 10.5 wins -140)

 

Record Last Year: 12-4

 

Offense: A lot of the talk out of Denver is that the Broncos are going to run the ball more, and they have the personnel to do so. C.J. Anderson had 648 rushing yards in the team's final six games and should get a breather when Montee Ball takes the field. Demaryius Thomas is happy with his new deal and will get some help from Emmanuel Sanders, who had 101 receptions. Owen Daniels tries to replace Julius Thomas at tight end while the offensive line will have to move on without Ryan Clady.

 

Defense: The biggest difference will be up front with Terrance Knighton going to Washington. Shane Ray was a nice addition in the draft and he should join Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware as the primary pass rushers. The secondary is stout once again with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris as well as T.J. Ward at safety.

 

Schedule: Denver has four of its first six on the road with the road dates coming back-to-back in Weeks 5-6 against Oakland and Cleveland. The toughest stretch comes after the bye in Week 7 when the Broncos host the Packers before playing in Indy. They also host the Patriots in Week 12.

 

Prediction: Slight lean to the over. I think the loss of Clady at tackle is going to be a problem in terms of protection for Manning and because of that, I feel he'll miss a game or two this season. The running game is capable of winning tight contests, which is huge come November and December.

 

Kansas City Chiefs

(Over 8.5 wins -115, Under 8.5 wins -105)

 

Record Last Year: 9-7

 

Offense: There's going to be a touchdown thrown to a WR this year. Let's get that out of the way after the Chiefs' wideouts went all of 2014 without finding the end zone once. Jeremy Maclin has been reunited with Andy Reid and represents a significant upgrade over Dwayne Bowe, who's now in Cleveland. One can see why the WRs didn't get much love though with weapons like Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce. The tall tight end had almost 900 receiving yards in 2014. The offensive line shuffled personnel this offseason.

 

Defense: Justin Houston had 22 sacks last year and is armed with a new deal. Kansas City worked on its defense in the draft and made a nice addition to the secondary with Marcus Peters out of Washington. This unit was seventh in the NFL in yards allowed last season and didn't lose much so it should be just as solid in 2015.

 

Schedule: It gets rough early for KC, playing road games at Houston, Green Bay and Cincinnati to open the season, along with a Thursday night home date against Denver. The Chiefs also play three of four on the road coming out of their Week 9 bye - at Denver, San Diego and Oakland.

 

Prediction: The under is the play here and it's mostly because of the schedule. Kansas City's home-field advantage is good enough to steal a game or two, but the Chiefs also play at Minnesota and Baltimore in addition to the other matchups already mentioned. This is a good team that was dealt a rough hand.

 

Oakland Raiders

(Over 5.5 wins +105, Under 5.5 wins -125)

 

Record Last Year: 3-13

 

Offense: Derek Carr experienced a lot of growing pains last year, throwing 12 interceptions, but that's going to change. Carr now has rookie Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree to throw to besides Rod Streater and Mychal Rivera. Oakland also has a solid backfield with Latavius Murray, Trent Richardson, Roy Helu Jr. and Marcel Reece. The fullback Reece in particular is a Swiss Army knife-type player that can help in many ways whether it's blocking, catching or running the football.

 

Defense: Oakland continues to go the veteran route on defense with the additions of Nate Allen, Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith. This side of the ball needs Justin Tuck to return to form and D.J. Hayden to stay healthy. The safeties are veteran Charles Woodson and Allen, who wasn't very good in Philly.

 

Schedule: The Raiders close out the year with three of five at home. It's a good opportunity for a young team to gain a little momentum. Oakland hosts a pair of AFC North teams (Cincinnati, Baltimore) to start out the year. All in all, it's not the worst schedule.

 

Prediction: No real feel for this one. I'm clouded by the fact that the Raiders should be better in 2016 and '17. For the first time in a while, Oakland will win more games then the year before. The question is how many more. If you absolutely need a selection, then I'll take the under.

 

 

San Diego Chargers

(Over 8 wins -130, Under 8 wins +110)

 

Record Last Year: 9-7

 

Offense: Philip Rivers is back for his 12th season with the Chargers. If you haven't done so, go look at his numbers and you'll realize they are better then you probably think. This year's San Diego offense is without stalwart Ryan Mathews as well as Eddie Royal. They are replaced by Stevie Johnson and Jacoby Jones out wide. Antonio Gates is out for four games, so Rivers will have to do without his favorite target for a fourth of the season. The good thing is that San Diego added running back Melvin Gordon in the draft and big things could happen with him.

 

Defense: It was a surprise last year to see San Diego finish fourth in passing defense in the NFL considering the Chargers had just 26 sacks. This unit is solid across the board, but it doesn't have that one dominant talent to rely on. Melvin Ingram staying healthy and Manti Te'o taking the next step would both help this defense round into form.

 

Schedule: Road trips to Green Bay and Baltimore are going to be tough for the Chargers. Their most friendly stretch is from Weeks 4-9 when they host Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Oakland and Chicago. San Diego also finishes the season with back-to-back divisional road games (Oakland, Denver).

 

Prediction: Slight lean to the over here. San Diego is the picture of consistency with three of its last five seasons ending with nine victories in the regular season. Ironically, that is what I project for the Chargers again in 2015. It's just a solid team all around.

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under Win Totals for the AFC West
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Wes Welker, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/champ-bailey-warns-wes-welker-retire
Body:

Over the past decade, Wes Welker has been one of the most productive wide receivers, but he remains unsigned. The problem is the amount of concussions he’s taken over the course of his career. Just last preseason, he suffered a third concussion in just 10 months. This common occurrence has former teammate, Champ Bailey, concerned.

 

In an interview with Fox Sports, he said, “It's a serious thing when you start talking about your head. And for him to have to worry about that at a young age that he is now, he has to think about that for years to come, and I just hope he hangs it up and not strap it up again." Many teams have shied away from signing him because of this very issue. 

Welker still certainly has skill:

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 11:10
Path: /college-football/why-arkansas-will-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Entering the 2015 season the Arkansas Razorbacks are back on the college football map after two dormant seasons left in the dust of former head coach Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle accident. The 2012 and ‘13 seasons were forgettable but an about-face took place in 2014 under second-year head coach Bret Bielema, leading to high expectations this year.

 

Bielema’s brand of “Big Boy Football” started coming together in the form of a 7-6 season that included a 3-1 run in November, which included back-to-back shutouts of LSU (17-0) and Ole Miss (30-0). Further validation came at the end of December in the form of a 31-7 bowl game win over former Southwest Conference rival Texas.

 

Athlon Sports ranked Arkansas No. 16 in its preseason Top 25, snuggled between SEC West foe LSU and Oklahoma. Expectations are really high for the Hogs but before Arkansas can take that big leap forward from bowl team to College Football Playoff participant, they must clear a few big hurdles first. The good news is the Razorbacks have a few tricks up their sleeves that could make them a potential Playoff candidate.

 

Three Reasons Why Arkansas Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Offensive Line

The Razorbacks arguably have one of if not the best offensive lines in college football. Four starters return, highlighted by preseason All-SEC picks left tackle Denver Kirkland, right tackle Dan Skipper, and left guard Sebastian Tretola. Senior starter Mitch Smothers returns at center with Frank Ragnow expected to start at left guard. Ragnow got a lot of action in 2014, appearing in nine games and taking part in more than 200 snaps, which should prepare him to handle starter minutes this season.

 

Backing up the mantra of best of the best, everyone knew the Razorbacks were going to run the ball last year and that they did, finishing 24th in the nation with 218 yards rushing per game. And when Arkansas did pass the line did its job, giving up just 14 sacks all season, the fewest in the SEC.

 

2. New Offensive Coordinator

Under Bielema the Hogs will run the ball but what was missing last season was an effective passing attack. Enter new offensive coordinator Dan Enos. Enos has built a reputation as an offensive mind and as a great quarterbacks coach. The addition of the former Central Michigan head coach’s offensive scheme coupled with Bielema’s desire to run the ball should spread out defenses, likewise creating better passing windows and even bigger running lanes for the tailbacks.

 

If Enos can push a little more production out of third-year senior starting quarterback Brandon Allen, this could be the difference-maker that pushes Arkansas into the Playoff picture.

 

3. Running Backs

Even if the play under center by Allen does not improve from 2,285 yards passing to something closer to 3,000, the Hogs always have one of the best running back tandems in the nation with senior Jonathan Williams and junior Alex Collins to fall back on. Both players rushed for over 1,100 yards and scored 12 touchdowns on the ground last year.

 

The one thing missing from Arkansas’ offense the last two years under former coordinator Jim Chaney was the tailbacks’ use as pass catchers. Look for Enos to utilize his preseason All-SEC running backs in the passing game, helping keep defenses honest, spread out and guessing.

 

Arkansas' 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent 

Athlon Projected Rank

for 2015

Projected Record
Sept. 5UTEP1006-6
Sept. 12vs. Toledo*759-4
Sept. 19Texas Tech486-6
Sept. 26vs. Texas A&M^207-5
Oct. 3at Tennessee228-4
Oct. 10at Alabama212-1
Oct. 24Auburn410-2
Oct. 31UT Martin
Nov. 7at Ole Miss119-3
Nov. 14at LSU158-4
Nov. 21Mississippi State217-5
Nov. 28Missouri277-5

*Little Rock, Ark.; ^Arlington, Texas

 

Three Reasons Why Arkansas Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Schedule

Arkansas is one of a handful of teams in the nation that many are expecting to make some noise when the season kicks off in September. The trouble for Arkansas is two of the other squads that fall into this category are SEC teams and the Razorbacks play both —  at Tennessee and home versus Mississippi State.

 

If preseason rankings count for anything Arkansas has a neutral-site matchup against No. 20 Texas A&M, travel in back-to-back games to play No. 22 Tennessee and No. 2 Alabama, and then come home after a bye week to host No. 4 Auburn. The last month of the season includes back-to-back road trips to No. 11 Ole Miss and No. 15 LSU, followed by home games against No. 21 Mississippi State and two-time SEC East champion Missouri. Just brutal.

 

The argument could be made that Arkansas must win all four non-conference games (UTEP, Toledo, Texas Tech and Tennessee-Martin) just to be in contention for a bowl game. Arkansas may catch Tennessee at the right time if that is possible. The Volunteers come off a road game against Florida then host Georgia, and travel to Alabama and Kentucky after seeing the Hogs. The contest against Tennessee could be a big opportunity to sneak away with the SEC road win Bielema has yet to capture since taking over the helm in Fayetteville.

 

If the Hogs fly away from Knoxville with a win and split against Alabama and Auburn, watch out. Under Bielema, the Hogs start playing better in the second half of the season. With an incentive of winning the SEC West and a shot at possibly making it into the Playoff, this team could start believing and become an even more dangerous team to face. 

 

The reality is seven games against ranked teams and only three SEC home games makes this task daunting for any FBS program. Toss in a SEC Championship Game in Atlanta against preseason favorite No. 10 Georgia or seeing Tennessee a second time and the road to the Playoff becomes a nighttime, barefoot trek over the Ozark Mountains without a headlamp.

 

2. Question Marks in the Passing Game

Enos can be the world’s best mastermind at drawing up plays but if he cannot find a playmaker in the passing game to get the ball to downfield every Arkansas game will be a true grind for the offensive line and running backs. The good news is help could be on the roster… well, maybe.

 

Arkansas has one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the nation in junior Hunter Henry. He is a big asset to be sure, but to clear the eight- or nine-men in the box sets seen all last year a wide receiver has to step forward. Senior wideout Keon Hatcher is the easy pick to have a solid year. He pulled down 43 passes for 558 yards with six touchdowns but has an uncanny knack of making the routine plays look tough and the impossible look simple.

 

The unknown options are many, including redshirt freshman JoJo Robinson, JUCO transfer Dominique Reed, sophomore Kendrick Edwards, and true freshman La’Michael Pettway. Each appears to have the talent to make a difference in the Hogs’ passing game, but will it materialize on the field? Of the three only Edwards has FBS experience, and that covered four receptions with one score in 11 games as a true freshman. Right now the potential for greatness is there but until an impact is made by one or more of the receivers it’s all just chatter.


Related: Breakdown of the Arkansas Razorbacks Wide Receivers Entering the 2015 Season

 

3. Special Teams Play

There was very little that was special about Arkansas’ special teams play last season top to bottom. A missed PAT arguably cost the Hogs a win against Alabama (14-13) and the punt game regressed, only averaging 40.1 yards per attempt. Only one touchdown was scored on special teams and that was by explosive sophomore running back Korliss Marshall, who is no longer on the team.

 

The reality is Arkansas was solid in the third phase of the game last year, hitting 52 of 54 PATs but one of the two misses was huge. A reliable placekicker did not emerge last season, so there was little confidence emanating from the fanbase that a field goal from 45 yards or shorter was a “gimme.” Adam McFain hit 7-of-10, while John Henseon hit 2-of-4 and was responsible for the two missed PATs. McFain is expected to win the job after connection on 4-of-6 from 30-39 yards and made one of his two attempts between 40-49, that coming from 49 yards out. Incoming freshman punter Blake Johnson is expected to infuse some life into the kicking game.

 

For the Hogs to win on the road in the SEC a dynamic punt returner must be found to help give favorable field position every now and again. D.J. Dean returned 11 punts for 121 yards, a nice 11.0 yards per return average with a long of 63. Opponents punted 66 times and the Hogs attempted to return just 22 of those, meaning that’s a lot of fair catches or missed opportunities to try and advance the ball. A couple more return attempts in 2015 coupled with a Joe Adams-type return of 40-plus yards could mean valuable field position and help this team eke out a game or two that could have gone the other way. The questions remains though, who can the Hogs call on to be that dynamic playmaker?

 

Final Verdict

 

In 2014 Robb Smith turned the defense around from the No. 76 unit in the nation to No. 10. The loss of NFL Draft picks linebacker Martrell Spaight, defensive end Trey Flowers, and defensive tackle Darius Philon, will be tough to overcome but the talent is on the roster for another Top 25-worthy defense. If Smith can keep the defense hungry and reactionary, mixed with a strong ball-controlled, clock-eating ground game, and a few more successful downfield passes that will make Arkansas one of the most well-rounded teams in the nation.

 

The schedule is difficult with four road games against Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss and LSU. On the optimistic end Arkansas could go 10-2. A mid-level projection is nine or eight wins, which is not good enough to make the Playoff.

 

Finishing 10-2 with a SEC Championship Game victory (11-2), should be good enough for a Playoff berth. If Ohio State, TCU or Baylor, USC, and Florida State all come to the finish line with a mix of undefeated records or one loss that could be enough to dash the Hogs’ dreams, depending on how the Playoff selection committee takes into consideration strength of schedule.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 16
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 8-4
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 8.5
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8.5

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Why Arkansas Will or Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-biggest-questions-heading-training-camp
Body:

Training camps have begun in the NFL. It's the time of year when every team, even the bad ones, believe they have a chance at the playoffs.

 

Related: 2015 NFL Training Camp Dates and Locations

 

All 32 teams have question marks to address and the Miami Dolphins are no exception. So what are the Dolphins' biggest question marks with rookies and veterans set to report to training camp on July 29?

 

1. What will the offensive line look like?  

Last season, Branden Albert was the Dolphins' best offensive lineman before he tore his ACL and MCL in the team's November loss against the Detroit Lions. During minicamp and OTAs, Albert didn’t practice with the team and was seen noticeably limping while working with trainers.

 

If Albert isn’t healthy for Miami's season opener against the Washington Redskins, that will force the team to reshuffle its offensive line. Miami also has questions at both guard positions.

 

Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas will compete for both guard spots. Thomas has been one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL during his first two years in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. The coaches said during training camp that they will give Thomas every opportunity to win the job, but his prior history says the team can’t depend on him.

 

Turner has very limited experience as he only played in two games during his rookie season. Douglas, the team's fourth-round draft pick in May, could be the best guard out of the three, but he lacks NFL playing time.

 

Playing against the Dolphins' defensive line every day during camp should only improve the offensive line to some degree. But Miami needs Albert to be ready for Week 1.

 

Related: Breakdown of the Miami Dolphins Running Backs Entering the 2015 Season

 

2. How much will Ryan Tannehill improve this season?

Every season since his rookie year, Tannehill's play at quarterback has progressively gotten better, but yet the Dolphins have finished 7-9, 8-8 and 8-8 in his first three years. Even though Miami hasn’t made the playoffs since Tannehill has been under center, the team rewarded him with a $96 million extension in May.

 

Pocket presence and accuracy down the field are the two things Tannehill has to improve on. The Dolphins' offensive line wasn’t great last year, but Tannehill would often hold the ball longer than he should have.

 

Tannehill and former No. 1 wide receiver Mike Wallace never got on the same page with their deep ball chemistry. That's one of the reasons the team traded Wallace during the offseason. Miami added receivers Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and drafted DeVante Parker over the offseason, so maybe Tannehill’s accuracy will improve with better weapons.

 

Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2014, but there’s room for improvement. A quarterback is only as good as his fourth-quarter performances and Tannehill needs to become more of a clutch player if the Dolphins are to make the playoffs in 2015.

 

3. Is the Dolphins' defense better than last year?

Last year, the Dolphins defense started out well, but it gradually got worse in the second half of the season. The defensive line couldn’t stop the run and the pass rush was non-existent. That’s the main reason the team signed Ndamukong Suh to a six-year, $114 million contract.

 

Miami finished 24th in rushing defense and the addition of Suh along with Olivier Vernon, Cameron Wake, Earl Mitchell, C.J. Mosley and second-round pick Jordan Phillips will be a terror for offensive lines to stop. The amount of depth Miami has will also keep its front four fresh. 

 

The linebacker position appears to be the biggest weakness on this defense. Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi will be the starters, but depth at linebacker will be a question.

 

Miami moved on from veteran linebackers Philip Wheeler,  Dannell Ellerbe and let Jason Trusnik leave for the Carolina Panthers in free agency. The team signed Spencer Paysinger as well as a number of undrafted free agents, with the goal of improving its linebacker depth.

 

Cincinnati’s Jeff Luc, Utah State’s Zach Vigil, Penn State’s Mike Hull and Marshall’s Neville Hewitt were all considered Day 3 picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. Miami will hope it can find a diamond in the rough (or two) with one of these undrafted players. 

 

— 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.

Teaser:
Miami Dolphins' Biggest Questions Heading Into Training Camp
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/nebraska-big-ten-west-divisions-sleeper-team-2015
Body:

It’s a new era for Nebraska football in 2015. Mike Riley was hired to replace Bo Pelini, and the former Oregon State coach inherits a team that has won at least nine games in each of the last seven seasons. However, the bar in Lincoln is higher than just getting to nine victories. Competing for conference championships is a must, and the Cornhuskers have all of the necessary resources to be a top 15-20 team on a consistent basis.

 

As Riley heads into his first year, Nebraska isn’t considered the favorite in the Big Ten West Division. Wisconsin is a consensus favorite among the preseason prognosticators, with Ohio State the clear pick to win the Big Ten.

 

Related: Nebraska’s Maliek Collins Ranks as One of College Football's Top 50 Players

 

While the Badgers are the favorite in the West Division, the Cornhuskers shouldn’t be overlooked and could be a sleeper pick to make the trip to Indianapolis in early December.

 

Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?

 

(Here are a few reasons to buy the Cornhuskers as a West Division title contender in 2015)

 

1. Manageable Big Ten Schedule

A crossover game against Michigan State is challenging, but Nebraska misses Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State from the East Division, and Wisconsin and Iowa visit Memorial Stadium in 2015. The upcoming slate certainly isn’t easy, especially with the crossover matchup against the Spartans and the road trip to Minnesota. However, if Nebraska knocks off Wisconsin in October, it would give Riley’s team a chance to position itself for a run at the West Division title in November.

 

Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015

 

2. Improvement Behind a First-Year Coach

Every year, it seems there are a handful of teams that make a jump in the standings based on the strength of a new coaching staff and schemes. Could Nebraska get the first-year bump in 2015? Riley’s career record at Oregon State was just 93-80, but winning in Corvallis is no easy task. Riley knows how to get the most out of a roster and discover hidden gems on the recruiting trail. Both of those tactics should work well in Lincoln. Riley’s biggest challenge in terms of personnel will be getting quarterback Tommy Armstrong to adapt to the new pro-style approach.

 

Related: Setting the Expectations for Mike Riley in 2015

 

3. Dangerous Offense…If the Pieces Fall Into Place

Make no mistake: There are question marks about Nebraska’s offense. Quarterback Tommy Armstrong has to play better and adapt to the new scheme, standout running back Ameer Abdullah must be replaced, and three new starters must be found on the offensive line. But if all of the pieces fall into place, this is a dangerous offense. After all, the Cornhuskers averaged 37.8 points per game last season. That number could climb in 2015 if Armstrong develops, and Terrell Newby, Imani Cross and Adam Taylor handle the workload at running back. Sophomore De’Mornay Pierson-El is a rising star to watch this fall.

 

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on Nebraska's Schedule

 

Podcast: ACC, Big 12 Media Days and Talkin’ Season



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

4. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine

Stopping opposing offenses starts in the trenches for most defenses. Nebraska needs to develop a few pass rushers, but the tackle combination of Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine is among the best in the nation. Both players check in over 300 pounds and should have no trouble wreaking havoc against opposing offensive linemen or quarterbacks. Some teams may choose to add double teams to Collins or Valentine, which should help alleviate some of the pressure on the younger players, allowing more one-on-one matchups to get to the quarterback. 

 

Related: Big Ten's 2015 All-Conference Team

 

5. Turnover Margin

Nebraska lost two of its three conference games by five points or less last season. What could be the difference in close matchups? Turnovers. In Big Ten games last year, the Cornhuskers were a minus-two in turnover margin. Luck plays a big part in recovering turnovers, but Nebraska could do a better job of holding onto the ball. In eight conference matchups, the Cornhuskers gave away 20 turnovers.

 

6. Talent

Recruiting rankings are never going to be 100 percent accurate, but there is some truth in the data. Earlier this offseason, Athlon examined the Big Ten team recruiting rankings, with Ohio State and Michigan ranking as the top two rosters in the conference. But No. 3 could be a surprise to some: Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have averaged a No. 27 finish nationally in recruiting rankings over the last five years, with Wisconsin – Nebraska’s biggest challenger in the West – at No. 41. Again, the recruiting rankings aren’t everything. But there is plenty of talent for Riley to work with in his debut in Lincoln.

Teaser:
Is Nebraska the Big Ten West Division's Sleeper Team for 2015?
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/why-auburn-will-wont-make-college-football-playoff-2015
Body:

Auburn enters the 2015 college football season with high expectations. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record and were several lapses from being a national contender.

 

Auburn's offense was what you'd expect from a Gus Malzahn-coached team. The Tigers ranked second in the SEC in yards per game (485.0) and third in total yards (6,305).

 

But their defense ranked No. 61 overall in the FBS and allowed 26.7 points per game, which ranked 10th in the conference. Still, there's optimism for an immediate turnaround with new coordinator Will Muschamp at the helm and one of the SEC's best returning linebacker groups.

 

Auburn was predicted to win the SEC Championship in a poll conducted at SEC Media Days. With the college football season less than 50 days away, it's time to evaluate some of the nation's top contenders.

 

Here are three reasons why Auburn will make the College Football Playoff and three reasons the Tigers won't finish in the top four.

 

Three Reasons Why Auburn Will Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Muschamp Factor

Muschamp is a defensive guru. Despite his disappointing tenure as Florida's head coach he still remains one of the best defensive minds in college football. Muschamp-coached teams ranked in the top 10 in the FBS each year since 2009. Auburn hasn't finished higher than No. 60 in the past six seasons, which includes two teams (2010, ‘13) that either made it to or won the BCS title game. Muschamp also inherits a plethora of talent including linebackers Cassanova McKinzy and Kris Frost. Auburn hopes to find the same success as rival Alabama when the Tide hired Lane Kiffin as its offensive coordinator in 2014. The pairing of Malzahn and Muschamp could be the best in college football and should succeed with a roster full of talent.

 

Related: New Coordinators Raise the Price of Winning in the SEC

 

2. Jeremy Johnson Heisman Campaign

Johnson may dismiss Heisman talk now but it may be impossible during the season. Johnson is set to take over as Auburn's new starting quarterback after serving as Nick Marshall's backup the past two seasons. In 11 appearances he's thrown for 858 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions on 57-of-78 passing. He's also drawn comparisons to Auburn legend and Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton due to his 6-foot-5, 240-pound frame and dual-threat ability. Johnson will be the perfect fit in Malzahn's offense which consistently helps mobile QBs flourish. It also doesn't hurt to have one of the SEC's best receiving groups and a pair of talented running backs in Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson.


Related: 10 First-Year Starting QBs Who Could Win College Football's National Title in 2015

 

3. SEC Hype

So let's assume both Auburn and Alabama enter the Iron Bowl with undefeated records. The Tide defeats the Tigers and earns its second consecutive SEC West title. There's no doubt that Auburn will still be in the top four should it lose to its archrival. In 2013, the Tigers returned what is now known as the "Kick Six" to spoil Alabama's perfect season. With the new Playoff format both teams would have still been in contention for a national championship. It just seems like this season will play out in similar fashion and both teams will rank among the nation's best during rivalry week.

 

Auburn’s 2015 Schedule

DateOpponent 

Athlon Projected Rank

for 2015

Projected Record
Sept. 5vs. Louisville*387-5
Sept. 12Jacksonville State
Sept. 19at LSU158-4
Sept. 26Mississippi State217-5
Oct. 3San Jose State1104-8
Oct. 15at Kentucky556-6
Oct. 24at Arkansas168-4
Oct. 31Ole Miss119-3
Nov. 7at Texas A&M207-5
Nov. 14Georgia1010-3
Nov. 21Idaho1252-10
Nov. 28Alabama212-1

*Neutral-site game in Atlanta, Ga.

 

Three Reasons Why Auburn Won’t Make the College Football Playoff in 2015

 

1. Injuries

At least 10 Auburn players were held out or limited during spring practices due to injuries according to Al.com's Brandon Marcello. Although many seemed to be precautionary, it still shows that the Tigers have some injury concerns entering the season. Cornerback T.J. Davis, who played 56 snaps last season, will miss a portion of the season recovering from ACL surgery in late March. Defensive end/linebacker Carl Lawson, who underwent knee surgery to repair an ACL in May 2014, was limited despite being cleared participate in practices in December.

 

2. Tough Schedule

Auburn has the eighth-most difficult schedule in college football according to FBschedules.com. The Tigers' opponents combined for a 92-60 record and a 60.53 winning percentage in 2014. Auburn also has the difficult task of playing at LSU on Sept. 19, Arkansas on Oct. 24 and Texas A&M -- the SEC's largest stadium -- on Nov. 7. Not only does this create potential upsets but also provides fatigue. It will be difficult for the Tigers to make it through their schedule without a blemish but by no means impossible.

 

3. SEC Contenders Offsetting Each Other

Midway through last season it seemed like several SEC West teams were in contention for the College Football Playoff. By season's end, both Mississippi schools found themselves on the outside looking in. Any SEC team is capable of pulling off an upset on any given Saturday. As mentioned before, both Alabama and Auburn SHOULD enter Week 14 with undefeated records. However, who knows how the season will turn out. Perhaps Texas A&M or LSU is much better than most are giving them credit for. There's always an upset -- if not several -- that plays spoiler to a perfect season and an emerging surprise contender in the conference. Auburn may hold an advantage in every game leading up to the Iron Bowl but could still fall to ranked opponents midway through the season.

 

Final Verdict

 

Auburn should be in contention for a College Football Playoff berth by season's end. The Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama will be the biggest game of the season for the Tigers. With the new Playoff format it’s very possible that both teams secure a top-4 ranking after what should be a memorable matchup. Auburn looks like the most complete team in the SEC and should survive a difficult schedule if it can stay healthy. Johnson will emerge as a Heisman candidate in an offensive scheme that will play to his athletic strengths. Muschamp will provide an immediate turnaround to what is already an underrated defensive group. The smart money is on Auburn to be in contention for a College Football Playoff spot whether or not it makes an SEC Championship Game appearance.

 

Athlon’s Projected Final Ranking: 4
Athlon’s Projected Final Record: 10-2
Bovada Projected Over/Under Odds: 8.5
CG Technology Over/Under Odds: 8.5
5 Dimes Over/Under Odds: 8.5

 

— Written by Jason Hall, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and works for Fox Sports Florida. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhallFSN.

Teaser:
Why Auburn Will or Won't Make the College Football Playoff in 2015
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Tom Brady, NFL
Path: /nfl/tom-brady-must-take-nfl-court-over-deflategate
Body:

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.

 

 

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.

 

— Written by Mike Dussault, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and writer/editor of PatsPropaganda.com (@PatsPropaganda), a comprehensive blog covering the New England Patriots.

Teaser:
Tom Brady Must Take the NFL to Court Over Deflategate
Post date: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/ohio-states-qb-battle-takes-shape-braxton-miller-shifts-receiver
Body:

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



Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher

 

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. 

Teaser:
Ohio State's QB Battle Takes Shape as Braxton Miller Shifts to Receiver
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 22:13
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/colin-cowherd-makes-insensitive-remark-about-dominicans-jose-bautisa
Body:

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."

 

 

Blue Jays rightfielder, and proud Dominican, Jose Bautista took issue with Cowherd's harsh take on things, and tweeted to him for an explanation.

 

 

This won't be the last we hear about this matter. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 20:14
All taxonomy terms: AL West, American League, Houston Astros, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/houston-astros-acquire-scott-kazmir-first-major-trade-deadline
Body:

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:
 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 16:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-dispatches-acc-and-big-12
Body:

 

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.

 

Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunesStitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Dispatches from the ACC and Big 12
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 16:20
Path: /college-football/urban-meyer-dominance-recruiting-ohio-state-nick-bosa-commitment
Body:

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:

 

 

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.

Teaser:
Urban Meyer's Dominance in Recruiting at Ohio State Continues with Nick Bosa Commitment
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-demonstrate-hugh-freeze-summer-workout-rebel-strength
Body:

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.

2015 Rebel Strength Summer Weight Room Highlight from Ole Miss Rebels on Vimeo.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 15:35
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascars-cautionary-tale-yellows-dont-need-happen
Body:

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.

 

OVERDRIVE

 

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.

 

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

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
NASCAR's Cautionary Tale: Yellows That Don't Need To Happen
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 15:15
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2015-mlb-trade-deadline-players-watch
Body:

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:

 

Pitchers

 

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.


Hitters
 

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.

Teaser:
2015 MLB Trade Deadline: 12 Players to Watch
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-5-biggest-training-camp-quarterback-battles-2015
Body:

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. 

Teaser:
The NFL's 5 Biggest Quarterback Battles to Watch in Training Camp
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Overtime
Path: /overtime/cardale-jones-puts-ohio-state-fan-blast-comment-black-all-lives-matter-buckeyes
Body:

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.

 

 

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 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.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 12:28
Path: /nfl/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-afc-south
Body:

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

 

AFC South

 

Houston Texans

(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.

 

Indianapolis Colts

(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.


 

Jacksonville Jaguars

(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.

 

 

Tennessee Titans

(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.

Teaser:
Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the AFC South
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/nebraska-hype-video-huskers-byu-season-opener
Body:

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.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 11:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/group-five-wild-card-players-2015
Body:

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:

 

American Athletic Conference

 

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.

 

Conference USA

 

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.

 

Mid-American Conference

 

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.

 

Mountain West Conference

 

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.

 

Sun Belt Conference

 

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.

 

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

Teaser:
Group of Five Wild Card Players in 2015
Post date: Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /mlb/5-biggest-mlb-trade-deadline-sellers
Body:

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. 

 

Related: 5 Teams That Will Be Buyers at the 2015 MLB Trade Deadline

 

Here is a list of the top sellers in the MLB stock market as the July 31 trade deadline rapidly approaches.

 

Cincinnati Reds

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. 

 

Detroit Tigers

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.

 

Philadelphia Phillies

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.

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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.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

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.

 

Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015

 

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.

 

Related: College Football's Bowl Projections for 2015

 

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. 

 

Related: College Football's 2015 All-America Team

 

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?

 

Related: Ranking College Football's Top Graduate QB Transfers for 2015

 

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. 

 

Related: Why Notre Dame Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

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.

 

Related: Why Arizona State Will or Won't Make the CFB Playoff in 2015

 

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.

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