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Path: /college-football/sec-2015-week-1-predictions

The bowl season wasn’t kind to the SEC, but just like every other team in the nation, all 14 teams in college football’s No. 1 conference are 0-0 and looking to start the year with a victory.


A couple of marquee non-conference matchups lead the way in the Week 1 slate for the SEC. In Atlanta, Auburn takes on Louisville, while Texas A&M and Arizona State meet in Houston for an anticipated high-scoring affair. Auburn has playoff aspirations, and this matchup against Louisville should be a good barometer test for coach Gus Malzahn and coordinator Will Muschamp on how far the defense has progressed in one offseason.


Elsewhere in the SEC this week, South Carolina-North Carolina and Vanderbilt-WKU play on Thursday night. Tennessee travels to Nashville to take on Bowling Green, and Mississippi State takes an in-state road trip to Southern Miss on Saturday night.


Athlon Sports offers its SEC Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).


SEC Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

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

TV Channel: CBS


David Fox:

Among Bobby Petrino, Todd Grantham, Gus Malzahn and Will Muschamp, a ton of the coaches in this game have crossed paths at one time or another. 

Auburn 31–21


Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the best games of Week 1 and a great matchup of Auburn’s offense versus Louisville’s defense. The Cardinals should present some problems for the Tigers at the line of scrimmage, but quarterback Jeremy Johnson hits a few plays in the second half to secure the victory.

Auburn 31-20


Mitch Light:

Auburn will turn to Jeremy Johnson, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and two INTs in 11 career games. He will be tested by a Louisville defense that has been rebuilt by impact transfers. 

Auburn 27-20


2. Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (Houston)

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

This game could set up as a shootout. Arizona State will be the team that can make the critical stop or force the crucial turnover.

Arizona State 35–28


Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the weekend’s most intriguing games and should be no shortage of fireworks between these two offenses. An underrated matchup to watch is the Arizona State offensive line against Texas A&M’s defense – under new coordinator John Chavis – with Myles Garrett coming off the edge. The Sun Devils will land their share of big plays, but the Aggies score a key non-conference win.

Texas A&M 34-31


Mitch Light:

John Chavis takes over an A&M defense that allowed a staggering 509.5 yards per game against SEC opponents last season. The Aggies will be tested by strong-armed Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici. 

Arizona State 34-31


3. Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC


David Fox:

Is it possible that quarterback could be a liability for Alabama? Guess we’ll find out.

Alabama 31–14


Steven Lassan:

Great name value in this matchup, but it’s tough to find a reason why Wisconsin can win this one. The Crimson Tide should be able to hold the Badgers’ rushing attack in check, which adds a lot of pressure on quarterback Joel Stave and an inexperienced receiving corps. Alabama won’t name a starter at quarterback until kickoff, but it shouldn’t matter which signal-caller takes the first or a majority of snaps this week.

Alabama 34-13


Mitch Light:

Alabama has concerns at quarterback and is inexperienced at wide receiver … but still has far more talent than Wisconsin. 

Alabama 28-13


4. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

South Carolina’s defense was abysmal last year, and I’m not sure what they’ve got on offense besides Pharoh Cooper. At least we know UNC can score.  

UNC 28–21


Steven Lassan:

Not sure what to expect in this one. North Carolina has one of the ACC’s best offenses, and Gene Chizik was hired to improve a struggling defense. South Carolina picked Connor Mitch as its starting quarterback, but he has only six career pass attempts. The Gamecocks also struggled mightily on defense last year.

South Carolina 31-27  


Mitch Light:

South Carolina lacks proven playmakers other than Pharoh Cooper. North Carolina is loaded with offensive weapons. North Carolina 37-30


5. Bowling Green vs. Tennessee (Nashville)

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

Can Tennessee live up to the hype? The Volunteers might have to play through some nerves as they start the season. Tennessee 35–17


Steven Lassan:

Tennessee has momentum on its side entering coach Butch Jones’ third season. The Volunteers are heavy favorites here, but Bowling Green has enough firepower to make this one interesting for a half. Keep an eye on Falcons’ quarterback Matt Johnson returning to the lineup after missing most of last season with a hip injury.

Tennessee 38-17


Mitch Light:

Quarterback Matt Johnson returns to the Bowling Green lineup after missing all but one game with an injury last season. He will lead an offense that is good enough to score some points on Tennessee’s talented but young defense. Tennessee 41-22


6. WKU at Vanderbilt

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

Western Kentucky put up points on just about everyone last season. Derek Mason’s life won’t get any easier if his first game at DC is a showcase for WKU QB Brandon Doughty. 

WKU 35–21


Steven Lassan:

Vanderbilt needs this one. After a 3-9 debut, the pressure is already building on coach Derek Mason. WKU’s offense is explosive and is going to give the Commodores all they can handle. Expect Vanderbilt to use a heavy dose of running back Ralph Webb to avoid to the upset.

Vanderbilt 34-31


Mitch Light:

Vanderbilt is a home underdog to high-powered Western Kentucky. The Commodores will have a new look on defense now that head coach Derrick Mason is calling the shots. The plan: Put a ton of pressure on WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty.

Vanderbilt 38-30


7. Mississippi State at Southern Miss

Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1


David Fox:

Mississippi State will go as far as Dak Prescott can take the Bulldogs. 

Mississippi State 28–10


Steven Lassan:

Southern Miss is getting better under coach Todd Monken and hopes an infusion of transfers brings improvement to a defense that allowed 35.4 points a game last season. The Golden Eagles might hang around for a half, but Mississippi State won’t lose this one behind quarterback Dak Prescott.

Mississippi State 38-13


Mitch Light:

The Bulldogs make the short trip to Hattiesburg with a chip on their shoulder. Despite winning 10 games a year ago, most — including Athlon Sports — are picking Mississippi State to finish last in the SEC West. This, of course, is not a league game, but the Dogs will be eager to play well in Week 1.

Mississippi State 31-7


8. UL Lafayette at Kentucky

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

Kentucky will be overlooked in Week 1, but this is a big test for a team hoping to return to the postseason. 

Kentucky 31–13


Steven Lassan:

This is a must-win game for Kentucky if it wants to go bowling. UL Lafayette running back Elijah McGuire is one of the top players in the Group of 5 ranks. Ragin’ Cajuns hang around, but Wildcats pull away late.

Kentucky 34-17


Mitch Light:

Kentucky’s march to bowl eligibility begins with a tough test against one of the Sun Belt’s top teams. UL Lafayette has won exactly nine games in each of the last four seasons. The Cats will have to earn this one. 

Kentucky 34-17


9. UTEP at Arkansas

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

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

Two grinding teams will try to keep possessions low. Arkansas, though, will run away with it. 

Arkansas 35–14


Steven Lassan:

These two teams are similar in style of play – strong offensive line and rushing attack – but there’s a clear edge in talent. Razorbacks continue the momentum from end of 2014 with an easy win on Saturday.

Arkansas 45-13


Mitch Light:

Arkansas’ rushing attack gets all the headlines, but UTEP boasts a quality running back of its own. Junior Aaron Jones rushed for 1,321 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. 

Arkansas 44-14


10. ULM at Georgia

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

Nick Chubb might be your Heisman front runner by the end of September. Of the first three opponents, ULM (86th in yards allowed per play) had the best rush defense. 

Georgia 42–14


Steven Lassan:

ULM has a good defense, but the offense is a work in progress. Bulldogs simply have too much defense and a deep stable of running backs to carry the workload on offense. Greyson Lambert earning the starting quarterback job over Brice Ramsey came as a surprise. How well will the Virginia transfer perform in his first game with the Bulldogs?

Georgia 44-13


Mitch Light:

Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert makes his first start at Georgia, but Nick Chubb is the main man for the Bulldogs’ attack. As a freshman, Chubb led the SEC with 7.1 yards per carry and averaged 172.9 yards over his final seven games against FBS foes. 

Georgia 41-13


11. New Mexico State at Florida

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

Treon Harris can prove why he held onto the starting job.

Florida 49–14


Steven Lassan:

Treon Harris gets the nod over Will Grier as Florida’s starting quarterback, but it won’t matter which signal-caller takes the first snap. The Gators should control this one from the start and open the Jim McElwain era with an easy win.

Florida 47-10


Mitch Light:

The Gators will play two quarterbacks in Jim McElwain’s debut. Both should have success against a New Mexico State team that ranked 116th in the nation in total defense in 2014. 

Florida 51-0


12. McNeese State at LSU

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

McNeese has former Kansas State quarterback Daniel Sams. LSU could be starting Brandon Harris. I’m still trying to figure out who has the QB advantage. 

LSU 35–10


Steven Lassan:

New quarterback Brandon Harris has an opportunity to build some confidence against McNeese State. Tigers should control this one from the opening snap.

LSU 45-9


Mitch Light:

Brandon Harris takes over an LSU offense that is desperate for adequate quarterback play. If he can deliver, this team has enough talent to contend in the SEC West. 

LSU 41-7


13. UT Martin at Ole Miss

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

I’m looking forward to seeing the Chad Kelly-Laquon Treadwell connection. 

Ole Miss 42–10

Steven Lassan:

Chad Kelly’s debut for Ole Miss makes this one worth a watch on Saturday. Rebels win easily.

Ole Miss 45-10


Mitch Light:

Led by a star-studded junior class, the Rebels have the talent to contend in the brutal SEC West. In the opener, all eyes will be on quarterback Chad Kelly.  

Ole Miss 34-11


14. Southeast Missouri State at Missouri

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: SEC Network


David Fox:

Missouri’s young defensive line is worth watching here. Otherwise…

Missouri 42–7


Steven Lassan:

Look for quarterback Maty Mauk and his revamped receiving corps to work out a few kinks against Southeast Missouri State.

Missouri 40-7


Mitch Light:

The two-time defending SEC East champs being their season with a visit from an FCS foe for the fourth straight season. The Tigers won the last three by an average of 38.7 points. 

Missouri 48-10

SEC 2015 Week 1 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/boston-sports-kirk-minihane-roger-goodell-hire-someone-murder-him

Unless you live in Boston, the chances are slim you've heard of Kirk Minihane. After hearing what he has to say about Roger Goodell, you won't forget him.


Minihane is a part of WEEI's "Dennis & Callahan Show" and on Wednesday's show he had some interesting remarks in regards to the NFL commissioner.


Over/under on the amount of time he's suspended? 

Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 10:03
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2015-week-1-predictions

The Big Ten ended the 2014 season in the spotlight with Ohio State’s national championship victory over Oregon, and the conference opens 2015 with two marquee games on Thursday night. Michigan travels to Salt Lake City to take on Utah in coach Jim Harbaugh’s debut, while playoff contender TCU makes the trek to Minnesota.


While both matchups are among the best of the weekend, the Ohio State-Virginia Tech showdown on Monday night is the most interesting contest of the Big Ten’s opening slate. Will the Buckeyes begin their title defense with a revenge victory over the Hokies? Or will the Hokies' defense lead the way for another upset?


Athlon Sports offers its Big Ten Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).


Big Ten Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Ohio State at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Monday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox: 

Virginia Tech’s win last year is eons ago. J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones have won the biggest of big games and will again in Blacksburg.

Ohio State 28-20


Steven Lassan:

This is the best game of Week 1, and so many intriguing questions will be answered. Who will start at quarterback for Ohio State? How will the defense perform with end Joey Bosa suspended? How much of an impact will Braxton Miller make at receiver? The Hokies’ defense should keep them in this game, but will the offense consistently move the ball or avoid big mistakes?

Ohio State 30-20


Mitch Light:

In last year’s loss to Virginia Tech at home, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. It’s safe to say Ohio State will get better play at the quarterback position this time around.

Ohio State 27-13


2. Michigan at Utah

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1


David Fox: 

Jim Harbaugh may have won the offseason, but he’s going to need solid offensive line play to win his debut at Michigan. That’s been in short supply.

Utah 24–21


Steven Lassan:

Jim Harbaugh’s debut. Not much else needs to be said for the must-see value of this one. Wouldn’t expect a ton of points on Thursday night, as both teams are solid on defense and enter the season with question marks on offense. Utah’s defense is the difference in this matchup.

Utah 23-20


Mitch Light:

Michigan outgained the Utes 308-to-286 and held Devontae Booker to 34 yards on 11 carries in a 26–10 loss at home last season. The Wolverines will need to duplicate that defensive effort. 

Michigan 24-20


3. BYU at Nebraska

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

TV Channel: ABC


David Fox:

Nebraska’s 29-game season-opener winning streak might end if we see the same Taysom Hill we saw at the start of last season.

BYU 28–24

Steven Lassan:

This game isn’t generating the attention Ohio State-Virginia Tech or Louisville-Auburn are this week, but there’s intrigue here. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill is back after missing most of 2014 with a leg injury, and Nebraska opens the Mike Riley tenure looking to extend its winning streak in openers (29 consecutive victories).

Nebraska 31-27


Mitch Light:

Nebraska has won 29 straight openers, the longest such streak in the nation. The Huskers will make it 30 — but it won’t be easy.  

Nebraska 27-24


4. Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Arlington)

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ABC


David Fox:

Wisconsin’s normally stout offensive line is a question this year. Alabama will have a major edge.

Alabama 31–14


Steven Lassan:

Great name value in this matchup, but it’s tough to find a reason why Wisconsin can win this one. The Crimson Tide should be able to hold the Badgers’ rushing attack in check, which adds a lot of pressure on quarterback Joel Stave and an inexperienced receiving corps. Alabama won’t name a starter at quarterback until kickoff, but it shouldn’t matter which signal-caller takes the first or a majority of snaps this week.

Alabama 34-13


Mitch Light:

Alabama has concerns at quarterback and is inexperienced at wide receiver … but still has far more talent than Wisconsin. 

Alabama 28-13


5. TCU at Minnesota

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Trevone Boykin’s Heisman bid gets an early test in a rematch against the Minnesota secondary.

TCU 28–14


Steven Lassan:

Minnesota’s secondary could give TCU’s passing attack fits early on. However, can the Golden Gophers’ offense find enough firepower to match the Horned Frogs? Unlikely. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the difference in this game.

TCU 34-17


Mitch Light:

Minnesota lost its two top offensive players in running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams. The Gophers simply don’t have enough firepower to knock off the Frogs. 

TCU 30-13


6. Stanford at Northwestern

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Clayton Thorson is the future at quarterback for Northwestern. The Wildcats have to show signs they can turn things around, but it’s going to be tough against that Stanford D.

Stanford 28–21


Steven Lassan:

Interesting matchup between two academic powers. Lots of intrigue on both sides, as Northwestern breaks in a talented new quarterback (Clayton Thorson), and Stanford looks to build off last year’s late momentum. The 12-point spread seems too high.

Stanford 27-20


Mitch Light:

Stanford has emerged as a dark horse College Football Playoff contender by some college football observers — including one of my colleagues at Athlon Sports. I disagree. 

Northwestern 24-20


7. Michigan State at Western Michigan

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

Western Michigan is a recruiting powerhouse (for a MAC team, relatively speaking). This could be a signature moment P.J. Fleck’s team. Could be.

Michigan State 38–17


Steven Lassan:

P.J. Fleck is a rising star in the coaching ranks, and a trip to Kalamazoo adds to the intrigue for the Broncos. However, the Spartans are balanced on offense, and the defense should do a good job of containing Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin.

Michigan State 34-17


Mitch Light:

The Broncos are vastly improved under P.J. Fleck, but they will have a tough time knocking off the mighty Spartans from East Lansing. 

Michigan State 38-21


8. Penn State at Temple

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

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Christian Hackenberg and P.J. Walker combined for six interceptions in this game last year. This game has to be better, right?

Penn State 24–14


Steven Lassan:

How much has Penn State’s offensive line improved since last season? That’s the big question in coach James Franklin’s second year. Led by standout linebacker Tyler Matakevich, Temple’s defense can present problems for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State 27-17


Mitch Light:

Temple is the home team, but there figures to be far more Penn State fans in this intriguing opener. Last year, the Nittany Lions scored 30 points — the most by James Franklin’s team in the regular season — in a win over Temple. 

Penn State 28-13


9. Purdue at Marshall

Kickoff: 3 p.m. ET (Sunday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1


David Fox:

Purdue may play a road game at Marshall only to get clobbered by its former offensive coordinator, Bill Legg.

Marshall 31–21


Steven Lassan:

The Boilermakers hope to show improvement in coach Darrell Hazell’s third season, but this team is nearly a touchdown underdog against Marshall. The Thundering Herd picked James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong to replace prolific four-year starter Rakeem Cato at quarterback. Even though Cato will be missed, Birdsong has a strong supporting cast to lean on, including running back Devon Johnson.

Marshall 31-27


Mitch Light:

Darrell Hazell is 4–20 in two seasons, and his team is a 7.5-point underdog in a Week 1 game against a team from Conference USA. 

Marshall 28-23


10. Illinois State at Iowa

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: Big Ten Network


David Fox:

Former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson was tremendous for FCS runner-up Illinois State last season. Iowa should be worried. 

Illinois State 35–31.


Steven Lassan:

Former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson leads an Illinois State team coming off a loss in the FCS Championship last year. This is a dangerous Week 1 opponent for Iowa. Hawkeyes avoid the upset.

Iowa 34-27


Mitch Light:

The Hawkeyes host one of the most powerful FCS teams in the nation. My advice to Kirk Ferentz: Don’t lose this game. 

Iowa 34-21


11. Kent State at Illinois

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: Big Ten Network


David Fox:

I’m actually kind of interested to see Illinois respond to Tim Beckman’s firing.

Illinois 27–14


Steven Lassan:

There are a lot of distractions for the Fighting Illini right now after coach Tim Beckman was dismissed last week. However, I’m not sure Kent State has enough to pull off the upset.

Illinois 38-20


Mitch Light:

Just a hunch: The Fighting Illini will rally behind interim coach Bill Cubit and take out their frustrations on the Golden Flashes. 

Illinois 41-9


12. Richmond at Maryland

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Perry Hills’ journey back to the starting QB job after a two-year absence is an interesting storyline. 

Maryland 27–17


Steven Lassan:

With only nine returning starters and young talent stepping into the starting lineup, 2015 is shaping up as a rebuilding year for coach Randy Edsall. However, the Terrapins still have enough to win this one. Perry Hills is worth watching after he edged Caleb Rowe for the starting quarterback job this fall.

Maryland 34-13


Mitch Light:

Perry Hills earned the starting assignment at quarterback over preseason favorite Caleb Rowe. He takes over an offense that lost some key weapons at wide receiver. 

Maryland 33-13


13. Southern Illinois at Indiana

Kickoff: 4 p.m. ET (Saturday)



David Fox:

Indiana has a chance to start 4–0. Will it be enough to save Kevin Wilson?

Indiana 35-17


Steven Lassan:

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is back at full strength after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. That’s good news for an Indiana team poised to challenge for a bowl bid in 2015.

Indiana 44-17


Mitch Light:

Conventional wisdom suggests Kevin Wilson will need to get Indiana to a bowl game to save his job. It will be tough for the Hoosiers to get to six wins without a victory in Week 1. 

Indiana 44-16


14. Norfolk State at Rutgers

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)



David Fox:

What a miserable week for Rutgers with an academic scandal and suspensions. The Scarlet Knights will need to savor this week.

Rutgers 28–13


Steven Lassan:

It seems the question marks about Kyle Flood and an ongoing investigation into the academic handling of a player will continue into next week. Even though it’s a distraction, it won’t matter much on Saturday afternoon. Interested to see how well LSU transfer Hayden Rettig plays at quarterback for the Scarlet Knights.

Rutgers 45-10


Mitch Light:

Kyle Flood begins his fourth season in the middle of an academic scandal at Rutgers. Will the distractions affect his team’s performance? Stay tuned.

Rutgers 37-13

Big Ten 2015 Week 1 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-12-2015-week-1-predictions

Week 1 of the 2015 Big 12 season isn’t filled with must-see matchups. But there are a few games on the schedule to move the needle, including Texas-Notre Dame and TCU-Minnesota. Will the Longhorns improve in coach Charlie Strong’s second season? A win in South Bend would be a good place to start. Big 12 frontrunners TCU and Baylor are both on the road in Week 1, but both teams are double-digit favorites.


A few Big 12 teams have to be on upset alert this weekend. West Virginia hosts a dangerous Georgia Southern squad, while Iowa State plays in-state FCS foe in a must-win game for coach Paul Rhoads. New Kansas coach David Beaty inherited a massive rebuilding project, and Saturday’s game against South Dakota State is probably the only winnable game on the schedule this year. 


Athlon Sports offers its Big 12 Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).


Big 12 Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Texas at Notre Dame

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: NBC


David Fox:

Expect some nasty defense in this one. Notre Dame has the experience on defense and a functional offense, making this an easy pick for the Irish.  

Notre Dame 24–10


Steven Lassan:

Great matchup in terms of name value. How far has Texas improved this offseason under coach Charlie Strong? This is a great barometer test for the Longhorns. Quarterback play for both teams will be under the spotlight with Malik Zaire (Notre Dame) and Tyrone Swoopes (Texas).

Notre Dame 27, Texas 17


Mitch Light:

Texas struggled last season, but it wasn’t the fault of the defense. The Horns ranked No. 2 in the Big 12 in total defense and No. 1 against league opponents. This could be a struggle for the Irish.

Notre Dame 20-13


2. TCU at Minnesota

Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Minnesota’s secondary had one of the better games against Trevone Boykin last season. If the Gophers had an above average offense, this would be more of a contest.

TCU 27–13


Steven Lassan:

Minnesota’s secondary could give TCU’s passing attack fits early on. However, can the Golden Gophers’ offense find enough firepower to match the Horned Frogs? Unlikely. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the difference in this game.

TCU 34-17


Mitch Light:

Minnesota lost its two top offensive players in running back David Cobb and tight end Maxx Williams. The Gophers simply don’t have enough firepower to knock off the Frogs. 

TCU 30-13


3. Georgia Southern at West Virginia

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FSN


David Fox:

For what’s supposed to be a good defense West Virginia got gashed in the run game A LOT last year. Does that worry anyone else?

West Virginia 27–17


Steven Lassan:

Georgia Southern is a dangerous opponent for West Virginia. The Eagles lost by one to NC State and by four to Georgia Tech last season. Starting quarterback Kevin Ellison is sidelined due to a suspension, but backup Favian Upshaw is a capable option. Having all offseason to prepare for Georgia Southern’s offense should benefit the Mountaineers. Keep an eye on the young West Virginia receivers and quarterback Skyler Howard.

West Virginia 38-24


Mitch Light:

Georgia Southern boasts one of the most potent running games in the nation but will be without standout QB Kevin Ellison, who is out with a suspension.

West Virginia 34-27


4. Baylor at SMU

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

A neat game for head coaches who worked their way from Texas high schools to being offensive masterminds. Unfortunately, it won’t be close.

Baylor 56–14


Steven Lassan:

Chad Morris is the right coach for SMU, and the Mustangs will be better in 2015. However, Baylor simply has too much firepower. Expect a big debut from quarterback Seth Russell.

Baylor 51-17


Mitch Light:

This might end up looking like a decent win for the Bears if Chad Morris can work some magic in Year 1 at SMU.

Baylor 41-17


5. Northern Iowa at Iowa State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel:


David Fox:

Iowa State has lost back-to-back season openers against FCS teams and could make it three in a row. 

Northern Iowa 17–14


Steven Lassan:

This isn’t a guaranteed win for Iowa State. Northern Iowa knocked off the Cyclones in 2013 and lost by eight to Iowa last season. Getting receiver Quenton Bundrage back, along with better luck in the health department on the offensive line should help Iowa State in 2015. The Panthers make it interesting, but Iowa State avoids the upset.

Iowa State 27, Northern Iowa 20 


Mitch Light:

The Cyclones have lost two of the last four to their friends from Cedar Falls. This is a game Paul Rhoads cannot afford to lose.

Iowa State 24-20 


6. Akron at Oklahoma

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: PPV


David Fox:

I’m ready to see the Baker Mayfield-Samaje Perine-Lincoln Riley dynamic at work.

Oklahoma 42–10


Steven Lassan:

Akron has a handful of talented transfers from Power 5 programs, but the Sooners should win this one with ease. With a road trip to Tennessee up next, it’s a good opportunity for new coordinator Lincoln Riley and quarterback Baker Mayfield to build confidence in the offense.

Oklahoma 48-17


Mitch Light

Former Texas Tech walk-on Baker Mayfield is running the show for new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley at OU. Akron continues to improve under Terry Bowden’s watch, but the Zips aren’t good enough to win in Norman. Oklahoma 43-20


7. Oklahoma State at Central Michigan

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPNU


David Fox:

Every now and then Oklahoma State plays a weird road game. Every now and then, that road game bites the Cowboys (a 41–23 loss at Troy in 2007). That won’t happen here. 

Oklahoma State 31–10


Steven Lassan:

I’m interested to see how much sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph has progressed for Oklahoma State since the end of last season.

Oklahoma State 41-20


Mitch Light:

Mount Pleasant will be rocking with Oklahoma State coming to town. Too bad Dan LeFevour isn’t under center for the Chips.

Oklahoma State 48-10


8. Sam Houston State at Texas Tech

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: FSN


David Fox:

Might be time to get to know Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler, who has played in eight national championship games (FCS and Division III), winning one. His up-tempo offense will give new Texas Tech DC David Gibbs a test.

Texas Tech 41–21


Steven Lassan:

The Bearkats – ranked as a top-five FCS team – could be a pesky opponent for the Red Raiders. Will it be Davis Webb or Patrick Mahomes at quarterback for Texas Tech? The guess here is Mahomes starts and delivers a solid performance, while the defense shows progress under coordinator David Gibbs.

Texas Tech 50-24


Mitch Light: 

Sam Houston State lost 56–0 last September at LSU in its only game against an FCS opponent. Texas Tech has more than enough weapons to score 50 as well. 

Texas Tech 50-20


9. South Dakota State at Kansas

Kickoff: Noon ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: FSN


David Fox:

If Kansas wins one game this season, this will be it.

Kansas 27–10


Steven Lassan:

This is the best shot Kansas has at winning a game in 2015.

Kansas 27-20


Mitch Light:

David Beaty begins his tenure as the boss at Kansas with arguably the least-talented Power 5 conference team in the nation.

Kansas 21-17


10. South Dakota at Kansas State

Kickoff: 7:10 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel:


David Fox:

Kansas State wised up and played one of the lesser Dakotas after losing to North Dakota State two years ago.

Kansas State 28–10


Steven Lassan:

Bill Snyder’s team is a bit of a mystery with Jesse Ertz replacing Jake Waters at quarterback. South Dakota went 2-10 last year and shouldn’t provide too many problems for the Wildcats.

Kansas State 45-10


Mitch Light:

Kansas State has to find some answers on offense to be a threat in the Big 12 this season. 

Kansas State 31-7

Big 12 Week 1 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/mark-richt-needs-new-georgia-starting-quarterback-greyson-lambert-be-really-good-year

On Monday, Georgia head coach Mark Richt announced that Virginia QB transfer Greyson Lambert will start for the Bulldogs this weekend against Louisiana-Monroe.


Ever since Lambert announced his decision to attend the University of Georgia, we have waited for the announcement of who would win the starting position, Lambert or Brice Ramsey. And on Monday that question was answered. Now as Georgia and Lambert ready themselves for the 2015 season, the question will be just how good can Lambert be and can he lead this team to a title?


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


Last year, a really good Georgia team was led by sub-par quarterback play out of Hutson Mason. Don’t get me wrong, Mason had a good season if you just look at the numbers. But anyone that watched a single Georgia game knows that Mason was the less important sidekick to Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb on that offense. Mason did a good job; he just didn’t win a single game by his play alone. But I can’t help but think if quarterback play had been better, how much better could the Bulldogs have been?


That simply cannot be the case in 2015.


Since Mark Richt arrived in Athens, quarterback play has been good rather than not. He began with David Greene who helped produce Richt’s first SEC title followed by a one year stint from D.J. Shockley who helped bring a second SEC title, Joe Tereshinski, whose play was forgettable, Matthew Stafford, Joe Cox and Aaron Murray.


As it stands now, Richt is 4-3 when it comes to getting great play out of his quarterbacks. Georgia cannot afford “okay” quarterback play. Not playing for a chance at a national title is wearing thin on Georgia fans, and rightfully so. Georgia has all the pieces this year. A great defense, multiple skilled running backs including a Heisman hopeful in Nick Chubb, a great offensive line and playmakers surrounding Lambert on the offensive side of the ball.


This leads me to my next point. Sub-par quarterback play will not get you a national championship. Just take a look at the past 10 national championship winning teams and the quarterbacks that led them. From 2014 going back to 2005 they are Cardale Jones, Jameis Winston, AJ McCarron, Cam Newton, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow, Matt Flynn, Chris Leak and Vince Young.


With the exception of not having enough tape on Cardale Jones, six of these quarterbacks were great in college, Chris Leak was really good and the other two, McElroy and Flynn, would be considered game managers. And even those last two had pretty good numbers during those championship runs. Game managers don’t win national championships. It just doesn’t happen as often anymore.


Richt needs Lambert to be really, really good. No, I don’t think Lambert has to be a Heisman dark horse in order for Georgia to have a shot this year. But he does have to play better than I expect him to. In 2014, Lambert failed to throw a 60% completion rate and threw more interceptions than he did touchdowns. Yes, I realize it's Virginia but some of that was just bad decision making. Lambert will see an upgrade at every offensive position while in Athens. His decision making will have to improve and it doesn’t hurt knowing Nick Chubb is behind you when you go under center.


But good just isn’t going to be good enough. Lambert will need to put his team in winning positions if I am to believe this team has a shot at the playoffs. Sept. 19 against South Carolina should give us a look at Lambert in his first big test, followed by tough road games against Auburn and Tennessee and a home date with Alabama. Georgia has little room for error when it comes to 2015; the least of those errors coming from newly announced starting quarterback Greyson Lambert.


— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Mark Richt Needs New Georgia Starting Quarterback Greyson Lambert to be Really Good This Year
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-vs-minnesota-golden-gophers-preview-and-prediction-2015

Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs have big plans for the 2015 season. After being left out of the College Football Playoff somewhat controversially last season, TCU begins 2015 ranked No. 2 in both major polls and have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate under center in Trevone Boykin.


In Minneapolis, Jerry Kill's Minnesota team is the sexy pick of many pundits and publications to win the Big Ten West and possibly do some big things in the postseason.


The two programs will meet on opening night with both looking to make a huge statement to their respective conferences and the nation. A blowout win by the Horned Frogs should be enough to let us all know they are the team we thought they were. On the other side of the coin, if Minnesota can play TCU tough throughout — possibly pulling off an upset — it'll let everyone know the Golden Gophers truly have arrived and will be a force to be reckoned with in 2015.


Podcast: Week 1 Preview w/ Rece Davis

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


TCU at Minnesota


Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: TCU -14.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Trevone Boykin vs. the Minnesota Secondary

The Gophers should feature one of the stingiest defensive backfields in the nation in 2015. Both of their corners, Eric Murray and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, were named to the Bednarik Award Watch List — the only cornerback duo in the nation to accomplish that. They'll have two exceptional senior safeties playing between them, making life that much more difficult for Boykin. If the secondary can set the tone early on, frustrate Boykin in the passing game and make him one-dimensional, Minnesota's front seven is talented enough to make things interesting. If not, this game could become a track meet that the Gophers may not be equipped to keep pace in.


2. Special Teams Setting up Field Position

TCU punter Ethan Perry is built more like a linebacker than a punter. He has a leg capable of flipping the field quickly and forcing the Gophers to travel long distances for points. On the other hand, don't go anywhere after TCU scores, as the Horned Frogs will be kicking off to Minnesota's Jalen Myrick — one of the best kick returners in the Big Ten — capable of doing his own field-flipping. If this game is close, a big play by Berry or Myrick could be the difference.


3. Can Minnesota's Offense Stay on the Field?

The Gopher defense is talented enough to go toe-to-toe with TCU's electric offense. The key for the Gophers will be sustaining long enough drives to give their defense enough breathers to keep the game close into the fourth quarter. We'll get to see right away how much Mitch Leidner has progressed as a quarterback and a leader, especially without Maxx Williams and David Cobb as safety nets. If Minnesota can't move the ball early, this one could get away from them by halftime.


Final Analysis


TCU is about as talented as teams come, but Minnesota's physicality and persistence will test Patterson's squad. The Gophers won't fold and will likely hang around for the better part of three quarters. In the end, the speed of the Horned Frogs on both sides of the ball combined with the lack of a go-to offensive playmaker on Minnesota's offense will be enough for TCU to pull away and close out a sound and respectable road win in a lower scoring game than most are expecting.


Prediction: TCU 27, Minnesota 13


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

TCU Horned Frogs vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/acc-2015-week-1-predictions

With Clemson replacing several key starters from last year’s defense, along with Jameis Winston’s departure from Florida State, two of the ACC’s frontrunners open the 2015 season looking for answers at key positions. The Seminoles plan to turn to former Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson to replace Winston, while the Tigers will be focused on building the depth and talent up front before a key conference game against Louisville on Sept. 17.


While the Tigers and Seminoles should have easy wins in Week 1, the spotlight in the conference shifts to Blacksburg, Va. with Ohio State visiting Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Buckeyes-Hokies’ matchup is the marquee game in the ACC for the opening weekend of action, but Louisville has another chance to score a key win for the conference in a neutral site contest against Auburn.


Athlon Sports offers its ACC Week 1 predictions from three editors: Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven), David Fox (@DavidFox615) and Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch).


ACC Week 1 Game Power Rankings & Predictions


1. Ohio State at Virginia Tech

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Monday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

The Buckeyes will be better prepared for anything Bud Foster throws at them this time around. 

Ohio State 28–14


Steven Lassan:

This is the best game of Week 1, and so many intriguing questions will be answered. Who will start at quarterback for Ohio State? How will the defense perform with end Joey Bosa suspended? How much of an impact will Braxton Miller make at receiver? The Hokies’ defense should keep them in this game, but will the offense consistently move the ball or avoid big mistakes?

Ohio State 30-20


Mitch Light:

In last year’s loss to Virginia Tech at home, Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett completed 9-of-29 passes with three interceptions. It’s safe to say Ohio State will get better play at the quarterback position this time around. 

Ohio State 27-13


2. Louisville vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

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

TV Channel: CBS


David Fox:

Jeremy Johnson might be the most hyped first-year starting quarterback in a preseason since Tim Tebow. Facing Louisville in an opener is an interesting test.

Auburn 28–21


Steven Lassan:

Easily one of the best games of Week 1 and a great matchup of Auburn’s offense versus Louisville’s defense. The Cardinals should present some problems for the Tigers at the line of scrimmage, but quarterback Jeremy Johnson hits a few plays in the second half to secure the victory.

Auburn 31-20


Mitch Light:

Auburn will turn to Jeremy Johnson, who has completed 73.1 percent of his passes with 11 TDs and two INTs in 11 career games. He will be tested by a Louisville defense that has been rebuilt by impact transfers. 

Auburn 27-20


3. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Charlotte)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN


David Fox:

Both teams need to re-boot their defenses under new coordinators. South Carolina has the stiffer test in the opener against Marquise Williams.

North Carolina 28­–21


Steven Lassan:

Not sure what to expect in this one. North Carolina has one of the ACC’s best offenses, and Gene Chizik was hired to improve a struggling defense. South Carolina picked Connor Mitch as its starting quarterback, but he has only six career pass attempts. The Gamecocks also struggled mightily on defense last year.

South Carolina 31-27  


Mitch Light:

South Carolina lacks proven playmakers other than Pharoh Cooper. North Carolina is loaded with offensive weapons.

North Carolina 37-30


4. Virginia at UCLA

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

TV Channel: FOX


David Fox:

The Cavaliers gave UCLA trouble in a 28–20 loss in Charlottesville last season. Can Virginia do it again when it faces a freshman quarterback for the Bruins?  

UCLA 35–21


Steven Lassan:

Last year’s matchup was closer than most anticipated (28-20). Virginia’s defense can keep this one close for a while, but will the offense provide enough of a spark behind new starter Matt Johns to pull off the upset? All eyes will be on true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen for UCLA.

UCLA 31-17


Mitch Light:

UCLA’s 28–20 win in Charlottesville last season was far more difficult than expected. The Bruins, who will be starting true freshman Josh Rosen at quarterback, won’t have to work quite as hard this time around. 

UCLA 34-20


5. Texas State at Florida State

Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)



David Fox:

FSU won’t have much trouble, but Everett Golson’s progress will be worth watching.

Florida State 41–10


Steven Lassan:

Texas State could give the Seminoles a few headaches early, especially with dual-threat quarterback Tyler Jones leading the way on offense. All eyes in Tallahassee will be on Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson at quarterback, as well as a defense that ranked 11th in the ACC in points allowed last season.

Florida State 40-17


Mitch Light:

It’s strange, but it’s true: Everett Golson is the starting quarterback at Florida State. 

Florida State 41-14


6. Duke at Tulane

Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network


David Fox:

Duke has won the last two matchups by a total score of 95–40.

Duke 38–20


Steven Lassan:

Interested to see new Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk on Thursday night. Think he has a chance to be a breakout star in the ACC this season. Tulane has some promising young talent and could make this one interesting.

Duke 31-20


Mitch Light:

The new-look Blue Devils will lean a bit more on the running game with Thomas Sirk now at quarterback. Tulane begins an important season for Curtis Johnson and his staff. 

Duke 28-17


7. Youngstown State at Pittsburgh

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

DID YOU KNOW: Pat Narduzzi’s late father, Bill, was a former coach at Youngstown State and the predecessor to Jim Tressel. 

Pittsburgh 28–10


Steven Lassan:

You may have heard: Youngstown State hired Bo Pelini this offseason. And don’t forget, the Penguins won in Pittsburgh 31-17 in 2012. The Panthers won’t have receiver Tyler Boyd, but new coach Pat Narduzzi is a winner in his debut.

Pittsburgh 34-17


Mitch Light:

The Panthers will be out without All-America wide receiver Tyler Boyd for the first game of the Pat Narduzzi era. It won’t matter against Bo Pelini and the Penguins. 

Pittsburgh 37-7


8. Troy at NC State

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

NC State and Jacoby Brissett got a lot of mileage out of putting a scare into Florida State. We’ll have to wait until October to know anything new about the Wolfpack.

NC State 45–14


Steven Lassan:

NC State is an interesting team to watch this year. The Wolfpack played better late in 2014 and should continue that momentum into the opener.

NC State 45-17


Mitch Light:

Former Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has taken over at Troy. His task in Week 1 is simple: Slow down Jacoby Brissett, one of the nation’s most underrated quarterbacks. 

NC State 38-7


9. Wofford at Clemson

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

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

Clemson’s rebuilding defense opens against an option team. Georgia Tech gives Clemson trouble Wofford should not. Clemson 42–21


Steven Lassan:

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson’s Heisman campaign begins with a huge performance against Wofford.

Clemson 45-10


Mitch Light:

Deshaun Watson and the Clemson offense will roll up a big number against the Terriers from Spartanburg. 

Clemson 47-10


10. Alcorn State at Georgia Tech

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

Georgia Tech usually makes easy work of its FCS opponents, but Alcorn State can score a bit.

Georgia Tech 54–28


Steven Lassan:

Quarterback Justin Thomas and his new stable of running backs helps Georgia Tech cruise to an easy win.

Georgia Tech 40-7


Mitch Light:

Georgia Tech should barely break a sweat against Steve McNair’s alma mater.

Georgia Tech 48-10


11. Bethune-Cookman at Miami

Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

Remember when Bethune beat FIU last season? Al Golden’s on the hot seat but not that hot.

Miami 42–10


Steven Lassan:

The Hurricanes open a potential make-or-break season for coach Al Golden with an easy win.

Miami 40-10


Mitch Light:

This is a critical season for Al Golden, who is 16–16 in the ACC in his four seasons at Miami.

Miami 41-13


12. Maine at Boston College

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

DID YOU KNOW: Other than a two-year stint as an assistant at Boston College, Maine coach Jack Cosgrove has spent more than 40 years at Maine as a player, assistant or head coach. 

Boston College 35–14


Steven Lassan:

Maine and Howard are good opportunities for new Boston College quarterback Darius Wade to build confidence before the Sept. 18 game against Florida State.

Boston College 38-7


Mitch Light:

Boston College has far more “dudes” than Maine. Tailback Jon Hilliman might be the best of the bunch.

Boston College 33-13


13. Elon at Wake Forest

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

Wake’s not going to win a ton this season, but the Deacs aren’t bad enough to lose to Elon. 

Wake Forest 35–10


Steven Lassan:

The Demon Deacons are headed in the right direction under coach Dave Clawson. But to escape the ACC Atlantic cellar in 2015, Wake Forest must improve in the trenches. This is a good opportunity to build confidence.

Wake Forest 34-10


Mitch Light:

Wake Forest still has some significant issues on offense, but the Demon Deacons will overwhelm Elon. 

Wake Forest 28-7


14. Rhode Island at Syracuse

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: ESPN 3


David Fox:

I wouldn’t put it past Syracuse to lose to a Colonial Athletic Association team, but not Rhody (1–11 last year).

Syracuse 28–7


Steven Lassan:

Having quarterback Terrel Hunt healthy and back in the lineup should provide a little punch to Syracuse’s offense.

Syracuse 38-10


Mitch Light:

Rhode Island went 1–10 last season. This will not be too difficult for the Orange.

Syracuse 48-0

ACC 2015 Week 1 Predictions
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/colorado-buffaloes-vs-hawaii-rainbow-warriors-preview-and-prediction-2015

The first night of the 2015 college football season concludes with Colorado traveling to Hawaii in a critical non-conference matchup for both teams. The Rainbow Warriors and Buffaloes combined for a 6-19 record last season, and a win in this contest would help both teams build momentum for a run at a bowl game this fall.


Optimism was the offseason storyline for both teams. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre enters his third season at the helm in Boulder, and despite last year’s record (2-10), all signs point to the program trending in the right direction. The Buffaloes return 14 starters, including rising star quarterback Sefo Liufau and receiver Nelson Spruce. Hawaii coach Norm Chow is squarely on the hot seat in 2015, but the Rainbow Warriors could challenge for a bowl appearance if USC transfer Max Wittek solidifies the quarterback spot.


Colorado and Hawaii have met four previous times, with the all-time series tied at two victories apiece. This will be the Buffaloes first trip to Aloha Stadium since 2011. Colorado knocked off the Rainbow Warriors 21-12 last season.


Colorado at Hawaii


Kickoff: 1 a.m. ET (Friday morning)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Colorado -7.5


Three Things to Watch


1. Hawaii QB Max Wittek

The Rainbow Warriors have struggled to find the right answer at quarterback over the last three seasons. Could that change in 2015? USC transfer Max Wittek was a four-star recruit in the 2011 signing class but never earned the full-time starting job in Los Angeles. With one more year of eligibility, this is Wittek’s final opportunity to impress NFL scouts. All signs point to the senior emerging as one of the top quarterbacks in the Mountain West this season, and the Rainbow Warriors can support their quarterback with a solid receiving corps and running back Steven Lakalaka. Will Wittek have a breakout performance on Thursday night?


2. Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce

Hawaii’s pass defense surrendered 26 scores last season, and this secondary will be tested against Colorado. The Rainbow Warriors return three starters in the defensive backfield, including All-Mountain West candidate Ne’Quan Phillips at cornerback. While the secondary has to eliminate some of the big plays allowed last season (14 passing plays surrendered of 40 yards or more), the pass rush has to help the coverage. Liufau is a rising star in the Pac-12 after throwing for 3,200 yards and 28 scores in 2014. Expect to see the junior target receiver Nelson Spruce frequently on Thursday, as Spruce recorded 106 receptions last season. This prolific combination should have their share of opportunities to connect on big plays. Can Hawaii keep this duo in check?


3. Jim Leavitt’s Impact at Colorado

Colorado’s defense has been a major issue since the program joined the Pac-12 in 2014. Among Pac-12 teams, the Buffaloes have ranked 11th or 12th in scoring defense in each of the last four seasons. After Kent Baer left to call the defensive signals at UNLV, MacIntyre hired former USF coach Jim Leavitt to coordinate the defense. The Buffaloes have question marks at each level, starting up front for a unit that allowed 204.8 rushing yards per game last season. What type of impact will Leavitt have in 2015? This game should be a good barometer test for Colorado.


Final Analysis


This one isn’t slated for kickoff until 1 a.m. ET on Friday morning (or Thursday night if you are on the West Coast). Be sure to set the DVR. Both quarterbacks should make their share of plays, but Colorado is the better overall team. Liufau and Spruce open the 2015 season with a huge performance, while the Buffaloes get enough stops on defense to pull away in the second half.


Prediction: Colorado 38, Hawaii 24
Colorado Buffaloes vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-thursday-friday-college-football-picks-week-1

College football starts on Thursday night although the card isn't the greatest. For those who will be checking out this weekly feature, a couple of things to remember. First, I won't go 100 percent on my picks so any tout who says they do is a liar and doesn't deserve your attention. There will be peaks and valleys. Second, if you are going to make a wager off my selections, please bet only an amount of money you can handle to lose. I even suggest sitting on the sideline the first week or two to get a feel for how the season looks early on. Third, you will find a lot more games off the radar coming from me. There are plenty of handicappers out there who can accurately handicap the bigger conferences so I'll take on the smaller ones for the most part. I'm not afraid to go FCS vs. FBS if need be. I already chronicled the 10 matchups to watch along these lines. With that, let's talk Thursday and Friday matchups.


Record: 0-0


Florida International (0-0) vs. UCF (0-0)

UCF is coming off a 9-4 season and has the talent to be in the mix for an AAC championship. The Golden Knights are led by Justin Holman under center with William Stanback at running back. They lost a lot from a defense that gave up just 19.2 points per game in 2014. The good thing for them is that FIU doesn't present too much of a challenge on offense. The Panthers are led by Jonnu Smith, who is one of the most underrated TEs in college football. Also underrated is FIU's defense, which returns eight starters led by Michael Wakefield and Denzell Perine. FIU has played 13 unders in its last 23 lined games including six of its last seven on the road where the total is between 42.5 and 49. SELECTION: Under 47


UTSA (0-0) vs. Arizona (0-0)

It's going to be a steep hill for Larry Coker's boys to climb this season. The Roadrunners went 4-8 last year and return pretty much none of the starters from that team. They have holes all over the roster and have to start out the year on the road. Last year, these two played a close game in September, but that was with a better lineup. One of the keys for a blowout game like this is making sure that there's no look-ahead factor. The Wildcats play at Nevada in week two so they won't be too focused on that one. Anu Solomon leads an offense that is capable of putting up a boatload of points. Arizona's defense is led by Scooby Wright. This one is a week one mismatch. SELECTION: Arizona -31.5


Duke (0-0) at Tulane (0-0)

It's a rematch of an ugly affair for Tulane on Thursday as the Green Wave host Duke. The Green Wave lost 47-13 in Durham last year as they threw four interceptions and committed 13 penalties. Now they get the Blue Devils on their turf and there are some questions that need to be answered. Thomas Sirk is under center for the road team and he's got Shaq Powell in the backfield. The Tulane defense is an underrated unit led by Royce LaFrance up front. Duke's defense was ravaged by injuries this offseason, but still has some talent to hold down this Green Wave offense. Tanner Lee has Sherman Badie in the backfield. Tulane has gone under in 13 of its last 21 games as an underdog while the Blue Devils have gone under in nine of its last 15 games as a favorite. SELECTION: Under 47.5




- Money is coming in on South Carolina in its game with North Carolina. My feeling is that some are wagering blindly on the SEC in any matchup with the ACC. The Tar Heels return a boatload of starters on offense including quarterback Marquise Williams and wideout Ryan Switzer. The Gamecocks are breaking in a new quarterback in Connor Mitch. This is a "neutral" field game in Charlotte. I'd consider the Heels although their defense was horrible last year allowing 39 points per game.


- A lot of money is coming in on Oklahoma State moving the line approximately four points from its open. The Cowboys don't have any look-ahead factor and Mason Rudolph is a real good quarterback. The last time we saw the Chippewas, it was in the Bahamas Bowl in a wild affair with Western Kentucky. Cooper Rush is back for WMU, but not much else on the offensive side. If anything, I'd consider the over, but no official play.


- The Alcorn State/Georgia Tech game has a decent shot at going over the total of 64 posted on 5Dimes.  Alcorn State has offensive weapons, but loses a bunch from a good FCS defense last year. Tech beat Wofford 38-19 in 2014's season opener and we could see the Jackets score even more then that. You won't be able to find it in too many places so it's not an official play from me.


- Before you blindly jump on Chuckie Keeton and Utah State, consider that the Aggies are breaking in new coaches and have a week two date with rival Utah at their place. Southern Utah is led by Ammon Olsen, who threw for over 3,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. Gary Crowton is the offensive coordinator. The team also features preseason Big Sky defensive MVP James Cowser. I'm not saying the Thunderbirds are the play, but there are things to consider when taking Utah State.


- Several things to consider in the Western Michigan/Michigan State matchup on Friday night. WMU will be salivating to get big brother at its place and with 16 starters back, this one will get interesting. Sparty is hosting Oregon in week two so focus could be a bit of an issue, besides a hostile atmosphere. The one thing that scares me about the Broncos is their defense, which allowed 43 points to Purdue, 33 to Idaho and 35 to Virginia Tech last year. I came real close to making the Broncs an official play, but I just don't trust their D.


— 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.

Betting Against the Spread: Thursday and Friday College Football Picks for Week 1
Post date: Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 08:45
Path: /college-football/vanderbilt-commodores-vs-wku-hilltoppers-preview-and-prediction-2015

WKU and Vanderbilt might not be at the top of the list for the best game in Week 1 of the college football season, but there’s no shortage of intrigue for the opener in Nashville. Led by prolific senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, the Hilltoppers are picked by some to win Conference USA in 2015 and could enter the conversation for the best team from the Group of 5 ranks. And according to the good folks in Vegas, WKU is a slight favorite in this matchup. 


The Commodores are coming off a disappointing 3-9 season, and the pressure is already building on coach Derek Mason. After struggling mightily last year, Mason made significant staff changes. Four new assistants roam the Vanderbilt sideline, including veteran play-caller Andy Ludwig.


Less than 75 miles separate these two programs. However, this is only the fourth meeting between Vanderbilt and WKU. The Commodores own a 3-0 edge over the Hilltoppers, with the last matchup in 1938. 


WKU at Vanderbilt


Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: SEC Network

Spread: WKU – 2.5


Three Things to Watch


1. WKU’s Rush Defense

Opponents certainly had their way against WKU’s front seven in 2014. The Hilltoppers allowed 220.8 rushing yards per game last season and gave up 33 rushing scores in 13 games. While last year’s totals weren’t pretty, there’s reason for optimism. Three starters are back, and UAB transfer Jontavious Morris (305 pounds) adds beef to the line of scrimmage. Quarterback play was an issue for the Commodores last season and remains a concern in 2015. Sophomore Johnny McCrary is considered the favorite over Wade Freebeck to take the first snap. However, Vanderbilt’s mission on offense is simple: Get the ball to running back Ralph Webb. The sophomore was one of the few bright spots for the offense last season, recording 912 yards and four scores. Considering the firepower on WKU’s sideline, along with the quarterback question marks, Webb should see a heavy workload on Thursday night. The Hilltoppers need to stop Webb and force Vanderbilt into obvious passing situations.


2. WKU QB Brandon Doughty

In three previous matchups against Power 5 opponents, Doughty completed 72 of 116 passes for 790 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions. Those numbers are solid, especially when you consider five of those picks came in one game (Tennessee, 2013). Doughty will have to be at his best on Thursday night, as Vanderbilt’s defense has had all offseason to prep for the opener with Mason calling the plays and any mistakes in a close game will be magnified. Doughty’s supporting cast is among the best in the Group of 5 ranks, with running back Leon Allen returning after rushing for 1,542 yards last season, along with a receiving corps that returns three of its top four options. Tempo and getting out to an early lead could be a huge advantage for WKU. Vanderbilt isn’t build to rally from behind, and the Hilltoppers have the firepower to overwhelm an opponent if they can jump to an early lead.


3. Uncertainty on Both Sides of the Ball for Vanderbilt

As mentioned above, Vanderbilt made significant changes after a 3-9 record last season. This game is the first opportunity for Mason to show the changes have the program trending in the right direction. Mason plans on calling the defensive signals, which should help a unit that allowed 33.3 points per game last year. The Commodores return nine starters on defense, including rising star linebacker Stephen Weatherly. How will this group slow Doughty and the WKU offense? Can Mason’s defense get enough pressure on Doughty to eliminate the big plays? On the other side of the ball, Vanderbilt has to get better quarterback play in 2015. McCrary and Freebeck are locked into a tight battle to take the first snap. Regardless of which player starts, eliminating turnovers is a priority. With a favorable matchup against WKU’s defense (allowed 39.9 points a game last season), McCrary or Freebeck has a chance to build some confidence. Will the Commodores find a few answers to some of their preseason question marks on Thursday night? Or will this team end its opener with more uncertainty?


Final Analysis


Style of play will be important on Thursday night. Vanderbilt would prefer to keep this matchup from becoming a high-scoring affair. If the Commodores establish the line of scrimmage and Webb has a huge game, WKU’s offense won’t have a chance to jump out to an early lead. The Hilltoppers want to score in a hurry and make Vanderbilt play from behind. Doughty will make his share of plays, but the Commodores get just enough from Webb to win their first opener since 2011.


Prediction: Vanderbilt 34, WKU 31
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. WKU Hilltoppers Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/mekka-don-releases-ohio-state-undisputed-video-buckeyes-eddie-george-buster-douglas

Ohio rapper Mekka Don is back with another Buckeyes gem.


The rapper has already given us good reason to think Ezekiel Elliott may win the Heisman, and now he's dropping "Undisputed" on the dawn of college football season. Former Ohio State greats Eddie George, Otis Winston, and Matt Finkes make cameos, as well as Ohio native, Buster Douglas.


The beat, rhyme, and video are sick. If this is any indication of how the Buckeyes season is going to be, watch out Big Ten.

Ohio State takes on Virginia Tech September 7.

Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 13:54
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-vs-utah-utes-preview-and-prediction-2015

Michigan will be making a first-ever trip to Salt Lake City to face Utah in the 2015 season opener for both teams. Both teams enter the game looking to make a statement about their respective football programs.


After finishing last season with a 9-4 record, Las Vegas Bowl victory and Top 25 ranking, the Utes are hungry to prove they are no one-year wonder in the Pac-12. The Wolverines are hoping new head coach Jim Harbaugh can help erase the failures of the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras and make Michigan into a consistent Big Ten title winner once again.


Utah enters the game having won seven consecutive season openers dating back to 2008. A 25-23 victory over Michigan in Ann Arbor started the streak. That win helped launch the Utes to a 13-0 record, a Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama and a No. 2 final AP ranking.


Utah and Michigan have clashed three previous times – all in the Big House. The Utes own a 2-1 advantage in the series after beating Michigan 26-10 a year ago. The Wolverines’ lone victory, a 10-7 result, came in 2002 during Ron McBride’s final season at Utah.


Podcast: Week 1 Preview w/ Rece Davis

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Michigan at Utah


Kickoff: 8:30 PM ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: Fox Sports 1

Spread: Utah -6


Three Things to Watch


1. Return of Sack Lake City

Utah’s defense earned the nickname “Sack Lake City” a year ago after leading the nation with 55 sacks. Michigan saw firsthand what sort of damage the Utes can do on that side of the ball. The Wolverines did not score an offensive touchdown in their 26-10 loss last September and turned the ball over four times.


What can Utah do for a defensive encore? Michigan might not like the answer. The Utes return nine defensive players who saw action in four or more games last season and accounted for 34.5 of the team’s 55 sacks. Utah’s biggest strength is up front. Nate Orchard, the FBS leader in sacks per game (1.42) in 2014, is now with the Cleveland Browns, but the defensive line remains deep and talented in his absence. Hunter Dimick, Jason Fanaika and Lowell Lotulelei will all test Michigan’s offensive line early and often.


2. Harbaugh Era Begins

How will Jim Harbaugh fare in his return to college football? Michigan fans are optimistic after seeing how well the former Wolverine quarterback did in resurrecting the Stanford program a few years ago. Harbaugh posted a 29-21 record in four seasons in Palo Alto. During his final year there in 2010, he led the Cardinal to a 12-1 record, an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech and a No. 4 final AP ranking.


Harbaugh inherits a defense loaded with experienced linebackers and defensive backs. It should help smooth the transition while he gets his patented power coast offense in place. Michigan’s defense wasn't a chaotic mess like the offense a season ago. It showed an ability to limit big plays and make stops in the red zone. The biggest issue, a year ago, ended up being turnover margin. Michigan had a minus-16 turnover margin after producing just 10 takeaways — fewer than all but two FBS teams — in 2014.


3. Which offense shows improvement?

Neither Michigan nor Utah inspired much confidence in their ability to move the chains last fall. Will things be different in 2015? Offenses for both teams should be improved this season, though it might not show in week one with the Wolverines and the Utes both boasting strong defenses.


Michigan's fortunes rest on how much progress it can make in the trenches and at quarterback. The offensive line got manhandled by stronger opponents a year ago, but a year of experience should help returning starters like Mason Cole, Graham Glasgow and Ben Braden take steps forward with blocking and protecting the quarterback.


If the Wolverines settle on the right quarterback, that will also help the offense. Iowa transfer Jake Rudock and Shane Morris battled for the job throughout fall camp and Harbaugh has played coy about who will start at Utah. Rudock will likely get the nod over Morris, given the struggles and injuries that have characterized Morris' first two seasons in Ann Arbor.


Utah comes into the season with senior quarterback Travis Wilson once again at the reins. Wilson was benched for a time last season in favor of Kendal Thompson and has struggled with confidence issues and erratic play during his collegiate career. Utah will need some consistency from Wilson and a group of inexperienced receivers to take some pressure away from Devontae Booker. The senior is a one-man wrecking crew who can get it done in the backfield. He rushed for 1,512 yards a year ago and led the Pac-12 with 815 yards after contact.


Final Analysis


Building a winner at Michigan should not take long for Harbaugh. He has a roster stacked with talent and has a track record for pulling off big upsets from his time at Stanford. Still, it’s a little too much to expect the Wolverines to march into Salt Lake City and take down the same Utah team that manhandled them a year ago. Utah is stout enough on defense to make even an average performance from its offense good enough to win. Expect Michigan to keep it close, but not close enough down the stretch.


Prediction: Utah 20, Michigan 13


— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.

Michigan Wolverines vs. Utah Utes Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/south-carolina-gamecocks-vs-north-carolina-tar-heels-preview-and-prediction-2015

The 2015 FBS season kicks off this Thursday night when South takes on North in the Battle of the Carolinas. The Tar Heels are looking to improve on a 6-7 2014 campaign that ended with a 40-21 loss to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl.


The boys from Columbia are trying to rebound from their own disappointing season. The Gamecocks entered 2014 ranked in the top 10. But a season-opening blow out at the hands of Texas A&M got things off on the wrong foot and losing four straight SEC games in the middle of the season ended any hopes of a major bowl game. At 6-6, South Carolina was invited to the Independence Bowl, where Steve Spurrier's team defeated Miami.


The Tar Heels and the Gamecocks have squared off 54 times with UNC holding a 32-18-4 advantage.


South Carolina vs. North Carolina


Kickoff: 6 p.m. ET (Thursday)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: South Carolina -2


Podcast: Week 1 Preview w/ Rece Davis

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Three Things To Watch


1. The Two New Defensive Coordinators

Both teams scored enough points last fall but were let down by their defenses. That led to new defensive coordinators at both schools. North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora went with brand-name recognition, hiring former Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. Chizik not only won a national championship as a head coach at Auburn, he also led the defense during Texas’s march to the title in 2005. Spurrier went for familiarity when he tabbed old friend Jon Hoke. The new Gamecocks defensive coordinator comes to Columbia from the Chicago Bears but also spearheaded Spurrier’s defense at Florida from 1999 to 2001. The team that adapts quickest to its new scheme will have a distinct advantage.


2. The Connor Mitch Starting Debut

It will be a big day for the South Carolina quarterback. The Raleigh native will be making his first collegiate start in Charlotte against his home-state Tar Heels. Undoubtedly, the redshirt sophomore will have plenty of family and friends in attendance. The Gamecock defense, especially early, should be a work in progress, meaning Mitch will have to put points on the board. The good news is that there are some veterans on the offensive line and he can throw the ball to Pharoh Cooper.


3. North Carolina’s Offensive Line

Everyone is back up front, but it was a unit that was inconsistent in 2014. Protection was an issue at times and the rushing offense finished No. 83 in the country. Quarterback Marquise Williams had hip surgery in the offseason and needs to stay upright. Also, the line must do a better job opening up holes for T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood. Like South Carolina, the Tar Heels’ defense will need time to develop and the offense will need to score a lot of points to win games. For UNC to thrive early, the offensive line has to take a step forward.


Final Analysis


Points should be plentiful as the two Carolinas square off just north of the border. While South Carolina’s defense was not very good in 2014, North Carolina’s was especially atrocious. The Tar Heels, though, return just about everyone on offense. On the other hand, the Gamecocks not only have to adjust to a new defensive scheme, they have to rebuild an offense around Cooper, their supremely talented, do-everything wide receiver. Both teams will score several times. I think the Tar Heels will hold the Gamecocks to field goals on a few occasions, giving UNC the opening night victory.


Prediction: North Carolina 42, South Carolina 37


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

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: BYU Cougars, College Football, Independents
Path: /college-football/what-byu-must-do-2015-play-new-years-six-bowl

Whether it’s the polls, the Bowl Alliance, or the infamous Bowl Championship Series (BCS), BYU has always been a program that finds a way to make change in college football


The last time a program outside of the current Power 5 establishment won a national championship was in fact BYU in 1984. Many pundits around college football point to that championship in 1984 as the moment that caused the wheels to go in motion for a new postseason to be established.


We’ve seen quite a few different postseason formats come and go over the years in college football since the days of the polls determining the national champ. Now, we have arguably the best setup to-date with the College Football Playoff and the New Year’s Six bowls.


BYU is in a precarious position right now when it comes to the Playoff and the New Year’s Six, considering it has no voice at the table. What does that mean you ask? Well, when you see discussions for which programs could potentially nab the automatic Group of 5 bid to a New Year’s Six bowl, the Cougars are never mentioned because they have no access to that automatic bid by not being in a Group of 5 league.


Now, moving away from being branded with Group of 5 programs is one of the many reasons BYU declared its independence back in 2010, and by all means, BYU’s image and perception around college football appears to have improved since making this bold declaration. Just ask the ACC, Big Ten and SEC how they view BYU. The Cougars are a Power 5 brand in those conferences’ books when it comes to non-conference scheduling. But still, the Cougars are in that fence-sitting mode where they have some Power 5 perks, but when it comes to money and access, the Cougars are still lumped in with those Group of 5 schools they felt were in the rear-view mirror.


Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on BYU's College Football Schedule in 2015


Could BYU get into a New Year’s Six bowl this year? Let’s forget about the Playoff angle, as BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has even said that it would take two consecutive undefeated seasons for his program to be considered for a spot in footballs final four, but the New Year’s Six seems more attainable for the Cougars if the stars align. What would they need to do to get there?


Here are my two things that MUST happen for BYU to crack the establishment and pull in an at-large New Year’s Six appearance.


1. Finish the 2015 regular season 11-1 with the lone loss against a Power 5 program in September

BYU hasn’t had a one-loss season since 1996, so this will be a tall order for a program that is staring down arguably the toughest schedule in program history. With that said, the Cougars could reap great rewards sent their way by playing a tough schedule if they can win of course.


In most years, I would say BYU would need to go 12-0 to be in the mix for an at-large spot in the New Year’s Six, but this year with the difficult schedule the Cougars could go 11-1 and be positioned to nab one of those at-large spots in the New Year’s Six.


When to lose is always a much-debated topic in college football. Some believe that when you lose doesn’t matter, it’s just a loss. I’ve always been of the belief that losing late in the season has a more devastating impact on a team potentially going to a big bowl game. It’s the last image in people’s minds.  You don’t think the selection committee, who creates these New Year’s Six matchups, would be leery of adding BYU coming off a November loss to Missouri? That would be the committee’s last taste of BYU versus a Power 5 school. Now on the other hand, if the Cougars drop a game early in the season, say against UCLA in the Rose Bowl, they will still have opportunities against Michigan, Cincinnati, Missouri and Utah State to enhance their resume for an at-large spot, and to basically make up for the loss against the Bruins in Pasadena.


Win 11-plus and the one loss can come early. Going back to that 1996 season I mentioned earlier, those Cougars led by Steve “#SarkAfterDark” Sarkisian followed that blueprint en route to an appearance in the Cotton Bowl, which just so happens to be a New Year’s Six game these days.


2. All of the Power 5 teams not in the Playoff need at least two losses

With BYU not having a seat at the Playoff and New Year’s Six table, it's going to need help to somehow get into a New Year’s Six bowl, and to be honest, the Cougars probably need a lot of help.


Remember the 2007 season, when a two-loss LSU team took home the national title? Every Power 5 program that season except Kansas had two losses or more. BYU will need a similar situation to play out this year to have a shot at a New Year’s Six game if the magical season falls into place for the Cougars. 


With this being one of the more wide-open years in college football after you get past Ohio State, chaos feels like it is bound to happen.


If there are quality one-loss teams that get shut out from the Playoff like Baylor and TCU did last season, it will hurt BYU’s chances pulling in an at-large spot, because again, BYU can’t qualify for any automatic spots. Its only path is to get an at-large bid. An 11-1 BYU team with a national fan base that is chomping at the bit to play in one of these bigger bowls would be an attractive option for the selection committee.



In this era of Playoff or bust, some question how important the New Year’s Six games are anymore? Yes, you can say they are just exhibitions, but these are still the sport’s biggest stages. For a program like BYU that covets exposure and putting its program in front of as many eyeballs as possible, there aren’t many stages bigger than a New Year’s Six bowl game.


The Cougars will need to come out of the gates with a fast start, because if they stumble, it could become another ho-hum season in Provo that leaves the nation sleeping on a program that was once known for always being a fly in the ointment of every system in college football that tried to keep the little fly out of the mix.


— Written by Mitch Harper, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Harper is the BYU reporter and insider for 1320 KFAN and co-host of "The Cougar Center" podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mitch_Harper.

What BYU Must Do in 2015 to Play in a New Year's Six Bowl
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/fans-are-most-entertaining-part-college-football

I love college football fans. Outside of European soccer fans, there is no one collective group of people so passionately and blindly devoted to their cause.


Hardcore college football fans are raised like religious extremists. They are taught that their team — often the team that plays at the school closest to where they grew up — is the only team anyone should ever root for. They are taught this at a young age and raised to believe it. They are taught that their loyalty will be rewarded with wins and championships — endless fodder for bar room and water cooler arguments about whose team is the best team.


Related: College Football's Tournament of Bragging Rights


They are also taught intolerance. They are taught to question, scoff at and shout down any statement made about their team that doesn’t paint the prettiest picture in terms of their team’s immediate or long-term outlook. They are taught that a down year is a “rebuilding” year, and that no matter what; their team will improve from year to year. But it’s not just gospel in their minds — it’s science.


Some of my closest friends are hardcore college football fans. I love college football as well, but I’ve never married myself to one specific program like some of them have. I’m more of a fan of coaches, systems, culture and atmosphere. That’s what makes college football so great in my eyes. I’ve always found it far too complex and colorful to marry myself to one team, regardless of where I grew up or whom my parents told me I should root for.


I suppose this is why I spend literally hours both interacting with and just observing college football fans online and in person. I’ll listen in on conversations within earshot. I’ll read message boards and join Facebook groups just to get inside their minds and see if their overall expectations ever change. As a writer, I’ll often play the role of “troll” and write an article that I know is going to stir the pot. Then, like that famous Michael Jackson meme, I’ll just sit back, grab my popcorn and read the comments.


By doing these things, I’ve been able to come to some fairly solid conclusions about college football fans. Are these things true across the board for all fans? Probably not, but they are extremely consistent throughout all of the most passionate fan bases in the sport.



It’s fun to watch fans discuss recruiting, particularly the recruitment of specific players. Truthfully, none of them know anything about any of these kids until one of a handful of websites that specializes in recruiting first mentions a name. From there, it’s on to Googling and YouTube-ing highlight videos designed to make 16-year-old kids look like the second comings of Barry Sanders, Reggie White and Peyton Manning.


You’ll see fans go from “wow, I hope we get this guy” to “wow, this guy just gave us a soft verbal, he’s gonna be a program changer!” and then, sadly, “He decommited. It’s ok, that’s not the type of player we want in our program anyway.”


Then you'll get the “why are we recruiting this kid?” which then evolves into “Our coaches must see something in him, I’m all in!” and eventually leads to “BOOM, he committed! Our rivals better look out!”


It’s all cupcakes and rainbows until a kid de-commits or doesn’t pan out and eventually transfers. And it’s hilariously entertaining to someone like myself who doesn’t have the logo of a school I’ve never attended tattooed somewhere on my body (I have a few friends who do. We're cool.).


Coaching Hires

There are three kinds of coaching hires in the minds of college football fans: The Big Fish, The Next Big Thing and The Wrong Guy.


The Big Fish are your Urban Meyers, Nick Sabans and Jim Harbaughs. You start counting future national titles long before they take the podium for the first press conference. They can’t fail. They won’t fail. Everything is going to be awesome because our new coach is awesome.


The Next Big Things are your James Franklins, Jim McElwains and Mike Rileys. Age is not an issue for these guys, young or old. It’s all about opportunity. They’ve either had decent success at small schools or had more success than they should have at programs with so much working against them. It doesn’t matter. Now that these guys are at your school — with all of the money and resources they’ve never had — you can start counting future national titles just like the schools with the Big Fish.


The Wrong Guys are rare, mostly because college football fans are eternal optimists. Almost every hire is a good hire, unless you have your heart set on one guy and the school hires another. Remember the angry mob that greeted the Auburn AD after he hired Gene Chizik instead of Turner Gill a few years back? And then Chizik wins a national title while Gill fails at Kansas.


In the end, they were both fired. In the end, most are fired. But college football fans don’t like to talk about that.


Player Development and Improvement

For some reason, college football fans think there is some sort of recipe that contains a formula with a timetable for when a player is going to be successful. Sometimes they apply this recipe to entire units or teams.


The idea is that if your freshman linebacker gets playing time in six games but stinks up the joint, he’s just a freshman and he gained valuable experience. Next season, because he went out and stunk up the joint this year, he’s automatically going to be better, because, well, science. But then, when that linebacker regresses instead of progresses — or doesn’t improve at all — it’s an anomaly. The milk or eggs must have been bad. Why else did he not improve or even get worse?


It’s even more interesting when applied to the entire team. You lose three or four games, graduate your two best players on both sides of the ball and then expect to improve the following season just because you return 14 or 15 starters. Those guys are all going to improve because — again — science. As a result, your team’s record is sure to improve. When it doesn’t, you look within. What did the coach not do? Did the players not work hard enough?


One thing you’ll rarely see a college football fan do is look at the outside factors, like, say, the other teams you face. Yeah, those are real players who are playing for the same trophy and working as hard as your team is working. They aren’t some computer controlled video game team that goes back in the box and into the closet after they play your team and the season wraps up. They’re out there, working hard, coaching and recruiting just as hard as your team — sometimes harder.


But you’ll rarely see college football fans acknowledge that. Instead, they want to believe that the stars are aligned so that one day, the team they’ve dedicated their lives rooting for, decorated sections of their house in honor of and scheduled weddings around the games of will eventually win that elusive or additional national championship.


The problem is, there are 128 teams with fans hoping for the same thing. Half of those teams have fan bases that believe, for whatever reason, that there is no excuse for their team not to win the sport’s top prize.


It’s all very fascinating to sit back and watch.  I doubt it would be quite as entertaining if I were married to one team — especially if my team couldn’t get over the hump. In that case, I’d probably become the outspoken and intolerant fan that as a writer I love so much, calling guys like myself trolls, hacks, and... well, other things.


Never change, college football fan. Never change.


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

The Fans are the Most Entertaining Part of College Football
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-best-heisman-bets-2015

It's time to discuss the final preseason prop bets of interest in college football and that's the Heisman Trophy. As you can tell from my previous articles, I don't like taking a lot of favorites if I don't have to. There's definitely some value here when it comes to players in the middle of the pack. The things I consider with regards to the Heisman are: how many high-profile games will that player's team have? And, will their team be in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff?


Related: College Football's Best Prop Bets and Values for 2015


For this exercise, we head to sportsbook BetUS, who has more options listed then our friends at 5Dimes Sportsbook.


Ezekiel Elliott (6/1), JT Barrett (8/1), Cardale Jones (15/1), Braxton Miller (40/1), Ohio State

I'll tackle the Ohio State players all at once. Elliott rushed for almost 2,000 yards last year with 18 touchdowns. As of press date, there was no announcement on who the starter will be at QB. If you have a hunch it's going to be Jones and want a piece of a Buckeyes player, then throw something down on him. I personally think that these players will cancel each other out and no Ohio State offensive star will receive the award at season's end.


Trevone Boykin, TCU (6/1)

Boykin has the majority of his offense back from last year when he threw for 3,901 yards and 33 touchdowns. The Horned Frogs were snubbed last year in terms of the Playoff and are determined to prove they belong this season. They've got an easy non-conference slate, which will help Boykin put up fat numbers before Big 12 play. If you want to go safe, then Boykin's your man.


Cody Kessler, USC (10/1)

It's time for USC to return to the spotlight and Kessler's got what it takes to make it happen. The signal-caller completed almost 70 percent of his passes, while throwing 39 touchdowns and just five interceptions. His weapons aren't as good with Nelson Agholor now in the NFL, but big things are expected from JuJu Smith. USC has a bunch of big-time games, but can Kessler do enough to get his name out there?


Samaje Perine, Oklahoma (20/1)

Perine is your classic case of a player who will put up numbers on a team that's not going to make the Playoff. The freshman ran for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns for the Sooners in 2014. Perine put up a FBS-record 427 yards alone against Kansas last season. The Big 12 is notorious for suspect defenses, so if you want a guy who is going to put up some gaudy numbers, then this RB is your man.


Connor Cook, Michigan State (25/1)

Cook has one thing going for him and that's multiple chances to put himself on the map. Sparty hosts Oregon in week two while taking on Ohio State at the Horseshoe in late November. Michigan State has an outside shot to win the conference and if things break right then they could make the four-team playoff. He's a solid quarterback who will have to find new weapons without Tony Lippett and Jeremy Langford.


Seth Russell, Baylor (30/1)

This might be my favorite long shot of the bunch. Some people have Baylor in the mix for the Playoff and winning the Big 12 title. If this occurs then Russell will have to lead the way, despite only having 15 career appearances. Last year Russell had eight touchdowns and one interception in eight games. He's got weapons all over in KD Cannon, Corey Coleman and Shock Linwood. The Bears will be in plenty of shootouts in 2015, and Russell will have to be sharp for them to win those games.


— 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.

College Football's Best Heisman Bets for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-2015-week-1

It's finally here! College football is back and the longest offseason in sports is over. We've got a great slate of games to open the season, thanks in large part to a growing movement by a few teams and conferences to shed the cupcakes from the schedule and replace them with a few high-profile, strength-of-schedule boosting Power 5 opponents.


As always, we head into opening week with a bunch of ideas, opinions and perceptions that we try to convince ourselves are facts. As history proves, however, we are quickly corrected by the football gods. Nobody gets it right, because more often than not, the outrageous happens.


Related: Outrageous College Football Predictions for the 2015 Season


With that, here are five outrageous predictions for Week 1 of the 2015 college football season.


Taysom Hill will rush for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns against Nebraska

Hill is the quarterback, the best running back and the bread & butter of the BYU offensive attack. He's at 100 percent coming off his injury 10 months ago, and he'll exploit a defensive personnel group whose core allowed 177.8 rushing yards per game a last season. It will be a lower scoring game than most think, and Hill's ground game will be the difference in a slight upset win for the Cougars.


3 FCS teams will record wins over Power 5 teams

Illinois State was one drive from winning the FCS national championship in 2014. The Redbirds visit an Iowa team with a bunch of question marks. Richmond is consistently one of the better FCS programs nationally. Look for them to stun Maryland at College Park. In Pittsburgh, the Panther and their new head coach Pat Narduzzi play host to Bo Pelini and Youngstown State. Pelini will have his team, which includes a couple of his former Nebraska players, fired up to take down a team that has nothing to gain from playing them.


Podcast: Week 1 Preview w/ Rece Davis

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


Nick Chubb will rush for 300 yards against Louisiana Monroe

Look for Chubb to bust a couple of long runs early on his way to 30 or more carries. Once Georgia has this one in the bag, it will be time for Chubb to pad those stats — and subsequently his Heisman resume — in what should be a video game-like performance that keeps him and the Bulldogs in the national conversation.


2 Top 10 teams will lose

The same teams appear in the top 10 of both the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll. I see four teams who very well could lose their opening games: No. 2 TCU travels to Minnesota, No. 6/7 Auburn hosts Louisville, No. 3 Alabama squares off with No. 18/20 Wisconsin and No. 1 Ohio State travels to Virginia Tech. At least two of them will lose.


The Top 4 you see now will all be absent from the College Football Playoff

Take a look at the top four teams in both the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Poll. Bookmark this article. Not one of those four teams (Ohio State, TCU, Alabama or Baylor) will even get a shot to play for the national championship in January.


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

Outrageous College Football Predictions for Week 1
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Air Force Falcons, Akron Zips, Alabama Crimson Tide, Appalachian State Mountaineers, Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks, Arkansas State Red Wolves, Army Black Knights, Army West Point Black Knights, Auburn Tigers, Ball State Cardinals, Baylor Bears, Boise State Broncos, Boston College Eagles, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, BYU Cougars, California Golden Bears, Central Michigan Chippewas, Charlotte 49ers, Cincinnati Bearcats, Clemson Tigers, College Football, Colorado Buffaloes, Colorado State Rams, Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, East Carolina Pirates, Eastern Michigan Eagles, FAU Owls, FIU Panthers, Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Fresno State Bulldogs, Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Southern Eagles, Georgia State Panthers, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Hawaii Warriors, Houston Cougars, Idaho Vandals, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Iowa State Cyclones, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kent State Golden Flashes, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marshall Thundering Herd, Maryland Terrapins, Memphis Tigers, Miami Hurricanes, Miami Ohio RedHawks, Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Missouri Tigers, MTSU Blue Raiders, Navy Midshipmen, NC State Wolfpack, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Nevada Wolf Pack, New Mexico Lobos, New Mexico State Aggies, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Texas Mean Green, Northern Illinois Huskies, Northwestern Wildcats, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Ohio Bobcats, Ohio State Buckeyes, Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys, Old Dominion Monarchs, Ole Miss Rebels, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers, Purdue Boilermakers, Rice Owls, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, San Diego State Aztecs, San Jose State Spartans, SMU Mustangs, South Alabama Jaguars, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Stanford Cardinal, Syracuse Orange, TCU Horned Frogs, Temple Owls, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas A&M Aggies, Texas Longhorns, Texas State Bobcats, Texas Tech Red Raiders, Toledo Rockets, Troy Trojans, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, UCF Knights, UCLA Bruins, UConn Huskies, UL Lafayette Ragin Cajuns, UL Monroe Warhawks, UMass Minutemen, UNLV Rebels, USC Trojans, Utah State Aggies, Utah Utes, UTEP Miners, UTSA Roadrunners, Vanderbilt Commodores, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars, West Virginia Mountaineers, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Western Michigan Broncos, Wisconsin Badgers, Wyoming Cowboys, American Athletic, Big 12, Big Ten, Conference USA, Independents, MAC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC, Sun Belt, News
Path: /college-football/620-twitter-accounts-every-college-football-fan-should-follow-2015

The 2015 college football season starts on Thursday, Sept. 3 and concludes in early January with the national championship in Glendale, Ariz. With kickoff right around the corner, it’s time to fill up your Twitter timelines with information on all of the teams, players, coaches and latest news.


To help you prepare for the 2015 season, Athlon Sports has compiled the best Twitter guide on the web. Here’s 620 (plus a few more that came in after we posted this) Twitter accounts you need to follow to get the best information this year. We hope we covered it all here, but if we missed anyone that needs to be on this list, let us know via Twitter: @AthlonSteven and @AthlonSports



Podcast: Week 1 Preview w/ Rece Davis

Subscribe: iTunes | Stitcher


620 Twitter Accounts Every CFB Should Follow in 2015


National Media

Athlon Sports




Mitch Light

Steven Lassan

Jasmine Watkins

Braden Gall

Rich McVey

David Fox

Mark Ross

John Gworek









Athlon Contributors




Joe Schad

Brett McMurphy

Heather Dinich

Adam Rittenberg

Paul Finebaum

Kirk Herbstreit

Chris Fowler

Rece Davis

Ivan Maisel

Travis Haney

Mark Schlabach

Geno Wojciechowski

Brad Edwards

Danny Kanell

Chris Low
















Yahoo Sports

Dr. Saturday Blog

Graham Watson

Nick Bromberg

Sam Cooper

Dan Wetzel

Pat Forde

Charles Robinson








Sports Illustrated


Zac Ellis

Campus Rush

Pete Thamel

Andy Staples

Lindsay Schnell

Brian Hamilton







SB Nation


Bill Connelly

Steven Godfrey

Jason Kirk

Spencer Hall

Dan Rubenstein


Ryan Nanni

Brian Floyd

Ian Boyd










USA Today

Dan Wolken

Nicole Auerbach

George Schroeder

Paul Myerberg






Sports On EarthMatt Brown@MattBrownCFB

Fox Sports


Bruce Feldman

Stewart Mandel

Clay Travis





CBS Sports


Dennis Dodd

Jon Solomon

Tom Fornelli

Jerry Hinnen

Chip Patterson






NBC Sports

College Football Talk

Kevin McGuire



Bleacher Report


Barrett Sallee

Bryan D. Fischer

Michael Felder

Adam Kramer

Ben Kercheval






College Football Playoff @CFBPlayoff
Associated PressRalph D. Russo@RalphDRussoAP

Chris B. Brown

Matt Hinton

Holly Anderson




CFB MatrixDave Bartoo@CFBMatrix
Coaching News

Football Scoop

Coaching Search

Coaches Almanac




Orlando SentinelMatt Murschel@OSMattMurschel



Gil Brandt



Sporting News



Matt Hayes

Bill Bender

Ken Bradley




CFB HuddleKyle Kensing@CFBHuddle
The Student Section


Matt Zemek



College Football News


Rich Cirminiello

Russ Mitchell

Pete Fiutak




NewsweekJohn Walters@Jdubs88
UproxxMartin Rickman@MartinRickman
Los Angeles TimesChris Dufresne@DufresneLATimes
Lost LettermenJim Weber@LostLettermen
Today's UTyler Waddell@Tyler_Waddell
Reddit @RedditCFB
CFB Stats

Sport Source Analytics

ESPN Stats

College FB Reference

Pro Football Focus






ESPN - Jeremy Crabtree

ESPN - Tom Luginbill

247Sports - Keith Niebuhr

247Sports - Barton Simmons

247Sports - JC Shurburtt

Rivals - MIke Farrell

Scout - Brandon Huffman








Uniform Info 



College Fantasy

Joe DiSalvo

Todd DeVries

Mike Bainbridge






ACC: @theACCfootball




Andrea Adelson

David Hale

Jared Shanker

Matt Fortuna





ACC Sports Journal 



Daily Press

David Teel

Norm Wood



ACC Football News @ACCFootballNews
D1scourse.comPatrick Stevens@D1scourse
ACC Freelance WriterLauren Brownlow@lebrownlow
WRALSportsFan.comJoe Ovies@JoeOvies


TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows

Boston College




















Florida State











Georgia Tech






















North Carolina





NC State
























Virginia Tech







Wake Forest





Big 12: @Big12Conference


ESPN Big 12 Blog


Jake Trotter

Max Olson

Brandon Chatmon




Sports on Earth/

Freelance Writer

David Ubben@davidubben
Dallas Morning NewsChuck Carlton@ChuckCarltonDMN
The OklahomanBerry Tramel



San Antonio Express-NewsTim Griffin@TimGriffinBig12
LandGrant Gauntlet @the_LGG
TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows







Iowa State















Kansas State

















Oklahoma State























Texas Tech






West Virginia












Big Ten: (@B1GFootball)


ESPN Big Ten Blog


Brian Bennett

Mitch Sherman

Austin Ward

Josh Moyer

Dan Murphy

Jesse Temple







Big Ten Network


Brent Yarina

Tom Dienhart

Gerry DiNardo

Sean Merriman

Dave Revsine

Howard Griffith

Mike Hall








Chicago TribuneTeddy Greenstein@TeddyGreenstein
Chicago Sun-TimesSteve Greenberg@SLGreenberg
Saturday Tradition @Tradition


Athlon Contributor

J.P. Scott@TheJPScott
TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows









































Michigan State































Ohio State














Penn State































Pac-12: (@Pac12)


ESPN Pac-12 Blog


Kevin Gemmell

Ted Miller

Chantel Jennings

Kyle Bonagura

David Lombardi






Pac-12 Network


Yogi Roth

Michael Yam

Ashley Adamson

Matt Leinart





San Jose Mercury NewsJon Wilner@WilnerHotline

Pacific Takes


Avinash Kunnath

Jack Follman



TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows







Arizona State





























Oregon State





































Washington State









Affiliation Account
SEC CommissionerGreg Sankey@GregSankey



Alex Scarborough

Edward Aschoff

David Ching

Greg Ostendorf

Sam Khan






SEC Network


Tony Barnhart



SEC Logo @SEC_Logo
SB NationBrandon Larrabee@TeamSpeedKills
 David Wunderlich@Year2

Saturday Down South


Brad Crawford

Christopher Smith

Jon Cooper

Murf Baldwin





AL.comMatt Scalici@MattScalici
Southern PigskinMatt Smith@MattSmithCFB
Sports Radio WNMLJosh Ward@Josh_Ward
Saturday BlitzChad Neipling@SEC_Chad
TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows

































































Mississippi State







Ole Miss






South Carolina















Texas A&M















Independents/Group of 5 Follows

TeamOfficial AccountMedia Follows
Notre Dame@NDFootball










Boise State@BroncoSportsFB



Underdog Dynasty @UnderdogDynasty

Mountain West 


Hustle Belt @HustleBelt


620 Twitter Accounts Every College Football Fan Should Follow (2015 Edition)
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-mississippi-states-college-football-schedule-2015

In 2014, the Mississippi State Bulldogs won 10 games for the first time since 1999. This season will mark Dan Mullen's seventh in Starkville and with the exception of a 5-7 first year, Mullen has not had a losing season with the Bulldogs. Last year also marked the fifth straight wining campaign for the program. Fans in Starkville haven’t seen a streak like that since Allyn McKeen lead his Maroons to eight straight winning seasons from 1939-47 (Mississippi State did not field a team in 1943).


Dak Prescott returns for his senior year and to hopefully lead his team to an SEC West championship, something the Bulldogs haven’t accomplished since 1998. The Bulldogs return only seven starters and 45 lettermen to a team that was picked to finish last in the division at SEC Media Days.


Related: Why Mississippi State Will or Won’t Win the SEC West


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


12. Sept. 19 vs. Northwestern State

The only FCS team on the Bulldogs' schedule will come in the third week of the season. The Bulldogs are 2-0 against the Demons but those games were played in 1945 and '46. This game comes a week after Mississippi State plays LSU so the Bulldogs could be flying high or looking to rebound after a tough loss.


11. Oct. 10 vs. Troy

Troy was 3-9 last year and will have a first-year head coach in Neal Brown, who has no previous head coaching experience in college football. The Bulldogs will be coming off an away game at Texas A&M so again the Bulldogs will need to stay focused whether they are coming off a win or loss but should handle Troy pretty easily.


10. Sept. 5 at Southern Miss

Last year the Bulldogs defeated Southern Miss 49-0. No amount of revenge will help them in 2015. The Golden Eagles may be an improving team but not enough to beat an SEC foe.


9. Oct. 17 vs. Louisiana Tech (Homecoming)

Louisiana Tech had a chance to win the C-USA crown but gave up a late touchdown to Marshall in the championship game. Skip Holtz will have his best quarterback in Florida transfer Jeff Driskel and the Bulldogs are poised to hit double-digit wins and return to the C-USA Championship Game. The home team is 5-1 in this series since 1980.


8. Oct. 24 vs. Kentucky

These two have played every year since 1990 with the Bulldogs leading the series 16-9. The Bulldogs entered last year’s contest as the No. 1 team in the nation. The Wildcats gave them fits for most of the game but could never catch up, never getting within more than two touchdowns. The Wildcats will be an improved team this year but not enough to go on the road and win in Starkville.


7. Oct. 3 at Texas A&M

Last year’s win by the Bulldogs tied the all-time series at 4-4. Road games are always tough in college football and the last time Mississippi State traveled to Kyle field, the Aggies and Johnny Manziel hung 51 points on the visitors.


6. Nov. 5 (Thursday) at Missouri

The Bulldogs are 11-4 against SEC East teams since 2009 but are 0-2 against Missouri all-time.  Both teams will be coming off a bye and this year’s matchup will be on a Thursday night. In the last three years, the Bulldogs are 2-0 in weekday games.


5. Nov. 21 at Arkansas

Last year’s game was a defensive struggle, as Arkansas picked off Prescott twice and totaled three turnovers in the first half. The Razorbacks weren’t able to capitalize on those turnovers as they fell 17-10. This will be a much improved Arkansas team and the Bulldogs cannot afford turnovers like last year.


4. Nov. 28 vs. Ole Miss

The Egg Bowl has seen the home team win this annual game in each of the last four years. Early last year, it looked like the Egg Bowl might have been bigger than the Iron Bowl, which ended up not being the case. Could it be this year? Both schools will need this win if they want any shot at the College Football Playoff.


3. Sept. 12 vs. LSU

The Bulldogs begin the year on the road in week one and then welcome LSU into town. This will be an early test for both teams and with question marks about the quarterback situation in Baton Rouge, it could play into Manny Diaz’s defensive scheme to pressure the Tigers into throwing the ball rather than allowing Leonard Fournette to beat you all day.


2. Nov. 14 vs. Alabama

The Bulldogs haven’t defeated Alabama since 2007. In fact, they only have three wins against the Tide since 2000. Alabama is the favorite to win the West while the Bulldogs were picked to finish last.  Not a lot of national love for the Bulldogs this year but you don’t need love to pull off an upset.


1.  Sept. 26 at Auburn

The SEC West is as difficult a division in college football. Going on the road in SEC West games are even tougher. Within the first four games of the season, the Bulldogs have a chance of knocking off both LSU and Auburn, splitting the two games or being out of the Playoff picture before the end of September.


— Written by Justin Nails, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @justinnails

Ranking the Toughest Games on Mississippi State's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 09:45
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-auburns-college-football-schedule-2015

Auburn coachIt's College Football Playoff or bust for Auburn in 2015. The Tigers are coming off an 8-5 (4-4 SEC) record and fourth-place finish in the SEC West, thanks to several late-game lapses. 


Auburn's offense ranked second in the SEC in yards per game (485.0) and third in total yards (6,305). But its defense was No. 61 overall in the FBS and allowed 26.7 points per game, which ranked 10th in the conference.


However, following the hire of new coordinator Will Muschamp and one of the SEC's best returning linebacker groups, the Tigers are expected to be one of the SEC's most complete teams and a favorite to contend for a national championship.


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


But before fans plan January trips to either the Orange or Cotton Bowl, Auburn will need to survive the toughest schedule in college football, according to Here now are Auburn's 12 regular season games, ranked according to degree of difficulty, from easiest to most difficult.

12. Nov. 21 vs. Idaho

Auburn faces some of its toughest matchups late in the season. This, however, is not one of them. Idaho finished with a 1-10 (1-7 Sun Belt) record in 2014 and should pose little threat to the Tigers.


11. Sept. 12 vs. Jacksonville State

Jacksonville State dominated the Ohio Valley Conference and made an FCS Playoff appearance last season. But that won't be enough to compete against a heavily overmatched Auburn team, expected to make its own playoff run in the FBS.


10. Oct. 3 vs. San Jose State

San Jose State travels to Auburn in between the team's second and third SEC games. The matchup should provide an easy win before the Tigers face back-to-back conference road games.


9. Oct. 15 (Thursday) at Kentucky

Kentucky is the first of two SEC opponents that will host the Tigers in October. The Wildcats showed signs of improvement, matching their previous win totals from their past two combined seasons in 2014 with a 5-1 start. However, their season ended on a six-game losing streak and failed to secure bowl eligibility. Kentucky may have learned from its late season collapse, but it shouldn't be enough to defeat an overmatched Auburn team.


8. Sept. 5 vs. Louisville

Louisville proved to be the more talented of the Bluegrass State's two biggest programs. But with Auburn entering its season at full strength looking to win a national title, the Cardinals should expect to start their season with a losing record.


7. Sept. 26 vs. Mississippi State

Mississippi State earned its first No. 1 ranking in school history and finished second in the SEC West in 2014. But the Bulldogs need to replace a conference leading 15 starters in order to remain among the SEC's contenders. Auburn should enjoy a victory at home as Mississippi State struggles to find its identity early in the season.


6. Nov. 14 vs. Georgia

By November we will know whether Auburn and Georgia live up to their preseason hype as national contenders. The Bulldogs have the strongest running back depth of any SEC team, including Nick Chubb, who finished second to former Auburn back Cameron Artis-Payne in rushing yards as a freshman. But the Tigers seem to be the more complete team beyond rushing offense and should earn the victory at home.


5. Oct. 31 vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss looks like a program on the rise. The Rebels improved to 9-4 (5-3 SEC) and face high expectations with their program-changing 2013 recruiting class in Year Three. This will be a tough matchup if both teams live up to their preseason hype, but the Tigers should remain a favorite at home.


4. Oct. 24 at Arkansas

Like Ole Miss, Arkansas is expected to make a jump back into contention in 2015. The Razorbacks were the best last place team in any FBS division and finished with a 7-6 (2-6 SEC) record. What gives this game a slight edge in difficulty over Ole Miss and Georgia is that its on the road. Plus, the Razorbacks will be hungry for an upset win after coming off consecutive matchups against Tennessee and Alabama.


3. Nov. 7 at Texas A&M

Texas A&M is another middle of the road SEC West team. They're best case/worst case scenarios are either double digit wins or finishing last in the division, depending on how soon new coordinator John Chavis can provide an improvement on defense. But the team definitely has the potential to be the conference's best passing offense with a more experienced Kyle Allen and several former five-star receiver prospects. The Aggies also have the luxury of playing at home in front of the SEC's largest-capacity stadium in between favorable matchups against South Carolina and Western Carolina.


2. Nov. 28 vs. Alabama

While this might be Auburn's most important game, the Tigers have the luxury of playing at home. Still, Alabama should be a difficult matchup for the Tigers as both teams could be playing for both an SEC Championship Game and College Football Playoff berth. There is a chance that both teams, should they survive their difficult schedules, enter atop the conference with undefeated records and see a repeat matchup in the playoffs.


1. Sept. 19 at LSU

No team has a bigger home field advantage than LSU at Death Valley. Auburn hasn't won in Baton Rogue since 1999. Regardless of its quarterback situation, LSU has one of the nation's best running backs in Leonard Fournette, a talented, young wide receiving corps and the SEC's top defensive back group. For Auburn to keep its College Football Playoff chances alive, it will need to survive an early season matchup at Death Valley.


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

Ranking the Toughest Games on Auburn's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/teams-face-make-or-break-september

Every season has one ritual that’s both exciting and infuriating — the practice of throwing out the preseason polls after only a few weeks of the season.


Teams we thought we understood in June, July and August turn out to be imposters — or wolves in sheep’s clothing — by the time games begin in September.


Just last season, three teams that were unranked in the preseason AP poll (Mississippi State, TCU and Arizona) were ranked in the top 10 in the first poll in August. Preseason No. 18 Ole Miss tied with the rival Bulldogs at No. 3 in the Oct. 5 poll.


At the same time, five teams in the preseason top 16 started October unranked (South Carolina, LSU, Wisconsin and Clemson).


While some teams may be able to survive the September upset — Ohio State and Oregon still played for the championship, after all — other seasons soar or crumble based on September results. These are teams that are already at a crossroads during the first month of the 2015 season.



Sept. 5 vs. Bowling Green (Nashville)

Sept. 12 Oklahoma

Sept. 19 Western Carolina

Sept. 26 at Florida

The entire month of September will be a test of Tennessee’s ability to avoid its own hype. Bowling Green might not be able to upset the Volunteers, but the Falcons are a MAC contender. Tennessee ran out of steam against Oklahoma last season in a 34-10 loss in Norman, and the Volunteers still lack the depth to match their standout frontline talent. The whole month, though, points to that critical game against Florida. The Gators have won 10 in a row, and it’s tough to buy the Vols as an SEC favorite if they can’t solve their Florida problem.



Sept. 5 vs. Louisville (Atlanta)

Sept. 12 Jacksonville State

Sept. 19 at LSU

Sept. 26 Mississippi State

Tigers quarterback Jeremy Johnson is already being named as one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC even though he threw fewer than 40 passes last season. He’ll be challenged immediately by Louisville and LSU — both away from home. Louisville and LSU ranked in the top 20 nationally in yards allowed per play and in the top five nationally in pass efficiency defense. Both defenses expect to pick up where they left off last season. Throw in a match up against Dak Prescott to round out the month, and Auburn will know right away if it has the goods to win the SEC.



Sept. 5 at Northwestern

Sept. 12 UCF

Sept. 19 at USC

Sept. 25 at Oregon State

Stanford gets its share of tough games at home — Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame. The Cardinal makes up for it with only one home game in the first month of the season. A trip to Evanston figures to be tricky (even if a lesser Cal team was able to win there last season). The highlight, though, is a road trip to USC, the potential Pac-12 favorite that beat Stanford 13-10 last season.



Sept. 5 at Notre Dame

Sept. 12 Rice

Sept. 19 Cal

Sept. 26 Oklahoma State

Texas isn’t getting much hype in the Big 12 — and after a 6-7 season and back-to-back routs to end 2014, that’s with good reason. That said, if Texas is able to upset Notre Dame and South Bend, the Longhorns would shift the balance of power in the Big 12. More realistically, Texas will need to show it can beat a mediocre West Coast team after losing to BYU twice and UCLA in the last two seasons. A home date against rising Oklahoma State, a team that’s won three in a row in Austin is key. A 1-3 start would be disastrous for second-year coach Charlie Strong.



Sept. 5 vs. Arizona State (Houston)

Sept. 12 Ball State

Sept. 19 Nevada

Sept. 26 vs. Arkansas (Arlington)

The Aggies have dropped from 11 wins to nine to eight and six SEC wins to four to three in the three seasons under Kevin Sumlin. While no one would suggest he’s any trouble, Texas A&M’s status as an “it” program may be in jeopardy if the Aggies can’t get off to a hot start, which essentially boils down to those two neutral site games against Arizona State and Arkansas. Sumlin brought in John Chavis to fix a defense that will immediately get tested against two wildly different schemes in Arizona State’s up-tempo spread with a strong-armed QB and Arkansas’ grinding run game.



Sept. 4 Washington

Sept. 12 at BYU

Sept. 18 Idaho State

Sept. 25 at Virginia

Thanks to the new Playoff bowl assignments, Boise State doesn’t need to go undefeated to get to a major bowl game. The Broncos simply have to win the Mountain West and be ranked higher than champs in the American, Conference USA, MAC and Sun Belt. Boise State is already the favorite in the Mountain West and can wrap up the “highest-ranked” criteria with signature wins against power programs in September. With two road games and a new quarterback, that’s easier said than done.



Sept. 5 at Nebraska

Sept. 12 Boise State

Sept. 19 at UCLA

Sept. 26 at Michigan

Last season, BYU started 4-0 with Taysom Hill at quarterback. He won’t have a ton of opportunities to work himself into the lineup with three of the first four on the road. This opening slate against a defending Fiesta Bowl champ (Boise State), a veteran Pac-12 contender (UCLA) and a team that hasn’t lost a season opener since 1985 (Nebraska) is much more difficult than the one Hill sliced through to start 2014. Remember, as an independent, BYU has to finish in the top 10 or better to get a coveted New Year’s Bowl slot. Winning a couple of these early would be a good start toward that goal.



Sept. 5 vs. Auburn (Atlanta)

Sept. 12 Houston

Sept. 17 Clemson

Sept. 26 Samford

Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will earn his pay in the first month of the season facing arguably the best offensive coach in the SEC (Auburn’s Gus Malzahn), the offensive coordinator from the reigning national champions (Houston’s Tom Herman) and the best quarterback in the ACC (Clemson’s Deshaun Watson). Louisville had a standout season on defense a year ago and will use Power 5 refugees Devonte Fields (TCU) and Josh Harvey-Clemons (Georgia) to fill the gaps.



Sept. 5 Grambling State

Sept. 12 San Diego State

Sept. 19 at Texas

Sept. 26 at Washington

Cal’s big September essentially boils down to those two big road games at the end of the month, though a loss to San Diego State would limit any momentum Sonny Dykes has built. A road trip to face a standout Texas secondary could be a key moment for Cal quarterback Jared Goff. And beating Washington for the first time since 2008 would be a critical Pac-12 win for a Cal team that has to face Utah, UCLA and USC from the South and Oregon and Stanford on the road.



Sept. 5 UL Lafayette

Sept. 12 at South Carolina

Sept. 19 Florida

Sept. 26 Missouri

Even in a weak SEC East, Kentucky has an uphill climb to contend for the division. Mark Stoops’ team improved from 2-10 to 5-7 and stepped up in recruiting. If the Wildcats are going to deliver on that potential, September would be a good time to do so. South Carolina, which lost 45-38 in Columbia to UK last year, is as vulnerable as its been under Steve Spurrier. Florida figures to be offensively challenged again under a new coach, especially early. And Missouri’s strength along the defensive line has been diminished due to departures. Kentucky hasn’t won an SEC road game since 2009, so getting Florida and Mizzou in Lexington is critical.



Sept. 5 at Vanderbilt

Sept. 10 Louisiana Tech

Sept. 19 at Indiana

Sept. 26 Miami (Ohio)

Looking for a Group of 5 team not named Boise State to watch? Why not Western Kentucky? Quarterback Brandon Doughty — who led shootout wins over Marshall (67-66) and Central Michigan (49-48) to finish last season — is back. The Hilltoppers have a chance to beat two Power 5 teams on the road, albeit Vandy and Indiana, and knock out a Conference USA contender (Louisiana Tech) all before Sept. 20.

11 Teams That Face a Make-or-Break September
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-2015-week-1-preview

College Football is finally here! 


So Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast is kicking off the season in style. Hosts Braden Gall and Mitch Light preview the entire first weekend of action and visit with new ESPN College Gameday host Rece Davis.


The guys pick every Top 25 game, offer locks of the week against the spread and cover THE LEAST IMPORTANT GAME OF THE WEEK! before visiting with Davis about his new roll at ESPN and getting his official College Football Playoff picks for the upcoming season.



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

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: Official Conference and Playoff Predictions
Post date: Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 08:00
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Video, videos, NFL
Path: /nfl/marshawn-lynch-sells-skittles-infomercial-video

It's been well documented that Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch loves Skittles. Of course, we didn't know he loved them this much. Lynch surprised viewers when he shared his passion for the colorful candy during an infomercial and did not disappoint. Watch as Lynch goes into full pitchman mode during this 5-minute segment on the EVINE Live shopping show.


But don't try to order your brick of Skittles. According the show's website, they're sold out

Post date: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 17:12
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-football-games-oklahoma-states-college-football-schedule-2015

When Les Miles left Oklahoma State for LSU in 2005, Mike Gundy returned to Stillwater to take the reins. Gundy’s tenure at his alma mater has largely been a success. He’s appeared in nine bowl games, accumulated nine consecutive winning seasons and has won more games than any Oklahoma State head coach.


Related: Athlon Sports Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Big 12 Preview and Predictions


The Cowboys were college football’s youngest team in 2014, one of the reasons why they finished just 7-6. However, they also showed enough promise to give fans reason to be optimistic about this season. Oklahoma State took defending national champion Florida State down to wire before losing by six points in the season opener, defeated in-state rival Oklahoma and capped the season with a 30-22 Cactus Bowl win over Washington.


The road to the 2015 College Football Playoff for the Cowboys is littered with obstacles, as they will face Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU this season. But 11 returning starters on offense, and nine on defense, gives Oklahoma State a trove of depth as Gundy attempts to win his second Big 12 championship (2011).


Here now is a look at Oklahoma State’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to most difficult matchup:


12. Sept. 12 vs. Central Arkansas

FCS member Central Arkansas travels to Stillwater in Week 2. Central Arkansas opened the 2014 season at Texas Tech and nearly pulled off the upset, losing 42-35. While Oklahoma State shouldn’t have any difficulty grabbing the win, this one could be closer than the Cowboys want it to be.


11. Sept. 19 vs. UTSA

Former Miami Hurricanes head coach Larry Coker’s UTSA squad traveled to Stillwater last September and suffered a 30-point loss. This time around shouldn’t be any different. Although this will be the third time UTSA faces Oklahoma State in as many years, it won’t be the charm as the Cowboys should easily notch their third win of the season.


10. Sept. 3 (Thursday) at Central Michigan

Central Michigan cut bait with head coach Dan Enos following a 7-6 season and hired alumnus John Bonamego in February. Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush – who tossed seven touchdowns in the inaugural Bahamas Bowl last December – returns, but won’t have much help as the Chippewas must replace a number of offensive starters. Oklahoma State, 67-41-5 in season openers, will play spoiler in Mount Pleasant and begin the season with a win.


9. Oct. 24 vs. Kansas

New year, new look for Kansas. This offseason, Kansas athletic director Dr. Sheahon Zenger brought in former Texas A&M wide receivers coach David Beaty to replace Charlie Weis and revive a sputtering Kansas program that has won just 12 games since 2010.


Kansas played Oklahoma State close in Lawrence last year before falling 27-20. Don’t expect the same results for this year’s contest, which happens to fall on Homecoming in Stillwater. The Pokes should win big and push their all-time Homecoming record to 51-36-7.


8. Nov. 14 at Iowa State

Depending on who you ask, this game could be a must-win for Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads by the time these teams meet. Gundy has gone 5-2 against Iowa State in his career, with one of the losses coming in double overtime in Ames in 2011. The loss knocked then-second-ranked Oklahoma State from national title contention. That game was played under somber circumstances, as a plane crash the night before claimed the lives of two Oklahoma State women’s basketball coaches and two others.


Iowa State, which failed to win a Big 12 game last year, will have its hands full. The Cowboys shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the win.


7. Oct. 31 at Texas Tech

Texas Tech came close to stealing a road win against Oklahoma State last season, but quarterback Daxx Garman’s (who transferred to Maryland this offseason) five-touchdown day proved too much to overcome as the Cowboys won 45-35.


Texas Tech, winners of four games last season, should be much improved as head coach Kliff Kingsbury enters year three of his tenure. If the Red Raiders are to beat the Cowboys, they’ll have to cut down on the number of penalties (16) and interceptions (3) they accumulated in last year’s game.


6. Sept. 26 at Texas

The Longhorns defeated the Cowboys 28-7 in Stillwater last season to snag Charlie Strong’s sixth win in his first season leading Texas. Oklahoma State found itself in a 19-0 hole, as Longhorns quarterback Tyrone Swoopes shelled the Cowboys' defense for 305 yards and two touchdowns while the offense could muster just 192 yards of its own.


Winning in Austin is never an easy task. This promises to be an enticing early-season matchup as Strong will look to go 2-0 against Gundy.


5. Oct. 10 at West Virginia

Many in Stillwater were sad to see former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen take his high-powered offense to West Virginia as its new offensive coordinator in December 2010. The Mountaineers named him head coach in June 2011 to replace Bill Stewart. Since then, Holgorsen has gone 2-1 against his former school, beating Oklahoma State 34-10 in Stillwater in 2014.


West Virginia was one of college football’s mysteries last season, as it handed Baylor its lone regular-season loss, yet dropped a game at Texas. Holgorsen’s squad could give Oklahoma State fits this go round in Morgantown.


4. Oct. 3 vs. Kansas State

In 2014, Oklahoma State scored on its opening possession against the Wildcats to take a 7-0 lead. The Wildcats answered with a kickoff return for a touchdown and never looked back, as Kansas State cruised to a 48-14 victory.


Kansas State must replace offensive sparkplug Jake Waters at quarterback, along with his favorite target, wide receiver Tyler Lockett. The Wildcats return six defensive starters and the unit should be the strength of this year’s team. The Pokes under Gundy have won their last three home games against Kansas State.


3. Nov. 28 vs. Oklahoma

Oklahoma State welcomes bitter rival Oklahoma to the house that T. Boone Pickens built to close out the regular season. The Cowboys defeated the Sooners 38-35 in overtime last year. The win was Gundy’s first in Norman.


The Sooners get the Cowboys a week after traveling to Baylor and a week before TCU, which could play in Oklahoma State's favor. Oklahoma returns six starters on offense and six on defense, including sophomore sensation running back Samaje Perine, who rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman. The Bedlam Series has gone into overtime in two of the last three years.


2. Nov. 7 vs. TCU

Simply put, the Horned Frogs will be a tough out. In 2014, TCU racked up 415 passing yards and 676 yards of total offense in a 42-9 rout of the Cowboys in Fort Worth. And with 10 returning starters on offense, this year’s TCU team is just as good and will play with a chip on its shoulder after being turned away from the inaugural College Football Playoff last season.


TCU has dropped its last three games in Stillwater, but that streak should end this year as Oklahoma State won’t be able to keep up with an uber-talented Horned Frogs team.


1. Nov. 21 vs. Baylor

Like TCU, Baylor will play this season with a Texas-sized chip on its shoulder, as the Bears also were excluded from the College Football Playoff. And like TCU, Baylor hung more than 40 points on the Cowboys last year. The good news for Cowboys’ fans is this: 1939 is the last time Baylor has won in Stillwater. While Oklahoma State has a slight edge in the series (19-14), Baylor is closing the gap.


Baylor quarterback Seth Russell replaces Bryce Petty and he will have an arsenal of weapons to complement a defense that returns nine starters. Baylor should have little problem against the Cowboys in the next-to-last week of the regular season for Oklahoma State.


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

Ranking the Toughest Games on Oklahoma State's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-vanderbilts-2015-college-football-schedule

Vanderbilt got a pretty good draw with this year's schedule. The Commodores play in the SEC, so there will be a handful of difficult matchups. But for Derek Mason's team, which returns 18 starters, there should be a glimmer of hope on the horizon.]


Related: Outrageous College Football Predictions for the SEC in 2015


Not only does Vanderbilt avoid Alabama and Auburn from the SEC West, but also it also gets two out of three of the SEC East's top contenders, Georgia and Missouri, at home. Accompany that with what looks to be an uninspiring non-conference schedule and the prospect of a bowl game looks possible. 


Here is a look at Vanderbilt's 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to toughest matchup:


12. Sept. 19 vs. Austin Peay

The Governors haven't squared off against an SEC team since they played both Tennessee and Vanderbilt in 2013, losing by a combined 83-3. They finished that season 0-12. In 2014 they showed little improvement, rounding out the year 1-11. This game will be a breeze for the Commodores.


11. Oct. 3 at Middle Tennessee

Going on the road against a bowl eligible C-USA team from last year that returns 13 starters could be a challenge for Vandy. Luckily, it's not a long trip. If traffic isn't too bad, the Commodores should make it to MTSU's Floyd Stadium in under an hour. 


10. Sept. 3 (Thursday) vs. Western Kentucky

The Hilltoppers are no joke and no stranger to the SEC. They have beaten Kentucky in their last two meetings, so Vanderbilt fans shouldn't feel overconfident about this one. Western Kentucky returns 14 starters from an 8-5 team that knocked off undefeated Marshall near the end of 2014. Look out, Vandy. 


9. Oct. 31 at Houston

Western Kentucky might actually be Vanderbilt's best out-of-conference opponent. However, the Houston game is on the road and is sandwiched right in the middle of SEC play. By this time in the year, the Commodores could be banged up. Houston will be a formidable adversary. The Cougars return some key pieces from a team that knocked off Pitt in the bowl season.


8. Nov. 14 vs. Kentucky

The Wildcats return a pair of solid running backs in Jojo Kemp and Stanley "Boom" Williams as well as an experienced offensive line known for its run-blocking ability. Yet, the most important piece of the offense will be quarterback Patrick Towles. Hopefully, Vanderbilt's defense will be improved enough to slow down Kentucky's offensive attack. 


7. Nov. 7 at Florida

New head coach Jim McElwain is looking to improve the Gators' offense in 2015, but the defense should still be pretty good, especially in the secondary. The Commodores showed few signs of life last season when trying to throw the football and Florida will likely be able to hold Vanderbilt to few points. But can Florida score enough themselves to get a win in The Swamp? 


6. Oct. 24 vs. Missouri

Mizzou has won the SEC East in back-to-back years, but last year the Tigers struggled to a 24-14 victory over Vanderbilt. As bad as Vandy was, the Commodores showed some promise against their SEC East rivals, losing close games to Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee. Vanderbilt could have success running the ball against a depleted defensive line for the Tigers.


5. Oct. 17 at South Carolina

The week before the tilt against Mizzou, Vanderbilt will find itself in a treacherous environment in the other Columbia. Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks will be on the hunt in 2015 after blowing multiple fourth-quarter leads a year ago. This will be a difficult matchup for Vanderbilt, especially on the road.


4. Nov. 21 vs. Texas A&M

The Aggies may be one of the most underrated teams in college football. They return eight starters on both sides of the ball, including their starting quarterback, running back and three best receivers from a year ago. Legendary defensive coordinator, "Chief" John Chavis, could have an immediate impact by simplifying the defense. Vanderbilt will have its work cut out when the Aggies visit Nashville.


3. Nov. 28 at Tennessee

Vanderbilt has won two of the past three against the Vols, but the tables have turned for the better in Knoxville. Tennessee fans are still irate over Patton Robinette's fake jump pass touchdown into the checkerboard in 2013. With talent such as Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd, Derek Barnett and Curt Maggitt, the Vols should be able to enact their revenge.


2. Sept. 26 at Ole Miss

While they avoid most of the SEC West's elite contenders, Vanderbilt still has to deal with its permanent draw in Oxford. And although Ole Miss leads the series only 49-38-2, they are light years ahead of the Commodores on the field right now. Prosperous recruiting has put Ole Miss back on the map and the Rebels will be favored by double digits when Vanderbilt comes to town early in the season.


1. Sept. 12 vs. Georgia

Georgia is without a doubt the most difficult game on Vanderbilt's schedule. Fortunately, the game will take place in Nashville, but it might not make a difference when Nick Chubb gets his motor running. There is some hope for Vanderbilt's defensive line this season, but both sides of the ball will have to play their best game of the year to have a chance in this one.


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

Ranking the Toughest Games on Vanderbilt's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, September 1, 2015 - 13:00