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Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12s-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer Daly Cantrell.


Here is what she had to say about the Pac-12's football logos:



I love a good script font that is gender neutral… and this logo does the trick. The color scheme along with the beautiful flow of the letters makes this logo top in my book in the Pac-12.

2.OregonThe Ducks' O displays simplicity at its finest. The font of the O has a great shape that gives it a different compared to your average O.
3.USCThe interlocking letters make this logo. That subtle detail in the crossing gives just enough detail to really bring this logo to the next level.
4.WashingtonThe Huskies’ W is so classic and sleek that it works.
5.UCLAThe Bruins’ logo is a classic take on a script logo. Underlining the letters make the logo stand out and gives a great softness to all the curves.
6.Washington StateA lot of creativity went into making this logo. The subtle WSU in the body of the cougar is a really cool concept.
7.ColoradoI really like the concept behind this logo, but I wish the CU was a little easier to read.
8.StanfordStanford’s S is extremely classic. The touch of white and red trim makes the logo.
9.ArizonaI like the concept, but I hate that two typefaces were made in the making of this. The inner A is too pointed for the slab serif A around it.
10.Arizona StateI am glad they finally dropped the words that used to be incorporated with this logo. The pitchfork has an edginess to it and is quite different to the rest the logos in college football.
11.UtahThis logo could be really cool, but the circle bothers me. The block U and feather detail is great, but it the circle gives an off-balanced feel.
12.Oregon StateI am just not a fan of the beaver... it looks like a blob.


Ranking the Pac-12's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-floridas-college-football-schedule-2015

Life in the SEC is always survival of the fittest. The conference has nine teams ranked in Athlon Sports’ 2015 college football preseason Top 25, which is more than any other conference. The Florida Gators are not one of these nine teams.


Florida is probably not ranked because of its 7-5 record last season and the transition the program is currently going through. The school fired head coach Will Muschamp last November and hired Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain to replace him.


Related: Setting First-Year Expectations for Florida's Jim McElwain


Experts don’t have high expectations for the Gators this season, as during SEC Media Days the team was picked to finish fifth in the SEC East. Despite the low expectations, could the Gators be one of the biggest surprises in the SEC?


Here’s Florida 12 regular season games ranked from the easiest to the most difficult matchup.


12. Sept. 5 vs. New Mexico State

The New Mexico State went 2-10 last season so the Aggies are the runaway choice for the Gators’ easiest game of the 2015 season. New Mexico State’s defense finished 113th nationally in 2014, so Florida should have an opportunity to score 50 points on the Aggies.


11. Nov. 21 vs. FAU

FAU’s strength is running the football, as the Owls have Jaquez Johnson and Jay Warren, who each rushed for more than 500 yards last season. The problem is stopping the run is a strength of the Gators, as the team finished 13th in in the nation in rush defense. This should make for quick work of the Owls.


10. Nov. 7 vs. Vanderbilt

A couple of years ago, a game against Vanderbilt would not have been considered an easy game by any means. But after an abysmal 2014 season, the Commodores will have a tough time winning in The Swamp.


9. Sept. 12 vs. East Carolina

East Carolina had a successful AAC debut last season, as the team finished 8-5, including victories over ACC programs Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Pirates will have to replace two of their better players in quarterback Shane Carden and wide receiver Justin Hardy along with having a new offensive coordinator. With East Carolina rebuilding, Florida will be the favorites in Gainesville.


8. Nov. 14 at South Carolina

Steve Spurrier will have a tough time replacing his playmakers at South Carolina, as the team returns only four starters on offense. The defense has been rebuilt and revamped, but it doesn’t have enough game-changers to be a challenger in the SEC East. While it won’t be easy, Florida can go into Columbia and defeat South Carolina.


7. Sept 19 at Kentucky

Who could forget the Gators’ thrilling 36-30 overtime victory against the Wildcats last September? Kentucky got close to making a bowl game last season and Mark Stoops will have his team looking for revenge against the Gators.


6. Oct. 10 at Missouri

The Tigers have won two straight against the Gators, including last season’s 42-13 victory in Gainesville. The Tigers have some issues at wide receiver and on defense to figure out, but they should be in the thick of the SEC East race once again in 2015.


5. Sept. 26 vs. Tennessee

The last time Tennessee defeated the Gators was back in 2004, when George W. Bush was finishing his first term in office, “American Idol” was television's No.1 show and gas was only $1.85 per gallon. The Volunteers are many an analyst’s pick for SEC sleeper team this fall.  With 18 returning starters from a team that went 7-6 last season, Tennessee will be looking to break its 10-game losing streak against the Gators.


4. Oct. 17 at LSU

While LSU went a disappointing 8-5 last season, playing in Tiger Stadium is always a chore for any opponent. The Tigers should be improved with their 16 returning starters, including stud running back Leonard Fournette. Florida and LSU have traditionally played each other tough and this season probably won’t be any different.


3. Oct. 3 vs. Ole Miss

Ole Miss has enough talent to not only defeat Florida in The Swamp, but also to win the SEC West this season. Last season the Rebels went 9-4 and return plenty of NFL-caliber talent. If Ole Miss can find a quarterback to replace three-year starter Bo Wallace, watch out.


2. Nov. 28 vs. Florida State

The Florida vs. Florida State game is always one of college football’s most bitter and intense rivalries. The Seminoles have finished with 12 or more wins each of the last three seasons. While Florida State lost a lot of talent to the NFL, this will still be one of the toughest games on the Gators’ schedule.


1. Oct. 31 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.)

Georgia's talent is as good as it has been in several years, but the Bulldogs have to find a quarterback. If they can settle on one guy, Georgia can not only win the SEC East, but they also can make a run at the College Football Playoff and perhaps a national title.


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

Ranking the Toughest Games on Florida's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/kyle-flood-rutgers-enter-critical-second-season-big-ten

It’s not as if Rutgers has ever had any realistic expectations to be one of the premiere college football programs in the country, but joining the Big Ten amplifies everything for everyone involved. Both players and coaches are under immense scrutiny to not only perform at the highest level, but exceed expectations en route to soaring heights for their programs.


Greg Schiano brought Rutgers football back into the national spotlight in 2006, in what could be one of the most wild college football seasons in history, finishing 11-2 and beating Kansas State in a January bowl game. However since that memorable season the program has fallen back into mediocrity, going just 57-42 over the past eight years.


One thing Schiano brought back to the Scarlet Knights was a respect factor. A team that was once considered the worst program in all of college football, Schiano’s Knights were ranked in the preseason Top 25 in 2006, the first time in 30 years the program had seen a number next to their name.


But Schiano’s success with a once-moribund program didn’t go unnoticed, as he left following the 2011 season for the NFL as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Given what Schiano helped build, Rutgers felt it best to keep both structure and continuity in the program and decided to hire within by promoting longtime assistant coach Kyle Flood.


Flood, who has been with the program since 2005, saw immediate success in 2012, finishing 9-4 and tied for first in the then Big East Conference, ultimately losing in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The 2013 season was a rude awakening from Flood’s honeymoon campaign, as the Scarlet Knights finished below .500 at 6-7, missing out on a bowl game and landing near the bottom of the brand-new American Athletic Conference.


Last season, Rutgers’ debut in the Big Ten was viewed as both a surprise and a success, not only to those close to the program, but outside as well. A team that many national pundits expected to finish with double-digit losses, tallied an eight-win season. Their performance in Big Ten games was unimpressive, as all five losses in 2014 coming at the hands of conference foes, including blowout defeats against perennial powers Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.


The Scarlet Knights’ first season in Big Ten play wasn’t all bad, however, as it also included victory over Michigan at home, and a nail-biting loss to Penn State early in the season in Happy Valley. Even with the mixed results, Rutgers and Flood put belief in a fan base that was otherwise skeptical about the team’s future success in a Power 5 conference.


The issue at hand is whether Flood can sustain and build on the success the program saw in year one as members of the Big Ten. Especially considering that Ohio State is the reigning national champion, and Michigan State appears to be knocking on the door of being a part of the College Football Playoff by season’s end. Not only is competition ramping up at a rapid pace in the conference, but recruiting also is expected to be at its most competitive moving forward with Jim Harbaugh returning to Michigan to go toe-to-toe with the likes of the Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer and the Nittany Lions’ James Franklin.


Flood’s career 23-16 record, while nothing to be overly ashamed about, isn’t anything to be comfortable with either. His Scarlet Knights have a difficult schedule in 2015, with major road tests against the likes of Penn State early and then Wisconsin and Michigan in back-to-back in weeks to end October and open November.


One of Flood’s biggest marks against him is that while he can beat quality football teams, he loses, and sometimes in embarrassing fashion, to very bad football teams. In just his second year in 2013, he saw his team lose five of its final seven games after beginning the season 4-1, and only two of the teams the Scarlet Knights lost to that year finished their seasons with winning records. If Flood continues this discouraging trend, the whispers about his job security that are already circulating around Piscataway are only going to get louder with the pressure of competing in a power conference in a major television market hanging over the program’s head.


The 2015 season likely won’t be the battle axe that comes down on Flood’s head unless it’s an absolute abomination. If it’s anywhere other than on the field that’ll cost Flood his job, it’ll be in recruiting. According to’s Composite Rankings, Rutgers had the 24th overall recruiting class in the country in 2012; which would’ve been mostly credited to Schiano prior to his departure to the NFL.


In the three full years Flood has been the head coach, the program’s performance has steadily declined in the rankings, coming in at 50th (2013), 53rd (2014), and 55th during the 2015 cycle. If there’s any sort of silver lining from those gaudy numbers, it’s that Rutgers currently is on pace for a major improvement, as they currently sit 43rd in the country with National Signing Day still seven months away.


With another eight-win campaign for the Scarlet Knights, and even just two or three top recruits committing to the future of the program, Flood could begin to build what both fans and boosters are looking for — an annual Big Ten powerhouse.


While this upcoming season isn’t likely to be the be-all-end-all for Flood as the head coach, it’s certainly a crucial season. If there was a meter to gauge his hot seat ranking, one could argue that it’s a firm, very firm 6/10. That rating is purely contingent upon his success during the 2015 campaign.


Rutgers isn’t expected to dominate Big Ten competition, being that the Scarlet Knights are still basically playing with a roster built to compete in the AAC. But a few upset victories could really propel Flood and this program to new heights in a Power 5 conference. A few upset losses, however, and Flood could be in search of new employment, for better or worse. None of us will know until the games are played, but there’s reason for concern in the birthplace of college football, and the time is now for Flood to earn himself some job security.


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

Kyle Flood, Rutgers Enter Critical Second Season in the Big Ten
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/randy-moss-petite-direct-tv-commercial-nfl

Don't be like Petite Randy Moss, because his life is not at fun as the regular-sized one.


In a new commercial for DirecTV, we get a preview into the former NFL star's life, and what it would've been like if he would've chose cable. Spoiler: The outcome would not have been so good. 


Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:29
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/cris-carter-apologizes-telling-nfl-rookies-have-fall-guy-bridgewater-chris-borland

Leave it to the internet to make a big deal out of something said a year ago.


During a 2014 NFL Rookie Symposium, the former NFL star, along with Warren Sapp, talked to the rookies about all kinds of things and it was recently brought to light because of an ESPN profile of former 49ers player Chris Borland. He said the talk of the former player, later found out to be Carter, appalled him but he decided to stay because he didn't want to make a scene.


"Get yourself a fall guy. I was just sitting there thinking, 'Should I walk out? What am I supposed to do?'" Borland told ESPN.



Carter recently apologized for his comments, once they had come to light over the weekend.



Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:05
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/college-footballs-top-30-offensive-lines-2015

The offensive line is often the most overlooked position for any college football team. While the linemen in the trenches don’t get enough credit, they are often the most important piece to a successful offense. Flashy skill talent and quarterbacks take home all of the accolades and headlines, but neither position can thrive without a solid offensive line.


Which teams are strongest in the trenches heading into the 2015 season? Five SEC teams rank among college football's best lines, while Ohio State and Michigan State give the Big Ten two teams inside of the top three. 


Related: College Football's Top 50 Players for 2015


How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2015 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference. These rankings reflect projection for 2015, not solely what teams have accomplished in 2014.


CFB's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015


1. Georgia

New line coach Rob Sale couldn’t ask for a better way to begin his tenure in Athens. This unit allowed only 12 sacks in SEC games and excelled in run blocking by clearing lanes for rushers to average 6.0 yards per carry. All-SEC center David Andrews will be missed, but Sale’s group is set with the return of rising star Greg Pyke at guard, along with the standout tackle duo of John Theus and Kolton Houston. Brandon Kublanow is the favorite to replace Andrews at center.


2. Michigan State

The Spartans boasted one of the nation’s top offensive lines last season, and this unit is only getting better with the return of four starters, along with the emergence of sophomore guard Brian Allen. Left tackle Jack Conklin and center Jack Allen headline a group that gave up only 11 sacks last season and allowed rushers to average 5.2 yards per carry. Senior guard Donavon Clark and right tackle Kodi Kieler anchor an experienced right side.


3. Ohio State 

After a shaky start to the 2014 season, no line in the nation progressed as much as Ohio State’s. The Buckeyes gave up seven sacks in the loss to Virginia Tech in Week 2 but allowed only 15 sacks in Big Ten games, and quarterback Cardale Jones was sacked once in the national title win over Oregon. Four starters are back, and the Buckeyes expect this group to be even stronger. Left tackle Taylor Decker and right guard Pat Elflein are the unit’s top performers and first-team Athlon Sports All-Americans for 2015. Jacoby Boren returns at center, while Billy Price (left guard) and Chase Farris (right tackle) round out the starting five.


Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2015


4. Baylor

The success of Baylor’s high-powered offense starts in the trenches. Left tackle Spencer Drango considered an early jump to the NFL, but the three-year starter is back and is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2015. Three other seniors join Drango up front, including guard Blake Muir and tackle Pat Colbert. Center Kyle Fuller started all 13 games last year and will push for all-conference honors in 2015. The coaching staff wants to develop more depth, but there are few concerns about the starting group. This unit gave up only one sack every 22 pass attempts and allowed Baylor rushers to average 4.5 yards per carry.


5. Arkansas

The Razorbacks return four starters from the nation’s largest offensive line. This unit cleared the way for rushers to average 5.1 yards per carry and allowed only 14 sacks in 2014. All five projected starters for 2015 weigh over 300 pounds, with converted guard Denver Kirkland slated to anchor the line at left tackle. Kirkland and Dan Skipper are among the SEC’s best up front, and the tackle duo will have plenty of support from the starters on the interior. Sebastian Tretola is a mauling 322-pound guard, and senior Mitch Smothers enters 2015 with 21 career starts. Sophomore Frank Ragnow is the only new starter for this unit. 


Related: SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2015


6. Auburn  

The Tigers must replace standout center Reese Dismukes and guard Chad Slade, but this unit remains a strength for coach Gus Malzahn. Three starters are back, including tackle Avery Young and left tackle Shon Coleman. The return of guard Alex Kozan from a back injury should bolster the interior, while Austin Golson and Xavier Dampeer are locked into a tight battle to replace Dismukes at center. Promising sophomore Braden Smith is expected to start at right guard. This unit allowed only 10 sacks in SEC play last season.


7. LSU  

LSU’s passing offense is once again surrounded in mystery. However, there’s no doubt about the strength of the Tigers’ offense. The rushing attack should be among the best in the SEC and is anchored by rising star Leonard Fournette. The line is also a big part of LSU’s success on the ground, as three starters return from a unit that helped the Tigers average 224.5 rushing yards per game in 2014. Tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins are among the best in the SEC, while Ethan Pocic (a returning starter) is penciled in at left guard. Freshman Will Clapp (center) and Garrett Brumfield (right guard) should round out the starting five.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Top 15 Players for 2015


8. Alabama  

The Crimson Tide’s offensive line is undergoing some renovations with the loss of three starters. However, line coach Mario Cristobal has plenty of talent to develop, while the two returning starters – left tackle Cam Robinson and center Ryan Kelly – are among the best in the nation at their position. Redshirt freshman Ross Pierschbacher is expected to start at left guard, while Bradley Bozeman and Alphonse Taylor are battling for snaps at right guard. Senior Dominick Jackson has the inside track at right tackle.


9. USC  

The Trojans need to settle on a starting five, but this unit has plenty of promise and talent leading the way for one of the nation’s top offenses. Solidifying the left tackle position is critical, as junior Chad Wheeler is working his way back from a knee injury suffered in 2014. Toa Lobendahn could start at left tackle if Wheeler isn’t ready, or the talented sophomore could shift inside to left guard. Max Tuerk is arguably the nation’s best center, while the Trojans also boast returning starters at right tackle (Zach Banner) and right guard (Viane Talamaivao).


Related: Ranking the Pac-12's Top 15 Players for 2015


10. TCU

Protecting quarterback Trevone Boykin won’t be a problem for TCU in 2015. The Horned Frogs return four starters from a unit that allowed 23 sacks in 13 games last season. Hala Vaitai missed time in the spring due to a shoulder injury, but the senior is penciled in at left tackle after starting on the right side last year. Center Joey Hunt is among the nation’s best, while fellow seniors Jamelle Naff and Brady Foltz round out the returning starters.


11. Stanford

12. Notre Dame  

13. Texas Tech 

14. Boise State  

15. Georgia Tech 

16. UCLA  

17. Missouri  

18. Texas A&M 

19. Ole Miss  

20. Oregon  

21. Pittsburgh  

22. Wisconsin 

23. Kansas State 

24. Indiana  

25. North Carolina 

26. Minnesota  

27. Oklahoma State

28. Michigan

29. Texas

30. Bowling Green

College Football's Top 30 Offensive Lines for 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-clemsons-college-football-schedule-2015

If you want to see the biggest games in the ACC, Clemson Memorial Stadium is the place to be in 2015. What looks like the most important game on the conference schedule, the Tigers versus Florida State on Nov. 7, will be played at Clemson. So will the highly anticipated clash with Notre Dame and the match up with Coastal contender Georgia Tech.


Related: The ACC's 5 Most Intriguing Non-Conference Matchups for 2015


Head coach Dabo Swinney and the Tigers do have some challenges on the road, including at Louisville and at North Carolina State. But Clemson catches a break this year. In the Tigers' pursuit of an ACC title — and a spot in the College Football Playoff — their biggest games are at home.


Here is a ranking of Clemson’s 12 regular season games, from easiest to most difficult.


12. Sept. 5 vs. Wofford

The Terriers will come to Clemson to open season, get beat in a bad way, and will go home with a very sizeable paycheck. 


11. Sept. 12 vs. Appalachian State

The Mountaineers return 20 starters from a 7-5 team and are poised to make noise in the Sun Belt. They won’t see anyone in the Sun Belt quite like Clemson.


10. Nov. 21 vs. Wake Forest

Wake’s questionable secondary will struggle to contain the Clemson skill players and the Deacons' offense should sputter against most everyone. The spot on the schedule makes this a slightly easier game than...


9. Nov. 14 at Syracuse

Wake should have a better team than the Orange. But this is a road game and the Tigers will be coming off their steel cage match with Florida State.


8. Oct. 24 at Miami

This isn’t about where this is on Clemson’s schedule; it’s about where it is on Miami’s schedule. The Canes’ four games leading up to the Tigers are Nebraska, Cincinnati, Florida State and Virginia Tech.


7. Oct. 17 vs. Boston College

Clemson has Notre Dame and then Georgia Tech prior to hosting the Eagles. BC’s tough front seven could give Clemson’s young offensive line some problems.


6. Sept. 17 (Thursday) at Louisville

Thursday nights at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium are never easy. Clemson does have two layup games before going to Louisville while the Cardinals will be tested by Auburn and Houston.


5. Nov. 28  at South Carolina

Last year, Clemson broke a five-game losing streak versus the hated Gamecocks. They are now looking to end a three-game skid at Williams-Brice.


4. Oct. 31 at NC State

The Wolfpack should be a balanced unit with a lot of returning starters. Plus, there is the danger of looking ahead to Florida State, something that is not recommended when venturing to Raleigh.


3. Oct. 10 vs. Georgia Tech

There will be a lot of hype when Notre Dame comes to Clemson seven days before Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets' veteran offensive line and their multiple-option attack could be an issue for Clemson’s inexperienced defensive front.


2. Oct. 3 vs. Notre Dame

Like Clemson, Notre Dame wants to be playing on New Year’s Eve in either Miami or Dallas. The Irish are used to all kinds of crazy environments, which is good for them because Death Valley will be a madhouse. 


1. Nov. 7 vs. Florida State

It’s not that the Seminoles are necessarily better than Notre Dame. It’s that this is the game that will probably decide the Atlantic Division and Clemson has bad memories of the Seminoles' last visit to the upstate.


— 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.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Clemson's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/east-carolina-football-whip-nae-nae-ruffin-mcneill-freshmen

The East Carolina football team welcomed their freshmen class the right way.


Some of the players did the whip and the nae nae, but it was head coach Ruffin McNeill who upstaged them all. Coach McNeill even threw up his fraternity's hooks to shout out the men of Omega Psi Phi.

Let's hope this team is this lively on the field.

Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 10:12
Path: /college-football/outrageous-college-football-predictions-big-ten-2015

Every season of college football starts out the same way. We have all of these things that we think are knowns — lead-pipe locks as one popular radio host calls them. Then, by midseason, we're all wrong, sitting around wondering what happened to all that we thought was written in stone.


It shouldn't surprise us, considering that we are dealing with young men in their late teens and early 20s, but it always does.


The Big Ten Conference leads the way in "things we think we know" in 2015. Much of that has to do with Ohio State returning the bulk of its championship roster from a season ago and fielding a team many think could be the best in quite some time.


Related: Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast — Big Ten Preview and Predictions


That sounds like a perfect reason to make some outrageous predictions about the Big Ten in 2015. Here goes:


The Big Ten will have a losing record as a conference after Week 1

Michigan visits Utah. TCU visits Minnesota. Northwestern hosts Stanford. Penn State visits Temple. Nebraska hosts BYU. Wisconsin plays Alabama. Purdue visits Marshall. Ohio State visits Virginia Tech. Richmond (yes Richmond) visits Maryland. That's nine games that I would not feel comfortable placing any sort of wager on. I won't exactly fall out of my chair if the B1G drops eight of them.


Michigan won't break .500 for a second consecutive season

Forget the coaching transition. This team has a star-power problem. The phrase has been beat to death over the past couple of seasons, but college football is in fact more about the Jimmy's and Joe's than the X's and O's. Michigan is short on Jimmy's (outside of the head coach) and Joe's. They also have serious questions at quarterback, as one of the main candidates for the job couldn't nail down the same gig at Iowa a season ago. And that schedule is brutal. Trips to Utah, Minnesota and Penn State accompany home contests with BYU, Michigan State and Ohio State. Let's not overlook those B1G newcomers, either. Both Maryland and Rutgers notched wins over the Wolverines a season ago.


Indiana's Nate Sudfeld will lead the conference in passing yards

Christian Hackenberg, Conner Cook and whoever starts for the Buckeyes are the popular picks here, but Sudfeld has some things in his "favor." Hackenberg's offensive line will still be a work in progress, again limiting the time he spends upright in the pocket. Cook doesn't really have any proven targets outside of the tight end position that he can depend on. And word on the street is that J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones might be sharing snaps in Columbus. Combine all of those factors with the assumptions that Indiana will be playing from behind in most games, and this prediction does not seem so outrageous.


No Big Ten teams will be represented in the College Football Playoff

The Big Ten is in the same boat that Florida State was a season ago. They have no room for error. The problem is, the conference is a lot better than most give it credit for. It's not crazy to imagine a scenario where Michigan State loses to Oregon and say — Nebraska — and goes on to knock off Ohio State. The Spartans would get the berth into the Big Ten Championship Game with two losses, while the potentially one-loss Buckeyes would have no conference title to lean on when the committee selects its final four.


The Big Ten champion will come from the West Division

The West is the red-headed stepchild of the conference — if not the entire Power 5 — heading into 2015. All they hear is how terrible and soft the division is. That said, let's say the scenario laid out above comes to fruition and Michigan State is representing the East in Indianapolis. It's not too crazy to imagine Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska or even an upstart Iowa having a good day and leaving Indy with the conference trophy.


— 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 the Big Ten in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/lsu-tigers-ranked-no-14-associated-press-preseason-poll

The LSU Tigers enter the 2015 college football season seemingly with more questions on the roster than answers, yet still made enough of an impression on voters to be ranked 14th in the Associated Press' preseason poll.


The Ohio State Buckeyes took the top honors receiving all 61 first-place votes while the SEC led Power 5 conferences with eight teams in the Top 25. The Tigers were in the middle of the SEC pack behind No. 3 Alabama, No. 6 Auburn, and No. 9 Georgia. The other SEC teams in the initial Top 25 were No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 18 Arkansas, No. 24 Missouri, and No. 25 Tennessee.


LSU returns one of the more dynamic players in college football, sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. The Tigers have a strong offensive line coming back with three starters returning, along with an extremely talented receiving corps.


The defense returns six starters but will be without potential All-American safety Jalen Mills for an extended period due to injury. LSU’s depth on defense is a concern for head coach Les Miles, along with the ability to get a consistent pass rush.


The Tigers’ season could easily swing on the play of quarterbacks Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris. Jennings is the returning starter but Harris is considered to have greater upside, although he is still raw in the pocket.


LSU's 2015 season begins on Sept. 5 when McNeese State comes to Death Valley. LSU quickly begins SEC play the following week by traveling to Starkville to play Mississippi State.

Related: Ranking the Toughest Games on LSU’s College Football Schedule in 2015


2015 Associated Press Preseason Poll

1. Ohio State

2. TCU

3. Alabama

4. Baylor

5. Michigan State

6. Auburn

7. Oregon

8. USC

9. Georgia

10. Florida State

11. Notre Dame

12. Clemson

13. UCLA

14. LSU

15. Arizona State

16. Georgia Tech

17. Ole Miss

18. Arkansas

19. Oklahoma

20. Wisconsin

21. Stanford

22. Arizona

23. Boise State

24. Missouri

25. Tennessee


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

LSU Tigers Ranked No. 14 in Associated Press Preseason Poll
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 09:45
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-iowas-college-football-2015-schedule

Iowa didn't even show up as a blip on the radar of most national publications entering the 2015 season. And given recent history, that's probably a well-deserved slight. But even as Kirk Ferentz’ name comes up repeatedly when talk turns to coaches on the hot seat, there's a very quiet renewed confidence in this edition of the Hawkeyes, who secretly feel they could be wearing Cinderella's slipper by the time December rolls around.


Given the Hawkeyes’ proven ability to win as underdogs, it'd be hard to count them out with a schedule that goes a long way toward providing them opportunities to break out of the pack and become part of the Big Ten West Division title conversation for the first time since the East-West Division format and conference championship game was introduced.


Can they make it from contention in the West Division race all the way to a date in Indianapolis on Dec. 5? Possibly, but not without some help from their opponents along the way. And there's virtually zero chance the Hawkeyes make the gigantic leap from middle of the Big Ten pack all the way to the College Football Playoff discussion in 2015.


So let's talk about each of those 12 guaranteed games on the Hawkeyes’ schedule and handicap them from easiest to most difficult:


12. Oct. 10 vs. Illinois

The Illini were just plain horrible in 2014, ranking dead last among all Big Ten teams in scoring defense, rushing defense, and total defense and allowing their opponents to score on 90.0 percent of their red zone possessions. This year doesn't look much better for Illinois. And if Iowa's offense is hitting on all cylinders by October, it could be explosive. Expect it to be the Hawkeyes cruising to an easy win on Homecoming and most likely one of their highest scoring offensive performances of the season.


11. Nov. 21 vs. Purdue

To many followers of Big Ten football, the Boilermakers are more commonly known as “Pur-don't.” They haven't done much in recent years to shed that unfortunate nickname either. While they have sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby back under center, they have virtually nothing else to work with from an offense that averaged just 23.8 points per game last season. This might just be the Hawkeyes’ first Big Ten shutout in a very long time.


10. Sept. 26 vs. North Texas

The Mean Green will unveil new uniforms this season, but the issue of a new, winning attitude is still up for debate. They were picked to win Conference USA’s West Division in 2014, but finished at the bottom of the heap instead. Don't expect this to be the year head coach Dan McCarney sees his record against his alma mater get any better. It'll be all Hawkeyes, going away.


9. Sept. 5 vs. Illinois State

The 2014 Missouri Valley Football Conference champs bring a loaded roster for an FCS team, so watch for them to give the Hawkeyes a game for 60 minutes. Just like fellow MVC member Northern Iowa in 2014, this could be decided in the final few minutes with Iowa pulling out yet another season-opening squeaker that on paper should be all Hawks.


8. Sept. 12 at Iowa State

The Cyclones spent the offseason focused on improving fans’ “game-day experience.” If they really want to improve it, they should start by winning more than two games this season. Unfortunately for Iowa fans, one of those victories in 2014 came against the Hawkeyes. Expect Ferentz to turn to the wily skills of fourth-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis and throw some Texas-sized surprises at the Cyclones to avoid back-to-back upsets to their in-state rivals and a team that’s expected to finish near the bottom of the Big 12 this season.


7. Oct. 17 at Northwestern

2014 may have been the year Northwestern returned to the days of “Mildcat” football. Or it could've been just a blip on an otherwise respectable few years for head coach Pat Fitzgerald and his crew. The Hawkeyes simply dismantled the Wildcats en route to a 48-7 victory last season. Given the relative youth and inexperience of this year's edition of the Wildcats, don't look for much improvement against a much more talented group of Hawkeyes.


6. Nov. 7 at Indiana

The Hoosiers couldn't catch many breaks in 2014, especially in conference play, unless you count their lone quality win over eventual SEC East champion Missouri. They did improve tremendously in nearly every statistical category however, setting numerous single-season records on offense. While those improvements have been fairly impressive, the Hawkeyes have won all but one game against the Hoosiers since 2007, and most of those weren't even close. 2015 is unlikely to be the year that changes.


5. Oct. 31 vs. Maryland

Another Big Ten East Division team, the Terrapins were expected to hold court at the bottom of the standings in their first year in the conference. Not so fast they told critics. Maryland's offense tore apart the Hawkeye rushing defense, amassing 212 yards on the ground, while holding Iowa to 116 rushing yards before Iowa resorted to the air regularly in what ended up an old-fashioned 38-31 offensive shoot-out. This season’s game looks primed for a repeat of last year's air show. But give the home-field advantage to the Hawkeyes, in one of the most entertaining offensive displays of the year.


4. Sept. 19 vs. Pittsburgh

Pat Narduzzi is a proven defensive genius, helping put Michigan State on the championship map in his time there. Now he's at Pitt, and comes into his first season with an offense loaded with talent and led by Maxwell, Walker, and Heisman Trophy watch list running back James Conner. The Hawkeyes had to play from behind for most of last year’s meeting, and could find themselves in the same situation again this season.


3. Nov. 14 vs. Minnesota

In 2014 the Gophers leap-frogged Iowa to land in third in the Big Ten West after crushing the Hawkeyes 51-14 in what Hayden Fry used to call “a good ole fashion butt-kickin'!” Jerry Kill has his team thinking like champions since his arrival, and Dinkytown's not looking nearly as dinky any more. But these games have been back-and-forth romps in each direction the last couple of years, and Iowa's got a bone to pick with their neighbors to the north. Iowa could be looking at an 8-2 record after this one.


2. Nov. 27 (Friday) at Nebraska

The importance of this game to both Husker and Hawkeye faithful was evident the second Nebraska entered the Big Ten and immediately supplanted Minnesota as “the rivalry” for Iowa fans. Travel across Western Iowa's rolling cornfields and you're likely to see just as much Red and White as you are Black and Gold. Played on the Friday after Thanksgiving in front of a national television audience, these games have not disappointed. But the winds of change are blowing in both Iowa City and Lincoln, and first-year Nebraska head coach Mike Riley may not care for their direction in 2015. Bring on the Hokey Pokey Hawkeyes, it's Iowa in the upset of the season.


1. Oct. 3 at Wisconsin

Gary Andersen's tenure at Wisconsin was short-lived. One could argue he saw the writing on the wall for the next few years in Madison, and bolted for greener pastures before being handed any blame for a downturn in Badger victory totals. But it's hard to ever rule out these big, athletic, and physical Badger players. Paul Chryst most likely has another Big Ten West Division champ on his hands, but Iowa plays them right to the end with the notoriously rowdy fans in Camp Randall Stadium giving the Badgers the winning edge.


— Written by Robert A. Boleyn, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a native Iowan currently living in Los Angeles. A University of Iowa graduate, Boleyn is a Hawkeye fanatic and former contributing writing for The Daily Iowan. Follow him on Twitter @BoleynRobert.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Iowa's College Football Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/jordy-nelson-reportedly-suffers-torn-acl-other-notable-injuries-nfl-preseason-week-2

Another week, another (potentially) devastating injury to a top NFL and fantasy wide receiver. The preseason usually isn't this brutal, but 2015 has shown that at any given time, any given player can go down with an injury. Hopefully fantasy football owners have not yet had their draft, as the guy that went Jordy Nelson/Kelvin Benjamin in the first two rounds is now likely without a WR1 on his team.


During the Packers’ preseason game against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, Nelson went down with a non-contact knee injury. He was helped off the field, and the initial reports out of Green Bay are that it is feared that he tore his ACL.


Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he would wait until Nelson underwent further tests before commenting further, but for the sake of fantasy owners looking for answers, let's assume that Nelson is now out for the season. Non-contact injuries are rarely good, and this has shades of Benjamin's injury written all over it.


If Nelson is out, Randall Cobb moves up to be the No. 1 receiver for the Packers, although he often lines up in the slot. Davante Adams will actually be the biggest beneficiary of Nelson being out. Cobb may get a few extra passes, but Adams will take over the role that Nelson played, lining up out wide.


Last season, in his rookie year, Adams had 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns. However, those numbers are slightly skewed, as he had a 6-121-0 effort in Week 13. (Both Nelson and Cobb did play in that game). In the three games following that breakout game, Adams totaled four receptions for 29 yards.


He does have the potential for success in such a high-powered offense, so he now jumps to a WR2 for fantasy purposes with upside. Another player to watch is Richard Rodgers, the starting tight end for the Packers. He may be worth a late-round flyer if he ends up getting some red-zone looks in Nelson's absence.


If you are in deep leagues or are just looking for another late-round pick, grab Jeff Janis. He would be next in line behind Cobb and Adams, and the likely receiver to line up when the Packers go three-wide. Rookie Ty Montgomery also is worth draft consideration in very deep leagues.


Lastly, don't get concerned yet, but Aaron Rodgers was spotted with his right (throwing) arm wrapped after he came out of Sunday’s preseason game. The focus after the game was on Nelson, but just be sure to monitor Rodgers' status as well. Assuming he is not injured, he is still a top-3 quarterback, although without his top receiver, calling him the No. 1 option at his position may now be arguable.


Other Injuries Around the League


Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons (elbow)

White will turn 34 during this season, and it appears that his age is catching up with him. He is set to undergo minor surgery on his elbow, although the Falcons say he should be ready for Week 1. Keep in mind this is a player that had his knee drained in the offseason and will likely need to have his knee drained again during the season. The elbow injury didn't keep him out of practice and may just be a similar maintenance procedure. However, when drafting White, don't expect 16 games out of him. He's played 14 games in each of the past two seasons and has failed to reach 1,000 yards receiving. At this point, he's a WR3, but don't expect consistency from him.


Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington Redskins (head)

RG3 reportedly suffered a concussion during Washington’s Thursday night preseason game. He also suffered a shoulder stinger, but that has checked out fine. By Sunday, RG3 was cleared and back on the practice field and the plan right now is for him to start the Redskins’ third preseason game on Saturday. But the concern for RG3 isn’t so much the injuries; it’s that his offensive line can't protect him at all. With no time to get out of the pocket, move around or complete accurate throws, RG3's fantasy value is tanking (as is the receivers around him). In standard leagues, RG3 shouldn't be drafted, and DeSean Jackson's value is dropping as well. Even though he's the No. 1 receiver on the team, he should be drafted as a WR3 at best.


Nick Toon, WR, New Orleans Saints (ankle)

While Toon may not have been on many draft lists, his position mate Brandon Coleman may not be such a sleeper any more. Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston are the two top wide receivers in New Orleans, but a battle was ongoing through the preseason between Toon and Coleman for the No. 3 job. Toon suffered a high ankle sprain in the second preseason game, which should pave the way for Coleman to land the job. The rookie was praised by head coach Sean Payton for his performance during training camp, which is always a good sign. A tall (6-6), rangy target, Coleman could emerge as a key red-zone option or Drew Brees especially with Jimmy Graham now in Seattle. No longer a sleeper, Coleman should be drafted as a WR4 with huge upside.


— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.

Jordy Nelson Reportedly Suffers Torn ACL and Other Notable Injuries from NFL Preseason Week 2
Post date: Monday, August 24, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/florida-gators-suspend-three-season-opener

Florida will open its season at home on Sept. 5 without three players. The school announced on Friday that redshirt juniors Marcus Maye and Alex McCalister, and senior Latroy Pittman Jr., will not play in the home opener against New Mexico State, citing an undisclosed violation of team policy. The infraction isn't Pittman's first, as he also was suspended at the start of the 2013 season. The absence of these three players could test the Gators’ depth at their positions early, as first-year head coach Jim McElwain looks to start his tenure in Gainesville with a strong showing against the Aggies.


Related: Florida 2015 Fall Camp Preview and Key Position Battles to Watch


Maye is the projected starter at free safety after collecting 62 tackles, an interception, five pass deflections, forcing two fumbles in 11 games last season. Three of Maye's 62 tackles were for losses, and he led the team in tackles in games against East Carolina and Vanderbilt. In 2013 Maye appeared in 12 games – with two starts – where he registered an interception and 16 tackles.


McCalister played in all 12 of the Gators’ games last year and finished the season with 23 tackles, including nine for a loss. McCalister’s six sacks are the most among returning players. The defensive end saw action in six games in 2013 and ended that year with three tackles. He also is projected to be a starter for new defensive coordinator Geoff Collins.


Pittman, a wide receiver, was carted off of the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium last October after being hit by LSU linebacker Kwon Alexander. He returned a week later and ended the year with 164 receiving yards on 15 receptions. Pittman saw nine starts as a slot receiver in 2014 and is expected to be an integral part of Florida's passing attack this season.


— 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.

Florida Gators Suspend Three For Season Opener
Post date: Saturday, August 22, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /nfl/five-things-watch-sundays-pittsburgh-steelers-green-bay-packers-preseason-game

Preseason is at midpoint! Less than three weeks until Pittsburgh helps kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on the road against defending Super Bowl champion New England.


Perhaps "Opening Day" is a term reserved for baseball. Regardless, here's what to look for when the Steelers play the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Heinz Field. The game, for those interested in watching preseason action, will be televised by the NFL Network.


1. Who’s at quarterback?

You know things have been pretty bad in the first two preseason games if people are actually excited about Bruce Gradkowski getting into a game.


But since Landry Jones' has produced a grand total of one touchdown in his last 40 preseason drives, and that was a 17-yard march in the fourth quarter last week against Jacksonville's scrubs, it would be nice if the Steelers could score more often after Ben Roethlisberger has his reps.


So when will Gradkowski play and for how long? Does Jones continue to get extended time? Does he get booed?


And since Tahj Boyd was cut, what does that mean for Tyler Murphy? Will he get any extended time and be groomed to be a third-string quarterback who will possibly come in for 2-point conversions, the way some are theorizing Tim Tebow is being groomed by Philadelphia or Kordell Stewart came in to play quarterback in goal-line situations in 1995?


This will be a fun storyline to follow until two weeks from now when Steelers fans essentially hope none of the quarterbacks who figure to play this Sunday will actually play.


2. Ryan Shazier and the development of the front seven

After a sluggish, injury-plagued rookie season, Shazier has made some big stops this preseason from inside linebacker and even asked the coaching staff to let him play in the third quarter.


Is this a matter of feasting against scrubs or returning worth from his first-round draft status? Time will tell, but the initial signs this year are positive.


Also, take note of the different fronts the Steelers' front seven plays, as well as their stance. Players have been standing instead of lining up in a traditional three-point stance at times.


3. Better play from the safeties?

Perhaps the best news to come out of training camp this week is starting safeties Shamarko Thomas and Mike Mitchell are playing together on the first string for the first time. Mitchell had previously been sidelined by a hamstring injury.


Touchdowns were scored against the Steelers in the first two preseason games in large part because of breakdowns by the safeties not being in the right place, and a third touchdown was avoided last week against Jacksonville only because Clay Harbour dropped a pass in the flat with 9:07 left in the second quarter.


Thomas and Mitchell figure only to play for a quarter or two against the Packers. But like Ben Roethlisberger's lone drive of the preseason, a six-play, 80-yard march resulting in a touchdown complete with 2-point conversion, has quelled fears about the offense, a flawless game from Mitchell and Thomas against Aaron Rodgers would do the same about what is perceived as the Steelers' Achilles' heel.


4. Will a new attendance record be set?

With an expansion of seats beneath the main scoreboard by Gate A this summer, Heinz Field’s seating capacity now stands at 68,400.


The current attendance record at Heinz Field for a Steelers game is 66,662 for the 2010-11 AFC Championship Game. A Pitt-West Virginia football game in 2002 drew 66,731.


The largest crowd ever to see a sporting event in Pittsburgh was 68,918 to see Pitt's 24-13 victory against Fordham in 1938 at Pitt Stadium. This record will likely fall this year; it is just a matter of when.


5. Will the receivers grow hands?

Tight end Jesse James did. But after making a sensational one-handed catch in the Hall of Fame Game rookie Shakim Phillips had multiple drops against Jacksonville.


Dropped passes have plagued the Steelers this preseason. They've been the main defense of Jones' play, and are a primary reason why the team is 0-2 this preseason.


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

Five Things to Watch in Sunday's Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers Preseason Game
Post date: Saturday, August 22, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC
Path: /college-football/florida-president-fuchs-stars-video-gator-students-and-fans

With the college football season quickly approaching, one of the University of Florida’s recent hires took to the camera to welcome new and returning students to Gainesville, and to galvanize Gator football fans. 


It wasn’t, however, first-year head football coach Jim McElwain. Instead it was W. Kent Fuchs, who was hired as president late last year, who starred in the two-minute video that was shared on the school’s Twitter account Friday.



Florida opens its season on Sept. 5 against New Mexico State in The Swamp in Gainesville.


— 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.

Florida President Fuchs Stars In Video for Gator Students and Fans
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 21:00
All taxonomy terms: Magazines
Path: /magazines/athlon-cover-catch-ohio-states-matt-finkes-talks-1995-joey-bosa-and-more

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of Athlon Sports "Cover Catch Ups" in which we check in with a former Athlon cover subject. We start with former Ohio State defensive end Matt Finkes, who starred for the Buckeyes from 1993-96.


In the early ‘90s, the Big Ten was on top of the college football world.


The addition of Penn State had given the league another top-five team. Breakout years for Wisconsin and Northwestern gave the league new blood.


And, as usual, Ohio State was near the top. The Buckeyes entered the 1995 season hungry. A year earlier, they finished a pedestrian 9-4 with a Citrus Bowl loss to Alabama, but on the bright side, they had picked up one of coach John Cooper’s rare wins over rival Michigan.


Ohio State entered the 1995 season with a star running back, Eddie George, who would go on to win the Heisman that season, and a pair of relentless pass rushers in Mike Vrabel and Matt Finkes.


Finkes finished his career with 59 career tackles for a loss, second in Ohio State history only to Vrabel’s 66. Finkes also finished with the third-most sacks in school history.


Finkes also graced the cover of Athlon Sports’ 1995 Big Ten preview. That season, Ohio State started on a tear, defeating six ranked teams en route to an 11-0 start and a No. 2 ranking. Only Michigan stood in the way of a Rose Bowl and potential national championship.


The 18th-ranked Wolverines spoiled the season with a 31-23 win over Ohio State in Ann Arbor, sending Ohio State to the Citrus Bowl to lose 20-14 to then-sophomore Peyton Manning.


Finkes didn’t have the long NFL career of some of his teammates – Finkes was drafted in the sixth round in 1997 and lasted only eight games before injury ended his career — but he remains entrenched at Ohio State.


What was the most memorable part of the 1995 season?


We had a great team in ’95. We were coming off a down year in 1994 as a team but we had a lot of guys back, had a really good offensive football team. But a young defensive team. Eddie George was our running back. Bobby Hoying was our quarterback. Terry Glenn was our wide receiver. We were loaded on offense. We started out highly ranked and were cruising right along and then ran into a problem in Ann Arbor against Michigan and deflated the season for us. A lot of high expectations, but we didn’t fulfill all that we thought we could.


Looking at that season, you played five ranked teams in the first six games and six ranked teams in the first seven. Did that feel like a grind at the time?


We had the back to back with Notre Dame (ranked No. 15, Ohio State won 45-26) and Penn State (ranked No. 12, Ohio State won 28-25 on the road). You look back at those years, and we had Notre Dame on the schedule and the Big Ten was kind of at its peak — Penn State going undefeated a few years before, us in 1995 and ’96 and Michigan in 1997. It was a different time. You can compare it to what the SEC was 4-5 years ago. It wasn’t just one team dominating like Ohio State is now in the Big Ten. It was really the premier conference. It was a grinding schedule. You look at Ohio State’s schedule this year — we didn’t quite have that.


Even though you beat Michigan in 1994, your era was in the middle of a bad stretch against the Wolverines. You might have a little bit of empathy about this: What’s going on in the Michigan locker room right now in terms of the rivalry?


It was tough. We beat Michigan in 1994, which was the first time in (then-coach John) Cooper’s era. That was a game where it was win or go home for him, and everyone knew it. It wasn’t just the people in the stands; it was the kids in the locker room. We knew if we don’t win this game, Coop’s getting fired. We are able to win that game, but we fell under that same trap the next two years. It’s like a baseball player when you’re on a bad streak and you don’t know why and you don’t know how to fix it and maybe you’re tight. I think that’s what Michigan is going through a little bit. Obviously, the talent level there with the coaches changes has hurt them. With (Jim) Harbaugh in, that’s going to be their biggest challenge, getting over that mental block.


What are you up to these days?


I do the pre- and post-game show in town for the (Columbus) ABC affiliate. I work with Time Warner Cable sports, involved with high school football doing some broadcasting for that. It’s a great way to stay connected for the game. I coached for a while (at his alma mater, Piqua High in Ohio), but that’s a grind. This is a way to stay local and stay involved and in the game.


Was broadcasting even on your radar when you were a player?


Absolutely not. I got called by our local ABC affiliate and they asked if I wanted to do the pre- and post-game show. I just jumped into it with both feet and zero experience. I’m not going to lie: It didn’t look great the first 3-4 games, but you get your feet wet and now I’m real comfortable. I enjoy it. It keeps you involved in the game, keeps you around the team. You go out to practice with a purpose.


Ohio State assistant Luke Fickell was your teammate in college. How do you balance your friendship/media responsibilities?


Fickell and Mike Vrabel (an Ohio State assistant from 2011-13, now with the Houston Texans) were my college roommates. I talk to those guys on a weekly basis. With Mike it’s a lot easier now that he’s with the Texans. I don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s easy to manage. When we’re in a social setting we don’t talk football. We don’t talk details of what’s going on at Ohio State. We never sat down and discussed what we’re going to do but that’s what we do. Our friendship comes before anything I would do as a job. Those guys know that.


How are you still involved with Ohio State?


I do fundraising for the Ohio State medical center. I started a year and a half ago. I sold a couple of my companies and tried to retire again and the wife told me to get back to work, so I went back and talked to the medical center about doing some fundraising there.


You’re also involved with something called Category5Sports. What is that?


That is a personal and individualized training started by Ryan Clement, who was a quarterback at Miami-Florida who was in the game when I was playing. We met in NFL Europe. We do individualized coaching for all positions. It’s one-on-one coaching and we use a web-based platform to analyze using motion analysis software to help kids who are trying to get to the next level. It’s not a broad-based camp system for everybody. It’s really more of a specialized, very intensive coaching procedure.


You said last summer that Braxton Miller’s shoulder injury could be the end of him as a quarterback. What did you see that perhaps more optimistic fans didn’t in 2014?


That was the injury that basically put my out of the NFL. I tore my labrum at Jacksonville. I knew what that entailed for me just to get back to everyday life and that that point I had just retired, so I’m talking about just swinging a golf club. I knew how hard that would be. The time that it happened to him was right at the beginning of camp.  A nine-month, year recovery time didn’t bode well for his chances of coming back and being a starting quarterback. And then looking at his athletic ability, the open-field ability is an elite level. There are probably 10-15 guys in the NFL who have his athletic ability. For him to make a long sustainable career in the NFL, it made a lot of sense to me (for him to move to receiver).


As one pass rusher evaluating another one, where does Joey Bosa stand among Ohio State greats? What do you see in him that stands out?


His first step is just phenomenal. Watching him practice, go through his career here, he’s a special talent. He’s going to pass me on the sack list to move up to No. 2 and he might even get Vrabel here depending on the season. Aside from knocking me down a peg on the career sack list at Ohio State, he’s a guy you cheer for. He’s exciting to watch and he has all the physical tools you need to succeed. And he’s a hard-worker on the field. He’s done a great job of mentoring Sam Hubbard, who is an incredible talent, but moved from safety to tight end to defensive end. And Joey took a lot of time this spring to teach him the ins and outs of playing defensive end and mentoring him. He’s going to be a special talent.

Athlon Cover Catch-Up: Ohio State's Matt Finkes Talks 1995, Joey Bosa and More
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 18:02
Path: /college-football/tcu-adds-former-boise-state-de-long-beach-juco-standout-mat-boesen-2016-class

TCU enters the 2015 season with a preseason ranking of No. 5 locked and loaded with 10 starters returning on offense and five on defense.


The Horned Frogs' defensive line has two senior ends expected to win starting jobs when the season kicks off against Minnesota on Sept. 3 — James McFarland and Terrell Lathan. In an effort to keep this unit’s on-the-field production up in 2016, TCU accepted a verbal commitment from former Boise State defensive end Mat Boesen on Thursday.


Boesen (6-4, 235) has been a top target of TCU’s with the Long Beach (Calif.) Community College star visiting the Fort Worth campus over the summer. As life is on the field and in Big 12 play, the Frogs were up against in-state rival Baylor for Boesen’s services at the FBS level. The other schools to offer the California talent include Missouri, Washington State, Louisiana Tech, Oregon State, San Diego State, Marshall and Iowa State.


The announcement was made official around 9:41 p.m. PT with Boesen posting his commitment on Twitter:



In 2014, Boesen appeared in eight games for the Broncos as a redshirt freshman picking up three sacks. The Broncos recruited Boesen out of Torrance West (Calif.) High School in Torrance as part of their 2013 recruiting class.


In July 2014, Boesen was arrested on charges of inattentive or careless driving and resisting or obstructing officers. In November he pleaded guilty to the inattentive driving charge and had the obstruction charged dropped. His 90-day jail sentence was suspended and he was given one year probation leading to Boise State dismissing him from the team.


TCU now has 14 verbal commitments to their 2016 recruiting class with Boesen being the second defensive lineman pledge, joining Horn High School’s Gary Overshown (Mesquite, Texas).


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

TCU Adds Former Boise State DE, Long Beach JUCO Standout Mat Boesen to 2016 Class
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 12:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-auction-values-and-rankings

As you already know from your own leagues, Twitter, SiriusXM's Fantasy Sports network, and, hopefully, Athlon Sports it is officially fantasy football draft season.


Related: 2015 Fantasy Football Mock Draft Simulator


Here at our team of fantasy contributors have been working on tiers, rankings, strategy posts and undervalued and overvalued players for the upcoming season. In this post though I am going to do something that has been difficult for myself to find in the past, and hope it can benefit everyone.


I am using the awesome FantasyPros rankings tool to rank my players both overall and positional, adding in tiers and AUCTION VALUES! That is right, everything in one neat little widget and cheat sheet.


One thing I always found frustrating when prepping for auction drafts was having only the estimated values available from top to bottom. This works, but it didn’t consider player rankings or tiers. I am definitely going to be using my latest efforts in my upcoming drafts, and especially my auction draft.


There is nothing worse than bidding on an overhyped player and winning him only to have a player you like more go three picks later for far less because you were using a dollar value rankings sheet.


Obviously there is much more strategy involved in auction drafts than just dollar values and rankings, but having a list of players and how they are ranked, tiered and valued is extremely useful.


As I mentioned in my “5 Tips to Help You Dominate Your Fantasy Football Draft,” have your own spreadsheet, and feel free to use my rankings and values as you see fit. Go ahead and disagree with them, that is fine too.


Be sure to ask some basic questions prior to drafting, and using the rankings and values.

* Does your league keep players which skews values for the upcoming draft? Then you will need to adjust these as you see fit.

* Look at previous season history. Did quarterbacks, or elite players sell for 25 percent or more of owners’ budgets? If so you will need to inflate my values accordingly.


These values are based on average sell price in auction drafts so far this year on They are also posted on FantasyPros under my name if you would rather combine them with other experts, or compare notes.


This is your draft, your league and I hope this is useful, but I can’t cover every base. That is YOUR job, and I must admit, you are making a great first step coming to to help you with your draft prep. 


2015 Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


— Written by Chris Meyers, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the FSWA. Meyers' work appears on many other sites, including Follow him on Twitter @FantsyChillpony.

Fantasy Football 2015: Auction Values and Rankings
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-deep-sleepers-can-win-your-league-2015

Every year it happens — some random guy seems to fall off the turnip truck to turn into a fantasy football star that leads anyone lucky enough to snag him off the waiver wire first to a championship. What a glorious feeling that is, if you’re that lucky guy. If not, it sucks. It really sucks. Just look at last year.


C.J. Anderson was an afterthought in the Broncos’ backfield. Sitting third on the depth chart behind 2014 “must-have” Monte Ball and change-of-pace back Ronnie Hillman.


What happened is fantasy football history. Ball was terrible (ruining many fantasy football teams that took him in the first or second round) and Hillman was great in his brief stint as the starter before he got injured. This left Anderson as Denver’s starting running back by default and all he did was finish the season with 849 yards and 10 touchdowns.


Related: 5 Tips to Help You Dominate Your Fantasy Football Draft


Thinking back to 2013, did anyone think that Nick Foles would finish the season with 27 TD passes and only two picks? Those who grabbed Foles quickly once Michael Vick went down rode him to fantasy glory as well.


So who will it be this year?


Here are five candidates that you definitely want to keep an eye on and maybe even take a flier on in the later rounds of your draft.


James White, RB, New England Patriots

Wait a second… a New England running back? While it might be true that it’s almost impossible to trust any running back week-to-week with Bill Belichick as their head coach, James White has had an outstanding training camp thus far.


Belichick is even on record as saying that “[White’s] a guy who can play on all three downs, quality guy, smart, team-oriented.”

Why is this important? Because Belichick basically never talks – about anything. And here he is actually giving praise to one of his players – White.


As of now LeGarrette Blount is the starting running back for the New England Patriots, but he’s also suspended for the season opener. That leaves the door wide open for White to take the lead role and be the Patriots’ No. 1 option out of the backfield.


At the very least White should take the role that Shane Vereen used to have in the offense. Vereen was considered a “must-have” player in all PPR formats, usually being drafted in the middle rounds.


Right now you can draft White in the 15th round or even snag him off the waiver wire. Take a flier on this guy – you’ll be glad you did.


Virgil Green, TE, Denver Broncos

Be honest here – how many of you knew about Julius Thomas back in 2012 before he became one of the best tight ends in football? Say hello to the next Julius Thomas in Virgil Green.


While there is no doubt that the reason the Broncos went out and signed Owen Daniels was for him to be their starting tight end, Daniels isn’t really drinking from the fountain of youth. He’s a 32-year-old tight end who doesn’t run nearly as well as he used to and hasn’t played a full season since 2008.


Plus new Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak loves to run two-tight end formations meaning that Green should get plenty of playing time. All Green has to do is gain the trust of Peyton Manning and if he can do that then Manning will look his way often, especially in the red zone.


Green probably won’t match Thomas’ numbers from the previous two years as he just isn’t as good an athlete as Thomas, but what Green does have going for him is he plays in a high-octane offense with a QB and head coach that loves to throw to the tight end and the guy ahead of him on the depth chart likely won’t stay healthy all season.


To sum it all up: keep an eye on Green.


Brandon Coleman, WR, New Orleans Saints

Brandon who? Coleman is currently penciled in as the Saints’ No. 3 WR behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston after being named camp MVP by head coach Sean Payton – that’s something that should not be overlooked.


Last year Kenny Stills was New Orleans’ No. 3 WR and he finished the year with 63 catches for 931 yards and three TDs (yes I know that some of that was with Cooks out because of injury).


What makes Coleman’s 2015 potential so enticing is the fact that the Saints figure to have a bunch of targets available since stud tight end Jimmy Graham is now in Seattle. Josh Hill will replace Graham as the No. 1 TE, but he is a complete unknown and the news coming out of camp right now is that he will be splitting time with dinosaur Benjamin Watson.


Colston is still around and remains a favorite of Drew Brees but he’s lost a step and has seen his numbers dwindle each of the past two seasons. This is all good news for Coleman. He has appealing size (6-6, 225), adequate speed (4.56), oozes serious red-zone potential and now has a place in three-receiver sets for a team that has lost well over 300 targets (Graham, Stills, as well as RBs Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet) from 2014.


The Saints look like they are going to employ a more balanced offense in 2015 with a focus on the running game, but if their new and so-called improved defense doesn’t improve, they will be playing from behind a lot, which means Brees will be tossing the pigskin all over the field and into the waiting hands of Coleman.


Roy Helu Jr., RB, Oakland Raiders

Roy Helu Jr. isn’t exactly an unknown name in fantasy circles. He’s been around for a while now and has even found himself in past years as a likely breakout candidate (that never happened).


The best thing that has happened to Helu so far in his football career and from a fantasy perspective is that he has left Washington and now finds himself in a very favorable position as the No. 2 RB in Oakland with only the young and unproven Latavius Murray ahead of him (his other competition is Trent Richardson – don’t laugh).


From all accounts the Raiders seem poised the hand the ball to Murray and let him run with it. Denver did the same thing last year with Monte Ball and we all know how that turned out.


Helu was excellent last year as the third-down back for Washington, especially catching balls — 42 receptions for 477 yards and two TDs. That makes Helu already a player to have in deep PPR leagues.


Helu is still only 26 years old and doesn’t have a ton of mileage on his tires. If he can get significant playing time he has a chance to be this year’s C.J. Anderson. Just remember that he plays on the Raiders, who have Derek Carr as their quarterback, not Peyton Manning).


Cole Beasley, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Last year it was Terrence Williams who was on everyone’s sleeper radar as he was the No. 2 WR on the Cowboys and he was coming off his rookie year where had 736 receiving yards and five TD catches in very limited playing time.


Well things didn’t go so well for Williams. The Cowboys had the NFL’s No. 1 rushing offense, which led to them throwing less, but Williams didn’t do anything special when given the opportunity.


On the other hand a little blonde dynamo named Cole Beasley took full advantage of the minimal opportunities he was given in 2014. Beasley is perfect for the slot in the Cowboys’ system and he proved his worth, piling up nine catches in the Cowboy’s regular season finale and hauling in another 11 in two playoff games.


He provided Tony Romo with the perfect security blanket when Dez Bryant was downfield and Jason Witten was covered. The Cowboys liked him enough last year to give him a new four-year contract this offseason worth $13.6 million, including $7 million in guarantees and a $4 million signing bonus.


This year the Cowboys will be without DeMarco Murray and will be forced to throw the ball more, creating even more opportunities for Beasley out of the slot. Sixty or more receptions is not out of the question for Beasley, who could turn into the next Julian Edelman.


— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.

Fantasy Football Deep Sleepers That Can Win Your League in 2015
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2015-running-back-rankings

First Arian Foster, now LeSean McCoy has been bit by injury, as the fantasy running back rankings continue to evolve at the midway point of the NFL preseason action. The former (groin surgery) is out for the foreseeable future, while the latter (hamstring) is expected to be ready for Week 1. In either case, each back’s draft value is impacted. For now, Alfred Blue vaults ahead of Foster as the likely Texans’ No. 1 option, while McCoy remains in the top 10, but his situation is definitely worth watching as the Bills’ season opener against the Colts is a little more than three weeks away.


Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings

(Updated Aug. 21)


Fantasy Football Rankings powered by FantasyPros


Want to mock draft? Check out this Mock Draft Simulator powered by

Fantasy Football 2015 Running Back Rankings
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-best-and-worst-college-football-logos-2015

Just about every sports fan is tied to their team’s logo, which makes ranking logos complicated. To get an educated opinion on what is a good logo and what isn't, Athlon Sports turned to one of the people most responsible for helping produce some of the best-looking magazines on the newsstands, graphic designer Daly Cantrell.


Here is what she had to say about the ACC's football logos:


1.North Carolina

The Tar Heels’ logo is a staple. The font used fits the NC perfectly together creating a timeless look.

2.MiamiThe uniqueness of the Canes’ logo is unlike any others. I am a big fan of the symmetry and the color scheme works perfectly together.
3.ClemsonThere are so many different animal logos, but the tiger paw print is synonymous with Clemson. Also, the roughness of the lines gives the logo a nice edgy feel, which goes perfectly with the bright orange.

The Syracuse S is simple, stylish and sophisticated. This logo screams “sports” and I enjoy the clean edges of the S paired with the color scheme.

5.Virginia TechThe combination of the V and T goes together flawlessly and makes it one of the most recognizable initial-based logos.
6.Florida StateLast year FSU modernized its very historic Seminoles logo. Thank you. There is nothing wrong with a little upgrading and bringing it up to pace with the rest of the world. Props.
7.PittPittsburgh is the only logo that uses its shortened name and it works. Arching the block font and adding a drop cap gives the logo a funky (in a good way) look.
8.DukeI think this logo had good intentions, but didn’t follow through. The definite points on a more rounded letter makes this logo different, but by connecting the two objects in the center, making the D, the logo would make more of a statement.
9.VirginiaI really enjoy the two sabres crossed beneath the serif V. It’s both creative and symmetrical… I just wish the V was filled in.
10.Wake ForestProps to the Demon Deacons for finally changing their primary logo. This logo is more modern than the old cartoon-looking one they use as their secondary.
11.NC StateI would do one of two things. Change the placement and keep the same colors or change the colors of NC and keep the placement. There is just too much going on.
12.Georgia TechThe arrangement of the GT makes the Yellow Jackets ‘logo. Also, changing the color to a more brown-based gold instead of the old yellow gold gives this logo a more up-to-date look.
13.LouisvilleI love this particular logo, but when text is added to it, like for the Cardinals’ secondary logo, I really dislike it. The cardinal stands out on its own well. It’s creative and fierce… you don’t need anything else.
14.Boston CollegeThe color scheme in this logo doesn’t do it for me. I almost wish the eagle was gold so that it broke up the letters a little more. Just a thought.
Ranking the ACC's Best and Worst College Football Logos in 2015
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:30
Path: /college-football/secs-top-freshmen-watch-2015

Once upon a time, LSU head coach Les Miles said something along the lines of "Not only do we lose a senior class every year, but we also lose a junior class." That statement is pretty powerful because it's true. Teams like LSU, Georgia, Alabama and Florida lose a ton of talent on a year-to-year basis to the NFL.


Related: Ranking the Top 15 Players in the SEC for 2015 (Experts Poll)


Also, with every recruiting class, there are at least a handful of players who will transfer or get kicked off the team for various reasons. With holes to fill on their rosters, SEC teams bring in a new freshmen class full of young talent every year. Many of those players shine immediately. Who are the top freshmen to watch in the SEC this fall?


Kyler Murray, QB, Texas A&M

Most of the talk in College Station is about the way Kyle Allen finished the regular season last year. However, there is another quarterback on his heels who is one of the most impressive players to emerge from high school in recent years. Murray is already pushing Allen for the starting job with a unique skill set that allows him to move around and extend plays. Some are already comparing him to a former A&M quarterback with similar attributes.


Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama

Alabama's five-way quarterback battle is down to four, at least for the time being with Jacob Coker missing a few practices due to a minor foot injury. Barnett is in the heat of battle with other hopeful Crimson Tide quarterbacks and he probably has the most upside of any of them. It seems unlikely Nick Saban would start a true freshman quarterback, but it happens. Barnett is one of the most talented quarterback recruits Alabama has ever signed.


Kahlil McKenzie, DT, Tennessee

With every practice in Knoxville comes another dominating performance by McKenzie. He is a mammoth player. The size of McKenzie's legs, which could be likened to tree trunks, has already proven his elite lower body strength. Though he may not start right away, it will be hard to keep him off the field for very long in 2015. Vol fans have likened him to former great John Henderson.


Martez Ivey, OT, Florida

The Gators are in desperate need of some playmakers on offense. New head coach Jim McElwain did a solid recruiting job in his first partial offseason by securing some of the nation's most talented players on National Signing Day. Ivey has the perfect frame (6-5, 290) for an SEC offensive tackle. He is the total package with a long reach and quick feet that could allow him to start immediately on a depleted offensive line.


Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Amari Cooper is gone and for Alabama fans, that is sad news. But with Cooper's legendary career in the rearview mirror, the door is open for young talent to catch passes in Tuscaloosa. Ridley was named the MVP of The Opening last year and became familiar with Barnett. It may not be this year, but Barnett and Ridley could be the future of Alabama's offense. Ridley should at least get considerable playing time early on.


Trent Thompson, DT, Georgia

Like McKenzie at Tennessee, Thompson already has the size and quickness to be an FBS-caliber defensive tackle. He could be relied on early by Georgia to clog gaps and stop the run, but keeping the attention of blockers isn't the only thing he can do. Thompson also is known for his ability to put pressure on the quarterback. It's no surprise he was regarded as the nation's best high school player last year.


Will Grier, QB, Florida

Accompanying Ivey on Florida's offense is the redshirt freshman Grier. He has been in a battle for the starting quarterback spot with Treon Harris, but he is a better passer and appears to be better at the line of scrimmage. Should Grier win the spot, Florida's passing attack will see an upgrade in McElwain's first year as head coach. Grier will have a weapon on the outside in Demarcus Robinson.


Kevin Toliver II, DB, LSU

During Miles' tenure, LSU has cycled through elite defensive backs. The Bayou Bengals have sent enough to the NFL to become known as "DBU."  Toliver committed to LSU in 2012 as a high school sophomore and never strayed. He is now poised to become a starter at cornerback. Toliver was one of the most physical prospects to come out of Florida last season.


Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M

The third defensive tackle on the list, Mack is built (6-1, 330) like a bowling ball, or maybe closer to a wrecking ball. Mack also might be the strongest incoming freshman in the SEC. In fact, he pushed a three-ton Chevrolet Suburban over half a mile as part of his offseason training. If that doesn't scare opposing offensive linemen, what will?


Byron Cowart, DE, Auburn

Not to overuse the word "elite," but Cowart is another one. Ranked as the No. 1 overall player coming out of high school by many services, he possesses a strong upper body and an ability to get after the quarterback. Auburn's defensive line is pretty much set already, but Cowart will be able to learn the defense and add depth in year one under new coordinator Will Muschamp.


Cece Jefferson, DE, Florida

Jefferson adds another piece to an outstanding class of defensive linemen in the SEC. This freshman is the total package. Not only can he rush off the end, he also can stand up offensive linemen and allow other tacklers to come through. Jefferson sort of seems like a tackle in an end's body. There is no reason he shouldn't contribute early on in Gainesville.


Ross Pierschbacher, OL, Alabama

The Crimson Tide have to replace eight starters on the offense, including three up front. Pierschbacher, a redshirt freshman, is pretty versatile and could fill in at guard or tackle. He is a punishing run blocker and has done a good job of working on his pass protection in the offseason. He will likely start somewhere on the offensive line this season.


Leo Lewis, LB, Mississippi State

Headlining the Bulldogs' 2015 class, Lewis brings in a simple, fundamental ability to tackle ball carriers, finishing with 176 tackles his junior and senior year. He isn't too flashy on film, but he gets the job done. Before spurning LSU for the Bulldogs on National Signing Day, Lewis also was committed to Alabama and Ole Miss. He should be pretty familiar with the SEC West.


Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Many believe Lock could be the best freshman quarterback in the country. He will be behind Maty Mauk on Mizzou's depth chart, but should Mauk show some of the same struggles he did a year ago, it isn't crazy to think Lock could step in early. He isn't only the prototypical pro-style quarterback either. Lock has stated that he wants to play basketball at Missouri, too. He averaged nearly a double-double in high school.


Lester Cotton, OL, Alabama

In an ideal situation, Saban would take experience on the offensive line. But, as mentioned before, the Crimson Tide have a lot to replace so 2015 isn't an ideal situation. What they do have is 6-foot-5, 325-pound monster Lester Cotton waiting in the wings. Cotton can start immediately, even in the SEC, if he learns the offense. He's quite the run blocker, amassing a phenomenal 223 pancake blocks as a senior.


Best of the Rest:

Jonathan Ledbetter, DE, Georgia

Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Shy Tuttle, DT, Tennessee

Ronnie Harrison, DB, Alabama

Ty Storey, QB, Arkansas

Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee

Damien Harris, RB, Alabama

Javon Patterson, OL, Ole Miss

Terry Beckner, DT, Missouri

Adonis Thomas, LB, Alabama

Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia 


Incoming Specialists:

Rodrigo Blankenship, K, Georgia

Daniel LaCamera, K, Texas A&M

Joseph Charlton, P, South Carolina


— 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.

The SEC's Top Freshmen to Watch in 2015
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, Patriots, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-areas-watch-new-england-patriots-preaseson-game-new-orleans-saints

After two productive days of joint practices, the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints will meet in the second preseason game of the summer for both teams on Saturday night. The Patriots had plenty of positives and negatives coming out of their game against the Green Bay Packers, and will be looking for improvement in all aspects of the game.


Here are five specific areas to focus on for the Patriots.


1. More Action for Starters

Most of the Pats' important pieces only played a series or two against the Packers but should see at least a full quarter of playing time in New Orleans. Nate Solder and possibly Sebastian Vollmer (or at least Marcus Cannon) should see their first game action of the summer, replacing a makeshift offensive line that looked shaky in the first game. Additionally, linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower will likely see their first game action, marking an incredible recovery time for both players coming off of surgery.


Tom Brady took most of the snaps in practice against the Saints, how that will translate into the game is a mystery, but he should see more than the two drives he had against the Packers. Jimmy Garoppolo should be much better prepared to succeed behind a more veteran offensive line as well.


Most of all we're just looking for a smoother operation on both sides of the ball with better execution and consistency. That should be expected with the starters playing more.


2. Safeties and Corners

The Patriots worked with three-safety sets plenty this past week, with Devin McCourty getting some action at cornerback. This isn't outside the norm for McCourty, who often played man coverage against tight ends on passing downs last season.


But what will be of interest is how much the Pats employ three-safety sets that include McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. Bill Belichick likes to put his best 11 players on the field, and with a deep and experienced set of safeties, it would make sense to deploy them at times over some of the newcomer cornerbacks.


Free agent Tarrell Brown has consistently made plays on the ball in camp and could make his debut as well, giving a real sense of where the starting secondary is at and what this unit is0 trying to work on.


We can't read too much into the schemes that the Patriots show, but we can get a good sense of who fits best where.


3. Rookie Progression

The Pats got solid performances from a number of rookies in the first preseason game, but both Trey Flowers and Darryl Roberts left the game with injuries and haven't been seen since. Still, we'll be keeping an eye on the progression of guards Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson, along with defensive end Geneo Grissom, all of whom should get plenty of playing time. Mason and Jackson are hugely important players to the Patriots this season, seeing improved pass protection from them would be encouraging. Being next to experienced tackles instead of fill-ins should help them build on their previous performance.


Safety Jordan Richards also saw a lot of action against the Packers and will likely do the same against the Saints. Richards looked like he had excellent anticipation in his first game, a rare feat for a rookie. He'll be pushing for playing time in the regular season, especially if the Pats use some multiple-safety looks.


Wide receiver Chris Harper made some plays against the Packers and has been an under-the-radar rookie in camp. With Brian Tyms reportedly suffering a serious injury, Harper is right on the bubble to at least make the practice squad. Can he put together a statement game that puts him into the 53-man roster conversation? He'll need to find some synergy with Garoppolo once again.


4. Which Defensive Tackle(s) Will Emerge?

With the offseason loss of Vince Wilfork to the Texans, the Patriots are rebuilding the interior of their defensive line and have their last two first-round picks, Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown, leading the way. Brown and Easley had their moments, both good and bad against the Packers. Along with Antonio Johnson and Sealver Siliga, the Pats must establish some dominance inside, or risk getting run over this season.


Casey Walker was added this week after a short stint with the team last season, while Zach Moore has shifted inside from defensive end. These six defensive tackles will get plenty of work against the Saints and not only must be stout, they must prove they can generate critical pressure up the middle when Drew Brees wants to pass. The rotation is still wide open, so the stage is set for someone to emerge.


5. Running Backs

James White and Jonas Gray got most of the touches against the Packers, but this week we should expect to see Brandon Bolden enter the mix, possibly along with LeGarrette Blount. White and Gray are decent pieces but neither is ready to carry the load in either running back role. Bolden has plenty of experience and is the dark horse to lead the way in replacing Shane Vereen. As always, the Patriots’ backfield duties will be handled by a committee, but the next two games will go a long way toward determining who the primary guys are.


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

5 Areas to Watch in New England Patriots's Preseason Game vs. New Orleans Saints
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-top-15-players-big-ten-2015-experts-poll

The balance of power in the Big Ten clearly rests with Ohio State and the East Division in 2015. The Buckeyes are a heavy favorite to repeat as college football’s national champion, and one look at the expert poll results for the best players in the Big Ten solidifies why coach Urban Meyer’s team is the No. 1 pick for 2015.


Ohio State had four players voted among the top six, including two quarterbacks – J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones – while defensive end Joey Bosa was voted No. 1 among the experts polled by Athlon Sports. Additionally, Michigan State had two of the top six selections in this poll, and no player from a West Division team finished among the top 10 in this vote.


With the season right around the corner, Athlon Sports sought to answer this question: Who are the best 15 players in the Big Ten for 2015?


In order to rank the top 15 players in the Big Ten for 2015, Athlon Sports sought the insight of several experts from the conference. The voting process was simple. Using criteria such as career performance so far, 2015 potential/projection, pro outlook, recruiting ranking, value to team or overall talent, each voter was asked to rank their top 15 players for 2015.


A point system was assigned, giving 15 points for a player with a No. 1 vote, 14 points for a No. 2 vote, 13 points for a No. 3 vote and so on.


The Voters
Marc Morehouse@MarcMorehouseThe Cedar Rapids Gazette
Sam McKewon@SWMckewonOWHOmaha World-Herald
Steven Lassan@AthlonStevenAthlon Sports
Matt Brown@MattSBNSBNation/Land-Grant Holy Land
Bryan Fischer@BryanDFischerNational CFB Writer
Braden Gall@BradenGallAthlon Sports
David Fox@DavidFox615Athlon Sports
Joe Rexrode@JoeRexrodeDetroit Free Press
Chip Minnich@ChipMinnichAthlon Contributor Network
Pete Volk@Pete_VolkSBNation/Testudo Times
Tyler Waddell@Tyler_WaddellToday's U
Mitch Light@AthlonMitchAthlon Sports
J.P. Scott@TheJPScottAthlon Contributor Network
Mike Bainbridge@MikeBainbridge2Athlon Contributor Network
Chris Dougherty@WarontheWeekendAthlon Contributor Network
Curt Hogg@CyrtHoggBucky's 5th Quarter
Robert Boleyn@BoleynRobertAthlon Contributor Network
Mark Ross@AthlonMarkRAthlon Sports


Ranking the Big Ten's Best Players for 2015 (Experts Poll)
RankPlayerTeamTotal Points

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

(24 first-place votes)


Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State

(7 first-place votes)


Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State

(2 first-place votes)


J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State

(2 first-place votes)

5Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State317
6Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State243
7Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State238
8Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State225
9Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State214
10Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State183
11Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin169
12Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State153
13Jack Allen, C, Michigan State116
14Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska96
15Leonte Carroo, WR, Rutgers68
16Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State63
17Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State56
18Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State46
19De'Mornay Pierson-El, WR/RS, Nebraska32
20DaeSean Hamilton, WR, Penn State29
21Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State27
22Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin23
23Drew Ott, DE, Iowa22
24Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan21
25Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern14
26TEric Murray, CB, Minnesota11
26TJordan Howard, RB, Indiana11
26TJordan Lucas, S, Penn State11
29Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State10
30TPat Elflein, OG, Ohio State9
30TMichael Thomas, WR, Ohio State9
32TJake Butt, TE, Michigan7
32TDe'Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota7
34TWilliam Likely, CB, Maryland6
34TTyler Marz, LT, Wisconsin6
34TNate Gerry, S, Nebraska6
34TTanner McEvoy, WR/S, Wisconsin6
34TBrad Craddock, P, Maryland6
39TRaekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State5
39TWes Lunt, QB, Illinois5
39TJa'Whaun Bentley, LB, Purdue5
39TVincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska5
43TJake Rudock, QB, Michigan4
43TDan Voltz, C, Wisconsin4
45TJake Duzey, TE, Iowa3
45TBriean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, Minnesota3
47Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana2
48TFrankie Williams, DB, Purdue1
48TSam Foltz, P, Nebraska1
48TVince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin1
48TLawrence Thomas, DE/DT, Michigan State1
Ranking the Top 15 Players in the Big Ten for 2015 (Experts Poll)
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC East, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-things-watch-miami-dolphins-second-preseason-game

The first drive of the Miami Dolphins’ first preseason game couldn’t have gone any better. The team drove down the field 85 yards to score its first and only touchdown of the night.


Although Miami lost 27-10 to Chicago last Thursday evening, there were some positives to take from that game. What can viewers expect from the Dolphins’ second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night?


1. The first team offense will play more

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ first-team offense was sharp against the Bears. The offense will likely play a lot more on Saturday night against a better Panthers defense. Tannehill needs to continue to build chemistry with some of his newer weapons such as Jordan Cameron, Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings.


“I think that our chemistry is only growing day by day, said Tannehill. “Those guys are stepping up and making plays consistently. I have a lot of confidence in their ability to get open and their ability to make plays when it.”


Tannehill will probably throw some passes down the field like he has done a lot in practices this summer. Despite having a near-perfect opening drive, the Dolphins’ offense still has a lot of areas to work on.


2. Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner will have a tougher time against the Panthers' defense

The Bears’ defense didn’t exactly provide the Dolphins’ offensive line with a real test. This week against Carolina, the team should be able to determine how much better the Miami offensive line truly is.


Guards Thomas and Turner were on the field 33 and 24 snaps, respectively, in the preseason opener. Both players played well, aside from Turner's one holding penalty.


Miami head coach Joe Philbin is looking forward to the challenge at Carolina.


“I think the way the preseason is set up, it’s going to be really good for them to go now to Carolina and practice against more of a four-man line,” Philbin said. “At times, they were uncovered, which, again they’re going to be uncovered some in the Carolina game, but we’re going to get a lot more of these defenses where both guards are covered and an uncovered center or a tilt on the center this week, both in the two days of practice and in the ball game. I think that’s going to be a really good next step for them. I thought they both competed hard, I thought they both had some really good plays on tape and obviously this wasn’t perfect.”


3. Zach Vigil should receive more playing time

Vigil has been turning heads in training camp and during the Dolphins’ first preseason game. He was one of the four undrafted linebackers signed in the offseason and Vigil has been the player that has stood out the most among the group.


Philbin has taken notice of Vigil’s play in training camp and against the Bears.


“He’s involved in tackles, Philbin said. “If you’re a linebacker, one of your job responsibilities is to get in on tackles and have production, and I think for the number of snaps he was in the ball game, he got in on plays. He has good instincts and I thought he showed pretty well.”


Against Chicago, Vigil recorded five tackles, including a sack and two tackles for a loss. With another great showing, Vigil could be on the verge of locking up a spot on the 53-man roster.


4. Expect to see a lot of Will Davis

Throughout training camp, Davis has seemed to fall behind Brice McCain, Jamar Taylor and Bobby McCain in the Dolphins’ cornerback pecking order. Davis played well against the Bears as he finished with four tackles and a pass breakup.


Philbin is still hopefully Davis’ best days are ahead of him.


“Every rep he gets it’s a valuable rep and I think there was a big difference between Will Davis at FIU (scrimmage) and Will Davis at Chicago,” Philbin said. “We’re looking for that same kind of improvement. It’s going to be great for us to go down there against Carolina, and they’ve got some big guys down there that we can go compete against. Another step, he’s got to continue to progress.”


Davis tore his ACL last season and has shown signs that he isn’t totally 100 percent yet. If Thursday is any indication, Davis could see a lot more playing time against Carolina.


5. Clean up the penalties

While it isn’t uncommon to see a lot of penalties in a team’s first preseason game, the Dolphins committed 12 infractions for 80 yards against the Bears. That is an absurd number for any team during any time of the season.


With the regulars playing a little bit more in the second preseason game, that number should come down a bit against Carolina.


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

5 Things to Watch for in the Miami Dolphins' Second Preseason Game
Post date: Friday, August 21, 2015 - 09:30