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Path: /college-football/college-football-bowl-projections-2015

College football’s new playoff format was a huge success. The four-team playoff generated huge ratings and provided what the fans wanted in a postseason: A chance to settle it on the field.


As the second season of the playoff approaches, the bowl schedule has expanded to 41 overall games including the national championship. Additionally, the semifinals will be on Dec. 31 instead of Jan. 1. The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl will host the semifinals, while the national championship will be held in Glendale, Ariz.


With the 2015 season less than 60 days away, it’s never too early to project how the bowl games and playoff pairings may look by December. 


2015 College Football Conference Predictions

Power 5: ACC Big 12 Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Group of 5: American | C-USAMACMountain WestSun Belt


College Football 2015 Bowl Projections
AutoNation CureDec. 19Sun Belt vs.
Georgia Southern vs.
Gildan New MexicoDec. 19C-USA vs.
 Louisiana Tech vs.
San Diego State 
Royal Purple
Las Vegas
Dec. 19MW/BYU vs.
 California vs.
Utah State 
Raycom Media
Dec. 19MAC vs.
Sun Belt
 Appalachian State vs.
R+L Carriers
New Orleans
Dec. 19MW vs.
Sun Belt
 UTEP vs. 
UL Lafayette 
Miami BeachDec. 21American vs.
 WKU vs. 
Famous Idaho PotatoDec. 22MAC vs.
 Bowling Green vs.
Boca RatonDec. 22American vs.
 East Carolina vs.
SDCCU PoinsettiaDec. 23Mountain West vs.
 Colorado State vs.
GoDaddyDec. 23MAC vs. Sun Belt Arkansas State vs.
Western Michigan 
Popeyes BahamasDec. 24C-USA vs. MAC MTSU vs. 
Northern Illinois 
HawaiiDec. 24American vs.
 Temple vs.
St. PetersburgDec. 26C-USA vs. 
 Houston vs.
Hyundai SunDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
 Georgia Tech vs.
Zaxby's Heart of
Dec. 26Big 12 vs.
 Texas Tech vs.
New Era PinstripeDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
Big Ten
 Virginia Tech vs.
IndependenceDec. 26ACC/ND vs.
 North Carolina vs.
Foster FarmsDec. 26Big Ten vs.
 Minnesota vs.
MilitaryDec. 28ACC/ND vs.
 Louisville vs.
Quick LaneDec. 28ACC/ND vs.
Big Ten
 Northwestern vs.
Lockheed Martin
Armed Forces
Dec. 29MW vs.
Big Ten
 Maryland vs.
Air Force 
Russell AthleticDec. 29ACC/ND vs.
Big 12
 Notre Dame vs.
West Virginia 
AdvoCare V100
Dec. 29Big 12 vs.
 LSU vs.
Oklahoma State 
BirminghamDec. 30American vs.
 South Carolina vs.
BelkDec. 30ACC/ND vs.
 NC State vs.
Franklin American
Music City
Dec. 30ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.
 Iowa vs.
National University
Dec. 30Big Ten vs.
 Stanford vs. 
Penn State 
OutbackJan. 1Big Ten vs. 
 Arkansas vs.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Jan. 1Big Ten vs.
 Wisconsin vs.
TaxSlayerJan. 2ACC/ND/Big Ten vs.
 Clemson vs.
Texas A&M 
AutoZone LibertyJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
 Mississippi State vs.
Valero AlamoJan. 2Big 12 vs.
Arizona State vs.
CactusJan. 2Big 12 vs. 
 Kansas State vs.
ArizonaTBAMW vs.
 Miami* vs.
Chick-fil-A PeachDec. 31At-large vs.

 Florida State vs.

FiestaJan. 1At-large vs.
 Boise State vs.
RoseJan. 1Big Ten vs.
 Michigan State vs.
SugarJan. 1SEC vs.
Big 12
 Ole Miss vs. 
CottonDec. 31Playoff
 Ohio State vs.
OrangeDec. 31Playoff
 Alabama vs.
National ChampionshipJan. 11Cotton Bowl Winner vs.
Orange Bowl Winner
 Ohio State over

* According to our projections, these teams will fill at-large selections as some conferences will fail to fill their allotted slots.

College Football Bowl Projections for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/examining-overunder-2015-win-totals-sec-east

When it comes to the SEC, much of the focus on the nation's best college football conference is directed towards the West. That doesn't mean the East should be completely overlooked, however, as those teams went 5-0 in bowls last season compared to the West's not-so-impressive 2-5 showing. This season, Georgia has its sights set on dethroning defending division champion Missouri while Tennessee and Florida could be two of the more intriguing teams to watch in all of college football.


Related: SEC 2015 Football Predictions


For the purposes of this exercise, projected win totals are broken down into three categories — definite wins, definite losses and toss-ups. Most of the conference games will in the toss-up category, especially ones on the road. This preview will offer thoughts on each team and if there’s any value either over or under.


Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook


SEC East


Florida Gators

(Over 7.5 wins +110...Under 7.5 wins -150)


Record Last Year: 7-5, 4-4


Returning Starters: 11 (4 on offense, 7 on defense)


Offense: With Treon Harris and Will Grier competing for the QB position, the rest of the unit figures to struggle. The offensive line will almost need to completely be replaced. An underrated addition to the offense is transfer tight end Jake McGee, who comes over from Virginia and will be a reliable target to whomever is under center.


Defense: Vernon Hargreaves III is one of the best corners in college football. He's part of a strong secondary. That unit could be tested with the issues up front of having to replace almost everyone.


Schedule: The season starts and ends with a pair of non-conference home games. In September Florida faces New Mexico State and ECU while the November slate features Florida Atlantic and in-state archrival Florida State. It's a very friendly schedule, although the Gators play at LSU in October.


Selection: I agree with the money move to the under. It's a friendly schedule, but the Gators probably won't win a single game outside of Gainesville. Jim McElwain has work to do with these guys.


Georgia Bulldogs

(Over 9 wins -135...Under 9 wins -105)


Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-2


Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Another uncertain quarterback situation. Georgia picked up a late transfer in UVA's Greyson Lambert who could just as easily win the job. Nick Chubb looks to build off of almost 1,600 rushing yards last year. He's a great playmaker to start with. Malcolm Mitchell is a solid WR to go along with a good offensive line.


Defense: Freshman Trent Thompson comes over as the No. 1 recruit according to 247Sports. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins make for a solid group at linebacker. Plenty of eyes will be on the secondary to see if this group can keep things going after holding opponents to just 170.4 yards per game through the air last season. 


Schedule: Georgia hosts Louisiana Monroe, Southern, Georgia Southern and has its usual rivalry game against Georgia Tech, which is on the road. There's no real rough stretches for the Bulldogs, who don't have to deal with any back-to-back road games.


Selection: The lean is to the over although I came out with nine wins for Georgia. It's hard to get an accurate projection without a quarterback in place. Chubb figures to be in the mix for the Heisman all season.


Kentucky Wildcats

(Over 6 wins -105...Under 6 wins -135)


Record Last Year: 5-7, 2-6


Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Patrick Towles gets the call at quarterback after throwing for 14 touchdowns in 2014. Redshirt freshman Drew Barker is making a push and will probably see some time as well. The offensive line is almost intact which is good. Stanley Williams and Jojo Kemp are solid options at running back.


Defense: The Wildcats have some holes to fill with the departure of Bud Dupree. Trying to fill those shoes is Jason Hatcher, who was highly touted out of high school. Special teams are real good and could be a difference-maker in a close game.


Schedule: The Wildcats play six of their first eight at home. They host UL-Lafayette, Eastern Kentucky, Charlotte and Louisville out of conference. UK has just four road games all year long which will be big.


Selection: Even with the friendly schedule, six wins seems about right. Kentucky still has tough home matchups with Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri and Louisville. I think the Wildcats win maybe one or two from that group and that's why I see only six wins.


Missouri Tigers

(Over 7.5 wins -180...Under 7.5 wins +140)


Record Last Year: 11-3, 7-1


Returning Starters: 12 (6 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Dorial Green-Beckham is long gone and so is the depth at WR. At least the Tigers have Russell Hansbrough at RB and he put up over 1,000 rushing yards in 2014. Maty Mauk gets the call at QB and he's got the majority of his O-line back which will be a big help.


Defense: Losses up front will make things a bit difficult for the Tigers. At least they have an experienced secondary and Kentrell Brothers (122 tackles in 2014 ) at LB.


Schedule: Missouri gets SE Missouri State and UConn at home to go with a road tilt against Arkansas State and a neutral field game vs. BYU for its non-conference slate. The Tigers play three of their four November games in the state of Missouri.


Selection: The over is the right play here although not at this price. Watch that week two game at Arkansas State, as it could be an upset in the making. The Red Wolves are real good offensively.


South Carolina Gamecocks

(Over 7 wins -120...Under 7 wins -120)


Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5


Returning Starters: 10 (4 on offense, 6 on defense)


Offense: Another SEC East team looking for help at QB. The Gamecocks' leading returning passer is wideout Pharoh Cooper, who threw eight total passes. Whomever is under center gets Cooper at WR and senior Brandon Wilds at RB. The right side of the OL is strong.


Defense: Jon Hoke comes over to try and fix this side of the ball. This team had just 14 sacks last year and will need to get a little more pressure on the QB.


Schedule: The Gamecocks take on North Carolina in Charlotte as well as UCF, Citadel and Clemson at home. They play five of their last seven at home and have some friendly stretches.


Selection: Small lean to the under. There's a chance if things don't break well that South Carolina loses both of their matchups with the ACC. I don't know if that's grounds for dismissal from the SEC, but it could be a rough year in Columbia.


Tennessee Volunteers

(Over 7.5 wins -210...Under 7.5 wins +160)


Record Last Year: 7-6, 3-5


Returning Starters: 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense)


Offense: This side of the ball has some momentum after finishing 2014 with 185 points in the final five games. Dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs was one of the catalysts for this offense. He's got Marquez North and Pig Howard to throw to. Von Pearson is suspended after some offseason trouble. Jalen Hurd will be complemented in the backfield by Alvin Kamara.


Defense: The Vols have the right pieces back for the 2015 season. Jalen Reeves-Maybin at LB goes well with Curt Maggitt, who is playing for NFL Draft status. This team beat up on Iowa in its bowl victory and will get plenty of pressure on SEC QBs.


Schedule: The Vols don't leave the state often to start the year out, as they take on Oklahoma and Western Carolina as well as a contest with Bowling Green in Nashville. The other non-conference game takes place in November when Tennessee hosts North Texas.


Selection: The over is the play here. I love the Vols as a major sleeper in this division. Butch Jones finished out 2014 well and has the pieces to make '15 special.


Vanderbilt Commodores

(Over 3 wins -170...Under 3 wins +130)


Record Last Year: 3-9, 0-8


Returning Starters: 17 (8 on offense, 9 on defense)


Offense: It was an ugly year for this side of the ball, as Vanderbilt averaged just 17.2 points per game. The Commodores rotated four different signal-callers last year and none were that effective. Ralph Webb rushed for almost 1,000 yards last season and will be counted on for even more production this fall.


Defense: Head coach Derek Mason takes over this side of the ball. Stephen Weatherly leads the way with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. Almost the entire secondary is back, but this defense allowed 7.6 yards per attempt.


Schedule: The Commodores host Western Kentucky and Austin Peay while also playing at Middle Tennessee and Houston. As if it wasn't going to be a rough enough season, Vandy has a stretch of five road games out of six.


Selection: The under is a value here. I know Vanderbilt returns a lot of players from last year, but can the Commodores get back to respectability? Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee and Houston are all challenges and remember this team nearly lost to Charleston Southern and UMass last year.


— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

Examining the Over/Under 2015 Win Totals for the SEC East
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-acc-stadiums-2015

Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 12 ACC experts like Wes Durham, Mark EnnisDavid Glenn and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the ACC.


Based on general atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, surrounding campus and even scoreboards, here is how the voting shook out.


However, attendance is an increasing concern for all athletic directors and tweaks are made to college football stadiums every year. Using our expert rankings, here is a statistical breakdown and update of ACC stadiums and how they stack up against each other entering the 2015 season.

1. Memorial Stadium, Clemson

The fifth-oldest venue in the ACC, this college football cathedral — dubbed Death Valley — is rumored to have had the loudest crowd in college football history at 133 decibels. Dabo Swinney's stadium led the ACC in capacity percentage (100.3 percent) and finished in the top 15 nationally in attendance last fall. Swinney loves his home cooking, going 38-5 at Memorial Stadium during his six years as Clemson's head coach.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
194281,500 (2nd)81,752 (15th)100.3% (1st)86,092 ('99)

2. Doak Campbell Stadium, Florida State

The Noles are 274-86-4 all-time in the largest stadium in the ACC and, interestingly enough, the gorgeous brick façade makes DCS the largest continuous brick building in the United States. Florida State led the ACC in attendance and finished 14th nationally with an ACC-best increase of nine percent. Jimbo Fisher's squad has won 14 straight at The Doak and are 31-4 in his five years in Tallahassee. The 99.9 percent capacity last fall was second only to Clemson.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195082,300 (1st)82,211 (14th)99.9% (2nd)84,409 ('13)


3. Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech

The beautiful venue is the largest stadium in the Commonwealth of Virginia and Frank Beamer is 58-14 at home during his career in the ACC and 32-9 in Lane Stadium while a member of the Big East. Lane Stadium is one of just three ACC buildings to average more than 60,000 last year despite a 3-4 home record. Tech finished 27th nationally in attendance and fifth in the league in capacity percentage.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196565,632 (3rd)61,157 (27th)93.2% (5th)66,233


4. Papa John’s Stadium, Louisville

The “Pizza Box” continues to grow seemingly every year after opening at just 42,000 seats with eyes on expansion to 80,000 in the near future. In just one season in the ACC, Louisville was third in the league in capacity percentage (96.3) and is just a few thousand fans per game away from being the third-largest average crowd in the ACC (was sixth in '14). This program, like its building, is soaring into Power 5 competition. 


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
199855,000 (9th)52,972 (39th)96.3% (3rd)55,428 ('14)



5. Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State

The crowds are right on top of the field with the closest seats in the ACC to the field. It led to the fifth-largest crowds in the league last fall despite coming off a winless ACC campaign in 2013. Carter-Finley also finished fourth in the league in percentage (94.5) each Saturday — one of just five programs in the league to average more than 90 percent.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196657,583 (8th)54,398 (36th)94.5% (4th)57,583


6. Bobby Dodd Stadium, Georgia Tech

The ACC’s oldest venue was built for just $15,000 over a century ago and is the oldest in major college football (FBS). Tech finished 44th nationally in attendance, which ranked eighth in the ACC. Paul Johnson is 34-12 in his career at Georgia Tech.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
191355,000 (9th)48,519 (44th)88.2% (6th)60,316 ('73)

Related: ACC Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands

7. Kenan Memorial Stadium, North Carolina

One of the most picturesque places to watch a football game, Kenan Stadium is the second-oldest football venue in the ACC. In 2014, North Carolina finished fourth in the ACC in attendance behind only Florida State, Clemson and Virginia Tech. In fact, Kenan saw a six percent spike in attendance last fall, which ranked second in the league behind only the Seminoles (9 percent). Larry Fedora is 14-6 at home and 7-11 away from Kenan.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192763,000 (6th)54,667 (35th)86.8% (7th)62,000 ('97)



8. Scott Stadium, Virginia

It's one of the most historic and culturally rich campuses in the nation and has witnessed many memorable ACC moments. But despite showing major improvements as a team, the Cavs' home building produced poor numbers in 2014. Virginia's attendance finished 58th nationally and 11th in the ACC after a 15 percent drop from '13. It also ranked 13th in the ACC ahead of only Pitt in terms of capacity percentage at just 63.9 percent full each Saturday. Mike London is 18-18 at home.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
193161,500 (7th)39,320 (58th)63.9% (13th)64,947 ('08)


9. Carrier Dome, Syracuse

Nicknamed “The Loud House,” the Cuse’s home has a Teflon-coated, fiberglass inflatable roof that is one of the loudest in the nation. However, it's been a while since the Orange's home building was feared. The Carrier Dome ranked 10th in the ACC in attendance despite a nice six percent bump over 2013 and ranked ninth in the league in capacity percentage. Syracuse was 1-5 at home last season.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
198049,262 (11th)40,447 (57th)82.1% (9th)50,564 ('80)


10. Sun Life Stadium, Miami

The building is 25 minutes from campus and saw nearly 10,000 seats subtracted from its capacity this offseason — so the 80.3 percent capacity is more of a projection. That said, the 52,518 average attendance ranked Miami 40th in the nation and seventh in the ACC. Al Golden is 19-8 in four years at home but 11-3 over the last two years. This program needs a smaller, on-campus venue badly.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
198765,326 (5th)52,518 (40th)80.3% (11th)80,120 ('13)



11. Heinz Field, Pitt

From an amenities standpoint, few college stadiums can match the posh NFL home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, sharing a building with an NFL team has drawbacks as well. Pitt ranked dead last in the ACC at just 63.1 percent average capacity and saw a league-worst decline of 17 percent in attendance from 2013. The Panthers ranked 56th nationally in attendance last fall.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
200165,500 (4th)41,315 (56th)63.1% (14th)66,731 ('02)


12. Alumni Stadium, Boston College

It's tough to draw large crowds to Chestnut Hill, as the Eagles have largely overachieved for the better part of the last two decades but routinely rank outside of the top 60 in attendance. Boston College is 12th in the ACC capacity, 12th in average capacity (77.0 percent) and 12th in average attendance — which ranks 64th nationally. Steve Addazio, like many before him, has done good work at BC but is just 8-5 at Alumni Stadium.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195744,500 (12th)34,270 (64th)77.0% (12th)44,500


13. BB&T Field, Wake Forest

To Wake's fans' credit, there are typically never a ton of empty seats in BB&T and the recent round of upgrades have improved the gameday experience. However, the Deacs ranked last in the ACC in attendance last fall — 83rd nationally — and were only slightly better in average capacity (8th at 86.4 percent). All three of Wake Forest's wins last season came at home.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196831,500 (14th)27,210 (83rd)86.4% (8th)37,623 ('04)


14. Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke

Attendance has gotten better under the David Cutcliffe regime due in large part to winning more games. However, the stadium still ranks at the bottom of the ACC in most attendance categories. Wallace Wade is 13th in capacity in the ACC, 10th in average capacity (80.4 percent) and was 13th in attendance last season — ranking just 82nd nationally. It makes Cutcliffe's 15-6 home record over the last three years incredibly impressive.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192933,941 (13th)27,291 (82nd)80.4% (10th)57,500 ('49)


Ranking the ACC Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/georgia-wr-malcolm-mitchell-channels-odell-beckham-jr-make-catches-his-back

Odell Beckham Jr. is making his case for the best hands in the NFL with this Instagram video posted yesterday.



And they wonder why I want it so bad, my brother gone eat up so I gotta do the same #RoyalSide @v.royalty.s

A video posted by Odell Beckham Jr (@iam_objxiii) on


What about the best hands in college football? Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has that covered. Channeling his inner OBJ, Mitchell caught some passes on the ground.



@IAM_OBJXIII @v.royalty.s much respect and thank you for showing the way.

A video posted by Malcolm Mitchell (@money_mitch26) on



SEC teams are officially put on notice.

Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:20
Path: /college-football/sec-wild-card-players-2015

The SEC features many of college football's biggest names. These players are expected to lead their teams to victory each week through strong individual performances.


Then there's the "wild cards" which includes several different categories. Sometimes it's a do-everything, x-factor player. In other cases it may be a player flying under the radar who is poised to have a breakout season.


Here's a look at the SEC's "wild card players" on offense and defense for each team entering 2015.




Florida Gators


Offense: Treon Harris, Quarterback/???

Will Grier is expected to win the quarterback battle in Gainesville, but that won’t stop Harris from making an impact in Florida’s offense. The dual-threat quarterback possesses the speed and natural ability to make a successful transition to wide receiver or aid in certain formations and trick plays as a passer.


Defense: Bryan Cox Jr., Defensive End

Cox has the opportunity to see more playing time after the departure of Dante Fowler Jr. The junior has the NFL pedigree to succeed and could see a spike in production with more reps at defensive end.


Georgia Bulldogs


Offense: Jeb Blazevich, Tight End

Blazevich had an impressive debut season, but was overshadowed by the dominance of fellow freshman teammate Nick Chubb. The 6-5, 232-pound tight end had 269 yards and two touchdowns on 18 receptions and was the Bulldogs’ third-leading receiver. Blazevich should add to his totals this season as he figures to serve as a security blanket for expected starting quarterback Brice Ramsey.


Defense: Trent Thompson, Defensive Tackle

Let’s be honest, the Class of 2015's top prospect is not going to spend his entire first season on the bench. Thompson has the best size/first-step combo of anyone on Georgia’s roster and the instincts and raw ability to be a Week One starter.


Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015


Kentucky Wildcats


Offense: Stanley "Boom" Williams, Running Back

Williams was Kentucky’s best running back in 2014, despite playing in a “back by committee” rotation. He led the Wildcats with 486 yards and five touchdowns, which included a 126-yard performance against Louisville — then the nation’s No. 2 rushing defense — in the Wildcats’ final game. The sophomore should see a bigger role in his second season and rank among the conference's best backs.


Defense: Matt Elam, Defensive Tackle

Elam entered his college career with high expectations. He rated as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 player in the Bluegrass State in 2014. The 6-7, 370-pound sophomore has the size to clog the line of scrimmage but must improve his stamina to be an every-down player.


Missouri Tigers


Offense: Maty Mauk, Quarterback

Mauk was the conference’s most disappointing quarterback despite his team winning its second consecutive SEC East Division title. In 2015, he will be without his four most productive receiving targets and needs to prove his worth as a dual-threat quarterback. Missouri’s success will rely on whether Mauk can live up to the lofty expectations he faced last preseason.


Defense: Charles Harris, Defensive End

Harris looks to become the next breakout Missouri defensive end to replace the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He had an early start when Shane Ray missed the majority of the SEC Championship Game due to a targeting penalty. But the sophomore needs to produce in order to step out of the shadow cast by Ray and former teammate Markus Golden.


South Carolina Gamecocks


Offense: Pharoh Cooper, Wide Receiver

Cooper is — by far — the best player on South Carolina’s roster. His addition to the list isn’t due to his expected value, rather that he’s the perfect example of an x-factor player. He led the Gamecocks in every statistical receiving category all while contributing as a passer and rusher in unique formations. Cooper will continue to emerge as a star in the SEC in his senior season despite the Gamecocks' lack of a proven passer.


Defense: Marquavius Lewis, Defensive End

South Carolina’s defensive line was abysmal in 2014. The Gamecocks ranked last in sacks and tackles for a loss among SEC teams. Enter Lewis, a four-star prospect with JUCO experience who should earn and an immediate spot in South Carolina’s starting lineup.


Tennessee Volunteers


Offense: Alton "Pig" Howard, Wide Receiver

Like Cooper, Howard aided his team in several areas all while leading in receiving yards. As a senior, the versatile wideout will head up a talented group of playmakers in what is expected to be an improved Vols offense. His value may be underrated playing alongside several former top prospects, but Howard is a consistent pass catcher that provides the Tennessee's offense with playmaking ability in multiple ways.


Defense: Curt Maggitt, Defensive End/Linebacker

Maggitt enjoyed his first full season since arriving in Knoxville in 2011. The redshirt junior led the Vols with 11 sacks in a hybrid role as a defensive end and outside linebacker. Maggitt opted to return for his final season at Tennessee and is expected to pair with sophomore phenom Derek Barnett to form one of the SEC’s top pass-rushing duos.


Related: College Football's Most Improved Teams for 2015


Vanderbilt Commodores


Offense: Johnny McCrary, Quarterback

McCrary will be Vanderbilt’s most important offensive player in 2015 following Patton Robinette’s retirement. The sophomore showed both glimpses of potential and struggles in his several starts. For better or worse, McCrary will be the biggest factor in whether Vanderbilt’s offense can find success.


Defense: Nigel Bowden, Linebacker

Bowden was one of the few bright spots for the SEC’s worst team. The redshirt freshman recorded a team-best 79 tackles despite battling injuries at season’s end. Bowden should continue his progress with head coach Derek Mason returning to his comfort zone as the team’s defensive coordinator.


SEC West


Alabama Crimson Tide


Offense: O.J. Howard, Tight End

Howard was expected to be one of the SEC’s best tight ends in 2014, but went without a reception in five of Alabama’s 14 games. He managed to finish fourth in receiving yards, but failed to record a single touchdown. Howard should see an increased role with the departures of Biletnikoff winner Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.


Defense: Jonathan Allen, Defensive End

Allen was one of Alabama's best defensive linemen as a sophomore last season. He recorded 15 total tackles, three tackles for a loss, half a sack, a forced fumble and one QB hurry in 12 games. As a junior, he will be one of the team's leaders and could see a statistical increase.


Arkansas Razorbacks


Offense: Hunter Henry, Tight End

Arkansas loves to run the football, but when it passes, there’s a good chance it's going to Henry. The tight end had 37 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns, which earned him honorable mention All-SEC honors. Henry should see more reps with the departure of A.J. Derby in a passing offense that puts an emphasis on the tight end and has question marks at wide receiver.


Related: 14 Position Groups Under Pressure in the SEC for 2015


Defense: Deatrich Wise Jr., Defensive End

Wise looks to replace one of the conference’s top defensive ends in former teammate Trey Flowers alongside JaMichael Winston. Many believe Wise has more playmaking ability which pairs well with the steady production of the experienced Winston. The duo should continue the Razorbacks’ success on the defensive line in 2015.


Auburn Tigers


Offense: Jeremy Johnson, Quarterback

Auburn’s offense is built to contend for a national championship. The Tigers have a plethora of talent at skill positions and should see an improvement on defense under new coordinator Will Muschamp. Johnson will be the biggest factor in whether the team reaches its full potential or comes up short of an SEC Championship Game appearance.


Related: Analyzing Auburn Quarterback Jeremy Johnson's Heisman Trophy Candidacy


Defense: Johnathan Ford, Defensive Back

Ford recorded a team-best 93 tackles from the safety position. He also added three interceptions, which tied for the second most among Auburn players. Ford’s tackling numbers may decrease playing behind one of the SEC’s best linebacking corps but he will still contribute as a versatile free safety.


LSU Tigers


Offense: Brandon Harris or Anthony Jennings, Quarterback

Like Auburn, LSU has plenty of talent on offense. Unfortunately, the Tigers lack a quarterback with as much upside as Jeremy Johnson between Harris and Jennings. Neither player proved to be a consistent starter in 2014. The edge goes to Harris, whose lapses were blamed on a lack of experience as a true freshman and has a higher ceiling among the two passers.


Related: No Pressure: LSU's Season Will Hinge on Quarterbacks


Defense: Kevin Toliver II, Defensive Back

Toliver, a five-star prospect, joins an LSU defensive backs group that may be the best in the conference. The Tigers have depth, but he’s too talented not to be used immediately. Toliver should see playing time in different formations and could make an impact.


Mississippi State Bulldogs


Offense: Donald Gray, Wide Receiver

Mississippi State has a desperate need at wide receiver. The Bulldogs must replace top targets Jameon Lewis and Malcolm Johnson. Enter Gray who, despite a 5-9, 185-pound stature, recorded 55 receptions for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College.


Defense: Jamal Peters, Defensive Back

Peters is Mississippi State’s top prospect. He will be a favorite to compete for playing time after enrolling in June. Head coach Dan Mullen told The Clarion-Ledger in February that Peters “might be on the two-deep rotation” even before stepping on the field.


Ole Miss Rebels


Offense: Chad Kelly, Quarterback

Kelly’s personality alone earns him the reputation of a “wild card.” But his talent was too much for Ole Miss to pass up despite off-field altercations. Kelly has the opportunity to redeem himself in a talented Rebels offense that includes a potential first-round draft pick in Laquon Treadwell and the SEC’s top tight end, Evan Engram.


Defense: Robert Nkemdiche, Defensive Tackle

Nkemdiche was the nation’s consensus No. 1 high school prospect in 2013. He’s lived up to the hype as the anchor on a talented Ole Miss defense, but plays a position that lacks star power. Nkemdiche has the speed to play defensive end and the frame of a defensive tackle. In 2015, he will be a top-5 NFL prospect and should contribute to the Rebels’ success in several areas.


Related: Is 2015 Now or Never for Ole Miss in the SEC West?


Texas A&M Aggies


Offense: Speedy Noil, Wide Receiver

Noil had an exciting freshman campaign as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He led the Aggies with 1,418 all-purpose yards and 583 receiving yards, the third most among Aggies receivers. Noil’s receiving totals should increase with the departure of Malcome Kennedy and a full year of college experience.


Related: College Football's All-Sophomore Team for 2015


Defense: Daeshon Hall, Defensive End

The addition of John Chavis will improve Texas A&M’s defense. We know Myles Garrett enjoyed a record-setting freshman campaign but Hall will also benefit from The Chief’s arrival. Hall bulked up to 260 pounds and is primed for a breakout season in 2015.


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

SEC Wild Card Players in 2015
Post date: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/disturbing-video-shows-florida-state-quarterback-punching-woman-bar-deandre-johnson

De'Andre Johnson is already suspended from Florida State football, and this video is not going to help matters for the young quarterback.


Johnson can be seen in the surveillance footage punching a female student a month ago. He is currently facing a misdemeanor battery charge because of the incident.

The victim suffered multiple injuries to her face, and was treated on the scene. Johnson turned himself in and was released on $500 bond. The quarterback did participate in spring practice with the team.


Florida State's program as a whole continues to be put under the microscrope because of incidents such as this. The school's president, John Thrasher issues a statement on the dismissal of Johnson.


Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 16:41
All taxonomy terms: Golf, Overtime
Path: /overtime/fox-news-anchor-calls-rory-mcilroy-leprechaun

Early this morning news broke of Rory McIlroy rupturing and ankle ligament while playing soccer.


During a segment on Fox News, while going to a commercial break, there was mention of the injury and one of the anchors couldn't help but to voice her opinion. She called the young golfer a "leprechaun" and stated she couldn't stand him. A simple check to make sure the microphone is off would have helped. 

Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 16:28
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/alabama-players-didnt-respect-cardale-jones-ohio-state-sugar-bowl-kirby-smart

Never underestimate your opponent.


Alabama learned that the hard way. In an interview with Atlanta's 680 The Fan, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart admitted that some of his players told him they didn't respect Cardale Jones heading into the Sugar Bowl.


"Looking back, when we had exit interviews with our players where you look in hindsight, I asked every kid, Landon Collins, Nick Perry, Jarrick Williams, the really smart [players] on our team, 'Where did we go wrong? What did we do wrong?' All three of them said, 'We did not respect the quarterback.' Our job as coaches was to make them respect the quarterback."


Jones threw for 242 yards and one touchdown, and added a rushing touchdown. The Buckeyes went on to win 42-35 and sent a shock through some in the college football world. Smart continued on about his players' lack of respect for Jones.


"They heard from the media, they heard from ESPN, they heard from everybody that he was a third-string quarterback," Smart said. "How can a third-string quarterback beat Alabama? We didn't promote him enough, and they didn't value his talents enough. And he came in — we thought he was a really good passer — well, he ran the ball well, too."


Let this be a lesson to over-prepare for everyone, no matter what string they play or who they play behind. The Tide could've avoided plays like this one.

(Source: 680 The Fan)

Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 13:23
Path: /college-football/ranking-toughest-games-notre-dames-college-football-schedule-2015

There was a lot of talk last season about how much conference titles mattered when it came to the College Football Playoff. The idea of an independent team being in the conversation didn't get a whole lot of attention, largely due to Notre Dame not being in the conversation down the stretch. That could very well change this season.


Related: Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2015 Preview and Prediction


From the looks of how things shook out in 2014, Notre Dame will need to finish its regular season unbeaten to claim a spot in the College Football Playoff. The degree of difficulty will vary dramatically from game to game — and not always based on the talent of the opponent. Timing and location are sure to play a part each week as well.


Here now are Notre Dame's 12 regular season games, ranked according to degree of difficulty from easiest to most difficult.


12. Sept. 26 vs. UMass

This would be a spot for a trap game, but the Minutemen are simply not talented enough to give the Irish much trouble, even if Brian Kelly's bunch was looking past them to the Clemson game.



11. Nov. 14 vs. Wake Forest

The toughest stretch of the schedule will be behind Notre Dame by this point. The Irish will know exactly where they stand. While Wake Forest cannot be completely overlooked, the Demon Deacons shouldn't be anything more than a speed bump along the way.



10. Nov. 21 vs. Boston College (at Fenway Park)

This game might have been a little higher in the rankings in previous years due to history alone. Weird things happen when these two teams meet up and don't forget the game is being played at Fenway Park. Unfortunately for Boston College, the Eagles just don't have to the horses to hang around in this one.



9. Nov. 7 at Pittsburgh

From a talent standpoint, the Panthers will be the inferior team. Do not, however, underestimate first-year coach Pat Narduzzi's ability to get his team up for the biggest game on its schedule in front of what should be a fairly packed house.



8. Sept. 12 at Virginia

The Irish will be coming off an emotional home opener against Texas and looking ahead to a gritty battle with Georgia Tech. Scott Stadium can get loud, and it'll never be louder than when the Irish come to town. Notre Dame will need to stay focused to avoid a hiccup in this one.



7. Oct. 10 vs. Navy

Another trap game scenario, this one takes place right between what will likely be Notre Dame's two toughest games of the season. Navy is never an easy team to prepare for, but scheduling doesn't do the Irish any extra favors in this case.



6. Nov. 28 at Stanford

There could be a lot riding on this game at this point. Notre Dame doesn't get a conference title game to put on a show for the Playoff committee, so style points could be almost as important as a win in this one. History tells us that there aren't many teams who earn style points in games at Stanford.



5. Oct. 31 at Temple

This will be far and away the biggest game on the schedule for Temple — a team many expect to be one of the better teams in the "Group of Five." This will be a "win by any means necessary" scenario for Notre Dame in a hostile environment on Halloween.



4. Sept. 5 vs. Texas

This one is going to draw a ton of eyes based on the names of the two programs alone. Nobody has any film to go off of in the first week, so nobody truly knows what to expect. Texas should be better than it was a season ago, and as always, the Longhorns will have athletes all over the field who can cause problems on both sides of the ball.



3. Sept. 19 vs. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets return the core of an extremely talented team from a season ago. They run an offense that travels well and like Navy's own unique attack is difficult to prepare for.



2. Oct. 3 at Clemson

Forget the fact the Clemson is expected by many to seriously contend for the ACC crown, Death Valley is one of the most intimidating places to play. Add Notre Dame into the mix and the place is going to be a madhouse, as this one could have serious Playoff implications riding on it.



1. Oct. 17 vs. USC

USC could have one of the top two or three rosters in the nation from a talent standpoint. The Trojans will have the best quarterback Notre Dame will face all season in Cody Kessler. He'll have the Heisman in his sights, while Steve Sarkisian and the Men of Troy will have the Playoff in theirs. If the Irish are undefeated at this point and can pull off a win at home, the Notre Dame faithful might not want to make any New Year's Eve plans they can't back out of.


— 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.

Ranking the Toughest Games on Notre Dame's Schedule in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 12:30
All taxonomy terms: Golf, News
Path: /golf/rory-mcilroy-ruptures-ankle-ligament-playing-soccer

Injuries off the field are certainly common occurrences, although they can often be devastating. They can often come from surprising reasons. Top-ranked Irish golfer Rory McIlroy announced on Instagram that he ruptured a ligament in his ankle while playing soccer with some friends. The picture shows him with a large boot around his left leg and crutches for both arms.


With the British Open set to start on July 16, McIlroy still seems poised to make a run at it. He stated that he has already begun rehab and will be evaluating the injury each day. McIlroy won last year’s British Open and will look to defend his title if he is healthy enough to play. 

See Rory McIlroy's Instagram post below:


Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 12:28
All taxonomy terms: News, World Cup
Path: /world-cup/us-defeats-japan-womens-world-cup-title

The U.S. Women’s National Team gave a whole new meaning to Fourth of July Weekend. While the country celebrated its 239th year of independence on Saturday, many anxiously awaited Sunday’s matchup with Japan. Any anxiety a fan might have had surely disappeared immediately, as the U.S. netted four goals in the first 16 minutes.


Forward Carli Lloyd scored a hat trick as the U.S. glided through the game with a 5-2 victory. The win gives the U.S. their third World Cup championship, avenging their heartbreaking loss to Japan in a penalty shoot-out in 2011. The team’s title allowed the country’s celebration of America to continue for another day.

Watch the highlights of the game below:

Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 12:01
Path: /college-football/breakdown-arkansas-razorbacks-front-four-defense

The Arkansas offensive line should be one of the best in the nation with four starters returning but the defensive front four is more of an unknown at this point after the loss of a pair of All-SEC linemen and recent NFL Draft picks in end Trey Flowers and tackle Darius Philon.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2015


The Hogs return two starters in the defensive trenches, end JaMichael Winston and tackle Taiwan Johnson.


Flowers, who was third on the team with 68 tackles and had a team-leading 15.5 tackles for a loss, was a fourth-round pick (101st overall) of the New England Patriots in May. Philon was seventh on the team in tackles with 46 and chipped in 11.5 tackles for a loss and was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the sixth round (192nd overall). Flowers also had a team-high 6.0 sacks while Philon was second with 4.5.


The production that Flowers and Philon contributed in sacks should be replaceable but their consistency of holding the line against the run and putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks is what will be missed most. Sophomore tackle Bijhon Jackson and junior Deatrich Wise are expected to fill in respectively for the two departed players.


Wise (6-2, 270) appears to have the physical presence to be an All-SEC performer. In 10 games played last year he had 13 tackles, 3.0 tackles for a loss, and 2.0 sacks. Expected to line up opposite of Wise is Winston. The junior appeared in all 13 games, recording 26 tackles, 2.0 tackles for a loss, but no sacks. This duo, with the help of junior college transfer Jeremiah Ledbetter and sophomore Tevin Beanum, must step up to help put pressure on opposing SEC quarterbacks to help a young but improving secondary on passing downs.


Jackson also got a lot of playing time as a true freshman but was still feeling his way around by and large. In 13 games he had nine tackles, 1.0 tackle for a loss, and did not record a sack. Behind Jackson and Johnson is senior tackle DeMarcus Hodge and freshman Armon Watts.


Hodge is a gap plug, coming in at 6-foot-1 and in the neighborhood of 340 pounds. A redshirt freshman, Watts (6-5, 295) has added significant weight to his frame after arriving on campus around 260 pounds. A year in the weight room has made a huge difference on paper, but only time will tell how that translates as a contributor on the two-deep.


Another defensive tackle everyone is waiting to see in action is incoming freshman Hjalte Froholdt. Froholdt was a 4-star recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The Denmark native was listed last season at 6-foot-5, 290 pounds. Seeing him person during his senior season, he was a lean-athletic 290 pounds.


Before his senior season he reported a bench press max in the 325-pound range and a squat max at 575 pounds. Nearly a year later and after spending a summer in Fayetteville with strength coach Ben Herbert and this true freshman could contribute sooner rather than later for the Razorbacks. His last reported weight was up to a solid 311 pounds.


Ledbetter is another new Razorback that impressed during spring workouts. Listed at 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, he was dynamic as a pass-rushing option, earning  second-team NJCAA All-America honors at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Recruiting services ranked Ledbetter as the No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the nation after posting 144 career tackles and 22.5 career sacks as a JUCO.


The ringleader for the Hogs' defense is coordinator Robb Smith and defensive line coach Rory Segrest. The Arkansas front made a dramatic leap forward under Smith in his first season in Fayetteville, going from a team that allowed 178.4 rushing yards per game to 114.6. That translated to a jump in the national rankings from No. 78 to No. 12 in rushing defense, and from No. 11 all the way to No. 2 in the SEC.


What to watch for coming out of fall camp


Hodge was pushing Jackson for the starting nose tackle spot. If the battle continues up front that only means little distinction between the two when the other is getting an in-game breather.


Wise has had some knee troubles as well as some off-the-field complications. Tevin Beanum (6-4, 271) could be the recipient of a starting position and more playing time if Wise’s commitment to the game continues to waiver.


Key backups coming off injuries are Brandon Lewis (6-4, 273) and Mitchell Loewen (6-5, 276). Both had off-season surgeries but are expected to be fully healthy for fall camp. Their presence at end should push the starters harder and make the Razorbacks that much better.


Jake Hall, Karl Roesler and Daytrieon Dean, if he returns healthy from shoulder surgery, could see playing time early in the season to see how they may fit into the Hogs' rotation up front or if someone misses time due to injury. 




Arkansas should be a deeper unit up front than it was last season. This unit still does not have that explosive playmaker Smith can count on game after game when it comes to recording that big sack or making the critical stop behind the line of scrimmage. However, the Razorbacks' defensive coordinator does have a lot of guys that could fit the bill, making this unit a fun one to watch due to a lot of promise but also a large unknown because it's still unproven and young as a whole. One thing helping the defensive front is an improving secondary that could help get coverage sacks in 2015.


— 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.

Breakdown of the 2015 Arkansas Razorbacks' Front Four on Defense
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/serena-defeats-older-sister-venus-wimbledon

There’s nothing like winning, and then there’s nothing like beating your older sister. Serena Williams, the WTA No. 1 player in the world, ousted No. 16 Venus Williams in straight sets (6-4, 6-3) at Wimbledon. The win by Serena moves her to 15-11 all time against Venus, who is a little more than a year older. The match seemed inevitable, as both tennis greats were high favorites in their previous three rounds of play.


Widely regarded as two of the greatest all time tennis stars, they have both ascended to fame against plenty of backlash. As dominant as they are in singles, when paired up for doubles, they are virtually unstoppable. However, they decided to withdraw from doubles in Wimbledon in order to focus on their singles. Serena will take on No. 23 Victoria Azarenka in the quarterfinals, where she expects to be the favorite again.  

See how Serena describes the win:


Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 11:42
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Pac-12, USC Trojans
Path: /college-football/usc-flips-former-ucla-wr-commitment-michael-pittman

This past October, Class of 2016 wide receiver Michael Pittman verbally committed to UCLA. By June 10 Pittman had decided to go a different direction. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound, highly regarded wide out decommitted from UCLA, naming USC and Oregon as his top two colleges.


On July 4 the Trojans' coaching staff got a little something more to cheer about when Pittman decided to stay in the Los Angeles area for college.


The Oaks Christian standout is a two-way star, lining up at wide receiver and safety flexing his 4.4 speed on both sides of the ball. This fall he also is expected to see time at linebacker to help slow opponents' running games.


During an interview with Pittman back in January, when asked if he was a hard or soft commitment to UCLA he responded saying, “Right now I am a soft verbal.”


During the same interview when asked which schools he may officially visit during his senior year he added, “I don’t know where I am going yet. I might use one on USC, one to UCLA, one maybe to Notre Dame – I’ll have to wait for all my final offers my senior year before I figure it all out.”


Pittman made the announcement during a family Fourth of July gathering becoming the third wide receiver commitment for USC in the 2016 recruiting class.


USC Trojans 2016 Commitment List

LB Daelin Hayes, 6-4, 250 lbs, Skyline HS, Ann Arbor, Michigan

LB Jordan Iosefa, 6-2, 216 lbs, St. Louis HS, Honolulu, Hawaii

LB Mique Juarez, 6-2, 222 lbs, North HS, Torrance, California

DE Liam Jimmons, 6-4, 240 lbs, Huntington Beach HS, Huntington Beach, California

DE Keanu Saleapaga, 6-5, 270 lbs, La Mirada HS, La Mirada, California

DT Keyshon Camp, 6-4, 275 lbs, Lake Gibson HS, Lakeland, Florida

OT Frank Martin, 6-5, 300 lbs, Mater Dei HS, Santa Ana, California

OT Nathan Smith, 6-7, 264 lbs, Murrieta Mesa HS, Murrieta, California

TE Cary Angeline, 6-7, 230 lbs, Dowingtown East HS, Exton, Pennsylvania

RB Melquise Stovall, 5-8, 180 lbs, Paraclete HS, Lancaster, California

QB Matt Fink, 6-3, 185 lbs, Glendora HS, Glendora, California

WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, 6-2, 205 lbs, North Gwinnett HS, Suwanee, Georgia

WR Velus Jones Jr., 5-11, 180 lbs, Saraland HS, Saraland, Alabama

WR Michael Pittman, 6-4, 205 lbs, Oaks Christian HS, Thousand Oaks, California


— 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.

USC Flips Former UCLA WR Commitment Michael Pittman
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/fans-fly-confederate-flags-against-nascars-desire

As the track at Daytona attempted to back away from NASCAR’s links with the Confederate flag, plenty of fans still displayed it proudly. For many, there was no need to trade in this flag for the American flag, as they are proud of both and displayed the flags at the track. The call to hide the flag at race events seemed to create a need for these people to show their support of it as part of their respect, heritage, and freedom.


While NASCAR has called to remove this image from its sport, it also understands that it has traditionally been a sport more popular in the South. People have been flying the Confederate flag proudly for years, and they never had any intention of stopping. Now under the attack, they feel that its display is essential.

Take a look at some pictures of the Flag's presence over the weekend:





Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-position-groups-under-pressure-2015

The terms “on the hot seat” or “under pressure” usually apply to quarterbacks and head coaches. After all, there’s an enormous amount of pressure on quarterbacks and coaches for any college football team. And needless to say, it’s difficult to challenge for a conference championship or national title if the quarterback play is an issue all year or if the coaching staff’s status is uncertain after a slow start.


Despite most of the preseason focus on other positions, the battles in the trenches, at linebacker, cornerback or in the receiving corps are just as important to any team’s success in 2015.


Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team


With that in mind, let’s set aside the quarterbacks and head coaches for a moment and examine some of the other positions that must produce from Power 5 teams in 2015.


Groups Under Pressure by Conference:

ACCBig 12Big TenPac-12SEC


College Football's Top 25 Position Groups Under Pressure in 2015


Alabama Defensive Backs

The receiving corps also deserves a mention here, but Alabama’s defense has to do a better job against the pass if this team wants to win the national title in 2015. Two starters return in the secondary in senior Cyrus Jones and junior Eddie Jackson. However, there’s a glaring void at safety with Landon Collins off to the NFL. Replacing Collins is expected to be senior Geno Smith or sophomore Hootie Jones, while sophomore Tony Brown and redshirt freshman Marlon Humphrey need to step up in the battle to start opposite of Cyrus Jones at cornerback. True freshmen Kendall Sheffield or Minkah Fitzpatrick may also factor in the mix. After giving up 19 pass plays of 30 yards or more last year, the Crimson Tide need better play from this unit.


Arizona State Wide Receivers

Jaelen Strong’s physical presence and big-play ability will be missed. To help alleviate the departure of Strong, along with Cameron Smith’s knee injury in the spring, the Sun Devils plan to shift D.J. Foster from running back to receiver on a full-time basis. Foster caught 62 passes in 2014 and should be the leading receiver for quarterback Mike Bercovici. Coordinator Mike Norvell is also counting on contributions from Gary Chambers, Eric Lauderdale and Ellis Jefferson. UCLA transfer Devin Lucien was a key pickup on the recruiting trail and should push for immediate playing time this fall.


Related: College Football's Top Transfers to Watch for 2015


Auburn Defensive Backs

With Will Muschamp calling the defensive signals, and end Carl Lawson back from injury, Auburn should show improvement after giving up 26.7 points per game in 2014. Getting Lawson and the performance of the defensive line on track is a key priority for Muschamp, but the secondary also needs attention after giving up 22 passing scores last year. Senior corner Jonathan Jones and junior safety Johnathan Ford are candidates for All-SEC honors, while additional help is expected to come in the form of transfers Tray Matthews (Georgia) and Blake Countess (Michigan). Depth is a concern here.


Related: Ranking All 128 College Football Coaches for 2015


Baylor Defensive Backs

The Bears return four starters from a secondary ranked 70th nationally in pass efficiency defense. Junior corner Xavien Howard and safety Orion Stewart are the group’s headliners and should perform at an All-Big 12 level in 2015. But coordinator Phil Bennett needs better overall play from this unit, with Howard and Stewart elevating their performance even higher. The Bears allowed 17 passing plays of 40 yards or more last season and 24 scores through the air. Those numbers have to decrease if Baylor is to earn a spot in the four-team playoff.


Related: Big 12 2015 Predictions


Clemson Offensive Line

Protecting quarterback Deshaun Watson is priority No. 1 for coach Dabo Swinney in 2015. The line was the biggest issue following spring practice, and the concerns about this unit only increased after Isaiah Battle left for the NFL supplemental draft. The Tigers allowed 27 sacks in 13 games last year and return only one starter (center Ryan Norton). The projected starting five have just 29 career starts, and true freshman Mitch Hyatt is expected to start at left tackle.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Florida Offensive Line

While the uncertainty at quarterback is a concern for Jim McElwain, the offensive line is probably the group keeping the first-year coach up at night. The Gators return only one starter (Trip Thurman), and depth is a major issue. This unit showed improvement under the direction of Mike Summers last season, and the veteran coach was retained by McElwain. Summers does have talent to build around, including sophomore David Sharpe at left tackle and five-star recruit Martez Ivey. Fordham graduate transfer Mason Halter is also expected to factor in the mix.


Related: College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2015


Florida State Linebackers

The offensive and defensive lines are also worth mentioning here, but the linebacker position has been depleted by departures and injuries. Senior Terrance Smith was injured off and on in 2014 and finished the year with 87 stops and two interceptions. He should be an all-conference performer (if healthy) in 2015. After Smith is where the questions begin for coordinator Charles Kelly. Senior Reggie Northrup is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the Rose Bowl, and sophomore Matthew Thomas is questionable to start the opener after offseason shoulder surgery. If Thomas and Northrup aren’t ready by September, the pressure builds on junior college recruit Lorenzo Phillips, sophomore Ro’Derrick Hoskins and redshirt freshman Delvin Purifoy.


Related: ACC Predictions for 2015


Georgia Wide Receivers

As we mentioned above, there’s no doubt quarterback play is the No. 1 concern on any roster. Georgia enters fall camp with uncertainty under center, as Brice Ramsey and Faton Bauta are locked into a tight battle for the top spot. But regardless of which player starts, the Bulldogs will be looking for improved play at receiver. Chris Conley and Michael Bennett expired their eligibility, leaving tight end Jeb Blazevich and receiver Malcolm Mitchell as the top targets. Will Mitchell stay healthy? And who steps up outside of Mitchell this year? Those are two key questions to watch in Athens.


Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions


LSU Defensive Ends

Make no mistake: Talent is not an issue for LSU in the trenches. The Tigers are anchored on the interior by junior Christian LaCouture and rising star in sophomore Davon Godchaux. But the pass rush is a concern for new coordinator Kevin Steele. Since LSU led the SEC with 38 sacks in 2011, the Tigers have watched their sack total decline for three consecutive seasons. Last year, LSU managed only 19 sacks in 13 games, with Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter (combined for 5.5 sacks) off to the NFL. Steele plans on incorporating more 3-4 looks, which adds to the uncertainty of the end/linebacker position. Juniors Tashawn Bower and Lewis Neal and sophomore Deondre Clark are three names to watch off the edge, along with true freshman Arden Key.


Related: SEC Football 2015 All-Conference Team


Michigan Offensive Line

In addition to quarterback play, this unit is the biggest concern for new coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have struggled to get steady play from this group over the last two years and allowed 17 sacks in Big Ten play last season. Not only are tweaks and improvements coming to the offense under Harbaugh, the offensive line also has a new coach in Tim Drevno. With four starters back, Harbaugh and Drevno should be able to squeeze some improvement out of this group. Left tackle Mason Cole is a name to watch in 2015.


Related: College Football's Top Transfers for 2015


Michigan State Defensive Backs

Michigan State’s “No Fly Zone” is looking a little vulnerable headed into fall camp. The Spartans lost safety Kurtis Drummond and cornerback Trae Waynes from a unit that allowed only six passing scores in Big Ten play in 2014. Junior Darian Hicks is a returning starter in the secondary, but both cornerback spots are up for grabs. Senior Arjen Colquhoun and freshman Vayante Copeland will compete with Hicks, one starting job at safety is in good hands with senior RJ Williamson, while sophomore Montae Nicholson is a breakout candidate in the secondary. The Spartans have one of the best defensive fronts in college football. Will the secondary quickly reload under new co-defensive coordinators Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel?


Missouri Wide Receivers

Defensive end also deserves a mention in this space after Missouri loses Shane Ray and Markus Golden, but the Tigers have reloaded there in recent years without much trouble. The same could be said for Missouri’s recent history at receiver, and there is talent to work with for quarterback Maty Mauk. However, the Tigers must replace their top four leading receivers from last season, with Nate Brown (five) and Wesley Leftwich (three) returning as the top options on the outside. 


Notre Dame Defensive Line

Scoring points won’t be a problem for the Fighting Irish, but the defense has to improve for Notre Dame to push for a playoff spot. In Brian VanGorder’s first season as the coordinator, the defense allowed 29.2 points per game and struggled to stop the run (171.2 yards allowed per game). Improving the defense starts up front, and four starters are back for VanGorder, including standout senior Sheldon Day. The depth and talent for this unit has improved in recent years. Will Notre Dame take a step forward on the defensive stat sheet in 2015?


Related: College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015


Ohio State Defensive Line

As the defending national champs, combined with 14 returning starters, there’s very little in the way of personnel concerns that should concern coach Urban Meyer. Considering the overall depth and roster talent, it seems odd to even list a position here. However, the Buckeyes lost a couple of key contributors up front, including standout tackle Michael Bennett. While Joey Bosa (DE) and Adolphus Washington (DT) are All-Americans, who will step up at the other spots and develop as key contributors for depth?


Related: 2015 All-America Team


Oklahoma Defensive Backs

A couple of position groups could be listed here for Oklahoma, including the offensive or defensive lines or the receiving corps. But the secondary deserves a mention in this space, as the Sooners fell from 29th nationally in pass efficiency defense (2013) to 55th last year. Oklahoma also allowed 24 passing plays of 30 yards or more (tied for sixth in the conference). Junior Zack Sanchez should be a candidate for All-America honors, but who will step up around him? Sophomores Jordan Thomas (CB) and Steven Parker (S) are two names to watch.


Related: Ranking the Big 12's Coaches for 2015


Ole Miss Offensive Line

There are few areas of concern for coach Hugh Freeze in 2015. However, the two biggest problem spots – quarterback and offensive line – are enough to prevent this team from winning the SEC West. In 13 games last season, the Rebels allowed 31 sacks and generated just 3.9 yards per carry in conference play. With all five starters back in the trenches, Freeze should expect better play up front. The anchor is junior Laremy Tunsil, but he is recovering from a leg injury suffered in the Peach Bowl loss against TCU. Depth and overall talent in this group has improved. Will the performance and improvement show on the field this year?


Related: Ranking All 128 College Football Coaches for 2015


Oregon Defensive Line

There’s no question quarterback play will be under the microscope with Marcus Mariota off to the NFL. But the Ducks are loaded with skill talent and may not drop too much in terms of offensive production with Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams under center. The defense is a bigger concern for coach Mark Helfrich. Oregon allowed 21 rushing plays of 20 yards or more, which tied for 10th among Pac-12 defenses. DeForest Buckner opted to return to Eugene for his senior year, but Arik Armstead left for the NFL and Sam Kamp retired at the end of 2014. Buckner and fellow seniors Alex Balducci and Tui Talia is a good core to build around. Sophomore Henry Mondeaux is another name to watch at defensive end. And it certainly doesn’t hurt the coaching staff reeled in top recruit Canton Kaumatule in the offseason.


Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015


Penn State Offensive Line

Much has been made of the performance of Penn State’s offensive line last year. The Nittany Lions couldn’t generate much of a push in the rushing attack and allowed 44 sacks. And headed into the 2015 season, this unit is still the team’s biggest question mark. Line coach Herb Hand is one of the best in the nation, and there’s reason to believe improvement will be noticeable with four starters back. Junior college recruit Paris Palmer could be a huge addition on the left side of the line, as this group has to do a better job of giving quarterback Christian Hackenberg time to throw.


Stanford Defensive Line

Even though the Cardinal loses a handful of key contributors from last year’s defense, coordinator Lance Anderson could keep this unit among the best in the Pac-12. Reaching that level will require a quick rebuild up front. All three starters from a productive 2014 group are gone and depth is an issue. Senior Aziz Shittu and sophomore Harrison Phillips will be counted on for major contributions, while Cal transfer Brennan Scarlett is likely to push for a starting job at end. Redshirt freshman Solomon Thomas is also a name to remember.


Related: Quarterback Kevin Hogan Rides Momentum into Senior Year


TCU Linebackers

There are few areas of concern for coach Gary Patterson. The Horned Frogs finished 2014 at 12-1 overall, and Patterson’s team is in good shape to push for a playoff bid once again. Although defense is usually a strength for TCU, this unit does have a few critical areas of concern. The secondary loses three All-Big 12 performers, and the linebacking corps must replace standouts Marcus Mallet and first-team All-Big 12 selection in Pawl Dawson. Proven experience is thin here, and true freshman Mike Freeze and junior Sammy Douglas finished spring as the favorites to start.


Related: Big 12 2015 All-Conference Team


Tennessee Offensive Line

The Volunteers had to replace all five starters from its 2013 unit last season. And it was no surprise this group had its share of struggles, allowing 43 sacks in 13 games and generating only 3.6 yards per carry. The inconsistency and development of this group last year should pay dividends for 2015. Tennessee returns four starters this season, and the depth has improved with the addition of talented freshmen Drew Richmond and Jack Jones. If this group takes a step forward in its development, the Volunteers should have one of the SEC’s top offenses.


Related: SEC Football 2015 Predictions


UCLA Offensive Line

This unit was under attack last year, as the Bruins gave up 40 sacks in 13 contests. While the sack total was high, this unit played better in the second half of the season, and there’s optimism for 2015. With all five starters returning, the offensive line could be a strength for UCLA. Left tackle Conor McDermott stabilized this unit after he started the last eight games of 2014 and is expected to anchor the blindside for quarterback Josh Rosen. Center Jake Brendel is also one of the best in the nation. With a true freshman taking over at quarterback, UCLA needs its supporting cast to step up in a big way with key games against Arizona, Arizona State and BYU early in the year.


USC Defensive Line

With Leonard Williams off to the NFL, USC has to reload in the trenches and find a new player to disrupt opposing offenses. In Pac-12-only matchups last year, the Trojans allowed the fewest yards per game (97.4) but also faced the fewest attempts (298). Additionally, Williams and departed senior J.R. Tavai accounted for 14 of the team’s 33 sacks last season. It’s up to seniors Delvon Simmons, Antwaun Woods and Claude Pelon to keep this unit performing at a high level. Depth is a concern for coordinator Justin Wilcox.


Related: Pac-12 Predictions for 2015


Virginia Tech Offensive Line

This unit has been a question mark in recent years, and the Hokies need better play in the trenches on offense to get back to the ACC Championship. This unit allowed 34 sacks last season, and the rushing attack averaged only 3.2 yards per carry in ACC games. Improvement for this group rests on the development of junior left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin and sophomore guard Wyatt Teller. Both players should be in the mix for All-ACC honors and could develop into one of the ACC’s top pairings on the left side of the line. Promising pieces are in place for line coach Stacy Searels. How much will this unit improve by the fall?

Related: Ranking the ACC Cornerback Tandems for 2015


West Virginia Wide Receivers

It’s safe to assume a Dana Holgorsen-coached offense will continue to rank among the Big 12’s best even with a few personnel question marks. But in order for Holgorsen to elevate West Virginia in the conference standings, the play of the receiving corps will be under the spotlight. No. 1 target Kevin White (109 catches) and Mario Alford (65) have expired their eligibility, leaving Jordan Thompson, Daikiel Shorts and Shelton Gibson as the top returning options at wide receiver. Running back Wendell Smallwood may also see time on the outside to help alleviate the losses of Alford and White. Incoming freshmen Gary Jennings and Jovon Durante, along with junior college recruit Ka’Raun White (Kevin’s brother) may also crack the rotation. 

College Football's Top 25 Position Groups Under Pressure in 2015
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 11:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-pac-12-stadiums-2015

Last summer, Athlon Sports asked 10 Pac-12 experts like Rick Neuheisel, Dan Hawkins, Chris HustonRyan Nece and more to rank their favorite stadiums in the Pac-12.


Based on general atmosphere, fan support, home-field advantage, amenities, tailgating, surrounding campus and even scoreboards, here is how the voting shook out.


However, attendance is an increasing concern for all athletic directors and tweaks are made to college football stadiums every year. Using our expert rankings, here is a statistical breakdown and update of Pac-12 stadiums and how they stack up against each other entering the 2015 season.


1. Autzen Stadium, Oregon

Oregon isn't the biggest stadium in the land, ranked 31st nationally in attendance and seventh in the Pac-12 in capacity, but it's the fullest. The Ducks led the league at 106.3 percent average capacity in 2014. Smooth design lines, a beautiful setting, signature, two-tone green field turf, a brand new digital scoreboard and outrageously loud fans make Autzen Stadium one of the nation’s top venues.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
196754,000 (7th)57,422 (31st)106.3% (1st)

60,055 ('11)

2. Husky Stadium, Washington

With a breath-taking view of Lake Washington, new Husky Stadium is one of the finest facilities in the nation. The trademark cantilever roofs trap sound and make the venue one of the Pac-12’s loudest. The Huskies finished behind only UCLA and USC in attendance last fall, ranking 25th nationally.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192070,138 (3rd)64,508 (25th)91.9% (6th)76,125 ('95)



3. Rose Bowl, UCLA

There may not be more hallowed ground in college football than the Rose Bowl. The building is 30 minutes from campus, but that didn't keep the Bruins from leading the Pac-12 in attendance last year at 76,650 per game (19th nationally) — up a Pac-12-leading nine percent from 2013. Strangely enough, Jim Mora has lost four of his last seven at home and his home record (13-6) is worse than his road mark (16-5) while at UCLA. The Rose Bowl also holds the current Pac-12 single-game attendance record — even if it was USC and Ohio State.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192192,542 (2nd)76,650 (19th)82.8% (9th)106,869 ('73)


4. Folsom Field, Colorado

When the Buffs are good, this is one of the greatest places to watch a game in the nation. Unfortunately, the Buffs weren't good last year, finishing 61st in attendance nationally and last in the league at just 70.5 percent full. This building, like the team, is all potential right now and needs lots of work.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192453,613 (8th)37,778 (61st)70.5% (12th)54,972 ('05)



5. Los Angeles Coliseum, USC

The biggest venue in the Pac-12 is home to the Men of Troy and can almost be too massive at times. USC finished behind only UCLA in attendance last year (21st nationally) but was just 10th in the league at 78.3 percent full. Much-needed, newer end zone seating has brought fans closer to the action.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192393,607 (1st)73,272 (21st)78.3% (10th)105,236 ('47)

Related: Pac-12 Football Teams as Rock and Roll Bands

6. Memorial Stadium, Cal

This venue was in dire need of an upgrade and the administration has done a great job refurbishing one of the more unique stadiums in the Pac-12. The $321 million renovation took two years but was hailed as a rousing success. The fifth-biggest building in the league has been home to bad teams but it still managed to draw nearly 50,000 per game. As this team improves, look for Cal to move up in attendance rankings.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192362,467 (5th)47,675 (47th)76.3% (11th)83,000 ('47/'52)


7. Rice-Eccles Stadium, Utah

There is work to be done to make this place competitive in the league from a facilities standpoint despite being the newest venue in the league, but that hasn't kept the fans away. Utah was one of only two teams in the league to average over capacity (101.4 percent full) last fall.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
199845,807 (10th)46,437 (50th)101.4% (2nd)46,768 ('03)


8. Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State

The crowd is one of the most beautiful in the nation and climbing nearby Tempe Butte is a rite of passage for many. Arizona State claims the fourth-largest venue in the league and routinely led the Pac-12 in attendance during the 1980s. In 2014, ASU was fourth in the league in attendance and 32nd nationally. Renovations are underway. Its league-leading nine percent drop in attendance in 2014 was due in part to a drop in capacity.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195865,870 (4th)57,179 (32nd)86.8% (8th)74,963 ('96)
9. Arizona Stadium, Arizona

The recent $378 million renovation project added a new video board, upgraded team facilities and football offices while expanding seating in the north end zone. In fact, Arizona Stadium might be a bit underrated, ranking seventh or better in the league in capacity, attendance and percentage. It trailed only UCLA (+9 percent) with a growth of six percent from '13.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192856,029 (6th)50,710 (42nd)90.5% (7th)59,920 ('96)


10. Stanford Stadium, Stanford

The Farm's amenities are second-to-none and the state-of-the-art building is located on one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation. It's not the loudest of places but the quality football team has kept the venue full, placing Stanford third in the league at 94.9 percent of capacity last fall. The second-oldest building in the league is ninth in capacity but sixth in attendance. Its six percent drop in attendance was second-worst in the league last year (Arizona State).


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
192150,424 (9th)47,862 (46th)94.9% (3rd)51,607 ('10)


11. Reser Stadium, Oregon State

Quaint Reser Stadium ranked fifth in the Pac-12 at 92.3 percent full last season despite an average team while also being the second-smallest venue in the league. Recent renovations gave Oregon State faithful one of the biggest video boards in the nation, expanded seating in the end zones, hip upgrades to the East Grandstand and improved amenities. Future plans also call for more growth, targeting a 55,000 seat capacity by 2016.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
195345,674 (11th)42,176 (53rd)92.3% (5th)46,469 ('10)


12. Martin Stadium, Washington State

During a big game, Martin Stadium will pop to life and make fans forget the building is the smallest in the league. Or that it’s located in the Pac-12’s most distant outpost. Wazzu did finish fourth in the league last fall at 93.5 percent full on average, despite finishing last in total attendance.


OpenedCapacity (Rk)'14 Avg. (Rk)% (Rk)Record (Yr)
197232,952 (12th)30,794 (72nd)93.5% (4th)40,306 ('97)
Ranking the Pac-12 Stadiums for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/sec-teams-rival-colors-georgia-alabama-auburn-texas-am-florida-ole-miss-lsu

One mark of pride for college football fans are the colors of their beloved football team. 


Some crazy person out there decided to put SEC teams in the colors of their most-hated rivals. Alabama in Auburn colors, Georgia rocking the white and gold of Georgia Tech, and Texas A&M in the burnt orange of Texas. Seriously, it's bad.


Rivalry Uniform (SEC)


(h/t College Spun

Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 10:06
Path: /college-football/secs-10-most-underrated-players-2015

Every college football team has players most would consider underrated. However, defining underrated players is no easy assignment, as that term varies in meaning between fans and experts.


The SEC is home to college football’s best talent, and with this conference always in the spotlight, it’s hard for players to be under the radar each preseason.


With the 2015 season approaching, Athlon Sports wanted to take a look at some players deserving of more preseason accolades or discussion. In an effort to get to 10 names, we tried to stick to players that had yet to earn all-conference honors in their career. However, a few exceptions were made.


SEC’s 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015


Otaro Alaka, LB, Texas A&M

Alaka is definitely a breakout candidate for 2015, but the Texas native is an underrated piece to the rebuilding effort on defense for new coordinator John Chavis. Alaka recorded 33 tackles in 12 games last year, including a season high of seven in the Liberty Bowl win over West Virginia. Even though Alaka has yet to take a full season of snaps as a starter, his development will be critical to Texas A&M’s defense in 2015. And if Alaka picks up where he left off in the Liberty Bowl, the Aggies linebacking corps should show big improvement.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Wide Receiving Corps for 2015


Kendell Beckwith, LB, LSU

Talent has never been an issue for Beckwith. The top 100 high school recruit played in 12 games as a true freshman in 2013, but everything started to fall into place for the Louisiana native last year. Beckwith started the final seven games and finished 2014 with 77 tackles (7.5 for a loss), two sacks and one interception. With Beckwith entrenched in the starting lineup, LSU allowed only one team (Notre Dame) over the final seven contests to surpass 140 rushing yards. Beckwith clearly had a huge impact on this defense last year and will be an even bigger part of the scheme as new coordinator Kevin Steele hopes to utilize more 3-4 looks.


Related: No Pressure: LSU's 2015 Season Will Hinge on its Quarterbacks


Kenya Dennis, CB, Missouri

Dennis or fellow Missouri corner Aarion Penton deserve a mention in this space. This duo anchored a secondary ranked 39th nationally in pass efficiency defense, and no opponent in 2014 recorded more than 270 yards through the air in a game last season. In his first season from the junior college ranks, Dennis recorded 61 stops, one interception and nine pass breakups.


Related: Ranking the SEC's Coaches for 2015


Marquis Haynes, DE, Ole Miss

Haynes was surprisingly a key piece of the Ole Miss defensive front as a true freshman last year. The Florida native recorded 31 tackles (nine for a loss) and led the team with 7.5 sacks. Haynes also forced three fumbles and broke up two passes. After a standout freshman campaign, Haynes will only get better with another year to develop in the weight room and within the scheme. Look for Haynes to push for All-SEC honors in 2015.


Related: SEC Predictions for 2015


Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee

Sutton has started all 25 games in his Tennessee career, and the Georgia native has quietly emerged as one of the SEC’s top defenders. Yet, headed into the 2015 campaign, Sutton has yet to earn All-SEC honors. In two seasons with the Volunteers, Sutton has recorded 76 tackles, 20 pass breakups and five interceptions. He’s also a key cog in a pass defense that held SEC opponents to just 11 passing scores last year.


Related: SEC 2015 All-Conference Team


John Theus, OT, Georgia

Georgia’s offensive line could be the nation’s best in 2015. This unit allowed only 12 sacks in SEC games last season and cleared the way for the Bulldogs to average 257.9 rushing yards per contest. Theus and guard Greg Pyke are the anchors for Georgia’s offensive line, and both players could earn All-America consideration in 2015. Theus enters his senior year with 35 career starts and is regarded as one of the top offensive linemen for the 2016 NFL Draft.


Related: College Football 2015 All-America Team


Jon Toth, C, Kentucky

Kentucky’s offensive line should show marked improvement with the return of four starters for 2015. Toth and seniors Zach West and Jordan Swindle anchor the line for coach Mark Stoops, and any of the players in that trio could earn All-SEC honors this season. Toth enters 2015 with 23 consecutive starts and earned a place on the SEC’s All-Freshman team in 2014. Toth could emerge as one of the league’s top centers by the end of this year.


Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State

Despite having zero career starts, Redmond is regarded as one of the top defensive backs for the 2016 NFL Draft. Why? It’s a bit of a technicality on the starts, as Redmond has excelled as the team’s nickel back over the last two seasons. The Memphis native played in 12 games last year and recorded 51 tackles and three interceptions. Redmond should team with Taveze Calhoun to form one of the nation’s top cornerback tandems in 2015.


Related: Ranking College Football's Top Cornerback Tandems for 2015


Stephen Weatherly, LB, Vanderbilt

With Derek Mason taking over the defensive signals, the Commodores should show improvement after allowing 33.3 points per game in 2014. And in Vanderbilt’s 3-4 attack, Mason needs the outside linebackers to generate a pass rush on opposing quarterbacks to reduce some of the pressure on the secondary. Weatherly tied for second among SEC defenders in conference games with 12 tackles for a loss and finished 2014 with 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Entering his second full season as a starter, Weatherly is a defender just scratching the surface of his upside.


Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas

Yes, Williams earned second-team All-SEC honors last year, but it’s still fair to say the Texas native is still an underrated player. Williams shared carries with Alex Collins for the second consecutive season and finished 2014 with 1,190 yards and 12 rushing scores. In the Razorbacks’ seven victories last year, Williams averaged 6.3 yards per carry and averaged 107.3 yards in that span. Considering Arkansas uses two running backs and one player doesn’t get 275-300 carries, Williams or Collins won’t match the production by Georgia’s Nick Chubb or LSU’s Leonard Fournette this year. However, don’t overlook Williams as a potential All-America back in 2015.


Related: College Football's Top Coordinators on the Rise for 2015

The SEC's 10 Most Underrated Players for 2015
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/spectacular-austin-dillon-crash-daytona-video

During the final lap of the rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race, driver Austin Dillon—behind the wheel of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet—was involved in a spectacular crash that sent his car flying into the catchfence at Daytona International Speedway. 


While Dillon walked away from the accident, debris from his car flew into the stands hitting a handful of spectators. According to reports, fours fans were treated at the track, while one spectator was taken to the hospital. 


The incident occured as Dale Earnhardt Jr. took home the checkered flag. 

Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 09:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News, Magazines
Path: /magazines/big-12-middle-recruiting-crisis

Mike Gundy sat in his office, admiring the framed jerseys of the six first-round NFL Draft picks of his time at Oklahoma State. He considered, too, where they came from.


“Four of them weren’t even recruited,” Gundy said.


Not coveted prospects, carrying the sparkling five-star status that every prep player desires. Not the talk of recruitniks on National Signing Day. “The other guys,” Gundy said, “they weren’t very highly recruited. For that reason, I don’t put a lot of stock in recruiting rankings.”


Perhaps not, and Gundy has a strong track record of making more out of less in terms of prospect perceptions, evident in the jersey wall decorations adorning his office: Brandon Pettigrew, Russell Okung, Dez Bryant, Justin Blackmon, Brandon Weeden and Justin Gilbert.


Still, others are taking stock of Big 12 recruiting as a whole, coming off a February in which the conference lagged significantly in the rankings. That stock watch is trending down.


Moreover, the Big 12 hasn’t claimed a national championship since 2005, and it hasn’t played for one since 2009. It found itself shut out of the first College Football Playoff, failing to land even one of the four spots to conclude last season. Maybe some concern is in order?


This Feature and More are Available in the 2015 Athlon Sports Big 12 Preview Magazine


Don’t expect anyone in the Big 12 to cop to such a stance. No coach ever met a recruiting class — his recruiting class — that he couldn’t gush over publicly. Case in point, Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads, whose class was ranked No. 9 in the Big 12 and No. 70 nationally by the 247Sports Composite, just ahead of Kansas, which was recruiting with a just-hired head coach:


“We had a great finish with the class of 2015,” Rhoads said on Signing Day. “In previous years, we pretty much had a full understanding of where we were by the middle of January. With this particular class, we were in a lot of fights in the last two weeks leading up to Signing Day. We closed in tremendous fashion. We picked up much-needed size, physical explosiveness on both lines, great skill in the backfield and overall numbers that were necessary for success in 2015.”


Critique of Big 12 recruiting doesn’t focus on Iowa State, but rather the league’s regular contenders. Even there, you’ll find warning signs. Texas was the only Big 12 team to crack the 247Sports Composite top 10, and that was at No. 10. Oklahoma came in at No. 15. From there, it was a major drop-off to Texas Tech at No. 31. The rest: No. 35 West Virginia, No. 36 Baylor, No. 39 Oklahoma State, No. 40 TCU, No. 53 Kansas State, No. 70 Iowa State and No. 72 Kansas.


Big 12 teams signed but nine of the 247Sports Composite’s top 100 players and three of the top 70.


247Sports Composite Top 100
ConferenceRecruits Signed
Big 129
Big Ten8
Notre Dame4


Equally troubling is the league’s performance in the fertile recruiting landscape of Texas, where the Longhorns and Sooners have long dominated and the rest of the Big 12 has scored strong as well. But in February, the conference pulled only two of the Lone Star State’s top 10, while 26 of the top 50 — the state’s premium prospects — fled to other conferences, 21 to the SEC. It appears to be a trend, too, with the SEC plucking five of the top 10 prospects in 2014. The Big 12 managed signatures from only 23 of the top 50 that year. The SEC also grabbed three of the state’s five-star recruits.


“Three years from now, look at the signing class and see how those kids are playing,” says West Virginia assistant coach Joe DeForest, long considered one of the Big 12’s top recruiters. “That’s when you know.”


The hope come 2018 may be that it’s not too late.


Of course, that’s assuming the outside recruiting analysts are to be taken seriously. Coaches, for the most part, suggest otherwise.


“It’s about, what does the film say, first and foremost,” says Oklahoma assistant Jay Boulware. “Once you identify a guy on tape, then you go out and see what he looks like physically, in person. Can he play at this level physically? If those two things check out, then it doesn’t matter whether, excuse my language, some reporter has labeled this kid as a four- or five-star. What matters is what we see as coaches. I can look at a guy like Dimitri Flowers, who is here and was a three-star. He’s a true freshman who is playing for us on Saturdays. That’s big. That’s not one of the top-notch guys in the country. I don’t care where I’ve been, that kid will be playing for us anywhere. He’s that type of player.”


That’s the evaluation side of the recruiting process from a coaching standpoint; a trained-eye standpoint. Not just stopwatches and bench-presses, but other measurables, along with intangibles, too. “It’s not just talent,” DeForest says. “There has to be a personality fit as well.”


During Gundy’s run, Oklahoma State has signed just one high school recruit who received a five-star ranking by any of the recruiting services, running back Herschel Sims out of Abilene, Texas. Sims got in trouble, was dismissed and is now at Abilene Christian, after also washing out at Lamar.


“I will say this,” Gundy says, “five-star guys, they’re pretty accurate because they’re easy to identify. Just like McDonald’s All-Americans in basketball, most times they’re pretty good. There’s only so many of them.


“You don’t see many five-stars in football, so most of them have been pretty accurate. We had one; didn’t pan out.”


247Sports Top 100 Recruits Signed by the Big 12


The Cowboys have made their rise in the Big 12 on the backs of players they evaluated differently than others. To an extent, so have Baylor and TCU, who have accounted for the past two Big 12 championships, winning with 3-star recruits at quarterback — Bryce Petty for the Bears and Trevone Boykin for the Horned Frogs — both of whom have been All-Big 12 and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.


Mack Brown recruited supposedly elite classes almost annually to Texas yet was fired amid complaints about his evaluation skills. In 2012, Texas ranked second nationally in recruiting, and OU was No. 12. Yet no player in that Longhorns class has played on a conference title team. Instead, it’s been TCU and Baylor, who ranked No. 29 and No. 26, respectively, that year, who have upped the ante in the league with their cast of three-stars.


“I’ve been at West Virginia now going on my fourth year,” DeForest says. “I’ve coached two Freshman All-American safeties, the Lou Groza Award finalist, an All-American kick returner, an All-American punt returner. But those guys weren’t all that in the recruiting world.


“Karl Joseph was a ‘Mike’ linebacker in high school in Orlando, Fla. Now he’s one of the best safeties in the country. Josh Lambert had nothing in the way of a scholarship offer until I got there in January and we were in dire need of a kicker. Two years later, he’s a Lou Groza Award finalist.”


Related: 2015 Big 12 Preview and Picks


The second part of the evaluation equation: development.


Even five-star players need to be developed, no matter how college-ready they seem. But for teams like TCU, Baylor, OSU, West Virginia and Kansas State — Bill Snyder is considered the king of player development — molding players is their calling card.


When Snyder’s 2014 class actually made a ripple in the recruiting rankings, the coach hardly sounded any trumpets. “I think it is a good class,” Snyder says. “How will it rank? Who knows? A bunch of those guys are ranked extremely high by ESPN. There are 13 of our guys who are ranked, at their position, in the top 44 of the country. Some of them are high school; some of them are community college. You know me. That doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. That doesn’t mean it will be a great class or a bad class or anything else. … It will prove itself out.”


The Horned Frogs have ranked higher than No. 30 in the 247Sports Composite rankings only once — they came in at No. 29 in 2012.


“I really think it’s about player development. I think it’s about fit and player development,” DeForest says. “I don’t think rankings mean anything. The people who get caught up in that are the fans. The coaches don’t. Now, some coaches have bonuses tied up in it, if you get a top-10 class, you get a bonus, things like that.


“Social media, rankings, the fact that ESPN is doing an entire day on it — on Signing Day — I think it’s gotten out of hand. That’s my opinion. But I do think that coaches who get ‘two-stars’ and develop them into three-year starters at the Division-I level and give them an opportunity to go to the NFL, those are the coaches who are lot more valuable.”


Boulware sees it similarly. And he finds value in a very specific style of player. “There are a lot of guys that go off press clippings,” Boulware says. “It means something to their staff to have a top-five or top-10 recruiting class. That’s nice. I get it. What matters to me is winning football games and winning football games with the right people.


“The guys that fit into our program, good character young men that physically have all the tools and the things that we look for, if they have those, that’s who we’re going after.”


-by John Helsley,

Is the Big 12 in the Middle of a Recruiting Crisis?
Post date: Monday, July 6, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/who-will-tiger-woods-date-next

Who will Tiger Woods date next, now that he has broken up with Lindsey Vonn?

— Jessica S., Scottsdale, Ariz.

For those so inclined, gambling website Paddy Power recently placed odds on Tiger’s next girlfriend. Ex-wife Elin Nordegren (7/1) leads the field, which is logical since she is the mother of his two children, Sam and Charlie. Then again, there’s a reason Elin went through a $100-million divorce with Tiger. After that, singer Nicole Scherzinger (12/1), model Irina Shayk (16/1) and actress Cameron Diaz (16/1) are the leading ladies. There are a few eyebrow-raising long shots, including Lindsay Lohan (25/1), Rihanna (33/1), Danica Patrick (33/1), Jennifer Aniston (40/1), Britney Spears (50/1) and Pippa Middleton (100/1). Don’t bet on it.

Post date: Saturday, July 4, 2015 - 10:54
Path: /college-football/notre-dame-lands-4-star-florida-og-70-scholarship-offers-parker-boudreaux

Notre Dame added their 11th verbal commitment to their 2016 recruiting class on Thursday but what turned out to be more interesting is how Parker Boudreaux made his announcement.


Boudreaux is a 6-foot-4, 287-pound, offensive lineman for Bishop Moore Catholic. The Orlando, Florida area native looks like a Brock Lesnar understudy but has clearly been influenced by “World’s Strongest Man” competitions. During a two-minute long video set to a background of music, the Class of 2016 recruit pulled an 8-ton school bus down the road and then walked next to a chalked or spray painted Notre Dame helmet next to the Fighting Irish leprechaun logo stating, “I’d fight for the Irish any day.”


The recruit with over 70 reported scholarship offers added, “South Bend, get ready for me.”


Check out video of Boudreaux's commitment:


The list of 70 scholarship offers was trimmed to Georgia Southern, Florida, Oklahoma, Clemson, and Notre Dame on June 17 after taking some 25 unofficial visits. Schools who hosted Boudreaux included Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Florida among others.


Boudreaux is the third offensive lineman to join Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class and fourth from the state of Florida.



Notre Dame 2016 Verbal Commitment List

CB/WR Jalen Elliott, 6’1”, 175 lbs, Lloyd C. Bird HS, Chesterfield, Virginia

CB Julian Love, 5’11”, 175 lbs, Nazareth Academy, LaGrange Park, Illinois

SS Spencer Perry, 6’3”, 200 lbs, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

LB Jamir Jones, 6’3”, 230 lbs, Aquinas Institute, Rochester, New York

DE Julian Okwara, 6’4”, 220 lbs, Ardrey Kell HS, Charlotte, North Carolina

OG Parker Boudreaux, 6’4”, 287 lbs, Bishop Moore Catholic, Orlando, Florida

OT Liam Eichenberg, 6’6”, 290 lbs, St. Ignatius HS, Cleveland, Ohio

OT Tommy Kraemer, 6’5”, 305 lbs, Elder HS, Cincinnati, Ohio

LS John Shannon, 6’2”, 230 lbs, Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois

RB Tony Jones Jr., 6’0”, 212 lbs, IMG Academy, Bradenton, Florida

WR Kevin Stepherson, 6’0”, 180 lbs, First Coast HS, Jacksonville, Florida

Notre Dame Lands 4-Star Florida OG With 70 Scholarship Offers
Post date: Friday, July 3, 2015 - 12:19
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Overtime
Path: /overtime/nathans-hot-dog-eating-champ-joey-chestnut-teaches-us-how-eat-69-hot-dogs-10-minutes

On the Fourth of July, onlookers will watch in amazement during the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, as competitive eaters scarf down dozens of dogs in an Independence Day tradition unlike any other. We spoke with the event’s eight-time defending champ Joey Chestnut, 31, a man whose career consumption numbers are staggering: 69 hot dogs in 10 minutes, a world-record 182 chicken wings in 10 minutes and 390 shrimp in a single sitting just because he could. 


Joey Chestnut Hot Dog Eating ChampHere are his secrets to success:


Qualify to Conquer

“It takes close to 30 hot dogs to advance in a Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifier. If you want to do this, keep a food diary and pay attention to how your body responds to how much you’re eating. It’s not about all that you can eat; it’s about making your body work for you for those 10 minutes.”


Fast, Then Furious

“I follow a very strict diet. The day after every practice, I eat yogurt and a salad and then I go into fasting, drinking only water. When I was young I thought I didn’t need a diet, but I do my best the thinner I am. I swim every day in my pool. …


“I’ve done this for nine years, and I’ve slowly built up my tolerance. During the competitive season in the summer, I follow a cycle where I practice every fourth day and then I fast for two days. My practices mimic the competitions. If I’m preparing for the hot dog contest, I try to eat 60 hot dogs in 10 minutes.”


Liquid Diet

“I’ll fast three days before an event, and during that time I’ll drink three to six gallons of water a day. It’s very much a cleanse to make sure I go into the competition empty. The day of the event I’ll drink a small amount of water and some coffee. … 


“Water helps the food settle down deep in my stomach. Soaking the bun also makes swallowing faster. I don’t ever worry about liquid capacity. I’ve found the more liquid I consume, the easier it is to digest the food.”


No Pain, No Gain …

“Like how runners hit that wall, I do feel the point when my body tells me to stop. I’m pretty good at ignoring that feeling. I even have ‘Ignore Feelings’ written on my mirror at home. I accept that it is going to hurt, and that makes it easier to push through it.”


… No Fear

“Like a professional swimmer can’t imagine choking on water during a race, I can’t imagine choking on hot dogs. It looks like I’m not chewing, but I’m chewing just enough to swallow.”


—by Matt McCue

Post date: Friday, July 3, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-suspends-rolando-mcclain-antonio-gates-and-sheldon-richardson-four-games

The NFL brought down the gauntlet today, suspending Cowboys’ linebacker Rolando McClain and Jets’ defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson. Both players received their punishments for not complying with the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse.


Additionally, San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was suspended four games for PEDs.


The penalties will be a crushing blow to all three teams, as the suspended players were top performers. However, they will still be allowed to participate in camps, practices, and preseason games. The suspensions will simply keep them out of playing in the first four games should they be upheld.

The NFL announced these suspensions via Twitter:



Post date: Thursday, July 2, 2015 - 16:15