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The preseason top 25 is a starting point as much as it is a prediction of what’s to come. We've had our share of hits and misses over the years, some No. 1 teams that have won championships, some leaps of faith tha panned out and some that did.
Certainly, we want to nail every pick, but we're just fine if not everything goes to plan. Who wants to watch a sport they can forecast perfectly months before the season?
Now that the Athlon top 25 has been released, and our magazines are available all across America, this is a perfect time to look back at this year’s top 25 and how teams rank compared to years past.
In some ways, this is a typical year. Ohio State and Alabama sit near the top of the rankings, which is pretty much a sure-thing at this point.
But at the same time, teams like Baylor, TCU and Michigan State all have their highest ranking in Athlon history while Florida and Texas are nowhere to be found in the top 25.
Here’s what made this year’s top 25 standout compared to Athlon’s preseason rankings going back to 1976.
• Ohio State is No. 1 for the fourth time since Athlon’s rankings began in 1976. Only Florida State (eight times), USC (six) and Oklahoma (five) have been ranked No. 1 more.
• The Buckeyes have the distinction of having the longest active streak in the Athlon top 25 at more than two decades. Ohio State has been in every Athlon top 25 since 1994. The next longest streaks belong to Oklahoma (in the top 25 every year since 2000) and Georgia (since 2002).
• Alabama, ranked second in this year’s top 25, has been ranked Nos. 1, 2 or 3 every year since 2010.
• Baylor’s No. 3 ranking is the highest ranking for the Bears in Athlon history, beating their old record of No. 10 last season. Baylor was unranked from 1992-2013 and had never been ranked higher than No. 14 in 1978.
• Another sign the Big 12 has been turned upon its head: No. 5 TCU is making its first appearance in the Athlon top 10.
• After back-to-back AP top-five finishes, Michigan State has finally taught us a lesson. The No. 7 Spartans have earned their highest ranking in Athlon history, topping a No. 11 ranking in 1988 — a team that finished 6-5-1 with a Gator Bowl loss.
• No. 21 Mississippi State is ranked for the first time since 2001, which the Bulldogs probably hope is a better omen than it was back then. Mississippi State followed an 8-4 season in 2000 by going 3-8 in 2001. Oops.
• No. 17 Oklahoma is tied for its lowest ranking since the last time the Sooners were last out of our top 25 in 1999. Oklahoma has been ranked in our preseason top 10 in all but three seasons since 2000 (ranked 17th in 2015, 2013 and 2000). Oklahoma won the national title in 2000 — but started the season ranked No. 17 by Athlon and No. 19 by the AP.
• Welcome back, Tennessee. The No. 22 Volunteers are ranked for the first time since 2008. Tennessee had been ranked every year from 1990-2008.
• More good news for Vols fans: Florida is out of the top 25 for the second time in the last four seasons. The Gators had been in our preseason top 25 every year from 1991-2011.
• Texas is out of the top 25 for the first time since 1998.
• No. 13 Arizona State highest ranking since 1998 when the Sun Devils were ranked eighth.
• The longest rankings drought ended in this year’s top 25 belongs to No. 18 Georgia Tech, ranked for the first time since 2009.
• How different was the college football landscape 10 years ago? Purdue (No. 15), Boston College (No. 17), Virginia (No. 22) and UTEP (No. 24) were all ranked in the top 25 in 2005. None have been ranked since. Pittsburgh was ranked 23rd in 2005 and has only been ranked once since then.
• Another sign of how things change: Oregon has been in the top 10 in six consecutive magazines. The Ducks had been ranked in the top 25 only five times from 1990-2008.
Ever since Caitlyn Jenner was announced as the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage by ESPN, there has been plenty of public outcry about it.
The worldwide leader in sports never mentioned anyone else being in the running, but fans quickly brought up the names Lauren Hill and Noah Galloway. Both winners in their own right. ESPN decided to release a statement defending their decision on Jenner.
The point of the award isn't to compare people who should or should not receive it, but to send congrats to those even brought up in the conversation. Obviously Galloway and Hill have done something right to have touched so many lives.
ESPN is standing firm in its decision and hopes to move forward.
The calendar has flipped from May to June as the baseball season has reached a quarter of it's life. Over the course of the past 50-plus games several young studs have lead their squads toward contention, while a handful of All-Star veterans are needed to step up to keep their teams in the hunt.
Joc Pederson, Dodgers
Part of the Hollywood drama that was the Dodgers' 2014 season was the constant rumblings about the overcrowded outfield, and who would be the first to go to make room for Pederson, the rookie from Palo Alto, Calif., in 2015. Matt Kemp was the odd man out as he was traded away to San Diego this past winter. It has taken just 52 games, but Dodgers fans are salivating at the future of their new stud center fielder.
Pederson has been better than advertised. After hitting 33 long balls last season in Triple-A Albuquerque, Pederson has already hit 16 home runs, including three in the past three games, two of which were hit on both ends of a double header in Colorado, traveling a combined 950 feet. Pederson’s average distance of home runs is the best in baseball, at 426 feet per long ball (Yes, longer than Giancarlo Stanton’s). The rest of the 23-year-old lefty’s numbers are exceptional as well. Thus far Pederson has knocked in 31 runs to go along with a .383 on-base percentage, a .971 OPS and an OPS+ of 167.
Pederson not only gets it done at the plate, but in the field as well, having only committed one error in center field in over 423 innings of work. The only knock on Pederson’s game is his 29.3 percent strikeout rate — but that is to be expected from a rookie. If the first-place Dodgers are going to hold off the Giants throughout the month of June without the inured Yasiel Puig, Pederson is going to be a big reason why. The kid is an All-Star — right now.
Adam Jones, Orioles
In a division full of disappointing teams, the Baltimore Orioles might be the most discouraging. The Orioles, who won 96 games in 2014, are currently sitting five games below .500, and boast one of the more mundane offenses in the American League. Part of that struggle has been the fall-off of Chris Davis and the prolonged absence of slugging catcher Matt Wieters from Tommy John surgery. While the finger of blame can be pointed at several candidates, a key reason for the O’s' early-season struggles could be the ongoing struggles of Jones, Baltimore's All-Star center fielder and all-around Mr. Nice Guy.
After starting the 2015 campaign on fire, Jones hit skid row once the calendar flipped to May. Last month Jones hit just .239/.272/.284 with just one home run, two doubles, and seven RBIs. Thanks to his hot start in April, Jones is still hitting .293 on the year, 13 points above his career average, but his recent slide has been baffling. Make no mistake, the O’s' lackluster play is not all on Jones’ woes at the plate — far from it. But if Buck Showalter’s squad has postseason aspirations, Jones is going to have to be his old self in June.
David Ortiz, Red Sox
Big Papi has molded into the senior spokesman for this generation of baseball players, but his performance at the plate has been no better than senior citizen. Ortiz is currently hitting at a .224 clip, 60 points below his .284 career average, and his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is a measly .236, the lowest of his career by far. While last year’s below-average slash line of .263/.355/.517 could have been an indication for things to come for the now 39-year-old Ortiz, in he did hit 35 home runs, 27 doubles, and knocked in 104 runs just last season. Entering Wednesday's action, Ortiz has hit just six homers with 18 RBIs. Nothing s going right for Big Papi, nor the Red Sox for that matter, this season.
The good news is that historically Ortiz turns it on after May with a career slash line of .292/.389/.572 and OPS of .921 in the month of June. The person wishing the most for an Ortiz turnaround (other than Big Papi, himself) has to be Red Sox skipper John Farrell, whose team sits in last place in the AL East for the second straight summer.
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
$175 million doesn't seem to go as far as it used to. The Yankees’ massive investment in Tanaka two winters ago has yet to pay any dividends. Last season the Yanks’ ace missed 10 weeks with a partially torn UCL in his right elbow, an injury that he opted to not have Tommy John surgery to repair. This season, Tanaka has missed five straight weeks due to a right forearm strain and tendinitis in his right wrist.
When healthy, there is no question that Tanaka is the ace of a Yankees rotation that has been unreliable at best. Tanaka has made just four starts in 2015, but in those starts he struck out 24 batters over 22.1 innings of work, surrendering just 14 hits and 10 runs with an ERA of 3.22 and a WHIP of .940.
Currently the Yankees sit atop the grisly AL East, one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays (Yes, really, the Rays are contending). If Tanaka can come back and be his old self on the mound, the Yanks have a great shot at building upon their lead throughout the month of June.
Joey Gallo, Rangers
Bryce Harper’s former Little League teammate made his MLB debut last night for the Texas Rangers in Arlington. A single, double, two-run home run, four RBIs, seven total bases, and a curtain call later, everyone knows Gallo’s name. Athlon Sports' No. 5 prospect entering the season, Gallo will be filling in at third for Adrian Beltre, who will be sidelined the next couple of weeks with an injured thumb. Once Beltre returns from the DL, the 6-5, 230-pound Gallo could find himself playing in left field, giving the prodigal son and oft-injured Josh Hamilton much needed days off.
While Gallo, just 21 years old, has a lot of work to do to cut back on his high strikeout rate (33.6 percent in Double-A), his raw power is something to behold. Last season Gallo smacked 42 long balls in the minors, one shy of Cubs uber-prospect Kris Bryant.
With the resurgence of Prince Fielder and the return of Hamilton, Gallo could be the piece the already-surprising Rangers need in their lineup to allow them to contend in the AL West.
— Written by Jake Rose, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. An avid baseball fan, Rose also takes time to do some play-by-play work for the radio broadcasts of Middle Tennessee State Blue Raider baseball games. He can be reached on Twitter @JakeRose24.
Jon Stewart is known for his harsh and upfront opinion.
The host talked about the unveiling of Caitlyn Jenner, and the immediate treatment of her by the media. Once the now infamous Vanity Fair photo was released, multiple media outlets began commenting on her looks. Although it is the most prominent thing to notice given the circumstances, Stewart couldn't help but to weigh in.
Being treated like a woman isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Bryce Harper has recently garnered all the baseball attention for his dominant month of May. But it’s his teammate from Little League, Joey Gallo, who took center stage last night for the Texas Rangers. Young power hitters have dominated this season, and Gallo is the latest to join the show, if even just for a couple weeks.
Related: 5 MLB Players to Watch in June
Filling in for an injured Adrian Beltre, who many consider to be a future Hall of Famer, Gallo made people quickly forget about his absence. Facing Jeff Samardzija, who was named to the All-Star team last season, Gallo singled in two runs with the bases loaded and two outs on a misplayed grounder in the first inning. Though scoring it a hit was questionable, he silenced any doubters in his second at bat when he crushed a two-run home run 430 feet into the right field upper deck, later taking a curtain call.
Just two innings later, he brought the crowd to his feet as he doubled to right field off the top of the wall, missing his second home run by mere inches.
Here's a few highlights from Gallo's monster debut:
The Pac-12 Conference released kickoff times and broadcast information for most of the league's first month of games, and the docket features numerous marquee games that could help shape the national college football landscape in 2015.
Related: Pac-12 Football 2015 Predictions
For those wanting a head start on programming the DVR or planning viewing parties, consider the following your primer for the must-see Pac-12 action in the 2015 season's first three weeks.
Thursday, Sept. 3
Can't-Miss Game: Michigan at Utah, 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1
A new era in Michigan football begins the first night of the 2015 Football Bowl Subdivision season, as Jim Harbaugh returns to Pac-12 country—albeit against a program that joined the conference after his departure from Stanford.
Utah carved out its niche as a Pac-12 member in 2014, breaking through with a nine-win season and ranking in the final Associated Press Top 25. The Utes have designs on a conference championship in 2015, and head coach Kyle Whittingham said running back Devontae Booker is a Heisman Trophy contender. The national spotlight will shine on Booker from the outset thanks to the interest this matchup will attract.
One of Utah's nine wins last season came in a 26-10 decision over Michigan at the Big House.
Also on: UTSA at Arizona, 10 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Colorado at Hawaii, 1 a.m. ET Sept. 4 on CBS Sports Network
Friday, Sept. 4
Can't-Miss Game: Washington at Boise State, 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN
Washington head coach Chris Petersen makes his return to Boise State, the program he helped put on the map.
Expect emotions to run high when the Huskies clash with a team featuring dozens of players Petersen recruited, facing a coach in Bryan Harsin that Petersen knows well. Harsin was a Boise State assistant from 2001 through 2010, and offensive coordinator from 2006 on.
Harsin's first season as Boise State head coach ended with a crescendo. The Broncos beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl for the program's third win in that prestigious bowl. Returning a tremendous defense, including one of the nation's best secondaries, Boise State could spoil Petersen's homecoming. Washington struggled to find its offensive identity in 2014, and heads into 2015 with unanswered questions at quarterback.
Also on: Weber State at Oregon State, 8 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks
Saturday, Sept. 5
Can't-Miss Game: Arizona State vs. Texas A&M (in Houston), Time and TV TBA
The clamor for more contests pitting SEC opponents against the Pac-12 is answered with this neutral-in-name-only clash between Arizona State and Texas A&M.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham scheduling this game is part of a strategic move to build more of a presence in the Lone Star State, an area rich in recruiting talent that the native Texan Graham is eager to drive to Tempe. A strong showing against Texas A&M can go a long way to Sparky planting his pitchfork in the state.
Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin and Arizona State coordinator Mike Norvell are two of the game's great offensive minds. With both teams bringing talent-laden offenses led by gun-slinging quarterbacks Kyle Allen (Texas A&M) and Mike Bercovici (Arizona State), 100 combined points are not out of the realm of possibility.
Also on: Portland State at Washington State, 2 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Virginia at UCLA, 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox; Grambling at Cal, 5 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Eastern Washington at Oregon, 8 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Arkansas State at USC, 11 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Stanford at Northwestern, Time and TV TBA
Friday, Sept. 11
Can't-Miss Game: Utah State at Utah, 9 p.m. ET on ESPN 2
Utah last faced in-state counterpart Utah State in the 2013 season, when Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton nearly spoiled the party for the Utes with 399 total yards of offense and three touchdowns.
Keeton, Utah State's dual-threat playmaker, is back after missing most of the 2014 campaign with a knee injury and should be eager to make up for lost time. With Keeton leading the Aggie offense, Utah State's defense could pose the Utes trouble on the opposite end.
Utah State has ranked No. 12 or better nationally in scoring defense each of the last three seasons.
Saturday, Sept. 12
Can't-Miss Game: Oregon at Michigan State, 8 p.m. ET on ABC
Arguably the best non-conference game of the 2015 season, Michigan State gets its rematch with reigning national runner-up Oregon in East Lansing. Both the Spartans and Ducks should factor into the College Football Playoff race in the coming season, but the winner in this Week 2 tilt has an undeniable, early inside track.
Oregon rallied from a first-half deficit in last year's meeting at Autzen Stadium, deluging Michigan State with 28 consecutive second-half points en route to a 46-27 win. The Ducks won't have Marcus Mariota captaining the offense this time around, but the Spartans no longer have Pat Narduzzi, now head coach at Pittsburgh, overseeing the defense.
Expect ESPN's "College Gameday" to be in East Lansing for the proceedings.
Also on: Sacramento State at Washington, 2 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; UMass at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; San Diego State at Cal, 5 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Arizona at Nevada, 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network; Idaho at USC, 8 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; UCF at Stanford, 10:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1; UCLA at UNLV, 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network; Cal Poly at Michigan
Saturday, Sept. 19
Can't-Miss Game: Stanford at USC, 8 p.m. ET on ABC
In-state rivals Stanford and USC have played for almost a century, but only in the last decade has this become one of the conference's more intriguing rivalries. The first indicator of its rise was Stanford's historic upset win at the Coliseum in 2007, followed two years later by the postgame confrontation between coaches Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll.
In more recent years, Stanford-USC contests have simply been great games, with the winner every year since 2010 escaping by eight points or fewer. Each of the last three contests were decided by a field goal's margin.
USC holds a two-game win streak after Stanford took five of six from 2007 through 2012. The Trojans' 2013 win in the Coliseum doomed Stanford's hope for a BCS Championship Game berth.
Despite taking the loss last September at home, the always-stout Stanford defense forced USC's Heisman-contending quarterback Cody Kessler into his worst game statistically of the 2014 campaign.
Also on: New Mexico at Arizona State (Friday, Sept. 18), 10 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Georgia State at Oregon, 2 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks; Utah State at Washington, 5 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Colorado vs. Colorado State (in Denver), 7 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network; Cal at Texas, 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox; San Jose State at Oregon State, 8 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Wyoming at Washington State, 8:30 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks; Utah at Fresno State, 10:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network; BYU at UCLA, 10:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1; Northern Arizona at Arizona, 11 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks
Where there's smoke, there's fire.
People are not going to let Caitlyn Jenner take the easy road. There's now a petition surfacing for the Olympic gold medal winner to give back the prize she won. Jenner won the gold medal for the decathlon in 1976.
Asking an Olympian to return his or her gold medals is pretty harsh. As long as that person wins them without cheating, who are we to force them to give them back? Now because Jenner stated that she always identified as a woman, some people say that it's only right she be striped of the gold.
The petition states:
Dear International Olympic Committee,
It has recently come to light that gold medalist Bruce Jenner is in fact transgender, and therefore, identifies as a woman. We congratulate Ms. Jenner on these new developments and wish her the best. However, this creates somewhat of a problem as Ms. Jenner (as talented as she is) claims that she has always believed herself to be truly female, and therefore, was in violation of committee rules regarding women competing in men's sports and vice versa. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that we must ask whether or not it is proper that Ms. Jenner should retain her olympic records in light of this, as we must now either claim that Bruce Jenner and Caitlyn Jenner are two entirely different people (which we know is not true), or that Bruce Jenner was, in fact, a woman participating in a men's event. It is only fair to all involved that women receive their credit as champions of the Decathalon and that the men racing Ms. Jenner are not expected to compete with a superior, streamlined being such as herself.
We urge Ms. Jenner to support the transgender community by giving up the medals earned by competing against the wrong gender.
Thank you, and congratulations to Ms. Jenner for her courage!
What would a petition be without a hashtag? What ever personal decisions Jenner decides to make, nothing can take away from the fact that she won those medals fair and square.
At the moment this is written the petition has about 2,600 signatures, which is 2,400 short of the goal. Even if the petition does get the 5,000 signatures, the chances are slim that Jenner will be forced to return the medals from many years ago.
Jenner's ordeal shows just how quickly the public perception and acceptance of a person can change.
The SEC is in a two-year drought for national championships, but this league still holds the top spot among college football conferences. Nine SEC teams appear in Athlon’s top 25 projections for 2015, including all seven teams from the West Division. Georgia is the favorite in the East, while Alabama gets a slight edge over Auburn in the West.
Here are five storylines to watch in the SEC for 2015, followed by a full preview and predictions for the upcoming year.
5 Key Questions That Will Shape the SEC in 2015
Once again, the stakes and intensity should be high when Alabama and Auburn meet in the annual Iron Bowl. The Crimson Tide won an entertaining 55-44 matchup over the Tigers last season, and this season’s meeting could decide the West Division and a spot in college football’s playoff. Auburn must replace standout center Reese Dismukes and quarterback Nick Marshall, but the Tigers shouldn’t miss a beat on offense. New quarterback Jeremy Johnson should provide a seamless transition under center, and the supporting cast is among the best in the SEC. Defense is where Auburn has struggled in recent years, but coach Gus Malzahn addressed this unit by hiring Will Muschamp as coordinator. Alabama has its share of question marks with only two returning starters on offense and holes to fill at quarterback and receiver. However, Nick Saban has recruited an abundance of talent, and the Crimson Tide will have an elite defense if the secondary finds a few answers this fall. Until the quarterback and receiver situation stabilizes, Alabama can lean on its rushing attack and defense. With 11 games to find the right answers, the Crimson Tide's offense should be at full strength by the Iron Bowl.
2. New Faces at Quarterback
The SEC enters 2015 with a significant amount of uncertainty at quarterback. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott headlines the returning crop of signal-callers after earning first-team All-SEC honors last season. Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson is should have a breakout year, and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen are two additional rising stars. But Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, LSU and Ole Miss enter the fall with inexperience or uncertainty under center. Additionally, Missouri’s Maty Mauk and Arkansas’ Brandon Allen will be looking to take the next step in their development. It’s no secret quarterback play is a huge part of how the season will play out. Considering the overall uncertainty of this position, there’s an extra layer of intrigue surrounding the quarterbacks in 2015.
3. New Coordinator Impact
Only two SEC teams (Alabama and Ole Miss) did not have a change in the coordinator ranks this offseason. With coaching changes at some of the SEC’s title contenders, how quickly the new coordinators make an impact will have a key role in the division title picture. Can John Chavis (Texas A&M) and Will Muschamp (Auburn) provide a quick fix for struggling defenses? Will Brian Schottenheimer keep Georgia’s offense among the best in the SEC? Will Jon Hoke turn around South Carolina’s defense in just one offseason? Several of the new coordinator hires should have a huge impact in 2015 – which one could alter how the divisions are decided?
4. Tennessee on the Rise
Entering Butch Jones’ third season on Rocky Top, Tennessee is poised to take another step forward in the East Division in 2015. The Volunteers improved by two games from 2013 to 2014 and closed last year by winning four out of the last five contests. Jones continues to elevate the talent level in Knoxville, and Tennessee returns 17 starters from last season’s 7-6 team. With a full year from quarterback Joshua Dobbs, combined with better play from the offensive line, the Volunteers should easily improve off last season's scoring mark (28.9). Tennessee’s defense is also poised to take a step forward. End Derek Barnett is one of the nation’s best, and cornerback Cam Sutton should be in the mix for first-team All-SEC honors. This unit is where recruiting has paid big dividends for Jones, especially with freshmen Kahlil McKenzie (DT) and Kyle Phillips (DE) adding to a good core of linemen for 2015.
5. Sleeper Teams to Watch
Looking for teams that could spoil the division title hopes of favorites Georgia and Alabama? It’s hard to call Missouri a sleeper since coach Gary Pinkel’s team has won the East in back-to-back years. However, the Tigers suffered heavy losses at receiver and defensive end and begin 2015 under the radar. Florida has talent, but new coach Jim McElwain has major issues to address up front with a thin offensive line and at quarterback. In the West, Arkansas was one of the hottest teams in the SEC at the end of 2014. The Razorbacks will be a tough out once again and could improve their win total by two games if quarterback Brandon Allen improves under new coordinator Dan Enos. But the biggest wild card team to watch in the West is LSU. The Tigers have recruited as well as any team, yet is just 9-7 in SEC play over the last two years. Both sides of the ball are under the microscope for coach Les Miles this season. The quarterback play must improve, and the defense lost coordinator John Chavis to Texas A&M. Also, we can't forget Mississippi State's effort to reload on both sides of the ball after a 10-win campaign in 2014, along with in-state rival Ole Miss. The Rebels boast one of the SEC's top defenses, but will coach Hugh Freeze find a quarterback?
SEC 2015 Team Previews
Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 SEC Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 14 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year.
SEC Football 2015 Predictions
SEC 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions
|Offensive POY||Nick Chubb|
|Defensive POY||Derek Barnett|
DL, Ole Miss
|Coach of the Year||Butch Jones|
|Coach on Hot Seat||Derek Mason|
|Top Freshman||Martez Ivey|
|Kevin Tolliver II|
|Top Newcomer||Marquavius Lewis|
|Sleeper Team||Texas A&M||Texas A&M||Kentucky||Ole Miss||Texas A&M|
|Top Coordinator Hire||Will Muschamp|
|Key Position to Watch||Alabama DB||Alabama DB||Alabama QB||LSU QB||Missouri DL|
|Hardest to Evaluate||LSU||Missouri||LSU||Tennessee||Arkansas|
|Coach on the Rise||Barry Odom|
|Must-See Game||Alabama at |
|Breakout Player||Jeremy Johnson|
|Comeback Player||Carl Lawson|
Ranking the SEC's Coaches for 2015
1. Nick Saban, Alabama
2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
3. Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
4. Mark Richt, Georgia
5. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2015
1. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
2. Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
3. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
4. Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
5. Maty Mauk, Missouri
Ranking the SEC's Running Backs for 2015
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
3. Derrick Henry, Alabama
4. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
5. Alex Collins, Arkansas
The SEC's Top 5 Players on the Rise for 2015
1. Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn
2. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
3. Harold Brantley, DT, Missouri
4. Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
5. Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
The Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015
1. Texas A&M vs. Arizona State (Houston) - Sept. 5
2. Auburn vs. Louisville (Atlanta) - Sept. 5
3. Oklahoma at Tennessee - Sept. 12
4. Georgia at Georgia Tech - Nov. 28
5. Florida State at Florida - Nov. 28
6. Clemson at South Carolina - Nov. 28
7. Wisconsin vs. Alabama (Dallas) - Sept. 5
8. South Carolina vs. North Carolina (Charlotte) - Sept. 3
9. Louisville at Kentucky - Nov. 28
10. Missouri vs. BYU (Kansas City) - Nov. 14
Key Coordinator Hires for 2015
1. Will Muschamp, Defensive Coordinator, Auburn
2. John Chavis, Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M
3. Barry Odom, Defensive Coordinator, Missouri
4. Geoff Collins, Defensive Coordinator, Mississippi State
5. Dan Enos, Offensive Coordinator, Arkansas
Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)
1. Trent Thompson, DL, Georgia
2. Martez Ivey, OT, Florida
3. Byron Cowart, DL, Auburn
4. Kahlil McKenzie, DL, Tennessee
5. CeCe Jefferson, DL, Florida
6. Kevin Toliver II, DB, LSU
7. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
8. Terry Beckner Jr., DL, Missouri
9. Daylon Mack, DL, Texas A&M
10. Kendall Sheffield, DB, Alabama
11. Blake Barnett, QB, Alabama
12. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
13. Tyron Johnson, WR, LSU
14. Terry Godwin, ATH, Georgia
15. Daron Payne, DL, Alabama
Conference USA is a slightly behind the Mountain West and American Athletic in the pecking order for Group of 5 conferences. However, Conference USA had a team (Marshall) in the running for one of college football’s top bowl games last year, and the league could have another in 2015.
WKU will be a team to watch behind quarterback Brandon Doughty, as the Hilltoppers return seven starters from an offense that averaged 44.4 points per game in 2014. Coach Jeff Brohm’s team also has opportunities to score big-time wins, including games against Vanderbilt, LSU and Indiana.
5 Key Questions That Will Shape C-USA in 2015
1. WKU vs. Marshall in the East
The balance of power in Conference USA is tipped in favor of the East Division in 2015. Marshall and WKU rank as the top teams in Athlon’s power rankings for the upcoming year, and the meeting between the Thundering Herd and Hilltoppers on Nov. 27 could decide the division crown. WKU gets a slight edge in Athlon’s East projections, as coach Jeff Brohm’s team returns standout senior quarterback Brandon Doughty, a deep group of receivers and a defense that should be improved with seven starters back. Marshall has a favorable schedule by missing Louisiana Tech, UTEP and Rice in crossover play with the West. However, the Thundering Herd must replace quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler. It’s a close call in the East. But an edge goes to WKU with Doughty at the controls.
2. Will any team catch Louisiana Tech in the West?
Louisiana Tech enters 2015 as the clear favorite in the West Division. The Bulldogs have a few holes to fill, but coach Skip Holtz’s team returns 13 starters and can ride running back Kenneth Dixon until the passing game settles with Florida transfer Jeff Driskel at quarterback. Louisiana Tech is projected to finish 6-2 in league play, with Rice (5-3) and UTEP (4-4) just behind. On paper, there is a significant gap between the Bulldogs and the Miners and Owls. However, UTEP hosts Louisiana Tech and does not play Marshall or WKU from the East. Rice returns standout quarterback Driphus Jackson, but the Owls must rebuild on defense. Will either team put all of the pieces together to push Louisiana Tech?
3. Looking for a Sleeper Team
The top six teams in Conference USA seem clear for 2015. WKU, Marshall and MTSU headline the East, while Louisiana Tech, Rice and UTEP anchor the top of the West. But will a surprise team emerge from the next group? FAU is a team to watch, as the Owls return quarterback Jaquez Johnson and standout defensive tackle Brandin Bryant is back from a knee injury. The Owls also host swing games against FIU and MTSU. In the West Division, Southern Miss and North Texas have potential to climb the standings. The Golden Eagles are still struggling to get back to the top of Conference USA, but there has been improvement in two years under coach Todd Monken. The Mean Green has a solid group of talent returning on defense and can lean on the talented one-two punch of running backs Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeffrey Wilson. But will coach Dan McCarney find a quarterback?
4. Old Dominion Replaces Taylor Heinicke
In its first full season as a FBS member, Old Dominion finished 6-6 and recorded a .500 (4-4) mark in Conference USA play. The Monarchs are trending up under coach Bobby Wilder and return 11 starters for 2015. However, there’s one glaring departure. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has expired his eligibility, leaving redshirt freshman Shuler Bentley at the controls of coach Bobby Wilder’s high-powered offense. With three winnable games in September, combined with home dates against Charlotte, UTEP and FAU, there may be just enough favorable games on ODU’s slate for Wilder to take the Monarchs to a bowl in 2015.
5. Charlotte Joins Conference USA
The 49ers are the newest FBS member, joining Conference USA in just their third season of play since the program started a football team in 2013. Coach Brad Lambert is 10-12 over the last two years, but Charlotte has yet to beat a FBS program. There’s no doubt many challenges are ahead for Lambert as this program gets off the ground and is able to challenge for bowl games and winning records in Conference USA. But the 49ers will be a team to watch in 2015, as running back Kalif Phillips and receiver Austin Duke are two talented playmakers for an offense that averaged 38.8 points per game in 2014.
Conference USA 2015 Team Previews
Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year.
Conference USA Predictions for 2015
C-USA 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions
|Offensive POY||Brandon Doughty|
|Defensive POY||Xavier Woods|
S, La. Tech
S, La. Tech
S, La. Tech
|Coach of the Year||Jeff Brohm|
|Coach on Hot Seat||Ron Turner|
|Top Freshman||Shuler Bentley|
|Top Newcomer||Michael Birdsong|
QB, La. Tech
|Sleeper Team||Old Dominion||UTEP||UTEP||Southern Miss|
|Top Coordinator Hire||Matt Wallerstedt|
|Key Position to Watch||Rice DL||WKU OL||La. Tech QB||Rice DL|
|Hardest to Evaluate||FAU||FAU||MTSU||MTSU|
|Coach on the Rise||Bobby Wilder|
|Must-See Game||Marshall at|
|La. Tech at|
|Marshall at |
|Breakout Player||Deon-Tay McManus|
|Comeback Player||Evan McKelvey|
Ranking the Conference USA Coaches for 2015
1. Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech
2. David Bailiff, Rice
3. Doc Holliday, Marshall
4. Rick Stockstill, MTSU
5. Bobby Wilder, ODU
Ranking the Conference USA Quarterbacks for 2015
1. Brandon Doughty, WKU
2. Driphus Jackson, Rice
3. Jaquez Johnson, FAU
4. Austin Grammer, MTSU
5. Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech
Ranking the Conference USA Running Backs for 2015
1. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
2. Devon Johnson, Marshall
3. Leon Allen, WKU
4. Aaron Jones, UTEP
5. Ray Lawry, ODU
Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015
1. WKU at LSU - Oct. 24
2. WKU at Vanderbilt - Sept. 5
3. Louisiana Tech at Mississippi State - Oct. 17
4. Purdue at Marshall - Sept. 6
5. WKU at Indiana - Sept. 19
Key Coordinator Hires for 2015
1. Matt Wallerstedt, Defensive Coordinator, Charlotte
2. Blake Baker, Defensive Coordinator, Louisiana Tech
3. Chris Cosh, Defensive Coordinator, North Texas
Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)
1. Trae Meadows, DB, MTSU
2. Von Davis, DB, Marshall
3. Johnny Shaw, DB, Louisiana Tech
4. Zach Abercrumbia, DT, Rice
5. Reese Ryan, QB, WKU
6. Kevin Dillman, TE, North Texas
7. Ruben Garnett, RB, MTSU
8. Tarrick Thomas, OL, FAU
9. Rhashid Bonnette, WR, Louisiana Tech
10. J'Mar Smith, QB, Louisiana Tech
There are many NBA Finals previews and videos, but this will undoubtedly be the best one you'll watch.
A YouTube user recreated this video with the old school "NBA on NBC" theme. It will have you feeling nostalgic for the good old days of the early 2000s. The user took the preview from the 2001 NBA Finals when Allen Iverson and the 76ers took on Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers.
I'm all for bringing this theme back.
When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits and timing all play a role in determining order of finish.
And don’t forget that the College Football Playoff Committee made it very clear in its first season that it values scheduling.
So who has the toughest schedule in the ACC this fall? Who has the easiest path?
1. Georgia Tech
Not many teams favored to win a division have to deal with the toughest schedule in the conference but that is what Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets must do this fall. Tech will have to face the best two teams from the Atlantic Division in Clemson (road) and Florida State (home), as well as two potential top-10 teams in the non-conference in Notre Dame (road) and Georgia (home). Georgia Tech’s only comfort is that key swing games in the division (which is all of them, really) against North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech do come at home.
Along with Georgia Tech, Miami must face both Florida State (road) and Clemson in crossover play — giving the Canes and Jackets the toughest interdivisional schedules in the ACC. Add to it road trips within the Coastal to Pitt, North Carolina and Duke and Al Golden must deal with one of the toughest ACC slates in the league. Top it off with non-conference games against Nebraska and at Cincinnati.
With Georgia Tech and Miami in crossover as well as Notre Dame and South Carolina in non-conference, the Tigers face one of the hardest schedules in the ACC. Florida State has to come to Death Valley but road trips to Louisville, NC State, rival South Carolina and the Hurricanes offer plenty of speed bumps for Dabo Swinney. The only comfort for Clemson is that the three biggest games of the year (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Florida State) come at home.
No team in the ACC will play a tougher non-conference schedule than Virginia. Home dates with Notre Dame and Boise State as well as a long road trip to UCLA give the Wahoos three ranked foes before even reaching ACC play. Toss in a road trip to Louisville in crossover play and the toughest Coastal Divisional schedule (since there’s no Virginia) and there are few guaranteed wins for Mike London. Virginia will be favored in two games — William & Mary and Syracuse at home.
5. Wake Forest
Dave Clawson doesn’t get to face Wake Forest, so by definition, the Demon Deacons have one of the toughest schedules in the Atlantic Division. The only real winnable game in divisional play comes on the road at Syracuse. Facing Notre Dame, Army and Indiana in the non-conference isn’t crazy for Florida State but could be devastating for Wake Forest. The Deacs also get in-state rivals North Carolina and Duke from the Coastal Division.
Wake and Cuse play similar schedules but Syracuse’s big non-conference game comes at home (LSU) and crossover play could be slightly easier with Virginia and Pitt. Road trips in the division to Florida State, Louisville and NC State are impossible so Wake Forest and Boston College at home might be the best chances for wins for the Orange. Even road trips to South Florida and Virginia will be tough.
Steve Addazio has three wins in the non-conference schedule and then Notre Dame. Crossover with Virginia Tech and Duke isn’t as tough as it could be but isn’t easy. Home games with Wake Forest and NC State provide chances for wins while getting Florida State at home is big for the turnstiles. However, road trips to Clemson and Louisville make competing in the division extremely difficult.
The Cardinals must face two SEC foes in Auburn (Week 1, Atlanta) and Kentucky (road) and a split would be considered a success. Crossover with Virginia is great but a road trip to Pitt will be tough. Within the division, getting Clemson, Boston College and Syracuse at home provides opportunity while road games with Florida State and NC State will be exceptionally tough.
Related: 2015 ACC Football Schedule Analysis
By definition, the Noles get one of the easier Atlantic Division schedules because they don’t have to play themselves. However, road trips to Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida could keep Florida State from making the College Football Playoff. Other key swing games with Miami, Louisville and NC State will come at Doak Campbell Stadium.
10. Virginia Tech
The non-conference slate is tough (Ohio State) but also provides chances for solid wins (East Carolina, Purdue). Crossover play will feature two tough but winnable games in the form of a road trip to Boston College and a home game with NC State. Getting Coastal Division contenders Pitt, North Carolina and Duke at home helps as well. However, the biggest game of the year could be the road trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. There is no Florida State, Clemson or Louisville on the schedule this season.
11. NC State
The non-conference slate is comically easy for Dave Doeren and NC State: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion and South Alabama. Crossover (at Virginia Tech, home vs. North Carolina) won't be easy, but a split is very reasonable. Key swing games with Louisville and Clemson come in Raleigh while winnable road games with Wake Forest and Boston College give the Wolfpack a shot at winning their division. The road trip to Florida State, however, likely keeps NC State from claiming the Atlantic.
Facing Notre Dame and Iowa in the non-conference isn’t easy but the rest of the schedule sets up nicely for Pitt. There is no Florida State, Clemson or NC State on the schedule and road trips include visits to Syracuse and Duke. Two huge games in the division with Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech will come on the road but the schedule overall sets up for Pat Narduzzi’s first romp through a wide-open ACC.
13. North Carolina
South Carolina is the toughest opponent in the non-conference but that game will come in Charlotte. Crossover play with the Atlantic involves Wake Forest and at NC State — avoiding all three of the best teams in the division. Winnable games within the division with Miami, Virginia and Duke all come at home. Road trips to Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia Tech are the toughest games on the slate for Larry Fedora.
Northwestern at home is the toughest non-conference game on the schedule for the Blue Devils. Crossover with Boston College (home) and Wake Forest (road) is the easiest of any team in the ACC. And key division games with Georgia Tech, Miami and Pitt all come at home. A road trip to Virginia Tech might be the toughest game of the year for Duke.
Caitlyn Jenner formally introduced herself, and it caused the internet to explode. The whole Twitter-verse was consumed with talking about the former Olympic-winner-turned-empowered-woman.
ESPN responded in their own way by announcing Jenner would be the recipient of the Arthur Ashe award for Courage. She will be joined by her family when she accepts it at the ESPYs. Jenner couldn't contain her excitement.
What the hell am I going to wear? http://t.co/HoXNQasAXM— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 2, 2015
Some people are calling into question ESPN's motives for their choice of the recipient. The worldwide leader never released the runner-ups, but there are some common names that keep coming up. Noah Galloway and OJ Brigance both come up in conversation, but Lauren Hill was the name most tweeted.
Hill raised over $1 million for cancer research and was an inspiration for many in her 19 years of life. Her cause caught the eye of many athletes including LeBron James and Devon Still. Many teams participated in #Layup4Lauren, and the cause continues to raise money and awareness.
Even in Hill's passing, she continues to inspire others.
OJ Brigance, Lauren Hill are both worthy candidates for the Arthur Ashe courage award if it was not about ratings, hits and clicks— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) June 2, 2015
I respect Caitlyn Jenner and applaud her but I just don't think she deserves the ESPY courage award over Lauren Hill or Sgt. Noah Galloway— JP Hussey (@Jay_Pizzle16) June 2, 2015
Very sad to hear that Lauren Hill is not receiving this award. What she did this year is the definition of courage. https://t.co/eNBom4FwHd— Nick Apisa (@NickApisa) June 2, 2015
Glad Jenner is finally able to live life on her own terms, but the Ashe award for courage? Lauren Hill deserves that.— Cliff Saunders (@cliffsaunders) June 2, 2015
Many want Hill to receive the award posthumously, but by the looks of things she did her job of raising awareness for the cause and that's what her main goal was. She's already a winner in many people's books.
The ESPYs will air on July 15.
Steph Curry is one of the most well-received players in the NBA. He's one of those all-around good guys that even if he's not on your team, you can't help but to root for.
That's why when a Bay Area teacher wrote a letter to the MVP asking him not to come to his school, Warriors fans didn't react well. Matt Amaral is a Warriors fan as well, but he writes about his reasoning for asking Curry to distance himself from his school.
"When you get involved in soup kitchens, wrap Christmas presents for needy kinds, and build homes for the homeless I am inspired. But where those kids of civic-minded activities have clear benefits, I have to tell you something that you probably haven't heard: Coming to poor high schools like mine isn't going to help any of these kids out, in fact, it might make things worse."
Amaral says that having Curry there could give a false sense of success. Kids dream, but being Curry isn't an option.
"What you will do is shoot some threes, dazzle everyone with your dimples, high five the homies, and sign some autographs. It will be wonderful. At least, it will seem like that at first. But what you won't see is the fact that most of these kids don't have a backup plan for their dream of being you. If you ask the boys on my campus what they are going to be when they get older, the answer will involve a sport. They will claim they are going to play in the NBA or NFL, and seeing you there will make them think they can actually do it."
Amaral somewhat has a point, but it's almost like he's telling kids not to dream. That's impossible. I'm sure Nate Robinson or Spud Webb had people telling them the same things: "Don't dream too big because that's not possible for you."
Warriors fans have commented on the letter, but the teacher wants everyone to know he's a huge Warriors fan. He just doesn't want the MVP near his school.
Read the whole letter here.
You want to get people to buy something, put an athlete in the commercial. That's always been the strategy.
BodyArmor is going all out in this one. The company enlists the help of sports' biggest stars including Rob Gronkowski, Andrew Luck, Skylar Diggins, Richard Sherman, James Harden, and more. It's hard to really understand what's happening after you see Luck pulling off a look from 1978.
The only thing missing from the commercial? Fellow BodyArmor spokesman, Kobe Bryant.
Team's working out during the summer never hold back. They know what they do in the coming months will reflect how they play when college football season is in full swing.
Louisville gave us a look into what the team does to get ready for the season, and it looks pretty tough. The Cardinals go full-on beastmode during their weight-lifting seasons and only some get the honor of "ringing the bell." It's a tradition like none other that comes when a player tops his personal best.
It’s a new year, but there’s a similar theme for the Mountain West in 2015. Boise State is once again the favorite to win the league crown, as the Broncos have a good chance to run the table and finish unbeaten this year. But Boise State will have competition from Utah State, Colorado State and San Diego State.
The balance of power in the Mountain West is clearly in the Mountain Division this season, with San Diego State the frontrunner from the West Division. All six of the teams from the Mountain Division rank inside of the top 100 of Athlon’s final 128 projections for 2015. However, on the other side, the West Division has only two teams ranked inside of the top 100.
Athlon projects a San Diego State-Boise State matchup in the 2015 Mountain West Championship. Below are five storylines to watch, followed by full conference predictions for this season.
5 Key Questions That Will Shape the Mountain West in 2015
1. How Will Boise State Reload at QB and RB?
The Broncos usually have little trouble finding the next standouts at quarterback and running back. But these positions could make-or-break Boise State’s run at an appearance in one of college football’s top bowl games. Ryan Finley exited the spring as the frontrunner to replace Grant Hedrick at quarterback, while Jeremy McNichols and Cory Young are slated as the favorites to replace Jay Ajayi at running back. Stanford transfer Kelsey Young will also factor into the mix at running back, while Finley will be pushed in the fall by Thomas Stuart and Brett Rypien for the starting quarterback spot. How fast will coach Bryan Harsin develop the right answers at two critical positions?
Related: Complete No. 1 to 128 College Football Rankings for 2015
2. Transfer Quarterbacks
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding quarterback play in the Mountain West for the 2015 season. Utah State’s Chuckie Keeton is one of the few proven options in this league, as Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, Nevada and Fresno State will have a new starting quarterback in 2015. The uncertainty extends to the teams projected to finish at the bottom of the Mountain West, as Hawaii, San Jose State and UNLV are looking for answers under center. Help is on the way in the form of transfers for some teams, as Wyoming (Cameron Coffman, Indiana), Hawaii (Max Wittek, USC) and San Diego State (Maxwell Smith, Kentucky) left Power 5 programs for a chance to start.
3. Back from Injury at Utah State
Utah State has been hit hard by injuries over the last two seasons, but the Aggies are an impressive 19-9 under Matt Wells. Getting quarterback Chuckie Keeton and linebacker Kyler Fackrell back to full strength will be huge for Utah State in 2015. Assuming Keeton and Fackrell are at 100 percent this fall, the Aggies should be Boise State’s top competition in the Mountain West. Keeton completed 51 of 92 passes for 426 yards and two scores in three games last season before missing the rest of 2014 with a leg injury. Fackrell suffered a torn ACL in the opener against Tennessee and did not return last year. Getting both players back is a huge boost for Utah State's Mountain West title hopes.
4. New Coaches
Two new coaches join the league for 2015, as Colorado State hired Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo to replace Jim McElwain (left for Florida), and UNLV replaced Bobby Hauck with successful high school coach Tony Sanchez. Bobo was one of the SEC’s top coordinators during his stint in Athens and should be a solid hire for the Rams. His top priority this fall will be finding a quarterback to replace Garrett Grayson, but Bobo inherits a solid offensive line and All-American receiver Rashard Higgins. The job is much tougher for Sanchez, as the first-year coach inherits a UNLV program that went 2-11 last season and returns just seven starters. Sanchez is going to need a few years to recruit and rebuild the talent level in the program, but two veteran coordinators (Kent Baer and Barney Cotton) should help his transition from the high school ranks to the FBS level.
5. Coaches on the Hot Seat
Is this a make-or-break year for Ron Caragher (SJSU) and Norm Chow (Hawaii)? Both Hawaii and San Jose State have the talent level to exceed last year’s win total, but both teams enter 2015 with plenty of uncertainty. The Spartans led the nation in pass defense in 2014 and third in the conference in yards allowed. However, the offense recorded only 19.3 points per game. The quarterback position is up for grabs this offseason, and the offense needs more punch from a rushing attack ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West. Hawaii hopes USC transfer Max Wittek is the answer under center, but there’s question marks about the offensive line and concerns up front on defense.
Mountain West Conference 2015 Team Previews
Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 National College Football Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 128 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year.
Mountain West Conference Predictions for 2015
Mountain West 2015 Superlatives and Season Predictions
|Offensive POY||Donnel Pumphrey|
|Defensive POY||Kamalei Correa|
DL, Boise State
|Coach of the Year||Bryan Harsin|
|Coach on Hot Seat||Norm Chow|
|Top Freshman||Cory Young|
RB, Boise State
RB, Boise State
RB, Boise State
|Top Newcomer||Maxwell Smith|
|Sleeper Team||New Mexico||San Jose State||Wyoming||San Jose State|
|Top Coordinator Hire||Kevin Clune|
|Key Position to Watch||Boise State QB/RB||Boise State RB||BSU backfield||Boise State QB/RB|
|Hardest to Evaluate||Fresno State||Colorado State||Nevada||Colorado State|
|Coach on the Rise||Matt Wells|
|Must-See Game||Boise State at|
|Boise State at|
|Boise State at|
|Boise State at|
S, Boise State
|Comeback Player||Chuckie Keeton|
Ranking the Mountain West Coaches for 2015
1. Matt Wells, Utah State
2. Craig Bohl, Wyoming
3. Bryan Harsin, Boise State
4. Troy Calhoun, Air Force
5. Rocky Long, San Diego State
Five QB Battles to Watch for 2015
1. Boise State
Ryan Finley vs. Brett Rypien and Thomas Stuart
2. Colorado State
Nick Stevens vs. Coleman Key
3. Fresno State
Zack Greenlee vs. Kilton Anderson and Chason Virgil
Tyler Stewart vs. Dante Mayes and Hunter Fralick
5. San Diego State
Maxwell Smith vs. Christian Chapman and Jake Rodrigues
Ranking the Mountain West Running Backs for 2015
1. Donnel Pumphrey, San Diego State
2. Marteze Waller, Fresno State
3. Jhurell Pressley, New Mexico
4. Shaun Wick, Wyoming
5. Jacobi Owens, Air Force
The Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015
1. Washington at Boise State - Sept. 4
2. Utah State at Utah - Sept. 11
3. Air Force at Navy - Oct. 3
4. Boise State at BYU - Sept. 12
5. Utah State at Washington - Sept. 19
Key Coordinator Hires for 2015
1. Kevin Clune, Defensive Coordinator, Utah State
2. Tyson Summers, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado State
3. Eliah Drinkwitz, Offensive Coordinator, Boise State
4. Kent Baer, Defensive Coordinator, UNLV
5. Al Borges, Offensive Coordinator, San Jose State
Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)
1. DeSean Holmes, WR, San Diego State
2. Kanya Bell, WR, San Jose State
3. Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
4. Kyahva Tezino, LB, San Diego State
5. Tae'on Mason, ATH, San Jose State
6. Chason Virgil, QB, Fresno State
7. Jeremy Kelly, DB, San Jose State
8. Drew Berger, LB, Boise State
9. Akilan Butler, WR, Boise State
10. John Carroll, ATH, San Diego State
The Pac-12 has closed the gap on the SEC in recent years, but the conference is looking for its first national championship since 2004. 2015 will be an interesting setup in the Pac-12, as Oregon and USC will be national title contenders, but no team from this league ranked inside of the top five in Athlon’s projected 128 rankings.
Will one team emerge as the dominant clear favorite in 2015? Or will this league see several teams finish 10-2 or 9-3?
Despite the departure of quarterback Marcus Mariota, Oregon is the favorite in the North. If the offense takes a step forward under senior quarterback Kevin Hogan, Stanford could improve off last year’s 8-5 mark and challenge the Ducks for the division crown.
Here’s a look at five things to watch in the Pac-12 in 2015, followed by Athlon’s predictions.
5 Key Questions That Will Shape the Pac-12 in 2015
1. Replacing Marcus Mariota
It won’t be easy for Oregon coach Mark Helfrich to replace Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota. While the Ducks may not match Mariota’s production at quarterback in 2015, they may not suffer much of a drop with Eastern Washington transfer Vernon Adams at the controls. Adams was a dynamic player on the FCS level, but he needs time to adjust to FBS play. With a game against Michigan State in early September, Adams will be tested right away. Helping his transition will be a deep backfield and receiving corps, along with an offensive line that regains the services of tackle Tyler Johnstone. With Washington rebuilding, California looking for the right answers on defense, and Stanford entering 2015 with question marks on both sides of the ball, Oregon is the clear No. 1 pick in the North. Just how high the Ducks finish nationally will be determined by Adams’ development under center.
Related: Complete College Football Rankings for 2015: No. 1 to 128
2. USC Back Among the Nation’s Elite?
The Trojans are still recovering from scholarship sanctions, but coach Steve Sarkisian has the necessary pieces in place to challenge for a playoff bid. USC closed 2014 by scoring 40 points in back-to-back games, and the offense will remain one of the best in the Pac-12 behind senior quarterback Cody Kessler, a talented group of receivers and an improving line. But for USC to challenge for a playoff bid, its defense will be under the spotlight. The back seven should be in good shape with the return of linebacker Su’a Cravens and cornerback Adoree’ Jackson. However, the line must replace end Leonard Williams and more overall depth is needed to close out games in the second half. Sarkisian’s first year had its share of ups and downs. Can Sarkisian elevate this program back into national title contention?
3. The South Division Outside of USC
USC is the favorite to win the South, but there’s little separating the Trojans from the rest of the division. Arizona State and UCLA ranked among Athlon’s projected top 25 teams for this season, with Arizona close behind. Is one of these teams capable of challenging USC? For all three teams, quarterback play will be crucial to catching USC, and each squad has promise under center. Arizona State will turn to Mike Bercovici to replace Taylor Kelly, the Bruins have talented (but unproven) freshman Josh Rosen, and Arizona expects Anu Solomon to take a step forward in his second year under center. But there are other positions to watch outside of the quarterbacks. How Will UCLA’s offensive line develop? Is Arizona’s defense ready to take a step forward? Can Arizona State get enough production from its wide receivers to replace Jaelen Strong?
4. Chris Petersen’s Second Year at Washington
Chris Petersen had high expectations for his debut at Washington, but the Huskies only finished 8-6 and 4-5 in league play. One year does not determine how a coaching tenure will play out, and Petersen should be a good fit in Seattle for the long haul. However, just getting to a bowl game would be a good year for Petersen in 2015. The Huskies return only nine starters, feature uncertainty at quarterback and lose three standout defenders from last year’s unit. Petersen’s team is in rebuild mode for 2015, and non-conference games against Boise State and Utah State won’t make a winning record an easy assignment. How much will this team improve throughout the year? If the quarterback position remains an issue all year, California could easily pass Washington in the North.
5. Stanford Rebuilds on Defense…Searches for Offense
For the first time under coach David Shaw, Stanford did not win at least 11 games in a season. Shaw set the bar high in his first three years, and the Cardinal must reload to get back in contention in the North. The defense is Stanford’s biggest concern. Only four starters from last year’s dominant group returns, but there’s a solid core of players ready to step up and replace some of the lost production. The line is arguably Shaw’s biggest concern, and California graduate transfer Brennan Scarlett will help this group right away in 2015. While the defense is rebuilding, Stanford won’t challenge for 10 wins once again without improvement on offense. Taking the next step on offense falls on the right arm of quarterback Kevin Hogan, who hopes to build off a solid three-game finish to 2014. Hogan should have plenty of help though, as Stanford’s line is one of the best in the Pac-12, and sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey is a player on the rise.
Pac-12 2015 Team Previews
Visit the Athlon Sports Online Store to order a copy of the 2015 Pac-12 Preview Magazine, which features in-depth analysis and previews for all 12 teams, predictions, rankings and features to prepare for the upcoming year.
Pac-12 Predictions for 2015
|Rank||Team||Projected Pac-12 Record||Projected Overall Record|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Oregon for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Stanford for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Washington for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of California for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Washington State for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Oregon State for 2015.|
|Rank||Team||Projected Pac-12 Record||Projected Overall Record|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of USC for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Arizona State for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of UCLA for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Arizona for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Utah for 2015.|
|Read the full, in-depth preview of Colorado for 2015.|
|USC over Oregon|
Pac-12 Superlatives and Season Predictions
|Offensive POY||Cody Kessler|
|Defensive POY||Scooby Wright|
|Coach of the Year||Todd Graham|
|Coach on Hot Seat||Mike Leach|
|Top Freshman||Josh Rosen|
|Top Newcomer||Vernon Adams|
|Top Coordinator Hire||Kalani Sitake|
DC, Oregon State
DC, Oregon State
DC, Oregon State
DC, Oregon State
DC, Oregon State
|Key Position to Watch||USC DL||USC RB||Stanford DL||Oregon DB||UCLA QB|
|Hardest to Evaluate||UCLA||UCLA||UCLA||UCLA||Washington|
|Coach on the Rise||Mike Norvell|
OC, Arizona State
OC, Arizona State
OC, Arizona State
|Must-See Game||USC at Oregon||USC at Oregon||USC at Oregon||USC at Oregon||USC at Oregon|
|Breakout Player||JuJu Smith|
|Comeback Player||Tyler Johnstone|
Ranking the Pac-12's Coaches for 2015
1. Todd Graham, Arizona State
2. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
3. David Shaw, Stanford
4. Chris Petersen, Washington
5. Kyle Whittingham, Utah
Ranking the Pac-12's Quarterbacks for 2015
1. Cody Kessler, USC
2. Jared Goff, California
3. Anu Solomon, Arizona
4. Vernon Adams, Oregon
5. Mike Bercovici, Arizona State
Ranking the Pac-12's Running Backs for 2015
1. Devontae Booker, Utah
2. Paul Perkins, UCLA
3. Royce Freeman, Oregon
4. Nick Wilson, Arizona
5. Daniel Lasco, California
The Pac-12's Top 5 Players on the Rise for 2015
1. Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR, USC
2. JuJu Smith, WR, USC
3. Budda Baker, S, Washington
4. Christian McCaffery, RB, Stanford
5. Demario Richard, RB, Arizona State
The Top 5 Non-Conference Games for 2015
1. Oregon at Michigan State - Sept. 12
2. USC at Notre Dame - Oct. 17
3. Texas A&M vs. Arizona State (Houston) - Sept. 5
4. Notre Dame at Stanford - Nov. 28
5. Washington at Boise State - Sept. 4
Key Coordinator Hires for 2015
1. Kalani Sitake, Defensive Coordinator, Oregon State
2. Tom Bradley, Defensive Coordinator, UCLA
3. Jim Leavitt, Defensive Coordinator, Colorado
4. Dave Baldwin, Offensive Coordinator, Oregon State
5. Aaron Roderick, Co-Offensive Coordinator, Utah
Top Incoming Freshmen (from 247Sports)
1. Iman Marshall, DB, USC
2. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
3. Canton Kaumatule, DL, Oregon
4. Keisean Lucier-South, LB, UCLA
5. Rasheem Green, DL, USC
6. Chuma Edoga, OL, USC
7. Soso Jamabo, RB, UCLA
8. Osa Masina, LB, USC
9. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
10. Porter Gustin, LB, USC
LeBron James isn't the first person to come to mind when thinking of sophistication. On the court he's a beast, doing everything he can to lead his team to victory.
The Cavaliers star is one of the more known "Beats By Dre" spokemen, and in this new ad he's the model of class.
The "King" could sell just about anything.
There are a handful of teams in the Big Ten with realistic aspirations of making it to Indianapolis and playing in the conference championship game on Dec. 5. That said, there are also a number of teams flying under the radar, waiting to play the role of spoiler and derail the championship hopes of some of the conference blue bloods.
Here are the five Big Ten trap games of 2015.
Oct. 3 — Minnesota at Northwestern
Win or lose against TCU in the non-conference schedule, the Gophers should be flying high heading into conference play. They'll likely be looking ahead to tough divisional games with Nebraska and Wisconsin that will go a long way in deciding the West. It's very possible — even after years of watching Northwestern surprise opponents — that Minnesota will be looking right past the the trip to Evanston and failing to give the Wildcats the respect and attention they deserve at home. A loss to Northwestern in the conference opener would greatly increase the degree of difficulty for the Gophers to make it to Indy.
Oct. 10 — Michigan State at Rutgers
Connor Cook is going to be showered with preseason accolades leading up to the season. Do not discount, however, the Spartans' loss of big-time playmakers on both sides of the ball over the last couple of seasons. Others are going to need to step up, especially in games like this. The Rutgers home crowd will be raucous under the lights, anxious to introduce another one of the Big Ten's "old guard" to the friendly confines of High Point Solutions Stadium. If the Spartans let the Scarlet Knights hang around long enough, things could get dicey.
Oct. 17 — Penn State at Ohio State
This is a bit of a long shot, but we watched arguably a lesser team take down the Buckeyes in Columbus in 2014. Ohio State is going to wear the bull's-eye every week. As a result, they'll get every team's best shot. Christian Hackenberg's best shot just might be good enough to give the Buckeye defense fits if Penn State's offensive line can give him time in the pocket. The Nittany Lions are going to have some talent quietly lingering around the field in the form of James Franklin's first couple of recruiting classes — both of which were top-25 efforts. Upset or not, it will be Ohio State's biggest test thus far of the season since opening weekend at Virginia Tech.
At this point, the Huskers should know exactly where they stand in the race for the Big Ten West. They'll either be ready to put away their final two conference opponents and celebrating a successful first year under Mike Riley, or they'll still be licking their wounds from that gauntlet they ran through during the middle of October. Rutgers and their fans won't care. As was the case with Michigan State, it'll be time for another Garden State welcome, complete with a punch in the mouth from players on both sides of the ball who can go toe-to-toe with the Husker talent. It will be up to Nebraska to respond and play like the better team — avoiding what would likely be the most embarassing loss of the season in the eyes of the fans.
It'll be a "one game at a time" sort of season in Iowa City, regardless of how the Hawkeyes are faring from week to week. If the Gophers are still the quality opponent some are expecting them to be this late in the season, Kinnick Stadium will be electric under the lights when the Gophers visit. Regardless of the records when these two teams meet, Iowa will have the talent on both sides of the ball to cause Minnesota some problems and keep this one close in front of the home crowd.
Last season was a good one for the 40-and-under crowd in college football.
Three of the four offensive coordinators in the College Football Playoff were under the age of 40 at the start of the season — Ohio State’s Tom Herman, Oregon’s Scott Frost and Alabama’s Lane Kiffin.
Herman took the Houston head coaching job, and Kiffin resurrected his coaching career by leading a dynamic Alabama offense.
Herman, Kiffin and Frost have moved off our list of the top coaches under the age of 40 — as has Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald — as they enter their 40s.
In their place are plenty of 30-somethings with bright futures ahead of them.
Best Head Coaches Under 40
1. Justin Fuente, Memphis head coach
Fuente has been on the fast track since Gary Patterson plucked him from the staff at Illinois State in 2007. As TCU’s offensive coordinator, Fuente coached in two BCS games, including a Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin to cap an undefeated season in 2010. At Memphis, he led one of the best turnarounds of the 2014 season. In three seasons, Fuente led Memphis to its first AP top 25 final ranking in school history and first 10-win season since 1938. And remember: Memphis had lost 10 games in each of the three seasons preceding Fuente’s tenure. Another year like that and Fuente will be the top coaching candidate in the 2015 carousel.
2. Bryan Harsin, Boise State head coach
Harsin wasn’t even 30 when Chris Petersen promoted him to offensive coordinator on his first staff at Boise State — a move that coincided with the Broncos’ undefeated season in 2006. Of Boise State’s three major bowl games in school history — the 2007 Rose Bowl and the 2010 and 2015 Fiesta Bowls — Harsin has been a coordinator or head coach of all three. In two seasons as a head coach, Harsin has captured a share of a Sun Belt title at Arkansas State and an outright Mountain West title.
3. Matt Campbell, Toledo head coach
Starting during his time as an assistant, Campbell has been instrumental in Toledo’s re-emergence as one of the most consistent programs in the MAC. The Rockets have finished in the top four in the MAC in yards per play each season since 2010, including No. 1 in the league last season. He’s 26-13 as Toledo’s head coach and 19-6 in the MAC. Ending the Rocket’s MAC title game drought (since 2004) should propel him to a big-time job.
4. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan head coach
The former Rutgers wide receivers coach arrived with a reputation as an ace recruiter and lived up to it. He had the top signing classes in the MAC in 2014 and 2015, the former by a wide margin. He has 11 3-stars committed so far for 2016. The rest of the MAC has 12 total. He has some quirks — his “row the boat” mantra, for starters — but Fleck can coach. After going 1-11 in his first season, Western Michigan went 8-5 in 2014.
5. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech head coach
Kingsbury is still Coach Cool even if his stock has dropped since starting his career 7-0 in 2013. Since then, Kingsbury is 5-13 overall and 2-12 in the Big 12. The Red Raiders’ offense remains formidable, but Kingsbury needs new coordinator David Gibbs and the defense to turn his program’s momentum.
6. Willie Taggart, USF head coach
Western Kentucky is a legitimate Conference USA contender, and some of the thanks should go to Taggart, a former Hilltoppers quarterback. He shepherded the program in the FBS, going 7-5 in each of his final two seasons there. Progress has been slower at USF, which improved from 2-10 to 4-8 in his second season.
7. Neal Brown, Troy head coach
Troy won back-to-back outright Sun Belt titles with Brown as offensive coordinator in 2008-09. At the time, Brown was a green 28-year-old. From there, Brown took his version of the spread to Texas Tech under Tommy Tuberville and Kentucky under Mark Stoops. That’s Big 12 and SEC experience and a head coaching gig all before his 35th birthday.
Best Coordinators Under 40
1. Dave Aranda, Wisconsin defensive coordinator
Paul Chryst gets a leg up on his tenure as Wisconsin’s head coach thanks to the return of Aranda, who already has five seasons of coordinator experience under his belt at Hawaii, Utah State and Wisconsin. The Badgers have finished third in the Big Ten in yards allowed per play, remarkable considering they switched to a 3-4 defense in his first season and replaced All-American Chris Borland in his second.
2. Kirby Smart, Alabama defensive coordinator
As Alabama’s defensive coordinator since 2008, Smart has been an assistant of interest for several seasons. Presumably, the 2009 Broyles Award winner has had a number of head coaching jobs available to him as the Tide has been a perennial national championship contender. The question is when Smart, a Nick Saban assistant for all but one season since 2003, will leave his mentor’s shadow.
3. Rhett Lashlee, Auburn offensive coordinator
No coach has worked with Gus Malzahn longer than Lashlee, who was Malzahn’s quarterback in high school. Malzahn tends to receive the credit as the offensive mastermind, but no one is more embedded in the system than his 32-year-old offensive coordinator.
4. Justin Wilcox, USC defensive coordinator
A defensive coordinator for two undefeated Boise State teams under Chris Petersen, Wilcox is at home on the West Coast. His defenses at USC and Washington each ranked third in the Pac-12 in yards per play the last two seasons.
5. Kalani Sitake, Oregon State defensive coordinator
Gary Andersen’s hire of Sitake from Utah was a coup for the first-year Oregon State coach. Sitake is one of the Pac-12’s most respected defensive coordinators as Utah has remained solid on that side of the ball despite the move from the Mountain West to the Pac-12. His defenses have had a knack for the fundamentals even if they’ve been at a talent deficiency.
6. D.J. Durkin, Michigan defensive coordinator
Any coach who has worked for both Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh is on a good career trajectory. He’s also due for some good timing. Durkin left Stanford just before the Cardinal became a BCS regular and arrived at Florida in time for Meyer’s final season and into the Will Muschamp era. Even if Florida struggled in 2013 and 2014, it wasn’t because of Durkin’s defenses, which ranked fifth and first, respectively, in yards per play in the SEC.
7. Lincoln Riley, Oklahoma offensive coordinator
Riley may have made a career-defining move this offseason, leaving East Carolina for Oklahoma. All Bob Stoops needs Riley to do is revive OU’s spot on the cutting edge of offense. After all, Norman is where Mike Leach, Mark Mangino, Kevin Wilson and Kevin Sumlin all turned their offensive coordinator posts into their first head coaching jobs. Riley, a former Leach assistant at Texas Tech, led the No. 3 passing offense in the country last season.
8. Sonny Cumbie, TCU co-offensive coordinator/QB coach
Doug Meacham calls the plays at TCU, but the arrival of Meacham and Cumbie at TCU was critical to the Horned Frogs’ run at a College Football Playoff spot last season. The duo represented a culture shift for the TCU offense to the spread, and Cumbie was critical in grooming Trevone Boykin into a Heisman-contending QB. If you’re noticing a trend, Cumbie is also a Leach guy, passing for 4,724 yards for Texas in 2004.
9. Barry Odom, Missouri defensive coordinator
Odom returned to his alma mater after leading a turnaround for the Memphis defense last season. The Tigers ranked 10th nationally in yards allowed per play and 11th in scoring defense. In only his sixth season as a full-time assistant coach, Odom is an SEC defensive coordinator.
10. Mike Norvell, Arizona State offensive coordinator
Statistically, Arizona State wasn’t the most dynamic offense in the Pac-12 — fifth in passing efficiency, sixth in yards per play, seventh in yards per carry and third in points per game. That said, Arizona State needed to start its backup quarterback for three games (against two ranked teams) and still finished with 10 wins for the second consecutive season.
11. Jake Spavital, Texas A&M offensive coordinator
Surprise, surprise: Another Air Raid devotee on the list. Spavital comes from the Dana Holgorsen branch of that coaching tree, getting his first full-time coaching gig as West Virginia’s quarterback coach in 2011. He replaced Kliff Kingsbury at Texas A&M to work with Johnny Manziel and then supervised the Aggies’ QB derby last season. He’s another bright offensive mind entrenched in the most trendy scheme of the day. He’ll be sure to follow Kingsbury and others as they move into head coaching jobs.
12. Scottie Montgomery, Duke offensive coordinator
Well before age 40, Montgomery notched an NFL position coach stint under his belt and now sits at the right hand of David Cutcliffe at Duke. A Blue Devils alum and North Carolina native, Montgomery could slip into a head coaching role in a few years.
13. Mike Sanford Jr., Notre Dame offensive coordinator
Not to be confused with Mike Stanford Sr., his father who is the former coach at UNLV and current coach at Indiana State. After serving as offensive coordinator for Fiesta Bowl-bound Boise State last season, Sanford had a chance at coordinator posts at Ohio State and Notre Dame. He picked Notre Dame. Not bad for a guy born in the 1980s.
Just six months after UAB announced its football team would be disbanded following the 2014 season, the Blazers are set to return to FBS competition.
School president Ray Watts announced the decision to reinstate the football program on Monday afternoon, but it’s uncertain when UAB will return to the gridiron.
Since the decision to eliminate the football team in December, UAB’s fanbase and the city of Birmingham stepped up with donations and overall support to help the program return.
With UAB keeping its football program, the Blazers will be allowed to remain in Conference USA.
It’s anticipated UAB will hit the field again in 2016, but many questions remain for the program. Bill Clark did an outstanding job in leading the Blazers to a 6-6 mark in 2014 and will return as the head coach. But UAB is also starting from scratch in terms of players and talent and it will take time to rebuild the roster.
Also, there’s the question of facilities. UAB plays in antiquated Legion Field and an on-campus facility or improved stadium is needed. The program is also raising to funds to improve the practice fields and invest in the overall facilities.
All of the questions surrounding the disbanding and resinstating of the program weren’t answered on Monday. However, thanks to the #FreeUAB movement on Twitter and some leaders in Birmingham and in the state of Alabama, the Blazers will be back on the gridiron in the near future.
Watts we are taking steps to reinstate football rifle and bowling notifying Conference USA and NCAA— Alan Collins (@fox6alancollins) June 1, 2015
Ingram hopes to resume 2016— Alan Collins (@fox6alancollins) June 1, 2015
We all know J.J. Watt can catch passes, but who was paying enough attentio to Vince Wilfork to know he could throw them.
During the Texans practice, Wilfork winds up and hauls a deep pass to Watt. Houston may want to to explore this possibility during the season. It's a crazy idea but people said the same thing when Watt lined up as a tight end.
Just a 325-pound guy expanding his range, no big deal.
For five straight seasons, now, LeBron James has sat in the Eastern Conference throne. Only two of his past four trips to the NBA Finals, however, have resulted in championships. And if James is to win a third this June, he’s got his work cut out for him.
The Golden State Warriors were the NBA’s best team this year, and it wasn’t close. Their 67-win campaign makes them one of the 10 best regular-season teams of all time. The bad news for the Cavs is that Golden State hasn’t looked much worse in the postseason.
The Warriors can do pretty much everything, and do it very well. Their collective basketball IQ on both sides of the ball is unparalleled across the league, as is their ability to switch assignments on defense. Perhaps most daunting of all for Cleveland is that Golden State has arguably the best possible collection of players to throw at James, in Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. The lengthy Shaun Livingston may even get spot minutes covering LeBron.
The Warriors, by all rational measures, are the favorites to win this series. They’ve been historically great in every statistical category. Teams who play this well simply win championships.
But the giant caveat, as always, is that one of these teams has LeBron, and the other doesn’t. Despite an inefficient run by the numbers, James’ postseason has been remarkable. He’s put an injured, inexperienced team on his shoulders. And the depleted Cavs have found lightning in the surge of Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov in the front court, who look emboldened by a bigger stage. Add the the hot shooting of a mercurial J.R. Smith to the mix — along with a hopefully healthy Kyrie Irving — and this is an improbably dangerous squad.
The Warriors should win this series, but don’t be a surprised if the duel is a more hotly contested struggle than anticipated.
Prediction: Warriors in six.
— John Wilmes
There is no more Bruce Jenner.
Caitlyn Jenner makes her debut. The former Olympian posed for Vanity Fair and caused quite the stir. After spending months somewhat secluded to make the transition, Jenner is comfortable to show the world what she's been up to.
Jenner is on Twitter as Caitlyn and even explained how happy she is to finally live as her true self.
"If I was lying on my deathbed and I had kept this secret and never ever did anything about it, I would be lying there saying, 'You just blew your life,'" Jenner said.
I'm so happy after such a long struggle to be living my true self. Welcome to the world Caitlyn. Can't wait for you to get to know her/me.— Caitlyn Jenner (@Caitlyn_Jenner) June 1, 2015
ESPN tapped Jenner to receive the Arthur Ashe award July 15 at the ESPYs.
The headline of the New England Patriots' offseason, if you're not including "Deflategate" of course, has to be their decision to decline expensive options on cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, while also cutting fellow corners Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard. A Super Bowl-winning team completely jettisoning their top-four covermen is unheard of, but given New England's history with paying cornerbacks, it should hardly be a surprise.
With Bill Belichick's 15-season sample size, it's pretty clear how the Patriots value cornerbacks in their system. Yes, they'll occasionally spend big money for a one-year deal on a cornerback in his prime, but they'll never give one a long-term, monster deal. And even when they do give an extension at the position, the player will almost assuredly be cut before the final year of it, if not sooner.
For the most part, the cornerbacks Belichick has gotten the most out of have either been on their rookie deals or free agents brought in for the veteran minimum.
Let's take a look back.
We begin in 2000 with Ty Law and Otis Smith. Law was already in the midst of a seven-year, $51 million deal he signed before Belichick arrived, while Smith, at age 34, was brought in on a veteran minimum deal. Smith would go on to start Super Bowl XXXVI with Law.
Law was the first example of how Belichick valued cornerbacks. In 2004, Law wanted another extension and the Patriots offered him $26 million over four years. Even today that would be the biggest contract extension the Patriots ever awarded to a corner.
Law called the offer an insult and countered with a seven-year deal worth $63 million, including a $20 million signing bonus.
Then-general manager Scott Pioli simply responded "We can't do that. Save the paper."
Law would play out 2004 and then be cut in '05 and sign with the Jets for an almost identical contract to his last, seven years, $50 million. He was released after just one year by the cap-strapped Jets and would then sign a five-year deal with the Chiefs worth $30 million. He would play just two seasons in Kansas City and continue to kick around until he retired after the 2009 season.
The Patriots replaced Law with 2003 fourth-round pick Asante Samuel, who was thrust into the starting lineup in '04, after injuries sidelined Law as well as 31-year-old Tyrone Poole, another veteran added at a minimum salary. Poole gave the Patriots an excellent year in 2003, as New England fielded one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Samuel led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 2006 in the final year of his rookie deal but the Pats didn't reward him with a long-term deal. Instead, they chose to use the Franchise Tag on Samuel, paying him $7.79 million before letting him walk in 2008 to sign a six-year, $56 million deal with the Eagles.
Samuel's partner at cornerback from 2005-07 was primarily Ellis Hobbs, a 2005 fourth-round pick, who would also start all 16 games in '08 after Samuel's departure. But once again the Patriots chose to discard a homegrown talent at cornerback rather than overpay or extend him, trading Hobbs in 2009 before the final year of his rookie deal to the Eagles for two fifth-round draft picks.
Hobbs was due to make $2.545 million in 2009, so moving him for two picks was a surprise, especially with a complete turnover coming at the position.
Forced to start over once again at the corner spot, the Pats loaded up in free agency and the draft, bringing in Leigh Bodden on a veteran one-year minimum, Shawn Springs on a three-year, $13 million deal, while also drafting Darius Butler and adding them to the mix with 2008 draft picks Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite.
Bodden had a breakthrough year and cashed in with the biggest contract extension the Patriots had ever awarded to a cornerback at four years, $20 million, with $10 million guaranteed. This came back to bite the team, as Bodden missed all of 2010 with a shoulder injury and would return in '11 only to be cut midseason.
At the same time, the aforementioned Arrington was emerging from the ranks of an undrafted unknown into a stalwart both on defense and special teams. While overmatched against tall outside receivers, Arrington was one of the best slot corners in the league. In 2011, he led the NFL in interceptions with seven.
After being signed to the practice squad midseason of 2009, Arrington became a full-time starter in '10 and would go on to play in 66 games over the next five seasons, including 56 starts.
In 2013, Arrington signed a four-year contract extension worth $16 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. Slightly less than Bodden, but still one of the most significant contracts the Pats had ever given a cornerback. But Arrington would never see the end of that deal, being cut loose with two years remaining before signing with the Ravens this offseason.
The Patriots traded for Aqib Talib in 2012 and got a couple shutdown games and a couple injuries out of him, and once again, instead of giving a (somewhat) shutdown corner in his prime a long-term, monster deal, they settled on just a one-year deal worth $4.86 million.
That brings us to Revis and Browner, who were both signed in 2014 on what were essentially one-year deals with team options for additional seasons. Revis got $12 million for his one season, the highest total paid for one season to a cornerback under Belichick. Browner made $2.95 million, but his option would've paid him $4.6 million this season.
Given the Patriots' history at the cornerback position, it shouldn't be a surprise the Pats weren't going to give Revis anywhere close to the monster deal he got from the Jets which will pay him $16 million this season alone.
Bill Belichick is certainly willing to spend a bit more for a single season from a good cornerback, but they're not interested in long-term expensive contracts. Bodden and Springs both never lived up to the contracts they received, while Arrington and Hobbs were cut even before their deals were up.
In many ways, 2015 is reminiscent of '09, when the Patriots were in full do-over mode at cornerback. They responded by bringing in a number of veterans to complement their young draft picks, and despite how 2009 is generally seen as the worst season of Bill Belichick's Patriots tenure, the pass defense was still middle of the pack that year at 16th overall in Football Outsiders' DVOA.
The answers are not apparent right now. No one knew Bodden would have a breakout year in 2009 after an unspectacular year in Detroit. The Patriots have certainly taken plenty of shots on castoff defensive backs who have not worked out. Players like Duane Starks and Fernando Bryant never broke out like Bodden, Smith or Poole did.
Who knows which path current cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher or Robert McClain will follow, or if Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan or Darryl Roberts will become the next Samuel, Hobbs or Arrington.
But the Patriots' methodology has been consistent over the last 15 years, relying on young players on rookie deals, veterans on minimum deals, or the occasional one-year hired gun on a big contract.
Expensive long-term contracts on cornerbacks just aren't their thing.