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If any pitcher is flying under the radar right now, it has to be Zack Greinke. He only has six wins, tied with 17 other pitchers for 32nd best in the MLB. However, he ranks atop the MLB in ERA and is second in WHIP (behind Max Scherzer). Yesterday, he picked up his first win since May 5. Yes, it has almost been two months in between wins. He pitched 7.2 strong innings, scattering four hits and allowing no runs. He has not allowed a run in over 20 innings, spanning three straight scoreless starts.
In the time between his two previous wins, Greinke has allowed only 12 earned runs over nine starts. Save one game where he gave up five runs (the team won the game), that number lowers to seven runs allowed over eight games. He has received very little run support over the past month, which has led to his underinflated win total. Whether he wins a game or not, it seems to almost be a guarantee that he’s going to put the Dodgers in a strong position to win.
Watch below as Zack Greinke's season is discussed:
It may be hard to believe but Richard Sherman is not the most opinionated player on the Seahawks.
Doug Baldwin is never one to shy away from controversy and with all the talks surrounding the Confederate flag, now is the time to get a few things off his chest. The wide receiver grew up in the south where the flag is prominant, and doesn't see the use in supporting it.
Just like last year, Athlon Sports' 2015 NFL Preview magazine includes NFL player rankings at every position. The rankings in the magazine are provided by Dan Shonka of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services, a company that's been in the football talent evaluation business for more than three decades.
When it comes to the NFL's top defenders, the list starts with Houston Texans All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt. Now a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year honoree, Watt's jaw-dropping athleticism and big-play ability was on full display last season, as he not only terrorized quarterbacks, he also helped his own put points on the board thanks to his three touchdown catches as a situational tight end. While Watt is clearly the cream of the crop right now, he's not the only defensive linemen that is getting paid handsomely for his efforts either. Ndamukong Suh, the No. 1 defensive tackle, inked a record-breaking six-year contract with the Miami Dolphins this offseason that could be worth more than $114 million and is guaranteed to play the former Lion nearly $60 million.
Rankings courtesy of Ourlads' NFL Scouting Services
2015 NFL Player Rankings: 3-4 Defensive Ends
1. J.J. Watt, Houston
A unanimous All-Pro, Watt has never missed a game in his four-year career, recording 51.5 sacks in the past three years.
2. Sheldon Richardson, N.Y. Jets
The 2013 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year built on his first season by registering 67 tackles and eight sacks.
3. Muhammad Wilkerson, N.Y. Jets
Wilkerson has played in 61 games since he was drafted four years ago and has collected 237 career tackles and 24.5 sacks.
4. Calais Campbell, Arizona
Campbell is a wiry and strong player at the point of attack and has the speed to run a play down from behind.
5. Fletcher Cox, Philadelphia
A battler from snap to whistle, Cox takes good angles in both long and short pursuit and has good use of hands at the point of attack.
6. Justin Smith, San Francisco
This relentless and tenacious warrior announced his retirement in May, so his inclusion on this list is more a tip of the cap for Smith's impressive 14-year career.
7. Cameron Heyward, Pittsburgh
An explosive player with innate strength, the fifth-year pro has put together back-to-back solid seasons.
8. Haloti Ngata, Detroit
Detroit acquired Ngata, a nine-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler, this offseason to offset the loss of Ndamukong Suh.
9. Mike Daniels, Green Bay
One of the top disruptors in the league, Daniels is undersized for a 3-4 defensive end, but he’s quick and resourceful in his play.
10. Jurrell Casey, Tennessee
The four-year veteran is a productive, quick and high-effort competitor. Casey refuses to stay blocked and has the burst to close and finish a play.
11. Jason Hatcher, Washington
12. Ray McDonald, Free Agent
13. Timmy Jernigan, Baltimore
14. Corey Liuget, San Diego
15. Tommy Kelly, Free Agent
16. Cory Redding, Arizona
17. Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia
18. Jared Crick, Houston
19. Vinny Curry, Philadelphia
20. Desmond Bryant, Cleveland
2015 NFL Player Rankings: 4-3 Defensive Ends
1. Cameron Wake, Miami
The 2014 Pro Bowl selection has the hand strength and leverage to control the blocker and stack the run. Wake finished 2014 with 11.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
2. Michael Bennett, Seattle
Bennett plays with strength and leverage and sets the edge of the defense with good lateral quickness. He has elevated his total game over the past five years.
3. Junior Galette, New Orleans
The long-armed edge pass rusher has an explosive first step. A good athlete with exceptional change-of-direction ability, Galette has 22 sacks the past two years.
4. Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit
A talented and disruptive high-effort athlete, Ansah controls the blocker with his long arms and big hands. He elevated his overall game his second season.
5. Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants
The speed rusher takes advantage of his long arms and huge hands. He finished the season with 77 tackles and 12.5 sacks.
6. Everson Griffen, Minnesota
Griffen has outstanding lateral quickness with a relentless burst to the quarterback. An explosive leverage player, Griffen had 12 sacks last season.
7. Charles Johnson, Carolina
A productive pass rusher with the ability to stop the run, Johnson has quick feet with his outside rush or inside charge. Has 52.5 sacks in the last five years.
8. Cliff Avril, Seattle
Avril has explosive first-step quickness and uses his long arms to set the edge in the run game. Avril has recorded 13 sacks the past two years.
9. Mario Williams, Buffalo
A Pro Bowl pass rusher who can turn speed to power on a rush. He has sudden first-step quickness and covers a lot of ground quickly.
10. Robert Quinn, St. Louis
The 2014 Pro Bowler possesses natural hand, foot and lateral quickness. He refuses to stay blocked and can slip and accelerate off a block.
11. Chris Long, St. Louis
12. Robert Ayers, N.Y. Giants
13. William Hayes, St. Louis
14. Jerry Hughes, Buffalo
15. Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati
16. Jeremy Mincey, Dallas
17. Justin Tuck, Oakland
18. Olivier Vernon, Miami
19. Jared Allen, Chicago
20. DeMarcus Ware, Denver
21. Cameron Jordan, New Orleans
22. Anthony Spencer, New Orleans
23. George Johnson, Tampa Bay
24. Jonathan Massaquoi, Tennessee
25. Lamarr Houston, Chicago
26. O’Brien Schofield, Atlanta
27. Derek Wolfe, Denver
28. C.J. Wilson, Oakland
29. Jarius Wynn, Buffalo
30. Greg Hardy, Dallas
2015 NFL Player Rankings: Defensive Tackles
1. Ndamukong Suh, Miami
A new arrival with the Dolphins, Suh has recorded 239 tackles including 36 sacks from the inside at defensive tackle.
2. Marcell Dareus, Buffalo
A Pro Bowl selection after a 10-sack season, Dareus is a long-armed power player who doesn’t stay blocked.
3. Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay
The five-year veteran has catlike quickness, good agility and body control to work his way through traffic. He excels as a one-gap penetrator.
The relentless, slippery leverage player has good flexibility to dip and bend. The 2014 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year had nine sacks and 48 total tackles.
5. Kyle Williams, Buffalo
He missed 11 games due to injury in 2011, but other than that, he has been a tireless blue-collar worker Bills fans appreciate.
6. Johnathan Hankins, N.Y. Giants
Hankins plays hard inside out to the perimeter and has good lateral quickness and change of direction.
7. Kawann Short, Carolina
Playing in front of NFL tackling leader Luke Kuechly, Short absorbs blocks and gets upfield push in the pass game.
8. Stephen Paea, Washington
With his strength and leverage, Paea is tough to block one-on-one. He gains an advantage with his first-step quickness.
9. Terrance Knighton, Washington
This wide-bodied pocket presser was just what the doctor ordered for Washington to stop the inside running game.
10. Jared Odrick, Jacksonville
A free-agent signee, Odrick is projected to play inside in a four-man front. He’s a disruptive player who gets upfield pressure.
11. Vince Wilfork, Houston
12. Sharrif Floyd, Minnesota
13. Brandon Williams, Baltimore
14. Jay Ratliff, Chicago
15. Tyrone Crawford, Dallas
16. Sen’Derrick Marks, Jacksonville
17. Geno Atkins, Cincinnati
18. Star Lotulelei, Carolina
19. Damon Harrison, N.Y. Jets
20. Henry Melton, Tampa Bay
21. Dan Williams, Oakland
22. Nick Fairley, St. Louis
23. Tyrunn Walker, Detroit
24. Jonathan Babineaux, Atlanta
25. Linval Joseph, Minnesota
26. Clinton McDonald, Tampa Bay
27. Michael Brockers, St. Louis
28. Kevin Williams, Free Agent
29. Bennie Logan, Philadelphia
30. Tom Johnson, Minnesota
The Tennessee Volunteers took another big step forward towards locking down in-state Class of 2016 talent on Friday landing 3-star Memphis linebacker Timothy Hart.
Hart (6-1, 215) had a productive junior season coming up with 77 solo tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks, an interception, and four quarterback hurries.
College recruiters took notice of the Memphis University talent with 10 FBS programs extending offers. LSU, Missouri, Ole Miss, Memphis, Cal, Indiana and Illinois were among the schools looking to bring Hart to campus in 2016. Hart had reported unofficial visits to Mississippi State and to Tennessee, attending the Vols' spring game, and camped at Ole Miss on June 5 before making his commitment.
Hart made the commitment official posting his decision on Twitter writing, “After much reflection with my family and by myself I am proud to say I've committed to the University of Tennessee.”
Tennessee 2016 Verbal Commitment List
ATH Dorian Banks, 5-9, 168 lbs, Sevier County, Sevierville, Tennessee
ATH TaDarryl Marshall, 6-0, 180 lbs, Leeds HS, Leeds, Alabama
QB Jarrett Guarantano, 6-4, 200 lbs, Bergen Catholic, Oradell, New Jersey
OT Ryan Johnson, 6-6, 277 lbs, Brentwood Academy, Brentwood, Tennessee
TE Devante Brooks, 6-5, 230 lbs, St. John’s College, Washington D.C.
TE Austin Pope, 6-4, 220 lbs, Christian Academy, Knoxville, Tennessee
WR Jeff George, 6-6, 193 lbs, Dodge City C.C., Dodge City, Kansas
WR Corey Henderson, 6-1, 170 lbs, Evangel Christian, Shreveport, Louisiana
CB Marquill Osborne, 5-11, 185 lbs, William Amos Hough, Cornelius, North Carolina
DE Chidi Okonya, 6-6, 230 lbs, Riverdale HS, Riverdale, Georgia
DT Alexis Johnson, 6-4, 299 lbs, Fort Scott C.C., Fort Scott, Kansas
LB Timothy Hart, 6-1, 215 lbs, Memphis University, Memphis, Tennessee
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.
Top Mets pitching prospect Steven Matz did more than just pitch well in a rout of the Cincinnati to earn his first Major League win in his first start. In 7.2 innings, he only allowed two runs, while striking out six. But arguably his best production came on the opposite end of pitching: Batting. In three at-bats, he doubled and singled twice, driving in a debut franchise record four RBIs.
While there have been arguments against pitchers batting in the NL, especially after Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles batting, Matz has, at least for now, injected a true threat at the plate. As Matz dominated on the mound and at the plate, his grandfather may have stolen some of the show. He celebrated as if the Mets were winning the World Series, and maybe Matz will bring them one step closer to a championship.
Look below at his first at-bat, a two-out, two-RBI double:
College football fans and coaches already know about the established stars, Heisman contenders and proven players entering 2015. However, there’s no shortage of new faces ready to emerge onto the scene as key contributors for all 128 teams this year.
Since freshmen need more time to develop physically or within a system, it’s tough to count on every newcomer in a signing class to make an immediate impact. However, more freshmen are enrolling early and redshirt seasons help newcomers close the gap with the upperclassmen.
Related: 2015 All-America Team
With the season just around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the top freshmen for 2015. True and redshirt freshmen were considered for this article, with an emphasis on talent and playing time for the spots.
College Football's 2015 All-Freshman Team
LJ Scott/M. London
|Canton Kaumatule (DL)|
Arden Key (DL)
C.J. Stalker (LB)
T.J. Edwards (LB)
|DB||Kevin Toliver II|
Athletes and rapping often try to go hand-in-hand. This is the prime example of why they shouldn't.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski "freestyled" at a bar in Savannah, Georgia over the weekend and it wasn't good. At all.
Please don't ever quit your day job, Gronk.
The Pac-12 is stacked with quality football teams and elite coaches.
The rise of the Pac-12 began with the hiring of Larry Scott as conference commissioner. It continued by bringing in great coaches like Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, Chris Petersen, Mike Leach, Sonny Dykes and Jim Mora. Facilities upgrades, television networks and elite quarterback play followed close behind.
The rise of the Pac-12 is legitimate and has made this league the top challenger to the SEC. It's separated itself from the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten in a significant way.
But it's still not the best league in college football.
The SEC will be the best conference in college football once again in 2015. This is due in part because the Southeastern Conference appears to be getting even better this fall while the Pac-12 is simply trying to maintain the level of play it accomplished in 2014.
Which will be much tougher than most realize — in both divisions.
Oregon has lost Chip Kelly, Nick Aliotti and Marcus Mariota in three straight years. It's now fully Mark Helfrich's program and the Ducks can't possibly be as good as they were last season. Washington is replacing three first-round NFL Draft picks and another taken midway through the second on one side of the ball without any stability whatsoever at the quarterback position. Oregon State is losing its entire front seven and Washington State is still incredibly one-sided.
Stanford, which lost more games (5) last year than it had since 2009, should be better and Cal is showing major signs of life under Dykes and star quarterback Jared Goff. But a case could be made that four of the six teams in the North will be slightly worse in 2015 than they were in '14 and Cal still has one of the worst defenses in the entire nation.
In the South Division, only USC can feel confident that it will be better this fall than it was last year. Arizona State could possibly be in that mix as well, but it's hard to improve on 10 wins. Otherwise, it's difficult to see anyone else in the South showing significant improvement.
In fact, it will be hard for UCLA, Arizona and Utah not to regress in '15 and Colorado is arguably the worst Power 5 team in the country.
UCLA loses Brett Hundley, the winningest and most productive quarterback in school history, and a true freshman could be under center in the season opener. So despite a bunch of talented returning starters, it seems hard to find more than 10 wins for the Bruins this season.
Arizona loses most of its offensive line and, even with superbacker Scooby Wright leading the way, the defense still ranked as one of the worst in the nation — giving up 28.2 points per game and ranking 103rd nationally in total defense. This is a team that won 10 games but lost four times and improvement on that record also seems impossible.
There is a lot to like about the Utes but there also isn't anything special about this team other than Devontae Booker. Utah won a bunch of games with elite special teams but both Kaelin Clay and Dres Anderson are gone. So is Nate Orchard and five other defensive starters. Special teams and a good ground game can win plenty of games but can it improve on nine wins with one of the toughest schedules in the land?
The Pac-12 is a great football league with lots of quality teams, excellent coaches and fantastic quarterbacks. It's clearly better than the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12 in the national hierarchy.
But it's hard to find many teams that can take major strides forward in 2015 and that means that the SEC is still the best college football league in America.
After only producing one playoff team last season, the NFC East will be looking for a better outcome this year. The top two teams finished with mirror records of the bottom two, as they look to close the gap between them. There is certainly room for improvement among all the teams, as the Cowboys look to take the division for the second straight year.
Here are some of the players in the NFC East who could really make a difference in 2015:
Darren McFadden, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys (1st, 12-4)
How do you replace the NFL’s rushing leader from last year? Well you can’t, but to fill DeMarco Murray's roster spot the Cowboys signed free agent Darren McFadden, who was once the most hyped running back prospect in the draft. However, that was back in 2008 and McFadden has failed to live up to those lofty expectations, as injuries have been a constant for him. But head coach Jason Garrett needs McFadden to produce out of the backfield, and he could benefit running behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. McFadden is still relatively young (turns 28 in August), and he has flashed his all-around potential at times during his career. The hope is that Dallas will be the place where he finally puts it all together for a full season.
Another player to watch: linebacker Anthony Hitchens
Sam Bradford, Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles (2nd place, 10-6)
After swapping Nick Foles, who at one point looked like the Eagles' future quarterback, for Bradford the team hopes that its new signal-caller can finally stay healthy. With two torn ACLs in as many years, the move may be risky, but the payoff could be great, considering how well he was performed in the first seven games of the 2013 season. Bradford should get plenty of support from his new backfield of DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews, and also will have two young, promising wide receivers in Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews at his disposal.
Another player to watch: defensive tackle Bennie Logan
Rashad Jennings, Running Back, New York Giants (3rd place, 6-10)
After turning 30, Jennings has hit that ill-fated number that can be ever so damaging to a running back’s career. The Giants signed Shane Vereen in free agency and have second-year back Andre Williams in the fold, but both are complements more so than every-down options. New York's ground game ranked towards the bottom last year, coming in at 30th in yards per carry. The Giants will need more production on the ground if they want to get back to the playoffs, which is why the team signed Jennings to a four-year, $10 million free-agent contract last offseason.
Another player to watch: linebacker Jon Beason
Duke Ihenacho/Jeron Johnson, Strong Safeties, Washington Redskins (4th place, 4-12)
Strong safety has been an area of concern in the past, so the Redskins brought in Johnson, who was a backup for the Seahawks, to create competition with Ihenacho for the starting spot. Ihenacho spent most of last season on injured reserve, but initially started for the team. Both players will need to improve their coverage and scheme responsibility, as the Redskins finished 24th in pass defense last season. They are similar players in many ways, but together this duo must figure out a way to turn what was a weakness in 2014 to a position of strength for Washington's defense.
Another player to watch: linebacker Trent Murphy
Aaron Rodgers does anything he can to keep a competitive advantage in the NFL.
The Packers quarterback, along with his girlfriend Olivia Munn, took some time to work on their sword fighting. Someone needed more work than the other.
A video posted by Olivia Munn (@oliviamunn) on
“That’s a play. That’s not an offense,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson says. “We might run the actual triple option a few times a game.”
A year ago, Johnson was a favorite atop annual lists of coaches on the hot seat, in part because of a contract extension squabble with his employer, but also for his adherence to the option offense. The chatter around college football circles was that Johnson might even step down.
That didn’t happen. What did happen: Another season of 300-plus rushing yards per game, a top-15 scoring offense, a win over rival Georgia, an appearance in the ACC title game and a victory over Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl to cap an 11-win season. Now Johnson and the Yellow Jackets enter 2015 as the favorites to repeat in the ACC Coastal Division. What hot seat?
Related: ACC 2015 Predictions
“It’s the misperception,” Johnson says. “People in the media or coaches want to say things to create an advantage for them. If you’re giving up a bunch of points and yards, best way out is to say ‘We don’t see anything like that offense,’ and ‘You can’t recruit to it,’ and ‘We only had a few days to prepare for it.’”
Podcast: Preseason College Football Playoff Preview
No matter the current trend in college football offenses — spread option, hurry-up no-huddle, Air Raid — Johnson simply doesn’t care. He’s not changing. When asked why people denounce his offense for its “deception” while concepts like the zone read are celebrated for confusing defensive fronts, Johnson shrugs.
“You’d have to define who ‘people’ are,” he says. “I think that truthfully. ‘They’ve’ just had a hard time stopping it.”
This feature and a four-page preview of Georgia Tech are available in the 2015 ACC Preview
Due in large part to the effectiveness of the offense, Johnson has guided one of the most consistently strong programs in the nation since making the move from Navy in 2008. Under Johnson, Tech has finished lower than second in the Coastal Division only once in seven years. The Yellow Jackets have averaged 8.3 wins per season, and seven of the 10 best offensive years in school history have come under his watch.
That’s why Johnson believes critics attack the triple option … er, Johnson’s run-based option offense … on a false premise. And he bristles.
“There’s always been a misnomer about all our cut blocks,” he says. “It’s just (B.S.). If anybody wants to watch the tape, do we cut on the backside? Yeah, just like 50 percent of the teams in college football. But if you talk about it enough, you can get it outlawed; (and then) you don’t have to play against it.”
Johnson’s disposition matches his coaching scheme perfectly: Unconcerned with your opinion. When a young Johnson showed up in Hawaii as the new offensive coordinator in 1987, a quarterback named Ken Niumatalolo heard his teammates start to grumble.
“The communication was tough at first,” Niumatalolo says. “Here’s this guy with a thick Southern drawl and us with our Pidgin English accents. Still, you could tell he was an incredibly intelligent man who believed in what he was teaching.”
Johnson remembers that first season well: “That’s OK, they couldn’t understand me, and I couldn’t pronounce their names.”
Niumatalolo knew why Johnson had come to install the run-option: Despite having NFL-level talent at key positions, the Warriors had grossly underperformed. In six of the next eight seasons, Hawaii would finish as a top-20 offense nationally.
“That’s when I was sold (on) the offense.” Niumatalolo says. “In that first year, I’m asking myself, ‘How does he take a team that lost key guys and we got better as an offense?’ There was no doubt in my mind it worked having played for him.”
Niumatalolo joined Johnson’s staff at Navy after his playing days and took over as head coach in 2007 when Johnson was hired at Georgia Tech. “If anyone had any doubts at all, the early ’90s here at the Academy changed that,” Niumatalolo says. “Week in and week out, being undersized and going against people we had no business playing. … I’d just look across the sidelines in certain games and think we were going to get beaten badly, then you’d ask yourself ‘How are we scoring points on these guys?’ You just couldn’t help it.”
Current Army head coach Jeff Monken is a Johnson disciple who learned the offense while on the staff at Navy from 2002-07. “My first impression was that it worked,” Monken says. “It worked, and we could always adjust to what a defense offered. We didn’t find a situation we couldn’t work to overcome, regardless of the perception of talent on the field.”
Despite Johnson’s growing success as a head coach — first at I-AA Georgia Southern, where he won multiple national championships, then at Navy — critics still refused to believe that he would win in a major conference. And if he stole a few games grinding on opponents, he certainly wouldn’t be able to recruit Division I-caliber players.
“Never been a problem,” Johnson says. “We’ve never had an issue recruiting players. That’s just a myth.”
Every time Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas catches a Peyton Manning touchdown pass, it helps Johnson combat negative recruiting from rival coaches at that specific position.
“When we got here, Demaryius was buried on the depth chart in a pro-style offense,” Johnson says. “We asked him to block, showed him what he could achieve. The proof is out there — look at Stephen Hill. Yet now coaches in our league are telling recruits if they want catch any passes (not to come here), and we’ve had more receivers go to the (NFL) than his program. Recruiting is about the player, not the offense. You do have to find the right player for this system. And I do think that there are players out there who, if you asked, ‘Do you want to catch 100 passes or do you want to win?’ there’s some that just want to catch passes.”
So if Johnson has proven that offensive efficiency and recruiting haven’t suffered while running an option attack at the game’s highest level, why aren’t more schools running this offense? After all, there are plenty of programs running the hurry-up, spread attacks that former high school coaches Art Briles and Gus Malzahn introduced into college football in the last decade.
Monken believes others have taken notice and incorporated the concepts to the point that they are not that unique anymore.
“I’m not sure there’s a tactical advantage anymore because there’s some form of option in so many offenses,” Monken says. “So many schools have so many good athletes that are so well coached. I think that while it’s very effective, I don’t buy into that there’s a tremendous advantage anymore.”
But Johnson and his two former assistants, Monken and Niumatalolo, are alone in proudly announcing their intentions to use the “run-based option” at the FBS level. It may be hard to sell what many perceive as old-school football to fans, but Johnson knows that fans respond to winning more than anything.
“Fans learn to understand,” he says. “I think we had an identity at Georgia Southern. The kids believed in it, and the fans believed in it. No one was more disappointed than their fans when they got away from (the offense) after we left.
“But that’s just football. By the time I left Hawaii, fans were sick of it. They kept complaining about wanting to pass the football. Then years later when June (Jones) has them going run-and-shoot, I hear fans saying they wished they’d run the ball more.”
The fans at Georgia Tech might be singing a different tune in the future, but for now, the vast majority of Yellow Jacket faithful are just fine with Johnson’s option-based attack.
After all, who doesn’t like to win?
–By Steven Godfrey, SB Nation
The Johnny Manziel Circus came to Baton Rouge in late November 2013 promising all sorts of offensive fireworks. And, if LSU fans were lucky, perhaps the notorious Texas A&M quarterback would pull some kind of reality TV stunt, like trying to paint Mike the Tiger maroon.
Instead of Johnny Football fun, those assembled were treated to an old-style game of ball control by the home team. LSU dumped the Aggies, 34–10, running up a 40:19–19:41 time of possession advantage en route to 517 total yards. In an attempt to slow down the A&M spread scheme, Tigers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron instructed QB Zach Mettenberger to be as deliberate as possible when triggering the LSU attack.
“I said to Zach, ‘Run the offense, but don’t snap the ball until there is one second left on the play clock,’” Cameron says. “Johnny Manziel didn’t really get to play that much.”
A&M averaged 73.4 plays per game during the ’13 season but ran just 59 in the loss to the Tigers. It’s possible LSU could have still beaten the Aggies by trying to match the visitors on their fastbreak terms, but that’s not how things are done in Baton Rouge. LSU is committed to defense first, and its offense is designed to work with the other side of the ball to make sure the Tigers minimize the advantages opposing attacks can gain.
Related: SEC 2015 Predictions
When personnel questions at key offensive positions arise, as they did in 2014 when LSU had to replace its primary quarterback, top rusher and two best receivers, the team can’t rely on its tricky scheme to keep the cascade of points going. The 2013 Tigers finished 10–3 and had a 3,000-yard passer (Mettenberger), a 1,400-yard rusher (Jeremy Hill) and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr.). None of those players could be found on the ’14 roster, and LSU dropped to 8–5 behind an attack that fell from tied for 23rd in the country in scoring to a deadlock for 73rd place and an offense that fell from 35th to 77th in total yards per game. Cameron admits that “every year can be different,” but the one constant is LSU’s overriding commitment to being a strong defensive team, first and foremost.
“We play complementary offense,” he says. “Our defense plays lights out, and we recruit great punters. (Head coach Les Miles’) philosophy is that we play team offense and team football.”
Critics of the 2014 Tigers said that they were more like half a team, thanks to their offensive travails. Heading into 2015, the question is whether the Tigers will be able to contend in the ultra-competitive SEC West, or if their offense will once again sputter, as it did last year, when LSU tied for fourth in the division. The one thing we can count on is that there will be no dramatic changes in scheme as a result of last year’s slump. The Tigers will try to run a two-back offense, provided they have a suitable fullback. If that doesn’t work out, Cameron will look at his crop of tight ends, in the hopes of finding a group that allows him to be versatile at that position. But he isn’t going to spread ’em out, let it rip and try to score 60 a game.
“Our plan offensively is to win the game,” he says. “When we’re three touchdowns up, we’re not looking to make it seven touchdowns. We‘re looking to hammer you and control the clock. The mindset we want to have is that we don’t always have to have the pedal to the floor.”
This Feature and a Six-Page Preview of LSU are Available in the 2015 Athlon Sports SEC Preview
Like just about every offensive coach in college football, Cameron would like to have the kind of quarterback depth Ohio State enjoyed during its national title run. He doesn’t just want to declare a winner in the competition for the starting job under center; he wants to have two starters, the better to foster daily competition and protect against injury. Two years ago, Mettenberger tore his ACL in the Tigers’ season finale against Arkansas. Anthony Jennings, a freshman at the time, relieved him and rallied the Tigers to a win and then played wire to wire in a bowl win over Iowa.
But Jennings was erratic last year. The Tigers couldn’t throw the ball reliably and had to rely too much on Leonard Fournette and the ground attack. LSU ran it more than twice as often as it threw last year, an imbalance that must improve.
“It comes down to more accuracy and ball security,” Jennings says. “Elite quarterbacks win championships at the NFL level and the college level. If I get to that level, I think our offense can get to that level.”
Jennings had a tough 2014 season, completing 48.9 percent of his attempts and giving opponents little concern about the Tigers passing attack. When his backup, true freshman Brandon Harris, took his turn as a regular, LSU was hammered, 41–7, at Auburn. For the year, LSU averaged 162.9 passing yards per game, good for 114th in the nation. Given the team’s inability to throw, it is a borderline miracle Fournette was able to average 5.5 yards per carry against defenses that had everybody but the mascot in the box. If Jennings can produce more this year, Fournette might go for 2,000 yards and blast his way into Heisman consideration.
“Anthony can control the game, and he knows where everybody belongs,” Fournette says. “He’s a great quarterback and a better person.”
Fournette’s endorsement of Jennings is nice, but fans aren’t interested in whether the quarterback is an Eagle Scout. They want him to put pressure on opponents through the air. Cameron has said that he needs to do a better job tailoring the offense to Jennings’ talents, which sometimes is a coach’s code for the fact that the player in question isn’t able to run the complete scheme.
It didn’t help last year that the receiving corps was younger than the average boy band. This year, the wideouts will be more experienced, Fournette is five pounds lighter and much more confident — “I understand the game better,” he says. “I know where my cuts are and what the blocking scheme is.” — but the key to LSU’s success is whether Jennings can be more efficient.
He threw only seven interceptions last year, but he was sacked 22 times and was often indecisive. Even though the Tigers scored 51 points combined in their final two games — after managing a total of 23 in their previous three — there is a lot of work to do.
“Last year, I wasn’t completing enough passes for Coach Cameron to put me in position to throw a lot,” Jennings says.
Both Jennings and Harris were highly regarded dual-threat quarterbacks in high school, but neither was seen as a pure pocket passer. Without an air-raid style offense, it will always be difficult for LSU to land a top-shelf thrower. The Tigers will use four- and five-wide formations on occasion, but with a stated goal of controlling the ball on the ground in order to support a stout defense, it’s tough to attract top quarterback talent.
Miles can sell Mettenberger’s development — he started six games for the Titans last year as a rookie — but the roster of LSU quarterbacks over the years isn’t all that overwhelming, and 18-year olds aren’t likely to be swayed by Bert Jones’ exploits during the early ’70s.
So, it’s up to Cameron to find a way to make Jennings and Harris into productive passers within an LSU scheme that wants to score points but is more interested in stifling opponents. The Tigers will mix tempo, vary formations and feature the run. “We are a smash-mouth football team,” Jennings says. Even in 2013, when Mettenberger had a strong year, the Tigers still ran it 197 more times than they threw it.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Oregon had 170 more rushing attempts than throws last year. Alabama ran it 116 more times than it tossed the ball. And national champ Ohio State had a whopping 281 more plays on the ground than through the air. The difference is that each of those teams was far more accurate and efficient than Tigers through the air, creating a balance that made them difficult to defend. In a division that keeps getting better — and is devoting more money than ever to defensive coordinators — LSU simply must improve its offense or find itself continuing to win eight or nine games a year, something that isn’t good enough in Baton Rouge.
“We’re rebuilding some things,” Cameron says. “We’re looking at what Anthony and Brandon can do, and we’re reshaping our offensive line (which loses two starters). The bottom line is that we want to run the football, and we still believe in the play-action pass.”
That may not be enough to keep ’em cheering in Eugene, but for LSU, it’s just fine.
Provided the quarterbacks can do their share.
–by Michael Bradley
"Family Feud" is hard show to win. Not only do you have to be good, but so does your entire team. Even by some chance they give bad answers, you are still forced to stand there, clap, and say, "good answer."
Vernon Davis demonstrated just how difficult the game is by giving bad, but hilarious, answers. The 49ers tight end join other NFL players for an episode of "Celebrity Family Feud" but he clearly stole the show. That's hard to do with a host like Steve Harvey.
Good answer, Vernon. Good answer.
The Phillies have baseball’s worst record with no sign of improvement. And now they’ll be without Hall of Fame manager Ryne Sandberg. After replacing Charlie Manuel as the manager late in the 2013 season, he became the permanent manager later in the year. However, the team has struggled over his tenure, going 119-159, finishing in last place in his only full season.
The struggles of the team are not completely on him, as the team has not gone out to improve the lineup or rotation very much. However, with no sign of hope for the near future, perhaps he would have been let go sometime during or after the season. In the meantime, Pete Mackanin, the team’s third base coach, will serve as interim manager. It may be too late to look for a full time replacement now, but they will surely be on the search for next season.
Enjoy this video of his first win as a manager:
After finishing his storied career in 2014, Derek Jeter is finally celebrating his birthday without baseball, probably for the first time since he was a teenager. Jeter has stepped outside the public’s view since his retirement, as he often tried to avoid during his career. Now, however, he finally has the ability to enjoy life outside the limelight.
Thus, for his 41st birthday, he has been spending time in Italy with his model girlfriend Hannah Davis. Yet, he received backlash for reportedly splitting the check with her at a pizza restaurant. The New York media and fans certainly enjoy following the lives of their athletes in every aspect. Maybe he can’t get totally away from the spotlight, but he’s the Captain, and he makes his own decision now.
Enjoy this Tweet by the Yankees, his team of 20 seasons:
Is it someone’s birthday today? pic.twitter.com/HTj0gv4RaZ— New York Yankees (@Yankees) June 26, 2015
The 2015 college football season is still a ways off, but the preview and look ahead to the upcoming year never stops.
On Friday, Golden Nugget sportsbook released odds on several key games for the upcoming year.
According to BettingMoves.com, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and USC are favored in nine of the games listed by the Golden Nugget.
Check out the full list of first odds for the 2015 season:
Golden Nugget Sportsbook 2015 CFB Games of the Year Lines:
|ARIZONA ST. (Houston)|
|TEXAS A&M (Arlington)|
|BYU (Kansas City)||KANSAS CITY|
|SAN DIEGO ST.||-16|
Early Friday morning, same-sex marriage became legal in all 50 states.
As expected there were people on two ends of the spectrum, those who liked the decision and those who didn't. Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson was one of the latter. Like all athletes, Robinson felt the need to share his thoughts via Twitter.
The cornerback later made his account private, but that wouldn't help the situation. Social media had already caught wind of it and wouldn't let it go quit so easily.
The guy who doesn’t know the difference between gays and pedophiles wants to spread the gospel, but hide his Twitter. pic.twitter.com/v3vHXRUG1v— Darin Gantt (@daringantt) June 26, 2015
Robinson later said he's Christian and will stand by his beliefs, but there has to be a more respectful way to express them.
The age-old question is what is an athlete going to do after his career is over. The Rock is here to provide answers.
In a promo for his new show "Ballers," the actor shows Clay Matthews and Scott Van Pelt the ropes in hosting SportsCenter. He just has a knack for all kinds of things. The Packers star was, umm, not as natural as he is on the field.
Wanted to show good bud ESPN's Scott Van Pelt my favorite part of my house - my brand new, one of kind in the world...#BALLERS SPORTS CENTER in house production studio. And this is what he does.. #YouBreakItYouBuyIt #ThisDeskWasMadeFromUnbornTigersEye #ItsPriceless #DammitScott #DaDaDa #DaDaDa #BALLERS SUNDAY NIGHTS 10pm on HBO.
A video posted by therock (@therock) on
Few programs have heated up the recruiting trail the way Michigan has in the month of June. Over the last 25 days the Wolverines have added 20 verbal commitments including the Thursday pledge of 4-star defensive end Ron Johnson. Michigan landed the 6-3, 240-pound prospect out of Camden High School in New Jersey.
Johnson is not a one-year wonder on the recruiting circuit but is in fact showing he is just starting to develop and come into his own. As a sophomore he racked up 60 tackles, along with four sacks. In 2014 he finished the year with 84 tackles and 10 sacks, catching the attention of teams beyond Big Ten boundaries.
The Wolverines can call Johnson a recruiting coup of sorts landing him over offers from 24 other programs including in-state rival Michigan State, Oregon, Stanford, Notre Dame, Ohio State, North Carolina, Arizona State, Wisconsin, and SEC schools Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Ole Miss.
Johnson makes the third commitment for Big Blue in as many days joining Montreal, Quebec defensive back Benjamin St-Juste and 4-star offensive lineman Devery Hamilton out of Gilman School in Baltimore, Md.
The addition of Johnson also softens the blow of losing out on 4-star in-state defensive end Khalid Kareem. The 6-4, 260-pound, Harrison High School recruit from Farmington shocked many in the state of Michigan when he verbally committed to Alabama on Wednesday.
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManinLA.
Ohio State is king right now, and already working for another title.
The Buckeyes released an awesome hype video focusing on their returning players and how they plan to repeat this season. The video is pretty powerful and as far as hype videos go, it's pretty convincing as well.
By the looks of things, the Buckeyes are more than ready to defend the title.
The good people over at ESPN have released the online ballots for the annual ESPY Awards — the only true all-encompassing awards show in sports. As always, I voted. As always, I took it seriously — even if the show itself doesn't always do the same.
I'm enough of a realist to understand that at the core, the ESPYS are nothing more than a popularity contest — a "teen choice" award show for sports fans. I understand that football and basketball dominate pop culture in the United States, while everything else — including even baseball — falls somewhere on the spectrum of being a niche sport. Because of that, I understand the temptation of the casual sports fan to gravitate toward the football and basketball players when casting votes.
Be that as it may, I suppose I am naive enough to expect people to put some actual thought into their otherwise meaningless vote. I'd like to see a little integrity on the part of the voters.
In my mind, it's an easy choice. Regardless of the fact that I am essentially a football writer, I'm still a wrestler at heart — from the time I was seven years old, through high school and briefly in college. I understand the sport. I know of the unique struggles and pain that those who compete in the sport deal with — especially at the elite level.
Logan Stieber is about as elite as a wrestler gets.
Many people reading this haven't seen a wrestling match or don't watch them regularly, so I'll try to keep this rather simple. Stieber just won his fourth Division 1 NCAA Championship. That's a feat that has only been accomplished by three others since the NCAA began allowing freshmen to compete in the late 1960s.
Stieber finished his senior campaign undefeated, capping off an overall record of 119-3 during his college career. I'll save you the math — that's a .975 winning percentage.
In addition to winning the four individual NCAA titles, Stieber did something that none of the other nominees in his ESPY category did during the 2014-15 year, leading his team to an NCAA team title. The four other athletes in his category all made it to the championship final of their respective sports, but they all lost.
People often forget about wrestling being a team sport at the high school and college levels, but it very much is. Each weight class is like a different position on a team. Each member of the team must do his job in order for the team to have success. When you look at it that way, Stieber not only did his job, but also has been the best player at his position during all four years of his college career.
That's something that Marcus Mariota, Frank Kaminsky, Jack Eichel and Dansby Swanson — his fellow nominees — were never able to say during their highly decorated careers.
Two years ago, I was extremely vocal when the voting public gave the same award to Johnny Manziel over Kyle Dake. You all know who Manziel is and what he accomplished. All Dake did was become the first NCAA wrestler to win four national titles in four different weight classes — something that is not likely to happen again. That wasn't good enough for the casual sports fan and ESPY voter to put him ahead of Manziel.
They got it wrong.
Let's make sure we get this one right. Let's make sure we the voters do our best not to turn this annual spectacle into a complete joke once again simply by voting for "the popular kid" in school. Let's make sure Logan Stieber adds one more trophy to his already impressive trophy case — a trophy he rightfully deserves.
(Logan Stieber photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)
The New York Knicks surprisingly drafted Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth pick in the NBA Draft, prompting boos from the Knicks fans in attendance. New Yorkers have a long history of booing their teams, especially against the Jets in the NFL Draft. With one of the worst records last year, they were in line to have their pick of high-caliber athletes to build the future.
Not surprisingly, New York native, Stephen A Smith, took to ESPN to voice his anger over what he believed to be a disappointing, hypocritical pick. He explained that there were several other NBA-ready prospects available, including Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein. Porzingis seems to be touted more as a project with a potentially high upside, but with other more defined players still on the board, the pick was rather surprising. It may take time before Porzingis reaches his full potential, and that is not something a New York fan wants to hear.
See some fan reactions and Stephen A Smith's:
Unlike the Pac-12 North, the conference's southern division will be a lot tighter. USC has the pieces to make it to the College Football Playoff while Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona all could make some noise of their own. Outside of Colorado, we could potentially make a case for the other schools going bowling as well.
There are six teams in the Pac-12's South Division. This article will apply the win totals from one online sportsbook and discuss if there is any value in these numbers. A selection is made based on the team's schedule, in which the games are broken down into three categories - easy wins, toss-ups and certain losses. Most conference games are in the toss-up category unless there is a clear difference in talent.
Note: Over/under odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook
Pac-12 South Division
(Over 7 wins -210...Under 7 wins +160)
Record Last Year: 10-4, 7-2
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Anu Solomon was a pleasant surprise his freshman season under center. Solomon had 28 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. Nick Wilson rushed for almost 1,400 yards as a freshman last year. The WRs will be led by Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant, who each had over six touchdowns thru the air.
Defense: It all starts with Scooby Wright, who had 163 tackles as a sophomore last year. He makes things so much better. The team got good news when Reggie Gilbert was given another year of eligibility on the defensive line. The secondary will have to rebuild after last season.
Schedule: The Wildcats play three of their first four at home, hosting UTSA, Northern Arizona and UCLA. The lone road game in that group is at Nevada, whom they beat 35-28 last year. Starting in October, the team alternates home and road games the rest of the season.
Selection: The over is the play although I'd wait for the price to come down a bit. Arizona's schedule lays out nicely in that the Wildcats get some easy games to start out the year before hitting the stretch where they travel to USC and Arizona in November.
(Over 8.5 wins +130...Under 8.5 wins -170)
Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-3
Returning Starters: 12 (5 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Taylor Kelly is gone, but ASU brings back experience in Mike Bercovici. The signal-caller had 12 touchdowns last year to just four interceptions. He's got D.J. Foster back, who accounted for 12 touchdowns last season when he split time between running back and wide receiver. The offense was 16th in the country last year, putting up 36.9 points per game.
Defense: Getting pressure up front could be an issue at the start with just one starting returnee on the front line. The good thing is that the secondary is almost all back as well as a stout linebacking corps.
Schedule: The season opens up with Texas A&M in Houston before three straight home games against Cal Poly, New Mexico and USC. The Sun Devils get their bye week towards the end of October.
Selection: The under is the play, but as I've said in other articles, not at this price. The offense could surprise, but this schedule is tough. Getting USC, Oregon and Arizona at home will help, but not enough to sway me to take the over.
(Over 4.5 wins -210...Under 4.5 wins +160)
Record Last Year: 2-10, 0-9
Returning Starters: 15 (6 on offense, 9 on defense)
Offense: Sefo Liufau is back, but he has to improve on his turnovers. Liufau threw 15 interceptions last year, which were drive killers. Nelson Spruce is back and he was an integral part of the offense last year with 106 receptions. Christian Powell should be fresh after getting just 85 carries last year.
Defense: Jim Leavitt comes over from USF to try and fix this side of the ball. The Buffs return nine players here, but last year they allowed 39 points per game. The secondary figures to be a lot better with Ken Crawley leading the way.
Schedule: Colorado gets four non-conference games, as it plays at Hawaii to start the season. After that it's UMass, Colorado State and Nicholls State. The Buffaloes get Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and USC at home.
Selection: I'm going under on the Buffaloes, as I just don't know if they will get a conference victory. Getting the better teams at home helps, but I'm penciling them in for a loss at Hawaii as well as their rivalry game with Colorado State. Add the value that the under gives and we are sold.
(Over 9.5 wins +160...Under 9.5 wins -210)
Record Last Year: 10-3, 6-3
Returning Starters: 17 (9 on offense, 8 on defense)
Offense: The majority of this unit is back although the Bruins will have to replace Brett Hundley under center. Jerry Neuheisel has a bit of game experience, but he'll compete with true freshman Josh Rosen for the job. Whomever wins will have Paul Perkins to hand off to and Jordan Payton to throw to. The offensive line is almost intact from last year as well.
Defense: Myles Jack is back and he's not alone. A questionable secondary will get some help from a front seven that will get after the quarterback.
Schedule: The Bruins play five of their first eight at home. They host Virginia and BYU with a road game at UNLV in between in September. November will be tough with three of their four games on the road.
Selection: I agree with the money move to the under on this one. If UCLA can pull one out at Arizona, Stanford or USC then maybe you can take the over, but I think each one of those road games is a loss.
(Over 8.5 wins -210...Under 8.5 wins +160)
Record Last Year:9-4, 6-3
Returning Starters: 14 (7 on offense, 7 on defense)
Offense: Cody Kessler figures to be in the thick of the Heisman race this season, especially if he improves in bigger games. Last year he had 39 touchdowns to just five interceptions. JuJu Smith will have to step up and replace Nelson Agholor, who went to the NFL. This offensive line could be the best in the Pac-12.
Defense: There are several big names back led by Su'a Cravens and Adoree Jackson. The front line will need to replace Leonard Williams and Hayes Pullard. The unit will improve on their 115th-ranked pass defense from last year though.
Schedule: The Trojans warm up with three straight home games against Arkansas State, Idaho and Stanford. They have one two-game road trip in November at Colorado and Oregon. Other then that, this is a pretty manageable slate.
Selection: I'm a huge fan of USC this year. I think they finally play like the national power we've always known the Trojans to be. I will say this though, there is a case to be made for the under. Tough road games at Arizona State, Notre Dame, California and Oregon could all be losses.
(Over 7.5 wins -125...Under 7.5 wins -115)
Record Last Year: 9-4, 5-4
Returning Starters: 11 (6 on offense, 5 on defense)
Offense: Travis Wilson is the key once again. His inconsistency forced the team to yo-yo him in and out of the starting lineup. Devontae Booker ran for over 1,500 yards last year and will be a big help to take a load off Wilson's plate. The offensive line is pretty solid.
Defense: Hunter Dimick is one of the best in the Pac-12 after posting 10 sacks last year. The secondary will have to replace several players, but has Dominique Hatfield to build around.
Schedule: The Utes host Michigan and Utah State before two straight road games at Fresno State and Oregon. They then play three of their next four at home before splitting home and road games in November.
Selection: Small lean to the under for Utah. I think the Utes could make a statement with a win over Michigan in their season opener. As it has been the past few seasons, this team will go as Wilson goes under center.
— 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.
There is a lot of moving and shaking happening in the Big Ten these days.
On the field, this league has taken a lot of flack over the years (particularly from the South) about how slow the game is played in the Midwest.
Off the field, Jim Delany has been a brilliant puppeteer of conference expansion and television revenue, making his league the most profitable and stable of any of the Power 5 leagues with quick and decisive action. Penn State and Michigan have made huge, splashy coaching hires that should allow the former college football giants to regain their past stature.
However, the play of the Big Ten on the field is beginning to match its performance off of it.
Ohio State and Urban Meyer got the maligned Big Ten back to the top of the college football mountain by first knocking off hated SEC king Alabama and then crushing Heisman Trophy-led, Pac-12 champion Oregon.
The Buckeyes enter the season ranked No. 1 in the nation with arguably the best roster and path back to the College Football Playoff.
But the rest of this league is what will make 2015 so interesting. In fact, the Big Ten could be in as good a position as any league to get a second team into the Playoff.
Michigan State is that team.
Mark Dantonio has some holes to plug at Michigan State, particularly with right-hand man Pat Narduzzi taking the head coaching job at Pitt. But this team comes in at No. 7 in the preseason rankings for a reason and could easily slip into the Playoff despite a potential road loss to Ohio State.
Connor Cook is an All-American candidate at quarterback who will be playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. Shilique Calhoun and Lawrence Thomas set the edge for what is always one of the most imposing defensive fronts in the nation. Dantonio's squad is loaded again and will be the top challenger to Ohio State in the East Division.
The schedule, though, is what really allows Michigan State to sneak into the Playoff conversation — even with a loss and no division title.
Beating Oregon at home in Week 2 changes the entire complexion of finishing second in the Big Ten East. The Ducks are picked by most to win the Pac-12 North and play in the Pac-12 championship game. Winning the second-best league in America puts Oregon squarely in the Playoff conversation.
Would a one-loss Ducks team get the nod over a one-loss Michigan State team that beat them head-to-head? That's really hard to fathom. Certainly, a two-loss Oregon team wouldn't, right?
The rest of the Spartans' schedule features enough quality games to bolster their Playoff resume as well. Road trips to Nebraska and Michigan will be tough challenges and two quality wins away from East Lansing – something the Committee will have to respect. Home wins over Penn State and Maryland will look solid as well.
With one of the tougher schedules in the Big Ten and a marquee non-conference showdown against a fellow Playoff contender, Michigan State could easily find itself in the postseason conversation even with a loss to Ohio State.
If Michigan State beats the Buckeyes in Columbus on Nov. 21, this entire concept is thrown out the window and the Spartans become not only a lock to make the Playoff but a serious threat to win the national championship.
Of course, Michigan State may have to beat Ohio State again during the four-team tournament to clinch their first national title in over 50 years.
Be careful what you tweet.
The Lakers drafted Larry Nance Jr. with the 27th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and minutes later Twitter found an old tweet from him about Kobe Bryant. Now, it takes a lot to get on Bryant's good side in the first place, but I'm guessing this won't help.
Seems the Lakers' new draft pick just deleted this old tweet from 2012. Probably a good idea. pic.twitter.com/kC33QuIvPL— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 26, 2015
Once the tweet was brought to the attention of Mitch Kupchak, Lakers general manager, he said it was something Bryant and Nance would have to work out.
LAL GM Mitch Kupchak said he & team PR boss John Black addressed Nance's Kobe tweet. Said Kobe & Nance will have to work it out themselves.— Baxter Holmes (@BaxterHolmes) June 26, 2015
Nance is going to get a lot of Kobe Bryant death stares next season.
Let this be a lesson, nothing goes away on the internet.