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The SEC could be the nation’s best conference for running backs in 2015. Georgia’s Nick Chubb should be a first-team All-American, while LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Alabama’s Derrick Henry should be in the mix for second or third-team honors.
And the depth in the conference extends past the top three names with the nation’s top running back duo in Arkansas’ Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins, while Missouri’s Russell Hansbrough is an underrated player after topping 1,000 yards in 2014.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of running backs only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the running backs in the SEC for 2015.
Ranking the SEC’s Running Backs for 2015
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Georgia’s rushing attack never missed a beat despite losing Todd Gurley to a suspension and torn ACL in 2014. Chubb emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs over the second half of last season, finishing the 2014 campaign with 1,547 yards and 14 scores. The five-star recruit in the 2014 signing class averaged 165.4 rushing yards over the final eight games.
2. Leonard Fournette, LSU
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Fournette ranked as the No. 1 player in the 2014 247Sports Composite and showcased his talent by finishing the year with 1,034 yards and 10 scores. Both of those totals led all LSU rushers, while his 5.5 yards per carry average ranked fifth among SEC backs with at least 180 carries. Fournette recorded only 187 carries last year, so there’s an opportunity to increase his workload by at least 50 attempts in 2015.
3. Derrick Henry, Alabama
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
With T.J. Yeldon off to the NFL, Henry is ready for his chance to be the No. 1 back in Tuscaloosa. The Florida native led Alabama with 990 rushing yards on 172 attempts last season and tied with Yeldon with 11 rushing scores. Expect Henry to eclipse 200 carries and reach 1,000 yards in his junior campaign. At 6-foot-3 and 242 pounds, Henry is one of the most physically gifted runners in the nation.
4. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
Williams and teammate Alex Collins are essentially 4a and 4b here. Williams led the Razorbacks with 1,190 yards last season and edged Collins in yards per carry (5.6 to 5.4). The senior also rushed for more yards in SEC games than Collins (575 to 520) and finished the 2014 season by recording 105 yards on 23 attempts against Texas in the Texas Bowl.
Related: Arkansas Razorbacks 2015 Schedule Analysis
5. Alex Collins, Arkansas
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
As we mentioned above, it’s essentially a coin flip between Williams and Collins for the No. 4 spot. Collins led Arkansas with 1,026 yards in 2013 but finished 90 yards behind Williams (1,190 to 1,100) in 2014. The Florida native recorded only one 100-yard effort in SEC games last season and scored in eight out of Arkansas’ 13 contests in 2014.
6. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
Hansbrough was one of only seven running backs in the SEC to reach 1,000 yards last year and might be the conference’s most underrated rusher. In 14 games, Hansbrough rushed for 1,084 yards and 10 scores last season and recorded four 100-yard efforts. He also finished the year on a high note, rushing for 114 yards on 15 attempts against Minnesota in the Citrus Bowl.
7. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Hurd ranked as the No. 40 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and led the Tennessee rushing attack with 899 yards in his true freshman season. The Tennessee native was also a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield by grabbing 35 receptions for 221 yards and two scores. Hurd is expected to remain the No. 1 back for the Volunteers, but after the offense generated only 11 rushing plays of 20 yards or more last season, expect to see junior college recruit (and former Alabama running back) Alvin Kamara heavily involved in 2015.
8. Boom Williams, Kentucky
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Looking for the SEC’s next breakout star at running back? Take a look at Kentucky’s Boom Williams. The Georgia native is due for a bigger role in the backfield after leading the Wildcats with 486 rushing yards and five scores on just 74 carries in 2014. Williams had only two games of more than 10 carries, including the season finale against Louisville (18 carries for 126 yards). He also averaged 10.5 yards per play last year and emerged as an all-purpose threat with game-changing ability on kickoffs and as a receiver.
9. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Vanderbilt’s offense struggled mightily last season, averaging only 12.8 points per game in SEC contests. But Webb was a bright spot for coach Derek Mason, leading the Commodores with 907 rushing yards. Webb also led the team with four rushing scores and added 10 receptions. Vanderbilt’s offense still has a lot of question marks entering 2015, but Mason and new coordinator Andy Ludwig can rely on Webb for a 1,000-yard season.
10. Jovon Robinson, Auburn
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Robinson isn’t guaranteed to be the starter with Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas also pushing for snaps, but the junior college transfer was a huge pickup for coach Gus Malzahn on the recruiting trail. Robinson ranked as the No. 1 junior college product by 247Sports and was the 2013 NJCAA national player in the year after rushing for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was also a four-star recruit coming out of high school, so talent certainly isn’t an issue for Robinson. And with a standout offensive line in place, Robinson could have a huge season – if he’s able to approach 200 carries.
Other SEC Running Backs to Watch in 2015
Peyton Barber/Roc Thomas, Auburn
Jovon Robinson is expected to start, but Barber and Thomas will see their share of opportunities.
Tra Carson, Texas A&M
The Aggies ranked 13th in the SEC in rushing attempts last season, so opportunities are limited for the backs. Carson led the team with 581 rushing yards in 2014, and the 235-pound senior will headline the Texas A&M rushing attack once again.
Kenyan Drake, Alabama
Drake was off to a fast start in 2014 (271 total yards in five games) but suffered a season-ending leg injury against Florida. If he’s at full strength in 2015, Drake could be a top 10 running back in the SEC this year.
Alvin Kamara, Tennessee
Former Alabama running back is back in the SEC after a stint at Hutchinson Community College. Jalen Hurd is still Tennessee’s starter, but Kamara is going to see plenty of opportunities.
Keith Marshall/Sony Michel, Georgia
Injuries have limited Marshall to just eight games over the last two seasons. But if he’s healthy, he should team with Sony Michel to provide depth to spell starter Nick Chubb.
Ashton Shumpert/Aeris Williams, Mississippi State
Josh Robinson departs after rushing for 1,203 yards in 2014, but Mississippi State is still in good shape at running back. Shumpert rushed for 232 yards over the final five games last season, while Williams ranked as the No. 254 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite.
Kelvin Taylor, Florida
With Matt Jones leaving for the NFL, Taylor is set to assume the top spot in Florida’s backfield. As a sophomore in 2014, Taylor rushed for 565 yards and six scores. How high Taylor climbs on this list will largely depend on an offensive line that is a major question mark in 2015.
Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss
The Rebels need more production from their rushing attack after averaging only 143.4 rushing yards in SEC contests last year. Walton led the team with 586 yards in 2014 but will be pushed for snaps by Akeem Judd.
David Williams, South Carolina
Brandon Wilds is expected to begin the starter, but Williams is a name to remember after averaging 5.7 yards per carry on 45 attempts last year.
The Athlon Sports college football preseason Top 25 countdown starts on Wednesday.
Predicting college football is an inexact science that’s more difficult to pinpoint than any other sport due to roster turnover, as well as the volatility when it comes to developing personnel and new coaches.
We use depth charts, recruiting rankings, stats, schedules, history, coaching and gut instincts to predict each conference to the best of our abilities. Getting it right is our top priority.
But that doesn’t mean that certain teams are darn near impossible to figure out. Here are the 10 biggest wildcard teams in college football entering our Top 25 countdown.
The Tigers are going to be one of the best teams in the ACC but how good could they be nationally? There is a lot to like about this team with star quarterback Deshaun Watson and overall depth that’s as talented as any team in the league. But this team only returns two starters on defense and four on offense. Lastly, offensive mastermind Chad Morris is now coaching at SMU. This team could be an ACC champion and Playoff contender — or 8-4.
A new coach alone makes a team tough to pinpoint in the preseason. But one without a starting quarterback and a lopsided depth chart makes it even tougher. There are loads of talent on defense but few proven players along the offensive line or under center. Most believe in this coaching staff and the SEC East is fairly wide open, but it’s tough to gauge how good the Gators will be in 2015.
This is the most-talented team in the ACC and one of the top two or three rosters in the nation. But the offensive line is totally reworked, Sean Maguire is taking over at quarterback and only three starters are back on offense. The defense will be salty with seven starters back and a schedule that sets up for another ACC title run. But is this a Playoff team again or just a really good ACC team?
There are 13 starters back for LSU as Les Miles once again boasts one of the top 10 collections of players in the nation. However, none of that is under center (for now) and he has to replace John Chavis as his defensive leader. The offense should run through uber-talented running back Leonard Fournette and the defense should be fine, but this team is trending in the wrong direction, faces one of the toughest schedules in the nation and has major QB concerns. This team could finish in any of the seven slots in the SEC West and it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
The Big Ten's West Division appears to be wide open and Nebraska has as good a shot of winning it as anyone else in the league. Six starters are back on both sides of the ball, including star power up front in the all-important trenches. Does new head coach Mike Riley have a quarterback that fits his system on the roster and can the Huskers overcome scheduling imbalance to win the West? Definitely. Could the Big Red lose to BYU, Miami, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan State? Also yes.
Bob Stoops is coming off one of his worst seasons in Norman and, traditionally, his teams perform better when entering a season without expectations. This team won’t be picked by anyone ahead of Baylor or TCU but is the top challenger to the top two squads in the Big 12. If Baker Mayfield flourishes in Lincoln Riley’s system and six returning defensive starters improve, watch out for the Sooners.
Much of the Ducks' success in ’15 hinges on graduate transfer quarterback Vernon Adams and his ability to pick up the offense quickly in summer camp. The offense is downright sick, loaded with elite playmakers at nearly every position. The defense, in particular the secondary, has some major holes to plug. And Stanford is gaining significant ground in the Pac-12 North race this summer. Oregon’s ceiling is high, but are the Ducks a Playoff team or a Holiday Bowl team?
The talent is undeniably better and so is the team. But the defensive line is still very thin and the Vols play some of the best running teams in the nation. Dual-threat quaterback Joshua Dobbs should have better support up front along the line and at the skill spots but he has just a handful of starts under his belt. Can this team overcome a brutal schedule, exorcise some demons against Florida, Alabama or Missouri and contend in the SEC East? Or is this a five-loss team? The Big Orange’s youth makes this an interesting team to keep an eye on heading into the summer.
What do we know about Texas? Charlie Strong is an excellent coach who has a proven track record. His defense will be salty, physical and disciplined. And that the Longhorns have little to no offense. This team plays differently than anyone else in the league, making them interesting. But Tyrone Swoopes is still more liability than playmaker. With 11 starters back, this team is a total wildcard in the Big 12 this fall.
There are seven starters back on defense and seven back on offense, including the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Cody Kessler. The roster has more recruiting star power on it than any other team in the league, and by a wide margin. But the schedule is nasty — especially, within the division, the Pac-12 South — and questions about the overall depth still remain. Can the coaching staff get the most out of the Trojans? If so, this team could make the Playoff. If not, USC could finish fourth in the division.
The first year of the College Football Playoff was a resounding success.
Television pulled huge ratings. Athletic departments are richer and conference coffers are overflowing. The bowl games were showcased. The regular season was amplified.
And the fans got the postseason tournament they’ve wanted for decades.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t get better. Here are five ways to improve the College Football Playoff.
Expand to 6 (not 8)
The Playoff’s television contract is in effect for 12 years but no one in any position of power thinks the structure will stick for the full length of the deal. Expansion is coming whether we like it or not, it should just be six teams and not eight. Eight teams allow for three-loss teams to join the conversation and exclusivity is a good thing. Six teams fixes the “conference championship” argument and then some. The top two seeds get byes just like half of the NFL Playoff bracket. It's perfect and the Big 12 can't complain.
Use home sites
Get rid of the stupid bowl games. They mean absolutely nothing and have been grandfathered into a position of extreme power and wealth. The best part of college football isn’t a three-quarters full Superdome, it’s the pageantry of being on campus in the largest venues in American sports. It’s the Horseshoe. It’s the Big House. It’s Between the Hedges and in The Swamp. It’s Death Valley, the Capstone and the 40 Acres. Let’s showcase this part of the sport and award home-field advantage to the better teams while we're at it. Don’t listen to Bill Hancock, there are still 36 other bowl games that keep the sanctity of the bowl system intact. And can you really expect to ask fans to travel to three consecutive neutral site games?
Make the title game truly national
Home sites shouldn't be used for the final tilt, however. This is a national championship game not a regional championship or a Southern championship. The Super Bowl is rotated throughout the country and is played in every region for a reason. This national championship belongs to everyone and should be played all over the place. Indianapolis, Detroit, New York, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area (Santa Clara to be exact) have all proven they can host massive sporting events. Every region of the country deserves to host this great spectacle.
Limit rankings release to three weeks
One of the only major complaints in the first year of the Playoff was the rankings release. It’s completely fabricated by ESPN to drive ratings and create discussion on Tuesdays. It was genius business but isn’t in the best interest of the sport. The rankings need three releases. One at the end of November, one the week before Championship Saturday and a final release on Sunday following.
Semifinals on New Year’s Day
It’s not an issue yet because both semifinals in Year One fell on New Year’s Day. But the ’15 playoff will feature two games on New Year’s Eve. The Rose Bowl’s exclusive spot on New Year’s Day has forced other games to be moved to a far less viewable slot the night before. College football should own New Year’s Day every year like it did last season. Here is yet another reason to remove the bowls from the equation.
The best basketball going on right now is between the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies. A seeming culmination of a year of excellent play in the Western Conference, the teams’ opposing styles have sparked a lot of debate about the state of the game.
The Warriors’ 67-win campaign has pointed the way for the frontier of the league, taking a “pace-and-space” philosophy to its natural endpoint. It’s not so hard to do that when you’ve got Steph Curry and Klay Thompson; the Splash Brothers are, perhaps, the best shooting backcourt in the history of the sport. Both players’ ability to shoot their team to victory from beyond the arc has taken the Warriors offense to staggering heights. Curry’s creativity with the ball, to boot, has made them downright historical.
They mostly didn’t rack up their wowing efficiency marks against defenses as good as that of the Grizzlies, though. Memphis’ relentless, hyper-smart defense on Golden State has taken away both the pace and the space from the Warriors. Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Courtney Lee have hassled Curry and Thompson all series long, frazzling the duo to an uncharacteristic 14-of-46 mark from deep, or just 30 percent.
Golden State trails 2-1 in the series, and in the eyes of many analysts, they’re fighting for more than just a berth in the Western Conference Finals. Their offense, while amazing all season long, looks challenged as it faces the task of winning playoff games without a go-to option in the post. Reviving David Lee off the end of the bench might be an option for variety inside, and a less predictable perimeter attack. Or, Steph and Klay might just snap out of their slump, and start draining shots under greater duress than what they’re used to.
Either way it turns out, the winner of this series will carry the flag for their style, and potentially point the way toward lasting strategic trends. It’s pace and space versus grit and grind.
— John Wilmes
Five players in the ACC topped the 1,000-yard mark in 2014, with three of those players slated to return in 2015. Pittsburgh’s James Conner and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook are the top options returning at running back, and both players should be Heisman contenders this year. Quarterback Justin Thomas is the other ACC player that eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards last season. Will another name join Conner and Cook in the 1,000-yard department? Keep an eye on Boston College’s Jon Hilliman and Miami’s Joseph Yearby.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2015. This was not a ranking of running backs only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, 2015 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the running backs in the ACC for 2015.
Ranking the ACC's Running Backs for 2015
1. James Conner, Pittsburgh
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Conner is the reigning ACC Player of the Year and ranked third nationally in 2014 with 26 rushing scores. In two seasons with the Panthers, Conner has rushed for 2,564 yards and 34 scores. He will remain the focal point of Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015 and should push for All-America honors once again.
2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Cook ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and emerged as Florida State’s go-to back in the second half of 2014. Cook rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his final three games, including a 177-yard effort against Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship. With Jameis Winston off to the NFL, Cook will be the Seminoles’ best offensive weapon in 2015.
3. Jon Hilliman, Boston College
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
As a true freshman last season, Hilliman ranked second on Boston College’s offense with 860 rushing yards and led the team with 13 rushing scores. The New Jersey native recorded three 100-yard efforts, including 148 yards against Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl. Hilliman should be an even bigger part of the Eagles offense in 2015.
4. Joseph Yearby, Miami
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Yearby’s spot on this list is a projection, and the sophomore could be one of the ACC’s top breakout stars for 2015. Duke Johnson won’t be easy to replace, but Yearby flashed potential in a limited role last year by rushing for 509 yards and one score on 86 attempts. The Miami native ranked as the No. 44 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and is expected to start, but junior Gus Edwards will also see plenty of opportunities.
5. Shadrach Thornton, NC State
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
Thornton leads an underrated backfield for third-year coach Dave Doeren. In 13 games last season, Thornton rushed for 907 yards and nine scores and recorded his best rushing performances in the final three games. Just based on proven stats and talent, Thornton could be higher on this list. However, with Matt Dayes and freshmen Johnny Frasier, Reggie Gallaspy and Nyheim Hines returning, Thornton may not see much of an uptick in carries this year.
6. Wayne Gallman, Clemson
2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
Gallman provided a spark for Clemson’s offense in the second half of 2014, and the sophomore heads into 2015 at the top of a talented backfield. In 13 games, Gallman rushed for 769 yards and four scores and caught 24 passes for 108 yards. He rushed for 191 yards in the 35-17 win over rival South Carolina and added two other 100-yard efforts in 2014. Clemson has depth at running back, but Gallman could push for 1,000 yards.
7. Taquan Mizzell, Virginia
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Mizzell could easily finish much higher on this list in 2015. The Virginia native was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and has worked in a reserve role in his first two years with the Cavaliers. During his Virginia career, Mizzell has rushed for 464 yards and three scores and caught 68 passes for 435 yards. There’s no denying Mizzell is one of the ACC’s most talented running backs. Is he ready to take the next step and become Virginia’s go-to back in 2015?
8. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Radcliff didn’t see much playing time in 2013, but the Miami native emerged as Louisville’s top running back in 2014. He led the team with 737 rushing yards and recorded 12 scores on the ground. Radcliff posted at least 17 carries in each of his last three games and posted a season high of 136 yards against Notre Dame. Louisville’s offensive line is a concern, and there’s good depth in the backfield, but Radcliff could approach 1,000 yards this season.
9. J.C. Coleman, Virginia Tech
2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior
With Marshawn Williams (injury) and Shai McKenzie (off-field incident) uncertain for 2015, Coleman is slated to be the top running back for Frank Beamer. Despite recording only 65 rushing yards through the first nine games, Coleman led the Hokies with 533 yards last season and recorded three rushing scores. The Virginia native came on strong at the end of 2014 and finished the year with at least 95 yards in each of the final four games. Coleman’s best effort came against Cincinnati in the Military Bowl by recording 157 yards on 25 attempts.
10. T.J. Logan, North Carolina
2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
Logan emerged from a crowded backfield to lead North Carolina running backs with 119 carries last season. The North Carolina native ranked second on the team with 582 yards but finished the year with two 100-yard efforts over the final three games. Logan will likely share carries with Elijah Hood in 2015.
Other Running Backs to Watch
Dennis Andrews, Georgia Tech
Andrews showed some promise late in 2014 by recording 81 yards on nine attempts over the final four games of 2014.
Matt Dayes, NC State
Dayes recorded 573 yards and eight scores on 104 attempts last year. Five of his eight rushing touchdowns came over the final four games. He also caught 32 passes for 321 yards. A solid No. 2 to Shadrach Thornton.
Gus Edwards, Miami
Edwards will push Joseph Yearby for the No. 1 job. As a sophomore last year, Edwards rushed for 349 yards and six scores.
Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Touted recruit in the 2014 signing class should improve after only rushing for 259 yards last season.
Devante McFarlane, Syracuse
McFarlane has showed potential in limited action, averaging 6.1 yards per carry over the last two years. He’s slated to take on a bigger role in the backfield in 2015.
Mario Pender, Florida State
Pender flashed his talent and potential in a limited role last season, rushing for 206 yards and four scores on 41 attempts.
Shaquille Powell, Duke
Powell led all Duke players with 618 rushing yards last season. He’s slated to start in 2015, but the Blue Devils have options here, including Jela Duncan (back from academic suspension) and Shaun Wilson (7.7 ypc in 2014).
L.J. Scott/Jeremy Smith, Louisville
Scott and Smith should see plenty of opportunities in coach Bobby Petrino’s offense as backups to Brandon Radcliff.
Broderick Snoddy, Georgia Tech
Snoddy averaged a robust 10.1 yards per carry on 28 rushing attempts last year. If he’s healthy from a season-ending leg injury, Snoddy will be one of Georgia Tech’s top options at running back.
Dezmond Wortham, Wake Forest
Wake Forest’s offense is searching for some punch in the rushing attack after averaging only 1.3 yards per carry in 2014. The offensive line must improve to help the running backs, but the Demon Deacons need Wortham or Isaiah Robinson to provide more big plays in 2015.
The Chicago Bulls, tied 1-1 with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, looked to jump ahead in their second-round series. The tug-of-war match saw its ending come with the most memorable Windy City shot this side of Michael Jordan, as Derrick Rose hoisted up a three-pointer over Tristan Thompson that felt like the culmination of all of his struggles. Through three seasons thwarted by health issues, Rose and his fans always hoped for a silver living as shiny as this game-winner, which put the Bulls up 2-1 in the series after a 99-96 victory, and set the United Center on fire:
Paul Pierce’s career continues to find new acts. Once the face of the Boston Celtics’ franchise, he’s now made himself even more of a legend as a nomadic warrior of clutch moments, for various Eastern Conference contenders. Last year it was the Brooklyn Nets, and now it’s the Washington Wizards. Washington faced a steep challenge without their best player in John Wall, but The Truth set them free. Like Rose’s shot, Pierce’s went bank. ESPN’s Chris Broussard asked him if he called bank moments after this game-winner, and Pierce replied: “I called game!”
This bananas weekend wouldn’t be complete without a counter-attack. Rose’s iconic moment felt almost too good to be true, and all the more so after LeBron followed it up with one of his own. A strange Sunday afternoon game, in which both teams went through huge droughts, was defined by fatigue and unpredictable bursts of offensive adrenaline. Ultimately, it was the game’s reigning king who came out on top in this dogfight, which is quickly becoming one of the most emotionally draining series we’ve ever seen. Here’s James’ game-winner, the third buzzer-beating shot of his storied playoff career:
— John Wilmes
The Athlon Sports 2015 preseason college football top 25 countdown begins this Wednesday and hearts are already breaking across the nation.
Every season, the Athlon Sports Top 25 starts the national conversation about where teams’ expectations lay heading into camp.
Preseason Top 25 polls miss on teams — both good and bad. But one thing is true, your favorite team needs to be in the preseason top 25 to win a national championship.
No team since Georgia Tech in 1990 has won a national championship after beginning the season unranked. In fact, only two teams since 1990 have even played in a national championship game entering the season unranked: Notre Dame in 2012 and Auburn in 2013 — which needed more than one miraculous finish to get there.
The beauty of the College Football Playoff is that it has cast a wider national title net, but only four teams get in. Below are 10 power conference teams that are guaranteed NOT to be in the College Football Playoff and where they rank in the preseason:
Kansas (No. 103)
The Jayhawks lost 16 of their 22 starters from a year ago and are under new leadership. David Beatty was hired for his ability to recruit and the trail might be the only place Kansas will win in 2015. A winless Big 12 campaign is likely for the lowest-ranked Power 5 team.
Syracuse (No. 85)
Only seven total starters return for the Orange this summer. Scott Shafer’s squad is the lowest-ranked ACC team in the preseason polls and a repeat of last year’s 1-7 ACC record is likely. With LSU and USF in the non-conference, anything more than three wins might be considered a small victory.
Purdue (No. 84)
The Boilermakers showed slight signs of improvement last year in Darrell Hazell’s second season. But his record is 4-20 for a reason and this team lost six straight games to end the season. There are 16 starters back but only a few winnable games on the schedule.
Wake Forest (No. 82)
With 13 starters back and a second-year coach in Dave Clawson, there should be more optimism in Winston-Salem than other towns on this list. That said, Wake Forest wasn’t very competitive a year ago and anything over four wins in ’15 would be a success.
Vanderbilt (No. 79)
The Dores are the most talented team on this list but a nasty schedule and terrible offense make it nearly impossible for Vandy to compete in the SEC. There are 17 starters back so this team should be improved even if it doesn’t translate to wins. Keep in mind, Derek Mason was crushed by Temple and nearly lost to UMass and Old Dominion last year.
Iowa State (No. 74)
Paul Rhoads may never get a fair shake because Iowa State is really tough place to win. With just four starters back on defense, stopping Big 12 offenses will be hard to do this fall. A win over Kansas might be the high-water mark for ISU in league play this fall.
Oregon State (No. 73)
The Beavers have a new coach (who is well respected) and just two starters back on defense and lost the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer. The schedule is downright ridiculous, both in the league and out, and more than one Pac-12 win could be considered a positive.
Colorado (No. 67)
This team is getting better under Mike McIntyre ever so slightly but not enough to take big strides in 2015. Playing 13 games may give this team an outside shot a bowl game but that is still extremely unexpected.
Washington State (No. 66)
Mike Leach’s team took a step back last year and now replaces Connor Halliday under center. The Cougars return 13 starters and their only saving grace is getting to face two other teams (Oregon State, Rutgers) on this list.
Rutgers (No. 65)
Only Virginia (No. 61) is a higher-ranked, “last-place” team in the preseason projections. After a bounce back to a bowl game last season, Kyle Flood’s squad returns just eight starters and faces the toughest schedule in the B1G.
David Blatt is doing the best he can in his position, but it's clear this is LeBron James' team.
Blatt almost called a timeout the team didn't have late in the fourth. Luckily his assistants stopped him and the rest was history.
Ironically the Cavaliers did end up getting a free timeout based on official review. Blatt used that time to draw up a play, but it's clear the Cavaliers weren't having it.
James keeps it simple with his interpretation of what happened.
"The play that was drawn up, I scratched it," James said. "I told coach there's no way I'm taking the ball out."
The king has spoken.
It's hard to believe it was just 14 years ago when the upstart, underdog New England Patriots knocked off the "Greatest Show on Turf" to capture their first Super Bowl title. The Patriots were America's first feel-good story after the tragic events of 9/11, even choosing to be announced as a team as they ran out of the tunnel in New Orleans.
Back then it would've almost been impossible to find someone with negative feelings toward Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the other founders of the "Patriot Way." Belichick, a castoff coach, and Brady, an unheralded sixth-round pick, were the toast of the football world, but as the wins kept coming and the controversies started to add up, the tide slowly started to turn against the Pats.
If you're looking for the exact moment perception of the Pats began to change, the "Spygate" episode of 2007 is a pretty good place to start. After falling short in the 2006 AFC Championship Game, the Pats loaded up in the offseason, adding big-name signings like Randy Moss and Adalius Thomas to emerging stars like Wes Welker and Asante Samuel and established stars like Brady and an aging defense gearing up for a final hurrah.
Suddenly, the Pats were no longer a band of castoff free agents that just seemed to beat everyone with superior team effort. Now they were as close to an all-star team as the NFL had ever seen, so stacked it was almost unfair.
When the Jets reported the Pats for videotaping their signals in Week 1, the anti-Patriots blowback was immediate and severe, and a team that had spent much of the decade as darlings of the football world was now being called cheats, with their Super Bowl wins being called into question.
Despite many within the NFL dismissing signal stealing as a common practice, the Patriots had been too good for too long. The penalty was severe by most standards, though certainly not enough for many self-righteous analysts. Some believed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had covered something up by destroying the tapes, that he was doing his friend, Patriots owner Robert Kraft a favor. Still, the penalty was stiff enough to stoke the fires of those who believed "Spygate" was a much bigger deal than those within the football community did.
If Spygate turned many in the football world against the Patriots, it also turned the Patriots against the football world, acting as impetus for the only 16-0 NFL regular season ever achieved in the modern era. The Patriots set out not only to prove those critics wrong, but to embarrass their opponents in the process. They came within two minutes of the perfect season, but a miracle catch ended the 2007 Patriots' rampage and now they are a footnote instead of the greatest team of all time.
After 2007 came seven years of almosts for the Pats. Brady missed nearly all of 2008 after tearing his ACL in the opening quarter of the season, and then returned only to be bounced from the playoffs in the first round in both 2009 and '10.
They made it back to the Super Bowl in 2011 and to the AFC Championship Game in both 2012 and '13, but the disappointing endings did nothing to silence the "They haven't won anything since Spygate" crowd, despite having won more games and division titles than any other team in the NFL. Those wins only stoked the fires of jealousy even if the Pats avoided controversy.
Now comes "Deflategate," not only empowering the anti-Patriots sentiment once again, but putting Tom Brady at the forefront of the criticism. While Spygate fell almost entirely at the feet of Belichick, this time around it's Brady whose legacy is being called into question.
The NFL world has never been more polarized toward the Patriots than they are now and that will be how Belichick's team goes into the annals of football history. Whether you're a blind supporter of the team or their most ardent critic, what's undeniable is that there's never been another run in sports quite like this one.
The scorched earth, both on the field and off of it, is unprecedented. Add in Belichick's jaw-dropping personnel moves over the years and it's hard to recall another experience quite like what we've seen with the Pats over the last 15 years.
Some of it is self-inflicted. Neither Spygate nor Deflategate seemed to have much, if any, impact on the field of play. That's why these controversies are such head-scratchers when it comes down to it, they were really unnecessary. No one questions how well-coached the Patriots are, nor how hard they play. That is why they've won so many games, but right or wrong, their legacy will never escape the controversies in many fans' and pundits' eyes.
What's undeniable is that the Patriots have gone from the plucky underdog composed of unknowns and castoffs, to the evil overlord everyone wants to take down. Their dominance on the field cannot be denied, but the controversial moments will always be lurking in the background.
The only question left is just how high Brady and Belichick will set the bar on the field. They already have won four Super Bowls and established numerous records together. A fifth Lombardi Trophy would put the quarterback and head coach in a class all by themselves. But can they secure it before all the off-field problems catch up with them?
Regardless, these New England Patriots will go down as one of, if not the most, infamous teams in sports history.
It’s no secret Illinois’ coach Tim Beckman is on the hot seat entering 2015. Beckman’s win total has improved by two games in back-to-back years after winning only two games in his debut. However, after a 6-7 record in 2014, it’s critical for Beckman to post a winning mark in 2015.
And Beckman is only going to be under more scrutiny in 2015 after a series of tweets from former player Simon Cvijanovic (@IlliniSi on Twitter).
The tweets from Cvijanovic are only one side of the story, and there are others who came to the Beckman’s defense on Sunday night.
Which side is more believable? We've collected some of Cvijanovic's tweets, as well as some from other players (current and former) and other sources.
I stopped playing football because of my physical health. I was asked to push myself past pain until I didn't want to play anymore. #truth— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Toby Harkins worked for months as our head trainer and was not a licensed medical professional in the state of Illinois. He was fired.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I'm not gonna just keep quiet while players suffer— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I met w @coachbeckman this Friday and was kicked out of his office cuz he couldn't answer y I wasn't invited to the senior banquet.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I'm not the only horror story of abuse and misuse of power by @coachbeckman— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I have to see therapy for the rest of my life because I wasn't given an option to have my knee repaired.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Ask @coachbeckman harder questions and he will crack. I tried and he did.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
WHEN @coachbeckman is fired you'll hear plenty more stories but right now he's dangling scholarships like a carrot— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Why don't my medical records match what happened in meetings with doctors?— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
My knee had a tear in the meniscus. Takes 6 months to heel if repaired. Ask @drose Instead I was told it was no big deal. Back in two weeks— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
8months later I found out my meniscus is almost completely gone. No MRI's no surgery pictures for 8months— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
"Sore loser" you say, I say abused. Our edu isn't free. We have to belittle ourselves to the ranks of livestock. Or our "free" edu goes away— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
I have plenty of currently players texting me to keep going so I'm not gonna stop.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 10, 2015
Or make you hate football. This is @coachbeckman 's coaching strategy, conform or you'll really hate it.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
I quit football because the pressure to get back on the field was too much from @coachbeckman and his staff. I was too injured to continue.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
A bad knee and a bad shoulder and I'm supposed to just keep going? Just play right tackle they said.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
The only people who have anything good to say about Beckman are in fear or are still blinded by recruiting.— Simon Cvijanović (@IlliniSi) May 11, 2015
Tim Beckman statement on @IlliniSi: "We have continued to support him with medical care, an academic scholarship and academic advising …— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) May 11, 2015
Beckman cont: “We cannot make any student accept our support. We wish him success in competing his degree .. and whatever he pursues."— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) May 11, 2015
To all the tweets and requests for me to validate the trending story and the Illinois Football infrastructure... NO COMMENT! #NotMyFight— Juice Williams (@juicewilliamsqb) May 11, 2015
This is the calm before a very dark and bad storm. Prepare urselves— Alex Hill (@UpHill52) May 10, 2015
All I have to say is that, coming to U of I is easily the best decision I have ever made!! #Illini— CJ (@cjdilauro67) May 10, 2015
Simon quit on his brothers when we needed him most. These coaches let him stay on scholarship to finish his degree. #truth— Teddy Karras (@_teddy_k) May 10, 2015
My son has had injuries since being at Illinois and the coaches have handled them professionally.— Matt DiLauro (@DiLauroMatt) May 10, 2015
Everyone has a tough journey/story playing collegiate sports. Stop blaming one person or situation and start taking responsibility— Miles Osei (@TheMiles8) May 10, 2015
This Sunday is Mother’s Day. You should think of the woman who brought you into this world fondly: Give her a call, send her some flowers, perhaps even have a meal with her if she’s not too far from your area code. Be a nice son or daughter.
Whatever you do, though, don’t bring her near Matt Barnes. The Los Angeles Clippers forward crossed the trash-talk line this past Wednesday, when he had some crass words for the mother of MVP runner-up James Harden of the Houston Rockets.
What exactly was said? Who knows. It did spark some nostalgic moralizing from Rockets head coach Kevin McHale, though. "I heard about some of that stuff. You don't say anything to [mothers],” he said following the contest. “If you got something to say, say it to the guy you're playing against. I never thought of talking bad to Magic [Johnson's] mother. It's hard enough talking trash to Magic.
“We all talk smack. But my goodness, that thought never even crossed your mind… from what I heard, that's just not right. I came from an era where everybody talked smack and there was a lot of stuff going on. Not like that. It was much more: 'I'm going to kick your ass, what are you going to say about that?' Go from there.”
The last time a second-round rumor circulated about somebody’s mother at this level, it involved LeBron James, Delonte West, an affair, and a Cleveland Cavaliers season that ended on a strange, sour note just months before James infamously took his talents to South Beach.
While the tension between Barnes and Harden certainly hasn’t gotten to that intense of a place, this subplot does make the Clippers-Rockets showdown all the more heated and interesting. How the two players relate in Game 3 of their 1-1 series in Los Angeles, tonight, will be worth observing.
— John Wilmes
It's safe to say Randy Wittman won't be reading a Michael Lee article anytime soon.
The Wizards coach called the Washington Post journalist out for his article about John Wall and the team. In the article, Lee wrote that Wall was clashing with team doctors. Those accusations didn't please Wittman.
"What was reported today by Micahael Lee was a flat-out lie," Wittman said.
Tim Duncan is usually still playing basketball this time of the year. To see him off the court is a odd sight.
The Spurs early playoff exit is causing "The Big Fundamental" to do things he wouldn't normally do. Duncan went skydiving in Las Vegas to ease his pain. It's odd seeing a man his size doing any kind of extreme activity, but he does still play competitive basketball so what do we know?
We can throw out that "Duncan is old" idea now.
Keith Olbermann never one to hold his tongue.
The late night host recently unloaded on Tom Brady and the Patriots, as everyone seems to be doing, about the Deflategate scandal. Olbermann suggests a year suspension for the Patriots quarterback.
"They should suspend Tom Brady for a year ... they should suspend him for 24 hours for messing with ball, inflation, and then suspend him 364 days for stupidty," Olbermann said.
Perhaps Olbermann's take is a little harsh, but that's always been his style.
It’s not a good day for Washington Wizards fans. After All-Star point guard John Wall led them to a sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the first round, and a judicious 1-0 lead over the Atlanta Hawks in the second, he’s been all but called for the season.
Thursday, the team announced the severity of Wall’s wrist injury, sustained in Game 1 against the Hawks. Wall has five non-displaced fractures in his left wrist and hand. The Wizards have made no official ruling on their star, but it’s becoming easy to see a grim version of events in the short-term future: Without Wall for the next week or so, they’ll be too overwhelmed by Atlanta to win another game, and their season will end swiftly.
Wall’s team reports that his wrist swelled up substantially after he fell on his hand, and that the swelling has yet to even go down enough for them to make a proper evaluation. It would seem that the only reason Washington is not saying Wall’s out for the season is because of how hard of a pill that news would be to swallow. After looking like dark-horse title contenders for weeks, the Wiz are now facing the prospect of having their hopes dashed by a prickly twist of fate.
In Wall’s place, Ramon Sessions started Game 2, and will presumably maintain the role of his replacement going forward. Sessions performed admirably, scoring 21 points, but he cannot be expected to terrorize defenses and offenses alike the way one of the very best players in the game was doing. Atlanta tied the series in convincing fashion Tuesday night, 106-90.
So while it may be too early to say that Wall and his team’s season are over definitively, such a conclusion does seem like the most likely course over the next week or two. Nobody, not even the Hawks, likes to see a promising playoff run end this way.
— John Wilmes
Success with any college football team starts with coaching. Even if a program doesn’t have the resources of the nation’s elite jobs, a good coach can elevate a program into national title contention. However, similar to any position on the field, statistics may not tell the full story when judging a coaching tenure.
This is not simply a list of coaches ranked by accomplishment or wins. While those aspects are important, it doesn’t provide a complete picture of how successful coaches are. Winning 10 games at Alabama is different than winning 10 games at Kentucky. Also, every program has a different amount of resources available. Hierarchy in college football also plays a vital role in how successful programs are. It's always easier for programs with more built-in advantages to contend for a national title on a more consistent basis.
A couple of other factors to consider when ranking coaches: How well are the assistants paid? A staff with two of the nation’s top coordinators could be a sign the head coach is better as a CEO and may not be as strong in terms of developing gameplans. How is the coach in the X’s and O’s? Can the coach recruit? Are the program’s facilities on par with the rest of the conference? Much like assistants, a program needs good facilities to win big. If a team is winning at a high level with poor facilities and a small budget, it reflects positively on the head coach. Is the coach successful at only one stop? Or has that coach built a solid resume from different jobs?
Again, wins are important. But our rankings also take into account a blank slate. If you start a program from scratch, which coach would you hire knowing what they accomplished so far and their career trajectory? Remember, you don't get the assistants - only the head coach. And head-to-head wins do not matter for this ranking.
Ranking the Big 12’s Football Coaches for 2015
1. Art Briles, Baylor
Record at Baylor: 55-34 (7 years)
Career Record: 89-62 (12 years)
Briles has completely changed the perception of Baylor football over the last seven years. Prior to Briles’ tenure, the Bears did not play in a bowl or post a winning record from 1995-2007. Baylor went 8-16 in Briles’ first two years, but has played in five consecutive bowl games and tied or won the conference championship in back-to-back years. The Bears are 22-4 over the last two seasons and have three double-digit victory totals in three out of the last four years. Prior to taking over at Baylor, Briles went 34-28 at Houston. Briles is a Texas coaching lifer and has changed this program from one of the bottom teams in the Big 12 into a conference championship contender. The talent level on this team has improved with four consecutive top-40 signing classes, and the program just opened brand-new McLane Stadium in 2014. Momentum at Baylor is at an all-time high with Briles at the controls – and it doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon.
2. Bill Snyder, Kansas State
Record at Kansas State: 187-94-1 (23 years)
Career Record: 187-94-1 (23 years)
There’s not a coach in the nation doing more with less every year. Kansas State is not an easy job, yet Snyder continues to keep the Wildcats in contention for the Big 12 title on a yearly basis. Kansas State won only three games in the four previous years prior to his hire in November 1988, and after a 1-10 record in his first season, Snyder’s teams have won fewer than six games only four times and claimed double-digit victories in seven years. Don't forget that following his retirement after the 2005 season, Kansas State went just 17-20 in three years under Ron Prince before Snyder returned in November 2008. Regardless of how much talent or key personnel Kansas State loses, the Wildcats are always a threat to win the conference championship and finish among the top 25 teams in the nation. Developing and finding talent in the junior college ranks is one of Snyder’s biggest strengths. Kansas State doesn’t recruit at a high level, so it’s important to develop talent and find ways to win games with less. That’s exactly what Snyder has accomplished, as from 2011-14, the Wildcats have the best record in Big 12 games (27-9).
3. Gary Patterson, TCU
Record at TCU: 132-45 (14 years)
Career Record: 132-45 (14 years)
Coming off a 12-1 season and a No. 3 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, TCU is among the favorites to contend for the 2015 national championship. The Horned Frogs have come a long way in a short amount of time since joining the Big 12. TCU finished 7-6 in its Big 12 debut in 2012 but followed that up with a 4-8 mark in 2013, thanks in large part to a struggling offense. The The 8-1 mark in conference play last season is easily the best of TCU’s three-year stint in the Big 12. In Patterson’s 14 years, the Horned Frogs have won 132 games and claimed 10 or more victories in nine of those seasons. Winning at a high level is nothing new for Patterson in Fort Worth. In 2010, TCU finished No. 2 nationally with a 13-0 mark, No. 7 in 2008 and No. 6 in 2009. With Patterson at the helm, TCU will be a consistent threat to win the Big 12 title.
4. Bob Stoops, Oklahoma
Record at Oklahoma: 168-44 (16 years)
Career Record: 168-44 (16 years)
With 16 seasons at Oklahoma, Stoops is the second-longest tenured coach in college football. The Sooners have consistently ranked among the Big 12’s best under Stoops, winning at least 10 games in 12 of his years in Norman. Additionally, Stoops has guided Oklahoma to eight Big 12 titles and one national championship (2000). Winning at a high level and competing for a spot in one of college football’s top bowl games has become the norm for the Sooners under Stoops. However, Oklahoma finished 8-5 in 2014, which was the worst mark under Stoops since 2009 (8-5). Maintaining success at one job for a long period of time is no easy task for any college football coach. Stoops will try to get the program back on track with a few staff changes, including new offensive play-caller Lincoln Riley. There’s no question Stoops is among the best in the nation, and it will be interesting to see if 2014 was just a small blip on the radar or if it’s the beginning of a down period for the program.
5. Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
Record at Oklahoma State: 84-44 (10 years)
Career Record: 84-44 (10 years)
Oklahoma State took a step back in the win column in 2014, needing a late punt return for a touchdown to beat Oklahoma and secure bowl eligibility for the ninth consecutive season. The win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl gave Oklahoma State its ninth winning season in Gundy’s 10 years. The Cowboys have won at least 10 games in three out of the last five seasons and finished No. 3 nationally in 2011. Gundy consistently has Oklahoma State finishing in the top half of the Big 12, and the Cowboys are poised to return to the top 25 after last year’s 7-6 mark. Gundy’s name popped up in the rumor mill for other jobs over the last three offseasons, but the former Oklahoma State quarterback seems to be reenergized headed into 2015.
6. Charlie Strong, Texas
Record at Texas: 6-7 (1 year)
Career Record: 43-23 (5+ years)
As expected, Strong had to reset the foundation at Texas. The Longhorns finished 6-7 last year and won five games in Big 12 action. However, Texas beat only two teams with a winning record and was thoroughly dominated by TCU and Arkansas in the final two games of 2014. The Longhorns only went 16-11 in Big 12 games over Mack Brown’s final three years and recorded just one finish in the final Associated Press poll in that span. The program clearly slipped in Brown’s final four years, and Strong needs a little time to rebuild the talent and get Texas back into contention for Big 12 championships. It’s only a matter of time before that happens, as Strong went 37-15 in four years at Louisville, including a 23-3 record from 2012-13.
7. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Record at West Virginia: 28-23 (4 years)
Career Record: 28-23 (4 years)
Under Holgorsen’s direction over the last four years, West Virginia has made the successful transition from the Big East to the Big 12. The Mountaineers won the Big East title in Holgorsen’s first season and finished 7-6 in their Big 12 debut in 2012. After stumbling to a 4-8 record in 2013, West Virginia rebounded with a 7-6 record in 2014 and claimed its first winning mark in conference play since joining the Big 12. And with 15 starters back for 2015, West Virginia should have a good chance to improve on last year’s record. Holgorsen is a highly regarded offensive mind and is settling into his role as the head coach. With Holgorsen stabilizing the program and competing in the Big 12, the future looks bright in Morgantown.
8. Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Record at Texas Tech: 12-13 (2 years)
Career Record: 12-13 (2 years)
Kingsbury was one of the nation’s top assistants when he was tapped to replace Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech in 2013. And the Red Raiders started Kingsbury’s tenure on a high note, winning their first seven games and jumping as high as No. 16 in the Associated Press poll. But Texas Tech lost its last five regular season games and used a bowl victory over Arizona State to finish 8-5. 2014 was a step back for Kingsbury, as the Red Raiders slipped to 4-8 and recorded three wins by seven points or less against Central Arkansas, UTEP and Iowa State. There’s no doubt Kingsbury is one of the Big 12’s top offensive minds and will have his unit performing at a high level. However, fixing the defense has to be a priority after allowing 42.8 points in Big 12 games in 2014. Hiring David Gibbs should pay dividends for the defense, which should allow Texas Tech to return to the postseason in 2015.
9. Paul Rhoads, Iowa State
Record at Iowa State: 29-46 (6 years)
Career Record: 29-46 (6 years)
Iowa State is one of the nation’s toughest Power 5 jobs. The in-state recruiting base is small, the Big 12 slate isn’t easy and you have to be good at developing talent or mining the junior college ranks for quick fixes. As an Iowa native, Rhoads knows all about the challenges of coaching in Ames. He also served as an assistant with the Cyclones in 1995-99. In six years as the program’s head coach, Rhoads is 29-46 overall with three bowl appearances. Iowa State has slipped after earning back-to-back bowl bids in 2011-12 with a 5-19 mark over the last two years. Rhoads is a good coach that can squeeze the most out of his roster. However, after a winless record in Big 12 play, Rhoads needs to get the program back to qualifying for a bowl game.
10. David Beaty, Kansas
Record at Kansas: First Year
Career Record: First Year
Beaty is a former Kansas assistant and comes to Lawrence after a three-year stint at Texas A&M. He has never been a head coach, but the Jayhawks hope his recruiting ties to Texas and previous experience at Kansas help to turn around a program that has not won more than three games in each of the last five years. Beaty retained last year’s interim coach Clint Bowen but isn’t inheriting much to work with going into 2015 and just getting to three or four wins would be a good year for the Jayhawks. With a lack of head coaching experience and only two years as a coordinator on the collegiate level, Beaty is still largely an unknown.
Bill Simmons will be leaving ESPN at the end of his contract.
According to Richard Sandomir of The New York Times, the relationship between the Grantland founder and the worldwide leader in sports has reached its peak.
BIll SImmons to leave ESPN, according to ESPN president John Skipper. "We weren't going to get to the terms," said Skipper.— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) May 8, 2015
ESPN president John Skipper issued a statement following the news. Simmons and the company couldn't agree on terms of a new contract.
Statement from ESPN President John Skipper: “I decided today that we are not going to renew Bill Simmons’ (cont) http://t.co/gYGqCZ2KEY— Josh Krulewitz (@jksports) May 8, 2015
Simmons' contract with ESPN expires at the end of September. No word on whether he'll end up at another media giant, or stay independent and call all the shots.
The 2015 NFL Draft is over and more than 400 players have begun the next chapter of their football careers.
So what better time than now to look ahead to next spring and the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the top 25 prospects that could be drafted from the Big Ten:
1. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (6-4, 230)
He got no support from his running game or offensive line last fall, but Hackenberg has all the NFL tools to be the best QB prospect in the draft next year. He's a more athletic version of Eli Manning. It's hard to keep elite QBs from being the top pick.
2. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6-4, 265)
The best pure pass rusher in this class, Bosa has already proven himself as one of the best in college football. He is likely to be avoided by most offenses in '15 so the numbers may not improve, but his stock won't go anywhere. He's one of the best players in the nation period.
3. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 235)
The freakish redshirt sophomore had a coming-out party in the College Football Playoff, earning MVP honors of the Sugar Bowl. He could blossom into the best linebacker in the nation due to elite speed, instincts and physicality.
4. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (6-3, 218)
He's got the size, the arm and is an above-average athlete. He wins games and takes care of the football as well. He's a pure leader who could be on the only team capable of knocking off Ohio State.
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 225)
The top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season was an absolute monster in the Playoffs. He carried his team to a national championship and should be the top back taken if he can stay healthy.
6. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State (6-4, 255)
There is a good chance he's the starter for Ohio State when the season opens, and his overall arm talent is what makes him the best QB prospect on the OSU roster. And a second national title could cement his first-round status.
7. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (6-5, 255)
Calhoun could have left school early last fall but elected to return. His stock can't change much but as long as he continues to deliver on his tremendous ability on a championship-level defense, he will be a first-rounder.
8. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (6-6, 317)
He struggled some with Shawn Oakman (a potential first-round pick from Baylor) in the Cotton Bowl but has been Cook’s blindside anchor. He’s solid against both the run and the pass and will have a chance to lead MSU to a Big Ten title.
9. Joshua Perry, OLB, Ohio State (6-4, 254)
The tackling machine isn’t the flashiest or most explosive player on the Buckeyes' defense but he’s one of the most consistent. He led the national champs in tackles last year with 124 and added 8.5 for a loss and 3.0 sacks. There are few players at his position with his size.
10. Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska (6-2, 300)
Randy Gregory got all of the headlines but Collins developed into a star in his own right last fall as just a sophomore. The disruptive tackle posted 45 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks — arguably a better season than Gregory. The sky is the limit for Collins.
11. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (6-7, 315)
He’s a massive guy with a long frame who has excelled against some of the best in the business. This offensive line dominated in the national title game and against Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
12. Adolphus Washington, DL, Ohio State (6-4, 290)
With Michael Bennett and Steve Miller gone, more of the D-line onus will fall to this former big-time recruit. He’s got great size and length and makes more plays than the average tackle. He needs to prove he can be the focal point after 48 tackles, 10.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks.
13. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State (5-11, 205)
The former five-star recruit finished second on the team in tackles last year (92) and has proven himself a playmaker in short order. He doesn’t have great size but has the elite athleticism that NFL pass defenses are looking for and he elevated his game in the Playoffs.
14. Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State (6-4, 278)
Getting Zettel back this season was a big win for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop and company. The big fellas clogged the middle for one of the best defenses in the league last fall, posting 42 tackles, 17.0 tackles for a loss and 8.0 sacks.
15. Kyle Carter, TE, Penn State (6-3, 240)
A trio of talented wide receivers and the departed Jesse James took the spotlight from Carter last fall. But make no mistake, he’s got NFL ability. He only caught 16 passes last season but fans in Happy Valley (as well as Mr. Hackenberg) are expecting a big leap forward in ’15.
16. Tyler Marz, OT, Wisconsin (6-5, 321)
The next in a long line of UW blockers with NFL upside. Guards and centers from Madison have had better careers in the NFL but Marz will lead what is once again one of the best running games in the nation.
17. Theiren Cockran, DE, Minnesota (6-6, 257)
He’s rangy and versatile. He can play outside backer in a 3-4 but has excelled as a true end for Jerry Kill. Should the Florida native blossom into an All-Big Ten player, his stock could soar come draft day.
18. Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin (5-11, 210)
Wisconsin knows how to run the ball and the next guy in line is Clement. He’s not as gifted as Melvin Gordon but could be just as productive. He’s rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on 7.0 yards per carry as a backup over the last two years behind Gordon.
19. J.T. Barrett, QB, Ohio State (6-2, 225)
Scouts aren’t sure what to make of Barrett. He’s a solid athlete with a solid arm and has great size but does he do anything at an elite, NFL level? There is no doubting his leadership and production, however, after 45 touchdowns in 12 games as a redshirt freshman starter last fall.
20. Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin (6-3, 311)
The highly-touted center prospect enters his redshirt junior year as a Rimington Trophy watch list member. The former freshman All-American missed the second half of the season last year and if he can prove he’s fully healthy, he will move up this list quickly.
21. Eric Murray, CB, Minnesota (6-0, 196)
Murray is an incredibly productive cornerback for the Gophers. He totaled 69 tackles last fall for a team one half of football away from winning its division. All Minnesota players are well-coached and he could be the best player on the team in ’15.
22. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200)
He’s smart, savvy, hard-working and very athletic. He’s long and rangy as well. Apple proved to be a big playmaker from the corner position. He registered 5.5 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions and 53 tackles.
23. Darius Hamilton, DL, Rutgers (6-4, 255)
He can play in multiple schemes but likely projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. Hamilton was one of the top recruits in school history and he delivered with 45 tackles, 11.5 for a loss and 6.0 sacks last fall. A step forward in ’15 could push him into the top three rounds.
24. Wayne Lyons, DB, Michigan (6-1, 193)
Folks in Ann Arbor will learn his name quickly after transferring in from Stanford. Lyons played in 41 games with the Cardinal, posting 126 tackles and three interceptions before coming to Michigan. He instantly makes this defense better and he is a potential All-Big Ten selection.
25. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State (6-1, 212)
If Miller wants to put together a year of tape for NFL scouts, he will likely have to play wide receiver. He might be able to play QB for another college program, but he’s not an NFL signal-caller. But should he prove he can make the transition, his stock could rise quickly.
Best of the Rest:
26. Jordan Lucas, CB, Penn State (6-0, 198)
27. Leonte Caroo, WR, Rutgers (6-1, 205)
28. James Ross, LB, Michigan (6-1, 225)
29. Kyle Kalis, OL, Michigan (6-5, 292)
30. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State (6-3, 210)
31. Blake Countess, CB, Michigan (5-10, 185)
32. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State (6-2, 295)
33. Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana (6-6, 300)
34. Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin (6-1, 212)
35. Nick VanHoose, CB, Northwestern (6-0, 190)
36. Chris Carter, DT, Ohio State (6-4, 342)
37. Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska (6-3, 320)
38. Nyeem Wartman, OLB, Penn State (6-1, 236)
39. Sojourn Shelton, CB, Wisconsin (5-9, 180)
40. Alex Lewis, OT, Nebraska (6-6, 290)
Everyone is pretty tired of Deflategate at this point. Tired of talking about it and that it ever happened in the first place.
"The Daily Show" host Jon Stewart went the more emotional route when talking about Tom Brady and the Patriots. Stewart laid into the MVP quarterback as only he could.
(Warning: This clip contains language that may be offensive to some viewers)
It's safe to say Brady lost a fan in Stewart.
Everett Golson has announced that he will transfer from Notre Dame with one season of eligibility left.
Golson isn’t the only talented quarterback who could decide to leave school in the coming weeks knowing that he isn’t likely to start.
And there are plenty of big-time teams with conference championship aspirations that need starting signal-callers to put them over the top.
So it got me thinking. Who are the best quarterbacks in the nation who won’t be starting this fall, what are the best teams in the nation in need of a QB and which ones fit the best?
Here are nine quarterbacks and teams that need to get together:
Everett Golson, Notre Dame: Florida
Jim McElwain needs a guy who can run his system quickly and efficiently. That’s Golson. He’s got a great arm, great wheels and was the best player on the field for the Irish in the BCS title game drubbing against Alabama. This makes Florida the top challenger to Georgia in the East.
J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Texas
The Wichita Falls, Texas, native likely isn’t going to beat out Cardale Jones and should return home to the Lone Star State. The Horns could be a Big 12 contender along with Baylor and TCU if they could just get quality QB play. Barrett gives them that and more. Try 45 touchdowns in 12 games as a freshman last season.
Trevor Knight, Oklahoma: Alabama
Oh, the irony. Jake Coker clearly isn’t taking control of the job like he was supposed to — this year or last. But with elite talent and a coordinator who loves to chuck it around, Knight could return to prominence at Alabama. He isn’t likely to beat out Baker Mayfield and he's very accustomed to Crimson and Cream color schemes.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State: Ole Miss
Hugh Freeze might be one player away from winning an SEC title and Miller could be the guy. He fits the spread offense Freeze wants to run and might be relegated to third string in Columbus. This would be a blast to watch.
Max Browne, USC: Louisville
Bobby Petrino has been churning out NFL Draft picks but is a big-armed quarterback away from contending in the ACC this fall. The tall, pocket passer from USC isn’t going to start and would be a perfect fit in Louisville’s system.
Kyler Murray, Texas A&M: LSU
Talk about fun to watch. Murray is just a freshman but isn’t likely to beat out future pro Kyle Allen anytime soon. Why not ship him next door to LSU and give the Tigers an instant playmaker at a position they been lacking for nearly a decade?
Drew Barker, Kentucky: Nebraska
It’s no secret that Mike Riley wants a pro-style, pocket passer running his offense. But he doesn’t have that on his roster right now. The highly-touted and rocket-armed Barker won’t beat out incumbent Patrick Towles and has all the tools to excel in Lincoln.
Davis Webb, Texas Tech: Michigan
Webb looks to be the odd man out in Lubbock but knows how to chuck it around in a big way. The lanky pocket passer would fit well into Jim Harbaugh’s system and gives him a better option than Jake Rudock entering the year. Michigan is good quarterback play away from being a very dangerous team in the B1G.
Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina: Georgia
Possibly the best backup quarterback in the ACC, Trubisky has been beaten out by Marquise Williams multiple times. Georgia needs a tall, strong-armed, pro-style passer. This marriage could result in Mark Richt’s first SEC title in a decade.
Not everyone in Tennessee was happy about the Titans taking Marcus Mariota with the No. 2 pick.
Titans receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter looked less than pleased about hearing the former Oregon quarterback's name.
In all fairness, they could've been wondering about this "Marcus Marioto" character.
Very few rants have the power to still be relevant more than 10 years later.
Allen Iverson's infamous "practice" rant took place 13 years ago today, and what better way to celebrate Throwback Thursday than to remember it in all it's glory. After this day, no one ever dared to ask the 76ers guard about practice again.
The speech is often imitated, but nothing is quite the same as the original.
Santa Claus did his best when he was asked about presents.
This little girl came dangerously close to the epic rant, but she was too cute to take seriously.
A video posted by Steve McPherson (@steventurous) on
Perhaps one of the best, in terms of direction and editing, goes to this black and white version that's borderline inspirational.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson has decided to transfer with one season of eligibility remaining. The senior is eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, so there will be plenty of suitors for his services.
Golson threw for 5,850 yards and 41 scores during his two years at Notre Dame. Additionally, he tossed 20 interceptions on 745 attempts. While Golson had his share of ups and downs during his career in South Bend, he guided the Fighting Irish to an appearance in the national championship game in 2012.
Where will Golson land? Here are 15 teams to watch:
15 Teams That Could Land Everett Golson for 2015
Alabama has options to replace Blake Sims, including Florida State transfer Jacob Coker and talented freshmen Blake Barnett and David Cornwell. Coker was expected to push for the starting job last year, but Sims started all 14 games for the Crimson Tide. Although Coker finished spring at the top of the depth chart, did he play with enough consistency to ease the concerns of the coaching staff with a new quarterback taking over?
First-year coach Jim McElwain’s biggest concern on offense isn’t at quarterback, as the offensive line is a major question mark for 2015. However, the Gators have plenty of uncertainty here, as redshirt freshman Will Grier edged Treon Harris for the top spot in the spring. Harris threw for 1,019 yards and nine scores last year, but Grier is a better fit for this offense. McElwain’s offense at Colorado State averaged 321.6 passing yards per game in 2014.
It’s probably a longshot for Golson to end up in Tallahassee, as Sean Maguire finished spring with a clear hold on the No. 1 job. However, replacing Jameis Winston is no easy task, and Maguire has only one previous start. Coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best quarterback and offensive minds in the nation, which has to be appealing to Golson with one year of eligibility and an opportunity to impress NFL scouts in 2015.
The Tigers struggled mightily on offense last season and averaged only 162.9 passing yards per game. Uncertainty remained for LSU in the spring, as neither Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris staked a clear claim for the No. 1 spot. Jennings led the team with 11 passing scores last year, but there’s more upside with Harris. The Tigers aren’t lacking for talent at receiver but quarterback play remains a big concern for coach Les Miles. LSU has to be one of the early favorites for Golson’s services.
Just like Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino has no problem adding numbers to the quarterback position. The Cardinals aren’t in bad shape at quarterback for 2015, as sophomore Reggie Bonnafon is promising, and Tyler Ferguson is eligible after transferring from Penn State.
Jim Harbaugh is a quarterback guru, but the Wolverines already added Iowa transfer Jake Rudock to the team this spring. Michigan also has freshmen Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone competing with Rudock and Shane Morris for time in the fall. There’s more competition in Ann Arbor than some of the other teams on this list.
The Rebels have three candidates vying for the starting job, including junior college recruit (and former Clemson quarterback) Chad Kelly. DeVante Kincade and Ryan Buchanan are also in the mix this fall, but Kelly is believed to have an edge over both for the starting job. Golson would be an upgrade over the three options on the roster. However, how quick can he pickup the offense and get acclimated to the supporting cast?
Golson will probably end up at a Power 5 team, but Miami, Ohio is a wildcard program to watch. Former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin finished his first year as the program’s head coach, with the RedHawks finishing 2-10 last season. With Andrew Hendrix expiring his eligibility, Martin is expected to hand the offensive controls over to redshirt freshman Gus Ragland. Golson would be a key pickup if Martin can recruit him to Oxford.
Golson is a native of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and the Gamecocks have an opening at quarterback after Dylan Thompson expired his eligibility this offseason. Connor Mitch finished spring at the top of the depth chart, but he has attempted only six passes in his career at South Carolina. Would coach Steve Spurrier be willing to take a chance on Golson for one year? It certainly makes sense.
Third-year coach Willie Taggart is squarely on the hot seat entering 2015, and the Bulls are switching to an up-tempo attack that would seem to fit Golson’s strengths. Mike White transferred in the spring, leaving Quinton Flowers (8 of 20 in 2014) as the favorite to win the job.
If LSU is the early favorite to land Golson, Texas might be No. 2. The Longhorns had only two scholarship quarterbacks in the spring, with true freshman Kai Locksley arriving this summer to compete with Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes for snaps. Heard closed the gap on Swoopes this spring, setting up an intriguing battling for the No. 1 spot in the fall. If Golson transfers here, his first game of 2015 would be against…Notre Dame.
Cyler Miles is not expected to return to the team in 2015, leaving coach Chris Petersen with three inexperienced candidates competing for the No. 1 spot. Jeff Lindquist is the team’s most experienced option, completing 10 of 30 passes for 162 yards and one score last year. However, the Huskies got a good look at freshmen K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning this spring, and both players are squarely in the mix to start.
Former Notre Dame assistant Bob Diaco is entering his second year as UConn’s head coach. The Huskies ranked No. 10 in the American Athletic Conference in passing offense last year, with NC State transfer Bryant Shirreffs finishing spring at the top of the depth chart. Golson would be an immediate upgrade and starter if he transfers to UConn.
Quarterback play is arguably the biggest concern for coach Mike London’s team this season. Matt Johns edged Greyson Lambert for the No. 1 spot in the spring, but this job is still up for grabs. Johns and Lambert combined for 18 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions last year. And just an interesting side note: Virginia’s second game of 2015 is against Notre Dame.
New coach Paul Chryst inherits an offense that averaged only 148.7 passing yards per game last season. The Badgers have a strong rushing attack and defense to lean on but improving in the win column and pushing Ohio State or Michigan State for the No. 1 spot in the Big Ten depends on improved quarterback play. Joel Stave is back as the starter, but he only threw nine touchdown passes to 10 interceptions last year.
If you ever wanted to see Charles Barkley dress up as Bruno Mars, today is your lucky day.
The "Inside The NBA" cast participated in a lip sync battle and it was even better than expected. Barkley was a little more coordinated than most would have guessed, and Kenny "The Jet" Smith showed off his incredible moves as well.
This is without a doubt the best sports show on television.
How does a program react to a historic season that includes a win in the inaugural College Football Playoff, a Pac-12 Conference championship and a Heisman Trophy?
“Initially, a lot of tears,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said, referring specifically to the way the Ducks’ 2014 campaign ended: with a 42-20 loss in the College Football Playoff championship round to Ohio State.
“A lot of emotion with a really special team,” he added. “That was a team that was unbelievably close, and a lot of great people that will never be together again...When you get that close, with that group, it's certainly more emotional."
There is more sweet than bitter for Oregon to take away from 2014: Marcus Mariota winning the Heisman, Helfrich claiming the Pac-12 title and the Ducks’ 59-20 thrashing of defending national champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl are all program-defining moments.
But the championship game loss to Ohio State is the last memory Oregon made heading into the 2015 season, giving the program something on which to marinate for the eight long months between the playoff’s end, and September’s start to a new season.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Helfrich said. “We’d certainly like to have that problem every year.”
Having that problem of playing in another national championship game this season hinges on Oregon replacing several key pieces from last year’s “special team.”
Mariota is the most obvious: a three-year starter who smashed Duck records, running the offense for which the program has become synonymous with expertise.
The man Mariota played behind – center Hroniss Grasu – was integral in the Ducks' offensive line becoming more physical last season, after a heavily scrutinized 2013. Grasu and tackle Jeff Fisher were both selected in last weekend’s NFL Draft, along with All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who missed the College Football Playoff with a torn ACL.
Oregon isn’t just replacing talented playmakers. The departing corps featured the Ducks’ emotional leaders, which explains the scene Helfrich described immediately after the title game.
Ultimately, however, the 2015 Ducks were afforded very little time to lament their losses.
“It’s different, new…in that the [national championship] game was considerably later not just on the calendar, but just how our academic calendar falls,” Helfrich explained. “It also affects your weight room and everything [when] you go through that phase in winter. Some adjustments had to be made.”
Winter term began at the University of Oregon on Jan. 5, and the national championship game was played a week later. For Helfrich and his staff, the next month was dedicated to finalizing the 2015 recruiting class.
Spring practices — which just ended last Saturday with the intrasquad scrimmage—opened on March 31.
The Ducks haven’t had much chance to breath, so the coming lull before fall camp begins in August is the first significant opportunity for Oregon football to take stock of its successes in 2014, and how it can possibly be improved upon in 2015. Jumping right back in with the Ohio State game still fresh could be a blessing for the Ducks. Helfrich said Oregon’s coaches used the shortcomings and successes as teaching tools the same way they would any other game.
Then, once those lessons extracted and applied in practice, Helfrich said of the next step: "Flush it."