The peak of the NBA Eastern Conference belongs to the Atlanta Hawks as the All-Star break lies calendar days away.
The Ohio State Buckeyes of college football fractured a Big 10 draught of their own by being crowned national champions.
The 2014 MLB season was nearly claimed by the Kansas City Royals; one break in a grueling Game 7 could have hoisted the Royals to thrones of their own.
Six flips of the calendar until college football season means fans will pour over their team’s chances for months. So, who do we like to emerge as Cinderellas in 2015?
Statistical maniac and college football guru Phil Steele releases previews each season scoping out improvements, downfalls, sleepers, and much more.
While emotion factors into sport just as much as physical presence, there’s no doubt that constant losing and defeat rattles the demeanor of such organizations. Steele reverses that theory within college football, suggesting that close losses one year in fact bodes well for those teams the following campaign.
Arkansas suits the description to a tee. Portrayed as the “best worst team” in the country in 2014, the 6-6 Razorbacks found themselves constantly on the short end of the stick.
Five losses combined by a total of 29 points, which Arkansas either held a lead or was tied with its opponent heading into the final quarter. Rather than a 9-3 record and causing a massive stir with SEC fans (which would have been glorious), the Razorbacks settled for a subpar .500 season.
The sky is the limit for Arkansas in 2015. Not only has head coach Bret Bielema settled in nicely after his Wisconsin stint, the 26th ranked rushing attack returns in full force with tailbacks Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. Both rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2014.
A rather mild non-conference schedule will see the likes of Texas Tech, Toledo, and UTEP, but the key component comes in conference play. Arkansas travels to LSU, Alabama, and Ole Miss.
If Arkansas can muster up two wins within that three-team gauntlet, the Razorbacks will surely shake the SEC standings come 2015.
Call me crazy, but the Buffaloes’ football program is trending upwards. It’s pretty much the only direction they can go.
Similar to Arkansas, Colorado’s forte of lying on the wrong end of late-game heroics meant a dismal 2-10 record.
The offense to win is absolutely there, though. While nearly impossible to gain any sort of attention given the elite offenses that make up the PAC 12, quarterback Sefo Liufau added his résumé to the list as he threw for over 3,000 yards.
The difference next season will be the defense, which will return at least five upperclassmen. The Buffaloes ranked in the bottom 20 of every defensive category, so improvement is a must.
Four losses by five points or less including two overtime losses in 2014 means the Buffaloes may rack up many more victories come 2015.
The Red Raider fan base has patiently awaited a breakthrough performance under head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and 2015 could prove to be such.
A 4-8 record last season was nothing to write home about. In a conference where defense still remains optional, I’m not entirely sold on the defense being a necessary component for a triumphant season. A stellar offense is a must, and even the 8th-ranked passing offense in 2014 leaves room for improvement.
The 2014 quarterbacks from Baylor, Kansas State, and West Virginia will all be gone in 2015, paving the way for Red Raider QB Davis Webb. Grass is green, the sky is blue, and Texas Tech has a really, really good quarterback. It’s just a fact of life.
Webb will enter his third year as the Texas Tech quarterback, but even more astounding is the six receivers returning on offense who caught 300 yards or more in 2014. As we turn towards next season, don’t be surprised if Texas Tech returns to its winning ways as they collected a top-40 recruiting class this offseason.
The defense’s job will be to hold opponents under 50. That’s how good the offense will be.