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Richard Brickhouse. Dick Brooks. Lennie Pond. Bobby Hillin Jr.
These names are just some of the one-hit wonders the largest, at-times scariest, oval on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit has produced. In the past, Talladega’s speeds made for danger at every turn; the test of man and machine gave an opportunity for upset winners to peer through the smoke.
Now? Restrictor plates, slapped on the engines in the name of safety provide parity for all 40 cars in the field. It could have cost $40,000 or $4 million to bring your team to the track this weekend but everyone starts the race with roughly the same amount of horsepower. Talladega’s snake-like draft leaves everyone virtually connected by a magnet; the right chess moves in a sea of traffic can get any car headed toward the front. It’s 188 laps of 40 cars in a too-close-for-comfort environment, creating bumper-to-bumper action that provides little room for error.
And when that mistake comes? The “Big One” is in full effect, a frightening wreck that typically wipes out half the field and changes the complexion of what’s typically a photo finish anyway. Talladega: the one-hit wonder on the NASCAR schedule that provides enough scary moments to make us wonder why we race there yet enough heart-stopping unpredictability to keep everyone coming back for more.
2016 GEICO 500
Time: 1 p.m. ET (Sunday)
Track: Talladega Superspeedway (Talladega, Ala.)
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM Channel 90
Who’s at the Front: Carl Edwards
The story of the week has been Edwards’ bump-and-run of Kyle Busch, teammates sparring on the last lap for victory at Richmond. Edwards kept control, moving the No. 18 out of the way and earning a win that left Busch privately fuming. Joe Gibbs Racing had itself a tense team meeting this week although all sides are saying publicly the incident has been put behind them.
Lost in that shuffle has been the success of Edwards, the new Sprint Cup points leader, who now has back-to-back victories for the first time since November 2010. So much of NASCAR’s early-season storyline has been the trio of Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Jimmie Johnson battling up front that Edwards’ consistency behind them had been forgotten.
Not anymore. New crew chief Dave Rogers, formerly Busch and Denny Hamlin’s head wrench, has paid major dividends and given the 36-year-old Edwards a boost of confidence. Is this No. 19 car the final piece in a quartet of early favorites to make November’s final four?
Who’s at the Back: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
I mention Stenhouse here because a solid start has faded in the midst of a contract year for him at Roush Fenway Racing. He had a fifth-place finish at Fontana and another top 10 within his first five starts; ever since, he’s done no better than 16th place and looked rather pedestrian. Bristol, one of the few tracks Stenhouse has run consistently strong over the year, left him fighting to simply finish on the lead lap.
The slump has left him 19th in points, just 12 out of a Chase spot and easily in a position to recover. But now is the time of year where Stenhouse really digs himself a hole, never to be heard from during the race, aside from when a wrecker comes to pick up the pieces of his car. That type of poor performance won’t fly anymore with others waiting in the wings at RFR. This weekend, the unpredictability of ‘Dega offers a chance for the No. 17 team to pick things back up.
Say what you want about the way Tony Stewart chooses to criticize NASCAR. But Stewart’s concern over safety regarding lug nuts, comments that caused a $35,000 fine, have paid major dividends. On Monday, NASCAR announced new rules claiming every team must have all five lug nuts on and tightened for each tire after a pit stop; intentionally leaving off lug nuts could result in a suspension if discovered after the race is completed.
Autism Delaware also couldn’t be happier about Stewart’s fine. The Driver’s Council had offered to pay the $35K but Stewart chose to donate to charity instead, supporting one of the key non-profit organizations that partners with NASCAR and will help sponsor the race at Dover next month.
Over in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series, David Starr has been released from his No. 44 ride at TriStar Motorsports after failing to earn a top-15 finish all season. J.J. Yeley, a former full-time Cup driver who was once aligned with Joe Gibbs Racing, has been tapped to replace the 48-year-old Starr. Yeley, who started the year start-and-parking with the program, was 12th at Richmond in a one-race “audition” of sorts running the car for Starr.
NASCAR by the Numbers
The points deficit Tony Stewart, who returned to the series at Richmond faces, to reach 30th place in the Sprint Cup standings. Stewart was a solid 19th on Sunday and faces a series of tracks coming up (Kansas, Charlotte, Dover) where he’s got a total of six career victories. A potential playoff opportunity is still well within reach.
Laps completed out of 400 by Reed Sorenson of Premium Motorsports Sunday. That still left him dead last in the 40-car field as NASCAR’s tendency for all teams to finish races without mechanical failure continues throughout the 2016 season.
Playing the Odds (Fantasy Spin)
How can you talk Talladega without mentioning Dale Earnhardt Jr.? Earnhardt is the defending champion of this race and won for the first time here in over a decade last spring. People said his father, Dale Sr., could “see” the draft and the son certainly isn’t far off that pace. Earnhardt loves the strategy of plate racing, always circles this date on the calendar and arrives with one of the most prepared cars in the field provided by Hendrick Motorsports. Wrecks always leave any fantasy play a risk in its own right but without some sort of unforeseen problem Earnhardt is an automatic top-5 finish here.
Denny Hamlin, who won the Daytona 500 to start the season, has a streak of five top-10 finishes going at Talladega’s sister track – a nearly impossible feat considering how quickly the “Big One” can gobble anyone up. He hasn’t had the same luck at Talladega but is first and ninth in his last two spring races here. Potentially that type of good mojo can carry over?
The other three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers (Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth) flexed their muscle in the first restrictor plate race of the year and remain the prohibitive favorites going into any weekend. The parity of ‘Dega evens things out but if you have a laps led bonus in your league know these guys will spend the majority of their time in front of the pack.
Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t had the best restrictor plate luck throughout his career. But he was fifth and seventh at Talladega last year and the No. 78 team benefitted from Joe Gibbs Racing dominating the Daytona 500. Furniture Row Racing gets their engines and chassis from TRD and Truex will likely be connected to their four-car freight train the entire day. Expect a strong performance.
The current restrictor plate rules package, while still leaving room for underdogs has made it just a little bit harder for them to break through. The last unexpected ‘Dega win was David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports back in the spring of 2013; last spring, we only saw one true “underdog” sneak inside the top 10 (Josh Wise driving for what became Premium Motorsports).
With that in mind, though there are two guys I want you to watch out for concerning your roster: Regan Smith and Michael McDowell. Smith had a strong showing in February’s Daytona 500, looking like a potential top-5 finisher with his Tommy Baldwin Racing outfit before getting shuffled back. McDowell, meanwhile was a top-15 runner back at Daytona, drives for a team in Leavine Family Racing that has restrictor plate success under their belt and always has a knack for avoiding wrecks. That duo, considering they’re hard to pick anywhere else, would be perfect if you’re rooting for a top-10 finish or better from this tier heading to the finish line.
What Vegas Thinks
Dale Earnhardt Jr. currently leads the pack with 9-2 odds heading into the GEICO 500. Jimmie Johnson is next with 8-1 odds followed by Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.
What I Think
In a sea of photo finishes that has been the 2016 season this one won’t disappoint. It’ll be a barnburner down the stretch and I’m going to go with a surprise winner (at least for him): Martin Truex Jr. Truex has seen tough luck on plate tracks at times but with the Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota connection the No. 78 team should have what it takes to find its way to the front.
(Photos by ASP Inc.)
While Laremy Tunsil was no doubt sweating it out waiting for his name to be called in the draft, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell found the moment "exciting."
After the leaked video of Tunsil smoking from a gas mask, teams were hesitant to take the Ole Miss player. His slide finally ended with the Dolphins at lucky No. 13. A once-projected No. 1 pick, fell and it's hard not to think it had anything to do with that video.
"I think it's all part of what makes the draft so exciting," Goodell said. "Clubs make decisions. Sometimes they take risks. Sometimes they do the right things. Sometimes they don't, and we'll see. Hopefully he is going to turn out to be a great young player."
Tunsil took matters into his own hands to end his slide.
How did Laremy Tunsil end his slide? First, he told agent Jimmy Sexton it was him on the video & it was 2-yrs old. He owned it right away— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2016
Agent Jimmy Sexton called in to war room and put Laremy Tunsil on the phone to teams. Tunsil himself owned his past drug use in the video.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2016
Laremy Tunsil's message to coaches & decision makers: It was me, I did it. I've learned from my mistakes & will improve. Dolphins believe it— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 29, 2016
Although it may have been exciting for the viewers, this probably wasn't the best thing for the commissioner to say about a young guy about to become employed by the league. Tunsil was no doubt scared and ended up losing millions of dollars thanks to whoever has it out for him to ruin such a big night.
In 2015, there were 25 second-round picks who played in at least 14 games as rookies. Of the 17 NFL Rookie of the Week winners, eight were picked outside of the first round. Sure, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Todd Gurley and Amari Cooper were elite-level draft picks and performed as such. But championship teams are built on Day 2 selections.
So after 31 (not 32) picks on Day 1, here are our favorite players left on the board for Day 2 (second and third rounds):
A'Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
Unless the NFL knows something major that the rest of the world doesn't, there is literally no reason this guy should still be on the board. Baring another Tunsiling, there's no excuse for this type of slide for a player as physical and as dominant as Robinson. Teammate Jarran Reed, also still available, might be the best run-stopper in this entire class.
The Injured Linebackers
Both UCLA's Myles Jack and Notre Dame's Jaylon Smith are special athletes. They've probably been the best athlete on any field they've ever stepped on. But both are dealing with severe knee injuries and teams are clearly scared off by the risk involved. If healthy, they are both superstars.
Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
There may not be an elite QB prospect on the board like there has been in the past around this time of the draft (Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, Russell Wilson, Drew Brees). But Connor Cook, Christian Hackenberg and Dak Prescott all possess the size, leadership and talent to be a starting NFL quarterback. Especially, for the “have-nots” in the league right now.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
He may be a touch undersized but he has elite-level playmaking ability, great quickness/change of direction skill and played at a high level against the toughest competition FBS has to offer. The Freshman All-American turned first-team All-ACC corner will be a great value pick on Day 2.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Smallish receivers tend to go in the mid-to-later rounds and we saw two excel last year in Tyler Lockett (3rd, Seattle) and Stefon Diggs (5th, Minnesota). Shepard doesn’t have the explosiveness of either but he is extremely mature, runs great routes, has elite hands and is a leader on and off the field. He will catch a ton of passes in the slot.
Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
The former five-star prospect stated his collegiate career at Ohio State but finished it dominating at the lower ranks. He’s very open about his off-the-field issues (which is smart) and if those mistakes are behind him, his athletic ability plays on Sundays in a big way.
Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
He isn’t a tackle on the next level but he’s going to be a great guard. All Whitehair did at Kansas State was start 51 times in four years, earning some sort of All-Big 12 honor after each season. He is tough, has great instincts and can play right away.
Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
He will need to get bigger and tougher but make no mistake; this is a three-down tight end that should start right away in the NFL. Henry was an elite prospect who was a three-year starter and Mackey Award winner as the best tight end in the nation. He has every possible tool needed to excel on the next level.
Su’a Cravens, LB, USC
He should remind fans of last year’s first-round Pac-12 safety-turned-linebacker Shaq Thompson. He has great instincts, natural athletic ability and is great in space (as a former defensive back should be). He’s undersized for the LB position but makes up for it with toughness and athletic ability.
Also considered: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State; Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina; Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor; Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana; Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida
Chris Berman is ESPN's resident know-it-all for everything NFL.
It probably wasn't the best night for the analyst to spew the wrong information. In the days leading up to the draft, ESPN makes sure all its talent has every little nugget of information you could ever imagine, so when Berman said this was the first time a school had three picks in the top 10 it was a head-scratcher.
Not to take anything away from Ohio State but this was actually the 13th time it has happened.
Do not rely on Chris Berman for your draft facts pic.twitter.com/gyUBwTUIoy— Deadspin (@Deadspin) April 29, 2016
Maybe he was just having an off night.
On the heels of Laremy Tunsil's social channels being hacked by an unknown person, conspiracy theories are running wild. Of course, everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, especially in sports. When Michael Jordan unexpectedly retires? Conspiracy. When Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a race after his daddy died? Conspiracy. Anytime Duke gets a seemingly easy NCAA Tournament draw? Double-dog conspiracy. But none of those tongue-in-cheek cheats made this list. These are the top five conspiracy theories in sports history:
1. 1919 World Series — Chicago Black Sox Scandal
“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”
Eight members of the Chicago White Sox — “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Claude “Lefty” Williams, Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg and Oscar “Happy” Felsch — were banned from baseball for conspiring with gamblers and gangsters (notably New York’s Arnold Rothstein) to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
The plan worked, as the heavily favored White Sox — one of the era’s highest profile teams and arguably one of the most talented squads of all time — fell to the Reds, 5-to-3, in the best-of-nine series.
Strangely, “Shoeless Joe” hit the 1919 World Series’ only home run and led all batters with a .375 average (12-for-32), six RBIs and five runs scores. But Jackson’s implication in the scandal ended his career at only 32 years old, with a .356 career average and three top-5 finishes in AL MVP voting.
As a result of what would become known as the “Black Sox Scandal,” Kenesaw Mountain Landis was named the first “Commissioner of Baseball” in 1920.
2. Super Bowl III — New York Jets upset Baltimore Colts
“We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.”
Joe Namath backed up his famous guarantee with the New York Jets upsetting the Baltimore Colts, 16–7, in Super Bowl III. But since “Broadway Joe” trotted off the field pointing No. 1 to the sky, there have been more than a few rumblings that the Colts took a dive against the Jets.
The legitimacy of the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 was greatly aided by the AFL’s win in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. The fact that the game was won by New York — a massive media market with a coverboy quarterback — was icing on the cake. In hindsight, it could be argued that the Jets’ win over the Colts was a triumph worth not just millions but billions of dollars for the league.
“That Super Bowl game, which we lost by nine points, was the critical year (for the AFL),” Colts defensive end Bubba Smith famously told Playboy. “The game just seemed odd to me. Everything was out of place. I tried to rationalize that our coach, Don Shula, got out-coached, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if any of my teammates were in on the fix.”
Baltimore had a 13–1 record in 1968 and dominated the Cleveland Browns, 34–0, in the NFL title game. Meanwhile, New York went 11–3 and barely escaped with a 27–23 win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL title game — thanks in large part to a fluke play late in the fourth quarter, when the Jets recovered a lateral fumble that the Raiders thought was an incomplete pass.
The Colts committed five costly turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Earl Morrall. One interception was particularly suspicious. With Colts receiver Jimmy Orr wide open near the end zone, Morrall checked down to running back Jerry Hill only to throw an errant pass intercepted by Jets safety Jim Hudson.
“I’m just a linesman but I looked up and saw Jimmy (Orr) wide open,” said Colts center Bill Curry, currently the head coach at Georgia State.
Baltimore coach Don Sula — who would later coach Morrall with the Miami Dolphins — may have the most damning non-quote of all. Smith wrote in his autobiography, “Kill, Bubba, Kill,” that he believed the fix was in at Super Bowl III. Shula’s response was the classic husband-caught-cheating reply.
“I think it’s too ridiculous for me to comment on,” said Shula.
3. Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston — “Phantom Punch”
“Get up and fight, sucker!”
Muhammad Ali stood over Sonny Liston shouting at him to get up, while ringside photographer Neil Leifer captured the iconic moment in what many have called the greatest sports photograph in history.
Ali-Liston II was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, 1964 at the Boston Garden. But the fight was postponed after a pre-fight injury suffered by Ali. Rumors of organized crime connections to the fight promotion caused the city of Boston to reject the fight. Then, amid continued fixed fight talk, the city of Cleveland followed suit and also denied the fight.
Finally, on May 25, 1965, the heavyweight championship bout took place at St. Dominic’s Hall in Lewiston, Maine, and was refereed by former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott. The fight did not last long, however. Liston went down in the first round — as rumors swirled that Liston owed money to the mafia and/or had been threatened by the Nation of Islam.
Worst of all, Ali was reportedly overheard asking his corner crew a crucial question about the so-called “phantom punch.”
“Did I hit him?”
4. 1985 NBA Draft Lottery — Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks
In 1985, Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was a “can’t miss” NBA prospect. Ewing lived up to his advanced billing, as an 11-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. He never won an NBA championship, primarily due to the greatness of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. But Ewing was the centerpiece of 13 playoff teams for the New York Knicks — a team that acquired the 7-footer via the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery.
After watching the footage, several oddities stand out. When putting the seven envelopes into the drum, the fourth envelope is noticeably thrown against the side of the clear sphere — bending one corner of the envelope — while the other six are simply dropped into the bottom of the drum. Then, Commissioner David Stern lets out a stressful deep breath before diving his hand into the drum, passing over several envelopes and drawing what turned out to be the New York Knicks — Stern’s self-proclaimed favorite team. Along with the bent-corner theory, many have speculated that the Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the drawing.
Since the Ewing scandal, the NBA Draft Lottery has cleaned up its act. The ping-pong ball lottery takes place in a room with no cameras, then the “results” are announced by opening the envelopes on television. Stern is nowhere near the event. Who has been involved? The trustworthy employees of Ernst & Young, whose honest oversight experience also includes the fraudulent accounting practices of Lehman Brothers.
It’s all on the up and up. The Bulls received the right to draft Chicago native Derrick Rose, despite only a 1.7 percent chance of “winning” the Lottery. The Orlando Magic won back-to-back No. 1 picks, including Shaquille O’Neal. The New Jersey Nets won the No. 1 pick in Rod Thorn’s first draft running the Nets, after 15 years of Thorn being Stern’s right-hand man in the league office. The Cleveland Cavaliers got the top pick the year the best player in state history (LeBron James) was available and the year after King James left town. The most recent Lottery was won by the New Orleans Hornets — a team owned by the NBA during the 2011-12 season, before being sold to Tom Benson.
If the real lottery were run the way Stern runs the NBA Draft Lottery, no one would buy a ticket. And the right to draft Ewing, Shaq, LeBron, etc., is worth more than the PowerBall.
5. 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 6 — Sacramento Kings at L.A. Lakers
Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee from 1994 to 2007, officiating in 772 regular season games and 20 playoff contests. But rumors of fixing games caused Donaghy to resign in July 2007. Concrete evidence presented by the FBI resulted in Donaghy pleading guilty to federal charges and being sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
After being released, Donaghy began telling tales of NBA officiating, gambling and controlling the outcome of games. His legal team even filed loosely veiled allegations against the NBA in U.S. District Court.
Although he does not name team or referee names, it is clear that Donaghy’s attorney is referring to Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.
“Referees A, F and G were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 and 6 in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 victory that night would have ended the series.
“However, Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men,’ always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series. Referees A and F heavily favored Team 6.
“Personal fouls (resulting in obviously injured players) were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the Referees. Conversely, the Referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6. Their foul-calling also led to the ejection of two Team 5 players.
“The referees’ favoring of Team 6 led to that team’s victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series.”
The referees that May 31, 2002 night were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Steve Javie. The Kings led the Lakers, 3–2, in the best-of-seven series. A Kings win would send Sacramento to the NBA Finals, where it would face the New Jersey Nets. A Lakers win would force a Game 7 and keep alive the dynasty dreams of the two-time defending champions.
Kings centers Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out of the game. Pollard picked up two fouls in 14 seconds, fouling out with 11:34 remaining in the fourth quarter; Divac fouled out with 2:56 remaining. Kings forward Chris Webber picked up three fouls in the fourth quarter, his fifth foul coming with 3:07 to play.
The Lakers led the Kings in free throw attempts, 40-to-25. In the fourth quarter, L.A. went 21-of-27 from the free throw line, while Sacramento was 7-of-9 in the final period. And in a symbolic display of unfairness, Kings guard Mike Bibby was called for a foul after being elbowed in the nose by Kobe Bryant.
After the game, Ralph Nader called for investigation. But Lakers fans smiled all the way to a 106–102 Game 6 win, a 112–106 Game 7 victory and a four-game sweep of the overmatched Nets in the NBA Finals, en route to a star-studded three-peat led by Shaq, Kobe and Phil Jackson.
“I’m not going to say there was a conspiracy,” said Pollard. “I just think something wasn’t right. It was unfair. We didn’t have a chance to win that game.”
As optimism grows surrounding what may be the most potent offense head coach Dana Holgorsen has had in Morgantown the schedule also is much friendlier than it was in 2015.
While the Mountaineers’ out-of-conference schedule is significantly tougher than last season their Big 12 slate is a little more manageable with marquee opponents spread throughout the season rather than all in one month.
2016 West Virginia Mountaineers Schedule
Byes: Weeks 3, 6
|1.||Sept. 3||Morgantown, WV|
This will be the Mountaineers’ first SEC opponent since facing Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl in 2014. Dana Holgorsen is 0-2 against SEC opponents since taking over at WVU.
|2.||Sept. 10||Morgantown, WV|
The Penguins will be the Mountaineers’ easiest opponent in 2016. This will be only the second meeting between the two schools, the first being in 1938.
|4.||Sept. 24||Landover, MD|
The Mountaineers finish their out-of-conference schedule at a neutral field against a first-time opponent in the Cougars.
|5.||Oct. 1||Morgantown, WV|
West Virginia has yet to beat the Wildcats as a member of the Big 12 Conference (0-4). Last season’s 24-23 loss was one of the most heartbreaking to Mountaineer fans. WVU will look to finally get its first win against Bill Snyder at home in its conference opener.
|7.||Oct. 15||Lubbock, TX|
The Mountaineers have had the Red Raiders’ number over the last two seasons, winning both games. However, those victories have been by a combined eight points. This is always a close game. Last time the Mountaineers were in Lubbock it took a late drive and last-second field goal to win.
|8.||Oct. 22||Morgantown, WV|
Joining the Big 12 at the same time it is no secret the Horned Frogs have experienced more success than the Mountaineers. However, with the exception of last season’s 40-10 blowout this matchup has been fun to watch. WVU is 1-3 against TCU since joining the Big 12 including two overtime games and a one-point loss in 2014.
|9.||Oct. 29||Stillwater, OK|
The Cowboys came to Morgantown last season at the start of a brutal four-game stretch for the Mountaineers. Despite being favored, the Mountaineers lost 33-26 on Homecoming. No doubt WVU has this game circled on the calendar.
|10.||Nov. 5||Morgantown, WV|
Like most seasons this should not be a contest. However, this matchup is a little different in 2016. The Jayhawks will be accompanied by former WVU assistant coach Joe DeForest, who left the Mountaineers after the 2015 season. DeForest is now the special teams coordinator and defensive assistant for David Beaty at Kansas.
|11.||Nov. 12||Austin, TX|
This is one of those games Mountaineer fans hate to lose. The Mountaineers handled the Longhorns in Morgantown last season. But this game is never a guaranteed win for either school.
|12.||Nov. 19||Morgantown, WV|
With the exception of 2013 (16-7 final score) this is usually a high-scoring game with the Sooners always coming out on top. With the Mountaineers’ potent offense this looks to be no different in terms of scoring. This will be the latest meeting between the two since 2012.
|13.||Nov. 26||Ames, IA|
Despite always being favored the Mountaineers have never truly handled the Cyclones. With the exception of last season (30-6 victory) this game is usually closer than predicted including a 52-44 victory for Iowa State in 2013.
|14.||Dec. 3||Morgantown, WV|
This may be the highest scoring game in the Big 12 this coming season. Baylor is known for racking up the points, especially against West Virginia. The Mountaineers have not come within 14 points of the Bears since hanging 70 on them in 2012, which consequently was West Virginia’s only victory over Baylor. The Bears still scored 63 that game.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.
Once upon a time, many draft experts expected Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to be selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. After some controversy and more character-related concerns surfaced prior to the start of draft, he slipped out of the top 10 entirely.
For years, the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line has struggled for years. So with the 13th pick, the team thought Tunsil was too talented to pass up.
The three-year starter at Ole Miss was rated the best player on a lot of team's draft boards until a video of Tunsil wearing a gas mask smoking through a bong appeared on his Twitter account. The video was quickly erased, but the damage had been done.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said they didn't think they could get Tunsil, but he was the No. 2-rated player on their board.
"We are excited to have Laremy (Tunsil) on our roster," Grier said. "We had heard rumors, but we had done work. We had known about it. The video is two years old. So, from all the information we had, we were comfortable with it."
Tunsil’s explanation? "Somebody hacked my account," he claimed to NFL Network's Deion Sanders.
Many experts thought Tunsil could have gone as high as No. 1 to the Tennessee Titans before they traded the pick to the Los Angeles Rams, which selected California quarterback Jared Goff. Even after the move and Philadelphia trading with Cleveland for the second pick (Eagles took North Dakota State QB Carson Wentz), the belief was that Tunsil was very much in play at No. 3 for the San Diego Chargers. But they decided to take Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa instead. Once Tunsil slipped past the Jaguars at No. 5, there were thoughts the Ravens could select him, but they reportedly took him off of their draft board entirely and chose Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley instead.
Tunsil slipping to 13th in the draft could be a blessing in disguise for the Dolphins and particularly quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Miami has allowed the most sacks in the NFL over the last three seasons and may have added arguably the best pass protector in this year's draft class.
Tunsil has the prototypical size (6-5, 310) for an NFL tackle. He shows great effort in both run- and pass-blocking situations. Tunsil is an intelligent tackle as he knows when a blitz is coming and also knows how to pick up defenders well.
On paper, the selection of Tunsil is as good of a first-round pick the Dolphins have made in years. Tunsil could come in immediately and fortify the Dolphins’ offensive line.
Tunsil said he is ready to prove the doubters wrong. "You can't judge a book by its cover,” he said during his introductory press conference. “I'm a good person. I'm a laid back person."
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft is in the books. There are still six rounds and 222 picks to go, but it’s always the first round that gets the most attention and usually the most scrutiny.
So although none of these guys have signed their contracts let alone play a single down in the NFL, it’s never too early to size up the moves teams made. The first two picks went according to plan and were followed by more trades with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.
The end result? Thirty-one former college players heard their name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. When it comes to initial reaction, several teams fared well in my classroom while others left me scratching my head. Here are one football fan’s grades for the first round.'
2016 NFL Draft: First-Round Grades
1. Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Give credit to the Rams for doing what was necessary to get their guy. However, the cost to get the first pick from the Titans can’t be ignored. Goff may be Los Angeles’ choice for No. 1, but he’s not considered the “can’t miss” type of quarterback that Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck were nor is he on the same level as Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota from last year’s draft for that matter. But Goff is the Rams’ guy and hopefully he will end up being worth trading all those picks away.
2. Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
Let’s not forget that the Eagles made two trades to get to No. 2. They first sent Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to the Dolphins to move from the 13th pick to eighth, and then sent that and four other selections to the Browns. The end result is Wentz, who didn’t even face the same level of competition as Goff did. Between all the capital spent in the trades to get him and the unresolved Sam Bradford situation, the Eagles may need Wentz to produce positive returns even sooner than Goff to justify the moves.
3. San Diego Chargers: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
The first surprise of the draft? Perhaps, but the moves made by Los Angeles and Cleveland made it apparent that San Diego would have the pick of non-QB litter. For some, Bosa was the No. 1 player on the board, while for others his stock slipped after an uneven showing at the Scouting Combine. Regardless, the safe bet was Bosa would go somewhere in the top 10 and the Chargers hope they have found their playmaker on defense.
4. Dallas Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Running back was certainly not the Cowboys’ biggest need, but many think Elliott can be special. Jerry Jones has never been one to shy away from going against the grain, as it’s no longer common for running backs to be drafted this high. However, when you factor in Elliott’s skill set and his appealing upside and combine that with one of the best offensive lines in the league, you really can’t quibble much with this pick.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Ramsey proclaimed himself to be the top player in this draft, a sentiment that was echoed by others. Whether he’s a safety or a cornerback or a hybrid defender remains to be seen, but this is a solid pick by Jacksonville. Ramsey becomes the latest building block for a young Jaguars team that has addressed most of its needs through the draft and free agency over the past two offseasons.
6. Baltimore Ravens: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
If Jalen Ramsey made it here, I think he would have been the pick, but Baltimore also needed to address its offensive line. The Ronnie Stanley vs. Laremy Tunsil debate will probably rage on, but the Ravens went with the left tackle that best fit their team. My guess is Joe Flacco approves of this choice too.
7. San Francisco 49ers: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Ignore the Oregon connection with Buckner and new head coach Chip Kelly, this is all about rebuilding a 49ers defense that was terrible last season. Given where the 49ers were picking, taking Buckner makes plenty of sense. The question is will be produce like a top-10 draft pick?
8. Tennessee Titans: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
I thought the Titans would capitalize on their inventory of picks to move back up and get a tackle. I just didn’t expect it to Conklin, at least not initially. The trade with Cleveland cost Tennessee its third-round pick this year and a second-rounder in 2017, but it’s a price the Titans could afford after acquiring the picks from Los Angeles. Credit Tennessee for using free agency and now the draft, to build around its cornerstone, Marcus Mariota.
9. Chicago Bears: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
The Bears moved up two spots, sending their fourth-round pick to the Buccaneers, to grab Floyd. The measurables and athleticism are there and everyone knows that John Fox is a defensive-minded coach. But the production at Georgia doesn’t match his top-10 status, so this is a pick based more on potential than track record. Chicago didn’t have to pay much to get their guy, but was the cost worth it in the first place?
10. New York Giants: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Between the Laremy Tunsil situation along with the other tackles going in the first eight picks and Dallas taking Elliott at No. 4, the board didn’t exactly go the Giants’ way. That said, I was surprised that Apple was the choice when New York decided to go with a defensive back, especially with Vernon Hargreaves and William Jackson still on the board. The name (both first and last) certainly fits with the G-Men, but does the player?
11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
He may not possess ideal size, but Hargreaves showed he has plenty of game during his years with the Gators. Not only did the Buccaneers get what some analysts thought was the best defensive back available, they also got him two spots lower and acquired a fourth-round pick in the process.
12. New Orleans Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DL, Louisville
The Saints need all the help on defense they can get. Rankins’ versatility should help bolster both the run defense and the pass rush. He won’t be a miracle worker, but he can certainly be part of the solution to New Orleans’ defensive woes.
13. Miami Dolphins: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Whether we ever get the full story of what transpired Thursday night to cause Tunsil to tumble all the way out of the top 10 remains to be seen. But the end result is the player that ESPN’s Mel Kiper had No. 1 on his final big board fell into the Dolphins’ lap. Ryan Tannehill certainly approves of this choice. If Tunsil plays as advertised, this could be viewed as the steal of the draft. But it’s certainly not a choice that doesn’t come with risk, as Tunsil’s first press conference showed.
14. Oakland Raiders: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
The prevailing thought was the Raiders would go defense with this pick, but I’m not sure how many figured Joseph would be the choice. The hard-hitting safety certainly looks the part when you think Silver and Black defensive back and someone is going to have to replace Charles Woodson. But Joseph is coming off of a torn ACL so there’s some risk here too.
15. Cleveland Browns: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
You had to figure Cleveland wouldn’t reach for a quarterback if it stayed put, but I’m not sure this is the direction I would have gone. The Browns need help in so many areas it’s hard to say this is a “bad” pick. And wide receiver is one of the areas that needs to be addressed, but did it need to be done with the first pick? Coleman is fast and he put up video game-esque numbers at Baylor. But that was college and there’s no guarantee Coleman’s athleticism will immediately translate into success as a NFL wide receiver. Look no further than fellow Bear and now teammate Robert Griffin III. Fortunately, the Browns still have quite a few picks left (and more in 2017 and ’18).
16. Detroit Lions: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Detroit was last in the league in rushing and gave up 44 sacks last season. Decker isn’t a sexy name, but all he did at Ohio State was consistently get the job done. Solid pick for a Lions offense that will be going through a transition this season with Calvin Johnson retired.
17. Atlanta Falcons: Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Dan Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinator before he became the Falcons’ head coach so you know how he values big defensive backs. Whether Neal will become part of the east coast version of the “Legion of Boom” remains to be seen, but he looks the part and should provide the Falcons with a physical presence on the back end.
18. Indianapolis Colts: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
You can quibble about taking a center this early, but the Colts had to get some help for Andrew Luck. With the other tackles off the board, why not take the No. 1 center and a guy who was a three-year starter for Alabama? Maybe Luck and Kelly can become what Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday were for the Colts all those years.
19. Buffalo Bills: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
There’s some concern regarding his shoulder, which will probably require surgery at some point, but the risk is somewhat mitigated by taking Lawson here. One of the most productive pass rushers in college last season, Lawson will be asked to do more of the same for a Bills defense that struggled mightily (21sacks, 31st in NFL) in that department in 2015. As long as the shoulder holds up, this is a great pick for Buffalo.
20. New York Jets: Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
The Jets are loaded on the defensive line and have Darrelle Revis anchoring a fairly stacked secondary. Now they add an athletic, rangy linebacker that can cover a lot of real estate and has the potential to develop into an every-down contributor in the middle. Who needs a quarterback with this defense?
21. Houston Texans: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Houston gave Washington a 2017 sixth-round pick to switch places and get DeAndre Hopkins a tag-team partner. Fuller has the speed and was considered the best vertical threat in this draft. His big-play ability could make him and Hopkins a formidable duo for years to come. It all depends on the quarterback. Between Fuller and the signing of Lamar Miller (not to mention all that money), Brock Osweiler has no one to blame but himself if he doesn’t succeed with the Texans.
22. Washington Redskins: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
Doctson is an intriguing talent. His numbers at TCU speak for themselves and he appears to have all the tools necessary to develop into an effective NFL wide receiver. The quibble here is that Doctson wasn’t Washington’s biggest need. Adding some sort of defensive piece made more sense.
23. Minnesota Vikings: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
After finishing second to last in the league in passing offense in 2015, it was pretty clear the Vikings needed to give quarterback Teddy Bridgewater more weapons. Mission accomplished. While some questions have been raised about Treadwell’s speed, the size (6-2, 221) will certainly play in the NFL and you can’t question his production at Ole Miss. He may not be a burner or a big-play machine, but Treadwell should provide Bridgewater with a big, physical target on the outside and in the red zone.
24. Cincinnati Bengals: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Wide receiver was the bigger need, but once the first four were taken it made sense for the Bengals to change their focus. Jackson had plenty of positive momentum entering the draft and appears to be a good fit for the Bengals’ defensive style and system. A team also can’t have enough reliable cornerbacks in today’s pass-happy NFL.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Artie Burns, CB, Miami
The Steelers need secondary help, especially after finishing 30th against the pass last season. But is Burns a first-round talent that belongs in the same class as the defensive backs taken before him? He has the tools, but it still feels like a reach here.
26. Denver Broncos: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
John Elway sent a third-round pick to Seattle to move up five spots to get his quarterback. Lynch will certainly come a lot cheaper than Brock Osweiler. The size and strong arm certainly appealed to the Broncos, but it would probably be in the team’s and Lynch’s best interests if he’s not thrust into action right away. That means Mark Sanchez (or someone else) needs to seize the starting job. Lynch arguably has just a high a ceiling, if not higher, than Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. But it will take time.
27. Green Bay Packers: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
B.J. Raji is taking a break from football, so the Packers need another big body up front. Clark certainly fits that bill (6-3, 314). He’s young (won't turn 21 until October), got plenty of starting experience with the Bruins, was highly effective against the run and made strides as a pass rusher. The only question I have was he the best option here? Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Butler, A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed were all on the board when the Packers went with Clark.
28. San Francisco 49ers: Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
29. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
The “Most Interesting Man” in this draft ended up being a first-round pick. Red flags/character questions aside, Nkemdiche landed in an ideal situation. If there’s a head coach whose personality would seem to mesh with the eccentric Nkemdiche it’s probably Bruce Arians. And if there’s one thing Arizona’s defense is missing it’s an impact playmaker up front. If he can show he’s learned from his mistakes, Nkemdiche could make the Cardinals look like geniuses. Remember, Arizona took a chance on an All-American-caliber defensive player with character concerns a few years ago in LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu and that has worked out pretty well so far.
30. Carolina Panthers: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
Butler may not have the name recognition of Alabama’s Jarran Reed or A’Shawn Robinson, but what the former Bulldog has is a rare combination of size (6-4, 323), strength and athleticism for a defensive tackle. The potential is there for Butler to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, he just has to put forth the effort and bring it every play he’s on the field.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
There was some talk that Seattle had traded this pick (Cleveland?) but in the end the Seahawks stayed put and addressed their biggest area of need. Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy both left in free agency, so Ifedi makes all the sense in the world here. Where he plays, guard or tackle, will be determined, but chances are Ifedi will be a part of Russell Wilson’s protection detail fairly early once the season gets started. And don’t forget the Seahawks added a third-round pick in swapping places with Denver before taking Ifedi.
Note: There were only 31 picks in the first round because New England forfeited its selection as part of the punishment associated with the Deflategate scandal.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)
All eyes are on Laremy Tunsil at the NFL Draft.
Ten minutes before the draft, they were on him as well. From Tunsil's verified twitter account, there was a video of him smoking from a bong. Tunsil said it was an old video, but it was still a bad look for the young player.
Someone just did Laremy Tunsil diiiiirrrttyyyyy pic.twitter.com/jjWIydkP6l— Kyle (@IgglesNest) April 28, 2016
Laremy Tunsil's Twitter account posted a video of him smoking a bong minutes before the NFL Draft 😳 pic.twitter.com/Ixb9VygMcj— WORLDSTARHIPHOP (@WORLDSTAR) April 29, 2016
No word on who let the video leak, but you can be certain it wasn't someone Tunsil can call a friend.
Tunsil has since apologized for the video.
I apologize for the recent video uploaded. Reassuring everyone I am prepared to train and work my hardest #NFLDraft2016— Laremy Tunsil (@laremytunsil78) April 29, 2016
The hacked activity didn't stop there. Later in the evening, his Instagram account was allegedly hacked as well. He also admitted to taking money from a coach. Uh oh.
Somebody is out to get Tunsil. It's evident. Hacking into his IG now. pic.twitter.com/9TvD5hCMwK— Jasmine Watkins (@JasmineLWatkins) April 29, 2016
Sometimes having no social media accounts can be a good thing.
Ezekiel Elliott is the "hero in a half-shirt" and he's definitely embracing it.
The Ohio State running back showed up to the NFL Draft in Chicago in a crop-top dress shirt. At least he won't have to worry about running into someone wearing the same thing.
Never change, Zeke.
The NFL Draft prospects have been making their rounds on all the football shows to talk about their stock. Key & Peele's Hingle McCringleberry is no exception.
The NFL hopeful talked to ESPN's Trey Wingo about his preparation for the draft and just the kind of player he is. Things took an unfortunate turn for McCringleberry when he realized the Browns were going to move up in the draft.
Braden Gall, Mitch Light and David Fox are back in the studio talking college football, previewing all five power five conference and more.
- Should Art Briles' job be in jeopardy because of what has happened at Baylor?
- Idaho is dropping to the FCS ranks, will this be a developing trend?
The guys then broke down all five Power 5 leagues, previewing the upcoming magazine. For the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12, the guys answer these questions:
- Which team is the toughest to pinpoint?
- Which team is the best sleeper candidate?
- Who is the darkhorse Heisman candidate?
- Who made the best coaching hire in the off-season?
- What is your favorite conference matchup of the year?
Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @AthlonMitch or @DavidFox615 or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com/podcast, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.
We've all seen ESPN's "Around the Horn" by now.
The worldwide leader's staple is pretty predictable at this point, hence the reason it gets parodied by The Kicker. "Every Sports Debate Show Ever" is a hilarious take on the point system and analysts on the show, down to the yelling and talking over each other that is bound to happen on a daily basis.
Peyton Manning is not known as a sentimental guy but this Gatorade shows a completely different side of him.
Gatorade put handwritten letters from Manning to various people together to be read aloud. It really shows the kind of guy Manning is off the field. If you weren't a fan of him before, this commercial just might push you over the edge.
ESPN's NFL reporter Chris Mortensen even read his touching letter from the quarterback.
No one is excempt from a special Peyton letter.
Much of the offseason discussion about James Franklin seems to suggest the 2017 season will be an important one for him as he enters his third season as Penn State’s head coach. After two straight seven-win seasons since taking over the program while also working to rebuild the depth across the board with a renewed recruiting strategy, fans are itching to see Penn State take a noticeable step forward this fall.
Penn State continues to rebuild an offensive line that has been embarrassed far more often than not the last two seasons, and a new starting quarterback steps in to run things on the field with a rising sophomore running back in Saquon Barkley continuing to amaze. A new offensive coordinator brings new optimism as well, but how quickly can everything come together? The schedule throws some good obstacles in the way in the first month of the season with a road trip to Pittsburgh and another to Michigan with a home game against a feisty Temple in the middle.
The season has yet to start, and already the pressure is on for Franklin and his Nittany Lions.
2016 Penn State Nittany Lions Schedule
Bye: Week 7
|1.||Sept. 3||University Park, PA|
Penn State opens the new season at home against Kent State. The Nittany Lions own a 4-0 record against the Golden Flashes and have pitched two straight shutouts in the series. This should be a favorable matchup for Penn State with Kent State coming off a three-win season.
|2.||Sept. 10||Pittsburgh, PA|
The in-state rivalry with Pitt will be renewed for the first time since 2000, although it feels a lot longer than that. The first in a four-game series opens on the road and should be a showdown of two bright running backs in Saquon Barkley and Pitt’s James Conner (hopefully).
|3.||Sept. 17||University Park, PA|
Believe it or not, this is a revenge game for Penn State. The Owls ambushed a weak offensive line last year and sacked Christian Hackenberg 10 times, but this Temple defense has lost some key players and Penn State may not crumble quite as easily this time. Temple has never won at Penn State.
|4.||Sept, 24||Ann Arbor, MI|
Big Ten begins in The Big House. The last trip to Ann Arbor resulted in a bitter loss for Penn State, and the Wolverines have been surging under the leadership of Jim Harbaugh. It feels like a tough spot for Penn State as the Wolverines play their fourth straight home game to open the season.
|5.||Oct. 1||University Park, PA|
After a road trip to Michigan, Penn State returns home to play for the Governor’s Bell trophy against Minnesota. Offense could be lacking though, as both teams ranked in the bottom three of the Big Ten in offense in 2015.
|6.||Oct. 8||University Park, PA|
Before getting to the bye week Penn State must defend its home field against its newest division rival to the south, Maryland. The Terrapins created some drama before kickoff last time and got to celebrate on their way out of town. Penn State won’t want a repeat of that.
|8.||Oct. 22||University Park, PA|
It’s the game of the year on the Penn State home schedule as the Buckeyes come to town. Ohio State got the benefit of some controversial calls the last time it paid a visit, and Penn State took the eventual national champions to overtime. Can Penn State snap a four-game losing streak to Ohio State?
|9.||Oct. 29||West Lafayette, IN|
A week after hosting the Buckeyes, Penn State hits the road for what should be a relatively much easier game against Purdue. The Boilermakers should not be too much of a threat regardless of the state of the Nittany Lions.
|10.||Nov. 5||University Park, PA|
Iowa has a history of giving Penn State some frustrating moments over the years. If the Hawkeyes’ defense plays the way it did in 2015 that could continue this November in Beaver Stadium.
|11.||Nov. 12||Bloomington, IN|
Penn State has won two games against the Hoosiers since being tripped up in blowout fashion in 2013 in Bloomington. Penn State’s defense has clamped down on the Hoosiers each of the past two seasons, limiting Indiana to just seven points each time.
|12.||Nov. 19||Piscataway, NJ|
Rutgers has developed a little bit of a knack for playing some Big Ten teams tougher at home compared to on the road. Penn State knows that well given its last trip to Rutgers two years ago. Expect another lively crowd, but what will each team be looking like in mid-November?
|13.||Nov. 26||University Park, PA|
Michigan State will be coming off a home game against Ohio State. Could the Big Ten East be on the line once again for the Spartans? Perhaps the bigger question is how much will what should be a physical game against the Buckeyes take out of Sparty, if anything?
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com, TheComeback.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
Every few years it seems Kirk Ferentz finds something to work with that turns into a somewhat magic run by the Iowa Hawkeyes. Last year may have been just, although an undefeated regular season ended unceremoniously with losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game and a whopper of a loss to Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in the Rose Bowl. But a new season will be here soon enough and Iowa will get a chance to prove last season was not a fluke.
Unless it was.
Iowa returns some key players like C.J. Beathard and Matt VandeBerg on offense and Desmond King on defense among the 15 total starters that are back, but the schedule also throws some challenges Iowa’s way that will make a second straight undefeated regular season a tad difficult to come by.
2016 Iowa Hawkeyes Schedule
Bye: Week 9
|1.||Sept. 3||Iowa City, IA|
The new season begins at home against Miami. No, not that Miami. The RedHawks from Oxford, Ohio, come to Iowa City looking to score a big upset for the MAC. Iowa lost a season opener at home against a MAC program in 2013 (Northern Illinois), but Miami is a far cry from that 12-2 NIU team fueled by Jordan Lynch.
|2.||Sept. 10||Iowa City, IA|
The two in-state rivals from the Big Ten and Big 12 have traded wins each of the past four seasons, with each victory coming in the other team’s stadium. Iowa hasn’t won back-to-back games against Iowa State since 2008-10.
|3.||Sept. 17||Iowa City, IA|
Big Ten programs should assume a win against FCS opponents, but North Dakota State is not your typical FCS opponent. The five-time defending FCS national champs look to add another FBS victim to their list. Two years ago North Dakota State took down Iowa State and the Bison also have a victory against Minnesota (2011). North Dakota State is 5-0 against FBS competition.
|4.||Sept. 24||Piscataway, NJ|
Iowa makes its first trip to the state of New Jersey when it meets Rutgers for the first time. Rutgers has developed a knack for playing Big Ten opponents tougher at home, so Iowa should be prepared for a battle.
|5.||Oct. 1||Iowa City, IA|
Iowa dismantled a Northwestern team that ended up winning 10 games last season, and did so on the road. Northwestern may be a bit motivated to keep things closer this time around. Iowa has outscored Northwestern 105-27 during a three-game winning streak in the series.
|6.||Oct. 8||Minneapolis, MN|
The Floyd of Rosedale is once again on the line. Iowa regained control of the trophy on its home field last fall in a wild shootout after trading scores in the second half. The winning team has scored at least 30 points in three of the past four games.
|7.||Oct. 15||West Lafayette, IN|
Iowa plays its third road game in four weeks, but Purdue does not figure to give much of a challenge. If Iowa’s defense and running game play an average game, the Hawkeyes should still go home with a win.
|8.||Oct. 22||Iowa City, IA|
Before reaching the bye week, Iowa plays a key division game at home against Wisconsin. These two played a defensive battle last fall in Madison, with Iowa escaping with a 10-6 victory. Expect more defense again this year as Iowa and Wisconsin look to possibly take control in the Big Ten West.
|10.||Nov. 5||University Park, PA|
After getting a week to prepare, Iowa’s defense should have plenty of film on Penn State’s new-look offense. That could come in handy. Iowa has lost two straight against Penn State.
|11.||Nov. 12||Iowa City, IA|
Iowa has won three straight meetings against the Wolverines in Iowa City. This will be Jim Harbaugh’s first trip there as a head coach, and Michigan comes in off a home game against Maryland.
|12.||Nov. 19||Champaign, IL|
Iowa has to wait a while to get its first look at new Illini coach Lovie Smith. Illinois hung with Iowa last season, but a pair of late field goals helped the Hawkeyes improve on their undefeated run.
|13.||Nov. 25||Iowa City, IA|
The regular season concludes on the day after Thanksgiving against Nebraska. Iowa wrapped up an undefeated regular season with a hard-fought victory in Lincoln last year but hopes to pick up its first win at home against the Huskers since 1981.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com, TheComeback.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
You can bet "First Take" is going to send Skip Bayless out with a bang during his last few weeks. No holding back in the least bit.
On the ESPN morning show, Stephen A. Smith discussed the issue of pitcher Jake Arrieta and PEDs. Smith didn't go as far as accusing the Cubs pitcher of using them but he did say Arrieta "shouldn't just be laughing at those who are looking at you and saying, 'Excuse me, what the hell is going on here?' because it's not like they haven't seen performance enhancing drug users before."
Arrieta saw the clip and decided to respond via Twitter.
Laughing is exactly what I will do. You continue to do your thing though. No one will undercut my hard work. @stephenasmith— Jake Arrieta (@JArrieta34) April 27, 2016
Surprising Smith didn't engage in Twitter beef with the pitcher. Must be sad about Skip Bayless leaving ESPN. Smith kept it calm in his reply.
I hear ya @JArrieta34. It's your life/career. You've earned the right to do what you want. The best to you.— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) April 27, 2016
Is this the beginning of a new, calmer Smith?
Kobe is certainly making the most of his retirement.
The Lakers legend had some help from Ellen DeGeneres for a hilarious hidden camera prank. Bryant really sells the prank so maybe he has a future in acting.
Forget "Black Mamba," Kobe will now be known as "Puddles."
Not every NFL prospect is going to have a completely positive scouting report. There's always going to be a downside to a player.
For the most part, Ohio State's Eli Apple is a good first-round option to go with. As with anything, there are some who disagree. In the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, there was a less-than-flattering anonymous report about the young star.
"Some there (OSU) were worried he wouldn't break 4.6 and then popped the (4.39)," the scout said. "They were surprised he ran that well. I worry about him because of off-the-field issues. The kid has no life skills. At all. Can't cook. Just a baby. He's not first round for me. He scares me to death."
How did Apple's mom react? Well let's just say whoever he is, he won't be invited to family dinner any time soon.
We dont respond to anonymous people & things. They're not real to us. What's real is this amazing dream our son is living rite now. #GoBucks— Annie Apple (@SurvivinAmerica) April 27, 2016
Btw, Eli's dad is a retired five star chef. We eat well. So stop playing with our name. Next time you say our name, put some respeck on it 😳— Annie Apple (@SurvivinAmerica) April 27, 2016
Mrs. Apple drew inspiration from the popular saying "put some respeck on my name" after Birdman made it popular on social media recently.
Apple himself even had something to say on the matter as well.
Eli Apple on anonymous scout saying he can't cook: "False! I was one of the best cooks on the team. I used to cook breakfast all the time."— Bart Hubbuch (@BartHubbuch) April 27, 2016
The story doesn't end there. Other players and even the Ohio State football Twitter account have something to say about Apple's cooking.
Eli has made me some fire fried chicken and mac and cheese. The source seems to be pretty unreliable 😂😂— EzekielElliott#⃣1⃣5⃣ (@EzekielElliott) April 27, 2016
Dear Anonymous Scouts,— Kyle Long (@Ky1eLong) April 27, 2016
People with Earned Identities
There you have it. Apple can cook and please put some "respeck" on his name.
Whether or not you like Skip Bayless, it's hard to imagine "First Take" without him.
That's why when news broke yesterday that the 12-year ESPN vet would be heading out the door (presumably to Fox Sports), some were in shock. Although Bayless will be with the show until the end of the NBA season, he decided to formally say goodbye and thank those close to him, including co-host Stephen A. Smith.
Whoever is taking Bayless' spot on the morning show will have their work cut out for them.
Recently Jonathan Nicola made headlines, and not for being an excellent high school basketball player.
It was discovered that the 29-year-old man was masquerading as a 17-year-old high school student and playing for Catholic Central High School in Canada. Now the 6'9 man is saying he wasn't aware that he was 29. According to the Toronto Star, Nicola's mother kept telling him different ages throughout his life.
"I always keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember," Nicola said. "Over (in South Sudan) ... not every year we study ... we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do no ask your age. They do not ask you nothing.
Nicola went on to say that his main goal was to get a good education so he could provide for his family at some point.
"I am not a liar person," Nicola continued. "I am religious. I pray to God ... If something bad happen to me here, I do not know what would happen to my mother back home because she is really sick. She has diabetes. I did not came (sic) here to harm any people or do something bad. All my goal is to study and get the education, so I can go back home, I can help my mother, I can help all the rest of my family."
It all stems from a man Nicola named as "Coach Steyn" who helped him get Canada. There's no additional details about his whereabouts at the moment, but he was said to have completed the necessary paperwork for Nicola to get to Canada.
"He [Coach Steyn] did the whole papers," Nicola said in a hearing. "He did everything."
Nicola's student visa application and passport says he was born November 25, 1998, but when his fingerprints provided at Canada Border Services Agency match a man with the same name that was born November 1, 1986.
Nicola is hoping to just get sent back home, saying that this was not his fault. He apologized to his high school coach and those involved for having put them through this.
"Please if you let me, send me back home, it would be much more better for me and for my family and for my mental health," Nicola said.
His request was ultimately denied by adjudicator Valerie Currie. She believes he knew all along of his age and took an opportunity to fool those involved so he could get to Canada.
"I understand your desire to do that, but the way you have gone about doing that is frankly, quite illegal," Currie said.
Nicola's next hearing is set for May 24.
The NFL Draft starts Thursday night and of course you are able to wager on a lot of different things involving the event. As it relates to prop bets however, there's a different strategy though as you really need to envision how you think things are going to go. You could do a ton of research and read a bunch of mock drafts, but in the end, one trade could throw everything for a loop.
I recommend reading up on team needs and rumors involving the players. The real intrigue starts with the third pick after the Eagles and Rams presumably take their quarterback off the board. That said, ultimately, you may have to weigh whether or not you want the value of a guess or a worse price, but a more correct answer. Sounds weird to some because they'll say of course I want to be right, but that prop that may be +260 now could become -110 by Thursday with more information.
Props courtesy of Sportsbook.ag
DeForest Buckner's draft position Over 6.5 (-120)
First off, let's remember when these props say over or under, that means over means later then pick seven while under means six or earlier. I envision picks No. 3 through 6 to go Laremy Tunsil, Joey Bosa, Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack so that means Chip Kelly gets his Oregon guy at No. 7. Buckner could go to the Ravens though I think they have a bigger need at linebacker. I think Ozzie Newsome takes the chance on the raw talent of Jack despite injury concerns.
Ezekiel Elliott's draft position Under 8.5 (+120)
This one I only recommend if it maintains the plus price. VegasInsider.com published an article last week with these props and the under was -245. I really feel like the Browns, who need an RB, will either select Elliott here or trade the pick to someone else who could use him. The hype train is running away right now with the Buckeye back and I'll take a piece of it at +120.
Which player will get drafted first Josh Doctson (+120) vs. Laquon Treadwell
This is a value play as most of the mock drafts have Treadwell going first. There's a little bit of buzz for the WR out of TCU plus some are concerned about Treadwell's slow 40 time. As we get closer, pay attention to the buzz for this one. I certainly wouldn't take it if it wasn't plus money.
Under 4.5 linebackers will be drafted in the 1st round (-125)
This one is tight as if you read a lot of the mocks there will be four or five taken in the first 31 picks. Myles Jack, Darron Lee, Reggie Ragland and Leonard Floyd are the ones that seem to come up the most. Several mocks have Shilique Calhoun going in the first round as well although I'd consider him a defensive lineman.
Over 2.5 Ole Miss players drafted in the first round (-130)
Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell are guarantees to go early so it all comes down to Robert Nkemdiche and his panther. There's been some buzz on the defender, but mostly because of his unique choice in pets. One cannot deny his talent so I'll bet on someone taking a chance in the first round giving us the over in this one.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
The reporter who recently made waves for his inappropriate question has been fired.
After the Warriors beat the Rockets in Game 4, Draymond Green was asked if the win had anything to do with the Houston floods. Evidently, it wasn't the first time he was asked that question by the same reporter and he didn't like being baited into a potentially controversial statement.
The reporter who continued to ask Draymond Green questions about the Houston floods was fired about 1 hour after the Game 4 press conference— Henry Wofford (@HenryWoffordCSN) April 26, 2016
He's a 1st year reporter, born and raised in China. He was working for a Chinese publication, but based in Houston. Fired after Game 4.— Henry Wofford (@HenryWoffordCSN) April 26, 2016
It wasn't the best question to ask, or to continue to ask, but companies have different methods of handling employees.
The Big Ten’s coaching carousel was an active one in the assistant ranks this offseason, as 12 out of the league’s 14 teams experienced some staff changes for 2016. While head coach hires often have a bigger impact, key assistant hires are just as critical. Michigan and Ohio State were once again the big winners this offseason. The addition of Don Brown (Michigan) and Greg Schiano (Ohio State) should ensure both teams remain at the top of the league in defense. However, Indiana’s hire of Tom Allen from South Florida should be a huge boost for coach Kevin Wilson’s defense. Maryland’s Walt Bell and Penn State’s Joe Moorhead are just two of the offseason’s top hires on the offensive side of the ball.
The Big Ten's Top 10 Assistant Coach Hires for 2016
Tom Allen, Defensive Coordinator, Indiana
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson took a big step in addressing a struggling defense this offseason. Allen was hired after a successful one-year stint at South Florida and is an instant upgrade for a unit that has ranked 10th or worse in the Big Ten in yards per play allowed since 2008. Under Allen’s watch last year, the Bulls allowed only 22.9 points a game and limited opponents to 5.2 yards per play. Expect Indiana’s defense to take a step forward under Allen’s watch in 2016.
Walt Bell, Offensive Coordinator, Maryland
New coach D.J. Durkin wasn’t afraid to aim high for his coaching staff, and the first-year coach landed an impressive collection of assistants on both sides of the ball. Bell is one of the rising stars at offensive coordinator, as he lands in College Park after coordinating an Arkansas State offense that averaged 40 points a game in 2015. Maryland averaged only 24.7 points a contest last year, but Bell’s arrival is the first step in fixing the struggling attack.
Don Brown, Defensive Coordinator, Michigan
Michigan’s defense was already one of the Big Ten’s standout units under former coordinator D.J. Durkin. And after Durkin left for Maryland, coach Jim Harbaugh made arguably the top coordinator hire of the offseason by bringing Don Brown to Ann Arbor from Boston College. Under Brown’s watch last season, the Eagles allowed only 15.3 points a game and led the nation by holding opponents to 4.1 yards per play. The veteran assistant has a long track record of success from other stops at UConn, Maryland and UMass and should engineer one of the nation’s best defenses this fall.
Mike London, Defensive Line/Pete Lembo, Special Teams, Maryland
Having two proven assistants like Mike London and Pete Lembo should be a huge asset for new Maryland coach D.J. Durkin. London comes to College Park after a six-year run as Virginia’s head coach, while Lembo left his position as Ball State’s head coach to coordinate Maryland’s special teams and coach tight ends. Expect both coaches to make an impact and provide a veteran sounding board for Durkin over the next few seasons with the Terrapins.
Garrick McGee, Offensive Coordinator, Illinois
Considering Lovie Smith hasn’t coached in college since 1995, hiring a staff with strong collegiate ties was essential. McGee was arguably the top hire for Smith, as the Oklahoma native has a wealth of experience at the FBS level, including stops as an assistant at Louisville, Arkansas and Northwestern. Additionally, McGee worked for two seasons as UAB’s head coach from 2012-13. McGee is regarded as a good recruiter and his versatile background on offense should be a huge plus for the Fighting Illini.
Drew Mehringer, Offensive Coordinator, Rutgers
Mehringer has been on a fast track through the coaching ranks and is a critical hire for new coach Chris Ash at Rutgers. The Texas native started his coaching career at Rice as a student assistant in 2007 and eventually made his way to Ohio State in 2012 as a graduate assistant. After two years with the Buckeyes, Mehringer went to James Madison as the co-offensive coordinator before reuniting with Tom Herman at Houston in 2015. Mehringer helped James Madison’s offense average 35.7 points a game in 2014 and should be one of the nation’s youngest coordinators (28) with the Scarlet Knights.
Joe Moorhead, Offensive Coordinator, Penn State
James Franklin is hitting the reset button on Penn State’s offense. The Nittany Lions have struggled to find consistent production from this group over the last two seasons and enter 2016 with question marks at quarterback and on the offensive line. Moorhead comes to Happy Valley after four seasons at Fordham and plans to overhaul the offense from more of a pro-style attack to an up-tempo spread. Prior to a 38-13 stint at Fordham, Moorhead worked at the FBS level as an offensive coordinator at Connecticut and Akron.
John Parrella, Defensive Line, Nebraska
Parrella was a standout player for the Cornhuskers from 1990-92 and returns to Lincoln tasked with rebuilding a defensive line that loses standout tackles Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine and defensive ends Greg McMullen and Jack Gangwish. Parrella’s experience on the collegiate level is limited, but as a former Cornhusker and NFL player, his addition should pay dividends for the defense in 2016. Parrella spent the last two years working at Northern Michigan and also made one stop at Chabot College in 2013.
Greg Schiano, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State
Replacing assistant coaches is nothing new to Urban Meyer. After Chris Ash left the Buckeye defensive staff to be the head coach at Rutgers, Meyer brought aboard Schiano to work with Luke Fickell as the team’s co-defensive coordinators. Schiano was let go by Tampa Bay after two seasons as the head coach in 2013. Since then, Schiano has been out of football for two years, but there’s a strong track record of success on the defensive side for the New Jersey native. Even with significant personnel losses for Ohio State in 2016, Schiano should ensure the defense doesn’t slip too much in overall performance.
Justin Wilcox, Defensive Coordinator, Wisconsin
Wilcox has big shoes to fill in replacing Dave Aranda as the defensive coordinator in Madison. Aranda was one of the nation’s top assistant coaches and left for LSU after Wisconsin’s bowl win over USC. This will be Wilcox’s fifth coordinator job at the FBS level, with prior stops at Boise State, Tennessee, Washington and USC. While Wilcox was let go after his two-year run with the Trojans, Washington’s defense showed marked improvement under his watch, and his 2011 group at Tennessee only gave up 22.6 points a game.
Other Key Assistant Hires in the Big Ten
Mark Hagen, Defensive Line Coach, Indiana
Jay Johnson, Offensive Coordinator, Minnesota
Jim Leonhard, Defensive Backs Coach, Wisconsin
Bart Miller, Offensive Line, Minnesota
Hardy Nickerson, Defensive Coordinator, Illinois
Brent Pry, Co-Defensive Coordinator, Penn State
The Ohio State Buckeyes will be well represented in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. Ohio State was going to be sending a strong group of seniors to the draft, but the Buckeyes had several talented underclassmen give up their final year of eligibility following the 2016 BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl. In some circumstances, there were some players who gave up two years of eligibility as redshirt sophomores.
Ohio State could possibly tie with Miami for the most picks in the first round, which is six. The Hurricanes set the record in 2004. While six first-round draft choices may not happen, another possibility is for Ohio State to break its school record for most selections in a single draft, which is 14 (2004).
Ohio State’s 2016 NFL Draft Prospects
DE Joey Bosa
A no-brainer first-rounder. Earlier in the process, Bosa was mentioned as a possibility for the No. 1 overall pick. This does not look it will be the case following Los Angeles trading with Tennessee to get the first pick, presumably to take a quarterback. Bosa will go in the top 10 picks somewhere, possibly to Dallas at fourth overall.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
Another no-brainer first-rounder. Elliott is the only running back in the 2016 NFL Draft mentioned as a likely first-round selection. Elliott has been mentioned to possibly go to Dallas at fourth overall. With Cleveland picking eighth, could Elliott be making the move up north from Columbus to join the Browns?
OT Taylor Decker
Decker will not go as high as other offensive tackles such as Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss or Ronnie Stanley of Notre Dame, but figures to go somewhere between the middle and end of the first round. Teams such as Detroit, Indianapolis and Seattle have all been rumored to have interest in Decker.
LB Darron Lee
Lee replaced current Pittsburgh Steeler Ryan Shazier in the starting lineup, and has a similar style of play from the linebacker position. Lee will go somewhere in the middle of the first round. One team in particular that has been showing interest is Atlanta.
CB Eli Apple
Apple gave up two years of eligibility to enter the draft. Apple should be a first-round selection, largely drafted for his physical skills and long-term potential. Teams rumored to have interest include Miami and Tennessee.
DB Vonn Bell
Bell is another early entrant, forgoing his final year of eligibility. Bell could sneak into the first round, but will last no later than the second round. Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh have all shown interest.
WR Michael Thomas
Thomas is in the second tier of wide receivers available in the 2016 NFL Draft. Thomas could sneak into the late first round, but seems to be a probable second-round projection. Minnesota, Cleveland and Cincinnati are all possible destinations.
WR Braxton Miller
Miller is a true projection, after only spending one season as a wide receiver. Considering Miller’s speed, agility and elusiveness, he could be taken somewhere in the second or third rounds. Teams such as Kansas City and New England have been rumored to have interest.
TE Nick Vannett
Vannett was underutilized in the Ohio State offense in 2015, but could be picked sometime on day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft, possibly in the third round. San Diego, Miami, Carolina and the New York Jets have all shown interest in Vannett.
DL Adolphus Washington
Washington was suspended for the 2016 BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl, but rebounded to participate in the highly important Senior Bowl. Washington will probably be a late day 2 pick, hearing his named called at some point during the third round. Buffalo and Tennessee have shown interest.
QB Cardale Jones
Jones had a disappointing Scouting Combine performance, but was able to participate in Ohio State’s Pro Day on March 11 in Columbus. Jones will possibly go in the third round. Arizona, San Diego and Buffalo have all shown varying levels of interest.
LB Joshua Perry
Perry might be a good fit at inside linebacker for a team that runs a 3-4 defense. Perry looks to be a late day 2 pick in the third round, possibly even day 3 selection in the fourth round.
DB Tyvis Powell
Powell gave up his final year of eligibility, which was somewhat of a surprise for both Ohio State coaches and fans. Powell has worked out for the New York Giants, and has met with Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans and Tennessee. Powell will be a day 3 selection, somewhere between the fourth and seventh rounds.
WR Jalin Marshall
Like Eli Apple, Marshall also gave up two years of eligibility, entering the draft as a redshirt sophomore. Similar to Tyvis Powell, Marshall’s decision surprised both Ohio State’s coaches and fans. Marshall had a disappointing performance at the Combine in the 40-yard dash (4.68). Marshall is projected as a late day 3 selection, and possibly could go undrafted. Marshall had a workout recently with Cincinnati.
OL Chase Farris
Farris moved back and forth between offensive and defensive line throughout his career, settling in as Ohio State’s starting right tackle in 2015. Projected to move inside to guard at the NFL level, Farris could be picked in the late rounds, but seems likely to be an undrafted free agent prospect.
Farris and Marshall represent Ohio State's best chances to either tie, or break, its school record of 14 players drafted. No matter how many Buckeyes are selected; the sheer volume of players that have garnered interest from NFL teams is quite impressive.
— Written by Chip Minnich, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a diehard Ohio State fan. Minnich also writes and podcasts for menofthescarletandgray.com, a site dedicated to Ohio sports with a special emphasis on the Buckeyes. Follow him on Twitter @ChipMinnich.