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All taxonomy terms: Phil Mickelson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-2-phil-mickelson
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. We've been unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 2: Phil Mickelson

Born: June 16, 1970, San Diego, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 42 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 3 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,495,793 (4th) World Ranking: 5

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Phil Mickelson will turn 44 in June, and ordinarily one would think that a player of that age had seen his better days, but Phil seems as capable as ever — and perhaps he enters this major season hungrier than ever. Statistically, it's easy to find holes in Phil’s game; even in his much-hallowed short game, there are gaping inconsistencies. However, Phil is one of the few players — if not the only player — who cannot be summed up in statistics, so strong is his belief in himself. If anything, at 44, Phil might have a sense of how close he is to being considered one of the top 10 players of all time. Phil is tied for 14th in total majors won, having finished second six times in the U.S. Open, the only major to have eluded him. Of the 10 men who have won three of the four Grand Slam events in golf, no player has more runner-ups in the one major they are missing than Phil. Many look at Pinehurst, site of this year’s U.S. Open, where Phil finished second in 1999, as the site of a storybook conclusion to his great career. Indeed, given his runner-up to Payne Stewart there, this will be one of the biggest stories in the first half of the year.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 85
Wins: 5

2013 Performance:
Masters - T54
U.S. Open - T2
British Open - 1
PGA Championship - T72

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2006, 2006, 2010)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013)
British Open - 1 (2013)
PGA Championship - 1 (2005)
Top-10 Finishes: 35
Top-25 Finishes: 47
Missed Cuts: 8

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-ranking-no-1-picks-expansion
Body:

The NFL Draft is an inexact science. It always has been and it always will be.

In fact, millions of dollars are poured into travel, scouting, evaluation, interviewing, discussing and debating the merits of Prospect A versus Prospect B in every NFL war room in every NFL Draft.

And still, Tony Mandarich gets picked ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

So having the first overall pick is a huge moment for any franchise. But its also carries with it tremendous pressure not to screw it up — which, of course, still happens frequently.

Dating back to expansion in 1995 when Carolina and Jacksonville joined the NFL, Athlon Sports has ranked and evaluated every No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Some of the names listed below have become the greatest to ever play the game. And others are JaMarcus Russell.

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis (1998)
Not only is Manning the best No. 1 overall pick in the draft between 1995-present but he might also be the greatest No. 1 overall pick of all-time. Which, of course, is extremely interesting considering there was healthy debate between Manning and No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf at the time of the Colts' selection. Needless to say, Indianapolis made the right choice with the Tennessee Volunteer quarterback.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis (2012)
Maybe it’s something in the water in Indy, but the Colts know what they are doing when they pick atop the draft. Luck is the best pro prospect to enter the NFL since John Elway in the early 1980s and all he has done is post the best two-year start to an NFL career of any quarterback in NFL history. He has Hall of Fame ability and the question isn’t will he win a Super Bowl it's when and how many.

3. Orlando Pace, T, St. Louis (1997)
Pace started 165 of his 169 career games during his Hall of Fame career with the Rams (12 years) and Bears (one year). He went to seven Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro five times while also leading the Rams to their one and only Super Bowl championship. Pace might be the most physically talented offensive tackle ever to play the game and is one of the league’s all-time greatest players. Kurt Warner most certainly would agree.

4. Eli Manning, QB, San Diego (2004)
Traded from the Chargers to the Giants on draft day, Peyton’s younger brother has lived up the hype of being not only a Manning but the No. 1 overall pick. He was two Super Bowl wins in which he was the driving force. Has he had some inconsistent seasons and turned the ball over a ton? Certainly — but so, too, did Brett Favre. There is little doubt that Manning deserved to be the top pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

5. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati (2003)
He was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and Pete Carroll has long claimed that if he could construct a QB from scratch, it would be Palmer. The 2005 AFC Player of the Year has throw for nearly 34,000 yards and 213 touchdowns in his 138-game career thus far — in which he's played for three of the traditionally weaker franchises. In just his third year, Palmer took the Bengals from the basement to the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades (1990). He has four 4,000-yard seasons, including one in each of the last two years. Constantly overlooked, Palmer has developed into one of the better No. 1 overall picks in recent memory.

6. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta (2001)
Vick is quite the conundrum. He has unprecedented physical ability and wowed fans in ways no other player in NFL history ever has. He also spent two years in prison, has only played one full season (16 games) in his career and has constantly had turnover and health issues. His near 6,000 yards rushing makes him one of the most unique players in NFL history and certainly worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. That said, Falcons fans probably still wonder what could have been had he been able to stay focused off the field.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina (2011)
Newton could fly past Vick and Palmer on this list in a very short period of time. Newton set records as a rookie and led his team to a division crown in his third season. He has proven his doubters wrong and as he begins to mature off the field and in the huddle, the sky could be the limit for a player of such substantial physical talent.

8. Keyshawn Johnson, WR, NY Jets (1996)
Throw him the damn ball. His me-first attitude and overall antics knock him down a peg or two in these rankings. But as the only wide receiver taken No. 1 overall since Irving Fryar in 1984, Johnson delivered a fine career. He only posted four 1,000-yard seasons but topped 10,000 yards and 800 receptions for his career to go with 78 total touchdowns. He also helped lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (2009)
Stafford has all of the physical tools to be one of the greats at his position and certainly justifies his No. 1 overall status. He also has a 5,000-yard season, the NFL record for attempts (727), led the Lions to the playoffs and won 2011 Comeback Player of the Year honors. Having said that, Stafford is 24-37 as a starter, has missed chunks of time due to injury and appears to be missing the “it factor” at times. He has a long way to go in his career and should have plenty of huge seasons in his future. Leading the Lions to the playoffs consistently and making a deep postseason run will go a long way towards silencing his doubters.

10. Mario Williams, DE, Houston (2006)
Houston was knocked for taking Williams over Reggie Bush or Vince Young but he has had a much better career than the common fan may realize. He is 13th among active NFL players in sacks with 76.5 and has forced 14 fumbles in 114 games. Williams has been to three Pro Bowls and has started every single game of his career with the exception of three games in 2010 and 11 in '11. Williams is an underrated No. 1 overall pick.

11. Jake Long, T, Miami (2008)
Long has missed just seven games in his six-year career and has started all 89 games he has played. He has been to four Pro Bowls and appears poised to have a solid career for the Rams after signing with them as a free agent prior to last season. Like Williams, Long doesn’t jump off the page as a starter but he has been an extremely solid, reliable and valuable player to this point in his career.

12. Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco (2005)
This one certainly started slowly. He managed just 19 touchdowns against 31 interceptions and an 11-19 starting record in his first three seasons for the 49ers. However, he persevered and has developed into a solid NFL quarterback. Over his last three seasons, Smith is 30-9-1 as a starter with 53 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, three playoff bids and over 8,000 yards passing (despite missing eight games over that span). His second career in Kansas City could eventually move him up this list.

13. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis (2010)
Plagued by major injuries for most of his collegiate and pro career, Bradford will likely never live up to the hype of being taken No. 1 overall. He won NFL Rookie of the Year in his first season but has missed a total of 15 games over the last three years. He’s had little in the way of support from his O-line and playmakers on offense, so there is still plenty of time for him to improve under trusted head coach Jeff Fisher. The final verdict on Bradford is still out.

14. Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City (2013)
By default, Fisher lands directly between the players who are deemed “good” and the players who are deemed “bad.” He started 13 of the 14 games he played as a rookie for a team that made the playoffs. He has the tools to be the Chiefs' long-term solution at left tackle but only time will tell.

15. Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland (1999)
Here is where the term bust begins to surface and Couch was the “best” of the busts. He went 22-37 as a starter in 62 career games, throwing for over 11,000 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He did, however, post a winning record for the Browns in 2002 when he went 8-6 and he had one 3,000-yard season in '01 for a 7-9 squad. These are his top two pro accomplishments, which at least makes him a better pick than….

16. David Carr, QB, Houston (2002)
Carr had no help from the expansion roster around him as he was sacked 76 times as a rookie and led the league in sacks three of his first four seasons. To his credit, Carr lasted in the NFL for 11 seasons (mostly as a backup) but his 23-56 record as a starter is pretty ugly.

18. Courtney Brown, DE, Cleveland (2000)
One of only two defensive players taken No. 1 overall since expansion is one of the most forgettable. Brown played in 61 career games over six seasons. His set a career high with 69 tackles as a rookie and never topped 42 tackles after that. He set a career high with 13 starts and 6.0 sacks in 2003. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks and 196 tackles.

17. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati (1995)
Here is all you need to know about Carter’s NFL career: He made 14 career starts in seven NFL seasons. He never reached 500 yards rushing in any season and only topped 400 once in his career. He was out of football by 2005 and finished with 319 carries, 1,144 yards and 20 touchdowns in his NFL career. No running back has ever been taken No. 1 overall since.

19. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland (2007)
Nine players in the NFL threw for at least 4,000 yards in 2013. Russell barely cracked 4,000 for his entire playing career (4,083). He played in 31 games, going 7-18 as a starter with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Needless to say, Russell — both literally and figuratively — was the biggest No. 1 overall bust in the modern NFL expansion era.

Teaser:
NFL Draft: Ranking the No. 1 Picks Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Golf, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-11-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 11.

• In honor of Masters week, enjoy a gallery of gorgeous girls golfing, including actual golfer Blair O'Neal (pictured).

A man put a lot of money on Rory McIlroy to win The Masters after seeing Rory's image on a chocolate danish. I try not to take orders from breakfast pastries, but that's me.

Once again, a pesky golf fan alerted a rules official to a violation, this one by Luke Donald. At least the fan in question was on the grounds and not calling from the couch. Golf fans are the kids who remind the teacher she forgot to assign homework.

Uh, Michael Pineda, if you're going to coat your hand with a foreign substance, be a little more discreet about it.

So apparently the new Kevin Costner movie "Draft Day" isn't the steaming pile of failure that I anticipated.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury participated in a dance-off with one of his players.

Watch Jameis Winston and his FSU baseball teammates re-create the Noles' game-winning football play during a rain delay.

• I've never linked to college hockey before, but here you go: Minnesota advanced to the Frozen Four with a buzzer-beater.

• Most athletic move of the day yesterday: Hillary Clinton used her cat-quick reflexes to dodge an airborne shoe.

• Fun media feud of the day: Piers Morgan vs. SI TV writer Richard Deitsch.

Lolo stepped in it on Twitter yet again.

• Jon Stewart crushed the NCAA on the Daily Show.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/who-sleeper-team-watch-big-12-2014
Body:

The Big 12 did not have a banner year in 2013, as only three teams from the conference finished ranked in the final Associated Press poll, and the bottom four teams in the league combined for just seven conference victories.

Heading into the 2014 season, there appears to be some positive momentum for the Big 12. Baylor and Oklahoma are playoff contenders, and Texas and Kansas State should be preseason top-25 teams.

While Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Kansas State appear set as the top-four teams in the league, the No. 5 spot seems to be up for grabs.

TCU slipped to 4-8 last year, and as a result of the struggles, coach Gary Patterson overhauled the offense for 2014. Iowa State has potential after finishing 2013 with back-to-back wins, while Texas Tech is an intriguing team to watch with Kliff Kingsbury at the helm, and Oklahoma State always seems to reload under Mike Gundy.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Who is a Sleeper Team to Watch in the Big 12 in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The bottom half of the Big 12 should be an interesting battle this year. Teams like Iowa State and West Virginia should improve, but whether or not it’s enough to make a bowl remains to be seen. I think Oklahoma State simply lost too much to pull a surprise finish among the top four teams, so it’s really down to TCU or Texas Tech as a sleeper pick for me. I think the Horned Frogs have a ton of upside going into 2014, as this team was just a couple of plays away from a winning record last year. New play-caller Doug Meacham made a difference at Houston in 2013 and helping TCU transition to a spread should help Gary Patterson’s team become a more effective offense in 2014. The Horned Frogs still need to find a quarterback, as well as develop more consistency at receiver and on the offensive line, but this team lost four Big 12 games by three points or less last year. With a better offense, TCU could easily turn some of those close losses into wins, especially with a defense that is still among the best in the nation. Another factor in the Horned Frogs’ sleeper potential is the schedule. TCU plays five conference home games, including swing matchups against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in Fort Worth.

Allen Kenney, (@BlatantHomerism), BlatantHomerism.com
What really qualifies as a surprise in the Big 12 anymore?

Baylor has gone from plucky upstart to defending champion.

Bill Snyder working miracles in Manhattan is nothing new.

Given how much talent is on Texas' roster, would it really be a "surprise" if the Longhorns made a run at the league crown in Charlie Strong's first year?

I think the most fitting candidate here is Texas Tech. Even with the loss of all-star tight end Jace Amaro, Kliff Kingsbury will keep the Red Raiders rolling up points. Reports from spring camp say quarterback Davis Webb has made major strides since the fall, and he'll have a bevy of productive skill players at his disposal, including receivers Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant and running back Kenny Williams. Up front, all-conference candidate Le'Raven Clark will lead an experienced offensive line that should be one of the best in the league.

Of course, offense usually isn't a problem in Lubbock. The Red Raiders will have to continue winning shootouts until Tech figures out a way to stop people. Look for the Red Raiders to come out on top of a wild one--or two--that you wouldn't expect (Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor), finishing with eight wins in the regular season and a winning record in league play.

 


Listen to our staff discuss every team in the Big 12 as they start to look to 2014.

Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football leading up to the 2014 season.
iTunes | Podcast Archive

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
My sleeper in the Big 12 is the team it always seems to be in this league, Iowa State. The Cyclones slipped to 3-9 last season, missing a bowl for the second time in five seasons under Paul Rhoads. That should turn around this season. While Iowa State won’t contend for the title, there are plenty of reasons the Cyclones will get back to the six- to seven-win range. After Iowa State lost a 31-30 heartbreaker to Texas on Oct. 3, the 2013 season went sour. Injuries took their toll on a team that was already going to struggle to compete. Iowa State, though, found its stride at the end of the season. In his final two starts — both wins — quarterback Grant Rohach completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 631 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’ll be among 10 returning starters on offense, now playing under coordinator Mark Mangino. The former Kansas coach has his faults, but he can run an offense in the Big 12. On defense, seven starters return, and linebacker Luke Knott will return healthy. That should be enough for Iowa State to double its win total from last season.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Defining a sleeper must be based on expectations and since the expectation levels for Oklahoma State heading into 2014 seem to be lower than we've seen in Stillwater in nearly a decade, I will go with the Cowboys. Mike Gundy's squad hasn't won fewer than eight games since 2007 and has only won fewer than nine once during that span. Due to massive departures to graduation and the NFL, the Cowboys likely won't be picked in the top half of the Big 12 — fifth at best — but this program is in way better shape than a team with so few returning starters. Gundy has elevated the entire Pokes program by building depth throughout his roster. This team was one drive away from winning the Big 12 championship, and I just don't see the fall from grace like many preseason prognosticators will predict. Will OSU win the Big 12? No. But can they be a sleeper who could win nine or ten games and pull a couple of upsets? You bet.

Mark Ross
Prior to last season, TCU had won at least seven games every year since 2005. Granted, all but two of those seasons came when Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs were dominating the Mountain West Conference, but I think their 11-14 record since joining the Big 12 in 2012 is somewhat misleading. Of those 14 losses, half were by seven points or fewer. In fact, last season's 4-8 TCU team was potentially just one or two touchdowns away from maintaining the program's bowl streak, which ended at eight. As bad as the offense was (Horned Frogs were 104th in the nation in total offense), this team was still out-gained by just 6.2 yards in conference play in 2013. Eight starters return from that defense, along with defensive end Devonte Fields, the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year when he was a freshman. Patterson also brought in former Houston offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and Texas Tech co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie to overhaul TCU's offense. A quarterback will need to be settled on and the offensive line will need to gel, but whomever ends up running the show does have playmakers to work with and it's not like it can get much worse than it was last year, right? TCU also has the luxury of hosting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with its toughest road tests shaping up to be at Baylor and Texas. If the Horned Frogs can survive a difficult stretch of six straight conference games starting Oct. 4, then I think this team has a chance to open some eyes in its third year in the Big 12.

Teaser:
Who is a Sleeper Team to Watch in the Big 12 in 2014?
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/bcs-eras-all-american-team
Body:

All-conference and All-American teams are a great indicator as to who are the best players in the nation. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time All-American selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. He was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

Second-Team: Tim Tebow, Florida, Third-Team: Matt Leinart, USC

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner, Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher.

Second-Team: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin Third-Team: LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns.

Second-Team: Darren McFadden, Arkansas Third-Team: Reggie Bush, USC

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (2002-03)
After redshirting, Fitz dominated college football for two full seasons. He became the first Pitt Panther to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, owns the school record with 34 touchdowns (in just 26 games) and owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (18). As a sophomore in his final season at Pitt, he caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, winning Big East Player of the Year honors and the Walter Camp and Biletnikoff awards. His second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting is the highest by any wide receiver during the BCS era and he is the only one in to finish in the top three.

Second-Team: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech Third-Team: Percy Harvin, Florida

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006.

Second-Team: Peter Warrick, Florida State Third-Team: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history.

Second-Team: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma Third-Team: Heath Miller, Virginia

T: Bryant McKinnie, Miami (2000-01)
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting. The Pro Bowl left tackle was the seventh overall pick by the Vikings in the 2002 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Chris Samuels, Alabama Third-Team: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma

T: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons.

Second-Team: Jake Long, Michigan Third-Team: Shawn Andrews, Arkansas

G: Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan.

Second-Team: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma Third-Team: David Yankey, Stanford

G: Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA.

Second-Team: Mike Iupati, Idaho Third-Team: Eric Steinbach, Iowa

C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career.

Second-Team: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska Third-Team: Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas

First-Team Defense:

DE: David Pollack, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest SEC defensive lineman of the BCS Era.

Second-Team: Julius Peppers, North Carolina Third-Team: Chris Long, Virginia

DE: Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner that year as well. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time) and 14 forced fumbles.

Second-Team: Corey Moore, Virginia Tech Third-Team: Jadeveon Cloweny, South Carolina

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.

Second-Team: John Henderson, Tennessee Third-Team: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma

DT: Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07)
He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks.

Second-Team: Haloti Ngata, Oregon Third-Team: Casey Hampton, Texas

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American who wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Paul Posluszny, Penn State Third-Team: Derrick Johnson, Texas

LB: Patrick Willis, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for a loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior.

Second-Team: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame Third-Team: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game.

Second-Team: E.J. Henderson, Maryland Third-Team: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters.

Second-Team: Champ Bailey, Georgia Third-Team: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin

CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

Second-Team: Dre Bly, North Carolina Third-Team: Antoine Winfield, Ohio State

S: Ed Reed, Miami (1998-01)
The star safety is one of the greatest to ever put on the pads. He led the team as a freshman in interceptions and forced fumbles en route to back-to-back All-American seasons in 2000 and '01. He led the nation as a senior with nine interceptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His leadership helped a stacked Miami team go unbeaten and claim the BCS National Championship in 2001. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Reed holds the school record for career interceptions (21), return yards (389) and defensive touchdowns (5). He was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. Oh by the way, Reed was a Big East track and field champ in the javelin.

Second-Team: Eric Berry, Tennessee Third-Team: Troy Polamalu, USC

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl

Second-Team: Sean Taylor, Miami Third-Team: Mark Barron, Alabama

Teaser:
The BCS Era's All-American Team
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Oregon Ducks, College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-wr-bralon-addison-tears-acl-ducks-wr-corps-has-major-concerns
Body:

The Pac-12 title race is expected to be a tight battle between Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA.

The Ducks are considered by some to be the preseason favorite, but Mark Helfrich’s team suffered a setback on Thursday, as receiver Bralon Addison suffered a torn ACL in practice. A timetable for Addison’s absence was not announced, but it is believed he will miss the entire 2014 season.

Addison was expected to be Oregon’s No. 1 receiver in 2014, as he was the top returning statistical target – 61 receptions for 890 yards and seven touchdowns.

Addison’s ACL injury adds another layer of concerns for Oregon’s receiving corps, as this unit was already losing Josh Huff (62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns), and running back De’Anthony Thomas left early for the NFL Draft.

Is Addison’s injury something that could derail the Ducks from a Pac-12 title? Possibly. However, Oregon still has the No. 1 quarterback in the conference returning in Marcus Mariota, along with one of the nation’s top running back stables.

In Addison’s absence, the Ducks need more from Keanon Lowe, Chance Allen, Darren Carrington, Dwayne Stanford and Devon Allen. Also, expect to see more opportunities for tight ends Johnny Mundt, Pharaoh Brown and Evan Baylis.

Here’s a look at the returning options for Oregon in the receiving corps (2013 stats)
 

PlayerRec.YardsTDs
Keanon Lowe182333
Johnny Mundt162813
Pharaoh Brown101232
Chance Allen5981
Evan Baylis4710
Blake Stanton2110
B.J. Kelley1130

 

Teaser:
Oregon WR Bralon Addison Tears ACL; Ducks' WR Corps Has Major Concerns
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 21:00
All taxonomy terms: girls, videos, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-cheerleaders-release-new-fantasy-video
Body:

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.

Teaser:
The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 15:22
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-3-adam-scott
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. We've been unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 3: Adam Scott

Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 10 (9 on European Tour) | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,892,611 (6th) World Ranking: 2

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Adam Scott will have a very good chance to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only men to successfully defend their Masters titles. Perhaps the best driver in the game, Scott can challenge the doglegs at Augusta National and put himself in position to attack a golf course that has so many playing defensive golf. The reason for his improved play in majors beginning in 2011, many believe, is the result of switching to the anchored putter, but he has finished 102nd, 148th and 143rd in strokes gained putting, respectively, the last three years and still struggles on the greens. This weakness is the only thing that keeps him from winning far more often than he does.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 51
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - 1
U.S. Open - T45
British Open - T3
PGA Championship - T5

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2013)
U.S. Open - T15 (2012)
British Open - 2 (2012)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 11
Top-25 Finishes: 22
Missed Cuts: 15

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 15:05
All taxonomy terms: Keegan Bradley, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-4-keegan-bradley
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 4: Keegan Bradley

Born: June 7, 1986, Woodstock, Vt. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,636,813 (11th) World Ranking: 18

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Keegan Bradley made quite a debut on the PGA tour in 2011, winning the PGA Championship as a rookie, but since then has been relatively quiet, given his enormous talent. Winless in 2013, he managed seven top tens and finished 11th on the money list, but he was so close to doing so much more. Perhaps, after such a high-profile first year on tour, he was burdened by heavy expectations. His game is too complete not too have multiple wins in 2014.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 9
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - T54
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T15
PGA Championship - T19

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T27 (2012)
U.S. Open - T68 (2012)
British Open - T15 (2013)
PGA Championship - 1 (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 4
Missed Cuts: 1

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:59
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-10-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 10.

Galleries at Augusta this week will be graced by the presence of one Amanda Dufner. Yo, Jason, eyes up here, buddy.

They're underway at The Masters. I know I'm a golf nerd, but this will never get old.

• Very cool fly-over GIFs of all 18 holes at Augusta National.

• This is a little inside-golf, but it is Masters week: Tiger-proofing at Augusta has actually given the edge to the bombers. Related: You can't win The Masters unless you birdie the par-5 15th hole.

So Jack Nicklaus' granddaughter has a crush on Adam Scott. She's cute, she's 18, he's single. I say why not?

One man's Masters power ranking.

• A Masters Thursday long-form read: Tiger Woods and the drop heard round the world.

Clay Travis has some fun with the news that AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb are filming a reality show.

• Bored baseball fans are a fun genre. Like this Rangers fan who was doing a little hockey research during a game.

Mike Greenberg of Mike & Mike milked a cow to pay off a bet. The cow replied by pooping.

• Sporting magenta hair, Caroline Wozniacki caddies for Rory McIlroy at the par-3 tournament and took the time to sink a long putt.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:48
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/winners-and-losers-2014-ncaa-tournament
Body:

The NCAA Tournament ended with one winner and 67 losers in the bracket, but not all of those results are created equal.

Kansas’ loss in the round of 32 isn’t exactly the same as Mercer’s, for example.

The true winner, in both the men’s and women’s tournament, was the school in Storrs, even though both programs took different paths to get there. UConn cemented itself as one of the most unlikely national champions, Kevin Ollie as a star in the coaching world and Shabazz Napier as one of the most legendary players in Huskies history.

Ollie wasn’t the only coach to establish himself as young up-and-comer in coaching. Dayton’s Archie Miller surely will be on the radar for major programs after his team’s run to the Elite Eight.

Elsewhere, Bo Ryan reached his first Final Four and the SEC found some basketball bragging rights, making them two of the bigger winners in this year’s field.

The Big 12 and Doug McDermott weren’t so lucky.

Winner: Kevin Ollie’s status
When the NCAA Tournament started, the coaching legacy discussion revolved around Billy Donovan cementing his status as a Hall of Fame coach or Sean Miller or Bo Ryan reaching their first Final Four. Kevin Ollie notching his spot among the national elite coaches was not one of the popular talking points. Now, the storyline that emerged after this Tournament may be the most interesting of all. What’s in store for Ollie in his coaching career? At 41, Ollie is younger than Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and Roy Williams when they won their first national championships. He’s already at a national power, but UConn’s conference alignment has taken a step back in the American compared to the Big East. And with his credibility in the NBA, Ollie may be a popular target there. Possibilities abound, including a long tenure at his alma mater.

Loser: The freshman class
Kentucky alone saved the star-studded freshman class from being a complete washout. Julius Randle and the Harrison twins carried Kentucky from a No. 8 seed to the title game and likely boosted their NBA Draft status. Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins may be top-three picks, but their NCAA Tournament legacy is forgettable. Parker went 4-of-14 from the field in a round of 64 loss to Mercer, and Wiggins scored four points in a loss to No. 10 seed Stanford in the round of 32. Kansas’ Joel Embiid was a no-show with a back injury, and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis was bounced in the round of 32 by No. 11 seed Dayton. Arizona’s Aaron Gordon had a solid performance in the Tournament ... until he ran into Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in the Elite Eight.

Winner: Bo Ryan’s legacy
In a matchup with Arizona’s Sean Miller, another great coach without a Final Four appearance, Ryan was the one who was able to check the box of reaching the final weekend of the Tournament. And more may be in store for Wisconsin. Shooting guard Ben Brust is the only major departure from Wisconsin next season, meaning the Badgers will have the look of a national title team.

Loser: Doug McDermott’s stat line
McDermott completed one of the greatest careers in college basketball history as the fifth-leading scorer of all time and a three-time consensus All-American. But the National Player of the Year struggled in his lone NCAA Tournament game, a loss to Baylor. The Bears held McDermott to 15 points in his third NCAA exit before the Sweet 16. McDermott scored 15 points or less only three times as a senior and 15 times in his final three years.

Winner: Kentucky’s transformation
By one count, Kentucky played in three of the top four games of the NCAA Tournament. Decades from now, this year’s Tournament may be remembered for Shabazz Napier and UConn’s title run from a No. 7 seed, but also for the excitement Kentucky brought. And to think this team underachieved for most of the season. Kentucky defeated three teams from last year’s Final Four, including undefeated Wichita State and rival Louisville. And that was before facing Wisconsin in the Final Four. Every step of the way, Kentucky defeated a team good enough to win the title before running into Napier and UConn. Oh, and the Wildcats had a flair for the dramatic.

Loser: Wichita State’s opportunity for credibility
Notice that says Wichita State’s opportunity for credibility not credibility in and of itself. The 35-1 record and a toe-to-toe battle with the eventual national runners up may be enough to make fans forget about all the hand-wringing about the Shockers’ schedule. But at the same time, Wichita State was unable to advance into the second weekend, and that will be enough for detractors to doubt Wichita State’s season.

Winner: Archie Miller’s job prospects
If not for Ollie, Miller might be the biggest coaching superstar to emerge from this NCAA Tournament. The 35-year-old led Dayton to wins over NCAA stalwarts Ohio State and Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight. Sure, Dayton got hot for two weeks, but the Flyers also defeated Gonzaga and nearly knocked off Baylor in the Maui Invitational. With his bloodlines, Miller may already have been a major coaching prospect, but this Tournament sealed it. The question is if and when he might make the jump. Dayton can be the flagship program and the Atlantic 10. With administrative and fan support and a good recruiting base, there’s no reason for Miller to jump at the first opportunity. Could he prove to be as difficult to pry from Dayton as Shaka Smart has been at VCU. Remember, it took the Boston Celtics to pull Brad Stevens away from Butler, too.

Loser: The selection committee’s handling of the AAC
On Selection Sunday, the American Athletic Conference was a clear loser. Louisville, a top-three team in the rankings, was hammered with a No. 4 seed. UConn received a No. 7, Memphis received a No. 8. SMU didn’t even make the field. The Huskies won the national title, Louisville fell in the Sweet 16 to eventual national runner up and rival Kentucky, and SMU reached the NIT championship game.

Winner: The SEC’s bragging rights
Eleven SEC teams didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament field. Three SEC teams didn’t make it out of the NIT quarterfinals. Is that going to stop SEC fans from bragging about two Final Four teams and three in the Sweet 16? No way. Kudos to Kentucky and Tennessee playing to the level their talent suggested. It almost made us forget that teams like Arkansas, Missouri and LSU didn’t do the same.

Loser: The Big 12’s bragging rights
The Big 12’s batting average was not nearly as high as the SEC’s. Only two of the league’s eight teams with NCAA Tournament bids reached the Sweet 16. Two teams lost to double-digit seeds with Kansas falling to No. 10 Stanford and Oklahoma falling to No. 12 North Dakota State. Iowa State played two games without one of its top three players before losing to UConn in the Sweet 16. Texas and Oklahoma State lost to higher-seeded teams. Baylor carried the banner for the league before losing by 17 to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

Winner: The Atlantic Sun
Between Florida Gulf Coast and Mercer, the Atlantic Sun is 3-2 in the last two NCAA Tournaments. Not bad for a league that lost its top program, Belmont, two years ago.

Loser: Injuries
Injuries are part of the season, but a few deprived a few teams from being at their best in the NCAA Tournament — Joel Embiid at Kansas, Georges Niang at Iowa State and Willie Cauley-Stein at Kentucky. Kansas and Iowa State were teams with Final Four potential with all their pieces in place, and Cauley-Stein could have been a difference-maker in the title game.

Winner: Johnny Dawkins’ job security
The Stanford coach seemed to be on an NCAA Tournament-or-bust trajectory. He did more than what could be expected by taking a No. 10 seed to the Sweet 16 thanks to wins over New Mexico and Kansas. Stanford’s first NCAA Tournament trip since 2008 isn’t the only reason Dawkins can breathe a little easier: Mike Montgomery retired at rival Cal.

Loser: Another vote of confidence in BYU
For the second season in a row, BYU was a questionable selection in the NCAA Tournament. Only a wild comeback against Iona in the First Four last season prevented BYU from going one-and-done the last two seasons. Once in the 64-team field, BYU lost by 19 points to Oregon in 2014 and 20 points to Marquette in 2013.

Winner: Harvard’s momentum
For the second consecutive season, Harvard upset a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1946, and now it has reached the field in each of the last three seasons. Harvard could ride that momentum into 2014-15, already showing up on a few early top 25 lists. Not only does Harvard return its top three scorers, the Crimson also held onto coach Tommy Amaker, who has led the turnaround.

Loser: Mark Gottfried’s game management
Little was expected of NC State this season, but the Wolfpack were one of the last teams in the field and won a game in the First Four. Mark Gottfried kept fans wanting more though. His team flopped in the round of 64 against Saint Louis by losing a 14-point lead in the second half to lose in overtime. NC State shot 54.1 percent from the line, and Gottfried kept his star player, T.J. Warren, on the court, vulnerable to foul out when NC State needed to stop the clock. Warren fouled out with 27.9 seconds left.

Winner: Steve Alford’s reputation
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Alford hire at UCLA wasn’t an unqualified success, and it’s still unclear if he’ll be able to match Ben Howland. Still, Alford answered a few questions by advancing to the Sweet 16. His teams at New Mexico and Iowa had been eliminated by double-digit seeds in four of his last five trips to the NCAA Tournament. Avoiding upsets to No. 12 Tulsa and No. 13 Stephen F. Austin is what he’s supposed to do at UCLA, but he deserves credit for reversing an ugly trend.

Loser: The Big East
During the course of the season, the Big East looked at times like it could be a two-bid league, so it’s probably a positive development that four teams made it. None, however, made it to the second weekend when No. 2 seed Villanova and No. 3 seed Creighton lost in the round of 32. There’s no shame in No. 11 seed Providence losing to North Carolina, and Xavier was in a virtual coin flip game against NC State in the First Four. Making matters worse, though, was the departure of Buzz Williams from Marquette to Virginia Tech. In essence, one of the top coaches for one of the new league’s flagship programs left for one of the worst jobs in the ACC. Not a great week for the league.

Teaser:
Winners and losers from the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:19
Path: /college-football/miamis-defense-or-virginia-techs-offense-which-bigger-concern-2014
Body:

The ACC Coastal has been one of the toughest divisions to predict over the last few years, and nothing is expected to change in 2014.

In 2012, North Carolina, Miami and Georgia Tech tied for the division crown at 5-3. Last year, Duke won the Coastal with a 6-2 mark but three teams finished just a game behind the Blue Devils.

It’s hard to find much separation among the top six teams in the Coastal this year, so it may take another 5-3 record in conference play to win the division.

Miami and Virginia Tech are considered among the favorites to win the Coastal in 2014, but both teams have big question marks. The Hurricanes have struggled on defense over the last two seasons, and the Hokies’ offense is a concern after averaging only 22.8 points per game in ACC games in 2013.

Considering how tight the top six teams are expected to be within the division, slight improvement by Virginia Tech’s offense or Miami’s defense could be enough to vault either team into the top spot.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Miami's Defense or Virginia Tech's Offense: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is a close call, but I have to say the Miami defense. Over the last two years, the Hurricanes are the only unit in the ACC to allow over six yards per play in conference games. And despite having three straight top-15 recruiting classes, Miami has showed very little improvement on defense. With upperclassmen like end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Tracy Howard, this unit has to take a step forward in 2014. The depth has certainly improved for Miami’s defense over the last two years, but the pass rush (just 12 sacks in ACC games last year) and stopping the run are still a concern. The offenses in the Coastal aren’t particularly prolific, but the Hurricanes still have to face Georgia Tech, an improving Pittsburgh offense, North Carolina, Duke and Florida State and Louisville in crossover play. Virginia Tech’s offense may not show much improvement in the stat column, but the Hokies have a very favorable schedule, and the skill players around new quarterback Mark Leal are improving. Also, with a Virginia Tech defense expected to be among the best in the nation, the Hokies won’t need to make a significant jump in production to win the Coastal. It’s tough to put either team in the top 25 for 2014 with the question marks surrounding both squads, but I have more concerns about Miami’s defense heading into the fall.

Mark Ross
For me, it's Virginia Tech's offense, as the improvement or lack thereof from this side of the ball will likely determine how the Hokies' 2014 campaign shakes out. Consider this: Virginia Tech's offense finished 99th or worse among FBS teams last year in total, scoring and rushing offense yet the Hokies still won eight games. What's more, all three of their conference losses were by seven or fewer points, including a three-point home loss to Duke that ended up determining the Coastal Division champion. Now while it's hard to see the defense repeat its top-11 national showing in all four major categories this season, especially with so much talent and experience having departed, there's no reason to expect a dramatic drop-off either, not as long as coordinator Bud Foster is in charge.

No the bugaboo for Frank Beamer's team the last couple of years has been the offense, but maybe this is the year coordinator Scott Loeffler finds his rhythm with his personnel and things come together. Quarterback is a big question mark, but the addition of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer gives Loeffler another option to consider, as Brewer will provide Mark Leal with competition for the starting job when fall camp opens. Virginia Tech doesn't lack for playmakers per se, but the running backs and wide receivers are still relatively unproven and have yet to produce on a consistent basis. That said, the schedule shapes up nicely with Boston College and Wake Forest the crossover games from the Atlantic Division and Georgia Tech and Miami coming to Lane Stadium. As long as the defense doesn't take too much of a step backwards, Virginia Tech should at least contend for yet another division title. And if the offense can show even moderate improvement, then it's possible that the Hokies could get back to double-digit wins, something this program did consistently not too long ago.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), NunesMagician.com
To me, this is pretty clear: Virginia Tech's offense is the bigger concern, and I don't even think it's close. The Hokies' offense has been phenomenally bad these past couple years, especially last year when they pretty much hit rock bottom (100th in points per game and 102nd in yards per game). Problem is, though, they might end up sinking deeper. Offensive line's a consistent issue and now without Logan Thomas -- flawed as he was, he was the team's only real offensive weapon -- they'll need to figure out how to protect an inexperienced passer, too. At the running back position, there will be additional stress placed on sophomore Trey Edmunds too, as he'll largely be relied upon to guide Tech's offense in the early going. All seems like a recipe for disaster.

Miami's defense certainly has some work to do, but at least they have the pieces to do it. Their collection of young defensive backs showed an ability to ball-hawk last year and should continue to develop. The 'Canes also showed themselves capable of getting after opposing QBs, increasing their sacks numbers by 16 compared to 2012. They'll lose a couple of those contributors, but you have to like the potential of what they bring back -- especially when comparing it to what Virginia Tech loses (and still fails to possess) on offense.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Virginia Tech’s offense has to be the bigger concern. This unit used to be fairly consistent with a run game that was fairly automatic. When Hokies had an above average quarterback, they were a top-10 or top-five team. That’s changed in recent years. Virginia Tech’s offense has been in decline. The Hokies’ yards per play performance has dropped every season starting in 2010. Same with yards per carry. That includes one season with David Wilson as the primary tailback and two with NFL prospect Logan Thomas at quarterback. Miami at least improved defensively last season and has enough returning personnel to be optimistic that trend can continue. Miami returns seven starters on defense, including Anthony Chickillo, Denzel Perryman and Tracy Howard. That’s a high-level player at each level of the defense. I’m not sure if Virginia Tech has that equivalent on offense. 


Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Miami’s defense is the bigger concern, simply because quarterback Ryan Williams just went down with a torn ACL and that side of the ball will have to carry a heavier load. The presence of linebacker Denzel Perryman definitely helps. 

Last year, the Canes’ defense ranked 89th nationally with an average of 426 yards allowed per game, and they were the main culprit in the squad’s three-game losing streak. FSU scored 41 points, followed by Virginia Tech going off for 42 and then Duke got in on the fun with 48.

Another concern is that Louisville, who the Canes open up against on Sept. 1, had their way against Miami’s defense in the Russell Athletic Bowl — although the Cardinals must obviously replace quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Both sides of this argument should be major cause for concern heading into the first year of College Football Playoff – especially for two coaches entering critical years at their respective schools and with expectations of a division title looming. But the answer has to be Tech's offense. Yes, Miami has allowed big chunks of yards in each of the last two seasons but there was progress, however small, a year ago. And with very talented names stepping into starring roles as juniors and seniors — Denzel Perryman, Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Anthony Chickillo — there are at least some excellent pieces for Al Golden to work with in Coral Gables. Frank Beamer and Scott Loeffler have little in the way of proven big-play talent on the offensive roster returning with the exception of possibly Trey Edmunds. And while Logan Thomas likely ruined more than a few Saturday evenings in Blacksburg, he also set offensive records for the Hokies and there is virtually zero experience returning at the QB position. Texas Tech's Michael Brewer is the wildcard and could save the day, but he has his hands full when he arrives this summer. Until then, I will say Miami's defense has more upside and potential.

Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky), NunesMagician.com
The real concern for both teams, along with every other team in the ACC for that matter, has to be the fact that Florida State is still playing football. But, other than the Seminoles waiting as a roadblock down the line, I would say Miami's defense is probably a bigger "concern" than Virginia Tech's offense.

I write that because, well, Miami's defense couldn't get much worse than it was in 2013. The Hurricanes finished ranked No. 13 in total defense in the ACC last season -- that's out of 14 total teams. '13 was such a bad year on that side of the ball that UM recorded a meager 12 sacks in eight conference games, not exactly a stat to brag about for such a vaunted program. The secondary wasn't much better than the guys up front either, being routinely burned for big plays. Things were so un-Miami like, that opponents hung 40 or more points on the Hurricanes during a three-week stretch in November, a list of teams that included Virginia Tech.

Sure, the Hokies obviously have issues to be worked out on offense this coming season, but it's Miami with Coastal Division championship aspirations (along with, I'm sure, delusional hopes of a national championship). And for the 'Canes to follow through on any preseason goals or hype, they'll have to put things together defensively quickly because the season opens at Louisville with a trip to Nebraska and a home date with Florida State. The likes of Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord need to step up, something most observers expect to see happen, or defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will be looking for work before Thanksgiving and Miami will once again play little brother to those boys upstate.

Teaser:
Miami's Defense or Virginia Tech's Offense: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/new-uniforms-coming-mississippi-state-2014
Body:

Mississippi State has updated its uniform and helmet combination a couple of times under coach Dan Mullen, and it appears the Bulldogs will make a few tweaks for 2014.

According to this photo tweeted by @LoganLowery, Mississippi State’s new uniforms will resemble one of their uniforms from the 1990s. The jerseys feature stripes on the shoulders, along with “Hail State” above the number.

This isn’t a huge change for Mississippi State, and the jerseys will just be worn against Southern Miss on Aug. 30.

Here's a look at the new jerseys for the Bulldogs in 2014:



 

 

Teaser:
New Uniforms Coming for Mississippi State in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 18:12
Path: /college-football/union-story-continues-dominate-offseason-northwestern-qb-siemian
Body:

When Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian heard the question about one of his receivers, Miles Shuler, the Wildcats quarterback sighed in relief.

“Awesome, a football question, great,” Siemian said.

Northwestern’s spring practice will come to a close Saturday, but Wednesday was another clear indication what happens on the field for the Wildcats continues to be the secondary story in Evanston.

Siemian on the Big Ten spring football teleconference reiterated his stance against unionization on Wednesday. Northwestern players filed for employee cards in January, but Siemian said he will vote against forming a union, a plan set in motion by Siemian's former teammate, Kain Colter.

“We filed for employee cards; it doesn’t mean a union is right for this university or this school,” Siemian said. “I think that distinction needs to be made. Just because you’re an employee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a union is the right avenue.”

Siemian, who split time with Colter at quarterback the last two years, faulted himself for not gathering information as much as he could when he and a majority of his teammates signed employee cards in efforts to form a union. The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled members of College Athletes Players' Association are employees and may unionize.

"This all began with the best intentions."
-Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian
Siemian and Northwestern players will vote on unionization on April 25. Siemian said he will vote no.

“This all began with the best intentions,” said Siemian, a fifth-year senior. “I’m treated far better than I deserve here. Introducing a third party or somebody else — our main goals when this began, there were issues with the NCAA we thought we could address and that was one of the ways we could do it.”

Goals declared by CAPA include increased stipends, guaranteed sports-related medical coverage, improving graduation rates, allowing players to receive compensation for commercial sponsorships and more.

Siemian said those goals were not addressed with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald or athletic director Jim Phillips before the move to unionize.

“To say ‘I don’t trust you enough to help us out to address these changes,’ I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Siemian said. “I can only speak for myself, but I feel pretty confident there are other guys on the team that feel pretty similar to me.”

Fitzgerald opened his portion of the teleconference with a request to speak only about football topics. He said his comments Saturday — when he urged Northwestern players to vote against unionizing — stood on their own.

“Out of respect to our players and out of respect to our program, what I said on Saturday is enough to be said,” Fitzgerald said.

That same day, four Northwestern players including Siemian said they were against forming a union.

Four is hardly the 50.1 percent majority vote from Northwestern players required to create a union. However, Fitzgerald, when prompted, gave a ringing endorsement for Siemian’s “leadership.”

Of the four players on record against a union, all are upperclassmen and three are returning starters.

“There’s no question that Trevor is our leader,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of great leadership now being demonstrated in our locker room. From what I’ve seen from when we got back in January, it’s that there’s no doubt that this is Trevor Siemian’s football team.”

Siemian acknowledged the strange circumstances around Northwestern, including the vote at the end of April that could have a lasting impact in college athletics.

“You’re not going to have everyone on the same page,” Siemian said. “You have different religions, different political views, but at the end of the day you’re teammates. Everyone’s had each other’s back and it’s just a mature locker room.”

Teaser:
Union Story Continues to Dominate Offseason for Northwestern, QB Siemian
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 17:37
Path: /college-football/bo-pelini-shocked-reaction-his-tweet-fauxpelini
Body:

For a few minutes and for a small sliver of the college football world, the national championship game was of secondary concern.

In Lincoln, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini sat down to watch the BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn and fired off this Tweet to his cat-loving doppelganger.
 

Pelini is not a coach known for his sense of humor, so this public acknowledgement of his own parody account came as a shock. The spur-of-the-moment post garnered more than 10,000 retweets.

“I was aware of it — I don’t know how you couldn’t be aware of it,” Pelini said on Wednesday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “My wife reminds me of it all the time. I was just sitting around one night thought, what the heck?

“I was surprised how viral it went. I was surprised to see the amount of attention it got.”

It wasn’t the last time Pelini showed he’s just like the rest of us when he’s not in the heat of football season. The Cornhuskers coach, who has been quite vocal with football officials, slyly complained about officiating during Nebraska’s NCAA Tournament loss to Baylor.
 

Teaser:
Bo Pelini Shocked by Reaction to his Tweet to @FauxPelini
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 15:03
All taxonomy terms: Justin Rose, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-5-justin-rose
Body:

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 5: Justin Rose

Born: July 30, 1980, Johannesburg, South Africa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 (6 on the European Tour) | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,146,148 (8th) World Ranking: 8

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Justin Rose is the most technical player in golf, and ordinarily that makes for a good swing on video but a lack of results on the course. The problem, typically, is that those who never stop tinkering never start believing. But somewhere along the way, Justin found belief. His swing doesn't just look good on video; it produces and stands up to intense pressure, as it did on the Sunday of last year’s U.S. Open back nine. He has become so good tee-to-green that he can break holes apart, find specific portions of fairways and greens, and with the exception of being an average putter, is well supported in every other aspect of his game.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 39
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - T25
U.S. Open - 1
British Open - Cut
PGA Championship - T33

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T5 (2007)
U.S. Open - 1 (2013)
British Open - T4 (1998)
PGA Championship - T3 (2012)
Top-10 Finishes: 8
Top-25 Finishes: 18
Missed Cuts: 14

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.

 

Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 12:09
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-9-2014
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 9.

• Not a huge fan of Ryan Braun. His wife Larisa? That's another story.

Bartolo Colon jiggled his belly like a bowl full of jelly, and it was glorious.

Mason Plumlee — Mason Plumlee! — blocked LeBron's game-winning dunk attempt. What's a superstar gotta do to get a foul called?

Vin Scully used the term "crack pipe" for what was likely the first time in his long life.

A classic photo of the Big Three at the Hogan Bridge. Let's enjoy these guys while we can.

• Sad news: The little girl adopted by the Michigan State basketball team, and Adreian Payne in particular, has lost her battle with cancer.

• More sad news: The Ultimate Warrior is dead.

• Geno Auriemma won his ninth title last night, breaking a tie with Pat Summitt, who sent a congratulatory note to her old nemesis.

A Fox and Friends anchor congratulated the Huskies for winning the NAACP championship.

12 sports movie moments that could never happen in real life.

Joey Votto dressed like a Canadian mountie for a TV interview.

• Watch a Dutch reporter tumble into a body of water during a live interview.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: Dustin Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/putting-dustin-johnson-slow-and-smooth
Body:

The perception is that Dustin's putting has held him back, and that once he starts draining more putts, the sky's the limit. While that may be true to an extent — Johnson ranked 117th on Tour in 2013 in Strokes Gained, Putting — his stroke has allowed him to convert a staggering number of eagles (12 in 71 rounds in 2013) and birdies (25th on Tour in birdie average in 2013). And his putting has been vastly improved this season; entering The Masters, he ranks 19th on Tour in Strokes Gained, Putting, and his slow, smooth stroke seems tailor-made for Augusta's lightning-fast greens. As with his full swing, Johnson's putting stroke hinges on tempo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My putting stroke is longer and slower than many players out here. Like with the full swing, rhythm is very important, and a longer, slower putting stroke helps me maintain rhythm.

My tendency is to have my hands forward at address, but we've worked hard to keep the putter at a 90-degree angle to my body. I do have a little trigger right before the takeaway where I flex my hands forward slightly, but at address, the putter is at 90 degrees.

 

Butch Harmon says:

Dustin has done a nice job with his putting. He has an unusual putting stroke — it's very slow, smooth and rhythmic.

Guys like me who grew up on slow greens use a short pop stroke, but for Dustin, his long, rhythmic putting stroke is very effective on the fast greens that he faces on Tour.

I like him to keep his putter at a 90-degree angle relative to his body.

He also uses very light grip pressure — maybe a 3 on a scale of 1-10. Most amateurs grip it much harder.

This article appears in the 2014 issue of Athlon's Golf Annual. Order your copy today.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 10:33
Path: /college-football/penn-state-or-michigan-who-finishes-higher-big-ten-east-division-2014
Body:

Michigan and Penn State are two of the premier programs in the Big Ten, but neither the Wolverines or Nittany Lions have won more than eight games in a season over the last two years.

The lack of success by Michigan and Penn State on a national level is just one reason why the Big Ten has slipped in terms of conference hierarchy among BCS leagues.

And as the 2014 season approaches, both teams have question marks to answer this offseason. Penn State is still dealing with scholarship sanctions, so depth could be an issue. The Nittany Lions also have concerns on the offensive line and in the secondary. Michigan has regressed since an 11-2 record in Brady Hoke’s first season (2011) and finished a disappointing 7-6 last year.

The Wolverines aren’t short on talent, but the offense struggled last season and question marks exist at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and on the offensive line.

With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, the Big Ten is set to undergo a few alterations for 2014. The Leaders and Legends Divisions are no more, as the Big Ten will split into the East and West alignment. In the East, Penn State and Michigan will be picked behind Ohio State and Michigan State, but the third-place team in this division could finish 9-3 or 10-2 in 2014.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, AthlonSports.com will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Penn State or Michigan: Who Finishes Higher in the Big Ten East in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I’m very intrigued by both of these programs going into 2014. Brady Hoke appeared to be the right fit at Michigan after an 11-2 debut in 2011, but the Wolverines are just 15-11 over the last two years. While Michigan lost six games last season, five defeats were by four points or less. With Doug Nussmeier calling the plays, plus a return to full strength by quarterback Devin Gardner, the Wolverines should show improvement in the win column. However, I give a slight edge to Penn State in this debate. New coach James Franklin guided Vanderbilt to back-to-back nine-win seasons and should win big with the Nittany Lions. Penn State also has an advantage at quarterback with rising star Christian Hackenberg, along with depth at running back and plenty of intriguing options at receiver to replace Allen Robinson. Also, new defensive coordinator Bob Shoop should help the Nittany Lions’ defense improve after allowing 32 points a game in Big Ten play last season. The biggest concern for the Nittany Lions could be depth due to scholarship sanctions, along with motivation if the bowl ban isn’t rescinded. One factor in Penn State’s favor is the schedule. The Nittany Lions play at Michigan but host Ohio State and Michigan State. The Wolverines have to play at Northwestern in crossover play and travel to Michigan State and Ohio State in 2014. I think Penn State finishes ahead of Michigan in the East Division, but don't be surprised if both are top-25 teams this year.

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), CrystalBallRun.com and CollegeFootballTalk.com
Penn State has an excellent chance to finish the 2014 season ahead of the Wolverines in the Big Ten’s East Division (B1G East?). No team could have as favorable a schedule as the Nittany Lions as far as Big Ten play is concerned. Penn State gets Ohio State and Michigan State at home. The Nittany Lions are not ready to challenge either for the division just yet, but Penn State will not lose 63-14 again and getting the Spartans at home in the regular season finale could be pivotal. Penn State also gets a poor Illinois team that could have it packed in for the year on the road and they make a return trip to Indiana with revenge on the mind after last season’s match-up spun out of control.

Michigan has to play on the road at Ohio State and Michigan State in 2014 and they lack the defense to slow down the Buckeyes and the consistent offense to overcome the Spartans. Penn State has a better chance of at least splitting those games than Michigan seems to. The pivotal game separating these two programs will be the prime time match-up in the Big House. Michigan gets the home field advantage against a Penn State team that could still be putting some pieces together, but Penn State has the all important bye week heading in to the road game. We’ll see what Franklin can have cooked up for that game with a week to prepare.

Overall, Penn State is trending in the right direction while Michigan is looking to reverse their downward trend. Right now, Penn State has the edge.
 


Listen to our staff discuss every team in the Big Ten as they start to look to 2014.

Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football leading up to the 2014 season.
iTunes | Podcast Archive
 


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Coaching, quarterback play and scheduling are three of the most important aspects to predicting where a team will finish in any given season. And in the case of the Wolverines versus the Nittany Lions, all three of those factors fall heavily on one side of the discussion. Christian Hackenberg is one of the top QB prospects in the nation, while Devin Gardner needs to show marked improvement after inconsistency and 17 turnovers a year ago. James Franklin is a bulldog who will recruit and coach unlike anything the Big Ten has seen in years, while Brady Hoke is hearing whispers of uncertainty. And the Nittany Lions play a very manageable schedule that is missing what could be the top four teams from the West (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota). Michigan will be a solid team in the seven- or eight-win range but Penn State could end up with nine or even 10 wins. I'll take the Lions with Franklin, Hackenberg and the easier schedule.

Mark Ross
I may be in the minority here, but I think Michigan will finish ahead of Penn State in the Big Ten's new-look East Division. Yes, I think the Nittany Lions made the best hire of the offseason in luring James Franklin away from Vanderbilt, but I also feel that the learning curve for Franklin and his coaching staff will be different in the Big Ten than it was when he was introduced to the SEC in 2011. I won't deny that Franklin has more talent to work with at Penn State than when he started at Vanderbilt, especially when it comes to quarterback Christian Hackenberg, but he also has to replace some key personnel, notably top wide receiver Allen Robinson and two All-Big Ten offensive linemen. Michigan has its own issues, especially on offense, but I think new coordinator Doug Nussmeier will be able to figure out what approach works best for his personnel and find a way to get the most out of quarterback Devin Gardner and the weapons around him. I also think the Wolverines will be better on defense, as they return eight starters from a unit that ranked fifth in total defense in the conference last season. With the new divisions and the addition of Maryland and Rutgers this will be a season of transition to differing degrees for both programs, but Brady Hoke is more familiar with life in the Big Ten than Franklin. So as far as 2014 goes, my pick is for Michigan to finish ahead of Penn State in the standings, but there's no question things are trending in the right direction in Happy Valley.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Michigan should prove it was better than last year’s 7-6 season. The Wolverines have the tools to do that and, if everything breaks right, they can contend in the Big Ten East. Michigan was one of those teams last year that was between to a New Year’s Day bowl appearance (four losses by less than a touchdown) or a complete disaster (wins by less than a touchdown over Akron and UConn). Oddly enough, Michigan had a worse turnover margin (minus-2) in wins than losses (plus-7), mainly due to playing down to Akron and UConn. Altogether, it was just a bizarre season in Ann Arbor. The 2014 season has to be more stable than 2013. The foundation should be the defense, and the offense has potential to be more consistent. Quarterback Devin Gardner limited his turnovers late in the year, and he showed enough flashes to reinforce why he was a budding star before the season. The key is the line and run game. Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan is a big, experienced piece of the puzzle that’s gone, but Michigan recruited quantity and quality across the offensive line. Throw in five-star running back Derrick Green from last year’s class, and Michigan should be expected to field a run game that’s not so dependent on Gardner. That should be enough for Michigan to finish ahead of Penn State.

Teaser:
Penn State or Michigan: Who Finishes Higher in the Big Ten East Division in 2014?
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/all-acc-team-bcs-era
Body:

All-conference teams are a great indicator as to who is the best in each league. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time (or even four-time) all-league selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-ACC team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13 in the ACC.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Chris Weinke, Florida State (1997-2000)
He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along. Second-Team: Philip Rivers, NC State

RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (2006-09)
With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson. Second-Team: Andre Williams, Boston College

RB: Thomas Jones, RB, Virginia (1996-99)
Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records (Andre Williams). His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998 and ‘99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American ACC running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller). Second-Team: Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006. Second-Team: Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR: Peter Warrick, Florida State (1995-99)
The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s department store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American joystick could do it all. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history. Second-Team: Torry Holt, NC State

TE: Heath Miller, Virginia (2002-04)
Perhaps the greatest tight end in ACC history, in 2004 Miller became the first player in league history to win the John Mackey Award. He wrote his name into the school and conference record books for receiving by a tight end, setting a new benchmark in all three major receiving categories despite only playing three seasons. However, it wasn’t just his elite receiving ability that made the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder one of the game’s best. Miller relished the blocking side of the game as well. Second-Team: Dwayne Allen, Clemson

T: D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Virginia (2002-05)
Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career — all at left tackle —  helping the Cavaliers make it to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in his final season in Charlottesville. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls. Second-Team: Brett Williams, Florida State

T: Alex Barron, Florida State (2001-04)
The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS Era. He was a consensus All-American in 2003 and a unanimous All-American in '04. Barron was an Outland Trophy finalist in his final season as well. His teams never won fewer than eight games, won two ACC titles and went 26-6 in conference play over that span. Second-Team: Branden Albert, Virginia

G: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (2007-10)
The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC. He is one of only two guards to ever win the award twice (Elton Brown). He helped return Florida State to the ACC Championship Game as a senior in 2010 for the first time since '05. Second-Team: Elton Brown, Virginia

G: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (2009-12)
The massive Tar Heels blocker was a three-time All-ACC performer and an Outland Trophy finalist in 2012. The unanimous All-American won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the league’s top lineman and eventually was the seventh overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Cardinals. He paved the way for the ACC’s top running back (Giovani Bernard). Second-Team: Josh Beekman, Boston College

C: Steve Justice, Wake Forest (2004-07)
After enduring two losing seasons as an underclassman, Justice was the first-team All-ACC pivot for arguably the greatest team in school history. He led the way on the 11-win, ACC championship squad of 2006. He came back for his senior year and earned his second first-team All-ACC nod and was a consensus All-American as well. Justice was a Rimington finalist and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC in ’07. Second-Team: Craig Page, Georgia Tech

First-Team Defense:

DE: Julius Peppers, North Carolina (1999-2001)
As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era. His 53.0 tackles for a loss are 13th all-time in league history as well. Second-Team: DaQuan Bowers, Clemson

DE: Chris Long, Virginia (2004-07)
The son of NFL great Howie Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10.0 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, including an ACC-best 19.0 tackles for a loss and league-leading 14.0 sacks in his final season in which he finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20.0 sacks. Second-Team: Mario Williams, NC State

DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt (2010-13)
Donald only played one season in the ACC but it was one of the, if not the, best by an ACC defensive lineman in league history. He swept the national awards by claiming the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik as essentially the most decorated defensive player of the BCS Era not named Manti Te’o. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 11.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His career 29.5 sacks would be eighth in ACC history and his 66.0 tackles for a loss would be a new career ACC record had he played his entire career in the league. Second-Team: Darnell Dockett, Florida State

DT: Corey Simon, Florida State (1996-99)
A consensus All-American, Simon helped lead Florida State to back-to-back BCS championship games with a win in his final game over Virginia Tech in 1999. He left school with a then-record 44.0 tackles for a loss and was a finalist for the Lombardi and Outland Trophies as a senior. One of the most dominant interior lineman in ACC history, Simon was taken sixth overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. Second-Team: B.J. Raji, Boston College

LB: E.J. Henderson, Maryland (1999-2002)
He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackles record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for a loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles. Henderson was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003. Second-Team: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College (2009-11)
Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round NFL Draft pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies. Second-Team: Keith Adams, Clemson

LB: D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland (2002-05)
The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles and four sacks. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and 19th in ACC history — seventh among all players during the BCS Era. Jackson was a second-round pick of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Mark Herzlich, Boston College

CB: Dre Bly, North Carolina (1996-98)
Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest

CB: Antrel Rolle, Miami 2001-04)
He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career. Second-Team: David Amerson, NC State

S: Anthony Poindexter, Virginia (1995-98)
He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions. Second-Team: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S: Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (2002-05)
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defended. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Second-Team: Robert Carswell, Clemson

Teaser:
The All-ACC Team of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Big Ten, College Football
Path: /college-football/2014-big-ten-rankings-preview-athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast
Body:

 

Now that the NCAA Tournament is complete, the Athlon editors can take a deeper look at the upcoming college football season. The rankings discussion for the preseason magazines is in full swing as spring practice is in its final weeks.

Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan take you inside the process of the rankings meeting as they talk through the teams in the Big Ten.

Who can challenge Ohio State? Will Michigan State continue to be a contender for the title? Can teams like Michigan and Nebraska return to power house status?


The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615 and @AthlonSteven on Twitter or email podcast@athlonsports.com.

Teaser:
Taking 2014 Big Ten Rankings: Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-larson-dillon-proving-able-closers-cup-series
Body:

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers and more.

Today, David attempts to isolate each rookie from his team and equipment and properly rank the driving chops of each member of this year’s rookie class.


It’s rough being a rookie in the current day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It makes sense when you think about it: Where else is a driver going to compete against 42 of the world’s best stock car drivers? Though NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series offer a fertile cultivating ground, the Cup Series newcomers tend to struggle in their initial season at the premier level. Of the 27 Cup Series rookies dating back to 2006, only Denny Hamlin scored a Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) above 1.000, a number that signifies a weekly race win contender, all cars being equal.

So forgive the new kids if they need a little help from their friends. Auto racing is a team sport after all, disguised as an individual sport. Sure, some lucky rookies are haves and most nowadays are have-nots, but deep in a 43-car field, teammates — and that’s crew chiefs, engineers and pit crew — can still have an impact regardless of the equipment’s strength. Is a crew chief setting up his driver’s car for a killer close to a long race? Are the crew chief and crew helping manufacture track position during races with green-flag pit cycles (tracked with a metric known as jump plus/minus)? Sometimes the newbies just need a boost.

This week’s ranking focuses on the rookie drivers and the teams that have their backs:


Kyle Larson1. Kyle Larson, No. 42 (previous ranking: 1) 
If not for a pass-thru penalty during a green-flag pit cycle at Las Vegas that cost them 18 positions, Larson and the No. 42 team out of Chip Ganassi Racing would have every peripheral metric in their favor. Larson and crew chief Chris Heroy are proving to be able closers — they haven’t lost a single position in the final 10 percent of races, gaining at a plus-10.4 percent rate (an average of two spots per race). Larson is also seeing his exceptional passing from the Nationwide Series translate to Sundays, ranking in the top 10 for adjusted pass efficiency (52.33 percent). His fifth-place finish Monday at Texas was his second top-5 score of the year, and likely just the tip of the iceberg in what’s shaping up to be the best rookie campaign since Hamlin’s full-time foray into Cup.


Austin Dillon2. Austin Dillon, No. 3 (previous: 2) 
Dillon and his No. 3 team at Richard Childress Racing are the most artful closers in the Cup Series. Between Dillon’s now-serviceable driving (he sports a 1.000 PEER, ranking him 22nd among series regulars in production) and crew chief Gil Martin’s ever-improving single-race setups (per NASCAR’s speed by quarter metric, they rank 24th in first quarter speed and improve to a ranking of 19th in fourth quarter speed), they’ve yet to drop a position in the final 10 percent of races — a perfect base retention percentage of 100 — and are averaging a gain of 3.6 positions per race during that final kick to the finish.


Justin Allgaier3. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 (previous: 3) 
Allgaier and his Steve Addington-led HScott Motorsports team have finished 24th or better in each of the last three races, exceeding their season-long 26.2-place average running position by two spots. Chock full of value, the No. 51 team is cleanly navigating through their on-track whereabouts. Addington has picked up Allgaier five positions through eight green-flag pit cycles dating back to Phoenix, while the driver is a positive value passer — something he touched on in our Q&A last week — with a plus-2.74 percent surplus that ranks as the eighth most valuable in the series.


4. Michael Annett, No. 7 (previous: 6)
5. Cole Whitt, No. 26 (previous: 4)
In terms of production, Annett and Whitt are toss-ups, displaying identical above-replacement level production ratings of 0.036. Where Annett trumps Whitt in this week’s ranking is passing. Their adjusted pass efficiencies — Annett’s is a 48.49 percent, while Whitt’s is a 48.38 — are staggeringly close, but Annett’s plus-2.48 percent surplus passing value, which measures whether a driver passes more or less efficiently than the expected output of a driver in that running position, is better than Whitt’s plus-1.62 and occurring two positions higher, on average, in the running order. Annett’s also receiving less help than Whitt in green-flag pit cycles. Whitt has been given four extra positions by crew chief Randy Cox in the last six races, while Annett has been awarded just one from Kevin Manion in that same span.


6. Parker Kligerman, No. 30 (previous: 5)
Brutal. Kligerman has been running at the race’s 10 percent-to-go mark just three times in seven events (his average running position at that point in a race is 37.6), so strong closing hasn’t been an option. Neither has jumping positions during green-flag pit cycles. Crew chief Steve Lane has provided Kligerman a jump plus/minus of plus-2 for the season, but the No. 30 team has rarely found itself on the lead lap and able to take full advantage of the tactic. Through the first seven races, they’ve yet to finish on the lead lap.


Alex Bowman7. Alex Bowman, No. 23 (previous: 7)
It hasn't been a glamorous first season for Bowman, but there certainly have been some positive takeaways to this point. He scored two finishes of 23rd or better in BK Racing equipment (at Daytona and Fontana) in his first seven races and, while his 33.8-place average running position isn’t stellar, he’s at least averaging a plus-1.22 percent surplus passing value from that position. A little help on green-flag pit cycles — crew chief Dave Winston’s jump plus/minus is zero — could aid a little bit of his running woes.

 

Did You Notice: Drivers still make a difference … but silly cautions do not

8. Ryan Truex, No. 83 (previous: 8)

Truex failed to qualify for the second time this season (his first was at Daytona) last weekend in Texas, after recording a lap eight tenths of a second slower than that of BK Racing stable mate Bowman. Though some might be surprised by his rough start, the most telling number may be the sheer lack of big car experience. Truex, at age 22, has just 69 races under his belt across NASCAR’s three major divisions, the K&N Pro Series and the ARCA Series. For comparison’s sake, Bowman, who is two years younger, has made 78 such starts to date. Truex needs races and not qualifying on speed stunts his development as a racer.

 

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projection, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
A weekly ranking of the rookies in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 18:55
Path: /nascar/joey-logano-coming-his-own-team-penske
Body:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, started wet, got wild, settled down, then ended with a bang. Through it all, 23-year-old Joey Logano was in the thick of the action.

Logano led a race-high 108 of 340 laps in the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway en route to  collecting his first win of the season and second under the watchful eye of motorsports icon Roger Penske.

More and more, he’s proving to be the right man for Penske’s No. 22 Ford after getting the call to join the organization prior to the 2013 season.

“Over the years I’ve been able to kind of hone in who I am as a driver, who I am as a person,” Logano said of his progression. “When you’re 18 years old (his age during his rookie season), you got to grow up — you’re not quite done growing up at that point. I may not be now (but) I feel like I’m getting closer.

“I was able to go to Team Penske, get that fresh start, be able to take everything (I) learned (prior, at Joe Gibbs Racing), but not be taken as an 18-year-old kid anymore. I came over when I was 22. You’re looked at a little bit more as a man than an 18-year-old kid that was still in high school.”

Logano was viewed as a phenom during his rapid ascent to the Sprint Cup Series. Hailed as the sport’s “future” as a 14-year-old by respected NASCAR veteran Mark Martin, the hype and expectations surrounding Logano grew to near unattainable levels.

A rocky four seasons at powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing — with incompatible teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin — in which Logano tallied two wins, 16 top 5s and zero Chase bids, found him on the outside looking in following the 2012 season. When his contract, as well as that of Ford rival Matt Kenseth, came up the sponsors of Logano’s No. 20 ride were in favor of greener pastures. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champ was in, Logano was out.

However, a confidence-building landing pad came in the form of Team Penske and its defending champion, Brad Keselowski.

It was Keselowski who openly lobbied the Penske brass to hire Logano.

“Brad Keselowski played a really big role in getting me in here and getting a meeting with Roger Penske,” Logano told USA Today shortly after his hire. “He was the one who called me and said, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for you.’

“That means a lot to have a teammate that really wants you there.”

Logano’s character also factored into the hire, as Penske’s No. 22 seat had previously been a hot one. Kurt Busch was released from the organization after multiple on- and off-track run-ins with team members and the media. His replacement, AJ Allmendinger, was promptly removed from the ride just half a season later when he failed a drug test. That left mega-sponsor Shell-Pennzoil demanding the right man step into the role.

And that’s when Keselowski’s earlier suggestion to consider Logano piqued the interest of team president Tim Cindric.

“I can’t say enough about how supportive Shell-Pennzoil has been through a little bit of turmoil that we’ve been in the last nine months,” Cindric said in September 2012, shortly after Logano’s hire. “We had to be even more in concert with them than we have ever been with a sponsor in terms of trying to understand what the right fits are to ensure we get it right.

“There was an extra sensitivity around ensuring that we had someone with the right character in the car.”

Logano hasn’t just been the right fit from a PR perspective; the Connecticut native, now in his sixth full season in the Cup Series, is delivering on the earlier expectations.

A first-time Chase entrant in his first season with Penske, Logano now has two wins and 15 top 5s in 42 starts behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford. That equals his win total and is only one top-5 shy of his marks over a 144-race tenure at JGR.

“(It’s a) completely different situation now,” Logano said after his Texas win on Monday. “I’ve been able to take advantage of (experience), kind of walk in the doors of Penske the first time and say, ‘Here is who I want to be, here is what I want to do, here is how I feel like we can win races, do it together.’”

 

NASCAR Mailbox: Team Penske's success an unexpected twist

 

In Monday’s rain-delayed Texas event, “win races” is exactly what Logano did — and he held off the best to do so.

Outdueling current teammate Keselowski, former teammate Kyle Busch and four-time champion Jeff Gordon in a green-white-checker finish, Logano followed through when it mattered after exhibiting the dominant car of the day; promise delivered.

“I was able to follow (Gordon) through, get to second, get a run off of (turn) four, cross him over, get the lead — then we get the win,” Logano said of the final two laps of his most-recent triumph. “We’ve been in contention every race this year to win these things. To get the Shell-Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane, it means a lot.”


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Photo by Actions Sports, Inc.

 

Google

Teaser:
Texas race-winner Joey Logano has found success at Team Penske in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 17:50
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Greg Norman, Golf
Path: /golf/catching-defending-masters-champ-adam-scott
Body:

The green jacket traveled the world in the past year, and it is difficult to find a Masters champion who reveled in his victory and wanted to share it with total strangers more than Adam Scott.

In becoming the first Australian to win the coveted green jacket, Scott fully embraced the overwhelming joy that came with his victory when he traveled back Down Under, spending the rest of the year in full celebratory mode while also establishing himself as a major player for the foreseeable future.

It is unlikely that former Masters winners will be treated to Outback bloomin’ onions when Scott hosts the annual Champions Dinner — let’s be honest, true Aussies are not big fans of the American restaurant chain. But they do love their golf Down Under and have been heartbroken at the near-misses of their mates on this glorious stage, none more prominent than Greg Norman, who three times suffered excruciating defeats in the Augusta pines.

“He inspired a nation of golfers,” said Scott, tearing up at the mention of a mentor to many Aussie golfers. “Most of us would feel that he could have slipped a green jacket on for sure.”

Of course, with Scott winning The Masters, there would be links to the past, to be remembered afresh with a new major season just around the corner.
Steve Williams, Scott’s caddie, once worked for the Shark, and he played a key role in the victory, helping with the 10th-hole playoff read in near darkness, telling Scott to play more break on what would be the winning putt to defeat Angel Cabrera.

Williams was Tiger Woods’ longtime caddie and was on the bag three times for Woods victories at Augusta National.

The last came in 2005, nine long years ago.

Scott went on to have a stellar season, winning late in the year on the PGA Tour, then twice in Australia in addition to being part of a World Cup victory for his homeland at Royal Melbourne. His four worldwide victories helped him close the gap on Woods in the Official World Golf Ranking as 2014 began.

In sizing up his year’s work in the four biggest tournaments, Scott could only be pleased. And that is the beauty of winning one of golf’s most prestigious events. It doesn’t make the close calls any easier to take, but it does present them in a different light. Scott had three top-five finishes in major championships in 2013, which makes for a particularly excellent record when one of them is a victory.

“It’s really satisfying," Scott says. “Obviously the goal was to win one, but the real goal is to put myself in this position a lot more.

“At some point (in the 2013 majors), I think I led every major during the week. Obviously I’m peaking at the right times. It’s hard to stay there for four days and have the lead the whole time, but I feel like I’m improving still. So it’s something to build on for (the 2014) season."

Scott was among 13 players who made the cut in all four major championships and, along with fellow Aussie Jason Day, led the way with an aggregate of 2-over par for 16 major championship rounds. Of course, Scott’s Masters win makes for a nice tiebreaker in assessing the best major season.

“I was a lot over (par) at the U.S. Open," said Scott, who finished 45th at the only major in which he was not a Sunday contender. “That means I’m playing really good in the others. I think I was cumulative low (in 2012) as well in the four majors (he was top 15 in all four). If that’s the case, I’m doing something right. I wish it added up to more than one win in eight, but I’m going to try and do all the right things between now and April and go back and try and defend and try and get into contention again."

"Obviously the goal was to win one, but the real goal is to put myself in this position a lot more."
Since the start of the 2009 season, Scott has nine top-15 finishes in major championships, including a win and two runners-up. He has often said that his crushing defeat to Ernie Els at the 2012 Open Championship offered up more positives than negatives.

Still, the country’s inability to win at Augusta had become something of a sore spot, with Norman’s heartbreaks cited at every turn.

“It’s amazing that it’s my destiny to be the first Aussie to win, just incredible," Scott said.

“It is fantastic to see him win," said Norman, who watched the telecast from his Florida home. “I believed in him. His ball-striking is probably better than anybody else’s on the planet. A lot of focus goes to the other players because he hasn’t put the credentials on the board or the runs on the board. But at the end of the day, just to watch the way he performed down the stretch, his intensity.

“Everybody questioned whether he had the intestinal fortitude, the go-get-it, but we all knew it. The players knew it. He’s got the game to do it, and I was just extremely happy for him."

Given his recent history in majors, and his form over the last several months, would anybody be surprised to see Scott keep that jacket for another year?

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 14:17
Path: /college-basketball/15-amazing-stats-uconns-national-championship
Body:

The 2014 national championship was not a good one for the numbers people.

A No. 7 seed and a No. 8 seed reached the national championship game, a development that in some ways rendered the regular season moot. UConn also didn’t fit the statistical profile of a team to win the national championship, falling short of efficiency ratings that have been the trademark of every national champion for more than a decade.

This was even a loss for the numbers kept for the NCAA. Only a year after a postseason ban due to poor academic numbers, UConn was on college basketball’s biggest stage — and the Huskies’ best player made sure we took note of the NCAA’s questionable way of tracking academic performance.

We’re still going to look at all the key numbers anyway, the figures that proved this was one of the most unlikely national championship runs in NCAA history.

No. 7. UConn’s seeding on Selection Sunday, lowest to win a title since 1985.
Kentucky would have matched No. 8-seed Villanova’s title in 1985, the first year the field expanded for 1985. Still, UConn is the first team seeded this low to win a championship since Rollie Massimino’s team upset Georgetown 29 years ago.

No. 18. UConn’s rank in the final AP poll of the regular season.
While NCAA Tournament seeding aims to reflect the body of work for a season, the AP poll tends to reward recent performance and momentum. The Huskies ranked 18th in the final AP poll prior to the Tournament, marking the lowest rank for an eventual champion since Danny Manning and an unranked Kansas team won the title in 1988. UConn is the first team outside of the top 10 to win a title since 2003 Syracuse.

21.2. Points per game in the NCAA Tournament for Shabazz Napier.
How close did Napier come to matching his point guard predecessor, Kemba Walker? Pretty darn close. Napier scored 22 points in the championship game to raise his average to 21.3 points per game in the NCAA Tournament, 2.3 less than Walker during his championship run in 2011. The raw numbers were lower for Napier, but the 2014 Most Outstanding Player was a more efficient guard during his run to the title.
 

Kemba vs. Shabazz
Kemba Walker, 2011 Shabazz Napier, 2014
23.5Points per game21.2
6.0Rebounds per game5.5
5.7Assists per game4.5
1.5Steals per game2.5
43-of-107 (40.2 percent)Field goal shooting38-of-82 (46.3 percent)
32-of-69 (46.9 percent)2-point field goals18-of-39 (46.2 percent)
11-of-38 (28.9 percent)3-point field goals20-of-43 (46.5 percent)
44-of-49 (90 percent)Free throw rate31-of-33 (94 percent)
45.3 percentEffective field goal rate58.5 percent
54.8 percentTrue shooting percentage65.8 percent

7-0. Kentucky’s edge in McDonald’s All-Americans over UConn on Monday.
The Huskies became the first team since 2002 Maryland and only the second since 1979 to win a national title without a McDonald’s All-American. Granted, UConn has a McDonald’s All-American on the roster in Rodney Purvis, who sat out the season after a transfer from NC State.

3. Players with two national titles from UConn.
This isn’t exactly 2006-07 Florida when every key player returned to win back-to-back titles, but the list of players with two titles in the 64-team era is a short one. Shabazz Napier was an up-and-coming freshman on UConn’s 2011 title team. Niels Giffey and Tyler Olander were seldom used in 2011, but became valuable role players in 2014.

31 points. Margin of defeat for UConn against Louisville on March 8.
The Huskies became a No. 7 seed in part because of an 81-48 loss to Louisville on March 8. Before UConn, no eventual national champion lost a game by 30 points during the regular season. Only seven national champions endured a 20-point loss during the season, according to Patrick Stevens of d1scourse.com.
 




Teaser:
15 Amazing Stats from UConn's National Championship
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 12:16

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