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All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-22-2015
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This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 22:

 

New photos of Kate Upton. Need I say more?

 

Bill Belichick on DeflateGate: Talk to the quarterback. If you're interested in parsing his statement, here it is in its entirety.

 

The Internet has had its way with the scandal. Thank goodness.

 

• New wrinkle: Did the Ravens tip off the Colts about deflated balls?

 

• I enjoyed the headline to this story.

 

• There is a football game coming up. Here are the greatest plays in that game's history. And no, I'm not talking about the Pro Bowl.

 

Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky posted an Instagram photo of their new arrival.

 

The Golden Bear got a lot of Twitter love on his 75th birthday.

 

Jeff Gordon announced that this will be his last year behind the wheel.

 

Longform read on Coach K. Worth a click just for the classic photo.

 

• Kevin Durant had an authoritative dunk over Marcin Gortat.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 10:27
All taxonomy terms: Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, NBA
Path: /nba/chicago-bulls-are-turmoil
Body:
Whatever the Cleveland Cavaliers recently had, their divisional rival Chicago Bulls seem to have caught it. Losers of six of their last eight games, the Bulls are reeling. Despite boasting their most talented roster of the Tom Thibodeau era, the team appears not to be in harmony with their hard-driving coach.

 

As Derrick Rose would assert, nobody in their locker room is clicking too well these days. "Everybody has to be on the same page," Rose told reporters after a 108-94 shellacking at the hands of Cleveland. "Until then, we're going to continue to get our ass kicked. It's just the whole team. I think communication is huge. We’re quiet when we're out there, and it's leading to them getting easy baskets. We got to give a better effort. It seems like we're not even competing, and it's f---ing irritating.”

 

While such pronounced profanity isn’t common for Rose, stern lectures from his coach are. "We got to decide when enough's enough," Thibodeau said after the loss to the Cavs. "The way we're playing is not acceptable, so we have to change it.”

 

Some familiar vultures have begun to swirl around Thibodeau and his job security. Bulls experts have long speculated that the coach’s intensity is a double-edged sword; despite his fiery approach often turning the Bulls into relentless warriors, it also seems linked to their constant injury troubles.

 

The latest Bull to hit the hurt list is 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah. After lighting the NBA on fire last season, Noah got knee surgery over the summer and has been hobbled by a collection of maladies throughout 2014-15. In order for the Bulls to play up to championship expectations, they need the elite, volcano version of Noah — who simply hasn’t been existent this year.

 

My prediction? Just as it did Cleveland, the hysteria in Chicago will die down as soon as the Bulls — a talented, driven team who are simply going through a dog-days slump — put together a few quality victories. Catch Chicago try to get things back on track tonight, as they square off against the San Antonio Spurs at home, at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 09:54
Path: /college-football/early-sec-football-predictions-2015
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College football’s 2014 season has ended, and the focus shifts from the national championship picture to signing day, spring practice and early preseason rankings for 2015. While last year and Ohio State’s national title victory over Oregon is still fresh in our minds, it’s never too early to think about next season.

The SEC had a disappointing bowl season, but the conference is loaded for another run at the national title in 2015. Georgia opens as the slight favorite in the East Division, while it’s hard to pick against Alabama as the early frontrunner in the West. However, Auburn is a close No. 2 in the West. In a loaded division, it’s difficult to expect any team to run the table in 2015. Could we see a couple of one-loss SEC teams in contention for a playoff spot next year?

 

Early East Division Rankings for 2015

 

1. Georgia
2014 Record:
10-3 (6-2)

There’s a lot of uncertainty among the East Division teams for next season, but it’s hard to pick against Georgia as the early favorite. However, the Bulldogs aren’t without question marks or personnel concerns. How will new play-caller Brian Schottenheimer adjust after spending the last 15 seasons in the NFL? Schottenheimer doesn’t need to overhaul the offense, as Georgia ranked second in the SEC (conference-only games) by averaging 6.4 yards per play in 2014. The ground attack should remain the staple of the offense, headlined by rising star Nick Chubb and Sony Michel next season. Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park will compete to replace Hutson Mason at quarterback. The defense took a step forward under Jeremy Pruitt’s direction in 2014 and should be one of the best in the conference next year. A potential roadblock in Georgia’s East Division title hopes could be its schedule, Alabama and Auburn – the likely No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the SEC next season – both play the Bulldogs in 2015.

2. Missouri
2014 Record:
11-3 (7-1)

Even though Missouri has some significant personnel losses, it would be foolish to dismiss the Tigers from the SEC East title picture. After all, this team has won the division in back-to-back years and has one of the league’s top coaches in Gary Pinkel. Quarterback Maty Mauk had his share of ups and downs in his first year as the starter but finished with 25 passing scores. Mauk will have plenty of help in the form of four returning starters on the offensive line and talented running back Russell Hansbrough in 2015. The receiving corps must be revamped after Bud Sasser, Jimmie Hunt and Darius White expired their eligibility after the Citrus Bowl. The losses are heavier on defense, as coordinator Dave Steckel left to be the head coach at Missouri State, while All-SEC ends Markus Golden and Shane Ray and standout safety Braylon Webb are off to the NFL.

3. Tennessee
2014 Record:
7-6 (3-5)


There’s a lot of positive momentum building in Knoxville. Tennessee is a program on the rise entering coach Butch Jones’ third season, and the Volunteers are coming off their first winning season (7-6) since 2009. There’s no shortage of young talent in the program, and another offseason should help the development of players like quarterback Joshua Dobbs, running back Jalen Hurd and defensive end Derek Barnett. Dobbs and the growth of the offensive line will be critical to how high Tennessee can climb in the East next year. The defense returns nearly intact, with cornerback Justin Coleman, tackle Jordan Williams and linebacker A.J. Johnson (suspended last three games) the unit’s departing seniors. With Georgia visiting Knoxville next year, combined with personnel losses at Missouri and Florida, the Volunteers have a chance to surprise in the East.  

4. Florida
2014 Record:
7-5 (4-4)

New coach Jim McElwain has plenty of work to do this spring. The Gators won seven games in 2014 and lost three contests by a touchdown or less. However, the expectations in Gainesville are higher than finishing 7-5, and this program has just one season of more than eight wins since 2010. McElwain’s background on offense should help a unit that averaged 4.9 yards per play in 2014. Quarterback Treon Harris showed promise in limited action, but the Gators are shorthanded on proven options at receiver, and the offensive line returns only one starter from the Birmingham Bowl depth chart. Even though end Dante Fowler will be missed, the strength of Florida’s team will once again be the defense. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is among the nation’s top defensive backs, and there’s talent returning in the front seven. McElwain’s arrival should help the offense, but the Gators may have to lean on their defense once again in 2015.


5. South Carolina
2014 Record:
7-6 (3-5)

The Gamecocks went into 2014 with East Division title aspirations, but coach Steve Spurrier’s team finished with its lowest win total (seven) since 2009. Both sides of the ball enter spring with question marks. The offense must replace quarterback Dylan Thompson, running back Mike Davis and the top two players on the line – tackle Corey Robinson and guard A.J. Cann. Brandon Wilds and David Williams should be an effective one-two punch at running back, and receiver Pharoh Cooper is one of the best in the SEC in 2015, but the losses up front and at quarterback will be tough to overcome. The defense is in need of major repair after allowing 6.5 yards per play in SEC contests last season. That’s the bad news. On the bright side, South Carolina returns most of its personnel from the final depth chart. Can the returning talent improve after gaining experience and working with the staff in spring ball?

6. Kentucky
2014 Record:
5-7 (2-6)

Kentucky had a three-game improvement in the win column from 2013 to 2014 and missed out on a bowl by one victory. Third-year coach Mark Stoops has this program moving in the right direction and another step forward should come in 2015. New coordinator Shannon Dawson is tasked with elevating the offense after Neal Brown established a solid foundation over the last two seasons. Quarterback Patrick Towles accounted for 20 touchdowns in 2014, and if he can hold off redshirt freshman Drew Barker, the junior should be poised for a jump in production with the skill talent returning to Lexington next year. The Wildcats bring back Stanley “Boom” Williams, Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton at running back, while Ryan Timmons, Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker return at receiver. While the offense won’t lose much from last season’s group, there are bigger question marks on defense. Ends Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree must be replaced, and the secondary loses safety Ashely Lowery. Dupree recorded 7.5 sacks in 2014 and was the team’s top force in the trenches.


7.  Vanderbilt

2014 Record: 3-9 (0-8)

 

James Franklin set the bar high for Derek Mason, and the first-year coach struggled in his debut on West End. The Commodores finished winless in SEC play for the first time since 2009, averaged just 12.8 points in conference games and allowed 5.7 yards per play. Mason decided to shake up the staff following the three-win season and hired veteran play-caller Andy Ludwig to coordinate the offense. Ludwig inherits a veteran offensive line and a talented running back in Ralph Webb, but the quarterback situation is filled with uncertainty. Johnny McCrary, Patton Robinette and Wade Freebeck each started a game in 2014 and will contend for the job in the spring. Mason is going to call the defensive signals in 2015 and returns the bulk of the depth chart from a unit that allowed 35.4 points in SEC games. The good news for Mason is there’s plenty of room to grow with a defense that featured several young players receiving major snaps last season.


Early West Division Rankings for 2015

1. Alabama
2014 Record:
12-2 (7-1)

The SEC’s West Division is loaded once again. Alabama gets a slight nod as the pre-spring favorite, but the gap between the Crimson Tide and Auburn is slim. Talent isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa, as Alabama has owned the top spot in the recruiting rankings from 2010-14 and is expected to ink the No. 1 class in 2015. However, there are a few glaring personnel concerns for this team going into next season. Who steps up to replace Blake Sims under center? Is it Florida State transfer Jacob Coker? Or could freshmen (redshirt) David Cornwell or Blake Barnett (true) compete for the starting job? The supporting cast for the new quarterback is solid, but a go-to target must emerge to replace Amari Cooper at receiver. Alabama’s defense will be among the nation’s best once again in 2015. The front seven is loaded with talent and depth. However, the secondary is the biggest concern once again. Safety Landon Collins must be replaced, and coach Nick Saban needs another cornerback (or two) to emerge after giving up 19 plays of 30 yards or more in 2014.

2. Auburn
2014 Record:
8-5 (4-4)

The Tigers were unable to recapture the magic from the run to the national championship game in 2013 and fell to an 8-5 record last season. But Auburn wasn’t far off from double-digit wins, as coach Gus Malzahn’s team lost two games by three points (Texas A&M and Wisconsin). Auburn’s defense will receive most of the offseason attention. The Tigers have allowed at least six yards per play in three consecutive years and gave up 68 plays of 20 yards or more (most in the SEC). New coordinator Will Muschamp is one of the offseason’s top assistant hires, and the former Florida coach inherits a group that returns a good chunk of talent. The defense should get a boost from the return of end Carl Lawson from injury. A few key pieces must be replaced on offense – quarterback Nick Marshall, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, receiver Sammie Coates and center Reese Dismukes – but expect Malzahn to keep this unit near the top of the SEC. Junior Jeremy Johnson is a rising star at quarterback.

3. LSU
2014 Record:
8-5 (4-4)

LSU is just 9-7 in the SEC over the last two seasons, but the talent is there for a rebound in 2015. The passing game is still a major question mark until Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris consistently beat defenses with their arm. However, until the passing attack develops, the Tigers can lean on a veteran line and running back Leonard Fournette. The defense is under the direction of new coordinator Kevin Steele but should be a strength with the return of cornerback Tre’Davious White, safety Jamal Adams, linebacker Kendell Beckwith and tackle Davon Godchaux. LSU also has a manageable schedule, featuring crossover games against South Carolina and Florida, along with Texas A&M and Arkansas visiting Baton Rouge next season.
 

4. Ole Miss
2014 Record:
9-4 (5-3)

The Rebels head into 2015 with similar question marks about the roster. The defense should be among the best in the SEC, but the offense has major question marks at quarterback and at running back. Is junior college recruit (and former Clemson QB) Chad Kelly the answer under center? Or will coach Hugh Freeze turn to DeVante Kincade or Ryan Buchanan? In addition to finding an answer at quarterback, the offense has to develop more consistency on the ground. I’Tavius Mathers and Mark Dodson decided to transfer at running back, which leaves Jaylen Walton (5.5 ypc, 586 yards) as the No. 1 option. Having a healthy Laquon Treadwell at receiver and Laremy Tunsil at left tackle will be critical for the Rebels’ chances of winning the West in 2015. The defense has a few holes to address, but the line will be one of the best in the nation. The secondary loses standout safety Cody Prewitt and cornerback Senquez Golson, but the return of linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche and cornerback Tee Shepard from injury will help the defense maintain its 2014 production.

5. Arkansas
2014 Record:
7-6 (2-6)

Bret Bielema’s rebuilding project at Arkansas is ahead of schedule after a 7-6 record in 2014. The Razorbacks were closer to 10 victories than some may have realized, as this team lost four games by a touchdown or less. Even though coordinator Jim Chaney left for Pittsburgh, the formula for success on offense isn’t going to change. Arkansas has a run-first mentality, with 1,000-yard rushers Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins leading the way on the ground. Also, the offensive line should be one of the best in the nation next year. Quarterback Brandon Allen improved in his second year as the starter but more weapons must emerge at receiver. Robb Smith was one of the nation’s top assistant hires in the 2014 cycle, and the Arkansas defense did not allow an opponent to score more than 21 points in each of its last five games. Smith will have his hands full in the spring trying to find replacements for end Trey Flowers, tackle Darius Philon and linebacker Martrell Spaight.

6. Texas A&M
2014 Record:
8-5 (3-5)

Since the Aggies joined the SEC, the offense has clearly been the strength of this program. However, has coach Kevin Sumlin finally found an answer for the defense? New coordinator John Chavis is one of the best in college football and comes to College Station after six years at LSU. Chavis will make a difference with Texas A&M’s defense, especially if Sumlin continues to reel in elite talent on the recruiting trail. End Myles Garrett will flourish even more under Chavis’ watch, and the defense doesn’t lose much from a unit that has plenty of room to improve after allowing 6.9 yards per play in SEC games last season. Quarterback Kyle Allen is expected to build off his Liberty Bowl performance (294 yards, 4 TDs) in 2015. The receiving corps is loaded with talent, but the line loses tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and guard Jarvis Harrison.


7. Mississippi State
2014 Record:
10-3 (6-2)

Regardless of which team is picked No. 7 in the preseason by the media, keep in mind that program will be a top 25 team in 2015. So whether it’s Mississippi State, Arkansas or Texas A&M, a team is going to be picked to finish last, yet could be ranked No. 20 in the final poll next year. That’s how loaded this division is. The Bulldogs return quarterback Dak Prescott – the likely first-team All-SEC signal-caller in 2015 – but there’s some work to do to fill out the offense. Running back Josh Robinson, receiver Jameon Lewis and tight end Malcolm Johnson depart, and the line loses three starters, including left tackle Blaine Clausell and center Dillon Day. Manny Diaz has returned to Starkville to call the defensive signals, and just like the offense, the defense has holes to fill this spring. Each level of the defense has key contributors to replace, but the biggest loss is in the linebacking corps with the departure of Benardrick McKinney to the NFL. 

Teaser:
Early SEC Football Predictions for 2015
Post date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/grading-college-footballs-head-coach-hires-2015
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College football’s coaching carousel for the 2014-15 season has finished and only 14 programs changed coaches. The 14 changes among FBS programs is the lowest mark since the 2006 season (11). After at least 21 teams changed coaches from 2009-13, there’s a period of stability settling into the coaching ranks. However, the drop in changes isn’t expected to last forever.

Most programs seemed to hit the right marks in their coaching search this season. Michigan was the biggest winner in the carousel by hiring Jim Harbaugh from the 49ers. Harbaugh should win at a high level in Ann Arbor and is a critical hire for a program that needs to get back to the nation’s elite. Oregon State (Gary Andersen), Houston (Tom Herman), SMU (Chad Morris), Buffalo (Lance Leipold), Florida (Jim McElwain) and Pittsburgh (Pat Narduzzi) also earn high marks for their new coaching hires.   

Grading College Football's New Coaching Hires for 2015

1. Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
Previous Job:
49ers head coach
Career Record: 29-6 (San Diego), 29-21 (Stanford), 44-19-1 (49ers)

We could spend thousands of words discussing Harbaugh’s hire at Michigan, but it’s simply summed up in this statement: This is the best hire for the Wolverines and an opportunity for the program to reclaim its status as one of the nation’s elite. Harbaugh was the top target for Michigan after Brady Hoke was fired and is the best fit for a program that has been trending in the wrong direction since an 11-2 mark in 2011. Harbaugh’s ties to Michigan are no secret. He played four seasons for coach Bo Schembechler  and was the 1986 Big Ten Player of the Year. Harbaugh played in the NFL from 1987-2001 and worked as a volunteer assistant coach with his father (Jack) at Western Kentucky from 1994-2001. After his playing career in the NFL was finished, Harbaugh worked with the Raiders from 2002-03 and was named San Diego’s head coach in 2004. The Toreros went 29-6 under Harbaugh’s direction, who left in 2007 for Stanford. The Cardinal increased their win total in each of the four seasons under Harbaugh, culminating in a 12-1 record in 2010. And Harbaugh was successful in the NFL, finishing his tenure with the 49ers at 44-19-1. Michigan needed a home-run hire to get the program back on track. Harbaugh is exactly what the Wolverines needed, and his arrival certainly doesn’t hurt the Big Ten as a whole. If Michigan is in contention again, it only helps the perception of the conference.

Final Grade: A+
 

2. Gary Andersen, Oregon State   

Previous Job: Head coach at Wisconsin
Career Record: 19-7 (2013-14, Wisconsin), 26-24 (2009-12, Utah State), 4-7 (2003, Southern Utah)

Andersen’s decision to leave Wisconsin for Oregon State qualifies as one of the biggest surprises in coaching moves in recent years. Under Andersen’s watch, the Badgers went 19-7 and won the Big Ten West Division in 2014. Prior to his two-year stint in Madison, Andersen went 26-24 at Utah State, which included an 18-8 record over the final two seasons. In the six years before Andersen’s tenure in Logan, the Aggies did not win more than three games in a season. However, he guided Utah State to back-to-back bowl games and a No. 16 rank in the final Associated Press poll in 2012. Andersen also spent one year at Southern Utah (2003) and was an assistant from 1997-2002 and 2004-08 at Utah. Even though Andersen was successful at Wisconsin, he wanted to get back on the West Coast and Oregon State was open after Mike Riley left for Nebraska. Oregon State isn’t an easy job, but Andersen’s recruiting ties out west and in the junior college ranks will help to establish a solid talent base. Andersen is arguably one of the top 25-30 coaches in the nation. This is a great hire for an Oregon State program that struggled mightily prior to Riley’s first tenure in 1997.  

Final Grade: A
 

3. Tom Herman, Houston
Previous Job:
Offensive coordinator at Ohio State
Career Record: First season

Few coaches had a better 2014-15 season than Herman. The Ohio native played a huge role in Ohio State’s national championship run, won the Broyles Award as the top assistant in college football and landed a FBS head coaching gig at one of the best jobs in the American Athletic Conference. Herman was born in Ohio, but he has deep coaching roots in Texas. After a playing career at California Lutheran, Herman was hired as Texas Lutheran’s wide receivers coach in 1998. After one season at Texas Lutheran, Herman worked as a grad assistant at Texas from 1999-2000 and was hired at Sam Houston State from 2001-04 as a wide receivers/special teams assistant. Herman coordinated Texas State’s offenses from 2005-06 and spent the next two years at Rice (2007-08), guiding the Owls to an average of 41.3 points per game in 2008. After three seasons at Iowa State, Herman jumped at the opportunity to coordinate Ohio State’s offense in 2012. The Buckeyes averaged 37.2 points per game in Herman’s first year and jumped to 45.5 per game in 2013 and 44.8 in '14. Herman’s coaching ability was on full display this season after Ohio State lost starting quarterbacks J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller due to injuries, and third-stringer Cardale Jones guided the Buckeyes to the national championship. Despite this being Herman's first opportunity to be a head coach, there are few negatives for Houston. Herman is the right hire at the right time for the Cougars.

Final Grade: A

4. Chad Morris, SMU
Previous Job: Offensive coordinator at Clemson
Career Record: First season

Morris has been considered one of college football’s rising stars in the assistant ranks since he ascended to the play-caller position at Clemson in 2011. The Texas native lands in a good situation at SMU, as the program has the necessary resources and talent base to contend in the American Athletic Conference, and Morris has many ties to the state. June Jones helped the program get back on track after the Mustangs posted just one winning season from 1989-2008. However, Morris seems like the right hire to elevate SMU into conference title contention. The 46-year-old coach coordinated one of the nation’s top offenses at Clemson, guiding the program to its three highest point totals in school history. Additionally, the Tigers won at least 10 games in each of Morris’ four seasons and shared or won the ACC Atlantic Division title twice. Prior to the last four years at Clemson, Morris served as Tulsa’s play-caller in 2010 and guided the Golden Hurricane to an average of 41.4 points per game. He also worked as a high school head coach from 1994-2009 at five programs in Texas. The only downside to Morris is the lack of FBS head coaching experience. However, that shouldn’t prevent Morris from winning at a high level at SMU.

Final Grade: A
 

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5. Lance Leipold, Buffalo
Previous Job:
Head coach at Wisconsin-Whitewater        

Career Record: 109-6 (2007-14 at Wisconsin-Whitewater)

Leipold has the best record among new coaches taking over a FBS program in 2014. The Wisconsin native went 109-6 in eight years at Wisconsin-Whitewater, leading the Warhawks to six national championships in that span. Under Leipold’s direction, Wisconsin-Whitewater had only one season of more than two losses (2012). Prior to taking over at UW-Whitewater, Leipold worked as an assistant coach from 1987-2006 at a handful of programs. Leipold served as Nebraska-Omaha’s offensive coordinator from 2004-06, was an assistant at Nebraska from 2001-03 and worked as a graduate assistant under Barry Alvarez at Wisconsin from 1991-93. If Leipold continues to win at a high level, he won’t be at Buffalo for more than five years. But that’s a good problem for the Bulls to (potentially) have. Stepping up to the FBS level will present a few challenges, but Buffalo hit a home run by getting Leipold away from Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Final Grade: A

6. Jim McElwain, Florida
Previous Job:
Head coach at Colorado State
Career Record: 22-16 (2012-14 at Colorado State)

Florida is one of the top jobs in the nation, but this program has just one 10-win season since 2010 (11-2 in 2012). McElwain is tasked with bringing Florida football back to the nation’s elite and fix an offense that has struggled mightily in recent years. The Gators have not averaged more than 5.1 yards per play (in SEC play) since 2009. McElwain’s background on offense should pay dividends, as he helped to guide a Colorado State attack that averaged 33.9 points per game in 2014. And under McElwain’s direction as Alabama’s coordinator, the offense averaged at least 5.8 yards per play (SEC matchups). The Rams showed steady improvement in the win column, improving from 4-8 in McElwain’s first year to 8-6 in 2013 and 10-3 in '14. In addition to his stints at Colorado State and Alabama, McElwain spent time as an assistant at Fresno State, Michigan State, Louisville and in the NFL with the Raiders. McElwain isn’t necessarily the big-name hire most expected Florida to make. But what’s not to like about this hire? He’s a proven winner as a head coach, has worked in the SEC at Alabama and has been successful in developing offenses. McElwain should get Florida back on track in the next few years.

Final Grade: A-
 

7. Pat Narduzzi, Pittsburgh
Previous Job:
Defensive coordinator at Michigan State
Career Record: First season

Narduzzi was widely regarded as one of the top assistants in college football, and after eight years at Michigan State, the Youngstown native departs for his first opportunity to be a head coach. Under Narduzzi’s direction, the Spartans led the Big Ten in fewest yards per play allowed from 2011-13 and finished first in the conference in scoring defense in the 2012 and '13 seasons. And Narduzzi’s aggressive approach has paid off, as Michigan State recorded at least 32 sacks in four out of the last six seasons. Prior to his stint with the Spartans, Narduzzi worked at Cincinnati (2004-06) and Miami, Ohio (2003) as a defensive coordinator. And he also has stops as an assistant at Northern Illinois and Rhode Island. After having three coaches in the last five years, Pittsburgh needs stability at the top spot. Narduzzi is familiar with the area, is one of the nation’s top defensive minds and is ready to be a head coach. Everything points to this being a successful hire, but Narduzzi will need a year or two to shape the roster and accumulate the defensive talent needed to show marked improvement on that side of the ball.

Final Grade: A-

 

8. Mike Riley, Nebraska    

Previous Job: Head coach at Oregon State
Career Record: 93-80 (1997-98, 2003-14 at Oregon State), 14-34 (Chargers, 1999-2001)

Riley’s departure from Oregon State to Nebraska caught the college football world by surprise. Most expected Riley to finish his career in Corvallis, but the 61-year-old coach was ready for a new challenge. When Riley left his position as USC’s offensive coordinator to take the head coach job at Oregon State, he inherited a program that was just 13-52-1 in the six seasons prior to his arrival. The Beavers showed marked improvement under Riley’s watch, recording an 8-14 mark in his first two seasons. Riley left Oregon State for a four-year stint in the NFL, but he helped to build the foundation that allowed the Beavers to record three winning seasons in four years under Dennis Erickson. After Erickson left for the NFL, Riley came back to Oregon State. Since 2003, the Beavers have made eight bowl appearances, finished the season ranked in the Associated Press poll four times and only recorded one season of fewer than five wins. While Riley’s overall record (93-80) isn’t overly impressive, it’s important to remember Oregon State is one of the toughest jobs in the Pac-12. Simply, it’s not easy to win in Corvallis. Riley has a knack for finding and developing overlooked recruits into star players. If he can continue that trend at Nebraska, along with maintaining his success in recruiting the state of Texas, Riley should help the Cornhuskers continue to win around nine games every year. Riley may not have been the home-run hire most expected when Bo Pelini was fired, but he won a lot of games at a program that’s much tougher to win at than Nebraska.

Final Grade: B+

 

9. Paul Chryst, Wisconsin      
Previous Job:
Head coach at Pittsburgh
Career Record: 19-19 (2012-14 at Pittsburgh)
 

Chryst is returning to familiar surroundings after three seasons at Pittsburgh. The Madison native played quarterback at Wisconsin from 1986-88 and coached with the Badgers in 2002 and from 2005-11. Prior to his stint with the Badgers in 2005, Chryst called the plays at Oregon State from 2003-04 and spent three years in the NFL with the Chargers (1999-2001). Chryst is a highly regarded offensive guru, and under his direction, Wisconsin led the Big Ten in scoring offense from 2009-11. The Badgers set a school record by averaging 44.1 points per game in 2011, and Pittsburgh averaged 6.2 yards per play in 2014 (fourth in the ACC). Chryst’s overall record with the Panthers was just 19-19, but he also inherited some personnel problems and roster gaps from the previous coaching staffs. However, Pittsburgh had a favorable schedule in 2014, two of the ACC’s top players in wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner and only went 4-4 in conference play. Chryst knows what it takes to win at Wisconsin, and after losing two coaches in the last three seasons (Gary Andersen and Bret Bielema), athletic director Barry Alvarez has his long-term answer as the team’s head coach. Fit isn’t necessarily the best indicator or judge of a hire, but Chryst’s familiarity with the program should keep Wisconsin at the top of the Big Ten West Division.


Final Grade: B+
 

10. Mike Bobo, Colorado State
Previous Job:
Offensive Coordinator at Georgia
Career Record: First season

After a successful stint under a previous SEC offensive coordinator (Jim McElwain) Colorado State is trying to replicate that same formula. Bobo is another successful offensive play-caller from the SEC, but is an odd fit since he has spent only one season (Jacksonville State) outside of the state of Georgia in his coaching career. While the geographic fit may not be perfect, Bobo – despite some of the criticism from Georgia fans – was one of the SEC’s underrated coordinators in recent years. Over the last seven seasons, the Bulldogs’ offense has not finished lower than sixth in the conference in yards per play. And Georgia led the SEC twice (2012, '14) during that span. Bobo has never been a head coach on any level but is a successful coordinator and hired a solid staff to help his transition. Will Friend followed Bobo from Georgia to Colorado State, while Tyson Summers was a key pickup from UCF as defensive coordinator.

Final Grade: B+
 

11. Neal Brown, Troy
Previous Job:
Offensive Coordinator at Kentucky
Career Record: First season

At 34 years old, Brown is the second youngest head coach in the FBS ranks. The Kentucky native is a highly regarded offensive mind and returns to Troy after working under Larry Blakeney from 2006-09. Brown worked as the team’s play-caller in 2008-09, and the Trojans averaged at least 32 points per game in both seasons. In 2010, Brown left Troy to join Tommy Tuberville’s staff at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders averaged at least 31 points per game in each of Brown’s three seasons calling the plays in Lubbock. Brown joined Mark Stoops’ staff at Kentucky in 2013 and helped the Wildcats take a step forward on offense. Kentucky averaged only 17.9 points a game in the season prior to Brown’s arrival, but the offense jumped to 20.5 points per contest in 2013 and 29.2 in '14. Additionally, the Wildcats averaged five yards per play (SEC games) last season for the first time since 2010. There’s very little downside to Brown’s hire at Troy. He has experience working at Troy, is a talented offensive coach and his youth should bring a spark to a program that has not recorded a winning record since 2010.

Final Grade: B

 

12. Philip Montgomery, Tulsa            

Previous Job: Offensive Coordinator at Baylor
Career Record: First season

With an enrollment of under 3,500 undergraduate students, Tulsa is the smallest FBS school in the nation. But despite the lack of a huge student base, the Golden Hurricane has experienced plenty of success in the win column. This program has four seasons of at least 10 victories since 2007, including an 11-3 mark in 2012. Montgomery has plenty of work ahead, as Tulsa has slipped to a 5-19 record over the last two seasons and can’t afford to fall too far behind in the new American Athletic Conference divisions. The Texas native has never been a head coach on the college level and has spent the last 12 years on Art Briles’ staffs at Houston and Baylor. Although Briles played a large role in shaping the offenses at both programs, Montgomery was the play-caller for the Bears. Baylor’s offense averaged at least 6.6 yards per play in each of the last five seasons and recorded 48.2 points per game in 2014. Tulsa needs to prominently recruit Texas and Montgomery’s ties to the state will help in that area. And with Montgomery’s background on offense, combined with the amount of talent at quarterback and wide receiver in the high school ranks, this hire should help get Tulsa back into contention for bowl games on a consistent basis.  

Final Grade: B

 

13. David Beaty, Kansas
Previous Job:
Wide receivers coach at Texas A&M
Career Record: First season

After missing on its last two hires – Turner Gill and Charlie Weis – Kansas needs to get this one right. Instead of turning to a proven coach, the Jayhawks picked former assistant David Beaty. The Texas native has strong ties to the state and is regarded as an excellent recruiter. In an area where Kansas needs to target for recruits, Beaty’s ties to Texas are a huge plus. Beaty spent the last three years at Texas A&M as the team’s receivers coach (2012-14) and the recruiting coordinator (2013-14). Prior to Texas A&M, Beaty had two previous stints at Kansas (2011 and 2008-09) and short tenures at Rice (2010 and 2006-07) as an assistant. Under Beaty’s watch, the Owls averaged 28.7 points per game in 2010. The biggest concern for Beaty is the lack of experience as a head coach – especially at a place that’s one of the toughest Power 5 jobs in the nation. To help Beaty’s transition, he hired a solid overall staff, which includes Clint Bowen (interim coach last year), Rob Likens (offensive coordinator) and Zach Yenser (OL coach).

Final Grade: C

 

14. Tony Sanchez, UNLV
Previous Job:
Head coach at Bishop Gorman High School
Career Record: 85-5 (2009-14 at Bishop Gorman)

UNLV is a tough place to win. The Rebels have just one winning season (2013) since 2001 and is 31-92 since 2005. Considering where UNLV resides on college football’s food chain, it wasn’t going to attract a big-name coach or nationally regarded coordinator. Instead, the program went outside of the box and hired Sanchez from Bishop Gorman High School. In six seasons at Bishop Gorman (located in Las Vegas), Sanchez recorded an 85-5 mark and never won fewer than 13 games in a season. To help with Sanchez’s transition to the FBS ranks, he hired a veteran staff, which includes Barney Cotton (former Nebraska assistant), Kent Baer (former Colorado defensive coordinator) and Joe Seumalo (former Oregon State assistant). The last high school to college hire didn’t work well (Todd Dodge, North Texas). However, there’s little risk involved for UNLV. If Sanchez doesn’t work out, the program isn’t worse off than it was in 2014. And who knows, maybe Sanchez can keep some of the talent in Nevada from leaving the state. This hire is worth the risk for UNLV.

Final Grade: C
 

15. John Bonamego, Central Michigan
Previous Job:
Special teams coach with the Detroit Lions
Career Record: First season

Central Michigan was put in a difficult spot once Dan Enos left Central Michigan for Arkansas less than two weeks before Signing Day. The Chippewas had to scramble to complete their 2015 signing class, and it was tough to fill a head coaching vacancy this late in the process. But Central Michigan found a familiar face in Bonamego that is ready for his first opportunity to be a head coach. Bonamego has worked for the last 12 years as a special teams assistant in the NFL, with his last collegiate experience coming in 1998 at Army. Bonamego played at Central Michigan in the 1980s and was an assistant at Mount Pleasant High School (Michigan) in 1987. As we mentioned earlier, finding a coach in late January/early February is challenging. Bonamego is familiar with Central Michigan and probably isn’t looking to bolt Mount Pleasant anytime soon. The Chippewas slipped after the Brian Kelly/Butch Jones era, and Enos was headed for the hot seat in 2015. Central Michigan is one of the better jobs in the MAC. Bonamego has no previous experience as a head coach and has never been an offensive or defensive coordinator. Hiring a good staff with proven coordinators will be essential.

Final Grade: D

Teaser:
Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2015
Post date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /nfl/ranking-15-greatest-plays-super-bowl-history
Body:

What defines a great play?

 

Degree of difficulty? Gravity of the moment? The greatness of the players involved and their place in NFL history? Entertainment factor? How about all of the above.

 

Game-winning touchdowns, heroic out-of-body experiences, historic moments and even some hilarious gaffes — looking at you Garo Yepremian — all make the Super Bowl the greatest sporting event of the calendar year. Hall of Fame careers are made and broken in the final football game of the season and trying to narrow down nearly 50 years of action to the 15 best individual plays is virtually impossible (but we'd tried anyway).

 

1. XXXIV: One Yard Short

The Titans and Rams put on a second-half show for the fans in Atlanta. Steve McNair whirled his way down the field to the St. Louis 10-yard line to set up the final play of the game. Mike Jones made the play of his career by tackling Kevin Dyson just 12 inches shy of the game-tying touchdown. It would have been the first and only overtime game in Super Bowl history.

 

2. XXXII: John Elway’s helicopter run

It was the defining moment of what many believe is the best Super Bowl ever played. It was third-and-six from the Packers' 12-yard line with the game tied 17-17 in the second half. One of the game’s greatest players scrambles right and then dives head-first despite being surrounded by three Green Bay defenders. Elway gives up all regard for his body and wills himself to a first down. Terrell Davis scored the go-ahead touchdown two plays later, as Elway goes on to win his first Super Bowl.

 

 

3. XXV: Scott Norwood’s wide right

There have been many game-winning field goals in Super Bowl history — but none on the final snap with one team trailing and the chance to win the game. No, Scott Norwood became the only true goat of a Super Bowl when his 47-yard field goal sailed just inches wide right. The miss capped an extraordinary drive that capped an extraordinary game stacked with Hall of Fame players and coaches.

 

4. XXIII: Joe Montana to John Taylor

The 10-yard pass to Taylor with 39 seconds left wasn’t in and of itself a miraculous play. It wasn’t all that difficult and it wasn’t all that remarkable. But it represents all that Montana was as an NFL Hall of Famer. He got the ball with 3:10 left on the clock down 16-13 on his own eight-yard line and all he can think about is John Candy. This touchdown pass stood as the latest game-winner touchdown in Super Bowl history for nearly 20 years.

 

5. XLII: Eli Manning to David Tyree

In terms of degree of difficulty, few plays in any game much less the Super Bowl can match this one. Manning's Houdini act in the pocket to avoid getting sacked is nearly as impressive as Tyree’s duct tape and chicken wire helmet catch in traffic 32 yards down the field. Four plays later, Manning floated a 13-yard game-winning touchdown to a wide open Plaxico Burress to give the Patriots their one and only loss of the season.

 

 

6. XLIII: Big Ben to Santonio Holmes

Trailing 20-7 to begin the fourth quarter, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals scored 16 straight points to take a three-point lead over Pittsburgh with just over two minutes to play. Ben Roethlisberger then marched his team to the Arizona six-yard line where, with unbelievable accuracy and some magic toes at his disposal, he somehow connects with Holmes with 35 seconds left to play.

 

7. XVIII: Marcus Allen's 74-yard run

It is likely the most impressive run in Super Bowl history. After twisting and changing directions in the backfield, Allen split the heart of the Washington Redskins defense for the longest run in Super Bowl history (later broken by Willie Parker). The play capped the third quarter and put a fork in the ‘Skins' hopes. Allen finished with 191 yards rushing and was named the MVP.

 

8. XVII: The Diesel’s fourth-and-one gallop

The Redskins were trailing 17-13 with 10 minutes to go, facing a fourth-and-one on the Miami 43-yard line. Joe Gibbs leaves his offense on the field and calls ’70 chip’ for his star running back John Riggins. The burly runner, nicknamed The Diesel, breaks a tackle, bounces the play off tackle and races 43 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

 

 

9. X: Lynn Swann’s Magical Reception

When it comes to acrobatic, spectacular catches, David Tyree might not even be able top the grace of Swann. From deep in his own territory, the eventual game MVP reeled in a 53-yard pass from Terry Bradshaw that changed the game. Mark Washington is in perfect position to make a play on the ball for the Cowboys, but somehow Swann out leaps the defender, bobbles the ball and hauls in the pass as he is falling to the ground. Swann finished with four receptions for 161 yards and the game-winning 64-yard touchdown catch as well.

 

10. III: Joe Namath’s Finger Wag

It wasn’t technically a play, but Broadway Joe’s guarantee and subsequent finger wag will go down in Super Bowl lore. It was likely the most important Super Bowl ever played. It also was the biggest upset in Super Bowl history. And the moment could have only been made possible by a brash personality like Namath.

 

11. XLIV: Saints onside kick

Possibly the ballsiest call in Super Bowl history, head coach Sean Payton calls for the onside kick to start the second half. The Saints recover and score on the ensuing drive. The gutsy call sets the tone for New Orleans to dominate Indianapolis 24-7 in the second half to win the franchise's first Lombardi Trophy.

 

12. XXXVI: Adam Vinatieri Part I

Vinatieri Part I capped Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s coming out party as they upset the heavily favored Rams with a 48-yard game winner.

 

13. XXXVIII: Adam Vinatieri Part II

One of the more underrated Super Bowls ended with Vinatieri Part II when he broke the 29-29 tie as time expired against the Panthers from 41 yards out.

 

14. XXVII: Don Beebe chases down Leon Lett

The game wasn’t close and the play didn’t really matter, but no one will ever forget little Beebe embarrassing big Lett at the goal line.

 

15. I: Max McGee one-hander

A hungover, second-string McGee makes a spectacular one-handed catch (and run) to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history.

 

Best of rest:

 

16. XIV: Terry Bradshaw to Lance Stallworth for the 73-yard game winning touchdown.
17. XX: William Perry steals Sweetness’ touchdown.
18. XLVI: Eli Manning completes 38-yard sideline fade to Mario Manningham to open eventual game-winning drive agianst New England.
19. XIII: Dallas' Jackie Smith is "the sickest man in America."
20. XXXI: Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return TD.

 

Teaser:
Ranking the 15 Greatest Plays in Super Bowl History
Post date: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/cover-2-college-football-podcast-breaking-down-14-new-head-coaches
Body:

 

Hosts Braden Gall, David Fox and Steven Lassan breakdown all 14 new head coaches in FBS college football. The guys rank their favorite (and least favorite) hires and analyze all of the newest trends in coaching in this sideline extravaganza.

 

Tom Herman vs. Chad Morris? Will Mike Riley win enough at Nebraska? Is Gary Andersen a home run at Oregon State? How many nice things can the guys say about Jim Harbaugh? The is much debate about Jim McElwain at Florida and who is Lance Leipold?

 

Does "fit" matter when hiring a coach or is it all about winning? Is offense more important than defense? Why aren't defensive coordinators getting jobs and should they be getting more looks? Who is on the hot seat entering 2015?


Send any ideas, questions or comments to @BradenGall @DavidFox615 or @AthlonSteven or email [email protected]. The podcast can be found on athlonsports.com, iTunes, Stitcher and our podcast RSS feed.

Teaser:
Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Breaking down the 14 new head coaches
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 16:10
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-and-coming-teams
Body:

6. Orlando Magic

The Magic haven’t whiffed the mainstream’s attention since Dwight Howard left town via trade in 2012. And while the current 15-29 version of the team hasn’t changed that, they’re a steadily improving young squad with a collection of fascinating players who’ve quickly made them a top watch for hardcore NBA followers. Rookie point guard Elfrid Payton is a stormy, aggressive player who can often turn the task of guarding other ball-handlers into a sort of mid-court wrestling match. The monstrous Nikola Vucevic is one of the best post scorers in the game. And sophomore stud Victor Oladipo — the smooth complement to Payton’s rough-and-tumble approach — is blossoming in the Magic’s increasingly uptempo offense. Look for the Magic to enter the Eastern Conference playoff picture next year.

 

5. Sacramento Kings

Despite hitting a frustrating rough patch after ownership prematurely canned beloved head coach Mike Malone, Kings fans have cause for optimism. It’s hard not to hold hope when you’ve got DeMarcus Cousins on your roster. Cousins, a dominant 24-year-old center, is arguably the best offensive big man beast this side of Shaquille O’Neal. At 6’11” and 270 pounds, he can knock over just about anyone who defends him — but he can also dance around most matchups with ease. Cousins is fleet of foot and has quick hands and an accurate shot to boot. His nickname, “Boogie,” is a result of his uncanny movement for someone his size. Paired with a rejuvenated Rudy Gay, DeMarcus looks to be in position to take the league by storm. As soon as Vivek Ranadive gets out of the way, expect the Kings’ ascension to continue.

 

4. Utah Jazz

The Jazz have quietly piled up the best assemblage of young big men in the game. The emergence of freakishly long, crazily athletic French rim-protector Rudy Gay has turned Turkish center Enes Kanter into a luxury asset, as has the best season of power forward Derrick Favors’ career. There aren’t a ton of openings coming up in the stacked Western Conference, but the Jazz might grab one with force if they keep building what they’re building with shrewd first-year coach Quin Snyder. And if lightning-quick Australian rookie point guard Dante Exum begins to blossom behind Gordon Hayward on the wing next year, their seizure of a playoff spot might happen sooner than expected.

 

3. New Orleans Pelicans

Anthony Davis has been heralded as the next big NBA superstar, and for good reason. The Unibrow is as long as anyone in the sport, and also as skilled. But that doesn’t mean the Pelicans should be much above their .500 mark yet — Davis is still 21 years old. As far as 21-year-old centerpieces go, New Orleans couldn’t do better. But they’ve still got a lot of work to do. For now, the Pelicans are about where they should be: still looking for the right complementary pieces to put around Davis he continues to improve year after year. Soon enough, he’ll be so good that whoever’s around him will be better by virtue of his proximity. That’s the greatness Davis is headed toward.

 

2. Milwaukee Bucks

Through injuries, youth, the enigma of Larry Sanders and a new regime under coach Jason Kidd and fresh ownership, the Bucks have been very impressive. At 21-20, they’re bound for the Eastern Conference postseason, and way ahead of the development curve many analysts had laid out for them. Multi-talented “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo has a lot to do with Milwaukee’s success, but so does their undersung leading scorer, Brandon Knight. The rest of it is a strong system, bought into by Kidd’s spry roster. Under his tutelage, they’re the third-most efficient defense in the league. Who said you need lots of experience to defend well as a team?

 

1. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons remain one of the most curious stories of the NBA season. After struggling out of the gate to a 5-23 record, Detroit amazingly turned things around after sending struggling forward Josh Smith — their highest-paid player — out the door on waivers. Motor City basketball is 11-3 in the exciting post-Smith era, rallying around coach Stan Van Gundy’s vision and the breakout of Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. As quickly as it happened, the Pistons might have already moved out of the “up-and-coming” category. These days, it looks like they’ve already arrived.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

 

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 15:39
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/everybody-relax-patriots-deflating-footballs-didnt-matter
Body:

A headline from a well-respected columnist about the New England Patriots' latest scandal reads: “On scale of 1-10, it’s 11 for Patriots in deflate-gate mess.”

 

For an organization that once gave a multi-million dollar contract extension to an alleged murdererI’d say that’s a bit of an overreaction.

 

Like most, Yahoo!’s Dan Wetzel needs to take a deep breath and step back from “ballghazi” for a moment before breathing fire.

 

Eleven of the 12 official footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game win over Indianapolis were under-inflated by about two pounds — roughly 16 percent of the league minimum.

 

It’s illegal and Roger Goodell is well within his right to punish Bill Belichick and company with appropriate force. But the hand-wringing and finger-pointing reeks of jealousy.

 

Should we be quick to criticize and over-analyze an organization with a questionable track record when it comes to the rules of the game? Certainly, but did the Patriots defeat the Colts by more than five touchdowns because the balls were slightly softer? Have the Patriots been the best team in the AFC for more than a decade because of slightly less air in their footballs?

 

That seems as ludicrous as employing someone accused of multiple homicides.

 

Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, a Super Bowl champion and this season's likely MVP, claims that he prefers an overinflated ball. In fact, before the Packers Week 13 game with New England, the star quarterback casually admitted to Phil Simms that he “likes to push the limits of how much air we can put in the football, even over what they allow you to do.” (Simms was paraphrasing during the broadcast.)

 

Former Tampa Bay Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson admitted to spending $7,500 to “get the balls right” before Super Bowl XXXVII. Again, does anyone really believe that the amount of air in the football caused the Raiders to enter the fourth quarter trailing 34-9 in that game?

 

Highly unlikely.

 

Is Rodgers wrong to overinflate? Was Johnson wrong to pay to fix his footballs? Are the Pats technically cheating by deflating footballs?

 

Yes, yes and yes. But it sounds like, in an extremely competitive multi-billion dollar industry, that everyone pushes the envelope when it comes to pigskin PSI. The more important question is what type of impact did it have on the game and how should they be punished. Offsides is cheating too and that's a five-yard penalty.

 

Do the Patriots have any benefits of the doubt left in the court of public opinion? Clearly, the answer is and should be no. New England paid a huge price for Spygate and rightly so. There is a competitive advantage to be gained from watching another team practice and the punishment fits the crime — a total of $700,000 and a first-round draft pick.

 

But the amount of air pressure in the footballs last Sunday had nothing to do with the outcome of the game. The Colts were a clearly inferior team that has no other excuses for why it lost by 38 points.

 

New England was better and the NFL should react accordingly. Maybe Goodell should take a page from the Sports Pickles’ book:

 

 

 

Teaser:
Everybody Relax: Patriots deflating footballs didn't matter
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 11:33
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-21-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 21: 

 

It's not too early for the Super Bowl XLIX cheerleader showdown.

 

A Boston coffee shop is having fun with the scandal du jour.

 

The Patriots have given us a gift with Deflate-gate. But doctoring balls is nothing new, if you believe former Bucs QB Brad Johnson, who claims he bribed people to alter the balls before Super Bowl XXXVIII.

 

A handy guide to everything you need to know about Ball-ghazi.

 

Bleacher went longform about NHL dentists.

 

Roger Federer had a nasty drop shot in his Aussie Open match.

 

• An alternate narrative is emerging in the Robert Allenby case: that he passed out and hit his face on a rock.

 

Sports' most unusual power couple, Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky, have welcomed a baby boy. Mazel tov.

 

Peyton Manning is planning to return, pending a physical.

 

Give up and admit that you love the NBA flopping epidemic.

 

• Watch Alex Ovechkin shatter a net-cam.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Dion Waiters, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA
Path: /nba/dion-waiters-prefers-okc-over-cavs-because-%E2%80%9Ci-actually-touch-ball%E2%80%9D
Body:
Dion Waiters, once one of the many problems in the Cleveland Cavaliers organization, is now thriving as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder after moving down south as part of a midseason blockbuster trade involving the New York Knicks.

 

Waiters has looked more engaged defensively and more confident with his role and motions in the OKC offense. Reigning MVP Kevin Durant predicted an uptick in Waiters’ productivity, saying "we're going to make him feel wanted. I don't think he's felt that the last few years.”

 

Six games into his Thunder tenure, Waiters seems to be enjoying the extra affirmation and encouragement his new team offers him. Dion turned in an especially on-point performance in the Thunder’s recent 127-115 victory over the Golden State Warriors — OKC’s biggest win of the season. Waiters dropped 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting in the game, to go with four rebounds and three steals. He helped create a defensive swarm that held MVP frontrunner Steph Curry to one of his worst outings of the year.

After he scored 16 points in a win over the Orlando Magic the following night, he offered a pretty straight-forward as to why he’s a better, happier basketball player in a fresh uniform. Per Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman:

 

“Waiters was asked what he’s learned so far about where his shots will come from and how he fit into the offense.

 

“He chuckled.

 

“‘Listen,’ he said, ‘they give me the ball. Like, I touch the ball. Like, I actually, like, you know, touch the ball.’ [...]

“‘I’m able to feel the game out, knowing when to take the shot, when not to. Like I said, we got a great group of guys on this team who’s very unselfish and they want you to be successful. So I think I came into a great situation.’”

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 10:13
Path: /college-football/early-pac-12-football-predictions-2015
Body:

College football’s 2014 season has ended, and the focus shifts from the national championship picture to signing day, spring practice and early preseason rankings for 2015. While last year and Ohio State’s national title victory over Oregon is still fresh in our minds, it’s never too early to think about next season.

 

The Pac-12 has moved up the ladder in college football’s conference hierarchy in recent years. With Oregon replacing quarterback Marcus Mariota and a loaded group of teams battling for the top spot in the South Division, the conference has even more intrigue in 2015. Can the Ducks win the conference once again? Or will Stanford or a team from the South win in the championship game for the first time? 

 

Early North Division Rankings


1. Oregon
2014 Record:
13-2 (8-1)

The biggest challenge of coach Mark Helfrich’s tenure at Oregon starts in 2015. Helfrich must find a replacement for quarterback (and Heisman Trophy winner) Marcus Mariota this spring, and there’s not a proven option ready to take control of the Ducks’ high-powered attack. Could a transfer come into play as Mariota’s replacement? Regardless of which quarterback starts in 2015, the skill talent is among the best in the nation. Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman anchor a talented backfield, while the receiving corps returns Byron Marshall, Devon Allen, Charles Nelson, Dwayne Stanford and Darren Carrington. After finding a replacement for Mariota, the biggest area of concern for Helfrich has to be the offensive line, which loses tackle Jake Fisher, guard Hamani Stevens and center Hroniss Grasu. The defense played better in the second half of the year under new coordinator Don Pellum. However, this unit must replace end Arik Armstead, linebacker Tony Washington and loses defensive backs Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB), Troy Hill (CB) and Erick Dargan (S).

2. Stanford
2014 Record:
8-5 (5-4)

The bar has been raised in Palo Alto. Stanford won 46 games from 2010-13 and recorded four straight years of finishes of 11th or better in the last Associated Press poll. Despite the recent success, the Cardinal slipped to 8-5 in 2014. The defense continued to perform at a high level without coordinator Derek Mason, limiting opponents to 4.2 yards per play. Second-year coordinator Lance Anderson has work to do this spring, as Stanford must replace a handful of key standouts, including end Henry Anderson, tackle David Parry, linebackers A.J. Tarpley and James Vaughters, safety Jordan Richards and cornerback Alex Carter. The offense had its share of ups and downs last season and averaged only 23.8 points per game in Pac-12 contests. Even though left tackle Andrus Peat and receiver Ty Montgomery must be replaced, Stanford should be optimistic about improvement. Running back Christian McCaffrey showed promise in limited snaps, and quarterback Kevin Hogan ended the year on a high note (14 of 20 for 189 yards and 2 TDs against Maryland).

3. Washington
2014 Record:
8-6 (4-5)

Chris Petersen’s first year wasn’t necessarily a disappointment, but the bar was set high in Seattle after he recorded a 92-12 mark at Boise State from 2006-13. Petersen will continue reshaping the program into the offseason, and the Huskies have a chance to play spoiler in the North with Oregon visiting Seattle in mid-October. Quarterback play has to improve for Petersen to elevate the program into division title contention. Cyler Miles threw for 17 touchdowns and completed 66.6 percent of his throws in his first year as the starter. But the Huskies need more from this position, especially after the offense generated only 36 passing plays (11th in the Pac-12) of 20 yards or more. Developing the talent at receiver is another offseason priority for Petersen, and the line loses four starters from a group that limited Pac-12 defenses to just 21 sacks. Revamping the trenches on defense is also a necessity after standouts Danny Shelton (NT) and Hau’oli Kikaha (DE/LB) expired their eligibility, and linebacker Shaq Thompson left early for the NFL. The secondary gave up 55 plays of 20 yards or more in 2014 but should take a step forward in 2015 with Budda Baker, John Ross and Sidney Jones returning.

4. California
2014 Record:
5-7 (3-6)

The Golden Bears were one of the most-improved teams in the Pac-12 this season. After a 1-11 mark in coach Sonny Dykes’ debut, California jumped to 5-7 in 2014 and lost four games by eight points or less. The next step for Dykes is to get the Golden Bears back into a bowl. And there’s a good shot of this team reaching that mark in 2015, as quarterback Jared Goff is one of the best in the Pac-12, and the receiving corps returns standouts in Bryce Treggs and Kenny Lawler. Running back Daniel Lasco (1,115 yards in 2014) might be the Pac-12’s most underrated player. Dykes needs his offense to score 35-40 points a week until the defense turns a corner under coordinator Art Kaufman. The Golden Bears allowed 44.1 points in Pac-12 contests last season and did not place a player on the All-Pac-12 team. The challenge of getting to a bowl in 2015 won’t be easy with a schedule that features crossover games against USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Utah. Also, California plays at Oregon and Stanford next year.

5. Oregon State
2014 Record: 5-7 (2-7)

Change is inevitable at every college program. For the first time since 2002 (Dennis Erickson), someone other than Mike Riley will roam the sidelines as Oregon State’s head coach. Gary Andersen was one of the top hires this offseason and comes to Corvallis after a 19-7 mark at Wisconsin from 2013-14. Andersen has four consecutive winning seasons as a head coach, but that streak will be in jeopardy in 2015. Oregon State loses quarterback Sean Mannion, and defensive standouts in linebacker D.J. Alexander, cornerback Steven Nelson, end Dylan Wynn, and safeties Ty Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy. Running back Storm Woods and receivers Victor Bolden and Jordan Villamin are a good place to start on offense, and the line – a source of concern in 2014 – should be better with all five starters back and a healthy Isaac Seumalo ready to contribute on the interior. Andersen’s background is on defense, and the hire of Kalani Sitake (Utah) should pay dividends for the Beavers.


6. Washington State
2014 Record:
3-9 (2-7)
 

The Cougars appeared to be trending in the right direction after a 6-7 mark and a bowl appearance in 2013. But an injury to quarterback Connor Halliday and a struggling defense prevented coach Mike Leach’s team from showing improvement in the win column. Washington State enters spring practice with several question marks, with the No. 1 priority starting at quarterback. Is Luke Falk the answer under center? Falk averaged 443.3 passing yards over the final four games but tossed six picks in his last two appearances. The return of Gabe Marks will soften the blow of losing No. 1 receiver Vince Mayle. New coordinator Alex Grinch inherits a defense that allowed 41.9 points in Pac-12 games and gave up 6.6 yards per play in league action. Grinch is already dealing with a few challenges this offseason, as linebacker Darryl Monroe transferred, cornerback Daquawn Brown was dismissed, and top lineman Xavier Cooper left for the NFL.

 

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Early South Division Rankings


1. USC
2014 Record:
9-4 (6-3)

The Pac-12 South is one of the toughest divisions in the nation to predict next season. Each team has personnel concerns, but a case could be made for five programs to have a legitimate shot at the division in 2015. The recruiting rankings favor USC as the most talented team in the South next season, but depth is an issue with the program still digging out from NCAA sanctions. Quarterback Cody Kessler is back for his senior year after throwing 39 touchdowns in 2014. Kessler headlines an offense that should be explosive once again, provided replacements are found for receiver Nelson Agholor and running back Buck Allen. The offensive line is slated to return all five starters from the Holiday Bowl, including freshman standouts Toa Lobendahn and Viane Talamaivao. With the loss of defensive end Leonard Williams, linebacker Hayes Pullard and rush end J.R. Tavai, the biggest concerns for USC in 2015 are with its defense. The schedule sets up favorably for a run at the South Division title, as the Trojans host Stanford, Washington, Utah, Arizona and UCLA. 
 

2. Arizona State
2014 Record:
10-3 (6-3)

The Sun Devils have 20 wins over the last two seasons, which is the best two-year mark for the program since a 20-4 stretch from 1996-97. Coach Todd Graham’s team should squarely be in the mix for the South Division title in 2015, especially with Oregon, Arizona and USC visiting Sun Devil Stadium. Quarterback Taylor Kelly must be replaced, but Mike Bercovici (12 TDs, 4 INTs) has proven capable in limited opportunities. Receiver Jaelen Strong and left tackle Jamil Douglas are key losses for the offense. However, the return of running back (and potential slot receiver) D.J. Foster will help the receiving corps, while Damario Richard and Kalen Ballage is a solid one-two punch at running back. Graham’s aggressiveness on defense paid off with 39 sacks and 98 tackles for a loss. This unit returns largely intact but loses All-Pac-12 safety Damarious Randall and end Marcus Hardison (10 sacks).

3. Arizona
2014 Record:
10-4 (7-2)

The Wildcats are the defending Pac-12 South champions and should be in the mix for the conference title once again in 2015. Provided the line finds capable replacements for tackles Mickey Baucus and Fabbians Ebbele and center Steven Gurrola, the offense could surpass last year’s 33.4 points per game average in Pac-12 contests. Quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson are back after standout freshman campaigns, and the receiving corps returns Cayleb Jones, Trey Griffey, DaVonte’ Neal and Samajie Grant. While the offense is among the best in the league, the defense is still trying to find the right pieces under coordinator Jeff Casteel. Linebacker Scooby Wright is one of the nation’s top defensive players returning in 2015.


4. UCLA
2014 Record:
10-3 (6-3)

The Bruins are picked No. 4 in our early pre-spring rankings, but that’s largely a byproduct of how loaded this division will be in 2015. And if you need anymore evidence, it’s very likely five teams from the South rank among the top 25 in most preseason polls. How high UCLA climbs in next year’s projections largely depends on its ability to replace quarterback Brett Hundley. Will true freshman Josh Rosen win the job over Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard? Replacing a standout quarterback is a huge question mark to overcome, but the Bruins can shield their new starter with a strong supporting cast. Running back Paul Perkins returns after recording 1,575 yards and nine scores, while seven players that caught at least 26 passes are back. Each level of the defense has losses to address, with the biggest coming in the linebacking corps with the departure of Eric Kendricks.

5. Utah
2014 Record:
9-4 (5-4)

It’s been an interesting offseason in Salt Lake City. There was reported friction between coach Kyle Whittingham and athletic director Chris Hill after assistant coaches Dave Christensen (OC), Ilaisa Tuiaki (DL), and Kalani Sitake (DC) departed for other jobs. While the Utes have holes to fill on the coaching staff, this team will be a tough out for the rest of the Pac-12 next year. Left tackle Jeremiah Poutasi left early for the NFL, but the offense returns largely intact. Is Travis Wilson ready to take the next step in his development? Or will Kendal Thompson claim the job after recovering from a knee injury. Until the passing game stabilizes, the offense can lean on running back Devontae Booker (1,512 yards and 10 scores in 2014). Although Sitake will be missed as the team’s signal-caller, Utah’s defense shouldn’t change much with Whittingham’s background on defense. The Utes led the nation with 55 recorded sacks and held opponents to 24.9 points per game. End Nate Orchard, tackle Sese Ianu, safety Brian Blechen and cornerback Eric Rowe are the biggest losses on defense.

6. Colorado
2014 Record:
2-10 (0-9)

The win column may not show it, but Mike MacIntyre has Colorado moving in the right direction. The Buffaloes have won six games under MacIntyre’s watch and are just 1-17 in Pac-12 games. However, Colorado lost four games by five points or less in 2014. The outlook for this team in 2015 has improved thanks to the development of quarterback Sefo Liufau, along with the return of Nelson Spruce to Boulder after he considered jumping early to the NFL. The defense allowed 7.1 yards per play in Pac-12 games and surrendered 43 points per contest in league matchups this season. That’s the bad news. On the positive sign, most of the defensive two-deep returns, and the line regains the services of Samson Kafovalu (missed 2014 due to personal reasons). Expect improvement from Colorado in 2015.

Teaser:
Early Pac-12 Football Predictions for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /nfl/who-are-10-greatest-players-never-play-super-bowl
Body:

Being a future Hall of Famer does not guarantee a trip to the Super Bowl. In fact, many of the game’s greatest players never took the field with the Vince Lombardi Trophy on the line. Here are some of the game’s best to have never made it to Super Sunday.

 

1. Barry Sanders, RB, DET (1989-98)

Playoff record: 1–5

Best team: 1991 Lions (12–4 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1991 (NFC Championship Game, 41–10 loss at Redskins)

 

After winning his playoff debut 38–6 against the Cowboys, Sanders lost his next five postseason games. Shockingly, one of the most exciting players of all-time was limited to 13 or fewer carries in four of his six playoff contests. The only time No. 20 was given more than 20 carries, he ripped off 169 yards in a 28–24 loss to the Packers. Although Sanders ran wild every year on Thanksgiving Day, he never showed up to the party on Super Bowl Sunday.

 

2. Deacon Jones, DE (1961-74)

Playoff record: 0–2

Best team: 1967 Rams (11–1–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1969 (Divisional Round, 23–20 loss at Vikings)

 

The “Secretary of Defense” was known for head-slapping opposing offensive linemen, but the two-time Defensive Player of the Year must have been doing some head-scratching after retiring with zero playoff wins on three different teams — and zero Super Bowl appearances — despite an unofficial total of 173.5 sacks during his Hall of Fame career.

 

3. Dick Butkus, LB (1965-73)

Playoff record: 0–0

Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

 

Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in history, Butkus played for George Halas — the legendary coach whose name graces the trophy awarded to the winner of the NFC Championship Game — and on the same team as Hall of Fame triple-threat playmaker Gale Sayers. Despite looking great on paper at the time and even better in historical hindsight, Butkus’ Bears were unable to make the playoffs, which is the first step toward advancing to the Super Bowl.

 

4. Gale Sayers, RB (1965-71)

Playoff record: 0–0

Best team: 1965 Bears (9–5 record, missed postseason)

 

Butkus and Sayers were drafted Nos. 3 and 4 overall, respectively, by the Bears in 1965. But the Hall of Fame duo were unable to translate their individual achievements into team success. Sayers notched a record six TDs in a single game — with nine carries for 113 yards and four TDs, two catches for 89 yards and one TD, and five punt returns for 134 yards and one TD as a rookie — but failed to score even a single Super Bowl trip.

 

5. Earl Campbell, RB (1978-85)

Playoff record: 3–3

Best team: 1979 Oilers (11–5 record, lost in AFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1979 (AFC Championship Game, 27–13 loss at Steelers)

 

The “Luv Ya Blue” bulldozer was unable to take down the powerful “Steel Curtain” during back-to-back AFC Championship Game losses. In two painful defeats at Pittsburgh, Campbell had a combined 39 carries for 77 yards (1.97 ypc), two catches for 15 yards, and zero TDs. Campbell’s two scoreless games against the Steelers were the only two playoff games in which he failed to find the end zone.

 

6. O.J. Simpson, RB (1969-79)

Playoff record: 0–1

Best team: 1974 Bills (9–5 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1974 (Divisional Round, 32–14 loss at Steelers)

 

Another victim of the mighty Steelers, the Juice had better luck than Campbell — with 18 touches for 86 total yards and one TD — but was unable to lead the Bills to victory in what would be his only postseason appearance. The actor and defendant never basked in the spotlight of the Super Bowl but he was seen by millions during his days as Lt. Nordberg in the "Naked Gun" franchise and his starring role in the Trial of the Century.

 

7. Eric Dickerson, RB (1983-93)

Playoff record: 2–5

Best team: 1985 Rams (11–5 record, lost in NFC Championship Game)

Closest call: 1985 (NFC Championship Game, 24–0 loss at Bears)

 

Upon first glance, the single-season rushing yards record holder posted solid playoff numbers. But take off the goggles and you’ll see that Dickerson’s 248-yard, two-TD outburst during a 20–0 win over the Cowboys in 1985 accounted for one-third of his career postseason rushing yards and half of his total TDs.

 

8. LaDainian Tomlinson, RB (2001-11)

Playoff record: 4–5

Best team: 2006 Chargers (14–2 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 2010 (AFC Championship Game, 24–19 loss at Steelers)

 

Infamously sulking on the sideline, injured and wearing in a Darth Vader facemask and trench coat at New England — after just two carries for five yards — was clearly the low point of L.T.’s playoff career. Staying on the dark side, three of his five playoff losses were by margins of three points, one defeat came by four points and the most lopsided was a nine-pointer.

 

9. Tony Gonzalez, TE (1997-2013)

Playoff record: 1–6

Best team: 2003 Chiefs (13–3 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 2012 (NFC Championship Game, 28–24 loss vs. 49ers)

 

It took Gonzo 16 seasons to finally earn a playoff win. Then, with the Falcons holding a 17–0 lead over the 49ers in the NFC title game, it looked like the future Hall of Fame tight end would be punching his ticket to the Super Bowl and possibly riding off into the sunset as a champion. The massive comeback by the Niners would be the all-time great’s final playoff game.

 

10. Warren Moon, QB (1984-2000)

Playoff record: 3–7

Best team: 1993 Oilers (12–4 record, lost in Divisional Round)

Closest call: 1993 (Divisional Round, 28–20 loss vs. Chiefs)

 

Moon won five consecutive Grey Cups and was twice named Grey Cup MVP in the Canadian Football League. But in these United States south of the border, the former CFL champion was unable to translate his prior success to the NFL Playoffs. Moon’s waning moment came in the worst collapse in postseason history, as his Oilers watched a 35–3 lead evaporate into a 41–38 overtime loss against the Frank Reich-led Bills.

Teaser:
Who are the 10 Greatest Players Never to Play in a Super Bowl?
Post date: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 08:30
Path: /nba/james-harden-score-45-points-against-pacers-video
Body:

Add another line item to James Harden’s MVP resume. The Houston Rockets star scored 45 points against the Indiana Pacers last night, and did it with extreme efficiency. The Beard was 12-for-18 from the field, and 14-for-15 from the charity strike. Watch him run up his box-score digits:

 

 

The Rockets won the game 110-98, to improve to 29-13 on the season, good for fourth place in the loaded Western Conference.

 

 

"I think the way we came out, that's the way we should come out every single game," Harden said after the game. "We focused on defense and offensively making it easy for each other. They didn't gain any ground on us because we kept being consistent with what we did.”

 

It’s refreshing to see Harden take on such a bold, team-leading role in his sixth season as a pro. Last year, he looked emotionally pained as he adjusted to the pressures of being the best player on a title-contending team, when Dwight Howard came to town and elevated the Rockets’ competitive status. Harden’s defense demonstrably suffered as he took on extra heat from the limelight.

 

But now he’s on the short list of players you’d want to build a team around, and his coach Kevin McHale has noticed the transformation. "He's having a special year," McHale said after the victory over the Pacers. "A couple of those shots he made, there's nothing a defender can do.”

 

At 26.6 points per game, Harden is currently leading the league in scoring. More importantly, he’s become a member of some of the best defensive lineups in basketball — the Rockets have the second-most efficient defense in the sport, and they’re markedly more scary because of it.

 

Catch Harden and Houston as they look for revenge against the league-leading Golden State Warriors this Wednesday, at 10:30 PM ET on ESPN. Steph Curry and Co. dismantled the Rockets, 131-106, this past Saturday.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 15:48
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-20-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 20: 

 

Swaggy P bought Iggy Azalea a sweet ride after photographic evidence of cheating surfaced.

 

• The tooth hurts: Tiger was missing something at GF Lindsey Vonn's race. And not everyone is buying what Tiger is selling about the story.

 

• In other weird golf news: Robert Allenby's story was slightly contradicted by a homeless woman. Kidnapping, random missing teeth — who said the golf beat was boring? And that doesn't even take into account Dustin Johnson's denial of cocaine addiction.

 

The New York tabloids have their fun with deflate-gate. And in its own way, so does The Onion.

 

A guy expertly trolled Packers fans at a hockey game, of all places.

 

Rajon Rondo might have deflated a ball or two with his attempted save off Marc Gasol's junk.

 

• Got a few hours to kill? Relive the top 100 college football games of 2014.

 

Derrick Rose is f---ing irritated with the Bulls' struggles.

 

• Bill Self angry. Bill Self smash.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 12:13
Path: /nba/cleveland-cavaliers-are-surging
Body:
Remember four months ago? That was when we were already anointing the Cleveland Cavaliers as Eastern Conference champions, after they had a doozy of a summer by bringing back LeBron James and trading for three-time All-Star Kevin Love.

 

That was before James became a coach-killer, Love lost his mojo, and the most hyped team of the decade got buried under a barrage of hysteria and dysfunction caused by unmet expectations.

 

Good thing for the Cavs: The season is long. Mediocrity in early January means little in a league where the stakes don’t rise until April, and Cleveland has swiftly improved after trading Dion Waiters, Lou Amundson and some draft picks for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.

 

The new-look Cavaliers spanked one of their top conference rivals, the Chicago Bulls, last night. Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving tallied 18 points and 12 assists as his team prevailed, 108-94. This one was a quick knockout, as the Cavs amassed a 14-point lead in the second quarter and never really looked back.

 

The Bulls, to their credit, are in a bad way. Losers of six of their last eight contests, they’re without 2014 Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah, and starting small forward Mike Dunleavy. But what Cleveland did last night was a statement game nonetheless; they may not put together the perfect season, but they have more than enough talent to scare the rest of the sport.

 

The Cavs still have a lot of work to do if they’re to be championship contenders this spring. A three-game winning streak is nice (especially if two of the wins are against elite teams) but it doesn’t put you into the rare air of squads like the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks — who, combined, have less than half of Cleveland’s losses. With LeBron leading the way, though, such company seems inevitable these days.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 10:22
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/amazing-stats-dukes-mike-krzyzewski-nears-1000-wins
Body:

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is one step away from yet another milestone in his career after notching career win No. 999 on Monday with a 79-65 win over Pittsburgh.

 

Entering the season, no coach in Division I men’s basketball had won more games than Krzyzewski, but the record will have a different meaning when Krzyzewski reaches win No. 1,000.

 

His first attempt at 1,000 career wins will come Sunday when Duke visits St. John’s.

 

Krzyzewski isn’t everyone’s favorite figure in the sport, that’s for certain. But every other coach in the men’s game will be chasing him to reach the 1,000-win mark, and only a few will be able to catch him.

 

Anyone can look up championships, Final Fours and All-Americans to go with Krzyzewski’s career win total. A few of the numbers tell a more interesting story. For the first decade of his career, Krzyzewski could have been dismissed as average and Duke as an also-ran in the ACC. By 2015, his career is the envy of every coach in college basketball.

 

1,306

 

Career games for Krzyzewski. Krzyzewski remains No. 2 on the list of career games coached in Division I. He’ll catch up to Mount St. Mary’s Jim Phelan (1,354 games from 1955-2003) sometime next season.

 

421

 

Career ACC wins for Krzyzewski. While Krzyzewski is chasing the 1,000 win milestone, he’s also chasing Dean Smith’s career record for ACC wins (422), a mark he will certainly break.

 

311

 

Active coaches who have fewer career wins than Krzyzewski has ACC wins. Krzyzewski entered the season with 417 career ACC wins. That figure alone would put him at No. 40 on the total career wins list among active coaches. At the start of the season, Krzyzewski had more ACC wins than coaches like Jay Wright, Mark Few and Thad Matta had career wins.

 

996

 

Career wins for Philadelphia University’s Herb Magee. Krzyzewski won’t be the only NCAA men’s coach with 1,000 career wins for long. Magee at Division II Philadelphia actually started the season ahead of Krzyzewski on the career wins list at 985 victories. At 10-5 this season, Magee sits at 996-397 for his career.

 

876

 

Career wins record when Krzyzewski started coaching. Krzyzewski took his first head coaching job at Army at age 28. At that time, Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp was the career wins leader with 876 victories from 1931-72.

 

1,098

 

Career wins for former Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt. The Volunteers legend is the only collegiate basketball coach (for now) with 1,000 career wins.

 

2

 

ACC programs with fewer total wins than Krzyzewski. Two of Duke’s ACC foes have yet to hit the 1,000-win mark — Florida State (996) and Miami (827).

 

5

 

Years at Duke Krzyzewski coached before his first winning ACC record. Krzyzewski didn’t arrive at Duke as some kind of savior. He was unpopular during his first three seasons at Durham. Krzyzewski went 20-36 in the ACC before posting an 8-6 league record in 1984-85. He didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament until his third season, when he went 7-7 in the league. 

 

2

 

Final Four teams in the ACC during Krzyzewski’s first season. To get an idea of the hill Krzyzewski had to climb when he arrived at Duke, consider that Virginia and North Carolina both reached the Final Four in 1980-81. Virginia and Ralph Sampson lost in the national semifinal to a North Carolina team led by James Worthy and Sam Perkins. That Carolina team lost to Krzyzewski’s mentor, Bob Knight at Indiana. The coaching lineup in the eight-team ACC that year included Dean Smith at North Carolina, Jim Valvano at NC State, Lefty Driesell at Maryland and Terry Holland at Virginia.

 

226

 

Wins at Duke for the No. 2 coach on the Blue Devils’ all-time wins list. Eddie Cameron went 226-99 from 1929-44, but his name is just as synonymous with Duke as Krzyzewski’s.

 

536

 

Weeks Duke has been ranked since Krzyzewski took over. Duke has been ranked in 85.8 percent of AP polls since Krzyzewski started, even more remarkable considering Duke wasn’t ranked until Feb. 14 of his fourth season.


19-1

 

Krzyzewski’s record against former players and assistants. Eight former players and assistants have gone on to become college head coaches. Six of those are still active — Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, Buffalo’s Bobby Hurley, Northwestern’s Chris Collins, Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey. Quin Snyder, fired at Missouri in 2006, is the head coach for the Utah Jazz. Of all of them, only Brey has defeated his mentor, with a 79-77 win over Duke last season.

 

8

 

Football coaches at Duke since Krzyzewski began his tenure. Those eight coaches — Red Wilson, Steve Sloan, Steve Spurrier, Barry Wilson, Fred Goldsmith, Carl Franks, Ted Roof and David Cutcliffe — have a collective win percentage of 32.6 percent (130-270-2) and one ACC title since 1980.

 

73

 

Wins for Krzyzewski at Army from 1976-80. Krzyzewski remains fifth on Army’s all-time win list at 73-59 behind Leo Novak (126 wins, 1927-39), Bob Knight (102, 1966-71), Les Wothke (92, 1982-90) and Zach Spiker (79-89, 2010-present).

 

158-124

 

Krzyzewski’s record in his first 10 seasons. Krzyzewski posted an ordinary record during his first decade at Army and Duke, going 158-124. In his 11th season, Duke went 37-3 and reached the first Final Four of Krzyzewski’s career. 

 

10

 

Schools with a winning record against Krzyzewski. Thanks to Krzyzewski’s time at Army, this is an interesting list. The 10 teams are: Arizona (5-3), Cal (2-1), Holy Cross (4-2), Iona (3-2), Kings College (1-0), Lafayette (4-1), Long Island (1-0), Louisville (4-2), Stanford (2-1) and Tennessee (2-1). Another interesting note: Duke defeated UConn and Wisconsin this season, allowing Krzyzewski to improve to .500 against both programs.

 

55

 

Wins for Krzyzewski over Maryland. Krzyzewski’s 55 wins over former ACC member Maryland are his most against any single opponent. That’s followed by: Georgia Tech (53), Clemson and Virginia (52 each) and NC State (51).

 

38

 

Wins for North Carolina over Krzyzewski. As one would expect, no program has handed Krzyzewski more losses than North Carolina. Krzyzewski still has the edge in wins at 40. The programs with the next most wins against Krzyzewski are Wake Forest and Maryland (24 each) and NC State (22).

 

$9.68 million

 

Krzyzewski’s compensation in 2014, according to USA Today. That’s more than $1.5 million more paid out to Alabama’s Nick Saban. All to manage a roster of 12 players.

 

19

 

Games Krzyzewski has not coached at Duke since he was hired. While Krzyzewski recovered from back surgery, assistant Pete Gaudet, also his successor at Army, coached the final 19 games of 1994-95. Gaudet went 4-15 down the stretch for the only time since 1984 Duke missed the NCAA Tournament. The interim coach’s record is credited instead of Krzyzewski, allowing Coach K's career record look a little more pristine.

Teaser:
Amazing stats as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski Nears 1,000 Wins
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/early-big-12-football-predictions-2015
Body:

College football’s 2014 season has ended, and the focus shifts from the national championship picture to signing day, spring practice and early preseason rankings for 2015. While last year and Ohio State’s national title victory over Oregon is still fresh in our minds, it’s never too early to think about next season.

The Big 12 was the only power conference without a team in the college football playoff this season. However, that could easily change in 2015. Baylor and TCU are playoff contenders, while Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas should be in contention for a spot in preseason top 25 projections. 
 

Early Big 12 Predictions and Rankings for 2015

 

1. TCU
2014
Record: 12-1 (8-1)


It’s a close call for the top spot in the Big 12 next season, but TCU edges Baylor in the pre-spring power rankings. The Horned Frogs have a proven option at quarterback (Trevone Boykin), while the Bears will be breaking in a new starter to replace Bryce Petty. And it certainly doesn’t hurt TCU’s chances of winning the division with the annual matchup with Baylor coming in Fort Worth this year. As usual in Fort Worth under coach Gary Patterson, defense should be a strength. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 by limiting opponents to 4.7 yards per play in 2014. TCU does have a few personnel losses to address, as tackle Chucky Hunter, linebacker Paul Dawson and defensive backs Sam Carter, Kevin White and Chris Hackett must be replaced.
 

2. Baylor
2014 Record:
11-2 (8-1)

With at least 10 wins in three out of the last four seasons, it’s safe to say Baylor no longer rebuilds. Under coach Art Briles, the Bears simply reload and will be in the mix for at least a share of the conference title for the third consecutive year. Seth Russell, Chris Johnson, and true freshman Jarrett Stidham are expected to battle to replace quarterback Bryce Petty, but the supporting cast is among the best in the nation. Shock Linwood returns at running back after recording 1,252 yards and 16 scores in 2014, and three receivers – Jay Lee, Corey Coleman and KD Cannon – are back after each caught at least 40 passes and averaged 15 yards per reception last season. The offense was a big winner around the draft deadline, as left tackle Spencer Drango decided to return to Waco for his senior year. Baylor is slated to return all five starters on its offensive line. The defense has room to improve after allowing 5.7 yards per play (conference-only games) in 2014. However, only two seniors are slated to depart, and end Shawn Oakman is back after recording 11 sacks last season.
 

3. Oklahoma
2014 Record:
8-4 (5-4)

 

The Sooners were one of the biggest disappointments in the nation last season. Oklahoma was pegged as a playoff contender in most preseason predictions, but coach Bob Stoops’ team finished 8-5 and lost the last two games of the year. But there’s hope for a turnaround in 2015. New offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley inherits a talented backfield, and a passing attack that is in need of an upgrade after the Sooners tossed only 13 scores in nine Big 12 games. Although Riley is an Air Raid disciple, Oklahoma needs to maximize its stable of running backs – Samaje Perine, Alex Ross, Keith Ford and Joe Mixon – until the quarterback situation is established. Trevor Knight couldn’t capitalize off his Sugar Bowl success and finished 2014 with just 14 touchdowns to 12 picks in 10 games. Knight will have a chance to reclaim the starting job, but he will be pushed by Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. Another concern for Riley is the departure of four starters on the line, including standout tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. The offense isn’t the only side of the ball in need of repair. The defense had nine returning starters, yet allowed 5.6 yards per play, generated only 19 sacks in Big 12 play and gave up 29.2 points in conference-only matchups. Tackle Jordan Phillips and end Chuka Ndulue are big losses up front, but the linebacking corps returns intact, and Frank Shannon is back after a suspension. The secondary needs to cut down on its big plays allowed – 50 of 20 yards or more – in 2015.

 

4. Oklahoma State
2014 Record:
7-6 (4-5)
 

The Cowboys have momentum entering spring practice after a two-game winning streak to close out the 2014 season. Oklahoma State had massive personnel losses to overcome last year and returned just eight starters. The Cowboys used a win over rival Oklahoma to get bowl eligible and scored an impressive win over Washington in the Cactus Bowl. A big reason for optimism in Stillwater is the development of quarterback Mason Rudolph. The true freshman threw for 853 yards and six scores over the last three games and should benefit from the return of the top five statistical receivers from 2014. The offensive line has to play better after allowing 40 sacks last season. End Emmanuel Ogbah, linebacker Ryan Simmons and cornerback Kevin Peterson anchor a defense that should improve after giving up 5.9 yards per play in Big 12 games last year.
 

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5. Texas
2014 Record:
6-7 (5-4)
 

Charlie Strong will get Texas back in contention for the Big 12 title. But don’t expect a conference championship in 2015 or even significant improvement in the win column. Texas won three out of its final five games but had a dismal showing in the Texas Bowl and was soundly defeated by TCU (48-10) in late November. Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes needs to make a big jump in performance for the Longhorns to finish in the top half of the Big 12, and top receivers Jaxon Shipley and John Harris must be replaced. Until Swoopes is ready to shoulder more of the offense, this team can lean on running back Johnathan Gray and five starters on the line. The arrival of Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford paid immediate dividends for the defense. Texas held opponents to just 4.7 yards per play and only 23.4 points per game in Big 12 action. Each level of the defense has a key player to replace, but the biggest and most significant loss is tackle Malcom Brown.

 

6. Kansas State
2014 Record:
9-4 (7-2)

 

It’s tough to pick against Bill Snyder, but the Wildcats are losing a handful of key contributors from their 2014 team. Quarterback Jake Waters and receiver Tyler Lockett are the biggest departures on offense. Waters passed for 22 scores and 3,501 yards in 2014, while Lockett was one of the nation’s top receivers (106 catches, 1,515 yards). Replacing both players will be a challenge, and the offense has to find more consistency in its ground attack next year. While the skill talent needs to be stocked and a quarterback must be found, the offensive line returns four starters, including standout left tackle Cody Whitehair. The personnel losses extend to the defense. End Ryan Mueller, linebacker Jonathan Truman and defensive back Randall Evans have expired their eligibility. Mueller is the biggest loss out of that trio, but K-State’s front seven should benefit from the emergence of linebacker Elijah Lee and the return of tackle Travis Britz.

 

7. West Virginia
2014 Record:
7-6 (5-4)

 

Coach Dana Holgorsen entered 2014 on the hot seat after a 4-8 finish in 2013. But the Mountaineers rebounded, finishing with a 7-6 record and a winning mark (5-4) in Big 12 play for the first time since joining the conference. Skyler Howard showed promise in limited action (8 TDs, 0 INTs), but needs to raise his completion percentage (50.9). In addition to getting Howard acclimated to the starting role, the receiving corps must replace Kevin White and Mario Alford, while standout guards Quinton Spain and Mark Glowinski have expired their eligibility. The strength of the offense should be at running back, as Rushel Shell, Wendell Smallwood and Andrew Buie return after combining for 1,742 yards. Under the direction of first-year coordinator Tony Gibson, West Virginia’s defense cut its yards per play allowed from 5.9 to 5.4 and held opponents to 27.6 points per game (sixth in the Big 12). The Mountaineers should take another step forward on defense next year, as the secondary returns three standouts in cornerback Daryl Worley and safeties Dravon Henry and Karl Joseph. Pass-rush specialist Shaq Riddick, defensive end Brandon Golson and linebacker Wes Tonkery are the biggest losses on defense.

 

8. Texas Tech
2014 Record:
4-8 (2-7)

Since starting the 2013 season 7-0, Texas Tech is just 5-13 over its last 18 games. But the Red Raiders are a good candidate to rebound back to a bowl in 2014, as most of the team’s starting core returns, and new coordinator David Gibbs should bring stability to a defense that has struggled in recent years. Davis Webb and Patrick Mahomes will battle to earn the starting nod under center for 2015, with Mahomes (averaged 439.7 total yards over last three games) likely holding an edge for the No. 1 spot. Mahomes isn’t hurting for skill talent, as DeAndre Washington (RB), Jakeem Grant (WR) and standout left tackle Le’Raven Clark are back. Gibbs’ defenses at Houston had a knack for forcing turnovers, and the Red Raiders need better discipline and takeaways after recording a -13 margin in 2014. Texas Tech allowed 41.3 points per game last season, and it’s clear Gibbs has a lot of work to do in the spring to generate improvement from the defense in 2015.

 

9. Iowa State

2014 Record: 2-10 (0-9)

 

Iowa State is one of the toughest jobs among Power 5 programs. The Cyclones are 5-19 over the last two seasons and went winless in Big 12 play in 2014 for the first time since 2008. Getting back to a bowl will be a challenge for coach Paul Rhoads, as Iowa State loses a handful of key seniors. The offense should be better under the second year of coordinator Mark Mangino, and the passing attack will benefit from a healthy Quenton Bundrage at receiver. In addition to Bundrage’s return, the coaching staff has to be pleased with the development of receiver Allen Lazard (45 catches as a true freshman in 2014). The defense allowed 6.8 yards per play in Big 12-only contests last season. But there’s optimism in Ames for improvement, as only two starting seniors depart – Jared Brackens (LB/S) and Cory Morrissey (DE). Safety Kamari Cotton-Moya should be in the mix for All-Big 12 honors next year.

 

10. Kansas
2014 Record:
3-9 (1-8)

 

New coach David Beaty is known for his recruiting ties to the state of Texas, and his previous experience at Kansas (2008-09 and 2011) should benefit the program. But the first-year coach is going to need some time to restock the roster and get the Jayhawks in contention for bowl games. This team played better after Charlie Weis was fired, and interim coach Clint Bowen remains on staff as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. Both sides of the ball have major question marks entering spring practice. Quarterback Michael Cummings and running back Corey Avery are two pieces for the offense to build around next season, but the receiving corps lost its top three options. All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney has expired his eligibility, and Bowen must find a replacement for rush end Michael Reynolds, and three starters in the secondary. 

Teaser:
Early Big 12 Football Predictions for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/looking-ahead-best-college-football-week-1-games-2015
Body:

These can be dark times for the college football fan: The end of the college football season is a little more than a week old, spring practice is overrated and signing day is only for the truly hardcore.

 

Time to start thinking about what we’re really looking forward to when it comes to college football: Week 1 of 2015.

 

Many teams are playing their traditional warm up games in the first week of the season, but thanks to the proliferation of neutral site games, Week 1 of the college football season looks a bit like bowl season.

 

Games in Arlington, Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville dot the first week of the 2015 calendar, but there are plenty of campus site games awaiting us at the end of August.

 

Here’s what you’ll be pining for during those long summer months.

 

The first posting of this story inadvertently omitted Arizona State-Texas A&M. As a result, we now give you 11 games to await in Week 1.

 

 Game DateLocation
1Sept. 5Arlington, Texas

Heisman finalists Amari Cooper and Melvin Gordon are gone. So is Alabama quarterback Blake Sims. New eras begin with Jake Coker and Corey Clement.

2Sept. 5South Bend, Ind.

Texas will spend all offseason figuring out what went wrong with its offense. Notre Dame needs to pick a quarterback.

3Sept. 5Atlanta

Bobby Petrino returns to Atlanta against a team where he served as offensive coordinator (and at one point hoped to be coach). Auburn’s offense vs. Louisville’s defense will be a nice matchup.

4Sept. 7Blacksburg, Va.

The Buckeyes will look to atone for their only loss of 2014, but we’ll all be wondering who plays quarterback.

5Sept. 5Houston

Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici and Texas A&M’s Kyle Allen are familiar names ready to be season-long starting quarterbacks. Allen will face a veteran Sun Devils’ defense while Bercovici draws John Chavis’ debut as A&M coordinator.

6Sept. 5Minneapolis, Minn.

TCU-Minnesota turned out to be an important matchup in Year One of the playoff era and could be again as the Horned Frogs will be a preseason top-four team.

7Sept. 3Salt Lake City

Item No. 1 on the Jim Harbaugh checklist: Beat Utah. Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke couldn’t do it, and they faced the Utes in Ann Arbor.

8Sept. 3Boise, Idaho

Chris Petersen makes his return to Boise State after a year at Washington. Bryan Harsin, with a 12-2 season, a Mountain West title and a Fiesta Bowl win, is doing just fine, thank you.

9Sept. 5Lincoln, Neb.

The Mike Riley era gets an early test with BYU coming to town. And, hey, Taysom Hill will be back at quarterback for the Cougars.

10Sept. 3Charlotte

Two teams that finished a combined 13-13 and couldn’t defend at all last season both need to show signs of immediate improvement.

11Sept. 3Nashville

A bowl rout and a young team has Tennessee fans optimistic for the first time in several years, but the Volunteers aren’t good enough yet to sleepwalk through a mathcup with Bowling Green.

 

Teaser:
Looking Ahead to the Best College Football Week 1 Games of 2015
Post date: Tuesday, January 20, 2015 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/10-biggest-conference-title-game-blowouts-last-30-years
Body:

History says the New England Patriots might want to save some of Sunday’s good fortune for the Super Bowl against the Seahawks.

 

New England’s 45-7 rout of Indianapolis in the AFC Championship Game Sunday was the biggest blowout in a conference title game since the 2000 season and one of the biggest of the last 30 years.

 

What could that mean for the Super Bowl? Four of the last five teams to win an AFC or NFL championship game in blowout fashion ended up losing in the Super Bowl.

 

But as great teams from San Francisco and Chicago in the 1980s can vouch, that kind of momentum can carry over into the Super Bowl.

 

Here’s a look at the biggest AFC/NFC title game blowouts since 1984 and how the winners fared in the Super Bowl.

 

2014: New England 45, Indianapolis 7

 

Patriots’ Super Bowl result: TBD

This was New England’s biggest AFC title win by far but not a huge surprise given the opponent; it marked the Pats sixth straight win over the Colts. And the average score of the last four — all since Andrew Luck joined the Colts — is 47-18.

 

2006: Chicago 39, New Orleans 14

 

Bears’ Super Bowl result: Lost to Indianapolis, 29-17.

This was actually a two-point game in the third quarter (16-14) before a Bears safety and three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Chicago used a familiar script, wearing down New Orleans (46 rushes for 196 yards) and taking advantage of turnovers (three fumbles, one interception).

 

In Super Bowl XLI, the script was flipped on the Bears. The Colts ran it 42 times for 191 yards, held the ball for more than 38 minutes and forced five Chicago turnovers to give Peyton Manning his only championship.

 

2005: Seattle 34, Carolina 14

Seahawks’ Super Bowl result: Lost to Pittsburgh, 21-10.

This one was never in doubt as Seattle was up 17-0 one play into the second quarter and never let the Panthers into the game. The Seahawks rushed 51 times for 190 yards (132 by Shaun Alexander) and held the ball for almost 42 minutes.

 

The officials became the story of Super Bowl XL as Seattle fans still wonder what could have been if not for a questionable holding call that turned first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 1 into first-and-20 at the 29 in a 14-10 game.

 

2000: N.Y. Giants 41, Minnesota 0

 

Giants’ Super Bowl result: Lost to Baltimore, 34-7.

The Giants scored two touchdowns in the first 2:07 and never looked back in one of the most dominating postseason performances ever. Kerry Collins threw for 381 yards and five TDs as New York outgained Minnesota 518-114. The Vikings had the ball for less than 18 minutes, which will happen when you turn it over five times and pick up only nine first downs.

 

It all came crashing down for Collins and the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.  They did not score an offensive touchdown against the Ravens’ dominant defense, avoiding a shutout only thanks to a kickoff return score. New York gained just 152 yards and turned the ball over five times in the loss.

 

1991: Washington 41, Detroit 10

 

Redskins’ Super Bowl result: Beat Buffalo, 37-24.

Washington forced turnovers on Detroit’s first two possessions but led just 17-10 at halftime. The second half was all Redskins as Mark Rypien threw two touchdowns and Darrell Green returned an interception for another score. Barry Sanders carried just 11 times for 44 yards for the Lions, who have not won a playoff game since.

 

Despite the smaller margin, Washington’s win over Buffalo in Super Bowl XVI got out of hand much more quickly thanks in part to five Buffalo turnovers. The Redskins led 24-0 and 37-10 before two late touchdowns set the final. 

 

1990: Buffalo 51, L.A. Raiders 3

 

Bills’ Super Bowl result: Lost to N.Y. Giants, 20-19.

This one was over early as Buffalo led 21-3 after one quarter on its way to an NFL playoff record 41 points in the first half. Jim Kelly threw for 300 yards, and Thurman Thomas racked up 138 of the Bills’ 202 yards rushing. Buffalo forced seven turnovers, including five Jay Schroeder interceptions.

 

Buffalo’s no-huddle offense watched most of Super Bowl XXV from the sidelines as the Giants rushed for 172 yards and held the ball for more than 40 minutes. Still, thanks in large part to Thomas’ 190 yards from scrimmage, the game wasn’t decided until Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal with less than 10 seconds to play.

 

1989: San Francisco 30, L.A. Rams 3

49ers’ Super Bowl result: Beat Denver, 55-10.

The 27-point win in the NFC title game was actually the closest contest among the 49ers’ three postseason wins. After routing Minnesota (41-13), San Francisco avenged one of its two regular season losses by reeling off 30 unanswered points after falling behind 3-0 to the Rams. Joe Montana completed 26 of 30 passes for 262 yards, and the defense intercepted Jim Everett three times.

 

Montana earned MVP honors in Super Bowl XXIV as he threw five touchdowns in a 55-10 rout of Denver. The 49ers led 27-3 and the half and stretched the lead to 41-3 at one point. The defense held John Elway to 10-of-26 passing for 108 yards and two interceptions in handing him his third Super Bowl loss.

 

1988: San Francisco 28, Chicago 3

 

49ers’ Super Bowl result: Beat Cincinnati, 20-16.

Chicago got this far on the strength of a top-five defense and a top-five running game. When Joe Montana hit Jerry Rice twice for touchdowns early, the Bears had little hope of digging out of that hole. Rice finished with 133 yards receiving, and he was just warming up.

 

In Super Bowl XXIII, Rice earned MVP honors with 11 catches for 215 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that tied the game at 13. Cincinnati took a 16-13 lead, but Montana hit John Taylor for the winning score with 34 seconds left.

 

1985: Chicago 24, L.A. Rams 0

 

Bears’ Super Bowl result: Beat New England, 46-10

The only suspense in this one was whether or not Dieter Brock and the Rams’ 26th-ranked offense could score on the Bears. They couldn’t, and Chicago had its second shutout in as many weeks. Linebacker Wilbur Marshall’s 52-yard interception return TD was the finishing touch.

 

The Bears actually fell behind New England, 3-0, in Super Bowl XX, but the Pats would not score again until the fourth quarter when it was 44-3. Chicago’s defense forced six turnovers, the sixth time it forced at least five on the season.

 

1984: San Francisco 23, Chicago 0

 

49ers’ Super Bowl result: Beat Miami, 38-16.

The 49ers were second in the league in scoring, but the defense held the Bears in check until the offense got going after a 6-0 first half. San Francisco held Chicago to 37 net passing yards on the day as it sacked Steve Fuller nine times, including two each by Fred Dean, Michael Carter and Gary Johnson.

 

The Niners offense was more than ready for a Super Bowl matchup with the only team that out-scored it in the regular season. Joe Montana threw for 331 yards and three scores, and San Francisco rushed for 211 yards to hand Miami a 38-16 defeat in Dan Marino’s only Super Bowl.

 

-By John Gworek

Teaser:
10 Biggest Conference Title Game Blowouts of the Last 30 years
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 16:26
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/84-underclassmen-entering-2015-nfl-draft
Body:

The early entry deadline for the 2015 NFL Draft has passed, and the 72-hour window for players to remove their name is gone.

The NFL has released the official list of players declaring for the draft on Monday, as 84 players are set to depart college for the next level.

 

These 10 players were granted eligibility for the 2015 NFL Draft since they have graduated:

 

Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

Zach D’Orazio, WR, Akron

Charles Gaines, DB, Louisville

Dee Hart, RB, Colorado State

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Nigel King, WR, Kansas

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Donovan Smith, T, Penn State

Tacoi Sumler, WR, Appalachian State

 

These 74 players were granted eligibility as underclassmen:

Nelson Agholor, WR, Southern California

Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

Kwon Alexander, LB, Louisiana State

Javorius Allen, RB, Southern California

Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Alex Carter, DB, Stanford

B.J. Catalon, RB, Texas Christian

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana

Jalen Collins, DB, Louisiana State

Landon Collins, DB, Alabama

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

Christian Covington, DT, Rice

DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame

Ronald Darby, DB, Florida State

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Lorenzo Doss, DB, Tulane

Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State

Durell Eskridge, DB, Syracuse

George Farmer, WR, Southern California

Max Flores, LB, Northern Colorado

Ereck Flowers, T, Miami

Dante Fowler, DE, Florida

Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan

Jacoby Glenn, DB, Central Florida

Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri

Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Chris Hackett, DB, Texas Christian

Eli Harold, DE, Virginia

Chris Harper, WR, California

Braylon Heard, RB, Kentucky

Gerod Holliman, DB, Louisville

D.J. Humphries, T, Florida

Danielle Hunter, DE, Louisiana State

David Irving, DT, Iowa State

Jesse James, TE, Penn State

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

Matt Jones, RB, Florida

Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers

Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA

Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

Patrick Miller, T, Auburn

Tyler Moore, G, Florida

Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Mississippi

Andrus Peat, T, Stanford

Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida

Marcus Peters, DB, Washington

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas

Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson

Jaquel Pitts, WR, Trinity International

Jeremiah Poutasi, T, Utah

Darien Rankin, LB, North Carolina

Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

James Sample, DB, Louisville

Jean Sifrin, TE, Massachusetts

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

Max Valles, LB, Virginia

Easton Wahlstrom, LS, Arizona State

Trae Waynes, DB, Michigan State

Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

P.J. Williams, DB, Florida State

Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama 

 

 

 

Teaser:
84 Underclassmen Entering 2015 NFL Draft
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 16:19
Path: /nba/okc-thunder-scored-79-points-half
Body:

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in the middle of a season quite unlike any they’ve had, since moving from Seattle in 2008.

 

 

Burdened with title expectations for the third year in a row — a premature Finals appearance in 2012 will do that to you — OKC started the year with a litany of crucial injuries, limping to a 5-13 record without Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Now, the championship hopefuls have a deadly sprint before them just to get into the playoffs. The Western Conference is just that good; at 20-20, the Thunder are currently three games behind the Phoenix Suns for the eigth and final conference postseason slot.

 

If the past two games are any indication, though, then the Thunder are trending in the right direction. OKC handled the Golden State Warriors, the best team in basketball, 127-115 on Friday night, behind a triple-double from Westbrook. And last night, they nearly set a record for the current season by dropping a whopping 79 points in the first half against the Orlando Magic.

 

Part of the success in their recent play is the emergence of Dion Waiters, a recent acquisition via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the past two contests, the feast-or-famine Waiters is shooting 60 percent from the floor, thriving and confident in the free-roaming Oklahoma offense. He’s also been a surprising source of defensive steel, grabbing five steals over the weekend.

 

If the Thunder want a chance at our hearts again this Spring, they’ll have to keep it up. Phoenix is for real, and stealing the Suns' spot will likely require a 50-win season, at the minimum. That means OKC has to play .710 ball to give themselves a chance. It’s a tall order, but they look like they’re on the way to fulfilling it.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 15:33
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekly-10-duke-adjusts-arizona-and-kentucky-flex-their-muscles
Body:

If the theme of last week was Duke and Kentucky getting a dose of reality, this weekend was a chance for both to re-establish themselves as national favorites.

 

Both went on the road Saturday and delivered lopsided wins. Duke’s win, though, has to be considered the more important of the two. The Blue Devils faced an NCAA-caliber opponent and threw out its defensive gameplan for an 11-point.

 

Kentucky never lost last week, but as John Calipari noted, overtime games count as losses for this team. Overtime would not be necessary as Kentucky twice won in routs this week over Missouri and on the road against postseason contender Alabama.

 

Arizona’s only trip into the national consciousness in recent games was a loss to Oregon State, but the Wildcats too re-established their Pac-12 bona fides with an impressive performance against its only true challenger in the league.

 

Kansas only wishes it could say the same as Iowa State ran all over the Jayhawks to open the window on perhaps a non-Jayhawk team winning the Big 12.

 

That only scratches the surface of what we learned this weekend in college basketball, here’s what else we learned during the college basketball weekend.

 

1. Duke’s switch to zone ends slump

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t be on the verge of 1,000 wins if he weren’t willing to adjust on the fly. He already has a lineup led by three freshmen, and now he’s playing a zone defense. If a Duke team playing zone seems like desperation, it was. But it was also necessary. After giving up 87 points (NC State) and 90 points (Miami) to two teams with attacking guards, Duke abandoned its trademark man-to-man defense for a zone — at least for one game. The switch neutralized Louisville’s penetrating guards Chris Jones and Terry Rozier and forced the Cardinals to take a bunch of jumpers, their biggest weakness. Louisville shot 4-of-25 from long range in a game that was rarely in doubt, and Duke cruised to a 63–52 win. Only Presbyterian (44 points) scored fewer against Duke this season.

 

2. Arizona isn’t stepping aside in the Pac-12 yet

With Utah obliterating its first four Pac-12 opponents and Arizona slipping up against Oregon State, the Wildcats’ status as Pac-12 favorite seemed up for grabs. Arizona reaffirmed its place in the league in resounding fashion with a 69–51 win over the Utes on Saturday. Wildcats point guard T.J. McConnell played one of the best games of his career, scoring 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting with six assists. Most impressive was Arizona’s offensive performance against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Only three teams have averaged better than one point per possession against Utah this season and none better than Arizona’s 1.2.

 

3. Iowa State’s offense is mighty scary

Those who complain the college game is too slow and too low scoring should root for Iowa State. The Cyclones’ offensive game was on full display against the Big 12’s best Saturday night. Iowa State defeated Kansas 86–81 in Ames in a game that might open the window for a team not named Kansas to win the league. Iowa State destroyed Kansas in transition all night, outscoring KU 21–10 on the fast break. Iowa State wore out Kansas to such a degree that Bill Self had to burn his final timeout with 6:26 to go when Iowa State stretched its lead to 14. Point guard Monte Morris ran the offense in expert fashion (10 assists, two turnovers) and was one six Cyclones to score in double figures.

 

4. Virginia can survive an off game

Now is the time of year when the top teams are starting to be tested in conference play. Undefeated Virginia is not immune. The Cavaliers were down by five in the second half against Boston College, a team that hasn’t won an ACC game this season. Moreover, guard Justin Anderson, arguably the Cavaliers’ top player, was 0-for-8 from the field. But Virginia — like it did a week earlier against Notre Dame — played well when it mattered the most and pulled away for a 66–51 win.

 

5. Kentucky is fine

After back-to-back overtime challenges against Ole Miss and Texas A&M, Kentucky is back to being a dominating force again. The Wildcats clobbered Missouri and Alabama by a combined score of 156–85 last week, but the more meaningful result was against the Crimson Tide on the road. Kentucky did to Alabama what it did to so many opponents in November and December. The Wildcats shot 15-of-29 from 2-point range — they were a combined 23-of-76 against the Rebels and Aggies — and the Kentucky bench outscored the starters 37–33. Dakari Johnson, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis all scored in double figures off the bench. No starter scored more than nine.

 

6. Texas discovers its edge again

Can we believe again in Texas? After back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, the Longhorns lacked a top-50 win since defeating UConn on Nov. 30. Texas rectified that with a 77–50 rout of surprising West Virginia. The Longhorns’ frontcourt rediscovered its toughness, with Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner combining for 51 points. Texas had some trouble against WVU’s press, turning the ball over 19 times, but Rick Barnes has to be pleased that his team won with such ease.

 

7. Florida is flirting with the NIT

At this point it’s easy to forget Florida was a preseason top-10 team and viewed as a potential challenger to Kentucky in the SEC. If the Gators don’t figure things out, they’re going to play in the NIT for the first time since 2009. Florida lost at Georgia, 73–61, on Saturday afternoon, its seventh defeat of the season. The last time Florida had seven losses before February was 1997-98, Billy Donovan’s second season in Gainesville. Granted, Florida played a brutal non-conference schedule, and the Gators are replacing a core of players that reached four consecutive Elite Eights, but this team is just average at best. The Gators turned the ball over 19 times against Georgia and let the Bulldogs shoot 56.1 percent from the field.

 

8. LSU is underachieving ... again

LSU should be pushing for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2009. Instead, the Tigers are racking up puzzling losses. The Tigers have two players in DraftExpress’ top 100 prospects (Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey). Only Kentucky has more in the SEC. Yet LSU has already lost to Old Dominion, Clemson and Missouri, and on Saturday the Tigers coughed up a 13-point second half lead at home to Texas A&M. The Tigers are far too talented to struggle with middle-of-the-pack SEC teams in Baton Rouge.

 

9. Syracuse is in real trouble...

Even with freshman Chris McCullough (9.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg) Syracuse was a four-loss team that scraped by Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. In their second game without McCullough, Syracuse lost 66-53 to Clemson. Syracuse’s already-thin bench was non-existent against the Tigers, playing a total of 13 minutes and contributing and 0-of-6 line from the field. Syracuse is 13-5 now, but that mark is going to take a major hit down stretch when Syracuse plays Duke and Pittsburgh twice, plus North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia and NC State. Right now, it’s tough to see Syracuse getting enough quality wins to get into the NCAA Tournament.

 

10. ...And so is Michigan

Losing to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in a span of four days in December is now the second worst thing to happen to Michigan this season. The Wolverines lost their best player, Caris LeVert, for the remainder of the season to a broken foot Saturday. LeVert was leading Michigan in scoring (14.9 ppg), rebounds (4.9 rpg), assists (3.7 apg) and steals (1.8 spg). The Wolverines sit at 4–2 in the Big Ten and have to wonder how many wins are left on the schedule with LeVert sidelined.

 

Short stuff

 

• Is it time to acknowledge Louisville’s ceiling? The Cardinals are 4-3 against the KenPom top 100, but those three losses are to Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky. None of the wins (Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana and Western Kentucky) were against top 20 teams.

 

• Maryland isn’t going anywhere. The Terrapins announced their arrival in the Big Ten with a season sweep of Michigan State, first with a double overtime win in East Lansing and then a 75-59 win Saturday in College Park.  Maryland still needs to prove it can perform consistently on the road in the Big Ten — one of the Terps’ two losses this season is to Illinois without Rayvonte Rice in Champaign — but Mark Turgeon’s team remains one of the major surprises of the season. 

 

• Seven ranked teams in the Big 12, but unranked Kansas State (4-1) has a half-game lead in standings.

 

• The underrated Buddy Hield pulled Oklahoma out of its two-game funk in convincing fashion. The junior was 10-of-10 from the field (including four 3-pointers) for 27 points in an 82-65 rout of Oklahoma State.

 

• Notre Dame center Zach Auguste returned from a brief academic-related absence, but it hardly seemed to matter in a 75-70 win over Miami. Auguste played only nine minutes as Notre Dame went with a small lineup against the Hurricanes. Notre Dame hit seven of its final 12 3-point attempts after starting 2-of-16 from long range.

 

• Poor Luke Fischer. The Marquette center shoots nearly 77 percent from the field but missed an easy one that would have put the Eagles up late against Xavier. The Musketeers completed a wild comeback to beat Marquette 62-58, but let’s acknowledge the job Steve Wojciechowski has done in his first season. Marquette won’t go to the Tournament, but they’re fare more competitive than expected.

 

• Ohio State goes as freshman D’Angelo Russell goes. He scored 27 points in a 76-67 loss to Iowa, but it took him 22 shots from the field to get there. Russell is averaging 23.3 points per game and 54.8 percent shooting in Ohio State’s three Big Ten wins and 17.7 points per game and 32.1 percent shooting in Ohio State’s three conference losses.

 

• Frank Haith picked the right time to get out of Missouri and the right time to land at Tulsa. His junior-laden team is 5-0 in the American after defeated UConn and USF last week. If the Golden Hurricane can beat Memphis on Wednesday, the Golden Hurricane could be 10-0 in the league when it faces SMU on Feb. 7.

 

• Speaking of SMU, the Mustangs keep rolling despite allegations of academic improprieties from the NCAA. SMU defeated East Carolina 77-54 in its first game without Keith Frazier. SMU won’t face another top-100 team until Feb. 5 against Cincinnati.

 

• The fun stat line of the week: Louisiana Tech’s Alex Hamilton scored 30 points, largely because he hit 20 free throws on 23 attempts in a 75-68 win over Middle Tennessee.

Teaser:
College Basketball Weekly 10: Duke adjusts, Arizona and Kentucky Flex their Muscles
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 11:18
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-19-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 19: 

 

Miss Lebanon caught grief for posing with Miss Israel (pictured). Let's keep politics out of the pure, unspoiled world of beauty pageants, shall we?  

 

Tiger Woods showed up incognito — in a weird, creepy mask — to watch girlfriend Lindsey Vonn race.

 

Brandon Bostick is this morning's Packers scapegoat, but I put that loss on Mike McCarthy. As are many others.

 

A recap of the six minutes that saved the Seahawks' season.

 

This pantless Seahawks fan was rather elated by the win.

 

• Deflate-gate: So did the Patriots cheat again? And if so, why?

 

Hank Aaron reminisced about the time he spent with MLK.

 

The bizarre Robert Allenby story gets more bizarre.

 

Enjoy this supercut of fans running onto the field and getting owned.

 

Superagent Drew Rosenhaus was involved in a domestic incident in which his wife called the cops on him.

 

• Michael Bennett went for a spin on a bicycle after the Seahawks' win.

 

-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 10:29
All taxonomy terms: Stephon Marbury, NBA
Path: /nba/stephon-marbury-says-he-was-suicidal-nba
Body:
Former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury means a lot of mixed things to his sport. A leading member of the All-Hype squad for his generation, “Starbury” ultimately fell short of the romantic goal of reviving the New York Knicks — or New Jersey Nets — but he’s also defied most other expectations by making himself anew as a basketball hero in China

 

Marbury has reached such heights of fame and glory in the Far East that he’s now starred in a musical there about his tumultuous life. He’s also led his Beijing Ducks to two championships. For all the strife and drama of his career at home, Marbury has been an icon of the sport and an unmitigated success abroad.

 

Not without great trauma behind him, though. Through a recent interview for an upcoming HBO special, Marbury revealed that he was suicidal just before he left the NBA. "I wanted to die," he said. ”I wanted to kill myself some days. I did. ... It wasn't about basketball. It started to become about me. Because I was that depressed and I was that sick.”

 

The No. 4 overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft, Marbury bounced around after a promising start alongside Kevin Garnett with the Minnesota Timberwolves, playing for five different teams before departing the league in 2009. While he’s often acted as a parable for how little elite talent accomplishes when accompanied by poor decision-making, perhaps the story on Marbury switches now; in his new confession, we see that he’s a central figure in a tragedy about undue pressure.

 

Marbury seems comfortable with his new life in China, though, and content to leave his past behind him. "To be told that you're a loser, that you can't win and that you can't do this and you can't do that," Marbury said about looking back at his NBA career. "...then to come some place without speaking the language with the cultural barriers, to be able to accomplish that — that goal was, is beyond anything. ... I left one place where they was basically hating me. And I come to another place where they love me? I'm like, 'Why would I want to go back to a place where they hate me?' I mean, that makes no sense to me."

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 09:47
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/most-critical-coordinator-hires-college-football-2015
Body:

A sitting head coach naming a new coordinator is generally a sign of something very good or very bad.

 

On the good side, a coach has to replace a coordinator who has done a good enough job to get his own head coaching gig or move into a more high-profile (and more lucrative) position.

 

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer finds himself in this category, losing offensive coordinator Tom Herman to Houston. Same with Georgia coach Mark Richt, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and Baylor coach Art Briles who lost coordinators to head coaching jobs.

 

On the bad side, a coordinator change is a sign that something has gone terribly wrong on one side of the ball (Auburn, North Carolina, Oklahoma) or a sign of some kind of internal strife (LSU, Utah).

 

Either way, a number of programs had to make coordinator changes even if they didn’t make major coaching changes.

 

Arkansas offense

In: TBD

Out: Jim Chaney, hired as Pittsburgh defensive coordinator

No matter the new coordinator, Arkansas’ offensive identity is well-established under Bret Bielema. The Razorbacks probably won’t stray much from an offense centered around a road-grading offensive line and run game. What will be missed, though, is Chaney’s deep experience in the SEC and NFL.

 

Auburn defense

In: Will Muschamp, Florida head coach

Out: Ellis Johnson, fired

Auburn’s defense has been in need of an upgrade for a while. The Tigers haven’t allowed fewer than five yards per play since 2008. Muschamp’s 3-4 will deliver in a major way. For all of his struggles at Florida, defense was not one of them. The Gators finished fifth or better in the SEC in fewest yards per play each season during his tenure. In three seasons at Texas, the Longhorns ranked either first or second in the Big 12 in that category. 

 

Baylor offense

In: Kendal Briles, promoted

Out: Philip Montgomery, hired as Tulsa head coach

Art Briles replaced a coach who spent more than a decade at his side as offensive coordinator with his son. Kendal Briles has spent seven years on Baylor’s staff. He’s led Baylor’s productive receiver group and was the consensus Big 12 recruiter of the year in 2014. His first game as offensive coordinator resulted in 552 yards against Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

 

Clemson offense

In: Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott, promoted

Out: Chad Morris, hired as SMU head coach

The Tigers are riding an unprecedented era of success with 42 wins the last four seasons. Morris’ up-tempo offense certainly has been a major component of that. Scott and Elliott are both internal hires who were in the Swinney system from the start (Scott has been on the staff the entire time; Elliott briefly left before returning four years ago).

 

Georgia offense

In: Brian Schotteneheimer, St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator

Out: Mike Bobo, hired as Colorado State head coach

Coordinators who run a traditional pro-style offense are in short supply these days, but even considering that, Georgia’s hire feels like a reach. Schottenheimer hasn’t coached in college since 2000. And as offensive coordinator with the Jets and Chargers, his ranked 20th or worse in total offense seven times in nine seasons and never higher than 11th.

 

Kentucky offense

In: Shannon Dawson, West Virginia offensive coordinator

Out: Neal Brown, hired as Troy head coach

Kentucky hires another coordinator from the Air Raid school, this time Dana Holgorsen’s coordinator at West Virginia. The Mountaineers were a little more balanced than one would expect (52 percent of their plays were on the ground), but they still managed to be one of 21 teams to top the 1,000-play threshold.

 

LSU defense

In: Kevin Steele, Alabama linebackers coach

Out: John Chavis, hired as Texas A&M defensive coordinator

LSU lost its well-respected SEC coordinator to a division rival and replaced him with Steele, who went 9-36 as as head coach at Baylor, was squeezed out of a coordinator position at Alabama and was fired at Clemson. Good thing LSU added Ed Orgeron, too, or else Tigers fans would be really unimpressed. Steele and Orgeron recruit like madmen, so LSU will continue to have great players on defense.

 

Michigan State defense

In: Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel, promoted

Out: Pat Narduzzi, hired as Pittsburgh head coach

With Narduzzi leaving for Pittsburgh, Mark Dantonio couldn’t hold onto his prized defensive coordinator any longer. Dantonio kept leadership in house, promoting Barnett from defensive backs coach and Tressel from linebackers coach. Barnett, a Michigan State alum considered a rising star in the profession, gets the assistant head coach title. The scheme probably won’t change with Barnett and Tressel firmly entrenched in Dantonio’s program, but Michigan State loses a bit of intensity with Narduzzi moving on.

 

Mississippi State defense

In: Manny Diaz, Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator

Out: Geoff Collins, hired as Florida defensive coordinator

Diaz’s career comes full circle as he returns to Mississippi State. Diaz was considered a rising star after one season in Starkville in 2010, but after a humbling tenure at Texas in which he was fired midseason in 2013, Diaz rebuilt his resume at Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs were second in Conference USA in total defense and led the league in rush defense and tackles for a loss.

 

Missouri defense

In: Barry Odom, Memphis defensive coordinator

Out: Dave Steckel, hired as Missouri State head coach

Dave Steckel left after 13 years on the Mizzou staff, leaving Gary Pinkel to make the rare outside hire. Odom, though, isn’t totally new to the program. He played at Missouri and was on the staff in one capacity or another form 2003-11. Odom’s defense was a major cog in the turnaround at Memphis as the Tigers ranked in the top three in Conference USA/the American in total defense in each of his three seasons. In the three years prior, Memphis ranked 11th or 12th in Conference USA in that category.

 

North Carolina defense

In: Gene Chizik, former Auburn head coach

Out: Vic Koenning, fired

Chizik returns to coaching after two years out of the game since he was fired at Auburn. Before his up-and-down career as a head coach at Iowa State and Auburn, he was a well-respected defensive coordinator who coached three Thorpe Award winners at Texas and Auburn at one point. North Carolina, which allowed 40 points six times last season, needs a turnaround in a major way.

 

Ohio State offense

In: Ed Warinner, promoted

Out: Tom Herman, hired as Houston head coach

Herman’s days on the Ohio State staff were clearly numbered as he quickly became a head coaching candidate. Ohio State promoted from within with Warinner, who was responsible for a major turnaround on the offensive line in the last three seasons. Ohio State also added former Nebraska assistant Tim Beck to serve as co-coordinator.

 

Oklahoma offense

In: Lincoln Riley, East Carolina offensive coordinator

Out: Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell, fired

Firing the quarterback who won him his national championship must have been a tough decision for Bob Stoops, but the decision was necessary. In Lincoln Riley, a former Texas Tech assistant, Oklahoma goes back to the Air Raid concepts that helped Heupel lead the Sooners to the 2000 title. The OU offense had been cutting edge early in Stoops' tenure, but it has stagnated since Sam Bradford left.

 

Texas A&M defense

In: John Chavis, LSU defense

Out: Mark Snyder, fired

The Aggies’ hire of Chavis is brilliant for a couple of reasons. First, Texas A&M gets a good defense coordinator whom players love. Second, the Aggies strike a blow to a team whose defense (until 2014) had A&M’s number. Chavis had become frustrated with the lack of production of the LSU offense, according to a report by the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He won’t have the same frustrations in College Station.

 

Texas Tech defense

In: David Gibbs, Houston defensive coordinator

Out: Matt Wallerstedt, fired

This is not something that happens often: Gibbs worked for a head coach who was fired at Houston and moved into a better job. Here’s why: His defenses had 30 takeaways in 2014 (11th nationally) and 42 in 2013 (first). Texas Tech had 15 and 19 takeaways those same two seasons, respectively.

 

Utah offense and defense

In: TBD

Out: Dave Christensen and Kalani Sitake

The circumstances of Utah’s staff changes are far more interesting than the names involved. Neither coordinator left for positions far and away better than the ones they have. Defensive coordinator Kilani Sitake took the same position at Oregon State, and offensive coordinator Dave Christensen left to become offensive line coach at Texas A&M. Losing Sitake, Utah’s best recruiter and leader of a solid defense, is a major blow.

 

Vanderbilt offense and defense

In: Andy Ludwig, Wisconsin offensive coordinator

Out: Karl Dorrell and David Kotulski, fired

Second-year coach Derek Mason had to do something as Vanderbilt slid into irrelevance at an astonishing rate. Dorrell was an odd fit from the start, and Vanderbilt’s rotating cast at quarterback did him no favors. Ludwig has not been a fan favorite at some of his previous stops, and there have been many (he’s been OC at Fresno State, Oregon, Utah, Cal, San Diego State and Wisconsin since 1998). He may have taken so many lumps that he deserves the “underrated” tag. Meanwhile, Mason will call his own defense, a role in which he thrived at Stanford.

 

Washington State

In: Alex Grinch, Missouri safeties coach

Out: Mike Breske, fired

Mike Leach adds another former Missouri assistant with Grinch joining former Tigers receivers coach Dave Yost in Pullman. Washington State was one of the Pac-12’s biggest disappointments, following a bowl season in 2013 with a 3-9 record and the No. 97 defense in the country. Grinch is a first-time coordinator who has paid his dues at Wyoming and New Hampshire before Mizzou. 

 

West Virginia

In: TBD

Out: Shannon Dawson, hired as Kentucky offensive coordinator

There’s a reason Dawson left from West Virginia to take the same position at Kentucky: Dana Holgorsen calls his own plays, so it’s tough for a coach to establish his own reputation as an offensive coordinator with the Mountaineers.

Teaser:
The Most Critical Coordinator Hires in College Football for 2015
Post date: Monday, January 19, 2015 - 08:20

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