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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/10-candidates-replace-mack-brown-texas
Body:

Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas is over. In 16 seasons in Austin, Brown recorded a 158-47 mark, including a national championship in 2005 and nine consecutive seasons of at least 10 wins from 2001-09.

Texas is widely considered one of the best head coach jobs – if not No. 1 – in the nation. The Longhorns have all of the resources to win at a high level every season, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a plethora of talented recruits in your background.

The Longhorn Network and the obligations associated with Texas’ television channel could be a bit overwhelming to some coaches. However, with the resources available in Austin, Texas can afford to hire as many people as necessary in the support staff for the head coach.

While Texas is arguably the No. 1 job in the nation, there’s not an easy or obvious fit to replace Brown.

Considering where this job ranks nationally and the uncertainty about interested candidates, this should be one of the more intriguing coaching searches in recent memory.

Candidates to Replace Mack Brown at Texas

Jimbo Fisher, head coach, Florida State
Under Fisher’s direction, Florida State has emerged as a national title contender once again. The Seminoles were 30-22 in the four seasons prior to Fisher’s arrival, but the West Virginia native has brought steady improvement to Tallahassee, guiding Florida State to a 44-10 mark over the last four years. The Seminoles are 25-2 over the last two seasons and will play Auburn for the national title on Jan. 6. Florida State and Fisher have agreed to a new deal, and it seems unlikely he would leave with the Seminoles set to play for the national title. Fisher is regarded as an excellent talent evaluator and guided the program through the loss of six assistant coaches this year to an appearance in the national title. If nothing else, Fisher can use the Texas job as leverage to get an upgraded deal, assistant pay or any additional resources he needs in Tallahassee. 

Pat Fitzgerald, head coach, Northwestern
As a former Northwestern player, it’s difficult to see Fitzgerald leaving Evanston. But if he was looking to leave, Texas may be the only job that tempts the 39-year-old coach. The Wildcats are 55-46 under Fitzgerald’s watch and had a streak of five consecutive bowl appearances from 2008-12. Northwestern – much like Vanderbilt or Duke – is a tough place to consistently win at a top 10-15 level. Again, it’s unlikely Fitzgerald will ever leave Northwestern, but he would be a home-run hire for Texas.

James Franklin, head coach, Vanderbilt
Franklin is one of the rising stars among college football coaches, and it’s a surprise the 41-year-old coach hasn’t been courted by more top jobs over the last two seasons. In three years with Vanderbilt, Franklin has a 23-15 record and one bowl victory. The 23 wins accumulated under Franklin are the best in a three-year stint by a Vanderbilt coach since Dan McGugin had from 1927-29. Not only is Franklin an excellent X’s and O’s coach, he is a dynamic recruiter and a coach that can bring much-needed energy to a fanbase. 

Al Golden, head coach, Miami
Miami is a top-25 job, but the Hurricanes simply lack the resources of a place like Texas. Even though Golden seems content at Miami and guided the program through the Nevin Shapiro scandal, the New Jersey native would at least have to listen if Texas calls. Golden helped to resurrect Temple’s football program, recording a 27-34 mark in five seasons with the Owls. Temple played in one bowl game and earned back-to-back winning records with Golden leading the way. In three years at Miami, Golden is 22-14 and has a 10-6 mark in ACC play over the last two seasons. 

Mike Gundy, head coach, Oklahoma State
Gundy played quarterback at Oklahoma State and has spent most of his coaching career in Stillwater, so it wouldn't be easy for him to leave for another job in the Big 12. In nine years as the Cowboys’ head coach, Gundy has a 77-37 record, including a 45-30 mark in conference play. Oklahoma State is 5-2 in bowl games under Gundy and finished No. 3 in the nation in 2011. Although Gundy’s ties to Oklahoma State are strong, he nearly left for Tennessee last offseason. The Oklahoma native already has good recruiting connections in Texas, and there would be more resources at his disposal with the Longhorns. Considering what Gundy has done in his seven-year mark with the Cowboys, along with his experience in recruiting Texas, it’s easy to see why he should be a target at Texas. 

Bill O’Brien, head coach, Penn State
O’Brien inherited a difficult situation at Penn State. The program was hit by NCAA sanctions due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal, and there was plenty of uncertainty about which players might transfer to another program due to the postseason ban. In two years, O’Brien is 15-9 and Penn State has back-to-back winning records under his watch. O’Brien also has NFL experience, spending 2007-11 as an assistant with the Patriots. The Nittany Lions are getting some relief from the scholarship sanctions, but the bowl ban for the next two years is still in place. O’Brien interviewed with the Browns last season, and his name will likely come up in coaching searches over the next few years.

Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU
Much like the other coaches on this list, Patterson seems unlikely to leave TCU. The Kansas native guided the Horned Frogs on a winding conference journey, starting in the WAC in 2000, continuing with Conference USA from 2001-04, the Mountain West from 2005-11 and the Big 12 in 2012. Transiting from a non-BCS league to a BCS conference is no easy task, but TCU is 11-14 over the last two years and recorded a 7-6 mark in 2012 without its starting quarterback for most of the season. Patterson is known as one of the best defensive coaches in the nation and certainly knows how to recruit the state of Texas. Patterson has a pretty good gig at TCU. But if he wants to upgrade, it’s not easy to turn down the No. 1 program in the nation – and he won’t have to go too far to do it.

Rich Rodriguez, head coach, Arizona
Rodriguez is a good darkhorse candidate for Texas. After a failed three-year stint at Michigan, Rodriguez is 15-10 with two bowl appearances at Arizona. And while the 15-22 record at Michigan is tough to overlook, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia and was on the doorstep of playing for the national title in 2007. Rodriguez does not have any experience coaching in Texas, but even with a mediocre tenure at Michigan, his overall record is 135-94-2.

Kirby Smart, defensive coordinator, Alabama
Since Texas can’t get Nick Saban, would they settle for a Saban clone? Smart has worked under Saban for eight years, starting in 2004 at LSU and continuing in the NFL with the Dolphins. Smart followed Saban to Alabama in 2007 and has served as the defensive coordinator since 2008. The Crimson Tide’s defense has ranked No. 1 in the SEC in total defense every season since 2008, and this unit led the nation in fewest points allowed in 2011-12. Smart does not have any head coach experience, and most of his background has been in the SEC. The former Georgia defensive back is ready to run his own program, but Texas likely wants a proven commodity to replace Mack Brown.

Les Miles, head coach, LSU

Raise your hand if you would watch Les Miles every day on the Longhorn Network. Yep, that’s what we thought. Miles has one of college football’s top-10 jobs at LSU and is 94-24 in nine years in Baton Rouge. In order to coach at Texas, you have to be good at dealing with boosters and able to put up with the requirements of the Longhorn Network. Both sound like strengths of Miles, but again, it’s unlikely he leaves for Austin.

Longshots

Art Briles, head coach, Baylor
Briles received a contract extension until 2023 this season and seems content to stay at Baylor. However, if there was a perfect candidate to take over in Austin, Briles might be it. The 58-year-old coach has spent his entire career in Texas and turned Baylor from a Big 12 doormat into a Big 12 title contender.

Larry Fedora, head coach, North Carolina
Fedora is a Texas native – College Station to be exact. The 51-year-old coach has stops as an assistant at Baylor, Air Force, MTSU, Florida and Oklahoma State. Fedora has been a head coach for six seasons, recording a 48-29 overall mark. It’s a safe bet Fedora would be interested if offered an opportunity to interview. However, is six combined seasons at Southern Miss and North Carolina enough to interest Texas?

Mark Hudspeth, head coach, Louisiana-Lafayette
With a victory over Tulane in the New Orleans Bowl, Hudspeth will have nine wins in each of his first three seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette. Hudspeth is clearly a rising star, but Texas is probably looking for someone with more experience as a head coach.

Tim DeRuyter, head coach, Fresno State
DeRuyter is 20-5 in two seasons at Fresno State and went 1-0 as Texas A&M’s interim coach in 2011. The California native is due for a promotion to run a BCS program, but he is unlikely to be in the mix at Texas.

Hugh Freeze, head coach, Ole Miss
Freeze’s contract was upgraded this offseason by Ole Miss. Would that be enough to stop him from leaving? In two years with the Rebels, Freeze is 14-11 and went 10-2 for Arkansas State in 2011. Freeze’s record at Ole Miss isn’t particularly overwhelming, but he inherited a team that went 6-18 in the two seasons prior to his arrival. The Rebels reeled in a top-10 recruiting class this year and after back-to-back seven-win seasons, the program is on the right track.

Jerry Gray, defensive coordinator, Tennessee Titans
Gray is a former Texas player and worked on Mack Brown’s staff in 2011. However, despite his ties to the university, Gray is an extreme longshot candidate for the position. The Titans rank No. 9 in the NFL in total defense, but Gray has never worked as a head coach on the college or pro level. 

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, San Francisco 49ers
Harbaugh was one of the top coaches in college football before leaving to take the top spot with the 49ers. In four years with Stanford, he recorded a 29-21 mark and won the Orange Bowl in 2010. Harbaugh is 33-11 in three seasons with the 49ers and led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance last year. While Harbaugh’s name has been mentioned for this job, it’s unlikely he would leave the NFL after just three seasons. However, after he wins a Super Bowl, who knows what could happened? 

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Auburn
Much like Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze, Malzahn has agreed to a raise and an extension this offseason. And with Auburn set to play in the national championship on Jan. 6, don’t expect Malzahn to leave the Plains anytime soon.

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
It’s only a matter of time before Morris gets a chance to be a head coach in a BCS conference. The Texas native was a successful high school coach prior to taking over at Tulsa as an offensive coordinator in 2010. After one season with the Golden Hurricane, Morris was hired by Dabo Swinney to coordinate Clemson’s offense. Over the last three years, the Tigers have ranked first or second in the ACC in total offense.

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
Narduzzi was in the mix to be the coach at Connecticut, but he turned down an opportunity to lead the Huskies for another year at Michigan State. Narduzzi does not have head coaching experience, which would seem to be a major drawback for Texas. However, there’s no denying Narduzzi is one of the best defensive coordinators in college football.

Mike Tomlin, head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Tomlin’s name has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Mack Brown. Keep dreaming. Even after a down year with the Steelers, Tomlin isn’t leaving Pittsburgh.

Teaser:
10 Candidates to Replace Mack Brown at Texas
Post date: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 19:30
Path: /college-football/nick-saban-agrees-extension-alabama
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Amid rumors of a potential change at Texas, Nick Saban has signed an extension to remain at Alabama. According to various reports, Saban will receive an extension to around $7 million a season.

If Texas made a change from Mack Brown, Saban was expected to be the No. 1 target for new athletic director Steve Patterson. However, if there was any doubt Saban would remain at Alabama, that was removed on Friday night.

Brown’s status with Texas remains unchanged, and this extension should end the speculation that Saban would be a target for the Longhorns.


Teaser:
Nick Saban Agrees to Extension at Alabama
Post date: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 16:47
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/mack-brown-steps-down-texas
Body:

According to the Longhorn Network, Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas is over. Brown will step down as the Longhorns’ head coach, which opens arguably the No. 1 job in college football.

Brown went 158-47 in 16 years as Texas’ head coach, including a national championship over USC in 2005.

While the Longhorns won 158 games under Brown’s direction, the program slipped in recent years. Texas went 5-7 in 2010 and recorded a 25-13 mark over the next three years.

Texas is a high-profile job with a lot of booster responsibilities. Needless to say, the search to replace Brown will intriguing, especially since there is no easy replacement candidate.
 

Teaser:
Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas is over. Brown will step down as the Longhorns’ head coach, which opens arguably the No. 1 job in college football.
Post date: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 16:01
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-game-preview-kentucky-wildcats-north-carolina-tar-heels
Body:

At first, the question for Kentucky’s trip to North Carolina on Saturday is: How did we get here?

The Wildcats and the Tar Heels have four losses between them. Kentucky’s two losses, even on neutral courts to major teams, are probably two more than fans hoped they’d see at this stage of the season. North Carolina’s two losses aren’t that surprising as a number. That the losses came to Belmont and UAB and not Louisville and Michigan State is shocking.

The more important question for John Calipari and Roy Williams is what happens next. Kentucky has this game, plus the all-important game against Louisville on Dec. 28. Calipari may have the best collection of freshmen in basketball history, but they’re still freshmen trying to find their way.

Williams has had similar lineup issues, exacerbated by the absence of projected starters P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. When his lineup is on, North Carolina can beat anyone. When Williams’ lineup is off, well, that’s how Carolina ended up as the nation’s biggest question mark.

Kentucky at North Carolina Game Preview

Whens and Wheres
Time: Saturday, 5:15 p.m. Eastern
TV: ESPN
Site: Dean Smith Center, Chapel Hill, N.C.
Player to Watch: Julius Randle, Kentucky
One of four freshmen in the rookie of the year debate in college basketball, Randle has a double-double in all but two games this season, one of which was Kentucky’s loss to Baylor on Friday. Randle is averaging 17.8 points and 12 rebounds per game. Appointment viewing.

Top Matchup: Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein vs. North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks
North Carolina’s freshman big man started to play like a big-time freshman in wins over UNC Greensboro and Michigan State. Meeks also had 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in the win over Louisville on Nov. 24. Meeks will be facing Cauley-Stein, who has the advantage of a year of experience and three inches. The Kentucky forward has also flirted with triple-double numbers at times this season in the post, but Meeks is also gives North Carolina a leg up in transition as an excellent outlet passer.

Key Stat: 1-to-1. Andrew Harrison’s assist-to-turnover ratio in the last four games
Harrison has 12 assists and 12 turnovers in the last three games, and that includes a six assist, one turnover performance against Baylor. Kentucky, with all its youth, is still learning how to play together. The proof is in the point guard play.

Kentucky’s Key Storyline: James Young’s outside shot
The Kentucky wing Young has been on a hot streak in the last three games, hitting 11 of 22 shots from 3-point range. This comes after Kentucky shot 31.5 percent from 3 in the first seven games. Teams haven’t been shy about taking 3s against the Tar Heels this season — Belmont made 15 of 37 — so Young’s shot will be worth watching.

North Carolina’s Key Storyline: James Michael McAdoo’s slump
The North Carolina forward has been playing out of position at small forward at times, a factor that’s surely played a role in his slump recently. McAdoo was 4 of 8 for 13 points against UNC Greensboro, but he was 9 of 35 in the three games prior against Michigan State, UAB and Louisville. Facing Julius Randle probably isn’t conducive to breaking out of a funk.

Teaser:
College Basketball Game Preview: Kentucky Wildcats at North Carolina Tar Heels
Post date: Saturday, December 14, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-freshman-power-rankings-dec-13
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It’s finals week for many schools across the country, so this has been a relatively quiet few days for many of the top freshmen.

Aaron Gordon doesn’t need to be the No. 1 player for Arizona, but he does play for the No. 1 team in the country this week.

Elsewhere, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle continue to play well but their teams as a whole are struggling. Kansas lost twice last week on the road, and Kentucky split games against Baylor and Boise State.

Despite the results, our top five remianed unchanged from last week. The action was in the bottom half where Zach LaVine — again despite a loss to Missouri — showed why he's going to be one of the more fun players to watch in the Pac-12. And we made a swith on Kentucky's second freshman in the rankings with James Young taking the place of Aaron Harrison after a standout week.

College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings: Dec. 13

1. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Arizona remains undefeated and reached the No. 1 spot in the AP poll for the first time since 2002-03 as Gordon has averaged 11.9 points and 8.5 rebounds. Gordon doesn’t need to be a superstar for Arizona to win, as was on display when Gordon went 2 of 10 from the field with eight rebounds in the win over UNLV on Saturday. He came back to score 11 of points on 5 of 12 shooting Wednesday against New Mexico State.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Duke is amid a nine-day layoff since beating Michigan on Dec. 3. Parker remains the second-ranked freshman in offensive efficiency by KenPom. He was 0 of 7 from 3-point range and 14 of 35 from the field in his last two games against Michigan and Arizona.

3. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Kentucky endured its second loss in two years to Baylor last Friday and its second loss of the season before bouncing back to beat Mountain West contender Boise State 70-55 on Tuesday. Randle scored 16 and 17, respectively. He’s a physically imposing matchup, but he also had four assists against Baylor. The big games for the Kentucky freshman class continue in the coming weeks against North Carolina (Saturday) and Louisville (Dec. 28).

4. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins returned from his Battle 4 Atlantis struggles to scored 22 with five rebounds against Colorado and 26 points with 11 rebounds against Florida, both on the road. Wiggins needs help though. Kansas’ young roster lost both games ... and the Jayhawks still have New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State before conference play begins.

5. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Syracuse remains among the ranks of the undefeated thanks to the play of its freshman point guard. Ennis has 44 assists and nine turnovers this season. His next game is a non-conference game with St. John’s (thanks, realignment!) at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

6. Zach LaVine, UCLA
USC hired the Dunk City coach, but UCLA’s LaVine has put on the dunk show in Los Angeles so far this season.  The Bruins’ lost 80-71 to Missouri on Saturday, but LaVine finished with 13 points. In the process, though, LaVine showed why he’s going to be must-watch viewing. LaVine is also among the national leaders with a 72.8 effective field goal rate.


7. James Young, Kentucky
Outside shooting had been a liability for Kentucky earlier this season, but Young has become a top 3-point threat in recent games. Against Providence, Baylor and Boise State, Young was 11 of 22 from beyond the arc. Young averaged 17.7 points in the last three games.

8. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh returned to form on the glass with 10 rebounds against Oakland and 11 rebounds against North Florida last week before facing Notre Dame on Saturday.

9. Austin Nichols, Memphis
Memphis has played once since beating Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic, easily defeating Northwestern State on Saturday. Nichols is averaging 11.7 points and 5.9 rebounds for the Tigers.

10. Eric Mika, BYU
Mike has scored in double figures in every game this season other than the opener and picked up his first career double-double against North Texas on Dec. 3. The Cougars forward scored 18 points and added eight rebounds in a wild 105-96 loss at UMass.

Out this week:
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Joel Embiid, Kansas

Teaser:
College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings: Dec. 13
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 12:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Monthly
Path: /college-football/athlons-holiday-gift-guide-sports-fans
Body:
If you're looking for the perfect and unusual gift for the sports fan in your life, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.
 
CHILDHOOD HEROES
Remember collecting baseball cards as a kid? Now, many favorites from your childhood shoebox card collection can be made into adult wall art. Topps’ Archive Prints are modeled after the actual baseball card from the Topps archives from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. The collection currently features more than 1,000 prints, including classic cards from Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, Nolan Ryan, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith.
Price: Large 23” x 31” prints, $99.99-$249.99
Medium 17” x 21” prints, $64.99-$149.99
Found at: www.topps.com
 
A BIG GIFT: A MINI STADIUM
Bring the house in the house! These mini stadiums (approx. 7” x 6”) from the Danbury Mint are expertly crafted down to the very last detail. Available for a host of pro and college stadiums, they’re a wonderful collectible for the fan who wants a game-day stadium experience, everyday. Talk about a home-field advantage.
Price: $75-$199
(Search: “Stadium replica”)
 
THE WORLD'S SMARTEST DEADBOLT
Your smartphone may or may not open doors for you, but now, thanks to Kwikset Kevo, it can unlock them, at the touch of a finger. The Kevo mobile app turns a smartphone into an electronic key (eKey), allowing your deadbolt to recognize and respond quickly to a simple touch. Your smartphone’s already a digital extension of your body — take the next step with this unique touch-to-open technology and make your smartphone your virtual key.
Price: $219
Found at: www.kwikset.com
 
EARS ARE MADE FOR LISTENING, NOT SWEATING
Here’s a great gift for someone who loves sweatin’ to the oldies (newies, too). The UltraFit 3000 earbuds are not only designed for greater stability, but the unique moisture shield technology also ensures that the sound remains at its very best. After all, Bohemian Rhapsody is not meant to be heard wet. 
Price: $79.96
 
LOOK GREAT, FEEL GREAT
Outfit yourself with Reebok CrossFit gear to make the most of your training. These products are specifically built for function and are perfect for any CrossFit workout. CrossFit is a precise blend of aerobics, strength training, endurance and power. Take control of your fitness with CrossFit, and prep yourself with performance-ready Reebok CrossFit apparel, shoes and gear.
Found at: www.reebok.com
 
PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
The Reebok ZigKick running shoe is designed with unique energy return along the outsole for enhanced vertical and horizontal cushioning. The synthetic mesh upper offers great comfort, fit and durability with every step of your run.
Price: $54.99-$84.99
Found at: www.reebok.com
 
VIDEO EVIDENCE
For the sports adventurer in your life: a hands-free digital camcorder. Strap it on their helmet, and they can take off knowing they’re capturing high-quality audio and video to show the world their feats. Unless they fall, in which case, there’s a handy ERASE button.
Price: $39
Found at: www.amazon.com
 
FOR HOCKEY FANS — OR JASON
At Masks from the Past, you’ll find exact fiberglass recreations of famous NHL goalie masks. From a replica of Jacques Plante’s first ever mask (above left), to Gerry Cheevers’ scarred beauty from the ’70s (above right), the hockey fan in your life will love having a remembrance of days gone by. Shoot. Score.
Price: $200-$500
 
PAIN AND SUFFERING, WRAPPED WITH A BOW!
Want to give someone the gift of an incredible workout? Try a Jacobs Ladder. Imagine climbing a never-ending ladder, completely controlled by your own effort and speed. The unit was designed as an alternative to running, and built to work the upper body, too. Whoever Jacob was, the man knew how to exercise.
Price: $3,995
 
 
A SLICE OF GOLF HEAVEN, MINUS THE SLICE
Custom-built irons from SCOR are uniquely designed from shaft to head guaranteeing a better short game. In fact, SCOR is so sure they’ll help, they promise that if you’re not happy, they’ll buy you a wedge you think you like better. Need more accuracy from fairway to green? Think SCOR. Need more accuracy from tee to fairway? Maybe you should consider tennis. 
Price: Approx. $135 each. Set of 5 for $675
Teaser:
Athlon's Holiday Gift Guide for Sports Fans
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 12:11
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-13-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 13.

 

• Not a big fan of "How I Met Your Mother," but I am a big fan of series star Cobie Smulders. Here's why.

 

• After last night's big win, Chargers QB Philip Rivers was apparently auditioning for host duties at next year's CMA Awards.

 

• Is it me, or has there been a spate of running backs hurdling defenders? Keenan Allen joined the club last night

 

• Athletes have plenty of disposable income, and weird taste in animals. Dangerous combination.

 

David Stern nearly drowned in a bottle of water.

 

Here's a last minute holiday gift guide. We're here to help.

 

• Today in sports-related weirdness: Tiger Woods' half brother (and Cheyenne's dad) was arrested for making a false bomb threat.

 

• Tis the season for football-watching parties. Here's a guide for throwing one that doesn't suck.

 

Here's a list of SEC coaches' salaries following raises for Sumlin, Malzahn and Freeze. Getting their money's worth: Missouri.

 

Charles Barkley doesn't kick footballs any better than he hits golf balls.

 

Mack Brown played a little "talk to the hand" during his press conference.

 

• The NBA on TNT crew held a "Chariots of Backfire" race featuring Shaq, Sir Charles, the Jet, C-Webb and Ernie Johnson.

 

“Chariots of Backfire” race between Shaq, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Chris Webber and Ernie Johnson
Read more at http://gamedayr.com/sports/chariots-of-backfire-nba-on-tnt-race-webber-wins-91792/#vzhU81s1qGD8ur3X.99
“Chariots of Backfire” race between Shaq, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Chris Webber and Ernie Johnson
Read more at http://gamedayr.com/sports/chariots-of-backfire-nba-on-tnt-race-webber-wins-91792/#vzhU81s1qGD8ur3X.99

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 11:04
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/top-25-most-amazing-college-football-stats-2013
Body:

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Any game, for that matter.

Some fall on the sabermetric side of things, while others like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre stats from another stellar season of college football:

42.3: Average margin of victory for Florida State in 2013
After topping Duke 45-7 in the ACC title game, Florida State won all 13 games it played this fall and earned a spot in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn. But the Noles didn't slip into the title game like the Tigers did. Florida State didn't need any help from Michigan State, Oklahoma State or Utah. The Seminoles crushed the opposition all season. Jimbo Fisher's squad outscored its 13 opponents 689-139 for an average margin of victory of more than six touchdowns per game. Again, that's more than six touchdowns per game. There is a reason they are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the polls — even if they are facing the "Team of Destiny" in Pasadena.

3: SEC coaches to win the league in their first season
Gus Malzahn became the third head coach in SEC history, and the first in the championship game era, to win a conference crown in his first trip through the league with the impressive showing against Mizzou. Malzahn joined Bernie Moore, who led LSU to a 9-2 record in 1935, and John Vaught, who led Ole Miss to a 9-2 record in 1947, as first-year coaches to win SEC titles. Malzahn took a winless SEC team that averaged 305.0 yards per game on offense — 118th in the nation — and turned them into SEC champions in one offseason, and now the Tigers will play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena against Florida State.

353: Marcus Mariota's Pac-12 record consecutive attempts without an INT
Oregon star quarterback Marcus Mariota set a Pac-12 record by not throwing an interception for over a year. From Nov. 17, 2012 to Nov. 23, 2013, Mariota threw 353 passes without an interception. However, in the season’s most critical game with the Pac-12 North crown hanging in the balance, Mariota tossed two interceptions on the road in an ugly 42-16 loss to Arizona. The loss ended the Ducks' shot at a Pac-12 title and snapped the four-year BCS bowl streak.

101: SEC championship game record for total points
The mighty SEC saw little to no defense in Atlanta on Saturday night. Auburn (28) and Mizzou (27) set an SEC Championship Game record with 55 first-half points. The game ended with a record 101 total points scored — 26 more than the previous mark (75) set in 1996 by Florida and Alabama. Auburn also set an SEC title game record with 676 yards of offense, 544 yards rushing and 59 points. Tre Mason carried the load with an SEC title game record 46 carries, an SEC championship record 304 yards and, you guessed it, an SEC title game record four touchdowns in the win. The previous record for yards was set by Auburn with 589 in 2010. Missouri began the weekend ranked No. 2 in the SEC in rushing defense (119.1 ypg) but saw that mark rise to 151.8 after the carnage in the Georgia Dome. All in all, Auburn set 16 SEC title game records on Saturday. Gus Malzahn was relentless in his play calling as he rode his zone-read triple option to an SEC championship in just his first season as a head coach in the nation's toughest league.

38: Jameis Winston's NCAA freshman passing TDs record
He is the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy for a reason. Jameis Winston has led the Seminoles to a perfect 13-0 record, an ACC championship and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn. He is the nation's most efficient passer (190.06) and has thrown more touchdown passes than any freshman in NCAA history. With three scoring strikes in the easy win over Duke in the ACC title game, Winston passed Sam Bradford's NCAA freshman record of 36. The Noles' signal-caller finished the year with 3,820 yards, 38 touchdowns, 10 interceptions on 67.9 percent passing to go with 193 yards rushing and four more touchdowns on the ground.

872: Baylor's Big 12 single-game record for total offense
The list of superlatives the Bears’ offense piled up in 2013 is astounding. Art Briles' bunch posted 476 yards rushing and 396 yards passing for a Big 12 record 872 yards of total offense in Week 5 alone. That would be a record in every other conference in the nation except the Pac-12. Baylor has scored at least 70 points four times in 2013 and topped 59 points in three others. The Bears led the nation with 623.8 yards per game, including three of the top five single-game yardage totals of the season.

1980: Baylor's last outright conference championship
Technically, the Bears earned a share of the 1994 Southwest Conference championship. However, Texas A&M had the best record in the league (10-0-1) but was ineligible as Baylor tied with Texas, TCU, Texas Tech and Rice at 4-3 for a five-way split championship. But the last time the Bears won an outright conference championship was the 10-2 squad of 1980 coached by Grant Teaff. Only twice prior to 2013 had Baylor won 10 games in a season (1980, 2011) and had never won 11 games in school history. In fact, the last time Baylor finished a season with just one loss was a 5-1-2 Frank Bridges-coached team in 1923. The Bears will play in their first BCS game in program history when it meets UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. The icy cold 30-10 drubbing of Texas was a perfect way to put an end to Floyd Casey Stadium.

127: Tajh Boyd's ACC total TDs record
No player in ACC history has thrown more touchdown passes or accounted for more total touchdowns than Boyd. In just three full seasons as the starter for Clemson, Boyd threw for 11,526 yards and 102 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 25 more on the ground. His 102 passing scores and 127 total touchdowns are both all-time ACC records. Boyd passed NC State’s Philip Rivers for both benchmarks.

89: Connor Halliday's NCAA single-game record for pass attempts
Purdue's Drew Brees threw the ball an NCAA-record 83 times against Wisconsin in 1998. Against an Oregon team with a big lead for most of the night, Washington State's Connor Halliday threw the ball 89 times in Week 8. Halliday also tied the NCAA mark for completions with 58 (Andy Schmitt, Eastern Michigan) and set the Pac-12 single-game passing benchmark with 557 yards (Andrew Walter, 536). And much like Brees that night back in '98, Wazzu lost in part because of multiple interceptions. Halliday threw four interceptions to go with his four touchdowns in the 62-38 loss to the Ducks.

2,102: Andre Williams' ACC single-season rushing record
With a late flurry of big games, Boston College’s Andre Williams has set himself atop the ACC record book in more than one way. He broke Virginia running back Thomas Jones’ single-season ACC rushing record (1,798) by a wide margin by becoming just the 16th player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 yards. He broke Wake Forest back John Leach’s single-game rushing record (329) with 339 yards against NC State in Week 12. Williams is just five carries (329) shy of breaking the single-season ACC rushing attempts record (334) set by both Jones in 1999 and Maryland’s Charlie Wysocki in 1980. Williams carried BC to an impressive 7-5 bowl season one year after going 2-10.

159: Bob Stoops' school record for wins at Oklahoma
Stoops passed the legendary Barry Switzer as the Sooners’ all-time winningest coach with an underrated 10-2 campaign. Before yet another BCS bowl, Stoops sits at 159 wins while at Oklahoma — two ahead of Switzer’s long-standing record. Strangely enough, Mack Brown has a nearly identical 157 wins at Texas but most likely won’t get the chance to pass Darrell K Royal next season for the most wins by a Longhorns coach. Brown needs just nine wins to tie the legendary Horns coach.

6: Cities in which Duke has defeated Virginia Tech
The 13-10 road win for Duke over the Hokies in Week 9 featured a plethora of interesting stats. It was the first road win over a ranked opponent for Duke in 42 years. The Blue Devils' sixth win made Duke bowl-eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history. The two starting quarterbacks, Anthony Boone and Logan Thomas, combined for eight interceptions and zero passing touchdowns. In fact, Duke didn't complete a pass in the second half and was 0-for-11 on third downs for the game. Lastly, it was Duke's first ever win in Blacksburg, giving the Blue Devils a win over the Hokies in six different cities. Duke has beaten Tech in Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, all in North Carolina, as well as Norfolk, Roanoke and, now, Blacksburg, in Virginia. The win was one of 10 for David Cutcliffe’s squad this year — the first such 10-win season in school history.

1-8: Mike Gundy's record against Oklahoma
Over the last four years, Oklahoma State is 41-10 overall with three seasons of at least 10 wins. But Mike Gundy just can't seem to solve the Bedlam riddle. The Sooners, led by starter-turned-backup quarterback Blake Bell, drove 66 yards on eight plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left in the regular-season finale. The loss wasn't just a bitter defeat at the hands of an in-state archival. Oklahoma State was a double-digit favorite at home needing a win to clinch a BCS bowl and win the Big 12 championship. Moreover, Oklahoma State had the lead with less than two minutes to play. The loss knocked Oklahoma State out of the Fiesta Bowl and pushed Gundy's record against Oklahoma and Bob Stoops to 1-8.

0: Completions, passing yards for Georgia Southern in a win over Florida
No lower-division team has ever beaten Florida, and the 26-20 loss to Georgia Southern in Week 13 guaranteed Will Muschamp would suffer the school's first losing season since 1979. What's more painful, the Eagles didn't even complete a pass. Georgia Southern didn't connect on any of their three total passing attempts, but the option team was able to run the ball at will. The 429 yards allowed on the ground were the most by a Florida team since Tommie Frazier and Nebraska rolled up 524 in the national championship showdown of 1995. Florida missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990.

3-11: Aaron Murray’s record against Top 15 ranked teams
Big game Aaron Murray was a great player who will go down in history as one of the SEC’s best. But he struggled to win big games against big-time competition, winning just three times in 14 chances against Top 15 teams. He lost to Arkansas (No. 12) and Auburn (No. 2) in 2010 as a freshman and Boise State (No. 5), South Carolina (No. 12), LSU (No. 1) and Michigan State (No. 12) as a sophomore in '11. He lost to South Carolina (No. 6) and Alabama (No. 1) a year ago in '12. And this fall, Murray lost to Clemson (No. 8) as well as Auburn (No. 7), both with varying degrees of heart break. His three wins were over Florida (No. 3) as a junior and South Carolina (No. 6) and LSU (No. 6) this fall. Murray had an extraordinary career at Georgia, starting all but his final game due to a torn ACL and becoming just the third QB in school history to beat Florida three years in a row. No one in SEC history has more completions (921), passing yards (13,166), passing touchdowns (121) and total offense (13,554) than Murray. Yet, the championship eluded the Dawgs' great signal-caller.

115,109: NCAA attendance record set by Michigan
The Big House in Ann Arbor has long been ahead of its time in terms of seating capacity and it set a new benchmark in Week 2 against Notre Dame. Brian Kelly tried to downplay the rivalry but the fans in Michigan showed the nation how important the game was to them by showing up in force. The 115,109 that showed up saw Devin Gardner play what would turn out to be the best game by the Wolverines all season in a performance that matched the size of the crowd. The old record (114,804) was also held by Michigan when it hosted, shockingly, Notre Dame in 2011.

550: Rushing yards allowed by Texas to BYU
BYU was upset in Week 1 by Virginia but bounced back in big way in its home opener in Week 2 by embarrassing Texas. The Cougars ran the ball 72 times for a school-record 550 yards and four touchdowns, which also established a new record for rushing yards allowed by Texas in the process. BYU quarterback Taysom Hill led the way with 259 yards and three scores on 17 attempts, nearly breaking the five-decade-old single-game BYU rushing record of 272 yards set by Eldon Fortie in 1962. Texas went on to get rolled by Ole Miss in Week 3 and fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz shortly thereafter. Only Wisconsin’s 554 yards rushing against Indiana were better this year than the 550 BYU put up against the Longhorns.

15: Consecutive 100-yard games for Ka’Deem Carey
Carey led the nation in rushing and set all types of records as a sophomore in 2012. All he did as an encore this fall was build upon his incredible Pac-12 resume. He rushed for at least 119 yards in every game he played, finishing No. 2 in the nation in rushing at 156.0 yards per game. In the last two seasons, the Zona star tailback has carried 625 times for 3,645 yards and 40 rushing touchdowns. He was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year this year by the coaches.

321: Jordan Lynch's NCAA single-game rushing record for a quarterback
The best single-game rushing performance by a quarterback in NCAA history belonged to Northern Illinois' Stacey Robinson set in 1990. So it's appropriate that another Huskies quarterback set a new rushing record when Jordan Lynch totaled 316 yards on the ground in NIU's win over Central Michigan back in Week 8. However, Lynch broke his own record a couple of weeks later, rushing for 321 yards against Western Michigan on Nov. 26. The senior finished second in the nation with 1,881 yards rushing and scored 22 times on the ground, earning himself a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist. This after finishing fourth nationally in rushing a year ago with 1,815 yards.

369: Jeremy Gallon's Big Ten single-game receiving record
The Michigan Wolverines topped the Indiana Hoosiers 63-47 in Ann Arbor in week 8 in remarkable fashion. Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for a school- and Big Ten-record 369 yards and two touchdowns. The 369 receiving yards is No. 2 all time in NCAA history behind only Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards' 405 yards in 1998. Quarterback Devin Gardner set a Michigan record with 504 yards passing and 584 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns. Gardner was two yards shy of tying the Big Ten's all-time single-game total offense record set by Illinois' David Wilson (586) in 1980. Michigan set a school record with 751 yards of offense.

257 and 3,616: Jordan Matthews' SEC record receptions and yards
Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews is the most productive wide receiver in SEC history and it’s not really close. He caught an SEC single-season record 107 passes this season for 1,334 yards. No SEC player in history has caught more passes or more yards than Matthews' 257 career receptions and 3,616 career yards. He finished with 22 career receiving touchdowns — nine behind Chris Doering’s SEC record of 31. More importantly, the list of what this Commodores team accomplished is long and distinguished. The Dores beat Florida in the Swamp for the first time since 1945, beat Florida and Georgia in the same season for the first time in program history and won eight games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1927-28.

3: SEC receiver tandems to top 1,000 yards in the same year
Only three times in SEC history has a team had two 1,000-yard pass-catchers on the same team. LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. (1,117 yards) and Jarvis Landry (1,172 yards) became just the third set of wideouts to reach the milestone this fall. In fact, the Tigers became just the second SEC team to boast such a duo as only Florida had accomplished the feat prior to 2013. Steve Spurrier did it with Chris Doering and Ike Hilliard in 1995 and again in 2001 with Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell. What's more impressive is how much of the load these two Bayou Bengals have carried this fall. These two have accounted for 132 of LSU's 198 completions, 2,289 of the 3,181 yards and 18 of the Tigers' 23 receiving touchdowns.

465: Cartel Brooks' NCAA single-game rushing record
A few weeks after Western Connecticut's Octavias McKoy set the NCAA single-game rushing record with 455 yards, Heidelberg University's Cartel Brooks put himself atop the all-division rushing record book. The junior tailback carried for 465 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Baldwin Wallace this weekend, setting the all-time NCAA single-game rushing record. The Heidelberg Student Princes — yes, that's right — are a Division III school located in Tiffin, Ohio.

9: Consecutive losses by Arkansas
Bret Bielema took over in Fayetteville and likely didn’t realize exactly how dire the situation he was stepping into actually was. In Week 10, Arkansas lost six straight games for the first time since 1990 and then proceeded to finish the season on a program-record nine-game losing streak. The 0-8 SEC record was the first winless SEC record since joining the league in 1992 and the Hogs finished with nine losses for the first time in program history. Only five times have the Razorbacks lost eight or more games and two of them have come in the last two seasons.

2.08: Houston’s NCAA-leading turnover margin
The Cougars had a surprisingly solid season in their American Athletic Conference debut in 2013. A big reason why was Houston's nation’s best 2.08 turnover margin. It led the country with 40 takeaways — six more than No. 2 Florida State (34). In fact, the plus-25 turnover margin was leaps and bounds ahead of No. 2 in the nation, Buffalo and Louisville (1.33). Only 10 teams in the nation posted a turnover margin of plus-1.0 or better and Tony Levine’s squad was more than doubling the rate. This is the first team since Miami (plus-2.36) in 2001 to finish the regular season with a turnover margin higher than plus-2.0.

Teaser:
The Top 25 Most Amazing College Football Stats of 2013
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/10-amazing-heisman-trophy-stats-you-need-know
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The Heisman Trophy ceremony Saturday night is more of a formality than an unveiling.

Florida State is going to win its third Heisman Trophy when redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston accepts his award over the weekend. He will join Chris Weinke (2000) and Charlie Ward (1993) in an elite Seminole fraternity — both of which won national titles as well.

Winston will be the second redshirt freshman to win the award and just the fifth underclassman. True sophomore Tim Tebow broke the stiff-armed mold in 2007, paving the way for Sam Bradford (So.), Mark Ingram (So.) and Johnny Manziel (rFr.) to claim the most coveted trophy in sports in either their first or second season on the field.

Winston is deserving. There is no doubt about that. He led the nation in passing efficiency and set an NCAA all-time freshman record with 38 touchdown passes. He led his team to wins in all 13 games by an average margin of six touchdowns and clinched a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

The only question surrounding Winston’s Heisman is will this be the biggest landslide in voting history?

So before the award is officially given out this weekend, here are the most important and interesting Heisman stats to consider.

2,853: O.J. Simpson's record voting points total
Ohio State’s Howard Cassady was the first Heisman winner to register 2,000 points in the balloting in 1955. Thirteen total players have accumulated at least 2,000 points in the history of the award and Simpson’s 1,750-point margin is still the largest in Heisman history. Simpson set the world on fire with a record-setting campaign in 1968. He rushed for 1,880 yards and 23 touchdowns, setting a new standard for running back success that would be carried on over the next few decades by the likes of Tony Dorsett (2,150 yards), Charles White (2,050), Marcus Allen (2,427) and Mike Rozier (2,148).

86: Record percent of first-place votes for Troy Smith
While Simpson posted the largest margin for a winner in Heisman history, Ohio State’s 2006 winner posted the highest percentage of first-place votes. During Simpson’s year, there were 1,200 voters, so his 855 first-place votes remain the record. But there were only 924 ballots in 2006. Smith landed a record 86 percent (801) of the first-place vote to win the stiff-armed trophy with the second-largest differential (1,662) in voting history. He topped Arkansas’ Darren McFadden, Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn and West Virginia’s Steve Slaton. For the record, there are 928 voters in 2013.

28: Most interceptions by a Heisman Trophy winner
BYU’s Ty Detmer had some huge numbers in his trophy-winning 1990 campaign. He threw for 5,188 yards, 41 touchdowns and 361 completions at a time when only Andre Ware had ever reached those types of benchmarks. In fact, Detmer remains the only Heisman winner with 5,000 yards passing in a season. Strangely enough, he also has the most interceptions by a wide margin of any Heisman winner. He threw an astounding 28 interceptions in ’90, breaking Jim Plunkett’s Heisman INT record of 19 set back in 1970. There is no chance anyone with more than 20 interceptions will ever win the Heisman again. Danny Wuerffel’s 13 picks are the most by any winner since Detmer.

2: High schools to produce more than one Heisman winner
Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Texas, is the first and only public high school to produce two Heisman winners. Davey O’Brien won the award in 1938 for the TCU Horned Frogs and Tim Brown claimed the trophy for Notre Dame in ’87. Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., is the only other high school to have multiple winners. The private school gave college football John Huarte, who won the award in ’64 for Notre Dame, and Matt Leinart, who earned the honor in 2004 for USC. Fork Union Military also has produced multiple Heisman winners — Vinny Testaverde in 1986 for Miami and Eddie George in '95 for Ohio State. As a prep academy, Fork Union doesn’t technically count as a high school.

8: Heisman winners in the NFL Hall of Fame
There are eight former Heisman Trophy winners currently in the NFL Hall of Fame. Marcus Allen (1981), Earl Campbell (1977), Tony Dorsett (1976), Paul Hornung (1956), Barry Sanders (1988), O.J. Simpson (1968), Roger Staubach (1963), and Doak Walker (1948). Interestingly enough, only one Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has ever made it to the NFL Hall of Fame and that is Staubach. Additionally, only four Heisman winners have gone on to win Super Bowl MVP honors: Staubach, Allen, Jim Plunkett and Desmond Howard.

2-8: Notre Dame’s record when Paul Hornung won the Heisman
The only player to ever win the Heisman off of a losing team was Paul Hornung in 1956. He threw for 917 yards, three touchdowns and 13 interceptions while rushing 94 times for 420 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The Irish went 2-8 that year, beating only Indiana and North Carolina. Hornung beat out Tennessee’s Johnny Majors and Oklahoma’s dynamic duo of Tommy McDonald and Jerry Tubbs.

7: Ohio State, USC and Notre Dame winners
The Buckeyes, Trojans and Irish are tied for the most Heismans with seven total trophies each. Ohio State’s awards have been spread out over time, winning at least one in five different decades while USC’s come in bunches. Under Pete Carroll, the Trojans won three Heisman Trophies in four seasons from 2002-05 (Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush — yes, I officially count the ’05 trophy even if the Trust does not). The Irish held the Heisman lead for many years, winning six trophies between 1943 and 1964. Tim Brown’s 1987 season is the only Irish Heisman since John Huarte won it in ’64.

0: Games Jay Berwanger played in the NFL
The first Heisman trophy winner in history was a senior running back from the University of Chicago by the name of Jay Berwanger. He was the first pick in the first-ever NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1936. Yet, they traded his rights to the Chicago Bears because they didn’t think they could meet his salary demands (allegedly $1,000 per game). After Olympic tryouts and unsuccessful contract negotiations with George Halas, Berwanger took a job with a Chicago rubber company and never played a down of professional football.

1961: Ernie Davis became the first African-American Heisman winner
It took 27 long years but the voters finally gave the award to an African-American in 1961 when Syracuse’s Ernie Davis topped Ohio State’s Bob Ferguson and Texas’ Jimmy Saxton for the prestigious award. Davis was deserving but his stat line indicates how far the sport has come since the early '60s. He rushed 150 times for 823 yards and 12 touchdowns.

1: Players to have won the Heisman twice
Johnny Manziel has a chance, albeit an extremely outside one, to become just the second player in NCAA history to win a second Heisman Trophy this weekend. Ohio State’s Archie Griffin won back-to-back stiff-armed trophies in 1974 and '75. Many have tried lately — Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Mark Ingram — but all but Griffin have failed to claim a second Heisman award. It may be an unbreakable record — unless, of course, Jameis Winston has two more huge seasons in Tallahassee. One also is the number of times a purely defensive player has won the Heisman, that coming in 1998 from Michigan’s Charles Woodson.

Teaser:
10 Amazing Heisman Trophy Stats You Need To Know
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/atlantic-10-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far
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The Atlantic 10 was one of the biggest losers in conference realignment. Losing Xavier, Temple and Butler robbed the league of three of its most high-profile and well-respected programs.

The A-10 may not have the stature it once did, but not all is lost at the top of the conference.

Thanks to surprising starts for Dayton and George Washington, the Atlantic 10 has scored early season wins over Gonzaga, New Mexico, Creighton and Virginia. At least five teams will enter conference play with hopes of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

The story of the league, though, is UMass. The Minutemen, who haven’t reached the NCAa Tournament since 1998, are off to an 8-0 start and entered the AP top 25 for the first time in 15 years behind the play of dynamic point guard Chaz Williams.

Early Season Report Card: Atlantic 10

NCAA teams as of today: Dayton, George Washington, UMass, VCU

Bubble watch: Saint Louis

Best win: Dayton 84, Gonzaga 79

Worst loss: New Hampshire 84, Duquesne 83

Power rankings so far:
1. UMass
2. Dayton
3. VCU
4. George Washington
5. Saint Louis
6. Richmond
7. St. Joe’s
8. La Salle
9. George Mason
10. St. Bonaventure
11. Fordham
12. Rhode Island
13. Duquesne

Important non-conference games remaining:
La Salle at Villanova (Dec. 15)
UMass vs. Florida State (Dec. 21)
Providence at UMass (Dec. 28)
Dayton at Ole Miss (Jan. 4)
MVP so far: Chaz Williams, UMass
The 5-9 senior is finally starting to get national attention as UMass has jumped to an 8-0 start. Williams’ moxie was on full display Dec. 7 when the point guard scored 32 points and added 15 assists in a 105-96 win over BYU. Williams wasn’t afraid to mix it up with 6-10 BYU forward Eric Mika along the way. Surrounded by a veteran supporting cast, Williams is averaging a career-high 17.5 points and 7.6 assists.

Top freshman: DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s
Fordham freshman Jon Severe leads the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 19.4 points per game, but our nod still goes to Bembry. The 6-6, 200-pound guard Bembry has heated up in Philadelphia Big 5 play with 12 points and nine rebounds against Temple and 17 points against Villanova. Bembry also scored 20 against Creighton. Now, all St. Joe’s needs are wins.

Top newcomer: Jordan Sibert, Dayton
Sibert has stepped in to fill the void left by departed guard Kevin Dillard. Sibert never found his way into the regular rotation at Ohio State, but he’s averaging a team-best 13.6 points per game for Dayton. The junior wing led the way in the Flyers’ 84-79 upset of Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational with 23 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

Surprise player: Maurice Creek, George Washington
Like Sibert, Maurice Creek is another Big Ten-to-Atlantic 10 transfer leading his team in scoring. But Creek has to take the award for the biggest surprise. He signed with Indiana in 2009 in a class with Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford before injuries derailed his career. He’s found a home at George Washington where he’s led the Colonials to a surprising 9-1 start with wins over Maryland and Creighton.

Early season flop: La Salle
No one really expected La Salle to look like a Sweet 16 team this season, but the Explorers don’t look like a team ready to compete for the Atlantic 10 title after losses to Manhattan, Penn State, Providence and Northern Iowa.

Lingering concerns: VCU
VCU is an Atlantic 10 contender and probably an NCAA Tournament team, but the ceiling may be a bit lower than in years past. The Rams are still forcing turnovers at a high rate (second to Louisville in opponent turnovers per possession), but VCU’s offensive numbers are down. The Rams rank 66th on Kenpom in offensive efficiency when they tend to rank in the top 25. They’re also converting only 65.3 percent of free throws. VCU’s two losses are to Florida State in a blowout and by four to Georgetown.

Best NCAA resume: UMass
Few teams in the Atlantic 10 can be considered an NCAA lock at this point of the year. The bottom portion of the league is going to be a drag on conference RPI, and losses to teams like Fordham, Rhode Island and Duquesne would fall into the “bad losses” column. UMass doesn’t have a win as good as Gonzaga (Dayton) or Creighton (George Washington), but the Minutemen have four wins over top-50 teams on Kenpom (New Mexico, Clemson, BYU and LSU).

Teaser:
Atlantic 10: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-unveils-new-chrome-helmets-belk-bowl
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Cincinnati beat Duke in last year’s Belk Bowl, and the Bearcats are set to make a return trip to Charlotte on Dec. 28 to take on North Carolina.

And Cincinnati plans to take on the Tar Heels with a new variation on its helmets:
 


Teaser:
Cincinnati Unveils New Chrome Helmets for Belk Bowl
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 13:04
Path: /college-football/10-reasons-why-mack-brown-will-not-resign-texas
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Mack Brown will not resign as the head coach of the Texas Longhorns. The 62-year-old Brown is feeling mounting outside pressure in the form of trending Twitter rumors, rambling rants on talk radio and powerful boosters opposing UT president Bill Powers. But no amount of heat is hot enough to remove the Burnt Orange head football coach. These are the 10 reasons why Mack Brown will not resign at Texas.

1. BCS National Champion
Brown is one of six active BCS national championship-winning coaches, along with over-hyped potential Texas successor Nick Saban (2012, ’11, ’09, ’03), Urban Meyer (2008, ’06), Les Miles (2007), Larry Coker (2001) and Red River rival Bob Stoops (2000). And what a national championship it was in 2005. Remember? Vince Young capping a perfect 13–0 season with a 41–38 last-minute win over USC at the Rose Bowl.

2. 158 wins (and counting)
In 16 seasons at Texas, Brown has only had one losing season (5–7 in 2010). He had a nine-year, 10-win run from 2001-09. He’s 10–4 in bowl games, including a BCS title, BCS runner-up finish, two Rose Bowl wins and a Fiesta Bowl victory.

3. Eight wins, beat Oklahoma
This season in Austin has been successful by most reasonable standards. UT went 7–2 in the Big 12, stomping Oklahoma, 36–20, in the Red River Rivalry and running circles around Texas Tech, 41–16. Despite Stoops’ Sooners being a two-touchdown favorite and Kliff Kingsbury being much cooler than anyone not wearing shades and skinny jeans, Brown conquered both the conference’s established old guard and en vogue new wave this year.

4. Incoming 2014 recruiting class
As usual, Brown is blazing the recruiting trails to the tune of yet another top-10 class. National Signing Day (Feb. 5) is months away, but the Longhorns’ current crop of commits is ranked No. 7 by Scout, No. 10 on Rivals and No. 11 by 247Sports. Texas has the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big 12 in all three of those recruiting rankings.

5. Joe Jamail’s contract extension
The “King of Torts” is a billionaire trial lawyer and Texas Ex — with a B.A. from UT-Austin in 1950 and a J.D. from Texas School of Law in 1953. More important, the silver-haired, silver-tongued 88-year-old is Brown’s personal attorney and exceedingly close friend. Jamail negotiated Brown’s most recent contract, which the University of Texas System Board of Regents voted unanimously in 2012 to extend the deal through 2020. Jamail is an important man in Austin. So much so that he has two statues on campus.  

6. Remember Tennessee’s Phil Fulmer?
Tennessee forced out Fulmer after 17 seasons — nine of the 10-win variety — and the 1998 BCS national championship. With state-of-the-art facilities, NFL alumni and a rabid fanbase, the Volunteers assumed they would always be on Rocky Top. The decline of the program was Fulmer’s fault, obviously. In 2009, the other UT hired Lane Kiffin. In 2010, the Vols hired Derek Dooley. In 2013, Butch Jones arrived as a VFL. The fate of the Big Orange should be a warning for those in Burnt Orange.

7. Longhorn Network launched
Not every coach is a good local politician — looking at you, Coach Saban. But the Texas job is bigger than just football. There are countless obligations that require the coach to smile and Hook ‘Em Horns. With ESPN’s and UT’s investment in the Longhorn Network, the University of Texas needs to be coached by a man who knows not only his “X’s and O’s” and “Jimmys and Joes” but also how to play the role. Even the best coach and recruiter might be overwhelmed by the scope of television responsibilities at Texas.

8. Will Muschamp is coach in waiting
The former Longhorns defensive coordinator was named “head coach in waiting” at Texas back in 2008. But he’s fresh off a 4–8 season with the Florida Gators. Brown’s better than that guy. Might as well keep Mack.

9. Prepaid for MackBrown-TexasFootball.com
Move over Al Gore, I’m pretty sure Mack Brown invented the internet — or at least mastered it. What a genius move. Name the school’s football website after yourself. They can never fire you then, right? MackBrown-TexasFootball.com is the undisputed heavyweight champion of NCAA URLs.

10. Wants to go out like Bobby Petrino
T.S. Eliot wrote the world ends “not with a bang but a whimper.” There’s no way that is how Mack Brown’s tenure at Texas ends. At the very least, he needs to grab a blonde coed, jump on a Harley, wipe out in a motorcycle wreck, have an awkward neckbraced press conference and go out in a blaze of glory. Put a twist on Petrino’s Arkansas exit. Make it Texarkana-style. Regardless, Mack Brown deserves to go out in style — on his own terms. He will not resign at Texas.
 

Teaser:
Mack Brown will remain the Texas Longhorns coach in 2014
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 12:41
Path: /college-football/uconn-hires-bob-diaco-its-new-head-coach
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UConn has announced Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco as its new head coach. Diaco replaces interim coach T.J. Weist, who took over after Paul Pasqualoni was fired early in the season. 

Diaco won the Broyles Award (the nation’s best assistant coach) in 2012 and worked at Notre Dame from 2010-13.

Prior to coming to Notre Dame, Diaco made stops as an assistant at Cincinnati, Virginia and Central Michigan.

Diaco should be a good hire for UConn, but the first-time head coach needs to find a fix for the Huskies' offense. UConn has struggled on offense in recent years, so Diaco's offensive coordinator hire will be crucial. 

 

Teaser:
UConn Hires Bob Diaco as its New Head Coach
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 12:11
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-12-2013
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This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 12.

 

Today is actress Jennifer Connelly's 43rd birthday. She's held up pretty well, don't you think?

 

• GIF gold: Muhammad Ali dodges 21 punches from Michael Dokes, then does a little celebratory shimmy. Guy really was the greatest.

 

Enjoy this college football GIF-stravaganza.

 

John Harbaugh was wearing a mic for Baltimore's miracle win over Minnesota.

 

50 mind-blowing facts about sports movies. My favorite: In "The Hurricane" starring Denzel Washington, there's a poster in Hurricane Carter's prison cell of Malcolm X. Only it's not Malcolm X on the poster; it's Washington portraying him in the movie "Malcolm X." Pretty meta.

 

The Texas Rangers spent a pick in today's Rule 5 Draft on Russell Wilson. Yes, the Russell Wilson who might win a Super Bowl with the Seahawks this year. Hey, it only cost $12,000, and we're talking about it, so why not?

 

Athlon's own Braden Gall takes you down Auburn's improbable path to the national championship game.

 

You know things are bad in Washington when John Madden emerges from his comfy retirement to blast Mike Shanahan.

 

Ever wonder what Mack Brown and Nick Saban would look like with each other's hair? Wonder no more.

 

• Speaking of Coach Saban, here are 10 things to consider while we wait for news about his job status.

 

Justin Timberlake, who can do no wrong, serenaded Roy Hibbert with "Happy Birthday."

 

• Amir Williams of Ohio State gave a candid interview on live television. Almost too candid.

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 10:41
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction
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AFC West rivals will renew acquaintances as the NFL’s Week 15 action gets started tonight with the San Diego Chargers taking on the Denver Broncos at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Chargers (6-7) need a win if they want to have any shot at the final Wild Card berth in the AFC while the Broncos (11-2) aim to stay ahead of the Chiefs for the divisional lead and the Patriots (10-3) for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Denver has won its past four meetings with San Diego, including a 28-20 road victory back in Week 10. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are a perfect 7-0 at home and are coming off of last week’s 51-28 dismantling of Tennessee. Philip Rivers and the Chargers are just 3-4 on the road, but their biggest victory of the season came as the visiting team. In Week 12, San Diego scored with less than 30 seconds left in the game to defeat Kansas City 41-38, handing the Chiefs their first home loss of the season.

3 Things to Watch

Denver’s Home Dominance
The Broncos have the best record in the AFC and have basically been unstoppable at home. The No. 1 offense in the NFL in both yards (465.6 ypg) and points (39.6 ppg) by wide margins, the numbers are even more staggering when they play at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver is 7-0 at home this season and is averaging 478.4 yards and 42.3 points per game played at altitude. The Broncos have outscored opponents 296-153 with an average margin of victory of 20.4 points per home game. Peyton Manning has put up MVP-worthy numbers all season and last week against Tennessee, he pretty much put any doubts about him being able to play in cold weather to bed by torching the Titans for 397 yards passing and four touchdowns. Denver’s offense can beat you with the pass or the run and its quick-strike capability and efficiency combine for one massive headache for opposing defenses. In 28 quarters of play at home, the Broncos have scored in all but three periods. On top of that, Denver has scored double-digit points in more than half (16) of those 28 quarters. San Diego’s offense is no slouch, averaging 400 yards and 24 points per game, and the Chargers’ defense is the only one to hold the Broncos to under 400 yards this season. But Denver still won that game 28-20, and it was in San Diego. At home, no team has been able to corral this offense all season, so it goes without saying that the Chargers’ defense really has its work cut out for it tonight.

San Diego’s Counter Punch
The Chargers know full well what Manning and company are capable of doing, having had a front-row seat just a few weeks ago. The key to beating the Broncos, as the Colts and Patriots demonstrated, is finding a way to trade punches with them when you have the ball. Dallas (48 points), Indianapolis (39) and New England (34) are the only teams to put up more than 30 points against Denver this season. San Diego is fourth in the NFL in total offense at 400.5 yards per game, but tied for 11th in points with 24.3 per contest. The Chargers have scored more than 30 points four times this season, including 37 in last week’s home win against the Giants. Contrast that to Denver, who has been held to fewer than 30 points just twice, one of those games coming against San Diego. The Chargers know they will need to score plenty of points if they have any hope of beating the Broncos. In the first meeting, San Diego was effective running the ball, gaining 131 yards on 35 carries, but Philip Rivers couldn’t get much going through the air. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he was sacked four times and the Chargers were just 6-of-17 on third down conversions. Denver’s defense has certainly stiffened since the return of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller from suspension, but the unit isn’t completely shutting down offenses either. Statistically, San Diego has been a much more productive offensive team on the road (409.1 ypg, 24.6 ppg) compared to at home (365.7 ypg, 24.0 ppg), especially in the yardage department. Going against Denver’s prolific offense on its home turf, the Chargers’ offense is going to need to be able to trade punches with the Broncos if they want to have any chance of winning tonight.

Staying Healthy
Wes Welker suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Tennessee. For Welker it was his second concussion over the past four games, and he has already been ruled out from playing tonight. Denver has already clinched a playoff spot, but has its sights set on the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout. The Broncos must continue to win games to achieve these goals, but John Fox and his coaching staff must weigh that against making sure his team is as healthy as possible for the postseason. Welker’s situation underscores the importance of this, although the Broncos don’t lack for offensive weapons. However, Welker wasn’t the only Bronco to get banged up last week either, as fellow wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas took some hard hits of their own that caused them to either miss some snaps or get up slowly following a tackle. Don’t forget that tight end Julius Thomas returned last week after missing the previous two games because of an ankle injury, while running back Knowshon Moreno left the Week 12 loss to New England on crutches after suffering a bone bruise to his right ankle. With the bumps and bruises adding up, it’s even more important for reserves like running back Montee Ball, wide receiver Andre Caldwell and tight end Jacob Tamme to step up and get the job done when called upon, as it takes some of load off of the starters who have already logged a ton of snaps. In the end, the ultimate goal isn’t home-field advantage; it’s playing in New York City in February in the Super Bowl. To that end, Denver should be a tough out in January, especially if Peyton Manning has all of his weapons at his disposal.

San Diego Key Players: Antonio Gates and LaDarius Green, TEs
Gates (right) has been one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets during their time together as teammates and the three-time All-Pro has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2012 campaign. Gates leads the team in both targets (105) and receptions (68) and is second to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen in yards (776). Green meanwhile has emerged somewhat in his second season. He has just 16 receptions, but two of those have gone for touchdowns and he’s been more involved in the offense recently. Prior to last week, Green had recorded nine catches for 206 yards (22.9 ypr) in the previous three games combined. Some of this was due to the Chargers utilizing more two-tight end sets and finding ways to get the athletic Green in space after the catch. Whatever San Diego’s offensive game plan is tonight, the Chargers know they have to find a way to produce points. Sticking with the two-TE look may be a good place to start, as the Broncos have struggled against them this season. Denver has given up the second-most receiving yards (953) to tight ends, along with five touchdown catches. In the first meeting with the Broncos, Gates led the Chargers with four catches for 62 yards while Green had one grab for 25 yards. Right after this game was when Green got more involved in the offense, so it’s possible he and Gates could both be factors tonight.

Denver Key Players: Offensive Line
Although Wes Welker is getting over his second concussion in a span of four games and several other of the Broncos’ weapons are dealing with various bumps and bruises, the key to Denver’s offense is keeping Peyton Manning upright and healthy. And while Manning is a master of getting rid of the ball quickly, his offensive line deserves a fair amount of credit too. Despite missing All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady for most of the season and dealing with other injuries that have some guys playing out of position, the Broncos’ line has given up just 15 sacks this season, tied for the fewest (with Detroit) in the NFL. Manning has gone down just twice over the last four games, and both of those came in the overtime loss in New England. San Diego got to Manning twice in its first meeting with Denver, but No. 18 still threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns in the 28-20 win. If there is room for any improvement for the offensive line this time around against the Chargers it is in run blocking. The Broncos were outgained by the Chargers on the ground 131 to 84, as Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined to average 4.3 yards per carry on 20 attempts. After all, another way to keep pressure off of Manning is to run the ball effectively, as that helps set up the play-action pass and gives him even more options to attack a defense with.

Final Analysis

San Diego needs to win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Denver is already in the postseason, but wants to keep winning to ensure that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Chargers held their own against the Broncos in their first meeting, “limiting” the NFL’s most productive offense to 397 yards and just 28 points.

However, Denver still won that game 28-20, as the Broncos’ defense held Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense in check for the most part. The Broncos have been basically unstoppable at home and while I expect San Diego to have some success, the Chargers just don’t have enough firepower to keep up with Denver for four quarters.

Denver 38, San Diego 27

Teaser:
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburns-bizarre-path-bcs-championship
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Has anyone had a crazier calendar year than the Auburn Tigers? Ever?

Who else is in the mix? From college football, Ohio State's 2002 squad would qualify. So, too, would Auburn's '10 team and the LSU Tigers of '07. The '69 New York Mets? The '97 Florida Marlins? The Joe Namath Jets? Eli to Tyree? How about the eighth-seeded 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings? Villanova in '85? (Okay, maybe that last one is in the ballpark)

In a year and two weeks, the Auburn Tigers have gone from winless in conference play to hiring a new regime to afterthought in the SEC West to sudden contender for the conference crown to Pasadena-bound for a shot at the BCS national title.

It’s one of the most improbable stories in all of sports much less college football. Who would be a more unlikely national champ? A two-loss LSU team that backed into the title game on the final day in '07 is a surprising and unlikely story but pales in comparison to this team should Gus Malzahn lead War Eagle to a national title over Florida State.

Here is a timeline of the roller coaster Auburn fans have been on over the last 12 months:

Nov. 24, 2012: Auburn loses the Iron Bowl 49-0
Alabama routed the Tigers in the regular-season finale last November in epic and historic fashion. The 49-point win was the most lopsided Iron Bowl final in 64 years (1948) as Auburn set season lows in yards (163) and yards per play (3.8). The game capped the worst season of football in school history and the worst by a team two years removed from a national championship.

Nov. 25, 2012: Gene Chizik fired as Auburn’s head coach
One day after the worst Iron Bowl defeat in six decades and its first winless SEC season in school history, athletic director Jay Jacobs made the move to remove head coach Gene Chizik. Auburn finished 118nd nationally in total offense with a pathetic 305.0 yards per game. The Tigers finished ahead of only a historically bad Tennessee unit in the SEC in total defense at 420.5 yards per game.

Dec. 4, 2012: Gus Malzahn is hired as Auburn’s new head coach
The patron saint of Auburn football returned home after one season as the head coach at Arkansas State. After three years and a BCS national title on The Plains, Malzahn left town for only one season. In his one season as a head coach in college football, he led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 (7-1) mark and a Sun Belt championship. So 10 days after firing a coach who won a national title, Auburn hires Malzahn to be its new head coach.

Jan. 14, 2013: Nick Marshall commits to Auburn
A big part of the problem on The Plains in 2012 was quarterback play. The Tigers finished 13th in the SEC at 156.6 yards per game passing and was ahead of only South Florida (7) and Army (4) nationally in touchdown passes (8) — the same number as option teams Air Force and Navy. Unbeknownst to many, the answer to the Tigers' passing problems came in the form of a middle-of-the-pack three-star junior college quarterback from Garden City (Kan.) Community College. A month before National Signing Day the No. 43-ranked JUCO prospect in the nation picked Auburn over Indiana, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Arkansas State.

Feb. 6, 2013: Auburn signs No. 10-rated recruiting class
Despite the worst season in school history, Malzahn somehow lures a top-10 recruiting class to Auburn. It was a strong finish for the Tigers' new head coach, as he inked instant impact names like Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel near the end of process. This at the end of a winter in which the top linebacker in the nation, Reuben Foster committed to both Auburn and Alabama — and tattooing himself with an Auburn logo — multiple times before eventually signing with the Crimson Tide. In this class of 24 signees, the aforementioned Marshall was ranked as the 17th-best player of the group (247Sports).

April 20, 2013: Auburn spring game sets records
Spring football practice at Auburn culminates with a record-setting game late in April. The Tigers had the most popular, most-attended spring game in the nation, hosting a record 83,401 people at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Among the headlines, Jonathan Mincy gets ejected from the game for targeting teammate Dimitri Reese. It’s not easy to get kicked out of a spring game.

Aug. 17, 2013: Nick Marshall named starting QB
Enrolling with the rest of the freshmen in the summer, Marshall entered a heated quarterback battle with Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and incoming true freshman Jeremy Johnson. Midway through fall camp, Malzahn had found his guy in Marshall and the JUCO passer’s story comes full circle. Marshall signed with Georgia as an elite four-star “athlete” in 2011 out of Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox Country before getting kicked out of school for reportedly stealing money from teammates — one of the lowest things you can do in a locker room.

Aug. 17, 2013: Preseason AP Poll released
On the same day Marshall is named the starter, the preseason AP Poll was released. There were 43 teams that received votes in the AP Poll and Auburn wasn’t one of them. For the record, Athlon Sports picked Auburn No. 42 in its preseason magazine. Only Notre Dame in 2012 had ever made it to the BCS title game as a preseason unranked team, so odds for Auburn to make the title game were slim-to-none. 

Sept. 14, 2013: Auburn tops Mississippi State in the final 10 seconds
After a lackluster win over Washington State in Week 1 and a drubbing of Malzahn's former charges (Arkansas State) in Week 2, a glimpse of Auburn’s storybook season begins with a 24-20 win over Mississippi State. Marshall connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left in the game to win the Tigers' first SEC game since topping Ole Miss in October 2011 (10 games). The 120 yards rushing will eventually finish as the worst rushing performance of the season for Malzahn’s zone-read attack.

Sept. 21, 2013: Auburn loses in Baton Rouge to LSU
An unimpressive first month of the season comes to an end when LSU physically pushes around the Tigers in a 35-21 easy victory. LSU was in complete control for most of the game but Auburn fought hard in the second half and finished with 437 yards of offense and 5.1 yards per play against the normally very stingy Bayou Bengals defense. With a loss just two games into the SEC season, Auburn becomes an afterthought in the West Division race.

Sept. 21, 2013: Michigan State loses to Notre Dame
In controversial fashion with more than a few questionable calls, Notre Dame wins a non-descript game over Michigan State that at the time no one thought would matter in the grand scheme of things. The 17-13 victory by the Fighting Irish would eventually be the only loss for the Spartans and likely kept Michigan State out of the BCS title game. Most believe a perfect Big Ten champ would have been ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC champ.

Oct. 5, 2013: Auburn survives a scare from Ole Miss
After a week off to lick their wounds provided by LSU, Auburn bounces back with a dramatic win over Ole Miss. The 30-22 win over No. 24 Mississippi was the first win for Auburn over a ranked team in two years and gives the Tigers more wins in 2013 (4) than it had in all of 2013 (3). Marshall carried 14 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the key divisional showdown.

Oct. 12, 2013: Utah upsets No. 5 Stanford
The Cardinal would go on to lose to USC in Los Angeles later in the year but many believe a one-loss Stanford team would have gotten the nod over a one-loss Auburn team. Stanford played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation (among contenders) and if not for a last-second, goal-line stand by Utah in Salt Lake City, Auburn might not have landed in the BCS title game. Stanford finished the year as Pac-12 champs and ranked No. 5 in the nation and the loss to a 5-7 Utes team eliminated them from BCS contention.

Oct. 18, 2013: Louisville loses to UCF 38-35
A preseason top 10 team, Louisville would go on to finish 11-1 with its only loss coming to UCF 38-35 in mid-October. Had the Cardinals finished unblemished, many would have voted Louisville into the title game over Auburn despite UL’s mediocre schedule (although, I would not have been one of them).

Oct. 19, 2013: Tre Mason and Dee Ford save the day in College Station
Trailing 41-38 with five minutes to go on the road against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn turned to tailback Tre Mason to save the day. The Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:46 off the clock and culminated in a five-yard, game-winning Mason touchdown run. Auburn ran the ball 10 times, including six Mason carries, on a drive that defines Malzahn’s relentless offensive system. On the ensuing possession, Dee Ford sacked Johnny Manziel twice on the final series with No. 7 Texas A&M knocking on the door of the red zone, including a fourth down play that ended the game. The national stage welcomed Auburn to the party following this performance.

Nov. 16, 2013: The Prayer on the Plains is answered
In the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn dominates Georgia for three quarters before the Dawgs come storming back in the final period. Aaron Murray leads his team to three touchdowns, including a gusty fourth down touchdown run to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. On the next possession, Auburn could muster only five yards on six plays in a minute and a half of time. It left the Tigers with a 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left and needing a miracle to survive. Then Nick Marshall heaved a prayer into the Auburn night air that was tipped into infamy by two Georgia defenders. The ball landed gingerly into Ricardo Louis’ waiting arms and he strolled into the SEC history books with one of the most dramatic finishes in conference history.

Nov. 23, 2013: Baylor loses 49-17 to Oklahoma State in Stillwater
An undefeated No. 4-ranked Bears teams went into frigid Stillwater and was totally dominated by Oklahoma State. The 49-17 loss would go on to be Baylor’s only loss of the year and knocked Art Briles’ bunch out of the BCS title game. An undefeated Baylor team would likely have gotten the berth over a one-loss Auburn team.

Nov. 30, 2013: Auburn shocks the world in the Iron Bowl
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been written? The ending is second only to the famed 1982 Stanford-Cal “Band is out on the field” game in terms of being the most bizarre finishes in NCAA history. But when it comes to the gravity, importance, passion and history of the “Kick-6,” no game may ever compare to the 2013 Iron Bowl. The SEC West title, a spot in the SEC championship game and claim to a spot in the BCS title game, as well as in-state bragging rights, were all hanging in the balance and Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game to beat the two-time undefeated defending national champions? Nothing may ever come close to matching that type of resume.

Dec. 7, 2013: Auburn sets records against Missouri in Atlanta
Auburn set 16 SEC championship game records by rolling through a highly regarded and equally effective Missouri Tigers defensive line. Tre Mason rushes 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns — all SEC title game records — in the win. The performance sent Mason to New York as a Heisman finalist. Malzahn becomes just the third head coach in SEC history to win a conference title in his first season in the league and it won him the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award. Now, the Tigers and the rest of the nation sat back to watch what would happen in Indianapolis…

Dec. 7, 2013: No. 2 Ohio State loses to Michigan State
War Eagle prayers were answered in Lucas Oil Field late on Saturday night when Michigan State totally outplays the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Common logic would assume that a 13-0 Ohio State team that had won 25 straight games overall would have played in the BCS national title game against Florida State. But the Spartans ended that discussion in short order by hanging on to defeat the Bucknuts 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game, opening the BCS door wide for the Auburn Tigers.

The win by MSU capped a remarkable calendar year for Auburn fans. From complete and utter depression and disappointment to extreme jubilation in just 12 months, no doubt, it's been a wild ride on The Plains. The phrases “Team of Destiny” and “Football Gods” get tossed around liberally with this War Eagle squad and for good reason. What this team has been through and accomplished over the last year is as extraordinary a story as any in the history of sports.

And the final chapter has yet to be written. Tune in January 6 in Pasadena for what Tiger fans are hoping will be an epic finish to a once-in-a-generation tale... for the second time in four years.

Teaser:
Auburn's Bizarre Path to the BCS Championship
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-2013-postseason-all-america-team
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College football’s 2013 regular season – with the exception of the Army-Navy game – is in the books.

The 2013 season featured plenty of intrigue and surprises, and Florida State and Auburn are set to cap the BCS era with the national championship matchup on Jan. 6 in Pasadena.

With the season for all BCS programs completed, it’s time to honor the top players around the nation.

As usual, it’s no easy assignment assembling three All-America teams. There are plenty of standout performers that won’t make the cut, but we tried to blend talent, production and consistency to form the top three teams.

2013 Season Reviews and All-Conference Teams: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | National Awards

College Football's 2013 Postseason All-America Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team Offense
QB Jameis Winston, FSUQB Bryce Petty, BaylorQB Derek Carr, Fresno State
RB Ka'Deem Carey, ArizonaRB Carlos Hyde, Ohio StateRB Bishop Sankey, Washington
RB Andre Williams, Boston CollegeRB Tre Mason, AuburnRB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon StateWR Allen Robinson, Penn StateWR Davante Adams, Fresno State
WR Jordan Matthews, VanderbiltWR Sammy Watkins, ClemsonWR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE Jace Amaro, Texas TechTE Eric Ebron, North CarolinaTE Nick O'Leary, Florida State
C Hroniss Grasu, OregonC Gabe Ikard, OklahomaC Reese Dismukes, Auburn
G David Yankey, StanfordG Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLAG Anthony Steen, Alabama
G Cyril Richardson, BaylorG Gabe Jackson, Miss. StateG Tre Jackson, Florida State
T Cyrus Kouandjio, AlabamaT Cameron Erving, Florida StateT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
T Jake Matthews, Texas A&MT Jack Mewhort, Ohio StateT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
AP Myles Jack, UCLAAP Antonio Andrews, WKUAP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team Defense
DE Vic Beasley, ClemsonDE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan StateDE Leonard Williams, USC
DE Michael Sam, MissouriDE Jackson Jeffcoat, TexasDE Marcus Smith, Louisville
DT Aaron Donald, PittsburghDT Kelcy Quarles, South CarolinaDT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
DT Timmy Jernigan, FSUDT Will Sutton, Arizona StateDT Derrick Hopkins, Va. Tech
LB C.J. Mosley, AlabamaLB Trent Murphy, StanfordLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
LB Anthony Barr, UCLALB Khalil Mack, BuffaloLB Shayne Skov, Stanford
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio StateLB Chris Borland, WisconsinLB Telvin Smith, FSU
CB Lamarcus Joyner, FSUCB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, OregonCB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan StateCB Jason Verrett, TCUCB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
S Deone Bucannon, Wash. StateS  Cody Prewitt, Ole MissS Jimmie Ward, NIU
Ed Reynolds, StanfordS Calvin Pryor, LouisvilleS Kurtis Drummond, Mich. State
First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team Specialists
K Roberto Aguayo, FSUK Marvin Kloss, USFK Anthony Fera, Texas
P Tom Hornsey, MemphisP Mike Sadler, Michigan StateP Pat O'Donnell, Miami
KR Ty Montgomery, StanfordKR Christion Jones, AlabamaKR DeVon Edwards, Duke
PR Ryan Switzer, UNCPR Nelson Agholor, USCPR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

 

Teaser:
College Football's 2013 Postseason All-America Team
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-postseason-awards-2013
Body:

With the exception of Saturday’s Army-Navy game, college football’s regular season is in the books. Only 36 games separate college football fans until the long offseason, but with another week until the bowl season starts, it’s time to take a look back at 2013 and some of the highlights of the year.

From the opener between North Carolina-South Carolina to the finale between Utah State and Fresno State, the 2013 season provided plenty of highlights, big performances and disappointments.

Let’s take a look at some of the top plays, players and surprising moments of 2013.

2013 Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 SEC | All-America

College Football’s 2013 National Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. The redshirt freshman completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest. Winston finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. He also completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.

2. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
3. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

2. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
3. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
4. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
5. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.

2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
3. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
5. Art Briles, Baylor

Coordinator of the Year: Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
For the third consecutive season, Narduzzi coordinated a Michigan State defense that ranked among the top six nationally in fewest yards allowed per game. The Spartans ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season and improved upon that total in 2013, finishing No. 1 overall by limiting opponents to just 248.2 yards per contest. Michigan State also led the nation in rush defense, finished fourth nationally in fewest points allowed per game and second in pass efficiency defense. Narduzzi’s defense allowed only three opponents to score more than 20 points in a game this year, while no opposing team managed to reach the 30-point mark for the second season in a row. Narduzzi’s work as a defensive coordinator has made him a hot commodity for open head coach vacancies.

2. Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator, Florida State
3. Phil Bennett, defensive coordinator, Baylor
4. Philip Montgomery, offensive coordinator, Baylor
5. Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State

Best Coach Hire for 2013: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn brought immediate improvement to Auburn in his first season as the head coach. The Tigers went 3-9 last year and failed to win a SEC game. But under Malzahn’s watch, Auburn quickly rebounded. The Tigers finished 12-1 – with a huge victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl – and claimed the SEC Championship. Thanks to a Michigan State victory over Ohio State, Auburn is headed to Pasadena to play Florida State for the national championship on Dec. 6. In two years as a head coach, Malzahn is 21-4 at the collegiate level.

2. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
3. Steve Addazio, Boston College
4. Matt Wells, Utah State
5. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

Biggest Surprise: Missouri
Even though Gary Pinkel’s team lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship, let’s give the nod here to Missouri. Sure, Auburn’s rise to the national championship was a huge shocker, but Missouri’s 11-2 season was an even bigger surprise. After a 5-7 mark last year, Missouri was picked to finish lower than Auburn in Athlon’s 125 power rankings for 2013, and there was plenty of talk about the future of coach Gary Pinkel if the Tigers had another losing mark. But Missouri rebounded with a SEC East title and claimed its fourth season of at least 10 victories over the last seven years. The Tigers will have some holes to fill on the roster in 2014, but Pinkel’s team should remain in the mix for a finish in the top half of the SEC East. 

2. Auburn
3. Duke
4. Tulane
5. Boston College

Biggest Disappointment: Florida
Coming into 2013, Florida was expected to have a hard time matching its 11-2 mark from 2012. However, no one expected what transpired in Gainesville this year. The Gators had their worst season since 1979, recording a 4-8 final record and a seven-game losing streak to close out the year. Florida won only two SEC games – Tennessee and Arkansas – and was routed by Florida State in the season finale. The offense was the primary culprit of the 4-8 record, and coordinator Brent Pease and line coach Tim Davis were canned after the loss to the Seminoles. Will Muschamp plans to hire a coach to run an up-tempo attack in 2014, but this team has significant personnel concerns on offense, particularly at quarterback and in the receiving corps.

2. TCU
3. Northwestern
4. Michigan
5. Tulsa

Top Freshman in 2013: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
3. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
4. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
5. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
6. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Best All-Around in 2013: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
By the end of 2013, Jack was not only one of UCLA’s best defenders, but the freshman also emerged as one of the Bruins’ top offensive weapons. In 12 contests, Jack recorded 70 tackles (five for a loss), one interception, one blocked kick and 10 pass breakups. On the offensive side, Jack rushed 37 times for 267 yards and seven scores. He averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per carry and had a 66-yard touchdown run against Arizona. Jack will be one of the Pac-12’s top returning players in 2014 – but will he play more on offense or stick to defense? With Anthony Barr headed to the NFL, Jack should be one of the top pass rushers in the Pac-12 and a preseason All-American.

2. Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
3. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
5. Albert Wilson, WR, Georgia State

Most-Improved Player: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger’s season ended prematurely due to a knee injury suffered against Arkansas, but the senior made considerable progress in 2013. Under new coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger had a solid year, throwing for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also improved his completion percentage to 64.9 percent – a six-point increase from 2011. Mettenberger tossed only eight picks and threw 20 completions of 30 yards or more. By comparison, Mettenberger had only 17 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2012. The senior also averaged three more yards per completion in 2013 than he did in 2012.

Three Coaches on the Rise

1. Pete Lembo, Ball State
Lembo could be in the mix for open jobs this offseason. In three years with Ball State, he is 25-12 and has guided the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl appearances.

2. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
It’s only a matter of time before a BCS job hires Hudspeth away from the Ragin’ Cajuns. In three years with Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth is 26-12 with three bowl trips.

3. Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Johnson is just 9-15 overall, but the Green Wave improved their win total by five games from 2012 to 2013. Tulane is also set to play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21, which is its first bowl appearance since 2002.

Five Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2014

1. Will Muschamp, Florida
2. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
3. Tim Beckman, Illinois
4. Mike London, Virginia
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Five Players to Watch in 2014

1. Dontre Wilson, RB, Ohio State
2. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
3. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State
5. P.J. Walker, QB, Temple

Three Programs on the Rise for 2014

1. Washington
2. North Carolina
3. Ole Miss

 

Best Play: Auburn's Chris Davis returns missed field goal to beat Alabama



Best Catch: UCF's J.J. Worton against Temple



Best Coaching Soundbyte: Les Miles after beating Florida



Best Coaching Rant: Iowa State's Paul Rhoads after losing to Texas



Best Trick Play: Fresno State's fumblerooski against New Mexico



Worst Officiating Moment: Arizona State-Wisconsin clock fiasco

Teaser:
College Football's Postseason Awards for 2013
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-15
Body:

Fantasy playoffs are in full effect as we enter Week 15 of the NFL regular season. From here out, it’s pretty much win or go home and now is the time when owners are hoping that their top players will come through in a major way.

Last week saw some of the usual suspects answer the call, as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forté, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson, Antonio Brown, Jordan Cameron, Jimmy Graham and the Kansas City DST were among the leading scorers at their respective positions. However, there also were plenty of surprises, including Josh McCown leading all scorers following his monster Monday night performance (348 yards passing, 5 total touchdowns) against Dallas.

As impressive as McCown was against the Cowboys and as well as he has played (14 total TDs, 2 turnovers), it’s possible that he may not even get the start on Sunday in Cleveland. Jay Cutler appears to be getting closer to returning from his ankle injury, and Chicago head coach Marc Trestman has already said that he will be the starter once he’s cleared to play. So those who have been riding McCown lately may have the rug pulled out from under them this week.

And that’s not the only impact player who could be missing in Week 15. Adrian Peterson could be sidelined because of a sprained foot, Wes Welker is out because of a concussion, Rob Gronkowski is done after tearing his ACL and MCL last week, and Robert Griffin III has been benched for the rest of the season and replaced by Kirk Cousins.

By this point, however, injuries and depth chart shuffling shouldn’t surprise anyone, not with how this season has played out. Now it’s just a matter of getting the most out of the healthy bodies you have left on your roster and hoping you can put together the right lineup to be the last team standing when all is said and done.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-15
Body:

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees lead Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 quarterback rankings, but it's some other names near the top that have opened the most eyes this season.

Josh McCown led all fantasy scorers with 47.52 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) last week after throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the Monday night win over Dallas. McCown also added a rushing score for good measure and has been quite productive in relief of an injured Jay Cutler. In five starts, McCown is averaging 27.32 points per outing as he has thrown 13 total touchdown passes and just one interception on the season. McCown is a clear-cut, top-10 option this week against Cleveland, provided he starts. Cutler is getting closer to returning from his ankle injury, and head coach Marc Trestman has already said that McCown would cede the starting gig back to Cutler when he's cleared to play. Will that happen this week? For now, we are inclined to believe the Bears will stick with McCown.

As remarkable as McCown's run has been, Nick Foles has been putting up impressive numbers for a longer stretch of games. Taking advantage of Michael Vick's injury-prone nature, Foles has emerged as one of fantasy's most productive quarterbacks. On the season, Foles has accounted for 23 total touchdowns (20 pass, 3 rush) and has turned the ball over twice (INT, fumble). He's a borderline top-15 fantasy quarterback, which is impressive considering he's played in just 10 games. As a starter, Foles is averaging 25.76 fantasy points. The only two quarterbacks averaging more per start are Manning and Brees. Foles is assured of getting the start on Sunday and he in checks in at No. 4 on Athlon's rankings because of his matchup against a Minnesota defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. This Eagle could help many owners win a fantasy championship in 2013.

One quarterback who won't be leading anyone to a fantasy title is Robert Griffin III. RG3's disappointing sophomore season will end with him on the bench, as Washington head coach Mike Shanahan has decided to sit RG3 for Kirk Cousins. Whether it's driven by a desire to protect RG3 or the latest indicator that the Redskins are one dysfunctional mess of an organization right now, the end result is the same — RG3 was one of the season's biggest disappointments.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Peyton ManningDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Drew BreesNOat STL
3Cam NewtonCARvs. NYJ
4Nick FolesPHIat MIN
5Matthew StaffordDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
6Russell WilsonSEAat NYG
7Josh McCownCHIat CLE
8Tony RomoDALvs. GB
9Andrew LuckINDvs. HOU
10Tom BradyNEat MIA
11Philip RiversSDat DEN (Thurs.)
12Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. CIN
13Alex SmithKCat OAK
14Matt RyanATLvs. WAS
15Colin KaepernickSFat TB
16Ryan TannehillMIAvs. NE
17Joe FlaccoBALat DET (Mon.)
18Andy DaltonCINat PIT
19Kirk CousinsWASat ATL
20Jason CampbellCLEvs. CHI
21Carson PalmerARIat TEN
22Ryan FitzpatrickTENvs. ARI
23Case KeenumHOUat IND
24Matt CasselMINvs. PHI
25Matt FlynnGBat DAL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-15
Body:

While many of the familiar names can be found near the top of Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 running back rankings, it's the one that's missing that could have the biggest impact this week and moving forward.

Adrian Peterson left last week's game in Baltimore on a cart, as his owners no doubt feared the worst. The good news is that it appears the reigning MVP escaped serious injury, but he is still expected to miss at least one game because of a sprained foot. Toby Gerhart would get the start in Peterson's absence and those who were smart enough to handcuff Peterson with Gerhart or have him on their roster shouldn't hesitate to throw him out there against Philadelphia and see what happens.

Speaking of Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy had a field day out in the snow against Detroit last week, rushing for a franchise-record 217 yards. McCoy took over the NFL rushing lead from Peterson with that big performance and could be in for another one against a Minnesota defense that is giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. This game will be indoors, however, so it's possible that McCoy may not be quite as busy (29 carries) this week compared to last.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Jamaal CharlesKCat OAK
2LeSean McCoyPHIat MIN
3Matt ForteCHIat CLE
4Marshawn LynchSEAat NYG
5Knowshon MorenoDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
6Eddie LacyGBat DAL
7DeMarco MurrayDALvs. GB
8Reggie BushDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
9Alfred MorrisWASat ATL
10Ben TateHOUat IND
11Zac StacySTLvs. NO
12Shane VereenNEat MIA
13Andre BrownNYGvs. SEA
14Toby GerhartMINvs. PHI
15Le'Veon BellPITvs. CIN
16Frank GoreSFat TB
17Steven JacksonATLvs. WAS
18Giovani BernardCINat PIT
19Ryan MathewsSDat DEN (Thurs.)
20Fred JacksonBUFat JAC
21C.J. SpillerBUFvs. KC
22Chris JohnsonTENvs. ARI
23Maurice Jones-DrewJACvs. BUF
24Rashad JenningsOAKvs. KC
25Danny WoodheadSDat DEN (Thurs.)
26Ray RiceBALat DET (Mon.)
27Bobby RaineyTBvs. SF
28Rashard MendenhallARIat TEN
29Chris IvoryNYJat CAR
30Pierre ThomasNOat STL
31Montee BallDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
32BenJarvus Green-EllisCINat PIT
33Darren SprolesNOat STL
34Lamar MillerMIAvs. NE
35Donald BrownINDvs. HOU
36Andre EllingtonARIat TEN
37DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NYJ
38Joique BellDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
39Chris OgbonnayaCLEvs. CHI
40Daniel ThomasMIAvs. NE

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-15
Body:

Calvin Johnson remains atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 wide receiver rankings, but he's no longer running away from the pack.

Josh Gordon maintained his hot streak last week, adding seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown to his impressive season totals. Johnson meanwhile was held in check not by Philadelphia's defense as much as the elements, as blizzard-like conditions for much of the game severely impacted both teams' ability to pass the ball. As a result, Gordon now finds himself leading the NFL in receiving yards and is within striking distance of Johnson in fantasy points. This week Gordon will look to add Chicago's secondary to his list of victims while Megatron will no doubt be happy to be back home (and indoors) against Baltimore playing in the Monday night spotlight.

In fact, the Bears vs. Browns matchup will feature three of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL in Gordon, along with Chicago's Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The Bears' rangy and athletic duo has combined for 159 catches, 2,283 yards and 11 touchdowns. All three wideouts are top-10 options this week that should pay off big for their owners, provided the weather cooperates.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers
 

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
2Josh GordonCLEvs. CHI
3Demaryius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
4Andre JohnsonHOUat IND
5A.J. GreenCINat PIT
6Alshon JefferyCHIat CLE
7Brandon MarshallCHIat CLE
8Dez BryantDALvs. GB
9DeSean JacksonPHIat MIN
10Eric DeckerDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
11Antonio BrownPITvs. CIN
12Keenan AllenSDat DEN (Thurs.)
13Vincent JacksonTBvs. SF
14Torrey SmithBALat DET (Mon.)
15Larry FitzgeraldARIat TEN
16Pierre GarconWASat ATL
17Roddy WhiteATLvs. WAS
18Jordy NelsonGBat DAL
19Riley CooperPHIat MIN
20Marques ColstonNOat STL
21Cecil ShortsJACvs. BUF
22Julian EdelmanNEat MIA
23Anquan BoldinSFat TB
24Steve SmithCARvs. NYJ
25Victor CruzNYGvs. SEA
26Dwayne BoweKCat OAK
27Harry DouglasATLvs. WAS
28T.Y. HiltonINDvs. HOU
29Mike WallaceMIAvs. NE
30Michael FloydARIat TEN
31Stevie JohnsonBUFat JAC
32Rod StreaterOAKvs. KC
33Kendall WrightTENvs. ARI
34Golden TateSEAat NYG
35Danny AmendolaNEat MIA
36Brian HartlineMIAvs. NE
37Michael CrabtreeSFat TB
38Greg JenningsMINvs. PHI
39James JonesGBat DAL
40Cordarrelle PattersonMINvs. PHI
41Emmanuel SandersPITvs. CIN
42Jarrett BoykinGBat DAL
43Hakeem NicksNYGvs. SEA
44Brandon LaFellCARvs. NYJ
45Doug BaldwinSEAat NYG
46Marlon BrownBALat DET (Mon.)
47Tavon AustinSTLvs. NO
48Andre HolmesOAKvs. KC
49Robert WoodsBUFat JAC
50Da'Rick RogersINDvs. HOU

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-15
Body:

The injury bug has struck again, causing some changes to Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 tight end rankings. The biggest being the removal of Rob Gronkowski, who tore his ACL and MCL last week. It's somewhat fitting that Gronk's season ends with yet another serious injury, as he missed the first half of the season recovering from back surgery.

Gronk was productive for his owners when he was in there, but the injuries have already taken a toll on his playing time and it's only a matter of time before that carries over to his draft value. Especially considering he's staring at another lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process, perhaps as long as a year, directly in the face.

While Gronkowski may be done for the season, another injured tight end who had a triumphant return was Dennis Pitta. One of Joe Flacco's favorite targets, Pitta dislocated his hip in training camp and at one time was feared lost for the entire season. He made his way back, however, and any one who doubted his importance to Baltimore's passing attack need look no further than the six passes for 48 yards and touchdown catch he produced against Minnesota last week in his first action of the season. It's a bit of a risk, but Pitta could be the answer to someone in need of a Gronkowski replacement or looking for more production from their tight end. Last season, Pitta and Flacco hooked up 61 times for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

RkPlayerTeamOPP
1Jimmy GrahamNOat STL
2Julius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
3Vernon DavisSFat TB
4Greg OlsenCARvs. NYJ
5Tony GonzalezATLvs. WAS
6Jordan CameronCLEvs. CHI
7Jason WittenDALvs. GB
8Charles ClayMIAvs. NE
9Antonio GatesSDat DEN (Thurs.)
10Delanie WalkerTENvs. ARI
11Dennis PittaBALat DET (Mon.)
12Coby FleenerINDvs. HOU
13Garrett GrahamHOUat IND
14Martellus BennettCHIat CLE
15Jacob TammeDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
16Jordan ReedWASat ATL
17Heath MillerPITvs. CIN
18Jared CookSTLvs. NO
19Ladarius GreenSDat DEN (Thurs.)
20Rob HouslerARIat TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

OFFENSIVE SCORING
All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-15
Body:

Seattle's on the road this week, but not even a cross-country trip to face the Giants is enough to keep them from the top spot in Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 defense/special teams rankings. The Seahawks lost last week to the 49ers on the road, but the defense should find things a little easier against a Giants team that has yielded the most fantasy points to DSTs.

Carolina on the other hand will gladly welcome a Jets offense led by rookie quarterback Geno Smith after getting carved up last week on the road by Drew Brees and the Saints. Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns against the Panthers, which along with the 31 points the Saints scored were the most Carolina has given up in a game all season. Enter Smith, who hasn't thrown for 300 yards in a game since Week 3 and has posted a 2:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last eight games. Carolina's defense can hardly wait to sink its claws into the rookie signal-caller.

Then there is Kansas City's DST, which holds a fairly substantial lead over the aforementioned Panthers for top scoring honors in fantasy. Last week against Washington, the Chiefs had a sack party, piling up six of them. That marked the fourth game for this defense with at least five sacks. Besides the sacks and two turnovers, the Chiefs also returned two kicks for touchdowns, putting the finishing touches on their sixth game with a least 21 fantasy points this season. Next up is an Oakland offense that has surrendered 41 sacks (tied for the fourth most) total and turned the ball over at least twice in six of its last eight games.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

RkTeamOPP
1Seattle Seahawksat NYG
2Carolina Panthersvs. NYJ
3San Francisco 49ersat TB
4Kansas City Chiefsat OAK
5Arizona Cardinalsat TEN
6Cincinnati Bengalsat PIT
7New Orleans Saintsat STL
8Buffalo Billsat JAC
9Philadelphia Eaglesat MIN
10Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. SF
11New England Patriotsat MIA
12St. Louis Ramsvs. NO
13Pittsburgh Steelersvs. CIN
14Baltimore Ravensat DET (Mon.)
15Miami Dolphinsvs. NE
16Detroit Lionsvs. BAL (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

DEFENSIVE SCORING
0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Kickers

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-15
Body:

To the victor goes the spoils, which is why Matt Prater leads off Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 kicker rankings. Stephen Gostkowski may lead in fantasy points, but no kicker had a bigger game last week than Prater. Of course the highlight was setting a new NFL record with a ridiculous 64-yard boot, and that was just one of three field goals he made in the win over Tennessee. Those along with the six PATs resulted in 17 glorious fantasy points (Athlon scoring) for Prater's owners. It may have been even more in those leagues that increase the points based on kick distance. After all, they don't get any longer than 64 yards.

For the season, Prater is tied with Gostkowski for most field goals made from 50 yards and out with five. Prater's 65 PATs are 25 more than the next guy on the list and he should be good for at least a few more on Thursday night against San Diego. Who knows, maybe the Chargers' Nick Novak can take advantage of the thin air in the Mile High City and boot a long one of his own. If you are looking for another record, however, don't get your hopes up. Novak's career best is 53 yards and that came in 2011.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

RkPlayerTeamOPPONENT
1Matt PraterDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Steven HauschkaSEAat NYG
3Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIA
4Justin TuckerBALat DET (Mon.)
5Phil DawsonSFat TB
6Adam VinatieriINDvs. HOU
7Mason CrosbyGBat DAL
8Blair WalshMINvs. PHI
9Nick NovakSDvs. DEN (Thurs.)
10Dan BaileyDALvs. GB
11Robbie GouldCHIat CLE
12Graham GanoCARvs. NYJ
13Caleb SturgisMIAvs. NE
14Nick FolkNYJat CAR
15Ryan SuccopKCat OAK
16Shaun SuishamPITvs. CIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

KICKER SCORING
PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Quarterbacks
Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Teaser:
Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30

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