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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouris-henry-josey-announces-return-haircut
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Missouri’s Henry Josey was one of college football’s top running backs in 2011, but he suffered a significant knee injury late in the year and was forced to sit out all of 2012.

Although it’s uncertain if Josey will be the same player before his injury, the junior is ready to go for fall camp.

Josey is announcing his return to the college football world with an impressive haircut, which simply states, “I’m Back.”

If Josey is at full strength, he could be one of the SEC’s top running backs in 2013 and will help get Missouri back into contention for a bowl game.

 

Teaser:
Missouri's Henry Josey Announces Return With Haircut
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:50
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/skater-bob-burnquist-makes-insane-death-defying-tricks-video
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Pro skateboarder Bob Burnquist may have the coolest backyard in the world, filled with insane ramps that look like they came straight out of a video game. He uses those ramps, and a helicopter to unleash a barrage of over-the-top tricks. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear his mom in the background yelling, "Stop doing that!"
 

Teaser:
Pro skateboarder Bob Burnquist may have the coolest backyard in the world, filled with insane ramps that look like they came straight out of a video game.
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:18
Path: /college-football/western-michigan-coach-pj-fleck-walks-fire
Body:

New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck certainly isn’t short on energy or interesting ideas.

The first-year coach revamped the Broncos’ uniforms for 2013 and recently walked on fire. No, really.

And if that wasn’t enough, Fleck and his staff walked on broken glass this summer.

Here’s a video and a photo showing Fleck’s offseason adventures.

 

Teaser:
Western Michigan Coach P.J. Fleck Walks on Fire
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 08:55
All taxonomy terms: Funny, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/soccer-stars-make-horribly-awesome-retro-rap-video
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In the spirit of "The Super Bowl Shuffle," meet the MLS All-Stars as they rap a truly terrible, "We're Better Than the Rest!" The '85 Bears would be proud.
 

Teaser:
In the spirit of "The Super Bowl Shuffle," meet the MLS All-Stars as they rap a truly terrible, "We're Better Than the Rest!"
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 08:54
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

After serving a one-year postseason ban, North Carolina is poised to make a run at the ACC Coastal title in 2013.

The Tar Heels return 13 starters, including quarterback Bryn Renner and receiver Quinshad Davis. Even though guard Jonathan Cooper and running back Giovani Bernard must be replaced, North Carolina should have no trouble scoring points.

However, the defense remains a question mark. North Carolina allowed 25.7 points a game in 2012 and must replace tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick. The Tar Heels also struggled stopping opposing offenses late in the year, allowing 38 points to a Maryland team that was starting a linebacker at quarterback, and giving up 68 to Georgia Tech.

The ACC Coastal is a wide-open division. And the Tar Heels figure to be in the mix for the title, especially with a favorable crossover schedule against the Atlantic.

What will North Carolina's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

North Carolina's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
John
Cassillo
Ryan 
Tice
Tar Heel
Times
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
Matt
McClusky
David
Fox
8/29 at South Carolina
9/7 MTSU
9/21 at Georgia Tech
9/28 East Carolina
10/5 at Virginia Tech
10/17 Miami
10/26 Boston College
11/2 at NC State
11/9 Virginia
11/16 at Pittsburgh
11/23 Old Dominion
11/30 Duke
Final Projection8-410-28-49-38-48-49-39-3

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The more I look at North Carolina’s 2012 season, the more I am impressed with the job that Larry Fedora did in his first year. The Tar Heels had nothing to play for, yet went 8-4 and lost three games by five points or less. I’m giving Miami a slight edge to win the Coastal, but it wouldn’t shock me if North Carolina finishes at the top of the division. Provided the offensive line finds a replacement for standout guard Jonathan Cooper, the Tar Heels should rank near the top of the ACC in scoring. The defense is still in need of repair, but this unit should be better with another offseason to work with coordinator Vic Koenning. North Carolina has a favorable crossover slate, as it misses Clemson and Florida State in crossover play. However, the Tar Heels drew a tough road schedule, which includes trips to South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State and Pittsburgh.

Tar Heel Times (@TarHeelTimes) TarHeelTimes.com
The 2013 Tar Heels will be as good as their defense allows them to be. Despite an explosive, record-setting offensive performance in 2012, the UNC defense surrendered 26 points per game and seemed to have trouble at times adjusting to their new 4-2-5 scheme. If the defense can catch up with the offense in year two then the sky's the limit. However, the Tar Heels have a tough early-season slate with an opening-weekend visit to South Carolina and a trip to Georgia Tech, where they haven't won since 1997. If the defense can't adjust, then the Tar Heels will have plenty of offensive weapons to fall back on, despite some new faces on the offensive line. Quarterback Bryn Renner, tight end Eric Ebron, wide receiver Quinshad Davis, and running backs A.J. Blue and Romar Morris each have All-ACC caliber talent. UNC's trip to Virginia Tech will be problematic as will their Thursday night prime-time encounter with Miami in Chapel Hill, which is being dubbed "Zero Dark Thursday" and will feature UNC's black uniforms. The Heels also visit rival NC State, who boldly scheduled UNC as their homecoming game despite having a new coach and a first-year starting quarterback. UNC ends their regular season against Duke in Chapel Hill, which is always a close affair.
 

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
I'm sure I'm giving more credit to the Tar Heels than most, but look at that schedule. Outside of the dates against South Carolina and Miami (both losses in my book), are there really any games on this schedule where you truly doubt UNC? Both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are on the road, as is rival NC State, but each of those teams has their own respective reasons why they'll have some struggles this season. Expect Bryn Renner to be even more comfortable in Larry Fedora's offense this year, as he and A.J. Blue (who'll pick up right where Gio Bernard left off) lead this offense to one of the country's best scoring efforts.

 

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
The loss of running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL is a huge blow to the offense — both the ground and aerial attacks — as well as the punt return game. The Tar Heels have also lost some of their star offensive linemen, although left tackle James Hurst will be one of the ACC’s best. Quarterback Bryn Renner is back for his third year as the starter, receiver Quinshad Davis is a potential star in the making and tight end Eric Ebron is the league’s best at his position. However, the defense lost its best two players and that is the side that will really decide wins and losses after the Heels allowed nearly 400 yards of offense per game last season. In terms of the division race, the good news is that UNC gets 14 days to prepare for Georgia Tech on the road, and coaches always want as much time as possible to prepare for Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. However, the schedule is a bear from that Sept. 21 date until Nov. 2 with an in-state rival that can’t be overlooked in East Carolina, a road game at Virginia Tech, a home tilt with division favorite Miami and then a road date at NC State following a breather against Boston College on Oct. 26.

Mark Ross

Outside of a blowout loss to Georgia Tech, North Carolina's three other losses last season came by a total of nine points. Yes, the Tar Heels lost key personnel on both sides of the ball, but there's plenty of talent coming back and both units should be even more comfortable in Larry Fedora's no-huddle spread attack and the unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme this fall.

The offense, with quarterback Bryn Renner, wide receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron leading the way, should score plenty of points. The Tar Heels' season success will come down to how much better the defense plays, especially against the pass. Opening up on the road against South Carolina will not be easy, but as long as Renner emerges unscathed against Jedeveon Clowney and company, the Tar Heels should at least keep the ACC Coastal race interesting.

The key to this is finding a way to get some wins on the road (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State and Pittsburgh) and also beating Miami at home. Establishing some sort of a running game and cutting down on the big plays allowed on defense wouldn't hurt either.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

What stands out about North Carolina's schedule in the ACC this year is the toughness of the road slate. Few teams will play as tough a four-pack of games like at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech, at NC State and at Pitt. A 1-3 record in that group might be considered a success. Bryn Renner is an underrated quarterback nationally, but the offense will have to replace loads of departed NFL talent. Quality quarterback play and a great offensive scheme gives UNC a chance to compete for a division crown. The Tar Heels will pull an upset or two — say, over Miami — but won't win enough on the road to get to Charlotte for the ACC title game.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
North Carolina’s going to be an interesting team to watch, especially on offense. Bryn Renner is going to need to take a greater lead of the offense with Giovani Bernard gone to the NFL. Offensive line may be a bit of a question, but the Heels have three starters back to a team that allowed less than one sack per game. I like the way the season ends for North Carolina. If the Tar Heels can get out of those first six games with a winning record, they could win the division. I’ve picked Carolina to lost to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have defeated Carolina in seven of the last eight meetings. After that, North Carolina needs to look for a split against the defensive power of the division (Virginia Tech) and the best offensive team in the division (Miami).

Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky), NunesMagician.com

Some things about North Carolina you may not realize: Butch Davis is long gone; Larry Fedora is in, and is heading for year two as coach. The Tar Heels' NCAA issues of the last few seasons are mostly over and this team was actually pretty good last year. The off-field turmoil is over and that means it's probably time to pay attention to North Carolina, especially with the return of Bryn Renner at quarterback and Quinshad Davis at wideout. The duo of Renner and Davis will be lighting up ACC defenses, which is good news for fans of big plays. Plus, anyone else excited to see the Tar Heels offense against South Carolina week one? A weak offensive line could make that game...interesting. The defense, which was an issue at points last season, does return six starters, but will likely still be a problem for Fedora. Which is another reason the Tar Heels, a sneaky team in the ACC, should be something of appointment viewing this fall. Close, high scoring games are always fun to watch.
 

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Teaser:
North Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-quarterback-battles-watch-fall-practice
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With the turn of the calendar to August, fall practice is officially set to begin across the nation for all 125 college football teams.

Most teams are settled at quarterback, but there are a handful of programs still looking for the right answer heading into fall practice.

None of the top-10 teams in Athlon’s projected final top 25 will have a quarterback battle this fall, but top-25 teams like TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Wisconsin need to settle on a starter over the next few weeks.

Although quarterback battles aren’t necessarily bad if they extend into the season, most coaching staffs would prefer to find the right answer before the first game.

College Football's Top Fall Practice Quarterback Battles

Arizona
Matt Scott’s eligibility expired after the New Mexico Bowl, leaving a wide-open battle for Arizona’s job in the spring. B.J. Denker served as the backup last season and made one start (Colorado). Denker has the edge in experience, but he will be pushed by junior college transfer and former USC Trojan Jesse Scroggins, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and true freshman Anu Solomon. Scroggins is recovering from a foot injury and is expected to be at full strength by the time fall practice opens. Solomon ranked as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class by Athlon Sports. Denker’s edge in experience should pay off early in the year. However, the Wildcats could turn to Solomon or Scroggins by midseason.
Projected Starter for Opener: Denker

Auburn
Gus Malzahn’s return to Auburn was expected to benefit Kiehl Frazier — who was recruited to the Plains by Malzahn — and Jonathan Wallace, as both quarterbacks struggled in last season’s pro-style attack. However, midway through fall practice, the outlook for the Tigers' quarterback battle has changed. Junior college recruit (and former Georgia defensive back) Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson have ascended to the top of the depth chart. Marshall threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 scores at Garden City Community College in 2012. Adapting as a junior college recruit to SEC play is never easy, but Marshall’s athleticism could at least give him a role as a change-of-pace option in 2013. Frazier moved to safety, but Wallace is expected to be in the mix at quarterback if Johnson or Marshall stumbles.
Projected First Game Starter: Marshall


California
The Golden Bears opened spring practice with seven quarterbacks vying for the starting spot. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline, true freshman Jared Goff and junior Austin Hinder finished as the top three options, but none has thrown a pass at the FBS level. Kline ranked as the No. 4 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class, while Goff impressed in his first semester on campus. Hinder ranked as a top-20 national quarterback recruit in the 2010 signing class and completed 5 of 9 passes for 87 yards in the spring game. Whichever quarterback wins the job will be the triggerman for an offense that has potential to score plenty of points under new coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin
Projected First Game Starter: Kline


Kansas State
Despite losing quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State’s offense is still in good shape. The offensive line is among the best in the Big 12, and running back John Hubert is back after rushing for 947 yards last year. The receiving corps has plenty of talent, including Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. Daniel Sams served as Klein’s backup in 2012, rushing for 235 yards and three touchdowns in limited work. Battling Sams for the top spot is Jake Waters, who ranked as the top junior college quarterback in the nation, throwing for 3,501 yards at Iowa Western Community College in 2012. Waters also set a NJCAA national record for completion percentage (73.3) in 2012. While Klein will be missed, the Wildcats should be solid on offense with either Sams or Waters at the controls.
Projected First Game Starter: Sams


Michigan State
The Spartans sorely missed Kirk Cousins last year, as the offense averaged only 20 points per game and ranked ninth in the Big Ten with 359.3 yards per game. Andrew Maxwell started all 13 games last season but completed only 52.5 percent of his throws and averaged just 200.5 yards per game. Connor Cook gave Michigan State’s offense a spark in the bowl game and is in the mix, along with Tyler O’Connor and true freshman Damion Terry. Cook gives the offense more mobility from the quarterback spot, but Maxwell’s experience should give him the edge for the opener.
Projected First Game Starter: Maxwell


NC State
Mike Glennon expired his eligibility after the Music City Bowl, leaving Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker fighting for the top spot on the depth chart this spring. Thomas finished spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback, but coach Dave Doeren added another name to the mix for the fall – Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell. Although Mitchell doesn’t have a ton of game experience (43 passes) from his time in Fayetteville, he is the best fit for an offense that plans to show more spread looks in 2013. It’s not easy to pickup an offense in a few months, but Mitchell should edge Thomas and Stocker for the top spot.
Projected First Game Starter: Mitchell


Oklahoma
After playing a part-time role the last two seasons, Blake Bell is the heavy favorite to be Oklahoma’s No. 1 quarterback in 2013. Bell has rushed for 24 touchdowns in his career but has thrown only 20 passes. While Bell has a lead over redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and sophomore Kendal Thompson, this job is far from settled – at least according to coach Bob Stoops. Knight had an impressive spring and also brings dual-threat ability to the offense. Could Thompson or Knight see time as a short-yardage or change-of-pace quarterback assuming Bell wins the job? Even though Bell needs to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm, the junior should be the No. 1 quarterback for Oklahoma.
Projected First Game Starter: Bell


Oklahoma State

Coach Mike Gundy has indicated that Clint Chelf will open the year as the No. 1 quarterback. But this battle could extend into the season. Chelf finished 2012 as the starter, throwing for 13 touchdowns over the final five games. Wes Lunt opened last year as the starter as a true freshman, but injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of the season, and he transferred this summer to Illinois. If he doesn’t unseat Chelf, J.W. Walsh could see snaps in special packages if he’s not the starter. Although Gundy insists the quarterback job is open, it’s hard to envision the first snap going to someone other than Chelf.
Projected First Game Starter: Chelf 


Oregon State
The good news for coach Mike Riley is that the Beavers have two proven starting quarterbacks. The bad news? Neither played well enough last season or in spring practice to secure the top spot. Sean Mannion opened 2012 as Oregon State’s No. 1 quarterback, but a knee injury forced him out of action, which opened the door for Cody Vaz. Although Vaz isn’t as talented as Mannion, he seems to have the trust of the coaching staff and threw only three picks in 185 attempts. Mannion has the edge in talent and was voted as a team captain for 2013. Could that be a sign he is the preferred No. 1 quarterback for Oregon State?
Projected First Game Starter: Mannion


Penn State

Steven Bench, the most experienced quarterback on the roster (with eight attempts) left the program after spring practice, creating a two-way battle to replace Matt McGloin. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and true freshman Christian Hackenberg — the No. 13 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 — will do their best to impress coach Bill O’Brien during the fall. If Hackenberg is as good as advertised, O’Brien won’t hesitate to let the freshman play. Considering O’Brien’s history of tutoring quarterbacks, the winner of this job should have a big season in Happy Valley.
Projected First Game Starter: Hackenberg


TCU
Casey Pachall was on track to be one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks last season, but he was suspended for the season after an off-the-field incident in early October. Pachall threw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns as TCU’s full-time starter in 2011. Trevone Boykin performed well in his first extended look at quarterback last season, finishing the year with 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns. Boykin is the better dual-threat option, but Pachall is more experienced and has a good grasp of the offense. The senior is also is the better passer, which will allow TCU to stretch the field more than it did last year. Expect Pachall to win the starting job, but don’t be surprised if both quarterbacks see playing time in 2013.
Projected First Game Starter: Pachall


Tennessee
New coach Butch Jones inherits a Tennessee offense that has one of the best offensive lines in the nation, but is lacking proven talent at receiver and doesn’t have an established quarterback. Justin Worley holds a slight edge over the competition, as he has nine games of experience under his belt, including three starts in 2011. Worley has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown so far in his career. Freshman Nathan Peterman pushed Worley for time in the spring, but true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson will factor into the mix. Dobbs is the best fit for Jones’ offense, but is he ready to start the season opener?
Projected First Game Starter: Worley


USC
Matt Barkley departs after throwing for 12,327 yards in his career, leaving true freshman Max Browne and sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler competing for the No. 1 job. After Barkley suffered a shoulder injury against UCLA, Wittek started the final two games and completed just 28-of-60 passes. Kessler completed both of his attempts in mop-up duty last year, while Browne is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 signing class. Kessler had the better spring, but Wittek seems to be the preferred choice of the coaching staff. Regardless of whether it’s Wittek, Kessler or Browne under center, they will have one of the nation’s top receiving corps at their disposal.
Projected First Game Starter: Wittek

West Virginia
Junior Paul Millard (34 pass attempts), Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Ford Childress are battling for the right to replace Geno Smith. Millard backed up Smith the last two years and most of his playing time was in mop-up duty. Childress is the son of a former NFL lineman and was ranked as the No. 18 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class. Trickett joined the team following spring practice after three seasons in Tallahassee. He started two games in 2011, which included an impressive performance at Clemson (336 yards). Millard has the most experience in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system, but Childress might have more upside. However, the addition of Trickett has added another element to the battle, and the junior certainly wasn’t brought in to hold a clipboard.
Projected First Game Starter: Trickett

Wisconsin
Curt Phillips stabilized Wisconsin’s quarterback play last season after an injury sidelined Joel Stave and Danny O’Brien was benched due to ineffectiveness. But Phillips could be the odd man out this season, as Stave turned in a solid spring, and junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy is the best fit for new coach Gary Andersen’s offense. Stave threw for 1,104 yards and six scores last season but doesn’t offer anything on the ground. McEvoy is a dual-threat who could thrive in coordinator Andy Ludwig’s attack. However, he will need some time to learn the offense, as well as adjust to the competition level in the Big Ten.
Projected First Game Starter: Stave

Others to Watch

Houston
Houston’s offense took a step back last year after the departure of quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin. Piland had a good performance against Louisiana Tech (580 yards) but finished the year with 12 picks and completed 57.1 percent of his throws. He will be pushed by JUCO recruit Billy Cosh, sophomore Bram Kohlhausen and incoming freshman John O’Korn.

Indiana
The Hoosiers have three quarterbacks capable of leading this team in 2013. Sophomore Tre Roberson missed most of last year due to a leg injury, while Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld played well in relief. Indiana ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense and regardless of which quarterback wins the job, should be one of the best in the conference once again.

Iowa
The Hawkeyes offense ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring last year, and none of the quarterbacks on the roster have played a snap in an Iowa uniform. Sophomore Jake Rudock is the favorite, but he will be pushed by junior Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard.

Kentucky
Coach Mark Stoops’ decision to hire Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator should pay dividends for Kentucky in 2013. But for Brown to move the Wildcats out of the SEC cellar in scoring offense, a quarterback needs to emerge. There’s no shortage of candidates, with sophomore Jalen Whitlow owning a slight edge over Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles heading into the fall.

Purdue
New coach Darrell Hazell wants to settle on a No. 1 quarterback this fall, with senior Rob Henry and freshmen Danny Etling and Austin Appleby vying for snaps. Henry has seven career starts at quarterback but none since 2010. Etling was one of Purdue’s top recruits and impressed in spring practice.

South Florida
After averaging just 20.6 points a game in 2012, there’s plenty of room for USF’s offense to improve this year. New coach Willie Taggart has attempted to bolster South Florida’s quarterback issues by adding Penn State transfer Steven Bench this summer. Bench will compete with senior Bobby Eveld, sophomore Matt Floyd and true freshman Mike White this fall.

Syracuse
Ryan Nassib won’t be easy to replace, but Syracuse has three intriguing candidates competing for time. Drew Allen is eligible immediately after transferring from Oklahoma, while sophomore Terrel Hunt adds a dual-threat option to the offense, and Charley Loeb was the backup to Nassib last year.

Texas Tech
Michael Brewer was considered a heavy favorite to win the job in the spring, but true freshman Davis Webb impressed the coaching staff. Is there really a battle here or is this a motivational tactic to push Brewer?

Virginia
Coach Mike London indicated sophomore David Watford will open fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert is expected to push for time. Watford redshirted in 2012 after throwing for 346 yards as a true freshman in 2011.

Washington State
Junior Connor Halliday heads into the fall with an edge over redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca and true freshman Tyler Bruggman. Halliday threw for 1,874 yards in limited action last year, but he needs to cut down on his mistakes and complete a higher percentage of his passes.

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Teaser:
College Football's Quarterback Battles to Watch in Fall Practice
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/penn-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Penn State is still dealing with NCAA sanctions, but the program appears to be on stable ground with second-year coach Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish 8-4 last season, which included a win over Wisconsin in overtime and a 39-28 victory over Northwestern. A big part of Penn State’s eight-win season was the transformation of quarterback Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten’s top passers, along with the leadership provided from defenders Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill.

Even though McGloin, Hodges, Mauti and Hill are gone, the Nittany Lions still have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The offense needs to find a quarterback, which doesn’t figure to be an impossible task considering O’Brien’s work in the NFL and with McGloin in 2012. The defense has a new coordinator and must replace the heart and soul of the unit from last year.

With a bowl ban in place for 2013, Penn State is once again ineligible to compete for the postseason. However, O’Brien should have this team back in the mix for eight or more victories this year.

What will Penn State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Penn State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Brent
Yarina
Kevin
McGuire
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
8/31 Syracuse (East Rutherford)
9/7 Eastern Michigan
9/14 UCF
9/21 Kent State
10/5 at Indiana
10/12 Michigan
10/26 at Ohio State
11/2 Illinois
11/9 at Minnesota
11/16 Purdue
11/23 Nebraska
11/30 at Wisconsin
Final Projection8-47-56-68-48-48-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Whether it’s Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson starting at quarterback, Penn State should be just fine on offense. There’s plenty of talent at the skill positions, and the offensive line is solid with the return of left tackle Donovan Smith and guard John Urschel. My biggest question mark for the Nittany Lions is a defense that loses linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, along with tackle Jordan Hill. Replacing the leadership and production those players provided won’t be easy. There’s also a new coordinator (John Butler), but Penn State doesn’t plan on drastically changing the scheme. The schedule certainly isn’t easy for the Nittany Lions, especially with crossover games against Michigan and Nebraska. Road trips against division foes Ohio State and Wisconsin are likely losses as well. I know it’s a longshot, but I have Penn State losing to Indiana. Maybe the Nittany Lions don’t lose to the Hoosiers, but I feel this is a 8-4 team.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)

We don’t know what Penn State has under center, we don’t know if Zach Zwinak is a true No. 1 back, we don’t know how the Penn State defense will perform without now-NFL linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, so I’m thinking 7-5 is a fair prediction. The schedule doesn’t help, either, featuring arguably the Big Ten’s top four teams (Michigan; at Ohio State;  Nebraska; at Wisconsin) and one of the conference’s tougher nonconference slates. But, I will say this: it’s hard not to believe in Bill O’Brien and staff, who the players never quit on after last year’s 0-2 start and who turned Matt McGloin, a much-maligned and unsuccessful quarterback, and Allen Robinson, an unknown receiver, into the Big Ten’s premier pass-catch duo.
 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com

Penn State appears to have plenty of potential at quarterback, but it could get off to a rough start regardless of who is under center to start the season, be it JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson or blue chip quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I believe the defense will be solid enough to win most of their games and keep some others within reach, but despite having a strong running game and dependable tight ends, until we know just how quickly Hackenberg and/or Ferguson get adjusted to this level of play I think it is fair to have some legitimate concerns about Penn State's offense.

The non-conference schedule is not the easiest. For now, I have Syracuse winning the week one match-up and Central Florida sneaking out of State College with a win. Penn State could just as easily be 4-0 or 3-1 heading in to conference play but I'll take a cautious approach and call for a split. The Big Ten schedule includes three games I think for now are most likely losses. Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska are all losses to keep in line with my previous picks, and I think playing at Wisconsin in the final game of the season could be a loss right now. All in all, six wins avoids a losing record, which I think is a solid victory for Bill O'Brien right now. O'Brien still has Penn State heading in a positive direction overall, which may not be indicative just by watching the win total at the end of the season.

Mark Ross
Give credit to Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff for what they were able to accomplish while dealing with so much adversity last season. This fall the task will be to maintain the momentum despite having to start over at quarterback and fill some sizable holes on defense. Getting Michigan and Nebraska in Big Ten crossover play only adds to the degree of difficulty, but I am a believer in O'Brien. It also helps that the returning offensive players, starting with Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson, have had a full season to adapt to the new system, which should only help the new quarterback. It may not be as special as last season's run, but look for the Nittany Lions to match 2012's win total, despite the ongoing bowl ban.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Bill O'Brien has some big holes to fill on defense, in particular in the leadership department. The linebacking corps and defensive line will be the key to success for the Lions this fall. However, the offense returns largely intact and is ready for the arrival of Christian Hackenberg. The non-conference schedule is very manageable and should provide four victories. Division play also offers plenty of wins as well, but crossover play will be nasty with Michigan and Nebraska coming to town. However, is Penn State pulls one upset in a game in which it isn't favored, it could easily get to nine wins. The Lions will win the ones they are supposed to and lose the ones they are supposed to.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Penn State is going to be tough to pick. Christian Hackenberg is the future, but he’s operating without a net. Bill O’Brien worked miracles with Matt McGloin, but McGloin was still a senior with starting experience. I’m looking toward those early games against UCF and Indiana — two teams with quality offenses — to be key indicators of how Penn State will do on defense. The Nittany Lions lost some good seniors. I’ve picked Penn State to win both, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nittany Lions split those games. My eye-popping picks are probably a loss to Minnesota on the road and a win over Nebraska at home. More than anything, I think those possibilities illustrate what kind of up-and-down season this could be for a program with a freshman quarterback, limited depth and no hope for a postseason.

 

Related College Football Content

Big Ten 2013 Predictions
Big Ten's 2013 All-Conference Team
Michigan 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Ohio State 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Nebraska 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Christian Hackenberg Could be a Program-Changer at Penn State
The Big Ten's Best Traditions
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Teaser:
Penn State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-big-12
Body:

The conventional thinking in the Big 12 may be that the team whose quarterback takes the reins will win the league.

Indeed, only one of the top six passers, Texas’ David Ash, in the Big 12 returns for 2013.

But in our exercise in picking the pivotal players to a Big 12 championship, we tended to look more toward the defensive side of the ball, and specifically the front seven. Part of that is intentional: It’s clear teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Kansas State won’t have a chance at the conference title if their new starting quarterbacks don’t perform.

What may be overlooked, though, is that four of the top six teams in the Big 12 need a player in the front seven to adjust to a full-time job, return from an injury or simply clear academic hurdles to help their teams to a Big 12 title.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Big 12.

Joel Hasley, LB, TCU
It’s tough to imagine TCU going back-to-back seasons where linebacker is an issue, but the Horned Frogs enter another year where this is the primary concern. Hasley was second on the team with 79 tackles, but the guy ahead of him, Kenny Cain, is gone. With the stable of quality running backs in the Big 12 (plus LSU in the opener), it’s tough to see the Horned Frogs competing for a conference title if its linebackers struggle for a second consecutive season. Hasley is under pressure with converted safety Jonathan Anderson competing for his spot at middle linebacker. Despite linebackers being a weak link, TCU allowed 3.3 yards per carry last season, best in the Big 12.

Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Texas waited and waited for Hicks to return after he went down in the third game of the season, but the outside linebacker never returned. The Longhorns run defense unravelled in Big 12 play, allowing 215 rushing yards per game in conference play. Hicks is back for 2013, and Mack Brown hopes his run defense will be back, too.

Ryan Mueller, DE, Kansas State
The easy answer for Kansas State’s pivotal player is either Daniel Sams or Jake Waters replacing quarterback Collin Klein. Nearly as critical is rolling with the changes in the front seven. All four starting defensive linemen are gone, including ends Meshak Williams and Adam Davis (who combined for 16.5 sacks). Mueller showed flashes as a pass rusher, but the junior has never been a full-time player.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Around this time last season, no one projected much out of Nick Florence, and he passed for a school-record 4,309 yards. Petty has far less experience than Florence did when he took over as the starter last season, but Petty also has the running back duo of Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin in tow. Petty, a junior with 14 career pass attempts, will have time to grow into his role before the Bears’ critical stretch in November and December.

Quincy Russell, DT, Oklahoma
For most pivotal players in this series, performance and health are the most pressing concerns. For Russell, it’s if he’ll be around to make an impact. The junior college transfer is still waiting to be cleared academically. Whether or not he’s available, defensive line is Oklahoma’s most pressing question other than quarterback. At 6-4, 315 pounds, Russell is one of the biggest bodies on the offensive line, especially considering his linemate at tackle is converted defensive end Chuka Ndulue.

Jeremy Smith, RB, Oklahoma State
The potential stability at quarterback — provided Clint Chelf starts all season — will be a change for the Cowboys. But we’re watching the change at running back where Joseph Randle hands the baton to Jeremy Smith. Oklahoma State has had a 1,200-yard running back for six consecutive seasons. Smith has averaged 6.2 yards per carry during his career, but he’s deal with nagging injuries through his career. His durability could determine if Oklahoma State has the balanced offense it craves.

Teaser:
The Big 12 title won't be determined by quarterbacks alone
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-big-easts-top-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14
Body:

One thing is pretty clear about the new Big East: Projecting the league is going to be difficult.

Georgetown and Marquette tied for the Big East title in the old conference, but both teams lose key players. Villanova, which defeated Georgetown and Marquette late last season, brings back most of its key players. Creighton won the Missouri Valley and has most of its roster intact, including the top player in the league.

And those are just the top teams. The league pecking order could be determined by a hodgepodge of newcomers — five-star freshmen, junior college players, transfers from teams as different as UCLA and Rice.

Our look at the transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury last season continues with a look at the Big East after we’ve profiled the ACC, American and Big 12.

Josh Smith, Georgetown
Transfer from UCLA
At UCLA, Smith’s weight was a more pressing issue than his play on the court. Smith averaged 10.9 points per game and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman in 2010-11, but his playing time dwindled to 13.5 minutes per game before he left the Bruins early last season. Smith routinely weighed more than 300 pounds at UCLA. He’ll be eligible in December with hopes that a move East will give him a fresh start.

Jameel McKay, Marquette
Junior college transfer
Buzz Williams, a JUCO product himself, has a soft spot for junior college transfers. McKay is yet another to follow Williams to Marquette. He’s a 6-8, 205-pound forward who will bolster Marquette’s frontcourt, which is expected to be the strength of the team in 2013-14. A high-energy player, McKay was a two-time first-team All-American at Indiana Hills Community College after playing high school ball in Milwaukee.

Duane Wilson, Marquette
Freshman
Wilson could take over the point guard spot and give Marquette a scoring punch there. He can knock down 3s, hit free throws and get to the rim. Like McKay, Wilson is a hometown product from Milwaukee.

Rysheed Jordan, St. John’s
Freshman
St. John’s returns better than 90 percent of its scoring, but Jordan will have plenty of opportunities to play minutes immediately. D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV played point guard last season, but Jordan may be the best option there. Provided he’s not suspended as he was at the end of last season, Harrison is better suited for shooting guard.

Carson Desrosiers, Providence
Transfer from Wake Forest
Ed Cooley laid the groundwork for reviving Providence on the recruiting trail, but transfers will also play a role if the Friars are going to make an NCAA Tournament run in 2013-14. Desrosiers is a seven-foot, 235-pound transfer who started 38 games in two seasons at Wake Forest. He’s a standout shot blocker (1.8 per game), but he can also step outside and make 15-footers.

Jaren Sina, Seton Hall
Freshman
Landing Sina, a former commitment for Northwestern and Alabama, was something of a coup for the Pirates. Problems at point guard sunk Seton Hall a year ago, and the hope is that Sina can eventually stabilize the position.  

Brandon Austin, Providence
Freshman
Austin is yet another high-profile freshman Cooley has signed, joining Kris Dunn (who will be his starting point guard) and Ricky Ledo (who left for the draft after never playing for the Friars). Austin is a versatile guard who could be one of PC’s top scorers.

Dylan Ennis, Villanova
Transfer from Rice
The brother of Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis, Dylan will back up budding star point guard Ryan Arcidacono, but he has the versatility to contribute at three different spots. Ennis averaged 8.5 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a freshman at Rice in 2011-12.

Matt Stainbrook, Xavier
Transfer from Western Michigan
Stainbrook will give Xavier a key body in the frontcourt after shedding more than 50 pounds during his redshirt season. He suffered a knee injury in February, but he’s still expected to be major contributor. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 10.1 points and 6.6 rebounds in two seasons at Western Michigan.

Sterling Gibbs, Seton Hall
Transfer from Texas
Gibbs averaged only 7.5 minutes per game at Texas but transferred back home to New Jersey after only one season in Austin. The brother of former Pittsburgh guard Ashton Gibbs could join Sina in solidifying Seton Hall’s point guard spot.

Other new faces to watch:

God’sgift Achiuwa, St. John’s
Redshirt
The all-name teamer redshirted last season but averaged 9.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds in 18 starts in 2011-12.

Elijah Brown, Butler
Freshman
The son of former Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is capable of playing both guard spots and the wing.

Tyler Harris, Providence
Transfer from NC State
Harris was caught in a crunch for playing time at NC State, but Providence believes he can contribute quality minutes. He’s a 6-9 forward who can shoot like a guard.

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier
Ineligible last season

Reynolds was tabbed as a hidden gem after winning a one-on-one battle with Mitch McGary, but the forward was ineligible last season.

Reggie Coleman, Georgetown
Freshman
The top-100 freshman small forward should boost the Hoyas from 3-point range.

Teaser:
Reformed league could be determined by key new players
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-pac-12
Body:

USC is used to having prolific quarterbacks. Stanford is used to big-time tight ends. UCLA is used to productive running backs. And Oregon State can usually count on its defensive tackle position to hold its own.

In 2013, all four of those positions are in question. Key players at those position groups could help determine if their teams win their division or more.

In our ongoing series of pivotal players we took a look at four key players from those schools, plus three others who are in Pac-12 contention.

As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12 and SEC, and now we turn our eye to the Pac-12.

Tyson Coleman, LB, Oregon
The biggest question on the Ducks' defense is replacing inside linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Coleman appeared slated to start on the outside at one point, but necessity forced him to move to the inside. His teammates voted him the most improved player last year as a redshirt freshman, but the inside presents new challenges, especially considering some of Oregon’s top opponents this season — Washington, Stanford and Oregon — should all have above-average run games.

Luke Kaumatule, TE, Stanford
Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are gone, and beyond that, the top returning receiver Ty Montgomery averaged only 8.2 yards per catch on 26 receptions. Kaumatule played nine game last season, but didn’t catch a pass. Still, the 6-7, 260-pound Hawaiian is already on the Mackey Award watch list, thanks to Stanford’s recent reputation. Kaumatule played defensive end and wide receiver in high school, and now he’s expected to be one of the breakout players in Stanford’s passing game.

Edwin Delva, DT, Oregon State
Any one of four defensive tackles could be Oregon State’s pivotal player after starters Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai left. For this spot, though, we’ll pick Delva, the junior college transfer originally from Miami. His fellow JUCO transfer slated to start, Siale Hautau, missed part of the spring with a broken hand. Good thing the Beavers’ new defensive tackle tandem faces only one top-40 rushing team (San Diego State) in the first seven games.

Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Let’s assume returning starting quarterback Keith Price will be better this season with more stability on the offensive line. The next major question in defensive tackle, particularly against the run. Shelton is a returning starter at tackle, but he hasn’t shown much consistency. The junior accounted for four tackles for a loss last season, half of them coming against USC.

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
Arizona State’s wide receivers were barely a factor last season. Only one wide receiver was among the Sun Devils’ top four pass-catchers, and Rashad Ross is gone. That has to gnaw at Todd Graham, who’d like to run a more dynamic pass offense. Graham signed five receivers, but two junior college transfers — Strong and Joe Morris — need to contribute immediately if Arizona State is going to win the Pac-12 South.

Max Wittek or Cody Kessler, QB, USC
Few times in the last decade has USC had a legitimate quarterback competition. If Lane Kiffin has an inkling of which quarterback he’ll start, he’s not telling anyone. Wittek was Matt Barkley’s backup last year and started in his place late in the season, but Kessler outperformed Wittek during the spring. Someone will need to get the ball to elite receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor if the Trojans are going to have a chance at the division.

Malcolm Jones, RB, UCLA
Jones is the most interesting name in a group of running backs looking to replace Johnathan Franklin. Jones signed under Rick Neuheisel, left the program under Jim L. Mora and returned as a walk-on later in the season. In losses last season, UCLA averaged 3.7 yards per carry (down from 4.8 in wins) and 118 yards per game (down from 231.2 in wins).

Teaser:
Seven players who could determine the North and South champions
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /2013-mlb-trade-deadline-winers-and-losers
Body:

Last season the most impactful trades didn’t seem that impressive when they were announced. But the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro by San Francisco shifted the balance of power toward the Giants in the NL West and eventually led to a World Series championship. Often it’s the little things that seem to matter most, like solid defense, eating innings and clubhouse unity.

The frenzy at the trade deadline last Wednesday never really materialized, but there were a handful of significant trades over the past few weeks that could affect the 2013 pennant races.

Winners
Boston Red Sox
The Sox weren’t shy about giving up some prospects, but were steadfast in holding on to rising star Xander Bogaerts, a 20-year-old shortstop expected to contribute next season. Boston acquired a major addition to the rotation with Jake Peavy. The former Cy Young winner usually keeps his teams in games and logs innings, taking pressure off the bullpen.  He has some health questions, and the likelihood that he could miss some starts is higher than the Sox would like. But if he makes 10 starts for Boston, the Red Sox are much more likely to fend off Tampa Bay and Baltimore. Matt Thornton, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a separate deal, deepens the Red Sox bullpen.

Detroit Tigers
With the impending suspension of shortstop Jhonny Peralta, the Tigers took a preemptive strike in trading for Jose Iglesias from Boston. The defensive whiz will immediately upgrade the Tigers’ defense up the middle, and the former Cuban star hasn’t been too shabby with the bat. Detroit has enough offense to withstand the loss of Peralta’s bat, and Iglesias improves the defense. Avisail Garcia is a rising star, but the Tigers need to ensure their position in the playoffs this season, so this deal makes a ton of sense. Other than the Peralta potential situation, the Tigers’ glaring need all season has been bullpen help. Problem solved with the addition of Jose Veras from Houston. Veras has been the lone bright spot in Houston this season with 19 saves.

Chicago Cubs
Like their brethren on the South Side, the Cubs aren’t expecting to seriously contend this season or next. So the Cubs are building their farm system with an eye toward sustaining success through the second half of this decade. The Cubs’ return for Scott Feldman and Matt Garza brought good value for the future, and they were able to unload Carlos Marmol and Alfonso Soriano.

Chicago White Sox
Clearly the White Sox are not going anywhere in 2013, and with an aging roster and the rise of Cleveland and Kansas City, even 2014 may not hold high hopes. So stocking the system with players like Garcia, who should be immediately useful in the big leagues, and prospects Francelis Montas, a 20-year-old flamethrower, J.B. Wendelken, another highly touted pitcher, and infielder Cleuluis Rondon, the White Sox have a brighter future than they did a few days ago. Brandon Jacobs was acquired from Boston in the Thornton deal earlier.

Losers
Arizona Diamondbacks
The season is quickly slipping away from the D-Men. I had the Diamondbacks in the Jake Peavy pool, so that didn’t work out too well. The pitching staff is not too bad, especially if Trevor Cahill can come back and be productive soon. Left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher was acquired from San Diego along with minor leaguer Matt Stites, a closer at Double-A, for Ian Kennedy. While this helps the bullpen, offensively the D-backs need lots of help. Paul Goldschmidt has twice as many homers and RBIs as any teammate. He must have some help. Arizona did not improve its roster enough to come back and catch the Dodgers.

Baltimore Orioles
The acquisitions of Scott Feldman and Bud Norris boost the rotation, and Francisco Rodriguez adds experienced depth to the bullpen, but the club really could use some pop at DH and protection for Chris Davis. The Orioles are 0-for-11 after an intentional walk to Davis, and don’t think teams don’t notice trends like that. The slugger will be avoided more and more as the season goes along. If rookie Henry Urrutia can fill that role as DH/Davis protector, then the Orioles will have played their hand well. If not, Buck Showlater will be left wishing he had a few more weapons in his arsenal.

Texas Rangers
Reports that the Rangers were willing to listen on any player speak to how desperate the team is to improve its offense, especially in light of the impending suspension of right fielder and best run producer Nelson Cruz. The team's slugging percentage dropped to .362 in June. The acquisition of Matt Garza gives the Rangers a respectable 1-2-3 punch with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Garza. But the Rangers need offense badly, and that’s with Cruz in the lineup.

Pittsburgh Pirates
With Andrew McCutchen warming up and Pedro Alvarez finally becoming the power threat the Pirates envisioned when they made him the No. 2 overall selection in 2006, the offense is not bad. But for the season the Bucs are batting just .243 with a .390 slugging percentage. A hitter like Justin Morneau or even Marlon Byrd could have been helpful. But the biggest problem could be the bullpen. Clint Hurdle’s plan was working perfectly with Mark Melancon setting up closer Jason Grilli, who was near perfect. But with Grilli out for what could be an extended time, all the roles have shifted and Pittsburgh may begin to let a few close games slip away without additional help.

New York Yankees
With the Orioles adding two starting pitchers and Francisco Rodriguez, the Red Sox bolstering their rotation and even the Rays strengthening their bullpen, the Yankees didn’t do much to address some dire needs. Yes, bringing Alfonso Soriano back was a positive step, but there was nothing done to beef up the pitching staff or find a right-handed hitting first baseman, to say nothing of the gaping hole at third base. The Yankees have gotten just five home runs from the hot corner this season, or the same number the Cubs have gotten from their pitching staff.

Teaser:
Last season the most impactful trades didn’t seem that impressive when they were announced. But the additions of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro by San Francisco shifted the balance of power toward the Giants in the NL West and eventually led to a World Series championship. Often it’s the little things that seem to matter most, like solid defense, eating innings and clubhouse unity. The frenzy at the trade deadline last Wednesday never really materialized, but there were a handful of significant trades over the past few weeks that could affect the 2013 pennant races.
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 17:40
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-pocono-raceway-0
Body:

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.


Next up: GoBowling.com 400 (Pocono Raceway)
Race: 400 miles/160 laps (2.5-mile track)
June 2013 winner: Jimmie Johnson



A-List (Pick two, start one)
Jimmie Johnson  Jimmie Johnson
If you’re scared to use Jimmie Johnson again — you’re likely nearing his nine-race limit at this point — I understand. But choosing to not use Johnson Sunday at Pocono will end up burning you.

It was less than two months ago that Johnson and the No. 48 team led 128 of 160 laps at the first race of 2013 at Pocono Raceway en route to the win. Only Ryan Newman’s alternate pit strategy kept Johnson from leading about 20 laps more. The most frightening part about Johnson and his return to Pocono — aside from Johnson’s ominous claim after the first Pocono race that his team had found “clarity” with the Gen-6 car — is knowing he’ll likely race the same car that dominated so handily last time out. That car should have won the Brickyard last weekend, too, but wound up second after a blown final pit stop.


Tony StewartSmoke has the fourth-best average finish in the last 17 races at Pocono Raceway among A-List drivers, but he’s a great choice this weekend for fantasy teams looking to spread starts among the ultra-competitive A-List. Stewart finished fourth in June at Pocono, stretching a top-5 finish streak at the track to three races. In fact, he’s been plenty good at the Tricky Triangle for a long while. Stretching to the second Pocono race of 2005, Stewart has finished worse than 11th just twice.

Also consider: Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne



B-List (Pick four, start two)
Kurt Busch  Kurt Busch
Busch left Indianapolis plenty frustrated with his 14th-place finish. The weekend had started promising — his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 was fast in practice and qualifying — but fell apart when the team lost the handling in the car as the Brickyard 400 worked to conclusion. All isn’t lost for Busch’s season and his dream bid to score a Chase berth for the previously unheralded team. Pocono could be just the medicine, as it’s a track where Busch was both won before (2005, 2007) and where he landed a sixth-place finish in June. His average Pocono running position (10.9) leads all B-List drivers.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Another driver looking for a turnaround, albeit from a larger perspective, is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Yes, he was sixth at Indianapolis. Yes, he’s a virtual lock in the Chase. But Earnhardt has just one top-5 since he took the Sprint Cup points lead briefly after the spring race at Auto Club Speedway. That top-5? It came, of course, at Pocono where Earnhardt finished third behind Johnson and Greg Biffle. Tie that with all four Hendrick cars running in the top seven at a similar Indianapolis track, and Earnhardt seems to be locked in for a high finish among B-List drivers.


Greg BiffleBiffle left Pocono in June with a runner-up finish, and spoke afterward about how the result was a bit of an inflated example of Roush-Fenway Racing’s overall strength in 2013 to that point. Naturally, he won the series’ next race at Michigan. Biffle, immensely confident heading to Indy, then stumbled to a 24th-place run one lap down at the Brickyard. The team needs a weekend of “back to what we know” and Pocono should handle that demand well. Biffle has the fourth-best average running position (14.4) at Pocono among B-List contenders.

Ryan Newman
Buoyed by both his Indianapolis success and the sudden demand to find a suitable Sprint Cup team in 2013, Ryan Newman and crew chief Matt Borland might be on the beginning side of a successful roll to the Chase. Newman’s impressive run at Indianapolis — both in the race and in qualifying — should undoubtedly transfer to the similar Pocono track. That’s good news for fantasy teams counting on Newman’s 11th-place average Pocono finish to buoy the middle of the lineup.

Also consider: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Mark Martin


C-List (Pick two, start one)
AJ Allmendinger

A few fantasy teams are probably starting to run low on available Allmendinger starts, a fact that seems incredible based on his piecemeal part-time Sprint Cup ride situation. Allmendinger pilots James Finch’s No. 51 again this weekend at Pocono a week after leading the C-list at Indianapolis with a 22nd-place finish.


Travis KvapilI’m certainly not expecting BK Racing’s Travis Kvapil to drop the hammer on the racing world at Pocono, but he seems a good choice for fantasy teams needing to try a different route this weekend. Kvapil, 31st at Indianapolis, scored his best non-road course and non-restrictor plate finish of the year in June at Pocono when the blue No. 93 finished 20th. Also telling of his potential this weekend is an extremely strong average race position improvement of 10 spots from start to finish. Sure, his average Pocono finish is 24th, but he’s doing that when he’s starting around 34th.

Also consider: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Casey Mears


Follow Geoffrey on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
JImmie Johnson and Tony Stewart top the list of Fantasy picks for NASCAR's trip to Pocono Raceway for the GoBowling.com 400.
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 16:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-31
Body:

Fall camps starting up this week. The 2013 season is almost here.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)


College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, July 31st


Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde has been suspended for at least the first three games of 2013. But cornerback Bradley Roby's status for 2013 is still uncertain.

And in case you missed it yesterday, this feature on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is excellent.

As expected, Tennessee's fall depth chart doesn't give much insight into the quarterback battle.

Saturday Down South ranks the defensive backfields in the SEC and looks at the contract details for the conference's first-round picks from the NFL Draft.

Big things are expected from Michigan receiver Amara Darboh in 2013.

Is Oklahoma considering some tweaks to its uniforms?

Does Clint Trickett hold the inside track to start at West Virginia?

Iowa receiver (and JUCO recruit) Damond Powell is slated to arrive in Iowa City soon.

Recruiting isn't an issue for Gary Anderson at Wisconsin.

Syracuse's offensive line has some big holes to fill in 2013.

A potential starter on Michigan State's offensive line has retired due to injuries.

Maryland's receiving corps should be among the best in the ACC. Here's a good breakdown of that group, along with what to expect from touted JUCO recruit Deon Long.

What can Florida State expect out of defensive end Dan Hicks in 2013?

Missouri's offensive line was hit hard by injuries last year. Here's a preview of what should be expected out of that unit for 2013.

 

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: July 31
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 15:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregons-new-football-facility-insane
Body:

The Oregon football uniforms are now the second-most garish thing about Oregon football. GoDucks.com released a slideshow for the Football Performance Center where the Ducks will move this season.

You know how Google or other Silicon Valley giants have over-the-top offices full of amenities? The Oregon Football Performance Center would make them blush.

Keep in mind, this facility was once reported to have a hot tub video room. After looking at the slideshow, we’re wondering why not.

This place needs a name, and we have some suggestions:

• Duckingham Palace

• Duck-ri-la

• The Battlestar Quacklactica

• The Knight House

• The Duck Star

• Castle Duckskull

• The Quack Mahal

• The Fortress of Duckitutde

• The Webbed Foot Locker

• The House Rich Brooks Built

• New Quack City

• Gracepond

• The Neverland Pond

(We'll add more nicknames if you have them, tweet us at @AthlonSports or post to our Facebook page).


Among the key captions from Oregon's slideshow:

• The 145,000-square-foot facility features black glass to signify stealth and 40-foot cantilevers that illustrate the various building blocks necessary to build a successful program.

• Many of the high-profile trophies won by Oregon are housed in the lobby's trophy case. Others are featured elsewhere in the building. (Ed. note: You cannot find a Heisman here)

• The lobby's ring room is not to be missed, with LED lighting and 3D sound enhancing the presentation of Oregon's bowl and championship rings. (Ed. note: You cannot find a national championship trophy here)

• Yes, among the stalls in the locker room is one designated for 'Uncle Phil.'

• Just off the locker room is a barber shop, which will over on-site haircuts at student rates.

• Press conferences and postgame interviews will take place in a new media room that features theater-style seating, and four 'confessional' booths for one-on-one interactions.

• The War Room sits 22 around a grand table, has six 80-inch monitors and, like much of the rest of the facility, black magnetic walls that are also writable/erasable.

• The sixth-floor skybridge features a flock of ducks representing Oregon's NFL draftees, identified by their initials on each individual duck.

• Just inside the player lounge's outdoor deck are a pool table crafted in Portland and two foosball tables, each with one 11-player team in green and yellow and the other representing the rest of the Pac-12.

Teaser:
The Ducks released a slideshow for their new over-the-top facility
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 12:02
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-31-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 31.

 

• July is all but over, but we still have the memories. Here's a rundown of sports-related ladies who wowed us this month, including Matt Stafford's patriotic girlfriend (pictured).

 

• Speaking of American heroes, one Arizona Cardinals cheerleader did a tour of duty in Iraq.

 

This is the best use of facial hair I've ever seen. Andy Dalton agrees.

 

• Nike's latest handiwork: Oregon's football performance center would be the envy of most NFL teams.

 

• All 12 SEC first-round picks are signed, sealed and delivered to their new teams. Here's a contract rundown.

 

• While we're talking SEC, here's a ranking of the league's top defensive back units. Vanderbilt is second. I expect to see the sky raining frogs and blood any second.

 

There's a new Barkley in Philly, and he didn't come to hold a clipboard.

 

Check out this Manziel profile from Wright Thompson. Johnny Football is starting to worry his parents. Speaking of Manziel, here's the story of one writer's quest to interview the new king of all media.

 

Some chick from Glee went on Kimmel last night wearing what looked like a bikini top. Might have to start watching Glee.

 

• You're never too old to get excited for the ice cream man. Just ask the Ravens' Arthur Jones.

 

• Who doesn't love a good redemption story? The Rays ballboy redeemed himself with this catch after a couple of misses.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 10:32
All taxonomy terms: College Football, UCLA Bruins, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/uclas-eddie-vanderdoes-wins-appeal-will-play-2013
Body:

The transfer saga of former Notre Dame signee Eddie Vanderdoes appears to be finished. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the California native was granted a waiver to play in 2013 and will not have to sit out a season due to transfer rules.

Vanderdoes signed with Notre Dame in February but chose to leave the school this summer. The Fighting Irish would not release Vanderdoes from his scholarship, which meant the defensive lineman would have to sit out a year.

However, Vanderdoes’ appeal for immediate eligibility has been approved, which means UCLA is getting a player capable of making a big impact on the defensive line. Datone Jones expired his eligibility after last season, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa is recovering from offseason hip surgery. Even though Vanderdoes didn’t practice this spring with the Bruins, there’s a good chance he will be in the two-deep by the season opener.

Teaser:
UCLA's Eddie Vanderdoes Wins Appeal, Will Play in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Florida Gators, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/floridas-jeff-driskel-undergoes-appendectomy
Body:

Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel will miss the next two weeks of action, as the junior quarterback is recovering from an appendectomy.

Driskel is expected to return in time for the season opener against Toledo. While the junior is sidelined, Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg are likely to handle the bulk of the reps in practice.

Although Florida will have Driskel back for the opener, his absence is a huge loss for the offense at a critical time. The Gators enter fall practice looking for playmakers at receiver, and Driskel’s absence will slow the development and timing of the offense.

This is a small setback for Florida’s offense, but Driskel should be 100 percent by the opener. And if the Gators can give the junior passer more help in the receiving corps, he should finish 2013 as one of the top-five quarterbacks in the SEC.
 

Teaser:
Florida's Jeff Driskel Undergoes Appendectomy
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 10:14
All taxonomy terms: Chad Qualls, Funny, GIF, Miami Marlins, MLB, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/chad-qualls-celebration-fail-gif
Body:

Miami Marlins pitcher Chad Qualls celebrated his strikeout against the New York Mets with a self-congratulating fist pump…followed by a trip and tumble on the ground. 

Chad Qualls Celebration Fail (GIF)

 

Chad Qualls Celebration Fail (GIF)

 

Teaser:
Miami Marlins pitcher Chad Qualls celebrated his strikeout against the New York Mets with a self-congratulating fist pump…followed by a trip and tumble on the ground.
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 09:29
All taxonomy terms: Cincinnati Bengals, Funny, Overtime
Path: /overtime/bengals-fan-has-greatest-beard-history-forever
Body:

Turn out the lights, the contest for the greatest beard in the universe is now over, thanks to this Cincinnati fan. At the Bengals training camp a man with a beard carrying a six-pack of beer grabbed the attention of many, including QB Andy Dalton. God bless America!

Source: @SportingNews

Teaser:
Bengals Fan Has Greatest Beard in the History of Forever
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 09:04
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-breakout-players-2013
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The Big Ten has plenty of candidates to project for a breakout year, including Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, Purdue running back Akeem Hunt and Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence. Gardner has plenty of buzz across the nation, but the junior is entering his first full season as the Wolverines’ No. 1 passer. Hunt should see an increase in rushing attempts this year and has a similar skill set to Kent State running back Dri Archer. Spence and teammate Adolphus Washington will be in charge of keeping the Buckeyes’ defense near the top of the Big Ten, which won’t be easy with four new starters on the defensive line.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

Big Ten Breakout Players for 2013

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
If the Spartans are going to win the Big Ten Legends Division, it will have to be on the strength of their defense. Michigan State’s offense ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in points scored last year, and it’s hard to envision much improvement with the departure of running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims. The Spartans led the Big Ten in total defense last year, and with six starters back, this unit will be stingy once again. Junior Marcus Rush is an established performer at one end spot, but Michigan State is leaning on Calhoun to replace William Gholston. The New Jersey native impressed in limited action last season, recording six tackles and one sack in 13 contests. One of Calhoun’s top performances came in the bowl win over TCU, as he registered two tackles for a loss. The sophomore is still developing and will have to adjust to his first extended action this year. However, he could lead the Spartans’ defense in sacks and tackles for a loss in his first season as a starter.

Darian Cooper, DT, Iowa
Considering the Hawkeyes had three new starters on their defensive line last year, it was no surprise this unit ranked seventh in the Big Ten against the run and generated just 1.1 sacks per game. The line should be improved in 2013, especially with more depth across the end and tackle positions. Cooper started two games and appeared in all 12 contests last year, recording 34 tackles and one fumble recovery. The sophomore’s play got stronger as the year went on, and he should be an even bigger factor in the trenches with another offseason to work in the weight room and under coordinator Phil Parker.

Jon Davis, TE, Illinois
After a 2-10 season and some uncertainty on the depth chart, it’s not easy to get a read on the Fighting Illini this preseason. However, there are some signs to believe the offense will be better in 2013, especially with the addition of Bill Cubit as the playcaller. Davis caught 22 passes in 2011 but watched his numbers decline to just nine in '12. Cubit was effective at using the tight ends in the passing game during his tenure at Western Michigan, which bodes well for Davis’ chances at emerging as a factor in the offense this year.

Dan Feeney and Jason Spriggs, OL, Indiana
Feeney and Spriggs certainly aren’t unknown commodities to most teams in the Big Ten, but it’s time these two received some credit on the national level. Spriggs guarded the blindside for Indiana’s quarterbacks last fall, allowing just two sacks in 961 snaps. The Indiana native started all 12 games and was named to the Big Ten Network’s All-Freshman team. Feeney joined Spriggs as a key contributor as a true freshman, starting all 12 games and recording 54 knockdowns in 2012. Feeney did not allow a sack last year and is poised to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top guards in 2013. As a former offensive lineman, coach Kevin Wilson certainly knows how to develop a unit capable of ranking among the best in the Big Ten. If Feeney and Spriggs build off their success, both players could be in the mix for All-American honors going into the 2014 season.

Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
With Devin Gardner set to assume the full-time quarterback job, the Wolverines will use more of a pro-style offense in 2013. Gardner proved he is ready to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks after a strong finish to the year, and now Michigan needs to find a few dependable receivers this fall to complement Jeremy Gallon. Funchess could emerge as the team’s No. 2 target after catching 15 passes for 234 yards and five scores as a true freshman last year. The 6-foot-5 target should be a valuable weapon over the middle and in the red zone for Gardner and could easily double his 2012 numbers.

Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Considering his performance to close 2012, it’s a bit of a stretch to put Gardner on this list. Filling in for an injured Denard Robinson in the final five games, Gardner recorded 18 touchdowns during that span and threw for 314 yards in a win over Iowa. With Gardner now entrenched as the full-time starter, and Robinson playing in the NFL, the Wolverines will transition to more of a pro-style approach on offense. Michigan’s offensive line and receiving corps needs work, but Gardner will be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks by the end of 2013.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Despite losing Montee Ball, the Badgers aren’t too worried about their rushing attack. With Gordon and James White returning, it’s easy to see why running back is near the bottom of concerns for new coach Gary Andersen. After rushing for 98 yards as a freshman in 2011, Gordon gashed opposing defenses for 621 yards on 62 attempts last fall, averaging 10 yards a carry. His best performance came against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, recording 216 yards on nine attempts. Gordon will split carries with White, but the junior should finish as the Badgers’ leading rusher this year.

Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue
New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell developed Kent State’s offense into one of the nation's most productive rushing attacks last year, finishing 18th at 225.8 yards per game. With an unsettled quarterback situation, the Boilermakers need a big season from their ground game, which is likely to be headlined by Hunt. The 5-foot-9 back resembles Kent State standout Dri Archer, and Purdue hopes he has a similar impact in 2013. Hunt rushed for 335 yards, caught 13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 22.2 yards on 39 kickoff returns last year. Expect Hunt to play a similar all-around role in 2013, but he also will see a significant increase in carries.

Philip Nelson, QB, Minnesota
It’s easy to pick the quarterback in the breakout players column, but it’s also hard to ignore the progress that Nelson made in limited action last year. The Minnesota native was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2012 and finished the year with 873 passing yards and eight scores, along with 184 yards on the ground. Nelson was steady in the bowl game against Texas Tech, completing 7 of 16 passes for 138 yards. His best performance came against Purdue last year, as he threw three touchdown passes on 22 attempts. Nelson isn’t likely to challenge for All-Big Ten honors, but the sophomore should continue to make progress in his first full year as the No. 1 quarterback. Minnesota fans are familiar with Nelson’s potential, but the rest of the Big Ten should get a good look at his talents with a jump in production in 2013.

Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern
Even though Northwestern loses two starters on the defensive line, this unit could be just as effective in 2013. A big reason why the coaching staff has confidence in this group is the emergence of Odenigbo. A shoulder injury sidelined him after the third game of 2012, but the redshirt freshman is expected to be back at full strength in 2013. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Odenigbo has the size and speed to be one of the team’s top pass rushers, giving Northwestern a potent one-two end combination with the return of senior Tyler Scott on the other side.

James Ross III, LB, Michigan
With Jake Ryan recovering from a torn ACL and not expected to return until October, the Wolverines need the rest of the linebacking corps to step up this fall. And there’s plenty of help on the way from Ross, who was one of the Big Ten’s top freshmen defenders last year. In 13 contests in 2012, Ross recorded 36 tackles. The sophomore has excellent athleticism and instincts and is expected to man the weakside for coordinator Greg Mattison in 2013. There’s no question Michigan will miss Ryan’s play and leadership. However, Ross is more than capable of filling those voids until Ryan is ready to return.

David Santos, LB, Nebraska
With only one returning starter, Nebraska’s front seven is getting a facelift this fall. The coaching staff hopes the return of Zaire Anderson from injury will help ease the transition to the new starters, but there’s plenty of interest in the development of Santos. As a redshirt freshman last year, he played in a reserve role, recording 24 tackles and one forced fumble. With a full offseason to work as the starter, Santos should emerge as a leader for Nebraska’s linebacking corps.

Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
Whether it’s Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson starting at quarterback for Penn State, the Nittany Lions will have a strong supporting cast. The offensive line developed into one of the Big Ten’s best last season, allowing just 21 sacks in 12 contests. Two starters must be replaced, but Penn State is counting on Smith to keep the line performing at a high level. The sophomore struggled with an injury early in the year but finished with nine starts. With another year to work under line coach Mac McWhorter, Smith is poised to take the next step in his development this year and has all of the tools to be a dominant left tackle for Penn State.

Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
The Buckeyes have no shortage of talent on the roster, but the defensive line is a concern with four new starters stepping into the lineup. Spence and Washington are expected to be the new leaders for the line in 2013, as both players were top-30 recruits in the 2012 signing class and impressed in limited action last year. Spence recorded 12 tackles and one sack in 11 appearances, while Washington recorded nine tackles and three sacks in 10 games. The Big Ten is thin on proven talent at defensive end, but players like Spence and Washington could turn this position into a strength by October.

Jamal Turner, WR, Nebraska
With several new faces stepping into the starting lineup on defense, Nebraska may need to win a couple of shootouts this year. And with quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell returning, there’s certainly no shortage of firepower in Lincoln. The offense could be even deadlier in 2013, as Turner is poised to take the next step in his development as a receiver. After beginning his career as a quarterback, Turner nabbed 15 receptions as a freshman and boosted his total to 32 catches for 417 yards and three scores in 2012. Don’t expect Turner to overtake Bell as the No. 1 receiver, but with another year to get acclimated to receiver, look for the junior to increase his reception totals and yardage in 2013.

Dan Vitale, TE, Northwestern
The Wildcats return 15 starters, so there’s not a ton of room for unproven players to find a major role on the team in 2013. Sophomore cornerback Nick VanHoose is due to raise his profile even more this year, but we’ll pick Vitale, who is flying under the radar after a solid freshman campaign. Last season, Vitale caught 28 passes for 288 yards and two scores, with 16 of his receptions coming in two of the final three games. Northwestern needs more consistency out of its receiving corps in 2013, and help for quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian could start with Vitale’s continued development.

Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin
Developing All-Big Ten linemen wasn’t a problem under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, and that trend should continue under new coach Gary Andersen. After spending 2012 as a redshirt, Voltz is expected to start at center this season. Voltz has some big shoes to fill, as he replaces Travis Frederick – one of the Big Ten’s top linemen in 2012. Voltz was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals in the class of 2012 and all signs point to the Illinois native emerging as a future standout for the Badgers.

Related College Football Content

Big Ten 2013 Predictions
Big Ten's 2013 All-Conference Team
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Ohio State 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Nebraska 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
Christian Hackenberg Could be a Program-Changer at Penn State
The Big Ten's Best Traditions
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team

Teaser:
Big Ten Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:18
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

The Coastal Division is up for grabs in 2013, as Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami all have a strong case to be picked No. 1 this preseason.

The Hokies regressed from one of the ACC’s top title contenders to a 7-6 team last year. Virginia Tech also won three of its games in overtime, including a 13-10 victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

After being a model of consistency in the ACC, are the Hokies ready to return to the top? Or is Virginia Tech on the decline?

The answer to that question might reside on the hire of Scot Loeffler as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Loeffler’s one-year stint at Auburn was a struggle, but he did not have the talent to run a pro-style attack. Is Loeffler the right answer at Virginia Tech? Only time well tell, but Loeffler’s assignment isn’t easy, especially since the Hokies have question marks at each level of the offense in 2013.

What will Virginia Tech's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Virginia Tech's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
John
Cassillo
Ryan
Tice
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
 
8/31 Alabama (Atlanta) 
9/7 Western Carolina 
9/14 at East Carolina 
9/21 Marshall 
9/26 at Georgia Tech 
10/5 North Carolina 
10/12 Pittsburgh 
10/26 Duke 
11/2 at Boston College 
11/9 at Miami 
11/16 Maryland 
11/30 at Virginia 
Final Projection9-39-39-39-310-29-3 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Was 2012 just a small speed bump for Virginia Tech or a sign of things to come? That’s the big question in Blacksburg this offseason, as the Hokies have won at least 10 games in eight out of the last nine years but struggled to get to a bowl game last season. With the return of nine starters on defense, a wide-open Coastal Division and no Florida State or Clemson on the schedule, Virginia Tech should be in the mix to play for the conference championship once again. For the Hokies to get back into ACC title contention, the offense has to show some signs of life. Was Scot Loeffler the right person to fix the offense and quarterback Logan Thomas? I’m not so sure. Although Thomas has to cut down on his interceptions, Virginia Tech needs to identify a couple of playmakers at receiver, find a No. 1 running back and stabilize the offensive line. Until the offense improves, expect the Hokies to lean prominently on the defense, especially in early-season matchups against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. I could see Virginia Tech finishing 8-4 with an upset loss at Virginia or even at home to North Carolina. However, I’m guessing the Hokies find just enough offense to finish 9-3 and push Miami for the Coastal title.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
The opener against Alabama could set a very bad tone for this season in Blacksburg, even with the rebound game against Western Carolina right after. Don't sleep on the back-to-back contests against Marshall and ECU, either -- the Herd and Pirates are two of the best teams in Conference USA and with powerful offenses, may simply be able to outscore the Hokies if the timing's right. Still, with that defense, Virginia Tech has ample opportunities to win all over this schedule. So long as the offense can score 25 (no guarantee), they should be in position to emerge victorious in most contests. But that's all up to Logan Thomas. Can he regain his 2011 form? We'll see.

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
My confidence in Virginia Tech is based on the track records of Frank Beamer and Bud Foster more than anything. The defense returns nine starters, has talent in the front seven and boasts a potentially great ACC cornerback duo in Antone Exum, provided he is able to get fully healthy, and Kyle Fuller. The defense will also be aided by the return of inside linebacker Tariq Edwards, a 2011 starter who missed all of last year, and the reported offseason turnaround from defensive end J.R. Collins, who was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. While I do give Beamer and Foster the benefit of the doubt, I never thought quarterback Logan Thomas deserved all of the hype he got last summer and he showed to be the singal caller I thought he was last year. He has even less help this season than 2012, when he threw for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 picks. It’s up to inexperienced playmakers to step forward on offense. Playing at East Carolina will be tougher than it appears on the surface and winning at Georgia Tech on a short week is no easy task.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Logan Thomas is simply too talented and the Bud Foster led defense is simply too salty for this team to be as bad in 2013 as it was in 2012. Will it rebound to win the division and return to the title game with road games at Georgia Tech and Miami? I say no. But missing both Florida State and Clemson in crossover play gives this team as good a chance of winning the division as any other. The hiring of Scott Loeffler to run the offense is one of the most important hires of the offseason nationally and will go a long way to saving Thomas' legacy and returning Frank Beamer to coaching prominence.

Mark Ross
As disappointing a season as Virginia Tech had last year, the reality is the Hokies still went to (and won) a bowl game and have plenty of talent returning this fall. It will be up to quarterback Logan Thomas to bounce back in a new offensive system, but he can't do it all alone. The running game must be more consistent and playmakers need to step up and emerge in the passing attack.

Despite the many questions on offense, I still believe this team can win the ACC Coastal and contend for an ACC title because of its defense. A unit that finished in the top 20 nationally last season returns nine starters and adds some highly touted recruits to what will be without question the strength of this season's team. If the offense, led by Thomas, can even show marginal improvement, this team could win 10 games in the regular season.

Obviously opening up with defending national champion Alabama is a tough task, but it also could help prepare Frank Beamer's squad for the rest of its slate. In ACC play, the road games at Georgia Tech and Miami, along with the home dates with North Carolina and Pittsburgh appear to be the most important. This is especially the case considering last season the Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets by three points at home in overtime and lost to the Hurricanes, Tar Heels and Panthers by a combined 50 points.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s tough to see Virginia Tech going 7-6 again, so I suppose I’ve given Frank Beamer the benefit of the doubt. The Hokies had their problems last season: Logan Thomas regressed, and Tech had three-game stretch at Clemson, at Miami and against Florida State that would have been tough for anyone. That’s why I’m picking a rebound year of sorts. The Hokies won’t beat Alabama, and Miami’s going to have one of the few offensive teams that can give the Hokies defense trouble. And why Maryland? Every ACC team will lose a game that makes little sense (Virginia Tech did it against Pitt last year). Maryland’s going to be better, provided the Terrapins make it to November with their quarterbacks intact.

Related College Football Content

Bowl Projections for 2013
12 Steps to Fix ACC Football
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Miami Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Florida State Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Clemson Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013

ACC Predictions for 2013
ACC All-Conference Team for 2013
ACC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Virginia Tech Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Coming off a 2-10 record, Ole Miss entered 2012 with low expectations. Despite beginning the season with question marks on both sides of the ball and a new coach in Hugh Freeze, the Rebels were one of the SEC’s biggest surprises, recording a 7-6 overall record, which led to one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

The SEC West is one of the most challenging divisions in college football, so it won’t be easy for Ole Miss to take another step forward in 2013. The talent level is on the rise in Oxford, so the future looks bright for Freeze, especially as he looks to turn the Rebels into a consistent top-25 team.

With 15 starters back, Ole Miss is positioned to make another run at a winning record in 2013. However, the schedule isn’t easy, and the Rebels hope quarterback Bo Wallace is 100 percent after offseason shoulder surgery. 

What will Ole Miss' record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Ole Miss' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
SEC
Logo
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
Josh
Ward
 
8/29 at Vanderbilt 
9/7 SEMO 
9/14 at Texas 
9/28 at Alabama 
10/5 at Auburn 
10/12 Texas A&M 
10/19 LSU 
10/26 Idaho 
11/9 Arkansas 
11/16 Troy 
11/23 Missouri 
11/28 at Mississippi State 
Final Projection7-56-69-37-57-59-3 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Ole Miss is on the right track under the direction of second-year coach Hugh Freeze. However, considering how challenging the schedule is, it’s possible the Rebels are a better team in 2013 than they were in 2012, but it may not show in the win column. The Rebels have road games at Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama and Auburn, along with a season finale at Mississippi State. In addition to the schedule, quarterback Bo Wallace is coming off shoulder surgery, which did not go well for Missouri and James Franklin last year. Assuming Wallace can return to full strength, the Rebels offense will once again average over 30 points a game in 2013. With the addition of a top-notch recruiting class, Ole Miss should have more depth in the program, which is crucial to challenging the top three in the SEC West. Expect more improvement from the Rebels, but a tough schedule will prevent this program from surpassing last year’s win total.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Hugh Freeze has this program trending in the right direction after taking an 0-8 team and winning three SEC games last year. The long-term trajectory of the Rebels has to have fans excited about the future. However, one historic recruiting class doesn't close the gap between teams competing for national titles and one that couldn't even win a game two years ago. Depth is still a major concern if this team is expecting to compete with the big boys. I believe Ole Miss is good enough to pull an upset or two — and am calling for a win over LSU — but it also faces one of the toughest schedules in the league. Expect a similar year to last fall with expectations growing for the 2014 squad.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
2011: 2-10, fired Houston Nutt
2012: 7-6, Egg Bowl win and a bowl victory
2013: Top 10 recruiting class
Is it crazy to think this team can go 9-3?  Yes, yes it is. Last year they averaged 424 YPG and 31.5 PPG. It’s no doubt they can score, and a key to this year’s success will be returning starter Bo Wallace, one of the most underrated QBs in the SEC. Yes, Bo’s 17 INTs from last year scare me too. With all that fresh talent coming to Oxford, how does it translate to playing time on defense? I worry about growing pains. Name to remember: Denzel Nkemdiche, LB


Mark Ross
Ole Miss has a chance to make a huge opening statement by beating Vanderbilt on the road, which would greatly increase the Rebels' chances of surviving their early-season slate. Besides the Commodores, the Rebels also have to play Texas and Alabama on the road before the calendar turns to October. Hugh Freeze's team must find a way to not only build some momentum, but also stay healthy, through this stretch or it else it could be a long season in Oxford.

That said, with at least seven starters returning on both sides of the ball and a highly regarded recruiting class coming in, I think these Rebels right the ship starting in October and finish fairly strong. The key games are back-to-back home games with Texas A&M and LSU and of course the season-ending Egg Bowl at Mississippi State. Find a way to win at least two of these matchups and Ole Miss could be one of the SEC's biggest surprises in 2013.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
There are three critical games on Ole Miss’ schedule, and all are on the road: Vanderbilt, Auburn and Mississippi State. Vanderbilt is a coin-flip game that’s going to be a key momentum game for both teams (Ole Miss lost by 1 last season). Mississippi State is the obvious rivalry game and one the Rebels haven’t won in back-to-back seasons since 2002-04. And then Auburn is a swing game that will be a key gut-check, especially if Ole Miss loses to Texas and Alabama. The Rebels on paper are the better team, beating the Tigers 41-20 last season. But stuck in between Alabama and Texas A&M, that game could be a major problem. Despite all the optimism surrounding last season and the signing class, Ole Miss could start 1-6. I don’t think the Rebels will do that, but the schedule isn’t really conducive to a hot start.


Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I see an up-and-down season coming for Ole Miss. The Rebels will be tested right out of the gate when they open on the road against Vanderbilt. Both teams are trying to capitalize on last year’s momentum. Ole Miss will begin a brutal five-game stretch on Sept. 14, starting with Texas on the road. I have Ole Miss winning two of those five games (at Auburn, LSU), which should make fans happy considering the level of competition. Ole Miss will have a chance for a strong finish. Like last year, the outcome of the Egg Bowl will greatly affect how the Rebels’ season is judged. That’s actually the case every year.

 

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
South Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Florida Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Texas A&M Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Ole Miss Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-sec
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The difference between the SEC and other conferences, at least on the field, is often the play on the offensive and defensive lines. Recent national championship programs at Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida all had standout line play.

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that of the six players we’ve tabbed as pivotal to a conference or division title, five play offensive and defensive line. Three are pass rushers, one is a nose guard and one is an offensive tackle. Teams like Alabama, Georgia and LSU seem to be stocked in linemen every year, but there’s always an element of mystery when the new names take the field.

Some of our picks for pivotal players are obvious, such as Alabama’s offensive line, other are not — why does South Carolina need another defensive end? — but we feel all six are critical for a trip to Atlanta.

Our criteria for pivotal players:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, the Big 12 and Pac-12. Now we turn our eye to the SEC.

Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
The Aggies must replace offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, and receiving mainstay Ryan Swope. But another major loss will be on the defensive side of the ball in Damontre Moore. Obioha started throughout the regular season opposite Moore before a back injury knocked him out of the bowl game. He isn’t the only question on A&M’s defensive front, but the Aggies need much more than his 1.5 tackles for a loss from last season. The 6-4, 255-pound sophomore from New Orleans will be put on the spot on Sept. 14 against the green Alabama offensive line.

Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU
Rasco is the latest in an endless pool of elite defensive linemen in Baton Rouge. Names like Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are already getting thrown around in comparison to the junior from Shreveport. Three LSU defensive ends were drafted in the first five rounds last season, but Rasco is one of the reasons the SEC expects LSU to continue to field one of the league’s best defenses.

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Mike Gillislee is a major loss, but Matt Jones and others should give the Gators a productive ground game. Instead, we’ll focus on receiver. The Gators have had a drought at the position in recent seasons, failing to produce an all-league wideout in the last four years. Robinson, a freshman, is a sign of hope after an impressive spring practice. The Gators need someone to break out at receiver, and Robinson is the best candidate to come around so far.

Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
Ryan Kelly (center) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) have all but locked down vacant positions on the Tide’s offensive line, leaving right tackle as the most hotly contested position. Shepherd is a veteran backup, but he’s being pushed by junior college transfer Leon Brown.

Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
South Carolina has bigger questions in the back end of its defense, but Jadeveon Clowney’s linemate may be the most important position on the field. Sutton replaces Devin Taylor, who had 18.5 career sacks. Sutton had three sacks last season, but if he can’t keep opponents honest, they’ll do everything they can to neutralize Clowney. Sutton, who had three sacks last season, may be the key if Clowney is going to flourish in 2013.

Mike Thornton, NT, Georgia
Georgia’s season could take a major swing based on the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. In the Tigers and Gamecocks, Georgia faces two offensive lines that return every starter except their center. That puts the focus on the Bulldogs’ nose guard situation with John Jenkins. The Bulldogs expect a rotation at the position, but Thornton is the leading candidate despite being smaller than the other nose tackles on the roster (6-1, 302).

Teaser:
Six players who could make their teams SEC champions
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/carlos-hydes-bar-fight-video-released
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Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde received some good news on Tuesday, as the Columbus police department indicated no charges would be filed in a recent bar incident. The woman involved in the fight declined to press charges against Hyde.

Hyde’s status is still uncertain for 2013, but it appears he will avoid a dismissal or major suspension.
 

With no charges filed, the video from the bar was released on Tuesday. It’s not easy to discern what happens in the incident, but it does not appear Hyde hits the woman after an argument.

Check out the video from Carlos Hyde's bar incident:

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 16:25
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-7-amazing-stats-pocono
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Are you prepared for Indianapolis, Part 2?

A long-standing belief across NASCAR shops is that what works at big, flat Indianapolis Motor Speedway also works at big, flat Pocono Raceway. Statistically, it’s true. A study on MotorsportsAnalytics.com this year proved that the two facilities closely correlate (with a comparatively high coefficient of 0.465) in results getting.

So in terms of both mechanical setup and actual results, the two tracks offer heavy similarities. But goodness, what took place between June at Pocono and last week at Indianapolis was just crazy beans.


6  Six drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano — finished inside the top 10 at both Pocono and Indianapolis this season.

Going a step deeper, Juan Pablo Montoya finished 14th at Pocono and ninth at Indianapolis. Similarly close, Kurt Busch finished seventh at Pocono and 14th at Indy, while Jeff Gordon finished 12th and seventh. This is all a numerical way of saying that the win this weekend at Pocono will come from someone that was a strong performer last week at the Brickyard. For some drivers, though, success at multiple tracks should no longer be considered surprising.

7.500 Johnson leads NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in PEER — a measure of performance in equal equipment — at Pocono with a 7.500 rating.

He led 128 out of 160 laps (80 percent) of June’s race and won without — and I’m assuming here — breaking a sweat. His Hendrick-powered No. 48 car ranked first in average green-flag speed by a half of a mile an hour. Unless he forgets the act of being a race car driver between now and Sunday, it’s close to a forgone conclusion that the win goes through Johnson.


100%  In the June race at Pocono, Johnson retained position from the preferred groove 100 percent of the time on six restarts.  Jimmie Johnson will win this restart.

Restarts were easy sailing for a guy who calls restarts the weakest facet of his game. Note that just three drivers – Josh Wise, Sam Hornish and Trevor Bayne – don’t retain position from that groove the majority of the time this season. Where Johnson struggles in general, and last time at Pocono, is the non-preferred groove. He gave up two positions in the non-preferred groove in his only attempt during June’s race.


5.167  Newman, last week’s winner at Indianapolis, is also adept on Pocono’s relatively fresh surface, with a 5.167 PEER (ranks fourth in the series) through three races on it.

What does that span include? Finishes of 12th, sixth and fifth. His most recent outing (the fifth-place score) came in a 19 laps-led performance in which he held onto the second-place spot until a three-lap drop on the lap 142 restart.


3 for 3  Stewart and his No. 14 team are the only entry to score top-5 finishes in all three Pocono races on the current surface.  Tony Stewart

He hasn’t scored a win yet, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from thinking he is capable of such. He has yet to lead, but he was able to pass sufficiently — a 56.12 percent clip — in that race, which bucks his poor passing trend this season. To date, he is a minus-passer (48.99 percent efficiency) for the first time in five years. Evidently, for him, racing and passing will coalesce this weekend at Pocono.


58.64%  Juan Pablo Montoya earned the highest passing rate in the last race at Pocono.

I’m guessing Indianapolis offers one turn too many for Montoya, because he had a minus-passing day last week (46.43 percent). In June, he worked traffic like a speed bag but finished just 14th. If he can climb high enough in the running order and avoid attack from the statistically imbalanced double-file restart monster, a good day in the Poconos could be on the horizon for the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver.


46.83  In order to safely earn one of the top 10 automatic spots in the Chase, Aric Almirola must average a take of 46.83 points per race (i.e. win out) in the remaining six events.

Sure, he has a shade over a 24 percent chance of making the Chase with his predicted point total; however, it’s an awfully tall task, especially considering his three finishes in the last three races at Pocono are an unimpressive 28th, 18th and 21st. His only path to the Chase is to finish inside the top 20 in driver points (he’s in 17th right now) and score at least two wins (which would be unprecedented for him). The bubble driver is Richard Petty Motorsports’ best chance this year for a playoff spot, which would end a three-year organization-wide drought since Kasey Kahne did it in 2009.


For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on MotorsportsAnalytics.com.

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 15:23

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