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Not every recruiting class is created equal.

 

Depending on the state, region or position, each recruiting cycle offers different areas of strengths or weaknesses. A quick examination of the most important position on the field during the modern era of football recruiting (2002) makes this painfully obvious.

 

Every team needs a quality signal-caller to compete for championships but not every year can provide an answer under center. Here are the last 13 quarterback classes and how they stack up against one another:

 

1. Class of 2006

 

The Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick,

 

Best of the Rest: Case Keenum, Jake Locker, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Josh Freeman, Christian Ponder, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, Thaddeus Lewis, T.J. Yates, Ricky Stanzi

 

This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second-rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS national championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada and led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth early in his career.

 

2. Class of 2011

 

The Stars: Marcus Mariota, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Dak Prescott, Trevone Boykin, Braxton Miller

 

Best of the Rest: Cody Kessler, Connor Cook, Chuckie Keeton, Rakeem Cato, Cardale Jones, Marquise Williams, Everett Golson, Kevin Hogan

 

Manziel and Mariota have Heisman Trophies, numerous records and a trip to the national title game. Bridgewater, Hundley, Prescott and Boykin have taken their programs to unprecedented heights (with more to come potentially for Prescott and/or Boykin). Miller is a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and still has one more year of eligibility, while his teammate Jones has a conference and national championship victory under his belt. Hogan and Cook also are conference champs and Rose Bowl participants. Cato broke numerous NCAA records. And Kessler might be the most underrated player in the country in 2015. With another huge year, this group could jump the ’06 class.

 

3. Class of 2008

 

The Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor

 

Best of the Rest: Landry Jones, Darron Thomas, Blaine Gabbert, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Ryan Nassib, Zac Dysert

 

When all is said and done, Luck will be the best player in any class since John Elway signed with Stanford while Griffin claims a Heisman and is Baylor’s career MVP. Jones was one of the most prolific passers in Big 12 history while Klein, Thomas, and Pryor were electric athletes who used their legs. Manuel and Gabbert were both first-round NFL Draft picks as well. In all, this group claims four first-round picks, one Heisman Trophy, a bunch of conference championships, and numerous BCS bowl games but doesn't have the overall depth to match '06 or '11.

 

4. Class of 2009

 

The Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd

 

Best of the Rest: Geno Smith, Derek Carr, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, Logan Thomas, Taylor Martinez, Bryn Renner, Keith Price, Zach Mettenberger, Brock Osweiler, Kolton Browning

 

There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Boyd, Barkley and Murray left school as the most prolific passes in ACC, Pac-12 and SEC history respectively while Smith owns numerous passing records and Carr’s numbers would have broken Mountain West records had Fresno State been in the league longer. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron. Robinson and Lynch are the top two rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history with a combined 8,838 yards and 90 TDs.

 

5. Class of 2007

 

The Stars: Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore

 

Best of the Rest: Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Lindley, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen

 

One guy gives this class a Heisman Trophy, a BCS national title and a No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. But the rest of the group is underrated as well. Wilson and Weeden broke all kinds of NCAA records and Wilson has already led his team to two Super Bowls, with one win and a chance at a repeat Sunday. Moore is the winningest QB in history and is second only to Keenum in terms of career passing stats. Cousins is an extremely underrated leader and is the best QB in Michigan State history while Mallett, Lindley and Tannehill are all NFL players. Taylor and Nesbitt give this group plenty of athleticism as well.

 

6. Class of 2003

 

The Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Dennis Dixon

 

Best of the Rest: Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson, Matt Flynn, Kevin Kolb, John Beck, John David Booty, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate

 

Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to a FCS school (Delaware) before eventually getting taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. But both are Pro Bowl-caliber talents and Flacco has already claimed a Super Bowl MVP award. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS national championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon.

 

7. Class of 2002

 

The Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan

 

Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson

 

At the top, this class had an elite trio. Young is the most unstoppable player I’ve ever seen on a college gridiron and carried Texas to a national title. Smith also led his team to the national title game and claimed Ohio State’s seventh Heisman Trophy. Brennan posted huge numbers at Hawaii in getting the Warriors to their one and only BCS bowl game. Stanton and Stocco were excellent Big Ten players but the depth of the class, or lack thereof, is what keeps it from being ranked higher.

 

8. Class of 2004

 

The Stars: Brian Brohm, Pat White, Brian Johnson, Graham Harrell

 

Best of the Rest: Chad Henne, Curtis Painter, Brian Hoyer, Max Hall, Stephen McGee, John Parker Wilson, Erik Ainge, Rudy Carpenter

 

None of these names ever turned out to be NFL stars but there are some elite college players in this class. Brohm, White and Johnson all led their teams to historic seasons, conference crowns and BCS bowl wins. Harrell posted elite passing statistics while Hall, Henne, Painter and Wilson all started for at least three seasons at four of the most historic quarterback programs in the nation (BYU, Michigan, Purdue, Alabama).

 

9. Class of 2010

 

The Stars: Bryce Petty, Blake Bortles, Taylor Kelly, Connor Shaw

 

Best of the Rest: Sean Mannion, Brandon Doughty, James Franklin, Connor Halliday, Cody Fajardo, Shane Carden, Tyler Bray

 

Shaw is the arguably the most underrated SEC QB of all-time and is South Carolina's best signal-caller... ever. The same can be said for Bortles for UCF. Kelly and Petty just finished two historically productive seasons for their programs. Franklin rebounded from injury to prove he was an elite player for Mizzou. Halliday, Mannion and Doughty are three of the most prolific passes in NCAA history while Carden and Fajardo meant a lot to their programs.

 

10. Class of 2005

 

The Stars: Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez, Dan LeFevour

 

Best of the Rest: Daryll Clark, Zac Robinson, Tony Pike, Mike Kafka, Matt Grothe, Riley Skinner, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield

 

The top five were great players for their schools but that is about all this class has to offer. Yes, Canfield, Kafka, Webb and Pike were NFL Draft picks but all are bench players. McCoy is the real star, finishing his career with more wins than anyone in history (until Kellen Moore) and leading Texas to the championship game. Sanchez had a great team at USC and was a top pick but has very little experience. Robinson and Daniel were, at the time of graduation, likely the top quarterbacks in program history. LeFevour is a big reason why Brian Kelly and Butch Jones are currently coaching at Notre Dame and Tennessee respectively.

 

11. Class of 2012

 

The Stars: Jameis Winston, Maty Mauk, Taysom Hill, Justin Thomas

 

Best of the Rest: Gunner Kiel, Patrick Towles, Chad Voytik, Nate Sudfeld, Cyler Miles, Tommy Armstrong, Trevor Knight, Travis Wilson

 

This group already claims a Heisman winner and a BCS national title as well as three emerging stars at Mizzou, BYU and Georgia Tech. Additionally, expectation levels are high for a handful of other big-time talents like Kiel at Cincinnati, Miles at Washington, Voytik at Pitt, Towles at Kentucky and Sudfeld at Indiana.

 

12. Class of 2013

 

The Stars: Christian Hackenberg, J.T. Barrett, Anu Solomon, Josh Dobbs, Jared Goff

 

Best of the Rest: Sefo Liufau, Jeremy Johnson, Davis Webb, Malik Zaire, John O'Korn,

 

Nothing is really known about this class as of yet. However, names like Hackenberg, Goff, Barrett, Solomon and Dobbs have already set a solid benchmark with big-time production in their first few seasons. Names that could easily find their way into the "Stars" or "Best of the Rest" category in 2014 include Jeremy Johnson at Auburn and Malik Zaire at Notre Dame.

 

13. Class of 2014

 

The Stars: Brad Kaaya, Deshaun Watson, Kyle Allen, Mason Rudolph

 

Best of the Rest: ???

 

It's way too early and too much is unknown about this class to rank it any higher than last. But after just one year, this group is off to a good start with Kaaya, Watson, Allen and Rudolph looking the part of long-term starters for Miami, Clemson, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State respectively. Others like Patrick Mahomes (Texas Tech) and John Wolford (Wake Forest) made a quick impact as well.

Teaser:
Recruiting Analysis: What was the best QB class of the modern era?
Post date: Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/5-players-replacing-biggest-names-big-ten-2015
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Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.
 

After Ohio State’s national championship victory over Oregon, Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh as the team’s head coach, along with the expected improvement by Penn State (and Michigan State's steady rise under coach Mark Dantonio) in the next few years, the Big Ten’s East Division is loaded with intriguing storylines and teams on the rise. On the other side, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Minnesota should be the top contenders in the West. However, all three enter spring with significant personnel question marks, and two of those programs (Nebraska and Wisconsin) have new coaches. Let’s take a look at a few players replacing some of the top names in the Big Ten for 2015. 

 

5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in the Big Ten for 2015

 

Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin

 

Replacing: Melvin Gordon (2,587 yards, 29 TDs in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Wisconsin has recorded a 1,000-yard rusher in 10 consecutive seasons, and it’s a safe bet to assume that streak will extend to 11 by the end of 2015. Melvin Gordon was the nation’s top running back last year, rushing for 2,587 yards and 29 scores on 343 attempts. New coach Paul Chryst could have certainly used Gordon in 2015, but the cupboard is far from bare. Clement is a breakout star waiting for his opportunity to start. On 147 carries in 2014, Clement rushed for 949 yards and nine scores. Overall, in his first two years in Madison, Clement has 1,496 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns. Gordon will be missed, but Clement should ensure Wisconsin’s ground attack doesn’t miss a beat.

 

Imani Cross, RB, Nebraska

 

Replacing: Ameer Abdullah (1,611 yards, 19 TDs)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Replacing the production lost by Abdullah finishing his eligibility probably won’t fall on one running back. And while Abdullah was one of the nation’s best all-around backs, Nebraska does have talent coming back for 2015. Imani Cross spent most of 2014 as the listed backup to Abdullah before an injury kept the 230-pound back out of the lineup in the Holiday Bowl. Cross rushed for 384 yards and five touchdowns on 75 attempts last season, giving him 1,155 yards and 22 scores in his career. In addition to the upside of Cross, the Cornhuskers can also expect to utilize Terrell Newby (297 yards) and sophomore Adam Taylor in 2015.

 

Darian Hicks/Montae Nicholson, DB, Michigan State

 

Replacing: Trae Waynes (CB), Kurtis Drummond (S)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Hicks (Junior), Nicholson (Sophomore)

 

Michigan State’s ‘No Fly Zone’ will have at least two new starters in 2015. The Spartans allowed only six passing touchdowns in Big Ten games last season and ranked inside of the top 10 nationally from 2012-13 in fewest passing scores allowed in both years. Waynes and Drummond were key pieces of the success in the secondary, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2014. Hicks and Nicholson have big shoes to fill next season, but both players gained valuable experience last season. Hicks started 10 of 13 contests and recorded 28 stops with two picks. Nicholson played in 13 games as a true freshman and made 31 stops with two fumble recoveries. With Pat Narduzzi leaving to be the coach at Pittsburgh, it’s up to new co-coordinators Mike Tressel and Harlon Barnett to keep the defense performing at a high level. And it certainly doesn’t hurt their play-calling ability if Hicks and Nicholson are the next standout defensive backs in East Lansing.

 

Michael Hill, DT, Ohio State

 

Replacing: Michael Bennett (second-team Athlon Sports All-American in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

For a team coming off a national championship, Ohio State surprisingly has few losses to address on the depth chart. That’s quite a switch for most teams coming off a title, but the Buckeyes are loaded for another run in 2015. One of coach Urban Meyer’s biggest spring concerns will be replacing Michael Bennett’s production on the interior of the line. Adolphus Washington appears primed for a big senior campaign in 2015, but a lot of coaches in Columbus will be watching the development of Hill and Donovan Munger at the tackle position. Hill has played sparingly over the last two years (just seven games) and made only two stops and one sack in four appearances in 2014. The South Carolina native ranked as the No. 176 recruit in the 2013 247Sports Composite. With Bennett leaving, the door is open for Hill to become a bigger piece of the defensive line rotation in 2015.

 

Paris Palmer, OT, Penn State

 

Replacing: Donovan Smith (31 career starts)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

The offensive line was the biggest area of concern for coach James Franklin and line coach Herb Hand in 2014. The Nittany Lions entered the year with concerns about depth and injuries, and this unit allowed 44 sacks in 13 games last season. Left tackle Donovan Smith was the anchor for a young group, starting 31 career games over three seasons of playing time in Happy Valley. Smith decided to leave for the NFL after 2014, leaving a massive void for Hand and Franklin to address in the offseason. It’s rare to see a junior college recruit going to Penn State, but it’s clear in Palmer’s case that he’s being brought in to play right away. The North Carolina native played the last two years at Lackawanna College and was rated as a four-star recruit (and the No. 12 overall player) in the 2015 247Sports JUCO Composite rankings. Finding ways to protect quarterback Christian Hackenberg has to be the top priority for the offense this spring. Can Palmer solidify one of the tackle spots?

Teaser:
5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in Big Ten for 2015
Post date: Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/recruiting-analysis-class-2010-re-ranked
Body:

Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, just like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-American teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.

 

So Athlon Sports re-ranked the top 10 players of the 2010 class and asked ' national recruiting analyst to look back at the evaluation process:

 

1. Aaron Donald, DT, Pitt

Defensive Tackle No. 25, No. 299 nationally

 

Donald accomplished everything an individual can in college, winning more awards in his final season than most anyone else in history not named Manti Te’o. The Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi, Bednarik winner, as well as the ACC Player of the Year and All-American also was the 13th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He made the Pro Bowl for the Rams as a rookie this season. Who was No. 1: Ronald Powell, DE, Florida

 

Barton Simmons’ Take: “Donald was an industry miss and should have been ranked higher but those violent hands were definitely there all the way back in high school.”

 

2. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

Offensive Tackle No. 7, No. 56 nationally

 

The highly-touted blocker won the Outland Trophy as the best lineman in college football, was the No. 2 overall pick in the ’13 NFL Draft and helped Johnny Manziel win a Heisman Trophy. Who was No. 2: Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami

 

Simmons’ Take: “Joeckel was just consistently good. He was big but not freakishly big, athletic but not freakishly athletic but he almost never got beat. He was fantastic at the Under Armour All-American game.”

 

3. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Inside Linebacker No. 3, No. 79 nationally

 

Mosley was a Top 100 player but sat behind some stars at linebacker named Hightower and Upshaw before becoming the All-American superstar. He was a two-time consensus All-American, the Butkus Award winner, a two-time BCS champion, first-round pick and Pro Bowler as just a rookie. Who was No. 3: Robert Woods, WR, USC

 

Simmons’ Take: “I remember watching Mosley at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and his athleticism in coverage and ability to play in space was unmatched in that linebacker class.”

 

4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Offensive Tackle No. 5, No. 38 nationally

 

Matthews was ranked slightly higher than Joeckel and was nearly as good as his Outland counterpart. The legacy blocker lived up to the hype, was a two-time All-American and the sixth pick in the ’14 NFL Draft. Who was No. 4: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

 

Simmons’ Take: “Matthews was polished, tough and physical at offensive tackle and he was also really versatile. He was incredibly consistent during his week at the U.S. Army Bowl.”

 

5. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF

Pro-Style No. 43, No. 1220 nationally

 

In a class loaded with busts at quarterback, Bortles was easily the most successful and most productive signal-caller in the class. And one of the most underrated recruits in the modern era of rankings. He led UCF to a league title, a BCS bowl win and was a top-five pick in the NFL Draft. Who was No. 5: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

 

Simmons’ Take: “Bortles was one that slipped through the cracks for sure but if you looked close enough, the talent was obvious. He had a big arm and at 230 pounds as a senior, he had a huge frame as well.”

 

6. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

Safety No. 1, No. 10 nationally

 

A freakish athlete coming out of high school, Allen is the only name on this list who was ranked in the top 10 as a prospect. He rewrote the Cal receiving record book, but dropped to the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft due to injury. He has put together back-to-back solid seasons as a pro. Who was No. 6: Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

 

Simmons’ Take: “The question with Keenan Allen was is he a safety or is he a wide receiver? Most thought he was a safety but he was so big and athletic that he was a clear star at either.”

 

7. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Athlete No. 7, No. 64 nationally

 

The former running back took his time getting to the defensive side of the ball but once he did, he dominated the Pac-12. His overall athletic ability was on full display as a recruit and it resulted in a top 70 recruiting ranking. Who was No. 7: Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas

 

Simmons’ Take: “Barr was a big running back in high school but most recruiting analysts felt that defense would be his best spot in the future. He eventually figured that out.”

 

8. Eric Reid, S, LSU

Safety No. 6, No. 57 nationally

 

Reid was a star at safety for an LSU defense that was one of the best in the land. He was All-SEC all three seasons, played in a BCS title game and the 49ers moved up to take him in the first round two years ago. Who was No. 8: Mike Dyer, RB, Auburn

 

Simmons’ Take: “Reid was always a huge kid at the safety position but he could cover at that size and he had ball skills. Beyond that he was an intelligent kid that showed off leadership at every event.”

 

9. Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

Tight End No. 22, No. 483 nationally

 

Beasley would have been a top draft pick last season but returned for his final year and it resulted in a second All-American campaign and ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors. The former tight end was not even the highest-rated Beasley that Clemson signed in 2010 (David). Who was No. 9: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

 

Simmons’ Take: “We knew Vic had an elite frame, he was really athletic but we thought his future would be on offense as a tight end. The upside was always there.”

 

10. Brandon Scherff, OT, Iowa

Offensive Tackle No. 40, No. 579 nationally

 

It’s tough to pinpoint a prospect’s ability to play a bookend tackle when they are under center in high school. The former quarterback was barely a top 50 prospect at his position entering college. He won the Outland Trophy and will likely be a first-round pick. Who was No. 10: Keenan Allen, WR, Cal

 

Simmons’ Take: “An Iowa native, Scherff was actually a quarterback until his junior season so he had some obvious athleticism and a body that he grew into.”

 

Download the today!

 

Best of the Rest: 

 

* - indicates five-star prospects, Pos. Rk = position rank

PlayerPos.TeamPos. RkNational Rk
Eric KendricksLBNo. 29 ILBNo. 729
Jordan MatthewsWRNo. 182 WRNo. 1442
Alec Ogletree*LBNo. 1 SNo. 19
Darqueze DennardCBNo. 142 CBNo. 1596
David YankeyGNo. 39 OTNo. 560
Andre WilliamsRBNo. 58 RBNo. 697
Lamarcus Joyner*DBNo. 2 ATHNo. 12
Bjoern WernerDENo. 22 SDENo. 343
Jackson Jeffcoat*DENo. 1 SDENo. 5
Giovani BernardRBNo. 12 RBNo. 166
Hroniss GrasuCNo. 6 CNo. 630
Sharrif Floyd*DTNo. 2 SDENo. 6
Dee Milliner*CBNo. 1 CBNo. 14
Marcus Lattimore*RBNo. 1 APBNo. 9
DeAndre HopkinsWRNo. 25 WRNo. 193

 

Teaser:
Recruiting Analysis: Class of 2010 Re-Ranked
Post date: Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, NFL, High School, News
Path: /nfl/where-seahawks-and-patriots-found-players-super-bowl-xlix-rosters
Body:

The popular trend of the football offseason will be the rebound of the Big Ten.

 

Ohio State won the national championship, and Jim Harbaugh is bringing hope to Michigan. Penn State is on the rise, and Michigan State and Wisconsin hope to maintain stability.

 

Here’s another one to add to the Big Ten’s brag sheet: No matter what, the Big Ten will have a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the second consecutive season.

 

For the first time in Super Bowl history, two quarterbacks from the Big Ten will start for both teams. Certainly, a single conference has produced both Super Bowl starting quarterbacks before with Fran Tarkenton/Ken Stabler and Peyton Manning/Rex Grossman representing the SEC and and John Elway/Chris Chandler representing the Pac-10, but the meeting of Michigan’s Tom Brady and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson is a first for the Big Ten.

 

Overall, this is a nice year for Big Ten representation in the Super Bowl. Six Wisconsin players are on Super Bowl rosters, more than any other school. Rutgers has four players on Super Bowl rosters, as many as Alabama, UCLA and Texas A&M and more than USC, Texas, Florida or Florida State.

 

No conference produced more players on this year's Super Bowl rosters — the active and reserve — than the Big Ten with 27, followed by the Pac-12 with 25 and SEC with 22.

 

Once again, Athlon Sports looked at each college and high school of players on active Super Bowl rosters and injured reserve and mapped each point.

 

Here’s a look at what we found.

 

The maps are interactive. Zoom in and out to check different areas and find names of each player. The Patriots are marked in red, and the Seahawks are marked in green.

 

Where the Patriots and Seahawks went to college

 

 

• After Wisconsin’s six players on Super Bowl rosters, six schools landed four players on Super Bowl rosters — Alabama, Michigan, Oregon, Rutgers, Texas A&M and UCLA.

 

• Seven schools produced three players on Super Bowl rosters: Cal, Illinois, LSU, Oregon, Purdue, TCU and USC.

 

• Three power conferences have separated themselves with the Big Ten (27), Pac-12 (25 and SEC (22) setting pace over the other leagues in their current alignments. The ACC (12) as less than half of the representation of the Pac-12, and the Big 12 (nine) has only two more than Conference USA and Mountain West (six each).

 

• While the Big Ten cornered the market on quarterbacks, the Pac-12 produced most of the rest of the offensive skill position star power — Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski, Cal’s Marshawn Lynch and Shane Vereen, Stanford’s Doug Baldwin, Washington’s Jermaine Kearse.

 

Where the Patriots and Seahawks went to high school

 

• The big three states for football are simply a big one in this Super Bowl. The Patriots and Seahawks have a combined 25 players from the state of California, just one fewer than Texas (15) and Florida (nine) combined.

 

• A bit of a surprise — the fourth-most represented state is Illinois with eight, including Patriots starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich (New Lenox Lincoln-Way Central) and starting tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (Bloomington Central Catholic).

 

• The most productive single region for the Super Bowl, by a wide margin, was the Los Angeles metro area. Southern California graduates include: Seahawks corner Richard Sherman, linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and Patriots cornerback Patrick Chung and center Ryan Wendell.

 

• Compton (Calif.) Dominguez is the only school with two players in the Super Bowl with Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman and reserve safety Jeron Johnson.

 

• Five players in the Super Bowl did not play high school football in the lower 48, including Patriots offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (Nuess, Germany), Seahawks center Max Unger (Hawaii), tight end Luke Willson (Ontario), punter Jon Ryan (Regina, Saskatchewan) and defensive tackle Jesse Williams (Brisbane, Australia).

Teaser:
Where did the Seahawks and Patriots find their players for the Super Bowl XLIX rosters?
Post date: Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 07:45
Path: /nfl/5-x-factors-super-bowl-xlix
Body:

Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks overflows with dramatic storylines and features fascinating characters that rival any Hollywood blockbuster. Tom Brady is the A-list superstar. Russell Wilson fills the role of the successful up-and-comer looking to steal Brady’s thunder. Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are the leaders of men looking to cement their legacies as the conquering head coaches of the football realm, all supported by a fantastic ensemble cast of Richard Sherman, Rob Gronkowski, and Marshawn Lynch. This is better than Hollywood.

 

While those stories and leading men will garner so much of the attention this week leading up to the biggest football game of the year, here are some x-factors that also could play a big role in the outcome on Super Sunday.

 

Deflate-gate

 

The most over-dramatic headline in recent sports memory will surely be the elephant in the stadium all week long. While media outlets relentlessly pine over PSI and the science of pigskin in wet and cold conditions, the Patriots will be completely ignoring the “conspiracy” altogether — or at least try to. For the first time in his NFL career, Tom Brady is seemingly playing the role of bad guy after last week’s awkward press conference in which Brady was asked if he thought he was a cheater. As a franchise, New England has long been known for its constant stoicism and professionalism, but is the spotlight from another “cheating” allegation during the biggest week of the football calendar going to be too much of a nuisance for the business-like Patriots?

 

 

Patriots’ Receivers vs. The Legion of Boom

 

Defenses beware — every eligible player is an option in New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ playbook, something the Ravens and Colts know all too well. This offensive versatility is due in part to the variety of weapons that Brady has to throw to, as six players have more than 20 receptions this season.

 

Brady loves to use the middle of the field to exploit defenses. With tight end Rob Gronkowski being such a matchup nightmare for linebackers, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell typically have extra space underneath opposing teams’ coverages in which to operate. But this Seattle defense is a different animal. The Seahawks’ vaunted “Legion of Boom” makes a point to get in their opponents’ faces (and their minds) with their physical play and relentless swagger. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell are backed by hard-hitting press safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, and all four bring heavy pop to the field. It will be interesting to see how effective the Patriots’ receivers are against the LOB. Brady may have to rely on his running backs as pass-catching options out of the backfield more than he usually does.

 

LeGarrette Blount

 

Castaways, no-names, and journeymen have been lining up at running back behind Brady for the better part of a decade. And no running back fits the Patriots’ misfit mold quite like Blount does. Blount, in his second stint with New England, was claimed on waivers in November after being waived by Pittsburgh for leaving the field early during the Steelers’ win against the Titans on “Monday Night Football.”

 

Back with the Patriots, Blount didn’t see significant playing time until Week 15 against the Chargers when he rushed for 66 yards on 20 carries. Over the next three games Blount would total 21 carries for 80 yards, including three carries for one yard against Baltimore in the AFC Divisional round. But Blount came alive last week against the Colts, putting up 148 yards and three scores on 30 carries.

 

When Blount takes the field Sunday, the defense opposing him will be one of the best of the past decade. Seattle ranks first this season in total defense, first in passing defense, and third against the rush. If the Patriots are to have any success against the terrorizing Seattle defense, Blount may have to carry a lot of the offensive load. 

 

Luke Willson

 

Willson won't get the attention from opposing defenses that his tight end counterpart Rob Gronkowski does, but that doesn't mean he will be a non-factor in this Super Bowl. Wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin will attract the most attention from New England’s cover corners, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, so Willson should see more balls thrown his way, especially in the fourth quarter. Willson has saved his best for last, as half of his catches and two of his three touchdowns this season have come in the final 15 minutes.

 

Willson caught just 22 passes during the regular season, but he averaged an impressive 16.5 yards per grab, making him a great option down the field. Fourteen of those catches also resulted in first downs and he has six receptions for 79 yards and a score thus far in the postseason. Due to Seattle’s efficient read-option run game, Willson could be most effective on play-action passes when linebackers are caught in-between reading the potential handoff to Marshawn Lynch or a Russell Wilson keeper outside of the pocket. The Patriots must also keep Willson in check on blitz packages, as he is averaging more than 14 yards per catch on plays in which defenses bring pressure.

 

Protecting Possessions

 

Both Seattle and New England are near the top in the NFL when it comes to protecting the football. While turnovers may be limited in this year’s Super Bowl, the consequences of those turnovers could be the deciding x-factor.

 

The Seahawks uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, but only surrendered two field goals from those extra possessions, leaving just enough room for Seattle to force overtime by forcing several turnovers of its own. On the other hand, the Patriots led the NFL in the regular season with the fewest turnovers (13) and were second in points off of turnovers (110 points), and net turnover points (+61). If the Seahawks want to raise their second straight Lombardi Trophy, not giving Brady and company extra opportunities will be imperative.

 

— By Jake Rose

 

Teaser:
5 X-Factors for Super Bowl XLIX
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 16:00
All taxonomy terms: Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, Steph Curry, NBA
Path: /nba/curry-thompson-korver-enter-3-point-contest
Body:
All-Star weekend 2015 in New York City is rounding into shape. The NBA officially announced its , and now there’s exciting info coming out about who’ll be in the 3-point shootout on the same night.

 

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, the “Splash Brothers” of the , and Kyle Korver of the — all of whom are having historically effective seasons from beyond the arc — will participate in the contest. As will Wesley Matthews of the Portland Trail Blazers, and J.J. Redick of the Los Angeles Clippers. This according to — the official announcement from the league is yet to come.

 

The group is one of the most potent fields to enter the competition in quite some time. While the dunk contest is populated with up-and-comers, the 3-point show will feature the very best in the game at what they do, and all of these players are in their primes.

 

Curry and Thompson comprise a backcourt that looks likely to go down as the best shooting duo the game has ever seen. And Korver, across the country, is the most potent weapon in an outstanding Hawks offense, flirting with numbers that no one’s achieved before.

 

An elite club of just six players (Dirk Nowitzki, Larry Bird, Mark Price, Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller and Steve Nash) has shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three, and 90 percent from the charity stripe over a full season. Korver, through 44 games, has been transcendent with not just a 50-40-90 mark, but an otherwordly 50-50-90 line.

 

It’s fitting that the star power will be in the shooting contest this year, not the dunking contest. Floor-spacers have been on the rise in the modern state of the game for a while, and this season’s All-Star weekend will put that transition onto center stage.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 15:02
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-28-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 28: 

 

. Looks like pregnancy wasn't too rough on her.

 

. Although , like Progressive did.

 

.

 

.

 

• Also throwing punches: .

 

.

 

. I think these guys could beat the best guys who did.

 

.

 

.

 

Then report back to me. I just can't.

 

• Steph Curry isn't just an unconscious shooter. He can also pull off Magic-style passes like this one.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 10:42
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/ranking-nba%E2%80%99s-coach-year-candidates
Body:
6. Terry Stotts, Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers, quite quietly, have compiled one of the best records in the NBA, and they’ve done it without everything going as planned. Starting center has missed 20 games, and crucial small forward Nicolas Batum is having one of his worst years since he entered the league. Much of the Blazers’ ascension is due to the exponential growth of Damian Lillard’s game, but Stotts deserves credit for Portland’s defense improving considerably in 2014-15.

 

5. Kevin McHale, Houston Rockets

Coming into the season, Mr. McHale’s job status couldn’t exactly be described as “secure.” His Rockets petered out early in last year’s playoffs, falling 4-2 in the first round to the Trail Blazers and often looking disorganized and uninspired as they did so. But McHale has helped shape Houston into something more fierce this year: a defense-first team that falls in line behind , and plays selflessly. Harden deserves a lion share of credit for a better Houston with his emergence as a top-five force — as does the continued defensive dominance of Dwight Howard — but McHale has certainly earned himself a nod too.

 

4. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit Pistons

The Pistons’ is one of the more remarkable transformations within recent NBA memory. By kicking the highest-paid player off the team, Van Gundy (who also runs basketball operations in Detroit) created eminent authority for himself and made the necessary platform on which to effect change. But nobody saw things turning this quickly — the Pistons went on a 12-3 tear after shedding Smith, looking suddenly purpose-driven and anchored by a set of shrewd Van Gundy principles. He hasn’t done a full season of excellent work, but Stan gets recognition for one of the most uncanny months in NBA coaching history.

 

3. Jason Kidd, Milwaukee Bucks

It’s hard to believe how quickly Jason Kidd has brought change to Milwaukee. Last year’s worst team in basketball, the Bucks are a playoff team who surpassed their 2013-14 win total before we even hit 2015. And they’ve done it with minimal roster change: Their biggest transaction was drafting Jabari Parker at No. 2 overall, and the rookie left the team more than a month ago. The team’s turnaround has been more about Kidd’s sense of direction than anything; under his tutelage, the young squad has become one of the very best defenses in the league. Be afraid of Kidd’s team as they go forward and get more experience under their belts.

 

2. Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors

No first-year coach has ever had a better record than . This is in keeping with the former 3-point shooting ace’s biography: Be it either through correlation or causation, nearly every basketball scenario he’s been involved with has seem blessed. Golden State was a good team before Kerr came, but now they’re a great one. Their league-leading 36-6 record owes much to his maximization of their wide array of shooters, passers, defenders and all-around ballers.

 

1. Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta Hawks

In any other year, Kerr’s historic start would launch him into the clear top spot in the race to the top of the coaching hierarchy. But what is doing in Atlanta is simply amazing. A team with zero superstars has been nearly perfect since late November, amassing a 30-2 record over their last 32 games. And they’re doing it in a way that only a team with an elite coach can: through exquisite passing, mutual trust, and top-to-bottom sacrifice in the name of a greater good. Budenholzer’s Popovichian system is the star for the Hawks, and the open man is their go-to scorer. If they keep this up, there won’t be a team who can beat them out of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 10:08
Path: /college-football/5-players-replacing-biggest-names-pac-12-2015
Body:

Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

 

The Pac-12 has made significant progress in catching the SEC in overall conference hierarchy over the last few seasons and is one of the deepest leagues in the nation. However, all of the expected frontrunners have key personnel voids to fill in 2015. Oregon heads into spring practice looking for a replacement for quarterback Marcus Mariota, while each of the key contenders on the South Division have question marks to address on both sides of the ball.

 

5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in the Pac-12 for 2015

 

Jeff Lockie, QB, Oregon

Replacing: Marcus Mariota (2014 Heisman Trophy Winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


There’s no doubt Lockie has the biggest shoes to fill of any player on this list. Needless to say, following a Heisman winner and replacing Marcus Mariota’s production will be nearly impossible for the Ducks in 2015. The quarterback battle in Eugene is up for grabs, but Lockie has to have a slight edge based on his experience for the last two seasons as the backup. In his brief Oregon career (2013-14) Lockie has completed 29 of 41 passes for 264 yards and one score, while adding 32 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Although Lockie enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, the battle to replace Mariota is far from finished. Freshmen Travis Waller and Morgan Mahalak are expected to push for time, while sophomore Ty Griffin is eligible after sitting out 2014 due to NCAA transfer rules. Could the Ducks pursue a graduate transfer?
 

Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford

 

Replacing: LT Andrus Peat (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior


Stanford’s offensive line has been one of the Pac-12’s top units in recent years, placing a lineman on the first-team for all-conference honors for seven consecutive seasons. The Cardinal return four starters in 2015, but there’s a huge hole to replace on the left side. Andrus Peat finished his career with 27 consecutive starts at left tackle and should be a first-round pick in the 2015 draft after leaving with one season of eligibility remaining. Murphy started all 14 games at right tackle in 2014 and is a candidate to flip to the left side to replace Peat. Murphy earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014 and will be counted upon to replace Peat, as well as be the lead blocker for a Stanford ground attack that averaged 4.4 yards per carry in conference games last year.

Elijah Qualls, NT, Washington

Replacing: Danny Shelton (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore


Replacing Danny Shelton’s production from the nose tackle position (93 tackles, 16.5 TFL and nine sacks) will be a tough assignment for coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski. Shelton was a key cog in a rush defense that held Pac-12 opponents to 125.5 yards per game in 2014. He was also selected to the Athlon Sports first-team All-American squad and earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014. Needless to say, Qualls has big shoes to fill in replacing the 339-pound nose tackle. In 14 appearances last season, Qualls recorded 13 tackles (two for a loss) and registered one quarterback hurry. The California native rated as the No. 116 recruit in the 2013 247Sports Composite, and the Washington defensive line needs him to emerge as a force in 2015.

 

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Replacing: Brett Hundley (second team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Freshman

 

A true freshman quarterback starting for UCLA? It’s certainly possible next season. Brett Hundley capped a standout career with the Bruins by recording second-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2014. Hundley threw for at least 3,000 yards in each of his three years at UCLA and tossed 75 touchdown passes to just 25 interceptions. The battle to replace Hundley will begin this spring, with Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard competing with Rosen for the starting job. Neuheisel has the edge in experience, but there’s a clear talent edge to Rosen. The California native ranked as a five-star prospect and the No. 12 recruit in the 247Sports Composite and enrolled in time to compete in spring practice. How quickly can Rosen get acclimated to the collegiate level? If he picks up the offense this spring, there’s a good chance he takes the first snap for the Bruins in 2015.
 

JuJu Smith, WR, USC

 

Replacing: Nelson Agholor (first-team All-Pac-12 in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

, but for coach Steve Sarkisian’s team to claim the conference title, the offense has to find a replacement for standout receiver Nelson Agholor. The first-team All-Pac-12 performer isn’t the only loss for USC, as top end Leonard Williams also must be replaced. Both sides of the ball have key holes to fill, but Smith is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars and caught 54 passes for 724 yards and five scores in his first season with the Trojans. The California native was a five-star prospect in the 2014 247Sports Composite and may play a few snaps on defense next year. Regardless of whether Smith is on offense or defense, he’s one of USC’s top playmakers and will play a key role in replacing Agholor.

Teaser:
5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in Pac-12 for 2015
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-worst-teams-ever-play-super-bowl-2015
Body:

For the second straight year, the No. 1 seeds in both the AFC and NFC are set to face off for the Lombardi Trophy with the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks on tap for Super Bowl XLIX. As it relates to the topic of worst teams to play in the Super Bowl, it's pretty safe to say neither the Patriots nor Seahawks have much to worry about. However, while the 2014 Patriots may not enter the discussion, the 1985 team hailing from New England headlines Athlon Sports’ list of the worst teams to ever play on Super Sunday.

 

1. 1985 New England Patriots

Super Bowl result: Lost 46-10 to Chicago in Super Bowl XX

 

New England went 11-5 in the regular season to earn a Wild Card berth, getting hot at the right time. The Patriots won eight out of nine during one stretch and then rode its defense late in the season and in the playoffs. New England forced 16 turnovers in its three postseason victories, including six against Miami in the AFC Championship game. An opportunistic defense carried an inconsistent offense all season long, at least up until the Super Bowl.

Despite taking an early 3-0 lead, Chicago scored 44 straight points and thoroughly dominated New England in posting the biggest victory in Super Bowl history at the time. For the game, the Patriots managed 123 total yards on offense, including just seven yards rushing, turned the ball over six times and gave up seven sacks.

 

2. 1979 Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl result: Lost 31-19 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIV

 

Credit Los Angeles for taking full advantage of its schedule and division, as the Rams (9-7) won the NFC West even though they beat only two teams that finished with a winning record. The offense was marginal, as their quarterbacks combined for a 19:29 touchdown-to-interception ratio in the regular season, and the team finished with a -8 turnover differential.

In the postseason, Los Angeles downed Dallas 21-19 in the Divisional round thanks to a tipped pass that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown with 2:06 remaining. In the NFC Championship game against Tampa Bay, the Rams' offense managed just three field goals, but that was more than enough thanks to a stifling defensive effort that held the Buccaneers to zero points, just five completed passes and seven first downs.

The first team to make the Super Bowl having won just nine games in the regular season, Los Angeles hung with defending world champion Pittsburgh for the first three quarters of Super Bowl XIV. The NFC champion Rams held a three-point lead at halftime and went ahead by two in the third quarter, only to watch the Steelers score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 31-19 win. If not for three interceptions by Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw, this game may not have ended up as close as it did.

 

3. 2003 Carolina Panthers

Super Bowl result: Lost 32-29 to New England in Super Bowl XXXVIII

 

This Carolina team mastered the art of winning the close one. Champions of the NFC South with an 11-5 record, the Panthers won just two games in the regular season by more than six points. Seven of the victories were by three points or fewer, as the team’s point differential was +21, or 1.3 per game. The Panthers out-rushed their opponents, but this was mainly due to the fact they had nearly 100 more rushing attempts. Still the ground game produced just nine rushing touchdowns (opponents had 10), while quarterback Jake Delhomme posted a 19:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

 

The Panthers seemed to get all of the breaks in the postseason, starting with a 29-23 double overtime victory in St. Louis in the NFC Divisional round. Carolina squandered an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Rams that included St. Louis head coach Mike Martz opting to hold the ball for a game-tying field goal even though the Rams were inside the 20 with less than a minute remaining and still had one time out. Both teams missed field goals in the first overtime session, as John Kasay made his 40-yard attempt only to find out it didn’t count due to a delay of game penalty on the Panthers. He then missed the subsequent 45-yard attempt. Delhomme took matters into his own hand at the start of the second overtime period, hitting Steve Smith for the game-winning 69-yard touchdown only 10 seconds into it. Carolina’s defense came up big on the road in the NFC title game against Philadelphia, injuring Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb and picking off four passes in the 14-3 win.

 

Carolina’s reward for earning the franchise’s first NFC crown was a Super Bowl XXXVIII matchup with New England. The game was scoreless until 3:05 left in the second quarter, when the teams combined for 24 points, including a 50-yard Kasay field goal that cut the Patriots’ lead to 14-10 at the half. All the other scoring took place in the fourth quarter, including Delhomme’s game-tying touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left, but Kasay proceeded to kick the ball out of the bounds. Tom Brady got the ball on the 40-yard line and six plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal with just four ticks remaining. While the final score may have been close, New England dominated the box score, out-gaining Carolina by nearly 100 yards (481-387) and nearly doubling the Panthers in first downs (29 to 17).

 

4. 2008 Arizona Cardinals

Super Bowl result: Lost 27-23 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII

 

The greatest season in Arizona Cardinals franchise history is largely the product of great timing and having all of the breaks go your way, at least up until the game that counts the most. Arizona won the NFC West with a 9-7 record that included a spotless divisional mark (6-0) thanks to one of the top scoring offenses in the league at 26.7 points per game.

The flip side of this, however, is the fact that the rest of the Cardinals’ division went a combined 13-35, as they beat just two teams in the regular season that finished with a winning record and stumbled into the postseason losing four of their final six games. A suspect defense (team finished with +1 point differential in regular season), caught a break in the Wild Card round when it got to face Atlanta rookie quarterback Matt Ryan making his first career playoff start on the road. The Cardinals then got plenty of help from Carolina’s Jake Delhomme, who tossed five interceptions at home in their  Divisional matchup. Arizona claimed its first conference championship with a 32-25 home victory over No. 6 seed Philadelphia, thanks to a late Kurt Warner touchdown pass and despite being out-gained by the Eagles (454 to 369).

In the Super Bowl, Arizona had its chance to completely cash in on all of its good fortune, fighting back from a 13-point, third-quarter deficit against Pittsburgh to take a 23-20 lead on a 64-yard touchdown pass from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald with less than three minutes remaining. Alas, it was not meant to be, as Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes in the end zone with 42 seconds left for one of the , much to the chagrin of the Cardinals and their fans.


5. 1994 San Diego Chargers

Super Bowl result: Lost 49-26 to San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX

 

San Diego won the AFC West with an 11-5 record, and its losses were by seven or fewer points except for one. That one game, you ask? It was a 38-15 loss to San Francisco in Week 15. Foreshadowing perhaps? This was not a powerful team by any stretch, as the Chargers’ point differential was +75, an average of less than five points per game, and the ground game averaged less than four yards per carry.

 

San Diego's defense carried the team throughout the season, and especially in the playoffs. The Chargers came back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to Miami in the AFC Divisional round, winning the game 22-21 on a touchdown pass with 35 seconds left followed by a missed 48-yard field goal by the Dolphins with one second on the clock. In the AFC Championship game, San Diego trailed Pittsburgh 13-3 at one point only to take a 17-13 lead with 5:13 remaining. The Chargers needed one final goal-line stand with just over a minute left to finish the job, despite being out-gained by a wide margin (415 to 226) and having the ball less than 23 minutes.

 

San Diego entered Super Bowl XXIX against San Francisco as the biggest underdog ever (18.5 points) and lived up to that billing. Steve Young threw four of his Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes in the first half, as the closest the Chargers ever were to the 49ers in this one was 14-7 late in the first quarter. The 49ers led 42-10 with less than five minutes left in the third quarter before the Chargers scored two meaningless touchdowns. This game still holds the records for most combined points (75) and total touchdowns (10) in Super Bowl history, with the majority of the damage (49 and 7) done by game MVP Young and his 49ers.

 

6. 1987 Denver Broncos

Super Bowl result: Lost 42-10 to Washington in Super Bowl XXII

 

Denver took full advantage of a strike-shortened season, not to mention three games played with replacement players, to win the AFC West with a 10-4-1 record. Quarterback John Elway led one of the more productive passing offenses in the league, but the Broncos' rushing offense (3.9 ypc) lagged behind. The Broncos needed another miracle (see No. 8 below) to get past Cleveland in the AFC title game, this time at home. And just like what took place the previous season with "The Drive," the Browns delivered once again, as a late fumble sealed the Broncos’ 38-33 win and return trip to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Denver's third Super Bowl trip was anything but a charm. The Broncos jumped out to a 10-0 lead on Washington in the first quarter, only to watch the Redskins storm back with 35 points in the second quarter. Washington finished with a Super Bowl-record 602 total yards, including a record 280 yards rushing, in the rout. Denver was out-gained by its opponent in all three of its playoff games, so perhaps the end result against Washington wasn’t all that surprising after all.

 

7. 1996 New England Patriots

Super Bowl result: Lost 35-21 to Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI

 

Before the Bill Belichick and Tom Brady reign began in New England, the head coach-star quarterback pairing was Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe. However, this Patriots team relied more on defense than offense, as it won the AFC East with an 11-5 record. Bledsoe did throw for more than 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season, but the defense allowed over 4,000 through the air as well. The defense was much more stout against the run, giving up less than 94 yards rushing per game, but their own ground attack fared even worse (92 ypg).

 

New England got a major break in the playoffs when Jacksonville upset top-seeded Denver (13-3) at home in the Divisional round. The Patriots then dispatched of the upstart Jaguars 20-6 at home to earn the franchise’s second AFC championship. Even though the offense sputtered against Green Bay in Super Bowl XXXI, the Patriots hung around until the Packers scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Bledsoe threw four interceptions and the Patriots finished with a grand total of 43 yards rushing, as the Packers sealed the deal with MVP Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the latter part of the third quarter.

 

8. 1986 Denver Broncos

Super Bowl result: Lost 39-20 to New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI

 

Denver got off to a 6-0 start to the season, but finished just 5-5. Still the Broncos’ 11-5 record was good enough to win the AFC West, thanks to a defense that led the conference in rushing yards allowed. The problem for the Broncos’ offense, however, was that it only generated 27 more yards on the ground than their defense gave up. After getting by New England 22-17 at home in the Divisional round, quarterback John Elway orchestrated “The Drive” late in the fourth quarter in Cleveland to get the Broncos to their second Super Bowl. Unfortunately, this one ended like the franchise’s first big game appearance (versus Dallas in Super Bowl XII in 1978), as the Broncos managed just 52 yards rushing and Elway got sacked four times (one went for a safety) in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

 

9. 1992 Buffalo Bills

Super Bowl result: Lost 52-17 to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII

 

This Buffalo team maintained the Bills’ run in the AFC, capturing the East division title with a 11-5 record, powered by the NFL’s top rushing offense and third-ranked scoring offense (23.8 ppg). The defense was average in terms of where it ranked in points allowed, but generally got the job done. A third straight trip to the Super Bowl almost didn’t happen, however, as Buffalo trailed Houston 35-3 early in the third quarter of its Wild Card game. Backup quarterback Frank Reich, filling in for an injured Jim Kelly, orchestrated what became known as “The Comeback” with the Bills pulling out a 41-38 victory in overtime.

 

Buffalo then easily defeated Pittsburgh and Miami by a combined score of 53-13 to reach their third straight Super Bowl, this time against Dallas. The Bills held a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, only to watch the Cowboys score the next 17 points and pile on 21 more in the fourth quarter. As talented and good as this Dallas team was, Buffalo could ill afford to give them many breaks, which they certainly did. The Bills turned it over a Super Bowl-record nine times, including five fumbles, which led to 35 of the 52 points the Cowboys scored.

 

10. 2000 New York Giants

Super Bowl result: Lost 34-7 to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV

 

After losing two games in a row in early November, New York’s record stood at 7-4. Undeterred, head coach Jim Fassel guaranteed that this team would not miss the playoffs. He made good on that promise as the Giants won their last five, albeit just one of those victories came against a team that finished with a winning record, to capture the NFC East title.

Similar to Baltimore, their eventual opponent in the Super Bowl, this Giants team was built around defense. The G-Men held opponents to 15.4 points per game and less than 1,200 yards rushing total (72.3 ypg) during the regular season. This was especially the case in the playoffs, as the Giants yielded a total of 10 points in wins over Philadelphia and Minnesota, including shutting out the Vikings in the NFC Championship game by holding them to 114 total yards and forcing five turnovers.

 

The problem for the Giants, however, was their offense and this was especially the case in Super Bowl XXXV against the Ravens. Baltimore’s defense, considered one of the best in the history of the game, kept the Giants’ offense scoreless, as their only points in the game came on a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ron Dixon in the third quarter. For the game, the Giants’ offense mustered a total of 152 yards and quarterback Kerry Collins was responsible for four (all INTs) of the Giants’ five turnovers.

Teaser:
10 Worst Teams to Ever Play in a Super Bowl
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /ranking-best-10-nfl-teams-didnt-play-super-bowl
Body:

Athlon Sports has examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more and come up with our list of the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl:

 

* - eventual Super Bowl Champion

 

1. San Francisco 49ers, 1992 (14-2)
Lost: 30-20 to Dallas* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Steve Young won the MVP and led a 49ers offense that topped the NFL in scoring (26.9 ppg) and total offense. The defense was third in the NFL in points allowed and 15th in total defense. The only losses came to the defending and would-be AFC champion Bills in Week 2 and on the road against the Cardinals in Week 9. Ricky Waters led the team in rushing while Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones torched secondaries. This defense also was loaded with names like Dave Whitemore, Bill Romanowski, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis and sack leader Tim Harris (17.0).

 

2. Dallas Cowboys, 1994 (12-4)
Lost: 38-28 to San Francisco* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

Dallas and San Francisco went back and forth in the early '90s and this was the best Cowboys team to not finish the deal. This was essentially the same team that won three of four Super Bowls, as the triplets came up just one game short of four straight Super Sundays. The offense was second in the league in scoring (25.9 ppg) while the defense was third in points allowed (15.5 ppg). Charles Haley led the team in sacks, Robert Jones in tackles and Darren Woodson in interceptions.

 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2004 (15-1)
Lost: 41-27 to New England* in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 9

Tommy Maddox started three games in 2004 and was 2-1. Ben Roethlisberger started 13 games and won every start behind the best defense in the NFL. This Steelers team led the league in scoring (15.7 ppg) and total defense en route to a near-perfect record. Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis formed a one-two punch in the backfield while a loaded receiving corps gave Big Ben plenty to work with. What made this team great, however, was the nasty, Pro Bowl-laden defense. The lone regular season loss came in Week 2 against Baltimore.

 

4. Minnesota Vikings, 1998 (15-1)
Lost: 30-27 (OT) to Atlanta in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 10

This team scored at an alarming rate. Led by Randall Cunningham at quarterback and a trio of playmakers in Robert Smith, Cris Carter and Randy Moss, the Vikings paced the NFL at 34.8 points per game. As well as owning the top offense in the league, Minnesota boasted the No. 6-rated scoring defense and No. 13-rated total defense. One loss to Tampa Bay in the middle of the year was the only regular season blemish and these Vikings came one missed Gary Anderson field goal away from playing in the Super Bowl.

 

5. San Francisco 49ers, 1990 (14-2)
Lost: 15-13 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

The defending Super Bowl champs rolled through the regular season led by NFL MVP Joe Montana. This team was No. 2 in total offense and No. 3 in total defense while ranking No. 2 in scoring defense and No. 8 in total offense. Ronnie Lott, Charles Haley and Bill Romanowski led one of the best 49ers defenses of all-time.

 

6. Chicago Bears, 1986 (14-2)
Lost: 27-13 to Washington in NFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 7

Walter Payton and Jim McMahon were electric on offense, but the defending Super Bowl champs won 14 games in 1986 because of the defense. The Bears allowed an absurd 11.7 points and 258.1 yards per game on that side of the ball to lead the NFL in both categories. Wilber Marshall, Steve McMichael, Dave Duerson and Mike Singletary were Pro Bowlers while Richard Dent, William Perry and Dan Hampton did not receive invites to Hawaii. Few defenses were as talented as this version of the Monsters of the Midway.

 

7. Jacksonville Jaguars, 1999 (14-2)
Lost: 33-14 to Tennessee in AFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 7

The Jaguars beat Dan Marino and the Dolphins 62-7 in the Hall of Famer's final game to reach the AFC Championship Game. But Jacksonville and Mark Brunell lost for a third time to the Titans after going 14-0 against every other team in the NFL. The Brunell, Jimmy Smith, Fred Taylor, James Stewart, Keenan McCardell, Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy offense was sixth in scoring and seventh in yards, while the defense led the league in points allowed (13.6 ppg) and finished fourth in yards allowed.

 

8. Green Bay Packers, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 23-20 (OT) to NY Giants* in NFC Championship
Pro Bowlers: 5

Three teams finished 13-3 in 2007 (Dallas, Indianapolis) but none came as close to unseating the eventual champs than the Packers. On a frigid night at Lambeau Field, the Giants outlasted this stacked Packers team in overtime. This team was second in total offense and 11th in total defense while finishing fourth in scoring offense and sixth in scoring defense. It was the last time that Brett Favre would ever suit up for Green Bay.

 

9. Tennessee Titans, 2000 (13-3)
Lost: 24-10 to Baltimore* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 9

Despite six Pro Bowlers on offense, it was the defense that made this team special. The defense led the NFL in yards allowed and was No. 2 in points allowed. After splitting with the Ravens in the regular season, a bizarre Eddie George-Ray Lewis turnover sealed the Titans' fate. An offense that featured franchise bests at quarterback (Steve McNair), running back (George), tight end (Frank Wycheck), wide receiver (Derrick Mason) and offensive tackle (Bruce Matthews) came up just short of defending their AFC crown.

 

10. Indianapolis Colts, 2005 (14-2)
Lost: 21-18 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Divisional
Pro Bowlers: 8

Peyton Manning’s best all-around team (that never played in a Super Bowl) wasn’t necessarily his best statistical year. But this team was No. 2 in the NFL in scoring defense (15.4 ppg) and No. 2 in scoring offense (27.4 ppg) to lead the league in scoring differential. His offense featured a 1,500-yard rusher in Edgerrin James and four elite pass-catchers in Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Brandon Stokley. Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney formed an elite pass-rush tandem that combined for 22.5 sacks while Bob Sanders and Cato June led the back seven.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

 TeamYearRecordLast Loss
11.Pittsburgh197211-3Miami, 21-17, AFC Championship*
12.Oakland197412-2Pittsburgh, 24-13, AFC Championship*
13.Minnesota200912-4New Orleans, 31-28 (OT), NFC Championship*
14.Green Bay201115-1NY Giants, 37-20, NFC Championship*
15.Indianapolis200713-3San Diego, 28-24, AFC Divisional
16.Miami198512-4New England, 31-14, AFC Championship
17.Dallas198012-4Philadelphia, 20-7, NFC Championship
18.Pittsburgh200113-3New England, 24-17, AFC Championship*
19.LA Rams197610-3-1Minnesota, 24-13, NFC Championship
20.Cleveland198612-4Denver, 23-20, AFC Championship
Teaser:
10 Best NFL Teams That Didn't Play in a Super Bowl
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/recruiting-analysis-class-2011-re-ranked
Body:

Recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is the lifeblood of the sport. But recruiting, like the NFL Draft, is an inexact science. Five-star prospects have a significantly better shot at landing on All-America teams or getting drafted than two-star prospects. But busts and overlooked talents are a natural and inherent part of the process — just like the NFL Draft.

 

So Athlon Sports re-ranked the top 10 players of the 2011 class and asked national recruiting analyst to look back at the evaluation process:

 

1. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Dual-Threat No. 22, No. 513 nationally

 

The Honolulu native accomplished everything an individual can in college football with the exception of a national title. He was a Heisman Trophy winner and went 36-5 as a starter. Yet, coming out of high school, Mariota wasn’t one of the most sought-after stars of the 2011 class. Who was No. 1: Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

 

Barton Simmons' Take: “His senior year was Mariota's first year as a starter and hailing as a Hawaii native his exposure was limited, but everyone that saw him up close raved about his ability.”

 

2. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

Dual-Threat No. 14, No. 393 nationally

 

Johnny Football had his issues off the field, but his talent and athleticism on the field was second to only Mariota in this class. He won a Heisman Trophy and was a first-round pick after rewriting the SEC record book. Who was No. 2: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

 

Simmons’ Take: “Undersized, super-athletic but extremely productive, Manziel was impossible to bring pressure on because of his ability to escape and improvise.” 

 

3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Weakside Defensive End No. 1, No. 1 nationally

 

The freakish consensus No. 1 recruit in the nation was a star right away in Columbia. The decorated and uber-talented player was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Who was No. 3: La’El Collins, OT, LSU

 

Simmons’ Take: “Clowney was one of the biggest no-brainer freaks that we've ever seen as a high schooler. He was unblockable.”

 

4. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Defensive Tackle No. 2, No. 11 nationally

 

The five-star defensive tackle was a monster for the Noles en route to a national championship. Jernigan manned the middle for two ACC title runs, was an All-American and was selected in the second round of the ’14 NFL Draft. Who was No. 4: Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State

 

Simmons' Take: “Jernigan was really athletic and physical out of Columbia High School but his instincts and ability to sniff out a play from the inside was off the charts.”

 

5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Wide Recevier No. 3, No. 20 nationally
 

A five-star super-recruit coming out of high school, Watkins delivered on his immense talent right away as a freshman. He was the fourth pick in last year’s NFL Draft and delivered in his first season in the NFL the same way he did in college. Who was No. 5: Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU

 

Simmons' Take: “Watkins was a pure speed guy that just happened to have phenomenal ball skills as well.”

 

6. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

Dual-Threat No. 5, No. 100 nationally

 

Bridgewater was one of the most highly touted signal callers in one of the deepest QB classes in recent history. And he lived up to the hype by carrying the Cardinals to a Sugar Bowl and landing in the first round of the ’14 Draft. Who was No. 6: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia

 

Simmons' Take: “As a high schooler, Teddy was such a cool customer that it was almost to his detriment in the rankings. He would line up at wide receiver for fun, he'd play like he was in a playground. But the dude won in everything he did.”

 

7. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Offensive Tackle No. 13, No. 121 nationally

 

Robinson was highly touted, just missing on being a top 100 prospect. But even he exceeded already high expectations with his elite footwork and tremendous overall athletic ability. He was a top five pick in the NFL Draft. Who was No. 7: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

 

Simmons' Take: “Robinson was a huge, barrell-chested kid who was incredibly athletic for a big body. Some college coaches thought he might be a right tackle but everyone knew he was elite.”

 

8. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Dual-Threat No. 4, No. 69 nationally

 

Elite quarterback who led UCLA to unprecedented heights in three years as the starter. He rewrote the record Bruins record books and outperformed even the lofty expectations in recruiting. Who was No. 8: George Farmer, WR, USC

 

Simmons' Take: “The industry was high on Hundley as a guy that could really make plays with his feet but he proved he had big time arm talent at the Under Armour All-Star game too.”

 

9. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Running Back No. 22, No. 258 nationally

 

Well-regarded but overlooked, Gordon’s speed and size made him one of the great backs in Big Ten history. His athletic ability and explosiveness makes him one of the most talented to ever play the position at Wisconsin. Who was No. 9: Aaron Lynch, DE, Notre Dame

 

Simmons' Take: “A physically impressive kid as a running back, some people even thought that Gordon could end up at linebacker.”

 

10. AJ Johnson, LB, Tennessee

Weakside Defensive End No. 7, No. 124 nationally

 

The leader of the Vols program during a trying time, all Johnson did was post 425 tackles in 46 career games. He was a highly coveted defensive end whose athleticism allowed him to play all over the field as a star linebacker. Who was No. 10: Christian Westerman, OT, Auburn/Arizona State

 

Simmons' Take: “Johnson was huge kid that really stated his arrival on the recruiting scene when he was one of the top performers at Florida's prestigious Friday Night Lights event.”

 

Download the today!

 

The Best of the Rest:

 

* - indicates five-star player, Pos. Rk = position rank

PlayerPos.TeamPos. RkNational Rk
Dak PrescottQBNo. 17 DualNo. 430
Marqise LeeWRNo. 3 ATHNo. 45
Odell BeckhamWRNo. 21 WRNo. 132
Ryan ShazierLBNo. 5 OLBNo. 107
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*SNo. 1 SNo. 7
Shilique CalhounDENo. 59 SDENo. 938
Reese DismukesCNo. 1 CNo. 78
Brandin CooksWRNo. 56 WRNo. 389
Gerod HollimanSNo. 3 SNo. 89
Nick O'Leary*TENo. 1 TENo. 27
Ka'Deem CareyRBNo. 32 RBNo. 351
Shawn OakmanDENo. 14 TENo. 209
Connor CookQBNo. 34 ProNo. 965
Braxton Miller*QBNo. 2 DualNo. 30
Danny SheltonDTNo. 23 DTNo. 331

 

Teaser:
Recruiting Analysis: Class of 2011 Re-Ranked
Post date: Wednesday, January 28, 2015 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/lsu-ready-end-its-ncaa-tournament-drought
Body:

NASHVILLE — No result would have been more typical of LSU basketball than losing at Vanderbilt on Saturday.

 

Earlier in the week, the Tigers defeated Florida with surprising ease, ending the Gators’ 20-game home winning streak with a 79-61 win.

 

This season, the Tigers have been capable of this sort of thing during the last two seasons of Johnny Jones’ tenure but sustaining momentum has not been the strong suit of this particular group of Tigers.

 

LSU built an 11-2 record in the non-conference, including a 74-73 win at West Virginia ... only to open SEC play with an overtime loss to rebuilding Missouri.

 

The Tigers bounced back to beat NCAA contenders Georgia and Ole Miss ... only to blow and 11-point lead at home to lose to Texas A&M.

 

The trend for LSU would have been to follow up the statement win over Florida with a loss to a Vanderbilt team that had defeated just one SEC opponent this season. 

 

Any team looking to be taken seriously as an NCAA contender couldn’t afford three slip ups like this in the first 16 days of SEC play.

 

“We knew we had to get this win somehow,” LSU freshman guard Jalyn Patterson said.

 

A win at Vanderbilt won’t make or break LSU’s NCAA Tournament hopes, but Jones has a team that’s keeping itself in contention.

 

The Tigers started the week as one of seven SEC in the top 50 of the RPI, as one of five SEC teams in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection, and as one of four SEC teams in Jerry Palm’s.

 

Like many SEC teams, LSU seems to be teetering one way or another, from a team that’s potentially second only to Kentucky in the SEC to a team that’s going to land in the NIT. Sometimes in the course of a few possessions.

 

Against Vanderbilt, LSU trailed for almost the entire second half before rallying in the final 3:39. The momentum continued with two quick baskets and a lead to start overtime only to be undone by two passes out of bounds to the same spot on the court.

 

And earlier in the game, LSU drew three quick fouls from Damian Jones, Vanderbilt’s top player who ended up playing only eight minutes in the first half.

 

LSU responded to that bit of good fortune with a five-point halftime deficit.

 

“We got Damian in early foul trouble we felt we should have kept going to the basket and getting easy layups,” forward Jordan Mickey said. “We didn’t make some shots and we didn’t get some calls. We should have taken advantage of that but we didn’t.”

 

On paper, LSU’s back-to-back SEC wins on the road — at two of the league’s toughest venues — would seem to be a positive. But those sorts of developments show why Jones will be sweating the NCAA Tournament all the way to the end.

 

Jones has a team that will turn the ball over 19 times and allow Vanderbilt role players Luke Kornet and Wade Baldwin IV to score a combined 40 points.

 

But he also has a team that will take two charges in the final minutes, as Martin did, and deflect a pass just enough to get a stop on the defensive end, as Tim Quarterman did on Vanderbilt’s final possession.

 

“They’re continuing to grow up,” Jones said. “It’s not perfect for us, and we certainly have a long way to go. We’re making some strides.”

 

A year ago, LSU started the season 9-2 but finished on an 11-13 skid. A team good enough to beat Kentucky on Jan. 28 couldn’t win back-to-back games come February. Nowhere were LSU’s consistency woes more apparent than away from Baton Rouge where the Tigers went 2-7 in SEC road games.

 

Even a year later, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise LSU is as inconsistent as it is.

 

The Tigers tantalize with two NBA prospects in the frontcourt in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Guard play, essential to making runs in conference play and in March, has been spotty.

 

Before the season, LSU jettisoned point guard Anthony Hickey, who transferred to Oklahoma State, and replaced him with well-traveled junior college transfer Josh Gray. Gray hasn’t been the perfect fix, either. He turns the ball over 3.5 times per game (compared to 4.8 assists).

 

Getting the ball consistently to LSU's talented big men has been a two-year long struggle.

 

At the start of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt, another deficiency was clear — 3-point shooting. The Commodores had little reason to respect LSU’s perimeter game, which started 1-of-7 from 3-point range. That allowed Vanderbilt to clog the lane and hold LSU to 11-of-26 from 2-point range.

 

LSU didn’t really heat up until its emerging guards — Quarterman and Patterson  — did in the second half against Vanderbilt. The sophomore Quarterman is averaging 14.2 points per game in SEC play after averaging 2.5 points per game all of last season. Junior guard Keith Hornsby, a transfer from UNC Asheville, is averaging 17.5 points per game on the road where LSU has defeated West Virginia, Ole Miss, Florida and Vanderbilt.

 

When all the pieces are in place, LSU has the outside game to keep opposing teams honest in the defensive end.

 

“Our post guys realize what a great nucleus they have around them and our perimeter guys understand what kind of impact our post guys can have,” Jones said. “We’re sharing the basketball. “

 

And maybe now, all the pieces are starting to come together for a program on the cusp of making noise in the SEC and the national stage.

 

After starting SEC play with four road games in the first six, this is when LSU should start racking up wins and tidying up its NCAA resume. LSU's next four games are against South Carolina, Mississippi State, Auburn and Alabama with only a trip to Starkville coming on the road.

 

LSU still has 12 SEC games to figure out if its NCAA Tournament material or not. And after that, the Tigers expect to add five-star prospects Ben Simmons and Antonio Blakeney.

 

Will the two stud freshmen join a program starting to deliver on its promise or a program reeling from another disappointing season?

 

“We were better than what we showed,” Mickey said. “But that’s in the past.”

Teaser:
Is LSU Ready to End its NCAA Tournament Drought?
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: New England Patriots, Super Bowl XLIX, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-new-england-patriots-will-win-super-bowl-xlix
Body:

One way or the other, history will be made when the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks meet in Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday. Either Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will win their fourth Super Bowl rings, tying for the most among their respective positions, or the Seahawks will become just the seventh franchise in history to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

 

Coming up with five definitive reasons for why the New England Patriots will win any game, let alone a Super Bowl, is difficult. That’s not because they are unlikely to win, obviously; you are just never sure how they are going to do it.

 

The Patriots’ biggest strength under Bill Belichick has always been the ability to adapt to their opponent. Give him extra prep time like he has for a Super Bowl, and you can bet Belichick will find something about the Seahawks to exploit that no one saw coming.

 

But since we’re supposed to be the experts, and “just because” isn’t going to cut it, here are five reasons the Patriots come out on the winning side on Sunday.

 

Related:

 

Tom Brady

Critics will point out Brady hasn’t won a Super Bowl in 10 years, and there’s no denying that fact. But you’d still be hard-pressed to find many postseason defeats that you can lay at Brady’s feet. He hasn’t thrown games away.

 

Still, he knows the critics are there, and since a Week 4 loss to Kansas City sparked whispers that he was no longer an elite quarterback, he has been as good as ever. Throw in the whole “Deflategate” fiasco, and Brady comes into this game with a giant chip on his shoulder.

 

But even beyond his motivations, Brady is just not likely to give the Seahawks any freebies. While many elite QBs become their own worst enemy by forcing passes to their top receivers or at an elite corner (Richard Sherman?) just to show that they can, Brady has always been content to take what is given.  If that means dumping the ball off 15 times to a running back, he’ll do it.

 

Of course, Brady does have a favorite target …

 

The Gronkowski factor

Seattle has two very good safeties in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and against most teams they are made better by the fact that they don’t have to worry about helping CB Richard Sherman. But New England is not most teams.

 

The equation changes against the Patriots because tight end Rob Gronkowski is their biggest weapon in the passing game. Seattle can’t just put Sherman on an island against him and dare the Pats to throw at him.

 

So now the Seahawks will need to pick their poison: Commit to stopping the run and leave Gronkowski in single coverage, or double-cover Gronkowski and risk the Patriots exploiting a run defense that was good on paper (third in the NFL in yards allowed in the regular season) but has allowed more than 130 yards on the ground to both Carolina and Green Bay in the postseason.

 

Seattle’s passing game won’t scare the Pats

This is one area where we are giving Belichick the benefit of the doubt a bit. While the Patriots were a top 10 defense against the run, they were vulnerable at times: Excluding the meaningless loss in the season finale, New England allowed 176 yards per game on the ground in its three other losses.

 

On the other hand, two of those losses were in September, and the other was against Green Bay, whose passing game gave the Pats more to worry about. Seattle’s passing game carries with it no such concerns.

 

No NFL team threw the ball less than Seattle in the regular season, and the Seahawks ranked 27th in passing yards. None of the receivers will strike fear into a Pats defense that ranked fourth in pass coverage according to ProFootballFocus.com.

 

We’re betting Belichick and the Patriots will find a way to stop the run and force Seattle to beat them through the air. Even if Russell Wilson doesn’t give the ball away like he did in the NFC title game, can he win a passing duel with Tom Brady? Not likely.

 

New England won’t give the game away

Perhaps we are guilty of overreacting to a couple of high-profile games here, but it’s hard to imagine the Patriots playing things the way the Packers did in the NFC title game or making big mistakes like the Broncos did in last year’s Super Bowl.

 

History tells us Belichick will not play safe and kick field goals the way Green Bay did if given the chance to put Seattle in an early hole.  And while there may be no tangible evidence one way or the other, can you imagine a Belichick-coached team bungling an onside kick?

 

And while we’d never suggest that Super Bowl XLVIII was just a couple big plays from going Denver’s way, when was the last time New England gave up a safety, interception return TD and a special teams TD in the same game? Right from the first snap over Peyton Manning’s head, Denver looked unprepared, overmatched, or both.

 

The Patriots will be none of those things.

 

The Pats vs. The World

This isn’t about a rousing pep talk before the game. As dominant as New England has been for 14 seasons now, Belichick can’t exactly play the “Nobody believes in us!” card. (And “They think we win because we cheat!” isn’t much better.)

 

But even before the whole “Deflategate” thing, this game was destined to have a huge impact on how history views Belichick and Brady. Winning Super Bowls 10 years apart with everything else changing around them would be unprecedented. And while their first three titles can’t be taken away, there is a huge difference between 4-2 in the big game vs. 3-3 with a three-game losing streak.

 

It also may be their last chance. Brady and the Pats recently restructured his contract to create cap space, but it also made it easier for them to part ways. Even if he sticks around, there’s no guarantee they ever get back here.

 

None of that will help them complete a pass or tackle Marshawn Lynch. In fact, maybe all that proves their best days are long behind them. But do you really want to bet against them?

 

— By John Gworek

Teaser:
5 Reasons the New England Patriots Will Win Super Bowl XLIX
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl XLIX, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-seattle-seahawks-will-win-super-bowl-xlix
Body:

One way or the other, history will be made when the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks meet in Super Bowl XLIX this Sunday. Either Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will win their fourth Super Bowl rings, tying for the most among their respective positions, or the Seahawks will become just the eighth franchise in history to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

 

While Belichick and Brady are obviously critically important to their team’s potential success Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., Seattle has a pretty good head coach and quarterback in its own right, not to mention a very good defense. Here are five reasons why the Seahawks will claim their second straight Lombardi Trophy on Super Sunday:

 

Related:

 

Defense Wins Championships

It may be a cliché, but it’s one that has worked pretty well for Seattle these past two seasons. The NFL’s No. 1 defense in terms of yards and points allowed in 2013 and ’14, no one has forgotten what the Seahawks did to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl. The highest-scoring offense the game had ever seen, all Denver managed against Seattle’s defense was one touchdown that didn’t come until the final play of the third quarter.

 

After experiencing a few bumps in the road in the middle of the season, the Seahawks’ defense has found its groove. During the current eight game-winning streak, this unit has allowed 235 yards and less than 10 points per contest. It has been particularly dominant during this stretch in the fourth quarter, yielding just one touchdown and a total of 13 points. New England’s offense has put up 80 points in its two playoff wins, but it’s not like Seattle hasn’t been down this road before.

 

Beast Mode

Marshawn Lynch finished the regular season fourth in rushing with 1,306 yards and tied for first (DeMarco Murray) with 13 touchdowns. New England’s collection of five running backs (Jonas Gray, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden) combined for 1,551 yards and 13 scores, albeit with nearly 100 more (376 to 280) carries. Lynch is leading the postseason with 216 yards on 39 attempts (5.5 ypc), including 157 in the NFC Championship Game win over Green Bay.

 

Every defense knows that slowing down Lynch is priority No. 1, but it’s easier said than done. The Patriots have fared pretty well against the run, giving up just seven rushing touchdowns in 18 games thus far, but they also have had some trouble against some of the league’s better backs. Knowshon Moreno (134 yards rushing), Matt Forté (114), Chris Ivory (107), and Knile Davis (107) all broke the century mark against the Patriots in the regular season with Davis’ teammate Jamaal Charles (92) and Eddie Lacy (98) both coming close. And in the Divisional Round win over Baltimore, Justin Forsett gashed Bill Belichick’s defense for 129 yards on 24 carries (5.4 ypc). In nine career playoff games, Lynch is averaging five yards per carry with eight touchdowns. This includes just 39 yards on the ground (on 15 carries) in last year’s Super Bowl win. You don’t think Lynch wants to “redeem” himself with a big game Sunday and, more importantly, that he won’t get the opportunity (i.e., touches) to try and do so?

 

Russell Wilson Rebound

If Seattle hadn’t come back and defeated Green Bay in overtime to win the NFC Championship Game, much of the blame would have been pinned on Wilson. His four interceptions against the Packers were the most the three-year starter had thrown in his career (55 starts, including playoffs), while the 44.3 passer rating was his second lowest in a game.

 

But despite the horrendous start, Wilson rebounded to lead his team to 15 fourth-quarter points, his rushing touchdown getting things started, and then throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on the first possession of overtime. Statistically speaking, Wilson had never put together a game this bad before, and yet he still won.

 

Set to become the second-youngest quarterback to start two Super Bowls (eclipsing Tom Brady’s mark), I’m expecting better results from Wilson compared to two weeks ago. Possessing a 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio in the postseason prior to the Green Bay game and based on his showing in last year’s Super Bowl (18-of-25, 206 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 26 yards rushing), Wilson is the least of the Seahawks’ worries headed into their matchup against the Patriots.    

 

Patriot Kryptonite

As we saw last year, Seattle’s defense ended up being ideally suited to slow down Denver’s prolific, high-octane offense. Not only did the Seahawks have the physical secondary that could match up (and beat up) the Broncos’ pass-catchers, they had a pass rush that could disrupt Peyton Manning’s timing and force him to move him from his spot in the pocket. While the pass rush produced just one sack, Manning was picked off twice and also fumbled the ball when he was brought to the ground.

 

There’s no reason why this same defensive game plan won’t be as effective against New England. Brady’s not the most mobile of quarterbacks either and teams that can generate consistent pressure (like Miami, Kansas City, Baltimore) have given the Patriots’ offensive line some trouble. All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski could be considered the difference-maker, but Seattle seems well suited to match up against him, with guys like All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and hard-hitting safety Kam Chancellor lurking.

 

On the other side of the ball, I’ve already touched on the challenge that Marshawn Lynch (see above) poses for a sometimes-shaky New England rushing defense and, outside of the NFC title game, the Seahawks generally do a good job protecting the football. The Patriots used five turnovers to help fuel their wins over the Ravens and Colts, while the Seahawks had committed just five in the seven games leading up to the NFC Championship Game.

 

I’m not saying Bill Belichick and his coaching staff don’t have another trick or two up their sleeves that they will throw at Seattle this Sunday, but when it comes to how the Seahawks appear to match up against the Patriots’’ strengths, I like their chances.

 

Team of Destiny

To even be in a position to win back-to-back Super Bowls, Seattle had to overcome several obstacles along the way, including a sluggish start to its season and both history and adversity in the playoffs. As is always the case with the team that wins the Super Bowl, no sooner is the Lombardi Trophy in tow then the talk shifts to doing it again. And after sitting at just 3-3 in the middle of October, there was plenty of doubt when it came to the Seahawks’ repeat chances.

 

But then Pete Carroll’s team went back to the drawing board, got healthy and proceeded to roll off nine wins in its last 10 games to finish the regular season at 12-4, champions of the NFC West and the No. 1 seed for a second straight campaign. A seemingly easy 31-17 win over Carolina in the Divisional Round was anything but, as Seattle became the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game the following season since New England nine years ago.

 

Then despite five turnovers and staring at a double-digit, fourth-quarter deficit at home against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, the Seahawks not only weathered a wild final four minutes that produced a tie score, they also made the plays necessary to finish their memorable comeback on the first possession of overtime.

 

Now all that stands in Seattle’s way of becoming just the eighth franchise to win back-to-back Super Bowls is New England, the last team to accomplish this feat (2003, ’04 seasons). History aside, the ties between these two teams goes beyond Super Sunday. Carroll was the Patriots’ head coach from 1997-99. He went 27-21 those three seasons, including 1-2 in the playoffs, before he was fired and replaced by none other than Bill Belichick.

 

This is not the first “revenge” game in Super Bowl history for a head coach (actually it’s the fourth), but with the Seahawks’ repeat hopes at stake, there’s no question how sweet a victory Sunday would be for Carroll. And given how this season has played out for Seattle, I don’t think New England will be able to keep these Seahawks from accomplishing what the Patriots did more than a decade ago.

Teaser:
5 Reasons the Seattle Seahawks Will Win Super Bowl XLIX
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 13:00
All taxonomy terms: Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, NBA
Path: /nba/kobe-and-mj-almost-played-together-wizards
Body:
A little more than a decade ago, two of basketball’s most storied legends almost created a one-team bridge, from one generation of superstars to the next.

 

A recent report from of the Washington Post reveals that Kobe Bryant wanted out of L.A. as a youngster, so he could join his idol Michael Jordan during his two-year victory lap with the Washington Wizards. The plan dissolved when Jordan and then-owner of the D.C. squad, Abe Pollin, parted ways in 2003. Jordan, of course, went on to become the majority owner of , while Bryant became one of the few legends of the NBA to stick with one team for nearly two decades.

 

Bryant recently, and his team has announced that the 36-year-old is out for the season. Many are speculating that Bryant could retire, and not play out the final year of his contract with the Lakers. And while that’s just the stuff of rumors for now, something else has become clear: Bryant’s not long for the sport, and he has fewer and fewer reasons to keep secrets from anyone about what’s happened over his 19-year career.

 

Kobe’s confirmation of his past desire to team up with Jordan could be just the first of many titillating details to come out about the behind-the-scenes tales of his NBA life. This story tells us something we already know — that Bryant loved Jordan probably even more than all of us who watched him so rapturously in the '80s and '90s — and also gives us a fascinating rabbit hole to go down. What would Kobe — and the league — have been like with the greatest player of all time whispering advice over his shoulder?

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/5-players-replacing-biggest-names-big-12-2015
Body:

Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

 

The Big 12 nearly landed two teams in the playoff last season, and the conference is expected to be in good shape for a spot in 2015, as TCU and Baylor are among the nation’s early favorites for the four spots next season. Every team in the Big 12 has personnel losses to address, but some are bigger than others. Can Baylor find the next star quarterback? Will TCU reload on defense? How will West Virginia replace receiver Kevin White? Let’s take a look at the potential replacements for the 2014 standouts.

 

5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in the Big 12 for 2015

 

Deante Burton, WR, Kansas State

Replacing: Tyler Lockett (249 career catches, 29 receiving TDs)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Kansas State’s offense will have a different look in 2015, as quarterback Jake Waters and receivers Tyler Lockett and Curry Sexton expired their eligibility after the Alamo Bowl against UCLA. Lockett is arguably the biggest loss out of that trio, as the Oklahoma native was one of the nation’s most-explosive receivers and a dynamic weapon on special teams. In four seasons in Manhattan, Lockett caught 249 passes and scored 35 times (6 on special teams, 27 on receptions). Judah Jones (four receptions in 2014) was listed as Lockett’s backup but replacing his production simply won’t fall to one player. Burton ranked fifth on the team with 17 receptions for 171 yards last year and is expected to play an even bigger role in the offense without Lockett and Sexton as the primary options in 2015.

 

Matthew Romar, DT, Oklahoma

 

Replacing: Jordan Phillips (39 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Outside of finding a quarterback to run new coordinator Lincoln Riley’s offense, a major focus in spring practice for Oklahoma will be what transpires in the trenches. The Sooners lose four starters on the offensive line, including standout tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams. The defensive side of the ball loses Chuka Ndulue (expired eligibility), while Jordan Phillips left Norman for the NFL. Romar is slated to replace Phillips on the interior in Oklahoma’s 3-4 scheme, and the Texas native is due for a bigger snap count after recording only 10 stops and one sack in 2014. Don’t expect Romar to post monster statistical numbers, but his development will be critical if Oklahoma wants to rank near the top (No. 2 in conference-only games in 2014) of the Big 12 against the run again next year.
 

Seth Russell, QB, Baylor

 

Replacing: Bryce Petty

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Bryce Petty will be missed, but Baylor’s offense isn’t going to miss a beat with a new signal-caller at the controls. In each of the last five years, the Bears had a quarterback throw for at least 3,500 yards. And from 2011-13, Baylor signal-callers eclipsed the 4,00-yard mark. Coach Art Briles clearly has one of the top offensive systems in the nation, and Russell is expected to take control of the high-powered attack in 2015. In two years of playing time in Waco, Russell has completed 74 of 128 throws for 1,231 yards and 11 scores. The Texas native also has good mobility, rushing for 332 yards and six touchdowns on 56 attempts the last two years. Russell will be pushed by sophomore Chris Johnson and incoming freshman Jarrett Stidham. However, he should get the first opportunity to replace Petty in 2015.

 

Ranthony Texada, CB and Kenny Iloka/Derrick Kindred, S, TCU

 

Replacing: Kevin White (2nd TM All-Big 12), Sam Carter/Chris Hackett (All-Big 12)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Texada (sophomore), Iloka and Kindred (senior)


Despite the loss of standout cornerback Jason Verrett to the NFL, TCU’s secondary remained stingy in 2014. The Horned Frogs allowed 16 passing scores in nine Big 12 contests but limited opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of just 49.1. Coach Gary Patterson is known as one of the top defensive minds in the nation, and he has plenty of work ahead in spring practice to rebuild the secondary for 2015. Cornerback Kevin White and safeties Chris Hackett and Sam Carter have departed Fort Worth, leaving Derrick Kindred (FS), Ranthony Texada (CB) and Kenny Iloka (S) as the top options in the secondary. Texada had a standout freshman campaign, recording 31 stops, one interception and seven pass breakups in 2014. Kindred finished third on the team with 79 tackles, while Iloka recorded 15 stops in 13 games.

 

Jordan Thompson, WR, West Virginia

Replacing:
Kevin White and Mario Alford (174 receptions in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

Replacing Kevin White and Mario Alford’s production won’t fall strictly on Thompson’s shoulders. The 5-foot-7 inside receiver is coming off his best year in Morgantown, catching 49 passes for 598 yards and two scores. Prior to 2014, Thompson had just 35 career receptions and zero touchdown catches. The Texas native made considerable progress in 2014 and posted two of his three highest yardage outputs for the year with 2015 starter Skyler Howard at quarterback. In addition to getting more out of Thompson, West Virginia’s coaching staff will ask more from Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts in the receiving corps next year. 

Teaser:
5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in Big 12 for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/5-players-replacing-biggest-names-sec-2015
Body:

Attrition and finding replacements are a key part of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may find answers through the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

 

The SEC largely had a forgettable bowl season, but the conference still ranks as the best in the nation. The East Division is expected to be Georgia’s to lose in 2015, with Missouri, Tennessee and Florida the next teams in the mix. The West Division is loaded with teams expected to be in the top 25 next year, starting with Alabama and Auburn at the top.

 

5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in the SEC for 2015

 

Jeremy Johnson, QB, Auburn

 

Replacing: Nick Marshall (3,330 total yards in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

 

Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott should be the early favorite to earn preseason first-team All-SEC honors next year. But don’t be shocked to see Johnson receive some consideration as the starter in a high-powered offense. The Montgomery native started two games over the last two seasons and appeared in 12 overall contests. In the 2014 season opener against Arkansas, Johnson started for Nick Marshall (suspension) and completed 12 of 16 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns against the Razorbacks. In his two-year career, Johnson has completed 57 of 78 passes for 858 yards and nine scores. The junior isn’t as dynamic of a runner as Marshall was but has 40 rushing yards on 11 attempts in two seasons. Coming out of high school, Johnson was ranked as the No. 165 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite and was regarded as a four-star recruit. Malzahn’s offense is adaptable to mobile quarterbacks or pro-style passers. Expect Johnson to thrive in his first year as the starter for Auburn.

 

Hunter Long, C, Georgia

 

Replacing: David Andrews (Second-Team AP All-SEC in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

 

David Andrews was regarded as one of the SEC’s top lineman and was a three-year starter at center for the Bulldogs. He was a key cog in a line that helped Georgia lead the SEC in rushing offense in 2014 and finish fourth in 2012. Long was listed as the backup to Andrews the last two years, so the job should be his to lose this spring. The Tennessee native played in three games in 2011 but was forced to miss 2012 due to injury. After a year on the sidelines, Long played in two contests in 2013 and received playing time in nine games last year. There’s a lot of pressure on Long to replace Andrews and keep Georgia’s offensive line performing at a high level in 2015.

 

Marcus Loud/Charles Harris, DE, Missouri

 

Replacing: Markus Golden/Shane Ray (24.5 total sacks in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Missouri consistently churns out talent from the defensive line to the NFL. Three linemen were selected over the 2013-14 drafts, and the number drafted only grows if you expand into 2011 (Aldon Smith) and 2009 (Ziggy Hood and Stryker Sulak). The Tigers will add to that total in 2015, as Shane Ray (a likely first-round pick) and Markus Golden (a top-100 prospect) will be targeted high in the draft. Replacing productive linemen is nothing new for the Tigers, and the focus shifts in 2015 to Harris and Loud as they replace Golden and Ray in the starting lineup. Loud recorded 14 tackles in 14 games last season, while Harris registered 19 tackles (four for a loss) and two sacks in 14 appearances. Golden and Ray leave big shoes to fill, but Missouri also has a track record of finding the right answers at defensive end.

 

Cam Sims, WR, Alabama

 

Replacing: Amari Cooper (228 career catches)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

 

Replacing Amari Cooper’s production will be more of a team effort than just one individual for the Crimson Tide in 2015. Cooper was one of college football’s top players in 2014, catching 124 passes for 1,727 yards and 16 scores. While there’s no doubt losing an All-American receiver is a huge blow to any offense, Alabama also has to replace DeAndrew White (40 catches in 2014) and Christion Jones (19 catches in 2014). Sims was regarded as the No. 84 prospect in the 2014 signing class and caught seven passes for 62 yards and one score in his true freshman campaign. Sims was listed as the backup to Cooper at the “X” receiver position, and the 6-foot-4 Louisiana native figures to be an even bigger part of the receiving corps next season for coordinator Lane Kiffin.

 

JaMichael Winston, DE, Arkansas

 

Replacing: Trey Flowers (68 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 6 sacks in 2014)

 

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Winston isn’t technically stepping from a backup role to a starting job in 2015, but he’s the most experienced defensive end on the roster for coach Bret Bielema. In 13 games last season (12 starts), Winston recorded 26 stops (two for a loss) and registered one quarterback hurry. Winston's 2014 numbers were a solid improvement from his 2013 debut, which saw the Alabama native record just four stops and a forced fumble in 12 appearances. With Flowers and tackle Darius Philon departing Fayetteville, the Razorbacks are losing 10.5 of their 24 sacks from last season. Winston is still looking for his first career sack at Arkansas and will be asked to be more disruptive in 2015. 

Teaser:
5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in SEC for 2015
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/recruiting-analysis-where-do-best-football-players-come
Body:

Don’t listen to the old guard.

 

Recruiting rankings matter. Landing an elite class isn’t a guarantee of future success, as coaching, development and plenty of luck are all needed to win a national title. But having the best players is the best way to start.

 

A huge reason why Ohio State rolled through the Big Ten and then Oregon was superior talent. The Buckeyes had great coaching and development but it also had a significantly more talented roster than anyone it faced in league play or their national title game opponent.

 

Urban Meyer has proven that recruiting matters after stacking top-10 classes upon each other since arriving in Columbus and promptly winning just the third national title for the B1G since 1968.

 

But where do all these elite players come from? Using the last five recruiting cycles — 2011 through 2015 — it’s easy to accurately project the geographic distribution of high school talent in this country. Using , Athlon Sports analyzed the best 1,000 recruits to enter college football over the last five cycles (200 per year) to determine where the nation’s best prospects are being recruited.

 

The Peach State

The Big Three in recruiting have long been Florida, California and Texas but Georgia has been closing the gap for years and the 2015 class could be one of the deepest in recent memory. The Peach State features four five-star recruits and the consensus No. 1 player in the nation (Trent Thompson) according to 247Sports and a modern state record with 20 players from Georgia landing in the Top 200. There is a reason nearly every SEC and ACC program focuses on Georgia as it closes the gap on the state of Florida.

 

Big Ten looks East

Population is declining in the Big Ten footprint and that means fewer elite prospects — just look at the . But while states like Pennsylvania and Michigan continue to drop in terms of overall talent production, the addition of Maryland and Rutgers should begin to pay dividends. New Jersey moved into the top 10 states for talent with the ’15 class and both Maryland and D.C. rank in the top 14 as well. As the Big Ten East Division continues to develop, look for these fertile territories to become a pipeline for B1G talent. Consider: Big Ten states have produced 23 five-star recruits in the last five cycles and 10 of those hail from New Jersey or Maryland.
 

No. 1 in the Nation

The aforementioned Thompson, an impressive defensive tackle from Albany (Ga.) Westover, is on National Signing Day. If that indeed does happen, it would be the sixth consecutive season that the consensus No. 1 player in the nation signed with an SEC school. The Bulldogs also would become the sixth different SEC school to land one of these No. 1 prospects. LSU landed New Orleans’ Leonard Fournette last season. Ole Miss landed Robert Nkemdiche out of Georgia in 2013. Missouri scored in-state star Dorial Green-Beckham in the ’12 class. Steve Spurrier signed Jadeveon Clowney out of Rock Hill, S.C in ’11 and Florida inked Ronald Powell in its ’10 haul. Thompson is the fifth straight No. 1 player in the nation to hail from the SEC’s footprint.

 

Conference footprint comparisons

The last five recruiting classes have produced 167 five-star recruits. Of which, 128 of them hail from the SEC footprint. Of the top 1,000 players to enter college the last five years, 559 of them played high school football in a state with an SEC program. The ACC footprint is No. 2 with 68 five-star recruits in the last five years. Despite the biggest footprint in college football, the Big Ten is producing the fewest (23) five-star athletes. Here is the complete breakdown:

 

 States5-StarsTop 200Top 1,000
1168297365
524127151
11

23

166189
626136162
11128431559
 
NoShow State

There are 11 states that haven’t generated at least one top-200 prospect over the last five years. Many of them are obvious and make sense. We don’t expect elite recruits to hail from less populous states like Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota or Northeast outposts Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island. But it was startling and concerning that neither West Virginia nor Nebraska were able to produce one of the top 200 recruits in the nation. This stresses the job the Huskers need to do in Texas and the work the Mountaineers need to do in Florida.

 

Here are the top 200 prospects broken down by state over the last five recruiting cycles (number of five-stars listed in parenthesis):

 

RkState20112012201320142015Total
1.Florida36 (10)32 (5)28 (7)30 (5)27 (9)153 (36)
2.Texas27 (4)27 (5)28 (5)22 (5)28 (5)132 (24)
3.California21 (2)23 (4)23 (3)23 (3)27 (6)117 (18)
4.Georgia13 (2)15 (2)17 (4)15 (2)20 (4)80 (14)
5.Ohio10 (2)12 (1)1077 (1)46 (4)
6.Louisiana10 (3)3 (1)712 (5)9 (1)41 (10)
7.Alabama610 (3)8 (2)7 (4)8 (1)39 (10)
8.Virginia6 (1)69 (3)7 (3)9 (1)37 (8)
9.N. Carolina68 (3)69635 (4)
10.New Jersey8 (1)4 (1)75 (1)4 (1)28 (4)
11.Pennsylvania57 (2)8 (1)3427 (4)
12.Illinois537 (1)7 (1)2 (1)24 (3)
13t.Michigan5554 (1)322 (1)
13t.Maryland6 (1)7 (2)5 (2)2 (1)222 (6)
15t.Mississippi64 (1)4 (2)3421 (3)
15t.Arizona5 (1)4 (1)37 (1)2 (1)21 (4)
17.Tennessee224 (1)4820 (1)
18.S. Carolina5 (1)235217 (1)
19.Oklahoma1324414 (0)
20.Indiana23 (1)3 (1)2313 (2)
21.Missouri05 (1)13312 (1)
22.Arkansas302229 (0)
23.Kentucky203218 (0)
24t.Washington231 (1)107 (1)
24t.Colorado121217 (0)
26.Utah01122 (1)6 (1)
27t.New York1 (1)20205 (1)
27t.D.C.01 (1)11 (1)25 (2)
29t.Oregon21 (1)1 (1)004 (2)
29t.Hawaii00103 (1)4 (1)
31t.Kansas200103 (0)
31t.Minnesota000213 (0)
31t.Nevada110013 (0)
31t.Mass.021003 (0)
35t.Connecticut00002 (1)2 (1)
35t.Iowa000202 (0)
35t.Wisconsin010102 (0)
35t.Idaho010012 (0)
35t.New Mexico100012 (0)
40t.Delaware000101 (0)
40t.Canada000011 (0)
Teaser:
Recruiting Analysis: Where do the best football players come from?
Post date: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - 08:30
All taxonomy terms: Brandon Jennings, Detroit Pistons, NBA
Path: /nba/brandon-jennings-has-ruptured-acl
Body:

Just as he was turning into the best player of his life — and one of the NBA’s most impactful players in the month of January — Detroit Pistons point guard has had his health and glory stolen from him by the cruel thief that is fate.

 

Jennings went down and left the game Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, after 26 minutes of play. He did not return, and his team announced Sunday that he’d be out for the season with a ruptured left Achilles tendon.

 

As far as hard news in the 2014-15 season goes, this bit just about sucks the most. Jennings had been an erratic player through his career under a combined four coaches in five seasons with the Pistons and Bucks, and it was heartening and exciting to see him tap into his deep potential with his fifth in Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons have been lately, and it’s had a ton to do with B.J. 

 

In January, Jennings put up a terrific 20.9 points per game on 44 percent shooting, to go with 7.2 assists. He was one of the very most efficient players in the game over the month. He even entered history with a 21-assist game.

 

The easier news to swallow, for Pistons fans, is that their team is still in fairly good condition to make the playoffs. Behind Jennings in the depth chart is D.J. Augustin, a speedy dynamo who flourished with the Chicago Bulls last year under similar conditions, when he was signed mid-season after Derrick Rose went down with a torn meniscus.

 

Augustin started for Detroit in a 114-110 loss to the Toronto Raptors, but the L was hardly his fault. D.J. stepped in for B.J. with a crazy good performance, turning in 35 points — including five three-pointers — and eight assists.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 14:48
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekly-10-coach-k-gets-1000-tyler-ulis-carries-kentucky
Body:

In case you missed it, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made a bit of news in college basketball this weekend.

 

Coach K’s 1,000th win was the headline of the college basketball week, but what might have been missed was Duke’s role in another trend.

 

The Blue Devils were one of four ranked teams to overcome a 10-point deficit on the road. Virginia did it against Virginia Tech. So did Northern Iowa did it against Illinois State.

 

The most dramatic, though, occurred into the evening hours. Trailing 71-67, Notre Dame had a win probability of six percent with 34 seconds remaining against NC State, according to KenPom.com. Notre Dame sealed the 81-78 win over the Wolfpack on a Jerian Grant block in overtime.

 

And it wasn’t just ranked teams on the road. At home, Maryland overcame an 11-point deficit against Northwestern to win 68-67 in another painful loss for the Wildcats.

 

Here what else you might have missed in college basketball during the weekend.

 

1. Duke’s players got swept up into 1,000-win fever, too

The way Duke started against St. John’s looked something like a slugger sitting on 499 career home runs. The Blue Devils seemed to be tight as they tried to help Mike Krzyzewski hit his milestone 1,000th win. And St. John’s, to their credit, was not eager to be in the record book as the 1,000th loss at the hands of Coach K. St. John’s led by 10 with 8:35 to go and shot 54.8 percent from the floor in the first half to add a little drama to Krzyzewski’s potential landmark win. Then Duke’s emotion took over. The Blue Devils ended the game on a 26-7 run for the 77-68 win. During the decisive run to finish the game, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook were as emotional as they had been all season. In a tough matchup with St. John’s big man Chris Obekpa, Okafor finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds on 10 shots and had the three-point play to put Duke within 1. Jones finished with 22 points and six assists while going 10-of-10 from the line. And Cook hit the 3-pointer to give Duke the lead for good with 5:42 remaining. For a group lauded for its maturity, this explosion of emotion made the difference.

 

2a. Tyler Ulis is Kentucky’s best playmaker

In almost every Kentucky game this season, one part of the conversation always drifts to Tyler Ulis. As in, Kentucky’s offense is at its best when Ulis is running the point. Nowhere was that clear more than Saturday, especially near the end of the first half of a 58–43 win at South Carolina. In his two shifts in the first half, Kentucky had seven field goals. Five came off Ulis assists. A sixth was a Ulis layup off his own steal. Kentucky outscored South Carolina 31–15 with the freshman from Illinois in the game and was otherwise outscored 28–27 with him on the bench. Ulis hasn’t started all year but has been indispensable as the first guard off the bench. The question remains if that will change as Kentucky gets closer to the postseason.

 

2b. But don’t forget about Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison

Two of the biggest beneficiaries of Ulis were Devin Booker and Aaron Harrison, who combined for 31 points and no turnovers against the Gamecocks. With his consistent outside shot, Booker will be particularly key come NCAA Tournament time. Booker is now 13-of-22 from 3-point range in SEC play. Meanwhile, Aaron Harrison is 16-of-39.

 

3. About Kansas not winning the Big 12...

Not long ago, Kansas seemed to be leaving the window open for another team to win the Big 12. That seems less likely with each passing week. Kansas, now 5–1 in the league, had one of its best performances of the season in a 75–62 win at Texas on Saturday. The Longhorns are known for their imposing collection of big men, but the Kansas duo of Perry Wallace and Cliff Alexander combined to score 29 points and grab 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Kansas guard Brannen Green knocked down 4-of-5 3-pointers for 14 points off the bench. The Jayhawks are once again the favorites to win the Big 12.

 

4. Frank Kaminsky is stating his case for Player of the Year

Michigan did all it could to come within five points of upsetting Big Ten favorite Wisconsin. It was a remarkable effort for Michigan — without top player Caris LeVert — to even take the Badgers to overtime in a 69–64 loss. But Wisconsin has Frank Kaminsky, who was a force around the basket against the overmatched Wolverines. Kaminsky scored 22 points, giving him at least 20 points in three of his last four Big Ten games. He’s scored at least 16 points in every league game. Just as impressive, the 7-footer has twice had six assists and no turnovers in a league game this season.

 

5. D’Angelo Russell will make a run at National Freshman of the Year

Beating out Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, for National Freshman of the Year will be tough, but Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell is making a compelling case. Russell silenced a red-hot Indiana team with 22 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in an 82–70 win over the Hoosiers, a team that two weeks ago held Russell to 3-of-15 from the field. Since that first game against Indiana, Russell is averaging 25.8 points, 6.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds.

 

6. North Carolina’s depth will be worth monitoring

With forward Theo Pinson (foot) and guard Joel Barry (groin) sidelined, the Tar Heels are down two bench players. In the first game without both of them — Barry missed the previous three games — North Carolina had to sweat  out a 78–74 win at home over a mediocre Florida State team. Kennedy Meeks, J.P. Tokoto, Justin Jackson and Marcus Paige all played at least 30 minutes, and the bench offered a total of six points. The Heels had a quick turnaround against Syracuse on Monday and will face Louisville (Saturday) and Virginia (next Monday) in the next week.

 

7. No panic button for Iowa State ... yet

The Big 12 is a grind this season, so who can blame any team taking a bit of a mental break against the only league team not ranked in the top 100 by KenPom.com. That may be what happened when Iowa State lost 78–73 to Texas Tech on Saturday. The Cyclones couldn’t hit a shot from outside (6-of-31 from 3-point range) and trailed by as much as 19 in the first half. One big issue, though: The 3-point drought is ongoing for Bryce DeJean-Jones, who is 3-of-19 from long range in Big 12 play. Iowa State has some great wins, but we can’t forget this team has losses to South Carolina and Texas Tech.

 

8. Baylor is gaining confidence

Oklahoma can’t find a way to win these days, but Baylor has had its own troubles putting teams away in recent weeks. That’s why the Bears have to feel pretty good about its 69–58 win over the Sooners over the weekend. Baylor, which had lost close games with Kansas and Kansas State and nearly coughed one up against Iowa State, outscored the Sooners 23–13 down the stretch to improve to 3–3 in the rugged Big 12.

 

9. Kansas State is going to be an interesting case

Kansas State might not have an NCAA Tournament résumé, but the Wildcats are going to make the Big 12 race interesting. The Wildcats were one of the most disappointing teams in the country during the non-conference season, failing to record even one signature win and losing to teams like Texas Southern and Long Beach State. Now, Bruce Weber’s team is 5–2 in the league after a 63–53 win over Oklahoma State. 

 

10. Freshmen key for surging Georgetown

Villanova was the prohibitive favorite to win the Big East heading into conference play, but Georgetown has emerged as arguably the best team in the league. On Saturday, the Hoyas beat Marquette 95–85 in overtime to improve to 6–2 in the Big East. Credit part of the Hoyas’ success to freshmen Isaac Copeland and Tre Campbell, who combined for 31 points in the win over Marquette. Copeland, in particular, has been a key cog in the win streak, with 17 points against both Villanova and Marquette. And Campbell, who played only 19 minutes in the previous three games, scored 14 points in 28 minutes against Marquette.

 

Short Stuff

 

• Virginia did it again. Seems like every week Virginia is on the verge of its first loss of the season, but every week the Cavaliers clamp down in the final 10 minutes. This time, it was against Virginia Tech. The Cavs trailed by 10 in the second half but finished the game on a 17-4 run for a 50-47 win. Justin Anderson led the way with 10 points and an assist during the final decisive minutes.

 

• Entering the weekend, Tennessee was on the cusp of the NCAA Tournament discussion. Tennessee had won three SEC games in a row and had a 4-5 record against the KenPom top 100. Then Texas A&M came to town. Tennessee’s small lineup couldn’t solve Texas A&M on the interior as the Vols shot only 9-of-23 from 2-point range. That said, let’s not overlook Texas A&M’s progress. The Aggies have won four SEC games in a row, including road wins at LSU and Tennessee.

 

• UCLA was swept by the Oregon schools, which actually happened more recently than one might think. The Bruins lost to Oregon and Oregon State in the same week in 2012, the last time UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament. The Ducks and Beavers shot a combined 15-of-29 from 3-point range against UCLA.

 

• We said this last week, but Syracuse only confirmed it Saturday: The Orange are in big trouble, losing at home to Miami for the first time since 2001. Without Chris McCullough, Syracuse is down to a six-man rotation — four players logged 40 minutes against Miami — with the meat of ACC schedule coming up.

 

• What’s gone wrong at Oklahoma? The Sooners were once ranked as high as No. 7 on KenPom and No. 15 in the AP poll. Since then, OU has lost four of five and dropped to 12-7 overall after a 69-58 loss to Baylor. Three of these losses have been on the road, and the schedule should lighten up in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see where OU goes from here.

 

• Are we seeing a little life in Nebraska? The Cornhuskers defeated Michigan State 79-77 for their fourth win in five games. It might be too little, too late for Nebraska’s NCAA hopes, but this is also the same time Nebraska went on a hot streak last season.

 

• Arkansas’ NCAA hopes survived a close call with 7-12 Missouri. The Razorbacks needed two free throws in the final 3.3 seconds to beat Mizzou 61-60. The flat performance against a bad team has to be a concern about a team whose road performance has kept the Hogs out of the Tournament in recent years.

 

• Harvard was a preseason top 25 team and considered one of the top mid-majors in the country. Now, the Crimson may have a hard time winning the Ivy and getting into the Tournament. Harvard lost 70-61 at home to Dartmouth, a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 1998-99. Harvard already lost to Boston College and Holy Cross this season.

Teaser:
The College Basketball Weekly 10: Coach K gets 1,000, Tyler Ulis Carries Kentucky
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 12:46
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-26-2015
Body:

This is your daily links roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 25:

 

. Her work is … unusual.

 

. Mr. Cub always loved the game like a little kid.

 

• Speaking of kids and baseball,

 

• This is cool: . And . Oh, and I guess .

 

.

 

.

 

 

.

 

• Chris Berman was not happy about something at the Pro Bowl. Maybe he realized he was covering the Pro Bowl.

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 12:06
Path: /college-football/5-players-replacing-biggest-names-acc-2015
Body:

Attrition and finding replacements for departed players are a key aspect of any college football offseason. A coaching staff may look for answers in the junior college ranks for a quick fix, or they may feel comfortable with a replacement that’s been on the roster waiting for his turn to step into the starting lineup. Regardless of how the player is replaced, all-conference and All-America talent departs every year, leaving big shoes to fill for coaching staffs at all 128 FBS teams.

Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech each suffered key personnel losses in the offseason, but the Seminoles and Tigers were hit the hardest. Quarterback Jameis Winston left for the NFL, leaving coach Jimbo Fisher looking for a new signal-caller in the spring. Clemson loses several key pieces from a defense that was arguably the nation’s top unit in 2014.

Let’s take a look at five key personnel departures and their potential replacements:
 

5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in the ACC for 2015

 

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Replacing:
Vic Beasley (33 career sacks, first-team AP All-American in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

Clemson’s defense led the nation by holding opponents to 4.03 yards per play in 2014. The Tigers also limited opposing offenses to 16.7 points per game, recorded 45 sacks and led the nation in third-down defense. Matching those totals in 2015 will be a challenge for coordinator Brent Venables. Of the nine players listed in the trenches on the final 2014 depth chart, six expired their eligibility after the Russell Athletic Bowl. Lawson was listed as the backup to Vic Beasley and is a breakout candidate for 2015 after recording 34 tackles (11 for a loss) and 3.5 sacks last year.

Sterling Korona, OG, Duke

Replacing:
Laken Tomlinson (first-team AP All-American in 2014)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

An underrated reason in Duke’s recent success has been the development of its offensive line. The Blue Devils have allowed less than 20 sacks in four consecutive seasons and gave up only 13 (No. 2 in the ACC) in 2014. This unit loses two key performers in Laken Tomlinson (right guard) and left tackle Takoby Cofield as the focus shifts to 2015. Korona was listed as the top backup to Tomlinson, but this line may shuffle bodies around prior to spring practice. Korona redshirted in his first season on campus (2013) and appeared in five games in 2014. Regardless of whether it’s Korona or another lineman, Tomlinson leaves big shoes to fill in Durham next year.

 

Sean Maguire, QB, Florida State

Replacing:
Jameis Winston (2013 Heisman winner)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior


Out of the five players mentioned in this article, Maguire has the biggest shoes to fill. The New Jersey native has played in 12 career games and made one start against Clemson in 2014. With Jameis Winston suspended against the Tigers, Maguire stepped into the starting lineup and completed 21 of 39 passes for 304 yards and one score. And in his career, Maguire has completed 38 out of 70 passes for 455 yards, three scores and four interceptions. Regardless of whether it’s Maguire, J.J. Cosentino, John Franklin III or an incoming freshman, Florida State’s quarterback in 2015 isn’t going to match Winston’s production and ability to perform in the clutch. However, coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the top quarterback gurus in the nation. The Seminoles will find enough production in the passing game to conted in the ACC in 2015.

Shaq Wiggins/Josh Harvey-Clemons, DB, Louisville

Replacing: Charles Gaines (CB), Gerod Holliman (S), James Sample (S), Terell Floyd (CB)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Wiggins (sophomore), Harvey-Clemons (junior)

Considering Louisville loses all four starters in the secondary, we will cheat a bit and list Wiggins and Harvey-Clemons as one. The Cardinals ranked No. 5 in pass efficiency defense last year and allowed only eight passing scores in conference games. In order for Louisville to match those totals in 2015, it needs Wiggins and Harvey-Clemons – two Georgia transfers – to pickup where Gaines, Holliman, Sample and Floyd left off. Harvey-Clemons recorded 66 tackles and made 11 starts at Georgia in 2013, while Wiggins picked off two passes and started eight games for the Bulldogs.
 

Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami

Replacing: Duke Johnson (3,519 career rushing yards)

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

Duke Johnson was one of the nation’s top running backs over the last three seasons, and there’s no doubt the explosive Miami native will be missed in Coral Cables. However, coach Al Golden shouldn’t have too many sleepless nights when thinking about his rushing attack for next year. Joseph Yearby rushed for 509 yards and one touchdown on 86 attempts in his Miami debut last season. Gus Edwards also returns after rushing for 349 yards last season. Yearby was ranked as the No. 44 recruit in the 2014 247Sports Composite and could be poised for a 1,000-yard season as the Hurricanes’ new feature back in 2015.

Teaser:
5 Players Replacing the Biggest Names in ACC for 2015
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: Hassan Whiteside, Miami Heat, NBA
Path: /nba/heat%E2%80%99s-hassan-whiteside-destroying-nba
Body:

A month ago, 25-year-old Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside was looking like he wasn’t long for the NBA. Over 19 total career games with the Sacramento Kings in 2010 through 2012 and very few minutes, the seven-footer hadn’t earned himself a solidified spot in the pros — not even on the end of benches. 

 

He’d been out of the league for the better part of two seasons when this January happened. Miami’s reclamation project has boomed as Whiteside is suddenly looking like one of the most dominant big men in the league. No performance more clearly announced Hassan’s arrival more than his triple-double against the Chicago Bulls yesterday afternoon, on national TV.

 

Whiteside led the Heat to an impressive 96-84 victory, collecting 14 points, 13 rebounds and an otherworldly 12 blocks in just 25 minutes. No player has ever tallied a triple-double including blocks in so few minutes. He also took the cake in the category of post-game interviews, referencing his NBA 2K numbers right after his performance:

 

In January, Whiteside has shot 72 percent from the floor, averaging 12.1 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in 21.4 minutes per game — I want to play that video game. His overwhelming presence in the lane has added some stability to Miami’s attack in a , and drastically changed the future outlook for his franchise. While Whiteside’s unbelievable play of Sunday afternoon is not likely to be maintained, he certainly looks like the Heat’s best starting center since Alonzo Mourning.

 

“Hassanity” has become the buzzword for Whiteside’s surge into basketball’s mainstream, and it’s an appropriate one. Not since Jeremy Lin’s flurry of clutch scoring in 2012 has a player burst out of obscurity with such force. Stay tuned as one of the season’s best stories continues.

 

— John Wilmes

@johnwilmesNBA

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 10:05
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/20-most-amazing-stats-super-bowl-history-2015
Body:

The 49th edition of the NFL’s annual showcase game, also known as the Super Bowl, will take place this Sunday. From its humble start 48 years ago, the Super Bowl has grown into the most-watched event of the year.

 

With all of the hype, anticipation and subsequent analysis related to aspects like commercials, the halftime show or alternative programming choices, it’s not hard to lose sight of the game itself. After all the whole reason for having a Super Bowl in the first place is to determine the annual champion of the most popular, and lucrative, sport in America.

 

Along those lines, here are the most amazing, interesting, intriguing and/or bizarre statistics culled from 48 years of Super Bowl history:

 

111,500,000: Average audience of Super Bowl XLVIII

FOX’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVIII last February was the most-watched television program in U.S. history, according to the NFL. Even though Seattle beat Denver by 35 points, the average audience of 111.5 million people surpassed the previous mark of 111.3 set during Super Bowl XLVI (New England vs. New York Giants) three years ago. Three of the last four Super Bowls have set average viewership records. You’re up NBC.

 

$4.5 million: Average cost of a 30-second commercial for Super Bowl XLIX

Considering the viewership records the Super Bowl has set in recent years, it should come as no surprise that the cost of air time has gone up as well. NBC’s going rate for a 30-second spot during its upcoming Super Bowl XLIX broadcast was between $4.4 and $4.5 million, up from FOX’s $4 million price tag the previous year. Consider that for Super Bowl I, which was played in 1967, a 30-second spot cost just $42,000. Then again, more than 110 million people weren’t watching when Green Bay beat Kansas City 48 years ago either.

 

3,734,938: Combined attendance for all 48 Super Bowls

Despite the threat of some wintry precipitation, a sellout crowd of 82,529 packed MetLife Stadium last February for the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl. That continued the Super Bowl’s sellout streak (all but Super Bowl I) and also pushed the all-time attendance mark past 3.7 million. Weather should not be an issue one way or the other come Sunday. For one, the game is out in Glendale, Ariz., which usually sees temperatures in the high 60s this time of year. Secondly, University of Phoenix Stadium, which hosted 71,101 seven years ago for Super Bowl XLII, has a roof that can be closed if necessary.

 

6,329: Media credentials issued for Super Bowl XLVIII

As expected, media participation for last year’s Super Bowl was at an all-time high with New York City, the media capital of the world, serving as the backdrop and host city for many of the events surrounding the game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The previous record was 5,156 for Super Bowl XLVI, which took place in Indianapolis in 2012. While it’s unlikely this year’s game in Glendale will draw more media than last year’s, it should still comfortably exceed the 338 credentials that were issued for Super Bowl I.

 

6: Most Super Bowl starts by a quarterback and appearances by a head coach

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will forever be entwined, so it’s fitting that each lead the way at their respective positions in Super Bowl appearances. Brady’s sixth start breaks a tie with John Elway for the most in history, while Belichick will tie Don Shula with his sixth appearance this Sunday. A win over Seattle also would put Brady and Belichick in select company. Brady would tie Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the most wins by a starting quarterback (four), while Belichick would tie Chuck Noll for the most by a head coach.

 

24-24: Coin toss winners' record in the Super Bowl

For the second year in a row, the Super Bowl winner won the coin toss, but deferred. Following Baltimore’s lead the year before, Seattle won the toss, but elected to give the ball to Denver, the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, to start the game. The Seahawks’ strategy paid off, as the Broncos’ first snap resulted in a safety, setting the tone for what ended up being a 43-8 rout. Seattle is just the fifth team in Super Bowl history to defer, and all of these instances have taken place in the last six years. The Seahawks joined the Ravens and Packers (Super Bowl XLV in 2011) as the only teams to defer and go on to win the Lombardi Trophy.

 

12 seconds: Quickest score in Super Bowl history

Last year, an errant shotgun snap from Denver center Manny Ramirez to Peyton Manning resulted in a safety for Seattle after Knowshon Moreno covered up the ball and was “tackled” in the end zone. Just 12 seconds into Super Bowl XLVIII, the safety not only gave the Seahawks a 2-0 lead, it also marked the fastest score in the game’s history, surpassing Devin Hester’s 92-yard kickoff return, which took 14 seconds, to open Super Bowl XLI. Coincidentally, Manning played in that Super Bowl too, as his Colts overcame the 7-0 deficit to beat Hester’s Bears 29-17.

 

59 minutes, 48 seconds: How long Seattle led Super Bowl XLVIII

Thanks to the quickest score in Super Bowl history (see above), the Seahawks jumped out to a 2-0 lead on the Broncos just 12 seconds into the game. A field goal following the free kick staked Seattle to the first-ever 5-0 lead in Super Bowl history and that was all that the Seahawks would need. A 22-0 halftime lead ballooned to 36-0 before Denver finally got on the scoreboard on the final play of the third quarter. By the time Seattle put the finishing touches on the 43-8 rout they had led Super Bowl XLVIII for all but the first 12 seconds, when the game was tied 0-0.

 

9: Defensive players who have been named Super Bowl MVPs

A 69-yard interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble recovery were enough to earn Seattle linebacker Malcolm Smith MVP honors in last year’s Super Bowl. Relatively unknown entering the game, Smith wrote his name into the record books as the ninth defensive player to be named MVP of the biggest game of the year. Not surprisingly, quarterbacks lead the way with 26 of the 49 (Super Bowl XII had co-MVPs) awards, followed by running backs (seven) and wide receivers (six). Smith’s recognition last year broke a three-way tie between linebackers, defensive ends and safeties (2 each) for the most Super Bowl MVPs given to a defender. And while a return specialist (Desmond Howard, Super Bowl XXXI) has been named MVP, the same can’t be said for a tight end, offensive lineman or kicker. You reading this Rob Gronkowski?

 

36-3: Record of the team with fewer turnovers in the Super Bowl

Just like the score, Seattle dominated Denver in the turnover department, picking Peyton Manning off twice and recovering two fumbles (one by Manning), in the 43-8 rout last year. The Seahawks returned one of the picks for a touchdown and turned two other Bronco miscues into scores as well, which is yet another reason why they tied the record for the third-largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history.

 

9: Bills’ Super Bowl record for turnovers

While Seattle dominated Denver in the turnover department (4-0) last year, it still pales in comparison to what Dallas did to Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVII. The Cowboys crushed the Bills 52-17, as the AFC champs coughed up the ball a record nine times. Strangely enough, Dallas also claims the No. 2 spot for takeaways with eight against Denver in its Super Bowl XII win and forced Baltimore into seven miscues in a losing effort in Super Bowl V. How did the Cowboys lose to the Colts after forcing seven turnovers?

 

414: Kurt Warner's record for passing yards

The former grocery bagger threw for a Super Bowl-record 414 yards in St. Louis’  win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV. This included his 73-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with just over two minutes remaining. Warner also owns the No. 2 passing performance (377 yards for Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII loss to Pittsburgh) and the No. 3 performance (365 yards for St. Louis in Super Bowl XXXVI loss to New England).

 

204: Timmy Smith's Super Bowl rushing record

Denver began Super Bowl XXII by taking a 10-0 lead into the second quarter over Washington. But then Doug Williams and Timmy Smith happened. The record 35-point second quarter put the game all but out of reach by halftime. The game was special for a variety of reasons. First, Williams was the first black quarterback to win the Super Bowl, while Smith became the only player to top 200 yards rushing. He finished with 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries as the Redskins set the Super Bowl record for total offense (602 yards). Ironically, Smith ended his NFL career with just 602 yards rushing (21 games).

 

22.6: Lowest QB rating for a Super Bowl winner

Ben Roethlisberger completed 9-of-21 passes for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in Pittsburgh’s Super Bowl XL win over Seattle. It is the worst performance by a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. But Big Ben can take some solace in this: at 23 years and 340 days old, he’s the youngest quarterback to ever win the big game.

 

13: Demaryius Thomas’ Super Bowl receptions record

It’s little consolation, but Thomas’ 13 catches in last year’s loss to Seattle set a new receptions record. Thomas’ output, which totaled 118 yards and a touchdown, topped the previous mark of 11, which was shared by four players: Cincinnati’s Dan Ross (Super Bowl XVI), San Francisco's Jerry Rice (XXIII),  New England’s Deion Branch (XXXIX) and the Patriots' Wes Welker (XLII). At the time, the record meant more to Rice and Branch than Ross and Welker, as not only did their teams win, but each also took home MVP honors following their 11-catch efforts.

 

10: Largest comeback in Super Bowl history

Powered by the aforementioned quarterback-running back duo of Doug Williams and Timmy Smith, Washington turned a 10-0 deficit in Super Bowl XXII into a 42-10 rout. It’s the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, a mark that was tied in Super Bowl XLIV. In that game, New Orleans fell behind Indianapolis 10-0 before coming back to win 31-17. The Saints’ comeback also is memorable in that it featured the first onside kick ever attempted before the fourth quarter in a Super Bowl.

 

7: Fewest rushing yards by a team in a Super Bowl

Seattle held Denver to just 27 yards rushing in its runaway victory last year, yet another example of how dominant the Seahawks’ defense was. As impressive as that statistic is, however, it still doesn’t compare to what Chicago’s defense did in Super Bowl XX. Regarded as one of the best defenses in NFL history, the Bears’ Monsters of the Midway were unstoppable during the 1985 season and the Super Bowl was no different. Led by Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary and the enormous, yet versatile William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Chicago held New England to a record-low seven yards rushing in the 46-10 rout. The Patriots' 123 total yards of offense that game is the second-lowest total in Super Bowl history as well.

 

3: Fewest points scored in a Super Bowl

The 1971 Miami Dolphins are the only team to ever play in a Super Bowl and not reach the end zone. Miami's 24-3 loss to Dallas in Super Bowl VI still stands as the fewest points scored by a team in the history of the game. The 1974 Minnesota Vikings are the only other team to score fewer than seven points on Super Sunday. In the Vikings' defense, they did reach the end zone — albeit via a defensive touchdown when Terry Brown recovered a Steelers’ fumble in the end zone. But Fred Cox missed the extra point, as the Vikings also set the Super Bowl record for fewest yards of total offense with 119.

 

1: People to win the Super Bowl as a head coach and player

Tom Flores won two Super Bowls as the head coach of the Raiders and was technically on the 1969 Kansas City Chiefs roster. However, he did not see any time on the field in Kansas City's win against Minnesota in Super Bowl IV. Mike Ditka, a Hall of Fame tight end for the Bears, Eagles and Cowboys, caught two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl VI. He then led the Bears to a win in Super Bowl XX in 1986 to become the only Super Bowl-winning coach who also earned a ring as a player.

 

0: Super Bowls without at least one field goal attempt

Four times has a Super Bowl featured one combined field goal attempt, but never has a Super Bowl lacked for at least one field goal try. Super Bowl VII, XXIV, XXXIX and XLII each featured just one three-point attempt.

Teaser:
20 Most Amazing Stats in Super Bowl History
Post date: Monday, January 26, 2015 - 10:00

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