Articles By All

Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-conference-american-early-rankings
Body:

The American Athletic Conference doesn’t have a logo or a site for its conference tournament. But it does have the defending national champion and clear top team for 2013-14.

In its first and final season in the American Athletic Conference, Louisville is the clear favorite with many of the key pieces returning from last season’s title winner.

Although the American won’t be as good as the former Big East, the league is hoping a handful of teams -- both from the old Big East and teams imported from Conference USA -- will keep the league flush with its share of postseason contenders.

The C-USA newcomers, most notably Houston and SMU, have been gearing up for this move. Memphis is, as usual, the best of this bunch, but the Cougars and Mustangs have added top high school recruits and transfers to at least make their first seasons in the new league interesting.

Here’s a quick look at the American Athletic Conference and early rankings for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
ACC
Big East
Big Ten
SEC
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

2013-14 CONFERENCE SNAPSHOT: AMERICAN

1. LOUISVILLE (35-5, 14-4 Big East, won national title)
Key players gone: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva
Top returners: Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell, Russ Smith, Kevin Ware
New faces: Anton Gill (Hargrave Military Academy), Chris Jones (junior college), Terry Rozier (Hargrave)
Not so fast on slotting Kentucky as the national championship favorite. The Cardinals will have a chance to defend their title with the return of Russ Smith after early indications had the shooting guard headed to the draft. Chris Jones and Terry Rozier will ease the loss of Peyton Siva while forward Montrezl Harrell could be the Cards’ breakout star in 2013-14 after shining in the postseason.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

2. CONNECTICUT (20-10, 10-8 Big East)
Key players gone: None
Top returners: Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander
New faces: Kentan Facey (freshman), Lasan Kromah (transfer from George Washington), Enosch Wolf (suspended)
After a postseason ban, UConn should be back in the NCAA Tournament picture with the return of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. A problematic frontcourt from last season could get a boost with the team’s top freshman (Facey) and a 7-1 center who was suspended all of last season (Wolf). Kromah was a late addition after averaging 10.1 points per game at George Washington last season. The guard could be eligible immediately.

Related: UConn among top recruiting classes since 2000

3. MEMPHIS (31-5, 16-0 Conference USA, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Antonio Barton, Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens, Adonis Thomas
Top returners: Chris Crawford, Shaq Goodwin, Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson
New faces: Markel Crawford, Kuron Iverson, Nick King, Austin Nichols, RaShawn Powell (all freshmen)
Two former Memphis players -- Tarik Black and Antonio Barton -- are hot commodities in the transfer pool, but the Tigers should be able to absorb those losses with another highly ranked recruiting class, including three top-50 forwards. The new faces will be led by an improving Joe Jackson, plus Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, who each topped 10 points per game last season.

4. CINCINNATI (22-12, 9-9 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Cheikh Mbodj, JaQuon Parker, Cashmere Wright
Top returners: Jeremiah Davis, Sean Kilpatrick, Titus Rubles, Jermaine Sanders
New faces: Jermaine Lawrence (freshman)
Losing the point guard Wright will hurt, but Kilpatrick (17 ppg, 5.2 rpg) elected to return to school. The arrival of versatile forward Lawrence was a major recruiting victory for Mick Cronin and another big get out of New York/New Jersey for the Bearcats.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: SEC

5. TEMPLE (24-10, 11-5 Atlantic 10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: T.J. DiLeo, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, Jake O’Brien, Scootie Randall, Khalif Wyatt
Top returners: Will Cummings, Anthony Lee, Dalton Pepper
Lee (9.8 ppg) is the only returning player who averaged better than six points per game last season, but Temple is nothing if not consistent. The Owls have won between 21 and 29 games with an NCAA Tournament appearance in each of the last six seasons. Two of Temple’s top freshmen from 2012-13, wing Daniel Dingle and big man Devontae Watson, played only 16 games last season.

6. HOUSTON (20-13, 7-9 Conference USA, CBI quarterfinal)
Key players gone: Leon Gibson, J.J. Thompson
Top returners: Danuel House, Valentine Izundu, J.J. Richardson, Jherrod Stiggers, TaShawn Thomas, Tione Womack, Joseph Young
New faces: Danrad “Chicken” Knowles (ineligible last season), Jaaron Simmons (freshman)
Houston is gearing up for tougher competition with Young (18 ppg), Thomas (16.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and House, the Conference USA freshman of the year, all returning. With the freshman Knowles, a 6-10 forward, eligible after missing all of last season, Houston could be a surprise team in the AAC.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

7. SMU (15-17, 5-11 Conference USA)
Key players gone: None
Top returners: Brian Bernardi, Cannen Cunningham, Jalen Jones, Ryan Manuel, Nick Russell, Shawn Williams
New faces: Keith Frazier (freshman), Crandall Head (transfer from Illinois), Markus Kennedy (transfer from Villanova), Yanick Moreira (junior college transfer), Nic Moore (transfer from Illinois State)
A slew of transfers are eligible for SMU in Year 2 of Larry Brown’s rebuilding project. Moore led the Missouri Valley with 135 assists as a freshman in 2011-12, but the big addition will be Frazier, a McDonald’s All-American shooting guard. They join a team that returns three double-digit scorers.

8. UCF (20-11, 9-7 Conference USA)
Key players gone: Keith Clanton
Top returners: Calvin Newell, Tristan Spurlock, Isaiah Sykes, Daiquon Walker, Matt Williams, Kasey Wilson
The Knights return from a postseason ban bringing back every key player other than Keith Clanton, who averaged 14.8 points per game and a team-leading 8.5 rebounds. Isaiah Dykes emerged as a stat sheet-stuffing threat with 16 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Related: Grading Eddie Jordan and other hires for 2013-14

9. RUTGERS (15-16, 5-13 Big East)
Key players gone: Eli Carter, Austin Johnson, Dane Miller, Mike Poole, Derrick Randall, Jerome Seagears
Top returners: Kadeem Jack, Wally Judge, Myles Mack
New coach Eddie Jordan will try to rebuild with a depleted roster that saw Carter and Seagears transfer to SEC schools. Mack (13.6 ppg), Judge (7.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jack (5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg) isn’t a bad place to start, but few coaches have been able to succeed in Piscataway.

10. USF (12-19, 3-15 Big East)
Key players gone: Toarlyn Fitzpatrick, Jawanza Polland, Kore White
Top returners: Martino Brock, Anthony Collins, Javontae Hawkins, Zach LeDay, Victor Rudd
New faces: John Egbunu (freshman)
The bottom fell out after USF reached the round of 32 in 2012. The Bulls still have point guard Anthony Collins, who averaged 6.5 assists as a sophomore and improved his shooting percentage from 39 percent to 50 percent. John Egbunu, a rare top-100 recruit to sign with USF, gives the Bulls size in the frontcourt.

Teaser:
<p> Who's gone and who's back in the American Athletic Conference for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/everett-golsons-departure-big-loss-notre-dame
Body:

After throwing for 2,405 yards and 12 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season, Everett Golson was poised to emerge as one of Notre Dame’s top players for 2013. The Fighting Irish expected their defense to rank among the best nationally once again, but the offense was supposed to shoulder more of the burden this fall.

However, that outlook has changed significantly. Golson has been suspended for the 2013 season due to an academic issue, dealing the Notre Dame offense a huge setback three months before kickoff. While the Fighting Irish offense will miss Golson this season, the sophomore plans on returning to the team in 2014.

Although Golson wasn’t going to be one of the top 10 quarterbacks in college football this year, it was clear he made progress in the second half of 2012 and held his own (21-of-36, 270 yards, TD, INT) against Alabama in the national championship game.

Everett Golson's 2013 Statistics

  Rush Att Rush Yds TDs Comp Att Yards Comp. % TDs INTs
First 7 Games 42 81 2 79 135 968 58.5 4 3
First 6 Games 52 217 4 108 183 1,437 59.0 8 3


Where Does Notre Dame Go From Here?

Losing Golson is a clear setback for Notre Dame’s offense. However, if there is any good news surrounding this situation, it’s the fact that backup Tommy Rees has played in 33 career games and has 18 starts under his belt.

Rees has thrown for 34 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career, along with a 63.5 completion percentage. With Golson sidelined against BYU last year, Rees completed seven of 16 passes for 117 yards and one score.

There’s no question Rees has the experience necessary to lead Notre Dame to 10 wins in 2013. However, in terms of talent, Golson clearly had the edge and his mobility added an extra dimension to the offense.

Rees should open fall practice atop the depth chart, but junior Andrew Hendrix (304 career passing yards) and true freshman Malik Zaire will compete for time. Hendrix is a good runner but has yet to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm.

Zaire was rated as Athlon's No. 21 quarterback and has dual-threat ability. But would a true freshman be a better option than Rees this season? Probably not.

Considering Brian Kelly’s experience at Cincinnati and at Notre Dame, during which he has won with multiple quarterbacks, the Fighting Irish offense should be solid regardless of who is under center. No, Notre Dame isn't going to score 35-40 points a game, but the offense should do just enough to keep this team in every game. Rees may not bring much dynamic ability to the position, but he has experience and played well when called upon last year. If Zaire has to start, the Fighting Irish will have to lean on their defense even more than last season.

Regardless of which quarterback starts, expect Notre Dame to lean more on its ground attack – even with the departure of running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. USC transfer Amir Carlisle, George Atkinson III and true freshman Greg Bryant should be a capable trio, and Notre Dame returns three starters on one of the top 15 offensive lines in the nation.

How Many Games Will Notre Dame Win in 2013?

Make no mistake: Notre Dame has one of the toughest schedules in college football for 2013. The Fighting Irish must play 11 bowl teams, with road trips to Michigan, Pittsburgh and Stanford. And there’s a neutral site matchup against Arizona State, who is picked as the favorite by Athlon Sports to win the Pac-12 South.

Considering Notre Dame has one of the nation’s top defenses, along with a reliable rushing attack and offensive line, winning 10 games is certainly possible. Had Golson returned, the Fighting Irish would have to be considered a national title contender. However, without Golson, Notre Dame will take a step back on offense.

Athlon ranked Notre Dame as the No. 8 team for 2013 and projected the Fighting Irish to finish 10-2 prior to Golson’s suspension. But that may be too optimistic with Rees, Zaire or Hendrix under center.

Despite the loss of Golson, the Fighting Irish should have a chance to play for a BCS game. The strength of schedule will help in the polls, and the defense should be able to carry Notre Dame while the offense settles on a quarterback.

There’s not much room for error for Notre Dame in 2013. However, if the defense matches last year’s performance, the Fighting Irish should be able to finish 9-3 or 10-2 and rank among the top 14 teams at the end of the regular season.

After last year's appearance in the national championship game, it was clear Notre Dame was headed on the right track under Brian Kelly. Losing Golson is a setback, but nothing that should derail the Fighting Irish from becoming a consistent top 10-15 team.
 

Related College Football Content

2013 Notre Dame Team Preview
Ranking Notre Dame's Top 10 Players Since 1967

Notre Dame's Top 10 Teams Since 1934

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

College Football's Top 25 Dynasties of the AP Era

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Ranking the Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Everett Golson's Departure a Big Loss for Notre Dame</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:25
Path: /nascar/nascar-or-indycar-which-series-ruled-memorial-day-weekend
Body:

Fourteen leaders. 68 lead changes. A three-wide battle coming off a restart that decides the race. Read those two lines and you’re probably thinking, “typical NASCAR race at Talladega.”

Nope. Instead, those stats defined what could be the best Indianapolis 500 in a generation. As we look back at the Coca-Cola 600, it’s important to stop and recognize open-wheel’s glory day because the event was everything NASCAR was not. There was a sentimental winner, Tony Kanaan, whose post-race celebration from teams and crews became reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona 500 “monkey off his back” victory of 1998. There was passing paired with a sense of urgency — and not just on Lap 190 of 200 — but throughout the entire event. Cautions were scarce, resulting in the fastest average speed in history, yet they weren’t needed to define and/or add excitement to the race. Oh, and should I mention a car even crashed on pit road and IndyCar kept the race under green?

Let’s compare that with Sunday night’s Charlotte event, one that will forever be defined by a piece of nylon rope. That snapped camera cable, from a FOX setup overhead, injured 10 fans, stopped the race and damaged three cars, including top contender Kyle Busch. Of the race’s 11 cautions, six were debris related and a few were positioned well by hot dog wrappers to bunch up the field in order to heighten the race’s entertainment. In a race 100 miles longer than Indy’s 500, there were just 11 leaders, 24 lead changes and three drivers (Busch, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth) led 338 of 400 laps.

Does that mean Indy was perfect? Far from it; the race ended under yellow, drafting made it impossible for a strong car to pull away and there’s still too much homogeneity between teams. NASCAR had strong moments, including a surprise winner of its own in Kevin Harvick. But while the ratings likely won’t show it, in terms of pure competition, Sunday was the first time I can remember where IndyCar, head-to-head with the racing rival that unseated it from “top dog” inside the U.S., turned around, wound up and punched stock cars back, smack in the face in a bid to regain supremacy.

That won’t do much … yet. But at some point, that’s going to resonate with viewers and NASCAR would do well to pay attention. Turnarounds start with little victories like these.

Back to Charlotte…


FIRST GEAR: Kevin Harvick stole himself a Chase bid
He’s led 33 laps all season, good enough for just 17th on the Sprint Cup charts. Among those drivers listed ahead of him: Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. But what none of those drivers have is a Cup win, let alone two. Harvick pulled another rabbit out of his hat on Sunday, the “Closer” playing it perfectly by taking two tires on the final caution while the leader, Kahne, stayed on track.

“It came down to a restart,” Harvick said bluntly, slotting in second after the stop and knowing clean air was all that was needed. “In the end, it was good enough to win the race.”

It’s also likely good enough to make the Chase. Now seventh in points, the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team likely doesn’t have the speed to stay inside the top 10 long-term — not with Busch, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski among those sitting behind them. Over the course of the 26-race regular season, though, those two victories will be more than enough to snag a “wild card” position and put the pressure on Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and those who we know need the victories. It’s possible that those on the outside of the top 10 will have to come up with three wins to sneak into the postseason, which is not an easy feat with 14 races left.

As for Harvick’s unexpected victory? He survived; the epitome of what this race is all about. While problems befell the favorites, from the Busch brothers to Matt Kenseth to even a weakened Jimmie Johnson, the No. 29 car was put in position to win. As veteran Jeff Burton has slyly pointed out, that’s all you need. Sometimes, circumstances dictate the rest.


SECOND GEAR: The rope snap heard around the world
Until Sunday night, most people thought CamCAT was some sort of military DefCon mission or secret weapon you’d acquire in Call of Duty. Instead, it will forever stand for the camera whose ropes came toppling onto the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, snapping into pieces on Lap 121 in an incident that sent three fans to the hospital, injured 10 and turned Kyle Busch’s front end, among others, into a mangled mess.

The technology, around since 2000, was being utilized by FOX for just the second time in NASCAR, following a successful Daytona 500 debut. One reason for its scarceness is the setup. It takes five days, including two cranes mounted on different sides of the track in Turns 1 and 4.

Three ropes make the camera tick, allowing it to slide above the track and deliver the type of breathtaking views fans love. But when one of those ropes broke, chaos broke loose and the snapping of the cable could have easily killed someone as debris kicked up everywhere. For the second time, NASCAR got lucky through a freak accident (see: February’s Nationwide race in Daytona) and was able to throw a red flag, clean up the mess and get fans treated (all have been released). It’s also to NASCAR’s credit that teams were allowed to fix cars torn apart by the cable. It’s one thing when a random event happens, like a hot dog wrapper or an overcooked engine that changes the course of a driver’s race. But when a TV crew broadcasting the event is involved in affecting the outcome through an equipment failure I think trying to reconstruct the race the way it was is perfectly reasonable.

Certainly, there’s some inconsistency within that, as Robby Gordon has lost a race in the past (Watkins Glen, early 2000s) through a TV malfunction. However, in this case NASCAR made the right call. And FOX is doing the right thing by suspending the camera going forward. The best thing to do here is chalk it up to “one of those freak things” and move on.


THIRD GEAR: Mark Martin’s rocky road
It’s been a long time since we’ve worried about the competitiveness of Mark Martin. But since late April, the now 54-year-old has done some things that make you scratch your head. At Richmond, he was involved in a heated incident with Kahne in which it looked like the veteran initiated contact. At Charlotte, it was another surprising mistake, as one of the sport’s cleanest drivers stuck his nose in the wrong place at wrong time, sparking a wreck that took out Chase contenders Jeff Gordon and Aric Almirola while hampering the nights of several others.

Suddenly, Martin’s year doesn’t look so rosy, with just one top-5 finish (third, Daytona) and zero laps led since February at Phoenix. A “lame duck” at Michael Waltrip Racing, you wonder if the impending departure will now begin to take its toll. After all, since leaving Roush, his sophomore campaigns at other teams, from DEI to Hendrick Motorsports, have always resulted in a downturn in performance. The big difference? None of them involved these types of uncharacteristic mistakes on the racetrack. Could this year finally be the one where Martin decides to call it quits?
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 10:20
Path: /college-football/what-alabamas-biggest-obstacle-national-title-2013
Body:

With college football’s postseason set to change after the 2013 season, Alabama could finish the BCS era as the only team to win three consecutive national titles. The Crimson Tide has claimed back-to-back championships thanks to dominating wins over LSU and Notre Dame.

Considering it’s no easy task to win a national title, every year presents new challenges and obstacles for a team to overcome. Alabama has one of the best rosters in college football, with depth overflowing at each position. But a few injuries could change the outlook for this team. The schedule isn’t overwhelming this year, but a road trip to Texas A&M on Sept. 14 will play an early role in determining how the SEC West title picture will unfold in 2013.

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Alabama ranks as Athlon's No. 1 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What is Alabama's Biggest Obstacle to a National Title in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
Alabama’s biggest obstacle to a three-peat is Alabama. Yes, Johnny Manziel presents a difficult challenge, and Les Miles usually finds a way to bring it against Nick Saban. But the machine that Saban has built in Tuscaloosa can only be stopped by itself.

Alabama is in completely uncharted territory. There’s no script to follow to ensure that there’s no complacency within the players and that leadership is evolving the way it needs to. There’s typical player personnel turnover and a potential showdown with whoever wins the SEC East. But again, it all comes back to Alabama taking care of business.

Only two times in the past 15 years has the SEC Champion even made it back to Atlanta to defend their conference crown, and both of those teams lost. Alabama is rewriting the script, again. I guess that’s just part of ‘the process’. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Alabama has its question marks, chiefly the offensive line and what happens against an elite passing offense. The secondary is a spot where Alabama is merely “very good” rather than elite. If Alabama can survive Texas A&M’s best shot on Sept. 14 and Ole Miss in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 28, the Tide don’t look to be tested by a great passing game for the remainder of the season. So that means Alabama’s greatest adversary in 2013 may be complacency. Alabama has the experience, talent and coaching to win a title. Getting too satisfied with back-to-back titles and a feeling that a fourth title in five seasons is a certainty would be enough to cause a slip up. Alabama is justifiably the national title favorite, as overwhelming a preseason favorite as Florida was in 2009.  The Gators title chase was ended by Alabama, which should be a reminder that as good as a team looks in June, it means little by December.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
For a two-time defending champion that plays in the vaunted SEC, Alabama's schedule isn't all that daunting at all. LSU at home will be a game full of elite players and electric energy, but the gap between these two programs seems to be growing ever so slightly. Otherwise, the Crimson Tide will be a heavy favorite in every other game except the trip to College Station. However, because Nick Saban has been preparing for Johnny Manziel for over a year now and revenge could play a huge role, I will go out on a limb and say the SEC Championship game will be their biggest hurdle. Yes, Ohio State or Oregon or Stanford or Clemson could pose a threat in the BCS National Championship game, but either Georgia or South Carolina in Atlanta will be the toughest challenge Alabama will face in 2013. The regular season will be in the rearview and the stakes will likely be as clear as they were a year ago: Win in the Georgia Dome on Championship Saturday and you likely win the BCS National Championship.
 

John Pennington, MrSEC.com, (@MrSEC)
The list of obstacles is long.  Winning in the toughest division in college football is obviously a pretty big issue.  Rebuilding the offensive line must be considered.  For a third-straight year, Alabama will need to get some breaks, the lucky bounces and scheduling quirks that all title-winning teams require.  In addition, the media spotlight on a team going for it's third crown in three years will be blinding.

But the biggest issue facing the Tide in 2013 can be found between the ear holes of Bama's players' helmets.  It's attitude. 

In 2010, Alabama returned a good chunk of its 2009 BCS championship squad, but the chemistry was not the same.  Nick Saban spent the entire 2010 offseason telling his team that it was a new year and that his current team -- as it was put together in 2010 -- hadn't won anything yet.  Ultimately, the message was not received.

Last year, Saban's squad remained hungry, even after collecting the 2011 national title.  Will players who've now won two-straight titles work just as hard and study just as long as they have the last two years?  Will young players mistakenly believe that they can just roll their crimson helmets out onto the field and win simply because they represent Alabama?

The biggest obstacle for Bama in 2013 is a mental one.  Will Crimson Tide players remain hungry, driven and focused?
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There are many obstacles to a third consecutive national championship for Alabama. While I think all will be overcome by the Crimson Tide as they are my pick to win the national title this season, let’s keep this in mind: It’s very, very difficult to go undefeated. Needless to say, winning a third straight title will require some luck and favorable bounces.

The schedule isn’t too taxing, but matchups at Texas A&M and the SEC Championship will be a challenge. Most of the key personnel is back from last season, but the offensive line and secondary are two areas to watch in terms of development early in the year. And of course, there’s the issue of complacency. Coach Nick Saban continues to push this team to make that a non-issue, so I doubt that’s going to prevent Alabama from winning a title this year.

While the schedule, personnel and complacency are concerns, I think the biggest obstacle is health. Alabama has one of the deepest rosters in the nation, but the backup quarterback spot is a concern. What happens if quarterback AJ McCarron is forced to miss a couple of games? Would the Crimson Tide offense continue to thrive with Blake Sims or Alec Morris under center? Luckily for Alabama, having a deep backfield and receiving corps takes the pressure off of the quarterback, but an injury to McCarron could prove very costly. 
 

Mark Ross
The biggest obstacle to Alabama winning a third straight national championship is one thing that is really out of Nick Saban's, the rest of the coaching staff's and even the players' hands - health. The Crimson Tide can take care of business on the field, and off of it for that matter, but there's only so much that can be done to prevent injury, especially the freak ones. As good as Alabama is and as deep as their roster goes, this is an entirely different team if it were to lose one of its key pieces, say quarterback AJ McCarron? If something were to happen to McCarron, Saban would then have to turn things over to junior Blake Sims, who has thrown a grand total of 10 passes and started out as a running back.

McCarron is probably the one player Alabama can least afford to lose, but he's not alone as any injury could result in a shuffling of the depth chart at one or more positions. Alabama has a lot of talent throughout its roster and returns 14 starters from last year's championship team. But in the SEC the stakes are always high, especially in Tuscaloosa as one loss could be the difference between a shot at a three-peat or some other bowl game.

 

Related Content

Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?
Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West?
Georgia, Florida or South Carolina: Who Will Win the SEC East in 2013?

Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> What is Alabama's Biggest Obstacle to a National Title in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 07:14
Path: /college-football/where-does-braxton-miller-rank-among-best-quarterbacks-nationally
Body:

Braxton Miller thrived in his first season under coach Urban Meyer, throwing for 2,039 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushing for 1,271 yards and 13 scores.

Miller carried Ohio State to a 12-0 mark last year and should be one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy in 2013.

With another offseason to work with Meyer, Miller should take another step forward as a passer in 2013. Combine improved passing skills with dynamic ability on the ground, and it’s easy to see why Miller is one of the top quarterbacks in college football.

Even though Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel is considered by many to be the top returning quarterback this year, is there a chance Braxton Miller holds that title by the end of the season?

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason.

Ohio State ranks as Athlon's No. 2 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Where Does Braxton Miller Rank Among the Best Quarterbacks Nationally?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Braxton Miller has a way to go before he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country. He may be a Big Ten title-winning QB -- as he could have been last season -- and he fits the profile of a Heisman contender. Still, he needs to improve his output as a passer. In the final seven games last season, Miller completed 60 percent of his passes against only two opponents (Illinois and Michigan). In the same span, he completed fewer than half of his passes in two games (Purdue and Penn State). And this was behind an offensive line that continued to improve as the season went along. Miller’s growth as a passer from his freshman season to his sophomore season, plus another year under Meyer, suggests he’ll take another leap as a junior, but for now, quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, Tajh Boyd, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron and Marcus Mariota are more dynamic commodities.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Braxton Miller may not be the top NFL quarterback prospect in the nation, but neither Urban Meyer nor Ohio State fans would trade him for anyone else in the nation. Yes, that includes the two-time defending champ in AJ McCarron and reigning Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Miller has rare electric athletic ability and the toughness of a nose tackle. He singlehandedly carried his team to a 12-0 record as just a sophomore and he is still getting better. His skills fit the Meyer spread system perfectly and he is Athlon Sports' front-runner to win the Heisman Trophy in 2013 — especially if he leads his team to the BCS National Championship game as many have predicted. In my opinion, there are seven "elite" quarterbacks in college football and it's nearly impossible to rank McCarron vs. Manziel vs. Miller vs. Tajh Boyd vs. Marcus Mariota vs. Aaron Murray vs. Teddy Bridgewater. But Miller is one of seven signal-callers whose coaches wouldn't trade for anyone else in the nation. The more interesting question might be would Bo Pelini, Jim Mora, Brady Hoke or Tim DeRuyter trade their starter for Miller? 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With names like Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Tajh Boyd, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Taylor Martinez and Brett Hundley returning, 2013 is shaping up to be one of the deepest collections of quarterbacks for a college football season in recent memory.

It’s hard to dispute Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel as the top quarterback in the nation. However, depending on your preference of an offense, a case could be made for any of the nine quarterbacks mentioned above. If a pure pocket passer is your pick, then McCarron, Murray and Bridgewater might rank a little higher on your list. If being mobile is the offensive system, then Mariota, Manziel and Miller have the edge.

Considering Manziel is the reigning Heisman winner, I would still rank him as the No. 1 quarterback for 2013. But considering how difficult it will be to repeat his numbers, and SEC defenses have a full offseason to gameplan for Texas A&M’s offense, Manziel may not finish 2013 as the top quarterback.

Miller is a perfect fit for Urban Meyer’s spread offense, has an improving set of weapons around him and should make strides as a passer in 2013. With all of those factors in play, I think there’s a good chance Miller is a first-team All-American quarterback and a Heisman Trophy winner at the end of this season.


Kevin McGuire, No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com(@KevinonCFB)
Braxton Miller may not be one of my top five quarterbacks in 2013, but he could very well be one of the three most important quarterbacks in the country. My top five right now, in no particular order, include Alabama's two-time BCS championship-winning AJ McCarron, Georgia's record-setting Aaron Murray, Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy-winning Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater as locks. The fifth spot is up for some debate, and you can make a strong case for Miller to be in there ahead of another worthy candidate such as Clemson's Tajh Boyd.

Miller is the key cog in Ohio State's plans for a successful 2013 season.  Entering his junior season, Miller will have nearly two full seasons under his belt as Ohio State's starting quarterback. That experience should pay off for the Buckeyes. He does have some room for improvement, though. Among eligible quarterbacks last season, Miller was ranked 78th in pass completion percentage and he passed for more than 2,000 yards with 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. He did add more than 1,200 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, which proves he is a dual threat every time he is on the field. If Miller is going to be seen as an elite quarterback this season, then he will have to improve his passing production.
 

Mark Ross
Johnny Manziel may have the Heisman and AJ McCarron the national championships, but Miller is right up there with both when it comes to the best quarterbacks in the nation. Miller, like Manziel, is a dual threat who finished fourth in the Big Ten last season with 1,271 yards rushing and scored 13 touchdowns. He also threw for 2,039 yards with 15 touchdowns and just six interceptions. The junior completed better than 58 percent of his passes and finished 34th in the nation in total offense despite ranking 95th in pass attempts. He's had a full season running Urban Meyer's spread offense and should be even more dangerous this season with eight other returning starters on that side of the ball.

When it comes to the best quarterbacks in the nation, I think the list has to start with Manziel because of the hardware and McCarron because of the championship resume. After that, I think you can make a strong case that Miller is next, even before the likes of reigning ACC Player of the Year Tajh Boyd, electric dual-threat sophomore Marcus Mariota at Oregon and potential Heisman darkhorse contender Teddy Bridgewater, to name a few. All six of these quarterbacks have one thing in common - they have the potential to lead their team to the BCS National Championship Game. And in the end, that just may be the determining factor in separating this talented sextet of signal-callers in 2013.

 
Related College Football Content
 
Teaser:
<p> Where does Braxton Miller rank among the best quarterbacks nationally?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 - 06:44
All taxonomy terms: Roto, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-27
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bullpens from around the league each week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (May 20-26):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Mike Trout OF LAA 10 2 7 4 .462 1.385
2. Chris Davis 1B/OF BAL 7 4 6 0 .480 1.661
3. Miguel Cabrera 3B DET 7 3 10 0 .364 1.299
4. Jose Bautista OF TOR 6 2 5 1 .500 1.326
5. Adam Jones OF BAL 7 4 4 1 .323 1.097
6. Jason Castro* C HOU 5 3 5 0 .579 1.741
7. Nick Markakis OF BAL 6 2 7 0 .393 1.148
8. Matt Dominguez* 3B HOU 4 4 6 0 .368 1.400
9. Carlos Gonzalez OF COL 6 3 5 1 .296 1.037
10. Andrew McCutchen OF PIT 4 1 3 3 .400 1.000
11. Domonic Brown* OF PHI 4 2 7 1 .348 1.131
12. Kendrys Morales* 1B SEA 4 1 7 0 .481 1.315
13. Seth Smith* OF OAK 7 2 5 0 .381 1.194
14. Yan Gomes* C/1/3 CLE 4 3 7 0 .353 1.330
15. Joey Votto 1B CIN 8 2 3 0 .381 1.186
16. Coco Crisp OF OAK 7 0 3 2 .400 1.038
17. Everth Cabrera 2B/SS SD 5 2 5 1 .318 1.127
18. David Ortiz 1B/DH BOS 6 1 5 2 .250 .796
19. Brandon Phillips 2B CIN 7 1 6 0 .304 .885
20. Josh Hamilton OF LAA 4 3 6 0 .273 1.158
21. Eric Chavez* 1B/3B ARI 4 2 6 0 .353 1.157
22. Freddie Freeman 1B ATL 6 1 7 0 .280 .773
23. J.D. Martinez* OF HOU 4 2 6 0 .318 1.057
24. Dan Uggla* 2B ATL 3 3 7 0 .238 1.000
25. Josh Willingham 3B MIN 4 3 5 0 .280 1.040

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Eric Chavez, 1B/3B, ARI (23% owned in Yahoo! Leagues)
Chavez was a 30-HR, 100-RBI guy for Oakland back in the early 2000s. Injuries completely derailed his career, but he showed some signs last year in limited duty with the Yankees, posting a .281-16-37 line in less than 300 at-bats. This season he's in Arizona and he has been killing the baseball this month, batting .421 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. If you have room for someone like Chavez, he's a nice left-handed bat (.350-7-24 vs. RHP) to have in your lineup.

Kelly Johnson, 2B/OF, TB (61%)
Go figure, another Ray who can play multiple positions. In Johnson's case, the best play for him is at second, but if he keeps up his run production (8 HR, 26 RBIs), his bat could enter OF discussion too. Johnson has provided pop before, hitting a combined 47 home runs in 2010-11, but strikeouts have always been an issue for him. He Ked a total of 311 times in those two seasons and had 159 last season. So far, he's done a better job of making contact in 2013 with a 37:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first 42 games.

James Loney, 1B, TB (41% )
Loney has been discussed here before, but as long as he keeps hitting, he's worth mentioning, especially since his ownership rate is less than 50 percent. Loney is second only to Miguel Cabrera in the AL in batting at .342 and he has hit three home runs in May. He had just six total in 144 games last season.

Daniel Nava, OF, BOS (45%)
Nava is top 10 among all OFs with 32 RBIs and has added six home runs, 27 runs scored and a .299 average in less than 150 at-bats so far. He's a switch-hitter who can hit near the top or in the middle of the order and the biggest knock against him has been that Red Sox manager John Farrell has sat Nava against left-handed starters. This could change, however, with Shane Victorino going on the DL last week, and even though he hasn't faced many lefties, he hasn't been overmatched against them (.250-2-8 in 40 AB) either.

Last Week:

Jurickson Profar, 2B/SS, TEX: .263/.671, 3R, HR, 4 RBIs

Mitch Moreland, 1B, TEX: .300/.705, 4 R
Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, NYM: .304/.737, 4 R, 3RBIs
Yonder Alonso, 1B, SD: .238/.542, 2 R, 3 RBIs

 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Stephen Strasburg WAS 23.0 2 20 1.17 0.83
2. Patrick Corbin ARI 22.0 3 20 1.64 0.95
3. Clayton Kershaw LAD 24.2 2 21 1.82 0.81
4. Justin Masterson CLE 22.0 2 25 2.05 0.86
5. Alex Cobb TB 21.0 2 16 1.71 0.71
6. Homer Bailey CIN 22.0 2 21 1.64 0.91
7. Mike Minor ATL 20.0 2 23 1.35 1.00
8. Jason Vargas* LAA 21.1 3 15 1.69 1.03
9. Francisco Liriano* PIT 12.2 2 16 0.71 0.95
10. Brandon McCarthy* ARI 16.0 2 7 0.56 0.75
11. Jeff Locke* PIT 19.0 2 17 1.42 1.00
12. Max Scherzer DET 21.0 1 20 3.00 0.81
13. Mike Leake* CIN 13.2 2 10 0.00 1.10
14. Jeff Samardzija CHC 15.0 1 15 1.80 0.73
15. Cliff Lee PHI 16.0 1 12 1.13 0.81
16. John Lackey* BOS 17.1 2 16 2.60 0.92
17. Jordan Zimmerman WAS 22.2 2 12 1.99 0.97
18. Chris Sale CWS 7.2 1 12 0.00 0.78
19. Matt Moore TB 19.0 2 13 2.37 0.95
20. Jake Peavy CWS 22.0 2 18 2.86 1.00

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Mon. - Sun.):

1. John Lackey, BOS: (Wed.) at Philadelphia (27% owned)
Lackey has allowed no runs in his last two starts (13 IP) and has posted a 28:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.09 WHIP in five May starts (29 1/3 IP). In Philadelphia, he won't have to worry about the DH and faces a Phillies team that's batting .248 at home.

2. Shaun Marcum, NYM (Fri.) vs. Miami (21%)
Marcum was nearly unhittable against Atlanta on Sunday night, striking out 12 Braves and his only real mistake being a two-run home run to Dan Uggla in the seventh inning. He ended up with a no-decision and will face a far weaker lineup in the Marlins, who are last in the majors in batting average, runs scored, hits and home runs.

3. Bartolo Colon, OAK (Fri.) vs. Chicago White Sox (21%)
The 40-year-old veteran keeps finding a way to get the job done. He's 5-2 with a 3.82 ERA on the season and has put together three straight quality starts, including seven scoreless innings against Houston his last time out. The White Sox as a team are batting .253 on the road and hit just .250 against the A's in three games in Oakland last season.

4. Tyler Lyons, STL: (Tues.) at Kansas City (3% owned)
It doesn't get much deeper on the waiver wire than Lyons, as the rookie lefthander will be making just his second major league start. His first one came on the road too, in San Diego, and he certainly showed (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 SO) he was up to the task there in getting the win. The Royals have scored the third-fewest runs at home (81 in 22 G entering Monday), which only helps Lyons' case.

5. Tyler Chatwood, COL (Wed.) vs. Houston (2%)
Chatwood has put together three straight solid starts (1 ER in his last 17 2/3 IP), including holding the Giants to one run over 5 2/3 innings at home on May 18. The Astros are 6-16 on the road so far this season.

Closing Morsels:

Cleveland's Chris Perez was summoned from the bullpen on Sunday in Boston trying to close out a 5-2 lead and proceeded to walk three and give up two hits in just 2/3 of an inning. He left with a shoulder injury after giving up two runs and was replaced by left-hander Joe Smith, who gave up the game-winning, two-run double on the first pitch he threw to Jacoby Ellsbury. Perez was placed on the 15-day DL on Monday with shoulder soreness and he could be out an extended period of time, if not the season. The likely replacement would appear to be setup man Vinnie Pestano, but he is having problems with his velocity following his own recent DL stint. This situation bears watching as the Indians are right behind the Tigers in the AL Central and have been in quite a few close games ... Milwaukee closer Jim Henderson was put on the 15-day DL on Saturday after he injured his right hamstring on Friday against Pittsburgh. For now it appears that Francisco Rodriguez, and not former closer John Axford, will get the save opportunities while Henderson is sidelined. K-Rod got the final out on Friday following the injury to Henderson to secure the win for the Brewers ... Colorado's Rafael Betancourt injured his groin last Tuesday against Arizona and didn't pitch again until Saturday, when he blew the save (1/3 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB) against San Francisco. For now, it looks like he will avoid the DL but that doesn't mean that setup men Rex Brothers or Wilton Lopez won't get some opportunities to close out some games either. Brothers picked up the save last Wednesday, but the lefty recorded a blown save on Saturday against the Giants. Lopez hasn't allowed a run in his last eight appearances.

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 27</p>
Post date: Monday, May 27, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Kurt Busch, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/can-kurt-busch-finally-get-it-together-coca-cola-600-charlotte
Body:
1. Can Kurt Busch finally put one together?
There's little doubt Kurt Busch had a solid car for last week's All-Star race. It may have been the best car he's driven since joining Furniture Row Racing late this season. Making things better for Busch, that's two consecutive weekends where FRR rolled out a No. 78 that was more competitive. (He won the pole at Darlington Raceway.)
 
Together, the stars seem to be aligning for Busch to start taking realistic swings at his first Cup win since being dropped by Penske Racing after the 2011 season. Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 could be just the place.
 
Busch won his first 600 in 2010 in dominating fashion for Penske. That night, he started second and led 252 of 400 laps. A year later in 2011 Busch led only three laps but still finished fourth.
 
Thanks to FRR's increasingly tight alliance with Richard Childress Racing -- the No. 78 may well be a fourth RCR team -- Busch is getting faster cars and improved data. FRR is also allotting plenty of funds for the team to do significant testing.
 
Six hundred miles provide a lot of mistake possibilities for FRR's variably effective pit crews and even more time for Busch to get too hot under the collar to be an effective driver. But both have improved this season with races completed. The second race at Charlotte in a week provides a great barometer to see how far they've really come.
 
2. Teams roll out patriotic paint schemes for Memorial Day
With the Coca-Cola 600 traditionally falling on Memorial Day weekend, themes of patriotism and remembrance always play first fiddle at the track. Sometimes it's poorly executed -- look no further than the track's tag line proclaiming "Let Freedom Race" -- but mostly it's a cool tribute.
 
A higher number of teams than normal will roll out special paint schemes this weekend carrying those themes. All three Roush-Fenway Racing cars will use nearly identical graphics that will include various military vehicles and silhouettes of troops in Sunday night's race. Good luck trying to differentiate between those cars in wide shots Sunday night.
 
Brad Keselowski (pictured right), Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Landon Cassill, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin, Martin Truex Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also sport cars featuring special patriotic graphics ranging from red, white and blue stars to camouflage. 
 
3. Late-race track position will be race's deciding factor
Ultimately, Sunday night's 600-miler won't be about who struts to the front at mile 100, 200 or any other number fewer than about 560 in the mileage count. 
 
It will be about the handful of cars near the front after the final caution flag. Look no further than last Saturday night’s All-Star race for proof.
 
Kasey Kahne won the race off pit road for the final 10 lap segment with teammate Jimmie Johnson not too far behind. A solid restart for Johnson got his No. 48 alongside Kahne and eventually to the lead. Meanwhile, Kyle and Kurt Busch -- each with a pair of wins in the first four segments -- couldn't come close to reasserting their dominance.
 
Johnson was good, sure, but clean air and track position was even better. Expect more of the same Sunday night. That's par for the course in this age of Sprint Cup racing on high-grip, high-speed tracks like Charlotte.
 
4. 600 has history of first-time winners
Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth are all former Sprint Cup champions. They also share the distinction of winning the first race of their respective careers in NASCAR's longest event.
 
More recently, Jamie McMurray and Casey Mears scored their first Cup trophies in CMS' 600-miler.
 
Could we see a new chapter written for another first-time winner Sunday night? Preliminary favorites Johnson, Kenseth and Kahne would have a bone to pick with that expectation. Should it happen, however, look for the driver to be in a Ford. 
 
Rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. made his first career start at Charlotte in 2011 and drove to an 11th-place finish. More recently, Stenhouse appeared to have last month's race at Kansas Speedway within grasp. A poorly timed caution derailed those hopes.
 
Quasi-teammate Aric Almirola (Stenhouse's Roush-Fenway Racing and Almirola's Richard Petty Racing share extensive chassis and technical information) might also be on deck to nab his first career Sprint Cup win. Almirola started on the Charlotte pole last year but led just three laps en route to a 16th-place finish.
 
Any first-time winner is looking at a stiff challenge Sunday night, but with the race's history we can't rule it out.
 
5. Has the Coca-Cola 600 lost some relevance?
Blame the Charlotte re-pave. Blame the new cars. Blame the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Or even blame the resurgence of the Indianapolis 500.
 
Whatever it is, it sure feels like the Coca-Cola 600 has lost some of its cachet in recent years. Perhaps that's an overreaction from last year's dull event won by Kahne. Or perhaps it’s just indicative of the truth.
 
For one, the race simply is no longer a true race of endurance. NASCAR Sprint Cup teams have built largely bulletproof race cars, and engines have become a pretty exacting science. Drivers are more in shape and better quality control means fewer broken parts. One hundred extra miles (67 more laps) on top of a 500-mile race just doesn't tax these teams beyond realistic capabilities.
 
There's no doubt, however, that the 600 has lost some level of importance because it's not part of a bonus series of races like it once was. The 600 used to be part of Winston's bonus program that ultimately awarded an extra $1 million bonus to any driver who could win three of four races, including the Daytona 500, the Talladega spring race, the 600 and Darlington's Southern 500. 
 
Combine that with the Chase for the Sprint Cup that ultimately reduced the importance of winning individual early season races in the name of winning the series championship, and the reduced emphasis starts to make sense.
 
I'll attend Sunday night's race in the stands for the 17th time in the last 18 years. It's a fun event, a good race and tradition I'll gladly keep. But I don't know how to fix the general feeling that the 600 isn't the race it once was. Here's to hoping the racing can somehow change that Sunday night.
 
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter @GeoffreyMiller.
Teaser:
<p> Geoffrey Miller's Five Things to Watch at Charlotte's Coca-Cola 600</p>
Post date: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 13:25
Path: /nascar/indy-500-mario-and-marco-andretti-talk-history-and-heritage
Body:

There are few families whose names are more inextricably linked to the history, heritage and heartbreak of the Indianapolis 500 than the Andrettis. While the Unser Family has the record for most Indianapolis 500 victories with nine, the Andretti Family has encountered more adversity than success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mario Andretti’s Indy 500 career spanned from 1965-94, and he often delivered dominating performances only to drop out of the race with one mechanical failure or another. His 1969 win is the only time an Andretti has won the race.

Mario’s son, Michael, also dominated the race in his career (1984-2006), yet he never won the Indy 500. Michael has been a team owner since 2003, and two of his drivers have won the Indy 500 — the late Dan Wheldon in 2005 and Dario Franchitti in 2007.

Michael’s son, Marco, represents the current generation of Andrettis in IndyCar and nearly won the Indy 500 in his very first attempt in 2006, blowing past his father on a restart with five laps remaining. Marco was within a few hundred yards of the checkered flag before Sam Hornish Jr. raced past him to win in one of the most dramatic finishes in Indianapolis 500 history — the first time the race-winning pass was made on the final lap.

Mario represents the “Then” and Marco the “Now.” Before the green flag drops on this weekend's race, Athlon Sports had a chance to talk to both drivers about the Indianapolis 500 — then and now.

What is your first recollection of the Indianapolis 500?

Mario Andretti: I was still in Italy, and there was a movie, “To Please a Lady,” that starred Clark Gable and Barbara Stanwyck, but the title in Italy was “Indianapolis.” I was really curious. I had no idea what Indianapolis was and I went to see that movie. At that time I was 12 or 13. The next time I heard of Indianapolis was when driver Bill Vukovich was killed in 1955. In Italy, they publicized that. That is when I became aware of Indianapolis. That year’s 500 was just a few weeks before my family came to America. The race was on May 30 and we arrived in the United States on June 9.

Marco Andretti: It was the old Speedway Motel for me. That’s the first thing that sticks out because we spent a month there every year of my life back then so it was a second home for me. Playing on the ledge and listening to the cars go by and (announcer) Tom Carnegie on the PA saying, “It’s a new track record.” I was probably 3 or 4 years old then.

How has the Indianapolis 500 changed from when you started competing to today?

Mario: The only things that have changed are the cars and the technical side, and the interest factor is a little bit different now. It seems strange to see Indianapolis advertise for tickets when tickets used to be the most sacred thing there. Still, Indy remains Indy, and I’m thankful for that. … I think it is coming back to the glory days.

Marco: The biggest thing I have to commend them for is the safety with the SAFER Barriers. For a driver it makes us feel more secure. They aren’t exactly pillows, but it helps.

What remains the same about the Indianapolis 500 over time?

Mario: The fact everyone still considers it the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The other part is the technical side and the driving. Nothing has changed there from the commitment of the drivers.

Marco: You still have to make the car last 500 miles. It is more of a sprint race now. You have to be on your game the whole time, and the whole field is on the lead lap at the end of the race.

All three generations of the Andrettis converged on the final five laps of the 2006 Indianapolis 500, but it all ended when Sam Hornish Jr. made the race-winning pass just a few hundred yards from the checkered flag. Did that one race encapsulate the Andrettis at the Indianapolis 500?

Mario: We’ve been so close so many times. Between Michael and myself we have dominated that race more times than four-time winners. Does that mean we have a bitter memory of it or feeling? No, it’s just the opposite. I think of nothing but positive thoughts as far as the Indianapolis 500 is concerned mainly because of how competitive I was every time I competed there.

Marco: I think so. We have been knocking on the door and leading a lot of laps and being competitive but falling short on that one important lap — the last one. That whole month we were asked what would happen if it came down to the two of us. It was literally a fairy tale ending, but there was a third party involved. Still, to this day I will never wrap my head around where Sam got that speed on the last lap. It was the fastest lap of the month on cold tires. It’s a little fishy to me.

How important is the Indianapolis 500 to the Andrettis?

Mario: Extremely. We have been striving to win that for a half a century. We only have one win to show for it. We are trying like hell to make it happen. I’m happy that Michael, after having so many disappointments after dominating that place and was denied even one victory, is enjoying some success as a winning team owner.

Marco: It’s my life. Even my grandfather said it would be a hell of a party if I were able to win that race. It’s the biggest sporting event in the world. We live our lives around that event.

What keeps the Indianapolis 500 as the greatest race in the world?

Mario: The best open-wheel racers not just in America but from around the world are there.

Marco: I think tradition. They keep a lot of the traditions the same, and that is why it is what it is. The fan base and the support we have for the number of fans that come is really unbelievable.

Mario, discuss your 1969 victory.

Mario: Midway through the 1969 race my engine started overheating like crazy. I started in the middle of the front row and ran up front all day and figured I wouldn’t finish. But we finished the race with the water temperature at 250 and the oil temperature at 280. Go figure. But it was a big weight off of my back when I won it because I felt how important it was to win that race by how you are judged career-wise even though that can be unfair. You are judged by that race.

Why is the Indianapolis 500 more than just a race?

Mario: It’s an event. Why is the Kentucky Derby more than just a horse race? Why is the Super Bowl more than just a football game? It’s the importance of it, and the whole world knows that race is happening. I don’t know any other motor race that is as popular today as Indy is worldwide. It’s the only race in my opinion that is as precious as winning the championship. If you ask any driver today which would you rather win — the championship or the Indy 500 — most every driver will say Indy.

Marco: It’s all the history that has happened there. To go back to 1911, that’s a long time. The history with our family alone is unreal there. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. We’ve seen the glory there and how things can be terrible there. That in itself is what makes the history there and what makes it so important and gives you the goosebumps you feel when you drive into that place. It’s really what has happened there in the past and all the greatest race car drivers that ever lived competed there, and only a few of them get to say they are champions.

—By Bruce Martin

Teaser:
<p> Indy 500: Mario and Marco Andretti Talk History and Heritage</p>
Post date: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/buffalo-bills-running-back-cj-spiller-examines-%E2%80%9Cspongebob-squarepants%E2%80%9D
Body:

Apparently Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller really enjoys “SpongeBob SquarePants.” A lot. Watch as he analyzes the characters and their motivations.

Teaser:
<p> Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Just ask C.J. Spiller.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 11:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-may-20
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for May 24.

• The Oregon Ducks appear on Athlon's preseason Top 25 countdown at No. 3. But more importantly, it's a perfect opportunity to feature their cheerleaders.

• A-Rod sold his house for a whopping $30 million. It featured seven bedrooms, two docks, and probably one awesome centaur painting.

• LeBron James was a unanimous pick for the All-NBA team and Kobe Bryant earned his record-tying 11th first-team selection.
 
• Mike Krzyzewski is looking for some more gold bling.  Coach K will remain as coach of the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team.
 
• Want to feel really, REALLY lazy? Just read about Yuichiro Miura, an 80-year-old dude who recently reached the top of Mount Everest
 
 
• Paul Finebaum, the former syndicated radio host, joins ESPN and will be the "voice" of the SEC Network
 
 
• These 12 guys and a few lucky others know that the Amex Black card is nothing in comparison to baseball’s golden ticket.
 
• Wondering when and where SEC bowl games will take place this season? Wonder no more.
 
• Buffalo Bills running back CJ Spiller plays football. But some days, he ponders the character development in “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
 
• Tip of the Day: If you score a soccer goal, don't take off your pants to celebrate. 
 

May 23

• Model/actress Elsa Pataky returns to the big screen in Fast & Furious 6. She is fabulous. 
 
• Ever wondered what Shaq would sound like singing a Rihanna song? Wonder no more.

• Bad news for 49ers fans. The team's leading wide receiver Michael Crabtree had surgery to repair a torn right Achilles tendon. He could miss the entire season.

• Great news for Packers fans. Bears great Brian Urlacher is hanging up his cleats for good. 
 
• Could Alabama take on Texas A&M for the BCS Championship? At least one writer seems to think so
 
• Check out this super dad as he makes a sweet bare-handed catch of a foul ball as he's walking down the stairs while holding his son. 
 
• Athlon's Top 25 college football countdown rolls on today. See which teams came in at No. 4 and No. 5
 
• We didn't think it possible for Rex Ryan to be more disappointed in Mark Sanchez, but apparently he is.
 
• MLB.com has a new 404 error page. We approve.
 
• Todd Gurley vs. TJ Yeldon: Which young RB is superior?
 
• The Cincinnati Bearcats baseball team seems to be having a lot of fun during post-game interviews. A lot.


May 22

• G'day mate! To celebrate it being Australia Day (I just made that up), here's a look at one of our favorite Australians, model Jessica Cribbon.  

• Even blindfolded Johnny Manziel can throw a football way better than you

• At 21, Mike Trout became the youngest player to hit for the cycle since Mel Ott with the New York Giants in 1929. 

• Our preseason Top 25 countdown unleashes the Clemson Tigers today. They roar onto the list at No. 6.

• The Cleveland Cavaliers won the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Lottery. Here's a look at how the entire lottery played out, plus our look back at why there's a good chance the NBA lottery is rigged

• Sad news. ESPN is laying off hundreds of employees

• Our Nice Guy Award goes to Kevin Durant, who's giving $1 million to Red Cross in Oklahoma City

• The 50th Super Bowl will be held in the San Francisco Bay Area, and then heading to Houston the following year. Of course, we can think of better venues we'd like to see the Big Game played. 

• Who are the top players returning to the SEC this year? Here's a look.

• Eric Spoto can bench press 722 pounds. Apparently all you need is some smelling salt and short arms. You be the judge.  


May 21

• We hope you're sitting down for this one. Apparently many hot celebrities were once hot cheerleaders
 
• We don't understand how, but Alabama's shattered 2011 national title trophy sold for a whopping $105,000.
 
Prepare football fans. It looks like the NFL Draft could be moving to May
 
 
• This week's Dumbass Award goes to Washington Nationals pitcher Ryan Mattheus who got mad, punched his locker and broke his pitching hand.  
 
The Cleveland Browns are gearing up to punt the ball down opponents’ throats. At least that's what the Onion thinks.
 
Think you're tough? Check out the 100 toughest athletes in sports
 
It's a story as old as mankind. A poor Cubs fan tries to save his wife from getting hit by a home run ball, and she dumps beer on his head.
 
• This is awesome. Texas A&M's Heisman-winning QB Johnny Manziel is spending some of his free time helping a boy battling cancer
 
• Hop aboard the wayback machine and check out this '80s Bears poster
 
• The Dodgers Matt Kemp is helping out his tornado-ravaged hometown of Oklahoma City by donating $1,000 for every home run he hits until the All-Star break
 
• How devastating were the tornadoes? Here's amateur footage. (Want to help out? Here's how.)


MAY 20

• We're pretty sure you're going to flip out over our Boise State Cheerleaders gallery. (See what we did there?)
 
• Ray Rice had some fun at his own expense yesterday, when he posted this picture, asking "y'all catch the Preakness yesterday?"

• Who are 50 best wide receivers of the BCS era in college football? Here's our opinion. If you don't agree, Tweet to @BradenGall with the hashtag #AthlonWR50. Feel free to be belligerent.

• Speaking of wide receivers, Saturday Down South looks at the best receiving tandems in the SEC.

• Remember 7-year-old Jack Hoffman, the kid with brain cancer who scored a touchdown during Nebraska's spring game? Looks like he has his own football card

• Our Top 25 countdown keeps on chugging along with Texas A&M taking the No. 9 spot. Choo choo!

• A look at some of the all-time funniest photos you'll see in the history of today.

• Confession: We have no idea who Miguel is. That said, he went full WWE during last night's Billboard Music Awards, and nearly took out one of his fans. It was an epic fail.

• If you missed Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, where (spoiler alert) the Spurs blew out the Grizzlies, you can watch the GIF recap to fill in all the blanks.

• Since the 2013 college football season hasn't arrived yet, we'll have to settle for looking back to last year. Here are the SEC's five best offensive plays of 2012.

• There are blowouts, and then there are BLOWOUTS! Here are the 50 biggest.

• Pitcher Phil Coke of the Detroit Tigers does his best Miguel Cabrera impersonation. Enjoy.

 

Teaser:
<p> Rounding up the web's best sports links so you don't have to.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 24, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/soccer-player-celebrates-goal-stripping-shorts-and-wearing-them-his-head
Body:

Mario Djurovski, a midfielder for Muangthong United in the Thai Premier League, celebrated a goal recently in awesome fashion (at the 25-second mark): he takes off his shorts, puts them on his head and taunts the crowd. Of course, his celebration is short-lived as the grippy-wearing player was handed a red card, and sent on his way. Still, I'll say this, he's got balls...which are fortunately covered by his shirt. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 23:09
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-sec-early-rankings
Body:

In 2013-14, Kentucky will try to pull off a rare college basketball feat by going from national champion to NIT, then back to national champion. As our league-by-league snapshots continue into the SEC, we take a look at the teams who might make things difficult for the Wildcats next season.

Florida should continue to be a challenger for Kentucky with a veteran team boosted by a handful of transfers and high-level freshmen. Beyond that, the question in the SEC is depth after another lackluster season. Unexpected departures during the offseason may make Tennessee and Alabama bubble teams again. And personnel losses at Ole Miss and Missouri mean a return to the Tournament is not guaranteed.

The college basketball calendar is getting moved up with Midnight Madness shifting from mid-October into September. The look ahead to the 2013-14 season has also been moved up as Athlon starts to take stock for the upcoming year in college basketball.

Here’s a quick look at the SEC and early rankings for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
ACC
American
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

2013-14 CONFERENCE SNAPSHOT: SEC

1. KENTUCKY (21-12, 12-6, NIT first round)
Key players gone: Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Nerlens Noel
Top returners: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer
New faces: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, James Young (all freshmen)
The Wildcats will be back in national title contention thanks to a recruiting class that includes six of the top 15 prospects in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. Kentucky missed out on consensus top prospect Andrew Wiggins and still finished with the nation’s top signing class. The Wildcats now have nine McDonald’s All-Americans on the roster. Even if last season went awry, John Calipari has proven he can win a title with freshmen of this caliber. The question, especially after last season, will be leadership and the contribution of the veterans.

Related: Kentucky, Florida claim top recruiting classes since 2000

2. FLORIDA (29-8, 14-4, NCAA Elite Eight)
Key players gone: Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario
Top returners: Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguette, Patric Young
New faces: Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech transfer), Damontre Harris (South Carolina transfer), Kasey Hill (freshman), Chris Walker (freshman)
Florida will look to get over the Elite Eight hump with one of the deepest teams in the league. Young and Wilbekin are back, and Yeguette expects to be healthy after offseason knee surgery. Much will depend on the newcomers. Hill is one of the top point guard recruits to come to Florida under Billy Donovan. Finney-Smith, a McDonald’s All-American in 2011, was one of the top freshmen in the ACC at Virginia Tech, averaging 6.3 points and seven rebounds. With Chris Walker, Florida will have one of the top front lines in the country. Guard Eli Carter transferred from Rutgers and could receive a waiver to play immediately after the player mistreatment scandal in Piscataway.

3. TENNESSEE (20-13, 11-7, NIT first round)
Key players gone: Trae Golden, Kenny Hall, Skyler McBee
Top returners: Jeronne Maymon, Jordan McRae, Josh Richardson, Jarnell Stokes
New faces: Robert Hubbs, Darius Thompson (freshmen)
Cuonzo Martin has to wonder what Tennessee would look like with a full roster. In his first season, Stokes wasn’t eligible until midseason. In his second, Maymon missed the entire season following knee surgery. Martin’s third season will start without his point guard Golden, who abruptly left the program. Stokes is a rising star, and Maymon is healthy. But the point will be manned by a freshman in Thompson.

4. ALABAMA (23-13, 12-6, NIT quarterfinals)
Key players gone: Moussa Gueye, Trevor Lacey, Andrew Steele
Top returners: Rodney Cooper, Nick Jacobs, Retin Obasohan, Devonta Pollard, Levi Randolph, Trevor Releford
New faces: Jimmie Taylor, Shannon Hale (freshmen)
With the core of last year’s team returning, Alabama hopes to reach the NCAA Tournament after finishing the past two seasons on the bubble. Five of the top six starters expect to return, but the only loss there will be a big one. Lacey, who averaged 11.3 points and 3.2 assists last season, surprised Anthony Grant with his intentions to transfer.

5. LSU (19-12, 9-9)
Key players gone: Charles Carmouche
Top returners: Shavon Coleman, Anthony Hickey, Malik Morgan, Johnny O’Bryant III, Andre Stringer
New faces: Jarell Martin, Jordan Mickey, Tim Quarterman (all freshmen)
LSU returns three players who averaged double figures in scoring last season with Carmouche the only notable departure. The Tigers add the nation's fifth-ranked signing class, led by forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. This could be a comeback season for LSU in Johnny Jones’ second year.

Related: Grading the notable coaching hires for 2013-14

6. MISSOURI (23-11, 11-7, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Keion Bell, Laurence Bowers, Alex Oriakhi, Phil Pressey, Negus Webster-Chan
Top returners: Jabari Brown, Tony Criswell, Stefan Jankovic, Earnest Ross
New faces: Wesley Clark (freshman), Jordan Clarkson (transfer from Tulsa), Johnathan Williams III (freshman)
Pressey’s perhaps ill-advised jump to the NBA Draft leaves Missouri with just one starter returning in Jabari Brown. Clarkson, who averaged 16.5 points at Tulsa in 2011-12, adds to a glut of 6-5 guards with Brown and Earnest Ross. The Tigers will need role players Stefan Jankovic and Tony Criswall to step into bigger roles in the frontcourt.

7. OLE MISS (27-9, 12-6, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Reginald Buckner, Murphy Holloway, Nick Williams
Top returners: Marshall Henderson, Aaron Jones, Derrick Millinghaus, Jarvis Summers, LaDarius White
Henderson’s return means the Rebels have a chance at reaching the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons for the first time in more than a decade. But Ole Miss lost a good chunk of the supporting cast (Buckner and Holloway). It’s going to take more than Henderson chucking 3-pointers for Ole Miss to duplicate 2012-13. Jarvis Summers (9.1 ppg) is the only other returning player who averaged more than 6.4 points per game.

8. ARKANSAS (19-13, 10-8)
Key players gone: Hunter Mickelson, Marshawn Powell, B.J. Young
Top returners: Coty Clarke, Fred Gulley, Kikko Haydar, Rashad Madden, Michael Qualls, Rickey Scott, Madracus Wade
New faces: Alandise Harris (transfer from Houston), Moses Kingsley (freshman), Bobby Portis (freshman)
For a team that didn’t have a senior last season, Arkansas managed to lose a lot for 2013-14. Powell and Young declared for the NBA Draft, and Mickelson transferred to Kansas. Only two players -- Clarke and Wade -- averaged more than five points per game and 20 minutes.

9. VANDERBILT (16-17, 8-10)
Key players gone: Sheldon Jeter
Top returners: Kevin Bright, Kyle Fuller, Josh Henderson, Kedren Johnson, Rod Odom, Dai-Jon Parker
New faces: Damian Jones (freshman), Eric McClellan (transfer from Tulsa)
A rebuilding year in 2012-13 means almost everyone returns for the Commodores, but Vanderbilt is still looking for go-to players. Hopes are high for McClellan, who averaged 8.5 points as a freshman at Tulsa.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

10. TEXAS A&M (18-15, 7-11)
Key players gone: Elston Turner, Ray Turner
Top returners: Alex Caruso, Fabyon Harris, J-Mychal Reese, Kourtney Roberson, Andrew Young
New faces: Antwan Space (transfer from Florida State)
Elston Turner (17.5 ppg) and Ray Turner (9.2 ppg) will be tough to replace as the Aggies try to rebuild around Harris. Reese and Caruso were highly touted recruits who struggled as freshmen. Space was a top-100 recruit but seldom used in his only season at Florida State.

11. GEORGIA (15-17, 9-9)
Key players gone: Sherrard Brantley, John Florveus, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Vincent Williams
Top returners: Nemanja Djrisic, Kenny Gaines, Brandon Morris, Marcus Thornton, Donte Williams
New faces: Cameron Forte (junior college transfer)
Caldwell-Pope either led Georgia in scoring or tied for the team lead in all but three games last season. It’s going to be tough for Georgia to overcome that kind of loss, but the bulk of the roster will be sophomores and juniors. This could be a key year for Mark Fox.

12. SOUTH CAROLINA (14-18, 4-14)
Key players gone: Lakeem Jackson, LaShay Page, Shane Phillips, Brian Richardson, R.J. Slawson, Eric Smith
Top returners: Michael Carrera, Bruce Ellington, Mindaugas Kacinas, Brenton Williams
New faces: Ty Johnson (transfer from Villanova), Demetrius Henry (freshman), Sindarius Thornwell (freshman)
The rebuilding job at South Carolina is going to take a while. Not shockingly, the Gamecocks lost some depth due to transfers over the last two seasons. But Frank Martin also added a highly touted freshman guard in Sindarius Thornwell. Carolina will have to wait on Johnson to be eligible after the first semester and Ellington to join the team after football season. This is not a roster ready to be competitive in the SEC.

13. AUBURN (9-23, 3-15)
Key players gone: Rob Chubb, Noel Johnson, Frankie Sullivan, Josh Wallace
Top returners: Chris Denson, Ashauhn Dixon-Tatum, Shaquille Johnson, Allen Payne, Jordan Price
New faces: KT Harrell (transfer from Virginia)
The Tigers lose the inside-out duo of Frankie Sullivan and Rob Chubb, two of the top three scorers from last season. Returning guard Chris Denson averaged 11.9 points per game in fewer than 25 minutes.

14. MISSISSIPPI STATE (10-22, 4-14)
Key players gone: Wendell Lewis
Top returners: Trivante Bloodman, Colin Borchert, Roquez Johnson, Jalen Steele, Craig Sword, Fred Thomas 
New faces: Travis Daniels, Fallou Ndoye, Imara Ready, De’Runnya Wilson (freshmen)
Mississippi State had the SEC’s thinnest roster last season, and it showed. At least the Bulldogs returns almost everyone from last season’s team and add a four-man signing class to boost depth. There’s still a long way to go in Starkville.

Teaser:
<p> Who's gone and who's back in the SEC for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 14:00
Path: /college-football/will-georgia-have-secs-best-offense-2013
Body:

The SEC is known for its defense. But let’s not forget about the players on the other side of the ball this year.

The SEC is home to the 2012 Heisman winner in Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, while Georgia and Alabama both averaged over 32 points a game in conference contests last year.

Considering all three teams rank among the best offenses in the nation, which team takes the title as the best in the SEC?

Is it Texas A&M with Manziel at the controls? Is it Georgia with its balanced offensive approach? Or is it Alabama?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Georgia ranks as Athlon's No. 4 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
What constitutes the greatest offense? Is it scoring offense, total offense or yards per play? Once you decide what truly makes the best offense, you can decide whether Georgia should start as the No. 1 offense in the SEC. Texas A&M owned two of the three categories. Oh, and they’re returning some kid named Johnny Manziel.

With the Bulldogs returning 10 starters off last year’s offense that shelled out over 467 yards per game and scored nearly 39 points per game, Georgia is in a terrific spot to be crowned as the SEC’s best offense. With Aaron Murray, Todd Gurley, Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall and all five returning offensive linemen, how could you bet against Georgia as the most electrifying offense in the SEC?

There’s no debating Georgia has the best offense in the SEC East, and the Bulldogs should certainly be the most balanced offense in the SEC. I’m not sold they are the ‘best’ offense, but they certainly could become just that throughout 2013.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This question is supposed to make me say, “No way, Texas A&M has the best offense in the SEC.” I’m going to go against my first impulse and say Georgia will have the best offense in the SEC. The Bulldogs were right up there with Texas A&M last season in everything but wow factor and Heismans won. Both topped seven yards per play as the top two teams in the nation in that category. Texas A&M converted a ridiculous 54 percent of its third downs in SEC play. Georgia turned three-quarters of its red zone attempts into touchdowns against SEC defenses. But I’ll give the nod to Georgia for its balance. The Bulldogs have a top-flight quarterback and two elite running backs. I like Ben Malena, but Johnny Manziel is so overwhelming in the A&M offense. Drop the average quarterback on either team, and I’d give Georgia the edge. And in the year ahead, I’d give the nod to the Georgia offensive line over Texas A&M with Luke Joeckel off to the NFL. Like I said, the knee-jerk pick is A&M, but the safe bet is Georgia.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great question, and like many debates, beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder. If you want to run 100 plays per game and spread the field, say, like Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze or Dan Mullen, then Georgia's personnel may not be the best in the SEC. However, National Championships are won — even with Cam Newton and Tim Tebow under center — with a dominate offensive line and power running game. In that mold, Georgia and Alabama are the top two offenses in the league with Texas A&M a close No. 3. No one in the nation has a more talented roster than Alabama and Georgia's starting line-up returns nearly intact while Johnny Manziel loses five offensive starters, including all-time greats Luke Joeckel and Ryan Swope. Both the Dawgs and the Tide have a deep and talented skill corps, an All-American signal caller and an extremely gifted offensive line. But while Bama's O-line has plenty of upside and potential, Georgia gets the nod as all five starters return up front. Manziel and the Aggies should lead the SEC in total offense and scoring offense once again in 2013 but that doesn't necessarily make them the best.

Certainly, defense played a huge role in both Alabama's and Georgia's success last year, but there is a reason these two met in the SEC Championship game. Being able to line-up and overpower defenses like Florida and LSU was how the Tide and Dawgs made it to Atlanta and I don't see any reason why that will change this fall. I will take a dominate, physical, balanced pro-style attack over a one-man spread offense any day of the week — even one captained by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Georgia may boast the most complete, most talented pro-style attack in the nation and the only thing that will stop Mark Richt's squad this year won't be a Heisman winning spread offense, it will be a Heisman winning defensive line — like the one in Columbia, S.C.
 

John Pennington, MrSEC.com, (@MrSEC)
On paper, there are two SEC offenses that appear ready-made to put up points with ease in 2013 -- Georgia (with most everyone back) and Texas A&M (with magician Johnny Manziel back behind center).

We'll give the nod to Georgia because they return more starters on the offensive line, always a key in the Southeastern Conference.  Granted, the line struggled this spring -- only two players have been locked in as starters so far -- but the Dawgs go six or seven deep up front.  If O-line coach Will Friend can find the right combination, look out.  The same group of players helped UGA finish third in the SEC in rushing last season and second in passing.  In other words, there's enough talent to succeed as long as all the right buttons are pushed.

At the skill positions, the Bulldogs look strong.  Veteran quarterback Aaron Murray ranks among the top three quarterbacks in the SEC.  Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall return for Year Two of The "Gurshall" Show.  And while both Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett will have to bounce back from knee injuries -- an increase in dropped balls could be a mental side effect -- UGA still has more than enough weapons around Murray to succeed.  On paper.

Barring problems with injuries and attitudes, Georgia should burn out some scoreboard bulbs this fall.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering the returning skill players at Georgia, Texas A&M and Alabama, there is simply no wrong way to answer this question.

The Bulldogs return eight starters on offense, including all five on the line and Malcolm Mitchell is slated to spend all season at receiver instead of sharing his practice time with the defensive backs. Quarterback Aaron Murray is in his fourth year as the starter, and the running back combination of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall could be the best in the nation.

While there’s a strong case to be made for Georgia, I can’t disagree with anyone who picks Texas A&M or Alabama. After all, the Aggies return the reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel, along with one of the deepest running back corps in the nation. Texas A&M’s offense averaged 546.3 yards per game in SEC play – just over 100 more than Alabama (ranked No. 2 in the SEC last season). The Aggies held a slight edge in scoring, generating 39.1 points a game.

So what does it all mean? All three teams are very, very good on offense. But I have to give the nod to Georgia, especially with all five starters back on the offensive line and the emergence of tight end Arthur Lynch. Texas A&M and Alabama will be outstanding, but the rest of the SEC may close the gap on the Aggies’ offense with a full offseason to study Johnny Manziel. And the Crimson Tide lost three starters from one of the best offensive lines in recent memory, so there will be some transition at the beginning of the season. 


Mark Ross
In the SEC East? Yes. But in the entire SEC? As much as I like Georgia and think the Bulldogs will be one of the top teams in the country powered by its offense led by quarterback Aaron Murray, I think both Alabama and Texas A&M have more complete offenses. Georgia can match up with anyone in the country at its skill positions - quarterback, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends. The offensive line, however, is still somewhat of a work in progress.

On the other hand, in the SEC West you've got Alabama and Texas A&M, who are led by a two-time national champion and reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, respectively. Both the Crimson Tide and Aggies also have talented backfields and All-American-caliber wide receivers. The difference between the two West teams and Georgia is in the offensive line. Nick Saban has put together one of the nation's best offensive lines for several years in a row. For proof, look no further than the three NFL draft picks in April, including two first-rounders in Chance Warmack (10th overall) and D.J. Fluker (11th). Not to be outdone, Texas A&M had Luke Joeckel go second overall and his replacement, Jake Matthews, could follow suit in 2014.

Even though they aren't considered playmakers, the offensive line is critical to the unit's success, as evidenced by Alabama's recent national title run and the record-breaking numbers Texas A&M posted on offense last season, it's first in the SEC. To that end, I think Georgia lags a little behind their two peers when you look at overall offensive talent and depth. Because of Alabama's consistent recruiting success and ability to churn out NFL-ready offensive linemen, not to mention AJ McCarron, the Crimson Tide's field general who I think doesn't get enough credit, I would cast my vote for the current BMOC in the FBS when it comes to the best offense in the SEC. No (ahem) offense there Johnny Football.


Related College Football Content

Texas A&M or LSU: Which Team Finishes Higher in the SEC West?
Georgia, Florida or South Carolina: Who Will Win the SEC East in 2013?
Will Missouri Make a Bowl Game in 2013?

Ranking the SEC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking the SEC Quarterbacks for 2013

Will Tennessee Make a Bowl in 2013?

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Wins More SEC Games in 2013?

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Will Georgia Have the SEC's Best Offense in 2013?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 23, 2013 - 07:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Football, Twitter
Path: /50Twitter
Body:

College football is well-represented in the Twitterverse by people who know the game intimately and aren't afraid to tell you about it. We took a look at the lengthy list of CFB-oriented Twitter accounts and whittled them down to 50 that are definitely worth a follow. These tweeting all-stars are sure to entertain, educate and occasionally enrage. Let us know your favorites (and anyone we missed).

 

@BFeldmanCBS
Bruce Feldman is a prolific and informative tweeter with a history of breaking news via the medium (and occasionally jumping the gun, but that's part of Twitter's charm). Definitely worth a follow.

 

@sImandel
Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel describes himself as a "Writer, author, lover, humanitarian and college football writer for SI.com." We can only vouch for the college football part. Guy's a fountain of information and opinion, although he doesn't always seem to welcome criticism very cheerfully. Of course, who does?

 

@Andy_Staples
Mandel's SI colleague is a college football savant and part-time foodie who's also equal parts funny and astute.

 

@Mengus22
Mark Ennis is legendary around the Athlon offices for how prolifically he tweets. Chances are he's weighed in about 15 times on Louisville football, Dwyane Wade's fashion choices and Andrew Wiggins by the time you get to work in the morning. Given that level of output, they can't all be gems — but many of them are.

 

@McMurphyESPN
Brett McMurphy was a good get for the Worldwide Leader, and as he was with CBS Sports, he's a prolific breaker of news via Twitter.

 

@CFTalk
CollegeFootballTalk.com is precisely what it's advertised to be: an ongoing conversation about the sport we love. Its tweeting home is equally engaging.

 

@SDS
Saturday Down South self-bills as the "largest website covering @SECFootball." Don't know about largest, but it's one of the best. Their Twitter feed is typically just a shortcut to the website, but well worth a follow.

 

@ralphDrussoAP
You might associate the Associated Press with relics of a different time, but AP college football writer Ralph Russo's Twitter feed, delivered in Brooklyn-ese, is anything but stale.

 

@BryanDFischer
Bryan Fischer is among Athlon's go-to sources for Pac-12 news, as well as generally amusing observations. He's not quite at a Mengus-level output, but he's close.

 

@EyeOnCFB
The Eye sees all. CBSSports.com's college football feed draws on the expert opinions and inside sources of some of the best in the business.

 

@SiriusXMCollege
We're partial to Sirius XM College Sports Nation because our own Braden Gall is a frequent contributor. That doesn't mean they're not a quality follow. Their Twitter feed is a handy entry point to their on-air content.

 

@KegsnEggs
Adam Kramer bills himself as "Founder and gatekeeper of Kegs ‘n Eggs. Lead College Football Writer for Bleacher Report. Advocate of FAT GUY TOUCHDOWNS, and Las Vegas tomfoolery." I have nothing to add to that, except to recommend a follow.

 

@ACCSports
Someday, maybe soon, ACC football will be relevant, and when that day comes, Jim Young is poised to rule. He's your ACC source on all things football and basketball.

 

@dennisdoddcbs
CBS' national college football writer Dennis Dodd can be infuriating, but he's never not interesting.

 

@JFowlerCBS
Dodd's CBS colleague is a solid reporter and equally solid Tweeter.

 

@ClayTravisBGID
Love him or hate him, you can't deny that Travis entertains and inflames with his SEC-centric observations. Prepare to get angry, although Travis' affection for those he lampoons takes some of the edge off. Good news: He seems to have overcome his obsession with butt-chugging.

 

@YahooForde  
The Forde Yard Dash is an in-season must read.

 

@CoachHand
Herb Hand, Vandy's exceptional (and exceptionally nice) o-line coach, beats the drum on Twitter for Vandy, Nashville and the SEC while offering words of wisdom for everyday living. Not your usual coach-speak.

 

 

@MrSEC
With a name like that, you better deliver the goods. And he does, covering the league's 14 teams from every angle — coaching, recruiting and on-the-field performance. Lots of useful links, too.

 

@AschoffESPN
The worldwide leader doesn't disappoint with its SEC coverage thanks to lead bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff, who scour the corners of the interwebs for nuggets of SEC wisdom and share them with hungry SEC fans everywhere. In addition to @ESPN_SEC, which is links central for fans of the nation's best conference, Aschoff maintains his own Twitter account with tidbits like this.

 

@ESPN_Big12
Continuing with our mothership theme, David Ubben handles all things Big 12 for ESPN.

 

@espn_bigeast
There's no more Big East (it's now the American Athletic), so watch for the Twitter handle to change.

 

@SethEmerson
Seth's hunkered down in Athens ready to bring you any relevant Dawg news he uncovers. Mark Richt may have lost control, but Seth hasn't.

 

@CecilHurt
Cecil's been covering Bama since the Bear's last season. I'd say that makes him a suitable go-to guy for all things Tide-related.

 

@AthlonSteven
All of us here at Athlon Sports — @AthlonMitch, @BradenGall, @DavidFox615, @AthlonDoster — are worth following, but Steven Lassan's our resident college football prodigy. Ask him anything — the backup quarterback situation at UL Lafayette, for example — and he can tell you everything you need to know.

 

@finebaum
The mere mention of his name provokes outrage in some quarters. Paul Finebaum has been stirring the pot in the Yellowhammer State for three decades now and has taken his talents to Twitter, although he spends a lot of Tweets quoting what others have to say. For the Finebaum haters, that's just as well.

 

@wesrucker247
World-wide Wes' specialty is Tennessee Vols football at govols247.com, but he has plenty to say about everything that's remotely relevant in SEC football on his Twitter feed. Also, he uses his avatar to keep us apprised of his beard status (currently positive).

 

@MrCFB
Referring to yourself as Mr. College Football may seem a little self-aggrandizing, but after years in the SEC trenches, Tony Barnhart's earned the right to pat himself on the back.

 

@BianchiWrites
Part columnist, part professional internet troll, Orlando's Mike Bianchi is an equal opportunity offender where Florida and Florida State are concerned. That makes him worth following, although he does spend a lot of time plugging his radio gig.

 

@BarrettSallee
Bleacher Report's lead SEC college football writer is a fountain of information on his home site and a premium pot-stirrer on Twitter, weighing in with uncensored opinions on all things SEC. Plenty of useful links, too.

 

@DuckFootball
Rob Moseley covers Oregon football for the Eugene Register-Guard, and he tweets pithy observations from the front lines of the Great Northwest's offensive juggernaut. Also not afraid of lively interactions with fellow tweeters.

 

@UCLACoachMora
Jim Mora has wasted no time jockeying for attention in ADHD-afflicted Southern California. He hasn't really extended his pot-stirring to Twitter yet, but there's always hope.

 

@InsideUSC
Scott Wolf is a staff writer for the LA Daily News, meaning he has a front-row seat for the ongoing circus that is the Lane Kiffin era in LA.

 

@cfosterlatimes
Chris Foster is the LA Times' UCLA beat writer and dispenses nuggets from Bruin-land. As you would expect from a school with 11 national titles, he leans basketball in his tweet count.

 

@steakNstiffarms
Football, food and female hotness. What more is there to the Internet? Elika Sadeghi covers all three on her Twitter feed, with a Big Ten emphasis. To follow her is to love her.

 

ESPN_BigTen
Since 2008, Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett have been regaling Big Ten fans with news, notes and links for the mothership.

 

@JimComparoni
Jim's the publisher of SPARTAN Magazine and is a one-stop shop for all things Gang Green-related. Especially good for in-game tweets that give you a feel for the action.

 

@TeddyGreenstein
Teddy has one of the best self-descriptions on Twitter: "lover, fighter, Chicago Trib sportswriter." Kind of says it all, although he focuses on the sports part on his Twitter feed, in bareknuckles fashion.

 

@Sean_Callahan
The publisher of HuskerOnline.com, Sean (Don't Call Me Bill) Callahan has seen the Nebraska program suffer through some uncharacteristic struggles the last several years. But unlike the team, Sean's coverage is consistently solid.

 

@BTNTomDienhart
Tom Dienhart is the senior writer for btn.com, the website for the Big Ten Network. Whenever there's football to be played, he's got it covered.

 

@11W
Eleven Warriors is your source for all things Scarlet and Grey. It's the largest free Ohio State sports source on the internet, and they've extended their footprint to Twitter in a big way.

 

@smartfootball
If you prefer a more cerebral take on the game, this feed's for you. Editor Chris Brown's also a Grantland contributor if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

 

@John_Infante
Guy knows the NCAA inside and out so you don't have to. For that, we should all be grateful.

 

@HeismanPundit
His self-descriptor says it all: CBSSports.com writer/Heisman voter breaking down the politics of the most prestigious award in sports, plus hard-hitting college football commentary & analysis. What more do you want?

 

@PaulMyerberg
USA Today contributor Myerberg's feed is all college football, all the time.

 

@GeorgeSchroeder
Another USA Today scribe, Schroeder freely dispenses observations on a variety of topics, not just college football. He's moving away from Oregon, though, so no more Springfield police log.

 

@DanRubenstein
Okay, so the SB Nation talking torso only occasionally touches on college football, but dude's funny.

 

 

@BlairKerkhoff
If you prefer your college football with a midwestern, heartland flavor, it doesn't get any more heartland than the KC Star's Blair Kerkhoff.

 

@edsbs
It's more of a general college site, but I couldn't let this Twitter rundown lapse without mentioning the guys over at Every Day Should Be Saturday, who freely share a love of college football with a slightly skewed, always amusing perspective.

@celebrityhottub
Another member of the "Every Day Should Be Saturday" empire, sir broosk regales with absurdist observations, never failing to bring the funny on college football and anything else that springs to mind.

 

Teaser:
<p> These tweeting 50 will keep you entertained, educated and occasionally enraged</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 14:20
Path: /nascar/fantasy-picks-coca-cola-600-charlotte-motor-speedway
Body:

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit runs the longest race of the year Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, Geoffrey’s fantasy predictions for Charlotte Motor Speedway ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag — or at least finishing toward the front:

A-List
1. Jimmie Johnson
This is one of those “pick Jimmie or the field” weekends. A win Sunday gives him the most all-time at Charlotte in points races. In his past eight starts, he’s spent an astounding 86.4 percent of the total laps racing inside the top-15.
 
2. Kasey Kahne
The defending race winner is probably Johnson’s biggest challenge come Sunday based on his 1.5-mile track showings this year. He’s also won five times at CMS.
 
3. Matt Kenseth
Kenseth is forever connected to Charlotte, thanks to his first career Cup win there in 2000. Since then? Another win and six more top-5s. Oh, and he’s racing a real heater right now.
 
4. Brad Keselowski
Led 139 laps and finished 11th last fall at Charlotte before Bowyer won the fuel-mileage finish. Fifth in last year’s 600. Both were his best CMS in now seven starts.
 
5. Denny Hamlin
Hamlin has the best lead lap finish per race average in the series at Charlotte (80 percent) but still doesn’t have a win there. 
 
6. Jeff Gordon
Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of Gordon’s first career win at Charlotte. He’s totaled four more Charlotte wins since, but only one (2007) since Dale Jarrett had a mustache. 
 
7. Clint Bowyer
His team lost the setup as last week’s All-Star race roared on, which doesn’t equal face-value confidence for Bowyer to get his fifth Charlotte top-10 in 15 starts.
 
8. Kevin Harvick
En route to an 8th-place finish in the 600 last season, Harvick led just the sixth lap of his 24-start career at Charlotte. He’s hovering around 10th in races at the 1.5-milers this year.
 
9. Tony Stewart
Aside from this season’s consistently ill-handling No. 14, Stewart has just one top-10 at Charlotte since he struck out on his with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009. 25th and 13th last year with nary a lap led.
 
 
B List
1. Greg Biffle
Biffle has led 50 or more laps in his last four Charlotte starts, and led 275 total laps last season before finishing fourth in both events. He’s at least a consistent start, and maybe in the running for a first Charlotte win.
 
2. Carl Edwards
Third-best average Charlotte finish in the series even with that crushing 2008 fall race where a flukey electrical issue basically took a championship from the No. 99. Three-straight Charlotte top-10s.
 
3. Kyle Busch
If you play Jeopardy! this week and the category is “11 Charlotte Wins,” you should answer with “Who is Kyle Busch?” If the category is “11 Charlottte Wins But None in Cup,” you should answer the same.
 
4. Aric Almirola
Last year’s 600 polesitter, Almirola is racing RPM chassis No. 848 that finished sixth at Kansas. Now would be a good time to remind you that the 600 has a history of finding first-time winners.
 
5. Joey Logano
He’s started a third of the races Johnson has at Charlotte, but Logano has the series’ best Charlotte average finish (10.1) among active drivers.
 
6. Kurt Busch
Really, really strong in the All-Star race. His 600 chances hinge on the pit crew and Busch not losing it when inevitably something doesn’t go quite right in the four-hour race.
 
7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The Kannapolis, N.C., native still doesn’t have a Cup win at a track that is truly hometown for him, which seems a bit odd. Missed the fall race with his concussion last season, but finished sixth in the 600.
 
8. Mark Martin
The four-time Charlotte winner is looking for his 25th-career top-10 in his 57th start at the track.
 
9. Martin Truex Jr.
Truex has only led nine laps at Charlotte in his career, but he’s been one of the four best drivers on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
 
10. Jamie McMurray
Led every lap in the Sprint Showdown to get in the All-Star race at the track where he’s won twice. This race could be a measuring stick for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s recent success.
 
11. Ryan Newman
If this fantasy stuff paid points for winning poles, Ryan Newman would be your guy. He has nine of them at Charlotte. Unfortunately, he’s driving for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2013 where top-10s feel like wins.
 
12. Jeff Burton
Back to the site of his last win (fall 2008), the three-time Charlotte winner is averaging worse than 20th on 1.5-mile tracks this season.
 
13. Paul Menard
A pair of top-10s at Las Vegas and Kansas could make Menard a contender for his second career Charlotte top-10 finish.
 
14. Juan Pablo Montoya
By average finish, Charlotte is Montoya’s second-worst track. He’s led five laps in 3,997 completed around the venerable speedway.
 
15. Bobby Labonte
The two-time Charlotte winner doesn’t have a finish better than 22nd there since the 2009 600.
 
16. Marcos Ambrose
Nailed down a pair of top-10s at Charlotte in 2011, but struggled to a best finish of 32nd there last season.
 
 
C-List
1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Made his breakthrough Sprint Cup debut driving for an ill Trevor Bayne in 2011 with an 11th-place finish.
 
2. David Ragan
In his pre-race press release this week, Ragan said, “Half-way into the Coca-Cola 600, you’re 300 miles in.” Though his car may hold him back from a great finish, his math skills won’t.
 
3. Trevor Bayne
Back in the field this week and looking for his first lead-lap Charlotte finish in the Cup Series. Finished 18th at Texas earlier this year.
 
4. Casey Mears
Mears scored his only Sprint Cup win when his then-Hendrick No. 25 played the fuel mileage game masterfully in the 2007 race. Otherwise, Mears has just four lead lap Charlotte finishes in 19 starts.
 
5. David Gilliland
Holy shrimp! The driver of the Long John Silver’s car has a best finish of just 23rd in 13 career Charlotte starts.
 
6. Regan Smith
Blew an engine last fall while subbing for Earnhardt in the No. 88. Otherwise, his eighth-place finish in 2011 was one of Smith’s five top-20 finishes at Charlotte.
 
7. Danica Patrick
Five laps down a year ago at Charlotte, Patrick will probably break out the celebratory glass of milk if she’s on the lead lap at mile 600.
 
8. David Reutimann
He’ll try to end a two-race streak of DNFs due to crashes at the track where he first went to victory lane. 2009 seems like a decade ago for Reutimann, does it not?
 
9. Dave Blaney
It’d be more fun if Blaney entered the World of Outlaws race Friday night at the dirt track outside Charlotte’s Turn 4.
 
10. Josh Wise
He might beat Joe Nemechek in the 600-miler if only because Wise is training to compete in a full Iron Man event later this year. 
 
11. Travis Kvapil
Kvapil led 23 laps in his Charlotte debut in 2005, which remains his most interesting Charlotte stat.
 
12. Dave Blaney
It’d be more fun if Blaney entered the World of Outlaws race Friday night at the dirt track outside Charlotte’s Turn 4.
 
13. David Stremme
David Stremme’s never led a lap at Charlotte. Maybe he’ll break that streak with an oddly-timed caution this year.
 
14. Landon Cassill
Five Charlotte starts, no lead lap finishes.
 
15. Timmy Hill
Brings a five-race streak of finishes better than 40th and worse than 32nd to his first career 600.
 
Entered drivers on start-and-park watch:
Mike Bliss
Michael McDowell
Scott Speed
Brian Keselowski
 
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
 
Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Picks for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, Clemson Tigers, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/what-will-be-clemsons-record-against-sec-2013
Body:

With quarterback Tajh Boyd turning down the NFL for one more season at Clemson, the Tigers are poised to make a run at playing for a national championship.

Even though receiver DeAndre Hopkins left for the NFL, Sammy Watkins is poised to rebound after a disappointing season and emerge as one of the top playmakers in the nation. In addition to Watkins, Clemson has plenty of other talent in the receiving corps, led by juniors Adam Humphries and Charone Peake.

With a down year ahead for the ACC, Clemson has a chance to run the table and finish with an unbeaten mark in conference play. However, if the Tigers finish 8-0 against ACC opponents during the regular season, SEC contests against Georgia and South Carolina will determine their place in the national title landscape. 

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Clemson ranks as Athlon's No. 6 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

What Will be Clemson's Record Against the SEC in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’d pick Clemson to split it’s two SEC games with the opener against Georgia the most troublesome. I like Georgia a lot, but it’s going to be tough for a Bulldogs’ defense that underachieved last season to open the year on the road against Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line. Georgia returns only three defensive starters, and the up-tempo offense will be an immediate test for conditioning. As for the finale against South Carolina, Steve Spurrier just has Dabo Swinney’s number. No matter what’s going on with the Gamecocks -- injuries to Marcus Lattimore, uncertainty at quarterback -- South Carolina finds a way to beat Clemson. And that’s largely on the strength of the defense. The Tigers haven’t scored more than two touchdowns in a game against Carolina since 2008. That said, I could easily see Clemson winning both SEC games or losing both. A split, though, seems the most likely.
 

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
Clemson could very well be the class of the ACC next fall with quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins back to lead an explosive offense. That should serve the Tigers well and keep them in most games, but two questions sit front and center in my mind — can that prolific offense keep pace against SEC defenses and can the Clemson defense make strides from last year?

I can see the Georgia offense simply producing more than Clemson in the season-opening showdown behind experienced signal caller Aaron Murray and two-headed tailback monster Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. I think it will be close since the Bulldogs must replace the majority of last year’s defense, but I don’t know if Clemson can stop the UGA ground attack.

I do think Clemson has a much better chance of getting a win at South Carolina, despite the game’s location — but if I had to place a wager, I would still be more inclined to take the Gamecocks. I expect Clemson, Georgia and South Carolina to all be ranked in the top 15-20 this year, at the absolute worst, but I also think the SEC squads are a little stronger, and the league will continue to flex its muscle on the ACC. Mark me down for predicting Clemson to go 0-2 against the SEC.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
If Clemson manages to win both of its games against the SEC this year, there’s a good chance the Tigers will be ranked in the top five or even higher in the final BCS standings. However, winning both contests will be no easy task.

Clemson catches Georgia in the season opener, which is a good time to play the Bulldogs. With Georgia breaking in eight starters on defense, the Tigers' offense - led by likely All-Americans in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins - should have the edge in that matchup. While Clemson has the edge against Georgia, I'm not sure they can get by South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won four in a row over the Tigers and the outcome of each of those contests wasn't really close. South Carolina’s four consecutive victories have come by at least 10 points or more, including a 34-13 win in Columbia in 2011.

Clemson is a national title contender, but I can’t see the Tigers knocking off both South Carolina and Georgia, so a 1-1 split seems like the most likely outcome.
 

Mark Ross
Fittingly, Clemson opens the season (Georgia) and closes out the regular season (South Carolina) against SEC East teams. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks figure to battle with Florida for supremacy in the East, while the Tigers are the early favorites not only in the ACC Atlantic, but to win the conference title and earn the league's automatic BCS bid. Fortunately for Clemson, these two SEC games have no impact on the ACC race whatsoever, but obviously a win or two would go a long ways towards building confidence and beefing up its BCS resume.

To that end, I'll say Clemson breaks even against the SEC, which is nothing to be ashamed about, especially given the competition. I think Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs will put up just enough offense to get by the Tigers in the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31, but the in-state battle against Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks on Nov. 30 goes Dabo Swinney's way for the first time since he took over as head coach back in 2008. Honestly, if you were to ask Swinney he would probably say he would be OK with 1-1 for these two games, as long as that W came against that other school in the Palmetto State.


Related College Football Content

2013 College Football Countdown: No. 6 Clemson
2013 College Football Countdown: No. 15 Florida State

Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2013
Ranking the ACC Running Backs for 2013

Ranking College Football's Top 25 Dynasties of the BCS Era

Which Team is the Favorite to Win the ACC Coastal Division in 2013?

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> What Will be Clemson's Record Against the SEC in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-7-key-stats-coca-cola-600
Body:

Jimmie Johnson stirred up the masses with his second straight Sprint All-Star Race win on Saturday. Johnson, historically dominant at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a track that was once referred to as “his house” when his car and the facility shared primary sponsor branding, now looms large as the driver to beat in this weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. At least that’s the narrative, as I understand it.

The truth is, the All-Star Race and the 600 don’t correlate. As we learned in this space last week, in 13 tries dating back to 2000, the winner of the All-Star Race has gone on to 600 glory just three times. One of those three was Johnson in 2003, but it shouldn’t have any bearing for two reasons.

First, the short-burst speeds that excelled last weekend won’t help in this Sunday’s 400-lap motorized marathon. The two races are practically different disciplines for drivers and teams.

Second, Johnson isn’t the Johnson of old. If Charlotte is his house, then quite a few squatters have thrown house parties unbeknownst to him. The difference from the old Johnson at Charlotte and the Johnson now is a matter of pavement.

Charlotte was repaved in 2006 after a botched diamond-grating job in 2005. A repaved track usually means that old setup and strategy notes are thrown out, because the tricks that used to work now do not. That is why Johnson is no longer the clear-cut class of the field. His average finish helps tell the story.


6.67  Johnson and the No. 48 team averaged a 6.67-place finish in nine races prior to the 2006 repaving project.

Five of those nine races resulted in victory for Johnson, who led 22 percent of the 3,882 total laps in that time frame. There was very little doubt as to who the car to beat was in the pre-repave era at CMS.

That quickly changed.


16.92  In the 12 races since the repave, Johnson and team have averaged a finish of 16.92.

Johnson does have a win to his credit (Oct. 2009) in the “new era” of Charlotte, but his sheer dominance is a distant memory. The No. 48 bunch has finished third or better in five of those 12 races, but the eclectic nature of his results — his 13.97 finish deviation in these races suggests his finishes ranged from good to bad to middle of the road — means he is no longer the consistent win threat he once was.

A few other drivers have made waves recently at Charlotte, including one driving alongside Johnson under the Hendrick Motorsports banner.
 

Teaser:
<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 17:16
Path: /nba/nba-draft-lottery-rigged
Body:

The 29th NBA Draft Lottery ping-pong balls will be bouncing behind closed doors Tuesday with 1,000 permutations in play and the top three picks in this year’s NBA Draft (Thursday, June 27) at stake. Ever since the New York Knicks won the lottery (and the opportunity to draft Patrick Ewing) in 1985, the process has been a magnet for conspiracy theories.

“It’s too delicious. If you want to go on YouTube you can see the (1985) lottery where I supposedly had the frozen card. It’s all too delightful,” said Commissioner David Stern, discussing the NBA Draft Lottery with ABC during the 2012 NBA Finals and referencing the popular urban legend that the New York Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the 1985 lottery, ensuring that Stern would be able to pick the Knicks’ envelope for the No. 1 overall pick Patrick Ewing.

The NBA Draft Lottery has evolved from the Commissioner pulling envelopes out of a spinning bin to today’s complicated ping-pong ball method overseen by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young — the pillar of integrity who recently settled with the feds, paying $123 million to squash a tax-fraud probe stemming from $2 billion in unpaid taxes.

The weighted system gives the team with the NBA’s worst record (Orlando Magic in 2013) a 25 percent chance to win, the second-worst club (Charlotte Bobcats) a 19.9 percent chance, the third-worst (Cleveland Cavaliers) a 15.6 percent chance and on down the line to the 14th and final non-playoff team (Utah Jazz) with a 0.5 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick.

After the top three picks have been determined by lottery, picks 4-through-14 are placed in reverse order of record. The lottery is intended to give the worst teams a chance to draft the best players, without handing the worst team the No. 1 pick outright. Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t. But the results can be the difference between LeBron James and Darko Milicic.

There have been a few statistical anomalies in the draft lottery over the years. And each long shot has had a suspicious story to tell.

1.52 %
1993 – Orlando Magic – Chris Webber

The Magic won their second of back-to-back lotteries, having selected Shaquille O’Neal with the top spot the year before. Orlando traded the Fab Five leader Webber for Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, a castmate of Shaq’s in Blue Chips. Despite having the best record of any non-playoff team, the Magic — who nearly made the playoffs with a roster that included a rookie Shaq and little else — won the lottery (and a Superman sidekick) despite having the longest odds. Doesn't take the Big Aristotle to do the math on this one, which was so shady it actually resulted in a rule change in the lottery process.

1.70 %
2008 – Chicago Bulls – Derrick Rose
Shy Chicago native Derrick Rose landed in his hometown despite the odds. The joke was that the Bulls weren’t going to unretire Michael Jordan’s No. 23 — the jersey number that Rose wore at Memphis — but the local legend could wear No. 1.7 to honor his unbelievable lottery luck.

2.80 %
2011 – Cleveland Cavaliers – Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (and son Nick) were winners in their first post-LeBron James lottery. Don’t let LeBron’s pregame chalk get in your eyes, though. There’s more. Cleveland won not with its own lottery ball, but with that of the longshot L.A. Clippers, who traded the rights to their selection as part of a bad Baron Davis deal. So, the Cavs’ lottery winnings resulted in both the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 pick — not to mention the minor celebrity of lucky charm Nick Gilbert.

4.40 %
2000 – New Jersey Nets – Kenyon Martin
Rod Thorn went from being David Stern’s right-hand man in the league office to the top spot in the Nets’ front office, immediately winning the lottery in a one-man draft class. This was a must since the other top prospects included Stromile Swift, Darius Miles and Marcus Fizer.

5.30 %
2007 – Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden
The Blazers were given the chance to carry on their tradition of drafting injury-prone 7-footers, winning the lottery and taking “can’t miss” center Greg Oden one spot ahead of Kevin Durant. Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and Arvydas Sabonis can empathize with Oden.


It doesn’t take a longshot winning the lottery to raise a few eyebrows, however. There are a few other interesting winners and statistics.

– Last year, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) won the lottery while technically owned by the National Basketball Association itself.

– The worst team in the NBA has only won the lottery four times. The third time was a charm, with Ohio native LeBron James going to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003.

– Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away on Nov. 24, 2009. The Wiz won the very next lottery in 2010, with Abe’s widow Irene Pollin in attendance.

– Basketball history was altered by the bounce of a ping pong ball when Tim Duncan’s destination was David Robinson’s San Antonio Spurs rather than coach Rick Pitino’s Boston Celtics, who owned two picks and had a 36 percent chance of winning No. 1.

Since then, Duncan has won four NBA championships (with a shot at a fifth this year) and Pitino has gone back to school, where he led Louisville to the 2013 NCAA title.

The NBA Draft Lottery is more important than the NBA Draft itself, tune in to ESPN (8:30 p.m. Eastern) to witness the results prior to Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs.
 

Teaser:
<p> Is the NBA Draft Lottery Rigged?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 15:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/10-unlikely-stadiums-deserve-host-super-bowl
Body:

Miami and New Orleans have hosted more Super Bowls than any place else, with 10 each. Los Angeles has snagged seven Super Bowls. So 27 of the 47 NFL championships have been decided in just three cities. No other city has hosted more than four Super Bowls. Certainly, NOLA, South Beach and SoCal all have plenty to offer the fans, celebrities, athletes and corporate fat cats who descend upon Super Sunder.

But today the NFL announced its historic and prestigious Super Bowl L — or Super Bowl 50 for those who stopped using Roman numerals the second they graduated from elementary school — will be hosted by…

Santa Clara?

The 50th Anniversary Super Bowl will be played in a suburb 40 miles away with no current football stadium?

Okay, technically, it’s San Francisco’s Super Bowl. And the main reason it won the bidding is the $1.2 billion state-of-the-art stadium the city is building that will be the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. Levi’s Stadium, along with heavy financial backing from Silicon Valley powerhouses like Apple and Google, promises to deliver an unforgettable experience.

This will be just the second time a Super Bowl was hosted in the San Francisco Bay Area. Super Bowl XIX (19) was played in Stanford Stadium in 1985 when Joe Montana and the Niners defeated the Dolphins 38-16. Stanford, one of the best teams in college football the last two years, was 57th in the nation in average attendance at 43,343 in 2012. 

So it got me thinking — which is always dangerous — about my dream scenario for the greatest game of football played each year.

If I were in complete control and could pick any place in the world to play the Super Bowl, where would it be?

Here is what I came up with—and yes, I know some aren't stadiums but this is my dream, so deal with it—in no particular order:

1. Bristol Motor Speedway
Location: Bristol, Tenn.
Capacity: 165,000
Host: NASCAR

It isn’t the biggest sports venue in the world — that honor belongs to the 400,000-seat Indianapolis Motorspeedway — but no other racing venue provides the sightlines and intimate atmosphere like Thunder Valley. There have long been rumors of college football powers Virginia Tech and Tennessee battling in Bristol, so why wouldn’t a Super Bowl work inside the massive half-mile track? There isn’t a bad seat in the house. Does the surrounding area lack in nightlife, places to eat, hotels and overall excitement? Yes. But the stadium itself would be a sight to behold.

2. Lambeau Field
Location: Green Bay, Wisc.
Capacity: 79,594
Host: Green Bay Packers

This will never happen because there aren’t enough front yards to park cars for an event like the Super Bowl. It might also be 12-degrees below zero during the month of February. But this cathedral of football is the most spectacular, most historic, most beloved stadium in the history of the NFL. The Frozen Tundra will never come close to hosting a game like the Super Bowl, but there is little argument that it’s not the best football stadium this country has ever constructed — and it would be bizarre to see Super Sunday invade the sleepy northern Wisconsin town.

3. Churchill Downs
Location: Louisville, Ky.
Capacity: 164,858
Host: The Kentucky Derby

There are few venues that combine to offer what the famed horse track can provide. Louisville is a centrally located city in the heart of the country with plenty to do and a blossoming downtown. Churchill Downs can seat nearly 165,000 people and is one of the most tradition-laden venues in all of sports. It has the infield for the common folk to party and Millionaire's Row for the glitz and glam of a Super Bowl.

4. Camp Nou
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Capacity: 100,001
Host: FC Barcelona

Wembley Stadium in London has history and already has hosted American football games, but Camp Nou is the largest European Stadium and is located in… well, Barcelona instead of London. Michael Jackson, U2, Bruce Springsteen and The Pope all played in front of 90,000-plus audiences at Camp Nou and the city is not only capable of hosting an event like the Super Bowl (see the 1992 Olympics) but it would blow fans away. One of the most beautiful, picturesque and oldest cities in the world would have something for all ages to enjoy. All of this on the Mediterranean coast? Sign me up please.

5. Tiger Stadium
Location: Baton Rouge, La.
Capacity: 92,542
Host: LSU Tigers

Neyland Stadium in Knoxville is the biggest. Sanford Stadium in Athens is the most picturesque. Bryant-Denny in Tuscaloosa is the most successful. But for gameday atmosphere, there is nothing quite like Death Valley at night in the SEC. The food, culture, fans, smells and Richter Scale inducing noise echoing from LSU’s Tigers Stadium is second to none. Among the nation’s best college football venue’s, this one might be the best.

6. Wrigley Field
Location: Chicago, Ill.
Capacity: 102,500
Host: Chicago Cubs

Fenway Park would be great but doesn't have the same football ability that Wrigley brings to the table. Football is already being played there and recently approved upgrades will make this an excellent confluence of history, timeliness and amenities. Located in the heart of one of America's greatest cities, there is no reason to think this wouldn't be an extremely memorable Super Bowl.

7. Estadio Do Maracana
Location: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
Capacity: 78,838
Host: Brazilian National Team

There is a reason that Rio is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world and why the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics have been awarded to the city. In 1950, this building held a world record 199,854 people for the championship game of the 1950 FIFA World Cup. The beaches, bikinis and unbelievable geography of one of the world’s largest cities is about as attractive a place to play a game of any kind as there is on the globe. I’m pretty sure all of the pro athletes and Hollywood stars would vote yes for Rio De Janeiro.

8. Dubai Sports City Stadium
Location: Dubai, U.A.E.
Capacity: 30,000
Host: Various

Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dabi roughly an hour down the road might be a better fit (60,000 capacity) but no city in the world is developing a reputation like Dubai. The city is becoming one of the most luxurious and awe-inspiring in the world and an event like the Super Bowl would marry the posh lifestyle of most Super Bowl attendents with the world’s most amazing hotels, island communities and burgeoning nightlife. And if DSC Stadium isn’t big enough to host the game, the NFL could always play a game on top of a hotel.

9. Ohio Stadium
Location: Columbus, OH
Capacity: 102,329
Host: Ohio State Buckeyes

The Horseshoe has everything an NFL Super Bowl would need. A massive, gorgeous historic venue. The biggest city in the state of Ohio certainly has the infrastructure to host the big crowds and the local bar and restaurant scene is as enjoyable as any in the nation. Few places in the nation combine the logistics and size of a huge city with the personality of a college town like Columbus would. And who wouldn’t want to see the dotting of the “I” on a Super Sunday?

10. Rungrado May Day Stadium
Location: Pyongyang, North Korea
Capacity: 150,000
Host: DPRK National Team

Located in the capital city of North Korea, Rungrado May Day Stadium is the world’s largest stadium. It has hosted numerous soccer matches and is home to both the Men’s and Women’s national “football” teams. It also hosts the Guinness Book of Records largest sporting event in the world when the “mass games” take place each year. Plus, wouldn’t it be cool to play the most capitalistic sporting event in the history of the world in the heart of North Korea?

Other possibilities:

Wembley Stadium (London, England) 105,000
Historic Hyde Park or O-2 Arena won’t work, but this awesome venue would.

Kyle Field (College Station, Texas) 102,500
Recent plans to renovate/expand make this venue one of the future gems of college football.

Yankee Stadium (New York, N.Y.)
Football has been played there before and New York is New York.

Sanford Stadium (Athens, Ga.) 92,746
There may not be a more beautiful setting in all of college football.

Olympic Stadium (Berlin, Germany) 74,228
A stat of the art facility owns the world baseball attendance record with roughly 110,000.

Roman Colosseum (Rome, Italy) 50,000-70,000
Certainly some renovations would have to be made, but how cool would this be?

Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, Mich.) 109,901
The biggest stadium in the United States of any kind.

Melbourne Cricket Ground (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) 100,018
The rugby destination for Aussie football set a record with over 120,000 fans in 1970.

Daytona International Speedway (Daytona, Fla.) 167,785
Great weather, great seating, massive size, history, tradition, the beach.

Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Ore.) 54,000
Few stadiums pack as much punch than the Ducks home.

Teaser:
<p> 10 Unlikely Stadiums That Deserve To Host The Super Bowl</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 15:10
Path: /mlb/18-amazing-mlb-stats-week-may-13-19
Body:

Matt Cain is giving up bombs, Ryan Howard is wilting in the clutch, James Shields has little to show for his efforts and the consistent Joey Votto just keeps hitting. Here’s this week’s Amazing Stats for May 13-19.

2    Games Braves played with best lineup
Atlanta is in first place in the NL East, but the club has played just two games — last Friday and Saturday — with what manager Fredi Gonzalez expected to be his best eight in the field. Catcher Brian McCann has been recovering from shoulder surgery, and right fielder Jason Heyward missed some time after an appendectomy. The Braves won both games.

.050    Ryan Howard’s batting average with RISP, two outs
Entering this season, Howard carried a career .268 average with runners in scoring position with two outs. So far in 2013, he’s 1-for-20.

3    Teams still perfect this season when leading after six innings
The Texas Rangers blew their first save of the season over the weekend against the Tigers, but won the game anyway to go to 23-0 when leading after six innings. The Yankees (21-0) and Cleveland (19-0) are the other two teams. Coincidence that all three reside in first place?

13    Home runs allowed by Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants this season
The total leads the majors and is four more than Cain gave up in all of 2010, when he logged more than 220 innings.

22    Percent of the Dodgers’ RBIs driven in by Adrian Gonzalez
Earlier this season, Carl Crawford was responsible for an inordinate high percentage of the Dodgers’ runs. Now Gonzalez shows a similar high percentage of the team’s RBIs.  It’s time for Matt Kemp to step up and contribute to the offense.

2    Players to hit three homers in a loss twice since 2000
Players have hit three home runs in a losing cause a total of 16 times since 2000. Two players have done it twice. Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers did it for the second time last Sunday night. Sammy Sosa did it twice in 2001.

.583    Joey Votto batting average for the week
Quietly and consistently, the Reds’ first baseman shows why he is the best hitter in the National League. He hit .583 last week with a pair of home runs, five RBIs and seven runs. He drew five walks to go with his 14 hits over the six games.

.193    Batting average of leadoff No. 1 hitters against Kansas City
Leadoff hitters haven’t fared well against the Royals’ pitching this season. This average is 32 points lower than the next best (Pittsburgh, .225). The Royals are also the only team yet to give up a home run to the first batter in the lineup.

2    First batters of any inning to score off Yu Darvish
Going into his start against the Tigers last Thursday night, Yu Darvish of Texas had not allowed the first batter of any inning to score this season. In fact, just 10 of 53 had even made it the first 90 feet. That changed in the third inning when Don Kelly of Detroit homered off of the Texas righthander. Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta led off the fourth inning with a homer as well. Now 12 of 61 have reached base safely, and just two have scored.

16    Scoreless innings for Justin Masterson last week
The Cleveland ace pitched a complete game shutout over the Yankees and followed up with seven shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Seattle. For the week, he threw 16 innings, gave up seven hits, five walks and struck out 20. The surging Indians have won eight of Masterson’s 10 starts this season, scoring a total of three runs in the two losses. Masterson is working on a scoreless innings streak of 19.1 innings.

.509    Miguel Cabrera’s batting average with runners in scoring position
With two outs and RISP, Miggy’s average jumps to .600. It’s no wonder he’s a candidate to win a second Triple Crown this season.

.077    Martin Prado’s batting average with runners in scoring position
Among batters with as many as 35 ABs this season, Prado owns the lowest average. But it’s still early and this is a relatively small sample size, so expect this number to climb. The Diamondbacks are in first place despite this deficiency.

5    Starts of 8+ innings and three or less runs for James Shields
Kansas City’s James Shields continues to get saddled with tough losses. He’s gone eight innings in his last three starts, given up a total of five runs (four earned) and is 0-2 during that time. Shields has pitched eight innings or more five times this season, giving up three runs or less each start. For his efforts, the team has rewarded him with an 0-3 record in those games.

2    St. Louis Cardinals batting .400+ with RISP
There are a scant nine hitters with as many as 35 ABs batting .400 with runners in scoring position. Matt Holliday of St. Louis ended the week at .444. Teammate Allen Craig stood at an even .400. The Cardinals are the only team with two at or above the .400 mark.

14-9    Baltimore’s road record this season
The Orioles ended the week as the only team with a winning record on the road and a losing mark at home (9-11).

15    Times since 2010 Jaime Garcia has left a game with a lead, but didn’t win
The St. Louis lefthander has had the toughest luck of any pitcher in baseball since 2010 with his bullpen holding leads. He’s left with a lead 15 times, only to see the advantage — along with his win — disappear.

.149    Opponents batting average vs. Matt Harvey
The young New York Mets’ ace has held hitters to a .149 average, the best in the majors this season.

.369    Opponents batting average vs. Vance Worley and Joe Blanton
Hitters are feasting on Worley and Blanton this season.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Matt Cain is giving up bombs, Ryan Howard is wilting in the clutch, James Shields has little to show for his efforts and the consistent Joey Votto just keeps hitting. Here’s this week’s Amazing Stats for May 13-19.<br />  </p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-big-ten-early-rankings
Body:

The college basketball calendar is getting moved up with Midnight Madness shifting from mid-October into September. The look ahead to the 2013-14 season has also been moved up as Athlon starts to take stock for the upcoming year in college basketball.

The Big Ten was the nation’s top conference in 2012-13 with four teams reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Although the league couldn’t take home a title, Michigan reached the national title game.

The 2013-14 season could be another banner season for the Big Ten as teams like Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and more return enough personnel for deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

Here’s a quick look at the Big Ten and early rankings for 2013-14.

Upcoming conference snapshots:
ACC
American
Big East
SEC
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

2013-14 CONFERENCE SNAPSHOT: BIG TEN

1. MICHIGAN STATE (27-9, 13-5, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Derrick Nix

Top returners: Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Travis Trice, Denzel Valentine
Nix is the only one of the top seven scorers gone from a team that went 27-9. Harris considered the draft, but the smooth-shooting guard returned after averaging 12.9 points per game and 45.6 shooting from the field. Payne took his decision down to the wire, but his return gives Tom Izzo a veteran team with Final Four potential.

2. OHIO STATE (29-8, 13-5, NCAA Elite Eight)

Key players gone: Deshaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel

Top returners: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Amir Williams

New faces: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams (freshmen)
Much of Ohio State’s season will depend on how the Buckeyes replace Thomas’ prolific scoring. Ross may be a breakout star next season after he averaged 15 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State needs that kind of scoring performance year-round from the rising junior. The Buckeyes know they’ll get defense and floor-general point guard play from Craft. The development of Ross, Williams, Scott and Thompson will determine Ohio State’s season.

Related: Two Ohio State recruiting classes among nation's best since 2000

3. MICHIGAN (31-8, 12-6, NCAA national runner up)

Key players gone: Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr.
Top returners: Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas
New faces: Mark Donnal, Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton (freshmen)
Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. didn’t shock anyone by going to the draft. McGary and Robinson returned for their sophomore seasons to give the Wolverines a chance to building on last season, though a return to the Final Four may be tough. The pressure will be on McGary to prove he can carry his tournament momentum into a full season. The freshman Walton, a top-50 consensus recruit, has the unenviable task of stepping into Burke’s shoes at point guard.

4. WISCONSIN (23-12, 12-6, NCAA round of 64)

Key players gone: Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans
Top returners: Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson

Players come and go, but Wisconsin is pretty much automatic to contend in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament under Bo Ryan. In 2013-14, the Badgers return one of the Big Ten’s most underrated freshmen in Sam Dekker plus a healthy Josh Gasser, who was expected to be the Badgers’ point guard in 2012-13 before tearing his ACL in October.

5. INDIANA (29-7, 14-4, NCAA Sweet 16)

Key players gone: Remy Abell, Maurice Creek, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller
Top returning players: Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey
New faces: Luke Fischer (freshman), Evan Gordon (Arizona State transfer), Stanford Robinson (freshman), Noah Vonleh (freshman), Troy Williams (freshman)
Indiana can’t help but take a step back with all those losses, but the Hoosiers have recruited well enough to stay in the mix in the Big Ten. The pressure will be on the point guard Ferrell. Indiana’s roster turnover was exacerbated by the transfer of Abell to Xavier, but Gordon -- the brother of former Hoosiers one-and-done guard Eric Gordon -- averaged 10.1 points a year ago for Arizona State.

6. IOWA (25-13, 9-9, NIT runner up)
Key players gone: Eric May
Top returning players: Melsahn Basabe, Mike Gesell, Roy Devyn Marble, Zach McCabe, Josh Oglesby, Aaron White, Adam Woodbury
New faces: Jarrod Uthoff (Wisconsin transfer)
Iowa finished with a better Big Ten record than two NCAA teams (Illinois and Minnesota), but the Hawkeyes lacked the big-time wins to seal a bid. The top four scorers -- Marble, White, Gesell and Basabe -- are back to give Iowa a core of veterans that could lead the Hawkeyes to the Tournament for the first time since 2006.

7. PURDUE (16-18, 8-10, CBI second round)
Key players gone: D.J. Byrd, Sandi Marcius
Top returning players: Raphael Davis, Donnie Hale, A.J. Hammons, Anthony Johnson, Ronnie Johnson, Terone Johnson
New faces: Kendall Stephens, Bryson Scott (freshmen)
Last season was a rebuilding year for Purdue, but the Boilermakers still finished 8-10 in the toughest Big Ten in several seasons. Purdue started three freshmen (A.J. Hammons, Ronnie Johnson, Raphael Davis) for much of last season. Byrd (10.1 ppg) is the only major loss for Matt Painter.

8. ILLINOIS (23-13, 8-10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Tyler Griffey, Sam McLaurin, Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson
Top returning players: Tracy Abrams, Joseph Bertrand, Nnanna Egwu, Myke Henry
New faces: Jon Ekey (transfer from Illinois State), Austin Hill (freshman), Kendrick Nunn (freshman), Rayvonte Rice (transfer from Drake)
Illinois enters John Groce’s second season without Paul and Richardson, two players who carried the load for most of last season. This should remain a perimeter-oriented team with Tracy Abrams the returning leader in scoring (10.6 ppg) and assists (3.4). Rice, who is from Champaign, Ill., is eligible after his transfer from Drake, where he averaged 15.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in two seasons. Egwu (6-11) is the only returning veteran taller than 6-6.

9. MINNESOTA (21-13, 8-10, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Joe Coleman, Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams
Top returning players: Maverick Ahanmisi, Elliott Eliason, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Maurice Walker
New faces: Dre Mathieu (junior college transfer), Malik Smith (FIU transfer)
Richard Pitino will build his first team at Minnesota around the backcourt of Andre Hollins (14.6 ppg) and Austin Hollins (10.7 ppg). The guards were further boosted by the arrival of Malik Smith, a three-point threat who averaged 14.1 points per game for Pitino at FIU. Replacing the rebounding void left by Mbakwe will be a challenge.

10. NORTHWESTERN (13-19, 4-14)
Key players gone: Reggie Hearn, Alex Marcotullio, Jared Swopshire
Top returning players: Kale Abrahamson, Drew Crawford, Tre Demps, Dave Sobolewski, Alex Olah
New faces: JerShon Cobb (suspended)
Chris Collins’ first team at Northwestern will be led by wing Drew Crawford, who received an extra season of eligibility after missing all but 10 games with a torn labrum. Besides Crawford, Northwestern returns point guard Dave Sobolewski (9.8 ppg), Tre Demps (7.8 ppg) and Alex Olah (6.1 ppg).

11. PENN STATE (10-21, 2-16)
Key players gone: Sasa Borovnjak, Nick Colella, Jermaine Marshall
Top returning players: Tim Frazier, Jon Graham, D.J. Newbill, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis
New faces: Josh Johnson (transfer from Pittsburgh)
A glimmer of hope was lost when Marshall, who averaged 15.3 points per game, left to play overseas. Still, Penn State returns D.J. Newbill (16.3 ppg) and Tim Frazier, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2011-12 who missed all but four games last season with a ruptured Achilles.

12. NEBRASKA (15-18, 5-13)
Key players gone: Andre Almeida, Dylan Talley, Brandon Ubel
Top returning players: Ray Gallegos, Benny Parker, David Rivers, Shavon Shields
New faces: Walter Pitchford (Florida transfer)
Nebraska fans know how to support a team. The Cornhuskers already have sold out tickets at their new downtown Lincoln arena. For basketball. The on-court product, though, continues to be a work in progress. Second-year coach Tim Miles loses two of his top three scorers in Talley and Ubel.

Teaser:
<p> Who's gone and who's back in the Big Ten for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 12:10
Path: /college-football/oregon-or-stanford-who-wins-pac-12-north-2013
Body:

The Pac-12 North Division is set to be one of the most interesting conference title races in 2013.

Stanford and Oregon could both rank in the top five of some preseason polls and should be the top-two teams in the Pac-12 for 2013.

The Cardinal is the defending Pac-12 champions, but some key players must be replaced. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are huge losses, while the offense has to generate more of a passing offense in 2013.

The Ducks return most of their personnel, but coach Chip Kelly left for the NFL.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Stanford ranks as Athlon's No. 7 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Oregon or Stanford: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Mark Helfrich is one of the great unknowns of the Pac-12 for 2013. He’s been an assistant for decades, and promoting the offensive coordinator at Oregon has been a successful strategy since Rich Brooks passed the baton to Mike Bellotti in 1995. A decline may happen, but an immediate fall doesn’t seem likely. Now, Stanford is right up there with Oregon, defeating the Ducks 17-14 in Eugene last season. But Oregon defeated opponents by 26.2 points last season with a redshirt freshman quarterback. Only three teams defeated opponents by 20 points or more -- the other two were Alabama and Texas A&M. Only the Ducks and the Tide beat both their home and road opponents by more than three touchdowns. Oregon’s not going to forget how to move the ball. Meanwhile, Oregon has a criminally underrated and consistent defense, placing in the top three in the Pac-12 in yards per play and takeaways in each of the last four seasons. I’ll stick with Oregon for now.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great debate that won't be settled until the first Thursday in November when the Ducks fly south to Palo Alto to avenge their only loss of the 2012 season. Both are national title contenders and both are preseason top 10 teams. The road team has won each of the last two and the 2013 edition could feature unbeaten teams in a pick 'em situation. Oregon lost offensive mastermind Chip Kelly, but new coach Mark Helfrich has what many are calling the best offense in Oregon history returning. Unfortunately, championships are won on the defensive side of the ball and in the trenches. Here is where Stanford has a large edge. Stanford plays a tougher non-conference schedule and tougher cross-over slate with the South — facing Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah — while the Ducks miss the top two teams from South in Arizona State and USC. I think Stanford will win the Nov. 7 primetime tilt but, much like last season, will finish behind Oregon in the polls. A repeat of late year's bowl trips to Pasadena for Stanford and Glendale for Oregon is very possible.
 

Kyle Kensing, Editor at SaturdayBlitz.com, (@kensing45)
Over the past decade, every conference champion has won consecutive Pac-12 crowns. Stanford has the make-up to continue that trend. The cliche "defense wins championship" carries weight. In the Cardinal's case, it should carry it back to Pasadena. Stanford returns Ed Reynolds (six interceptions), Shayne Skov (81 tackle, nine for loss), Trent Murphy (18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks) and a host of others. The 2013 Cardinal defense should actually be better than last season's unit, which ranked No. 11 nationally in points allowed.

The Nov. 7 clash with Oregon looms large, obviously. And the Ducks are the primary contenders, seeking a fourth Pac-12 championship in five years. But Oregon State and Washington can both play spoiler, thus UO's Nov. 7 trip to the Farm might not be the be-all, end-all of this race. 
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oregon and Stanford are clearly two of college football’s top-10 teams for 2013, but both programs also have fairly significant question marks to answer. The Ducks lost Chip Kelly – one of the best coaches in college football - to the NFL, while the Cardinal have to find a way to jumpstart a passing attack that lacks proven weapons at receiver or tight end. Neither of those question marks should derail Oregon or Stanford in 2013, but I give a slight edge to the Ducks to win the Pac-12 North.

A coaching transition is a much bigger question mark than having to replace talent at wide receiver or tight end, but new Oregon coach Mark Helfrich worked under Chip Kelly and should keep the program on the right track for 2013. Of course, Helfrich has plenty of talent at his disposal, including quarterback Marcus Mariota and dynamic running back De’Anthony Thomas.

Although Stanford could have the conference’s best defense and the nation’s top offensive line, the offense needs to develop more of a passing attack. And that’s no easy task with the departure of tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. Another factor working in Oregon’s favor is the schedule. The Cardinal has to play Pac-12 South favorite Arizona State, along with potential top-25 teams in UCLA and USC in crossover play. The Ducks have to play UCLA but miss Arizona State and USC.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Stanford win the meeting between these two teams on Nov. 7, but I think Oregon finds a way to win the division. 
 

Mark Ross
It is entirely possible that just like last season, both of these teams will end up in BCS bowls when all is said and done. In 2012, Stanford went to the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 champs, while Oregon ended up in the Fiesta Bowl with just one loss, which came at the hands of the Cardinal. This fall, the head-to-head matchup takes place in Palo Alto, Calif., on Nov. 7. While the Cardinal surely have this Thursday night home game circled on their calendars, what catches my eye more is their crossover slate in Pac-12 play.

Stanford will play Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Utah from the South division, while Oregon gets Arizona, Colorado, UCLA and Utah. The difference between Stanford playing Arizona State and USC and Oregon getting Arizona and Colorado should not be overlooked from a competitive balance standpoint. On paper alone, the Ducks seems to have an advantage as the Cardinal appear to have the much more difficult road.

Both of these teams should be very good this fall, but I'll give the slightest of edges to Oregon even with the coaching transition. Chip Kelly may be gone, but Mark Helfrich has been a part of this team for several years and knows the offense inside and out. More importantly, Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas and a host of other talented players are still in Eugene, as is a defense that returns seven starters and has a chance to be pretty good in its own right. Stanford has plenty of talent still on campus too, starting with its defense and offensive line, but not as much experience on offense, especially at running back, wide receiver and tight end. As last season showed, it only takes one game to decide the Pac-12 North and as far as 2013 goes, I'll take Oregon to be the team atop the standings come the end of November.
 

Related College Football Content

Arizona State, USC or UCLA: Who Wins the Pac-12 South in 2013?
10 Teams Ready That May End SEC's Title Streak in 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

Ranking the Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

Ranking the Pac-12 Running Backs for 2013
Can California Improve Its Win Total in 2013?

Ranking the Pac-12 Quarterbacks for 2013

Washington or Oregon State: Which Team Finishes Higher in the North in 2013?

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaches for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013

Ranking the Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

Teaser:
<p> Oregon or Stanford: Who Wins the Pac-12 North in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 06:59
Path: /college-football/will-notre-dame-play-bcs-bowl-2013
Body:

Notre Dame had a disappointing end to the 2012 season, but the loss to Alabama in the BCS Championship shouldn’t overshadow what’s taking place in South Bend.

The Fighting Irish have made major strides under coach Brian Kelly, and there’s plenty of talent on the roster to make another run at a national championship in 2013 and 2014.

Most of the personnel from last year’s team returns, but the defense must replace linebacker Manti Te’o, while the offense must find a new go-to back with the departure of Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.

Notre Dame has a tough schedule. But with quarterback Everett Golson returning, can the Fighting Irish get back to a BCS bowl in 2013?

The 2013 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ college football top 25 countdown for 2013 is officially underway. To provide some insight into the selections and rankings for 2013, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout May.

Notre Dame ranks as Athlon's No. 8 team in the 2013 Top 25 countdown.

Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
That question essentially asks if Notre Dame will finish in the top 14, the threshold for a team to receive at-large consideration to the BCS. No BCS game is going to pass on an eligible Notre Dame team if the Irish are available. Athlon has ranked the Irish eighth -- which is good enough for automatic BCS eligibility. Notre Dame may not finish the regular season that high -- especially with a finale at Stanford -- but the Irish should be able to crack the top 14. The defense might not be as dominant as it was last season with its headline player, Manti Te’o gone. But a trendy commentary on the Irish defense was that Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt were the key players. Time to see if that’s true. The Irish are going to face a lot of teams that will be physical up front and run-oriented -- Stanford, Michigan State, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.  The key may be Everett Golson. He has the potential to be the best quarterback on the field in nearly every game this season.
 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Considering all Notre Dame has to do is win nine games and land in the top 14 of the BCS, the odds are the Irish return to a BCS bowl this fall. The offense will be better with Everett Golson starting for the second season and the talent around him developing. The defense, despite the loss of Manti Te'o, won't take much of a step back as Brian Kelly has recruited at an elite level in the front seven. With Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt, this defensive line is one of the best in the nation. So the only thing preventing Notre Dame from another double-digit win season is a yet another brutal schedule loaded with bowl teams and national brands. Games with Oklahoma, Stanford, Michigan, Arizona State, USC, BYU and Michigan State makes this the toughest slate in the nation yet again. However, the Irish will only lose two of those games at most and, at 10-2, will have enough to snag a coveted BCS bowl berth.
 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Brian Kelly has Notre Dame moving in the right direction. The Fighting Irish is coming off an appearance in the national title game, and the on-field success has translated to top-10 classes on the recruiting trail.

Even though Notre Dame was easily handled by Alabama in the BCS Championship, this team should be in the mix for 10 or 11 wins in 2013. The offense played better in the second half of the season, and quarterback Everett Golson is due to break out with another offseason to work under Brian Kelly. While linebacker Manti Te’o must be replaced, the defensive line is one of the best in the nation, and the secondary allowed under 200 yards per game last season.

The schedule is challenging, with road games against Michigan and Stanford, home matchups against Michigan State, Oklahoma, USC and a neutral site affair versus Arizona State. However, Notre Dame should be able to rank inside of the top 10 in the BCS standings before the bowl games, which will ensure the Fighting Irish a chance to play in one of college football’s top postseason destinations. 
 

Mark Ross
Notre Dame surprised many a college football observer last season with its unexpected undefeated regular season that culminated in a spot in the BCS National Championship Game. Lackluster title game performance aside, the only reason the Fighting Irish were even in that position in the first place was because they went undefeated. With no conference affiliation to boost its BCS standing, Notre Dame is truly measured by its wins and losses. In other words, Brian Kelly's team can't afford many if they want to be a part of the BCS discussion by season's end.

The counter to this disadvantage, if you will, is the fact that as an independent, Notre Dame usually gets plenty of chances to show how good a team it is based on its schedule. To that end, this season is no different as the only team the Irish will face that did not play in a bowl game this season is Temple. To put it another way, the Irish will play a team from every "big six" conference except the SEC and several of these teams are expected to either be a contender in their respective conferences (namely Arizona St., Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford) or top-25-caliber teams (BYU, Michigan St., USC).

Notre Dame certainly has a BCS-worthy schedule, the question is will the Irish get the wins they need to earn one of these coveted spots? My thinking is that ND would need no fewer than 10 wins in the regular season to be a serious part of the discussion. Even with all of the talent this team is returning, especially on defense, I see too many potential pitfalls for this team to put together double-digit wins by the end of November. It's another strong season for Kelly and the Irish, but they won't end it by fighting in a BCS game come January.  
 

Related Content

Ranking All 125 College Football Coaches for 2013
Is Notre Dame a Top-Five Team for 2013?

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 25 Dynasties of the AP Era

10 Teams That May End the SEC's Title Streak in 2013

Teaser:
<p> Will Notre Dame Play in a BCS Bowl in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - 06:59
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-may-20
Body:

Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Texas Rangers) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.

  1. Rangers—Texas survived first blown save and three HRs by Miggy.

2. Cardinals—Young pitchers must step up to replaced injured starters.

3. Yankees—In first place in tough division despite numerous injuries.

4. Red Sox—Would like to have Justin Masterson-Victor Martinez trade back.

5. Reds—Johnny Cueto’s return improves an already strong rotation.

6. Pirates—Tied for second-best record in NL.

7. Giants—Lost four games in which they’ve scored six runs or more.

8. Braves—First time all season best lineup on the field together.

9. Nationals—Sputtering offense has scored just nine runs in last six losses.

10. Indians—Won 17 of 21, but can starting pitching hold up?

11. Rays—Injury to David Price could be devastating to surging Rays.

12. Tigers—Starting pitchers did not enjoy trip to Texas.

13. Diamondbacks—Won nine of 13 to bolt back into first place.

14. Rockies—Plated 31 runs while taking three of four from Giants.

15. Orioles—Winning road record (14-9), losing at home (9-11).

16. A’s—Won three one-run games in sweep over Royals.

17. Phillies—Ryan Howard: .050 with runners in scoring position, 2 outs.

18. Padres—Won 15 of last 20 when not playing at Tampa Bay.

19. Royals—Leadoff hitters are batting just .190 off K.C. pitching.

20. Mariners—No. 9 hitters batting an NL-esque .151.

21. Twins—Tough tests at Atlanta and Detroit this week.

22. White Sox—Offense begins and ends with Alex Rios.

23. Cubs—Would Cubs really consider a move from Wrigley?

24. Mets—David Wright/Daniel Murphy: .307; rest of team: .209.

25. Blue Jays—Batted .303 last week, but team ERA was 5.02.

26. Dodgers—Adrian Gonzalez has 22 percent of team’s RBIs.

27. Angels—This lack of winning isn’t what Albert Pujols signed up for.

28. Brewers—Lineup is too good to be this bad. 

29. Marlins—Suffered four three-game sweeps this season.

30. Astros—Thankfully, Houston and Miami will not meet in 2013.

 

Al Player of the Week

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

Miggy continues to separate himself from the rest of the league, much like Barry Bonds did 10 years ago. With four hits, including three home runs, Cabrera raised his major-league leading batting average to .387. He batted .429 with seven RBIs and seven runs for the week.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Justin Masterson, Cleveland

The surging Indians have won eight of Masterson’s 10 starts this season, scoring a total of three runs in the two losses. The new Cleveland ace pitched a complete game shutout over the Yankees last week, and followed up with seven shutout innings in a 6-0 win over Seattle. For the week, he threw 16 innings, gave up seven hits, five walks and struck out 20.

 

NL Player of the Week

Joey Votto, Cincinnati

Quietly and consistently, the Reds’ first baseman shows why he is the best hitter in the National League. He hit .583 last week with a pair of home runs, five RBIs and seven runs. He drew five walks to go with his 14 hits over the six games.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati

After a complete game win over Miami, Bailey tossed seven shutout innings at Philadelphia in the Reds’ 3-2 loss. Over his 16 innings last week, Bailey allowed 11 hits, a walk and struck out 13.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 20, 2013 - 15:55
Path: /nascar/johnson-wins-nascar-all-star-race-danica-earnhardt-jr-disappoint
Body:

Say what you want about Jimmie Johnson. Critics have a long list of rebuttals for why he’s not the greatest driver of this era: Chad Knaus, superior equipment and more money through sponsor Lowe’s than his closest rivals. But it’s hard to argue the stats on paper. Johnson’s fourth win in the All-Star Race, a NASCAR record, launched him past teammate Jeff Gordon and the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.

With five Cup championships, 62 wins and another decade or so to add to that total, it’s time to give the man his due. Yes, he may be paired forever with a political correctness label that leaves him scorned by much of the fan base. Surely, Knaus and owner Rick Hendrick’s “New York Yankees” model of having the best of the best in all positions helps immensely. But someone still has to drive the car. Johnson had to hold off a hungry Kasey Kahne, side-by-side and initially charge forward from a starting spot of 20th place. That was no easy feat, a goal that could only be reached by a select few.

This All-Star Race was another reminder that, like it or not, Johnson is clearly in the “Greatest Driver of His Era” category. A decade from now, when all is said and done in his career, Saturday night will surely not be the only record he’ll leave behind.

Other gears to shift through after NASCAR’s greatest exhibition include…


FIRST GEAR: The All-Star Race Needs a retool
The All-Star Race has long been billed as one where sparks fly, rivalries ignite and drivers let it all hang out. So what have we gotten these last nine years during the Chase era? A total of one pass for the lead within the last five laps. There have been few, if any, incidents of close racing let alone contact between drivers that would spark fan interest. On Saturday night, Johnson needed two laps to fully dispose of Kahne before cruising to the checkers, part of a 90-lapper that had only one major incident (Mark Martin being spun out by Ricky Stenhouse Jr.). Not exactly the type of marketing the sport needs for an exhibition race, right?

Clearly it’s not all the driver’s faults. Charlotte has struggled as a racetrack since a 2005 “levigation” experiment gone awry, producing asphalt that’s left Goodyear in a pickle. In the first race run after the process, a 500-miler was nearly stopped as tires blew every 15-20 laps; in response, the tire company has acted more scared there than a five-year-old without a nightlight in his room. The rubber they produce, every time out, has been far too conservative, forcing the drivers to race the same, as little falloff (creating similar lap times) combined with high speeds make passing difficult at best.

With that in mind, Saturday night still felt like a missed opportunity from a garage that’s not too happy with each other right now. From Kasey Kahne-Kyle Busch to Denny Hamlin-Joey Logano, the list of drivers who feel they “owe” somebody for some past on-track issue is lengthy; Don King could have a field day with a Friday Night Boxing Special on HBO. So with a chance to take a “free shot,” all these drivers did … was nothing. Absolutely nothing but ride around, make laps and watch as the prohibitive favorite (Johnson) entering the event took control and pulled away. It was anticlimactic, paired with a staggering amount of empty seats and with a format based on best average finish for the final segment that left fans referring to an abacus. Add in a graphical mistake by SPEED that made it look like NASCAR was manipulating the rules for “Five-Time,” and the whole show took on the feel of a debacle.

Clearly, major changes for this race need to happen, and they need to happen now. Stick ‘n’ ball sports are struggling with All-Star formats too, but no one seems to need to go back to the drawing board more than NASCAR.


SECOND GEAR: Kurt Busch proving his worth
Furniture Row Racing, as a single-car team, has just one victory in its near-decade of NASCAR competition. Expect that to change soon. Kurt Busch is on a tear, winning the pole for the All-Star Race (as well as the pole at Darlington the week prior) and winning two of the first four segments of the race. Only a slow pit stop kept the No. 78 from Victory Lane, as Busch lost track position for the final 10 laps and was forced to settle for fifth.

In the past, that incident would cause the once-tempestuous driver to explode. Make no mistake, Busch has had his in-race moments in 2013, but Saturday night was another example of Busch keeping those mood swings in check. Yes, he let his frustration be known over the in-car radio, but the fury was nowhere near on par with past outbursts, and there certainly was no throwing the crew under the bus — instead, he was roundly complimentary.

No doubt, that belies a level of confidence the driver feels with this program, more heavily linked with Richard Childress Racing than ever before, as the big man himself considers potentially placing the driver in a top-tier ride in the RCR camp come 2014.

Still in the top 20 in points, Charlotte’s 600-miler presents one of several opportunities for this team to steal a win in the coming weeks (Michigan, Sonoma and Daytona are others that come to mind). With a “win or wreck” mentality, Busch is likely to run around 20th in points, which means he’s the biggest roadblock for Denny Hamlin should this team break out and reach Victory Lane multiple times.

The “wild card” race is about to ramp up.


THIRD GEAR: Ford’s failure
Brad Keselowski, blowing a transmission on the second lap, said it all for a Ford contingent that’s looking a step behind. Despite adding two cars to its roster this offseason through Penske Racing, Fords have only won twice this season in 11 starts (plus a 12th opportunity in the All-Star Race). For every feel-good story (Carl Edwards’ return to prominence, David Ragan’s Talladega miracle, Aric Almirola’s top-10 surge) there’s been a long list of tough ones. Greg Biffle has been maddeningly inconsistent, hitting the wall at Charlotte Saturday night and once again being a non-factor. Ditto Joey Logano, although his charg to a strong second behind Johnson in the closing laps of the All-Star Race was admirable. Marcos Ambrose was once again invisible and will need to rely on road course expertise to make the Chase.

With Hendrick and Gibbs clicking on all cylinders for Chevrolet and Toyota, respectively, there’s not one top team you can rely on across the board at Ford right now. They really need to take the two weeks while at home in Charlotte to study their notes, retool and get it together for NASCAR’s grueling summer stretch.
 

Teaser:
<p> Reaction from NASCAR's All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 20, 2013 - 14:57

Pages