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All taxonomy terms: NASCAR Amazing Stats, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-5-amazing-stats-daytona
Body:

When I was in middle school, rainy days in physical education class might elicit impromptu games of dodge ball, mindless obstacle courses or — and this is why P.E. teachers were paid the big bucks when I was an adolescent — roll out the cart of basketballs before announcing “have it” and walking over to a cafeteria chair in the corner to read a newspaper for 45 minutes.

Leading up to this weekend’s race at Daytona, one poised to make statistical prognostication seemingly irrelevant, I feel like the P.E. teachers of yesteryear. I yearn to slap the latest restrictor plate track PEER rankings in front of you and retreat back to someplace comfy to read the latest Chuck Klosterman book.

But I’m not going to do that. I like you too much to leave you a disheveled mess of numbers before what could potentially be a disheveled mess of a race.

It’s true that the frantic nature of restrictor plate racing makes a lot of pre-race statistical analysis look futile, but at the same time, it can help push observers in the direction of what to anticipate. At the very least, we can understand the potential story of the race leading up to the point where hell breaks loose and it’s all for naught.

Which drivers will matter in Daytona? Perhaps more intriguingly, which drivers won’t matter at Daytona? This week’s numbers pave the way to those answers.


29  Dating back to this year’s Daytona Speedweeks, 29 different drivers have led at least one lap at Daytona or Talladega in the Gen-6 racecar.

This means that there is a precedent of variety. You will see your favorite driver near the front of the field at some point in Saturday night’s 400-miler, though that won’t be indicative of his or her eventual landing spot. It’s a good rule of thumb to not get too consumed with the amount of laps a specific driver leads in a NASCAR race — after all, there is more than one way to come home the victor — but it is doubly true at restrictor plate racetracks. David Ragan is the most recent plate-track winner and he won at Talladega despite his 20th-place average running position that day.


6.250 and 5.167  This year’s Daytona 500 pitted a final restart consisting of last year’s top title contenders, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, whose plate track-specific PEERs of 6.250 and 5.167 are two of the top three production ratings in the series.

The 500 victory was secured by Johnson and contested for by Keselowski because both teams coveted track position, essentially making Daytona a pseudo intermediate track. Similarly, Danica Patrick netted the day’s second-best average running position (5.23) en route to her eighth-place finish. Could other teams also emulate this strategy? There is certainly reason to believe that Matt Kenseth and his No. 20 team could get out front and attempt to stay there, based on their attempt to do so at Talladega where he earned a 2.5 average position before finishing eighth.


55%  Keselowski topped this year’s Daytona 500 in pass efficiency with 55 percent effectiveness on 442 encounters.

Passing on plate tracks in general is the Wild West, but when a traditionally good passer — Keselowski’s season-long pass efficiency of 53.27 percent currently is the fifth-best mark among full-time Cup drivers — is able to employ one of his best traits as a racer to successful results, life is pretty dandy. Just in case the bottom groove doesn’t emerge from its February hibernation, a potent passer like Keselowski might have an advantage in a race where overtaking is a serious undertaking.

 

14.8  Carl Edwards is one of the most inconsistent plate track racers, sporting an erratic 14.8 finish deviation across his last 10 points-paying races. Do not misconstrue this as Edwards being a bad Daytona driver, though.

Edwards gets a knock for his ability to produce at Daytona and Talladega, which in a way is true — his plate track-specific PEER of 0.250 ranks 42nd out of 42 drivers going into the weekend — but his good days happen to be pretty swell. In that 10-race span, he finished 31st or worse four times due to various maladies. In the other six races, his average finish is sixth-place. He isn’t as bad as his record indicates; the opposite is true for a fellow Ford driver.


28.6  In the nine points-paying plate track races since his 2011 Daytona 500 triumph, Trevor Bayne has averaged a finish of 28.6.

So you like Bayne for your fantasy team, huh? A steal, you think? Not only is Bayne sneakily one of the most frequent crashers of the last three years in Cup Series competition, but he also does some of his best damage at the plate tracks; he has crashed out of three plate track races since his win in the 500. In the Gen-6, he is a replacement-level driver (0.917 PEER) on plate tracks. Keep in mind: if he is caught in a crash, anything beyond minimal damage might as well be irreparable considering his Wood Brothers Racing team isn’t contending for points. Sure the lights of Daytona could once again shine on Bayne, but beyond that one bright day, the high banks of NASCAR’s mightiest tracks haven’t been kind to him. Tread carefully, Bayne fans.

 

 

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

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

 

Teaser:
David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:42
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, News
Path: /college-football/complete-history-acc-realignment
Body:

Did you know that Georgia Tech has won three more SEC championships (five) than South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt combined? Or that the Gamecocks were a founding member of the ACC? Or that Grinnell College spent 10 years competing with Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Missouri and Kansas in the Big 8?

The point is that conference realignment isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, it's been ongoing for over 100 years of collegiate athletic competition. However, the rapid speed with which changes happen these days is tied directly to the exponential growth in revenue these sports can provide. It has impacted virtually every program in the nation at one time or another, and the ACC is certainly not immune to change.

Current commish John Swofford had to be proactive as of late with rumors swirling for the better part of two years about potential ACC poaching from other leagues. It turns out, he was right to be concerned as at least one of the league's founding members is departing for greener pastures. That said, the ACC responded swiftly to solidify its place in the college football hierarchy. And it took some unique strategies to stabilize it's long-term future.


The ACC Commissioners:

James Weaver, 1954-70
Robert James 1971-87
Eugene Corrigan, 1987-97
John Swofford, 1997-present

Related: 2013 ACC Football Predictions
Related: The ACC's 2013 All-Conference Teams


The ACC Timeline:

1953: After losing a multitude of members to the SEC in 1932, the once massive (23 member) Southern Conference loses eight key members to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The SoCon had a league-wide ban on postseason play and this is why many believe the ACC got started to begin with. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and, a few months later, Virginia became the charter members.

1971: South Carolina decided to leave for independence and would later join the SEC in 1991.

1978: After only containing seven teams for most of the 70s, Georgia Tech left the Metro Conference for the greener pastures of the ACC.

1991: Also from the Metro Conference, Florida State’s decision to join the ACC might have been the most important maneuver in ACC history. The Noles went on to dominate the league for the first decade and it played in the first three BCS National Championship games (1998-2000). The 1999 title is the league’s only BCS National Championship.

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech both officially joined in the summer of 2004. Adding the two football powers gave the ACC two more viable national championship football programs to package with FSU.

2005: Boston College comes aboard the next year, giving the ACC 12 teams and the opportunity to split the conference into two divisions and host a title game. After taking the Canes, Hokies and Eagles, the Big East countered with expansion of its own and is still on life support to this day.

2011: In an effort to get out in front of the curve, John Swofford continued to stabilize his league by adding two more Big East powers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh, to the group. The ACC technically expanded to 14 before any other major BCS league.

2012: Founding member Maryland became the first such ACC program to jump ship in the modern rounds of realignment. The Terrapins wanted more league stability and a much bigger payday and got both in a move to the Big Ten. The Terps will begin play in the Big Ten in 2014. To counter the loss of Maryland, Swofford moved quickly to find a replacement and settled on Louisville. The Cardinals will play in the American Athletic Conference before joining the ACC in 2014.

2013: In a shrewd legal move by the conference, the ACC signed a "Grant of Rights" deal locking in ownership of media rights for all member institutions. This is a simple but effective way to keep teams from leaving the ACC in the short term. From now until the end of the GOR contract (2027), if a school leaves the league, the ACC will retain the media rights, effectively rendering the move to another league fairly pointless. Additionally, Syracue and Pittsburgh will make their debut in the Atlantic Coast Conference. 

2014: At this time next year, Maryland will officially become a member of the Big Ten while Louisville will be become an official member of the ACC. Notre Dame will also play five games a year against ACC foes beginning in 2014. 

Related: The ACC's Top Heisman Candidates in 2013


ACC BCS Bowl History:

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Fiesta (NCG): (1) Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16
1999 Sugar (NCG): (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
2000 Orange (NCG): (1) Oklahoma 13, (2) Florida State 2
2001 Orange: (5) Florida 56, (10) Maryland 23
2002 Sugar: (3) Georgia 26, (14) Florida State 13
2003 Orange: (9) Miami 16, (7) Florida State 14
2004 Sugar: (3) Auburn 16, (8) Virginia Tech 13
2005 Orange: (3) Penn State 26, (22) Florida State 23 (3 OT)
2006 Orange: (6) Louisville 24, (14) Wake Forest 13
2007 Orange: (8) Kansas 24, (3) Virginia Tech 21
2008 Orange: (19) Virginia Tech 20, (12) Cincinnati 7
2009 Orange: (10) Iowa 24, (9) Georgia Tech 14
2010 Orange: (4) Stanford 40, (13) Virginia Tech 14
2011 Sugar: (13) Michigan 23, (11) Virginia Tech 20 (OT) 
2011 Orange: (23) West Virginia 70, (15) Clemson 33
2012 Orange: (13) Florida State 31, (16) Northern Illinois 10 

Overall Record: 3-13
National Championships: 1-2

Related: Ranking the ACC's Football Stadiums in 2013
Related: Ranking the ACC's Football Uniforms in 2013


The History of the ACC:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

2013 ACC Team Previews

AtlanticCoastal
Boston CollegeDuke 
ClemsonGeorgia Tech
Florida StateMiami
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Pittsburgh
SyracuseVirginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech


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College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100
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Teaser:
The Complete History of ACC Realignment
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:19
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-west-virginia-renew-rivalry
Body:

With an emphasis on strength of schedule in college football’s new postseason format, most teams are beginning to add more games against BCS competition for 2014 and beyond.

West Virginia and Virginia Tech announced on Friday they have scheduled two games to renew their rivalry, with matchups slated for 2021 and 2022.

Virginia Tech will travel to Morgantown on Sept. 18, 2021, while West Virginia will play in Blacksburg on Sept. 24, 2022.

West Virginia holds the overall series edge at 28-22-1, but the last matchup occurred in 2005. The series has been on hiatus after Virginia Tech moved to the ACC.  

Both teams will play for the Black Diamond Trophy, which was created in 1997 due to the region’s history with coal.

Who knows how good both teams will be by then, but this is a good scheduling move for West Virginia and Virginia Tech. 

Now that the Mountaineers have a game scheduled against the Hokies, maybe the school can get an agreement with Pittsburgh to renew the Backyard Brawl?

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:10
Path: /college-football/history-big-east-realignment-birth-american-athletic-conference
Body:

Did you know that Georgia Tech has won three more SEC championships (five) than South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt combined? Or that the Gamecocks were a founding member of the ACC? Or that Grinnell College spent 10 years competing with Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Missouri and Kansas in the Big 8?

The point is that conference realignment isn't a new phenomenon. In fact, it's been ongoing for over 100 years of collegiate athletic competition. However, the rapid speed with which changes happen these days is tied directly to the exponential growth in revenue these sports can provide. It has impacted virtually every program in the nation at one time or another and the Big East is certainly not immune to change.

In fact, the Big East as a football-playing conference is technically dead. Realignment has pulverized the league formerly known as the Big East as just one school from the league's football birth, Temple, is still a member of the recently created American Athletic Conference (UConn didn't start playing football in the Big East until 2004 and Rutgers is leaving after 2013).

So the calendar flips to July once again this year with a whole new round of changes to track. But never fear, Athlon Sports has you covered with a complete history of Big East Conference athletics — and the subsequent birth of the American Athletic Conference.


The Big East Conference Commissioners:

Dave Gavitt, 1979-1990
Mike Tranghese, 1990-2009
John Marinatto, 2009-2012
Joseph Bailey (interim), 2012
Mike Aresco, 2012-2013/Present

Related: 2013 American Athletic Conference Predictions


The Big East Conference Timeline:

1979: The Big East Conference was originally a league designed as a basketball conglomerate. The northeast was, and still is, a hoops hotbed for talent, fans and NCAA championships. The league started with Boston College, UConn, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Syracuse as its members. Rutgers and Holy Cross were also invited to join but declined.

1980: Villanova accepted an invitation one year later.

1982: Pittsburgh was asked to join the Big East in its third year of existence. That same year, Penn State requested entrance to the league, but the league members voted against accepting the Nittany Lions. What do you think the Big East would look like today had PSU been allowed to join back in 1982? For the record, Penn State won two national championships in football: 1982 and 1986. The entire dynamic of this league’s existence can be traced back to that one decision made in 1982 when Penn State was denied admission.

1991: The Big East (finally) decides to embrace football and adds major football programs Miami, Rutgers, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Temple to the group and takes part in its first Big East football season. One year earlier, Penn State had joined the Big Ten and two years later their athletics programs began Big Ten competition (1993).

1995: Notre Dame’s Olympic sports join the Big East. Irish football remains Independent.

2001: The Miami Hurricanes win the Big East's first and only BCS-era National Championship with what many believe to be the best college team ever assembled. Miami would go on to lose in the BCS title game the following year and has yet to return to the championship game since.

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech begin the demise of the Big East as a football power conference by bolting for the ACC. Temple is also kicked out of the league as well.

2005: Boston College follows the Hurricanes and the Hokies to the ACC. To combat the major losses, Mike Tranghese counters by adding Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida in all sports and DePaul and Marquette in all sports expect football.

2012: West Virginia, and what would have been TCU, both decide through a very public and ugly divorce to join the Big 12. The Big East scrambles to fill it’s schedule by re-inviting the Owls of Temple — who instantly accept the invitation for football only. TCU had previously accepted an invitation to join the Big East from the Mountain West but changed its mind when the Big 12 extended its own invitation to the Horned Frogs. TCU never played a game of any kind as a Big East institution.

2012: On the verge of losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, the "Catholic 7" secede from the Big East to form a new basketball only league. DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova will be joined by Butler, Xavier and Creighton in what should be an excellent hoops conference. Additionally, Boise State and San Diego State balk at joining the now defunct Big East football conference and instead stick with the Mountain West. Rutgers announces that it is defecting to the Big Ten Conference, and Louisville quickly follows suit in announcing its own move to the ACC.

2013: Pittsburgh and Syracuse officially join the ACC in all sports, and the American Athletic Conference is born. Houston, SMU, Memphis and UCF join Cincinnati, Temple, Louisville, Rutgers, UConn and South Florida in a one-year, 10-team AAC. This lineup will last just one season as the next two seasons are scheduled to feature more changes. Additionally, Notre Dame ships all of its non-football sports to the ACC while inking a deal to play at least five ACC football games per season.

2014: This time next year, Louisville will officially become a full member of the ACC and Rutgers will officially become a full member of the Big Ten. Meanwhile, to fill the gaps, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa will join the AAC ranks.

2015: Navy will become a football only member of the Big East.

Related: Top American Athletic Conference Heisman Contenders in 2013


Big East BCS Bowl History:

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Orange: (8) Florida 31, (15) Syracuse 10
1999 Sugar (National Championship): (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
2000 Sugar: (3) Miami 37, (7) Florida 20
2001 Rose (National Championship): (1) Miami 37, (2) Nebraska 14
2002 Fiesta (National Championship): (2) Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24 (2OT)
2003 Orange: (9) Miami 16, (7) Florida State 14
2004 Fiesta: (6) Utah 35, (21) Pitt 7
2005 Sugar: (11) West Virginia 38, (7) Georgia 35
2006 Orange: (6) Louisville 24, (14) Wake Forest 13
2007 Fiesta: (9) West Virginia 48, (4) Oklahoma 28
2008 Orange: (19) Virginia Tech 20, (12) Cincinnati 7
2009 Sugar: (5) Florida 51, (3) Cincinnati 24
2010 Fiesta: (7) Oklahoma 48, UConn 20
2011 Orange: (23) West Virginia 70, (15) Clemson 33
2012 Sugar: (22) Louisville 33, (4) Florida 23

Overall Record: 8-7
National Championships: 1-2

Related: Ranking the American Athletic Conference Uniforms for 2013
Related: Ranking the American Athletic Conference Stadiums for 2013



The History of the Big East Conference:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

The History of the American Athletic Conference:

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

CincinnatiRutgers
ConnecticutSMU
HoustonSouth Florida
LouisvilleTemple
MemphisUCF


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College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60
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College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125
College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era
College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era
College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

Teaser:
History of Big East Realignment; Birth of the American Athletic Conference
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Tennessee Titans, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/tennessee-titans-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The 2013 season will be a critical one for all involved with the Tennessee Titans. This team needs to show dramatic signs of improvement and it is imperative the Titans are in the playoff mix heading into the final month. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Tennessee Titans 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Pittsburgh
Week 2: at Houston
Week 3: San Diego
Week 4: NY Jets
Week 5: Kansas City
Week 6: at Seattle
Week 7: San Francisco
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at St. Louis
Week 10: Jacksonville
Week 11: Indianapolis (Thurs.)
Week 12: at Oakland
Week 13: at Indianapolis
Week 14: at Denver
Week 15: Arizona
Week 16: at Jacksonville
Week 17: Houston

Order your 2013 Tennessee Titans Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The '13 campaign begins in rough fashion with back-to-back road trips to division frontrunners in the AFC. Starting on the road in Pittsburgh and Houston will likely have fans much less excited for the home opener in Week 3 against San Diego. The good news, however, is that both the Chargers and Jets (Week 4) are winnable home swing games that will decide much in the way of the AFC pecking order. And with the Chiefs coming to town in Week 5, a 3-2 start is well within reach — and mandatory if this teams wants to compete for a wild card berth.

Toughest Stretch: In three consecutive games, the Titans will face three teams from the best division in football. Games with Seattle, San Francisco and St. Louis are, thankfully, separated by the off weekend. An equally tough stretch of three straight road games late in the year against Oakland, Indianapolis and Denver will be tough as well. There isn't a long, arduous stretch for the Titans but each of these short three-game runs will prove to be more than difficult.

Swing Games:at PIT (Week 1), NYJ (Week 4)
Crossover Divisions:AFC West, NFC West
Bye Week:Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.488 (23rd)
Athlon's SOS Rank:20th

Easiest Stretch: From Week 3 to Week 5, the Titans will face three of the worst teams in the AFC all at home in Nashville, Tenn. The importance of winning at least two, if not all three, of these games cannot be understated. It is not only the three easiest games of the year not named Jacksonville, but they will come after what is all but assured to be an 0-2 start to the year. A stumble early in this stretch and the Titans can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.

Circle The Calendar: The Week 11 Thursday night appointment in Nashville with Andrew Luck coming to town will be a great game. Not only have the Titans and Colts built a long-standing divisional rivalry — mostly because of Tennessee favorite Peyton Manning — but this game could prove critical for Tennessee. An upset win over the Colts could totally change the complexion of the AFC wild card race with plenty of time left in the season (six games) to make moves in the standings.

Divisional Notes: A road game to Houston in Week 2 will be the only AFC South game the Titans play in the first nine weeks of the year. This means, of course, that five of the final eight games will come within the division. Since this team figures to progress throughout the season, this should be considered a blessing. However, having to face Andrew Luck twice in three weeks packaged between long road trips to Oakland and Denver won't be easy. Last but certainly not least, hosting Houston in the season finale could be murderous or divine — depending on whether or not Houston is locked into their playoff seed or not.

Playoff Push: There are worse final months to the season than what the Titans will deal with but there are much better ones too. Games with Arizona at home and Jacksonville on the road in Weeks 15 and 16 are huge breaks and could provide some late-season momentum. Dates with the Colts and Broncos on the road are nasty tests that appear to be certain losses. And as stated, Houston could be needing a win to stay alive in the postseason race or could be resting all of its good players in the final week. Only time will tell.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The Titans’ offense won’t like how their fantasy playoff schedule starts, but for championship week the opponent couldn’t be much more appealing. Denver and Arizona both finished among the top 12 defenses in yards allowed last season, but Jacksonville came in at No. 30. The Jaguars (29th against fantasy RBs) also could provide Chris Johnson with the opportunity to be a deciding factor in championship week.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
Miami CincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas ChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Washington Redskins, NFL
Path: /nfl/washington-redskins-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

The Washington Redskins made a surprise playoff run last season behind Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III. Can RGIII make it two postseason berths in a row? Here's our look at the Redskins' 2013 NFL schedule.

Washington Redskins 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Philadelphia (Mon.)
Week 2: at Green Bay
Week 3: Detroit
Week 4: at Oakland
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at Dallas
Week 7: Chicago
Week 8: at Denver
Week 9: San Diego
Week 10: at Minnesota (Thurs.)
Week 11: at Philadelphia
Week 12: San Francisco (Mon.)
Week 13: New York Giants
Week 14: Kansas City
Week 15: at Atlanta
Week 16: Dallas
Week 17: at New York Giants

Order your 2013 Washington Redskins Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: All eyes will be on the nation's capital the night of Sept. 9 and it's not just because Washington will open its season against division rival Philadelphia. No, the big question surrounding the Redskins' Week 1 game is who will be under center — Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins? If it is RGIII making his return from his most recent significant knee injury, he better be at 100 percent. Because after the Eagles it's a visit to Lambeau Field to play the Packers. The first month wraps up with a home date versus Detroit and a cross-country trip to Oakland before going on bye in Week 5. The key to Washington's first four weeks will be its quarterback play, regardless of who it is taking the snaps.

Toughest Stretch: The Redskins weren't done any favors when it comes to their swing games this season. Washington will host defending NFC champion San Francisco for "Monday Night Football" in Week 12 and go to Atlanta to play the Falcons, the team the 49ers beat to get to the Super Bowl, in Week 15. To make matters worse, the San Francisco game is preceded by back-to-back road contests in Minnesota (on a Thursday night) and Philadelphia, and then followed by a divisional tilt with the Giants. After the Redskins fly south to play the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, they come back home to host the Cowboys before finishing the season in New York against the Giants. Beginning with Week 10, Washington's final eight games includes a total of four divisional contests (two home, two away), a trip to Atlanta and a matchup at home against San Francisco. Put it all together and it equals one difficult second-half slate.

Swing Games:SF (Week 12), at ATL (Week 15)
Crossover Divisions:NFC North, AFC West
Bye Week:Week 5
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.498 (18th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:6th

Easiest Stretch: There's a reason we ranked Washington's schedule as the sixth-toughest in the entire NFL. That's because there really are no breaks to be found. In fact, the Redskins will play back-to-back games against teams that posted losing records last season just once — Detroit in Week 3 and at Oakland in Week 4. The only other teams that Washington plays who finished below .500 in 2012 are Philadelphia (twice), Kansas City and San Diego (which just missed at 7-9). It looks like we will find out if Washington's success last season was a one-year fluke or if this team is a legitimate playoff contender.

Circle The Calendar: If RGIII is back by Week 2, his first game at Lambeau Field and the battle with Aaron Rodgers will no doubt be must-see TV. That's not the only high-profile quarterback duel on tap for the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year either, as he will make trips to Denver and Atlanta to test his prowess against the likes of Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan. There's also the tantalizing Week 12 matchup with San Francisco, which, assuming both are healthy, will feature RGIII and Colin Kaepernick, two of the league's most dynamic signal-callers, in primetime on "Monday Night Football." And that's without even mentioning the always anticipated divisional games with the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants.

Divisional Notes: Last season, two games separated the top three teams in the NFC East and there's no reason to expect that to change in 2013. If anything, the division could be even tighter with Chip Kelly's arrival in Philadelphia. The Redskins will get the first crack at the new-look Eagles, as Kelly will make his NFL coaching debut in Washington on "Monday Night Football" to open the season. The bulk of the Skins' divisional slate comes late in the season, as four of their final seven games will be against NFC East foes, including the last two (DAL, at NYG).

Playoff Push: One of the big reasons the Redskins won the NFC East last season was because they went 5-0 against divisional opponents following their Week 10 bye, with three of those victories coming in the final month. This December, Washington will play three divisional games, including two against the Giants. A road trip to Atlanta falls in the middle of this five-game stretch and Kansas City is the only opponent that had a losing record in 2012. It's hard enough to go 5-0 in December once, let alone two years in a row. But it's entirely possible that is exactly what the Redskins will need to do if they want to secure their return trip to the postseason.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): It may not matter who is at quarterback for the Redskins during the fantasy playoffs, provided they are able to replicate the success they had running the ball last season. Kansas City, Atlanta and Dallas were among the bottom nine fantasy defenses against RBs. This bodes well for Alfred Morris, who was second only to Adrian Peterson last season in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Washington Redskins 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-all-american-team-recruits
Body:

Be it around the water cooler or on a message board, there is nothing in sports quite like a recruiting debate.

There is technically no right or wrong answer and the truth isn’t revealed until, in most cases, many years later. Clearly, scouting high school football recruits is an inexact science and it leads grown adults — mostly men — to act much like the 17-year old football prospects they are tracking.

Some five-stars turn out to be super stars like Jadeveon Clowney while others never live up to the hype. There are simply too many unpredictable factors for recruiting rankings to be right all the time. Some years are better than others and some scouting websites are better than others.

A quick look at Athlon Sports' 2013 preseason college football All-American team shows you the mixed bag that is recruiting rankings.

Athlon Sports' 2013 All-America Team

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2011)

The Aggies superstar wasn’t considered a can’t-miss quarterback prospect back in 2011 when he signed with Texas A&M. Other than TAMU, only Oregon, Stanford, Baylor and Iowa State offered him scholarships to major conference programs. The Kerrville (Texas) Tivy product was a three-star quarterback who was ranked as the No. 14-best dual-threat signal caller in the nation and was the No. 45-rated player in the state of Texas. After a year of learning the college game as a redshirt, Manziel proved most everyone in the recruiting business wrong by winning the Heisman Trophy last fall.

Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (2011) National Recruit

The Oro Valley (Ariz.) Canyon Del Oro sophomore was ranked by Athlon Sports as the No. 30 running back in the nation, the No. 5 player in the state of Arizona and the No. 212 overall recruit in the country. He held three Pac-12 offers to play college football from Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado. The coveted tailback was a four-star prospect by Rivals.

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (2012) AC100

The workhorse back from Tarboro (N.C.) High was a late riser in the recruiting rankings, but when all was said and done, Gurley was a top 100 prospect nationally. He was ranked as the No. 11 running back in the nation and was the No. 83 player in the Athlon Consensus 100. It didn’t take long for this superstar tailback prospect to make his mark on the SEC.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC (2011) AC100

The superstar wide receiver hails from California prep powerhouse Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra. He was the No. 64-rated prospect in the nation, the No. 6-rated player in the state and the No. 10-rated wide receiver in the country. His offer sheet was a who’s who of college superpowers. Lee played on the same team as AC100 wide receivers George Farmer (2011), Robert Woods (2010) and four-star Paul Richardson (2010). How did anyone stop that passing attack?

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100

The electric wide receiver from South Fort Myers (Fla.) had one of the best freshman seasons of all-time. He was ranked as the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation behind only George Farmer (USC), Jarvis Landry (LSU) and Trey Metoyer (Oklahoma). He was a five-star prospect by Rivals and was the No. 24-rated player in the entire nation according to the Athlon Consensus 100.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (2011) AC100

The Huskies' tight end is yet another feather in the cap for the recruiting gurus. He was the No. 3-rated tight end in the nation behind Nick O’Leary (Florida State) and Jay Rome (Georgia) back in the 2011 class. He was the No. 33-rated player nationally in the AC100 and barely missed getting a fifth star from Rivals or 247Sports.

Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma (2009)

The versatile pivot from Oklahoma City's Bishop McGuinness wasn’t a highly touted prospect coming out of high school nationally. In fact, he was the No. 15-rated tight end as a three-star recruit by Rivals. However, the Sooners All-American had a great offer sheet including scholarships from Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State among others.

David Yankey, G, Stanford (2010)

The Cardinal have made a living under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw on the East Coast recruiting and Yankey is another great example. The Roswell, Ga., native who played at Centennial was a three-star prospect coming out of high school and was considered the 47th-best offensive tackle in the nation. Much like Ikard, however, the mid-level recruit had a great offer sheet, including Clemson, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and UCLA.

Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor (2009)

If Yankey and Ikard were highly thought of three-star prospects, Richardson would have to be considered a lower tier three-star. Ranked as the No. 90 offensive tackle in the nation, his offer sheet was limited to just Baylor – partially because he committed early in the process and never wavered. Another factor that impacted his recruitment was the move from New Orleans to North Crowley in Fort Worth, Texas, after Hurricane Katrina during his prep career.

Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan (2009) National Recruit

Hailing all the way from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral, Lewan came to Michigan as a highly touted prospect with offers from all over the nation. He wasn’t a top 100 recruit, but was a four-star player who had his pick of schools. He was rated as the No. 194 overall player, the No. 16 offensive tackle and the No. 5 player in Arizona by Rivals.

Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M (2010) AC100

The son of Texas legend Bruce Matthews, the Missouri City (Texas) Elkins product was on everyone’s radar as one of the top recruits in the nation four years ago. He was the No. 3-rated offensive lineman in the nation and was No. 33 overall in the 2010 Athlon Consensus 100. He had offers from every major power in the nation and barely missed landing the coveted fifth star from Rivals.

De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100

Few prospects were as can’t-miss as Thomas was coming out of Los Angeles Crenshaw. The explosive do-everything talent was the No. 1 “Athlete” in the nation and was the No. 5 overall player in the nation in the ’11 AC100. The Black Mamba could have played anywhere in the nation, but made the last-second switch from USC to Oregon. He was a five-star recruit by everyone in the scouting business.

Duke Johnson, KR, Miami (2012) AC100

Randy “Duke” Johnson signed with the Hurricanes out of Miami (Fla.) Norland last season before setting all sorts of freshman records in the ACC. His size was a point of contention among recruitniks but he finished the recruiting cycle as a top-40 player nationally (AC100 No. 36). Johnson was the No. 6 running back in the nation behind fellow big name freshmen Johnathan Gray, Keith Marshall, Trey Williams, Rushel Shell and T.J. Yeldon, and had offers from every major program in the nation. Rivals listed him as a five-star recruit as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the nation.

Venric Mark, PR, Northwestern (2010)

Johnson and Thomas were elite all-purpose recruits while the Houston (Texas) St. Puis X prospect has dramatically outperformed his recruiting stock. The three-star’s offer sheet wasn’t nearly as impressive as it should have been, as Arizona, Arizona State and Houston were the most high-profile programs to offer. Mark was completely unranked by Rivals when he signed with Northwestern.

All-American Defense As Recruits:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100

The Rock Hill (S.C.) South Pointe defensive end was the unanimous No. 1-rated prospect in the nation in the Class of 2011. Obviously, this made him the top player in his state and the top player nationally at his position. He literally could have picked any of the 120 (at the time) programs in the FBS ranks to play his college ball. In two short seasons, he has established that he was ranked exactly where he should have been and appears poised for a Heisman Trophy run in 2013. He also has a good shot at being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame (2011) AC100

A few spots behind Clowney in the 2011 rankings was this Monroe (Ga.) Area defensive end. Tuitt was ranked as the No. 8 defensive lineman in the nation by Athlon Sports and was the No. 44 overall player in the Athlon Consensus 100. His offer sheet was a who’s who of college football blue bloods, including Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and South Carolina.

Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (2010) National Recruit

The massive nose tackle from Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines barely missed landing in the 2010 AC100. Nix was ranked as the No. 102 player in the nation and the No. 9-rated defensive tackle. Like most superstar defensive line recruits from the state of Florida, Nix had his pick of any college team in the nation.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State (2009)

From Corona (Calif.) Centennial, Sutton came to Arizona State sporting only four BCS offers. They included Arizona, Nebraska and Boise State in addition to the Sun Devils. He was the No. 42-rated defensive tackle and the No. 40-rated player in the state of California in the ’09 class. He was a three-star prospect by Rivals.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (2010) National Recruit

Mosley just missed landing in the AC100 as a linebacker from Theodore (Ala.) High. He was the No. 113-rated overall prospect in the nation. Mosley finished as the No. 9-rated linebacker in the nation and the No. 3-rated player in the state of Alabama. Every program in the Southeast as well as a few from the Big 12 (Oklahoma) and the West Coast (Stanford) wanted to ink the star tackler.

Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU (2009)UCLA, Boise State, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Colorado and Stanford all wanted this four-star talent from Reno (Nev.) McQueen. He was listed as the No. 24-rated “athlete” in the nation as his projected position was up in the air. The number of Pac-12 schools that offered him prove the hype was legit for this talented Cougar.

Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (2011) National Recruit
The hard-hitting tackler from Ohio State came to Columbus by way of Plantation (Fla.) High School. He had a massive offer sheet with names like USC, Michigan, LSU, Alabama and many others competing with the Buckeyes. Shazier was ranked as the No. 12 linebacker in the nation and barely missed landing in the AC100 as the No. 111 overall prospect in the country back in 2011.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon (2011)

The cornerback from Chino Hills (Calif.) High was a four-star recruit by Rivals, but wasn’t a top 100 prospect. He had offers from more than half of the Pac-12 Conference as well as plenty of other smaller schools on the West Coast. He was not ranked by Athlon Sports but was the No. 17-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals.

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (2010)

Hailing from Suwanee (Ga.) Peachtree Ridge in the deep South, Roby flew under the recruiting radar nationally and regionally. He wasn’t rated highly by any of the scouting services, as he was a low three-star prospect who actually was ranked as a wide receiver. But his offer sheet should have been an indication as to his star potential, as programs like Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, South Carolina and West Virginia all wanted the unheralded coverman.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (2011) AC100

Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix was considered the No. 1 safety in the nation coming out of high school in 2011. He attended famed Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando and picked Alabama over offers from every other powerhouse in the nation. Clinton-Dix was the No. 10 overall prospect in the nation in the ’11 Athlon Consensus 100.

Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford (2010)

This Woodberry Forest (Va.) School prospect is yet another example of Stanford’s recruiting success on the East Coast. This three-star recruit wasn’t highly touted and had a limited, but solid offer sheet. This star safety picked the Cardinal over Duke, North Carolina and NC State.

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Teaser:
Where did Athlon's preseason All-American team rank as recruits coming out of high school.
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-georgia-football-fan
Body:

Georgia has spent many times in its history in the shadow of other SEC programs: During Vince Dooley’s early run, Alabama was on top of the SEC. During the last decade, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU have all won SEC titles.

But Georgia remains one of college football’s most storied programs, becoming the first Southern school to win the Heisman and fielding perhaps the greatest running back in college football history four decades later.

The Bulldogs have been on the right side of history, but a few times stand out as the best to watch the program Between the Hedges.

Here are the best and worst times to root for Georgia.

BEST TIMES TO BE A GEORGIA FAN

1980-83
Record: 43-4-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Vince Dooley
Notable players: Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, Buck Belue, Scott Woerner
Georgia won the national title in 1980 and three consecutive SEC titles from ’80-’82, but this era can be summed up by one word: Herschel. Herschel Walker is widely considered the SEC’s greatest player after rushing for 1,616 yards as a freshman and making a run at the Heisman, an unheard of feat for a freshman at the time. Walker eventually won the award in 1982 as a junior, rushing for 5,259 yards in his career. In the first season without their legend in 1983, Georgia went 10-1-1, defeating an unbeaten Texas team 10-9 in the Cotton Bowl.

1941-46
Record: 53-11-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Wally Butts
Notable players: Frank Sinkwich, Charlie Trippi
Sinkwich gave Georgia a dose of Southern Pride, becoming the first player from a Southern school to win the Heisman in 1942. He’d remain the only one until LSU’s Billy Cannon in 1959. Georgia continued to build national credibility by defeating UCLA in the Rose Bowl after the ’42 season in which Trippi earned the game’s MVP. After his career was interrupted by World War II, Trippi returned to win the Maxwell Award in 1946 as Georgia went 11-0, defeating North Carolina in the Sugar Bowl. Alas, Georgia finished third in the AP poll that year behind No. 1 Notre Dame and a No. 2 Army team led by Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.

WORST TIMES TO BE A GEORGIA FAN

1993-96
Record: 22-22-1
Coaches: Ray Goff/Jim Donnan
Replacing the legend (and now his athletic director) Vince Dooley proved to be impossible for Ray Goff. Georgia had one losing season in 24 years under Dooley, but two in Goff’s first five seasons (4-7 in 1990 and 5-6 in ’94). This began a stretch of futility against Florida, as the Bulldogs lost 52-17 in 1995 under Goff and 47-7 in 1996, the first season under Donnan.

1953-58
Record: 23-38-2
Coach: Wally Butts
Georgia finished ninth or lower in the SEC five times in six seasons. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were in the midst of a nine-game losing streak to Georgia Tech, an SEC foe at the time. Fran Tarkenton burst on the scene in 1959, but Tarkenton’s boost of energy was good for just one 10-1 season. Georgia went 6-4 his senior year in 1960 and then endured three consecutive losing seasons.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

2002-07
Record: 74-18
National championships: 0
Coach: Mark Richt
Notable players: David Greene, David Pollack, Thomas Davis, Boss Bailey, Terrence Edwards, Matthew Stafford, A.J. Green, Geno Atkins, Rennie Curran
Georgia fans are hungry for the Bulldogs to take the next step to the national championship game as their rivals Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee all have during the BCS era. Keeping up with the Joneses may cause Georgia to lose a bit of perspective. Compared to Georgia’s history, this era is pretty darn good. The Dawgs won the SEC in 2002 and 2005, their first SEC titles since 1982, and finished as high as No. 2 in the country in 2007.

Other best times/worst times:
Alabama
Auburn
Miami
Nebraska
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Texas A&M


Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC's All-Conference Team for 2013
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines

Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be a Georgia Football Fan
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/chrome-helmet-way-washington
Body:

New uniforms and helmets are the biggest craze in college football.

Teams are unveiling different looks throughout the offseason, and it seems one of the newest variations is a chrome helmet.

Baylor unveiled a gold helmet earlier this year, and Washington could be joining the crowd with a chrome look for 2013.

The school hasn’t officially announced anything about the helmet, but the chrome variation would be a sharp look for the Huskies. 

Here's a look at the chrome helmet, tweeted by @TysonLossness

Personally, I love the chrome helmet. A big part of the helmet/uniform craze is to help catch the attention of recruits, and there's no question this look would be a sharp addition to one of the Pac-12's best uniform combinations

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - 00:08
Path: /node/23355
Body:

Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis goes off, no one steals on the Dodgers and Cardinals, Chris Davis is still crushing it and Brandon Phillips loves the bases loaded. These and more amazing MLB stats for the week of June 24-30.

.606    Jason Kipnis’ OBP last week
In addition to batting .478 for the week, the Indians' Kipnis drew eight walks to boost his on-base percentage to .606. He scored nine runs and drove home 10.

.459    Batting average for a Cabrera in June
But it wasn’t Miguel. It was shortstop Everth of San Diego before he injured a hamstring and missed a couple of weeks. The mark was the highest average in the majors for the month.

0    Stolen Bases allowed by the Dodgers
Last week, there were just four stolen base attempts against the Dodgers and none were successful. Ben Revere — otherwise successful 80 percent of the time — was caught twice, Jimmy Rollins — successful 87 percent of the time since 2005 — was nabbed, as was Gregor Blanco of the Giants. Pitcher Stephen Fife was on the mound for three of the attempts, and A.J. Ellis was behind the plate for three.

0    Stolen Base attempts against the Cardinals
Last week, no one even tried to run on St. Louis. In June, the Cardinals allowed just two stolen bases in four attempts.

7    Times a player has finished June with 31 or more home runs
Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles homered twice on June 29 and once on June 30 to finish June with a total of 31 home runs. Barry Bonds has the highest mark with 39 in 2001. Ken Griffey Jr. is the only player to accomplish it twice.

5    Teams Without a 3-Game winning Streak in June
The St. Louis Cardinals claimed the majors’ best record throughout the month of June, but they were among the five teams that never put together a winning streak of more than two games in the entire month. The Mets, Rockies, Giants and Mariners were the others.

12-0    Record for Kansas City in June when the lineup produces four runs
The Royals’ pitchers have shown that they don’t need much support. Last month, when the offense produced four runs, it resulted in a W. The Royals were a disappointing 4-5 when the pitchers allowed exactly three runs.

.299    June batting average for the Boston Red Sox
It was the best in the majors for the month, which helped the Sox increase their lead in the AL East.

.225    June batting average for the New York Yankees
Better than only the lowly Houston Astros, the lack of hitting caused the Yankees to slip to fourth place in the AL East.

7    Hits with the bases loaded for Brandon Phillips of Cincinnati this season
In nine at-bats with the bases full this season, Phillips has six singles, a home run and 15 RBIs.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis goes off, no one steals on the Dodgers and Cardinals, Chris Davis is still crushing it and Brandon Phillips loves the bases loaded. These and more amazing MLB stats for the week of June 24-30.
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 15:58
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, San Diego Chargers, NFL
Path: /san-diego-chargers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

San Diego missed the playoffs for a third straight season in 2012, resulting in Norv Turner's dismissal. Can rookie NFL head coach Mike McCoy get the Chargers back to the playoffs? Here's our look at the Chargers' 2013 NFL schedule.

San Diego Chargers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Houston (Mon.)
Week 2: at Philadelphia
Week 3: at Tennessee
Week 4: Dallas
Week 5: at Oakland
Week 6: Indianapolis (Mon.)
Week 7: at Jacksonville
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: at Washington
Week 10: Denver
Week 11: at Miami
Week 12: at Kansas City
Week 13: Cincinnati
Week 14: New York Giants
Week 15: at Denver (Thurs.)
Week 16: Oakland
Week 17: Kansas City

Order your 2013 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: The good news is that Mike McCoy gets to begin his NFL head-coaching career at home in the "Monday Night Football" spotlight. The bad news is the opponent is Houston, the defending AFC South champions. Things get a little easier after that with back-to-back games against Philadelphia and Tennessee, although both of those are on the road. September wraps up at home versus Dallas. The Chargers and the Cowboys are similar in that each team has missed the playoffs each of the past three seasons and has an embattled starting quarterback. Misery loves company perhaps?

Toughest Stretch: The beginning of December is not kind to the Chargers, who will play the Bengals, Giants and Broncos in a row. Two of these teams made the playoffs last season and even though the Giants didn't, they finished 2012 with a 9-7 record and should be right back in the postseason mix again this season. San Diego does get Cincinnati and the Giants at home, but the Chargers have go to Denver for the second half of their Manning double-dip and this divisional contest also will take place on a Thursday. The Bengals' Andy Dalton may not have a Super Bowl ring like Eli and Peyton, but he did throw 27 touchdown passes in leading his team to the playoffs last season. Together, they form a tough trio of quarterbacks that the Chargers have to face to open the final month of the season. It goes without saying that San Diego really needs their Pro Bowl quarterback (Philip Rivers) to be at the top of his game come Week 13.

Swing Games:at MIA (Week 11), CIN (Week 13)
Crossover Divisions:AFC South, NFC East
Bye Week:Week 8
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.457 (31st)
Athlon's SOS Rank:32nd

Easiest Stretch: Getting off to a strong start would not only be huge for McCoy in his first season as a head coach, but also for a Chargers team that struggled do so under his predecessor, Norv Turner. While a season opening matchup with Houston is anything but ideal, the opportunity to string some wins together in the first half of the schedule appears to be there. Besides the Texans, the only other 2012 postseason participant the Chargers play before going on bye in Week 8 is the Colts (home, Week 6). Even though the rest of their games are on the road except for Dallas in Week 4, the Chargers should have no worse than a fighting chance against the Eagles, Titans, Raiders and Jaguars. If San Diego enters November with at least three or four wins that would have to be considered a promising beginning to the McCoy era.

Circle The Calendar: Crossover games with the AFC South and NFC East mean Houston, Indianapolis, Dallas and the New York Giants all will be paying rare visits to San Diego this season. The two games with Denver are always important because they are divisional matchups, but this season's meetings will have a little extra to them as McCoy, who served as the Broncos' offensive coordinator the past four seasons, will be taking on his former team and boss (John Fox) for the first time.

Divisional Notes: The Chargers play just one AFC West game (at OAK, Week 5) prior to its Week 8 bye, meaning five of their final nine are divisional contests. The first meeting with Denver comes at home in Week 10 with the rematch set for Thursday night in Week 15. That game is the first of three straight divisional matchups to end the season, which culminates with back-to-back home dates with Oakland and Kansas City. If San Diego can stay afloat during the first half of its schedule, there's no telling what may happen in the AFC West with so many divisional games crammed into the final two months.

Playoff Push: The playoffs seem to be somewhat of a lofty goal for McCoy's first season in San Diego, but if that possibility remains entering December the Chargers will have their work cut out for them. The final month of the season opens with Cincinnati at home and a Manning brothers doubleheader. Eli and the Giants will be making the cross-country trip to southern California in Week 14, with the Chargers then heading to Denver to face Peyton and the Broncos on a short turnaround for the Thursday night game the following week. San Diego wraps the season up with three straight divisional contests, including the final two against Oakland and Kansas City at home. Even if the Chargers are clearly out of playoff contention come December, a strong final month to the season would be a huge momentum builder for McCoy and his team.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): The Chargers won’t have to venture far during the fantasy playoffs with their only road game taking place in Denver. The Broncos also are the only top-10 fantasy defense from last season that Philip Rivers and company will face — both the Giants and Raiders were among the bottom 10 against QBs. The Broncos did have their struggles against TEs (30th), so Rivers and Antonio Gates may do some damage in Denver.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
San Diego Chargers 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-2-2013
Body:

July 2

• Remember that hot UCLA girl who caught the eye of the camerman during the College World Series? She may be cashing in. More power to her.

• Here's one that's sure to spark a reaction, especially among Michigan fans: The 10 most iconic college football uniforms.

This proves that people will go to creative lengths to smuggle their booze into a stadium.

The Jags are apparently going to try to draw people to their stadium by giving them something other than the Jags to watch. Hey, whatever it takes.

The Butler bulldog had to undergo a rigorous (and adorable) training regimen to prepare for life in the Big East.

I'd say that Mark Stoops is recruiting aggressively, if 182 letters to one recruit in one day counts as aggressive.

Apparently, Cam Newton would rather be hit by a fast-moving 300-pound D-tackle than a tiny fast-moving baseball.

A gallery of stuff thrown by fans, from chairs to flares to phallic balloons.

Photos have surfaced of Alabama's new locker room. Call me when they install the waterfall.

• Speaking of Alabama, wanna see defensive coordinator Kirby Smart posing with a frighteningly huge snake he killed? Of course you do.

Running Vandelay Industries doesn't prevent Art Vandelay from enjoying the occasional Mets game.

• Yasiel Puig has more hits in his first month than anyone in baseball history not named Joe DiMaggio. Here are the video highlights of Puig's epic ascent to superstardom.

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


Teaser:
Rounding up the web's best sports links so you don't have to.
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 13:42
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC South, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /tampa-bay-buccaneers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some nice pieces to work with moving forward. There are a lot of talented players in key positions, but the Bucs are facing an uphill battle in the loaded NFC. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at New York Jets
Week 2: New Orleans
Week 3: at New England
Week 4: Arizona
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Philadelphia
Week 7: at Atlanta
Week 8: Carolina (Thurs.)
Week 9: at Seattle
Week 10: Miami (Mon.)
Week 11: Atlanta
Week 12: at Detroit
Week 13: at Carolina
Week 14: Buffalo
Week 15: San Francisco
Week 16: at St. Louis
Week 17: at New Orleans

Order your 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: In a bizarre and meaningless twist, the Bucs will face three straight "New" teams to start the year with the Jets, Saints and Patriots to open the season. Two of those will come on the road with a home game against Arizona wrapping up the first month, so a 2-2 start would have to be considered an excellent beginning. The one piece of good news for the start to the year is getting divisional foe New Orleans at home. Pull an upset in that game and build on it to open up 3-1 and Tampa Bay could be staring at a postseason run.

Toughest Stretch: The last three weeks of the regular season will be daunting for this young Bucs squad. Not only will Tampa Bay face four road games in the last six weeks but the final two games of the year will come in St. Louis and New Orleans against key NFC playoff contenders. Toss in a home game with the defending NFC champion 49ers in Week 15 and Tampa Bay boasts one of the hardest final three weeks of the year. The good news is there are plenty of wins leading into this stretch...

Swing Games:PHI (Week 6), at DET (Week 12)
Crossover Divisions:NFC West, AFC East
Bye Week:Week 5
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.500 (17th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:14th

Easiest Stretch: The toughest portion of the schedule will be preceded by the three easiest weeks of the season, as the Lions, Panthers and Bills fill Weeks 12-14 of the Bucs' 2013 schedule. Additionally, Tampa Bay will face Miami two weeks earlier. So while there are reasons for optimism in both Carolina and Miami, Tampa Bay has to believe it can win those four games (in a five-week stretch) if it expects to compete for a playoff spot in the extremely stacked NFC.

Circle The Calendar: There are some interesting battles on this slate, including a rematch of former Big East coaches when Doug Marrone — who was 2-1 against Schiano in college — and the Bills come to town in Week 14. However, fans in Tampa won't ever forget the Mike Williams touchdown that wasn't against New Orleans on the final play of the game in last season's meeting. The Saints held on to a 35-28 win in Tampa in Week 7 after Williams' apparent game-tying touchdown was overturned because the wide receiver had stepped out of bounds. Games with the key division rival don't need any extra fuel, but this team will be ready to welcome Drew Brees and company to town in Week 2.

Divisional Notes: The Bucs will face just one NFC South opponent in the first six weeks of the year when the Saints come to town in Week 2. Then Tampa Bay will play divisional games in four of the next seven (Week 7-13), including both games with Atlanta and a Thursday night short-week home tilt with Cam Newton. The next game with Atlanta (Week 11) also will come on a short week as well. The season wraps up with a brutal road NFC South game in the Superdome in New Orleans — in a situation where both teams likely will need to win to get into the playoffs.

Playoff Push: There is just as much to hate about the end of the '13 schedule as there is to like. Weeks 12-14 appears to be all winnable games that could set the Bucs up for a playoff push. However, the final three weeks of the year might be the team's toughest stretch. Not only does the NFC frontrunner come to town in Week 15, but the Bucs must go on the road for the final two weeks to face fellow playoff hopefuls in the Rams and Saints. The Bucs must make headway prior to the final three weeks — meaning this team likely needs nine or 10 wins in the first 14 weeks to expect a postseason berth.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Doug Martin had better enjoy that Week 14 date with Buffalo, the 30th-ranked defense against fantasy RBs, because the sledding gets much tougher after that. San Francisco surrendered the fourth-fewest points to RBs and St. Louis (15th in rushing defense in 2012) added linebacker Alec Ogletree and safety T.J. McDonald to its defense in the draft. The 49ers and Rams also were top-12 defenses against QBs.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHoustonDenver
Miami CincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas ChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Athlon breaks down each and every team's schedule for the 2013 NFL season.
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-best-coaches-under-40-0
Body:

College basketball had two coaches who were considered two of the brightest young minds in the minds in the game, a pair atop any list of coaches under 40.

One, though, is now one of the top pro coaches under 40. Butler's Brad Stevens and VCU's Shaka Smart topped the first edition of our list of college basketball coaches under the age of 40, but Stevens' shocking move to the Boston Celtics demanded a revision.

Smart moves up to the top spot, which isn't a surprise as Smart has broken a handful of Stevens' coaching milestones in the early seasons of his career.

Smart was a no-brainer for our list of best college basketball coaches under 40, but the rest of the list may contain surprises. With Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Connecticut’s Kevin Ollie departing the under-40 club for the 2013-14 season, we dipped into the mid-major ranks to find our young coaches on the rise.

*All ages as of Nov. 1, 2013

COLLEGE BASKETBALL’S BEST COACHES UNDER 40

1. Shaka Smart, VCU
Record: 111-37, 7-3 NCAA Tournament
Age: 36
VCU was up to the challenge by moving up from the Colonial to the Atlantic 10. The Rams have not won fewer than 27 games in four years under Smart and have proven to be a superb postseason team (one Final Four, two rounds of 32 and a CBI championship). Smart’s program has become synonymous with the havoc defense that forces turnovers better than just about any team in the country. With Butler, Xavier and Temple leaving the Atlantic 10, VCU is poised to become the top program in the A-10 as long as Smart is in Richmond.

2. Josh Pastner, Memphis
Record: 106-34
Age: 36
The energetic Pastner achieved an important milestone in 2013 with Memphis’ first NCAA Tournament win of his tenure thanks to a narrow win over 11th-seeded Saint Mary’s. Signature wins have been lacking under Pastner, but that’s about to change. Memphis trades lackluster Conference USA for Louisville (at least for a year), Connecticut, Cincinnati and Temple in 2013-14. Pastner has kept a string of McDonald’s All-Americans coming to Memphis, so there won't be a talent deficit in the new league. He’ll soon find out if they can keep up with better competition on a more consistent basis after breezing through C-USA last season.

3. Steve Prohm, Murray State
Record: 52-12, 1-1 NCAA Tournament
Age: 39
The Racers’ second season under Prohm wasn’t quite as magical as the first when Isaiah Canaan led Murray to a 31-2 season. Murray State still won 21 games and the West Division of the expanded Ohio Valley. Now it’s time to see what Prohm can do without Canaan.

4. Bryce Drew, Valparaiso
Record: 48-20, 0-1 NCAA Tournament
Age: 39
The most famous basketball player in Valpo history has turned out to be a pretty good coach. The son of longtime Crusaders coach Homer Drew took over his father’s program two seasons ago and brought Valpo back to the postseason contention with back-to-back Horizon League regular-season titles. The NCAA bid in 2013 was Valpo’s first since 2004, and the 26 wins were a school record.

5. Richard Pitino, Minnesota
Record: 18-14
Age: 31
FIU’s second attempt to hire a coach with name recognition fared much better than the first. Isiah Thomas won 14 Sun Belt games in three season at FIU. Pitino went 11-9 in the league in his lone season in Miami. FIU was on the brink of its first NCAA Tournament bid since 1995 before losing 65-63 to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt title game. Minnesota took note and made him the youngest coach in the Big Ten. He has the family name, but his old bosses — Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan — have a good success rate with assistants-turned-head coaches.

6. Mitch Henderson, Princeton
Record: 37-23
Age: 38
Harvard has won the Ivy League the last two seasons, but Princeton has been right on the Crimson’s heels. The Tigers have finished one game back of Harvard in the Ivy the last two seasons. Like Bryce Drew at Valpo, Henderson is a hometown hero at Princeton who played on the 1996 Tigers team that upset UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. Henderson spent more than a decade on Northwestern’s coaching staff, Big Ten experience that could become relevant.

7. Kevin Willard, Seton Hall
Record: 94-98
Age: 38
Though Seton Hall took a major step back last season — from 21 wins and an NIT appearance to 3-15 in the Big East — Willard has a good overall resume. Willard took over an Iona team that went 2-28 the year before he arrived. By the time Willard left, Iona won 21 games in 2010. A Rick Pitino assistant with Celtics and at Louisville, Willard will look to rebound in the new Big East.

8. Andy Toole, Robert Morris
Record: 68-36
Age: 31
Promoted to head coach before his 30th birthday, Toole delivered the biggest win in Robert Morris history when the Colonials defeated Kentucky in the NIT on their home court in March. That shouldn’t obscure what else he’s accomplished in Moon Township: 50 wins in the last two seasons, an NEC regular season title in 2013 and a 39-15 overall record in the league. A former Mike Rice assistant at Robert Morris before his promotion, Toole might be under the microscope as he’s a candidate for another job.

9. Michael White, Louisiana Tech
Record: 45-23
Age: 36
The WAC was watered down last season and the schedule was paper thin, but it’s tough to ignore Louisiana Tech’s progress in White’s second season. The Bulldogs improved from 6-8 in conference in his first season to 16-2 in the second. The former Ole Miss assistant led Louisiana Tech to its second-highest win total of 27 victories, second only to Karl Malone’s 29-win team in 1984-85. White is poised to build on last season in Conference USA in 2013-14.

 

10. Archie Miller, Dayton
Record: 37-27
Age: 35
Miller has the experience and bloodlines to become a successful Division I coach. He’s the brother of Arizona’s Sean Miller and the son of John Miller, a legendary high school coach in Pennsylvania. He’s already served on staffs at NC State and Arizona State (under his college coach Herb Sendek) plus Ohio State and Arizona. Dayton has yet to break out under Miller, but hopes are high he’ll put his stamp on the program.

Teaser:
Shaka Smart is the best, but he's not alone.
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/does-nebraska-still-believe-bo-pelini
Body:

The Osborne Athletic Facility is a double shot of nostalgia. Red remnants of those back-to-back titles from 1994 and ’95 are unmistakable from the lobby.

Inside this impressive place, gifted athletes dead-lift hundreds of pounds, sprint on turf and occupy cold tubs on a frosty Monday in March.

Bo Pelini oversees all of this. He’s not prominently displayed on these walls. There are no gaudy collages to honor Pelini’s 48 wins in five seasons.

This is Nebraska. Win titles, get on the wall.

Pelini is working on that.

“I think an overwhelming majority appreciates what he’s done here,” says Tom Osborne, the architect of those title teams and now athletic director emeritus, soon to retire. “I think the fans and Bo are hungry for a conference championship and a BCS game.”

These are the achievements that have eluded Pelini. And to some die-hard Nebraska faithful, they are still expected, even after the Frank Solich and Bill Callahan eras humbled the program.

Nebraska is like Notre Dame in that, to be elite, it must recruit nationally. Pelini is a solid recruiter who has the Huskers linked to the top-25 recruiting rankings the last four years despite the fact that his average signee lives nearly 1,000 miles away.

He’s also won at least nine games in all five seasons, a feat accomplished by 11 coaches in college football history among BCS automatic qualifying schools, according to a Nebraska spokesman. Eight head coaches have more wins than Pelini the last five years.

But the combined 3–6 record in the last three games of the last three seasons, punctuated by a curious 70–31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, has cast a pall over Lincoln that only late-season wins will erase.

Pelini hasn’t hid from Nebraska’s lofty expectations, and he isn’t about to start.

“You’d want it no other way,” Pelini says. “You grow in a job and understand what the challenges are.

I believe I’m a better coach now than five years ago.”

He can use that coaching growth to improve a defense that allowed 115 points and more than 1,200 yards in the final two games last season.

For a guy who bolstered his reputation as the coordinator of LSU’s vaunted defense from 2005-07, last year’s performance has to chafe Pelini.

Nebraska replaces several defensive starters, which might not be such a bad thing. The theme of spring practices was competition — seniors, freshmen, anyone can start if you’re ready to maximize your potential.

Pelini came out of spring firing, saying his team was “mentally weak” after a mid-week session.

Nebraska’s fourth-year starting quarterback, Taylor Martinez, has helped the Cornhuskers win 29 games with a dazzling array of 50-yard rushing touchdowns while setting a school record with 9,449 total offensive yards. But he has been erratic late in seasons (six touchdowns, six interceptions in the last three games of the last three years). The Nebraska legacies of Pelini and Martinez are intertwined, at least for now.

That won’t matter much if the defense keeps flailing. As a result, Pelini isn’t overreacting with a scheme change — he stays committed to a 4-3 while mixing in the occasional 3-4 packages at different points of a game — but he is jumping into the fundamental-teaching pool with both feet.

NU signed seven defensive linemen in 2013 who will compete for spots.

“I have a pretty good idea of what we have to do,” Pelini says. “I like the potential of this group defensively. I think we’ll have some guys coming in this class that have a chance to help us. I think we’ll be very athletic and deep. Sometimes the youth aspect is a good thing.”

In an environment where losing is unacceptable, Pelini hasn’t wavered in his approach to the job that mixes hard-nosed teaching with an open-door office policy for players.

The way the staff sees it, this consistency will eventually pay off late in a season. Take the Wisconsin game. There was devastation all around, yet Pelini immediately dove into the game film, addressed the concerns (outmuscled up front, bad tackling) and struck a positive note in the following weeks.

“It’s tough to come back in and say, ‘All right, guys, it’s going to be OK,’” offensive coordinator Tim Beck says. “To his credit, he always talks about maintaining the process. Make sure you’re doing the right things. He’s very approachable for our staff and players. They feel a lot of love from him. There’s a lot of respect. They don’t want to let him down. If they have problems, they can talk to him. We have fun as coaches and players. It doesn’t become such a grind.”

Pelini wasn’t having much fun when chewing out Martinez on the sidelines against Texas A&M in 2010 or being hospitalized in September after falling ill during the first half of the Arkansas State game.

Coaching often demands intensity by the truckload, and Pelini knows that well. But entering his sixth year, Pelini sounds like a man in a relaxed, optimistic state.

He takes his kids to school every day. If he can’t do that anymore, he says he’s getting out of the business.

The losses he takes personally — the Wisconsin game is no exception. They stay with you, he says. But he cares more about a complete body of work at Nebraska than hallway adoration.

“I don’t care about the recognition,” Pelini says. “It’s about the kids you’re coaching. I like to compete. I want to win. Most importantly, I want these kids to grow and win.” 


Written by Jeremy Fowler for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Big Ten Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Big Ten season.


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Teaser:
Does Nebraska Still Believe in Bo Pelini?
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:33
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2013-sec-offensive-lines
Body:

Most of college football’s preseason hype surrounds high-profile quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. But arguably the most important position – the offensive line – usually doesn’t garner much attention. However, the play of the offensive line could be the difference between contending for a conference championship or fighting just to get bowl eligible.

The SEC is loaded with talent on the offensive line in 2013. Led by future NFL first-round draft pick Antonio Richardson, Tennessee ranks as the No. 1 group for 2013. The Volunteers allowed only eight sacks in 2012 and return four starters this year.

Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama round out the top four offensive lines in the SEC for 2013. The Bulldogs have upside with all five starters back, while the Crimson Tide must replace Barrett Jones, Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker.

Kickoff for the 2013 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2013 - not how it played in 2012.

Ranking the SEC Offensive Lines for 2013

1. Tennessee
With a new quarterback and a revamped receiving corps, Tennessee will lean heavily on its offensive line to carry the offense in 2013. The line is anchored by future NFL first-round pick Antonio Richardson. He started all 12 games and earned second-team All-SEC honors last year. Joining Richardson in the starting lineup as returning starters will be center James Stone (27 career starts) and seniors Zach Fulton and Ja’Wuan James (37 consecutive starts). Senior Alex Bullard and junior Marcus Jackson are battling to replace departed guard Dallas Thomas. This unit must adapt to a new coach, but Tennessee should still have one of the best offensive lines in the nation.


2. Texas A&M
The Aggies’ offensive line was a big reason for the success of the offense last year. The final totals indicated this unit gave up 23 sacks but cleared the way for Texas A&M to average 5.9 yards per carry. And a mobile quarterback like Johnny Manziel can often inflate the sack totals of an offensive line, as it’s not easy for the front five to hold their blocks while the quarterback scrambles. Left tackle Luke Joeckel left for the NFL, but the Aggies plan to move Associated Press 2012 third-team All-American Jake Matthews from right tackle to the left side. And Cedric Ogbuehi will slide from guard to right tackle to replace Matthews. The guard spots will be manned by Jarvis Harrison and Germain Ifedi, while Mike Matthews – brother of left tackle Jake Matthews – will slide into the center spot. Joeckel will be missed, but Texas A&M has plenty of talent returning to keep this offensive line among the best in the nation.


3. Alabama
Much like Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide have a few holes to plug up front before 2013. Center Barrett Jones – arguably one of the best offensive linemen of the BCS era – and 2012 first-team All-American Chance Warmack have expired their eligibility. Right tackle D.J. Fluker earned second-team All-American honors last season, and he decided to leave early for the NFL. Despite the departure of three key performers from last year, the cupboard is far from bare. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is primed to emerge as one of the top linemen in the nation, with senior Anthony Steen anchoring the right side at guard. The other three spots are up for grabs, with juniors Arie Kouandjio (left guard) and Austin Shepherd (right tackle) owning a slight edge for snaps going into the fall. Sophomore Ryan Kelly is expected to replace Jones at center. This unit will be under the direction of a new position coach in former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal.

Related: Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Wide Receivers


4. Georgia
With only three returning starters on defense, the Bulldogs will need their offense to carry the team through a difficult September schedule. With quarterback Aaron Murray, running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, along with receiver Malcolm Mitchell returning, the firepower is certainly there to win the SEC in 2013. However, Georgia’s offense will only go as far as its line will allow. The good news? All five starters are back, including promising sophomore left tackle John Theus. The rest of the starting five could feature three seniors with Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette and Kenarious Gates, with David Andrews anchoring the interior at center. This unit gave up 27 sacks last year – including a miserable performance in a 35-7 loss against South Carolina. Considering the talent, depth and experience returning to Athens, it would be a big surprise if the Bulldogs fail to find improvement on the offensive line in 2013.


5. LSU
Josh Dworaczyk and center P.J. Lonergan must be replaced, but the Tigers should remain one of the SEC’s best offensive lines in 2013. Anchoring the line at tackle will be rising star La’el Collins. The Louisiana native earned honorable mention all-conference SEC honors last season and started 13 games at guard. Collins is expected to slide to left tackle this year. Sophomore Vadal Alexander will join Collins as the bookends, with senior Josh Williford and sophomore Trai Turner expected to start at guard. Elliott Porter is slated to take over at center, but he will be pushed by Ethan Pocic. LSU allowed 32 sacks last season, but the line paved the way for rushers to average 4.3 yards per carry in 2012.


6. Florida
With the personnel losses on defense, the Gators need more help from the offense in 2013. And there’s plenty of good news with the return of quarterback Jeff Driskel, and the offensive line could be one of the most-improved groups in the conference. Seniors Jonotthan Harrison and guard Jon Halapio are back as returning starters, and the group is expected to get a boost from the arrival of transfers Tyler Moore (Nebraska) and Max Garcia (Maryland). Left tackle D.J. Humphries ranked as the No. 3 overall recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 last year. If Humphries, Moore and Garcia quickly acclimate to the starting lineup, the Gators will easily cut last season’s sack total (39) in 2013.


7. Mississippi State
With four starters back, this unit should be a strength for the Bulldogs. Anchoring the line will be one of the nation’s best guards in senior Gabe Jackson (a third-team All-American by Athlon Sports for 2013). Joining Jackson on the interior will be promising junior Dillon Day, who has made 22 starts during his career. The tackle spots are expected to be manned by Blaine Clausell and Charles Siddoway, and the coaching staff would like to see both players step up their performance in 2013. The right guard spot is up for grabs, with sophomore Justin Malone and junior Archie Muniz battling for time. The Bulldogs allowed only 19 sacks last year and could lower that number in 2013.


8. Vanderbilt
Under the direction of line coach Herb Hand, the Commodores have made significant progress in the trenches over the last couple of seasons. And this group is poised to take another step forward in 2013, especially with senior Wesley Johnson returning at left tackle and center Joe Townsend anchoring the interior. Junior Andrew Bridges could be pushed for time by redshirt freshman Andrew Jelks, while the guard spots should go to Jake Bernstein and Spencer Pulley. This unit was a key reason why the Commodores averaged 166.3 rushing yards per game last year, and with three solid returning starters in place, Vanderbilt should be able to cut its sacks allowed from last year (24).


9. Ole Miss
The Rebels allowed 34 sacks and ranked fifth in the SEC with an average of 173.9 rushing yards per game last year. With four starters returning, Ole Miss should be able to improve on those totals in 2013. Seniors Emmanuel McCray and Pierce Burton anchor the line from the tackle spots, while guard Aaron Morris is a second-team All-SEC selection by Athlon Sports for 2013. Center Evan Swindall provided steady play last year and started all 13 contests. The one open spot on the line comes at right guard, where the vacancy is likely to be filled by a senior – Patrick Junen or Jared Duke. Ole Miss also has help on the way in the form of incoming freshman Laremy Tunsil. Even if Tunsil doesn’t replace McCray and Burton, he will provide valuable depth for a line that hopes to use more bodies in 2013.

Related: Hugh Freeze Has Ole Miss on the Rise


10. Auburn
Much like many of the other units for Auburn in 2013, the Tigers could easily outperform this ranking by the end of the year. There’s no shortage of talent up front for coach Gus Malzahn, starting with junior Reese Dismukes at center. Dismukes has 23 career starts coming into 2013 and could emerge as one of the SEC’s best centers by the end of the year. The coaching staff is counting on sophomore Greg Robinson to guard the blindside for whichever quarterback wins the job, while redshirt freshman Alex Kozan is expected to slide into the lineup at left guard. Junior Chad Slade (right guard) and sophomore Patrick Miller (right tackle) will likely round out the starting lineup. However, junior college transfer Devonte Danzey could push for time as a starter at guard this year.  

Related: College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013


11. South Carolina
With four starters returning, the Gamecocks are hoping for significant improvement in the trenches. The line struggled at times last year, allowing 38 sacks (102nd nationally) and rushers averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. Although the line has four players back, there’s also the concern of replacing one of the SEC’s top centers in T.J. Johnson. Redshirt freshman Cody Waldrop is slated to fill Johnson’s shoes at center. For the line to take the next step, the Gamecocks need a big year from sophomore Brandon Shell at right tackle and left guard A.J. Cann to become an all-conference performer. For South Carolina to win the East Division, the offensive line’s development could hold the key to the season.


12. Arkansas
The Razorbacks’ offensive line will be led by senior center Travis Swanson, an Athlon Sports’ second-team All-American for 2013. Having Swanson back in the lineup is a huge asset for new coach Bret Bielema, especially since three starters departed, and the offense is switching to a new scheme under coordinator Jim Chaney. Senior David Hurd is expected to start at left tackle after making 11 starts last year. Guards Brey Cook and Mitch Smothers have potential, while the right tackle spot is expected to be up for grabs between Grady Ollison and Austin Beck. Incoming freshmen Dan Skipper, Denver Kirkland and Reeve Koehler could all push for time this fall. Line coach Sam Pittman did an excellent job of molding Tennessee’s line into a strength, and this unit should be significantly improved by the end of 2013.


13. Missouri
Injuries and inconsistent play hindered this group’s performance last year. The Tigers allowed 29 sacks and led the way for running backs to average only 3.7 yards per carry. While last season was a transition year for this group as it adjusted to life in the SEC, Missouri should be hopeful about its offensive line prospects for 2013. Evan Boehm could blossom into one of the nation’s top sophomore offensive linemen by the end of the season, and he is expected to slide to center after playing guard in 2012. Senior Justin Britt has 22 career starts and will anchor the line from the left tackle spot. Senior Max Copeland is expected to join him at left guard, while junior Mitch Morse is likely to start at right tackle.


14. Kentucky
The Wildcats suffered some significant losses in this group, as All-SEC guard Larry Warford and center Matt Smith have expired their eligibility. Also, the line must adapt to a different scheme and a new coach in John Schlarman. Although two key starters must be replaced, this unit isn’t in total disarray. Left tackle Darrian Miller started all 12 games last year and will be joined by promising sophomore Zach West at guard. Senior Kevin Mitchell is slated to move from tackle to guard to help replace Warford. Proven depth is a concern in the trenches for Schlarman, especially for an offense that plans to pay at a faster pace in 2013. 
 

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Teaser:
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:26
Path: /college-football/mike-macintyre-creates-hope-colorado
Body:

In the days after Jon Embree was fired as head coach at Colorado last fall, the angry and frustrated former Buffaloes tight end went public with complaints about what he perceived was the school’s lack of commitment to winning.

Embree said that during his brief two-year tenure, he was forced to pay out of his own pocket for some of the travel costs of his assistant coaches to attend a summer camp in California where they could see potential recruits. He said he routinely paid for bottled water in the football offices because the school would supply only a few weeks’ worth each month. Embree said there weren’t enough chairs in the offensive line meeting room, and he couldn’t get more. He brought his own desk from home when CU balked at replacing the one left behind by his predecessor.

Colorado fans reacted with frustration of their own, believing Embree was blaming his inability to win games or field a competitive team on trivial issues. The Buffs went 4–21 in Embree’s two seasons, including a 1–11 mark in 2012 — the worst season in the modern history of the program.

Embree probably picked the wrong time to bring those issues to light, but some onlookers completely missed or ignored the underlying message he was trying to convey. Embree’s point was that while his bosses talked publicly about wanting a first-class football program, they weren’t always acting like it behind the scenes.

Even Embree’s former boss acknowledged at the time he fired the coach that the school needed to invest more in football to achieve better results, especially in light of the Buffaloes’ move to the Pac-12, which had six teams ranked in the top 25 late last season. Colorado has produced seven consecutive losing seasons and hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2007.

“We were exposed in this league,” former athletic director Mike Bohn said at the press conference announcing Embree’s dismissal. “So did we give Jon a big enough shovel? We tried to provide additional enhancements to that shovel. But is it enough? The answer is no. I think that’s the challenge that we have, and I think that’s why you hear the chancellor and the president saying that we will continue to try and add to that shovel to help.”

The school left no doubt about its commitment to improve its flagship program when it hired Mike MacIntyre away from San Jose State in December. Colorado made MacIntyre the highest-paid coach in its history with a salary of more than $2 million per year. No previous CU coach had made even $1.5 million a year. It also nearly doubled the total salary pool for the entire coaching staff by committing $5 million annually to MacIntyre and his nine assistants.

Colorado also agreed to a clause in MacIntyre’s contract requiring the school to complete certain steps toward major facilities upgrades over the next two years. If it fails to meet those deadlines, MacIntyre could leave for another job without having to pay a buyout.

“We’re going to give everything we have on the field, and we’re going to improve and we’re going to keep getting better, but to do what we want to do ... all of this has to start moving forward, and to be frank with you, it has to start moving forward pretty fast,” MacIntyre told the Colorado Board of Regents in February.

The school took the first step toward making good on those promised upgrades when it announced details of a plan to spend $170 million on a permanent indoor practice facility, a new academic center, weight room, coaches offices and closing in the north end of Folsom Field. CU is now in the early stages of raising the money but ­hasn’t committed to a start date.

This is a school playing catch-up in a conference in which its competitors have combined to spend more than a $1 billion on facilities improvements — most related to football — in the past three years.

“The university is definitely standing behind the athletic department,” says Frances Draper, Colorado’s vice chancellor for strategic relations. “We’ve had our ups and downs, and we really feel like we have them worked through to the point where we have a good system and we’ve brought in a great new coach and we’ve got very strong academic support. So we’ve got all the pieces to build this going forward.”

Dramatically increasing coaching salaries and committing to facilities improvements is no small undertaking at Colorado right now because the athletic department is $22 million in debt to the school.

Most of that debt — about $16 million — was caused by the move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. CU forfeited approximately $7 million in Big 12 distributions when it left that league two years ago, and it did not receive a full share of Pac-12 revenue during its first year in the conference in 2011. The rest of the debt comes from paying buyouts to three former coaches — Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins and Embree — in just seven years.

“This was a long-term commitment with long-term rewards that we’re anticipating being a big part of our resurgence,” Bohn says of switching conferences and having to bite the financial bullet to make it happen.

Colorado has a long and proud history on the football field. Only 12 FBS programs have played more seasons than Colorado’s 123. The Buffs are 23rd in the nation in wins and are one of only 25 schools since 1936 to win a national championship and have a Heisman Trophy winner.

It is no wonder Buffs fans are frustrated. They grew accustomed to winning and being a part of the national conversation every week throughout the 1990s and early 2000s before nosediving late in the 2005 season.

Colorado is modeling its plans to rebuild its football program on what it has done in basketball.

CU began investing more heavily in its basketball program with incremental improvements starting six years ago. The biggest piece of that investment was spending more than $12 million on a practice facility and other additions at the Coors Events Center.

Those additions have been in place for two years, and the basketball program is in the midst of a historic run of success with three consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history and two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Next year’s team could be the best in the modern history of the program. That success has made coach Tad Boyle the most popular guy in a town and state traditionally dominated by football.

“We made a commitment to the facility. We made a commitment to the young men. We made a commitment to the coach. We made a commitment to our fans, and everyone rallied around that,” Bohn says. “That intensity of interest is a combination of all the key elements that are vital for a team to be productive and be competitive and to represent us at the level we are at.  I know that conviction was extremely strong for basketball.

“...As we look around the Pac-12 Conference, everywhere we go, we see the commitment. We see what we are up against. The bar is raised high. It’s higher than it’s ever been. This is a monumental challenge for everyone.”
 

Wrote by Kyle Ringo for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Pac-12 Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 Pac-12 season.


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Teaser:
<p> Mike MacIntyre Brings Hope and a New Commitment to Colorado</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:25
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /best-and-worst-times-be-auburn-football-fan
Body:

Auburn has had its share of dramatic ups and downs through its history. Just ask Gene Chizik.

Few may be as well versed in the highs and lows of being at Auburn. The coach presided over the school’s second national championship and third Heisman winner and two years later, he was fired after a 3-9 season.

Such is life at Auburn, where seemingly every good season or storyline is a double-edged sword. Two of Auburn’s undefeated teams (1957 and 1993) couldn’t test themselves in bowl games because of postseason bans and a third (2004) was the third wheel in the national championship race. Even the great Bo Jackson went 17-7 in SEC play, though the run included an SEC title in 1983.

But back to Chizik. Though he and quarterback Cam Newton led one of the best seasons in school history, his 2010 season doesn’t make our list of best eras for Auburn fans. Likewise, last year’s 3-9 flop doesn’t make the list of worst days to yell War Eagle.

Here are our picks for the best and worst times to be an Auburn fan.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN AUBURN FAN

1982-89
Record: 76-19-2
National championships: 0
Coach: Pat Dye
Notable players: Bo Jackson, Steve Wallace, Bill Tamburello, Terry Beasley, Tracy Rocker, Aundray Bruce, Gregg Carr, Kevin Porter
Anytime Bo Jackson was on the Plains was a good time to root for Auburn. Beyond having a once-in-a-generation athlete on campus, Auburn became a consistent top-10 program during the '80s. Only Miami, Nebraska and Oklahoma had a better win percentage than Auburn during this time. More than that, the Tigers turned the tide, so to speak, in the Iron Bowl. Before Jackson led Auburn to back-to-back wins over Alabama in 1982-83, the Crimson Tide had won nine meetings in a row. This era started with Bo Jackson and ended in 1989 with a 30-20 win over a second-ranked Alabama team in 1989 in the first game on the Auburn campus in series history.

1957-58
Record: 19-0-1
National championships: 1
Coach: Shug Jordan (pictured right)
Notable players: Zeke Smith, Red Phillips, Jackie Burkett
Ralph “Shug” Jordan brought Auburn its first national championship in 1957 and its only title before Cam Newton stepped on campus. The 10-0 championship team in 1957 was the most dominant in school history, outscoring opponents by a combined 207-28. No opponent that season scored more than a touchdown against Auburn in a season that included a 40-0 victory in the Iron Bowl. Alas, recruiting violations prevented the undefeated Tigers from going to a bowl game. Auburn went 9-0-1 the following season to extend an unbeaten streak that lasted 24 games.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN AUBURN FAN

1947-52
Record: 12-42-4
Coaches: Carl Voyles, Earl Brown, Shug Jordan
Auburn emerged from the post-war era with a host of issues across the failed tenures of Carl Voyles and Earl Brown. The low point was the 1950 season when Auburn went 0-10 and was outscored 255-31. Auburn hired Shug Jordan the next season. The eventual Auburn legend won five of his first six games before going on a 2-12 stretch. Things would get better, though.

1927-30
Record: 6-29-2
Coaches: Boozer Pitts, David Morey, George Bohler, Red Floyd, Chet Wynne
In the pre-SEC era, Auburn was a mess. The Tigers went winless in 1927 (0-7-2) and was shutout seven times in nine games in 1928. The era, however, setup a miraculous turnaround as Auburn went 9-0-1 in 1932.

IT WASN’T SO BAD WHEN...

1993-2008
Record: 134-60-1
National championships: 0
Coaches: Terry Bowden, Tommy Tuberville
Notable players: Jason Campbell, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Karlos Dansby, Carlos Rogers, Rudi Johnson, Stephen Davis, Takeo Spikes
We’re sure Auburn fans look back fondly at the undefeated seasons under Terry Bowden (11-0 in 1993) and Tommy Tuberville (13-0 in 2004). That is, if they’re not complaining of Auburn drawing the short straw in the BCS in 2004 (USC and Oklahoma, both undefeated, played for the national title) or NCAA sanctions, which meant Bowden’s team faced a television and bowl ban. Still, Auburn has a tendency to let a good thing go sour. Both Bowden and Tuberville were unceremoniously ushered out of town despite unbeaten seasons. In the SEC, only Florida, Tennessee and Georgia won more games during this period.

Other best times/worst times:
Alabama
Miami
Nebraska
Notre Dame
Ohio State
Oklahoma
Texas A&M


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Teaser:
Best and Worst Times to be an Auburn Football Fan
Post date: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-pac-12-2013
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with the college fantasy football site to provide in-depth coverage for 2013. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Pac-12 in terms of fantasy options for 2013:

All draft values are based on a 12-team, 20-round draft using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Marcus Mariota, So. (Oregon)

Last season:  Passing—2,677 yards, 32 TD-6 INT; Rushing—752 yards, 5 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; Nicholls St, @ Virginia, Tennessee

Fantasy Draft Value:  Chip Kelly is gone, but the Ducks will still play fast and return nine offensive starters.  On draft day, Mariota will likely disappear late in round 1 or early in round 2.

 

QB—Brett Hundley, So. (UCLA)

Last season:  Passing—3,740 yards, 29 TD-11 INT; Rushing—355 yards, 9 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 4-5-6-7; NM St, BYE, @ Utah, Cal

Fantasy Draft Value:  We’re thinking the experience gained as a freshman will help reduce the number of sacks in 2013 (50-plus in 2012), which should boost his rushing totals.  Hundley is projected as a mid-to-late second-round draft selection.

 

RB—Ka’Deem Carey, Jr. (Arizona)

Last season:  Rushing—1,929 yards, 23 TD; Receiving—36 rec. for 303 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:   Weeks 1-2-3; No. Arizona, @ UNLV, UTSA

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Wildcats return three starters on the offensive line that helped Carey rush for nearly 2,000 yards in 2012.  The junior running back will likely be the first running back selected in this year’s draft.

 

RB—De’Anthony Thomas, Jr. (Oregon)

Last season:  Rushing—701 yards, 11 TD; Receiving—45 rec. for 445 yards, 5 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; Nicholls St, @ Virginia, Tennessee

Fantasy Draft Value:  Thomas’s role should expand even more now that Kenjon Barner is no longer around.  However, sophomore running back Byron Marshall and incoming freshman Thomas Tyner are likely to earn a fair share of carries.  The electrifying junior should be targeted in rounds 2-3.

 

RB—Bishop Sankey, Jr. (Washington)

Last season:  Rushing—1,439 yards, 16 TD; Receiving—33 rec. for 249 yards

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Illinois, Idaho St, Arizona

Fantasy Draft Value:  The Huskies return their starting quarterback, top two receivers, and four starters on the offensive line.  The pieces are in place for another solid year from Sankey and the junior running back is a lock to disappear before round 2 concludes.

 

WR—Marqise Lee, Jr. (USC)

Last season:  Receiving—118 rec. for 1,721 yards, 14 TD; Return—856 yards, TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; @ Hawaii, Washington St, Boston College, Utah St

Fantasy Draft Value:  We are still uncertain about who will start under center for the Trojans in 2013, but Lee will undoubtedly make their transition a lot easier.  We believe that Lee is the best receiver in the country and should get strong consideration as a first-round pick.

 

WR—Brandin Cooks, Jr. (Oregon State)

Last season:  67 receptions for 1,151 yards and 5 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; E. Washington, Hawaii, @ Utah

Fantasy Draft Value:  Things are still unsettled at quarterback, but the Beavers offense returns virtually intact.  Gone is receiver Markus Wheaton, so Cooks will be called upon to shoulder the load in the passing game.  Fantasy owners should consider drafting Cooks in rounds 4-5, especially if they have not selected a receiver up until that point.

 

WR—Chris Harper, So. (California)

Last season:  41 receptions for 544 yards and 2 TD

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 11-12-13; Arizona, USC, @ Colorado

Fantasy Draft Value:  Harper is only one of three returning starters on an offense that finished 91st in the nation in scoring last year.  However, the sophomore receiver’s numbers should go up in new head coach Sonny Dykes’ pass-oriented attack and Harper should be considered in rounds 8-10.

 

TE—Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Jr. (Washington)

Last season:  69 receptions for 850 yards and seven touchdowns.

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Illinois, Idaho St, Arizona

Fantasy Draft Value:  Seferian-Jenkins and teammate Kasen Williams form one of the best pass-catching duos in the PAC-12.  If your league requires a tight end, Seferian-Jenkins may come off the board as early as round 5.  If not, the junior tight end should still post solid WR3 numbers and must be considered in rounds 8-10.

 

FLEX—Storm Woods, So. (Oregon State)

Last season:  Rushing—940 yards, 13 TD; Receiving—38 rec. for 313 yards

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; E. Washington, Hawaii, @ Utah

Fantasy Draft Value:  Woods separated himself from a stable of running backs early in the 2012 season.  The sophomore back is joined by an experienced offensive line in 2013, which catapults him into the top four rounds of the fantasy draft.

 

K—Andre Heidari, Jr. (USC)

Last season:  10-16 FG; 69 points

 

DEF—Stanford Cardinal

Schedule Sweet Spot:  Weeks 1-2-3; San Jose St, @ Army, Arizona St

Fantasy Draft Value:  Eight starters return on a defense that ranked first in the PAC-12 in scoring defense, rushing defense, and total defense.

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 

Related College Football Content

2013 College Fantasy Quarterback Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Tight End Rankings
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2013 College Fantasy Defense Rankings

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 14:54
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /seattle-seahawks-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Pete Carroll is building quite a franchise in the Great Pacific Northwest. Seattle made the playoffs a year ago, won a postseason game and return largely intact. Now, the Seahawks are eyeing a third trip to the playoffs in just four seasons under Carroll. And since scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season, Athlon is analyzing every team's 16-game slate.

Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: at Carolina
Week 2: San Francisco
Week 3: Jacksonville
Week 4: at Houston
Week 5: at Indianapolis
Week 6: Tennessee
Week 7: at Arizona (Thurs.)
Week 8: at St. Louis (Mon.)
Week 9: Tampa Bay
Week 10: at Atlanta
Week 11: Minnesota
Week 12: BYE
Week 13: New Orleans (Mon.)
Week 14: at San Francisco
Week 15: at New York Giants
Week 16: Arizona
Week 17: St. Louis

Order your 2013 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: While San Francisco will be dealing with one of the toughest first months in the NFL, Seattle gets the Jaguars and Panthers in the first three weeks. Yes, a home game against those very Niners and a trip to Houston are both incredibly daunting tasks, but this team could easily start 3-0 — Seattle pounded San Francisco at home last year — and that would be a huge first punch in the NFC West race. Interestingly enough, the Seahawks will play all four AFC games by Week 6 and will finish with 10 straight NFC games.

Toughest Stretch: From Week 10 to Week 15 the Seahawks will face four teams that made the playoffs last year and the New Orleans Saints. Three of those games will come on the road in Atlanta, San Francisco and New York (Giants). In between are home games with Adrian Peterson and a "Monday Night Football" matchup with Drew Brees. This is a huge stretch against elite competition heading into the final two weeks of the season. The good news is an off weekend comes in Week 12, but even then it seems to be going to waste as it falls between home games and because the Saints game is on a Monday night.

Swing Games:MIN (Week 11), at NYG (Week 15)
Crossover Divisions:NFC South, AFC South
Bye Week:Week 12
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.516 (11th)
Athlon's SOS Rank:14th

Easiest Stretch: This one is easy. From Week 6 to Week 9, Seattle will be heavily favored in three games and likely favored in the fourth. Tennessee and Tampa Bay face long road trips to Seattle and stand little chance of winning at CenturyLink Field. Between those two games will be two NFC West road trips. The trip to the desert against Arizona comes on a short week on Thursday night. That leaves the toughest game of this stretch coming in St. Louis on Monday night. However, Carroll and company will have 11 days to prepare for Jeff Fisher's physical and pesky Rams.

Circle The Calendar: Either battle with the 49ers would work. The home game will come early in the year and gives the Seahawks a distinct home-field advantage. Therefore, the Week 14 trip south to the Bay Area has to be the most important game of the season for Seattle. This team crushed the Niners 42-13 late in the season a year ago, but lost on the road 13-6 in mid-October. A sweep of SanFran could mean home field throughout the playoffs and an inside track on the Super Bowl.

Divisional Notes: Two games with the 49ers cannot be undersold as they may be the two most important NFC games of the year. But St. Louis actually had the best record in NFC West play a year ago. The good news for Seattle is the timing of those battles with the Rams. The season finale comes at home and could mean nothing for Seattle, who could be locked into the playoffs or the division crown already. The road trip to St. Louis, were the Seahawks lost 19-13 last season, comes on a Monday night following a Thursday night game, giving Carroll and his team four extra days to prepare. Strangely, both games with Arizona will come as precursors to bigger games with the Rams.

Playoff Push: The final month should provide plenty of intrigue for Seahawks fans. There are huge tests with the Saints, Niners and Giants to start December but the year will end with back-to-back home NFC West games with Arizona and St. Louis. There is more good news for Seattle as the bye week comes in the final possible week (Week 12) and allows for this team to get a breather at the last possible moment — making them one of the most rested teams heading into the final month of play this year.

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Russell Wilson was a pleasant surprise last season, but could have his work cut out for come fantasy playoff time. The Seahawks will play division rival San Francisco and the Giants on the road before coming home for an NFC West tilt with Arizona. The 49ers and Cardinals were both top-10 fantasy defenses against QBs last season, while a cross-country trip is never easy on the West Coast teams.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Seattle Seahawks 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 14:30
Path: /social-media-changes-face-college-football-recruiting
Body:

Jalen Ramsey is off the grid. Or at least as much as an incoming college freshman can be in 2013.

Nearly seven months before the Brentwood (Tenn.) Academy cornerback signed with Florida State, Ramsey decided he had had enough input on the recruiting process from the outside world, including the faceless and anonymous masses.

 

“I am Jalen Lattrell Ramsey and college is MY choice! MY choice only! No one elses!” Ramsey tweeted on June 28, 2012. “It’s ALL on me! Y’all will hear from ME...”

 

That was less than a month before Ramsey announced a commitment to USC. And by the time he changed his mind to sign with Florida State, the coveted prospect had retired his @jr7_eagles Twitter handle.

 

For Ramsey, that may have been for the best as he navigated the final months of the recruiting process. Before he shut down, his mentions column was filled with encouragement, pleas to attend certain schools, but also posts knocking some of the schools he considered.

 

“Some things were said that were just out of line,” Ramsey says. “Rumors started. Grown men talking about 17- and 18-year-old kids, it’s unneeded. It was just, ‘I’m done with that.’”

 

That’s one extreme of the way social media has changed recruiting in college sports. Ramsey’s teammate, quarterback Max Staver, had a different experience.

 

Granted, Staver was not as high-profile a recruit. And he picked Florida in June before his senior year and never wavered. After he committed to the Gators, dozens of fans welcomed him to the roster. As he exchanged tweets and direct messages with other Gator commitments, Florida coaches asked him to be an ambassador for the program, talking to recruits in ways they couldn’t.

 

“After I committed I was talking to a bunch of guys, I was probably texting guys 10 times a day and telling them to check out Florida,” Staver says. “I wasn’t trying to get in their face or be rude about it. But there were a lot of questions. Being a quarterback in the recruiting class, they want me to reach out.”

 

Few facets of the recruiting process have remained untouched by social media in the last four years. Coaches use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with recruits and evaluate prospects both on and off the field. Recruits use social media to get to know their future coaches and teammates and, at times, bask in the adoration of fans. Fans use it to follow the process while explaining all the reasons their school would be the right choice (and, sometimes, why other schools would be the wrong choice).

 

Bottom line: It’s inescapable.

 

“It’s an unstoppable force in recruiting,” Miami recruiting coordinator Brennan Carroll says. “You don’t really have a choice. If you’re not doing it, you’re probably wrong. That’s the way we look at it here.”

 

The initial catalyst for the social media revolution in recruiting wasn’t Twitter or Facebook or even social media relic MySpace. It started with texting.

 

When Carroll coached at USC with his father Pete Carroll, Trojans coaches visited high schools to meet with recruits only to find that their targets already had relationships established with other programs. The reason was text messaging. Prospects had been texting with USC’s recruiting rivals months before the Trojans could catch up.

 

USC was behind on that trend, but by 2008 that wouldn’t matter anyway when the NCAA banned text messaging with recruits. The lesson, though, was that the recruiting through email, phone calls, official visits and coach in-home visits weren’t enough anymore.

 

According to NCAA interpretations, Twitter direct messages and Facebook private messages are legislated the same way as emails, which is to say they are an unlimited form of communication. In practice, a Twitter or Facebook private message may as well be a text.

 

And from the coaches’ perspective, this is how recruits communicate with their friends anyway.

 

“You want to meet the prospects where they’re at,” says Vanderbilt offensive line coach Herb Hand, one of the most enthusiastic coaching voices on Twitter. “You can sit here and say, ‘I’m going to communicate with this guy in my way,’ and not get anywhere. You have to meet them where they are. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram are how kids communicate. That’s the world we live in now.”

 

That new world is a fish bowl.

 

James Coley was one of the first college coaches to embrace Twitter and one of the first to turn it into a recruiting tool.

 

While the tight ends coach at Florida State, Coley started a Twitter account to break the stereotype that the Seminoles’ coaching staff under Bobby Bowden was old-school and stuffy.

 

Welcome to the U!!!!

 

A few years later, and it’s almost a given that recruits will be visible on Twitter. Reporters often mention recruits’ Twitter handles in updates. Prospects tweet about the process. One network of team recruiting sites lists the Twitter handles of prospects making official visits in its weekend recruiting previews.

 

Coley’s energetic bursts, frequently in all caps with plenty of exclamation points, trended throughout the Seminoles’ fan base on Twitter. When Coley started hearing one of his top phrases — “FEAR THE SPEAR” — from high school prospects, a light bulb went off.

 

Recruits followed him, and then fans on Twitter used Coley’s list of followers to find recruits.

 

“I’d tell kids to follow me on Twitter and pretty soon you’re going to have a thousand followers,” says Coley, now the offensive coordinator at Miami.

As a result, fans are more clued into the recruiting process than ever before.

Shane Morris, a quarterback from Warren (Mich.) De La Salle, committed to Michigan in May 2011. One of the top quarterback recruits in the country, Morris also tweets like one of the biggest Michigan fans in the country. Most of his nearly 25,000 followers responded to the positivity in kind.

 

“When you have fans like Michigan, a fan base that shows them love, kids like that,” Morris says.

 

That’s the experience of a top recruit who spent his entire senior season committed to the same school.

Fans of schools who watch recruits change their minds through the process vent their frustrations on Twitter, often directly to the recruit.

 

Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster, a top-10 player nationally, first committed to Alabama, but changed his mind the summer before his senior season. He switched to hometown Auburn in a move that he made more official by getting a tattoo of the Tigers’ logo inside his right forearm.

 

There was no need to imagine the reaction when Foster switched back to Alabama shortly before Signing Day.

 

It was laid bare on Twitter.

 

Alabama fans welcomed him with open arms. Some Auburn fans wished him well at his new school. Others weren’t quite so charitable. Among the reactions mentioning Foster that day that we can mention: (right)

As much as navigating social media is an issue for recruits and coaches, the revelations can be a headache for administrators.

 

In a trend that’s become all too common, Laquon Treadwell, one of the nation’s top wide receiver prospects, posted a picture to Instagram of him holding $100 bills days before signing day. The Ole Miss commitment out of Crete (Ill.) Crete-Monee also posted a picture to Twitter of two women kissing him on the cheek with the caption “Oxford is the best place I’ve ever been.” Treadwell deleted the photo of cash, but not before it made the rounds through fans and media. He later told The Chicago Tribune he was goofing around and he received no money from Ole Miss to sign with the Rebels.

 

And it’s not just the recruits who lack a filter on social media. Two Florida International players tweeted in January about taking a recruit to a strip club. If any of FIU’s recruiting budget was used to take a recruit to a strip club, then it’s an NCAA violation. Even if that was not the case, the episode isn’t great publicity.

 

NCAA bylaws also prohibit representatives of the program’s athletic interests from contacting recruits. This primarily means boosters, but more broadly the definition could include many fans.

 

Anonymity and the sheer volume of social media messages directed to recruits make any sort of action on offenders near impossible. Instead, many athletic departments actively try to discourage such contact.

 

Notre Dame put out a YouTube video (below) with athletic personnel saying, “Leave the Recruiting to Us.” Texas A&M’s Brad Barnes is one of many compliance directors active and available on Twitter to clear up compliance issues for fans. Some fans respond when he asks them to steer clear of the process on social media. For those who don’t heed Barnes’ advice, there’s not much Texas A&M — or any school — can do to stop it.

 

“From a practical standpoint, you don’t see a great deal of reporting on that unless it’s a situation where they say, ‘We know who this individual is, this was brought to our attention, they are who they say they are, or we found out who they are and we know who they are,’” Barnes says. “I don’t know of a lot of institutions that go out actively looking for it.”

 

Of course, no one tells recruits they have to be on Twitter or Facebook, sharing details of their recruitment. Just don’t expect that level of openness to change.

“It’s changed the mindset of a lot of kids compared to the old days, because if a kid got offers, he’d keep it to himself,” Vanderbilt wide receivers coach and offensive recruiting coordinator Josh Gattis says. “Now kids get offers and tweet about it. They’re trying to get attention to themselves.”

 

Vanderbilt under James Franklin has been among the top staffs in the country in using social media to interact with fans, players and recruits.

 

Gattis and his receivers use the hashtag #FlyBoyz to keep up with each other. Hand, on Twitter since he was at Tulsa in 2009, is a favorite follow for media members with his sense of humor. As for recruits, Hand says he’ll send 10-15 messages to recruits each day with photos from practice or the athletic facility. Franklin tweets about building the Commodores program with his hashtag #VanderBUILD.

 

But for all its efforts, Vanderbilt isn’t Alabama, LSU, Florida or Georgia.

 

The Commodores still need to unearth prospects other teams miss to stay competitive in the SEC. Social media makes that much more difficult. Recruits tweet about the recruiting process, who’s calling, who’s been by to see them.

 

Besides highlight videos being readily available on sites that cover recruiting, prospects can upload highlight videos to YouTube and Hudl, a video service tailored exclusively to coaches.

 

“It’s very hard to keep a gem a gem,” Gattis says. “These days finding a diamond in the rough is really tough because sooner or later someone is going to be exposed to that player.”

 

Coaches also have a way to find out which recruits might not be worth the risk.

 

Many coaches admit they’ve stopped recruiting a prospect because of concerns raised by their social media accounts, whether it’s language, compromising photos, comments demeaning to women or simply tweeting at late hours on weeknights.

 

Hand says he’s talked to some recruits about changing their tones on Twitter. If they don’t, that’s another strike — they’re uncoachable.

Vanderbilt isn’t alone. After Signing Day, Tennessee coach Butch Jones remarked that the Vols had withheld scholarships because of concerns raised by Twitter and Facebook.

 

But at the same time, social media enabled the first-year coach in Knoxville to build momentum in his first recruiting cycle. When he was hired at Tennessee, Jones’ Twitter account was briefly suspended after a deluge of Volunteers fan followed the former Cincinnati coach.

 

“When we were coming in here, in a short period of time we had to develop those relationships,” Jones says. “At the end of the day, recruiting is all about relationships. That was a way to expedite getting to know these players.”

 

For example, Jones, who requires all his assistants to be on Twitter, used social media to endear himself to fans, but also to become quickly acclimated with recruits.

 

Late in the process, the Volunteers badly wanted to sign Joshua Dobbs, a quarterback out of Alpharetta, Ga. Through Twitter and Facebook, Jones and his staff learned of his favorite foods, the importance of playing baseball, his favorite classes and his focus on engineering programs. Guess what became the focus of his ultimately successful recruitment to Tennessee?

 

“You’re always looking for that information, what people are important to him, what are his hot buttons,” Jones says.

 

Whether it’s a red flag that tells coaches to stay away or a nugget that shows that a prospect will be a good student and teammate, recruiters will find it if it’s on their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

 

“It’s information they’re giving us whether they know it or not,” Brennan Carroll says. “We won’t miss a thing. … These kids are just flat-out telling you.”

 

As much as social media has sped up the recruiting process, it’s also sped up the bonding process.

 

Meeting a college roommate on the first day of class is long gone. So is exchanging emails or cell phone calls. Chemistry can be built before a freshman class steps on campus. Prospects meet at camps, all-star games or visits, and from there they exchange phone numbers and find each other on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Before he takes a snap at Michigan, Morris is already showing the characteristics of leading the Wolverines in the huddle. He’s organized unofficial visits to Michigan and kept in touch with his future teammates long before practice starts.

 

“Our recruiting class is probably the closest class in the nation,” Morris says. “Most of us have iPhones and we’re in group chats and keep up with each other. When we take visits we make sure everyone’s taking them together.”

 

But not every prospect is spending his days on Twitter talking to coaches and teammates, even though signing day has come and gone.

 

Ramsey, the Florida State-bound cornerback, stuck by his self-imposed Twitter exile.

 

“I just have Instagram. I put up pictures of my nephews and nieces and pictures of my family,” Ramsey says. “I thought about bringing (Twitter) back, but I haven’t missed it one bit. I might make a Facebook page with coaches and friends, but I’m not worrying about it, to be honest.”

 

This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Regional Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 college football season.


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Teaser:
Coaches turn to social media to recruit, evaluate future players
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 14:30
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/pga-tour-adopts-usga-anchoring-ban
Body:

The PGA Tour has acknowledged that the USGA ban on anchored putting strokes will apply to Tour events as of Jan. 1, 2016.

“In making its decision, the Policy Board recognized that there are still varying opinions among our membership, but ultimately concluded that while it is an important issue, a ban on anchored strokes would not fundamentally affect a strong presentation of our competitions or the overall success of the PGA Tour,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. “The Board also was of the opinion that having a single set of rules on acceptable strokes applicable to all professional competitions worldwide was desirable and would avoid confusion."

This polarizing issue has been raging for some time, especially given the success in major championships that players employing anchored putting strokes have enjoyed of late. Athlon addressed the subject in its 2013 Golf Annual by posing the question in our anonymous player survey. Here are the responses we got at the 2012 Tour Championship:

• “I think it’s fine. I don’t think they have proven that there is a huge advantage statistically for guys who use it, so I have no problem with it. It’s just a different way for guys to do things.”

• “Let them use it. I’m fine with it. If a player needed to use it to stay on Tour, I think most would.”

• “I’m yet to find a good reason for them to ban it. The arguments so far aren’t really valid.”

But then….

• “I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s true to the original ideals of golf. I’ve used one before but just don’t think it’s right. I’d be glad to see it gone.”

• “I’m against it just because I’ve always worked so hard on my own short game without going there, and I think that’s how golf is supposed to be. I’d like to see everyone else struggle and work harder like I’ve always had to.”

• “I think it’s cheating and should be banned. It goes against the spirit and rules of golf.”

• “Anchoring has to go. Just because stats don’t say long putter users are better doesn’t make it right.”

• “I think it should be outlawed. I want guys to have to hold a putter in their hands when they have a five-footer to win, to feel those nerves, not to anchor it to their body to take that away.”

And the fence-sitters…

• “I’ve tried it, it still is something you still have to learn so I don’t really care one way or the other. I don’t need to use it so it doesn’t really affect me.”

• “I don’t really care. But I know there are more out there that don’t want it. I think if it is banned there will be guys who will be gone from the Tour, some really good guys. But banning anchoring is probably fair.”

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 13:31
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /pittsburgh-steelers-2013-schedule-analysis
Body:

Pittsburgh went 8-8 last season and missed the playoffs for just the second time in head coach Mike Tomlin's six seasons. Will the Steelers bounce back this fall? Here's our look at the Steelers' 2013 NFL schedule.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule:

Week 1: Tennessee
Week 2: at Cincinnati (Mon.)
Week 3: Chicago
Week 4: Minnesota (London)
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at New York Jets
Week 7: Baltimore
Week 8: at Oakland
Week 9: at New England
Week 10: Buffalo
Week 11: Detroit
Week 12: at Cleveland
Week 13: at Baltimore (Thurs.)
Week 14: Miami
Week 15: Cincinnati
Week 16: at Green Bay
Week 17: Cleveland

Order your 2013 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

Out of the Gate: Pittsburgh has three "home" games in September, but it should be pointed out that one of these will be played at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The Steelers do get the luxury of opening at home against Tennessee, which should allow them the opportunity of ironing out any kinks before the Monday night showdown in Cincinnati in Week 2. Then it's back home to host Chicago before flying across the pond to play Minnesota in London. When the Steelers go on bye in Week 5 they should do so with no worse than a 2-2 record and even that would have to be considered a mild disappointment.

Toughest Stretch: For the most part, the Steelers' schedule is fairly balanced throughout the season. There is a span of five games starting in late November during which Pittsburgh will play at Cleveland and Baltimore back-to-back, the latter taking place Thanksgiving night, and also will face Cincinnati (home) and Green Bay (away). The game between these pairs isn't without its own intrigue, as Miami's trip to Heinz Field in Week 14 also will serve as a homecoming for former Steeler wideout Mike Wallace. That's three divisional games, two of them coming on the road, a trip to Lambeau Field and an emotionally charged home game crammed into a period of less than 30 days.

Swing Games:TEN (Week 1), at OAK (Week 8)
Crossover Divisions:AFC East, NFC North
Bye Week:Week 5
Opp. 2012 W/L %:.492 (T-21st)
Athlon's SOS Rank:28th

Easiest Stretch: Following its Week 5 bye, Pittsburgh will play just two teams that made the playoffs last season over its next six games. Baltimore, the defending Super Bowl champs and hated arch rival is one of the opponents during this span, but this game will be played at Heinz Field. The only other team the Steelers will face that posted a winning record last season is New England, and this trip to Foxborough, Mass., is preceded by a road game in Oakland and followed by a home date with Buffalo. The opener to this six-game stretch is a visit to the Big Apple to play the Jets and it wraps up with the Lions at home. Even with the Ravens and Patriots sprinkled in, Pittsburgh should be able to make the most of its October through mid-November slate.

Circle The Calendar: The Bears' Week 3 visit is special if for no other reason, the history surrounding two of the NFL's oldest and most successful franchises. Crossover play with the NFC North also means a Super Bowl XLV rematch with Green Bay at Lambeau Field in late December, as Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers go head-to-head. Earlier that month, a visit from Miami will serve as a homecoming for new Dolphin wide receiver Mike Wallace. And of course, let's not forget about the Steelers' annual double-header with the Ravens, which is always entertaining, not to mention typically important as it relates to the AFC North division race and overall playoff picture. Looking for something extra to add to to this season's meetings? How about the fact that Baltimore is the defending Super Bowl champions and that the second game will serve as dessert for the NFL's Thanksgiving Day triple-header.

Divisional Notes: Baltimore and Cincinnati, and not Pittsburgh, were playoff teams last season, which adds to the intrigue and competitiveness of this season's battle in the AFC North. The Steelers open divisional play at Cincinnati in Week 2, on "Monday Night Football" naturally, and will host the Ravens in Week 7. Back-to-back road games in Cleveland and Baltimore await Pittsburgh in Weeks 12 and 13, with the tilt with the Ravens taking place on Thanksgiving night. The Bengals and Browns come to Heinz Field in late December, and a road trip to Green Bay sandwiched in between only adds to the degree of difficulty there.

Playoff Push: The Steelers play the Ravens on Thanksgiving night, so technically they play just four games in December. Even with three of the four at home, Pittsburgh will have its work cut off for them during its final month, as Miami and former Steeler wideout Mike Wallace, along with divisional foes Cincinnati and Cleveland will be invading Heinz Field. The Bengals in particular could be battling for a playoff spot and/or positioning when they arrive in Week 15. And as far as that lone road game in December goes, it's just a trip to Green Bay to play the Packers on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field a couple of days before Christmas with, more than likely, playoff implications for both conferences on the line. What's so tough about that?

Buy your 2013 Athlon Sports Fantasy Football Preview Magazine

Fantasy Playoff Run (Weeks 14-16): Even with only one road game during the fantasy playoffs, don’t underestimate the Steelers’ opponents. Miami, Cincinnati and Green Bay all finished among the top 18 in terms of fantasy points allowed to QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs last season. The Bengals in particular were pretty tough on QBs (fifth) and WRs (third). Watch out Big Ben and Antonio Brown — these cats have claws.

2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimoreHouston Denver
MiamiCincinnatiIndianapolisKansas City
New EnglandClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburghTennesseeSan Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
DallasChicagoAtlantaArizona
NY GiantsDetroitCarolinaSt. Louis
PhiladelphiaGreen BayNew OrleansSan Francisco
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle

 

Teaser:
Pittsburgh Steelers 2013 Schedule Analysis
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 13:30
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketballs-winners-and-losers-conference-realignment
Body:

ACC member Syracuse. Sound strange, doesn’t it? About as strange as a Big East with Creighton among its members.
Try to fight it, both are true.

This is a time for college basketball fans to either celebrate or hang their heads. Most of the conference realignment moves for the upcoming season have taken effect this month.

It’s no secret football is driving all these moves, so there are a fair amount of losers on the basketball side. But a few basketball programs and leagues will be big winners.

Related: College football's Top 15 winners in realignment

COLLEGE BASKETBALL REALIGNMENT WINNERS

ACC
Adds: Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Louisville (2014-15)
Loses: Maryland (2014-15)
The ACC loses a charter member in Maryland in 2014-15, but the league should retake the mantle of the nation’s top basketball conference by the time Louisville joins the league in 2014-15. Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino groused about the demise of the Big East, but Mike Krzyzewski said the new-look league could be the best conference in history. There’s little reason to disagree with Coach K. With Louisville and Syracuse facing Duke and North Carolina on a regular basis, the league should liven up the regular season. And those are just the powerhouse programs: Notre Dame and Pittsburgh are NCAA Tournament regulars, Florida State and Miami are new players on the scene, and NC State has expectations to be in that first tier.

Related: Tracking every change in basketball realignment

The Catholic 7
Adds: Basketball-only clout, Butler, Creighton and Xavier
Loses: Traditional rivalries with Syracuse, Connecticut; the tradtional Big East Tournament
No one wanted to see the old Big East call it a day, but the league sprouting up in its place could be one of the more top-to-bottom competitive leagues in the country. For the seven Catholic schools, they emerge out of the shadow of the FBS football schools. The assumption is that Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova will be able to maintain their current level of success, but this is also good news for Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul, who won’t be buried in a 16-team behemoth of a conference. The old Big East was built by television partnerships, and perhaps the new one will as well. The new Big East could get first-class broadcast treatment on Fox Sports 1 with Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery calling games.

Butler
Adds: Membership in the Big East
Loses: Easy path to NCAA Tournament
Just two years ago, Butler was in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs have traded Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Milwaukee and Detroit for Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, St. John’s and Xavier. The Butler of the last seven seasons should have no trouble competing on that level, but the question is if the Bulldogs will continue to commit the resources to compete long term.

Mountain West
Adds: Nevada and Fresno State (2012-13), Utah State and San Jose State (2013-14)
Loses: TCU (2012-13)
The Mountain West has been steadily rising for years now. It has arguably been the best conference out West for the last few seasons. New Mexico and UNLV continue to be the flagship programs of the league while Colorado State, San Diego State and Boise State have become factors over recent years. The depth of the league will be improved if Nevada (2012-13) and Utah State (2013-14) return to form.

West Coast
Adds: BYU (2011-12), Pacific (2013-14)
Loses: None
Saint Mary’s has been a challenger for Gonzaga for the last six years, and BYU has been in the league for two seasons. The WCC boosted its depth by adding Pacific from the Big West. Pacific won last year’s Big West Tournament and made three consecutive NCAA bids from 2004-06.

NEUTRAL

Big Ten
Adds: Maryland, Rutgers (2014-15)
Loses: None
The Big Ten was a top league and remains so. But the Big Ten could be a big winner if Maryland returns to national power status and if Rutgers finally figures out this basketball thing. The other 12 Big Ten teams could win big if expansion opens them to recruit New York and Maryland/D.C. with more regularity.

SEC
Adds: Missouri, Texas A&M (2013-14)
Loses: None
What the SEC needs more than anything is more programs to regularly challenge Kentucky and Florida. Missouri likes to think of itself that way, but the Tigers went 11-7 in their first season in the league.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL REALIGNMENT LOSERS

Atlantic 10
Adds: VCU (2012-13), George Mason (2013-14), Davidson (2014-15)
Loses: Butler, Charlotte, Temple, Xavier
The idea of George Mason and Davidson in the Atlantic 10 may bring good memories to basketball fans, but these aren't the same programs with Jim Larranaga and Stephen Curry. The A-10 loses its two flagship programs in Temple and Xavier. It needs VCU and another team — UMass? Saint Louis? La Salle? Dayton? Richmond? — to maintain more consistency.

Missouri Valley
Adds: Loyola Chicago
Loses: Creighton
The Missouri Valley will miss Creighton, a consistent program that packed its arena on a nightly basis. But let’s not go overboard with the Bluejays. Before Doug McDermott arrived, Creighton had played in the NCAA Tournament just twice in six seasons. The MVC adds Loyola just as the coach who made the program viable took the Siena job.

Colonial
Adds: Charleston (2013-14), Elon (2014-15)
Loses: VCU (2012-13), George Mason, Georgia State and Old Dominion (2013-14)
The little mid-major that could is no more. Realignment decimated the league like few others. Programs that have won six of the last seven CAA Tournaments are now gone, including two programs (VCU and George Mason) that reached the Final Four in that span. In their place are two programs that haven’t reached the NCAA Tournament this century.

Conference USA
Adds: Charlotte, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, UTSA (2013-14), Western Kentucky (2014-15)
Loses: Houston, Memphis, SMU, UCF (2013-14), East Carolina and Tulane (2014-15)
The latest round of realignment doesn’t hurt as much as the last one. The league once boasted Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis, but C-USA will be without a clear bell cow by 2014-15.

West Virginia
Adds: Membership in the Big 12. Trips West of the Mississippi
Loses: The Big East, short road trips
Making road trips into Texas and Oklahoma from Morgantown is a little more excusable when they’re four or five Saturdays in fall. Nine times during basketball season is a different story. Moreover, West Virginia is cut off from East Coast recruiting, important to consider when the foundation of its Final Four team in 2010 was from New York.

Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati
Adds: Membership in the American Athletic Conference. Road trips to SMU, Tulane, East Carolina
Loses: Top conference status
Limitations in their football programs mean these basketball powers were left behind during realignment. UConn hoped for an ACC invitation that never came, and now the Huskies are cut off from traditional rivals Syracuse and Georgetown. Memphis waited and waited to get Big East membership and when it came, the league changed its name and many of the Tigers’ old neighbors came along for the ride. At least Memphis fans get to see UConn come to town instead of Tulane. On the court, UConn’s and Memphis’ ability to maintain their recruiting might will be tested.

Atlantic Sun
Adds: Northern Kentucky (2012-13)
Loses: Belmont (2012-13), East Tennessee and Mercer (probably)
Florida Gulf Coast was the story of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but in the long term the Atlantic Sun will miss Belmont (who left for the Ohio Valley last season) and East Tennessee (who likely leaves for the Southern) more. Either Belmont or ETSU represented the A-Sun in the NCAA Tournament every year from 2006-12.

WAC
Adds: A slew of Division I independents
Loses: Everyone
Nevada, Utah State and New Mexico State aren’t powerhouses, but they kept the WAC full of consistent mid-major programs. The 2013-14 lineup includes: Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Seattle, UMKC, UT Pan American, Utah Valley.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/matt-kenseth-finds-surprising-nascar-win-kentucky
Body:

Matt Kenseth is reaching uncharted territory with Joe Gibbs Racing in just his first year driving the No. 20 Toyota. Sure, everyone knew he’d blow former driver Joey Logano’s numbers out of the water; Logano, still developing at age 23, was never consistently competitive in Cup after being brought up the ranks too quickly. But what the 2003 Cup champ is pursuing now, after a shocking late-race surge to victory at Kentucky, is a record-setting year for JGR that eclipses even the two titles won by the man who put Home Depot and this car on the map: Tony Stewart.

Check out the best stat lines with Stewart driving the car: six wins (2000), three poles (2005), and 1,845 laps led (also ’05). Kenseth? Through 17 races, this season he’s got four wins, two poles, and 960 laps out in front. Double those numbers and you’ll see a shocking truth. Even during the glory years, when Stewart and Greg Zipadelli all but added a shade of orange to every checkered flag, JGR has never seen success from the No. 20 car like it’s seeing now.

Clearly, motivation can be a powerful thing, a 41-year-old one-upping Ford and sponsors who felt he was expendable. But you’d have to think that even when Joe and J.D. Gibbs hotly pursued Kenseth, persuading him over a period of months to leave Roush Fenway Racing, they never anticipated the type of numbers he’s putting up right now — especially in Year One. With rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. still without a top-10 finish, by comparison, nearly halfway through the season at RFR you wonder if Jack Roush loses sleep at night over this one.

Speaking of losing sleep, as we go “Through the Gears” we know there’s one superstar guaranteed to do so this week. Here’s why:


FIRST GEAR: Jimmie Johnson needs to figure these restarts out
He’s a five-time champ who, 17 races through the 2013 season, has been on cruise control, leading Carl Edwards atop the standings by 38 points. He’s on pace for 1,961 laps led, his best in four years and the average finish of 9.4 would set a new career record. On paper, the No. 48 seems virtually invincible come Chase time.

The problem? That letter-sized sheet of paper with all those stats on it can’t press down the accelerator pedal. And lately, Mr. Johnson has had a huge problem figuring out exactly how to do that when the race turns green. It seems like Dover last month, when Juan Pablo Montoya slow-played a restart that got the No. 48 team penalized after a dominating day, is still stuck inside his head. It cost him at Kentucky, where a car that led 182 of 267 laps was second after pit strategy once again gave Kenseth control coming to the green. Johnson, in “follow the leader” position, had no idea when to come up to speed, lost several spots and then spun out.

“We were kind of in an awkward situation in that restart there,” he said. “The No. 20 (Matt Kenseth) broke the pace car speed, which you aren't supposed to, but, they aren't calling guys on that so I need to start trying that in the future. And then we were like three- and four-wide going in the corner, then something happened with the air and just kind of turned me around.”

Yes, the restarts at Kentucky were what second place Jamie McMurray characterized as “strange” — with added importance considering how difficult it is to pass. Sunday marked just the third year for Cup drivers at Kentucky, so many of them are also still trying to figure things out like that restart box. But no one seemed to struggle more than the No. 48, who’s now given away two victories in just one month.

For better or worse, restarts today define where you’re going to finish in NASCAR. Five laps into a green-flag run — especially at intermediate tracks — cars seem magnetically repulsed by each other, spreading out into their own personal space where passing becomes a game of chess. Johnson has to get more aggressive, realizing at Dover, if he sneaks ahead as the second-place car into Turn 1 all that’s needed is to sit back and let the leader pass back to avoid a penalty. He’s the rare guy who’s got a car fast enough to make up the ground lost.

Some might say Johnson doesn’t need these extra trophies. But the fact he’s in “testing mode,” already assured of a high seed in the postseason, is irrelevant. Practice makes perfect, and right now, this team is putting together all the best ways to lose a Chase where they should be an overwhelming favorite.


SECOND GEAR: As the Keselowski crumbles
Sunday’s big wreck involving Brad Keselowski was Kurt Busch’s fault — that much was clear after the No. 78 car tapped the No. 2 following a rough transition on the apron of the racetrack. But in a year where Kes has played innocent victim one too many times, that “bad luck moment” now puts him in position to be just the second reigning champ unable to make the Chase the following year. (Stewart, 2006).

“The one thing we do know is that we have struggled before as a team,” said crew chief Paul Wolfe, after the team tumbled to 13th in points. “And we have worked through that and put ourselves in position to be champions.”

But chemistry can only do so much with Fords that have been inconsistent in terms of speed. Daytona may be this duo’s best chance in the near future, considering the way plate races even things out. Did you know a Ford model hasn’t won at Loudon since 2008? Or at Indianapolis since 1999? Keselowski has also never won at a road course in Cup (Watkins Glen) and was uncompetitive at Pocono this June (16th). That crosses a lot of tracks off the list, and I don’t think this team can count on points to get them in with this black cloud that’s been following them.


THIRD GEAR: Toyota’s troubles solved?
Remember last month when at least one Toyota engine was almost guaranteed to go bust before the finish? They’re back to collecting trophies. Kenseth’s win was the second in a row for the Camry model, which also took three of the top-5 spots on this intermediate (Clint Bowyer was third while Kyle Busch, Kenseth’s JGR teammate, ran fifth). That gives Toyota seven victories on the season, tied with Chevrolet as it tries to overcome a decade’s worth of dominance by the Bowtie Brigade when it comes to the manufacturer’s title.

Most importantly, on a track where horsepower does play a big factor, there were zero blown engines from TRD, along with no complaints. Busch was also able to muscle his way back through the field after an early spin, showcasing the extra edge JGR has showed on 1.5-mile ovals. The jury’s still out, to a certain extent — we need to see months of this pattern before feeling safe the Chase won’t be a series of sad explosions — but it’s a huge confidence builder.


FOURTH GEAR: Bluegrass blues?
Yes, Saturday night’s race was rain-delayed, turning into the first Cup event postponed since 2012’s Daytona 500. But the number of empty seats at Kentucky was still disturbing, as tickets were available for a race that was sold out in its inaugural edition just two years ago. Traffic on that fateful weekend was horrific, as many fans were unable to make it to their seats before the start of the race and some have never forgiven the facility.

The racing, with Johnson out front and dominating most of the day, continued to be a bit of a mixed bag. Several drivers complained of ill-handling cars, with Kyle Busch also blaming a bad right-side Goodyear tire compound. But whatever the reason, this racetrack has yet to have a side-by-side, grinding battle to the finish that creates the type of memories fans will come back for. Now that the bloom is off the rose, it’s close to other historic speedways — like Bristol and Indianapolis — and has to fight for fans’ money in a tight economy. It was no accident certain questions were asked of drivers to get them praising what fans did come back after Saturday night.

The other issue concerns NASCAR’s Gen-6, still without a hang-your-hat race on this type of oval since Fontana. With these races making up half of the Chase, that’s a handling problem that needs to be fixed. Three minutes of restart action can’t be the only time fans see tough competition over a race that takes three hours — especially when it’s head-to-head with the mighty NFL.


OVERDRIVE
You had to shake your head at Clint Bowyer “moving over” for Jamie McMurray, conceding second place down the stretch at Kentucky. Afraid of being spun out? Puh-lease. Points racing or no, that’s not what the fans pay money to see, something I don’t think we’d have ever envisioned before NASCAR’s current postseason format that can sometimes encourage that type of conservatism. … While Keselowski struggles, teammate Joey Logano has six straight top-11 finishes to put himself 10th in points. Consider where he’d be without that 25-point penalty earlier this season; it’s been an impressive recovery. … The Carl Edwards to Penske Racing rumor, while strongly denied this weekend, was puzzling. New crew chief Jimmy Fennig has brought new energy to the No. 99 and they’re clearly back on the upswing. … Denny Hamlin says he’ll finish the season after a mid-race wreck left him 104 points outside the top 20 and shaken inside the Infield Care Center. Owner Joe Gibbs has Brian Vickers right on his roster, along with Cup veteran Elliott Sadler, but claims he’ll let Hamlin make the decision on staying in the car. You wonder, though if a man who’s seen football players overdo it needs to step in here, take the competitive athlete aside and warn him about short-term vs. long-term career implications.


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
 @NASCARBowles

Teaser:
Reaction from Matt Kenseth's win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Post date: Monday, July 1, 2013 - 10:52

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