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Path: /college-basketball/michigans-nik-stauskas-texas-isaiah-taylor-earn-weekly-honors

The list of star players not present in East Lansing was staggering Saturday: Branden Dawson, Mitch McGary and Adreian Payne all were out for two teams that have been the walking wounded for most of the season.

Spartans point guard Keith Appling played, but his wrist was in such bad shape he could barely shoot.

That left Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris with the opportunity to fill the void.

The two guards went back and forth for most of the game in a matchup that often left them one on one, but in the end, it was the Michigan guard Stauskas who was blowing kisses into the crowd at the Breslin Center.

Stauskas finished with 19 points against Michigan State and 26 against Iowa on Wednesday for two of Michigan’s three consecutive wins over ranked teams. The week, in which Stauskas shot a combined 15-of-26 from the field, earned the sophomore Athlon Sports National Player of the Week honors.

“We knew he was going to have to pick his spots but he hit some daggers that were tough shots with Gary all over him,” Michigan coach John Beilein said. “It was a great matchup of two really good players and that was a pretty efficient game by Nik.”

Athlon Sports College Basketball National Awards: Jan. 27

National Player of the Week: Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Stauskas is making a strong push for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. The sharpshooting Canadian after averaged 22.5 points last week as Michigan posted huge wins against Iowa in Ann Arbor and Michigan State in East Lansing. A 6-6 shooting guard, Stauskas hit 5-of-6 from 3-point range and scored 19 points in the Wolverines’ comeback win over Michigan State on Saturday night. He is averaging 19.0 points and shooting 44.4 percent from three in Big Ten games.

National Freshman of the Week: Isaiah Taylor, Texas
Taylor, a freshman point guard, penetrated through the Baylor defense time and again en route to a career-high 27 points to lead Texas to a 74–60 win over slumping Baylor in Austin. The Longhorns, coming off the first losing season of the Rick Barnes era, improved to 16–4 overall and 5–2 in the Big 12. They have won three straight games over a ranked opponent for the first time in school history.

Under-the-Radar Player of the Week: Treveon Graham, VCU
Graham scored a career-high 34 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead VCU to a 97–89 win over La Salle in double-overtime on Saturday in Philadelphia. Graham, a junior guard, sent the game into overtime by scoring the final six points of regulation, and he also scored six of the Rams’ seven points in the first overtime. His 34 points are the most scored by a VCU player in the five-year Shaka Smart era.

Other top performers:

Bryce Cotton, Providence
Surging Providence, winners of five straight games, is getting great play from Cotton, a senior guard who averaged 21.5 points and 6.5 assists (without committing a turnover) in the Friars’ wins over Butler and Xavier last week. Cotton has played every minute of each of the last five games, including 50 in a double-overtime win at St. John’s two weeks ago.

Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
With All-American Marcus Smart struggling through a dismal performance, Nash stepped up with a career-high 29 points to go along with nine rebounds to lead Oklahoma State to an 81–75 win over West Virginia in Stillwater. Nash, a junior swingman, converted 10-of-13 from the field and 9-of-14 from the foul line.

Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Petteway, a transfer from Texas Tech, scored a career-best 35 points on 10-of-15 shooting and added six rebounds and three assists in Nebraska’s 82–78 win over Minnesota in Lincoln. A 6-6 swingman from Galveston, Texas, Petteway is averaging 17.2 points and 5.3 points for the Cornhuskers after averaging only 3.1 points as a freshman for Texas Tech two years ago.

James Siakam, Vanderbilt
Siakam scored a career-high 22 points and tied an SEC career high with 10 rebounds in the Commodores’ 66–55 win at Texas A&M. A junior forward from Cameroon, Siakam converted 6-of-10 from the field and 10-of-13 from the foul line to lead the Commodores to their first road win of the season. His previous career high in an SEC game was nine points in a win over Missouri two weeks ago.  

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Wiggins played perhaps the finest game of his young career, scoring 27 points — including 19 in the first half — as Kansas avenged a shocking loss at TCU last season by pounding the Horned Frogs 91–69 in Fort Worth. Wiggins, a potential No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, connected on 8-of-13 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line, and added five points and five rebounds. Wiggins, often criticized for his lack of aggression, has attempted 22 free throws in his last two games.

Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
Williams-Goss poured in career-high 32 points — on only 15 field goal attempts — to help Washington rally from 12 points down in the second half to beat Oregon State 87–81 in Seattle. A freshman guard from Oregon, Williams-Goss hit 10-of-15 from the field (including 3-of-4 from three) and 9-of-10 from the foul line.

Michigan's Stauskas, Texas' Taylor earn weekly honors
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 16:19
All taxonomy terms: Scott Stallings, Tiger Woods, Golf
Path: /golf/5-key-stats-farmers-insurance-open

Scott Stallings (pictured above in a photo tweeted by the PGA Tour) narrowly averted a cumbersome six-man playoff when he two-putted for birdie on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines to win the Farmers Insurance Open by a single shot over five fellow competitors and earn his third career PGA Tour win. But the talk of the weekend was Tiger Woods' missed secondary cut at a course where he has historically dominated. Here's a quick statistical rundown of the weekend's action.

1 Think putting is important? Stallings ranked first in the field in strokes gained, putting, with 2.794, more than making up for some weaker ball-striking stats.

156 With the win, Stallings leaps 156 spots in the FedExCup rankings, moving from 166 to 10.

2 Stallings' birdie on 18 averted a six-man playoff. In PGA Tour history, there have been two such playoffs, most recently at the 2001 Nissan Open won by Robert Allenby.

1 Stallings is the first player to win using the new Titleist Vokey Design SM5 wedge, which was just unveiled this week at the PGA Merchandise Show.

79 It doesn't count as a missed cut; it's officially a Made Cut, Did Not Finish. But Tiger Woods' Saturday 79 and missed secondary cut was the weekend's most shocking result. Woods has won the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines seven times and won his last major, the 2008 U.S. Open, on the storied SoCal layout. The 79, which included two straight double bogeys, was only the fourth over-par round in his 57 career rounds at the event. He failed to birdie even one of the 12 par 5s he played. Woods needed a 10-foot par putt on 18 to break 80.

Shot of the day: Billy Horschel holed a 95-yard approach for eagle on 18 at Torrey Pines.


Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 11:19
All taxonomy terms: Denver Broncos, super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-denver-broncos-will-win-super-bowl-xlviii

The entire nation, if not the entire world, will be focused on MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 when the Denver Broncos take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. While the weather will certainly be one of the main storylines, especially if it takes a turn for the worse, this matchup between the champions of the AFC and NFC will be decided on the field by the 11 players from each team that will line up on either side of the football.

Here are five reasons why the Broncos will win the franchise’s third Lombardi Trophy on Super Sunday:

1. Peyton Manning’s Pinnacle
Win or lose, Manning’s 2013 season will go down as one of the greatest in the history of the NFL. He already has rewritten the NFL record books, adding the single-season marks for both yards passing (5,477) and touchdowns (55) to his resume. He’s all but a lock to receive his record fifth MVP trophy and he’s entered exclusive company just by getting the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.

When he takes his first snap Sunday night, Manning will become just the 12th quarterback in the history of the game to start in three Super Bowls. Among those in that group, eight (Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Tom Brady, John Elway, Bob Griese, Ben Roethlisberger and Roger Staubach) have each won multiple Super Bowls. This is the next accomplishment Manning has lined up in his sights and should he be successful, it not only would cement his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, it also would put the finishing touches on what is arguably the greatest season ever by a signal-caller.

Much has been made about Manning’s performance in the postseason, but a victory over Seattle would move his all-time playoff mark to 12-11 and would give him a second Super Bowl ring. The comparisons between Manning and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway are unavoidable if not for the connection they now share. After leading the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins at the end of his career, Elway is now the man in charge of the franchise and was responsible for bringing Manning to Denver after Indianapolis released him in March 2012.

In two short seasons with the Broncos, Manning has reestablished himself as one of the game’s elite quarterbacks and led his team back to the Super Bowl. Elway walked away from the game after winning a second straight Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXIII. Could Manning do the same 15 years later? With him set to turn 38 years old in March and the lingering questions about his health less than three years removed from multiple neck surgeries, I suppose anything is possible. But whether this does end up being Manning’s final game or not, it only seems fitting that No. 18 walks off the MetLife Stadium turf Sunday night with the Lombardi Trophy in tow.

 Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Broncos vs. Seahawks and the history of the big game. 
2. Experience Matters
Considering there are 12 years separating the two starting quarterbacks, it should surprise no one that Denver is an older team than Seattle. According to, the Broncos’ average age is 26.3, while the Seahawks’ is 25.3. Now that one-year difference may not seem like a big deal, but entering the season Denver was the fifth-oldest team in the NFL, while Seattle was the fourth youngest, according to research compiled by NFL Insider Mike Sando.

The Broncos’ roster features eight players who have been in the NFL at least 10 years, while the Seahawks have one. Peyton Manning (16 seasons) is the oldest player on either team, but with age comes experience. Manning has played in two previous Super Bowls and 20 other postseason games. Contrast that to his counterpart, Russell Wilson, who has played in a total of four playoff contests.

Manning, 37, is set to become the second-oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history while Wilson will be the sixth quarterback to play on Super Sunday in his first or second season as a starter. Overall, the older quarterback holds a 26-21 edge in the Super Bowl, although the younger signal-caller has been on the winning side in 10 of the past 12.

That said, Manning and several of his teammates have been around the block more than one time. While Manning is looking for his second Super Bowl ring, guys like Champ Bailey (15 seasons), Quentin Jammer (12) and Shaun Phillips (10) are all looking for their first. Even Wes Welker, who went to two Super Bowls during his six seasons with New England, has yet to hold the Lombardi Trophy in his hands. And then there’s head coach John Fox, who led the Carolina Panthers to Super Bowl XXXVIII, only to lose to the Patriots by just three points.

There’s no question that the Seahawks are hungry and want to win this game. However, they also are fairly young as this is entirely new territory for the majority of this team, especially the quarterback and head coach. On the other side, Manning, Fox, Welker and a few other Broncos have already experienced this stage and know full well what it will take to finish the job next Sunday night. 

3. Broncos’ Defense Peaking at Right Time
Seattle’s defense will garner a lot more attention entering Super Bowl XLVIII and understandably so. Not only were the Seahawks the No. 1 defense during the regular season, this unit is faced with the task of slowing down Peyton Manning and the highest-scoring offense in the history of the NFL.

However, this does not mean that Denver’s defense should be overlooked. For one, the Broncos have put up better statistics than the Seahawks so far this postseason. Denver has given up an average of 289.5 yards per game in its two playoff contests compared to the 358.5 surrendered by Seattle. The points allowed (16.5 ppg for Denver, 16 for Seattle) are similar, but if there’s one area that’s been totally different it’s rushing defense. The Broncos have yielded a total of 129 yards rushing while the Seahawks have given up 269. Seattle’s offense is built around the running game (136.8 ypg in regular season, 4th in NFL), so it’s critical that Denver’s defense continues its strong play against the run.

What’s even more impressive about the Broncos’ recent defensive surge is that this unit is doing it without the services of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson and, for the most part, cornerback Chris Harris. Harris tore his ACL in the Divisional round win against San Diego, yet Denver still held Tom Brady and the Patriots to 320 yards of total offense and just 16 points in the AFC Championship Game.

I’m not saying that Denver’s defense is better than Seattle’s. There’s no question the Seahawks have more talent across the board, especially given the injuries the Broncos have suffered. However, Denver’s defense doesn’t have to stop Manning and company, Seattle does. The Broncos’ defense just needs to do its job against the Seahawks’ offense and lately that hasn’t been an issue for this unit.

4. Denver’s Stable of Weapons
Seattle’s defense finished the regular season tops in the league in both yards (273.6 ypg) and points (14.4 ppg) allowed. The Seahawks are also were No. 1in passing defense (172.0 ypg) in large part thanks to the efforts of their secondary, also known as the “Legion of Boom.”

Headlined by first-team All-Pros cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas, Seattle’s secondary also includes safety Kam Chancellor, who was a second-team All-Pro. Besides being athletic and physical, the Seahawks’ defensive backfield features decent size with Sherman and Chancellor both measuring at 6-3.

Seattle’s defense has had its way with pretty much every team it has played, but the Broncos represent an entirely different challenge. For one, Peyton Manning is enjoying the best statistical season of his Hall of Fame career as the Broncos set a new benchmark for scoring (606 points) in the regular season. Then there’s the stable of weapons Manning has to throw to starting with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Eric Decker, but also including tight end Julius Thomas and running backs Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball.

Besides a track record of production, Denver’s pass-catchers bring some size of their own, as Demaryius and Julius Thomas and Decker all stand at least 6-3. This by itself could be a factor when it comes to winning one-on-one matchups with Seattle’s secondary. In addition, offensive coordinator Adam Gase has done a fine job of putting together effective game plans for Manning to execute on the field throughout this season and there’s little reason to expect anything different for this game, especially with two weeks to prepare.

This Super Bowl is somewhat unique in that it will be the first one in more than 20 years to feature the No. 1 scoring offense versus the No. 1 scoring defense. As good as Seattle’s defense has been, it has yet to face anything quite like Denver’s offense. Of the 18 games the Seahawks have played, half of them have been against teams that ranked 26th or lower in the NFL in total offense during the regular season. New Orleans (4th) was the only team among the top 10 offenses that Seattle played and Denver averaged nearly 60 more yards and 12 points more per game than the Saints.

Defense may win championships, but there has never been as explosive and productive an offense as the Broncos, who may have too many weapons for even the mighty Seahawks to contain.

5. The Broncos' Unfinished Business
Denver has been working towards this game since last Jan. 12 when its 2012 season came to a crushing end following Baltimore’s 38-35 double overtime victory in the Divisional round. Not only did the Broncos lose at home, they were forced to sit back and watch the Ravens accomplish what they were hoping to – win Super Bowl XLVII.

A year later, the collapse against Baltimore is all but a memory, as Denver took care of San Diego and New England at home for the right to face Seattle next Sunday. While the Broncos certainly celebrated with their fans at Sports Authority Field at Mile High following the 26-16 win over the Patriots, the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which goes to the AFC champions, is not the hardware this team has been aiming for since the start of training camp back in the summer.

Just like John Elway 15 years ago, this Denver team wants to do all it can to ensure that Peyton Manning gets his second Super Bowl ring. Are you going to bet against a motivated herd of stampeding Broncos?

5 Reasons the Denver Broncos Will Win Super Bowl XLVIII
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Seattle Seahawks, super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/5-reasons-why-seattle-seahawks-will-win-super-bowl-xlviii

Big players make big plays in big games. And the Super Bowl is “The Big Game.” (Seriously, using the term “Super Bowl” without league permission is strictly prohibited.) Stars come out to shine in the Super Bowl. This year’s New York (but really New Jersey) setting at MetLife Stadium will only add to the glare of the international spotlight. Over 100 million people will watch the game worldwide. Companies have splurged as much as $4 million for 30 seconds of commercial airtime featuring the lovely Scarlett Johansson.

The combined Q Score of the entire Seattle Seahawks roster may not add up to that of laser-rocket-armed, mustachioed football cop, radio-audibling, ad wizard and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. But the Seahawks’ 53-man roster does boast the most talented and deepest lineup in the sport, which will ultimately earn them the most recognizable prize in all of sports — the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Hawks may not have Manning’s megawatt star power but they will soon have blinding bling Super Bowl XLVIII rings. Here are five reasons why the Seattle Seahawks will defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII:

1. Beast Mode
Marshawn Lynch
’s “Beast Mode” has been registering on the Richter Scale lately, as the Seahawks’ power back has a combined 50 carries for 249 yards (5.0 ypc) and three TDs in victories over New Orleans (23–15) and NFC West rival San Francisco (23–17). To put Lynch’s violent running style in perspective, he broke six tackles on his most recent “Beast quake” seismic scoring run; Ravens running back Ray Rice broke nine tackles all season (per Pro Football Focus). Lynch likes the postseason as much as his beloved Skittles.

The 5-11, 215-pounder has 109 career playoff carries for 560 yards (5.1 ypc) and six TDs. Expect offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to keep playing “Beast” ball with his human earthquake. Brace yourself, Big Apple. Make sure there are no unexpected lane closures, New Jersey. “Beast Mode” is on its way.

 Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Broncos vs. Seahawks and the history of the big game. 
2. Legion of Boom
“U mad, bro?” Seattle’s better is better than Denver’s better. The Hawks’ faster is faster than the Broncos’ faster. Hard-hitting strong safety Kam Chancellor will have big-helmet Wes Welker making long-term business decisions coming across the middle. Ball-Hawk free safety Earl Thomas will make the gloved throwing hand of Peyton Manning pay for any cold-weather wounded ducks floating in midair. And, of course, there’s swagger-spewing shutdown cornerback Richard Sherman, who won’t need a boom mic for the Legion of Boom to make noise in the Super Bowl.

“I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like … (insert Broncos receiver here) … that’s the result you’re going to get,” shouts Sherman, who nearly blew up the Internet after blowing up in a postgame interview with FOX’s Erin Andrews after a game-clinching tipped-ball for an INT in the NFC Championship Game. “Don’t open your mouth about the best, or I’ll shut it for you real quick. LOB (Legion of Boom)!”

3. Monsters in the Middle
No matter how good Seattle’s secondary is, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s front seven must stuff the run, shut down the underneath passing game, apply pressure on Manning and make the soon-to-be 38-year-old throw the ball 50 times in the cold. Like most Super Bowl-winning defenses, the Seahawks are stout up the middle — with so-underrated-he’s-now-bordering-overrated defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and middle backer Bobby Wagner.

The svelte 310-pound Mebane commands double teams yet still collapses the pocket — getting leverage, getting low, getting pressure. Wagner is a second-year stud who has recorded a combined 260 tackles, seven sacks and five INTs over his first two seasons as a second-round pick out of Nevada.

This will be a strength vs. strength matchup of the NFL’s top passing offense (340.2 ypg) against the NFL’s top passing defense (172.0 ypg). However, the Seahawks also owned the best scoring defense (14.4 ppg), total defense (273.6 ypg) and turnover margin (plus-20) en route to a 13–3 regular season record. In two postseason games, Seattle has allowed 16 points per game and posted a plus-three turnover margin.

4. Triple-Threat Dynamic Duo
Seattle’s pair of 25-year-old receiver-runner-returners — Percy Harvin (5-11, 184) and Golden Tate (5-10, 202) — is as compact, explosive and versatile as any in the league. Both can line up outside, in the slot, in the backfield or in the Wildcat. Both have huge chips on their shoulder. Harvin missed nearly the entire season after signing a six-year, $67 million contract this offseason. Tate is a pending free agent who hopes to join Harvin’s tax bracket this offseason.

No one in Denver’s depleted secondary matches up well with wideouts like Harvin and Tate. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6-2, 193) is a long and lean outside-the-numbers corner who runs well against the new-age size-speed combo wideouts (a la Demaryius Thomas). But DRC isn’t the elite type of cover man who can line up all over the field to mirror Harvin or Tate. Champ Bailey was once that type of shutdown cornerback. But at 35 years old and with 15 years of mileage on his tires, Bailey can’t keep up like he once did. Champ is a Hall of Famer, no doubt. Everyone respects his body of work. But he’s not flame-retardant anymore; Bailey’s going to get burnt by Harvin and/or Tate.

5. Father Time, Old Man Winter
Peyton Manning will turn 38 on March 24. Russell Wilson just turned 25 on Nov. 29. There’s a reason only one quarterback — Denver’s 38-year-old John Elway in the final NFL game of his career vs. Atlanta in Super Bowl XXXIII — older than Manning has won the Super Bowl. Football is a young man’s game to begin with. And after a grueling 16-game regular season and multiple hard-fought playoff games, age catches up with even the greatest. Take Elway out of the equation and the five oldest quarterbacks in Super Bowl history are 1–4, with Johnny Unitas winning Super Bowl V and the other four (Kurt Warner, Rich Gannon, Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach) suffering losses.

Add the variable element of cold weather and age becomes even more of an issue. This year’s game could be a sloppy affair — at least if you trust the Farmers’ Almanac. The trusted source that dates back to 1818 is “red-flagging” early February in New Jersey, calling for “copious wind, rain, and snow” around kickoff. Manning has struggled in the elements lately. He threw for a season-low 150 yards in a Week 12 loss at New England this season and had three turnovers (two INTs, lost fumble) in a snowy playoff loss in Denver against Baltimore last year.

The weather should be no big deal for Wilson, who has thrived in the scattered showers of Seattle and the windy chill of Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Plus, the dual-threat can make plays with his legs, a club Manning certainly does not have in his bag of tricks. Maybe if the Broncos still had Von Miller to chase Wilson? But they don’t have their best pass-rusher. Health — both injuries and age — plays a huge role in crowning a Super Bowl champion. There is little debate that the Seahawks are the younger and healthier team.

Seattle is better from top-to-bottom than Mile High top-heavy Denver, a team with an MVP passer and a stable of fantasy football receivers but little else. The greatest fans in football, the “12th Man” — whose collective jersey has been retired in the Pacific Northwest — will have reason to make some noise after Super Sunday. You might even be able to hear the “12th Man” in New Jersey after the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII — at least once Richard Sherman is done talking.

5 Reasons Why the Seattle Seahawks Will Win Super Bowl XLVIII
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 11:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-27-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 27.

• Once we get the Super Bowl out of the way, it will be Winter Olympics time, when we'll be treated to athletes like speed skater Allison Baver (pictured). Although she won't be dressed like that.

• In honor of Super Bowl week: The 10 best players who never won the big game.

What exactly is going on with Russell Wilson's hair?

• There was football played yesterday, of a sort. DeSean Jackson provided a Pro Bowl highlight and celebrated with his mom.

• Not all refs are evil, soulless monsters. This one helped a struggling kid get to his position on the ice. Well done.

This Bama fan was true to his word.

Trent Reznor took to Twitter to express his displeasure over being cut off at the end of the Grammys (language alert). Profanity aside, could not agree more. Here's a recap of the show as a whole, including the star of the evening, Pharrell Williams' hat. Or, if you prefer (and I do), here's The Onion's take on the evening.

Carlos Zambrano still has anger management issues.

The Celtics welcomed Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back to Boston with some tribute videos that clearly moved the duo.

• A girl in a cape and a bikini top did what she could to salvage the monstrosity that is the Pro Bowl.



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

Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 10:33
Path: /college-football/south-florida-unveils-new-chrome-helmets-2014

South Florida is coming off a 2-10 season, but the program has momentum. The Bulls are set to reel in one of the American Athletic Conference’s top recruiting classes and there’s a solid cast of returning talent for next season.

And to help this team turn the page for next season, South Florida has unveiled two new chrome designs for its helmets.

The first features a matte green with a large USF logo, while the other helmet is a gold chrome design similar to what Baylor wore this season.

Overall, this is a solid concept for South Florida and should only help second-year coach Willie Taggart raise the profile of his program this offseason:

South Florida Unveils New Chrome Helmets for 2014
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/jacob-cokers-transfer-alabama-impacts-2014-sec-and-national-title-race

Alabama is set to land one of the nation’s top signing classes in early February, but Nick Saban’s most important recruit of 2014 isn’t a freshman. Instead, that honor falls to Florida State quarterback Jacob Coker, who announced he will officially transfer to Alabama after completing his degree in Tallahassee.

Coker will graduate from Florida State in May and is immediately eligible to play in 2014.

Who is Jacob Coker?

Coker has spent the last three years at Florida State, serving as a backup to Jameis Winston and EJ Manuel. After redshirting his freshman season, Coker completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards and one touchdown in mop-up duty in 2012. As a result of Florida State’s dominant performance and big leads in the second half in 2013, Coker’s playing time increased. He completed 18 of 36 passes for 250 yards and one pick.

A knee injury suffered against Wake Forest prevented him from playing in the final five games of 2013. However, in a small sample size, Coker is averaging 14 yards per pass attempt and has completed 55 percent of his throws.

Coker wasn’t an elite prospect coming out of high school, ranking as a three-star recruit by 247Sports.

However, he was not an easy prospect to evaluate out of St. Paul’s Episcopal (Mobile, Ala.). Coker played in a wing-T offense until his senior season and finished his career by throwing for 1,508 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011.

Coker has good mobility for a quarterback that is 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. During his senior year at St. Paul’s Episcopal, he averaged 5.8 yards per carry, while averaging 21.9 points per game as a member of the basketball team.

Obviously, it’s hard to evaluate a quarterback with zero career starts. However, there’s a lot to like about Coker.

At 6-foot-5, he has the size and arm strength coaches want in their quarterback. Coker also has good mobility and learned under a quarterback guru in Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Also, Coker gave Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston a battle for the starting job in preseason practices.

Alabama’s Quarterback Battle

With Coker officially added to the roster, Alabama has six quarterbacks slated to battle for the top spot in spring practice.

Blake Sims has the most experience of any quarterback in Tuscaloosa, but all signs point to someone different starting in the opener against West Virginia.

There’s also a wildcard factor to keep in mind. Alabama has a new offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin, and it’s expected he will make a few tweaks to the offense.

Here’s a look at the quarterbacks and where they ranked in high school:

 Year of EligibilityGames Played at AlabamaPasses Thrown at AlabamaRecruiting Rank
Cooper BatemanR-FR00
Jacob CokerJR0 (11 at FSU)0 (41 at FSU)
David CornwellFR00
Parker McLeodR-FR00
Alec MorrisSO10
Blake SimsSR2339

Graduate Transfer Quarterbacks and Success

While there’s no shortage of hype surrounding Coker, there’s also no guarantee this will work out for Alabama.

In the recent history of graduate transfer quarterbacks, there are some success stories, but also a lot of duds.

 Comp.Att.Comp. %YardsTDsINTsRush YdsRush TDW/L Record
Drew Allen, Syracuse6812255.766629007-6 (2013)
Chazz Anderson, Buffalo23040656.62,45411930973-9 (2011)
Taylor Bennett, La. Tech6616739.5873265508-5 (2008)
Allan Bridgford, USM11220754.11,133611-8101-11 (2013)
Dayne Crist, Kansas10321647.71,31349-6601-11 (2012)
Kirby Freeman, Baylor61346.24912004-8 (2008)
Garrett Gilbert, SMU26850652.92,932151534687-6 (2012)
Nick Hirschman, Akron3853.316230-2315-7 (2013)
Jacob Karam, Memphis3742.92200-1603-9 (2013)
Ryan Katz, SDSU9916360.71,34813428749-4 (2012)
Adam Kennedy, Ark. St21831569.22,36311652448-5 (2013)
Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss16729656.42,039141354464-8 (2010)
Ben Mauk, Cincinnati23538660.93,121319376310-3 (2007)
Brandon Mitchell, NC State8615157.01,0117627423-9 (2013)
Danny O'Brien, Wisconsin528660.552331-8208-6 (2012)
Greg Paulus, Syracuse19328567.72,0241314-1214-8 (2009)
Sean Schroeder, Hawaii17534450.91,8781112-16913-9 (2012)
Jameill Showers, UTEP10718856.91,26311419542-10 (2013)
Clint Trickett, W. Virginia12323352.81,60577-2914-8 (2013)
Jordan Webb, Colorado14426554.31,43488-13521-11 (2012)
Russell Wilson, Wisconsin22530972.83,175334338611-3 (2011)

Final Analysis

Alabama is loaded for another run at the national championship. With one of the nation’s top backfields and receiving corps returning, all that’s missing on offense is a quarterback. And of course, a left tackle must be found to replace Cyrus Kouandjio.

If Coker is as good as advertised, then the Crimson Tide is landing their biggest (and most important recruit) for 2014. Alabama is picked as the No. 2 team in Athlon’s very early top 25 for next season and is a slight favorite to win the SEC West over Auburn.

However, there’s also the possibility this move could backfire for Nick Saban. With six quarterbacks on the roster, one or two could transfer after fall practice. And if Coker struggles, Alabama would be losing potential replacements.

This is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Crimson Tide. Coker has the talent to succeed in this offense. And it’s not like Coker is being asked to win games all on his own. After all, Alabama has one of the nation’s top defenses and supporting casts on offense. With two years of eligibility remaining, Coker is a better acquisition than a one-year graduate transfer.

There’s a lot of pressure on Coker’s shoulders to perform (and perform well right away), especially with Alabama in the thick of the SEC and national championship discussion for 2014. Despite the immense pressure on Coker’s right arm, all signs point to this being a potential move that plays a significant role in shaping the SEC and national championship picture.

Jacob Coker's Transfer to Alabama Impacts 2014 SEC and National Title Race
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-ten-defensive-linemen-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

The Big Ten is all about physical line play on both sides of the ball. Stopping the run and putting pressure on the quarterback is one of the quickest ways to find yourself in B1G contention at year's end.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06)
The Wolverines' terror off the edge posted 12 sacks as a senior en route to the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards as the nation’s best lineman and defensive end respectively. He was a unanimous All-American before being drafted in the second round of the 2007 NFL Draft by the Steelers. His 10 career forced fumbles are seventh all-time in Big Ten history and his work on the ’06 Michigan team that started 11-0 before losing to Ohio State in memorable fashion earned him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors. Woodley also was a finalist for the Bednarik, Lott, Outland and Nagurski awards as well.

2. Tamba Hali, Penn State (2002-05)
A unanimous All-American and Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year, Hali pushed Penn State to its last Big Ten championship as well as a win in the Orange Bowl following the 2005 season. He led the Big Ten with 17.0 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks and added 65 total tackles for a team that lost just once (in the final second) all season. The undersized end was picked 20th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft and has blossomed into one of the league’s top edge players.

3. J.J. Watt, Wisconsin (2009-10)
The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 was dominant in his short stint in Madison. After originally signing with Central Michigan as a tight end, Watt emerged as a hidden gem for the Badgers. He posted an absurd 106 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and a number of big blocked kicks (see Arizona State). He won the Lott Trophy given to the most impactful defensive player in college football in 2010 before being picked with the 11th overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft. He is arguably the best defensive end on the planet right now.

4. Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10)
A beast off the edge cut from the same mold as Watt in terms of size and athleticism, few have ever been as productive as Kerrigan. The Boilermakers star is seventh all-time in Big Ten history with 33.5 sacks and his 14 forced fumbles are the most in league history by anyone (his seven forced fumbles in 2009 are tied for third all-time in league history). He was named ’10 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American. In his final season in West Lafayette, he won the Bill Willis Award by posting 70 tackles, 26 for a loss and 12.5 sacks.

5. Erasmus James, DE, Wisconsin (2001-04)
“The Eraser” did it all for the Badgers during his time in Madison. He finished with 124 tackles, 25.5 for a loss, 18 sacks and seven forced fumbles. James won the 2004 Hendricks Award given to the nation’s best defensive end and the Bill Willis Award given to the nation’s top defensive lineman. The Wisconsin star was a consensus All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik award in ’04 as well. He was the 18th pick of the 2005 NFL Draft.

6. Courtney Brown, Penn State (1996-99)
The Outback Bowl’s MVP (1999) earned a long list of honors during his time at Penn State. He was a consensus All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a two-time All-Big Ten selection. In 1999, he posted 29.0 tackles for a loss, third-best in Big Ten history. His 70 career tackles for a loss also rank third all-time in conference history while his 33 career sacks rank ninth. Brown was the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Browns in the 2000 NFL Draft. His lack of pro success doesn’t take away from his elite college career.

7. Will Smith, Ohio State (2000-03)
One of the most talented players to ever suit up in the Big Ten, Smith’s career had it all. He won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2003 and finished his career with 167 tackles, 21 sacks and five forced fumbles in 37 starts (51 games). Smith was one of the stars on a Buckeyes defense that topped Miami for the 2002 BCS National Championship.

8. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois (2009-11)
Mercilus didn’t blossom until his junior season but what a season it was. After playing every game of his first two years with little fanfare, Mercilus burst onto the national scene with one of the greatest single-seasons in Big Ten history. He led the nation in sacks (16.0, fourth all-time in Big Ten History) and his nine forced fumbles established a new conference record. He was a consensus All-American, won the Hendricks Award as the nation’s top defensive end and the Willis Award for the nation’s best defensive lineman. The Fighting Illini rush end was named the CFPA Defensive Performer of the Year and was the 26th overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

9. Tom Burke, Wisconsin (1995-98)
One the Big Ten’s greatest sack artists helped lead Wisconsin to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl championship during his historic and record-setting senior season. Burke earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors by setting a conference record with 22 sacks (No. 2 is Lamanzer Williams with 18.5) and 31 tackles for a loss in 1998. He was a consensus All-American and third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals. His five sacks against Iowa in ’98 are tied for second-best in Big Ten history. He claimed the Bill Willis Trophy that year as well.

10. Jared DeVries, Iowa (1995-98)
Only one player in Big Ten history has more sacks than DeVries’ 42 career QB takedowns and his name is Simeon Rice (44.5). Playing at the same time as Burke, the Hawkeyes' star end is the Big Ten’s all-time leader in tackles for a loss with 78 career stops behind the line of scrimmage. He was a consensus All-American and three-time, first-team All-Big Ten performer. He was a third-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

Just missed the cut:

11. Devon Still, Penn State (2009-11)
Still became one of just two defensive tackles to ever win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors when he dominated the league in 2011. He posted 55 tackles, 17.0 for a loss and 4.5 sacks during his junior season, earning consensus All-American honors in the process. Still was a finalist for the Outland and Bednarik awards and became a second-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2012 NFL Draft.

12. Michael Haynes, Penn State (1999-02)
Haynes was named the 2002 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after posting 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles as a senior. Those numbers were good for ninth and third all-time in league history. He was an All-American and picked in the first round by the Chicago Bears.

13. John Simon, DE, Ohio State (2009-12)
A stalwart of consistency for the Buckeyes, this workout warrior came to play every game. He wasn’t the most talented or the biggest but he was one of the best, finishing his career with 154 tackles, 42 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks. He was a captain, leader and played in 51 games during his time in Columbus. Simon was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year as a senior.

14. Adrian Clayborn, Iowa (2007-10)
It took until his third year on campus as a redshirt junior, but Clayborn became a star along the Hawkeyes' defensive line. He led Iowa to an Orange Bowl bid and was named that game's MVP as Iowa earned its first and only BCS bowl win over Georgia Tech. He was a consensus All-American and eventually was picked in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

15. Jared Odrick Penn State (2006-09)
Odrick was the first defensive tackle to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors with his dominant 2009 campaign. The two-time All-Big Ten selection posted 41 tackles, 10 for a loss and six sacks during his All-American senior season. Odrick was a first-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Best of the rest:

16. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State (2009-11)
Freshman All-American who blossomed into a consensus All-American, starting nearly every game of his career.

17. Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan (2006-09)
Led the nation in tackles for a loss as a senior (26.0), was an All-American and first-round draft pick.

18. Shaun Phillips, Purdue (2000-03)
Seventh all-time in Big Ten history with 33.5 sacks and ninth all-time with 60.5 tackles for a loss.

19. Quinn Pitcock, Ohio State (2003-06)
Consensus All-American who helped lead Ohio State to perfect regular season, Big Ten title and BCS title game.

20. Adewale Ogunleye, Indiana (1996-99)
His 34.5 sacks are sixth all-time in Big Ten history and his 64 tackles for a loss are seventh.

21. Anthony Spencer, Purdue (2003-06)
Led the nation with 26.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles as a senior before becoming a first-round pick.

22. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota (2009-13)
Stud up the middle for a Gophers team that returned to the postseason for the first time in years.

22. Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin (1998-01)
Set Wisconsin single-game record with five sacks against Purdue in 2001. Two-time B1G Lineman of the Year.

23. Anttaj Hawthorne, Wisconsin (2001-04)
Started 41 straight games and earned All-Big Ten honors three straight years. Posted 42 TFL and 12 sacks.

25. Greg Middleton, Indiana (2006-09)
His 16 sacks in 2007 are tied for fourth all-time in Big Ten history. Peaked early in his career.

Top 10 Big Ten Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/10-things-you-need-know-college-basketball-weekend-jan-27

The weekend of college basketball delivered only one true marquee matchup, but the weekend didn't lack for news. Although Michigan and Michigan State delivered in every way we hoped it would, other teams made key strides on Saturday and Sunday.

Let’s start with Michigan, now the last remaining team undefeated in Big Ten play. Michigan State gave all it could, but the Spartans’ injuries in the end were too much to overcome.

Michigan, of course, has had its own players banged up, but the Wolverines have grown in the last few weeks to be a better team now without Mitch McGary than they were when he was healthy.

A scary thought for the rest of the league: Imagine a team with an improved Nik Stauskas and a matured Derrick Walton playing with the sophomore big man McGary. As it is, Michigan is already in charge of the league for the time being.

Elsewhere, Duke is starting to look more and more like the team we thought the Blue Devils would be this season. Where that places Duke in the ACC will be answered this week when the Blue Devils face Big East imports Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend

1a. Michigan is a Final Four threat
In his absence from the court, Mitch McGary found at least one way to stay useful — writing “Win the Game” on a white board. It seems to be working as Michigan is undefeated without McGary, including three consecutive wins over top-10 teams. Two of those have come in Madison and East Lansing after Saturday's 80-75 win at Michigan State. The Spartans were shorthanded, but Michigan was able to erase a second-half eight-point deficit with key baskets in transition down the stretch to seal the win. Guards Nik Stauskas, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton combined for 55 points and 15 of 17 free throws as Michigan took over the Big Ten lead ... two months after a loss to Charlotte and and the injury to McGary appeared to set Michigan back to the middle of the Big Ten.

1b. Gary Harris should be on All-America lists
Stauskas may be the frontrunner for Big Ten Player of the Year, but Harris is the league MVP. With Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson out and Keith Appling barely able to shoot with a wrist injury, Harris is keeping Michigan State in Big Ten contention. Harris matched Michigan’s guards basket for basket for most of the game to finish with 27 points. As the Spartans have taken their hits with injuries, Harris has averaged 19.9 points per game in Big Ten play.

1c. Tom Izzo is having an emotional year
After the loss to Michigan, Izzo said he’d never been prouder of a team in 30 years at Michigan State — high praise, considering the track record. Michigan didn’t take a lead until the final 3:12. Afterward, Izzo praised Appling’s toughness to play through injuries, and players told reporters the coach was nearly moved to tears in the postgame meeting. Only weeks ago, Izzo was exasperated as his team coughed up a 17-point lead in regulation against Ohio State before winning in overtime. For certain, this has been a roller coaster season for the veteran coach.

2a. We’re about to find out of Duke is a national title contender
Back on Jan. 11, Duke looked nothing like a team ready to contend for the Final Four. At that point the Blue Devils couldn’t defend, lost their toughest games of the season to Kansas and Arizona and dropped two ACC games to Notre Dame and Clemson. Since then, Duke has started to look the part of a title contender, but the major test will be next week at Pittsburgh (Monday) and at Syracuse (Saturday). The Blue Devils have shut down the 3-point line in three consecutive games and dominated the offensive glass Saturday in a 78-56 win over Florida State. Duke grabbed 27 offensive rebounds — led by Jabari Parker’s 10 — for a team offensive rebound rate of 61.4 percent.

2b. You’re going to hear the number 900 a lot for the next week
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski joined Syracuse’s Jim Boehiem as the only major college coaches to win 900 games at a single school. Boeheim, Krzyzewski’s opponent next Saturday, has 938 wins all with the Orange.

2c. Duke’s defense has caught up
Parker was fantastic against Florida State, Rodney Hood contributed 18 points and Andre Dawkins and Rasheed Sulaimon continue to give Krzyzewski third and fourth scoring options. Meanwhile, the leaky Duke defense has finally started to catch up. Since Duke sputtered in a win over Virginia on Jan. 13, the Blue Devils moved from outside of the top 100 in defensive efficiency on to No. 62 to start the week.

3. Wisconsin and Iowa State can take a deep breath
Two three-game losing streaks by previously undefeated teams ended when Iowa State and Wisconsin both won Saturday. The Cyclones ended their three-game losing streak with an 81-75 win over a quality Kansas State team. With DeAndre Kane having an off game, Iowa State’s frontcourt was dominant as Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang combined for 38 points compared to 10 total points for Kansas State’s starting forwards. Wisconsin’s win wasn't as much of a statement with a 72-58 win at Purdue, but the Badgers responded in the defensive end. Wisconsin struggled to guard anyone during its three-game losing streak but held the Boilermakers to 35.4 percent shooting and 3 of 17 from 3-point range.

4. Rick Barnes may be saving his job
Texas’ week started with Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Kansas State and continued with a 74-66 road win over Baylor on Saturday. When the season started, Barnes’ program appeared to be heading in the wrong direction — no Sweet 16 appearances since 2008 and a losing season in 2013 that ended with a CBI loss to Houston. Now, Barnes is a Big 12 coach of the year contender. Barnes’ recruiting has been scrutinized, especially in the state of Texas, but his freshman point guard who graduated from a Houston high school, Isaiah Taylor, scored 27 against Baylor. With no seniors getting regular minutes, the core of the team should be around for another year. The Longhorns have put together three consecutive wins over ranked teams heading into a game against Kansas on Saturday, the biggest game in Austin since January 2011.

5. Florida had the best defensive game of the weekend
The Gators had a couple of closer-than-they-should-have-been games against Auburn and Alabama in the last week. Their defensive effort against Tennessee made sure they had enough of a cushion to play walk-ons. Florida defeated the Volunteers 67-41, the eighth time in the last nine games the Gators held their opponent to 62 points of fewer. The Volunteers couldn’t manage to get good shots from the perimeter all game as Tennessee’s starting backcourt went 2 of 29 from the field and only got to the free throw line twice. Jordan McRae, who averages 19.2 points per game, scored only 5. Florida, who ranks ninth on in defensive efficiency, might not be seriously tested until they face Kentucky on Feb. 15.

6. North Carolina can make shots again
Time to check in on the North Carolina roller coaster. This time, the Tar Heels are on the upswing again with a 80-61 win over Clemson. No, the Heels don’t need to take a victory lap for beating Clemson at home, but this at least a positive sign for the time being. The Tar Heels scored 45 against Syracuse, 57 against Miami, 61 against Virginia and 67 against Wake Forest. The Heels were hitting their shots Sunday, converting 10 of 19 shots from 3-point range against a team ranked second nationally in defending the 3-point line. Carolina hit the 70-point mark with more than four minutes to go against Clemson, one of the top defensive teams in the country. North Carolina faces some of the weaker teams in the ACC between now and the Feb. 12 game against Duke, not that sustaining momentum has been a strong suit for this team.

7. Baylor is in a tailspin
Unless the Bears can turn things around in short order, Baylor is going to have trouble shedding its image of an underachieving team. With the 74-60 loss to Texas, Baylor fell to 1-4 in the Big 12 with its only win over TCU in Waco. Against the Longhorns, Baylor couldn’t find the basket. Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin were a combined 4 of 16 from the field, and sharp-shooter Brady Heslip was 0 for 4 from 3-point range. Baylor shot 32.1 percent from the field and 17.6 percent from beyond the arc against Texas, yet another game where Baylor couldn’t get anything done in the offensive end in a Big 12 game. The Bears have non-conference wins over Kentucky and a healthy Colorado, but they’re going to need to get hot in conference play in a hurry.

8. Marcus Smart, Phil Forte were both awful Saturday yet the Pokes still won
Oklahoma State lost a key cog in the frontcourt in Michael Cobbins earlier this season. Then, the Cowboys struggled with their composure for much of the game against Kansas. And now, Marcus Smart had the worst game of his career Saturday against West Virginia. At some point, maybe Oklahoma State’s recent games should raise some concerns, but not quite yet. The reason, at least this week, was that Le’Bryan Nash and others proved capable of carrying the Pokes in an 81-75 win over the Mountaineers. Smart went 1 of 7 from the field against West Virginia, and the normally sharp-shooting Phil Forte was 1 of 9 from 3-point range. Good thing Nash made up for it with 29 points on 10 of 13 shooting.

9. Providence has arrived on the bubble
Time to start taking Providence seriously as an NCAA Tournament contender. The Friars defeated Xavier 81-72 on Saturday for their fifth consecutive Big East win after starting 0-2 in the league. Bryce Cotton may be one of the nation’s most overlooked players, but he can score with anyone (22.4 points per game in Big East play). Besides the Musketeers, Providence has defeated Georgetown and Creighton, but all three wins have come at home. Still, the Friars are in the top 50 in the RPI and on All that’s missing is a big road win. The Friars will have that opportunity with three of the next four on the road.

10. Creighton is a little more than Doug McDermott
Hold McDermott to 14 points and 5 of 15 from the field, and most teams would feel pretty good. Not Georgetown. McDermott was tied for the team lead in scoring, but five Bluejays scored in double figures, including Will Artino and Devin Brooks off the bench. Forward Ethan Wragge’s 3-point prowess is well established, but Jahenns Manigat added 10 points in the 76-63. Creighton probably doesn’t want to risk a 14-point night from McDermott in March, but it’s nice to know the Bluejays can absorb that kind of game every once in a while. Meanwhile, Georgetown is falling apart. The Hoyas have lost four in a row, and center Josh Smith was declared academically ineligible during the week.

Short stuff

• The season isn’t going quite as well for Sean Miller’s brother Archie at Dayton. The Flyers looked like a potential NCAA Tournament team with an early 10-point win at Georgia Tech, wins over Gonzaga and Cal in Maui and an overtime win over Ole Miss. Dayton has lost three in a row in the Atlantic 10 in a 1-4 start in league play.

• No Spencer Dinwiddie, no NCAA Tournament for Colorado. The Buffaloes lost 72-51 to Arizona State, giving Tad Boyle’s team three losses in four games since Dinwiddie was lost for the season. Bad break.

• Not sure if Minnesota’s 82-78 loss at Nebraska on Sunday is reason to get off the Gophers bandwagon after Richard Pitino’s team defeated Wisconsin earlier in the week. Minnesota is still without Andre Hollins, and Nebraska defeated Ohio State in Lincoln earlier this season.

• After a win over Notre Dame, Wake Forest is 4-3 in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have a shot at an NIT bid, major progress given the way Jeff Bzdelik’s tenure started.

10 Things You Need to Know from the College Basketball Weekend Jan. 27
Post date: Monday, January 27, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Media day, NFL, Overtime, super bowl, super-bowl, NFL, Overtime
Path: /nfl/10-best-media-day-moments-super-bowl-history-2014

This year's Super Bowl Media Day kicks off on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and will see throngs of news outlets from around the world descending on the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, for a blitz of Seahawks-Broncos coverage. Rarely are stories broken. In fact, the day is typically filled with pat answers and tired cliches. But every once in awhile, someone breaks the monotony and actually says or does something interesting. Here are ten of the best (or at least most notable) Media Day moments in Super Bowl history.

This one barely squeaks in, because there was no Media Day back then, and the game wasn't even called the Super Bowl yet. But Fred "The Hammer" Williamson set the bar for subsequent game-week trash talk, vowing to inflict harm on Packer receivers Boyd Dowler and Carroll Dale. "Two hammers to Dowler, one to Dale should be enough," he said. Sadly, Fred was on the business end of a hammer himself: He got knocked cold by the knee of Packers guard Gale Gillingham.

Cowboys running back Duane Thomas was a man of so few words that he was known as the Sphinx. Prior to Super Bowl VI, he sat silently through Media Day, never uttering a single word, part of a year-long media boycott. The previous year, though, Thomas had made a pertinent observation about the Super Bowl: "If it's the ultimate game, why are they playing it again next year?"

Terry Bradshaw1979
Dallas linebacker Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson offered up a memorable assessment of Terry Bradshaw's mental acuity, or lack thereof: "He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a." Bradshaw proved he could spell TD, or at least toss them - four of them, in fact, in Pittsburgh's 35-31 win. "I didn't say he couldn't play," Henderson said afterwards. "Just that he couldn't spell."

Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett grew up in a household with blind parents, one of whom died when Plunkett was at Stanford. On Media Day, one intrepid reporter wanted to make sure he had his facts straight. He shouted: "Jimmy, Jimmy, I want to make sure I have this right. Was it dead mother, blind father or blind mother, dead father?"

The Super Bowl Media Day that produced an urban legend — the Doug Williams "How long have you been a black quarterback" myth — did have an entertaining moment when notoriously under-educated Redskins defensive lineman Dexter Manley vowed to "catch the quarterback and hit him from behind, in between his two numbers, and cut his lights out." Reporters took the opportunity to remind him that John Elway wore No. 7.

The international nature of the Super Bowl, and the lack of football savvy among some of its international followers, was driven home at Media Day prior to the Niners-Bengals matchup when a Japanese reporter asked Joe Montana, "Why do they call you Boomer?"

Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan was so intent on proving that his Falcons didn't mind being underdogs to the Broncos that he wore a dog collar to Media Day, where he ripped Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe for being "an ugly dude" who looked like Mr. Ed.

All this led to a hilarious back-and-forth between the two.

"Is he my friend? No," Sharpe said. "Did I ever view him as a friend? No. Did I ever view him as an acquaintance? No. Do I like him? No. If I see him in a snowstorm, his truck is broke down, mine is going perfectly, do I pick him up? No."

Buchanan's reply: "Shannon just runs his mouth saying anything, so we don't need to pay attention to him. He'd better watch out for himself, because he might get knocked out like he did that last game. We're not a team that's going to go out on the field and pull up our skirts and show our panties. I'm not saying we wear panties, but I'm saying we can't go out there and play like females and win the game."

Over to you, Shannon: "Tell Ray to put the eyeliner, the lipstick and the high heels away. I'm not saying he's a cross-dresser, but that's just what I heard."

 Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Broncos vs. Seahawks and the history of the big game. 
A year after being involved in an incident at a Super Bowl party that resulted in two stabbing deaths, Ray Lewis showed up for Super Bowl XXXV and addressed the inevitable questions about the incident. "Yes I got money. Yes, I'm black and yes, I'm blessed," Lewis told the crowd. "But at the same time, let's find out the real truth. The real truth is [this] was never about those two kids that's dead in the street. This is about Ray Lewis." Okay then. 

Steelers safety Troy Polamalu took the opportunity of Media Day to thank "Entertainment Tonight" for giving him a "Best Hair" award, adding, "I'd like to thank Pantene Pro V, or anyone else who wants to send me free shampoo and conditioner."

TV Azteca's Ines Gomez Mont showed up at Media Day in a wedding gown and asked several players to marry her, including Tom Brady. During Brady's press conference, she shouted out, "I'm the real Miss Brady." Brady, who was busy juggling Gisele Bundchen and Bridget Moynihan, replied, "I've got a few Miss Bradys in my life."

<p> Sometimes someone says something that's not a cliche.</p>
Post date: Sunday, January 26, 2014 - 17:42
Path: /college-football/early-heisman-odds-released-2014

College football’s Heisman Trophy won’t be awarded until next December, but it’s never too early to think about the frontrunners for next season.

Bovada has released its early odds for 2014, and there’s a familiar face at the top. Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is the favorite to repeat, with Oregon’s Marcus Mariota a 7/2 favorite.

Quarterbacks own five out of the top seven spots in the early odds. Running backs T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) and Todd Gurley (Georgia) are the only skill players in the top seven.

Also of interest: No wide receivers make the early odds for 2014.

Here’s the early list of favorites to win the 2014 Heisman Trophy from Bovada:


Jameis Winston (QB Florida State)2/1 
Marcus Mariota (QB Oregon)7/2 
Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State)4/1 
T.J. Yeldon (RB Alabama)5/1 
Bryce Petty (QB Baylor)6/1 
Brett Hundley (QB UCLA)12/1 
Todd Gurley (RB Georgia)12/1 
Mike Davis (RB South Carolina)15/1 
Melvin Gordon (RB Wisconsin)16/1 
Everett Golson (Notre Dame)25/1 
Trevor Knight (QB Oklahoma)25/1 
Duke Johnson (RB Miami)33/1 
Karlos Williams (RB Florida State)33/1 
Matt Johnson (QB Bowling Green)66/1 
Rakeem Cato (QB Marshall)66/1 
Early Heisman Odds Released for 2014
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 14:53
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-24-2013

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

• I'm not one of those annoying people who watches the Super Bowl primarily for the commercials, but they can be enjoyable, as this slideshow of the hottest women of Super Sunday ads proves.

• While you were sleeping: Rafael Nadal curb-stomped Roger Federer. Again. Can Fed be the GOAT when he's 10-23 against Nadal?

Kobe can only shake his head at what he sees.

Some little kids re-enact the Erin Andrews-Richard Sherman interview. Little kids are the best (when they do stuff like this).

The 10 best sports bars in the U.S. I'll have to do more research to see if I agree.

GQ's guide to classy athlete behavior. I know this is satirical, but I could live with all these suggestions.

Lolo Jones might not be the most deserving Winter Olympian, but so what?

• Looking to borrow a clever insult? Enjoy this insult sampler from "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

The Weather Channel is warning us to look out for a true ****-storm.

The funniest tweets of the week.

• A fun throwback video from a year ago: Cooper Manning took to the streets of New Orleans, proving that he's just as awesome as his brothers.

• Wanna get away? A college goaltender gave up the winning goal while chatting up fans in the corner.

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

Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 10:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-quarterback-recruiting-classes-modern-era

Not every recruiting class is created equal. Nor every NFL Draft class for that matter.

Depending on the state, region or position, each recruiting cycle offers different areas of strengths or weaknesses. As research about geography indicates, Louisiana, for example, has an elite collection of talent in the 2014 class.

There are many uncertainties in recruiting for obvious reasons. It cycles up and down, back and forth. Some classes may be loaded with elite linebackers. Some years all of the best talent comes from the West Coast. On and on and on.

One thing is certain, however. Every team needs at least a good quarterback to win a championship. This much is true on every level of football. But not every recruiting cycle is created equal. An in-depth examination of the modern era of football recruiting — since 2002, when Internet rankings became so prevalent — makes this painfully obvious.

While there are excellent players entering college every year, some are better than others. For example, the 2004 class of signal-callers is headlined by Brian Brohm and Pat White while the '08 class is headlined by Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. All four were outstanding college quarterbacks but its safe to say Luck and Griffin are a different tier of overall talent.

So I’ve ranked each of the last 12 quarterback classes against each other and this is what I came up with…

1. Class of 2006

The Stars: Tim Tebow, Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Jake Locker, Case Keenum

The Best of the Rest: Christian Ponder, Josh Freeman, Greg McElroy, Todd Reesing, Nate Davis, Juice Williams, TJ Yates, Ricky Stanzi, Thaddeus Lewis, John Skelton, Scott Tolzien, Nathan Enderle

This group features six first-round picks, including two No. 1 overall selections, and two second-rounders. It registered two Heisman Trophies, three BCS national championships and featured the most prolific passer in NCAA history. And Colin Kaepernick, who was a statistical juggernaut at Nevada, led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII and nearly got SanFran back to another one in 2013. Additionally, Yates, Stafford and Dalton have all started NFL playoff games while Ponder led the Vikings to an improbable playoff berth last season. This class has long been considered the best of the modern era and it appears nothing has changed.

2. Class of 2008

The Stars: Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Collin Klein, Landry Jones, Darron Thomas, Blaine Gabbert, Nick Florence, EJ Manuel, Terrelle Pryor

The Best of the Rest:, Mike Glennon, Seth Doege, Tyler Wilson, Colby Cameron, Sean Renfree, Ryan Nassib, Matt Scott, Zac Dysert, Alex Carder, Jacory Harris

When all is said and done, Luck and Griffin III might be better than anyone in the 2006 class, but the depth at the top may not be as elite. Jones is one of the most prolific passers in history while Klein, Thomas, and Pryor are electric athletes who used their legs. Manuel and Gabbert were both first-round NFL Draft picks as well. What makes this class great is its depth in the middle as names like Nick Florence, Matt Scott, Ryan Nassib and Seth Doege are underrated nationally in terms of production. In all, this group claims four first-round picks, one Heisman Trophy, multiple Heisman finalists, a bunch of conference championships, numerous BCS bowl games and one BCS title game appearance.

3. Class of 2009

The Stars: AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Matt Barkley, Geno Smith, Tajh Boyd, Derek Carr, Taylor Martinez, Denard Robinson, Jordan Lynch, Bryn Renner

The Best of the Rest: Logan Thomas, Keith Price, Zach Mettenberger, Brock Osweiler, C.J. Brown, Kolton Browning

There is no elite, No. 1 overall type of talent in this class but there are some huge numbers. And athletes. Robinson and Lynch are the top two rushing quarterbacks in NCAA history with a combined 8,838 yards and 90 rushing TDs. Add to it Martinez' near 3,000 yards and 31 rushing TDs and you have three of the most dynamic running quarterbacks of all time. Boyd, Barkley and Murray are the most prolific passes in ACC, Pac-12 and SEC history respectively while Smith owns numerous passing records. And then there are two BCS national championship rings courtesy of McCarron (three if you count his redshirt season). The complete production, success and overall talent of this group gives it a slight nod over the established stars of the 2007 class.

4. Class of 2007

The Stars: Cam Newton, Brandon Weeden, Russell Wilson, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Ryan Mallett, Ryan Tannehill

The Best of the Rest:, Chandler Harnish, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Nesbitt, Jimmy Clausen, Ryan Lindley, Dan Persa, GJ Kinne

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

5. Class of 2011

The Stars: Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller, Marcus Mariota, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan, Chuckie Keeton, Connor Cook, Rakeem Cato, Brett Smith

The Best of the Rest: Everett Golson, Jeff Driskel, Cody Kessler, Dak Prescott, Jake Rudock, Marquise Williams, J.W. Walsh, Trevone Boykin, David Ash

In just three seasons, it is hard to argue the upside of the 2011 group. Manziel has a Heisman Trophy while Bridgewater could be the No. 1 overall pick in the May NFL Draft. Miller, Mariota and Hundley all have eyes on joining Manziel as a Heisman Trophy winner while Hogan and Cook are already defending conference champs and Rose Bowl participants. All five could have their teams in the national championship hunt as well in 2014. Toss in Golson, who's already played in a BCS title game, and three mid-major superstars in Cato, Keeton and Smith, and the '11 group is as dynamic and successful as any in the modern era. And it still has another big year ahead of it.

6. Class of 2003

The Stars: Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Chris Leak, Paul Smith, Kevin Kolb, Dennis Dixon, Brady Quinn, Andre Woodson

The Best of the Rest: John Beck, John David Booty, Kevin O'Connell, Tom Brandstater, Matt Flynn, JaMarcus Russell, Drew Tate

Ryan and Flacco are elite NFL passers but both were mid-level recruits and Flacco had to transfer to a FCS school (Delaware) before eventually getting taken in the first round of the 2008 draft. But both are Pro Bowl-caliber talents and Flacco has already claimed a Super Bowl MVP award. In all, there are four first-round picks, two BCS national championships and a host of players who would be among their school's greatest of all-time — Woodson, Smith, Kolb and Dixon won a lot of games with big numbers. If Russell wasn't arguably the biggest bust (literally and figuratively) in NFL Draft history, this class could make a case for being higher on the list. 

7. Class of 2010

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

The Best of the Rest: Tanner Price, Cody Fajardo, Devin Gardner, Stephen Morris, Tyler Bray, Sean Mannion, Connor Halliday, Chase Rettig, David Piland, Blake Bell, Shane Carden, Brandon Connette, Jake Heaps, Hutson Mason

Shaw is the arguably the most underrated SEC QB of all-time and is South Carolina's best signal-caller... ever. The same can be said for Bortles for UCF. Kelly and Petty return to teams eying conference championships in 2014 and could both find themselves in New York as Heisman finalists as well. Franklin rebounded from injury to prove he was an elite player for Mizzou. The '10 class has a host of big names that could still prove to be historic players for their schools should things pan out well in '14: Gardner, Mannion, Halliday, Bell, Mason. And, in case you missed it, Brandon Connette has scored more touchdowns than any player in Duke history.

8. Class of 2002

The Stars: Vince Young, Troy Smith, Colt Brennan

The Best of the Rest: Drew Stanton, Omar Jacobs, Phil Horvath, Trent Edwards, John Stocco, Marcus Vick, Jordan Palmer, Drew Olson, Tyler Palko

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

9. Class of 2005

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

The Best of the Rest: Riley Skinner, Tony Pike, Joe Webb, Sean Canfield, Mike Kafka, Levi Brown, Matt Grothe, Tim Hiller, Jarrett Brown

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

10. Class of 2012

The Stars: Jameis Winston, Maty Mauk, Taysom Hill, Trevor Knight

The Best of the Rest: Tommy Armstrong, Travis Wilson, Jalen Whitlow, Nate Sudfeld

In just two short seasons, this group already claims a Heisman winner and a BCS national title as well as three emerging stars at Mizzou, BYU and Oklahoma. Additionally, expectation levels are high for a handful of other big-time talents like Cyler Miles at Washington, Will Gardner at Louisville, Chad Voytik at Pitt, Wes Lunt at Illinois and Tyler Cameron at Wake Forest. This group could rise or fall depending on how some of the unknowns work out over the next two seasons.

11. Class of 2004

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

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

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

12. Class of 2013

The Stars: Christian Hackenberg, Davis Webb, Jared Goff, John O'Korn

The Best of the Rest: Josh Dobbs, Anthony Jennings, Sefo Luifau

Nothing is really known about this class as of yet. However, names like Hackenberg, Webb, Goff and O'Korn have already set a solid benchmark with big-time production in their first seasons. Names that could easily find their way into the "Stars" or "Best of the Rest" category in 2014 include Jeremy Johnson at Auburn, Johnny McCary at Vanderbilt, Kevin Olsen at Miami, Mitch Trubisky at North Carolina, Anu Solomon from Arizona and Danny Etling at Purdue among others. As far as true freshmen go, however, this group has already established itself as very capable.

Ranking the Best Quarterback Recruiting Classes of the Modern Era
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-pre-weekend-power-rankings-jan-24

Recent weeks have presented the classic conundrum for those who spend time ranking teams: Do you rank a team based on what they have been all season, what they can be or what they are right now?

Tough life, right?

Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa State have seen winning streaks turn into losing streaks. Right now, clearly, they’re not very good, but the body of work suggests they’re still among the best in the country.

Teams like Kansas and Duke are starting to look more like the teams we thought we’d see this season, but — again — their body of work might suggest a lower ranking.

Maybe we’ll get more answers during the weekend, but probably not. Here’s a look at where teams standing heading into Saturday.

College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings: Jan. 24
All games Saturday unless noted.

1. Arizona (19-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
This weekend: Utah (Sunday)
The only weakness for Arizona? Try free throw shooting (66.7 percent). Otherwise, nada.

2. Syracuse (18-0, 5-0 ACC)
This weekend: at Miami
The undefeated Orange got a bit of bad news this week with a season-ending injury to DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse’s best low-post player.

3. Michigan State (18-1, 7-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: Michigan
The Spartans will head into Saturday’s game against Michigan — also perfect in the Big Ten — without Adreian Payne (foot) and Branden Dawson (hand).

4. Florida (16-2, 5-0 SEC)
This weekend: Tennessee
Florida is 5-9 against Tennessee since the 2006-07 season, including the current three-game losing streak to the Volunteers.

5. Kansas (14-4, 5-0 Big 12)
This weekend: at TCU
The Jayhawks have been rewarded for wins over four consecutive ranked teams with four days off and a date with lowly TCU.

6. San Diego State (17-1, 6-0 MWC)
This weekend: at Utah State
The Aztecs have a great defense, but they’re shooting 43.5 percent from 2-point range, ranking 326th nationally.

7. Wichita State (20-0, 7-0 MVC)
This weekend: at Drake
Since the overtime scare against Missouri State, Wichita State has won their last three games by an average of 19 points.

8. Villanova (16-2, 5-1 Big East)
This weekend: at Marquette
Creighton exposed Villanova’s leaky 3-point defense in a major way. Teams are shooting 36.2 percent from 3 vs. the Wildcats.

9. Oklahoma State (15-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: at West Virginia
The Cowboys played one poor half and one good half in Lawrence on Saturday.

10. Louisville (17-3, 3-1 American)
This weekend: UCF
Freshman point guard Terry Rozier has 14 assists and two turnovers in three games since taking over for an injured Chris Jones.

11. Creighton (16-3, 6-1 Big East)
This weekend: Georgetown
The Bluejays have the highest offensive efficiency rating on since at least 2003.

12. Iowa (15-4, 4-2 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Northwestern
In the last two games, Aaron White has scored one point total in the first half ... and a combined 34 in the second.

13. Saint Louis (18-2, 5-0 A-10)
This weekend: Richmond
The Billikens were able to survive defensive lapses to beat a bad Duquesne team on the road Wednesday.

14. Michigan (14-4, 6-0 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Michigan State
Nik Stauskas is averaging 23.3 points in his last three games heading into huge showdown with rival Michigan State.

15. Pittsburgh (17-2, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: at Maryland
The Panthers responded to a hard-fought loss at Syracuse by scoring 76 points and shooting 56.3 percent in a win over a salty defensive team in Clemson.

16. Duke (15-4, 4-2 ACC)
This weekend: Florida State
Is Duke on its way back up? Jabari Parker is dominating again and the Blue Devils can defend again ... against NC State and Miami.

17. Wisconsin (16-3, 3-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Purdue
The Badgers have allowed opponents to shoot 55 percent from the field during this three-game losing streak.

18. Iowa State (14-3, 3-2 Big 12)
This weekend: Kansas State
The Cyclones have lost three in a row, and it’s tough to find where the streak will end: Iowa State’s upcoming schedule is Kansas State, at Kansas, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State.

19. Kentucky (14-4, 4-1 SEC)
This weekend: Georgia
Alex Poythress has proven to be a key contributor off the bench, scoring 16 against Texas A&M on Tuesday.

20. Cincinnati (18-2, 7-0 American)
This weekend: at Temple (Sunday)
The Bearcats are in the midst of six-game stretch against the weaker teams in the American before facing Louisville on the road on Jan. 30.

21. UConn (15-4, 3-3 American)
This weekend: at Rutgers
The Huskies are shooting a stellar 41.7 percent from 3-point range.

22. Memphis (14-4, 4-2 American)
This weekend: USF (Sunday)
Shaq Goodwin is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in his last four games against AAC competition.

23. UMass (16-2, 3-1 A-10)
This weekend: at St. Bonaventure
The Minutemen’s close calls in A-10 play caught up with them in 55-52 loss to Richmond on Wednesday.

24. Minnesota (15-5, 4-3 Big Ten)
This weekend: at Nebraska (Sunday)
The Gophers split a tough 11 days with wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin and losses to Michigan State and Iowa. Not bad for the young Pitino.

25. Virginia (14-5, 5-1 ACC)
This weekend: Virginia Tech
The Cavaliers are quietly contending for the ACC regular season title. Virginia won’t play Duke again and gets Syracuse at home. Cavs must beat Pitt on the road next week.

College Basketball Pre-Weekend Power Rankings Jan. 24
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/top-10-big-12-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

More so than any other league in America, the Big 12 has had the most decorated wide receivers during the BCS Era. Only two players in the history of college football have ever won two Biletnikoff Awards and both of them played in the Big 12 during the 16-year BCS Era. In fact, 17 different times has someone caught more than 100 passes in the Big 12 (1996), and until 2013, no ACC player had ever topped 100 catches in a single season.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08)
Stats: 231 rec., 3,127 yds, 41 TDs

No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas, Texas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wideout. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era. Certainly, Mike Leach’s system inflated the two-time consensus All-American’s numbers, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pound wideout was — and still is — easily the most talented Texas Tech receiver in program history.

2. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11)
Stats: 252 rec., 3,564 yds, 40 TDs, 136 rush, TD

Similarly to Crabtree, Blackmon’s numbers are inflated due to an elite offensive system. But make no mistake, he is the one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. The Ardmore (Okla.) Plainview product also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford. At a program with a long track record of elite wideouts, Blackmon has to be considered the best. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era.

3. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma (2008-11)
Stats: 349 rec., 4,586 yds, 45 TDs, 97 rush, TD, 1,307 ret. yds, 2 TDs

No one in NCAA history caught more passes than the smallish local star from Norman, Okla. And it didn’t take long for him to become a star, catching seven passes for a freshman school-record 141 yards in his first collegiate game. He posted three straight seasons of at least 80 catches, 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns. He led the nation in both receptions (131) and punt returns (34) as a junior and is the Big 12’s all-time leading receiver in all three major categories. Broyles was a two-time consensus All-American.

4. Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2009-12)
Stats: 288 rec., 3,413 yds, 29 TDs, 1,031 rush, 6 TDs, 2,840 ret. yds, 5 TDs

Be it through the air, on the ground or in the kicking game, Austin was downright unstoppable. The diminutive talent won’t ever be confused with prototypical physical outside receivers, but with the ball in his hands, few were as productive. The Baltimore prospect was a two-time All-American and two-time Big East Special Teamer of the Year before moving to the Big 12. He posted back-to-back 100-catch/1,000-yard seasons and was a 1,000-yard rusher for his career. In fact, Austin’s signature performance came as a running back against Oklahoma as senior when he nearly set an NCAA record for all-purpose production with 572 yards (344 rushing, 82 receiving, 146 kick return). He scored four different ways during his unbelievable senior season and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. His 2,910 all-purpose yards set a Big 12 single-season record.

5. Roy Williams, Texas (2000-03)
Stats: 241 rec., 3,866 yds, 36 TDs, 243 rush, 3 TDs

Right out of the gate, Texas knew they had a great one in the massive 6-foot-3, 218-pound in-state star from Odessa. He was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and left school with the records for receptions, yards and touchdowns. “The Legend” never caught fewer than seven touchdowns or 800 yards in any of his four NCAA seasons. He is ninth all-time in Big 12 history in receptions, fourth in receiving yards and fifth in touchdown catches. 

6. Jeremy Maclin, Missouri (2007-08)
Stats: 182 rec., 2,315 yds, 22 TDs, 668 rush, 6 TDs, 2,626 ret. yds, 5 TDs

He only played two seasons but was outstanding from the first time he stepped onto the college gridiron. He was a consensus All-American both years, topped 1,000 yards receiving in both years, scored at least 10 total touchdowns in both seasons and topped 1,000 return yards in both seasons. He set an NCAA freshman all-purpose yardage record with 2,776 total yards for a 12-2 Tigers team. He posted 5,609 all-purpose yards in just two seasons, which ranks ninth all-time in league history and third among all Big 12 wide receivers, and might be the most underrated wideout of the BCS Era.

7. Rashaun Woods, Oklahoma State (2000-03)
Stats: 293 rec., 4,414 yds, 42 TDs

Oklahoma State has one of the best wide receiver traditions in the nation and Woods was one of the first high-profile stars. Three seasons with at least 77 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns makes him one of the most prolific receivers in BCS history. And his NCAA-record seven touchdowns against SMU still stands today. The consensus All-American finished fourth in Big 12 history in receptions, second in yards and second in touchdowns.

8. Jordan Shipley, Texas (2006-09)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,191 yds, 33 TDs, 162 rush, 843 ret. yds, 4 TDs

Colt McCoy’s go-to target made big plays in big games and was as dependable as any receiver in Big 12 history. He was a consensus All-American in 2009 when he caught 116 passes for 1,485 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns for an unbeaten Texas team that lost to Alabama in the national championship game. He is seventh all-time in receptions, eighth all-time in yards and seventh all-time in touchdown catches, barely trailing the aforementioned Williams for all of Texas' big three receiving records.

9. Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State (2007-09)
Stats: 147 rec., 2,425 yds, 29 TDs, 574 ret. yds, 3 TDs

He may not have Blackmon’s numbers, but Bryant might be the most talented Pokes wideout of all-time. He was named a consensus All-American after 87 receptions, 1,480 yards and 21 total touchdowns as just a sophomore. Had he not been suspended for most of the 2009 season, his numbers would’ve rivaled anyone’s on this list. His overall physical ability was painfully obvious and it led to him being taken with the 24th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

10. Mark Clayton, Oklahoma (2001-04)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,236 yds, 31 TDs, 221 ret. yds, TD

Jason White's No. 1 target helped Oklahoma play in two national championship games. The Sooners had many elite wideouts but Clayton might have been the most dynamic (possibly, more so than Broyles even). His unstoppable junior season gets him onto this list alone: 83 rec., 1,425 yds, 15 TDs. He helped his team to three Big 12 championships, is sixth all-time in league history in yards and ninth all-time in touchdown catches.

Just missed the cut:

11. Kendall Wright, Baylor (2008-11)
Stats: 308 rec., 4,004 yds, 30 TDs, 425 rush, 2 TDs

There are just 15 receivers with 4,000 yards in their college careers and there are just 10 wideouts with at least 300 catches. There are just three such players with both (Ryan Broyles, Jordan White). Wright's offensive system certainly helped but he was as versatile, dependable and explosive as any player during this era.

12. Wes Welker, Texas Tech (2000-03)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,069 yds, 21 TDs, 562 rush, 2 TDs, 2,102 ret. yds, 8 TDs

Welker’s ranks 5,699 all-purpose yards rank seventh all-time in league history and trail only Ryan Broyles for No. 1 all-time among wide receivers. He is fifth all-time in receptions and sits just outside of the top 10 in terms of receiving yards. The do-everything prospect was excelling at versatility long before the all-purpose position was en vogue.

13. Jordy Nelson, Kansas State (2005-07)
Stats: 206 rec., 2,822 yds, 20 TDs, 267 ret. yds, 3 TDs

Nelson was a consensus All-American after catching 122 passes (No. 3 in Big 12 history) for 1,606 yards (No. 9 in Big 12 history) and 11 touchdowns in 2007 before leaving for the NFL. He also returned two punts for touchdowns and threw two touchdowns during that memorable season. He finished just outside the top 10 all-time in league history in receptions and yards.

14. Terrance Williams, Baylor (2009-12)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,334 yds, 27 TDs, 1,342 ret. yds

The consensus All-American posted one of the greatest single seasons in league history when he caught 97 passes for 1,832 yards (second in Big 12 history) and 12 scores in ’12 (with Nick Florence under center). Depending on if bowl stats are counted or not, Williams finished sixth all-time in yards and was just outside the top 10 in receptions and touchdowns.

15. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia (2010-12)
Stats: 210 rec., 3,218 yds, 41 TDs

Like Austin, only one of his seasons took place in the Big 12, but it was a monster year. He caught 114 passes (sixth-best in Big 12 history) for 1,622 yards (seventh-best) and 25 touchdowns (Big 12 record). In fact, no Big 12 receiver has ever topped Bailey in single-season scoring and his 150 points ranks sixth all-time behind only Ricky Williams, Collin Klein and Joseph Randle among position players. His career yards would be top 10 in the Big 12 had he played all three seasons there. His 41 TD receptions would be tied for third in Big 12 history. 

Best of the rest:

16. Dezmon Briscoe, Kansas (2007-09): 219 rec., 3,240 yds, 31 TDs, 37 rush, TD, 651 ret. yds, TD
Two monster years before leaving early for the NFL. Seventh in yards and ninth in TD receptions.

17. Todd Blythe, Iowa State (2004-07): 176 rec., 3,096 yds, 31 TDs
Tied for ninth with 31 TD receptions and is 10th all-time in yards. Holds every major ISU record.

18. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M (2009-12): 252 rec., 3,117 yds, 24 TDs
One year in SEC, but did most of his damage in the Big 12. Aggies' all-time leader in most categories.

19. Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State (2003-06): 155 rec., 2,697 yds, 25 TDs
After two uneventful years at North Carolina, Bowman starred in Stillwater with two 1,000-yard seasons.

20. Danario Alexander, Missouri (2006-09): 191 rec., 2,778 yds, 22 TDs
Uninspiring career blossomed with monster 113-catch, 1,781-yard, 14-TD senior season.

21. Quan Cosby, Texas (2005-08): 212 rec., 2,598 yds, 19 TDs, 2,103 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Steady all-around performer for a team that went 45-7 in his four seasons (with a BCS title).

22. Quincy Morgan, Kansas State (1999-00): 106 rec., 2,173 yds, 23 TDs
Played only two years but topped 1,000 yards in both with 23 TDs in 24 games.

23. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M (2008-11): 233 rec., 3,092 yds, 34 TDs
One of the conference's all-time leaders in all three categories but never seemed to reach full potential.

24. Juaquin Iglesias, Oklahoma (2005-08): 202 rec., 2,861 yds, 19 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, TD
Consistent playmaker as a receiver and return man on team that won three Big 12 titles.

25. Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech (2003-06): 198 rec., 2,859 yds, 30 TDs
Was injured his senior year or else his numbers could have been among the league’s best.

Top 10 Big 12 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/freshman-15-college-basketball-freshman-power-rankings-jan-24

Five freshmen were among the midseason top 25 released by the Wooden Award earlier this week, but the nation’s top freshman — at least this week — was not among them.

Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, Duke’s Jabari Parker, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Arizona’s Aaron Gordon all made the watch list for the national player of the year. The Jayhawks’ Joel Embiid did not.

Granted, the voting took place before Embiid’s breakout against Oklahoma State on Saturday. And the midseason top 25 wouldn’t preclude Embiid from winning — “the players on the list are considered strong candidates” for the award, the Wooden Award release notes.

Whether Embiid is a contender by the end of the year we don’t know, but at least this week, he’s the freshman with the most momentum.

The Freshman 15: Jan. 24 Power Rankings

1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The rumblings that Embiid may be outshining his other great freshman teammate have been going on for several weeks, but Saturday was the breakout. Embiid came two blocked shots short of a triple double against Oklahoma State with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. In one game, he proved he can not only finish, but start, an alley-oop.

2. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis numbers as a passer — 5.5 assists per game, 1.3 turnovers — remain outstanding, but Pittsburgh learned he’s just as dangerous with the ball in his hands in crunch time Saturday. Ennis scored 16 points and clinched the 59-54 win with two driving layups and two free throws late.

3. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker never really went away as he continues to lead Duke in scoring. That said, his efficiency numbers dipped early in ACC play. In the last two games, though, he returned to his early season pace, converting 12 of 26 shots from the field against Miami and NC State. He averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds in his two games last week.

4. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Gordon keeps chugging along for the undefeated Wildcats. The forward is averaging 14 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his last four while shooting 54.8 percent from the field.

5. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
No question, Wiggins was a virtual no-show in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State. But even considering his three points and two rebounds against the Cowboys, Wiggins averaged 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in Kansas’ run of four consecutive games (and wins) against ranked teams.

6. Julius Randle, Kentucky
Randle emerged from a physical game with Tennessee’s frontcourt with only two rebounds, the only time in SEC play he failed to grab double-digit boards.

7. Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Vonleh is becoming a more effective player in the offensive end in recent games as the Hooisers need all the help they can get. Vonleh had double-doubles against Michigan State and Northwestern last week, but Indiana lost both games.

8. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
With the Volunteers dominating down low last week, John Calipari put the game in Harrison’s hands on the outside. The guard finished with 26 points, including 10-for-10 free-throw shooting.

9. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Texas A&M stopped Harrison’s hot streak, holding him to 1-of-5 shooting. In the three games prior, Harrison averaged 14.7 points per game.

10. Marcus Foster, Kansas State
The book is clear on Kansas State: Shut down Foster and win. Foster is averaging 16.5 points per game in the Wildcats’ Big 12 wins. He scored 7 of and 8 points on a combined 6-of-24 shooting in losses to Kansas and Texas.

11. Jordan Mickey, LSU
Mickey came back from a dismal performance against Ole Miss to pick up 13 points and give rebounds against Vanderbilt and 14 points and 13 rebounds against Missouri.

12. Zach LaVine, UCLA
LaVine is averaging 13.6 points per game in Pac-12 play. He’s certainly getting more involved, taking at least nine shots in each game in conference play.

13. James Young, Kentucky
Young has been a little streaky, but the Wildcats’ guard/forward is averaging 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds.

14. Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma
Woodard is coming off a lackluster game against TCU, but his presence in our freshman power rankings is long overdue. The point guard had 10 points and eight assists in a road win over Baylor on Saturday.

15. Terry Rozier, Louisville
Rozier hasn’t put up big scoring numbers since taking over the point guard role for an injured Chris Jones, but he has amassed 14 assists to two turnovers in three games as a starter.

The Freshman 15: College Basketball Freshman Power Rankings Jan. 24
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-michigan-michigan-state-top-game

This weekend will feature only two games between ranked teams, but one of them is a doozy.

After Michigan defeated Iowa on Wednesday and Michigan State dodged Indiana on Wednesday, the top two teams in the Big Ten standings will meet in East Lansing.

Especially in this league, staying undefeated in conference play in late January is a major feat. Just ask Ohio State and Wisconsin. Certainly the two coaches meeting Saturday at the Breslin Center are feeling a bit lucky to be playing for the Big Ten lead.

Michigan has played nine games this season without forward Mitch McGary, and John Beilein is adapting to playing without him for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Michigan State has had ongoing injuries issues that at some point or another have claimed Adreian Payne, Branden Dawson and Gary Harris.

The matchup between the Michigan schools isn’t the only key game this week. The story of the month seems to be slumping teams — Wisconsin, Iowa State, Baylor and others are facing critical games this week to show if any of them can pull out of recent funks.

College Basketball Weekend Preview
All times Eastern

Game of the Week:
Michigan at Michigan State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN)

No one would dare say that the basketball matchup between the Wolverines and Spartans is bigger than the football game, but this is pretty close. Both teams are in Big Ten contention despite major injuries. Michigan has weathered the season-ending injury to Mitch McGary with wins over Wisconsin and Iowa in the last week. Thanks to the hot hand of Nik Stauskas (20-plus points in three consecutive games), Michigan leads the Big Ten in points per possession at 118 points per 100 possessions in conference games. Meanwhile, Tom Izzo only wishes he had injury concerns so simple. Adreian Payne is not likely to play with an ongoing foot injury, and Branden Dawson is out four to five weeks after sustaining a broken hand when he slammed his hand in frustration while watching game film. With those combined injuries, expect a backcourt battle in East Lansing.

Tricky Road Trip:
Xavier at Providence (Saturday, noon, Fox Sports 1)

Providence isn’t quite on the NCAA Tournament bubble yet, but the Friars are riding a four-game winning streak that includes a 81-68 defeat of Creighton at home. Providence’s Bryce Cotton and Xavier’s Semaj Christon should be able to match each other shot for shot in what could be one of the best individual matchups of the weekend.

Kansas State at Iowa State (Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Big 12 Network)

Iowa State, which has lost three straight games following a 14–0 start, desperately needs a win to remain relevant in the Big 12 title chase. Kansas State has been one of the league’s early surprises; the Cats are 4–1 in the Big 12, with the only loss coming on the road at Kansas. Bruce Weber’s team has been terrific on the defensive end, so defending Iowa State’s many set plays will be key in this game. After a last-second loss to Texas on Tuesday, Kansas State also needs a win for its psyche.

Streaking vs. Slumping:
Texas at Baylor (Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)

Texas has suffered major personnel losses in recent years, but Rick Barnes has the Longhorns in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth. Jonathan Holmes’ buzzer-beater against Kansas State on Tuesday has given Texas a four-game winning streak. Baylor, on the other hand, has too much talent to be 1–4 in the Big 12. With non-conference wins over Colorado, Dayton and Kentucky, Baylor’s NCAA résumé is solid, but at some point this team needs to start winning games in league play.

Late-Night Tilt:
BYU at Gonzaga (Saturday, 11 p.m., ESPN2)

The West Coast Conference is looking more and more like a one-bid league, especially after BYU added a triple overtime loss to Portland on Thursday to defeats to Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount. Gonzaga also lost to the Pilots earlier this season, but the Bulldogs have found their stride. On Saturday, they'll look to contain guard Tyler Haws, who scored 48 points in 50 minutes of play Thursday.

Others to Watch

Florida State at Duke (Saturday, noon, ESPN)
This is an intriguing matchup between one of the nation’s top defensive teams in Florida State and a Duke team that is loaded with offensive weapons. Florida State is holding its opponents to 40.5 percent shooting on 2-point field goals, a figure that ranks sixth in the nation. Duke, which shoots 41.4 percent from three and 52.7 percent from two, ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency (123 points per 100 possession).

Tennessee at Florida (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN)
Florida, off to a 4–0 start in the league, has emerged as the team to beat in the SEC. The Gators do just about everything well except shoot free throws, where they shoot 66.6 percent from the line. Tennessee features one of the most talented rosters in the league, but the Vols have some troubling losses — vs. UTEP on a neutral court and against NC State and Texas A&M at home. This team is searching for a quality win to pad its NCAA Tournament résumé.

Wisconsin at Purdue (Saturday 5 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Wisconsin has suddenly forgot how to defend the perimeter, as the Badgers have allowed all three opponents to top 50 percent shooting in three losses. The Badgers are entering must-win territory, especially against a lackluster Purdue team that has struggled to score at times this season. The Boilermakers are coming off a lost to Northwestern, but they had won three in a row before Tuesday.

Villanova at Marquette (Saturday, 2 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Villanova must regroup after its stunning 28-point loss at home to Creighton on Monday night. Defending the 3-point line will obviously be a focus in practice for Jay Wright. Good thing Marquette is one of the worst teams in the country from the 3-point line (30.4 percent).

Georgetown at Creighton (Saturday, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
Both teams had eventful games Monday night. Creighton set a bunch of shooting records at Villanova en route to a 96–68 stunner over the Wildcats. The Bluejays are 6–1 in league play in their first season in the Big East. Georgetown blew a seven-point lead in the final three minutes on its way to an 80–72 overtime loss at home to Marquette. The Hoyas, who have lost three straight games, dropped to 11–7 overall and 3–4 in the Big East.

Illinois at Indiana (Sunday, 3 p.m., Big Ten Network)
Just a few weeks ago, Illinois was 13–2 overall and 2–0 in the Big Ten. Now, the Illini are 13–6 and 2–4 in the Big Ten. Barring a quick turnaround, John Groce’s team will have a tough time earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana regrouped from its embarrassing loss to Northwestern by giving Michigan State a fight on Tuesday in East Lansing, but it wasn’t enough for a win. The Hoosiers cannot afford to lose another home game to a team in the bottom half of the Big Ten.

Clemson at North Carolina (Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPNU)
At some point, North Carolina has to turn a corner if the Tar Heels aren’t going to see their wins over Michigan State, Louisville and Kentucky wasted on an NIT bid. The Heels have lost three of their last four, and the inconsistent offense faces one of the better defensive teams in the ACC in Clemson.

California at UCLA (Sunday, 8 p.m., ESPNU)
At one point Cal looked like it would be a viable No. 2 team in the league thanks to Oregon’s slump and Spencer Dinwiddie’s injury at Colorado. Then the Bears lost to USC  77-69 on Wednesday. UCLA is coming off a deflating loss of its own on the road to Utah.

Athlon Sports’ Mitch Light contributed to this report.

College Basketball Weekend Preview: Michigan-Michigan State is top game
Post date: Friday, January 24, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: super-bowl, NFL, News
Path: /10-best-nfl-teams-didnt-play-super-bowl-2014

Although a wild card team, many believed that Jim Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers had a legitimate shot of getting back to the Super Bowl this season. After two playoff wins on the road, the 49ers were positioned to do just that before coming up short in Seattle in the NFC Championship Game. So with their season now over, the question becomes where does this 49ers team rank among the rest of the field in terms of great teams that didn't play on Super Sunday?

With that in mind, Athlon Sports has examined win-loss records, overall talent, statistics, playoff performances and more and come up with our list of the best NFL teams that never reached the Super Bowl. As you can see below, this 49ers team barely makes it into the discussion.

* - eventual Super Bowl Champion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Check out Athlon Sports' special Super Bowl section for more coverage on the Broncos vs. Seahawks and the history of the big game.


Best of the Rest:

11. Pittsburgh Steelers, 1972 (11-3)
Lost: 21-17 to Miami* in AFC Championship

12. Oakland Raiders, 1974 (12-2)
Lost: 24-13 to Pittsburgh* in AFC Championship

13. Minnesota Vikings, 2009 (12-4)
Lost: 31-28 (OT) to New Orleans* in NFC Championship

14. Green Bay Packers, 2011 (15-1)
Lost: 37-20 to NY Giants* in NFC Championship

15. Indianapolis Colts, 2007 (13-3)
Lost: 28-24 to San Diego in AFC Divisional

16. Miami Dolphins, 1985 (12-4)
Lost: 31-14 to New England in AFC Championship

17. Dallas Cowboys, 1980 (12-4)
Lost: 20-7 to Philadelphia in NFC Championship

18. Pittsburgh Steelers, 2001 (13-3)
Lost: 24-17 to New England* in AFC Championship

19. LA Rams, 1976 (10-3-1)
Lost: 24-13 to Minnesota in NFC Championship

20. Cleveland Browns, 1986 (12-4) CG
Lost: 23-20 to Denver in AFC Championship

21. Dallas, 1981 (12-4)
22. Baltimore, 1967 (11-1-2)
23. San Francisco, 2013 (12-4)
24. Philadelphia, 2002 (12-4)
25. NY Giants, 1989 (12-4)
26. San Francisco, 1987 (13-2)
27. San Diego, 1979 (12-4)
28. New England, 2010 (14-2)
29. New England, 1976 (11-3)
30. LA Rams, 1975 (12-2)

10 Best NFL Teams That Didn't Play in a Super Bowl
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-23-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 23.

Danica Patrick's new GoDaddy commercial is somewhat disturbing. Here she is in a more familiar, palatable form.

A Denver appliance store has gone on a class offensive against Richard Sherman with its billboards.

The first-ever Pro Bowl Draft happened. Credit for trying something different.

Team USA's Opening Ceremony uniforms are ridiculous, and not in the fun, barbershop quartet way that the Norwegian curling team's uniforms are ridiculous.

• This is fun: Current NBA players if they were '70s ABA players.

A Michigan State commit was caught on video body-slamming a security guard. Not sure about the laws in Detroit, but I think this is frowned upon.

Justin Bieber was arrested for DUI and drag racing. Please take your monkey and go far, far away.

Minnesota coeds were caught on GIF in their natural habitat — taking selfies with a bedazzled smartphone.

Wichita State's Tekele Cotton posterized an Illinois State Redbird last night. If this is normal behavior for Wichita State, I'm not surprised they're unbeaten.

A ref rode Derek Fisher like a pony last night.

Chipper Jones copped to starting a forest fire in his back yard. This is what happens when old guys retire and have nothing to do.

• This guy made a Jersey snowpocalypse a little more enjoyable by videobombing a reporter with a sweet air guitar solo.


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

Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 10:35
Path: /2014-acc-football-schedule-analysis

John Swofford’s league was at a crossroads and it feels like the ACC made the right choice.

A Grant of Rights has been signed, the Louisville Cardinals — and mastermind athletic director Tom Jurich — are joining the ranks (and will be showcased on Labor Day night), Notre Dame has been officially added to the schedule for half the year and, of course, the ACC will enter the College Football Playoff Era as the home of the reigning national champions.

As the ACC 2014 football schedule is now finalized, fans can tell Swofford and his collection of excellent ADs have made it clear they value rivalries and TV ratings. New season-ending games could become permanent (like North Carolina-NC State) to go along with the already juicy list of in-state and cross-conference rivalries that dot the final weekend of action.

The biggest difference, and challenge, in 2014 and beyond for ACC fans will be seeing Notre Dame five times each year and how that impacts scheduling. It means an interesting 6-1-1 crossover slate and nationally televised games on Thursday (six games), Fridays (three) and even on Monday (one game). Below are some league superlatives and a team-by-team breakdown of the ’14 football season in the ACC.

Biggest Game in the Atlantic: Florida State at Louisville (Thurs., Oct. 30)
Biggest Game in the Coastal: North Carolina at Miami (Nov. 1) 
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown: Oklahoma State vs. Florida State (Aug. 30)
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown II: Notre Dame at Florida State (Nov. 8)
Marquee Non-Conference Showdown III: Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30)
League’s Toughest Schedule: Miami
League’s Easiest Schedule: Duke

Boston College Eagles (7-6, 4-4)

A sneaky good non-conference slate highlights the Eagles' early season schedule. Games with USC and Colorado State — as well as conference foe Pitt — will all take place at Alumni Stadium in the first five weeks of the season before an open date. As the calendar begins to flip from October to November, Boston College’s schedule begins to toughen. The Eagles will play a six-game stretch that includes Clemson, at Wake Forest, at Virginia Tech, Louisville, at Florida State and Syracuse. There is a bye week between Louisville and Florida State, giving Steve Addazio two weeks to prepare for the defending champs.

Best Non-Conference Game: USC (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Pitt (Sept. 5), at Virginia Tech (Nov. 1)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: Syracuse (Nov. 29)

Clemson Tigers (11-2, 7-1)

Clemson isn’t going to ease into life without Tajh Boyd very easily. The Tigers will visit Georgia and Florida State in the first four weeks of the season before North Carolina comes to town to end the month of September. Should Clemson survive that run, things don’t get any easier in October: NC State, Louisville, at Boston College, Syracuse. At least, three of those four will come at home in Death Valley before an open date prepares this team for the stretch run. November will feature conference road trips to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech before ending with two non-conference games against Georgia State and South Carolina. Clemson will play in the state of Georgia twice and face three teams from the Peach State by the season’s end. Challenging for an ACC title with this schedule seems unlikely.

Best Non-Conference Game: South Carolina (Nov. 29)
Crossover Games: North Carolina (Sept. 27), at Georgia Tech (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: at Georgia Tech (Nov. 15)
Must-Win: North Carolina (Sept. 27)

Florida State Seminoles (14-0, 8-0)

The Noles will begin their title defense in style with a neutral field game against Oklahoma State in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The crowd should be big and the game is one of the best non-conference tilts on tap for 2014. The Pokes highlight what will be a challenging opening month for the national champs. Aside from Okie State, Florida State also faces Clemson at home and must travel to Raleigh to face nemesis NC State within the first month. Notre Dame comes to town in mid-October to start the toughest stretch of games for the Noles that also involves road trips to Louisville and Miami as well as a home game with lowly Virginia. The season will end, as usual, against in-state rival Florida. Not facing Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Pitt or Georgia Tech makes a manageable schedule even better.

Best Non-Conference Game: Colorado State (Aug. 30)
Crossover Games: Virginia (Nov. 8), at Miami (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: Utah (Nov. 29)
Must-Win: Clemson (Sept. 20) 

Louisville Cardinals (12-1, 7-1)

The ACC knows how to throw a welcoming party by sending Miami to Louisville on Labor Day night to kick things off in 2014. Not only is it the first-ever ACC game for the Cardinals but it’s a meeting between two of the better teams in the league. Should the Cards get past Miami, there is a good chance Bobby Petrino’s squad is undefeated as it heads to Death Valley to face Clemson in Week 7. The month of October will be tough with road games against Syracuse and Clemson and NC State and Florida State coming to town. In fact, the ACC schedule will be over by Nov. 8 with three weeks left in the slate. Over the final four weeks, Louisville will be off (Nov. 15), face Notre Dame on the road (Nov. 22) and Kentucky at home (Nov. 29) with the ACC title game set for Dec. 6. In all, the Cardinals will play on Thursday (Florida State), Friday (at Cuse), Saturdays and Monday (Miami). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Notre Dame (Nov. 22)
Crossover Games: Miami (Sept. 1), at Virginia (Sept. 13)
Upset Alert: at Boston College (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: at Syracuse (Oct. 3)

NC State Wolfpack (3-9, 0-8)

The Wolfpack went 0-for-the-ACC and 0-for-the-state with eight losses in conference and four losses to teams in the state of North Carolina. Things should be better for the Pack in 2014 as an easy non-conference slate to start the year should provide four wins before facing Florida State and Clemson in back-to-back weeks. In the second half of the season, the schedule affords some chances for home wins against Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Dave Doeren will have to pull some upsets because the road slate in the second half is brutal: at Louisville (Oct. 18), at Syracuse (Nov. 1) and at North Carolina (No. 29). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at South Florida (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Georgia Tech (Nov. 8), at North Carolina (No. 29)
Upset Opportunity: Georgia Tech (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: Wake Forest (Nov. 15)

Syracuse Orange (7-6, 4-4)

The Orange’s search of a third straight bowl game will come with a quality non-conference schedule that features Maryland at home, Notre Dame in MetLife Stadium and a bizarre road trip to Mount Pleasant to face Central Michigan. Cuse then gets the three best teams in its division — Florida State, Louisville and Clemson — over a four-week span between Oct. 3 and Oct. 25. At least, the Cardinals and Seminoles must come North to play in the Carrier Dome. Over the final month of the year, Cuse fans will be on the edge of their seat in an effort to get to the postseason. NC State and Duke at home are winnable games with tricky road trips to Pitt and Boston College to end the year. The Orange will get a bye week before the final two-game road trip to cap the season.

Best Non-Conference Game: Notre Dame (Sept. 27, MetLife Stadium)
Crossover Games: Duke (Nov. 8), at Pitt (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Oct. 3) 
Must-Win: Maryland (Sept. 20)

Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-8, 2-6)

Wake Forest has a good shot at being 3-1 in Dave Clawson's first month on the job in Winston-Salem. Should Wake start out strong and win on the road at Utah State (easier said than done), this team could easily be unblemished heading to Louisville to start ACC play. That, however, is where things start to get ugly. Clawson gets back-to-back road trips to Louisville and Florida State before three straight home games with bowl teams Syracuse, Boston College and Clemson. The Deacons will have a tough time winning more than one of those five. The only comfort might come in the final three weeks, where the Deacs won't leave the state. Wake Forest finishes at NC State, Virginia Tech at home and at Duke. Bowl eligibility seems highly unlikely despite an easy non-conference slate.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Utah State (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: Virginia Tech (Nov. 22), at Duke (Nov. 29)
Upset Opportunity: Virginia Tech (Nov. 22)
Must-Win: Syracuse (Oct. 18)

Duke Blue Devils (10-4, 6-3)

The defending division champs don’t have as tough a trip back to the title game as fellow division contenders Georgia Tech, Miami or North Carolina have. Duke gets two easier crossover games with Wake Forest and Syracuse and will host Virginia Tech and North Carolina late in the year (Weeks 12-13). The non-conference schedule should be four wins and the off weekends are well placed after five games and just before November. First half road trips to Miami and Georgia Tech — with a bye week in between — will likely decide if the Devils return to the ACC title game. Two sneaky road trips to start November to Pitt and Cuse could cause problems but both come after a bye weekend. There is a lot to like about this schedule for Duke but also plenty of speed bumps for a team that lost four games last season.

Best Non-Conference Game: Kansas (Sept. 13)
Crossover Games: at Syracuse (Nov. 8), Wake Forest (Nov. 29)
Upset Alert: at Syracuse (Nov. 8)
Must-Win: North Carolina (Nov. 20)

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-6, 5-3)

Visiting Tulane isn’t an easy game but it is a must-win if Tech expects to compete in the ACC. After what should be a 3-0 start for Paul Johnson, Yellow Jackets fans won’t have to wait long to figure out their standing in the ACC. Georgia Tech will play at Virginia Tech, host both Miami and Duke and visit North Carolina in four straight games. Survive that and Tech wins the division, if not, the second half could be a long uphill battle. Trips to Pitt, NC State and in-state rival Georgia as well as a visit from Clemson make the second half of the slate no easier than the already difficult first half. Virginia at home on Nov. 1 might be the only game in which Tech is a clear favorite after Week 2.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Georgia (Nov. 29)
Crossover Games: at NC State (Nov. 8), Clemson (Nov. 15)
Upset Opportunity: Clemson (Nov. 15)
Must-Win: Duke (Oct. 11)

Miami Hurricanes (9-4, 5-3)

The Hurricanes' first month of the season won’t be easy and its crossover schedule is easily the toughest in the league. Miami will travel to Louisville and to Nebraska before facing Duke at home all in the month of September. In addition to critical Coastal Division games with Duke, at Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and North Carolina at home, Al Golden will face arguably the two best teams in the Atlantic: at Louisville to open the year and Florida State at home in mid-November. Mix in a tough non-conference game with Cincinnati on Oct. 11 and Miami has one of the toughest schedules in the league.  

Best Non-Conference Game: at Nebraska (Sept. 20)
Crossover Games: at Louisville (Sept. 1), Florida St (Nov. 15)
Upset Alert: at Georgia Tech (Oct. 4)
Must-win: Duke (Sept. 27)

North Carolina Tar Heels (7-6, 4-4)

The Tar Heels' ACC destiny in 2014 will be determined away from home. Conference games at Clemson, Duke and Miami, and a non-conference tilt in South Bend against Notre Dame, are extremely daunting for a team with eyes on a conference championship. North Carolina will play two games at home between Week 3 and Week 11. Both Techs — Virginia and Georgia — will have to come to Chapel Hill during that span, however, in a small bit of fortune. The season finale will now feature in-state rival NC State in crossover play and that, too, will come at home at Kenan Memorial. If the Tar Heels can make it to the month of November in contention, they will have a shot at a conference crown as the final three games are winnable (Pitt, at Duke, NC State). 

Best Non-Conference Game: at Notre Dame (Oct. 11)
Crossover Games: at Clemson (Sept. 27), NC State (Nov. 29)
Upset Alert: Georgia Tech (Oct. 18)
Must-Win: Virginia Tech (Oct. 4)

Pitt Panthers (7-6, 3-5)

There are a lot of winnable games in the first month of the season for Paul Chryst. Four non-conference games are highlighted by a visit from Iowa in Week 4 as two road ACC games against Boston College and Virginia will be played as well before the off date in Week 7. The break comes at a good time as the Panthers will face Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Duke in three consecutive games at home. A second bye week then prepares the Panthers for a tough final three weeks of the season - at North Carolina, home against Syracuse and at former Big East rival Miami. This slate isn’t all that daunting with how it is laid out and with winnable crossovers. Could Pitt actually be in contention entering that final three weeks of the season?

Best Non-Conference Game: Iowa (Sept. 20)
Crossover Games: at Boston College (Sept. 5), Syracuse (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Virginia Tech (Oct. 16)
Defining Moment: Syracuse (Nov. 22)

Virginia Cavaliers (2-10, 0-8)

Mike London enters a critical season in Charlottesville and the schedule-makers are doing him no favors. The non-conference slate involves a season opener against a potential top 10 team in UCLA at home and a road trip to BYU in Week 4 that could involve a heavy dose of revenge from the Cougars. In between is an ACC opener against Bobby Petrino and Louisville. The Cavaliers will play two home ACC games (UL, Pitt) to begin, so a brutal road slate awaits in the second half of the season. Trips to Durham, Atlanta, Tallahassee and Blacksburg loom with nasty home games against division frontrunners North Carolina and Miami mixed in. One win after Week 6 might be considered a success.

Best Non-Conference Game: UCLA (Aug. 30)
Crossover Games: Louisville (Sept. 13), at Florida State (Nov. 8)
Upset Opportunity: Louisville (Sept. 13)
Must-Win: Pitt (Oct. 4)

Virginia Tech Hokies (8-5, 5-3)

The most noticeable aspect to the Hokies ’14 slate is the road trip to Ohio State in Week 2 before hosting upstart East Carolina in Week 3. A 1-2 start to the season could be devastating as Tech’s most difficult stretch of ACC play comes between Weeks 4-9. Virginia Tech gets the important battle with Georgia Tech at home before back-to-back divisional road trips to North Carolina and Pitt. The trip to Pittsburgh will happen on a Thursday night, the first of two consecutive Thursday night games when Miami comes to town the following week. Much like UNC, should Tech make it to November in contention, things are looking positive. The Hokies will finish with four winnable games and a bye in the final five weeks of the season. The Commonwealth Cup is one of many rivalry games that the ACC is attempting to feature on the season’s final weekend. From a crossover standpoint (BC and at Wake), Tech has the clear advantage over Miami and North Carolina in the scheduling department.

Best Non-Conference Game: at Ohio State (Sept. 6)
Crossover Games: Boston College (Nov. 1), at Wake Forest (Nov. 22)
Upset Opportunity: Miami (Oct. 23)
Must-Win: Georgia Tech (Sept. 20)

2014 ACC Football Schedule Analysis
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/top-10-pac-12-wide-receivers-bcs-era

The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.

The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.

So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.

In a league with elite offensive systems and big-time pocket passers, the wide receivers from the Pac-12 have remarkable statistics, records and accomplishments. National titles and Biletnikoff Awards dot the list of the best of the BCS Era, but a guy who tried to challenge the NFL tops the list.

Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Mike Williams, USC (2002-03)
Stats: 176 rec., 2,579 yds, 30 TDs

Fans in Los Angeles may always wonder what could have been had Williams not pressed NFL Draft eligibility rules. In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC either. Although he was taken 10th overall in the 2005 draft, he ended up being of the biggest draft busts in recent history, especially given the talent and potential he showed in college.

2. Marqise Lee, USC (2011- 13)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,655 yds, 29 TDs, 146 rush, 1,351 ret. yds, 2 TDs

As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches.

3. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (2011-13)
Stats: 226 rec., 3,272 yds, 24 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs

Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and yards when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and finished third all-time with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Cooks is arguably the best of a long list of elite do-everything Beaver wide receivers, finishing 10th in league history in receptions and eighth all-time in yards.

4. Dwayne Jarrett, USC (2004-06)
Stats: 216 rec., 3,138 yds, 41 TDs

A two-time consensus All-American, Jarrett was a touchdown machine. He scored 13, 16 and 12 receiving touchdowns respectively while helping USC earn trips to back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. His 2005 campaign was his best — 91 rec., 1,274 yds, 16 TDs — and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting as a junior in 2006 before turning pro. In the red zone, few players have ever been as dominant as his 41 career touchdown receptions are nine more than any other Pac-12 player. He’s 15th in league history in receptions and 14th all-time in yards.

5. Troy Walters, Stanford (1996-99)
Stats: 245 rec., 3,995 yds, 26 TDs

Walters had as complete a final season as any player on this list. He won Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American and won the Biletnikoff Award in 1999, the same year that Stanford won the league championship and played in the Rose Bowl. He is still the Pac-12's all-time leading receiver, as he is the only player to top 4,000 yards in league history. He’s tied with Lee for No. 4 all-time in receptions and he is 13th in league history with 26 touchdowns.

6. Reggie Williams, Washington (2001-03)
Stats: 238 rec., 3,536 yds, 22 TDs

Williams is sixth all-time in league history in receptions and fifth all-time in yards — all in just three years. He never had fewer than 973 yards in a season and never had fewer than 55 catches. He was excellent as a freshman before exploding as a sophomore for a school-record 94 catches and 1,454 yards in 2002. The massive 6-foot-4, 220-pound consensus All-American was the ninth overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and likely would have been the league’s all-time leading receiver had he played his fourth year.

7. Mike Hass, Oregon State (2003-05)
Stats: 220 rec., 3,924 yds, 20 TDs

He may not be the most talented wideout to play during this era but Hass is one of the best. He was the first Pac-10 receiver in history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and left school with the best single game in league history with 293 yards against Boise State in 2004. He won the Biletnikoff Award in 2005 as the nation’s best wide receiver. He is No. 3 all-time in yards and top 15 in receptions while only playing three seasons in college.

8. Robert Woods, USC (2010-12)
Stats: 251 rec., 2,924 yds, 32 TDs, 142 rush, 1,547 ret. yds, TDs

Before Lee set school and league records in 2012, Woods put his name atop the Pac-12 record books with a 111-catch season in '11. Woods finished third all-time in league history with 251 receptions — more than Lee posted in the same number of years (three). Woods was a consensus All-American and finished tied for second all-time with 32 touchdown receptions. Woods was the complete package as a wideout, return man and worked hard as a blocker as well. He was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

9. Derek Hagan, Arizona State (2002-05)
Stats: 258 rec., 3,939 yds, 27 TDs

The all-time leading receiver in school history, Hagan tied Hass as the first player in league history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He is still No. 2 in the league all-time in receptions and yards while ranking 12th all-time with 27 touchdown catches. Each of his four ASU teams were ranked and three of them went to bowl games. He was as consistent as it gets in a 50-game career.

10. James Rodgers, Oregon State (2007-11)
Stats: 222 rec., 2,578 yds, 19 TDs, 1,410 rush, 9 TDs, 2,385 ret. yds, 2 TDs

There are bigger names, both literally and figuratively, at the wideout position but few meant as much to their team and community than Rodgers to Oregon State. He finished top 15 in league history in receptions and posted big numbers receiving, but what made Rodgers a rare player was his versatility. He finished with 6,373 all-purpose yards after amassing 222 receptions, 173 rushing attempts and 107 kick and punt returns. One of two Rodgers (Jacquizz, a running back) to suit up for OSU around the same time, older sibling James could do everything for the Beavers.

Just missed the cut:

11. DeSean Jackson, Cal (2005-07)
Stats: 162 rec., 2,423 yds, 22 TDs, 199 rush, TDs, 671 ret. yds, 6 TDs

The electric playmaker could score from anywhere at anytime in any game. He was an explosive return man and huge vertical threat in the passing game. He was a consensus All-American in 2006 as a sophomore when he topped 1,000 yards receiving and returned four punts for touchdowns.

12. Michael Thomas, Arizona (2005-08)
Stats: 259 rec., 3,231 yds, 22 TDs, 395 rush, 3 TDs, 1,354 yds, 2 TDs

The Pac-12's all-time leading receiver didn’t play at USC or Oregon State. Instead he was a diminutive, but durable Wildcat. Thomas posted four straight seasons with at least 50 catches, was used in the ground game on trick plays and also was an excellent return man during his final two seasons. His junior season was his best as he caught 83 passes for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns.

13. Bobby Wade, Arizona (1999-02)
Stats: 230 rec., 3,351 yds, 23 TDs

Wade has more touchdowns and yards than fellow Wildcat Thomas but he didn’t catch as many passes or else he would be the school’s all-time top pass-catcher. Wade is seventh all-time in league history in both receptions and yards. His final season set a school record with 93 receptions and was a few yards shy of setting the single-season yards record as well with 1,389 in 2002.

14. Geoff McArthur, Cal (2000-04)
Stats: 202 rec., 3,188 yds, 20 TDs

McArthur didn’t have a consistent career in Berkley but posted one of the greatest seasons ever by anyone in league history. In 2003, McArthur set Cal records with 85 receptions and 1,504 yards and added 10 touchdown catches on a team that began a bowl run for the Bears that lasted seven seasons.

15. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State (2009-12)
Stats: 227 rec., 2,994 yds, 16 TDs, 631 rush, 5 TDs

Hailing from a program that doesn't lack for production from the position, Wheaton is Oregon State's all-time leading receiver by a grand total of one catch over the aforementioned Cooks. Wheaton is top 20 in league history in yards as well as ninth all-time in catches. Wheaton was used like James Rodgers before him as a versatile threat who made plays all over the field. He had 83 carries on the ground for a 7.6 yards per carry average during his time in Corvallis.

Best of the rest:

16. Dennis Northcutt, Arizona (1996-99): 217 rec., 3,188 yds, 24 TDs, 382 rush, 2 TDs, 1,568 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Do-everything dynamo for the Cats before all-purpose was en vogue.

17. Keenan Allen, Cal (2010-12): 205 rec., 2,570 yds, 17 TDs, 230 rush, 2 TDs, 658 ret. yds, TD
Electric five-star athlete who caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards in 2011.

18. Jason Hill, Washington State (2003-06): 148 rec., 2,704 yds, 32 TDs
Tied for second all-time in Pac-12 history with 32 TD catches in just three years.

19. Steve Smith, USC (2003-06): 190 rec., 3,019 yds, 22 TDs
Dependable go-to target for a team that won a national title and played for another.

20. Sammie Stroughter, Oregon State (2004-08): 164 rec., 2,653 yds, 14 TDs, 1,612 ret. yds, 3 TDs
Explosive, big-play threat in passing game and on special teams. Two 1,000-yard seasons.

21. Freddie Mitchell, UCLA (1998-00): 110 rec., 1,955 yds, 9 TDs
Consensus All-American with huge 2000 season and one horrific leg injury.

22. Danny Farmer, UCLA (1996-99): 159 rec., 3,020 yds, 19 TDs
Huge junior season (1,274 yards, 9 TDs) highlighted solid career as UCLA's leading receiver.

23. James Newson, Oregon State (2000-03): 213 rec., 3,572 yds, 20 TDs
Extremely productive career ranks sixth in league history in yards and top 20 in receptions.

24. Kareem Kelly, USC (1999-02): 201 rec., 3,071 yds, 15 TDs
Model of consistency as he recorded at least one catch in a then school-record 48 straight games.

25. Juron Criner, Arizona (2008-11): 209 rec., 2,859 yds, 32 TDs
Pass-happy offense led to Criner finishing No. 2 in league history in TDs.

Top 10 Pac-12 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/where-are-they-now-college-football-class-2008

Each year, Athlon Sports takes a look back at one recruiting class to figure out what happened to the best and brightest prospects in the nation.

The 2008 class was as heralded as any in modern era of recruiting rankings and was highlighted by a number of potential first round picks. The wide receiver class in particular was incredibly talented with names like Julio Jones and A.J. Green ranked in the top 10 coming out of high school.

Jones and Green weren’t the only All-Americans ranked in the top 40 as high school players though. Seven years later, here is a look at the top 40 players in the 2008 recruiting cycle as ranked by Athlon Sports, what they accomplished in college and what they are doing now.

1. Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State
Jeannette (Pa.) High

A two-sport state champion, Pryor took to the limelight, extending his decision to sign well beyond National Signing Day. Six weeks later, the star quarterback inked with Ohio State over Oregon, Penn State and Michigan. By the fourth game of his career, Pryor was the starting quarterback, earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors en route to the first of three straight Big Ten championships. However, following his junior season, his career in Columbus came to an end when an NCAA investigation discovered improper benefits and activities. He was the centerpiece of the scandal that led to the firing of coach Jim Tressel and the suspension of other key players. On June 7, 2011, Pryor withdrew from Ohio State with a 31–4 record as the starter. He was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2011 Supplemental Draft.

2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
Foley (Ala.) High

One of the most coveted prospects in recent memory, Jones signed with Alabama over Florida, Oklahoma and Florida State. He caught a touchdown in four of his first five college games, quickly showing a truly rare blend of size and speed. The wideout helped lead Bama back to a national title as a sophomore and a 10–3 record as a junior. Jones finished second in school history in receptions (179) and yards (2,653) and fourth in touchdowns (15) despite playing just three years in a run-first offense. The Atlanta Falcons traded most of their draft to move up and select the star wideout with the sixth overall pick in 2011.

3. Darrell Scott, RB, Colorado
Ventura (Calif.) St. Bonaventure

Born in Tallahassee, Fla., Scott grew up in Texas and California, where he developed into one of the best running back prospects in the nation. He rushed for nearly 6,000 yards and 79 touchdowns in his final two prep seasons at two different California high schools. He picked Colorado over Texas, Florida and LSU. After two undistinguished seasons in Boulder, he transferred to South Florida. He posted career highs in 2011 for the Bulls, rushing for 814 yards and five touchdowns. After three unremarkable seasons at two schools, Scott left early for the NFL and went undrafted in 2012.

4. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
Bamberg (S.C.) Bamberg-Ehrhardt

A freak athlete, Bowers excelled at defensive end, running back and kick returner his final season in high school. At Clemson, he contributed immediately as a freshman and continued to develop as a sophomore, posting 18.5 tackles for a loss in his first two seasons. As a junior, he led the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5), earning consensus All-America honors. He took home the Nagurski, Ted Hendricks and ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards and departed early for the NFL. Major knee issues caused his NFL stock to drop, resulting in Tampa Bay selecting Bowers with the 51st overall pick in the 2011 Draft.

5. Will Hill, S, Florida
West Orange (N.J.) St. Peter’s

Hill did everything for St. Peter’s, playing quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He picked Florida and went on to become an SEC All-Freshman in 2008 after recording 48 tackles and two INTs en route to the BCS National Championship. Hill never developed into a star, however, and finished with 144 career tackles and four career picks. He declared early for the NFL but went undrafted. In May 2012, he signed with the New York Giants and played in 12 games as a rookie.

6. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Summerville (S.C.) High

Forever linked with Julio Jones, Green signed with Georgia after a high-profile and extremely productive high school career. Like Jones, Green brought rare size, length, big-play ability and speed to the college game the second he stepped onto campus. And like Jones, he caught a touchdown in his first college game. He never posted a 1,000-yard season, but Green led the SEC in receiving yards (963) and touchdowns (eight) as a freshman. He finished his career with 166 receptions, 2,619 yards and 23 scores before leaving early for the NFL. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals and has had one of the best statistical starts of any wide receiver in NFL history.

7. Arthur Brown, LB, Miami
Wichita (Kan.) East

After a long and high-profile recruitment, Brown signed with Miami over powerhouses like LSU and Florida. After struggling his first two seasons in Coral Gables, he transferred back home to Kansas State. Once back in the Sunflower State, Brown flourished, earning Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2011 after recording 101 tackles. He returned for his senior season and helped lead the Wildcats to a Big 12 title and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors after another 100-tackle season. The Cats went 21–5 during his tenure.

8. Jermie Calhoun, RB, Oklahoma
Van (Texas) High

Garnering unwarranted comparisons to Adrian Peterson, the Lone Star State runner went North to Oklahoma and never realized his potential. He rushed for just 242 yards and one touchdown before transferring to Angelo (Texas) State in 2011. He rushed for 341 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 for the Rams.

9. Patrick Johnson, CB, LSU
Pompano Beach (Fla.) Ely

The highly coveted prospect changed his name from Johnson to Peterson in August 2008 prior to playing a down for LSU. He played in all 13 games as a freshman, starting the final four games. His elite athletic ability was obvious, not only on defense but also on special teams. The accolades piled up as Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik awards as the nation’s top defensive back and top defensive player. He was a consensus All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and also racked up 1,350 yards and two touchdowns as a return man. He left LSU early and was the fifth overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

10. R.J. Washington, DE, Oklahoma
Fort Worth (Texas) Keller Fossil Ridge

Washington never lived up to the hype of being ranked the No. 2 defensive end in the nation. He played in 40 career games but started just six in his career, all during his senior season in 2012. His tenure in Norman ended with 57 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 7.0 sacks and one forced fumble.

11. Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern

The star prep nose tackle was the most high-profile member of the 2007 Miami Northwestern state championship team that sent seven prospects to Miami and Lavonte David (eventually) to Nebraska. Forston played in 12 games as a freshman and earned Freshman All-America honors. After a promising first season, Forston missed all but three games as a sophomore due to injury. Returning in 2010, the big nose guard started 12 games and posted 37 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss. However, a knee injury ended his 2011 season after just three games. His collegiate career ended when he declared early for the NFL Draft. He went unselected, but made the New England Patriots practice squad in 2012.

12. Michael Brewster, OL, Ohio State
Orlando (Fla.) Edgewater

The 6'5", 305-pound pivot is one of the greatest centers to play at Ohio State. He entered the starting lineup in the fourth game of his college career as a freshman and never let go. His 49 consecutive starts comprised the second-longest streak in school history. He earned Freshman All-America honors in 2008 and was a Rimington Trophy finalist in 2010. The star center played in 51 games and was a part of three Big Ten championships. He went undrafted in 2012 but started seven games for the Jaguars as a rookie.

13. Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
St. Paul (Minn.) Cretin-Derham Hall

Hailing from one of the most talent-rich high schools in the Midwest, Floyd burst onto the scene at Notre Dame as a freshman by playing in 11 games and setting school freshman records for receptions (48), yards (719) and touchdowns (7). He dealt with minor injuries and off-the-field issues throughout his career in South Bend, but he rewrote the Irish receiving record book. He set school marks for receptions (271), yards (3,689), touchdowns (37) and 100-yard efforts (16) to go with the single-season record for catches (100) in 2011. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Arizona Cardinals.

14. Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
Crawfordville (Fla.) Wakulla

Bradham never became the superstar the experts imagined, but he was a dependable three-year starter for the Seminoles. He became the first Noles defender to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years since Marvin Jones did it in the early ’90s. His career culminated by being named All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. Bradham was selected 105th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He started 11 games and posted 57 tackles as a rookie last season.

15. Blake Ayles, TE, USC
Orange (Calif.) Lutheran

Ayles played for three seasons at USC, catching just 14 passes for 182 yards and one touchdown. He transferred to Miami and was set to contribute in 2011 before a preseason concussion ended his college career. He never played another down and went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft.

16. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Aliquippa (Pa.) High

Another big-bodied receiver in the ’08 receiver class, Baldwin made a quick impact. As a sophomore, he had 57 receptions for 1,111 yards as the school’s first 1,000-yard receiver since 2004. He was first-team All-Big East and received some All-America recognition. He finished his three-year career with 128 catches, 2,337 yards and 16 touchdowns before leaving early for the NFL Draft. He was a first-round pick by the Chiefs in 2011 but has yet to deliver in the professional ranks.

17. DeAndre Brown, WR, Southern Miss
Ocean Springs (Miss.) High

Fans in Hattiesburg wonder what could have been with Brown. He dominated Conference USA as a freshman, setting a school record with 67 receptions. Yet, his first season ended when he suffered a gruesome broken leg in the bowl game. From there, Brown was never the same player. He is second in Southern Miss history with 24 TD catches, third with 2,207 yards and fifth with 134 catches. He went undrafted, and his NFL career consists of a 15-day stint with the Eagles.

18. Matt Kalil, OL, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite

Kalil was the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, started all 16 games in front of Adrian Peterson and earned a Pro Bowl invite as a Minnesota Vikings rookie. With a father, Frank, and brother, Ryan, excelling as not only college stars but also NFL performers, the youngest Kalil was well prepared for life at USC. He started for two full seasons protecting Matt Barkley’s blind side without allowing a sack in 2011.

19. Richard Samuel, RB, Georgia
Cartersville (Ga.) Cass

Samuel never settled into one position while in Athens during his injury-plagued career. He played running back in his first two seasons, rushing for 528 yards before redshirting in 2010 to facilitate a move to linebacker. However, he moved back to running back for his final two seasons, rushing for just 305 yards in 2011 and ’12.

20. Dayne Crist, QB, Notre Dame
Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame

Injuries played a role in Crist being labeled a bust, but he had his chances and failed to come close to his lofty recruiting status. He played in just 17 games for Notre Dame in three years (2,327 yards, 16 TDs, eight INTs) before transferring to Kansas to reunite with Charlie Weis. As a Jayhawk, he had yet another shot at being the star but managed to throw just four touchdowns with nine interceptions in 2012.

21.  EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside

On one hand, Manuel dealt with injuries and inconsistency throughout his career and was never a first-team All-ACC quarterback. On the other, he is third all-time at Florida State with 25 wins in 31 starts; he led the Noles back to an ACC championship; he completed a school-record 66.9-percent of his passes; and he became the second quarterback in NCAA history to win four consecutive bowl games. He finished third all-time in school history for passing yards (7,736), third in total offense (8,563), fourth in completions (600) and seventh in TDs passes (47). Manuel was selected by Buffalo with the No. 16 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

22. B.J. Scott, ATH, Alabama
Prichard (Ala.) Vigor

Scott projected as an “athlete” because of his potential at both defensive back and wide receiver. It turns out that he wasn’t good enough at either to stick at Alabama. He transferred to South Alabama and finished third on the team with 84 tackles in 2012.

23. Tyler Love, OL, Alabama
Mountain Brook (Ala.) High

Nick Saban rarely misses on 5-star talent, but Love will end his Tide career as an afterthought on some of the most talented teams in program history. He played a total of 14 games in his four-year career and decided to step away from football after the 2011 season with one year of eligibility remaining.

24. DeAngelo Tyson, DT, Georgia
Statesboro (Ga.) High

The big in-state lineman was never a star in Athens but was a consistent, dependable member of the defense for four years and helped return the Bulldogs defense to prominence in 2010. He was named to the SEC All-Freshman team by the coaches in 2008 and played in 13 games in 2009 before entering the starting lineup as a junior. He started 23 games over his final two years, posting 56 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss. Tyson was drafted by the Ravens in the seventh round of the 2012 draft, playing in 10 games for the Super Bowl champs.

25. Mike Adams, OL, Ohio State
Dublin (Ohio) Coffman

Adams was an integral part of the highly touted 2008 Ohio State offensive line class. Playing for three Big Ten title teams, he started five games his first two seasons and earned all-conference honors in his final two seasons. Like teammate Terrelle Pryor, Adams was named in the tattoo scandal that brought NCAA sanctions to Ohio State. The Steelers made him a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

26. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
Cincinnati (Ohio) Elder

Rudolph became the first Notre Dame tight end to start every game of his freshman season before injuries limited his sophomore and junior seasons. His final three-year stat line of 90 receptions, 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns seems underwhelming, but he showed enough to be a second-round draft pick of the Vikings after three seasons. He has established himself as one of the most dynamic players at his position in the NFL.

27. Tyron Smith, OL, USC
Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde

Smith and Matt Kalil gave USC two first-round picks in one offensive line class. Smith appeared in 10 games as a freshman and started 12 as a sophomore, earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention in the process. As a starting right tackle in 2010, Smith earned the Morris Trophy as the league’s top offensive lineman before leaving early for the NFL. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2011 draft by the Cowboys, and he has started 31 games since.

28. T.J. Bryant, DB, USC
Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln

The cross-country trip from Florida to Los Angeles didn’t work as Bryant had planned. After a suspension in his final year at USC, Bryant transferred to Troy, where he played 10 games and picked up 22 tackles in 2012.

29. Stephen Good, OL, Oklahoma
Paris (Texas) High

Expectations were high for Good after he was a part-time starter as a sophomore, but he never locked down a starting spot as an upperclassman. He was arrested in a nightclub altercation near the end of his college career and went undrafted in 2012.

30. Aldarius Johnson, WR, Miami
Miami (Fla.) Northwestern

The second-highest rated Hurricanes recruit from Miami Northwestern, Johnson made a quick impact with the Canes, leading the team with 31 receptions, 332 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. His numbers dropped from there, and he was eventually suspended as a senior for his connection to the Nevin Shapiro scandal.

31. Matt Patchan, OL, Florida
Tampa (Fla.) Armwood

After a dramatic recruitment, Patchan had an injury-plagued career at Florida. He started his career as a defensive lineman and missed most of 2009 and all of 2010 with injuries. He returned as an offensive tackle in 2011 and missed all of 2012 due to injury. Patchan transferred to Boston College, where he’s expected to start in 2013.

32. Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West

A one-time Nebraska commit, Gabbert ended up as a backup to Chase Daniel at Missouri as a freshman. Becoming the starter in 2009, he threw for 6,779 yards and 40 touchdowns over the next two seasons while leading Mizzou to an 18–8 record. His marquee win over Oklahoma in 2010 was the first for the Tigers over OU since 1998 and just the second since 1983. He was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars with the 10th overall pick in 2011 and set a franchise rookie record with 14 starts.

33. Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State
North Miami Beach (Fla.) Dr. Krop

It took a long time for Sabino to earn his starting spot, but as a senior in 2012 he was named a team co-captain and starting linebacker. Sabino finished with 119 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He was a member of two Big Ten championship teams and was a leader on the undefeated 2012 squad.

34. D.J. Shoemate, WR, USC
Corona (Calif.) Servite

A fullback and wide receiver at USC, Shoemate played in 21 games but never had a defined role. Shoemate eventually transferred to UConn, where he played in 15 games in two years before shoulder injuries ended his career.

35. Lucas Nix, OL, Pittsburgh
Jefferson Hills (Pa.) Thomas Jefferson

The massive offensive lineman started as a sophomore, paving the way for Dion Lewis’ 1,799-yard season in 2009. Nix started 12 games as a junior and played eight games as a senior before going undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft. However, Nix earned a spot on the Oakland Raiders roster and played in one game as a rookie last season.

36. Ethan Johnson, DL, Notre Dame
Portland (Ore.) Lincoln

The cross-country recruit was never a star in South Bend but played a lot of football. He played in every game during his first three seasons with the Irish, starting 24 of 25 games in 2009-10. Johnson finished his Notre Dame career with 97 total tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and one blocked kick. He went undrafted in 2012 but landed on the practice squad with the Kansas City Chiefs.

37. Baker Steinkuhler, OL, Nebraska
Lincoln (Neb.) Southwest

Steinkuhler came to Lincoln with high expectations as the son of legendary Nebraska Hall of Famer Dean Steinkuhler. After a redshirt season in 2008, the younger Steinkuhler made a name for himself in a big way. He finished his career with 150 total tackles, 17 tackles for a loss and eight sacks to go with three division titles. He was a Big 12 All-Freshman selection in 2009 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2012.

38.  Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson

An unexpected starter as a redshirt freshman, Williams replaced the injured Darren Evans for a record-breaking season. Williams set a single-season school and ACC freshman record with 1,655 yards in addition to an ACC-record 22 touchdowns. He capped his first season as the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, a first-team All-ACC selection and the Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP. After an injury-shortened sophomore season, Williams left school early and was drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals with the 38th overall pick. The explosive tailback has missed 27 of his first 32 professional games due to injury.

39. DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State
Cincinnati (Ohio) LaSalle

A high-profile member of the heralded ’08 Buckeyes signing class, Posey played in all 12 games as a freshman before posting big numbers as a sophomore (60 receptions, 828 yards, eight TDs) and junior (53 receptions, 848 yards, seven TDs) alongside his star quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. Yet, much like Pryor, Adams and Dan Herron, Posey was implicated in the tattoo scandal that resulted in Jim Tressel’s ouster in Columbus. He played three games as a senior and was drafted in the third round by the Houston Texans in the 2012 NFL Draft.

40. Dan Buckner, WR, Texas
Allen (Texas) High

A dominant physical specimen at 6'4" and 220 pounds, Buckner showed loads of promise, playing in all 12 games as a true freshman. He then started eight games as a sophomore, catching 45 passes for 442 yards and four touchdowns on an undefeated regular-season Big 12 title team that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game. Following an arrest in College Station, Buckner transferred to Arizona, where he sat out the 2010 season. In two seasons in the desert, Buckner caught 103 passes for 1,379 yards and seven scores.


Where Are They Now: College Football Class of 2008
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/9-nba-draft-early-entries-who-could-be-helping-their-college-teams

Go ahead and do the math: 48 college underclassmen declared for the NBA Draft in 2013 for the opportunity at 30 first-round picks and guaranteed contracts.

With a handful of college seniors and international players in the first round, plenty of players have a chance to be disappointed on draft day.

College fans have reason to be disappointed, too. Their teams take hits in the draft, and some with little payoff in terms of an NBA roster spot.

A few college teams are struggling at this point of the season, and some could simply be better with an extra veteran on the roster.

This is our look at the top missing pieces — the players who could reasonably still be on college rosters. Sure, Indiana would be better off with Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo this season, but both were top-four draft picks. We’re not looking at those cases.

Instead, we’re looking at how the early entries from the 2013 and 2012 drafts who were not selected in the first round could have impacted their college teams in 2013-14.

This isn’t to shame players who declared early for the NBA Draft but missed out on being a lottery pick, either.

Surely, some didn’t make great decisions. But staying on a college basketball roster isn’t the perfect solution for everyone. After all, sitting on the end of an NBA roster or playing professionally in Europe still guarantees more (legitimate) income than playing in college.

For our purposes, this is a look at teams that may or may not be struggling this season and how some of the departed players who weren’t NBA locks may have helped this season.

Missing Pieces: NBA Draft Early Entries Who Could be Helping their College Teams

Vander Blue, Marquette
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Boston Celtics
After Blue recently signed a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics, he will have a shot at playing in an NBA game, but meanwhile, Marquette has struggled all season to score consistently. The Golden Eagles’ backcourt production has been lacking all season thanks in part to the season-long leg injury to incoming freshman Duane Wilson. The 6-4, 200-pound Blue led Marquette in scoring last season and was a clutch player in the team’s run to the Elite Eight last season. The Eagles haven’t won three consecutive games since.

C.J. Leslie, NC State
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Released by the New York Knicks
The cast of highly touted freshmen and veterans never meshed at NC State last season as the Wolfpack finished 11-7 in the ACC and lost to Temple in the NCAA round of 64 with Leslie on board. Sophomore T.J. Warren is still on the Wolfpack roster, but he sure could use some help. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game, but it takes him nearly 18 shots to get there. Although he was inconsistent last season, Leslie averaged 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season. He and Warren would at least give NC State a one-two punch that could put the Wolfpack onto the NCAA bubble.

Amath M’Baye, Oklahoma
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins, Japan
Oklahoma probably is an NCAA Tournament team without M’Baye, but an extra big body could make an impact in a tough Big 12. A Sooners team with a 6-9, 208-pound forward who can defend the perimeter in the mix would be a Big 12 title contender.

Phil Pressey, Missouri
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Averaging 1.6 points per game with the Celtics
Pressey has spent the entire season on an NBA roster, which is pretty good for an undrafted free agent. His alma mater Missouri started 12-1 but has since lost three of the last five in the SEC. Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson has fared well as the point guard, but the Tigers have managed to lose close games to Illinois, Georgia, Vanderbilt and LSU — all winnable games for the Tigers.

Adonis Thomas, Memphis
Final season: Sophomore, 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where he is now: Springfield Armor, NBA D-League
Adonis Thomas’ career at Memphis wasn’t what his recruiting reputation suggested he should have produced. And Tigers may be better this season anyway. Still, Thomas averaged 11.7 points per game last season. Not a bad piece to have around.

Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Final season: Junior, 2013
Draft status: 58th overall pick
Where he is now: Nanterre (France)
Ohio State can defend, but the Buckeyes rank 122nd in offensive efficiency on Put Thomas on this season’s roster, and Ohio State is essentially the same team that went 29-8 and reached the Elite Eight last season. Thomas averaged 19.8 points per game last year while no Buckeye averages more than 14 points per game in 2013-14.

Royce White, Iowa State
Final season: Sophomore, 2012
Draft status: 16th overall, has not played
Where he is now: Cut by the Philadelphia 76ers
Every other player on this list was either undrafted or a late second round draft pick. White is an exception as the No. 16 pick of the Houston Rockets two years ago. He’s never played a game in the NBA as he and the team that drafted him couldn’t agree on stipulations he requested to deal with anxiety. If White had stayed at Iowa State, he’d be a fifth-year senior on a team that started 14-0. He and DeAndre Kane could have been No. 1 and No. 2 in nearly every major category for the Cyclones.

B.J. Young and Marshawn Powell, Arkansas
Final season: Sophomore (Young) and junior (Powell), 2013
Draft status: Undrafted
Where they are now: Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the D-League (Young) and Ferro-ZNTU in the Ukraine (Powell)
Arkansas built itself into a fringe NCAA Tournament team this season in the non-conference schedule with decent wins over SMU, Minnesota and Cal. The Razorbacks, in foul-filled game for both sides, also managed to beat Kentucky in overtime last week. But the SEC road woes continued with losses to Texas A&M and Georgia. McDonald’s All-American freshman Bobby Portis has already been a difference maker, Houston transfer Alandise Harris is an impact player, and sophomore Michael Qualls is one of the most improved players in the SEC. Throw Young and Powell into the mix, and the Razorbacks would have one of the strongest rosters in the league.

9 NBA Draft Early Entries Who Could Be Helping Their College Teams
Post date: Thursday, January 23, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/qb-jacob-coker-transfers-florida-state-next-stop-alabama

With Jameis Winston entrenched as Florida State’s quarterback next season, playing time was going to be limited for Jacob Coker, and the sophomore has decided to transfer from Tallahassee to Alabama. With Coker set to graduate in May, he can transfer to another team and start in 2014. 

Coker was Florida State’s backup quarterback for the first half of the season, throwing for 250 yards on 18 completions. However, he suffered a knee injury and was forced to miss the final six games.

As a redshirt freshman in 2012, Coker completed 3 of 5 passes for 45 yards.

Coker was only a three-star prospect coming out of high school. However, the Alabama native has all of the physical tools necessary to become a starting quarterback for a BCS team.

At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and a strong arm, Coker is expected to be highly sought after this spring.

The Crimson Tide need a replacement for AJ McCarron, and Coker would be a good fit for their offense.

With Coker transferring to Alabama, he joins a crowded depth chart at quarterback. Blake Sims has the most experience of any passer on the team, but Alec Morris, Parker McLeod, Cooper Bateman and incoming freshman David Cornwell will compete for the job this preseason.

Florida State QB Jacob Coker Transfers; Next Stop Alabama?
Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 15:30
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-january-22-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Jan. 22.

• Alexa Vega was once a kid star in the "Spy Kids" movies. Now she looks like this. Wow.

Norway's curling team is dressing for success in Sochi. Or else they're dressing to test those controversial Russian laws we've been hearing about.

A Velveeta shortage? For the Super Bowl? In the two states where weed is legal? If people weren't already so baked, there'd be riots.

Mike Tyson had his picture taken with the Abominable Snowman. I don't ask, I just link.

If you fill out a perfect March Madness bracket, Warren Buffett will give you $1 billion. Of course, the odds of filling out a perfect bracket are 1 in 9.2 quintillion. So good luck with that.

• Tired of being irrelevant, the Yanks come out swinging: Masahiro Tanaka, seven years, $155 mil.

Nice show of class from Northwestern students after a shooting at Purdue.

That commercial featuring deaf Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman inspired this adorable response from a deaf girl.

Today Down Under: Federer-Nadal, round 33.

Catching up with Sad Scott, the face of Georgetown basketball this season.

Jason Whitlock watched "Wolf of Wall Street" and saw parallels to today's sports culture.

• Jacoby Jones was enjoying himself at the Pelicans game when a reporter tracked him down for an enjoyably awkward interview.


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

Post date: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - 10:29