Articles By All

Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the Big East.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the Big East for 2013

1. Louisville

Pros: Louisville has solid facilities and is in a good spot geographically to consistently attract top recruits. Kentucky is not a great talent producer, but Louisville can recruit Ohio and Illinois due to its proximity to those states and has always done a good job recruiting Florida. Also, the school “survived” the realignment wars, finding a home in the ACC beginning in 2014.

Cons: The school lacks football tradition and doesn’t have the fan base that most of the other schools have ranked in the top 50 of this list. When the Cards are good, they draw well. But in 2009, in the final season of the Steve Kragthrope era, they ranked 71st in the nation in attendance, averaging 32,540 per game.

Final Verdict: Like many of the schools in the Big East, Louisville is only as good as its coach. Bobby Petrino won big in his four years. Kragthorpe flopped in his three seasons. Charlie Strong has done well in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.
 

2. Rutgers

Pros: Rutgers’ location affords the coaching staff the opportunity to stock its entire roster with local talent. The facilities have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the $102 million expansion to Rutgers Stadium. Also, being just over 30 miles from New York City — the media capital of the world — can’t hurt.

Cons: The school has almost no tradition; prior to the mid-2000s, the program was irrelevant. And while support for Rutgers football has grown in recent years, pro sports will always be No. 1 in the metropolitan area.

Final Verdict: Long considered the sleeping giant on the East Coast, Rutgers has emerged as a consistent winner in the Big East. Whether or not this is a true destination job is up for debate, but it’s clear that you can win a bunch of games and go to bowl games at Rutgers.
 

3. South Florida

Pros: South Florida has a tremendous local recruiting base and is a member of the conference with the least resistance to a BCS bowl (for now). The Bulls proved they can be a consistent winner in the FBS ranks, averaging 8.4 wins from 2006-10.

Cons: South Florida lacks tradition and does not have an on-campus stadium. The Bulls play their home games 15 miles from campus. And while the recruiting base is strong, South Florida will always have a tough time beating out the Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — for top prospects.

Final Verdict: Many view South Florida as an emerging national power. The school does have a ton of potential, but it is difficult to get overly excited about a program that is the fourth-most relevant program in its own state — even if that state is Florida.
 

4. Cincinnati

Pros: Cincinnati is in a fertile recruiting area. Ohio produces a ton of talent, and the school is also relatively close to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina.

Cons: Support isn’t great. The school won a share of its fourth Big East title in five years yet averaged only 29,138 fans per game to Nippert Stadium. Being stuck in the Big East for the foreseeable future.

Final Verdict: Cincinnati isn't perceived to be a top-flight program, but the school has been consistently strong in the BCS era. Since 2000, four different coaches have won at least seven games twice. That’s impressive.  
 

5. Houston

Pros: Location. Location. Location. Houston is an elite area for high school talent. And the school has decent tradition, having spent 20 years (1976-95) in the Southwest Conference. Starting in 2014, the Cougars will be playing in a new, on-campus stadium.

Cons: With Texas and Texas A&M relatively nearby — not to mention the NFL’s Houston Texans — University of Houston football will never be the No. 1 show in town.

Final Verdict: With a new stadium and great recruiting base, Houston has an opportunity to rise to the top of the reconfigured Big East. The school’s small fan base will always be an issue, but you can win a lot of games at this school. 
 

6. UCF

Pros: UCF is located in the heart of talent-rich Florida. Bright House Networks Stadium (capacity 45,323) opened in 2007 and is one of the nicest on-campus facilities in the nation.

Cons: UCF is still relatively new to the FBS ranks (1996) and has little brand recognition in the college football word. Attendance hasn’t been great, either. Last year, UCF ranked 68th in the nation with 34,608 fans per game.

Final Verdict: UCF will always have access to a ton of players, but it’s tough to envision this program taking too big of a leap forward in the next decade, even with the move to the Big East. 


7. Connecticut

Pros: The school has top-notch facilities and has proven that it can be relevant on the national landscape. The Huskies won eight games or more six times in an eight-year span, culminating with the trip to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010.

Cons: Recruiting at UConn has never been easy. Now, it’s become more difficult. The school’s chief rivals for prospects in the Northeast — Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers — each found a home in a power conference. UConn did not.

Final Verdict: This can be a good job — there is solid support in state for the program — but the school is in a tough spot right now. The Big East is simply not where you want to be in college football heading into the mid 2010s.  
 

8. SMU

Pros: SMU’s greatest strength is its location, in the fertile Metroplex in North Texas. Yes, there is a ton of competition for the players, but there is more than enough talent to keep the Mustangs’ roster well-stocked.

Cons: Interest in SMU football is not high. The school averaged only 21,292 per game last year, which ranked 92nd in the nation. It’s tough to attract top-flight recruits to play in front of so many empty seats.

Final Verdict: SMU is similar to several schools making the move from Conference USA to the Big East. It’s in a great location but lacks the tradition and fan base to make too much of a dent on the national landscape.
 

9. Temple

Pros: Temple plays its home games at an NFL stadium and its on-campus facilities are top-notch. Being competitive in football is important to the school.

Cons: Temple lacks tradition and fan support. Philadelphia loves the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, Flyers and college basketball. College football? Not so much.

Final Verdict: Al Golden did a tremendous job transforming Temple from arguably the worst program in the nation into a reputable team that won a total of 26 games from 2009-11. The school should be able to compete in the new-look Big East, but this is not a destination job.  
 

10. Memphis

Pros: The school has made a significant financial commitment to the football program in recent years — something that previously was not the case. (Just ask Tommy West). The city of Memphis is known more for basketball, but does a solid job producing FBS-level prospects.

Cons: Basketball is the No. 1 sport at Memphis — by a wide margin. The school has struggled to compete for years, with only four winning seasons since 1994.

Final Verdict: Memphis has an SEC recruiting base with Conference-USA support. Will that change as the school makes the move to the Big East? Not likely. You can win games at Memphis, but the football program will never reach the stature of Tiger basketball.


Related College Football Content

Big East Consensus Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013
Ranking the Big East's Coaching Tandems for 2013

College Football's Top 5 QBs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Big East's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-10-auburn-tigers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Gus Malzahn took over for Gene Chizik on The Plains and instantly brought a renewed energy to the Auburn program. His Tigers were one of the big winners on National Signing Day and it resulted in a top 10 class that should build the foundation for a return to success on the field.

No. 10: Auburn Tigers 

SEC: Sixth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 3
National Signees: 7
Total Signees: 23

Where They Got 'Em:

Malzahn has the unenviable task of recruiting at an elite level in the same state as Nick Saban. And while Alabama landed the top five players in the state, Auburn did an excellent job inside the Yellowhammer State. Six new faces that hail from Alabama signed with Auburn, including two nationally rated quarterbacks who will vie for playing time in the new offense.

Florida (4), Georgia (3) and Mississippi (1) will always be a focus for the Auburn coaching staff and this season was no exception. Oklahoma, Indiana and Colorado are non-traditional recruiting territories for Auburn, but Malzahn went into each state and landed one player, while community colleges in Kansas (5) and California (1) also added to the Tigers' haul.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

Auburn had many issues a year ago, and not all of them will be addressed in one recruiting class, but Malzahn is looking to check the quarterback position off his "to do" list. Jeremy Johnson is the highest-rated prospect at the position and has elite upside. He is generously listed at 6-5 and 215 pounds and earned Mr. Football honors in Alabama after throwing for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2012. He will battle with another nationally rated signal caller in Jason Smith. The 6-1, 180-pounder is a dual-threat talent who will bring a different dimension than Johnson to the new Auburn offense. Should either freshman not prove to be ready, Malzahn has another option in junior college transfer Nick Marshall. The dynamic athlete threw for 3,142 yards and rushed for 1,095 a year ago at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

Joining the talented trio of quarterbacks in the backfield are three new running backs. Under previous regimes the power rushing attack was a signature of Auburn football, however, under Chizik this offense lacked the physical presence many fans were accustomed to (minus Cam Newton, of course). While none of the three are nationally ranked by Athlon, speedster Johnathan Ford, early enrollee junior college prospect Cameron Artis-Payne and Peach State workhorse Peyton Barber should more than take care of the backfield woes on The Plains.

On the outside of the offense, four wide receivers provide new playmaking ability. Tony Stevens (6-3, 175) and Earnest Robinson (6-2, 200) bring big frames and plenty of vertical talent to an offense that needs some big-play talent. Marcus Davis (5-10, 165) will play in the slot and two-way star Dominic Walker (6-2, 195) can play all over the offense.

Malzahn signed only two offensive linemen in this class and neither were nationally rated.

After struggling so mightily to control the line of scrimmage against elite SEC offensive lines, Auburn had to address the defensive line. And it did so in a big way as all three AC100 signings will play along the D-line. The best three players in this class — Montravius Adams, Carl Lawson and Elijah Daniel — make this one of the more intriguing defensive line groups in the nation. Adams, who is one of the top tackle prospects in the nation if not the top player at his position, will run with JUCO Ben Bradley on the interior while Daniel and Lawson provide serious talent on the edge. Replacing Corey Lemonier won't be easy but this class has the talent to come close.

A fairly non-descript four-man secondary class and two-man linebacking class provide some interesting depth to the back end of the defense. While none of the defensive backs are nationally ranked, the group has some excellent upside. Khari Harding and Brandon King bring elite size to the safety spot while Mackenro Alexander and Kamryn Melton will man the cornerback position.

It's a long and uphill battle to catch up with Alabama within the state lines, but Auburn's new coaching staff took a big first step with a top ten class in 2013.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 3, RB: 3, WR: 4, TE: 0, OL: 2
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 2, DB: 4, ATH: 0, K: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
10. Montravius Adams DT No. 4 (DL) Vienna, Ga. 6-3 310
21. Carl Lawson DE No. 6 (DL)  Alpharetta, Ga. 6-2 250
50. Elijah Daniel DE No. 12 (DL) Avon, Ind. 6-4 250
155. Jeremy Johnson QB No. 14 Montgomery, Ala. 6-5 215
167. Tony Stevens WR No. 17 Orlando, Fla. 6-3 175
180. Jason Smith QB No. 19 Mobile, Ala. 6-1 180
190. Earnest Robinson WR No. 23 Pinson, Ala. 6-2 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Cameron Artis-Payne RB Harrisburg, Pa. 5-11 210 --
Ben Bradley DT Hutchinson, Kan. 6-1 305 JUCO
Devonte Danzey OL Hutchinson, Kan. 6-4 295 JUCO

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 10: Auburn Tigers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/ranking-best-teams-nascar-2013
Body:

As the 2013 NASCAR season prepares to get underway, Athlon Sports ranks the top teams to hit the track.

 
1. Hendrick Motorsports
 
An elephant is probably one of the few things Rick Hendrick doesn’t own. But for what the owner faces in 2013, you need look no further than the American version, otherwise known as the Republican Party.
 
Just like the presidential election, Hendrick endured a narrow loss in the championship fight with prized candidate Jimmie Johnson, who, like Mitt Romney, has been there, done that — successful many times over, but now a loser for a second straight cycle. So does HMS stick with the status quo, armed with the knowledge that without a broken rear gear (like Romney’s great swing-state disaster of Florida), Johnson may very well be your series champ? Hendrick had a hand in six straight Cup titles with Johnson and Tony Stewart, so at some point, the law of averages was going to catch up.
 
Or does the car owner think a “Republican revolution” on the inside is what’s needed? Other challengers to the throne are restless, including the Ron Paul of this group, Jeff Gordon, who’s been increasingly marginalized during J.J.’s prime. His time for a fifth title, and his patience, are running short. (See: the Clint Bowyer brawl that likely ended his ability to guest-host for “Live with Kelly & Michael.”) Kasey Kahne, the Marco Rubio of his organization, flexed some muscle last season and has time — at age 32 — plus a line of companies willing to shell out millions on his side. Heck, even Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport’s most popular driver, can’t get big money anymore with multiple races open in late December. (It’s assumed they will be filled by Fortune 500 companies — Jeb Bush, a “supposed” early favorite for 2016, can relate.) Are we at a point with Earnhardt that, without a major change in attitude, laps led, or victory total, the men that make decisions (or in the Republicans’ case, millions of voters) are no longer willing to give this famous last name a second look?
 
All fair and good points, but the honest answer is that Hendrick Motorsports remains the most well-funded, successful and resourced team in the sport. One, if not more, of Rick’s boys will have a say in the 2013 championship. After all, the last time NASCAR changed race cars, in 2007, HMS was so far out front it was like he was given a copy of the rulebook six months in advance. Or maybe he was; after all, John Middlebrook sure came over for dinner a lot that offseason. 
 
Juuuust kidding.
 
 
2. Joe Gibbs Racing
What part hasn’t broken on a Joe Gibbs Racing car during the Chase? We don’t have the answer, but never fear — you’ll find out this September. When it comes to finding the “F” in DNF, JGR always saves the best for last, as spectacular failures derailed an otherwise strong 2012 for Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. The problem for Hamlin, an expectant father in 2013, is the growing number of “Mark Martin” therapeutic tragedies on his résumé. They say you need to lose one before you can win one, but when you lose two, three, four, or more … then you start to believe it’ll never happen. 
 
To help get over the hump, Hamlin lobbied openly for former champ Matt Kenseth to earn Joey Logano’s former spot at the No. 20 Toyota. The tragicomedy is that through that process, he’s forgetting how easily this new hire can beat him. One other caveat: The soon-to-be 40-year-old Kenseth can’t fix a broken master switch — only the crew and head wrench can be held responsible. Kenseth’s veteran leadership should help with the chemistry, though, within an organization that hasn’t had a guiding hand since Tony Stewart left the team in 2008.
 
Notice how we haven’t mentioned Kyle Busch. J.D. Gibbs’ strategy appears to be somewhat similar, hoping that by holding a new contract up towards the ceiling, he can get Busch to jump higher, like a puppy dog learning new tricks in order to get the treat. He drove like a man possessed after missing the Chase, lending credence to the method. But know that there are plenty of opportunities elsewhere beyond 2013. Busch was burned by Hendrick for the cold, hard cash Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought in 2007 and knows that loyalty in this business is only a contract-by-contract proposition. That means that this team, more than any other, faces the widest range of possibilities: All three teams could make the Chase, all three could be chasing each other’s tails, or a few parts failures at the wrong times could lead to some internal explosions. 
 
And Kenseth was supposed to end this soap opera…
 
 
3. Penske Racing
Oddsmakers have already labeled Brad Keselowski as the underdog to win two straight titles. And that’s just fine with him. Filling the role of David is just how one of the sport’s most outspoken drivers likes to operate. Vegas has a right to be concerned, though, about the number of obstacles in the way: A switch from Dodge to Ford. Penske’s abandoning its own engine program for someone else’s. The fact only three drivers since 1990 have pulled the repeat (Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson). A new teammate, Joey Logano, who could be labeled at best a work in progress.
 
Perhaps the biggest question, though unspoken, is how much longer Mr. Penske wants to run around in circles, since he turns 76 in 2013. He’s quietly been affected by health issues — though none overly serious — in the recent past, and at some point, one has to wonder if there’s some sort of succession process in place. In some ways, he’s already stepped back, allowing Keselowski to leave his touch on the organization with important changes that clearly resulted in a championship. But the driver can’t do it all, as he’s already adding the role of “teacher” to his list in 2013 for Logano, a key cog as Shell/Pennzoil badly needs to start seeing some success. 
 
Keselowski possesses as much mental strength as anyone in the Cup Series garage, so it wouldn’t be surprising for him to will his way to another title. It’s just that the burden he has to carry in 2013 grows ever larger.
 
 
4. Stewart-Hass Racing
Most teams are spending the winter working on testing for 2013. Stewart-Haas Racing is busy working overtime in another department: building race cars. Not only does it need a third set for Danica Patrick’s full-time entry in the No. 10, but it’s also working on a fourth for when she’s done crashing that fleet. OK, so it may not be that bad, but it is the type of unrated content GoDaddy didn’t want released but becomes public knowledge weekly beginning with this year’s Daytona 500.
 
You know it’s a bad sign when people are predicting that a “best-case scenario” is simply finishing the race in one piece, right? Patrick’s push to the front will be hot and heavy, though, as the GoDaddy sponsorship will be up for renewal at season’s end. Money has been hard to come by for this organization of late, with Old Spice, Office Depot and the U.S. Army just some of the major backers jumping ship over the last two years. And that’s with Tony Stewart winning a championship! Reports are that Ryan Newman had to take a sizeable pay cut, forced back into that “other tax bracket” in order to stay employed. With patchwork deals on the No. 39, plus Kevin Harvick on the way in 2014, it’s easy to find the guy on the hot seat here.
 
That means that for Stewart, 2013 will be a real test of just how independent one car can be within a multi-car team. Brad Keselowski had that problem last year but still streaked to a title. Can Stewart, faced with Distraction Central and the monumental task of getting Eldora NASCAR ready, do the same?
 
 
5. Michael Waltrip Racing
From laughingstock to lovable to lauded, the transformation of this program is nothing short of amazing. Suddenly, fans know Martin Truex Jr. for more than an annoying commercial karaoke sequence. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy, after years of being more crumpled than an empty soda can when shown on television in the Nationwide Series, can trumpet the effects of its product through Clint Bowyer’s track and field Phoenix sprint. And then there’s the ageless Mark Martin, 54 in 2013, who can still whip a 27-year-old’s tail on the track.
 
But just like any organization that has made a worst-to-first-type ascension, the battle to shed the label of “one-year wonder” won’t be easy. The last time Truex won, Barack Obama had just started his first term — as the U.S. Senator from Illinois. Hendrick Motorsports, as payback for what Bowyer did to Gordon, let him finish second in the standings, through a parts failure at Homestead, to inherit the role of “runner-up jinx.” The last driver to finish in the top 5 in points, let alone contend for a championship the following year after winding up second? Matt Kenseth, in 2006-07. Ever since, teams have gone winless, missed Chases, flipped into the catchfence at Talladega … you know the deal.
 
Then there’s Martin, facing the inevitable transition from first-year success to second-year questions like, “When is someone else going to take over the driver’s seat?” We’ve heard this story play out before, back during the “Salute To You Tour V” days with Hendrick Motorsports, but this time there’s validity. What if super-sub Brian Vickers wins a championship with Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series and has an offer from a rival Toyota Cup team? Or worse, a rival Chevy team? Could MWR really let a man who could serve it well for 10 years get away over someone at the tail end of his career? Such are the questions facing a suddenly stout team with championship aspirations.
 
 
6. Roush Racing
So let’s get this straight. The man who won the most races at Roush Fenway, Matt Kenseth, was allowed to walk. The one with the most expensive contract, Carl Edwards, hasn’t won since March 2011 and is paired with his third crew chief in seven months. The most successful driver left, Greg Biffle, is 43 and arguably less exciting than 400 miles in Fontana. And the newcomer, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., has all of five Cup Series starts to his credit.
 
All is not well in Roush-land, mirroring the decline of its co-ownership Boston Red Sox brethren. The questions for recovery are numerous, with the first being why its most veteran crew chief, Jimmy Fennig, is paired with Edwards when common sense says a rookie needs to be balanced by experience. Is RFR really that desperate to turn Cousin Carl’s performance around? And does former head wrench Bob Osborne have health-related issues or what?
 
In all seriousness, perhaps the biggest adjustment here in 2013 isn’t even Kenseth’s departure, the crew chief swaps or sponsorship issues (Stenhouse could use more). It’s that Ford now has a new kid on the block in Roger Penske after Roush spent the last three or four years as the manufacturer’s main squeeze. How will these two titans of motorsports co-exist in the same house? 
 
There are more questions than answers here. While history tells us that RFR never stays down for long, one must wonder if a turbulent year lies ahead.
 
 
7. Richard Childress Racing
Contrary to popular belief, the name on the marquee hasn’t changed to “Dillon Childress Racing.” But all signs point in that direction for 2014 and beyond, right? Owner Richard Childress, still dealing with the fact that Kevin Harvick will depart for Stewart-Haas Racing at season’s end, must right the ship after an underachieving 2012 with an eye on the suddenly foggy future.
 
RCR’s Cup Series lineup now consists of a “lame duck” in Harvick, a perplexingly underperforming Jeff Burton and daddy-supported Paul Menard. Down in Nationwide, a departing Elliott Sadler has been replaced by family-supported Brian Scott, teamed with grandson Austin Dillon, while a third car may serve as GoDaddy darling Danica Patrick’s ride in 8-to-10 races. In the Truck Series, younger grandson Ty Dillon continues his learning process while Joey Coulter leaves. Who pops in? Brendan Gaughan, known more for his father’s casinos than NASCAR success.
 
See where we’re going here? Outside funding, from family-supported drivers, helps RCR keep up with the ­Joneses, providing a place to race while eliminating the jealousy/threats that may result from a focus on the Dillon boys. Pretty smart, actually. 
 
Perhaps that’s why Harvick ran for the door — his problems with patience, combined with the difficulty of a “lame duck” status, make him unlikely to lead this team to success. Of the three drivers in Cup, Burton may have the best chance to make the Chase, handed “golden wrench” Luke Lambert, whose presence at the No. 31 car provides a spark. But when your top dog is a 45-year-old veteran, clearly past his prime … well, those Dillon boys can’t use that extra cash to conquer the minors and make it to the Cup level fast enough.
 
 
8. Earnhardt Ganassi Racing
Talk about the Odd Couple. In this corner, we have a former Daytona 500 winner who is as well liked by his peers on the track as he is personable off it. And in this corner, we have a former Indy 500 winner who continues to make waves on the track with fellow competitors and can be a bit frosty off it.
 
Such is life at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, where Goldilocks needs to show both Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya the NASCAR formula of racing “just right.” That’s something both have to relearn after running the entire schedule without a top-5 finish, virtually unheard of for a program with this kind of big-time sponsorship money (Target, McDonald’s).
 
What can make it better? Last year, Ganassi made sweeping personnel changes — though none in the driver lineup — and it made things worse. So what do you do if you’re not going to make any changes behind the wheel?
 
If you have an answer, write in, because then you could be working for Mr. Ganassi. That’s how bad the NASCAR side has gotten despite an open-wheel juggernaut on the other side of the shop that’s bound to continue for the rest of this decade.
 
 
9. Richard Petty Motorsports
It’s hard to believe it’s now been 20 years since Richard Petty last drove in the Cup Series. Turning 76 years old in 2013, NASCAR’s “King” continues to search for sustained success from the famed No. 43. Aric Almirola came close once last season, when a miracle Kansas performance was derailed by a few flat tires. Can the longtime prospect turn potential into reality? The answer may come with how much Ford, along with RPM investors, chooses to market Petty’s name rather than spend the money needed to land the company in Victory Lane. When your top driver, Marcos Ambrose, is threatening to leave the country and head back to Australia rather than re-sign, there’s a perception that the team can only go so far. When a manufacturer, in Dodge, sees the Petty name and still scoffs, then leaves the sport entirely, there’s an impression that funding is more limited than you think.
 
Something — a lucky break, a sponsor signing, expansion — has to happen here to get this train to leave the station.

 


 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 

 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the Best Teams in NASCAR for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 19:26
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/nascar-2013-nationwide-series-preview
Body:

Heading into 2013, the Nationwide Series hopes to continue building momentum without some of its signature stars. Despite losing perhaps its two most notable drivers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick, to the Cup Series, a quality consolation prize for NASCAR’s second-tier division is the fact that there are new up-and-comers to market.
 
Prior to the 2011 season, the sanctioning body began requiring drivers to declare one series in which they would receive driver points. It was an effort to rein in the “Cupwhackers” from NASCAR’s top series who would drop down on Saturday to “practice” through domination. From 2005 through 2010, these moonlighters won most of the races and controlled the second series’ championship chase. 
 
Not anymore. Stenhouse Jr. won the title in 2011, with the new requirements in place, but 2012 was the season that truly saw a shift back towards series regulars. Without a single Cup driver running full-time, Stenhouse repeated the championship last year and would have done so without the new rules. More importantly, he and fellow regulars like Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon and Justin Allgaier dominated the win column, capturing 13 victories among them. That’s the most for the full-time, Nationwide-only contingent in eight years. 
 
Without the lure of a championship and the sponsorship constraints that come with it, Cup drivers no longer overrun the series, although they still participate enough to allow NASCAR and the tracks to use their presence to promote races. Against what seemed like long odds, the Nationwide Series is getting a chance to build its own personality and stars, with ratings that held steady year-to-year despite NASCAR’s Nielsen decline in Cup.
 
Looking to 2013, the “new face” of this division is beginning to resemble the perfect mix of young and old. When Cup drivers held the majority of competitive seats, development drivers either ended up with lower-tier teams or nowhere at all. Now, drivers like Dillon, Regan Smith, Trevor Bayne and Brian Vickers find themselves as legitimate championship contenders. Others, like James Buescher, Parker Kligerman, Ryan Truex, Ryan Blaney, and Darrell Wallace Jr., have opportunities to build solid résumés in the sport. They’ll race alongside veterans like Sadler, Mike Wallace and Joe Nemechek in 2013, gaining quality experience that’ll teach the young drivers the ropes.
 
What’s encouraging is that drivers are willing to stay for longer than just one full season — and the owners are happy to keep them there. Stenhouse and Patrick just wrapped up three-year stints; Cup hopefuls Allgaier and Michael Annett are starting season five. Once again, these young talents, especially when linked to Cup owners, are spending a meaningful amount of time in the second-tier series before making the leap. And when they leave, like in the case of Stenhouse, the opportunities remain for talented replacements. Bayne will run for Roush Fenway in 2013, while Dillon’s ride will go to brother Ty when he moves up to the Cup Series in 2014.
 
But while the series may be headed in the right direction, plenty of obstacles remain. This season, 27 of the 33 NNS races will be run as companion events to the Cup Series. Only Iowa (two events), Road America and Mid-Ohio remain as venues where the “big boys” never run, with the other standalone races taking place at Cup intermediates Chicago and Kentucky.
 
Yes, companion events have benefits. They offer fans coming to the track the ability to get the most racing action out of the weekend, and the tracks can offer package deals in an effort to sell more tickets and get otherwise uninterested fans hooked on young Saturday stars. 
 
But six standalones are simply not enough for a series attempting valiantly to stand on its own. Racing “away from Cup” more would allow the series to further build its own identity and fan base. The races most fans seem to remember (and clamor for) are ones that were run at places like O’Reilly Raceway Park or South Boston — smaller, unique short tracks that provided the best action. For years, these venues were the home of what was then known as the Busch Series.
 
Since then, the conversation has centered on empty stands and switches to larger tracks, like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that haven’t exactly attracted a larger audience. The Nationwide Series is now racing mostly at places built to seat Cup crowds. Realistically, the second series does not need to race exclusively at tracks that hold 70,000-plus fans when a sensible draw for an NNS event is less than half that number.
 
Of course, the key for an exclusive return to those quaint facilities is money. Renovations, including SAFER barriers, pit improvements and accommodations, on top of a $750,000 sanctioning fee, make staging events at smaller tracks more difficult in modern times. Perhaps NASCAR needs to take a more realistic look at the economics of attendance, ticket prices, purses, and sanctioning fees and adjust accordingly.
 
Economics remains a challenging subject for NASCAR. Purse reductions in the Nationwide Series continue to plague the smaller teams; so many of them start-and-parked in 2012 that the field size was reduced to 40 out of necessity. That will help the final payouts slightly, but the major-league expenses remain exorbitant for what is, at times, a league comparable to Triple-A baseball. The economy has still not recovered to the point that companies are clamoring to spend big bucks on team sponsorship in Cup, let alone the $6-$8 million that a top Nationwide team can command. NASCAR is fighting a two-pronged war, as attendance and ratings continue to decline, so controlling costs in its lower divisions has become a primary concern.
 
Still, the Nationwide Series offers a good option for companies looking to get exposure on a smaller budget. Cup teams have had to move to a new model of multiple primary sponsors, a strategy expected to trickle its way down. From a sponsorship standpoint, backing off the Cup drivers was a risk given their name value, but this shift in success back to the youngsters should get cash flowing again.
 
As a whole, though, the NASCAR Nationwide Series looks to be pointed in a positive direction for the future, and it’s primed for an amazing championship battle ahead. Anyone from Dillon to Sadler to Smith to Vickers could win the title. In the past, names like Kevin Harvick or Carl Edwards would dominate, and most fans could be better served falling asleep.
 
It may not show it in the stands quite yet, but that’s progress.
 
—By Toni Montgomery
 

 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 

 

Teaser:
<p> A look ahead at the exciting NASCAR season.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 16:53
Path: /nfl/10-most-athletic-freaks-nfl-combine-history
Body:

The NFL Scouting Combine (Feb. 20-26) is just one step in the job interview process leading up to the NFL Draft (April 25-27). But the “Underwear Olympics” is a big deal. Millions of dollars are on the line during the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical leap, broad jump, cone drills, Wonderlic and BOD Pod tests.

Here’s a look at 10 workout warriors who aced their tests at the Combine.



1. Bo Jackson, RB, Auburn – 1986
The two-sport tall tale weighed in at a chiseled 6’1”, 230 pounds before running an unofficial hand-timed 4.12 in the 40-yard dash — a jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring effort that is still a part of Combine folklore.


2. Tony Mandarich, OT, Michigan State – 1989
In hindsight, the most impressive thing the “Incredible Bulk” did was pass his steroid drug screening during the Combine. At 304 pounds, Mandarich ran a 4.65 in the 40, exploded for a 30” vertical and 10’3” broad jump, and ripped off 39 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.


3. Vernon Davis, TE, Maryland – 2006
Davis looked like a body builder or, at the very least, an actor from an Under Armour commercial en route to running a 4.38 in the 40, skying for a 42” vertical, 10’8” broad, and slamming 33 reps on the bench press.


4. Mike Mamula, LB, Boston College – 1995
After all these years, Mamula remains the go-to cautionary tale of the Combine. The BC beast vaulted up draft boards after a 4.58 in the 40, 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench, a 38” vertical and a 49-of-50 on the Wonderlic Test. Mamula never looked as good in pads as he did in shorts.

 


5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – 2012
The fastest quarterback in Combine history, RG3 was a track star on the fast track to NFL and commercial superstardom — with a blistering 4.41 in the 40-yard dash to go along with a dunk contest-worthy 39” vertical.


6. Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina – 2008
Before he became CJ2K, the gold-grilled CJ4.24 was the gold standard official record-holder in laser-timed 40-yard sprints, posting a 4.24 and hitting the first-round finish line in-stride. CJ has not, however, been able to set up a race against Usain Bolt.


7. Deion Sanders, CB, Florida State – 1989
The ultimate showman (and show-boater), Deion showed up fashionably late (and probably fashionably loud) to the Combine, then ran his 40-yard dash only once — in a time between 4.19 and 4.29, depending on whose hand-timed stop watch you trust. But Prime Time didn’t stop running once he hit the finish line; Sanders ran out of the building to a limousine waiting to take him to the airport.


8. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech – 2007
With his draft stock holding strong near the top of the class, Johnson planned on kicking back and watching the festivities. But once the fireworks started, Megatron’s competitive juices started flowing and he decided he wanted to run after all. The only problem? He didn’t bring any track shoes. So Johnson borrowed a pair of spikes from East Carolina’s James Pinkney — then proceeded to run a blistering 4.32 in the 40.

 


9. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin – 2011
In hindsight, the numbers that Watt put up at the Combine were a window into his dominant Defensive Player of the Year future. At 6’5”, 290 pounds with 11 1/8” hands and 34” arms, Watt ran a 4.84 in the 40, soared for a 37” vertical and 10’ broad jump, and threw up a long-armed 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.


10. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State – 2008
One of the main reasons teams remain skeptical of off-the-charts Combine stats, Gholston was the classic “look like Tarzan, play like Jane.” In shorts and a muscle shirt, Gholston ran a 4.67 in the 40, had 37 reps on the bench and lifted off for a 35.5” vertical and 10.5” broad jump.
 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Most Athletic Freaks in NFL Combine History, including Bo Jackson, Tony Mandarich, Vernon Davis, Mike Mamula, Robert Griffin III, Chris Johnson, Deion Sanders, Calvin Johnson, J.J. Watt and Vernon Gholston.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 13:30
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-9-ucla-bruins
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Jim Mora got his tenure at UCLA kick-started with a great season on the field, nearly winning a conference championship. He parlayed it into the Pac-12's No. 1-rated recruiting class, dethroning the USC Trojans from their typical perch.

No. 9: UCLA Bruins

Pac-12: First
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
3
National Signees: 10
Total Signees: 24

Where They Got 'Em:

Jim Mora didn't over-think his first full recruiting class at UCLA. He targeted the best states for talent in the nation, by landing 13 players from California, three from Texas and two from Florida. Otherwise, he picked and chose his way through a handful of other states for elite players. He landed a nationally rated player from Arizona, Washington, Hawaii and Tennessee as well. In all, the Bruins used seven states to sign 24 new players.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The back seven of the defense got the most attention in the Bruins' 2013 haul. Nine new faces will play defensive back or linebacker for Mora and seven of them are nationally rated in the AC100 rankings. Star top 100 safeties Priest Willis and Tahaan Goodman, as well as Tyler Foreman, form one of the most impressive safety classes anywhere in the nation. Johnny Johnson is the lone cornerback of the group as all four defensive backs are four-star recruits.

Three of the five linebackers are highly touted as well with Isaac Savaiinaea, Myles Jack and Deon Hollins Jr. the highest-rated of the bunch. All three bring great height (6-3, 6-3, 6-2) and excellent size (230, 230, 222) to campus with them. Interestingly enough, all three hail from outside of California. Jayon Brown and Cameron Judge are smaller, quicker players who likely fit perfectly on the outside. This is a balanced and talented linebacking class.

A pair of defensive lineman, including top-rated Kylie Fitts, gives Mora a couple more bodies to help the deep group that is already returning to Westwood.

On offense, the line of scrimmage was clearly the area of focus. UCLA didn't sign a running back, picked up just one tight end and only one quarterback signed with the Bruins. Yet, seven offensive lineman inked scholarships with UCLA. Only Christian Morris is rated nationally and he comes to the West Coast all the way from Memphis, Tenn., but overall this group is extremely deep and helps rebuild an area of the team that has been a major concern under previous regimes. Morris will battle with Poasi Moala and Kenny Lacy at the tackle position. Caleb Benenoch, John Lopez and Alex Redmond will compete at guard while Scott Quessenberry appears to be the next starting center. This is an excellent group that has tremendous balance.

Quarterback Asiantii Woulard could be the star of this class, however, once this group begins to contribute on the field. Coming to UCLA all the way from Florida, the talented dual-threat player wanted to play in the UCLA scheme Brett Hundley made successful last fall. He can do everything this offense asks of its quarterbacks and he could be the heir apparent to Mr. Hundley.

A trio of unranked wide receivers signed in this class as well. Early enrollee Eldridge Massington (6-3, 205) brings a big frame and outside, vertical ability while the smaller Darren Andrews and Jalen Ortiz will fill the slot roles in the near future.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 0, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 7
Defense: DL: 2, LB: 5, DB: 4, P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
39. Priest Willis DB No. Tempe, Ariz. 6-2 200
65. Tahaan Goodman DB No. Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. 6-2 190
93. Isaac Savaiinaea LB No. Honolulu, Hawaii 6-3 230
103. Kylie Fitts DL No. Redlands, Calif. 5-11 180
137. Myles Jack LB No. Bellevue, Wash. 6-3 230
147. Johnny Johnson DB No. Fresno, Calif. 5-10 180
152. Asiantii Woulard QB No. Winter Park, Fla. 6-3 205
169. Tyler Foreman DB No. Encino, Calif. 6-2 190
178. Deon Hollins Jr LB No. Missouri City, Texas 6-2 222
207. Christian Morris OL No. Memphis, Tenn. 6-6 285

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Eldridge Massington WR Mesquite, Texas 6-3 205 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 9: UCLA Bruins</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /nascar/7-and-coming-drivers-every-nascar-fan-should-know
Body:

Newly crowned Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski admits that he’s caught himself admiring NASCAR’s next generation of racers.

“They’re almost as good as I am, if not better right now,” he says.

It’s not just one or two drivers catching his eye but several, ranging from teenagers to those in their early 20s. They’re winning races, capturing championships and setting records — taking advantage of opportunities previous classes did not receive.

When the economy tanked a few years ago, many teams ditched driver development programs or altered them drastically. It left young racers with few avenues to reach the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The result was a string of forgettable Sprint Cup Rookies of the Year — Stephen Leicht, Andy Lally and Kevin Conway — who combined for two top-20 finishes the past three years.

Today’s young drivers race toward the front in their divisions and show they deserve good rides. As Cup drivers age — one-third of this year’s 12-man Chase featured drivers 40 and older — these younger drivers are positioning themselves to be the sport’s future. 

“I’ve been in this sport long enough to see Lee Petty, Junior Johnson, that whole group of guys, Joe Weatherly, hand the torch over to Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, David Pearson,” car owner Richard Childress says. “Now you’ve got Jeff Gordon, (Kevin) Harvick, Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. This group is getting up (in age and) some day they’ll hand it over to the Stenhouses and hopefully the Dillons and Blaneys. We’ve got a great group of young talent coming up.”

This could be the dawn of a new era. With so many to choose from, here are seven young drivers to watch in the coming years along with evaluations from David Smith, editor-in-chief of Motorsports Analytics, a site that offers analysis and commentary on drivers in numerous series.

KYLE LARSON, 20, ELK GROVE, CALIF.

Jeff Gordon is among many watching the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion — who won the title in his first full year racing stock cars.

“He’s very talented,” says Gordon, who has texted Larson after races. “To be able to win the K&N East Series against the talent that is out there with as limited amount of experience as he has in a full-bodied stock car says a lot about his talents and skill.”

The 20-year-old Larson, whose background is in sprints and midget cars, scored a 10th-place finish at Kentucky in late June in his Camping World Truck Series debut. He followed it with two more top-10 finishes and was running in the top 5 at Homestead when an aggressive move late in the race led to a crash.

Larson, a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, has run more than 200 races in various series the past two years. That experience helped him transition to stock cars. 

“I’ve been racing open-wheelers, so many different types of open-wheel cars, I think it really helped me become versatile because I jump in different cars each and every night it seems like, so I can adapt pretty quickly,” Larson says.

He notes that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is working on plans for his 2013 schedule. Expect to see him in more Truck races and also Nationwide events.

David Smith says: “Kyle has talent in spades. This year in K&N East he ranked second in Pro Series East PEER (4.500). Usually it’s a really big hurdle going from open wheel to stock car, but he made it look easy. He’s going to start a legacy of crossover kids (from open wheel) that are going to try what he did but just won’t be able to make that transition as quick. He’s got to learn to pace himself and be patient. He has what, theoretically, you can’t teach. He’s got the aggression, natural sense of any kind of race car. He just needs to learn the strategic part of how to go about winning these races in NASCAR.”

 

RYAN BLANEY, 19, HIGH POINT, N.C.

The son of Cup driver Dave Blaney grabbed attention by finishing seventh in his Nationwide debut at Richmond in April. The focus continued throughout the summer as he scored top-10 finishes in limited series appearances. His performance earned him a ride with Brad Keselowski’s Truck Series team beginning in August. 

Blaney rewarded Keselowski by winning at Iowa in September in his third career series start. Blaney also became the youngest driver to win a Truck Series race at age 18 years, eight months and 15 days — eclipsing Kyle Busch’s record (20 years, 18 days) set in 2005 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Dave Blaney admits he wasn’t surprised his son won so quickly.

“I haven’t been surprised at anything that kid has done since he was about 14,” Dave Blaney says. “It seems like, naturally, he can pick things up and just make good decisions. And that eventually helps him be in the hunt for race wins in every series he’s been in.”

Ryan Blaney will run select Nationwide races for Penske Racing in 2013 while also running in the Truck Series for Keselowski’s team.

David Smith says: “Blaney and (Kyle) Larson are the top two prospects. They haven’t fulfilled their destiny in the Nationwide and Truck levels yet, but they could. I would place Blaney ahead of Larson just for the fact that Larson is trying to learn what Blaney already knows. Blaney has the intuition to check out the landscape of the race, understand what his equipment offers him and makes the conscious decision to say, ‘OK, maybe I don’t have the car tonight, but here’s how I’m going to win this race.’ His affinity for patience has translated to the Nationwide Series — he had a Top 15 Efficiency of plus-6.9 percent which allowed him to average finishes better than his average running positions. Based on his PEER he was a fringe contender in both Nationwide (2.038, ranked 16th and higher than Penske Racing counterpart Sam Hornish) and Trucks (2.611, ranked ninth).”

 

JAMES BUESCHER, 22, PLANO, TEXAS

Few could say they had a better year in 2012 than this 22-year-old. He married in January, won the Daytona Nationwide race in February and won four Camping World Truck Series races en route to winning the championship for Turner Motorsports.

He is the second-youngest series champion in the series’ 18-year history, behind only Austin Dillon. 

“This year has been incredible for me,” Buescher said in the offseason. “Being the champion of the Truck Series definitely trumps winning a race at Daytona, but the race at Daytona is still pretty high up there. But it’s been a phenomenal year for my racing career and for my personal life. I just feel really blessed.”

All four of his Truck wins came at 1.5-mile speedways (Kansas, Kentucky, Chicago and Kentucky), and nearly three-quarters of the laps he led (505) were on 1.5-mile speedways.

Buescher also ran 20 Nationwide races, with one win and eight top-10 finishes. He’ll return to Turner Motorsports in 2013.

David Smith says: “The reigning Truck Series titlist was a bit of a one-trick pony in 2012, scoring all four of his wins on 1.5-mile soft intermediate tracks. While worse drivers have made careers out of being adept at one specific track, Buescher, who ranked sixth in the series in PEER (2.886), still has time to improve on short tracks and the 1.5-mile quad-oval facilities that are visited more frequently in the Cup Series.”

 

DYLAN KWASNIEWSKI, 17, LAS VEGAS, NEV.

He was the youngest winner in the K&N Pro Series West in 2011 and became its youngest champion last season at age 17.

This high school senior is articulate and engaging, traits that entice sponsors along with his success on the track.

He earned the West title by winning three races and scoring 12 top-5 finishes in 15 races, never finishing outside the top 10 in a series race. In fact, he’s registered only four finishes outside of the top 10 in the West Series in 28 starts. 

His success goes back to the time he was introduced to racing before he was five years old. 

“I just had a true passion for the sport,” Kwasniewski says. “I think my parents saw that there was something. We just furthered my career and then it grew into this.”

His next step is to compete in the K&N Pro Series East division in 2013 for Turner Motorsports.

David Smith says: “Kwasniewski’s rise to the top of NASCAR’s Pro Series West division was meteoric. In 2011, his rookie campaign, he earned a serviceable 1.667 PEER through the first half of the season. In the second half he registered a 3.929 PEER, foreshadowing even more improvement in 2012. Against fields littered with veteran drivers and owners, he won last year’s title with three wins, a 3.8 average finish and a series-best 5.233 PEER. The question you ask is whether he can he come East and do the same thing against a series that is a high competitive jump. I think he can do well, but I think that question does exist. It’s time to see what he can do in a series against kids that are just as good as he is. Can he outthink them? Can he outdrive them?”

 

AUSTIN DILLON, 22, LEWISVILLE, N.C.

The 22-year-old grandson of car owner Richard Childress will attempt to make this year’s Daytona 500. He has climbed NASCAR’s ranks quickly. Dillon was Rookie of the Year in the Truck Series in 2010 and won the series title the following year. He finished third in the points last season in the Nationwide Series, earning Rookie of the Year honors.

At Phoenix in November, he led the rookie meeting for Truck Series drivers.

“It’s pretty cool to go run a rookie meeting and only be 22 years old,” he says. “It’s kind of hard thinking you’re gaining respect from them because they’re the same age. It’s cool that they listened.”

He’ll run a full season of Nationwide again this year along with as many as seven Cup races, including the Daytona 500, for Childress. Dillon is expected to move full-time to Cup in 2014 and very well could bring the No. 3 with him, marking that number’s first return to Cup since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the 2001 Daytona 500.

David Smith says: “I was not a fan of him in the Truck Series just because that No. 3 team was very strong, very consistent, didn’t have many miscues or incorrect setups. This year in the Nationwide Series, now we’re starting to see what Austin has the potential to do. He’s a driver that doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. He earned a 2.879 PEER and two wins (both at Kentucky) in a season of staggering consistency that saw no accident-related exits from races. A second go-round of a full Nationwide slate should conjure visible improvement.”

 

TY DILLON, 20, LEWISVILLE, N.C.

Austin’s younger brother, Ty has shown he is as good as his big bro. Ty, 20, won Rookie of the Year honors in the Camping World Truck Series, finishing fourth in the points with one win and 17 top-10 finishes in 22 starts in 2012. He also ran in three Nationwide races, finishing in the top 10 in each of them, including a third-place result at Indianapolis.

“I couldn’t really ask for much more besides a championship in our rookie year,” he said after the season finale at Homestead.

Just like his brother, he’s followed a path set by grandfather Richard Childress that has put him in a position to succeed. He’ll run again in the Truck Series in 2013 with plans to participate in select Nationwide races and one Cup race before a planned move full-time to the Nationwide Series in 2014.

David Smith says: “I like Ty. He didn’t come away the champion, but Dillon had an impressive rookie season in the Truck Series. A strong showing in his maiden voyage at Martinsville and beating Kyle Busch to the finish line in a spectacular mano-a-mano battle at Atlanta were two of his more brilliant flashes. There’s room for improvement in 2013 — he ranked just 15th in Trucks PEER (2.023) and was an above-average crasher (seven times in 22 races).”

 

COREY LaJOIE, 21, CONCORD, N.C.

The son of two-time Nationwide Series champion Randy LaJoie finished second in the 2012 K&N Pro Series East Series despite not having the budget of some other teams. LaJoie won a series-high five races and had 10 top-five finishes in 14 events with his smooth driving style. His results improved greatly compared to 2011 — when he went winless and collected only four top-5 finishes — as he steered clear of trouble. 

The question with LaJoie is whether the 21-year-old can find the funding for a full-time ride in a division above the East Series. If so, keep an eye on him.

David Smith says: “There’s nothing to dislike about LaJoie. Outside of the car, he’s an endearingly outspoken, Chuck Taylor-wearing blue-collar kid. In the car, he demonstrates a savant-like ability to conserve tires, methodically stage passing opportunities and close races. He scored five Pro Series East victories in 2012 and his 4.607 PEER mark bettered Joey Logano’s vaunted East division production rating of 4.462 from 2007. He’s the only full-time guy that did it on a microscopic budget (in 2012), compared to what (Joe Gibbs Racing) had and like what Darrell Wallace Jr. had and what Hendrick (Motorsports) had with Chase Elliott. So what he did was incredible. All that he’s taught himself to do is going to translate to another level.”

—By Dustin Long and David Smith


About MotorsportsAnalytics.com

David Smith is the founder and editor-in-chief of Motorsports Analytics. Smith looks past racing stats like “Wins,” “Tops 5s,” and “Top 10s” to evaluate drivers by taking advanced statistical concepts that he created. His PEER stats (Production in Equal Equipment Rating) are weighted statistics that measure the on-track production of a driver in an “all-equipment-even” scenario (i.e., the best equipment receives the highest handicap). It is constructed using data from past performances.

4.000 and Above = Historic Performance — This driver is attempting to re-write the record books in this particular series. The higher the level of racing, the more rare a 4.000 PEER becomes.

3.999 to 3.000 = Serious Title Contender — This driver is exhibiting the ability to compete for a series championship while producing higher finishes than those with a Fringe Title Contender-level PEER.

2.999 to 2.000 = Fringe Title Contender — This driver is exhibiting the ability to compete for a series championship.

1.999 to 1.000 = Serviceable — This driver can be counted on for an occasional race win in this series.

0.999 and Below = Replacement Level — This driver’s production level in this series can be easily found elsewhere.

Teaser:
<p> 7 Up-And-Coming Drivers Every NASCAR Fan Should Know</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-power-rankings-indiana-michigan-state-square-top-three-matchup
Body:

Another week, another Big Ten showdown with national implications.

With a five-game win streak including last week’s 75-52 rout of Michigan, Michigan State has gone from sneaky Final Four contender to potential No. 1 seed. The Spartans, who moved from No. 9 to No. 3 in our rankings this week, will have their chance to test that in their second meeting with Indiana this season.

On Tuesday, Michigan State will face Indiana for the conference lead in yet another Big Ten game of national significance. The Spartans lost to Indiana 75-70 on Jan. 27 in Bloomington.

Beyond Michigan State and Indiana tied for Big Ten supremacy, other conference races were shook up by last week's action: Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are tied for the Big 12 lead. Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette are in their own three-way tie in the Big East.

Elsewhere in this week’s power rankings, two Atlantic 10 teams entered the top 25 with VCU at No. 23 and Saint Louis in No. 24. Both have a chance to strengthen their cases when they meet Tuesday. Saint Louis also visits Butler this week.

Related: Key stats from Feb. 11-17

COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS: FEB. 19

1. Indiana (23-3, 11-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 1
Last week’s results: Defeated Nebraska 76-47, defeated Purdue 83-55
This week: at Michigan State
Buzz: The Hoosiers swept rival Purdue by a combined 65 points this season.

2. Miami (21-3, 12-0 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 3
Last week’s results: Defeated Florida State 74-68, defeated Clemson 45-43
This week: Virginia, at Wake Forest
Buzz: The Hurricanes eked past Clemson on Sunday night to extend winning streak to 13 games. 

3. Michigan State (22-4, 11-2 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 9
Last week’s results: Defeated Michigan 75-52, defeated Nebraska 73-64
This week: Indiana, at Ohio State
Buzz: The surging Spartans can start thinking about a No. 1 seed.

4. Michigan (22-4, 9-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 2
Last week’s results: Lost to Michigan State 72-52, defeated Penn State 79-71
This week: Illinois
Buzz: Trey Burke is averaging 7.0 assists and only 1.9 turnovers per game.

5. Florida (21-3, 11-1 SEC)
Last week’s rank: 8
Last week’s results: Defeated Kentucky 69-52, defeated Auburn 83-52
This week: at Missouri, Arkansas
Buzz: The Gators’ closest SEC win? By 14 points over Ole Miss.

6. Gonzaga (25-2, 12-0 West Coast Conference)
Last week’s rank: 7
Last week’s results: Defeated Saint Mary’s 77-60, defeated San Francisco 71-61
This week: Santa Clara, San Diego
Buzz: Gonzaga emerges from week on the road with nation-leading 25 wins.

7. Syracuse (21-4, 9-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 5
Last week’s results: Lost to Connecticut 66-58, defeated Seton Hall 76-65
This week: Providence, Georgetown
Buzz: The Orange rank 239th in nation in 3-point shooting (32.3 percent).

8. Duke (22-3, 9-3 ACC)
Last week’s rank: 4
Last week’s results: Defeated North Carolina 73-68, lost to Maryland 83-81
This week: at Virginia Tech, Boston College
Buzz: Maryland shot 60 percent from the floor in win over Duke.

9. Kansas (21-4, 9-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 10
Last week’s results: Defeated Texas 73-47
This week: at Oklahoma State, TCU
Buzz: Redemption week upcoming for Kansas, but the Big 12 lead is also on the line.

10. Louisville (21-5, 9-4 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 11
Last week’s results: Defeated St. John’s 72-58, defeated USF 59-41
This week: Seton Hall
Buzz: The Cardinals gave up a total of 79 points in two games against USF.

11. Arizona (21-4, 9-4 Pac-12)
Last week’s rank: 6
Last week’s results: Lost to Colorado 71-58, defeated Utah 68-64
This week: Washington, Washington State
Buzz: Wildcats needed win at Utah to snap a two-game losing streak. 

12. Kansas State (21-5, 10-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 12
Last week’s results: Defeated Baylor 81-61, defeated West Virginia 71-61
This week: at Texas
Buzz: Only two Wildcats average more than 8.3 points per game.

13. Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3 Big 12)
Last week’s rank: 16
Last week’s results: Defeated Texas Tech 91-67, defeated Oklahoma 84-79 (OT)
This week: Kansas, at West Virginia
Buzz: Marcus Smart is thriving in a leading role as a freshman.

14. Georgetown (19-4, 9-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 17
Last week’s results: Defeated Cincinnati 62-55
This week: DePaul, at Syracuse
Buzz: The surprising Hoyas move into a three-way tie for first in the Big East.

15. Marquette (18-6, 9-3 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 20
Last week’s results: Defeated Pittsburgh 79-69
This week: at Seton Hall, at Villanova
Buzz: The Eagles improved to 14–0 at home with win over Pitt.

16. Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 18
Last week’s results: Lost to Minnesota 58-53 (OT), defeated Ohio State 71-49
This week: at Northwestern
Buzz: Closing Big Ten schedule favors Wisconsin.

17. Ohio State (18-7, 8-5 Big Ten)
Last week’s rank: 13
Last week’s results: Defeated Northwestern 69-69, lost to Wisconsin 71-49
This week: Minnesota, Michigan State
Buzz: The Buckeyes’ 49 points against Wisconsin was a season low.

18. Butler (21-5, 8-3 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: 15
Last week’s results: Lost to Charlotte 71-67, defeated Fordham 68-63
This week: Duquesne, Saint Louis
Buzz: Bulldogs are one game back in the chase for the A-10 title.

19. Colorado State (21-4, 8-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 22
Last week’s results: Defeated San Diego State 66-60, defeated Air Force 89-86
This week: at UNLV, New Mexico
Buzz: This could be a make-or-break week for Colorado State’s goals of winning the Mountain West

20. Pittsburgh (20-7, 8-6 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 14
Last week’s results: Lost to Marquette 79-69, lost to Notre Dame 51-42
This week: at St. John’s
Buzz: The Panthers' hot streak has come to a halt, but the remaining schedule isn't daunting.

21. Memphis (22-3, 11-0 Conference USA)
Last week’s rank: 24
Last week’s results: Defeated UCF 93- 71, defeated Marshall 71-59
This week: Houston, Southern Miss
Buzz: The Tigers’ C-USA’s foes are shooting only 40.8 percent on two-pointers. 

22. New Mexico (21-4, 9-2 Mountain West)
Last week’s rank: 21
Last week’s results: Defeated Fresno State 54-48, defeated Boise State 60-50
This week: at Colorado State
Buzz: The Lobos are getting it done on the defensive end.

23. VCU (21-5, 9-2 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated UMass 86-88, defeated George Washington 84-57
This week: at Saint Louis, at Xavier
Buzz: The Rams steal the ball on 17.7 percent of opponents’ possessions.

24. Saint Louis (19-5, 8-2 Atlantic 10)
Last week’s rank: NR
Last week’s results: Defeated Charlotte 75-58
This week: VCU, Butler
Buzz: Billikens are riding a seven-game winning streak ahead of huge week against VCU and Butler.

25. Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5 Big East)
Last week’s rank: 19
Last week’s results: Defeated DePaul 82-78 (OT), lost to Providence 71-54, defeated Pittsburgh 51-42
This week: Cincinnati
Buzz: Notre Dame started 1 of 19 from the field but still managed to beat Pitt on Monday night.

Out: No. 23 Cincinnati, No. 25 San Diego State

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Power Rankings: Indiana, Michigan State square for top three matchup</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/why-are-mlb-players-striking-out-more-ever
Body:

Brian Cashman called it a “perfect storm.” CC Sabathia said it was “embarrassing.” The New York tabloids weren’t as kind: "Dear Yankees, We don’t date losers! Signed New Yorkers" read the back of the New York Post.

Detroit’s sweep of the Yankees in the 2012 ALCS was a complete domination. The Tigers never trailed during the series, and their combined 19–6 run differential was an indication of New York’s incompetence. The Yankees batted a mere .157 in the series, and they struck out a whopping 36 times, or on one-third of their outs. At times, it appeared as if the New York hitters had never faced big-league pitching before.

“When you get into a short series, you say, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’” says Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones. “If you execute it, you win. If you don’t, and you make poor pitches, you won’t win.”

While many love to deliver swift boots to the collective posterior of the Yankees when they are laid low, their fan-tastic performance against the Tigers wasn’t so unusual in the context of the 2012 season. First off, Detroit pitchers ranked fifth among all MLB clubs in strikeouts. But more importantly, the ’12 season was historic throughout baseball for whiffing. 

Six major league clubs fanned at least 1,300 times last season. That’s three more clubs than the previous high for aggregate plate futility and one more than the total number from baseball’s beginning through the 2006 season. Another 12 teams struck out at least 1,200 times, four more than the previous record. In other words, a full 60 percent of teams whiffed 1,200 or more times last year, establishing a new high (or, if you prefer, low) for swing-and-miss futility. The Yankees’ fruitless pursuit of Tiger pitching was merely a high-profile example of the culture that has taken over major league baseball.

“There are definitely more ‘guess’ hitters in the game than there used to be,” Jones says. “You have guys looking for a certain pitch. If they don’t get it, they can look bad swinging.”

To give an idea of how profound this increase in useless at bats has become, consider that before 2001, no team had ever struck out 1,300 times in a single season. Before 1996, only one squad ever fanned 1,200 times. That distinction belongs to the 1968 Mets, who struck out 1,203 times. But they played 163 games that year, and after the season, Major League Baseball decided to lower the mound six inches. Back in 1978, the leader in strikeouts, Cincinnati, had only 899. Many of today’s teams have that many well before August is over. Contrast that with 1928, when the Yankees whiffed only 553 times in 154 games. 

There are plenty of reasons why K is becoming baseball’s favorite letter. Jones’ theory on hitters’ guessing makes perfect sense. So does the fact that pitchers’ velocities are increasing, as is the menagerie of “out” pitches they are learning at earlier levels of baseball. The growing specialization of staffs allows managers to create matchups that are to their teams’ advantages. And the amount of information available to teams about hitters’ tendencies allows them to create scouting reports and battle plans that are more effective. Just ask the Yankees about that. 

There’s one other, more philosophical cause at work, at least according to Padres’ hitting coach Phil Plantier. He cites what he refers to as “the live ball era” as having an impact on hitters as they grow into big-league players. That’s his euphemism for the steroid era, when homers rained down upon bleacher bums all over the game. As youngsters watched their pumped-up heroes cranking out 50 homers — and more — each season, they developed habits that might produce long balls but could also lead to high strikeout totals. For instance, in 1996, just two years after the MLB strike and the first season during which Mark McGwire hit more than 50 home runs (52), eight teams whiffed 1,100 times or more — an all-time high. From there, the strikeout totals have climbed steadily to 2012’s peak.

“The past generation of players just went through an unrealistic baseline expectation of hitters,” Plantier says. “If you look at trends of hitters prior to the ‘live ball’ era, it’s probably more indicative of where the game will go back. But it’s taking some time.”

Back in 1987, when Plantier reported to Elmira, N.Y., for his first minor league stint, he didn’t find an army of coaches ready to mold him on his first step to the majors. The club didn’t even have a weight room. 

“We had a manager, and he did everything,” Plantier says.

Today, teams have too much money invested in players to leave it all to one person. There are hitting coaches, strength coaches and pitching coaches at every stop along the developmental chain. Not everyone is going to make it to the big time, but teams aren’t taking any chances on missing a potential major leaguer. 

They also aren’t going about accumulating prospects the same way, especially on the mound. The process by which teams scout and ultimately select young pitchers has been altered since the days when Plantier was making his baseball journey.

“It all starts at the beginning,” he says. “Scouts are identifying athletes now as pitchers and have been for the last generation. Before, the majority of pitchers were non-athletes with good arms. Now, they’re getting better quality athletes on the mound.”

According to Plantier, the more athletic a pitcher is, the higher his ceiling might be. Now, no one can be certain whether Walter Johnson or Sandy Koufax would have fared well in the decathlon, but many of today’s pitchers are more accomplished athletically. They are also bigger and stronger. It’s become rare when a team spends a high draft choice — or in some cases any draft choices — on pitchers who aren’t at least 6'0". It’s hard to imagine someone like 5'11" Ron Guidry or 5'6" Bobby Shantz, who was once blown off the mound during a game, getting a second look today. When exposed to the intense training and instruction teams provide from rookie ball on up, they can develop into better pitchers — even if they don’t have the liveliest arms. 

“At the lower levels, organizations are developing pitchers better, and they are teaching them how to become strikeout pitchers,” Plantier says.

A lot of those strikeout pitchers are succeeding with fastballs that get into the 90s consistently. Brewers’ hitting coach Jerry Narron was once a special assignment scout for Texas, and he was with Josh Hamilton in 2009 when Hamilton did a rehab stint in the minors after surgery to repair an abdominal tear. He noticed right away the vast differences between the caliber of pitching at the Triple-A level and the majors, a big reason why many younger players struggle to make contact.

“It’s not only the starters but the relievers who throw hard,” Narron says. “Everybody out of the pen seems to throw in the mid-90s, and at the back end of the pen, they’re throwing in the upper 90s. The velocity across the board jumps off the page.”

Jones agrees. “It seems like every guy is throwing 95 now,” he says.

Narron says teams’ obsessions with pitch counts have contributed to rising strikeout totals as well — and not just because those hard-throwing relievers are ready to throw smoke and overpower pitchers in favorable lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchups.

“Starters can afford to be more assertive,” Narron says. “They’re only going to pitch five, six or seven innings.”

The amount of information available gives pitchers advantages, too. Most MLB clubs, including the Tigers, look at what hitters’ tendencies are in every possible count. They feed pitchers information that allows them to know who is looking for fastballs early, who is less likely to be more careful with two strikes, and of course, who struggles with breaking balls.

“When guys are aggressive early in the count, they are people you can exploit by going out of the strike zone,” Jones says. “We know how aggressive guys are late in the count and how aggressive they are with men on base.”

It’s not guaranteed that a pitcher armed with that information is going to be successful, but if he makes pitches according to the plan, it’s more likely he will have an advantage. Detroit pitcher Doug Fister is known for throwing strikes early and often — he walked only 37 batters in 161.2 innings last year. So, hitters will often go up in the first few innings of a game hoping to get something to hit right away. If they are aggressive and making outs, Fister stays with his original program. But if they are hitting him, he has to change.

“They’ve made their adjustments, so we have to adjust,” Jones says.

It’s just not fair, really. Those mean pitchers are bigger and throw faster than ever. They have all sorts of fancy information and knowledge about tendencies and hitters’ weaknesses. Lower the mound! Make it four strikes per out. 

The pitchers are better, but the hitters have a huge responsibility for the rising numbers. One All-Star starter who requested anonymity explains why it’s sometimes easy to pile up the strikeouts. “A lot of guys go up there looking for a certain pitch, and if they don’t get it, they pretty much give up the at-bat,” he says. 

According to Narron, some hitters consider a strikeout “just another out.” Of course, nobody scores from third with fewer than two outs on a K — barring a wild pitch, of course. You can’t move the runner from first to second when you fan. And hitting the ball, even if it’s right at a defender, forces him to make a play and could lead to an error. Narron sure doesn’t think that all outs are the same.

“I don’t believe that,” he says. “There’s a lot you can accomplish with two strikes on you. You want to get something out of an at-bat that’s more than just a zero. The only thing you might get out of a strikeout is pushing the pitcher to eight pitches. That’s okay.”

Hitting coaches speak constantly of having a “plan” or “approach” at the plate. That can apply to a team’s macro philosophy of being aggressive against certain pitchers and careful versus others, and it has micro applications based on various hitters’ strengths and weaknesses. It’s okay to swing at strikes early in the count, provided that’s the way to get after a pitcher. Hitters who just rip away at anything may get on base, but their ultimate success depends on being more opportunistic, especially when the count isn’t in their favor.

“The one thing I stress to hitters is that every at-bat is important,” Narron says. “You just can’t give anything away.” 

That philosophy doesn’t appeal to all hitters, especially power hitters. They believe the home run is the preferred outcome, even if dinger numbers are dropping all over baseball. Slapping a ball to the opposite field with two strikes isn’t as appealing as jacking one into the fourth deck, even if the risk associated with that approach is high. 

Plantier’s Padres were members of the 1,200-strikeout club last year, but he was much happier with his players’ performance at the plate during the season’s second half, once they approached at-bats differently and tried to be more productive each time up.

“We were as big a culprit as there was in the league,” he says of the Padres’ propensity to strike out. “But we started to have better at-bats and improved our contact rate. We made mechanical adjustments and also had better plans at the plate, according to what we needed at that moment in time.”

As 2013 dawns, pitchers have the advantage. They are throwing high-octane fuel at hitters who don’t necessarily care whether they strike out or not, so long as the possibility exists of the magic long ball that made their baseball ancestors stars. 

“You’ve got a lot of power guys who aren’t going to change their swings with two strikes,” Jones says. “They’re still trying to drive the ball to the gaps and over the fence.”

If they strike out, they strike out. For many, it’s not a problem. 

Until the League Championship Series. Then, it’s a problem.

—By Michael Bradley


 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> Examining baseball's growing number of swing-and-miss hitters.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-accs-college-football-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? Today we focus on the ACC.

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in the ACC for 2013

1. Florida State

Pros: You can make the argument that Florida State offers all of the positives of Florida without the brutal competition of the SEC East. Would you rather battle Clemson, NC State and Boston College or Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina every year? 

Cons: Florida State has a nice following, but its fans can be on the fickle side. Last season, when the Seminoles had legitimate national title ambitions, Doak Campbell was “only” filled to 92 percent capacity. Not bad, but not quite up to standards of most programs of similar stature. Also, the ACC has been relatively weak in recent seasons; an undefeated ACC champ might not automatically play for a national title.

Final Verdict: Florida State enjoyed an unbelievable run of success from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. But the Noles lost five games or more three times from 2006-10. Winning is no longer automatic.
 

2. Clemson

Pros: Clemson is an SEC-like school that has the luxury of playing an ACC schedule. The fans are rabid, the stadium is huge (capacity 81,500), and unlike many its ACC brethren, Clemson is a football school.

Cons: Clemson seemingly has so much going for it, yet the program has only won two ACC titles in the past 24 seasons. If you are a coach interested in the job, you’d have ask yourself the following question: Why is this program a chronic underachiever?

Final Analysis: Clemson presents a great opportunity. The program is a major player in the recruiting game, and it has so many built-in advantages compared to almost every school in the league. The Tigers have the ability to compete for the ACC title on an annual basis.
 

3. Virginia Tech

Pros: Virginia Tech has a very strong (and underrated) recruiting base, most notably the Hampton Roads-Tidewater area — better known as the ‘757’ by recruiting gurus. The Hokies also have a passionate fan base that creates a tremendous environment at Lane Stadium.

Cons: The school has only been relevant on the national scene under Frank Beamer’s watch. Can another coach recreate the magic?

Final Verdict: Virginia Tech isn’t quite college football royalty, but it’s not far off. Before last season’s 7–6 hiccup, the Hokies had won at least 10 games in at least eight straight seasons. You can win a national title in Blacksburg.
 

4. Miami

Pros: With the possible exception of USC and UCLA, no school in the country has a better local recruiting base. And while the Canes have struggled in recent years, the program won a national championship as recently as 2001 and played for a title in ’02.

Cons: Miami has the smallest fan base of the top 25 teams on this list. Last season, the Canes ranked 44th in the nation in attendance, averaging 47,719 per game at Sun Life Stadium. The facility is 20 miles from campus and lacks the big-time college football atmosphere.

Final Verdict: Miami is an intriguing job. The recruiting base is outstanding — which gives you a great opportunity to win — but the position lacks many of the other qualities that make coaching at a big-time school so attractive.
 

5. North Carolina

Pros: The school is an easy sell for a recruiter: It’s is one of the premier public institutions in the nation, and its location, in picturesque Chapel Hill, is ideal. UNC has also made a huge financial commitment to football in the past decade.

Cons: North Carolina is — and always will be — a basketball school. That is something that every football coach must accept. And while the school has enjoyed pockets of success, it’s been difficult to win consistently at UNC. Since Mack Brown bolted for Texas after the 1997 season, the Tar Heels have averaged 3.5 ACC wins.

Final Verdict: North Carolina’s lack of success over the years might surprise even a knowledgeable college football fan. The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since 1980 and have not strung together back-to-back winning ACC seasons since the mid-1990s. Still, this is a desirable position for a coach. It’s a great school that has made a strong commitment to the football program.
 

6. Pittsburgh

Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers a solid recruiting base. The school also shares its football facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers — which can be a positive (NFL influence) or negative (no on-campus stadium).

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Pitt over the past three decades. The Panthers have only had a winning record in 14 of the 29 seasons since Jackie Sherrill bolted.

Final Verdict: Former coach Dave Wannstedt proved that you can attract talent to play at Pittsburgh. But it’s a school with a ceiling. The Panthers should consistently win seven or eight games per season, but can you win a national title? Not likely.
 

7. North Carolina State

Pros: The facilities at NC State are among the finest in the ACC. The spectacular Murphy Center, a football-only building, houses coaches’ offices, the weight room and dining area for the players, among other things. The school’s recruiting base, the Carolinas and Virginia, is strong.

Cons: The school doesn’t have a strong record of success. NC State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has had only seven winning league seasons since 1990.

Final Verdict: This program has underachieved over the past decade. Everything is in place — facilities, fan support, recruiting base — to be a consistent winner in the ACC. 
 

8. Virginia

Pros: Virginia is great school in a great college town, and the state consistently produces a high number of BCS level recruits.

Cons: The school has a surprisingly bad track record in football. George Welsh had a nice run in the 1980s and 90s, but other than that, the Cavaliers have had a tough time fielding a consistently competitive program. UVa has won a total of two championships (both shared) in its 56 years in the ACC. Recruiting can also be tough at Virginia, based on the school’s relatively tough academic standards.

Final Verdict: This school should be able to be consistently competitive in the ACC. Other than its lack of tradition, everything is seemingly in place to elevate the profile of this program. 
 

9. Georgia Tech

Pros: Georgia is annually one of the top talent-producing states in the nation, giving the Yellow Jackets’ staff an opportunity to land quality recruiting classes despite the fact that the University of Georgia is the top Dawg in the state. Tech has also proven over time that it can win consistently in the ACC; the Jackets have been .500 or better in league play in 19 straight seasons.

Cons: Georgia Tech will always be the second most popular program in its own city, which is probably more of a problem for the school’s fans than its players and coaches. The male-to-female ratio (about 2-to-1) at the school can’t help recruiting, either.

Final Verdict: Georgia Tech might not come to mind when you think about some of the top programs in the nation, but this is a solid football school with underrated tradition. It’s been proven that you can win titles — both ACC (2009, 1998, 1990) and national (1990). 
 

10. Maryland

Pros: Maryland has enjoyed pockets of success over the last three decades. Bobby Ross won three straight ACC titles from 1983-85 and Ralph Friedgen went a combined 31–8 from 2001-03, and won eight-plus games in 2008 and 2010. And while it isn’t to the Oregon/Nike level, the school’s close ties with UnderArmour is a positive.

Cons: The impending move to the Big Ten will help the school in many ways, but it might have a negative impact on the football program’s recruiting. Maryland isn’t going to beat out many Big Ten schools for prospects from the Midwest, and the school won’t have the same appeal for many players in the Mid-Atlantic Region and Southeast now that the Terps won’t be playing an ACC schedule.

Final Verdict: Maryland is a lower-tier job in the ACC. And it will be a lower-tier job in the Big Ten. You can win games, but it will be very difficult for any coach to compete for championships in the current landscape. 
 

11. Syracuse

Pros: As recently as the early 2000s, Syracuse was a top-25 program. The Orangemen, as they were called then, won nine games or more eight times in a 15-year span from 1987-2001. Doug Marrone had the program headed in the right direction before bolting to the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Cons: The program has been an afterthought in the past decade, with only two winning seasons since 2001. Support has not been good, either. Last year, when the Orange shared the Big East title, the school ranked 61st nationally in attendance (37,853 per game).

Final Verdict: Syracuse is a tough job. It’s tough to lure recruits from the South, specifically Florida, to upstate New York, and there simply aren’t a lot of top-flight prospects in the Northeast.
 

12. Boston College

Pros: Boston College was one of the most consistent programs in the nation from the late 1990s through the late 2000s. The Eagles averaged 8.7 wins from ’99-09 and won one Big East title (2004) and two ACC Atlantic Division titles (2007, ’08). The school’s strong academic reputation will allow it to recruit top students from the Northeast who want to remain close to home.

Cons: As the Northernmost outpost in the ACC, Boston College will always have a difficult time recruiting players from outside its region.

Final Verdict: Once the model of consistency, Boston College has slipped to the bottom of the food chain in the ACC. The Eagles went 15–11 in Frank Spaziani’s first two seasons but won four games in 2011 and two in ’12. First-year coach Steve Addazio will have a tough time returning this program to the top half of the league.
 

13. Wake Forest

Pros: Jim Grobe proved it can be done at Wake Forest.  The Demon Deacons won 11 games and captured the school’s second-ever ACC title in 2006.

Cons: No one has been able to sustain success at Wake Forest. The program has enjoyed three-straight winning seasons only once (from 2006-08) since the early 1950s.

Final Verdict: The overall strength of the ACC academically doesn’t allow Wake Forest, a small private school, to differentiate itself like programs such as Vanderbilt in the SEC, Northwestern in the Big Ten and Stanford in the Pac-12. If a strong student wants to play football in the ACC, there are several attractive options — North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia Tech — that have better overall football programs.
 

14. Duke

Pros: Duke has struggled to compete in football for the majority of the past 40 years, but the schools, consistently ranked among the top-10 in the country academically,  still has a strong national brand.

Cons: The interest in the football program at Duke is not high — and that is being kind. This past season, the Blue Devils went to a bowl game for the first time since 1994 yet only averaged 28,170 fans per game, ranking 79th in the nation. Temple was the only AQ conference school lower on the list.

Final Verdict: David Cutcliffe has made Duke respectable, but it’s hard to envision this program making much of move in the ACC. The lack of tradition and lack of support make Duke football a tough sell to top recruits.   


Related College Football Content

ACC Team Consensus Recruiting Rankings for 2013
College Football's Top 15 Impact JUCO Transfers for 2013

10 True Freshmen Likely to Make an Impact in 2013

Grading College Football's Coaching Hires for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the ACC's College Football Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 06:20
All taxonomy terms: Denny Hamlin, NASCAR
Path: /nascar/twitter-interview-nascar-driver-denny-hamlin
Body:

A certain champion-to-be fired off a now-famous tweet during the 2012 Daytona 500, but long before @keselowski, there was @dennyhamlin. Since he’s still active and engaged on Twitter, we figured the most natural way to conduct an interview with the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry (circa 2013) was through the use of 140-character questions and answers.

Buckle up, as Athlon Sports’ @MattTaliaferro and Joe Gibbs Racing’s @dennyhamlin go for a ride through a Twitter-flavored, all-encompassing Q&A:
 
 
On a more serious note — certainly one that demands more than a 140-character response — Hamlin plays host to the annual Celebrity Pro-Am Jam, a golf tournament that benefits the Denny Hamlin Foundation, an organization that raises awareness and funds for the specific needs of children with cystic fibrosis.
 
In association with Mark Bryan of Hootie and the Blowfish fame, the 2013 Celebrity Pro-Am Jam is a two-day event that will be hosted next fall in Charleston, S.C., and will feature a concert and celebrity golf event with proceeds going to benefit three charitable foundations focused on children and education, including the MUSC Children’s Hospital for Cystic Fibrosis research on behalf of The Denny Hamlin Foundation.
 
Denny, tell us about who will be playing in the Celebrity Pro-Am Jam this year and the musical guests that link the stage to the track.
“It’s too soon to tell who will join us this fall, but all our celebrities and musicians this past event said they can’t wait to come back. We had Darrell and Michael Waltrip, Coach Joe Gibbs, Johnny Damon, Rick Barry, Grant Fuhr, Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and actor Ed Marinaro representing the sports side.  Mark’s musical friends included Edwin McCain, country legend Johnny Lee, Collective Soul’s Ed Roland, Elise Testone (formerly of American Idol) and 14-time Grammy winner Dan Tyminski.”
 
How can fans sign up to attend the event this year?
“We haven’t set dates for the next Pro-Am Jam yet, but visit www.facebook.com/TheProAmJam and www.dennyhamlinfoundation.org for details as they become available in 2013.”
 
The Denny Hamlin Foundation focuses on the needs of children with cystic fibrosis. What drew you to this special need?
“My cousin Kevin Jones is the reason I’m so passionate about finding a cure for cystic fibrosis and the reason we started the Denny Hamlin Foundation. It’s committed to raising awareness and funds for the specific needs of children with cystic fibrosis.”

 
Get all of your favorite racing stats, exclusive interviews and more in our 2013 Athlon Sports NASCAR Racing Preview Magazine, available at newsstands and online now. 

 

Teaser:
<p> We interview the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Camry 140 characters at a time</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/75-funny-fantasy-baseball-team-names
Body:

Pitchers and catchers have reported, the World Baseball Classic is around the corner and fantasy baseball season is nearly here. The weather is heating up and it's time to name your fantasy baseball team. You could always go with one of the classics like Chico's Bail Bonds, Springfield Isotopes, New York Knights or Myrtle Beach Mermen. But you might as well go with one of these 75 funny fantasy baseball team names.

Alabaster Blasters
Bats in the Pelfrey

Better Safe Than Soria

Big League Choo

Big Wang Theory

Bossman Senior
Breaking Badenhop 

Bryce Hyper
Cannot, Cantu

Chen Music

Citizen Cain

Clown Question Bros
Come Sale Away

Cuckoo for Coco Crisp

Cust Out

Davey Johnson’s Tweeter
Depends on Asdrubal

Dick Pole’s Staff

Ethier Said Than Dunn

Fister-Furbush 

G’s Up, Scott Downs

Golden Sombreros
Grand Theft Votto

Griffey Jr.’s Tonic
Hall of Shamers
Hannibal Lester

Harang 'em High

Harper Valley OBP

Hey Upton Upton
High Plains Fister

Honey Nut Ichiro's

Horse walks into Aybar

I’m Rich, Litsch! 

Inglourious Bastardos

Jeter’s Gift Baskets
Jeters Never Prosper 

Joe Maddon Gnomes
Jon Jay Jack Jim Joe

Kimbrels 'n Bits

Latos Intolerant 

Lay down the Lawrie

Less is Morrow
Looking Illegal
Loria’s Lease
Man walks into a Bard

Marcum Eight

Mattingly’s Sideburns
Miami Mortgage
A Mighty Lind

Next of Kinsler

Not at the Table Carlos

Old Hoss’s Beaneaters
Out of Saito

Outfield Fly Rule
PED-co Park
Rusty Trumbo

Sam Above the Fuld


Scratch My Ichiro

Senior Circuit Rascals
Smoak a Swisher
Spitball LOOGYs
Take Maholm Tonight

Talent-less South Beach
The Bourn Supremacy 

The Melky Way

The Price Is Wrong

The Scioscial Network

The Yankee Clippard

Thome Don’t Play That

Triple-Hawpe Brewed

Vin Scully’s Homeboys
Void A-Roid
Yellow Brick Gload

Yoenis Envy
Yu Da Man
Zero Dark Cooperstown

 

Fantasy Baseball Positional Rankings: Big Board | C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | DH | SP | RP

Related Content:
2013 Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Big Board

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Infield

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Outfield

2013 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers and Busts: Starting Pitcher

2013 Fantasy Baseball: Closer Grid

Fantasy Baseball Studs to Avoid in 2013


 

Want more baseball? Check out Athlon Sports' 2013 Baseball Annual for the most complete preview available. Order your copy now! 

Teaser:
<p> 75 Funny Fantasy Baseball Team Names</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, NASCAR
Path: /nfl/ranking-pro-sports-most-popular-all-star-games
Body:

Another lackluster NBA All-Star weekend wrapped up in Houston Sunday night. The dunk contest isn't what it used to be and the game features superstars playing some sport vaguely akin to professional basketball. But on the surface, the NBA All-Star game gets rave reviews from die-hard fans and celebrity hoopsters alike. The pomp and circumstance of the NBA — and its overall culture — lends itself perfectly to a glamorous, exclusive weekend where only the elite get an invite.

However, the numbers say something different about its popularity. Fewer people tune in to the NBA All-Star game than both the Pro Bowl or MLB's midsummer classic. Yet, for some reason, people love to publicly, and rather loudly, hate the Pro Bowl.

Well, they are all just liars.

Because the Pro Bowl — a game the players don't want to play in and one this particular football fan hasn’t watched in nearly a decade — is still the most popular all-star event in professional sports. And there is a reason the Pro Bowl is the most popular All-Star event in all of the major American sports.

1. NFL Pro Bowl (Jan.)
Despite more public grumbling and finger-wagging than any other sport, the NFL’s Pro Bowl is still the most popular all-star game in American professional sports. The game pulled a 7.1 U.S. rating last month, down slightly from the previous year’s rating of 7.3. The game itself is actually the farthest from its regular-season form than any other sport, as the NFL implements rule changes for safety concerns. It's also the only all-star game in which the athletes have no real interest in actually competing at a high level. How could it possibly be in the best interest of Haloti Ngata to give it his all in the Pro Bowl? There is no incentive to play a "real" game, and better yet, is it even reasonable to expect that from these gladiators who destroy their bodies for the fans every Sunday? The high-scoring devolution of the game might deserve some credit for pulling in viewers, but the real answer is much more simple. The worst all-star event is the most popular all-star event because football is king. If the oblong spheroid is on the TV, people will watch.

2. MLB All-Star Game (July)
The midsummer classic was as much a part of my childhood as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. But if the recent viewership trends continue, the game could be relegated to cable TV sooner rather than later. Broadcast on FOX since 2001, MLB’s All-Star Game has watched a steady decline in ratings since its peak in 1970 (28.5). It reached a historic low last summer with a 6.8 number. Making it “count” by adding home-field advantage to the stakes hasn’t had the impact Commissioner Bud Selig had hoped. This game seems to rouse the most nostalgia and seems to be the most highly thought of by dedicated sports fans (myself included). However, the trends are concerning and it clearly sits well behind the NFL.

3. NBA All-Star Game (Feb.)
It is hard to argue that the NBA All-Star festivities didn’t peak in the early 1990s. The Dunk Contest was electric because the best players in the game took it seriously and delivered a show for the fans every year (looking at you Michael and Dominique). And the ratings for the game itself prove that out with a high-water TV mark of 14.3 in 1993. However, since the early '90s, the game has seen a steady decline until recently. After bottoming out with a 4.2 rating in 2007, the game reached its highest numbers last fall since '03 (6.6). The 2012 event posted a 5.4 U.S. rating, up slightly from the '11 game, which drew a 5.2 U.S. rating. Is this a trend that will continue and potentially allow the NBA to move ahead of baseball? Or will competing with Sunday night TV and occasionally the Oscars eventually halt any growth the league has seen in recent years?

4. NASCAR All-Star Race (May)
NASCAR’s all-star event is extremely entertaining and might be one of the few events that actually improves on the regular-season product. A shortened field running a shortened race over various segments with no points implications and loads of cash on the line? Yes, please. In all but one year — Atlanta in 1986 — the event has been held at Charlotte Motorspeedway, the home track and birthplace of the entire sport. Yet, much like the rest of the NASCAR viewership, the ratings simply don’t carry the weight of football or baseball. That is the bad news. The good news is that the numbers have been stable for a long period of time pulling a 2.2 in 2012 after three straight 2.1’s from 2009-11. This might be the most underrated of the professional all-star events.

5. NHL All-Star Game (Jan.)
As expected, this is easily the lowest rated all-star event of the four main professional sports. This is partly due to Olympic and work stoppage interruptions but also because the sport has been relegated to smaller cable networks. It’s unfortunate since the gameplay itself is some of the most enjoyable of any of the pro events. The game still pulls solid ratings in Canada but the overall US viewership is clearly the lowest of the major sports. The 2011 event pulled a 1.3, up 33 percent from the '09 game, and was the highest such number since the '04 event that landed a 2.7 U.S. mark. After two years of steady TV ratings, it will be interesting to see what happens to the NHL mid-season classic. The work stoppage this season led to the game being cancelled and there will be no all-star game in 2014 due to the Winter Olympics in Russia. So the 60th annual NHL All-Star game in Columbus, Ohio, has been pushed back until January 2015.

6. MLS All-Star Game (July)
One of the least popular pro sports in America is soccer. And despite pockets of deeply passionate fans — kudos to you fútbol fans in Seattle, by the way — the sport has lagged behind its other professional brethren since its inception in 1996. So the other all-star game played in the summer is relegated to a mid-week broadcast on ESPN2. The game pulled a 0.34 U.S. TV rating in 2012, down from a 0.46 in '11. Unfortunately, soccer will never be huge in this country and neither will its all-star event.

Teaser:
<p> Ranking Pro Sports' Most Popular All-Star Games</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-football-basketball-coach-tandems-big-ten
Body:

With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

The Big Ten has perhaps the best collection of coaching duos in the country, especially at the top.

The Jim Tressel/Thad Matta tandem was one of the best in the country before scandal cost Tressel his job. The Buckeyes may have enhanced their coaching duo even more with the hire of Urban Meyer. Ohio State’s new football coach, however, is no stranger to sharing the spotlight with a top basketball coach. He and Billy Donovan won a combined four national titles at Florida from 2006-08.

But the choice for Ohio State at No. 1 wasn’t easy. Michigan has two coaches who have led the Wolverines from mediocrity to the top of the Big Ten in Brady Hoke and John Beilein. And Michigan State the basketball coach we ranked No. 1 prior to the season and a football coach one year removed from playing for the Big Ten title.

Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-12 | SEC


1. Ohio State
Football:
Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer walked into Ohio State, where he was an assistant under Earle Bruce, and went 12-0 for the second time in his career. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buckeyes never looked like a team facing a postseason ban. A two-time national champion at Florida, Meyer has also shaken up Big Ten recruiting in one season. Matta rarely is rarely noted as the top basketball coach in the Big Ten, but he’s led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, three Big Ten tournament titles and at least a share of five regular season conference titles. Ohio State is on its way to its ninth consecutive 20-win season under Matta.

2. Michigan
Football:
Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein

When Michigan raided West Virginia for its football/basketball coaching duo, Rich Rodriguez was pinpointed as the coach who would turn the Wolverines’ fortunes. Instead, Beilein turned out to be the better hire. Never shy about shooting the three-pointer under Beilein, Michigan is more balanced this season, giving the Wolverines their best team since the Fab Five era. The return of defensive line coach Hoke to Ann Arbor is bringing the Wolverines back to basics. They slipped from 11-2 to 8-5 last season, but Hoke is building the classic pro-style powerful Michigan team.

3. Michigan State
Football:
Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

Tom Izzo is doing it again. While everyone was talking about Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten, the Spartans may have the league’s best team. Athlon named Izzo its No. 1 basketball coach prior to the season due to Izzo’s regular season and postseason acumen, recruiting and player development skills. All have come into play this season. In football, Dantonio’s star has fallen a bit after going 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten last season, but he led the Spartans to 22 wins in 2010-11. Now that Michigan and Ohio State are returning to full strength, Danonio’s job is that much tougher.

4. Wisconsin
Football:
Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan has led Wisconsin to a top-four finish in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament every season in Madison since he arrived in 2001-02. Yet even this season, no one caught on (Athlon picked the Badgers sixth in the conference this year, and we were hardly alone in underestimating Wisconsin). No coach is better than Ryan at recruiting to his system and developing talent to it. Andersen is a first-year coach in Madison, but he went 18-8 with two bowl games in the last two seasons at Utah State. His commitment to the run game and physical defense will fit well at Wisconsin.

5. Indiana
Football:
Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean

Crean essentially started from scratch at Indiana in 2008-09 with a depleted roster and NCAA sanctions. The Hoosiers won eight Big Ten games his first three seasons in Bloomington, but they arrived to national prominence a year earlier than expected last season. Now, Indiana is a legitimate national title contender again. IU football will always be No. 2, but Kevin Wilson has made progress in two seasons from playing a horde of freshmen in 2011. The Hoosiers improved from 1-11 overall and 0-8 in his first season to 4-8 and 2-6 in his second.

6. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Tubby Smith

Minnesota is going to have a tough time winning in either sport, but the Gophers at least have the right coaches leading the program. Kill has won at every level from Saginaw Valley State to Emporia State to Southern Illinois to Northern Illinois. He led the Gophers back to a bowl game in his second season. Smith, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998, is Minnesota’s first successful basketball coach since crippling sanctions in the late 90s. He should have the Gophers in their third NCAA Tournament in five seasons.

7. Northwestern
Football:
Pat Fitzgerald | Basketball: Bill Carmody

The star of Northwestern’s Rose Bowl teams has led the Wildcats to their most sustained period of success. Fitzgerald’s five consecutive bowl games is only one fewer than Northwestern had before he was promoted to replace the late Randy Walker. With a 10-3 season and a Gator Bowl win, Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first 10-win season since 1995 and first bowl win since the 1948 season. Carmody has yet to lead Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in program history, but four consecutive NITs is a big deal for the Big Ten’s most historically downtrodden program.

8. Purdue
Football:
Darrell Hazell | Basketball: Matt Painter

Purdue isn’t a factor in a standout season for Big Ten basketball, but that shouldn’t diminish Painter’s tenure. The Boilermakers have reached six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, won a game on each trip and reached the Sweet 16 twice. Purdue could have been ever better those seasons if Painter had a full roster including a healthy Robbie Hummel. Hazell is a first-year coach who led Kent State to 11 wins last season. He has Big Ten ties as an assistant at Ohio State before landing with the Golden Flashes.

9. Nebraska
Football:
Bo Pelini | Basketball: Tim Miles

Pelini has won nine or 10 games in each of his five seasons at Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are still struggling to reach their '90s level of prominence. Nebraska has also lost exactly four games each season, including three consecutive bowl defeats. Miles built the Colorado State program from single-digit wins his first two seasons to 20 and an NCAA Tournament berth in his last. He’ll face a similar uphill battle with Nebraska hoops.

10. Iowa
Football:
Kirk Ferentz | Basketball: Fran McCaffery

The longest-tenured football coach in the Big Ten is having trouble keeping Iowa competitive. The Hawkeyes won a share of the Big Ten in 2002 and 2004 and went to the Orange Bowl in 2009, but they’ve struggled since. The Hawkeyes are 10-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. After three seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt a downtrodden program into an NCAA Tournament contender in the rugged Big Ten.

11. Penn State
Football:
Bill O’Brien | Basketball: Pat Chambers

It’s only been a year, but O’Brien has done a masterful job of navigating the adversity at Penn State. Despite a handful of transfers and a bowl ban, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season in 2012. He held together a standout recruiting class, but the job is going to get tougher. After winning 42 games in two seasons at Boston University, Chambers took one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten. Without their best player, Tim Frazier, Penn State is winless in the league this season.

12. Illinois
Football:
Tim Beckman | Basketball: John Groce

After a hot start in basketball, Illinois has skidded into Big Ten play. A win over Indiana in February, however, hints the Illini aren’t out of it yet. In two NCAA Tournament appearances with Ohio, Groce helped the Bobcats to advance both times, but he was 34-30 overall in the MAC. After a nice three-year run at Toledo, Beckman had a disastrous first season at Illinois, going 2-10 overall and winless in the Big Ten.

BIG TEN COACH TANDEM RANKINGS - 2014 LINEUP

1. Ohio State

2. Michigan

3. Michigan State

4. Wisconsin

5. Indiana

6. Minnesota

7. Northwestern

8. Purdue

9. Nebraska

10. Iowa

11. Maryland
Football:
Randy Edsall | Basketball: Mark Turgeon
Maryland is banking on Edsall not being nearly as bad has his first two seasons may indicated. Turgeon may be a year away from truly contending with the Terrapins.


12. Penn State

13. Illinois

14. Rutgers
Football:
Kyle Flood | Basketball: Mike Rice
Flood led Rutgers to a share of the Big East title in  his first season as head coach. Rice is 19-33 in the Big East in three seasons.

 

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State headline a deep league of coaching tandems in the Big Ten.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:50
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-8-texas-am-aggies
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. No team in the nation has capitalized more on its recent conference defection than the Texas A&M Aggies. Yes, finally hiring a quality coach and a redshirt freshman Heisman Trophy winner help, but make no mistake, the little "SEC" logo on shoulder pads and coaching polos is making the biggest impact on the recruiting trail. And with the recent struggles of Mack Brown at Texas, the Lone Star State could be up for grabs.

No. 8: Texas A&M Aggies

SEC: Fifth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 3
National Signees: 9
Total Signees: 32

Where They Got 'Em:

The battle for the state of Texas could be one of the more intriguing recruiting tugs-of-war to watch over the next few years. Kevin Sumlin has the Aggies brand riding at an all-time high, and while the Longhorns are always the biggest program in the state, he has noticeably closed the in-state gap. The Aggies landed 23 players from the Lone Star State, including eight nationally ranked prospects. It's the exact same number that Mack Brown landed at Texas this year and that is a huge step in the right direction for Sumlin.

New SEC territories, Louisiana (3) and Georgia (2), delivered five prospects to College Station while Sumlin went out West for a total of four players from California (2), Hawaii and Arizona.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The overall depth of this class is tremendous. In fact, some are wondering how Texas A&M is going to get all 32 players under the scholarship limitations (star wideout Derrick Griffin doesn't even count). But with eight early enrollees counting back towards the 2012 class, Sumlin should be able to restock his roster with one of the largest hauls in the nation. And the passing game stands out like a Johnny Manziel touchdown run.

Six wide receivers, one tight end and two quarterbacks give Sumlin and his high-flying passing attack an entirely new toy box. Ricky Seals-Jean is the top-rated player in this class and brings a massive (6-5, 225) frame to the vertical passing game. Smallish speedsters Sebastian Larue and LaQuvionte Gonzalez will be dynamic in the slot and short passing game. And former AC100 (2012) wide receiver Ja'Quay Williams will finally get to a college campus after a year of prep school. He is an elite 6-3, 210-pound big-play machine who might be the most gifted pass-catcher in the class. Toss in former Tennessee tight end Cameron Clear and Manziel should have loads of weapons to throw to.

Backing up Manziel will be two nationally ranked quarterback prospects from Texas. Few teams can lure more than one elite player at this position but the chance to play in Sumlin's system is obviously a big draw. Kohl Stewart (6-2, 200) and Kenny Hill (6-1, 215) each bring a different style to the position. Stewart was a three-star prospect who is more of a pure passer while Hill earned Texas Gatorade Player of the Year and 5A Offensive Player of the Year honors at storied Southlake (Texas) Carroll. Technically, Manziel could leave A&M for the NFL following the 2013 season and having two elite passers to back him up is quite a luxury.

One running back and three offensive line prospects also signed with the Aggies in this class. None are considered nationally ranked prospects.

Even though Sumlin is an offensive coach with an elite scheme, he understands that to win in the SEC he will have to be strong on defense. In particular, the front seven. He signed six defensive lineman and linebackers in this class, completely restocking his defensive front. The defensive line is especially talented as three of the top five players in this class will play along the D-line. Justin Manning and Isaiah Golden are stud tackles who will stabilize the interior of the line while Daeshon Hall, a late signing day flip-flop from Washington, gives the line a tremendous pass-rushing presence. Jay Arnold and Jordan Points will join Hall on the outside while Hardreck Walker will play inside with Manning and Golden. This was a key area of focus and could be the key to success in the SEC.

None of the six-man linebacking class were nationally ranked but they are an extremely deep and versatile group. The seven-man secondary class was headlined by nationally ranked safety Kameron Miles. He is one of four safeties to sign with the Aggies. Sumlin also signed three cornerbacks to bolster the outside of his pass defense. His defensive class isn't loaded with five-star talent but it is one of the deepest groups in the nation with 19 signees headed for that side of the ball.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 1, WR: 6, TE: 1, OL: 3
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 6, DB: 7, ATH: 0

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
25. Ricky Seals-Jean WR No. 3 Sealy, Texas 6-5 225
76. Justin Manning DT No. 15 (DL)  Dallas, Texas 6-1 270
94. Isaiah Golden DT No. 17 (DL) Carthage, Texas 6-2 320
127. Sebastian Larue WR No. 15 Los Angeles, Calif. 5-11 180
136. Daeshon Hall DE No. 24 (DL) Lancaster, Texas 6-6 225
170. Kohl Stewart QB No. 16 Tomball, Texas 6-2 200
185. LaQuvionte Gonzalez WR No. 22 Cedar Hill, Texas 5-10 165
195. Kameron Miles S No. 32 (DB) Mesquite, Texas 6-1 215
219. Kenny Hill QB No. 23 Southlake, Texas 6-1 215

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Reggie Chevis LB Houston, Texas 6-1 255 --
Cameron Clear TE Yuma, Ariz. 6-6 270 JUCO
A.J. Hilliard LB Klein, Texas 6-2 210 Transfer
Jordan Points DE Rockwall, Texas 6-3 255 --
Tommy Sanders LB Butler, Kan. 6-2 210 JUCO
Alex Sezer Jr CB Orange, Texas 5-9 180 --
Brett Wade LB Kennedale, Texas 6-1 225 --
Ja'Quay Williams WR Fork Union, Va. 6-3 210 Prep School

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 8: Texas A&amp;M Aggies</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-basketball/10-amazing-college-basketball-stats-feb-11-17
Body:

A handful of players hit multiple milestones this week, but they weren’t necessarily the most notable numbers of the week.

Creighton’s National Player of the Year contender Doug McDermott reached the 2,000-point mark, Kansas’ Jeff Withey set the Big 12’s career blocks record and Ohio’s D.J. Cooper moved into a tie for 15th on the all-time assists list.

Meanwhile, Kentucky and John Calipari flopped in a major way in its first game without Nerlens Noel, Indiana and Florida kept rolling over opponents, and Wisconsin soared at home.

In a wild season, we still found notable storylines in the numbers this week.

KEY COLLEGE BASKETBALL STATS FOR FEB. 11-17

30. Margin of defeat for Kentucky against Tennessee on Saturday

Before Saturday, Kentucky knew Nerlens Noel was its top player and the most consistent piece on a marginal NCAA Tournament team. But Tennessee proved the Wildcats could be lost without him. The Wildcats’ 88-58 loss to Tennessee was the biggest defeat of the John Calipari era by a long shot. The previous biggest losses were by 17 to eventual national champion Connecticut in the Maui Invitational in 2010 and by 17 to Florida on Tuesday, when Noel originally sustained a torn ACL. The numbers fallout was astounding: Zero fast-break points for Kentucky, 50 first-half points allowed and a 39-point deficit that wasn’t erased until the Wildcats ended the game on an 11-2 run.

How valuable is Nerlens Noel? Take a look at Kentucky’s key numbers in games with their National Defensive Player of the Year candidate and one game without him:

KENTUCKY WITH NOEL AGAINST TENNESSEE
Points allowed 62.8 per game 88
Field goal % defense 38.2 58.0
Blocks 7.5 per game 6
Steals 6.4 per game 7
Defensive rebound % 69.4 45.0
Offensive rebound % 34.8 33.3

21. Average margin of victory for Indiana and Florida this season
This isn’t a shock to anyone following college basketball this season, but when Indiana and Florida win this season, they tend to win big. That continued Saturday when Indiana 83-55 defeated Auburn and Indiana defeated Purdue 83-52. That boosted the Hoosiers’ nation leading average scoring margin to 21.9 points per game and the Gators to 21.7 per game. What do those near-identical scores mean? According to Matt Woods of TeamRankings.com, both teams have the highest average scoring margin since 2001 Duke (22.6 points per game). The last time two teams in a season averaged a scoring margin of 20 points per game, Kansas and Memphis met for the national title in 2008. Of the last 11 teams to defeat opponents by 20 points per game in a season, four won a national title. In his post, Woods notes how each team fared in the NCAA Tournament.

31. Auburn’s largest margin of defeat at home since 1952
The Tigers haven’t been a great basketball program, but the 83-53 rout to Florida was the worst for Auburn at home since the Tigers lost by 40 to Kentucky on Jan. 30, 1952. That game was notable more for the names in the arena that day -- Adolph Rupp was the coach at Kentucky and future Georgia football coach Vince Dooley played for Auburn.

60. Maryland’s shooting percentage against Duke
Maryland shot 60 percent from the field (27 of 45) in an 83-81 win over Duke on Saturday, the first time any team shot that well against the Blue Devils since Jan. 30, 2010. In that game, Georgetown shot 71.7 precent from the floor on 33-of-46 shooting. Both hot shooting teams were anchored by big men -- Georgetown by Greg Monroe in 2010 and Maryland by Alex Len on Saturday. Len was 6 of 8 from the field and 7 of 8  from the free throw line for 18 points, outdueling Mason Plumlee who fouled out with four points. The must-win game for the Terps boosted their RPI from No. 70 to 63 in one day.

6-1. Wisconsin’s Big Ten home record
Wisconsin’s 6-1 Big Ten home record isn’t all that impressive -- most top-25 teams will have similar or better home conference records. But Wisconsin’s 71-49 throttling of Ohio State further illustrated the Badgers’ dominance at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin has defeated three RPI top-25 teams at home (Michigan, Ohio State and Minnesota) and two other NCAA Tournament contenders (Illinois and Iowa). Moreover, three Wisconsin players average in double figures at home (Jared Berggren, Ben Brust and Ryan Evans) while none average 10 points per game on the road.

Here’s a closer look at Wisconsin’s overall home/road splits:

WISCONSIN HOME ROAD
Field goal % 44.9 37.9
Field goal % defense 37.1 44.3
Points for 70.7 57.4
Points against 51.3 61.0
Scorers averaging 10+ ppg 3 0

28, 7 and 4. Marcus Smart’s stat line against Oklahoma
With UNLV and Anthony Bennett struggling to stay above .500 in the Mountain West and with Nerlens Noel out for the season, the National Freshman of the Year spotlight may turn to the Big 12. Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart will be in the discussion, and Smart’s game against Oklahoma will highlight the rookie guard’s credentials. Smart’s 28 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the 84-79 overtime win over the Sooners underscored what a unique player his in the Big 12. In conference games, Smart is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top five in scoring, assists and steals and the only player to rank in the top 15 in scoring, rebounding and assists.

63. Combined points for UCLA’s top three freshmen against Stanford
Ben Howland’s freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams was tabbed as the trio that would salvage UCLA basketball. It’s been an up-and-down season, but the trio showed what they could do when they’re all on their games at the same time. The three rookies combined for 63 points in an 88-83 win over Stanford with 25 from Muhammad, 20 from Adams and 18 from Anderson. The 63 points was the most they’ve had as a group in Pac-12 play; the previous high was 46. It was also the most since combining for 72 against Fresno State on Dec. 22.

25-6. Amount Villanova freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono outscored UConn leading scorers Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright
Connecticut isn’t going to the NCAA Tournament, but the Huskies might end up helping Villanova find its way to the field. The Wildcats earned a resume-boosting win by defeating Connecticut 70-61 on Saturday for their first top-40 win since defeating Louisville and Syracuse in consecutive games in January. Streaky freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono outdueled UConn’s top guards Ryan Boatright (four points) and Shabazz Napier (two), though Napier had 10 assists.

4. Consecutive Big East wins for Providence
Hopes are high for Providence under second-year coach Ed Cooley, and the Friars have had a taste of what that might mean in the last two weeks. With a 71-54 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, Providence has won four consecutive Big East games, its longest conference winning streak since 2003-04. And the Friars aren’t ganging up on the have-nots in the Big East -- three of their four wins have come against NCAA contenders Notre Dame, Cincinnati and Villanova. Providence has had only minimal contributions from its standout freshman class, too. Kris Dunn is averaging only 5.6 points per game and Ricky Ledo has not qualified academically.

4. Active coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame
Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, SMU’s Larry Brown, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams are the only active men’s college basketball coaches in the Basketball Hall of Fame, but that number could increase by one before next season. Louisville’s Rick Pitino was named as one of 12 finalists to be enshrined this season along with former UNLV coach Jerry Tarkanian. The Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be announced before the national title game in Atlanta.

Teaser:
<p> Kentucky's landmark loss without Nerlens Noel, Indiana and Florida's dominance and Maryland's big upset were key numbers in the last week.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /nascar/best-worst-nascar-2012
Body:

They’re the best of the best and worst of the worst in NASCAR. The pretty and the ugly, the cool and the lame. They made us cheer, laugh and, as Robert Plant once said, taught us “to weep and moan.”

They are the recipients of the Athlon Awards — back by popular demand — recognizing excellence (and lack thereof) from the 2012 NASCAR season. Some are fairly obvious, others off the wall. But none pull any punches. So, without further ado, the Athlon Awards.

Driver of the Year
Sprint Cup: Brad Keselowski
Nationwide: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Camping World Truck: James Buescher
Yeah we went chalk here, but the reason for a points system is to determine each series’ best driver, right? So who are we to disagree with results?
 
Crew Chief of the Year
Sprint Cup: Brian Pattie
Nationwide: Luke Lambert
Camping World Truck: Michael Shelton
There were numerous deserving head wrenches in the Cup Series, but Pattie gets the nod for leading a team that did not exist just one year prior and guiding it to a runner-up points finish.
 
Race of the Year
Sprint Cup: Watkins Glen
Nationwide: Daytona (Feb.)
Camping World Truck: Homestead
Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski versus the best road racer in NASCAR in Marcos Ambrose on an oiled-down roadie with checkers in the air. ’Nuff said.
 
Best Radio Transmission
There are a lot to choose from, but the one that demonstrated the mettle of a driver and his team came on the warm-up laps at Dover in the fall race. Jimmie Johnson was the overwhelming favorite to win the AAA 400 and entered the event with a one-point advantage over Brad Keselowski in the standings. The No. 2 bunch was tight; there was pressure to perform that day. As the field circled the track prior to the race, Keselowski, seemingly out of nowhere, came over the radio and asked his crew if they’d seen the “undecided voter” sketch on the previous evening’s “Saturday Night Live.” As he explained how funny he thought it was, the tension was broken, and the team performed flawlessly. 
 
Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe used strategy to find their way to the front, going the final 89 laps on a single tank of fuel that Sunday. Inheriting the lead with 10 laps to go, they held on to bag 2012 Chase victory No. 2. 
 
It was a statement performance and a shining example of Keselowski’s leadership.
 
Comeback Driver of the Year
Sprint Cup: Martin Truex Jr.
Nationwide: Sam Hornish Jr.
Camping World Truck: Cale Gale
Wait a second ... Cale Gale? Wasn’t his career on life support just a season ago? Credit Eddie Sharp for putting the paddles to him, as Gale scored his first career Truck Series win in the season finale at Homestead. Too bad he's not behind the wheel in 2013.
 
Future Stars
Sprint Cup: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Nationwide: Ryan Blaney
Camping World Truck: Kyle Larson
Stenhouse is a no-brainer, while Blaney and Larson could both win a couple touring series events this season if given the right opportunity.
 
 
Best Primary Paint Scheme
No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet (above)
Does it get any more crisp and clean than Kevin Harvick’s 2012 ride? Gloss black, white print and red trim … so simple, yet so sweet. His 2013 scheme is no slouch, but why they went away from this, we’ll never know.
 
 
Best Special Paint Scheme
No. 88 “Dark knight rises” Chevrolet (above)
An argument could be made that the Batman logo on the hood resembled the droppings of a giant seagull. That said, there was a buzz about this car’s speed and paint scheme in the garage at Michigan in June. Sure enough, Junior drove her to Victory Lane for the most popular win of 2012.
 
Worst Primary Paint Scheme
No. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW Chevrolet (above) 
Sorry Junior Nation, but silver, red and three shades of green just don’t go together. For a paint scheme aficionado like Earnhardt, we expect better.
 
Social Media
NASCAR’s must-follow accounts:
Driver: Brad Keselowski (@keselowski)
Crew Chief: Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte)
Spotter: Mike Calinoff (@MikeCalinoff)
WAG: DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick)
Print Journalist (info): Bob Pockrass (@bobpockrass)
Print Journalist (entertainment): Monte Dutton (@MonteDutton)
TV Personality: Kyle Petty (@kylepetty)
No category needed: @nascarcasm
 
Memorable Tweets of 2012:
Clint Bowyer, the day after his Phoenix “run-in” with Jeff Gordon: “This just in... Pretty sure I pulled a hammy yesterday. Damn it!!!!”
 
Kasey Kahne, while doing some grocery shopping: “Just walking though supermarket. See a mom breast feeding little kid. Took second look because obviously I was seeing things. I wasn’t!”
 
"One boob put away one boob hanging!!! #nasty.”
 
Most Underrated Driver
Sprint Cup: Matt Kenseth
Nationwide: Mike Bliss
Camping World Truck: Parker Kligerman
How can a former Cup champion and winner of three 2012 races be considered underrated? We’re not sure, but when was the last time you heard Kenseth’s name mentioned as a title favorite — a real title favorite, not the “well, he’s third in the standings, so we have to throw him in the conversation” type? It’s been a while. He’ll excel at Joe Gibbs Racing.
 
Most Overrated Driver
Sprint Cup: Juan Pablo Montoya
Nationwide: Brian Scott
Camping World Truck: Todd Bodine
We’ll admit, it’s tough to label a two-time Truck Series champ with 37 career touring series wins overrated ... but man, Bodine tears up a lot of equipment.
 
Best Driver Move for 2012
Many thought Clint Bowyer was crazy for leaving what was viewed as a rock-solid organization at Richard Childress Racing for Michael Waltrip’s unproven bunch. Three wins and a runner-up points finish later, Bowyer is laughing last.
 
Worst Driver Move for 2012
AJ Allmendinger to Penske Racing. We’re glad it appears he’s gotten things straightened out, but that was an unmitigated disaster.
Teaser:
<p> A look back at last season with our own NASCAR awards.</p>
Post date: Monday, February 18, 2013 - 06:20
Path: /nascar/danica-patrick-pole-daytona-500
Body:

Daytona Beach, Fla., is steeped in motorsports history. Known as “the birthplace of speed,” land speed records have been set on its white sand beaches. Drivers from a variety of disciplines have visited its victory lanes. One of the world’s great monuments to auto racing, the Daytona International Speedway, sits nestled within the city limits. Even North America’s most popular racing series — NASCAR — was founded at the Streamline Hotel, just off the beach in 1947.

On Sunday, Daytona Beach played host to another motorsports first when Danica Patrick became the first female to win a pole in 65 years of NASCAR competition. And she did so for the sport’s most prestigious event, the Daytona 500.

Patrick, who was the eighth of 45 cars to qualify, posted a lap of 196.434 mph. She held off Jeff Gordon (196.292 mph), who will start second and is the only other driver to be locked into a qualifying spot on the gird. The remainder of the field will be set in Thursday’s Duel 150s.

“It was a fast Chevy,” Patrick said of her No. 10 GoDaddy.com SS that also paced the field in Saturday’s qualifying practice session. “If you’re anywhere but the front row, it’s hard to see on race day. This just speaks volumes about Stewart-Haas Racing — I thought we were going to be 1-2-3 for a while.”

Indeed, Patrick’s three-car operation, co-owned by Tony Stewart, was impressive on pole day. It was Stewart whom she knocked off the top spot and teammate Ryan Newman who shared the front row with the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidate for much of the session. Newman’s time of 195.946 mph eventually landed him fourth (2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was third), while Stewart was fifth. Hendrick Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne was sixth, the final driver to be guaranteed a spot in the field based solely on Sunday’s qualifying session.

“I think it shows how hard Stewart-Haas Racing has worked on this new car,” Patrick said of what NASCAR is billing as its “Gen-6” car, that boast bodies unique to each manufacturer. “And obviously, Hendrick has done a great job giving us good engines.”

Hendrick Motorsports supplies SHR with engines, chassis and other technical support, serving as a mothership of sorts for the five-year old organization. Stewart acknowledged the pure speed Hendrick’s powerplants supplied, saying, “I wish I could say it was her, or myself or Ryan today, but it’s those guys in the engine shop.”

Of course, a car going fast by itself and being competitive in a pack — which horsepower-sapping restrictor plates at Daytona dictate — are two different things. That was apparent in Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. In that event, Stewart, along with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Kenseth, appeared to have the strongest cars in the 19-car field. However, it was Kevin Harvick who emerged with the win after throwing blocks on Stewart and Ford’s Greg Biffle on the final lap to secure victory.

And the last pole-sitter to win The Great American Race? Dale Jarrett, over a decade ago, in 2000.

But for the next week, Patrick will enjoy the history she made on Sunday. A history that was a long time in the making, as the previous highest qualifying female in a Cup race was Janet Guthrie, who qualified ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.

“It’s nice to hear families talk about the fact that a little girl might say, ‘But Mommy, Daddy, that’s a girl out there.’” Patrick said. “Then they can have the conversation with their kid about you can do anything you want and being different doesn’t, by any means, allow you to follow your dreams. I love to think that conversation happens in households because of something I’ve done.”

by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
<p> Danica Patrick makes NASCAR history in Daytona.</p>
Post date: Sunday, February 17, 2013 - 18:56
Path: /nascar/danica-stenhouse-and-evolving-nascar-narrative
Body:

It’s been a unique start to Speedweeks in Daytona for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series. Though technically, I guess most starts are unique. This one, however, has taken a new (if not predictable) turn since Danica Patrick went public concerning her relationship with fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to re-hash, quote-for-quote, the events of the week.

Peppered with questions on Media Day — coincidentally held on Valentine’s Day this year — the couple, as well as most all other drivers, answered a bevy of most un-race-oriented queries largely in stride. The mere existence of questions, of course, drew the ire of many fans and media members alike, though in defense of those interested there hasn’t been much else to talk about.

After all, a similar “Media Tour” was held just three weeks ago in Charlotte with the sport’s principles. Then, drivers, crew chiefs and owners dutifully answered competition-related questions. On their teams’ 2013 outlook, drivers were “excited;” on the new cars, crew chiefs toed the NASCAR line, praising the new body lines, noses and whatever else makes this new “Gen-6” car unique (there’s that word again) from homogenized models used since 2007. Owners smiled, talked of optimism in filling out sponsorship livery, practically giddy in how new personnel were coming together to make this season what’s sure to be their best yet.

Patrick waited until after the Media Tour to admit to the Associated Press that the long-circulated rumor of a budding romance with Stenhouse was, in fact … uh, fact. And with only closed team tests in the two weeks that followed, there honestly hasn’t been much from a competition perspective to reveal, aside from prognostication and conjecture.

Teaser:
<p> New storylines will emerge at Speedweeks in Daytona.</p>
Post date: Saturday, February 16, 2013 - 13:39
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-weekend-preview-oklahoma-state-oklahoma-big-12-race
Body:

If the Big 12 goes through Kansas, the Oklahoma schools might be in good shape.

A three-game losing streak for the Jayhawks has flipped the Big 12 race around, leaving the Cowboys and Sooners, who both defeated KU, as two of the biggest beneficiaries.

Three teams are tied for the Big 12 lead. Half of the conference is within a game of first place. And for the first time in a several seasons, the Oklahoma schools are in that mix.  Oklahoma State is tied with Kansas and Kansas State for the Big 12 lead at 8-3 while Oklahoma is sitting at 7-4. For the first time since 2009, both schools are poised to reach the NCAA Tournament in the same season.

Behind the stellar play of guards Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, Oklahoma State has won six in a row, including a road win at Kansas. The Cowboys are a lock for the third NCAA Tournament appearance under coach Travis Ford, but their sights might be higher for a potential Big 12 title. After facing Oklahoma on Saturday, Oklahoma State will catch Kansas again in Stillwater on Wednesday.

Oklahoma is a longer shot to win the league, but the Sooners’ toughest opponent for the remainder of the regular season will be the rival Cowboys in Stillwater on Saturday. Either way, Lon Kruger’s turnaround season with the Sooners is remarkable as Oklahoma is poised for its first 20-win season and NCAA bid since Blake Griffin played in Norman in 2009.

Related: NCAA Tournament projections and bubble watch

GAME OF THE WEEK
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena
Stillwater, Okla. (cap. 13,611)
TV: Big 12 syndication
OKLAHOMA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Isaiah Cousins (6-3/182, Fr.)
G Steven Pledger (6-4/219, Sr.)
G Je’Lon Hornbeak (6-3/180, Fr.)
F Romero Osby (6-8/232, Sr.)
F Amath M’Baye (6-9/208, Jr.)
OKLAHOMA STATE PROBABLE STARTERS
G Marcus Smart (6-4/225, Fr.)
G Markel Brown (6-3/190, Jr.)
F Le’Bryan Nash (6-7/230, So.)
F Michael Cobbins (6-8/200, So.)
C Philip Jurick (6-11/260, Sr.)

Game-defining matchup: Oklahoma’s Steven Pledger vs. Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown
Brown has been on a hot streak recently, scoring 25 against Texas Tech on Wednesday and riding an explosive first half against Kansas two weeks ago on the way to 28 points. He’s an explosive dunker, but he can step out and shoot the three-pointer, going 7 of 8 against Tech and 7 of 10 against Kansas. When he’s on, Oklahoma State’s tough to stop. Steven Pledger has had his struggles in recent weeks, but the Sooners need one of their most experienced players to be on his game on both ends of the floor against a tough Cowboys backcourt.

Players we’re watching: Oklahoma’s Cam Clark and Je’lon Hornbeak
Kruger has been tinkering with his lineups in recent weeks, putting Hornbeak and later freshman Isaiah Cousins at the point. But Kruger's hand will be forced with the energetic Bobby Hield out for four to six weeks with a broken foot. Hornbeak hit a three-pointer and a few big free throws late in the win over Kansas, but he’s a freshman. Clark is a 6-foot-6 junior guard who can contribute in a number of areas.

Stat that matters: Free throw shooting
If the game is close near the end, it will be interesting to see who wins the free throw battle. Oklahoma State (74.3 percent) and OKlahoma (73.8 percent) are the top two teams in the Big 12 from the line.

How Oklahoma can win: Let Osby and M’Baye take over
Romero Osby is one of the league’s most improved players, making a run at conference player of the year honors. In his second go-round against Kansas’ Jeff Withey, Osby owned the matchup with 17 points and eight rebounds. He and Amath M’Baye (10.5 ppg) will need to take charge against the Cowboys’ frontcourt for Oklahoma to have its best chance to win.

How Oklahoma State can win: Dominate the backcourt matchup
Freshman Marcus Smart has been every bit the transformative player Oklahoma State hoped he would be, but he’s not the only freshman standout. Phil Forte has scored in double figures in six of his last nine games. Together, Smart, Brown and Forte are averaging 50.3 points per game during the Cowboys’ six-game win streak. With an undermanned and young Oklahoma backcourt, the Cowboys will look to the guards to take over the game.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 72, Oklahoma 67

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern


Georgetown at Cincinnati (Friday, 9 p.m., ESPN)
The Hoyas’ NCAA credentials have improved greatly since mid-January as Georgetown has won six in a row. In terms of field goals, Georgetown is the most efficient team in the Big East on both ends of the floor: The Hoyas lead the Big East in field goal percentage (45.6 percent) and field goal defense (38.1 percent) in conference games. After a two-game skid, Cincinnati got a much needed win over Villanova on Tuesday.

Virginia at North Carolina (Saturday, noon, ACC syndication)
Where did Virginia’s offense come from? The Cavaliers scored 78 on Clemson, 80 on Maryland and 73 on Virginia Tech in the last three games. North Carolina had a win at Duke within its sights before poor free throw shooting sunk the Tar Heels. How short on good wins is North Carolina? The Heels’ best victories are over UNLV, Florida State, Maryland and Long Beach State.

Pittsburgh at Marquette (Saturday, 1 p.m., CBS)
This is a key game in what is turning out to be a wild race in the Big East. With Syracuse’s loss to Connecticut on Wednesday, Marquette is in a three-way tie for first in the league with the Orange and Georgetown. Pittsburgh has been one of the hottest teams in the nation over the last month. The Panthers have lost only once — by three points at Louisville — since their 74–67 defeat, in OT, at Marquette on Jan. 12.

Missouri at Arkansas (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2)
Mike Anderson, who won 111 games in five seasons as the head coach at Missouri, takes on his former school for the first time since making the move to Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been brutal on the road but nearly unbeatable at home. Arkansas seems to be the safe pick here, but Mizzou is capable of beating any team in the nation when it shoots well from the 3-point line.

Colorado State at Air Force (Saturday, 4 p.m., Altitude)
After a two-game swoon, Air Force is back in NCAA Tournament conversation after drilling UNLV 71-56. Colorado State is in even better shape with a chance to win the Mountain West title after a late burst from Dorian Green gave the Rams a 66-60 win over San Diego State on Wednesday. Colorado State leads the nation in rebound rate despite having only one player taller than 6-foot-6.

Baylor at Kansas State (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPNU)
It’s pretty clear where Baylor stands in the Big 12 with a 1-4 record against Tournament contenders Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and a 6-0 record against Texas, Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia. Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder is averaging 20 points per game over his last three.

Ohio State at Wisconsin (Sunday, 1 p.m., CBS)
Thursday's OT loss to Minnesota notwithstanding, Wisconsin has mastered the art of the narrow victory. Each of the Badgers’ last five wins has come by six points or less, including two in overtime. Ohio State used a win over Northwestern to recover from a tough week, with losses to two of the top-five teams in the nation (Michigan and Indiana). The Buckeyes’ last two road losses — at Michigan and at Michigan State — have come by a total of five points. This team has the mental toughness to win at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Minnesota at Iowa (Sunday, 2 p.m., Big Ten Network)
This is a pivotal game for both teams. Minnesota, which opened the season with 15 wins in its first 16 games. The Golden Gophers have lost six of their last nine, none more damaging than last Sunday’s home game against Illinois. After defeating Wisconsin in overtime Thursday, Minnesota could string together some good wins with another victory in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes improved to 5–7 in the Big Ten with wins over Northwestern and Penn State. With a soft schedule down the stretch — by Big Ten standards — Iowa will have an opportunity to play its way into the NCAA Tournament.

Athlon Sports managing editor Mitch Light contributed to this report.

Teaser:
<p> College Basketball Weekend Preview: Oklahoma State, Oklahoma in Big 12 race</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-6
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Feb. 15.

Swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton said those two little words that sent pulses racing across the fruited plain: "I'm single." I wonder if Justin Verlander knows.

• Michael Jordan just hit the half-century mark, and to celebrate, Sports Illustrated dug up its 100 greatest MJ photos. Also, ESPN's Wright Thompson goes all long form journalist to give us the measure of the man at 50. The heir to MJ's throne, LeBron James, continues to play Jordan-esque basketball. Finally, today's last MJ link: the 50 Sports Illustrated covers featuring His Airness.

• The NBA Slam Dunk Contest is tomorrow. Believe it or not, this used to be a big, big deal. Athlon ranks all 22 Slam Dunk Contests, from Jordan gems to Jeremy Evans snoozers.

• A meteor exploded over Russia last night. The sports world felt the effects.

An ESPN announcer hit a trick shot prior to last night's Minnesota-Wisconsin game. Then, after the game, Tubby Smith felt like dancing. Appropriate, since the win probably clinched the Gophers' spot in the Big Dance.

The latest on the shocking Oscar Pistorius story.

• Among the revelations and assertions in Mike Piazza's book: Still not gay.

• Sir Charles has outdone himself. Barkley showed up on the Inside the NBA set sporting a tribute to the Alabama football player muggings.

 

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


Feb. 14

• Happy Valentine's Day. To celebrate, the Detroit Free Press does a fun rundown of sports-themed kisses.Yes, Isiah and Magic did make the countdown.

• More V-day celebrating: Here are the best Valentine's Day-related names in sports.

• Here's a not-so-happy story for Valentine's Day: Oscar Pistorius, the inspirational "Blade Runner" of the London Games, has been charged with killing his model girlfriend. Deadspin reminds us of this now-ironic Nike ad featuring Pistorius.

• One last Valentine's link: Romance is dead — except for on sit-coms.

• Irony alert: Clay Travis declares war on bullying sports bloggers. At least he saves his wrath for the anonymous kind.

Tennessee cops mistook an elderly lady's Buckeye decal for a marijuana symbol and pulled her over. I live in Tennessee and don't mind admitting that we can be dumb sometimes.

Five bold predictions for SEC football's offseason.

The Dookies gave Coack K a present for his 66th birthday: a home win over North Carolina.

• Today would have been Titans great Steve McNair's 40th birthday. Here are five of Air McNair's greatest moments.

• He's coming for you, GloboGym: Steeler James Harrison has signed with the Ball Busters dodgeball team.

• I'm a little late to this dust-up, but Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim unloaded on ESPN's Andy Katz the other night.

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


Feb. 13

• Kate Upton and her cohorts have done the hard work of Swimsuit 2013; now it's time for the publicity tour.

• King James and the Izzone were en fuego last night. Here's a roundup of what you might have missed.

Will Farrell was an usher at last night's Lakers game. He used a rather unusual alias.

Nerlens Noel suffered a gruesome knee injury last night. Let's hope for the best. Pat Forde wonders if David Stern's age rule has endangered Noel's future in the game.

• If you're gonna go out, go out in a blaze of glory, I say. This disgruntled hockey goalie did everything but drop the mic like Kanye.

• As MJ turns 50, SI puts him on their cover for the 50th time.

The importance of in-state recruiting. If your state is a talent producer, that is.

Dan Mullen would like to remind you that there are two SEC schools in Mississippi recruiting at a high level.

• Guys, tomorrow is Valentine's Day. Here's a last minute gift guide. Hint: Plain chocolates, shoes and carnations ain't gonna cut it.

• Tough chick of the day: An LPGA player was bitten by a black widow, cut the venom loose with a tee, and kept playing.

• The Duke-UNC managers game involved a buzzer beater and court-storming. Let's hope tonight's main event can approach this level of excitement.

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


Feb. 12

It's SI Swimsuit Tuesday. Viral track star Michelle Jenneke is in this year's issue. We approve.

• The SEC rules the college football world. Basketball? Not so much. The reason? Money.

I present this Woody Hayes story without comment. I could add nothing to the headline.

Tuscaloosa crime reporter Stephanie Taylor kept popping up in my Twitter feed this morning. The reason? A Crimson Tide crime wave. Nick Saban is clearly losing control. Here's more on the story from Saturday Down South.

Blake Griffin may or may not have switched hands mid-dunk last night. Whatever he did, it was impressive.

• Today's debate fodder: Mandatory compiled the 100 greatest quotes from The Simpsons.

The Olympics are dropping wrestling? Wasn't that like the original Olympic sport?

• Bizarre athlete injury of the day: Francisco Liriano broke his arm trying to scare his children on Christmas.

The lamest nicknames in professional sports. Obviously, Athlon doesn't consider the WNBA to be a professional sport; otherwise, they'd dominate this category.

• Today's out-of-control sports parent: Mike Bibby got ejected from his son's basketball game. The cops had to escort him out.

• The lovely ladies of Swimsuit 2013 presented David Letterman's Top 10 list last night.

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


Feb. 11

• This is the week: Kate Upton. Swimsuit issue. Body paint. Need we say more?

Two Savannah State students snuck into the Super Bowl and taped themselves doing it. Nice security team you got there, Roger.

The 25 signature moves, poses and gestures in sports. Yes, Tebowing makes the list.

LeBron James is on an all-time roll: He's made 49 of his last 65 shots. As King James said himself, "S---, that's pretty good."

• Speaking of guys who are in the zone, Brandt Snedeker has shot 10 straight rounds in the 60s. Nice guys sometimes finish first.

• Florida State's Michael Snaer doesn't always make shots, but when he does, they win games.

• Baseball nerds, rejoice: Pitchers and catchers report. But all is not well for some teams.

• Even better news: Real games start soon in college baseball. Here's Athlon's preseason top 25.

Clark Kellogg compared Victor Oladipo to a baby's bottom: Smooth and explosive. The comment made Awful Announcing, but I thought it was pretty clever.

• A teaser while you wait for spring practice: 5 SEC-ready juco signees.

• The Grammys were last night. I don't know much about what happened, but I thought this photo was funny.

• In honor of LeBron's historic, epic run, here's a tasty ally-oop from the Heat's demolition of the Lakers.

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

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /nba/nba-slam-dunk-contest-champions-ranked-1-22
Body:

The 2013 NBA Slam Dunk Contests lifts off on Saturday, Feb. 16, in Houston. The Jazz’s defending Slam Dunk Contest champion Jeremy Evans, Pacers’ Gerald Green (2007 Slam Dunk Contest champion), Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe, Nuggets’ Kenneth Faried, Raptors’ Terrence Ross and Knicks’ James White will follow in the flight paths of MJ, Dr. J and Dominique.

With that in mind, we judge all 22 Slam Dunk Contest champions since the ABA introduced the competition in 1976 and the NBA brought it back in 1984.

Mount Rushmore
One-name icons with star power, style and the ability to jump out of the gym — or from the free-throw line, as it were — no one in history has had the hang time or staying power of these four fly guys.

1. Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (1987, 1988)
“Air” Jordan was an aerial artist who transcended the act of putting a ball through a rim.

2. Julius Erving, New York Nets (1976 in ABA)
“Dr. J” was the originator — complete with an Afro and red-white-and-blue ABA ball.

3. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (1985, 1990)
The “Human Highlight Film” windmilled and tomahawked his way into dunk history.

4. Vince Carter, Toronto Raptors (2000)
“Half Man, Half Amazing” could jump over French dudes and through 10-foot hoops.

 

Freak Shows
There’s just something about watching a sub-six-footer or near-seven-footer take over the Dunk Contest that adds to the spectacle of Saturday night’s three-ring circus.

5. Spud Webb, Atlanta Hawks (1986)
The shortest (5’7”) champ ever beat his teammate in front of his hometown crowd.

6. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (2008)
Superman’s hand missed the rim on his most famous dunk, but it was out of this world.

7. Nate Robinson, New York Knicks (2006, 2009, 2010)
The only three-time champion in event history was 5’9” of Kryptonite for Dwight.

 

Big Names, Bigger Air
No matter how great the dunks are it’s always better when there is a name that matters on the marquee. Lately, the lack of cachet has taken the air out of the slam-dunk sails.

8. Larry Nance, Phoenix Suns (1984)
The underrated Nance could get high in his high socks, winning the NBA’s first contest.

9. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (2005)
The ATL native paid homage to Nique with a throwback jersey to go with pogo hops.

10. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (1997)
Remember when Kobe was bald, Brandy was his girl and Adidas was his shoe of choice?

11. Kenny Walker, New York Knicks (1989)
“Sky” Walker could rise with the best of them, rocking Knicks No. 7 before Carmelo did.

12. Jason Richardson, Golden State Warriors (2002, 2003)
One of three repeat champs in history, along with Michael Jordan and Nate Robinson.

 

Props Plus Hops
The All-Star Game sideshow has featured its fair share of gimmicks, third parties and prop comedy that almost always ends in winning over the crowd and the trophy.  

13. Dee Brown, Boston Celtics (1991)
Brown Pump-ed up his Reeboks and covered his eyes with his arm to take the title.

14. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers (2011)
Jumping over a car — the type of Kia he endorses — was Griffin’s modus operandi.

15. Cedric Ceballos, Phoenix Suns (1992)
Ceballos put on a blindfold that he may or may not have been able to see through.
 

Signature Style
To contest connoisseurs, these are two of the more exciting dunkers. Each had a signature dunk that every kid who ever had an eight-foot goal attempted over and over.

16. Harold Miner, Miami Heat (1993, 1995)
“Baby Jordan” matched his namesake with two Slam Dunk Contest statement wins.

17. Isaiah Rider, Minnesota Timberwolves (1994)
Wild child “J.R.” went between the legs midair in front of the Twin City crowd.

 

White Man Can Jump
His dad Granny-shot free-throws but Bones could throw down like no one this side of Woody Harrelson — and he remains the only white guy to win it all in event history.

18. Brent Barry, Los Angeles Clippers (1996)
Not quite from the free-throw line, but Barry did take off from near the charity stripe.
 

Hi and Bye
Who are you? And why are you here? Okay, you can dunk. Nice job. But I still wish the field had more star power. After all, literally every player in the NBA can dunk…

19. Gerald Green, Boston Celtics (2007)
Sure this wasn’t the NBDL Dunk Contest?

20. Desmond Mason, Seattle SuperSonics (2001)
The Sonics? Is that a WNBA team?

21. Fred Jones, Indiana Pacers (2004)
You mean the character from Scooby-Doo?

22. Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz (2012)
Is that the Ray Bandit who stole sunglasses?
 

Teaser:
<p> Best Slam Dunk Contest Championship of All-Time, including Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter, Spud Webb, Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson, Larry Nance, Josh Smith, Kobe Bryant, Kenny Walker, Jason Richardson, Dee Brown, Blake Griffin, Cedric Ceballos, Harold Miner, Isaiah Rider, Brent Barry, Gerald Green, Desmond Mason, Fred Jones and Jeremy Evans.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 07:45
Path: /college-football/ranking-best-college-football-basketball-coach-tandems-acc
Body:

With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.

In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.

In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.

For our No. 1 ACC tandem at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski’s credentials are impeccable, of course. But David Cutcliffe has made Duke football relevant. Krzyzewski and a bowl-contending coach in football vault the Blue Devils to the top football/basketball coaching duo.


Miami at No. 2 may be a surprise for a program that slipped under Larry Coker and Randy Shannon in football and put up meager basketball results under Perry Clark and Frank Haith. Both programs are making impressive turns under Al Golden and Jim Larranaga.

As with the Big East, we wanted to reflect changes due to realignment. Below the 2013 rankings, we ranked the conference alignment with Louisville, Pittsburgh and Syracuse as full members and Maryland gone to the Big Ten.

Other coach tandem rankings:
Big 12
| Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC


1. Duke
Football:
David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

David Cutcliffe gave Duke fans a reason to get excited for football season with its bowl appearance in 2012, only its third since 1960. A quarterback guru, Cutcliffe has had dangerous passing games since he arrived at Duke. If the Belk Bowl isn’t convincing enough, consider he has more wins in his Duke tenure (18 in five seasons) than any coach since Steve Spurrier (20 wins in three). And you know Krzyzewski: Four national titles, 11 Final Fours, 948 wins and no signs of slowing down.

2. Miami
Football:
Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

This season may be the first in Miami history where the basketball coach has been the Big Coach on Campus rather than the football coach. This isn’t just a knee jerk reaction to Miami’s newfound basketball prominence this season. Larranaga led Miami to a 9-7 season in the ACC a year ago for its first winning season in the conference. That’s on the heels of an accomplished career at Bowling Green and George Mason, where he led the Colonials to the Final Four. Golden’s 13-11 record is nothing special by Miami football standards, but he’s navigating the off-field adversity at Miami with the same skill he used to revive Temple.

3. North Carolina
Football:
Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

Roy Williams has his flaws as a coach, some of which are coming to bear this season. But he has 691 career wins, two national championships and seven Final Fours at Kansas and North Carolina. He's already a Hall of Fame coach. North Carolina football remains a sleeping giant, and there’s reason to believe Fedora can be the coach to deliver on that promise once the Tar Heels weather NCAA sanctions. After four consecutive bowl games and a Conference USA title at Southern Miss, he went 8-4 overall and tied for the Coastal Division lead despite a bowl ban last season.

4. Florida State
Football:
Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

The verdict on Fisher as the coach to return Florida State to national title contention is unsettled. He’s led the Seminoles to their first 10-win seasons since 2004 and their first top-10 finish since 2000. But the Seminoles can’t get back into the title picture thanks to losses to teams like Wake Forest and NC State. He’s facing an interesting season with a handful of staff defections. Basketball is a clear No. 2 sport at Florida State, but Hamilton has taken the ‘Noles to their best era in the sport with four consecutive NCAA Tournaments and an ACC Tournament title last year.

5. Clemson
Football:
Dabo Swinney | Basketball: Brad Brownell

With his earnest enthusiasm, Swinney is the kind of character made for college football. He’s good for a chuckle, but he knows how to allocate his budget to top coordinators, especially Chad Morris. His 21 wins in the last two seasons are the most in school history, and the Tigers’ 2011 ACC title was their first since 1991. Brownell came to Clemson with good reputation by taking UNC Wilmington and Wright State to the NCAA Tournament, but he has a two-year postseason drought since reaching the Big Dance in his first season at Clemson.

6. Virginia
Football:
Mike London | Basketball: Tony Bennett

In 2012, the football program slipped back to 4-8 after an eight-win season in London’s second year. The former police officer went 24-5 at Richmond with an FCS title before returning to Virginia. After ending Virginia’s four-year NCAA Tournament drought last season, Bennett has the program in position for its first back-to-back Tournament bids since 1994-95. His offensive and defensive systems will keep scores low, but it’s proven to work when he’s at at talent disadvantage.

7. Virginia Tech
Football:
Frank Beamer | Basketball: James Johnson

Beamer is synonymous with Virginia Tech football even if his streak of eight consecutive 10-wins seasons ended in 2012. The Hokies haven’t missed a bowl game or had a losing season since 1992, Beamer’s sixth season in Blacksburg. Johnson is a much more unknown commodity. He was noted as a recruiter under predecessor Seth Greenberg’s staff, but it’s been a tough season in his debut as a head coach.

8. Georgia Tech
Football:
Paul Johnson | Basketball: Brian Gregory

Johnson is the nation’s best coach in using the option offense. With a 2009 ACC title, he proved the offense could win at the major conference level. The real question has been the defense, which has struggled since then. Despite three bowl games, Georgia Tech has only one winning season since the ACC title. The hire of Brian Gregory from Dayton in 2011 didn’t generate a ton of excitement and neither has his tenure so far.

9. NC State
Football:
Dave Doeren | Basketball: Mark Gottfried

Gottfried isn’t the nation’s best basketball coach or even one of the top coaches in the ACC. His team is too talented to have a middling record in the ACC even if most of those losses were close calls. Still, NC State is in a spot it hasn’t been in a long time. The Wolfpack reached only their second Sweet 16 since 1989 in 2011 and have a chance to go deeper in the Tournament this year. Or NC State could lose in the first round. Dave Doeren led Northern Illinois to MAC titles in his two seasons in DeKalb, including an Orange Bowl berth (though he was hired at NC State before the bowl game). He’s an unknown at the ACC level, and it’s a question how he’ll recruit over the long haul.

10. Maryland
Football:
Randy Edsall | Basketball: Mark Turgeon

Edsall’s second season at Maryland wasn’t so bad before he was forced to start a freshman former linebacker at quarterback. The Terrapins started 4-2 before a six-game losing streak to end the season. After Edsall endured a 2-10 season that was as bad off the field as on it, his third season will be a critical one before the Terps move to the Big Ten. Turgeon will exceed his first season’s win total from 2011-12, but the real breakthrough is probably a year away. Before Maryland, Turgeon won at least 24 games in five of six seasons at Wichita State and Texas A&M.

11. Wake Forest
Football:
Jim Grobe | Basketball: Jeff Bzdelik

Jim Grobe’s 2006 ACC title is a distant memory, but he remains one of the most respected coaches in the ACC. The Deacons have played in only one bowl game the last four seasons, but Grobe’s tenure remains notable given the obstacles at Wake Forest. Bzdelik was once a decorated coach when he led Air Force to the NCAA Tournament. He’s also one of the few college basketball coaches who also coached in the NBA. But his tenure at Wake Forest has been dismal.

12. Boston College
Football:
Steve Addazio | Basketball: Steve Donahue

Addazio may end up a great fit at Boston College with his connections to the Northeast and experience coaching the offensive line, which has been a strength for BC over the years. He went 9-4 in his first season at Temple but 4-7 as an overmatched team moved to the Big East. In basketball, Donahue has a Sweet 16 at Cornell on his resume, but the building has been slow going at Boston College.

ACC COACH TANDEM RANKINGS - 2014 LINEUP

1. Louisville
Football:
Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Pitino

Pitino is in a class with Krzyzewski, but Charlie Strong could be the ACC’s top football coach when the Cardinals join the league.

2. Duke

3. Miami

4. North Carolina

5. Florida State

6. Pittsburgh
Football:
Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon

Dixon has taken Pitt basketball to a new level. Chryst seems to be a great fit for a wounded football program.

7. Clemson

8. Syracuse
Football:
Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Boeheim has 910 career basketball wins. Shafer has never been a head coach.

9. Virginia

10. Virginia Tech

11. Georgia Tech

12. NC State

13. Wake Forest

14. Boston College

Teaser:
<p> The Krzyzewski-Cutcliffe combo gives Duke the top basketball-football coaching tandem in the ACC.</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-recruiting-big-ten-team-consensus-rankings-2013
Body:

Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. The Big Ten's recruiting trail is chalked full of intriguing storylines. Coaches on the hot seat struggling, a host of new coaching staffs are getting adjusted, Nebraska is beginning to flex its recruiting muscle and two historic programs are setting an entirely new bar.

Related: The Class of 2013 Top 25 Recruiting Classes

Urban vs. Brady
Big Ten recruiting has become a distinctive two-horse race. Michigan and Ohio State have long been the best two programs and two most powerful brands in the Big Ten, but the new coaches have taken it to a new level. Brady Hoke has the Maize and Blue back in the top five nationally in just two seasons and Urban Meyer has the Buckeyes competing for recruiting national championships after just one season in Columbus. And there appears no reason to think that this trend will slow down any time soon. The rest of the league — even Nebraska and Penn State — has been left scrambling to keep up with the big boys from Michigan and Ohio State.

Bill O’Brien works small miracles
In the face of the worst NCAA scandal in history and unprecedented heavy-handed sanctions, O’Brien put together one of the most impressive classes in the nation. Christian Hackenberg has a good chance at being the best quarterback in the nation and might even turn out to be the best player in the nation regardless of position. The fact this was a small group at only 17 total signees but still landed fourth in the Big Ten is impressive and to nearly land in the top 30 nationally with the swirling negativity in Happy Valley is astonishing. O'Brien also deserves credit for sticking around when he clearly had offers to return to the NFL.

Bo’s best Big Red class
Nebraska recruiting during the Internet era (since 2002) hasn’t been up to par with past Cornhuskers success on the field. And Bo Pelini’s classes haven’t been top 25 groups with the exception of the 2011 haul (17th nationally). In fact, the 2013 class tied that year as Pelini’s best recruiting class during his five-year tenure in Lincoln (17th). Otherwise, his classes have consistently ranked much lower than one would expect from Nebraska: 37th in 2008, 33rd in 2009, 31st in 2010 and 26th in 2012. The last three have easily been the best with two top 20 classes in three years. Perhaps, Big Red recruiting has turned a corner.

Sneaky good class for Kevin Wilson
Indiana has ranked no better than 59th nationally (2009, '11) in the last five classes and has been ranked as low as 92nd (2010). The Hoosiers average an 11th place finish in Big Ten recruiting rankings and have an average national rank of 70.8 over the last five seasons. But in 2013, Kevin Wilson’s staff made quite a statement by finishing seventh in the league and 46th nationally. This is the best IU class in recent memory and it should only continue the positive momentum for this team after improving from one to four wins in 2012.

Bad timing for Kirk Ferentz
The embattled Iowa head coach is making a whole lot of money — roughly $3.65 million per season — to be losing eight games a year. So the timing of this below average recruiting class for Ferentz couldn’t have been worse. The Hawkeyes average a sixth place finish in Big Ten in recruiting over the last five years, so claiming the 10th-rated class in the league this fall won’t sit well with the fans. The 53rd-rated class in the nation has to be considered a disappointment after three straight solid classes, including the No. 30-ranked group in 2011.

Related: Ranking the nation's most talented rosters

2013 Athlon Sports Big Ten Team Recruiting Rankings:

Rk Team Nat'l Rk AC100 Signees Rivals 247 Scout ESPN
1. Ohio State 2nd 10 24 2nd 5th 1st 3rd
2. Michigan 5th 5 27 5th 8th 2nd 6th
3. Nebraska 17th 0 26 17th 21st 11st 23rd
4. Penn State 33rd 2 17 40th 26th 45st 24th
5. Michigan State 36th 0 18 38th 40th 44th 35th
6. Wisconsin 38th 0 17 56th 34th 38th 33rd
7. Indiana 46th 0 22 41st 45th 51st --
8. Illinois 48th 0 25 46th 55th 42nd --
9. Northwestern 52nd 0 21 53rd 54th 46th --
10. Iowa 53rd 0 21 52nd 53rd 52nd --
11. Purdue 60th 0 23 55th 66th 58th --
12. Minnesota 69th 0 18 60th 70th 74th --

Teaser:
<p> College Football Recruiting: Big Ten Team Consensus Rankings for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 06:42
All taxonomy terms: AC100, College Football, LSU Tigers, Recruiting, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-rankings-no-7-lsu-tigers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. The LSU Tigers have recruited as well as any team in the nation in recent years and 2013 is no different. This group is nationally elite and sets a foundation for future success on the Bayou. The only issue? Finishing seventh nationally is only good for fourth in the SEC and third in the SEC West.

No. 7: LSU Tigers

SEC: Fourth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 5
National Signees: 14
Total Signees: 27

Where They Got 'Em:

Les Miles knows that Louisiana is one of the more underrated states for elite talent. He inked 12 of his 27 players in this class from The Pelican State, including five nationally rated recruits. The rest of the SEC helped out as well, sending three prospects each from both Florida and Georgia. Alabama and Tennessee each shipped one player to Baton Rouge as well.

Miles also went outside of his region to get talent. LSU landed two big-time players from California, including a potential star in quarterback Hayden Rettig. Illinois and North Carolina each sent an AC100 prospect while Nebraska and New Jersey watched a nationally rated prospect head South to play for the Tigers as well.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

This class' breakdown has to start with the line of scrimmage. Twelve new faces, seven on defense and five on offense, will play in the trenches from this class. The defensive line class, which technically doesn't include AC100 talent Kendell Beckwith because he is listed as a linebacker, is one of the best collections of talent in the nation. End Frank Herron and tackle Greg Gilmore lead the way as the top-rated names in the group, as both were AC100 prospects. Three more nationally rated names in tackles Christian LaCouture and Maquedius Bain and end Tashawn Bower bring massive size and versatile athleticism. Add to it smallish ends Lewis Neal and M.J. Patterson and Miles has arguably the deepest and most talented defensive line class in the nation. 

On the opposite side of the ball, elite blocker Ethan Pocic leads the way. He has bookend tackle size and athleticism. Josh Boutte is a mauler inside and was nationally ranked as well. Andy Dodd, K.J. Malone and massive junior college prospect Fehoko Fanaika (6-6, 340) round out a very talented offensive line group. This five-man class can play all three positions on the line and should only continue LSU's recent run of elite blockers.

Beckwith, who is officially listed as a linebacker by the Tigers, could be yet another rush end if he adds weight and proves he can handle the running games in the SEC. Otherwise, he heads a three-man linebacking group that is talented but doesn't match the depth of the Tigers' 2012 LB haul.

On the back end of the defense, this class' top prospect will be the star. Tre'Davious White is an electric cornerback who will make a immediate impact on special teams. He could remind fans in Baton Rouge of the Honey Badger in that sense — well, on the field, at least — and should likely be a much better coverman. Rashard Robinson and Rickey Jefferson round out a fairly small secondary class. 

LSU didn't sign a single running back in this class and none of the four wide receivers were nationally ranked. Early enrollee and prep school prospect Avery Johnson should be the best of the group once he finally gets into the offense. Tight end DeSean Smith is one of the most game-ready players at his position in the nation and could easily be the earliest contributor of all the offensive skill players in this class. 

The quarterback position should be in good hands, however, as two of the top 25 signal callers in the nation signed with LSU. Hayden Rettig, the younger brother of Boston College starter Chase, is the higher-rated of the bunch and was an Army All-American this winter. The pro-style passer will compete with dual-threat prospect Anthony Jennings for the starting job once Zach Mettenberger moves on. They are built very similarly — both are listed at 6-2 and 200 pounds — but each brings a unique skill set to the offense, giving Miles and new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron plenty to work with in the coming years.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 2, RB: 0, WR: 4, TE: 2, OL: 5 
Defense: DL: 7, LB: 3, DB: 3, ATH: 1 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
45. Tre'Davious White DB No. 11 Shreveport, La. 5-10 170
57. Ethan Pocic OL No. 5 Lemont, Ill. 6-7 285
70. Frank Herron DE No. 13 (DL) Memphis, Tenn. 6-5 245
73. Greg Gilmore DT No. 14 (DL) Hope Mills, N.C. 6-4 275
77. Kendell Beckwith LB No. 8 Jackson, La. 6-3 225
125. DeSean Smith TE No. 5 Lake Charles, La. 6-4 225
128. Jeryl Brazil ATH No. 3 Loranger, La. 5-9 180
143. Hayden Rettig QB No. 10 Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 200
144. Josh Boutte OL No. 21 New Iberia, La. 6-4 325
193. Rashard Robinson DB No. 31 Pompano Beach, Fla. 6-1 165
206. Christian LaCouture DT No. 36 (DL) Lincoln, Neb. 6-5 290
210. Maquedius Bain DT No. 37 (DL) Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 6-5 285
213. Tashawn Bower DL No. 38 Somerville, N.J. 6-5 240
231. Anthony Jennings QB No. 25 Marietta, Ga. 6-2 205

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
John Diarse WR Monroe, La. 6-0 210 --
Fehoko Fanaika OL San Mateo, Calif. 6-6 340 JUCO
Anthony Jennings QB Marietta, Ga. 6-2 205 No. 231
Avery Johnson WR Pompano Beach, Fla. 6-1 180 --
Christian LaCouture DE Lincoln, Neb. 6-5 290 No. 206
Ethan Pocic OL Lemont, Ill. 6-6 285 No. 57
Hayden Rettig QB Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 200 No. 143
Logan Stokes TE Booneville, Miss. 6-4 240 JUCO

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Rankings No. 7: LSU Tigers</p>
Post date: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 06:40

Pages