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Jameis WinstonClemson is the heavy favorite to win the ACC Atlantic title, but Florida State isn’t too far behind in the division pecking order. The Seminoles return 10 starters, including one of the best offensive lines in the ACC, and a plethora of talented skill players at running back and receiver. The defense returns only four starters, but there’s no shortage of talented options stepping into the lineup.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston is expected to be one of college football’s top breakout players for 2013, and the first-year starter could be an All-ACC quarterback by the end of the season. If Winston quickly settles into the starting role, and the coaching staff meshes with six new assistants, Florida State could be in position for a BCS bowl at the end of the year. 

What will Florida State's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 


Florida State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
 

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
John
Cassillo
David
Fox
Matt
McClusky
Mark
Ross
9/2 at Pittsburgh
9/14 Nevada
9/21 Bethune-Cookman
9/28 at Boston College
10/5 Maryland
10/19 at Clemson
10/26 NC State
11/2 Miami
11/9 Wake Forest
11/16 Syracuse
11/23 Idaho
11/30 at Florida
Final Projection10-210-210-210-210-210-2

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
For a team that will start a redshirt freshman quarterback, has six new assistant coaches and must replace a handful of key players on defense, the Seminoles drew the perfect schedule for 2013. Sure, there’s potential for road upset losses at Wake Forest or Pittsburgh, but it’s hard to see Florida State losing three games this year. Road dates at Clemson and Florida will be the toughest on the schedule, and the home Nov. 2 matchup against Miami will be a challenge. The Seminoles should get better as the year progresses and having five games before playing Clemson is a huge advantage for their ACC Atlantic title hopes. However, the Tigers have won five consecutive matchups against Florida State in Death Valley and should hold the edge in this contest for 2013. With a favorable schedule and a potential superstar in Jameis Winston taking over at quarterback, the Seminoles could use 2013 as a stepping stone to an even bigger 2014.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The question is for Florida State is, as always, if the Seminoles are going to get tripped up against an opponent they should defeat soundly. It’s really tough to pinpoint one for 2013. NC State has won two of the last three, but both of those victories were in Raleigh. The opener against Pittsburgh seems like a good upset-bait kind of game, but the Panthers might not be good enough to pull that off early in the season. If Florida State is going to stumble, my guess is that it comes around the Miami or Wake Forest games. Miami has lost three in a row in the series, but the Hurricanes usually play well in Tallahassee. As for the Florida game — unless Jameis Winston turns out to be a game-breaking quarterback by the regular season finale. That’s going to be a defensive slugfest.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a really, really talented Florida State team that can absolutely win the league. That said, two factors may keep this team from winning back-to-back ACC championships. Starting quarterback Jameis Winston will be a superstar eventually, but he will be making his first 12 appearances on a college gridiron this season. And the Clemson game will be in Death Valley. Otherwise, there is little standing in the way of another 10-win season for Jimbo Fisher. The annual bout with Miami comes in Doak Campbell and may be the only other ACC game the Seminoles aren't heavily favored in.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
Florida State's defense will be fine once again, so don't expect a drop-off on that side of the ball at all. Where there may be some concern, however, is with the quarterback situation. I believe redshirt freshman Jameis Winston is the real deal, but his ability to jump right into the starting passer role is imperative to the Seminoles' success this year. The schedule, of course, lays out nicely for a nine-win season at the very least. But whether Winston's ready for the spotlight will be the deciding factor in tough matchups with Clemson, Miami and Florida, respectively.


Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky), NunesMagician.com
It's been an interesting few months since last we saw Florida State beat down Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. Gone is most of the defense, starting quarterback, and six assistant coaches. But Jimbo Fisher's squad still has more than enough young talent to hang around the top of the ACC this season. Freshmen Jameis Winston, likely heir to EJ Manuel's QB throne, shined in the spring, and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, a Nick Saban disciple, should have an immediate impact. Game one at Pittsburgh could be a season-definer, if only because of its meaning for the Panthers, playing their first ever ACC game against a top-tier team. Lose here and it's a season wasted for Florida State. I say Seminoles survive and then fatten up on cupcakes before a mid-October showdown with Clemson. Personally, I think the Tigers are a sleeper for the BCS title game, meaning Florida State isn't leaving Death Valley on good terms. The only other L out there for the Seminoles should be at Florida to close the year, but you have to wonder if there is another boneheaded loss out there, a la N.C. State in 2012? If not it will be another respectable 10 wins in Tallahassee and a bowl sponsored by a product you've actually heard of. Not exactly the national championship, but there's always next year, 'Noles fans! Actually, 2014 could be the year you've been waiting for.

Mark Ross
EJ Manuel is in the NFL, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston should become the next great Seminole signal-caller. Winston will have the weapons to do some damage on offense and also benefits from not having to face the FSU defense. That said, he is still young and inexperienced, and I think the growing pains will be on full display in the 'Noles' two toughest games of the season - at Clemson and at Florida. Outside of these two, I think Jimbo Fisher's team has a great shot at 10 wins in the regular season, although even that may not be enough for the Noles to get a chance to defend their ACC crown.


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Teaser:
Florida State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/american-athletic-football-breakout-players-2013
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Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The American Athletic Conference is a league in transition for 2013, as Pittsburgh and Syracuse left for the ACC, and UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis have joined from Conference USA. With all of the change coming to the conference, there's no question it will take some time for all of the new players and teams to get acclimated to one another in 2013.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. 
 

American Athletic Conference Breakout Players for 2013

Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati fans are aware of how dangerous Abernathy IV can be with the ball in his hands. Now it’s time for the rest of college football to take notice. The Georgia native rushed for 366 yards and three touchdowns last year, while catching 28 passes for 341 yards and four scores. Abernathy IV also has one kickoff return for a touchdown in his career. With George Winn expiring his eligibility, the Bearcats will likely turn to Abernathy IV to carry more of the workload in the backfield. At 5-foot-7, 161 pounds, the junior isn’t likely to record 250 carries. However, he should see an increased role on offense this year.

Gerald Christian, TE, Louisville
Another weapon for Teddy Bridgewater? That’s what Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson hopes to see out of Christian in 2013. In two years with the Gators, he only caught four passes for 72 yards and one score. However, the Florida native ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals and played in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Look for the 6-foot-3 junior to be another valuable receiving threat for the Cardinals in 2013.

Jalen Fitzpatrick, WR, Temple
With the switch to a pro-style attack in 2013, Temple will be looking to throw more than it did over the last two years. Fitzpatrick was the Owls’ leading receiver, catching 30 passes for 363 yards and two scores last year, including six for 55 yards against Pittsburgh in late October. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Fitzpatrick isn’t the biggest receiver, but he is the team’s top playmaker and should utilize his speed to make big plays in Temple’s new offense.

Deion Green, DE, UCF
Green made a strong debut last year, recording 18 tackles and four sacks in 12 contests. The Orlando native made only one start but was named to Conference USA’s All-Freshman Team. UCF is counting on Green to be a major contributor at defensive end, especially with first-team All-Conference USA performer Troy Davis expiring his eligibility at the end of 2012.

Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
Even with the departure of running back Charles Sims, Houston should have one of the American Athletic Conference’s top offenses in 2013. The Cougars averaged 32.4 points a game last year despite inconsistent quarterback play, and coach Tony Levine’s decision to hire Doug Meacham as co-offensive coordinator should pay dividends. Greenberry was a huge catch on the recruiting trail for Levine, and he didn’t disappoint as a true freshman, grabbing 47 receptions for 569 yards and three scores. The sophomore should approach 60-70 catches in 2013 and is an Athlon Sports second-team American Athletic Conference selection for this season.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers
Huggins ranked as the No. 28 overall player in the 2011 Athlon Consensus 100, but the junior is still looking for his breakout season. Jawan Jamison shouldered the load for Rutgers over the last two years, and he decided to move onto the NFL at the end of 2012. With Jamison gone, 2013 should be Huggins’ time to shine. He rushed for 179 yards on 41 attempts against Cincinnati last year and recorded 48 yards on 18 attempts in the bowl loss against Virginia Tech. Huggins could be the American Athletic Conference’s top running back in 2013.

Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
With the departure of Steve Beauharnais and Khaseem Greene, Rutgers’ linebacking corps must be rebuilt. But new coordinator Dave Cohen has plenty to work with, including senior Jamal Merrell who should be in the mix for all-conference honors this year. Longa will fill Beauharnais’ shoes on the interior, and he is one of the defense’s most promising players for 2013, ranking as one of New Jersey’s top 10 high school prospects in 2012. 

Jeff Luc, LB, Cincinnati
With Greg Blair and Nick Temple returning, Cincinnati’s linebacking corps was already set to be the best in the American Athletic Conference this year. And this group could be among the top groups in the nation, provided Luc lives up to the hype in 2013. Luc played in 19 games with Florida State, recording 23 tackles and three tackles for a loss. The Florida native was regarded as a top-100 recruit coming out of high school.

Keiwone Malone, WR, Memphis
The Tigers return six starters from an offense that averaged 318.3 yards per game last season, so this unit has room to improve in the first year of play in the American Athletic Conference. Quarterback Jacob Karam settled into the starting role last year, but he will be pushed by Paxton Lynch and Eric Mathews for snaps. With more expected from the quarterbacks, Malone should have an opportunity to build off a solid sophomore campaign. He caught 44 passes for 476 yards and three scores, including 10 catches for 102 yards against MTSU. If Memphis continues to improve its quarterback play, Malone could make a push for all-conference honors.

Lorenzo Mauldin/Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville
With few glaring holes and the return of nine starters, much of the focus this offseason for Louisville’s defense was on upgrading the rush defense and pass rush. The Cardinals ranked 78th nationally in sacks per game (1.7) last year and allowed 148 rush yards per contest. Mauldin and Smith will play a key role in both areas this season, as both players combined for 8.5 sacks and 51 stops in 2012. If Smith and Mauldin raise their game up a notch, the Cardinals should show improvement on the stat sheet and rank as one of the top defensive lines in the American Athletic Conference.

Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF
The last name Perriman is no stranger to the wide receiver position, as Breshad’s father Brett played 10 years in the NFL. And Breshad is set to emerge as a household name in the American Athletic Conference in 2013. As a freshman last season, Perriman caught 26 passes for 388 yards and three scores, with his best performance coming in the bowl victory over Ball State (five receptions for 90 yards). With a full offseason to work with quarterback Blake Bortles, Perriman could be UCF’s leading receiver and top big-play threat in 2013. 

Shakim Phillips, WR, Connecticut
After struggling mightily on offense under George DeLeone, coach Paul Pasqualoni hired T.J. Weist to spice things up in Storrs this year. Weist plans on implementing a spread attack, but the Huskies have to play better on the line for the offense to improve. With the switch in play-callers and scheme, Phillips is expected to be involved more in the offense. The Boston College transfer caught 32 passes for 399 yards and one score in his debut with Connecticut last year.

Sean Price, TE, South Florida
As a true freshman last year, Price tied for third on the team with 21 catches and ranked fourth with 209 receiving yards. Price’s 2013 season is even more impressive when you consider he didn’t catch a pass through the first six weeks of the year, and South Florida lost quarterback B.J. Daniels to an injury late in the season. Price’s best performance came against Cincinnati, grabbing five receptions for 29 yards. At Western Kentucky, new USF coach Willie Taggart’s top two tight ends combined for 66 receptions last year. Expect Price to be heavily involved in the Bulls’ passing attack in 2013.

Stephon Sanders, LB, SMU
The Mustangs’ defense will miss the playmaking ability of Ja’Gared Davis and Taylor Reed, but the return of Sanders and Randall Joyner should keep this defense performing at a high level. Sanders made 12 starts last year and recorded 48 tackles in 13 games. The Texas native also recorded one interception and broke up five passes in 2012. Sanders will anchor the outside of the linebacking corps, and he will be counted on to help replace some of the pass rush departing from Davis and Reed.

Traylon Shead, RB, SMU
SMU’s Zach Line was one of the most productive running backs in college football over the last four years, rushing for 4,185 yards and 47 touchdowns in his Mustang career. Line expired his eligibility after the Hawaii Bowl, which opens the door for Shead to become SMU’s new starting running back. The junior college recruit began his career at Texas but transferred in search of more playing time. Shead was a four-star recruit by Rivals and rushed for 10,291 yards in his high school career. At 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, Shead has the size to be a three-down back and a goal-line presence for the Mustangs in 2013. 

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Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/what-college-football-program-closest-it-first-title
Body:

Alabama’s trophy case is getting full. Come to think of it, most of the teams that have won national championships in recent years are doubling and tripling up on title trophies and then some.

The last time a team won a national championship for the first time in program history was 1996 when Florida defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.

Oregon came close to its first national championship in 2010. Stanford is right there, too. Boise State has gone undefeated. And that Ol’ Ball Coach from Florida has good reason to think national title again, this time at South Carolina.

Alabama is a unanimous preseason pick to win the national championship, its third in four seasons. But what if a new face usurps the Crimson Tide? Which program could it be?

We’ve ranked 10 schools in the likelihood of the program’s ability to win a national title in the next five to 10 seasons, based on recruiting, coaching, resources and program trajectory.

For sake of consistency, we looked only at programs that have not won an Associated Press, coaches’ poll or BCS title since the AP poll began in 1936.

WHICH PROGRAM IS CLOSEST TO ITS FIRST NATIONAL TITLE?

1. Oregon
Record since 1936: 425-278-18 (.529)
Closest call: Lost to Auburn in the 2010 BCS Championship Game
A dormant program before Rich Brooks took Oregon to the Rose Bowl in 1994, Oregon has been knocking on the door for its first national title, losing 22-19 to Auburn in the BCS Championship Game in 2010. Auburn’s fortunate call on a run by Michael Dyer in the fourth quarter wasn’t the only time luck went against the Ducks. Oregon was ranked second in the AP and coaches’ polls after the 2001 regular season, but the BCS' computer average and strength of schedule components put No. 2 Nebraska into the Rose Bowl for the title against Miami. The 2007 team was ranked as high No. 2 in the BCS standings until quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a torn ACL. Each coach since Brooks has kept Oregon in the national title conversation. That bodes well first year-coach Mark Helfrich, who has a title contender in 2013. Especially with minimal sanctions from the NCAA in the Willie Lyles case, the infrastructure is strong for Oregon to win its first title.

2. Stanford
Record since 1936:
401-380-22 (.513)
Closest call: No. 4 in the final BCS standings in 2010 and 2011
The thought of Stanford competing for a national championship would have been far-fetched before 2010. Even Ty Willingham’s Rose Bowl team in 1999 finished the regular season 8-3. Few programs have changed their spot in the college football world as dramatically as Stanford in the last five years. David Shaw signed a top-10 recruiting class in 2012 and followed that with a quality-not-quantity 12-man class in 2013. Jim Harbaugh and Shaw proved Stanford can compete for titles despite stringent academic standards.

3. South Carolina
Record since 1936:
406-399-26 (.504)
Closest call: Started 9-0 and ranked as high as No. 2 in 1984, finished 10-2
Under Steve Spurrier, South Carolina has shaken itself out of mediocrity to become a power in the SEC East. The fan support and commitment has been there, but not the football results. Now that both are lockstep, South Carolina can enter the national picture. On top of keeping prospects like Jadeveon Clowney and Marcus Lattimore in state, South Carolina has been able to recruit into Georgia (to the detriment of Tennessee). Now, all South Carolina needs to do is defeat Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M in the SEC Championship Game.

4. Oklahoma State
Record since 1936:
412-404-22 (.505)
Closest call: Reached No. 2 in the BCS standings in 2011 before a mid-November lost to Iowa State
Before 2011, Oklahoma State hadn’t even won an outright conference title since 1926, so a national conference championship has been out of the question for decades. Thanks to an influx of money from T. Boone Pickens plus stadium and facility upgrades, Oklahoma State looks like a power program. Thanks to recruiting inroads in Texas, Oklahoma State has the talent of a Big 12 power. And thanks to Mike Gundy’s magic touch with hiring offensive coordinators, Oklahoma State has a clear identity. Gundy’s flirtations with Tennessee this offseason, plus any signs of Texas reasserting itself, have to make Oklahoma State fans nervous, however.

5. Louisville
Record since 1936:
411-353-12 (.537)
Closest call: A 12-1 season in 2006, the only loss by a field goal to Rutgers
With a men’s basketball team winning the national title, the women’s basketball team playing in the championship game and the baseball team reaching the College World Series, Louisville is having the multi-sport success programs like Ohio State, Florida and Texas usually have. The football program is no exception, entering the 2013 season in the top 10 following a Sugar Bowl rout of Florida. A stadium expansion and robust infrastructure built by athletic director Tom Jurich will keep Louisville an attractive destination for coaches and recruits. And if Charlie Strong stays through his contract extension into 2020, the Cardinals will have one of the nation’s top coaches for years to come. Thanks to a move to the ACC next season, conference alignment shouldn’t be as significant a barrier.

6. Wisconsin
Record since 1936:
419-375-27 (.527)
Closest call: Finished the 1962 season ranked No. 2 before a Rose Bowl loss
Under normal circumstances, we might be tempted to say Wisconsin’s national title window has closed. Bret Bielema, the coach who led the Badgers to three consecutive Rose Bowls, left for a middle-tier SEC job at Arkansas. Meanwhile, Michigan and Ohio State are poised to be the Big Ten’s one-two punch once again. Gary Andersen, though, could be a slam-dunk hire after he turned Utah State into a back-to-back bowl team and conference champion. Regardless of what’s going on in Columbus or Ann Arbor, Wisconsin should be able to corner the market on offensive line talent, which is always a good championship foundation.

7. Boise State
Record since 1936:
254-72-2 (.777)
Closest call: Started 10-0 in 2010 before losing 34-31 in overtime to Nevada, finished 11-1
Boise State has finished undefeated twice since 2006 but has never finished a season ranked higher than fourth in the AP poll. In 2013, the Broncos are gearing up for potentially a third BCS appearance. Still, perhaps no program will be more happy to see the College Football Playoff arrive than Boise State, assuming the four playoff spots don’t exclusively go to major-conference programs. Regardless, Boise State will need to continue to unearth prospects and focus on superior player development in recruiting to be able to compete with other national powers. The biggest detriment to Boise State’s title hopes may not be the BCS or the Playoff, but the potential departure of Chris Petersen.

8. Virginia Tech
Record since 1936:
473-335-21
Closest call: Lost to Florida State in the national title game following the 1999 season
Virginia Tech won at least 10 games each season from 2004-11, but the Hokies never got closer than when Michael Vick was on campus in 1999 and 2000. Now, there are questions about Virginia Tech's momentum. This will be a telling season for Virginia Tech’s hopes in the next few years as the Hokies recover from a 7-6 season. The next big test will be the retirement of Frank Beamer, the only coach who has won consistently in Blacksburg.

9. Ole Miss
Record since 1936:
479-338-20
Closest call: Ranked No. 2 in the AP poll and finished 10-0-1 in 1960
Ole Miss finished in the top three of the AP poll three times from 1959-62 and was picked No. 1 by the Football Writers Association of America in 1960. The departure of John Vaught brought mediocrity. The Rebels have ample in-state talent to lay the foundation of a title-winning team, but they need to recruit on par with teams like Alabama and LSU just to get out of the SEC West. That’s starting to happen under Hugh Freeze, but consistency has not been Ole Miss’ strong suit.

10. North Carolina
Record since 1936:
436-376-18
Closest call: Ranked as high as No. 4 in 1997, finished 10-1 with 20-3 loss to Florida State
North Carolina deserves sleeping giant mention, especially if the ongoing academic scandal doesn’t cut too deep into the football program. Larry Fedora appears to be the answer after three counterproductive coaching hires following the Mack Brown era. If North Carolina (or NC State, for that matter) can corral in-state recruiting, the Tar Heels could build a good foundation to become a national player.

Others of note:
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have the most wins of any team since 1936 without winning an AP or coaches’ poll title (509). Bobby Petrino left the Razorbacks little to work with, though.


Baylor: Art Briles is one of the nation’s best coaches, and the new stadium will be a palace. But still a big step from nine wins with Robert Griffin III to title contender.

Cal: If Stanford can become a national power, there’s little reason Cal can’t follow. The Bears need to find their footing post-Jeff Tedford first.

Kansas State: The Wildcats were in contention last season, plus other seasons in the late 90s, but we wonder what happens when Bill Snyder retires a second time.

West Virginia: Missed a window with the shocking loss to Pittsburgh in 2007. Now in the Big 12, the Mountaineers need time to consistently challenge programs like Oklahoma and Texas.

Teaser:
The last first-time national champion came in 1996. Is that about to change?
Post date: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - 06:32
Path: /nascar/vickers-earns-first-nascar-win-2009-new-hampshire
Body:

There was a time Brian Vickers was left for dead. I’m not just talking NASCAR here, I’m talking life.  Brian Vickers

It was the summer of 2010, and a healthy 26-year-old male had gone from a ride he handpicked at Team Red Bull to a hospital in critical condition. Diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a series of blood clots threatened to tear it all to shreds. Vickers had been through some harrowing moments before, losing best friend Ricky Hendrick to a plane crash at age 21. But when you’re faced with this kind of test, one where a bad outcome could lead to no second chances, it’s the kind of moment that changes one’s outlook on life.

“You wake up one morning and you're just not sure,” he said in Victory Lane Sunday. “You're just hoping to be around the next, to are you ever going to race again?”

He would. The recovery happened, but the comeback … that was several years in the making. Returning to Red Bull Racing after months of rehab, his results were never the same and by the tail end of 2011, he was unemployed; damaged goods in a world where just one knock on your talent was enough to take you down forever. It actually was a stroke of luck that earned him a chance at Michael Waltrip Racing. That February, Elliott Sadler was contracted to drive the No. 55 car but Chevrolet stepped in and kept the deal from getting done. A conflict of interest gave Vickers a second, and likely final, chance after a decade racing in the sport.

Ever since that moment, where he was allowed to strap inside that Toyota, he’s made the most of it – no looking back. In a sport in need of “feel good” stories, there was a reason everyone lined up to shake Vickers’ hand after Sunday’s triumph. It wasn’t so much a win on the racetrack as a victory in the great game we called life, a long time coming for one of the sport’s good guys who truly earned it.

What other long-term rewards might come next? Let’s go “Through the Gears” before this off weekend to discover what else popped up during a weekend of racing in New Hampshire …



FIRST GEAR: Brian Vickers earned himself a ride.Some might call it track position warfare, a fuel strategy call that put Vickers towards the front at the right time. Since stepping behind the wheel at MWR, he’s actually had more dominant cars at Bristol and Martinsville the past two years. But the bottom line is when the checkered flag flew, the No. 55 car finished first and that counts on the stat sheet. If anyone has any sense at Aaron’s, they’ll be signing on the dotted line to give this guy a full 2014 season to run for the Cup championship.

“When your back is against the wall and everything is down and things are not looking so good,” Vickers explained, crediting this team for believing in his ability, “You find out quickly who is willing to vouch for you. I learned a lot through that experience personally and I grew a lot as a person.”

That paid off on-track too, with newfound patience that allowed him to conserve equipment, then expertly run down and pass heavyweights Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch down the stretch. The question now is whether he’ll be allowed to fight again over the long-term. Crew chief Rodney Childers, whom Vickers has known for two decades, is being highly courted by rival Stewart-Haas Racing to chief the and No. 4 car and Kevin Harvick for a 2014 campaign. Sponsor Aaron’s is under new ownership, rethinking their presence in the sport during a time when the financial bottom lines for so many companies no longer involve NASCAR. Challenges still remain here for a team that, for all intents and purposes, could come out of the box a title contender next season. When you earn top-5 finishes with each man you put in the car: Michael Waltrip, Mark Martin and Vickers, and in the process, put the team in contention for the season-long owners’ championship I’d say that’s a Herculean effort.

The question now is, after the perfect pass on Stewart and then defense of his track position late, whether New Hampshire’s 11th winner in 11 races did enough to convince the powers that be. Common sense would have you saying yes; but then again, isn’t Dale Earnhardt Jr. still waiting on a primary sponsor? How this business side unfolds tells you a lot about where NASCAR stands in the 2013 economy.



SECOND GEAR: Busch’s bad breaks are adding up.You know Kurt Busch’s maturity has reached a new stage when it’s his younger brother getting mad for him after a wreck. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday afternoon once Kurt’s promising day got wiped out in a three-car incident on Lap 226.

Stuck in traffic through a pit shuffle after leading 102 circuits, Kurt’s No. 78 Chevy was simply trying to work its way back through traffic. But while battling side-by-side with Ryan Newman for position the cars lost momentum, Matt Kenseth’s front bumper came into play and the rest is history. While I chalked it up as “one of those racing deals,” younger Kyle didn’t see it that way – pointing the finger squarely at an overaggressive Newman for causing the contact.

"Man, just stupidity,” Kyle Busch said bluntly. “I mean, Ryan Newman is the biggest stupid idiot out here. And he's a big ogre and he can do whatever he wants because he can probably kick anybody's butt, so no sense in getting into a fight with him."

That confrontation is one Kurt still would have gone after in recent years … but not Sunday. Instead, he took a moment to cool down, then spoke to reporters calmly while the crew put the Furniture Row car back together again. Their hard work, resulting in a 31st-place result, earned the team 5-7 more points that could come in handy down the stretch.

It’s possible Newman’s future relationship with Kurt – he could be headed towards ally Richard Childress Racing next season – kept paybacks and soundbites to a minimum. Or perhaps Busch is more focused on keeping up his own momentum, following the fifth or sixth time this season a possible win slipped away. Like a cat with nine lives, he’s given up well over 100 points through wrecks, mechanical failures and self-induced pit road mistakes. You can only withstand so much adversity before the team itself starts losing confidence. A strong bounceback after the off week is critical to keep the elder Busch in contention.

As for Kyle? He better hope the No. 39 driver, if there’s nothing to lose at Richmond, doesn’t approach the rear bumper of the No. 18. Little Busch is right about one thing: this is one guy who doesn’t back down from a battle.



THIRD GEAR: Big-time performances when needed.Vickers wasn’t the only driver who came out of nowhere at Loudon. Jeff Burton, whose last appearance up front seemed like it was back in the 20th century, was the fastest car in the field as laps wound down. With the right track position and a few more laps, the No. 31 car could have just as easily won the race. It’s been a quiet, steady improvement over in the Caterpillar camp, running outside the top 20 just once since Memorial Day Weekend – and that was courtesy of a Tony Stewart bump in Sonoma.

“I don't think everybody understands this,” Burton explained. “This is Luke (Lambert’)s first year as a Cup crew chief; this is one of my engineer's second year as a Cup crew chief; the other engineer, it's his first year as a Cup crew engineer. It's our first time all working together. We are starting to learn each other.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time. Now just 25 points outside a Chase position with seven races left, Burton has strong tracks like Bristol and Richmond dead ahead. With all of RCR on the upswing, including Kevin Harvick’s run of consistency, it’s not inconceivable this veteran could make a run.

It’s one that Brad Keselowski is already doing, after a Friday pole position turned into a fourth-place performance on Sunday, his best since Bristol in March. After a week outside the top 10 in points, he’s back up to ninth and can head into the off week breathing easy. Indy lies up ahead, the site of owner Roger Penske’s greatest achievements and a place where they feel both he and Joey Logano will be contenders. No one battling for those final few spots in the Chase needed this type of weekend more.



FOURTH GEAR: Passing came at a premium.  Kyle BuschKyle Busch was a quote machine Sunday, explaining succinctly why so much of New Hampshire turned ‘round into a single-file parade.

“Even Superman didn't pass today,” he said. “Or even if he did, he didn't make it up to the lead. Once you get within five car lengths of the wake of the car in front of you, you can't do anything anymore.”

What Busch refers to is the dreaded “aero push,” a tight condition that’s even made its way to one-mile tracks like New Hampshire. It’s the worst nightmare for NASCAR’s Gen-6 chassis, a vehicle that looks much flashier but whose handling all too often had fallen flat like its CoT predecessor.

How do you fix it? That answer’s unclear. But NASCAR seems to be suffering from a case of too much parity. When all the cars run the same speed, combined with tires that don’t fall off and air that makes handling even more irritable, what you get is a case of 43 drivers forced to effectively run in place. The off week is a time of reflection, as NASCAR makes several changes in its Research and Development field (several of which were announced Monday afternoon). The real challenge for however it all shakes out is to find a way to break these cars up, causing aggression and greater passing without opening the gap even further between rich and poor.

That’s not an easy fix.


OVERDRIVE  
Jimmie Johnson
had a brilliant drive Sunday, jumping from 43rd to sixth after being forced to start at the rear for failing post-qualifying inspection. Some say that’s penalty enough — but how many points were really taken away, in the end? You wonder if even those types of failings, even if discovered on Friday, should get a six-point deduction attached. … Call it a mistake, bad driving or Lady Luck shining in the wrong direction. But there’s no question Danica Patrick wrecked her boyfriend, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., on Sunday. With the off week ahead, leaving lots of time to stew (and talk) it’s undoubtedly a major test for them – whether you want it to be news or not. … The struggles with passing caused an uncharacteristic number of cautions at New Hampshire. The 12 yellows, most for pushing and shoving incidents on track, were the most in nine years.


Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Teaser:
Reaction from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Brian Vickers won his first NASCR Sprint Cup race since 2009.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 18:30
Path: /2013-mlb-power-rankings-july-15
Body:
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (St. Louis Cardinals) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
 
Athlon Sports MLB Power Ranking 
 1. Cardinals Maintain the best record in baseball through the first half.
 2. Red Sox Finished 5-5 on recent 10-game West Coast trip.
3. A’s Have allowed the fewest runs in the American League.
 4. Pirates Given up more than four runs just once in last 17 games.
 5. Rays Most home wins in the majors, below .500 on the road.
 6. Rangers First team to beat Max Scherzer this season.
 7. Braves Justin Upton back on a hot streak.
 8. Orioles MVP3: Chris Davis, Manny Machado, Adam Jones.
 9. Reds Getting little production from bottom of the order.
10. Tigers Pitching has been shaky of late.
11. Indians Jason Kipnis is Cleveland’s newest young star.
12. Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt continues to carry the Arizona offense.
13. Yankees Only nine extra-base hits in seven games last week.
14. Dodgers Could be extremely active once again at trade deadline.
15. Nationals Lost 12 of 19 games vs. NL East.
16. Phillies At 24-14, Phils have best record vs. NL East.
17. Rockies Troy Tulowitzki back in lineup is welcome sight.
18. Blue Jays Haven’t won two in a row since June 23.
19. Mariners Topped the majors with 51 runs and .505 slugging last week.
20. Giants Tim Lincecum went 74 starts between shutouts.
21. Cubs Won a respectable 17 of their last 30.
22. Angels Disappointing sweep by Seattle.
23. Royals Open second half with Detroit and Baltimore.
24. Padres Still saveless in July.
25. Mets Won six of last nine, all on the road.
26. Twins Two six-game losing streaks since June 30.
27. Brewers One of the teams anxiously awaiting possible PED suspensions. 
28. White Sox Played 34 innings in two days at Philadelphia.
29. Marlins Logan Morrison lone recent bright spot in lineup.
30. Astros Chris Carter, leading team in HRs and RBIs, may be traded soon.
 
AL Player of the Week
Adam Jones, Baltimore
The All-Star center fielder hit .400 last week with four multi-hit games. He scored eight runs with a 1.323 OPS and homered in each of the three weekend games against Toronto with six RBIs.
 
AL Pitcher of the Week
Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
The Rays’ young righthander produced two outstanding outings last week. Through six innings against Minnesota, he allowed just one unearned run, then followed that with a five-hit shutout of Houston, with no walks in either contest.
 
NL Player of the Week
Buster Posey, San Francisco
The Giants’ backstop began the week with a 5-for-8 performance in San Francisco’s 16-inning marathon with the Mets. He ended the week with nine hits over five games for a .483 average and 1.191 OPS. He drove in five in one game, then scored three in the next.
 
NL Pitcher of the Week
Zack Greinke, Los Angeles
San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum was certainly masterful in his no-hitter against San Diego, but Greinke had two superb starts last week against division rivals. He logged seven shutout innings at Arizona and tossed a complete game shutout vs. Colorado.
 
 
Teaser:
MLB Power Rankings are a look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 18:21
Path: /mlb/5-reasons-yasiel-puig-should-play-mlb-all-star-game
Body:

Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm since defecting from Cuba, fleeing to Mexico and signing a seven-year, $42 million deal last season.

Yet despite the fact that the 22-year-old wunderkind has dominated the nightly highlights and is undeniably the top storyline of the season’s first-half, Puig will not participate in the All-Star Game at New York’s Citi Field on Tuesday. These are five reasons why Puig should play in the Midsummer Classic:

1. Star power
Forget range factor, Puig has got off-the-charts “it” factor. The toolsy 6’3”, 245-pounder has a flair for the dramatic, whether he’s gunning down runners, mashing two homers in his second big league game or partying with Jay-Z at the 40/40 Club in New York.

2. Awesome numbers
The manchild has had a monsterous season thus far — hitting .391 with a 1.038 OPS, eight HRs, 19 RBIs, five stolen bases and 28 runs scored in 151 at-bats over 38 games since making his debut on June 3. It’s a small sample size, but Puig has done more damage than just about anyone not named Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis thus far.

3. Chance for breathtaking plays
Remember when Bo Jackson took over the 1989 All-Star Game? Puig is a “Bo Jackson-type package,” according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Whether or not that comp is all hype or simply hyperbole, there’s no denying Puig’s penchant for spectacular plays reminiscent of Bo.

4. Freddie Freeman is injured
Puig was runner-up to Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman in the fan vote for the final National League roster spot. Freeman is unable to play due to a thumb injury. Rather than let Giants manager Bruce Bochy select a replacement, the fans should be heard — that’s the whole concept of a fan vote, right?

5. Vin Scully Loves Yasiel Puig
Even if Commissioner Bud Selig doesn’t care about star power, TV ratings, big plays or the fans, he should at least care about iconic Dodgers voice Vin Scully. The 85-year-old loves Puig, thinking his accomplishments are “not to be believed, because this game is not that easy. … His talent is absolutely breathtaking.” No one knows better than Uncle Vin, who remains the best in the business.
 

Teaser:
Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig will not play in the MLB All-Star Game at Citi Field, but he should.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 16:40
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, Roto, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-15
Body:

It's All-Star week, so even though the fantasy action won't resume until Friday, Athlon Sports is here to catch you up on what took place over the last seven days. In addition to breaking down last week's top hitters and the hottest starting pitchers, our fantasy junkies have indentified some batters that could be worth picking up to help your team make a second-half charge.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (July 8-14):

 NamePos.TeamRHRRBISBBAOPS
1.Alfonso SorianoOFCHC84520.2961.182
2.Kendrys Morales*1BSEA93600.3671.120
3.Adam JonesOFBAL83600.4001.323
4.Shin-Soo ChooOFCIN91220.4481.136
5.Chris Davis1B/OFBAL74800.2501.149
6.Adrian Beltre3BTEX43800.4071.245
7.Buster PoseyC/1BSF41800.4831.191
8.David Ortiz1BBOS72410.3601.153
9.Alejandro De Aza*OFCWS72400.4141.262
10.Raul Ibanez*OFSEA43700.3571.186
11.Marlon Byrd*OFNYM62800.3211.010
12.Matt Carpenter1/2/3/OFSTL61800.3911.100
13.Kyle Seager2B/3BSEA82300.3851.099
14.Robinson Cano2BNYY31710.4351.161
15.Luke Scott*OFTB43600.3461.183
16.Pedro Florimon*SSMIN42610.3331.010
17.Justin Smoak*1BSEA61700.3851.121
18.Justin UptonOFATL61600.4501.305
19.Wil Myers*OFTB50230.4090.935
20.Victor MartinezC/1BDET51600.4441.187
21.Jonathan LucroyCMIL33600.3891.394
22.Michael SaundersOFSEA61700.3571.043
23.Logan SchaferOFMIL52410.3201.050
24.Lyle Overbay1BNYY42700.3501.150
25.Eric YoungOFNYM70030.3330.882

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

As MLB takes a break for the All-Star game festivities, we thought we would use our Weekly Waiver Wire section to indentify some hitters that are less than 70 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues that could benefit your lineup as we enter the dog days of summer and the competition in your fantasy league heats up.

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Jason Castro, C, HOU (47% owned in Yahoo! Leagues)
The Astros' lone All-Star representative, Castro is currently the No. 8 fantasy catcher. The 26-year-old appears to be fully recovered from the devastating knee injury that wiped out his entire 2011 season. He is thriving in his first full season as the starter, showing plenty of power (12 HR in 297 AB) and offering solid production in other categories (40 R, 31 RBI, .269/.806), especially considering the lineup support around him.
Others worth considering: J.P. Arencibia C, TOR (50% owned), Jonathan Lucroy, C, MIL (68%); Jarrod Saltalamacchia (34%)

Kendrys Morales, 1B, SEA (60%)
Morales is back to his slugging ways, as he gets farther and farther away from the horrendous broken ankle he suffered back in May 2010. The switch-hitting slugger has helped solidify the middle of the Mariners' lineup, as he's already hit five home runs and driven in 12 runs through the first 12 games of July. Hitting at Safeco Field hasn't been a problem either, as Morales has made himself right at home and taken full advantage of the smaller dimensions to the tune of a .310-6-30 clip in 184 at-bats.
Others worth considering: Chris Carter, 1B/OF, HOU (26% owned); James Loney, 1B, TB (55%); Daniel Nava, 1B/OF, BOS (66%)

Jedd Gyorko, 2B/3B, SD (45%)
The rookie spent more than a month on the DL with a groin strain, but he returned for the Padres' final three games before the All-Star break. He went 0-for-11 from the plate in those games, but this is somewhat understandable considering his lengthy absence. Still, any second baseman that has 20-home run potential like Gyorko is worth keeping an eye on. Prior to suffering the injury, Gyorko had produced a .284-8-25 line with 36 runs and 17 doubles in 232 at-bats.
Others worth considering: Omar Infante, 2B, DET (38% owned, currently on DL); Daniel Murphy, 1B/2B, NYM (63%); Dan Uggla, 2B, ATL (62%)

Chris Johnson, 1B/3B, ATL (39%)
It's easy for Johnson to get lost in an Atlanta lineup stacked with big bats like Justin Upton, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and others, but one could argue that the third baseman has been the Braves' most consistent hitter not named Freeman to this point. Johnson won't hit for a tremendous amount of power, but he does have six home runs already and is batting .358 in July. Johnson's early success is one of the reasons the Braves traded Juan Francisco to Milwaukee, as he's been able to hit both lefties (.360) and righties (.318) this season.
Others worth considering: Brett Lawrie, 3B, TOR (64% owned); Trevor Plouffe, 3B/OF, MIN (18%); Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, CLE (57%)

Erick Aybar, SS, LAA (55%)
Like many of his teammates, Aybar's bat has started to come around. After batting just .252 with six runs scored in May, the switch-hitter raised that to .306 with 19 RBIs in June and is hitting .325 in July so far. Aybar's primary value is tied to average and runs scored, two categories he should be able to contribute solidly in if the rest of the lineup keeps mashing like it has been. Anything else Aybar can give you in RBIs, stolen bases and home runs as a middle infielder is icing on the cake.
Others worth considering: Alcides Escobar, SS, KC (54%), Alexei Ramirez, SS, CWS (54%); (Andrelton Simmons, SS, ATL (41%)

Michael Brantley, OF, CLE (41%)
He doesn't hit for a lot of power (7 HR in 333 AB) and he's not a speed demon on the bases (10 SB), but what Brantley can do is provide respectable contributions across the board. The Indians' outfielder has driven in 48 runs already, compared to 60 all of last season, and has scored 46. He's currently batting .279 and his ability to make contact (42 K in 91 G) should help keep his average around that range. Put it all together and you have a guy who is knocking on the door of being a top-30 fantasy OF.

Raul Ibanez, OF, SEA (63%)
As hard as it may be to believe, Ibanez has a chance to homer his age this season. The 41-year-old is fourth in the AL in home runs with 24 and is on pace to finish the season with 41 on the nose. Regardless of whether he gets there or not, his overall production (.267, 36 R, 56 RBIs) cannot be ignored. Sixteen of his home runs have come at Safeco Field and the left-handed slugger has held his own against southpaws (.263-8-17) when he's gotten the chance to face them this season.

Gerardo Parra, OF, ARI (50%)
While it's clear that Parra has cooled off considerably from his hot start (.308-4-13, 34 R in April and May combined) and the Arizona outfield is somewhat crowded, I still believe he should be owned in more than just half of Yahoo! leagues. With seven home runs already, he needs just two more to set a new career high and he's well on his way to doing the same for runs scored and hits. Given his success against right-handers (.301-7-24), there's no reason to think he won't get a fair amount of at-bats near the top of the Diamondbacks' lineup in the second half.
Others worth considering: Marlon Byrd, OF, NYM (21%); Chris Carter, 1B/OF, HOU (26%); Matt Joyce, OF, TB (25%), Daniel Nava, 1B/OF, BOS (66%); Colby Rasmus, OF, TOR (33%); Jayson Werth, OF, WAS (65%)

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

 NameTeamIPWKERAWHIP
1.Matt MooreTB20.23251.310.82
2.Clayton KershawLAD17.02151.060.53
3.Chris Archer*TB21.02150.860.62
4.David PriceTB25.02181.080.76
5.Jeremy Hefner*NYM21.02171.710.57
6.Wily Peralta*MIL21.12190.420.98
7.Ivan Nova*NYY17.02171.590.65
8.Cole HamelsPHI23.02191.570.87
9.Zack GreinkeLAD21.03202.140.95
10.Dan Straily*OAK13.12130.680.68
11.Tim LincecumSF21.11322.530.89
12.Francisco LirianoPIT16.02131.130.81
13.John Lackey*BOS22.02202.050.91
14.Joe Saunders*SEA20.23120.871.16
15.Madison BumgarnerSF21.02192.140.76
16.Matt GarzaCHC21.23152.570.57
17.Edwin Jackson*CHC12.2280.710.71
18.Bronson Arroyo*CIN19.02122.370.68
19.Jose Quintana*CWS21.01232.570.81
20.Felix HernandezSEA22.02171.641.09

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

Teaser:
Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 15
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 16:00
Path: /college-football/butch-jones-ready-start-tennessee-video
Body:

New Tennessee coach Butch Jones is ready for the start of 2013. Need proof? Check out this advertisement he filmed for Tennessee's ticket office.

Teaser:
Butch Jones is Ready to Start at Tennessee (Video)
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 15:36
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-15
Body:

Catching up from a busy weekend in the college football world. Getting closer to kickoff with the start of media days this week. 

Feel free to contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Monday, July 15th

It's official: Penn State and UCF will play in Ireland in 2014. Very cool.

What did South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney run in the 40-yard dash? Here's a scoop: It's ridiculous.

What exactly happened to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel this weekend? Sports Illustrated's Peter King has a good take in his Monday Morning Quarterback. And Manziel pleaded guilty on Monday to a misdemeanor from 2012.

Kentucky running back Josh Clemons was injured in a workout late last week. He is expected to miss all of the 2013 season.

The Big Ten is taking a tough stance on hits above the shoulders in 2013.

Can Penn State reduce its recent NCAA sanctions

An interesting read from NunesMagician.com on some of the differences from the Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer eras at Syracuse.

Should Arkansas take a chance on former Auburn running back Michael Dyer? But could Dyer end up at South Florida?

Former Notre Dame receiver Justin Ferguson has transferred to Western Michigan.

Jon Solomon has an interesting look at SEC schedules and a historical perspective for this season.

Saturday Down South ranks the SEC offensive linemen for 2013. Lots of potential NFL first-round talent in this group.

How is the committee for college football's new playoff coming along?

NFL cornerback Darrelle Revis had some words of advice for Virginia Tech cornerback Antone Exum, who is recovering from a torn ACL.

Auburn has lost an incoming recruit due to academic issues.

A preview of Texas Tech's outside linebackers for 2013.

Former Tulane linebacker Trent Mackey was acquitted on armed robbery and conspiracy charges. The former Green Wave player could be granted a waiver to play his final year of eligibility for 2013.

Here's a good preview of UCLA's offensive line for 2013.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 14:51
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/angry-race-car-driver-gets-drug-other-driver
Body:

This is exactly why I don't race cars. That, and I don't have a race car. During a race this past Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., driver Mike Robertson was angry at race winner Derek Stolz for bumping him. In retaliation, Robertson did the only logical thing: he hopped out of his car and went to confront Stolz during his victory lap. The result is that Robertson went for a ride on the side of Stolz's car until he was flung into a wall. Reports are that Robertson was uninjured.

Teaser:
Angry race car driver gets drug by other driver. Ouch.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 14:25
Path: /college-football/byu-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

BYU’s third season of independence features its most difficult schedule.

The Cougars play seven bowl teams from last season, including BCS bowl teams in Wisconsin and Notre Dame. BYU also takes on rival Utah in early September and an improving Virginia team in Week 1.

BYU returns 11 starters, including All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy and rising star Taysom Hill at quarterback. The Cougars have a new offensive staff, which features the return of Robert Anae as coordinator.

If the Cougars improve on offense, the defense is strong enough to push for nine victories in 2013. 

What will BYU's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 


BYU's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

 

Game Steven
 Lassan
 Braden
 Gall
 Mark
 Ross
Jeremy
Mauss
David
Fox
8/31 at Virginia
9/7 Texas
9/21 Utah
9/27 MTSU
10/4 at Utah State
10/12 Georgia Tech
10/19 at Houston
10/25 Boise State
11/9 at Wisconsin
11/16 Idaho State
11/23 at Notre Dame
11/30 at Nevada
Final Projection  7-5   7-5   8-4   7-58-4


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Cougars have a challenging, yet manageable slate. The first three games of the year will be a tough way for an offense with a new coordinator and quarterback to begin the season. However, BYU’s defense should still be solid despite the return of only four starters - especially with All-American linebacker Kyle Van Noy back in Provo - and will keep this team in every game until the offense has a chance to find its footing. The schedule lightens just a bit in the second half of the season, as games against Houston, Idaho State and Nevada are more manageable than matchups against BCS foes.

If the offense improves, I can see BYU finishing with an 8-4 or even a 9-3 mark. The road opener against Virginia, the Holy War showdown against Utah and the Oct. 12 date against Georgia Tech are the biggest swing games on the schedule. The matchup against the Utes was a tossup, but I gave a slight edge to Utah since it has won four out of the last five in that series.  


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Bronco Mendenhall has posted an 18-8 record over the last two seasons and has five 10-win campaigns in his last seven years. Quietly one of the better coached teams in the nation, BYU has survived independence. Can that continue this year, however, with massive college football blue bloods (Texas, Notre Dame, Wisconsin), solid tier two programs (Georgia Tech, Virginia, Utah) and elite mid-majors (Boise State, Houston, Nevada) dotting nearly every week of the schedule? There are maybe two or three sure-fire wins on this impossible slate but only two or three sure-fire losses. It will be a year of swing games for the disciplined Cougars and new star quarterback Taysom Hill.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Always tough picking games in July for a team hoping its rising star quarterback (Taysom Hill) will take the next step. I feel like we just did this with Jake Heaps. Anyhow, Hill and the new offensive approach are going to be the keys for BYU because the defense is going to be OK. If Robert Anae’s return to the coaching staff isn’t the answer, BYU may have more games like the 6-3 win over Utah State and 7-6 loss to Boise State last year. On top of the questions for BYU, two of the biggest swing games -- Utah State and Nevada -- feature new coaches. Those are big questions. For BYU, eight wins seems pretty safe for a program that rarely falls below that mark.


Jeremy Mauss, (@JeremyMauss), Mountain West Connection

BYU is in their third year of independence, and the schedule is much improved over the first two years. The Cougars have ridded themselves of WAC teams from the schedule, and in 2013 have one of their toughest schedules in school history.

While the first half of the Cougars schedule is difficult, it does set up nice for them to have a good start, as their first seven are winnable, even the home opener against Texas. 2013 will also be the last time that BYU will be playing Utah before the Holy War takes a brief hiatus, and the Cougars will be looking to stop their three-game losing streak to the Utes.

There are so many toss up games this season for BYU that it is possible that they could win as few as four games or could reach the double-digit mark. BYU's ultimate success will be determined by the uptempo offense brought in by new offensive coordinator Robert Anae.


Mark Ross 
As an Independent, BYU has one of the most intriguing schedules in the nation. Games with Boise State, Georgia Tech, Texas and of course, Utah, highlight the home slate, while road games at Notre Dame and Virginia are intriguing for different reasons. Even with a fairly difficult schedule like this, I like the talent the Cougars have on offense and defense and believe they have a legitimate shot at eight wins before bowl season. The key games related to this goal will be against the Utes and Yellow Jackets at home and the Cavaliers, Aggies and Wolf Pack on the road.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 10 Independent Heisman Contenders
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment
The Heisman's Top 25 Defensive Candidates for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013
College Football 2013: Comparing Preseason Rankings and Picks

Teaser:
BYU Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 12:16
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Maryland Terrapins, News
Path: /college-football/maryland-adds-houston-transfer-zeke-riser
Body:

With the departure of A.J. Francis and first-team All-ACC selection Joe Vellano, Maryland’s defensive line has some holes to fill for 2013. The Terrapins are regaining the services of Andre Monroe, who missed all of 2012 due to a knee injury, but the line is still a concern for coordinator Brian Stewart.

However, it appears the Terrapins have some help on the way in the form of Houston transfer Zeke Riser. Stewart coached Riser in Houston in 2011, and his familiarity with Maryland’s 3-4 defense will be an advantage to easing the transition to College Park for 2013. Riser is eligible to play in 2013 after graduating from Houston in December.

In three seasons with the Cougars, Riser recorded 91 tackles and eight sacks. The senior isn’t expected to start, but he should provide valuable depth to a line that will miss Vellano and Francis in 2013. With the losses on the defensive line, this is a good move for Maryland. Riser may not be a star, but he can certainly help a defensive line that played a key role in finishing second in the ACC in rushing yards allowed last year.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 11:54
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /2012-pga-championship-recap
Body:

It may have turned into the Snore by the Shore, but it was a weekend of milestones for Rory McIlroy, who's out-Tigering Tiger Woods at the same point in their respective careers. In 27 holes of rain-delayed Sunday golf at the formidable Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, McIlroy put on a breathtaking display: 9-under par, no bogeys, a not-so-subtle signal that he's now the face of global golf.

Rory's litany of achievements at the Ocean Course:

• He became the youngest PGA Champion (23 years, three months) since the tournament moved to stroke play in 1958, beating Jack Nicklaus' record.

• His 8-shot margin of victory broke Nicklaus' record 7-shot margin at the 1980 PGA.

• McIlroy is the second-youngest player to win two majors. Nicklaus was one month younger when he won his second; Tiger was four months older.

• His 8-shot win reprised his 8-shot demolition of the U.S. Open field in 2011. He's the first player to earn his first two major victories in such dominant fashion.

• He's halfway to a career Grand Slam, and had he avoided a Sunday back-nine meltdown at the 2011 Masters, we'd be talking about him in the reverent tones once reserved for Tiger at his apex.

One of the refreshing things about Rory is his relative humility given his youth and level of accomplishment; he hasn't burst into the champions' locker room and started throwing elbows. Yes, he wore Sunday red in an obvious nod to the guy who made such attire famous, but he said afterwards that he would have left the red shirt in the closet under certain conditions. "I thought if I was playing with him (Woods), I wouldn’t wear it,” he said. “Obviously him, you know who 'him' is."

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 11:48
Path: /weekend-golf-5-amazing-stats
Body:

A roundup of the amazing numbers that have the golf world abuzz:

 

19 Jordan Spieth, a 19-year-old phenom who seems to have already been around awhile, became the first teenager to win a PGA Tour event since Ralph Guldahl in 1931 when his par putt dropped on the sixth hole of Sudden Death at the John Deere. Spieth is the fourth-youngest Tour winner in history and scored his first win at a younger age than fellow phenoms Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson. Some of the spoils of victory: berths in this week’s Open Championship at Muirfield, the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, the PGA Championship, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and The Masters.

 

11 Spieth moves to 11th in FedExCup points, thanks to his sixth top-10 finish of the season in 16 starts.

 

59 Over on the Web.com Tour, Will Wilcox shot golf's magic number, firing a final-round 59 on the par-71 Willow Creek Country Club to win the Utah Championship. Wilcox's card included 10 birdies and an eagle.

 

20 Phil Mickelson won on European soil for the first time in 20 years, capturing the Scottish Open ahead of this week's Open Championship. Mickelson's birdie on the first playoff hole beat Branden Grace and moves Lefty to No. 5 in the World Golf Ranking heading to Muirfield. Mickelson's last win in Europe came in 1993 in Paris on the European Challenge Tour.

 

2 Kenny Perry has gone back-to-back in Champions Tour majors after shooting a final-round 63 to earn a five-shot win in the U.S. Senior Open, adding that to his Senior Players Championship two weeks ago. "This is by far the biggest tournament I ever won," Perry said. "I lost the playoff at the Masters and the PGA playoff. I didn't get the job done. Now to have a USGA title, it's an Open, it's our Open, it's what the players play for. To finally get it, even though it's a Senior Open, I still regard it as a very high honor."

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, _none, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-15-2013
Body:

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

 

• Former wrestler Stacy Kiebler is not dating George Clooney any more, but her time with the Hollywood heartthrob paid off to the tune of $10 million. For $10 million, I'll happily date George Clooney.

 

The Freak tossed a 148-pitch no-no, a teen won on the PGA Tour, and other things you might have missed this weekend. My favorite part of Lincecum's no-hitter was his reaction to hitting the home plate umpire with a pitch, which was immortalized in GIF form.

 

Was Johnny Football kicked out of the Manning Passing Academy for being hung over? He was out late the night before, sick the next day. You do the math.

 

A fan caught four foul balls at an Indians game this weekend. Forget DiMaggio's hitting streak: Baseball has a new untouchable record.

 

• Boys will be boys: Stories of athletes stealing each other's girls.

 

• Is this possible? Did Jadeveon Clowney run a 4.46? Guy really is a freak.

 

Settle in for the circus that is SEC Media Days.

 

The goriest moments from Pamplona's Running of the Bulls. Click only if you have a strong stomach. The takeaway: Bulls win.

 

Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open, then dropped the trophy. Fortunately, a photographer captured the magic moment.

 

Bryce Harper did not take kindly to getting ejected in the eighth inning of a one-run game.

 

• Carly Rae Jepsen came up about 58 feet short with her first pitch.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 10:48
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-training-camp-dates-and-locations
Body:

It has been more than five long, football-free months since the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. But rejoice NFL fans, because the country's most popular sport will be back soon. While the 2013 season doesn't officially kick off until Sept. 5, the start of training camps this week serves as the first real reminder that the NFL is back in business.

Some teams hold training camp at home, while others like to hit the road, but either way it's a great opportunity to get an early glimpse of how your favorite team is shaping up, not to mention a long sought-after autograph or two.

Below are the dates and locations for 2013 training camps for all 32 NFL teams:

TeamSiteLocationRookiesVeterans
ArizonaUniversity of Phoenix StadiumGlendale, AZ7/237/25
AtlantaAtlanta Falcons Training FacilityFlowery Branch, GA7/247/24
BaltimoreUnder Armour Performance CenterOwings Mills, MD7/217/24
BuffaloSt. John Fisher CollegePittsford, NY7/227/27
CarolinaWofford CollegeSpartanburg, SC7/217/25
ChicagoOlivet Nazarene UniversityBourbonnais, IL7/257/25
CincinnatiPaul Brown StadiumCincinnati, OH7/247/24
ClevelandCleveland Browns Training FacilityBerea, OH7/197/24
DallasCity of Oxnard FieldsOxnard, CA7/207/20
DenverPaul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos CentreEnglewood, CO7/247/24
DetroitDetroit Lions Training FacilityAllen Park, MI7/227/25
Green BaySt. Norbert CollegeGreen Bay, WI7/257/25
HoustonMethodist Training CenterHouston, TX7/217/25
IndianapolisAnderson UniversityAnderson, IN7/237/27
JacksonvilleFlorida Blue Health & Wellness Practice FieldsJacksonville, FL7/257/25
Kansas CityMissouri Western State UniversitySt. Joseph, MO7/227/25
MiamiMiami Dolphins Training FacilityDavie, FL7/207/20
MinnesotaMinnesota State University, MankatoMankato, MN7/257/25
New EnglandGillette StadiumFoxboro, MA7/217/25
New OrleansNew Orleans Saints Training FacilityMetairie, LA7/187/25
New York GiantsTimex Performance CenterEast Rutherford, NJ7/267/26
New York JetsSUNY CortlandCortland, NY7/227/25
OaklandNapa Valley MarriottNapa, CA7/257/25
PhiladelphiaNovaCare ComplexPhiladelphia, PA7/227/25
PittsburghSaint Vincent CollegeLatrobe, PA7/267/26
St. LouisRams Park Training CenterEarth City, MO7/217/24
San DiegoChargers ParkSan Diego, CA7/242/24
San FranciscoMarie P. DeBartolo Sports CenterSanta Clara, CA7/197/24
SeattleVirginia Mason Athletic CenterRenton, WA7/247/24
Tampa BayOne Buccaneer PlaceTampa Bay, FL7/177/24
TennesseeBaptist Sports ParkNashville, TN7/247/24
WashingtonBon Secours Training CenterRichmond, VA7/247/24

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

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

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2013 Preview magazine

Teaser:
2013 NFL Training Camp Dates and Locations
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/georgia-state-releases-new-uniforms-2013
Body:

Behind new coach Trent Miles, Georgia State is set to make its FBS debut in 2013.

The Panthers went 1-10 last year on the FCS level but return 12 starters, including standout receiver Albert Wilson.

While it will take some time for Miles and his staff to build Georgia State into a Sun Belt title contender, what better way to begin play on the FBS level than new uniforms?

The Panthers recently debuted their new look for 2013, and the redesigned uniforms look sharp.

Image below from Georgia State's official football site. Check out the full gallery of Georgia State's new uniforms.
 

Teaser:
Georgia State Releases New Uniforms for 2013
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Funny, GIF, _none, MLB, Overtime, News
Path: /singer-carly-rae-jepsen-throws-worst-first-pitch-history-baseball
Body:

Singer Carly Rae Jepsen was asked to throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Tampa Bay Rays’ game against the Houston Astros this past weekend. The result? Well, it was terrible. Bad. Horrific. If the catcher was 50 feet closer and had a fishing net, he still wouldn't have hauled this one in. In other words, if you tried to throw out a worse first pitch, you couldn't do it. Well, probably. You be the judge.

 

Singer Carly Rae Jepsen Throws Worst First Pitch in the History of Baseball

Teaser:
The "Call Me, Maybe" singer sucks at baseball
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 08:51
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-rb-jeremy-hills-fight-video-released
Body:

LSU’s Jeremy Hill had a standout freshman season, rushing for 755 yards and 12 scores on 142 attempts. The Baton Rouge native was supposed to be one of the top running backs in the SEC for 2013, but his status for the upcoming year remains in doubt.

The sophomore was involved in an off-the-field incident in April, and he pleaded guilty on Friday to simple battery. Hill was hit with two years of probation, but he is already on probation for an incident that occurred in high school in 2010.

According to NOLA.com, Hill will have a probation review on Aug. 16, and more about the sophomore’s status for 2013 could be known after that hearing.

After Friday’s sentencing, the video from Hill’s April fight was released. The short clip shows the running back punching someone in the parking lot of a bar, which is baffling considering Hill did not appear to be involved in the initial breakout of the fight.

Needless to say, coach Les Miles will probably hand out a suspension before Hill is allowed to return to the team. 


Warning: Video contains graphic language
 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Zach MettenbergerLSU was considered one of the favorites to win the national title last season, but the Tigers came up just short, finishing 10-3 overall with two losses in SEC play by eight points or less.

Even though LSU didn’t win the SEC West or play for the national championship, 2012 marked the third consecutive season the Tigers have won at least 10 or more games.

And even with a handful of players departing from last year’s team, the cupboard is far from bare in Baton Rouge. The Tigers have recruited among the best in the nation, so talent won’t be an issue in 2013. However, coach Les Miles and his staff will have to quickly blend some new faces into the lineup, especially with the season opener against TCU and a key conference game on Sept. 28 at Georgia.

What will LSU's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

LSU's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

 

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
Josh
Ward
Mark
Ross
SEC
Logo
8/31 TCU (Arlington)
9/7 UAB
9/14 Kent State
9/21 Auburn
9/28 at Georgia
10/5 at Miss. State
10/12 Florida
10/19 at Ole Miss
10/26 Furman
11/9 at Alabama
11/23 Texas A&M
11/30 Arkansas
Final Projection9-38-48-49-310-29-3


David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The off week situation makes me want to pick LSU to upset Alabama on the road or Texas A&M at home. LSU gets a bye before Alabama, then a bye after the Tide into the game against the Aggies. I picked against LSU in both, but I’d likely change my tune if we see the same old dominant defense and a more consistent Zach Mettenberger in the first two months of the season. But before LSU gets big eyes to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa again, they need to see how the Tigers fare against Florida and Ole Miss. The game between LSU and Florida may end up being the obligatory SEC game with a 7-3 final. Ole Miss has a ton of momentum, but are the Rebels the kind of team that’s going to beat LSU? I don’t know yet.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even with all of the new faces stepping into the lineup, LSU is still a threat to contend for 10 wins and a BCS bowl. The Tigers have one of the toughest crossover schedules in the SEC, as they play at Georgia on Sept. 28 and host Florida on Oct. 12. The Bulldogs and Gators could both be preseason top-10 teams when they play LSU. A key swing game to watch will be the Oct. 19 matchup against Ole Miss, which comes one week after a home date against Florida.

Much of LSU’s season will hinge on the hire of Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator and quarterback Zach Mettenberger. With a solid offensive line and stable of running backs, it’s up to Mettenberger to take the offense to the next level. And while the defense is breaking in eight new starters, there’s very little reason to expect a drop off with John Chavis calling the plays.

If the transition goes as planned, 10 wins isn’t out of the question for Miles’ team. But much of LSU’s 2013 SEC West title hopes will rest on the right arm of Mettenberger and how the Tigers navigate a difficult crossover schedule. 

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
LSU has turned into an underrated team in the SEC thanks to the attention surrounding rivals Alabama and Texas A&M. LSU has to replace several key players from last year’s defense, but the Tigers have plenty of talent remaining for defensive coordinator John Chavis. Still, I predict a 9-3 record for LSU. Back-to-back games against Alabama and Texas A&M (with a bye week in between) will be key. LSU will likely find itself in the SEC championship game if it manages to win both of those games.

Mark Ross

LSU lost a lot of talent on defense and has plenty of questions on offense, starting with its quarterback, but some way, some how, Les Miles usually finds a way to get nine or more wins. I think this year's Tigers will match that benchmark, thanks to a couple of scheduling breaks, if you will. The season opener against TCU won't be a cakewalk, but LSU won't have to worry about stopping the Horned Frogs' best defender, Devonte Fields, as he will miss this game due to suspension. The road games at Georgia and Alabama will be extremely tough, but Florida and Texas A&M both have to come to Death Valley, and you have to figure at least one, if not both of these, will be at night. As long as LSU doesn't slip up against Mississippi State on the road, this team should have a shot at 10 wins in the regular season. Unfortunately, that probably won't be enough to wind up in Atlanta for the SEC title game, but it could keep Miles' squad in the BCS conversation.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Youth and inexperience in the front seven, mediocre quarterback play and the toughest schedule in the league means that LSU won't be competing for an SEC title this year. In fact, it will have to win key swing games with Florida, TCU and Mississippi State to get to eight wins. Road trips to Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss and a home game with Texas A&M give the Bayou Bengals arguably the toughest schedule in the league this fall. And with a head coach who has a track record of making in-game mistakes and tinkering with his offense, that doesn't bode well. This defense is talented but will be much better in 2014.


SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
LSU has arguably the hardest schedule in the entire nation.  The question, which Zach Mettenberger will answer the call?  Is it the one who threw 0 TD, 0 INT and 169 passing yards versus Auburn, or the one who threw 1 TD, 0 INT and 298 passing yards versus Alabama?  Two different games and two completely different QB’s.  But hey, it doesn't hurt to have a bye week before Texas A&M and Alabama. (Raise your hand if you are still freaked out seeing 2 bye weeks on an SEC schedule)  Fact:  Les Miles has never lost more than 5 games in his 12 years as a head coach.  Name to remember:  Odell Beckham  


Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
Best and Worst Times to be a LSU Fan
The SEC's Best Traditions
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/college-football-big-12s-best-traditions
Body:

There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.

Last but certainly not least, are the college games' traditions. Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a deeper connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The Big 12 itself isn't all that old or historic in the grand scheme of college conferences. However, the teams themselves have deeply entrenched game day traditions and on campus sights.

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

Red River Shootout (Rivalry)
The Texas Fair is a monstrosity and the largest state fair in the country is highlighted by the annual Red River Shootout. It’s one of the nation’s best rivalry games and features two fan bases that complete despise one another. The Cotton Bowl is split down the middle at the 50-yard line with Crimson and Cream on one side and Burnt Orange on the other, daring fans to cross over. This deep-fried football game has been played 107 times dating back to 1900.

Sooner Schooner
White ponies named Boomer and Sooner pull the famous replica Conestoga wagon onto the field at every Oklahoma home game. It is managed and steered by the RUF/NEKS, the university’s all-male spirit squad. Every time the Sooners score, the RUF/NEKS drive the Schooner out onto the field in a large arc that tops out near mid-field. The Sooner Schooner debuted in 1964 and officially became the school’s mascot in 1980.

Baylor Freshman Line
Before each home game at Baylor all new students are asked to gather at one end of Floyd Casey Stadium and form a human tunnel to welcome the team. With flags in hand, the Baylor Line leads the entire freshman class out of the tunnel and onto the field all the way to the opposite end zone. This pre-game ritual began in 1970.

Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk
It may not have a sexy beginning — the science club came up with the rousing cheer in 1886 — but it might be the most famous cheer in all of college sports. The phrase “Rock Chalk” stems from chalk rock, which is a type of limestone prevalent in middle and western parts of Kansas.

Hand Signals
Texas has the most well-known hand gesture with their signature “Hook ‘Em Horns.” But the Baylor Bears have “Sic ‘Em,” Texas Tech has the “Guns Up” and TCU has the “Horned Frog.” All of which can be seen in abundance all over campus and at games on Saturdays.

The Frog Horn
ESPN once dubbed this trademark as “the most unique in all of college football.” It’s a mix between a locomotive and a trailer, as the 3,000-pound flashing mechanical horn churns out clouds of white smoke and 100-decibel horn blasts. It is used after each TCU score at homes games.
The Mountaineer
The most loved fixture at WVU sporting events, the Mountaineer first showed up in 1936. Each year The Mountaineer is selected by “The Mountain,” the school’s prestigious senior honorary. The customary brown leather outfit is custom tailored each year and bushy beards are strongly encouraged.

Best of the Rest:

"Take Me Home, Country Roads"
John Denver was adopted into WVU lore following the release of the family 1971 hit single. He was on hand to dedicate Mountaineer Field in 1980 and the song has become a game day anthem in Morgantown.

Waving the Wheat
The wave is a popular sports cheer but Kansas puts a little twist on it by slowly waving their outstretched arms back and forth over their heads simulating wheat in the wind.

Oklahoma State’s Homecoming
Known as “America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration,” the Pokes take this fairly normal celebration to a new level. The Walkaround highlights the weekend’s action.

Iowa State’s Cannon
The Cyclones fire off their cannon after every Cyclone touchdown or field goal. It is operated by the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity.

Will Rogers and Soapsuds
The wrapping of the statue of Will Rogers and Soapsuds, by the Saddle Tramps, is a prominent tradition at Texas Tech.

Bevo
Texas’ massive and signature Longhorn mascot stands calmly in the end zone during each and every Texas home game.

"The Wabash Cannonball"
The famous American folk song about a fictitious train is the unofficial second fight song of the Kansas State Wildcats.

Bullet and the Spirit Rider
Since 1984, the Spirit Rider and Bullet, who has his own stall in the West End Zone at Boone Pickens Stadium, leads the Spirit Walk, the Oklahoma State marching band and rides to the 30-yard line after each TD.

"The Eyes of Texas"
At the end of every Texas game — win, lose or draw — the entire crowd and team sing "The Eyes of Texas" in unison before departing the stadium.

Waving Song
A modified version of “In Old New York” written by H.G. Seldy Seldombridge, "The Waving Song"  has been an Okie State tradition since the early 1940s. OSU fans rise and wave one arm rhythmically after each score.

Secret Willie Wildcat
The student mascot for the Kansas State Wildcats is selected by the cheerleading coach but, traditionally, the identity of the student inside the costume is kept a secret.

Related College Football Content

2013 Big 12 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU

Teaser:
From hand signal to the Red River Shootout, the Big 12 has plenty of historic traditions.
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /college-football/12-steps-fix-acc-football
Body:

The good news for ACC fans is that the conference survived the most recent round of realignment shenanigans and has found its way into the big five conference alignment for the upcoming college football playoff. The bad news is that there can be little argument the league is fifth among the quintet and still susceptible to the expansion yearnings of its more prosperous brethren.

So, what is the ACC to do? Glad you asked. Here is a modest, 12-step program to security.
 

1. Conference-Wide: Be Happy With What You Have

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe laughs when asked about Louisville’s inclusion in the ACC.

“The hits just keep on coming,” he says.

Grobe isn’t thrilled at the prospect of playing the Cardinals, who will join the ACC in 2014. Not exactly delighted that Notre Dame will show up on the schedule every two or three years, either. But like the rest of the coaches in the conference, he understands that strength connotes security. There may be other leagues out there shopping, but a sturdy lineup ought to make members think a little bit before leaving town.

“If you’re a good league, you’ve got teams that are attractive to other leagues,” Grobe says. “(The ACC) may be attractive to other teams, too.”

The best thing that could have happened to football in the conference was Louisville’s resounding win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals looked fast, nasty and athletic. In many ways, they resembled an SEC team. Although ND won’t be playing a full slate of games — the Irish are in for five a year starting in 2014 — its arrival adds gridiron cachet, especially now that Notre Dame is winning again.

Add those two teams to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami, name brands all, and you have a solid top tier. If Pittsburgh and Syracuse play at levels with which we are accustomed, the ACC has all it needs — on paper at least.



2. Florida State: Develop Jameis Winston Into A Star

The last time the Seminoles had an All-ACC quarterback was in 2000, when Chris Weinke earned the honor. That’s unacceptable at a place where primo passers abounded during the ’80s and ’90s.

Winston might just change that. The 6'4", 206-pound redshirt freshman has a huge arm — YouTube him throwing the ball over a frat house — and all of the requisite athletic ability to be a star. He split time during the spring as part of the FSU baseball team, but his true home is the gridiron. Sure, Winston

will have to beat out Jacob Coker, but Noles’ fans should be rooting hard for him to prevail.

As a prep senior, Winston completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs while also running for 1,065 yards and 15 scores. Sounds exactly like what FSU needs. At last.

 

3. Miami: Build An On-Campus Stadium

Tune in to watch the Hurricanes play anybody but FSU or a big-name non-conference opponent, and you will see tens of thousands of empty seats in Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. The place is 21 miles from campus and offers a stale gameday experience. It was one thing when the Canes played in the old Orange Bowl. At least that place had character. Broadway Joe kicked butt there.

Miami needs an on-campus stadium. It doesn’t have to be a palace, but it should hold about 45,000 people and create a real home-field advantage for the Hurricanes. Hit up some of those wealthy former players for seed money and then start a real fundraising campaign.

Who knows — maybe Uncle Luke might start showing up again. On second thought, better not let him know.



4. Louisville: Keep Tom Jurich

 Fewer than 10 years ago, Louisville was in Conference USA, possessed a limited football profile and was known more for playing in a stadium named for a pizza parlor than winning meaningful games. Thanks in big part to AD Jurich, the Cardinals are now fully made members of the ACC and are coming off that big win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, their second BCS appearance in seven years. That isn’t all due to Jurich, but he has played a huge leadership role in the transformation.

Because of that, it is imperative that the Cards hang on to Jurich as if he were the last canister of oxygen on the moon. Few NCAA ADs have the ability to get things done like Jurich. His charisma was the main ingredient in U of L’s ability to hire Rick Pitino as its basketball coach, and his vision helped lift Louisville from the margins of I-A football to a seat at the main table. He also has some swing on the national level.

The U of L doesn’t have the same gridiron pedigree of other ACC members, so it can’t rely on tradition and historical success when things get tough. Jurich is the key to future prosperity for Louisville football, so any combination of cash and prizes necessary to keep him on board is appropriate.

 

5. Clemson: Find The Next Chad Morris

One wouldn’t imagine it would be too hard to find a quality offensive mind willing to direct the Tiger attack, since current offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes $1.3 million a year. But big money doesn’t always guarantee the best hires, so Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney better have a good short list of candidates to replace Morris, because unless the gifted coordinator screws up completely this year, he’ll be a head coach in 2014.

Morris interviewed for the vacant NC State and Texas Tech spots last year, and teams all over the country want gifted offensive minds to direct their teams, if only to create excitement that spurs ticket sales. Kliff Kingsbury may be a Red Raider alum, but his work with the Houston and Texas A&M attacks is what made him an attractive candidate in Lubbock.

Morris sure has a lot to work with at Clemson this year. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins are both All-America candidates, and it will be shocking if the Tigers don’t pile up the points and yards. Clemson won the ACC in 2011 and had a big comeback triumph over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. Momentum is building, but if Morris bolts from the fold, Swinney must be ready to reload with a similarly proficient offensive mind.
 

6. Virginia, North Carolina, NC State: Protect The Home Turf

Lately, it doesn’t matter where a school might be located; it can go shopping for talent in North Carolina and Virginia. Oh, the Tar Heels and Wahoos may get a couple of prospects to remain at home, but they haven’t been able to prevent interlopers from grabbing the top talent. A trend that has been growing hit particularly hard this past Signing Day.

Virginia running back Derrick Green is going to Michigan. Defensive end Jonathan Allen will play for Alabama. Linebacker E.J. Levenberry is headed for Florida State, and quarterback Ryan Burns signed with Stanford. Yes, running back Taquan Mizzell and linebacker Donta Wilkins are headed for Charlottesville, but the Wahoos didn’t do a very good job with the locals. Of the top 15 players on Rivals’ Virginia list, only four chose the Cavs.

The story isn’t any better next door. Only four of the 15 best prospects (according to the Charlotte Observer) will be Tar Heels — and none signed with NC State (or Wake Forest or Duke, the other two in-state ACC schools). Some of the big names that got away include wideout Marquez North (Tennessee), linebacker Peter Kalambayi (Stanford), running back Larenz Bryant (South Carolina) and defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (LSU). Sure, back T.J. Logan and corner Brian Walker are going to Chapel Hill, but they aren’t enough.

North Carolina, NC State and Virginia have plenty to sell. It’s time to start closing some deals.


7. Virginia Tech: Pay Attention To The Offense

There are three new offensive coaches at Virginia Tech this season and one old idea about how to win football games.

“I still think there is something good to be said about playing good defense and being good in the kicking game,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer says. “That affects field position. You have to take care of the ball and be efficient on offense. That starts with running the football. Think about it: Alabama has been the best team in the country the last four years, and that’s how they do it. That’s how Stanford has been successful.”

So, don’t expect air-raid sirens to be sounding around Blacksburg once new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler starts calling plays. What Virginia Tech fans do want is a return to 2011 form by quarterback Logan Thomas, who completed a mere 51.3 percent of his throws last season, threw 16 picks against only 18 TDs and was dreadful in the Hokies’ bowl win over Rutgers, completing only 38.5 percent of his passes. In 2011, Thomas completed 59.8 percent and tossed only 10 interceptions.

Although some criticized the hiring of Loeffler, who presided over Auburn’s wretched attack last year, the coach was extremely effective directing quarterbacks within a pro-style offense at Michigan for several years and could be just what the Hokies need. Being one-dimensional is no way to get back into the top five.

“Logan will be fine,” Beamer says. “We’ve got to get people around him who are fine, too. We need good running backs, and we have to be more consistent at the wide receiver position. If people around Logan are more consistent, he’ll be fine. That’s what he had two years ago.”
 

8. Pittsburgh: Get Your Act Together

Since Paul Chryst is entering his second year at the Panthers’ helm, he qualifies as an elder statesman among recent Pitt coaches. Before Chryst took over in 2012, the school had employed three coaches — Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood, Todd Graham — in a span of two seasons. (Haywood was only there a month.)

“Stability is a good thing,” Chryst says.

If the Panthers are going to establish themselves as contenders in the ACC, they must be more than just talented. Pitt has to deliver, and we’re not just talking about a fourth straight postseason trip to Birmingham, Ala. Chryst hopes to develop a team that will win at a high level consistently. He was part of that as an assistant at Wisconsin, and though he admits he hasn’t directed a breakthrough as a boss man, Chryst understands what it will take.

“You have to have enough talent, but you have to have guys who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “The teams that I have been a part of that have won big maybe weren’t the most talented in the league, but they had enough talent and plenty of hard work and commitment.”

It’s going to take a while for the Panthers to deliver big results every season, since Chryst is trying to re-cast the team after Graham’s one-and-done “tenure.” But if he stays around — “You understand why your name comes up, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s interesting when you know what you’re doing and hear things,” he says — Chryst has a chance.

 

9. Boston College and Syracuse: Be Eastern Powers Again

When the ACC added Boston College, there were big plans by other member schools to pillage New England for talent. Granted, there are more ice hockey standouts in that part of the country than football stars, but a new market opened up. The same sentiment was echoed when Syracuse and Pitt bolted the Big East. Imagine how Georgia Tech would be able to tell New York recruits about periodic trips north, or Miami could assuage the fears of shaky parents by promising to bring Junior home twice during his four years on campus.

That’s all nice, but even better than just supplying the rest of the league with talent is the idea that BC and Syracuse can become the kind of powerful Eastern programs they once were. Multiple bowl games, big non-conference triumphs and future NFL performers were once parts of the teams’ personalities. That must happen again.

Start with recruiting. There is no way either team should lose a player from the Northeast to any neighborhood school besides Pitt or Penn State. UConn and Temple are members of a mid-major conference, and even though Rutgers will soon be a Big Ten school, the Knights have been searching for an identity on the gridiron for decades. It won’t be easy, since there isn’t an abundance of talent in the region, but it happened before, and both teams would help the league greatly by returning to glory.
 

 

10. North Carolina: Behave!

When did the Tar Heels decide it was a good idea to act like an old Southwest Conference school? Instead of behaving like a proud institution with strong academic standards and a desire to do things the right way, UNC has become a bandit school that traffics in cash and prizes for players and no-show class grades. Come on, Carolina, you’re better than that.

Second-year head coach Larry Fedora had a solid debut, leading the Heels to an 8–4 record (North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game), but he and the program could endure another round of punishments if the academic fraud scandal based in the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department is deemed sanction-worthy by the NCAA. It may be a while before UNC is clear of trouble, but Fedora and the rest of the school would benefit greatly from playing by the rules from here on out.



11. Duke and Wake Forest: Hold That Line

Okay, we get it. Wake has about 200 students. (Editor’s Note: He’s kidding; the school’s enrollment is 4,800.) And amidst those brick buildings and tree-lined quadrangles, real work gets done. The same thing happens at Duke, where Wallace Wade Stadium is still pretty much like the place that hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl.

But that doesn’t mean the programs have to be walkovers, especially in non-conference contests against like schools. To their credit, Wake and Duke have represented the league fairly well lately. The Blue Devils played in the Belk Bowl last year, their first postseason appearance since January 1995. And though the outcome was crushing (a late collapse led to a 14-point loss), there is no question that coach David Cutcliffe has the program going in the right direction.

Jim Grobe is doing a fine job in Winston-Salem, even though the Deacons have been to only one bowl in four seasons. Wake has a refurbished stadium and made three straight postseason appearances from 2006-08.

“It’s important for the (ACC’s) academic schools to have success,” Grobe says, referring to Wake and Duke. “But that’s tough, when you have to start with a guy who can get a degree from Wake Forest and still bump into the Noles and Canes and Hokies.”

 

12. League-Wide: Knock Off Some Quality Opponents

The ACC can crow all it wants about last year’s 4–2 bowl record, but other than the Clemson win over LSU, none was particularly impressive. Beating Rutgers, Northern Illinois and a disinterested USC team that was without quarterback Matt Barkley hardly gives the league reason to thump its chest.

If the ACC wants to be considered on a par with the other four major conferences, it has to knock off some Teams That Matter. Last year, Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16. Clemson lost to South Carolina at home. Florida State fell to Florida in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech lost at Pitt. Louisville knocked off North Carolina, and Stanford throttled Duke. In other words, nobody hung an impressive non-con scalp on the wall.

That must change. The Hokies get a chance Aug. 31, when they play Alabama in Atlanta. That same weekend, Georgia visits Clemson, and UNC heads to Columbia to play the Gamecocks. A week later, Florida is at Miami, and Virginia hosts Oregon. There you have it; five chances to make a mark.

“Us starting out against Alabama is certainly a challenge,” Beamer says. “The odds are against us, because they’re a good team. But we’ve got a good team, too.”

Get it done, Coach.
 

BONUS: Get Notre Dame To Join As A Full Member

Come on, people. You hold all the cards in this one. Sure, it’s great to have ND around for five conference football games, but by giving the Irish a pass on full football membership, you’re allowing the school to protect its other sports at a discount. Imagine what would happen if Notre Dame had to go out and find another home. Maybe the American Athletic Conference would take it, but ND already ditched those schools back when the league was known as the Big East. And scheduling 12 football games every year when many BCS members won’t play them won’t be easy. Play some hardball with the Irish. Tell them the free lunch is over. That would sure help the conference. 

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


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Virginia Tech's Struggling Offense Gets a Makeover

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/only-one-guy-waiting-titans-tickets
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WKRN, Nashville News, Nashville Weather and Sports

As impossible as it may seem, this is real. A Nashville reporter headed down to the Tennessee Titans' stadium on the day single-game tickets went on sale and found a guy camped out waiting in line. The only problem is that nobody was in line. NOBODY. The resulting interview with the half-awake fan is hilarious.
 
Best moment? When the reporter, obviously confused by why he's camping out, asks "Have you heard of the Internet? Why don't you buy these online?"
Teaser:
As impossible as it may seem, this is real. Let me repeat that: THIS IS REAL. A Nashville reporter headed down to the Tennessee Titans stadium on the day single-game tickets went on sale, and found a guy camped out waiting in line. The only problem is that nobody was in line. NOBODY. The resulting interview with the half-awake fan is hilarious.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 13:33
Path: /nfl/15-nfl-wide-receiverstight-ends-hot-seat-2013
Body:

While the term “hot seat” is typically associated with head coaches and their job security, they are not the only ones who feel the heat during an NFL season. Along those lines, the official “start” to the 2013 season is next week as training camps are set to open and the battle for roster spots will begin anew among the players.

As NFL offenses continue to evolve, more and more of an emphasis is being placed on the passing game. Consider that in 2008 only six quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards and only three wide receivers posted 100 or more receptions. Last season, 11 quarterbacks eclipsed 4,000 yards passing while five receivers and one tight end all went over 100 catches.

So with more of a premium being placed on the passing game, which wide receivers and tight ends need to step up the most this season? Here are the 15 pass-catchers we think that need to make the most of their targets in 2013.

Danny Amendola1. Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Amendola was already tasked with having to fill the big shoes of the departed Wes Welker, Tom Brady’s favorite target the past six seasons. His job has only gotten tougher, however, since Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery and Aaron Hernandez got arrested and charged with murder, among other things.

The Patriots moved quickly to sign Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract after Welker bolted for Denver, and it’s now on the former Ram to live up to it. For him to do that, however, the oft-injured wideout needs to stay on the field. Amendola has played in all 16 games just once in his four seasons. He missed all but one game in 2011 and five last season due to an assortment of injuries. His career bests of 85 catches, 689 yards and three touchdowns are also a far cry from the 112-1243-6 line Welker averaged in his six seasons in a Patriots uniform.

Related: 12 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2013

2. Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Not only did Harvin get his request for a change of scenery, getting traded from Minnesota to Seattle, he also got a new six-year, $67 million contract extension from the Seahawks. Now there are no more excuses for the 25-year-old all-purpose threat, as he becomes the No. 1 wide receiver for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Harvin was off to a great start last season before suffering an ankle injury (which ironically happened when the Vikings were in Seattle) that ended his 2012 campaign after just nine games. Harvin needs to stay healthy and produce for his new team, meaning he can ill afford to be hampered by the migraine issues he’s dealt with in the past or, more importantly, become a headache for the Seahawks.

3. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
After posting back-to-back 70-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and ’11, a lucrative, long-term contract seemed all but a given for Nicks. The 2009 first-round pick, however, broke his foot last May and also was hampered by a nagging knee injury throughout his 2012 campaign.

Not surprisingly, Nicks’ production (53-692-3 in 13 G) fell dramatically last season, making this one critical as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The Giants have already given out one big contract to a wide receiver, as they signed Victor Cruz to a five-year, $43 million extension earlier this week. Nicks will have to stay healthy and get back to his 2011 form (76-1192-7) if he wants the opportunity to sign a similar type of deal, with the Giants or any other team for that matter.

Kenny Britt4. Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
Britt exploded out of the gates in 2011, leading the NFL with 14 catches for 271 yards (19.4 ypc) after the first two games. A torn ACL in the next game ended his season and everything has somewhat gone downhill from there. The 2009 first-round pick suffered a couple of setbacks in his return from knee surgery, resulting in additional operations, and he clearly wasn’t the same player last season. Britt caught just 45 passes for 589 yards (13.1 ypc) and four touchdowns in 14 games in 2012.

The talented wide receiver also has had his share of off-field issues, including multiple arrests and several other incidents that involved the police and resulted in him being suspended one game by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Britt is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Titans have taken a wide receiver in either the first or second round of the past two drafts. If there’s any wide receiver in the NFL who needs to stay out of trouble and put up big numbers, it’s Britt. 

5. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
In 2009, Davis earned a Pro Bowl invite after catching 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. His numbers have gone down every season since, dropping all the way to just 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns last season. In addition, Davis had nine games during the 2012 regular season in which he caught two or fewer passes.

The 49ers came up just short against the Ravens in last season’s Super Bowl and have every intention of making a return trip in 2013. To get there, Davis cannot disappear for long stretches like he did last season, especially with wide receiver Michael Crabtree already lost because of a torn Achilles tendon. Davis did end last season with back-to-back 100-yard games in the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl, so perhaps that’s a sign of things to come.

6. TE, New England Patriots
With Rob Gronkowski’s status for 2013 up in the air following June back surgery and Aaron Hernandez now incarcerated and no longer on the roster, the Patriots’ tight end situation is one gigantic question mark headed into training camp. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 106 receptions and 16 touchdowns last season, or nearly half of Tom Brady’s total (34) in 2012.

Gronkowski is still listed as No.1 on the depth chart on the team’s Web site, but there’s no guarantee as to when he will be ready to get back on the field. That leaves Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells, who combined for nine catches and 194 yards last seasons, as the next options with veteran Jake Ballard and undrafted free agents Brandon Ford and Nate Sudfeld also on the roster.

As has already been stated, tight end is an important component of New England’s offense. Whoever it is, someone needs to step up to fill the role that Hernandez did behind Gronkowki in recent seasons, if not carry the load until Gronkowski is back and 100 percent healthy. This is especially the case considering that Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead are no longer on the roster. Combine these three with Gronkowski and Hernandez and you have 84 percent of the catches, 82 percent of the yards and 85 percent of the touchdown catches the Patriots’ offense produced in 2012.

7. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, WRs, Philadelphia Eagles
There’s already been a lot of talk about the type of offense Chip Kelly is going to run with the Eagles, but regardless of the design, the success of the scheme will largely come down to the players. Jackson and Maclin seem ideally suited for Kelly’s system, the question is how quickly will they adapt to it and will they be able to thrive in it?

Jackson hasn’t been the deadly all-purpose weapon he was his first three years in the NFL. His receiving yardage has declined in each of the past three seasons, as his 2012 campaign was cut short by a rib injury. Can he return to his explosive ways in 2013?

Maclin’s had his own injury issues, as he’s played all 16 games just once in his four seasons, but there’s much more at stake for him in 2013 compared to his teammate. While Jackson signed a five-year contract extension last March, Maclin is entering the final year of his rookie contract. So while Jackson and Maclin will both be playing in a new offense this fall, it’s Maclin who is playing for his next paycheck.

8. Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Some thought the Packers would release Finley or at the very least restructure his contract during the offseason, but neither ended up happening. Finley earned a $3 million roster bonus in March and will play this season with no guarantees or assurances about his future in Green Bay. He’s set to make close to $4.5 million in salary this season and undoubtedly the Packers would love to get more than the 61 catches, 667 yards and two touchdowns they got from the athletic tight end in 2012.

Finley’s presence is even more important with Greg Jennings (see below) now in Minnesota. From a tight end perspective, it doesn’t get much better than catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. It’s now up to Finley to take advantage of this and prove to the Packers he’s a worthwhile, long-term investment.

Mike Wallace9. Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Headed into this past offseason, Wallace was believed to be the No. 1 wide receiver on the free agent market and he parlayed that status into a five-year, $60 million deal with Miami. His new contract includes $30 million in guaranteed money, so now all that’s left for the soon-to-be 27-year-old is to play as well as he’s paid.

The 2009 third-round pick posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Steelers in 2010-11, but he managed just 836 yards receiving last season. He did catch eight touchdown passes, but the Dolphins, who finished 26th in the league in passing offense in 2012, are expecting more. Wallace was the biggest splash the team made in free agency and they are hoping that he can help second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill take that next step in his development as a passer.

10. Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, but this is not the same team that beat San Francisco in New Orleans in February. With Anquan Boldin now with the 49ers, it’s up to Smith to become a consistent and reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

This is an important season for the third-year wideout, as he’s been primarily a deep threat for the Ravens his first two seasons. If Smith wants take that next step and establish himself among the best receivers in the league, he needs to start by improving upon a career catch rate that sits at less than 50 percent. Even with all of the roster changes, the Ravens should be able to mount a spirited defense of their title, but only if Smith does his part in the passing game.

11. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
It took Blackmon, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft, a little bit longer to get acclimated to the pro game, but there’s no disputing his athletic ability and immense upside. Look no further than a record-setting performance (14 rec., 236 yds) against Houston in Week 11 and four straight games with at least six receptions to finish last season.

Unfortunately, Blackmon will miss the first four games of this season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The uncertainty that is the Jaguars’ quarterback situation is already one factor that could potentially hinder his development, and now he won’t even be getting on the field until October. The sky is seemingly the limit for the talented Blackmon, but his introduction to the NFL has been anything but smooth sailing.

12. Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jennings left Green Bay as a free agent to sign with NFC North rival Minnesota for five years and $45 million. With Percy Harvin now in Seattle, Jennings immediately becomes the Vikings No. 1 option and they need him to play like one to boost the league’s second-worst passing offense and help third-year quarterback Christian Ponder develop as a passer.

The Vikings are also hoping that the eight-year veteran can mentor first-round pick Cordarelle Paterson and 2011 fourth-round selections Greg Childs and  Jarius Wright. To do that, however, Jennings will need to be out on the field, which has been somewhat of a problem lately. He has missed 11 games in the last two seasons combined with different injuries. Jennings can’t help the offense or his young teammates if he’s spending all of his time in the training room or on the sidelines.

13. Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams
After four disappointing seasons with the Titans, Cook signed with the Rams as a free agent to reunite with former head coach Jeff Fisher. Of course, a new five-year, $35 million contract with nearly $20 million in guaranteed money doesn’t hurt either. Cook, who has 4.49 speed, can line up anywhere and is capable of making big plays after the catch. The problem is he just hasn’t done it yet on a consistent basis. Will that change in 2013? The Rams certainly hope so.

14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Hopkins is a rookie, but there’s a reason the Texans took him with the 27th overall pick. They need him to step into the starting lineup immediately and flash the big-play ability (18 TD catches) he did with Clemson last fall. The Texans have one of the best running games in the league led by workhorse Arian Foster, a Pro Bowl quarterback in Matt Schaub, and established pass-catchers in All-Pro wide receiver Johnson and Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels. However, a team can never have enough weapons on offense, especially one that has its sights set squarely on getting to the Super Bowl.

15. A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jenkins was taken by the 49ers in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 draft, but only played in three games as a rookie and didn’t catch a single pass. After in essence redshirting as a rookie, Jenkins needs to step up in 2013, especially with 2012 leading receiver Michael Crabtree already lost for the season because of an Achilles injury. San Francisco acquired veteran Anquan Boldin in the offseason, but he will turn 33 in October and will need help from his position mates. Jenkins needs to show his team and the rest of the NFL that there’s a reason he was drafted in the first round a little more than a year ago.

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15 NFL Wide Receivers/Tight Ends on the Hot Seat in 2013
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 12:15
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SportsCenter funny graphic

It's as though SportsCenter is trying to tell us something. 
 
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