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All taxonomy terms: Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Golf
Path: /golf/bubba-watson-wins-masters

Bubba is no longer a curiosity. Rather, Bubba Watson has proven he’s one of the game’s great players. Bubba won his second green jacket in three years with an impressive all-around performance at The Masters. He launched one epic drive after another, bending a final-round tee shot 366 yards around the corner of the 13th hole to leave the par-5 powerless to combat another birdie. He putted with a deft touch. He manufactured iron shots, again turning them left or right depending on what the approach and green required.

If Augusta National is the ultimate shot-maker’s course, maybe it’s time we call Bubba “Mr. Augusta.” Maybe now, instead of proclaiming Tiger and Phil the perennial favorites, this has really become Bubba’s tournament to lose. He’s one of only 17 players with multiple green jackets.

Watson’s game seemed to disappear after his 2012 Masters win — he didn’t make the 2013 President’s Cup team — but he’s back.

“Learning to be a dad and then learning to have a green jacket with you is two big things to adjust to. So it just took me a little time,” he said. “ … It took me a year or so to get adjusted (to the fact) that I'm not really that good. I've got to keep practicing.  Finally I got adjusted to it and here we are, another green jacket.”

Watson’s two wins this season have locked him into the Ryder Cup in Scotland in September. Bubba — being Bubba from tiny Bagdad, Fla. — still can’t believe where golf has taken him.

“I'm not trying to play golf for everybody to tell me how great I am or I'm one of the greats of the game,” he said. “I play golf because I love it. I love the game. I want to grow the game. The game has brought me everything that I've ever owned in my life.”

America’s next superstar
He didn’t win. He didn’t have to. Jordan Spieth is ready to take the throne from Tiger and Phil as America’s next great superstar.

Spieth battled for a green jacket like a veteran in his first appearance at The Masters, finishing in a tie for second with Jonas Blixt, three shots behind winner Bubba Watson.

Spieth generally kept his emotions under control. The TV crew referred to the talented 20-year-old as “an old soul.” His game is mature beyond his years.

“Oh, it was so much fun. It really was.  Even if I didn't show it there on the back nine, it was,” Spieth said. “I took it all in, standing ovations for both of us to each green. It was a dream come true. Although it sits a little hard right now, I'll be back and I can't wait to be back.”

Spieth has risen to ninth in the world rankings, sandwiched between No. 8 Phil Mickelson and No. 9 Rory McIlroy. The taste of a near-victory should only fuel him further.

“I'm hungry. … I could take a lot of positives away, felt very comfortable out there,” he said. “My game felt like it will hold up and I think I'm going to go forward from here. That's a great feeling.”

Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 08:27
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-12-coaches-rise-2014

Every year, there’s a new crop of rising stars in college football’s coaching ranks ready to make an appearance on the national stage. Alabama's Nick Saban, Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher are names familiar across the nation with any fanbase. 

However, what about the next wave of stars that could be at BCS jobs in the next five years?

Ball State’s Pete Lembo has been on a quick ascension through the coach ranks, starting his career at Lehigh in 2001 and moving to the FBS ranks in 2011 with Ball State.

Lembo is an excellent X’s and O’s coach and has produced 12 winning seasons in 13 years as a head coach. Considering Lembo’s success at Lehigh, Elon and Ball State, it won’t be long before FBS programs are interested in the New York native. But the Cardinals are making every attempt to keep him in Muncie, as Lembo inked a new five-year agreement with the program this offseason.

In addition to Lembo, Bowling Green’s Dino Babers, UL Lafayette's Mark Hudspeth, Memphis’ Justin Fuente and Colorado State’s Jim McElwain are names to watch as coaches on the rise. 

College Football’s Top 12 Coaches on the Rise for 2014

Dino Babers, Bowling Green
Career Record: 19-7 (2 years)

Babers has a wealth of experience in the assistant ranks, making stops at a handful of FBS programs, including Purdue, San Diego State, Arizona, UNLV, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, UCLA and Baylor. Eastern Illinois hired Babers prior to the 2012 season, and he proved to be an instant hit for the Panthers. Under Babers’ watch, Eastern Illinois went 19-7 in two years and made the FCS playoffs in both seasons. The Panthers averaged a whopping 589.5 yards and 48.2 points per game in 2013 and nearly defeated MAC West champion Northern Illinois in late September. With a loaded roster returning for Babers’ debut at Bowling Green, the Falcons should be the favorite to win the MAC in 2014.

Matt Campbell, Toledo
Career Record: 17-9 (2 years)

Campbell is one of college football’s youngest coaches and a rising star in the profession. He won his debut in the 2011 Military Bowl, defeating Air Force 42-41. The Rockets are 16-9 over the last two years and played in the 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Campbell received a contract extension until 2017 midway through last season and signed the No. 2 recruiting class in the MAC in 2014. Toledo should be one of the favorites to win the MAC West in 2014.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
Career Record: 20-6 (2 years)

Fresno State is one of the premier programs in the Mountain West, and DeRuyter has continued to add to the foundation Pat Hill built from 1997-2011. In two years with the Bulldogs, DeRuyter is 20-6 and claimed the Mountain West title in 2013. The Bulldogs have to reload in 2014 without quarterback Derek Carr and receiver Davante Adams. However, DeRuyter is the right coach to keep Fresno State among the top programs in the Mountain West. If DeRuyter finds a quarterback to replace Carr, the Bulldogs could repeat as champions of the Mountain West in 2014.

Justin Fuente, Memphis
Career Record: 7-17 (2 years)

Fuente only has seven victories over the last two years, but there has been considerable progress at Memphis during that span. The Tigers went 3-21 in the two seasons prior to Fuente’s arrival and won just one conference game in that period. But Memphis went 4-8 in his first year in 2012 and finished 3-9 in 2013 in its American Athletic Conference debut. The Tigers should take another step forward in 2014, and if the offense develops with a solid season from quarterback Paxton Lynch, Memphis has enough winnable games on the schedule to push for a bowl.

Related Content: Ranking All 128 College Football Coaches for 2014

Mark Hudspeth, UL Lafayette
Career Record: 93-33 (10 years)

Hudspeth should have his pick of BCS jobs if he’s interested in leaving UL Lafayette after 2014. In three years with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth is 27-12 overall and 17-6 in Sun Belt play. UL Lafayette claimed a share of the Sun Belt title in 2013, and the program has three consecutive bowl victories. Hudspeth’s team is also the favorite to win the Sun Belt in 2014. Prior to his stint with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Hudspeth went 66-21 in seven years with North Alabama. He also has stops in his career at Mississippi State (2009-10), Delta State and Navy. If a SEC job opens this offseason, keep an eye on Hudspeth as a potential replacement.

Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Career Record: 9-16 (2 years)

As a New Orleans native and an assistant with the Saints, there’s not a better fit for a coach at Tulane than Johnson. In two years, the Green Wave has made considerable progress under Johnson. Tulane finished 2-10 in 2012 but improved to 7-6 with a bowl appearance in 2013. Johnson is regarded as a good recruiter, which is a valuable asset for Tulane with the talent in the state of Louisiana. Moving to the American Athletic Conference will be an increased challenge for the Green Wave, and this program appears capable of handling that transition with Johnson at the helm.

Joey Jones, South Alabama
Career Record: 34-28 (6 years)

Looking for a rising star in the Sun Belt? Keep an eye on Jones. UL Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth is expected to be a target for potential BCS openings this year, but Jones could be valued by other top programs if South Alabama posts another winning record. Jones – an Alabama native – is 31-21 in five years with the Jaguars, which includes a 6-6 record in 2013. Jones built the program from scratch and has South Alabama in contention for the Sun Belt title in 2014.

Pete Lembo, Ball State
Career Record: 104-49 (13 years)

It’s pretty easy to sum up Lembo’s coaching career in this simple statement: Three different head coach jobs, three very successful tenures. Lembo’s first head coaching gig was in 2001 at Lehigh. He guided the Mountain Hawks to a 44-14 record and two playoff appearances in five years. Lembo went to Elon in 2006 and won 35 games in five seasons. Lembo was hired at Ball State in 2011, and the Cardinals have yet to record a losing record under his watch. Ball State is 19-7 over the last two years and has played in back-to-back bowls. The Cardinals have some significant holes to fill headed into 2014, but there’s little doubt Lembo will keep Ball State in the mix to win the MAC West. There’s no question Lembo is one of the rising stars in the coaching ranks and could be poised for a jump to a BCS program in the next few years.

Jim McElwain, Colorado State
Career Record: 12-14 (2 years)

Looking for a coach that could move to a BCS job at the end of the 2014 season? McElwain is a name to remember. In two years with the Rams, McElwain has made significant strides in Fort Collins, guiding Colorado State to an 8-6 finish and a bowl victory over Washington State last season. Prior to taking over the Rams, McElwain worked as the offensive coordinator at Alabama from 2008-11, made a one-year stop with Fresno State in 2007 and a short stint with the Raiders in 2006. With his experience in the NFL, along with his experience under Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa, McElwain is a rising star to watch in the coaching ranks. Colorado State loses some key pieces from last year’s team, but McElwain should have the Rams back in the mix for a bowl.

Trent Miles, Georgia State
Career Record: 20-48 (6 years)

It’s impossible to judge a coach based solely on his record. Each program has its own set of expectations, which is especially true at a FBS program like Georgia State. Miles is the perfect case study for why records can be overrated for judging coaches, as he resurrected a struggling Indiana State program. The Sycamores went 1-22 from 2008-09 but finished with three consecutive winning records from 2010-12. Georgia State went 0-12 in Miles’ first season, but the Panthers made progress and were competitive in Sun Belt play by losing three games by a touchdown or less. It’s also noteworthy that 2013 was the first year Georgia State played on the FBS level and went 1-10 under Bill Curry in 2012. Give Miles a couple of years to recruit and Georgia State will move up the ladder in the Sun Belt.

Matt Wells, Utah State
Career Record: 9-5 (1 year)

Gary Andersen left behind plenty of talent in Logan, but Wells deserves a lot of credit for getting Utah State to a 9-5 mark last year. Wells joined Andersen’s staff in 2011 and worked for two years as an offensive assistant. He called the plays for Utah State’s 11-2 season in 2012 and was promoted to the top spot after Andersen left for Wisconsin. Last year, quarterback Chuckie Keeton was lost in the first half of the season with a knee injury, and the Aggies still managed to win the Mountain Division and play for the conference title. The real challenge for Wells starts in 2014, as Utah State returns only seven starters. However, all indications point to Wells being able to continue to build on Andersen’s success with the Aggies.

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion
Career Record: 46-14 (5 years)

Wilder had the tough assignment of building a program from scratch, but Old Dominion has recorded five consecutive winning seasons after not fielding a team from 1941-2008. Under Wilder, the Monarchs are known for their high-scoring offenses, which feature standout senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke in 2014. Old Dominion may struggle early in its debut in Conference USA this season. However, Wilder has plenty of room to grow the program, especially with a strong recruiting area (Norfolk) and a high-powered style on offense to sell to prospects.

College Football's Top 10 Coaches on the Rise for 2014
Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-12s-quarterbacks-2014

The Big 12 has been home to some of the top quarterbacks in college football during the BCS Era. The conference isn’t at an elite level under center in 2014, but the talent is clearly on the rise.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty should be a candidate for All-America honors after throwing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns last season. As if those numbers aren’t enough to consider Petty among the best in the country, consider he tossed only three interceptions on 403 attempts and completed 62 percent of his throws.

Kansas State’s Jake Waters takes the No. 2 spot in Athlon’s Big 12 quarterback rankings, while Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and Texas Tech’s Davis Webb are close behind.

There’s plenty of uncertainty after the top four, as Texas’ David Ash, TCU’s Trevone Boykin, Iowa State’s Grant Rohach and Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh all have upside in 2014. However, each of the quarterbacks also has question marks, and some are still competing for a starting job.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and over the next few weeks, will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the rankings that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Writeups compiled by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven).

Ranking the Big 12 Starting Quarterbacks for 2014

1. Bryce Petty, Baylor (SR)
From a statistical standpoint, Petty — not Manziel, Murray, Miller, Mariota or McCarron — could have been the best quarterback in the nation last year. The Baylor quarterback posted 4,409 total yards of offense at 8.9 yards per play, scored 46 touchdowns and threw just three interceptions (read that sentence again, please, so that it sinks in). He won 11 games, a Big 12 championship and embarrassed defenses along the way. Is it reasonable to expect a repeat performance in 2014? Probably not, especially with the losses on both sides of the ball. The Bears are replacing several key defenders, and guard Cyril Richardson, running back Lache Seastrunk and receiver Tevin Reese have departed from the offense. But Petty is the complete package at the quarterback position and is in one of the best offensive systems in the nation. Heisman Trophy conversation isn't a stretch at all for the Bears QB.

2. Jake Waters, Kansas State (SR)
After a successful two-year stint at Iowa Western Community College, Waters continued to perform at a high level in his first season as Kansas State’s starter. Waters started all 13 games for the Wildcats, throwing for 2,469 yards and 18 touchdowns. He completed 61.2 percent of his throws and tossed only nine interceptions on 260 attempts. Waters’ success wasn’t just limited to the air, as he added 312 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 118 attempts. Daniel Sams received some time under center last year, but he is expected to lineup at receiver in 2014. With Sams, Tyler Lockett, Curry Sexton and junior college recruit Andre Davis returning as pass catchers, Waters will be throwing to one of the Big 12’s top receiving groups. And with another offseason to work with co-coordinators Dana Dimel and Del Miller, Waters is primed for a solid year in Manhattan.

3. Trevor Knight, Oklahoma (SO)
A bowl game isn’t the best judge of a player or team, but Knight’s performance in the Sugar Bowl could be a sign of major progress in his development. Against Alabama – one of the nation’s top defenses – Knight threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 32 completions. The Texas native’s four passing touchdowns against the Crimson Tide nearly equaled his total from the regular season (five). The Sugar Bowl wasn’t the only standout performance for Knight, as he totaled 253 yards and two touchdowns in a huge road win over Kansas State. Injuries limited Knight’s snaps at times last year, as he finished with only 819 passing yards and nine touchdowns, while rushing for 445 yards and two scores. Knight is still developing, so there will be a few ups and downs in 2014. However, there’s a lot of upside, and Knight is ready to build off a strong finish to last season.

4. Davis Webb, Texas Tech (SO)
Unlike in his first season as the head coach, Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders enter 2014 with zero questions about the quarterback position. Webb, a sophomore from Prosper, Texas, entered the starting lineup midway through the season as a freshman and posted four 400-yard games. Among them was a Holiday Bowl Offensive MVP performance in an upset win over Arizona State. And if his excellent play in the second half a year ago wasn't enough to prove he was fully capable of grabbing the reigns to the Tech offense, his top two competitors for playing time — Baker Mayfield and Michael Brewer — have left the program. The 6-foot-4, 195-pounder did miss two games last year and his wiry, beanpole frame is in desperate need of added bulk and strength, but otherwise, Texas Tech is potentially poised for yet another 5,000-yard passer.

Listen to our staff discuss every team in the Big 12 as they start to look to 2014.

Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football leading up to the 2014 season.
iTunes | Podcast Archive

5. J.W. Walsh, Oklahoma State (JR)
Developing quarterbacks has been pretty routine for Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, so Walsh could be in for a big season as the starter in a potent offense. However, the Texas native isn’t completely secure as the No. 1 option in Stillwater, as true freshman Mason Rudolph and junior Daxx Garman are pushing for time. Walsh started five games in 2013 and finished with 1,333 passing yards and nine touchdowns. He also added 294 yards and three scores on the ground. Walsh spent the spring trying to become a better passer, as he finished 2013 by completing 59.5 percent of his throws and averaged 11.8 yards per completion last year. With Oklahoma State losing seven starters and a handful of backups on defense, the Cowboys will need their offense to carry this team early in 2014. Walsh has room to improve as a passer, but with Gundy and coordinator Mike Yurcich in control, Oklahoma State’s offense shouldn’t be much of a concern. 

6. David Ash, Texas (JR)
After showing marked improvement from his freshman season (1,068 yds, 4 TD, 8 INT) to his sophomore season (2,699 yds, 19 TD, 8 INT), the question of Ash's ability to make plays and win games was answered pretty clearly. However, he missed 10 games due to ongoing concussion issues a year ago and broke his foot late in spring practice. He is expected to be healthy for the start of fall camp and is clearly the best option to run Charlie Strong's new offense. But Ash is also one big hit away from being in the hospital and questions about his ability to stay healthy loom large in Austin. There is little experienced depth behind Ash on the roster and Strong desperately needs his junior quarterback to stay healthy. Should Ash prove capable of staying on the field, this Texas team has the roster and coaching staff to compete for a Big 12 title.

7. Trevone Boykin, TCU (JR)
Boykin is far from a polished passer but he may be Gary Patterson's best bet at the quarterback position. The junior from Mesquite, Texas has the most experience of any passer on the roster by a wide margin and is the best athlete of the bunch as well. That said, the Frogs staff would like to see more balance and stability from the quarterback position, and Boykin needs to improve from within the pocket as a passer. Coordinators Doug Meacham and Sonny Cumbie likely won't be afraid to give chances to the rest of the depth chart if Boykin — who can be used all over the offense — can't develop as a passer. Tyler Matthews and two freshmen, Grayson Muehlstein and Foster Sawyer, should all see plenty of snaps in the summer and both Meacham and Cumbie have started freshmen under center at previous jobs.

Related Content: Is TCU a sleeper team to watch in the Big 12 in 2014?

8. Grant Rohach, Iowa State (SO)
Rohach seized control of the starting job for Iowa State late last season, and all signs point to improvement in 2014. In the final two games of 2013, Rohach threw for 631 yards and six touchdowns, while tossing only two picks on 59 attempts. Yes, those statistics came against Kansas and West Virginia, but it represented a step forward for Iowa State’s offense. Rohach is surrounded by a solid cast of weapons at receiver and running back, and the offensive line will quietly be one of the best in the Big 12. New coordinator Mark Mangino is a good hire for Iowa State, and he should help mold Rohach into a much-improved quarterback in 2014.

9. Clint Trickett, West Virginia (SR)
Uncertainty surrounds West Virginia’s quarterback situation headed into the summer. Trickett missed spring practice due to shoulder surgery, which left Paul Millard, Skyler Howard and Logan Moore to compete for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Millard seems to be the best out of the trio from the spring, but Trickett should get the nod in the fall. After transferring from Florida State last year, Trickett finished the year with 1,605 yards and seven touchdowns in eight appearances. He was the Mountaineers’ No. 1 quarterback when they upset Oklahoma State early in the year and threw for 356 yards against Iowa State in the season finale. If Trickett’s shoulder is 100 percent and he has no ill-effects from last year’s injury, he should reclaim the starting job in the fall.

10. Jake Heaps, Kansas (SR)
Heaps gets the nod here, but Montell Cozart had a solid spring and could get the nod over Heaps for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. And for Heaps, it has been an interesting journey in his college career. He was No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation and is now battling for starting time on the worst team in the Big 12. It's not what Heaps expected when he signed with BYU out of high school but that is exactly where the senior from famed Skyline High in Seattle finds himself entering his final collegiate season. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound signal caller threw for just 1,414 yards and eight touchdowns last year (11 games) and he didn't play in the lone bright spot — an upset win over West Virginia. This is why Heaps will have to hold off Cozart and sophomore T.J. Millweard if he wants to acquire the keys to the new no-huddle offense. Charlie Weis brought in coordinator John Reagan to install the spread offense and that is music to Heaps' ears as the senior ran a similar system both in high school and at BYU. Heaps has the knowledge and experience to lock down the starting spot in Lawrence early in the process. Should that happen, it would likely yield his best season to date.

Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2014
Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/maryland-or-rutgers-which-big-ten-newcomer-has-better-record-2014

The Big Ten is set to grow by two teams in 2014. Rutgers and Maryland will officially join the conference on July 1, expanding the Big Ten to a 14-team league and changing the divisional alignment once again.

Rutgers was arguably one of the biggest winners in this round of conference expansion, moving from the American Athletic Conference to the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights add a valuable market in the New Jersey/New York area and have improved their on-field product in recent years.

Adding Maryland also helps the Big Ten expand its reach on the East Coast, and the Terrapins are capable of competing in their new league after finishing 7-6 in the ACC last year.

Looking ahead to 2014, neither program is expected to challenge for a Big Ten title. However, Rutgers and Maryland both have potential to play for a bowl, especially with a good chunk of talent returning for the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Maryland or Rutgers: Which Big Ten Newcomer Will Have a Better Record in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The answer to this question seems to be pretty clear: Maryland. Rutgers made a nice addition by hiring Ralph Friedgen as the offensive coordinator, and this team has a handful of young talent, including linebacker Steve Longa, tackle Darius Hamilton and receiver Leonte Carroo. But the biggest concern for the Scarlet Knights is quarterback play, and a schedule that features non-conference games against Washington State and Navy. Rutgers also went 6-7 in the American Athletic Conference last year, while Maryland was 7-6 in a tougher league (ACC). There’s a lot to like about the Terrapins for 2014, as Randy Edsall has improved Maryland’s win total in each of the last two years after a 2-10 debut in 2011. The Terrapins return 16 starters, and the offense will get a boost with a return to full health by receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs. The defense has plenty of promise with nine starters returning, including end Andre Monroe, linebacker Cole Farrand and cornerback William Likely. Maryland’s schedule is also more favorable in 2014, as it hosts Rutgers and Iowa, and the non-conference slate features winnable games against Syracuse, West Virginia and South Florida. With the changes on the staff, Rutgers should be a better team than it was last year. However, I think the Terrapins are also due to take a step forward and should go to a bowl in their Big Ten debut.

Brent Yarina, (@BTNBrentYarina), Senior Editor
This is a really tough question. Both are coming off similar seasons (Maryland, 7-6, ACC; Rutgers, 6-7, AAC), both return a lot of starters (Maryland, 20; Rutgers, 17), both are members of the loaded East Division, and both draw grueling cross-division foes (Maryland, vs. Iowa, at Wisconsin; Rutgers, at Nebraska, vs. Wisconsin). Add it all up, and it’s hard to expect either team to match last season’s mediocre record.

All that said, I’ll take Maryland in a close race that could come down to the season finale vs., you guessed it, Rutgers. The Terps have the tougher nonconference slate of the two, which could hurt their case, but they’re working with more talent and played in the better conference a year ago.

Dual-threat quarterback C.J. Brown, who finished tied for fourth in the ACC with 12 rushing scores, is back, and so, too, are his five returning receivers, including the dynamic Stefon Diggs, who is recovering from a leg injury. The defense, while it wasn’t anything special, returns nine starters from a unit that totaled 37 sacks.

Mark Ross
Maryland will enjoy more success in its first year in the Big Ten than Rutgers and I don't think it will be close. The Terrapins went 7-6 in the ACC in 2013, while the Scarlet Knights were 6-7 in the American Athletic Conference, but I think the former is in much better shape for 2014 than the latter. Maryland returns 16 starters from a team that possesses quite a bit of talent, it just needs key playmakers, namely quarterback C.J. Brown and wide receiver Stefon Diggs, to stay healthy. Rutgers returns 14 starters from a team that struggled mightily on offense last season and in certain defensive areas and doesn't appear to have much in the form of reinforcements on the horizon. Consider that Maryland's incoming recruiting class was ranked seventh in the Big Ten and 43rd overall by 247Sports' Composite team rankings while Rutgers' class was 12th in the conference and 60th overall. Rutgers has some talented players, like wide receiver Leonte Carroo and running back Paul James, but from an overall roster standpoint Maryland looks much more like a Big Ten team to me than its fellow newcomer. Rutgers lost to the top four teams in the AAC last year - UCF, Louisville, Cincinnati and Houston - by 24, 14, 35 and 35 points respectively. What do you think is going to happen this fall when the Scarlet Knights take on Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State and Michigan or crossover foes Wisconsin and Nebraska? Welcome to the Big Ten Rutgers. I hope you enjoy languishing in the basement of the new-look Eastern Division.

Listen to our staff discuss every team in the Big Ten as they start to look to 2014.

Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football leading up to the 2014 season.
iTunes | Podcast Archive

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’ve certainly been skeptical of the addition of Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, both from the perspective of the league adding two mediocre teams and the Scarlet Knights and Terrapins being able to compete. Maybe it’s that stage of the offseason where every team has reason for optimism, but Maryland might be a competitive Big Ten program in 2014. I’d be shocked if Maryland can win the division, but a .500 record in conference play seems possible. With 16 returning starters, the Terps have plenty of experience, in part by a handful of players getting thrown into the lineup due to injuries. The Terps’ defense returns nine starters from a group that was above average in the ACC (5.1 yards per play, fifth in the league). And the offense has to be better with receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long healthy. This team has had so much bad luck under Randy Edsall, sooner or later things have to start to even out, right?

Kevin McGuire, (@KevinonCFB), and
While I do not think either team will do considerably well in their first season in the Big Ten, I think Maryland is better equipped to put together a better debut season in the new conference if they stay healthy. Maryland has a wide receiver unit that could be the best in the Big Ten and they have some winnable games at Indiana and home against Iowa and Rutgers. Neither team is going to come away with a winning record against division foes Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan this year, but Maryland avoids Nebraska in the cross-division match-ups. With the more talented offense and a slightly more favorable schedule (home against Rutgers in what could be the deciding game), Maryland gets the edge in year one.

Maryland or Rutgers: Which Big Ten Newcomer Has a Better Record in 2014?
Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/grading-college-basketballs-first-year-coaches-2013-14

When UCLA and Stephen F. Austin met in the Sweet 16, the game represented two of the success stories for first-year coaches.

UCLA coach Steve Alford, whose hire received lukewarm reviews, advanced the Bruins to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years. Meanwhile, Stephen F. Austin’s Brad Underwood became one of the top first-year coaches in NCAA history by going 32-3.

Those two coaches were in the minority, though. Of the 42 new coaches on the job in Division I in 2013-14, only four reached the NCAA Tournament. The other two to join Alford and Underwood in the field lost in their first games in the Tournament — one of those losses was not a surprise (Jeff Jones at No. 15 seed American) while the other was one of the major upsets of the round of 64 (Craig Neal at New Mexico).

The NCAA Tournament didn’t tell the entire story for first-year coaches as two men making their debuts won the NIT (Richard Pitino at Minnesota) and the College Basketball Invitational (Jimmy Patsos at Siena).

These coaches shouldn’t graded completely after one season, but the new hires  for 2013-14 were quite the mixed bag. Here’s how the most notable first-year coaches fared:


Brad Underwood, Stephen F. Austin

Stephen F. Austin enjoyed its best season as a Division I member in the first season for Underwood, a longtime Frank Martin assistant. Stephen F. Austin was one of the top defensive teams in the country on the way to an 18-0 record in the Southland and a win over fifth-seeded VCU in the NCAA Tournament. Underwood’s 32 wins in his first season is the third-most in Division I history and his 91.4 percent win rate ranks sixth. Underwood's next task is to maintain the foundation laid by Danny Kaspar, who left for Texas State before last season.

Steve Alford, UCLA
Alford didn’t put UCLA back where the Bruins probably should be — in national title contention — but he delivered on a number of fronts. UCLA reached the Sweet 16 and won the Pac-12 tournament, both for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, Alford offered up a more exciting brand of basketball. UCLA ranked 13th in offensive efficiency on KenPom and topped 80 points per game for the first time since winning the national title in 1995. Now, he’ll have to add two big-time recruits, Isaac Hamilton and Kevon Looney, to a roster that will be hit by NBA Draft defections.

Tubby Smith, Texas Tech
Texas Tech went 6-12 in the Big 12, but Smith gave the Red Raiders some much-needed stability after the Billy Gillispie fiasco. The six wins in a tough Big 12 shouldn’t be shrugged off, either. That’s two more league wins than the last two seasons combined. Texas Tech defeated four NCAA Tournament teams (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Texas) and put a scare into league champion Kansas.

Mike Brennan, American
Brennan engineered a 10-game turnaround from 10-20 to 20-13 in his first season. The Eagles reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009 before a lopsided loss to Wisconsin. Well-schooled in the Princeton offense, Brennan played for Pete Carril and served as an assistant under John Thompson III at Princeton and Georgetown.

Jeff Jones, Old Dominion
Old Dominion had been one of the most consistent teams in the Colonial before falling apart at 5-25 in Blaine Taylor’s last season. Jeff Jones, the former coach at Virginia and American, stepped in to rebuild in Conference USA. The veteran coach led the Monarchs to a 9-7 debut in C-USA and an appearance in the College Basketball Invitational. The roster included no seniors among its regular rotation, so Old Dominion could be back in NCAA Tournament contention in 2014-15.

Jimmy Patsos, Siena
Siena can be one of the top mid-majors as Fran McCaffery and Paul Hewitt proved during their tenures. Patsos, one of the most colorful characters in coaching, has the Saints back on that trajectory. In his first season, Patsos turned Siena from 8-24 to 20-18 and CBI champions, ending a streak of three consecutive losing seasons in the MAAC.


Chris Collins, Northwestern

The record wasn’t drastically improved from the end of the Bill Carmody era, but Collins injected some energy into the Northwestern program. The Wildcats finished 6-12 in the Big Ten, but that tally included road wins over Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, plus a win over Iowa in the Big Ten tournament. Northwestern loses only one senior, but Drew Crawford a big departure.

Bobby Hurley, Buffalo
Buffalo won between 18 and 21 games from 2008-09 to 2011-12 before slipping to 14-20 last season. Hurley, the former Duke point guard, stepped in during his first season as a collegiate head coach and led Buffalo to a first-place finish in the MAC East. Buffalo finished at No. 100 on, the highest ranking for any MAC team.

Will Wade, Chattanooga
Wade, a former VCU assistant, installed at Chattanooga what he calls “Chaos,” a homage to VCU’s “Havoc.” The Mocs improved from 8-10 in the Southern to 12-4 in his first season. Wade’s team gave the home crowd reason for excitement: Scoring is up by more than six points per game and the Mocs went 11-2 at home.

Casey Alexander, Lipscomb
Alexander is on his second quick turnaround in the Atlantic Sun. In his first season at Lipscomb, the Bisons improved from 7-10 in the league to 10-8 as they won eight of their final 11 games. At Stetson, Alexander led the Hatters from a 9-20 (6-12 A-Sun) season in his first year to 15-16 (11-7 A-Sun) in his second. Alexander was a player and long-time assistant at crosstown rival Belmont, so he knows how to build a winner at this level.


Richard Pitino, Minnesota

Minnesota had the same Big Ten record (8-10) in Pitino’s first season as the Gophers had in Tubby Smith’s last. The Gophers also traded a round of 32 loss in the NCAA Tournament for an NIT championship. Is that progress? Maybe. The real answer may be next season when Pitino has a veteran-laden team in a Big Ten that may have only one Final Four contender (Wisconsin).

Craig Neal, New Mexico
The Lobos quietly had one of their best conference seasons in school history, setting a school record with 15 Mountain West wins and a conference tournament title. Perhaps the passing of the baton from Steve Alford to his longtime assistant Neal was a little too smooth, down to the early exit from the NCAA Tournament against No. 10 seed Stanford.

Joe Dooley, Florida Gulf Coast
Nothing could have topped the 2013 run to the Sweet 16, but Florida Gulf Coast proved it could remain a factor despite losing its coach. The Eagles actually improved their Atlantic Sun record by one game (from 13-5 to 14-4) in Dooley’s first season and earned a bid in the NIT by winning the Atlantic Sun.


Brandon Miller, Butler

Personnel losses meant this was going to be a difficult season even if Brad Stevens were still the coach. Miller’s first team went 4-14 in the Big East and endured the first losing season at Butler since 2004-05. Miller will try to continue to rebuild around Kellen Dunham, but Butler’s foray in a major conference could continue to be rocky.

Andy Enfield, USC
The Trojans went 2-16 in the Pac-12 in Enfield’s first season, but at least USC was better than its 6-26 overall mark in 2011-12. USC will rely on newcomers Kaitin Reinhardt (transfer from UNLV) and Darion Clark (transfer from Charlotte) and two four-star freshmen to put a more competitive team.

Eddie Jordan, Rutgers
Jordan’s tenure started with the revelation that he never finished his undergraduate degree at Rutgers. It didn’t get much better from there. Rutgers finished at 5-13 in the American, the same conference record as Mike Rice’s final team in a more competitive Big East. Rutgers’ final game, a 92-31 loss to Louisville in the American tournament, was the worst offensive performance by any team during the season at 42 points per 100 possessions. Up next is the Big Ten.

Grading College Basketball's First-Year Coaches in 2013-14
Post date: Monday, April 14, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/bo-pelini-brings-cat-nebraskas-spring-game

So far, it has been an interesting offseason for Nebraska. Well, interesting in a good way.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini appears to be having a lot of fun since beating Georgia in the Gator Bowl, as he had a Twitter interaction with his alter ego (@FauxPelini) earlier this offseason. If you aren’t familiar with @FauxPelini, the avatar features Pelini in a sweater holding a cat.

Fast forward to the spring game, and Pelini is still having fun with the alter ego. Pelini held a cat and held it up to the crowd prior to Nebraska’s spring game.

And no, this wasn’t @FauxPelini. This was the real Bo Pelini.

Check out the video and pictures from Nebraska’s spring game:

Bo Pelini Brings a Cat to Nebraska's Spring Game
Post date: Saturday, April 12, 2014 - 18:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-unveils-new-uniforms-2014

Spring football is all about trying to build as much positive buzz as possible until the fall, and unveiling new uniforms and helmets is just one way to establish momentum for any FBS program.

Miami’s ACC rival Florida State recently unveiled a new jersey and helmet combination for 2014, and the Seminoles won’t be the only team in the conference with new uniforms, as the Hurricanes unveiled a new design before the spring game.

Here’s Miami’s updated uniform combination, which features black, green, orange and white jerseys, along with two different helmets (orange and white).


Miami Unveils New Uniforms for 2014
Post date: Saturday, April 12, 2014 - 17:45
Path: /college-football/florida-state-unveils-new-uniforms-2014

Florida State’s jerseys haven’t changed much in recent years, but the Seminoles are getting a significant uniform overhaul for 2014. The change isn’t drastic, but the helmets, jerseys and pants were tweaked.

As with any uniform change, it’s important not to stray too much from what worked the best for the school or the most recognizable design/colors from that program.

And even though it may take a little time to adjust, it seems Nike and Florida State came up with a pretty good design and overall look for the program.

Below is a look at Florida State’s new jerseys and helmets for 2014 and be sure to check out this Nike gallery of photos for the uniforms:

Florida State Unveils New Uniforms for 2014
Post date: Saturday, April 12, 2014 - 00:01
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouri-wr-dorial-green-beckham-dismissed-team

The career of wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham is over at Missouri. Green-Beckham was recently suspended due to an off-the-field incident, but on Friday, coach Gary Pinkel dismissed the former No. 1 recruit from the team.

Green-Beckham was recently under investigation after an altercation at an apartment. Police were prepared to charge Green-Beckham with first-degree burglary, but the complainants decided not to press charges.

In two years with the Tigers, Green-Beckham caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns.

There’s no question this is a huge loss for Missouri. Green-Beckham was arguably the No. 1 receiver in the nation heading into 2014 and a likely first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Missouri was already set to lose Marcus Lucas and L’Damian Washington in 2014, so the Tigers will have an inexperienced group of receivers for quarterback Maty Mauk. Bud Sasser, Darius White and Jimmie Hunt will have to emerge as go-to targets to help replace Green-Beckham.

Green-Beckham’s football future is uncertain. Since he has a redshirt year available, Green-Beckham could sit out 2014 and play for a FBS team in 2015. However, he may choose to go the FCS route and play right away this year.

Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham Dismissed From Team
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 16:12
Path: /nascar/nascar-darlington-hamlin-seeks-rebound-larson-outperfoming-montoya

Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, a possible Denny Hamlin rebound, a surging rookie, a less-than-traditional race date and Goodyear tires are just a few of the major topics leading us into Sunday’s 500-mile race at venerable Darlington Raceway.

Darlington a nice chance for Hamlin’s rebound  Denny Hamlin
For all of the positive vibes Denny Hamlin showed at Daytona by winning the Sprint Unlimited, taking his qualifying race and then finishing second in the 500, the momentum seems gone from the No. 11 team.

Hamlin messed up a strong race at Texas with a speeding penalty and finished 13th as a result. Aside from Daytona, he has just one top-10 finish (sixth, Bristol) and came home an uncharacteristic 19th at Martinsville two weeks ago. He also was forced to miss the race at Auto Club Speedway in California after a metal shard in his eye caused vision issues on the day of the race.

Darlington could be his rebound.

Hamlin has finished no worse than 13th in eight career starts at the South Carolina track and nabbed a win in 2010. He’s finished runner-up in the last two Sprint Cup series races there.

A good finish would be timely for Hamlin. Since the sixth at Bristol, Hamlin’s missed race and consecutive mediocre finishes have pushed the No. 11 to 13th in points.

Kyle Larson outperforming 2013 Juan Pablo Montoya  Kyle Larson
For Kyle Larson — just over two years removed from his first pavement stock car experience — the expectation of his first season of Sprint Cup competition featuring numerous struggling results didn’t seem far-fetched. It made his first finishes of 2014 (38th, 20th and 19th) seem very understandable.

But since then, Larson has poured it on. The No. 42 has three top-10 finishes (and two top 5s) in the last four races. More impressive? Larson’s performance in the first seven races is far outpacing the driver who he replaced in the Chip Ganassi Racing stable — Juan Pablo Montoya.

After seven races a year ago, Montoya had an average running position of 25.6. Larson, to this point in 2014, is more than nine spots better each lap on average at 16.2. The difference is even wider in the last four races year-to-year with Larson’s average running position sitting at 12.7 while Montoya’s was 28.2 a year ago.

Those numerical differences could go a long, long way toward CGR putting a car back in the Chase for the first time since Montoya’s lone appearance in 2009.

Darlington’s date changed again
Consistency and tradition had been a hallmark of NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway since it opened on Labor Day in 1950. The weekend stuck as the traditional date of the Darlington Raceway’s Southern 500 until 2003 when a massive schedule realignment sent NASCAR to California on Labor Day weekend — and left traditionalists steamed.

The track, though, began to build something of a tradition anew. Starting in 2005, it had a consistent date once again as home to a Saturday night race each May during Mother’s Day weekend. Now, it’s been changed again.

Thanks to Kansas Speedway adding lights, NASCAR and ISC swapped the dates for the sister tracks. Kansas will run a night race for the first time during Mother’s Day weekend next month while Darlington moves forward on the scheduled to April.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the shift affects attendance. Not only is the date changed, but Darlington now races the same weekend as sports events nearby including The Masters as well as spring football games for Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.

Recent winners have Darlington poised to continue NASCAR’s streak  Matt Kenseth
Another race, another winner.

A late caution for debris at Texas Motor Speedway nearly ruined Joey Logano’s dominant late-race performance that had him cruising easily to the checkered flag. But Logano made a last-lap pass around Jeff Gordon after the restart to take the win — continuing NASCAR’s quirky streak of a different winner in every race in 2014.

The recent returns at Darlington suggest the streak may just push to eight winners in eight races.

Just one winner in the last decade of Sprint Cup racing at Darlington — that’s 11 races — already has a win this season: Kyle Busch. Otherwise, that list of Darlington winners includes Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Regan Smith, Denny Hamlin, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Greg Biffle — all names (aside from the non-entered Martin and Smith) who figure to be worthy Darlington picks.

More telling of a potential streak continuation is the top 5 from last May at the track. Kenseth drove to the win with Hamlin second, Gordon third and Johnson fourth. Kevin Harvick, already a winner in 2014, finished fifth last year at Darlington.


Voice of Vito: Win and in? Five drivers who can call their shot

Tires an unlikely concern at Darlington
The buzz before last week’s race at Texas was all about teams concerned that the supplied race tires wouldn’t last, causing crashes and unexpected trips to pit road. Drivers were feeling antsy after suffering through many issues just two weeks prior at the high-speed Auto Club Speedway.

The concerns never manifested into a substantial problem in the rain-postponed race — stopping a potential controversy in its tracks — and have reduced the focus on Goodyear as the supplier tries to stay up with NASCAR’s offseason suspension and downforce rule changes.

Darlington, of course, has a long history of working race tires to their limits. The first race ever held at the track in 1950 was won by Johnny Mantz largely because he was the only driver who opted to race heavy duty truck tires. Other competitors scrambled to find enough tires to finish the 500-mile event. The track’s official history says many drivers even bought tires off the cars of spectators just to finish the race.

Saturday night, teams will use the same left-side compound tire compound in use at the track since 2011 and the same right-side tire they used last May.

Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.


Each week, Geoffrey Miller’s “Five Things to Watch” will help you catch up on the biggest stories of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ upcoming race weekend. This week, a possible Denny Hamlin rebound, a surging rookie, a less-than-traditional race date and Goodyear tires are just a few of the major topics leading us into Sunday’s 500-mile race at venerable Darlington Raceway.
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 14:49
All taxonomy terms: Phil Mickelson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-2-phil-mickelson

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. We've been unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 2: Phil Mickelson

Born: June 16, 1970, San Diego, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 42 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 3 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $5,495,793 (4th) World Ranking: 5

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Phil Mickelson will turn 44 in June, and ordinarily one would think that a player of that age had seen his better days, but Phil seems as capable as ever — and perhaps he enters this major season hungrier than ever. Statistically, it's easy to find holes in Phil’s game; even in his much-hallowed short game, there are gaping inconsistencies. However, Phil is one of the few players — if not the only player — who cannot be summed up in statistics, so strong is his belief in himself. If anything, at 44, Phil might have a sense of how close he is to being considered one of the top 10 players of all time. Phil is tied for 14th in total majors won, having finished second six times in the U.S. Open, the only major to have eluded him. Of the 10 men who have won three of the four Grand Slam events in golf, no player has more runner-ups in the one major they are missing than Phil. Many look at Pinehurst, site of this year’s U.S. Open, where Phil finished second in 1999, as the site of a storybook conclusion to his great career. Indeed, given his runner-up to Payne Stewart there, this will be one of the biggest stories in the first half of the year.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 85
Wins: 5

2013 Performance:
Masters - T54
U.S. Open - T2
British Open - 1
PGA Championship - T72

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2006, 2006, 2010)
U.S. Open - 2/T2 (1999, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2013)
British Open - 1 (2013)
PGA Championship - 1 (2005)
Top-10 Finishes: 35
Top-25 Finishes: 47
Missed Cuts: 8

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/nfl-draft-ranking-no-1-picks-expansion

The NFL Draft is an inexact science. It always has been and it always will be.

In fact, millions of dollars are poured into travel, scouting, evaluation, interviewing, discussing and debating the merits of Prospect A versus Prospect B in every NFL war room in every NFL Draft.

And still, Tony Mandarich gets picked ahead of Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

So having the first overall pick is a huge moment for any franchise. But its also carries with it tremendous pressure not to screw it up — which, of course, still happens frequently.

Dating back to expansion in 1995 when Carolina and Jacksonville joined the NFL, Athlon Sports has ranked and evaluated every No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Some of the names listed below have become the greatest to ever play the game. And others are JaMarcus Russell.

1. Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis (1998)
Not only is Manning the best No. 1 overall pick in the draft between 1995-present but he might also be the greatest No. 1 overall pick of all-time. Which, of course, is extremely interesting considering there was healthy debate between Manning and No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf at the time of the Colts' selection. Needless to say, Indianapolis made the right choice with the Tennessee Volunteer quarterback.

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis (2012)
Maybe it’s something in the water in Indy, but the Colts know what they are doing when they pick atop the draft. Luck is the best pro prospect to enter the NFL since John Elway in the early 1980s and all he has done is post the best two-year start to an NFL career of any quarterback in NFL history. He has Hall of Fame ability and the question isn’t will he win a Super Bowl it's when and how many.

3. Orlando Pace, T, St. Louis (1997)
Pace started 165 of his 169 career games during his Hall of Fame career with the Rams (12 years) and Bears (one year). He went to seven Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro five times while also leading the Rams to their one and only Super Bowl championship. Pace might be the most physically talented offensive tackle ever to play the game and is one of the league’s all-time greatest players. Kurt Warner most certainly would agree.

4. Eli Manning, QB, San Diego (2004)
Traded from the Chargers to the Giants on draft day, Peyton’s younger brother has lived up the hype of being not only a Manning but the No. 1 overall pick. He was two Super Bowl wins in which he was the driving force. Has he had some inconsistent seasons and turned the ball over a ton? Certainly — but so, too, did Brett Favre. There is little doubt that Manning deserved to be the top pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

5. Carson Palmer, QB, Cincinnati (2003)
He was a Heisman Trophy winner in college and Pete Carroll has long claimed that if he could construct a QB from scratch, it would be Palmer. The 2005 AFC Player of the Year has throw for nearly 34,000 yards and 213 touchdowns in his 138-game career thus far — in which he's played for three of the traditionally weaker franchises. In just his third year, Palmer took the Bengals from the basement to the playoffs for the first time in nearly two decades (1990). He has four 4,000-yard seasons, including one in each of the last two years. Constantly overlooked, Palmer has developed into one of the better No. 1 overall picks in recent memory.

6. Michael Vick, QB, Atlanta (2001)
Vick is quite the conundrum. He has unprecedented physical ability and wowed fans in ways no other player in NFL history ever has. He also spent two years in prison, has only played one full season (16 games) in his career and has constantly had turnover and health issues. His near 6,000 yards rushing makes him one of the most unique players in NFL history and certainly worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. That said, Falcons fans probably still wonder what could have been had he been able to stay focused off the field.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Carolina (2011)
Newton could fly past Vick and Palmer on this list in a very short period of time. Newton set records as a rookie and led his team to a division crown in his third season. He has proven his doubters wrong and as he begins to mature off the field and in the huddle, the sky could be the limit for a player of such substantial physical talent.

8. Keyshawn Johnson, WR, NY Jets (1996)
Throw him the damn ball. His me-first attitude and overall antics knock him down a peg or two in these rankings. But as the only wide receiver taken No. 1 overall since Irving Fryar in 1984, Johnson delivered a fine career. He only posted four 1,000-yard seasons but topped 10,000 yards and 800 receptions for his career to go with 78 total touchdowns. He also helped lead the Bucs to a Super Bowl title in 2002.

9. Matthew Stafford, QB, Detroit (2009)
Stafford has all of the physical tools to be one of the greats at his position and certainly justifies his No. 1 overall status. He also has a 5,000-yard season, the NFL record for attempts (727), led the Lions to the playoffs and won 2011 Comeback Player of the Year honors. Having said that, Stafford is 24-37 as a starter, has missed chunks of time due to injury and appears to be missing the “it factor” at times. He has a long way to go in his career and should have plenty of huge seasons in his future. Leading the Lions to the playoffs consistently and making a deep postseason run will go a long way towards silencing his doubters.

10. Mario Williams, DE, Houston (2006)
Houston was knocked for taking Williams over Reggie Bush or Vince Young but he has had a much better career than the common fan may realize. He is 13th among active NFL players in sacks with 76.5 and has forced 14 fumbles in 114 games. Williams has been to three Pro Bowls and has started every single game of his career with the exception of three games in 2010 and 11 in '11. Williams is an underrated No. 1 overall pick.

11. Jake Long, T, Miami (2008)
Long has missed just seven games in his six-year career and has started all 89 games he has played. He has been to four Pro Bowls and appears poised to have a solid career for the Rams after signing with them as a free agent prior to last season. Like Williams, Long doesn’t jump off the page as a starter but he has been an extremely solid, reliable and valuable player to this point in his career.

12. Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco (2005)
This one certainly started slowly. He managed just 19 touchdowns against 31 interceptions and an 11-19 starting record in his first three seasons for the 49ers. However, he persevered and has developed into a solid NFL quarterback. Over his last three seasons, Smith is 30-9-1 as a starter with 53 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, three playoff bids and over 8,000 yards passing (despite missing eight games over that span). His second career in Kansas City could eventually move him up this list.

13. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis (2010)
Plagued by major injuries for most of his collegiate and pro career, Bradford will likely never live up to the hype of being taken No. 1 overall. He won NFL Rookie of the Year in his first season but has missed a total of 15 games over the last three years. He’s had little in the way of support from his O-line and playmakers on offense, so there is still plenty of time for him to improve under trusted head coach Jeff Fisher. The final verdict on Bradford is still out.

14. Eric Fisher, T, Kansas City (2013)
By default, Fisher lands directly between the players who are deemed “good” and the players who are deemed “bad.” He started 13 of the 14 games he played as a rookie for a team that made the playoffs. He has the tools to be the Chiefs' long-term solution at left tackle but only time will tell.

15. Tim Couch, QB, Cleveland (1999)
Here is where the term bust begins to surface and Couch was the “best” of the busts. He went 22-37 as a starter in 62 career games, throwing for over 11,000 yards, 64 touchdowns and 67 interceptions. He did, however, post a winning record for the Browns in 2002 when he went 8-6 and he had one 3,000-yard season in '01 for a 7-9 squad. These are his top two pro accomplishments, which at least makes him a better pick than….

16. David Carr, QB, Houston (2002)
Carr had no help from the expansion roster around him as he was sacked 76 times as a rookie and led the league in sacks three of his first four seasons. To his credit, Carr lasted in the NFL for 11 seasons (mostly as a backup) but his 23-56 record as a starter is pretty ugly.

18. Courtney Brown, DE, Cleveland (2000)
One of only two defensive players taken No. 1 overall since expansion is one of the most forgettable. Brown played in 61 career games over six seasons. His set a career high with 69 tackles as a rookie and never topped 42 tackles after that. He set a career high with 13 starts and 6.0 sacks in 2003. He finished his career with 19.0 sacks and 196 tackles.

17. Ki-Jana Carter, RB, Cincinnati (1995)
Here is all you need to know about Carter’s NFL career: He made 14 career starts in seven NFL seasons. He never reached 500 yards rushing in any season and only topped 400 once in his career. He was out of football by 2005 and finished with 319 carries, 1,144 yards and 20 touchdowns in his NFL career. No running back has ever been taken No. 1 overall since.

19. JaMarcus Russell, QB, Oakland (2007)
Nine players in the NFL threw for at least 4,000 yards in 2013. Russell barely cracked 4,000 for his entire playing career (4,083). He played in 31 games, going 7-18 as a starter with 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. Needless to say, Russell — both literally and figuratively — was the biggest No. 1 overall bust in the modern NFL expansion era.

NFL Draft: Ranking the No. 1 Picks Since Expansion
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Golf, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-11-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 11.

• In honor of Masters week, enjoy a gallery of gorgeous girls golfing, including actual golfer Blair O'Neal (pictured).

A man put a lot of money on Rory McIlroy to win The Masters after seeing Rory's image on a chocolate danish. I try not to take orders from breakfast pastries, but that's me.

Once again, a pesky golf fan alerted a rules official to a violation, this one by Luke Donald. At least the fan in question was on the grounds and not calling from the couch. Golf fans are the kids who remind the teacher she forgot to assign homework.

Uh, Michael Pineda, if you're going to coat your hand with a foreign substance, be a little more discreet about it.

So apparently the new Kevin Costner movie "Draft Day" isn't the steaming pile of failure that I anticipated.

Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury participated in a dance-off with one of his players.

Watch Jameis Winston and his FSU baseball teammates re-create the Noles' game-winning football play during a rain delay.

• I've never linked to college hockey before, but here you go: Minnesota advanced to the Frozen Four with a buzzer-beater.

• Most athletic move of the day yesterday: Hillary Clinton used her cat-quick reflexes to dodge an airborne shoe.

• Fun media feud of the day: Piers Morgan vs. SI TV writer Richard Deitsch.

Lolo stepped in it on Twitter yet again.

• Jon Stewart crushed the NCAA on the Daily Show.


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

Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 10:37
Path: /college-football/bcs-eras-all-american-team

All-conference and All-American teams are a great indicator as to who are the best players in the nation. Earning first-team honors more than once is a pretty good sign that you were one of the best at your position during your career. The rare three-time All-American selection makes you one of the best college football players of all-time.

As the College Football Playoff Era begins in 2014, Athlon Sports is looking back on the last 16 years of action — aka, The BCS Era. Here is the All-BCS Era All-Big-12 team. The only stipulation (unlike other folks who have done this exercise) is that you must have played at least one season from 1998-13.

First-Team Offense:

QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05)
Young earned Rose Bowl MVP honors following his ridiculous performance against Michigan to finish his sophomore season. It was a sign of things to come as he was named Big 12 Player of the Year in 2005. He was a consensus All-American, led the Big 12 in passing efficiency, won the Davey O'Brien, Manning and Maxwell Awards while finishing second on the Heisman ballot. His smooth running skills led to an all-time Big 12 career record 6.8 yards per carry. And no one will ever forget his second Rose Bowl MVP performance against USC in the greatest game of the BCS Era, returning the national championship to Austin.

Second-Team: Tim Tebow, Florida, Third-Team: Matt Leinart, USC

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06)
The BCS version of Herschel Walker or Bo Jackson was the three-year star from Palestine (Texas) High. A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 runner, Peterson finished No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting as a true freshman in 2004. His 1,925 yards were an NCAA record for a true freshman and it earned him unanimous All-American honors. Despite missing chunks of time with injuries in each of his next two seasons, “All Day” Peterson still topped 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. His natural blend of power, speed, size and balance has never been duplicated during the BCS Era. He is the Sooners' No. 3 all-time leading rusher.

Second-Team: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin Third-Team: LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1995-98)
The power back from San Diego had a two-year run as an upperclassman that may never be matched, as he posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,800 yards and 25 rushing touchdowns. Williams was a two-time consensus All-American, a two-time Doak Walker Award winner, a two-time Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and claimed the Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award and Heisman Trophy as a senior. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher (since broken) and he is one of four players to ever score at least 70 rushing touchdowns.

Second-Team: Darren McFadden, Arkansas Third-Team: Reggie Bush, USC

WR: Larry Fitzgerald, Pittsburgh (2002-03)
After redshirting, Fitz dominated college football for two full seasons. He became the first Pitt Panther to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, owns the school record with 34 touchdowns (in just 26 games) and owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (18). As a sophomore in his final season at Pitt, he caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, winning Big East Player of the Year honors and the Walter Camp and Biletnikoff awards. His second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting is the highest by any wide receiver during the BCS era and he is the only one in to finish in the top three.

Second-Team: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech Third-Team: Percy Harvin, Florida

WR: Calvin Johnson, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006.

Second-Team: Peter Warrick, Florida State Third-Team: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08)
It didn’t take long for Tigers fans to see what they had in Coffman as he earned first-team Freshman All-American honors in 2005. He then broke Mizzou tight end receiving records with 58 receptions, 638 yards and nine touchdowns as just a sophomore. After two straight All-Big 12 seasons, Coffman claimed the John Mackey Award as a senior as the nation’s top tight end after posting 90 receptions, 987 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2008. Missouri went 22-6 over his final two seasons in what many believe to be the best two-year run in program history.

Second-Team: Jermaine Gresham, Oklahoma Third-Team: Heath Miller, Virginia

T: Bryant McKinnie, Miami (2000-01)
He only played two seasons for Miami after beginning at Lackawanna College (Pa.) but he was downright unstoppable during his time in a Hurricanes' uniform. He was an All-American in both seasons, won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and led Miami to a 23-1 record and the 2001 BCS National Championship. He is the only offensive lineman during the BCS era to finish in the top 10 of Heisman Trophy balloting. The Pro Bowl left tackle was the seventh overall pick by the Vikings in the 2002 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Chris Samuels, Alabama Third-Team: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma

T: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2004-06)
One of the few big-time recruits from the state of Wisconsin, Thomas was a two-time All-American and Outland Trophy winner for a team that went 31-7 during his three seasons as the starting left tackle. He has rare foot speed, agility and overall athletic ability — and it’s why he has been to the Pro Bowl in all seven of his NFL seasons.

Second-Team: Jake Long, Michigan Third-Team: Shawn Andrews, Arkansas

G: Steve Hutchinson, Michigan (1997-2000)
Starting for four seasons for the Wolverines, Hutchinson helped the Maize and Blue win the 1997 national championship. He capped his career with consensus All-American honors, was an Outland Trophy finalist and didn’t allow a sack in his final two seasons at Michigan.

Second-Team: Duke Robinson, Oklahoma Third-Team: David Yankey, Stanford

G: Barrett Jones, Alabama (2009-12)
No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA.

Second-Team: Mike Iupati, Idaho Third-Team: Eric Steinbach, Iowa

C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05)
Not many centers have an Outland Trophy on their mantle at home but Eslinger does. He was a freshman All-American in 2002, a third-team All-American as a sophomore, a first-teamer in '04 and earned consensus All-American honors as a senior. He won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center and earned Big Ten Lineman of the Year honors in ’05. Minnesota never had a losing record during his four-year career.

Second-Team: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska Third-Team: Jonathan Luigs, Arkansas

First-Team Defense:

DE: David Pollack, Georgia (2001-04)
The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest SEC defensive lineman of the BCS Era.

Second-Team: Julius Peppers, North Carolina Third-Team: Chris Long, Virginia

DE: Terrell Suggs, Arizona State (2000-02)
The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner that year as well. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time) and 14 forced fumbles.

Second-Team: Corey Moore, Virginia Tech Third-Team: Jadeveon Cloweny, South Carolina

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09)
The star defensive tackle from Portland, Ore., won the 2009 Outland and Nagurski Trophies as well as the Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Awards. He was the first defensive player to win AP Player of the Year honors since its inception in 1998 and finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in ’09. That year Suh claimed the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award and he came just seconds shy of leading the Huskers to their first conference championship since 1999. He finished his career with 215 tackles, 57.0 for a loss, 24.0 sacks and six blocked kicks.

Second-Team: John Henderson, Tennessee Third-Team: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma

DT: Glenn Dorsey, LSU (2004-07)
He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks.

Second-Team: Haloti Ngata, Oregon Third-Team: Casey Hampton, Texas

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99)
Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for a loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American who wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Second-Team: Paul Posluszny, Penn State Third-Team: Derrick Johnson, Texas

LB: Patrick Willis, Ole Miss (2003-06)
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for a loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior.

Second-Team: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame Third-Team: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08)
Few players in the nation were as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship Game.

Second-Team: E.J. Henderson, Maryland Third-Team: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma

CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002)
Newman did a little bit of everything for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. He returned kicks and punts and even played some wide receiver. The lockdown cornerback was a two-time All-Big 12 pick, a unanimous All-American, the Jim Thorpe Award winner as the nation’s top DB and a first-round pick by the Cowboys in 2003. The 2002 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year also was a two-time Big 12 outdoor track champion in the 100 meters and the league champ in the indoor 60 meters.

Second-Team: Champ Bailey, Georgia Third-Team: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin

CB: Patrick Peterson, LSU (2008-10)
One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

Second-Team: Dre Bly, North Carolina Third-Team: Antoine Winfield, Ohio State

S: Ed Reed, Miami (1998-01)
The star safety is one of the greatest to ever put on the pads. He led the team as a freshman in interceptions and forced fumbles en route to back-to-back All-American seasons in 2000 and '01. He led the nation as a senior with nine interceptions for 209 yards and three touchdowns. His leadership helped a stacked Miami team go unbeaten and claim the BCS National Championship in 2001. He was named Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Reed holds the school record for career interceptions (21), return yards (389) and defensive touchdowns (5). He was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in 2002. Oh by the way, Reed was a Big East track and field champ in the javelin.

Second-Team: Eric Berry, Tennessee Third-Team: Troy Polamalu, USC

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001)
He helped lead the Sooners to an unbeaten BCS National Championship in 2000 while setting the school record for tackles for a loss by a defensive back (12.0). The following year, he claimed the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back as well as the Nagurski and Jack Tatum Trophies and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He was a unanimous All-American, first-round pick of the Cowboys in 2002 and will go down in Red River Shootout lore for this spectacular play in the Cotton Bowl

Second-Team: Sean Taylor, Miami Third-Team: Mark Barron, Alabama

The BCS Era's All-American Team
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/who-sleeper-team-watch-big-12-2014

The Big 12 did not have a banner year in 2013, as only three teams from the conference finished ranked in the final Associated Press poll, and the bottom four teams in the league combined for just seven conference victories.

Heading into the 2014 season, there appears to be some positive momentum for the Big 12. Baylor and Oklahoma are playoff contenders, and Texas and Kansas State should be preseason top-25 teams.

While Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Kansas State appear set as the top-four teams in the league, the No. 5 spot seems to be up for grabs.

TCU slipped to 4-8 last year, and as a result of the struggles, coach Gary Patterson overhauled the offense for 2014. Iowa State has potential after finishing 2013 with back-to-back wins, while Texas Tech is an intriguing team to watch with Kliff Kingsbury at the helm, and Oklahoma State always seems to reload under Mike Gundy.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Who is a Sleeper Team to Watch in the Big 12 in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The bottom half of the Big 12 should be an interesting battle this year. Teams like Iowa State and West Virginia should improve, but whether or not it’s enough to make a bowl remains to be seen. I think Oklahoma State simply lost too much to pull a surprise finish among the top four teams, so it’s really down to TCU or Texas Tech as a sleeper pick for me. I think the Horned Frogs have a ton of upside going into 2014, as this team was just a couple of plays away from a winning record last year. New play-caller Doug Meacham made a difference at Houston in 2013 and helping TCU transition to a spread should help Gary Patterson’s team become a more effective offense in 2014. The Horned Frogs still need to find a quarterback, as well as develop more consistency at receiver and on the offensive line, but this team lost four Big 12 games by three points or less last year. With a better offense, TCU could easily turn some of those close losses into wins, especially with a defense that is still among the best in the nation. Another factor in the Horned Frogs’ sleeper potential is the schedule. TCU plays five conference home games, including swing matchups against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in Fort Worth.

Allen Kenney, (@BlatantHomerism),
What really qualifies as a surprise in the Big 12 anymore?

Baylor has gone from plucky upstart to defending champion.

Bill Snyder working miracles in Manhattan is nothing new.

Given how much talent is on Texas' roster, would it really be a "surprise" if the Longhorns made a run at the league crown in Charlie Strong's first year?

I think the most fitting candidate here is Texas Tech. Even with the loss of all-star tight end Jace Amaro, Kliff Kingsbury will keep the Red Raiders rolling up points. Reports from spring camp say quarterback Davis Webb has made major strides since the fall, and he'll have a bevy of productive skill players at his disposal, including receivers Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant and running back Kenny Williams. Up front, all-conference candidate Le'Raven Clark will lead an experienced offensive line that should be one of the best in the league.

Of course, offense usually isn't a problem in Lubbock. The Red Raiders will have to continue winning shootouts until Tech figures out a way to stop people. Look for the Red Raiders to come out on top of a wild one--or two--that you wouldn't expect (Texas, Oklahoma, Baylor), finishing with eight wins in the regular season and a winning record in league play.


Listen to our staff discuss every team in the Big 12 as they start to look to 2014.

Tune in to the Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast as our staff talks college football leading up to the 2014 season.
iTunes | Podcast Archive

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
My sleeper in the Big 12 is the team it always seems to be in this league, Iowa State. The Cyclones slipped to 3-9 last season, missing a bowl for the second time in five seasons under Paul Rhoads. That should turn around this season. While Iowa State won’t contend for the title, there are plenty of reasons the Cyclones will get back to the six- to seven-win range. After Iowa State lost a 31-30 heartbreaker to Texas on Oct. 3, the 2013 season went sour. Injuries took their toll on a team that was already going to struggle to compete. Iowa State, though, found its stride at the end of the season. In his final two starts — both wins — quarterback Grant Rohach completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 631 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He’ll be among 10 returning starters on offense, now playing under coordinator Mark Mangino. The former Kansas coach has his faults, but he can run an offense in the Big 12. On defense, seven starters return, and linebacker Luke Knott will return healthy. That should be enough for Iowa State to double its win total from last season.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Defining a sleeper must be based on expectations and since the expectation levels for Oklahoma State heading into 2014 seem to be lower than we've seen in Stillwater in nearly a decade, I will go with the Cowboys. Mike Gundy's squad hasn't won fewer than eight games since 2007 and has only won fewer than nine once during that span. Due to massive departures to graduation and the NFL, the Cowboys likely won't be picked in the top half of the Big 12 — fifth at best — but this program is in way better shape than a team with so few returning starters. Gundy has elevated the entire Pokes program by building depth throughout his roster. This team was one drive away from winning the Big 12 championship, and I just don't see the fall from grace like many preseason prognosticators will predict. Will OSU win the Big 12? No. But can they be a sleeper who could win nine or ten games and pull a couple of upsets? You bet.

Mark Ross
Prior to last season, TCU had won at least seven games every year since 2005. Granted, all but two of those seasons came when Gary Patterson's Horned Frogs were dominating the Mountain West Conference, but I think their 11-14 record since joining the Big 12 in 2012 is somewhat misleading. Of those 14 losses, half were by seven points or fewer. In fact, last season's 4-8 TCU team was potentially just one or two touchdowns away from maintaining the program's bowl streak, which ended at eight. As bad as the offense was (Horned Frogs were 104th in the nation in total offense), this team was still out-gained by just 6.2 yards in conference play in 2013. Eight starters return from that defense, along with defensive end Devonte Fields, the 2012 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year when he was a freshman. Patterson also brought in former Houston offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and Texas Tech co-coordinator Sonny Cumbie to overhaul TCU's offense. A quarterback will need to be settled on and the offensive line will need to gel, but whomever ends up running the show does have playmakers to work with and it's not like it can get much worse than it was last year, right? TCU also has the luxury of hosting Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with its toughest road tests shaping up to be at Baylor and Texas. If the Horned Frogs can survive a difficult stretch of six straight conference games starting Oct. 4, then I think this team has a chance to open some eyes in its third year in the Big 12.

Who is a Sleeper Team to Watch in the Big 12 in 2014?
Post date: Friday, April 11, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-wr-bralon-addison-tears-acl-ducks-wr-corps-has-major-concerns

The Pac-12 title race is expected to be a tight battle between Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA.

The Ducks are considered by some to be the preseason favorite, but Mark Helfrich’s team suffered a setback on Thursday, as receiver Bralon Addison suffered a torn ACL in practice. A timetable for Addison’s absence was not announced, but it is believed he will miss the entire 2014 season.

Addison was expected to be Oregon’s No. 1 receiver in 2014, as he was the top returning statistical target – 61 receptions for 890 yards and seven touchdowns.

Addison’s ACL injury adds another layer of concerns for Oregon’s receiving corps, as this unit was already losing Josh Huff (62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns), and running back De’Anthony Thomas left early for the NFL Draft.

Is Addison’s injury something that could derail the Ducks from a Pac-12 title? Possibly. However, Oregon still has the No. 1 quarterback in the conference returning in Marcus Mariota, along with one of the nation’s top running back stables.

In Addison’s absence, the Ducks need more from Keanon Lowe, Chance Allen, Darren Carrington, Dwayne Stanford and Devon Allen. Also, expect to see more opportunities for tight ends Johnny Mundt, Pharaoh Brown and Evan Baylis.

Here’s a look at the returning options for Oregon in the receiving corps (2013 stats)

Keanon Lowe182333
Johnny Mundt162813
Pharaoh Brown101232
Chance Allen5981
Evan Baylis4710
Blake Stanton2110
B.J. Kelley1130


Oregon WR Bralon Addison Tears ACL; Ducks' WR Corps Has Major Concerns
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 21:00
All taxonomy terms: girls, videos, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-cheerleaders-release-new-fantasy-video

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.

The Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders created their third video lip dub. This time the ladies are splashing around at the beach to a mash up by DJ Earworm, based around Mariah Carey's "Fantasy." And yes, it's as awesome as you think it is.
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 15:22
All taxonomy terms: Adam Scott, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-3-adam-scott

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. We've been unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 3: Adam Scott

Born: July 16, 1980, Adelaide, Australia | Career PGA Tour Wins: 10 (9 on European Tour) | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 2 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,892,611 (6th) World Ranking: 2

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Adam Scott will have a very good chance to join Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods as the only men to successfully defend their Masters titles. Perhaps the best driver in the game, Scott can challenge the doglegs at Augusta National and put himself in position to attack a golf course that has so many playing defensive golf. The reason for his improved play in majors beginning in 2011, many believe, is the result of switching to the anchored putter, but he has finished 102nd, 148th and 143rd in strokes gained putting, respectively, the last three years and still struggles on the greens. This weakness is the only thing that keeps him from winning far more often than he does.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 51
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - 1
U.S. Open - T45
British Open - T3
PGA Championship - T5

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2013)
U.S. Open - T15 (2012)
British Open - 2 (2012)
PGA Championship - T3 (2006)
Top-10 Finishes: 11
Top-25 Finishes: 22
Missed Cuts: 15

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 15:05
All taxonomy terms: Keegan Bradley, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-4-keegan-bradley

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 4: Keegan Bradley

Born: June 7, 1986, Woodstock, Vt. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 3 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,636,813 (11th) World Ranking: 18

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Keegan Bradley made quite a debut on the PGA tour in 2011, winning the PGA Championship as a rookie, but since then has been relatively quiet, given his enormous talent. Winless in 2013, he managed seven top tens and finished 11th on the money list, but he was so close to doing so much more. Perhaps, after such a high-profile first year on tour, he was burdened by heavy expectations. His game is too complete not too have multiple wins in 2014.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 9
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - T54
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T15
PGA Championship - T19

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T27 (2012)
U.S. Open - T68 (2012)
British Open - T15 (2013)
PGA Championship - 1 (2011)
Top-10 Finishes: 2
Top-25 Finishes: 4
Missed Cuts: 1

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:59
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-april-10-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for April 10.

Galleries at Augusta this week will be graced by the presence of one Amanda Dufner. Yo, Jason, eyes up here, buddy.

They're underway at The Masters. I know I'm a golf nerd, but this will never get old.

• Very cool fly-over GIFs of all 18 holes at Augusta National.

• This is a little inside-golf, but it is Masters week: Tiger-proofing at Augusta has actually given the edge to the bombers. Related: You can't win The Masters unless you birdie the par-5 15th hole.

So Jack Nicklaus' granddaughter has a crush on Adam Scott. She's cute, she's 18, he's single. I say why not?

One man's Masters power ranking.

• A Masters Thursday long-form read: Tiger Woods and the drop heard round the world.

Clay Travis has some fun with the news that AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb are filming a reality show.

• Bored baseball fans are a fun genre. Like this Rangers fan who was doing a little hockey research during a game.

Mike Greenberg of Mike & Mike milked a cow to pay off a bet. The cow replied by pooping.

• Sporting magenta hair, Caroline Wozniacki caddies for Rory McIlroy at the par-3 tournament and took the time to sink a long putt.


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

Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:48
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/winners-and-losers-2014-ncaa-tournament

The NCAA Tournament ended with one winner and 67 losers in the bracket, but not all of those results are created equal.

Kansas’ loss in the round of 32 isn’t exactly the same as Mercer’s, for example.

The true winner, in both the men’s and women’s tournament, was the school in Storrs, even though both programs took different paths to get there. UConn cemented itself as one of the most unlikely national champions, Kevin Ollie as a star in the coaching world and Shabazz Napier as one of the most legendary players in Huskies history.

Ollie wasn’t the only coach to establish himself as young up-and-comer in coaching. Dayton’s Archie Miller surely will be on the radar for major programs after his team’s run to the Elite Eight.

Elsewhere, Bo Ryan reached his first Final Four and the SEC found some basketball bragging rights, making them two of the bigger winners in this year’s field.

The Big 12 and Doug McDermott weren’t so lucky.

Winner: Kevin Ollie’s status
When the NCAA Tournament started, the coaching legacy discussion revolved around Billy Donovan cementing his status as a Hall of Fame coach or Sean Miller or Bo Ryan reaching their first Final Four. Kevin Ollie notching his spot among the national elite coaches was not one of the popular talking points. Now, the storyline that emerged after this Tournament may be the most interesting of all. What’s in store for Ollie in his coaching career? At 41, Ollie is younger than Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and Roy Williams when they won their first national championships. He’s already at a national power, but UConn’s conference alignment has taken a step back in the American compared to the Big East. And with his credibility in the NBA, Ollie may be a popular target there. Possibilities abound, including a long tenure at his alma mater.

Loser: The freshman class
Kentucky alone saved the star-studded freshman class from being a complete washout. Julius Randle and the Harrison twins carried Kentucky from a No. 8 seed to the title game and likely boosted their NBA Draft status. Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins may be top-three picks, but their NCAA Tournament legacy is forgettable. Parker went 4-of-14 from the field in a round of 64 loss to Mercer, and Wiggins scored four points in a loss to No. 10 seed Stanford in the round of 32. Kansas’ Joel Embiid was a no-show with a back injury, and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis was bounced in the round of 32 by No. 11 seed Dayton. Arizona’s Aaron Gordon had a solid performance in the Tournament ... until he ran into Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in the Elite Eight.

Winner: Bo Ryan’s legacy
In a matchup with Arizona’s Sean Miller, another great coach without a Final Four appearance, Ryan was the one who was able to check the box of reaching the final weekend of the Tournament. And more may be in store for Wisconsin. Shooting guard Ben Brust is the only major departure from Wisconsin next season, meaning the Badgers will have the look of a national title team.

Loser: Doug McDermott’s stat line
McDermott completed one of the greatest careers in college basketball history as the fifth-leading scorer of all time and a three-time consensus All-American. But the National Player of the Year struggled in his lone NCAA Tournament game, a loss to Baylor. The Bears held McDermott to 15 points in his third NCAA exit before the Sweet 16. McDermott scored 15 points or less only three times as a senior and 15 times in his final three years.

Winner: Kentucky’s transformation
By one count, Kentucky played in three of the top four games of the NCAA Tournament. Decades from now, this year’s Tournament may be remembered for Shabazz Napier and UConn’s title run from a No. 7 seed, but also for the excitement Kentucky brought. And to think this team underachieved for most of the season. Kentucky defeated three teams from last year’s Final Four, including undefeated Wichita State and rival Louisville. And that was before facing Wisconsin in the Final Four. Every step of the way, Kentucky defeated a team good enough to win the title before running into Napier and UConn. Oh, and the Wildcats had a flair for the dramatic.

Loser: Wichita State’s opportunity for credibility
Notice that says Wichita State’s opportunity for credibility not credibility in and of itself. The 35-1 record and a toe-to-toe battle with the eventual national runners up may be enough to make fans forget about all the hand-wringing about the Shockers’ schedule. But at the same time, Wichita State was unable to advance into the second weekend, and that will be enough for detractors to doubt Wichita State’s season.

Winner: Archie Miller’s job prospects
If not for Ollie, Miller might be the biggest coaching superstar to emerge from this NCAA Tournament. The 35-year-old led Dayton to wins over NCAA stalwarts Ohio State and Syracuse on the way to the Elite Eight. Sure, Dayton got hot for two weeks, but the Flyers also defeated Gonzaga and nearly knocked off Baylor in the Maui Invitational. With his bloodlines, Miller may already have been a major coaching prospect, but this Tournament sealed it. The question is if and when he might make the jump. Dayton can be the flagship program and the Atlantic 10. With administrative and fan support and a good recruiting base, there’s no reason for Miller to jump at the first opportunity. Could he prove to be as difficult to pry from Dayton as Shaka Smart has been at VCU. Remember, it took the Boston Celtics to pull Brad Stevens away from Butler, too.

Loser: The selection committee’s handling of the AAC
On Selection Sunday, the American Athletic Conference was a clear loser. Louisville, a top-three team in the rankings, was hammered with a No. 4 seed. UConn received a No. 7, Memphis received a No. 8. SMU didn’t even make the field. The Huskies won the national title, Louisville fell in the Sweet 16 to eventual national runner up and rival Kentucky, and SMU reached the NIT championship game.

Winner: The SEC’s bragging rights
Eleven SEC teams didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament field. Three SEC teams didn’t make it out of the NIT quarterfinals. Is that going to stop SEC fans from bragging about two Final Four teams and three in the Sweet 16? No way. Kudos to Kentucky and Tennessee playing to the level their talent suggested. It almost made us forget that teams like Arkansas, Missouri and LSU didn’t do the same.

Loser: The Big 12’s bragging rights
The Big 12’s batting average was not nearly as high as the SEC’s. Only two of the league’s eight teams with NCAA Tournament bids reached the Sweet 16. Two teams lost to double-digit seeds with Kansas falling to No. 10 Stanford and Oklahoma falling to No. 12 North Dakota State. Iowa State played two games without one of its top three players before losing to UConn in the Sweet 16. Texas and Oklahoma State lost to higher-seeded teams. Baylor carried the banner for the league before losing by 17 to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight.

Winner: The Atlantic Sun
Between Florida Gulf Coast and Mercer, the Atlantic Sun is 3-2 in the last two NCAA Tournaments. Not bad for a league that lost its top program, Belmont, two years ago.

Loser: Injuries
Injuries are part of the season, but a few deprived a few teams from being at their best in the NCAA Tournament — Joel Embiid at Kansas, Georges Niang at Iowa State and Willie Cauley-Stein at Kentucky. Kansas and Iowa State were teams with Final Four potential with all their pieces in place, and Cauley-Stein could have been a difference-maker in the title game.

Winner: Johnny Dawkins’ job security
The Stanford coach seemed to be on an NCAA Tournament-or-bust trajectory. He did more than what could be expected by taking a No. 10 seed to the Sweet 16 thanks to wins over New Mexico and Kansas. Stanford’s first NCAA Tournament trip since 2008 isn’t the only reason Dawkins can breathe a little easier: Mike Montgomery retired at rival Cal.

Loser: Another vote of confidence in BYU
For the second season in a row, BYU was a questionable selection in the NCAA Tournament. Only a wild comeback against Iona in the First Four last season prevented BYU from going one-and-done the last two seasons. Once in the 64-team field, BYU lost by 19 points to Oregon in 2014 and 20 points to Marquette in 2013.

Winner: Harvard’s momentum
For the second consecutive season, Harvard upset a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 1946, and now it has reached the field in each of the last three seasons. Harvard could ride that momentum into 2014-15, already showing up on a few early top 25 lists. Not only does Harvard return its top three scorers, the Crimson also held onto coach Tommy Amaker, who has led the turnaround.

Loser: Mark Gottfried’s game management
Little was expected of NC State this season, but the Wolfpack were one of the last teams in the field and won a game in the First Four. Mark Gottfried kept fans wanting more though. His team flopped in the round of 64 against Saint Louis by losing a 14-point lead in the second half to lose in overtime. NC State shot 54.1 percent from the line, and Gottfried kept his star player, T.J. Warren, on the court, vulnerable to foul out when NC State needed to stop the clock. Warren fouled out with 27.9 seconds left.

Winner: Steve Alford’s reputation
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The Alford hire at UCLA wasn’t an unqualified success, and it’s still unclear if he’ll be able to match Ben Howland. Still, Alford answered a few questions by advancing to the Sweet 16. His teams at New Mexico and Iowa had been eliminated by double-digit seeds in four of his last five trips to the NCAA Tournament. Avoiding upsets to No. 12 Tulsa and No. 13 Stephen F. Austin is what he’s supposed to do at UCLA, but he deserves credit for reversing an ugly trend.

Loser: The Big East
During the course of the season, the Big East looked at times like it could be a two-bid league, so it’s probably a positive development that four teams made it. None, however, made it to the second weekend when No. 2 seed Villanova and No. 3 seed Creighton lost in the round of 32. There’s no shame in No. 11 seed Providence losing to North Carolina, and Xavier was in a virtual coin flip game against NC State in the First Four. Making matters worse, though, was the departure of Buzz Williams from Marquette to Virginia Tech. In essence, one of the top coaches for one of the new league’s flagship programs left for one of the worst jobs in the ACC. Not a great week for the league.

Winners and losers from the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 10:19
Path: /college-football/miamis-defense-or-virginia-techs-offense-which-bigger-concern-2014

The ACC Coastal has been one of the toughest divisions to predict over the last few years, and nothing is expected to change in 2014.

In 2012, North Carolina, Miami and Georgia Tech tied for the division crown at 5-3. Last year, Duke won the Coastal with a 6-2 mark but three teams finished just a game behind the Blue Devils.

It’s hard to find much separation among the top six teams in the Coastal this year, so it may take another 5-3 record in conference play to win the division.

Miami and Virginia Tech are considered among the favorites to win the Coastal in 2014, but both teams have big question marks. The Hurricanes have struggled on defense over the last two seasons, and the Hokies’ offense is a concern after averaging only 22.8 points per game in ACC games in 2013.

Considering how tight the top six teams are expected to be within the division, slight improvement by Virginia Tech’s offense or Miami’s defense could be enough to vault either team into the top spot.

Athlon Sports’ preseason magazines are set to hit the newsstands in late May/early June, and it’s time to settle some of the biggest debates for 2014. Over the next few weeks, will dive into some of the key topics by conference and some of the debates that will shape preseason predictions for this year.

Miami's Defense or Virginia Tech's Offense: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
This is a close call, but I have to say the Miami defense. Over the last two years, the Hurricanes are the only unit in the ACC to allow over six yards per play in conference games. And despite having three straight top-15 recruiting classes, Miami has showed very little improvement on defense. With upperclassmen like end Anthony Chickillo, linebacker Denzel Perryman and cornerback Tracy Howard, this unit has to take a step forward in 2014. The depth has certainly improved for Miami’s defense over the last two years, but the pass rush (just 12 sacks in ACC games last year) and stopping the run are still a concern. The offenses in the Coastal aren’t particularly prolific, but the Hurricanes still have to face Georgia Tech, an improving Pittsburgh offense, North Carolina, Duke and Florida State and Louisville in crossover play. Virginia Tech’s offense may not show much improvement in the stat column, but the Hokies have a very favorable schedule, and the skill players around new quarterback Mark Leal are improving. Also, with a Virginia Tech defense expected to be among the best in the nation, the Hokies won’t need to make a significant jump in production to win the Coastal. It’s tough to put either team in the top 25 for 2014 with the question marks surrounding both squads, but I have more concerns about Miami’s defense heading into the fall.

Mark Ross
For me, it's Virginia Tech's offense, as the improvement or lack thereof from this side of the ball will likely determine how the Hokies' 2014 campaign shakes out. Consider this: Virginia Tech's offense finished 99th or worse among FBS teams last year in total, scoring and rushing offense yet the Hokies still won eight games. What's more, all three of their conference losses were by seven or fewer points, including a three-point home loss to Duke that ended up determining the Coastal Division champion. Now while it's hard to see the defense repeat its top-11 national showing in all four major categories this season, especially with so much talent and experience having departed, there's no reason to expect a dramatic drop-off either, not as long as coordinator Bud Foster is in charge.

No the bugaboo for Frank Beamer's team the last couple of years has been the offense, but maybe this is the year coordinator Scott Loeffler finds his rhythm with his personnel and things come together. Quarterback is a big question mark, but the addition of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer gives Loeffler another option to consider, as Brewer will provide Mark Leal with competition for the starting job when fall camp opens. Virginia Tech doesn't lack for playmakers per se, but the running backs and wide receivers are still relatively unproven and have yet to produce on a consistent basis. That said, the schedule shapes up nicely with Boston College and Wake Forest the crossover games from the Atlantic Division and Georgia Tech and Miami coming to Lane Stadium. As long as the defense doesn't take too much of a step backwards, Virginia Tech should at least contend for yet another division title. And if the offense can show even moderate improvement, then it's possible that the Hokies could get back to double-digit wins, something this program did consistently not too long ago.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo),
To me, this is pretty clear: Virginia Tech's offense is the bigger concern, and I don't even think it's close. The Hokies' offense has been phenomenally bad these past couple years, especially last year when they pretty much hit rock bottom (100th in points per game and 102nd in yards per game). Problem is, though, they might end up sinking deeper. Offensive line's a consistent issue and now without Logan Thomas -- flawed as he was, he was the team's only real offensive weapon -- they'll need to figure out how to protect an inexperienced passer, too. At the running back position, there will be additional stress placed on sophomore Trey Edmunds too, as he'll largely be relied upon to guide Tech's offense in the early going. All seems like a recipe for disaster.

Miami's defense certainly has some work to do, but at least they have the pieces to do it. Their collection of young defensive backs showed an ability to ball-hawk last year and should continue to develop. The 'Canes also showed themselves capable of getting after opposing QBs, increasing their sacks numbers by 16 compared to 2012. They'll lose a couple of those contributors, but you have to like the potential of what they bring back -- especially when comparing it to what Virginia Tech loses (and still fails to possess) on offense.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Virginia Tech’s offense has to be the bigger concern. This unit used to be fairly consistent with a run game that was fairly automatic. When Hokies had an above average quarterback, they were a top-10 or top-five team. That’s changed in recent years. Virginia Tech’s offense has been in decline. The Hokies’ yards per play performance has dropped every season starting in 2010. Same with yards per carry. That includes one season with David Wilson as the primary tailback and two with NFL prospect Logan Thomas at quarterback. Miami at least improved defensively last season and has enough returning personnel to be optimistic that trend can continue. Miami returns seven starters on defense, including Anthony Chickillo, Denzel Perryman and Tracy Howard. That’s a high-level player at each level of the defense. I’m not sure if Virginia Tech has that equivalent on offense. 

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),
Miami’s defense is the bigger concern, simply because quarterback Ryan Williams just went down with a torn ACL and that side of the ball will have to carry a heavier load. The presence of linebacker Denzel Perryman definitely helps. 

Last year, the Canes’ defense ranked 89th nationally with an average of 426 yards allowed per game, and they were the main culprit in the squad’s three-game losing streak. FSU scored 41 points, followed by Virginia Tech going off for 42 and then Duke got in on the fun with 48.

Another concern is that Louisville, who the Canes open up against on Sept. 1, had their way against Miami’s defense in the Russell Athletic Bowl — although the Cardinals must obviously replace quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Both sides of this argument should be major cause for concern heading into the first year of College Football Playoff – especially for two coaches entering critical years at their respective schools and with expectations of a division title looming. But the answer has to be Tech's offense. Yes, Miami has allowed big chunks of yards in each of the last two seasons but there was progress, however small, a year ago. And with very talented names stepping into starring roles as juniors and seniors — Denzel Perryman, Tracy Howard, Deon Bush, Anthony Chickillo — there are at least some excellent pieces for Al Golden to work with in Coral Gables. Frank Beamer and Scott Loeffler have little in the way of proven big-play talent on the offensive roster returning with the exception of possibly Trey Edmunds. And while Logan Thomas likely ruined more than a few Saturday evenings in Blacksburg, he also set offensive records for the Hokies and there is virtually zero experience returning at the QB position. Texas Tech's Michael Brewer is the wildcard and could save the day, but he has his hands full when he arrives this summer. Until then, I will say Miami's defense has more upside and potential.

Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky),
The real concern for both teams, along with every other team in the ACC for that matter, has to be the fact that Florida State is still playing football. But, other than the Seminoles waiting as a roadblock down the line, I would say Miami's defense is probably a bigger "concern" than Virginia Tech's offense.

I write that because, well, Miami's defense couldn't get much worse than it was in 2013. The Hurricanes finished ranked No. 13 in total defense in the ACC last season -- that's out of 14 total teams. '13 was such a bad year on that side of the ball that UM recorded a meager 12 sacks in eight conference games, not exactly a stat to brag about for such a vaunted program. The secondary wasn't much better than the guys up front either, being routinely burned for big plays. Things were so un-Miami like, that opponents hung 40 or more points on the Hurricanes during a three-week stretch in November, a list of teams that included Virginia Tech.

Sure, the Hokies obviously have issues to be worked out on offense this coming season, but it's Miami with Coastal Division championship aspirations (along with, I'm sure, delusional hopes of a national championship). And for the 'Canes to follow through on any preseason goals or hype, they'll have to put things together defensively quickly because the season opens at Louisville with a trip to Nebraska and a home date with Florida State. The likes of Al-Quadin Muhammad and Tyriq McCord need to step up, something most observers expect to see happen, or defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will be looking for work before Thanksgiving and Miami will once again play little brother to those boys upstate.

Miami's Defense or Virginia Tech's Offense: Which is a Bigger Concern in 2014?
Post date: Thursday, April 10, 2014 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/new-uniforms-coming-mississippi-state-2014

Mississippi State has updated its uniform and helmet combination a couple of times under coach Dan Mullen, and it appears the Bulldogs will make a few tweaks for 2014.

According to this photo tweeted by @LoganLowery, Mississippi State’s new uniforms will resemble one of their uniforms from the 1990s. The jerseys feature stripes on the shoulders, along with “Hail State” above the number.

This isn’t a huge change for Mississippi State, and the jerseys will just be worn against Southern Miss on Aug. 30.

Here's a look at the new jerseys for the Bulldogs in 2014:



New Uniforms Coming for Mississippi State in 2014
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 18:12
Path: /college-football/union-story-continues-dominate-offseason-northwestern-qb-siemian

When Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian heard the question about one of his receivers, Miles Shuler, the Wildcats quarterback sighed in relief.

“Awesome, a football question, great,” Siemian said.

Northwestern’s spring practice will come to a close Saturday, but Wednesday was another clear indication what happens on the field for the Wildcats continues to be the secondary story in Evanston.

Siemian on the Big Ten spring football teleconference reiterated his stance against unionization on Wednesday. Northwestern players filed for employee cards in January, but Siemian said he will vote against forming a union, a plan set in motion by Siemian's former teammate, Kain Colter.

“We filed for employee cards; it doesn’t mean a union is right for this university or this school,” Siemian said. “I think that distinction needs to be made. Just because you’re an employee, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a union is the right avenue.”

Siemian, who split time with Colter at quarterback the last two years, faulted himself for not gathering information as much as he could when he and a majority of his teammates signed employee cards in efforts to form a union. The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled members of College Athletes Players' Association are employees and may unionize.

"This all began with the best intentions."
-Northwestern quarterback Trevor Siemian
Siemian and Northwestern players will vote on unionization on April 25. Siemian said he will vote no.

“This all began with the best intentions,” said Siemian, a fifth-year senior. “I’m treated far better than I deserve here. Introducing a third party or somebody else — our main goals when this began, there were issues with the NCAA we thought we could address and that was one of the ways we could do it.”

Goals declared by CAPA include increased stipends, guaranteed sports-related medical coverage, improving graduation rates, allowing players to receive compensation for commercial sponsorships and more.

Siemian said those goals were not addressed with Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald or athletic director Jim Phillips before the move to unionize.

“To say ‘I don’t trust you enough to help us out to address these changes,’ I don’t think that’s the way to go,” Siemian said. “I can only speak for myself, but I feel pretty confident there are other guys on the team that feel pretty similar to me.”

Fitzgerald opened his portion of the teleconference with a request to speak only about football topics. He said his comments Saturday — when he urged Northwestern players to vote against unionizing — stood on their own.

“Out of respect to our players and out of respect to our program, what I said on Saturday is enough to be said,” Fitzgerald said.

That same day, four Northwestern players including Siemian said they were against forming a union.

Four is hardly the 50.1 percent majority vote from Northwestern players required to create a union. However, Fitzgerald, when prompted, gave a ringing endorsement for Siemian’s “leadership.”

Of the four players on record against a union, all are upperclassmen and three are returning starters.

“There’s no question that Trevor is our leader,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s a lot of great leadership now being demonstrated in our locker room. From what I’ve seen from when we got back in January, it’s that there’s no doubt that this is Trevor Siemian’s football team.”

Siemian acknowledged the strange circumstances around Northwestern, including the vote at the end of April that could have a lasting impact in college athletics.

“You’re not going to have everyone on the same page,” Siemian said. “You have different religions, different political views, but at the end of the day you’re teammates. Everyone’s had each other’s back and it’s just a mature locker room.”

Union Story Continues to Dominate Offseason for Northwestern, QB Siemian
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 17:37
Path: /college-football/bo-pelini-shocked-reaction-his-tweet-fauxpelini

For a few minutes and for a small sliver of the college football world, the national championship game was of secondary concern.

In Lincoln, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini sat down to watch the BCS championship game between Florida State and Auburn and fired off this Tweet to his cat-loving doppelganger.

Pelini is not a coach known for his sense of humor, so this public acknowledgement of his own parody account came as a shock. The spur-of-the-moment post garnered more than 10,000 retweets.

“I was aware of it — I don’t know how you couldn’t be aware of it,” Pelini said on Wednesday’s Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “My wife reminds me of it all the time. I was just sitting around one night thought, what the heck?

“I was surprised how viral it went. I was surprised to see the amount of attention it got.”

It wasn’t the last time Pelini showed he’s just like the rest of us when he’s not in the heat of football season. The Cornhuskers coach, who has been quite vocal with football officials, slyly complained about officiating during Nebraska’s NCAA Tournament loss to Baylor.

Bo Pelini Shocked by Reaction to his Tweet to @FauxPelini
Post date: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 15:03