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Path: /mlb/2012-mlb-all-star-game-fixing-its-problems
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This is the 11th season that the All-Star Game has “counted.” If you recall, way back in 2001, both teams ran out of pitchers and the game ended in a tie after 11 exciting innings, leaving fans at the stadium and TV viewers disappointed, to put it mildly.

So, in all his wisdom, Commissioner Bud Selig — along with TV executives — led efforts to bring some meaning back to the All-Star Game. The result is that the All-Star Game determines home-field advantage for the World Series.

I don’t understand how players and teams accept determining home-field advantage by teams elected by the fans in a popularity vote. No disrespect to Pablo Sandoval, but the National League will play the game with one of its best players, David Wright of the Mets, starting on the bench. Dan Uggla, maybe not even the third-best second baseman in the NL, will start the game, leaving Brandon Phillips of the Reds out of the game completely.

(And before you start going all Dusty Baker on me, it’s clear to most everyone outside of Cincinnati that Jose Altuve is the most deserving second baseman in the NL, and it doesn’t make sense to take three second baseman, so Phillips must be left out.)

And even the players aren’t above the whole popularity thing. How else do you explain why A.J. Pierzynski wasn’t selected by his peers to represent his league? He’s having as good a season as any catcher in the American League, but he’ll be watching from home as the AL tries to secure home-field advantage.

With the starters voted in by the fans, some players elected by a survey of players, and other reserves selected by the manager, how can we expect the best of each team to be there?

And without the best vs. the best, how can we use this game to determine home-field advantage?

While there are so many things wrong with that, it isn’t the only problem MLB has with its midsummer showcase.

In case you missed it over the winter, there was a clear directive from MLB requiring players selected for the game to be there. No more begging off with slight or phantom injuries. So, how’s that working out?

The Nationals’ Ian Desmond, selected as a reserve for the National League, has already begged out of the game due to an injury involving his side. Okay. However, over the weekend he seemed healthy enough to get four hits in seven at-bats with two home runs and two stolen bases — and that was just Saturday and Sunday. How does that make sense? Even with the Nationals in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when the franchise was in Montreal, Desmond doesn’t seem too concerned with helping his NL mates secure home-field advantage for the World Series.

The game no longer reflects the way the game is played on a daily basis. Only in the All-Star Game do we see pitchers throwing no more than two innings. Since that’s the way the game is played, if you really wanted to win, wouldn’t you stock your team with relief pitchers who have mastered the one-inning appearance?

And rarely do we see All-Star managers attempt to get favorable matchups. There’s no lefty vs. lefty strategizing like you would see during a pennant race. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no setup men on either roster. Not only are there some deserving candidates, but those pitchers are perfectly suited for this type of game.

And managers take great pains to get everyone in the game. If they were really trying to win, would you see Matt Joyce replacing Josh Hamilton or Howie Kendrick subbing for Robinson Cano? Those are just two of the moves made in last year’s game.

And I know that this year’s situation is rare, but we have a manager (Tony La Russa) selecting a good portion of the team for the National League and actually running the game, but with no stake in it whatsoever.

Here are a couple of suggestions to improve the All-Star Game for the fans.

1) Forget home-field advantage for the World Series
I know that players treating this game as meaningless is what caused MLB to overreact in the first place. But here’s a thought: Tie players’ foundations to the game. Most players have a cause they support, and if they don’t already, being selected to play in the All-Star Game would give them a reason to find a cause. Only foundations and charities of players who participate will benefit. Winning players’ foundations will benefit more than the losers. How many players will beg out of an opportunity to boost their charitable work? No more than are begging out now.

2) Keep player selection as is
Keep the fans involved in selecting players. Keep the players vote. Allow managers to select reserves. And, by all means, keep the rule that all teams must be represented. No group of fans should be left out of this classic.

3) Make it a complete All-Star week
I really like the idea of the Futures Game. It’s a terrific way to reward prospects and give the fans a glimpse into the future. The Futures Game should be played at the site of the All-Star Game on Monday night, prime time, when there’s no other baseball. After the All-Star Game on Tuesday, honor the past with an Old-timers All-Star Night. Rather than having the recently retired Randy Johnson face the aging Yogi Berra, have a three-inning game with older players from the 1950s and ’60s. Then have a seven-inning version with more recently retired players like Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. You think fans wouldn’t flock to see those guys in uniform one more time? After an off-day on Thursday, it’s back to the regular season on Friday.

Oh, and the solution for home-field for four games in the World Series? How about taking the most wins in interleague play? After all, that seems to be a more fair and accurate way to judge the better league anyway.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> I don’t understand how players and teams accept determining home-field advantage by teams elected by the fans in a popularity vote. With the starters voted in by the fans, some players elected by a survey of players, and other reserves selected by the manager, how can we expect the best of each team to be there?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 12:29
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-head-coaches-who-afcs-best
Body:

Championships. Leadership. Awards. Longevity. Statistical records. Likeability. Talent development.

An NFL head coach can be evaluated with many criteria. Generally, winning championships over a long period of time is the easiest (or not-so-easiest) way to the top of any ranking. Who does more with less? Who gets his team to the playoffs the most consistently? Who is the best motivator? Whose team is best prepared come crunch time? And who has the shiny hardware to back it up?

So as of July of 2012, Athlon Sports has magically given the reins of an NFL franchise to you the fans. And you have your pick of the 16 AFC head coaches. The question becomes:

Which AFC coach would you hire to lead your franchise?

Here is Athlon's take:

Note: Age is as of Sept. 5, 2012, the first game of the 2012 NFL season

1. Bill Belichick, New England (2000-present), Cleveland (1991-95)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 175-97 (17 seasons), Postseason record: 17-7 (10 appearances)

Love him or loathe him, there’s no debate who’s No. 1 in the AFC. Not only is Belichick the dean of AFC head coaches (and second-longest tenured in the NFL behind only Philadelphia’s Andy Reid) and a three-time AP NFL Coach of the Year recipient (2003, ’07, ’10), the hooded one is already 10th all-time in career wins. Last season Belichick also became the first head coach in NFL history to win at least 13 games during the regular season in five different seasons (2003, ’04, ’07, ’10, ’11).

In the end, however, what really sets Belichick apart from his peers is his postseason success. His 17 postseason victories are the third-most in NFL history and then there are the five AFC Championships and, of course, the three Super Bowl titles, including back-to-back in 2003 and ’04.

2. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh (2007-present)
Age: 40, Regular season record: 55-25 (5 seasons), Postseason record: 5-3 (4 appearances)

The second spot came down to a pair of AFC North head coaches – Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, who are strikingly similar on several levels. Tomlin has one more year under his belt, but he and Harbaugh have identical regular-season winning percentages (.688), playoff records (5-3) and have split their 10 head-to-head meetings.

It’s extremely close, but for now Tomlin gets the edge over his division rival because of his Super Bowl ring, two AFC titles and a 2-0 edge over Harbaugh in their head-to-head playoff meetings. The fact that Tomlin has won 10 or more games in every season but one so far in his career doesn’t hurt his case either.

3. John Harbaugh, Baltimore (2008-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 44-20 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 5-4 (4 appearances)

Younger brother Jim may get more of the headlines and attention for his work with the 49ers, but that shouldn’t take anything away from what the elder Harbaugh has accomplished in his first four seasons as an NFL head coach. Under the older Harbaugh brother, the Ravens haven’t won fewer than nine games in the regular season and have won at least one game in the playoffs each season.

The next step for Harbaugh and his team is getting over the hump in the AFC Championship game. The Ravens are 0-2 in their conference title game, including last season’s gut-wrenching 23-20 loss to the Patriots in Foxboro.

4. Gary Kubiak, Houston (2006-present)
Age: 51, Regular season record: 47-49 (6 seasons), Postseason record: 1-1 (1 appearance)

Despite a sub-.500 record, Kubiak has earned his No. 4 ranking due to his transformation of the Texans from expansion team to Super Bowl contender. It took longer than fans, and probably owner Bob McNair, had originally envisioned, but the first fruits of Kubiak’s persistence and labor came forth last season in the form of the franchise’s first 10-win regular season, division title, postseason appearance and playoff victory. Kubiak has produced a .500 or better season in four of his six seasons at the helm of the Texans. That’s no small feat for any team, let alone an expansion team that had to start from scratch.

5. Rex Ryan, New York Jets (2009-present)
Age: 49, Regular season record: 28-20 (3 seasons), Postseason record: 4-2 (2 appearances)

Some of the bloom has come off of Ryan’s rose as his Jets failed to make the playoffs last season after finishing 8-8. However, Ryan still has yet to post a losing record in his three seasons and did come a game away from the Super Bowl in each of his first two seasons. The bombastic Ryan is perfectly suited to handle the media circus that comes with being a head coach in the Big Apple. In fact, you could say he relishes the spotlight that comes with the job.

But with the spotlight comes the glare, and there’s nothing Ryan can say that can change the facts when it comes to the championship pedigree of the two New York teams. The Giants have won two Super Bowl titles in the past five seasons and a total of four since the Jets won their only Lombardi Trophy, way back in 1969. Ryan has shown he can talk a good game, but he also knows he better back it up with the results on the field, starting this season.

6. John Fox, Denver (2011-present), Carolina (2002-10)
Age: 57, Regular season record: 81-79 (10 seasons), Postseason record: 6-4 (4 appearances)

Fox’s record may not look that impressive, but in 10 seasons as the Panthers’ head coach he won three division titles and led the team to Super Bowl XXXVIII following the 2003 season. Fox’s overall .506 winning percentage in the regular season is also largely the result of his disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2010, his final season in Carolina. Otherwise, the Panthers finished no worse than 7-9 in any of the other nine seasons he was at the helm. He also took the Panthers to two NFC title games, coming up short against the Seahawks in 2005.

Now in Denver, Fox turned a Broncos team that went 4-12 in 2010 into an AFC West division champion in 2011, albeit one with an 8-8 record. Expectations are even higher this year for Fox and his Broncos, who will have Peyton Manning directing the offense.

7. Mike Munchak, Tennessee (2011-present)
Age: 52, Regular season record: 9-7 (1 season)

Munchak’s got only one year as a head coach on his resume, but he led the Titans to three more wins than the previous season and just missed a wild card berth in his rookie season. Munchak had the unenviable task of replacing mainstay Jeff Fisher, who had been the franchise’s head coach the previous 17 seasons, but now there’s no question whose team this is.

It’s only fitting that owner Bud Adams would hand-pick Munchak as Fisher’s successor. After all, Munchak is entering his 31st season with the Houston/Tennessee franchise. The team’s first-round draft pick in 1982, Munchak spent his entire 12-year playing career as a member of the Oilers’ offensive line and then joined the coaching staff in 1994. Inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2001, Munchak spent 14 seasons as Fisher’s offensive line coach before succeeding his friend and former boss as the Titans’ head coach last season.

8. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati (2003-present)
Age: 53, Regular season record: 69-74-1 (9 seasons), Postseason record: 0-3 (3 appearances)

Lewis deserves plenty of credit for the two division titles and three playoff appearances he has led the Bengals to in his nine seasons in charge. Remember, when Lewis and the Bengals won the AFC North title in 2005 that ended a 15-year playoff drought for the franchise.

However, Lewis also deserves his share of the criticism for his teams’ lack of consistency. Under Lewis the Bengals have yet to post consecutive seasons with a winning record or back-to-back playoff berths. The 2005 season was followed by an 8-8 finish, while the '09 division crown was preceded by a 4-11-1 showing. Lewis led the Bengals to a wild card berth last season, which more than likely saved his job considering the team went 4-12 the year before.

9. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville (2012-present), Buffalo (2004-05)
Age: 50, Regular season record: 14-18 (2 seasons)

Mularkey is on his second team, but it should be pointed out that he wasn't fired from his first head coaching gig. Even though his second Buffalo team didn't fare as well as the first one (9-7 in 2004, 5-11 in '05), it was Mularkey, and not the team, who made the decision to go in a different direction.

Mularkey resumed his coaching career in Miami before serving as Atlanta’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons. During that time, he helped the Falcons to three playoff appearances and oversaw the development of quarterback Matt Ryan. He now will direct his efforts to turning around a Jacksonville franchise that has missed the playoffs the past four seasons and, more importantly, see if Blaine Gabbert can become a capable NFL quarterback.

10. Norv Turner, San Diego (2007-present), Oakland (2004-05), Washington (1994-2000)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 107-113-1 (14 seasons), Postseason record: 4-4 (4 appearances)

Turner is the most difficult veteran head coach to rate for this exercise. He gets points for his longevity, as his 14 seasons as a head coach is second only to Belichick’s 17 among his AFC peers. He also has won 107 regular-season games, making him one of only 35 coaches in NFL history to surpass 100 victories.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that he has a sub-.500 record in his career, has only made it to the playoffs four times, and is on his third team. Half of Turner's 14 seasons as head coach have ended with a .500 or worse record. That said, Turner also could very well lead his Chargers to the AFC West division title and/or the playoffs this season, so there’s the potential for him to write a new chapter to his coaching career in 2012.

11. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis (2012-present)
Age: 51, First season as NFL head coach

Pagano has yet to coach his first NFL game, let alone a game on any level for that matter, but considering his background, you have to like his chances. Pagano is the fourth former Ravens defensive coordinator since 2002 to become a head coach. Two of the members of this club – Marvin Lewis and Rex Ryan – are still on the job with the team that hired them and rather high on this list, while the other, Mike Nolan, didn’t enjoy quite the same success. Nolan went 18-37 in four forgettable seasons as the 49ers' head coach. No doubt Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay and Colts’ fans alike are hoping Pagano follows more in the footsteps of Lewis and Ryan, rather than Nolan, when it comes to his head coaching tenure.

12. Joe Philbin, Miami (2012-present)
Age: 51, First season as NFL head coach

Philbin, like Pagano, is 51 years old and entering his first season as a head coach at any level. Philbin has nine years of NFL coaching experience, all of those with Green Bay. Prior to becoming the Dolphins’ 10th head coach in franchise history, Philbin served as the Packers’ offensive coordinator for the past five seasons, where he worked with future Hall of Famer Brett Favre and reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.

The quarterback situation in Miami is slightly more unsettled than the one in Green Bay or even Indianapolis, where Pagano has Andrew Luck, this year’s No. 1 overall pick, to build around. And in the end, much of Philbin’s success as a head coach will be tied to his ability or inability to identify and develop his franchise quarterback. Could it be Ryan Tannehill, the first quarterback taken by the Dolphins in the first round of the draft since Dan Marino in 1983? Only time will tell, but this much is clear - Philbin’s Fins will need to show signs of progress early if he hopes to be in charge long enough to find out.

13. Pat Shurmur, Cleveland (2011-present)
Age: 47, Regular season record: 4-12 (1 season)

Shurmur’s first season as the Browns’ head coach was anything but impressive, but it’s what he does from here out that really matters. The Browns are probably at least a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot, but thanks to some recent strong drafts, the postseason should become a realistic goal in the near future.

Shurmur was hired by Cleveland president Mike Holmgren after two seasons as the Rams’ offensive coordinator. During that brief tenure, he helped the Rams improve from 1-15 in 2009 to 7-9 in 2010, thanks in large part to the performance of quarterback Sam Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Now Shurmur has two new offensive weapons to build around in 2012 first-round picks running back Trent Richardson (No. three overall) and quarterback Brandon Weeden (No. 22). The path back to respectability and competitiveness in the AFC North needs to start this year, otherwise Shurmur is sure to hear it from the Dawg Pound.

14. Dennis Allen, Oakland (2012-present)
Age: 39, First season as NFL head coach

Allen by far was the hardest one to “rank” for this. Not only is he the current youngest NFL head coach at 39, he only has a total of 10 years of NFL coaching experience under his belt. He’s been a coordinator a grand total of 18 games, as he served as Fox’s defensive coordinator in Denver last season. A fast-riser in the NFL coaching ranks, he now gets to prove his mettle in the revolving door of head coaches that is Oakland.

Allen is the Raiders’ 18th head coach in the franchise’s illustrious history, but their eighth since 2000. Allen is also the first hire made by new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and the first Raiders’ head coach with a defensive background since John Madden retired following the 1978 season. Given the franchise’s history and reputation, Allen could either make a name for himself as the next great Raiders’ head coach or be simply known as the guy who kept the seat warm for whoever’s next.

15. Chan Gailey, Buffalo (2010-present), Dallas (1998-99)
Age: 60, Regular season record: 28-36 (4 seasons), Postseason record: 0-2 (2 appearances)

Buffalo could surprise and earn a playoff berth in 2012, but if that happens, I suspect more of the credit will go to the Bills’ offseason additions, namely free agent signee Mario Williams, than to Gailey himself. Gailey does have a winning season and a division title in his four seasons as a head coach. However, he’s yet to win a playoff game and has won a total of 18 games since posting 10 wins in his first season as the Cowboys’ head coach in 1998. Gailey enjoyed more success in his six seasons as Georgia Tech’s head coach (44-32) than he has in four pro seasons.

16. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City (2011*-present), Cleveland (2005-08)
Age: 65, Regular season record: 26-41 (5* seasons)

Crennel is getting a second chance in Kansas City, but that’s mainly because of the disaster that Todd Haley left behind. Crennel went 2-1 in the Chiefs’ final three games last season following Haley’s dismissal, posting the best winning percentage (.667) in his career during that small sample size. Crennel won 10 games with the Browns in 10-6, but that wasn’t even good enough to make the playoffs, and he went 14-34 (.292) in his three other seasons at the helm in Cleveland. He’s also 65 years old, so this is more than likely his last head coaching shot.

*Crennel served as the Chiefs' interim head coach for the last three games of the 2011 season.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 10, 2012

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2012 NFL Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best Coach?

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Ranking the NFL’s Best Backup Quarterbacks
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2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Click here to order your Athlon Sports Pro Football 2012 Preview magazine

Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Head Coaches: Who is the AFC's Best?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-which-teams-are-rise-or-decline
Body:

With kickoff to the 2012 college football season still weeks away, it's time to evaluate where each team is headed. This is essentially a checkup or a state of the program overview for each team in the conference. Are they on the rise or decline? What factors in the future could have an impact on success? 

Big East State of the Program: On the Rise or On the Decline?

Cincinnati

Record over the last 5 years: 47-18 (24-11 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 78-49 (30-19 Big East – 7 years)

The Bearcats have been one of the Big East’s most successful teams over the last five years. Mark Dantonio established a solid foundation from 2004-05, while Brian Kelly elevated the program to back-to-back BCS bowls. After a 4-8 mark in 2010, Butch Jones returned the Bearcats into Big East title contention, but an injury to quarterback Zach Collaros late in the year was a huge setback.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Despite the losing record in his first season, Butch Jones is the right coach for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have some key losses to replace in 2012, but should be in the mix for a bowl game. The next step for Cincinnati is to win more in-state recruiting battles with Ohio State. Considering the talent in Ohio, the Bearcats should rank near the top of the Big East in recruiting every season. Facilities are improving, as Cincinnati added a practice bubble and expansion of the stadium has been discussed. With Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East, Cincinnati has a chance to become one of the top programs in the conference.

 

Connecticut

Record over the last 5 years: 38-26 (19-16 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 70-53 (22-27 Big East – 7 years)

The Huskies have made steady progress since joining the FBS ranks in 2000. Randy Edsall turned Connecticut into a consistent winner, posting at least six victories in six out of eight seasons from 2002-09. Edsall also led the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance, but decided to bolt to Maryland after that game. Paul Pasqualoni was a curious hire, and Connecticut missed out on a bowl in 2010 for the first time since 2006.

State of the Program: Slightly Declining

Although Edsall had a terrible first season in College Park, he took the Huskies to five bowl games and a share of the Big East title in 2007 and 2010. Pasqualoni’s ties in the Northeast should help Connecticut’s recruiting, but his tenure at Syracuse declined over the last four years. Considering Pasqualoni will be 63 when the 2012 season begins – is he really the long-term answer? Another sub .500 season should place Pasqualoni squarely on the hot seat. If there’s another round of conference realignment, Connecticut is expected to be one of the first targets for the ACC. The Huskies are poised to move up the ladder in the next 10-15 years, but this program slowly sliding back after last season.
 

Louisville

Record over the last 5 years:
29-33 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 77-48 (24-25 Big East – 7 years)

For the most part, the last 10 years have been a success for Louisville football. Of course, there’s the forgettable three-year tenure by Steve Kragthorpe, but the Cardinals won at least seven games in 7 of out the last 10 years. Bobby Petrino led Louisville to an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl and at least nine victories in each of his four years with the Cardinals. Charlie Strong had quite a mess to clean up from the Kragthorpe era, but has rebuilt Louisville into a top 25 team.

State of the Program: On the Rise

It’s no secret Louisville is an emerging Big East power. With West Virginia off to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC, the door is open for the Cardinals to dominate in the Big East. Of course, that could quickly change with more realignment, as Louisville could be on the radar for future ACC or Big 12 expansion. Although Strong will be in the mix for offseason vacancies, there is no shortage of resources for this program to continue finishing near the top of the Big East in future seasons.

 

Pittsburgh

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (22-13 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 74-51 (42-27 Big East)

Pittsburgh football was largely dormant throughout the 1990s. The Panthers had only two winning seasons from 1990-99, but the hire of Walt Harris helped to get the program back in the right direction. Harris led the Panthers to a BCS bowl appearance in 2005, before leaving to coach at Stanford. Dave Wannstedt went 16-19 through his first three years, but led Pittsburgh to at least eight victories in each of his final three seasons. Wannstedt was fired after the 2010 regular season, and Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood was hired to replace him. Haywood wasn’t on the job long before he was fired due to an off-the-field incident. The Panthers lack of success with head coaches continued with Todd Graham, who spent one season in the Steel City before bolting to Arizona State.

State of the Program: On the Rise

New coach Paul Chryst will bring some much-needed stability to Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a sleeper team to watch in the Big East title race for 2012, and this program will likely move to the ACC in time for the 2013 season. Although the Panthers have played in only one BCS bowl since 2000, there’s potential to win big and the move to a high-profiler conference should help.

 

Rutgers

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (16-19 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 66-58 (28-41 Big East)

Greg Schiano inherited a program that had won just 10 games in the four seasons prior to his arrival. His tenure got off to a slow start, as Rutgers won just eight games in Schiano’s first three years. However, he eventually turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent bowl team. Rutgers won at least eight games in five out of Schiano’s final six seasons, including an 11-2 record in 2006.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Schiano’s decision to depart for the NFL has clouded the immediate future of this program. Although new coach Kyle Flood has done a good job on the recruiting trail, he has no experience as a collegiate head coach. If Flood is able to build on what Schiano created, Rutgers will be in great shape for the next 10 years. However, Flood’s hire was an interesting decision for a program that struggled to find success throughout the 1990s. Schiano never won an outright Big East title, but there’s no question he left the program in much better shape than how he found it. 

 

South Florida

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 73-49 (21-28 Big East – 7 years)

The Bulls have come a long way since their first football game on Sept. 6, 1997. Over the last 10 years, South Florida has played in six bowl games and achieved a No. 2 ranking in 2007. Jim Leavitt had a messy end to his tenure in Tampa, but deserves credit for building the program from scratch to national relevance. Skip Holtz was hired to take South Florida to the next level, but he is just 13-12 in his two seasons with the Bulls.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Florida will always have the Big 3 – Florida, Florida State and Miami – but there’s plenty of room for USF. The Bulls have an excellent recruiting base and there’s a lot of potential surrounding this program for 2012 and beyond. South Florida has underachieved at times, which holds it back from being placed in the “on the rise” category. Holtz is the right coach and should have the Bulls contending for a Big East title in future seasons. South Florida has been considered a sleeping giant, but considering its location, conference and potential, it should be able to be one of the top teams in the new Big East in 2013.

 

Syracuse

Record over the last 5 years: 22-39 (8-27 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (17-52 Big East)

Although Syracuse has been a basketball power, it’s been a struggle to find success on the gridiron over the last 10 years. The Orange went 10-37 under Greg Robinson and has played in just one bowl game since 2005. Coach Doug Marrone took Syracuse to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, but is 9-15 in his other two seasons.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

It’s tough to peg where this program is headed. There’s certainly more potential for Syracuse than what has been shown in recent years, but after winning eight games in 2010, the Orange took a step back and finished with a 5-7 mark in 2011. Marrone is a good fit at Syracuse, but moving to the ACC isn’t going to make it any easier to win games. Although success has been limited, Marrone seems to have the program on the right track and could get back into the postseason in 2012.

 

Temple

Record over the last 5 years:
35-27 (no Big East games during this period)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (3-17 Big East – 3 years)

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for Temple football over the last 10 years. The Owls were dismissed from the Big East in 2004 and were forced to play as an Independent before joining the MAC in 2007. Former coach Al Golden deserves a ton of credit for this program’s turnaround, as he took a team that had won only seven games in the four years prior to his arrival, to winning 10 over his first three seasons. Temple’s return to the Big East was huge for the conference in 2012, as it gives the Big East eight football members.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Can Steve Addazio keep it going? That’s the big question facing Temple in 2012 and beyond. He had a successful debut season, but he has no proven track record as a head coach. Addazio’s background in the Northeast will help the Owls in recruiting, along with the move to a higher profile conference. Temple may struggle to get to a bowl in 2012, especially with the amount of roster turnover experienced from last season’s team. The Owls aren’t ready to challenge for a spot in the top 25, but they certainly won’t return to the struggles this program had in the 1990s. 
 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)


2012 Big East Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Related Big East Content

Big East 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

Ranking the Wide Receiving Corps in the Big East for 2012

Big East Heisman Contenders for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:42
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-offensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Oklahoma – Despite the departure of left tackle Donald Stephenson, the Sooners should have the No. 1 offensive line in the Big 12. Guard Gabe Ikard is one of the best in college football, while guard Tyler Evans and tackle Lane Johnson will be in the mix for all-conference honors. Center Ben Habern missed most of last season with an arm injury and was expected to return at full strength for 2012. However, he decided to end his career in August. Ikard could take Habern's place at center. Daryl Williams is expected to start at right tackle, while Adam Shead will likely slide into one of the guard spots. This group allowed only 11 sacks last season and should be strong once again in 2012.

2. Texas – The Longhorns certainly aren’t devoid of talent. In fact, there is more talent along the Burnt Orange line of scrimmage than nearly every team in the nation. Developing that talent has been the issue of late, however. Enter Stacy Searels. The offensive line coach enters his second season on the 40 Acres charged with toughening up a unit that has underachieved. His first order of business was signing junior college stud Donald Hawkins, who is penciled in as the starting left tackle. The rest of the line returns intact as two extremely highly touted juniors, Trey Hopkins and Mason Walters, need to develop into leaders while two sophomores - Dominic Espinosa and Josh Cochran - should only continue to improve. The talent and depth is obvious, but for Texas to challenge in the Big 12 race, this group has to protect the quarterback better (73rd nationally in sacks allowed, including eight to Oklahoma).

3. Oklahoma State – The Cowboys suffered some heavy losses up front, including first-team All-Big 12 tackle Levy Adcock and center Grant Garner – the Big 12’s 2011 Offensive Lineman of the Year. Only one starter returns for 2012, but Oklahoma State is expected to still own one of the conference’s best lines. Much of the credit for this group’s success has to go to line coach Joe Wickline, who consistently replaces players and keeps the front five performing at a high level. Guard Lane Taylor is the unit’s only returning starter, but he should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Parker Graham and Michael Bowie are expected to man the tackle spots after combining for 11 starts last year. Guard Jonathan Rush suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 4 last year but all signs point to a return to full strength by the opener in 2012. Center Evan Epstein enters his final year of eligibility, but doesn’t have much experience. Considering how important Garner was to this offense, much of the focus up front will rest with Epstein and how well he will perform in 2012.

4. West Virginia  Three starters are back along an offensive front that should feature three seniors, one junior and a sophomore. Joe Madsen has been praised by the coaches as one of the best on the roster and will be the unit's leader at center. Guard Jeff Braun and tackle Pat Eger showed improvement last fall and should hold down the right side of the line. Big soph Quinton Spain (6-5, 335) looks to be the top choice at left tackle but will have to hold off a host of up veterans to keep that starting spot. The real kicker for the Mountaineers will be fifth-year senior Josh Jenkins. One of the most highly-touted prospects to ever sign with WVU, Jenkins returns after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. His return to form could transform an average group of blockers into an area of strength for Dana Holgorsen.

5. Baylor – Improving the offensive line has been a priority for coach Art Briles since he came to Waco. The Bears have had five offensive linemen drafted since 2009, including two in the first round – Jason Smith and Danny Watkins. This group must replace two All-Big 12 performers – Philip Blake and Robert T. Griffin – but three proven starters are back. Junior Cyril Richardson is a mammoth guard at 6-foot-5 and 335 pounds and will be in the mix for first-team All-Big 12 honors. Senior Ivory Wade enters 2012 with 33 consecutive starts and will shift from tackle to replace Blake at center. Guard Cameron Kaufhold is back after starting all 13 games last season. Redshirt freshman Spencer Drango is expected to get the nod at left tackle, while sophomore Troy Baker finished spring as the No. 1 option on the right side. Despite the losses, there’s plenty to like about this group heading into 2012.

6. Kansas State  – For a team with a quarterback who recorded 27 touchdowns and 1,141 yards on the ground, KSU finished only fifth in the Big 12 in rushing. The Wildcats also finished dead last in sacks allowed (3.31) and 115th nationally. So Bill Snyder might not be sure if replacing three starters with younger players is a good or bad thing just yet. B.J. Finney returns to the center position, while Nick Puetz returns as the lone senior returner. Manase Foketi was expected to be in the mix at left tackle, but he requested a transfer following spring practice. With Foketi's status in doubt, junior Cornelius Lucas could be in line to start on the left side. Tomasi Mariner, Cody Whitehair and Boston Stiverson are all youngsters who will battle for time along the right side of the line. This team would like to throw the ball more in 2012, but the O-Line has to prove it can protect Collin Klein if it expects to win the Big 12.

7. Kansas – After finishing last in the Big 12 in scoring offense in 2011, there’s some hope for a turnaround at Kansas for 2012. The quarterback position has stabilized with Dayne Crist arriving from Notre Dame, while the Jayhawks have capable running backs in James Sims, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon. The line loses two starters, including All-Big 12 center Jeremiah Hatch, but three key players are back for 2012. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson is drawing the interest of NFL scouts, while guard Duane Zlatnik earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2011. Trevor Marrongelli started all 12 games at guard last season but will shift to center to replace Hatch. Junior college recruit Aslam Sterling is penciled in at right guard, and junior Riley Spencer is expected to get the nod at right tackle. This unit allowed 31 sacks last year but should be able to improve upon that total with three solid contributors returning.

8. Texas Tech – This unit will be a key area of development throughout the summer and fall camps. Two starters are back as Deveric Gallington is locked in at center while LaAdrian Waddle has the left tackle spot to himself. It also appears that Brian Thomas, who played on one of the Big 12’s most talented lines a year ago at Texas A&M, will stabilize the left guard position after transferring in this spring. Experienced and versatile backups Beau Carpenter and Terry McDaniel will battle with freshman Le’Raven Clark for the remaining starting jobs. The offensive line will be the key difference for an offense that appears to be settled at nearly every other position.

9. TCU – You aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toad-O. Well, technically, TCU will play in Lawrence Week 2, but the Horned Frogs will be facing a different caliber of defensive line this fall. Moving from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test an offensive line that returns only two starters. This is the offense’s biggest weakness and depth could be an issue as well. Center James Fry and guard Blaize Foltz are seniors and will be asked to carry the load. Behind those two there are a lot unknowns, however, there is upside as well. James Dunbar has experience and should be better after switching from left to right tackle. BYU transfer Tayo Fabuluje has big-time athletic ability and size while John Wooldridge, Michael Thompson and Eric Tausch provide versatility at a number of positions. This group will be the coaching staff’s area of focus come summer camp.

10. Iowa State – There’s really not a bad offensive line in the Big 12, so the separation between No. 6 and No. 10 on this list is very minimal. The Cyclones have three starters returning but must replace their two best players from last season’s unit – left tackle Kelechi Osemele and guard Hayworth Hicks. Osemele was a first-team All-Big 12 selection, while Hicks earned second-team honors. Tom Farniok is a rising star after starting all 13 games at center as a redshirt freshman last year. Junior Ethan Tuftee and senior Brayden Burris are back as returning starters and will help provide stability and leadership up front. Senior Carter Bykowski and junior Kyle Lichtenberg will battle to replace Osemele at left tackle, while Bob Graham, Jacob Gannon and Oni Omoile are in the mix to replace Hicks at right guard. The Cyclones will miss Osemele and Hicks, but this group isn’t going to see a dramatic drop in performance. 
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
 

Related Big 12 Content

Big 12 Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012
Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
The History of Big 12 Realignment
Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12
TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big 12 Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 05:39
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech%E2%80%99s-logan-thomas-rising-superstar-acc
Body:

While many of his classmates undoubtedly spent spring break in tropical climates, soaking in rays and paying too much for watered-down drinks, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas was on the beach for a very different reason.

The Hokies’ junior quarterback spent a week in San Diego in March, working out for four days with quarterback-coach-to-the-stars George Whitfield, whose roster of clients has included Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck.

Whitfield’s ever-evolving training regimen included a trip to the beach, where the 6'6", 262-pound Thomas waded knee-deep into the Pacific Ocean, then simulated taking drop-backs through the uneven current, trying to keep his balance and maintain a solid base. He caught on quickly, a recurring theme from the trip.

“I just think he’s going to be a very, very special college football player,” says Whitfield, who raves about Thomas’ size, agility and smarts. “To see him up close and personal and how diligent he is and just how big of a man he is, he’s going to be scary. It’s kind of a shock and awe thing when it all comes together.”

Virginia Tech is starting to get spoiled with its quarterbacks. After four years of Tyrod Taylor, who left after 2010 as the school’s all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, quarterback rushing yards and career wins, the Hokies seamlessly passed the baton to Thomas, who served as Taylor’s understudy for two seasons before taking a prime-time role last year.

He looked every bit the part, breaking Taylor’s single-season total offense mark with 3,482 yards and accounting for 30 touchdowns on his way to a second-team All-ACC selection.

Thomas’ 3,013 passing yards were second-most in a season for a Tech quarterback to Don Strock’s mark of 3,243 set in 1972. His 11 rushing touchdowns were tied for the most by a quarterback in school history and were three more than the program’s standard-bearer — Michael Vick — ever had in a season. And it all happened in Thomas’ first year as a starter.

“I think it’s rare for most people,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer says of Thomas’ maturity. “But I think Logan’s in a different category.”

Thomas’ rapid rise is even more remarkable considering his background. A multi-sport star at Brookville High in Lynchburg, Va., about 100 miles east of Blacksburg, he thought of himself as a basketball player for most of his life. On the football field, he played receiver until moving to quarterback his final two years, earning state Player of the Year honors as a senior and leading his team to the championship game, a 50–46 loss in which he threw four touchdowns.

Still, he considered his best path in college to be at tight end or H-back, going so far as to eliminate any school that recruited him solely as a quarterback. Virginia Tech obliged, getting him to sign in February 2009. During his first practice in August, Hokies coaches, in a bit of a switcheroo, urged him to try throwing the ball. He was raw, but the skill set, which included a cannon for an arm, was evident.

The reluctant quarterback soon embraced the position, redshirting that first year and serving as a backup in 2010. He sat in on meetings with Taylor, the team’s entrenched starter, soaking up whatever he could. Reps in the spring and fall became crucial as he tried to play catch-up at the position.

“Most people, they spend their whole lives gearing to be a quarterback at this level,” Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. “Football camps, quarterback camps. Logan in high school didn’t really play quarterback until he was a junior, then he picked up a basketball, then he ran track, and he picked up a football again Aug. 5. …

“I think because of that, you’re still going to see a guy who continuously improves. He still has the opportunity I believe — and he believes — to have better days in front of him.”

With all eyes on him last year, Thomas calmly guided the Hokies to their eighth straight season of 10 or more wins and a trip to the Sugar Bowl. Somewhat shaky at first, with five interceptions in the first five games, Thomas found a comfort level, accounting for 25 touchdowns in the final nine games, including five each in crucial Coastal Division wins against Miami and Georgia Tech.

Although Thomas no doubt draws comparisons to Newton, another 6'5", 250-plus-pound athlete who redefined the dual-threat quarterback in the college game two years ago, he’s not quite the same runner. While Thomas is a load to take down in the open field — he dragged half the Georgia Tech defense into the end zone on a 12-yard quarterback sneak in November — he much prefers to move around in the pocket and throw it.

“He’s incredibly agile and athletic for being such a big man,” Whitfield says. “The only other person I’ve been around that’s that size and that athletic is Ben Roethlisberger. Him and Ben are both slightly bigger than Cam. And they’re both light on their feet. I’m sure in some alternate universe, these guys could be free safeties.”

The big challenge comes this year. Thomas was blessed last season with a veteran offensive line featuring four fifth-year starters, a pair of wideouts who ranked 1-2 on Tech’s all-time receiving list and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year who ran for over 1,700 yards. They’re all gone now, and Virginia Tech must re-tool with eight new starters on offense. But with Thomas, the Hokies have a chance to duplicate last year’s success.

Tech coaches have thrown everything in the playbook at him, but he’s taken it in stride. Teammates describe Thomas as being more relaxed this spring. Even he admits he was too uptight at times last year.

“I wanted to be perfect with everything,” Thomas says. “Sometimes you can’t be perfect on every snap. And I kind of beat myself up about it, but this year you kind of let it roll off your back, because you know there’s the next down coming. That’s kind of just something I learned through the second half of our season.”

Thomas’ future is bright enough that it has many Hokies fans worried he could enter the NFL Draft after his junior year. Whitfield, who has frequent discussions with pro scouts and coaches, believes Thomas will be in the discussion as one of the top-rated quarterbacks whenever he decides to go.

“He absolutely could be a No. 1 pick,” Whitfield says.

Tech is preparing for the possibility, with quarterbacks coach and play-caller Mike O’Cain acknowledging that if Thomas is projected as a high first-round draft pick, it will be tough to turn down (although highly touted quarterbacks like 2012 NFL No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck, USC’s Matt Barkley and Oklahoma’s Landry Jones have done just that recently, returning for their senior seasons).

“I believe he feels that the more he plays, the better it’s going to give him his foundation for the NFL,” O’Cain says. “And again, you never know if he just goes out and has a phenomenal year, and I hope he does. I hope he has a phenomenal year …” O’Cain pauses and laughs before finishing his thought. “But just not a high first-round draft choice.”

— by Andy Bitter

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual.

Related ACC Content

Athlon’s 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon’s 2012 All-ACC Team

2012 Virginia Tech Hokies Team Preview

ACC’s 2012 Heisman Contenders

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas is a Rising Superstar in the ACC</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:35
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-best-hires-2011
Body:

As evidenced last season, new coaches can make an immediate impact on college football conference title races. Michigan's hire of Brady Hoke allowed the Wolverines to jump back into a BCS bowl, while James Franklin led Vanderbilt to its second bowl game since 1982.

Athlon ranks the new coaches from 2011 season:

1. Hugh Freeze, Arkansas State
Before: 4–8 (4–4); After: 9–3 (8–0)

Freeze guided the Red Wolves to their first-ever Sun Belt title in his only season in Jonesboro. Arkansas State swept through the league with an 8–0 record and an average margin of victory of 16.8 points.

2 . Brady Hoke, Michigan          
Before:
7–6 (3–5); After: 11–2 (6–2)

Hoke restored order in Ann Arbor, leading Michigan to a three-game improvement in the Big Ten, and, more important, its first win over Ohio State since 2003. The key? A defense that allowed 128.5 fewer yards per game and jumped 93 spots in the national rankings. 

3. James Franklin, Vanderbilt
Before:
2–10 (1–7); After: 6–7 (2–6)

The Commodores won more games last season (six) than the two previous seasons combined (four). They won four of those games by at least 23 points (including two in SEC play), and their final four league losses came by an average of 4.8 points. This team was dramatically improved.

4. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
Before:
3–9 (3–5); After: 9–4 (6–2)

The Ragin’ Cajuns improved by six wins and won a bowl game for the first time in school history, rallying past San Diego State, 32–30, at the New Orleans Bowl. They scored 30 points or more in all but three games.

5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia
Before: 9-4 (5-2); After: 10-3 (5-2)

The Mountaineers improved their win total by only one in Holgorsen's first season, but they claimed a share of the Big East title and dismantled Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Holgorsen's pass-first offense injected some energy into the fanbase, and the program is riding a wave of momentum going into 2012. 

6. David Shaw, Stanford
Before:
12–1 (8–1); After: 11–2 (8–1)

Jim Harbaugh made the move to the NFL, but the Cardinal were just as imposing with Shaw running the show. Stanford outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per game and went 5–0 in road games.

7. Pete Lembo, Ball State
Before:
4–8 (3–5); After: 6–6 (4–4)

The highlight of Lembo’s first season came early, a 27–20 win over Indiana in Indianapolis. The Cardinals also beat Ohio, champs of the MAC East, en route to a .500 record in league play.

8. Bill Blankenship, Tulsa
Before:
10–3 (6–2); After: 8–5 (7–1)

The Golden Hurricane survived a brutal early schedule — at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State at home, at Boise State, all in September — and won seven straight games from Oct. 1 through Nov. 19. The offense wasn’t quite as explosive, but the Tulsa D was vastly improved.

9. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois
Before: 11–3 (8-0); After: 11–3 (7–1)

Doeren and the Huskies were upset in their MAC opener against Central Michigan but reeled off nine straight wins to close the season. NIU won its first MAC title since 1983.

10. Dan McCarney, North Texas
Before:
3–9 (3–5); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Mean Green closed strong, winning two of their final three to finish with a .500 mark in the Sun Belt for the first time since 2004. McCarney, the former Iowa State head coach, has North Texas on the right track.

11. Darrell Hazell, Kent State
Before:
5–7 (4–4); After: 5–7 (4–4)

The Golden Flashes took advantage of a softer second-half schedule to win four of their final five games to even their MAC record at .500. The defense was stout (No. 22 in the nation), but the offense struggled.

12. Al Golden, Miami (Fla.)
Before:
7–6 (5–3); After: 6–6 (3–5)

The Canes took a step back in the win column — most notably in ACC play — but were more consistently competitive under Golden. Miami’s six losses came by an average of 5.5 points; in ’10, the Canes’ six losses were by an average of 13.0 points.

13. Steve Addazio, Temple
Before:
8–4 (5–3); After: 9–4 (5–3)

Addazio got a lot done in his first year as a head coach. The Owls put a scare into Penn State (in a four-point loss), dominated Maryland on the road and won their first bowl game (37–15 over Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl) since 1979.

14. Rocky Long, San Diego State
Before:
9–4 (5–3); After: 8–5 (4–3)

The Aztecs weren’t quite as formidable as in 2010, when they lost four games by five points or less, but they still won eight games and finished over .500 in MWC play.

15. Will Muschamp, Florida
Before:
8–5 (4–4); After: 7–6 (3–5)

You can argue that Urban Meyer didn’t leave a full cupboard of talent, but it’s hard to call the Gators’ 2011 season a success. They ranked 105th in the nation in total offense and had a losing record in the SEC for the first time since 1986.

16. Todd Graham, Pittsburgh
Before:
8–5 (5–2); After: 6–7 (4–3)

Graham is now hated by Panther faithful for his abrupt departure, but his only season at Pitt wasn’t a complete debacle. Playing with offensive personnel that didn’t fit his system, he still went 4–3 in the Big East, and it’s worth noting that four of his six losses (he wasn’t around for the bowl game) were by four points or less.

17. Jerry Kill, Minnesota
Before:
3–9 (2–6); After: 3–9 (2–6)

The Gophers lost at home to New Mexico State and North Dakota State in nonconference action, and their six Big Ten losses came by an average of 27.3 points.

18. Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut
Before:
8–5 (5–2); After: 5–7 (3–4)

The Huskies won at least eight games in the four seasons prior to Pasqualoni’s arrival but slumped to a 5–7 mark in 2011. The offense ranked 108th in the nation.

19. Don Treadwell, Miami (Ohio)
Before:
10–4 (7–1); After: 4–8 (3–5)

The RedHawks captured the MAC title in 2010 but managed only four wins under Treadwell, despite the return of 16 starters. The defense regressed (from 28th to 48th), and they too often lost the turnover battle (85th in margin). 

20. Jon Embree, Colorado
Before:
5–7 (2–6); After: 3–10 (2–7)

The Buffs ended the season with an upset at Utah, but not much else went well in Embree’s first season at his alma mater. Colorado ranked 109th in the nation in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

21. Kevin Wilson, Indiana
Before:
5–7 (1–7); After: 1–11 (0–8)

The Hoosiers were dreadful in 2011, with their only win coming over FCS foe South Carolina State. They were outscored in 11 games vs. FBS competition by 18.9 points per game.

22. Randy Edsall, Maryland
Before: 9–4 (5–3); After: 2–10 (1–7)

Where do we start? The Terps had the biggest drop in wins in the FBS ranks, from nine in 2010 to two in ’11. They lost their final 10 games against FBS opponents, including at home to Temple by 31 points. And in the season finale, they led NC State 41–14 in the third quarter before giving up 42 straight points. 

by Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

College Fantasy Football 2012 Rankings

Examining the Rising Cost of Coordinator Salaries

Teaser:
<p> Ranking college football's new coaches from 2011</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 10, 2012 - 04:22
All taxonomy terms: Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson, Golf, News
Path: /golf/belly-putter-here-stay
Body:

It could be D-day for long putters. Are they legal or illegal? A weapon or crutch? A trend or fad?

The United States Golf Association could be ready to speak out on the matter. The USGA and the R&A — golf’s two governing bodies — met at the U.S. Open to talk about the long and belly putters anchored into the body. Results of those discussions will be addressed publicly at the Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

The putters continue to stir up plenty of debate in golf circles. Either you're for them, or against them, with little area for compromise. 

Purists believe they should be banned. Players using long and belly putters just a few years ago were labeled as bad putters who had gotten desperate, but it's hard to argue against the bulging bank accounts of the players using them today. The stereotype that long putters are just for old guys with frayed nerves on The Champions Tour no longer applies.
 
Long and belly putters dominated the PGA Tour last season, winning nine times. Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major with one "anchored" to his body. He used the Odyssey White Hot XG Sabertooth Belly Putter at the PGA Championship last August. This season, Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club with a long putter, joining Bradley in the major winner’s circle on the strength of the elongated flatstick.
 
Bill Haas captured the 2011 Tour Championship and the $10 million Fed-Ex Cup with his. Adam Scott's major resurgence was sparked by a long putter. He plowed through the field at the Bridgestone Invitational, a World Golf Championship. Even Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Jim Furyk tinkered with them in competition.
 
Equipment manufacturers are eager to cash in on the craze. They're releasing more styles and retail stores are devoting more space to them. TaylorMade Golf boldly predicted a 400 percent sales increase for its Corza Ghost Putter and the Ghost Spider Putter brands this season.
 
There are many points of view on the subject, but ultimately, the USGA and R&A will have the final say. Mike Davis, the USGA’s executive director, believes a decision is forthcoming by the end of the year.
Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 14:20
Path: /mlb/baseballs-players-week-youkilis-weaver-mccutchen-mcdonald
Body:

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's —July 1-July 8 — standouts.

NL Player of the Week

Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

Having played in relative anonymity over the past few years in Pittsburgh, fans all over are becoming familiar with the distinctive dreadlocks of the best Pirate. Last week, McCutchen batted .517 with a 1.479 OPS. He led the majors with 11 runs and hit three homers with nine RBIs. The centerfielder’s work for the week included three three-hit games and one four-hit game, raising his season average from .346 to a league-best .362.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

James McDonald, Pittsburgh

The Pirates are surging in the National League, taking over the lead in the Central division, and McDonald is a big reason for the Bucs’ recent hot streak. He tossed 14 innings last week in wins over Houston and San Francisco, giving up just eight hits and five walks. The Pirates have won eight of his last 10 starts, and the righthander gave up just one run in each of the two losses.

 

AL Player of the Week

Kevin Youkilis, Chicago

The former fan favorite in Boston has been a catalyst for the White Sox offense over the past two weeks. Last week, Youk batted .478 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. He hit safely and drove in runs in each of his six games last week, with both streaks currently at seven games.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Jered Weaver, Los Angeles

Weaver is the hottest pitcher in the American League right now and makes a case to be the All-Star Game starter. He won both his starts last week and didn’t allow a run over 15 innings in wins over Cleveland and Baltimore. Since his return June 20 from a muscle strain, he has won all four starts and given up just one run over 27.2 innings. He is 10-1 with a 1.96 ERA for the season.

Teaser:
<p>  </p> <div id="cke_pastebin"> Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players.</div>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 13:34
All taxonomy terms: Robinson Cano, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/2012-home-run-derby-3-ways-make-it-better
Body:

I don’t care much for the Home Run Derby. Never really have. I usually watch parts of it, but I can’t stay in front of a TV and watch the entire spectacle. And what little time I will spend watching, I’ll have the mute button handy to avoid as many “Back-back-back..blah-blah-blah” home run calls as possible. I’m sure it’s better in person, but I would be much more interested in reactions from other players than actually watching guys swinging for the fences.

If you knew that I was such a fan of small-ball, speed and defense, it really wouldn’t surprise you that I’m not crazy about the homerfest that prefaces the annual All-Star Game.

But my apathy for this event won’t prevent me from making a few suggestions that would help the affair.

First, I would create second and third levels in the stands in the outfield that would offer bonus points for hitting longer home runs. In some stadiums, this could simply be the upper decks. But the hitters should be rewarded for longer, more prodigious clouts. After all, the longer the home run, the more fans seem to get excited. I would make the third level almost impossible to reach. The scoring would be simple and easy for fans to grasp. A point for a home run in the first level, reaching the second level would be three points and the third level even more.

Secondly, I would divide the home run area into nine sections from foul pole to foul pole. Hitters would receive bonus points for each section reached with home runs. That rewards hitters who have power to all fields. Again, simple scoring, would reward hitters a bonus point for hitting a home run into a second section. Then maybe even two bonus points for the third section. Seeing guys trying to go oppo could be fun.

But the biggest change would be to make this a bracket competition. Have each of the four AL hitters go head-to-head with a counterpart from the NL. Follow that with semifinals and finals. I understand that means the players hitting the second- and third- most home runs may not continue, but it would create some drama throughout the night. I would suggest three innings for each match, and allow only three “outs” per inning.

Those three changes just might be enough to pique my interest for the entire night.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 13:10
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-july-9
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 9, 2012.

 

  1. Rangers—Scored fewest runs so far in July.

 2. Yankees—Largest lead in the majors — and growing.

 3. Nationals—Success seems to follow Davey Johnson everywhere.

4. Angels—Lead majors with 13 shutouts.

 5. White Sox—Robin Ventura deserves tremendous credit for team’s success.

 6. Braves—Finished first half with sweep at Philadelphia.

 7. Dodgers—Last in majors with 107 fewer extra-base hits than Red Sox.

 8. Giants—Given up 55 runs in nine games since four straight shutouts.

9. Pirates—Won six of last seven series to end first half.

10. Reds—6-9 vs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh so far this season.

11. Rays—Tampa Bay is 37-7 when scoring four runs or more.

12. Orioles—Terrific managing job by Buck Showalter.

13. Mets—R.A. Dickey should be starting the All-Star Game.

14. Cardinals—World champs had identical 46-40 mark last year.

15. Tigers—Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in top four in RBIs in AL.

16. Blue Jays—Only team with two teammates combined for 50 homers.

17. Indians—Forgotten team in AL Central race.

18. A’s—Bad time for All-Star break, won 17 of last 25.

19. Diamondbacks—Trevor Bauer could be huge boost in second half.

20. Red Sox—Lead majors with 314 extra-base hits.

21. Marlins—How much can Carlos Lee boost offense?

22. Brewers—Trade bait Zack Greinke will make three consecutive starts.

23. Twins—6-13 vs. division leaders; 30-36 against all other teams.

24. Mariners—Only team in AL with as many as 50 losses (51).

25. Royals—All-Star Game hosts are 34-33 after horrific start.

26. Phillies—Entering the break in disarray.

27. Rockies—Rox are 9-22 since early June.

28. Padres—Ended first half with downer thanks to Cincinnati.

29. Cubs—Finally, a break from the cellar, thanks to the Astros.

30. Astros—Rebuilding continues; growing pains may intensify.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 12:59
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-9
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (7/2-7/08):

  Name Team Pos R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 11 3 9 0 .517 1.479
2. Ian Desmond WAS SS 5 4 8 3 .409 1.390
3. Mike Trout LAA OF 6 3 7 4 .364 1.180
4. Tyler Colvin* COL 1B/OF 6 5 10 1 .308 1.280
5. Kevin Youkilis CWS 1B/3B 7 3 10 0 .478 1.484
6. Justin Ruggiano* MIA OF 5 4 8 1 .393 1.290
7. Brian McCann ATL C 5 4 11 0 .364 1.284
8. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 8 2 7 0 .481 1.474
9. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 7 2 10 1 .348 1.247
10. Garrett Jones* PIT 1B/OF 9 2 7 0 .385 1.101
11. Miguel Carbrea DET 1B/3B 6 2 9 0 .440 1.248
12. Michael Bourn ATL OF 8 0 3 3 .423 1.199
13. Logan Morrison* MIA 1B/OF 5 3 9 0 .391 1.332
14. Alex Rios CWS OF 7 2 7 0 .435 1.328
15. Ryan Braun MIL OF 7 2 6 2 .286 .983
16. Matt Holliday STL OF 4 2 7 1 .423 1.198
17. Prince Fielder DET 1B 5 3 10 0 .292 1.122
18. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 5 2 7 1 .370 1.081
19. Delmon Young* DET OF 5 4 7 0 .308 1.090
20. Anthony Rizzo* CHC 1B 5 3 5 0 .414 1.207
21. Rickie Weeks* MIL 2B 7 2 7 0 .346 1.125
22. Mike Moustakas KC 3B 4 2 9 1 .310 .945
23. Andruw Jones* NYY OF 4 4 6 0 .333 1.238
24. Casey Kotchman* CLE 1B 5 2 6 0 .450 1.300
25. Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 6 2 4 0 .414 1.192

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The All-Star Break DL Update

Take a breath. Just past the half-way mark, fantasy leagues are still very much up for grabs. Names like Rickie Weeks are finally starting to come around. Drew Stubbs is next, I promise. And others are finally coming off the DL. Reports are that Carl Crawford will likely need surgery on his elbow but will forego any procedures in an effort to return to the line-up. He may never return to his Rays form (until surgery) but he can certainly help a fantasy outfield over the second half. Ryan Howard was 2-for-8 in his return to the Phillies line-up. Don't expect big numbers from Howard, as he will likely be limited in his playing time, but his power threat should help someone in need of pop. Jayson Werth is swinging a bat and will be back by August. It might be time to stash him away on the DL. The break couldn't come at a better time for guys like Dustin Pedroia and Dan Haren, as both hit the DL on Friday. Giancarlo Stanton owners awoke Monday morning to bad news as his "loose bodies" had been removed from his knee. Recovery time is listed as four-to-six weeks.

Waiver Wire Adds

Tyler Colvin is just too hot to ignore. And his situation is obvsiouly very fantasy friendly. He has been solid through most splits (righty-lefty, home-road) and should he keep getting at-bats there is no reason why the 1B/OFer can't help your line-up. Tigers' speedster Quintin Berry is worth a look if you need some speed, as is Milwuakee's Norichika Aoki. Both could provide plenty of run and stolen base support, each without hurting the other categories too much at all. I need more time before adding names like Justin Ruggiano or Alexi Amarista just yet.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Mat Latos CIN 25.0 2 28 0.72 0.56
2. Jered Weaver LAA 21.2 3 13 0.42 0.88
3. Travis Wood* CHC 20.2 3 13 0.87 0.87
4. Jason Vargas* SEA 23.2 1 22 1.52 0.85
5. Mark Buehrle* MIA 14.2 2 15 1.23 0.95
6. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.0 1 27 2.05 1.05
7. Tommy Milone* OAK 19.0 1 20 0.95 1.05
8. Kyle Lohse STL 21.2 3 13 2.49 0.97
9. Paul Maholm* CHC 15.1 2 11 0.59 1.04
10. Bronson Arroyo* CIN 22.2 1 14 1.99 0.75
11. Freddy Garcia* NYY 15.1 2 12 1.76 0.85
12. Ricky Nolasco* MIA 19.2 2 14 0.92 1.17
13. Michael Fiers* MIL 13.1 1 19 1.35 0.98
14. Max Scherzer DET 13.0 2 14 2.08 0.92
15. James McDonald PIT 19.2 3 17 3.20 1.07
16. Drew Pomeranz* COL 12.1 1 7 0.00 0.65
17. Chris Sale CWS 14.1 2 9 1.88 0.91
18. David Price TB 14.0 1 15 1.93 0.86
19. Gavin Floyd* CWS 20.0 2 15 1.80 1.20
20. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 19.2 2 21 3.20 1.12

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Top 5 Spot Starts for the Week (Tues. - Sun.):

Since this week is only three games long, I will simply toss out my favorite available SPs on my waiver wire:

1. Michael Fiers, MIL: 46.0 IP, 3 W, 50 K, 2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP (season)
2. Jair Jurrjens, ATL: 25.1 IP, 3 W, 10 K, 2.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP (last month)
3. Travis Wood, CHC: 33.1 IP, 4 W, 21 K, 1.62 ERA, 1.08 WHIP (last month)
4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: 39.1 IP, 2 W, 40 K, 3.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP (last month)
5. Scott Diamond, MIN: 79.0 IP, 7 W, 45 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (season)

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 20 0 0.82 0.18
2. Huston Street SD 13.1 1 9 18 0 1.35 0.75
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 12.0 1 8 14 0 0.75 0.75
4. Casey Janssen* TOR 12.2 0 7 16 0 0.71 0.55
5. Rafael Soriano NYY 13.2 0 12 15 0 1.32 1.24
6. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 0 6 19 0 1.69 0.38
7. Fernando Rodney TB 11.0 0 8 12 0 0.82 0.73
8. Joe Nathan TEX 12.2 1 6 17 0 1.42 1.03
9. Ryan Cook* OAK 12.1 1 8 14 0 2.92 0.97
10. Ernesto Frieri LAA 12.0 0 7 15 3 0.00 1.08
11. Charlie Furbush* SEA 16.2 2 0 23 2 1.08 0.96
12. Jim Johnson BAL 11.1 0 8 6 0 0.79 0.79
13. Jason Motte STL 13.2 0 10 15 0 3.29 1.10
14. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 12.1 1 4 15 0 0.00 1.14
15. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 7 7 0 1.64 1.09
16. Darren Oliver* TOR 11.2 2 0 14 5 0.77 0.77
17. Brayan Villarreal* DET 15.2 2 0 20 4 1.72 0.96
18. Robbie Ross* TEX 17.1 1 0 9 3 0.00 0.81
19. Clay Rapada* NYY 10.0 1 0 14 3 0.00 0.60
20. Addison Reed* CWS 11.1 1 6 11 0 3.18 1.06

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 9</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 09:42
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-offensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Alabama
Even with the departure of center William Vlachos, the Crimson Tide have one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Barrett Jones earned first-team All-SEC honors last season but will move to center in 2012. Considering the versatility and performance throughout his career, he has to be considered the best linemen in college football. Replacing Jones at left tackle is expected to be Cyrus Kouandijo, a former 5-star recruit. Right tackle D.J. Fluker started all 13 games last year, while Anthony Steen and Chance Warmack are back to man the guard positions. Fluker is on the verge of a breakout season, while Warmack should be in the mix for All-American honors.

2. LSU 
This collection of Bayou blockers could be the best in the nation. Two potential future first-round picks in Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk bookend a line that returns four starters. This group was No. 2 in the SEC in rushing and No. 1 in the SEC in sacks allowed (1.29) last year and could actually get better. The only replacement comes in the form of Josh Dworaczyk, who is a sixth-year player with loads of experience. P.J. Lonergan, who is only starter who isn’t at least 6-foot-6, will be one of the nation’s top pivots and Josh Williford returns at right guard. This group averages 319 pounds up front and is stacked with elite level depth behind them. There are few groups nationally that are as talented and deep as the LSU Tigers front line.

3. Texas A&M
With a new quarterback and offensive scheme, the Aggies may have to rely more on their rushing attack in 2012. The good news for Texas A&M is three starters are back up front, including tackles Luke Joeckel (second-team All-Big 12 in 2011) and Jake Matthews (honorable mention All-Big 12). Both players have All-American potential and should allow this line to rank among the top 10-15 nationally. Patrick Lewis has been a starter the last three years and will provide a veteran presence in the middle. The guard spots are up for grabs, but Jarvis Harrison, Shep Klinke and Cedric Ogbuehi all have experience. This group allowed just nine sacks last year and should be a team strength once again in 2012.

4. South Carolina
This group will have some youth and inexperience, but it also has loads of talent. T.J. Johnson is the elder statesman and lone senior, but will anchor the line at center. A.J. Cann - an elite recruit in the 2010 class who played every game of his freshman season last fall - returns for his redshirt sophomore campaign at left guard. With junior Ronald Patrick lining up at right guard, the interior of the offensive line should be stable. The tackle position is a bit more fluid but the talent has incredible upside. Brandon Shell ranked behind only Jadeveon Clowney in the Gamecocks’ 2011 haul and he should be ready to compete as a redshirt freshman. He will battle with Cody Gibson, who got four starts last year, and Mike Matulis, who was pressed into action last year as a freshman due to injuries. Between the trio of underclassmen, South Carolina feels that it can improve on its 2.38 sacks allowed per game from a year ago (87th nationally). 

5. Arkansas
Running up the middle and off guard to the right should be no issue whatsoever for the Hogs. Center Travis Swanson and right guard Alvin Bailey, who has loads of NFL potential, are as good a center-guard combo as there is in the league. Filling the holes around them will determine just how far Arkansas can go in the SEC West this year. Jason Peacock, who started nine games last fall, will get the first crack at protecting Tyler Wilson’s blindside while uber-recruit Brey Cook will bookend the right side. Expect David Hurd and Chris Stringer to figure heavily in the tackle mix as well. Tyler Deacon and Luke Charpentier will work into the guard rotation with Bailey. Lastly, Mitch Smothers can play anywhere on the line and is a versatile piece on the bench. If Arkansas expects to beat Alabama or LSU, it must get improved play from a line that was 73rd nationally in sacks allowed and 81st in rushing offense.

6. Auburn
Few teams in the nation have recruited as well along the offensive line over the last two cycles. Twelve of the 16 scholarship blockers on the roster were signed in the 2010 or 2011 recruiting classes. Sophomore Reese Dismukes is entrenched at center after only one year of action while fellow sophomore Chad Slade has the right tackle position locked up. One of the few veterans, John Sullen, looks to have the left guard position to himself. Look for an elite group of talented but unproven youngsters, including redshirt freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westerman to divide the right guard and left tackles duties up at some point. Freshman Patrick Miller will also get plenty of chances to compete. Gene Chizik has an elite three-year haul of hog mollies, now it’s up to line coach Jeff Grimes to develop and motivate these massive blockers.

7. Georgia
Perhaps the only area preventing Georgia from garnering a top five ranking in preseason polls is the offensive line. Three key players are gone from last season’s unit, including center Ben Jones. Tackles Cordy Glenn (first-team All-SEC in 2011) and Justin Anderson have both expired their eligibility. The cupboard isn’t bare for coach Mark Richt, but there’s a lot of work to be done. Three starters are back, including guard Chris Burnette who started 12 games last year. Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee combined for 16 starts in 2011 and figure to work with the first team once again in 2012. Although three starters are back, the two most important positions on the offensive line – left tackle and center – have question marks. True freshman John Theus will have an opportunity to start at left tackle, while sophomore David Andrews appears to have the early edge at center. If this unit jells, Georgia will have a chance to compete for the national title.

8. Missouri
This unit loses three key players, but is in decent shape heading into 2012. Senior left tackle Elvis Fisher is back after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. Fisher earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010 and needs to quickly find that form in 2012. The guard spots are expected to be anchored by Travis Ruth and Jack Meiners, while Justin Britt shifts from left side to start at right tackle. Sophomore Mitch Morse played in 13 games last year, but has yet to start a game. He is expected to start at center in 2012, and his performance will be crucial to the success of Missouri’s offensive line. This unit allowed 18 sacks in 2011 – a number surely helped by quarterback James Franklin’s mobility – but should be steady once again in 2012.

9. Tennessee
For the first time in a few years, the Vols finally look to have restocked the offensive line with talent, depth and experience. This is due in part to the fact that so many returning starters were forced into action as freshmen and sophomores. The only non-returning starter is Tiny Richardson - who is thought so highly by the coaching staff that Dallas Thomas will be moved inside to guard - steps in at left tackle to protect Tyler Bray’s backside. Ju’Juan James should hold down the right tackle spot. Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard, James Stone and Marcus Jackson — who all have plenty of playing experience — will battle it out for the center and right guard positions in camp (maybe, all season). This offensive line, for the first time in years, has a chance to be a strength rather than an area of concern.

10. Mississippi State
Despite dealing with inconsistency up front in 2011, the Bulldogs still managed to average 4.4 yards per carry and ranked 38th nationally in rushing offense. With a new quarterback and running back taking over, this unit will be under the microscope to perform in 2012. Guard Gabe Jackson has started all 26 games in his career and is a candidate to earn first-team All-SEC honors in 2012. Center Dillon Day is the unit’s only other returning starter, but he could be pushed for time from junior college recruit Dylan Holley. This unit needs Blaine Clausell stabilize the left tackle spot, but don’t be surprised if junior college recruit Charles Siddoway pushes for time in the fall. 

11. Florida
The offensive line has been a major point of contention for second-year head man Will Muschamp. The defense kept them in most games last year but the offense could do little to help out. With new coaches all around the O-Line, upperclassmen like Matt Patchen and Xavier Nixon need to deliver on their five-star recruiting status. Those two will man the tackle positions and should have their best seasons, while junior Jonotthan Harrison will man the pivot. James Wilson, who will be entering his sixth season on campus, will get the first crack at right guard and could also finally deliver on his lofty recruiting potential. Sophomore Chaz Green, and freshmen D.J. Humphries and Trip Thurman could compete right away for important playing time. Like most positions on the Gators roster there is loads of talent and upside — it just needs to be realized. 

12. Vanderbilt
A year after finishing last in the SEC in scoring, the Commodores showed significant improvement on offense. The line was a key reason for Vanderbilt’s offensive gains, as it averaged 4.3 yards per carry and paved the way for 26 rushing scores. While this unit improved last season, the Commodores have a few question marks up front, especially with only two starters returning. Left tackle Wesley Johnson has All-SEC potential, while Ryan Seymour is back after making 12 starts last year. Josh Jelesky and Andrew Bridges are expected to anchor the right side of the line and both gained valuable experience last season. The biggest question mark will be center Spencer Pulley. Although the Commodores rank No. 12 on this list in July, don’t be surprised if this group ranks higher by the end of the season.

13. Kentucky
A combined 87 starts are gone from last year’s unit but Joker Phillips is surprisingly optimistic about this group. Larry Warford is a superstar and anchors the unit from his right guard position while fellow senior Matt Smith returns as the starting center. The left side of the line will be manned by two talented youngsters in sophomore Darrian Miller (left tackle) and freshman Zach West. Veterans Kevin Mitchell and Trevino Woods will battle for right tackle duties. There is a nice blend of youth and experience on this roster, but depth is a major issue. Any one injury for any extended period of time could spell disaster for a team already scratching and clawing to get to bowl eligibility.

14. Ole Miss
With the departures of tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, along with guard Matt Hall, there are few positives surrounding this group going into 2012. Evan Swindall is a returning starter at center, but four spots are up for grabs around him. Junior college recruit Pierce Burton is expected to start at right tackle, while Emmanuel McCray finished spring as the No. 1 option on the left side. Senior A.J. Hawkins is expected to anchor one of the guard spots, and his experience will be valuable for a unit that lacks overall depth and proven bodies. This unit allowed 33 sacks in 2011 and could be worse in 2012 if four new starters struggle to jell in the fall.

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related SEC Content

SEC WR Unit Rankings for 2012
2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC
Introducing Missouri to the SEC
How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-all-american-team
Body:

Picking a college football All-American team is no easy task. Some positions are deeper than others, while it's also difficult to project how a player will perform with the losses or additions around them.

With that in mind, it's time to unveil Athlon's 2012 All-American Team.

Related: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team 

First-Team Offense

QB Matt Barkley, USC

RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin

RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR Robert Woods, USC

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

C Barrett Jones, Alabama

OT Alex Hurst, LSU

OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

OG Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

OG Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon


First-Team Defense

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DE Sam Montgomery, LSU

DT Star Lotulelei, Utah

DT Joe Vellano, Maryland

LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia

LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

LB Chase Thomas, Stanford

CB David Amerson, NC State

CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

S T.J. McDonald, USC

S Eric Reid, LSU


First-Team Specialists

K Caleb Sturgis, Florida

P Brad Wing, LSU

KR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

PR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin


Second-Team Offense

QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

WR Keenan Allen, California

WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

C Khaled Holmes, USC

OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

OG Larry Warford, Kentucky

OT Chris Faulk, LSU

OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

AP Tavon Austin, West Virginia


Second-Team Defense

DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn

DE John Simon, Ohio State

DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

DT Kawann Short, Purdue

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State

CB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

CB Nickell Robey, USC

S John Boyett, Oregon

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma


Second-Team Specialists

K Brett Maher, Nebraska

P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Jamal Miles, Arizona State


Third-Team Offense

QB Denard Robinson, Michigan

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA

C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin

OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

OG Chance Warmack, Alabama

OT Oday Aboushi, Virginia

OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse

AP Tyler Lockett, Kansas State


Third-Team Defense

DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DE Alex Okafor, Texas

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida

DT Bennie Logan, LSU

LB Dion Bailey, USC

LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin

LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

S Matt Elam, Florida

S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia


Third-Team Specialists

K Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

KR Raheem Mostert, Purdue

PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia


Related Content

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
College Football 2012 Rankings

College Football 2012 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's 2012 College Football All-American Team</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-2012-all-american-team-recruits
Body:

Recruiting is the life blood of college football. And the rankings of the these prospects elicit responses both positive and negative fitting of a nickname like, say, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Fans either live and die by star rankings or totally disregard Top 100 lists altogether.

The truth lies somewhere in between — you will find both five-stars and walk-ons on the Athlon Sports 2012 All-American team. In fact, 11 of the 24 names listed below were ranked as Athlon Consensus 100, or Top 100, prospects in the nation.

Here is how the best players at their position nationally ranked as high school recruits:

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

2012 First-Team All-American Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009)
Ball came to Wisconsin as the 5A Missouri State Player of the Year after rushing for 8,222 yards and 107 touchdowns at Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland. He was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 33 running back in the nation and was a four-star recruit. Ball was the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri by Athlon Sports and the No. 3 player in the Badgers’ 2009 class.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He has has proven to be the real deal with an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage per game average for his career.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100
Few players ever enter college with more hype than Watkins. He was the No. 24-rated player in the nation regardless of position, was No. 8 in the state of Florida and was the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation. The Ft. Myers (Fla.) South Ft. Myers product needed only one year to prove that the hype was warranted.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (2009)
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger was listed as the No. 24 tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 10 player in the Hoosier State by Rivals. The three-star prospect also had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among others. He enters his final year as the Irish’s top target.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position.

Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin (2008)
The hog molly from West Allis (Wisc.) Nathan Hale was walk-on back in 2008 after going unranked by all of the recruiting services. He has earned two-time consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten status after coming to Wisconsin with zero recruiting hype whatsoever.

Alex Hurst, OT, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by Rivals.com.

Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.

Gabe Ikard, OG, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).

De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation by Athlon Sports. After 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total TDs, it is easy to see why Thomas was such a hot commodity all the way up to this National Signing Day switch from USC to Oregon.

Tyrann Mathieu, PR, LSU (2010)
The Honey Badger was the No. 44 defensive back in the nation and the No. 8 player in the state of Louisiana by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 13-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals. The New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine dynamo was either firmly committed to Frank Wilson and LSU, or schools were scared off by his attitude, because his offer sheet was LSU, Southern Miss, SMU, Tulane, FIU, Miami (Ohio) and Hampton.

2012 First-Team All-American Defense:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year and spent little time proving that he could be the most dynamic defensive player in the nation. He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors after 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports. Les Miles was able to snare the No. 1 player in the Palmetto State away from South Carolina, something Steve Spurrier has rectified with Lattimore and Clowney.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Salt Lake City.

Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland (2007)
The big nose guard from Albany (N.Y.) Christian Brother was a 6-foot-2, 245-pound three-star prospect back in 2007. He is now a 285-pound All-American. Rivals ranked Vellano as the No. 62 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state of New York.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Originally signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame (2008) AC100
Trailing only Barkley and Russell Shepard nationally, the No. 3 player in the nation back in 2009 signed with Notre Dame from Laie, Hawaii. He was the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, the No. 1 player from the Islands and the No. 1 defensive prospect in the country. Te’o could post his third straight 100-tackle season.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position. Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles for a loss and sacks a year ago.

David Amerson, CB, NC State (2010)
A four-star recruit from Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley High, Amerson was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety prospect when he signed with NC State. He was the No. 6-rated player in the Tar Heel State, the No. 16-rated safety and the No. 206 overall prospect in the country by Rivals.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals and the No. 63 overall ‘athlete’ in the nation.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 10-rated player in the Sunshine State back in 2009.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 2 player in the Pelican State behind only Auburn’s Trovon Reed.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports 2012 All-American Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 04:00
Path: /college-football/can-college-football-analysts-avoid-bias-when-covering-alma-maters
Body:

In March 11, 2011, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter dropped the news — Kirk Herbstreit was leaving Ohio and relocating his family to Nashville. The guy who any serious college football fan knew played quarterback at Ohio State and still contained much love for his Buckeyes found that living in Columbus was no longer bearable.

There was his growing celebrity as ESPN’s face of college football, but something else, too. It turns out that some fans — and this does not just apply to one isolated football program — really are so fanatical about their team they cross over that line separating passion and reason.

To Herbstreit, who like his father before him had been an Ohio State captain, “80 to 90 percent” of fans were great. But he told Hunter: “It’s the vocal minority that make it rough. They probably represent only five to 10 percent of the fan base, but they are relentless.”

This, in an essential way, goes against how we think of sports fandom and root, root, rooting for the home team. It would seem to follow that if there was one place where a nationally known commentator could exist comfortably, it would be among those of his own tribe.

To Christian End, a psychology research professor in Ohio whose primary work involves the brains and metaphorical hearts of sports fans, this parable of the prodigal sports commentator actually makes perfect sense. And lest fans of other college football franchises reach for a stone to cast at fans of Ohio State, know that the available research says we all, as sports fans, are susceptible to the same sort of irrational behavior on behalf of the old alma mater.

End, a professor at Xavier (and huge Musketeer hoops fan), tells about a study done in 1992 — the same year Herbstreit completed 46 passes for 271 yards in a 13–13 tie with Michigan — that tested just how much fans value loyalty and punish any hint of disloyalty.

People were asked to read different articles about their favorite team — some described a tight, thrilling victory by their favorite team and others described a tight, crushing loss by their favorite team. Some of these people were huge fans of the team, some were not. Key to the study was this — some people were told the author was “loyal,” some were told the author was “disloyal.”

The researchers noticed two things above all else. The most positive reactions came from big fans of the winning team reading an article by an author described as loyal to the winning team. The most negative reactions came from those big fans of the losing team reading an article by an author described as “disloyal” to the losing team.

“We do know that fans highly value loyalty,” End says. “That is central to that identity to a sports fan, this sense of, ‘I will be loyal, through thick and thin.’”

If criticism comes from another ESPN analyst, like say a certain former Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan, Buckeye fans might resent it but not with the same intensity they would reserve for a critic with actual Ohio State connections.

“You can see how they might think, ‘Desmond Howard, he’s the Michigan guy, but I don’t expect that from my own,’” End says.

Fill in the blank with a college broadcaster and the same dynamic could apply — David Pollack talking about the Georgia Bulldogs (or the Florida Gators), Todd Blackledge about Penn State (or Pitt).

End tells about one of the most famous psychological studies connected to sports, which dates back to 1951. Titled simply: “They Saw A Game,” it involved a Thanksgiving week college football clash between Dartmouth and Princeton, back when Ivy League football mattered so much that Time magazine featured the Princeton star, Dick Kazmaier, on its cover.

After a game that became famous at the time for its brutality — Kazmaier left the game with a broken nose and concussion, Dartmouth’s star had his leg broken — researchers questioned fans of both teams about what they saw. Later, they also showed fans of each side a replay of the game on film. What they found was at the time seen as a psychological breakthrough: Princeton fans claimed many more penalties and dirty plays were committed by Dartmouth and Dartmouth fans claimed just the opposite.

Writing in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology (which may or may not tell you something about us sports fans), the researchers came to the conclusion that “the game actually was many different games,” and what fans chose to notice and remember differed based on their own connections to the competing schools, according to who they wanted to win.

End says the more broadcasters and journalists are aware of that psychological truth, the better equipped they are to guard against subconsciously projecting bias.

CBS lead basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, another Ohio State alum, seemed to get that when explaining his approach to Sports Illustrated’s media columnist Richard Deitsch before last year’s NCAA Tournament: “I have drank and swallowed the Kool-Aid. I’m Scarlet and Gray. There is no denying that. I’m a Buckeye fan, and we all are fans of certain teams and programs and particularly our alma mater. When calling a game, I am representing CBS and Turner and my professionalism has to rise above where my personal interests lie. Whether people accept or acknowledge that fairly, I cannot control.”

When scandal strikes
On the other end of this spectrum, consider a young sportswriter named Mark Viera, Penn State Class of 2009. Last fall he found himself caught in what he described as “a maelstrom” of events that rocked the proud football program and the legendary coach Viera had covered as an undergraduate just a few years earlier.

Viera helped The New York Times report the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, a task made somewhat less difficult by two things. One, Viera could introduce himself as a Penn State graduate and win the trust of people weary and skeptical of the media hordes that had descended on Happy Valley. Also, Viera says, he had never become a Nittany Lion fan.

“I did not have those heartstring affections that many people do,” he said. “I never developed this rah-rah affinity for Penn State football.”

That helped Viera, but, as evidenced in the many thoughtful pieces written by media members with Penn State ties, in some cases covering the scandal meant grappling with personal affections that had built up over many years. Malcolm Moran, a Penn State professor who for three decades covered college sports for the Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today, saw some of the school’s finest budding journalists forced to reconcile their still developing sense of professional duty with their embedded sense of loyalty. “Several students had conversations with me on the verge of tears with the thought that their work might be contributing to the downfall of the program,” Moran says. “There was enormous emotion.”

Viera said at times he found longtime university supporters and employees reaching out privately to offer support and encouragement. At some level, even those with the strongest feelings about the Nittany Lion program wanted the truth to come out, whatever the consequences.

Covering the beat
Brett McMurphy is CBSSports.com’s national football writer and a member of the Football Writers Association of America’s board of directors. The issue of objectivity is so important to him that he pays close attention to the colors he wears covering games.

When he covered the University of South Florida for The Tampa Tribune, athletic department officials often implored him to “be positive,” an entreaty most beat writers hear in some form many times every season. When McMurphy reported in 2009 that former coach Jim Leavitt had hit a player, one booster in particular told him he should not have dwelled on that “negative” news. But that same booster, after Leavitt was fired in part because of the incident, asked McMurphy for his ring size because he said Skip Holtz would lead the program to a Big East title.

McMurphy is himself an Oklahoma State graduate, and as a national correspondent, he has been tasked with covering the program’s rise to national prominence. After an article last year detailing the program’s past struggles, in which he pointed out the old condescending “Okie State” term had at times fit the program, some fans suggested he was not positive enough.

So he replied, in part, by pointing out as an alum he had a unique perspective. But as might have been predicted by the sports fan psychologists — or by Kirk Herbstreit himself — that may have only served to anger the most partisan of fans even more.

Root, root ... for the story
Bob Kesling has been paid to observe college sports in general and his alma mater Tennessee Vols in particular from many vantage points.

For years, he was sports anchor for Knoxville’s NBC affiliate, covering the Vols as journalist first. Later he became involved with the regional broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football and basketball games, as a play-by-play announcer. In 1999, he succeeded the legendary John Ward as the radio voice for the Vols.

One thing has remained constant, Kesling says — he always cheers for a good story to emerge.

“Most announcers, they just want a good game — there’s nothing worse than a 54–7 game in football, I don’t care who is winning,” Kesling says.

And when he’s at his best, Kesling is following advice from mentors like Ward and Lindsey Nelson, a UT graduate and broadcast sports pioneer. Like Ward, he considers his first duty to be a reporter. And Nelson always told him, “Tell the story. You are not the story. The story is the story.”

Wes Durham, who has done play-by-play for Georgia Tech now for nearly two decades, has understood that since he was a teenager and his father, Woody, was laying out the story to North Carolina fans as the radio voice of the Tar Heels.

Durham says he knows some Tech fans may wish he came across as more ardently “a homer,” in part because so many fans in Georgia well remember the unabashed fan-in-the-booth persona of longtime Georgia announcer Larry Munson. That’s just not Durham’s style.

The key to connecting reliably with fans, he believes, is just that — be reliable, be consistent, be real. His father told him that he aimed for accuracy but expected anyone listening to understand he called games through “light-blue-tinted glasses.”

“You can dissect how the relationship between the announcer and the fan base works, but they want you to be real — and fans know real,” Durham says.

Consider, as one final example, an exchange on one of the newest of media platforms, Twitter, where “being real” is greatly valued. Desmond Howard had asked his followers, on Easter Sunday in 2011, how they judged a person’s character, and an Ohio State fan snarked that if you are “from Ohio and went to mich” it said a lot.

“Says I made a GREAT decision,” Howard offered. At which point Herbstreit jumped into the fray and offered, “even on easter they don’t take a break. Haha!”

But by the end of the exchange, the Ohio State fan offered the two rivals-turned-colleagues the highest of praise: “College Gameday is the best show on tv. Luv it.”

Being real. Being transparent. Being reliable: It may not please all of the fans all of the time, but for analysts, play-by-play guys and sportswriters, that is usually a winning game plan.

— by Zack McMillin

Related College Football Content

Athlon’s 2012 College Football Predictions
Athlon’s Top 25 for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
College Football’s Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Can College Football Analysts Avoid Bias When Covering Alma Maters?</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 03:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-12
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Big 12 in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Big 12 All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

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

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

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

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

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

Starters

QB—Collin Klein, Sr. (Kansas State)

Last season:  Passed for 1,918 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Missouri St, Miami, North Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ TCU, @ Baylor, Bye

 

QB—Geno Smith, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  Passed for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St

 

RB—Joseph Randle, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 TDs, 43 receptions for 266 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Savannah St, @ Arizona, Louisiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

RB—Lache Seastrunk, So. (Baylor)

Last season:  Sat out 2011 season after transferring from Oregon.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; SMU, Bye, Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech

 

RB—Dominique Whaley, Sr. (Oklahoma)

Last season:  Rushed for 627 yards and 7 TDs in seven games (broken ankle).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Kansas, Notre Dame, @ Iowa St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Baylor, @ West Virginia, Oklahoma St

 

WR—Tavon Austin, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  101 receptions for 1,186 yards and 8 TDs, 182 yards and TD rushing.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St

 

WR—Stedman Bailey, Jr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma St, Oklahoma, @ Iowa St

 

WR—Terrance Williams, Sr. (Baylor)

Last season:  59 receptions for 957 yards and 11 TDs as WR#2 opposite Kendall Wright.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe, @ West Virginia

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech

 

TE—Blake Jackson, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

FLEX—Darrin Moore, Sr. (Texas Tech)

Last season:  47 receptions for 571 yards and 8 TDs, missed four games with injury (knee).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Northwestern St, @ Texas St, New Mexico

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Kansas, @ Oklahoma St, Baylor

 

K—Quinn Sharp, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

DEF/ST—Texas Longhorns

Last season:  No. 6 rushing defense, No. 11 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Wyoming, New Mexico, @ Ole Miss

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Iowa St, Bye, TCU

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Landry Jones, Sr. (Oklahoma)

QB—Casey Pachall, Jr. (TCU)

WR—Tracy Moore, Sr. (Oklahoma St)

WR—Kenny Stills, Jr. (Oklahoma)

WR—Eric Ward, Jr. (Texas Tech)

 

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Big 12</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 02:14
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/manager-actually-gets-ump-overturn-call
Body:

Well, here's something you almost never see. It happened during Saturday night's game between Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Indians manager Manny Acta came out of the dugout to complain to the first-base ump after he called Jose Lopez out, despite the first baseman bobbling the ball. Instead of being tossed out of the game, the ump consulted the other umps and reversed the call. Yes, our minds our officially blown. See for yourself.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Sunday, July 8, 2012 - 17:24
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-6
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 6.

• The New York Daily News previews this weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox matchup.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben looks at Oklahoma’s chances of winning the league.

100 great rock riffs in 12 minutes? This guy is awesome.

• So the Knicks have an agreement with Jason Kidd, but will they match the Rockets offer sheet to Jeremy Lin?

Mets fans are literally tripping over themselves with the team’s good play this season.

• CBS’ Gary Parrish believes that Indiana’s Cody Zeller made the right decision in forgoing the NBA and returning to school.

• Sports Illustrated’s Phil Taylor catches up with the always-candid Reggie Jackson.

• We all like a quality aged whiskey, but this Missouri man takes it to a new level.

• We usually hear about All-Star Game snubs, but here is an Anti-All-Star team for the first half of the MLB season.

• Many fans and media were critical of the NFL Network’s Top 100 list.

• Check out this minor league baseball footage from the Joliet (Ill.) Slammers last week. The video will be calm for about 45 seconds, and then the weather gets serious as the tarp blows everywhere. Then, the Slammers announcer tries to give a serious account of the happenings while “It’s Raining Men” is blaring on the PA system.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 5

• How will the Steve Nash deal impact the Lakers and the Western Conference?

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder looks at the flaws of the media monitoring a college football playoff selection committee.

• Adidas will be providing Andy Murray with some new shorts at Wimbledon, which led to this unfortunate headline.

• Richard Justice looks at Carlos Lee’s time in Houston after the slugger was dealt to the Marlins yesterday.

• Many fans have been disappointed with The Amazing Spider-Man, while others think it is excellent.

• ESPN SEC blogger Chris Low presents an all-league team from the BCS era.

• Check out this young Tigers’ fan catching an Austin Jackson home run.

• Boston’s David Ortiz hit career home run No. 400 yesterday, but the Red Sox were swept in Oakland.

• The NFL Player’s Association has sued the league on behalf of Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita regarding the Saints’ bounty scandal.

• New Arkansas coach John L. Smith is reportedly declaring bankruptcy.

San Diego was supposed to have the usual, big-city fireworks display on July 4th. These shows usually last 15-20 minutes, unless you have technical issues and set off all of the fireworks at once. Premature pyrotechnics — it could happen to any city. Here’s the 30-second display:

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 4               

We hope that everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July. Our Video of the Day shows the famous play by former MLB outfielder Rick Monday, who saved an American flag from being burned in 1976 at Dodger Stadium.


July 3

• Saints quarterback Drew Brees won his grievance regarding the team’s use of the franchise tag.

• Acting legend Andy Griffith passed away today at the age of 86. His incredible television and cinematic career is well documented, but some of his early comedy work like “What it was was football” is priceless.

• When will Dodgers superstar Matt Kemp return to the lineup?

• Check out this brilliant Haiku from a fourth grader.

• ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich has the latest on the league’s new agreement with the Orange Bowl.

• Joe Fortenbaugh examines other purchases that Pacman Jones could have made instead of blowing a million dollars in a weekend.

• Anyone in Michigan getting married soon? You can have a bigger wedding venue than any of your friends.

• CBS’ Matt Norlander looks at the role of seniors in college basketball.

• I know it’s a popular leisure game, but is anyone else a little hesitant on the “Alabama Cornhole Cup?”

• What is the Atlanta Hawks plan with shedding so much salary?

NFL Rookie of the Year Cam Newton recently hosted a prep skills challenge at the IMG Academies in Florida. The Panthers superstar fires up the high school prospects when he loses a bet.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 2

• MLB insider Ken Rosenthal looks at this year’s All-Star Game snubs.

• College football fans or just men in general, Erin Andrews is leaving ESPN for FOX.

• From his Twitter account, it looks like Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was Joe Dirt in grade school.

• Tiger Woods won his own tournament, the AT&T National, at Congressional. Is he the British Open favorite?

• Ever caught a 70-pound catfish, with your hands?

• Check out the Urkel-like mug shot of Marcus Jordan, son of you know who. Wonder when the nerdy glasses trend will end?

• The Dwight Howard saga continues in Orlando.

• NBA No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis has already suffered a sprained ankle.

• Former Mississippi State hoopster Rodney Hood is transferring to Duke.

• Missouri and Texas A&M are now officially members of the SEC. How will they compete in 2012?

• Anything with LSU coach Les Miles is pretty damn entertaining. And his new EA Sports NCAA Football 2013 commercial with Mike the Tiger is awesome.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 12:25
Path: /nfl/worst-10-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also own the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards in against the L.A. Rams in 1979. The Tampa Bay Bucs set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack there of) is a huge factor in mearuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)
Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)
Offense (total, scoring): 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)
Defense (total, scoring): 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)

No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-games), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four total interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.

2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)
Point Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)
Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)
Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)

This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TD and 6 INT. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INT and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13) and 30th in team sacks (25.0). Steven Jackson was the lone bright spot on a team that one only once — against Detroit. The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.

3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)
Point Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)
Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)
Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)

While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. While the Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but Detroit scored nearly 100 more points over the course of the year and won twice as many games (over Washington and Cleveland). This Lions team also finished dead last in turover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matt Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost. 

4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)
Point Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)
Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)
Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)

This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning its only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes, 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-year, one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.

5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)
Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)
Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)

The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 18 offensive touchdowns all season (11 pass, 8 rush). In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.

6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -214 (193, 407)
Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)
Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)

There is a reason that Jeff Fisher is beginning his first season at the reins of the Rams organization in 2012. And again, if not for the 2008 and 2009 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2% completion percentage. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own. The 28.1% third-down rate was the worst ratio in the NFL as well.

7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 17-year history of the franchise but was also the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4%) and 25th in turnover margin. That said, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball as well.

8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a torrid 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing with only two starts all year (645 yards).

9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Potential Differential: -193 (259, 452)
Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)
Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)
 
Two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. San Francisco was 0-14-2 in regulation. The Niners were 30th in the NFL points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing for 16 touchdowns against 21 interceptions and completing only 57.9% of their passes. The ground game was led by the great Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 822 yards at 3.4 yards per clip. The Niners finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 (453) and 193-point difference was a organizational record.

10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)
Potential Differential: -171 (260, 431)
Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)
Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league worst 76.0 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68.0. The franshise has only been around for 11 years, but this group set the benchmark for fewest wins, points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.

The...Worst of the Rest?

2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)
The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76.0. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.

2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)
The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and turnover margin (-16) last year. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a Buccaneers franchise record).

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4%) and dead last in sacks (10.0). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are a Chiefs single-season record.

2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)
The Black and Silver defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, it finished dead last in sacks allowed (72.0), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> The Worst 10 NFL Teams Since Expansion</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the ACC's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. Clemson – The Tigers had high expectations for Sammy Watkins last year, and the freshman didn’t disappoint. He quickly emerged as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. An off-the-field arrest in May has clouded Watkins’ status for the season opener, but he is not expected to miss more than one or two games. The sophomore isn’t the only returning weapon for Tajh Boyd, as DeAndre Hopkins is back after snagging 72 balls last year. Jaron Brown, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries will fill out the rest of the receiving corps. Senior Brandon Ford is expected to step in for Dwayne Allen at tight end. He caught 14 passes for 166 yards and two scores last year.

2. Florida State – The Seminoles don’t have the All-American that Clemson has in Sammy Watkins, but there’s a lot to like about this group in 2012. Rashad Greene caught 38 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman last year and should be in contention for first-team All-ACC honors in 2012. Rodney Smith is back after ranking second on the team with 561 receiving yards last season, while Willie Haulstead returns after missing all of 2011 due to a concussion. Adding to depth will be junior Kenny Shaw, sophomore Christian Green and a breakout candidate in redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin. Nick O’Leary is an emerging threat at tight end and should easily improve upon his totals from last year (12 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown).

3. Virginia Tech – Despite the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the Hokies are still in great shape at receiver. D.J. Coles is back after ranking third on the team with 36 receptions and 480 yards last year. Senior Marcus Davis averaged 17 yards per reception in 2011 and should contend for All-ACC honors in 2012. This group will get a boost with the return of Dyrell Roberts. He missed nearly all of last year with an arm injury but has 63 career catches for 965 yards and five scores. A player to watch will be incoming freshman Joel Caleb. He ranked as the No. 95 recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and should push for playing time.

4. Duke – Conner Vernon hasn’t received much national recognition, but he is on the verge of finishing his career as one of the ACC’s most prolific receivers. He ranks seventh in career receptions and needs 35 to pass Aaron Kelly (Clemson) for the No. 1 spot. Vernon ranks 16th in conference history with 2,675 yards and needs 843 in 2012 to pass Peter Warrick (Florida State) for first place. Donovan Varner and tight end Cooper Helfet have expired their eligibility, and the Blue Devils need sophomore Jamison Crowder or freshman Nick Hill to help take the pressure off of Vernon. Replacing Helfet at tight end is expected to be Issac Blakeney or Braxton Deaver.

5. North Carolina – In order to make new coach Larry Fedora’s spread attack work, the Tar Heels will need some players to step up at receiver. Senior Erik Highsmith is the first choice to replace Dwight Jones as the No. 1 target. Highsmith grabbed 51 receptions for 726 yards and five scores last year and should see his numbers increase in 2012. Sophomore T.J. Thorpe is ready for an increased role in the offense, while seniors Todd Harrelson and Jheranie Boyd have one more shot to make an impact. Sophomores Sean Tapley and Reggie Wilkins will battle for snaps, but incoming freshman Quinshad Davis could crack the receiver rotation in the fall. Eric Ebron appears to be the likely starter at tight end.

6. NC State – The concern over losing tight end George Bryan and speedy receiver T.J. Graham is lessened somewhat by the return of quarterback Mike Glennon. The senior was solid in his first year as the starter, throwing for 3,054 yards and 31 scores. Running back James Washington is the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 42 passes last year. Tobais Palmer will likely be the new No. 1 target for Glennon and he grabbed 37 receptions for 496 yards in 2011. Bryan Underwood flashed potential as a freshman last year by nabbing 16 receptions for 226 yards. This group will be counting on juniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton to fill the No. 3 and No. 4 roles, while Mario Carter and Asa Watson will battle to replace Bryan as the starting tight end.

7. Maryland – This group wasn’t a strength last year, but the Terrapins also dealt with inconsistency at quarterback and a change in offensive scheme. There’s a new coordinator once again in 2012, but there’s hope for the offense to turn things around. Three of the top four players at the top of Maryland’s catch total from last season are back, and there’s a lot of potential surrounding freshman Stefon Diggs. Kevin Dorsey, Kerry Boykins and Diggs will likely round out the starting receiving corps, while Devin Burns, Marcus Leak and Nigel King are in the mix for snaps. With the struggles of Maryland’s passing attack last year, tight end Matt Furstenburg went largely unnoticed. The senior could be the best in the ACC at his position in 2012.

8. Miami – In addition to the question marks surrounding the quarterback position, the Hurricanes suffered some significant losses at this position. Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin combined for 87 receptions and 1,420 yards last year but both are catching passes in the NFL this summer. Allen Hurns is Miami’s top returning receiver (31 catches) and will have to take on a bigger role in 2012. Phillip Dorsett grabbed 14 receptions as a freshman last year and will be in the mix to start this season. Sophomore Rashawn Scott and senior Kendal Thompkins will have to hold off a charge for playing time from incoming freshmen Angelo Jean-Louis, Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart. Clive Walford had a solid freshman campaign – catching 18 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown – and is expected to increase his numbers in 2012.

9. Virginia – There’s no question the Cavaliers are back on track after winning eight games last season. However, to take the next step and win the ACC title, the passing attack has to get better. Quarterback Michael Rocco settled into the job last year and another offseason to work as the starter will help Virginia’s offense. This unit will miss Kris Burd, but junior Tim Smith is an emerging weapon after averaging 17.1 yards per catch in 2011. Darius Jennings turned in a solid freshman campaign, catching 20 passes for 239 yards and a score. Sophomores Dominique Terrell, E.J. Scott and Miles Gooch will compete for time, while tight end is in good shape with Colter Phillips and Jake McGee returning.

10. Wake Forest – Chris Givens emerged as one of the ACC’s top receivers last year but decided to leave a year early for the NFL Draft. Without Givens, the Demon Deacons are counting on Michael Campanaro to have another big season in 2012. He caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns last year and will be the No. 1 target for quarterback Tanner Price. After Campanaro is where Wake Forest needs playmakers to emerge. Senior Terence Davis caught 20 passes for 269 yards and five scores last season but must have a bigger impact in 2012. Junior Quan Rucker, sophomore Brandon Terry and freshmen Airyn Willis and Sherman Ragland will provide depth, while tight end is an area of concern with very little experience returning.

11. Boston College – The Eagles ranked a disappointing 11th in the ACC in passing offense last year, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2012. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of improving New Mexico State’s offense last season, and this group returns quarterback Chase Rettig and the top four statistical receivers from 2011. Rettig is a work in progress, but he needs more help from this group. Bobby Swigert led the team with 44 receptions for 470 yards, while Colin Larmond averaged 15.5 yards per catch. Swigert, Larmond and tight end Chris Pantale are a nice trio to build around, but Boston College needs more big-play ability from the rest of the group.

12. Georgia Tech – Considering the Yellow Jackets averaged 12.8 passing attempts per game last season, possessing an elite receiving corps isn’t essential to make the option offense work. However, this unit was hit hard with the early departure of standout Stephen Hill to the NFL, while Tyler Melton finished his eligibility. With those two players departing, Georgia Tech has no receivers returning with any career receptions. Sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller need a big season as the likely starters, while senior Chris Jackson and junior Jeremy Moore will push for snaps. The Yellow Jackets won’t need an All-ACC standout, but a receiver or two needs to emerge as a downfield threat to keep defenses honest. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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ACC 2012 Heisman Contenders

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Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big Ten's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Nebraska —In what could be considered the weakest position in the Big Ten, the Huskers claim the top slot almost by default — and upside. Kenny Bell led the team in catches and yards as only a freshman, becoming only the second player to do so at Nebraska. He is explosive and dynamic enough to be used in a variety of ways and has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Fellow sophomore Jamal Turner has loads of ability and dynamic potential, but needs to work on being more physical and consistent. Seniors Quincy Enunwa and Tim Marlowe offer veteran experience and both do all of the little things coach Rich Fisher wants from his wideouts. Expect to see Taariq Allen and Tyler Evans receive plenty of time as well. Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed form one of the best tight end duos in the nation. Reed has rare physical talents that need to be utilized by Nebraska and quarterback Taylor Martinez more.

2. Northwestern – The words “absolutely loaded” aren’t used to often in Athlon Sports preview magazines when talking about the Wildcats, but Pat Fitzgerald has more talent at the position than maybe any Northwestern team in history. And this, despite losing Jeremy Ebert to graduation and Kain Colter to the quarterback position. Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones can be special players, and the duo will dominate the slot in Evanston. Speedy Tony Jones returns after missing all of last year with an injury, and Rashad Lawrence is looking to bounce back after a sluggish sophomore season. Without tight end Drake Dunsmore and boasting a a six- or seven-man rotation, expect to see the Cats in plenty of four- and five-wide receiver sets. Juniors Mike Jensen and Drew Moulton and freshmen Pierre Youngblood-Ary and Cameron Dickerson will be waiting in the wings.

3. Wisconsin — While he may not be the most talented or explosive player, Jared Abbrederis is likely the top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He is extremely dependable, leads by example and rarely makes mistakes, and he also is a big-play threat in the punt return game. He could easily lead the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2012. Behind him, however, there is little proven depth. Jeff Duckworth will start opposite Abbrederis, while Manasseh Garner and Kenzel Doe are the only other returning wideouts who caught a pass last year (two each). Isaiah Williams and Marquis Mason could work their way into the starting rotation as well. That said, in a system known for its tight end use and running game, fans can expect to see Abbrederis on the receiving end of most of Danny O’Brien's passes. Speaking of tight ends, Jacob Pedersen is the next great player in a long line of UW TEs. He caught eight touchdowns as a sophomore and will be more of a target this fall. Pedersen is the complete package at tight end.

4. Iowa — Marvin McNutt would overshadow nearly anyone who has played in a Hawkeye uniform having  departed Iowa City as the school’s all-time leading receiver in a variety of categories. However, it appears that Keenan Davis is poised to deliver on his immense talent this fall. He will need to continue to step up his game as he is now the No. 1 option. Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley played in all 13 games as a freshman and will likely be asked to do more this season. Steven Staggs and Jordan Cotton give the two-deep an experienced feel. The development of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a game-changer for this offense if he can live up to his lofty recruiting status. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis says “in 39 springs, I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and stretch the field.” With the top pure passer in the Big Ten under center, Iowa should feel pretty comfortable with its plethora of emerging talent.

5. Ohio State — The leading receiver for the Buckeyes caught only 14 passes last year, but the potential and growth (and overall lack of elite options in the league) give OSU the No. 5 group in the Big Ten. Jake Stoneburner exploded at the start of last year, but went missing after Braxton Miller took over. Expect Urban Meyer to work the talented tight end into the gameplan on a more regular basis this fall. Fellow tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will play plenty of snaps as well. On the outside, there is a jumbled mix of undeveloped potential and muddled depth charts. Devin Smith led the team in all three major categories as only a freshman and should be better while juniors Philly Brown and Chris Fields need to turn into leaders. True freshman Mike Thomas, at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, might be the wild card after performing extremely well in spring football. A big-bodied down-the-field threat is what this offense is missing and Thomas could be that for Meyer.

6. Michigan — Roy Roundtree is a bizarre case study. He was an All-Big Ten performer as a sophomore (72 rec., 935 yards), but plummeted back to Earth last fall, (19 rec., 355 yards) while Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon took on bigger roles. Gallon is back opposite Roundtree and offers intriguing play-making skill. Yet, it is Roundtree that could push this unit into the Big Ten’s top tier of pass-catchers. Sophomore Jerald Robinson is a big body that Brady Hoke wants to get involved in the vertical passing game and Jeremy Jackson will get plenty of looks as well. Brandon Moore and Ricardo Miller will take over for the departed Kevin Koger at tight end.

7. Purdue — Junior O.J. Ross and senior Antavian Edison are about as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the Big Ten this fall. The two combined for 77 catches, over 900 yards and three touchdowns with a revolving door at quarterback all season. The trouble for Purdue is depth. Gary Bush, Tommie Thomas, Raheem Mostert and Shane Mikesky need to step into bigger roles this fall. Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes do offer some dependability and upside at the tight end position.

8. Michigan State — This is going to be a huge rebuilding project for Mark Dantonio after losing B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin to the NFL. Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler have loads of talent, but need to develop into consistent playmakers on the outside. Keith Mumphrey and Andre Sims Jr. also provide plenty of upside. Although there is some potential with the returning receivers, the addition of former Tennessee Vol DeAnthony Arnett to the unit has to make Spartans fans more comfortable with their receiving corps. No returning receiver caught more than four passes last year while Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., posted 24 catches, 242 yards and two scores as a true freshman last year for Tennessee. He almost instantly becomes the most experienced and talented option on the roster. Dion Sims is now an upperclassman and is poised for his best season at tight end. Look for this group to develop quickly and rapidly move up these rankings.

9. Penn State — Only one player returns to the wide receiving corps with at least five catches last season. Devon Smith was expected to start, but he left the team in late June. Justin Brown, who has been a complementary piece, will need to step up and be the deep threat that Derek Moye was, while also emerging as a leader with very little experience around him. Shawney Kersey, Alex Kenney, Allen Robinson and Christian Kuntz will all get a chance to start as well. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien plans to refocus on the tight end position — a la his former employer, the New England Patriots. Junior Garry Gilliam might have the most talent, but he needs to stay on the field after dealing with injury issues, while Kevin Haplea boasts the most experience. Now, if someone could just get them the football.

10. Indiana — Converted quarterback Kofi Hughes may not have the elite game-changing ability Kevin Wilson is looking for, but he will likely be the best IU receiver. He built a tremendous rapport with freshman signal caller Tre Roberson, as his eight-catch, 147-yard performance against Ohio State indicates. He can also be used in unique ways with his ability to run and throw the football from the wideout position. Duwyce Wilson might be the most gifted player on the two-deep, but he has to prove he is healthy after missing spring with a knee issue. Expect Cody Lattimore, Jay McCants and Jamonne Chester to figure prominently into the mix as well. Tight end Ted Bolser can expect the biggest boost from new coordinator Seth Littrell, as the pro-style attack will feature the tight end more prominently.

11. Illinois — Replacing A.J. Jenkins will be a tall order for new head coach Tim Beckman. Spencer Harris is a junior who posted 26 catches a year ago. Darius Millines is also an upperclassman who had 19 receptions last fall, while sophomore tight end Jon Davis posted 22 receptions as a freshman a year ago. These three should be Nathan Scheelhaase’s top targets. The most intriguing development, however, could be the usage of cornerback Terry Hawthorne. The coverman was a star pass-catcher in high school and could be used on both sides of the ball. His raw play-making ability might be too much to keep him out of the offensive gameplan. Ryan Lankford should also see a big role, as a host of talented but unproven underclassmen fill the two-deep.

12. Minnesota — Only one returning receiver has caught a touchdown on this roster - senior Brandon Green. Speed demon Marcus Jones will control the slot but has to stay healthy after dealing with a torn knee ligament a season ago. Former junior college transfer Malcolm Moulton can make plays, but he has to be more consistent while Devin Crawford-Tufts also needs to continue his development in a big way. Freshman Andre McDonald could be a wild card at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, while John Rabe and Drew Goodger are expected to get the reps at tight end. Quarterback MarQueis Gray is a senior and should have his best year, but Minnesota needs players to step up around him for the Gophers to improve in 2012.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

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Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/kansas-football-will-charlie-weis-second-chance-equal-success
Body:

It didn’t matter that spring practice was just a month away or that the business of rebuilding a team coming off a 2–10 season never closed. Charlie Weis wanted to get home for the game.

The basketball game.

Just days earlier, Kansas’ hoop squad had claimed a highly charged 87–86 win over third-ranked Missouri. Now, two days later, the Jayhawks had traveled to Stillwater for a matchup with Oklahoma State. It’s not like the Pokes were a big threat on paper; in fact, they had a losing record. But after such a draining triumph, a letdown was almost inevitable. Weis wanted to see how KU would respond.

“I love the hoops team,” Weis says. “I got home to see the basketball game, because I wanted to see how (Kansas coach Bill) Self would handle the emotional letdown after a huge win Saturday.”

The Jayhawks were just fine. They earned a 70–58 win over OSU, clinching the Big 12 regular-season championship. From his perch at home, Weis — the new Kansas football coach — had a chance to watch Self at work and see just how far his own program had to go to match its more celebrated hardwood counterpart.

That Weis has taken over in Lawrence is both interesting and surprising. His arrival at Kansas has to stun many who believed that the coach’s inability to make good on his early assurances that he would turn Notre Dame into a national champion contender disqualified him from another BCS job, especially so soon after leaving South Bend (after the 2009 season). It fascinates those who wonder whether this NFL offensive wizard can author a strong second act away from the intense scrutiny he faced while directing the Irish.

Weis certainly didn’t choose a situation that will provide an easy rehabilitation for his reputation. The Jayhawks didn’t simply post a horrible record last year; they were disorganized and undisciplined. Even the players know that.

“For the most part, it was a lot of little things, small discipline things, that can over time grow into larger things,” says senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. “The small things turned into big losses,” adds senior defensive end Toben Opurum.

So, not only must Weis upgrade the team’s talent, find a way to shore up a defense that surrendered 43.8 points per game and improve the team’s passing attack, but he must also tighten up the focus and commitment of his players.

The last task was the first he tackled, and he went about it from two angles. First, he hired Scott Holsopple from Florida to be his strength and conditioning coach. (Weis was the Gators’ offensive coordinator last year.) Secondly, he put more pressure on the players to perform in the classroom by installing himself as the academic liaison for the program.

“I interviewed every kid on the team (one March) Saturday morning, and 90 percent of them said the biggest two differences for them were how much improvement they gained in strength and conditioning and how much more accountability they have academically,” Weis says.

Weis considers himself a “loving father” to his players, and that image seems to be at odds with the personality he displayed at Notre Dame, when he was often caustic and arrogant to those outside the program. To his credit, Weis seems to have toned down the offensive genius shtick somewhat and is focused more on producing a winning team than on polishing his national image.

To that end, he was extremely active in the personnel department during his first few months on the job. He began with the quarterback position, which last year featured Jordan Webb, who completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,824 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 picks. Webb wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t a good fit for Weis’ pro-style offense and has since transferred to Colorado. In his place, Weis will likely insert former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who left South Bend after an injury-marred career to play for the man who recruited him to ND. If Crist, who suffered two serious knee injuries while with the Irish, can’t go, Weis will turn to Turner Baty, who led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national title. Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, once the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback, has transferred to Lawrence and will be eligible in 2013.

“If you look at our recruiting class of Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Turner Baty, how can anybody in the country have a better recruiting class than that at quarterback?” Weis says, making a pretty good point.

Under center isn’t the only place on the field you’ll find some experienced newcomers in 2012. Weis brought in a total of nine junior college players, and even signed one — offensive lineman Aslam Sterling — on March 12. Unlike at Notre Dame, which did not allow junior college transfers, Kansas is quite amenable to their arrival, and Weis is delighted to be bringing in a class that has some older hands.

“You can turn around a program like this faster when you can blend a mixture of high school kids and junior college kids and other factors, like fifth-year kids who have already graduated (like Crist),” Weis says. “A lot of these kids are ready to play now.”

Weis makes no secret that he is using rival Kansas State as a template for his program. When Bill Snyder began his second stint in Manhattan in 2009, he faced a similar situation: The team was undisciplined and lacked talent. By the next season, Snyder had the Wildcats in a bowl game, and last season, KSU was 10–2 during the regular season. Snyder’s formula included plenty of transfers.

But junior college imports can backfire on coaches, and Weis has to be careful that his desire for quick success doesn’t create trouble down the road. Kansas football fans may not be as demanding as those who grew tired of Weis in South Bend, but if the Jayhawks don’t show progress, it will be hard to justify keeping him.

“When you come to do a rebuild at a school like Kansas, it’s somewhat helpful that he ­didn’t have all 10- and 11-win seasons,” says KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who describes Weis as having a “great work ethic” and a “great football mind.”

“That sounds like a justification, but he knows how to coach a 6–6 team and a 9–3 team. As you rebound, you’re going to have 6–6 seasons before 9–3 seasons.”

At this point, 6–6 sounds pretty good in Lawrence. Not for the basketball team, but for Weis


This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual.
 

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College Football Conference Realignment Winners and Losers

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Teaser:
<p> Kansas Football: Will Charlie Weis' Second Chance Equal Success?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-acc
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for ACC in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason ACC All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

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

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

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

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

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

Starters

QB—Tajh Boyd, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passed for 3,828 yards and 33 TDs, rushed for 218 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

QB—Logan Thomas, Jr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 3,013 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 469 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ North Carolina, Duke, @ Clemson

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia

 

RB—Giovani Bernard, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 TDs, 45 receptions for 362 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Georgia Tech, @ Virginia, Maryland

 

RB—Andre Ellington, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs, 22 receptions for 109 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

RB—Josh Harris, Jr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  Rushed for 432 yards and 3 TDs. 

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NC St, @ Notre Dame, Vanderbilt

 

WR—Sammy Watkins, So. (Clemson)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs, 231 rushing yards, 1 KRTD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

WR—DeAndre Hopkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  72 receptions for 978 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

WR—Rashad Greene, So. (Florida State)

Last season:  38 receptions for 596 yards and 7 TDs.  Missed four games due to injury.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida

 

TE—Brandon Ford, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

FLEX—Michael Holmes, Fr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Austin Peay, @ Pitt, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia

 

K—Chandler Catanzaro, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

DEF/ST—Florida State Seminoles

Last season:  No. 2 rushing defense, No. 4 scoring defense, total defense

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Bryn Renner, Jr. (North Carolina)

RB—Perry Jones, Sr. (Virginia)

RB—Orwin Smith, Sr. (Georgia Tech)

WR—Erik Highsmith, Sr. (North Carolina)

WR—Michael Campanaro, Jr. (Wake Forest)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the ACC</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 02:19
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-daytona
Body:

Here's hoping all the NASCAR fantasy players out there had a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday. After a week of firework displays around this great nation, the grand finale will come Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 — let's just keep Juan Pablo Montoya away from any jet dryers, OK?

In all seriousness, this weekend's annual July stop at the beach is one in which drivers are racing with multiple agendas on one of the sport's biggest stages. Each time the series heads to Daytona, nearly anyone in the field has a shot at upsetting the world — or at least scoring a solid finish at a crucial part of the season.

With only nine races left before the Chase field is set, the battle for the wild card spots and the fight for the top 10 in the standings is intensifying.

Perhaps one of the biggest names currently outside the top 10 in points looking to score his first win of the season this is Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards. Last year's runner-up in the championship battle has yet to win in 2012, and currently sits 11th in points.

Edwards had a deceptively strong run going in Kentucky, but a late pit stop for fuel dropped the No. 99 Ford to a 20th-place finish at the end of the night. The finish was Edwards' fifth-straight outside the top 10. To find Edwards' last top-5 finish, you would have to go back to Fontana in March. Edwards did not lead a single lap of competition until Kansas, when he led one, then backed it up at Richmond by leading 206 of the 400 laps. Since then, Edwards has led a grand total of zero.

However, things have been shaken up of late at RFR. Daytona 500 champion and current points leader Matt Kenseth will be leaving the organization at the end of the season with Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moving up to the Cup ranks as his replacement. With a multitude of sponsorship support behind him and many beginning to ask questions, Edwards is determined to turn his season around at the halfway point.

The driver of the No. 99 has been among the best on the high banks of Daytona in recent visits. He was runner-up to Trevor Bayne in last year's Daytona 500. He entered last year's Coke Zero 400 the points leader, but was turned around while running third early in the race by teammate Greg Biffle, leading to a 37th-place finish. This season, Edwards sat on the pole for the 500 and came home eighth. And if there’s one thing that’s obvious in the Ford camp, it’s that their engineers have figured out how to keep the Blue Ovals running cooler — a major advantage on the plate tracks, circa 2012.

Looking to race his way back into the top 10 in points, earn his first win of the season and turn his year around, Edwards is this week's fantasy favorite.

While Edwards may be the fantasy favorite, the perennial fan favorite is Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has two wins on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, one of which came in the Coke Zero 400 on July 7, 2001. With Saturday night's race coming on July 7 once again, could seven be the lucky number for Earnhardt?

Although he is always counted among the best at Daytona — he finished second to Kenseth in February — Earnhardt's last win on the high banks was in 2004. With one victory already this season, the No. 88 team is eager to add to the win column and start collecting bonus points for the Chase.

Whether or not drivers are willing to admit it, momentum is a hard thing to beat, and right now Brad Keselowski has a lot of it. Coming off a strong performance last week in Kentucky, Keselowski’s three wins lead the circuit. He’s good on all types of tracks (with wins on short, plate and intermediate venues), making him a must-watch.

Based on their recent finishes at Daytona, never count out Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Biffle. Kenseth was second in this race last season and won his second Daytona 500 in February, while Biffle was third. The Roush cars are typically strong here, with former driver David Ragan besting Kenseth last July.

Five Favorites: Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle

Like Keselowski, Sonoma race-winner Clint Bowyer proved he can get the job done on any style track — but especially on the high banks of Daytona and Talladega. His average finish of 14.8 at DIS is second-best among active drivers, however Bowyer has yet to score a win at Daytona.

Also like Keselowski, Bowyer has momentum on his side as the series hits the halfway point of the season. A winner two weeks ago on the road course, Bowyer is seventh in the standings and has only two finishes worse than 17th all season (a 30th, Phoenix; 36th, Kansas).

The month of July has historically been good to Bowyer in the past. Of the three tracks the series hits this month — Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis — Bowyer has two wins, a pole, six top 5s and 12 top 10s. Expect him to add to those totals on Saturday.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkorses for your Fantasy NASCAR team as the series heads to Dayttona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 15:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-july-5
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

First-Half Fantasy All-Stars
The 83rd Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place in Kansas City next Tuesday, which means after Sunday’s games, everyone will take a four-day break. So as we get ready to take a slight respite from the action on the fantasy diamond, we wanted to present our first-half fantasy all-stars.

As you will see, many of our picks will not be at the midsummer classic next week. The reason for that has nothing to do with San Francisco Giants or any other team’s fans stuffing the ballot boxes either. After all, when it comes to a fantasy all-star, it’s about production and value, or in this case, ADP (Average Draft Position).

For example, Miguel Cabrera is the No. 1 first baseman (and third baseman for that matter) right now in fantasy baseball in terms of statistical production. However, that’s no real surprise, considering he was drafted in the first round and in many cases, was the first player taken overall. So without further ado, here are Athlon Sports’ first-half Fantasy All-Stars:

Note: ADP values listed are according to Yahoo!
UD = Undrafted

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP 199.5)
With apologies to Yadier Molina, Ruiz gets the nod behind the plate because of his consistent offensive production throughout the first half, not to mention he was 13th catcher drafted in terms of ADP. Ruiz, who was previously best known for being Roy Halladay’s personal catcher, is currently second in the both the National League and majors in hitting with a .357 average. That’s nearly 100 points higher than the career .265 batting average he carried entering 2012. On top of the high average, Ruiz is second among all catcher-eligible players in both runs (40) and RBI (48) and has already hit 13 home runs. His career high before this season was nine.
Honorable Mention: Molina, St. Louis Cardinals; A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

First Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (197.4)
This was a close race between Encarnacion and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo, but the Blue Jay gets it in the end because of slightly better run production and a slightly higher ADP. It also doesn’t hurt Encarnacion’s case that he’s a current Top 10 player overall, thanks to a solid .298-22-56 line, along with 52 runs scored and eight stolen bases. That overall production puts him right up there with Toronto teammate Jose Bautista, whose ADP was more than 190 spots higher at 5.3. This means that Encarnacion, who on average went in the 18th round, is putting up roughly the same numbers are Bautista, who went in the first round. Besides, I have a feeling that you will see Trumbo’s name again.
Honorable Mention: Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Second Base: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (UD)
Several candidates to choose from here, but Plouffe gets the nod over Aaron Hill and Jose Altuve for two main reasons. First, because he’s second only to Robinson Cano in home runs for second-base eligible players and second, because he went undrafted. Plouffe has come out of nowhere to mash 19 home runs in just 212 at-bats. He’s not going to hit for average (.250), but if you were lucky enough to pick Plouffe off of your waiver wire (and you still may be able to as he’s owned in just 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues), you will gladly take the production in the other categories, especially the home runs. It also doesn’t hurt that Plouffe carries eligibility at shortstop, third base and in the outfield too.
Honorable Mention: Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks; Altuve, Houston Astros

Third Base: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (192.6)
Ta-da! Didn’t I say you would see Trumbo’s name elsewhere? Both Trumbo and Encarnacion are first- and third-base eligible (Trumbo also has OF eligibility), so it’s only fitting that these two share the corner infield spots on our fantasy all-star squad. Trumbo has been moved all over the diamond – 1B, 3B, LF, RF – by Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, while also logging some time at DH so he can keep his bat in the lineup. And while he’s spent the most time in the outfield, he gets the nod here at third base, where he’s arguably the most valuable to his fantasy owner. Trumbo is currently hitting .310, which is more than 60 points higher than his career batting average (.249) entering this season, but when it comes to Trumbo the average is gravy. The run production is what you are hoping for, and in the first half, he hasn’t disappointed as he’s already hit 20 home runs and driven in 55, and thrown in four stolen bases for good measure.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins, Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (223.0)
Plouffe could lay claim to this spot as well, but in order to spread the accolades around, we’ll go with Desmond here. Besides, it’s not like Desmond’s a slouch in the power department himself. He’s already hit 14 home runs, which ties him for second with the aforementioned Lowrie for the second place among shortstop-eligible players. But Desmond’s value goes beyond his power, as he’s second only to Kyle Seager in RBI (47) and has scored 43 runs to go along with eight stolen bases. Put it all together and it’s a nice package considering Desmond was the 18th player selected at his position in terms of ADP.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins; Seager, Seattle Mariners

Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (245.3)
Oh to be 20 years old and a top-15 fantasy player. That’s what Trout is, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t even play his first game of the season until the end of April. All he’s doing is leading the American League in both batting average (.343) and stolen bases (23), while scoring 52 runs and adding 10 home runs and 36 RBI. The main reason his ADP was so low is no one was sure when he would be back in the big leagues. The only question now is how high will he go next year?

Outfield: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (105.8)
Entering this season, no one was really sure what to expect from the 35-year-old Beltran, who was joining a Cardinals line up that wouldn’t include Albert Pujols. Well halfway through the season, the answer so far is a top-five outfielder. Beltran leads the NL in RBI with 63 and is second to Ryan Braun in home runs with 20. He’s batting .304 and has added eight stolen bases. Not bad for someone who was taking on average in the 10th round.

Outfield: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (222.4)
Rios gets the nod for the last outfield spot over Melky Cabrera and some others because he was pretty much an afterthought following his .227-13-44 2011 campaign. He’s already driven in more runs (45) in just 79 games so far this season, to go along with 11 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a .317 average. He has gone from a guy who was taken on average in the 20th round to a top-15 fantasy outfielder.
Honorable Mention: Cabrera, San Francisco Giants; Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox; Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s; Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

For both SP and RP we will pick one fantasy all-star from each league.

AL SP: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (202.9)
Sale has established himself as one of the most dominating starters in all of baseball despite the fact that earlier this season the White Sox temporarily moved him back to the bullpen. The left-hander is second in the AL in wins (10), ERA (2.19) and WHIP (0.95), while striking out 98 in 102 2/3 innings. The only concern with Sale in the second half has to do with workload. He’s already pitched more innings this season than the past two combined (94 1/3). Don’t be surprised if the White Sox limit his starts the rest of the way, especially should they drop out of the playoff race.
Honorable Mention: Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox; Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles; Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers; Jarrod Parker, Oakland A’s

NL SP: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets (251.2)
Is there any real debate here? Dickey leads the majors with 12 wins, while leading the NL in WHIP (0.88) and complete games (three). He’s also third in the NL in ERA (2.15) and second in strikeouts (116), which is very impressive considering he’s a knuckleballer. He’s the clear-cut favorite for the NL Cy Young Award at this point, should get the start for the NL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and on average he was drafted in the 23rd round. Any questions?
Honorable Mention: James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates; Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks; Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals

AL RP: Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels (UD)
Relief pitchers are a little tricky because not all leagues treat them the same, so with apologies to Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney, who are currently No. 1 and 2 in saves in the AL, my vote goes to Frieri. A situational guy in San Diego, Frieri has made the most of his change of scenery as he has seized the Angels’ closer job by the throat. He only has 10 saves so far, but don’t let that one category take away from his overall body of work. Besides a win and seven holds, he’s also struck out 60 in just 36 innings and has a 0.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That sort of production should play in any league, regardless of format.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Cook, Oakland A’s; Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners, Johnson, Baltimore Orioles; Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

NL RP: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (218.2)
He’s hit a bit of a rough patch here lately, but that shouldn’t take away from his impressive first-half performance. Chapman has made the transition from set-up man to closer for the Reds, and has been flat-out unhittable for extended stretches in both roles. Overall he’s put together four wins, nine saves and six holds and has struck out a remarkable 66 in just 37 1/3 innings. His ERA stands at 1.93 and his WHIP is a miniscule 0.78.
Honorable Mention: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals; Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*The Rangers announced earlier this week that Yu Darvish would not make his final scheduled start of the first half. The team said there is nothing wrong with the 25-year-old right-hander, they are just skipping his spot in the rotation to give him some extra rest with the All-Star break on the horizon. Rookie left-hander Martin Perez will take his place and face Minnesota on Friday.

*Ryan Dempster could be activated from the DL on Sunday to start the Cubs’ first-half finale in New York against the Mets. Dempster has been on the DL since June 18 with a sore right latissimus dorsi muscle and wasn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. However, his bullpen sessions have gone well and he’s hopeful that the team will let him take the mound on Sunday. Even if he does go on Sunday, expect the right-hander to be on a strict pitch count.

*Andre Ethier was placed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a left oblique injury. The move was made retroactive to June 28 and was done after the Dodgers initially thought it would not be necessary. Ethier has not played in a game since June 27 when he sustained the injury on a check swing against the Giants. The Dodgers are hoping to get both Ethier and Matt Kemp (hamstring) back in the lineup shortly after the All-Star break.

*In other Dodgers injury news, shortstop Dee Gordon suffered a dislocated right thumb in the eighth inning of their 4-1 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Gordon did not return to the game and was scheduled to have an MRI today. It’s not known if he will be able to return to the lineup right away not.

*After getting shelled (6 ER on 9 H in 4 1/3 innings) in his last start on Tuesday in Cleveland, Dan Haren disclosed that he has been dealing with back pain most of the season. The Angels’ right-hander was scheduled to undergo testing on Thursday to find out more and as of right now, it’s unknown whether he will make his next scheduled start, on Sunday at home against Baltimore, or not.

*The Rangers also are expected to activate left-hander Derek Holland from the DL on Saturday to face the Twins. Holland went on the DL in early June due to a stomach ailment and shoulder fatigue.

*Dustin Pedroia was held out of the Red Sox lineup on Wednesday because of soreness in his right thumb. The Boston second basemen has been dealing with the thumb for several weeks now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He is scheduled to get the thumb looked at on Thursday and don’t be surprised if the team takes it easy with him so he can get some extended rest with the All-Star break starting on Monday.

*The White Sox have said that Chris Sale will not make his final scheduled start on Sunday. The left-hander has already thrown more innings this season than in the previous two combined, so this will allow him to get some extra rest. It also will permit Sale to be available to pitch in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City. By rule, any starting pitcher that goes on the Sunday before the All-Star Game is not permitted to pitch in the midsummer classic.

*Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the starting lineup for the Marlins’ Thursday afternoon game in Milwaukee because of soreness in his knee. It marks the third straight game the slugger has missed, but he said he hopes to be back in the lineup no later than this weekend. Either way, this is definitely a situation that bears monitoring. Stanton is part of the NL roster for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City and right now he’s scheduled to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 5, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: July 5</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 14:49

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