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Brand image is a massive part of modern 21st century business and college football is big business.

 

Signature uniforms like Michigan’s winged helmet, picturesque monuments like Lake Washington in Seattle or historic personalities like Bear Bryant help separate one team from the next in the college football with clarity. Fans identify with these brand images and it helps build value — or brand equity — for every program in the nation.

 

However, official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo — and some are better than others — and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

 

And since Athlon Sports has been designing the best looking magazines on newstands for the better part of half a century, we'd thought we'd turn our graphic design guru loose on college football's logos. Here are Athlon Sports Art Director Matt Taliaferro favorite football logos — and a few he can't stand.

 

College Football's Best Official Logos

 SchoolLogoThoughts
1.TexasThe best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.
2.ClemsonThere are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative. 
3.GeorgiaFind me a more effective marriage of color and simplicity of design and I'll hand these writing duties over to you. Georgia's logo is so timeless that I can't remember there ever being another that represented the football team. You see this, there's no confusion as to what you're looking at. If that's not a successful logo, I don't know what it.
4.BYUIt is one of the most recognizable logos in college sports. There is some creativity in the "Y" font and the inverted color scheme works very well on helmets, merchandise and the like.
5.North CarolinaThe interlocked N-C are as famous as any brand logo in the nation. There are simple touches of style — the font and black trim — that make this logo completely unmistakable.
6.TennesseeAs a logo, Tennessee's is as direct and to-the-point as it gets. Think what you will of the orange (personally, I'm no fan), but the unique working of the "T" is as good as it gets. As an aside, UT's retro Davy Crockett logo is badass.
7.Michigan StIt's clean, classic, gets the point across and is recognizable. It has some fierce edginess to it, the color scheme is perfect and there is no doubt it represents a Spartan.
8.WashingtonSimple, tasteful, unchanging and very obvious. This emblem with its signature gold trim is one of the best in the nation and leaves little doubt as to what it represents.
9.MiamiIt's as simple as it gets but also brings loads of creativity and history. No other logo turns into a hand signal like "The U" and the two-tone color scheme and pattern is unique.
10.Penn StHistorically speaking, few logos are as traditional as the Nittany Lions oval. The smooth looking Lions head has great lines and appears to be hunting... Wolverines or Buckeyes? Few logos combine classy and aggresive like PSU.
11.NebraskaAgain, simple and straight forward gets the point across. The colors and subtle trim are great and it appears that the Huskers have a monopoly on this letter. There is no doubting what this logo refers to.
12.UCLAThe script "UCLA" is one of the most well-known logos in all of sports much less college football. And the way the word Bruins is incorporated makes it one of the most informative in the nation while still being fairly simple.
13.StanfordMichigan State and NC State know exactly what the smart kids from Palo Alto were thinking when this logo was created. It's classic and simple with a touch of style in the stroked white/red trim. Stanford boasts one of the best brand logos in the nation.
14.MichiganIt doesn't get any more simple that the block "M" of Michigan. The font is excellent but it could use some blue trim or accents.
15.ColoradoThe Buffs logo balances all of the key aspects to a company logo. It's simple and classic but with just enough style and flair while also being incredibly unique. 
16.AuburnHard to find fault in the interlocking A-U. Again, trimming away all the waste and boiling a logomark down to its most basic typically nets the best results.
17.Kansas StAll of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.
18.OklahomaThere is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo.
19.Texas A&MSomeone from A&M needs to call Texas Tech and explain how effective beveling is done. Like Vandy, Texas A&M's logo is simple and therefore works as a potent branding mark.
20.Ohio StateNormally, a name in a logo doesn't work, but the "S" is perfectly designed into the "O" and it works. It makes it busier than the cleaner, more classic logos above. The colors and trim are second to none.

Others receiving votes: West Virginia, Oregon, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, UConn, Louisville, Iowa

College Football's Worst Official Logos*

 TeamLogoThoughts
1.Oregon StOSU’s logo resembles some sort of odd flying wedge more than it does a beaver — although the inadvertent shark fin on the beaver’s head adds a touch of menace.
2.NorthwesternWas that wildcats drawn in with a Paper Mate? Working with purple already presents challenges and the overall design here isn’t helping.
3.South CarolinaIt’s not the chicken, it’s the “C.” A tweak to the hard inner angles and this logo is no longer in the bottom 5.
4.KansasThere may be some tradition associated with the Looney Tunes magpie but the primary colors scheme and cartoon-ish nature date the logo.
5.Texas TechSlow your bevel roll and quit stacking letters. That's my advice for the Red Raiders. Take a cue from instate rival Texas A&M about how to effectively bevel a logo.

* - Big 6, or "BCS," conferences only

Teaser:
College Football's Best and Worst Logos for 2013
Post date: Monday, August 5, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/south-carolinas-jadeveon-clowney-flips-sled-practice
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Football is back. Yes, we made it through a long offseason once again.

And what better way to announce that football season is back with a video of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney flipping one of the sleds in practice?

 

Teaser:
South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney Flips Sled in Practice
Post date: Sunday, August 4, 2013 - 12:14
All taxonomy terms: Tiger Woods, Golf, News
Path: /tiger-woods-tames-firestone-61
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The one missing accomplishment on Tiger Woods' resume remains elusive. Woods flirted with a 59 on Friday before settling for a 9-under par 61 to take a seven-shot lead into the weekend at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

Woods dismantled a track he loves, tying his own course record on the storied South Course at Firestone and putting himself in prime position to win this event for the eighth time. Tiger stood at 9-under through 13 after an eagle and seven birdies — that's a picture of his scorecard after his fourth straight birdie to start the back nine — but makeable birdie tries at 15 and 16 failed to drop, leaving him with a 61 that tied his own course record, as well as matching his personal best in professional competition.

It shouldn't be all that surprsing. Woods' record in this  tournament stands apart from anything the game has ever seen. It's simply jaw-dropping. For a decade, Tiger put an MMA-style chokehold on storied Firestone, leaving competitors flailing. Between 1999 and 2009, Woods played the Bridgestone 10 times, missing the 2008 tournament with injury. In those 10 years, he won the tournament seven times. That's an acceptable percentage for free throws. For golf tournaments, it's insane.

The three years Woods failed to win, he finished 4th, T4 and T2. Over a 10-tounament span, that's an average finish of 1.7. Let all that sink in for a minute. The WGC events assemble the greatest fields in world golf. The Firestone South course layout is a classic track that has hosted three PGA Championships. Woods has treated the tournament, the course and the field like he was Steve Williams and they were pesky photographers.

Over those 10 tournaments, from 1999-2009, Woods won $9,352,500. That number would rank sixth on an all-time list of single-season earnings, and Woods accumulated it in 10 tournaments. Over that span, Woods averaged 67.5 strokes per round on a course that Arnold Palmer once dubbed a "Monster." Basically, it's his best tournament. Heck, it's probably the best tournament for any player in the game's history. And he's a good bet to win it for the eighth time.

 

- by Rob Doster
Follow me on Twitter @AthlonDoster

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 17:16
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-best-july-29-august-2
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It's been a busy week in the college football world.

In addition to the latest news, Friday's links will try to highlight some of the best posts of week - just in case you didn't catch our posts from earlier in the week.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories From the Week of July 22-26


Five questions for Alabama as it opens fall practice.

And speaking of Alabama, a Crimson Tide fan got a very bad misspelled arm tattoo

Ole Miss cornerback/receiver Nick Brassell is no longer on the team.

Ranking the Mountain West quarterbacks for 2013 - which is one of the best conferences in the nation in terms of overall quarterback talent.

Rutgers will have a revamped offensive line in 2013.

Maryland running back Wes Brown has been suspended from school for the fall semester.

Florida running back Matt Jones is out indefinitely with a viral infection. 

Oklahoma quarterback Kendal Thompson is recovering from a foot injury suffered in fall practice.
 

TCU quarterback Casey Pachall spoke to the media on Wednesday and seems to have matured after missing most of last season due to a suspension.

The USA Today Coaches Poll has been released.

Another story out of TCU today, as starting tackle Tayo Fabuluje has decided to leave the team.

Here are five key questions West Virginia must answer in fall practice.

Kevin McGuire takes a look at the progress Memphis has made under second-year coach Justin Fuente.

John Pennington of Mr. SEC writes an open letter to Johnny Manziel.

Wake Forest running back Josh Harris' status is in limbo for 2013.

Rob Moseley previews Oregon's defensive line (which is in pretty good shape for 2013).

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde has been suspended for at least the first three games of 2013. But cornerback Bradley Roby's status for 2013 is still uncertain.

Saturday Down South ranks the defensive backfields in the SEC and looks at the contract details for the conference's first-round picks from the NFL Draft.

Big things are expected from Michigan receiver Amara Darboh in 2013.

Is Oklahoma considering some tweaks to its uniforms?

Does Clint Trickett hold the inside track to start at West Virginia?

Some sad news: Texas A&M's Polo Manukainiu and Utah's Gaius Vaenuku were killed in a car crash in New Mexico.

Arizona picked up Texas quarterback transfer Connor Brewer.

USA Today's Dan Wolken takes a look at Miami's Al Golden as he attempts to lead the program back to prominence.  

Georgia coach Mark Richt called South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney the best player on the planet.

Saturday Blitz takes a look at the rise of Stanford.

Big loss for Minnesota: Receiver Devin Crawford-Tufts has decided not to play football this year.

Florida State cornerback Nick Waisome helped to catch two suspects involved in a robbery at his apartment. 

Chris Williams of Cyclone Fanatic projects Iowa State's record for 2013.

Lost Lettermen looks at players with famous fathers in college football this year.

A good read from WVUPressbox.com on Dana Holgorsen: Is he building a foundation or a golden parachute?

Can Jeremy Johnson or Nick Marshall push Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace for the starting quarterback job at Auburn?

Where does Barry Sanders fit into Stanford's running back rotation? 

Current California coach Sonny Dykes is reaching out to the man he replaced - Jeff Tedford.

Ira Schoffel has an excellent Q & A with ACC commissioner John Swofford about Florida State athletics. 

Former Oklahoma State defensive end Naim Mustafaa is planning on attending Hawaii.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: Best of July 29-August 2
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 16:45
Path: /nascar/jimmie-johnson-dropping-c-word-%E2%80%94-clarity-%E2%80%94-pocono
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1. Pocono re-pave hasn’t taken kindly to Denny Hamlin  Denny Hamlin
The lore of Denny Hamlin’s exploits grew quickly at Pocono Raceway. That’ll happen when you win the first two races of your career at the tough-to-master speedway. Sprint Cup races, nonetheless.

Hamlin scored two more Pocono victories by his ninth start and three other top-5 finishes. The twin summer stretch of races at the Pennsylvania track was almost always a good way for Hamlin to boost his way into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“It was a track that we circled on our calendars as one to expect to run up front and compete for the win,” Hamlin said.

But then the deteriorating pavement finally met its maker, and the 2012 race brought the Cup Series back to Pocono on a new, smooth, and perfectly-laid surface. Hamlin’s locked-in dominance fizzled.

No, Hamlin hasn’t been bad at Pocono since the repave. In the three races competed on the new surface, he has a pair of top-10 finishes and a 29th-place run due to a crash on a late restart. But he’s not been nearly as good as his first 12 starts on the old track.

His average number of laps led has dropped from 53 per race to eight. His average finish is down nearly five spots to 14th. And, most telling, Hamlin’s average Pocono running position is down to 12.6 from 8.25.

Last week’s finish at Indianapolis wasn’t exactly a boost of confidence or sign that better things are coming for Hamlin at Pocono. He finished a disappointing 18th.

“We need to start stringing some good finishes together,” Hamlin said this week after his downtrodden post-Brickyard Twitter post. “Pocono is a great place to do that.”



2.  Jimmie Johnson is using that “C” word againNo, not that one. Or that one. Johnson’s use of a “C-word” is much more benign than something found on a Howard Stern show – but it still probably feels dangerous and downright malignant to other teams in the Cup garage.

The five-time champ waltzes back to Pocono this weekend dropping the word “clarity” when describing where his team is with the knowledge and development of NASCAR’s Gen-6 car. Sure, “clarity” sounds innocent and perhaps uninteresting out of context. But when you consider all of the moving pieces that go into making a car fast, having a clear idea of what inputs create the best outputs leads to downright dominance – or a 75-point lead in the point standings.

It’s the same word he used at Pocono when he dominated for the first time this season.

“I feel like we have a clearer vision now of what the car wants, what this Gen-6 car wants, and we’re getting smarter and smarter with it, and that leads into stretches where you can click off the wins and the finishes. Excited to have some clarity right now,” Johnson said this week.

Fortunately for the competition – and somewhat unexpectedly – Johnson didn’t return with the same chassis that so handily dominated Pocono’s first race and was only a pit-crew blunder short of a record-setting fifth Brickyard 400 win last week. Instead, Johnson is racing the car that dominated most of the day at Kentucky Speedway in June. That’s great news for the 42 other drivers, right?

Probably not.



3. Fuel mileage racing always in play at PoconoThe distance and long lap times of Pocono make short-pitting and racing the track like a road course a reality for teams desperate to jump track position in a manner easier – albeit much more risky – than simply passing cars on the track. It also routinely brings fuel mileage racing into play.

Of course, Johnson seems to have a leg up there, too. At least he did in the first Pocono race.

“In fuel-saving mode, I could get a nice gap off of (Turn) three and manage my fuel the rest of the way around the track,” Johnson said about the June race. “And guys would kind of inch back up to me and then I’d blister three again and get my gap and they’d slowly catch up due to fuel savings.”

Ah, clarity and what-not.

Fuel mileage racing doesn’t always receive the kindest rapport of strategies among many in NASCAR. But seasoned definer of racing Tony Stewart – remember his comments about how “racing” doesn’t require “passing” after last week’s race at Indianapolis? – actually enjoys the challenge of fuel conservation and management.

“To be in a situation where your speed is dictated off the guy behind you and not off of what you can do, it’s a different style of racing,” Stewart said. “It’s hard. It’s just as hard, if not tougher, than trying to run 100 percent.”



4. Passing easier at Pocono than Indianapolis, Stewart says  Tony StewartDespite his vivid Indianapolis comments and takedown of those who think NASCAR’s top series should feature more rules designed to make two- and three-wide passes a normal thing in the sport, Stewart pointed out that the passing opportunities provided at Pocono are greater than what the sport just left at the Brickyard. Sure, the tracks share similarities, Stewart said, but Pocono provides a few more options.

“It’s harder to pass at the Brickyard than it is at Pocono,” Stewart said. “There’s a fair amount of room going into (Turn) one at Pocono, and you can run two-wide there and you can go two-wide in (Turn) three at the beginning of a run. But it’s pretty tough to run two-wide through the corners at Indy.”

Stewart credited the Pocono passing options – without any self-aware mentions of his recently-announced disillusionment for the actual act of passing – to that new track surface starting to improve with age.

“The good thing is that (the track has) lost just enough grip to where it’s making it easier to lay rubber in the racetrack now and a lot easier to see it,” Stewart said. “The track is in good shape.”



5. Johnson’s dominance currently making Chase seem awful intelligentYadda, yadda, yadda. Have you heard enough about the impending Chase for the Sprint Cup yet? Who is going to be in? Who’s going to be out? Just wait – the chatter is about to hit hyperdrive. Strap in, Chewie.

Pocono included, six races remain before NASCAR officially sets the lineup of the 11 drivers who will somehow try to scratch, claw and even bite their way past Johnson and the No. 48 for the 2013 title. We’ll talk plenty about who in the wildcard will be in, and who will be out. Pocono could even play a large role in that – just ask last year’s winner of the second race, Jeff Gordon.

But the larger point might be getting missed: The 2013 season is explaining perfectly why a playoff system for NASCAR’s championship is mostly a good idea.

Now I’m the first to admit I have grievances with how the points are doled out, how little wins actually mean anything and whether or not the 10-race fight for the crown is always the perfect way to find a champion.

But this year, with Johnson’s dominance on the top-end and the ridiculous struggle currently underway for the final few spots (a total of 19 measly points separates Greg Biffle in eighth and Kurt Busch in 14th), the Chase is proving to be a tool that will keep people engaged for much longer.

Johnson has a 75-point lead at the moment. He could hit the beach this weekend and play golf the next and still likely return to the sport with the point lead. Without a Chase, the 2013 champion’s trophy would have likely arrived at the engraving shop in July.

And further back? The Chase is doing wonders for the drivers who aren’t always doing wonders on the track. Just think of the value Biffle, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Busch are bringing to the table for sponsors – all of which would hardly exist without the championship battle.

No, the Chase isn’t perfect. It needs some amending. But this year, it’s working out pretty darn well.


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

Teaser:
Geoffrey Miller highlights the five NASCAR storylines to watch in this weekend's GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 14:42
All taxonomy terms: NFL, News
Path: /nfl/12-young-nfl-stars-headed-hall-fame
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Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Bill Parcells, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Dave Robinson and Curley Culp were elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in February. They are some of the game's greatest players and their legacies and impact on the NFL will live forever in Canton, Ohio, as official members of the Hall of Fame.

Projecting the Hall of Fame is virtually impossible, especially for the youngest athletes in football, but as these seven men kick off the 2013 NFL season with Saturday's Enshrinement Ceremony, it is fun to look at the game's best young players. Rookies are expected to contribute quicker than ever on the NFL gridiron and a few have made a big splash in short order.

So, limiting the scope to players drafted in the last three rookie classes (not counting 2013), here are the most likely Pro Football Hall of Famers playing the game today:

Class of 2010: 

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, NY Giants
In his first three seasons, JPP has yet to miss a game, playing all 48 for the Giants. He helped lead the Giants to a Super Bowl win in 2011 when he posted 93 tackles and 16.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul has 27.5 sacks, 181 total tackles and two Pro Bowls in three career NFL seasons. In 2012, he intercepted his first career pass and took it 28 yards to score his first career touchdown. He may be the most physically gifted defensive end in the NFL.

Mike Iupati, OL, San Francisco
The Niners have seen a remarkable turnaround under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. Much of that can be attributed to what might be the best offensive line in the league. Iupati, drafted in the first round, has started every single game of his NFL career and has watched the 49ers' rushing attack flourish. After averaging 103.6 yards per game in 2010, SanFran rushed for 127.8 yards per game in '11 and finished fourth in the NFL a year ago at 155.6 yards per game en route to a Super Bowl berth. The 6-foot-5, 330-pound mauler should be a mainstay in the Bay Area for years to come.

NaVorro Bowman, LB, San Francisco
The 2010 draft was a great one for the Niners as not only was the offensive line rebuilt with Iupati and Anthony Davis, but so was the defense with this third-round steal. Bowman was an All-American at Penn State and proved in his first season as an NFL starter that he was going to be around for a while. He posted 150 tackles in 16 starts in 2011 and, after getting a long-term contract extension, added another 144 total tackles. He earned his second Pro Bowl appearance in three seasons while leading the Niners to the Super Bowl. Along with Patrick Willis, Bowman is half of the best LB duo in the NFL.

Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans
Sometimes it can be all about timing and Graham couldn’t have landed in a better spot at a better time. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound basketball player from Miami fell into a perfect position to succeed for the Saints. He finished third in the NFL with 99 catches, seventh with 1,310 yards and was one of only five players with double-digit touchdowns (11) in 2011. While he took a slight step back in 2012, Graham's 85 catches, 982 yards and nine TDs were still among the league's best by a tight end. With Sean Payton back on the sidelines, Graham should be a part of another Saints postseason run in 2013.

Others names from this class to consider:

Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England
If he could ever stay healthy and out of trouble, he could shatter all NFL TE receiving records.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit
Elite-level player with all the tools to be an all-time great, but needs to mature.

Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati
A fourth-round steal on draft day is already an All-Pro performer.

Maurkice Pouncey, C, Pittsburgh
Elite high school prospect, elite college prospect and now an All-Pro in the NFL.

Class of 2011:

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati
Few players have ever started their career like Green. The superstar talent from Georgia was one of the most coveted pass-catchers in the nation as both a recruit and draft pick. All he has done in two pro seasons is catch 162 passes for 2,407 yards and 18 touchdowns while leading the Bengals to the postseason both seasons. He is an elite red zone target, can stretch the field and has tremendous open field ability as well. He is the complete package at wide receiver.

Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, San Francisco
The youngster out of Missouri was looked at as a project on the NFL level but his elite talents were obvious. Well, the project turned into a star quicker than expected as Smith posted 14.0 sacks as a rookie without technically starting a game. He only got better in Year 2, posting 19.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and 65 total tackles for the NFC Champs. Smith is downright unblockable and has already set the 49ers' single-season sack record.

J.J. Watt, DE, Houston
From pizza boy tight end to Big Ten Rose Bowl star to NFL Rookie of the Year candidate to Defensive Player of the Year. The former Wisconsin Badgers end has started every game of his short career and made history by returning an interception for a touchdown in his first postseason game (and Houston’s first postseason win). He led the NFL in sacks in 2012 with 20.5 QB takedowns and has made an art form of deflecting passes (16 last year). He has 149 tackles, four forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries in two pro seasons.

Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta
The weapons Matt Ryan has in Atlanta are unreal. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez certainly make life easier for Jones in the passing game, but make no mistake; the former Alabama star is the real deal. He was the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation coming out of high school and has only gotten better with age. He is an athletic freak at 6-4 and 220 pounds. He improved his production in every major category from his rookie season to last year, going from 54 receptions to 79, from 959 yards to 1,198 and from eight scores to 10 TDs. He is already one of the league's most impossible players to cover.

Other names from this class to consider:

Cam Newton, QB, Carolina
If he always played like he did against Atlanta, he will be special. Needs to learn how to win.

Von Miller, OLB/DE, Denver
Dynamic pass-rusher was a Pro Bowler as a rookie and has 30.0 sacks in two years. Needs to stay focused off the field.

Class of 2012:

Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis
The Colts were 2-14 in 2011 and it landed them Mr. Luck. All the rookie QB did in his first year was produce the best season by a rookie starting NFL quarterback in league history. He won 11 games, set an NFL rookie record with 4,374 yards passing and accounted for 28 total touchdowns. He was an elite, Top-100 prospect in high school and was considered by many the best pro prospect since John Elway. He has proven to be worthy of the top overall pick and literally has zero weaknesses to his game.

Matt Kalil, OL, Minnesota
The top tackle taken in the 2012 draft has played from Game 1 for the much-improved Vikings. According to Football Outsiders, Kalil allowed just two sacks in his first 721 snaps in the NFL. He paved the way for Adrian Peterson’s historic 2,000-yard season and helped lead the Vikings into the postseason. The bookend tackle was a coveted prospect in high school, had a great college career and is already a Pro Bowler in the NFL. Having an All-Pro older brother (Ryan) has helped as well.

Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay
He wasn’t the first running back taken in the draft, but he was the most productive. The do-everything tailback was used all over the field as arguably the most successful Boise State runner in program history. His talents have translated instantly. He was fifth in the NFL in rushing (1,454), was fourth in attempts (319), fourth in all-purpose yards (1,926) and trailed only Arian Foster and Adrian Peterson in total offensive touches (368). His ability to catch passes makes him one of the most dynamic players in the league already.

Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina
The Boston College linebacker led the nation in tackles each season in college and was the top player taken at his position in his draft. All he did in his first NFL season was lead the league in tackles (164) by a wide margin. He picked off two passes, registered one sack and recovered three fumbles. The tackling machine is rarely out of position, doesn’t miss tackles and is the center building block on defense for the future of Panthers football.

Other names from this class to consider:

Trent Richardson, RB, Cleveland
Elite player with rare skills, but will balky knees and playing for the Browns hurt his long-term stock?

LaVonte David, LB, Tampa Bay
Incredibly productive player on all levels is making quick impact for Bucs.

Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas
Elite lock-down coverman has lived up to his status as the best corner in the 2012 draft.

Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
He is a supremely gifted athlete and remarkable leader — who cannot stay healthy unless he changes his style of play.

Mark Barron, S, Tampa Bay
Has already shown he is a big hitter who has stabilized the back end of the Bucs' secondary.

,

So, limiting the scope to players drafted in the last three rookie classes (not counting 2013), here are the most likely Pro Football Hall of Famers playing the game today:

Teaser:
So, limiting the scope to players drafted in the last three rookie classes (not counting 2013), here are the most likely Pro Football Hall of Famers playing the game today:
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: girls, Houston Texans, Video, videos, Overtime
Path: /overtime/houston-texans-cheerleaders-present-freestyle-fridays
Body:

It's the Houston Texans cheerleaders doing something they call "Freestyle Fridays." And it's glorious.

Teaser:
It's the Houston Texans cheerleaders doing something they call "Freestyle Fridays."
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 11:44
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-2-2013
Body:

• Just because it's Friday: Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez riding scooters in bikinis.

 

• Failed audition dept.: Seattle bench coach and acting manager Robby Thompson confused his right and left arms and called for the wrong pitcher out of the bullpen. The Mariners then lost.

 

• Well worth a click: Myles Kerr, American hero.

 

Athletes vs. Animals: The Slideshow.

 

The SEC dominated the USA Today Coaches top 10. In other news, the sun rose and water is wet.

 

The touching story of Roger Federer and a cancer survivor. Proof that not all athletes are spoiled jerks. Just most of them.

 

Celebrate International Beer Day with these beer-based cocktail recipes. For some of us, every day is International Beer Day.

 

• Reporter Jenny Dell got soaked while interviewing Johnny Gomes following the Red Sox' walk-off win. She handled it like a pro.

 

Cubs fans obviously aren't used to celebrating. They kinda suck at it.

 

• The latest stupid social media trend: Smack Cam.

 

• Anything's possible: A minor leaguer recorded a one-pitch strikeout.

 

• Check out Blake Griffin's new Nike ad.

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/michael-dyer-transfers-louisville
Body:

Louisville’s high-scoring offense gained another valuable weapon on Thursday night, as former Auburn running back Michael Dyer decided to continue his college career with the Cardinals. USA Today’s George Schroeder first reported the news. Dyer is immediately eligible at Louisville and will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Dyer rushed for 1,093 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman at Auburn in 2010. He was a key piece in the Tigers’ national championship run, which included 143 yards in the victory over Oregon in the title game.

Dyer’s numbers were even better as a sophomore, recording 1,242 yards and 10 scores on 242 attempts.

However, Dyer was suspended for Auburn’s bowl game in 2012 and decided to transfer to Arkansas State. But he was dismissed from the team after an off-the-field incident and enrolled at Arkansas Baptist. During his time at Arkansas Baptist, Dyer was mentored by former San Jose State coach Fitz Hill.

Dyer may need some time to knock off the rust and get back into football shape, but the former Auburn running back could be one of the top rushers in the American Athletic Conference this year. Louisville already returns two capable backs in Senorise Perry and Dominique Brown, but Dyer has the most talented out of that trio.

With quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Dyer leading the way, stopping Louisville’s offense is going to be a difficult task for opposing defenses this year.

And Dyer’s decision to transfer to Louisville could be the final piece in a run at an unbeaten season for the Cardinals.

Teaser:
Michael Dyer Transfers to Louisville
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 09:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/texas-am-commerce-has-massive-midfield-logo
Body:

They say everything is bigger in Texas. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to Texas A&M-Commerce’s new midfield logo for 2013.

The Lions have unveiled a gigantic lion logo on their field for 2013, which stretches from about 50 yards, starting on the 25-yard line.

Some won’t like the massive logo, but I think it’s a nice addition for Texas A&M-Commerce. If nothing else, it brought the school some attention, which certainly can't hurt when it comes to recruiting. And who knows, maybe Texas A&M-Commerce will start the next trend in college athletics.

 

Teaser:
Texas A&M-Commerce Has Massive Midfield Logo
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Video, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/blake-griffin-stars-awesome-new-jordan-commercial
Body:
Blake Griffin stars in a new summer hoops Jordan commercial. His co-star is Darryl Drain, a cocky yet horribly bad player. The result? Comedy gold.

Teaser:
Blake Griffin co-stars in a new summer hoops Jordan commercial.
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 08:37
All taxonomy terms: Boston Red Sox, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/red-sox-fan-proposes-fenway
Body:

A Red Sox fan used the scoreboard at Fenway Park to pop the question, "Samantha, will you marry me?" Although it would have been considerably more entertaining if she said, "no", this Boston fan got the nod of approval.

Teaser:
A Red Sox fan used the scoreboard at Fenway Park to pop the question, "Samantha, will you marry me?"
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 07:53
Path: /college-football/louisville-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

After an 11-2 season, which featured a 33-23 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, expectations are high in Louisville. The Cardinals rank as a top-10 team in Athlon's projected final top 25 for 2013.

Louisville returns 14 starters, including one of the nation’s top Heisman candidates in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Coach Charlie Strong also turned down coaching offers in the SEC to stay at Louisville, and the program will move to the ACC after the 2013 season.

With a favorable schedule and plenty of talent returning, Louisville will be in the mix to play for the national championship. The Cardinals are the heavy favorite to win the remodeled American Athletic Conference, but road games against Kentucky, Cincinnati and South Florida won’t be easy.
What will Louisville's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates: 

Louisville's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Braden
Gall
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
9/1 Ohio
9/7 Eastern Kentucky
9/14 at Kentucky
9/21 FIU
10/5 at Temple
10/10 Rutgers
10/18 UCF
10/26 at USF
11/8 at Connecticut
11/16 Houston
11/23 Memphis
12/5 at Cincinnati
Final Projection11-110-211-111-1

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Louisville has one of the most favorable schedules in the nation, but there are a few potential landmines for Charlie Strong’s team. The Cardinals will open with an Ohio team capable of pulling an upset. There’s a trip to Lexington to take on rival Kentucky on Sept. 14, which is a huge game for bragging rights in the Bluegrass State. New Wildcats’ coach Mark Stoops certainly has that date circled, as Kentucky looks to make a statement under its new regime. The other game that is a potential loss for Louisville is the season finale at Cincinnati. The Cardinals have a loaded roster, which includes a Heisman candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, and nine starters from a defense that ranked 23rd nationally in yards allowed. Louisville had two head-scratching losses last year, but this team is in better position from a depth and talent standpoint in 2013. Finishing with an unbeaten record is never easy. Whether it’s at Cincinnati or Kentucky, I think the Cardinals drop one game but still claim an American Athletic title.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Teddy Bridgewater is a special player but this team simply isn't deep or talented enough to be a national championship caliber team just yet. Charlie Strong is a highly respected leader for many reasons but this team got inexplicably hammered by Syracuse on the road and lost at home to UConn — let me repeat that, Louisville lost at home to Connecticut — in 2012. This team is building towards national title contention in the near future but it needs a few more recruiting classes to get there and it will be as a member of the ACC. This defense will be salty against a very mediocre schedule, but the margin for error is razor thin in 2013 and it will slip-up at least once.

Mark Ross
After an impressive win in the Sugar Bowl over Florida, Louisville appears to have all the pieces in place to remain in the national title discussion this season, provided the Cardinals go undefeated in the regular season. The "new" American Athletic Conference doesn't figure to be as rugged as the former Big East, at least on paper, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse gone to the ACC and Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF coming on board.

The Cardinals will follow the lead of Teddy Bridgewater, their dual-threat quarterback who could emerge as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate should he lead his team to a perfect regular season. The non-conference slate isn't that challenging, especially with in-state rival Kentucky rebuilding under Mark Stoops. Barring a slip up on the road or at home against say Rutgers or UCF, Louisville's national title hopes will most likely come down to the final game in Cincinnati. With no top-25 teams on the schedule and coming from what was the Big East, the only way Charlie Strong's team has any shot at playing in Pasadena, Calif., in January is if his Cardinals run the table.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The preseason consensus is that Louisville is the most likely team to go undefeated during the regular season. That means Louisville almost certainly will not go undefeated. I like so many things about Louisville from the way Charlie Strong has rebuilt the program to the gutty play of Teddy Bridgewater at the end of last season. But this is a team that had its flaws. Run defense was a problem at times as the Cards lost to Connecticut and Syracuse last season. Everyone points to the Sugar Bowl from last season, but Louisville needed to win six one-score games and two of those were over FIU and winless Southern Miss. Louisville’s going to win the AAC and should win most of their games with ease. But perfection is pretty tough.

Related College Football Content

College Football's Bowl Projections for 2013
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American Athletic All-Conference Team for 2013
American Athletic Breakout Players for 2013
American Athletic Pivotal Players to a Championship

Teaser:
Louisville Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouri-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Missouri’s transition to the SEC didn’t go as smooth as it did for Texas A&M. The Tigers’ record dipped to 5-7, which was their first losing record since 2004.

Coach Gary Pinkel is starting to feel the heat, especially since Missouri cannot afford to fall too far behind in the SEC. Even though Pinkel’s overall record in Columbia is 90-61, the rest of the SEC is improving, and Missouri needs to show it can keep up with the rest of the East Division.

Despite last year’s 5-7 record, there are signs Missouri is ready to rebound in 2013. Quarterback James Franklin is healthy after an injury-plagued 2012 campaign. And the ground attack is expected to get a boost from the return of Henry Josey.

The schedule certainly isn’t easy for the Tigers. However, there’s still some talent on the roster. And Pinkel hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons at Missouri since 2001-02.

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

Missouri's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
SEC
Logo
Braden
Gall
Blair
Kerkhoff
Mark
Ross
David
Fox
Josh
Ward
Ben
Frederickson
8/31 Murray State
9/7 Toledo
9/21 at Indiana
9/28 Arkansas State
10/5 at Vanderbilt
10/12 at Georgia
10/19 Florida
10/26 South Carolina
11/2 Tennessee
11/9 at Kentucky
11/23 at Ole Miss
11/30 Texas A&M
Final Projection6-66-65-77-54-85-76-66-6

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With a year of SEC experience under its belt, Missouri should be back into contention for a bowl game in 2013. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that quarterback James Franklin is closer to 100 percent after shoulder surgery in 2012, and running back Henry Josey is back after missing all of last year with a significant knee injury. The offensive line was hit hard by injuries last season but should be stabilized with the return of four starters. The defense is the biggest question mark, especially as the Tigers look to replace tackle Sheldon Richardson. The schedule isn’t ideal, as Missouri catches Ole Miss and Texas A&M in crossover play, and non-conference games against Toledo and Indiana won’t be easy. Somehow, someway, I think the Tigers get bowl eligible and quiet some of the hot seat talk about coach Gary Pinkel.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Tigers might have the most fascinating coaching situation in the SEC in 2013. Gary Pinkel is arguably the most important coach in school history but a second straight losing season in their new home could cost him his job. The offense should be improved as James Franklin and Henry Josey return to full health and Dorial Green-Beckham takes the next step in his development process. The offensive line should also be a strength. However, the defense lost some big pieces and will take a step back while still facing one of the nastiest schedules in the nation. Getting Ole Miss and Texas A&M is rough in crossover play. The only hope for Pinkel is a marquee home SEC East schedule as Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee all come to Columbia. I fall on the side of pessimism and think Mizzou struggles again in the more treacherous SEC waters. An early season road loss to a tricky Indiana team could derail this season quickly.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Mizzou and Texas A&M join the SEC, one steals the national spotlight and the other quietly goes 5-7 (2-6) just missing a bowl game. One good thing going for Mizzou is returning their starting quarterback James Franklin, who battled injury last season. I think he is setup to have a big statistical season, but I'm not sure that will turn into W's. The first 5 games are winnable: Murray State, Toledo, Bye, at Indiana, Arkansas State, and at Vanderbilt. They must win 4 out of 5 for a shot at a bowl game. If Gary Pinkel doesn't make a bowl game, I feel he is gone. Name to watch for: Dorial Green-Beckham, WR 

Mark Ross
Missouri is a hard team for me to get a handle on. The Tigers had a rough entry into the SEC last season, although they did play better late in the year. I still think Mizzou is a couple of recruiting classes away from collecting the talent necessary to compete in the country's toughest conference on a consistent basis. The defense lost its best player (Sheldon Richardson) and the offense is a bit of mystery considering quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey are both returning from injuries.

The non-conference schedule isn't a cakewalk, as Toledo is capable of pulling the upset in Columbia, and Missouri's October slate – at Vanderbilt and Georgia and home against Florida and South Carolina – is just nasty. Bowl eligibility seems a little too optimistic for 2013, but the Tigers will have a couple of chances to build some momentum for next season by picking up a SEC win or two in November. That also would be the easiest way for Gary Pinkel to prove he's still the best man for this job.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Sorry, Missouri, life in the SEC is going to be ugly. Perhaps things will turn around with more stability on the offensive line, a healthy Henry Josey and a settled quarterback situation, but Missouri’s still going to have trouble cracking the top three or four in the SEC East. The Tigers had a first-round draft pick on the defensive line and still gave up 30 points in half their games last season. That’s part of the reason why I’ve picked an upset in Bloomington. Indiana can move the ball, and we have yet to see if Missouri will have a functional offense.  After that, Missouri may need to beat Vanderbilt on Oct. 5 if the Tigers are going to get out of the month with a win.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Missouri will need to begin October with a 4-0 record if it hopes to have any success this season. We’ll see if Missouri is more prepared for the SEC this year when it begins conference play in October. It helps that quarterback James Franklin and running back Henry Josey are back healthy. If wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham can take a big step, the offense could be explosive. It won’t be easy for Missouri to reach a bowl game, but the opportunity is there. I have Vanderbilt beating Missouri, but that’s a winnable game for the Tigers. Missouri catches South Carolina on its final trip of a three-game road stretch, which should help Missouri attempt to pull off the upset. Games against Kentucky and Tennessee will also be important as Missouri tries to erase the dreadful 2012 season from its memory.

Ben Frederickson, (@Ben_Fred), FoxSportsMidwest.com
Tiger fans are restless after their inaugural tour de SEC soured; last year was the team's first losing season since 2004. If quarterback James Franklin (he should be the starter, even if Gary Pinkel won't admit it) and his offensive line can avoid the injury bug, things should be better this year — barely. Maybe the Tigers start 4-0, win the conference games they should and sprinkle in a couple of upsets, shattering my somewhat low expectations. But I don't think this group skates through non-conference, and I am convinced Indiana at night in Bloomington is a legitimate threat. A string of losses will likely accompany SEC opponents, but the Tigers should have a chance to turn things around in November. Beat Tennessee and Kentucky, two must-wins, and the momentum could help dismount Ole Miss before Johnny Football crashes the party.

 

Related College Football Content

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Georgia Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Missouri Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-texas-football-fan
Body:

Texas is something of football royalty and the fans know it. Just ask the Longhorns. Or better yet, ask fans of Texas A&M.

Being the top historical football program in the top football state certainly has its perks, starting with your own television network (if even no one’s able to watch it).

Tease Texas at your own risk. With the Longhorns’ resources, tradition and access to the deep pool of Lone Star State high school talent, the Longhorns can dominate the college football landscape for decades at a time.

In our series of the greatest time to be a fan of a school, rarely have our snapshots covered so much ground. Darrell Royal owned most of the ‘60s thanks to a pair of linebackers at first and the wishbone offense later. Then came Mack Brown in the 2000s to revive the Longhorns from their ‘80s-’90s malaise.

Here are the best and worst times to flash the Hook ‘em Horns.

BEST TIMES TO BE A TEXAS FAN

1961-73
Record: 115-24-2
National championships: 3
Coach: Darrell Royal
Notable players: Tommy Nobis, Scott Appleton, Jimmy Saxton, Johnny Treadwell, Jerry Sisemore, Bob McKay, Bobby Wuensch, Bill Atessis, Bill Wyman, Roosevelt Leaks, James Street.
This was the era that made Darrell Royal a legend. He and offensive coordinator Emory Bellard would change the offensive game, but the early part of his reign was marked my defense. The 1963 national championship team featured Outland winner Scott Appleton. A year later, one of the greatest players in Texas history, Tommy Nobis, stuffed Joe Namath to beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to cap a 10-1 season. Nobis won the Outland in 1965. Royal and his staff became offensive innovators by 1968 by unveiling the wishbone offense. After going 0-1-1 in their first two games in the new offense, Texas reeled off 30 consecutive wins from ‘68-’70. In a thrilling Cotton Bowl, James Street led Texas to a 21-17 win over Notre Dame to win Royal’s third national title in 1969. Texas won seven outright Southwest Conference titles from 1961-73 and shared two others with Arkansas.

2001-09
Record: 101-16
National championships: 1
Coach: Mack Brown
Notable players: Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Derrick Johnson, Justin Blalock, Quentin Jammer, Derrick Dockery, Rodrique Wright, Jonathan Scott, Michael Huff, Brian Orakpo, Jordan Shipley, Earl Thomas, Jamaal Charles, Cedric Benson, Aaron Ross
Texas was one of the dominant programs of the decade, even if Longhorns fans were left wanting more. Texas was one of two teams to win more than 100 games during this span (Boise State was the other) as the Longhorns won 10 or more games in nine consecutive seasons. The 2005 team was the high point as Vince Young capped perhaps the finest quarterback career of the BCS era with a performance for ages to defeat No. 1 USC for his second Rose Bowl MVP. Texas also played for a title in 2009 but was never seriously able to compete with Alabama in the BCS Championship Game when Colt McCoy was knocked out with a game-ending injury in the first quarter. This was a successful era that would be the envy of any program, save perhaps, Texas. A bid for a third national title game was dashed by a Michael Crabtree catch for Texas’ only loss in 2008. The Longhorns won the Big 12 only twice, aided by a 4-5 record against Oklahoma. And even though Texas claimed a Doak Walker Award (Benson) and two Jim Thorpe awards (Huff and Ross), the Longhorns never brought home a Heisman.

WORST TIMES TO BE A TEXAS FAN

1986-93
Record: 47-47-1
Coaches: Fred Akers, David McWilliams, John Mackovic
The demise of the Southwest Conference wasn’t kind to many teams in that league. Texas was no exception. The Longhorns endured three losing seasons in five years under the hapless David McWilliams. Hopes were high for John Mackovic, but he was not a great fit. A 66-3 loss to UCLA in 1997 all but sealed his fate.

1935-37
Record: 9-26-2
Coaches: Jack Chevigny, Dana Bible
Remember when it was unthinkable for Texas to go 5-7? The Longhorns went through a three-year period in the ‘30s where they won a grand total of five games from 1936-38. The streak of four consecutive losing seasons remains the longest in school history.

Teaser:
Darrell Royal, Mack Brown lead dominant eras
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-big-ten
Body:

The SEC rules the recruiting rankings, but three big-time Big Ten signees from the last two seasons could play major roles in how the league is decided.


Michigan and Ohio State are both plugging in five-star signees from the class of 2012 in redshirt freshman guard Kyle Kalis and sophomore defensive end Noah Spence. And although Penn State can’t go to to the postseason, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg could determine the Big Ten race as the Nittany Lions face Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Those names aren’t the only ones who could determine the Big Ten title. We’ve picked six players from six Big Ten contenders who may be pivotal to league or division titles.

As a refresher, our criteria for pivotal players is:
1. He plays for a conference or division contender.
2. He is an unproven commodity in some way.
3. He plays at a position his team needs to perform in order to win a division or conference title.

We’ve looked at pivotal players for contenders in the ACC, the American, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC, and finally we turn our eye to the Big Ten.

Zaire Anderson, LB, Nebraska
Nebraska played four games where the Cornhuskers allowed more than six yards per play, and lost all five (UCLA, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Georgia). Linebacker will be a major question as the Cornhuskers rebuild with only four returning starters on the defense. Anderson started at one point early last season before missing most of the year following knee surgery. While recovering, he gained 22 pounds without losing speed, and he’s drawn comparisons to another prominent junior college transfer linebacker, Lavonte David.

Riley Bullough, RB, Michigan State
Le’Veon Bell accounted for 78.6 percent of Michigan State’s rush attempts and 91.9 percent of the Spartans’ yards on the ground. Unless Michigan State is turning to the Air Raid, Mark Dantonio needs to find production at running back to replace Bell. If Bullough has a familiar name, it’s because his brother Max is a starting linebacker. There may be a familiar style of play from Riley, though on the opposite side of the ball. A former linebacker, Riley is a bruiser. The redshirt freshman Riley will be the lead back in a committee approach to the position.

Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
The transfer of Steven Bench left Penn State without experience at quarterback, so the assumption is that the Hackenberg era will begin immediately. While Penn State doesn’t exactly begin the season with a gauntlet, the Nittany Lions face Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., and two teams that can score in UCF and Kent State. Hackenberg’s importance to the program is a long-term storyline, especially as sanctions will cut deeper in his upperclassman seasons. But how he performs early as a rookie will determine momentum for his first season in Happy Valley.

Darius Hillary, CB, Wisconsin
Don’t be too concerned with a backfield that loses Montee Ball and must decide on a quarterback. Wisconsin’s defensive backfield is a major concern. Three starters were gone last season, and two key players the Badgers expected to start won’t be on campus (Reggie Mitchell and Donnell Vercher). Hillary played in every game last season as a redshirt freshman, recording 23 tackles, mostly early in the season. Hillary and Peniel Jean are further on the spot to solidify the cornerback position in a secondary that includes one sure thing in safety Dezmen Southward.

Tony Jones, WR, Northwestern
Tony Jones has deep-threat capabilities, but he averaged only 11.6 yards per catch last season. Sure, much of this will be on starting quarterback Kain Colter’s ability to get the ball downfield as much as Jones’ play, but averaging better than six yards per pass will be critical if Northwestern is going to challenge for a Legends Division title.

Kyle Kalis, OG, Michigan
All three of the Wolverines’ starting interior offensive linemen are gone, so any could be pivotal to Michigan’s hopes of winning the Big Ten for the first time since 2004. We’ll point to right guard Kyle Kalis, who was a top-three guard in the class of 2012. Michigan tailbacks averaged only 72.8 rushing yards last season, but the Wolverines think they can turn that around with more consistency from Fitz Touissaint and the arrival of freshman Derrick Green. Kalis delivering on his immense talent could go along way to reestablishing the run at Michigan.

Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State
Urban Meyer went to great lengths to get Spence out of Pennsylvania during his first recruiting cycle, and now the defensive end should be ready to deliver. Spence has all-conference honors or more in his future, but it may need to happen now as the Buckeyes replenish their entire starting defensive line. He’s a pivotal player, but also one of the breakout candidates in the league.

Teaser:
Six players who could swing the Big Ten race
Post date: Friday, August 2, 2013 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-1
Body:

Fall camps starting up this week. The 2013 season is almost here.

Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)


College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, August 1st


TCU quarterback Casey Pachall spoke to the media on Wednesday and seems to have matured after missing most of last season due to a suspension.

The USA Today Coaches Poll has been released.

Another story out of TCU today, as starting tackle Tayo Fabuluje has decided to leave the team.

Here are five key questions West Virginia must answer in fall practice.

Kevin McGuire takes a look at the progress Memphis has made under second-year coach Justin Fuente.

John Pennington of Mr. SEC writes an open letter to Johnny Manziel.

Michael Casagrande of the South Florida Sun Sentinel shares some observations on Miami's pre-fall practice depth chart.

Here are seven key position battles to watch as Michigan State opens fall practice.

Wake Forest running back Josh Harris' status is in limbo for 2013.

Here are four areas to watch for North Carolina this fall.

The ACC is weighing whether or not to launch a conference television network in the future.

BYU and Fresno State have agreed on a two-game series.

SMU coach June Jones has some high praise for running back Traylon Shead.

Rob Moseley previews Oregon's defensive line (which is in pretty good shape for 2013).

Wisconsin is searching for more playmakers at receiver this fall.

 

 

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 1
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 15:02
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-1-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 1.

 

We lead off today with 20 crush-worthy Hollywood bachelorettes, starting with Jennifer Lawrence. Yes, please.

 

20 awesome athletes in diapers. Not including Juwan Howard. (Get it? It's because he's old.)

 

An open letter to Johnny Football. I'm sure he's reading this blog and will click the link.

 

Steve Nash is still haunted by an awful photograph of him and Dirk and Cubes. Can you blame him?

 

Ever wished you could practice your putting while seated on the throne? You're in luck.

 

The SEC was a hot topic at other conference media days. Saban & Co. are in their heads.

 

Johnny Gomes does not require your assistance to turn double plays.

 

• Priceless historical artifact alert: Could this be the chalice from the Malice in the Palace?

 

An unfortunate typo involving "Chooch" Ruiz resulted in an amusing screen grab in Philly.

 

Riley Cooper gets the Taiwanese animation treatment, complete with golden shower from angry teammates.

 

• They're apparently making a movie about Kurt Warner. Here are some clever casting suggestions.

 

• Presenting the Dodgers' starting lineup, Mr. Chow-style.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 10:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouris-henry-josey-announces-return-haircut
Body:

Missouri’s Henry Josey was one of college football’s top running backs in 2011, but he suffered a significant knee injury late in the year and was forced to sit out all of 2012.

Although it’s uncertain if Josey will be the same player before his injury, the junior is ready to go for fall camp.

Josey is announcing his return to the college football world with an impressive haircut, which simply states, “I’m Back.”

If Josey is at full strength, he could be one of the SEC’s top running backs in 2013 and will help get Missouri back into contention for a bowl game.

 

Teaser:
Missouri's Henry Josey Announces Return With Haircut
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:50
All taxonomy terms: videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/skater-bob-burnquist-makes-insane-death-defying-tricks-video
Body:
Pro skateboarder Bob Burnquist may have the coolest backyard in the world, filled with insane ramps that look like they came straight out of a video game. He uses those ramps, and a helicopter to unleash a barrage of over-the-top tricks. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear his mom in the background yelling, "Stop doing that!"
 

Teaser:
Pro skateboarder Bob Burnquist may have the coolest backyard in the world, filled with insane ramps that look like they came straight out of a video game.
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 09:18
Path: /college-football/western-michigan-coach-pj-fleck-walks-fire
Body:

New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck certainly isn’t short on energy or interesting ideas.

The first-year coach revamped the Broncos’ uniforms for 2013 and recently walked on fire. No, really.

And if that wasn’t enough, Fleck and his staff walked on broken glass this summer.

Here’s a video and a photo showing Fleck’s offseason adventures.

 

Teaser:
Western Michigan Coach P.J. Fleck Walks on Fire
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 08:55
All taxonomy terms: Funny, videos, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/soccer-stars-make-horribly-awesome-retro-rap-video
Body:
In the spirit of "The Super Bowl Shuffle," meet the MLS All-Stars as they rap a truly terrible, "We're Better Than the Rest!" The '85 Bears would be proud.
 

Teaser:
In the spirit of "The Super Bowl Shuffle," meet the MLS All-Stars as they rap a truly terrible, "We're Better Than the Rest!"
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 08:54
Path: /college-football/north-carolina-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

After serving a one-year postseason ban, North Carolina is poised to make a run at the ACC Coastal title in 2013.

The Tar Heels return 13 starters, including quarterback Bryn Renner and receiver Quinshad Davis. Even though guard Jonathan Cooper and running back Giovani Bernard must be replaced, North Carolina should have no trouble scoring points.

However, the defense remains a question mark. North Carolina allowed 25.7 points a game in 2012 and must replace tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick. The Tar Heels also struggled stopping opposing offenses late in the year, allowing 38 points to a Maryland team that was starting a linebacker at quarterback, and giving up 68 to Georgia Tech.

The ACC Coastal is a wide-open division. And the Tar Heels figure to be in the mix for the title, especially with a favorable crossover schedule against the Atlantic.

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

North Carolina's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
John
Cassillo
Ryan 
Tice
Tar Heel
Times
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
Matt
McClusky
David
Fox
8/29 at South Carolina
9/7 MTSU
9/21 at Georgia Tech
9/28 East Carolina
10/5 at Virginia Tech
10/17 Miami
10/26 Boston College
11/2 at NC State
11/9 Virginia
11/16 at Pittsburgh
11/23 Old Dominion
11/30 Duke
Final Projection8-410-28-49-38-48-49-39-3

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The more I look at North Carolina’s 2012 season, the more I am impressed with the job that Larry Fedora did in his first year. The Tar Heels had nothing to play for, yet went 8-4 and lost three games by five points or less. I’m giving Miami a slight edge to win the Coastal, but it wouldn’t shock me if North Carolina finishes at the top of the division. Provided the offensive line finds a replacement for standout guard Jonathan Cooper, the Tar Heels should rank near the top of the ACC in scoring. The defense is still in need of repair, but this unit should be better with another offseason to work with coordinator Vic Koenning. North Carolina has a favorable crossover slate, as it misses Clemson and Florida State in crossover play. However, the Tar Heels drew a tough road schedule, which includes trips to South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State and Pittsburgh.

Tar Heel Times (@TarHeelTimes) TarHeelTimes.com
The 2013 Tar Heels will be as good as their defense allows them to be. Despite an explosive, record-setting offensive performance in 2012, the UNC defense surrendered 26 points per game and seemed to have trouble at times adjusting to their new 4-2-5 scheme. If the defense can catch up with the offense in year two then the sky's the limit. However, the Tar Heels have a tough early-season slate with an opening-weekend visit to South Carolina and a trip to Georgia Tech, where they haven't won since 1997. If the defense can't adjust, then the Tar Heels will have plenty of offensive weapons to fall back on, despite some new faces on the offensive line. Quarterback Bryn Renner, tight end Eric Ebron, wide receiver Quinshad Davis, and running backs A.J. Blue and Romar Morris each have All-ACC caliber talent. UNC's trip to Virginia Tech will be problematic as will their Thursday night prime-time encounter with Miami in Chapel Hill, which is being dubbed "Zero Dark Thursday" and will feature UNC's black uniforms. The Heels also visit rival NC State, who boldly scheduled UNC as their homecoming game despite having a new coach and a first-year starting quarterback. UNC ends their regular season against Duke in Chapel Hill, which is always a close affair.
 

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
I'm sure I'm giving more credit to the Tar Heels than most, but look at that schedule. Outside of the dates against South Carolina and Miami (both losses in my book), are there really any games on this schedule where you truly doubt UNC? Both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are on the road, as is rival NC State, but each of those teams has their own respective reasons why they'll have some struggles this season. Expect Bryn Renner to be even more comfortable in Larry Fedora's offense this year, as he and A.J. Blue (who'll pick up right where Gio Bernard left off) lead this offense to one of the country's best scoring efforts.

 

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice), TheWolfpacker.com
The loss of running back Giovani Bernard to the NFL is a huge blow to the offense — both the ground and aerial attacks — as well as the punt return game. The Tar Heels have also lost some of their star offensive linemen, although left tackle James Hurst will be one of the ACC’s best. Quarterback Bryn Renner is back for his third year as the starter, receiver Quinshad Davis is a potential star in the making and tight end Eric Ebron is the league’s best at his position. However, the defense lost its best two players and that is the side that will really decide wins and losses after the Heels allowed nearly 400 yards of offense per game last season. In terms of the division race, the good news is that UNC gets 14 days to prepare for Georgia Tech on the road, and coaches always want as much time as possible to prepare for Paul Johnson and the Yellow Jackets. However, the schedule is a bear from that Sept. 21 date until Nov. 2 with an in-state rival that can’t be overlooked in East Carolina, a road game at Virginia Tech, a home tilt with division favorite Miami and then a road date at NC State following a breather against Boston College on Oct. 26.

Mark Ross

Outside of a blowout loss to Georgia Tech, North Carolina's three other losses last season came by a total of nine points. Yes, the Tar Heels lost key personnel on both sides of the ball, but there's plenty of talent coming back and both units should be even more comfortable in Larry Fedora's no-huddle spread attack and the unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme this fall.

The offense, with quarterback Bryn Renner, wide receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron leading the way, should score plenty of points. The Tar Heels' season success will come down to how much better the defense plays, especially against the pass. Opening up on the road against South Carolina will not be easy, but as long as Renner emerges unscathed against Jedeveon Clowney and company, the Tar Heels should at least keep the ACC Coastal race interesting.

The key to this is finding a way to get some wins on the road (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, NC State and Pittsburgh) and also beating Miami at home. Establishing some sort of a running game and cutting down on the big plays allowed on defense wouldn't hurt either.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

What stands out about North Carolina's schedule in the ACC this year is the toughness of the road slate. Few teams will play as tough a four-pack of games like at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech, at NC State and at Pitt. A 1-3 record in that group might be considered a success. Bryn Renner is an underrated quarterback nationally, but the offense will have to replace loads of departed NFL talent. Quality quarterback play and a great offensive scheme gives UNC a chance to compete for a division crown. The Tar Heels will pull an upset or two — say, over Miami — but won't win enough on the road to get to Charlotte for the ACC title game.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
North Carolina’s going to be an interesting team to watch, especially on offense. Bryn Renner is going to need to take a greater lead of the offense with Giovani Bernard gone to the NFL. Offensive line may be a bit of a question, but the Heels have three starters back to a team that allowed less than one sack per game. I like the way the season ends for North Carolina. If the Tar Heels can get out of those first six games with a winning record, they could win the division. I’ve picked Carolina to lost to Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have defeated Carolina in seven of the last eight meetings. After that, North Carolina needs to look for a split against the defensive power of the division (Virginia Tech) and the best offensive team in the division (Miami).

Matt McClusky, (@MatthewMcClusky), NunesMagician.com

Some things about North Carolina you may not realize: Butch Davis is long gone; Larry Fedora is in, and is heading for year two as coach. The Tar Heels' NCAA issues of the last few seasons are mostly over and this team was actually pretty good last year. The off-field turmoil is over and that means it's probably time to pay attention to North Carolina, especially with the return of Bryn Renner at quarterback and Quinshad Davis at wideout. The duo of Renner and Davis will be lighting up ACC defenses, which is good news for fans of big plays. Plus, anyone else excited to see the Tar Heels offense against South Carolina week one? A weak offensive line could make that game...interesting. The defense, which was an issue at points last season, does return six starters, but will likely still be a problem for Fedora. Which is another reason the Tar Heels, a sneaky team in the ACC, should be something of appointment viewing this fall. Close, high scoring games are always fun to watch.
 

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North Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
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With the turn of the calendar to August, fall practice is officially set to begin across the nation for all 125 college football teams.

Most teams are settled at quarterback, but there are a handful of programs still looking for the right answer heading into fall practice.

None of the top-10 teams in Athlon’s projected final top 25 will have a quarterback battle this fall, but top-25 teams like TCU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon State and Wisconsin need to settle on a starter over the next few weeks.

Although quarterback battles aren’t necessarily bad if they extend into the season, most coaching staffs would prefer to find the right answer before the first game.

College Football's Top Fall Practice Quarterback Battles

Arizona
Matt Scott’s eligibility expired after the New Mexico Bowl, leaving a wide-open battle for Arizona’s job in the spring. B.J. Denker served as the backup last season and made one start (Colorado). Denker has the edge in experience, but he will be pushed by junior college transfer and former USC Trojan Jesse Scroggins, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and true freshman Anu Solomon. Scroggins is recovering from a foot injury and is expected to be at full strength by the time fall practice opens. Solomon ranked as the No. 17 quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class by Athlon Sports. Denker’s edge in experience should pay off early in the year. However, the Wildcats could turn to Solomon or Scroggins by midseason.
Projected Starter for Opener: Denker

Auburn
Gus Malzahn’s return to Auburn was expected to benefit Kiehl Frazier — who was recruited to the Plains by Malzahn — and Jonathan Wallace, as both quarterbacks struggled in last season’s pro-style attack. However, midway through fall practice, the outlook for the Tigers' quarterback battle has changed. Junior college recruit (and former Georgia defensive back) Nick Marshall and true freshman Jeremy Johnson have ascended to the top of the depth chart. Marshall threw for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns, while rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 scores at Garden City Community College in 2012. Adapting as a junior college recruit to SEC play is never easy, but Marshall’s athleticism could at least give him a role as a change-of-pace option in 2013. Frazier moved to safety, but Wallace is expected to be in the mix at quarterback if Johnson or Marshall stumbles.
Projected First Game Starter: Marshall


California
The Golden Bears opened spring practice with seven quarterbacks vying for the starting spot. Redshirt freshman Zach Kline, true freshman Jared Goff and junior Austin Hinder finished as the top three options, but none has thrown a pass at the FBS level. Kline ranked as the No. 4 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class, while Goff impressed in his first semester on campus. Hinder ranked as a top-20 national quarterback recruit in the 2010 signing class and completed 5 of 9 passes for 87 yards in the spring game. Whichever quarterback wins the job will be the triggerman for an offense that has potential to score plenty of points under new coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin
Projected First Game Starter: Kline


Kansas State
Despite losing quarterback Collin Klein, Kansas State’s offense is still in good shape. The offensive line is among the best in the Big 12, and running back John Hubert is back after rushing for 947 yards last year. The receiving corps has plenty of talent, including Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. Daniel Sams served as Klein’s backup in 2012, rushing for 235 yards and three touchdowns in limited work. Battling Sams for the top spot is Jake Waters, who ranked as the top junior college quarterback in the nation, throwing for 3,501 yards at Iowa Western Community College in 2012. Waters also set a NJCAA national record for completion percentage (73.3) in 2012. While Klein will be missed, the Wildcats should be solid on offense with either Sams or Waters at the controls.
Projected First Game Starter: Sams


Michigan State
The Spartans sorely missed Kirk Cousins last year, as the offense averaged only 20 points per game and ranked ninth in the Big Ten with 359.3 yards per game. Andrew Maxwell started all 13 games last season but completed only 52.5 percent of his throws and averaged just 200.5 yards per game. Connor Cook gave Michigan State’s offense a spark in the bowl game and is in the mix, along with Tyler O’Connor and true freshman Damion Terry. Cook gives the offense more mobility from the quarterback spot, but Maxwell’s experience should give him the edge for the opener.
Projected First Game Starter: Maxwell


NC State
Mike Glennon expired his eligibility after the Music City Bowl, leaving Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker fighting for the top spot on the depth chart this spring. Thomas finished spring ball as the No. 1 quarterback, but coach Dave Doeren added another name to the mix for the fall – Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell. Although Mitchell doesn’t have a ton of game experience (43 passes) from his time in Fayetteville, he is the best fit for an offense that plans to show more spread looks in 2013. It’s not easy to pickup an offense in a few months, but Mitchell should edge Thomas and Stocker for the top spot.
Projected First Game Starter: Mitchell


Oklahoma
After playing a part-time role the last two seasons, Blake Bell is the heavy favorite to be Oklahoma’s No. 1 quarterback in 2013. Bell has rushed for 24 touchdowns in his career but has thrown only 20 passes. While Bell has a lead over redshirt freshman Trevor Knight and sophomore Kendal Thompson, this job is far from settled – at least according to coach Bob Stoops. Knight had an impressive spring and also brings dual-threat ability to the offense. Could Thompson or Knight see time as a short-yardage or change-of-pace quarterback assuming Bell wins the job? Even though Bell needs to prove he can consistently beat defenses with his arm, the junior should be the No. 1 quarterback for Oklahoma.
Projected First Game Starter: Bell


Oklahoma State

Coach Mike Gundy has indicated that Clint Chelf will open the year as the No. 1 quarterback. But this battle could extend into the season. Chelf finished 2012 as the starter, throwing for 13 touchdowns over the final five games. Wes Lunt opened last year as the starter as a true freshman, but injuries kept him out of the lineup for most of the season, and he transferred this summer to Illinois. If he doesn’t unseat Chelf, J.W. Walsh could see snaps in special packages if he’s not the starter. Although Gundy insists the quarterback job is open, it’s hard to envision the first snap going to someone other than Chelf.
Projected First Game Starter: Chelf 


Oregon State
The good news for coach Mike Riley is that the Beavers have two proven starting quarterbacks. The bad news? Neither played well enough last season or in spring practice to secure the top spot. Sean Mannion opened 2012 as Oregon State’s No. 1 quarterback, but a knee injury forced him out of action, which opened the door for Cody Vaz. Although Vaz isn’t as talented as Mannion, he seems to have the trust of the coaching staff and threw only three picks in 185 attempts. Mannion has the edge in talent and was voted as a team captain for 2013. Could that be a sign he is the preferred No. 1 quarterback for Oregon State?
Projected First Game Starter: Mannion


Penn State

Steven Bench, the most experienced quarterback on the roster (with eight attempts) left the program after spring practice, creating a two-way battle to replace Matt McGloin. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and true freshman Christian Hackenberg — the No. 13 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100 — will do their best to impress coach Bill O’Brien during the fall. If Hackenberg is as good as advertised, O’Brien won’t hesitate to let the freshman play. Considering O’Brien’s history of tutoring quarterbacks, the winner of this job should have a big season in Happy Valley.
Projected First Game Starter: Hackenberg


TCU
Casey Pachall was on track to be one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks last season, but he was suspended for the season after an off-the-field incident in early October. Pachall threw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns as TCU’s full-time starter in 2011. Trevone Boykin performed well in his first extended look at quarterback last season, finishing the year with 2,054 yards and 15 touchdowns. Boykin is the better dual-threat option, but Pachall is more experienced and has a good grasp of the offense. The senior is also is the better passer, which will allow TCU to stretch the field more than it did last year. Expect Pachall to win the starting job, but don’t be surprised if both quarterbacks see playing time in 2013.
Projected First Game Starter: Pachall


Tennessee
New coach Butch Jones inherits a Tennessee offense that has one of the best offensive lines in the nation, but is lacking proven talent at receiver and doesn’t have an established quarterback. Justin Worley holds a slight edge over the competition, as he has nine games of experience under his belt, including three starts in 2011. Worley has thrown for 738 yards and one touchdown so far in his career. Freshman Nathan Peterman pushed Worley for time in the spring, but true freshmen Joshua Dobbs and Riley Ferguson will factor into the mix. Dobbs is the best fit for Jones’ offense, but is he ready to start the season opener?
Projected First Game Starter: Worley


USC
Matt Barkley departs after throwing for 12,327 yards in his career, leaving true freshman Max Browne and sophomores Max Wittek and Cody Kessler competing for the No. 1 job. After Barkley suffered a shoulder injury against UCLA, Wittek started the final two games and completed just 28-of-60 passes. Kessler completed both of his attempts in mop-up duty last year, while Browne is one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 signing class. Kessler had the better spring, but Wittek seems to be the preferred choice of the coaching staff. Regardless of whether it’s Wittek, Kessler or Browne under center, they will have one of the nation’s top receiving corps at their disposal.
Projected First Game Starter: Wittek

West Virginia
Junior Paul Millard (34 pass attempts), Florida State transfer Clint Trickett and redshirt freshman Ford Childress are battling for the right to replace Geno Smith. Millard backed up Smith the last two years and most of his playing time was in mop-up duty. Childress is the son of a former NFL lineman and was ranked as the No. 18 quarterback in the nation by Athlon Sports in the 2012 signing class. Trickett joined the team following spring practice after three seasons in Tallahassee. He started two games in 2011, which included an impressive performance at Clemson (336 yards). Millard has the most experience in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system, but Childress might have more upside. However, the addition of Trickett has added another element to the battle, and the junior certainly wasn’t brought in to hold a clipboard.
Projected First Game Starter: Trickett

Wisconsin
Curt Phillips stabilized Wisconsin’s quarterback play last season after an injury sidelined Joel Stave and Danny O’Brien was benched due to ineffectiveness. But Phillips could be the odd man out this season, as Stave turned in a solid spring, and junior college recruit Tanner McEvoy is the best fit for new coach Gary Andersen’s offense. Stave threw for 1,104 yards and six scores last season but doesn’t offer anything on the ground. McEvoy is a dual-threat who could thrive in coordinator Andy Ludwig’s attack. However, he will need some time to learn the offense, as well as adjust to the competition level in the Big Ten.
Projected First Game Starter: Stave

Others to Watch

Houston
Houston’s offense took a step back last year after the departure of quarterback Case Keenum and coach Kevin Sumlin. Piland had a good performance against Louisiana Tech (580 yards) but finished the year with 12 picks and completed 57.1 percent of his throws. He will be pushed by JUCO recruit Billy Cosh, sophomore Bram Kohlhausen and incoming freshman John O’Korn.

Indiana
The Hoosiers have three quarterbacks capable of leading this team in 2013. Sophomore Tre Roberson missed most of last year due to a leg injury, while Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld played well in relief. Indiana ranked second in the Big Ten in total offense and regardless of which quarterback wins the job, should be one of the best in the conference once again.

Iowa
The Hawkeyes offense ranked 11th in the Big Ten in scoring last year, and none of the quarterbacks on the roster have played a snap in an Iowa uniform. Sophomore Jake Rudock is the favorite, but he will be pushed by junior Cody Sokol and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard.

Kentucky
Coach Mark Stoops’ decision to hire Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator should pay dividends for Kentucky in 2013. But for Brown to move the Wildcats out of the SEC cellar in scoring offense, a quarterback needs to emerge. There’s no shortage of candidates, with sophomore Jalen Whitlow owning a slight edge over Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles heading into the fall.

Purdue
New coach Darrell Hazell wants to settle on a No. 1 quarterback this fall, with senior Rob Henry and freshmen Danny Etling and Austin Appleby vying for snaps. Henry has seven career starts at quarterback but none since 2010. Etling was one of Purdue’s top recruits and impressed in spring practice.

South Florida
After averaging just 20.6 points a game in 2012, there’s plenty of room for USF’s offense to improve this year. New coach Willie Taggart has attempted to bolster South Florida’s quarterback issues by adding Penn State transfer Steven Bench this summer. Bench will compete with senior Bobby Eveld, sophomore Matt Floyd and true freshman Mike White this fall.

Syracuse
Ryan Nassib won’t be easy to replace, but Syracuse has three intriguing candidates competing for time. Drew Allen is eligible immediately after transferring from Oklahoma, while sophomore Terrel Hunt adds a dual-threat option to the offense, and Charley Loeb was the backup to Nassib last year.

Texas Tech
Michael Brewer was considered a heavy favorite to win the job in the spring, but true freshman Davis Webb impressed the coaching staff. Is there really a battle here or is this a motivational tactic to push Brewer?

Virginia
Coach Mike London indicated sophomore David Watford will open fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert is expected to push for time. Watford redshirted in 2012 after throwing for 346 yards as a true freshman in 2011.

Washington State
Junior Connor Halliday heads into the fall with an edge over redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca and true freshman Tyler Bruggman. Halliday threw for 1,874 yards in limited action last year, but he needs to cut down on his mistakes and complete a higher percentage of his passes.

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College Football's Quarterback Battles to Watch in Fall Practice
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:15
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Penn State is still dealing with NCAA sanctions, but the program appears to be on stable ground with second-year coach Bill O’Brien. The Nittany Lions rebounded from an 0-2 start to finish 8-4 last season, which included a win over Wisconsin in overtime and a 39-28 victory over Northwestern. A big part of Penn State’s eight-win season was the transformation of quarterback Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten’s top passers, along with the leadership provided from defenders Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti and Jordan Hill.

Even though McGloin, Hodges, Mauti and Hill are gone, the Nittany Lions still have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. The offense needs to find a quarterback, which doesn’t figure to be an impossible task considering O’Brien’s work in the NFL and with McGloin in 2012. The defense has a new coordinator and must replace the heart and soul of the unit from last year.

With a bowl ban in place for 2013, Penn State is once again ineligible to compete for the postseason. However, O’Brien should have this team back in the mix for eight or more victories this year.

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

Penn State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Brent
Yarina
Kevin
McGuire
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
8/31 Syracuse (East Rutherford)
9/7 Eastern Michigan
9/14 UCF
9/21 Kent State
10/5 at Indiana
10/12 Michigan
10/26 at Ohio State
11/2 Illinois
11/9 at Minnesota
11/16 Purdue
11/23 Nebraska
11/30 at Wisconsin
Final Projection8-47-56-68-48-48-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Whether it’s Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson starting at quarterback, Penn State should be just fine on offense. There’s plenty of talent at the skill positions, and the offensive line is solid with the return of left tackle Donovan Smith and guard John Urschel. My biggest question mark for the Nittany Lions is a defense that loses linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, along with tackle Jordan Hill. Replacing the leadership and production those players provided won’t be easy. There’s also a new coordinator (John Butler), but Penn State doesn’t plan on drastically changing the scheme. The schedule certainly isn’t easy for the Nittany Lions, especially with crossover games against Michigan and Nebraska. Road trips against division foes Ohio State and Wisconsin are likely losses as well. I know it’s a longshot, but I have Penn State losing to Indiana. Maybe the Nittany Lions don’t lose to the Hoosiers, but I feel this is a 8-4 team.

Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)

We don’t know what Penn State has under center, we don’t know if Zach Zwinak is a true No. 1 back, we don’t know how the Penn State defense will perform without now-NFL linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, so I’m thinking 7-5 is a fair prediction. The schedule doesn’t help, either, featuring arguably the Big Ten’s top four teams (Michigan; at Ohio State;  Nebraska; at Wisconsin) and one of the conference’s tougher nonconference slates. But, I will say this: it’s hard not to believe in Bill O’Brien and staff, who the players never quit on after last year’s 0-2 start and who turned Matt McGloin, a much-maligned and unsuccessful quarterback, and Allen Robinson, an unknown receiver, into the Big Ten’s premier pass-catch duo.
 

Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com

Penn State appears to have plenty of potential at quarterback, but it could get off to a rough start regardless of who is under center to start the season, be it JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson or blue chip quarterback Christian Hackenberg. I believe the defense will be solid enough to win most of their games and keep some others within reach, but despite having a strong running game and dependable tight ends, until we know just how quickly Hackenberg and/or Ferguson get adjusted to this level of play I think it is fair to have some legitimate concerns about Penn State's offense.

The non-conference schedule is not the easiest. For now, I have Syracuse winning the week one match-up and Central Florida sneaking out of State College with a win. Penn State could just as easily be 4-0 or 3-1 heading in to conference play but I'll take a cautious approach and call for a split. The Big Ten schedule includes three games I think for now are most likely losses. Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska are all losses to keep in line with my previous picks, and I think playing at Wisconsin in the final game of the season could be a loss right now. All in all, six wins avoids a losing record, which I think is a solid victory for Bill O'Brien right now. O'Brien still has Penn State heading in a positive direction overall, which may not be indicative just by watching the win total at the end of the season.

Mark Ross
Give credit to Bill O'Brien and his coaching staff for what they were able to accomplish while dealing with so much adversity last season. This fall the task will be to maintain the momentum despite having to start over at quarterback and fill some sizable holes on defense. Getting Michigan and Nebraska in Big Ten crossover play only adds to the degree of difficulty, but I am a believer in O'Brien. It also helps that the returning offensive players, starting with Big Ten Receiver of the Year Allen Robinson, have had a full season to adapt to the new system, which should only help the new quarterback. It may not be as special as last season's run, but look for the Nittany Lions to match 2012's win total, despite the ongoing bowl ban.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Bill O'Brien has some big holes to fill on defense, in particular in the leadership department. The linebacking corps and defensive line will be the key to success for the Lions this fall. However, the offense returns largely intact and is ready for the arrival of Christian Hackenberg. The non-conference schedule is very manageable and should provide four victories. Division play also offers plenty of wins as well, but crossover play will be nasty with Michigan and Nebraska coming to town. However, is Penn State pulls one upset in a game in which it isn't favored, it could easily get to nine wins. The Lions will win the ones they are supposed to and lose the ones they are supposed to.
 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Penn State is going to be tough to pick. Christian Hackenberg is the future, but he’s operating without a net. Bill O’Brien worked miracles with Matt McGloin, but McGloin was still a senior with starting experience. I’m looking toward those early games against UCF and Indiana — two teams with quality offenses — to be key indicators of how Penn State will do on defense. The Nittany Lions lost some good seniors. I’ve picked Penn State to win both, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nittany Lions split those games. My eye-popping picks are probably a loss to Minnesota on the road and a win over Nebraska at home. More than anything, I think those possibilities illustrate what kind of up-and-down season this could be for a program with a freshman quarterback, limited depth and no hope for a postseason.

 

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Penn State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 07:15

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