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Path: /college-football/notre-dame-boston-college-play-fenway-park-2015

A new trend has popped up in recent years for college football teams, as some have scheduled games in baseball stadiums. Illinois-Northwestern played at Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium in New York hosts the Pinstripe Bowl.

Boston College and Notre Dame will continue this recent trend, scheduling a game for Fenway Park in 2015.

This will be the first football game in Fenway Park since 1968. Needless to say, this is a pretty awesome setting for a football game.

Notre Dame-Boston College to Play at Fenway Park in 2015
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 13:36
Path: /college-football/famous-idaho-potato-bowl-preview-and-prediction-buffalo-vs-san-diego-state

Schools that are separated by 2,600 miles on opposite coasts will meet for the first time ever on the gridiron when Buffalo and San Diego State face off in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

Buffalo went 8-4 and finished second (6-2) in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). In his fourth season with the school, head coach Jeff Quinn led the Bulls to just their second bowl appearance in program history and only their third winning season in the last 20 years. Buffalo lost to Connecticut 38-20 in the International Bowl following the 2008 season in its only other postseason appearance.

On the other side, San Diego State is making its fourth straight bowl appearance. Under the direction of head coach Rocky Long, the Aztecs won seven games in the regular season (7-5) and finished second (6-2) in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference (MWC). San Diego State has lost its last two bowl games, the most recent a 23-6 defeat to BYU in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl.

For what it’s worth, the Bulls and the Aztecs did have one common opponent during the regular season. Both teams played Ohio State on the road and the games took place on back-to-back Saturdays. Buffalo opened its season with a 40-20 loss at The Horseshoe on Aug. 31, with the Aztecs coming in right behind them and likewise tasting defeat, 42-7, at the hands of the Buckeyes.

San Diego State also may a slight home-field edge in this game, which is being played at Boise State’s Bronco Stadium. As a member of the MWC, the Aztecs have played the Broncos in each of the past three seasons. This season’s contest was in San Diego State, but the Aztecs played in Boise in 2012, and won 21-19. Will their success on the well-known blue-colored artificial surface known as “Smurf Turf” carry over against the Bulls?

Buffalo vs. San Diego State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Buffalo -3.5

Buffalo’s Key to Victory: Establish the run
The Bulls enters this game 67th in the nation in rushing at 171.9 yards per game. While that may not seem like a lot at first, a closer look at the numbers shows how important the ground game is to this offense. In eight wins, the offense averages 223.5 yards rushing per game. In four losses, that number plummets to just 68.6. The Bulls are powered by senior running back Branden Oliver, a two-time, first-team All-MAC selection who has rushed for nearly 4,000 yards in his career. Prior to his last game, Oliver had recorded seven straight 100-yard rushing performances, including two over 200 yards. He is averaging five yards per carry and has 1,421 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in just 11 games. San Diego State has been very good against the run this season, coming in tied for 22nd in the nation in rushing defense (132.9 ypg). If Oliver can get going early, it should only help open up a Buffalo passing game led by sophomore quarterback Joe Licata that produced nearly 2,800 yards and 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions.

San Diego State’s Key to Victory: Balance on offense
The Aztecs are 58th in the nation in total offense at 422 yards per game. For the season, the offense has skewed more to the pass (262.3), with more than 62 percent of their yards coming through the air. However, the recipe for much of the Aztecs’ success this season has come when both aspects of their offense is working. In San Diego State’s seven wins, the offense is averaging 255.1 yards passing per game compared to 272.1 in losses. That’s a difference of less than 20 yards. When it comes to running the ball, however, the gap is considerably bigger – try 199.9 yards rushing per game in wins versus 103.6 in losses. That’s a difference of nearly 100 yards. Junior running back Adam Muema (above, right) has gone over 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and is averaging 19 carries a game. He needs to lead the Aztecs’ own charge on the ground against a Buffalo defense that gave up less than 160 yards rushing per game. Similar to Buffalo’s offensive game plan, Muema’s success on the ground will help open up things for quarterback Quinn Kaehler without putting too much of the burden on the junior who struggled some (239-1-2) in his last game, a 45-19 blowout loss at UNLV.

Key Player: Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo
The 6-3, 248-pound senior is the heart and soul of the Bulls defense and one of the best defenders in all of college football. He’s a three-time, first-team All-MAC honoree and was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year this season. Mack established a new NCAA record for career forced fumbles with 16 and he is tied for the all-time mark with 75 tackles for a loss. He has led the team in tackles three straight years, registering 94 of them so far, along with 19 tackles for a loss, a team-high 10.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions. He is a big reason why the Bulls were tied for 11th in the nation in sacks (36) and is definitely someone the Aztecs will need to account for on every single play. Mack is expected to be a first-round pick in May’s NFL Draft and no doubt he would love to end his collegiate career on a high note with a big game on national TV.

Final Analysis

There’s no denying the level of competition is considerably stiffer in the MWC compared to the MAC, but that doesn’t mean you should sell this Buffalo team short. With Branden Oliver running the ball and Khalil Mack anchoring the defense, the Bulls have some NFL-caliber talent on their roster. San Diego State can put up some offense of its own, but the Aztecs have had their problems on defense and seem to lack instant impact-type of players. With Oliver and Mack playing their final collegiate games, I think their teammates will rally together and help these two standouts cap off a memorable season with the program’s first-ever bowl victory.

Prediction: Buffalo 31, San Diego State 27

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview and Prediction: Buffalo vs. San Diego State
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 12:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Big 12, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-unveils-mach-speed-uniforms-alamo-bowl

Oregon announced it will have new Nike “Mach Speed” uniforms for its Dec. 30 bowl matchup against Texas.

This uniform is also a sneak peek at what to expect from the Ducks in 2014.

According to the Nike release, here's a sample about what's new about these uniforms:

It’s all about speed. For the last decade Nike has continually evolved college football uniforms for the country’s best teams. Among these, the Oregon Ducks football uniforms are on the cutting edge of innovation, with the clear goal of optimizing athlete performance and speed on the field. On December 30, Oregon will take the field wearing the latest Nike Pro Combat “Mach Speed” uniform, the most innovative Nike Pro Combat system of dress to date.

The uniform features an all-new chassis including the latest in lightweight fabric innovation built for maximum speed, ventilation and comfort. Drawing inspiration from some of the fastest athletes in the world, Nike has applied research and design across multiple sports to create one of the fastest uniforms on the field. Taking insights from Nike’s Swift Suit technology, the new Nike Mach Speed Football uniform fabric construction features an articulated fit to match the athlete’s motion of play. Ultimately this allows the athletes to move with the uniform fabrics, rather than against them.

Click here to view a full gallery of images for Oregon’s uniforms.

Oregon Unveils "Mach Speed" Uniforms in Alamo Bowl
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 11:20
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-20-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 20.

Somebody finally had the good sense to put Kate Upton and her bikini in a movie. It's called "The Other Woman" and it will be out on April 25, 2014. That's a still from the movie to the right. I'm leaving later today to camp out for tickets.

• Today's end-of-year lists: The most unforgettable sports moments of 2013. And, on a stupider note, the most worthless sports Instagrams of 2013.

• Boy, time flies: It's been exactly one decade since a wasted Joe Namath wanted to kiss Suzy Kolber.

Bill Belichick may come across as a Scrooge, and he is — the Christmas morning version. Dude's practically Clark Griswold in his love of the season.

Who has the best homefield advantage in the NFL? The Seahawks, of course, but there are some surprises near the top.

Another one of those awesome "Serviceman surprises family" videos, this one courtesy of Arizona basketball.

Angry Bama fan produces radio gold with her epic burn of "Colin Cow-turd."

Shaq, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith broke out an on-set drum solo with their pens. Charles Barkley was not amused. Charles Barkley is awesome.

Almost half of Forbes' 20 most valuable college football programs reside in the SEC. It's also interesting to note that there's a job opening at the No. 1 program on this list.

Joakim Noah tried to visit the Thunder locker room, but Kendrick Perkins was having none of it.

• Nobody does cruel kid videos like Jimmy Kimmel. This one involves a young Bears fan.

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

Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:45
Path: /college-football/betting-against-spread-college-football-bowls-picks-part-1

Like it or not, Las Vegas rarely gets it wrong, so tracking betting lines should always be a big part of each football weekend — even if there are no bets on the line. I finished the regular season 43-34-1 and that is where — if it were up to me — I would end my college football betting. Because betting on bowl games is a fool's errand. Motivation, focus, talent differentials all play huge roles in determining the outcome and, most of the time, this cannot be pinpointed for "exhibition" games. So my advice is stay away from every game not named the "BCS National Championship Game." But if you must, here are my top picks for games happening before the New Year (I will have the BCS bowls and other games taking place in 2014 coming soon).

2013 Record Against the Spread: 43-34-1 (4-2 last week)

Bowl Picks, Part 1:

Fresno State (+6.5) vs. USC
The Bulldogs normally get up for bowl opponents from big conferences as they have won four straight postseason games against “BCS” conference teams. USC has lost four straight bowl games and are on their second interim head coach of the season. Even if Fresno loses, it’s hard to see a team with Derek Carr throwing passes getting blown out. I will take the points. Prediction: Fresno State +6.5

Ole Miss (-3.5) vs. Georgia Tech
Generally speaking, teams with plenty of time to prepare for the triple option fair well against Paul Johnson. The Tech head coach is 3-7 in bowl games overall and Ole Miss is simply a significantly better team on both sides of the ball. Look for a large contingent of Rebel fans in Nashville and for Ole Miss to build momentum for what could be a big 2014 season. Prediction: Ole Miss -3.5

Rutgers (+14.5) vs. Notre Dame
Rutgers is just bad. How is that for analysis? The Knights have won two of their last seven games and those wins came against South Florida and Temple — a combined 4-20 on the season. Notre Dame is significantly better on both sides of the ball and especially on defense, where Rutgers will struggle to find much space. Look for the Irish to roll big in this one with eyes on a potentially exciting 2014 campaign. Prediction: Notre Dame -14.5

BYU (+3) vs. Washington
Washington has lost its head coach and has a lot of players eyeing a jump to the NFL — Bishop Sankey, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Keith Price. BYU has a steely-eyed coach in Bronco Mendenhall and a dynamic quarterback in Taysom Hill. Look for the long preparation time to help the established coaching staff more than the inexperienced interim staff. Chris Peteresen isn’t on campus just yet, Huskies fans. Prediction: BYU +3

Miami (-3.5) vs. Louisville
Fans in Louisville have seen what a motivated Cardinals team can do in a bowl game when they trounced a superior Florida team in the Sugar Bowl last season. Yes, the game is being played in Orlando but a good chunk of the Louisville roster calls Florida home, including their star quarterback. Look for the Hurricanes — without Duke Johnson — to be looking ahead to next season while Teddy Bridgewater will have his squad focused in what should be his final college football game. Prediction: Louisville -3.5

Bowl Picks Against the Spread, Part 1:

Top 25 GamesMitch LightBraden GallSteven LassanDavid Fox
Washington St (-5) vs. Colorado St
Fresno St (+6.5) vs. USC

Buffalo (+2) vs. San Diego St

Tulane (-2.5) vs. UL Lafayette
East Carolina (-13.5) vs. Ohio
Boise St (+3) vs. Oregon St
Pitt (+5) vs. Bowling Green
Marshall (-2.5) vs. Maryland
Syracuse (+5) vs. Minnesota
BYU (+3) vs. Washington
Rutgers (+14.5) vs. Notre Dame
Cincinnati (+3) vs. North Carolina
N. Illinois (-1.5) Utah St
Miami (+3.5) vs. Louisville
Michigan (+3.5) vs. Kansas St
MTSU (+6) vs. Navy
Ole Miss (-3) vs. Georgia Tech
Oregon (-13.5) vs. Texas
Arizona St (-14) vs. Texas Tech
Arizona (-7.5) vs. Boston College
Virginia Tech (+7.5) vs. UCLA
Rice (+7) vs. Mississippi St
Duke (+12) vs. Texas A&M
Last Week:4-55-45-43-6


Betting Against the Spread: College Football Bowls Picks, Part 1
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/12-future-fantasy-football-stars-watch-college-bowl-season

The college bowl season is a great opportunity for us to get a look at the next crop of fantasy football stars. Pre-draft Combine and Pro Day workouts are fun, but nothing beats evaluating a player in live game action under the bright lights of a bowl game.

So get ahead of your competition and check out these 12 future fantasy football stars.

Marqise Lee, WR, USC
vs. Fresno State, Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

Lee is the most NFL-ready WR on this list. He wins with short-area quickness, smooth route-running and reliable hands. Lee has the versatility to line up all over the field.

His numbers have suffered this season because of knee and shoulder injuries and shaky QB play. But he’s just a year removed from a huge 118-catch, 1,721-yard campaign. He went for 73 catches and 1,143 yards in his freshman year.

Lee isn’t a true game breaker, but his polish could result in big numbers in the pros.  Think Marvin Harrison.

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
vs. Cincinnati, Belk Bowl, Dec. 28 at 3:20 p.m. ET on ESPN

Ebron is more WR than TE. And that’s just fine for fantasy owners.

This guy has all the tools to post big-time receiving numbers at the next level. Ebron goes 6’4, 245 pounds with impressive speed, acceleration and change-of-direction ability. He’s averaged a sizzling 16.3 yards per catch as the focal point of North Carolina’s passing game this year. He’s had catches of 71 and 79 yards. You don’t see that type of explosive ability from many TEs.

Ebron’s athleticism will allow him to line up all over the formation for his NFL team. The junior is expected to declare for the 2014 draft and will likely be a 1st-round pick. It shouldn’t take him long to emerge as a fantasy factor.

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
vs. Miami, Russell Athletic Bowl, Dec. 28 at 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN

Bridgewater’s draft stock has taken a hit recently, and recent reports have him contemplating staying in school another year. But he remains the most polished and well-rounded QB prospect in college football. He’s tossed 55 TDs vs. 12 INTs over the past 2 seasons. That’s impressive -- even if Bridgewater isn’t facing elite competition.

He has NFL-caliber arm strength and accuracy. Scouts laud his quick release. But it’s his ability to read defenses and dissect coverages that will help him make a seamless transition to the NFL. Bridgewater is a pocket passer but can pick up yards on the ground when he needs to. That will add to his fantasy potential.

If there’s a concern here, it’s Bridgewater’s wiry 6’3, 196-pound frame. He at least does a good job avoiding hits when he scrambles.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
vs. Texas, Valero Alamo Bowl, Dec. 30 at 6:45 p.m. ET on ESPN

Mariota made a surprising decision to return to school for 2014. He might have been in the mix to go No. 1 overall had he declared. The kid’s game could still use some polishing, though. He’ll only be more ready to make a fantasy impact when he comes out in 2015.

The most obvious comparison for Mariota is Colin Kaepernick. That might be a bit lofty -- Mariota doesn’t have Kaepernick’s arm strength and might fall a bit short in the accuracy department, too. But he has a similar combination of passing and rushing ability.

Mariota threw 30 TDs vs. just 4 INTs in 2013. On the ground, he’s ripped off 1,334 yards and 14 TDs over the past 2 seasons. Former Oregon HC Mike Bellotti calls Mariota “a more natural runner” than Robert Griffin.

Mariota isn’t as safe a fantasy prospect as Bridgewater, but he certainly has more upside.

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
vs. Arizona State, National University Holiday Bowl, Dec. 30 at 10:15 p.m. ET on ESPN

This isn’t the next Jimmy Graham. But he’s the closest thing in the college game.

Amaro is a 6’5, 260-pound freak of an athlete. He’s projected to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.6-second range.

He’s posted some videogame-like numbers in 2013. Amaro sits 11th among all players with 1,240 receiving yards. His 98 catches rank 7th.  (Remember that this is a TE we’re talking about.) He’s topped 100 yards in 5 of 12 games. Texas Tech’s pass-heavy spread offense has surely boosted Amaro’s production, but this guy is the real deal.

Amaro does damage as a traditional in-line TE or split out in the slot. He’s explosive off the snap with a size-speed combination that makes him a matchup nightmare. Amaro knows how to use his big frame to shield smaller defenders. And he has a pair of big, sticky hands.

In short, he’s everything NFL teams are looking for in a “new-age” TE. Amaro will be wildly productive in the NFL -- and a difference-maker in fantasy. The junior hasn’t officially declared for the 2014 draft but will compete with Ebron to be the 1st TE off the board if he does.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
vs. Duke, Chick-fil-A Bowl, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN

Johnny Manziel’s top target will likely emerge as a better pro than the 2012 Heisman winner.

Evans brings a mix of Anquan Boldin’s physicality and Vincent Jackson’s downfield playmaking ability. This is a 6’5, 225-pounder with excellent leaping ability, body control and vice-grip hands. Even when he’s covered, he’s open because of his dominant catch-point skills.

Draft Insider’s Tony Pauline ranks Evans as the top WR in the class.

“Large, game impacting receiver that physically beats defenders in the middle of the field or outraces opponents down the flanks,” Pauline wrote.  “Has all the necessary talents to be a big time number one wide out in the NFL.”

Evans might not rack up huge yardage at the next level, but he could be a catch and TD machine.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
vs. South Carolina, Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET on ABC

When you think of Wisconsin RBs, you usually think of big bruisers like Montee Ball or (gulp!) Ron Dayne. That’s not Gordon.

This guy is a home run hitter. Gordon has busted off runs of 65, 70, 71 and 80 yards this year. He’s totaled 1,466 yards on just 181 carries -- a juicy 8.1-yard average.

Gordon has drawn comparisons to Jamaal Charles as a 1-cut runner with elite speed and acceleration. While Gordon might not have Charles’ 4.3 wheels, he packs more punch at 6’1 and 203 pounds. If the redshirt sophomore declares for the 2014 NFL Draft, he has a chance to be the 1st RB off the board.

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
vs. Oklahoma, Allstate Sugar Bowl, Jan. 2 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

‘Bama has sent a bunch of backs to the big leagues lately -- Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy -- with varying degrees of success. Yeldon might be more talented than all of them.

As a true freshman in 2012, Yeldon ripped off 1,108 yards and 12 scores on 175 carries. That 6.3-yard average was just a shade lower than Lacy’s 6.5 mark. Yeldon has had another efficient campaign this year, taking 190 totes for 1,163 yards and 13 scores. He’s also a capable pass-catcher, with 29 grabs for 291 yards over the past 2 seasons.

At 6’2 and 218 pounds, Yeldon is almost the same exact size as Adrian Peterson when he came out of Oklahoma. Like Peterson, Yeldon boasts an impressive combination of speed and power. He busts plenty of tackles and has recorded 9 runs of 30+ yards over the last 2 years.

Yeldon isn’t eligible for the 2014 draft but is the early favorite to be the 1st RB off the board in 2015. He has all the makings of an elite fantasy back.

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
vs. Oklahoma State, AT&T Cotton Bowl, Jan. 3 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX

The comparisons to A.J. Green are warranted. Green-Beckham is a rangy 6’6, 225-pounder with scary athleticism and fluidity. ranked Green-Beckham as the top prospect in the 2012 class. CBS’ Tom Lemming called him the best high school WR since Randy Moss.

“He's got everything,” Lemming said. “Height, super long arms, leaping ability, speed, and most of all, production.”

Green-Beckham hasn’t disappointed at Missouri. A drug suspension marred his freshman season, but he averaged 14.1 yards per catch and scored 5 times in limited action. That included TDs of 70 and 80 yards.

He’s taken a giant leap forward in 2012. Green-Beckham leads Mizzou with 12 scores and is tied for the team lead with 55 catches. He’s averaging 15.1 yards per catch and has 6 grabs of 35+ yards.

Green-Beckam has more fantasy upside than any of the WRs listed above him here. You’ll just need to wait until 2015 to cash in on it. He’s not eligible for this spring’s NFL draft but will more than likely be a high 1st-rounder in 2015.

Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
vs. Clemson, Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Hyde totaled 1,408 yards and 14 TDs on a 7.7 yards-per-carry average this season. He heads to the Orange Bowl riding a streak of 8 straight 100-yard games.

The Buckeye doesn’t have the big-play ability of a Yeldon or Gordon, but he’s a big, bruising pile-driver. A 6’0, 242-pound tackle-breaking machine. Scouts are also high on his quick feet and vision. Hyde has been compared to Frank Gore.’s Charles Davis believes Hyde might be better than Eddie Lacy.

While he doesn’t project to contribute much in the passing game -- just 14 catches this year -- Hyde could be a big-time producer in non-PPR fantasy leagues. He has the size and skill set to be a perennial 300-carry, 10-TD RB.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
vs. Ohio State, Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

Watkins is by far the most explosive WR set to enter the big leagues in 2014. He has the speed to take the top off defenses but is at his best with the ball in his hands in open space.

“Watkins is one of the best ‘catch and run’ playmakers I've seen in the college game,”’s Bucky Brooks wrote. “He excels at maneuvering through traffic with the ball in his hands, but also displays the toughness to run through arm tackles on the perimeter.”

Watkins is averaging 14.1 yards per catch for his college career. He’s made 15 grabs of 40+ yards, including 91- and 96-yarders this season.  Watkins has topped 100 yards in 14 of 35 career games.

Watkins’ speed and explosion have drawn comparisons to Torrey Smith. And he’s probably a more well-rounded receiver than Smith was coming out of Maryland. Watkins is capable of making a 1st-year fantasy impact and should quickly emerge as a perennial stud.

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
vs. Auburn, BCS National Championship, Jan. 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN

The best player in college football is a redshirt freshman. Winston has been dominant in his debut season at Florida State, setting NCAA freshman records with 3,820 passing yards and 38 TDs. He’ll only get better as a passer with more seasoning.

But it’s Winston’s combination of size (6’4, 228 pounds) and athleticism that makes him such an intriguing fantasy football prospect.  He could make a Cam Newton-like impact with his legs at the pro level.

This article was written by Jared Smola and provided to Athlon Sports courtesy of Online since 1999, Draft Sharks won the 2010 and 2012 FSTA awards for the most accurate fantasy football projections in the industry.

12 Future Fantasy Football Stars to Watch This College Bowl Season
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/40-best-christmas-related-names-sports

Have you ever wondered which athlete or sports figure is tailor-made for the Christmas season? Well, we’ve made our list and checked it twice, although we’re still working on the naughty or nice part.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…
Dionte Christmas (SG, Phoenix Suns)
Rakeem Christmas (F, Syracuse basketball)
Matt Holliday (OF, St. Louis Cardinals)
Doug Jolley (former NFL tight end 2002-06)
Nerlens Noel (C, Philadelphia 76ers)

Plenty of sports figures have color-coordinated names for the season…
A.J. Green (WR, Cincinnati Bengals)
Shawn Green (former MLB OF/1B 1993-2007)
"Mean Joe" Greene (NFL Hall of Famer)
Red Auerbach (legendary NBA coach)
Red Grange (NFL Hall of Famer)
Michael Redd (former NBA guard 2000-12)

Who’s ready to deck the halls?
Todd Berry (Louisiana-Monroe football head coach)
Jamey Carroll (MLB IF, free agent)
Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks head coach)
Jon Garland (MLB pitcher 2000-11)
Royal Ivey (former NBA guard, 2004-13)
Holly Rowe (ESPN reporter)
Mike Tannenbaum (former New York Jets general manager)

Walking in a winter wonderland…
David Frost (PGA Champions Tour)
Scott Frost (Oregon offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach)
Frostee Rucker (DE, Arizona Cardinals)
Ron Slay (Tennessee basketball 1999-2003, now plays overseas)
Garth Snow (NHL goalie 1993-2006, current New York Islanders general manager)
J.T. Snow (MLB first baseman 1992-2006, '08)

Jay Cutler may hail from Santa Claus, Ind., but all these guys are missing is a white beard and a red suit…
Zac Claus (Nevada basketball assistant coach)
Casey Clausen (Tennessee quarterback 2000-03)
Jimmy Clausen (former NFL quarterback 2010-12)
Ed Kringle (played on the PGA Tour in the 1950s)

Sure they can play football, but can they fly?
Dwight Dasher (Middle Tennessee quarterback 2007-10)
Kyle Rudolph (TE, Minnesota Vikings)

Casting call for the nativity scene…
David DeJesus (OF, Tampa Bay Rays)
Curtis Joseph (NHL goalie 1988-2009)
Angel Pagan (OF, San Francisco Giants)
Russell Shepard (WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Mark Weisman (RB, Iowa football)

Now we feast…
Mia Hamm (women's soccer legend)
Felix Pie (MLB OF, free agent)
Antrel Rolle (DB, New York Giants)

And who better to wrap up our list...
Metta World Peace (F, New York Knicks)

The 40 Best Christmas-Related Names in Sports
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-jon-gruden-would-be-bad-fit-texas

Jon Gruden is back in the coaching rumor carousel once again. Last year the former NFL coach was mentioned prominently as a name to watch at Tennessee. Now the rumor mill has placed Gruden in the mix at Texas. If you are following along on Twitter, the hashtag is appropriate and catchy: #Grumors.

Gruden’s name popping up for coaching jobs seems to happen every offseason, but the Ohio native has a pretty cushy job – and a nice contract – in the Monday Night Football booth.

Is it just rumor or is there some truth to the Gruden to Texas rumors? My guess is its somewhere in the middle.

Gruden hasn’t coached since he was fired at Tampa Bay in 2008. Yes, that is five seasons ago. Also, Gruden hasn’t coached in college since 1991. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then.

A week ago, Athlon Sports posted a look at the top 10 candidates to replace Mack Brown at Texas. Gruden isn’t on our list, but if he’s interested, Texas will inquire.

Although Gruden might be interested in coming to Texas, the Longhorns would be wise to look in another direction. Sure, Gruden has a Super Bowl ring and is 95-81 at two different NFL stops. But for a program like Texas, is Gruden the right fit? Shouldn’t Texas target candidates with recent head coaching experience in college football?

Gruden will end up coaching once again, but our guess is it’s in the NFL – not on the sidelines in Austin.

Five Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would be a Bad Fit at Texas

1. Lack of College Experience
It’s one thing to coach in the NFL, but it’s another to win in the college ranks. UCLA’s Jim Mora is 18-8 in two years, but Bill Callahan was just 27-22 in four seasons at Nebraska. Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino each had success after spending time in the NFL, but both coaches got their start on the collegiate level. There’s no doubt coaches that come from the NFL can bring a lot of knowledge to a program, however, it’s not always easy relating to the players. Trying to implement a complicated offense is much easier in the NFL, especially since collegiate athletes have fewer hours to spend in the film room. Considering Gruden’s lack of head coaching experience in college, there would certainly be a transition period – and it may not be pretty early on – for Texas. Adapting to the college game takes time and even though Gruden has been intrigued by the no-huddle, spread offenses, he was a West Coast disciple in the NFL. Could he blend the two schemes together? Or would he revert to the West Coast? At Texas, the Longhorn Network requires some extra attention by the head coach in terms of media obligations. Also, there's the booster meet and greets that the head coach has to attend. Even though Gruden has been a good addition to the Monday Night Football booth, the extra media obligations and booster attention may be something he is not interested in taking on. 

2. An Eye to the NFL?
Even if Gruden jumps at the opportunity to coach at Texas or anywhere else in the collegiate ranks, what’s to stop him from getting back into the NFL? Contracts for college football coaches usually mean very little, and Gruden could spend two years in college, then choose to depart for the NFL. Texas should be able to offer a hefty contract and could put provisions into the deal to protect the program from a coach leaving after a year or two. However, you never know how long a coach is going to stick around, but considering Gruden’s NFL background and how he exited, it’s a safe bet that he wants another shot. If Gruden was hired at Texas and left after two years, there’s no question the Longhorns would have a long list of interested coaches. However, transitioning from one coach to another, especially one with different styles, can set the program back a few years.

3. Recruiting and Building a Coaching Staff
Gruden could probably recruit successfully off of his name only, at least for the first two or three years of his college tenure. However, what happens after that has to be a concern. It’s been over 20 years since Gruden had to hit the recruiting trail. And this isn’t just a six-month process – it lasts all season. Gruden is a relentless worker and there’s always the fear he could get burned out after just a few seasons. The former NFL coach would also have to put together a staff that would be good recruiters, but that shouldn’t be an issue at Texas where money is plentiful. Building a staff without many college connections isn’t easy, and a collection of NFL assistants wouldn't necessarily work at Texas.  

4. The West Coast Offense
The spread and high-scoring offenses are becoming the norm in college football, and there’s always been doubt the West Coast offense can work outside of the NFL. Although Gruden’s offense at Oakland finished three times in the top 10 of scoring offense, his teams at Tampa Bay never finished higher than 18th in the NFL in total offense. Obviously, it’s a different league, so it’s hard to take a lot away from those statistics. And of course, total offense numbers aren’t necessarily the best indicator of success. However, it’s also important to note 59 of the 125 teams in the nation are averaging at least 30 points a game, with 13 scoring at least 40 points per contest. Even though Alabama owns one of the nation’s best defenses, the Crimson Tide are averaging 38.8 points a game. Florida State – the No. 1 team in the nation – ranks third nationally in total defense and sixth in total offense. Again, those totals for Alabama and Florida State aren't necessarily the best indicator of success, but it showcases how some of the top teams in the nation are built. While Gruden’s background on offense is appealing, implementing a West Coast offense takes a lot of time. Nebraska (Bill Callahan) and Syracuse (Greg Robinson) implemented a similar scheme with limited results. During his time in the NFL, Gruden’s playbook might have been one of the deepest in the league. Although the schemes, plays and formations have worked in NFL, there’s simply no way Gruden can copy that offense in college. It’s not impossible for the West Coast offense to work in college, but Gruden would have to do a lot of simplifying to his playbook and be willing to adapt to more of a spread approach.

5. Too Difficult to Play For?
There’s no question Gruden would bring passion and energy to the sideline or to any program, but that may not translate well at the college level. Criticism is most players least favorite word, but NFLers are more likely to handle it better than college athletes. Although Gruden’s intensity could be a good thing for some players who have underachieved or aren’t putting in the proper hours, it’s a very fine line to walk with college players who don’t have the amount of time NFL players can put into perfecting their game. Gruden could land at a college and work out just fine. However, if he gets the reputation of being too difficult or too demanding to play for, his tenure will go south in a hurry. On name value alone, Gruden would have coaches lining up to join his staff. However, he’s a relentless worker. Would assistant coaches eventually get burned out from working with him?

5 Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would Be a Bad Fit at Texas
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-best-big-12-games-2013

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Four teams battled until the final whistle in the Big 12 to determine who would be heading to Tempe but there was a long and exciting list of great finishes in the Big 12.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the Big 12’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24 (Dec. 7)
One of the most heated rivalries in all of college football had some extra juice in 2013. The Big 12 title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl was on the line for the Pokes while the Sooners had a shot at a BCS bowl and 10-win season in their sights (not to mention ruining the Cowboys' season). Bob Stoops had to turn to his backup quarterbacks at halftime, so he leaned on his defense all game. Holding Okie State in check most of the game, the Sooners finally lost the lead when Oklahoma State went up 24-20 with 2:30 to go. Mike Gundy had to give the ball back to the Crimson and Cream with less than two minutes to play. Blake Bell contructed a drive to remember when he moved the Sooners down the field for the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play. Stoops moved to 8-1 all-time against Gundy as he dashed OSU’s Big 12 title hopes on the final drive of the season.

2. Oklahoma State 33, Kansas State 29 (Oct. 5)
The Cowboys' offense struggled for much of the game but Oklahoma State carried a three-point lead into halftime at home against KSU. The Wildcats retook the lead early in the third quarter before two OSU field goals gave the Pokes a 23-21 advantage heading into the fourth. With 6:09 left, however, Daniel Sams announced himself to the Big 12 when he scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Wildcats the lead. But when needed, J.W. Walsh delivered by leading two scoring drives in the final five minutes of play, including the game-winning TD pass to Charlie Moore with 4:13 left.

3. Baylor 30, Texas 10 (Dec. 7)
There was no better way for Baylor to end the season. The Bedlam Game upset earlier in the day turned this season finale into an outright Big 12 championship game for both teams. Texas played well for the first 30 minutes, taking a 3-3 tie into the break. But Baylor did what Baylor had done all season long by making halftime adjustments and scoring quickly to start the second half. A 17-point third quarter put the game out of reach and gave Art Briles and the Bears fans a championship to celebrate. Floyd Casey Stadium was closed for the final time with the program’s first Big 12 title and first BCS bowl bid secured.

4. Baylor 35, Kansas State 25 (Oct. 12)
The Bears couldn’t run the ball like they were accustomed to in Manhattan, but Bryce Petty delivered a critical fourth-quarter performance that eventually helped Baylor win the Big 12. In the closest win of the season, Petty and the Bears entered the final frame trailing by four. As KSU geared up to stop the run, Petty made them pay with two long touchdown passes — 54 and 21 yards — in the final quarter to give Baylor a win in what was one of only three tough games it played all season.

5. West Virginia 30, Oklahoma State 21 (Sept. 28)
Neither team could run the ball, they combined for five turnovers and a variety of miscues highlighted a sloppy early season affair in Morgantown. Hometown hero Clint Trickett got his first career start for WVU, throwing for 309 yards and a touchdown in the huge upset over Big 12 frontrunner Okie State. The Cowboys were within three for most of the third and fourth quarters and had multiple opportunities to tie or take the lead. Yet, the Mountaineers persevered and nailed two field goals in the final period to win by nine.

6. Texas 47, West Virginia 40 in OT (Nov. 9)
This was an epic back-and-forth affair that featured a resilient Texas team and a motivated Mountaineers squad. The Longhorns played from behind for most of the game, and as soon as they took a lead, WVU would come right back down the field to retake the lead. The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter and Texas needed a 24-yard field goal with 13 seconds left to send it to overtime. From there, Case McCoy tossed a touchdown pass, and Texas linebacker Steve Edmond snagged a Paul Millard pass on fourth down in the endzone to seal the improbable and thrilling comeback. The win moved Texas to 6-0 in the Big 12 at the time.

7. Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 30 (Oct. 26)
Oklahoma limped home after getting whipped by Texas and sleep-walking through Kansas while Texas Tech surged into Norman with a 7-0 record. And until the final minute of the third quarter, it looked like Texas Tech was going to leave with an unblemished record. However, the running game and Blake Bell matched the high-powered offense of the Red Raiders in the final frame. Over the last 15:33, Oklahoma would score 17 points to give Kliff Kingsbury his first loss as a head coach. The three Tech turnovers would prove to be costly as the Red Raiders didn’t win a game the rest of the season.

8. Texas 36, Oklahoma 20 (Oct. 12)
The biggest game of the season every year featured one of the most unlikely outcomes of the season. Oklahoma entered play a heavy favorite over archrival Texas in the Cotton Bowl. But the Horns rallied around embattled coach Mack Brown to pounce on the Sooners early and often. Texas went up 20-3 late in the second quarter and never looked back. The win propelled Texas to a 6-0 start in the Big 12 and a near Big 12 title. It wasn't as close or dramatic as the rest of the best Big 12 games, but it holds special meaning as the final meeting between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown in Dallas.

9. Oklahoma State 49, Baylor 17 (Nov. 23)
With the Big 12 title hanging in the balance and an unbeaten Baylor team coming to town, Oklahoma State played its best game of the season when it jumped all over the Bears in Stillwater. Clint Chelf was red hot out of the gate and finished with 370 yards and three touchdowns as his offense had no issues carving up the Bears' respected defense. The win was one of the most important in the Big 12 season and gave Oklahoma State control of its own destiny in the conference race with only The Bedlam Game left on the schedule.

10. Texas 31, Iowa State 30 (Oct. 3)
An early season Thursday night trip to Ames gave fans a bizarre and wild shootout. Every time Iowa State scored to take the lead, the Longhorns would answer, be it a final play touchdown pass at the end of the first half or a long touchdown drive at the end of the third quarter. The Cyclones came back once again, turning two Texas fumbles into 10 points to start the final period. But Texas had an answer. With the help of some questionable officiating, the Burnt Orange took the lead with 51 seconds to play to win. Paul Rhoads voiced his displeasure after the game.

Just missed the cut

11. Baylor 41, TCU 38 (Nov. 30)
Coaching animosity, defensive TDs and lots of scoring made this one to remember.

12. Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12 (Nov. 7)
The Bears announced their national title presence with this primetime Thursday night beatdown.

13. Oklahoma 20, TCU 17 (Oct. 5)
Oklahoma was able to run the ball when needed late in this physical battle in Norman.

14. Oklahoma State 38, Texas 13 (Nov. 16)
The Pokes went into Austin and dominated for the third straight time.

15. Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21 (Sept. 28)
A signature win for a signature program with 10 wins and a BCS bowl bid.

Best of the rest:

16. Oklahoma 41, Kansas State 31 (Nov. 23)

17. Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34 (Nov. 16)
18. Texas 31, Kansas State 21 (Sept. 21)
19. Iowa State 52, West Virginia 44 (OT, Nov. 30)
20. West Virginia 30, TCU 27 (OT, Nov. 2)
21. Kansas State 33, TCU 31 (Nov. 16)
22. Oklahoma 16, West Virginia 7 (Sept. 7)
23. Oklahoma State 21, Mississippi State 3
24. North Dakota State 24, Kansas State 21 (Aug. 30)
25. Kansas 31, West Virginia 19 (Nov. 16)

10 Best Big 12 Games of 2013
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/15-defunct-college-football-bowl-games-we-miss

The 35 bowl games on this year’s roster may be too many for some.

That’s fine. For some of us, that’s not enough. Not just because if the insatiable need for December and January college football. Bowl games — especially bad bowl games — offer a wide variety of ridiculous bowl names, wild destinations and “what were you thinking” ideas.

Bowl games have come and gone over the years. Some were successful, including the Bluebonnet Bowl, All-American Bowl and Freedom Bowl. Some were cool ideas like the Bacardi Bowl. And some were doomed from the start — a bowl game in Dayton? Really?

Here are 15 bowl games you won't see in December and January.

15 Defunct College Football Bowl Games We Miss

Aloha Bowl
Site: Honolulu (Aloha Stadium)
Years: 1982-2000
Technically, this is a defunct bowl, though a bowl game returned to Hawaii two years later for the imaginatively named Hawaii Bowl. The Aloha Bowl was played on Christmas Day for the final 14 games of its run and often featured ranked teams from major conferences. The Hawaii Bowl, on the other hand, is traditionally played on Christmas Eve and features Conference USA, Mountain West and WAC teams. Edge: Aloha Bowl.

All-American Bowl/Hall of Fame Classic
Site: Birmingham, Ala. (Legion Field)
Years: 1977-90
A second-tier bowl game for more than a decade, Birmingham eventually abandoned the All-American Bowl to host the SEC Championship Game, which moved to Atlanta two years later. A shame: This Birmingham game ended in 1990 before Pittsburgh ever had a chance to play in it.

Aviation Bowl
Dayton, Ohio (Welcome Stadium)
Year: 1961
As the hometown of the Wright brothers and the site of where they designed their flying machine, Dayton considers its the birthplace of aviation (the University of Dayton mascot is the Flyers). The Aviation Bowl, though, never really took flight, and New Mexico’s 28-12 win over Western Michigan in 1961 was the only bowl game in Dayton. Only 3,694 people attended the game.

Bacardi Bowl
Site: Havana, Cuba (Tropical Stadium)
Year: 1937
The first Bahamas Bowl will be played next season, but that won’t be the first bowl game played in the tropics. Not by a long shot. Auburn’s first bowl game was in pre-Castro Cuba on New Year’s Day 1937 in a 7-7 tie with Villanova. The Bacardi Bowl is the accepted name, but the game also went by the Rhumba Bowl or Cigar Bowl.

Bluebonnet Bowl
Houston (Rice Stadium/Astrodome)
Years: 1959-87
An equivalent to the Holiday or Alamo bowls, the Bluebonnet Bowl had the longest history of a now-defunct bowl, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Bluebonnet usually had a Texas team or a Southwest Conference team on one side. One exception: This Missouri-Georgia Tech meeting in 1962 called by legendary Cubs announcer Harry Caray:

Bluegrass Bowl
Site: Louisville, Ky. (Fairgrounds Stadium)
Year: 1958
Fairgrounds Stadium is now an eyesore from the Interstate in Louisville, especially compared to the Cardinals’ new facility. Not only did Louisville play football here, it hosted Oklahoma State’s 1958 bowl win over Florida State. The game was attended by a mere 7,000 people, but it’s more notable for being the first national television appearance for Howard Cosell.

California Bowl
Site: Fresno, Calif. (Bulldog Stadium)
Years: 1981-91
The game gave us one of the great bowl sponsors in the California Raisin Advisory Board. The claymation dancing and singing raisins were more memorable than any of the bowl matchups between the WAC and the MAC. The California Raisin Bowl is not to be confused with simply the Raisin Bowl, also held in Fresno from 1945-49.

Freedom Bowl
Site: Anaheim, Calif. (Anaheim Stadium)
Years: 1984-94
The Freedom Bowl featured a fair amount of star power in its decade of existence, including MVP performances from Chuck Long, Ty Detmer, Marshall Faulk and Tedy Bruschi.

Garden State Bowl
Site: East Rutherford, N.J. (Giants Stadium)
Years: 1978-81
The Garden State Bowl learned what the NFL may figure out in 2014: Postseason games in December and January are to be avoided. Rutgers and Temple played in the first two games here before embarking on lengthy bowl droughts. After four games, Giants Stadium became the site of the popular and much more successful (and warmer) Kickoff Classic, a game that ran in late August from 1983-2002.

Gotham Bowl
Site: New York (Yankee Stadium)
Years: 1961-62
The matchup between Nebraska and Miami in the 1962 game would be much more interesting decades later, but this game preceded Miami’s first national title by 21 years and featured Bob Devaney in only his first season as Nebraska’s coach. Still, the Gotham Bowl is such a great name. Unfortunately, the words “Gotham” and “football” probably shouldn’t go together. Thanks, Christopher Nolan.

Great Lakes Bowl
Site: Cleveland, Ohio
Year: 1947
This bowl was probably doomed from the get-go because “bowl destination” and “lake effect snow” don’t go together. The game featured only one matchup between major teams, but at least it was historically notable as the first bowl appearance and bowl win by then-Kentucky coach Bear Bryant in 1947.

International Bowl
Site: Toronto (Rogers Centre)
Years: 2007-10
In addition to being the first bowl game off American soil in 70 years, the International Bowl carries the distinction of being one of the first in an unfortunate trend of placing lower-tier bowl games in between New Year’s Day and BCS championship game. The demise of the Big East, 4-0 in this game against the MAC, and low attendance contributed to the demise of the game.

Oil Bowl
Site: Houston (Rice Stadium)
Years: 1946-47
Florida has oranges and tangerines, and Georgia has peaches. Makes sense for Texas to have the Oil Bowl, right?

Salad Bowl
Site: Phoenix (Montgomery Stadium)
Years: 1947-51
This game featured North Texas and Arizona State back when they were teachers’ colleges and when Drake, Dayton and Xavier went to bowl games. Not sure how it ended up a New Year’s Day bowl game. Like the Cherry Bowl, the Salad Bowl is virtually un-Google-able on the first try.

Silicon Valley Classic
Site: San Jose, Calif. (Spartan Stadium)
Years: 2000-2004
Back in the early 2000s, many games ended up with a dot com sponsor —,, Only one claimed all of Silicon Valley. The game went bust after the dot com bubble burst.

15 Defunct College Football Bowl Games We Miss
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

The Pac-12 finally returned to national prominence last season with five NCAA bids, placing two teams in the Sweet 16.

This season may be even better. The Pac-12 and the Big Ten are the only conferences with two undefeated teams, and Arizona and Oregon didn’t get there cheaply.

Arizona has defeated San Diego State and Michigan on the road and Duke at Madison Square Garden. A short-handed Oregon team has wins over Georgetown, Ole Miss and Illinois.

That said, the Pac-12 is far from a two-team league: Colorado has won 10 in a row since losing to Baylor on the first day of the season, a run that included a 75-72 win over Kansas. UCLA has shown it will be a tough out in Steve Alford's first season.

Other teams still have work to do, but even if the Pac-12 doesn’t top its five bids from a year ago, the league may have the most Final Four potential since 2007.

Early Season Report Card: Pac-12

NCAA teams as of today: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA

Bubble watch: Arizona State, Stanford

Best win: Arizona 72, Duke 66

Worst loss: Coppin State 78, Oregon State 73

Power rankings so far
1. Arizona
2. Oregon
3. Colorado
5. Stanford
6. Arizona State
7. Cal
8. Utah
9. USC
10. Washington
11. Oregon State
12. Washington State

Important non-conference games remaining:
Colorado vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 21)
Stanford vs. Michigan (Dec. 21)
Cal at Creighton (Dec. 22)
MVP so far/Top newcomer: Joseph Young, Oregon
Arizona is the top team but too balanced to pick a true league-wide MVP. Oregon is balanced, too, with six players averaging double figures, but the Houston transfer stands apart at 19.3 points per game. Young helped the Ducks weather the suspensions of Dominic Artis and Ben Carter, who returned to face UC Irvine on Tuesday, with 14 points against Illinois, 19 against Ole Miss and 24 against Georgetown.

Top freshman: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
As expected, Gordon has done a bit of everything for Arizona this season, averaging 12.1 points and 8.2 rebounds. Unlike Kansas with Andrew Wiggins or Kentucky with Julius Randle, Arizona can afford Gordon to have an off night (2 of 10 with eight rebounds in a win over UNLV). But Gordon can also shoulder the load (14 points, five rebounds against Michigan, 10 points, seven rebounds, four assists against Duke).

Surprise player: Delon Wright, Utah
The junior college transfer was expected to play a major role in the Utah backcourt, but he and the underrated Jordan Loveridge may turn Utah into one of the surprise teams in the Pac-12. Wright has been a stat sheet stuffer with 16 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.0 rebounds. Utah’s 9-1 start has been against weak competition, but Saturday’s 81-64 win over BYU (and a two-point loss at Boise State) suggests there might some legitimacy here.

Early season flop: Washington
Athlon picked Washington ninth in the Pac-12 in the preseason, so the 6-4 start isn’t all that alarming. Still, Lorenzo Romar may be heading to his first losing season in conference since 2007-08. The Huskies have lost to every quality team they’ve faced (Indiana, Boston College and San Diego State) plus UC Irvine.

Lingering concerns: Which coaches can save their jobs?
The Pac-12 was notable at the start of the season for the number of coaches who began the season fighting to remain employed — Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins, Arizona State’s Herb Sendek, Washington State’s Ken Bone and Oregon State’s Craig Robinson. Dawkins and Sendek have their teams in NCAA Tournament contention, a good sign if it’s March Madness or bust for both. Washington State and Oregon State may have trouble picking up wins against the top portion of the league.

Best NCAA resume: Arizona
The Wildcats have vaulted to the No. 1 spot in the polls with good reason: An 11-0 start with wins over Duke on a neutral floor and San Diego State and Michigan on the road. This is the kind of resume that garners a No. 1 seed in March.

Pac-12 Basketball: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/big-12-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

Could there be room for a third or fourth team in the two-team race for the Big 12 title?

The return of Marcus Smart to Oklahoma State and the arrival of Andrew Wiggins at Kansas appeared to set up those two programs atop the Big 12 this season.

One thing is clear in the Big 12 so far: It won’t be that easy. Fred Hoiberg is again working his magic at Iowa State where transfers and an up-tempo offense have the Cyclones undefeated. After a win over Kentucky, Baylor is back on the upswing after an NIT appearance last season.

And even Texas, a program all but ignored in the preseason, shows it might be back where it belongs in the mix after a win in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Wednesday.

Early Season Report Card: Big 12

NCAA teams as of today: Baylor Iowa State, Kansas, Oklahoma State

Bubble watch: Texas

Best win: Kansas 94, Duke 83

Worst loss: Longwood 82, TCU 79

Power rankings so far
1. Oklahoma State
2. Kansas
3. Iowa State
4. Baylor
5. Texas
6. West Virginia
7. Oklahoma
8. Kansas State
9. Texas Tech
10. TCU

Important non-conference games remaining
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado (Dec. 21)
Georgetown at Kansas (Dec. 21)
Kansas State vs. Gonzaga (Dec. 21)
San Diego State at Kansas (Jan. 5)
MVP so far: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
This is why Smart returned for his sophomore season. After the way Smart began the year, it’s clear the NBA Draft will be there when he’s finished. The Cowboys point guard has been even better this season, averaging 18 points per game (up from 15.4 per game) despite playing fewer minutes. Smart’s 39 points with four rebounds, four assists and five steals against Memphis on Nov. 19 is one of the top individual performances of the season so far.

Top freshman: Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Fellow Kansas five-star freshman Joel Embiid has received more run recently thanks to his ahead-of-the-curve offensive game for a rookie big man. But Wiggins is still the top freshman of the league and one of the best in the country. The recruiting experts warned us not to expect Wiggins to put up Kevin Durant-like numbers, but Wiggins still averages 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game.

Top newcomer: DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Thanks to Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang, Iowa State doesn’t need DeAndre Kane to be quite the focal point of the offense as Marshall did. Kane averaged 13.6 shots from the field in 37.1 minutes per game with the Thundering Herd. He’s averaging 9.5 shots in 28.4 minutes at Iowa State. The supporting cast and diminished work load have improved his efficiency numbers while he’s maintained 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists for a legitimate Big 12 contender.

Surprise player: Jonathan Holmes, Texas
Could Rick Barnes avoid the same fate as Mack Brown? That may be the case after Texas’ 86-83 win over North Carolina on the road legitimized a 10-1 start. Holmes, Texas’ lone upperclassman, entered the season with 45 starts and 6.8 points per game. After 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks against the Tar Heels, Holmes is averaging  13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Early season flop: Tarik Black, Kansas
The transfer from Memphis was expected to be major contributor at Kansas, especially given Black’s status as a veteran on a young team. With the development of Joel Embiid, Black has had trouble cracking the regular rotation: Two minutes against New Mexico, six against Florida, three against Colorado and eight Villanova.

Lingering concerns: Kansas’ point guard issues
Point guard was a liability for Kansas last season and has been a question mark in the early going this year. The situation had become dire enough where Bill Self elected to start freshman Frank Mason on a road swing against Colorado and Florida over veteran Naadir Tharpe. Mason will probably be the point guard long term, but Tharpe returned to the starting role in Saturday’s win over New Mexico when he had nine assists and four turnovers.

Best NCAA resume: Iowa State
This is a tough one: Oklahoma State’s top win is over Memphis at home when less than two weeks later the Cowboys lost to the same Memphis team on a neutral floor. Kansas has two good wins over Duke and New Mexico, but losses to Villanova, Colorado and Florida. Baylor has a standout win over Kentucky, one loss to Syracuse and two wins over Division II teams. Let’s give the nod to Iowa State, the only undefeated team in the league. The Cyclones are 2-0 against two Big Ten teams likely to play in the Tournament (Michigan and Iowa) and have a road win over BYU.

Big 12 Basketball: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/arkansas-state-hires-blake-anderson-its-new-head-coach

Arkansas State has hired North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson as its new head coach. Anderson will replace Bryan Harsin, who left to replace Chris Petersen at Boise State.

This is Anderson’s first head coaching job, but he has served as a coordinator since 2002. Prior to joining North Carolina’s staff in 2012, Anderson worked with Larry Fedora at Southern Miss from 2008-11.

Anderson also has experience from stints at UL Lafayette, MTSU, New Mexico and Trinity Valley College.

Anderson will be Arkansas State’s fifth coach in five years in 2014.

Arkansas State Hires Blake Anderson as its New Head Coach
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 15:56
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-19-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for Dec. 19.


• In the spirit of the season, here's Victoria's Secret model Alessandra Ambrosio doing a photo shoot in reindeer antlers.


• ESPN will be bringing you the BCS National Championship Game six different ways. Buckle in for Megacast.


Dez Bryant was wearing a mic the day he walked off the field before the end of the Cowboys' game with Green Bay.


• It ain't over til it's over: 2013 is the Year of the Comeback in the NFL.


• Cool little story: Lions running back Joique Bell was once a security guard at Lions training camp.


• Today in perfectly timed photos: Wizards coach Randy Wittman takes a Spalding to the face.


• Andrea Bargnani of the Knicks did something exceptionally stupid, and the Knicks bench went crazy, although Metta World Peace was strangely unfazed. That entire sentence sounds about right.


• Elsewhere in NBA ineptitude, Luis Scola attempted to guard LeBron James. The results were not pretty.


One tiny little happy ending from the Boston bombing tragedy.


• 2014 could be the Year of the Running Back in the SEC. Four of the league's rock-toters should contend for the Heisman.


Here's an adorable Vine from gymnast McKayla Maroney, who has turned 18 while we weren't paying attention.


• Enjoy Roy Hibbert videobombing Stephen A. and the NBA Countdown crew.



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

Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/new-mexico-bowl-preview-and-prediction-colorado-state-vs-washington-state

Think there are too many bowl games this year? Don’t tell that to Colorado State and Washington State. The Rams and Cougars are set to open the bowl season in Albuquerque, and even though the combined record of these two teams is 13-12, this game could be one of the better pre-Christmas bowl matchups.

Washington State is back in the postseason after a nine-year absence. The Cougars’ last bowl appearance was a 28-20 win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

Under coach Mike Leach, Washington State made significant progress from 2012 to 2013. The Cougars won only three games last year, but Leach’s team rebounded with a 6-6 mark this season, which included wins over Arizona and USC.

Colorado State’s last bowl appearance came in 2008, which was a 40-35 New Mexico Bowl win over Fresno State. Under the direction of second-year coach Jim McElwain, the Rams improved their win total by three games from 2012 to 2013.

The Rams didn’t beat a team with a winning record, but this team played tough against Boise State and Utah State in conference play and trailed Alabama only 17-6 going into the fourth quarter.

This is the first meeting between Colorado State and Washington State. The Rams are 5-7 in previous bowl appearances, while the Cougars are 6-4.

Colorado State vs. Washington State

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 2 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Washington State -3.5

Colorado State’s Key to Victory: A big game from Kapri Bibbs
This game features a stark contrast in styles. Colorado State’s offense is based on the ground, led by sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs. On the other side, Washington State prefers to air it out, leading the nation with 698 passing attempts this year. Which style will win out? For Colorado State, establishing Bibbs and keeping the Cougars’ offense on the sideline is the key to its hopes at hoisting the New Mexico Bowl trophy. Despite not recording a game of over 20 carries until the seventh contest of the year, Bibbs finished 13th nationally with an average of 120.9 rushing yards per game. The sophomore produced some huge efforts, gashing Nevada for 312 yards and New Mexico for 291. Bibbs was slowed late in the year by an ankle injury, but the sophomore should be at full strength for the bowl. If Bibbs gets on track, it will open up play-action passes for quarterback Garrett Grayson. The junior tossed only 10 picks this season and finished the year by throwing six touchdown tosses over the final three games. Stopping Bibbs will be a challenge for Washington State. The Cougars ranked ninth in the Pac-12 against the run and allowed an average of 243.6 yards on the ground over the final five games.

Washington State’s Key to Victory: Control the offensive tempo
As we mentioned above, this game is a matchup in contrasting styles. Time of possession is an overrated stat in college football, but if Colorado State has success on the ground and controls the clock, Washington State will be in trouble. Quarterback Connor Halliday wore out his right arm this season, throwing 656 times for 4,187 yards and 28 touchdowns. As expected with a high number of attempts, Halliday tossed 21 picks but completed 62.8 percent of his throws. The junior will be throwing to a receiving corps that features eight players with at least 34 receptions. Gabe Marks is the headliner (69 catches), but River Cracraft (13.2 ypc) and Dominique Williams (16.5 ypc) are names to watch. The Cougars don’t run the ball often (18.7 attempts per game) and average only 3.1 yards per attempt. However, a little balance is needed to keep the Rams' defense on their heels. Colorado State’s front seven has to get pressure on Halliday to disrupt the timing of Washington State’s offense. The good news for defensive co-coordinators Marty English and Al Simmons is the Rams have four senior starters in the front seven, including standout Shaquil Barrett. The senior recorded 20.5 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks this season. If Barrett and Colorado State’s front seven can’t get to Halliday, it could be a long afternoon for the secondary. The Rams allowed 265.4 yards per game through the air and ranked 100th nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Key Player: Garrett Grayson, QB, Colorado State
The Rams hope they can keep Washington State’s offense off the field and this game in the 27-24 type of final. Should the Cougars jump out to an early lead or this bowl turn into a shootout, Grayson will have to shoulder more of the offensive focus. The junior threw six touchdowns to only two interceptions over his final three games and finished 2013 with a 62.2 completion percentage. Grayson has a good group of weapons at his disposal, including true freshman receiver Rashard Higgins and tight ends Crockett Gillmore and Kivon Cartwright. In his two games against BCS opponents this year, Grayson threw for 429 yards and no touchdowns. If Colorado State wants to win, Grayson has to be efficient and keep the offense on schedule for Bibbs to have favorable down and distance situations in run downs. 

Final Analysis

Last year’s New Mexico Bowl was one of the most entertaining games of the postseason, with Arizona winning a 49-48 thriller over Nevada. Could we see another back and forth affair this season? Despite contrasting styles, Colorado State and Washington State combine to average 65.1 points a game this year. The turnover battle is worth monitoring, as the Cougars were -5 and the Rams were +2. In a tight game, a turnover could be the difference. Led by senior center Weston Richburg, Colorado State’s veteran offensive line should be able to open rushing lanes for running back Kapri Bibbs. If the Rams eat up the clock and keep the Cougars’ offense on the sidelines, Colorado State will have a chance to score the upset. Washington State’s gameplan on offense should be to score quickly early in the game, putting the Rams behind schedule on offense. Bibbs will have success, but the Cougars’ passing attack is the difference in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Washington State 38, Colorado State 30

New Mexico Bowl Preview and Prediction: Colorado State vs. Washington State
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/las-vegas-bowl-preview-and-prediction-fresno-state-vs-usc

Fresno State and USC are separated by less than 300 miles, but the two California programs have met only twice on the gridiron. That number will change on Saturday, as the Bulldogs and Trojans are set to kickoff the first weekend of bowl action with a matchup in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Fresno State was on the doorstep of playing in a BCS bowl, but the Bulldogs lost a 62-52 shootout to San Jose State on Nov. 29, knocking Tim DeRuyter’s team out of contention for one of college football’s premier postseason destinations. But all was not lost for Fresno State, as the Bulldogs won 11 games for the first time in school history since an 11-3 record in 2001. And thanks to a 24-17 win over Utah State on Dec. 7, Fresno State claimed its first outright conference title since 1989.

While 2013 was mostly a good year for Fresno State, this season was a roller-coaster ride for USC. The Trojans started 3-2, and after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State, Lane Kiffin was fired as the team’s head coach. Ed Orgeron was promoted to the top spot, guiding USC to a 6-2 finish and a third-place finish in the Pac-12 South. Orgeron was not promoted to the full-time gig and chose to leave Los Angeles after Steve Sarkisian was hired from Washington. Sarkisian won’t take over until after the bowl game, leaving offensive coordinator Clay Helton as the interim coach.

Fresno State and USC have split the all-time series, with the Bulldogs winning in 1992 and the Trojans claiming a victory in 2005. Fresno State is 0-4 in its last four bowl appearances, but it has won its last four postseason games against BCS foes. Last year’s loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl snapped a four-game winning streak for USC in bowl games. The last time the Trojans played in the Las Vegas Bowl, they were defeated 10-6 by Utah.

Fresno State vs. USC

Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 21 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: USC -6.5

Fresno State’s Key to Victory: Stop USC’s rushing offense
During USC’s 6-2 finish under Ed Orgeron, the rushing attack seemed to find its stride. The Trojans averaged 173.8 rushing yards per game over their final six victories and recorded at least 240 yards on the ground in three out of the last five games. Depth in the backfield is a little thin due to injuries, as Silas Redd and Tre Madden are questionable to play. With Redd and Madden likely sidelined, Javorius Allen and Ty Isaac will become the go-to backs against Fresno State. The Bulldogs held up relatively well on the ground this year, limiting opponents to 147.7 yards per game. As evidenced by its 98 tackles for loss, Fresno State’s defense is active around the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Ejiro Ederaine leads the team with 15.5 tackles for a loss, while safety Derron Smith (69 tackles, 6 INTs) is another playmaker to watch. USC’s passing attack (10th in the Pac-12) isn’t quite as effective as its ground game, but quarterback Cody Kessler has not thrown an interception over his last four games. If the ground game gets on track, Kessler should be able to take advantage of Fresno State’s secondary and connect with Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor on big plays downfield. The Bulldogs need to make USC one-dimensional and force other receivers outside of Lee and Agholor to step up.

USC’s Key to Victory: Get pressure on Derek Carr and minimize the big plays
Fresno State’s offense has been lethal all season. Only two defenses (Cal Poly and San Diego State) managed to hold the Bulldogs under 400 yards. Behind quarterback Derek Carr and an excellent group of receivers, Fresno State is averaging 6.7 yards per play. Although Orgeron isn’t coaching the team, coordinator Clancy Pendergast is calling the plays in the Las Vegas Bowl, and he was a key reason why USC’s defense improved to No. 2 in the Pac-12 in yards allowed this year. The Trojans are loaded with talent on defense, starting in the trenches with sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams (13.5 TFL, 6 sacks), and continuing into the back seven with linebacker Hayes Pullard (89 tackles) and safety Dion Bailey (5 INTs). Each level of the defense has an All-Pac-12 performer, with Williams taking home Athlon Sports third-team All-America honors this year. Fresno State’s offensive line has allowed only 11 sacks in 2013, but USC’s defense is easily the toughest unit it has faced. The Trojans have registered 34 sacks through 13 games and held opponents to just five yards per play. USC’s secondary ranks 21st nationally in efficiency defense, and this group will be under the microscope on Saturday, with Fresno State having three receivers with at least 79 catches. Getting pressure on Carr is critical to slowing down the Bulldogs’ passing attack. Even if the Trojans don’t record a lot of sacks, just disrupting the timing of Fresno State’s offense will have a huge impact on this game.

Key Player: Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
We could mention a couple of players here, including Fresno State left tackle Austin Wentworth or USC quarterback Cody Kessler. But let’s highlight Adams, who did not get enough credit nationally for his 2013 season. Adams led the nation with 122 receptions, averaged 13.5 yards per catch and caught 23 touchdowns. The sophomore is clearly Derek Carr’s go-to receiver, and he could be counted on even more if Josh Harper is unable to play due to a groin injury. USC has not allowed a team to throw for more than 300 yards in its last seven games. Can Fresno State change that on Saturday? If the line protects Carr, Adams will have a chance for his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. 

Final Analysis

Motivation is a key factor in every bowl. USC didn’t seem interested to be in the Sun Bowl last year – will 2013 be any different? The Trojans are now on their third head coach, and the staff is shorthanded with Orgeron and line coach Peter Jenkins leaving the team after the regular season. Talent isn’t an issue for USC, but the motivation is clearly on Fresno State’s sideline. This is the final game for quarterback Derek Carr, and receiver Davante Adams could declare early for the NFL Draft. And if Carr has a huge game against the Trojans, his draft stock will only continue to climb before pre-draft workouts. If USC is motivated to play, the Trojans will win this game. However, the guess here is USC isn’t as interested in this bowl as Fresno State, and the Bulldogs pull a slight upset in Las Vegas.

Prediction: Fresno State 31, USC 27

Las Vegas Bowl Preview and Prediction: Fresno State vs. USC
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/10-best-acc-games-2013

The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.

Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in Durham or Tallahassee.

So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the ACC’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.

1. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.

2. Duke 27, North Carolina 25 (Nov. 30)
With an outright Coastal Division championship on the line, Duke battled its arch in-state rival to the bitter end of the regular season. The red-hot Tar Heels had won five straight games and gave Duke all they could handle, going back-and-forth with the Devils and eventually taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But like it had all season, Duke found a way to win when Ross Martin hit a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left to play. The win gave David Cutcliffe an outright division championship and Duke its first 10-win season in school history.

3. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But slowly new quarterback Hutson Mason settled in and led the offense to 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Vad Lee set a career high in passing yards but it wasn't enough to overcome a late-game performance from Todd Gurley — who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation. 

4. Florida State 51, Clemson 14 (Oct. 19)
The most high-profile conference game in the ACC turned out to be quite a dud. But the performance by Jameis Winston in Death Valley won’t be soon forgotten. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner completed 22-of-34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the impressive statement victory. The win set the Seminoles soaring towards the national championship and put Winston directly into the heart of the Heisman race.

5. Miami 21, Florida 16 (Sept. 7)
At the time it took place, few games meant more to the ACC’s bruised reputation than Miami’s physical win over then-No. 12 Florida. The Sunshine State conversation had been dominated by the SEC for years until the Canes broke through early in the season with a win in a game that had been talked about all summer. Miami’s defense made big plays all game long, indicating development and growth from the year before.

6. Miami 27, North Carolina 23 (Oct. 17)
On a Thursday night on the road, unbeaten Miami won a dramatic and thrilling divisional tilt that vaulted the Canes well into the AP poll's top 10. Trailing 23-13 and without Duke Johnson, Miami turned to Dallas Crawford and the power running game to score two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left. Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron had a historic night catching eight passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t enough, however, as Miami moved to 6-0 for the first time in a decade.

7. Florida State 48, Boston College 34 (Sept. 28)
Boston College did something that Clemson, Duke, Florida State or Maryland didn’t even come close to doing. The Eagles kept the game with Noles close for much of the contest. In fact, Florida State needed a Hail Mary at the end of the half to take its first lead. Eventually, the Seminoles wore down BC and took a 48-27 lead midway through the fourth on a P.J. Williams interception return for a touchdown. No other team scored more than 17 on FSU and the 14-point margin was by far the smallest for Jimbo Fisher’s bunch.

8. Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 (Oct. 26)
It was an ugly affair wrought with turnovers and inefficiency. Duke was outgained 387 to 198, didn’t convert on any of its 11 third-down chances, didn’t complete a pass in the second half and lost the possession battle by 19 minutes (39:27 to 20:33). But the opportunistic defense forced four turnovers, including a late, game-clinching play, and broke through against a ranked team on the road for the first time in 42 years. The win catapulted Duke into the ACC title talk and it happened in typically dramatic fashion.

9. Duke 48, Miami 30 (Nov. 16)
Two teams battling for Coastal Division supremacy went toe-to-toe for the first 50 minutes or so in what was an electric shootout. Miami held the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Duke went on a dramatic 20-point run. A 33-yard Shaquille Powell run with 6:50 to go in the game ended the see-saw affair and gave Duke control of its own destiny in the divisional race.

10. Miami 24, Wake Forest 21 (Oct. 26)
The Demon Deacons came into play against the unbeaten Canes a heavy underdog and played arguably the best game of their season in defeat. An evenly played and tough first half gave way to a back-and-forth affair that saw momentum swing three separate times in the final five minutes. Duke Johnson twice scored go-ahead touchdowns in the final few minutes with the last one coming with just 53 seconds left. It sealed the Miami win and kept the Hurricanes unblemished on the season.

Just missed the cut:

11. Georgia Tech 28, North Carolina 20 (Sept. 21)
An early-season tilt featured a big Tech comeback in the rain in Atlanta.

12. Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT, Nov. 16)
C.J. Brown led his team to victory with 122 yards rushing and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

13. Florida State 37, Florida 7 (Nov. 30)
The Noles capped the season with a celebratory whipping of its SEC counterpart.

14. Florida State 45, Duke 7 (Dec. 7)
Hugely important but largely uneventful after a pesky first quarter.

15. Virginia Tech 29, Marshall 21 (3OT, Sept. 21)
A thriller Tech was lucky to win featured three OTs and plenty of big plays.

Best of the Rest:

16. Pitt 58, Duke 55 (Sept. 21)
17. Syracuse 34, Boston College 31 (Nov. 30)
18. Clemson 24, Boston College 14 (Oct. 12)
19. Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27 (Nov. 2)
20. Duke 28, Wake Forest 21 (Nov. 23)
21. Virginia Tech 17, Georgia Tech 10 (Sept. 26)
22. Boston College 29, Maryland 26 (Nov. 23)
23. Florida State 41, Miami 14 (Nov. 2)
24. Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17 (Oct. 5)
25. Clemson 40, Maryland 27 (Oct. 26)

10 Best ACC Games of 2013
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-12-bowl-stats-you-need-know

Numbers and statistics are unquestionably a huge part of the game. Some like to keep it simple and use the ol' eyeball test, while others fall on the sabermetric side of things. In the football world, that means total offense, total defense and points scored versus points per play and defensive efficiency ratings. Rational and logical arguments can be made for the legitimacy and relevance of both sides of the stats spectrum.

With that in mind, Athlon Sports brings you the most intriguing, important, historic and bizarre bowl stats so that fans are fully prepared for the 2013 college football postseason:

34: Fewest touchdowns scored by any bowl team
That dubious honor belongs to the embattled Virginia Tech Hokies. Running backs Trey Edmunds (12), Joel Caleb (1) and Chris Mangus (1) scored 14 times. Wide receivers D.J. Coles (6), Demitri Knowles (3), Willie Byrn (2) and Joshua Stanford (1) combined to score 12 times. Tight end Kalvin Cline scored twice and quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for four touchdowns. And the Hokies scored two defensive touchdowns thanks to Derek DiNardo and Detrick Bonner. The Hokies were 96th nationally in scoring offense at 23.4 points per game.

Jan. 1, 1963: First time No. 1 and No. 2 played on New Year’s Day
The first time the No. 1 team in the nation played the No. 2 team in the nation on New Year’s Day was back in 1963 (ending the 1962 season). Top-ranked USC beat second-ranked Wisconsin 42-37 in the Rose Bowl, giving the Trojans the ’62 national championship. The Badgers finished 8-2 while the Men of Troy finished 11-0.

9: Bowl-eligible teams that didn’t get a berth
Western Kentucky (8-4), Toledo (7-5), Florida Atlantic (6-6), Central Michigan (6-6), San Jose State (6-6), South Alabama (6-6), Texas State (6-6), Troy (6-6), and Louisiana-Monroe (6-6) are the nine bowl-eligible teams that did not get a postseason invitation. The Hilltoppers have a particular gripe having the Sun Belt Player of the Year (Antonio Andrews), Offensive POY (Andrews) and Defensive POY (Xavius Boyd). Additionally, Penn State, Old Dominion and UTSA won enough games to be eligible but were not allowed to go to a bowl for various reasons.

4: Teams Tommy Tuberville has taken to a bowl game
Tuberville got his first head coaching job in 1995 with the Ole Miss Rebels. It took him three seasons but he got the Rebels to the postseason in 1997 with a trip to the Motor City Bowl. He’s been leading his team to bowls ever since. He led Ole Miss to two bowls in four seasons before leading Auburn to eight bowls in 10 seasons and then Texas Tech to two bowls in three years. And in his first season in Cincinnati, Tuberville led the Bearcats to the Belk Bowl against North Carolina. That’s four different “BCS conference” teams that he has led to the postseason.

331.2: Combined rushing yards per game for Ka’Deem Carey and Andre Williams
The AdvoCare 100 Bowl in Shreveport, La., will feature the top two rushers in the nation. Boston College’s Andre Williams led the country with 175.2 yards per game while Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey finished with 156.0 yards per game. The duo combined for 3,818 yards rushing and 34 rushing touchdowns — 17 each. The Eagles were 50th nationally with 152.1 rushing yards allowed per game and the Wildcats were 71st at 169.8 yards per game, so there should be plenty of fireworks in the bayou.

0: Times Duke and Texas A&M have ever played
Throw out the records when the Chick-Fil-A, err, Peach Bowl kicks off this winter. That’s because Texas A&M and Duke have never faced each other. But Johnny Manziel getting to face the veteran and stingy Blue Devils defense should be fun to watch. The Aggies boast the worst defense (106th) of any of the 70 bowl teams. Nothing harkens back to the history and tradition of a game like the Peach Bowl like a matchup between Duke and Texas A&M.

0-5: USC and Fresno State's combined record in last five bowl games
USC hasn’t won a bowl game since the Emerald Bowl following the 2009 season. Fresno State hasn’t won a bowl game since the Humanitarian Bowl following the 2007 season. So collectively, the two teams that will match up in the Las Vegas Bowl have combined to lose five straight bowl games (Fresno State 4, USC 1). With quarterback Derek Carr facing USC's defense, there is plenty of star power to watch. And guess what? One of these teams will get to win a bowl game this year.

2000: The last time UNLV was in a bowl game
The longest bowl drought that was broken this season was from the Runnin’ Rebs of UNLV. They won the Las Vegas Bowl in 2000 under John Robinson. The other long bowl-less streaks broken this postseason come from Tulane (2002), Washington State (2003) and North Texas (2004). UNLV is playing in a bowl game outside of its home stadium for the first time since the 1984 California Bowl. 

32: Florida State’s bowl streak, the longest active one in the nation
The Seminoles kept their nation’s best bowl streak alive in style by landing in the BCS National Championship Game. It marks 32 consecutive seasons that the Noles have been playing in the postseason. Boise State (12 straight) owns the longest active bowl streak by a team not in an automatic-qualifying (AQ) conference.

1978: Woody Hayes punched a Clemson player in the Gator Bowl
There are a lot of great stats concerning the Ohio State-Clemson Orange Bowl matchup this winter. The game marks the 10th BCS bowl for the Buckeyes, the most by any team in the nation. The trip to the Orange Bowl is the first for Ohio State since 1976. But more importantly, it will be the first meeting between Ohio State and Clemson since Woody Hayes famously punched Clemson’s Charlie Bauman at the end of the 1978 Gator Bowl. Clemson won the only meeting between these two that day 17-15 and Hayes was fired the next day.

2,600: Miles between San Diego State and Buffalo
The Aztecs and Bulls will meet in Boise, Idaho, in the 16th annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. If one were to drive from one campus to the other, it would be a trek of roughly 2,600 miles across the country. These two will meet on the blue turf of Boise State's Bronco Stadium. This bowl has been named the Humanitarian Bowl, the Humanitarian Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl, the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl and the U Drove Humanitarian Bowl.

45-31: Score of last year’s Capital One Bowl
Georgia topped Nebraska 45-31 in last season’s Capital One Bowl. These two will rematch this season on New Year’s Day in Jacksonville in the Gator Bowl. The meeting this bowl season will be just the third all-time between the two historic programs with the only other battle coming on Dec. 20, 1969 in the Sun Bowl. Nebraska won 45-6 in El Paso.

Bonus Stat - 22: Florida's bowl streak, which comes to an end
Will Muschamp's Gators went 4-8 this fall, meaning Florida won't be playing in a bowl game for the first time since the end of the 1991 season (Sugar Bowl, lost to Notre Dame 39-28). Other notable bowl streaks that came to an end this year include West Virginia (11 in a row), TCU (8), Air Force (6), and Northwestern (5).


College Football: The 12 Bowl Stats You Need To Know
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/sec-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

Suffice to say, the SEC has not shaken out the way anyone would have predicted in mid-December.

Missouri is the last undefeated team in the league, and Kentucky has the same amount of losses as Vanderbilt and Auburn. Granted, not every loss or undefeated season is created equal. But Kentucky’s losses in two of the last three games have fans in Lexington wondering what’s going on with Big Blue.

In lauding Kentucky’s great freshman class, maybe we forgot the freshman part as the Wildcats are finding their way through the season.

Kentucky headlines will dominate in the SEC as long the Wildcats have John Calipari on board, but Florida is looking every bit the contender Kentucky was expected to be, especially after Wednesday’s wins over Memphis and Kansas. Missouri hasn’t had the same breakout performance, but the Tigers keep absorbing big personnel losses and chugging along under Frank Haith.

Early Season Report Card: SEC

NCAA teams as of today: Florida, Kentucky, Missouri

Bubble watch: LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee

Best win: Florida 67, Kansas 61

Worst loss: Northwestern State 111, Auburn 92

Power rankings so far
1. Florida
2. Kentucky
3. Missouri
4. Tennessee
5. LSU
6. Ole Miss
7. Arkansas
8. Texas A&M
9. Alabama
10. Vanderbilt
11. Georgia
12. South Carolina
13. Mississippi State
14. Auburn

Important non-conference games remaining:
Missouri vs. Illinois (Dec. 21)
Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
Dayton at Ole Miss (Jan. 4)
MVP so far: Casey Prather, Florida
Tuesday’s game against Memphis was a chance for Casey Prather to further his case for SEC player of the year, a major upset not only in a league with Kentucky but also on his own roster. Between suspensions, academic casualties and injuries, Florida hasn’t played with its full roster for most of the season, but Prather has been the steadying influence for the Gators around the basket. By averaging 18.7 points, Prather has pulled off the rare senior breakout by topping his 181 points as a junior in his 10th game as a senior.

Top freshman: Julius Randle, Kentucky
Matched up against James Michael McAdoo, Randle struggled with 11 points and five rebounds in an 82-77 loss to North Carolina on Saturday, but he is still one of the most athletically overwhelming players in the country only 11 games into his career. Randle is averaging 17.2 points and 11.4 rebounds. We’re not backing off Randle's potential.

Top newcomer: Jordan Clarkson, Missouri
Missouri expected to rely heavily on Clarkson to replace point guard Phil Pressey. The Tulsa transfer has delivered as much as Frank Haith expected and probably more. Clarkson averaged 16.5 points in his final season at Tulsa but has averaged 19.4 during Mizzou’s undefeated start. Clarkson is producing, but a Pressey clone he is not. Freshman Wes Clark may be the better distributor, and Clarkson isn’t much of an outside scoring threat. But Clarkson has shot 56.9 percent from inside the 3-point line.

Surprise player: Michael Qualls, Arkansas
Qualls showed flashes of his athleticism as a freshman, but his name was tough to find in the preseason for Arkansas. After averaging 15.6 minutes last season, Qualls is averaging 14.8 points per game as a sophomore.

Early season flop: Alabama
Athlon projected this year’s Alabama team to go to the NIT, but even that’s looking iffy. The Crimson Tide has lost to Duke, Wichita State and Oklahoma (not so bad), but losses to Drexel and USF will put the pressure on Anthony Grant. At 5-5 and games upcoming against Xavier, UCLA and Robert Morris, Alabama could enter conference play with a losing record.

Lingering concerns: Is Kentucky ready to contend for the title?
The ludicrous talk of Kentucky going 40-0 was dispensed with a Nov. 12 loss to Michigan State. The Wildcats, though, have more questions after losing to the top three teams on their schedule so far (Baylor and North Carolina). Kentucky is one of maybe three teams capable of winning the SEC, but are the Wildcats better than Florida? Not right now. Jason King of Bleacher Report spelled out the issues plaguing Kentucky right now from lack of leadership to an underachieving point guard and problems on the wing and the perimeter.

Best NCAA resume: Florida
Florida lost in Madison with a skeleton crew of a roster in the second game of the season and to Connecticut on the road on a last-second shot by Shabazz Napier. Neither Wisconsin nor UConn have lost this season. Along the way, Florida has defeated three teams ranked in the top 40 on — Florida State, Kansas and Memphis. And there’s a case that Florida will be getting even better when freshman Chris Walker is eligible.

SEC Basketball: The Best and Worst in 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketball/acc-basketball-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

Let’s get this out of the way: The greatest conference in college basketball history the ACC is not. ... yet.

Don’t blame the powerhouses, though. Even though North Carolina has two losses it would like to forget, the Tar Heels have three wins as good as anyone in the country. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Duke are contending for the ACC and probably more thanks to the play of key freshmen — Jabari Parker at Duke and Tyler Ennis at Syracuse.

The rest of the ACC has some work to do. After the top three, the league’s other teams are works in progress. We’ve seen signs of encouragement from teams like Pittsburgh, Virginia, Notre Dame and Florida State, but not enough to think any of them can challenge the league’s top three.

Early Season Report Card: ACC

NCAA teams as of today: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse

Bubble watch: Florida State, Maryland, Notre Dame, Virginia

Best win: North Carolina 76, Michigan State 65

Worst loss: St Francis (NY) 66, Miami 62

Power rankings so far
1. Syracuse
2. Duke
3. North Carolina
4. Pittsburgh
5. Virginia
6. Florida State
7. Notre Dame
8. NC State
9. Maryland
10. Georgia Tech
11. Clemson
12. Wake Forest
13. Boston College
14. Virginia Tech
15. Miami

Important non-conference games remaining:
Duke vs. UCLA (Dec. 19)
Virginia Tech vs. VCU (Dec. 21)
Florida State vs. UMass (Dec. 21)
Villanova at Syracuse (Dec. 28)
MVP So Far: Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker has head-to-head losses to fellow top freshmen Andrew Wiggins at Kansas and Aaron Gordon at Arizona on neutral courts, but it’s hard to be too critical about the Duke forward. Parker has been Duke’s go-to player from the start, averaging 22 points (second in the ACC) and 7.6 rebounds (fourth) per game. He’ll be in the No. 1 overall draft pick and national player of the year discussions all season.

Top freshman (non-Jabari Parker division): Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Ennis was a five-star freshman, too, but he may be in danger of being lost amid talk of Parker and other rookies. All Ennis has done is step in as a freshman to lead an undefeated team while compiling 50 assists to 11 turnovers.

Top newcomer: Rodney Hood, Duke
Duke’s other ridiculously versatile wing, Hood is averaging 18.9 points and five rebounds. His season will be overlooked due to the presence of Parker, but Hood’s mid-range game has been lethal as he’s improved from shooting 50.6 percent from 2-point range in his final year at Mississippi State to 61.6 at Duke.

Surprise player: Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Paige is every bit the MVP contender in the league as C.J. Fair or Parker. Might as well call him the MVP of the Bluegrass State as he was the top player on the court in wins over Louisville (32 points) and Kentucky (21 of his 23 points came in the second half). Paige’s development from an average point guard to the top player for the Heels has been staggering. On a team that had been reeling from the absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, who was reinstated Wednesday, Paige ended up picking up the slack.

Early season flop: Boston College
With returning veterans, Boston College looked like a team that could work its way onto the NCAA bubble. By early December, Boston College looks like it will be ACC Tournament or bust. The Eagles lost virtually every notable non-conference game (Providence, UMass, Toledo, UConn, Purdue, USC).

Lingering concerns: Where will the ACC find depth?
Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse are as good as any top three teams in any league, but where will the ACC find its second tier? Pittsburgh started 9-0 before scoring only 43 points in its first real test against Cincinnati (in fairness, Cincinnati scored only 44). Notre Dame has lost to Indiana State and North Dakota State at home, and that’s before facing teams in a new league. Virginia has lost to VCU, Wisconsin and Green Bay as Joe Harris has slumped to 11.3 points per game. Florida State may be the team to watch as the Seminoles’ big men are starting to emerge. Florida State’s three losses include an overtime loss to Michigan and one-point defeat in Gainesville.

Best NCAA resume: North Carolina
The losses to Belmont and UAB were baffling, and Wednesday's loss to Texas suggests Carolina's Jekyll and Hyde act isn't finished. No team has three better wins than Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville — three of Athlon’s top four teams. With McDonald returning and marked improvement by James Michael McAdoo and Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina may be closer to winning the ACC than landing on the bubble.

ACC Basketball: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-16

It’s Week 16, which means, for most fantasy leagues, it’s championship week! If you are one of the last teams standing, congratulations. However, your work is not completely done, not if you want to take home the title, trophy, bragging rights and whatever other spoils of victory that may come with finishing in first place.

If you are still vying for a championship, I am guessing there’s a pretty good chance that you have Jamaal Charles on your team. After all, when your running back catches four touchdown passes and scores you 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring), your chances of winning have to be pretty good.

However, that’s not to say it’s not out of the realm of possibility that you lose. A colleague of mine had Jamaal Charles (as well as Kirk Cousins, Julian Edelman and Ryan Mathews) on his team and yet he still lost. His opponent had Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns, but it was Baltimore kicker Justin Tucker who destroyed his championship dreams.

In fact, between Tucker’s SIX field goals on Monday night, including the game-winner from 61 yards away, and Matthew Stafford’s last-second interception (his third of the game, which also meant a third INT for the Baltimore DST), my guess is that quite a few people went from enjoying the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat. If it’s any consolation for the former group, the latter will have to endure that roller coaster one more time, with even more on the line.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Fantasy Football 2013 Positional Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-16

Peyton Manning is on the verge of reaching some significant milestones, so no one should be surprised to see him leading off Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 quarterback rankings. But while Manning no doubt carried many a fantasy team to the championship game, he's not the only quarterback who could end up helping an owner bring home the title this week.

As far as Manning goes, he needs just 189 yards passing to reach 5,000 in a season for the first time in his career. He's also three touchdown passes shy of tying Tom Brady's single-season record of 50. Unless the Broncos decide to rest Manning next week there's a pretty good chance that record will be his before Week 17 is complete. Manning does have to face Houston's second-ranked passing defense this week, but this is a Texans team that has lost 12 games in a row and has allowed 25 touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. There was no debate when it came to the No. 1 quarterback this week.

That doesn't mean that Manning's the only quarterback whose outlook we don't like though. The Sunday night Chicago vs. Philadelphia game not only is a critical matchup as it pits the NFC North and East division leaders against each other, it features two of the NFL's more generous defenses. Nick Foles and Jay Cutler both have the weapons and the ability to post big numbers in any given week, and this head-to-head matchup has all the makings of a high-scoring affair.

Foles has been more consistent (21.4 or more fantasy points in six straight games), but that's because Cutler has missed time because of a groin and ankle injury. He returned last week against Cleveland and after a shaky start that saw him toss two interceptions, Cutler finished with 265 yards passing and three touchdowns. There's certainly some risk in starting a "rusty" Cutler with so much at stake, but you also can't ignore the prospect of him throwing to the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte against an Eagles defense that gave up 382 yards passing to Minnesota's Matt Cassel last week.

For those who have an appetite for risk-taking, what about rolling the dice with Kirk Cousins? In his first game replacing Robert Griffin III, Cousins threw for 381 yards and three touchdowns against Atlanta. This week Cousins gets a reeling Dallas defense that has given up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Cousins did turn the ball over three times (2 INTs, fumble) and will be making just his second career NFL start. However, unless you already have Manning, Foles, Cutler or a better option on your roster, you could certainly do worse than taking a chance on the Redskins' backup quarterback.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

1Peyton ManningDENat HOU
2Nick FolesPHIvs. CHI
3Drew BreesNOat CAR
4Cam NewtonCARvs. NO
5Matthew StaffordDETvs. NYG
6Philip RiversSDvs. OAK
7Russell WilsonSEAvs. ARI
8Jay CutlerCHIat PHI
9Colin KaepernickSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
10Tony RomoDALat WAS
11Andy DaltonCINvs. MIN
12Tom BradyNEat BAL
13Ben RoethlisbergerPITat GB
14Kirk CousinsWASvs. DAL
15Alex SmithKCvs. IND
16Andrew LuckINDat KC
17Ryan FitzpatrickTENat JAC
18Joe FlaccoBALvs. NE
19Ryan TannehillMIAat BUF
20Jason CampbellCLEat NYJ
21Matt RyanATLat SF (Mon.)
22Matt FlynnGBvs. PIT
23Matt CasselMINat CIN
24Carson PalmerARIat SEA
25Eli ManningNYGat DET

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-16

Even though he had just 20 yards rushing, is there any question who sits atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 running back rankings? Jamaal Charles probably single-handedly won many a fantasy game last week after scoring five total touchdowns, four of those coming through the air, and producing a grand total of 55.5 fantasy points (Athlon scoring).

Besides not only posting one of the biggest fantasy performances ever, Charles became just the fifth player in the past 50 seasons in NFL history to produce more than 200 yards from scrimmage and score five touchdowns. His 195 yards receiving also were the most by a running back since 1999. While it's pretty much unfathomable to think that Charles can top what he did last week, that doesn't mean he can't potentially help carry a team to a fantasy championship by putting up decent numbers against Indianapolis and the 27th-ranked rushing defense.

Those who aren't as fortunate to have Charles on their roster could still enjoy plenty of success, thanks to matchups such as Chicago vs. Philadelphia and Dallas vs. Washington, which set up nicely for the likes of LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris. Murray in particular has been hot lately, leading all running backs with 429 yards rushing over the past four weeks. He also has averaged more than 19 fantasy points per game during this stretch and gets a Redskins defense that is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Fret not Morris owners, because it's the the Cowboys who are allowing the most, especially after getting run over by Eddie Lacy (141 yards rushing, TD) and Forte (175 total yards, TD) the last two games.

Another thing to keep an eye on this week is injuries. Adrian Peterson (sprained foot/groin) and Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) both did not play last week because of their ailments. Peterson is expected back against Cincinnati and we have him ranked in the top five. MJD's outlook is much cloudier, which is he is not ranked, but his backup Jordan Todman (24th) is. Why is that you ask? Because Tennessee is yielding the second-most fantasy points to running backs.

The other big piece of injury new is that Houston's Ben Tate has been placed on injured reserve after breaking his fifth rib in last week's loss to Indianapolis. Dennis Johnson and Deji Karim will share the load out of the backfield, but unlike Todman, we are not too encouraged by either backup's potential this week against Denver.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back

1Jamaal CharlesKCvs. IND
2LeSean McCoyPHIvs. CHI
3Matt ForteCHIat PHI
4Eddie LacyGBvs. PIT
5Adrian PetersonMINat CIN
6Marshawn LynchSEAvs. ARI
7DeMarco MurrayDALat WAS
8Knowshon MorenoDENat HOU
9Alfred MorrisWASvs. DAL
10Reggie BushDETvs. NYG
11Le'Veon BellPITat GB
12Frank GoreSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
13Zac StacySTLvs. TB
14Ryan MathewsSDvs. OAK
15Chris JohnsonTENat JAC
16Rashad JenningsOAKat SD
17Giovani BernardCINvs. MIN
18C.J. SpillerBUFvs. MIA
19Shane VereenNEat BAL
20Bobby RaineyTBat STL
21Andre BrownNYGat DET
22Ray RiceBALvs. NE
23Fred JacksonBUFvs. MIA
24Jordan TodmanJACvs. TEN
25DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NO
26Chris IvoryNYJvs. CLE
27Danny WoodheadSDvs. OAK
28Steven JacksonATLat SF (Mon.)
29Lamar MillerMIAat BUF
30BenJarvus Green-EllisCINvs. MIN
31Rashard MendenhallARIat SEA
32Pierre ThomasNOat CAR
33Andre EllingtonARIat SEA
34Darren SprolesNOat CAR
35Chris OgbonnayaCLEat NYJ
36Montee BallDENat HOU
37Joique BellDETvs. NYG
38Dennis JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
39Daniel ThomasMIAat BUF
40Stevan RidleyNEat BAL

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-16

Calvin Johnson hasn't scored a touchdown or gone over 100 yards in two straight games, but he's still No. 1 on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 wide receiver rankings. For one, Johnson still leads his peers in fantasy points, despite the best efforts of Josh Gordon, Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas and others, but also because he's home this week against a pretty beat-down Giants defense. Megatron is one of the few players who can make a lot of noise even if he catches a few passes.

As for the rest of this week's field, Gordon, Marshall, Brown and Thomas are all must-start options, along with A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, DeSean Jackson and Marshall's teammate, Alshon Jeffery. In particular, we really like the Chicago vs. Philadelphia matchup, as the Eagles are giving up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Vikings aren't too far behind, which bodes well for Green and we wouldn't be at all surprised if the Dallas-Washington pairing is a high-scoring affair. That's good news for Bryant owners as well as Pierre Garcon, who caught seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback last week.

That's not to say that Denver won't be up to its usual tricks against Houston, so by no means are you sitting either Thomas or Eric Decker. And likewise, Andre Johnson should add to his league-leading receptions total (99) against the 28th-ranked passing defense in the league. What remains to be seen for that game, however, is will Wes Welker return after missing last week because of a concussion? Larry Fitzgerald and Victor Cruz are also going through the required concussion tests and are questionable for Sunday. Although Fitzgerald's road matchup in Seattle and the Giants' offensive struggles may be enough reason alone to leave both on the bench this week.

As far as some less-heralded options go, what about New England's Julian Edelman? He's picked up the slack and then some since Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL and MCL, racking up 39 receptions over his last four games, including 13 for 139 yards and a touchdown against Miami. It's pretty clear that he has become Tom Brady's favorite target, as Edelman has quietly put together a top-15 fantasy season. And then there's San Diego rookie Keenan Allen. He caught just two passes in last week's surprise win in Denver, but both of them went for touchdowns. He's emerged as not only Philip Rivers' No. 1 target, Allen is a leading contender for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He has seven touchdown grabs on the season and needs just 69 yards receiving against Oakland to reach 1,000. All Allen did in his first game against the Raiders was haul in six passes for 115 yards and a score.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. NYG
2Josh GordonCLEat NYJ
3A.J. GreenCINvs. MIN
4Brandon MarshallCHIat PHI
5Alshon JefferyCHIat PHI
6Dez BryantDALat WAS
7Demaryius ThomasDENat HOU
8Antonio BrownPITat GB
9DeSean JacksonPHIvs. CHI
10Andre JohnsonHOUvs. DEN
11Pierre GarconWASvs. DAL
12Vincent JacksonTBat STL
13Keenan AllenSDvs. OAK
14Jordy NelsonGBvs. PIT
15Eric DeckerDENat HOU
16Julian EdelmanNEat BAL
17Torrey SmithBALvs. NE
18Mike WallaceMIAat BUF
19Marques ColstonNOat CAR
20Michael CrabtreeSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
21Anquan BoldinSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
22Kendall WrightTENat JAC
23Dwayne BoweKCvs. IND
24Larry FitzgeraldARIat SEA
25Wes WelkerDENat HOU
26Roddy WhiteATLat SF (Mon.)
27Danny AmendolaNEat BAL
28T.Y. HiltonINDat KC
29James JonesGBvs. PIT
30Greg JenningsMINat CIN
31Brian HartlineMIAat BUF
32Riley CooperPHIvs. CHI
33Steve SmithCARvs. NO
34Doug BaldwinSEAvs. ARI
35Rod StreaterOAKat SD
36Golden TateSEAvs. ARI
37Cordarrelle PattersonMINat CIN
38Harry DouglasATLat SF (Mon.)
39Hakeem NicksNYGat DET
40Rueben RandleNYGat DET
41Jarrett BoykinGBvs. PIT
42Stevie JohnsonBUFvs. MIA
43Michael FloydARIat SEA
44Emmanuel SandersPITat GB
45Robert WoodsBUFvs. MIA
46Denarius MooreOAKat SD
47Marlon BrownBALvs. NE
48Andre HolmesOAKat SD
49DeAndre HopkinsHOUvs. DEN
50Ace SandersJACvs. TEN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-16

It was a rough day at the office last week for Jimmy Graham, but he's firmly entrenched in the top spot on Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 16 tight end rankings. Graham still leads all tight ends in fantasy points by nearly 60, leads the NFL in touchdown receptions (12), and is facing a Carolina defense against which he recorded two scores just two weeks ago. Graham brought you this far, you may as well let him finish the job.

As impressive a season as Graham has had, Vernon Davis is putting up some nice numbers of his own. His 12 touchdown catches are second only to Graham and he's on pace to record nearly 60 catches and more than 900 yards even though he missed a game earlier because of injury. San Francisco hosts Atlanta on Monday night and the Falcons have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends.

Even though the 49ers' defense has been tough, that doesn't mean that Tony Gonzalez won't have success against it. The future Hall of Famer has recorded a touchdown catch in three straight games and has once again produced a top-five fantasy season. Cleveland's Jordan Cameron is currently third behind Graham and Davis in fantasy points, but he sustained a concussion last week and will have to pass the required tests before he's cleared to play against the Jets. The matchup is definitely appealing (Jets allowing seventh-most fantasy points to TEs), but you need to make sure that Cameron is playing before leaving him in your lineup. Especially in a week with so much at stake.

If Cameron can't go, some potential replacement options for him could include Delanie Walker, Dennis Pitta, Tyler Eifert, Timothy Wright or even Zach Miller or Andrew Quarless. In Miller's case the Cardinals have surrendered 92 catches and 15 touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, while Quarless has caught exactly six passes for 66 yards and a score in each of the past two games.

2013 NFL Week 16 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat CAR
2Vernon DavisSFvs. ATL (Mon.)
3Julius ThomasDENat HOU
4Jason WittenDALat WAS
5Greg OlsenCARvs. NO
6Tony GonzalezATLat SF (Mon.)
7Jordan CameronCLEat NYJ
8Delanie WalkerTENat JAC
9Charles ClayMIAat BUF
10Antonio GatesSDvs. OAK
11Martellus BennettCHIat PHI
12Dennis PittaBALvs. NE
13Tyler EifertCINvs. MIN
14Coby FleenerINDat KC
15Heath MillerPITat GB
16Timothy WrightTBat STL
17Zach MillerSEAvs. ARI
18Garrett GrahamHOUvs. DEN
19Jared CookSTLvs. TB
20Andrew QuarlessGBvs. PIT

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 16 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 16
Post date: Thursday, December 19, 2013 - 06:30