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Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-vs-denver-broncos-preview-and-prediction

AFC West rivals will renew acquaintances as the NFL’s Week 15 action gets started tonight with the San Diego Chargers taking on the Denver Broncos at 8:25 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Chargers (6-7) need a win if they want to have any shot at the final Wild Card berth in the AFC while the Broncos (11-2) aim to stay ahead of the Chiefs for the divisional lead and the Patriots (10-3) for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Denver has won its past four meetings with San Diego, including a 28-20 road victory back in Week 10. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are a perfect 7-0 at home and are coming off of last week’s 51-28 dismantling of Tennessee. Philip Rivers and the Chargers are just 3-4 on the road, but their biggest victory of the season came as the visiting team. In Week 12, San Diego scored with less than 30 seconds left in the game to defeat Kansas City 41-38, handing the Chiefs their first home loss of the season.

3 Things to Watch

Denver’s Home Dominance
The Broncos have the best record in the AFC and have basically been unstoppable at home. The No. 1 offense in the NFL in both yards (465.6 ypg) and points (39.6 ppg) by wide margins, the numbers are even more staggering when they play at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Denver is 7-0 at home this season and is averaging 478.4 yards and 42.3 points per game played at altitude. The Broncos have outscored opponents 296-153 with an average margin of victory of 20.4 points per home game. Peyton Manning has put up MVP-worthy numbers all season and last week against Tennessee, he pretty much put any doubts about him being able to play in cold weather to bed by torching the Titans for 397 yards passing and four touchdowns. Denver’s offense can beat you with the pass or the run and its quick-strike capability and efficiency combine for one massive headache for opposing defenses. In 28 quarters of play at home, the Broncos have scored in all but three periods. On top of that, Denver has scored double-digit points in more than half (16) of those 28 quarters. San Diego’s offense is no slouch, averaging 400 yards and 24 points per game, and the Chargers’ defense is the only one to hold the Broncos to under 400 yards this season. But Denver still won that game 28-20, and it was in San Diego. At home, no team has been able to corral this offense all season, so it goes without saying that the Chargers’ defense really has its work cut out for it tonight.

San Diego’s Counter Punch
The Chargers know full well what Manning and company are capable of doing, having had a front-row seat just a few weeks ago. The key to beating the Broncos, as the Colts and Patriots demonstrated, is finding a way to trade punches with them when you have the ball. Dallas (48 points), Indianapolis (39) and New England (34) are the only teams to put up more than 30 points against Denver this season. San Diego is fourth in the NFL in total offense at 400.5 yards per game, but tied for 11th in points with 24.3 per contest. The Chargers have scored more than 30 points four times this season, including 37 in last week’s home win against the Giants. Contrast that to Denver, who has been held to fewer than 30 points just twice, one of those games coming against San Diego. The Chargers know they will need to score plenty of points if they have any hope of beating the Broncos. In the first meeting, San Diego was effective running the ball, gaining 131 yards on 35 carries, but Philip Rivers couldn’t get much going through the air. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he was sacked four times and the Chargers were just 6-of-17 on third down conversions. Denver’s defense has certainly stiffened since the return of All-Pro linebacker Von Miller from suspension, but the unit isn’t completely shutting down offenses either. Statistically, San Diego has been a much more productive offensive team on the road (409.1 ypg, 24.6 ppg) compared to at home (365.7 ypg, 24.0 ppg), especially in the yardage department. Going against Denver’s prolific offense on its home turf, the Chargers’ offense is going to need to be able to trade punches with the Broncos if they want to have any chance of winning tonight.

Staying Healthy
Wes Welker suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Tennessee. For Welker it was his second concussion over the past four games, and he has already been ruled out from playing tonight. Denver has already clinched a playoff spot, but has its sights set on the top seed in the AFC and home-field advantage throughout. The Broncos must continue to win games to achieve these goals, but John Fox and his coaching staff must weigh that against making sure his team is as healthy as possible for the postseason. Welker’s situation underscores the importance of this, although the Broncos don’t lack for offensive weapons. However, Welker wasn’t the only Bronco to get banged up last week either, as fellow wide receivers Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas took some hard hits of their own that caused them to either miss some snaps or get up slowly following a tackle. Don’t forget that tight end Julius Thomas returned last week after missing the previous two games because of an ankle injury, while running back Knowshon Moreno left the Week 12 loss to New England on crutches after suffering a bone bruise to his right ankle. With the bumps and bruises adding up, it’s even more important for reserves like running back Montee Ball, wide receiver Andre Caldwell and tight end Jacob Tamme to step up and get the job done when called upon, as it takes some of load off of the starters who have already logged a ton of snaps. In the end, the ultimate goal isn’t home-field advantage; it’s playing in New York City in February in the Super Bowl. To that end, Denver should be a tough out in January, especially if Peyton Manning has all of his weapons at his disposal.

San Diego Key Players: Antonio Gates and LaDarius Green, TEs
Gates (right) has been one of Philip Rivers’ favorite targets during their time together as teammates and the three-time All-Pro has bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2012 campaign. Gates leads the team in both targets (105) and receptions (68) and is second to rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen in yards (776). Green meanwhile has emerged somewhat in his second season. He has just 16 receptions, but two of those have gone for touchdowns and he’s been more involved in the offense recently. Prior to last week, Green had recorded nine catches for 206 yards (22.9 ypr) in the previous three games combined. Some of this was due to the Chargers utilizing more two-tight end sets and finding ways to get the athletic Green in space after the catch. Whatever San Diego’s offensive game plan is tonight, the Chargers know they have to find a way to produce points. Sticking with the two-TE look may be a good place to start, as the Broncos have struggled against them this season. Denver has given up the second-most receiving yards (953) to tight ends, along with five touchdown catches. In the first meeting with the Broncos, Gates led the Chargers with four catches for 62 yards while Green had one grab for 25 yards. Right after this game was when Green got more involved in the offense, so it’s possible he and Gates could both be factors tonight.

Denver Key Players: Offensive Line
Although Wes Welker is getting over his second concussion in a span of four games and several other of the Broncos’ weapons are dealing with various bumps and bruises, the key to Denver’s offense is keeping Peyton Manning upright and healthy. And while Manning is a master of getting rid of the ball quickly, his offensive line deserves a fair amount of credit too. Despite missing All-Pro tackle Ryan Clady for most of the season and dealing with other injuries that have some guys playing out of position, the Broncos’ line has given up just 15 sacks this season, tied for the fewest (with Detroit) in the NFL. Manning has gone down just twice over the last four games, and both of those came in the overtime loss in New England. San Diego got to Manning twice in its first meeting with Denver, but No. 18 still threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns in the 28-20 win. If there is room for any improvement for the offensive line this time around against the Chargers it is in run blocking. The Broncos were outgained by the Chargers on the ground 131 to 84, as Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball combined to average 4.3 yards per carry on 20 attempts. After all, another way to keep pressure off of Manning is to run the ball effectively, as that helps set up the play-action pass and gives him even more options to attack a defense with.

Final Analysis

San Diego needs to win to keep its slim playoff hopes alive. Denver is already in the postseason, but wants to keep winning to ensure that the road to the Super Bowl goes through Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Chargers held their own against the Broncos in their first meeting, “limiting” the NFL’s most productive offense to 397 yards and just 28 points.

However, Denver still won that game 28-20, as the Broncos’ defense held Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense in check for the most part. The Broncos have been basically unstoppable at home and while I expect San Diego to have some success, the Chargers just don’t have enough firepower to keep up with Denver for four quarters.

Denver 38, San Diego 27

San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos Preview and Prediction
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: Auburn Tigers, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/auburns-bizarre-path-bcs-championship

Has anyone had a crazier calendar year than the Auburn Tigers? Ever?

Who else is in the mix? From college football, Ohio State's 2002 squad would qualify. So, too, would Auburn's '10 team and the LSU Tigers of '07. The '69 New York Mets? The '97 Florida Marlins? The Joe Namath Jets? Eli to Tyree? How about the eighth-seeded 2011-12 Los Angeles Kings? Villanova in '85? (Okay, maybe that last one is in the ballpark)

In a year and two weeks, the Auburn Tigers have gone from winless in conference play to hiring a new regime to afterthought in the SEC West to sudden contender for the conference crown to Pasadena-bound for a shot at the BCS national title.

It’s one of the most improbable stories in all of sports much less college football. Who would be a more unlikely national champ? A two-loss LSU team that backed into the title game on the final day in '07 is a surprising and unlikely story but pales in comparison to this team should Gus Malzahn lead War Eagle to a national title over Florida State.

Here is a timeline of the roller coaster Auburn fans have been on over the last 12 months:

Nov. 24, 2012: Auburn loses the Iron Bowl 49-0
Alabama routed the Tigers in the regular-season finale last November in epic and historic fashion. The 49-point win was the most lopsided Iron Bowl final in 64 years (1948) as Auburn set season lows in yards (163) and yards per play (3.8). The game capped the worst season of football in school history and the worst by a team two years removed from a national championship.

Nov. 25, 2012: Gene Chizik fired as Auburn’s head coach
One day after the worst Iron Bowl defeat in six decades and its first winless SEC season in school history, athletic director Jay Jacobs made the move to remove head coach Gene Chizik. Auburn finished 118nd nationally in total offense with a pathetic 305.0 yards per game. The Tigers finished ahead of only a historically bad Tennessee unit in the SEC in total defense at 420.5 yards per game.

Dec. 4, 2012: Gus Malzahn is hired as Auburn’s new head coach
The patron saint of Auburn football returned home after one season as the head coach at Arkansas State. After three years and a BCS national title on The Plains, Malzahn left town for only one season. In his one season as a head coach in college football, he led the Red Wolves to a 9-3 (7-1) mark and a Sun Belt championship. So 10 days after firing a coach who won a national title, Auburn hires Malzahn to be its new head coach.

Jan. 14, 2013: Nick Marshall commits to Auburn
A big part of the problem on The Plains in 2012 was quarterback play. The Tigers finished 13th in the SEC at 156.6 yards per game passing and was ahead of only South Florida (7) and Army (4) nationally in touchdown passes (8) — the same number as option teams Air Force and Navy. Unbeknownst to many, the answer to the Tigers' passing problems came in the form of a middle-of-the-pack three-star junior college quarterback from Garden City (Kan.) Community College. A month before National Signing Day the No. 43-ranked JUCO prospect in the nation picked Auburn over Indiana, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Arkansas State.

Feb. 6, 2013: Auburn signs No. 10-rated recruiting class
Despite the worst season in school history, Malzahn somehow lures a top-10 recruiting class to Auburn. It was a strong finish for the Tigers' new head coach, as he inked instant impact names like Carl Lawson, Montravius Adams and Elijah Daniel near the end of process. This at the end of a winter in which the top linebacker in the nation, Reuben Foster committed to both Auburn and Alabama — and tattooing himself with an Auburn logo — multiple times before eventually signing with the Crimson Tide. In this class of 24 signees, the aforementioned Marshall was ranked as the 17th-best player of the group (247Sports).

April 20, 2013: Auburn spring game sets records
Spring football practice at Auburn culminates with a record-setting game late in April. The Tigers had the most popular, most-attended spring game in the nation, hosting a record 83,401 people at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Among the headlines, Jonathan Mincy gets ejected from the game for targeting teammate Dimitri Reese. It’s not easy to get kicked out of a spring game.

Aug. 17, 2013: Nick Marshall named starting QB
Enrolling with the rest of the freshmen in the summer, Marshall entered a heated quarterback battle with Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and incoming true freshman Jeremy Johnson. Midway through fall camp, Malzahn had found his guy in Marshall and the JUCO passer’s story comes full circle. Marshall signed with Georgia as an elite four-star “athlete” in 2011 out of Rochelle (Ga.) Wilcox Country before getting kicked out of school for reportedly stealing money from teammates — one of the lowest things you can do in a locker room.

Aug. 17, 2013: Preseason AP Poll released
On the same day Marshall is named the starter, the preseason AP Poll was released. There were 43 teams that received votes in the AP Poll and Auburn wasn’t one of them. For the record, Athlon Sports picked Auburn No. 42 in its preseason magazine. Only Notre Dame in 2012 had ever made it to the BCS title game as a preseason unranked team, so odds for Auburn to make the title game were slim-to-none. 

Sept. 14, 2013: Auburn tops Mississippi State in the final 10 seconds
After a lackluster win over Washington State in Week 1 and a drubbing of Malzahn's former charges (Arkansas State) in Week 2, a glimpse of Auburn’s storybook season begins with a 24-20 win over Mississippi State. Marshall connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah with 10 seconds left in the game to win the Tigers' first SEC game since topping Ole Miss in October 2011 (10 games). The 120 yards rushing will eventually finish as the worst rushing performance of the season for Malzahn’s zone-read attack.

Sept. 21, 2013: Auburn loses in Baton Rouge to LSU
An unimpressive first month of the season comes to an end when LSU physically pushes around the Tigers in a 35-21 easy victory. LSU was in complete control for most of the game but Auburn fought hard in the second half and finished with 437 yards of offense and 5.1 yards per play against the normally very stingy Bayou Bengals defense. With a loss just two games into the SEC season, Auburn becomes an afterthought in the West Division race.

Sept. 21, 2013: Michigan State loses to Notre Dame
In controversial fashion with more than a few questionable calls, Notre Dame wins a non-descript game over Michigan State that at the time no one thought would matter in the grand scheme of things. The 17-13 victory by the Fighting Irish would eventually be the only loss for the Spartans and likely kept Michigan State out of the BCS title game. Most believe a perfect Big Ten champ would have been ranked ahead of a one-loss SEC champ.

Oct. 5, 2013: Auburn survives a scare from Ole Miss
After a week off to lick their wounds provided by LSU, Auburn bounces back with a dramatic win over Ole Miss. The 30-22 win over No. 24 Mississippi was the first win for Auburn over a ranked team in two years and gives the Tigers more wins in 2013 (4) than it had in all of 2013 (3). Marshall carried 14 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns in the key divisional showdown.

Oct. 12, 2013: Utah upsets No. 5 Stanford
The Cardinal would go on to lose to USC in Los Angeles later in the year but many believe a one-loss Stanford team would have gotten the nod over a one-loss Auburn team. Stanford played arguably the toughest schedule in the nation (among contenders) and if not for a last-second, goal-line stand by Utah in Salt Lake City, Auburn might not have landed in the BCS title game. Stanford finished the year as Pac-12 champs and ranked No. 5 in the nation and the loss to a 5-7 Utes team eliminated them from BCS contention.

Oct. 18, 2013: Louisville loses to UCF 38-35
A preseason top 10 team, Louisville would go on to finish 11-1 with its only loss coming to UCF 38-35 in mid-October. Had the Cardinals finished unblemished, many would have voted Louisville into the title game over Auburn despite UL’s mediocre schedule (although, I would not have been one of them).

Oct. 19, 2013: Tre Mason and Dee Ford save the day in College Station
Trailing 41-38 with five minutes to go on the road against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Auburn turned to tailback Tre Mason to save the day. The Tigers put together a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 3:46 off the clock and culminated in a five-yard, game-winning Mason touchdown run. Auburn ran the ball 10 times, including six Mason carries, on a drive that defines Malzahn’s relentless offensive system. On the ensuing possession, Dee Ford sacked Johnny Manziel twice on the final series with No. 7 Texas A&M knocking on the door of the red zone, including a fourth down play that ended the game. The national stage welcomed Auburn to the party following this performance.

Nov. 16, 2013: The Prayer on the Plains is answered
In the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, Auburn dominates Georgia for three quarters before the Dawgs come storming back in the final period. Aaron Murray leads his team to three touchdowns, including a gusty fourth down touchdown run to take the lead with less than two minutes to play. On the next possession, Auburn could muster only five yards on six plays in a minute and a half of time. It left the Tigers with a 4th and 18 with 25 seconds left and needing a miracle to survive. Then Nick Marshall heaved a prayer into the Auburn night air that was tipped into infamy by two Georgia defenders. The ball landed gingerly into Ricardo Louis’ waiting arms and he strolled into the SEC history books with one of the most dramatic finishes in conference history.

Nov. 23, 2013: Baylor loses 49-17 to Oklahoma State in Stillwater
An undefeated No. 4-ranked Bears teams went into frigid Stillwater and was totally dominated by Oklahoma State. The 49-17 loss would go on to be Baylor’s only loss of the year and knocked Art Briles’ bunch out of the BCS title game. An undefeated Baylor team would likely have gotten the berth over a one-loss Auburn team.

Nov. 30, 2013: Auburn shocks the world in the Iron Bowl
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t already been written? The ending is second only to the famed 1982 Stanford-Cal “Band is out on the field” game in terms of being the most bizarre finishes in NCAA history. But when it comes to the gravity, importance, passion and history of the “Kick-6,” no game may ever compare to the 2013 Iron Bowl. The SEC West title, a spot in the SEC championship game and claim to a spot in the BCS title game, as well as in-state bragging rights, were all hanging in the balance and Auburn returned a missed field goal 109 yards on the final play of the game to beat the two-time undefeated defending national champions? Nothing may ever come close to matching that type of resume.

Dec. 7, 2013: Auburn sets records against Missouri in Atlanta
Auburn set 16 SEC championship game records by rolling through a highly regarded and equally effective Missouri Tigers defensive line. Tre Mason rushes 46 times for 304 yards and four touchdowns — all SEC title game records — in the win. The performance sent Mason to New York as a Heisman finalist. Malzahn becomes just the third head coach in SEC history to win a conference title in his first season in the league and it won him the Home Depot National Coach of the Year award. Now, the Tigers and the rest of the nation sat back to watch what would happen in Indianapolis…

Dec. 7, 2013: No. 2 Ohio State loses to Michigan State
War Eagle prayers were answered in Lucas Oil Field late on Saturday night when Michigan State totally outplays the No. 2-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Common logic would assume that a 13-0 Ohio State team that had won 25 straight games overall would have played in the BCS national title game against Florida State. But the Spartans ended that discussion in short order by hanging on to defeat the Bucknuts 34-24 in the Big Ten Championship Game, opening the BCS door wide for the Auburn Tigers.

The win by MSU capped a remarkable calendar year for Auburn fans. From complete and utter depression and disappointment to extreme jubilation in just 12 months, no doubt, it's been a wild ride on The Plains. The phrases “Team of Destiny” and “Football Gods” get tossed around liberally with this War Eagle squad and for good reason. What this team has been through and accomplished over the last year is as extraordinary a story as any in the history of sports.

And the final chapter has yet to be written. Tune in January 6 in Pasadena for what Tiger fans are hoping will be an epic finish to a once-in-a-generation tale... for the second time in four years.

Auburn's Bizarre Path to the BCS Championship
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-2013-postseason-all-america-team

College football’s 2013 regular season – with the exception of the Army-Navy game – is in the books.

The 2013 season featured plenty of intrigue and surprises, and Florida State and Auburn are set to cap the BCS era with the national championship matchup on Jan. 6 in Pasadena.

With the season for all BCS programs completed, it’s time to honor the top players around the nation.

As usual, it’s no easy assignment assembling three All-America teams. There are plenty of standout performers that won’t make the cut, but we tried to blend talent, production and consistency to form the top three teams.

2013 Season Reviews and All-Conference Teams: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | National Awards

College Football's 2013 Postseason All-America Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team OffenseThird-Team Offense
QB Jameis Winston, FSUQB Bryce Petty, BaylorQB Derek Carr, Fresno State
RB Ka'Deem Carey, ArizonaRB Carlos Hyde, Ohio StateRB Bishop Sankey, Washington
RB Andre Williams, Boston CollegeRB Tre Mason, AuburnRB Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon StateWR Allen Robinson, Penn StateWR Davante Adams, Fresno State
WR Jordan Matthews, VanderbiltWR Sammy Watkins, ClemsonWR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
TE Jace Amaro, Texas TechTE Eric Ebron, North CarolinaTE Nick O'Leary, Florida State
C Hroniss Grasu, OregonC Gabe Ikard, OklahomaC Reese Dismukes, Auburn
G David Yankey, StanfordG Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLAG Anthony Steen, Alabama
G Cyril Richardson, BaylorG Gabe Jackson, Miss. StateG Tre Jackson, Florida State
T Cyrus Kouandjio, AlabamaT Cameron Erving, Florida StateT Taylor Lewan, Michigan
T Jake Matthews, Texas A&MT Jack Mewhort, Ohio StateT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
AP Myles Jack, UCLAAP Antonio Andrews, WKUAP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
First-Team DefenseSecond-Team DefenseThird-Team Defense
DE Vic Beasley, ClemsonDE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan StateDE Leonard Williams, USC
DE Michael Sam, MissouriDE Jackson Jeffcoat, TexasDE Marcus Smith, Louisville
DT Aaron Donald, PittsburghDT Kelcy Quarles, South CarolinaDT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
DT Timmy Jernigan, FSUDT Will Sutton, Arizona StateDT Derrick Hopkins, Va. Tech
LB C.J. Mosley, AlabamaLB Trent Murphy, StanfordLB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
LB Anthony Barr, UCLALB Khalil Mack, BuffaloLB Shayne Skov, Stanford
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio StateLB Chris Borland, WisconsinLB Telvin Smith, FSU
CB Lamarcus Joyner, FSUCB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, OregonCB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan StateCB Jason Verrett, TCUCB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
S Deone Bucannon, Wash. StateS  Cody Prewitt, Ole MissS Jimmie Ward, NIU
Ed Reynolds, StanfordS Calvin Pryor, LouisvilleS Kurtis Drummond, Mich. State
First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team SpecialistsThird-Team Specialists
K Roberto Aguayo, FSUK Marvin Kloss, USFK Anthony Fera, Texas
P Tom Hornsey, MemphisP Mike Sadler, Michigan StateP Pat O'Donnell, Miami
KR Ty Montgomery, StanfordKR Christion Jones, AlabamaKR DeVon Edwards, Duke
PR Ryan Switzer, UNCPR Nelson Agholor, USCPR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma


College Football's 2013 Postseason All-America Team
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-postseason-awards-2013

With the exception of Saturday’s Army-Navy game, college football’s regular season is in the books. Only 36 games separate college football fans until the long offseason, but with another week until the bowl season starts, it’s time to take a look back at 2013 and some of the highlights of the year.

From the opener between North Carolina-South Carolina to the finale between Utah State and Fresno State, the 2013 season provided plenty of highlights, big performances and disappointments.

Let’s take a look at some of the top plays, players and surprising moments of 2013.

2013 Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 SEC | All-America

College Football’s 2013 National Awards

Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. The redshirt freshman completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest. Winston finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. He also completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.

2. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
3. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

2. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
3. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
4. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
5. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.

2. Gus Malzahn, Auburn
3. Gary Pinkel, Missouri
4. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
5. Art Briles, Baylor

Coordinator of the Year: Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State
For the third consecutive season, Narduzzi coordinated a Michigan State defense that ranked among the top six nationally in fewest yards allowed per game. The Spartans ranked fourth nationally in total defense last season and improved upon that total in 2013, finishing No. 1 overall by limiting opponents to just 248.2 yards per contest. Michigan State also led the nation in rush defense, finished fourth nationally in fewest points allowed per game and second in pass efficiency defense. Narduzzi’s defense allowed only three opponents to score more than 20 points in a game this year, while no opposing team managed to reach the 30-point mark for the second season in a row. Narduzzi’s work as a defensive coordinator has made him a hot commodity for open head coach vacancies.

2. Jeremy Pruitt, defensive coordinator, Florida State
3. Phil Bennett, defensive coordinator, Baylor
4. Philip Montgomery, offensive coordinator, Baylor
5. Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State

Best Coach Hire for 2013: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn brought immediate improvement to Auburn in his first season as the head coach. The Tigers went 3-9 last year and failed to win a SEC game. But under Malzahn’s watch, Auburn quickly rebounded. The Tigers finished 12-1 – with a huge victory over Alabama in the Iron Bowl – and claimed the SEC Championship. Thanks to a Michigan State victory over Ohio State, Auburn is headed to Pasadena to play Florida State for the national championship on Dec. 6. In two years as a head coach, Malzahn is 21-4 at the collegiate level.

2. Gary Andersen, Wisconsin
3. Steve Addazio, Boston College
4. Matt Wells, Utah State
5. Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati

Biggest Surprise: Missouri
Even though Gary Pinkel’s team lost to Auburn in the SEC Championship, let’s give the nod here to Missouri. Sure, Auburn’s rise to the national championship was a huge shocker, but Missouri’s 11-2 season was an even bigger surprise. After a 5-7 mark last year, Missouri was picked to finish lower than Auburn in Athlon’s 125 power rankings for 2013, and there was plenty of talk about the future of coach Gary Pinkel if the Tigers had another losing mark. But Missouri rebounded with a SEC East title and claimed its fourth season of at least 10 victories over the last seven years. The Tigers will have some holes to fill on the roster in 2014, but Pinkel’s team should remain in the mix for a finish in the top half of the SEC East. 

2. Auburn
3. Duke
4. Tulane
5. Boston College

Biggest Disappointment: Florida
Coming into 2013, Florida was expected to have a hard time matching its 11-2 mark from 2012. However, no one expected what transpired in Gainesville this year. The Gators had their worst season since 1979, recording a 4-8 final record and a seven-game losing streak to close out the year. Florida won only two SEC games – Tennessee and Arkansas – and was routed by Florida State in the season finale. The offense was the primary culprit of the 4-8 record, and coordinator Brent Pease and line coach Tim Davis were canned after the loss to the Seminoles. Will Muschamp plans to hire a coach to run an up-tempo attack in 2014, but this team has significant personnel concerns on offense, particularly at quarterback and in the receiving corps.

2. TCU
3. Northwestern
4. Michigan
5. Tulsa

Top Freshman in 2013: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
3. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
4. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
5. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
6. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

Best All-Around in 2013: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
By the end of 2013, Jack was not only one of UCLA’s best defenders, but the freshman also emerged as one of the Bruins’ top offensive weapons. In 12 contests, Jack recorded 70 tackles (five for a loss), one interception, one blocked kick and 10 pass breakups. On the offensive side, Jack rushed 37 times for 267 yards and seven scores. He averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per carry and had a 66-yard touchdown run against Arizona. Jack will be one of the Pac-12’s top returning players in 2014 – but will he play more on offense or stick to defense? With Anthony Barr headed to the NFL, Jack should be one of the top pass rushers in the Pac-12 and a preseason All-American.

2. Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
3. De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
4. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
5. Albert Wilson, WR, Georgia State

Most-Improved Player: Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
Mettenberger’s season ended prematurely due to a knee injury suffered against Arkansas, but the senior made considerable progress in 2013. Under new coordinator Cam Cameron, Mettenberger had a solid year, throwing for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also improved his completion percentage to 64.9 percent – a six-point increase from 2011. Mettenberger tossed only eight picks and threw 20 completions of 30 yards or more. By comparison, Mettenberger had only 17 passing plays of 30 or more yards in 2012. The senior also averaged three more yards per completion in 2013 than he did in 2012.

Three Coaches on the Rise

1. Pete Lembo, Ball State
Lembo could be in the mix for open jobs this offseason. In three years with Ball State, he is 25-12 and has guided the Cardinals to back-to-back bowl appearances.

2. Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
It’s only a matter of time before a BCS job hires Hudspeth away from the Ragin’ Cajuns. In three years with Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth is 26-12 with three bowl trips.

3. Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Johnson is just 9-15 overall, but the Green Wave improved their win total by five games from 2012 to 2013. Tulane is also set to play in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21, which is its first bowl appearance since 2002.

Five Coaches on the Hot Seat for 2014

1. Will Muschamp, Florida
2. Bo Pelini, Nebraska
3. Tim Beckman, Illinois
4. Mike London, Virginia
5. Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia

Five Players to Watch in 2014

1. Dontre Wilson, RB, Ohio State
2. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
3. Thomas Tyner, RB, Oregon
4. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State
5. P.J. Walker, QB, Temple

Three Programs on the Rise for 2014

1. Washington
2. North Carolina
3. Ole Miss


Best Play: Auburn's Chris Davis returns missed field goal to beat Alabama

Best Catch: UCF's J.J. Worton against Temple

Best Coaching Soundbyte: Les Miles after beating Florida

Best Coaching Rant: Iowa State's Paul Rhoads after losing to Texas

Best Trick Play: Fresno State's fumblerooski against New Mexico

Worst Officiating Moment: Arizona State-Wisconsin clock fiasco

College Football's Postseason Awards for 2013
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-positional-rankings-week-15

Fantasy playoffs are in full effect as we enter Week 15 of the NFL regular season. From here out, it’s pretty much win or go home and now is the time when owners are hoping that their top players will come through in a major way.

Last week saw some of the usual suspects answer the call, as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Matt Forté, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson, Antonio Brown, Jordan Cameron, Jimmy Graham and the Kansas City DST were among the leading scorers at their respective positions. However, there also were plenty of surprises, including Josh McCown leading all scorers following his monster Monday night performance (348 yards passing, 5 total touchdowns) against Dallas.

As impressive as McCown was against the Cowboys and as well as he has played (14 total TDs, 2 turnovers), it’s possible that he may not even get the start on Sunday in Cleveland. Jay Cutler appears to be getting closer to returning from his ankle injury, and Chicago head coach Marc Trestman has already said that he will be the starter once he’s cleared to play. So those who have been riding McCown lately may have the rug pulled out from under them this week.

And that’s not the only impact player who could be missing in Week 15. Adrian Peterson could be sidelined because of a sprained foot, Wes Welker is out because of a concussion, Rob Gronkowski is done after tearing his ACL and MCL last week, and Robert Griffin III has been benched for the rest of the season and replaced by Kirk Cousins.

By this point, however, injuries and depth chart shuffling shouldn’t surprise anyone, not with how this season has played out. Now it’s just a matter of getting the most out of the healthy bodies you have left on your roster and hoping you can put together the right lineup to be the last team standing when all is said and done.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 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 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-quarterback-rankings-week-15

Peyton Manning and Drew Brees lead Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 quarterback rankings, but it's some other names near the top that have opened the most eyes this season.

Josh McCown led all fantasy scorers with 47.52 fantasy points (Athlon scoring) last week after throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns in the Monday night win over Dallas. McCown also added a rushing score for good measure and has been quite productive in relief of an injured Jay Cutler. In five starts, McCown is averaging 27.32 points per outing as he has thrown 13 total touchdown passes and just one interception on the season. McCown is a clear-cut, top-10 option this week against Cleveland, provided he starts. Cutler is getting closer to returning from his ankle injury, and head coach Marc Trestman has already said that McCown would cede the starting gig back to Cutler when he's cleared to play. Will that happen this week? For now, we are inclined to believe the Bears will stick with McCown.

As remarkable as McCown's run has been, Nick Foles has been putting up impressive numbers for a longer stretch of games. Taking advantage of Michael Vick's injury-prone nature, Foles has emerged as one of fantasy's most productive quarterbacks. On the season, Foles has accounted for 23 total touchdowns (20 pass, 3 rush) and has turned the ball over twice (INT, fumble). He's a borderline top-15 fantasy quarterback, which is impressive considering he's played in just 10 games. As a starter, Foles is averaging 25.76 fantasy points. The only two quarterbacks averaging more per start are Manning and Brees. Foles is assured of getting the start on Sunday and he in checks in at No. 4 on Athlon's rankings because of his matchup against a Minnesota defense that has given up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. This Eagle could help many owners win a fantasy championship in 2013.

One quarterback who won't be leading anyone to a fantasy title is Robert Griffin III. RG3's disappointing sophomore season will end with him on the bench, as Washington head coach Mike Shanahan has decided to sit RG3 for Kirk Cousins. Whether it's driven by a desire to protect RG3 or the latest indicator that the Redskins are one dysfunctional mess of an organization right now, the end result is the same — RG3 was one of the season's biggest disappointments.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

1Peyton ManningDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Drew BreesNOat STL
3Cam NewtonCARvs. NYJ
4Nick FolesPHIat MIN
5Matthew StaffordDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
6Russell WilsonSEAat NYG
7Josh McCownCHIat CLE
8Tony RomoDALvs. GB
9Andrew LuckINDvs. HOU
10Tom BradyNEat MIA
11Philip RiversSDat DEN (Thurs.)
12Ben RoethlisbergerPITvs. CIN
13Alex SmithKCat OAK
14Matt RyanATLvs. WAS
15Colin KaepernickSFat TB
16Ryan TannehillMIAvs. NE
17Joe FlaccoBALat DET (Mon.)
18Andy DaltonCINat PIT
19Kirk CousinsWASat ATL
20Jason CampbellCLEvs. CHI
21Carson PalmerARIat TEN
22Ryan FitzpatrickTENvs. ARI
23Case KeenumHOUat IND
24Matt CasselMINvs. PHI
25Matt FlynnGBat DAL

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 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Quarterback Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-running-back-rankings-week-15

While many of the familiar names can be found near the top of Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 running back rankings, it's the one that's missing that could have the biggest impact this week and moving forward.

Adrian Peterson left last week's game in Baltimore on a cart, as his owners no doubt feared the worst. The good news is that it appears the reigning MVP escaped serious injury, but he is still expected to miss at least one game because of a sprained foot. Toby Gerhart would get the start in Peterson's absence and those who were smart enough to handcuff Peterson with Gerhart or have him on their roster shouldn't hesitate to throw him out there against Philadelphia and see what happens.

Speaking of Philadelphia, LeSean McCoy had a field day out in the snow against Detroit last week, rushing for a franchise-record 217 yards. McCoy took over the NFL rushing lead from Peterson with that big performance and could be in for another one against a Minnesota defense that is giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. This game will be indoors, however, so it's possible that McCoy may not be quite as busy (29 carries) this week compared to last.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Back

1Jamaal CharlesKCat OAK
2LeSean McCoyPHIat MIN
3Matt ForteCHIat CLE
4Marshawn LynchSEAat NYG
5Knowshon MorenoDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
6Eddie LacyGBat DAL
7DeMarco MurrayDALvs. GB
8Reggie BushDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
9Alfred MorrisWASat ATL
10Ben TateHOUat IND
11Zac StacySTLvs. NO
12Shane VereenNEat MIA
13Andre BrownNYGvs. SEA
14Toby GerhartMINvs. PHI
15Le'Veon BellPITvs. CIN
16Frank GoreSFat TB
17Steven JacksonATLvs. WAS
18Giovani BernardCINat PIT
19Ryan MathewsSDat DEN (Thurs.)
20Fred JacksonBUFat JAC
21C.J. SpillerBUFvs. KC
22Chris JohnsonTENvs. ARI
23Maurice Jones-DrewJACvs. BUF
24Rashad JenningsOAKvs. KC
25Danny WoodheadSDat DEN (Thurs.)
26Ray RiceBALat DET (Mon.)
27Bobby RaineyTBvs. SF
28Rashard MendenhallARIat TEN
29Chris IvoryNYJat CAR
30Pierre ThomasNOat STL
31Montee BallDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
32BenJarvus Green-EllisCINat PIT
33Darren SprolesNOat STL
34Lamar MillerMIAvs. NE
35Donald BrownINDvs. HOU
36Andre EllingtonARIat TEN
37DeAngelo WilliamsCARvs. NYJ
38Joique BellDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
39Chris OgbonnayaCLEvs. CHI
40Daniel ThomasMIAvs. NE

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 15 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Running Back Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-wide-receiver-rankings-week-15

Calvin Johnson remains atop Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 wide receiver rankings, but he's no longer running away from the pack.

Josh Gordon maintained his hot streak last week, adding seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown to his impressive season totals. Johnson meanwhile was held in check not by Philadelphia's defense as much as the elements, as blizzard-like conditions for much of the game severely impacted both teams' ability to pass the ball. As a result, Gordon now finds himself leading the NFL in receiving yards and is within striking distance of Johnson in fantasy points. This week Gordon will look to add Chicago's secondary to his list of victims while Megatron will no doubt be happy to be back home (and indoors) against Baltimore playing in the Monday night spotlight.

In fact, the Bears vs. Browns matchup will feature three of the most productive wide receivers in the NFL in Gordon, along with Chicago's Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The Bears' rangy and athletic duo has combined for 159 catches, 2,283 yards and 11 touchdowns. All three wideouts are top-10 options this week that should pay off big for their owners, provided the weather cooperates.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

1Calvin JohnsonDETvs. BAL (Mon.)
2Josh GordonCLEvs. CHI
3Demaryius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
4Andre JohnsonHOUat IND
5A.J. GreenCINat PIT
6Alshon JefferyCHIat CLE
7Brandon MarshallCHIat CLE
8Dez BryantDALvs. GB
9DeSean JacksonPHIat MIN
10Eric DeckerDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
11Antonio BrownPITvs. CIN
12Keenan AllenSDat DEN (Thurs.)
13Vincent JacksonTBvs. SF
14Torrey SmithBALat DET (Mon.)
15Larry FitzgeraldARIat TEN
16Pierre GarconWASat ATL
17Roddy WhiteATLvs. WAS
18Jordy NelsonGBat DAL
19Riley CooperPHIat MIN
20Marques ColstonNOat STL
21Cecil ShortsJACvs. BUF
22Julian EdelmanNEat MIA
23Anquan BoldinSFat TB
24Steve SmithCARvs. NYJ
25Victor CruzNYGvs. SEA
26Dwayne BoweKCat OAK
27Harry DouglasATLvs. WAS
28T.Y. HiltonINDvs. HOU
29Mike WallaceMIAvs. NE
30Michael FloydARIat TEN
31Stevie JohnsonBUFat JAC
32Rod StreaterOAKvs. KC
33Kendall WrightTENvs. ARI
34Golden TateSEAat NYG
35Danny AmendolaNEat MIA
36Brian HartlineMIAvs. NE
37Michael CrabtreeSFat TB
38Greg JenningsMINvs. PHI
39James JonesGBat DAL
40Cordarrelle PattersonMINvs. PHI
41Emmanuel SandersPITvs. CIN
42Jarrett BoykinGBat DAL
43Hakeem NicksNYGvs. SEA
44Brandon LaFellCARvs. NYJ
45Doug BaldwinSEAat NYG
46Marlon BrownBALat DET (Mon.)
47Tavon AustinSTLvs. NO
48Andre HolmesOAKvs. KC
49Robert WoodsBUFat JAC
50Da'Rick RogersINDvs. HOU

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 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-tight-end-rankings-week-15

The injury bug has struck again, causing some changes to Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 tight end rankings. The biggest being the removal of Rob Gronkowski, who tore his ACL and MCL last week. It's somewhat fitting that Gronk's season ends with yet another serious injury, as he missed the first half of the season recovering from back surgery.

Gronk was productive for his owners when he was in there, but the injuries have already taken a toll on his playing time and it's only a matter of time before that carries over to his draft value. Especially considering he's staring at another lengthy recovery and rehabilitation process, perhaps as long as a year, directly in the face.

While Gronkowski may be done for the season, another injured tight end who had a triumphant return was Dennis Pitta. One of Joe Flacco's favorite targets, Pitta dislocated his hip in training camp and at one time was feared lost for the entire season. He made his way back, however, and any one who doubted his importance to Baltimore's passing attack need look no further than the six passes for 48 yards and touchdown catch he produced against Minnesota last week in his first action of the season. It's a bit of a risk, but Pitta could be the answer to someone in need of a Gronkowski replacement or looking for more production from their tight end. Last season, Pitta and Flacco hooked up 61 times for 669 yards and seven touchdowns.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any website can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

1Jimmy GrahamNOat STL
2Julius ThomasDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
3Vernon DavisSFat TB
4Greg OlsenCARvs. NYJ
5Tony GonzalezATLvs. WAS
6Jordan CameronCLEvs. CHI
7Jason WittenDALvs. GB
8Charles ClayMIAvs. NE
9Antonio GatesSDat DEN (Thurs.)
10Delanie WalkerTENvs. ARI
11Dennis PittaBALat DET (Mon.)
12Coby FleenerINDvs. HOU
13Garrett GrahamHOUat IND
14Martellus BennettCHIat CLE
15Jacob TammeDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
16Jordan ReedWASat ATL
17Heath MillerPITvs. CIN
18Jared CookSTLvs. NO
19Ladarius GreenSDat DEN (Thurs.)
20Rob HouslerARIat 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 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams


Fantasy Football 2013 Tight End Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-defspecial-teams-rankings-week-15

Seattle's on the road this week, but not even a cross-country trip to face the Giants is enough to keep them from the top spot in Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 defense/special teams rankings. The Seahawks lost last week to the 49ers on the road, but the defense should find things a little easier against a Giants team that has yielded the most fantasy points to DSTs.

Carolina on the other hand will gladly welcome a Jets offense led by rookie quarterback Geno Smith after getting carved up last week on the road by Drew Brees and the Saints. Brees threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns against the Panthers, which along with the 31 points the Saints scored were the most Carolina has given up in a game all season. Enter Smith, who hasn't thrown for 300 yards in a game since Week 3 and has posted a 2:12 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last eight games. Carolina's defense can hardly wait to sink its claws into the rookie signal-caller.

Then there is Kansas City's DST, which holds a fairly substantial lead over the aforementioned Panthers for top scoring honors in fantasy. Last week against Washington, the Chiefs had a sack party, piling up six of them. That marked the fourth game for this defense with at least five sacks. Besides the sacks and two turnovers, the Chiefs also returned two kicks for touchdowns, putting the finishing touches on their sixth game with a least 21 fantasy points this season. Next up is an Oakland offense that has surrendered 41 sacks (tied for the fourth most) total and turned the ball over at least twice in six of its last eight games.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

1Seattle Seahawksat NYG
2Carolina Panthersvs. NYJ
3San Francisco 49ersat TB
4Kansas City Chiefsat OAK
5Arizona Cardinalsat TEN
6Cincinnati Bengalsat PIT
7New Orleans Saintsat STL
8Buffalo Billsat JAC
9Philadelphia Eaglesat MIN
10Tampa Bay Buccaneersvs. SF
11New England Patriotsat MIA
12St. Louis Ramsvs. NO
13Pittsburgh Steelersvs. CIN
14Baltimore Ravensat DET (Mon.)
15Miami Dolphinsvs. NE
16Detroit Lionsvs. BAL (Mon.)

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends


Fantasy Football 2013 Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-football-2013-kicker-rankings-week-15

To the victor goes the spoils, which is why Matt Prater leads off Athlon Sports' fantasy football Week 15 kicker rankings. Stephen Gostkowski may lead in fantasy points, but no kicker had a bigger game last week than Prater. Of course the highlight was setting a new NFL record with a ridiculous 64-yard boot, and that was just one of three field goals he made in the win over Tennessee. Those along with the six PATs resulted in 17 glorious fantasy points (Athlon scoring) for Prater's owners. It may have been even more in those leagues that increase the points based on kick distance. After all, they don't get any longer than 64 yards.

For the season, Prater is tied with Gostkowski for most field goals made from 50 yards and out with five. Prater's 65 PATs are 25 more than the next guy on the list and he should be good for at least a few more on Thursday night against San Diego. Who knows, maybe the Chargers' Nick Novak can take advantage of the thin air in the Mile High City and boot a long one of his own. If you are looking for another record, however, don't get your hopes up. Novak's career best is 53 yards and that came in 2011.

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

2013 NFL Week 15 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

1Matt PraterDENvs. SD (Thurs.)
2Steven HauschkaSEAat NYG
3Stephen GostkowskiNEat MIA
4Justin TuckerBALat DET (Mon.)
5Phil DawsonSFat TB
6Adam VinatieriINDvs. HOU
7Mason CrosbyGBat DAL
8Blair WalshMINvs. PHI
9Nick NovakSDvs. DEN (Thurs.)
10Dan BaileyDALvs. GB
11Robbie GouldCHIat CLE
12Graham GanoCARvs. NYJ
13Caleb SturgisMIAvs. NE
14Nick FolkNYJat CAR
15Ryan SuccopKCat OAK
16Shaun SuishamPITvs. CIN

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

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

Additional Week 15 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Fantasy Football 2013 Kicker Rankings: Week 15
Post date: Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 06:30
Path: /nfl/7-playoff-bound-teams-cant-win-bad-weather-super-bowl

At the start of their game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles were a disaster. As snow fell all around them at Lincoln Financial Field, they couldn’t seem to find their footing. Their high-octane offense sputtered. They looked a dome team from the South trying to find its way through unfamiliar elements.

It certainly didn’t bode well for their dreams of playing in Super Bowl XLVIII in the Meadowlands in New Jersey – the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl in the history of the league.

Then a funny thing happened: As eight inches of snow fell on Philadelphia, the Eagles unleashed an avalanche on the Lions, burying them with 299 rushing yards and 28 fourth-quarter points in a 34-20 win. They proved they have the ingredients to win in the cold and bad weather, including a strong running game, an ability to adapt when the quarterback is “off”, a solid physical defense and a history of playing or practicing in the cold.

So if they somehow sneak out of the NFC and make it to the Super Bowl, they’ll be all right if the weather gets crazy on Super Sunday (Feb. 2, 2014).

But there are some current NFL contenders that would be much better off if the Super Bowl was played in the sun:

Andrew LuckIndianapolis Colts (8-6) – They haven’t been the same since the loss of Reggie Wayne anyway, but they are a team that relies heavily on their quarterback. They like to score points, they’re comfortable in shootouts and their game is finesse. Their defense is terrible at stopping the run – something they’d need to do in the snow – and they’ve been searching for a running back since they lost Ahmad Bradshaw for the season. Trent Richardson isn’t the answer. In fact, they might not have one at that position at all.

Miami Dolphins (7-6) – They may be extreme longshots to get through the minefield of the AFC, but they might be the team least suited for a New York Super Sunday. They have a middling defense, a weak offensive line and a rushing attack that (behind Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas) is nearly non-existent. It is impressive that they won in Pittsburgh on Sunday, where there was light snow and windchills in the teens. But that seems more like an aberration and a sign of how awful the Steelers really are.

Detroit Lions (7-6) – Just look at what happened to them on Sunday in Philly. Their game is so reliant on Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, but they melted in the snow. Stafford threw for 148 yards and Johnson caught three passes for 49 yards. Now the reality is they’re so good that it might take a blizzard to take them out of the game. But if they’re out, the Lions can’t run the ball well enough to win. And their supposedly strong, physical defense got absolutely manhandled by Philly. That should’ve been their biggest ally in the snow.

Dallas Cowboys (7-6) – They go as far as Tony Romo lets them go, and he’s shaky enough in big situations as it is. The elements only figure to make him shakier, despite having to play games in the oft-frigid NFC East. It would help if the Dallas defense wasn’t statistically the worst in football and if they weren’t such a remarkably pass-heavy team. DeMarco Murray can be dangerous – and he was good in the cold Monday night in Chicago – but he’s too inconsistent to be relied upon in a big spot.

New Orleans Saints (10-3) – They’re 7-0 at home and 3-3 on the road, which is alarming enough – though to be fair their road losses are in Seattle, New England and … wait, in New Jersey against the Jets? Really? The problem with the Saints is nobody relies more on their two most dangerous elements: Their passing game and their incredibly loud home stadium. Teams just can’t win in the Superdome the last few years and the Saints throw for 302.9 yards per game (second in the NFL) and run for just 91.4 (25th). A bad-weather game of any kind will likely kill their chances long before they get to the Super Bowl. It’s why they so desperately need to avoid a trip to Seattle for the NFC championship game.

Arizona Cardinals (8-5) - They play a tough, physical brand of defense, which should help them in bad weather situations, and they also create a lot of turnovers. But they don’t have an imposing running game and they’re 2-4 on the road. Between their struggles away from home and the fact that they make their home in the dessert, they’re not likely to thrive in the white stuff.

Denver Broncos (11-2) – First, let’s be honest. They might be the best team in the AFC regardless of where it’s played, but there will always be a nagging wonder about Peyton Manning’s ability to handle the cold weather. He seemingly dismissed that with 359 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday in a rout in 15-degree weather. Of course, that was at home against the Titans, so who knows what happens in a big game? But Manning can play and the Broncos can run. Their defense is a bit of an unknown only because of the number of blowouts and shootouts they’ve been involved in have skewed the stats. They play and practice in the cold, though, so they’re better suited for it than any of Manning’s Colts teams were.

By Ralph Vacchiano

7 Playoff-Bound Teams That Can't Win a Bad-Weather Super Bowl
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 23:12
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-cover-2-college-football-podcast-dec-11

Our hosts duke it out over a two-team and four-team playoff. Is it possible the BCS wasn’t all bad if it worked perfectly in a year like this?

We can’t ignore the chatter around the Texas job, whether it’s vacant yet or not. Should Nick Saban really consider leaving Alabama to coach the Longhorns?

And then finally, we get into some takeaways from the season. Our hosts go through each major conference and finish the sentence ... “2013 was the year that ...”

The podcast can be found on, iTunes and our podcast RSS feed.

Please send any comments, questions and podcast topics to @AthlonSports, @BradenGall and @DavidFox615 on Twitter or email [email protected].

Athlon Sports' Cover 2 College Football Podcast: Dec. 11
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 16:35
Path: /college-football/boise-state-hires-bryan-harsin-replace-chris-petersen

Boise State’s coaching search has ended with a familiar name taking over for Chris Petersen. After one season at Arkansas State, Bryan Harsin has been hired by Boise State as its next head coach.

Harsin went 7-5 in his only season with the Red Wolves. However, he is a native of Boise and played as a quarterback with the Broncos from 1995-99.

Harsin also served on Boise State’s staff from 2001-10.

With Harsin’s departure, Arkansas State will have its fifth coach in five years in 2014.

Boise State Hires Bryan Harsin to replace Chris Petersen
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 11:23
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-december-11-2013

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


• Shameless ratings grab, but we'll take it: Danica Patrick dressed like a Vegas showgirl for some country music awards show.


Saban-to-Texas rumor-mongers will absolutely love this GIF. I have to admit, I enjoyed it, too.


• According to Paul Finebaum, who tends to know things, Nick Saban has had an unsigned contract extension sitting on his desk for six days. Hmmm.


So Bill Cowher enjoyed himself at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Can you blame him?


This might be the worst punt in the history of punts.


The New England Patriots are in the midst of one of the best title-free runs in NFL history. So they got that going for them.


Encapsulating every NFL team in five words.


The 6 Types of People Who Go to Sports Bars. See if you can spot yourself. I guess I'm the Really Old Guy at this point in my life.


Pope Francis is Time's Person of the Year, edging Miley Cyrus. We live in weird times.


The SEC will be well represented in New York Saturday Night for the Heisman presentation.


Sally Jenkins blames Dan Snyder for the raging dumpster fire that the Redskins have become. I can get on board with that.


• The best buzzer-beater I've seen in a while comes to us from the high school ranks.



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

Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 10:43
Path: /college-football/big-12-2013-season-awards-and-all-conference-teams

The Big 12 didn’t really play out as we expected it back in August. We tabbed four teams as being in close contention for the conference title (we got three of them right) but had none of them in the top 15. In other words, we didn't think the Big 12 would produce a national title contender.

Baylor, though, swooped in and surprised us all.

The dark horse candidate with a no-name quarterback to start the season became the Big 12’s last hope for a team in the national championship race and one of the most exciting teams of the season.

Baylor quickly became the on-field story of the Big 12. Bolstered by a weak early season schedule, the Bears started the season on pace to shatter a number of national records. The season turned, though, on Baylor’s loss on the road to Oklahoma State on Nov. 23 when the Cowboys re-announced themselves as conference contenders to set up a final week of the season with three teams still in contention for the Fiesta Bowl.

Baylor won out to complete perhaps the best regular season in its history.

The top off-field story, though, promises to send reverberations throughout the sport. The prospect of Texas coach Mack Brown’s retirement became apparent as the season progressed, from losses to BYU and Ole Miss in September, to the retirement of longtime athletic director DeLoss Dodds, to the report Tuesday that Brown’s resignation was imminent.

There may not be another coaching change in the Big 12 this season, but a change at Texas will create a domino effect throughout the coaching ranks and will surely be the top storyline for the remainder of December and perhaps into January.

More Postseason Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

Big 12 2013 Season Awards

Coach of the Year: Art Briles, Baylor
So Baylor didn’t break every offensive record in the NCAA and Big 12 record books. So Baylor didn’t finish undefeated as seemed to be a possibility in mid-November. This is still a Baylor team that went 11-1, won the Big 12 with one loss in a season when it seemed two losses wouldn’t be too many for the Big 12 champion. Baylor came back from injuries to Lache Seastrunk, Glasco Martin, Teven Reese and Spencer Drango to beat Texas on the last day of the season to seal the outright title. Briles led Baylor to its first 11-win season, potentially its first top-10 finish since 1951 and first conference title since 1980.

Offensive Player of the Year: Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Petty told Athlon in the preseason Briles “still hasn’t given me the keys to the car.” It didn’t take long for Bryce Petty to look more like Richard Petty in that regard. Petty finished second in the nation in passing efficiency and yards per pass attempt to Jameis Winston. Petty is the only quarterback since at least 2007 with 30 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

Defensive Player of the Year: Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert became the key player on another ball-hawking defense at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys cornerback finished the season with six interceptions, including two in a key win at Texas. Oklahoma State was second in the Big 12 and ninth nationally in pass efficiency defense.

Newcomer of the Year: Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
Here’s a scary thought: What if Sims hadn’t transferred from Houston and become eligible immediately? Sims was one of the few consistent spots on offense in a 4-8 season. The senior delivered as a multi-threat back with 1,095 rushing yards, 401 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Biggest Disappointment of 2013: The 2012 imports
TCU and West Virginia had rocky first seasons in the Big 12, but the bottom fell out in 2013. Neither could withstand player injuries and departures to compete for bowl berths. TCU might be the bigger disappointment as the Horned Frogs had hoped to compete for the conference title, but the offense was dismal when Casey Pachall was injured. West Virginia, though, finished the season with losses to the other dregs of the league in Kansas and Iowa State. Dana Holgorsen enters 2014 on the hot seat.

Biggest Surprise of 2013: Texas’ Greg Robinson-led comeback
Texas ranked 119th in run defense at the end of September after embarrassing losses to Ole Miss and BYU cost one-time rising star Manny Diaz his job. The Longhorns plucked former coordinator and Syracuse coach Greg Robinson from his couch in a move that was widely lampooned. Robinson simplified the defense, though, and put Texas in a position to contend for the conference title on the last day of the season. Texas finished fourth in the Big 12 in run defense in conference games and led the league in sacks.

Athlon’s 2013 All-Big 12 Team

First Team OffenseSecond Team Offense
QB Bryce Petty, Baylor
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
RB Charles Sims, West Virginia
WR Antwan Goodley, Baylor
WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
G Cyril Richardson, Baylor
G Parker Graham, Oklahoma State
T Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
T Spencer Drango, Baylor
AP B.J. Catalon, TCU
QB Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State
RB Malcolm Brown, Texas
RB Desmond Roland, Oklahoma State
WR Tevin Reese, Baylor
WR Eric Ward, Texas Tech
TE E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
C B.J. Finney, Kansas State
G Trey Hopkins, Texas
G Quinton Spain, West Virginia
T Donald Hopkins, Texas
T Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
AP Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
First Team DefenseSecond Team Defense
DE Ryan Mueller, Kansas State
DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DT Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
DT Will Clarke, West Virginia
LB Jeremiah George, Iowa State
LB Caleb Lavey, Oklahoma State
LB Eddie Lackey, Baylor
CB Jason Verrett, TCU
CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
S Gabe Lynn, Oklahoma
S Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
DE Cedric Reed, Texas
DE Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
DT Travis Britz, Kansas State
LB Ben Heeney, Kansas
LB Shaun Lewis, Oklahoma State
LB Paul Dawson, TCU
LB Bryce Hager, Baylor
CB Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
CB K.J. Morton, Baylor
S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
S Sam Carter, TCU
First Team Special TeamsSecond Team Special Teams
K Anthony Fera, Texas
P Nick O’Toole, West Virginia
KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
PR Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
K Michael Hunnicutt, Oklahoma
P Trevor Pardula, Kansas
KR B.J. Catalon, TCU
PR Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State


Big 12 2013 Season Awards and All-Conference Teams
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/acc-2013-season-awards-and-all-conference-team

Overall, 2013 was a pretty good year for the ACC. Florida State went 13-0 and is set to play Auburn for the national championship. Clemson went 10-2 – its only losses to Florida State and South Carolina – and the Tigers will play in their second BCS game in three years.

There was a drop in the final rankings from Florida State and Clemson, but Duke finished 10-3 and claimed its first Coastal Division title. Behind the Blue Devils in the Coastal were Virginia Tech (8-4), Miami (9-3) and Georgia Tech (7-5).

Florida State and Clemson clearly dominated the Atlantic Division, but Syracuse, Boston College and Maryland all finished with at least a .500 record.

The ACC expanded to 14 teams with the addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and the conference has 11 teams set to play in a bowl game this year.

The bowl season is still to come, but Athlon Sports wraps up the 2013 regular season with a few awards and all-conference honors.

More Postseason Awards and All-Conference Teams: Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 | SEC

ACC 2013 Season Awards

Coach of the Year: David Cutcliffe, Duke
Between Cutcliffe, Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, the ACC has a good crop of candidates for coach of the year. Despite the seasons by Fisher and Addazio, it’s hard to pick against Cutcliffe for this award. Cutcliffe guided Duke to its first ACC Coastal title and the program’s first season of double-digit victories. To illustrate how far along Cutcliffe has improved Duke as a program, from 2000-07 the Blue Devils won just 13 games. Under Cutcliffe’s direction (2008-13), the Blue Devils have won 31 contests, including 16 in the last two seasons. And this isn’t a one-year wonder: Duke has enough returning talent to be in the Coastal Division mix again in 2014.

Offensive Player of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Boston College running back Andre Williams and Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd deserve consideration here, but Winston is the clear frontrunner for this award. The redshirt freshman quickly went from a talented, inexperienced quarterback in September to arguably the best in the nation by December. In the season opener against Pittsburgh, Winston threw for 356 yards and four touchdowns and only got better with each snap. Against Clemson, he threw for 444 yards and three touchdowns and completed 21 of 29 passes for 325 yards and one score against Miami. Winston completed at least 60 percent of his passes in 10 out of 12 games against BCS competition and threw at least one touchdown pass in every contest.

Defensive Player of the Year: Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Donald dominated the line of scrimmage and opposing offensive lines during his four years in Pittsburgh, but he was at his best during his senior year. Donald recorded 54 tackles – no easy feat for a defensive tackle – 10 sacks and 26.5 tackles for a loss. He also recorded 16 quarterback hurries, forced four fumbles and blocked one kick. Donald finished his career in the Steel City with 64 tackles for a loss and 28.5 sacks. He was picked as a finalist for the Bednarik, Outland, Lombardi and Nagurski Awards, and was the ACC media’s pick as ACC Defensive Player of the Year. 

Newcomer of the Year: Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
As we mentioned under the ACC Offensive Player of the Year, Winston is already one of – if not the best – quarterback in the nation. The redshirt freshman finished the regular season with 3,820 yards and 38 touchdowns, while rushing for 193 yards and four scores. Winston completed 67.9 percent of his throws, averaged 293.8 passing yards per game and led the nation with a 190.1 passer rating. The Alabama native set FBS freshmen records with 38 touchdown passes and 3,820 passing yards.  

Biggest Disappointments of 2013: Virginia and NC State
No one was necessarily expecting big things from either NC State or Virginia this year, but a combined 0-16 mark in conference play is a big disappointment. The Wolfpack was picked to finish third in the Atlantic Division by the ACC media in July, while the Cavaliers were pegged sixth in the Coastal. Neither team was particularly competitive in ACC games, as NC State’s closest conference loss was by eight points to North Carolina, while only one of Virginia’s defeats were by less than 10 points. Despite the disappointing 2013 season, there is hope for both programs. The Cavaliers have a solid recruiting class on the way, and the Wolfpack will gain the services of transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett for 2014.

Biggest Surprises of 2013: Duke and Boston College
We normally award just one team here, but it’s hard to ignore the accomplishments of Duke and Boston College in 2013. We highlighted the Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe’s coach of the year selection, and 2013 will be recorded as one of the best seasons in Duke football history. Boston College won only two games last year but finished 7-5 this season behind first-year coach Steve Addazio. The Eagles leaned on a veteran core of players to return to the postseason, including senior running back Andre Williams (2,102 yards) and quarterback Chase Rettig (17 TDs, 6 INTs). Both of these programs have experienced their share of struggles in recent years, but it’s clear Duke and Boston College are pointed in the right direction going into 2014.

Athlon's 2013 All-ACC Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team Offense
QB Jameis Winston, Florida StateQB Tajh Boyd, Clemson
RB Duke Johnson, MiamiRB Devonta Freeman, Florida State
RB Andre Williams, Boston CollegeRB Kevin Parks, Virginia
WR Rashad Greene, Florida StateWR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
WR Sammy Watkins, ClemsonWR Allen Hurns, Miami
TE Eric Ebron, North CarolinaTE Nick O'Leary, Florida State
C Bryan Stork, Florida StateC Macky MacPherson, Syracuse
G Tre Jackson, Florida StateG Brandon Linder, Miami
G Shaquille Mason, Georgia TechG Laken Tomlinson, Duke
T Cameron Erving, FSUT Matt Patchan, Boston College
T James Hurst, North CarolinaT Brandon Thomas, Clemson
AP Jamison Crowder, DukeAP Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
First-Team DefenseSecond-Team Defense
DE Vic Beasley, ClemsonDE Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
DE Kareem Martin, North CarolinaDE Kasim Edebali, Boston College
DT Aaron Donald, PittsburghDT Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech
DT Timmy Jernigan, Florida StateDT Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
LB Christian Jones, Florida StateLB Kelby Brown, Duke
LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston CollegeLB Denzel Perryman, Miami
LB Telvin Smith, Florida StateLB Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech
CB Ross Cockrell, DukeCB Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida StateCB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
S Jeremy Cash, DukeS Tre Boston, North Carolina
S Anthony Harris, VirginiaS Terrence Brooks, Florida State
First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team Specialists
K Roberto Aguayo, Florida StateK Nate Freese, Boston College
P Pat O'Donnell, MiamiP Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina
KR DeVon Edwards, DukeKR Stacy Coley, Miami
PR Ryan Switzer, North CarolinaPR Jamison Crowder, Duke


ACC 2013 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/big-ten-2013-season-awards-and-all-conference-team

The 2013 regular season is in the books and the Michigan State Spartans are the champs.

The improbable run to the Rose Bowl for Mark Dantonio is the main headline for what turned out to be a very memorable campaign in the Big Ten, but it’s not the only one.

The league welcomed two new coaches to the fray with Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell achieving wildly different outcomes. Kirk Ferentz saved his job and returned Iowa to relative prominence with wins over rivals Nebraska and Michigan. Minnesota inspired the nation by winning eight games despite Jerry Kill’s health issues. Bill O’Brien posted his second consecutive winning season in the face of crippling NCAA sanctions with a true freshman quarterback.

Then there were the Buckeyes. Urban Meyer began his Big Ten career a perfect 24-0, including a win in one of the greatest Michigan-Ohio State games ever played. But, much to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany’s chagrin, Meyer’s Buckeyes couldn’t finish the season as Big Ten champs and therefore cost the league a berth in the BCS National Championship Game.

And next year, the league will have a totally new look as both Maryland and Rutgers join and new divisional lineups take shape.

More Postseason Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC Big 12 Pac-12 | SEC

Big Ten 2013 Season Awards

Coach of the Year: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State
Michigan State did the unexpected by running the Big Ten table for the first time since 1966, capping their magical season by stunning the Buckeyes 33-24 in the third annual Big Ten Championship Game. Dantonio has returned the Spartans to the promised land — i.e., the Rose Bowl — for the first since 1987 when Lorenzo White and Nick Saban roamed the sidelines. He is fifth all-time in Michigan State history with 51 wins and could be as high as third all-time by next season. He has the highest winning percentage of any coach in East Lansing since Biggie Munn’s remarkable 84.6 percent benchmark set back in 1953. Michigan State had three 10-win seasons prior to his arrival and Dantonio has had three in the last four seasons. After being picked fourth in the Legends Division by most, Dantonio is clearly the Coach of the Year in the Big Ten.

Offensive Player of the Year: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
A (very good) case can be made for either Connor Cook or Jeremy Langford from Michigan State. Or even Penn State’s Allen Robinson. But the most dynamic player in the league this fall was Ohio State’s Miller. He finished seventh in the league with 1,033 yards rushing — fourth nationally among quarterbacks — and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. He led the league in passing efficiency (157.94) with 1,860 yards, 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Miller had been unbeaten as a starter until the conference championship game loss to the Spartans. 

Defensive Player of the Year: Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
Wisconsin’s Chris Borland is a truly great player who epitomizes all that Badgers football represents. And while he is a deserving challenger to Shazier, only one player in the Big Ten led the league in tackles (135), tackles for a loss (23.5) and forced fumbles (4) while leading his team to 24 straight wins. Shazier also finished fifth in the league in sacks (7.0). He was fifth nationally in tackles and second nationally in tackles for a loss on a team that won its division and didn’t lose a regular season game. Few players make as many big plays or big hits as Ohio State’s talented linebacker.

Newcomer of the Year: Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
It cannot be understated how good Hackenberg was in just his first season in college football. He finished third nationally among freshman quarterbacks to only Jameis Winston (38) and John O’Korn (26) in passing touchdowns (20). Hackenberg also was third nationally among freshmen in yards (2,955) and was fourth nationally in passing efficiency (133.99). He finished five yards out of second in the Big Ten in passing (Devin Gardner, 2,960) after setting every major Penn State freshman passing record. He led his team to furious comeback wins against Michigan and Illinois and performed like a seasoned vet (339 yards, 4 TDs) in the regular-season finale road upset of Wisconsin. This was a total slam dunk.

Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Michigan
Picked by most to win the Legends Division and possibly press Ohio State for Big Ten supremacy, Michigan finished eighth in the Big Ten power rankings. The offense looked downright atrocious for most of the season as Michigan won two games against teams with winning records (Notre Dame, Minnesota). Otherwise, the Wolverines fell flat on their faces against good teams, losing in ugly fashion to Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State. Brady Hoke’s bunch did save its best showing for last in what turned out to be a historic meeting with rival Ohio State, but that didn’t salvage what has to be considered the most disappointing season in the Big Ten this fall.

Biggest Surprise of 2013: Iowa 
Ohio State did exactly what it was supposed to by going 12-0. Gary Andersen had a fabulous first season in Madison. Indiana showed improvement. Michigan State overachieved and is in the Rose Bowl for the first time since ’87. And Minnesota was a heart-warming story. But Iowa and Kirk Ferentz — with the help of an extraordinary trio of linebackers — did the most with the least of any team in the league. Picked by most to finish last in the Legends Division (4-8 by Athlon Sports), the Hawkeyes eventually finished fourth in the overall final B1G power rankings. Wins over rivals Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern gives Ferentz new life in Iowa City after a 4-8 showing last season.

Athlon's 2013 All-Big Ten Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team Offense
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio StQB Connor Cook, Michigan St
RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan StRB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio StRB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
WR Allen Robinson, Penn StWR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
WR Jeremy Gallon, MichiganWR Cody Latimer, Indiana
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz, IowaTE Devin Funchess, Michigan
C Corey Linsley, Ohio StC Cole Pensick, Nebraska
G John Urschel, Penn StG Andrew Norwell, Ohio St
G Ryan Groy, WisconsinG Blake Treadwell, Michigan St
T Jack Mewhort, Ohio StT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
T Taylor Lewan, MichiganT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
AP James White, Wisconsin AP Josh Ferguson, Illinois
First-Team DefenseSecond-Team Defense
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan StDE Frank Clark, Michigan
DE Randy Gregory, NebraskaDE Noah Spence, Ohio St
DT Ra'Shede Hageman, MinnesotaDT Carl Davis, Iowa
DT DaQuan Jones, Penn StDT Michael Bennett, Ohio St
LB Ryan Shazier, Ohio StLB James Morris, Iowa
LB Chris Borland, WisconsinLB Denicos Allen, Michigan St
LB Max Bullough, Michigan StLB Anthony Hitchens, Iowa
CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan StCB Blake Countess, Michigan
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio StCB Ciante Evans, Nebraska
S Isaiah Lewis, Michigan StS Brock Vereen, Minnesota
S Kurtis Drummond, Michigan StS C.J. Barnett, Ohio St
First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team Specialists
K Jeff Budzien, NorthwesternK Mitch Ewald, Indiana
P Mike Sadler, Michigan StP Cody Webster, Purdue
KR Akeem Hunt, PurdueKR Kenny Bell, Nebraska
PR Kevonte Martin-Manley, IowaPR V'Angelo Bentley, Illinois


Big Ten 2013 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pac-12-2013-season-awards-and-all-conference-team

The 2013 season will be an extremely memorable one for Pac-12 fans. New coaches Sonny Dykes and Mark Helfrich had very different debuts out West. The Pac-12 North turned out to be one of, if not the, best divisions in college football and first place was handled like a hot potato for the better part of a month. A group of second-year coaches lit up the night sky in the Pac-12 South each weekend. And the coach of the most powerful football program west of Austin, Texas, was fired after just one month of action.

The ousting of Lane Kiffin stole the headlines early in the season but fans in Los Angeles were given new life when the affable Ed Orgeron rallied the troops and circled the wagons in Heritage Hall. Then gaudy numbers took center stage in October as names like Sean Mannion, Marcus Mariota, Brandin Cooks, Marion Grice and Ka’Deem Carey all seemed to be leading the nation in something important.

Finally, the month of November rolled around and the division championships took center stage. Stanford and Oregon ran the zone read to perfection, handing off first place in the Pac-12 North three times in three weeks. Eventually, Oregon’s loss to Arizona in the desert awarded the crown to David Shaw and the Cardinal for the second consecutive season.

Speaking of the desert, while USC and UCLA got the national attention for most of the year, Arizona State quietly went about its business and posted the best record in the conference. But even getting to host the Pac-12 Championship Game couldn’t help Todd Graham break the Sun Devils' two decades-long Rose Bowl drought in Tempe.

But he did win Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.

Pac-12 2013 Season Awards

More Postseason Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten | SEC

Coach of the Year: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Arizona State winning the Pac-12 South didn’t come as a big surprise to Athlon Sports — we picked ASU to win the division back in the summer. But to post the best record in the league at 8-1? To host the conference championship game? And to win 10 games? No, all of that came as a bit of a surprise. Arizona State was one win away from its first Rose Bowl since 1996 and won 10 games in a season for just the third time since 1986. Arizona State led the league in turnover margin, sacks and fewest penalties while finishing second in scoring to only Oregon at 41.0 points per game. Todd Graham is one of 10 finalists for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year nationally.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
This is a remarkably talented offensive conference so there are a number of deserving candidates for Offensive Player of the Year but none played bigger and more consistently in brighter moments than Stanford’s Gaffney. No one in the Pac-12 scored more rushing touchdowns than the Cardinal ball-carrier (20), as Gaffney scored at least once in 12 of 13 games. He scored five times in two wins over the “best” team in the league, Arizona State, and set the single-game attempts record with 45 carries against Oregon in the biggest game of the year. His 307 carries were third nationally, his 1,626 yards are sixth nationally and he helped carry his team to a second consecutive Rose Bowl berth by rushing for 133 yards and three touchdowns on the road in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Defensive Player of the Year: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
The Cardinal defense has more than one MVP with outside linebacker Trent Murphy and safety Ed Reynolds also certainly worthy of consideration. But Skov is the heart and soul of a unit that might be the most physical in the nation. The Stanford middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and leading tackler on the Pac-12’s top defense. He collected 100 total tackles, 10.0 for a loss, and 4.5 sacks but, like Gaffney, played his best in the biggest moments. Skov had 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks in a three-point win over Washington. He forced two fumbles and posted nine tackles in a fabulous showing against Oregon. He leapt over the ASU line of scrimmage in true LaVarr Arrington fashion on a critical Pac-12 title-clinching goal-line stand in the title game. When it comes to toughness, leadership and production, few nationally can match the two-time conference champion’s resume.

Newcomer of the Year: Myles Jack, LB/RB, UCLA
While Player of the Year honors were difficult to narrow down, the Newcomer of the Year award is a pretty simple debate. Myles Jack is the only correct answer. In a bizarre maneuver by the Pac-12, Jack was awarded both the Offensive and Defensive Freshman of the Year honors. He posted 70 tackles (third among all Pac-12 freshmen), 5.0 for a loss, a forced fumble and an interception as a starting linebacker on defense. The two-way star, however, also added 267 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on an impressive 7.2 yards per carry on offense as a running back. He only played offense for four games but played a huge role in wins over Arizona, Washington and USC late in the year. The Paul Hornung Award finalist is the clear-cut newcomer of the year out West.

Biggest Disappointment of 2013 (team): Oregon
Normally, a 10-win season and No. 10-postseason ranking in the AP Poll would be things programs would call successful. Especially, a team with a first-year head coach. But the Ducks were preseason No. 3 in the nation and picked by almost all to win the Pac-12 championship this summer. Instead, Oregon will be playing in the Alamo Bowl. Oregon was in control of its own Pac-12 North destiny not once but twice and lost both times in ugly fashion to Stanford and subsequently Arizona. It handed the division crown to Stanford after laying an egg in the desert late in November and needed a touchdown with less than 30 seconds to play against Oregon State to salvage the 10-win season. It was a solid year for Oregon but not the one most anticipated and in a league in which almost every team overachieved, the Ducks get the nod as biggest disappointment.

Biggest Disappointment (individual): Lane Kiffin, USC
While Oregon gets the nod as the most disappointing team, the most disappointing aspect of the ’13 Pac-12 season has to be Lane Kiffin. The Trojans were loaded with talent but clearly had no desire to play for the embattled head coach. So after a wildly disappointing first month, Pat Haden didn’t even give Kiffin a chance to return to his office, firing the young head coach at Los Angeles International Airport before the team buses could even depart for campus following a lackluster showing in a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. What makes Kiffin even more disappointing is that his old team fought valiantly under interim head coach Ed Orgeron and has a chance to finish the season with 10 wins.

Biggest Surprise of 2013: Washington State
The Pac-12 preseason predictions were pretty accurate across the board in 2013. Did Oregon State and Cal lose a few extra games this fall? Sure. Did Arizona State surprise by winning a few extra this season? Certainly. But the job Mike Leach did at Washington State to take a 3-9 squad to a bowl game this fall after being picked to finish last in the conference has to be considered a minor upset. This team hasn’t had a winning record or been to a bowl game since 2003 and both of those could be checked off the list this month in just Leach’s second season. The Cougars improved on offense from 359.5 to 423.2 yards per game and pulled multiple road upsets over quality opponents like USC and Arizona. Leach won as many league games (4) in 2013 as Wazzu had won in the previous four seasons combined (4).

Athlon's 2013 All-Pac-12 Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team Offense
QB Marcus Mariota, OregonQB Taylor Kelly, Arizona St
RB Tyler Gaffney, StanfordRB Bishop Sankey, Washington
RB Ka'Deem Carey, ArizonaRB Marion Grice, Arizona St
WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon StWR Ty Montgomery, Stanford
WR Paul Richardson, ColoradoWR Jaelen Strong, Arizona St
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Wash.TE Chris Coyle, Arizona St
C Hroniss Grasu, OregonC Isaac Seumalo, Oregon St
G David Yankey, StanfordG Jamil Douglas, Arizona St
G Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLAG Marcus Martin, USC
T Evan Finkenberg, Arizona StT Cameron Fleming, Stanford
T Andrus Peat, StanfordT Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
AP Myles Jack, UCLA AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
First-Team DefenseSecond-Team Defense
DE Leonard Williams, USCDE Scott Crichton, Oregon St
DE Trevor Reilly, UtahDE Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington
DT Will Sutton, Arizona StDT Taylor Hart, Oregon
DT Tenny Palepoi, UtahDT Devon Coleman, Arizona St
LB Anthony Barr, UCLALB Devon Kennard, USC
LB Shayne Skov, StanfordLB Chris Young, Arizona St
LB Trent Murphy, StanfordLB Carl Bradford, Arizona St
CB Robert Nelson, Arizona StCB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon St
CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, OregonCB Marcus Peters, Washington
S Ed Reynolds, StanfordS Alden Darby, Arizona St
S Deone Bucannon, Washington StS Dion Bailey, USC
First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team Specialists
K Zane Gonzalez, Arizona StK Vincenzo D'Amato, Cal 
P Tom Hackett, UtahP Travis Coons, Washington
KR Ty Montgomery, StanfordKR Victor Bolden, Oregon St
PR Nelson Agholor, USCPR Bralon Addison, Oregon


Pac-12 2013 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-final-2013-heisman-trophy-voting

Each week of the college football season, Athlon Sports will poll some of the nation's best college football people from every region of the country. Each voter offers up a top five and each first-place vote is worth five points. A second-place vote is worth four points, so on and so forth. With 13 voters, a perfect ballot — i.e., 13 first-place votes — would give a player 65 total points.

One of the more exciting Heisman Trophy seasons has come to an end with a boring finish. Saturday night's announcement for Florida State's Jameis Winston is merely a formality. But with six invitees and other quality names not in New York, the race for No. 2 is one of the more exciting fans have seen in recent memory. Here is what Athlon's panel thinks:

Final 2013 Heisman Voting Results:

1.(1)Jameis WinstonQBFlorida St6012----
2.(ur)Tre MasonRBAuburn26-422-
3.(5)Johnny ManzielQBTexas A&M23-42-1
4.(4)AJ McCarronQBAlabama20-2222
5.(2)Jordan LynchQBN. Illinois1611-31
6.(7)Bryce PettyQBBaylor14--321
7.(6)Andre WilliamsRBBoston College11-1-23
8.(9)Marcus MariotaQBOregon7-11--
9.(7)Ka'Deem CareyRBArizona5--1-2
10t.(14)Derek CarrQBFresno St3---11
10t.(14)Teddy BridgewaterQBLouisville3--1--
10t.(9)Aaron DonaldDLPitt3--1--
13.(14)Jadeveon ClowneyDES. Carolina2---1-
14.(3)Braxton MillerQBOhio St1----1

Heisman Headlines:

Crown Winston. There is little intrigue surrounding Saturday night’s Heisman presentation. The 2013 Heisman winner will be Jameis Winston. He has no holes in his football resume — huge numbers, a perfect record, a chance at a championship, elite NFL talent and a persona people gravitate to. He led the nation in passing efficiency (190.06) and yards per attempt (10.9) while setting an NCAA freshman touchdown record with 38 scoring strikes (the old record belonged to Sam Bradford, 36). His offense crushed 13 opponents by an average of 42.3 points per game en route to a second-straight ACC crown and berth in the BCS title game. It could be one of the biggest Heisman blowouts in history.

Who is No. 2? Tre Mason finished No. 2 in our ballots after a huge final two months. Only two backs scored more rushing touchdowns than Mason’s 22, and no one came up bigger in marquee games. He rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown and carried Auburn to victory at Texas A&M. He carried 27 times for 115 yards and touchdown against Georgia and 29 times for 164 yards and a touchdown against Alabama. Mason saved his best for last, and it’s why he might finish second to Winston. He set SEC title games for carries (46), yards (304) and touchdowns (four) in the SEC championship game to clinch a BCS titele game bid.

Carr vs. Lynch. Jordan Lynch benefited greatly from increased TV exposure and name recognition entering the season. Carr may be a more worthy candidate, though Lynch ranked higher in our voting. Carr led the nation in total offense at 415.3 yards per game — nearly 65 more yards per game than Lynch (350.5). Carr accounted for 50 TD (48 pass, 2 rush) versus Lynch’s 45 (23 pass, 22 rush) in one less game than Lynch. The biggest argument, however, for Carr was his performance in the MWC title game. He threw for 404 yards and three scores as he led his team to a conference championship while Lynch struggled in a stunning loss to Bowling Green in the MAC title game.

Bryce Petty Snub. The biggest snub from being invited to New York is Baylor’s Bryce Petty. He has huge numbers — 3,844 yards, 30 touchdowns, two interceptions, 192 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns — and did something that has never happened for Baylor. He won the school's first Big 12 championship, clinching the school’s first BCS bowl bid and won 11 games for the first time in program history. Other players had more than one bad game and still got invited to NYC (Williams, Manziel) while Petty’s 359 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State was enough for him to be omitted.

The Voting Panel:

NameOrganizationWebsiteNo. 1
Tom DienhartBig Ten NetworkBigTenNetwork.comJameis Winston
Bryan FischerPac-12 NetworkPac-12.comJameis Winston
David FoxAthlon SportsAthlonSports.comJameis Winston
Braden GallAthlon SportsAthlonSports.comJameis Winston
Steven GodfreySB NationSBNation.comJameis Winston
Chris HustonHeisman PunditHeismanPundit.comJordan Lynch
Steven LassanAthlon SportsAthlonSports.comJameis Winston
Chris LevelRed Raider SportsRedRaiderSports.comJameis Winston
Mitch LightAthlon SportsAthlonSports.comJameis Winston
Billy LiucciTexAgsTexAgs.comJameis Winston
Dan RubensteinSB Nation/Solid VerbalSolidVerbal.comJameis Winston
Josh WardMr. SEC/WNMLMrSEC.comJameis Winston
Jim YoungACC Sports JournalACCSports.comJameis Winston


College Football: Final 2013 Heisman Trophy Voting
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/sec-2013-season-awards-and-all-conference-team

The 2013 season was one of the most unpredictable we have seen in the SEC in quite some time. The two teams that met in the league title game — Auburn and Missouri — combined to record a 2–14 record in conference play last season. Florida, which went 11–2 last season, lost its last seven games and finished with the program’s first losing record since 1979. And Texas A&M, a preseason top-five team in many polls, only managed to win four SEC games in what figures to be Johnny Manziel’s last season in College Station.

More Postseason Awards and All-Conference Teams: ACC Big 12 | Big Ten Pac-12 

SEC 2013 Awards

Coach of the Year: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers authored an unlikely worst-to-first script, taking a program that went 0–8 in the SEC last year to the BCS National Championship game. Auburn made an incredible improvement on offense, increasing its per-game average by more than 200 yards per game — from 305.0 in 2012 to 505.3 in ’13. On the strength of 545 yards rushing against Missouri in the SEC title game, Auburn now leads the nation in rushing with 335.7 yards per game. If that holds up, the Tigers will be the first non-triple option team to win the rushing title since Nevada — led by Colin Kaepernick — did so in 2009.

Offensive Player of the Year: Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Mason surged past Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews in this category after rushing for 304 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries in Auburn’s 59–42 win over Missouri last Saturday. Mason led the league with 1,621 yards and was at his best against the best competition and in the biggest games. He had 132 yards at LSU, 178 in a season-changing win at Texas A&M, 164 against Alabama and 304 against Missouri. Against SEC competition (eight regular-season games and the title game), Mason averaged 143.2 yards — the best in the league by almost 20 yards per game — and rushed for 17 touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Year: C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Mosley, a consensus first-team All-American in 2012, shined in his final season at Alabama. The Theodore, Ala., native leads the Crimson Tide in tackles with 88 (37 more than any other player on the team), tackles for a loss with nine and quarterback hurries with eight. Nick Saban offered this praise for his star linebacker after he executed a successful fake punt in Alabama’s win over LSU: “I trust C.J. to do anything — watch my kids, take care of my house. So a (punt) fake is not much. C.J. is just so conscientious about everything he does that you know he's going to execute and do it exactly like you told him to do it. He did a good job.”

Newcomer of the Year: Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Hargreaves III emerged as a bright spot in a dismal season in Gainesville. The true freshman from Tampa, a 5-star recruit, recorded 38 tackles and led the Gators with three interceptions and 11 pass break-ups. Hargreaves III will be a sure-fire first-team preseason All-American in 2014.

Biggest Disappointment of 2013: Florida
Coming off an 11–2 season that featured wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State, the Gators were expected to challenge for the SEC East title. Didn’t happen. Florida stubbed its toe in a Week 2 loss at Miami and then imploded in the latter half of the season, losing its final seven games to finish 5–7 overall and 3–5 in the SEC. The low point of the season came on Nov. 23 when Georgia Southern, an FCS school that went 4–4 in the Southern Conference, topped the Gators 26–20 in Gainesville. Yes, this team suffered more than its share of injuries, but there is no excuse for Florida to struggle so much. 

Biggest Surprise of 2013: Auburn
Missouri would also be a solid choice, but it’s hard to pick against Auburn, which made the well-documented climb from winless in the SEC to league champion — and possibly national champion. Gus Malzahn is worthy of all the praise he is receiving of late; he did a masterful job in 2013.

Athlon's 2013 All-SEC Team

First-Team OffenseSecond-Team Offense

QB AJ McCarron, Alabama

QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

RB Tre Mason, Auburn

RB Mike Davis, South Carolina

RB T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

RB Jeremy Hill, LSU

WR Odell Beckham Jr., LSU

WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M

WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

WR Jarvis Landry, LSU

TE Arthur Lynch, Georgia

TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas

T Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

T Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt

T Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

T Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

C Reese Dismukes, Auburn

C Travis Swanson, Arkansas

G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

G Chad Slade, Auburn

G Anthony Steen, Alabama

G Trai Turner, LSU

First-Team DefenseSecond-Team Defense

DE Dee Ford, Auburn

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DE Michael Sam, Missouri

DE Chris Smith, Arkansas

DT Anthony Johnson, LSU

DT Ego Ferguson, LSU

DT Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

DT Donte Rumph, Kentucky

LB A.J. Johnson, Tennessee

LB Lamin Barrow, LSU

LB C.J. Mosley, Alabama

LB Avery Williamson, Kentucky

LB Ramik Wilson, Georgia

LB Andrew Wilson, Missouri

CB E.J. Gaines, Missouri

CB Andre Hal, Vanderbilt

CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida

CB Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida

S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

S  Cody Prewitt, Ole Miss

S Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt

S Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State 

First-Team SpecialistsSecond-Team Specialists

K Marshall Morgan, Georgia

K Zach Hocker, Arkansas

P Cody Mandell, Alabama

P Drew Kaser, Texas A&M

KR Christion Jones, Alabama

KR Solomon Patton, Florida

PR Chris Davis, Auburn

PR Christion Jones, Alabama


SEC 2013 Season Awards and All-Conference Team
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-basketball/american-athletic-conference-best-and-worst-2013-14-so-far

The American Athletic Conference so far is performing like a league born from a diverse group of programs with different resources and expectations.

Not that we’d expect anything else, since this is a league smashed together among programs with different resources and expectations.

On one end, there’s Louisville, Connecticut and Memphis who are continuing on what all three programs did last season.

The defending national champion Cardinals get the benefit of the doubt given the returning cast, but they’ve played only one major opponent and lost to North Carolina. Now that Connecticut has a chance to play for the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies are relishing in the opportunity, despite obvious limitations. And Memphis has flipped the narrative after earning redemption from a blowout road loss to Oklahoma State with a win over the same Cowboys in Orlando.

On the other end is a team like SMU still striving to prove it belongs among the upper echelon of the league with Louisville, Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati. To do that, SMU may have to prove what it’s not and that means separating itself from Rutgers, UCF, USF and Houston.

Early Season Report Card: American Athletic Conference

NCAA teams as of today: Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis

Bubble watch: Cincinnati, SMU

Best win: Memphis 73, Okla. State 68

Worst loss: FAU 75, UCF 64

Power rankings so far
1. Connecticut
2. Louisville
3. Memphis
4. Cincinnati
5. SMU
6. Temple
7. USF
8. UCF
9. Rutgers
10. Houston

Important non-conference games remaining
Cincinnati at Xavier (Dec. 14)
Florida at Memphis (Dec. 17)
Pittsburgh at Cincinnati (Dec. 17)
Stanford at Connecticut (Dec. 18)
Connecticut at Washington (Dec. 22)
Louisville at Kentucky (Dec. 28)
MVP so far: Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
The AAC’s leading scorers Russ Smith and Sean Kilpatrick deserve mention, but Napier has been the clear do-it-all player for the Huskies. Drawing comparisons to Kemba Walker, Napier has been huge in the Huskies’ top wins with 26 points against Florida, 27 against Indiana, 20 against Boston College and 18 against Maryland. The only question is if he’ll need to keep up this torrid pace (15.3 points, seven rebounds and 5.9 assists per game) for UConn to remain an AAC contender. And then there was this shot.

Top freshman: Austin Nichols, Memphis
Nichols has stepped in to give Memphis the inside presence the Tigers need in their guard-heavy lineup. The 6-8, 212-pound forward has averaged 5.9 rebounds per game including a 19-point and eight-rebound performance against LSU in the Old Spice Classic.

Top newcomer: Chris Jones, Louisville
Taking over for Peyton Siva is no easy task, but Jones has assumed the point guard role successfully with the Cardinals. He’s second to Russ Smith in scoring (14.9 ppg) and has played relentless defense. One of the more interesting games of the season will be when the junior college transfer Jones returns to his hometown of Memphis to face the Tigers and to play in the AAC Tournament.

Surprise player: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati
Justin Jackson had been a steady contributor on the defensive end as shot blocker, but he didn’t have a developed offensive game. That has changed in his senior season. Before this year, he’d never averaged more than 5.1 points per game in a season. He’s up to 10.6 points while averaging 3.3 blocks.

Early season flop: Louisville’s loss to North Carolina
Let’s forget that North Carolina has been wildly inconsistent this season and just count Louisville’s 93-84 loss to the Tar Heels as a loss to a solid team on a neutral court. Even then, how do you account for the dismal performance of Louisville’s supporting cast, a group that came up huge in the Cardinals’ title run last season. Montrezl Harrell was 2 of 5 (but with 10 rebounds). Luke Hancock was 1 of 8. Wayne Blackshear was invisible, missing his only shot in 17 minutes. Louisville still has a game at Kentucky on Dec. 28, but of the top 10 or so preseason teams, we know the least about Louisville. After North Carolina, Lousiville has faced only two other top-100 opponents on KenPom (Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette).

Lingering concerns: Connecticut’s inside presence
Napier, a 6-1 guard, leads UConn in rebounding at seven per game. The next best player, forward DeAndre Daniels, averages 4.7. The Huskies have managed to start 9-0 despite ranking 240th in defensive rebounding percentage and 182nd in offensive rebounding percentage. That can’t hold up over the course of the season.

Best NCAA resume: Connecticut
No one is comparing the 2013-14 Huskies to the 2010-11 team that won the title, but a hot start has been a big part of both. Defeating Florida on a buzzer beater at home is nice, defeating Indiana on a neutral court is just as good. Maryland and Boston College might not be NCAA teams, but the Huskies beat both on neutral courts as well.

American Athletic Conference: The Best and Worst of 2013-14 So Far
Post date: Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-picks-every-game-week-15

A quick look at every game on the NFL schedule for Week 15, along with the consensus picks of Athlon Sports’ editors.

Chargers (6-7) at Broncos (11-2)
Historically, Peyton Manning has had tough times against the Bolts — snapping a 13-game winning streak in 2005, throwing six INTs in ’07 and four INTs with a pair of pick-sixes in ’10. But Manning didn’t have any problems in Week 10 this year, passing for 330 yards, four TDs and zero INTs during a 28–20 win at San Diego. The Broncos were a quick-strike offense that day, with scoring drives lasting 57 seconds, 1:25, 2:27 and 3:26, respectively. Broncos by 10

Redskins (3-10) at Falcons (3-10)
One year ago, Washington and Atlanta hosted playoff games. How quickly a team can get caught in the undertow of NFL parity and flipped from first to worst in its division standings. Falcons by 3

49ers (9-4) at Buccaneers (4-9)
There are no moral victories in the NFL. A loss is a loss is a loss, obviously. But San Fran’s four defeats are at Seattle, Indianapolis, Carolina and at New Orleans — a quartet of teams with a combined 38–14 record this season. 49ers by 8

Seahawks (11-2) at Giants (5-8)
Much has been made of Russell Wilson’s 14–0 career record at home in Seattle. Fewer Hawks fans are eager to bring up Wilson’s 5–5 mark (including playoffs) in the Eastern Time Zone. Seahawks by 9

Eagles (8-5) at Vikings (3-9-1)
The good news is it appears Adrian Peterson will not need surgery on his mid-foot sprain, which is not of the dreaded Lisfranc variety according to recent MRI results. The bad news is A.D. is in a walking boot and unlikely to play in Week 15, backup Toby Gerhart has a hamstring issue and third-string back Matt Asiata has three career carries for nine yards in 2012. Eagles by 7

Patriots (10-3) at Dolphins (7-6)
New England beat Miami, 27–17, in Week 8. But the win was Tom Brady’s worst statistical game of the season, with season lows in completions (13), attempts (22) and passing yards (116). Brady’s 116 yards were his fewest since 2009. Patriots by 2

Bills (4-9) at Jaguars (4-9)
J-Ville has won four of its last five since coming back from London, where the Jags fell to 0–8 after a rock-bottom 32-point loss to the 49ers. Jaguars by 1

Texans (2-11) at Colts (8-5)
Indianapolis overcame a 21–3 halftime deficit to pull off a 27–24 win at Houston in Week 9. In three career games against the AFC South rival Texans, Luck has seven TDs and zero INTs. Colts by 6

Bears (7-6) at Browns (4-9)
Marc Trestman backs Jay Cutler as Chicago’s top QB, despite Josh McCown’s recent success. That’s nothing. Cleveland has had four guys throw TDs this season, including a punter. Browns by 1

Chiefs (10-3) at Raiders (4-9)
K.C. destroyed Oakland, 24–7, in Week 6, with the Chiefs D notching 10 sacks and three INTs. Chiefs by 8

Jets (6-7) at Panthers (9-4)
The Cats’ top-ranked scoring defense (14.5 ppg)  had not allowed more than two TDs in a single game until the Saints scored three times in one quarter during last week’s 31–13 loss — which was only the second time all season Carolina allowed 24 or more points. Meanwhile, the Jets have scored 14 or fewer points in seven games, including four games in single digits. Panthers by 11

Packers (6-6-1) at Cowboys (7-6)
Obviously, the status of Aaron Rodgers is the giant cheese block in the room. But since even the doctor in charge isn’t sure of what to do about Title Town’s most valuable collarbone, let’s talk about Tony Romo’s 13–20 career record in December and January, instead. This rematch of the 1967 “Ice Bowl” will be awfully cold for the losing team in this must-win showdown. Cowboys by 8

Cardinals (8-5) at Titans (5-8)
Bruce Arians beat Tennessee twice last season as the Colts interim coach, with a 19–13 win in Music City and a 27–23 victory at Indy. Cardinals by 1

Saints (10-3) at Rams (5-8)
New Orleans has marched to a 7–0 record at home and a 3–3 mark on the road. But St. Louis plays in a dome, where N’Awlins is 8–1. Saints by 5

Bengals (9-4) at Steelers (5-8)
Andy Dalton has been unstoppable at home — with 14 TDs, five INTs and a perfect 6–0 record that includes victories over Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Ben Roethlisberger. On the road, however, Dalton has been vulnerable — with 11 TDs, nine INTs and a 3–4 record that includes losses to Brian Hoyer, Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill. Bengals by 1

Ravens (7-6) at Lions (7-6)
Tampa-born, Dallas-raised and Georgia-educated Matthew Stafford is happy to be in a heated dome after last week’s blizzard in Baltimore. Lions by 1

Last week: 14–2 // Season: 137–70–1

A preview and prediction of every game on the NFL schedule in Week 15.
Post date: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 19:18
Path: /nfl/mike-shanahan-benching-robert-griffin-iii

Not so long ago, Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan were taking the Washington Redskins to the playoffs and the biggest Scandal in D.C. was an ABC prime time drama starring Kerry Washington.

Times have changed in the nation’s capital. Some are calling for an emergency midterm election — i.e. the Redskins’ first midseason coaching change since Norv Turner was fired by owner Daniel Snyder after 13 games in 2000. To be fair, Turner had been hired by the late, great Jack Kent Cooke in 1994 and was never Snyder’s “guy.”

No, Snyder’s list of head coaching hires reads Marty Schottenheimer (2001), Steve Spurrier (2002-03), Joe Gibbs’ second term (2004-07, following his Hall of Fame stint from 1981-92), Jim Zorn (2008-09) and, drum roll please, Shanahan (2010-who knows?).

Following a humiliating 45–10 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 14 — Washington’s 10th loss this season — Shanahan’s status is in doubt. Then again, so is the status of RG3, whom Shanahan claims may be benched for the final three games of the season as a health precaution.

“We had 24 sacks in the last five games. That’s a lot,” Shanahan said. “I want to make sure he’s healthy. I think that’s the most important thing going into the offseason, that he has his first full offseason of being healthy. And if something did happen to him, I think it would set out franchise back.”

Griffin III famously suffered a devastating knee injury on Jan. 6 earlier this year and many have speculated that the 23-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner has still not returned to 100 percent.

The numbers back that assertion. As a rookie, RG3 had 27 total TDs and seven turnovers while leading the Skins to a 10–6 record. This year, he has 16 total TDs and 16 turnovers with a miserable 3–10 record, including the team’s current five-game losing streak.

Stats and losses are only part of the problem in Washington, where the cozy friendship between RG3 and his owner, Snyder, is under the microscope. Shanahan allegedly feels his power has been usurped by his young signal-caller and his relationship with Snyder may have been damaged beyond repair.

Normally, a team in such bad shape can at least look forward to the upcoming NFL Draft. Washington, however, traded away its 2014 first-round pick to the St. Louis Rams as part of the bounty to acquire RG3 in 2012.

“There’s always a lot of noise when you’re 3–10,” Shanahan said. “I understand that, and every organization has it. There’s going to be a lot more noise over the next few weeks.”

Daniel Snyder, Mike Shanahan and RG3 in power struggle
Post date: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 18:59
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-power-rankings-week-14

Ranking all 32 NFL teams, with the two-loss Broncos back on top and the two-win Texans cellar-dwelling.

1. Broncos (11-2) Matt Prater makes NFL-record 64-yard field goal.

2. Seahawks (11-2) Richard Sherman blames loss on bad calls by refs.

3. Saints (10-3) Drew Brees fastest to 50,000 yards (183 games).

4. 49ers (9-4) Frank Gore 51-yard run seals win over Seattle.

5. Patriots (10-3) Rob Gronkowski out for season with torn ACL, MCL.

6. Bengals (9-4) Improve to perfect 6–0 mark at Paul Brown Stadium.

7. Chiefs (10-3) Andy Reid celebrates Sporting KC’s MLS Cup win.

8. Panthers (9-4) “We got a little full of ourselves,” says Ron Rivera.

9. Eagles (8-5) Nick Foles finally throws first INT in win over Lions.

10. Cardinals (8-5) Tyrann Mathieu out for season with torn ACL, LCL.

11. Colts (8-5) Lose at Cincy, but wrap up AFC South title anyway.

12. Bears (7-6) Mike Ditka’s No. 89 retired at halftime vs. Cowboys.

13. Lions (7-6) Reggie Bush injures calf after pregame fall in snow.

14. Cowboys (7-6) Jerry Jones thinks defense should “take more risk.”

15. Packers (6-6-1) Plus-one on scoreboard with minus-one wind chill.

16. Ravens (7-6) Win game with five lead changes in last two minutes.

17. Dolphins (7-6) Notch first victory on road at Pittsburgh in 23 years.

18. Jets (6-7) Avoid first four-game losing streak under Rex Ryan.

19. Chargers (6-7) Philip Rivers celebrates 32nd birthday with victory.

20. Titans (5-8) Job status “not a concern” for coach Mike Munchak.

21. Giants (5-8) San Diego fans heckle former draft pick Eli Manning.

22. Steelers (5-8) Antonio Brown steps out of bounds on last-ditch TD.

23. Rams (5-8) Remember, Rams own Redskins’ first-round pick.

24. Buccaneers (4-9) Have won four of last five after 0–8 start to season.

25. Browns (4-9) Allow two Tom Brady TDs in final 61 seconds of loss.

26. Raiders (4-9) Have lost 13 straight games in Eastern Time Zone.

27. Jaguars (4-9) Third straight win is first at home since Nov. 2012.

28. Bills (4-9) Extend NFL-worst 14-season postseason drought.

29. Falcons (3-10) OC Dirk Koetter interviews for Boise State vacancy.

30. Vikings (3-9-1) Adrian Peterson carted off field, awaits more tests.

31. Redskins (3-10) Mike Shanahan on hot seat, debates benching RG3.

32. Texans (2-11) Gary Kubiak fired after 61–64 record in eight years.

Ranking all 32 NFL teams from first to worst.
Post date: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 18:49