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College football has a blown officiating call to thank for South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney blowing up a ball-carrier in the hit seen around the Internet.
Before Clowney’s devastatingly legal Outback Bowl hit last season, Big East referee Jeff Maconaghy allowed Michigan to retain possession by awarding a first down. One problem: The nose of the football clearly didn’t reach the first-down marker.
“It’s just a mistake, and I know that’s tough for people to deal with given social media and technology,” says Terry McAulay, the officiating coordinator of the American Athletic Conference (former Big East). “They say, ‘How can I get it right on the couch and they can’t?’ They don’t understand the pressure these guys are under and the fact they’re very, very good with 99 percent accuracy. But one percent can sometimes hurt us.”
College football officials have never been under so much scrutiny. On the flip side, their bosses have never communicated and leaned on each other as much as they do now.
Officiating needs all the help it can get this season. With player safety now a heavy focus, consistency will be called into question in a new way by a rule that automatically ejects a player who delivers a hit to the head of a defenseless player.
The state of college football officiating is evolving. To understand where it’s at, Athlon Sports talked individually with the six officiating coordinators at BCS conferences — Steve Shaw of the SEC, Doug Rhoads of the ACC, Bill Carollo of the Big Ten, Walt Anderson of the Big 12, Tony Corrente of the Pac-12 and McAulay of the American — plus former NFL officiating supervisor and current Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira. Here are excerpts from those candid conversations about the men fans love to hate.
What do you think of the ejection rule for targeting a defenseless player?
Carollo, Big Ten: “We want officials to know if they get a little too anxious and they’re wrong and throw the starting linebacker out of the game, we’ll support them and we have replay to confirm. If we really do care about these players 10 to 15 years from now, we have to change the rule. That’s a big price to pay, but we’re willing to take that risk.”
Corrente, Pac-12: “What happens when it’s a deliberate action vs. an accidental action? That’s what we want clarity on. … I’ve heard some coaches say, ‘You guys are changing the game and this isn’t football.’ I say, ‘You’re right. This isn’t football.’ The player safety issues we’re seeing today were not part of the game 20 years ago. I tell coaches five percent of their players will be pro players, meaning 90 to 95 percent will need to be functioning adults down the road. Don’t you want them to be functioning adults and not vegetables? I think it’s going to take a while for the culture to change, and we’ll start to see high hits diminish.”
Shaw, SEC: “I think making the ejection immediate in a game will change the mindset of the players. I can show you video last year of a player making a high hit on a receiver, he sees three flags thrown, and he’s back there chest-bumping his fellow players. That mindset now has to go to, ‘Oh no, I’m out of the game.’ We’re going to be very vigilant to make those calls.”
McAulay, American: “I think our struggle is going to be 13 minutes to go in the first quarter, this situation pops up, and you lose your free safety for the rest of the game because he did lower his target, but there’s still helmet-to-helmet contact that has to be called. There’s no leeway for the official. I’m struggling with that aspect of it. I understand the argument that there’s such a serious consequence and we can live with an ejection here and there that may not be warranted. They may be right. I don’t dismiss that argument. I’m not there yet.”
Pereira, ex-NFL: “When the penalty is so severe that it includes automatic ejection, boy, you better have a consistent philosophy. Although they’re backing it up with replay to make sure the ejection is warranted, I still think consistency is going to be an issue. Replay is going to have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that he shouldn’t be ejected.”
How challenging will it be for replay officials to decide whether to uphold the ejection?
Corrente, Pac-12: “I’m advocating we bring replay down on the field like the NFL does. The referee is the ultimate rules decision-maker on the field.”
McAulay, American: “We take the biggest plays out of the referee’s hands. I think the referees’ eyes give us a better chance of reaching near 100 percent accuracy. This is going to be a very, very tough process to get through for officials, replay and coordinators.”
Last year, College Football Officiating, LLC, used a committee of officiating coordinators to review hits to the head and recommend player disciplinary action to conferences. How often did conferences go along with those non-binding recommendations?
Corrente, Pac-12: “We read the committee’s recommendations but we kept everything in house. We believed we had a due process program in place that was understood. … Like any committee, you always have a degree of skepticism of whether anybody who is associated with a conference could have underlying reasons for removing someone else’s players. But I believe everybody in that room was above that approach.”
Carollo, Big Ten: “I brought the Aaron Murray hit (by Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial in the SEC Championship Game) and a dozen other plays to the rules committee about hitting a defenseless player and launching. The Murray play would be an automatic ejection and suspension now because we will define a defenseless player more in line with NFL rules. The CFO committee recommended a suspension (which didn’t happen). I know the SEC handles some things internally and there were a couple other plays in that game. I don’t second-guess these guys. If you really want consistency, that’s why we created that panel. We’re not very consistent in calling it and disciplining it around the country. Everyone kind of interpreted it their own way. Some sent letters of reprimand and didn’t start the game. Some had a half-game suspension. Some had an entire game suspension.” (Shaw, whose conference handed out three one-game suspensions in 2012, declined to discuss the Murray hit.)
The Pac-12 threw more flags by far than any conference last season. Why was that?
Corrente, Pac-12: “We had a tremendous increase last year of false starts. I had coaches tell me, ‘Tony, I don’t have the players to run our offense yet.’ If that happens, you’re making a lot of basic mistakes. So we saw an awful lot of penalties that I think this year will diminish dramatically. We also took a very aggressive stance with regard to player safety fouls, and in doing so, those numbers went up.”
Pereira, ex-NFL: “Of the games I saw, the Pac-12 probably had a little overemphasis on some of the post-play fouls, the pushing and shoving that they might be better getting in between of without resulting in a flag. I think it happens when you get a new coordinator like Corrente, who made a multitude of training tapes and put out a lot of information to officials.”
Could you envision College Football Officiating, headed by national coordinator Rogers Redding, ever receiving more authority to make binding decisions so there is greater uniformity between conferences?
McAulay, American: “Basketball got way ahead of us on uniformity. Conferences have their own little world that they get to do what they want to do without some absolute controlling authority to get everybody on the same page. We’re doing the best we can in that culture. But without that one commissioner overseeing everything like the NFL, it makes it more difficult to herd the cats. … You see what’s going on with (conference) realignment. If you can’t control that aspect for the good of the game, how can you control the lower parts of it? We’re all working together better than we ever have. Rogers does a good job of managing the strong-willed personalities of the coordinators.”
Anderson, Big 12: “I don’t think you’ll ever see one person trying to oversee (10 FBS) conferences. But what we are experimenting with is doing it on more of a regional basis, such as our partnership with the Mountain West and Southland Conference.”
Carollo, Big Ten: “One of our goals is you should turn the game on and don’t know which conference is officiating. We should have one set of mechanics and one rulebook and one philosophy on how we interpret calls. Is that aspirational? Maybe slightly today. Can we get everybody in the country doing it the same way? It’s pretty hard, but doable. I have seen in my four years in college where individual conferences have said this is how we do it, and those walls have been knocked down.”
Rhoads, ACC: “We need to continue to keep the pressure on us to make sure the uniformity/consistency piece is there. The NFL has 32 teams and they own the rules. College football is much broader with more than 120 teams alone in the FBS level. To get consistency in the application of a rule is a Herculean task for anybody. … Here’s the truth: The percentage of mistakes is very, very low. When you look at calls under the microscope with the media and social media, you’re going to find about a third of the time the official was wrong, a third of the time the official was right, and a third of it is judgment and you can talk about judgment until you die. The equal cry should be these guys are right a bunch of the time.”
What needs to be changed in officiating?
Carollo, Big Ten: “The coaches and players improve at a 45-degree angle. We (as officials) sometimes don’t stay in that 45-degree angle that keeps improving, and I see the gap widening a little more. … In college, we’ll make 5.5 to 6 mistakes every game. Our goal is maybe average four mistakes. The NFL target is 3.5 mistakes per game. We’re trying, but we’re kind of chasing the game. If you look at video 10 years ago of the SEC Championship Game, you go, ‘Whoa.’ You can see the change in the type of athletes out there. We need to be able to change.”
McAulay, American: “We started looking at team tendencies a couple years ago. There was always a sense if you look at the teams, you’ll make prejudgments and make an error, so we started slowly by looking at formations and pre-snap movements. We found, ‘Oh, this team runs the bubble screen a lot, so what does that mean in terms of how we look?’ We found it doesn’t make us prejudge on what fouls they might commit. We were able to judge it without surprise.”
Shaw, SEC: “We have to continue to modify our mechanics. If you’re in the proper place at the right time and trained where you should be, you’ll be a better official. We have some really good new mechanics we’re going to look at.”
What’s your philosophy on whether more experienced and qualified officials should work the highest-profile games?
Anderson, Big 12: “Just like players, officials are rookies at some point in their career. Even though you have confidence in them or they wouldn’t be there, it’s not like a guy who’s a veteran official and everybody knows him and is comfortable with him. I’m a very big proponent there will be some assignments you’ll put your very best officials in those environments because of the environments they’re working.”
Shaw, SEC: “Every game is important. But there are certain games that it’s easier to work a young official in, so that’s what we try to do.”
Rhoads, ACC: “I don’t look at it as that’s my No. 1 crew and that’s my No. 6 crew and this is a big game so we should put No. 1 there. There may be a fan perspective or a coach perspective to that. But if you have that much disparity from one crew to another, then you’re not training them correctly.”
The Big 12 plans to experiment with eight officials instead of seven, putting an extra one in the offensive backfield with the referee. What’s the thinking behind that concept?
Anderson, Big 12: “We have to keep pace with the game because it’s constantly evolving. With offenses going much more spread, (officiating) coverages that were for decades defined by seven officials are really appearing to be inadequate. There are a lot of passing plays that create blanket areas that aren’t covered by anybody, such as the tackle area opposite the referee. It also gives another set of eyes for hits on a quarterback.”
Pereira, ex-NFL: “I don’t like it. To me, the perfect number is seven. All you get is another opinion and it doesn’t mean it’s another good one.”
Given the scrutiny on officiating these days, how hard is it to find new officials?
Shaw, SEC: “At the entry level, we’re not getting the former players or people like we have before. That’s where the risk is now. It’s not in the next four to five years for the SEC because we’ve got great talent out there to choose from.”
McAulay, American: “You’re not getting 18-, 19- or 20-year-olds anymore hardly ever getting into officiating. If they do it, it’s later after college at 28, 32, 35, which is really too late. I started at 16 and that experience was invaluable. You lose a lot of snaps getting into it later.”
Pereira, ex-NFL: “There’s so much emphasis on officiating, including myself on TV, that if you’re trying to get into high school football and get yelled at by coaches and parents, maybe you say, ‘Is it worth it?’ The rate of retention of new officials at the high school level and even the Pop Warner level is not very good. You have to be a different person to put up with the abuse that goes along with this job.”
Technology continues to evolve. The SEC uses wireless headsets for officials to talk. The Big Ten has studied goal line cameras. There are even companies proposing chips in footballs to determine first downs and touchdowns. Where is this headed?
Anderson, Big 12: “There’s a strong lobby that if we had the technology to determine where that football is, would it not be worth having it? Those are the decisions as the game evolves that will have to be made. Then the question is which parts of the game just by tradition do you want to preserve? There’s not ever going to be a perfect solution.”
McAulay, American: “If we ever get to the point where we have almost a sterile, perfect environment, I think people are going to turn away from the game. We’re humans in a game played by humans. I think that’s one of the great things about our game. People the next day can talk about the bad pass, the poor call on defense or the missed call by an official.”
Written by Jon Solomon for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 Regional Preview Editions. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 college football season.
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Is South Carolina the latest team to have a chrome helmet in the uniform rotation? It’s possible.
The team’s equipment staff tweeted out a photo of this chrome helmet, but also mentioned later on that South Carolina will be wearing its traditional white helmet in 2013.
So will this helmet see the field? Who knows. But it’s a pretty cool (and shiny) look for the Gamecocks.
1. Expect Brickyard speeds to be up considerably
NASCAR’s new car and the ever-looming fear of a repeat of 2008’s tire issues at Indianapolis sent several teams to the 2.5-mile speedway over the spring and summer for testing sessions. The tires, at least during those sessions, lasted.
But there was still a big surprise: The Gen-6 was impressively quicker than recent years in laps around the track that turns 104-years-old in August.
“With everything they’ve worked on with the Gen-6 car, I feel like it’s really relaying over to this racetrack,” Trevor Bayne said after a test in April. “Some tracks we go to you can’t tell a big difference, but with this place, with as much speed as you’re carrying into the corner, the aero packages are really amplified here. I think it’s a great package, and we’ve had a lot of grip.”
That grip has translated into speed. Jeff Gordon reported during the same test that his engineers reported a reading of 214 miles per hour on an on-board speedometer at the end of the straightaway.
Temperatures for that April test were decidedly cool and unlike the typical July weekend in Indianapolis. But an odd weather pattern has settled over the Hoosier state this weekend, leaving forecasted temperatures nearly 20 degrees under the average. The lower temperatures should keep the corner grip level higher than normal, thus increasing speed.
How the added speed will affect the racing won’t be known until Sunday, but it can often be a detractor thanks to the increased need for drivers to race in clean, non-turbulent air.
2. Jimmie, Jeff Go For Five at Indy Five has long been a hallowed number at Indianapolis.
In the other big oval race there — you may have heard of the Indianapolis 500 — no driver has ever crossed the plateau of four wins shared by A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Michael Schumacher scored five Indianapolis wins during the brief stint of Formula 1 on the IMS road course, but that’s a fact often brushed aside faster than Bernie Ecclestone's ability to endorse a check.
Heading to its 20th running this weekend, the Brickyard 400 already has two drivers looking to cross into the five-win tier: Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson, of course, got win No. 4 last year — just seven years after his first Indianapolis victory. Gordon won the inaugural trip to Indianapolis in 1994 and recorded Brickyard win No. 4 in 2004.
Gordon has 15 career top 10s in his 19 Brickyard starts — the most in the series — but Johnson heads to Indianapolis sounding extra confident. He claims there’s a specific way to drive the car at Indianapolis that once discovered and mastered will lead to plenty of success.
“I found it through a lot of frustrating test sessions, races, a few crashed cars, and then it finally clicked,” Johnson said. “I don’t remember the exact moment. I do at Martinsville, but I don’t at Indy. It was just one weekend we came back and the light went off in my mind and I’m like, ‘That’s how!’ And then we won.”
3. Greg Biffle seeks redemption from 2012 near-miss Another confident Sprint Cup driver heading to Indy is Greg Biffle.
Easily lost in the shuffle of Johnson’s fourth Indianapolis win last season was that Biffle had a car plenty capable of winning until a risky pit strategy play didn’t work out. The No. 16 averaged a running position of fourth during the race (only Johnson was better) and took two tires during the final pit stop to grab the lead and advantage of clean air.
But it wasn’t enough, and Biffle led just four laps (two under green) before Johnson passed him and cruised to victory over the final 29 laps.
Beyond last year’s near-miss, Biffle has the sixth-best average finish at the Brickyard among Sprint Cup active drivers with six top 10s in 10 starts.
“I love racing at Indy, we always seem to run well there. I can’t wait to kiss the bricks,” Biffle said. “I feel like we have a good car, we’ve gained a lot on downforce and a lot on drag. I’m looking forward to having a good engine and qualifying up front. This thing is going to be ours.”
4. Eldora puts Brickyard in a shadow
Somehow, someway, a small half-mile Ohio dirt track that sells $2 beers and a white t-shirt with a screen-printed mud stain under the slogan “Got dirt?” has managed to zap nearly all of the buzz from NASCAR’s biggest racing series racing at the most well-known speedway in the country.
That’s pretty crazy, right? It’s also true.
The excitement for Wednesday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway was, as many would say, palpable. It was NASCAR’s first return of a national touring series to a non-pavement track in over four decades. And the show? Well, even though the trucks looked disappointingly slow, they produced a race worth watching again and again.
It was without a doubt a rousing success for NASCAR — if only because it re-energized a segment of the fan base put off by the slot car racing seen too often on the sport’s larger, paved tracks.
But what was the cost of that great event to this weekend’s show at the Brickyard?
The visuals are going to be jarring with the stands looking barren and the racing spread out. Unless something from the Gen-6 has changed things wildly and unpredictably at Indianapolis — I’m not holding my breath — most of the passing will come on restarts and pit road.
I’m glad NASCAR tried the dirt race. I hope they do it again. But when the powers that be are trying so hard to re-invent NASCAR at Indianapolis in order to draw back 200,000-person crowds, it seems a bit silly to let the lead up to the race be overshadowed by an event everyone knew would be the main attention grab coming off the Sprint Cup off-weekend.
5. Nationwide “Dashing for Cash” at the BrickyardIt’s still going to be plenty odd for a NASCAR weekend in Indianapolis to not feature the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series at the rough-and-tumble .526-mile short track on the west edge of the city, Lucas Oil Raceway Park. It’s also plenty odd to see how empty Indianapolis’ behemoth grandstands will look for Saturday’s Nationwide race in the late afternoon.
But that doesn’t mean Saturday’s race won’t have a bit of intrigue.
In the last year’s inaugural running, controversy ruled the day when Elliott Sadler was penalized for apparently jumping a late restart. The penalty ultimately cost Sadler the race — he pitted to serve the penalty from the lead — and left him incensed over both the lost win and the championship implications.
You can bet NASCAR will be asked to clarify those restart rules this weekend.
Saturday also marks the end of the Nationwide Series’ four-race “Dash 4 Cash” program that makes a $100,000 bonus to the highest-finishing series regulars who were in the top 4 of that list at Chicagoland Speedway last week. Eligible this week are Sadler, Sam Hornish Jr., Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers.
Sadler took the first of the four bonuses at Daytona with Dillon scoring the second and third.
Follow Geoffrey Miller on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 26.
• Geno Smith, Eric Fisher, Ziggy Ansah, et al aren't the only rookies we'll be watching this year. Here's a slideshow of 50 rookie cheerleaders you'll be seeing on NFL sidelines, including Houston's Caitlyn (pictured).
• A Brewers fan wanted to make a statement via her jersey. Security did not comply with her wishes.
• Atlanta's Matt Ryan just signed a $103.75 million deal. For the math impaired, that equates to $103.75 million per career playoff win for Ryan thus far.
• Here's a list of things every man should have in his place. I lack many of these things. Now questioning my manhood.
• Touching story of the day: a Memphis quarterback, a piano and an 11-year-old cancer patient. There's hope for humanity.
• The 49ers' Tarell Brown learned via Twitter that by missing offseason workouts, he had cost himself $2 million. So he fired his agent. Sounds like he wanted to kill the messenger, but you can't kill Twitter, I guess.
• Darnell Dockett has a pet tiger, because of course he does.
• Todd Herremans of the Eagles decided he wanted to look like a Viking (not the Adrian Peterson kind).
• Enjoy this video of a U.S. airman throwing down a windmill in fatigues and boots.
-- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]
Most of college football’s preseason hot seat coach rankings list USC coach Lane Kiffin at the top or in the top five. But if you believe athletic director Pat Haden, there’s no reason for Kiffin to worry about his job security.
In a video posted by USC, Haden details the state of USC football, which is especially important timing with Pac-12 Media Days coming up on Friday.
During Haden’s remarks, he specifically addresses Kiffin’s status:
“I anticipate the media will ask me if our football coach is on the hot seat this year. Here is my answer, and will be my answer whenever I’m asked. He is not.”
Haden also comments he is “behind Lane Kiffin 100 percent.”
Of course, if USC’s season completely goes awry, it’s hard to believe Haden would keep Kiffin around.
However, the Trojans have the talent to win the Pac-12 South and won’t play Oregon or Washington in crossover play with the North.
While Kiffin has been a lightning rod for criticism, it’s also important to remember USC is still dealing with NCAA sanctions and is expected to have just 70 scholarship players on the roster this year. While the 7-6 record was a disappointment last season, the Trojans did go 10-2 in 2011. There's no question Kiffin deserves blame for what happened last year. But let's also remember he's not working with a full roster, and depth during the season has become a huge issue.
Kiffin has the potential to be a good coach, and credit to Haden for letting him grow into the job, as well as getting out front of the potential barrage of hot seat questions.
If USC goes 8-4 or 9-3, then some of the talk about Kiffin being on the hot seat will subside. However, a 6-6 regular season certainly wouldn’t sit well with many in Los Angeles, regardless of what Haden says in July.
Here’s the full video of Haden’s comments:
Apparently Washington Redskins fan Kimberly Lewis didn't get an autograph after hanging out all day at the team's training camp, along with thousands of other fans. She was not happy. We, however, laughed a lot.
It's like something out of Lifetime movie. Reliever Dane De La Rosa discovered an injured bird near the Angels' bullpen and brought his new feathered friend to the clubhouse. All that's missing is Sarah McLachlan's "Ams of an Angel" playing in the background.
New Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck has brought some much-needed energy into the program, and the Broncos are already off to a good start on the recruiting trail for the 2014 signing class. And Fleck's task is to get Western Michigan back into the MAC West title picture, which won't be easy in 2013 with Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ball State all coming off bowl appearances last year.
When trying to build some positive momentum for a program, it certainly doesn’t hurt for the Broncos to unveil a new jersey and helmet combination for 2013. This new look for Western Michigan isn’t quite as drastic at Miami (Ohio), but these are a pretty solid overall design for the Broncos.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the design is the “Ghost Bronco” logo on the helmets, along with the crossing oars as helmet stickers, which fits Fleck’s motto of “Row the Boat.”
Michigan’s last share of the Big Ten title occurred in 2004, but the Wolverines appear to be inching closer to a return to the top of the conference.
Coach Brady Hoke is assembling some of the nation’s top talent on the recruiting trail, while the offense should thrive under the leadership of junior quarterback Devin Gardner. The offensive line has a few holes to fill, but the return of tackle Taylor Lewan should allow the Wolverines to maintain a solid foundation in the trenches.
Hoke and coordinator Greg Mattison have some work to do on defense, especially on the line. Linebacker Jake Ryan’s status for 2013 is uncertain with a torn ACL, but sophomore James Ross is a future star and is due for a bigger role in the linebacking corps this year.
What will Michigan's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Michigan's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|8/31 Central Michigan|
|9/7 Notre Dame|
|9/21 at Connecticut|
|10/12 at Penn State|
|11/2 at Michigan State|
|11/16 at Northwestern|
|11/23 at Iowa|
|11/30 Ohio State|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern and Michigan all capable of winning the division crown, the Legends Division will be one of the toughest leagues in the nation this year. I’m picking the Wolverines to win the division and play in a BCS bowl with a 10-2 record. However, there’s no question this will be a difficult road for Brady Hoke’s team. Even though the offensive line is a concern, promising redshirt freshman Ben Braden and Kyle Kalis could turn the interior into a strength with some seasoning early in the year. And true freshman running back Derrick Green could end up as one of the team’s top playmakers by midseason. With Hoke and Greg Mattison calling the shots, Michigan should finish in the top four of total and scoring defense in the Big Ten – even with six new starters stepping into the lineup. If the Wolverines can get by Notre Dame on Sept. 7, the Wolverines should be 7-0 going into November. However, the real test for Michigan comes in the final month, as road tests at Michigan State and Northwestern won’t be easy, along with home affairs against Nebraska and Ohio State. Assuming the Wolverines win the Legends Division, it could set up an interesting Big Ten Championship with the rival Buckeyes.
Brent Yarina, Big Ten Network, (@BTNBrentYarina)
When it comes to Michigan this season, 9-3 sounds right. Brady Hoke has the Wolverines trending in the right direction (take a look at his recruiting success), but it looks like he’ll have to wait at least one more season to play for his first Big Ten title. While Michigan figures to be in the race for the Legends Division crown, along with Nebraska and Northwestern, its schedule is more daunting than the Huskers, arguably its top competition. That said, there’s plenty of talent in Ann Arbor, so if highly touted freshman RB Derrick Green makes an immediate impact, the revamped defensive line provides some kind of pass rush and stud linebacker Jake Ryan returns from a torn ACL sooner than later, Michigan could be much better than this prediction.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s tough to find one of these game-by-game picks pieces that I’ve flip-flopped on more than Michigan. First, I changed my mind on Ohio State. I'd bet Carlos Hyde and Bradley Roby are playing in that game, but I'm not as bullish on Ohio State as I once was. I’m a bit worried about overrating a team walked the tightrope for most of 2012. But back to Michigan: The Wolverines are good enough to defeat each team on the schedule, but not every game on the schedule. I like Michigan to defeat Notre Dame early in the season even though that defense is going to be a major test for Devin Gardner. Notre Dame’s still putting the offense on Tommy Rees shoulders, at least at this stage of the year. I picked the two losses — Michigan State and Northwestern — simply because someone has to defeat Michigan this season. Michigan State lost 12-10 in Ann Arbor and will be a tough out on defense. We all know what Northwestern can do on offense with Venric Mark and Kain Colter. The Michigan game last year was one of many Northwestern had right in its grasp.
Kevin McGuire (@KevinonCFB), No2MinuteWarning.com and NittanyLionsDen.com
Michigan returning to a more traditional offensive style this season should serve the Wolverines well, but don't be totally fooled by a good start to the season. Devin Gardner as the full time quarterback from the start of the season will keep things balanced but the Wolverines will have to find a rhythm on offense. The defense was ranked second in the Big Ten last season but there is still room to improve before the Wolverines become a lock-down defense that suffocates the opposing offense. In 2013 they should have enough to pull together a nice first half, highlighted by a home victory over Notre Dame and a road win at Penn State. The question will be what kind of state are they in for the second half, which I predict will be somewhat painful down the stretch. If they are not careful, the Northwestern game could easily slip away from them. The same goes for Nebraska.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The Legends Division crown will most likely be decided on November 9 in Ann Arbor when Nebraska comes to town. However, the rest of Nebraska's schedule is nothing like Michigan's. So even if Michigan defeats the Big Red, it still likely needs to be at 10 or even 11 wins heading into the season finale with Ohio State to win a trip to Indianapolis. The offense under Devin Gardner won't be an issue at all but the defense needs to prove it has the depth and toughness to beat teams like Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Nebraska. There are too many tricky road upset alerts on this schedule — at Michigan State, Penn State and Nothwestern — to pick this team to be in the top 10.
If Michigan takes care of business at home against Notre Dame, the Wolverines should then be sitting pretty entering November. A trip to Happy Valley won't be easy, but this is not the same Penn State team that opened many eyes last fall. Michigan's Big Ten season likely comes down to the Nov. 9 showdown with Nebraska in the Big House. I'll give the Maize and Blue the edge because of home field, although I do think they will be a little flat the following Saturday in Evanston. Regardless, the win over the Cornhuskers should be enough to help Brady Hoke's team claim the Legends Division title, which will take some of the sting out of a season-ending loss at home to Ohio State. Fret not Wolverine fans, if everything goes according to plan, your beloved team will get another shot at the hated Buckeyes the very next week. Only this time the game will be Indianapolis and the stakes could be even higher.
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2013 is shaping up to be an interesting year in the Big 12. Six or seven teams have a case to be picked No. 1, so this could be one of the more entertaining (and wide-open) conference title races in the nation.
Oklahoma has won at least 10 games in six out of the last seven years, but the Sooners won’t start out as the favorite to win the Big 12 title. For most, that distinction belongs to their in-state rival Oklahoma State or a Texas team that finally seems to be pointed in the right direction.
Although the Sooners weren’t picked at media days as the preseason conference favorite, Bob Stoops’ team will be in the thick of the Big 12 title discussion this year. New quarterback Blake Bell will have his growing pains, but the junior should be solid once he gets more experience under his belt. The defense has to be concerned about the lack of depth in the trenches, but there’s still plenty of talent to help keep Oklahoma in the mix for 10 or more wins in 2013.
What will Oklahoma's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
Oklahoma's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
|9/7 West Virginia|
|9/28 at Notre Dame|
|10/12 Texas (Dallas)|
|10/19 at Kansas|
|10/26 Texas Tech|
|11/7 at Baylor|
|11/16 Iowa State|
|11/23 at Kansas State|
|12/7 at Oklahoma State|
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Anything from 8-4 to 11-1 is possible with Oklahoma this year. With the rest of the Big 12 also in transition, the Sooners shouldn’t slide too much in the win column after finishing 10-3 last season. Oklahoma’s Big 12 title hopes will rest on the development of quarterback Blake Bell, along with a defense that ranked ninth in the Big 12 in rush yards allowed and 50th nationally in points allowed in 2012. The defense isn’t short on talent, but the Sooners have to be concerned with the depth in the trenches, along with how three new starters in the secondary blend together. Until the defense finds its footing, Oklahoma will need to lean on an offense that has one of the nation’s top lines, along with a deep group of receivers and running backs. Bell has to prove he can be more than just a specialty package quarterback, but games against ULM, Tulsa and West Virginia will give him an opportunity to get comfortable as the starter, especially before key contests against Notre Dame, TCU and Texas. And it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Big 12 title is decided on Dec. 7 in the Bedlam series with Oklahoma State.
Chris Williams, (@ChrisMWilliams), CycloneFanatic.com
This is a team that will go as far as its quarterback allows it to go in 2013. While I’m assuming that Blake Bell (assuming he wins the job) isn’t Landry Jones, I also don’t see him as a bust either. Due to the fact that Norman has, is and always will be one of the toughest places to play in all of college football, that sure helps mask the fact that Bob Stoops has to replace one of the best signal-callers in program history along with a load of defensive players. I see the Sooners getting through its first five games unscathed with a loss to Texas in the Red River Shootout. But should OU pull that rivalry game off then watch out. All in all, I see this a very Bob Stoops-like season in 2013 for the Sooners in route to a solid 9-3 finish.
Allen Kenney, @BlatantHomerism, BlatantHomerism.com
Oklahoma appears to have hit a plateau as of late, and I don't think that changes this year. The Sooners will be breaking in a new quarterback - most likely Blake Bell - and have some serious work to do in getting their defense back up to par. On top of that, they have one of the most difficult schedules in the country, catching almost all of their best opponents away from Norman.
Six games look like coin flips to me: at Notre Dame, TCU, Texas, at Baylor, at Kansas St. and at Oklahoma St. I'd peg the Sooners to go 3-3 in that stretch; the harder part is figuring out which of those are Ws and which are Ls. No matter where the losses come from, I don't see this team winning the conference.
Bob Stoops might get a bounce in the public opinion polls with a bowl win. Still, you can bet that the debate about his ability to get the Sooners back to the top of the college football world will only intensify with that kind of season.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Bob Stoops is playing it coy about his starting quarterback, but there is no reason the uber-talented Blake Bell won't be a star this year in Norman. The offensive line is strong and the playmakers are a-plenty so the offense should be in great shape. However, it is the defense that is trending in the wrong direction and returns only four starters. But when in doubt, go with Stoops over most any other coach in the Big 12. The key to a league title for Oklahoma will be what happens in the Big 12 and whether or not an 8-1 record be good enough to win the league. The Sooners could easily win the league even with a loss to Oklahoma State. This will be one of the most wide-open conferences in the nation and it means the Crimson and Cream could lose to Texas, Baylor, Kansas State and the Pokes — or run the table and finish unbeaten in the league.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The most important game on Oklahoma’s schedule may be the TCU game. The early part of the schedule isn’t easy. ULM, West Virginia and Tulsa will all test the Oklahoma defense, though I’d expect the Sooners to handle all three. A trip to South Bend will be tough and the first major test for the new Oklahoma QB. TCU, though, will set the tone for the rest of the Big 12 season. The Horned Frogs are legitimate conference contenders. Like Notre Dame, TCU has a defensive front that matches up with Oklahoma’s strength on the offensive line. With that game back in Norman, I’m taking the Sooners. After that, I’m picking Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout until Texas proves me wrong. For the final month of the season, Oklahoma will have to avoid a Big 12 road loss, something that’s been tough for the Sooners in recent years. Baylor may be the tougher matchup for Oklahoma than Kansas State in 2013, but I’ve picked OU to win both. That may set up a de facto Big 12 title game against Oklahoma State. Why did I pick the Cowboys? This season, I think we can consider the rivals on equal footing, and I’ll go with the home team if we’re going to make these picks in July.
Oklahoma is somewhat hard to figure out since they have an unproven starting quarterback in Blake Bell and only four starters returning on defense. That said, there is no lack of talent in Norman on either side of the ball, which is why I think Bob Stoops will find a way to get 10 wins in the regular season.
This victory total includes beating Notre Dame in South Bend, although I do have the Sooners falling at home to TCU the next week. OU will rebound nicely against Texas in the Red River Shootout and finish out strong, losing only to Oklahoma State to close the regular season out.
As optimistic as I am on this seemingly mysterious team, I will say that the Sooners' margin of error is probably as small as it has been since Stoops has been in charge. By that I mean, 10-2 could easily end up being 8-4 or worse, especially if Bell doesn't pan out as a passer and the defense experiences sustained stretches of growing pains.
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Statistical production, individual awards, team success, longevity, supporting cast, level of competition, raw talent and overall athletic ability all factor heavily in determining overall greatness. Sometimes, you simply know greatness when you see it.
So all factors were considered when trying to determine who the greatest linebackers of the BCS era have been. Here are the Top 50 linebackers since the BCS was implemented in 1998:
1. Lavar Arrington, Penn State
Few college players were as intimidating as the rabid Nittany Lions linebacker. Arrington was an elite leader who helped Penn State to a 28-9 record during his three-year tenure in Happy Valley. He was named as the Butkus and Lambert Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker and was the recipient of the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player after 72 tackles, 20 for loss, nine sacks and two blocked kicks in 1999. He was a consensus All-American and has arguably the most signature defensive play of the BCS Era when he leapt over the Illinois offensive line on 4th-and-1 to secure the win. Arrington consistently delivered crushing blows and wound up as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Redskins.
2. James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
Few players in the nation are as decorated, productive, talented and successful as the Minneapolis native. Laurinaitis won the Butkus, Nagurski, two Lambert Awards and two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year awards while being a three-time All-American. He posted three straight seasons of at least 115 tackles and helped Ohio State win a share of four Big Ten titles, including two trips to the BCS National Championship game. The Buckeyes tackler was taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
3. Patrick Willis, Ole Miss
The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior. He was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco.
4. Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
It’s possible that the Notre Dame linebacker is the most decorated college football player of all-time. As a senior, Te’o won the Butkus, Bednarik, Lambert, Lombardi, Nagurski and Lott awards while becoming the only defensive player of the BCS era to win the Walter Camp Award and Maxwell Trophy as well. He posted 113 tackles and seven interceptions while leading Notre Dame to a perfect regular season and BCS title game berth. His legacy off the field was soiled by a bizarre catfish scandal but shouldn’t factor into his spectacular overall college career.
5. Derrick Johnson, Texas
The big-play machine from Waco, Texas, was one of the greatest linebackers in Longhorns program history. He finished his career with 458 tackles, 65.0 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, nine interceptions and 11 forced fumbles. Johnson was a three-time All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American. He capped his career with the Butkus, Lambert and Nagurski national awards as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors before being taken 15th overall by the Chiefs in the 2005 NFL Draft.
6. E.J. Henderson, Maryland
Henderson left Maryland with multiple NCAA records and numerous awards and honors. He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackle record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award and was awarded the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP and second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003.
7. Paul Posluszny, Penn State
As a junior, the Nittany Lions tackler was recognized as the nation’s top LB when he posted 116 tackles (11.0 TFL) en route to a Big Ten Championship, consensus All-American honors and both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He followed that up as a senior with a second Bednarik Award and second consensus All-American nod. The in-state Aliquippa (Pa.) Hopewell product was a second-round pick by the Bills in 2007.
8. Dan Morgan, Miami
Beginning his career as fullback, fans in South Florida are happy he ended up tackling instead of blocking. The superstar linebacker won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top LB in 2000 as well as Nagurski, Bednarik and Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors. In fact, he was the first college player to claim all three awards. When Morgan left The U he owned the school and Big East record for career tackles with 532 and was taken with the 11th overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft by Carolina.
9. Luke Kuechly, Boston College
Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies.
10. Andy Katzenmoyer, Ohio State
His pro career notwithstanding, the Ohio State tackler was one of college football’s greatest tacklers during his time in Columbus. He was the first true freshman to ever start at linebacker for the Buckeyes, won the Butkus and Lambert Awards as just a sophomore and nearly led OSU to the inaugural BCS title game in 1998. He started all 37 games of his college career and finished with 18 sacks and 50.0 tackles for loss. He was a first-round pick by the Patriots in 1999.
11. Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma
A three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a two-time All-American, Calmus is one of the most important Sooners of all-time. He won the Butkus and Lambert Awards as senior in 2001 as the nation’s top linebacker but his play in '00 will go down in Oklahoma history. He led the vaunted Sooners defense to a perfect record and spearheaded arguably the greatest defensive performance of the BCS era by holding Florida State to zero offensive points in the BCS National Championship Game. Calmus was a third-round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.
12. Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma
The Tulsa, Okla., native played in all 12 games for the 2000 BCS National Champions as a freshman. He was a three-year starter for the Sooners after that, posting 117 tackles and 19.0 TFL and earning the Butkus and Bednarik Awards while leading Oklahoma back to the BCS national title game in 2003. He was a two-time All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and was a second-round pick of the Lions in the 2004 NFL Draft.
13. Jonathan Vilma, Miami
During Vilma’s time on campus, the Hurricanes went an unbelievable 46-4 with wins in the Sugar, Rose and Orange Bowls. A three-year starter, including for the dominant 2001 National Champions, Vilma posted 377 total tackles and was a three-time, first-team All-Big East selection. He was honored with the Lambert Award in 2003 as the nation’s top linebacker. He was the 12th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the New York Jets.
14. Dat Nguyen, Texas A&M
Arguably the most decorated Texas A&M defender, Nguyen was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and his 517 career tackles are an Aggies record. His career in College Station culminated in 1998 with a historic and adorned senior season. Nguyen was named the Bednarik and Lombardi Award winner and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors as well. The unanimous All-American was a third-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys in 2004.
15. A.J. Hawk, Ohio State
Yet another Buckeyes great, Hawk started 38 of his 51 career college games for Ohio State. He contributed to the 2002 BCS National Championship squad as a freshman before earning two-time consensus All-American honors in 2004-05. As a senior, Hawk earned the Lombardi and Lambert Trophies for his play and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He finished his career with 394 tackles, 41.0 for loss, 15.5 sacks and seven interceptions. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Packers.
16. Al Wilson, Tennessee
Wilson isn’t as decorated as some of his BCS brethren but few players had as big an impact on their team as the Vols middle linebacker. He helped lead Tennessee to two SEC championships and the historic and unblemished 1998 national title. He was a consensus All-American, a consummate teammate on and off the field and was the 31st overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
17. Rolando McClain, Alabama
His fall from grace aside, McClain was one of the BCS’s great defensive leaders. He started eight games and posted 75 tackles as a freshman before earning some All-American honors as a sophomore (95 tackles). As the unquestioned heartbeat of the Alabama defense, McClain led the Crimson Tide back to the BCS promised land with a perfect senior season. He posted 105 tackles, 14.5 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous All-American and won both the Butkus and Lambert Awards. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
18. Brian Urlacher, New Mexico
Few players were ever as versatile as Urlacher was for the Lobos. He finished his career with 442 tackles, 11 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, caught six touchdown passes on offense and returned five kicks for touchdowns on special teams. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears and is a sure-fire lock for Canton.
19. Rey Maualuga, USC
The hard-hitting tackler was a freshman All-American on the 2005 USC team that barely lost to Texas in the national title game. He then started the next three seasons for the Trojans, earning consensus All-American honors, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. The Men of Troy went 46-6 during his time on campus and few players were as feared nationally as Maualuga.
20. Von Miller, Texas A&M
After an up and down but promising first two seasons, Miller exploded onto the scene as a junior in 2009. He led the nation in sacks with 17.0 and posted 21.0 tackles for loss. As a senior, despite being slowed by an ankle injury, Miller posted 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss en route to the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.
21. Chris Claiborne, USC
The three-year star for the Trojans was the first and only Butkus Award winner in USC history when he was named the nation’s top linebacker in 1998 — the same year both Wilson and Katzenmoyer were seniors. He was a consensus All-American and the No. 9 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
22. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jones was a Lambert Award winner, a two-time All-American, led the nation in sacks as a sophomore and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also led Georgia to consecutive SEC East titles and was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
23. Greg Jones, Michigan State
The stabilizing force for four years in East Lansing, Jones was a three-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection and a two-time, consensus All-American. Finished third in school history in tackles (465), second in tackles for loss (46.5) and sixth in sacks (16.5). He started 46 of 52 career games for the Spartans.
24. Dan Connor, Penn State
The Nittany Lions know something about playing linebacker and Connor is yet another elite tackler. He was a two-time All-American and won the Bednarik Award in 2007 and was a big part of the '05 Big Ten/Orange Bowl Championship team.
25. Brandon Spikes, Florida
Spikes' resume is virtually complete. He was a two-time, consensus All-American, a three-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won two BCS National Championships, was a second-round pick and dated Doc Rivers' daughter. He posted 307 total tackles and started 39 of his 47 career games as a Gator.
26. Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
Curry was a freshman All-American after starting 10 games as a freshman. He posted 83 tackles as a sophomore and tied an NCAA record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns as a junior. As a senior, we won the Butkus Award, was an All-American and made 105 tackles. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
27. D’Qwell Jackson, Maryland
The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and was a second-round pick of the Browns in 2006.
28. DeMeco Ryans, Alabama
The former three-star recruit outperformed all expectations for the Crimson Tide. In 2005 as a senior, he was a unanimous All-American, won the Lott Trophy and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. He just missed winning the Nagurski, Butkus and Draddy Awards as well before being a second-round pick in 2006 by the Texans.
29. D.J. Williams, Miami
After playing fullback in 2000 as a freshman, Williams switched to linebacker and contributed on the 2001 National Championship team. He was a two-time, first-team All-Big East pick as an upperclassman and finished with 190 tackles over that span. He was a first-round pick of the Broncos in 2004. The U was 46-4 during his time in South Florida.
30. Tank Carder, TCU
The leader of the 2010 unblemished Rose Bowl champs won back-to-back Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Awards. He finished his career with 228 total tackles, 25.0 for loss, 9.0 sacks and four interceptions in 39 starts over 50 career games.
31. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
Mosley has already won two BCS titles and was named an All-American with one year still left to go in his college career.
32. Lofa Tatupu, USC
He started all 25 games during his USC career posting 202 tackles, winning one national title and playing for another.
33. Adam Archuleta, Arizona State
Two-time All-Pac-10 performer won Def. P.O.Y. honors. The former walk-on finished with 330 tackles, 14.0 sacks and 54.0 TFL.
34. Keith Bullock, Syracuse
Two-time All-Big East pick led the league in tackles (1999) during Syracuse’s heyday. He was a first-round pick and posted 375 career tackles.
35. Julian Peterson, Michigan State
He posted 140 tackles and 25.0 sacks in just 23 career games for the Spartans and was a first-round pick in 2000.
36. Mike Peterson, Florida
The Gators linebacker was an All-American and led the defense to the 1996 National Championship and two SEC titles.
37. Arthur Brown, Kansas State
After transferring home from Miami, Brown won Big 12 Defensive P.O.Y., was an All-American and led KSU to a Big 12 championship
38. Kirk Morrison, San Diego State
He claimed back-to-back Mountain West Player of the Year honors and was a four-time All-MWC performer.
39. Mark Simoneau, Kansas State
He was a consensus All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and finished with 400 career tackles.
40. Keith Adams, Clemson
The All-American won ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 1999 and posted 23.0 sacks in three years.
Related: The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
41. Chad Greenway, Iowa
42. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
43. Rennie Curran, Georgia
44. Larry Foote, Michigan
45. Jordon Dizon, Colorado
46. Robert Thomas, UCLA
47. Keith Rivers, USC
48. Lavonte David, Nebraska
49. David Harris, Michigan
50. Mark Herzlich, Boston College
The Next 25:
51. Torrance Marshall, Oklahoma
52. Brandon Short, Penn State
53. Rufus Alexander, Oklahoma
54. Karlos Dansby, Auburn
55. Tommy Polley, Florida State
56. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
57. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama
58. Lawrence Timmons, Florida State
59. Ernie Sims, Florida State
60. Leroy Hill, Clemson
61. Barrett Ruud, Nebraska
62. H.B. Blades, Pitt
63. Boss Bailey, Georgia
64. Levar Fisher, NC State
65. Brian Cushing, USC
66. Odell Thurman, Georgia
67. Ian Gold, Michigan
68. Raynoch Thompson, Tennessee
69. Jamie Winborn, Vanderbilt
70. Nick Barnett, Oregon State
71. Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina
72. Mychal Kendricks, Cal
73. A.J. Klein, Iowa State
74. Nick Reid, Kansas
75. Roosevelt Colvin, Purdue
Top 50s of the BCS Era:
The Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Running Backs of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Wide Receivers of the BCS Era
The Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era
The Top 50 Offensive Linemen of the BCS Era
West Virginia has taken a long and winding path to Big 12 competition. It hasn't had an undefeated season since the AP Poll was implemented in 1934, has played in three difference conferences and was an independent as well. The Mountaineers haven't won any national championships but have plenty of conference titles under their belt.\
So who was more difficult to stop, Major Harris or Pat White? Could Rich Rodriguez' best team defeat Don Nehlen's top squad? Which team was the best? The fact of the matter is no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in W-V-U history is virtually impossible. But we're going to try anyway.
1. 1988 (11-1)
Head Coach: Don Nehlen
The 1988 Mountaineers team went unbeaten in the regular season and is simultaneously the most revered and most painful team in school history. After rolling perfectly through the season led by dynamic quarterback Major Harris, West Virginia entered the national championship showdown with Notre Dame. Yet, three plays into the Fiesta Bowl, the Mounties' season unraveled when Harris separated his shoulder. The Irish won 34-21 and the game has left fans in Morgantown wondering "what if?" for more than two decades.
2. 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez/Bill Stewart
Yet another "what if?" for Mountaineers fans came in 2007 when juniors Pat White and Steve Slaton led West Virginia to a No. 1 ranking entering the Backyard Brawl. An injury to White helped Pitt defeat WVU 13-9 in the regular-season finale and the loss knocked the Mounties out of the BCS National Championship game. This is the highest scoring team in school history (515 points), one that earned a Big East co-championship and eventually won the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma 48-28 — a game coached by Bill Stewart after Rodriguez took the Michigan job following the regular season. The sixth-place final AP poll finish is third all-time in school history.
3. 2005 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
The ’05 team wasn’t supposed to be one of the school’s best but two freshman superstars changed all of that for WVU. Quarterback White and tailback Slaton were perfect fits for RichRod’s zone-read option and defenses didn’t know how to slow them down. The lone loss of the year came against No. 3 Virginia Tech and the Big East championship season was capped by a historic showdown in the Sugar Bowl with Georgia (in Atlanta). The 38-35 win over the Bulldogs gave the Mountaineers a fifth-place finish in the polls, tying the 1988 team for the best AP finish in school history.
4. 1993 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Don Nehlen
Nehlen’s 1993 team won its first 11 games, including wins over ranked Missouri, Louisville, Miami and Boston College, to reach the Sugar Bowl. The Big East champs, ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll, didn’t get to face either Florida State or Nebraska and instead lost to Florida in ugly fashion 41-7. This was the fourth highest scoring team in school history at the time and finished seventh in the polls.
5. 2006 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez
The Mountaineers entered the season fifth in the AP Poll and rattled off seven straight victories to start the year. White and Slaton continued to churn out big yards until a mid-season road loss to Louisville cost this team a Big East championship. Another loss at home to USF led to a Gator Bowl berth (and win) against Georgia Tech. The 10th-place finish in the AP Poll is one of just six top 10 postseason rankings.
6. 2011 (10-3, 5-2)
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen
Led by junior quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers won a share of the Big East Championship with losses to No. 2 LSU, at Syracuse and Louisville. Smith and Holgorsen’s offense dropped 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl win to cap the year.
7. 1953 (8-2, 4-0)
Head Coach: Art Lewis
Playing in the Southern Conference, Lewis led the Mountaineers to a perfect league record and SoCon title. The only two losses came against South Carolina and No. 8 Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
8. 1969 (10-1)
Head Coach: Jim Carlen
Still playing independent football, West Virginia lost just one game in 1969 — a brutal road loss to No. 5 Penn State. The season ended with a 14-3 win over South Carolina in the Peach Bowl.
9. 1954 (8-1, 3-0)
Head Coach: Art Lewis
The Mounties won their second straight SoCon Championship after wins over ranked South Carolina and Penn State. The only loss came against arch-rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl 13-10.
10. 2010 (9-4, 5-2)
Head Coach: Bill Stewart
Geno Smith began his starting career under center for WVU with a co-Big East Championship and trip to the Champs Sports Bowl. This team lost three regular-season games, including road trips to LSU and co-champ UConn, by a combined 14 points.
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|Kansas State||Texas Tech|
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Brand image is a massive part of modern 21st century business and college football is big business.
Signature uniforms like the Sooners or Cowboys, unique hand signals or historic mascots like Bevo help separate one team from the next in the Big 12 with clarity. Fans identify with these brand images and it helps build value — or brand equity — for every program in the nation.
However, official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple.
Every college football program in the nation has an official logo — and some are better than others — and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.
And since Athlon Sports has been designing the best looking magazines on newsstands for the better part of half a century, we'd thought we'd turn our senior graphic design guru loose on college football's logos. Here is what is Art Director Matt Taliaferro has to say about the Big 12's football logos:
“The Big 12 football logos largely reflect the blue-collar toughness of its gridiron reputation: tough and no nonsense. And Texas easily leads the way on the Plains with a logo that is to college sports what the Nike Swoosh is to athletic wear. I don’t know if there’s a higher compliment a designer can bestow, so I’ll stop there.
“Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor go straight old school with strong symmetrical initials (always welcome as the safest collegiate default setting) while TCU shows Pitt over in the ACC how arched, serif’d type should be handled. OSU has successfully upgraded to a slanted, contemporary look that retains some classic block-letter charm. And while Kansas State’s wildcat graphic is nowhere near what Texas pulled off, it works — though there is an Arena Football League element that gives pause.
"Elsewhere, Iowa State continues to search for a mark that “fits” (is it the colors?), though they’re closer than ever; Kansas’ Looney Tunes magpie has tradition on its side, but little else. It’s time for a redesign in Lawrence that goes beyond “KU” or “Kansas” spelled out in Trajan; Lastly, Texas Tech is in worse shape than the Jayhawks, with stacked beveled “T’s” that reek of the 1980s’ obsession with 3-D. Take a lesson from the kids in Austin and College Station: Simplicity makes a logo easy on the eye as well as effective.”
Big 12 Official Football Logo Rankings
|1.||Texas||Arguably the best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.|
|2.||Kansas State||All of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.|
|3.||Oklahoma||There is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo.|
|4.||West Virginia||When it comes to creativity, this one gets high marks for the way the letters have been worked together without putting too much flair into the design. It also reminds fans of the WVU landscape as well.|
|5.||Oklahoma State||The letters are uniquely combined and the font is solid. The grey outline isn't the best and gives this logo a third unneeded color.|
|6.||TCU||The block font will always be in style and the arched type works best with three letters rather than four or more. An underrated logo.|
|7.||Iowa State||The power "I" and arched State are very unique across all of college football. But nothing can be done about the color scheme.|
|8.||Texas Tech||The big-T, little-T combo is pretty cool but this logo is extremely busy. Beveled font and three different colors don't exude tradition.|
|9.||Baylor||Normally, block lettering is great but the Bears' font is just a little off and seems a bit antiquated. The color scheme isn't the best but is used well.|
|10.||Kansas||The cartoon Jayhawk is a signature logo but doesn't really create an intimidating image in any sense of the word. And why is it dancing?|
2013 Big 12 Team Previews
|Kansas State||Texas Tech|
An Ole Miss chrome helmet made its rounds on the internet a week ago, but it doesn’t appear the Rebels will be wearing that version anytime soon.
But what about a powder blue version? Ole Miss previously wore a similar variation, in the 1980s and 90s, but switched to its darker blue scheme in 1995.
This photo was tweeted by Bruce Johnston, Ole Miss’ coordinator of recruiting development, but Kyle Campbell, the Rebels' sports information director, has already indicated there is no plan to wear the powder blue helmets.
Who knows, maybe Ole Miss will break out this version in the future. But for now, it’s simply another concept floating around.
A relatively quiet day around college football as Big Ten Media Days winds down in Chicago.
Contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)
College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Wednesday, July 25th
Can Kliff Kingsbury replicate Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald's path?
Penn State and West Virginia are close to finalizing a home-and-home series.
Saturday Down South ranks the cornerbacks in the SEC for 2013.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr played all of 2012 with an abdominal tear.
Texas receiver Cayleb Jones has decided to transfer.
How will Kansas State rebuild its defense?
Will California running back Brendan Bigelow be ready to go in fall practice?
Crystal Ball Run breaks down the latest in the Carlos Hyde saga at Ohio State.
Tight end Christo Kourtzidis is transferring from Florida State.
JUCO recruits are hit-or-miss in the Big 12.
Thankfully, there is no end in sight to the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry.
Here's an excellent Q and A with Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Georgia's coordinators enter 2013 with contrasting outlooks.
If Division 4 is created, expect the American to fight to be involved. And on the same subject, Southern Miss coach Todd Monken had some interesting thoughts on an NCAA split.
Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins has already served his day in jail as a result of an off-the-field incident this summer.
An Oregon State cornerback was dismissed from the team this week.
What are some of the key questions and answers for Oklahoma State this year?
Maryland's linebackers have some big shoes to fill in 2013.
Tulane is expected to add a LSU transfer for the 2013 season.
"Do we have to go back?!"
That was the question asked by Clint Bowyer, referring to returning to the Sprint Cup Series, following Wednesday's Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway. And he didn't even race.
NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series was at the center of the North American motorsports spotlight upon its visit to tiny Rossburg, Ohio, marking the first time one of NASCAR’s three major touring circuits raced on a dirt track since Sept. 30, 1970. That race, the Old State 200 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C., was won by Richard Petty.
When the green waved over the 150-lap feature, few of the participants were even born when Petty ended an era of dirt in NASCAR 43 years ago.
And in an odd — yet telling — twist, the visit to Eldora’s 24-degree banked dirt oval has upstaged what once was a jewel on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit: The Brickyard 400 at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In recent years, interest in NASCAR at the grand old speedway has waned, as evidenced by severely sagging attendance, TV ratings and the desperate inclusion of Nationwide Series and Grand Am races to complement Sunday’s Cup show.
Indy has never provided great “racin’” in the vein stock car fans are accustomed, and a tipping point may have been reached in 2008, when failing Goodyear tires on a newly diamond-ground surface essentially reduced the event to a series of 12-lap heat races. And even if that race had gone off without a hitch, it’s doubtful many would feel different about the on-track product the speedway provides the bulky stocks.
Enter Eldora, whose racing may not have been "great" in the classic sense, but was certainly an enjoyable change of pace. Tony Stewart's half-mile oval is a throwback in every sense of the word, as far from a 1.5-mile asphalt cookie-cutter track as one will find. A palpable enthusiasm had permeated the fan base since the date’s announcement last fall; it was a welcome return to the sport’s roots. Something new, fun and as accessible as a quarter-mile dirt track “just a few miles out in the county” — a half hour from your house or mine. The big boys of NASCAR were racing on (what felt like) the local level. And social media reaction on Twitter ran overwhelmingly positive (a rarity) during the event.
Is this the type of show fans have longed for from a sport whose sanctioning body often seems disconnected from the loyal base that made NASCAR what it is?
Perhaps NASCAR should learn from this experiment. Perhaps sparsely-attended 500-mile parades at aero-dependent palaces of speed aren’t what interest fans after all — or pull new ones in. Perhaps “great racing” at a facility that will pack in "only" 20,000 rabid fans means more than NASCAR’s track-operating wing showing a hefty year-end surplus on a ledger sheet. After all, the the ruling family is soon to be about $4 billion richer, thanks to a healthy new TV contract.
Perhaps Eldora will help NASCAR find its identity again, the same as the rough ’n’ tumble short tracks did nearly two decades ago just before the sport began a rocketship rise from regional obsession to national phenomenon.
Or perhaps another casino on a speedway’s grounds will justify a second date, as seen at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. Or prime dates will be doled out to struggling France family-owned facilities, as fellow 1.5-miler Chicagoland Speedway’s first Chase date highlights. Those immaculate cathedrals cater to the suite-dwelling business types whose sponsorship dough keep teams running, after all.
Yes, Wednesday’s show at Eldora was a fun one to watch — and it may have opened the door to the Truck Series’ return to other off-the-beaten-path locales. But let's enjoy it for what it was: a gimmick — and that's not a bad thing. It was a gimmick that really and truly worked and should be scheduled again post haste. (Props to Stewart, Steve O'Donnell, Roger Slack, et al, for a flawless show.)
Just don’t hold out hope that the mighty Cup Series will descend upon Knoxville any time soon, or that the Nationwide circuit will magically reappear in South Boston, Myrtle Beach or Nashville. And don’t expect the wallets of the few to be effected by the wants of the many.
Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
The 2012 season wasn’t a pleasant one for USC. The thud from preseason No. 1 to 7-6 with a two-touchdown loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl qualifies as one of the most disappointing for any school anywhere.
Painful as it was, that season alone doesn’t qualify as one of the toughest times for a USC fan. At least Trojans fans got to watch their team. The 1982-83 squads, also limited by NCAA sanctions, faced a television ban. And yet USC still managed to go 8-3 in ’82 and recovered to go to the Rose Bowl two years later.
The standards are higher at USC for sure, and the Trojans have rarely had long stretches of poor play. USC has only had 12 losing seasons in its history.
Certainly, the highs are more notable in Los Angeles.
The most prominent college football programs, for the most part, resided West of the Rocky Mountains when John McKay became USC’s head coach in 1960, though the Trojans at the time were a Rose Bowl regular before then. McKay set up USC to become one of college football’s premier programs with a constant stream of Heisman winners, national champions, All-Americans and future Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Here are the times when the Song Girls had a little more pep in their step as well as the times they were the better draw to the Coliseum than the football team.
BEST TIMES TO BE A USC FAN
National championships: 4
Coach: John McKay, John Robinson
Notable players: O.J. Simpson, Ron Yary, Lynn Swann, Richard Wood, Ricky Bell, Dennis Thurman, Charles White, Ronnie Lott, Marcus Allen, Sam Cunningham
Generations of Americans will remember O.J. Simpson for reasons other than what a superstar Juice was in college. Simpson ushered in the most successful era in USC history by rushing for 3,423 yards in two seasons with 23 touchdowns as a senior. The ledger during this era is astounding: Four national titles (1967, ’72, ’74, ’78), three Heisman winners (Simpson, White and Allen), an Outland winner (Yary) nine Pac-10 titles (plus a 10th in the 7-4 season in 1966). These USC teams also brought social significance, with Sam Cunningham and USC’s 42-21 win over an all-white Alabama team in Birmingham in 1970 doing “more to integrate Alabama in 60 minutes than Martin Luther King did in 60 years,” as Tide assistant Jerry Claiborne put it. The 1972 team was one of the best in USC history, becoming the first team to gain every first-place ballot in the AP and UPI polls.
National championships: 2
Coach: Pete Carroll
Notable players: Reggie Bush (right), Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Dwayne Jarrett, Sam Baker, Keneche Udezi, Lofa Tatupu
Before Alabama resurfaced, USC was the dominant program of the 21st century, though the fanfare around the two traditional powers couldn’t be more different. Pete Carroll was made for Los Angeles with his big personality and open invitations for celebrities such as Will Ferrell and Snoop Dogg to hang around the program. USC won seven consecutive Pac-10 titles under Carroll, a feat no Trojans coach accomplished. On a national scale, USC won back-to-back national titles in 2003-04 during a run of seven consecutive top-five finishes. With three Heisman winners (Palmer, Bush and Leinart), USC had one of the nation’s best offenses, but the Trojans had one of the best defensive performances in school history by holding eight teams to a touchdown or less in 2008. During this era, only a Vince Young-led Texas team was able to beat USC in a bowl game.
National championships: 2
Coach: Howard Jones
Notable players: Mort Kaer, Jesse Hibbs, Morley Drury, Erny Pinckert, Gus Shaver, Ernie Smith, Aaron Rosenberg, Cotton Warburton
USC quickly became the preeminent Western power in the late ‘20s, winning two pre-AP era national championships in 1931 and ’32. The 1932 team that finished 10-0 held opponents to a grand total of 13 points.
WORST TIMES TO BE A USC FAN
Coaches: Don Clark, John McKay
USC had yet to achieve dynasty status as it did in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the Trojans had come to expect more that what it got in the late ‘50s during the short tenure of Don Clark. He went 1-9 in his first season and finished 8-2, but USC endured a seven-year Rose Bowl drought, the longest for the program since the ‘20s. Clark’s tenure wasn’t all a failure; his staff included McKay and future Raiders icon Al Davis. McKay went 8-11-1 in his first two seasons before an unlikely undefeated national championship season in Year Three.
Coaches: John Robinson, Paul Hackett
Robinson’s second tour of duty with USC wasn’t nearly successful as the first, as he went 12-11 in his final two seasons. Hackett didn’t fare much better, going 11-13 in his final two seasons. This was one of the rare times USC was dormant in the Pac-10, reaching only one bowl game in five seasons.
More than half of the teams in the AFC will have at least one new coordinator in 2013. Most of the staff changes are the result of the five new head coaches that were hired by Buffalo, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Kansas City and San Diego and filling some vacancies that were created as a result.
There also were those changes that were made due to a lack of performance, such as is the case for the New York Jets, who have a new offensive and denfensive coordinator following last season's 6-10 showing.
Related: 2013 NFC Coordinator Carousel
Here is a rundown of the coordinator changes in the AFC:
Buffalo Bills, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Curtis Modkins
NEW: Nathaniel Hackett
New Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone brought Hackett, the offensive coordinator his last two seasons at Syracuse, with him to the NFL. Hackett is tasked with trying to jumpstart one of the league’s least-productive passing offenses in 2012.
Buffalo Bills, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Dave Wannstedt
NEW: Mike Pettine
Pettine stays in the AFC East, coming over after serving as Rex Ryan’s defensive coordinator with the Jets the past four seasons. Pettine has his work cut out for him in Buffalo. The Bills surrendered the second-most points (435) in franchise history last season.
Cleveland Browns, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Brad Childress
NEW: Norv Turner
Fired after six seasons in San Diego, Turner returns to the role where he first made a name for himself in the NFL. As Dallas’ offensive coordinator from 1991-93, Turner helped produce three top-10 offenses for Cowboy teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Cleveland Browns, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Dick Jauron
NEW: Ray Horton
After getting passed over for the head job in Arizona, Horton was tabbed by new Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski to help the Browns’ young defense take the next step.
Denver Broncos, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Mike McCoy
NEW: Adam Gase
Promoted from QBs coach following Mike McCoy’s departure to San Diego, Gase will try to continue what Peyton Manning & Co. started. Gase has even more weapons at his disposal in wide receiver Wes Welker and rookie running back Montee Ball.
Indianapolis Colts, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Bruce Arians
NEW: Pep Hamilton
After Bruce Arians left to take over as the head coach in Arizona, Chuck Pagano hired Hamilton, who was Andrew Luck’s quarterbacks coach and Stanford’s offensive coordinator during Luck’s highly successful final season with the Cardinal.
Jacksonville Jaguars, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Bob Bratkowski
NEW: Jedd Fisch
New Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is already familiar with Fisch, as the two worked together on Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle in 2010. Fisch returns to the NFL following a two-year stint as the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator.
Jacksonville Jaguars, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Mel Tucker
NEW: Bob Babich
Babich brings three decades of experience to Jacksonville to oversee Gus Bradley’s defense. He had been a part of the Bears coaching staff since 2006, including the past three as linebackers coach, where he worked with Pro Bowlers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
Kansas City Chiefs, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Brian Daboll
NEW: Doug Pederson
Pederson was part of Andy Reid’s staff in Philadelphia from 2009-12 and will take his first crack as a coordinator working with Reid in Kansas City. Pederson was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach when the team set a franchise record for total offense in 2011.
Kansas City Chiefs, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Romeo Crennel
NEW: Bob Sutton
Sutton spent the past 13 seasons on the Jets’ staff. He served as Eric Mangini’s defensive coordinator in New York from 2006-08 before shifting to LBs coach under Rex Ryan.
New York Jets, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Tony Sparano
NEW: Marty Mornhinweg
The Eagles’ offensive coordinator the past seven seasons, Mornhinweg landed on his feet following his dismissal in Philadelphia. He’ll work with a Jets offense that scored fewer than 18 points and averaged less than 181 yards passing per game last season.
New York Jets, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Mike Pettine
NEW: Dennis Thurman
The Jets’ DBs coach the past five seasons, Thurman was promoted to defensive coordinator by Rex Ryan after Pettine left for the same post in Buffalo. Thurman will try to help the Jets’ defense return to its ’09 form, when it led the NFL in points and yards allowed.
Oakland Raiders, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Greg Knapp
NEW: Greg Olson
Knapp was made the scapegoat for the Raiders’ inability to run the ball. Olson is no stranger to this role, having served as OC for Detroit, St. Louis and Tampa Bay.
San Diego Chargers, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Hal Hunter
NEW: Ken Whisenhunt
Fired after six seasons as the head coach in Arizona, Whisenhunt joins new San Diego head coach Mike McCoy’s staff in the same role he held with Pittsburgh from 2004-06.
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2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:
Similar to the AFC, half of the teams in the NFC made a change at either offensive or defensive coordinator, or both, during the offseason. Three teams — Arizona, Chicago and Philadelphia — hired new head coaches, which meant they brought in new coordinators as well.
Carolina and Seattle also had to find new a offensive and defensive coordinator, respectively, as their previous ones were hired by AFC teams to be their head coaches. The change at defensive coordinator in Dallas and New Orleans was prompted simply by poor performance in 2012.
Related: 2013 AFC Coordinator Carousel
Here is a rundown of the coordinator changes in the NFC:
Arizona Cardinals, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Mike Miller
NEW: Harold Goodwin
Miller was among the many assistant coaches dismissed when Arizona fired Ken Whisenhunt. Goodwin and new head coach Bruce Arians served on Pittsburgh’s offensive staff from 2007-11 before moving on to Indianapolis, where Goodwin was the Colts’ offensive line coach last season. This will be Goodwin’s first stint as an offensive coordinator (though Arians is expected to call the plays).
Arizona Cardinals, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Ray Horton
NEW: Todd Bowles
Horton left for Cleveland when he was passed over for the head coaching position following Ken Whisenhunt’s firing in Arizona. Bowles was promoted from Philadelphia’s defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator following Juan Castillo’s dismissal during the Eagles’ bye week last season.
Carolina Panthers, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Rob Chudzinski
NEW: Mike Shula
With Chudzinski getting the head coaching gig in Cleveland, Shula moves up from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator on Ron Rivera’s Panthers staff. The head coach at Alabama from 2003-06, Shula served as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator from 1996-99. He’s been Cam Newton’s quarterbacks coach since Newton entered the league.
Chicago Bears, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Mike Tice
NEW: Aaron Kromer
Kromer had been on Sean Payton’s staff in New Orleans the past five seasons, serving first as running backs coach and then offensive line coach. He also was the Saints’ interim head coach the first six games of last season. Kromer and new Bears head coach Marc Trestman previously worked together on Oakland’s staff from 2001-04.
Chicago Bears, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Rod Marinelli
NEW: Mel Tucker
Marinelli went to Dallas to join Monte Kiffin’s staff as the Cowboys’ defensive line coach. New Chicago head coach Marc Trestman hired Mel Tucker away from Jacksonville. The Jaguars’ defensive coordinator and then assistant head coach from 2009 until last season, Tucker also served as Cleveland’s defensive coordinator during the ’08 season.
Dallas Cowboys, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Rob Ryan
NEW: Monte Kiffin
The 73-year-old Kiffin is back in the NFL after being a part of his son Lane’s staff at Tennessee and USC. The long-time Tampa Bay defensive coordinator (1996-2008) will try to turn around a Dallas defense that finished 24th in the league last season in points allowed and forced a total of just 16 turnovers.
New Orleans Saints, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Steve Spagnuolo
NEW: Rob Ryan
Rex’s twin brother landed in New Orleans following his dismissal in Dallas. This will be Rob’s fourth stint as an NFL defensive coordinator; he served in that capacity at Oakland (2004-08) and Cleveland (2009-10) before running things in Dallas the past two seasons.
Philadelphia Eagles, Offensive Coordinator
OLD: Marty Mornhinweg
NEW: Pat Shurmur
Mornhinweg was let go by the Eagles but landed the same job with the Jets. Shurmur likewise was fired following his 9–23 two-season stint as Cleveland’s head coach and decided to return to Philadelphia to work with first-year head coach Chip Kelly.
Philadelphia Eagles, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Juan Castillo/Todd Bowles
NEW: Bill Davis
Rookie NFL head coach Chip Kelly tabbed NFL-lifer Davis to run his defense in Philadelphia. Davis has been an NFL assistant coach since 1992 when he got his start in Pittsburgh. The Eagles are the ninth team Davis has worked for, including previous stints as the defensive coordinator for the 49ers (2005-06) and Cardinals (2009-10).
St. Louis Rams, Defensive Coordinator
NEW: Tim Walton
After going with a three-headed monster to run the defense last season, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher hired a member of his coaching tree to take over the reins. Walton served as Detroit’s secondary coach the past four seasons, during which time he worked under Jim Schwartz, Fisher’s former defensive coordinator when they both were with the Titans.
Seattle Seahawks, Defensive Coordinator
OLD: Gus Bradley
NEW: Dan Quinn
Bradley parlayed the Seahawks’ recent success into the top job in Jacksonville. Quinn returns to the Seahawks after spending the last two seasons as Florida’s defensive coordinator. Quinn served under Bradley as the Seahawks’ defensive line coach from 2009-10.
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2013 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:
“I think it was a success. It was such a great show. This is real racing right here, and that’s all I’ve got to say.”
With those words from race-winner Austin Dillon, NASCAR’s inaugural trip to the famed Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, was deemed a success.
Not that those in attendance or watching on television needed affirmation.
NASCAR’s first sanctioned dirt race of its top three series in 43 years went off without a hitch Wednesday night in front of a capacity crowd somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000.
After a night filled with heat races, last-chance qualifiers and a 150-lap feature, it was Richard Childress Racing’s Dillon that won the Mudsummer Classic, beating Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman in a spirited battle that was extended to 153 laps due to a green-white-checker finish.
“This is bad to the bone,” Dillon said. “This is a great race. … This is one of the biggest wins of my career.”
It was one of the most anticipated nights in Camping World Truck Series history, orchestrated by track owner and Sprint Cup regular Tony Stewart, NASCAR VP Steve O’Donnell and track general manager Roger Slack. And the evening started with a bang, as veteran racer Ken Schrader won the pole, in the process becoming NASCAR’s oldest pole-winner at 58 years of age.
Youth took over from there, with the 20-year-old Larson leading 51 laps and at times putting on a clinic in how to hustle the bulky trucks around the slick half-mile oval. But Dillon made the decisive pass for the lead while in heavy traffic on lap 89 and held off Larson and Newman for the final 31 circuits. He led a race-high 64 laps.
“My dad told me a long time ago that if we won at Eldora, we’d just skip all the NASCAR stuff and go to NHRA because there’s nothing more out here to do because it’s just so tough to do,” said Dillon, who started 19th.
“We’re going to stick in NASCAR, but the coolest thing is you’re out of control out there. … I’d clip the fence and I’m leading the race. You’re on the edge every lap.”
Finicky NASCAR fans took to Twitter to voice support of the race throughout the evening, and competitors — including Stewart, a three-time Cup champion and regular dirt tracker — mirrored Dillon’s enthusiasm.
“This is more than just a truck race," Stewart said. “This is big for every dirt track across the country. This is exposure that a lot of these tracks never get. We’re fortunate to have this opportunity. This is something that can help short-track racing as a whole.”
Follow Matt Talaiferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Buffalo launched a rebranding effort this summer, and the team debuted its new jerseys and helmets for 2013 at MAC Media Days.
The Bulls are hoping to brand themselves as the State University of New York, and the new jerseys reflect the rebranding effort with a patch just above the number.
It’s not a huge change, but an interesting effort by Buffalo.
(Photos tweeted by (@JasonAmessenger)
And here is Buffalo's new helmet for 2013
Most coaches would envy Rick Pitino. Louisville won the national championship and returns every key player other than Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. Those are major losses, for sure, but the Cardinals may start the season ranked in the top three.
The determining factor in Louisville’s ability to repeat may be a handful of new key players. Junior college transfer Chris Jones takes over Siva’s point guard spot. Freshman Terry Rozier will bolster backcourt depth. Redshirt freshman Mangok Mathiang isn’t the veteran Dieng was, but he could be a solid shotblocker.
The Cardinals will be the overwhelming favorite in the first season of the American, but how newcomers perform elsewhere in the conference may determine how much the other teams in the league challenge Louisville. Memphis, as usual, has highly touted freshmen. So does Connecticut. SMU has a slew of transfers ready to make the Mustangs relevant.
Our series on new faces started earlier this week with the ACC. We continue today with the American.
Chris Jones, Louisville
Junior college transfer
Few newcomers have bigger shoes to fill. Point guard Peyton Siva is one of the few departures from the national title winners, and more than that, he was one of Rick Pitino’s all-time favorite players. Jones was a junior college All-American who committed to Tennessee out of high school but took a detour since then. He’s a relentless defender who will be a good fit in the Cardinals’ press.
Terry Rozier, Louisville
Freshman (Hargrave Military Academy)
Another addition to the Louisville backcourt, Rozier adds a scoring touch with his ability to attack the rim. That was pretty evident in January when Rozier scored a Hargrave-record 68 points in a double-overtime game on 19-of-37 shooting and 22-of-24 free throws.
Jermaine Lawrence, Cincinnati
Cincinnati scored fewer than half its points from 2-point range last season (49.6 percent, ranked 247th nationally). Adding the 6-9 power forward Lawrence, a top-25 recruit, should help the Bearcats in the low post. From Sparta, N.J., Lawrence is another big-time prospect Mick Cronin has pulled from the New York/New Jersey area, joining Lance Stephenson and Sean Kilpatrick.
Austin Nichols, Memphis
With Joe Jackson, Chris Crawford, Geron Johnson and Shaq Goodwin, Memphis has a strong backcourt despite a pair of player transfers and an NBA Draft early entry. Memphis needs Nichols, the Tigers’ top recruit and a local product from Briarcrest Christian, to step into the frontcourt right away. The Tigers also signed two other 6-9 top-50 forwards Kuran Iverson and Dominic Woodson.
Kentan Facey and Amida Brimah, Connecticut
The Huskies got little production out of their frontcourt last season, so this pair of freshman will have the opportunity to push veterans DeAndre Daniels and Tyler Olander. Facey is a good rebounder while Brimah is a lanky shot-blocker.
Lasan Kromah, Connecticut
George Washington transfer
Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright return to lead the UConn backcourt, but adding Kromah gives the Huskies some nice depth on the perimeter. Kromah averaged 11 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists in three seasons at George Washington.
Keith Frazier, SMU
SMU has decided it’s serious about basketball, hiring Larry Brown, renovating its arena and signing a local McDonald’s All-American in Frazier. On a team that returns all five starters, the 6-5 shooting guard Frazier could end up the top scorer on a team that hopes to make a splash in its first season in the American Athletic Conference.
Nic Moore, SMU
Illinois State transfer
Moore followed his coach at Illinois State, SMU’s head coach-in-waiting Tim Jankovich, to Dallas. The Mustangs didn’t have a true point guard last season — SMU ranked 11th in Conference USA in assist-to-turnover ratio — so Moore will have a chance to take over point guard duties immediately. Moore had a 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio and 135 assists as a freshman at Illinois State in 2011-12.
Danrad “Chicken” Knowles, Houston
Ineligible last season
Knowles was the rare top-100 recruit to sign at Houston, but the 6-10 power forward was ineligible last season. Houston is also hoping former Baylor guard L.J. Rose will receive a waiver to be eligible immediately. If both are ready to play this season, Houston will be competitive in its new league. Without them, Houston went 7-9 in a bad Conference USA — and that was before leading scorer Joseph Young transferred.
Josh Brown, Temple
Brown, a graduate of the St. Anthony program coached by the legendary Bob Hurley, committed twice to Temple, both before and after his junior season breakout. He could be the Owls' best perimeter scorer only a year after Temple lost the backcourt duo of Khalif Wyatt and T.J. DiLeo.
Greg Lewis, Rutgers
Rutgers has brought in a handful of transfers to help ease the roster turnover from the Mike Rice era, but Kerwin Okoro (Iowa State) and J.J. Moore (Pittsburgh) are still seeking immediate eligibility. Lewis is a big body at 6-9, 240 pounds who missed last season with a knee injury.
Others of Note
John Egbunu, USF
The Bulls signed Egbunu, a top-100 center, but coach Stan Heath may sweat a bit. USF is pushing back his enrollment a semester as an academic precaution.
Yanic Moreira and Markus Kennedy, SMU
Moreira transferred from junior college and Kennedy transferred from Villanova to bolster SMU’s frontcourt.
Troy Caupain, Cincinnati
Cashmere Wright was a fixture at point guard for Cincinnati, and now the Bearcats turn to a freshman to run the position. He’ll have every chance to take over there to set up Sean Kilpatrick.
Mangok Mathiang, Louisville
The 6-10 center still needs to develop offensively, but he’s ready to contribute now as a shotblocker.
Mark Williams, Temple
The Owls are doing some major rebuilding in the frontcourt, so the 6-8, 230-pound Williams will play immediately. He’ll be a big body inside.
This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 25.
• Elsewhere on this very site, you'll find a must-watch video of the Bucs cheerleaders doing a "Blurred Lines" video. I'll wait while you go watch it here. That photo is a sneak preview.
• Aaron Hernandez forfeited his freedom. Now he's forfeited his All-American brick at Florida.
• Speaking of tight ends from the state of Florida, FSU's Nick O'Leary absolutely shredded his motorcycle but somehow walked away. You'd think Jack Nicklaus' grandson could drive better than that.
• Kids and adults have differing perspectives on summer. Kids love it; adults wonder if they've actually died and gone to hell.
• Best part of a knucklehead rushing the field at a sporting event? Security guard bodyslam. Here's a video gallery.
• Check out this youth football de-cleating. Looks like a pee-wee remake of "The Waterboy."
• Updates on Tim Hudson's gruesome ankle injury. Don't watch the video if you've already eaten this morning.
• Brandon Moore, who put the "butt" in the "butt fumble," is retiring. That's just an excuse to link to my favorite NFL play of the last decade.
• Ranking the top 10 linebackers in the SEC. Guess who has the top two?
• Play of the night: The Rays turned a tasty double-play against the Sox.
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Miami, Ohio is making a pretty drastic switch to its uniforms for 2013.
And needless to say, it’s quite an interesting change, as the RedHawks are adding a chrome helmet with the block M in front (instead of the sides as in previous years). Miami is also adding the school’s name across the shoulder pads.
Credit Miami, Ohio for trying something different, but I think I would prefer the RedHawks old jerseys.
David Wright not only chopped a grounder to short during the Mets game against the Braves, but also chopped himself in the head. During the fourth inning, Wright's bat broke just as he was finishing up his swing, resulting in a nasty smack in the back of his head. From the video, it looks like has seeing stars.