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Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-breakout-players-2013

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

The Big Ten has plenty of candidates to project for a breakout year, including Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, Purdue running back Akeem Hunt and Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence. Gardner has plenty of buzz across the nation, but the junior is entering his first full season as the Wolverines’ No. 1 passer. Hunt should see an increase in rushing attempts this year and has a similar skill set to Kent State running back Dri Archer. Spence and teammate Adolphus Washington will be in charge of keeping the Buckeyes’ defense near the top of the Big Ten, which won’t be easy with four new starters on the defensive line.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

Big Ten Breakout Players for 2013

Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
If the Spartans are going to win the Big Ten Legends Division, it will have to be on the strength of their defense. Michigan State’s offense ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in points scored last year, and it’s hard to envision much improvement with the departure of running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims. The Spartans led the Big Ten in total defense last year, and with six starters back, this unit will be stingy once again. Junior Marcus Rush is an established performer at one end spot, but Michigan State is leaning on Calhoun to replace William Gholston. The New Jersey native impressed in limited action last season, recording six tackles and one sack in 13 contests. One of Calhoun’s top performances came in the bowl win over TCU, as he registered two tackles for a loss. The sophomore is still developing and will have to adjust to his first extended action this year. However, he could lead the Spartans’ defense in sacks and tackles for a loss in his first season as a starter.

Darian Cooper, DT, Iowa
Considering the Hawkeyes had three new starters on their defensive line last year, it was no surprise this unit ranked seventh in the Big Ten against the run and generated just 1.1 sacks per game. The line should be improved in 2013, especially with more depth across the end and tackle positions. Cooper started two games and appeared in all 12 contests last year, recording 34 tackles and one fumble recovery. The sophomore’s play got stronger as the year went on, and he should be an even bigger factor in the trenches with another offseason to work in the weight room and under coordinator Phil Parker.

Jon Davis, TE, Illinois
After a 2-10 season and some uncertainty on the depth chart, it’s not easy to get a read on the Fighting Illini this preseason. However, there are some signs to believe the offense will be better in 2013, especially with the addition of Bill Cubit as the playcaller. Davis caught 22 passes in 2011 but watched his numbers decline to just nine in '12. Cubit was effective at using the tight ends in the passing game during his tenure at Western Michigan, which bodes well for Davis’ chances at emerging as a factor in the offense this year.

Dan Feeney and Jason Spriggs, OL, Indiana
Feeney and Spriggs certainly aren’t unknown commodities to most teams in the Big Ten, but it’s time these two received some credit on the national level. Spriggs guarded the blindside for Indiana’s quarterbacks last fall, allowing just two sacks in 961 snaps. The Indiana native started all 12 games and was named to the Big Ten Network’s All-Freshman team. Feeney joined Spriggs as a key contributor as a true freshman, starting all 12 games and recording 54 knockdowns in 2012. Feeney did not allow a sack last year and is poised to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top guards in 2013. As a former offensive lineman, coach Kevin Wilson certainly knows how to develop a unit capable of ranking among the best in the Big Ten. If Feeney and Spriggs build off their success, both players could be in the mix for All-American honors going into the 2014 season.

Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
With Devin Gardner set to assume the full-time quarterback job, the Wolverines will use more of a pro-style offense in 2013. Gardner proved he is ready to emerge as one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks after a strong finish to the year, and now Michigan needs to find a few dependable receivers this fall to complement Jeremy Gallon. Funchess could emerge as the team’s No. 2 target after catching 15 passes for 234 yards and five scores as a true freshman last year. The 6-foot-5 target should be a valuable weapon over the middle and in the red zone for Gardner and could easily double his 2012 numbers.

Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
Considering his performance to close 2012, it’s a bit of a stretch to put Gardner on this list. Filling in for an injured Denard Robinson in the final five games, Gardner recorded 18 touchdowns during that span and threw for 314 yards in a win over Iowa. With Gardner now entrenched as the full-time starter, and Robinson playing in the NFL, the Wolverines will transition to more of a pro-style approach on offense. Michigan’s offensive line and receiving corps needs work, but Gardner will be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks by the end of 2013.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Despite losing Montee Ball, the Badgers aren’t too worried about their rushing attack. With Gordon and James White returning, it’s easy to see why running back is near the bottom of concerns for new coach Gary Andersen. After rushing for 98 yards as a freshman in 2011, Gordon gashed opposing defenses for 621 yards on 62 attempts last fall, averaging 10 yards a carry. His best performance came against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship, recording 216 yards on nine attempts. Gordon will split carries with White, but the junior should finish as the Badgers’ leading rusher this year.

Akeem Hunt, RB, Purdue
New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell developed Kent State’s offense into one of the nation's most productive rushing attacks last year, finishing 18th at 225.8 yards per game. With an unsettled quarterback situation, the Boilermakers need a big season from their ground game, which is likely to be headlined by Hunt. The 5-foot-9 back resembles Kent State standout Dri Archer, and Purdue hopes he has a similar impact in 2013. Hunt rushed for 335 yards, caught 13 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 22.2 yards on 39 kickoff returns last year. Expect Hunt to play a similar all-around role in 2013, but he also will see a significant increase in carries.

Philip Nelson, QB, Minnesota
It’s easy to pick the quarterback in the breakout players column, but it’s also hard to ignore the progress that Nelson made in limited action last year. The Minnesota native was thrown into the fire as a true freshman in 2012 and finished the year with 873 passing yards and eight scores, along with 184 yards on the ground. Nelson was steady in the bowl game against Texas Tech, completing 7 of 16 passes for 138 yards. His best performance came against Purdue last year, as he threw three touchdown passes on 22 attempts. Nelson isn’t likely to challenge for All-Big Ten honors, but the sophomore should continue to make progress in his first full year as the No. 1 quarterback. Minnesota fans are familiar with Nelson’s potential, but the rest of the Big Ten should get a good look at his talents with a jump in production in 2013.

Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern
Even though Northwestern loses two starters on the defensive line, this unit could be just as effective in 2013. A big reason why the coaching staff has confidence in this group is the emergence of Odenigbo. A shoulder injury sidelined him after the third game of 2012, but the redshirt freshman is expected to be back at full strength in 2013. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Odenigbo has the size and speed to be one of the team’s top pass rushers, giving Northwestern a potent one-two end combination with the return of senior Tyler Scott on the other side.

James Ross III, LB, Michigan
With Jake Ryan recovering from a torn ACL and not expected to return until October, the Wolverines need the rest of the linebacking corps to step up this fall. And there’s plenty of help on the way from Ross, who was one of the Big Ten’s top freshmen defenders last year. In 13 contests in 2012, Ross recorded 36 tackles. The sophomore has excellent athleticism and instincts and is expected to man the weakside for coordinator Greg Mattison in 2013. There’s no question Michigan will miss Ryan’s play and leadership. However, Ross is more than capable of filling those voids until Ryan is ready to return.

David Santos, LB, Nebraska
With only one returning starter, Nebraska’s front seven is getting a facelift this fall. The coaching staff hopes the return of Zaire Anderson from injury will help ease the transition to the new starters, but there’s plenty of interest in the development of Santos. As a redshirt freshman last year, he played in a reserve role, recording 24 tackles and one forced fumble. With a full offseason to work as the starter, Santos should emerge as a leader for Nebraska’s linebacking corps.

Donovan Smith, OT, Penn State
Whether it’s Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson starting at quarterback for Penn State, the Nittany Lions will have a strong supporting cast. The offensive line developed into one of the Big Ten’s best last season, allowing just 21 sacks in 12 contests. Two starters must be replaced, but Penn State is counting on Smith to keep the line performing at a high level. The sophomore struggled with an injury early in the year but finished with nine starts. With another year to work under line coach Mac McWhorter, Smith is poised to take the next step in his development this year and has all of the tools to be a dominant left tackle for Penn State.

Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
The Buckeyes have no shortage of talent on the roster, but the defensive line is a concern with four new starters stepping into the lineup. Spence and Washington are expected to be the new leaders for the line in 2013, as both players were top-30 recruits in the 2012 signing class and impressed in limited action last year. Spence recorded 12 tackles and one sack in 11 appearances, while Washington recorded nine tackles and three sacks in 10 games. The Big Ten is thin on proven talent at defensive end, but players like Spence and Washington could turn this position into a strength by October.

Jamal Turner, WR, Nebraska
With several new faces stepping into the starting lineup on defense, Nebraska may need to win a couple of shootouts this year. And with quarterback Taylor Martinez, running back Ameer Abdullah and receiver Kenny Bell returning, there’s certainly no shortage of firepower in Lincoln. The offense could be even deadlier in 2013, as Turner is poised to take the next step in his development as a receiver. After beginning his career as a quarterback, Turner nabbed 15 receptions as a freshman and boosted his total to 32 catches for 417 yards and three scores in 2012. Don’t expect Turner to overtake Bell as the No. 1 receiver, but with another year to get acclimated to receiver, look for the junior to increase his reception totals and yardage in 2013.

Dan Vitale, TE, Northwestern
The Wildcats return 15 starters, so there’s not a ton of room for unproven players to find a major role on the team in 2013. Sophomore cornerback Nick VanHoose is due to raise his profile even more this year, but we’ll pick Vitale, who is flying under the radar after a solid freshman campaign. Last season, Vitale caught 28 passes for 288 yards and two scores, with 16 of his receptions coming in two of the final three games. Northwestern needs more consistency out of its receiving corps in 2013, and help for quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian could start with Vitale’s continued development.

Dan Voltz, C, Wisconsin
Developing All-Big Ten linemen wasn’t a problem under Barry Alvarez and Bret Bielema, and that trend should continue under new coach Gary Andersen. After spending 2012 as a redshirt, Voltz is expected to start at center this season. Voltz has some big shoes to fill, as he replaces Travis Frederick – one of the Big Ten’s top linemen in 2012. Voltz was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals in the class of 2012 and all signs point to the Illinois native emerging as a future standout for the Badgers.

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Big Ten Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:18
Path: /college-football/virginia-tech-football-game-game-predictions-2013

The Coastal Division is up for grabs in 2013, as Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami all have a strong case to be picked No. 1 this preseason.

The Hokies regressed from one of the ACC’s top title contenders to a 7-6 team last year. Virginia Tech also won three of its games in overtime, including a 13-10 victory over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

After being a model of consistency in the ACC, are the Hokies ready to return to the top? Or is Virginia Tech on the decline?

The answer to that question might reside on the hire of Scot Loeffler as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Loeffler’s one-year stint at Auburn was a struggle, but he did not have the talent to run a pro-style attack. Is Loeffler the right answer at Virginia Tech? Only time well tell, but Loeffler’s assignment isn’t easy, especially since the Hokies have question marks at each level of the offense in 2013.

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

Virginia Tech's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 Alabama (Atlanta) 
9/7 Western Carolina 
9/14 at East Carolina 
9/21 Marshall 
9/26 at Georgia Tech 
10/5 North Carolina 
10/12 Pittsburgh 
10/26 Duke 
11/2 at Boston College 
11/9 at Miami 
11/16 Maryland 
11/30 at Virginia 
Final Projection9-39-39-39-310-29-3 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Was 2012 just a small speed bump for Virginia Tech or a sign of things to come? That’s the big question in Blacksburg this offseason, as the Hokies have won at least 10 games in eight out of the last nine years but struggled to get to a bowl game last season. With the return of nine starters on defense, a wide-open Coastal Division and no Florida State or Clemson on the schedule, Virginia Tech should be in the mix to play for the conference championship once again. For the Hokies to get back into ACC title contention, the offense has to show some signs of life. Was Scot Loeffler the right person to fix the offense and quarterback Logan Thomas? I’m not so sure. Although Thomas has to cut down on his interceptions, Virginia Tech needs to identify a couple of playmakers at receiver, find a No. 1 running back and stabilize the offensive line. Until the offense improves, expect the Hokies to lean prominently on the defense, especially in early-season matchups against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. I could see Virginia Tech finishing 8-4 with an upset loss at Virginia or even at home to North Carolina. However, I’m guessing the Hokies find just enough offense to finish 9-3 and push Miami for the Coastal title.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
The opener against Alabama could set a very bad tone for this season in Blacksburg, even with the rebound game against Western Carolina right after. Don't sleep on the back-to-back contests against Marshall and ECU, either -- the Herd and Pirates are two of the best teams in Conference USA and with powerful offenses, may simply be able to outscore the Hokies if the timing's right. Still, with that defense, Virginia Tech has ample opportunities to win all over this schedule. So long as the offense can score 25 (no guarantee), they should be in position to emerge victorious in most contests. But that's all up to Logan Thomas. Can he regain his 2011 form? We'll see.

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),
My confidence in Virginia Tech is based on the track records of Frank Beamer and Bud Foster more than anything. The defense returns nine starters, has talent in the front seven and boasts a potentially great ACC cornerback duo in Antone Exum, provided he is able to get fully healthy, and Kyle Fuller. The defense will also be aided by the return of inside linebacker Tariq Edwards, a 2011 starter who missed all of last year, and the reported offseason turnaround from defensive end J.R. Collins, who was an All-ACC honorable mention in 2011. While I do give Beamer and Foster the benefit of the doubt, I never thought quarterback Logan Thomas deserved all of the hype he got last summer and he showed to be the singal caller I thought he was last year. He has even less help this season than 2012, when he threw for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 picks. It’s up to inexperienced playmakers to step forward on offense. Playing at East Carolina will be tougher than it appears on the surface and winning at Georgia Tech on a short week is no easy task.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Logan Thomas is simply too talented and the Bud Foster led defense is simply too salty for this team to be as bad in 2013 as it was in 2012. Will it rebound to win the division and return to the title game with road games at Georgia Tech and Miami? I say no. But missing both Florida State and Clemson in crossover play gives this team as good a chance of winning the division as any other. The hiring of Scott Loeffler to run the offense is one of the most important hires of the offseason nationally and will go a long way to saving Thomas' legacy and returning Frank Beamer to coaching prominence.

Mark Ross
As disappointing a season as Virginia Tech had last year, the reality is the Hokies still went to (and won) a bowl game and have plenty of talent returning this fall. It will be up to quarterback Logan Thomas to bounce back in a new offensive system, but he can't do it all alone. The running game must be more consistent and playmakers need to step up and emerge in the passing attack.

Despite the many questions on offense, I still believe this team can win the ACC Coastal and contend for an ACC title because of its defense. A unit that finished in the top 20 nationally last season returns nine starters and adds some highly touted recruits to what will be without question the strength of this season's team. If the offense, led by Thomas, can even show marginal improvement, this team could win 10 games in the regular season.

Obviously opening up with defending national champion Alabama is a tough task, but it also could help prepare Frank Beamer's squad for the rest of its slate. In ACC play, the road games at Georgia Tech and Miami, along with the home dates with North Carolina and Pittsburgh appear to be the most important. This is especially the case considering last season the Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets by three points at home in overtime and lost to the Hurricanes, Tar Heels and Panthers by a combined 50 points.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s tough to see Virginia Tech going 7-6 again, so I suppose I’ve given Frank Beamer the benefit of the doubt. The Hokies had their problems last season: Logan Thomas regressed, and Tech had three-game stretch at Clemson, at Miami and against Florida State that would have been tough for anyone. That’s why I’m picking a rebound year of sorts. The Hokies won’t beat Alabama, and Miami’s going to have one of the few offensive teams that can give the Hokies defense trouble. And why Maryland? Every ACC team will lose a game that makes little sense (Virginia Tech did it against Pitt last year). Maryland’s going to be better, provided the Terrapins make it to November with their quarterbacks intact.

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Virginia Tech Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Ole Miss Rebels, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/ole-miss-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Coming off a 2-10 record, Ole Miss entered 2012 with low expectations. Despite beginning the season with question marks on both sides of the ball and a new coach in Hugh Freeze, the Rebels were one of the SEC’s biggest surprises, recording a 7-6 overall record, which led to one of the nation’s top recruiting classes.

The SEC West is one of the most challenging divisions in college football, so it won’t be easy for Ole Miss to take another step forward in 2013. The talent level is on the rise in Oxford, so the future looks bright for Freeze, especially as he looks to turn the Rebels into a consistent top-25 team.

With 15 starters back, Ole Miss is positioned to make another run at a winning record in 2013. However, the schedule isn’t easy, and the Rebels hope quarterback Bo Wallace is 100 percent after offseason shoulder surgery. 

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

Ole Miss' 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/29 at Vanderbilt 
9/7 SEMO 
9/14 at Texas 
9/28 at Alabama 
10/5 at Auburn 
10/12 Texas A&M 
10/19 LSU 
10/26 Idaho 
11/9 Arkansas 
11/16 Troy 
11/23 Missouri 
11/28 at Mississippi State 
Final Projection7-56-69-37-57-59-3 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s no question Ole Miss is on the right track under the direction of second-year coach Hugh Freeze. However, considering how challenging the schedule is, it’s possible the Rebels are a better team in 2013 than they were in 2012, but it may not show in the win column. The Rebels have road games at Vanderbilt, Texas, Alabama and Auburn, along with a season finale at Mississippi State. In addition to the schedule, quarterback Bo Wallace is coming off shoulder surgery, which did not go well for Missouri and James Franklin last year. Assuming Wallace can return to full strength, the Rebels offense will once again average over 30 points a game in 2013. With the addition of a top-notch recruiting class, Ole Miss should have more depth in the program, which is crucial to challenging the top three in the SEC West. Expect more improvement from the Rebels, but a tough schedule will prevent this program from surpassing last year’s win total.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Hugh Freeze has this program trending in the right direction after taking an 0-8 team and winning three SEC games last year. The long-term trajectory of the Rebels has to have fans excited about the future. However, one historic recruiting class doesn't close the gap between teams competing for national titles and one that couldn't even win a game two years ago. Depth is still a major concern if this team is expecting to compete with the big boys. I believe Ole Miss is good enough to pull an upset or two — and am calling for a win over LSU — but it also faces one of the toughest schedules in the league. Expect a similar year to last fall with expectations growing for the 2014 squad.

SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
2011: 2-10, fired Houston Nutt
2012: 7-6, Egg Bowl win and a bowl victory
2013: Top 10 recruiting class
Is it crazy to think this team can go 9-3?  Yes, yes it is. Last year they averaged 424 YPG and 31.5 PPG. It’s no doubt they can score, and a key to this year’s success will be returning starter Bo Wallace, one of the most underrated QBs in the SEC. Yes, Bo’s 17 INTs from last year scare me too. With all that fresh talent coming to Oxford, how does it translate to playing time on defense? I worry about growing pains. Name to remember: Denzel Nkemdiche, LB

Mark Ross
Ole Miss has a chance to make a huge opening statement by beating Vanderbilt on the road, which would greatly increase the Rebels' chances of surviving their early-season slate. Besides the Commodores, the Rebels also have to play Texas and Alabama on the road before the calendar turns to October. Hugh Freeze's team must find a way to not only build some momentum, but also stay healthy, through this stretch or it else it could be a long season in Oxford.

That said, with at least seven starters returning on both sides of the ball and a highly regarded recruiting class coming in, I think these Rebels right the ship starting in October and finish fairly strong. The key games are back-to-back home games with Texas A&M and LSU and of course the season-ending Egg Bowl at Mississippi State. Find a way to win at least two of these matchups and Ole Miss could be one of the SEC's biggest surprises in 2013.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
There are three critical games on Ole Miss’ schedule, and all are on the road: Vanderbilt, Auburn and Mississippi State. Vanderbilt is a coin-flip game that’s going to be a key momentum game for both teams (Ole Miss lost by 1 last season). Mississippi State is the obvious rivalry game and one the Rebels haven’t won in back-to-back seasons since 2002-04. And then Auburn is a swing game that will be a key gut-check, especially if Ole Miss loses to Texas and Alabama. The Rebels on paper are the better team, beating the Tigers 41-20 last season. But stuck in between Alabama and Texas A&M, that game could be a major problem. Despite all the optimism surrounding last season and the signing class, Ole Miss could start 1-6. I don’t think the Rebels will do that, but the schedule isn’t really conducive to a hot start.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
I see an up-and-down season coming for Ole Miss. The Rebels will be tested right out of the gate when they open on the road against Vanderbilt. Both teams are trying to capitalize on last year’s momentum. Ole Miss will begin a brutal five-game stretch on Sept. 14, starting with Texas on the road. I have Ole Miss winning two of those five games (at Auburn, LSU), which should make fans happy considering the level of competition. Ole Miss will have a chance for a strong finish. Like last year, the outcome of the Egg Bowl will greatly affect how the Rebels’ season is judged. That’s actually the case every year.


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Ole Miss Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-sec

The difference between the SEC and other conferences, at least on the field, is often the play on the offensive and defensive lines. Recent national championship programs at Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Florida all had standout line play.

Then perhaps it’s no surprise that of the six players we’ve tabbed as pivotal to a conference or division title, five play offensive and defensive line. Three are pass rushers, one is a nose guard and one is an offensive tackle. Teams like Alabama, Georgia and LSU seem to be stocked in linemen every year, but there’s always an element of mystery when the new names take the field.

Some of our picks for pivotal players are obvious, such as Alabama’s offensive line, other are not — why does South Carolina need another defensive end? — but we feel all six are critical for a trip to Atlanta.

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

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

Julien Obioha, DE, Texas A&M
The Aggies must replace offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft, and receiving mainstay Ryan Swope. But another major loss will be on the defensive side of the ball in Damontre Moore. Obioha started throughout the regular season opposite Moore before a back injury knocked him out of the bowl game. He isn’t the only question on A&M’s defensive front, but the Aggies need much more than his 1.5 tackles for a loss from last season. The 6-4, 255-pound sophomore from New Orleans will be put on the spot on Sept. 14 against the green Alabama offensive line.

Jermauria Rasco, DE, LSU
Rasco is the latest in an endless pool of elite defensive linemen in Baton Rouge. Names like Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are already getting thrown around in comparison to the junior from Shreveport. Three LSU defensive ends were drafted in the first five rounds last season, but Rasco is one of the reasons the SEC expects LSU to continue to field one of the league’s best defenses.

Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
Mike Gillislee is a major loss, but Matt Jones and others should give the Gators a productive ground game. Instead, we’ll focus on receiver. The Gators have had a drought at the position in recent seasons, failing to produce an all-league wideout in the last four years. Robinson, a freshman, is a sign of hope after an impressive spring practice. The Gators need someone to break out at receiver, and Robinson is the best candidate to come around so far.

Austin Shepherd, OT, Alabama
Ryan Kelly (center) and Arie Kouandjio (left guard) have all but locked down vacant positions on the Tide’s offensive line, leaving right tackle as the most hotly contested position. Shepherd is a veteran backup, but he’s being pushed by junior college transfer Leon Brown.

Chaz Sutton, DE, South Carolina
South Carolina has bigger questions in the back end of its defense, but Jadeveon Clowney’s linemate may be the most important position on the field. Sutton replaces Devin Taylor, who had 18.5 career sacks. Sutton had three sacks last season, but if he can’t keep opponents honest, they’ll do everything they can to neutralize Clowney. Sutton, who had three sacks last season, may be the key if Clowney is going to flourish in 2013.

Mike Thornton, NT, Georgia
Georgia’s season could take a major swing based on the first two games against Clemson and South Carolina. In the Tigers and Gamecocks, Georgia faces two offensive lines that return every starter except their center. That puts the focus on the Bulldogs’ nose guard situation with John Jenkins. The Bulldogs expect a rotation at the position, but Thornton is the leading candidate despite being smaller than the other nose tackles on the roster (6-1, 302).

Six players who could make their teams SEC champions
Post date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 07:00
Path: /college-football/carlos-hydes-bar-fight-video-released

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde received some good news on Tuesday, as the Columbus police department indicated no charges would be filed in a recent bar incident. The woman involved in the fight declined to press charges against Hyde.

Hyde’s status is still uncertain for 2013, but it appears he will avoid a dismissal or major suspension.

With no charges filed, the video from the bar was released on Tuesday. It’s not easy to discern what happens in the incident, but it does not appear Hyde hits the woman after an argument.

Check out the video from Carlos Hyde's bar incident:


Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 16:25
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-7-amazing-stats-pocono

Are you prepared for Indianapolis, Part 2?

A long-standing belief across NASCAR shops is that what works at big, flat Indianapolis Motor Speedway also works at big, flat Pocono Raceway. Statistically, it’s true. A study on this year proved that the two facilities closely correlate (with a comparatively high coefficient of 0.465) in results getting.

So in terms of both mechanical setup and actual results, the two tracks offer heavy similarities. But goodness, what took place between June at Pocono and last week at Indianapolis was just crazy beans.

6  Six drivers — Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch and Joey Logano — finished inside the top 10 at both Pocono and Indianapolis this season.

Going a step deeper, Juan Pablo Montoya finished 14th at Pocono and ninth at Indianapolis. Similarly close, Kurt Busch finished seventh at Pocono and 14th at Indy, while Jeff Gordon finished 12th and seventh. This is all a numerical way of saying that the win this weekend at Pocono will come from someone that was a strong performer last week at the Brickyard. For some drivers, though, success at multiple tracks should no longer be considered surprising.

7.500 Johnson leads NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in PEER — a measure of performance in equal equipment — at Pocono with a 7.500 rating.

He led 128 out of 160 laps (80 percent) of June’s race and won without — and I’m assuming here — breaking a sweat. His Hendrick-powered No. 48 car ranked first in average green-flag speed by a half of a mile an hour. Unless he forgets the act of being a race car driver between now and Sunday, it’s close to a forgone conclusion that the win goes through Johnson.

100%  In the June race at Pocono, Johnson retained position from the preferred groove 100 percent of the time on six restarts.  Jimmie Johnson will win this restart.

Restarts were easy sailing for a guy who calls restarts the weakest facet of his game. Note that just three drivers – Josh Wise, Sam Hornish and Trevor Bayne – don’t retain position from that groove the majority of the time this season. Where Johnson struggles in general, and last time at Pocono, is the non-preferred groove. He gave up two positions in the non-preferred groove in his only attempt during June’s race.

5.167  Newman, last week’s winner at Indianapolis, is also adept on Pocono’s relatively fresh surface, with a 5.167 PEER (ranks fourth in the series) through three races on it.

What does that span include? Finishes of 12th, sixth and fifth. His most recent outing (the fifth-place score) came in a 19 laps-led performance in which he held onto the second-place spot until a three-lap drop on the lap 142 restart.

3 for 3  Stewart and his No. 14 team are the only entry to score top-5 finishes in all three Pocono races on the current surface.  Tony Stewart

He hasn’t scored a win yet, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from thinking he is capable of such. He has yet to lead, but he was able to pass sufficiently — a 56.12 percent clip — in that race, which bucks his poor passing trend this season. To date, he is a minus-passer (48.99 percent efficiency) for the first time in five years. Evidently, for him, racing and passing will coalesce this weekend at Pocono.

58.64%  Juan Pablo Montoya earned the highest passing rate in the last race at Pocono.

I’m guessing Indianapolis offers one turn too many for Montoya, because he had a minus-passing day last week (46.43 percent). In June, he worked traffic like a speed bag but finished just 14th. If he can climb high enough in the running order and avoid attack from the statistically imbalanced double-file restart monster, a good day in the Poconos could be on the horizon for the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing driver.

46.83  In order to safely earn one of the top 10 automatic spots in the Chase, Aric Almirola must average a take of 46.83 points per race (i.e. win out) in the remaining six events.

Sure, he has a shade over a 24 percent chance of making the Chase with his predicted point total; however, it’s an awfully tall task, especially considering his three finishes in the last three races at Pocono are an unimpressive 28th, 18th and 21st. His only path to the Chase is to finish inside the top 20 in driver points (he’s in 17th right now) and score at least two wins (which would be unprecedented for him). The bubble driver is Richard Petty Motorsports’ best chance this year for a playoff spot, which would end a three-year organization-wide drought since Kasey Kahne did it in 2009.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

David Smith is the founder of Motorsports Analytics LLC and the creator of NASCAR statistics for projections, analysis and scouting. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidSmithMA.

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 15:23
Path: /12-amazing-mlb-stats-week-july-22-28

The Cardinals’ bats go silent in Atlanta, Jeter returns with a homer, Chris Sale’s tough luck continues and Colorado just can’t win three in a row. These fantastic figures and more amazing MLB stats for the week of July 22-28.

1-8    Record for Chris Sale since the beginning of June

During that time, the tough-luck lefty of the White Sox owns a 2.84 ERA, 1.096 WHIP and opponents are batting just .232.

66    Shutouts by lefthanders against the Red Sox at Fenway Park

In the 102-year history of Fenway Park, there have been just 66 complete game shutouts by left-handed pitchers against the Sox. Matt Moore of the Rays is the latest lefty to shut down the Sox in Boston after his gem last Monday night.

7    Remaining games for Atlanta against winning teams

The Atlanta Braves have 57 games remianing this season, but only seven of them will be against teams that currently have a winning record. The Braves will face the Cardinals — a team they just swept — four times in St. Louis, and Cleveland three times at home.

10    RBIs for Michael Bourn over his last four games

Batting in the leadoff spot for Cleveland, Michael Bourn has been an RBI machine recently.

28    Games the New York Yankees went without a right-handed home run

From June 26-July 27, the Bronx Bombers hit a scant 10 home runs, all of them by left-handed hitters. Robinson Cano led the charge with five, Lyle Overbay hit three and Ichiro Suzuki connected twice. On Sunday, right-handed batters Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano both swatted long balls to break the month-long drought.

13:0    Jose Fernandez’s strikeout:walk ratio vs. Pirates
Last week, the Marlins’ young ace won two games and was devastating to Pittsburgh hitters. In eight innings against the Bucs, he whiffed 13 without walking a batter.

5    Saves for Steve Cishek
Last week, the Miami Marlins closer was busy holding leads for the Fish, something of a rarity this season. Not that Cishek hasn’t been able to hold leads, it’s just that his teammates have given him so few leads to hold. Going into last week the closer had 17 saves. In five appearances last week, he added five to his total.

.154    Cardinals’ batting average in weekend series at Atlanta
St. Louis brought the league’s best offense into Atlanta over the weekend and left with a bat rack full of termites. Atlanta pitchers held St. Louis hitters to a .154 average and just three runs in the three games. Cardinals batters whiffed 22 times and walked three times, grounding into as many double plays (3) as runs.

0.36    Max Scherzer’s WHIP last week
The big righthander tossed two gems last week logging 14 innings and allowing just five hits and no walks for a 0.36 WHIP. He struck out 12 batters and is now 15-1 on the season with a 3.01 ERA.


.196    Indians’ opponents’ batting average last week
The Cleveland pitching staff held opponents to a .196 average and .289 slugging last week, which included two shutouts over Texas.

48    Games since Colorado won three in a row
The Rockies haven’t managed to win three games in succession since way back in May. Tyler Chatwood pitched six shutout innings and the Rockies roughed up Tim Lincecum to win three in a row to improve to 27-21 on the season. Since then, the Rox have won back-to-back games seven times, yet failed to win a third. The drought is the longest current stretch in the majors.

.199    Phillies’ batting average last week
The Philadelphia hitters struggled mightily last week during the trip to St. Louis and Detroit. They batted just .199 with only eight extra-base hits and 10 runs in the six games, all losses.

The Cardinals’ bats go silent in Atlanta, Jeter returns with a homer, Chris Sale’s tough luck continues and Colorado just can’t win three in a row. These fantastic figures and more amazing MLB stats for the week of July 22-28.
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 15:05
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-30

One day closer to August, which means the start of the 2013 season isn't far away.

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 Tuesday, July 30th

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

A Kentucky assistant coach had an interesting (and later deleted) tweet.

In case you missed it, Arizona picked up Texas quarterback transfer Connor Brewer.

Kevin McGuire takes a look at Cincinnati's victory in the great lobster feast at the American Athletic Conference's Media Days.

Patrick Hruby has some strong words for the NCAA and Mark Emmert on concussions.

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

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

Saturday Blitz takes a look at the rise of Stanford.

Georgia coach Mark Richt issues a strong defense of the Bulldogs' drug testing policy.

Here's an interesting analysis piece on no-huddle offenses and the impact on defenses.

All charges from a recent incident have been dropped against Maryland running back Wes Brown.

California's defense faces a tough transition from the 3-4 to the 4-3.

The strength of Syracuse's offense in 2013 will be its running back corps.

Wisconsin's secondary has some major question marks to address this fall.

Here's a preview of Louisville's defensive line for 2013.

What are the five biggest questions for Tennessee to answer this fall?

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

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

Saturday Down South takes a look at the coaching staffs in the SEC.

Awful Announcing takes a look at the Pac-12 Networks and the standoff with Direct TV. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear there will be an agreement anytime soon.

Pittsburgh quarterback Tra'Von Chapman has to serve three days in jail due after pleading guilty to an attempted assault charge.

College Football's Link Roundup: July 30
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 15:00
Path: /college-football/rutgers-retire-eric-legrands-no-52-jersey

Rutgers will retire the jersey number of defensive lineman Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed in 2010 while making a tackle. The school, which played in the first college football game in history in 1869, has never retired a number until now.

Rutgers will honor LeGrand by retiring his No. 52 during a ceremony at halftime during the Eastern Michigan game.

Scarlet Knights sports information director Jason Baum tweeted: “Once Eric walks again, his No. 52 will be issued again on special occasions.”

LeGrand's jersey is first to be retired in school history
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 12:08
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-30-2013

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 30.


• Here's a countdown of the hottest golfers to appear on The Golf Channel's Big Break reality show. My takeaway: I gotta start watching Big Break.


This guy's torso is illustrated as only a Pittsburgh fan's can be.


SI sounds the death knell on the A-Rod era.


Ranking the SEC coaching staffs. Not surprisingly, it's pretty similar to the actual rankings.


• Not everyone can say they broke a record held by Hank Aaron. Jason Giambi can.


• It's Packers training camp's most popular interactive game: Eddie Lacy - Fat or Not Fat?


Clayton Kershaw is upset that Pluto is no longer a planet. His great uncle discovered it, after all.


• The trend toward personality-branded sports websites continues: I see your Peter King website and raise you a Peter Gammons.


Do you know Bill Paxton from Bill Pullman? Find out by taking this quiz.


Josh McDaniels says Tim Tebow is in New England to play quarterback. If that's true, Tim Tebow may not see the field in 2013.


Hawk Harrelson: still on the leading edge of baseball analysis.


• The ump blew a call in last night's Rays-Red Sox game. As a result, the Rays are in first this morning.



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

Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 10:42
All taxonomy terms: Arizona Wildcats, College Football, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/connor-brewer-transfers-arizona

Former Texas quarterback Connor Brewer has picked his next home. The redshirt freshman left Austin this summer and committed to play for Arizona and coach Rich Rodriguez on Monday night.

Brewer’s decision to transfer to Arizona comes as no surprise, as he played his high school ball in Chaparral, which is just outside of Tucson. Brewer was rated as a four-star recruit by Rivals and ranked as the No. 9 quarterback prospect in the 2012 signing class by Athlon Sports.

Brewer isn’t a prototypical Rich Rodriguez quarterback, as he lacks the dynamic mobility of a Pat White or Denard Robinson. However, Brewer isn’t a statue in the pocket and certainly has the talent to be an effective quarterback for Arizona.

With Brewer’s decision to transfer to Arizona, the Wildcats are loaded with talent at the quarterback position. Former USC signal-caller Jesse Scroggins arrived on campus in the spring, and true freshman Anu Solomon is expected to push for the starting spot this fall. Senior B.J. Denker is expected to start, but Solomon and Scroggins will be in the mix.

It’s never a bad thing to have a couple of quarterbacks on the roster. Considering how difficult this position is to evaluate on the recruiting trail or the need to have a quality backup, Arizona’s decision to take Brewer in a transfer is one that could pay off for Rodriguez and his staff.

Connor Brewer Transfers to Arizona
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 10:02
Path: /overtime/justin-masterson-gets-doused-and-pelted-seeds-during-interview

Ah, the old annoy-the-crap-out-of-your-teammate-during-an-interview gag. It's as much a part of baseball as home plate. To see it at its finest, watch as the Indians' Justin Masterson is interviewed while his teammates pelt him with sunflower seeds, peanut shells and hose him with water.


Watch as the Indians' Justin Masterson is interviewed while his teammates pelt him with sunflower seeds, peanut shells and hose him with water.
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 09:05
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-big-12s-top-freshmen-transfers-and-more-2013-14

With one school claiming the top three returning scorers in the Big 12, the rest of the league will depend on newcomers to challenge Oklahoma State’s veteran roster.

Nowhere is that more clear than at Kansas where the Jayhawks’ outlook changed in an instant when super-freshman Andrew Wiggins signed to play for Bill Self. He’s not the only big-time newcomer going to Lawrence, but he might be the most important new face for any team in the country.

Beyond Kansas and Oklahoma State, the league’s two frontrunners, other teams are counting on transfers to keep them in NCAA contention (Iowa State) or to return them to the field after a rare one-year drought (West Virginia, Texas).

Our series has looked at the key transfers, freshmen and players returning from injury in the ACC and the American. Now we take a look at the new faces in the Big 12.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Before March 3, Kansas’ streak of nine seasons with at least a share of the Big 12 title was in question. After March 3, the Jayhawks became an instant top-10 contender with the signing of Wiggins. He’s the presumptive No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and he’s already predicted to be the next Kevin Durant in the college game. Like Durant, Wiggins is a long forward who can play all over the court. The bar is high — Durant averaged 25.8 points per game and 11.1 rebounds in one season at Texas — but Wiggins can reach it.

DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
Marshall transfer
Few teams have had more success in the transfer market than Iowa State. The Cyclones have added Royce White and Will Clyburn for NCAA Tournament runs, and now Iowa State adds Kane. Kane was a major recruit to sign with Marshall, but the Thundering Herd never made the NCAA Tournament despite Kane’s 15.6 points per game average in three seasons. The statsheet stuffer averaged 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, including seven helpers per game last season.

Tarik Black, Kansas
Memphis transfer
Black wasn’t the top player on a Memphis team that lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t make him any less of a coveted transfer after the season. He averaged 8.1 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Tigers, but Kansas believes he can provide a physical presence for the Jayhawks’ frontcourt. After Kansas lost all five starters, Black's experience will be an asset.

Kenny Chery, Baylor
Junior college transfer
With center Isaiah Austin returning, Baylor’s biggest hole to fill was left by point guard Pierre Jackson. The Bears will fill it with Chery, a productive point guard from the junior college ranks. He averaged 16.4 points per game at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Mo., but he’s going to have to be a distributor with Baylor’s talent in the frontcourt plus long-range shooter Brady Heslip.

Jonathan Holton, West Virginia
Junior college transfer
Bob Huggins will try his hand at another Atlantic 10 product in the frontcourt after La Salle’s Aaric Murray flamed out in Morgantown this past season. Holton averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 rebounds at Rhode Island in 2011-12 before going to junior college. In 2013-14, he could be West Virginia’s top player, but he also has off-court issues in his past. Holton pleaded no contest to charges of voyeurism in May and was placed on probation.

Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Joel Embiid, Kansas
Wiggins and Black were the latest additions to Kansas’ group of newcomers, but it would be foolish to overlook the rest of the No. 2 signing class in the country after Kentucky. Selden will see plenty of minutes with his ability to play point guard and shooting guard, especially if Naadir Tharpe can’t hold down the point. Embiid is raw but an outstanding shot-blocker, while Greene and Frankamp will give KU a presence from 3-point range.

Kendal Yancy-Harris, Texas
Texas is looking for any answer it can find after collapsing to 16-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big 12 last season. Yancy-Harris is ready to contribute immediately, but the Longhorns have not had the best recent track record with highly touted guards, from Avery Bradley to Cory Joseph to Myck Kabongo.

Karviar Shepherd, TCU
Shepherd's season was in limbo until the weekend, when he was declared academically eligible to play for the Frogs. The 6-10, 225-pound center is a top-100 recruit leading a freshman class the Frogs hope will turn around the program in the Big 12.

Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma
Gonzaga transfer

Spangler averaged only 6.6 minutes per game in his time at Gonzaga, but he’s being asked to fill the shoes of All-Big 12 performer Romero Osby with the Sooners. Osby has given Spangler, who starred in high school at Blanchard (Okla.) Bridge Creek, a resounding seal of approval.

Devin Williams, West Virginia
The Mountaineers' top signee comes from Huggins’ old stomping grounds in Cincinnati and could be a key building block as West Virginia tries to regain its footing in the Big 12. The 6-8 power forward also considered Ohio State and Memphis, but he could be a force in the paint for West Virginia as a rookie.

Amric Fields, TCU
Returning from injury
TCU is going to struggle, but the outlook is better with Shepherd and Fields available. TCU is looking to Fields to make a full recovery from a knee injury that knocked him out after the third week of the season. Before his injury, the 6-9, 220-pound Fields had played in 69 consecutive games, averaging 9.6 points per game as a sophomore.

Other new faces to watch:

Ishmael Wainright, Baylor

Baylor’s top recruit could fill a spot immediately on the wing. The Bears also added Denver transfer Royce O’Neal (11.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg last season) to boost depth at small forward.

Stevie Clark, Oklahoma State
Clark may become a big-time scorer, but for now he’s backing up Marcus Smart at the point.

Gary Gaskins, Oklahoma State
Junior college transfer

The Cowboys have a handful of athletic forwards starting with Mike Cobbins and Kamari Murphy, but the 6-10 Gaskins will offer more help off the bench.

Trey Zeigler, TCU
Pittsburgh transfer
The former top-100 recruit has bounced from Central Michigan to Pittsburgh to TCU.

Aaron Ross, Texas Tech

Redshirt freshman/returning from injury
The Red Raiders had to wait a year for one of their top prospects when Ross went down with a torn ACL last season. Ross is a 6-8, 235-pound forward with a nice outside shot.

The Big 12 adds more than just freshman Andrew Wiggins and Memphis transfer Tarik Black
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 09:00
All taxonomy terms: Video, Overtime
Path: /overtime/jet-boat-loses-control-hits-crowd-video
Spectators at a jet boat race got up close and personal with one of the boats at the Field of Dream in Tangent, Ore., on July 27. The boat left the water, crashed through a fence and scared the crap out of the crowd. No serious injuries were reported. 



Spectators at a jet boat race got up close and personal with one of the boats at the Field of Dream in Tangent, Ore., on July 27. The boat left the water, crashed through a fence and scared the crap out of the crowd. No serious injuries were reported. 

Jet Boat Loses Control, Hits Crowd (VIDEO)
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 08:35
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-game-game-predictions-2013

The ACC Coastal is one of the toughest divisions to project in 2013. Miami is considered a slight favorite by most, but Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and North Carolina aren’t far behind.

The Hurricanes are still searching for their first trip to the conference title game and haven’t recorded a season of double-digit wins since posting 11 victories in 2003.

Coach Al Golden seems to have Miami back on the right track, and the Hurricanes return 12 starters from last year’s 7-5 team. The cloud from the ongoing NCAA investigation still hangs over the program, but Miami should have a resolution on its penalties before kickoff on Aug. 30 against FAU.

There’s no question Miami’s offense should score plenty of points, but the defense is a major concern after allowing 30.5 points a game in 2012.

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

Miami's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/30 FAU
9/7 Florida
9/21 Savannah State
9/28 at USF
10/5 Georgia Tech
10/17 at North Carolina
10/26 Wake Forest
11/2 at Florida State
11/9 Virginia Tech
11/16 at Duke
11/23 Virginia
11/29 at Pittsburgh
Final Projection9-310-29-39-310-210-2

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The ACC Coastal is one of the most wide-open leagues in college football this season. Miami, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia Tech all have a strong case to be picked as the preseason favorite, and three of those teams (Miami, North Carolina and Georgia Tech) all tied for the top spot at 5-3 in conference play last year. The Hurricanes are still searching for their first ACC Coastal title, but there’s plenty of reasons to like this team in 2013. Assuming there’s a seamless transition to new coordinator James Coley, the offense should rank among the best in the ACC. Running back Duke Johnson has a standout line leading the way, while quarterback Stephen Morris should build off a solid 2012 campaign (3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns). Miami’s defense is in need of major repair after allowing 486.4 yards per game last year. However, this unit should get a boost with another set of offseason practices to develop some of the younger players like safety Deon Bush and linebacker Alex Figueroa. The schedule is manageable, as Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech visit Sun Life Stadium, and the Hurricanes play at North Carolina on 11 days of rest. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a tie atop the Coastal, but I’m taking Miami to represent the division in the conference championship game.

John Cassillo, (@JohnCassillo), Atlantic Coast Convos
Miami's schedule gives us ample opportunity to figure out who they are early on. The Hurricanes' matchups against Florida and Georgia Tech in their first five games should be the barometer. Beat Florida, we're looking at a top-10 squad. Lose to the Gators and beat Georgia Tech, maybe they're just another eight-win team. Obviously, Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris will lead this group, but it'll come down to whether the defense can improve from last year. If they don't, it could serve as their downfall once again, despite what should be an even better offense.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m probably wildly optimistic about my projections on Miami’s season, mainly because in our previous game-by-game picks to pick the Canes to upset Florida and Florida State. Those are bold projections, particularly if Florida State’s Jameis Winston becomes a superstar and Miami’s defense shows little improvement from last season. That’s why I’ve picked Georgia Tech and North Carolina to defeat Miami this season. Few other teams on its schedule are as certain on offense as those two. Georgia Tech’s option is always trouble, and North Carolina has skill position talent that’s been in Larry Fedora’s system for a season.

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),

Miami, which boasts 19 returning starters including 10 on offense, is looking for defensive improvements this year. However, they might be able to outscore the majority of their opponents regardless, thanks to the return of quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson, a solid wide receiving corps led by Phillip Dorsett and an experienced group up front. The schedule is also favorable with two of the three toss-up games — Florida, Florida State and Virginia Tech — on the slate coming at home. It’s possible they could even go 0-3 in that trio of games and still represent the wide-open Coastal Division in the ACC Championship game, as long as they take care of business the other nine weeks. The two most important games in the division race will be vs. Virginia Tech and at North Carolina. The ceiling for this season is extremely high in Coral Gables, which is probably why the Canes self-imposed sanctions and sat out last postseason for the second-straight year despite a possible trip to the ACC Championship contest on the line when the decision was made.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
There are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the Miami Hurricanes. This is a deep and competitive division, Miami is dealing with severe off-the-field turmoil, the defense was horrendous last year and the team is still very young. However, there is much to like about this team as well. Al Golden might be the best coach in the conference, all those young underclassmen are one year older and the despite being very competitive, the Coastal Division is very winnable. With Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech both coming to South Florida and Clemson noticeably absent from the schedule, the Canes are the pick to win the division and have an outside chance at 10 wins. Keep in mind, had this team played four easy non-conference games last year instead of Notre Dame and Kansas State on the road, it would have won nine games.

Mark Ross

Miami has re-entered the ACC championship discussion, although the NCAA could pull the rug out from under its feet before the season starts. Until then, however, the Hurricanes have to at least be considered a potential title contender with all-purpose dynamo Duke Johnson leading what could be an explosive offense. The 'Canes' success will likely come down to how much improvement a young defense, one that finished near the bottom of the national rankings in the main defensive categories last season, shows. The defense will be what holds Miami back from beating either Florida or Florida State and it also will cost them at least one ACC game. To that end, the key conference swing games to watch are on the road against North Carolina and Pittsburgh, along with home dates with Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Even then, there is more than enough talent on both sides of the ball for Al Golden's team to contend for supremacy in the ACC Coastal division and its first trip to the conference championship game.


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Miami Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-football-game-game-predictions-2013

Oregon has been a model of consistency in the Pac-12 recently, winning 10 or more games in each of the last five years. The Ducks have been on the doorstep of playing for a national title and they finished last season with a 12-1 mark, with the only defeat coming to Stanford in mid-November.

Chip Kelly left for the NFL, and the keys to one of the nation’s top programs was handed to assistant Mark Helfrich. Oregon has had success by promoting from within, but there’s a lot of pressure for Helfrich to keep the program at the top of the Pac-12.

Even though 2013 will be a year of training for Helfrich, the Ducks are still in great shape to compete for a national title. 16 starters are back, including sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas. The defense ranked third in the Pac-12 in points allowed and should boast one of the nation’s top defensive backfields with the return of junior Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

The schedule is manageable, but road dates against Washington and Stanford could decide whether or not Oregon plays for the national title in 2013.

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

Oregon's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 Nicholls State
9/7 at Virginia
9/14 Tennessee
9/28 California
10/5 at Colorado
10/12 at Washington
10/19 Washington State
10/26 UCLA
11/7 at Stanford
11/16 Utah
11/23 at Arizona
11/29 Oregon State
Final Projection11-111-112-011-1

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Mark Helfrich is stepping into one of the best situations for a first-year coach in 2013. Oregon suffered a few key personnel departures (Kenjon Barner, Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso), but the Ducks are still one of the top-five national title contenders. Expect to see a few tweaks on offense, as Oregon may look to throw more with quarterback Marcus Mariota and a solid group of receivers returning. The defense will need some time to jell, but there’s not an offense that should threaten this team until Oct. 12 at Washington. And even though the front seven will have four new starters, the replacements have played plenty of snaps over the last few years. Coaching transition is never easy, and there may be a few bumps in the road for Oregon in 2013. However, the Ducks should win 10 or 11 games in the regular season this year, with the only loss coming at Stanford in early November. Even if Oregon loses to the Cardinal, I still expect the Ducks to be playing in a BCS bowl in January.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)

Oregon could easily produce another one-loss, top-five season despite the loss of prolific head coach Chip Kelly. And just like last year, that one loss will come to Stanford and once again cost the Ducks in a big way. With one slip-up, this team will not only miss out on a BCS National Championship berth but also a Pac-12 title. In fact, this team could be a top-five team nationally and not even win the division — just like a year ago. The Oregon offense could be the most dangerous in school history and the best in the nation, but the defense will take a major step back. With teams like Oregon State and Washington improving around them, in particular on defense, the Ducks will again barely miss out on the national title.

Mark Ross

The more things change, the more they stay the same. That's the theme for Oregon's 2013 season, as Mark Helfrich replaces Chip Kelly as the head Duck and the team keeps on churning out wins, not to mention a bunch of yards and points. Helfrich's flock shouldn't break much of a sweat until the second week of October in Seattle against Washington, and even then I think the Ducks have too much firepower for the Huskies to match. No, Oregon's season will more than likely again come down to its matchup with Stanford. Even though this one takes place on The Farm, I think quarterback Marcus Mariota, running back De'Anthony Thomas and company learned their lesson from last season's heart-breaking 17-14 overtime loss at home to the Cardinal. This time the Ducks take care of business against their Pac-12 North rival and ride the momentum to an unbeaten regular season and potential BCS title game shot.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)

Yeah, yeah. I know it’s boring to pick Oregon to go 11-1 with one loss on the road against its best opponent. Road trips to rivals Washington and Oregon State will be difficult, but the Ducks haven’t had trouble with them in the last three seasons. The coaching change is a question mark, but we’re still talking about a dominant team. Oregon was one of only two teams to defeat its home and road opponents each by at least three touchdowns (the other was Alabama). That doesn’t go away over night.


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Oregon Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/south-carolinas-rise-power-sec

Steve SpurrierSteve Spurrier was worried. He had just returned from the Outback Bowl after the 2008 season. Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks had lost 31–10 to Iowa, their third straight loss, following defeats of 56–6 at Florida, Spurrier’s former team, and 31–14 at Clemson, the Gamecocks’ heated rival. It was a sour way to end a season that the Gamecocks started 7–3.

Four years into his tenure at South Carolina, Spurrier was 28–22 and 15–17 in the Southeastern Conference, never finishing better than 8–5 overall and 5–3 in the league. But Spurrier’s staff had begun to make in-state recruiting progress for the Class of 2009, which included cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was scheduled to enroll early, in January 2009.

But after a bowl game in which South Carolina “stunk it up,” as Spurrier recalled, he said he had a sinking thought on his mind when he returned to Columbia: “Man, I’m hoping somebody didn’t get to Gilmore and change his mind because of what we had done in that game.”

Sure enough, Gilmore and his mother were in Spurrier’s office, as they promised they would be. Spurrier and his staff were happy, obviously, but even as they look back on the moment, they didn’t know if Gilmore would be a program-changing recruit.

There was no doubting his talent, as the nation’s sixth-ranked “athlete” in his class, according to Rivals, and Mr. Football in the state of South Carolina. Gilmore’s teammate at South Pointe High in Rock Hill, S.C., DeVonte Holloman, arrived in Columbia in the summer of 2009 as Rivals’ 10th-ranked outside linebacker. He and Gilmore provided a tipping point for the Gamecocks.

“If we would have lost them, that would have hurt us,” says Steve Spurrier Jr., who serves as his father’s wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator. “They’re the ones who, when we started recruiting, would get guys around.”

The talent — particularly in-state kids — began flowing to South Carolina in the ensuing years, and the wins came with greater frequency than ever before, albeit in a different fashion than Spurrier’s Florida teams. The athletic department committed to facilities improvements, an important recruiting chip. Fans began to believe and expect success, and now Spurrier can sit in his office on a spring day and say, with all the confidence that he flashed in the mid-1990s at Florida, “We’re a top-10 program now.”

After going 7–6 (3–5 SEC) in 2009, with a 1–4 finish, South Carolina was 9–5 (5–3) in 2010 and played in the SEC Championship Game for the first time. Each of the past two seasons, South Carolina went 11–2 and 6–2 — its best overall and league records in school history. It finished in the top 10 for the first time ever in 2011, at No.  9, and bettered that by one spot in 2012. Moreover, South Carolina has four straight wins over Clemson for the second time ever, and first since 1951-54. The Gamecocks have never won five in a row over the Tigers.

Once an SEC doormat — see 1–10 and 0–11 seasons in 1998 and 1999, with no league wins either year — the Gamecocks in 2013 will chase their first conference title, with a defense led by All-America end Jadeveon Clowney, the likely No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and a potential Heisman Trophy finalist this season.

Spurrier reached this point with steady growth. When he arrived at Florida, his alma mater, in 1990, the Gators had enough talent to go 9–2 and 6–1 in the SEC that first year. In Lou Holtz’s final three years at South Carolina, before Spurrier took over in 2005, the Gamecocks went 5–7, 5–7 and 6–5. The program wasn’t ready to thrive.

Spurrier sat out the 2004 season after two frustrating years with the Washington Redskins. He wanted back into coaching in 2005 and closely monitored the situation at North Carolina, where John Bunting was on the hot seat. Spurrier was familiar with the area from his days coaching at Duke in the late 1980s.

But North Carolina decided to retain Bunting after the 2004 season, so Spurrier turned his focus to South Carolina, an area he was less familiar with and a program with a minimal history of success. Spurrier still relishes telling the story about how his friends in Florida asked him why he wanted the South Carolina job — after all, they told him, he could never win there.

“I really wanted this job because I felt like there was nowhere to go but up, and we had a chance to achieve so many firsts,” Spurrier says. “If (North Carolina) had fired (Bunting) that year, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Spurrier and his staff were not familiar with the dynamics of recruiting the state of South Carolina when they arrived in Columbia, and it took some time to adjust. The 2009 class was particularly valuable, as Alshon Jeffery (Rivals’ No. 13 receiver) came from nearby St. Matthews to join Holloman and Gilmore, who was the first of four consecutive South Carolina Mr. Footballs to choose the Gamecocks. Clowney, the No. 1 overall recruit in 2011, attended the same high school as Holloman and Gilmore.

“I think there was a little bit of a disconnect between the high school coaches in the state of South Carolina and the coaches at the University of South Carolina,” says Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer, who worked at South Carolina from 2007-10 and was recruiting coordinator in his final two seasons in Columbia. “So we just went out of our way to try and reach out to those guys and be very welcoming, go out of our way to get them on our campus. I think the biggest thing was just getting to know people.”

Though Clowney’s decision was huge, perhaps South Carolina’s most important recruit ever, and another South Carolina Mr. Football, arrived in 2010 — Marcus Lattimore, the nation’s No. 1 running back and No. 10 overall recruit.

“When Clowney came down on a (recruiting) visit, Marcus sat with him at a basketball game,” Spurrier says. “Marcus was one of our best recruiters, definitely. Marcus, I think as a player, he’s the most important. His influence around here was just terrific. He was always on time. He was one of the hardest workers in the weight room and in the offseason conditioning.”

Lattimore put up impressive numbers, including a school-record 38 career rushing touchdowns, but South Carolina has won the past two years with defense. The Gamecocks ranked No. 3 nationally in yards allowed per game in 2011 and No. 11 in 2012 — improvements from No. 46 in 2010.

Spurrier has embraced the notion that the foundation to winning the modern SEC is a power running game and stout defense. While he would still love for South Carolina to throw the ball more, like his Florida teams did, it is the winning, above all else, that keeps him coaching at age 68.

He isn’t setting any timetables for retirement, and he believes South Carolina’s progress is sustainable, because of things like a $13 million academic center for athletes that opened in 2010 and a $6.5 million video board at Williams-Brice Stadium that debuted last season. Those are major factors in recruiting.

“You’ve got to do that, but it was the first time we clearly made it an absolute issue: This is what we have to do to compete at the highest level,” Spurrier Jr. says. “And we started doing it. That made a clear difference.”

As Spurrier Jr. searches for the next Gilmore, Holloman, Jeffery, Lattimore or even Clowney, he can be more selective.

“Three years ago, we offered 200 guys,” he says. “Now we’re offering 30, 40, 50. We know we can offer a smaller pool of people. We can offer that top group and know we’re going to get a decent number of them.”

South Carolina offered scholarships to two rising in-state sophomores when they were ninth graders — another sign of how South Carolina’s staff has begun to master in-state recruiting. “We’ve watched them for two years,” Spurrier Jr. says of the sophomores. “We know who our schools are, who the players are. That certainly makes a difference.”

Written by Darryl Slater for Athlon Sports. This article appeared in Athlon Sports' 2013 SEC Preview Edition. Visit our online store to order your copy to get more in-depth analysis on the 2013 SEC season.

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South Carolina's Rise to Power
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-pivotal-players-american-athletic-conference

Believe it or not, Louisville has not been crowned the American Athletic Conference champions quite yet.

The Cardinals are the presumptive favorite in the league and one of a handful teams in the country capable of going undefeated during the regular season. But Louisville does have holes. The Cards ranked last in the Big East in sacks and tackles for a loss last season, contributing to a run defense that ranked sixth.

Moreover, Louisville’s opponents don’t want to see the Cardinals win a league title in their final season in the league. A Sugar Bowl dismantling of Florida may have built momentum for Louisville for 2013, but many AAC opponents remember Louisville losing to Syracuse in convincing fashion and to bowl no-show Connecticut.

Our pivotal players for the American pinpoints a player Louisville needs to assert its dominance in the league, plus three other players other AAC contenders will need to step up in order to challenge Louisville.

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

We continue our look at pivotal players with the American after we profiled the ACC yesterday:

Ralph David Abernathy IV, RB, Cincinnati
Cincinnati made things work last season despite changing quarterbacks from Munchie Legaux to Brendon Kay largely because of workhorse back George Winn, who rushed for 1,334 yards on 243 carries last season. Abernathy is a about 60 pounds lighter than Winn, so expecting another 200 carries from him may be a bit optimistic. Still, Abernathy has been a multi-faceted offensive threat, averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 69 attempts and 12.1 yards on 28 catches last season. Junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams will take some of the pressure off his workload at tailback, but Abernathy needs to be a breakaway threat.

Demetris Anderson, DT, UCF
UCF isthe only Conference USA import ready to compete for an American Athletic Conference title this season. And after Louisville’s Teddy Bridgwater, UCF’s Blake Bortles is the top quarterback in the league. UCF had one of the better defenses in Conference USA, but that unit returns only four starters. One of the key new faces will be the defensive tackle Anderson, who was recruited by Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois before grayshirting with the Knights.

Savon Huggins, RB, Rutgers
A nationally prominent recruit in 2011 who elected to stay in New Jersey, Huggins has yet to break out with Rutgers. He’s shown flashes, most notably a 179-yard effort against Cincinnati last season, but Huggins has yet to play a full season. With Jawan Jamison gone, now is the time for Huggins to deliver on his potential.

Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville
The Cardinals had 19 sacks during the regular season and nine of those came in a two-game span against Pittsburgh and USF. They mustered only two in the losses against Syracuse and UConn. Even though Louisville loses standout cornerback Adrian Bushell, the pass rush and run defense has to be one of the most worrisome parts of the Cardinals team. Mauldin led the way up front on defense in the wins over Pitt and USF, so he’ll be closely watched in 2013.

Who does each AAC contender need to step up in 2013?
Post date: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB Power Rankings, MLB
Path: /mlb/2013-mlb-power-rankings-july-29
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Oakland A's) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Athlon Sports MLB Power Ranking
 1. A’s 20 games better than Texas since last June 30.
 2. Cardinals Bats silenced in Atlanta, now critical five games at Pirates.
 3. Red Sox Should be a fun race to watch in the AL East down the stretch...
 4. Rays Red Sox, Rays begin to separate themselves from pack.
 5. Pirates Biggest series in Pittsburgh since early 1990s.
 6. Braves Shut down league’s best offense in sweep over Redbirds.
 7. Dodgers Add a walk-off home run to Yasiel Puig’s list of heroics.
 8. Orioles Next 11 games vs. teams with losing records.
9. Tigers Victor Martinez heating up in support of Cabrera and Fielder.
10. Indians Allowed opponents a .183 average last week to gain ground.
11. Reds Scored just seven runs in four games at Dodger Stadium.
12. Rangers Texas ship is taking on water fast.
13. Yankees Jeter and Soriano return with huge splash.
14. Diamondbacks May not see first place again this season.
15. Mariners Tough week looms at Boston and Baltimore.
16. Nationals Batting just .211 vs. lefties.
17. Rockies Haven’t won three in a row since May 24.
18. Royals Back at .500, five games out of playoff position.
19. Blue Jays 10-game West Coast trip coming up.
20. Phillies Batted just .189 with no homers during tough week.
21. Padres Tyson Ross gives rotation a lift.
22. Cubs Swept Giants at San Fran.
23. Angels Albert Pujols’ injury is a huge blow.
24. Mets Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler: 12-3, 2.45 ERA; others: 17-32, 4.47.
25. Twins 9-15 and batting just .225 in July.
26. Giants Lack of punch drops Giants to last place in NL West.
27. Brewers Carlos Gomez trying to pick up slack for suspended Braun. 
28. Marlins Boasting a winning record since May 30.
29. White Sox Time to unload trade chips.
30. Astros Now on pace to lose 107.
AL Player of the Week
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
The Blue Jays continue to struggle to find consistency, but Encarnacion did his part last week. He clubbed a pair of homers — one a grand slam — in one inning vs. Houston and totaled 13 hits to bat .520 for the week.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Max Scherzer, Detroit
The big righthander tossed two gems last week logging 14 innings and allowing just five hits and no walks for a 0.36 WHIP. He struck out 12 batters and is now 15-1 on the season with a 3.01 ERA.
NL Player of the Week
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
The Marlins’ right fielder hit safely in six of seven games last week including four multi-hit games and eight extra-base hits. He hit three homers — all solo shots — and drove in six while scoring seven.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Jose Fernandez, Miami
The youngster defeated Colorado on the road and Pittsburgh at home last week, holding each team to just two runs. He struck out 21 batters over 15 innings and gave up 10 hits and two walks. For the week, he whiffed 13 and didn’t issue a single free pass.
Each week during the baseball season Athlon Sports looks at the best (Oakland A's) and worst (Houston Astros) baseball teams and players in the league. Here are our MLB Power Rankings and Players of the Week.
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 17:07
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-29

Catching up from a busy weekend around the college football world. 

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 Monday, July 29th

Saturday Down South looks at five scheme changes to watch in the SEC this year.

All signs point to Michael Dyer landing at Louisville this year.

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

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

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

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

Here are five keys to West Virginia's season.

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

Florida should have one of the best defensive backfields in college football this year. Here's a breakdown of how the Gators will look in the secondary.

Texas A&M has announced a timeline on the renovations to Kyle Field.

Anthon Samuel talks about his decision to leave Bowling Green for FIU.

Syracuse needs to find a few more playmakers at receiver this fall.

Who will start at nose tackle for Georgia this year?

Temple has picked up a Maryland transfer that’s eligible to play this year.

Here are five key questions surrounding Minnesota in 2013.

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

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

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

Saturday Blitz ranks Conference USA’s coaches for 2013.


College Football's Link Roundup: July 29
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 16:42
All taxonomy terms: Monthly, Overtime
Path: /monthly/ufc-champ-ronda-rousey-knockout

UFC Champ Ronda RouseyGo just about anywhere in Las Vegas this time of year and you are likely to spot at least one beautiful blond Southern California girl in sunglasses talking on a cell phone.

Most of them have arrived on a quick flight or taken the short drive through the desert hoping to hit the trendiest pools and clubs in the world.

Ronda Rousey is here to work, having blazed her own path and left in her wake a trail of broken bones and torn tendons. The 5'6" stunner doesn’t look very intimidating in the shadows of The Palms as she finishes up a phone call in an office park that houses the set of “The Ultimate Fighter 18,” a reality TV show that pits two teams of fighters and coaches against each other. The show has helped transform the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) into the top mixed martial arts (MMA) organization in the world and one of the hottest properties in all of sports. 

Rousey, a self-described surfer chick from Venice Beach, is coaching one of the teams. Along with her opposing coach and bitter rival Miesha Tate, the women add a striking degree of femininity (half the 16 sequestered contestants are also female) to one of the most testosterone-driven programs in all of television.

A womanly touch was obvious upon arriving at the gym as the UFC women’s champion decoratively cut a series of holes into a pattern on her “Team Rousey” tank top.

Not that the 26-year-old is some delicate flower.

Despite the starlet looks and disarming personality, Rousey possesses the quick wit and salty vocabulary to more than hold her own at even the most vulgar poker table in Sin City.

“She’s real,” says UFC fighter Chael Sonnen of the most successful and popular female fighter in the world. “She has a great set of skills and lots of personality. She isn’t afraid to let them both shine through.”

Rousey, the first American woman to medal in judo when she took bronze at the 2008 Summer Olympics, has won all 10 fights in her MMA career (seven professional and three amateur) by armbar in the first round. Everyone knows it’s coming, but there is nothing anyone can do about it.

“The armbar I do is very common in judo. You put your legs over the opponent’s torso and neck while you’re perpendicular to them and pull their arm between your legs and hug it to your chest,” she deadpans. “Then you arch your back to the point where their arm can’t straighten anymore and the opponent has the choice to quit or let you keep arching your back.

“The back goes back farther than an elbow can, so the elbow is forced to follow the curvature of the back. So ...”

Tap or snap. Either “tap out,” the MMA term for giving up and conceding the fight, or allow Rousey to do considerable damage to your arm.

If Rousey sounds cavalier about potentially ruining the limbs of women who dare step in the cage with her, perhaps it’s because martial arts has always been an integral part of her life. She was bred to be a star judo competitor by her mother, Dr. Ann Maria Rousey DeMars, who would awaken her daughter with morning armbar drills. DeMars herself was a great judoka, becoming the first American to win a world title in 1984.

DeMars felt that judo could play a positive role for young Ronda, who been through a lifetime of struggles before she was even 8 years old.

Rousey endured her father’s suicide and birth complications that significantly slowed her development as a child.

In spite of all that, or perhaps more accurately, because of it, Rousey was driven to succeed. She was the youngest judo competitor at the 2004 Olympics at just 17. Four years later, she won the bronze medal that she thought would make all the hard work worthwhile.

“The 2008 Olympic run, the whole process of preparing and training for it, I ­didn’t really enjoy it. I just realized the bronze medal didn’t make me happy for very long,” Rousey says.

She knew she would be in prime position to improve on the bronze at the 2012 Games, but Rousey decided it just wasn’t meant to be.

“To be miserable for four years so I can possibly be happy for a few weeks, I just knew I had to find something else to do with myself,” she says.

Rousey took a year off from the sport in search of a more normal existence. She drove a Honda with three broken windows and no air conditioning to her various bartending jobs. Her apartment had no water pressure or gas, but plenty of cockroaches. She ate a lot of Top Ramen noodles, a staple for any college student, but hardly the typical diet for a world-class athlete.

“All I worried about was keeping gas in my car, keeping the rent paid and feeding my dog (Mochi, a 90-pound Mastiff).”

As drab as life was, Rousey decided it was preferable to returning to judo.

“I was happy enough that I couldn’t return to that old lifestyle, but I was discontented enough to not stick with what I was doing,” Rousey says.

She considered becoming a rescue swimmer with the Coast Guard. Her mom wanted her to go back to school. Instead, she turned a hobby she started as a way to stay in shape into a new career. Combining her natural abilities and an overwhelming desire to succeed, Rousey threw herself into becoming a mixed martial artist. “I started getting into it, and once I devote myself to something, that’s it. I obsessed over it,” she says. “I was (expletive) shadow boxing in the shower all the time. It’s all I would think about.”

She would eventually get carried away. Shortly after her fourth pro win, Rousey literally drove herself to exhaustion. After a full day of training, she was returning home from the gym in the early-morning hours on Thanksgiving weekend, knowing her next training session was only a few hours away.

“I got in my car and it was just so warm and quiet. Even at that time, it was stop-and-go traffic because of the holiday,” she recalls. “I just dozed off in traffic and crashed. I smashed my face on the steering wheel and broke my nose. I just ended up crying on the freeway. I was so tired and I just wanted to go home.”

She didn’t skip a beat, though.

“I wasn’t going to stop,” Rousey says. “It wasn’t going to change anything at all because I’m a stubborn (expletive). That’s my biggest problem and my biggest asset.”

From the beginning, Rousey knew her pursuit of success was going to have to be about more than just training hard. If most women in society face a glass ceiling, female fighters were toiling under a concrete roof. At the time, there was no women’s division in the UFC, and the organization’s famously outspoken president Dana White was adamantly against the idea.

Rousey didn’t care. “I had it in my mind I was going to change everything. I felt like I had all the skills and all the attributes to make this successful. These people don’t believe it’s possible because they haven’t seen me yet and they haven’t noticed me yet. I just had to make myself impossible to miss,” she says. “Then began my own campaign to become un-ignorable. I started saying some crazy (expletive) and putting on some good fights. I just felt like combining the two together was the only way to do it. First, I’ve got to get people to look. Then, I’ve got to give them a reason to stay.”

So Rousey started winning. Actually dominating. Three straight amateur wins — all by armbar, all under a minute — led to a pro contract.

And the wins came just as easily there, as she won her first four pro fights by armbar, all in less than a minute. The ruthless finishes were accompanied by outrageous comments, ranging from trash talk about her opponents to her now-famous thoughts on having plenty of sex before fights to ripping fellow Olympian Michael Phelps.

By Rousey’s fifth pro fight — for the Strikeforce title in March 2012 against her nemesis Tate — she had indeed become impossible to ignore. White points to that fight as the one that convinced him to reverse course. He decided later that year to merge Strikeforce, including the women’s division, into the UFC and freely admitted Rousey was the lone reason for the change of heart.

“She has the whole package,” he said on “The Jim Rome Show.” “She’s a real fighter and real talented. She has the credentials and the pedigree. And she has the ‘it’ factor. I think she’s going to be a big superstar.”

He was right. Rousey’s first UFC fight in February, a first-round armbar victory over Liz Carmouche, headlined a pay-per-view event that far out-performed company estimates with between 400,000 and 500,000 buys. Bloomberg recently reported she is the sport’s first female millionaire.

Rousey had officially arrived. Now she wants to help build the rest of the UFC 135-pound women’s division, which currently consists of 13 fighters, to a more sustainable place — one of the things she hopes to accomplish with her starring role on Season 18 of the reality show, which will air Wednesday nights starting in September on the soon-to-launch Fox Sports 1 network. She also hopes non-MMA fans can connect with her story.

“I feel like I manifested and willed a lot of this. I worked really hard for it,” she says. “One thing I hope I can do for other people is to show them no matter what their goals are, they’re doable. Even if nobody else believes they are.”

At the end of the season, Tate and Rousey will renew hostilities when they meet in a much-anticipated rematch. Rousey hopes to leave her rival with the same two options she has given each of her opponents.

Tap or snap?


Story by Adam Hill

UFC Champ Ronda Rousey is a Knockout
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 16:01
Path: /nascar/ryan-newman-scores-nascar-crown-jewel-win-brickyard-400

Sunday wasn’t the only time Ryan Newman has stolen a win from under Jimmie Johnson’s nose. The Brickyard 400 pole sitter, who capitalized on “Five-Time’s” late-race slow pit stop to take Indianapolis, edged out his rival over a decade ago for the 2002 Rookie of the Year title. As a freshman, Johnson was flashy but Newman was more consistent, collecting 14 top-5 finishes and 22 top 10s to eke out the award in a close race.  

Surprised? Don’t be. That under-the-radar, workmanlike performance harkens back to “old school” drivers like Terry Labonte. “The Iceman” was never an emotional sort but always delivered to some degree each season en route to two championships. Newman, as excitable as a librarian running the checkout line (he was stoic Sunday even after living the dream of Victory Lane in his home state) is delivering a similar type of resume (sans the championships). The stats for him now include 50 poles, wins in four straight seasons and trophies that include two of the sport’s biggest races, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. Some of the sport’s biggest names — from Tony Stewart to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch to Matt Kenseth — can’t claim that.

Newman’s Sprint Cup future is in doubt after Stewart-Haas Racing made it official earlier this month that it will replace him with Kevin Harvick rather than expand to four teams next season; that’s why every driver, to a man, was running up and congratulating him Sunday. At first glance, it’s hard not to ask “Why such a pity party?” You have to think a guy who’s quietly put himself in position for consistent success, year-in and year-out, would be able to land a ride somewhere easily, even inside a shrinking garage. Then again, we said the same thing about a sponsor for Earnhardt, the sport’s most popular driver, whose No. 88 may now need to be partially funded by owner Rick Hendrick come September. Ever so quietly, Earnhardt let slip this weekend that they’re sponsorship focus is more on 2014 — meaning a year’s worth of speculation may end with on the hood rather than a “new backer” they’ve been talking about for months.

Add in perhaps a race-low number of fans in the stands at Indianapolis and we may look back on this weekend as being more an indictment of the sport’s current economic state getting ever more serious as opposed to a version of a signature race that we’d all like to forget. This point gets us going “Through the Gears” coming out of Gasoline Alley …

FIRST GEAR: Sunday’s Brickyard 400 was the most boring in the history of the event.During a time when NASCAR should be celebrating, having landed a record television deal with NBC beginning in 2015, the network instead saw the gargantuan task in front of it. The Indy grandstands, looking empty to begin with (the facility can hold north of 250,000) started emptying by halfway as fans tired of the single-file procession. Up front, lead changes were the result of pit road, not on-track, action as Johnson turned the early part of the race into a runaway. A two-hour and 36-minute event — the fastest Brickyard 400 in history — could also be compared to watching cars lazily drive down a highway (465, anyone?) in midsummer. Fans could watch that on top of a hill near their hometown; they’re not going to pay top dollar to sit in metal seats and see the same predictable thing, albeit at 190 miles per hour.

No one will rip Indy for being safe; there were no wrecks and just three cautions, each for cars being stopped on track for mechanical issues. But aerodynamics, combined with a one-groove track, made it look like every car had taken out a lifetime restraining order on the field. Aside from three restarts, where one crazy lap apiece left cars up to four-wide jockeying for position, the rest of the race revealed passing was a virtual impossibility.

Some drivers, like Stewart, got angry when questioned about the race being boring, as Smoke claimed “passing” does not always make a good product. Others, like Kasey Kahne, were more realistic, recognizing the difficulties and suggesting a different tire compound or new banking (the latter won’t happen) to fix the problem. Whatever the solution, there has to be one; a lack of on-track passes for the lead may be “racing” in Stewart’s mind but won’t fund his paycheck. Sports, in the end, are a business and fans aren’t going to sit in the stands and watch one that is not delivering to their expectations. NASCAR is not now nor ever will never be Formula One.

Contrary to popular belief, not every Indy race has been a snoozefest (1994 and ’97 come to mind) and the sport can spice things up with a little work from Goodyear. The key is getting everyone to push it, from the drivers — who often seem like they’re playing it conservative on-track — to engineers after Tiregate 2008 left half the field wrecked, rubber blowing every 10 to 12 laps and a sour taste in everyone’s mouth. The key to fixing it isn’t playing it safe, as that just leaves the wound fresh and fans leaving in droves. Hopefully, Sunday ignited a sense of urgency in someone’s mind, otherwise NASCAR may be running to the captive audience of a small group of security guards at Indy.

SECOND GEAR: Newman’s win spices up the Chase race.Newman’s victory, capping off an A-plus weekend for the No. 39 team, also throws a wrench into the Chase race. Now, Newman, the “lame duck,” sits just 20 points from a “wild card” position with six races left with a real chance of sneaking in. His presence means drivers with a victory, like Stewart, Greg Biffle or Martin Truex Jr., have to keep from having a problem down the stretch. It also means that for road course aces like Juan Pablo Montoya and Marcos Ambrose, two victories is a necessity to make the Chase and it all but knocks them out of contention even if they win Watkins Glen.

Perhaps another intriguing subplot involves the winless seasons of Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski. Gordon as of now holds the last spot inside the top 10 in points; Keselowski sits six points outside it and would miss the Chase if the postseason started now. Both drivers have no margin of error if they miss Victory Lane, as there’s no chance running 11th or 12th in points would earn them a “wild card.” It’s find a way to win, stay consistent enough to edge ahead of their rivals or spend the fall wondering what might have been. At this point, one of those big names looks like they’ll miss this season’s playoffs. It’s just a matter of which one.

THIRD GEAR: Johnson’s costly pit road error.  Let’s not take anything away from Newman and crew chief Matt Borland, who ran a flawless race and put their team in position to capitalize with a gutsy two-tire stop to get out in front. But there’s no way the No. 39 sits in Victory Lane if Johnson’s crew doesn’t cost him six seconds on pit road. All day, the No. 48 had made mincemeat of the field, leading 73 laps and sitting on cruise control in the final stages. It was an 18-second mistake, a four-tire massacre, that left them sitting second and one-position short of a record-setting five wins at Indianapolis.

“We win as a team, lose as a team,” Johnson said. “I hate to let this opportunity slip by, but it's gone, not a lot we can do about it.”

Now 75 points in front of second-place Clint Bowyer in the championship standings, it’s not like the No. 48 took a major hit. This group is the type where one boo-boo, even in a major race, won’t change their momentum greatly; they’ve been the fastest by a country mile for months, to the point Keselowski even complained to his spotter, mid-race, “You think (Johnson) feels bad having a car that much better every f***ing week?!” Still, it’s notable that they’ve given away nine bonus points for the postseason in the past two months alone: Sunday at Indy, the restart penalty at Dover and a similar fiasco-turned-spin at Kentucky. Lose the title by nine points or less at Homestead and they’ll be looking back at days like this one as to why.

FOURTH GEAR: Hendrick vs. Gibbs.
Sunday’s race was won by Stewart-Haas Racing, a team that gets its engines from Hendrick Motorsports. Hendrick-powered cars now have won seven of 20 races this season, edging out the six from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Look deeper and you’ll find those cars own seven of the 12 spots in the Chase (Hendrick/SHR: 5; JGR: 2). While Michael Waltrip Racing and Roush Fenway Racing own two spots apiece, neither has shown the ability to run up front consistently enough to contend. Ditto for Richard Childress Racing, earning a spot through Kevin Harvick, but whose strategy is to top 10 ‘em to death (despite a pair of wins) and hope a victory falls in their direction late. That probably won’t get it done.

All season, we’ve been waiting patiently for other teams to step up to the plate and challenge the two heavyweights. The Dog Days of August are beginning … and we’re still waiting. When will the rest of the field step up?

OVERDRIVEYou gotta feel for Jeff Burton, who has been top 12 every week since Memorial Day and quietly snuck back into Chase contention this summer. Mechanical problems during a safe day at the Brickyard left him behind the wall for a time and dead last, dropping 60 points outside the top 10 and all but certainly out of the postseason. … Speaking of “safe,” Sunday was the first time in almost five years the entire 43-car field finished the race. You have to give credit to NASCAR for changing its purse rules, keeping fewer cars start-and-parking as they race for more money; although Indy’s healthy payday certainly didn’t hurt. … Mark Martin struggled to a 23rd-place finish on Sunday, with a team Brian Vickers had taken to victory at New Hampshire two weeks earlier. Without a top-5 finish since the Daytona 500 in the No. 55 car, along with no part-time opportunities out there for 2014, speculation is increasing that this season may be the 54-year-old Martin’s final one.

Follow Tom Bowles on Twitter: @NASCARBowles
Photos by Actions Sports, Inc.

Reaction from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Ryan Newman beat Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR's Brickyard 400.
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 13:38
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, Roto, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /fantasy/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-29

Baseball is back in full swing as the pennant races heat up and the non-waiver trade deadline comes Wednesday afternoon. Athlon Sports has everything you need to catch up on what took place on the fantasy diamond during the past seven days. Our fantasy junkies bring you last week's top hitters, some starting pitchers who are on a roll, and also identify the waiver wire pick ups and spot starters you need to keep an eye on.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (July 22-28):

1Carlos GomezOFMIL62550.5221.433
2Jay BruceOFCIN93710.3331.082
3Jayson WerthOFWAS73710.3851.198
4Giancarlo StantonOFMIA73600.4781.687
5Wil MyersOFTB53810.4291.407
6Daniel Murphy1B/2BNYM62800.4381.205
7Edwin Encarnacion1B/3BTOR52800.5201.461
8Norichika AokiOFMIL72340.3210.938
9Yasiel PuigOFLAD72420.3931.143
10Torii HunterOFDET73500.4091.281
11Troy TulowitzkiSSCOL63510.3601.120
12Nate Schierholtz*OFCHC43800.4091.480
13Nick Franklin*2B/SSSEA43800.3331.104
14Jose ReyesSSTOR62510.3331.105
15Michael BournOFCLE421000.2920.997
16Devin Mesoraco*CCIN42700.3571.000
17Asdrubal CabreraSSCLE51520.3200.890
18Hanley Ramirez3B/SSLAD61320.3230.880
19Russell Martin*CPIT50230.4711.079
20Bryce HarperOFWAS42600.3601.047
21Victor MartinezC/1BDET41800.3570.936
22Jhonny PeraltaSSDET42700.3100.896
23Adrian Gonzalez1B/OFLAD71600.2860.787
24Pedro Alvarez3BPIT72300.2960.886
25Stephen Drew*SSBOS42610.2350.866

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, SEA (42% owned in Yahoo! Leagues)
Since getting called up in late May, Franklin has hit 10 home runs. While that may not seem like a lot, consider that among all MI-eligible players, only 16 players have hit more this season, and of that group only two (Ryan Raburn and Hanley Ramirez) have done so in fewer at-bats than Franklin's 195. Franklin, a switch-hitter, connected for three bombs last week alone and if there's one thing that's highly coveted when it comes to a middle infielder, it's power.

Junior Lake, 3B/OF, CHC (32%)
With Alfonso Soriano back in Yankee pinstripes, it appears that the left field job belongs to Lake. The rookie exploded onto the scene with 15 hits in his first seven career games (.484 average). He has gone hitless in his last three, but the tools he has already shown (2 HRs, 1 SB), are tantalizing, especially given the fact he should get plenty of playing time moving forward as the Cubs focus on next season, and he carries 3B eligibility too.

David Lough, OF, KC (3%)
Similar to Lake, Lough is probably an option for deeper and in his case AL-only leagues, but one of the reasons the Royals finally cut ties with Jeff Francoeur is the emergence of Lough. The 27 year-old rookie has made the most of the playing time he has received, hitting .297 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 202 at-bats. As a lefty, he will probably sit against the majority of southpaws, but he's gotten consistent at-bats over the last several weeks and teammate Lorenzo Cain is dealing with a groin issue right now. Depending on your league, Lough could be a decent short-term option to take a look at.

Nate Schierholtz, OF, CHC (23%)
Soriano and Scott Hairston were the first Cub outfielders to go, and Schierholtz (or David DeJesus) may be the next one traded before Wednesday's deadline. The veteran is quietly putting together a solid season, as he ranks among the top 50 fantasy outfielders despite having less than 300 at-bats (281). A left-handed swinger, Schierholtz has primarily sat against fellow southpaws, but he has done plenty of damage (.289-14-42) against righties. While he may only be a situational player, Schierholtz' production this season is worth roster consideration, whether he gets traded or stays with the Cubs.

Christian Yelich, OF, MIA (22%)
To the surprise of no one, the Marlins have decided to call up some of their top prospects and give them a chance to play in the big leagues. Yelich, the organization's top hitting prospect, was one of the first to be promoted, and through six games the 21-year-old has acquitted himself quite nicely. The 23rd overall pick of the 2010 draft, the left-handed swinger had nearly as many hits (seven) as strikeouts (eight) in his first week of facing major-league pitching. While it's certainly safe to assume his fantasy impact for the rest of this season could be limited, especially considering the lineup support around him, Yelich is definitely a guy to keep on the radar in keeper and dynasty leagues.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

1Justin MastersonCLE14.22160.610.48
2Jered WeaverLAA14.22170.000.75
3Matt HarveyNYM15.01170.000.60
4Max ScherzerDET14.02121.290.36
5Tyson Ross*SD14.02130.640.57
6Clayton KershawLAD15.02171.800.53
7Felix HernandezSEA15.01180.600.67
8Jose FernandezMIA15.02212.400.80
9Scott Kazmir*CLE14.01100.000.57
10Doug FisterDET14.02110.640.79
11Chris Archer*TB16.0270.560.69
12Kyle Lohse*MIL13.02110.690.77
13Chris Tillman*BAL15.02151.200.93
14Randall Delgado*ARI14.2250.000.75
15Jon LesterBOS13.12161.350.98
16C.J. WilsonLAA15.12141.760.85
17Hisashi IwakumaSEA13.02161.381.08
18Juan Nicasio*COL12.01120.750.67
19Yu DarvishTEX12.11150.730.89
20Tony CingraniCIN13.21131.320.73

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Chris Archer, TB (Fri.) vs. San Francisco (60% owned)
I am not sure what else the young right-hander needs to do to get his ownership up to the 70-percent level. He has won his last four decisions, tossing two shutouts and allowing just one earned run over 31 innings. He may have only 17 strikeouts during this span, but he's surrendered even fewer hits (15) and walked only four. Even with Madison Bumgarner scheduled to oppose him, it's not like the Giants' offense is putting up a ton of runs lately. They managed a grand total of three in getting swept by the Cubs at home this past weekend.

2. Ricky Nolasco, LAD (Thurs.) at Chicago (39%)
Nolasco is just 1-1 in his first four starts with the Dodgers, but he's given up just eight earned runs in those 23 innings (3.13 ERA). The Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in all of baseball right now as the offense has come alive, and should be able to continue its production in Wrigley Field against young left-hander Chris Rusin. It may not be the prettiest or cleanest victory, but Nolasco should have a good chance of getting the W, as the Cubs may have a makeshift lineup in place by that point following Wednesday's non-waiver trade deadline.

3. Wei-Yin Chen, BAL (Tues.) vs. Houston (38%)
Since spending two months on the DL with an oblique strain, Chen has posted three straight quality starts. The left-hander has allowed just five earned runs over these starts, and was a tough-luck loser against Kansas City last Wednesday despite allowing just three earned runs (two home runs) in 7 1/3 innings. In three home starts this season, Chen is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. Chen also is scheduled to start at Camden Yards on Sunday against Seattle.

4. Edwin Jackson, CHC (Wed.) vs. Milwaukee (28%)
After getting off to a rough start (6-10, 5.11 ERA before the All-Star break) with his new team, Jackson has pitched much better lately. The veteran right-hander has put together three straight quality outings in which he has posted a 2.18 ERA and 0.77 WHIP. Next up for him is a Brewers' lineup that is without Ryan Braun (suspended) and Aramis Ramirez (DL) and one that is tied for 26th in the majors in runs scored (187 in 49 G) on the road.

5. Brandon Beachy, ATL (Mon.) vs. Colorado (46%)
Beachy will make his first start in more than a year when he takes the next, and hopefully final, step in his return from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander last pitched for the Braves on June 16, 2012 when he lasted just 3 2/3 innings against Baltimore. Before suffering the elbow injury, Beachy was 5-5 with a sparkling 2.00 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 81 innings. While it may be risky to start someone in their first game back after missing so much time, consider that only two teams (Washington and Miami) have scored fewer runs than Colorado on the road and slugger Carlos Gonzalez has missed the last three games with a finger issue. If all goes well on Monday night, Beachy should get the ball again on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Closing Morsels
The non-waiver trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon could cause several teams' bullpens to take on different shapes. The first two chips to fall were Houston closer Jose Veras and Los Angels Angels' setup man Scott Downs ... Veras was traded by the Astros to the Tigers on Monday for two minor-league players. Veras has been steady this season, posting a 2.93 ERA and saving 19 games for the lowly Astros, and Detroit manager Jim Leyland is hoping the veteran can help stabilize the back end of his bullpen. For now, there's no reason to think that current Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit will lose his job, but it does give Leyland another experienced option to turn to if need be. While Veras' save opportunities figure to diminish, if not disappear altogether, he is now an appealing option for leagues which use holds in their pitching categories ... Downs was traded to Atlanta for minor-league pitcher Cory Rasmus, as the Braves look to shore up their bullpen for the stretch run. Downs (2-3, 1.84 ERA, 18 holds) should team with former Angels teammate Jordan Walden in serving as the bridge between the starter and closer Craig Kimbrel. Downs also gives Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez another closing option should Kimbrel need a break. If anything, Downs' value actually increases slightly with this deal based on the switch in leagues and the fact the Braves have been a better team this year compared to the Angels ... Other relievers that could be changing uniforms this week that bear watching include closer Kevin Gregg and setup man Jeff Russell of the Cubs, the Padres' Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher, and depending on what takes place, possibly the likes of closers Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins and Jonathan Papelbon. If any of these three end up getting traded, that will definitely shake a bullpen or two up.
Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 29
Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /5-amazing-stats-rbc-canadian-open

The next round of Molsons is on Sneds.

An intriguing weekend at Ontario's Glen Abbey Golf Club concluded with the World's No. 7 player, Brandt Snedeker, outlasting Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, among others, to win the RBC Canadian Open, earning his sixth career PGA Tour title and moving to third in the 2013 FedExCup points chase. The win was especially gratifying for Snedeker, whose caddie, Scott Vail, is a native Canadian. "Just ecstatic right now," Snedeker said. "This is a tournament I said early on in my career I wanted to win just because my caddie (Scott Vail) is actually from Canada and it's his national open. It meant a lot to him, meant a lot to me. Third-oldest tournament on Tour and it's got some great history to it, and now to put my name on that trophy it means a lot."

Snedeker tipped his Bridgestone cap to 36-hole leader Hunter Mahan, who withdrew to be present for the birth of his daughter Zoe. "Zoe will be getting a very nice baby gift from me," Snedeker said. "I can't thank Kandi (Mahan) enough for going into labor early. I don't know if I'd be sitting here if she hadn't. But that is a way more important thing than a golf tournament. I missed a golf tournament when my first was born, and it was the best decision I ever made. I'm sure Hunter would say the same thing."

Here are some numbers to ponder from the weekend's action:

1 After moving to third in the latest FedExCup points standings, Snedeker is in prime position to become the first FedExCup champ to defend his Cup title successfully.


7 Having surged into a tie for the lead with two holes to play, Johnson sailed his tee shot on 17 out of bounds, hit his second drive into a bunker, hit the lip to leave it in the bunker, then had to drain a tough five-footer for a triple-bogey 7. A par would have put him in a playoff.


7 The Canadian Open represents the only real gap in Jack Nicklaus' legendary resume. The Golden Bear finished second in the event an astounding seven times.


8 The win marked Snedeker's eighth top-10 finish of the season in 16 appearances. That's tied for the most on Tour with Bill Haas (eight top 10s in 18 appearances).


-12 Dustin Johnson's dominance of the par-5s on the PGA Tour is breathtaking. For the week, Johnson was 12-under on Glen Abbey's par-5s, and that includes a couple of bogeys, which were offset by eagles. Johnson is tied for the Tour lead with 11 eagles in only 49 rounds.


Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 12:04
Path: /college-football/ul-lafayette-unveils-new-uniforms-2013

With games against Arkansas and Kansas State to open the 2013 season (and an excellent coach on the sidelines in Mark Hudspeth), UL Lafayette has a chance at a couple of high-profile upsets. And it certainly won’t hurt the Ragin’ Cajuns cause that the team unveiled some impressive uniforms for this year.

These photo tweeted by Eric Narcisse (@TDANarcisse) showcase UL Lafayette’s new uniforms, which feature white, black and red fleur-de-lis helmets, along with the traditional stacked Ragin’ Cajuns look.

Overall, this is a strong group of uniforms for UL Lafayette. Maybe the best-dressed team in the Sun Belt?


Post date: Monday, July 29, 2013 - 11:15