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Path: /college-football/florida-state-seminoles-2014-spring-preview

Florida State closed out the BCS era with a dominant 14-0 final record and a victory over Auburn in the national championship game. Not only was the win over the Tigers the Seminoles’ first title since 2000, it finally put to rest whether this program was truly back or not.

As the Seminoles open spring practice for 2014, the quest to become only the second team to earn back-to-back national titles since the BCS era began in 1998 is officially underway. Make no mistake: Repeating as college football’s national champion is challenging. But if there’s a team capable of winning back-to-back titles, the Seminoles would be a safe selection in 2014.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has signed five recruiting classes that ranked among the top 15 nationally and has assembled one of the nation’s best rosters. Quarterback Jameis Winston is back for another run at the Heisman, and in a scary thought for the rest of the ACC, he will only get better as a sophomore.

The Seminoles only have a few concerns on the depth chart for 2014, but the biggest issue might be something that doesn’t relate to a roster or replacing a starter. Complacency is always something national championship teams have to battle the next year. Expect Fisher and his staff to work hard on keeping the player’s focus on what is ahead in 2014 – not what transpired in 2013.

Florida State Seminoles 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 14-0 (8-0 ACC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 19

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 6

2014 Schedule 
Aug. 30 (Arlington)
Sept. 6The Citadel
Sept. 20
Sept. 27at 
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18
Oct. 30at 
Nov. 8
Nov. 15at 
Nov. 22
Nov. 29

Four Things to Watch in Florida State's 2014 Spring Practice

1. New Weapons for Jameis Winston: History suggests Jameis Winston won’t repeat as the Heisman winner, but even if the sophomore doesn’t hoist the trophy again, he is still poised to have a monster season. Winston’s supporting cast is going through an overhaul this spring, as wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and running backs Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. left early for the NFL. Wide receiver Kenny Shaw also expired his eligibility, which leaves Rashad Greene as the top returning option in the passing game, followed by a cast of unproven, but talented receivers. Seniors Christian Green and Jarred Haggins will be counted on to fill the voids from Benjamin and Shaw, while Kermit Whitfield, Jesus Wilson and Isaiah Jones are three promising sophomores to watch. Florida State also reeled in one of the nation’s top freshman classes at receiver, headlined by Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph. Lost in the transition at receiver is one of the nation’s top tight ends in Nick O’Leary. Talent certainly isn’t an issue here, but it may take Winston some time to find his rhythm with a new group of receivers. However, by the end of September, the Florida State passing attack should be hitting on all cylinders. This spring is all about determining a pecking order, while Green and Haggins try to lock down a job before Lane and Rudolph arrive on campus.

2. Austin Barron steps in at center: With four starters back, Florida State should have one of the nation’s top offensive lines in 2014. Left tackle Cameron Erving and guard Tre Jackson both earned first-team All-ACC honors last year, while guard Josue Matias was a third-team all-conference selection. Bryan Stork won the Rimington Trophy for the nation’s best center last season, but he expired his eligibility after the national championship. While Stork was a key piece in Florida State’s line, the drop-off in production at center should be very minimal. Austin Barron has five career starts and is slated to replace Stork at center. If there’s a concern on Florida State’s line, it has to be the depth behind the starters. The Seminoles avoided any significant injuries last season, which was a good thing considering the lack of proven options behind the starters. Fisher took steps to address the lack of depth by adding seven linemen in the 2014 signing class.

3. Who steps up at defensive tackle?: This position is easily the biggest concern for the Seminoles in 2014. New coordinator Charles Kelly has to replace standout tackle Timmy Jernigan, as well Jacobbi McDaniel and Demonte McAllister – two players who were crucial to the depth up front. The situation is better at end, as Mario Edwards Jr. is one of the best in the nation, and the Seminoles return Chris Casher and DeMarcus Walker.  Thanks to some of the nation’s top recruiting classes, there is talent available for Kelly at tackle. Nile Lawrence-Stample returns after starting six games and recording 15 tackles last season. Eddie Goldman is expected to anchor the tackle position after recording 19 stops in 13 games. Goldman can play at end or tackle, which is a product of Florida State’s multiple looks up front. Lawrence-Stample and Goldman are a solid combination, but the depth at tackle is largely unproven. Redshirt freshman Keith Bryant and senior Desmond Hollin need to step up this spring, while incoming freshmen Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas could push for time in the fall. Florida State probably won’t have a difference maker like Jernigan this season. However, assuming names like Lawrence-Stample, Bryant and Hollin emerge, the run defense shouldn’t suffer too much. This spring is the first chance for Kelly to put his stamp on the defense, while finding answers on the interior of the line.

4. Shuffling in the secondary: With Jeremy Pruitt taking the defensive coordinator position at Georgia, new play-caller Charles Kelly will shift from coaching the linebackers to the defensive backs. Much of the focus for Florida State’s defense is finding new faces in the trenches this spring, but don’t overlook the secondary. Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks depart after standout 2013 campaigns. However, the cupboard is far from bare. Jalen Ramsey was one of the nation’s top freshmen last year and should be in the mix for All-American honors in 2014. P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby didn’t get much national recognition last season, but both players are shutdown corners. Safety Nate Andrews was overshadowed by Ramsey, and he returns looking to build off a freshman season that earned him third-team All-ACC honors. This unit will receive a boost with the return of Tyler Hunter, who missed nearly all of 2013 due to a neck injury. Even though Joyner and Brooks were outstanding, Kelly has to be confident in his defensive backfield for 2014. But how will the Seminoles mix and match the personnel to replace those two players? This spring should give us the first indication of who fills the spots left behind by Joyner and Brooks, along with any tweaks Kelly makes with the secondary.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 11-12

Keep in mind this projection is just for the regular season. Florida State could stumble once during the regular season, but there’s not much on the schedule to suggest a loss is likely. Oklahoma State is rebuilding, and Clemson visits Tallahassee in early September. Notre Dame should be a top-25 team, but will the Fighting Irish find enough answers on the defensive line by then? At Miami could be Florida State’s toughest road game, and Florida should be improved, adding some spice to both rivalry contests. Barring any major injuries, the Seminoles appear to be a lock for one of the four spots in college football’s playoff.

Florida State Seminoles 2014 Spring Preview
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 12:07
All taxonomy terms: Lee Westwood, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-18-lee-westwood

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 18: Lee Westwood

Born: April 24, 1973, Worksop, U.K. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 2 (22 on European Tour) | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $2,081,731 (31st) World Ranking: 36

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Lee Westwood didn't win in 2013, but besides moving to the U.S., he was going through some changes in his swing and trying to improving his ailing short game, the latter of which he was able to do. In spite of not being at his best tee to green, he still managed to finish eighth at the Masters, 15th at the U.S. Open, third at The Open Championship and 33rd at the PGA Championship, making this the fifth year in a row that Lee has finished in the top ten in two of the four majors. With a few more months to work on his swing, a newfound short game and a greater feeling of comfort in the U.S., Lee could end that winless drought quickly in 2014.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 63
Wins: 0

2013 Performance:
Masters - T8
U.S. Open - T15
British Open - T3
PGA Championship - T33

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 2 (2010)
U.S. Open - 3/T3 (2008, '11)
British Open - 2 (2010)
PGA Championship - T3 (2009)
Top-10 Finishes: 16
Top-25 Finishes: 27
Missed Cuts: 16

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 11:19
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-20-2014

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

• Face it, you're not working today. Occupy yourself with these March Madness cheerleader photos while you wait for the games to start.

Here's a rundown of celebrity NCAA Tournament picks. James Van Der Beek likes St. Joe's over St. Louis in the finals. Warren Buffett's money is safe.

Mick Cronin sent Cincy fans a doctor's note excusing them from work today.

Aroldis Chapman had his face broken by a 110 mph line drive. Earlier in the week, Chapman had poked fun at Sammy Sosa with a little whiteface. This was God telling him that doctoring your face to look like another race is never a good idea.

Five legal cases represent the five gravest existential threats to the NCAA.

Michelle Beadle ate a cockroach on live television. Career's going well.

It was a tough Wednesday for Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.

• More proof that they do things backward in Australia: Watch a security guard teach a young Aussie baseball fan that he can get what he wants by throwing a tantrum.

Here's a bracket featuring the best Seinfeld episodes. The Strike (aka the Festivus episode) is woefully underseeded as a 7.

An in-depth analysis of the best fictional quarterbacks of all time. Uncle Rico at No. 10 seems low.

• Miguel Cabrera did a crazy spokes-video for PlayStation’s ‘MLB 14 The Show.'


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

Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 11:04
Path: /college-football/navy-coach-ken-niumatalolo-displays-commander-chiefs-trophy-ring

Navy started its spring practice on March 17 looking to earn its 10th Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 12 years.

To help the team with motivation and showcase some of the past success, Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo tweeted out a picture of a ring for winning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy.

Also, Navy recently released its hype video for 2014, which showcases some of the program’s top players for the upcoming year.

Check out the ring (which looks awesome) tweeted by Niumatalolo and the video promoting the Midshipmen’s upcoming season:

Navy Coach Ken Niumatalolo Displays Commander-in-Chief's Trophy Ring
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/secs-top-40-players-bcs-era

The SEC is the king of the college football world. In particular, it dominated the BCS Era.

The Southeastern Conference won nine of the 16 BCS national titles and four of the last six Heisman Trophies. Additionally, the SEC also claims five Thorpe Award winners, five Maxwell Awards, four Outland Trophies, four Rimington Trophies, three Doak Walker Awards, three Bednarik Awards, three Butkus Awards, three Lombardi Awards, two Nagurski Awards, two Walter Camp Awards and one Biletnikoff Award during the BCS Era.

Needless to say, there is no shortage of elite NCAA Hall of Fame-caliber players to roll through the SEC during the last 16 seasons. As you can imagine, trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 SEC players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

Editorial note: I've made the decision to exclude the SEC's first John Mackey Award winner Aaron Hernandez for obvious reasons.

1. Tim Tebow, QB, Florida (2006-09)
Stats: 9,285 yds, 88 TDs, 16 INTs, 66.4%, 2,947 yds, 57 TDs

Four years of huge statistics makes him the all-time SEC leader in total yards, total touchdowns (145), rushing touchdowns and passing efficiency (170.8). He won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 as well as the Davey O'Brien and Maxwell Awards when he set an NCAA record with 55 total touchdowns and 4,181 yards of total offense (since broken). He won the SEC Player of the Year, Manning and Maxwell Awards the following year in which he led Florida to its second national championship in three years. Tebow is one of only five players in SEC history to rush for 20 TDs in a season and his 57 career rushing touchdowns are an SEC record. He fell one game shy in 2009 of playing in — and likely winning — three national titles in four years. His speech following the loss to Ole Miss in '08 has been immortalized in Gator football lore and his cult following has only grown since leaving Gainesville.

2. Patrick Willis, LB, Ole Miss (2003-06)

The unheralded Tennessee native was overlooked by most of the SEC big boys and made them all pay by becoming the league’s best linebacker of the BCS Era. Rising from utter poverty to the best LB in the nation, Willis claimed the Butkus and Lambert Awards in 2006. He posted 265 tackles and 21.0 for loss over his final two seasons, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors and All-American status as a senior. He was taken with the 11th overall pick of the 2007 NFL Draft by San Francisco.

3. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas (2005-07)
Stats: 785 att., 4,590 yds, 41 TDs, 46 rec., 365 yds, 2 TDs

When it comes to pure breakaway speed and big-play ability, few can match Run-DMC’s talent. The North Little Rock prospect finished second in Heisman balloting in back-to-back seasons, coming up just short to Troy Smith and Tim Tebow in 2006 and '07 respectively. McFadden won the Doak Walker and SEC Offensive Player of the Year awards in both consensus All-American seasons. His 4,590 yards is No. 2 all-time in SEC history to only the great Herschel Walker. He helped lead Arkansas to the SEC Championship Game in 2006 but came up short against the eventual national champion Florida Gators.

4. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (2012-13)
Stats: 7,820 yds, 63 TDs, 22 INTs, 68.9%, 2,169 yds, 30 TDs

Manziel was one of the most unstoppable forces with the ball in his hands. He set the SEC single-season total offense record (5,116) by a large margin during his Heisman Trophy redshirt freshman campaign. His encore performance of 4,873 yards in his second season gives him the two most productive seasons in SEC history. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won the Manning and Davey O’Brien Awards and earned two bowl MVP trophies in the Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls. In just two seasons, his 9,989 yards tied Eli Manning exactly for eighth all-time in league history for total offense and his 93 total touchdowns rank fifth all-time. He is the all-time SEC leader in completion percentage (68.9 percent) and is one of only two players in league history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season (Tim Couch). Six conference losses and some injuries slowed the end of his short career, but Manziel’s excitement, improvisational skills, production and big-play ability are second to none in the storied history of SEC football. Few players ever burst onto the SEC scene quite like Johnny Manziel — despite the horrendous nickname — and few enjoyed the spotlight more.

5. Eric Berry, DB, Tennessee (2007-09)

It didn’t take long for Berry to make his name known as an SEC defender. In 2007, he posted a school record with 222 INT return yards on five picks, led all SEC freshmen with 86 tackles and was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He then returned seven interceptions for 265 yards as a sophomore en route to his first of two unanimous All-American seasons. He also was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year that year. As a junior, Berry returned to win the Thorpe and Jack Tatum Awards and ended his collegiate career with the the most interception return yards in SEC history. Used on offense and special teams as well, Berry’s superior athletic ability made him the fifth overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. For his career, Berry finished with 245 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 14 interceptions.

6. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama (2010-13)
Stats: 9,019 yds, 77 TDs, 15 INTs, 66.9%, 3 rush TDs

He gets knocked for his vanilla offensive system, extraordinary head coach and talented supporting cast but McCarron is Alabama’s greatest quarterback and is arguably the most successful player in SEC history this side of Tebow (who also had a great coach and elite supporting cast). He earned three BCS National Championships rings — two as the starting quarterback — and is the most prolific passer in school history. He earned BCS title game MVP honors as a sophomore before leading the nation in passing efficiency and winning another title as a junior (175.3). His 77-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio is one of the best in NCAA history as he finished as the No. 4-most efficient passer in SEC history (162.5). McCarron was a Heisman Trophy runner-up, the Maxwell and Unitas Award winner and finished 36-4 as a starter in his career — never missing a game in his four-year, 53-game career. Having Katherine Webb on the resume doesn’t hurt either.

7. Cam Newton, QB, Florida/Auburn (2008, '10)
Stats: 2,908 yds, 30 TDs, 7 INTs, 65.4%, 1,586 yds, 24 TDs

Newton's career is an intriguing one that could have been one of the greatest of all-time had he played more than just one season at Auburn. He was essentially kicked out of school, intertwined with a recruiting scandal and left early for the NFL. Yet, his one season in 2010 was one of the best in history. He single-handedly carried Auburn to a BCS title, won the Heisman Trophy as well as Davey O'Brien, Archie Manning, Maxwell, Walter Camp and AP Player of the Year honors. He set (since broken) the SEC’s single-season record for total offense with 4,327 yards and is one of just five players ever to rush for 20 TDs in an SEC season. Had he played more than one season, Newton could have challenged Tebow as arguably the best player to play in the SEC during the BCS Era.

8. David Pollack, DL, Georgia (2001-04)

The Bulldogs' defensive end is the most decorated defensive lineman of the BCS Era. Pollack is a three-time, first-team All-SEC and All-American, twice landing consensus All-American honors. He won the SEC Player of the Year award twice (2002, '04), as well as the Bednarik, Hendricks (twice), Lombardi and Lott Awards. He and roommate David Greene helped lead Georgia to its first SEC title (2002) in two decades. His highlight-reel plays — namely against South Carolina — and UGA all-time sack record (36.0) makes him arguably the greatest defensive lineman of the BCS Era.

9. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (2004-07)

The local kid from Baton Rouge won everything there is to win in the college ranks. He helped lead LSU to an SEC and BCS National Championship in 2007 while earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also claimed the Outland, Nagurski and Lott Trophies as well as the Lombardi Award — becoming the first LSU Tiger to win any of those prestigious awards. Dorsey also was ninth in the Heisman voting in his record-setting 2007 campaign. He was a two-time All-American and finished with 179 tackles, 27.0 for a loss and 13 sacks. He started 31 of his 52 career games and was drafted fifth overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

10. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (2009-12)

No offensive lineman during the BCS Era was more decorated than the Memphis native. He started at right guard and earned freshman All-American honors for the 2009 BCS champs. He slid out to left tackle by 2011 and won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman for the 2011 BCS champs. Jones then manned the pivot and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center for the 2012 BCS champs. The two-time consensus All-American won three national titles at three different positions while graduating with a Master’s Degree and 4.0 GPA. Jones might not be the most physically gifted player to ever play in the SEC but he pretty much dominated college.

11. Percy Harvin, WR, Florida (2006-08)
Stats: 133 rec., 1,929 yds, 13 TDs, 1,852 rush, 19 TDs

If Peter Warrick invented the all-purpose position in the late '90s, Harvin glorified it in the mid-2000s. A true dual-threat offensive talent, Harvin burst onto the scene as the SEC Freshman of the Year. He played a key role in the Gators' 2006 BCS National Championship run, totaling 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against Ohio State. He capped his college career with 14 touches for 171 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma. Few have combined speed, strength, production and winning like Harvin did. He nearly topped 2,000 yards both rushing and receiving, and, if not for nagging injuries his entire career, the Virginia Beach prospect might have been more decorated nationally.

12. Chris Samuels, OT, Alabama (1996-99)

The massive 'Bama blocker earned every award possible for an offensive tackle. Samuels claimed the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy and earned the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman in 1999 as a senior. He helped Alabama to its first SEC championship since 1992 and was a consensus All-American. He entered the starting lineup during his freshman season and proceeded to start 42 straight games — without allowing a sack. Samuels was picked third overall by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL Draft and went to six Pro Bowls.

13. Al Wilson, LB, Tennessee (1995-98)

Wilson isn’t as decorated as some of his BCS brethren but few players had as big an impact on their team as the Vols middle linebacker. He helped lead Tennessee to two SEC championships and the historic and unblemished 1998 national title. He was a consensus All-American, a consummate teammate on and off the field and was the 31st overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

14. John Henderson, DT, Tennessee (1998-01)

As a freshman, Henderson helped the Vols capture the 1998 BCS National Championship. By the time he had reached the end of his senior season, Henderson had posted 165 tackles, 38.5 tackles for a loss and 20.5 sacks — a huge number for an interior defensive lineman — in two first-team All-American seasons. The monstrosity of a man is one of just five defensive players during the BCS Era to claim the historic Outland Trophy and was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

15. Patrick Peterson, DB, LSU (2008-10)

The supremely gifted Peterson played in every game as a true freshman for the defending BCS champs. One of the most versatile, impactful athletes in the nation, Peterson scored on both defense and special teams throughout his career. He was a dynamic return man who brought a rare explosiveness to the game and led the SEC with 418 punt return yards. As a junior, Peterson won the Thorpe and Bednarik Awards and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year while being recognized as an All-American for a second time. He was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NFL Draft and finished his career with 135 tackles, seven interceptions, four return touchdowns and 1,356 total return yards.

16. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama (2009-11)
Stats: 540 att., 3,130 yds, 35 TDs 68 rec., 730 yds, 7 TDs, 720 ret. yds, TD

T-Rich is one of the most physically imposing running backs to ever play the game. The Pensacola product only started for one season but became the only SEC running back to rush for 20 touchdowns in a season until Tre Mason scored 23 times in 2013. Richardson won two national titles and is one of the rarest combinations of size, speed and agility. His 1,679 yards in the 2011 national title season are second to only McFadden (1,830) among all SEC backs during the BCS Era and is an Alabama single-season record. He was the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, and finished his collegiate career by earning consensus All-American recognition, winning the Doak Walker Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year honors and finishing third in the Heisman Trophy voting in '11.

17. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU (2009-11)

One of the best pure covermen in the history of the SEC, Claiborne was a lock-down corner for LSU in his two full seasons as the starter. He developed a reputation as a sophomore with five picks and 37 tackles en route to All-SEC honors. After that, no one threw at him. Despite teams staying away from him and a teammate getting more Heisman hype, Claiborne was named the nation’s top defensive back in 2011 as the recipient of the Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American. He helped LSU to a perfect 13-0 regular-season mark, an SEC title, was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year as his Tigers earned a berth in the BCS national title game. He was taken sixth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft.

18. Champ Bailey, CB, Georgia (1996-98)

From a versatility standpoint, few have ever been as explosive and dynamic as Champ Bailey. He was a lockdown cornerback, an elite return man and a dangerous wide receiver. His senior season — the only year he played during the BCS Era — Bailey posted 52 tackles and three interceptions on defense and caught 47 passes for 744 yards and five scores on offense. He was a two-time, first-team All-SEC pick and won the Nagurski Trophy in 1998 as the nation’s top defensive player. The consensus All-American finished seventh in the Heisman voting in '98 and he was the seventh overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

19. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (2010-2013)
Stats: 262 rec., 3,759 yards, 24 TDs

No player in the history of the SEC has had a more productive career or single season than Matthews. Matthews has caught more passes (262) for more yards (3,759) than anyone in SEC history and it’s not really even close. Earl Bennett is No. 2 in receptions (236) and Terrence Edwards is No. 2 in yards (3,093). No player in the SEC has ever caught 100 passes and Matthews posted 112 receptions as a senior with mediocre quarterback play. His 1,477-yard season is third in league history trailing only Josh Reed (1,740) and Alshon Jeffery (1,517). He helped the Dores to three straight bowl games and was the singular focus of every defense he faced yet still managed to destroy every major SEC receiving record.

20. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia (2008-10)
Stats: 166 rec., 2,619 yds, 23 TDs, 105 rush

Based on raw talent alone, Green is the one of the greatest receivers to play the game. In a league not known for big passing numbers, Green led the SEC in yards and touchdowns as a true freshman. His rare blend of size, speed, vertical ability and red zone ball skills makes him one of the game’s most uncoverable targets. One of the best three-year starts to an NFL career (260 rec., 3,833 yards, 29 TD) justifies his No. 4 overall draft status in 2011, his lofty recruiting ranking in 2008 and his place among the SEC’s best.

21. Rolando McClain, LB, Alabama (2007-09)

His fall from grace aside, McClain was one of the BCS’s great defensive leaders. He started eight games and posted 75 tackles as a freshman before earning some All-American honors as a sophomore (95 tackles). As the unquestioned heartbeat of the Alabama defense, McClain led the Crimson Tide back to the BCS promised land with a perfect senior season. He posted 105 tackles, 14.5 for loss, four sacks and two interceptions. He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous All-American and won both the Butkus and Lambert Awards. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

22. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (2010-13)
Stats: 13,166 yds, 121 TDs, 41 INTs, 62.3%, 396 yds, 16 TDs

When it comes to statistics, no SEC player in history was more productive than Murray. He owns the SEC record for passing yards and touchdown passes. His 137 total touchdowns trail only Tebow and his 13,562 yards of total offense bested Tebow’s record by a large margin (12,232). He is one of only three Georgia quarterbacks to beat Florida in three straight seasons and he posted at least 3,000 yards passing in four consecutive seasons. He is No. 1 all-time in SEC history with 921 completions and is No. 2 all-time with 1,478 attempts. He started 52 consecutive games, missing only the final two games of his senior season. His final record was 35-17 with two SEC East titles and the lack of a conference championship is the only missing piece to Murray’s otherwise sterling resume.

23. Eli Manning, QB, Ole Miss (2000-03)
Stats: 10,119 yds, 81 TDs, 35 INTs, 60.8%, 5 rush TDs

The third and final Manning to play quarterback in the SEC elevated Ole Miss to its highest levels of success during the BCS Era. He claimed the Unitas and Maxwell Awards, along with SEC Player of the Year honors and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2003. He owns the Ole Miss single-season records for yards (3,600) and touchdowns (31) and is eighth all-time in SEC history with over 10,000 yards passing. He is clearly one of this generation's greatest talents and of all the other greats to play in the SEC, Manning might have had the least talented supporting cast. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

24. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 572 att., 3,261 yds, 42 TDs, 60 rec., 670 yds, 4 TDs

Ingram is the only Heisman Trophy winner in Alabama’s storied history and he might not have been the best back on his own team. From Flint, Michigan, originally, Ingram led Bama to the national championship in 2009 with 1,658 yards and 17 scores. It was his only 1,000-yard season while in Tuscaloosa. No Bama player has scored more rushing touchdowns than Ingram and his 2009 Heisman Trophy campaign was the third-best among all SEC backs during the BCS Era (McFadden, Richardson). The SEC Offensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American was a first-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints when he left school early in 2010.

25. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (2011-12)

The supremely talented Joeckel helped lead the Aggies from the Big 12 to the SEC seamlessly due in large part to his blocking. In three full seasons, Joeckel started all 39 possible career games at left tackle for Texas A&M. He won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman and earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top blocker. He was an all-conference pick in two different conferences and a consensus All-American. The TAMU star was the No. 2 overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2013 NFL Draft.

26. Mark Barron, S, Alabama (2008-11)

The superstar safety was a three-time All-SEC pick, two-time All-American and helped the Crimson Tide win two BCS National Championships. (2009, '11). After three straight seasons with at least 68 tackles, Barron finished his career with 235 tackles, 13.0 for loss, 5.0 sacks, 12 interceptions and 34 passes defended. Many coaches called him the best player in the SEC in 2011 on what many consider the best defense of the BCS Era. The hard-hitting Alabama safety was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

27. Shawn Andrews, OT, Arkansas (2001-03)

A two-time consensus All-American, Andrews was an Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award finalist in 2003. He earned back-to-back Jacobs Blocking Awards as the SEC’s top lineman in 2002-03 — the only SEC player to win the award twice during the BCS Era and the first since Florida’s Jason Odom in 1994-95. Andrews was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Eagles and was invited to three Pro Bowls during his seven years in the NFL.

28. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (2010-13)

Few players can boast both a Butkus Award and a national championship — let alone two national championships and freshman All-American honors. Mosley posted a career-high 108 tackles and 9.0 tackles for loss and came up one play shy of winning back-to-back SEC titles and possibly a third BCS title. He collected 318 career tackles and 23.0 tackles for loss in his decorated and illustrious career in Tuscaloosa. Alabama went 46-7 during Mosley’s time on campus and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in all four seasons.

29. Carlos Rogers, CB, Auburn (2001-04)

The Tigers coverman started 10 games as a freshman, earning Freshman All-American honors. He was a mainstay on the outside of Auburn’s defense for four years and it culminated in a historic 2004 campaign. Rogers started 44 games, registered 182 tackles and picked-off seven passes in his career. Rogers was named the Thorpe Award winner, an All-American and helped Auburn to a perfect 13-0 record, SEC and Sugar Bowl championship. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft.

30. Andre Smith, OT, Alabama (2006-08)

Smith was a five-star prospect from Birmingham before dominating the SEC for three seasons at Alabama. As a junior, Smith won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman and was a consensus All-American. He left school early or else would have been a part of the 2009 BCS championship team. Still, Smith gets credit for helping to rebuild Alabama and was a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection. The Jacobs Blocking Trophy winner was selected with the sixth overall pick by the Bengals in the 2009 NFL Draft.

31. David Greene, QB, Georgia (2001-04)
Stats: 11,528 yds, 72 TDs, 32 INTs, 59.0%, 5 rush TDs

Greene helped restore the winning ways in Athens and it started in his first season as the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2001. He led the Dawgs to their first SEC title in two decades as a sophomore and was named an All-SEC passer in each of his upperclass seasons. He left school as the NCAA’s all-time winningest quarterback with 42 wins in his career. He was the SEC’s all-time leading passer until Murray broke his record in 2013.

32. DeMeco Ryans, LB, Alabama (2002-05)

The former three-star recruit outperformed all expectations for the Crimson Tide. In 2005 as a senior, he was a unanimous All-American, won the Lott Trophy and was named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Year. Ryans finished with 76 tackles and five sacks in his final season and just missed winning the Nagurski, Butkus and Draddy Awards as well. The Crimson Tide tackler was a second-round pick in 2006 by the Texans.

33. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2011-12)

Jones was a Lambert Award winner, a two-time All-American, led the nation in sacks as a sophomore (14.5), forced more fumbles in 2012 (7) than any player in his conference during the BCS Era and was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year. He also led Georgia to consecutive SEC East titles and was the 17th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He finished his career with 168 total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 28.0 sacks in two years as a starter in Athens.

34. Alex Brown, DE, Florida (1998-01)

The two-time, first-team All-American set the Gators' school record for sacks when he left school in 2001. Brown won the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2001 and helped lead Florida to the 2000 SEC title. He was a three-time, first-team All-SEC player and finished his career with 161 tackles, 47.0 for a loss and a school-record 33.0 sacks before getting taken in the fourth round of the 2002 NFL Draft.

35. Jonathan Luigs, C, Arkansas (2005-08)

The Razorbacks’ pivot for Darren McFadden, Peyton Hillis and Felix Jones was a three-time, first-team All-SEC performer. Luigs was a two-time Rimington finalist, winning the award given to the nation’s top center in 2007. He also was a consensus All-American in '07 and a fourth-round pick in the 2009 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with 49 consecutive starts and was a major part of one of the only two Arkansas teams to be ranked in the top five of the AP poll during the BCS Era (2006, '11).

36. Michael Oher, OT, Ole Miss (2005-08)

One of the most high-profile linemen during the BCS Era, Oher was a consensus All-American, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection and the SEC’s top offensive lineman in 2008 (Jacobs Trophy). The Outland finalist was a freshman All-American in 2005 and helped take a team with three straight losing seasons to a nine-win campaign and a Cotton Bowl berth as a senior. Oher was a first-round pick by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2009 NFL Draft.

37. Marcus McNeil, OT, Auburn (2002-05)

The All-American started 28 games in his four-year career, helping lead the Tigers to an unbeaten SEC championship season in 2004 (13-0). He was again an All-American as a senior in 2005, paving the way for one of the most talented backfields in SEC history. McNeil was taken in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft by the Chargers.

38. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011-13)

Certainly his final season left much to be desired with this freakish athlete, but no player has had a two-year start to a career like Clowney. He started his career as the SEC Freshman of the Year and also earned Freshman All-American honors after 36 total tackles, 12.0 for a loss, 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles. He refined his craft and exploded as a sophomore with 54 tackles, 23.5 for a loss and 13.0 sacks to go with three more forced fumbles, as he finished sixth in the Heisman voting a year ago. He was a unanimous All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and the Ted Hendricks Award winner. His final season wasn’t as inspiring as anticipated but he helped South Carolina to three consecutive 11-win seasons and a 33-6 overall record during his time. He finished his career with 130 tackles, 47.0 tackles for a loss, 24.0 sacks and nine forced fumbles for a team that had never won 11 games in a season before he showed up.

39. Shaun Alexander, RB, Alabama (1996-99)
Stats: 727 att., 3,565 yds, 41 TDs, 62 rec., 798 yds, 8 TDs

Alexander was a steady performer for four years at Alabama. The Florence, Ky., talent is the all-time leading rusher in Alabama history and he capped his career with an SEC Offensive Player of the Year season when he scored 23 total touchdowns and a career-high 1,383 yards rushing in 1999. Alexander is 12th all-time in rushing in SEC history and his 41 career rushing touchdowns trails Ingram by only one for seventh all-time in SEC history and tops at Alabama.

40. LaRon Landry, S, LSU (2003-05)

The LSU safety might be the most physically imposing defensive back of the BCS Era. He started 10 games as a true freshman for Nick Saban and the 2003 BCS National Championship squad. He made 80, 92 and 70 total tackles respectively during his three-year career and was a two-time All-SEC pick. Landry earned consensus All-American honors in 2006 before leaving early for the NFL. The thumper was the sixth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

The Next 10:

41. Kevin Faulk, RB, LSU (1995-98)
Stats: 856 att., 4,557 yds, 46 TDs, 53 rec., 600 yds, 4 TDs, 1,676 ret. yds, 3 TDs

From an all-purpose standpoint, few can match the production of Faulk. He posted the No. 4- and No. 5-best all-purpose seasons in SEC history when he totaled 2,109 yards in 1998 and 2,104 in '96. Those are still the best two seasons per game in SEC history (191.7 ypg and 191.3 ypg). His 46 rushing touchdowns are third all-time to Tebow and Walker and Faulk is third all-time in SEC history in rushing. He is fifth in rushing attempts and scored a total of 53 times while at LSU. 

42. Tim Couch, QB, Kentucky (1996-98)
Stats: 8,435 yds, 74 TDs, 35 INTs, 4 rush TDs

The consensus All-American and No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft brags two of the top four passing seasons in SEC history. He and Manziel are the only two players to top 4,000 yards passing in any season and his 4,275 yards in his junior season in the first year of the BCS system are still an SEC single-season record. His 37 touchdown passes in 1997 are tied for third all-time and his 36 scoring strikes the following year are tied for fifth.

43. Josh Reed, WR, LSU (1999-2001)
Stats: 167 rec., 3,001 yds, 17 TDs, 63 rush, TD

The numbers weren’t huge for Reed, but he was the nation’s best in 2001. He was a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner after catching 94 passes — seven for touchdowns, good for third all-time — for an SEC single-season record 1,740 yards. He is one of the SEC’s greatest wide receivers and is the conference’s only Biletnikoff winner. His 1,860 all-purpose yards in ’01 is one of just five in the top 20 all-time in SEC history posted by a wide receiver (the other 15 were posted by running backs). His 3,001 career yards are fourth all-time in the SEC record books and his 293 yards against Bama on 19 catches were both single-game SEC benchmarks (Cobi Hamilton broke the yards mark in 2012).

44. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama (2008-10)
Stats: 179 rec., 2,653 yds, 15 TDs, 139 rush, 2 TDs

From a talent standpoint, there may not be a more gifted name on this list than the superstar from Alabama. The school’s most talented pass-catcher helped lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship in 2009 and played on three teams that went 36-5 overall. Despite playing in a run-heavy offense, he is 16th all-time in yards and 20th all-time in receptions in league history — a tribute to his big-play ability. His 78 receptions and 1,133 yards as a junior are both Alabama single-season records and it led to the Falcons mortgaging their entire 2011 draft to select him with the sixth overall pick.

45. Ben Wilkerson, C, LSU (2001-04)

Starting for Nick Saban up front, Wilkerson helped lead LSU to two SEC championships and its first national title (2003) in over 50 years. After winning the BCS title as a junior, he was a consensus All-American in 2004 and won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center. He was a two-time Rimington finalist and went undrafted in 2005.

46. Cadillac Williams, RB, Auburn (2001-04)
Stats: 741 att., 3,831 yds, 45 TDs, 45 rec., 342 yds, TDs, 911 ret. yds

He never got the ball all to himself and that likely keeps him from being in the top five. He topped out in 2003 with 1,307 yards and 17 touchdowns before his second 1,000-yard season during the unbeaten 2004 campaign. He has scored more rushing touchdowns than anyone in school history and is No. 2 to only Bo Jackson in rushing yards. Williams is 11th all-time in rushing in SEC history and is fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns before becoming the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He’s 10th all-time in all-purpose yards in SEC history (5,084).

47. Maurkice Pouncey, C, Florida (2007-09)

There are no holes in Pouncey’s resume. He won the SEC and BCS National Championship in 2008 as the starting center as just a sophomore. He was a consensus All-American and Rimington Trophy winner in 2009. Pouncey was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 2010 and already has been to three Pro Bowls in his NFL career.

48. Terrence Cody, DT, Alabama (2008-09)

A two-time consensus All-American, Cody helped lead Alabama back to the national championship promised land in 2009 (just ask Lane Kiffin). Mount Cody finished his two-year SEC career with 51 total tackles, 10.5 for a loss and two key blocked kicks. Alabama’s defense ranked No. 3 in the nation during his first season and No. 2 in the nation during his second. He was a second-round pick by the Ravens in 2010.

49. Joe Haden, CB, Florida (2007-09)

Haden was the first true freshman cornerback to ever start opening day for the Gators. He helped lead Florida to the BCS National Championship in 2008 and was named National Defensive Player of the Year in '09. He also was a unanimous All-American that year and went seventh overall in the 2010 NFL Draft.

50. Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida (2006-09)

Spikes' resume is virtually complete. He was a two-time, consensus All-American, a three-time, first-team All-SEC selection, won two BCS National Championships, was a second-round pick and dated Doc Rivers' daughter. He posted 307 total tackles and started 39 of his 47 career games as a Gator before a slow 40-time caused him to fall into the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

The SEC's Top 40 Players of the BCS Era
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-greats-share-their-favorite-march-madness-memories
Everyone has their own treasured March Madness memories — even the memory-makers themselves. Athlon Sports persuaded many of today’s great players and coaches to share their favorite NCAA Tournament memories, even as they anticipate creating their own Shining Moments in this year’s tournament. 

Bill SelfBill Self, Kansas coach:
“Probably the same as a lot of people. Watching the (1979) Final Four with my dad in the living room when (Larry) Bird played Magic (Johnson). To me, that game got me so fired up — watching those two guys go at it. I thought it was so cool. I love Magic. But for me, Larry Bird was my hero. It was amazing how he put that team on his back.”
Tom Izzo, Michigan State coach:
“Michigan State against Indiana State with Magic vs. Bird. I loved Magic, and it was my first year as an assistant coach at Northern Michigan. My head coach brought me to the Final Four that year. It’s so ironic that it wound up being the team I coach. We were sitting about four rows up in the corner. What a thrill that was as a 23-year-old. It was a huge deal and changed the game. Magic vs. Larry. I’ll never forget that. To me, that was the start of me dreaming of where I wanted to end up — and I’ve gotten to live out my dream.”

Shaka Smart, VCU coach:
“Steve Fisher’s 1989 Michigan team. It seemed like Glen Rice didn’t miss a shot for three weeks. I was at home, 12 years old. I was so nervous when Rumeal Robinson went to the foul line. I was from Wisconsin, but the Badgers weren’t very good at the time — and I thought Glen Rice was the second coming.”

Russ Smith, Louisville guard:
“My favorite was watching Stephen Curry’s run through the NCAA Tournament (2008). I never really followed college basketball until I went to prep school and colleges started recruiting me, but I followed Curry. He never missed, and all his teammates knew that in order to win, he had to get the ball. Every time he made a play, it was probably the best play. I remember him going off against Gonzaga, then Georgetown — and then Davidson almost beat Kansas to go to the Final Four. He was just so much fun to watch.”
Buzz Williams, Marquette coach:

“Probably that Syracuse team with Sherman Douglas and Derrick Coleman in 1987. I didn’t have cable TV growing up. I remember that team and Douglas throwing lobs to Coleman and Stevie Thompson. For whatever reason, I loved that team. They beat Florida and North Carolina and got to the championship game and lost on that buzzer-beater to Keith Smart and Indiana. I’ll never forget that.”

Chris Mack, Xavier coach:

“Dereck Whittenburg’s airball to Lorenzo Charles to win the national title in 1983. I remember I was in the basement of my parent’s house and got caught up in the underdog fever of NC State. The little engine that could. I went bonkers when the dunk went down. I was 13 years old, but that was my favorite memory growing up of the tourney.”

Doug McDermott, Creighton forward:
“I’d have to say when (Florida’s) Mike Miller hit that shot to beat Butler at the buzzer (2000). I was watching it down in the basement in Cedar Falls (Iowa) with my brother. I was a huge Florida fan growing up. I’m not sure why, and I loved Mike Miller. My dad wound up getting me a Mike Miller jersey afterwards.

Noah Vonleh, Indiana forward:
“When Mario Chalmers hit the three to send the game into overtime against Derrick Rose and Memphis in the national championship game (2008). I was shocked and I couldn’t believe it. I thought Memphis had the game locked up, being up the entire game by a good amount. I knew Kansas was going to win in overtime."

Sam Dekker, Wisconsin forward:
“The Maryland team with Juan Dixon and Steve Blake stuck out to me. They won it all back in 2002, and that’s one of my first memories of college basketball. But the game that I remember more than anything else was an Elite Eight game between North Carolina and Wisconsin in 2005. I was a diehard Carolina fan, and was cheering for both teams. My brother had open-heart surgery and knew former Carolina player Joe Wolf. He sent him a card to get better after his surgery. I was literally rooting for both teams. I loved Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton and Sean May. I was watching that game down in Gulf Shores, Alabama — where my family went on spring break that year. I even remember the shoes Carolina was wearing.”

Sean Miller, Arizona coach:
“Michael Jordan’s game-winning shot against Georgetown in the Superdome (1982). I was watching it with my dad in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, and couldn’t believe it. I’ll always remember that play, and that game. I was thinking, ‘Man, I hope I can be good enough to go to Carolina.’”

Nick Johnson, Arizona guard:
“My favorite NCAA Tournament feeling was watching Selection Sunday and seeing our name called — and obviously going to the Sweet 16 last year. But overall, it’s just watching ‘One Shining Moment’ at the end of the Tournament.” 
Georges Niang, Iowa State forward:
“When T.J. Sorrentine of Vermont hit the buzzer-beater against Syracuse (2005). My friend and I were camped out in his basement for the first two rounds. Sometimes we would even fake being sick to come home and catch the noon-time games. I loved it, and that Sorrentine shot was the one that will always stick out for me.”

Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado guard:

“I was a USC fan growing up because my mom went there, so when they beat Kevin Durant (and Texas) in the Tournament that was cool to me because I looked up to Nick Young. He was my favorite college player and he had 22 in that game and they blew out KD and Texas.”

Nik Stauskas, Michigan guard:

“I was more of an NBA guy growing up because we didn’t have ESPN in Canada. We had TSN. I didn’t really start watching college basketball until four or five years ago. The game that sticks out to me is the national title game between Kansas and Memphis where Mario Chalmers hit that three to force it to overtime. That was crazy. I was with my dad at home in Toronto. I didn’t know much about it then, but after that I really started watching.” 
Everyone has their own treasured March Madness memories — even the memory-makers themselves. Athlon persuaded many of today’s great players and coaches to share their favorite NCAA Tournament memories, even as they anticipate creating their own Shining Moments in this year’s tournament.
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-thursday-viewers-guide-tv-times-and-skinny-every-game

One of the greatest sports weekends of the year arrives Thursday at noon Eastern, and while we can’t tell you where to find truTV (program guide, folks), Athlon Sports can guide you through the day in March Madness.

The day starts with an All-Buckeye State matchup between Ohio State and Dayton, finally giving the Flyers, their coach and a transfer a chance to prove themselves against the big in-state program.

The 16th and final game of the day will be in Spokane when San Diego State and New Mexico State tip at roughly 10 p.m. Eastern.

Navigating the whole day can be tough with games crossing four different networks. We’ll help you get through it here.

NCAA Tournament Thursday Viewer’s Guide
All times Eastern

No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Saint Joseph’s
TV: 6:45 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: East
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
UConn is back in the field after a one-year absence due to NCAA sanctions. St. Joe’s is back for only the second time since 2005, when Jameer Nelson and Dalonte West led a 30-2 team. Will Shabazz Napier’s do-it-all ability outweigh a more balanced St. Joe’s team?

Related: A must-follow Twitter account for each team in the field

No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 15 Wofford
TV: 7 p.m., CBS
Site: Milwaukee
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
The last time Wofford went to the NCAA Tournament, the Terriers lost by 4 to Wisconsin in the round of 64. This team is not as good as that one.

No. 5 Saint Louis vs. No. 12 NC State
TV: 7:15 p.m., TNT
Site: Orlando
Region: West
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner
Saint Louis is ranked eighth in the country in defensive efficiency thanks to its ability to lock down the 3-point line. NC State star T.J. Warren, though, wants to get to the basket. For a guard averaging 24.8 points per game, it may be a surprise that Warren gets only 11 percent of his points from 3-pointers.

Related: The NCAA Tournament by the numbers

No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 North Dakota State
7:30 p.m., truTV
Site: Spokane, Wash.
Region: West
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb
Another Dakota team will be a popular upset pick, but this one is different from last year’s team. First, last season’s upset special was South Dakota State, not North Dakota State. And that team was led by guard Note Wolters. The Bison are led by two forwards in Taylor Braun (6-7) and Marshall Bjorklund (6-8) who can score inside. The battle on the glass, then, may be one of the most intriguing matchups with OU featuring one of the nation’s best rebounders.

No. 2 Villanova vs. No. 15 Milwaukee
9:15 p.m., TBS
Site: Buffalo
Region: East
Announcers: Verne Lundquist, Bill Raftery
Milwaukee has a standout guard with a standout sports name in Jordan Aaron, who was suspended late in the season. The Panthers went 1-3 without him and won the Horizon League Tournament when he returned. Villanova handled every team not named Syracuse or Creighton on it schedule ... until a puzzling loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament knocked the Wildcats out of No. 1 seed contention.

No. 7 Texas vs. No. 10 Arizona State
TV: 9:30 p.m., CBS
Site: Milwaukee
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel
Every season, the selection committee seems to find a way to get two slumping teams playing each in the round of 64. This is that game. Texas and Arizona State may have saved the jobs of Rick Barnes and Herb Sendek, respectively, and then went a combined 5-10 after Feb. 18.

No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 13 Manhattan
TV: 9:45 p.m., TNT
Site: Orlando
Region: Midwest
Announcers: Brian Anderson, Dan Bonner
Louisville may have the most curious seeding of any team in the field. The Cardinals are one of the hottest teams in the country, rising to the top five in the poll and No. 1 in KenPom. But here are the Cardinals as a No. 4 seed, in part because if a weak non-conference schedule. To boot, Rick Pitino will face a former player and assistant in Manhattan coach Steve Masiello.

No. 4 San Diego State vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
truTV, 10 p.m.
Site: Spokane, Wash.
Region: West
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Doug Gottlieb
New Mexico State may be one of the strangest NCAA Tournament regulars of the last five seasons. Consider this: The Aggies haven’t won a regular season WAC title since 2008, earning a spot in the field in four of the last five seasons as a spoiler in the conference tournament. What has New Mexico State done with all those winning streaks entering the Tournament? Nothing. The Aggies haven’t won a Tournament game since 1993.

NCAA Tournament Thursday Viewer's Guide: TV, times and the skinny on every game
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /college-basketballs-worst-coaching-tenures-1984-85

Sometimes a coach inherits a bad team or steps into a program where the university simply does not invest in basketball. In some cases, through recruiting, Xs and Os and inspiration, that coach can turn a bad team into a good or even great one.

The guys on this list are not those coaches. Here are the 20 worst coaching tenures in the six major conference since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985.

Worst Coaching Tenures in Major Conferences since 1985

1. Dave Bliss, Baylor
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 61-57, 19-45 Big 12
Before his undoing at Baylor, Bliss took three teams to the NCAA Tournament (Oklahoma, SMU and New Mexico), but his downfall at Baylor remains one of college athletics biggest disgraces. One player, Carlton Dotson, pleaded guilty to murdering teammate Patrick Dennehy in 2003, and Bliss' actions in the aftermath did not help an already tragic situation. Bliss was found to have paid part of Dennehy’s tuition and that of another player (both NCAA violations), and then asked an assistant and players to lie to investigators about the payment, saying Dennehy had been dealing drugs. That, among other NCAA and recruiting violations put Baylor under harsh sanctions through 2010. On the court, Baylor had one winning season and never finished better than 6-10 in the Big 12.

2. Bob Wade, Maryland
Years: 1986-89
Record: 36-50, 7-35 ACC
Wade took over after the drug-related death of All-American Len Bias, who had just been drafted second overall by the Boston Celtics. With an academic scandal at the end of coach Lefty Driesell’s tenure as well, Wade did not take over in College Park under ideal circumstance when he was hired from the high school ranks from Baltimore Dunbar. After three seasons, including two where Maryland went 0-16 and 1-14 in the ACC, Wade resigned amid his own allegations of NCAA violations. He was replaced by Gary Williams, who resuscitated the program and won 461 games with the Terps.

3. Bob Staak, Wake Forest
Years: 1985-89
Record: 45-69, 8-48 ACC
Staak took over for Paul Tacy, who had reached the postseason in five consecutive years (three pre-expansion NCAAs, two NITs) before Staak arrived. The former Xavier coach and Connecticut player went 8-21 and winless in the ACC in his first season and never won more than three conference games during his four years at Wake. He resigned amid an NCAA inquiry into recruiting violations and was replaced by Dave Odom, who would lead the Demon Deacons to their most successful era in the 1990s and early 2000s.

4. Bill Foster, Northwestern
Years: 1986-93
Record: 54-141, 13-113 Big Ten
The only program from a major conference not to have reached the NCAA Tournament, Northwestern has had its share of futile coaching tenures. Foster’s, though, was the worst. The Wildcats finished in last place in six of his seven seasons, went 2-16 in the Big Ten five times and winless once. His successor, the late Ricky Byrdsong, reached the NIT in his first season with Northwestern. And interesting footnote: Foster also preceded Mike Krzyzewski at Duke.

5. Paul Graham, Washington State
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 31-79, 9-63 Pac-10
The Cougars aren’t known for their basketball success, but before Graham, Washington State built a solid program under Kelvin Sampson and reached the NIT under Kevin Eastman. After Graham, Dick Bennett and son Tony Bennett built Washington State into an NCAA Tournament team. A rash of play departures also didn’t help Graham’s short-lived tenure at Wazzu.

6. Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest
Years: 2010-present
Record: 51-76, 17-51 ACC
Bzdelik has coached in the NBA and took Air Force to the NCAA Tournament in 2006, so it’s a mystery why Bzdelik has had such meager results at a program that has been a consistent power in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have had their share of player departures, due to transfers and off-court issues, so those are possible reasons. His tenure has had fans screaming for Wake to replace him, but the athletic department must see improvement: Bzdelik had twice as many ACC wins in his third and fourth seasons (12) than he did in his first two combined (five).

7. Sidney Lowe, NC State
Years: 2006-11
Record: 86-78, 25-55 ACC
Hopes were high that Lowe, a former NC State player and longtime NBA assistant, would help the Wolfpack take the next step after an unspectacular run under Herb Sendek. As NC State learned, things weren’t so bad under Sendek, who reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his last five seasons in Raleigh. Lowe recruited well, but the results didn’t come on the court as NC State never won more than six ACC games in a season and finished ninth or lower each year. Successor Mark Gottfried, however, took advantage of the influx of talent under Lowe with a Sweet 16 appearance in his first season.

8. Melvin Watkins, Texas A&M
Years: 1998-2004
Record: 60-112, 21-75 Big 12
Watkins’ predecessor, Tony Barone, also was a candidate for this list, which says something about the Aggies’ basketball program in the ‘90s. Watkins, though, capped his tenure in College Station with a winless Big 12 season and a 7-21 overall record. The Aggies won 10 or fewer games three times in his six seasons. If there was a silver lining, Watkins did bring Acie Law and Antoine Wright to Texas A&M. Under Law and Gillispie, Texas A&M reached the NIT in 2005 and the Sweet 16 in 2007.

9. Brian Mahoney, St. John’s
Years: 1992-96
Record: 56-58, 29-43 Big East
After the departure of the program’s most successful coach, St. John’s promoted assistant Brian Mahoney to replace Lou Carnesecca, but Mahoney turned out to be the first coach in a line of four who weren’t able to restore St. John’s to the glory days. Mahoney reached the NCAA Tournament in his first season, but  reached only one NIT in the three seasons thereafter. Mahoney went 17-37 in the Big East.

10. Matt Doherty, North Carolina
Years: 2000-03
Record: 53-43, 23-25 ACC
Doherty played for Dean Smith at North Carolina and was a teammate of Michael Jordan’s. Those were better days for the Tar Heels. Doherty went 26-7 and 13-3 in the ACC in his first season taking over for Bill Guthridge, but he went 27-36 and 10-22 in conference the following two seasons. During his short-lived tenure, Doherty clashed with Guthridge and Smith by replacing longtime assistants and ran off players with his abrasive style. In North Carolina’s second attempt to pursue Roy Williams, the Tar Heels landed him to replace Doherty in 2003. With some of Doherty’s recruits, Williams won a national title in 2005.

11. Eddie Payne, Oregon State
Years: 1995-2000
Record: 50-90, 20-70 Pac-10
Since the retirement of Ralph Miller in 1989 until the hire of current coach Craig Robinson, none of the coaches in Corvallis had distinguished tenures. Payne’s best season was 7-11 in the Pac-10, but the Beavers went 3-15 in conference or worse in three of his five seasons.

12. Billy Gillispie, Kentucky
Years: 2007-09
Record: 40-27, 20-12 SEC
Hopes were high for Texas A&M’s Gillispie he took over for Tubby Smith, a national title coach who never wowed the Kentucky fan base. A first-round loss in the NCAA Tournament to Marquette followed by an NIT ended his tenure in Lexington after only two seasons.

13. Ken Bone, Washington State
Years: 2009-14
Record: 80-86, 29-62 Pac-12
Washington State is perhaps the toughest basketball job in the Pac-12, but Bone started off with two things in his favor: Tony Bennett had just wrapped up a successful tenure that included a Sweet 16 appearance, and he had eventual NBA Draft lottery pick Klay Thompson on the roster. The Cougars topped out at the NIT with Bone and Thompson, and bottomed out to 7-29 in the league in Bone's final two seasons.

14. Larry Shyatt, Clemson
Years: 1998-2003
Record: 70-84, 20-60 ACC
Shyatt took over after a successful run under Rick Barnes and was replaced by Oliver Purnell, who remade the Tigers into a postseason contender. In between, Shyatt had only two winning seasons and never finished better than 5-11 in the ACC.

15. Jerry Wainwright, DePaul
Years: 2005-10
Record: 59-80, 20-51 Big East
DePaul clearly was not ready to be competitive in the Big East and had long since fallen behind in recruiting the Chicago area. An Illinois native, Wainwright couldn’t help matters. He was fired midway through the 2009-10 season amid a stretch in which DePaul went 1-35 in Big East games.

16. Fred Hill, Rutgers
Years: 2006-10
Record: 47-77, 13-57 Big East
Like Jerry Wainwright and DePaul, Rutgers hoped Hill’s local ties would help revive a moribund Big East program. Hill signed McDonald's All-American Mike Rosario (who later transferred to Florida), but he never won more than five Big East games in four losing seasons at Rutgers. Hill caused further problems for his program when he got into a shouting match with the Pittsburgh baseball coach after a game between the two schools (Hill’s father is the Rutgers baseball coach). Hill disobeyed his athletic director by attending later games in the series, a development that played a role in his ouster.

17. Tony Barbee, Auburn
Record: 49-75, 18-50 SEC
Barbee arrived at Auburn after going 16-1 in Conference USA in his final season at UTEP. As a John Calipari assistant at Memphis, Barbee was expected to up the level of talent at Auburn just as facilities began to improve. That never materialized as Auburn was one of the worst teams in the SEC during his four seasons. Auburn's a tough job, but the Barbee and the Tigers were the clear bottom feeder in a league in decline.

18. Jeff Bzdelik, Colorado
Years: 2007-10
Record: 36-58, 10-38 Big 12
Bzdelik makes his second appearance on the list. Again, he won at Air Force and coached in the NBA, but he couldn’t manage a winning season at Colorado. Successor Tad Boyle, meanwhile, took over to lead the Buffaloes to back-to-back postseason appearances.

19. Todd Lickliter, Iowa
Years: 2007-10
Record: 38-57, 15-39
Perhaps a cautionary sign for Brad Stevens that the grass isn’t always greener. Lickliter left Butler after a Sweet 16 appearance for a failed tenure with the Hawkeyes. Iowa was a postseason regular under four coaches since the late ‘70s, but the Hawkeyes finished eighth or lower in the Big Ten each season under Lickliter.

20. Ricky Stokes, Virginia Tech
Years: 1999-2003
Record: 29-55, 10-38 Big East
The above record does not include Stokes’ first season when the Hokies were a member of the Atlantic 10, which was also his only winning season (16-15) in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech was already struggling before joining the Big East as a basketball member in 2000, so the Hokies’ first three seasons in the league were no big surprise.

<p> College Basketball's Worst Coaching Tenures since 1984-85</p>
Post date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/athlon-sports-cover-2-podcast-ncaa-tournament-picks

The Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast took a quick break from college football spring football previews to quickly delve into college basketball.

Before delving into picks for every game in the NCAA Tournaments, co-hosts Braden Gall and David Fox give their quick reaction to Bruce Pearl’s hire at Auburn. Pearl will undoubtedly bring interest to the Auburn basketball program, but does he immediately give Auburn the best coaching duo in the league.

Then it’s on to picks for every game in the NCAA Tournament, region by region. All the upsets and storylines for every game through the title game.

(Ed. note: Fox got flustered and said Sean Kilpatrick doesn't from 3-point range. He does. A lot. Sorry, Cincinnati fans.)

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

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

Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast: NCAA Tournament picks
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 12:33
All taxonomy terms: Brandel Chamblee, Hunter Mahan, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-19-hunter-mahan

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 19: Hunter Mahan

Born: May 17, 1982, Orange, Calif. | Career PGA Tour Wins: 5 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 0 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $3,036,164 (18th) World Ranking: 32

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Hunter Mahan continues to improve, which, when you get to his level, comes with some risk, as attention to one area necessarily distracts from another. In 2013, every facet of Mahan's game was better than it was the year before, and those improvements landed him in the final group on Sunday of the U.S. Open and The Open Championship. Familiarity with that type of pressure takes some time and is the last piece of a complex puzzle to reach the highest levels of professional golf. If Hunter finds himself in the same position this year, he will no doubt be a different player, and as such 2014 promises to be a great year for the former OSU Cowboy.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 32
Wins: 0

2013 Performance:
Masters - Cut
U.S. Open - T4
British Open - T9
PGA Championship - T57

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - T8 (2010)
U.S. Open - T4 (2013)
British Open - T6 (2007)
PGA Championship - T16 (2009)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 13
Missed Cuts: 12

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 11:04
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-19-2014

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

• This bracket's pretty evenly matched: The 68 cheerleading squads of March Madness.

Vin Scully meeting a koala. The Internet was created for things such as this.

Here's a painting of George Washington dunking on Kim Jong-un, with Lincoln boxing out Stalin. I want this painting.

• Today's longform must-read: The Game that Saved March Madness. (Georgetown-Princeton, in case you're wondering.)

Bruce Pearl arrived at Auburn like the Beatles at JFK. Auburn fans finally realized they have a basketball program.

The First Four takes a good thrashing from Greg Doyel.

How the top 16 seeds fared against other tournament teams in the regular season. Hard to believe that Kansas played 20 games against tourney teams (12-8). They're well seasoned, I'd say.

Watch the Twins mascot catch a foul ball with his mouth.

This LeBron assist defies description. So I won't describe it.

Tom Brady and Gisele are selling their LA mansion for $50 mil. Seems a little steep, but it does have an infinity pool, which is nice.

Here's a handy map showing what each state is worst at. My state has the most bankruptcy filings.

• Watch a Canadian college player go Reggie Miller with 12 points in less than 30 seconds.


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

Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 10:52
Path: /college-football/penn-state-nittany-lions-2014-spring-football-preview

Bill O’Brien was exactly what Penn State needed.

He was an outsider who kept the program together and, more importantly, competitive during the worst scandal in NCAA history. In the face of horrific sanctions, not only did O’Brien win games but he also recruited extremely well. So when James Franklin, a Pennsylvania native, returned home to assume control of the historic program, the cupboard wasn’t even close to being bare.

Franklin arrives in Happy Valley off of the most successful run of football in Vanderbilt school history. He beat his rivals, he recruited at an unprecedented level and inspired a once dormant community of fans in Nashville. At Penn State, Franklin won’t have to work nearly as hard to recruit and certainly won’t have to beg fans to come to games any longer.

Franklin now has all of the natural advantages at his disposal in order to compete for national championships — something that could not be said on West End. O’Brien was a perfect bridge from one State College lifer to what could turn out to be another.

2014 Schedule
Aug. 30 (Dublin)
Sept. 6
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20
Sept. 27
Oct. 4Bye Week
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18Bye Week
Oct. 25
Nov. 1
Nov. 8at
Nov. 15
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

Penn State Nittany Lions 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 7-5 (4-4 Big Ten)

Spring Practice Opens: March 17

Spring Game: April 12

Returning Starters

Offense: 4

Defense: 6

Three Things to Watch in Penn State's 2014 Spring Practice

Replace Allen Robinson
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg returns for his second full season as the starting quarterback with massive expectations. But who will catch his passes? Allen Robinson was a Biltenikoff candidate for much of the year because he made huge plays in critical situations — in particular, vertically down the field. Robinson is arguably the best wideout ever to play in Happy Valley and replacing his 97 receptions and 1,432 yards won’t be easy. Eugene Lewis, Richy Anderson, Alex Kenney and Matt Zanellato caught 38 passes combined last year with Lewis’ 18 catches leading the way among all returning wideouts. One of these names needs to step into a bigger role and offer Hackenberg a trusty go-to target on the outside. The development of tight ends Jesse James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman, all of whom are very talented, will help the situation. Franklin boasted the SEC’s all-time leading receiver last year at Vanderbilt in Jordan Matthews so he clearly knows how to get his playmakers the ball. But unless he can find a top target, it won’t matter how talented his signal-caller may be, defenses won’t respect the downfield passing game.

Plug holes along the O-line
Two All-Big Ten blockers in guard John Urschel and center Ty Howle have moved on as well as tackle Adam Gress (nine starts). With an elite quarterback and a trio of excellent running backs — Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak, Akeel Lynch — protecting his offensive assets becomes a huge focus this spring for Franklin and the Lions. Offensive line coach Herb Hand is one of the most dynamic personalities the SEC had a year ago and now his first job is to rebuild the Lions' front five. Left tackle Donovan Smith is a great place to start and Miles Dieffenbach has begun to live up to the recruiting hype. Still, other names need to step into bigger roles. Stabilizing the line is imperative if Penn State wants to move the ball on the ground and keep its star signal-caller upright.

Find leadership and depth at linebacker
Two years ago, O’Brien had to step into a horrendous situation few would be willing to attack. But he did so with the help and leadership of Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti at linebacker. Those two seniors helped galvanize the Penn State locker room and family in 2012. Last year, senior Glenn Carson played that role for a team that won seven games. Mike Hull returns after 78 tackles a year ago but Franklin and defensive coordinator Bob Shoop need to find playmakers and depth around him at linebacker. This is Penn State, Linebacker U, and not having star power at this position is borderline unacceptable. Nyeem Wartman (32 tackles), Brandon Bell (23 tackles) and Ben Kline (18) have some experience and upside but need to take on more ownership of the defense. Shoop has a talented defensive line returning and lots of options in the secondary, so finding playmakers and depth at linebacker is key this spring.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10

There is a lot to like about this team. The new regime was a proven commodity in the big bad SEC and now it’s facing a much less daunting Big Ten schedule. There is plenty of talent left on the roster after O’Brien surprised with his high level of recruiting during his two-year tenure. Having Hackenberg in place for the next two seasons is a luxury most new coaches rarely get and Franklin will maximize his quarterback’s enormous upside. And with a defense that returns a lot of weapons, filling in holes around the star quarterback will be critical this offseason. Getting both Ohio State and Michigan State at home are huge and the conference road slate is extremely manageable — at Michigan is the toughest task. This is a very talented team working under a very talented coaching staff with a schedule that sets up nicely for a postseason run — should the NCAA lift the bowl ban in the next few months.

Penn State Nittany Lions 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 09:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, USC Trojans, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/usc-trojans-2014-spring-football-preview

Pat Haden really didn’t want Lane Kiffin around any longer. So the USC athletic director made a decisive move just a few weeks into the season when he fired Kiffin on the tarmac at LAX.

A few months later, Haden announced that Steve Sarkisian was returning to Heritage Hall to become USC’s next head football coach. Coach Sark had rebuilt Washington into a winner but could never get the Huskies over the proverbial hump in Seattle. Yet, the timing was right for both parties and Sark made his triumphant homecoming to Los Angeles.

Sarkisian immediately began building one of the more impressive coaching staffs in the nation using both incumbents (Clay Helton, Tee Martin) and familiar faces from UW (Justin Wilcox).

And so, with an elite roster chock-full of five-star talent, Sark embarks on a journey USC fans are hoping returns the Men of Troy to the top of the college football mountain.

Finding replacements for names like wide receiver Marqise Lee, center Marcus Martin, end George Uko, linebacker Devon Kennard and safety Dion Bailey will be Sarkisian's first task this spring.

2014 Schedule
Aug. 30
Sept. 6at
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20Bye Week
Sept. 27
Oct. 4
Oct. 11at 
Oct. 18
Oct. 25at 
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 13
Nov. 22at 
Nov. 29

USC Trojans 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 10-4 (6-3 Pac-12)

Spring Practice Opens: March 11

Spring Game: April 19

Returning Starters

Offense: 6

Defense: 8

Three Things to Watch in USC's 2014 Spring Practice

Adapt to the new tempo
Even in his introductory press conference, Sarkisian intimated at how fast USC’s offense will run under the new regime. He wants his team to play fast. Getting his players accustomed to running the offense at breakneck speed will be critical for returning quarterback Cody Kessler and backup Max Browne, as well as a host of talented but fairly young skill players. The players have reportedly taken to the tempo quickly and are enjoying the new M.O. Sark has said that every position will be up for grabs, including quarterback, and that has fueled competition and intrigue throughout spring camp. It appears that USC practices are fun to be a part of once again.

Rebuild the offensive line
Martin was a first-team All-Pac-12 pick last year and he must be replaced at center. Gone also are Kevin Graf and John Martinez. New offensive line coach Tim Drevno is looking to totally recast this front and has some really nice pieces to work with in left tackle Chad Wheeler and the versatile Max Tuerk. Tuerk, who has played both tackle and guard, appears to be earmarked as Martin’s replacement at center as Drevno builds from the inside out along the line. Khaliel Rodgers and Aundrey Walker were both big-time recruits who the staff has high expectations for as well. Toss in names like Giovanni Di Poalo and Nathan Guertler and the Trojans could have the makings of an elite offensive line. If they can all stay healthy.

Find some edge rushers
Three of the top four sack masters for USC last year are gone. Outside linebacker Devon Kennard (9.0), defensive end George Uko (5.0) and Morgan Breslin (4.5, six games) have all moved on from the Trojans' defense. J.R. Tavai filled in admirably for Breslin a year ago and he should lock down one outside spot while Scott Starr, Quinton Powell, Michael Hutchings and Anthony Sarao are in the mix for serious playing time as well. There is no shortage of talented bodies, so defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox should be excited about his future front seven. Finding an elite pass rusher off the edge, be it with a hand in the dirt or not, has to be an area of focus for the new coaching staff this spring — especially, considering the quarterback play and offensive coaching prowess that the Pac-12 boasts.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 8-10
Steve Sarkisian was an underwhelming hire at USC but coaches shouldn’t be selected based on their ability to win the press conference (just ask UCLA). Coach Sark knows the landscape at USC and has assembled an all-star coaching staff to both recruit and motivate. This team returns a ton of weapons on offense and has loads of young talent on the defensive side of the ball. Recruiting was never Kiffin’s problem and he left the cupboard totally stocked for Sark. So even with a brutal schedule in 2014, fans in USC should expect to compete for South Division and Pac-12 titles right away under the new regime. In fact, a berth in the Pac-12 title game in Sark’s first year is well within reach.

USC Trojans 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/accs-top-25-players-bcs-era

The ACC has experienced some peaks and valleys during the BCS Era. It began with three consecutive BCS title game appearances followed by massive expansion with the additions of marquee programs Miami, Virginia Tech (2004) and Boston College (’05).

However, the league continued to fall behind its big league brethren on the field with a horrendous record in BCS bowls (5-13) and off the field with instability among the ranks. Rumors about Florida State and Clemson's future in the league persisted, and Maryland decided to bolt the league for greener pastures.

But as the BCS Era came to a close, John Swofford’s conference finished with a bang. A Grant of Rights agreement, the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Louisville and a return to glory on the field with Florida State’s national title capped the BCS Era in style for the once-unsettled conference.

So even though the conference went through some rough years on the field, there is still a long list of elite NCAA Hall of Famers who graced an ACC field during the BCS Era.

Trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 ACC players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Julius Peppers, DE, North Carolina (1999-01)

From a talent standpoint, few players have ever been able to match Peppers' freakish quickness and size. As a two-sport star in Chapel Hill, Peppers was a freshman All-American in 1999 before leading the nation in sacks (15.0) as a sophomore. He capped his junior season as a consensus All-American and by winning Lombardi, Bednarik and Willis Trophy honors. Peppers finished 10th in the Heisman voting in 2001. He started 33 of 34 possible career games and finished with 167 tackles and 30.5 sacks, good for sixth all-time in ACC history and second during the BCS Era. His 53.0 tackles for a loss are 13th all-time in league history as well. Peppers was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft.

2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Georgia Tech (2004-06)
Stats: 178 rec., 2,927 yds, 28 TDs, 40 rush, TD

Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006. He is one of 13 wide receivers to finish in the top 10 in the Heisman Trophy voting during the BCS Era (10th). He is simply a freak of nature.

3. Chris Weinke, QB, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 9,839 yds, 79 TDs, 32 INTs, 58.7%, 2 rush TDs

There was little left unaccomplished in Weinke's college career. He led his stacked Florida State squad to an undefeated BCS national title in 1999 over Virginia Tech before returning to win the Heisman Trophy as well as the Sammy Baugh, Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien awards the next season. His team lost two games over that span and one was the 2000 BCS title game against Oklahoma. He is still the ACC's all-time leader in yards per pass attempt (8.9) and was the conference’s all-time most efficient passer with a 151.15 rating until Tajh Boyd (and possibly Jameis Winston) came along.

4. Peter Warrick, WR, Florida State (1995-99)
Stats: 207 rec., 3,517 yds, 32 TDs, 188 rush, 4 TDs, 937 ret. yds, 6 TDs

The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the Bradenton (Fla.) Southeast superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s Department Store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American could do it all. His joystick, open-field moves made him dynamic in the passing game, on special teams and he was one of the first wideouts used in the running game. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history.

5. Philip Rivers, QB, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 13,484 yds, 95 TDs, 34 INTs, 63.5%, 98 yds, 17 TDs

The most productive passer in ACC history, Rivers owns the ACC record for completions (1,087), attempts (1,711), passing yards, total yards and set the record for passing touchdowns and total touchdowns (since broken). He won ACC Player of the Year honors in 2003 and finished seventh in the Heisman balloting. That year he led the nation in completion percent (72.0, an ACC record at the time) and set the ACC single-season passing yards record (since broken). His 18 career 300-yard games were an ACC record (broken). Rivers also is a member of the historic 2004 NFL Draft class that includes fellow quarterbacks Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.

6. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State (2013-present)
Stats: 4,057 yds, 40 TDs, 10 INTs, 66.9%, 219 yds, 4 TDs

No player, especially no freshman, has ever posted a season like Winston in college football history much less in the ACC. His 184.8 passer rating was an ACC record (and would be No. 1 for a career as well), he set an NCAA freshman and all-time ACC single-season record with 40 touchdown passes and his 4,057 yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Winston won the Heisman Trophy, the BCS national championship, the ACC Player of the Year, the Davey O’Brien and Walter Camp awards as well. He has yet to lose a game on the gridiron and is poised to make another run at all of the above accolades as a sophomore.

7. E.J. Henderson, LB, Maryland (1999-02)

Henderson left Maryland with multiple NCAA records and numerous awards and honors. He owns the career tackles per game record (12.5), career solo tackles per game (8.8) and the single-season unassisted tackle record with 135 in 2002. That year, Henderson won his second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award as well as the Butkus, Lambert and Bednarik Awards nationally. He was a two-time All-American, Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP, is second all-time in ACC history with 62.5 career tackles for loss and 11th all-time with 473 tackles. Henderson was a second-round pick by the Vikings in 2003.

8. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (2009-11)

Tackling. Machine. That is really all that needs to be said about the Boston College star defender. He was second nationally with 158 tackles as just a freshman, led the nation in tackles with 183 as a sophomore and led the world again in stops with 191 as a junior. So in just three seasons, Kuechly set the BC and ACC career tackle records en route to numerous awards. He was a two-time All-American, ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a first-round NFL Draft pick by Carolina in 2012 and won the Butkus, Lombardi, Nagurski, Lott and Lambert national trophies.

9. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, OL, Virginia (2002-05)

Ferguson started 49 games in his Virginia career — all at left tackle —  helping the Cavaliers to four straight bowl games. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and earned All-American honors in his final season in Charlottesville. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New York Jets and has gone to three Pro Bowls.

10. C.J. Spiller, RB, Clemson (2006-09)
Stats: 606 att., 3,547 yds, 32 TDs, 123 rec., 1,420 yds, 11 TDs, 2,621 ret. yds, 8 TDs

Versatility and explosiveness are the words that come to mind when describing Spiller. With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson.

11. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (2004-07)

The son of NFL great Howie Long entered the starting lineup as a sophomore, totaling 46 tackles, 10.0 for a loss and two sacks. As a junior, Long posted 57 tackles, 12.0 for a loss and 4.0 sacks. As a senior, he claimed ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors as well as the Dudley and Hendricks Awards. He was a unanimous All-American after 79 total tackles, an ACC-best 19.0 tackles for a loss and ACC-best 14.0 sacks in his final season in which he finished 10th in the Heisman voting. He finished his career with 182 tackles, 36.5 tackles for a loss and 20.0 sacks before being selected No. 2 overall in the 2008 NFL Draft.

12. Russell Wilson, QB, NC State/Wisconsin (2008-11)
Stats: 11,720 yds, 109 TDs, 30 INTs, 60.9%, 1,421 yds, 23 TDs

Not many players own school records for two different programs but Wilson excelled in both the ACC and Big Ten and his overall career must be taken into account when measuring his greatness. The Super Bowl champion posted the single greatest season by a Wisconsin quarterback in history en route to a league crown and near national title berth. He owns the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass (38) and the single-season mark for passing efficiency at 191.8. In just three years in the ACC, Wilson finished eighth all-time in total offense (9,628), third in total offense per game (267.5 ypg), third in ACC history with 93 total touchdowns and set the ACC record with 379 consecutive passes without an interception. Imagine if he had stayed his final season in Raleigh.

13. Aaron Donald, DL, Pitt (2010-13)

Donald only played one season in the ACC but it was one of the, if not the, best by an ACC defensive lineman in league history. He swept the national awards by claiming the Outland, Nagurski, Lombardi and Bednarik as essentially the most decorated defensive player of the BCS Era not named Manti Te’o. He won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors after posting 59 tackles, 28.5 for a loss and 11.0 sacks from his defensive tackle position. His 28.5 TFLs were second only to Keith Adams’ ACC record 33 in 1999. His career 29.5 sacks would be eighth in ACC history and his 66.0 tackles for a loss would be a new career ACC record had he played his entire career in the league. 

14. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011-13)
Stats: 240 rec., 3,391 yards, 27 TDs, 339 rush, TD, 1,399 ret. yards, TD

Watkins did it all at Clemson. A freakish athlete with the ability to score on any play from anywhere on the field, Watkins helped lead Clemson to a 32-8 record during his three seasons. He finished No. 2 all-time in ACC history with 240 receptions, No. 3 all-time with 3,391 yards receiving and tied for eighth all-time with 27 receiving touchdowns. And he did all of this in just three seasons, while bringing an ACC title back to Clemson for the first time in decades. His 5,129 all-purpose yards are ninth all-time in league history. His 101 receptions in 2013 would have been a single-season ACC record if not for Duke’s Jamison Crowder and his 108 catches this fall. His 1,464 yards in his final season is second all-time to Torry Holt (1,604) and his 82 catches and 12 TDs in 2011 were both ACC records for freshmen.

15. Torry Holt, WR, NC State (1995-98)
Stats: 191 rec., 3,379 yds, 31 TDs, 119 rush

One of the greatest receivers to ever play the game on any level, Holt capped his outstanding Wolfpack career with an ACC Player of the Year award in the first year of the BCS. Over his final two seasons in Raleigh, the Gibsonville (N.C.) Eastern Guilford receiver caught 150 passes for 2,703 yards and 27 touchdowns (he also threw a 45-yard TD pass), finishing eighth in the Heisman voting in 1998. Holt set all types of NC State and ACC records during his college career and he went on to become one of the NFL’s greatest wide receivers. No one ever had a better game during the BCS Era than Holt when he posted 255 yards against Baylor in 1998.

16. Dre Bly, CB, North Carolina (1996-98)

Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

17. D’Qwell Jackson, LB, Maryland (2002-05)

The undersized tackler played in all 14 games as a freshman, started all 11 games as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior and senior. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 after 137 tackles and four sacks. Jackson finished with 447 tackles, good for fourth in school history and 19th in ACC history — seventh among all players during the BCS Era. Jackson was a second-round pick of the Browns in the 2006 NFL Draft.

18. Anthony Poindexter, S, Virginia (1995-98)

He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions.

19. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson (2009-13)
Stats: 11,904 yds, 107 TDs, 39 INTs, 64.3%, 1,165 yds, 26 TDs

In just three full seasons as the starter, Boyd set every major Clemson passing record and is the ACC’s all-time leader in total touchdowns (133) and touchdown passes (107). He is No. 2 all-time in yards, won 2012 ACC Player of the Year honors, led Clemson back to an ACC championship in '11 and finished as the league’s most efficient passer in history with a QB rating of 155.2 (topping Weinke). Clemson went 32-8 over his final three years — all three of which he topped 3,800 yards and 33 TD passes. Boyd produced three of the top seven seasons in regards to total offense in league history. His 20 career 300-yard games broke Rivers’ previous ACC record of 18.

20. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College (2004-07)
Stats: 9,313 yds, 56 TDs, 37 INTs, 60.0%, 39 yds, 11 TDs

Ryan did more for Boston College than any player since Doug Flutie. He won the ACC Player of the Year and led the Eagles to the ACC title game. He was seventh in the Heisman ballot and won the Johnny Unitas and Archie Manning Awards before beginning his elite career in the NFL. Ryan owns the ACC single-season record for passing yards (4,507), completions (388) and attempts (654), all of which were set in 2007, and is second all-time with his 4,509 yards of total offense that year as well. From a raw talent standpoint, few players on this list are better quarterbacks than Matty-Ice.

21. Joe Hamilton, QB, Georgia Tech (1996-99)
Stats: 8,882 yds, 65 TDs, 39 INTs, 61.7%, 1,758 yds, 18 TDs

One of the most dynamic players in league history, Hamilton led the Jackets to three straight winning seasons, three straight bowl games and only Tech’s third 10-win season since 1956. Hamilton won ACC Player of the Year honors, was a consensus All-American, finished second in the Heisman voting and won the Davey O’Brien Award in 1999. He threw for 3,060 yards and 29 scores while running for 734 and eight touchdowns in his final season. The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick is third all-time in total offense and he currently stands as the ACC’s No. 5 most efficient passer with a rating of 148.19.

22. Alex Barron, OL, Florida State (2001-04)

The 6-foot-8, 315-pounder was Florida State’s top lineman of the BCS Era. He was a consensus All-American in 2003 and a unanimous All-American in 2004. Barron was an Outland Trophy finalist in his final season as well. His teams never won fewer than eight games, won two ACC titles and went 26-6 in conference play over that span. Barron was the 19th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Rams.

23. Heath Miller, Virginia (2002-04)
Stats: 144 rec., 1,703 yds, 20 TDs

Perhaps the greatest tight end in ACC history, Miller became the first player in league history to win the John Mackey Award in 2004. He wrote his name into the school and conference record books for receiving by a tight end, setting a new benchmark in all three major receiving categories despite only playing three seasons. However, it wasn’t just his elite receiving ability that made the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder one of the game’s best. Miller relished the blocking side of the game and his physicality and dependability is what has made the consensus All-American one of the NFL’s best tight ends for the last decade.

24. Thomas Jones, RB, Virginia (1996-99)
Stats: 823 att., 4,065 yds, 37 TDs, 72 rec., 578 yds, 3 TDs

Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records until Andre Williams broke both this past season. His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still (Williams has five) and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998-99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller).

25. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (2008-10)

The No. 1 prospect in the nation battled a knee injury during his sophomore year but still posted 58 tackles — including 11 in the ACC Championship Game win over Georgia Tech — 10.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. However, Bowers exploded as a senior by leading the nation in tackles for a loss (26.0) and sacks (15.5) to go with his 67 total tackles. Those 15.5 sacks were sixth all-time in ACC history. Bowers was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous first-team All-American and claimed both the Nagurski Trophy and the Hendricks Award. More knee issues cost him on draft day as he slipped to the end of the second round where Tampa Bay selected him with the 51st overall pick.

The Next 10:

26. Mario Williams, DE, NC State (2003-05)

In just three seasons, the physical freak from NC State posted 25.5 career sacks — good for 18th all-time in ACC history — and 55.5 tackles for a  loss — good for 10th all-time. In his final season, he led the ACC with 24.0 tackles for a loss and 14.5 sacks. As one of the most gifted athletes to ever play in any league, Williams was one of just two defensive players selected as the first overall pick in the NFL Draft during the BCS Era (Courtney Brown, 2000).

27. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College (2011-13)
Stats: 704 att., 3,739 yds, 28 TDs, 10 rec., 60 yds

From a single-season perspective, no player in ACC history can match what Williams accomplished in 2013. Williams set the ACC single-season rushing record for carries (355) and yards (2,177) when he rolled up five 200-yard games and 18 touchdowns en route to a fourth-place Heisman Trophy finish. He is the only ACC player to win the Doak Walker Award during the BCS Era and he was named an All-American in the process. He is 11th all-time in the conference in rushing yards.

28. Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest (2005-08)

Curry was a freshman All-American after starting 10 games in his first season. He posted 83 tackles as a sophomore and tied an NCAA record with three interceptions returned for touchdowns as a junior. As a senior, he won the Butkus Award, was an All-American and registered 105 tackles. Curry finished with 331 tackles, 44.5 for loss, 9.5 sacks, six interceptions and five forced fumbles in his career. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and in '06 helped lead Wake to its only BCS bowl berth and ACC title of the BCS Era.

29. Steve Justice, C, Wake Forest (2004-07)

Few players have meant more to their school than Justice did to Wake Forest. After enduring two losing seasons as an underclassman, Justice was the first-team All-ACC pivot for arguably the greatest team in school history. He led the way on the 11-win, ACC championship squad of 2006. He came back for his senior year and earned his second first-team All-ACC nod and was a consensus All-American as well. Justice was a Rimington finalist and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC in ’07.

30. Jamal Reynolds, DE, Florida State (1997-00)

Reynolds helped lead the Seminoles to three consecutive BCS National Championship Games, including the 1999 title. He was named the Lombardi and Willis Trophy winner after a 58-tackle, 12-sack season in 2000 as a senior and was a finalist for the national Defensive Player of the Year award. He was named a unanimous All-American and taken with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. His 23.5 career sacks are 24th all-time in ACC history and are the most by any Seminole during the BCS Era.

31. Jimmy Williams, DB, Virginia Tech (2002-05)

Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.

32. Rodney Hudson, OL, Florida State (2007-10)

The mauler from Mobile was a three-time, first-team All-ACC selection, a two-time, first-team All-American and a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the top lineman in the ACC. He is one of only two guards to ever win the award twice (Elton Brown). He helped return Florida State to the ACC championship game as a senior in 2010 for the first time since '05. Hudson was a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011.

33. Gaines Adams, DE, Clemson (2003-06)

The 2006 ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished with 157 total tackles, 41.5 tackles for a loss and 28.0 sacks in 46 career games. His 28.0 QB takedowns are 10th all-time in ACC history and are fourth by any player during the BCS Era. His 15.5 sacks in 2010 led the nation and are sixth-best in ACC history. He was a unanimous All-American as a senior and was taken fourth overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. Sadly, Adams passed away at age 26 due to cardiac arrest in January 2010 but he will be forever remembered as one of the ACC’s greatest defensive linemen.

34. Jerricho Cotchery, WR, NC State (2000-03)
Stats: 200 rec., 3,119 yards, 21 TDs, 102 rush, TD, 300 ret. yards, TD

Following in Holt’s footsteps in Raleigh, Cotchery nearly duplicated his predecessor’s production. The Wolfpack playmaker is tied for second in ACC history with 15 100-yard receiving games, posted the fourth-best single-season yardage total in 2003 (1,369) and, at the time, was No. 2 all-time with 86 receptions that same year. Cotchery is ninth all-time in league history with 200 receptions and sixth all-time with 3,119 yards, the first of which is still an NC State record.

35t. Antrel Rolle, DB, Miami 2001-04)

He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Along with Sean Taylor, Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career.

35t. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (2005-08)

The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick led the ACC in interceptions and passes defended in both 2007 and '08. He totaled 15 picks and 38 passes broken up over that span. He was a consensus All-American as a senior and his 21 career interceptions is an ACC all-time record. Additionally, he scored on four INT returns, tying Randy Neal of Virginia for the all-time ACC record. 

The ACC's Top 25 Players of the BCS Era
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/who-are-top-players-ncaa-tournament-superlatives-60-them

The five-man All-America team is just too constricting.

That’s why in each year’s preseason annuals, Athlon Sports awards the top 10 players at each “superlative.”

Rather than stick a player at guard or forward, these superlatives are broken up by skill sets — floor leaders, scorers, shooters, slashers and inside-out and post.

We’ve taken a similar tact with the players in the field for the NCAA Tournament for the players you need to watch as the final three weeks of the season leading into the national championship game on April 7.


1. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
The SEC Player of the Year sets the tone for one of the least selfish (or is it most selfless?) teams in the country. The Gators have plenty of potential scorers from Casey Prather to Michael Frazier II to Patric Young to Dorian Finney-Smith, but Wilbekin is the one in charge. He doesn’t have the assist numbers of other players on this list (3.8 per game), and his shooting numbers could be better (39.6 from the field). But No. 1 overall seed Florida would be lost without him.

2. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State
A part-timer on last year’s Final Four team has become indispensable on an undefeated team.

3. T.J. McConnell, Arizona
The other impact newcomer for the Wildcats this season alongside Aaron Gordon, McConnell arrived from Duquesne to average 5.5 assists per game.

4. Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
For a while, he was the nation’s top freshman. He’s still an unflappable point guard for a team that started 25-0.

5. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
The three-game suspension seemed to re-energize Smart after a frustrating stretch at midseason.

6. Aaron Craft, Ohio State
7. Keith Appling, Michigan State
8. Xavier Thames, San Diego State
9. Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova
10. Chaz Williams, UMass


1. Nik Stauskas, Michigan
The sophomore has a more well-rounded game than he did when last season he was 3-point specialist for a team that reached the national title game. He averaged 17.5 points per game with 3.3 assists, but his bread and butter is still long-range shooting. Stauskas went 80 of 178 (44.9 percent) from 3-point range this season.

2. Gary Harris, Michigan State
With Adreian Payne, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson ailing at different times this season, Harris has been the one to carry the Spartans for stretches. Harris shot only 35.1 percent from 3-point range, but he had to take 208 shots. That workload has diminished with everyone healthy. Look for him to be better for it.

3. Ron Baker, Wichita State
Baker hit 9 of 16 3-pointers during last year’s Final Four run and continued to be a go-to player from 3 for the Shockers.

4. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
The Tar Heels need Paige to hit shots, which he did late in the season. He shot 42.7 percent from 3 since Jan. 20.

5. Brady Heslip, Baylor
How’s this for a specialist: Heslip took 274 shots this season, 237 from beyond the arc.

6. Ethan Wragge, Creighton
7. Michael Frazier II, Florida
8. Ben Brust, Wisconsin
9. Joe Harris, Virginia
10. Luke Hancock, Louisville


1. T.J. Warren, NC State
The sophomore has put NC State on his back for a surprise inclusion in the NCAA Tournament as an at-large in the First Four. Warren’s credentials as an elite scorer aren’t in doubt, but just to add to the case, Warren hasn’t failed to score fewer than 20 points since Jan. 11, including back-to-back 40-point games.

2. Russ Smith, Louisville
Smith is still one of the national leaders in usage rate, and he’s been even more efficient (47.5 percent shooting, 40.5 percent from 3).

3. Shabazz Napier, UConn
Perhaps its tough to pigeonhole Napier as a shooter as he leads the Huskies in rebounding in assists, but his 17.4 points per game can’t be ignored.

4. Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
Kilpatrick is, in essence, Cincinnati’s only scorer. The senior guard makes up more than 25 percent of their scoring.

5. Tyler Haws, BYU
The next big-time scorer for BYU averages 21.7 points per game, tied for seventh nationally.

6. DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
7. Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
8. Bryce Cotton, Providence
9. Nick Johnson, Arizona
10. Roy Devyn Marble, Iowa


1. Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Will the NCAA Tournament be Wiggins’ time to shine as a college player? With Joel Embiid hurt for the first weekend, it might need to be. His 41-point game and 30-point game late in the season shows the nation’s top incoming freshman might be ready.

2. Melvin Ejim, Iowa State
The Big 12’s Player of the Year led Iowa State’s prolific offense with 18.1 points per game while averaging 8.5 rebounds.

3. Terran Petteway, Nebraska
The Texas Tech transfer spearheaded Nebraska’s return to the NCAA Tournament with 18.1 points per game, including 26 points and 10 rebounds in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin.

4. Jordan McRae, Tennessee
McRae had a career year at 18.6 points per game and career-high 43.2 points per game as UT ended its NCAA Tournament drought.

5. Casey Prather, Florida
Prather was one of the nation’s surprise players with a hot start this season. Now, he’s the Gators’ top mid-range weapon on a balanced team.

6. Caris LeVert, Michigan
7. Cory Jefferson, Baylor
8. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State
9. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
10. Cleanthony Early, Wichita State


1. Doug McDermott, Creighton
The no-brainer national player of the year is playing some of his best basketball at the end of the year, which is saying something. McDermott is more than his 3,000 points. He leads the nation’s most efficient offense thanks to his 52.5 shooting on 17.9 shots per game. And let’s not forget that he’s an above average rebounder at 7.0 per game, a career low.

2. Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker has 14 double-doubles this season, but he can also be lethal from 3-point range if it’s asked of him.

3. Adreian Payne, Michigan State
Here’s the cool thing about Payne: He only became a 3-point threat in the last season and a half.

4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
It’s tough to find a spot for this 6-foot-9 point guard. He might be a floor general or a scorer. We’ll stick him here thanks to his 8.8 rebounds.

5. Rodney Hood, Duke
The Mississippi State transfer gets overshadowed by Parker. Hood might be an All-American elsewhere.

6. C.J. Fair, Syracuse
7. Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh
8. Georges Niang, Iowa State
9. Aaron Gordon, Arizona
10. Mike Moser, Oregon


1. Julius Randle, Kentucky
No question Kentucky didn’t expect to be a No. 8 seed, but Randle has been one of the few consistent pieces for the Wildcats this season. The star freshman averaged 15 points and 10.5 rebounds.

2. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The Jayhawks have major questions if Embiid is not a factor when he returns next weekend, provided Kansas makes it that far.

3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Since Feb. 22, Harrell is averaging 19.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.

4. Cameron Bairstow, New Mexico
A revelation this season, Bairstow emerged for 20.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

5. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
No one could have tabbed Kaminsky as Wisconsin’s top scorer entering this season. The 6-foot-11 center

6. James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina
7. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
8. Patric Young, Florida
9. Jarnell Stokes, Tennessee
10. Alex Kirk, New Mexico

Who are the top players in the NCAA Tournament? Superlatives on 60 of them
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /2014-march-madness/12-teams-begging-be-upset-ncaa-tournament
Plenty of cases can be made for the anatomy of an upset and all the great things about potential Cinderellas.

At the same time, maybe not enough of the focus goes to the other half of the upset, the losing team heading back from the NCAA Tournament with its championship dreams shattered.

Certainly, plenty of lower seeded teams are talented enough and good enough on a particular day to win, but a handful of major programs are courting an upset. With the way some of these teams finished the season, they’re practically begging to lose early.

For the teams we’re breaking down as potential upset targets, we’re looking primarily at teams seeded seventh or higher that could lose their first game or teams seeded fourth or higher that could lose in the round of 32. Why not the No. 8 seeds? The 8-9 game is practically a toss up anyway, and No. 9 seeds historically have the advantage at 56-48 all time against the No. 8s.

A quick reaction to the exercise: The South region topped by Florida may be the most chaotic, starting with the injury to Kansas’ Joel Embiid and the slump to finish the season.

Meanwhile, the West region topped by Arizona appears to have the most chalk with only one team (Baylor) on our list for an early loss.

In true NCAA Tournament fashion, then, the favorites will rule the South and the West will destroy your bracket.

SOUTH REGION (No. 1 seed Florida)
No. 2 Kansas
Round of 64 opponent: Eastern Kentucky
Without Joel Embiid around the rim, Kansas’ defense has been a problem, allowing 92 points to West Virginia (1.26 points per possession) and 94 to Iowa State (1.2 per possession). Eastern Kentucky is one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the field, and upsets by No. 15 seeds are far less rare than they used to be. If EKU can’t pull the mammoth upset, then the inside-out duo of Alex Kirk and Kendall Williams at New Mexico could give KU trouble.

No. 3 Syracuse
Round of 64 opponent: Western Michigan
Even before Syracuse’s first loss of the season, that shocker to Boston College, the offense for the Orange had started to slip. Since Feb. 15, Syracuse averaged less than a point per possession (95 per 100). Only Virginia Tech averaged worse during that span in the ACC. The Syracuse slump helped Virginia get a No. 1 seed and NC State claim a bid, while serving as the season highlights for Boston College and Georgia Tech. Western Michigan and either Ohio State or Dayton are plenty capable knocking out Syracuse.

No. 4 UCLA
Round of 64 opponent: Tulsa
This is perhaps the top-four seed that has received the least amount of attention this season despite Kyle Anderson’s phenomenal close to the year. Maybe it’s East Coast bias, but maybe it’s because UCLA’s most recent loss was by 18 to a Washington State team that just fired its coach. UCLA didn’t win the second leg of a Pac-12 road game this season, so the round of 32 game is just as problematic. At New Mexico and Iowa, UCLA coach Steve Alford has presided over three losses to double-digit seeds in his last four trips to the Tourney.

No. 5 VCU
Round of 64 opponent: Stephen F. Austin
In one of the most fascinating first round games, VCU faces the hottest team in the country not named Wichita State. Regardless of opponent, VCU may not be the team you remember making NCAA Tournament runs in years past. Even though the Havoc defense is still creating problems, the Rams have the lowest-rated team in offensive efficiency of the Shaka Smart era. Stephen F. Austin forces turnovers at a rate similar to VCU.

No. 6 Ohio State
Round of 64 opponent: Dayton
Ohio State finished the season with a pair of encouraging wins over Michigan State and Nebraska before a 72-69 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament.  But this is also a team that lost five of six in January and dropped back-to-back games to Penn State and Indiana. The Buckeyes lack shooters, which is something Dayton has in Jordan Sibert. Incidentally, Sibert started his career at Ohio State in a signing class with Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft.

EAST REGION (No. 1 seed Virginia)

No. 5 Cincinnati
Round of 64 opponent: Harvard
Harvard was the upset few people pegged last season when the Crimson defeated No. 3 seed New Mexico. Now, Harvard, with nearly every key player back, is one of the most trendy upset picks. If Harvard can shut down Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati has few other options to score.

No. 6 North Carolina
Round of 64 opponent:
Providence is a classic case of a team that either has all the momentum after winning the Big East tournament or spent all its energy trying to get into the NCAA Tournament in the first place. The Friars have their offensive issues, but you won’t find a game with a greater disparity at the free throw line: Providence is second nationally at 78.1 percent while North Carolina is 344th at 62.5 percent.

No. 7 Connecticut
Round of 64 opponent: Saint Joseph’s
UConn is a flawed enough team to lose to the Atlantic 10 Tournament champions. Shabazz Napier can be wild with his shot, and the Huskies have been at a size disadvantage all season. St. Joe’s counters with a pair of senior 6-8 forwards in Ronald Roberts and Halil Kanacevic.

WEST REGION (No. 1 seed Arizona)

No. 6 Baylor
Round of 64 opponent: Nebraska
This may not be the time to start picking against Baylor, given that the Bears have reached the Elite Eight in the last two Tournaments in even-numbered years (while missing the Tournament in the last three odd-numbered years). But Baylor is notoriously streaky and will be facing a Nebraska team with plenty of big wins on its ledger this season. The Bears can’t neither afford center Isaiah Austin to return to one of his funks nor poor free throw shooting.

MIDWEST (No. 1 Wichita State)

No. 1 Wichita State
Round of 64 opponent: Cal Poly or Texas Southern
First off, there’s no way Wichita State will lost its game against the No. 16 seed. How the Shockers will hold up against the winner of the No. 8-9 game is another matter. Kentucky would be the more talented team on the floor if the Shockers face Big Blue in the second game, but Kansas State is a tough opponent, too, especially in the defensive end.

No. 5 Saint Louis
Round of 64 opponent: NC State
The offense has been a liability for Saint Louis all season, even as the Billikens won their first 12 games in the A-10. Saint Louis averages 1.01 points per possession and less than a point per possession in conference play. That didn’t start to bite the Billikens until late in the season when they lost four of their last four, including the A-10 tourney opener against St. Bonaventure.

No. 6 UMass
Round of 64 opponent: Iowa or Tennessee
UMass is seeded here largely because of a non-conference resume that included wins over Nebraska, New Mexico, BYU and Providence. While that’s impressive, consider UMass was inconsistent in A-10 play, going 11-7. This is a team that often struggles to find its shot, which could spell trouble against Iowa or Tennessee.

12 Teams Begging to be Upset in the NCAA Tournament
Post date: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/nascar-rookie-report-flawed-roty-system-rewards-best-team-not-best-driver

Welcome to the Athlon Rookie Report, where each week David Smith will evaluate the deepest crop of new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series talent since 2006. The Report will include twice-monthly rankings, in-depth analysis, Q&A sessions with the drivers, and more.

Today, David openly questions how the title of “Rookie of the Year” is awarded.

Do you know who Luke Willson is? No, he’s not an actor — that’s Luke Wilson, with one “L.” Willson was a rookie tight end on the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks who ranked sixth on the team in receiving yards and was a mere bit player on a perennial playoff team loaded with talent. Needless to say, his name wasn’t bandied about as a potential recipient of the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award.

True story: If NASCAR rules applied to the NFL, Willson would be the Rookie of the Year.

I often avoid bemoaning the rules and procedures of a sanctioning body whose actions are polarizing. This, though, is egregious. How NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year is awarded is through a bizarre point system that allocates 10 points for the best finishing rookie, nine points for the second best, eight points for the third best, et al. Then it omits all results not among a candidate’s best 17 races (it’s 16 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and 14 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series).

In essence, NASCAR has done two things. First, it’s rewarding an individual for what a team accomplishes. Then, it’s suggesting only the best 50 percent of their season matters.

According to, Austin Dillon is the current leader in the Rookie of the Year standings following Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, by six points over Kyle Larson. Dillon’s finishes relative to other rookies (15th-place average finish) is vastly superior; however, Dillon is the only driver among this year’s crop that climbed into a car tailor-made for making the Chase. In three of the last four seasons, Dillon’s team with Kevin Harvick as the driver finished third in the overall point standings. Last year, Harvick averaged an 11.2-place finish. Currently 13th in overall points, Dillon’s addition has made his race team roughly four positions worse per race and 10 positions worse in the standings.

Is Dillon just benefiting from pre-existing strength? If he is, as of today, the deserving ROTY recipient, then NASCAR isn’t allowing anyone to make that distinction. That’s something that should change.

How a Rookie of the Year winner is decided in other sports is based on a media vote. It allows accredited media members a chance to think, debate, converse and make observations that a bad point system cannot. I’m Athlon’s resident stat analyst and by the unwritten code of statisticians, I’m supposed to be steadfast in my opposition to the human element; however, I have more faith in letting Bob Pockrass, Nate Ryan, Jeff Gluck and Jenna Fryer anoint a Rookie of the Year than I do in a decision based on an arcane point standing.


Did You Notice? ... Toyota trouble, limping into action and testing the waters


Two weeks ago I interviewed Parker Kligerman in this column and he spoke of his goal to help bring his No. 30 Swan Racing team to a top-25 points finish. That’d be an admirable leap, considering the team that fielded its entry primarily for David Stremme last season finished 33rd in the standings. In modern day NASCAR, an eight-point jump in the standings represents a gigantic step forward. Per the current rookie standing rules, Kligerman’s effort in this regard likely will go unnoticed. A more talented team can score a better points finish — a product of better results — and gift-wrap its rookie a career-defining accolade. If there were an official vote, Kligerman would at least receive consideration and probably be the subject of some well-written, finely researched articles.

The same goes for the likes of Justin Allgaier, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Michael Annett and Ryan Truex, who with 32 races left on the 2014 schedule, still have a chance to perform better than their predecessors in previous seasons. Such an impact on an organization deserves to be considered for recognition, for which voters would be responsible.

Human vote and voice would have also prevented some of the sport’s most dubious ROTY recipients.

In 2000, Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored the first Cup Series win in the history of Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and went on to score two more victories, including a win in the All-Star Race, but lost in the Rookie of the Year standings to Matt Kenseth, who notched six more top-10 finishes for established power Roush Fenway Racing.

In 2002, Jimmie Johnson joined a startup Hendrick Motorsports team and scored three wins, ranked fourth in laps led, fourth in average finish (13.5) and finished fifth in the point standings, just one position better than Rookie of the Year Ryan Newman, who scored two less wins (though he did win the All-Star Race) for Team Penske. This, if anything, should have led to a Co-Rookie of the Year decision, something familiar to fans of other sports.

Questions pertaining to eligibility would have likely been raised in 2005 when Carl Edwards, in his first full Cup Series season, scored four victories and finished within sniffing distance of a Cup Series championship in what was statistically the most impressive season by a newcomer in the Chase era. Because he competed in 13 Cup races the prior season, he was ineligible to receive the Rookie of the Year award, of which Kyle Busch took home in a runaway. If the eligibility requirements today were retroactively applied, Edwards would be the winner, both by the NASCAR rookie standing and, likely, a vote.

A movement not to vote — or the Richard Pryor stance — would have been appreciated in 2012 when Stephen Leicht started and parked his way to winning the award. Even NASCAR quietly realized that his “win” was a joke and didn’t ask Leicht to speak at any of the year-end award banquets.

Understanding how results came to be is arguably more important than the results themselves. The human element is prone to error, yes, but it’s also able to decipher the impact of race results better than a point system built with flawed logic.

Luke Willson’s team won the Super Bowl and for that, he and his teammates will receive rings. Willson’s impact on the team, minimal compared to the work of other more established players, does not deserve to be recognized, so it isn't. That’s the way it should be.

The Rookie of the Year should be awarded to the best rookie, not the rookie with the best team.

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

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

NASCAR's Rookie of the Year should be awarded to the best rookie, not the rookie with the best team, writes David Smith.
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 15:00
All taxonomy terms: Brandel Chamblee, Zach Johnson, Golf
Path: /golf/top-30-golfers-2014-majors-no-20-zach-johnson

They’re the cream of the major championship crop, circa 2014 — the Athlon Major Championship Dream Team. Leading up to The Masters, we'll be unveiling Athlon Sports’ 30 players to watch for majors season, with commentary on each from the Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee.

No. 20: Zach Johnson

Born: Feb. 24, 1976, Cedar Rapids, Iowa | Career PGA Tour Wins: 11 | 2013 Wins (Worldwide): 1 | 2013 Earnings (PGA Tour): $4,044,509 (9th) World Ranking: 10

Brandel Chamblee's Take

Zach Johnson finished in the top 10 in seven of his last eight events on Tour in 2013. In addition, he won Tiger’s event in December (the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge) with a dramatic holed wedge at 18 to get into a playoff with the host and then won on the first extra hole, making the end of 2013 one of the highlights of Zach’s career. He then won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in early January. Always consistent, he seemed to find even a new level and for the first time had back-to-back top tens in majors, finishing sixth and eighth in the British Open and PGA Championship. Perhaps he found a way around his low ball flight in the game’s biggest events; in his entire career, he’s only twice been in the top 10 in greens in regulation in a major, winning one of them at the 2007 Masters. If that’s the case, 2014 might be his best year ever.

Major Championship Résumé
Starts: 39
Wins: 1

2013 Performance:
Masters - T35
U.S. Open - Cut
British Open - T6
PGA Championship - T8

Best Career Finishes: 
Masters - 1 (2007)
U.S. Open - T30 (2011)
British Open - T6 (2013)
PGA Championship - T3 (2010)
Top-10 Finishes: 6
Top-25 Finishes: 10
Missed Cuts: 14

—Brandel Chamblee is lead analyst for the Golf Channel. Be sure to follow him @ChambleeBrandel on Twitter.


Athlon's 2014 Golf annual provides in-depth previews of this year's four majors, including the top 30 players to watch this season. One of these elite players, Dustin Johnson, also takes you tee to green with full-swing instruction and short game essentials. BUY IT NOW.

Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 11:09
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-march-18-2014

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports and entertainment posts on the web for March 18.

Angels pitcher CJ Wilson is married to supermodel Lisalla Montenegro. Lucky guy.

This, my friends, is what a $25 corn dog looks like. It's a foot and a half long, and it can be yours at D-backs games this season.

Three ways to win your office pool.

Greg Doyel says the history-making potential of this year's tournament is riding on Doug McDermott's shoulders.

Vegas is not impressed with the work of this year's Selection Committee. And Vegas would know.

• When underachieving has-beens collide: Vince Vaughn bought Lane Kiffin's Manhattan Beach house.

Dikembe Mutombo punked Rocky, the Denver Nuggets mascot, and even added a finger wag. Things continue to go poorly for Rocky, last seen here being lowered lifeless from the ceiling to the horror of children in the arena.

Enjoy this Gerald Green double-clutch dunk. I know I did.

Watch the Tennessee baseball team clean off their home field in 30 seconds. All that's missing is the Benny Hill music.

Few things are as amusing as unfortunate typos.

• Watch an MMA fighter get knocked out in less than two seconds.


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

Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/florida-state-unveils-national-championship-rings

Florida State closed out the BCS era with an impressive run to the national title. The Seminoles finished 14-0 and rallied from a halftime deficit to defeat Auburn in the championship game.

Not only did Florida State take home the crystal ball trophy, the players, coaches and support staff will receive three rings for their successful 2013 season.

The picture below tweeted by assistant coach Tim Brewster showcases the rings, which includes one from winning the ACC title and one from the BCS to celebrate the team’s national title.

Check out Florida State’s national championship rings:

Florida State Reveals Rings for National Championship
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12s-top-25-players-bcs-era

The Pac-12 has long been considered an offensive football conference.

With a rich history of elite quarterbacks, offensive playmakers and innovative coaching staffs, it’s not too difficult to back that claim up with facts. Bill Walsh, Don James, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll set the bar for offensive advancement over the years while new faces like Rich Rodriguez, Mike Leach and Todd Graham continue to elevate this league’s standing nationally.

During the BCS Era, the Pac-12 boasts three Heisman Trophy winners, four Biletnikoff winners, three Doak Walker winners, four Johnny Unitas Golden Arm winners, three Walter Camp winners and three John Mackey winners. And that’s just the offensive skill players in this league.

The Pac-12 has developed into one of the nation’s best leagues, and, with excellent new leadership at the conference and school level, should be around for decades to come as one of the preeminent leagues in college football.

Trying to narrow this list down to 25 names was nearly impossible but here are Athlon Sports' Top 25 Pac-12 players of the BCS Era. The only stipulation is that you must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.

1. Matt Leinart, QB, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 10,693 yds, 99 TDs, 23 INTs, 64.8%, 9 rush TDs

Leinart won two national titles and played for a third in three years starting at powerhouse USC under Pete Carroll. He finished in the top six of Heisman voting in all three seasons, winning the award in 2004, finishing sixth in '03 and third in '05. He also earned AP Player of the Year, Manning, Walter Camp, Unitas and consensus All-American honors during his remarkable Heisman campaign. He capped the season with arguably the second-best performance by a quarterback in a national title game by dissecting Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. He threw for 332 yards and a championship game-record five touchdowns in the most lopsided win in series history. Leinart owns the career conference record with 36 consecutive games with a touchdown pass and his 99 TD passes were a league record until Matt Barkley came along. He also is just one of three players in league history to throw for 3,000 yards in three seasons (Derek Anderson, Andrew Walter).

2. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford (2009-11)
Stats: 9,430 yds, 82 TDs, 22 INTs, 67.0%, 957 yds, 7 TDs

The best quarterback prospect in over two decades broke all kinds of rookie NFL records in his first trip through the professional ranks. This merely lends credence to his remarkable college career. Few players have meant more to their school in history than Luck at Stanford. He led his program to its first BCS bowl win and set every school passing record en route. The two-time Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year finished second in the Heisman twice (2010, '11) and won the Unitas, Walter Camp and Maxwell awards in 2011. He is the Pac-12's all-time leader in completion percentage, yards per play (8.5) and passing efficiency (162.8). He was 27-4 in his last 31 starts, earned a degree in architecture from Stanford, and is one of just nine players in league history to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three different seasons.

3. Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State (2000-02)

The star pass-rusher is best known as the NCAA’s all-time single-season sack master when he totaled 24 QB takedowns in 2002. That year, Suggs was the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and the inaugural Ted Hendricks Award winner. The accolades didn’t end there, however, as he also took home the Lombardi, Nagurski and Willis trophies as well. He led the NCAA with 31.5 tackles for a loss (still a Pac-12 record) and forced six fumbles that year. He finished his Sun Devils career with 163 tackles, a school-record 65.5 for a loss (second all-time in league history), 44 sacks (second all-time in league history) and 14 forced fumbles. He was the 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.]

4. Troy Polamalu, S, USC (1999-2002)

The big-play machine was a three-year starter for the West Coast powerhouse. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection, a consensus All-American and stuffed the stat sheet his entire career. The big hitter finished with 278 tackles, 29.0 for loss, six interceptions and four blocked punts in 36 career starts for the Men of Troy. Polamalu led USC back to prominence with a league title and trip to the Orange Bowl before being taken in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft.

5. Haloti Ngata, DT, Oregon (2003-05)

Arguably the best NFL defensive tackle of his generation, Ngata had to overcome a torn ACL in college. Once he recovered, the big interior stuffer posted 107 tackles, 17.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks over his final two seasons in Eugene. He was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, a consensus All-American and the Morris Trophy winner before being selected 12th overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. He blocked seven kicks and led Oregon to a 10-win season in 2005 — just the school’s third such campaign in school history at the time.

6. Reggie Bush, RB, USC (2003-05)
Stats: 433 att., 3,169 yds, 25 TDs, 95 rec., 1,301 yds, 13 TDs, 2,081 ret. yds, 3 TDs

The superstar recruit from La Mesa (Calif.) Helix brought a unique skill set to the evolving running back position. Sort of a first of his kind, the all-purpose talent was unstoppable with the ball in his hands. He played a prominent role on the 2003 national championship team before providing 908 yards rushing, 509 yards receiving, nearly 1,000 return yards and 15 total touchdowns during USC’s 2004 romp to a second national title. He exploded as a junior, rushing for 1,740 yards on a ridiculous 8.7 yards per carry and scoring 19 total touchdowns, coming up just short of his third national title. He earned his second consecutive Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award as well as the Doak Walker, Walter Camp and Heisman Trophy. His career 7.3 per carry average is fourth all-time and his legacy is only somewhat tarnished by the scandal that put USC on probation and caused him to "return" his Heisman.

7. Sam Baker, OT, USC (2004-07)

The stud left tackle charged with protecting Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was a three-time, first-team All-American and three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. Baker helped lead the way on teams that played in back-to-back national championship games and won four straight Pac-10 titles. USC was 47-5 during his time and he went on to be a first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft.

8. Carson Palmer, QB, USC (1998-02)
Stats: 11,668 yds, 72 TDs, 49 INTs, 9 rush TDs

Pete Carroll has always said that if he could design a quarterback from scratch that it would have the physical tools of Palmer. After two middle-of-the-pack seasons as the starter in L.A., Palmer won the Heisman Trophy, Unitas Award and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2002. That year, Palmer threw for 3,942 yards and 33 touchdowns while leading USC to a conference championship and Orange Bowl win over Iowa. He is No. 2 all-time in league history in total offense (11,621) and yards passing (11,818). His 72 touchdown passes rank 10th all-time in Pac-12 history and he is one of nine players to throw for at least 2,500 yards in three seasons. Palmer was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

9. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Cal (2003-04)
Stats: 5,469 yds, 43 TDs, 13 INTs, 63.8%, 336 yds, 8 TDs

Clearly one of the greatest players to ever come through the league, Rodgers led Cal back to relevance, finishing 18-8 in two years as the starter and posting 10 wins in a season for the first time since 1991. He scored 51 times in just 25 games with only 13 interceptions, finished ninth in the Heisman voting in 2004, led the NCAA in completion percentage (66.1) and yards-per-attempt in his final season (8.1). Rodgers was a first-round pick of the Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft and is widely considered the best active quarterback on the planet today.

10. Rey Maualuga, LB, USC (2005-08)

The hard-hitting tackler was a freshman All-American on the 2005 USC team that barely lost to Texas in the national title game. He then started the next three seasons for the Trojans, earning consensus All-American honors, the Chuck Bednarik Award and Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2008. The Men of Troy went 46-6 during his time on campus and few players were as feared nationally as Maualuga. He posted 272 career tackles, 22.5 for loss, 9.0 sacks and five interceptions before being taken in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft.

11. LaMichael James, Oregon (2009-11)
Stats: 771 att., 5,082 yds, 53 TDs, 51 rec., 586 yds, 4 TDs

Few players accomplished more in three seasons than James. Three straight 1,500-yard campaigns, a Doak Walker Award, consensus All-American honors and a trip to the BCS title game make the speedy and allusive back one of the BCS Era’s greatest tailbacks. His 53 touchdowns and 5,082 yards on the ground are both second all-time in Pac-12 history. The Texarkana, Texas, native finished third in the Heisman voting in 2010 and 10th in '11 and led an Oregon team that went 34-6 and won three straight Pac-12 titles.

12. Steven Jackson, Oregon State (2000-03)
Stats: 743 att., 3,625 yds, 39 TDs, 66 rec., 680 yds, 6 TDs

From a pure talent standpoint, Jackson is the best Oregon State player of all-time and is one of the most talented runners of the BCS Era. The Las Vegas native led the nation in rushing two straight seasons and set the OSU single-season rushing record with his 1,690-yard 2002 season. In just three years, Jackson ranks 17th in Pac-12 history in yards and 15th in touchdowns. He was a first-round draft pick and posted eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL for a team that rarely pressed for the postseason.

13. Mike Williams, WR, USC (2002-03)
Stats: 176 rec., 2,579 yds, 30 TDs

Fans in Los Angeles may always wonder what could have been had Williams not pressed NFL Draft eligibility rules. In his two underclass seasons for USC, Williams was extraordinary. As a true freshman, the massive 6-foot-5, 240-pounder caught 81 passes for 1,265 yards and 14 TDs. He returned to top those numbers as a sophomore with 95 receptions (third in league history at the time), 1,314 yards and 16 scores in 2003 (still third in league history). He was a consensus All-American and finished eighth in the Heisman voting. Williams declared for the draft following his sophomore season, but was ultimately ruled ineligible and couldn't return to USC either. Although he was taken 10th overall in the 2005 draft, he ended up being of the biggest draft busts in recent history, especially given the talent and potential he showed in college.

14. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona (2004-07)

The California native was a four-year contributor for Arizona, playing in 46 career games in Tucson. He burst onto the scene in his first collegiate game by winning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week. He went on to win Pac-10 Defensive Freshman of the Year. He was named first-team all-league twice as an upperclassman and is the only player form the Pac-12 to win the Thorpe Award during the BCS Era (2007). He scored four times (two INTs, two punt returns), intercepted five passes and made 71 tackles as a senior. He finished with 253 tackles, 14.0 for loss, 15 interceptions and five total touchdowns. Cason was the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

15. Marcedes Lewis, TE, UCLA (2002-05)
Stats: 126 rec., 1,571 yds, 21 TDs

The red-zone touchdown machine improved his production each of his four seasons at UCLA, culminating with All-American and John Mackey honors as a senior in 2005. He set school records in all three major categories for a tight end that year and helped UCLA to its best record (10-2) since 1998. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound consensus All-American was a matchup nightmare for defenses and was the Pac-10’s best player at his position during the BCS era in a league known for its great tight ends.

16. Alex Mack, C, Cal (2005-08)

The star center started 39 consecutive games for the Golden Bears. He won the “Academic Heisman” when was named the recipient of the Draddy Trophy in 2008 and was a two-time Rimington Finalist. Mack was the only Pac-12 player to win the Morris Trophy (Offensive) as the league’s top lineman twice during the BCS Era and was a three-time, first-team All-Pac-10 selection. He also was a rare first-round pick as a center by the Browns in 2009 and has been sent to three Pro Bowls in his career.

17. Toby Gerhart, RB, Stanford (2006-09)
Stats: 671 att., 3,522 yds, 44 TDs, 39 rec., 395 yds

The Norco (Calif.) High prospect had just 515 yards and one touchdown entering his junior year. In two years as the starter, Gerhart posted 43 rushing touchdowns and over 3,000 yards in his final two seasons. He won the Doak Walker and Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year accolades and earned consensus All-American honors by leading the nation in rushing touchdowns (28), attempts (343) and yards (1,871). He finished second in the Heisman balloting that year and his 28 touchdowns are a single-season Pac-12 record.

18. Will Sutton, DL, Arizona State (2009-13)

There are only two players in the history of the Pac-12 to win multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards and Sutton is one of them (Washington’s Steve Emtman is the other) as he claimed both the 2012 and '13 honor. Sutton was an All-American after a huge junior season in 2012 before returning to help lead Arizona State to the best record in the Pac-12 and a South Division title. He won back-to-back Morris Trophies as well as the league’s best D-liner in both seasons. From his tackle spot, he finished with 19.5 career sacks and 45.5 tackles for a loss.

19. Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon (1998-01)
Stats: 6,911 yds, 59 TDs, 23 INTs, 55.2%, 210 yds, 18 TDs

He will always be remembered as the guy on the Times Square billboard and as the third overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft. However, during his three-year run at Oregon, few players were ever as productive and successful as Harrington. He went 25-3 as a starter, including an 11-win Pac-10 championship and the program's first-ever BCS bowl appearance and win. He was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. He accounted for 63 total touchdowns in his final two seasons in Eugene.

20. Ryan Kalil, C, USC (2003-06)

The Rimington Finalist was one of the stars of the USC offensive line during its national championship run in the early 2000s. He played a big role on both the 2004 and '05 BCS title game teams and was voted the Morris Trophy winner in 2006. He also earned All-American honors and was drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft by the Panthers. He is a three-time Pro Bowler.

21. David Yankey, G, Stanford (2011-13)

In three short years, Yankey is likely the school’s most decorated offensive lineman. He earned consensus All-American honors as a sophomore for the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champs while also claiming the Morris Trophy as the league’s top OL. He returned as a junior and earned unanimous All-American honors en route to a second consecutive Pac-12 championship. He led Stanford to three straight BCS bowls and a 34-7 overall record over that span. He declared early for the NFL Draft after his 2013 junior season.

22. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (2011- 13)
Stats: 248 rec., 3,655 yds, 29 TDs, 146 rush, 1,351 ret. yds, 2 TDs

As just a sophomore, Lee won the Biletnikoff Award, was a consensus All-American, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year and broke multiple USC and Pac-12 receiving records. He is one of just two wideouts in BCS history to finish in the top four of the Heisman voting. Lee owns the single-game Pac-12 record with 345 yards against Arizona in 2012 and is third all-time with 16 catches in that game. His 118 catches and 1,721 yards were both Pac-12 records that stood for one year until Brandin Cooks showed up in 2013. He is fourth all-time in career receptions and yards in league history and ninth in TD catches.

23. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona (2011-13)
Stats: 743 att., 4,239 yds, 48 TDs, 77 rec., 679 yds, 4 TDs, 565 ret. yds

There aren't too many records Carey doesn't own and had he stuck around for his final season, he would have rewritten the career rushing record book out West. He owns the single-game Pac-12 rushing record with 366 against Colorado as a sophomore. He led the nation in rushing as a sophomore and was second as a junior, finishing his career with 16 consecutive 100-yard games, and two of the top seven single-season rushing marks in league history. He is seventh all-time in rushing yards and fifth all-time in rushing touchdowns and could have broken both (59 and 6,245) with an equally impressive senior season. Carey was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year for his 1,885 yards and 19 TDs in 12 games this past fall.

24. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (2011-13)
Stats: 226 rec., 3,272 yds, 24 TDs, 340 rush, 2 TDs

Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season records for receptions and yards when he caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and finished third all-time with 16 touchdown receptions in 2013. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver before leaving early for the NFL Draft. Cooks is arguably the best of a long list of elite do-everything Beaver wide receivers, finishing 10th in league history in receptions and eighth all-time in yards.

25. Chris Claiborne, LB, USC (1995-98)

The three-year star for the Trojans was the first and only Butkus Award winner in USC history when he was named the nation’s top linebacker in 1998 — the same year both Al Wilson and Andy Katzenmoyer were seniors. He also is the only Pac-12 player to win the Butkus in the three-decade history of the award. He was a consensus All-American and the No. 9 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.

The Next 10:

26. Deltha O’Neal, CB, Cal (1996-99)

The Golden Bear great is one of the most decorated defensive backs from the Pac-12 during the BCS Era. He is one of just two players to win conference Defensive Player of the Year when he set an NCAA record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in his senior year. He also won the Mosi Tatupu Award as the nation’s top special teamer and the Pop Warner Award as the most valuable player on the West Coast —  one of only six Pac-12 players to do so and one of only two Pac-12 defensive players. He was a consensus All-American and first-round pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

27. Ken Simonton, RB, Oregon State (1998-01)
Stats: 1,041 att., 5,044 yds, 59 TDs, 58 rec., 472 yds, TD

Simonton was a four-year starter who rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each season prior to his senior year. He set the school's single-season rushing record in 2000 with 1,546 yards (since broken) and is the all-time leading rusher at a program known for its running backs. Simonton is one of just three players in league history to top 5,000 yards rushing (James, Charles White) and he still owns the conference's career rushing touchdown mark with 59.

28. Adam Archuleta, Arizona State (1997-00)

The West Coast’s favorite walk-on became a three-year starter for the Sun Devils. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors twice and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2000. He was a finalist for the Butkus Award and finished with 330 tackles, 54.0 tackles for loss and 14.0 sacks. The star tackler was a first-round pick of the Rams in the 2001 NFL Draft.

29. Sedrick Ellis, DL, USC (2004-07)

Ellis was one of the big fellas up the middle who helped the Trojans to four straight conference titles and two BCS championship appearances (2004-05). He was one of three players to ever win the Morris Trophy twice during the BCS Era, earned Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 and was a unanimous All-American in '07. Ellis finished with 144 total tackles, 28.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 48 career games for the Men of Troy. USC was 47-5 during his four years and Ellis was the seventh overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

30. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State (2008-10)

This strong bull in the middle is one of the greatest players in OSU history. He was a two-time Morris Trophy winner in the Pac-10, one of only five players to ever accomplish the feat in league history (three during BCS Era). Paea earned conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and was named a consensus All-American. He finished with 129 tackles, 29.5 tackles for a loss and 14.0 sacks in his Beavers career. One of the strongest players in NFL Combine history, Paea was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 2011 draft.

31. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford (2009-13)

The heart and soul of two Pac-12 championship teams and three teams that played in BCS bowls, few players have meant more to their team than Skov. He finished his career with 355 career tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, 16.0 sacks and played his biggest games against the best competition (See: Oregon). During his last four years, Stanford was one of the best defensive units in the nation and his teams went a combined 46-8 during that span. He earned all-conference honors in 2010, '12 and '13.

32. Nick Barnett, LB, Oregon State (1999-02)

One of the most consistent and dependable playmakers in league history, Barnett started three full seasons for the Beavers. He was a multi-year all-conference selection and led the league as a senior with 121 tackles in 2001. He was an integral part of the rebuilding of Oregon State football that included an 11-1 Fiesta Bowl championship season in 2001. Barnett was a first-round pick of the Packers in 2003.

33. Marshawn Lynch, RB, Cal (2004-06)
Stats: 490 att., 3,230 yds, 29 TDs, 68 rec., 600 yds, 6 TDs, 744 ret yds 

Beast mode started back in Berkeley where Lynch averaged 6.6 yards per carry over a three-year college career. He never had one elite season but his 1,684 yards from scrimmage, 15-total touchdown season led to a Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year award in 2006. His power and speed was obvious ever since he signed with Cal out of Oakland (Calif.) Technical and he went on to be a first-round draft pick (12th overall) for Buffalo. Now leading the way in Seattle, Lynch has already earned four Pro Bowl invites and a Super Bowl ring in his NFL career.

34. Kris Farris, OL, UCLA (1995-98)

The 1998 Outland Trophy winner was a consensus All-American for the Bruins in 1998. In fact, Farris was one of only two players from the Pac-12 to win the Outland (Rien Long) and was the only offensive lineman to do so during the BCS Era. He helped lead UCLA to back-to-back 10-2 seasons and a Rose Bowl berth in his final season before being selected in the third round by the Bills in 1999.

35. Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC (2004-06)
Stats: 216 rec., 3,138 yds, 41 TDs

A two-time consensus All-American, Jarrett was a touchdown machine. He scored 13, 16 and 12 receiving touchdowns respectively while helping USC earn trips to back-to-back BCS National Championship Games. His 2005 campaign was his best — 91 rec., 1,274 yds, 16 TDs — and he finished ninth in the Heisman voting as a junior in 2006 before turning pro. In the red zone, few players have ever been as dominant as his 41 career touchdown receptions are nine more than any other Pac-12 player. He’s 15th in league history in receptions and 14th all-time in yards.

The Pac-12's Top 25 Players of the BCS Era
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2014-spring-football-preview

Arkansas had the worst football season in its existence in 2013.

And that was after firing an extremely popular and successful coach for getting caught illegally hiring his young mistress into the athletic department and finishing 4-8 under John L. Smith.

Needless to say, it’s been a rough few years for Razorbacks fans. In the toughest division in football, the uphill climb back to SEC respectability - much less the Sugar Bowl - appears to be extremely treacherous.

Arkansas was outgained by its opponents last season by an average of 138.3 yards per game — trailing only Kentucky in the SEC. It means Bret Bielema has his work cut out for him on both sides of the ball. The entire two-deep returns one player who got any All-SEC mention a year ago (Hunter Henry), and the running back position is in good hands with rising star sophomore Alex Collins.

However, other than that, the Razorbacks have major question marks all over the depth chart heading into spring camp.

2014 Schedule
Aug. 30at 
Sept. 6Nicholls State
Sept. 13at 
Sept. 20
Sept. 27 (Arlington)
Oct. 4Bye Week
Oct. 11
Oct. 18
Oct. 25
Nov. 1at 
Nov. 8Bye Week
Nov. 15
Nov. 22
Nov. 29at 

Arkansas Razorbacks 2014 Spring Preview

2013 Record: 3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Spring Practice Opens: March 16

Spring Game: April 26

Returning Starters

Offense: 7

Defense: 4

Three Things to Watch in Arkansas' 2014 Spring Practice

Find balance on offense
Bielema made his living in the Big Ten pounding the football (unless Russell Wilson was under center) and that won’t change too dramatically at Arkansas. But after finishing 114th in passing offense and 21st in rushing offense, finding balance will be imperative for the Hogs moving forward. Does this mean that Brandon Allen is the final answer under center? He has the experience edge but after completing just 49.6-percent of his passes and dealing with a shoulder injury, Bielema has decided to open up the QB competition this spring. Redshirt freshmen Austin Allen and Damon Mitchell will both get tons of reps, and early enrollee Rafe Peavey enters campus with loads of recruiting hype and expectations. This team must find balance on offense if the Bielema regime expects to reach the postseason in its second year in town. This also includes finding a playmaking wide receiver as well as the top three returning receivers combined for 34 catches last fall.

Get to know the new defensive staff
After allowing 475.3 yards per game in SEC play (105th nationally), Bielema overhauled the defensive coaching staff. Robb Smith is now the defensive coordinator, Rory Segrest is the new defensive line coach and Clay Jennings in the new defensive backs coach. This group needs to get to know their roster and organize the depth chart as they show up from Rutgers, Samford and TCU, respectively. Arkansas ranked 104th nationally in pass efficiency defense and was 102nd nationally yards per play allowed at 6.1, which can’t continue if the Hogs expect to reach a bowl game in 2014. Specifically, filling the gaps left by end Chris Smith, linebacker Jarrett Lake and safety Eric Bennett will be critical this spring. Names like Trey Flowers, Braylon Mitchell and Alan Turner may be prepared to take starring roles but getting the nomenclature, signage and general rapport with the new coaching staff will be essential if this unit is going to improve.

Replace Travis Swanson...
And to a lesser extent, tackle David Hurd. The running game will always be the foundation of Bielema’s offensive attack and there is some nice talent for line coach Sam Pittman to work with in ’14. However, Swanson was arguably the best player on the team and was the only first-team All-SEC selection last fall. Finding a new pivot to manage the offense line, developing young talent like Denver Kirkland and stabilizing the pecking order at the tackle position is huge for a team that did only one thing well in 2013 — run the ball and protect the quarterback. Luke Charpentier is a senior and possibly the top candidate to replace Swanson but sophomore Cordale Boyd will press him for time this spring. Additionally, keep Frank Ragnow on the back burner as he will arrive on campus this summer and could be the long-term solution to replace Swanson.

2014 Early Projected Win Range: 3-5
Arkansas should be able to run the football on offense again in 2014 with seven starters returning, including one of the best backfields in the SEC. But this coaching staff doesn’t really know what it has at either quarterback or wide receiver and is replacing its top offensive lineman. Finding balance on offense will be crucial because it doesn’t appear that the defense will be all that improved. Only four starters are back and the star power is gone (Smith, Bennett). Even the schedule is nasty for Bielema, as things get started with road trips to Auburn and Texas Tech in the first three weeks. Three wins in the non-conference would be a great step and an upset (or two) at home against an SEC power — Alabama, Georgia, LSU or Ole Miss — will be mandatory if the Razorbacks are going to be bowling at season’s end.

Arkansas Razorbacks 2014 Spring Football Preview
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/potential-cinderella-teams-2014-ncaa-tournament

The concept of a mid-major may be out of date thanks to the last few seasons.

Think about it: Butler and VCU have routinely put up high-major program results. Wichita State invests in its program in ways some programs in major conferences do not. Creighton and Xavier now share the Big East banner.

Even the pool of potential Cinderellas this season even seemed to take a hit. A dozen regular season champions in one-bid leagues lost in the conference tournaments. That either means the hottest teams from the low-majors are in the field or the most capable teams are playing in the NIT.

We’ll find out soon enough, but there’s still no shortage of teams that look like they can make a run in the NCAA Tournament even if they’re not household names. Here’s what we like about some of the best candidates.

SOUTH REGION (No. 1 seed Florida)

Record: 23-10, 10-6 Atlantic 10
Seed: 11
Round of 64 opponent: Ohio State
Is Dayton too good a program to be considered a potential Cinderella? Perhaps. The Flyers play in a first-class arena and claimed one of the Atlantic 10’s six NCAA bids. But Dayton also has one NCAA Tournament win since 2004. The Flyers started the season in fine form, beating Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational and taking Baylor to the wire, and then won 10 of the final 12. This is a team that can hang with major programs. Dayton’s not a great defensive team, but the Flyers’ pod includes Ohio State and Syracuse, teams that haven’t exactly lit up the scoreboard during the final stretch of the season.

Stephen F. Austin
Record: 31-2, 18-0 Southland
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: VCU
The Lumberjacks rolled through the Southland Conference for a second consecutive season, this time under a first-year coach. Former Kansas State assistant Brad Underwood took over for the successful Danny Kaspar to lead Stephen F. Austin to 28 consecutive wins to finish the season. The Lumberjacks were rarely tested in the Southland, where they won their conference games by an average of 15.7 points per contest. The drawback to this 31-2 record: SFA’s best win all season was over Towson. Look for the round of 64 game against VCU to be a wild one: Both rank in the top three nationally in defensive turnover rate.

Record: 21-12, 13-3 Conference USA
Seed: 13
Round of 64 opponent: UCLA
Tulsa didn’t make much noise in Conference USA until late in the season, but there’s plenty to like about the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa is the home of eventual national championship coaches Bill Self, Tubby Smith and Nolan Richardson and has another intriguing name on the bench in Kansas legend Danny Manning. This season’s team has been tested plenty. Even if the Golden Hurricane didn’t win many games against big-time competition early, Tulsa has been tested against top-five seeded teams Wichita State, Creighton and Oklahoma.

Western Michigan
Record: 23-9, 14-4 MAC
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Syracuse
The Broncos won 12 of their last 13 games, the only loss coming in overtime on the road to the next best team in the MAC in Toledo. Western Michigan has a pair of potential pros in 6-11 center Shayne Whittington and 6-3, 210-point guard David Brown. Throw in a first-round matchup against a Syracuse team that has fallen apart since the 25-0 start, and Western Michigan will be a popular pick for a 14-3 upset.

EAST REGION (No. 1 seed Virginia)

George Washington
Record: 24-8, 11-5 Atlantic 10
Seed: 9
Round of 64 opponent: Memphis
Like some of the other A-10 teams, George Washington may or may not qualify as a Cinderella. The Colonials are seeded ninth and defeated Creighton early in the season in a tournament in Anaheim. They also defeated high-majors Georgia and Maryland, for what that’s worth. Affable coach Mike Lonergan has two players recruited by major powers. Maurice Creek has flourished at G-Dub after his career at Indiana was cut short by multiple injuries, and Isaiah Armwood has been a double-double machine since transferring from Villanova.

Record: 26-4, 13-1 Ivy
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: Cincinnati
Harvard returns nearly every key player from the team that upset No. 3 seed New Mexico last season. The Crimson are a solid enough team to take advantage of a Cincinnati team that struggles to score. The Bearcats are one of the best teams in the defensive end, but they ranked worse than 200th nationally in shooting from 2-point and 3-point range.

North Carolina Central
Record: 28-5, 15-1 MEAC
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Iowa State
North Carolina Central enters the NCAA Tournament on a 20-game winning streak, but the Eagles have a more impressive non-conference profile than previous MEAC champions. North Carolina Central defeated NC State on the road and faced Cincinnati, Wichita State and Maryland in guarantee games.

WEST REGION (No. 1 seed Arizona)

North Dakota State
Record: 25-6, 12-2 Summit League
Seed: 12
Round of 64 opponent: Oklahoma
North Dakota State on paper has an offense that can hang with Oklahoma. The veteran Bison are 20th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 11th in effective field goal percentage. North Dakota State isn’t a great 3-point shooting team, but the Bison don’t need to be, shooting 56 percent from inside the arc.

Record: 23-11, 11-7 Sun Belt
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Creighton
Few players are more valuable to their teams than Creighton’s Doug McDermott. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elfrid Payton may be one of them. The Ragin’ Cajuns’ guard averages 19.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.2 steals. Throw in a forward averaging a double-double (Shawn Long) and UL Lafayette has a twosome that maybe able to counter McDermott.

MIDWEST REGION (No. 1 seed Wichita State)

Record: 26-9, 14-4 Atlantic Sun
Seed: 14
Round of 64 opponent: Duke
Looking for another example of a Cinderella team that can get hot from 3-point range? Try Mercer. The Bears made an average of 8.1 3-point attempts per game. Mercer won the Atlantic Sun regular season title last season and tied for the crown this season. If Duke’s defensive lapses from early this season return, Mercer could be a team to watch.

Potential Cinderella Teams in the 2014 NCAA Tournament
Post date: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 07:00
Path: /nascar/edwards-endures-rain-soaked-sunday-bristol

March Madness is supposed to apply to this week’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, not NASCAR, which endured an eight-hour, marathon of a race for the second time in less than a month Sunday. Mother Nature wreaked havoc at Bristol Motor Speedway, causing two rain delays and finally ending the event prematurely when caution lights malfunctioned for inexplicable reasons.  Bristol Motor Speedway

According to NASCAR’s Robin Pemberton, a person in the flag stand leaned on the manual override switch, turning on the caution lights on lap 499. Six seconds after the lights were turned on, the flagman — seeing the lights on — waved the yellow flag. Pemberton said that the flagman can wave the caution flag without a call from series officials in the tower if they see a proper reason. A raging downpour then ensued, and NASCAR called the race for Carl Edwards instead of forcing an ugly, final restart.

No rain tires leaves NASCAR with no option in these situations, so the officials err on the side of safety at first sight of a sprinkle. But you wonder, with its two best races ruined by rain, whether it’s time to pour some research into alternatives. Baseball is the only modern sport where rain delays still apply; even there, if a team has to endure a rough day there’s 80 other home dates to make back the profit. Not so in NASCAR, with its individual tracks having two dates max to justify their existence. That meant one of its best facilities, the rugged, half-mile Bristol, lost millions based on a wet weather forecast. Thousands of fans stayed home, knowing with the 100 percent chance of precipitation that they would be waiting around for hours, if not forced to come back on Monday.

The sport isn’t what it used to be, meaning there was a small window Sunday for Bristol to take center stage before the true meaning of March Madness took over. For hardcore fans that hung in there into the late evening, their reward was that some couldn’t even see it on television (FOX moved the finish to its sports channel, FOX Sports 1 after hanging on most of the day). That’s not the way to keep viewers sticking around, right? Good racing — like after the Daytona rain delay — was the hallmark of this Bristol stop, but fans had to jump through hoops to be a part of it.

Twenty years ago, in the midst of major growth, millions obsessed with this sport would put up with it. But 2014 is a different era, not just in NASCAR, but life in general. People are busy, faced with more distractions in this information age and waiting around for 10 hours just isn’t in the cards. While the Air Titan, which dries tracks faster, is a major step in the right direction, a better option is to eliminate the delay altogether, preemptively calling a race based on a 100 percent chance of rain or simply finding a way to keep cars on-track.

Normal people drive in the rain all the time, as do other racing series. In a sport driven by strategy, now more than ever, the sport would be wise to work towards a long-term solution because long-term fans will only put up with so much — even when Mother Nature is the culprit.

“Through the Gears” we go …

FIRST GEAR: Surprising Edwards leads Ford’s fight to fix problems  Carl Edwards and Aric Almirola
How ironic that one of NASCAR’s healthiest, fittest drivers was the one standing atop Bristol’s marathon. Edwards, like in Las Vegas the week before, benefited from the pit calls of crew chief Jimmy Fennig. Choosing to keep old tires during a late caution with 75 laps to go, track position was enough to keep the No. 99 car in position to win.

“Our car was just fast or faster than it had been all night after that,” Edwards said. “So there was no detriment to our performance.  It didn't hurt us in any way.”

Edwards also benefited from NASCAR’s insistence to end the race off that final caution. A restart would have seen Edwards’ teammate, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., alongside and Aric Almirola right behind, both longshots for wins this season and in position to use their bumpers for a Chase bid. Mayhem would have likely ensued, ruining a banner night for the Blue Oval crowd.

Instead, Ford came home with a second straight win, the first time the manufacturer has done that on the Cup level since Watkins Glen and Michigan in August 2012. A 1-2-3 finish, with Edwards-Stenhouse-Almirola, is their first since Talladega last May. Brad Keselowski, driving a Fusion for Penske Racing, is leading the point standings. What’s spurred the changes?

“Ford has given us more resources,” claimed owner Jack Roush. “They've expanded their engineering involvement one more notch and given us some more.  Of course, the thing that it comes down to, as it always has with people in stock car racing is you can have talented people, but if you don't work on the right things, you won't get the results you're looking for.”

My take is the minds on top of the pit box are making a difference. Paul Wolfe and Keselowski came out of the gate clicking on all cylinders. Fennig won the race Sunday for Edwards, earning him a top-5 finish at Las Vegas the week before with a bad car. Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have more brainstorming sessions than ever.

While RFR as a whole still has a ways to go (Greg Biffle, in particular, is struggling mightily) Sunday’s race can make a big difference in momentum. They may all still be chasing Hendrick’s Chevy crowd in the long run, but consecutive wins in Las Vegas, an intermediate track, and Bristol, a short track, are notable in this early season.

SECOND GEAR: Richard Petty Motorsports on Cloud Nine
Third for Almirola was a career best, joining teammate Marcos Ambrose in the top 5 for Richard Petty Motorsports. It’s the first time since scaling back to a two-car operation with new investors in late 2010, that RPM has accomplished the feat.

“This is how we expect to run,” said Almirola, who claims new crew chief Trent Owens has made a difference with the Petty Blue No. 43. “We thought when we brought Trent over he would come with some new ideas … everybody has been working really hard, and that hard work pays off.”

Still, the runs were surprising, as neither team has sniffed the top 10 this season until Sunday. Why the sudden step up in performance? RPM could be funneling its funding (limited compared to the big teams) on improving at short tracks and road courses. All it takes is one victory to make the field, and Ambrose has shown an affinity at both those types of facilities. Almirola himself is strong at the short tracks (along with Kansas) which makes one wonder whether that’s where RPM will test and take some sort of large-scale gamble to cash in.

Fellow middle-class owner Harry Scott, whose No. 51 was a season-best 18th with Justin Allgaier at Bristol, confirmed that type of strategy on Friday.

“It gives the smaller teams some incentive and changes our allocation of resources a little bit,” he said of the new Chase format. “For us to spend more time on those races where we think we have the best shot at pulling an upset.”

No wonder Almirola, whose team is a step below at Ford, was more upset than he should be with third after the race.


Bowles: Asking NASCAR fans to tough it out? A risky play

THIRD GEAR: Big teams suffer big problems
Joe Gibbs Racing was a favorite coming into Bristol before suffering through bad luck. Matt Kenseth arguably had the best car before getting drilled by an ignorant Timmy Hill midway through the race. When a caution flew for Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt, Hill didn’t see the yellow come out and damaged the back of Kenseth’s No. 20 at well over 70 miles an hour.

Kenseth actually recovered from that, driving back to the lead, but inevitably made the wrong pit call for tires late to keep him stuck in traffic. He was a disappointing 13th, while teammate Kyle Busch crashed and wound up seven laps down in 29th. Denny Hamlin, while winning the pole, slumped to sixth, meaning JGR remains 0-for-Victory Lane this season.

Hendrick Motorsports had its troubles, too with Jimmie Johnson having a flat tire under green and Dale Earnhardt Jr. suffering mechanical problems. Junior’s top-2 streak is over, dropping him to second in points, while Johnson’s Bristol nightmares continue. He’s won just once at the non-Chase track in 25 career starts and now has three consecutive finishes outside the top 10 at Thunder Valley.

FOURTH GEAR: Rookies look towards the front
There’s been a lot of talk over rookies struggling these first few weeks of the season. But this weekend at Bristol was Kyle Larson’s introduction to millions. Fighting for the lead at times early in the race, Larson never led a lap officially, but kept the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevy at or near the front all night. A 10th at Bristol was his best of the season and followed a runner-up performance in the Nationwide Series the day before. 

“It's crazy to think it's kind of a disappointing finish for the way we ran for most of the race, but all in all it was a good race,” Larson said. “It was a lot of fun racing with Austin Dillon there at the end.  We must have ran side by side or so for the last 20 laps.”

Dillon, the other main contender for Rookie of the Year honors, came home 11th, signifying a battle they’ll likely wage most of the year. It’s a nice recovery for two youngsters who have started off on a bit of a rollercoaster.

Tony Stewart
, after a season-best fourth, had a message for fans weary over Bristol’s many changes through recent years. “The closing rates weren’t quite as big, but if people don’t like the racing here tonight I don’t know what they want,” he said. “Unless they just want a wreckfest I thought the racing was pretty good.  Like I said, you run mid 15 second laps on a half mile track and run three wide, that is pretty impressive.” Smoke is right, as while the crashes at Bristol were down the actual competition was among the best we’ve ever seen at the half-mile facility. … NASCAR called not one but two “competition” cautions to check tire wear during the race. Why can’t they trust Goodyear that things will be fine when it rains? And why call these “competition” yellows but then call “debris” yellows later in the race for pieces of metal we never see? Call a spade a spade. … What appeared to be toilet paper littered the track during one of the early cautions, catching onto the back of Landon Cassill’s No. 40 Chevy while making a mangled mess of the speedway. NASCAR truly has seen everything these past few years.

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


Carl Edwards wins a rain-soaked Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Post date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - 19:06
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, News
Path: /college-basketball/must-follow-twitter-accounts-each-68-ncaa-tournament-teams

First, our sincere condolences for anyone who isn’t able to sneak away from work on Thursday or Friday to take in one of the greatest days in the sports calendar.

With 16 games, 32 teams to follow in one day is tough enough with multiple screens but perhaps impossible with the boss looking over your shoulder.

Athlon Sports will do what it can to help you follow each team in the field with these Twitter accounts for every team in the NCAA Tournament.

For a bird’s-eye view, we’ve also included 16 must-follow national accounts to aid your viewing experience.

And of course, even if you did call in sick, we’d urge you follow these accounts for insight on every team.

The Sweet 16
@MarchMadnessTV: CBS’ official account with video of every key play
@SethDavisHoops: CBS, “Sharpie” czar
@GoodmanESPN: Jeff Goodman, ESPN
@GaryParrishCBS: Gary Parrish,
@RobDauster: Rob Dauster,
@MattNorlander: Matt Norlander,
@NicoleAuerbach: Nicole Auerbach, USA Today
@KenPomeroy: Ken Pomeroy,
@JayBilas: Jay Bilas, ESPN
@PacerCK: Clark Kellogg, CBS
@bubbaprog: Tim Burke, Deadspin, GIFs and screen grabs
@BrianHamiltonSI: Brian Hamilton,
@FranFraschilla: Fran Fraschilla, ESPN
@JasonKingBR: Jason King, Bleacher Report
@ESPNDanaOneil: Dana O’Neil,
@DickieV: Dick Vitale, ESPN


1. Florida: @Goldkamp247, Thomas Goldkamp,
16. Albany: @tjwilkin, Albany (N.Y.) Times Union
16. Mount St. Mary’s: @mounthoops
1. Arizona: @ghansen711, Greg Hansen, Arizona Daily Star
16. Weber State: @bigskybball, Jonathan Reed,
8. Colorado: @tomkensler, Tom Kensler, Denver Post
9. Pittsburgh: @PantherLair, Chris Peak,
8. Gonzaga: @SRJimm, Jim Meehan, Spokane (Wash.) Spokesman Review
9. Oklahoma State: @jjhelsley, John Helsley, The Oklahoman
5. VCU: @timpearrelltd, Tim Pearrell, Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch
12. Stephen F. Austin: @CoachBradSFA, Brad Underwood, head coach
5. Oklahoma: @ryaber, Ryan Aber, The Oklahoman
12. North Dakota State: @NDSUmbb
4. UCLA: @DufresneLATimes, Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times
13. Tulsa: @CoachDManning, Danny Manning, head coach
4. San Diego State: @sdutzeigler, Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union Tribune
13. New Mexico State: @SimBhullar2, Sim Bhullar, 7-5 center
6. Ohio State: @CRAFTRoomies, Aaron Craft’s roommates
11. Dayton: @KevinKuwik, Dayton assistant
6. Baylor: @OurDailyBears, SB Nation
11. Nebraska: @HuskerExtraBR, Brian Rosenthal, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star
3. Syracuse: @NunesMagician, Sean Keeley, SBNation
14. Western Michigan: @Drew_on_WMU, David Drew, Kalamazoo Gazette
3. Creighton: @PivOWH, Steve Pivovar, Omaha (Neb.) World-World Herald
14. UL Lafayette: @TDARaginCajuns, Tim Buckley, The Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser
7. New Mexico: @GeoffGrammer, Geoff Grammer, Albuquerque (N.M.) Tribune
10. Stanford: @wilnerhotline, Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News
7. Oregon: @TheOregonDuck, mascot
10. BYU: @drewjay, Jay Drew, Salt Lake Tribune
2. Kansas: @RustinDodd, Rustin Dodd, Kansas City Star
15. Eastern Kentucky: @EKUHoops
2. Wisconsin: @JimPolzinWSJ, Jim Polzin, Wisconsin State Journal
15. American: @auhoops, “American University Basketball. In Blog Form”
1. Virginia: @WhiteysWorld365, Whitelaw Reid, Charlottesville (Va.) Daily Progress
16. Coastal Carolina: @CCUHoops
1. Wichita State: @Clearly_BallLyf, Cleanthony Early, Wichita State forward
16. Cal Poly: @SLOcollegebeat, Josh Scroggin,
16. Texas Southern: @TSUMBB
8. Memphis: @TheCAJasonSmith, L. Jason Smith, The Memphis Commercial Appeal
9. George Washington: @MikeLonergan, Mike Lonergan, GW head coach
8. Kentucky: @KyleTucker_CJ, Kyle Tucker, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal
9. Kansas State: @DScottFritchen, D. Scott Fritchen,
5. Cincinnati: @SeanKilpatrick_, Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati guard
12. Harvard: @THCSports, The Harvard Crimson
5. Saint Louis: @TomTimm, Tom Timmermann, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
12. Xavier: @slrussell, Shannon Russell, Cincinnati Enquirer
12. NC State: @RyanTice, Ryan Tice, The Wolfpacker
4. Michigan State: @joerexrode, Joe Rexrode, Lansing (Mich.) State Journal
13. Delaware: @kevintresolini,
4. Louisville: @mengus22, Mark Ennis,
13. Manhattan: @nybuckets, John Templon,
6. North Carolina: @_andrewcarter, Andrew Carter, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer
11. Providence: @friarblog,
6. UMass: @steve_hewitt, Steve Hewitt, UMass Daily Collegian
11. Iowa: @PatHarty, Pat Harty, Iowa Press Citizen
11. Tennessee: @Ben_Fred, Ben Frederickson, Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel
3. Iowa State: @TravisHines21, Travis Hines, Ames (Iowa) Daily Tribune
14. North Carolina Central: @NCCUAthletics
3. Duke: @LauraKeeley, Laura Keeley, Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer
14. Mercer: @MercerMBB
7. UConn: @NeillOstrout, Neill Ostrout, Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer
10. Saint Joseph’s: @HHHardwood,
7. Texas: @kbohls, Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman
10. Arizona State: @DougHaller, Doug Haller, Arizona Republic
2. Villanova: @Brian_Ewart,
15. Milwaukee: @CoachJeterUWM, Rob Jeter, Milwaukee coach
2. Michigan: @daycheck3, Andrew Dakich, Michigan walk on/bench mob
15. Wofford: @WoffordMBB


Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Each of the 68 NCAA Tournament Teams
Post date: Monday, March 17, 2014 - 16:06