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The good news for ACC fans is that the conference survived the most recent round of realignment shenanigans and has found its way into the big five conference alignment for the upcoming college football playoff. The bad news is that there can be little argument the league is fifth among the quintet and still susceptible to the expansion yearnings of its more prosperous brethren.

So, what is the ACC to do? Glad you asked. Here is a modest, 12-step program to security.
 

1. Conference-Wide: Be Happy With What You Have

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe laughs when asked about Louisville’s inclusion in the ACC.

“The hits just keep on coming,” he says.

Grobe isn’t thrilled at the prospect of playing the Cardinals, who will join the ACC in 2014. Not exactly delighted that Notre Dame will show up on the schedule every two or three years, either. But like the rest of the coaches in the conference, he understands that strength connotes security. There may be other leagues out there shopping, but a sturdy lineup ought to make members think a little bit before leaving town.

“If you’re a good league, you’ve got teams that are attractive to other leagues,” Grobe says. “(The ACC) may be attractive to other teams, too.”

The best thing that could have happened to football in the conference was Louisville’s resounding win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl. The Cardinals looked fast, nasty and athletic. In many ways, they resembled an SEC team. Although ND won’t be playing a full slate of games — the Irish are in for five a year starting in 2014 — its arrival adds gridiron cachet, especially now that Notre Dame is winning again.

Add those two teams to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami, name brands all, and you have a solid top tier. If Pittsburgh and Syracuse play at levels with which we are accustomed, the ACC has all it needs — on paper at least.



2. Florida State: Develop Jameis Winston Into A Star

The last time the Seminoles had an All-ACC quarterback was in 2000, when Chris Weinke earned the honor. That’s unacceptable at a place where primo passers abounded during the ’80s and ’90s.

Winston might just change that. The 6'4", 206-pound redshirt freshman has a huge arm — YouTube him throwing the ball over a frat house — and all of the requisite athletic ability to be a star. He split time during the spring as part of the FSU baseball team, but his true home is the gridiron. Sure, Winston

will have to beat out Jacob Coker, but Noles’ fans should be rooting hard for him to prevail.

As a prep senior, Winston completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,424 yards and 28 TDs while also running for 1,065 yards and 15 scores. Sounds exactly like what FSU needs. At last.

 

3. Miami: Build An On-Campus Stadium

Tune in to watch the Hurricanes play anybody but FSU or a big-name non-conference opponent, and you will see tens of thousands of empty seats in Sun Life Stadium, home of the NFL’s Dolphins. The place is 21 miles from campus and offers a stale gameday experience. It was one thing when the Canes played in the old Orange Bowl. At least that place had character. Broadway Joe kicked butt there.

Miami needs an on-campus stadium. It doesn’t have to be a palace, but it should hold about 45,000 people and create a real home-field advantage for the Hurricanes. Hit up some of those wealthy former players for seed money and then start a real fundraising campaign.

Who knows — maybe Uncle Luke might start showing up again. On second thought, better not let him know.



4. Louisville: Keep Tom Jurich

 Fewer than 10 years ago, Louisville was in Conference USA, possessed a limited football profile and was known more for playing in a stadium named for a pizza parlor than winning meaningful games. Thanks in big part to AD Jurich, the Cardinals are now fully made members of the ACC and are coming off that big win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl, their second BCS appearance in seven years. That isn’t all due to Jurich, but he has played a huge leadership role in the transformation.

Because of that, it is imperative that the Cards hang on to Jurich as if he were the last canister of oxygen on the moon. Few NCAA ADs have the ability to get things done like Jurich. His charisma was the main ingredient in U of L’s ability to hire Rick Pitino as its basketball coach, and his vision helped lift Louisville from the margins of I-A football to a seat at the main table. He also has some swing on the national level.

The U of L doesn’t have the same gridiron pedigree of other ACC members, so it can’t rely on tradition and historical success when things get tough. Jurich is the key to future prosperity for Louisville football, so any combination of cash and prizes necessary to keep him on board is appropriate.

 

5. Clemson: Find The Next Chad Morris

One wouldn’t imagine it would be too hard to find a quality offensive mind willing to direct the Tiger attack, since current offensive coordinator Chad Morris makes $1.3 million a year. But big money doesn’t always guarantee the best hires, so Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney better have a good short list of candidates to replace Morris, because unless the gifted coordinator screws up completely this year, he’ll be a head coach in 2014.

Morris interviewed for the vacant NC State and Texas Tech spots last year, and teams all over the country want gifted offensive minds to direct their teams, if only to create excitement that spurs ticket sales. Kliff Kingsbury may be a Red Raider alum, but his work with the Houston and Texas A&M attacks is what made him an attractive candidate in Lubbock.

Morris sure has a lot to work with at Clemson this year. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and wideout Sammy Watkins are both All-America candidates, and it will be shocking if the Tigers don’t pile up the points and yards. Clemson won the ACC in 2011 and had a big comeback triumph over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl last year. Momentum is building, but if Morris bolts from the fold, Swinney must be ready to reload with a similarly proficient offensive mind.
 

6. Virginia, North Carolina, NC State: Protect The Home Turf

Lately, it doesn’t matter where a school might be located; it can go shopping for talent in North Carolina and Virginia. Oh, the Tar Heels and Wahoos may get a couple of prospects to remain at home, but they haven’t been able to prevent interlopers from grabbing the top talent. A trend that has been growing hit particularly hard this past Signing Day.

Virginia running back Derrick Green is going to Michigan. Defensive end Jonathan Allen will play for Alabama. Linebacker E.J. Levenberry is headed for Florida State, and quarterback Ryan Burns signed with Stanford. Yes, running back Taquan Mizzell and linebacker Donta Wilkins are headed for Charlottesville, but the Wahoos didn’t do a very good job with the locals. Of the top 15 players on Rivals’ Virginia list, only four chose the Cavs.

The story isn’t any better next door. Only four of the 15 best prospects (according to the Charlotte Observer) will be Tar Heels — and none signed with NC State (or Wake Forest or Duke, the other two in-state ACC schools). Some of the big names that got away include wideout Marquez North (Tennessee), linebacker Peter Kalambayi (Stanford), running back Larenz Bryant (South Carolina) and defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (LSU). Sure, back T.J. Logan and corner Brian Walker are going to Chapel Hill, but they aren’t enough.

North Carolina, NC State and Virginia have plenty to sell. It’s time to start closing some deals.


7. Virginia Tech: Pay Attention To The Offense

There are three new offensive coaches at Virginia Tech this season and one old idea about how to win football games.

“I still think there is something good to be said about playing good defense and being good in the kicking game,” Hokies coach Frank Beamer says. “That affects field position. You have to take care of the ball and be efficient on offense. That starts with running the football. Think about it: Alabama has been the best team in the country the last four years, and that’s how they do it. That’s how Stanford has been successful.”

So, don’t expect air-raid sirens to be sounding around Blacksburg once new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler starts calling plays. What Virginia Tech fans do want is a return to 2011 form by quarterback Logan Thomas, who completed a mere 51.3 percent of his throws last season, threw 16 picks against only 18 TDs and was dreadful in the Hokies’ bowl win over Rutgers, completing only 38.5 percent of his passes. In 2011, Thomas completed 59.8 percent and tossed only 10 interceptions.

Although some criticized the hiring of Loeffler, who presided over Auburn’s wretched attack last year, the coach was extremely effective directing quarterbacks within a pro-style offense at Michigan for several years and could be just what the Hokies need. Being one-dimensional is no way to get back into the top five.

“Logan will be fine,” Beamer says. “We’ve got to get people around him who are fine, too. We need good running backs, and we have to be more consistent at the wide receiver position. If people around Logan are more consistent, he’ll be fine. That’s what he had two years ago.”
 

8. Pittsburgh: Get Your Act Together

Since Paul Chryst is entering his second year at the Panthers’ helm, he qualifies as an elder statesman among recent Pitt coaches. Before Chryst took over in 2012, the school had employed three coaches — Dave Wannstedt, Mike Haywood, Todd Graham — in a span of two seasons. (Haywood was only there a month.)

“Stability is a good thing,” Chryst says.

If the Panthers are going to establish themselves as contenders in the ACC, they must be more than just talented. Pitt has to deliver, and we’re not just talking about a fourth straight postseason trip to Birmingham, Ala. Chryst hopes to develop a team that will win at a high level consistently. He was part of that as an assistant at Wisconsin, and though he admits he hasn’t directed a breakthrough as a boss man, Chryst understands what it will take.

“You have to have enough talent, but you have to have guys who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he says. “The teams that I have been a part of that have won big maybe weren’t the most talented in the league, but they had enough talent and plenty of hard work and commitment.”

It’s going to take a while for the Panthers to deliver big results every season, since Chryst is trying to re-cast the team after Graham’s one-and-done “tenure.” But if he stays around — “You understand why your name comes up, and it’s not a big deal, but it’s interesting when you know what you’re doing and hear things,” he says — Chryst has a chance.

 

9. Boston College and Syracuse: Be Eastern Powers Again

When the ACC added Boston College, there were big plans by other member schools to pillage New England for talent. Granted, there are more ice hockey standouts in that part of the country than football stars, but a new market opened up. The same sentiment was echoed when Syracuse and Pitt bolted the Big East. Imagine how Georgia Tech would be able to tell New York recruits about periodic trips north, or Miami could assuage the fears of shaky parents by promising to bring Junior home twice during his four years on campus.

That’s all nice, but even better than just supplying the rest of the league with talent is the idea that BC and Syracuse can become the kind of powerful Eastern programs they once were. Multiple bowl games, big non-conference triumphs and future NFL performers were once parts of the teams’ personalities. That must happen again.

Start with recruiting. There is no way either team should lose a player from the Northeast to any neighborhood school besides Pitt or Penn State. UConn and Temple are members of a mid-major conference, and even though Rutgers will soon be a Big Ten school, the Knights have been searching for an identity on the gridiron for decades. It won’t be easy, since there isn’t an abundance of talent in the region, but it happened before, and both teams would help the league greatly by returning to glory.
 

 

10. North Carolina: Behave!

When did the Tar Heels decide it was a good idea to act like an old Southwest Conference school? Instead of behaving like a proud institution with strong academic standards and a desire to do things the right way, UNC has become a bandit school that traffics in cash and prizes for players and no-show class grades. Come on, Carolina, you’re better than that.

Second-year head coach Larry Fedora had a solid debut, leading the Heels to an 8–4 record (North Carolina was ineligible for a bowl game), but he and the program could endure another round of punishments if the academic fraud scandal based in the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department is deemed sanction-worthy by the NCAA. It may be a while before UNC is clear of trouble, but Fedora and the rest of the school would benefit greatly from playing by the rules from here on out.



11. Duke and Wake Forest: Hold That Line

Okay, we get it. Wake has about 200 students. (Editor’s Note: He’s kidding; the school’s enrollment is 4,800.) And amidst those brick buildings and tree-lined quadrangles, real work gets done. The same thing happens at Duke, where Wallace Wade Stadium is still pretty much like the place that hosted the 1942 Rose Bowl.

But that doesn’t mean the programs have to be walkovers, especially in non-conference contests against like schools. To their credit, Wake and Duke have represented the league fairly well lately. The Blue Devils played in the Belk Bowl last year, their first postseason appearance since January 1995. And though the outcome was crushing (a late collapse led to a 14-point loss), there is no question that coach David Cutcliffe has the program going in the right direction.

Jim Grobe is doing a fine job in Winston-Salem, even though the Deacons have been to only one bowl in four seasons. Wake has a refurbished stadium and made three straight postseason appearances from 2006-08.

“It’s important for the (ACC’s) academic schools to have success,” Grobe says, referring to Wake and Duke. “But that’s tough, when you have to start with a guy who can get a degree from Wake Forest and still bump into the Noles and Canes and Hokies.”

 

12. League-Wide: Knock Off Some Quality Opponents

The ACC can crow all it wants about last year’s 4–2 bowl record, but other than the Clemson win over LSU, none was particularly impressive. Beating Rutgers, Northern Illinois and a disinterested USC team that was without quarterback Matt Barkley hardly gives the league reason to thump its chest.

If the ACC wants to be considered on a par with the other four major conferences, it has to knock off some Teams That Matter. Last year, Miami lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93–16. Clemson lost to South Carolina at home. Florida State fell to Florida in Tallahassee. Virginia Tech lost at Pitt. Louisville knocked off North Carolina, and Stanford throttled Duke. In other words, nobody hung an impressive non-con scalp on the wall.

That must change. The Hokies get a chance Aug. 31, when they play Alabama in Atlanta. That same weekend, Georgia visits Clemson, and UNC heads to Columbia to play the Gamecocks. A week later, Florida is at Miami, and Virginia hosts Oregon. There you have it; five chances to make a mark.

“Us starting out against Alabama is certainly a challenge,” Beamer says. “The odds are against us, because they’re a good team. But we’ve got a good team, too.”

Get it done, Coach.
 

BONUS: Get Notre Dame To Join As A Full Member

Come on, people. You hold all the cards in this one. Sure, it’s great to have ND around for five conference football games, but by giving the Irish a pass on full football membership, you’re allowing the school to protect its other sports at a discount. Imagine what would happen if Notre Dame had to go out and find another home. Maybe the American Athletic Conference would take it, but ND already ditched those schools back when the league was known as the Big East. And scheduling 12 football games every year when many BCS members won’t play them won’t be easy. Play some hardball with the Irish. Tell them the free lunch is over. That would sure help the conference. 

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


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Virginia Tech's Struggling Offense Gets a Makeover

 

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 15, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/only-one-guy-waiting-titans-tickets
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WKRN, Nashville News, Nashville Weather and Sports

As impossible as it may seem, this is real. A Nashville reporter headed down to the Tennessee Titans' stadium on the day single-game tickets went on sale and found a guy camped out waiting in line. The only problem is that nobody was in line. NOBODY. The resulting interview with the half-awake fan is hilarious.
 
Best moment? When the reporter, obviously confused by why he's camping out, asks "Have you heard of the Internet? Why don't you buy these online?"
Teaser:
As impossible as it may seem, this is real. Let me repeat that: THIS IS REAL. A Nashville reporter headed down to the Tennessee Titans stadium on the day single-game tickets went on sale, and found a guy camped out waiting in line. The only problem is that nobody was in line. NOBODY. The resulting interview with the half-awake fan is hilarious.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 13:33
Path: /nfl/15-nfl-wide-receiverstight-ends-hot-seat-2013
Body:

While the term “hot seat” is typically associated with head coaches and their job security, they are not the only ones who feel the heat during an NFL season. Along those lines, the official “start” to the 2013 season is next week as training camps are set to open and the battle for roster spots will begin anew among the players.

As NFL offenses continue to evolve, more and more of an emphasis is being placed on the passing game. Consider that in 2008 only six quarterbacks passed for more than 4,000 yards and only three wide receivers posted 100 or more receptions. Last season, 11 quarterbacks eclipsed 4,000 yards passing while five receivers and one tight end all went over 100 catches.

So with more of a premium being placed on the passing game, which wide receivers and tight ends need to step up the most this season? Here are the 15 pass-catchers we think that need to make the most of their targets in 2013.

Danny Amendola1. Danny Amendola, WR, New England Patriots
Amendola was already tasked with having to fill the big shoes of the departed Wes Welker, Tom Brady’s favorite target the past six seasons. His job has only gotten tougher, however, since Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery and Aaron Hernandez got arrested and charged with murder, among other things.

The Patriots moved quickly to sign Amendola to a five-year, $31 million contract after Welker bolted for Denver, and it’s now on the former Ram to live up to it. For him to do that, however, the oft-injured wideout needs to stay on the field. Amendola has played in all 16 games just once in his four seasons. He missed all but one game in 2011 and five last season due to an assortment of injuries. His career bests of 85 catches, 689 yards and three touchdowns are also a far cry from the 112-1243-6 line Welker averaged in his six seasons in a Patriots uniform.

Related: 12 NFL Quarterbacks on the Hot Seat in 2013

2. Percy Harvin, WR, Seattle Seahawks
Not only did Harvin get his request for a change of scenery, getting traded from Minnesota to Seattle, he also got a new six-year, $67 million contract extension from the Seahawks. Now there are no more excuses for the 25-year-old all-purpose threat, as he becomes the No. 1 wide receiver for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Harvin was off to a great start last season before suffering an ankle injury (which ironically happened when the Vikings were in Seattle) that ended his 2012 campaign after just nine games. Harvin needs to stay healthy and produce for his new team, meaning he can ill afford to be hampered by the migraine issues he’s dealt with in the past or, more importantly, become a headache for the Seahawks.

3. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
After posting back-to-back 70-catch, 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and ’11, a lucrative, long-term contract seemed all but a given for Nicks. The 2009 first-round pick, however, broke his foot last May and also was hampered by a nagging knee injury throughout his 2012 campaign.

Not surprisingly, Nicks’ production (53-692-3 in 13 G) fell dramatically last season, making this one critical as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The Giants have already given out one big contract to a wide receiver, as they signed Victor Cruz to a five-year, $43 million extension earlier this week. Nicks will have to stay healthy and get back to his 2011 form (76-1192-7) if he wants the opportunity to sign a similar type of deal, with the Giants or any other team for that matter.

Kenny Britt4. Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee Titans
Britt exploded out of the gates in 2011, leading the NFL with 14 catches for 271 yards (19.4 ypc) after the first two games. A torn ACL in the next game ended his season and everything has somewhat gone downhill from there. The 2009 first-round pick suffered a couple of setbacks in his return from knee surgery, resulting in additional operations, and he clearly wasn’t the same player last season. Britt caught just 45 passes for 589 yards (13.1 ypc) and four touchdowns in 14 games in 2012.

The talented wide receiver also has had his share of off-field issues, including multiple arrests and several other incidents that involved the police and resulted in him being suspended one game by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Britt is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Titans have taken a wide receiver in either the first or second round of the past two drafts. If there’s any wide receiver in the NFL who needs to stay out of trouble and put up big numbers, it’s Britt. 

5. Vernon Davis, TE, San Francisco 49ers
In 2009, Davis earned a Pro Bowl invite after catching 78 passes for 965 yards and 13 touchdowns. His numbers have gone down every season since, dropping all the way to just 41 receptions for 548 yards and five touchdowns last season. In addition, Davis had nine games during the 2012 regular season in which he caught two or fewer passes.

The 49ers came up just short against the Ravens in last season’s Super Bowl and have every intention of making a return trip in 2013. To get there, Davis cannot disappear for long stretches like he did last season, especially with wide receiver Michael Crabtree already lost because of a torn Achilles tendon. Davis did end last season with back-to-back 100-yard games in the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl, so perhaps that’s a sign of things to come.

6. TE, New England Patriots
With Rob Gronkowski’s status for 2013 up in the air following June back surgery and Aaron Hernandez now incarcerated and no longer on the roster, the Patriots’ tight end situation is one gigantic question mark headed into training camp. Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 106 receptions and 16 touchdowns last season, or nearly half of Tom Brady’s total (34) in 2012.

Gronkowski is still listed as No.1 on the depth chart on the team’s Web site, but there’s no guarantee as to when he will be ready to get back on the field. That leaves Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells, who combined for nine catches and 194 yards last seasons, as the next options with veteran Jake Ballard and undrafted free agents Brandon Ford and Nate Sudfeld also on the roster.

As has already been stated, tight end is an important component of New England’s offense. Whoever it is, someone needs to step up to fill the role that Hernandez did behind Gronkowki in recent seasons, if not carry the load until Gronkowski is back and 100 percent healthy. This is especially the case considering that Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Danny Woodhead are no longer on the roster. Combine these three with Gronkowski and Hernandez and you have 84 percent of the catches, 82 percent of the yards and 85 percent of the touchdown catches the Patriots’ offense produced in 2012.

7. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, WRs, Philadelphia Eagles
There’s already been a lot of talk about the type of offense Chip Kelly is going to run with the Eagles, but regardless of the design, the success of the scheme will largely come down to the players. Jackson and Maclin seem ideally suited for Kelly’s system, the question is how quickly will they adapt to it and will they be able to thrive in it?

Jackson hasn’t been the deadly all-purpose weapon he was his first three years in the NFL. His receiving yardage has declined in each of the past three seasons, as his 2012 campaign was cut short by a rib injury. Can he return to his explosive ways in 2013?

Maclin’s had his own injury issues, as he’s played all 16 games just once in his four seasons, but there’s much more at stake for him in 2013 compared to his teammate. While Jackson signed a five-year contract extension last March, Maclin is entering the final year of his rookie contract. So while Jackson and Maclin will both be playing in a new offense this fall, it’s Maclin who is playing for his next paycheck.

8. Jermichael Finley, TE, Green Bay Packers
Some thought the Packers would release Finley or at the very least restructure his contract during the offseason, but neither ended up happening. Finley earned a $3 million roster bonus in March and will play this season with no guarantees or assurances about his future in Green Bay. He’s set to make close to $4.5 million in salary this season and undoubtedly the Packers would love to get more than the 61 catches, 667 yards and two touchdowns they got from the athletic tight end in 2012.

Finley’s presence is even more important with Greg Jennings (see below) now in Minnesota. From a tight end perspective, it doesn’t get much better than catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. It’s now up to Finley to take advantage of this and prove to the Packers he’s a worthwhile, long-term investment.

Mike Wallace9. Mike Wallace, WR, Miami Dolphins
Headed into this past offseason, Wallace was believed to be the No. 1 wide receiver on the free agent market and he parlayed that status into a five-year, $60 million deal with Miami. His new contract includes $30 million in guaranteed money, so now all that’s left for the soon-to-be 27-year-old is to play as well as he’s paid.

The 2009 third-round pick posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons with the Steelers in 2010-11, but he managed just 836 yards receiving last season. He did catch eight touchdown passes, but the Dolphins, who finished 26th in the league in passing offense in 2012, are expecting more. Wallace was the biggest splash the team made in free agency and they are hoping that he can help second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill take that next step in his development as a passer.

10. Torrey Smith, WR, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, but this is not the same team that beat San Francisco in New Orleans in February. With Anquan Boldin now with the 49ers, it’s up to Smith to become a consistent and reliable target for quarterback Joe Flacco.

This is an important season for the third-year wideout, as he’s been primarily a deep threat for the Ravens his first two seasons. If Smith wants take that next step and establish himself among the best receivers in the league, he needs to start by improving upon a career catch rate that sits at less than 50 percent. Even with all of the roster changes, the Ravens should be able to mount a spirited defense of their title, but only if Smith does his part in the passing game.

11. Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
It took Blackmon, the fifth overall pick of the 2012 draft, a little bit longer to get acclimated to the pro game, but there’s no disputing his athletic ability and immense upside. Look no further than a record-setting performance (14 rec., 236 yds) against Houston in Week 11 and four straight games with at least six receptions to finish last season.

Unfortunately, Blackmon will miss the first four games of this season due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. The uncertainty that is the Jaguars’ quarterback situation is already one factor that could potentially hinder his development, and now he won’t even be getting on the field until October. The sky is seemingly the limit for the talented Blackmon, but his introduction to the NFL has been anything but smooth sailing.

12. Greg Jennings, WR, Minnesota Vikings
Jennings left Green Bay as a free agent to sign with NFC North rival Minnesota for five years and $45 million. With Percy Harvin now in Seattle, Jennings immediately becomes the Vikings No. 1 option and they need him to play like one to boost the league’s second-worst passing offense and help third-year quarterback Christian Ponder develop as a passer.

The Vikings are also hoping that the eight-year veteran can mentor first-round pick Cordarelle Paterson and 2011 fourth-round selections Greg Childs and  Jarius Wright. To do that, however, Jennings will need to be out on the field, which has been somewhat of a problem lately. He has missed 11 games in the last two seasons combined with different injuries. Jennings can’t help the offense or his young teammates if he’s spending all of his time in the training room or on the sidelines.

13. Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams
After four disappointing seasons with the Titans, Cook signed with the Rams as a free agent to reunite with former head coach Jeff Fisher. Of course, a new five-year, $35 million contract with nearly $20 million in guaranteed money doesn’t hurt either. Cook, who has 4.49 speed, can line up anywhere and is capable of making big plays after the catch. The problem is he just hasn’t done it yet on a consistent basis. Will that change in 2013? The Rams certainly hope so.

14. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston Texans
Hopkins is a rookie, but there’s a reason the Texans took him with the 27th overall pick. They need him to step into the starting lineup immediately and flash the big-play ability (18 TD catches) he did with Clemson last fall. The Texans have one of the best running games in the league led by workhorse Arian Foster, a Pro Bowl quarterback in Matt Schaub, and established pass-catchers in All-Pro wide receiver Johnson and Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels. However, a team can never have enough weapons on offense, especially one that has its sights set squarely on getting to the Super Bowl.

15. A.J. Jenkins, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Jenkins was taken by the 49ers in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 draft, but only played in three games as a rookie and didn’t catch a single pass. After in essence redshirting as a rookie, Jenkins needs to step up in 2013, especially with 2012 leading receiver Michael Crabtree already lost for the season because of an Achilles injury. San Francisco acquired veteran Anquan Boldin in the offseason, but he will turn 33 in October and will need help from his position mates. Jenkins needs to show his team and the rest of the NFL that there’s a reason he was drafted in the first round a little more than a year ago.

Teaser:
15 NFL Wide Receivers/Tight Ends on the Hot Seat in 2013
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 12:15
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/rockies-braves-pirates-crap
Body:

SportsCenter funny graphic

It's as though SportsCenter is trying to tell us something. 
 
Source: Reddit
 
Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 11:37
All taxonomy terms: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/louisiana-tech-loves-america-more-you
Body:
The Louisiana Tech athletic department released photos of a special stars-and-stripes helmet the Bulldogs will wear in their Heart of Dallas Classic game against Army on Sept. 28 in the Cotton Bowl. The game also serves as Louisiana Tech's annual "Military Appreciation Day." 
 
Even cooler is that the school has already worked with EA Sports to ensure that the new helmet design will be available in NCAA Football 14 once the company releases its initial uniform update patch the last week of August. No word yet as to whether you can play QB as Captain America. 

 

Louisiana Tech's Patriotic Helmet

 
 
Teaser:
The Louisiana Tech athletic department released photos of a special stars-and-stripes helmet the Bulldogs will wear in their Heart of Dallas Classic game against Army on Sept. 28 in the Cotton Bowl.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 11:20
Path: /nascar/winless-drivers-keselowski-gordon-searching-victory-nascar-hits-new-hampshire
Body:

1. Keselowski concerned, not panicked about Chase chances  Brad Keseloski
Amidst the revelry and celebration of his Sprint Cup series title last fall, Brad Keselowski was picking up various awards, honors and mentions in a manner that could quickly fill a small house (or an exceptionally large beer mug). Unfortunately, one of those unlocked achievements wasn't a provisional starting spot into this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Keselowski, who hasn't finished higher than 12th since the 400-miler at Dover six races ago, has now spent two weeks at a season-low 13th in points. He's currently unqualified for the 10-race title bout. With just eight races left until the Chase, it's time to sound the alarms, right?

“It would be really easy for me to say that we need to hit the panic button if we didn’t have speed in our cars. Speed is something that can take months — or even years — to develop. That would make me really uneasy," Keselowski said this week. "But the fact is that we’ve been fast almost everywhere we’ve been. We just need execution and luck."

Fortunately, Keselowski is right. Teammate Joey Logano had been fast and consistent, too, before a blown tire ruined his race at Daytona.

Keselowski caught the wrong line at the end of last week's wild finish at Daytona to finish 21st. He was wrecked inexplicably by Kurt Busch at Kentucky. He crashed at Darlington and Charlotte. A blown tire doomed his race at Richmond.

It's been one hit after another.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway could key the turnaround for Keselowski — he has four top-10 finishes in seven starts — to begin the march forward. He's just 13 points behind Busch in ninth.

"(NHMS is) one of the tracks where (crew chief) Paul (Wolfe) has experience as a driver. It’s very hard to emphasize how much of a difference that can make," Keselowski said. "After testing up there two weeks ago, I feel really good about our package for the race."



2. New Hampshire a good place to change Jeff Gordon's luck  Jeff GordonAnother 2012 Chase driver riding a swell of poor results is Jeff Gordon. Just one spot and one point behind Keselowski in the point standings, the only break Gordon has seemed to catch in the last few months came in a fast car that came home second on the road course in Sonoma.

But even there, an ill-timed caution set him deep in the field before his late-race scramble. At other stops it's been wrecks he was swept into (Daytona, Charlotte and Michigan) that have left points on the table.

All of those stomach punches likely have Gordon looking forward to the 300-lapper at New Hampshire thanks to how consistent he's raced at the 1.058-mile track throughout his career.

While Gordon hasn't won in Loudon since 1998, he's still currently the Sprint Cup leader in several categories including top 5s (16), top 10s (21) and laps led (1,316). And those numbers aren't just records because of longevity. Gordon enters this weekend with the series' best average running position (7.2) in the last 16 races at NHMS.

"We don't have any choice but to go out there and race hard and be aggressive," said Gordon. "I feel like we have so much more potential."

That potential, Gordon says of his team, is title-fight worthy.

"If we live up to our potential, we can earn a Chase spot."


3. Will NHMS work as a Chase for the Sprint Cup predictor?
Speaking of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, it's a bit of a wonder how well the system has worked as a method to keep drivers and their struggles to make the championship race in the spotlight for several weeks in the summer stretch. Say what you will about the gimmick nature or complete reversal of tradition that the format brings — I'll agree on many fronts — but the marketing aspect of the format works especially well in the summer months.

Another interesting yet unplanned mechanism of the Chase is how well the first NHMS of two last season exhibited who would be in the championship mix after Richmond in September.

NASCAR's statistical services reports the 10 drivers who were in the series' top 10 in points after the July New Hampshire race all secured entries to the championship runoff. Additionally, nine of the 10 top-10 finishers in last year's July event wound up being Chase drivers.

While interesting, I should note that this year's point standings situation looks much, much different. After New Hampshire last season, Keselowski was 10th and had a whopping 46-point lead on Carl Edwards in 11th. This time around — before the New Hampshire event, mind you — 10th-place Tony Stewart leads Martin Truex Jr. in 11th by three total points. In fact, the gap from seventh to 15th in the point standings is just four points larger (50 points) than Keselowski's advantage over 11th last season.


4. Passing opportunities put track position at a premium in Loudon
New Hampshire's long straightaways bounded by tight, lengthy and flat corners presents a handling nightmare for a 3,000-plus pound race car. For drivers, each lap creates a tough decision: Should they brake late and hope the tires stick, or should they slow early, get the car set in the corner and hope for a fast corner exit?

The one-mile oval had a bit of a notorious streak a decade ago when fans and competitors decided the track simply lacked passing opportunities. In response, the corners were re-worked to add some variable banking in hopes of creating more passing lanes.

To Jeff Burton, the extra space has almost created a similar effect to the widened groove at Bristol Motor Speedway. Cars can run side-by-side, he says, but passing is a tougher chore.

"I am one of the few drivers that think it is harder to pass at New Hampshire than before," Burton says. "It used to be when you had position, the spot was yours. Now you gain that track position and the fight for the spot has just begun. I think it is much harder to pass now than it was with the old track."


5. NHMS has been busy with testing
In a bid to both improve passing as a whole in Loudon and for teams to improve their own personal ability to pass at the Granite State track, there has been no shortage of testing miles at the facility in the last couple of months. All told, at least 13 different teams spent time in Loudon in the race's run up.

Burton, Gordon, Dave Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano worked a Goodyear tire test at NHMS May 14-15 after input from teams last year identified a possibility of increasing grip in the allotted tire combination.

"Driver feedback from Loudon last year identified that track as an opportunity to increase grip," said Greg Stucker, Goodyear's director of race tire sales. "The focus of that test (was) to come up with the right balance of grip, wear and fall off for the new car on that surface."

But the test wound up bringing no new results. Goodyear's tire construction remains identical to what was used in the 2012 NHMS races.

That's good news for Keselowski, all three Stewart-Haas Racing teams and all three Roush Fenway Racing teams who tested NHMS on their own accord because it means the tires and notes used during their personal sessions will match the conditions on return.

"We are bringing a new car that we tested there," Biffle says. "We’ve been working really hard on our short track program this year and we’ve learned a lot leading up to now."


Follow Geoffrey on Twitter: @GeoffreyMiller
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.
 

Teaser:
Geoffrey Miller highlights the five NASCR storylines to watch in this weekend's Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 11:10
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-12-2013
Body:

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

 

I have no idea whether Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke is any good at hurdling. Nor do I really care, if she continues to post Instagram photos like this one. In case you've forgotten, Ms. Jenneke is famous for doing this.

 

A minor Twitter war broke out between Ole Miss bad boy Marshall Henderson and Fox's Erin Andrews. No surprise; Gator fans just don't like the guy.

 

I missed Sharknado, but apparently it's the Citizen Kane of the flying-sharks-attack-Los-Angeles genre.

 

• This is a fun category: Sideline reporters getting utterly destroyed while trying to do their (pretty useless) jobs.

 

• Sure, West Virginia fans burn couches and LA, Detroit and Miami fans riot when their team wins a championship, but there are no crazies like soccer crazies. Here are the 10 most insane acts of soccer violence.

 

Sports pictures that will make you go, "Whaaa...?"

 

Georgia is withholding its "Aaron Murray for Heisman" campaign — for now.

 

Here's a ranking of the best SEC cities for sports fans, 1-14, that's sure to cause controversy. Nashville is No. 14, for starters. Speaking of SEC rankings, here's a look at the best and worst coaches

 

• Some say that Anderson Silva took a dive in losing his UFC title to Chris Weidman. I don't know; he seems pretty upset to me.

 

• One lone Titans fan camped out to secure his tickets. Fortunately, an intrepid TV reporter woke him up and interviewed him.

 

• Torii Hunter was rather coy during his postgame interview following a testy Tigers-White Sox game.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 10:42
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-oklahoma-state-football-fan
Body:

There’s no better time than the present in Stillwater.

That’s our contention in our ongoing series highlighting the best and worst times to be a fan. Relative to Oklahoma State’s history, there’s no better time to root for the Pokes right now.

Our “era” we highlighted as the best spans from 2008-11, but we’d easily extend those parameters to 2013 if Oklahoma State delivers on our preseason prediction to win the Big 12.

Other eras may have produced bigger stars (Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas) or across the board athletic success (basketball, football and wrestling in the 1940s), but in terms of being in the thick of the Big 12 race and the national conversation, the Oklahoma State program from 2008-11 has given fans in Stillwater the most reasons to cheer.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

2008-11
Record:
41-11
National championships: 0
Coach: Mike Gundy
Notable players: Brandon Weeden, Zac Robinson, Justin Blackmon, Russell Okung, Brandon Pettigrew, Dez Bryant, Kendall Hunter
Oklahoma State is in the midst of its greatest era of sustained success with seven consecutive winning seasons. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are one of the most exciting teams to watch, at least with the no-huddle spread offense. The school’s top two career passers (Weeden and Robinson) and top career receiver (Blackmon) have played during this era as well. The best season in school history in 2011 resulted in a top-three finish and the program’s first outright conference title since 1926. Only a loss to Iowa State prevented Oklahoma State from playing for national title that season.

1984-88
Record: 44-15
National championships: 0
Coach: Pat Jones
Notable players: Barry Sanders, Thurman Thomas, Mike Gundy, Hart Lee Dykes, Leslie O’Neal
Oklahoma State fans thought they had it good with Thurman Thomas, who rushed for 4,595 yards in four seasons from 1984-87. For sure, they did. But Barry Sanders in 1988 had a season for the ages with 2,628 yards and 39 touchdowns in 12 games on the way to to a lopsided victory in the Heisman race. Before 2010-11, this was the first time an Oklahoma State team won as many as 20 games in back-to-back seasons. Alas, the Cowboys remained under the thumb of rival Oklahoma. Amid a 10-2 season in 1984, then-No. 3 Oklahoma State lost 24-14 to a second-ranked Oklahoma. The future of the program, though, was under center during this era as the quarterback Gundy became the team’s career leading passer — at least until he became coach.

1944-45
Record: 17-1
National championships: 0
Coach: Jim Lookabaugh
Notable players: Bob Fenimore, Neill Armstrong, Jake Colhouer
For a stretch of three seasons, Oklahoma State (then Oklahoma A&M) was the Florida or Ohio State of its day in terms of multi-sport success. The basketball team won back-to-back national titles under Hank Iba in 1945-46. The wrestling team won its 14th championship (to this day, Oklahoma State remains one of the few major powers where wrestling is a big deal). The football team went 8-1 in 1944, defeating TCU in the Cotton Bowl, before going 9-0 and finishing fifth in the AP poll in 1945. A sign of the times: Oklahoma State went to the Sugar Bowl that year to defeat Saint Mary’s of California.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN OKLAHOMA STATE FAN

1989-94
Record: 18-45-3
Coach: Pat Jones
The excitement from the Thurman Thomas/Barry Sanders era was short-lived. Without their two star running backs, the Cowboys endured eight consecutive losing seasons, including an 0-10-1 mark in 1991.

1960-71
Record:
101-127-6
Coaches: Cliff Speegle, Phil Cutchin, Floyd Gass
Oklahoma State’s tenure in the Big Eight didn’t get off to a great start as the Cowboys finished sixth or lower seven times in the first 11 seasons. This run included 12 consecutive losing seasons, including 1-8 in 1963.

MOST UNDERRATED

2002-04
Record:
24-14
Coach: Les Miles
Les Miles’ achievements at Oklahoma State would be overshadowed by his achievements at LSU and Mike Gundy’s achievements as a successor. Oklahoma State didn’t have a great national breakout under Miles, but the Cowboys came relevant after 12 losing seasons in 13 years.

Related College Football Content

2013 Big 12 Predictions
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU

Teaser:
Gundy's top passers or the running backs of the 80s?
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 08:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-secs-best-traditions
Body:

There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.

Last but certainly not least, are the college games' traditions. Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a deeper connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The SEC has dominated all aspects of college football from the national headlines to attendance totals and the BCS National Championship Game. So it should come as no surprise that it dominates in the historic traditions department as well.

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

12th Man
Born in January 1922, the phrase and tradition stemmed from one particular game with the nation’s top team at the time, Centre College. Because the team was so battered and injured, head coach Dana Bible had to call for E. King Gill, a basketball player at the time, from the stands to join the team. Texas A&M went on to win 22-14 and although Gill never made it into the game, he was the last and only man standing on the sideline. He answered the call to help his team and no one has ever forgotten about it.

The Grove
It just might be the best place on Earth. This beautiful collection of oak, elm and magnolia trees surrounds a 10-acre plot adjacent to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss. The party in The Grove has been going on since football began at Ole Miss, but became the Holy Grail of Tailgating by the 1950s. The gorgeous, um, scenery is second to none and the setting is historic. Everyone is undefeated in The Grove.

Death Valley, La.
There is no singular way to describe a night home game in Tiger Stadium. The variety and flavor of an LSU tailgate is second to none with a wide-ranging menu from some of the best chefs in college football. And the stadium is arguably the loudest in the nation, especially when the Bayou Bengal fans have had all day to marinate.

Toomer’s Corner
May it rest in peace… for now. The Harvey Updyke saga is one of the most bizarre tales of fandom gone wrong in history. At the corner of Magnolia Avenue and College Street in front of 130-year-old Toomer’s Drug store, Auburn fans have rolled the two massive southern live oaks for roughly six decades. While those trees have been poisoned and subsequently cut down, there is no reason to believe that those in charge on The Plains won’t rebuild some sort of replacement that will allow fans to start a new tradition.

Cockaboose Railroad
Since 1990, 22 immovable cabooses have sat dormant on an unused railroad track behind the south end of Williams-Brice Stadium. Each caboose is privately owned and features running water, restrooms, working television, air condition and heat. The set-up offers a perfect way to tailgate in style before each Gamecocks home game and provides a cool resting spot afterwards while traffic clears out.

Vol Navy
It isn’t nearly as picturesque as Sailgating on Lake Washington, but Tennessee has its own fan flotilla every Saturday. The tradition of floating to the game instead of driving actually began when former broadcaster George Mooney didn’t want to sit in traffic and instead traveled by boat down the Tennessee River to Neyland Stadium.

Chants/Cheers:

Midnight Yell
Originally an impromptu post-dinner get-together to “learn heartily the old time pep,” Midnight Yell Practice at Texas A&M didn’t officially start until 1931. Today, the tradition is held on Friday nights before home games at Kyle Field and Thursday before road games at The Arches. It is a fairly self-explanatory tradition as fans and cadets gather to practice cheering for the Aggies — and making out some too.

Rocky Top
It might be the most recognizable fight song in the nation. Yes, visiting teams and fans get tired of the jingle after the 30th or 40th rendition on any given Saturday but Big Orange Nation never tires of the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant song written back in 1967.

Woo Pig Sooie
There isn’t a clear story as to when or how this one came about but since at least the 1920s, Arkansas fans have been Calling the Hogs. The high-pitched chant echoes throughout the hills of Arkansas over and over and over again every Saturday.

Hotty Toddy
Supposedly, the origin of Ole Miss’ famous chant remains unknown only adding to its mystique. Some claim it was taken from Virginia Tech’s “Highty Tighties,” which was an old World War II cheer about, appropriately, an alcoholic beverage.

Rammer Jammer
Combine The Rammer-Jammer, the University of Alabama's student newspaper and a Yellowhammer, the state bird, and you get this unique and signature cry, which dates back to the '20s. And generally speaking, it is at its best at the end of the game when Bama just “beat the hell out of you!”

Cowbell
Like many of the older SEC traditions, no one is quite sure when or why or how Mississippi State started bringing cowbells to football games. However they got there, the cowbells were so effective that the SEC had to ban artificial noisemakers in 1974 — before reversing course on the decision in 2010.

Gator Chomp
Stemming from Mississippi State’s band’s version of "Jaws" in 1981, some Florida band members modified the tune slightly and added the famous vertical chomping motion. It eventually spread across the stadium and is now synonymous with Gators football.

Mascots:

War Eagle
Possibly the best pregame, live mascot ritual in all of college football, Auburn’s Golden Eagle “Nova” performs the War Eagle Flight down through the rabid home crowd and onto its perch. Nova is officially the eighth such bird to grace Jordan-Hare Stadium as War Eagle I is said to have started the timeless tradition in 1892.

Smokey the Dog
Dating back to 1953, the Tennessee Vols have played with Smokey the Blue Tick Hound at their side. The Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity cares for him and currently Smokey X, who is set to make his debut this fall, will be standing on the sidelines in Neyland Stadium each Saturday.

Mike the Tiger
In 1934 some LSU powers that be decided they wanted a live Bengal tiger on the field in Death Valley. Conveniently placed near the visitors’ entrance to the field, Mike the Tiger has been striking fear into opposing players and coaches for over nearly 80 years. Few mascots embody their school like Mike does.

Uga
Nine different English Bulldogs have stood on the Georgia sideline dating back to 1956 with Uga I. However, this pup gets the royal treatment between the hedges, residing in his own air-conditioned dog house. The marble mausoleum near the entrance of the Southwest corner of Sanford Stadium is the resting place for Ugas of yesteryear.

Reveille
The “First Lady of Aggieland” is the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets, as she is technically a Five-Star General. She showed up at games in 1931 for the first time and the full-blooded Collie is cared for by Company E-2.

Rivalries:

The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
This rivalry is so great that these two SEC East powers won’t even agree on how many times they have played. Georgia claims 91 meetings while Florida claims 90 (1904) and all but two since 1933 — when the SEC was created — have come in Jacksonville, Fla. When thousands of fans from both teams pour onto St. Simon’s Island East Beach the Friday before the game, the term Outdoor Cocktail Party comes to life.

The Iron Bowl
The State of Alabama is the most territorial in the nation when it comes to college football. Just ask Paul Finebaum or Mr. Updyke. And many times, the in-state season finale carries great importance in the SEC standings. The name stems from Birmingham’s historic role in the steel industry, as up until the mid-90s the state's biggest game hosted the game.

The Egg Bowl
It may not carry the national importance of other famous rivalries but this Magnolia State showdown is as heated as any in the land. Mississippi State and Ole Miss have met 108 times dating back to 1901 and this annual meeting hasn’t been played earlier than November 19 since 1925.

The Third Saturday In October
Each year on the third weekend in October, Alabama and Tennessee get together one more time. These two have met 95 times and Alabama holds the edge 50-37-8.

Deep South's Oldest Rivalry
Georgia and Auburn began playing in 1892 and have met 116 times with the series standing at a dead stalemate 54-54-8.

Best of the Rest:

Houndstooth
Made popular by legendary coach Bear Bryant, his signature houndstooth hat has morphed into everything from purses to shoes to wallpaper.

18 MPH
Be careful driving around Oxford as all of the campus speed limits are exactly 18 miles per hour — in honor of Ole Miss legend Archie Manning’s jersey number.

The Hedges
Two long rows of privet hedges run down the sidelines in Georgia’s Sanford Stadium creating a playing field that is literally “between the hedges.”

Running Through the T
Before each Tennessee home game the Pride of the Southland Marching Band forms a signature Power T for the players and coaches to enter the stadium.

Checkerboard End Zones
The signature end zones in Neyland Stadium were removed in 1968 only to return in '89. It might be the most recognizable end zone in all of football.

Space Odyssey 2001
South Carolina’s entrance each home game isn’t steeped in tradition but it sure is exciting.

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC's 2013 All-Conference Team
SEC's Top Heisman Trophy Contenders for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
Hugh Freeze Has the Ole Miss Rebels on the Rise

Teaser:
From the Gator Chomp to Rocky Top to The Grove, the SEC has plenty of historic traditions.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-football-big-tens-best-traditions
Body:

There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.

Last but certainly not least, are the college traditions.

Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The Big Ten is one of the first conferences ever assembled back before the 1900s and therefore is steeped in all sorts of rich traditions. Bands, stadiums, uniforms, rivalries and more make the Big Ten one of the most historic leagues in college football.

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

Dotting the I
The culmination of "Script Ohio" during the pre-game festivities at Ohio State is a sight to behold. Once the word is spelled out by the marching band, the celebration comes to an end when one lucky sousaphone player dots the “I.” The crowd erupts and the lucky “dotter” puts on quite the show en route to their sacred position.

Beaver Stadium White Out
Black outs and blue outs and red outs are cool. But nothing makes a crowd standout like a white out. And when white is one of your primary colors and 110,000 people agree to wear the same color, the result is a stunning visual experience unlike any other in sports. Very few spectators rooting for Penn State will fail to comply with the dress code and the sheer size of the crowd is as intimidating as any in the nation. While other colors actually make the crowd look sparser, a good white out will make your crowd look much bigger.

Ohio State vs. Michigan
The school up north takes on that school down south every year in what is the best rivalry in all of sports — not just college football. These two programs and fans respectfully despise each other every waking moment of the year and it concludes with the regular-season finale football showdown. Historic coaching ties and national title implications make this game one of the few must-see events of every season. The Mirror Lake Jump in Columbus — where tons of Ohio State students jump into the frigid waters of Mirror Lake the Thursday before facing Michigan — only adds to the rivalry.

The Fifth Quarter
Win by 50 or lose by 50, home or away, any and all Wisconsin Badger supporter will celebrate the Fifth Quarter. Thousands of fans will remain in their seats working their way closer to the field until well after the game. The marching band will put on an impromptu show unlike any other, complete with the alma mater "Varsity," the "Beer Barrel Polka" and the "Bud Song." When you say Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.

The Blackshirts
Nebraska has had a long-standing tradition of rewarding its defensive players for earning a starting spot. Since the 1960s, the starting 11, and maybe a few lucky other contributors on defense for the Big Red have donned black practice jerseys with pride. Midway through 2007, the defensive players and coaches voted to give up the uniforms due to subpar performance. They earned them back roughly a month later. The Cornhuskers also have a handful of other outstanding traditions, including the release of red balloons after their first score, and the tunnel walk as Nebraska gets ready to enter the field. 

"Jump Around"
The student section at Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium between the third and fourth quarters is a rare sight. The well-known number by House of Pain hits the speakers and the entire section bounces up and down for the entire song. Not only do opposing fans and players get involved in the jumping, but Camp Randall Stadium also has been known to shake on occasion. It’s a sight to behold.

Touching the Banner
The Michigan Wolverines take the field in style at every home game by running out of the oddly placed (midfield) team tunnel. The players pour onto the field and underneath a historic and massive banner that reads “Go Blue: M Club Supports You.” The band plays "Hail to the Victors" and each player jumps to slap the banner as he enters the gridiron. The tradition began way back in 1962.

Kinnick’s Heisman Speech
Nile Kinnick won the Heisman Trophy for Iowa back in 1939 during World War II. His acceptance speech was a thing of historic beauty and to honor the great Hawkeye athlete, Iowa replays it on the jumbotron. The memorable speech ends with Kinnick professing that “I thank God I was warring on the gridirons of the Midwest and not the battlefields of Europe.” Chills run wild through Kinnick Stadium.

College Football’s Oldest Rivalry
No two teams in college football have played more times than Wisconsin and Minnesota. The rivalry began in 1890, the two have met 122 times and the winner claims the history and massive — six feet long — Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Pink Locker Rooms
The Iowa Hawkeyes are willing to do whatever it takes to gain an edge on the football field. Even if it means playing mind games with the visiting team by housing them in locker rooms painted pink. Former coach Hayden Fry was a psychology major at Baylor and immediately had the opposing locker rooms painted pink in an effort to calm the opposition.

Best of the Rest:

"Hail! to the Victors"
It might be the most recognizable, most well-known fight song in all of college football.

"We are. Penn State."
A call and response that matches up with the best in the nation, the student section (normally) begins by screaming "We Are…" and the rest of Beaver Stadium responds emphatically with "Penn State!"

Third Quarter Drumline
After the third quarter, the Michigan State drumline heads to the southeast corner of Spartan Stadium and brings the crowd to its feet with electric and complicated drum beats.

Block I Stunts
Since 1926, the Illinois student section has been a fixture at Memorial Stadium. The Block I is the most famous and recognizable of all the Illini card stunts.

Defend The Rock
Terry Hoeppner did a lot to bring tradition to Indiana and the three-ton limestone boulder near the IU locker room is one of them. Defending The Rock is a rallying cry for the team.

"Boiler Up"
The local chant takes place throughout the game at all big plays and scores and is accompanied by a loud train whistle.

O-H. I-O.
At any time and any place in the world, if you hear someone say "O-H" you will undoubtedly hear someone else call back "I-O." It never fails.

Regents Street
As far as beer and brats go, there is no better pre-game tailgate in the nation than Regents Street outside Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium on Saturdays. State Street is no joke either.

Big Bass Drum
Purdue is home to the instrument known as the world’s largest drum. It is the focal point of the Boilermakers band and is handled by four people and played by two.

"Hail! Minnesota"
After each home game, the players and coaches join the students and band to sing the school's alma mater and state hymn,  "Hail! Minnesota."

"In Heaven, There is No Beer"
After each Iowa home game, the marching band performs this famous and very original Hawkeye number.

Wildcat Alley
Two hours before the game, the marching band performs near Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena surrounded by activities for all ages — including, that’s right, free beer for the adults.

Discontinued:

Chief Illiniwek’s Halftime Performance
No, sadly The Chief isn’t performing at halftime of Illinois football games any longer, but it still ranks as one of the best in-game rituals in the Big Ten.

Laking the Posts
Northwestern fans used to tear down the goal posts for every win, pass them through Ryan Field and out onto Central Street where they would toss them into Lake Michigan.

Related College Football Content
2013 Big Ten Predictions
2013 Big Ten All-Conference Team
Big Ten's Top 2013 Heisman Contenders
College Football's Top 50 Defensive Linemen of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 15 Winners From Conference Realignment
College Football's 2013 All-Freshman Team
2013 All-America Team 

Teaser:
From the Dotting of the I to Jump Around, the Big Ten has plenty of historic traditions.
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

West Virginia’s Big 12 debut was a roller-coaster ride in 2012.
 

The Mountaineers started 5-0 and appeared to be the favorite to win the Big 12 after a 48-45 victory at Texas on Oct. 6. However, the season went downhill from there.

West Virginia dropped its next five games to fall to 5-5, before defeating Kansas and Iowa State to finish 7-5. The Mountaineers capped off their Big 12 debut with a 38-14 loss at the hands of Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

With quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey departing, West Virginia is starting over on offense. Transfers Clint Trickett (quarterback) and Charles Sims (running back) should help to bolster the offense, but the defense still has question marks. After ranking 114th nationally in points allowed, the Mountaineers need major improvement from this unit to get bowl eligible in 2013. 


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

West Virginia's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
 

GameSteven
Lassan
Mark
Ross
Chris
Williams
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
8/31 William & Mary
9/7 at Oklahoma
9/14 Georgia State
9/21 Maryland (Baltimore)
9/28 Oklahoma State
10/5 at Baylor
10/19 Texas Tech
10/26 at K-State
11/2 at TCU
11/9 Texas
11/16 at Kansas
11/29 Iowa State
Final Projection 6-6  5-7   4-8   6-66-6

 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering West Virginia went 7-6 last year and loses its three best players, getting to a bowl game in 2013 will be a tough assignment. There are only two guaranteed wins on the Mountaineers’ schedule – Georgia State and William & Mary – and a handful of swing games, which include a neutral site matchup against Maryland and a home game against Iowa State on Nov. 29. West Virginia will also face an improved Kansas team on Nov. 16 and has four road games in Big 12 play against TCU, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma. I think the Mountaineers will get better as the season progresses, and the addition of Houston transfer Charles Sims adds another playmaker to the offense. For West Virginia to go bowling, it needs to pickup at least three wins in Big 12 play and beat Maryland on Sept. 21. It’s not going to be easy, but I think the Mountaineers find a way to get to 6-6.  

Related: College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This team got some good news this offseason in the form of transfers Charles Sims and Clint Trickett. Sims will be a difference maker in the dynamic mold of Tavon Austin and should fit the Mountaineers offensive scheme perfectly. In fact, even with a new quarterback, this offense should be just fine. It is the defense that should be concerning after allowing nearly 40 points per game a year ago. There are plenty of experienced sophomores, so that should help West Virginia in Year No. 2 of Big 12 play. However, the road slate is daunting as the Mountaineers may only win one or two games away from Morgantown all season. An upset of Texas or Oklahoma State at home could dramatically change the narrative of this fall for WVU. 

 

Chris Williams, (@ChrisMWilliams), CycloneFanatic.com
West Virginia went 4-5 in its debut year in the Big 12 with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey powering the nation’s 9th-best scoring offense.

The above trio is long gone along with three linemen and two other wide receivers out of the mix offensively as well.

Sure, the Big 12 has been and always will be an offense-first league. But as West Virginia and Baylor both proved last year, when your defense is as soft as a piece of wet tissue paper, you can only win so many football games.

West Virginia’s defense gave up 43.3 points per game in Big 12 play last season and while that number should improve this year under new coordinator Keith Patterson, the thought of that number dropping enough to compensate for the substantial losses on offense is hard to imagine, even with a more favorable travel schedule at hand.

I see a Sept. 21 road trip to Maryland as a major swing game for West Virginia. The Mountaineers proved last season that while they have Big 12 talent, they do not have Big 12 depth so stockpiling wins and going 3-0 in a non-conference with additional puff games against Williams & Mary and Georgia State is critical.

Big 12 games vs. Texas Tech, at Kansas and Iowa State are all toss-ups and important ones if this program wants to bowling in 2013. However, I just don’t see that happening. 



David Fox (@DavidFox615)
West Virginia is full of questions on both sides of the ball, so it’s going to be tough for the Mountaineers to build any sort of consistency. The schedule doesn’t do any favors, either. The Mountaineers’ season derailed not just because of a lackluster defense and an offense that had its cold snaps. I have to believe that those back-to-back trips to Austin and Lubbock to start October and then a double-overtime game to start November took its toll. West Virginia may find answers on offense, especially with Houston transfer Charles Sims, but it’s still tough to see the Mountaineers stealing wins on the road against Oklahoma, Baylor or TCU or beating Oklahoma State or Texas in Morgantown. The swing games are going to have to be against Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State and Maryland.

Mark Ross
West Virginia finished in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, passing and total offense last season yet went 7-6. To make matters worse, basically all of that offensive firepower is now in the NFL, which means the Dana Holgorsen and his staff is pretty much starting over from scratch. The reasonable goal for the Mountaineers this season is bowl eligibility, and this likely will come down to three games: a border battle with Maryland in Baltimore and Big 12 contests with Texas Tech and Iowa State. Barring an upset elsewhere, the Mountaineers need to go 3-0 in these games to go bowling, and I believe they will come up just short.

Related College Football Content

Big 12 Predictions for 2013
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football
Casey Pachall's Return is a Huge Boost for TCU
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/tennessee-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

After recording four seasons of at least 10 victories from 2000-07, Tennessee has failed to win more than seven games in each of the last five years. The Volunteers were slowed by having three head coaches in three years, and Derek Dooley’s decision to switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme backfired drastically in 2012.

Tennessee must replace three standout offensive players, but this team should have a chance to get bowl eligible in 2013. The defense can’t be any worse than it was last year, and the offense can afford to lean on its offensive line and rushing attack until Justin Worley, Joshua Dobbs or Nathan Peterman is ready at quarterback.

The schedule isn’t very forgiving, as Tennessee must play five potential top-10 teams in Oregon, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.

With very little margin for error on the schedule, a 6-6 record would be a good debut for Butch Jones in Knoxville. 

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

Tennessee's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
 

GameSteven
Lassan
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
SEC
Logo
David
Fox
Josh
Ward
8/31 Austin Peay
9/7 Western
Kentucky
9/14 at Oregon
9/21 at Florida
9/28 South Alabama
10/5 Georgia
10/19 South Carolina
10/26 at Alabama
11/2 at Missouri
11/9 Auburn
11/23 Vanderbilt
11/30 at Kentucky
Final Projection6-65-76-65-75-7 6-6


Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Butch Jones has brought some much-needed energy into the Tennessee program, and the Volunteers are on the right track with one of the nation’s top recruiting classes for 2014. However, 2013 will be a struggle. Tennessee didn’t get any favors from the SEC on its schedule, which features crossover games against preseason national title favorite Alabama, along with an Auburn team that should show big improvement from last year’s dismal record.


I’m picking Tennessee to finish 6-6, but I could easily see this team finishing 5-7. With the departure of quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson, the offense needs to lean heavily on one of the nation’s best offensive lines and a solid one-two punch at running back with Marlin Lane and Rajion Neal. The defense was awful last year but should be better with a switch back to a 4-3 scheme.

Matchups in non-conference play against Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama and the SEC finale against Kentucky should be victories. However, games against Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt will decide whether or not Tennessee will go bowling. It won’t be easy, but I think the Volunteers find a way to get to 6-6 and return to the postseason in 2013.


David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Good thing Tennessee opens with Austin Peay and Western Kentucky because it’s going to get ugly in a hurry. Tough to find many teams with tougher back-to-back road trips than Eugene then Gainesville and then a three-game stretch like Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. If Tennessee isn’t completely demoralized by November, the Volunteers can steal some wins late in the schedule. Butch Jones is a positive guy, so that should serve Tennessee well. Missouri’s beatable but too close to that stretch against SEC powers. The return to Auburn is a good chance to salvage something. Tennessee’s young players should have their bearings by then. Vanderbilt at home would be a good rah-rah game that could define the season. I could see that going either way. Tennessee’s going to have to find a bedrock for its team, and it won’t be defense or the passing game. If the Volunteers become a ball control team behind that offensive line, I’d feel a lot better about the Vols stringing together some wins at the end of the year.


Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The offensive line is arguably the best in the nation, and fans can bet that Butch Jones will lean heavily on this group. This is mostly due to little experience elsewhere on the offense, especially the quarterback position. However, this is the one position Jones can impact the most with his offensive design and play-calling. The defense can only be better and has some intriguing pieces returning to all three levels of the unit, in particular, up the middle at tackle, linebacker and safety. The early schedule is extremely daunting with five top-15 teams in the first eight games. The goal will be to make it to November no worse than 3-5 with a shot at four swing games to end the season. This team will be either be much improved from playing so many quality opponents — or it will be battered and bruised.

Josh Ward, (@Josh_Ward), Mr. SEC
Tennessee’s main objective is to reach a bowl game. The Vols haven’t been to one since 2010 and have failed to reach the postseason three of the past five years. A key opponent for Tennessee is Vanderbilt, which beat the Vols last season and is trying to become a bigger player for in-state recruits.


SEC Logo (@SEC_Logo)
Let’s compare Tennessee to its other favorite SEC comrade, Alabama.  In the seasons prior to Nick Saban strolling into Tuscaloosa, Mike Shula managed a (10-23) record.  In the last 3 season's Dooley managed (15-21), sound familiar?  Sorry Vols, I will never mention his name again.  Saban lost to Louisiana–Monroe AT HOME and still managed a bowl win his first season.  To me that’s a pretty big goal for a Vols team returning 13 starters (5 offense, 8 defense), new QB, new coach, and new system.  They will move back to the 4-3 on defense after spending 2012 in the 3-4.  Stat to chew on, Tennessee had the worst Red Zone Defense in the SEC last year; opponents came away with points 91.5% of the time.  The season rides on 3 factors:  Justin Worley, Justin Worley, and Defense.  Did I mention Justin Worley? 


Mark Ross
Better days are ahead for Tennessee football with Butch Jones at the helm, but these Volunteers, and the fan base for that matter, better get ready for some growing pains. The trip to Oregon will be an early learning experience and the October slate is just brutal even with two of those games at home. Six wins is a reasonable benchmark for this season, but to get there Tennessee will have to get at least three in conference play. The Volunteers' bowl hopes will most likely rest on how they fare in November, meaning that Nov. 9 home game against Auburn is pretty much a must-win situation.

Related College Football Content

SEC Predictions for 2013
SEC 2013 All-Conference Team
Ranking the SEC's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
Unit Rankings: 2013 SEC Offensive Lines
College Football's All-Freshman Team for 2013
College Football's 2013 All-America Team
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013

 

Teaser:
Tennessee Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 07:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-11
Body:

Under 50 days until kickoff.....

Feel free to contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)

College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Thursday, July 11th

Here's an interesting look at the first four seasons of Mississippi State under Dan Mullen, compared to how the Bulldogs fared under Jackie Sherrill from 1997-2000.

Mr. SEC examines five things that will not happen in the SEC this year. And here are five things that will happen in the SEC in 2013.

Saturday Down South ranks the SEC receivers for 2013.

Al.com's Brandon Marcello takes a look at the path to SEC jobs for Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze.

Two Kentucky players were dismissed from the team due to a violation of team rules.

Tyree Robinson - one of Oregon's top recruits - is in some legal trouble after an off-the-field incident.

The Big Ten has released its conference schedules for 2016 and 2017.

Are no-huddle offenses really putting players at a greater health risk?

Colorado's athletic department needs to make a few budget cuts to make up for a $7.5 million shortfall. Sidenote: The Buffaloes are trying to raise money for football facility upgrades. 

The American Athletic Conference has agreed to a deal for 2014-19 to send a team to the Military Bowl.

A former Indiana receiver has left FAU due to academic issues.

As the ACC looks to gain a foothold in the New York market, the conference has signed a deal with YES Network will air some football and basketball games this year.

Teaser:
College Football Daily Link Roundup: July 11
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 16:17
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/best-and-worst-times-be-lsu-football-fan
Body:

If we’re all being honest, the best time to be an LSU fan is a Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.

But we’re going to look beyond the three or four hours of a night game in Death Valley and all the “preparation” involved to take a bigger view.

After all, for most of LSU’s history, night games at Tiger Stadium haven’t always been those of national importance. Before the 2000s, LSU football had its ups and downs, with the late ‘50s as the high water mark before Nick Saban returned the Bayou Bengals to national prominence. Les Miles continued the run with a second BCS title and six 10-win seasons in eight years.

These days are be the best times to root for LSU, but not the only time it’s been a worthy cause. Here are the highlights and lowlights for LSU fandom.

BEST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

2001-07
Record: 74-18
National championships: 2
Coaches: Nick Saban/Les Miles
Notable players: Glenn Dorsey, LaRon Landry, Josh Reed, Chad Lavalais, Ben Wilkerson, Marcus Spears, Matt Mauck, Michael Clayton, Corey Webster, Matt Flynn
The two seasons before Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge, LSU had gone a combined 3-13 in the SEC, but LSU’s mediocrity went deeper. Before the 21st century, LSU had pockets of success, including a national championship, but few other banner seasons. All the while the Tigers had been something of a sleeping giant with an in-state talent base and rabid fan support. The underachiever label was shed by the turn of the century. In 2001, LSU won eight of its last nine games, including an upset of Tennessee in the SEC championship game followed by a win in the Sugar Bowl to announce its return to the national scene. The 2003 squad became the first LSU team since 1958 to win a national title, defeating Oklahoma for the BCS championship (USC won the AP title, to the ire of LSU fans). Saban left for the Miami Dolphins after 2004, but the Tigers kept the program momentum they have lacked throughout their history. A wild, upset-filled 2007 season ended with LSU making the title game with two losses — yet undefeated in regulation, the observation first noted by Miles’ wife. Through Saban and Miles, LSU had the fourth-most wins in the country during this span.

1958-59
Record:
20-2
National championships: 1
Coach: Paul Dietzel
Notable players: Billy Cannon (right), Bo Strange
Unorthodox thinking at LSU didn’t start with Les Miles. After a 5-5 season, Paul Dietzel utilized a three-platoon system that included two-way players (the White Team, led by Billy Cannon) and offense-only group (the Go Team) and a defense-only group (the Chinese Bandits, named after characters in a comic strip Dietzel had read).  During an 18-game win streak that extended into the 1959 season, LSU outscored opponents by a combined score of 392-62, including eight shutouts. Cannon claimed LSU’s only Heisman trophy at the end of the 1959 season.

WORST TIMES TO BE AN LSU FAN

1947-56
Record:
46-49-9
Coaches: Bernie Moore, Gus Tinsley, Paul Dietzel
LSU managed to go 8-3 and reach the Sugar Bowl in 1949, presumably raising hopes for the Gus Tinsley era. LSU won two or fewer SEC games eight times in 10 years. That includes a 9-21-4 stretch in the conference from 1952-56.

1989-94
Record:
25-41
Coaches: Mike Archer, Curley Hallman
LSU was just starting to get used to winning going from 8-3-1 in 1984 to 10-1-1 in 1987. The trend came crashing down in 1989 when the Tigers endured six consecutive losing seasons and a 14-31 stretch in SEC play.

Teaser:
Saban and Miles brought life to Death Valley
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 12:30
Path: /college-football/black-helmet-south-carolina
Body:

New uniforms, jerseys and helmets are always a summer craze, as teams release the new looks before the start of the upcoming season.
South Carolina wore a black helmet for the 2004 season, but could the Gamecocks bring it back for 2013?

Check out this tweet and photo from (@GamecockEquip) today: 

 


Pretty sharp isn't it?

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 10:48
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /athlons-essential-11-links-day-july-11-2013
Body:

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

 

• Those rascally Johnson brothers. As you know, golfer Dustin Johnson is dating Paulina Gretzky, while his brother Austin is dating hot College of Charleston tennis player Samantha Maddox. Here are the brothers' two trophy WAGs posing together. 

 

Here are 20 Totally Badass First Pitches, although the countdown misses the most badass of all — Dubya in a flak vest after 9/11 throwing a strike at Yankee Stadium before Game 3 of the World Series. That's the Sgt. Pepper of first pitches.

 

The Yankees will look a little more like the Yankees today. The Captain is back.

 

The funniest Twitpic jokes on Twitter. Amazing what you can do with 140 characters and a photo.

 

• Is this really a thing? Internet nerds obsessed with My Little Pony who call themselves Bronies? I'm quitting the Internet.

 

More problems in Patriot Land. This was supposed to be the Summer of Belichick … the Summer of Belichick. In other news, Bill would be happy to answer any Tebow questions you might have. Anyone? Please?

 

Ranking the SEC's running backs.

 

Ole Miss pest Marshall Henderson has been suspended indefinitely. Gotta say, college basketball just got a little more boring.

 

• Not sports-related, but Holy Crap Giant Lobster.

 

The heavily hyped Alabama locker room waterfall is disappointing, unless its comprised entirely of Brian Kelly's tears.

 

Brandon Kelly went thermonuclear on Mitch Williams via Twitter. The results were pretty amusing.

 

• Yunel Escobar's pregame high-five ritual is rather elaborate.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 10:19
Path: /overtime/blue-jays-munenori-kawasaki-sure-can-dance-gif
Body:

Blue Jays' shortstop Munenori Kawasaki has been known to bust a move from time to time. Here's a look at his latest dance moves, to the delight of his teammates. Best part? The high-five at the end. 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 09:28
All taxonomy terms: GIF, Overtime
Path: /overtime/fan-loves-smell-baseball-gif
Body:

This guy loves baseball a lot more than you do. A LOT more than you do.

Teaser:
This guy loves baseball a lot more than you do. A LOT more than you do.
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 09:07
Path: /college-football/florida-states-2013-sec-championship-ring
Body:

Thanks to former Florida State tackle Menelik Watson, we are finally getting a look at the Seminoles’ 2012 SEC Championship rings. Wait…what?

Watson picked up his championship ring at Florida State on Wednesday, but the ring has a major flaw. Instead of honoring the ACC Championship the Seminoles won, the ring lists Florida State as the SEC champion.
Oops.
Unfortunately for Watson, he appears to be the only player with the error on the ring. However, the school plans on replacing it with a correct ACC designation. 


Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 07:34
Path: /college-football/getting-know-secs-new-coaches-2013
Body:

So, you want to coach in the SEC, do you? Eager to test yourself in the nation’s best league? Well, first consider that the four most recently deposed coaches lasted a combined 11 years and posted an aggregate record of 65–72. Take away Auburn’s 2010 national title season, and it’s 51–72.

It’s not easy in college football’s toughest neighborhood. Four coaches were fired after last year, leaving their replacements to rebuild against the best competition around. Mark Stoops at Kentucky (replacing Joker Phillips), Gus Malzahn at Auburn (Gene Chizik), Butch Jones at Tennessee (Derek Dooley) and Bret Bielema at Arkansas (John L. Smith) are optimistic and ready to go. How far they can go remains to be seen.
 

Butch Jones, Tennessee

Someone suggested to Butch Jones that a good person to include in the Tennessee football history lesson he is providing for his players would be Herman Hickman. The big guard was named an All-American in 1931 for the Vols, and legendary coach Robert Neyland once called him “the greatest guard football has ever known.”

“I’m going to Google him right away,” Jones said, enthusiastically.

If you’re going to play for UT this season, you had better know about the people who went before you. Better have memorized the history of your number, too. That means quarterback Justin Worley better know that his number 14 was worn by the school’s most recent unanimous All-American, Eric Berry. And both Drae Bowles and Michael F. Williams have to realize that Condredge Holloway made lucky 7 a magical number for Vols fans.

Jones’ look back means more than just building team unity. He wants to make sure every player who pulls on the “power T” helmet understands that he is part of a program that belongs among the best in college football history. Tennessee isn’t some school that needs orange turf to gain attention (although those checkerboard end zones are cool) or has to play its games on Wednesday afternoons in order to get some TV time. Since 1927, UT is the winningest D-I program in America. The Vols have won or tied for 13 SEC titles. Their list of prominent football alumni is long and distinguished.

“When we go on the recruiting trail, we don’t have to sell that we are building a tradition,” Jones says. “We have tradition.”

Jones took over in December for Derek Dooley, who was fired after three straight losing seasons — his only three at the helm — leaving many wondering why the Vols had dipped down to Louisiana Tech to get Dooley in the first place. Some fans were livid that a reported four candidates to replace Dooley (Mike Gundy, Charlie Strong, Jon Gruden, Larry Fedora) turned down the position before Jones came aboard. While Jones’ head coaching pedigree — 50–27 in three seasons each at Central Michigan and Cincinnati — has no SEC hue, there can be no arguing with his results. When it comes to running a program, he knows what to do. He won two division titles at CMU and tied for two Big East titles at Cincinnati.

“It’s about having a plan and not wavering from that plan,” Jones says. “This is not the first time we’re doing this. It’s the third.”

Jones brings an infectious enthusiasm. Watch tape of him at a practice, and you see constant energy. His idea of having the UT players learn about the program plays well with his vision for them. He wants to recreate the Tennessee glory days, when double-digit win totals were de rigueur, and All-Americans dashed across the pristine Neyland Stadium turf. To do that, he has had to eliminate the torpor that characterized Dooley’s tenure, eradicate the brief (one year) memory of Lane Kiffin’s time in Knoxville and give amnesia to those who recall the last days of Phillip Fulmer, which included two losing seasons in four years.

“There is definitely a change in the culture,” senior offensive lineman Ju’wuan James says. “These (coaches) are connected to us. There are a lot of young guys who can relate to us. It’s a family-oriented atmosphere, and everything here is about tempo, especially at practice.”

Jones wants to move quickly into the future with an eye on Tennessee’s past. His offense will play fast. His defense will run swiftly. And everybody — including the head coach — will soon know who Herman Hickman was.
 

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

When Bret Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas, he wasn’t too shy about his reasons. Sure he was making more money himself — $3.2 million per, up from $2.6 mil — but more important, he wouldn’t have to worry about losing assistants to other schools because of salary concerns.

But would that really be the case in Fayetteville? In February, Bielema found out. Another SEC school — reported to be Alabama — was after offensive line coach Sam Pittman, who had joined the Razorbacks staff after working at Tennessee. The Tide were certainly offering more than the $275,000 Pittman was scheduled to earn in 2013 and ’14.

So what would the Hogs do? As it turns out, plenty. Arkansas gave Pittman a big raise, up to $500K, making him the third-highest compensated assistant on the staff. Bielema had his answer.

“They stepped up beyond my expectations to retain (Pittman),” Bielema says.

Now that he has his people — and a commitment from the school to keep them — Bielema can focus on erasing the horrible memories of the last year-plus of Arkansas football. What was supposed to be a glorious 2012 season turned into a nightmare, thanks to Bobby Petrino’s wild ride and the team’s inability to keep it together under interim coach John L. Smith. Last season’s 4–8 record was a disaster, especially when many were pointing at 2012 as the Hogs’ best chance to win the SEC West since ’06, thanks to a load of returning talent and home games against Alabama and LSU.

“We’ve been through a lot, this team and this state,” senior center Travis Swanson says. “To get a clean slate and a fresh start is good.”

Bielema must now stabilize the program and move it forward in the toughest environment that exists in college football. He has steadfastly refused to comment “on what happened before.” Instead, he is focused on bringing his physical style of play to the conference where that is a necessary condition. He’s happy to find a group of tight ends “that can have success” and some running backs with talent. “The offensive line has to come along,” he says.

Perhaps the biggest thing that must develop is a renewed sense that Arkansas can play winning football. Although Bielema isn’t looking back, the program has been wounded. It must rediscover the ability to be consistent and formidable. Bielema and his staff have focused on that since being hired last December.

“He wants us to be 1–0 every day,” says senior defensive end Chris Smith, who had 9.5 sacks last year. “We’re taking it one day at a time, and we want to keep moving forward. The team has been through a lot. We’re ready to move on.”

While encouraging his players to win the day, Bielema has also appealed to them with a straightforward approach to conduct. Like a man who believes in a direct running game, he has one overriding maxim: “He’s got the ‘do-right rule,’” Smith says. “That’s one of the things I like about him. He treats us like men.”

And Bielema wants them to play like men. His offense may not be a perfect replica of what he did at Wisconsin, but fans can expect the Hogs to be physical. In the SEC, that’s just fine. So is the new football building opening in July. And the 20 seniors ready to put the stench of the recent past behind them. Bielema is happy to be where he feels supported, and where he believes winning can happen again.

“I told the media when I took the job on December 5th that I was excited,” he says. “Multiply that by 1,000 now.”

Related: Grading College Football's New Coach Hires for 2013
 

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers

When Gus Malzahn last saw Auburn, before the 2012 debacle, the Tigers had followed up their 2010 national championship with an 8–5 season and a bowl win. It wasn’t quite up to the standards Cam Newton and Malzahn established, but it sure wasn’t 3–9 (0–8 SEC), with a 49–0 loss to Alabama, either. The last time Auburn went winless in the SEC, in 1980, Jimmy Carter hadn’t left the White House yet.

Malzahn spent 2012 helping Arkansas State to a Sun Belt title and a bowl victory. He returns to the Plains to find a program that fell apart last year and didn’t resemble its championship big brother one bit. Auburn is hurting, and Malzahn inherits some players more than ready to put the embarrassment and hurt in a sack and throw it into the Chattahoochee River.

“It was a rocky road,” says senior defensive end Nosa Eguae. “As a guy who was there for the national championship, to go where we were last year, you learn a lot. When you face adversity, that’s when you see the real person you are.

“Things didn’t go our way. We’re going to learn from that and get better.”

Because he spent three seasons coordinating the offense at Auburn, Malzahn doesn’t come to town wondering where he can get a good glass of lemonade. He knows the traditions, the expectations and the somewhat Byzantine alumni structure that characterizes the program. He even knows a lot of the players like Eguae, who came to campus when he was here. That’s all good news. “It’s very helpful to understand the dynamics and history and how things work,” Malzahn says.

That knowledge will help Malzahn understand that 3–9 seasons aren’t tolerated at Auburn. The good news is that he isn’t too fond of them, either. And given his ability to teach offense, it’s a good bet the Tiger program won’t be floundering for long. During his first year running the offense, Auburn jumped from 104th to 16th in the nation in yards per game. During the ’10 campaign, the Tigers led the SEC in just about every offensive category of note.

The beauty of it is that Malzahn’s attack isn’t just a spread-’em and shred-’em scheme. It begins with a power ground attack. Really. Last year at ASU, the Red Wolves ran the ball an average of 41.5 times, nearly 10 more than they threw it. Arkansas State averaged 206.2 yards on the ground and 260.5 through the air. That’s the kind of balance and production that wins championships.

“If you look at the last seven years I coached offense, it’s clear we’re going to run the football,” Malzahn says. “We’re committed to that, and I truly believe it’s part of being successful in this league.”

While Malzahn builds an offense physical enough to compete in the SEC, he must also restore the “edge” Auburn had when it was successful. Malzahn speaks of returning to the school’s blue-collar roots. He’ll do it with his trademark dry wit, incredible attention to detail and mandate that the players forget everything that has happened and concentrate on doing the right things to make sure wins come in the future. The year at ASU helped him learn what a head coach must do to install his plan and lead a team. Now, he must get his players to the point where they can win again.

“We’re working hard every single day,” Eguae says. “Coach Malzahn is not satisfied with a subpar day.”

And especially not a subpar year.

Related: Best and Worst Times to be an Auburn Football Fan

Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats

When Kentucky’s men’s basketball team lost a first-round NIT decision to Robert Morris, there were giggles around the country. The mighty Wildcats had not only failed to defend their national championship, but they had also crapped out in the consolation tournament.

The good news for the UK football team was that the hoops squad’s ugly exit diverted people’s attention from the work that must be done to rebuild a program that was 2–10 without an SEC victory last year and came within 10 points of a conference foe only once. But make no mistake: The work is being done. And, unlike last year, it’s being done willingly and happily. Okay, so running and lifting at 6 a.m. isn’t anybody’s idea of fun, but there is no drama now that Mark Stoops has taken over the program.

“Everyone was on time for weights and training this winter,” says junior defensive end Alvin Dupree, who had 6.5 sacks among his 91 tackles in 2012. “Last year, we had conflicts, and people were doing their own things. The team mindset has changed, and we’re all buying into the new program.”

Stoops comes to Lexington after spending three seasons as defensive coordinator at Florida State, following six years at Arizona running that side of the ball. He is a decidedly no-nonsense type who believes heavily in the value of a proper mentality. In that regard, Dupree’s statements have made the new coach feel good.

But Stoops faces the toughest job of the four new coaches in the SEC. The other three are at programs that have had fairly substantial success over the past 10 years and have largely winning traditions. Although UK won eight games in both 2006 and ’07, it hasn’t been a factor in the SEC East since the conference split into divisions and hasn’t won more than four league games in a season since it went 6–0 in 1977. The program’s sole outright title came in 1950 when Bear Bryant was roaming the sidelines in Lexington. (Kentucky tied with Georgia in ’77.)

Every new coach talks about the opportunity available at the school and what it will mean when the program starts to win again, and Stoops is no different. He understands that Kentucky is a basketball school, but he also knows that the SEC is the nation’s best football conference.

“That’s a big selling point — to play and be a member of this conference,” Stoops says. “That’s definitely helped us in recruiting.”

Stoops has been a big hit with the Kentucky fans, who showed their enthusiasm for the new regime by showing up in full force (an estimated 50,000) to the annual Blue/White Spring Game.

UK fans are hoping they will have something to cheer about on Aug. 31 when the Cats battle Western Kentucky — which beat Kentucky last year in the low point of the Joker Phillips era — at LP Field in Nashville.

First, Stoops must fix a Kentucky defense that struggled in all facets in 2012.

Dupree’s efforts notwithstanding. Kentucky allowed opposing passers to complete 67.3 percent of their throws last year and gave up 25 rushing touchdowns. If UK is to compete, it must do much better than that. Stoops’ scheme will allow Wildcat defenders to play more instinctively, as opposed to last year’s more complicated approach. It’s already a big hit.

“The defense has changed entirely,” Dupree says. “We don’t have as many plays as we had. Last year, the playbook was like a dictionary. This year, it’s a coloring book. It’s easier to understand, and the easier it is, the easier it is to go out and make big plays.

“You’re not trying to learn a dictionary. You can make plays.”

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

 

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Getting to Know the SEC's New Coaches for 2013
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-impact-transfers-2013
Body:

Transfers in college football are always a wildcard when making preseason predictions.

Some transfers have no trouble fitting in to their new home. But some players can take half a season or even longer to get acclimated.

Looking back to 2012, Kansas’ Dayne Crist and Wisconsin’s Danny O’Brien were expected to make a huge impact, but neither quarterback lived up to the preseason hype. On the flip side, Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk and Tulsa quarterback Cody Green made an instant impact.

There’s a plethora of players transferring to a new home in 2013, and with less than 50 days until kickoff, Athlon Sports takes a look at which transfers will make the biggest impact in 2013.


College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013

1. DE Aaron Lynch, South Florida (from Notre Dame)
Lynch was well on his way to becoming one of the nation’s best defensive ends when he decided to transfer from Notre Dame before the 2012 season. In one year in South Bend, Lynch recorded 33 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks. With another offseason to work in the weight room, the sophomore is due to have a monster season. He will also have plenty of help from a talented South Florida line, which includes senior Ryne Giddins and tackles Luke Sager and Elkino Watson. Lynch could be one of the nation’s top defenders in 2013 and should be a first-team American Athletic Conference performer.

2. RB Charles Sims, West Virginia (from Houston)
Sims’ decision to leave Houston was a huge setback for the Cougars’ offense and a huge pickup for West Virginia. In three years with Houston, Sims rushed for 2,370 yards and 29 touchdowns, while catching 158 passes for 1,707 yards and eight scores. The senior is stepping into a crowded backfield, but his all-around ability (and excellent speed) should make him a candidate to fill in at running back and also contribute as a receiver. Expect Sims to make plenty of big plays for West Virginia’s offense this year.

3. QB Jake Heaps, Kansas (from BYU)
Heaps was the No. 1 quarterback in the 2010 signing class and started 16 games during his two seasons at BYU. As a freshman, he threw for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns but failed to build on those numbers in 2011, as he was benched in favor of Riley Nelson. There’s no question Heaps should be an upgrade over Kansas’ quarterbacks (Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings) from last season, but it’s unrealistic to expect him to contend for All-Big 12 honors. The Jayhawks also need to upgrade the weapons around Heaps for him to succeed in 2013.

4. QB Drew Allen, Syracuse (from Oklahoma)
With Ryan Nassib expiring his eligibility at the end of last year, Syracuse has a large void to fill under center. The Orange finished spring practice with very little clarity at quarterback, as Terrel Hunt, John Kinder and Charley Loeb all pushed for time. Allen arrived at Syracuse this summer, which should help him get a head start on learning the offense. However, even though Allen might be the most talented quarterback on the roster, he has very little experience. During his three years at Oklahoma, Allen completed only 18 of 30 throws for 160 yards and no touchdowns. Hunt finished the spring with a slight edge, but the competition is just beginning. As a pro-style passer, Allen will be a good fit for Syracuse. However, his lack of experience means there will be a learning curve early in the year.

5. QB Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (from Rutgers)
You have to rewind back to 2010 to find the last time Savage has played in a regular season game. The Pennsylvania native has bounced around over the last few years, after beginning his career with Rutgers in 2009. In two seasons with the Scarlet Knights, Savage threw for 2,732 yards and 16 scores. However, he transferred to Arizona before the 2011 season, only to leave the Wildcats after Rich Rodriguez was hired. Savage sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, but he is slated to replace Tino Sunseri as Pittsburgh’s starting quarterback for 2013.

6. RB Brandon Williams, Texas A&M (from Oklahoma)
Williams was one of the nation’s top recruits in 2011, ranking as a five-star recruit by Rivals and the No. 7 running back by ESPN. In his only season at Oklahoma, Williams rushed for 219 yards on 46 carries, including 80 on 11 attempts against Iowa State. The Texas native faces stiff competition for carries in College Station, as Ben Malena returns after rushing for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Texas A&M has one of the deepest backfields in the nation, so Williams won’t be asked to shoulder the entire workload. Expect a committee approach in Aggieland, but Williams will be another weapon for Texas A&M’s dangerous offense.

7. QB/WR Brandon Mitchell, NC State (from Arkansas)
Mitchell was a late pickup for Dave Doeren’s team, as he chose to leave Arkansas after spring practice. In three years with the Razorbacks, he completed 25 of 43 passes for 332 yards and three scores and caught 17 passes for 272 yards. Mitchell’s athletic ability is a good fit in NC State’s spread offense, but he will have to quickly learn the scheme, as Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker have the edge in practice reps at quarterback from this spring. Even if Mitchell doesn’t win the starting job, he can help NC State’s offense as a receiver or as a change-of-pace running quarterback.

8. OT Max Garcia, Florida (from Maryland)
The Gators are counting on Garcia and junior college (and former Nebraska player) Tyler Moore to bolster the offensive line in 2013. Garcia started 12 games at left tackle for Maryland in 2011 but is expected to slide to left guard this fall. At 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds, Garcia should give Florida some added toughness in the trenches for 2013.

9. QB Jameill Showers, UTEP (from Texas A&M)
With Johnny Manziel entrenched as Texas A&M’s No. 1 quarterback, it was clear Showers wasn’t going to get much playing time in 2013. New UTEP coach Sean Kugler landed his biggest recruit of the offseason by getting Showers to play in El Paso, which should give the Miners a chance to push for a winning record in 2013. Showers was impressive during limited work in his career, completing 31 of 49 throws for 359 yards and two scores. The junior has yet to make his first career start, but all signs point to Showers being one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks in 2013. And if he picks up where he left off at Texas A&M, the Miners could go bowling in Kugler’s first year in El Paso.

10. QB Scotty Young, Louisiana Tech (from Texas Tech)
The Bulldogs return only one starter on offense, but the cupboard isn’t bare for new coach Skip Holtz. Running back Kenneth Dixon should be one of the top rushers in Conference USA, and receiver D.J. Banks caught 33 passes for 434 yards last year. Young should be a good fit in Louisiana Tech’s spread attack, as he spent his first two seasons of eligibility at Texas Tech and was recruited by Mike Leach to Lubbock. The Texas native has yet to take a snap in college but was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year in 2010.

11. QB Adam Kennedy, Arkansas State (from Utah State)
Ryan Aplin was one of the top quarterbacks from a non-BCS conference the last few years, leaving a large void for Arkansas State to fill this offseason. New coach Bryan Harsin appears to have found a capable replacement in Kennedy. With Chuckie Keeton entrenched at Utah State, playing time was expected to be sparse for Kennedy. In five starts in 2011, Kennedy went 4-1 and threw for 11 touchdowns during that span. Assuming he can quickly get acclimated to Harsin’s offense, Kennedy should be the Red Wolves’ No. 1 quarterback in 2013.

12. DE David Gilbert, Miami (from Wisconsin)
Gilbert’s football career was thought to be over in April, after he announced he would not play at Wisconsin due to foot injuries. However, the Florida native decided to transfer to Miami for his final year of eligibility this summer, giving the Hurricanes some much-needed talent on the line. During his career with the Badgers, Gilbert recorded 79 tackles and 8.5 sacks. If he can stay healthy, Gilbert should help bolster a pass rush that managed only 1.1 sacks a game last season.

13. QB Steven Bench, South Florida (from Penn State)
An injury to quarterback B.J. Daniels limited South Florida’s offense last year, and the Bulls finished 2012 by losing eight out of their last nine games. New coach Willie Taggart will have his hands full with the offense in 2013, as South Florida returns only three starters. Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd combined for zero touchdowns and five interceptions on 118 attempts last year, and neither was able to pull ahead for the top spot in the spring. Bench completed two of eight passes as a true freshman for Penn State last year and transferred after he fell behind in the quarterback competition with Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg this spring. Bench is short on experience, but he has a chance to earn the starting job this fall. However, he will be pushed by incoming freshman Mike White for time.

14. QB Clint Trickett, West Virginia (from Florida State)

With Jameis Winston expected to start for Florida State, it was an easy decision for Trickett to transfer in search of an opportunity to start. The Florida native is no stranger to Morgantown, as his father (Rick) coached at West Virginia from 1976-79 and 2001-06. Trickett threw for 947 yards and seven touchdowns in two years in Tallahassee, which included starts against Clemson and Wake Forest in 2011. The Mountaineers finished spring practice with Paul Millard and Ford Childress in a dead heat for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart. Trickett’s experience should help him in the quarterback battle, but Millard and Childress have a slight edge entering the fall to run Dana Holgorsen’s offense.

15. QB Pete Thomas, NC State from Colorado State)
Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and started for Colorado State during the first two years of his tenure in Fort Collins. However, he left the program after Steve Fairchild was fired as the head coach, landing in Raleigh with two years of eligibility remaining. During his time with the Rams, Thomas threw for 4,269 yards, tossed 18 touchdowns and 21 picks. The junior finished spring practice with an edge in the quarterback battle, but the picture was muddied when Brandon Mitchell transferred in from Arkansas in May.

16. LB Michael Orakpo, Texas State (from Colorado State)
The brother of Washington Redskins’ linebacker Brian Orakpo, Michael was a standout performer for Colorado State’s defense from 2010-11. In two years with the Rams, he recorded 124 stops and registered one forced fumble. Orakpo ran into some off-the-field trouble at Colorado State, which led to his transfer. However, he will be an impact transfer and could be one of the Sun Belt’s top defenders in 2013.

17. LB Jeff Luc, Cincinnati (from Florida State)
Luc passes the eye test as one of Cincinnati’s most physically imposing players. And the Bearcats hope the Florida State transfer can live up to his recruiting hype in 2013. In two years with the Seminoles, Luc recorded 23 tackles, including three for a loss. Assuming Luc becomes an impact defender for Cincinnati, the Bearcats’ linebacker trio could be one of the best in the nation.

18. WR Justin McCay, Kansas (from Oklahoma)
Charlie Weis is banking heavy on transfers to rebuild Kansas’ offense in 2013. Quarterback Jake Heaps and receivers Nick Harwell (see below) and Justin McCay are all transfers from four-year schools. McCay was a four-star recruit by Rivals in 2010 and redshirted in his first year at Oklahoma. In 2011, the Missouri native played in three games with the Sooners but did not catch a pass. The Jayhawks are counting on McCay to emerge as a go-to threat for Heaps, and his emergence could be even more important if Harwell is unable to get eligible for 2013.

19. RB Josh Quezada, Fresno State (from BYU)
Robbie Rouse leaves big shoes to fill in Fresno State’s backfield after three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Quezada may not rush for 1,000 yards this year, but the BYU transfer will keep Fresno State’s rushing attack going strong in 2013.

20. DB Cortez Johnson, Oklahoma (from Arizona)
With the departure of Demontre Hurst, Tony Jefferson and Javon Harris, Oklahoma’s secondary has some holes to fill for 2013. Aaron Colvin will handle one cornerback spot, but the other could go to Johnson. The 6-foot-2 Arizona transfer played for Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops in Tucson, starting two games as a true freshman in 2011. The Louisiana native’s 6-foot-2 frame will give him a chance to be one of the Big 12’s most physical corners in 2013. 

21. TE Gerald Christian, Louisville (from Florida)
Another weapon for Teddy Bridgewater? That’s what Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson hopes to see out of Christian in 2013. In two years with the Gators, he only caught four passes for 72 yards and one score. However, the Florida native ranked as a four-star prospect by Rivals and played in the 2010 U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Look for the 6-foot-3 junior to be another valuable receiving threat for the Cardinals in 2013.

22. DE Shawn Oakman, Baylor (from Penn State)
Baylor’s defense made progress in the final weeks of 2012, and with seven starters back, the Bears should continue that momentum into 2013. Chris McAllister and Terrance Lloyd form a solid duo at end, but Oakman will push for snaps. The Pennsylvania native did not play a down at Penn State but was regarded as a top-200 recruit coming out of high school. Oakman also has the necessary size (6-foot-9, 270 pounds) to be a disruptive force for Baylor’s defense.

23. RB Aaron Green, TCU (from Nebraska)
The Horned Frogs need to find a spark for their rushing attack, which ranked eighth in the Big 12 last year. An injury to Waymon James prevented the ground game from getting on track, but the offense also needs more help from the line. Green’s arrival should bolster the rushing attack, as he ranked as one of the top-10 running backs in the nation coming out of high school. In one year with Nebraska, Green rushed for 105 yards and two scores. He may not rush for 700 yards this year, but TCU will be counting on the sophomore to be a key cog in the backfield rotation.

24. LB Kellen Jones, Clemson (from Oklahoma)
Jones followed coordinator Brent Venables from Oklahoma to Clemson and will join a talented and improving Tigers linebacking corps this year. The Texas native played in 12 games and recorded 10 tackles as a freshman with the Sooners in 2011. Jones could see time at all three linebacker spots for the Tigers in 2013. 

25. CB Tyler Patmon, Oklahoma State (from Kansas)
It’s rare to see a player transfer within a conference for his senior year, but that’s the case with Patmon after spending three seasons at Kansas. The Texas native started all 12 games at cornerback for the Jayhawks in 2012 and made seven starts in ‘11. Patmon may not be an All-Big 12 performer for Oklahoma State, but his addition is a valuable one, especially in terms of depth in a secondary that must replace Brodrick Brown and ranked 110th nationally in pass defense last year.

Bonus: WR Nick Harwell, Kansas (from Miami, Ohio)
Harwell still has some work to do in order to be eligible at Kansas this fall. However, should the All-MAC receiver graduate from Miami (Ohio), he will give the Jayhawks’ offense a much-needed go-to receiver. In three years with the RedHawks, Harwell grabbed 229 passes for 3,166 yards and 23 scores. He tied the school record with 15 100-yard receiving games and ranked first in the MAC with an average of 96.7 yards per game in 2012. Assuming he’s eligible in 2013, Harwell will be a starter for the Jayhawks from the first snap of fall camp.

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Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:54
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2013-big-ten-wide-receivers
Body:

The Big Ten had only four offenses average 30 points or more last season. Ohio State, Nebraska, Indiana and Northwestern reached that mark and each of those four teams should be among the conference’s best offenses for 2013.

The Hoosiers take the top spot in Athlon’s Big Ten wide receiver/tight end rankings for 2013, as they return their top six pass-catchers from last year. Shane Wynn led the team with 68 receptions in 2012, while Cody Latimer averaged 15.8 yards per catch. Both Wynn and Latimer could be All-Big Ten receivers in 2013.

There’s plenty of talent returning to the Big Ten at receiver for 2013, including Penn State’s Allen Robinson, Nebraska’s Kenny Bell and Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon. And if Michigan State can get consistent play from quarterback Andrew Maxwell, the Spartans could jump up on this list by the end of the year.

Kickoff for the 2013 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2013 - not how it played in 2012.

Big Ten Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings

1. Indiana
After leading the Big Ten in passing offense in 2012, the pieces are in place for the Hoosiers to be even better in 2013. Quarterback Tre Roberson is back from injury, and the receiving corps returns two potential All-Big Ten selections in Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer. Latimer averaged 15.8 yards per reception last year, and Wynn led the team with 68 catches. Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson are also back after each caught more than 20 passes in 2012. Tight end Ted Bolser is an Athlon Sports third-team All-Big Ten selection for 2013.

2. Nebraska
While the Hoosiers take the top spot in this ranking, Nebraska isn’t far behind. The Cornhuskers return their top three wide receivers from last year, including second-team All-Big Ten selection Kenny Bell. He caught 50 passes for 863 yards and eight scores, while averaging 17.3 yards per reception. Quincy Enunwa is a physical 6-foot-2 option for quarterback Taylor Martinez, and junior Jamal Turner is always a threat to score with the ball in his hands. There’s not much in the way of proven depth at receiver behind Bell, Enunwa and Turner, so there’s a lot of pressure on freshmen Jordan Westerkamp and Alonzo Moore to step up this fall. The Cornhuskers are starting over at tight end with the departure of Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton.

3. Penn State
The Nittany Lions were thin on proven receivers going into last year, but this unit emerged as a strength under the watchful eye of head coach Bill O’Brien and receivers coach Stan Hixon. Allen Robinson was the only Big Ten receiver to record over 1,000 receiving yards, and he led the conference with 77 receptions through 12 games. Robinson’s stats may drop some due to a new quarterback, but the junior should finish 2013 with first-team All-Big Ten honors. Senior Brandon Moseby-Felder, junior Alex Kenney and redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis are expected to flank Robinson as key targets at receiver for Penn State’s quarterback. The Nittany Lions have a deep group of tight ends at their disposal, including returning first-team All-Big Ten selection Kyle Carter, along with true freshman Adam Breneman — the No. 44 recruit in the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100. Carter is the headliner, but sophomore Jesse James (15 receptions) and senior Matt Lehman (24 catches) shouldn’t be overlooked. 

4. Ohio State
The Buckeyes need a few more playmakers to emerge, but the receiving corps has made considerable progress over the last two years. Senior Corey Brown led the team with 60 catches for 669 yards and three scores last year. Junior Devin Smith was the unit’s top playmaker, averaging 20.6 yards per catch and turning six of his 30 receptions into scores. Junior Evan Spencer and sophomore Michael Thomas should grab the No. 3 and No. 4 spots in the receiving corps, but freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall will push for time. Jordan Hall played in only seven contests last year due to injury, but he is expected to play in a similar role to that of Percy Harvin under Urban Meyer at Florida. With Jake Stoneburner out of eligibility, Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will take over at tight end.
 

5. Michigan
The Wolverines lose Roy Roundtree, but this unit could show improvement in 2013. Senior Jeremy Gallon is Devin Gardner’s favorite target after finishing 2012 with 49 receptions for 829 yards and four scores. Gallon averaged 16.9 yards per catch and recorded two 100-yard games over the last three contests. Senior Drew Dileo caught 20 passes in 2012, but sophomore Amara Darboh or freshman Jehu Chesson could surpass him as the No. 2 option. Darboh and Chesson are bigger receivers that will help Michigan’s passing attack inside the red zone. Tight end Devin Funchess is a rising star after catching 15 passes for 234 yards and five scores as a freshman last year.
 

6. Northwestern
The Wildcats return four of their top five leading receivers from last season, and this unit is poised to take a step forward in 2013. Christian Jones and Rashad Lawrence return after each caught just over 30 passes last year, with Jones leading the team with 412 yards. Demetrius Fields has expired his eligibility, leaving Tony Jones (11.6 yards per catch in 2012) and junior Kyle Prater with an opportunity to see a few more passes in their direction. Tight end/superback Dan Vitale is an underrated weapon and grabbed 28 passes for 288 yards and two scores last year. The sophomore caught 16 of his passes in two of the final three games, which is a good sign for Northwestern’s passing attack going into 2013. The Wildcats need this group to step up this fall, and there’s plenty of weapons for quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian.

7. Michigan State
Considering running back Le’Veon Bell (35 catches) was Michigan State’s top returning receiver last year, there was concern about how this group would jell with a new quarterback. The Spartans had their share of ups and downs in the passing attack, but the receiving corps performed well considering the struggles of quarterback Andrew Maxwell. Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler combined for 83 receptions in 2012, but all eyes were on Aaron Burbridge last year, as he caught 29 passes for 364 yards and two scores as a true freshman. Tight end Dion Sims must be replaced, but the Spartans return their top five receivers from last year.

8. Wisconsin
The Badgers have one of the conference’s top receivers at their disposal in senior Jared Abbrederis. However, there’s not much else in the way of proven talent to flank him on the outside. Abbrederis caught 49 passes for 837 yards and five scores last year and is an Athlon Sports first-team All-Big Ten selection for 2013. The coaching staff would like to see sophomore Jordan Fredrick, junior Kenzel Doe or sophomore Reggie Love step into the No. 2 role to take some of the pressure off of Abbrederis this year. While the Badgers are still looking for a No. 2 option at receiver, there’s plenty of talent at tight end. Jacob Pedersen ranked second on the team with 27 catches for 355 yards and four scores last year. Seniors Brian Wozniak and Brock DeCicco will help to spell Pedersen, as well as contribute in Wisconsin’s two-tight end sets.

9. Purdue
The Boilermakers have to replace Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross, but a steady group of options returns for new coach Darrell Hazell. Senior Gary Bush is the team’s top returning receiver after catching 41 passes for 360 yards and seven scores last year. Junior Dolapo Macarthy also is back after catching 28 passes last season, and he is expected to be a bigger part of the passing attack in 2013. Raheem Mostert is a valuable weapon on special teams, but he has yet to record a catch in two seasons at Purdue. Senior Gabe Holmes is expected to start at tight end and could be a bigger factor in the offense under new coordinator John Shoop.

10. Iowa
The Hawkeyes’ offense was one of the Big Ten’s biggest disappointments last season. Quarterback James Vandenberg never got on track under first-year coordinator Greg Davis, and Iowa finished 114th nationally in total offense. With another offseason to pickup Davis’ offense, the Hawkeyes should show some improvement. However, there’s a new quarterback taking over, and Keenan Davis has expired his eligibility after catching 47 passes last year. Kevonte Martin-Manley will be the top target for the Hawkeyes, but he needs help from sophomore Tevaun Smith, senior Jordan Cotton and junior Damond Powell. C.J. Fiedorowicz should be one of the Big Ten’s top tight ends after catching 45 passes for 433 yards and a touchdown.

11. Illinois
The Fighting Illini ranked 11th in the Big Ten in passing offense last year, so there’s plenty of room to improve. Coach Tim Beckman made a good hire by bringing in former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit to direct the offense. However, Cubit has very little to work with at receiver. Running back Donovonn Young led the team with just 38 receptions, while receiver Ryan Lankford recorded 37 catches last year. Fellow senior Spencer Harris (21 receptions) needs to have a big season if Illinois’ passing attack is to improve. Junior college recruit Martize Barr is expected to contribute right away, while the coaching staff hopes sophomore Justin Hardee builds off his 17-catch season. Tight end Jon Davis could have a breakout year in the new offense if he can stay healthy. 

12. Minnesota
Behind sophomore quarterback Philip Nelson, the Golden Gophers should continue to make strides on offense this year. The passing attack finished ninth in the Big Ten in 2012 and there’s hope for more improvement, especially if the receiving corps takes a step forward this offseason. No returning Minnesota receiver caught more than 20 passes last season, with Isaac Fruechte leading the team with 19 receptions. Senior Derrick Engel averaged 20.8 yards per catch last year but posted only 18 receptions. Junior Devin Crawford-Tufts, sophomore KJ Maye and freshman Jamel Harbison round out the key contributors. Harbison played in only one game due to injury last year. Tight end Drew Goodger returns after catching 13 passes in 2012. Minnesota desperately needs a player that can stretch the field to emerge this fall. 

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Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-pac-12s-best-traditions
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There are many reasons a sports fan can come to the realization that the college game is a better product than the professional version. Some of that has to do with charming, sleepy college towns and the scenic tailgating. The college game has bigger stadiums filled with more dedicated fans, historic bands and student sections. The offenses are more innovative and the rivalries are drenched in decades of bitterness.

Last but certainly not least, are the college traditions.

Important locations, songs, items and activities give a deeper meaning and create a connection among fans and the teams they love. And to each other as well. The sense of community at a great college game is stronger than in any other major American sport. The Pac-12 doesn't have the same entrenched passion of leagues from the East Coast but it has plenty of historic, entertaining and, for lack of a better term, gorgeous traditions. Some of the most picturesque settings in the nation are out West and the Pac-12 takes full advantage of ALL of the scenery. 

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

Sailgating

Each fall Saturday in Seattle, Husky Harbor on Lake Washington is filled with a University of Washington fan flotilla. Fans show up in every possible type of floating vessel and set up shop in the shadows of Husky Stadium to sailgate for the big U of W contest to come later in the day. This practice has been going on since shortly after the stadium opened in 1920 and is often imitated, but rarely duplicated. With the Cascade Mountains to the East and the Olympic Mountains to the West, the crystal clear blue water provides one of the most picturesque tailgating settings in the nation. Don't believe us, check out this NY Times slideshow.

Ralphie’s Run

One of the best live mascots in college football, Ralphie the Buffalo makes two big horseshoe runs around Colorado’s Folsom Field at the start of each half of each home game. It takes five “Ralphie Handlers” to make the sprint possible as she — yes, Ralphie is a girl — can reach upwards of 25 miles per hour if not restrained. The tradition began in 1934 when students used a bison as their mascot until Ralphie I made her debut in 1966 when she was donated to the university by a student’s father.

USC's Traveler

The USC Trojan Warrior began riding his gray horse named Traveler into the Coliseum in 1961 against Georgia Tech. Named after Robert E. Lee’s Civil War horse, the mascot is on its seventh generation (Traveler VII) and does not actually carry Tommy Trojan. The rider is simply a Trojan warrior, whose original costume was procured from a local studio and was the actual garb worn by Charlton Heston in Ben Hur.

Tightwad Hill

Officially known as Charter Hill, Tightwad rises to the east of Cal’s Memorial Stadium and was formed from the dirt that was excavated during stadium construction. It offers a unique view of the action on the field should a game sellout or poor college students don’t feel like paying for tickets. Fans have been attending games on hill since 1924 and most take the opportunity to enjoy many recreational activities high in the trees of Tightwad Hill (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Cougars' Gameday Flag

Leave it to message boards to come up with stuff like flying a Washington State Cougars flag on College Gameday’s TV set every weekend for nearly a decade. No, it doesn’t always happen in the Pac-12 (obviously) but the Cougars' flag has made an appearance on the extremely popular Saturday morning program every week since the Red River Shootout on October 3, 2003 — which is more than 131 consecutive shows.

Stanford's LSJUMB

The tall tales about the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band, or LSJUMB, are endless and mostly hysterical. It was founded in 1893 and has been picking on opposing teams, fans, coaches as well as societal injustices, with hilarious political satire and finely tuned musical prowess ever since. This is easily the most entertaining Band website in history (trust me, check it out) and the LSJUMB’s latest victim was the Wisconsin Badgers. The “Ode to Cheese” during last year’s Rose Bowl tested the sense of humor of many frigid Madison natives and upset many boring media members.

USC Song Girls

What isn’t to like about the arguably the most famous cheerleading squad in college football? The squad was first formed in 1967 when seven students began the Song Girls tradition in the L.A. Coliseum. Now the size of the team has grown to 12 but the trademark white sweaters and skirts haven’t changed over four decades of football. Few cheerleading squads in the nation have the talent pool to pull from like Southern California.

Bear Down

“Bear Down” is the official school motto of Arizona and it is featured prominently all over campus. "Bear Down" was created by Zona quarterback and student body President Button Salmon in 1926, after he was hospitalized after a terrible car wreck. Before he passed away from his neck injury, his last message to his teammates was delivered to coach Pop McKale: “Tell them to bear down.” It has been a part of the fight song, the stadium paint scheme, the Bear Down Gym and a variety of other important locations.

Best of the Rest:

The Rose Bowl

Not many college football teams play 45 minutes from campus. But not many teams play in the most historic venue in the nation. The Rose Bowl in Pasadena might be the most prestigious venue in all of college football.

Arizona State’s Student Section

This isn’t as much a tradition as it is an other-worldly experience. This might be the most beautiful student section in the nation.

Stanford's Dancing Tree

The smiling tree from Stanford looks like something out of a Johnny Depp movie and has been entertaining The Farm for decades. The aforementioned Stanford band actually created The Tree in 1975 without consent from the Stanford Board and it stuck.

Cal Card Stunts

The first card stunt of any kind is credited to the University of Cal during The Big Game of 1910. The first two card stunts of all time were the Stanford Axe and a massive blue “C.”

Oregon State First Downs

The stands at Reser Stadium can boast the most passionate and choreographed first down chant in college football. Check out this tutorial.

Utah's Block U

The Utes' famed block U was built over 100 years ago in the foothills bordering the Utah campus. The 100-foot-tall landmark is lit up for every home Utes athletic event and it sits at 5,300 feet above sea level.

Oregon Uniforms

When college football became big business just over a decade ago, Nike jumped full force into the game with its “hometown” Oregon Ducks. It now provides several different looks for the Ducks each year.

UCLA light stunts

Beginning in 1935, UCLA actually wired light bulbs into the bleachers. Due to cost and logistics, the actual light bulbs were replaced with flashlights in 1953.

Oregon’s Motorcycle

The form of the Duck atop the motorcycle has changed over time, but Oregon football enters Autzen Stadium behind a Harley-riding mascot for every home game. 

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

NorthSouth
CaliforniaArizona
OregonArizona State
Oregon StateColorado
StanfordUCLA
WashingtonUSC
Washington StateUtah


Related College Football Content

Pac-12 Predictions for 2013
Pac-12 2013 All-Conference Team
College Football's Top 10 Most-Improved Teams for 2013
Ranking the Pac-12 Stadiums for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013

Teaser:
The Song Girls of USC are just one of the many beautiful traditions in the Pac-12.
Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:30
Path: /college-football/alabama-installs-waterfall-locker-room
Body:

A few weeks ago, there was some talk from recruits about Alabama adding a waterfall to its locker room. And it appears that chatter was correct.

The first photo of the waterfall has surfaced, which is a part of Alabama's renovated football facilities.

Check out this picture of the waterfall (tweeted out by @SEC_Logo)

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 17:13
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-july-10
Body:

Under 50 days until kickoff...but still so far away.

Feel free to contact us on twitter with a link or a tip we should include each day. (@AthlonSteven)


College Football's Must-Read Stories Around the Web for Tuesday, July 10th

Quarterback Connor Brewer has decided to transfer from Texas. The redshirt freshman is already receiving interest from other schools, including Notre Dame, Duke and Alabama.

Washington receiver Kasen Williams ran into some off-the-field trouble earlier this offseason. 

The American Athletic Conference will likely have a bowl game at Marlins Park in 2014.

Receiver (and Miami, Ohio transfer) Nick Harwell still has some work to do in order to be eligible at Kansas this year.

Lost Lettermen ranks Conference USA's running backs for 2013

Everett Golson discusses his future with Notre Dame.

The Pac-12 is planning to expand its reach into China. 

Saturday Down South examines: Is the SEC the villain of college football?

Center Jake Jenkins is one of Oklahoma State's key players for 2013.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Tyler Ferguson will play for Penn State in 2013

Speaking of the Nittany Lions, they are set to play UCF in a game in Ireland in 2014.

Tennessee self-reported a couple of secondary violations.

Which college football teams get the most from their recruiting expenses?

Should Clemson consider bringing in former Auburn running back Michael Dyer?

John Cassillo of Atlantic Coast Convos takes a look at Pittsburgh safety Jason Hendricks for 2013.

NC State has picked up a JUCO transfer that will be eligible to compete this fall.

Former Hawaii receiver Trevor Davis will transfer to California. He will be eligible to play in 2014.

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: July 10
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 16:53

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