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All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-its-zach-mettenbergers-time-shine-2012
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At the ripe old age of 20, Zach Mettenberger surprised himself. The LSU quarterback figured out the person he had become by going through a season like he’d never experienced in his football life.

The strong-armed Georgia kid overflowing with potential was a spectator as the 2011 Tigers pieced together one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history. A strange thing happened as Mettenberger stood and watched LSU roar to a 13–0 regular season that was capped by a dominating 42–10 win over Georgia — his former school — in the SEC Championship Game.

He enjoyed the ride.

“As a competitor, you always want to play and it definitely hurt to not play as much as I wanted,” says Mettenberger, who appeared in only five games in 2011. “But it made me realize I was patient, and I’m a better team player than I realized I could be.

“Not being the guy for the first time in my life, it showed me no matter how much you’re playing, you have to be supportive of your teammates and that the team is bigger than you. You play the game to win and be a part of something special.”

This is the same Mettenberger who in his freshman season at Georgia in 2009 showed up as a brash 18-year-old who had literally grown up in the Bulldogs’ program?

Yep. And it was also the same Mettenberger whose life on and off the field took an abrupt and potentially irreversible detour on March 7, 2010, when he was arrested and charged with a series of misdemeanors, including two counts of sexual battery after he fondled a female patron at a bar in Remerton, Ga.

His attorney pled the case out, and Mettenberger received two concurrent 12-month probation sentences. But Georgia coach Mark Richt — close to the family for years, due to the fact that Mettenberger’s mother Tammy had been a longtime administrative aide in the football office — had no choice but to kick Mettenberger out of the program.

Just that quickly, a promising career that had kicked into high gear during Georgia’s spring practice when Mettenberger battled Aaron Murray for the starting job was in serious jeopardy.

 “My plan at Georgia was to be the starter for four years,” Mettenberger says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not going to lie. I was really devastated when it was all going down. At one point, I thought I should just give up and quit playing football and go work for my dad and work construction the rest of my life. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to drive nails for a living. I wanted to play football. I had to realize the sun was coming up on the horizon and that I just had to get through the hard times.”

So Mettenberger got back on his football feet.

Instead of transferring to another Division I program and sitting out another full season (he redshirted in 2009), the one-time rising star went the junior college route and wound up at Butler Community College, tucked away in El Dorado, Kan. Out of the spotlight, Mettenberger rebuilt his image and revived his career. He passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns, often sitting out second halves as the Grizzles marched to the NJCAA national championship game.

Like Cam Newton the year before, Mettenberger was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail after the 2010 season. He landed at LSU, in part because the Tigers’ coaches were dogged in their pursuit, but more so because of the chance he saw with LSU.

A second chance, but also a chance to be the leader of a program on the cusp of winning a national championship or two while he was on campus.

While Mettenberger was toiling in El Dorado, LSU was plowing through an 11–2 season that culminated with a rout against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. Entering the 2011 campaign, the two quarterbacks who had taken almost every snap since the Tigers’ 2007 BCS National Championship season were seniors. And neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrett Lee had ever really distinguished himself as an elite SEC signal-caller, giving Mettenberger the hope he could step in and play right away.

“I wanted the opportunity to play with them and more than anything I wanted to be a winner,” Mettenberger says. “LSU was a great opportunity for me to come to a powerhouse, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could play for a winner.

“Anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete to get on the field, and that didn’t scare me at all. I came with the attitude that I was going to start every game last year. It didn’t work out that way because Coach (Les) Miles had a different plan, and that was fine with me. We were 13–1 and I had a great time with my teammates.”

Many of those teammates are back in 2012, and for the first time since 2006 and ’07, the Tigers will be led by an NFL-caliber quarterback.

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe says there’s no question Mettenberger can take that quantum leap into elite status.

“The biggest thing with Zach, he’s very accurate on deep balls,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s got a big arm. He’s going to make the throws outside the numbers on the hash. He’s learning to become a better passer. Everybody knows he can throw the football, but there’s not a lot of guys who can pass it. His fundamentals have gotten a lot better, and he’s throwing better passes and more catchable balls.

“The one word that always comes to mind with Zach is ‘competitive.’ He loves playing the game, and he’s very hard on himself. I didn’t see that as much last year because he wasn’t getting the same number of snaps and he wasn’t the guy. It’s there now because he wants to succeed and he wants this team to win.”

What was also camouflaged last fall as Mettenberger developed patience and waited for his turn was how much he was learning every day during practice. As the No. 3 quarterback, he often drew the task of working against the Tigers’ physical, aggressive and nasty first-unit defense.

Not only did that fuel the competitive juices, but it also forced Mettenberger to improve. Understandably, the 6'5", 222-pound gunslinger’s confidence is as high as ever after a spring as the Tigers’ leading man.

“When the lights are on and the cameras are on me, that’s when I think I’ll perform the best,” he says. “I’ve prepared myself to be the best quarterback I can be and I think I definitely have the talent and want-to to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and I hope my hard work pays off this season.

“I like the pressure. It feeds me and keeps me motivated every day.”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of an LSU offense that has had its ups and downs the last four years has also thrust Mettenberger into the role of a leader, something he has embraced.

He talked about scrutiny not affecting him, about understanding the microscope a big-time college quarterback operates under and — perhaps most important — about staying level-headed and making the right decisions on and off the field.

“Whether you want to be or not, when you’re the quarterback at LSU, you’re one of the faces of the program,” Mettenberger says. “I have to play that part well.”

So far, so good.

“He’s become a very good leader for our football team,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s embraced the idea that the quarterback has to be the leader, and he knows that people are going to look at him differently.”

Makes sense, because after a difficult road to get this far, Mettenberger is different, even more than he realized when his redirected road led him to Baton Rouge.

“To finally get my shot, I’m really excited for this and I’ve been working my tail off for it,” he says.

“What I’ve been through made me realize I can’t take it for granted. It made me appreciate what I do every day and who I get to hang out with. It reminds me I can’t screw this up because I may never get this opportunity again.”


This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Preview Annual.

Related SEC Content

Athlon's 2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team

LSU Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

The History of SEC Realignment

Getting to Know Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> It's Zach Mettenberger's Time to Shine at LSU.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 09:11
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-5
Body:

1. Jimmie Johnson  Lost a shot at the win during the final restart in Kentucky when he picked up trash on his tires. Managed to rebound to sixth after a quick backslide, his 13th top 10 of the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was never a factor for the win at Kentucky, but ran consistently in the top 10 most of the evening before climbing to fourth at race’s end.

3. Matt Kenseth  A classic Kenseth performance, he was invisible all Saturday afternoon, but popped into the top 10 after the sun went down and drove to seventh, retaining the points lead.

4. Tony Stewart  There’s a sizeable gap between the top 3 and the rest of the field. Smoke was the victim of electrical demons in his ignition system and was most likely cursing NASCAR’s EFI system and that damn KFC commerical the rest of the night.

5. Denny Hamlin  Fifth- and third-place runs bookend 34th- and 35th-place showings. When he stays out of the wrecks and the suspension holds up, he’s as good as creamy mac 'n' cheese.

6. Clint Bowyer  String of top 10s ended at Kentucky when Bowyer became the victim of Ryan Newman and Joey Logano’s dust-up on the front stretch.

7. Greg Biffle  Was a 10th- to 12th-place car until he thought his tire went down late. The pit stop resulted in a 21st-place showing and a drop in the point standings, to fourth.

Teaser:
<p> Jimmie Johnson leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:27
Path: /nascar/confident-earnhardt-heads-back-daytona
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The equipment and team help but Dale Earnhardt Jr. says a key reason for his success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season is crew chief Steve Letarte.

Since being paired together last year, Earnhardt has scored one victory, 11 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes in 53 races.

Thus, since they’ve been together, Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in nearly half the races. The last time he finished in the top 10 in more than half the races was 2004 when he was fifth in the points.

Earnhardt’s 13 top-10 finishes this season are already one more than he had last season and equal to the number he had in 2009 and ’10 combined.

While Letarte and his crew provide Earnhardt with fast cars, Letarte also has helped his driver’s confidence.

“Steve Letarte has made me calmer and more productive in the car,” Earnhardt says. “He gets more out of me as a driver and brings the best out of me. I’m better at completing races, putting together full races, not getting upset with the car, not getting frustrated and sort of botching the whole deal or sabotaging the race.

“He’s brought a lot of good things out in me and brought a lot more confidence. I’ve got a lot more confidence. Confidence is half the battle when you’re out there competing. If you don’t have any confidence, you just can’t get anything done.”

That is helping make this a special summer for Earnhardt. He’s often struggled in this stretch of races from June to August, but not this year.

He finished fourth at Dover for his first top-10 result there since 2007. He placed eighth at Pocono for his third consecutive top 10. He won at Michigan for his first top-10 run in his last four races there. While he’s never finished in the top 10 at Sonoma, he was 13th until he was collected in a last-lap crash and finished 23rd. He recovered by placing fourth at Kentucky a year after finishing 30th there in the inaugural event.

“We’ve had a pretty good summer so far, so if we can keep that going I’m going to be real excited about the rest of the season,” Earnhardt says.

As the Cup Series heads to Daytona for Saturday night’s race, Earnhardt will be looked upon as one of the favorites. Daytona is fun again for him since tandem racing no longer dominates that event.

“I think things have gotten a lot better with the rules they (NASCAR) made for this particular season,” Earnhardt says about plate racing at Daytona and Talladega. “We’re racing more, we’re not tandem drafting all the time so your race really is in your own hands, and what you do with it and what you make of an afternoon is really up to you and you alone for most of the event. So I kind of like that.

“That’s the way I’ve always thought racing should be. We never had racing where you were so dependent on another car until we had the re-paves at Daytona and Talladega and tandem racing came around. It was OK to watch, and I think some of the drivers probably enjoyed it, but for me it was just the opposite of a driver’s instincts.

“But, the rules have kind of moved away from that a little bit and hopefully that is the way it stays. Hopefully we will keep going in the right direction to get it to where it’s you against 42 other guys.”


NUMBER CRUNCHING   Dale Earnhardt Jr. has completed all 5,027 laps run this season. Matt Kenseth is next, completing 5,026 laps and Greg Biffle has completed 5,025 laps. ... Jimmie Johnson has led the most laps this season at 811. Greg Biffle is next at 527 with Jeff Gordon third at 421. ... Paul Menard has the most consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona entering this weekend with three. He was ninth in last year’s Daytona 500, eighth in last July’s race and was sixth in February. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano each have two consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona. ... Since winning at Daytona in July 2009, Tony Stewart has not finished in the top 10 in the last five races there. Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski has never finished in the top 10 in Cup at Daytona in six attempts. His best finish is 15th.


PIT STOPS   Saturday’s Daytona race is the 18th in the 36-race Cup schedule, marking the halfway point of the season. ... Bill Elliott will drive the No. 50 car this weekend at Daytona as Turner Motorsports makes its Cup debut and has Walmart as sponsor. ... Joey Logano makes his 100th career Nationwide start Friday at Daytona where he won last year’s event. He’s had 14 wins, 47 top-five finishes and 77 top-10 finishes in his first 99 starts in that series, making his debut in 2008.


by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:
@DustinLong

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit as the series reaches its midway point at Daytona International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/texas-ams-welcome-sec-video-disaster
Body:

There's no question Texas A&M is fired up to be in the SEC. After dealing with the soap opera known as the Big 12, the Aggies finally have some stability in terms of conference alignment.

While it's a good thing Texas A&M is excited to join the SEC, this video is not. It's truly a disaster. The Aggies try to welcome each of their 13 new conference mates by repeating the school's chant and the results is an awkward and rather ridiculous video.

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M's Welcome to the SEC Video is a Disaster</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 09:38
Path: /nfl/nfl-quarterbacks-rewrite-record-books-2011
Body:

NFL training camps are set to open in three weeks, but before we set our sights on the upcoming season, let’s take a look back at 2011. Although the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots to capture Super Bowl XLVI, the 2011 NFL season may as well go down in the history books simply as the Year of the Quarterback.

Consider this, an NFL-record 11,356 points were scored last season, while games averaged an all-time high of 693.7 total net yards per game. Much of this offense was due to the increasing dependence on the pass as there were an average of 459.4 net passing yards per game.

To put it another way, more than 66 percent of the yards accumulated last season came via the pass. What’s more, the league-wide passer rating for quarterbacks was 84.3 last season, while the touchdown-interception ratio was 1.472:1, both of which are all-time highs.

The increase in offensive production is nothing new necessarily as the passing-related records that were set last season were previously broken in 2010. However, a closer look at last season’s quarterback production reveals that the men pulling the trigger put together some truly historic performances.

For starters, New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees set the single-season record for passing yards with 5,476, breaking Dan Marino’s previous mark of 5,084 in 1984. He also set new single-season records for completions (468), completion percentage (71.2 percent), 300-yard passing games (13) and consecutive 300-yard passing games (seven).

Brees also became the first quarterback in NFL history to for throw for at least 350 yards in four consecutive games and finished the season with eight such contests. He has the opportunity to make even more history in the fall as he will enter this coming season having thrown at least one touchdown pass in 43 consecutive games. This is the second longest streak in NFL history, trailing only Johnny Unitas’ run of 47 games.

If not for Brees, Marino’s single-season passing mark would belong to New England’s Tom Brady. Brady passed for 5,235 yards last season, the second-highest single-season total in NFL history. Brady got off to a hot start last season, becoming the first quarterback in history to throw more than 900 yards in the first two games and more than 1,300 in the first three.

Brady also threw 39 touchdown passes in 2011, giving him 300 for his career. He became just the sixth quarterback in NFL history with 300 touchdown passes, joining Brett Favre (508), Marino (420), Peyton Manning (399), Fran Tarkenton (342) and John Elway (300).

Brees and Brady weren’t the only ones to break the 5,000-yard mark in 2011, however, as Detroit’s Matthew Stafford passed for 5,038. Entering 2011, only two quarterbacks in NFL history had ever thrown for at least 5,000 yards in a season — Marino (1984) and Brees (5,069 in 2008). In fact, six of the top 20 single-season passing totals in NFL history are from last season, and a total of 11 of them have happened in the past five seasons overall.

Stafford also connected on 41 touchdown passes in 2011, as he, Brees (46) and Aaron Rodgers (45) all threw for 40 or more scores. Until last season, no other season in NFL history had more than one quarterback with 40 or more touchdown passes.

What’s even more impressive about Rodgers’ performance is that the Green Bay quarterback threw those 45 touchdown passes in just 15 games. Rodgers sat out the Packers’ regular-season finale, which not only cost him a shot at 50 touchdown passes, the current single-season record set by Brady in 2007, but also the opportunity to join the 5,000-yard club.

Rodgers entered the final week of the regular season with 4,643 yards or 300.9 yards per game. Even though he still needed 357 yards for 5,000 on the season and five more touchdown passes for 50 remember this – his replacement, Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn torched the Lions for 480 yards and six scores in Week 17.

Although he didn’t get 5,000 yards or 50 touchdown passes, Rodgers did earn a spot in the NFL record books in two other places. He established a new single-season mark for passer rating (122.5), topping the previous record of 121.1 set by Manning in 2004, and he also took home league MVP honors after leading the Packers to a near-perfect 15-1 record in the regular season.

Collectively, there were 121 individual 300-yard passing games in 2011, the most of any season in NFL history. The previous mark was 104 such games in 2009. There also were 18 individual 400-yard passing performances, which broke the previous record of 13, set in both 1986 and 2004.

One of the quarterbacks who helped contribute to both of these record-setting totals was Cam Newton. The Carolina signal caller made history of his own when he passed for 422 yards in his NFL debut in Week 1 against Arizona. He followed that up with a 432-yard game against Green Bay in Week 2. Before 2011, no rookie quarterback had ever passed for more than 350 yards in his first NFL game, let alone more than 400 in his first two.

The NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year finished his inaugural season with a record 4,051 yards passing and 14 rushing touchdowns. The 14 rushing touchdowns were not only the second-most in the NFL in 2011, it was the most ever by a quarterback. And Newton wasn’t the only quarterback who showcased his dual-threat ability in 2011 either.

Former Denver quarterback Tim Tebow finished last season with 660 yards rushing, second only to Newton’s 706 among quarterbacks. However, Tebow did all of his ground work in just 14 games, 11 of those as the Broncos’ starter, compared to Newton’s 16.

Tebow also was second to Newton in rushing touchdowns with six. But Tebow accomplished something with one of those rushing scores that neither Newton nor any other quarterback in NFL history had done before.

In Week 11 against the Jets, Tebow had a 20-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter to propel the Broncos to a 17-13 win. It was the first game-winning touchdown run of at least 20 yards by a quarterback in NFL history and it came against the Jets, who Tebow was later traded to in the offseason.

Fittingly enough, Tebow also made his own contribution to the Year of the Quarterback with his arm even though his regular-season passing numbers (1,730 yards, 12 touchdowns) were pedestrian at best. However, in the wild card round of the AFC playoffs against Pittsburgh, Tebow became the first quarterback to average 30 yards per completion (minimum five) in a postseason game.

Against the Steelers, Tebow completed 10 of 21 pass attempts for 316 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His second touchdown pass, an 80-yarder to Demaryius Thomas on the first play from scrimmage in overtime, not only gave the Broncos an improbable 29-23 victory over the Steelers, it also represented both the longest touchdown pass and the quickest (11 seconds) score in overtime history.

So between the exploits of gunslingers like Brees and Brady and the dual-threat playmaking ability of the likes of Newton and Tebow, 2011 was clearly the Year of the Quarterback. This coming season will no doubt feature its fair share of impressive aerial performances, especially with promising rookies Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III scheduled to make their debuts, but the bar has already been set pretty high for the 2012 season to top what happened in 2011.

No doubt NFL fans can’t wait to see what happens when the 2012 NFL season kicks off this fall. September 5 can’t came soon enough.

Note: Research assistance provided by Elias Sports Bureau and Athlon Sports contributing writer Bruce Herman

— By Mark Ross, published on July 3, 2012

Related NFL Content

2012 NFL Quarterbacks: Ranking the Best and Worst Starters
Ranking the NFL’s Best Back-Up Quarterbacks

Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story

Robert Griffin III Talks Heisman, Baylor and Redskins

Teaser:
<p> NFL Quarterbacks Rewrite Record Books in 2011</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 08:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 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 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Tennessee
The SEC pass-catchers discussion has to begin with the Big Orange. Da’Rick Rogers has had off-the-field issues, but his powerful 6-3, 210-pound frame is dripping with ability. When focused (less often than not), Rogers has All-American talent. Yet, he isn’t the best receiver on his own team. That distinction goes to Justin Hunter, who returns to the field fully healthy after missing all but two games due to a torn ACL in 2011. When at full speed, there may not be a better wideout in the entire nation. Adding to this deep group is dependable tight end Mychal Rivera and senior Zach Rogers, giving Tyler Bray plenty to work with. And depth won’t be an issue as newcomers Cordarrelle Patterson - who appears to be ready to live up to his lofty No. 1 JUCO recruiting status - Drae Bowles, Alton Howard and Jason Croom give the Vols the SEC’s best collection of pass-catchers.

2. Georgia
The Dawgs have to replace two veteran tight ends in Orson Charles and Aaron White, but stud athletes Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome should be more than capable of filling the void at the position. Senior Tavarres King finally delivered on his immense talent with 705 yards and 8 TD last fall and leads the way for a deep corps of receivers. Marlon Brown, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley all have shown flashes of ability, but the upside of this group lies in the dynamic arms of Malcolm Mitchell. He was shifted to defense to account for suspensions and injuries this spring, but Mark Richt insists he will play wideout. But for how many plays per game? His electric, explosive play-making skill is unmatched by any other Bulldog and makes this group as dangerous as any in the SEC.

3. Texas A&M
The Aggies enter SEC play with a new quarterback and offensive scheme but return plenty of weapons on the outside. Senior Ryan Swope led the team with 89 receptions for 1,207 yards and 11 scores last year. He will be expected to provide leadership, as well as remain one of the offense’s top playmakers in 2012. Uzoma Nwachukwu has 126 receptions in his career and ranked third on the team with 639 receiving yards last season. Swope and Nwachukwu are entrenched as starters, with the third spot likely going to Kenric McNeal. Senior Brandal Jackson will also be in the mix, while sophomore Malcome Kennedy or freshman Mike Evans are potential breakout candidates.

4. Arkansas
It’s never easy replacing two first-team All-SEC receivers (Joe Adams and Jarius Wright), but Arkansas still has plenty of weapons for quarterback Tyler Wilson. Senior Cobi Hamilton averaged 15.9 yards per catch on 34 receptions last season and should be the new No. 1 option for Wilson. Julian Horton and Javontee Herndon are expected to grab the other two starting spots and have a combined 23 career catches. Both players have potential to be difference makers in 2012. With Adams and Wright departing, tight end Chris Gragg should exceed his 41 catches from last season. Depth is a concern at receiver, as sophomore Marquel Wade and junior Maudrecus Humphrey are facing felony burglary charges and may not return in 2012.

5. Alabama
With Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks departing, Alabama’s top returning wide receiver is Kenny Bell, who caught 17 passes for 255 yards last year. While the losses of Maze and Hanks are a concern, it’s possible the Crimson Tide will have more depth, speed and athleticism at receiver in 2012. Bell and Kevin Norwood took the early lead for playing time, but sophomores Christion Jones and DeAndrew White will be in the mix. Freshmen Marvin Shinn, Chris Black, Amari Cooper and Eddie Williams were all highly-touted recruits and will have a shot to crack the depth chart in the fall. Michael Williams is expected to start at tight end and should see his catches increase after nabbing 16 receptions last year. While this group has some youth, there’s also more potential than last season.

6. LSU
It took a few seasons but Rueben Randle finally developed into the elite talent many expected to see from the former five-star recruit. Replacing him won’t be easy, but LSU has plenty of options in 2012. In only one year, Odell Beckham Jr. proved to be one of the league’s top receivers and is a superstar in the making. He catches everything, can take the top off of any defense and plays a physical brand of football. Speedy counterpart Jarvis Landry played in every game as a freshman and will line-up opposite of Beckham. If Russell Shepard could consistently deliver on his big-play potential, Zach Mettenberger will have no trouble finding open Tigers. Chase Clement and Travis Dickson offer some upside at tight end and newcomer Avery Johnson, the younger brother of Patrick Peterson, is ready to contribute right away.

7. Missouri
Gone is Michael Egnew, Wes Kemp and Jerrell Jackson, but 14 different Tigers return after catching a pass last fall. T.J. Moe is the team’s top target after catching 146 passes for 1,694 yards over the last two seasons. Marcus Lucas started three games and tied for the team lead with five scores and has loads of upside. L’Damian Washington can contribute big plays as well after averaging 18.0 yards per catch in 2011. Eric Waters, who dealt with a knee issue all spring, will attempt to continue the long line of tight end success at Mizzou. The real kicker will be the addition of impact freshman Dorial Green-Beckham come the fall. Affectionately known as DGB, the newcomer comes to college as the most prolific and talented American prep receiver in history. His 6-6, 220-pound frame might be the most talented in the SEC the second he steps on campus in Columbia.

8. Vanderbilt
Going into last season, the Commodores ranked near the bottom of the SEC in receiver rankings. This group turned out to be a surprise, as two players caught over 31 passes and helped the offense produce more big plays. Jordan Matthews led the way with 41 catches for 778 yards. He also averaged 19 yards per catch in 2011 and could contend for All-SEC honors this year. Chris Boyd was impressive as a redshirt freshman, averaging 15.3 yards per catch and recording eight touchdown receptions on 31 catches. Jonathan Krause and Josh Grady are expected to make significant contributions in 2012, while Austin Monahan and Dillon van der Wal will battle to replace tight end Brandon Barden.

9. Auburn
With a switch to a pro-style attack and a quarterback question mark, the Tigers could rank near the bottom of the SEC in passing offense once again. There’s some talent returning in the receiving corps, but depth is a concern. Emory Blake led the team with 36 catches for 613 yards and will be the go-to option for quarterback Kiehl Frazier. Senior Travante Stallworth and sophomore Trovon Reed will likely be the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, with Reed catching 21 receptions as a freshman last year. Tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen only caught 24 passes in 2011, but made the most of those opportunities, as he took seven receptions for scores.

10. South Carolina
Alshon Jeffery is gone, but he failed to build on his huge sophomore season and was consistently out of shape last year. While no one is as talented as Jeffery, this group should be more balanced than last year. Ace Sanders is a versatile, speedy slot man who gets involved in a variety of ways. DeAngelo Smith will attempt to fill Jeffery’s shoes, with Damiere Byrd and Lamar Scruggs fighting for reps as well. The tight ends are in great shape as starters Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson, as well as upside freshman Jerell Adams, give the Gamecocks one of the best tight end groups in the SEC.

11. Florida
It just feels weird to write, but the Gators desperately need play-makers to develop and step forward in this department. Andre Debose, Frankie Hammond and Quinton Dunbar must deliver on their immense talent that led to lofty recruiting status for all three. True freshman Latroy Pittman had a great spring but has yet to log an actual snap in game action. Solomon Patton and Ja’Juan Story will also get plenty of chances as new coordinator Brent Pease tries to find the right rotation. There are a lot of former four- and five-star prospects playing wideout for Florida, so someone has to emerge quickly if the offense is expected to improve. Tight end Jordan Reed is a stellar talent who needs to continue his growth and development.

12. Mississippi State
In order for the Bulldogs to finish higher than ninth in the SEC in scoring offense, the passing attack has to get better. New quarterback Tyler Russell is a better passer than the player he is replacing (Chris Relf), but the receivers also need to step up. Chad Bumphis has been solid, but has yet to become the difference maker most expected when he committed to Mississippi State. Seniors Arceto Clark and Chris Smith are expected to start, while redshirt freshman Joe Morrow is coming off a strong spring, and the coaching stuff thinks he can contribute significant snaps in 2012.

13. Kentucky
Finding personnel who can make big plays is a must for the Wildcats in 2012, considering they finished last in the nation in plays of 20 yards or more a year ago. Senior La’Rod King will be the top target and the most dependable one after a 40-598-7 line last fall. But names like sophomore Demarco Robinson and freshman Daryl Collins need to step into bigger roles if Joker Phillips’ offense is going to improve. Phillips also wants and expects to see more from his tight ends as Ronnie Shields and Anthony Kendrick provide some athleticism. Tyler Robinson will play plenty as well, but is closer to an offensive lineman than pass-catcher. 

14. Ole Miss
The Rebels’ offense is littered with question marks, but there’s some upside with this unit. Donte Moncrief led the team in receptions (31), receiving yards (454) and touchdowns (4) as a freshman last year. Moncrief will be the No. 1 option once again, but the depth took a hit with Nickolas Brassell’s decision to transfer after spring practice. Ja-Mes Logan caught 20 passes last year and should fill the No. 2 role. Converted quarterback Randall Mackey will be in the mix for significant playing time in 2012 as the No. 3 receiver. Jamal Mosley and Ferbia Allen combined for 18 receptions last year, but tight ends were not featured prominently in Hugh Freeze’s offense at Arkansas State last year.

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

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Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:11
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/mlb-all-stars-who-should-be-teams
Body:

Every season just before the Fourth of July, I put together my two All-Star teams and marvel at how my rosters differ from the fan vote, and to some degree the players’ and managers’ choices. But it’s usually the fans that are most off base. But I get it. This is a popularity vote. No matter how much MLB tries to convince fans that “This Time it Counts,” or some similar slogan, fans vote for their favorite players.

But I must say, the fans did a much better job this year. As usual, the Yankees showed well at the ballot box, as did the Giants in the National League with Buster Posey leading with more than 7 million votes. More votes were cast than ever as Josh Hamilton shattered the record by topping 11 million votes.

My rosters have 34 players, at least one representative from each team, a starter and backup at each position, and I didn’t ignore setup men like the managers did. Oh, just for fun, the starters appear below in my suggested batting order as well.

So, without further setup, here are my two 2012 MLB All-Star rosters.

National League
Starters
CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh

Quickly, and awfully quietly, becoming one of the best all-around players in the NL, McCutchen has been clutch with the bat, his legs and with the glove for the surprising Pirates this season.

RF Carlos Beltran, St. Louis
The newest member of the 300-300 and 2,000-hit clubs leads the NL with 60 RBIs and is second to Ryan Braun with 20 home runs.

1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati
This may be the easiest selection of both leagues. Best pure hitter in the National League and best first baseman in baseball right now.

LF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
The Dodgers’ center fielder was having too good a season to leave off this team even though a balky hamstring has robbed him of more than a month.

3B David Wright, New York
The fans really blew this one. Wright, hitting .354, is leading all third basemen with 50 runs and 53 RBIs.

DH Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
The 2011 NL MVP had a rough offseason, but on the field picked up right where he left off last season.

2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
A handful of second sackers could start for the NL this season, but Phillips gets the nod because of his awesome defense.

SS Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
No one at the position especially stands out in the NL, but Furcal leads shortstops with 52 runs and has driven in 31 from his leadoff spot.

C Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
Anytime a catcher is leading the league in batting average, you have to allow him to start. Ruiz is batting .356, handles pitchers well and is tough to steal on.

SP R.A. Dickey, New York
Forget about Dickey being the best feel-good story this season; he’s the best starting pitcher in the NL this year. The Mets are 13-3 when he starts, 30-34 when he doesn’t.


NL Reserves
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Molina has more home runs and RBIs than Ruiz, but his batting average is 44 points lower. A close call at backstop in the National League. Any of the three (with Ruiz and Posey) could start. All three can hit, handle pitchers and throw. But no catcher throws like Yadi.

C Buster Posey, San Francisco
I like having three catchers, but Posey offers some pop and is a tough out off the bench.

1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
After a slow start, Goldschmidt is batting .327 with 19 doubles and 10 homers since May 1.

2B Jose Altuve, Houston
Don’t think this is a token appearance by an Astro, because Altuve can really play. He leads second basemen with a .308 average, but only half as many homers and RBIs as Phillips.

2B Aaron Hill, Arizona
I guess hitting for the cycle twice in 12 days earns an All-Star spot.

3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco
Even though the Panda missed 35 games with a wrist injury, he’s proven to be the second-best third sacker this year, keeping his average above .300 all season.

SS Ian Desmond, Washington
Desmond has the most pop at the position with 39 extra-base hits and 43 ribbies.

SS Starlin Castro, Chicago
Still learning nuances of the game, but he’s proving that his league-leading total of 207 hits last season was no fluke.

OF Melky Cabrera, San Francisco
With a .352 average, Cabrera deserves to start, but unfortunately, so do three other guys.

OF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Fans got to know CarGo in 2010 as he chased the triple crown. After an injury-plagued 2011, he’s resumed the chase this season and resides among the top six in each of the three categories.

OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
It took a while for Stanton to get going, but his .915 OPS is eighth in the league and his 38 total bases rank fifth.

OF Dexter Fowler, Colorado
I know he was awful the first six weeks, but since May 27 he’s hit .348 with a 1.055 OPS to bring his average up to .289 and his season OPS to .926.
 

NL Pitchers
SP Matt Cain, San Francisco
Tossing the first perfect game in Giants history is enough to get Cain on the team, but he also has two shutouts and a 0.950 WHIP.

SP Gio Gonzalez, Washington
The Nationals have the best rotation in the NL and Gonzalez has been at the top of the rotation all season.

SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Even though the Nats are trying to limit his innings, Strasburg deserves an inning in K.C. on Tuesday.

SP James McDonald Pittsburgh
The Dodgers probably regret trading this rising star for a month of Octavio Dotel back in 2010.

SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
With Roy Halladay on the shelf and Cliff Lee still winless, the Phillies have relied on Hamels to stay afloat during the first half.

SP Wade Miley, Arizona
The Diamondbacks are 9-4 in his starts. They supported him with two, one, zero and two runs in those losses.

SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
The reigning Cy Young just edges teammate Chris Capuano.

RP Sergio Romo, San Francisco
Called on for a few save opportunities, Romo has a sub-1.00 WHIP and ERA.

RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
He may be the most feared pitcher in the game on Tuesday.

CL Tyler Clippard, Washington
Originally a setup man, Clippard is 13-for-13 in saves since taking over as closer in late May.

CL Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
Kimbrel has followed his tremendous rookie season with another dandy so far this season.

CL Huston Street, San Diego
He’s a perfect 12-for-12 in save opps and in 11 of those saves he’s faced no more than four batters. In 21 innings he has 28 Ks and given up only eight hits and six walks.

 

American League
Starters

CF Adam Jones, Baltimore
The Gold Glover in center is batting .302, has scored 52 runs and is now on the very short list for best player in the AL. Hamilton is the lone AL outfielder with more extra-base hits.

2B Robinson Cano, New York
The Yankees’ second baseman is arguably the best player in the league.

LF Josh Hamilton, Texas
Slowed some by injuries (surprise), Hamilton is having another MVP season.

3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Perhaps the closest call in either lineup, Cabrera just edges Adrian Beltre in runs, homers and RBIs.

1B Paul Konerko, Chicago
Two of the best first basemen in the NL last season — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder — now play in the AL, but Konerko has been the best this season.

DH David Ortiz, Boston
Certainly Edgar Martinez has an argument, but Big Papi may be the best DH ever.

RF Jose Bautista, Toronto
Hitting only .239, but improving, Joey Bats still leads the league in bombs.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
One of the best defensive players in baseball, Cabrera owns the highest OPS among AL shortstops.

C A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago
Evidently the White Sox veteran is not the most popular among fans or players given that he wasn’t even selected to the squad. He’s our starter.

SP David Price, Tampa Bay
The hard-throwing lefty is tied for the AL lead with 11 wins.


AL Reserves
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Working on another batting title, Mauer is still among the elite catchers in the game.

C Matt Wieters, Baltimore
A defensive whiz, the switch-hitting Wieters can provide some punch at the plate. He’s batting .403 vs. lefthanders.

1B Prince Fielder, Detroit
The Tigers have been disappointing this season, but Fielder has not.

1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles
First of all, how can you keep one of the game’s biggest stars out of this game? And secondly, he’s hitting .324 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 48 games since May 9.

2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland
Leading the Tribe in hits, RBIs and steals, Kipnis is also one of the best defenders at his position.

3B Adrian Beltre, Texas
The reigning Gold Glove winner is a beast with the bat as well.

SS Elvis Andrus, Texas
The best team in the AL is full of All-Stars.

OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles
He’s batting .339 with a .938 OPS and leads AL outfielders with 22 stolen bases even though he spent the first month of the season in the minors.

OF Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles
Manager Mike Scioscia has had trouble finding a position for Trumbo, but with a .981 OPS and 20 jacks, he must be in the lineup everyday.

OF Austin Jackson, Detroit
Buoyed by a .404 OBP, the rising star is fifth among AL outfielder in OPS.

OF Curtis Granderson, New York
He doesn’t consider himself a power hitter, but he’s followed his 41-homer season with 23 by the break.

DH Billy Butler, Kansas City
It’s a shame that there aren’t more stars for the hometown fans.


AL Pitchers
SP Justin Verlander, Detroit
The reigning Cy Young, MVP dude is having an “off” year with a 0.98 WHIP and 2.69 ERA.

SP Matt Harrison, Texas
He wasn’t selected merely as a favor from his manager. Harrison has a 1.42 ERA over his last eight starts — all Texas wins.

SP Jake Peavy, Chicago
One of four pitchers with a sub-1.00 WHIP in the AL.

SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
A stint on the DL didn’t keep Weaver, who leads the AL with a 0.92 WHIP, off the team.

SP Chris Sale, Chicago
Drafted in 2010, Sale leagues the league with a 2.27 ERA.

SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle
King Felix is having a fine season, but honestly he is the only All-Star on either roster who made it solely because every team must be represented.

RP Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles
Traded from San Diego in early May, he’s tossed 24.1 scoreless frames for the Halos.

RP Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland
He has 19 holds and only one blown chance.

RP Scott Downs, Los Angeles
If Ron Washington needs a lefty for a key out, Downs is one of the best.

CL Jim Johnson, Baltimore
He has been versatile throughout his career, but this season he’s proven he can close effectively.

CL Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay
After an awful 2011 season, the lights-out closer isn’t the first pitcher to re-establish himself with the Rays.

CL Ryan Cook, Oakland
Leads the A’s with 11 holds and is tied for team lead with seven saves. Didn’t allow a run in his first 21 appearances covering 23 innings.

- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

Teaser:
<p> Forget the fan voting. Forget Tony La Russa shunning the Reds. Forget Ron Washington selecting the Rangers' entire roster. Here's who should be on the teams.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-examining-skyrocketing-coordinator-salaries
Body:

There’s more money than ever in college football, and assistant coaches are reaping the rewards, with compensation levels rising at a rapid pace

If you happen to score an invitation for dinner at Dabo Swinney’s house, expect a feast, complete with a fine entree, premium beverages and a nice dessert. The climate will be comfortably controlled, and the roof won’t leak. His children will be neatly dressed, and his car won’t be up on blocks in the front yard.

Swinney’s decision to give back some of the bonus he earned for leading Clemson to the ACC championship, in order to provide raises for some assistants and fund some truly remarkable salaries for his offensive and defensive coordinators, has led some to wonder whether that move will force Swinney to make some budgetary sacrifices. He and his family will have to scrape by on his $1.9 million salary in 2012, but major cutbacks are not on the horizon.

“I’m not missing any meals,” Swinney says. “For me, it was a business decision. I’m investing in my staff. I’m in really good shape in terms of my contract. It’s very important to take care of these guys.”

Swinney’s 2012 compensation package places him 46th among FBS coaches, despite the Tigers’ winning last year’s league title. But it doesn’t matter to Swinney that he’s about $3.7 million behind college football’s Rockefeller, Alabama’s Nick Saban, who will make $5.62 million this year. Thanks to a clause in his contract, Swinney was able to redirect $265,000 of the bonus he earned for taking the ACC title to the assistants’ pool to help fund a $450,000 increase for the staff, something he considers vital to Clemson’s long-term success. Some of that was spent on new defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who will make a reported $800,000 this season, and second-year offensive boss Chad Morris, whose salary vaulted from $450,000 a year to $1.3 million per, making him the highest-paid assistant coach in the country.

“(Head coach) is such a big, big job,” Swinney says. “It’s very public, especially at a school like this. We’re running multi-multi-million dollar corporations, and we’re only as good as the people we surround ourselves with.

“We have to delegate and have confidence in the people we delegate to. It’s very competitive to hire and keep coaches, and (the salaries) are just a result of how it has grown.”

Though Morris’ gigantic leap in compensation is rare, coordinators across the country are seeing significant gains in their paychecks. What was a largely anonymous position a couple decades ago is now a high-profile job that carries great responsibility and pays big-time cash.

Morris takes over the top spot on the offensive coordinator pay chart from Gus Malzahn, who also made $1.3 million last year at Auburn. Malzahn has moved on to be the head coach at Arkansas State, where he is making at least $450,000 year less than the Tigers paid him. Talk about a man who loves the Natural State. Though the only other coordinator to earn more than a million dollars in 2012 is USC defensive leader Monte Kiffin (at least $1.2 million), plenty are edging near the magical, seven-figure mark.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart received a $100,000 raise after the Tide’s national title season and will make $950,000. LSU’s John Chavis is expected to be north of $900,000 this season (and will be paid a reported $1.1 million in ’13 and $1.3 in ’14) after earning $708 grand last season. New Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri signed a three-year, $2.4 million deal. Georgia’s Todd Grantham received a significant raise from last year’s $755,900 salary. And so on. As TV money floods into the upper reaches of the college football world, coordinators at top programs are benefiting at unprecedented rates.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt says. “(Coordinator) is a very big responsibility, and you want a guy who can be at the top of the spear with his unit he’s responsible for.

“I think the market goes where it goes for a reason. It’s not just because somebody got a wild hair. There is value in these people. When you do your job with excellence, there’s a lot to be gained. They earn it.”

Coordinators aren’t the only ones making more dough. According to USA Today, all assistants’ salaries rose 11 percent from 2010-11, a rate of increase that surpassed that of head men, whose pay went up 7.3 percent. At a time when fans know more about coaching staffs than ever before, and recruiting is as competitive as it has ever been, it’s vital for bosses to have people around them capable of doing the job well. To get those good people, they have to pay, especially when it comes to the coordinators, who serve as the executive VPs of programs.

“If you look at a corporation of any size, the top executives are paid accordingly,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says. “These are our top executives. They’re going to be head coaches some day.”

In part, that prospect has driven the coordinator salary surge. When small and mid-major programs look for new leaders, they often turn to coordinators at the top level. Although Malzahn took a big cut to head to Arkansas State, many other top assistants would prefer not to drop down a tax bracket, even if it does mean being in charge. By paying them a lot more than they could make at smaller schools, BCS head coaches can secure their services and the continuity that comes with their presence. Coaches and ADs have decided that in order to keep cashing in on the growing football revenue tide, they need the best people possible.

“The overriding factor here is that college football, particularly in the BCS conferences, is a huge business,” says a prominent agent who represents several BCS coaches and requested anonymity. “Programs are making a lot more money than they thought they would even five years ago. Since they don’t pay the players, who are they going to pay? The coaches.”

One of the reasons the salaries are growing so quickly is that the marketplace is highly competitive. Clemson had to give Morris such a huge raise because new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer was reported to have offered him the same position for $1.5 million. Although the Tigers checked in a couple hundred thousand short of Meyer’s reported offer, Morris chose the familiarity of the Clemson program and the chance to continue what he started during his 2011 debut season, when he helped Clemson improve from 88th to 26th nationally in total offense.

“If you pay guys well, this is a place guys may stay a little longer and maybe for a little less money,” Swinney says. “There’s a great quality of life here.”

When David Brandon played linebacker for Michigan back in the mid-1970s, head coach Bo Schembechler would spend the first half of the practice with the defense and the second half with the offense. Under his watchful eye, the Wolverines waged a near-constant assault on the upper reaches of the Big Ten. And though his staffs produced 12 future head coaches — Bill McCartney, Gary Moeller, Don Nehlen, Jim Young and Les Miles among them — the identities of his assistants and even his coordinators were largely unknown to all but the most devoted U-M fans.

“It’s no longer Bo walking back-and-forth at practice,” says Brandon, who is now Michigan’s athletic director. “(Football) CEOs need leaders on both sides of the ball.”

Brandon understands the current climate of the coordinator salary race enough that when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke needed a big number to secure the services of Greg Mattison to run the defense when Hoke was hired in 2011, Brandon signed off on a $750,000 salary, then the highest assistant’s payday in the conference. The move paid off handsomely. In 2010, Michigan ranked 108th nationally in scoring defense; last season, it finished sixth. Without Mattison at the defensive helm, it’s unlikely Michigan would have played in the Sugar Bowl and received the fat BCS payout.

“You need to make this kind of investment to stay competitive at the top level,” Brandon says.

It’s interesting that Brandon and his fellow ADs had to be convinced that beefing up coordinators’ salaries was a good idea. Obviously, administrators keep a close eye on the bottom line, so any increase in expenses is going to cause a small disturbance in the force. But head coaches have become adept at convincing their bosses that the extra outlay is worth it.

“It’s a little different model,” Swinney says. “When I got the job here, I told them I didn’t care what they paid me. It was about trying to get things from a staff standpoint to where they have to be.”

That holistic approach to staff compensation is driving a lot of this. Alabama’s staff was paid a total of $3,866,350 last year, still short of the $5.62 million Saban will make this season but certainly a strong statement. At LSU, three assistants made more than a half-million in 2011, led by Chavis. Tennessee’s and Florida’s staffs both earned more than $3 million combined. UT defensive boss Justin Wilcox (who has since moved to the University of Washington) earned $625,000 last year, while offensive coordinator Jim Chaney was paid $525,000.

“It’s fair to say that coordinators don’t just necessarily run the offense and run the defense,” LSU coach Les Miles says. “There’s a lot more to it. It requires a specialization. When you’re competing at the highest level, you require a guy with great experience, ability and continuity.

“You have to find a guy who can represent a school well, recruit at the highest level and fulfill a role that will prepare the players.”

It’s no coincidence the lion’s share of the nouveau riche at coordinator positions can be found in the SEC, and many of the top salaried coaches are on the defensive side. With some exceptions — see Auburn, 2010 — the conference remains a defense-first concern, and that has been rammed home by Alabama’s two national titles in the past three seasons.

Since the last six national title winners have come from the SEC, it makes sense that coaches will pay top coordinators. “If you want to get the right guy and keep him, you have to pay him,” Richt says. It won’t be long before that philosophy will creep northward. Clemson is already on board, and if Meyer was willing to throw $1.5 million at Morris to lure him to Ohio State, and Mattison is collecting three-quarters of a million at Michigan, expect the Big Ten to adopt the model.

“A lot of it is driven by the market,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says. “It all trickles down and begins with the coordinators in the NFL. Things have started to escalate, and it showed up first in the SEC. That’s usually how it goes.”

When Monte Kiffin started coaching, back at Nebraska in the late 1960s and early ’70s, he certainly wasn’t a wealthy man. In fact, when he saw what his son, USC head coach Lane, made in his first coaching job three decades later, Monte wasn’t too happy.

“It wasn’t fair,” he says. “But that’s just life.”

Since the elder Kiffin is making north of a million bucks each season, he can afford to be philosophical about the escalating salaries in the coaching world. “Football hasn’t changed,” he says. “It’s just that the salaries have gone up, but everything has gone up.” 

There is no question, however, that his job is more demanding than it was when he was coordinating the Cornhuskers’ defense during Tom Osborne’s early years in Lincoln. First of all, Osborne was a lot more engaged in the daily operations of the program than many head coaches are today — and not because they are aloof or disengaged. For many years, Osborne called all the plays the Cornhuskers ran. Though some program chiefs have that level of hands-on involvement today (Saban comes to mind), few have the ability to run either side of the ball, not with all the fundraising and administrative responsibilities they have.

So, Kiffin and his coordinator brethren are charged with making the Xs and Os come to life on the field. We know who they are and are aware they make the big money. At their core, however, these guys are still ball coaches, and though they may harbor dreams of running their own programs some day and certainly don’t mind being well compensated, they care more about doing their jobs than anything else.

Last winter, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi removed himself from consideration for the vacant Akron head coaching spot to return to East Lansing. Though his $300,000 salary at MSU is less than the $375,000 former Zips coach Rob Ianello was paid annually to go 1–11 twice, Narduzzi decided it would be better to be a lieutenant in the Big Ten than a big cheese in the MAC. He’s happy and well compensated at MSU. And if the Spartans continue to play great defense, he may just find his paycheck heading toward those SEC totals. Narduzzi isn’t kidding you; he’d like that. But he’s more interested in doing a good job. “I’ve coached the same whether I was at Rhode Island (from 1993-99) or at Michigan State (from ’07-present),” Narduzzi says.

And he isn’t missing any meals, either.

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 College Football Annuals.
 

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Teaser:
<p> College Football: Examining the Skyrocketing Coordinator Salaries</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 05:01
Path: /college-football/northwestern-football-revisiting-1995-wildcats-rose-bowl-team
Body:

It was midnight on the eve of the 82nd Rose Bowl in Pasadena. A lone figure sat in the partially lit stands gazing out at the fabled field in the near darkness.

Gary Barnett was fulfilling a personal wish to visit the stadium the night before the 1996 Rose Bowl game. Alone with his thoughts, the Northwestern coach couldn’t help but smile at seeing the purple-painted end zone that saluted his Cinderella Wildcats. “We’re taking the Purple to Pasadena,” he had boldly predicted four years earlier, when he first stepped onto the Evanston, Ill., campus. Few believed him then. Now, incredibly, Northwestern had burst from the constraints of a dead-and-buried program and shocked the world of college football. Twenty-four eternally long seasons had come and gone since the Wildcats’ last winning season. It had been 47 years since the school’s last bowl appearance, when halfback Frank Aschenbrenner was the hero in the 1949 Rose Bowl win over California; 59 autumns had intervened since Northwestern had last captured a Big Ten championship. But all that changed when the Wildcats went 10–1 through the 1995 regular season, stunning such perennial powers as Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State to claim the Big Ten title and the automatic Rose Bowl invitation that went with it.

“We were the school that wasn’t supposed to be able to do it,” says Barnett, now 66. “We took a lot of pride in that.”

It was easy to remember when there was little pride in the Purple. A deep-seated pigskin pall had fallen over the Northwestern student body in the preceding decades that had hardened into a shell of apathetic disinterest.

“We had given them really no reason to expect winning,” says Chris Martin, an All-Big Ten cornerback on that Rose Bowl team. “On most Saturdays, the library was more crowded than our football stadium.” Barnett, he said, had taken over “a moribund program.”

Far from being embraced, football was viewed as a scourge on campus. “We were a necessary evil, I suppose,” remembers Darnell Autry, a sophomore star that year, whose 1,785 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns brought him All-America recognition and a fourth-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

“And the professors there … you ­didn’t want to go in and tout that you were a football player,” recalls Mike McGrew, a fullback and ’96 co-captain.

Beating the odds

The season started with a shocking 17–15 victory over Notre Dame at South Bend. “We were 29-point underdogs,” remembers quarterback Steve Schnur. “There was a big third-down conversion we threw a pass on. Barnett let me call my own play and that was telling.”

Indeed, that belief in his quarterback and the game’s eventual outcome told a nation that Barnett, improbably, could field a team of winners at an elite academic institution. In the first year of full recruiting following his initial 1992 campaign at Northwestern, Barnett ran smack into the reality of what he was up against: Ninety-five percent of kids playing Division I football were athletes he could not recruit. Strict Northwestern standards demanded that players maintain a 3.0 GPA and score well over 1,000 on their SATs.

“We had Hines Ward and a bunch of guys we were recruiting,” recalls Barnett. “We took 100 applications over to the admissions office and they only let us have 10 of those in school.”

The Wildcats coach nearly made a fateful mistake. “We almost said, ‘Well, there you go. That’s why we can’t win here. We can’t get kids in school.’ But instead we said, ‘Okay, we now know what that profile looks like, so let’s not worry about those other 90. Let’s just make sure that the rest of the guys we recruit look like the profiles of these 10.’”

That meant Barnett and his staff would have to scour the country for their talent. The athletes they signed were not being courted by the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan, but rather second-tier football programs like Tulane, Iowa State, Boston College, Syracuse, and Cincinnati. Still, to come to this center of football inertia, Barnett had to attract them in some way.

“We sold the city. We sold Michael Jordan. And we sold Mike Ditka,” says Barnett, laughing. “We just tried to make a city school into something attractive and looked at it from a different perspective than how it had been conventionally looked at.”

Some players came for a chance to play in the Big Ten; some came for the challenge of playing at a school like Northwestern. “Of course, we probably got a kid or two because of the academics, but for the most part it was just something within our program that we found a way to use to attract.”

That something, for many of the recruits, was the coaches. “We had Gary Barnett,” says Autry simply. “He had a different vision for what he saw in this program. He changed the culture in terms of how we thought about ourselves and how we thought about the program.”

Expect victory

Still, after all the players were assembled, something made that team of good-but-not-great athletes very special. “Great chemistry,” says Schnur, in a response echoed by McGrew and others. “Chemistry and teamwork can take you further than a collection of individual talents. That’s what signified that team. We got as high as third in the country and felt like we could compete with and beat anyone. It was just a bunch of guys who believed in each other. We were willing to outwork anybody.”

That philosophy has carried over into the adult lives of those ’95 Wildcats, who are now between 35 and 37 years of age and have displayed resounding success in their respective career fields (see below). Though 10 players eventually went into the NFL, only one (Barry Gardner) played more than four years. But all, regardless of profession, find parallels today with their Northwestern football experience.

“The ability to inspire and motivate people, to tap into things that resonate with them, to get the most out of your folks to help cultivate an atmosphere that helps get people working together and focused on a common goal, those are all things I went through as part of that team at Northwestern,” says McGrew, now with W.W. Grainger, a Fortune 500 company. “It prepared me in helping our people achieve their goals and objectives.”

For McGrew and the other ’95 Wildcats, a Northwestern diploma has been a degree of difference.

“When I look back on our team, the one thing that strikes me is that most of the guys are successful, whether they’re teachers or CEOs or presidents of companies,” notes Justin Chabot, an offensive lineman in ’95. “Northwestern offers a national degree. And it translates everywhere you go.”

Pat Fitzgerald, heading into his seventh season as head coach of the Wildcats, sees instances everywhere of the positive influences from his playing days at Northwestern. “We’re all incredibly successful professionally now not just because of what we experienced on the field but because of what we experienced together as a group and how we were able to earn our degrees at such a great school,” says the former two-time consensus All-America linebacker, a defensive mainstay on the ’95 team. “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in recruiting, but I can say wholeheartedly everything that Coach Barnett and his staff sold us on has come true.”

“Expect victory,” Gary Barnett once preached. To a man, his 1995 Northwestern Wildcats still do.

The 1995 Wildcats: Where They Are Now

Darnell Autry, running back - Online radio show host, “Outside the Spotlight,” on VoiceAmerica

Gary Barnett, head coach - Broadcast analyst, Sports USA Radio Network

D’Wayne Bates, wide receiver - Football defensive assistant/special teams coordinator, Evanston (Ill.) Township High School

William Bennett, defensive back - Branch manager, Scottsdale, Ariz., Kelly Services, a global workforce staffing company

Paul Burton, punter - General assignment reporter, WBZ-TV News, the CBS affiliate in Boston

Justin Chabot, offensive lineman - College scout, Southeast area, San Francisco 49ers

Darren Drexler, tight end - Vice president of operations, Courtesy Products, St. Louis, Mo., a provider of operating supplies to hotels and motels in the United States and Canada

Pat Fitzgerald, linebacker - Head football coach, Northwestern University

Rob Johnson, center - Sales manager and overseer of purchasing, operations, and marketing for Illco, Inc., a Countryside, Ill.-based privately held wholesale distributor of refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, pvc, and hydronic supplies

Brian Kardos, tackle - Security and assurance manager, BP, Houston

Keith Lozowski, defensive end - Regional director, Bankers Life and Casualty Co., Jacksonville, Fla., an insurance needs provider for the retirement market

Chris Martin, defensive back - Football analyst, Big Ten Network

Mike McGrew, fullback - Director of communications for W.W. Grainger, the largest supplier of industrial supplies and maintenance equipment for businesses and institutions in North America

Tucker Morrison, linebacker - Chief operating officer, Flightstar Aircraft Services, Inc., a heavy aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul provider in Jacksonville, Fla.

Brian Musso, wide receiver - Co-founder and managing partner, Promus Capital LLC, a family wealth management and alternative investment group in Chicago

Ryan Padgett, guard - Seattle-area emergency room doctor

Steve Schnur, quarterback - Senior vice president, Chicago operations, Duke Realty, a public real estate investment trust

Sam Valenzisi, kicker - Director, Lincoln International LLC, Chicago, specializing in merger and acquisitions advisory services

Jason Wendland, tackle - Senior futures and options broker, JP Morgan Chase, New York City
 

This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Preview Annual.
 

Related Big Ten Content

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Big Ten All-Conference Team

Northwestern Wildcats 2012 Team Preview

Teaser:
<p> Looking back at the 1995 Northwestern Wildcats team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 04:48
Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

The 2012 college football season is just around the corner, and Athlon continues its countdown to kickoff with a look at our first and second All-Conference USA teams for this season.

First-Team Offense

QB David Piland, Houston

RB Zach Line, SMU

RB Charles Sims, Houston

WR Aaron Dobson, Marshall

WR Darius Johnson, SMU

TE Luke Willson, Rice

C Trent Dupy, Tulsa

OL Jacolby Ashworth, Houston

OL Joe Duhon, Southern Miss

OL Theo Goins, UCF

OL Jason Weaver, Southern Miss


First-Team Defense

DL Jamie Collins, Southern Miss

DL Cory Dorris, Tulsa

DL Victor Gray, UCF

DL Margus Hunt, SMU

LB Ja'Gared Davis, SMU

LB Trent Mackey, Tulane

LB Taylor Reed, SMU

CB D.J. Hayden, Houston

CB Deron Wilson, Southern Miss

S Kemal Ishmael, UCF

S Dexter McCoil, Tulsa


First-Team Specialists

K Chris Boswell, Rice

P Ian Campbell, UTEP

KR Rannell Hall, UCF

PR Tracy Lampley, Southern Miss


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Conference USA Team
 

  First Second Overall
East Carolina 0 4 4
Houston 4 2 6
Marshall 1 2 3
Memphis 0 1 1
Rice 2 1 3
SMU 5 0 5
Southern Miss 5 2 7
Tulane 1 2 3
Tulsa 3 5 8
UAB 0 2 2
UCF 4 3 7
UTEP 1 2 3



Second-Team Offense

QB Blake Bortles, UCF

RB Orleans Darkwa, Tulane

RB Trey Watts, Tulsa

WR Bryan Burnham, Tulsa

WR Justin Hardy, East Carolina

TE Willie Carter, Tulsa

C Jordan Rae, UCF

OL Brander Craighead, UTEP

OL Rowdy Harper, Houston

OL Chris Hubbard, UAB

OL Will Simmons, East Carolina


Second-Team Defense

DL Michael Brooks, East Carolina

DL Troy Davis, UCF

DL Horace Miller, UTEP

DL Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss

LB Jeremy Grove, East Carolina

LB Shawn Jackson, Tulsa

LB Derrick Mathews, Houston

CB Bryce Callahan, Rice

CB Ryan Travis, Tulane

S Jacorius Cotton, Southern Miss

S Marco Nelson, Tulsa


Second-Team Specialists

K Ty Long, UAB 

P Tom Hornsey, Memphis

KR Andre Booker, Marshall

PR Andre Booker, Marshall

 

Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Team Previews

Related Content: Conference USA 2012 Predictions

East West
East Carolina Houston
Marshall SMU
Memphis Rice
Southern Miss Tulane
UAB Tulsa
UCF UTEP

Teaser:
<p> Conference USA Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 03:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-mountain-west
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Mountain West in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Mountain West All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—Brett Smith, So. (Wyoming)

Last season:  Passed for 2,622 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 710 yards and 10 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St

 

QB—Cody Fajardo, So. (Nevada)

Last season:  Passed for 1,707 yards and 6 TDs, rushed for 694 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

RB—D.J. Harper, Sr. (Boise State)

Last season:  Rushed for 568 yards and 9 TDs as the primary backup to Doug Martin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

RB—Robbie Rouse, Sr. (Fresno State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,607 yards and 13 TDs, 32 receptions for 228 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Wyoming, @ New Mexico, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Nevada, Bye, Air Force

 

RB—Stefphon Jefferson, Jr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Rushed for 442 yards and 5 TDs as a backup to Lampford Mark and Mike Ball.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Northwestern St, @ Hawaii, @ Texas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

WR—Matt Miller, So. (Boise State)

Last season:  62 receptions for 679 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; @ New Mexico, @ Southern Miss, Fresno St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

WR—Chris McNeill, Sr. (Wyoming)

Last season:  42 receptions for 504 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Toledo, Cal Poly, @ Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ New Mexico, @ UNLV, San Diego St

 

WR— Brandon Wimberly, Sr. (Nevada)

Last season:  Missed 2011 season due to injury (gunshot wound).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Wyoming, @ UNLV, San Diego St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Fresno St, @ New Mexico, Bye

 

TE—Gavin Escobar, Jr. (San Diego State)

Last season:  51eceptions for 780 yards and 7 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; San Jose St, @ Fresno St, Hawaii

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Air Force, Bye, @ Wyoming

 

FLEX—Chris Nwoke, Jr. (Colorado State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,176 yards and 9 TDs, 23 receptions for 143 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; North Dakota St, @ San Jose St, Utah St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  UNLV, @ Boise St, New Mexico

 

K—Parker Herrington, Sr. (Air Force)

Last season: 15-for-18 on FG attempts, 45-for-48 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; @ UNLV, Colorado St, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ San Diego St, Hawaii, @ Fresno St

 

DEF/ST—Boise State Broncos

Last season:  No. 12 scoring defense, No. 16 total defense, only two starters return.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; San Diego St, @ Hawaii, Colorado St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Hawaii, Colorado St, Bye

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Derek Carr, Jr. (Fresno State)

QB—Joe Southwick, Jr. (Boise State)

RB—Mike DeWitt, Sr. (Air Force)

WR—Rashad Evans, Sr. (Fresno State)

WR—Colin Lockett, Jr. (San Diego State)

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the Mountain West</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:32
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball, Overtime, News
Path: /college-basketball/purdue-basketball-players-awesome-trick-shot-video
Body:

Purdue basketball players have put out a new video showing that they're keeping their skills sharp during the off season. Players Dru Anthrop and D.J. Byrd are joined by former player and now student assistant coach Ryne Smith at Mackey Arena, where they're showing off their best trick shots. The shots range from far-off bombs behind the basket to one hoppers from the stands.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 23:30
Path: /mlb/baseballs-players-week-cabrera-hughes-zimmerman-latos
Body:

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 25-July 1 — standouts.

AL Player of the Week

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit

The first baseman-turned-third baseman did his best work in bunches last week. He had three games with three or more hits, including 3-for-4, 4-for-5 and 3-for-3 games. He batted .462 and tied for the AL lead with six RBIs. Cabrera scored five times.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Phil Hughes, New York

With both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte injured, the Yankees were desperate for quality starting pitching. Hughes responded in a big way, tossing eight shutout innings against the Indians, and followed that with eight strong innings vs. the White Sox, allowing just a couple of runs. He totaled 12 strikeouts in his 16 innings of work for the week.

 

NL Player of the Week

Ryan Zimmerman, Washington

Mired in a season-long funk, Zimmerman emerged with the best week in the National League. He hit .364 with a 1.158 OPS. He enjoyed four multi-hit games and three multi-RBI games. Zimmerman, who plays exceptional defense, had seven extra-base hits and reached base in every game via a hit or walk.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Mat Latos, Cincinnati

Latos entered the week with a 5.20 ERA, tossed a pair of complete games last week, allowing just one run in each contest. He set down the Brewers on four hits, including a solo homer, then won at San Francisco, 2-1, by giving up just two hits. His weekly ledger reads: 2-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP, 18 IP, 6 hits, 2 walks and 20 Ks.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 17:36
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-july-2
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 2, 2012.

 

 1. Rangers—First team to win 50 games.

 2. Yankees—Can they withstand injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte?

 3. Nationals—Best team in the National League? No one is arguing.

 4. Angels—Terrific June, but gained no ground on Rangers.

 5. Giants—Run of four shutouts propelled Giants into first place.

 6. Reds—Brandon Phillips not an All-Star? He would start on our team.

 7. Dodgers—Should have Matt Kemp back in lineup after All-Star break.

 8. Orioles—Traded for Jim Thome to boost offense.

 9. Rays—Team is batting just .232; desperately need Evan Longoria back.

10. Blue Jays—Best last-place team in baseball.

11. Braves—Mike Minor over Stephen Strasburg in only win of series.

12. White Sox—Pitching staff led by rookies.

13. Mets—Fans really blew the third base voting. #DavidWright

14. Pirates—Bullpen is tied with Reds for NL’s best ERA at 2.73.

15. Cardinals—No bridge between starters and late-inning relievers.

16. Red Sox—Best they could do was a split at Seattle?

17. Diamondbacks—Wade Miley pitching like an ace.

18. Indians—Hosting Angels and Rays in key series to finish first half.

19. Tigers—Should make some hay vs. Twins and Royals before break.

20. A’s—Closer Ryan Cook is well-kept secret.

21. Marlins—No team happier to see calendar turn from June than Marlins.

22. Brewers—Potential Zack Greinke trade in the making?

23. Twins—At .324, Joe Mauer is chasing another batting title.

24. Mariners—Scored nine runs in their last eight games.

25. Phillies—Sweep at Miami was painful.

26. Royals—Testing six-man rotation.

27. Astros—Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie impressive middle infield.

28. Padres—Yasmani Grandal switch-hits bombs for first two hits of career.

29. Rockies—Pitching staff performing at “worst ever” levels.

30. Cubs—Youngster Brett Jackson may be on way to join Anthony Rizzo.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 17:15
All taxonomy terms: News, Olympics
Path: /olympics/golden-girl-dara-torres
Body:

She's 50 meters — a single lap — away from history. 

Dara Torres, swimming's elder stateswoman at age 45, is more than just one of the hottest 40-somethings on the planet. She remains a threat to win an Olympic medal in a physically demanding sport at an age when most of us are struggling to get off the couch to let the pizza guy in.

Torres is 28 years removed from her first Olympiad — Los Angeles, 1984. She's 18 years removed from an appearance in Sports Illustrated's 1994 swimsuit issue, when she became the first athlete to be featured among the supermodels — a development that I think we can all support. 

Tonight, she aims to become the first American swimmer to compete in six Olympic Games when she swims in the finals of the 50-meter freestyle, a chaotic 24-second sprint to the finish that is swimming's version of the 100-meter dash. 

Age hasn't caught up with Torres yet, but it's chasing her. "It's much tougher this time around," Torres said. 

But after posting the third-fastest time in the semis, Torres is more than a sentimental choice. She's a legitimate threat. "It wasn't all I've got," she said of her performance in the semis. 

Tonight, look for all she's got, and a little bit more. It might be enough to put America's hottest 45-year-old mom on a flight to London later this month. 

Coverage of the swimming trials begins tonight on NBC at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 11:09
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-2
Body:

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/25-7/01):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Alex Rios OF CHW 7 2 6 3 .467 1.234
2. Ryan Zimmerman 3B WAS 7 3 12 0 .364 1.158
3. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 5 4 10 0 .414 1.311
4. Michael Morse 1B/OF WAS 9 2 6 0 .484 1.210
5. Daniel Murphy* 1/2/3B NYM 5 3 10 0 .409 1.346
6. Ian Kinsler 2B TEX 8 2 5 2 .355 1.000
7. Hunter Pence OF PHI 6 3 7 0 .414 1.280
8. Ike Davis* 1B NYM 7 3 9 0 .320 1.188
9. Giancarlo Stanton OF MIA 6 3 6 1 .381 1.337
10. Carlos Ruiz C PHI 8 2 4 1 .234 1.175
11. Michael McKenry* C PIT 3 3 9 0 .455 1.435
12. Ian Desmond SS WAS 7 2 7 0 .414 1.383
13. Alexi Amarista* 2B SD 5 3 8 0 .412 1.412
14. Shin-Soo Choo OF CLE 7 2 6 0 .458 1.331
15. Andrew McCutchen OF PIT 8 2 6 0 .407 1.170
16. David Ortiz 1B BOS 9 3 5 0 .320 1.219
17. Edwin Encarnacion 1B/3B TOR 7 1 5 2 .391 1.113
18. Austin Jackson OF DET 10 1 5 0 .387 1.022
19. Mike Trout OF LAA 8 2 4 1 .345 .988
20. Jose Bautista 3B/OF TOR 7 3 8 0 .250 .966
21. Josh Hamilton OF TEX 5 3 9 0 .269 1.002
22. Freddie Freeman 1B ATL 6 1 6 0 .476 1.282
23. Miguel Cabrera 1B DET 5 1 6 0 .462 1.255
24. Elvis Andrus SS TEX 7 0 3 3 .357 .848
25. Tyler Moore* OF WAS 4 2 7 0 .381 1.172

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

The Mets have been beaten and battered all season long but are starting to show signs of fantasy life. Only four players in the majors have more RBI over the last month than Ike Davis' 24. He has raised his average from .158 (June 8) to a still paltry .203 today. Yet, he has been moved to clean-up and David Wright is hitting in front of him. He should be in for a big second half. His teammate and position guru, Daniel Murphy (1B/2B/3B) is third in MLB in RBI over the last week. He finally connected on his first three dingers and can provide solid production across the board at weak positions (2B and 3B). Keep an eye on the Mets offense.

MLB Debuts

Anthony Rizzo appears to be the real deal in Chicago. He has five hits in his first 19 at-bats thus far in 2012, including four RBI and one huge home run. He may not help your team batting average much, but it looks like he can add some pop in the power cats. Trevor Bauer pitched four innings while allowing two runs with three whiffs and three walks. He gets a nice start this week against the Padres on Tuesday. Wil Myers connected on his 27th homer of the year and will be a busy man during the All-Star break. Can the Royals get this kid into the line-up please?

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. R.A. Dickey NYM 23.0 2 26 1.96 0.65
2. Travis Wood* CHC 20.2 3 15 0.44 0.82
3. Felix Hernandez SEA 16.0 2 23 0.56 0.81
4. Tommy Milone* OAK 21.0 2 13 0.86 0.81
5. Michael Fiers* MIL 14.1 1 19 0.00 0.77
6. Hirok Kuroda NYY 21.0 2 24 2.14 0.95
7. Justin Masterson* CLE 22.0 2 18 2.05 0.82
8. David Price TB 21.0 3 19 2.57 0.95
9. Johan Santana NYM 20.0 2 14 0.90 0.95
10. Mat Latos CIN 22.0 2 24 3.68 0.73
11. Yu Darvish TEX 22.0 2 29 3.68 0.95
12. Zack Greinke MIL 15.0 2 7 1.20 0.67
13. Lucas Harrell* HOU 16.0 1 16 0.56 0.94
14. Travis Blackley* OAK 22.0 1 12 1.64 0.73
15. Matt Harrison TEX 19.0 3 14 1.42 1.26
16. Jered Weaver LAA 12.2 2 9 0.71 0.87
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 21.1 1 24 1.71 1.10
18. Aaron Cook* BOS 14.0 2 2 1.29 0.57
19. Mike Leake* CIN 24.0 1 13 1.50 0.92
20. Chris Sale CHW 15.0 1 12 1.20 0.80

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Max Scherzer, DET: Minnesota (Tues.)
He has won two of his last three starts with 26 Ks and only 3 BBs over that span.

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: Seattle (Sun.)
The youngster has been stellar with two earned runs and 19 Ks over last three starts.

3. Trevor Bauer, ARI: San Diego (Tues.)
He was about as good as can be expected in a shorten MLB debut. Look for more on Tuesday.

4. Tommy Milone, OAK: Seattle (Fri.)
The soft-tosser has been the No. 4-rated pitcher in the league over last two weeks.

5. Edwin Jackson, WAS: San Francisco (Wed.)
Got shelled last time out (3.0, 8 ER), but posted nine straight quality starts before that.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 16.2 2 6 21 0 0.00 0.72
2. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 20 0 0.82 0.27
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 12.2 0 10 12 0 0.00 0.63
4. Huston Street SD 11.1 1 8 15 0 1.59 0.79
5. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 7 11 0 1.64 0.91
6. Brayan Villarreal* DET 16.0 2 0 23 2 1.69 0.75
7. Ronald Belisario* LAD 14.0 3 0 7 2 0.64 0.64
8. Ernesto Frieri LAA 11.1 0 7 15 3 0.00 1.06
9. Jason Motte STL 15.0 0 9 16 0 3.00 0.93
10. Jim Johnson BAL 12.2 1 7 8 0 2.13 0.79
11. Rafael Soriano NYY 11.1 0 11 10 0 1.59 1.32
12. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 0 6 18 0 2.53 0.56
13. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 7 16 0 1.50 0.92
14. Ryan Cook* OAK 11.0 1 7 16 1 3.27 1.18
15. Rex Brothers* COL 14.2 1 0 22 4 1.23 0.75
16. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.0 0 4 12 0 0.90 0.60
17. Sean Marshall* CIN 12.2 1 1 12 4 0.71 0.71
18. David Hernandez* ARI 10.2 1 1 20 1 1.69 0.75
19. Fernando Rodney TB 10.0 0 5 10 0 0.90 0.80
20. Jared Burton* MIN 13.1 1 2 13 5 0.68 0.98

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 2</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 10:08
All taxonomy terms: NBA, News
Path: /news/charles-barkley-hoped-recruit-dirk-nowitzki-auburn
Body:

Dirk Nowitzki is one of the NBA's top players, but he switched in his sneakers for cleats and a bat for the 2012 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game in Frisco, Texas. The event featured a handful of noteable athletes outside of Nowitzki, including Vince Carter, Terrell Owens, Mike Modano and Daryl Johnston.

While the game was a good way to pass the offseason time for the NBA players, the highlight has to be Charles Barkley's account of playing Nowitzki in Germany. 

In addition to dropping some memorable quotes about playing Nowitzki ("Dude who the hell are you?"), Barkley recounted his "pitch" to steer him to Auburn.

Barkley also jokes about the reported $200,000 that was offered to former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton as a "good d@mn investment." 

Needless to say, this video of Barkley dishing on Nowitzki in Germany, and hoping he would play for Auburn is another good one in Sir Charles' quotable library. 

Teaser:
<p> Charles Barkley Hoped to Recruit Dirk Nowitzki to Auburn</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 09:18
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/miami-football-al-golden-has-hurricanes-back-track
Body:

Recruiting is a contact sport not meant for the weak-hearted. Al Golden knows this. But even with that in mind, Golden was startled by the level of malice he and his Miami Hurricanes staff encountered from fellow coaches last winter on the recruiting trail.

With the Hurricanes facing an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits provided to athletes by rogue booster and convicted felon Nevin Shapiro, opposing recruiters went after Miami like a piñata at a kids’ party.

Golden says his coaching counterparts “absolutely crushed” Miami with attacks that “entered the realm of vicious.”

Players pursued by Miami were warned, not only of imminent NCAA-imposed scholarship cuts and bowl bans, but also of a potential death penalty ruling, a possibility few take seriously.

“There was a lot of negative recruiting,” Golden says. “We don’t have a lot of Achilles’ heels. They saw a soft spot and they took it.”

Golden reacted to the low blows — not by complaining, but by getting even.

Despite looming NCAA sanctions, a 6–6 record in 2011 and the cut-throat tactics applied by competitors, Golden pulled in a recruiting class listed in virtually everyone’s top 10 and one that includes six players ranked among ESPN’s Top 150.

Golden responded to Miami’s talent haul by taking a victory lap while warning his program’s detractors “to get your licks in now.”

“What has everybody else worried is that we did this despite everything that was being used against us,” Golden says. “Basically we told everybody, ‘Here’s the tee and here’s the ball,’ and we still were able to get a top-10 recruiting class.”

Those who have followed Golden’s coaching career are not surprised at what the 43-year-old coach was able to accomplish despite the circumstances. Long-time recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBSSports/MaxPreps says Golden built a reputation as “one of the top four or five recruiters in the country” while serving as Al Groh’s defensive coordinator at Virginia from 2001-05.

That rep was further bolstered during six seasons as Temple’s head coach, as Golden turned what was arguably the nation’s most decrepit program into one of college football’s unlikeliest success stories.

Golden brought Temple back from the dead by attracting prospects who prior to his arrival would never have considered the Philadelphia school and by finding unheralded players like Muhammad Wilkerson, a 2-star defensive tackle who developed into a 2011 first-round draft pick of the New York Jets.

But Golden says that what faced him at Miami last winter made the situation at Temple look easy. The NCAA investigation that resulted in the suspension of eight key players and a self-imposed bowl ban had nothing to do with Golden, but he was left to put out the fire while school administrators hid behind carefully crafted statements.

The Shapiro story had more than its share of lurid elements — prostitutes, abortion and strip clubs, to name a few — and provided chum for Miami’s competitors in the shark-infested waters of recruiting. Golden’s approach was to attack the NCAA issues proactively.

“We went after guys that understood we weren’t responsible for it, but understand that we’re responsible enough to clean it up,” Golden says.

The message resonated with recruits. Not only did Golden keep most of his oral commitments after the scandal broke in August, but he also closed like Mariano Rivera, guaranteeing a top-10 class on Signing Day by getting Miramar cornerback Tracy Howard, ranked as the No. 18 prospect nationally by Athlon Sports, to change direction and sign with the Hurricanes instead of Florida.

“There aren’t many guys that can pull that off,” Lemming says. “Golden is a younger version of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer as a coach and a recruiter. Like Saban and Meyer, Golden never stops working. He has an uncanny knack for knowing what kids are looking for, which requires a lot of time and effort. That, combined with a work ethic that is second to none and a great personality, makes Golden unique. There’s only a few of them like him.”

The Hurricanes signed 33 players, but Brennan Carroll, Miami’s national recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, says the key pair were running back Randy “Duke” Johnson and defensive back Deon Bush, a couple of local area products.

Johnson, Florida’s 5A Player of the Year after leading Miami Norland to an undefeated season and state championship, committed to the Hurricanes as a junior in high school and didn’t budge despite the firing of coach Randy Shannon, two lackluster seasons, the NCAA investigation or the best attempts by other schools to sway him.

Bush, a consensus top-5 safety, committed to Miami a month before Signing Day, then worked hard to get Howard, his buddy and former teammate on a 7-on-7 all-star team, to ditch the Gators and stay in South Florida.

“Those were really two guys that were turning points for us — Duke Johnson, who was such a rock, and Deon Bush,” says Carroll, the son of Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “They were the story. They got some other guys to say, ‘Let’s do it right here.’”

Of Miami’s 33 signees — nine enrolled in January and technically count toward the 2011 scholarship limit — more than half are from the South Florida area. Golden has made it a point to re-connect with local coaches, some of whom felt like their schools and players were ignored during Shannon’s four seasons in charge of the Canes program. Whether that’s a legitimate beef or not, Golden has doubled down in South Florida by assigning his entire nine-man staff to recruit the area and personally communicating to his high school counterparts that “interaction, trust and communication with the local coaches has got to be elite. It can’t be good.”

Whatever the formula, it seems to have worked with the 2011 class, which includes most of South Florida’s best talent.

“We’re going to be tough to beat down here,” Golden says. “And we should be.”

Golden, who signed an extension in November that runs through the 2019 season, has gotten off to a fast start toward building next year’s freshman class. As of early May, Miami had received commitments from five players, including two ranked in ESPN’s Top 150 and Ray Lewis III, son of the NFL great and Hurricanes legend.

With recruiting going very well, Golden sees sunny days ahead despite an impending date with the NCAA Committee on Infractions and an expected rebuilding season.

“We just need to weather the storm,” Golden says. “Don’t flinch and just have a stick-to-it-iveness and determination that’s going to be able to overcome it.

“We are undaunted by this. At the end of the day, it’s still one of the most special places in college football.”

This article appeared in Athlon's 2012 ACC Preview Annual

Related ACC Content

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

Miami Hurricanes 2012 Team Preview

College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 48 Miami

Teaser:
<p> Al Golden has the Miami Hurricanes back on track</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:58
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-east-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 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 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big East's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. South Florida – The Bulls ranked second in the Big East in passing offense last season and could push for the conference lead in 2012. Quarterback B.J. Daniels threw for a career-high 2,604 yards last season, while tossing 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Daniels should eclipse those numbers in 2012, as South Florida returns nearly all of its pass catchers from last year. Despite missing four games due to injury, Sterling Griffin led the team with 43 catches for 530 yards. Griffin should push for All-Big East honors in 2012, and has plenty of help with the return of Victor Marc, Deonte Welch and Andre Davis. The wildcard to watch in the receiving corps will be Florida transfer Chris Dunkley. Tight end Evan Landi caught 29 passes last year and will be a dependable threat over the middle in 2012.

2. Rutgers – There’s really not a clear No. 1 receiving corps in the Big East, and a case could be made the Scarlet Knights should rank at the top. Mohamed Sanu departs after catching 115 passes last season, but the cupboard is far from bare for new coach Kyle Flood. Brandon Coleman finished 2011 on a tear, catching six passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Connecticut, while taking his only reception against Iowa State for 86 yards and a score. Joining Coleman as key contributors will be Mark Harrison, Quron Pratt and Tim Wright. Harrison caught only 14 passes last season after nabbing 44 receptions in 2010. If he returns to form and Coleman continues to emerge, Rutgers should be in great shape at receiver. Tight end D.C. Jefferson is another weapon to watch, and he has 22 receptions over the last two years.

3. Louisville – If there’s a group that could take a big step forward in 2012, look no further than Louisville. The Cardinals lose receiver Josh Bellamy and tight end Josh Chichester, but return a handful of talented youngsters. DeVante Parker only caught 18 passes as a freshman last year, but took six of those for scores and averaged 16.2 yards per reception. Eli Rogers also made a big impact as a freshman last season, leading the team with 41 receptions. Rogers and Parker will join fellow sophomore Michaelee Harris as the likely starters, while Jarrett Davis, Andrell Smith and Scott Radcliff will provide depth.

4. Syracuse – The Orange must replace running back Antwon Bailey, but the offense returns quarterback Ryan Nassib and All-Big East tackle Justin Pugh. Syracuse ranked fifth in the conference in total offense last year, so getting improvement from this unit will be crucial if the Orange want to return to a bowl game. Departing as key weapons in the receiving corps are receivers Van Chew and Dorian Graham and All-Big East tight end Nick Provo. Alec Lemon was the No. 1 target for Nassib last season and earned second-team All-Big East honors. He is once again expected to be the go-to target, while the receiving corps should receive a boost with the return of Marcus Sales, who missed all of 2011 due to a suspension. There’s not a ton of depth, but Syracuse should have one of the conference’s top duos with Sales and Lemon returning.

5. Pittsburgh – The Panthers didn’t suffer any huge losses from this group and with the arrival of offensive-minded head coach Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh could have one of the Big East’s most-improved offenses in 2012. Devin Street and Mike Shanahan are the headliners for this group and both players should be in the mix for All-Big East honors. Street led the team with 53 receptions and 754 yards last year. Cameron Saddler caught 19 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in 2011 and is back in the mix as a No. 3 returner and weapon on special teams. Ronald Jones turned in a solid freshman campaign last year, catching 17 passes for 143 yards. Jones and Saddler will backup Street and Shanahan, but sophomore Darius Patton could work his way into playing time. Tight end Hubie Graham should have a breakout year in Chryst’s offense. 

6. Cincinnati – With quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead departing, 2012 figures to be a rebuilding year on offense for the Bearcats. Cincinnati also loses receiver DJ Woods, but returns Anthony McClung (49 catches in 2011) and Kenbrell Thompkins (44 catches). In addition to leading the team in catches, McClung paced Cincinnati receivers with 683 yards and six receiving scores. Sophomores Alex Chsium and Dyjuan Lewis are intriguing talents, while tight end Travis Kelce is back after catching 13 passes last year. Another option to watch will be converted quarterback Jordan Luallen, who made the switch to receiver in spring practice. Coach Butch Jones would like to see more consistency and fewer dropped passes from this group in 2012, but there’s plenty of options to keep this unit ranked among the best receiving corps in the Big East.

7. Connecticut – Quarterback play was a huge issue for the Huskies last year, but the receiving corps didn’t give the passers much help either. Connecticut loses Isiah and Kashif Moore (the top two receivers from last season), but this group could be improved in 2012. Michael Smith led the Huskies with 615 receiving yards and 46 catches in 2010 but missed 2011 due to academic suspension. Smith is back in the mix, and is joined by transfers Shakim Phillips (Boston College) and Bryce McNeal (Connecticut). Senior Nick Williams caught only 11 passes last season but averaged 21.5 yards per catch. Tight end Ryan Griffin caught 33 passes last year and is a steady performer for whichever quarterback wins the job.

8. Temple – With the departure of running back Bernard Pierce, Temple will have to lean a little more on its passing attack in 2012. Matt Brown is a capable rusher, but the Owls need more from quarterback Chris Coyer and the receivers. No Temple player caught more than 35 passes last season, and the top two statistical leaders (tight end Evan Rodriguez and receiver Joe Jones) from 2011 have departed. Deon Miller averaged 14.1 yards per reception on 18 catches and needs to play a bigger role in the offense. Seniors Malcolm Eugene and C.J. Hammond are expected to have prominent roles in 2012, but keep an eye on Jalen Fitzpatrick. The sophomore had a good spring and should provide some big-play ability to the offense. 

 

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Related Big East Content

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers for 2012
College Basketball Realignment Winners and Losers for 2012

Ranking the Big East's Running Backs for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Big East 2012 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:38
Path: /college-football/college-football-history-acc-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment

The History of Big 12 Realignment

The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment

The History of ACC Realignment

The ACC Commissioners:

James Weaver, 1954-70
Robert James 1971-87
Eugene Corrigan, 1987-97
John Swofford, 1997-present

The ACC Timeline:

1953: After losing a multitude of members to the SEC in 1932, the once massive (23 member) Southern Conference loses eight key members to the formation of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The SoCon had a league-wide ban on postseason play and this is why many believe the ACC got started to begin with. Clemson, Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, NC State, South Carolina and, a few months later, Virginia became the charter members.

1971: South Carolina decided to leave for independence and would later join the SEC in 1991.

1978: After only containing seven teams for most of the 70s, Georgia Tech left the Metro Conference for the greener pastures of the ACC.

1991: Also from the Metro Conference, Florida State’s decision to join the ACC might have been the most important maneuver in ACC history. The Noles went on to dominate the league for the first decade and it played in the first three BCS National Championship games (1998-2000). The 1999 title is the league’s only BCS National Championship.

2004: Miami and Virginia Tech both officially joined in the summer of 2004. Adding the two football powers gave the ACC two more viable national championship football programs to package with FSU.

2005: Boston College comes aboard the next year, giving the ACC 12 teams and the opportunity to split the conference into two divisions and host a title game. After taking the Canes, Hokies and Eagles, the Big East countered with expansion of its own and is still on life support to this day.

2011: In an effort to get out in front of the curve, John Swofford continued to stabilize his league by adding two more Big East powers, Syracuse and Pitt, to the group. The ACC technically expanded to 14 before any other major BCS league.

2014: The Panthers and Orange are slated to join the league in 2014 — the same year that the new football playoff will go into effect.

ACC BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Fiesta (NCG): (1) Tennessee 23, (2) Florida State 16
1999 Sugar (NCG): (1) Florida State 46, (2) Virginia Tech 29
2000 Orange (NCG): (1) Oklahoma 13, (2) Florida State 2
2001 Orange: (5) Florida 56, (10) Maryland 23
2002 Sugar: (3) Georgia 26, (14) Florida State 13
2003 Orange: (9) Miami 16, (7) Florida State 14
2004 Sugar: (3) Auburn 16, (8) Virginia Tech 13
2005 Orange: (3) Penn State 26, (22) Florida State 23 (3 OT)
2006 Orange: (6) Louisville 24, (14) Wake Forest 13
2007 Orange: (8) Kansas 24, (3) Virginia Tech 21
2008 Orange: (19) Virginia Tech 20, (12) Cincinnati 7
2009 Orange: (10) Iowa 24, (9) Georgia Tech 14
2010 Orange: (4) Stanford 40, (13) Virginia Tech 14
2011 Sugar: (13) Michigan 23, (11) Virginia Tech 20 (OT) 
2011 Orange: (23) West Virginia 70, (15) Clemson 33 

Overall Record: 2-13
National Championships: 1-2

The History of the ACC:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> College Football: The History of ACC Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:03
Path: /college-football/history-big-ten-conference-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment

The History of Big 12 Realignment

The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment

The History of ACC Realignment

The Big Ten Conference Commissioners:

John Griffith, 1922-44 (died in office)
Kenneth “Tug” Wilson, 1945-61
William Reed, 1961-71 (died in office)
Wayne Duke, 1971-89
Jim Delany, 1989-present

The Big Ten Conference Timeline:

1896: The Big Ten is formed as the first major collegiate conference of universities. Purdue president James Smart is credited with spearheading the decision to regulate and control intercollegiate athletics. The seven founding members were the Univeristy of Chicago, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. Lake Forest College attended the 1895 meeting that eventually spawned what was then referred to as the Western Conference, but it did not join the league.

1899: Iowa and Indiana both join the Big Ten Conference three years after it’s inception. It was then commonly called the Big Nine.

1900: Both Iowa and Indiana would begin athletic competition the following year. Interestingly enough, Nebraska petitioned to join the league the same year (and would again request an invitation in 1911 to no avail).

1908: Michigan was voted out of the conference due to rules issues. The Wolverines failed to adhere to league-wide regulations and were subsequently ruled inactive.

1912: Ohio State joins the league.

1917: When Michigan was finally allowed back into the conference after the decade-long hiatus, the term Big Ten became an instantly popular way to refer to the conference.

1946: Due to the on-going World War in Europe, the University of Chicago had de-emphasized athletics in 1939 in a severe manner by discontinuing its football program. By 1946, Chicago withdrew from the league. The Big Ten went back to being referred to as the Big Nine.

1950: Michigan State is invited to join the Big Nine and does so to return the total number of league institutions to ten. The term Big Ten was re-adopted at this point. It would begin athletic competition in 1953.

1982: Penn State, currently an independent institution, asked to join the Big East but was denied inclusion in what was considered a basketball-centric league at the time.

1987: Technically, the league had been named the “Intercollegiate Conference of Faculty Representatives.” But since ICFR doesn’t roll off the tongue, the league officially changed its name to The Big Ten when it was incorporated as a not-for-profit business entity.

1990: After remaining unchanged for nearly exactly four decades of success, the Big Ten voted to expand to 11 schools and asked Penn State to join. The Nittany Lions were happy to oblige. It would begin Big Ten athletic competition in 1993.

2010: Nebraska applies for Big Ten membership and is unanimously approved as the league’s 12th institution.

2011: Nebraska played its first Big Ten conference schedule and the league splits into two divisions to accommodate the Cornhuskers. The Big Ten plays its first league championship game in Indianapolis.
 
Big Ten Conference BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Sugar: (4) Ohio State 24, (6) Texas A&M 14
1998 Rose: (9) Wisconsin 38, (5) UCLA 31
1999 Orange: (8) Michigan 35, (4) Alabama 34
1999 Rose: (7) Wisconsin 17, (ur) Stanford 9
2000 Rose: (4) Washington 34, (ur) Purdue 24
2001 Sugar: (13) LSU 47, (8) Illinois 34
2002 Fiesta (NCG): (2) Ohio State 31, (1) Miami 24 (2 OT)
2002 Orange: (4) USC 38, (5) Iowa 17
2003 Fiesta: (5) Ohio State 35, (10) Kansas State 28
2003 Rose: (3) USC 28, (4) Michigan 14
2004 Rose: (4) Texas 38, (13) Michigan 37
2005 Fiesta: (4) Ohio State 34, (6) Notre Dame 20
2005 Orange: (3) Penn State 26,* (22) Florida State 23
2006 NCG: (2) Florida 41, (1) Ohio State 14
2006 Rose: (5) USC 32, (3) Michigan 18
2007 NCG: (2) LSU 38, (1) Ohio State 24
2007 Rose: (7) USC 49, (13) Illinois 17
2008 Fiesta: (3) Texas 24, (10) Ohio State 21
2008 Rose: (5) USC 38, (8) Penn State 24
2009 Rose: (8) Ohio State 26, (7) Oregon 16
2009 Orange: (10) Iowa 24, (9) Georgia Tech 14
2010 Sugar: (6) Ohio State 31,* (8) Arkansas 26
2010 Rose: (3) TCU 21, (5) Wisconsin 19
2011 Sugar: (13) Michigan 23, (11) Virginia Tech 20 (OT)
2011 Rose: (5) Oregon 45, (10) Wisconsin 38

* - later vacated

Overall Record: 12-13
National Championships: 1-2

The History of the Big Ten:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:02
Path: /college-football/history-pac-12-conference-realignment
Body:

College football expansion has taken over the hearts and minds of college football junkies everywhere.

The sky is falling, rivalries are dead and the future of college football is in great peril. I am here to tell you that this just simply isn’t the case. Conference realignment has been taking place for more than a century and it won’t stop anytime soon. Teams have been switching leagues, conferences have been created out of thin air and college football has powered through all the criticism and into the playoff era.

So just in case you don’t remember the days of Georgia Tech winning SEC titles or Grinnell College's 10-year stint in the Big 8, Athlon is here to show you conference realignment isn’t a new phenomenon.

The History of Big East Conference Realignment
The History of SEC Realingment
The History of Big 12 Realignment
The History of Big Ten Conference Realignment

The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment
The History of ACC Realignment 

The Pac-12 Conference Commissioners:

Edwin Atherton, 1940-44
Victor Schmidt, 1944-59
Thomas Hamilton, 1959-71
Wiles Hallock, 1971-83
Thomas Hansen, 1983-2009
Larry Scott, 2009-present

The Pac-12 Conference Timeline:

1916: After a meeting at the Imperial Hotel in Portland, Ore., the previous year, the Pacific Coast Conference was founded. Cal, Washington, Oregon and Oregon Agricultural College, more commonly known as Oregon State University, were the founding members.

1917: Washington State quickly followed its in-state brethren into the PCC.

1918: Stanford then quickly followed its cross-town rival into the PCC as well.

1922: A third round of expansion took place when USC and Idaho joined the league, expanding the PCC to eight teams.

1924: Montana was added to grow the PCC to nine teams.

1928: The addition of UCLA makes the PCC a 10-member conference.

1950: Montana decided to join the Mountain States Conference and the PCC continued for nearly a decade as a nine-team league.

1959: After years of stability, the PCC was disbanded due to a massive pay-for-play scandal that involved Cal, USC, UCLA and Washington. Retired Admiral Thomas Hamilton stepped in and saved the league and the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) was formed the same year with Cal, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington acting as charter institutions. It was commonly referred to as the Big Five. Idaho was essentially left out of the entire process.

1962: Washington State again followed its Evergreen counterpart into the new conference. The Cougars turned the Big Five into the Big Six.

1964: Two years later, Oregon and Oregon State joined the party and the league unofficially became known as the Pacific-8.

1968: The official name of the AAWU was changed to Pacific-8, or Pac-8 for short.

1978: The Pac-8 officially adds two WAC programs, Arizona and Arizona State, to return the league to 10 member institutions. The league renames itself the Pac-10.

2011: Utah and Colorado are invited formally and officially change the Pac-10 into the Pac-12. The league splits into obvious Northern and Southern Divisions and creates its first-ever Pac-12 Championship game. Unlike other leagues, however, the west coast conference decides to play the game at home sites. In fact, the Utes and Buffaloes played on the final weekend of the regular season with Utah having the chance to win the South Division in its first year. Colorado pulled-off the upset and the UCLA Bruins claimed the first-ever Pac-12 South title.

Pac-12 Conference BCS Bowl History

Notes: Year is representative of the fall football season, not the actual date of the bowl
(#) = final national BCS ranking

1998 Rose: (9) Wisconsin 38, (5) UCLA 31
1999 Rose: (7) Wisconsin 17, (ur) Stanford 9
2000 Fiesta: (6) Oregon State 41, (11) Notre Dame 9
2000 Rose: (4) Washington 34, (ur) Purdue 24
2001 Fiesta: (4) Oregon 38, (3) Colorado 16
2002 Orange: (4) USC 38, (5) Iowa 17
2003 Rose: (3) USC 28, (4) Michigan 14*
2004 Orange (NCG): (1) USC 55, (2) Oklahoma 19
2005 Rose (NCG): (2) Texas 41, (1) USC 38
2006 Rose: (5) USC 32, (3) Michigan 18
2007 Rose: (7) USC 49, (13) Illinois 17
2008 Rose: (5) USC 38, (8) Penn State 24
2009 Rose: (8) Ohio State 26, (7) Oregon 16
2010 NCG: (1) Auburn 22, (2) Oregon 19
2010 Orange: (4) Stanford 40, (13) Virginia Tech 14
2011 Rose: (5) Oregon 45, (10) Wisconsin 38
2011 Fiesta: (3) Oklahoma State 41, (4) Stanford 38 (OT)

Overall Record: 11-6
National Championships: 1-2*

* - USC earned a share of the 2003 National Championship

The History of the Pac-12:

Special thanks to Wikipedia.com for the above image. Please help keep Wikipedia free for all by donating here.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

More Conference Alignment and Playoff Content:

College Football Playoff: Did the BCS Really Get It Wrong?
Debate: What is the Biggest Unanswered Question Left In the College Football Playoff?

Debate: Did College Football Get It Right With A Four-Team Playoff?

Debate: How Should A Selection Committee Be Used?

Teaser:
<p> The History of Pac-12 Conference Realignment</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-conferences-2012
Body:

Once again, the SEC ranks as college football's best conference. LSU and Alabama are expected to be national title contenders, while Georgia and South Carolina should finish the year ranked as top-10 teams. While the SEC is college football's No. 1 conference, the Big 12 isn't too far behind. Oklahoma is the favorite to win the conference title, but Texas is on the rise, and the league welcomes West Virginia and TCU as new members in 2012. 

1. SEC
Favorite: LSU

The league has produced the national champion in each of the past six seasons. And while USC out of the Pac-12 is our preseason No. 1 team, there are four SEC schools in the top 10, so don’t be surprised if the league extends the streak to seven next January in Miami Gardens. The West will be a battle once again, with LSU and Alabama both well-positioned to make a title run. A favorable schedule — plus a talented roster — makes Georgia the favorite in the East, but don’t count out South Carolina, which welcomes back Marcus Lattimore. 

2. Big 12
Favorite: Oklahoma

The Big 12 isn’t as formidable as the SEC at the top — Oklahoma appears to be the only legit national title contender — but the league has great depth. Including OU, six league teams can be found in Athlon Sports’ preseason top 25, including newcomers West Virginia (No. 12) and TCU (No. 22).

3. Big Ten
Favorite: Michigan

If Michigan and Ohio State continue to recruit at their current rate, another ‘Ten Year War’ could soon be in store between these two traditional powers. Ohio State is ranked higher in the preseason top 25, but the Buckeyes aren’t eligible for postseason play and thus can’t play in the Big Ten title game. Nebraska and Michigan State figure to give Michigan a battle in the Legends Division, while Wisconsin poses the biggest threat to Ohio State in the Leaders.

4. Pac-12
Favorite: USC

The Pac-12 boasts two of the elite teams in the nation in USC and Oregon, but there is a significant drop-off after those two. Stanford figures to take a step back with Andrew Luck now with the Colts, but the Cardinal will still be strong. It should be a tight race for second place in the South. Utah is our pick, though UCLA should be improved under first-year coach Jim Mora.

5. ACC
Favorite: Florida State

Florida State once again looks rock-solid on paper, but we’ve been through this drill before. Is this the year the Seminoles finally break through? Clemson, the defending ACC champ, has the talent to return to a BCS bowl. Virginia Tech is once again the favorite in the Coastal Division.

6. Big East
Favorite: Louisville

West Virginia’s departure to the Big 12 makes Louisville the favorite in the Big East. Charlie Strong has done a masterful job in two short years and has his program well-positioned for the future. Rutgers and South Florida figure to be in the hunt as well, and don’t count out Pitt under new boss Paul Chryst.

7. Mountain West
Favorite: Boise State

Star quarterback Kellen Moore is gone, but Boise State remains the class of the Mountain West. The loss of TCU to the Big 12 will hurt, but the addition of Hawaii, Nevada and Fresno State should add some beef to the middle of the league. This year, watch out for Wyoming, which returns 13 starters from a team that won eight games in 2011.

8. Conference USA
Favorite: UCF

Watch out for the usual suspects in the final year of Conference USA football as it’s currently configured. Houston and Tulsa are the favorites in the West, while UCF and East Carolina appear to be the teams to beat in the East.

9. MAC
Favorite: Ohio

Ohio is the easy pick to the win the MAC East, thanks to a talented roster and a schedule that does not include the top teams in the West. Western Michigan loses elite wideout Jordan White, but the Broncos’ attack should still be explosive with quarterback Alex Carder running the show. Toledo will also score a ton of points.

10. Sun Belt
Favorite: Arkansas State

Arkansas State, the defending Sun Belt champ, made big news in the offseason by hiring Gus Malzahn to replace Hugh Freeze. FIU should bounce back into contention after going 5–3 in the Sun Belt last year. And UL-Lafayette, which won nine games in ’11, will be strong again.

11. WAC
Favorite: Louisiana Tech

The WAC has been gutted in recent years, losing Boise State after the 2010 season and Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada after the ’11 campaign. Louisiana Tech is the best of the leftovers, followed by Utah State. 

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Predictions

Athlon's 2012 SEC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 MAC Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Mountain West Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Conference USA Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Sun Belt Predictions
Athlon's 2012 WAC Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Ranking College Football's Conferences for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 04:58
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-c-usa
Body:

College fantasy football drafts will be heating up over the next few months and Athlon Sports has teamed with The College Fantasy Football Site to provide in-depth coverage for 2012. 

Here's a look at the best of the best for Conference USA in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Conference USA All-Fantasy Team

Using a starting roster of 2-QB, 3-RB, 3-WR, FLEX, TE, K, Def/ST, All-Conference Fantasy Teams are projected using the following scoring system:

Passing—25 pass yds = 1 point, Passing TD = 4 points, INTs = -1 point

Rushing—10 rushing yards = 1 point, Rushing TDs = 6 points

Receiving—.5 points per reception, 10 receiving yards = 1 point, Receiving TDs = 6 points

Kicking—Extra Point = 1 point, FG 0-39 yards = 3 points, 40-49 yards = 4 points, 50+ = 5 points

Defense/ST—Defense, KR, and PR TDs = 6 points, Safety = 2 points, Fumbles and INTs = 3 points, Sack = 1 point, Points allowed (0 = 15 points, 2-6 = 10 points, 7-10 = 7 points, 11-13 = 5 points, 14-21 = 4 points, 22-28 = 2 points, 29-24 = 0 points, 35+ = -2 points)

Starters

QB—David Piland, So. (Houston)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

QB—Rio Johnson, Jr. (East Carolina)

Last season:  Only 157 yards passing as QB #2 behind Dominique Davis.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Memphis, @ UAB, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Tulane, Marshall

 

RB—Zach Line, Sr. (SMU)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,224 yards and 17 TDs, 15 receptions for 139 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; @ Tulane, Houston, Memphis.

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Miss, @ Rice, Tulsa

 

RB—Charles Sims, Jr. (Houston)

Last season:  Rushed for 821 yards and 9 TDs, 51 receptions for 575 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; @ SMU, UTEP, @ ECU

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

RB—Orleans Darkwa, Jr. (Tulane)

Last season:  Rushed for 924 yards and 13 TDs, 37 receptions for 305 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; UAB, Rice, @ Memphis

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Memphis, ECU, @ Houston

 

WR—Darius Johnson, Sr. (SMU)

Last season:  79 receptions for a team-high 1,118 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ UTEP, @ Tulane, Houston

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  So. Miss, @ Rice, Tulsa

 

WR—Justin Hardy, So. (East Carolina)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions and receiving yards (64-658), 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9; Memphis, @ UAB, Navy

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Tulane, Marshall

 

WR—Daniel Spencer, So. (Houston)

Last season:  12 receptions for 171 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

TE—Luke Willson, Sr. (Rice)

Last season:  29 receptions for 313 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Houston, @ Memphis, UTSA

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, SMU, @ UTEP

 

FLEX—Aaron Dobson, Sr. (Marshall)

Last season:  Led the team in receptions, yards, and TDs (49-668-12)

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; Memphis, @ UAB, Houston

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ UAB, Houston, @ ECU

 

K—Matt Hogan, Sr. (Houston)

Last season: 13 of 17 on FG attempts, 91 of 92 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 5-6-7; Rice, North Texas, UAB

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Tulsa, @ Marshall, Tulane

 

DEF/ST—Central Florida Knights

Last season:  No. 9 scoring defense and total defense, No. 16 rushing defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; ECU, So. Miss, @ Memphis

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ UTEP, @ Tulsa, UAB

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Cody Green, Jr. (Tulsa)

QB—Jonathan Perry, Jr. (UAB)

RB—Latavius Murray, Sr. (UCF)

WR—Deontay Greenberry, Fr. (Houston)

WR—Dewayne Peace, Jr. (Houston)


 

 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)

 

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining The Top Players in C-USA</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 02:41
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /college-football/2012-college-football-fcs-top-25-and-predictions
Body:

College football isn't just about the FBS division and the BCS. The FCS division settles its national champion with a playoff and a familiar name tops the rankings for 2012.

1. Sam Houston State (14–1, 7–0 Southland)
After their perfect season was derailed in the national championship game, the Bearkats have one goal this year: Win it all. They return the Southland Player of the Year (running back Tim Flanders), Offensive Player of the Year (wide receiver Richard Sincere) and Defensive Player of the Year (safety Darnell Taylor). Quarterback Brian Bell is another of the 18 returning starters. Coach Willie Fritz’s squad will play Texas A&M and Baylor.

 2. Georgia Southern (11–3, 7–1 SoCon)
The only team more frustrated than Sam Houston State is Georgia Southern, which has been stopped in each of the last two national semifinals. To take the next step, the Eagles need a new quarterback — perhaps Jerick McKinnon — to be precise running the triple option. He will be sure  that backs Robert Brown and Dominique Swope get plenty of touches. Opposing offenses want no part of nose tackle Brent Russell. 

3. North Dakota State (14–1, 7–1 Missouri Valley)
Coach Craig Bohl is confident that the loss of 11 starters won’t prevent the reigning national champs from challenging for back-to-back titles. Junior cornerback Marcus Williams was electrifying for last year’s stingiest defense in the FCS (12.7 ppg). Third-year quarterback Brock Jensen keeps improving for an offense that will be run-heavy behind 1,000-yard back Sam Ojuri.

4. Montana State (10–3, 7–1 Big Sky)
The Bobcats have some flash with junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, but their program is more about flexing its muscles. Cody Kirk (1,351 rushing yards and 14 TDs) is the key cog offensively, and defensive linemen Brad Daly, Zach Minter and Caleb Schreibeis and linebacker Jody Owens form the nucleus of a dominant stop-unit.

5. James Madison (8–5, 5–3 CAA)
The Dukes believe they have solved recent inconsistency. Quarterback Justin Thorpe, who came back strong after a university suspension last season, will team with versatile running back Dae’Quan Scott (1,304 rushing yards, 13 total TDs) on an improved offense. The defense has a star in middle linebacker Stephon Robertson and an emerging standout in safety Dean Marlowe.

6. Old Dominion (10–3, 6–2 CAA)
Year 2 in the CAA should be as good as last year’s debut for the Monarchs. Taylor Heinicke fired 25 touchdown passes with only one interception over the final nine games of his true freshman season, and he has plenty back in the skill positions. Craig Wilkins flies around at linebacker, and the special teams are always outstanding.

7. Towson (9–3, 7–1 CAA)
Coach Rob Ambrose led the Tigers to a stunning CAA title after going a combined 3–29 in conference in the previous four seasons. There won’t be a letdown with the return of running back Terrance West, who scored an FCS-high 29 touchdowns as a freshman, and fellow All-CAA standouts Frank Beltre (defensive end) and Jordan Dangerfield (safety).

8. Appalachian State (8–4, 6–2 SoCon)
A senior-laden defense, featuring linebackers Brandon Grier and Jeremy Kimbrough and defensive backs Demetrius McCray (five interceptions) and Troy Sanders, will get to the ball in waves. Veteran coach Jerry Moore will need some new playmakers to develop for quarterback Jamal Jackson.

9. Youngstown State (6–5, 4–4 Missouri Valley)
The only team to beat FCS champion North Dakota State last season, the Penguins are primed for their first playoff appearance since 2006. All-MVC selections Kurt Hess (quarterback) and Jamaine Cook (running back), along with big-play receiver Christian Bryan, return from the most prolific offense in school history.

10. New Hampshire (8–4, 6–2 CAA)
The Wildcats seek to extend the longest active streak of playoff appearances (eight) in the FCS, behind senior linebacker Matt Evans, the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award recipient. The transition of new quarterback — Andy Vailas or James Brady — will be eased by wide receivers R.J. Harris and Joey Orlando.

11. Delaware (7–4, 5–3 CAA)
The FCS version of Quarterback U is looking for better production at the position this season. No matter what, coach K.C. Keeler will put the ball in the hands of junior running back Andrew Pierce (2,934 yards in two seasons). Linebacker Paul Worrilow leads the defense.

12. Eastern Washington (6–5, 5–3 Big Sky)
Decimated by injuries last season, the 2010 FCS champions seek significant improvement. SMU transfer quarterback Kyle Padron will replace another former SMU Mustang, Bo Levi Mitchell, the 2011 Walter Payton Award recipient. Padron will have three different 1,000-yard receivers at his disposal — Nicholas Edwards, Greg Herd and Brandon Kaufman.

13. Jacksonville State (7–4, 6–2 OVC)
Having underachieved in recent seasons, the talented Gamecocks hope to put it all together. Coach Jack Crowe is patching up the defense, but his offense will be outstanding with 1,000-yard back Washaun Ealey and quarterback Marques Ivory, who will share time with Coty Blanchard.

14. Indiana State (6–5, 4–4 Missouri Valley)
Catch him if you can: Junior tailback Shakir Bell averaged 7.3 yards per carry while amassing 1,670 yards. The Sycamores’ defense will be led by end Ben Obaseki and linebackers Aaron Archie and Jacolby Washington.

15. Illinois State (7–4, 5–3 Missouri Valley)
Snubbed out of a playoff berth last season, the Redbirds plan to leave no doubt this year. They have a superb passing combo in Matt Brown-to-Tyrone Walker and get after opposing quarterbacks with defensive end Nate Palmer and linebacker Evan Frierson.

16. Stony Brook (9–4, 6–0 Big South)
Two running backs are better than one. Miguel Maysonet (1,633 yards, 15 TDs) has a new tag-team partner in Iowa transfer Marcus Coker, the Big Ten’s second-leading rusher in 2011. The Seawolves may lead the FCS in scoring once again.

17. Montana (11–3, 7–1 Big Sky)
The offseason firing of coach Robin Pflugrad rocked a national semifinalist squad that had lost nine defensive starters already. The running game remains strong with the undersized duo of Peter Nguyen and Jordan Canada.

18. Eastern Kentucky (7–5, 6–2 OVC)
A dominant offensive line, featuring 6'6" tackles Aaron Adams and Patrick Ford, will pave the way for fourth-year quarterback T.J. Pryor and running back Matt Denham, who averaged 184.5 rushing yards over the final eight games of last season.

19. Wofford (8–4, 6–2 SoCon)
Fullbacks Eric Breitenstein (3,695 career rushing yards) and Donovan Johnson get into opponents’ defensive backfields, and linebacker Alvin Scioneaux (16 tackles for a loss) gets into opponents’ offensive backfields. The Terriers have led the FCS in rushing for two straight seasons.

20. Northern Iowa (10–3, 7–1 Missouri Valley)
This perennial FCS power must work in 11 new starters against a brutally tough September schedule that includes Wisconsin and Iowa. Running backs David Johnson and Carlos Anderson fuel a strong ground attack.

21. Murray State (7–4, 5–3 OVC)
The Racers believe they have the FCS’ best quarterback in Casey Brockman, who threw for 3,276 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. Linebacker and leading tackler Sam Small leads a defense that must replace several key pieces.

22. Harvard (9–1, 7–0 Ivy)
Each of the Crimson’s Ivy League wins was by double digits last season. Quarterback Colton Chapple and running back Treavor Scales work behind a veteran offensive line. Harvard’s 37.4 points per game set a school record.

23. Stephen F. Austin (6–5, 5–2 Southland)
Opponents probably can’t believe that veteran wide receivers Gralyn Crawford and Cordell Roberson haven’t graduated yet. Sack specialist Willie Jefferson leads the defense of a team that won its final five games.

24. Chattanooga (5–6, 3–5 SoCon)
The Mocs need to start winning the close games behind quarterback Terrell Robinson, the 2011 SoCon Freshman of the Year. The defense is stocked with end Josh Williams, linebacker Wes Dothard and cornerback Kadeem Wise.

25. Lehigh (11–2, 6–0 Patriot)
Senior quarterback Mike Colvin hopes to run the Mountain Hawks’ high-flying passing attack and will target All-America wide receiver Ryan Spadola (96 receptions for 1,614 yards). They haven’t lost a league game since 2009.
 

2012 Projected FCS Playoff Qualifiers

Appalachian State (at-large)

Bethune-Cookman (MEAC champ)

Bryant (Northeast champ)

Delaware (at-large)

Eastern Washington (at-large)

Georgia Southern (Southern champ)

Illinois State (at-large)

Indiana State (at-large)

Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley champ)

James Madison (CAA champ)

Lehigh (Patriot champ)

Montana State (Big Sky champ)

Montana (at-large)

New Hampshire (at-large)

North Dakota State (Missouri Valley champ)

Old Dominion (at-large)

Sam Houston State (Southland champ)

Stony Brook (Big South champ)

Towson (at-large)

Youngstown State (at-large)

Teaser:
<p> Sam Houston State ranks as Athlon's No. 1 team in the FCS poll for 2012</p>
Post date: Monday, July 2, 2012 - 01:43

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