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The NASCAR Sprint Cup season is a long and winding road consisting of 36 points-paying races held on 23 racetracks across America. The venues are diverse, with half-mile bullrings, twisting road courses, high-speed intermediates and white-knuckle plate tracks. Some thrill, some bore, some are in steeped in history, others lack any semblance of uniqueness.

But we have them all here, ranked from best NASCAR Sprint Cup racetrack to worst, having factored in entertainment value, historical significance, location and the overall ambiance of the facility:


 

1. Talladega Superspeedway
Talladega, Al. • 2.66-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: May 5, Oct. 20
The one track that defines speed in a sport dictated on going fast, Talladega is the be-all, end-all of superspeedway racing. The original 200 mph track that Buddy Baker christened in 1970 in a winged Dodge, Talladega is the site of the fastest qualifying lap, the fastest 500-mile NASCAR race and some of the scariest crashes in motorsports history. In 1987, Bobby Allison went airborne and tore part of the frontstretch fencing down, nearly taking out the flag stand and putting the car in the front row. Thus, restrictor plate racing was born. The National Motorsports Hall of Fame is located at Talladega as well, and the infield on race weekend is essentially Mardi Gras without the cops.

2. Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Fla. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: Feb. 24, July 6
When Bill France Sr. conjured the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, he wanted it to be the fastest and most impressive track in auto racing. Mission accomplished. Thirty-two degrees of banking in the turns, wide-open throttles and host to everything from NASCAR, GRAND-AM, AMA Motorcycle, go-karts and Monster Energy Super Cross events. It has also been witnessed some of NASCAR’s most memorable finishes and wild aerial antics — as well as the sport’s darkest hour in February 2001. Two weeks of NASCAR racing, known as Speedweeks, kick off the season, with the Truck Series, Nationwide, ARCA and Sprint Cup running their premier events. Hope always springs eternal on the beach in February.

3. Martinsville Speedway
Martinsville, Va. • .526-mile oval • 2013 dates: April 7, Oct. 27
If nostalgia is your thing, look no further than Clay Earles’ gem in Martinsville, Va. At .526 miles, it’s the shortest track on the circuit, but also NASCAR’s oldest, dating to the first year of the sport in 1948. While some fans may bemoan how NASCAR has gone “too corporate” and “lost its soul,” Martinsville is viewed as a holdout, amidst pink hot dogs and the Grandfather clock that serves as racing’s coolest trophy. There is no shortage of beating, banging and retaliation – and Victory Lane is held right on the frontstretch for all the fans to experience.

4. Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tenn. • .533-mile oval • 2013 dates: March 17, Aug. 24
“Racin’ the Way it Oughta Be!” the track located in what is known as Thunder Valley promotes — and with good reason. The August night race was once the hardest ticket to get in racing, but has recently become obtainable. A track repave in 2008 created two groves of racing, and therefore eliminated the wreck-fest that once was Bristol. The .533-mile oval is a bit secluded, but that is part of its allure. When you walk into the grandstands that reach over 10 stories high, you get a feel for what it must’ve been like at Roman coliseums or what Rudy’s dad felt when he saw Notre Dame Stadium for the first time: “This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.”

5. Darlington Raceway
Darlington, S.C. • 1.336-mile oval • 2013 date: May 11
“The Track Too Tough to Tame,” introduced in 1950, was NASCAR’s first speedway longer that one mile. Though it looked like one of racing’s grandest tracks, Darlington was on its way out a few years ago. But the addition of lights around the 1.336-mile, egg-shaped oval has kept it relevant. During a time when many tracks can’t give tickets away, Darlington continues to sell. Once a Labor Day tradition, the famed Southern 500 is now Saturday Night’s Main Event in early April. While that smacks in the way of tradition, Darlington’s gritty and abrasive surface — once ground smooth following a repave — refuses to be anything but old school. What sporting facility do you know of whose shape and construction was dictated by the landowner wanting to retain his minnow pond? At least that’s the way the grand old tale is told.

6. Richmond International Raceway
Richmond, Va. • .75-mile oval • April 27, Sept. 7
Following the first race of the 1988 season, the old .542-mile Richmond Fairgrounds was reconfigured into the modern .75-mile short track gem that it is today. An hour or so outside of Washington D.C., it’s a great destination for family, friends, racing and history. Often credited as being the ideal track for stock cars, Richmond is old-school charm with new-school amenities. It also serves as the transfer race into NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff.

7. Charlotte Motor Speedway
Concord, N.C. • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: May 18 (All Star), May 26, Oct. 12
The track that Curtis Turner built with the help of mob money and a .38 Smith, the city that serves as the heart of NASCAR is also the home to NASCAR’s crown jewel speedway. Home to the sport’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, and the All-Star Race, Charlotte is home to some of NASCAR’s most endearing memories. The original 1.5-mile oval is no cookie cutter, though following its 2005 repave, it has lost a bit of its character. Virtually all of the NASCAR teams are located within a stone’s throw of the speedway, so shop tours are must-see attractions if you’re going to a race. Plus, Uptown Charlotte is as nice as Chicago – minus the murder and congestion. Drive 20 minutes outside of town to and you’re instantly transported back to Mayberry.

8. Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y. • 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course • 2013 date: Aug. 11
Fans are hot and cold on road course racing, but what’s not to like about The Glen, located in upstate New York? If you can’t get your old lady to go with you, fear not, Niagara Falls is just around the bend. This track seems to bring out the best in drivers, so there’s usually some scrapping (Boris Said vs. Greg Biffle; Kevin Harvick vs. Juan Pablo Montoya), great insults (Sterling Marlin calling Biffle a “bug-eyed dummy”; Ryan Newman saying Sterling’s hair piece fell down over his eyes), and some wild, late-race action. Last year’s tussle between Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Marcos Ambrose was easily the best finish of the season.

9. Atlanta Motor Speedway
Hampton, Ga. • 1.54-mile quad-oval • 2013 date: Sept. 1
Before Michigan went Mayfield on speed last June (and until the plates come off at Talladega and Daytona), Atlanta was pretty much the fastest ticket on the circuit. Geoff Bodine reeled off a lap of 197.478 mph – and that was in 1997, 16 years and 150 horsepower ago. It’s also played host to a couple of the closest finishes in NASCAR history (Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte in 2000 and, ironically, Kevin Harvick driving what was the Intimidator’s car following his untimely passing in 2001). Although it isn’t Darlington, it honorably holds down the Southern 500’s former date on Labor Day weekend. As this list has proven, the oldest tracks produce the best racing – and Atlanta is no different.

10. Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Speedway, Ind. • 2.5-mile oval • 2013 date: July 28
When the term “hallowed ground” was coined, it likely was done so when describing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2.5-mile oval is most famously known as the home of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500. But in 1992, when fans packed the grandstands to watch a NASCAR/Goodyear tire test, it all but sealed the deal as to what track would soon be on NASCAR’s schedule. As a “bucket list” destination for any sports fan, prime seats are not a challenging get for the Brickyard 400 — and although you can’t see the entire track from any one location, it’s kind of hard to find a bad seat.

11. Texas Motor Speedway
Fort Worth, Texas • 1.5-mile quad-oval • 2013 dates: April 13, Nov. 3
Everything’s bigger in Texas, and this is no exception. Yeah, it’s a 1.5-miler, but the speeds are crazy fast and the banking falls away exiting Turn 2. The racing has matured since it received a second date in 2005, and usually provides some big speed and late race heroics; witness last year’s door slamming battle between Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski. Besides, where else do drivers get a shotgun for winning the pole and a pair of six-shooters for claiming victory in the race?

12. Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif. • 12 turn, 1.99-mile road course • 2013 date: June 23
To many fans, it’s still Sears Point because no one could figure out what an Infineon was. This used to be NASCAR’s best road course until they messed with success and installed “The Chute” rather than utilize the Sports Car carousel course. It has now devolved into a fuel mileage venue, but late-race yellows tend to spring up and foster a fight to the finish. The elevation changes and curb bouncing are a break from the left turn-only rules, and how someone hasn’t plowed into the tire barrier at Turn 3a is beyond me. Plus after the race, go get glazed on a vineyard tour if you’re in attendance. Or if you’re at home, just wait until the 3:00 pm start time while basting in Midwest midsummer humidity.

13. Michigan International Speedway
Brooklyn, Mich. • 2-mile D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: June 16, Sept. 18
The Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Mich., are home to two races a year. About an hour outside of Detroit, this is one of the races that has always been key for the manufacturers to brag about having won — which has to sting a bit with Toyota having won four of the last seven. Michigan used to pack ’em in uncomfortably close, but seating rearrangements have made it comfortable again to see a spectator-friendly 400-miler. MIS has also updated the facilities in recent years and has done a masterful job of resolving the traffic and parking issues that made getting out of the track a perfect excuse to not go at all. The middle stages of a Michigan race can get strung out, however things historically tighten up at the end for a memorable finish. They were hitting 215 mph into Turn 1 here in practice last year before a slower tire was introduced, reducing the pole speed to a pedestrian 203.241 mph. Will the new Gen-6 cars push the envelope back over 210 this year?

14. New Hampshire International Speedway
Loudon, N.H. • 1.058-mile oval • 2013 dates: July 14, Sept. 22
Kyle Petty once said they should fill NHIS up with water and make it a bass pond. Of course, everyone cites Petty as saying that about every track, so who knows at this point. Anyway, many agreed with him after the Magic Mile produced nothing but duds the first 12 years or so on the circuit. Recently, it has provided a number of memorable finishes, and in part dictated the outcome of the 2010 Chase. It produced some of the closest finishes of the CoT era, and is notable for being the track to help draw fans from the Boston market. Say what you will about the recent downturn in attendance – NHIS fans still show up, even packing the stands for the must-see Modified race.

15. Dover International Speedway
Dover, Del. • 1-mile oval • 2013 dates: June 2, Sept. 29
Dover used to be the most brutal race on the schedule. You think the races are bad at 400 laps? They used to be 500 – on asphalt. Now, with its concrete makeover, it’s basically a big Bristol, only faster. Much like in the old days, the races can get a bit strung out during the middle portion, but if somebody loses it in the tight confines, there’s really no place for others to go, making this a treacherous joint.

16. Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz. • 1-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 dates: March 3, Nov. 10
How have times changed in NASCAR? Phoenix is now considered a short track even though it’s one mile in length, yet measured in kilometers. Don’t ask me what the KPH is for the pole speed, because I’m not wired that way. Phoenix now hosts two dates, and by the time drivers get back in November, they’re usually pretty cranky after nine months on the road. Therefore, tempers run high, water bottles are thrown at cars, and sometimes Clint Bowyer will run through the garage to beat up Jeff Gordon after getting turned head-on into the wall.

17. Kansas Speedway
Kansas City, Kan. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: April 21, Oct. 6
Bristol has Thunder Valley, Kansas has Tornado Alley. Hosting its first NASCAR race in 2001, Kansas was a welcome addition to the schedule, particularly for fans located in the Midwest, Great Plains and all points westward. Built during an era where cookie cutter, 1.5-mile tracks were being churned out with the kind of regularity seen only in a maternity ward, it’s not exactly the most unique track on the circuit. With the addition of a casino outside the track, there’s more to do than watch the race, get sunburned and corn. Lots of corn. On the downside it is Kansas, so be prepared for an onslaught of Wizard of Oz puns, costumes and innuendo.

18. Homestead Miami Speedway
Homestead, Fla. • 1.5-mile oval • 2013 date: Nov. 17
Another 1.5-mile speedway built in the late 1990s, Homestead-Miami Speedway became host to the season ending racing, replacing one of Atlanta’s dates on the schedule. Homestead-Miami was first envisioned as essential to the growing Latino market in South Florida and inclusion into another major sports market during NASCAR’s boon years. All three touring series wrap up the year here, so it’s going to be witness to some close racing for both wins and championships. It underwent a facelift in 2003, switching from a flat track format to progressive banking. Suddenly, the racing was interesting and the first Chase for the Championship in 2004 saw one of the most dramatic finishes in the sport’s history for a title go down to the last lap between five drivers. It ranks a bit low here due to it having only one date, being a long trek for many and because it’s place on the calendar falls the week before Thanksgiving. The last time I checked though, you don’t have to shovel sunshine.

19. Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas, Nev. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: March 10
Las Vegas Motor Speedway — or more accurately, its owner, Bruton Smith — has been clamoring for a second date since it received its first in 1998. It’s a major market track, and unlike some venues, there is actually something to do besides going to the racetrack. The only issue is the race probably won’t be the highlight of your trip. But that’s not really a problem, as it is still a great vacation destination; LVMS is also home to the Richard Petty Driving Experience, as well as exotic car rentals. Depending on the day, you can indulge your inner Dean Martin or Mark Martin. And since its Las Vegas and in the desert, your inner Jeremy Mayfield. Or Ron Jeremy. Whatever floats your boat.

20. Pocono Raceway
Pocono, Penn. • 2.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 dates: June 9, Aug. 4
The tricky triangle in the middle of the mountains, Pocono is one of NASCAR’s oldest speedways, technically being a superspeedway, as it is 2.5-miles in length. Pocono is unique in that it’s not an oval, drives like a road course and even the Turn 4 wall has a question mark painted on it. Pocono was patterned to comprise three famous flat American racetracks: Turn 1 after the Turn 1 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway; the Tunnel Turn is an ode to the track in Trenton, N.J.; the final turn a tip of the cap to the Milwaukee Mile. Pocono has been witness to some of the most heart-wrenching and endearing moments in the sport’s history: Bobby Allison’s near-fatal accident in 1988, Davey Allison’s violent tumble in ’92 and Dale Earnhardt’s and Rusty Wallace’s emotional tribute to fallen competitors Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki in ’93. It was also the first race Tim Richmond won after being hospitalized for what later would be revealed to be AIDS. And, of course, who could forget Earnhardt flipping off Jeremy Mayfield after getting his cage rattled on the final lap in 2000?

21. Auto Club Speedway
Fontana, Calif. • 2-mile, D-shaped oval • 2013 date: March 24
The sister track to Michigan, the 2.0-mile oval in Fontana, Calif., has fallen off the map in recent years. An hour outside of Los Angeles, it was once heralded as the most important new track for NASCAR to gain ground in a major market. How far has it fallen? ACS used to have two 500-mile dates, including a Chase race, but now only hosts the fifth race on the schedule – and even that has been reduced to 400 miles. Attendance has been a major issue in recent years, with completely empty grandstands being attributed to fans shopping for souvenirs during the race. Uh, yeah. Okay. However, after dialing it down to a one-and-done locale, Auto Club has been the site to some interesting races, with Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart racing to beat the rain in 2012 and a last-lap, three-way battle between Busch, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in 2011.

22. Kentucky Speedway
Sparta, Ky. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • 2013 date: June 29
Located in Sparta, Ky., Kentucky Speedway is probably best known for having a traffic problem. The inaugural event in 2011 didn’t go so smoothly, with a number of fans missing the first hour of the race while being stuck on the highway — and others actually being turned away completely. With all of the hoopla surrounding it “finally” getting a date, the real question should have been why it needed one at all. Last year’s event was a snoozer, with a margin of victory of 4.399 seconds. There are existing tracks with twice the character that would provide a more competitive show than this 1.5-mile oval.

23. Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Ill. • 1.5-mile tri-oval • Sept. 15
Chicagoland hosted its first Sprint Cup race in 2002. Since then, it has been host to 12 races – eight of which had a margin of victory less than one second. Needing a promotional kick in the fender, NASCAR awarded Chicago the first Chase date in 2011, however that’s been a bumpy ride for the facility. The first year was rained out and run on a Monday. Last season, Brad Keselowski won by over three seconds, with the final 73 laps run under green flag conditions. It seats 75,000 people, which is 25 percent less than what Wrestlemania III pulled in 1986 at the Silverdome. About an hour outside of Chicago proper, you’ll likely not find a track with less character. But if you want to visit a wayward uncle in prison, this is your ticket.


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter: @VitoPugliese

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your favorite and least favorite tracks in the Comment section below.
 

Teaser:
<p> Ranking NASCAR's racetracks.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 19:07
Path: /mlb/top-20-mlb-prospects-world-baseball-classic
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The 2013 World Baseball Classic starts March 2, with round robin pool play getting the party started for the 16-team international tournament won by Japan in both 2006 and ’09. The championship round runs from March 17-19 at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Until then, many of the world’s top players will be going head-to-head from Tokyo to Miami.

Here’s a rundown of the top 20 MLB prospects playing in the WBC this time around.


Top 10 WBC Prime Prospects
These twentysomethings are players who are either working their way up an MLB farm system or making big enough waves internationally that they could make the jump to the bigs sooner rather than later.

Player, Pos., Country
Ht., Wt., Team, Age
2012 Statistics


1. Jose Abreu, 1B, Cuba
6-2, 258, Cienfuegos, 26
Cuban NL: .394, 35 HR, 99 RBI, 1.379 OPS


The Cuban slugger’s combination of plate discipline and power have drawn comparisons to both Miguel Cabrera and Barry Bonds. If his 2011-12 season wasn’t awesome enough, his age 24 year in 2010-11 produced a .453 average, 33 HR and a 1.583 OPS. Abreu has been hyped as the “best offensive weapon on the planet.”

2. Xander Bogaerts, SS, Netherlands
6-3, 185, Boston Red Sox, 20
A-AA: .307, 20 HR, 81 RBI, .896 OPS


The Red Sox top prospect is the most exciting shortstop the farm system has seen since Hanley Ramirez. The X-man leads a loaded Dutch lineup that also includes Andrelton Simmons and Jonathan Schoop as well as veteran Andruw Jones.

3. Jameson Taillon, RHP, Canada
6-6, 225, Pittsburgh Pirates, 21
A-AA: 9–8, 3.55 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 116-142 K-IP


The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, Taillon is one of the Pirates’ co-aces of the future, along with 2011 No. 1 overall pick Gerrit Cole.

4. Masahiro Tanaka, RHP, Japan
6-2, 205, Rakuten, 24
JPPL: 10–4, 1.87 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 169-173 K-IP


Now that Yu Darvish is stateside, Tanaka is the ace of the Land of the Rising Sun. His 2012 season was a down year compared to 2011, when Tanaka went 19–5 with a 1.27 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 241 strikeouts in 226.1 innings.

5. Alfredo Despaigne, OF, Cuba
5-8, 214, Granma, 26
Cuban NL: .326, 36 HR, 105 RBI


Another Cuban power hitter, the diminutive Despaigne homered off Stephen Strasburg in the 2008 Olympics and has twice set the HR record in Cuba — with 32 in 2008-09 and then 36 jacks in 2011-12, breaking the record held by last year’s AL Rookie of the Year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

6. Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Netherlands
6-1, 195, Baltimore Orioles, 21
AA: .245, 14 HR, 56 RBI, .710 OPS


Schoop can scoop anywhere in the infield, providing dynamic defense from short, second or third. That versatility will come in handy for Holland.

7. Andre Rienzo, RHP, Brazil
6-3, 190, Chicago White Sox, 24
A-AA-AAA: 7–3, 2.53 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 113-103.1 K-IP


The ace of Barry Larkin’s Brazilian beisbol club has pitched well since being suspended 50 games for a positive PED test.

8. Jose Berrios, RHP, Puerto Rico
6-0, 187, Minnesota Twins, 18
RK: 3–0, 1.17 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 49-30.2 K-IP


A teenage Puerto Rican prodigy who is mature for his age, Berrios those BBs over the plate.

9. Kenta Maeda, RHP, Japan
6-0, 161, Hiroshima, 24
JPCL: 14–7, 1.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 171-206.1 K-IP


Japan’s other ace, Maeda has a three-quarter delivery and excellent command of the strike zone.

10. Hayato Sakamoto, SS, Japan
6-1, 176, Yomiuri, 24
JPCL: .311, 14 HR, 69 RBI, 16 SB, .815 OPS


Bigger and stronger than Kaz Matsui, Japan’s best shortstop has downplayed his interest in MLB.


Next 10 WBC Prospects
Not quite in their prime, these prospects are either too old, too young or unlikely to defect or post.

11. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Canada
6-7, 260, Philadelphia Phillies, 24

Potential closer of the future pitched 14.2 innings with a 3.68 ERA for the Phils last season.

12. Yulieski Gourriel, 3B, Cuba
6-0, 196, Sancti Spiritus, 28

Son of former National Team star, Lourdes, has been called the “Cuban Derek Jeter” but is unlikely to defect.

13. Frederich Cepeda, OF-DH, Cuba
5-10, 201, Sancti Spiritus, 32

One of the Cuban mainstays, Cepeda hit .500 with three HRs in 6 games and 24 AB in the 2009 WBC.

14. Alexei Bell, OF, Cuba
5-8, 187, Santiago, 29

Another usual suspect on Cuba’s National Team, Bell was the first player to hit 30 HR and 100 RBI in Cuba.

15. Seung-Yeop Lee, 1B, Korea
6-0, 210, Samsung, 36

“The Lion King” has still got it, crushing for .307, 21 HR, 85 RBI and a .966 OPS in Korea last season.

16. Shinnosuke Abe, C, Japan
5-11, 214, Yomiuri, 33

The big-hitting backstop mashed .340, 27 HR, 104 RBI and a .994 OPS in Japan last season.

17. Jen-Ho Tseng, RHP, Chinese Taipei
6-1, 198, Sanmin Senior High School, 18

Wanting to sign with an MLB team as soon as he can, Tseng’s game will be on display at the WBC.

18. Erisbel “Barbaro” Arruebarruena, SS, Cuba
6-0, 198, Cienfuegos, 22

A slick-fielding newbie to Team Cuba, “Barbaro” is a mystery man who could have baseball abuzz soon enough.

19. Tae-Kyun Kim, 1B, Korea
6-0, 220, Chiba Lotte, 30

A big hitter who shined in the 2009 WBC but has slipped of late, jumping from Korea to Japan professionally.

20. Kang Jung-Ho, SS, Korea
6-0, 180, Hyundai, 25

One of Korea’s rising stars for many years, Jung-Ho has come into his own and should shine in the WBC.


WBC Hall of Fame Five
These WBC alums were relative unknowns who have since evolved into high-paid MLB stars.

Yu Darvish, RHP, Japan
6-5, 216, Texas Rangers, 26
MLB: 16–9, 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 221-191.1 K-IP

Served as the lights out closer on Japan’s second straight WBC championship team.

Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cuba
6-4, 205, Cincinnati Reds, 25
MLB: 5–5, 1.51 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 38 SV, 122-71.2 K-IP

An erratic yet charismatic lefty for Cuba was one of the top closer’s in MLB last year.

Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Cuba
5-10, 210, Oakland A’s, 27
MLB: .292, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 16 SB, .861 OPS

A five-tool quick-twitch outfielder who carried the A’s to a longshot playoff berth.

Norichika Aoki, OF, Japan
5-9, 176, Milwaukee Brewers, 31
MLB: .288, 10 HR, 50 RBI, 30 SB

Japan’s best outfielder since Ichiro has not been a star but has been serviceable.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, LHP, Korea
6-2, 255, Los Angeles Dodgers, 25

The rising MLB rookie was a horse for Korea’s gold medal-winning 2008 Olympic team.
 

Teaser:
<p> Top 20 MLB Prospects in World Baseball Classic, including Cuba's Jose Abreu, Netherlands' Xander Bogaerts, Canada's Jameson Taillon, Japan's Masahiro Tanaka, Cuba's Alfredo Despaigne, Netherlands' Jonathan Schoop, Brazil's Andre Rienzo, Puerto Rico's Jose Berrios, Japan's Kenta Maeda, Japan's Hayato Sakamoto, Canada's Phillippe Aumont, Cuba's Yulieski Gourriel and Korea's Seung-Yeop Lee.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 14:23
Path: /college-basketball/daily-march-madness-tracker-virginia-seals-bid
Body:

Now that the calendar has turned to March, fans of bubble teams may be refreshing web sites of their favorite bracketologists.

As college basketball’s regular season and conference tournament season nears a close, Athlon Sports will keep you up to date on the key developments through the week. Each day brings key developments for the NCAA Tournament, so in this space, we’ll update which teams look to be in the field, which might be playing themselves out as well as the key games of the day.

Related: Conference-by-conference Tourney projections and bubble watch

MARCH 1 NCAA TOURNAMENT TRACKER AND BUBBLE WATCH

Virginia seals a bid?
The question for sometime has been what would Virginia need to do to overcome a handful of really bad losses. The Cavaliers’ loss to Old Dominion early in the season would be one of the worst for an NCAA at-large teams and that doesn’t get to a home loss to Delaware, a road loss to George Mason and ACC road losses to Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Well, defeating Duke at home might be the game that clinches the NCAA Tournament for Virginia. The Blue Devils entered Thursday ranked No. 1 in the RPI, but Mike Krzyzewski spent most of the evening in a foul mood. With a 73-68 win over Duke, Virginia has top-30 wins over Duke, NC State, North Carolina and Wisconsin, the latter on the road.

Gonzaga’s case for a No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga already had momentum for a No. 1 seed, but in the last week Duke lost to Virginia, Michigan lost to Penn State, Indiana lost to Minnesota, Florida lost to Tennessee, Miami lost to Wake Forest, and Michigan State lost twice. Gonzaga, though, keeps winning. The Zags defeated BYU 70-65 on Thursday with one game left before the West Coast Conference Tournament. Not a bad week for Gonzaga’s seeding hopes.

Temple survives a scare.
The Owls may have played themselves into the field int the last two weeks with a four-game winning streak, but they had to survive a non-conference scare Thursday night. Khalif Wyatt scored 12 of the last 14 points to defeat Detroit 83-78. Defeating Detroit (RPI No. 61) won’t make-or-break a Tournament bid for Temple, but it’s better to have an extra top-100 win on the resume.

Related: Roundtable debate: Who are the top five point guards?

Deshaun Thomas in a supporting role.
Thomas remains Ohio State’s top scorer, but Thad Matta has to be pleased others besides Thomas have led the way. Only seven times all season a Buckeye other than Thomas has led Ohio State in scoring, and two of those were in back-to-back games. Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored 24 points as Ohio State had to sweat through a 63-53 win over Northwestern. Thomas scored 19. Against Michigan State on Sunday, Aaron Craft led Ohio State in scoring with 21 points.

Big East maneuverings.
News reports from SI.com and ESPN on Thursday afternoon indicated the Catholic Seven could break off from the Big East as soon as next season and could add Butler and Xavier from the Atlantic 10 immediately. Creighton, Dayton and Saint Louis could be realistic targets at a later date if the league expands to 12.

Just for fun, let’s look at what that league would be this season. Here’s a look at the new 12-team league with projected NCAA Tournament seedings from Jerry Palm’s latest bracket.

Team Seed
Georgetown 1
Butler 4
Saint Louis 4
Marquette 5
Creighton 10
Villanova 12
St. John's NIT
Xavier NIT
Providence NIT
Dayton  
Seton Hall  
DePaul  

WEEKEND ON TAP
All times Eastern


SATURDAY
Louisville at Syracuse (noon, CBS)

When these two teams first met on Jan. 19, no one would have projected Georgetown to be the Big East’s most likely team to be a No. 1 seed, but here we are. The Cardinals are still in the mix for a regular season conference title, sitting a game behind the Hoyas. Syracuse is still in the mix, but this likely is a must win before the Orange visit D.C. in the regular season finale.

Alabama at Florida (noon, ESPN)
The Tide simply have too many bad losses (Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, LSU) to be a strong at-large candidate. A win in Gainesville would set up for a more meaningful SEC Tournament for Bama.

Butler at VCU (noon, ESPN2)
VCU is getting close to wrapping up an NCAA Tournament bid. A win over Butler may do it. If the Bulldogs can defeat VCU in Richmond, where the Rams haven't lost in Atlantic 10 play, it could be a further boon to the seeding of a team that has defeated Marquette, North Carolina, Indiana, Gonzaga and Temple.

Tennessee at Georgia (1:30, SEC Network)
Want to be in the Tournament, Tennessee? Take care of business by beating Georgia on the road. The Vols’ last road trip was a quadruple overtime win over Texas A&M.

Iowa State at Oklahoma (1:30 p.m., Big 12 Network)
The Cyclones lost in devastating fashion to Kansas. Iowa State may be in the field, but Fred Hoiberg’s team can erase doubts by winning in Norman.

Wichita State at Creighton (2 p.m., ESPN2)
We’re starting to wonder how many bids the Missouri Valley could get. Wichita State and Creighton once looked like locks, but the Shockers lost to Evansville twice and Southern Illinois. Meanwhile, Creighton has lost four of seven. The winner of the MVC regular season finale may sleep a little easier about its at-large prospects.

Connecticut at Cincinnati (2 pm., Big East Network)
After losing five of the last six, Cincinnati has played itself on the bubble. The Bearcats have to find some way to stop this slide or risk being left out of the field.

Kentucky at Arkansas (4 p.m., CBS)
Athlon put the Wildcats back in the field this week. A game at Fayetteville is a great chance to prove the Wildcats can compete without Nerlens Noel. Florida and Missouri lost at Arkansas, so a Kentucky win would be a statement. Arkansas is on the bubble, but its dismal road record is holding back the Hogs. The Razorbacks need to win this game to set up a key game at Missouri on Tuesday.

Miami at Duke (6 p.m., ESPN)
After Miami lost to Wake Forest, Duke missed an opportunity to make up ground for a regular season ACC title by losing at Virginia on Thursday. Miami clinched at least a share of the regular season title with the Blue Devils’ loss.

Kansas State at Baylor (7 p.m., ESPN2)
Baylor’s big statements that it belongs in the field were a home win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 21 and a road win at Kentucky on Dec. 1. Do the Bears have anything more to show us?

St. John’s at Providence (8 p.m., Big East Network)
The Red Storm are trying to get into the Tournament picture. Providence has been a tough out this season, defeating Villanova twice plus Cincinnati and Notre Dame.

Arizona at UCLA (9 p.m., ESPN)
The Pac-12 title is up for grabs, but Oregon and Cal are also in the mix with the two preseason favorites. Arizona may not be in danger of losing a Tournament bid, but Arizona has something to prove after losing by 11 to USC on Wednesday.

SUNDAY
Villanova at Pittsburgh (noon, Big East Network)

The Wildcats ensured no one would feel sorry for them if they miss the field when they lost to Seton Hall. Villanova can prove it belongs by finishing well against Pitt and Georgetown -- or it can go to the Big East Tournament riding a three-game losing streak.

Michigan State at Michigan (4 p.m., CBS)
Did Michigan play itself out of a No. 1 seed by losing to Penn State on Wednesday? Maybe. Michigan State is still in the mix. Trey Burke’s rebound from a six-turnover effort against the Nittany Lions is another key storyline.

BY THE NUMBERS
NCAA TOURNAMENT PROJECTED AT-LARGE LOCKS (32)
ACC (4): Duke, Miami, NC State, North Carolina
Atlantic 10 (2): Butler, Saint Louis
Big 12 (4): Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Big East (6): Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mountain West (3): Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV
Pac-12 (4): Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
SEC (2): Florida, Missouri
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

ONE-BID LEAGUES (17)
America East, Atlantic Sun, Big Sky, Big South, Big West, Colonial, Horizon, Ivy, MAAC, MAC, MEAC, Northeast, Patriot, Southern, Southland, Summit, SWAC
Note: Conference USA, the Ohio Valley, the Sun Belt and the WAC likely will be one-bid leagues if their proejcted champions win their conference tournaments.

THE BUBBLE: 19 teams


RELATED: Tourney Hopes—A Deep Dive Into The SEC's Current Resume

Teaser:
<p> Daily Bubble Watch and NCAA Tournament Tracker: Virginia seals bid?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 11:04
Path: /college-football/arizona-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Front the first snap to the last, Rich Rodriguez' first season in Tucson was extremely entertaining if nothing else. He took a team that won four games and was primarily a passing offense and turned it into a bowl-winning squad built around his patented zone-read spread option attack. With all 11 starters returning on defense and a Heisman Trophy-contending tailback returning on offense, expectations in the desert should be much higher in season two under RichRod — even without a proven commodity at quarterback.

Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 11

Returning Leaders:

Passing: B.J. Denker, 25-of-37, 259 yds., 3 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Ka'Deem Carey, 303 car., 1,929 yds., 23 TDs
Receiving: Austin Hill, 81 rec., 1,364 yds, 11 TDs
Tackles: Jake Fischer, 119
Sacks: Marquis Flowers, 5.5
Interceptions: Marquis Flowers, 3

Redshirts to watch: DE Kyle Kelley, WR Trey Griffey, DL Dwight Melvin, WR Jarrell Bennett, OL Zach Hemmila, OC Beau Boyster, QB Javelle Allen

JUCO Transfers to Watch: QB Jesse Scroggins (JC), OL Steven Gurrola (JC)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Northern Arizona
Sept. 7 at UNLV
Sept. 14 UTSA
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 at Washington
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at USC
Oct. 19 Utah
Oct. 26 at Colorado
Nov. 2 at Cal
Nov. 9 UCLA
Nov. 16 Washington State
Nov. 23 Oregon
Nov. 30 at Arizona State

Offensive Strength: The running game. The best player on the team may be the best running back in the nation. Ka'Deem Carey returns with Heisman aspirations and three starting offensive lineman to block for him.

Offensive Weakness: Under center. Matt Scott redshirted as a junior and it could not have worked out better in his one season as the starter. He led the Pac-12 in total offense last year, and now, RichRod has to fill a gap that produced 343.8 yards per game.

Defensive Strength: Depth and experience. The linebacking corps is the most talented area of the defense, but the top 15 tacklers, including all 11 starters, are back on defense. Needless to say, this doesn't happen too often in college football.

Defensive Weakness: Overall production. The bodies are there. The experience and depth is there. But the numbers were not. This unit ranked 118th in total defense and 102nd in scoring defense last year. Yes, the Pac-12 has great offenses, but this side of the ball has to be more productive.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. Evaluate your quarterbacks. RichRod's top goal in the spring is to figure out what type of players he has under center. True freshman Anu Solomon isn't getting to campus until summer and USC transfer Jesse Scroggins is dealing with a foot issue that will limit his participation this spring. Leading the offense this spring then falls to senior B.J. Denker, redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and sophomore Louisiana Tech transfer Nick Isham. Isham has the most on-field experience and Denker saw the field last fall for Arizona. Organizing the pecking order at QB will be key for Arizona this spring.

2. Get Ka'Deem Carey focused. Despite multiple incidents in the offseason, Carey is a go for spring ball. His pretrial hearing for misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges stemming from a December incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend has been pushed back to March 20. Carey also was kicked out of a Wildcats basketball game on Jan. 24 following a verbal altercation with a police officer. Carey needs to learn that no one is bigger than the game and even rushing for 2,000 yards doesn't mean he can get away with stupid, inappropriate conduct. The offensive line returns three starters and the running game could be one of the nation's best — if Carey can become a leader instead of a liability.

3. Overcoming injuries. Like many teams this spring, the Wildcats are dealing with numerous injuries and will be without many key performers in practice. Star linebacker Marquis Flowers (shoulder), starting cornerbacks Shaquille Richardson (shoulder) and Jonathan McKnight (shoulder) and nose tackle Dan Pettinato (knee) will be missed on defense. But so will key reserves C.J. Dozier (shoulder) and Kirifi Taula (shoulder). Supporting cast players on offense like wide receivers David Richards (foot) and Trevor Ermisch (hernia) also will be sitting out this spring. This is a great opportunity to get some young talent on the field and develop the depth chart. 

4. Improve fundamentals on defense. Considering all of the shoulder injuries on defense, maybe form tackling will be an area of focus during spring practice? In fact, all fundamentals will need some work on this side of the ball. This team returned just four starters a year ago and faced the best offenses in the nation out West, so excuses can be made to try to explain the horrific defensive statistics from the 2012 campaign. With so much talent returning with a full season or more of experience, there won't be nearly as many excuses this time around. So fine-tuning their overall defensive prowess should be the focus this spring.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Pac-12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Pac-12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Arizona Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:40
Path: /college-basketball/college-basketball-debate-who-nations-top-point-guard
Body:

In a college basketball season marked by uncertainty, determining the nation’s top players at any position is a tall task.

That starts at point guard. At midseason, we picked Trey Burke, Phil Pressey and Michael Carter-Williams as All-America point guards up to then. But we acknowledged we wouldn’t be shocked to see that group change order or welcome newcomers.

The order changed, but not at the top.

Burke separated himself from every other point guard on our panel of eight reporters, bloggers and editors. In addition to being a near-unanimous No. 1, Burke was the only point guard to appear on every ballot.

We asked eight writers and editors from inside the Athlon offices and outside to provide a their top five point guards and an explanation of their top picks.

Here are the results of the voting, awarding five points for each point guard at No. 1, four for No. 2 and so on.

Name Pts. Name Pts.
1. Trey Burke, Michigan 39 7. Aaron Craft, Ohio State 7
2. Michael Carter-Williams, Syracuse 18 8. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State 4
3. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State 16 T-9 Peyton Siva, Louisville 2
4. Phil Pressey, Missouri 13 T-9 Nate Wolters, South Dakota State 2
5. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's 12 11. Myck Kabongo, Texas 1
6. Shane Larkin, Miami 8    

THE PANEL

Dienhart’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Pressey
4. Canaan
5. Siva

Tom Dienhart, BTN.com @BTNTomDienhart
Point guard may be the deepest position in the nation. I have to go with Burke. He showed again on Sunday why he's so good, notching 26 points, eight assists and one turnover in a win over Illinois. Burke is so quick, able to get to the rim off the bounce and also pull up for a jumper. He's deadly in transition and limits turnovers. And, best of all: Burke, who averages 18.6 points and 6.9 assists, makes those around him better as a deft passer.

Eisenberg’s ballot:
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Jeff Eisenberg, The Dagger on Yahoo! Sports @JeffEisenberg
It's a testament to how good Trey Burke has been this season that selecting the nation's best point guard isn't a greater challenge. Although Shane Larkin has thrived in Miami's ball-screen heavy offense and Marcus Smart has transformed Oklahoma State with his versatility and competitiveness, no point guard has made a greater impact than the Michigan sophomore. Burke can win a game so many different ways, from his 39.7 percent outside shooting, to quick first step to the basket, to his ability to create for his teammates. Better yet, his exceptional decision making enables him to use those tools at the appropriate time. Not only is he averaging 18.9 points per game, his assist-to-turnover ratio is best among all point guards nationally.

Ennis’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Craft
3. Dellavedova
4. Pressey
5. Siva

Mark Ennis, Big East Coast Bias @Mengus22
It wasn’t easy ranking point guards because each has his own skill set that fits the role his respective team needs him to play. I put Trey Burke first because he’s been a consistent scoring threat while also getting the rest of the Michigan lineup involved. Aaron Craft is driving Ohio State’s late season surge with his defense and leadership. Matthew Dellavedova and Phil Pressey are the heart and soul of their respective teams, carrying the offenses at times for clubs that will be tough come tournament time. Peyton Siva, like Craft, makes his team better not so much by scoring, but by steadying the team and playing smothering defense.

Fox’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Larkin
3. Smart
4. Carter-Williams
5. Pressey

David Fox, Athlon Sports@DavidFox615
Despite struggling mightily against Penn State earlier this week, Burke is my clear No. 1 point guard with his ability to run Michigan’s offense to near-perfection, never mind scoring the way he does. It took that fluke of a loss to reinforce how great Burke has been. His six turnovers that night were the most since the end of last season and as many as his previous five games combined. For the remainder of my ballot, I gave strong consideration to two point guards who elevated their teams to new heights in Larkin and Smart. And when Pressey and Carter-Williams are on, they rival Burke. But both have played out-of-control at times this season.

Gall’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Carter-Williams
3. Craft
4. Pressey
5. Canaan

Braden Gall, Athlon Sports @bradengall
Aaron Craft is the best defender and the best leader. Micheal Carter-Williams is the most talented and the best future NBA prospect. Phil Pressey is the best pure passer and ball handler. But the best all-around floor leader in the nation is Michigan's Trey Burke. He can score from the outside, in fact, his only weakness is his penchant to take too many threes. He has the size and speed to be a lottery pick and has a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio on the season. Throw in more than three boards per game on what could be the best team of the group and it's hard to argue with Burke as the nation's top point guard.

Light’s ballot:
1. Smart
2. Burke
3. Carter-Williams
4. Pressey
5. Dellavedova

Mitch Light, Athlon Sports @athlonmitch
This was very tough, but I will give the nod to Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State over Trey Burke of Michigan. Smart has made a tremendous impact on the Oklahoma State program as a freshman. Heading into the weekend, the Cowboys are 21–6 overall and 11–4 in the Big 12, one game behind Kansas and Kansas State. Smart’s production has been solid (14.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.4 apg), but his value to the team — and pardon the cliché — cannot be measured by the box score. He is a tremendous leader, even as a freshman, who is willing to do whatever it takes to get his team a win.

Ross’ ballot
1. Burke
2. Dellavedova
3. Carter-Williams
4. Wolters
5. Smart

Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
Not only is Burke the nation's top point guard in my eyes, he's one of the leading contenders for national player of the year honors. Burke does it all, leading the Wolverines (23-5, 10-5 Big Ten) in scoring (18.8 ppg), assists (6.9 apg) and steals (1.4 spg). He leads the Big Ten in assists and is second in scoring, while also leading the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9. He also shoots 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from beyond the arc and nearly 80 percent from the free-throw line. There may be other point guards that score more or are better on defense, but when it comes to the complete package there's none better than Burke.

Rush’s ballot
1. Burke
2. Smart
3. Dellavedova
4. Carter-Williams
5. Kabongo

Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
Burke has established himself as the premier point guard in the college game this season, while Smart is clearly the top pro prospect among lead guards eligible for the 2013 NBA Draft. Burke has been brilliant — averaging 18.8 points, 6.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game while posting FG-FT-3PT shooting percentages approaching the 50-80-40 trinity. Burke's most impressive statistic, however, is his 3.57 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's also led the Wolverines to a 23–5 overall record and undefeated mark in Ann Arbor. Burke is the best.

Jim Young, ACCSports.com@accsports
Why is Miami on top of the ACC? Perhaps it’s because Larkin has emerged as the league’s top point guard. Larkin doesn't overwhelm you with scoring (just 12.7 ppg in league play) but, given the talent around him, he doesn't have to. He passes (4.8 apg), takes care of the ball (2.2 A/TO ratio) and takes it away (1.9 spg). Oh, and he's efficient (112.4 ORtg). Most impressive? When it comes down to crunch time, on a team loaded with seniors, it's clear that Larkin, a sophomore, is the go-to guy.

Teaser:
<p> College basketball debate: Who is the nation's top point guard?</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/tcu-horned-frogs-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

The 2012 season was a year of transition for Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs. Patterson didn't lose a single conference game (23-0) the three years prior to entering the Big 12. In their first season as a "BCS" or power conference team, the Frogs lost five conference games — as many as the previous five seasons combined. But that was to be expected now that Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State were on the schedule instead of Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado State. This team proved it could win on the road with all four Big 12 wins coming away from home, but the grind of a tougher schedule took its toll. That said, TCU acquitted itself well in its first year against the big boys, and with an extremely talented defense returning, the Horned Frogs could be in store for a return to national prominence in 2013.

TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-6 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 5, Defense – 9

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trevone Boykin, 167-of-292, 2,054 yds., 15 TDs, 10 INTs
Rushing: B.J. Catalon, 123 car., 582 yds., 2 TDs
Receiving: Brandon Carter, 36 rec., 590 yds, 6 TDs
Tackles: Joel Hasley, 79
Sacks: Devonte Fields, 10
Interceptions: Jason Verrett, 6

Redshirts to watch: QB Tyler Matthews, OL Chad Childs, WR Ja'Juan Story (transfer)

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 LSU (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 7 Southeastern Louisiana
Sept. 14 at Texas Tech
Sept. 21 Bye Week
Sept. 28 SMU
Oct. 5 at Oklahoma
Oct. 12 Kansas
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 26 Texas
Nov. 2 West Virginia
Nov. 9 at Iowa State
Nov. 16 at Kansas State
Nov. 23 Bye Week
Nov. 30 Baylor

Offensive Strength: Quarterback. The old adage goes "if you have two QBs, you have none." But that might not ring true with TCU. Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin both have proven to be quality options and each brings a different dimension to the offense. The duo give Patterson plenty of options for 2013.

Offensive Weakness: Leadership. Starting quarterback Casey Pachall was the antithesis of leader when he was dismissed from the team early in the year. With star power departing at running back and wide receiver, someone needs to step up and become the leader of the offense.

Defensive Strength: The secondary. Jason Verrett returns as one of the nation's top covermen, as do the other four starters in TCU's unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme. As a whole, this unit returns its top nine defensive backs, including three all-Big 12 performers.

Defensive Weakness: New coaches. This defense has loads of upside and talent returning despite the loss of star defensive end Stansly Maponga. But coordinator Randy Shannon must be replaced on the defensive coaching staff. Former Kansas assistant DeMontie Cross needs to prove his mettle this spring.

Spring Storylines Facing the Horned Frogs:

1. Trevone Boykin vs. Casey Pachall? Casey Pachall had an outstanding sophomore season in 2011 and was on a tear through four games (10 TD, 1 INT) to start 2012. However, substance abuse issues caused Patterson to remove Pachall from the field and locker room for the rest of the season. The good news was redshirt freshman Trevone Boykin stepped in and did an admirable job. However, now that Pachall is back in the fold, Patterson has to decide what to do with his QBs. Each player brings a unique skill set to the offense and the play calling would be dramatically different depending on who is on the field. The earlier this decision can be made, the better.

2. Find a workhorse back. Patterson has long used a stable of backs to power his rushing attack. However, it might be time to find a workhorse back that the offense can count on. Waymon James led the team in rushing in 2011 and returns to the field after missing most of 2012 with an injury. Sophomore-to-be B.J. Catalon led the team in rushing last year but didn't reach paydirt one time nor did he surpass 600 yards on the ground. There's also another option as elite recruit Aaron Green will be eligible after transferring from Nebraska. There's no arguing the success Patterson has enjoyed with his committee approach, but it might be time to turn one guy loose and give him the bulk of the carries. Patterson will use the spring to help sort out the pecking order in the backfield.

3. Replace two All-Big 12 blockers up front. The best named offensive lineman in program history, guard Blaize Foltz, has to be replaced up front. He and center James Fry were All-Big 12 performers and both are no longer on campus. Finding pieces to plug the holes up the gut of the offensive line will be huge this spring. The pivot is the most important position and Foltz was the best blocker on the team. Look for Joey Hunt and John Wooldridge will get the first crack at center and guard respectively.

4. Develop play-makers at linebacker. Devonte Fields is a superstar in the making and will anchor the defensive line as a just a sophomore. The talent and depth in the secondary is well documented. However, without All-Big 12 linebacker Kenny Cain (graduation), the linebacking corps looks to be the area of focus this spring. Joel Hasley is the lone returning tackler with experience, as no other linebacker on the roster had more than 18 tackles a year ago.

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> TCU Horned Frogs 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:15
Path: /college-football/miami-hurricanes-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

One of the youngest teams in the country may be a little closer to growing up.

Miami played 21 freshmen last season, including 10 who started at least one game. That made the Hurricanes one of the youngest teams in the country.  On the field, it showed -- particularly on defense. The ‘Canes endured a three-game losing streak in October and had one of the worst defenses in the league.

Yet Miami finished 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC despite having the prospect of a bowl game and a conference title game yanked away midseason. Al Golden returns with 14 players who started at least seven games, but that does not include a handful of players who contributed greatly -- including budding star Duke Johnson.

Miami Hurricanes 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 7-5 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 9, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Stephen Morris, 245 of 421, 3,345 yds., 21 TDs, 7 INTs
Rushing: Duke Johnson, 139 car., 947 yds., 10 TDs
Receiving: Phillip Dorsett, 58 rec., 842 yds., 4 TDs
Tackles: Shayon Green, 67
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo, 4
Interceptions: James Gaines, 2

Redshirts to Watch: LB Jawand Blue, DL Jacoby Briscoe, WR Jontavious Carter, QB Preston Dewey, DL Dwayne Hoilett, OL Danny Isidora, WR D'Mauri Jones, DL Jake O'Donnell

Early Enrollees to Watch: TE Standish Dobard, OL Hunter Knighton

JUCO Transfers to Watch: LB Devante Bond, DL Ufomba Kamalu, TE Beau Sandland

2013 Schedule

Aug. 30 FAU
Sept. 7 Florida
Sept. 21 Savannah State
Sept. 28 at USF
Oct. 5 Georgia Tech
Oct. 17 at North Carolina
Oct. 26 Wake Forest
Nov. 2 at Florida State
Nov. 9 Virginia Tech
Nov. 16 at Duke
Nov. 23 Virginia
Nov. 29 at Pittsburgh

Offensive Strength: Start with sophomore Duke Johnson, who become Miami’s most explosive offensive threat in several seasons. The running back was ninth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game and averaged 10.7 every time he touched the ball. He finished the season with 14 total touchdowns, including 10 rushing, one receiving, one passing and two on kickoff returns. He’ll be back in 2013 running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. Quarterback Stephen Morris is also back after passing for 3,354 yards, the fifth-highest total in program history.

Offensive Weakness: Johnson will be the Hurricanes' top threat on offense, but Miami’s meager rushing averages are surprising. Miami ranked 81st nationally at 144.9 yards per game and 42nd in yards per carry at 4.7. Mike James, who carried eight more times than Johnson last season, is gone. No other tailback had more than 16 carries. With Eduardo Clements battling injury, Miami may look to newcomers to spell their star running back. Johnson topped out 16 carries in a game last season, but twice in the final three games. Developing depth will be a major question during the spring.

Defensive Strength: Miami graduated one senior starter on each side of the ball. On defense, the Hurricanes will have to hope last season’s youth contributed to producing one of the worst units in the ACC. With a full season under its belt, this group of returning veterans may be improved simply by having more experience. The Miami defense could also be a takeaway-prone group at times last season. Four times last season, Miami forced three or more turnovers as UM averaged two takeaways per game.

Defensive Weakness: The Hurricanes were a mess on defense last season, finishing last in the ACC in both rushing yards and passing yards allowed per game. The run defense may be more pressing, however. Miami mixed and matched its starting lineup all season, but nowhere more than in the linebacker corps. Most of the Canes’ personnel there returns, with the exception of starting linebacker Gionni Paul. Eddie Johnson, another returning starter at outside linebacker, is suspended indefinitely.

Spring Storylines Facing the Hurricanes

1. Miami v. The NCAA. This is an off-field story, but one that could have repercussions throughout college sports. University president Donna Shalala’s fiery response to the NCAA notice of allegations indicated Miami is not going to take many more sanctions without a fight. If more news develops during spring practice, coach Al Golden will continue to be the public face, especially concerning Miami’s postseason eligibility.

2. Miami’s revamped offensive coaching staff. The Hurricanes scored a victory in the assistant coaching carousel when they hired James Coley from Florida State as offensive coordinator to replaced Jedd Fisch, who took the same position with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Coley will call plays at Miami, an opportunity he didn’t have at Florida State with Jimbo Fisher manning those duties. The ‘Canes didn’t do too much shuffling on his staff, moving Hurlie Brown from an administrative role to running backs coach, Brennan Carroll from tight ends coach to wide receivers and hiring Larry Scott from USF to coach tight ends. With the nine returning starters including Duke Johnson and Stephen Morris, there might not be much reason for Coley to change things drastically.

3. Getting the most out of the defensive line. Miami needs help all over the defense, but the Hurricanes have a substantial chance to improve across the defensive front. Tackle Curtis Porter played only the final four games last season. Having him healthy could be a huge asset to Anthony Chickillo and the pass rush. Expectations have been high for Chickillo, but his 2012 production was similar to 2011. Added talent at the tight end position from the junior college ranks enabled Miami to move starting tight end Dyron Dye to defensive end.

4. Adjusting personnel in the back seven. Linebacker and defensive back will see the most changes of any position on the team. Besides losing a full-time starter at linebacker and cornerback, outside linebacker Eddie Johnson, who was fourth on the team with 59 tackles, is suspended indefinitely. Part-time starting cornerback Thomas Finnie also left the team.

5. The arrival of Beau Sandland. Miami was once a home for great tight ends from Jeremy Shockey to Kellen Winslow to Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham. Like many position groups at Miami, tight end took a dip in the last few years. Miami is eager to add a true difference-maker at the position, and the Hurricanes may have one in 6-4, 250-pound junior college transfer Beau Sandland.


Related College Football Content

Ranking the ACC Coaching Jobs for 2013
College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 JUCO Transfers for 2013

ACC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Al Golden's young Hurricanes look to grow up during spring practice</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 10:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, Golf
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day-Feb
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for March 1.

Rory McIlroy withdrew from the Honda Classic today after chopping up the first eight holes (Nike hardest hit). At least Rory has girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki to console him. She's history's 29th-most stylish athlete, according to refinedguy.com's top 100 countdown. Here's the complete list.

• Breaking news: High school recruit 40 times are a sham. Either that, or guys get slower after spending four years in a world-class weight and conditioning program.

• One magazine rack in the DFW airport is censoring the one belonging to Kate Upton.

• You've probably seen adidas' hideous new college basketball uniforms by now. If not, put on your sunglasses and click here.

Coach K is complaining about court-storming following Virginia's upset of Duke and subsequent celebration. I'm inclined to agree. Putting drunk, euphoric college kids in close proximity with large, angry opposing athletes is a recipe for disaster.

An offseason rundown of SEC quarterbacks. With Johnny Football, AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray carrying the torch, the SEC takes a back seat to no one in the QB department. Speaking of the SEC, MrSEC.com opens its recruiting notebook to examine LSU

• Call it hockey-tonk: An interesting read on how Nashville became a hockey town.

• David Feherty is not afraid to look like a jackass. The latest example: He crashed a bike into Paul Azinger's bushes with cameras rolling.

Ryan Swope: Breaking stereotypes, and making the NFL safe for white wideouts.

• I've never linked to a Harlem Shake video before. I guess I should before the thing totally dies. Here's the Miami Heat treating us to their version.

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


Feb. 28

• February's ending, and it's been a good month for fans of comely ladies. Here's a rundown of the month in sports-related babes.

Louisville's Chane Benahan absolutely threw down last night. If he had to take out a guy's jaw with his knee to do it, so be it. Gotta break some eggs to make an omelet.

• Some guys are really worth rooting for. Kansas' Ben McLemore is one.

Stephen Curry had his MSG moment last night, like all the great ones do. He poured in 54 in a losing effort against the Knicks.

Monta Ellis tossed in a ridiculous game-winner, then nonchalantly ran off the court, like Barry Sanders tossing the ball to an official. Badass.

• SEC first-team running backs Eddie Lacy and Mike Gillislee are gone. But that doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of capable rock-toters left. The best returning running backs in the SEC.

Ten compelling storylines coming out of the NFL Combine. One of them is Manti Te'o, about whom one team rep said, "I'm just not sure he's good enough to offset the crap. It's a road I hope we don't go down. I'd rather find a better athlete." Ouch.

Alex Smith's trade to the Chiefs is mother-approved. That's a relief.

• Today's fun countdown: the seven biggest freakouts in sports history. I'm sure we all could think of more.

• Athlon Sports sells great sports collectibles. Athlon does not sell any of these items: the worst sports collectibles of all time.

• While major leaguers soft-toss and soak in the sun, real baseball is being played in small stadiums across the country. In one of them, NC State's Brett Williams made a major league-quality catch.

• The Wizards broadcaster mistook an airball for a game-winner. Comedy ensued, as he continued to celebrate while players walked dejectedly off the court.

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


Feb. 27

• They've announced the cast for the next season of Dancing with the Stars, and as usual, the world of sports is well represented. Here's a slideshow of sports figures who have competed in past seasons, including the lovely Erin Andrews (right).

This jackass coach swept the leg of an opposing pee-wee hockey player, earning a suspension. I hear there's an opening for him at the Cobra Kai dojo.

• Speaking of the jerk from "Karate Kid," here are some of the worst coaches in sports movie history.

Shamarko Thomas ate it on his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He gets an A for effort, though.

• Speaking of Combine 40s, it's become an annual ritual: Rich Eisen runs the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, suit and all.

• There was news yesterday that A-Rod's charity didn't funnel much of its money to its actual mission. Color me shocked. A-Smith is a different story, however. Alex Smith's charity is a model of efficiency.

LeBron threw down another pregame dunk that was as good as anything at the NBA Slam Dunk competition.

Stephen Curry went on an ankle-breaking spree last night, unleashing a couple of filthy cross-overs.

• Blake Griffin did what Blake Griffin does, only this time he did it left-handed.

• More strangeness from Rocky Top: A former Tennessee strength coach apparently broke into the Thompson-Boling Arena offices armed with a saw.

• English teens have a tenuous grip on what the American version of football is all about, although as one commenter says, they probably know more about football than I know about soccer.

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


Feb. 26

• We're living in the Year of Jennifer Lawrence. Just when you think the reigning Best Actress couldn't get any more adorable, she has this precious post-Oscar encounter with the great Jack Nicholson.

• Les Miles and Nick Saban are duking it out over another recruit. Oh, and this one's in the eighth grade. Recruiting is officially out of control. Of course, once you check his highlight reel, you'll wonder why your favorite coach hasn't offered him too.

• Now that NASCAR season is in full swing, here's a rundown of the stupidest NASCAR-related products available for purchase. Not even your redneck brother-in-law with the Dale Jr. bedsheets will want this stuff.

This local anchor didn't do her homework before interviewing Olympic runner Mo Farah. As one of the commenters points out, she probably works for NBC and hasn't seen the tape-delayed results yet.

Dennis Rodman has gone to North Korea on a diplomatic mission. We can all sleep easier tonight.

• My Twitter feed is overflowing with Combine 40 times. Rather than dissect the DB times, I'd prefer to watch this hypnotic GIF of Landry Jones' unusual gait

• The PGA Tour commissioner is opposed to the proposed ban on anchored putters. His announcement only muddied the waters.

• Today's trip down MJ Memory Lane: Jordan scored 58 (a Bulls record that he would break several times) on this date in 1987 against the Nets. Here are the highlights.

• More classic, vintage hoops footage: Bill Russell, in his San Francisco Don days, goes coast to coast and leaps over a hapless defender for a layup. If Russ played today, he might be a wicked slasher.

Tackling a streaker can be risky business.

• Sometimes, kids do things that actually give you hope for the future. Today's video features one of those times.

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


Feb. 25

• Tragedy and triumph marked the weekend at Daytona, but I'll leave the analysis to the professionals. Here's a rundown of NASCAR-affiliated hotties, including Jeff Gordon's better half, Ingrid Vandebosch (pictured).

• Rapper 50 Cent made an awkward, ill-fated attempt to kiss Erin Andrews as the two roamed the Daytona infield. Deadspin slowed it down and put it to music.

• Speaking of Daytona, the day after the disaster, the fans came back.

• Okay, it's official: James Franco must be kept away from open microphones. I think this was an honest mistake, but it sure sounded like an insult.

• So what will scheduling look like in college football's brave new world of realignment and playoffs? Here's your answer.

• The only thing better than fat-guy touchdowns is fat guys running the 40 to the Chariots of Fire theme.

A kid's first ski jump did not go well. He's fine, so it's okay to laugh.

Is Kevin Sumlin getting a little full of himself? I guess when you win 11 games and coach the Heisman winner, you're entitled.

• In case you work and had to go to bed at a decent hour, here's a complete list of last night's Oscar winners.

Ed Reed patrolled the Oscars red carpet like he does the Ravens secondary: like a boss.

Floyd Mayweather celebrated his birthday in the most Floyd Mayweather way possible.

• The buzzer-beating trend has trickled down to third graders. Here's a half-court game-winner. They'll have time to work on their court-storming.

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

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 09:30
Path: /college-football/baylor-bears-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Baylor finished 2012 as one of the hottest teams in college football, winning five out of its last six games, including a 49-26 victory over UCLA in the Holiday Bowl. The Bears are coming off three consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and despite the departure of a few key players, Art Briles’ team should be in the mix for another postseason appearance. The biggest spring question mark will be replacing quarterback Nick Florence, as well as finding more improvement from a defense that finished at the bottom of the Big 12 in yards allowed last year.

Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 8-5 (4-5)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 6

Returning Starters: Offense – 4, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Bryce Petty, 7 of 10, 97 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: Lache Seastrunk, 131 car., 1,012 yards, 7 TDs
Receiving: Tevin Reese, 53 rec., 957 yards, 9 TDs
Tackles: Bryce Hager, 124
Sacks: Chris McAllister, 6
Interceptions: Eddie Lackey, 4

Redshirts to watch: WR Corey Coleman, WR Lynx Hawthorne, S Terrance Singleton, OL Tre’Von Armstead, QB Seth Russell, OL Kyle Fuller, LB Kendall Ehrlich, DL Dominique Banks

Early Enrollees to watch: QB Chris Johnson, WR/DB Kiante’ Griffin, DE/LB Brian Lance, TE Gus Penning

JUCO Transfers to watch: TE Gus Penning, DL Terell Brooks

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Wofford
Sept. 7 Buffalo
Sept. 14 Bye Week
Sept. 21 ULM
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 West Virginia
Oct. 12 at Kansas State
Oct. 19 Iowa State
Oct. 26 at Kansas
Nov. 2 Bye Week
Nov. 9 Oklahoma
Nov. 16 Texas Tech (Arlington)
Nov. 23 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 30 at TCU
Dec. 7 Texas

Related Content: Texas Longhorns 2013 Spring Preview

Offensive Strength: Running back Lache Seastrunk started slow last season but finished with an average of 138.5 yards per game over the final six contests. If he picks up where he left off, Seastrunk will be the Big 12’s No. 1 running back in 2013. He isn’t the only option in the backfield, as Glasco Martin returns after rushing for 15 touchdowns last season. The offensive line returns three starters, including All-American guard Cyril Richardson and honorable mention All-Big 12 tackle Troy Baker.

Offensive Weakness: Quarterback. Despite losing Robert Griffin, the Bears never missed a beat on offense last year. Baylor averaged 340.5 passing yards per game and finished fourth nationally in scoring. Can the Bears keep it going in 2013? Nick Florence departs after a successful year as the starter, pushing junior Bryce Petty into the starting role. Petty has the talent to keep this offense performing at a high level, but he has only 14 career passing attempts.

Defensive Strength: With Bryce Hager and Eddie Lackey returning, Baylor could have one of the Big 12’s top linebacker units in 2013. Hybrid linebacker/safety Ahmad Dixon also returns after recording 102 tackles and two interceptions.

Defensive Weakness: The Bears showed signs of progress on defense late in the year, but this unit still has a long ways to go. The line will be getting a lot of attention from coordinator Phil Bennett this spring, especially with the departure of tackles Gary Mason Jr. and Nick Johnson. Cornerback Chance Casey and safety Mike Hicks will be missed in the secondary.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bears

1. Is Petty ready to lead Baylor’s offense? Transitioning from Robert Griffin to Nick Florence proved to be no big deal for Baylor. Will the same be said for the Bears at the end of 2013? Petty served as Florence’s backup last season, completing 7 of 10 throws for 97 yards and one score. Most of his work came in the season opener against SMU, but Petty did see time in the 49-21 loss to TCU. Breaking in a new quarterback always requires some transition. However, the track record of quarterbacks and offenses under Art Briles suggests the Bears won’t suffer too much in terms of production. If Petty struggles, true freshman Chris Johnson and redshirt freshman Seth Russell will get a chance to play. 

2. Finding help for Tevin Reese. With Terrance Williams and Lanear Sampson exhausting their eligibility, Reese is set to be Baylor’s No. 1 receiver in 2013. That shouldn’t be a problem for the senior, as he averaged 18.1 yards per reception last season and has 149 career catches. Outside of Reese, Baylor has dependable options in Levi Norwood and Antwan Goodley, along with tight end Jordan Najvar. However, the Bears would like to find a few more receivers to add depth and playmaking ability to the passing attack. Help could come in the form of incoming freshman Robbie Rhodes and redshirt freshman Corey Coleman. This isn’t a glaring concern for Baylor, but it’s important to find a few more weapons to take some of the pressure off of Reese.

3. Shuffling on the offensive line. Baylor quietly had one of the Big 12’s top offensive lines last season, allowing just 1.5 sacks per game and paving the way for the offense to average 5.1 yards per rush. This unit has a few holes to fill this spring, as center Ivory Wade and guard Cameron Kaufhold have exhausted their eligibility. Wade was one of the nation’s most underrated centers and made 49 career appearances. The cupboard isn’t bare for Briles, as guard Cyril Richardson is one of the nation’s best, left tackle Spencer Drango started all 13 games as a redshirt freshman last season, and Troy Baker made 13 starts at right tackle. Senior Stephan Huber could replace Wade at center, while Desmine Hilliard or Kelvin Palmer will likely battle to fill the void left behind by Kaufhold at right guard.

4. Taking the next step on defense. The final defensive statistics weren’t pretty. Baylor finished 2012 119th nationally in yards allowed, 110th in scoring and 119th in pass defense. While the final ledger was an eye sore, the Bears showed some progress at the end of 2012. Phil Bennett’s defense held UCLA to 26 points in the Holiday Bowl and forced three interceptions in a win over Kansas State. While it’s not a huge improvement, Baylor showed some life in the final few games. With seven starters returning, the Bears should be able to build on their defensive success in 2013. And playing better on this side of the ball should help relieve some of the pressure off of Petty's shoulders.


Related College Football Content

Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013
Ranking the Big 12 Coaching Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 10 Storylines to Watch in Spring Practice

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Battles to Watch for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

Big 12 Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Baylor Bears 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 09:05
Path: /college-football/texas-am-aggies-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Texas A&M took the SEC by storm last season, finishing with an 11-2 mark with an upset over Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma. The Aggies are an emerging power behind head coach Kevin Sumlin, and this team has to be considered one of the top-five national title contenders for 2013. Quarterback Johnny Manziel returns after winning the Heisman Trophy, allowing the Aggies to rank among the nation’s best on offense once again. While the offense is in good shape, the defense has some major holes to fill and will be the top focus during spring practice.

Texas A&M Aggies 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 11-2 (6-2)

Spring practice dates: March 2-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 6, Defense – 5

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Johnny Manziel, 295 of 434, 3,706 yards, 26 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Johnny Manziel, 201 car., 1,410 yards, 21 TDs
Receiving: Mike Evans, 82 rec., 1,105 yards, 5 TDs
Tackles: Steven Jenkins, 79
Sacks: Steven Jenkins, 2
Interceptions: Deshazor Everett, 2

Redshirts to Watch: LB Jordan Richmond, QB Matt Davis, OL Germain Ifedi, LB Tyrone Taylor, DL Polo Manukainiu, OL Kimo Tipoti

Early Enrollees to Watch: WR Ja’Quay Williams, LB Reggie Chevis, TE Cameron Clear, DE Jordan Points, LB Tommy Sanders, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Brett Wade, CB Alex Sezer Jr.

JUCO Transfers to Watch: TE Cameron Clear, OL Jeremiah Stuckey, LB Tommy Sanders

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Rice
Sept. 7 Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 Alabama
Sept. 21 SMU
Sept. 28 at Arkansas
Oct. 5 Bye Week
Oct. 12 at Ole Miss
Oct. 19 Auburn
Oct. 26 Vanderbilt
Nov. 2 UTEP
Nov. 9 Mississippi State
Nov. 16 Bye Week
Nov. 23 at LSU
Nov. 30 at Missouri

Related Content: SEC West Schedule Analysis for 2013

Offensive Strength: With Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel returning to College Station, the Aggies should have no trouble scoring points in 2013. Manziel led the team with 1,410 rushing yards, while throwing for 3,706 yards and recording 47 overall touchdowns. In addition to Manziel, the Aggies return a deep backfield and No. 1 receiver Mike Evans.

Offensive Weakness: It’s hard to call the offensive line a weakness, but the Aggies lose All-American tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Again, this unit may not be a weakness, but it’s also hard to say it will match last season’s production.

Defensive Strength: Considering the personnel losses on defense, it’s hard to pinpoint one position as a particular strength. While one level of the defense doesn’t stand out, this unit does have some promising young talent, including cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris and end Julien Obioha. A top-10 recruiting class should help improve the depth across the board for Kevin Sumlin's team.

Defensive Weakness: Expect the defense to get plenty of attention from Sumlin and coordinator Mark Snyder this spring. End Damontre Moore left for the NFL, and linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart exhausted their eligibility, so the defense is looking for a few impact performers. With Moore leaving, finding a pass-rusher and someone who can force turnovers is a top priority.

Spring Storylines Facing the Aggies

1. Transition at offensive coordinator. Kliff Kingsbury did an excellent job in developing Johnny Manziel from a first-year starter into a Heisman winner. However, Kingsbury departed Texas A&M for Texas Tech before the Cotton Bowl, which prompted Kevin Sumlin to promote Clarence McKinney from running backs coach to co-offensive coordinator. McKinney will be joined by Jake Spavital to share the offensive coordinator title, but he will call the plays. Considering the layoff between Texas A&M’s regular season finale and the Cotton Bowl, there’s enough time to gameplan and soften the blow from losing a coordinator like Kingsbury. McKinney and Spavital should be a good replacement for Kingsbury, but in-game adjustments during the season will be something to watch. Also, what nuisances will they bring to the table in 2013? Don’t expect a drop-off in Texas A&M’s offense, but this will be interesting to watch as the season unfolds.

2. Developing a rotation at running back. The Aggies lose Christine Michael, but there’s little concern about the rushing attack in 2013. Ben Malena rushed for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last season and should open spring practice as the No. 1 back. Trey Williams had a stellar debut in 2012, averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 22.3 yards per kick return. The backfield will get even deeper this spring with transfers Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) and Tra Carson (Oregon) ready to push for snaps. Considering the depth, this is a good problem for Kevin Sumlin to have. Developing a pecking order after Malena and finding different ways to get multiple backs on the field will be something to keep an eye on this spring.

3. Revamping the offensive line. It’s a little harsh to use the word revamp to describe Texas A&M’s offensive line situation, but the Aggies are losing two standout players in left tackle Luke Joeckel and center Patrick Lewis. Joeckel could be the No. 1 pick in April’s 2013 NFL Draft. While the Aggies will miss Joeckel, getting Jake Matthews to stick around for his senior year was a huge break for the offense. Matthews is expected to flip to left tackle. How will the rest of the lineup shake out? Junior college recruit Jeremiah Stuckey could get in the mix at right tackle, but guard Cedric Ogbuehi will likely slide outside and claim the starting job. Jarvis Harrison should claim one guard spot, while the other could go to Kimo Tipoti or incoming freshman Joas Aguilar. Sophomore Mike Matthews will likely start at center.

4. Improving the defense. Texas A&M’s defense wasn’t dominant last year and allowed 390.2 yards per game, but it held opponents to 21.8 points a contest. This unit loses its three best players from 2012, so there’s some work to be done. In addition to the personnel losses, the Aggies have to get after the quarterback and force more turnovers in 2013. With Damontre Moore leaving, the spotlight will be on sophomore Julien Obioha to play a bigger role on the line, while sophomore Brandon Alexander (returning to action after a redshirt year) and freshmen Daeshon Hall and Tyrone Taylor will also be asked to factor prominently into the pass rush. In addition to the concerns on the defensive line, the linebacking corps will have two new starters, while the secondary has room to grow after finishing 12th in the SEC in pass defense. The Aggies have talent waiting in the wings, but how quickly can that turn into production?


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 10 Storylines for 2013 Spring Practice
College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles for 2013

Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013

Ranking the SEC's College Football Jobs for 2013

SEC Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

SEC East Schedule Analysis for 2013

College Football 2013 Recruiting Rankings: No. 8 Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M Aggies 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 06:45
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-south-carolina-gamecocks
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Steve Spurrier has the Gamecocks achieving at the highest levels in the history of the program. And it began with controlling in-state recruiting battles while also being able to dip into talent-rich border states.

South Carolina Gamecocks

National Rank: 18th
SEC: Eighth
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 2
National Signees: 3
Total Signees: 21

Where They Got 'Em:

Carolina only needs a regional approach to land elite classes each season. Border states North Carolina (4), Georgia (6) and Florida (4) as well as The Palmetto State (4) provided 18 of the 21 signees. In fact, few states have as much talent as those near the Gamecocks' home base and each year Spurrier capitalizes on this geographical advantage. Alabama, Maryland and Pennsylvania — one prospect each — were the only other states to supply talent to the Cocks in this recruiting cycle.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

On offense, Spurrier clearly focused on one area of concern — the offensive line. Five of the eight offensive signings will play along the line including massive (6-4, 335) early enrollee D.J. Park. He will be joined at the tackle position by J.P. Vonashek (6-6, 285), Na'ty Rodgers (6-5, 295) and Alan Knott (6-4, 272) giving this offense plenty of options at left tackle. Bryce King is one of the nation's top-rated centers.

Otherwise, one quarterback and a pair of runners make up the offensive pieces of this class. Connor Mitch (6-3, 220) is one of the most prolific passers in North Carolina prep football history. He threw for 12,078 yards and 153 touchdowns at Wakefield High and has already enrolled in classes. Spurrier has to be excited about the future of his signal caller position. Philadelphia product David Williams (6-1, 200), the third-rated player in this class, rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior en route to a 14-1 record. Williams continues the recent trend of Carolina signing Keystone State prospects.  Jamari Smith (5-10, 183) is a smaller back who also posted huge numbers as a senior (2,178 yards, 24 TDs).

South Carolina didn't sign a single pass catcher of any kind as Spurrier didn't ink a wide receiver or tight end.

The defense got the most attention as 13 of the 21 new faces are headed to that side of the ball. Five new defensive backs, four new linebackers and four defensive linemen give this group tremendous balance. Nose guard Kelsey Griffin is the top-rated player in the class and has a chance to be a special player up the middle for the Gamecocks. Three defensive ends will play alongside Griffin: Devan'te Covington (6-4, 220), Gerald Turner (6-2, 256) and Devin Washington (6-3, 225). 

Larenz Bryant is the second-highest player in the class and he leads the new linebacking corps. He brings tremendous athletic ability — he excelled as a running back in high school as well — and will be able to play all over the field. David Johnson (6-1, 268) brings a massive frame and one has to think he will have his hand in the dirt at some point. Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton with help on the outside and inside respectively. 

In the secondary, Spurrier signed three cornerbacks and two safeties to thoroughly restock the defensive backfield. Ali Groves (5-10, 184), Pharoh Cooper (5-11, 194) and early enrollee Ronnie Martin (5-11, 173) aren't a big trio of covermen but bring speed and depth. Mohamed Camara (6-1, 191) and Jasper Sasser (6-0, 192) bring excellent athleticism to the backend of the defense.

This is a deep and balanced defensive class with key positions on the offensive depth chart (OL and QB) getting much-needed help too. Put it all together and the end result was a top-20 recruiting class for the Cocks.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 0, TE: 0, OL: 5 
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 4, DB: 5, ATH: 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
89. Kelsey Griffin DT No. 17 (DL) Buford, Ga. 6-2 290
96. Larenz Bryant LB No. 11 Charlotte, N.C. 6-0 215
204. David Williams RB No. 23 Philadelphia, Pa. 6-1 200

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Ronnie Martin CB Spartanburg, S.C. 5-11 175 Prep
Connor Mitch QB Raleigh, N.C. 6-3 220 --
D.J. Park OL Dillon, S.C. 6-4 335 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: South Carolina Gamecocks</p>
Post date: Friday, March 1, 2013 - 06:40
Path: /nascar/nascars-gen-6-face-new-challenges-phoenix
Body:

1. Gen-6 downforce track debut
NASCAR's two weeks of warm sunshine in Daytona Beach provided the first on-track action of the much-acclaimed new car in the Sprint Cup Series. It proved to be amicable, handing drivers more input in restrictor plate-style car setup. In the race, it proved to be just a little too dominant as a lead car.

But for all that teams now know about how these cars race with the throttle essentially taped to the floor, none of that matters when the track opens for practice Friday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Fortunate or unfortunate as that may be depending how Daytona went for specific drivers, Phoenix invites a weekend where the Gen-6 platform will reveal quite a bit more about its racing ability and character. The proverbial NASCAR onion is destined to expose several more layers.

"This weekend will be one of the most difficult and challenging ever," said Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Jeff Gordon's No. 24. "Our new Chevy SS has significantly more downforce than last year's car. With the new Gen-6 car, the new rules, a new tire compound and new inspection process, we don't really have anything that we can base this weekend off of."

In the Toyota camp, Martin Truex Jr. predicts a weekend with "a lot of things that come up that we didn't expect" while his teammate is ready to take a swing at NASCAR's qualifying record books thanks to increased downforce from the old car.

“I think when we get in these cars at Phoenix they are going to stick like glue," Mark Martin said. "These new Gen-6 cars are going to break a lot of track records in 2013 and I think that could start as soon as Friday in Phoenix."

Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson, however, thinks the biggest leap for the new piece is still a week away. Viva, Las Vegas, he says.

"I feel when we get to Vegas, we will have a downforce track under our belts," said Johnson, "We'll have a chance to see an amazing race at Vegas — great side-by-racing that everybody will want to see."


2. Can Johnson re-focus after a taxing week?
Johnson may also be looking ahead to Las Vegas because of what a week's worth of responsibilities as winner of the Daytona 500 has done to him. His public relations representative Kristine Curley tweeted Wednesday night that Johnson will have made stops in eight cities for interviews, events, media appearances and more since popping the champagne corks in Daytona's Victory Lane.

"It's going to be hard to re-focus," Johnson said. "There's such a high that comes from winning the 500 — and then the type of racing that starts now is so different than what we just had. It will be a challenge."

Johnson’s first Daytona 500 win in 2006 didn’t hamper his efforts a week later, however. He finished second to Matt Kenseth at Auto Club Speedway. Still, this week Johnson is putting a bit more on the shoulders of crew chief Chad Knaus.

“I know Chad's been buttoned up and the guys have been back at the shop all week, but from my side I've been very detached from my normal routine in preparing for the race,” Johnson said, detailing how he’s missed a debrief with Knaus and the entire Hendrick team. “I'll have to play catch-up as the week goes on and we get in to the weekend.”

It shouldn’t be terribly tough for the five-time champion: Johnson has four wins at Phoenix and also owns the best average running position of any current driver at the track. He’ll also have extra seat time this weekend as he’s racing the Nationwide Series event — the first oval event in that series he’s raced since 2008. 

Teaser:
<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels to Phoenix for the Subway Fresh Fit 500.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 18:20
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/ncaa-tournament-projections-and-bubble-watch
Body:

Selection Sunday is just a few weeks away, and the picture for who’s in and who’s out of the NCAA Tournament is becoming more clear.

In general, most of the 68 spots are fairly certain. Of the 32 conferences, we’ve tabbed 20 as being one-bid leagues, determined solely by conference tournaments. On the other end of the spectrum, at least 30 teams are safely in the field barring a total collapse between now and March 17.

That leaves the bubble, where every win and loss is magnified and every result from November and December takes on a renewed significance.

Here’s our look at the NCAA Tournament field for 2013. This is not intended to be a prediction, per se, but a snapshot at how the field may look right now.

NCAA TOURNAMENT BRACKET PROJECTIONS: FEB. 28

TOP FOUR SEEDS
Indiana
Duke
Gonzaga
Kansas

ACC (5)
In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, NC State, Virginia
Worth a mention: Florida State, Maryland
Bubble notes: There hasn't been a ton of movement in the ACC of late. Virginia remains an interesting case study: The Cavs have a low RPI (65) and some very bad losses (six to teams ranked 120 or lower), but they have three top -25 wins (including one at Wisconsin) and are 6–2 vs. top-100 teams. UVa hosts Duke Thursday night. Maryland has one great win (vs. Duke at home), but only two other top-100 wns. The Terps' "best" win away from home is at Northwestern (RPI 133). Other than a season sweep of Maryland, Florida State is running low on quality ACC wins.

Atlantic 10 (5)
In: Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
Worth a mention: Charlotte, UMass, Xavier
Bubble notes: Temple rebounded from its crushing loss at home to Duquesne (RPI 215) by beating UMass and Charlotte on the road and La Salle at home. That's three top-65 wins to pad the Owls' profile. La Salle has a lofty RPI (35) and wins over Butler (RPI 27) and at VCU (RPI 34). UMass has hurt its chances over the last week with losses at VCU, at home vs. Temple and at St. Bonaventure. Xavier has four top-40 wins — but they are all at home — and five losses to teams ranked 135 or lower. The Musketeers are playing well of late but have too many warts on their resume. Charlotte has played its way out of the picture by losing five of its last six.

Big 12 (5)
In: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Worth a mention: Baylor
Bubble notes: Poor Iowa State. The Cyclones are so close to being an absolute lock. They have two painful losses in overtime to Kansas, a two-point loss at Oklahoma State and a three-point overtime loss at Texas. Iowa State only has two top-50 RPI wins (a low number for a team in a league projected to send at least five teams to the NCAAs), and both came at home. The loss at Texas Tech is troubling. As we've stated before, Baylor has a roster that is could enough to be in the NCAA Tournament, but the Bears' resume is lacking. They are 2–7 vs. top-50 teams and 4–9 vs. top-100 teams. Also, they have losses at home to Northwestern (RPI 133) and College of Charleston (150). Baylor might sneak in with home wins over Kansas State and Kansas in the final two weeks of the regular season. 

Big East (8)
In: Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Worth a mention: St. John’s
Bubble notes: It's tough to keep Villanova, which lost at Seton Hall, in the field this week, but it's also tough to keep out a team that has four top-35 RPI wins. The Wildcats will be in decent shape if they can split their final two regular-season games — at Pitt, vs. Georgetown. Cincinnati is struggling, with four straight losses and six in their last seven games. Only one of the losses, however, is to a team ranked outside the top-40 of the RPI — and that game was Providence, which is playing very well of late. The Bearcats are hanging their hat on three top-50 wins, two away from home, and no bad losses. St. John's has some decent wins (at Cincinnati, vs. Notre Dame, vs. UConn), but the Red Storm's RPI is 61, and they have three losses to sub-100 RPI teams. 

Big Ten (7)
In: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Worth a mention: Iowa
Bubble notes: Iowa was in the midst of mounting a late-season charge to the NCAA Tournament until the Hawkeyes lost at Nebraska 64–60 last weekend. They bounced back to beat Purdue on Wednesday, but this team still has a long way to go. With an RPI of 90, a non-conference strength of schdule of 321 and an overall record of 18–10, Iowa is in a tough spot. Win at Indiana this weekend and then we have something to talk about. Minnesota stopped the bleeding (four losses in five games) with a huge win over Indian on Wednesday. The Gophers' remaining schedule is soft by Big Ten standards — Penn State, at Nebraska and at Purdue. Barring an implosion, the Gophers are in great shape. 

Conference USA (1)
In: Memphis
Worth a mention: Southern Miss
Bubble notes: Southern Miss lost its only hope for an at-large bid by losing at Memphis last weekend. The Golden Eagles, with no top-80 wins, will need to win the C-USA Tournament. 

Missouri Valley (2)
In: Creighton, Wichita State
Worth a mention: Indiana State, Northern Iowa
Bubble notes: Creighton, with an RPI of 44 and three top-50 wins (two away from home), is still in decent shape, but the Bluejays missed a great opportunity with last weekend's loss at Saint Mary's. Indiana State had been flirting with a spot in the Tournament, but the Sycamores’ recent skid (four losses in their last five games) will be tough to overcome. Indiana State lost to RPI No. 212 Missouri State on Feb. 12 and No. 172 Bradley. Northern Iowa was building some late-season momentum (six straight wins), but the Pantheres lost at home to Denver last week in a BracketBusters game. They have no shot an at-large.

Mountain West (5)
In: Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Worth a mention: Air Force
Bubble notes: At first glance, Boise State might not have the most impressive profile, but keep in mind that this team has winning record in the nation's No. 2 RPI conference. The Broncos beat UNLV at home and won at Creighton — though that win isn't quite as impressive now. Air Force, too, has a winning record in the Mountain West, though the Falcons still have to visit San Diego State and play New Mexico State home. Their RPI is 64, 17 spots lower than Boise State's.

Pac-12 (5)
In: Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Worth a mention: Arizona State, Stanford
Bubble notes: Arizona State was one of the final teams out this week. The Sun Devils have lost two straight, vs. Washington and at UCLA to fall to 9–7 in the league and drop their RPI to 88. They have four top-50 wins but two losses vs. teams ranked 175 or lower. They have a great chance to pick up a marquee win in their regular-season finale on March 9 at Arizona. Stanford played its way into the discussion a few weeks ago but has since lost four of five and five of seven. The home loss to USC on Feb. 14 was very damaging. With an RPI of 68 and 13 losses, the Cardinal will now need to win the Pac-12 Tournament. California has been playing very well. The Golden Bears have won five straight and now have four top-50 wins (including two on the road) on their resume. This team is in great shape. 

SEC (3)
In: Florida, Kentucky, Missouri
Worth a mention: Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Bubble notes: The SEC is a mess. The league could end up with two teams — or five teams. Kentucky picked up a huge win at home over Missouri on Saturday night, but we still don't know how good this team can be without Nerlens Noel. The Wildcats only have one top-50 win. That's not good. What is good, however, is that UK has no bad losses. Tennessee, like last year, is making a late charge. The Volunteers' RPI is up to 51, and they now have three wins vs. top-50 teams. All three wins, however, are at home. Their best win away from home is against UMass (RPI 57) on a neutral court. Ole Miss beat Texas A&M at home on Wednesday night to improve to 10–5 in the league, but the Rebels still have work to do. They only have on top-50 win, though that number could be bumped to three if Tennessee (RPI 51) keeps winning. Ole Miss swept the Vols. The Rebs' RPI (currently 56) might not climb too much even if they win out. The schedule features Mississippi State (RPI 238), Alabama (62) and LSU (91). Alabama has a gaudy league record (11–4) but that was padded with a lot games vs. the bottom half of the league. The Tide's RPI is 62, and they have four losses to sub-RPI 100 teams (three at home). Arkansas should be mentioned for its wins over Florida and Missouri in recent weeks, but the Razorbacks still have a low RPI (81) and a dismal road record (1-8).

West Coast (2)
In: Gonzaga, Saint Mary's
Worth a mention: BYU
Bubble notes: Saint Mary’s doesn't have much to excited about on its resume, but the Gaels also don't have many warts. Their RPI is solid (45), but they only have one top-100 win (Creighton). Saint Mary's can't do much to improve its standing the rest of the way (a win over Gonzaga would come in the WCC Championship Game, which would make the SMC an automatic qualifier). 

One-bid conference projections

Conference Projected winner Conference Projected winner
America East Stony Brook MEAC Norfolk State
Atlantic Sun Mercer Northeast Robert Morris
Big Sky Montana Ohio Valley Belmont
Big South Charleston Southern Patriot Bucknell
Big West Long Beach State Southern Davidson
Colonial Northeastern Southland Stephen F. Austin
Horizon Valparaiso Summit North Dakota State
Ivy Harvard Sun Belt Middle Tennessee
MAAC Niagara SWAC Southern
MAC Akron WAC Louisiana Tech

Teaser:
<p> NCAA Tournament Projections and Bubble Watch: Kentucky sneaks in.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:45
Path: /mlb/10-unlikely-al-pitchers-who-could-win-cy-young
Body:

We all know the favorties to win the American League Cy Young award this season: David Price, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver. But who are the longshots that could come out of nowhere. Here's a quick list of 10.

Healed and Ready
Brett Anderson, Oakland
After making 30 starts as a rookie in 2009, Anderson has been plagued by injuries, succumbing to Tommy John surgery in 2011. He was healthy enough last season to make six starts and shut down the Tigers over six innings in a Game 3 win in the ALDS, allowing just two hit and two walks.

Out of the Shadows
Hisashi Iwakuma, Seattle
During his first year in the states, Iwakuma not only had to deal with the usual culture adjustments, but also the severe illness and eventual death of his father in Japan. He began the season in the bullpen and struggled. The 31-year old earned his first big league save in a 21-8 blowout, and his second save in a 12-inning affair. After joining the rotation in July, Iwakuma was 8-4 with a 2.65 ERA as the Mariners won 10 of his 16 starts.

Wade Davis, Kansas City
After two seasons in the Rays’ rotation with mixed results, Davis found a groove as a setup man last season. After June 28, opponents batted just .153. During that stretch he had a 1.82 ERA, 0.923 WHIP and 52 Ks in 34.2 innings.

Matt Moore, Tampa Bay
With stalwart James Shields traded to Kansas City, more burden will fall to Moore, a 23-year-old lefthander. He allowed more than two earned runs just three times in his last 14 starts. He appears ready to turn the corner.

Alex Cobb, Tampa Bay
The Rays are loaded with Cy Young candidates, beginning of course with reigning winner David Price. But Cobb, who has been overshadowed by Price, Shields, Moore and 2011 AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson, had two rough starts last season that raised his ERA from 3.22 to 4.03. Opponents batted just .173 during his five September starts.

Ready for Limelight
Jose Quintana, Chicago
Quintana shouldered a much larger role than expected last season and tired a bit down the stretch. Over his first 15 starts, he had a 2.94 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.

Zach McAllister, Cleveland
Over a six-start stretch in June and July — all against winning teams — he went 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA as opponents hit just .248.

A Rookie Cy?
Dylan Bundy, Baltimore
After two brief appearances in relief last season, it would not be a shock to see the prized prospect in the rotation out of spring training. The first-round pick in 2011 has just a scant more than 100 innings of minor league experience.

Trevor Bauer, Cleveland
The former top pick of the Diamondbacks owns a 13-3 mark at Double-A or higher in the minors. Manager Terry Francona will give Bauer a long look during the spring.

Kyle Gibson, Minnesota
The Twins are in dire need of pitching and their former first-round pick is completely recovered from Tommy John surgery, making 11 starts in the minors last season. If he breaks camp in the starting rotation, the Twins will monitor his innings closely.

RELATED: 10 Unlikely AL Pitchers Who Could Win the Cy Young

Teaser:
<p> We all know the favorties to win the American League Cy Young award this season: David Price, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Jered Weaver. But who are the longshots that could come out of nowhere. Here's a quick list of 10.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-spring-storylines-watch-2013
Body:

The battle to win college football’s 2013 national championship is officially underway. Spring practice kicked off for a handful of teams in February and will begin for most of the remaining FBS teams in March. While it’s often difficult to glean much from spring practice, it’s a time of new beginning for a1l 125 teams. Quarterback battles, coaching staff transitions and breakout players are always a preseason tradition in March and April.

With spring practice underway, it’s time to examine some of the biggest storylines around college football. All 125 teams have question marks or some uncertainty they want to sort out this preseason. For some teams, the depth chart is mostly set, while others are dealing with just a few returning starters.

Alabama is a heavy favorite to win the 2013 national championship, but this spring is the first chance for Oregon and Ohio State to find the right answers to push the Crimson Tide in January. Outside of Oregon and Ohio State, Stanford, Georgia and Texas A&M are top-10 title contenders but need to fill a few key voids.  

College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013

1. Reloading Alabama’s offensive line
Perhaps the only obstacle standing in the way of a third consecutive title for Alabama is an offensive line that loses three All-American performers. Center Barrett Jones was one of college football’s most versatile linemen in his career, while guard Chance Warmack and tackle D.J. Fluker were a big reason why Alabama averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 2012. And as if the personnel losses weren’t enough, line coach Jeff Stoutland left for the NFL, with former FIU coach Mario Cristobal hired as his replacement. While Jones, Warmack and Fluker are huge losses, the Crimson Tide does return two starters. Left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio is a future first-round pick in the NFL Draft, while guard Anthony Steen has 25 career starts. Ryan Kelly will have the first crack at replacing Jones at center, and he earned SEC All-Freshman honors for his performance in a relief role last season. Junior college recruit Leon Brown and early enrollee Brandon Hill, along with last season’s backups in Chad Lindsay, Alphonse Taylor, Arie Kouandjio and Austin Shepherd will likely be fighting to fill the voids at left guard and right tackle. Don’t expect Alabama to have a huge drop in offensive line play. However, it’s also unrealistic this fall to expect this unit to produce at a level similar to 2012.
 

2. Ohio State’s rebuilding project on defense
After a perfect 12-0 mark last season, the Buckeyes have their sights set higher in 2013. The one-year bowl ban is over, and Ohio State is a legitimate national title contender. Quarterback Braxton Miller should take the next step in his development under Urban Meyer, and the offense also has an emerging cast of weapons ready to take the pressure off of Miller’s shoulders. However, the defense should have Meyer and his staff feeling a little nervous. Only four starters are back from last season’s unit, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten in total and scoring defense. While the Buckeyes played better defense in the second half of the season, there are some holes to fill with the departure of end John Simon, tackle Johnathan Hankins, linebacker Zach Boren and cornerback Travis Howard. Talent is never an issue for Ohio State but how quickly will young players like Noah Spence, Doran Grant and Adolphus Washington perform at a high level? If the defense comes together quickly, the Buckeyes could be Alabama’s biggest threat to a national championship.
 

3. Transitioning from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich at Oregon
Chip Kelly’s decision to go to the NFL came as no surprise to the folks in Eugene. And the Ducks were prepared for the transition, as Mark Helfrich makes the move from offensive coordinator to head coach. Promoting from within has worked well for Oregon in the past, but there’s always a transition period whenever a new coach takes over. Helfrich has no head coaching experience and didn’t call the plays under Kelly’s watch. However, he’s familiar with the players and doesn’t plan on making many drastic changes to Oregon’s up-tempo attack. The Ducks don’t have many holes to fill, but Helfrich needs to find a No. 1 back to replace Kenjon Barner, along with rebuilding a front seven on defense that loses Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay. Most expect an easy transition from Kelly to Helfrich. But this spring is the first test and should provide more clues on whether or not Oregon is a national title contender.
 

4. Quarterback battles in the Big 12
Take a look at the early predictions for the 2013 season, and you will see a lot of variety in the projected pecking order for the Big 12. Why the uncertainty? Quarterback play. All 10 teams head into spring practice with some type of quarterback question mark. For TCU, can Casey Pachall regain his confidence and find the form that allowed him to throw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns in 2011? At Oklahoma State, three quarterbacks were forced to start last season. And all three are capable of winning games. Who does Mike Gundy turn to? If the Cowboys settle on a No. 1 quarterback, they could be the pick to win the Big 12. Landry Jones has exhausted his eligibility, which means Blake Bell steps into the full-time role. The junior has shown impressive rushing ability in limited action but is still an unknown as a passer. Kansas State must replace Collin Klein, West Virginia will likely turn to redshirt freshman Ford Childress to replace Geno Smith, and Texas is turning the offense over to David Ash once again. So much uncertainty, so little time for the 10 Big 12 coaches to sort out the quarterback position. 


Related Content: College Football's Top 15 Spring Quarterback Battles
 

5. Encore for Kevin Sumlin and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M?
The Aggies took the SEC by storm last season, winning 11 games – including a road upset against Alabama – and produced Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. What will Texas A&M do for an encore? How about contend for the national title? Reaching college football’s championship game is certainly within reach for Sumlin’s team, but the Aggies do have a handful of question marks facing this team. The defense ranked ninth in the SEC in yards allowed and 12th in pass defense. Improving on those totals will be difficult, especially with the departure of end Damontre Moore, linebackers Sean Porter and Jonathan Stewart and safety Steven Terrell. Manziel will be just as dangerous in 2013, but Texas A&M must replace standout left tackle Luke Joeckel and receiver Ryan Swope. The Aggies host Alabama early in the year, and a victory over the Crimson Tide would put Sumlin and Manziel in control of the SEC West.
 

6. Make or break year for Lane Kiffin at USC?
After opening spring practice in 2012 with national title aspirations, there’s a different feeling hanging over the program in 2013. The Trojans were one of the most disappointing teams in college football last season, and coach Lane Kiffin could be entering a make-or-break season. Unfortunately for Kiffin, there’s a host of question marks surrounding his team this spring. There’s a rebuilt coaching staff, starting with defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, and it’s still uncertain whether or not Kiffin will call plays this year. The Trojans also have a quarterback battle on their hands, with Max Wittek and Max Browne set to square off for the No. 1 job. While seven starters are back on defense, All-Pac-12 cornerback Nickell Robey and safety T.J. McDonald must be replaced. The good news for USC is the 2013 schedule isn't all that daunting. The Trojans miss Oregon in crossover play with the North division, and swing games against Arizona and UCLA will be in the Coliseum. Getting to eight wins likely means Kiffin is back for 2014. Anything less than that mark will likely mean a coaching change is coming to USC.
 

7. How quickly can Todd Grantham rebuild Georgia’s defense?
The race between South Carolina, Georgia and Florida to win the SEC East should be one of the closest battles in college football next season. Each team has question marks, but if they can find answers, all three programs will be in the mix to compete for a national title. Georgia is the early favorite to win the SEC East, but the Bulldogs return only three starters. Coordinator Todd Grantham was courted by the NFL, and his return is key for the Bulldogs’ hopes of a quick reload on defense. Each level of the defense was hit hard by departures, as linemen John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers depart, while the linebacking corps must replace standouts Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and the secondary lost Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams. Talent isn’t an issue in Athens, as sophomores Jordan Jenkins (LB) and Sheldon Dawson (CB) are potential stars. However, Georgia needs to find a tackle capable of occupying blockers at the line of scrimmage, as well as find someone to generate a consistent pass rush.
 

8. Can Stanford find a spark in the passing game and replace Stepfan Taylor at RB?
With 14 returning starters and promising young talent waiting in the wings, Stanford is in position to make a run at an appearance in the national title game. The Cardinal didn’t suffer a ton of personnel losses, but tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz will be missed, while Stepfan Taylor departs after three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. There’s no clear replacement for the tight ends at Stanford, but the picture at running back has a little more clarity. Anthony Wilkerson, Remound Wright and redshirt freshman Barry Sanders will compete for time this spring, while Tyler Gaffney will rejoin the team later this offseason after a one-year absence. Gaffney rushed for 449 yards in 2011 and is a key addition to the backfield. Stanford may not replace Taylor’s production with one player, but there’s enough talent returning that a committee approach would work. In fact, the rushing attack is the least of coach David Shaw's concerns on offense. Quarterback Kevin Hogan garnered honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors last season but lacks weapons at receiver. The Cardinal will be strong in the trenches and on defense once again. However, if the passing game doesn’t find a spark, beating Oregon for the Pac-12 title could be difficult.
 

9. Everett Golson’s development at Notre Dame
Even though the Fighting Irish were handled by Alabama in the national championship, finishing 12-1 and making a BCS bowl were a sign the program is headed in the right direction. Notre Dame loses some key pieces from last season, including linebacker Manti Te’o, tight end Tyler Eifert and running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick. While those losses are significant, returning to 10 wins and a BCS game in 2013 will hinge prominently on the development of quarterback Everett Golson. As a redshirt freshman last season, he threw for 2,405 yards and 12 scores and rushed for 298 yards and six touchdowns. Golson played better in the second half of the season, and Notre Dame needs the sophomore to take the next step in 2013. Golson doesn’t have to be Johnny Manziel, but if he can cut down on the mistakes, he should spark the Fighting Irish’s passing attack and soften the blow from the departure of two key running backs and Eifert.
 

10. Conference realignment
It seems to be an ongoing and evolving animal, but college football’s conference landscape will change once again in 2013. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will move from the Big East to the ACC, while UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU leave Conference USA to join the Big East. The conference realignment shifts didn't impact just the BCS conferences either, as Conference USA expanded to 14 teams, the Mountain West gains Utah State and San Jose State from the WAC, while the Sun Belt added Texas State and Georgia State. Moving conferences doesn’t have much impact on the play on the field, but there’s a lot of new faces in different places in 2013 and spring practice is the first opportunity for these teams to start preparing for life in their respective new leagues.
 

Other key storylines to watch

Clemson
Are the Tigers ready to take the next step? Improving the defense is a priority for coach Dabo Swinney, along with finding a replacement for running back Andre Ellington.
 

Florida
Will the Gators find playmakers at running back and receiver?


Florida State
Will highly touted redshirt freshman Jameis Winston win the quarterback job?
 

Louisville
Running back and offensive line will be the areas of focus for coach Charlie Strong.


Miami
Can the defense find some answers after a miserable 2012 season?


Michigan
Can the Wolverines find some help at receiver and running back for Devin Gardner?
 

Nebraska
Can the Cornhuskers rebuild a defense that allowed 115 points in their final two games?
 

SEC
How will the new coaches at Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee mesh with their rosters this spring?
 

Texas
Is David Ash ready to take the next step at quarterback?
 

Virginia Tech
Can quarterback Logan Thomas get back on track under new coordinator Scot Loeffler?
 

Washington
Will quarterback Keith Price regain his 2011 form?


Related College Football Content

Ranking All 125 College Football Jobs for 2013

College Football's Top 15 Quarterback Battles for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

College Football's Top 5 Running Backs on the Rise for 2013

Teaser:
<p> College Football's Top 10 Spring Storylines to Watch for 2013</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 09:15
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-nebraska-cornhuskers
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Bo Pelini's recruiting at Nebraska has been scrutinized heavily as he has landed just one top-20 class during his time in Lincoln. His 2013 class was the second such top-20 haul for the Big Red. In fact, his good-but-not-elite recruiting rankings match his good-but-not-elite records on the field. With two top-20 classes in the last three seasons, Pelini's recruiting should help push his win-loss record to the next level. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers

National Rank: 17th
Big Ten: Third
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 0
National Signees: 2
Total Signees: 26

Where They Got 'Em:

The Cornhuskers have long had to extend their recruiting base into other regions to land talent. And the 2013 class illustrates this national approach for Pelini and his staff. Nebraska used 13 different states from coast to coast and even Canada to land 26 new players. Texas, which used to be a recruiting stronghold for the Huskers, led all states with four signees. Talent-rich states like Florida (3), California (3) and Ohio (3) trailed just behind Texas. Louisiana (2), Missouri (2) and Indiana (2) were the only other states to send more than one player to Lincoln. 

Nebraska, Illinois, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Maryland, New Jersey and Ontario each shipped one player to Nebraska. In all, Pelini used seven different Big Ten (or future Big Ten) states to land talent.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

This class is all about depth rather than star power. Only two players were ranked nationally and none were ranked in the AC100. But this class has loads of depth and has more than enough big-time prospects to make Big Red fans happy, especially on the defensive side of the ball. 

Six defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs give Pelini 13 new faces on defense. Local product Josh Banderas is a known commodity and will be a perfect fit in his hometown. He is joined by nationally rated Marcus Newby and early enrollee Courtney Love (yes, that is his name). This is a fast and versatile group and should continue the lofty tradition of Nebraska linebackers.

The deepest position in this class is the defensive line. Kevin Maurice (6-3, 270) and Maliek Collins (6-2, 285) aren't monster space eaters but have plenty of room to grow and possess excellent agility for nose tackles. On the outside, four lengthy defensive ends join the squad. Junior college defensive end Randy Gregory (6-6, 230) might be the most ready to play immediately while Ernest Suttles (Fla.) and Dimarya Mixon (Texas) bring big-time prep experience from talent-rich states to Lincoln. 

On the back end of the defense, Pelini has signed four incredibly long defensive backs. All but one of the four are listed at 6-foot-2 and all weigh at least 190 pounds. Nathan Gerry (6-2, 210) brings a huge frame and could grow into a linebacker.

On offense, the line of scrimmage got the primary focus of the coaching staff. Five offensive linemen and two tight ends will restock the always important Nebraska front line. Two junior college blockers, Matt Finnin (6-7, 305) and Chongo Kondolo (6-4, 290), have a chance to contribute right away while Dwayne Johnson, Zach Hannon and early enrollee David Knevel add solid depth.

The top-rated player in the class will be running behind the line of scrimmage, however. Terrell Newby rushed for over 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons and accounted for 105 total touchdowns at West Hills (Calif.) Chaminade. He will be pushed for playing time by a bigger back in Texas product Adam Taylor. This position has been in good hands in Lincoln for decades and that should continue with these two star recruits. 

Wide receivers Tre'Vell Dixon and Kevin Gladney are both listed at 6-1 and 185 pounds. Both played all over the field in high school and could do the same in college. Dual-threat quarterback Johnny Stanton (6-2, 220) is the lone signal caller in this class.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 2, WR: 2, TE: 2, OL: 5
Defense: DL: 6, LB: 3, DB: 4, LS: 1 

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
123. Terrell Newby RB No. 18 West Hills, Calif. 5-10 180
228. Marcus Newby LB No. 29 North Potomac, Md. 6-1 210

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
David Knevel OL Brantford, Ontario 6-9 300 --
Courtney Love LB Youngstown, Ohio 6-1 225 --
D.J. Singleton DB Jersey City, N.J. 6-1 195 --

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Nebraska Cornhuskers</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:26
Path: /college-football/cincinnati-bearcats-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

For the fourth time since 2004, Cincinnati will begin spring practice with a new coach. Mark Dantonio, Brian Kelly and Butch Jones all put an imprint on the program despite three-year stints for each. The most experienced coach Cincinnati has hired during this run, Tommy Tuberville arrives from Texas Tech to a program that has won at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons. He’ll be expected to continue the tradition with the Bearcats, but they’re not without their question marks. The development of the offense will be worth watching as both starting quarterbacks from a year ago return to a unit short on proven skill players.

Cincinnati Bearcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (5-2)

Spring practice dates: March 1-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 6

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Munchie Legaux, 120 of 230, 1,716 yds., 13 TDs, 9 INTs
Rushing: Ralph David Abernathy IV, 69 car., 366 yds., 3 TDs,
Receiving: Anthony McClung, 34 rec., 539 yds., 2 TDs,
Tackles: Greg Blair, 138
Sacks: Nick Temple, 2.5
Interceptions: Arryn Chenault, 3

Redshirts to Watch: DB Drake Bruns, DL Jonathan Burt, WR Nate Cole, QB Bennie Coney, DB Marcus Foster,  LB Joey Jones, LB Ey'Shawn McClain, DL Alex Pace, OL Kyle Williamson

Early Enrollees to Watch: DB Zach Edwards, ATH Javon Harrison, OL Kyle Williams

JUCO Transfers to Watch: DB Darren Dodson, DL Jerrell Jordan

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 Purdue
Sept. 7 at Illinois
Sept. 14 Northwestern State
Sept. 21 at Miami (Ohio)
Big East schedule TBA:
Connecticut
Louisville
SMU
Temple
at Houston
at Memphis
at Rutgers
at USF

Offensive Strength: Cincinnati returns its entire starting offensive line, including All-Big East first-team selection Eric Lefeld at left tackle and second-team selection Austen Bujnoch at left guard. This group of five started all but the first two games last season as Cincinnati had the Big East’s best rushing attack in terms of yards per game (201.5), yards per carry (5.4) and touchdowns (25).

Offensive Weakness: How will the skill positions shake out? The Bearcats lost their bedrock of their offense in running back George Winn plus their top two targets in the passing game in tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. At quarterback, Brendon Kay, who wrestled the starting job from Munchie Legaux late last season, is the incumbent starter, but Legaux remains on the roster.

Defensive Strength: Greg Blair provides a solid foundation at middle linebacker.  The senior led the Big East with 138 tackles and earned first-team all-conference honors. Although the Cincinnati pass rush will be a concern, the tandem of defensive tackles in front of Blair returns. The Bearcats ranked in the top three in the Big East in both rush defense and pass efficiency defense.

Defensive Weakness: The Cincinnati pass rush stalled for a few games after Walter Stewart, who was an All-Big East second-teamer despite playing only half the year, was lost for the season. The Bearcats still finished second in the league in sacks, but they’ll miss Stewart and ends Dan Giordano and Brandon Mills. No returning lineman had more than one sack last season.

Spring Storylines Facing the Bearcats

1. How the new staff impacts the offense. In the last two seasons, Cincinnati’s offense has been anchored by a 200-plus-carry running back as George Winn filled the shoes of Isaiah Pead. Tuberville ran a spread offense at Texas Tech, but he hired Florida State assistant Eddie Gran to run his offense. Gran was a long-time running backs coach for Tuberville at Auburn, suggesting Cincinnati will continue a more balanced approach.

2. A change in the run game. As noted, Winn is gone, but that does’t mean Cincinnati lacks for options in the run game. Keep in mind, no one was familiar with Winn when Isaiah Pead left. Ralph David Abernathy IV is the top returning rusher, but he may be more effective as a change-up rather than an every-down back. Two returnees are in the mix (Deionte Buckley and Tion Green), but the position battle may not be settled until junior college transfers Rodriguez Moore and Hosey Williams arrive in the fall.

3. A full spring for Brendon Kay. After steadying the Cincinnati offense with three consecutive wins to end the season, Kay is the presumptive starter over Legaux.  Although former coach Butch Jones didn’t close the quarterback competition until late in the preseason, Legaux was the odds-on favorite since the end of 2011. How will Kay react to starting spring practice with the quarterback job to lose, especially with a new coaching staff on board?

4. Finding big-play contributors on the defense. Though Cincinnati finished second in the Big East in sacks and interceptions, no individual player stood out in terms of big play production, for better or worse. No one on the roster had more than five sacks or three interceptions. After losing veterans in the front seven and experienced defensive backs Drew Frey and Camerron Cheatham, Cincinnati is also looking for a bit of leadership.

5. Defensive improvement. Besides finding a big-play threat on the defense, new coordinator Art Kaufman will be tasked with leading another defensive facelift. Though Cincinnati’s defensive numbers against the run and the pass weren't awful, Cincinnati still ranked last in the Big East in yards allowed per game (yet fourth in yards allowed per play). Kaufman was in charge of one of the best defensive turnarounds last season at Texas Tech, so there’s reason to believe he’ll be able to hone in on Cincinnati’s defensive strengths while tweaking the areas where the Bearcats need help.

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Teaser:
<p> New coach Tommy Tuberville tries to build on solid foundation as Cincinnati opens spring practice.</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:24
Path: /college-football/memphis-tigers-2013-spring-preview
Body:

While the final record was only 4-8, it was clear Memphis was an improved team in coach Justin Fuente’s first season. The Tigers suffered a disappointing loss to UT-Martin in the season opener but rebounded to win their final three games for 2012. After a disastrous tenure under Larry Porter, Memphis has found the right coach to lead the program into the Big East.

Memphis Tigers 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 4-8 (4-4)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 28-April 9

Returning Starters: Offense – 7, Defense – 8

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Jacob Karam, 176 of 274, 1,895 yds., 14 TDs, 3 INTs
Rushing: Brandon Hayes, 118 car., 576 yds., 6 TDs
Receiving: Keiwone Malone, 44 rec., 476 yds., 3 TDs
Tackles: Charles Harris, 79
Sacks: Martin Ifedi, 7.5
Interceptions: Lonnie Ballentine, 3

Redshirts to Watch: WR Daniel Hurd, OL Markeith Minnick

JUCO Transfers to Watch: OLB Kewan Alfred, LB Ryan Coleman, WR Joe Craig, WR Adrian Henderson, OL Kevin McIntyre, OL Nykiren Wellington

2013 Schedule

Sept. 7 Duke
Sept. 14 at MTSU
Sept. 21 Arkansas State
Nov. 9 Tennessee-Martin

Big East dates TBD

UCF
Cincinnati
SMU
Temple
at Connecticut
at Houston
at Louisville
at South Florida

Offensive Strength: There’s not a glaring strength on offense for Memphis, especially after averaging just 318.3 yards per game last season. Quarterback Jacob Karam was steady in his first year as the starter, and Brandon Hayes finished the year with back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Receiver Keiwone Malone is a solid go-to threat for Karam.

Offensive Weakness: Considering the Tigers ranked near the bottom of Conference USA in points and yards last season, Fuente needs more from this group in 2013. As a whole, Memphis needs more playmakers to emerge this year.

Defensive Strength: Eight starters are back from a unit that showed big improvement last season. The Tigers ranked 117th in yards allowed in 2011 but jumped to 50th last season. The defensive line should be the top unit on defense, led by potential all-conference performers Martin Ifedi, Johnnie Farms and Terry Redden.

Defensive Weakness: There’s room for improvement everywhere, but Memphis has to be better against the pass and force more turnovers in 2013.

Spring Storylines Facing the Tigers

1. Quarterback play? While quarterback Jacob Karam was solid in his first season in Memphis, the Texas native needs to show more progress in 2013. Karam did finish with seven touchdown passes over his final three games but topped 200 yards only twice. Backup Eric Mathews played sparingly last year, throwing five passes in eight appearances. Karam should be better in his second season as the starter, but Mathews and incoming freshman Brayden Scott will have a chance to push for snaps this preseason.

2. Movement on the offensive line. Memphis brings back three starters on the offensive line, but left tackle Jordan Devey (second-team All-Conference USA selection) is a huge loss. How will Devey be replaced? Center Antonio Foster, right tackle Al Bond and guard Chris Schuetz each started at least 11 games last season and will be the foundation for the line in 2013. Bond has the size to flip from the right to the left side, but sophomore Taylor Fallin was listed as Devey’s backup last year. The Tigers are also bringing in two junior college recruits to help on the offensive line, so this unit could be in flux until late in the fall practice session.

3. Are there difference makers on the roster? For the Tigers to take the next step in the win column, the offense needs to find a few more playmakers. Running backs Brandon Hayes and Jai Steib combined for 1,003 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, but Memphis could use more consistency and production from the ground game. In the receiving corps, Marcus Rucker departs after earning honorable mention All-Conference USA honors in 2012. However, the cupboard isn’t bare at receiver, as Keiwone Malone, Kevin Wright and tight end Alan Cross is a solid trio to build around.

4. Taking the next step on defense. With eight starters back on defense, Memphis should be able to build on its 2012 numbers. The Tigers ranked 32nd nationally against the run and averaged 2.3 sacks a game last season. There’s plenty of room for this unit to improve, especially when it comes to pass defense and holding opponents out of the endzone. The Tigers allowed 30.3 points a game last year, which needs to decrease if this team wants to make a run at six victories. Linebacker Akeem Davis and cornerback Robert Steeples are tough losses, but Memphis has enough returning talent on defense to expect more progress in its first year of Big East play.


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Teaser:
<p> Memphis Tigers 2013 Spring Preview</p>
Post date: Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 06:21
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-phoenix-international-raceway
Body:

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season rolls on to Phoenix International Raceway for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports will be offering up our best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing  game is arguably the most popular, we'll break down our picks according to its NASCAR driver classes—A-List, B-List, C-List.

So, without further ado, NASCAR scribe Dustin Long's fantasy predictions for Phoenix, ranked according to each driver's likelihood of taking the checkered flag (or at least finishing toward the front):

A-List Drivers

1. Jimmie Johnson — Has the highest driver rating (115.8) in the last eight years at Phoenix. Also has the best average finish among current drivers at 6.7, scoring 12 top-five finishes in 19 starts

2. Kevin Harvick — Has three top-four finishes in his last four Phoenix starts, including a win last fall.

3. Denny Hamlin — Took second in the fall Phoenix race (46 laps led) and won the spring race last year (61 laps led).

4. Jeff Gordon — In the last three spring races at Phoenix, he’s finished eighth, first and second

5. Brad Keselowski — Finished no worse than seventh in his last five races at tracks 1.1 miles and under last season, including a sixth-place finish at Phoenix.

6. Kasey Kahne — Joined Hamlin and Kyle Busch as only drivers to run every lap of last fall’s race in the top 15, finishing fourth.

7. Tony Stewart — Has never gone more than three consecutive races without a top-10 at Phoenix. Last two finishes there are 19th and 22nd.

8. Matt Kenseth — Last four finishes at Phoenix have been 14th, 13th, 34th and 12th. He’s led 52 laps during that time, leading 49 of those laps in November 2011 race before being eliminated in a crash.

9. Clint Bowyer — Has more finishes of 20th or worse (eight) in his career at Phoenix than he has top-10 finishes (five) there.
 

Teaser:
<p> Dustin Long ranks each driver on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit for this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 17:11
Path: /nfl/10-best-performances-nfl-scouting-combine
Body:

Millions of dollars were made at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where the top prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft ran, jumped, lifted and interviewed in the most important job interview of their lives. These are the 10 biggest money-makers with the best performances at this year’s Combine.



1. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
As expected, “KeKe” was on another level in shorts and a cutoff at the Combine. An “Underwear Olympics” gold medalist, Mingo (6’4”, 241) ran a 4.58 in the 40, skied for a 37” vertical and exploded for a 10’8” broad jump. The long and lean Bayou Bengal is a boom or bust prospect who could become a beast off the edge as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

2. Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma
A high school quarterback turned tight end turned high-rising first-round potential franchise left tackle, L.J. was arguably the most impressive athlete in Indianapolis. The 6’6”, 303-pound dancing bear had 35 1/4” arms and 10 1/8” hands, ran a 4.72 in the 40, had 28 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, a 34” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

3. Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
The Ghana native is a raw athlete who possesses arguably more untapped potential than any other pass-rushing prospect in this year’s class. At 6’5” and 271 pounds, Ansah ran a 4.63 in the 40 and had a 4.26 in the 20-yard shuttle, while also posting a 34.5” vertical and 9’10” broad jump.

4. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
The “Eastern Block” from Estonia is a giant at 6’8” and 277 pounds. But he’s also a freakish athlete who posted a Combine-best 38 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, ran an eye-popping 4.60 in the 40, skied for a 34.5” vertical and 10’1” broad jump.

5. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
The mini-Mountaineer weighed in at just 5’8” and 174 pounds but showed off blistering speed, running a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash — the second-fastest time of the Combine, behind Texas wideout Marquise Goodwin’s 4.27.



6. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Carolina’s Cooper looked better in shorts than did his top guard competition, Alabama’s Chance Warmack. The big fella from Chapel Hill posted a powerful 35 reps of 225 on the bench and ran a 5.07 in the 40-yard dash — nearly a half-second faster than Warmack’s labored 5.49 in the 40.

7. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
In line to become the third Trufant brother to play on Sundays, Desmond helped his draft stock look more like Marcus (No. 11 pick in 2003) than Isaiah (Undrafted in 2006). The youngest Trufant ran a 4.38 in the 40, posted a 37.5” vertical, 10’5” broad jump and a respectable 16 reps of 225 for a 6’0”, 190-pounder cover corner.

8. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
FSU’s latest elite cornerback prospect, the X-man showed elite explosiveness with a 40.5” vertical leap and an unbelievable 11’ broad jump, while also displaying a size-speed combination worthy of a first-round pick — running a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at 6’1” and 210 pounds.

9. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
A height-weight-speed extraordinaire, Patterson stood tall at the Combine, running a 4.42 at 6’2” and 216 pounds. The one-and-done Volunteer and former JUCO star also had a 37” vertical and 10’8” broad jump en route to establishing himself as the top receiver in this year’s draft.

10. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
If the Golden Domer wasn’t already the top tight end prospect in the Class of 2013, he certainly is after putting on a show in Indy — running a 4.68 in the 40, ripping off 22 reps of 225, leaping for a 35.5” vertical and 9’11” broad jump, and slashing his way to a 4.32 in the 20-yard shuttle and 11.52 in the 60-yard shuttle.

 

Teaser:
<p> 10 Best Performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, including LSU's Barkevious Mingo, Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, BYU's Ziggy Ansah, SMU's Margus Hunt, West Virginia's Tavon Austin, North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, Washington's Desmond Trufant, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson and Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:15
Path: /college-football/ranking-college-footballs-coaching-jobs-2013
Body:

We have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money  — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach? After ranking each conference, Athlon turns the page to the overall power rankings. Texas ranks as the best job in college football, with Florida, Alabama, USC and Ohio State rounding out the top five. 

College Football Job Rankings: ACC | Big East | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

(Note: Current or impending NCAA sanctions were not a factor in these rankings.)

Ranking the Coaching Jobs in College Football for 2013

1. Texas

Pros: Texas offers the complete package: Great school in a great town with great tradition. Also, it’s located in a state that treats high school football like a religion.

Cons: Texas has a ton going for it (see above), but the Longhorns are only 22–16 in the last three seasons. The program is not immune to losing. And while Texas is a recruiting power, there are three other AQ conference schools in the state, and virtually every other national power dips into Texas to recruit as well.

Final Verdict: It’s easier said than done — just ask David McWilliams and John Mackovic — but everything is in place to win big on a consistent basis at Texas.

2. Florida

Pros: Location. Location. Location. Florida is a public university in a state that produces a tremendous amount of top-flight talent. Ben Hill Griffin Stadium offers one of the best atmospheres in college football, and the fan base is as rabid as there is in the nation.

Cons: Expectations are sky-high at a school that has won two national championships in the past seven seasons. If you don’t win — and win big — things can turn ugly very quickly. Just ask Ron Zook.

Final Verdict: Florida presents one of the elite coaching opportunities in college football. You have everything at your disposal to compete for national championships on an annual basis. There is no excuse not to be good at Florida.

3. Alabama

Pros: Tradition. With the possible exception of Notre Dame, no school in the country has more tradition than Alabama. The Tide have won 23 SEC championships and (depending on who you ask) 15 national titles. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Coaching football at Alabama is arguably the most stressful job in collegiate athletics. It’s takes a certain kind of coach to deal with that type of scrutiny.

Final Verdict: Alabama is unquestionably one of the premier jobs in the nation. The coach who can deal with the demands of the job — like Nick Saban — will win at a very high level in Tuscaloosa.

4. USC

Pros: The USC coaching staff has the ability to stock its roster with elite talent without ever having to jump on a plane. The program has a rich tradition, but it doesn’t live in the past; the Trojans were dominant in the 2000s, winning seven straight Pac-10 titles (2002-08) and two national championships.

Cons: USC is the top job in L.A., but the city does have another program with tremendous potential. It doesn’t take much of a dip to lose your status as the No. 1 program in your own town.   

Final Verdict: If you’re a West Coast guy, coaching the Trojans is as good as it gets. It’s the best job in the Pac-12 and you are in the most fertile recruiting area in the country.

5. Ohio State

Pros: There are eight FBS schools in Ohio, but there is only one school named The Ohio State University. The Buckeyes have been a consistent force on the field and in recruiting since Woody Hayes took over in the early 1950s.

Cons: Expectations are extremely high in Columbus. Consider the case of John Cooper: In 13 seasons, Cooper went 111–43–4, winning 10 games or more five times. But he went 2–10–1 against Michigan and lost his job after the 2000 season.

Final Verdict: Everything is in place to win a national championship at Ohio State. The facilities are top-notch, the fans are passionate, and the recruiting base is outstanding. Just don’t lose to Michigan.

6. Oklahoma

Pros: Oklahoma has been a dominant force in college football dating back to the late 1930s. The program has consistently been able to dip into Texas and steal more than its share of elite players on an annual basis. The Big 12, with no Nebraska and no conference title game, offers an easier path to a national championship for OU.

Cons: The state does not produce enough talent to stock the Sooners’ roster with the type of players needed to compete for championship. Recruiting at a high level out of state is a must.

Final Verdict: Not every coach has won big at Oklahoma — John Blake went 8–16 in three seasons (1996-98) — but it is clearly one of the marquee jobs in the nation. Winning a national championship is well within your reach.

7. Michigan

Pros: Michigan has as much tradition as any school in the country. The Wolverines have been a national power since the 1890s and they play in one of the largest venues in the country, 109,901-seat Michigan Stadium. The program’s success and the school’s academic reputation have allowed Michigan to be a major player in recruiting both in the Midwest and nationally.

Cons: Michigan is an old-school program that is very set in its ways. A coach who comes in with a new philosophy — for example, Rich Rodriguez — will have a tough time being accepted.

Final Verdict: Michigan is no doubt an elite job, but as we saw in the Rodriguez era — he won a total of 15 games in three years — you have to be the right fit to win big in Ann Arbor.

8. Georgia

Pros: Georgia has tremendous tradition and is located in arguably the finest college town in America — Athens. The Peach State might not produce talent at the same rate as Florida, Texas or California, but metro Atlanta is always strong, and small towns such as Columbus, Valdosta and Warner Robins consistently produce elite talent.

Cons: There are really no negatives to be found at Georgia, other than the fact that you are competing in the very difficult SEC, and you have a fan base that demands you win at a high level.

Final Verdict: Georgia is a great situation, but you clearly have to have the right guy in place to win big. After Vince Dooley won the third of three straight SEC crowns in 1982, the Bulldogs went nearly two decades — and went through two more coaches — before their next league title, won by Mark Richt in 2002.

9. LSU

Pros: It’s become a bit of a cliché, but there really is nothing like being in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night in the fall. That environment is one reason the Tigers are able to recruit so well. The other? The state of Louisiana is arguably the most underrated talent producer in the nation.

Cons: LSU has so much going for it, but why have so many coaches failed to win at a high level in Baton Rouge? From 1971 though 2000, the Tigers only won one outright SEC championship, in 1986 under Bill Arnsparger.

Final Verdict: It’s hard to find a reason why LSU would not be a desirable coaching position. Sure the competition is tough and the fans are demanding, but that comes with the territory. The school has won two national titles in the past 11 seasons.

10. Notre Dame

Pros: Notre Dame has three unique advantages compared to almost every school in the country — a national following, its own television contract and an unparalleled history that includes 11 consensus national titles.

Cons: Brian Kelly has returned Notre Dame to national prominence, but there was a long stretch in which the Fighting Irish struggled to compete at an elite level. From 1998-2011, ND went 99–72 with an unthinkable six non-winning seasons. The school’s relatively high academic standards can make recruiting more challenging. Also, Notre Dame lacks the home-state recruiting territory of other national powers. Indiana is not great state for high school football.

Final Verdict: Notre Dame might not be the same job it was 20 years ago, but this is still a great situation for the right coach. You can win a national title with the Fighting Irish.

11. Florida State

Pros: You can make the argument that Florida State offers all of the positives of Florida without the brutal competition of the SEC East. Would you rather battle Clemson, NC State and Boston College or Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina every year? 

Cons: Florida State has a nice following, but its fans can be on the fickle side. Last season, when the Seminoles had legitimate national title ambitions, Doak Campbell was “only” filled to 92 percent capacity. Not bad, but not quite up to standards of most programs of similar stature. Also, the ACC has been relatively weak in recent seasons; an undefeated ACC champ might not automatically play for a national title.

Final Verdict: Florida State enjoyed an unbelievable run of success from the late 1980s through the early 2000s. But the Noles lost five games or more three times from 2006-10. Winning is no longer automatic.

12. Oregon

Pros: As long as Phil Knight and the University of Oregon remain in good graces, this program will be blessed with tremendous financial resources. The Nike founder and former Oregon track athlete has donated over $100 million to the school’s athletic department. In addition, the Ducks have a tremendous home field advantage at 54,00-seat Autzen Stadium, regarded as the most raucous atmosphere in the Pac-12.

Cons: Right now, it’s difficult to find many good reasons why the head coaching position at Oregon would not be attractive. The school does lack tradition, but the Ducks have averaged nine wins per season since 1994.

Final Verdict: Ten or 15 years ago, Oregon wouldn’t be nearly as high on this list, but Knight’s money, Mike Bellotti’s recruiting and Chip Kelly’s offensive wizardry transformed this program. It is now clearly one of the most-desirable positions in the country.

13. Texas A&M

Pros: Texas A&M’s facilities are among the very best in the nation. Kyle Field is a bit on the old side and is set to undergo a renovation, but as far as the facilities for recruiting — football complex in the south end zone, the indoor practice facility — A&M has very few rivals. The recruiting base is among the best in the country, and the Aggies, the only SEC school in the state of Texas, should be able to battle the University of Texas for the best players in the state. 

Cons: Even with so much going for it, Texas A&M has had trouble sustaining success throughout its history.   

Final Verdict: Texas A&M is a very intriguing position. It has everything you would want in a job — great facilities, strong following, tremendous recruiting base — but the competition in the SEC West is fierce. If you win at A&M, you will have earned it.

14. Penn State (Note: These rankings do not take NCAA sanctions into consideration.)

Pros: Penn State is an enormous state university in an extremely fertile recruiting area. The Nittany Lions play in the second-largest facility in the country (Beaver Stadium, capacity 107,282), and they have won two national championships in the past 30 years

Cons: Penn State recovered nicely in the latter half of the 2000s, but it’s a bit disconcerting that a program with so much going for it was capable of having four losing seasons in a five-year span like Penn State did from 2000-04. Truly elite programs should not suffer through prolonged droughts.

Final Verdict: Penn State is difficult to evaluate at this point. Sanctions are not supposed to affect these rankings, but Penn State is a unique case. This is a great job, but the program will not compete at a high level until the sanctions are over.

15. Nebraska

Pros: Strong tradition. Amazing facilities. Passionate fans. Those three things don’t guarantee success, but they are a nice place to start. The Big Ten Legends Division has some good programs — Michigan, Iowa and Michigan State — but Nebraska should be in position to compete for a division title on an annual basis.

Cons: The Huskers won three national titles in the 1990s, but the program slipped a bit over the past decade. The state of Nebraska does not produce many high-end BCS conference players each year, and the program no longer has the sex-appeal to steal elite players from the East Coast like it did in the 1970s and 80s.

Final Verdict: Nebraska is a unique coaching position. You have everything in place to win big — except a local recruiting base. How big is that hurdle? Significant but not insurmountable. The Huskers are no longer a top-10 job but still very desirable.

16. UCLA

Pros: UCLA shares the same built-in recruiting advantages as its cross-town rival USC. The 2000s were relatively lean, but UCLA won or shared three Pac-10 titles in the 1990s and four in the ‘80s.

Cons: Life can be tough when you are forced to share a city with one of the elite programs in the nation. And while the Rose Bowl is a beautiful place to play, the facility is 30 miles from campus.

Final Verdict: The Pac-12 is a very good league, but USC and Oregon are the only programs that have enjoyed sustained success in the past 15 years. The right coach can have this program in contention for conference titles on a consistent basis.

17.  Auburn

Pros: Auburn and Georgia are the only two schools in the SEC with at least five winning conference seasons in each of the past four decades. Clearly, this program can be a consistent winner in the nation’s most difficult conference.

Cons: Auburn is a state school with a great following, but it will always be No. 2 in Alabama behind the Crimson Tide from Tuscaloosa.

Final Verdict: If your ego can handle being the second most important coach in the state, then Auburn can be a destination job. The school — with its fine tradition, strong facilities and outstanding recruiting base — has proven over time that it can compete on a national level. The Tigers, after all, won the BCS crown in 2010.

18. Tennessee

Pros: Who wouldn’t want to recruit to picturesque Neyland Stadium, with its 100,000-plus orange-clad zealots cheering on the Vols each week? And while Tennessee has struggled in recent years, the program enjoyed tremendous success in the not-too-distant past. From 1989-2001, the Vols went 80–20–1 in the SEC and claimed four league titles. During that span, they were ranked in the final top 10 of the AP poll seven times.

Cons: The Vols must recruit nationally because the state of Tennessee does not produce enough BCS conference players to stock the school’s roster. This is not a concern for UT’s chief SEC rivals Florida, Georgia, LSU, Auburn and Alabama.

Final Verdict: Tennessee is a great place to coach, but the Vols have slipped down the SEC food chain over the past decade. We now have Tennessee seventh on the list in the league.

19. Clemson

Pros: Clemson is an SEC-like school that has the luxury of playing an ACC schedule. The fans are rabid, the stadium is huge (capacity 81,500), and unlike many its ACC brethren, Clemson is a football school.

Cons: Clemson seemingly has so much going for it, yet the program has only won two ACC titles in the past 24 seasons. If you are a coach interested in the job, you’d have ask yourself the following question: Why is this program a chronic underachiever?

Final Analysis: Clemson presents a great opportunity. The program is a major player in the recruiting game, and it has so many built-in advantages compared to almost every school in the league. The Tigers have the ability to compete for the ACC title on an annual basis.

20. South Carolina

Pros: South Carolina is home to arguably the most loyal fans in the nation. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Gamecock fans routinely filled 80,000-seat Williams Brice Stadium even though their team averaged only six wins per season. In addition, the facilities are great, and the recruiting base is strong.

Cons: Steve Spurrier has broken through in recent years, but South Carolina football has historically been one of the nation’s most underachieving programs.

Final Verdict: South Carolina has won 17 SEC games in the past three seasons — by far its best stretch since joining the league — but we’re still not ready to put this program on the same level as SEC royalty like Alabama, LSU, Georgia and Florida.  

21. Virginia Tech

Pros: Virginia Tech has a very strong (and underrated) recruiting base, most notably the Hampton Roads-Tidewater area — better known as the ‘757’ by recruiting gurus. The Hokies also have a passionate fan base that creates a tremendous environment at Lane Stadium.

Cons: The school has only been relevant on the national scene under Frank Beamer’s watch. Can another coach recreate the magic?

Final Verdict: Virginia Tech isn’t quite college football royalty, but it’s not far off. Before last season’s 7–6 hiccup, the Hokies had won at least 10 games in at least eight straight seasons. You can win a national title in Blacksburg.

22. Miami

Pros: With the possible exception of USC and UCLA, no school in the country has a better local recruiting base. And while the Canes have struggled in recent years, the program won a national championship as recently as 2001 and played for a title in ’02.

Cons: Miami has the smallest fan base of the top 25 teams on this list. Last season, the Canes ranked 44th in the nation in attendance, averaging 47,719 per game at Sun Life Stadium. The facility is 20 miles from campus and lacks the big-time college football atmosphere.

Final Verdict: Miami is an intriguing job. The recruiting base is outstanding — which gives you a great opportunity to win — but the position lacks many of the other qualities that make coaching at a big-time school so attractive.

23. Oklahoma State

Pros: T. Boone Pickens is a very wealthy man, and he’s a big fan of Oklahoma State football. As a result, the Cowboys boast some of the best facilities in the nation. And these facilities help the O-State coaches tap into a fertile recruiting ground in nearby Texas.

Cons: Since Oklahoma State joined the Big Eight in 1960, the Cowboys have finished ahead of Oklahoma five times. The school will always be the No. 2 program in the state.

Final Verdict: In a vacuum, Oklahoma State would be a wonderful place to coach, but if you have your sights set on competing for a national title on a regular basis, Stillwater might not be the place for you. There’s a reason the school has only won two conference titles since the mid-1950s.

24. Washington

Pros: This is a proud program with great tradition. The Huskies won a national title in 1991 and claimed at least a share of five Pac-10 titles from 1990-2000. UW is in a great city (Seattle) and has an SEC-like following when things are going well.

Cons: The school has addressed the program’s only significant weakness — facilities — with the $250 million renovation to Husky Stadium. Washington’s in-state recruiting base is solid but lags signficantly behind the four California teams in the Pac-12.

Final Verdict: The past decade has proven that it can be difficult to win at Washington. But this is still a very good job. Is it a great job? Not anymore. But it is still a prestigious program that can attract elite talent. You can win at UW.

25. West Virginia

Pros: West Virginia has an SEC feel to it. There are no pro sports to share the spotlight with in the Mountain State; the Mountaineers are the game in town.

Cons: West Virginia’s recruiting base isn’t as strong as many of its rivals in the Big 12. The state simply doesn’t produce many elite-level prospects.

Final Verdict: History tells us that West Virginia is a very good job. The school has won at least 10 games six times since 1988. But it’s not a job without its challenges. It’s a strange geographic fit in the Big 12, which presents some difficulties on the recruiting trail.

26. Wisconsin

Pros: Wisconsin has been transformed into a football school over the past two decades. Badger faithful pack 80,321-seat Camp Randall Stadium each week and create one the best environments in the nation. Madison also is a great place to live.

Cons: The school’s local recruiting base isn’t strong; the state has not produced a national top-100 player in the past four seasons. Also, the Badgers have only been relevant on the national scene since the early 1990s. Wisconsin lacks the tradition of many of its Big Ten rivals.

Final Verdict: Barry Alvarez turned Wisconsin from a Big Ten afterthought to a significant player in college football. But the Badgers’ place as a top program is far from secure. Wisconsin, more than most of the other schools ranked in the top 25 on this list, needs the right coach in place to remain successful.

27. North Carolina

Pros: The school is an easy sell for a recruiter: It’s is one of the premier public institutions in the nation, and its location, in picturesque Chapel Hill, is ideal. UNC has also made a huge financial commitment to football in the past decade.

Cons: North Carolina is — and always will be — a basketball school. That is something that every football coach must accept. And while the school has enjoyed pockets of success, it’s been difficult to win consistently at UNC. Since Mack Brown bolted for Texas after the 1997 season, the Tar Heels have averaged 3.5 ACC wins.

Final Verdict: North Carolina’s lack of success over the years might surprise even a knowledgeable college football fan. The Tar Heels have not won an ACC Championship since 1980 and have not strung together back-to-back winning ACC seasons since the mid-1990s. Still, this is a desirable position for a coach. It’s a great school that has made a strong commitment to the football program.

28. Arkansas

Pros: Recently renovated Reynolds Razorback Stadium — with its 76,000 seats and 30x107-foot LED video screen — is one of the most underrated venues in the nation. Arkansas is the only BCS program in the state, giving the school an advantage in recruiting homegrown talent.

Cons: The Hogs have found it tough to win consistently since bolting the Southwest Conference for the SEC in the early 1990s. Arkansas is 85-89-2 in the SEC and has only once had back-to-back winning seasons in the league.

Final Verdict: Arkansas is quite similar to several of the non-elite coaching positions in the SEC. It’s a good job, but it’s not a destination job for a coach with national title aspirations.

29. Louisville

Pros: Louisville has solid facilities and is in a good spot geographically to consistently attract top recruits. Kentucky is not a great talent producer, but Louisville can recruit Ohio and Illinois due to its proximity to those states and has always done a good job recruiting Florida. Also, the school “survived” the realignment wars, finding a home in the ACC beginning in 2014.

Cons: The school lacks football tradition and doesn’t have the fan base that most of the other schools have ranked in the top 50 of this list. When the Cards are good, they draw well. But in 2009, in the final season of the Steve Kragthrope era, they ranked 71st in the nation in attendance, averaging 32,540 per game.

Final Verdict: Like many of the schools in the Big East, Louisville is only as good as its coach. Bobby Petrino won big in his four years. Kragthorpe flopped in his three seasons. Charlie Strong has done well in his three seasons. With the right fit, Louisville competes for league titles.

30. Michigan State

Pros: Michigan State seemingly has everything in place to be a major player in the Big Ten — great fan support (averaged 75,382 per game in ’12), good facilities, strong recruiting base and decent tradition.

Cons: Despite all of the positives listed above, Michigan State has only won one Big Ten title — in 2009 — in two decades and has only averaged 6.0 wins in the 47 seasons since claiming a share of the 1966 national championship. Also, there’s the Michigan thing: No matter how much success the Spartans enjoy, they will always be the second school in the state behind Michigan.

Final Verdict: Michigan State has been an underachiever and will never be the No. 1 program in its own state. Still, it’s a good job. If you can change the culture in East Lansing —which Mark Dantonio has apparently done — there is no reason Michigan State can’t contend for Big Ten titles on a semi-regular basis.

31. Pittsburgh

Pros: Pittsburgh is located in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, which gives the Panthers a solid recruiting base. The school also shares its football facility with the Pittsburgh Steelers — which can be a positive (NFL influence) or negative (no on-campus stadium).

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Pitt over the past three decades. The Panthers have only had a winning record in 14 of the 29 seasons since Jackie Sherrill bolted.

Final Verdict: Former coach Dave Wannstedt proved that you can attract talent to play at Pittsburgh. But it’s a school with a ceiling. The Panthers should consistently win seven or eight games per season, but can you win a national title? Not likely.

32. TCU

Pros: TCU is located in the heart of the most fertile recruiting area in the country. The Horned Frogs have vastly improved their facilities over the past five years and now are a member of one of the nation’s top conferences.

Cons: TCU is now back in a power conference, but it’s still a small private school (8,000-plus undergrads) in league comprised mostly of massive state schools. The fan base will never be as large as many of its rivals.

Final Verdict: Perhaps no school other than Boise State has improved its national profile in the past 5-10 years as much as TCU. The school is back in a power conference after bouncing around for 16 years in the mid-major ranks (WAC to C-USA to MWC). This is not an elite job — TCU will always take a back seat to Texas, Texas A&M and even Texas Tech in its own state — but it’s a much better opportunity for a coach than it was 10 years ago.

33. Ole Miss

Pros: Historically, Mississippi produces as many Division I prospects per capita as any state in the nation. There is plenty of competition for these recruits (Mississippi State, Alabama, LSU, etc.), but a good coach will be able to keep the Rebels stocked with solid talent. Support for Rebel football is also very strong; the Rebs averaged 57,066 per game in 2012. Also, Ole Miss’ facilities have improved tremendously in the past five years.

Cons: You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time in which Ole Miss was a major player in the SEC. The Rebels haven’t won a league title since 1963, and they are only team in the West (outside of SEC West newcomer Texas A&M) that has not played in an SEC Championship Game.

Final Verdict: Ole Miss has made the commitment to its football program, but it takes more than a commitment — and more than one top-10 recruiting class — to beat the elite SEC programs on a consistent basis. This job has great potential, but Ole Miss hasn’t “arrived” yet.

34. Iowa

Pros: Three key elements make Iowa an attractive job — it’s the top school in the state (sorry, Iowa State), it has a strong tradition of excellence (five Big Ten titles since 1981, two BCS bowls since ‘03) and it has great fan support (70,474 per game in ’12).

Cons: Iowa might be the top dog in the state, but the hunting grounds aren’t very fertile. To remain competitive, the Hawkeyes’ staff will always have to go into other teams’ home states to recruit.

Final Verdict: It’s difficult for a school that doesn’t have a strong local recruiting base to compete for national title. It can be done — Nebraska won three titles in the 1990s — but that is a very big hurdle to climb.

35. California

Pros: Cal is one of the premier public institutions in the nation located in a great area, giving the Bears a recruiting edge against most of the other schools in the Pac-12. The school is also located in the fertile recruiting area of Northern California. And the facilities, long time an issue at the school, have recently received a major upgrade.

Cons: Bears have had trouble winning consistently; they have two Pac-12 titles (none outright) since 1958.

Final Verdict: Cal is an intriguing job. There is a lot to like, but there are certain drawbacks. You can win in Berkeley, but the culture of the university will likely prevent the football program from ever reaching elite status.

36. Missouri

Pros: Missouri has an underrated recruiting base. There is a solid crop of instate talent every year, and Mizzou does a decent job landing players from Texas and Illinois.

Cons: It’s been tough to win consistently at Missouri. Dating back to the days of the Big Eight, the Tigers have only had seven winning seasons in league play since 1983. The SEC East presents several huge challenges on an annual basis.

Final Verdict: Missouri is a good job — but not a great job. You can average eight wins per season and go to decent bowl games, but the Tigers aren’t much of a threat to contend for SEC titles.

37. BYU

Pros: BYU has been one of the most consistent winners in college football over the past four decades. Since 1973, the Cougars have only had three losing seasons — all in the 2000s under Gary Crowton — and they have a national title (1984) on their resume. The school’s LDS Church affiliation gives it an inside track to land the elite Mormon recruits from all over the country.

Cons: The recruiting pool, while national to some degree, is somewhat limited at BYU; the school has trouble attracting black players. BYU’s decision to bolt the Mountain West and become an Independent was a bit risky.

Final Verdict: BYU is a unique position. For the right coach, it’s a great job. You can win a bunch of games in Provo, but it remains to be seen if the Cougars can become a national player as one of only four FBS independent schools.

38. Boise State

Pros: Boise State has dominated its league like no other school in the nation over the past decade. The Broncos won at least a share of the WAC eight times in the their final 10 years in the league, and they are 13–2 in their first two seasons in the Mountain West. The school has also been able to crash the BCS party two times in the past seven seasons.

Cons: The move from the WAC to the Mountain West is a plus, but the Broncos’ schedule strength — or lack thereof — will continue to be an issue as it fights for respect in the polls.

Final Verdict: With its blue turf and its deep bag of trick plays, Boise State has created a brand for itself on the college football landscape. This is a cozy job for someone not interested in all of the perks that come with coaching at a school with an SEC-type fan base.

39. Arizona State

Pros: The Sun Devils have made a significant investment in their facilities in recent years, with an indoor practice bubble and new weight and locker rooms. And recently, plans were announced to upgrade Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State has won three Pac-12 titles in its 30-plus years in the league (1986, ’96 and ’07). Oh, we can’t forget about the weather.

Cons: While the school has experienced pockets of success (three league titles), the Devils have strung together back-to-back winning Pac-10 seasons only once since John Cooper bolted in 1987.

Final Verdict: Arizona State offers a pretty good situation for a school without a strong local recruiting base. The weather is great and the tradition is good enough. USC, Oregon and UCLA will always the top jobs in the league, but with the right coach in place, ASU can be a consistent force in the Pac-12.

40. Arizona

Pros: Arizona has never been a Pac-10 power, but the school has more than held its own for much of its 32 years in the league. The Wildcats had 11 winning Pac-10 seasons in a 13-year stretch from 1982-94. Good coaches have shown the ability to attract talent to Tucson.

Cons: Since 1994, Arizona has only had a winning Pac-12 record twice — 1998 and 2009.

Final Verdict: Being a good recruiter is obviously important at every school, but it is of paramount importance at Arizona. The school is without many of the built-in advantages (tradition, top facilities, etc.) that exist at some of the Pac-12 programs, so you have to convince players to come to Arizona for reasons other than the weather.

41. Texas Tech

Pros: Texas Tech has proven it can win consistently. Prior to 2010, the Red Raiders had been .500 or better in league play — SWC and Big 12 — 22 times in the previous 25 seasons. The school has recently invested in the program with an $84 million renovation to Jones AT&T Stadium.

Cons: While the program has managed to remain competitive, winning titles has been very difficult in Lubbock. The school has not won an outright conference title since 1955, when it claimed its third straight Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship. Also, recruiting to Lubbock — the outpost of the Big 12 — can be a bit difficult.

Final Verdict: Texas Tech might be the fourth most attractive job in its own state, but it’s still a very good program that has proven it can’t remain relevant in the Big 12.

42. North Carolina State

Pros: The facilities at NC State are among the finest in the ACC. The spectacular Murphy Center, a football-only building, houses coaches’ offices, the weight room and dining area for the players, among other things. The school’s recruiting base, the Carolinas and Virginia, is strong.

Cons: The school doesn’t have a strong record of success. NC State hasn’t won an ACC title since 1979 and has had only seven winning league seasons since 1990.

Final Verdict: This program has underachieved over the past decade. Everything is in place — facilities, fan support, recruiting base — to be a consistent winner in the ACC.

43. Rutgers

Pros: Rutgers’ location affords the coaching staff the opportunity to stock its entire roster with local talent. The facilities have been upgraded in recent years, most notably the $102 million expansion to Rutgers Stadium. Also, being just over 30 miles from New York City — the media capital of the world — can’t hurt.

Cons: The school has almost no tradition; prior to the mid-2000s, the program was irrelevant. And while support for Rutgers football has grown in recent years, pro sports will always be No. 1 in the metropolitan area.

Final Verdict: Long considered the sleeping giant on the East Coast, Rutgers has emerged as a consistent winner in the Big East. Whether or not this is a true destination job is up for debate, but it’s clear that you can win a bunch of games and go to bowl games at Rutgers.

44. Virginia

Pros: Virginia is great school in a great college town, and the state consistently produces a high number of BCS level recruits.

Cons: The school has a surprisingly bad track record in football. George Welsh had a nice run in the 1980s and 90s, but other than that, the Cavaliers have had a tough time fielding a consistently competitive program. UVa has won a total of two championships (both shared) in its 56 years in the ACC. Recruiting can also be tough at Virginia, based on the school’s relatively tough academic standards.

Final Verdict: This school should be able to be consistently competitive in the ACC. Other than its lack of tradition, everything is seemingly in place to elevate the profile of this program.

45. Georgia Tech

Pros: Georgia is annually one of the top talent-producing states in the nation, giving the Yellow Jackets’ staff an opportunity to land quality recruiting classes despite the fact that the University of Georgia is the top Dawg in the state. Tech has also proven over time that it can win consistently in the ACC; the Jackets have been .500 or better in league play in 19 straight seasons.

Cons: Georgia Tech will always be the second most popular program in its own city, which is probably more of a problem for the school’s fans than its players and coaches. The male-to-female ratio (about 2-to-1) at the school can’t help recruiting, either.

Final Verdict: Georgia Tech might not come to mind when you think about some of the top programs in the nation, but this is a solid football school with underrated tradition. It’s been proven that you can win titles — both ACC (2009, 1998, 1990) and national (1990).

46. Maryland

Pros: Maryland has enjoyed pockets of success over the last three decades. Bobby Ross won three straight ACC titles from 1983-85 and Ralph Friedgen went a combined 31–8 from 2001-03, and won eight-plus games in 2008 and 2010. And while it isn’t to the Oregon/Nike level, the school’s close ties with UnderArmour is a positive.

Cons: The impending move to the Big Ten will help the school in many ways, but it might have a negative impact on the football program’s recruiting. Maryland isn’t going to beat out many Big Ten schools for prospects from the Midwest, and the school won’t have the same appeal for many players in the Mid-Atlantic Region and Southeast now that the Terps won’t be playing an ACC schedule.

Final Verdict: Maryland is a lower-tier job in the ACC. And it will be a lower-tier job in the Big Ten. You can win games, but it will be very difficult for any coach to compete for championships in the current landscape.

47. Stanford

Pros: Stanford offers the best combination of elite academics (top 5 in U.S. News & World Report) and big-time college football. The school’s outstanding reputation allows the staff to recruit nationally.

Cons: Until recently, sustained success had been tough to achieve on The Farm. From the late 1970s through the late 2000s, Stanford was unable to string together more than two straight wining seasons. The school’s strict academic standards — even for athletes — shrinks the recruiting pool considerably.

Final Verdict: Stanford is not for everybody, but it is a great job for a coach who embraces the school’s mission. The Cardinal struggled for much of the 2000s, but this is a program that has emerged as a national power in recent years.

48. South Florida

Pros: South Florida has a tremendous local recruiting base and is a member of the conference with the least resistance to a BCS bowl (for now). The Bulls proved they can be a consistent winner in the FBS ranks, averaging 8.4 wins from 2006-10.

Cons: South Florida lacks tradition and does not have an on-campus stadium. The Bulls play their home games 15 miles from campus. And while the recruiting base is strong, South Florida will always have a tough time beating out the Big Three — Florida, Florida State and Miami — for top prospects.

Final Verdict: Many view South Florida as an emerging national power. The school does have a ton of potential, but it is difficult to get overly excited about a program that is the fourth-most relevant program in its own state — even if that state is Florida.

49. Illinois

Pros: Illinois’ local recruiting base — from Chicago down into St. Louis — is among the best in the Big Ten. The facilities (weight room, practice facility, locker rooms, etc.) are strong, and the stadium recently received a $200 million upgrade.

Cons: Basketball is — and will always be — the top sport at Illinois. Football, for whatever reason, has never been much of a threat to break into the upper echelon of the league. Also, the fan support at Illinois isn’t as strong as the top programs in the Big Ten. Last year, the Illini averaged only 45,564 fans per game.

Final Verdict: Despite being the fifth most populous state, Illinois checks in No. 8 in our list of the Big Ten’s most attractive coaching positions. There is a lot to like about the job, but there are also reasons why the school has only won three Big Ten titles (two outright) since the early 1960s.

50. Colorado

Pros: Colorado lacks the tradition of some of the Pac-12 powers, but this program has enjoyed strong pockets of success over the past 25 years. The Buffs won three Big Eight championships in a row from 1989-91 (along with a national title in ’90), and they won four Big 12 North titles in the 2000s. With the right coach in place, this is a school that will attract quality players.

Cons: The facilities at Colorado lag behind most BCS conference schools, and the school’s commitment to athletics has been questioned in recent years. The Buffaloes recently announced a $170 million facility upgrade proposal, which is a step in the right direction. Also, the CU fans can be fickle; Folsom Field (53,750) has rarely been filled to capacity over the past few seasons.

Final Analysis: Three different coaches have won 10 games in a season since 1990, so it’s possible to win big at Colorado. But until the school makes a significant commitment to the program — which it claims to be doing now — CU cannot be considered an elite job.

51. Baylor

Baylor’s recruiting base has always made it an intriguing job. There is more than enough talent in the state to stock a talented roster, even with Texas and Texas A&M grabbing most of the elite players. The school also will open a new, 45,000-seat Stadium on Brazos River in 2014. However, Baylor will always be down low on the food chain among the FBS schools in the state of Texas. As a small, private school, support will always be an issue. Art Briles is proving that Baylor can compete in the Big 12, as he has led the Bears to their best three-year stretch (25 wins) in program history. The new stadium and the university’s commitment to the program should allow Baylor to remain relevant if Briles ever bolts for greener pastures.

52. Kentucky

Kentucky has announced desperately needed facilities upgrades, while the pay scale for new head coach Mark Stoops' staff is significantly higher. So on the surface it appears the school is finally making a commitment to the football program. That said, pigskin will always take a backseat to basketball at UK and unilke other SEC members, the Bluegrass State doesn't boast near the quantity of elite high school prospects. Those two disadvantages alone make winning consistently difficult at Kentucky, especially considering it's in the nation's toughest and most cut-throat conference.

53. Purdue

Purdue is a program that has experienced consistent success in the Big Ten during the BCS era. The Boilermakers went 48–32 in league play during the first 10 years of the Joe Tiller era. Support is solid when the program is winning. This is not easy, however, because the Boilermakers have to compete with two other BCS programs for the top talent within its own borders to begin with. Purdue also doesn't have much margin for error when it comes to sustained success, as evidenced by the difference between the tenure of Tiller and the man who succeeded him, Danny Hope (22-27, 13-19 in Big Ten from 2009-12).

54. Cincinnati

Cincinnati is in a prime location when it comes to recruiting, being in Ohio and relativel close to Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Despite the program's recent success, fan support has remained tepid at best and despite the school's best efforts, the Bearcats appear stuck in the Big East for the forseeable future. Still, this is a place where the right man can win, as four different coaches have won at least seven games twice since 2000.

55. Mississippi State

Mississippi State has shown an ability to field a competitive team on a semi-regular basis in the past two decades. The Bulldogs have had a winning overall record in 11 of the 22 seasons since the first wave of SEC expansion in 1991. Support for Mississippi State football is at an all-time high; the Bulldogs averaged 55,648 (100.99 percent of capacity) at Davis Wade Stadium last season. Starkville, however, isn't necessarily viewed as a prime desination for the top prospects, especially with SEC West foes Alabama, Auburn and LSU, not to mention in-state rival Ole Miss, always lurking nearby. One could argue that this is the toughest job in the SEC West, if not the entire SEC.

56. Minnesota

The Gophers have a relatively new stadium that provided a significant upgrade from the outdated Metrodome. As the only Division I (FBS or FCS) program in the state, Minnesota should land its fare share of in-state recruits. On the other hand, the school's location and climate make it a tough sell for out-of-state prospects. The Gophers also don't have much of an established football tradition and seems to be one of the few Big Ten schools with a clearly defined ceiling when it comes to success. Think five-to-eight wins, and not division or conference championships.

57. Oregon State

Thanks in large part to Mike Riley, Oregon State has shown that it can compete and remain relvelant in the Pac-12 for an extended period of time. That does not change the fact, however, that it's a distant second within its own state, as Oregon holds every advantage, most notably attractiveness to highly rated recruits and facilities. The Beavers simply can't compete on these levels with the Nike-funded Ducks, which also puts them behind the pecking order in the Pac-12.

58. Utah

Prior to its move to the Pac-12, Utah had emerged as one of the few non-BCS conference teams that was able to compete on the national scene. Now, as a member of the Pac-12 South — along with USC and UCLA —  the Utes should enjoy success recruiting in Southern California. Utah still has to compete with BYU for their state's top high school talent, and while the Utes changed their profile with the move to the Pac-12, it's tough to envision this program being a more desirable destination than USC, UCLA and both of the Arizona schools.

59. Syracuse

As recently as the early 2000s, Syracuse was a top-25 program. The Orangemen, as they were called then, won nine games or more eight times in a 15-year span from 1987-2001. Since that span, however, the program has gone the other direction, managing just two winning seasons in the past 11. Support has dwindled as well, and even though Syracuse will be moving into the ACC this fall, a new conference home doesn't "fix" the Orange's other primary disadvantages — location and its home recruiting base.

60. Kansas State

Kansas State has averaged 8.5 wins over the past 20 years and been ranked in the final AP poll 12 times over that span. Support for K-State football is very strong, especially when the team is winning. The only problem is that one man — Bill Snyder — has been able to win at Kansas State. Over two different tenures, Snyder has been able to overcome a bunch of hurdles  — poor recruiting base, remote location, lack of tradition prior to the 1990s — to win at a high level on a consistent basis. Can another coach succeed in Manhattan? We’ll find out soon enough. Snyder turns 74 this fall.

61. Kansas

While it’s difficult to win at Kansas, it can be done. The school has invested in facilities over the past decade. If only the fan base could get a little more behind the football team, as the crowd and atmosphere at Phog Allen Fieldhouse doesn't carry over to Memorial Stadium. That's the downside of being at a basketball school and i doesn't help that the Jayhawks usually come up second to in-state rival Kansas State when it comes to local high-level recruits. These are the main reasons why no coach since the 1950s has enjoyed sustained success in Lawrence.

62. Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt is an elite academic institution located in a great city. The school is spending more money than ever on athletics, from salaries for the coaching staff to the new indoor practice facility. Even though Vanderiblt is in the SEC, the pressure to win isn't near as great as elsewhere in the conference. Because of its academic reputation and the fact it is a private school, the Commodores will remain low on the totem pole in the SEC in terms of fan base and overall support. The good news is that James Franklin is proving that a recruit can have the best of both worlds — get a Vanderbilt education and win games in the nation’s best conference. Still, this is a very difficult job, maybe the toughest of any school in an AQ conference.

63. Northwestern

As the only private school in the Big Ten, Northwestern can be an attractive option for a top-flight recruit from the Midwest who is looking for an elite academic institution. The university has recently approved a $225-250 million facilities overhaul for all of the athletic programs. Football will no doubt be a huge beneficiary. However, no matter how much money is pumped into the program, Northwestern will always struggle to keep up with the elite programs in the Big Ten, from a recruiting and facilities standpoint. You can win at Northwestern, but it will always be a challenge.

64. Iowa State

Cyclone fans sure love Iowa State football. Last season, the school averaged 55,274 fans per game (100.5 percent of capacity) at Jack Trice Stadium. Not bad for a school that has had one winning season since 2005. It still trails in-state rival Iowa when it comes to attracting the Hawkeye State's top recruits. Competing in the Big 12, both on the field and off of it, with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and others, doesn't help matters. There’s a reason the school has not won more than seven games in consecutive seasons since the late 1970s.

65. Washington State

The fact that the Cougars won 10 games in three straight seasons (2001-03) and played in the Rose Bowl in 2002 proves that you can win games in Pullman. It does not change, however, the fact that Pullman is the most remote outpost in the Pac-12. It can be difficult to attract prospects from California to play collegiately in Eastern Washington. The school also has upgraded facilities in recent years, but it still lags behind most schools in the conference on this front.

66. Houston
Houston is an elite area for high school talent, as is the whole state of Texas, but there also are plenty of mouths to feed and the Cougars are near the back of the line.

67. UCF
UCF is located in the heart of the talent-rich Sunshine State and near the bottom of the pecking order after Florida, Florida State, Miami and South Florida.

68. Boston College
Boston College was one of the most consistent programs in the nation from the late 1990s through the late 2000s, but times have changed and the schoool's northern location hinders its chances of a turnaround.

69. Fresno State
Prime location makes it the second-best job in the Mountain West.

70. Indiana
Whether it's basketball, the recruiting base or the conference, it's  tough to win in Bloomington.

71. Wake Forest
Jim Grobe has been the only one to win consistently at the academic-minded, small private school since the early 1950s.

72. Duke
Basketball, academics and a lack of support are the main obstacles to sustained success on the gridiron in Durham, N.C.

73. Connecticut
Conference realignment has not helped the Huskies when it comes to attracting the Northeast's top recruits.

74. SMU
SMU's location and recruiting base are the only reasons why the Mustangs aren't lower as brand recognition, tradition and fan base support are basically non-existent.

75. San Diego State
Sleeping giant has shown signs of life in recent years.

76. Southern Miss
No member of the reconfigured C-USA has a stronger tradition of winning.

77. Northern Illinois
Recruiting base will ensure that you will always have a talented roster at NIU.

78. East Carolina
Solid program with good support, recruiting base and tradition.

79. Temple
Back in the Big East, but this program has a long ways to go in terms of tradition, fan support and national perception.

80. Tulsa  
It’s the third best job in a decent state for high school talent.

81. Nevada  
Move to the Mountain West has made it harder to win in Reno.

82. Toledo  
Each of the last nine coaches have won at least eight games in a season at Toledo.

83. Navy  
The Midshipmen have emerged as the best option of the Military Academies.

84. Utah State  
Aggies are a distant third in their own state, but Gary Andersen proved you can win in Logan.

85. Colorado State  
There is plenty of tradition, but the Rams have had one winning season since 2003.

86. Air Force  
The Falcons are always good but never great. 

87. New Mexico  
Great location — unless you have to recruit.

88. Memphis
Move the to the Big East should make Tigers even more attractive... to basketball recruits.

89. Wyoming
Pokes have few built-in advantages, which makes it hard to sustain success.

90. Marshall  
Herd should be able to stock roster with players from Ohio and Pennsylvania.

91. Louisiana Tech  
Great talent base, but facilities are an issue.

92. Miami (Ohio)  
The Cradle of Coaches has lost its luster.

93. Troy  
It’s the top job in the Sun Belt — for whatever that’s worth.

94. UTEP  
Still in Texas, but El Paso is a long way from everything.

95. North Texas  
There are plenty of players, but it’s the ninth-best job in the state.

96. San Jose State  
Great location — if you a realtor.

97. Hawaii  
It’s tougher to recruit at Hawaii than most would imagine.

98. UNLV   
Getting players never seems to be an issue. Winning is.

99. Army  
Kids would rather play for Navy and Air Force.

100. Central Michigan  
Good coaches have proven they can win big at CMU.

101. Ohio  
Frank Solich is the first coach to win consistently since the 1930s.

102. FAU  
Strong recruiting base and a new stadium have raised FAU’s profile.

103. Middle Tennessee  
Decent location, but fan support has been low despite strong success.

104. Arkansas State  
Red Wolves have been able to hire good coaches. Retaining them is next step.

105. Western Kentucky  
Hilltoppers have made a steady climb since joining the FBS ranks.

106. FIU  
Great location. Little tradition.

107. UAB  
Have you seen Legion Field in the past 10 years?

108. Bowling Green  
Urban Meyer isn’t walking through that door.

109. Western Michigan  
It’s No. 4 in its own state and No. 4 in the MAC West.

110. UL-Lafayette  
Ragin’ Cajuns should be able to compete for Sun Belt titles.

111. Akron  
Zips have one league title in school history.

112. Kent State  
Only two winning seasons since 1987.

113. Rice  
It’s one of the toughest jobs in an elite state for talent.

114. ULM  
2012 was the school’s first with a winning record since joining FBS ranks.

115. Ball State  
It’s the fifth-best job in its own division.

116. Tulane  
Move to Big East, new stadium will raise Tulane’s profile.

117. Georgia State  
Panthers will move up the food chain if they can recruit well locally.

118. UTSA   
The Roadrunners are in a better league (C-USA) than Texas State (Sun Belt).

119. Texas State  
It’s got the potential to be one of the best jobs in the Sun Belt.

120. Buffalo  
Turner Gill proved winning is possible at Buffalo.

121. South Alabama  
Jaguars will have to start stealing some recruits from in-state Sun Belt rival Troy.

122. New Mexico State  
At least Las Cruces is a nice place to live.

123. UMass  
Minutemen need to build on-campus stadium to become relevant in the MAC.

124. Eastern Michigan  
The locals don’t exactly flock to watch the Eagles play on Saturday.

125. Idaho  
No league + Bad location = Very, very difficult job.


Related College Football Content

ACC College Football Job Rankings for 2013
Big East College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Big 12 College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Big Ten College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Pac-12 College Football Job Rankings for 2013

SEC College Football Job Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Ranking College Football's Coaching Jobs for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:35
Path: /college-football/2013-college-football-recruiting-analysis-washington-huskies
Body:

College football's 2013 National Signing Day is in the books and Athlon Sports kicks off its 2013 team recruiting rankings countdown with an in-depth look at the best classes in the nation. Steve Sarkisian reworked his defensive coaching staff following the 2011 season and it paid immediate returns on the recruiting trail and eventual returns on the field. Defensive coaches Tosh Lupoi, Peter Sirmon and Justin Wilcox have had a year to recruit and this trio is clearly making a big impact as the Huskies finished second in the Pac-12 in the team rankings. 

Washington Huskies

National Rank: 15th
Pac-12: Second
Athlon Consensus 100
Signees:
 1
National Signees: 6
Total Signees: 22

Where They Got 'Em:

California will be the foundation for most Pac-12 recruiting classes and the Huskies' 2013 haul proves that. Of their 22 new prospects, 17 of them hail from The Golden State, including all six nationally rated prospects in this class. Washington (4) is another solid state for talent nationally and it was the only other state that sent more than one prospect to Seattle. Arizona (1) and Oregon (1) are also Pac-12 recruiting posts and Texas (1) got into the mix as well. Coach Sark used just five states to sign 22 new players and only Texas wasn't a heavy Pac-12 territory.

Related: Athlon Sports Top 25 Recruiting Classes for 2013

Areas of Focus:

The defense has clearly been the area of focus under the new-look coaching staff the past two recruiting cycles. The 2013 haul features a balanced defensive class that will feature 12 of the 22 total prospects. The defensive line is what stands out. Elijah Qualls nearly landed in the AC100 and is an extremely versatile player. How many defensive tackles play running back in high school? Another nationally rated lineman, Joe Mathis, joins this class as well. He will play end and has been a part of a winning program for the last two seasons at Ontario (Calif.) Upland. Andrew Basham will join Qualls inside at tackle while Marcus Farria will play outside with Mathis. This group has to make Lupoi excited about the future of the D-line in Seattle.

Four linebackers and four defensive backs also signed in this class, but none were nationally ranked. Cornerback got lots of attention with Kevin King, Jermaine Kelly and Patrick Enewally joining the depth chart on the outside. All three are listed at least 6-foot-1 and all three bring great length and upside. Safety Trevor Walker is already enrolled in class. 

While the defense got the most attention in this class, the wide receivers might be the most talented group in this haul. Demor'ea Stringfellow is a special talent and is the highest-rated player in this class. John Ross and Darrell Daniels are fellow nationally ranked prospects, giving Washington one of the best wide receiver classes in the nation. Two (Stringfellow and Daniels) bring huge frames as each stand at least 6-foot-3 and check in between 215 and 220 pounds while Ross (5-11, 180) brings speed to the slot position. With tight end David Ajamu (6-5, 245) in this class as well, this is literally a massive pass-catching class.

Troy Williams is the lone quarterback signee and could be a star. The No. 8-rated signal caller in the nation is already enrolled after claiming 2012 CIF Los Angeles City Section D-I Player of the Year honors as a senior. He has excellent upside as a passer but he also brings above average athletic ability to the table. 

Coach Sark has proven he is able to develop quality running backs and the burly (220 pounds) Lavon Coleman should be the next. This back is a winner, playing on a team that won 32 straight games at one point.

The offensive line was a major concern due to injuries and depth in 2012, and ideally, this three-man class will help stabilize the position.

Related: National Signing Day 2013 Winners and Losers

Positional Breakdown:

Offense: QB: 1, RB: 1, WR: 3, TE: 1, OL: 3
Defense: DL: 4, LB: 4, DB: 4, ATH: 0, K/P: 1

AC100/National Recruits:

AC100 Name Pos. Pos. Rk Hometown Ht Wt
79. Demor'ea Stringfellow WR No. 9 Perris, Calif. 6-3 215
110. Elijah Qualls DT No. 20 (DL) Petaluma, Calif. 6-2 285
114. Troy Williams QB No. 8 Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 205
186. John Ross WR No. 20 Long Beach, Calif. 5-11 180
199. Darrell Daniels WR No. 24 Pittsburg, Calif. 6-4 220
234. Joe Mathis DE No. 44 (DL) Ontario, Calif. 6-4 250

Early Enrollees:

Name Pos. Hometown Ht Wt AC100
Trevor Walker S Arlington, Texas 5-11 180 --
Troy Williams QB Los Angeles, Calif. 6-2 205 No. 114

Athlon Sports 2013 Recruiting Classes:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Ohio State Buckeyes
3. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
4. Florida Gators
5. Michigan Wolverines
6. Ole Miss Rebels
7. LSU Tigers
8. Texas A&M Aggies
9. UCLA Bruins
10. Auburn Tigers
11. Florida State Seminoles
12. Georgia Bulldogs

Teaser:
<p> 2013 College Football Recruiting Analysis: Washington Huskies</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:25
Path: /college-football/northwestern-wildcats-2013-spring-football-preview
Body:

Last season was historic for Northwestern Wildcats everywhere. Pat Fitzgerald led his alma mater to its first bowl win since the 1949 Rose Bowl. The Wildcats won 10 games for just the third time in the history of the program and the first since the famous 1995 Rose Bowl run. This team has been to 11 bowl games all-time and Fitzgerald has taken the Cats to five straight postseason appearances. Needless to say, it's a good time to be Northwestern fan. But expectations might be higher in Evanston, Ill., than ever before, so what can Coach Fitz do for an encore in 2013? 

Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Preview

2012 Record: 10-3 (5-3)

Spring practice dates: Feb. 27-April 13

Returning Starters: Offense – 8, Defense – 7

Returning Leaders:

Passing: Trevor Siemian, 128-of-218, 1,312 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Venric Mark, 226 car., 1,366 yds., 12 TDs
Receiving: Christian Jones, 35 rec., 412 yds, 2 TD
Tackles: Damien Proby, 112
Sacks: Tyler Scott, 9
Interceptions: Nick VanHoose, 3 

Redshirts to watch: DE/LB Ifeadi Odenigbo, OL Adam DePietro, OL Ian Park, OL Kenton Playko, DL Connor Mahoney, DL Greg Kuhar, CB Dwight Wite, S Joseph Jones, SB Jack Schwaba

2013 Schedule

Aug. 31 at California
Sept. 7 Syracuse
Sept. 14 Western Michigan
Sept. 21 Maine
Sept. 28 Bye Week
Oct. 5 Ohio State
Oct. 12 at Wisconsin
Oct. 19 Minnesota
Oct. 26 at Iowa
Nov. 2 at Nebraska
Nov. 9 Bye Week
Nov. 16 Michigan
Nov. 23 Michigan State
Nov. 30 at Illinois

Offensive Strength: Playmakers. Kain Colter is essentially a running back under center. Venric Mark is the best tailback to take hand-offs in Evanston since at least Tyrell Sutton. And a deep collection of wide receivers dot the offense.

Offensive Weakness: The offensive line. Three starters are gone from a unit that led the Big Ten in sacks allowed and finished 19th nationally in rushing a year ago.

Defensive Strength: Linebackers. With Damien Proby and Chi Chi Ariguzo both earning honorable mention a year ago, Coach Fitz's favorite position should be strong in 2013.

Defensive Weakness: Star power in the secondary. This team ranked last in the Big Ten in passing defense last fall and Jared Carpenter, Demetrius Dugar and Quinn Evans are gone. Ibraheim Campbell and Nick VanHoose need some help on the back end.

Spring Storylines Facing the Wildcats

1. Coping with injuries. Pat Fitzgerald will be without at least three starters and a host of other important contributors this spring. Starting cornerback Nick VanHoose, middle linebacker Damien Proby and offensive tackle Jack Konopka will miss all of spring ball. Offensive tackle Paul Jorgensen, wide receiver Kyle Prater, defensive tackle Will Hampton, defensive end Deonte Gibson and guard Matt Frazier are other key reserves looking to earn starting spots who won't get a chance to compete this spring. It will give Coach Fitz a long look at the deeper parts of his roster.

2. Plugging holes along the O-Line. All-Big Ten performers Brian Mulroe and Patrick Ward have moved on from the offensive line as well as Jack Deiters (11 starts). And without Konopka on the field this spring, the Wildcats will be focusing on the new faces blocking up front. This team is stacked with offensive skill talent and will only go as far against big, powerful Big Ten defensive lines as the offensive line takes it. Ironing out a rotation up front on offense has to be a top priority. 

3. Do the Cats need to pick a QB? Coach Fitz believes that he has two quarterbacks who can lead Northwestern to a Big Ten championship. Both Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian did a lot of good things a year ago and each brings a different skill set to an already creative offense. Fitzgerald has stated his focus this spring is more fundamentals-based rather than scheme or depth chart, so he has no desire to tab a starter this early. However, most coaches prefer to have one quarterback and how each signal caller develops this spring will go a long way to determining playing time come the summer.

4. Find star power in the front seven. Much like the offensive line, the defensive front seven has to deal with departures and injuries this spring. There are a lot of bodies up front, namely All-Big Ten performer Tyler Scott and his nine sacks, but this coaching staff needs to find players. Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson could start at end opposite Scott while Chance Carter, Sean McEvilly and Max Chapman will battle on the inside. With Proby out for the spring and David Nwabuisi graduated, Chi Chi Ariguzo is the only linebacker with any extended experience at the key position. Fitzgerald won't have a good view of his front seven until summer once all of the injuries heal up, but finding playmakers up front on defense will be important this spring.

5. Will timing impact spring practice? It isn't a huge story but it is worth noting that Northwestern is breaking spring camp earlier than any other Big Ten team has in years. Starting spring practice in February has given Fitzgerald a variety of advantages. Essentially, he has been able to stretch his calendar to better help with balance, lifting, injuries and timing. Undoubtedly, Fitzgerald feels the extended spring schedule will help his team deal with the pressure to build on a 10-win season and help keep them grounded in the face of growing preseason expectations. 

Related College Football Content

Ranking the Big Ten Coaching Jobs for 2013
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College Football's Top 5 Quarterbacks on the Rise for 2013

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Big Ten Team Recruiting Rankings for 2013

Teaser:
<p> Northwestern Wildcats 2013 Spring Football Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:20
Path: /mlb/10-unlikely-nl-pitchers-who-could-win-cy-young
Body:

We all know the favorties to win the National League Cy Young award this season: Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and maybe closer Craig Kimbrel. But who are the longshots that could come out of nowhere and surprise baseball fans. Here's a quick list of 10.

Foreign Invasion
Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles
The lefthander led Korean baseball in strikeouts five times in seven seasons, but domination in the Far East doesn’t always translate to the states. The Dodgers have committed $36 million over the next six years, plus a $25.7 million posting fee and are expecting big things.
 
Out of the Shadows
Mike Minor, Atlanta
The seventh overall selection in the 2009 draft showed over the final few months last season just how dominant he can be. While pitching in the shadows of fellow starter Kris Medlen and dominant closer Craig Kimbrel, Minor was 7-4 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.865 WHIP over his final 15 starts with 73 strikeouts in 93.2 innings.

Ross Detwiler, Washington
Overshadowed by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann, Detwiler was a first-round pick two years before Strasburg. Opponents hit just .234 off the lefty during the second half last season, but issuing too many free passes remains a problem. Harnessing his control could put Detwiler among the elite pitchers in the league.

Homer Bailey, Cincinnati
It’s easy to fall in love with Bailey after his one-hit, one-walk, 10-strikeout performance against the Giants in the playoffs. But over his final seven starts of the regular season, he owned a 0.740 WHIP and 1.85 ERA.

Ready for Limelight
Jacob Turner, Miami
Long considered a top prospect in the Detroit organization, Turner finally received a chance in a regular rotation with the Marlins. In seven starts he had a sub-1.00 WHIP.

Matt Harvey, New York
Few fans outside of New York may recognize the name, but Harvey burst onto the scene last season. The seventh overall pick in 2010 made 10 starts for the Mets and allowed five earned runs once and three earned runs once with the rest zeros, ones and twos. He whiffed 70 over his 59.1 innings.

Jeff Samardzija, Chicago
The once promising wide receiver at Notre Dame transitioned from setup man in 2011 to starter last season. Over the past two years he has 267 Ks and allowed only 221 hits.

A Rookie Cy?
Wily Peralta, Milwaukee
In three starts in September against teams headed to the postseason, the 23-year old struck out 14 in 14 innings with a 2.57 ERA.

Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh
He will make his major league debut at some point this season. The former No. 1 overall pick won’t turn 23 until September.

Trevor Rosenthal, St. Louis
With the injury to Chris Carpenter, another opportunity in the rotation awaits this flame thrower.

RELATED: 10 Unlikely AL Pitchers Who Could Win the Cy Young

Teaser:
<p> We all know the favorties to win the National League Cy Young award this season: Clayton Kershaw, Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain and maybe closer Craig Kimbrel. But who are the longshots that could come out of nowhere. Here's a quick list of 10.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 08:45
Path: /nascar/8-amazing-stats-phoenix-international-raceway
Body:

After a Daytona 500 that catered to the more intelligent teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage — track position and strategy reigned supreme — one of the two duels this season in the Arizona desert greets America’s best drivers on Sunday.

There are a lot of unknowns with the Gen-6 car taking to a surface and configuration at Phoenix International Raceway that is just three races old. What we do know, and what we could anticipate, is revealed in the numbers.

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


78.8% Following his win in the Daytona 500, Jimmie Johnson currently has a 78.8 percent chance of making the Chase, the highest percentage in the series through one race.

And that’s a conservative figure based on past averages. If Johnson and the No. 48 team out-performs their past selves at a few tracks during the 26-race “regular season,” then they are even more of a lock to clinch a playoff berth for the 10th time in 10 years. One such track is Phoenix, where, when we last saw Johnson, he crashed in the penultimate race of last year’s Chase that served as the first blow of the self inflicted 1-2 punch that knocked him out of contention for the championship. He is followed by Brad Keselowski (68.7 percent) and Greg Biffle (53.1 percent) in the current race to the Chase.


7.500 According to PEER (Production in Equal Equipment Rating), Denny Hamlin, the winner of last year’s race, is the most productive driver at Phoenix, heading into the weekend with a 7.500.

Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb scored a win in their second race together as a driver-crew chief combination, leading the last 59 laps en route to the win in 2012. Additionally, he finished second there last fall after leading 46 laps and averaging a third-place running position.
 

Teaser:
<p> NASCAR Numbers Game: Phoenix</p>
Post date: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 18:04

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