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Path: /nascar/winless-drivers-keselowski-gordon-searching-victory-nascar-hits-new-hampshire

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

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

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

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

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

It's been one hit after another.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

Related College Football Content

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

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

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

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

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related College Football Content

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

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

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

Last but certainly not least, are the college traditions.

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

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of the Rest:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Virginia's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

8/31 Austin Peay
9/7 Western
9/14 at Oregon
9/21 at Florida
9/28 South Alabama
10/5 Georgia
10/19 South Carolina
10/26 at Alabama
11/2 at Missouri
11/9 Auburn
11/23 Vanderbilt
11/30 at Kentucky
Final Projection6-65-76-65-75-7 6-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Under 50 days until kickoff.....

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

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

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

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

Saturday Down South ranks the SEC receivers for 2013.'s Brandon Marcello takes a look at the path to SEC jobs for Gus Malzahn and Hugh Freeze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Pretty sharp isn't it?

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Ranking the SEC's running backs.


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


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


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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butch Jones, Tennessee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bret Bielema, Arkansas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus Malzahn, Auburn Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And especially not a subpar year.

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

Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:55
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-impact-transfers-2013

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

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

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

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

College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Ten Wide Receiver/Tight End Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Post date: Thursday, July 11, 2013 - 05:45
Path: /college-football/college-football-pac-12s-best-traditions

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

Last but certainly not least, are the college traditions.

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

Here are some of Athlon Sports' favorites:


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

Ralphie’s Run

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

USC's Traveler

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

Tightwad Hill

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

Cougars' Gameday Flag

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

Stanford's LSJUMB

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

USC Song Girls

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

Bear Down

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

Best of the Rest:

The Rose Bowl

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

Arizona State’s Student Section

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

Stanford's Dancing Tree

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

Cal Card Stunts

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

Oregon State First Downs

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

Utah's Block U

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

Oregon Uniforms

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

UCLA light stunts

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

Oregon’s Motorcycle

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

2013 Pac-12 Team Previews

OregonArizona State
Oregon StateColorado
Washington StateUtah

Related College Football Content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost Lettermen ranks Conference USA's running backs for 2013

Everett Golson discusses his future with Notre Dame.

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

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

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

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

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

Tennessee self-reported a couple of secondary violations.

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

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

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

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

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

College Football's Link Roundup: July 10
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 16:53
Path: /college-football/louisville-unveils-new-cleats-2013

As the countdown to kickoff for the 2013 season continues, more teams are releasing photos of new uniforms, helmets or anything else that will be worn on Saturdays this year. 

Louisville has already upgraded its turf in Papa John's Cardinal Stadium this offseason, and now the team is getting an upgraded look in the uniform department. Sort of. 

Here's a photo from Louisville coach Charlie Strong's twitter account for the new shoes Cardinals will wear in 2013:


Louisville Unveils New Cleats for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 16:20
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/what-best-worst-coaching-job-nfl

Would you rather work for Jerry Jones or the people of Green Bay, Wisconsin? Would you rather live in Buffalo or Denver? Would you prefer to face Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati six times a year or Jacksonville, Tennessee and Indianapolis?

These are the sorts of big picture questions you have to ask when trying to evaluate NFL “jobs.” Depth charts and general managers come and go but, by in large, fan commitment, stadiums, cities and owners stay the same over long periods of time. It is these factors that define how good or bad an NFL head coaching gig is, not who is playing quarterback, how deep the defensive line might be or who is running the front office.

Facilities, commitment to excellence, history, tradition, prestige, ownership, fan support, earning potential, divisional alignment and location is how Athlon ranked each of the current NFL head coaching jobs.

Forbes 2012 total franchise valuation in parentheses

1. Green Bay Packers ($1.161 billion, 10th)

There is only one publicly owned franchise in major American professional sports and it is located in a small, sleepy town in northern Wisconsin. It means as a head coach, you answer to the fans first and foremost above all else and it creates a unique and committed relationship between the Packers and their supporters. No, Green Bay isn’t the best place in the country to live (most of the year) but the most historic and legendary football stadium in the world, Lambeau Field, rises high above the neighborhoods of Green Bay. This organization has won more NFL championships (13) than any other in league history and has won a Super Bowl in three separate decades. The Packers also play in a division with three of the best rivalries in football, including the twice annual bout with the Bears.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers ($1.1 billion, 14th)

Few fan bases and owners are as committed to being successful like Steeler Nation and the Rooney Family. The fans in Pittsburgh are second to none and will travel to great lengths to support their team while three generations of Rooney control has offered unique stability in a transient world. In 2001, the Steelers opened a beautiful new facility in Heinz Field. What it lacks in tradition and history it more than makes up for in technology and amenities. Top it all off with an NFL-best six Super Bowl trophies and 60,000 Terrible Towels and you have the best AFC job in the NFL.

3. New York Giants ($1.468 billion, 4th)

Since 1925, the red, white and blue football Giants have represented the biggest media market in the world. For the first seven decades of operation, the Giants were controlled exclusively by the Mara Family — father and founder, Tim, and his two sons, Jack and Wellington. Since 1991 when Tim Mara passed away, half of the franchise has been owned by the Tisch family. A massive new building has replaced the old Meadowlands and will provide a Northeastern setting for the Super Bowl for the first time in history. The Giants are third all-time with eight NFL championships, including four Super Bowls, and boast some of the most prestigious rivalries in the game.

4. New England Patriots ($1.635 billion, 2nd)

The Pats joined the NFL along with the rest of the AFL in 1970 when the two merged. And few franchises can offer the combination of fan support, quality ownership and team success like the Boston-turned-New England Patriots. This team has played for at least one Super Bowl in every decade since the '70s and Gillette Stadium has been packed since opening in 2002. And owner Robert Kraft proved to be a godsend for the organization when he purchased the team in 1994, likely saving the team from relocation to St. Louis.

5. San Francisco 49ers ($1.175 billion, 9th)

The Niners are the oldest major pro sports franchise to ever call San Francisco home, and starting in 1970, few teams have dominated a sport like the 49ers. Winning five Super Bowls in a 14-year span and dominating headlines west of the Rockies, the Niners own a unique place in the NFL’s hierarchy. And despite a public ownership feud between the two sides of the family — the DeBartolos and the Yorks —  that resulted in John York taking control, the support from the owner has been excellent. The fans may not be among the league’s elite but they aren’t too far behind and an ambitious new Levi’s Stadium could push the San-Fran coaching job into Steelers and Packers territory.

6. Denver Broncos ($1.132 billion, 13th)

A great city in a beautiful setting with elite fan support and a rich history of winning football makes coaching in Denver a destination gig. Bought by the Bowlen family in 1984, the current ownership not only saved the franchise from certain bankruptcy but has built a thriving business as well as a new stadium (2001). Playing in the generally timid AFC West, Denver has been a fixture in the playoffs despite battling with rivals Oakland, Kansas City and San Diego since 1960. There is little doubt that Denver is one of the AFC’s preeminent franchises.

7. Chicago Bears ($1.190 billion, 8th)

Located in the Windy City in the heart of the football-crazed NFC North, the Bears are one of the most lucrative, most supported and most historic franchises in the NFL. Chicago boasts the best rivalry in the league with the Packers and trails only Green Bay with nine NFL championships. Originally owned by legendary George Halas, the Bears are now run by Halas’ daughter Virginia and her family. It has proven to be tough to win big in Chicago but when someone does (looking at you Ditka) he becomes a living legend.

8. Dallas Cowboys ($2.1 billion, 1st)

Located in the heart of a football-mad state, the most high-profile and valuable franchise in the NFL also plays in the biggest, baddest venue in the football world. However, coaching the Cowboys isn’t a cakewalk as meddling owner Jerry Jones never lets go of the reigns. The fishbowl of this job can also be too much to handle for most mere mortals. That said, this team has consistently won at an elite level, has great fan support and never is hurting for revenue. The second Jones sells this team (which he won’t ever do), Dallas becomes one of the top 2-3 coaching jobs in the NFL instantly.

9. Indianapolis Colts ($1.154 billion, 12th)

There have been some rocky moments — like leaving Baltimore under the cover of night — but since moving to Indianapolis, the Colts have been a perennial power. Yes, much of that is due to Peyton Manning, but the support from the Irsay family has been excellent. The Colts play in one of the nicest new facilities in the league and Indianapolis has slowly developed into a destination city for many in the Midwest. And getting to face the Jaguars and Titans four times a year would appeal to most any head coach.

10. Baltimore Ravens ($1.157 billion, 11th)

The Ravens haven’t been around for a very long time, but the franchise has proven to be a big winner with more than one coach. Since relocating under owner Art Modell in 1996 from Cleveland, the Ravens have won two Super Bowls under two different coaches and are now owned by Steve Bisciotti. The stadium is solid, the fans are committed and the rivalries in the AFC North are as good as any in the NFL.

11. Kansas City Chiefs ($1.008 billion, 20th)

Despite the small market moniker, coaching in Kansas City is one of the top jobs in the NFL. The fans are extremely dedicated, the town is great, Arrowhead is as historic as any venue in the league and there are games to be won in the AFC West. Plus, have you ever smelled a Chiefs tailgate?

12. New York Jets ($1.284 billion, 6th)

Despite being the second most popular and powerful team in New York, the J-E-T-S job is still an attractive gig. Playing in the biggest media market in the world with excellent fan support and a brand new building makes this job one of the more coveted. The rich history and tradition speaks for itself.

13. Houston Texans ($1.305 billion, 5th)

The Texans have quickly become one of the NFL’s top coaching locations. With loads of revenue and financial support deep in the heart of football-crazed Texas, Houston has become one of the better jobs. A relatively manageable division schedule and gorgeous stadium also help make up for lack of tradition and natural rivals. Owner Bob McNair is also one of the league’s best.

14. Seattle Seahawks ($1.040 billion, 17th)

The stadium is one of the hidden gems in the NFL landscape as the Seahawks fans are among the loudest and best in the league. Seattle is an amazing place to live and owner Paul Allen showed his commitment by saving the team from a move to Southern California when he bought the team in 1997. This gig is moving up the rankings quickly.

15. Philadelphia Eagles ($1.260 billion, 7th)

Powerful, lucrative, steeped in tradition, an excellent stadium and some of the best rivalries are what make coaching in Philly so attractive. Having to deal with Eagles fans every day is a large and taxing, but manageable, drawback.

16. Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion, 3rd)

One of the more powerful and lucrative franchises in the league has all of the bullet points needed for a great coaching job. Excellent fans, rich traditions, an excellent venue and great rivalries make this a great job. Having to work for Daniel Snyder, however, keeps Washington from being a top 10 job.

17. New Orleans Saints ($971 million, 23rd)

Tom Benson bought the Saints in 1985 and has had to deal with multiple hurdles en route to the 2009 Super Bowl championship. The fans are excellent and the city is full of culture, however, a long standing battle to upgrade or replace the Superdome is just one of many ancillary issues the Saints’ headman has to deal with.

18. Minnesota Vikings ($975 million, 22nd)

There is a lot to like about coaching in the Twin Cities. The Vikings have a rich tradition and passionate fan base to go with excellent regional rivalries and a picturesque hometown. However, this team is one of seven without any NFL championship of any kind, and the Vikings are desperately awaiting the completion of their new stadium to move out of the outdated Metrodome.

19. Cincinnati Bengals ($871 million, 26th)

This is a stable franchise with a great stadium located in a great location on the river in downtown Cincinnati. There is plenty of history and excellent rivalries with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. However, this team has zero NFL titles of any kind and has failed to win big for long stretches of time.

20. Atlanta Falcons ($837 million, 28th)

In what isn’t a great pro sports town, the Falcons can dominate the sports headlines. Atlanta isn’t one of the more powerful, successful or lucrative franchises, but winning teams have proven capable of capturing the fans in the area. A massive new stadium could elevate this gig into the upper echelon of NFL jobs.

21. Miami Dolphins ($1.060 billion, 15th)

This is a once proud franchise that has experienced plenty of bad seasons in the last few years. There is plenty of tradition, pockets of winning and it is located in a thriving cultural hotbed in South Florida. But the owner is new to the scene and the stadium has no identity whatsoever.

22. Detroit Lions ($855 million, 27th)

There is stability in the owner’s box, as the Ford Family has controlled the franchise since 1963. Ford Field is an excellent venue and Detroit fans have supported terrible football for decades. However, there is little to no tradition of success and having to face perennial powers in Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota six times a year is daunting.

23. San Diego Chargers ($936 million, 24th)

Owned by the Spanos family since 1984, the Chargers have never realized their potential in the NFL. The stadium needs an upgrade and there is little to no history of winning big. Yet, the AFC West features long-standing rivalries and few places on the planet offer more comfortable living conditions than San Diego.

24. Cleveland Browns ($987 million, 21st)

The fans in Cleveland are some of the best in all of sports. Without sniffing a Super Bowl appearance in nearly 50 years, the Dawg Pound is consistently packed every Sunday. However, there is new, unfamiliar ownership and no coach has seemed capable of winning games consistently.

25. St. Louis Rams ($780 million, 31st)

The Rams organization has as many NFL titles (3) as it does home towns. There is no long-standing connection to the city of St. Louis after moving from Los Angeles (and Cleveland) and the Edward Jones Dome could use some upgrading.

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($1.033 billion, 19th)

Owner Malcolm Glazer threatened to move the team on more than one occasion, but he also has built a new stadium. The gimmicky Sunday experience is lacking and the franchise has a long history of losing football games.

27. Tennessee Titans ($1.011 billion, 19th)

Owner Bud Adams has had plenty of Jerry Jones moments, can be a hassle to work for and has already moved his team from Houston to Nashville via Memphis. Music City is a growing, bustling metropolitan area and LP Field is a solid venue. However, fans are extremely fair weather and the game day experience is severely lacking.

28. Carolina Panthers ($1.048 billion, 16th)

The team is fairly lucrative as the 16th most valuable in the league and it is located in a football loving area of the country. However, with its expansion team roots, there is zero tradition, it has little history of winning and literally claims 15 different owners.

29. Arizona Cardinals ($922 million, 25th)

This is one of the oldest franchises in the league and one that has failed to succeed in any way for most of its 93 seasons. Bill Bidwell might be a quality owner but five playoff appearances during his 47-year tenure indicates winning isn’t a priority.

30. Oakland Raiders ($785 million, 30th)

The stadium is more of a costume party than anything else. And while the late Al Davis was once revered for his savvy influence on football, he had lost his edge for most of his final years. Unfortunately, his son and current owner Mark hasn’t done anything to change that trend.

31. Buffalo Bills ($805 million, 29th)

The fans are great and the atmosphere can be great and Ralph Wilson is largely well-respected. But Buffalo might be the worst NFL city in the league, the team hasn’t won in nearly two decades and the organization is worth less than half of the most prestigious franchises.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars ($770 million, 32nd)

It is the least lucrative team in the NFL. It has tarps covering empty seats. Ownership isn’t exactly committed to the team staying in Jacksonville. And the Jags have posted some of the worst records in recent memory. At least, there will be some new swimming pools and a snazzy new video board at EverBank Field.

Where is the best place to coach in the NFL in 2013? What about the worst?
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-new-hampshire-motor-speedway

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s nine-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned drivers strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.  

Far removed from the glitz and glamour — and the restrictor plates and multi-car crashes — of Daytona International Speedway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series moves to the far northeast for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The "Magic Mile" is a tight, flat oval that's largely a big version of Martinsville Speedway. Sunday's race marks the first of two visits to the track with the second serving as the second race in this fall's Chase for the Sprint Cup. Here are the picks for the weekend:

B-List (pick four, start two)
1. Jeff Gordon
This pick may seem a bit peculiar thanks to Gordon's last win at New Hampshire coming in 1998. Gordon, however, has been markedly consistent at the flat oval. His worst finish since 2005 is 15th, and he's picked up three top-5 finishes in the last six NHMS races. Further, Gordon's averaging running position (7.2) at NHMS in the last eight years is the best in the circuit. He'll be a solid choice Sunday.

2. Denny Hamlin
The only driver with a better average finish than Gordon in the last 16 races at NASCAR's lone New England stop is Denny Hamlin. Hamlin, trying to bounce back from consecutive weeks that ended in crashes, comes to NHMS with a win and four top-5 finishes in his last six starts. Last year, Hamlin dominated New Hampshire by leading 343 of 601 laps which resulted in a win and a runner-up finish.

Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart

B-List (pick four, start two)
1. Ryan Newman

Newman has three career wins in his career at New Hampshire (he won his first career race there in 2002 and then won again in ’05 and ’07) and figures to be in the running to at least trigger another free Bloomin' Onion giveaway from his sponsor with a top-10 finish. Driver No. 39 had a chance to sweep both NHMS races in 2011, but lost a tire and finished 26th in the September race. Without that failure, Newman would be riding a streak of seven straight NHMS top-10 finishes.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  The No. 88 hasn't been consistently stellar at NHMS in recent years, but Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s average running position of 11.9 on the one-mile track ranks best among B-List drivers in the last eight races. In 2012, Earnhardt finished fourth in the July NHMS race and 13th in September. On the downside, Earnhardt hasn't led at Loudon since 2008.

3. Jeff Burton
Burton's NASCAR legacy includes being the last driver to lead every lap in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race — a feat he accomplished at New Hampshire when NASCAR slapped restrictor plates on cars for one race in 2000 after the tragic deaths of Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty. Thirteen years later Burton doesn't seem like a win threat, but he's the guy to go with if you're looking for a B-Lister with plenty of starts left to score a top 15. Six of Burton's last seven New Hampshire finishes have been between 12th and 16th.

4. Joey LoganoYou'll remember Logano's first career win came at NHMS in 2009 when he stayed out during a late caution for rain that wound up ending the race. He's back at New Hampshire this time in a bid to restart his quiet streak of six straight finishes of 11th or better that ended in a crash at Daytona. Logano was 14th and eighth last season in Loudon and has a career average finish of 15.3 at the track.

Also consider: Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch

C-List (pick two, start one)
1. Casey Mears
Quietly this season Mears has become a steady performer in the C-List loaded with drivers who never seem to break 25th. Now 24th in points, Mears hasn't finished worse than 23rd since a crash at Darlington eight races ago. He's also scored three straight top-20 finishes. Most telling for the improved Germain Racing camp is that Mears ran 14th at Phoenix earlier this season — a track that has many crossover characteristics with NHMS.

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
If you like what Mears has done this season, you certainly like what Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has accomplished as a C-Lister in 2013. He doesn't have a single DNF and has finished on the lead lap of all but four races. Still, Stenhouse is looking for his first top 10 of 2013. New Hampshire might be a good place for that, seeing as Stenhouse recorded a pair of top-5 finishes at the track in his last two Nationwide Series starts. Like Mears, his 16th-place run at Phoenix may be indicative of a solid day, too.

Also consider: AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan

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

Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin top the list of Fantasy NASCAR options for the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 12:23
Path: /college-basketball/reviewing-athlons-top-25-college-basketball-freshmen-2012

Even by recruiting class standards, the top prospects of 2012 ran the gamut.

On one hand, the class produced the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft in UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (though fellow freshman Nerlens Noel of Kentucky seemed the more likely pick until draft day). On the other, it produced one bona fide bust in Alabama’s Devonta Pollard, who has already withdrawn from school amid legal issues.

The 2012 class gave us everything in between, including eight early entries to the NBA Draft. All eight early entries were drafted, though two will not receive guaranteed contracts after going in the second round.

For the 2013-14 season, the 2012 recruiting class will have its share of stars like Marcus Smart, a high-profile transfer in Rodney Purvis and a handful of wait-and-see projects.

Now that the draft is complete and teams are starting to look ahead to 2013-14, this is a good time to look back at how Athlon Sports’ top 25 recruits for the class of 2012 fared in the last year.


1. Nerlens Noel, Kentucky
Freshman recap: Noel was a top candidate to be the national defensive player of the year, averaging 4.4 blocks and 2.1 steals. He also crept close to averaging a double double at 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds before a season-ending torn ACL against Florida on Feb. 12. His presence kept Kentucky in NCAA Tournament contention, but the Wildcats lost four of their last five without Noel, including a loss to Robert Morris in the NIT. Despite his injury, Noel was the SEC’s freshman of the year and defensive player of the year.
For 2013-14: Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Noel slipped to sixth in the NBA Draft, selected by the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded to Philadelphia.

2. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
Freshman recap: Muhammad began his season ineligible as the NCAA investigated impermissible benefits. He finished the season as it was revealed he was a year older than his father had been claiming. In between, Muhammad was named the Pac-12’s co-freshman of the year while averaging 17.9 points per game.
For 2013-14: Muhammad was the final pick in the lottery, drafted 14th overall by Utah before being traded to Minnesota. That’s probably a lower spot than was envisioned for Muhammad out of high school, but he became UCLA’s highest draft pick since Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love went fourth and fifth in 2008.

3. Isaiah Austin, Baylor
Freshman recap:
Austin averaged 13 points and 8.3 rebounds for a disappointing Baylor team. The Bears won the NIT, but Baylor was expected to contend for a Big 12 title (Athlon ranked Baylor second in the Big 12 and 17th nationally). Austin, a 7-1 center, was expected to declare for the NBA Draft before surgery to repair a torn labrum meant he would not be able to participate in workouts. Austin instead elected to return to school.
For 2013-14: Hopes will be high again for a talented Baylor team. Austin will team with Cory Jefferson and Ricardo Gathers for one of the nation’s top frontcourts.

4. Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Freshman recap:
Anderson wasn’t UCLA’s top-scoring freshman (that was Muhammad) or most important freshman (Jordan Adams), but he was the most well-rounded. Anderson averaged 9.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a rookie, earning a spot on the All-Pac-12 second team.
For 2013-14: Muhammad is gone, as is point guard Larry Drew II. New coach Steve Alford will look to Anderson to take the next step from one of the Pac-12’s most versatile players to simply one of the league’s best. The 6-foot-9 Anderson could take over point guard duties with Drew gone. Muhammad and Drew enabled UCLA to run a faster offense, but Alford likely will run things at a slower tempo.

5. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Freshman recap:
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon historically hasn’t relied much on freshmen. That was the case even with Adams, one of the most high profile recruits to sign with the Panthers. Adams averaged 7.2 points and a team-leading 6.3 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: The seven-foot New Zealander shot up draft boards before being selected 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

6. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Tarczewski started all season, averaging 6.9 points and 6.1 rebounds as a back-to-the-basket center.
For 2013-14: Tarczewski will be a part of a stellar frontcourt on a potential top-five team with the 6-8 star freshman Aaron Gordon and 6-8 sophomore Brandon Ashley. A major progression for the seven-footer could make him an NBA Draft candidate.

7. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
Freshman recap:
Like the rest of Kentucky, Poythress endured a disappointing season. His minutes dipped through SEC play, when he averaged 9.8 points per game and 6.2 rebounds.
For 2013-14: Kentucky coach John Calipari would like to see Poythress improve his consistency and maturity as a sophomore. Poythress shot 58.1 percent from the field, but he had his slumps (1 of 9 against Florida, 0 of 3 against Texas A&M, 3 of 9 against Vanderbilt). With a freshman cast capable of contending for a title, Kentucky will need Poythress to be one of the few veteran influences.

8. Anthony Bennett, UNLV
Freshman recap:
Bennett was in contention for national freshman of the year before inconsistent results in Mountain West play. Bennett averaged 12.1 points in conference games, but failed to score in double figures seven times against MWC competition.
For 2013-14: The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the first shock of the draft when they picked Bennett No. 1 rather than Nerlens Noel or Maryland’s Alex Len.

9. Grant Jerrett, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Jerrett turned in a lackluster debut season with 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
For 2013-14: His decision to leave for the NBA Draft was a surprising one, but Jerrett’s gamble resulted in being a second-round pick. Jerrett saw limited playing time as freshman, a trend that may have continued as a sophomore.

10. Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Freshman recap:
Like Tarczewski and Jerrett, Ashley’s contributions were limited on a veteran team with Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Nick Johnson. Ashley averaged 6.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in conference play.
For 2013-14: Part of the reason the Wildcats will be a preseason favorite in the Pac-12 is the predicted improvement in the frontcourt with he and Tarczewski expected to take a major step as sophomores. He struggled in USA Basketball’s Under-19 tryouts, which could either be a motivator for offseason improvements or a troubling sign for his second season.

11. Cameron Ridley, Texas
Freshman recap:
Ridley had 14 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to UCLA on Dec. 8 but was rarely a factor for the remainder of the season despite shedding weight when he arrived on campus. That was the last time all season he scored in double figures.
For 2013-14: Texas is in trouble with Myck Kabongo leaving for the Draft and a pair of transfers (Sheldon McClellan and Jaylen Bond) heading out of Austin. The Longhorns can ill-afford a top recruit on the roster who’s struggling to provide 10 minutes per game.

12. Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Freshman recap:
Duke didn’t need Sulaimon to carry the Blue Devils, but he proved to be capable enough at times. He scored 21 against Creighton in the NCAA Tournament, 27 against Boston College and 25 against Maryland. He also had his freshman moments, going 0-for-10 in the first game without teammate Ryan Kelly against NC State and 1 of 10 in the Elite Eight against Louisville.
For 2013-14: Sulaimon will continue to be a standout perimeter defender, but Duke will look for him to improve from long distance (37.1 percent from 3-point range).

13. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Freshman recap:
Smart was everything Oklahoma State expected him to be, taking a leadership role from Day One and manning the point guard spot. he finished with 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game as Oklahoma State returned to the NCAA Tournament before running into a hot Oregon team in the round of 64.
For 2013-14: Smart surprisingly returned for his sophomore season when he could have been the first point guard taken in the NBA Draft. The Cowboys will challenge for a Big 12 title and more with Smart leading a nucleus of Le’Bryan Nash, Markel Brown and Phil Forte. He’ll be on the short list for National Player of the Year honors when the season begins.

14. Archie Goodwin, Kentucky
Freshman recap:
Before the season started, there was talk Goodwin could be Kentucky’s best freshman. That never materialized, but Goodwin still averaged 14.1 points per game. He manned the point guard spot at times but finished with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio while shooting 26.6 percent on 64 3-point attempts for the season.
For 2013-14: Goodwin left school after one season to become the No. 29 pick in the NBA draft, selected by the Thunder and eventually landing with the Suns. He’s already been tapped as possible steal in the draft.

15. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Freshman recap:
A rare big-time recruit for Wisconsin, Dekker was in contention for Big Ten freshman of the year for most of the season. He finished with 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while rankings seventh in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage.
For 2013-14: Wisconsin is looking to Dekker to become the Badgers’ next great big man. Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz and Ryan Evans are all gone, so the spotlight will be on Dekker.

16. Gary Harris, Michigan State
Freshman recap:
Like teammate Adreian Payne, Harris dabbled with going to the NBA Draft but elected to return to school to compete for a national title. Harris was one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, making 65-of-158 shots (41.1 percent) from long range.
For 2013-14: Harris played all of last season with a shoulder injury, and Michigan State still went 13-5 in the Big Ten. What can Michigan State do if he’s healthy?

17. Ricky Ledo, Providence
Freshman recap:
Ledo sat out his entire freshman season as a partial qualifier.
For 2013-14: Hopes were high Ledo would help lead Providence back to relevance even as he was not eligible to play, but he left for the NBA Draft despite not playing a game. He was a second-round pick.

18. Rodney Purvis, NC State
Freshman recap:
A disappointing season for NC State extended to Purvis, who was part of the inconsistency for the Wolfpack last season. Purvis was NC State’s sixth-leading scorer at 8.3 points per game.
For 2013-14: Purvis will sit out the season following his transfer to Connecticut.

19. DaJuan Coleman, Syracuse
Freshman recap:
Coleman started the first 20 games of the season but eventually watched his role diminish. He missed eight games following knee surgery in January and played a grand total of 26 minutes after his return.
For 2013-14: Like many rookie big men, Coleman is struggling to find his role, but the Orange have had success in developing centers in their latter years, most recently Fab Melo.

20. Tony Parker, UCLA
Freshman recap:
Parker struggled in his season under Ben Howland. A transfer wasn’t out of the question after Parker averaged 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 points.
For 2013-14: Parker elected to stay at UCLA to play for new coach Steve Alford, who will hope the leadership change will help Parker contribute more than 6.3 minutes per game.

21. Amile Jefferson, Duke
Freshman recap:
Jefferson watched his role increase dramatically when Ryan Kelly was injured in January. The forward scored in double figures in five of 11 games when he played regular minutes with Kelly out of the lineup.
For 2013-14: Kelly is gone for good, and so is Mason Plumlee. Jefferson has added weight since he arrived on campus with the goal of stabilizing Duke’s post presence.

22. Robert Carter, Georgia Tech
Freshman recap:
The hometown prospect helped Georgia Tech’s modest improvement in 2012-13. Carter was second on the Yellow Jackets at 9.9 points per game and 6.7 rebounds.
For 2013-14: With Carter plus Marcus Georges-Hunt, Georgia Tech should start to contend for a postseason tournament in Brian Gregory’s third season.

23. Kris Dunn, Providence
Freshman recap:
A shoulder injury limited Dunn early in the season, and he never quite broke out. The guard finished with 5.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
For 2013-14: Vincent Council is gone, so coach Ed Cooley needs Dunn to assume point guard duties. Providence may be a postseason contender in 2013-14, but the Friars may wonder what could have happened if Ledo remained on the roster.

24. Semaj Christon, Xavier
Freshman recap:
Christon wasn’t fully healthy last season and still led Xavier wtih 15.2 points per game and 4.6 assists.
For 2013-14: The Atlantic 10 rookie of the year should keep Xavier in Big East contention even though the Musketeers missed the postseason a year ago. Christon is looking to become a more complete guard, both as a floor general and outside shooter.

25. Devonta Pollard, Alabama
Freshman recap:
Pollard averaged 3.9 points and didn’t score in double figures in SEC play or the NIT.
For 2013-14: Pollard withdrew from Alabama after being arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Pollard is accused of serving as the driver and an organizer to aid his mother in the kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl.

The Class of 2012 offered top draft picks, wait-and-see prospects and busts
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 11:45
Path: /college-football/young-ohio-state-fan-grant-reed-names-his-cancer-michigan-and-beats-it

Sometimes we are powerfully reminded of how important sports can be to us all. Especially, in the college sports world where connections between fans and favorite teams almost always rank as the most dedicated and committed in all of major American sports.

Grant Reed is a 12-year-old Ohio State fan whose parents, Troy and Denise, are clearly raising him correctly. Reed was released from the Columbus, Ohio area Nationwide Children's Hospital last Friday after a 10-week recovery period following a 16-hour surgery to remove a brain tumor back in May. All of this after months of chemotherapy.

Well, as only our children can, Reed has inspired and entertained all of us all by putting a new twist on his battle with cancer by naming his tumor “Michigan.” For roughly two years, Reed has fought his way through this horrifying situation to come out victorious against “that team up North.”

His father said when he was released on Friday, “Our prognosis is very good. It shows that he has indeed beat Michigan.”

Troy and Denise met in the Ohio State Marching Band in college and got engaged at a Buckeyes game in 1994. Obviously, the family is very proud of its favorite team. But both Michigan and Ohio State fans should be proud of their rivalry and what it meant to this 12-year old boy.

Reed will enter the 7th grade this fall.


Young Ohio State Fan Grant Reed Names His Cancer "Michigan"; and Beats It
Post date: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - 11:16