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ACC expansion solidified the league and added to the depth of both the football and basketball lineups.

The basketball benches, though, is where ACC fans may notice the biggest upgrade. Both of the country’s 900-win coaches now work in the same conference, thanks to the addition of Syracuse and Jim Boeheim. In Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon and Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, the ACC also adds two of the nation’s most consistent coaches who have the reputation of doing more with less.

And those are just the three coaches who arrive in 2013-14. Next season, the league will add Louisville’s Rick Pitino.

The lineup of coaches in the ACC has rarely been stronger or deeper, especially considering that in the last two seasons the coaches at Florida State and Miami got the best of their Hall of Fame brethren.

Athlon’s rankings of the coaches in each major conference begins today with the ACC and will continue in the coming weeks before we unveil our list of the top coaches in the country.

*A few things to note as we are ranking coaches: We are attempting to look at the whole package of gameday acumen, recruiting, player development, and regular-season and postseason success. We are also keeping in mind a coach’s career trajectory.

 

And now, on to the debate. Feel free to chime in at @AthlonSports on Twitter or Athlon Sports on Facebook.


RANKING THE ACC COACHES FOR 2013-14

1. Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Record: 957-238
Record at Duke: 884-238 overall (.788), 350-153 ACC (.696)
NCAA Tournament: 82-25, 11 Final Fours, four national championships
Since 2007, Duke has lost in the NCAA Tournament to an 11th-seeded VCU, seventh-seeded West Virginia and 15th-seeded Lehigh. In that span, Mike Krzyzewski still managed his fourth national title and four 30-win seasons. Krzyzewski has passed Bob Knight on the all-time wins list and now chases Pat Summitt’s 1,098 wins in NCAA basketball. With a preseason top-five team on his hands in 2013-14, Krzyzewski remains at the top of his game.

2. Jim Boeheim, Syracuse
Record (all at Syracuse): 920-314 (.746) overall, 362-191 (.655)
NCAA Tournament: 52-29, four Final Fours, one national championship
Last season was quite a year for Jim Boeheim. He crossed the 900-win mark (joining KrzyzewskI and Knight) and became the fourth coach to take a team to the Final Four in four different decades (joining Rick Pitino, Dean Smith and Krzyzewski). Now, one of the founding fathers of Big East basketball will try his hand at the ACC. In case you were wondering: Boeheim is 3-4 all-time against Duke and North Carolina.

3. Roy Williams, North Carolina
Record: 700-180
Record at North Carolina: 282-79 (.781) overall, 117-45 ACC (.722)
NCAA Tournament: 62-21, seven Final Fours, two national championships
Despite his stellar record, Roy Williams gets knocked for a few things: His teams crumble in the NCAA Tournament, and his teams don’t play defense. To those, we have two retorts. Williams has a better NCAA Tournament record at North Carolina (28-7) than he had at Kansas (34-14), a difference of nearly 10 percent and two national titles. And in 10 seasons under Williams, North Carolina has ranked in the top 25 nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings eight times.

4. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh
Record (all at Pittsburgh): 262-86 overall (.753), 115-57 (.669) Big East
NCAA Tournament: 11-9
The 2011-12 season turned out to be a blip for Jamie Dixon at Pittsburgh. The Panthers went 5-13 in the Big East and missed the NCAA Tournament for his worst season as Pitt’s head coach. The Panthers quickly rebounded in 2013-14. Overall, a few numbers to consider: Dixon has one more Big East win than Boeheim since Dixon became head coach in 2003-04. Dixon also had 16 more Big East wins than Jim Calhoun from 2003-04 through the UConn coach’s retirement last season. And lastly, Dixon had only three fewer Big East wins (92) than Louisville’s Rick Pitino (95) when both programs were in the league. The only thing that’s missing is postseason success: Dixon has reached the Elite Eight and won Big East Tournament only once each.

5. Jim Larranaga, Miami
Record: 491-329
Record at Miami: 49-20 overall (.710), 24-10 ACC (.706)
NCAA Tournament: 7-6, one Final Four
When Larranaga left George Mason for Miami, it seemed to be a cushy last job before he retired. Turns out Larranaga had a few more surprises. Seven years after taking George Mason to the Final Four, Larranaga won an ACC Tournament and regular-season title at Miami — the last ACC team other than Duke or North Carolina to do both in the same season was a David Thompson-led NC State team in 1974. Nearly as remarkable: Larranaga has had one losing conference season since 1993-94 while at Bowling Green.

6. Leonard Hamilton, Florida State
Record: 419-353
Record at Florida State: 219-143 overall (.605), 89-89 ACC (.500)
NCAA Tournament: 6-7
Hamilton knows something about degree of difficulty: He has won a share of the Big East regular-season title at Miami and an ACC Tournament title at Florida State. After losing seasons in ACC play in five of his first six years at FSU, Hamilton has gone 52-30 in the conference in the last four seasons. The defensive-minded Hamilton turned FSU into a factor in the ACC after more than a decade of irrelevance.

7. Mike Brey, Notre Dame
Record: 384-194
Record at Notre Dame: 285-142 overall (.667), 136-79 Big East (.633)
NCAA Tournament: 6-11
Stability is the name of the game here as Notre Dame has won 20 games in each of the last seven seasons, reached in the NCAA Tournament in six of the last seven years and protected its homecourt. Still, Notre Dame has not reached the second weekend of the NCAA since Brey’s third season in 2003.

8. Tony Bennett, Virginia
Record: 145-86
Record at Virginia: 76-53 overall (.589), 32-34 ACC (.485)
NCAA Tournament: 3-3
Bennett’s preferred style of play isn’t the most exciting, but it is effective. He’s reversed the fortunes of Washington State and Virginia while making stars of Klay Thompson, Mike Smith and Joe Harris. The Cavaliers went 11-7 in the ACC last season, but this could be a breakout season for program that hasn’t reached the Sweet 16 since 1995.

9. Steve Donahue, Boston College
Record: 192-190
Record at Boston College: 46-52 (.469), 20-30 ACC (.400)
NCAA Tournament: 2-3
Donahue is building Boston College in a similar fashion as he did at Cornell — from the ground up. Donahue reached the NIT in his first season at BC, but he’s had one of the nation’s youngest rosters the last two years, and it’s shown. This season could be the turning point after BC went from 4-12 to 7-11 in the ACC a year ago. By his eighth season at Cornell, Donahue began a run where he led the Big Red to three consecutive Ivy League titles and the Sweet 16 in 2010.

10. Mark Turgeon, Maryland
Record: 292-187
Record at Maryland: 42-28 overall (.600), 14-20 ACC (.412)
NCAA Tournament: 5-5
Turgeon hasn’t completed his rebuild of Maryland, but hopes are high even without the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft in Alex Len in 2013-14. Turgeon took Texas A&M to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments but hasn’t finished higher than seventh in the ACC in two seasons at Maryland.

11. Mark Gottfried, NC State
Record: 326-179
Record at NC State: 48-24 overall (.667), 20-14 ACC (.588)
NCAA Tournament: 7-9
Gottfried raised expectations for a hungry NC State fanbase as the Wolfpack reached the Sweet 16 in 2012 and added a second standout recruiting class. The ACC media’s preseason favorite ended up 11-7 in the league in 2013, and the program lost the core of its team to transfers and the NBA Draft.

12. Brad Brownell, Clemson
Record: 218-130
Record at Clemson: 51-45 overall (.531), 22-28 ACC (.440)
NCAA Tournament record: 1-4
Clemson’s not an easy place to win big, but the Tigers’ win totals — overall and in conference — have decreased in three seasons under Brownell. Clemson went 5-13 in the league last season, and they don’t project to get much better. These are puzzling results or a coach who was a hot commodity for his work at UNC Wilmington and Wright State.

13. Brian Gregory, Georgia Tech
Record: 199-129
Record at Georgia Tech: 27-35 overall (.435), 10-24 ACC (.303)
NCAA Tournament: 1-2
Gregory has Georgia Tech on the upswing, but it’s a long way up from five or six conference wins to NCAA Tournament contention. A former Tom Izzo assistant, Gregory hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2009 at Dayton.

14. Jeff Bzdelik Wake Forest
Record: 145-165
Record at Wake Forest: 34-60 overall (.362), 10-39 ACC (.204)
NCAA Tournament: 0-1
Bzdelik isn’t a fan favorite at Wake Forest, but the veteran coach hung onto his job after going 6-12 in the ACC. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s more conference wins than Bzdelik had his first two seasons combined. Four of those wins last season came over NCAA or NIT teams (Miami, NC State, Florida State and Virginia), but Bzdelik is seven seasons removed from his last winning season at Air Force.

15. James Johnson, Virginia Tech
Record (one season at Virginia Tech): 13-19 overall (.406), 4-14 ACC (.222)
Johnson’s tenure is off to a disastrous start after finishing last in the ACC and then getting hit with a second wave of player transfers and recruiting losses in his second offseason.

Teaser:
Where do Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim rank with Coach K?
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/arizona-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013
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UCLA has represented the South Division in the Pac-12 Championship in each of the last two seasons. But the Bruins face stiffer competition for the top spot in 2013, as USC is due to rebound, and Arizona State is a team on the rise.

The Sun Devils finished 8-5 last year and a two-point loss to UCLA was all that separated coach Todd Graham’s team from playing in the conference title game. Graham’s hire made a big difference in Tempe, as Arizona State lost two of its games by four points or less, defeated rival Arizona and crushed Navy 62-28 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

With 14 starters back and plenty of star power on both sides of the ball, Arizona State is one of college football’s top 25 teams for 2013. The offense averaged 38.4 points per game last year and should be even better this year with another offseason for quarterback Taylor Kelly to learn under coordinator Mike Norvell. The one-two punch of Marion Grice and DJ Foster at running back is one of the best in the nation. On defense, tackle Will Sutton is an All-American, and linebacker Carl Bradford is one of the Pac-12’s most underrated players.

Arizona State has a favorable schedule this year, missing Oregon in crossover play with the North Division, while Arizona and USC come to Sun Devil Stadium.

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

Arizona State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
David
Fox
Dave
Bartoo
9/5 Sacramento State
9/14 Wisconsin
9/21 at Stanford
9/28 USC
10/5 Notre Dame (Arlington)
10/12 Colorado
10/19 Washington
10/31 at Washington State
11/9 at Utah
11/16 Oregon State
11/23 at UCLA
11/30 Arizona
Final Projection9-39-39-39-36-6

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Arizona State is my pick to win the Pac-12 South this year. The Sun Devils return 14 starters and showed improvement under coach Todd Graham last season. The offense needs a new go-to receiver to emerge, but quarterback Taylor Kelly and running backs Marion Grice and DJ Foster should keep this unit performing at a high level. Arizona State ranked second in the Pac-12 in total defense and first against the pass last season, and there’s little reason to expect a drop-off. The front seven is loaded with talent, including tackle Will Sutton, linebacker Carl Bradford and sophomore nose tackle Jaxon Hood. Last year, Arizona State eliminated some of the silly mental mistakes that plagued this team in recent seasons and was one Pac-12 win away from playing for the conference title. With Oregon off the schedule and USC and Arizona visiting Sun Devil Stadium, the Pac-12 South title should run through Tempe this year.

Mark Ross
With 14 starters returning, including linchpins on offense (quarterback Taylor Kelly) and defense (tackle Will Sutton), this could be a special season in Tempe. Todd Graham appears to have all the pieces his offense needs to be explosive and the defense returns plenty of talent and experience in addition to Sutton, the conference's reigning defensive player of the year. With non-conference matchups against Wisconsin at home and Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas, the Sun Devils should more than ready for the rigors of Pac-12 play. Road games at Stanford and UCLA won't be easy, but there's no Oregon on the schedule either. As long as everyone stays healthy and this team doesn't lose focus, the Pac-12 South title is there for the taking, as well as a potential Rose Bowl appearance.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
There are few teams in the Pac-12 as complete on both sides of the ball as the Sun Devils. This team has two marquee non-conference games and both are very winnable. Wisconsin should be a win at home early in the year and the fast track in Arlington will allow for Arizona State to fly around the field against Notre Dame. The Sun Devils could win both and enter BCS bowl talks by the first weekend of October. That said, the conference slate is downright nasty with road trips to Stanford and UCLA to go with home games against USC, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona. The good news? There is no Oregon. The bad news? If ASU can go 1-1 against the Bruins and Trojans, they should win the South, and then possibly get to play Oregon.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Arizona State will be in good shape if the Sun Devils can figure out how to win the close game. Arizona State is 4-15 in one-score games in the last five seasons. Perhaps Todd Graham helped turn the tide when the Sun Devils defeated Arizona 41-34 on the road to cap the regular season last year. Cutting the drive-killing penalties that marked the Dennis Erickson era certainly helped.  I have a few bold picks here, namely an Arizona State win over Notre Dame. That may be a defensive struggle, but the Sun Devils have the offense to break a key play or two. As for the late-season losses, Oregon State generally surges late in the season, and the Beavers are good enough to win in Tempe. UCLA was my vote to win the Pac-12 South, but that game in Pasadena could be the deciding factor.

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The Pac-12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Arizona State Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 11:34
Path: /college-football/sec-football-releases-2014-conference-slate
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College Football’s 2013 season has yet to start, but the SEC is already planning for 2014. On Wednesday, the conference released its 2014 slate, headlined by a Thursday night opener on Aug. 28 between Texas A&M and South Carolina.

Here are a few key takeaways from the schedule release: (Click here to check out the full schedule)

* Texas A&M at South Carolina (Aug. 28) – Excellent way to open the season, but don’t expect Johnny Manziel or Jadeveon Clowney to be playing in this one.

* Georgia at South Carolina (Sept. 13) – Another early season matchup between these two East Division rivals.

* Florida at Alabama (Sept. 20) – An early preview for the SEC Championship?

* Florida at Tennessee (Oct. 4) – A slightly later date for this game in 2013.

* Alabama at LSU (Nov. 8) – Always huge SEC West title implications when these two teams meet.

* LSU at Texas A&M (Nov. 27) – Thanksgiving night matchup between these two teams should be must-see television.

* Arkansas at Missouri (Nov. 29) – Border rivals meet for only the sixth time…and the first time as SEC opponents.

Crossover Games

East Division

Florida: at Alabama, LSU
Georgia: at Arkansas, Auburn
Kentucky: at LSU, Mississippi State
Missouri: at Texas A&M, Arkansas
South Carolina: Texas A&M, at Auburn
Tennessee: at Ole Miss, Alabama
Vanderbilt: Ole Miss, at Mississippi State

West Division

Alabama: Florida, at Tennessee
Arkansas: Georgia, at Missouri
Auburn: South Carolina, at Georgia
LSU: at Florida, Kentucky
Mississippi State: at Kentucky, Vanderbilt
Ole Miss: at Vanderbilt, Tennessee
Texas A&M: at South Carolina, Missouri
 

Teaser:
SEC Football Releases 2014 Conference Slate
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 11:14
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-2013-nfl-team-preview
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The Chiefs turned the page yet again after another miserable season, this time parting ways with general manager Scott Pioli and coach Romeo Crennel after yet another unsuccessful regime in Kansas City.

Now for the good news: The Chiefs landed perhaps the hottest free agent entering 2013, former Eagles coach Andy Reid. John Dorsey, a former Packers executive, joined him as GM, and they’ll try to bring stability — to say nothing of the first playoff win since January 1994 — to a franchise that has lacked it for years.

They began the latest rebuild immediately, trading for quarterback Alex Smith and releasing Matt Cassel after four mostly forgettable seasons. They quickly signed star wide receiver Dwayne Bowe to a long-term contract, and then drafted offensive tackle Eric Fisher first overall.

Despite a 2–14 record in 2012, there is talent in Kansas City. The Chiefs did, after all, have six Pro Bowlers, including star running back Jamaal Charles. With a kind of luck that has been rare around these parts, a fast turnaround is possible.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 9th

Related: 2013 Kansas City Chiefs Schedule Analysis

Offense
Smith will be the key to Reid’s success timeline. The veteran quarterback is limited, as Cassel was, but he will bring an efficiency that hasn’t been present since Trent Green was starting. Reid will be judged on how quickly Smith adjusts and proves he can succeed without the eye of Jim Harbaugh, his coach in San Francisco.

The Chiefs spent much of the offseason building around their quarterback, and although that strategy is nothing new in Kansas City, it at least looks promising. Extending Bowe was a no-brainer and should’ve been done last year. Drafting Knile Davis to help ease the burden on running back Charles — and he was burdened often in 2012 by Crennel — was a smart move. Charles remains the Chiefs’ most explosive player. The question this season will be how his body will respond to having 285 carries last season, 55 more than his previous career high. At 26, he’s still young, but with an ACL surgery in 2011 and a continual pounding last season, one of the more interesting storylines will be how Charles holds up — and how Reid’s staff uses its best big-play threat, in the backfield and in the passing game.

This point was reinforced when Charles went down during training camp with what turned out to be a foot sprain. Although the injury isn't expected to impact his Week 1 availability, it's even more critical now for either Davis or Shaun Draughn or someone on the roster to emerge as a reliable second backfield option.

The Chiefs also made several moves in an effort to upgrade their offensive depth, including adding wide receiver Donnie Avery and veteran tight end Anthony Fasano during the offseason. The team also traded Jon Baldwin to San Francisco for A.J. Jenkins during training camp in an exchange of recent first-round wide receivers (Baldwin in 2011, Jenkins in ’12) that have yet to accomplish anything on the field.

But perhaps most important, the team also created a mess for itself at left tackle this offseason. Branden Albert, the starter since 2008 and the team’s franchise player, publicly said he wouldn’t move to another position. Regardless, the Chiefs drafted Fisher at No. 1 and now have two left tackles. Although the team will try to trade Albert, the best bet is that Fisher will start at right tackle as he adds weight — he’s listed at 6'8" and 305 pounds — and adjusts to the NFL grind. After that, the Chiefs can decide whether to part ways with Albert or sign the veteran and keep Fisher on the right side, though the top pick is a massive price for a right tackle.

The team’s interior line is solid, but with no projected starter with more than three years experience, a veteran presence is lacking. And that could make life difficult for Smith and Charles — and, by extension, Reid, who will be granted only limited patience by a Chiefs fan base scorned before by big names who won elsewhere but couldn’t bring success to Kansas City.

Defense
The defense will either be the heartbeat of a surprise team or the reason the Chiefs again struggle in the AFC West. The team’s linebackers are among the NFL’s best, but a defensive line whose best player is the underwhelming Tyson Jackson? That’s a situation no coach or coordinator wants to be in, but it’s one the Chiefs are faced with.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston showed last year that he could be one of the AFC’s better pass-rushers and a complement to Tamba Hali, a team leader and an elite rusher. Derrick Johnson has emerged as one of the league’s best all-around inside linebackers, and he’ll be asked this season to mentor rookie Nico Johnson, who played for Nick Saban at Alabama.

If this sounds promising, it should, but that line is still a question. The Chiefs were unable to upgrade the position during free agency or the draft, and it’ll depend on three questionable draft picks — including two first-rounders — from the previous regime to see them through this season. Jackson is only a serviceable player, and the departure of Glenn Dorsey should elevate Allen Bailey, who has been only a situational player, into the starting lineup. Last year’s top pick, nose tackle Dontari Poe, was a pleasant surprise despite a poor draft-night grade, and the Chiefs need him to continue making progress. Still, the line is the shallowest position on a team that has, for years, tried to make improvements along its defensive front. Yet again, this will likely be the team’s top priority during the 2014 offseason.

Confidence in the Chiefs’ secondary falls somewhere between the linebackers and linemen. There’s talent, but there was so much movement during the offseason that it’s difficult to know how well the defensive backs will jell. Strong safety Eric Berry is a promising defender entering his fourth season, and cornerback Brandon Flowers is one of the league’s most complete corners. But cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, brought in as free agents, are imperfect. Reid has indicated that rookie Sanders Commings could start at free safety, pushing aside the talented but injury-prone Kendrick Lewis.

Specialists
Dustin Colquitt has a new contract as the league’s highest-paid punter, and kicker Ryan Succop has the talent to become one of the best at his position.

The Chiefs will take their chances at kick returner with Draughn and Dexter ­McCluster, who has big-play capability but problems with fumbles. The team traded Javier Arenas, its punt returner the past three seasons, to Arizona and will either let McCluster and Draughn handle both jobs or try a new face in a return game that has improved little.

Final Analysis: 2nd in AFC West
Reid has made no promises of a playoff appearance, and that’s the smart play for a team with plenty of holes — but also plenty of potential. If the Chiefs are somehow in contention, it’ll mean Smith has adapted quickly to Reid’s offensive scheme, the defensive line has played better than the roster suggests it will, and the secondary and offensive line have quickly found chemistry and comfort. That’s a tall order.

More likely is another year of growing pains but with some noticeable progress. Eight wins may be the barometer, which, after 2012, seems just fine. Bowe, Hali, Johnson and Charles aren’t getting any younger, but if Reid and Dorsey continue the smart, methodical approach they’ve leaned on so far, brighter days are ahead for this suffering franchise and fan base.

Order your 2013 Kansas City Chiefs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)ChicagoAtlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Kansas City Chiefs 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nfl/minnesota-vikings-2013-nfl-team-preview
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On New Year’s Day 2012, the Vikings stumbled across the finish line of the most miserable season in franchise history. That day’s home loss to Chicago completed a 3–13 collapse. And with the defeat coming only two days after Adrian Peterson underwent surgery on torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee, nothing but misery surrounded the franchise.

The disorienting freefall left many wondering just how steep the climb back to relevance would be. Yet by this past New Year’s Eve, the Vikings were headed back to the playoffs and Peterson was completing an astounding comeback season — of the MVP variety — rushing for 2,097 yards and carrying his team through a four-game winning streak to close the year. In abbreviated form, that summarizes the underdog conquest of the 2012 Vikings.

So now what? After all that, how will Peterson and the Vikings handle the heightened expectations brought on by their own brilliance?

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 9th

Related: 2013 Minnesota Vikings Schedule Analysis

Offense
So long as Peterson is around, the game plan will be run first, run second, throw when necessary. But even with that predictability, opposing defenses have found little to slow the MVP. Look back at the second half of last season, with Percy Harvin lost to a season-ending ankle injury in the ninth game and Christian Ponder lapsing into a funk that saw him throw for just 443 yards with four turnovers in three November games. All Peterson did in his final eight games was average 165 rushing yards per contest and 6.7 yards per carry while scoring nine touchdowns.

He was physical. He was elusive. He was a one-man show in a one-dimensional offense.

But now comes a quest to find balance. And after trading Harvin to Seattle, the team quickly signed Greg Jennings before drafting Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round to help revive the passing attack. The anticipation is that Jennings’ enthusiasm and professionalism will become a catalyst for both Ponder and Patterson. Ponder needs Jennings to be his new go-to receiver, a crisp route-runner with obvious intelligence whose presence alone should keep defenses from constantly stacking up against Peterson.

Patterson, meanwhile, will rely on Jennings to learn more about being a pro. After only one season of major college football, Patterson is widely considered raw. And even the Vikings aren’t setting grand expectations for Year 1: They don’t need Patterson to emulate his childhood hero, Randy Moss, whose jersey number (84) he’ll wear. Patterson may do his most damage out of the gates as a returner but has the combination of size, speed and athleticism to be a game-breaker once he absorbs some of the nuances of the NFL game. And coordinator Bill Musgrave also understands the need to be imaginative in creating touches for the rookie.

All the playmakers should benefit from the offensive line stability, with the same quintet that started all 16 games in 2012 back together for another year. Left tackle Matt Kalil, who went to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, may be one of the league’s best in pass protection and proved last season he’s underrated as a run-blocker. Center John Sullivan, a 2008 sixth-round pick, continues to improve and is the leader of a unit that may be as smart as it is nasty.

As for Ponder? The Vikings have delivered the same directive he had in 2012, asking him to avoid drive-killing sacks and game-changing interceptions without growing overly conservative. Ponder’s late-season rebound provided positive reinforcement. With a playoff berth on the line in Week 17, Ponder beat Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, 37–34, throwing three TDs with a career-best 120.2 rating.

Defense
In his first year as a coordinator, Alan Williams mixed up the defensive calls and improved the 4-3 attack. But the unit still finished in the middle of the pack in total defense (16th, 350.0 ypg) and points allowed (tied for 14th, 21.8 ppg). And there are big holes to plug with the exits of cornerback Antoine Winfield and middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

Heading for training camp, the Vikings were still searching to identify a top candidate at middle linebacker, dabbling with the idea of moving Erin Henderson inside after he started the past two seasons at weak-side linebacker. But despite Henderson’s athleticism and tenacity, there are worries about his habit of wandering out of place with a thirst for making the big play. Strong-side linebacker Chad Greenway might be the most consistent player on defense, a tackling machine who always does what’s asked. The team also signed former Packer in Desmond Bishop, who missed all of last season with a torn hamstring, in June. If he can show he's healthy and effective, Bishop will only deepen the Vikings' linebacking corps.

But the Vikings’ edge still starts up front where their line is both accomplished and aging. Three standout veterans — Jared Allen, 31; Kevin Williams, 33; and Brian Robison, 30 — all are heading into contract years. And it would not be a surprise if this were the last hurrah for both Allen and Williams as Vikings. Allen battled a torn labrum in his shoulder last fall and saw his sack production fall dramatically, from 22 in 2011 to 12 last season. But the internal belief is that he is still a pass-rushing force who commands plenty of attention.

Everson Griffen is an emerging force whose athleticism and versatility were evident in his eight sacks plus a 29-yard interception return touchdown. And there is excitement about the athleticism and burst that rookie tackle Sharrif Floyd will bring.

The secondary remains young but eager with second-year safety Harrison Smith emerging as an always-in-the-right-place playmaker who uses his instincts to excel in pass coverage while also bringing a hard-hitting edge. Pairing rookie Xavier Rhodes opposite Chris Cook at cornerback should give the Vikings a chance to play man-to-man more regularly. Both players are big, physical and quick, prerequisites in a division with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and all those playmakers in Green Bay.

Specialists
The new punter will be Jeff Locke, a left-footer out of UCLA who was drafted in the fifth round. The decision to use a Day 3 draft pick on a punter might have been more head-scratching had the Vikings not hit the jackpot a year earlier by selecting kicker Blair Walsh in Round 6. As a rookie, Walsh responded with one of the best seasons by a placekicker in NFL history — 35-of-38 on field goals, 10-of-10 from 50 yards and beyond, 53 touchbacks on 86 kickoffs. Walsh’s leg strength and poise were evident throughout, and his inclusion in the Pro Bowl and on the All-Pro team were well-deserved.

Final Analysis: 2nd in NFC North
The team seems to be on an upward arc. But in an ultra-tough division, a return to the playoffs will require the Vikings to navigate a much tougher schedule while finding contributors to plug holes left by Harvin and Winfield. Peterson’s bid to repeat as MVP will be key. More significant will be Ponder’s ability to take the next step in his growth.

Order your 2013 Minnesota Vikings Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)ChicagoAtlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesotaTampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Minnesota Vikings 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-bristol-motor-speedway
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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 9-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.


Next up: Irwin Tools Night Race (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Race: 500 laps, 266.5 miles (Track: .533-mile oval)
March 2013 winner: Kasey Kahne


A-List (pick two, start one)
Brad Keselowski  Brad Keselowski
It's been 23 races since Brad Keselowski started the defense of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title, though it’s a defense that has been seemingly futile. Don't be surprised if that changes Saturday night.

Keselowski has become quite good at Bristol Motor Speedway — good enough that he might break a drought of winning that's closing in on nearly a year in duration. In eight Bristol starts, Keselowski has a pair of wins and three top-5 finishes, all of which have come in his last four races at the half-mile track. The outlier in the four-race span for Keselowski came a year ago when he was caught in a wreck while running in the top 10. Keselowski led 62 laps in the spring Bristol race for his highest total of the year. Starting him could be worth your while.


Kasey KahneThe hiccups and headaches Kasey Kahne has faced intermittently in 2013 have gone down much smoother thanks to his win at Bristol in March. Now, Kahne is in position to tackle Bristol again without a deep fear of missing the Chase. That lack of caution could be a nice advantage in a 500-lap night around the east Tennessee bullring.

The March win was really something that's been a long time coming for Kahne at Bristol. Aside from the spring race in 2012 when he was taken out in an early crash, Kahne has finished 11th or better at Bristol since August 2010. A year ago, he led 42 laps before finishing ninth. Kahne might not be the highest-scoring A-Lister on Saturday night, but he's certainly not a poor choice to bring in consistent points.

Also consider: Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth


B-List (pick four, start two)
Kyle Busch
If you're looking for maximum points in the B-List, it's tough to shy away from Kyle Busch at Bristol for two reasons: First, he's really, really good at there and second, he's got his mind set on bouncing back from a poor Michigan outing.

Busch owns five career Cup wins at Bristol and was a spot away from making it six in March. That runner-up finish means Busch now has a four-race drought at the half-mile track since he went four for five in Sprint Cup races from 2009-11. In the last 17 races, Busch's average running position at Bristol is sixth-best in the series.

Martin Truex Jr.
The steady flow of wins that Martin Truex Jr. promised us all after finally breaking through again at Sonoma Raceway in June hasn't happened yet. Worse, the steady finishes he's accumulated haven't even been that impressive. Now he's in peril of falling out of a Chase position.

Truex will be one of about nine drivers scrambling Saturday night for maximum points to make his championship dreams happen. Bristol will be a good spot for it, as Truex has two top-3 finishes in his last four Bristol races. All four of those events saw Truex wind up in the top 12 — not bad for teams in search of a quality, underused B-List driver.

Jamie McMurray
Consider this another pick in the name of finding an alternative in the B-List as the season wears on. Jamie McMurray's Bristol success has been masked mainly by the fact that he's never won at the track, and that he's only led 21 laps in his 21-start career. But even though McMurray hasn't taken the track by storm, he's racked up five top-10 finishes in his last seven Bristol starts. The No. 1 car finished 10th in this season's first Bristol race in March.


Kurt BuschThis week, we'll avoid discussing the possibility of Kurt Busch finally breaking through to Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing. However, we will not avoid some very key statistics as to why Kurt is a worthy start Saturday night. First, Busch owns the seventh-best average running position in the last 17 Bristol races among all drivers. Busch also owns five career wins at the track, including a spell in 2003 and ’04 where he won three in a row. Finally, don't forget that Busch finished fourth in the Bristol spring race — earning his seventh Bristol top-5 finish along the way.

Also consider: Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers


C-List (pick two, start one)
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stenhouse has a single Bristol Sprint Cup start to his name, and the 16th-place finish was plenty respectable. It's reasonable to think that the rookie, with even more experience in the Cup Series from that first Bristol start in March, could match or better that result Saturday. After all, the track hasn't vexed Stenhouse in the Nationwide Series. Last season, he was sixth and second in two Nationwide events and led 101 laps. Of course, Stenhouse remains attractive in the C-List because of the overall dearth of great talent. Perhaps Bristol could give Stenhouse his first career Cup Series top 10? We'll see.

Casey Mears
In case you've used a bunch of starts on Stenhouse, looking toward Casey Mears' No. 13 Ford for a Bristol start might be a worthy consideration. It was just last year that Mears remarkably won the pole for the Bristol Night Race. Better yet, he finished 15th in the spring Bristol event to continue a four-race streak where he's finished better than 25th at the track. That's largely due to Bristol being really a perfect event — aside from the restrictor plate tracks, of course — for a team like Germain Racing with limited technical resources to score an unexpectedly strong result. They just simply don't need the aerodynamic package or other "go-fast" elements held by the deep-pocketed teams. If Mears just keeps it straight and maintains track position, things may well work out.

Also consider: David Ragan, David Stremme


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

Teaser:
Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch top the list of fantasy picks for NASCAR's trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Irwin Tools Night Race.
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:46
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-21-2013
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for Aug. 21.

 

• There was an Internet rumor yesterday that Maria Sharapova was going to change her name to Sugarpova to hawk candy. Not true, but it's an excuse to link to a slideshow of Ms. Sharapova, who's lovely by any name.

 

The 12 biggest bromances in sports. My favorite is the May-September thing that Pop and Tim Duncan have going.

 

• Speaking of bro-ness, the pool dunk craze led these 10 bros to translate three balls, two rooftops, a trampoline and an above-ground pool into Internet immortality.

 

• The one-trick ponies of college sports: Schools with the biggest football-basketball success discrepancies.

 

Watch a dog go to great lengths to avoid a bath, including going limp and playing dead.

 

An Astros rookie erased his first hit in the most Astros way possible.

 

• I know absolutely nothing about action and adventure sports, except that they yield really cool photos.

 

• Online sports content these days is one big rank-a-palooza. Here are the top 10 SEC linebackers of the BCS era.

 

Yasiel Puig got benched, then hit a game-winning homer.

 

• This is kind of meta: Watch Mike Tyson play Mike Tyson Punch-Out in the green room at Fox Sports 1.

 

Brandon Phillips fed a troll on Twitter with a pretty stout comeback.

 

• Watch a passed ball get sucked into another dimension, allowing Paul Konerko to score.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:42
Path: /college-football/michigan-wr-amara-darboh-out-2013-season
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With the Wolverines expected to run more of a pro-style offense now that Devin Gardner is the full-time quarterback, the receiving corps was under pressure to step up in 2013. But this unit suffered a huge loss on Wednesday, as sophomore Amara Darboh was ruled out for the season.

Darboh did not record a reception last year but was expected to start and play a huge role in the receiving corps in 2013. The 6-foot-2, 212 receiver was poised for a breakout year, but his injury will force senior Drew Dileo, and freshman Jehu Chesson to step up this fall.

Michigan’s passing attack will miss Darboh, but the Wolverines shouldn’t suffer too much on offense. Senior Jeremy Gallon is a dependable No. 1 and Dileo/Chesson should be capable options. Tight end Devin Funchess is a rising star in the Big Ten to watch.

Darboh should return at full strength for 2013.
 

Teaser:
Michigan WR Amara Darboh Out for 2013 Season
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/alabama-cb-geno-smith-suspended-season-opener
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Alabama cornerback Geno Smith was arrested over the weekend on DUI charges. As a result of his off-the-field incident, the sophomore has been suspended for the season opener against Virginia Tech in Atlanta. 

Smith was expected to be one of the key players in Alabama's secondary this year. With Dee Milliner playing in the NFL, Smith and senior Deion Belue will be counted upon to keep the Crimson Tide's pass defense among the best in the nation. 

How does Smith's suspension affect Alabama in the opener? The Crimson Tide will have to shuffle their personnel around in the secondary, but this is a very manageable loss for Nick Saban's defense. The Hokies are struggling to find the right pieces on the offensive line, and their receiving corps is inexperienced. 

Although Smith will be missed, Alabama can get by without him for the first game of the year. 

Teaser:
Alabama CB Geno Smith Suspended for Season Opener
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 10:23
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-linebacker-units-2013
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It’s a tough call for the No. 1 spot in college football’s linebacker units for 2013. Stanford and Alabama are both deserving of the top honor, but a slight edge goes to the Cardinal. Shayne Skov should be closer to full strength now that he is a full year removed from a torn ACL, and Trent Murphy is poised to be an All-American this season. The Crimson Tide is led by C.J. Mosley, with Trey DePriest, Xzavier Dickson, Adrian Hubbard and Denzel Devall all capable of being standout performers. UCLA also boasts a strong trio, led by future NFL first-round pick Anthony Barr.

How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2013 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference.

They’re the teams within the team — those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context. 

Whether it’s the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball — these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature. 
 
Whether or not these units function as one can make the difference between winning and losing, and a single unit can carry a team to New Year’s Day — or beyond.
 
It’s entirely fitting, then, for us to honor the best of the best at each position with our 13th annual Athlon Awards. 

 

Ranking the Top 25 Linebacker Units for 2013

1. Stanford
The Cardinal will miss Chase Thomas, but three starters return, including seniors Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy. Skov led the Stanford defense with 81 tackles last year, while Murphy recorded 10 sacks. A.J. Tarpley joins Skov on the interior and is poised for his best season on The Farm. Senior Blake Lueders or James Vaughters will replace Thomas on the outside. Jarek Lancaster and Kevin Anderson will contribute as top reserves.

2. Alabama
If Stanford has the No. 1 linebacker unit, then Alabama is essentially 1b. C.J. Mosley is one of the top linebackers in the nation and is joined by Trey DePriest on the interior. Mosley and DePriest combined for 166 tackles last year. Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson combined for 10.5 sacks in 2012, and the coaching staff hopes this duo can provide a more consistent pass rush in 2013. Denzel Devall, Tana Patrick, Ryan Anderson and Reuben Foster are valuable reserves.

3. UCLA 
Anthony Barr was shifted from offense to defense last year, and the move paid huge dividends for the Bruins. Barr recorded 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss in 2012, and his athleticism off the edge is a matchup nightmare for offensive lines. Eric Kendricks led all Pac-12 defenders with 149 stops last season and is joined on the interior by Jordan Zumwalt. Sophomore Aaron Wallace is the frontrunner to replace Damien Holmes at the other outside spot, but true freshman Myles Jack and sophomore Kenny Orjioke could factor into the rotation.

4. Michigan State 
With three starters departing from the defensive line, the Spartans will depend on the linebackers to keep the rush defense near the top of the Big Ten. Max Bullough enters his third year as Michigan State’s middle linebacker. The senior led the team with 111 stops last season. Junior Taiwan Jones is set for a breakout season after recording 5.5 tackles for a loss and 38 tackles as a reserve last year. Strong-side linebacker Denicos Allen is a three-year starter. Senior Jairus Jones should see plenty of snaps as the unit’s top reserve in 2013.

5. LSU 
Thanks to the emergence of Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow last season, the Tigers emerged as one of the SEC’s top linebacker units. Minter left for the NFL, but Barrow is back after recording 104 stops. This position is overflowing with talent, starting with sophomore Kwon Alexander and freshman Kendell Beckwith. A broken ankle ended Alexander’s 2012 season after seven games, while Beckwith is one of the top recruits in LSU’s 2013 signing class. Junior D.J. Welter is fighting to hold onto a starting spot this fall, while Tahj Jones is expected to start on the strongside. Deion Jones, Ronnie Feist and Lamar Louis are all battling Beckwith and Alexander for snaps and spots on the two-deep.

6. Notre Dame
Manti Te’o is gone, but the Fighting Irish return two starters and plenty of talent at linebacker. Senior Danny Spond was forced to end his playing career this fall, which will likely open the door for sophomore Ben Councell to start at one of the outside spots. But Councell will be pushed for time by incoming freshman Jaylon Smith – the No. 1 linebacker in the 2013 signing class by Athlon Sports. Senior Prince Shembo anchors the edge after recording 7.5 sacks last year. Junior Ishaq Williams will provide depth, while Carlo Calabrese, Dan Fox and Jarrett Grace will replace Te’o’s production on the interior.

7. Florida State
The Seminoles have a new coordinator (Jeremy Pruitt) and only four returning starters on defense, but this unit should still remain one of the best in the nation. The line needs to be rebuilt, so the linebackers may need to be a little more active around the line of scrimmage. Senior Christian Jones earned second-team All-ACC honors last year and led the team with 95 tackles. Jones should push for All-American honors in 2013. Senior Telvin Smith and sophomore Terrance Smith should round out the starting trio. Telvin Smith recorded 9.5 tackles for a loss last year. There’s no shortage of talent behind the starters, but the second and third wave of linebackers lacks experience.

8. USC
With the change to a 3-4/5-2 scheme, it’s hard to classify where certain players fit in USC’s scheme this year. Dion Bailey has moved to safety, while Hayes Pullard and Lamar Dawson are back as returning starters. Dawson struggled in 2012 but should hold off Anthony Sarao for a starting spot. Pullard ranked second on the team with 107 stops last year. Seniors Devon Kennard and Morgan Breslin factored into our defensive line rankings as ends in USC’s new scheme. However, we’ll factor part of their production here as well, especially since both players will be tasked with getting to the quarterback in a hybrid rush end/linebacker role.

9. Washington
What a difference a year makes. The Huskies considered the linebacking corps one of the weak links on the defense going into the 2012 season. However, the emergence of Shaq Thompson and Travis Feeney, along with the arrival of coordinator Justin Wilcox, brought big improvement to the Huskies’ defense. Washington finished 2012 ranked second in the Pac-12 in pass defense and fourth in scoring defense. With Thompson poised to challenge for All-American honors, and the return of Feeney and John Timu into the starting lineup, the Huskies are in great shape at linebacker.

10. BYU
Kyle Van Noy turned down the NFL for one more year in Provo. The senior was outstanding in BYU’s 3-4 scheme last season, recording 22 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks, two interceptions and six forced fumbles. Van Noy is a first-team Athlon Sports All-American for 2013. Joining Van Noy on the outside will be senior Spencer Hadley (66 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year). The interior spots will feature new starters, as Uani Unga (28 tackles) and Tyler Beck (1 tackle) step into the lineup for Uona Kaveinga and Brandon Ogletree.

11. Ole Miss
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: Denzel Nkemdiche (2nd)

12. Iowa
Returning Starters: 3
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: James Morris (2nd)

13. Cincinnati
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 American Athletic All-Conference Performers: Greg Blair (1st), Jeff Luc (3rd)

14. Wisconsin
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: Chris Borland (1st)

15. Ohio State
Returning Starters: 1
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: Ryan Shazier (1st)

16. Florida
Returning Starters: 0
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: Antonio Morrison (3rd)

17. Clemson
Returning Starters: 3
Athlon 2013 All-ACC Performers: Spencer Shuey (3rd)

18. Baylor
Returning Starters: 3
Athlon 2013 All-Big 12 Performers: Bryce Hager (1st), Eddie Lackey (2nd)

19. Oklahoma State
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-Big 12 Performers: Shaun Lewis (2nd), Caleb Lavey (2nd)

20. Texas
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-Big 12 Performers: Jordan Hicks (1st)

21. Tennessee
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: A.J. Johnson (1st)

22. Louisville
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 American Athletic All-Conference Performers: LB Preston Brown (1st)

23. Arizona State
Returning Starters: 3
Athlon 2013 All-Pac-12 Performers: Carl Bradford (2nd)

24. Virginia Tech
Returning Starters: 1
Athlon 2013 All-ACC Performers: Jack Tyler (1st)

25. Michigan
Returning Starters: 2
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: James Ross III (3rd)

Related College Football Content

College Football Bowl Projections for 2013
Top 10 Darkhorses to Win the National Title
The Top 100 Players of the BCS Era
College Football's Top 25 Running Back Units for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Wide Receiver Corps for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Lines for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Defensive Lines for 2013
College Football's All-Name Team for 2013
SEC Breakout Players for 2013
College Football's Top 10 Underrated Quarterbacks

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 07:17
Path: /college-football/big-12s-top-25-games-watch-2013
Body:

The Baylor Bears cost the Big 12 a lot of money last year.

That’s because late on a November Saturday night, Art Briles’ group put an absolute beat down on the then-unbeaten Kansas State Wildcats 52-24. The loss knocked Bill Snyder’s squad and the Big 12 out of the BCS National Championship Game discussion. It was the most important game of the season in the Big 12 last fall and it didn’t involve Oklahoma or Texas. With the emergence of offensive wizards in Stillwater, Morgantown, Lubbock and Waco, the Big 12 is much more balanced in 2013 than possibly ever before. This is the most wide-open league in the nation and could be one of the more exciting ones to watch all season.

Having said all of that, the most important game this fall will likely take place in a familiar place with familiar faces.

Related: The Big 12 Coaches Give Anonymous Scouting Reports on the Big 12

  Dates RoadHomeThoughts
1.Oct 12Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas): Three of the last four winners of the Red River Shootout have gone on to win a share of the Big 12. The Horns have lost three straight and the last two by a combined score of 118-38.
2.Dec 7Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: The winner of the Bedlam Series has won a share of the conference crown in three straight seasons. The Sooners have lost just once to the Pokes since 2002 (9-1). This will be the third time in four seasons that they will play in Stillwater.
3.Nov 16Oklahoma State at Texas: The Horns own the all-time series record at 23-4 but Okie State has won the last two in Austin. Texas won 41-36 last year in Stillwater.
4.Oct 26Texas at TCU: Texas lost just once from 1967 to 2007 but TCU is 1-0 against the Horns in Big 12 competition after winning 20-13 last year in Austin.
5.Oct 5TCU at Oklahoma: TCU has upset the Sooners in Norman before, winning there twice in its last three trips (1996, 2005). The Sooners outlasted the Frogs 24-17 in Fort Worth last year.
6.Sept 28

Oklahoma at Notre Dame: The Sooners have won once in 10 tries against the Irish with that win coming in South Bend back in 1956 (40-0, at that). This game should carry some large BCS bowl implications. Notre Dame won 30-13 last year in Norman.

7.Oct 19TCU at Oklahoma State: When the Cowboys won 36-14 at home last year it marked the first meeting between the two since 1993. Okie State hasn't won in Fort Worth since 1947 so it's a good thing this one comes at home again this year.
8.Dec 7Texas at Baylor: A Big 12 title could be hanging in the balance as the Bears close Floyd Casey Stadium for the final time. Texas is 13-2 in its last 15 against Baylor, but the Longhorns are 1-2 in the last three, thanks to a 56-50 win in Austin last year.
9.Nov 23Oklahoma at Kansas State: The Sooners have won four straight over the Wildcats in Manhattan with the last home KSU win in the series coming back in 1996. The Sooners played well in a 24-19 home loss to Kansas State last year.
10.Nov 16TCU at Kansas State: Last year marked the first meeting between the two since 1986 as KSU won 23-10 in Fort Worth. It was the first win for KSU in the series in four tries and it tied the all-time record at 3-3 between the two.
11.Nov 7Oklahoma at Baylor: The Crimson and Cream are 21-1 all-time against Baylor with Robert Griffin III's memorable 45-38 win being the only blemish in the series for Oklahoma.
12.Oct 26Oklahoma State at Iowa State: No one in Stillwater has forgotten what took place the last time these two got together in Ames. The Pokes have won just twice in their last eight trips to Iowa State (2-5-1). 
13.Aug 31TCU vs. LSU (Arlington, Texas): The Bayou Bengals are 5-2-1 all-time against TCU, including five straight wins dating back to 1943. However, these two haven't met since LSU won 10-7 back in 1968.
14.Sept 21Kansas State at Texas: Bill Snyder has had Mack Brown's number, as KSU has won five straight against the Longhorns dating back to 2003. This stretch includes two wins in a row in Austin.
15.Sept 7Texas at BYU: These two have only met three times with BYU winning both ends of a home-and-home in 1987-88. Texas barely won the last meeting 17-16 in Austin in 2011.
16.Oct 5Kansas State at Oklahoma State: Kansas State didn't lose to the Pokes from 1990-2002 (9-0) but have lost four of the last six in the series. In fact, Oklahoma State has won three straight at home over the Wildcats.
17.Sept 14Ole Miss at Texas: The Horns are 6-1 all-time against the Ole Miss, including a 66-31 thumping in Oxford last season. The Rebs' only win came in the 1958 Sugar Bowl.
18.Nov 30Baylor at TCU: This underrated rivalry has been played 108 times with TCU holding a slight 51-50-7 all-time edge. TCU has won four out of the last five, including two straight at home.
19.Nov 23Baylor at Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are 15-2 in the last 17 meetings with Baylor but the Bears won 41-34 last year at home. The last time Baylor won in Stillwater, however, was way back in 1939.
20.Aug 31Oklahoma State vs. Mississippi State (Houston): These two have met just four times with the home team winning all three true home games. The Bulldogs won in Jackson, Miss., in 1970 and the last meeting in 1999 in Starkville.
21.Nov 2Oklahoma State at Texas Tech: Tech owns the all-time series record 16-21-3 but the Pokes have won four straight, including two in a row in Lubbock. Prior to that, however, the Red Raiders were 12-2-2 in Lubbock against Okie State.
22.Sept 12TCU at Texas Tech: Tech has been strong against TCU of late, winning 11 of the last 14 meetings, including a bizarre 56-53 showdown in Fort Worth last year. TCU hasn't won in Lubbock since 1991. 
23.Sept 28Oklahoma State at West Virginia: The Dana Holgorsen Bowl ended with a 55-34 Cowboys win last year in the first meeting between the two programs since 1987.
24.Nov 9Texas at West Virginia: These two have played only twice, scoring 13 total points in 1956 and 93 total points in 2012. West Virginia won both meetings, including the 48-45 showdown in Austin last year.
25.Oct 5West Virginia at Baylor: The one and only meeting came last year and it featured 133 points and 1,507 total yards of offense. There were 13 passing touchdowns and six rushing scores in that 70-63 WVU home win.

The Next 10:

Oct. 12: Baylor at Kansas State
Sept. 14: Iowa at Iowa State
Oct. 3: Texas at Iowa State
Nov. 9: TCU at Iowa State
Nov. 16: Baylor vs. Texas Tech (Arlington, Texas)
Sept. 21: Maryland vs. West Virginia (Baltimore)
Sept. 7: West Virginia at Oklahoma
Nov. 28: Texas Tech at Texas
Nov. 2: West Virginia at TCU
Oct. 26: West Virginia at Kansas State

Related College Football Content

Big 12 Predictions for 2013
Bowl Projections for 2013
Big 12 2013 All-Conference Team
Oklahoma Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Oklahoma State Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
West Virginia Game-by-Game Predictions for 2013
Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Texas Tech
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013
Five Ways to Fix Texas Football

Teaser:
The Big 12's Top 25 Games to Watch in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-backstory-games-2013
Body:

College football is all about the stories — the rivalries, the personal connections and the connection to history.

Alabama’s trip to Texas A&M, provided Johnny Manziel plays, is notable for the title implications and the rematch from the most exciting game from 2012.

But it’s also a game between programs that despite their shared history with Bear Bryant, Gene Stallings and Dennis Franchione, have played only five games all time. Alabama is making only its second trip to College Station after winning there in 1988.

That is the underlying backstory of that game, and it’s not the only game with an intriguing storyline attached.

Sure, every rivalry game or conference game has their own story. We tried to look a little beyond that in our list of 15 Backstory Games for 2013 — connections between the two programs, a history between the coaches or just recent news that could give the game an extra edge.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TOP BACKSTORY GAMES FOR 2013

Aug. 29 North Carolina at South Carolina
The "What Could Have Been" Bowl

North Carolina has faced Steve Spurrier only once since he returned to the college game, but the Tar Heels have to wonder what may have been if things turned out differently. After he was fired by the Washington Redskins, Spurrier kept an eye on the North Carolina job, but the Heels elected to keep John Bunting for one more year. And during his feud with a Columbia, S.C, columnist last season, Spurrier casually mentioned waiting for the North Carolina job to open while he was looking to return to college football.

Aug. 31-Sept. 7 Georgia at Clemson, South Carolina at Georgia
Aaron Murray’s Last Chance

South Carolina fans may be quick to mention Aaron Murray is 0-3 against the Palmetto State (all South Carolina matchups). Murray will have a chance to remedy his 0-fer against the Palmetto State twice early in the season.

Aug. 31 Boise State at Washington
The "Haven’t We Met Before" Bowl

Bowl organizers say they try to avoid rematches, or in this case, a pre-match. Boise State defeated Washington 28-26 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 22 and now meet in the 2013 opener. And this isn’t the first time bowl games disregarded Washington’s schedule: Washington faced Nebraska three times between Sept. 18, 2010 and Sept. 17, 2011 thanks to a Holiday Bowl meeting in between a home-and-home series.

Aug. 31 LSU vs. TCU
The Suspension Bowl

TCU coach Gary Patterson was openly critical of the way LSU’s Les Miles handled the suspension of running back Jeremy Hill, who was allowed to play in the opener after a team vote. Miles has not committed to levying a suspension as part of Hill’s punishment after the running back violated probation by being charged with simple battery, but Patterson was not impressed. Patterson, it’s worth noting, suspended defensive end Devonte Fields for two games for a violation of team rules and kicked key players off the team last Februrary when they were arrested as part of a campus drug investigation. “My whole team would vote Devonte to be back on the team because they all want to win,” Patterson told reporters. “But that don’t teach life lessons.”

Sept. 7 Florida at Miami
Sunshine State Sayonara

Florida and Miami used to play each other every season, but it’s been an on-again, off-again series since 2000. The Gators and Hurricanes have met five times since the end of the 2000 season, including two bowl games. This will be the last game until the powers-that-be agree to a new series, and that appears unlikely. Will Muschamp will be the fifth Florida coach to face Miami since 2000 (Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook, interim coach Charlie Strong and Urban Meyer). Al Golden will be the fourth coach to face Florida in that span (Butch Davis, Larry Coker and Randy Shannon).

Sept. 14 Maryland at Connecticut
The Edsall Bowl

Randy Edsall bolted town after leading UConn to the Fiesta Bowl, and the Huskies were not that understanding. Edsall later said he regretted leaving without meeting with his players, but we’re still curious what kind of reception the former coach gets at Rentschler Field. Maryland lost 24-21 to UConn last season in College Park.

Sept. 14 Ole Miss at Texas
The Most Rare Road Trip

Ole Miss hasn’t played in Austin since 1925 when the Longhorns won 25-0. Last season’s meeting in Oxford (a 66-31 Texas win) was the first regular season meeting since then.

Sept. 21 Michigan at Connecticut
Michigan Heads East

Michigan has played out West, in the Southeast and at Syracuse and Boston College in recent decades. All of those games were against established programs more or less. This trip to Connecticut may be Michigan’s most bizarre non-conference road trip since playing at Marquette in 1944 (Michigan won that game 14-0).

Oct. 5 Ole Miss at Auburn
The "How Far We’ve Come" Bowl

Joneboro, Ark., is the Cradle of SEC Coaches after the last two Arkansas State coaches stayed there one year before getting SEC jobs. More striking, Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn where high school head coaches less than a decade ago.

Oct. 5 Washington State at Cal
The Lubbock Bowl

Mike Leach has built himself quite a coaching tree, but he’s rarely faced any of his disciples on a regular basis. That changes with Sonny Dykes now in the Pac-12 at Cal. Leach and Dykes go back to Leach’s first major coaching job as offensive coordinator at Kentucky. Moreover, Dykes is the son of Leach’s predecessor at Texas Tech, Spike Dykes.

Oct. 10 Rutgers at Louisville
The "See Ya" Bowl

Louisville’s win over Rutgers last season determined the Big East championship in the final season for the league under that name. The same matchup might determine the American Athletic Conference, though neither team would be around to defend a potential league title as Louisville heads to the ACC and Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten. These two teams also delivered one of the most memorable moments in Big East football history when an undefeated Rutgers knocked off an undefeated Louisville on a Thursday night in November in 2006.

Oct. 19 Florida at Missouri
Gators Go North

Columbia, Mo., is the northern-most destination in the SEC, which makes it the furthest north Florida has traveled for a game since 1991. That’s not to be confused with the longest regular-season road trip Florida takes, which remains Arkansas in terms of mileage. The last time Florida played this far north was a 38-21 in 1991 to Syracuse.

Nov. 9 Boston College at New Mexico State
The Questionable Game of the Year

Minnesota visits New Mexico State on Sept. 7, and that’s not even the strangest game on New Mexico State’s schedule. Boston College visits Las Cruces, N.M., in early November for the where-did-this-game-come-from event of the year. Keep in mind, this is generally the time of year when SEC teams invite New Mexico State to campus for an easy win for Homecoming.

Nov. 16 San Jose State at Nevada
David Fales’ Return

San Jose State quarterback David Fales is an NFL draft prospect and perhaps the top QB playing outside of the major conferences, but he started his career at Nevada in 2009. He had a bit of trouble cracking the starting lineup with a junior named Colin Kaepernick already entrenched.

Nov. 30 Boston College at Syracuse
The Orange Envy Bowl

Steve Addazio’s big coaching break came in 1995 when Paul Pasqualoni hired him from the high school ranks to coach the offensive line at Syracuse. His son, Louie, started his career at Syracuse. Even at Temple, Addazio spoke glowingly about Syracuse. Boston College perhaps has reason to be thankful it hired Addazio more than a month before Doug Marrone left for the Buffalo Bills. Otherwise, would Addazio #BeADude for the ‘Cuse instead?

Teaser:
Coaching connections, grudge matches and more will shape these 15 games
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/5-notre-dame-impact-freshmen-watch-2013
Body:

This should be where we insert the name Gunner Kiel and be done with it.

But the former No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation isn’t playing football at Notre Dame any longer. He is at Cincinnati. But had he stuck around, and, redshirted like he was supposed to, Kiel would likely be the starting quarterback of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

That, of course, is because the Notre Dame's star freshman last fall, quarterback Everett Golson, is also no longer with the team after academic issues removed him from the 2013 equation.

So no Kiel and no Golson? What is Brian Kelly to do?

His improbable 2012 run to the BCS National Championship Game was premature. It was a magnificent season that will go down in Irish lore as one of the greats. But it was ahead of schedule as Kelly has yet to have a roster of nothing but his own players. Well, that day is coming soon and the rest of college football has been placed on notice.

Kelly has finished 11th, 17th and 3rd nationally in recruiting according to Athlon Sports' team rankings in each of his full years on the job in South Bend. His latest haul was his most impressive and it is loaded with names who will help contribute to the defending national runner-up.

And it could be headlined by yet another redshirt freshman quarterback.

Greg Bryant, RB
The No. 46-rated prospect in the nation was the No. 8-rated running back recruit in the nation and he should play plenty right out of the gate. He has rare playmaking ability to go with a solid 200-pound frame that can withstand the beating of a 200+ touch season. George Atkinson III can fly and score from anywhere but it remains to be seen if he can be a workhorse back and that is where Bryant could shine as a true freshman.

Jaylon Smith, LB (pictured)
The overall No. 2-rated freshman in the nation, behind only Robert Nkemdiche, is expected to see time in the Irish front seven this fall. He is a rangy 6-foot-3, 220-pound hybrid outside linebacker and defensive end. He should see plenty of spot duty on special teams and third downs where Kelly can utilize his excellent ability to get up the field off the edge. On a stacked Irish defensive front, Smith could easily work his way into the regular rotation.

Malik Zaire, QB
There are no guarantees with any true freshman quarterback but it appears Zaire will be on the big roster this fall. That is because he brings a skill set to the offense that Kelly craves from his quarterback. Tommy Rees has experience and should start the year under center and Andrew Hendrix is hanging around too, but neither can do the things Zaire can. Should the offense struggle to outscore quality opponents — like, Michigan, Oklahoma or Arizona State — Zaire’s ability to move around and make plays might be too intriguing to keep off the field. He has a similar type of game as Golson and Kelly has shown he will go with the youngster if it gives his team the best chance to win.

Max Redfield, S
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is a missile in the secondary and should see plenty of early playing time as a true freshman. The No. 6-rated defensive back prospect in the nation was one of Kelly’s prized gems of this class from Mission Viejo, Calif. The safety brings a physicality and intimidation to a defensive backfield that already has plenty of talent at every position. Additionally, don’t be shocked if Redfield’s rare athleticism is used on offense as well.

Corey Robinson, WR
This Irish receiving class is one of the best in the nation with names like Torii Hunter Jr., James Onwualu and William Fuller joining Robinson in the four-man haul. Robinson, at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, enrolled early and has loads of upside in the red zone and down the field. Look for him to see time this fall in order to prepare himself to take over as the No. 1 in 2014.

Related: Notre Dame Cheerleader Gallery

Jarron Jones, DE
Highly touted prospect just missed top-100 status and should contribute as a redshirt.

James Onwualu, WR
From famed Cretin-Derham Hall, Onwualu brings solid intangibles and an advanced football IQ.

Steve Elmer, OL
Top-100 prospect enrolled early this spring and could be a key reserve this fall.

Mark Harrell, OL
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Charlotte native will be a key interior offensive line reserve this fall.

C.J. Prosise, WR
A big-bodied 6-foot-2, 220-pounder who could provide some help in the passing game.

Teaser:
5 Notre Dame Impact Freshmen to Watch in 2013
Post date: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-7-amazing-stats-bristol
Body:

The marketing department at Bristol Motor Speedway hails the half-mile bowl of head-numbing noise as “The Last Great Coliseum.” The structure of the track certainly invokes the spirit of ancient gladiatorial fights, but the best comparison to its combatants might be one that came 18 centuries later.

Some 19th century artists — Vincent van Gogh is an easy example — were masterful in their work, but tortured in how they went about it. In two races following a completely irrational reconfiguration of Bristol’s high banks, some of its best drivers have been entertaining to watch but tortured in their attempts at good finishes.


7.375  Denny Hamlin ranks second in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Production in Equal Equipment Ratings (PEER) at Bristol in the last two races with a 7.375 rating.  Denny Hamlin

That’s seriously not bad for a driver who cut a tire towards the end of this spring’s event, finishing 23rd as a result. He followed that up by participating in a spat with Joey Logano that was a part of a butterfly effect, leading to an accident the following race at Auto Club Speedway, an injured back that sidelined him from competing in four races and, in a lot of ways, the cruddy situation in which he now finds himself (his average finish in the last nine races this season is 27.2).

He was victorious in the first race on the new Bristol configuration. That win is only a year old, but it seems like it happened over a decade ago.


110  Matt Kenseth has led 110 laps (11 percent of the total) across the last two Bristol races. He finished 25th and 30th in last year’s race and this spring’s event, respectively.

Last year, Kenseth and Tony Stewart crashed while battling for the lead, after which Stewart launched a helmet at Kenseth’s car, living forever in future Bristol ticket sales television spots. Earlier this season, he and Jeff Gordon crashed while running 1-2. The fact that Kenseth has been kept from finishing an event on the lead lap on the current configuration is just cruel; for all we know, he might the best driver on this version of Bristol but without the results to show for it.


3 of 4  In the last four races at Bristol, Brad Keselowski has finished third or better, with two wins.  Brad Keselowski

It looked like we might be headed toward a Keselowski Dynasty at Thunder Valley prior to the reconfiguration. He crashed just after the halfway point of last year’s night race, relegating him to a 30th-place finish. His third-place outing and 62 laps led in the spring was a sign of life that he might also be adept on the new track. Faced with the task of defending his current eighth-place spot in the standings, staying out of trouble might be priority number one for the No. 2 team.


2.96  The finish deviation of Joey Logano’s No. 22 team in 10 of the last 12 races this season is an extremely consistent 2.96.

In finish deviation, the closest to zero you get, the better. Logano’s 6.9-place finish in those 10 races is amazingly consistent and, as I mentioned last week, ideal in a run to the Chase. Bristol provides a challenge in the ilk of a 500-lap obstacle course. Logano ranks fifth in Bristol PEER (4.750) and has led in both races during the discussed two-race time frame. His run-in with Hamlin kept him from a high finish earlier this year (he finished 17th), but there’s no guarantee that more drama of that nature will occur. A three-time race winner in the Cup Series, he has never scored consecutive victories. With the way his team is operating, there’s more than a good chance of it happening this weekend.


6  Brian Vickers and the No. 55 team have averaged a sixth-place finish in the last two Bristol races.

Job security has different effects on workers. Some become more motivated; others become complacent. This weekend will serve as the first Cup Series race since Vickers was hired to wheel the No. 55 full time in 2014. Will the alleviation of uncertainty play a role in Vickers’s result? Vickers and crew chief Rodney Childers have been excellent together on the half-mile oval, a three-race relationship that also includes a fifth-place run in the spring of 2012 on the previous configuration. Statistically, there is plenty of reason to expect a lot out of Vickers in this particular race, but whether the comfort level affects the urgency in which he previously raced remains to be seen.


17.3%  Kyle Busch has led 17.3 percent (1,066) of the total laps in the Cup Series this season, which is second only to Jimmie Johnson (18.5 percent).

Busch’s tendency to lead lots of laps could play out well at Bristol, a track that sees its drivers lead laps by the barrel full. If passing comes at a premium, so be it. Bristol is Busch’s kind of track and, with an average finish of 11.4, he has been the most productive Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the last 10 races. The other driver with a serious propensity to own Saturday night’s event also comes from the Busch bloodline.


6.5  Save for Michigan (he led 21 laps and finished 35th) and New Hampshire (he led 102 laps and finished 31st), Kurt Busch and his Furniture Row Racing team have averaged a 6.5-place finish in the last 10 races.

Is it time for the seemingly inevitable Kurt Busch breakthrough victory? He finished fourth at Bristol in the spring. For a team clinging to a Chase spot, some insurance — and they didn’t get to this point by being conservative — would be welcomed. Between this weekend and next (Atlanta), Busch is visiting two facilities that have been very kind to him in the past. For the five-time Bristol winner and three-time Atlanta winner, the stars (and numbers) seem to be aligning for something big in the immediate future.


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

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

Teaser:
David Smith crunches the numbers to reveal some revealing NASCAR stats for the Bristol Night Race.
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 19:37
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-link-roundup-august-20
Body:

Less than 10 days until kickoff.

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, August 20th

Who is poised to step up at defensive end for LSU?

Saturday Down South ranks the stadiums in the SEC.

Will it be Trevor Knight or Blake Bell at quarterback for Oklahoma?

Lost Lettermen brings a couple of interesting stories for today: a 300-pound defensive tackle does the splits and a high school recruit catches passes while doing backflips.

Florida State receiver Rashad Greene suffered a minor finger injury in practice on Monday.

Joe Rexrode separates reality from fiction in the Michigan State quarterback battle.

Miami has decided Dyron Dye will no longer be a part of the football team.

Auburn defensive end Dee Ford and cornerback Jonathan Jones will miss the season opener against Washington State.

Oklahoma safety Cortez Johnson is expected to be suspended for the season opener.

UCLA is losing quarterback T.J. Millweard to a transfer.

Texas quarterback David Ash had some interesting comments on Monday.

Matt Brown of Sports on Earth previews the ACC for 2013.

How much longer will Oregon State coach Mike Riley wait to choose his starting quarterback?

How does Alabama's defense stack up after fall practice?

With fall practice wrapping up, here's a good breakdown of Miami's depth chart.

The NCAA will allow former Marine Steven Rhodes to play for MTSU this year.

 

Teaser:
College Football's Link Roundup: August 20
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 15:35
Path: /mlb/17-amazing-mlb-stats-week-august-12-18
Body:

Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.


Clayton Kershaw1.23    Clayton Kershaw’s ERA in August
The Dodgers’ lefty was sporting an ERA below 2.00 heading into the month and has improved his ERA from 1.87 to 1.80 in three starts this month.

42    Wins for the Los Angeles Dodgers since June 21
The Dodgers continue to run roughshod over the National League. The hottest team in baseball has but nine losses against 42 wins since June 21.

41    Wins for the Houston Astros all season
Houston fans can take solace that as of Sunday, the Astros were 1.5 games ahead of last season’s pace on August 18.

10    Winless starts for Cole Hamels of six or more innings and two runs or less
This hasn’t exactly been a memorable season for Hamels or the Philadelphia Phillies. The lefthander has pitched in some tough luck and suffered through some paltry run support.

0.24    ERA for Craig Kimbrel over his last 37 appearances
During that time, the Atlanta Braves’ closer is 29-for-29 in saves with 56 strikeouts and 33 hits and walks combined. Opponents are batting .150 with a .431 OPS.

0.658    Career WHIP for Andrew Albers
The Minnesota rookie has plowed through major league hitters like Little Leaguers since his recent call-up. In three career starts, the 27-year-old Canadian is 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA. In 24.1 innings, he’s allowed just 14 hits and two walks.

15-13    San Diego’s record against best NL teams
The Padres seem to play their best against the best. The five National League teams in line for playoff spots — Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, St. Louis and Cincinnati — have had trouble shaking the Padres, who have a cumulative winning mark vs. those five opponents.

.682    Alfonso Soriano’s batting average over five-game span last week
The prodigal Yankee began the week 0-for-3 and ended with an 0-for-6, but in between he smashed AL pitching at a 15-for-22 (.682) clip with five home runs and 18 RBIs over a five-game span. In only 21 games in pinstripes this season, Soriano is tied for fifth on the team in homers and seventh in RBIs.

3    Players in history with 10 hits, four homers and 14 RBIs in three games
Last week Soriano was otherworldly hot for the Yankees. Among his recent accomplishments was becoming just the third player in history with 10 or more hits, four or more home runs and 14-plus RBIs in a three-game span. You may remember that Shawn Green did that with the Dodgers in May 2002. But kudos if you knew that Hal Trosky pulled that off with the Indians in September 1936, a year in which he led the AL with 162 RBIs.

3    Teams with losing records to all four division rivals
For just about every team in the majors fans can point to some positive silver lining with a winning record over some other team. Yes, Miami has whipped up on the Mets and Houston seems to own the Angels this season. But three teams — both Chicago clubs and the Los Angeles Angels — own losing records to all four division rivals so far this season. Two other teams are perilously close to joining this club. The Mets somehow have managed to split their 14 games with the NL-best Atlanta Braves, while the Dodgers, of all teams, have losing records to three of the their four division foes and a 6-6 mark against their most hated rival, the San Francisco Giants.

12    Consecutive winless starts for Jerome Williams
Very little has gone right for manager Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Angels this season. After underachieving last year, the Halos are 7.5 games worse at the same point this season. Among the notable troubles have been a potential season-ending injury to Albert Pujols last month and Mike Trout’s recent hamstring injury. Starter Jerome Williams now owns the longest string of games started without a win — now at 12 starts. His last win came on June 12 in Baltimore.

.395    Batting average of Tampa Bay’s left side last week
Shorstop Yunel Escobar and third baseman Evan Longoria were raking last week. The left side of the Rays’ infield combined to bat .395 with eight extra-base hits.

56.2    Innings since Hiroki Kuroda has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any starting pitcher.

56.0    Innings since Luis Avilan has allowed a home run
That is the longest current streak of any relief pitcher.

12     Games ahead of last year’s pace for Boston
The Red Sox suffered through a dismal season in 2012 finishing in last place in the American League East. This summer has been a breath of fresh air in Beantown with the Sox 12 games better than at this point last year.

17.5    Games behind last year’s pace for the White Sox
Robins Ventura’s team probably overachieved last season, leading the American League Central late in the season. The pendulum has swung in the opposite direction this season on the South Side in Chicago. The White Sox are 17.5 gmaes worse than at this time last year.

24    Braves Magic Number
It doesn’t happen often that you can start talking about magic numbers in mid-August, but the Braves could be closing in on clinching by Labor Day.

Teaser:
Clayton Kershaw continues to dominate, the Dodgers are good, the Astros are bad and Alfonso Soriano has been really hot. These facts and more amazing stats from last week in baseball.
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 14:01
All taxonomy terms: Essential 11, Overtime
Path: /overtime/athlons-essential-11-links-day-august-20-2013
Body:

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

 

Here are the cheerleaders of the AP Top 25. Football can't get here fast enough.

 

Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster have made a commercial for Madden 25. Well done, fellas.

 

College football's 25 best names. I'll be following Konockus Sashington.

 

• SEC fanbases are usually bitter enemies, but here are five things that will unite SEC Nation this year.

 

Some guy made his online resume look just like CNN's home page. Props for creativity.

 

• Bad news for Johnny Football: Of the last 16 Heisman-winning quarterbacks, only one has won an NFL playoff game as a starter. I'll give you 3.16 guesses who it is.

 

• With "Anchorman 2" due later this year, here's a ranking of the 20 movies Will Ferrell has made thus far. No. 1 is a big surprise, to me.

 

Baseball's weirdest promotional nights. Hey, whatever it takes to get fannies in seats. Some of these are pretty creative, although I think I'd skip "Smells of Baseball" night with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

 

Lolo Jones goes in the Cage. Let's hope she makes it out.

 

First pitches are officially out of control.

 

If a tree fell on Regis' new Fox Sports 1 show, would it make a sound?

 

• A-Rod gave a surprisingly clever and self-deprecating answer to a reporter's question. More of this all along would have helped.

 

 

 

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

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 10:41
Path: /college-football/utah-state-struggles-touchdown-celebration-scrimmage
Body:

Utah State has scored plenty of touchdowns over the last two years, but as this video shows, the Aggies may need a little work on their touchdown celebrations.

Receiver Bruce Natson catches a touchdown during a scrimmage and is ready to celebrate with his linemen. However, as Natson jumps up to celebrate, the lineman appears to drop the receiver.

Celebration fail.

 

Teaser:
Utah State Struggles With Touchdown Celebration in Scrimmage
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 10:17
Path: /nfl/chicago-bears-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

For the first time since 2004, this is not Lovie Smith’s team. Marc Trestman was imported from the Canadian Football League with the hope that he could make the Bears a more frequent participant in the postseason. That’s something Smith was able do only once in his final six seasons, including 2012, when the Bears went 10–6 but missed the postseason on a tiebreaker.

The Bears are not in a rebuilding mode, and they ­shouldn’t be, considering their 29–19 record over the last three seasons. But they will have different looks on both sides of the ball, even though new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will play a 4-3 with some Cover-2, similar to what the Bears ran in the past.

The Bears parted ways with eight-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher when neither side would budge from the team’s offer of $2 million for the future Hall of Famer, who is 35. There were, however, some positive additions on the other side of the ball. For the first time since quarterback Jay Cutler was acquired, before the 2009 season, he has a Pro Bowl left tackle protecting his blind side: free agent pickup Jermon Bushrod. On the same day the Bears acquired the former Saint, they added Martellus Bennett, giving Cutler a tight end known for his pass-catching skills for the first time since Greg Olsen was traded in July 2011.

Athlon Sports NFC Power Ranking: 10th

Related: 2013 Chicago Bears Schedule Analysis

Offense
Cutler is in the final season of a five-year, $49.7 million deal, and he’s unlikely to get another big deal from the Bears without adding to his career playoff victory total of one.

In his fifth year with the Bears, Cutler has been provided with more talent on the offensive line than he’s ever had in Chicago. Bushrod is the key, bringing the stability and consistency that was lacking. Guard Matt Slauson, a starter the previous three years with the Jets, was also added in free agency, replacing Lance Louis, who signed with the Dolphins. Then the Bears used their first-round pick on guard Kyle Long and their fifth-rounder on tackle Jordan Mills.

Bennett, a complete tight end and a talented receiver, represents a huge upgrade at the position. Together with big, strong wide receiver Brandon Marshall and quick, elusive running back Matt Forté, Cutler has more offensive firepower at his disposal than ever before. GM Phil Emery acquired Marshall before the 2012 season for only a pair of third-round picks because of off-the-field problems, which the 6'4", 230-pounder says were a result of undiagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder. Emery’s gamble paid off with the most prolific pass-catching season in franchise history (118 receptions, 1,508 yards and 11 touchdowns). The Bears hope to be less dependent on Marshall, although he still figures to be the go-to guy.

The protection in front of Cutler will look a lot different. J’Marcus Webb will compete with journeyman Jonathan Scott at right tackle. Gabe Carimi, the 2011 first-round draft pick who was a bust at right tackle in 2012, will get a chance to compete for a spot at guard, along with Slauson and Long. The Bears hope they can get a 12th year out of Roberto Garza at center.

The run game is in the more-than-capable hands of Forté, the primary ball-carrier and a productive pass-catcher. He had more than 50 catches in each of his first four seasons before dipping to 44 last season, when the offense de-emphasized his role in the passing game. Burly but agile Michael Bush is a nice complement to Forté and an effective short-yardage option.

If they stick to Trestman’s plan of using Devin Hester almost exclusively as a return specialist, the Bears need to find a deep threat. They had one in Johnny Knox, but he was unable to come back from a spine injury in 2011. Last year’s second-round pick, 6'3", 216-pound Alshon Jeffery, is more than a possession receiver, and tough Earl Bennett is a reliable underneath target, but there’s no one to stretch the field vertically.

Defense
The window is closing on a talented but aging defense, led by three players in their early 30s — seven-time Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, eight-time Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers and two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman. Urlacher is gone, as is Nick Roach, the strong-side starter for most of the past five seasons. Former Bronco D.J. Williams was brought in to play the middle, and James Anderson takes over for Roach. But both were signed to one-year contracts, and Williams is 31 and Anderson turns 30 in September. Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, the second- and fourth-round picks, respectively, could represent the Bears’ future at linebacker. Williams injured his calf early in training camp, which provided even more reps for Bostic, who could end up the starter by Week 1.

Tillman’s running mate, feisty little Tim Jennings, also made the Pro Bowl last season on the strength of an NFL-best nine interceptions. Ninth-year veteran Kelvin Hayden is back to play the nickel, but for now, the only proven depth consists of Zack Bowman, who has started only four games since 2009.

The safety position showed an uncharacteristic continuity last season. Strong safety Major Wright and free safety Chris Conte both started every game, until Conte missed the finale with a hamstring injury. In the previous eight seasons, the Bears had made a combined 54 lineup changes at the safety position. There is plenty of depth with veterans Tom Zbikowski and Craig Steltz and youngsters Brandon Hardin and Anthony Walters.

Up front, 3-technique tackle Henry Melton went to his first Pro Bowl, partly due to his six sacks, and 2010 fourth-round pick Corey Wootton had a breakout season, winning the left end job at midseason and contributing seven sacks. Shea McClellin, the 2012 first-round pick, played in the end rotation and showed pass-rush potential. Stephen Paea started 14 games at nose tackle but doesn’t have the ideal size for the position and is best playing in a rotation. There is very little depth inside.

Specialists
Placekicker Robbie Gould missed the final three games of 2012 with a calf injury, but he’s as reliable as they come, ranking sixth in NFL history in field goal percentage. His kickoffs have gotten longer every season, as has his proficiency at long field goals. Punter Adam Podlesh allowed just 84 return yards on 81 punts. The Bears are counting on a return to form in the return game from Hester, who slumped badly as a punt returner last season but was solid on kickoff returns. Hester failed to score on a return for the first time in three years.

Final Analysis: 3rd in NFC North
The Bears have an almost-all-new coaching staff, and a lot of the personnel also has changed. But Tucker’s 4-3 scheme is not expected to look much different from the defenses of the previous nine years. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Trestman will run their version of the West Coast offense with a priority on getting rid of the ball quickly. This was a 10–6 team last season that barely missed the playoffs, so anything less than postseason participation will be considered a disappointment.

Order your 2013 Chicago Bears Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City (8/21)
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)ChicagoAtlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesota (8/21)Tampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
Chicago Bears 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /nfl/san-diego-chargers-2013-nfl-team-preview
Body:

There’s nothing like snapping the fans to attention by making a radical regime change and drafting Manti Te’o. That’s what the Chargers did after missing the playoffs for the third straight season and watching attendance sag. Citing the need for a “culture change,” team president Dean Spanos finally bowed to the fans’ wishes and fired Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. He replaced them with 40-year-olds Mike McCoy and Tom Telesco, who are in their first head coaching and general manager gigs, respectively.

Telesco began rebuilding a roster that had grown stale because of Smith’s unproductive drafts and a wild free agent binge prior to the 2012 season. Among his many moves, Telesco got rid of left tackle Jared Gaither, who’d earned the nickname “The Big Lazy,” and drafted Te’o, a move sure to give the Chargers much more national exposure than they otherwise would merit. Still, returning the Bolts to their days of dominating the AFC West could take the new brain trust a few seasons.

Athlon Sports AFC Power Ranking: 10th

Related: 2013 San Diego Chargers Schedule Analysis

Offense
The Chargers hope Philip Rivers can pull out of a slide that’s seen him commit 49 turnovers the last two years combined. Not only will Rivers be running a new system under McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but there are also still big questions about the line. Rivers was under siege much of last season, leading to 49 sacks and 22 turnovers. Fans are concerned that Rivers might have a hard time staying upright again this season.

Telesco spent his first-round draft pick on Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker, but the new GM failed to upgrade the critical left side of the line in the draft. The Chargers had left tackle Bryant McKinnie in for a visit before he re-signed with Baltimore. So going into training camp, the No. 1 left tackle protecting Rivers’ blind side is King Dunlap, a free agent pickup from Philadelphia. Dunlap is big (6'9", 330), but he had a hamstring injury last year, and the Philly line struggled. The Chargers’ string of bad luck at left tackle started when Marcus McNeill retired due to a neck injury and continued when Gaither got the heave-ho because of his poor work ethic and injury troubles. The left guard is projected to be Rich Ohrnberger, one of Telesco’s three free agent acquisitions on the line. With Fluker set to start at right tackle, Jeromey Clary will move to right guard. Fluker was considered one of the best run-blockers in college last year, but he’ll need to improve his pass-blocking.

Another player who needs to bounce back big is running back Ryan Mathews, who broke both collarbones last season and failed to fix his fumbling problem. Five defensive players on his own team had as many or more touchdowns than Mathews, who scored only once. Telesco added free agent Danny Woodhead to help at running back.

The Bolts have already gone through a fair amount of attrition at wide receiver before the season has even started. Danario Alexander was signed in mid-October and ended up being one of the team’s most productive receivers, but he tore his ACL in early August and is lost for the season. Malcom Floyd, the team's leading receiver last season, sustained his own knee injury shortly afterwards, but he is expected to ready to play by Week 1. San Diego drafted Cal’s Keenan Allen in the third round in April, but the team really needs Vincent Brown to bounce back from a fractured ankle and more production out of Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem, provided both end up on the final roster. Tight end Antonio Gates bounced back from a painful foot injury but will be playing his 11th season.

While Turner called his own plays and often struggled with game management, McCoy was praised for hiring former Cardinals head coach Whisenhunt as his offensive coordinator.

Defense
Te’o instantly became the most intriguing player on the Chargers’ roster when Telesco traded up to get him in the second round of the draft. Telesco said he wasn’t worried by the star linebacker’s poor showing in Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game, his being involved in a hoax involving a fake girlfriend or his poor 40-yard dash times. After looking so bad against Alabama’s powerful run game, Te’o will have to prove that he can make it in the NFL, both physically and mentally. With veteran Takeo Spikes a salary cap casualty, Te’o will play inside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme alongside Donald Butler, who had a breakthrough season in 2012.

San Diego was counting on second-year linebacker Melvin Ingram to help replace Bulter, but he tore his ACL back in May and it's unknown if he will be able to return at any point this season. The Chargers signed former Indianapolis Colt Dwight Freeney to a two-year deal following Ingram's injury. Freeney has 107.5 career sacks, but the 11-year veteran is 33 years old and managed just five sacks last season. San Diego needs him to re-establish himself as a pass-rushing presence from his outside linebacker position.

Like the offense, the defense has both playmakers and some holes, although Telesco made more moves on this side of the ball due to the salary cap and his desire for a younger roster. While Smith was panned for many of his draft picks in recent years, he did do well in adding some good, young players on defense. Ends Corey Liuget, a first-round pick in 2011, and Kendall Reyes, a second-rounder in 2012, have fans excited with their dominating play. Liuget had seven sacks and Reyes had 5.5. One problem is the hole in between them. Antonio Garay was allowed to leave as a free agent, leaving Cam Thomas as the only defensive tackle on the roster. The Chargers also lost Shaun Phillips, who led them with 9.5 sacks.

San Diego will turn over three-quarters of its secondary. Only free safety Eric Weddle returns as a starter. The Chargers, who haven’t had a thumper at strong safety since Rodney Harrison was released more than 10 years ago, will turn to Brandon Taylor, a third-round pick in 2012. Marcus Gilchrist and free-agent acquisition Derek Cox will be the new starters at cornerback after Antoine Cason left for Arizona and Quentin Jammer became a free agent.

Specialists
After an off-and-on role with the Chargers, Nick Novak finally stuck as the kicker. He was signed four weeks into the 2012 season after Nate Kaeding got hurt, and he hit 18-of-20 field goal attempts in the final 13 games. He was 16-for-16 inside 50 yards, and his 90 percent conversion rate was the third-highest for a season in team history. Kaeding was eventually put on injured reserve and then released, ending a run in which he became the most accurate regular-season kicker in NFL history. Kaeding’s playoff misses, however, still rankle fans. Punter Mike Scifres remains a key player with his powerful left leg, and Mike Windt returns as long snapper.

Final Analysis: 3rd in AFC West
Chargers fans should brace for the possibility that the Bolts could miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Telesco doesn’t like the word “rebuilding,” but it’s hard to deny that he has a pretty big project on his hands. He has vowed to rebuild via the draft rather than through expensive, splashy and unpredictable free agent signings, so his plan for reshaping the roster could take a few seasons.

With two-time AFC West champion Denver and Kansas City making their share of big moves, the Chargers might have to settle for finishing ahead of the lowly Oakland Raiders.

Order your 2013 San Diego Chargers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine here

2013 Athlon Sports NFL Team Previews:

AFC EastAFC NorthAFC SouthAFC West
BuffaloBaltimore (8/26)Houston (8/29)Denver (9/3)
MiamiCincinnati (8/27)Indianapolis (8/23)Kansas City (8/21)
New England (8/30)ClevelandJacksonvilleOakland
NY JetsPittsburgh (8/28)Tennessee (8/22)San Diego
    
NFC EastNFC NorthNFC SouthNFC West
Dallas (8/22)ChicagoAtlanta (8/27)Arizona
NY Giants (8/30)DetroitCarolinaSt. Louis (8/23)
PhiladelphiaGreen Bay (8/29)New Orleans (8/26)San Francisco (9/3)
WashingtonMinnesota (8/21)Tampa BaySeattle (8/28)

 

Teaser:
San Diego Chargers 2013 NFL Team Preview
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 10:00
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We can all thank Fox Sports 1 for this boxing gem. On Monday night Danny Jacobs stepped into the ring with Giovanni Lorenzo and did this to Lorenzo's face in the third round to win the WBC Continental Americas middleweight title.

 

Slo-mo knockout of Giovanno Lorenzo

Teaser:
On Monday night Danny Jacobs stepped into the ring with Giovanni Lorenzo and did this to Lorenzo's face in the third round.
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 09:05
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Two Pirates fans showed their support for the team through a pair of enormous foam Pirates hats, going the extra mile at PNC Park during a game against the Diamondbacks. Surprisingly, they were not mobbed by women.

Teaser:
Two Pirates fans showed their support for the team through a pair of enormous foam Pirates hats, going the extra mile at PNC Park during a game against the Diamondbacks.
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 08:48
Path: /college-football/big-12-football-breakout-players-2013
Body:

Every year, college football fans are introduced to a handful of players that become household names by the end of the season. Predicting which players will breakout any year is never an easy task.

With a ton of turnover at the quarterback position, the Big 12 is up for grabs this season. Oklahoma State is considered the preseason favorite, but Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU are certainly in the mix. The Wildcats won the Big 12 title last year and have plenty of reasons for optimism in 2013. But coach Bill Snyder’s team has a few holes to fill, including quarterback with the departure of Collin Klein. Backup Daniel Sams played well in limited action last year, but he is locked into a tight battle with junior college recruit Jake Waters for the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.

Defining what is a breakout player is nearly impossible. Everyone has a different perspective on how players are viewed around the conference and nationally. Athlon's list of breakout players for 2013 tries to take into account which names will be known nationally (not just within the conference) by the end of season. So while some of these players on this list are known to fans of a particular team, the rest of the conference or nation might not be as familiar. 

Big 12 Breakout Players for 2013

Ernst Brun, TE, Iowa State
Brun was a pleasant surprise for Iowa State late last season, catching seven of his 26 passes over the final three games. In the bowl loss to Tulsa, Brun nabbed four receptions for 102 yards and one score. The Cyclones need more from their receiving corps in 2013, especially with quarterback Sam Richardson in his first full year as the starter. Brun tied for the team lead with six touchdown catches in 2012, and the former junior college recruit should be an even bigger part of the Iowa State offense this year.

Brandon Carter, WR, TCU
With Josh Boyce and Skye Dawson playing in the NFL, the Horned Frogs need a new go-to receiver. But quarterbacks Casey Pachall and Trevone Boykin won’t have to look too far down the depth chart for a No. 1 target. Carter ranked second on the team in receiving yards (590) and touchdown catches (six) last season. The Texas native has been a big-play threat over the last two years, averaging 15.3 yards per catch in 2011 and 16.4 in '12. Assuming Pachall wins the starting job, TCU’s passing attack will be stretching the field more in 2013. And that's good news for Carter, who is clearly ready to blossom into an All-Big 12 player on the outside.

Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Coach Art Briles certainly knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. After all, Robert Griffin III won the Heisman in 2011, and Nick Florence ranked second nationally in total offense last year. No pressure, Bryce Petty. The junior steps into the starting role after serving as an understudy over the last two years and hopes to continue Baylor’s recent run of successful passers. Petty has thrown only 14 passes in his career but has been impressive as the No. 1 quarterback this spring. There’s still plenty for the junior to prove in 2013, but considering Briles’ history of developing quarterbacks, the Bears have to feel good about Petty’s chances of emerging as a standout player this year.

Jeremiah George, LB, Iowa State
With Jake Knott and A.J. Klein departing, Iowa State’s linebacking corps is under renovation. But the drop-off from 2012 to '13 shouldn’t be drastic, especially with the emergence of George last year. The Florida native recorded 11 stops against West Virginia and ranked second on the team with seven tackles against Kansas. George finished the season with 87 stops and is the new leader for Iowa State’s linebacking corps. Although Iowa State fans are familiar with George, look for the rest of the Big 12 to know about this senior by season’s end.

Peter Jinkens, LB, Texas
One of the most disappointing units on Texas’ defense last season was the linebacking corps. Jordan Hicks was injured and missed most of 2012, while the rest of the unit failed to live up to expectations. Jinkens was a bright spot late in the year, recording nine stops and one interception in the bowl victory over Oregon State. He finished the year with 29 stops in 13 contests and is poised to grab one of the starting spots in 2013. If Hicks can stay healthy and Jinkens builds on a promising freshman campaign, Texas should have a much-improved run defense.

Robbie Rhodes, WR, Baylor
The Bears know what they have in senior receiver Tevin Reese, and Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood are back after combining for 57 receptions last year. But the receiving corps could use another gamebreaker to help ease the loss of Terrance Williams. Could Rhodes be that player? The true freshman has been one of the stars of fall camp, catching four passes for 112 yards and a touchdown in the team’s second scrimmage. Rhodes was rated as the No. 4 receiver in the 2013 recruiting class by Athlon Sports, and all signs point to a big season from the true freshman.

Pete Robertson, LB, Texas Tech
One of the Red Raider quarterbacks (Michael Brewer or Davis Webb) could make this list, but there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding who will start for Texas Tech in the season opener. On the other side of the ball, the Red Raiders return seven starters from a unit that led the Big 12 in pass defense and ranked second in yards allowed. New co-coordinators Mike Smith and Matt Wallerstedt are implementing a 3-4 scheme, which will force a few changes in the personnel. Robertson was a defensive end last year but slides to the bandit position in 2013. The Texas native recorded 20 tackles and two sacks in 12 contests last season. With Robertson shifting to a rush outside linebacker position, Texas Tech is counting on the sophomore to be a key cog in the pass rush.

Daniel Sams/Jake Waters, QB, Kansas State
It’s a bit of a cop out to list Sams and Waters here, but both players are capable of keeping Kansas State in the Big 12 title race. Sams is a dynamic athlete, recording 235 yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 32 attempts in 2012. He only threw eight passes last year but completed six throws for 55 yards. Waters comes to Kansas State after two years at Iowa Western Community College. The Iowa native had a huge 2012 season, earning NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year honors after throwing for 3,501 yards and 39 scores. Although Waters isn’t as dynamic on the ground as Sams, the junior isn’t a statue in the pocket. There’s no question Collin Klein will be missed this year. However, the Wildcats’ offense shouldn't fall off much with Sams or Waters leading the way.

Cassius Sendish, CB, Kansas
Junior college prospects are very hit-or-miss. Regardless of the recruiting hype coming from the JUCO ranks, it will take some time to adjust to the talent on the FBS level. Sendish is expected to start at one of the cornerback spots for Kansas, and the secondary is a unit under pressure after finishing 114th nationally against the pass in 2012. The Maryland native ranked as the No. 59 junior college prospect in the 2013 signing class, after recording 29 tackles and 10 pass breakups at Arizona Western last year. Sendish represented Kansas at Big 12 Media Days, so the coaching staff already has confidence in his ability and expects him to be a key contributor to the pass defense.

Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Whether it’s Blake Bell or Trevor Knight replacing Landry Jones at quarterback, the Sooners will continue to have one of the Big 12’s top offenses in 2013. And both passers have plenty of weapons at their disposal, including Jalen Saunders, Trey Metoyer and rising star Sterling Shepard. Saunders, Justin Brown and Kenny Stills overshadowed Shepard’s play last year. However, as a true freshman, he caught 45 passes for 621 yards and three scores. Shepard did not have a touchdown reception over the final five games, but he caught at least three passes in each of the last six contests. Saunders is clearly Oklahoma’s No. 1 target. However, expect Shepard to be an even bigger factor in the Sooners’ attack this year.

Jeremy Smith, RB, Oklahoma State
It might be a little too obvious to list Smith in this article, but after playing behind Joseph Randle and Kendall Hunter, it’s his time to shine. In his first three years in Stillwater, Smith has rushed for 1,439 yards and 25 touchdowns. Smith’s best performance in his career came against Grambling in 2009, recording 160 yards and one score on 15 attempts. However, the Tulsa native has played well in Big 12 action, rushing for 140 yards and two touchdowns against Texas in 2011. With Randle playing in the NFL, this is Smith’s job to lose, and the senior should rank near the top of the Big 12 in rushing yards this year.

Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin are gone, leaving a large void in West Virginia’s receiving corps. The Mountaineers aren’t short on options and talent, but coach Dana Holgorsen is still looking to solidify the starting group. White spent two years at Lackawanna College and was a big-play threat in the junior college ranks, recording 36 receptions for 535 yards and six scores in 2012. The Pennsylvania native made his presence known in the spring game, catching five passes for 72 yards and one touchdown. White seems locked into a starting role in one of West Virginia’s outside receiver spots, and the junior college product could have a huge year in the Holgorsen’s wide-open offense.

Others to Watch

Hatari Byrd, S, Oklahoma
The Sooners have a few voids to fill in the secondary. Byrd (a true freshman) is in the mix for a starting spot this fall.

Justin McCay, WR, Kansas
The Jayhawks desperately need McCay - a five-star prospect in 2010 - to live up to his recruiting hype in 2013.

Kevin Peterson, CB, Oklahoma State
Addressing the pass defense is a top priority for coordinator Glenn Spencer. As a true freshman, Peterson played well in limited action last year, recording 20 tackles and two pass breakups.

Davion Pierson, DT, TCU
Pierson had a standout freshman year in 2012, recording 36 stops and 3.5 sacks. Look for even bigger and better things from the sophomore in 2013.

Blake Slaughter, LB, Kansas State
Redshirted in 2012 with Arthur Brown entrenched at linebacker and is due to claim a starting role this year.

Tyrone Swoopes, QB, Texas
If David Ash struggles, Swoopes may get the nod over Case McCoy.

Kenny Williams, RB, Texas Tech
Coach Kliff Kingsbury will always lean on the pass, but Williams is a big part of Texas Tech’s offense. He rushed for 824 yards and five scores on 143 attempts last year.
 

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College Football's Top 25 Wide Receiving Corps for 2013
College Football's Top 25 Offensive Lines for 2013
Big 12 Coaches Anonymously Talk About Conference Foes for 2013
Kliff Kingsbury Returns Home to Texas Tech
Big 12's Top Heisman Contenders for 2013

Teaser:
Big 12 Football Breakout Players for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-25-defensive-lines-2013
Body:

Defensive line isn’t a particularly deep position in college football this season. But at the top, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Arizona State, Florida and USC are all pretty solid. The Gamecocks are headlined by college football’s No. 1 player in end Jadeveon Clowney, while the Fighting Irish have two All-Americans in Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. 

How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2013 all factored into the rankings for the backfield. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference.

They’re the teams within the team — those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context. 

Whether it’s the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball — these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature. 
 
Whether or not these units function as one can make the difference between winning and losing, and a single unit can carry a team to New Year’s Day — or beyond.
 
It’s entirely fitting, then, for us to honor the best of the best at each position with our 13th annual Athlon Awards. 

 

Ranking the Top 25 Defensive Lines for 2013

1. South Carolina
The Gamecocks lose end Devin Taylor and tackle Byron Jerideau, but there’s not much concern over this unit. End Jadeveon Clowney is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and should add to his 21 career sacks and 33.5 tackles for a loss in 2013. Chaz Sutton is due for an increased role after recording five sacks last year, while Kelcy Quarles, Gerald Dixon and J.T. Surratt round out the interior. Freshmen Kelsey Griffin and Darius English may not play much this year but are future stars for this defense. The Gamecocks allowed only seven rushing scores and registered 3.3 sacks per game in 2012.

2. Notre Dame 
Kapron Lewis-Moore must be replaced, but the Fighting Irish feature two first-team Athlon Sports preseason All-Americans in end Stephon Tuitt and tackle Louis Nix III. Tuitt had 12 sacks last year. Sheldon Day replaces Lewis-Moore at end after recording 23 tackles and two sacks in his freshman season. The Fighting Irish need Nix and Tuitt to stay healthy, as there’s not an abundance of depth. Notre Dame finished 11th nationally against the run and allowed only four rushing touchdowns last season.

3. Arizona State 
The Sun Devils need to get tougher against the run, but depth and talent aren’t an issue. Tackle Will Sutton is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and is projected to be an NFL first-round pick in 2014. Jaxon Hood joins Sutton on the interior after a standout freshman season. Junior Onyeali and Davon Coleman give the Sun Devils two pass-rush threats in the 3-4 scheme. Junior college recruits Marcus Hardison and Demetrius Cherry are expected to provide depth.

4. Florida 
Defense carried the Gators to an 11–2 mark last season, and even though some key pieces depart, Florida should be strong in the trenches. Sophomores Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler start on the edges with seniors Dominique Easley and Damien Jacobs anchoring the interior. Easley is an Athlon Sports first-team preseason All-SEC selection. End/linebacker Ronald Powell, a No. 1 recruit out of high school, is back after sitting out 2012 due to a knee injury. If there’s a concern for coach Will Muschamp, it’s depth on the interior. Junior college recruit Darious Cummings was brought in to help on the interior, but the Gators could use a big season from junior Leon Orr.

5. USC 
New coordinator Clancy Pendergast has plenty of talent to install his new 5-2 scheme. End Morgan Breslin tied for the Pac-12 lead in sacks last year, and the return of Devon Kennard from injury adds another potential double-digit sack threat to the line. Leonard Williams, George Uko and Antwan Woods form a talented interior, with Williams capable of earning All-America honors in 2013. Redshirt freshman Kenny Bigelow is a name to watch this fall.

6. Virginia Tech
If there was a bright spot for the Hokies last season, it was a defensive line that ranked third in the ACC against the run and averaged 2.7 sacks a game. This unit could be even better in 2013, as eight of the nine players from the final 2012 two-deep are back. Ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins should form the best duo in the ACC, and depth is plentiful with Dadi Nicolas and Tyrel Wilson returning. Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins anchor the interior, while Kris Harley, Woody Barron and Nigel Williams provide depth. With a struggling offense, Virginia Tech will need to lean on its defense to win the Coastal Division in 2013.

7. Oregon
The Ducks have a new line coach (Ron Aiken) after Jerry Azzinaro followed Chip Kelly to the NFL. Aiken spent six seasons in the NFL but worked at Iowa from 1999-2006 and has plenty of pieces to work with this year. Seniors Taylor Hart, Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi are the likely starters, but Oregon will rotate several bodies in and out of the lineup. Sophomores DeForest Buckner, Alex Balducci, Christian French and Arik Armstead give the Ducks a solid second group with plenty of upside. Armstead impressed with 26 tackles as a true freshman last year. The only question in the front seven for coordinator Nick Aliotti is which player will step up to replace Dion Jordan’s production off the edge in Oregon’s 3-4 scheme.

8. TCU
Despite the departure of All-Big 12 end Stansly Maponga, the Horned Frogs still boast the best defensive line in the Big 12. End Devonte Fields was a first-team All-Big 12 selection as a true freshman, recording 18.5 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks. Fields will once again anchor the pass rush, but he will miss the first two games of the year due to a suspension. Joining Fields as key contributors at end will be Jon Koontz, Josh Carraway and James McFarland. Tackles Davion Pierson and Chucky Hunter are preseason Athlon Sports All-Big 12 selections. The Horned Frogs led the Big 12 in rush defense and averaged 2.2 sacks per game last year.

9. Stanford
Defensive lines in 3-4 schemes often don’t get the credit they deserve. And that was the case with Stanford last season, as its linebacking corps often overshadowed the work done by the three players in the trenches. The Cardinal loses nose tackle Terrence Stephens, but ends Ben Gardner and Henry Anderson are back. Gardner recorded 7.5 sacks in 14 games, while Anderson chipped in 13 tackles for a loss and 51 stops. Junior David Parry started three games last year and is expected to replace Stephens at nose tackle. Stanford has accumulated solid depth up front, as sophomore Aziz Shittu and senior Josh Mauro ensure the line won’t suffer any drop-off once the top three leave the field.

10. Ohio State
Yes, all four starters are gone from last season’s unit. However, by season’s end, the Buckeyes should have the Big Ten’s top defensive line. Ends Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington were two of the top-10 defensive end recruits in last year’s signing class, and both players impressed in limited action. The interior will be anchored by a group of talented, but unproven players, headlined by juniors Joel Hale and Michael Bennett. Sophomores Chris Carter and Tommy Schutt are expected to backup Hale and Bennett. True freshmen Joey Bosa, Michael Hill and Billy Price won’t start, but all three could factor into the rotation this year.

11. Texas
Returning Starters: 4
Rush Defense in 2012: 88th nationally (192.2 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 35
Athlon 2013 All-Big 12 Performers: DE Jackson Jeffcoat (1st)

12. Florida State
Returning Starters: 0
Rush Defense in 2012: 3rd nationally (92.3 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 36
Athlon 2013 All-ACC Performers: DT Timmy Jernigan (1st)

13. LSU
Returning Starters: 0
Rush Defense in 2012: 9th nationally (101.6 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 35
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: DT Anthony Johnson (1st)

14. Alabama
Returning Starters: 1
Rush Defense in 2012: 1st nationally (76.4 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 35
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: DT Brandon Ivory (4th)

15. Arkansas
Returning Starters: 3
Rush Defense in 2012: 19th nationally (124.1 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 31
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: DE Chris Smith (1st), DT Byran Jones (2nd)

16. Clemson
Returning Starters: 3
Rush Defense in 2012: 57th nationally (155.9 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 34
Athlon 2013 All-ACC Performers: DE Vic Beasley (3rd)

17. South Florida
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 50th nationally (149.9 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 25
Athlon 2013 American All-Conference Performers: DE Aaron Lynch (1st), DE Ryne Giddins (3rd)

18. Ole Miss
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 25th nationally (129.3 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 38
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: DE C.J. Johnson (2nd), DT Isaac Gross (4th)

19. Penn State
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 23rd nationally (128.4 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 34
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: DE Deion Barnes (1st), DT DaQuan Jones (2nd)

20. Michigan State
Returning Starters: 1
Rush Defense in 2012: 8th nationally (98.6 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 20
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: DE Marcus Rush (3rd)

21. Michigan
Returning Starters: 1
Rush Defense in 2012: 51st nationally (150.5 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 22
Athlon 2013 All-Big Ten Performers: DE Frank Clark (3rd)

22. Louisville
Returning Starters: 4
Rush Defense in 2012: 48th nationally (148.0 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 22
Athlon 2013 American All-Conference Performers: DT Brandon Dunn (1st), DE Marcus Smith (2nd)

23. Rutgers
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 6th nationally (97.2 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 25
Athlon 2013 American All-Conference Performers: DE Jamil Merrell (1st), DT Darius Hamilton (2nd)

24. Boise State
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 46th nationally
Sacks in 2012: 38
Athlon 2013 All-Mountain West Performers: DE Demarcus Lawrence (1st), DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe (2nd)

25. Mississippi State
Returning Starters: 2
Rush Defense in 2012: 67th nationally (165.6 ypg)
Sacks in 2012: 18
Athlon 2013 All-SEC Performers: DE Denico Autry (3rd)

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Teaser:
College Football's Top 25 Defensive Lines for 2013
Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 07:16
Path: /college-football/kansas-state-football-game-game-predictions-2013
Body:

Exceeding expectations is nothing new for Bill Snyder and Kansas State. The Wildcats were picked sixth in the preseason Big 12 media poll last year but finished with an 11-2 record and the conference championship.

Different year, same story. Kansas State is flying under the radar once again in 2013, but there’s good reason to have concerns about Snyder’s team this year. The Wildcats must replace quarterback Collin Klein and nine new starters will step into prominent roles on defense.

Despite the new faces on both sides of the ball, don’t count out Kansas State from making noise in the Big 12 title race. Although Klein will be missed, Daniel Sams and Jake Waters are a capable duo at quarterback. And although the defense has several new faces, the linebacking corps and secondary should be solid. The schedule does feature two tricky non-conference games, as back-to-back FCS champ North Dakota State visits Kansas State on Aug. 31 and UL Lafayette comes to Manhattan on Sept. 7. In Big 12 action, the Wildcats play at Texas and Oklahoma State in the first two weeks but three out of their last five conference games are at home. 

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

Kansas State's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions

GameSteven
Lassan
Mark
Ross
Braden
Gall
Dave
Bartoo
David
Fox
8/30 North Dakota State
9/7 UL Lafayette
9/14 UMass
9/21 at Texas
10/5 at Oklahoma State
10/12 Baylor
10/26 West Virginia
11/2 Iowa State
11/9 at Texas Tech
11/16 TCU
11/23 Oklahoma
11/30 at Kansas
Final Projection8-46-68-47-58-4

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Although Kansas State loses a handful of key players from last season’s team, I think the Wildcats will be a factor in the Big 12 title picture. Whether it’s Daniel Sams or Jake Waters under center, Kansas State’s offense should be fine. Running back John Hubert is dependable, the receiving corps is solid, and the offensive line is one of the best in the nation. The defense must rebuild its front seven, but the Wildcats always seem to find the right answers early in the year. Two key swing games – Oklahoma and TCU – come late in the season in Manhattan, which should give Kansas State plenty of time to find replacements for its departed stars on offense and defense. As long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines, the Wildcats will be a factor in the Big 12 title race, and this team will be a tough out for the rest of the conference in 2013.

Mark Ross
I am the first person to say never bet against Bill Snyder, but from my perspective this is shaping up to be a rebuilding year for the coaching legend. No one has mastered the art of mining the junior-college ranks better than Snyder, and he will need to do the same again this season if he wants to maintain the Wildcats' recent run of success. That may be easier said than done this fall, however, as it's extremely hard to replace a player like Collin Klein, whose value to the program went well beyond his record-setting production as its starting quarterback.

Whoever ends up getting the call as Klein's replacement will have weapons to work with in running back John Hubert and wide receivers Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson. However, the quarterback also will have extremely big shoes to fill and will play behind a defense that returns just two starters. That combination doesn't bode well for a schedule that opens Big 12 play on the road against Texas and Oklahoma State. The WIldcats should find a way to scratch out at least six wins and a fourth straight bowl bid. I just don't see them finishing near the top of the Big 12 standings, although it wouldn't shock me if Snyder proved me wrong yet again.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
The defense is completely reworked as just two starters return to the secondary. Bill Snyder always figures out a way to patch together new pieces but replacing all seven members of a front seven on defense is nearly impossible - even for a miracle worker like him. Offensively, the running game should be outstanding as the line returns and there are plenty of athletes who can make plays. However, Collin Klein is gone too. Nearly every Big 12 game will be a "swing" contest for the Cats. With Snyder on the sideline, they are bound to pull an upset (against TCU or Oklahoma, perhaps) but could easily lose on the road against lesser teams (Texas Tech). This will be a fun team to watch all season due to its unpredictability.

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
It’s going to be tough for Kansas State to maintain the level of play it’s had for the last two seasons. But we’ve said that before and been horribly wrong. The offense may be OK as the offensive line and the run game set the tone, even if it loses a key cog in Collin Klein. In our scouting reports, one coach told Athlon he thought Daniel Sams was better. We’ll see about that. I’ve picked Texas to finally solve its K-State problem and the same goes for Oklahoma. Instead, the games I struggled with the most were Kansas State’s home games against Baylor and TCU. I picked a split with Kansas State defeating TCU. Baylor, though, may be too much for a Wildcats’ defense that returns only two starters. Lastly, I’m going to put Kansas State on upset alert to start the season. North Dakota State is Athlon’s preseason No. 1 in the FCS and Louisiana-Lafayette may have a major-conference upset in its system for 2013.

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Post date: Tuesday, August 20, 2013 - 07:15

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