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All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, Pac 12, News
Path: /college-football/oregon-ducks-2012-team-predictions
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The Oregon Ducks check in at No. 4 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: De’Anthony Thomas, RB (SO)
There may not be a more versatile, more explosive player in the nation than The Black Mamba. He proved his big-time play-making ability as only a freshman. He finished with 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total touchdowns. He averaged nearly 11 yards per carry on 55 attempts and caught 46 passes for 605 yards. His highlight reel talents were on full display in the 45-38 Rose Bowl win over the Badgers in which he touched the ball six times on offense for 189 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas is listed as a wideout and running back and fans can bet Chip Kelly is much more confident in his open-field dynamo. Expect a heavy increase in touches in 2012.

Trap Game: at Cal (Nov. 10)
Berkeley hasn’t been a kind place for the Oregon Ducks. The closest regular season game Oregon played en route to it BCS national championship game appearance in 2010 was the 15-13 defensive struggle — which was the last time Oregon visited Cal. Before that, the Ducks had lost three games on the road against the Golden Bears. With Jeff Tedford’s back (and rear end) firmly placed against the wall in 2012, and a host of talented offensive weapons to utilize, Cal will be a dangerous out. Especially, considering when this game will be played. Oregon will have to get-up to compete after emptying the tank the previous week against USC in L.A. without looking ahead to a potentially huge battle with Stanford the following week. November 10 could be a dangerous day for Ducks faithful.

Upset Alert: at Washington State (Sept. 29)
Mike Leach won’t be messing around as he brings his air raid offense to Pullman, Wash. It should take very little time getting his team into a position to compete every week as Wazzu has a quality signal caller (when healthy) and a superstar wide receiver. Getting the Ducks early in the season helps the Cougars chance at pulling an upset because Carson York may not be fully healthy and the Ducks’ quarterback situation may still be unsettled. Oregon will need to be on full upset alert when they head to the semi-neutral field in Seattle, Wash. The Cougars have been able to score on Oregon of late, 52 points in last two losses, and were closer to the Ducks (43-28) last year than they have been since 2006.

Unsung Hero: Taylor Hart, DT (JR)
The junior nose guard started all 14 games along the defensive line a year ago and is one of the most dependable players in the conference. The 6-foot-6, 289-pounder registered 44 total tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to an honorable mention All-Pac-12 a year ago. He is fundamentally sound and never takes a snap off. His toughness and leadership makes him one of the most underrated players in the conference.

Biggest/Revenge Game: at USC (Nov. 3)
The first clash of West Coast titans will take place on the same day Alabama and LSU battle in Baton Rouge, La. The trip down to Los Angeles to face what could be the nation’s No. 1 team is the biggest game on the 2012 schedule for multiple reasons. First, the Trojans defeated the Ducks in Autzen Stadium a year ago — something no Duck has forgotten. The revenge factor will be in full effect. Second, home field advantage in the Pac-12 title game should be on the line. The Pac-12 is the only BCS league that plays its title game at a home site and earning its fourth straight conference crown will be much easier for Chip Kelly and company in the not-so-friendly confines of Autzen. Finally, not only could a Pac-12 title be on the line but a trip to the national title game could be at stake as well. There are two Games of the Century in college football this fall and they both take place on November 3.

Freshman To Watch: Arik Armstead, DL (FR)
The 6-foot-8, 297-pound monstrosity from Elk Grove, Calif., was a huge recruiting coup for Chip Kelly when he picked the Ducks over other Pac-12 powers. He is the No. 8 prospect in the nation and took very little time this spring proving his mettle. He is a basketball star and has the agility and raw athletic ability to match. Expect him to earn plenty of playing time in only his first year, considering the tendency of Nick Aliotti to rotate so many bodies.

Comeback Player: Carson York, OL (SR)
The senior offensive guard’s status heading into the fall might be the biggest story other than the quarterback battle the entire summer up in Eugene. The Ducks need the stud blocker to recover from his shredded knee, which he suffered in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. The injury was so vicious, however, that he may not be ready to roll until mid-season. York, when he returns to full strength, gives Oregon a tremendous baseball-style mid-season addition.

Defensive MVP: Michael Clay, LB (SR)
John Boyett certainly deserves plenty of praise for his ability to lead this defense and protect the back end, but Clay is the heart and soul of the front seven. The “cat-quick, cerebral player” lines-up at the most important position on the field. The San Jose, Calif., native is a bit undersized at 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds but is also incredibly productive. He finished 2011 with 102 total tackles, including 13 against Wisconsin, 8.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. Look for another steady, dependable, leadership-laden season from the senior linebacker.

Newcomer To Watch: Marcus Mariota, QB
The 6-foot-4, 196-pound signal caller from Honolulu, Hawaii, has a chance to be THE guy in Eugene this fall. He will be in a heated position battle with Bryan Bennett, but dramatically outplayed Bennett in the spring, completing 18-of-26 passes and scoring on a 82-yard romp. He has less experience (try none on the college level), but will undoubtedly elicit Dennis Dixon comparisons the second he takes a snap.

Battle To Watch: Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota, QB
Mariota is a tremendous athlete who played the best football in spring, but has only played one football season in the last four years (his senior year in high school). Bennett certainly didn’t play as well during the competition in spring but has much more experience after leading the Ducks back from a deficit against Arizona State and starting the Colorado game last fall. Mariota has the slight edge heading into summer camp, but you can bet all eyes in the Pac-12, particularly the defensive coordinators, will be watching this position battle closely. With an easy non-conference slate, expect Chip Kelly to attempt to settle on one name by Week 4 when Arizona comes to town.

Season Defining Moment: Pac-12 Championship Game
If the Ducks are going to win their fourth straight conference crown, they are going to have to top the USC Trojans — twice. While there are plenty of speed bumps in the Pac-12 North — Washington, at Washington State, at Cal, at Oregon State, Stanford — the Ducks still feel like the heavy favorite to make it to the league’s title game. So even if Oregon goes down to Los Angeles on November 3 and gets pummeled by the USC Trojans, Oregon can maintain its strangle hold of the conference, and earn its fourth straight BCS Bowl, by defeating the Men of Troy on Friday, November 30, in the Pac-12 Championship Game. And who knows, if they can beat USC twice, they could be playing for a trip to Miami Gardens.

Related Oregon Content

Oregon Ducks 2012 Team Preview
Oregon Ducks Top 10 Players for 2012

Bigger Loss for Oregon: LaMichael James or Darron Thomas

Oregon Ducks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oregon Football History

Oregon Ducks Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oregon Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Oregon Ducks 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oregon Ducks, News
Path: /college-football/lamichael-james-or-darron-thomas-which-oregon-footballs-bigger-loss
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Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 4 Oregon. The Ducks have to replace quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James, but remain one of college football's top-five teams for 2012.

LaMichael James or Darron Thomas: Which is Oregon Football's Bigger Loss?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Considering the way Chip Kelly has been able to plug any combination into his backfield  with success over the years, the biggest loss for Oregon this season may be the receiving duo of Lavasier Tuinei and tight end David Paulson or linebacker Josh Kaddu and safety Eddie Pleasant on defense. Going back to Kelly’s days as offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, his quarterbacks consistently have been among the conference leaders in pass efficiency and total offense. Darron Thomas finishing ninth in the Pac-12 in total offense last season was an aberration and likely more a result of having James, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas in the offense. Replacing running backs has been just as seamless for Kelly’s offense from Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson to LeGarrette Blount to James and part-time work for Barner. Statistically, the Barner and Thomas combo still gives Oregon the big-play ability vacated by James -- James broke off a 20-yard run every 13 carries (Barner/Thomas did it every 16 carries); James ran for at least 10 yards every 5.5 carries (Barner/Thomas did it every 5.8 carries). Of course, most of those runs of at least 20 yards came from DeAnthony Thomas, not to mention Thomas’ contributions to the passing game. I’d argue the sophomore Thomas is the key to the offense more than Darron Thomas or James. I would say James is the bigger loss to the Oregon offense only because it cuts into the big-play ability that has taken Oregon to the top of the Pac-12. The conventional wisdom would be the departure of a veteran quarterback would be the bigger loss, but if Thomas was going to need to fight off competition from Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota this offseason anyway, it shows the quarterbacks were even more interchangeable than we thought.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This one is easy, quarterback Darron Thomas will be much harder to replace than running back LaMichael James. First, running backs are much easier to replace, find and develop than a quarterback. James was a remarkable player, a Heisman Finalist, a Doak Walker Award winner and led the nation in rushing twice in his three-year career. But Pac-12 defensive coordinators aren't taking any deep breaths now that James is gone. No, Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas are the West Coast's version of Trent Richardson. The transition from James to Barner/Thomas should be just as seamless as Mark Ingram to T-Rich. Barner has played 36 games but only started three times. Yet, when he did start, he was nearly as productive as James. Try 58 carries, three receptions, 433 yards rushing, 102 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns in three starts. And while Barner will play the more conventional role, fans can expect Thomas to the be the brightest star, and, like Richardson, might be as good if not better than James. As a true freshman, Thomas rolled-up 2,235 all-purpose yards and scored 18 total touchdowns. There will be little to no drop-off with the Black Mamba.

While the quarterback position hasn't been difficult to fill for Chip Kelly either, replacing Thomas will most assuredly be more complicated. First, Barner and Thomas have loads of experience and talent while Thomas replacements Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota have a combined one career start and 46 career pass attempts (all from Bennett). Both are talented options, likely are more athletic than Thomas and both should execute the Kelly offense well enough to compete for a Pac-12 title. But can the match his production while battling each other for playing time?

Thomas' production still feels wildly underrated. His 66 career touchdown passes top the school record book while his 5,910 yards passing are seventh all-time. He accounted for 71 total touchdowns in two seasons and is one of only three players in Pac-12 history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes in two seasons (Matt Leinart, Andrew Luck). He led the Ducks to back-to-back conference crowns, its first-ever BCS National Championship appearance and capped his career with Oregon's second Rose Bowl title (1917). No pressure for a redshirt freshman and a sophomore.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even though LaMichael James was a special player, I think Darron Thomas is a bigger loss for the Ducks. Good skill players are never easy to replace, but finding a new starting quarterback always provides for more headaches for coaching staffs.

Even though Bryan Bennett started one game last year, Colorado didn’t represent the toughest competition in the Pac-12. Bennett also played well in relief of Thomas against Arizona State and Washington State, but has yet to start for a full season. Marcus Mariota made a push for playing time in the spring and seems likely to begin fall practice as the No. 1 quarterback. Whether it’s Mariota or Bennett, I think Oregon will be in good hands at the quarterback position. However, anytime you have to break in a new starter under center, there is a transition period.

James was one of college football’s top players during his career, but the ground attack won’t miss a beat with Thomas and Barner leading the way. Oregon has produced a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last five seasons and return two capable running backs in De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner.

The Ducks shouldn’t suffer much (if any) of a drop off in the transition from Thomas and James to Mariota/Bennett and Thomas/Barner. However, the new quarterback has yet to make a start in a road environment like USC, California or Washington State. Having Thomas’ experience could have been enough for Oregon to topple the Trojans in the Pac-12 pecking order this year. Chip Kelly’s high-powered attack might suffer a few hiccups with a new quarterback early in the year, but should rank near the top of the nation in scoring by the end of the season.

Mark Ross
Darron Thomas, hands down. Yes Chip Kelly lost a 5,000-yard rusher in James, but the Ducks' backfield cupboard is anything but bare. First there's Kenjon Barner, a senior who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards himself last season and for his career is averaging better than six yards per carry.

While Barner may be the starter, he may not finish the season as Oregon's top rusher. Barner will share the load with De'Anthony Thomas, the ridiculously talented sophomore who rushed for 155 yards on just two carries in the Ducks' Rose Bowl win, and averaged nearly 16 yards every time he touched the ball (rushing attempts, receptions, punt and kickoff returns) in 2011. He also scored 18 touchdowns (seven rushing, nine receiving, two on kickoff returns) as a freshman. There's not a coach in the country who wouldn't love to have Kelly's "problem" at running back.

As far as quarterback goes, Kelly has, well Kelly's not really sure what he has just yet as the battle for the starting job remains wide open. Thomas shocked everyone when he declared he was foregoing his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, it's a decision Thomas would probably like to take back considering he was bypassed by all 32 NFL teams in the draft. Instead of lighting up the scoreboard and aiming to lead Oregon to its first national title this fall, Thomas is faced with the tough task of trying to make a lasting impression in some NFL team's minicamp this summer in hopes of earning an invite to training camp.

Meanwhile, the early favorite to take over as the Ducks' starting quarterback was sophomore Bryan Bennett. Bennett made one start last season and put up respectable stats (25-46, 369 yards, six TDs, no INTs) overall. However, it's no small task replacing Thomas, who threw for more than 2,700 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2011 and left as Oregon's all-time leader in passing touchdowns with 66.

That's where redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota comes in. The athletic Mariota, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, apparently made enough of an impression during spring practice that at worst he has forced the coaching staff to hold off on naming the starting quarterback until fall practice begins. And depending on who you ask, it may now be Mariota's job to lose.

Either way, the combination of Barner and Thomas in the backfield means Oregon fans will happily root for James as he starts his NFL career with San Francisco, while Duck supporters will be go through the fall wishing Thomas, and not Issac Dixon, was wearing No. 5 and still under center.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
James has the bigger name and was drafted by into the NFL, but I think Oregon will miss Thomas more in 2012. It simply comes down to the fact that the Ducks have multiple weapons who can make big plays running the ball, but the quarterback position remains a question. Thomas was awesome over the last two seasons, throwing for 5,642 yards and 63 touchdowns against 16 interceptions. Bryan Bennett may be the next UO star signal caller, but most of his limited experience has been in mop-up duty. He did throw for 156 yards and two scores against Colorado last year, but we will have to see how Bennett plays on a consistent basis.

Obviously James stats were off the charts, running for over 5,000 yards and 53 scores during the last three seasons. However the Ducks have other stars waiting to become household names. Kenjon Barner had 939 yards and 11 scores in a backup role last season, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. When James missed two starts last year, Barner starred against Arizona State (171 yards and 1 TD) and Colorado (115 yards and 2 TDs). Additionally, all-purpose machine De’Anthony Thomas totaled 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns – on just two carries – in the Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Both former stars will be missed in Eugene, but Thomas’ departure looms larger for this season.

Related Oregon Content

Oregon Ducks 2012 Team Preview
Oregon Ducks Top 10 Players for 2012

Oregon Ducks 2012 Team Predictions
Oregon Ducks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oregon Football History

Oregon Ducks Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oregon Rivals

Teaser:
<p> LaMichael James or Darron Thomas: Which is Oregon Football's Bigger Loss?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 05:26
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oregon-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Oregon's biggest rivals.

• What's the difference between an Oregon State football player and a dollar?
You can get four quarters out of a dollar.

• What do you call a Beaver in a BCS bowl game?
A referee.

• What do you get when you cross Oregon State with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.

• Did you hear that Oregon State's football team doesn't have a website?
The Beavers can't string three "Ws" together.

• How does an Oregon State fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4…..

• What do USC fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.

• Did you hear what happened to the Washington State fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home?
He moved.

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Cal fan?
A tattoo.

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Reser Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

• Things you will never hear an Oregon State fan say:
I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex. 

 

 

Teaser:
<p> JOKES ABOUT OREGON RIVALS</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 03:51
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC East, Philadelphia Eagles, NFL
Path: /nfl/philadelphia-eagles-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Cleveland
Week 2: Baltimore
Week 3: at Arizona
Week 4: New York Giants
Week 5: at Pittsburgh
Week 6: Detroit
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Atlanta
Week 9: at New Orleans (Mon.)
Week 10: Dallas
Week 11: at Washington
Week 12: Carolina (Mon.)
Week 13: at Dallas
Week 14: at Tampa Bay
Week 15: Cincinnati (Thur.)
Week 16: Washington
Week 17: at New York Giants

Order your 2012 Philadelphia Eagles Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- It is a good thing the bye week comes when it does for the Eagles. Philadelphia will face a six-game run that will rival any in the NFL in 2012: NY Giants, at Pittsburgh, Detroit, Atlanta, at New Orleans and Dallas. If you are counting at home, that stretch features five playoff teams from a year ago not to mention three of the last four Super Bowl champions. And the Cowboys were one game away from winning the NFC East a year ago. Thankfully, the bye falls directly in the middle of that brutal run for the Eagles. They are going to need it.

- The Eagles will play three non-Sunday games this season with a pair of showcase games. A Monday nighter at New Orleans could carry wild card implications. A Week 15 Thursday nighter against Cincinnati should also feature two teams fighting for a playoff bid. But the one to circle is the Week 12 Monday night contest against Carolina. Anytime Michael Vick and Cam Newton are on the field together, it’s must-see TV.

- Two of those non-Sunday contests are against the NFC South — the division the NFC East has to face in round-robin competition this fall. Carolina provides a primetime QB showcase while Phily could be fighting with the Saints and/or Falcons for a wild card playoff berth. The Bucs should also be improved this fall as well.

- In AFC play, the East will have the unenviable task of facing the AFC North this fall. It might be the deepest and toughest division in the AFC, so having to face three playoff teams from a year ago won’t be easy for Vick and company. The season gets started with a road trip to Cleveland. Getting Baltimore and Cincinnati at home is a nice break, but traveling to Pittsburgh isn’t. Some small comfort can be taken from facing the Browns and Steelers within the first five weeks — when the weather in Ohio and Pennsylvania shouldn't be too terrible.

- Within the NFC East, a division that could be completely wide open in 2012, Philadelphia will face only the NY Giants before Week 10. This means the Eagles will face five divisional opponents in the last eight games of the season. It starts with three divisional games in four weeks, including both games against the rival Cowboys. If Andy Reid wants to challenge for a division title, he likely needs to go 2-1 in that span. Additionally, the season will end with back-to-back NFC East games, including a season finale road test in the Meadowlands to battle the Super Bowl champs. This is a cannibalistic division that tends to beat on itself. This season should be no different.

- Home-road splits are negligible in 2012 for the Eagles. They will play consecutive road games only once (Week 13-14) and will play consecutive home games twice (Week 15-16 and Week 6-8).

- The two floating games on the Eagles' schedule this fall will be Arizona (road) and Detroit (home). Former Eagle Kevin Kolb could still be the Cardinals' starting quarterback in Week 3 when Phily visits the desert. Both are winnable contests. 

Fantasy Focus: The fantasy playoffs looks pretty comfortable for any owners with Eagles players. The postseason opponents will be some combination of Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Washington. This adds some value to the LeSean McCoys and Jeremy Maclins of the world. If your league uses Week 17, knock them down a peg since Phily visits the Giants in the season finale.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Philadelphia Eagles 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC South, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, NFL
Path: /nfl/tampa-bay-buccaneers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Tampa Bay Bucs 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Carolina
Week 2: at New York Giants
Week 3: at Dallas
Week 4: Washington
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: Kansas City
Week 7: New Orleans
Week 8: at Minnesota (Thur.)
Week 9: at Oakland
Week 10: San Diego
Week 11: at Carolina
Week 12: Atlanta
Week 13: at Denver
Week 14: Philadelphia
Week 15: at New Orleans
Week 16: St. Louis
Week 17: at Atlanta

Order your 2012 Tampa Bay Bucs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The toughest part of the Bucs' 2012 schedule has to be the round robin with the NFC East. While there are some question marks about Dallas’ and Phily’s ability to push for a postseason bid, there is no doubting their ability to compete. The East has three quality teams and an improving Redskins squad that now features Robert Griffin III. In fact, the season begins with a home game against Carolina before three straight NFC East games. The brutal back-to-back NFC East road games — at NY Giants, at Dallas — in Weeks 2 and 3 will be virtually impossible for Josh Freeman and company.

- The NFL has condensed the bye week schedules into a smaller window than normal in 2012. The Buccaneers’ off-week comes at the second-earliest possible date in Week 5. This could have multiple effects on a new coaching staff and young roster. The early bye will give the new coaching staff and first-time NFL head coach a chance to regroup after the first month of the season — especially, considering the tough first four weeks of the season. This could be great news for Greg Schiano. This also means his youthful team must play 12 straight contests to end the year. It won’t allow for any injury recovery time after September and all major adjustments or position battles will have to be played out on the field.

- The overall difficulty of the Bucs' slate, at least at this point of the summer, seems to pale in comparison to most NFL schedules in 2012. Within the NFC, there is no Green Bay, San Francisco, Detroit or Chicago on the docket. The Buccaneers will also miss New England, Houston, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Buffalo, Tennessee, Cincinnati and the Jets in the AFC. If only one team from the NFC East and AFC West make the playoffs, the Bucs could face as few as three playoff teams in 2012.

- The crossover AFC schedule includes road trips to Oakland and Denver with home dates against Kansas City and San Diego. Those cross-country trips are magnified when played at altitude and for a team based in Florida. A 2-2 record would likely be considered a big success in interconference play.

- The Bucs will start with two of their first three games on the road and will finish with three of their last five (and two of three) on the road. So while the beginning and end of 2012 might be extremely tricky, the middle should provide some opportunities for success. Over a seven-week span (Weeks 4-10) Tampa will play only two road games, gets the bye week and plays four home games. Finishing its away slate against Peyton Manning (Week 13),  Drew Brees (Week 15) and Matt Ryan (Week 17), however, will be tough.

- The two floating games for the Bucs will feature two very winnable games. Tampa Bay gets St. Louis at home in Week 16 and visits Minnesota on a Thursday evening thriller in Week 8. For a team that won a total of four games a year ago, these two contests should be circled for Greg Schiano.

Fantasy Focus: Following the bye week, the Bucs have a tasty run of average to below average defenses which could provide some sneaky value. If you need a bye week spot starter, the Bucs might be a solid place to look as they will face Kansas City, New Orleans, Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego and Carolina in successive weeks. Only the Chargers, and to a lesser extent possibly the Raiders, offers any semblance of defensive prowess.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-31
Body:

Hurting Aces
Two more aces went down earlier this week as both the Phillies’ Roy Halladay and the Angels’ Jered Weaver were placed on the disabled list. Six pitchers who started their team’s first game of the season are now either currently on the DL or have already been on it at some point this season. The Opening Day starters currently on the DL are Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy and the White Sox’ John Danks, while Colorado’s Jeremy Guthrie and the Cubs’ Ryan Dempster have already spent time on the DL.

And that list doesn’t include the other starting pitchers who either started the season on the DL (Chris Carpenter, Tim Hudson, etc.) or are currently on it (Doug Fister, Ted Lilly, Cory Luebke, Jeff Niemann, etc.). Needless to say it’s safe to assume that everyone’s starting rotation has already been impacted at some point this season by injury.

Then again it’s one thing to lose a starting pitcher; it’s another to lose a two-time Cy Young Award winner like Halladay or a potential future recipient like Weaver. To be fair, Halladay (4-5, 3.98 ERA) hasn’t pitched up to his lofty standards to this point, but perhaps the strain that was discovered in his right shoulder earlier this week is to blame for that. Regardless, Halladay is expected to be shut down for a minimum of three weeks before he starts making his way back to the Phillies’ rotation.

The Angels hope that Weaver, who was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a lower back strain, spasms and disc inflammation, will not miss near that amount of time. Weaver (6-1, 2.61 ERA) was off to another solid start before lasting just 12 pitches on Monday against the Yankees. The team is optimistic that Weaver will miss at most three starts.

Either way, both aces will be out for a while and owners of either will have to look to the waiver wire for short-term replacements. One possibility to keep in mind, especially should either Halladay or Weaver end up being sidelined for more than a month is veteran Roy Oswalt. Oswalt signed a minor league contract with Texas on Tuesday.

The right-hander, who is 34 and went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA last season with Philadelphia, plans on making three or four starts in the minors before joining the Rangers’ rotation. The Rangers have an opening because Neftali Feliz, last year’s closer turned starter, went on the DL on May 21 with a sprained elbow ligament. Even if Feliz is able to return at some point this season, he is certainly capable of making the transition back to the bullpen.

If not Oswalt, some other starting pitchers that could fit the bill as a short-term substitute include Arizona’s Wade Miley (6-1, 2.41 ERA), Boston’s Felix Doubront (5-2, 3.86 ERA), Kansas City’s Felipe Paulino (2-1, 2.03 ERA), Miami’s Mark Buehrle (5-4, 3.26 ERA) and Carlos Zambrano (3-3, 3.00 ERA), Oakland’s Tommy Milone (6-4, 3.64 ERA), San Francisco’s Ryan Vogelsong (3-2, 2.36 ERA), and Seattle’s Jason Vargas (6-4, 3.45 ERA). Each of these pitchers is owned in less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Remember Me?
As we headed into May, fantasy owners were wondering aloud if sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols would ever get their acts together and start producing more along the lines of where they were drafted or big board rankings. Now as we enter June and the dog days of summer those same owners are wishing that May wouldn’t end.

Stanton finished April with one home run and nine RBIs, while batting just .247 thanks in part to just four walks compared to 20 strikeouts. Not surprisingly, the Marlins were 8-14 and in last place in the NL East as of April 30.

In May, all Stanton did was crush 12 home runs in 108 at-bats to go along with 10 doubles, 30 RBIs and 23 runs scored, while batting .343 with a respectable 25:16 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Consequently, the Marlins went 21-8 in May, setting a franchise record for wins and putting them just a half-game behind Washington for first place in the NL East.

Meanwhile, Holliday got off to a rough start in April, posting a .215-4-13 line in the first month causing many to wonder if the Cardinals’ highest-paid player would be the same after the departure of Pujols. Holliday has turned things around quite nicely, batting .340 in May with six home runs, 21 RBIs and 25 runs scored.

And speaking of The Machine, although he’s not back to the old Albert in terms of his production at the plate, at least he showed signs in May that he’s more than just old Albert. After going homerless with a measly four RBIs in April, Pujols hit eight home runs in May and drove in 24.

His batting average stands at just .243 entering June, but he’s been sizzling as of late, hitting .429 with four home runs over the last seven days. As Pujols has gotten warmer at the plate, so have the Angels. After being seven games under .500 at the end of April, the Angels went 18-11 in May to even up their record.

Here are a few of May’s other outstanding fantasy performers:

OF Josh Hamilton, TEX .344, 19 R, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 2 SB, 1.186 OPS
OF Melky Cabrera, SF .429, 24 R, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 4 SB, 1.104 OPS
OF Carlos Gonzalez, COL .336, 23 R, 9 HR, 23 RBI, 3 SB, 1.093 OPS
OF Adam Jones, BAL .298, 20 R, 10 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, .985 OPS
OF Carlos Beltran, STL .326, 15 R, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 1 SB, 1.117 OPS
OF Mike Trout, LAA .324, 21 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 8 SB, .941 OPS
OF Andrew McCutchen, PIT .360, 16 R, 8 HR, 18 RBI, 5 SB, 1.133 OPS
OF Dayan Viciedo, CWS .351, 18 R, 8 HR, 24 RBI, .995 OPS
C Carlos Ruiz, PHI .418, 16 R, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, 1.180 OPS

RP Santiago Casilla, SF 1 W, 10 SV, 12 K, 1.26 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 14 1/3 IP
RP Aroldis Chapman, CIN 2 W, 3 SV, 3 HLD, 23 K, 0.00 ERA, 0.44 WHIP in 13 2/3 IP
SP Gio Gonzalez, WAS 5 W, 45 K, 2.25 ERA, 0.94 WHIP in 32 IP
SP Cole Hamels, PHI 5 W, 42 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 44 IP
RP Chris Perez, CLE 10 SV, 13 K, 1.59 ERA, 0.79 WHIP in 11 1/3 IP
RP Fernando Rodney, TB 1 W, 9 SV, 15 K, 1.23 ERA, 0.68 WHIP in 14 2/3 IP

Other DL News
*Matt Kemp’s return from the DL didn’t last very long. Kemp reinjured his left hamstring on Wednesday night against the Brewers while scoring from first on a first-inning double by Andre Ethier. Kemp had just been activated from the DL on Tuesday and it’s all but certain he’s headed back there again, and this time it will probably be longer than a 15-day stint.

*Troy Tulowitzki left last night’s game against Houston in the seventh inning with what the team has said is a strained left groin. It seems a foregone conclusion that Tulowitzki will miss at minimum a few games, starting with tonight’s series finale against the Astros, but it probably wouldn’t hurt for Tulo owners to start scanning the waiver wire so they can be ready to pounce if he ends up on the DL.

*The Dodgers were dealt another blow earlier this week when the team had to place veteran left-hander Ted Lilly on the DL with shoulder inflammation. Lilly (5-1, 3.14 ERA) was off to a solid start and the team hopes he will be able to return to the mound on June 8 against Seattle, the first day he is eligible to come off of the 15-day DL.

*Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia has missed the last two games and is probably out for tonight’s series finale against Detroit because of a torn abductor muscle in his right thumb. The team is looking for a way, such as wearing a padded brace, that will allow Pedroia to play through with the injury; otherwise he’s looking at a three- to four-week stay on the DL.

*Baltimore outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis are both dealing with wrist injuries. Jones was struck in the wrist by a pitch on Wednesday night, but X-rays revealed no bones were broken. He may not start in Friday night’s opener in Tampa Bay, but at this point he is not expected to miss an extended amount of time. That may not be the case with Markakis who was held out of the Orioles’ lineup on Wednesday because of soreness in his right wrist. He was scheduled to visit a specialist on Thursday to determine the extent of the damage and his playing condition.

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: May 31</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 31, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-oklahoma-no-5-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Oklahoma Sooners being named No. 5, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bob Stoops’ Oklahoma Sooners continue the countdown at No. 5 with three preseason All-Americans and 16 players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Oklahoma will finish first in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Landry Jones and one of the most athletic defenses in the nation will lead the Sooners this season,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “As long as the running game is sound, Oklahoma will be the team to beat in the Big 12.”

Three Oklahoma standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with offensive lineman Gabe Ikard being voted to the first team. Defensive back Tony Jefferson was named to the second team, and wide receiver Kenny Stills made the third team. In addition, the Sooners offensive line was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Big 12. The secondary was rated No. 9 in the country and tops in the conference, while the quarterbacks unit was tabbed No. 9 and the wide receivers group No. 10 in the nation.

Sixteen Sooners earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including Ikard, Jefferson, Stills and offensive lineman Ben Habern on the first team. Running back Dominique Whaley, offensive lineman Tyler Evans, defensive linemen David King and R.J. Washington, linebackers Corey Nelson and Tom Wort, defensive back Demontre Hurst and kicker Michael Hunnicutt were named to the second team, while quarterback Landry Jones, running back Trey Millard, offensive lineman Lane Johnson and punter Tress Way garnered third-team honors.

Oklahoma Team Preview

Oklahoma's Top 10 Players of 2012

Oklahoma’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Oklahoma No. 5 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 10:12
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-9
Body:

NASCAR’s longest race of the season concluded one of the biggest days for auto racing fans with Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR holding among their biggest events on the same day. 

So how did the Coca-Cola 600 compare to those other races? Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council judged which race they enjoyed the most, along with grading the Coca-Cola 600 and debating if the race still needs to be 600 miles. Here’s what they had to say:


WHICH RACE DID YOU ENJOY THE MOST SUNDAY?

54.2 percent said the Coca-Cola 600
42.5 percent said the Indianapolis 500
3.3 percent said the Formula One race in Monaco

What Fan Council members said:
• I watched all 1,261 miles of racing on Sunday, starting with the F1 Monaco GP. The Indianapolis 500 proved to be the best race of them all.

• The Monaco race is the most overrated race anywhere. The cars outgrew that track 30 years ago. I understand the tradition but it's not a good race. Indy had an exciting finish, but most of the race was follow the leader. The 600 didn't have a lot of battling for the lead, but it seemed like there was passing in the pack. I like stock cars so I enjoyed the 600 the most.

• The Indy 500 was simply stunning. Action-packed. Cliffhanger of an ending. Great TV production value. Numerous refreshing and likable driver personalities. And the online in-car cams were a brilliant addition. The F1 race had many of those same elements. It was terrific, too. And honestly, the 600 was no slouch either. There was plenty of solid racing and passing.

• I am a huge NASCAR fan... HUGE!!! I have never watched an Indy race from start to finish all the way without flipping channels at least once. (Sunday) changed that. I found myself glued to Indy and bored by the 600. Sad, sad day

• While the Indy 500 was great and one of the few Indy races that I arrange my schedule to see, the 600 was a test of man and machine. It was a RACE!!

• Indy 500 had the most action. But I still like NASCAR best.

• Indy was the first time I've actually watched any part of that series and it was only the last 16 laps. When did Indy cars turn into go-karts? UGLY, UGLY cars. The only race I looked forward too on Sunday was the Coke 600.

• That is a difficult choice to make. Each race had periods of excitement, but none of them stood head-and-shoulders above the competition. In the end I think I will go with the Indianapolis 500 for the racing, and the pomp and circumstance. The Formula 1 race was interesting, but not the best F1 race. ... The Coca-Cola 600 did a nice job of honoring the troops past and present. There were some interesting racing battles occasionally. It was nice to see drivers come through the field during the race. Pit strategy did not seem to work very well, which was a nice change of pace. I was very glad we didn't end up with a “Where did he come from?” finish. 

• The end of the Indy 500 was far more exciting. I enjoyed the passing. NASCAR has been so dull this year.

• The Indy 500 had great story lines, lots of excitement throughout the race and an emotional and dramatic ending. Perfect.

• Monaco is one of my favorite tracks and the race was great. The Coca-Cola 600 was good in my opinion, but definitely not one of the best of the year. The Indy 500 was fantastic! As it should've been, it’s their Daytona 500. Great drama leading up the finish and so many lead changes. Loved it.

• Only NASCAR has my attention.

• I enjoyed the Coca-Cola 600 more than the Indy 500 only because I am a huge NASCAR fan, not because of the race itself.


GRADE SUNDAY’S COCA-COLA 600

49.5 percent called it Good
35.7 percent called it Fair
7.6 percent called it Great
7.2 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• I enjoyed watching the racing without constant cautions. My driver had some problems, so that was disappointing, but I'm pleased that Kasey Kahne won. Not only was it another different driver, but he earned the win.

• I love a Memorial Day parade as much as anyone, but 600 miles seems rather over the top to me. Seriously, until they undo the IROC-ization of the sport, I have very little reason to watch this farce any more.

• Having been there in person, the only exciting part was when Kahne and Biffle kept fighting for the lead, and then Kahne winning. Other than that, I'm sorry I paid money to see it in person.

• The Coca Cola 600 is always an endurance race. I got exactly what was expected. I found the race fun to watch, and was actually glad we had long green-flag runs so the race didn't drag out like it could have.

• Even though my driver didn’t run so hot, there was excitement, passing and uncertainty over who would win.

• Come on, (nine) cars on the lead lap? 

• If people were looking for racing — real, true racing — then the 600 certainly supplied it. There were lots of mid-pack passes and battles for the lead. Long green runs and a lack of crashes do not equate to boredom — but they do expose small-mindedness.

• Even the long green flag runs were enjoyable because cars had to pit a lot under green and it changed the running order every time.

• I was there for the race and was immensely disappointed especially because after the last green flag pit stops, with approximately 40 to go, there was very little change to the top 10 running order, very little drama, and practically no excitement.

• This race is a bit long, but with the good clean racing, lead changes and a lot of movement through the field, it was pretty good. There were some parts of the race where it became a little boring, but much better than some of the previous races.

• One of the best Coke 600's in recent memory. There was great racing all race long and watching some of the drivers come from the back to front was just classic.

• For what NASCAR has become it was a good race.


SHOULD THE COCA-COLA 600 REMAIN A 600-MILE RACE?

74.7 percent said Yes
25.3 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• It's tradition and not sure why we continue to ask if the races should be shortened. Quit trying to please the newcomers and listen to those of us who have been around for a long time!

• I think most races should be shortened to 300-400 miles. But the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 are part of NASCAR history. Those races should be kept at their normal distance. By shortening all other races, it would bring more prestige to these famous races and keep the fans more engaged for the shorter races.

• This race is a once-a-year tradition on Memorial Day (weekend). Especially since Pocono has been shortened, this will be the one race where a driver's endurance will be tested and I enjoy that once a year.

• There are some things that are a tradition like the Daytona 500 and the World 600. Just because the “Short Attention Span Crowd” gets easily bored doesn't mean we should change this traditional race length.

• When did tradition — genuine, likable, meaningful tradition — become such a terrible, horrifying, offensive thing? I've heard people complain about the length of the race before. So if you have beef, don't watch!

• How about 400 miles instead of laps? That would help.

• Traditionalists will most likely disagree, but I don't want to watch cars go around in circles for that long. 

• IT NEEDS TO STAY 600 MILES. END OF STORY.

• For goodness sakes, NASCAR needs MORE variety, MORE tradition, MORE racing — not less!!! Shorter races ARE NOT the answer.

• CUT IT DOWN. Everybody was bored, plain and simple.

 

The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at dustinlong002@gmail.com.

Please include the following information:
Name, city, state, Twitter name, e-mail address and favorite driver.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on which Memorial Day weekend race was better, grades the Coca-Cola 600 and discusses whether 600 miles are too many.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 09:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Oklahoma Sooners check in at No. 5 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Landry Jones, QB
The veteran quarterback holds the key to the Sooners aspirations of a Big 12 and national title. It was an interesting 2011 season for Jones, who passed for 4,463 yards and 29 touchdowns but also threw 15 interceptions and saw backup QB Blake Bell’s running often take over in the red zone. Leading receiver Ryan Broyles has departed, but OU has a solid offensive line and plenty of weapons for its1 all-time passing leader to succeed in his final season.

Upset Alert: at TCU (Dec. 1)
For the first time since 2004, the Sooners’ final regular season will not be the Bedlam matchup with Oklahoma State. Instead OU will visit league-newcomer TCU, a program that Gary Patterson has built into being a national contender. Quarterback Casey Pachall and the Horned Frogs will be tough to beat, and this contest concludes a brutal three-game stretch where the Sooners will travel to West Virginia, host the aforementioned Cowboys and then end the season in Fort Worth.

Trap Game: at Iowa State (Nov. 3)
The Sooners should beat the Cyclones for the 14th time in a row, but hated-rival Oklahoma State found out last season that underestimating the trip to Jack Trice Stadium can have consequences. Paul Rhoads has done a solid job in Ames, and this road trip is wedged between a national spotlight game against Notre Dame and a revenge mission versus Baylor. OU cannot afford to take ISU for granted.

Defensive MVP: Tony Jefferson, DB
The uber-talented Californian will be moving back to safety this season, after playing a hybrid linebacker position much of the time during his first two years in Norman. Jefferson compiled 74 tackles with 4.5 sacks last year, while also adding a team-high four interceptions and a forced fumble. His versatility and sure tackling will make Jefferson an All-America and All-Big 12 candidate, and he will be a leader for new coordinator Mike Stoops.

Breakout Player: Trey Metoyer, WR
It’s unusual to have a breakout candidate who has yet to play a game at Memorial Stadium, but Metoyer’s talent has him projected to be OU’s next big-time receiver. He originally signed as part of the 2011 recruiting class but spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy improving his academics. Now in Norman, Metoyer had six receptions for a team-high 72 yards in the Sooners’ spring game and looks like a future star.

Unsung Hero: Trey Millard, RB
The Big 12’s best fullback is known more for lead blocking and special-teams play than getting touches (169 yards rushing, 127 receiving yards and three total touchdowns), but the league’s coaches thought highly enough of his play to select him first-team All-Big 12 last season. Look for Millard to continue paving the way for a stellar Sooners offense, as well as being a special-teams star (team-high 14 tackles).

Biggest Game: Texas (Oct. 13)
You may have noticed this one on the schedule. The Red River Rivalry is always one of college football’s best spectacles, especially with the Cotton Bowl being split between crimson and burnt orange. Additionally, the Sooners and Longhorns battle will likely determine the Big 12 champion. OU has won two in a row since dropping four of five from 2005-09, and Bob Stoops’ bunch would like to build on a new winning streak over the hated Horns.

Revenge Game: at Texas Tech (Oct. 6)
There are three main candidates here, but the Texas Tech loss last season was especially painful. The Sooners were 6-0 and thinking Big 12/national title when Tommy Tuberville’s Red Raiders pulled off the shocker in Norman, 41-38. OU has lost in its last three trips to Lubbock, so there will plenty of revenge motivation for the Sooners in early October.

Freshman to Watch: Durron Neal, WR
Much of the attention on Signing Day went to fellow receiver Trey Metoyer, but Neal was rated as the No. 74 prospect in the nation in this year’s AC100. The Missouri native played all over the field at De Smet Jesuit High School, and he caught 35 passes for 825 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 716 yards and 11 scores during his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound athlete should compete for early playing time.

Newcomer to Watch: Chaz Nelson, DE
Ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis accounted for 32 tackles behind the line of scrimmage last season, so there is plenty of production to replace. Nelson was the Jayhawk Conference Defensive Player of the Year at Garden City Community College, compiling 96 tackles, 9.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. The starters are set, but the 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior should earn early playing time in the Sooners defensive end rotation.

Position Battle: Wide Receiver
With the departure of leading pass catcher Ryan Broyles and some off-the-field issues, there are question marks at this position past Kenny Stills. Obviously Stills’ numbers (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) project him as the group’s leader, and the hope is that newcomer Trey Metoyer lives up to the hype. Returners Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson were all suspended in the offseason. There will be competition here, including freshmen wideouts Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Derrick Woods.

Related Oklahoma Content

Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Preview
Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?
Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma Football History

Oklahoma Sooners Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-sooners-football-landry-jones-national-championship-quarterback
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 5 Oklahoma. The Sooners suffered some losses in the receiving corps, but the passing attack should be in good hands with quarterback Landry Jones and receiver Kenny Stills returning. The defense will have a revamped front seven, but remains one of the best in the Big 12.

Can Landry Jones Be a National Championship Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
So much of Landry Jones’ success in the fall probably will be determined by seven on sevens with his receivers this summer. Jones is a quality quarterback, but he was lost without Ryan Broyles. Without Broyles, Landry Jones didn’t simply struggle. He statistically was one of the worst quarterbacks in the Big 12. In the four full games without Broyles, Jones had a passer rating of 116.5, more than 30 points lower than his his rating through the first nine games. Over a full season, that pass efficiency rating would have been the worst among Big 12 starting quarterbacks. Jones’ passing yards per attempt dropped from 8.5 yards to 6.6, which was fewer yards per attempt than Kansas’ Jordan Webb. Losing a receiver like Broyles threw the offense into disarray, not just Broyles, too. Kenny Stills needs to be ready to assume the No. 1 receiver role, a spot that’s going to be even more critical than it was a year ago. With third-leading receiver Jaz Reynolds suspended indefinitely, the position behind Stills is awfully inexperienced. If Reynolds is gone for any appreciable amount of time, Jones and Stills will need to be a championship-caliber duo because it’s a mystery what Oklahoma will get out of the rest of the receiver group. Of course, they were all major recruits, but guys like Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Sterling Shepard are all freshmen. I believe Jones can become a championship-level quarterback despite all these variables in the Oklahoma offense. Jones has the experience and he’ll have talent around him, even if some of it is untested. There are questions here, but I don’t think we can take Jones’ experience and career production lightly.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes, but if the Oklahoma Sooners win, or even simply play, in the BCS National Championship game this fall, Mike Stoops and Tim Kish will deserve more credit than Jones. The senior quarterback has been incredibly productive in his career in Norman and should only post another statistically stellar season for the Sooners. But not many players have ever entered their final season with over 12,000 yards passing, nearly 100 touchdowns and as many question marks as Jones.

I've written about his numbers numerous times this summer, but just in case you missed our Big 12 quarterback rankings, here it goes. The Sooner showed major development from 2009 to 2010, increasing his completion percentage (58.1% to 65.6%) and significantly dropped his interception rate (one INT every 32.1 attempts versus one every 51.4 attempts). Yet, 2011 saw Jones regress in both categories — to 63.1% and 37.5 attempts/INT. Additionally, his road record has been a major issue. He is 7-8 on the road as a starter and is 19-1 in Norman. Finally, he limped to the finish last year, going without a single touchdown pass in the final three games of the regular season — with five interceptions nonetheless.

Certainly, a healthier running game, featuring Dominique Whaley, and full receiving corps will help Jones get back on track. The emergence of Kenny Stills and expected contributions from newcomer Trey Metoyer will only help stabilize the Broyles-less wide receiver position. Additionally, Jones worked with quarterback guru George Whittfield over the off-season and should be at his best as a senior. Still, Jones needs to prove he can win the key games on the road in key situations — e.g., at West Virginia, TCU, Texas Tech, Iowa State and the all-important neutral site contest in Dallas against Texas.

Jones can absolutely be a national championship quarterback, but if the Sooners are to go undefeated and play in Miami Gardens next January, I have a sneaking suspicion it will be more because of defense — aka Mike Stoops and Kish — than Jones himself. Hmm? A Mike Stoops-led stifling Sooner defense that ends up playing in South Florida for a national title? Sound familiar?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Oklahoma can win the national title with Landry Jones as its quarterback, but he does need to play better. Consistency and cutting down on the interceptions are two areas that Jones needs to improve upon this year but that could be tricky with some uncertainty at the skill positions.

Jones was having a solid 2011 season prior to receiver Ryan Broyles suffering a torn ACL in the victory against Texas A&M. He threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-28 victory over Missouri and completed 31 of 50 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-17 rout against Texas. However, the offense came unglued after losing Broyles and posting 38 points in a loss to Baylor, as Jones tossed six interceptions and failed to throw for more than 256 yards in each of the final three games. With a full offseason to work on replacing Broyles, I expect Oklahoma’s passing attack to be better this year – even if it has some true freshman in the rotation.

As with any quarterback, Landry Jones gets too much of the blame when things go bad and too much credit when things go right. As a senior, Jones should put together a solid season, and if the Sooners are the Big 12’s best team, then they will be in the national title hunt. However, the Sooners’ quest to play in Miami at the end of the year could rest on running back Dominique Whaley’s health and a rebuilt front seven on defense. Jones is the least of Oklahoma’s concerns, but he does need to take his play up another level if the Sooners want to finish in the top two of the BCS standings.

Mark Ross
Absolutely. Since Oklahoma is a preseason top 10 team, by our own (Athlon's) estimations, the Sooners figure to be in the national title hunt all season long, provided they take care of business in the Big 12 conference. Texas looks to be very strong on defense, but the annual Red River Shootout could be just the game where Jones, the seasoned senior quarterback, is the difference. Jones' experience may also come up big at the end of the regular season when OU finishes up with road games at Big 12 newcomers West Virginia and TCU, sandwiched by a home date against in-state rival Oklahoma State. Outside of their Big 12 slate, the Sooners' toughest non-conference foe will be Notre Dame, who comes to Norman on Oct. 27.

As far as Oklahoma's national title aspirations go, I think the least of the Sooners' worries is Jones. Here's a kid who's averaged more than 4,100 yards passing and 31 touchdowns in his first three seasons, and has completed more than 63 percent of his passes in his career. He's led the team to a 22-5 record the past two years, including a 11-5 mark in the Big 12 and the 2010 Big 12 title.

Last season, even though All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles missed four games because of injury, Jones still finished second in passing yards (4,463) and tied for second in touchdowns (29) in the Big 12. The quarterbacks who finished ahead of him? Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III and fellow first-round NFL draft pick Brandon Weeden.

Broyles is gone, but Jones appears to have plenty of weapons at his disposal, including wide receivers Kenny Stills and Trey Metoyer, among others. The Sooners' running game still needs to sort itself out, but the offensive line returns three starters including All-American candidate Gabe Ikard. The defense also should be strong as seven starters return, including three in the secondary.

So the pieces appear to be in place for Oklahoma to make a run at another national title. There's still plenty of business to take care of on the field, but to that end I think the Sooners could do a whole lot worse than having Jones as their quarterback.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It will be difficult for the Sooners to win it all, but I definitely think that Jones is a good enough signal caller to lead OU to a title. He is already Oklahoma’s s all-time passing leader with 12,379 career yards, and the New Mexico native owns 13 school passing records. Some critics point to “his” road record being subpar, but Jones does not get enough credit for what he does do. If the 2008 Sooners offense is the standard, then every QB in the land would fall short of expectation. Jones’ record as a starter over the last two seasons is 22-5, and the defense allowed 33, 36, 41, 45 and 44 points in those defeats.

The offensive line and running game should be improved this season as Jones searches for new weapons on the outside with Ryan Broyles’ graduation. Kenny Stills (61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns) is a proven receiver and newcomer Trey Metoyer looks like a player, but there are off-the-field questions with the suspended Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. Jones should lead another powerful offense, while new coordinator Mike Stoops takes over the defense. The run game and defense must be better to win it all, and OU has a brutal three-game stretch to end the season at West Virginia, hosting Oklahoma State and at TCU. However if his teammates play to their potential, Jones can lead the Sooners to a BCS crown.

Related Oklahoma Content

Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma Sooners 2012 Team Predictions

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma Sooners Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma Football History

Oklahoma Sooners Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can Landry Jones lead Oklahoma to a national title?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 05:57
All taxonomy terms: NFC, NFC West, Seattle Seahawks, NFL
Path: /nfl/seattle-seahawks-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Arizona
Week 2: Dallas
Week 3: Green Bay (Mon.)
Week 4: at St. Louis
Week 5: at Carolina
Week 6: New England
Week 7: at San Francisco (Thurs.)
Week 8: at Detroit
Week 9: Minnesota
Week 10: New York Jets
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: at Miami
Week 13: at Chicago
Week 14: Arizona
Week 15: at Buffalo
Week 16: San Francisco
Week 17: St. Louis

- It's definitely a tale of two halves for Seattle in 2012 as the Seahawks will play four teams that made the playoffs last season in their first eight games, compared to just one in their final eight.

- Seattle also faces a tough slate when it comes to its cross-divsional and AFC opponents in 2012. From the NFC, the Seahawks will play all four teams from the North, which could have as many as three playoff teams in Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay, as well as Dallas and Carolina. Seattle also has the entire AFC East on tap, which means perennial Super Bowl contender New England, along with Buffalo, Miami and the Jets.

- The good news regarding Seattle's difficult non-divisional schedule is that Dallas, Green Bay, New England and the Jets will have to make the cross-country trip to CenturyLink Field. The long trip out west and adjusting to the time-zone change has proven to be an obstacle for the visiting team, while this also brings four teams to Seattle that Seahawks' fans aren't accustomed to seeing up close and personal.

- Seattle opens on the road against NFC West division foe Arizona before hosting Dallas and then Green Bay on Monday Night Football in Week 3. Besides having the national spotlight focused solely on this game, the match up against the Packers will more than likely pit presumed starting quarterback Matt Flynn against his former Green Bay teammates.

- The Seahawks are on the road at St. Louis and Carolina the next two weeks before entering arguably their toughest three- game stretch - home to New England, then at San Francisco on Thursday night and at Detroit the following week. Seattle's defense, which the team attempted to address through this year's draft, will undoubtedly be tested against the Patriots and Lions.

- Seattle's bye week falls in Week 11, the latest of any team in the league, and once the Seahawks finally get the chance to catch their collective breaths, the going shouldn't be near as tough the final six weeks of the regular season. Seattle will host all three NFC West foes, and make trips to Miami, Chicago and Buffalo. If the Seahawks are able to win two out of three on the road the first time around against their West divison rivals, it's possible the NFC West title could be won, or lost, on their home turf. Remember back in 2010 when Seattle defeated St. Louis 16-6 in the final week of the regular season to win the division crown? That could happen again this season as the Rams come calling in Week 17, although San Francisco more than likely will have a say in the division's outcome.

- Also, if there's a team that's somewhat suited for playing December games in Chicago and Buffalo, one would think the team that hails from the Pacific Northwest and plays in a open-air stadium would make the list. Plus, you certainly have to figure that former Bill Marshawn Lynch has that Week 15 match up in Buffalo circled on his calendar.

Fantasy Focus: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch could be a prime sell-high candidate as the season progresses. Lynch, who finished fifth among running backs in fantasy points in 2011 according to Athlon's scoring, appears to have a very appetizing four-game stretch from Weeks 3-6. During this span, Lynch will go up against four of the teams that finished in the top 14 last season in fantasy points allowed to running backs - Green Bay (14th-most points allowed), St. Louis (5th), Carolina (2nd) and New England (13th). After that, however, the going gets much tougher. Other than Buffalo (4th-most) in Week 15 and the Rams again in Week 17, all of the Seahawks' other opponents ranked no lower than No. 15 in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2011. This 10-game stretch includes two against San Francisco, who yielded the fewest fantasy points to running backs last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on May 30, 2012

Order your 2012 Seattle Seahawks Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine.

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Seattle Seahawks 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:05
All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Washington
Week 2: at Carolina
Week 3: Kansas City
Week 4: at Green Bay
Week 5: San Diego
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Tampa Bay
Week 8: at Denver
Week 9: Philadelphia (Mon.)
Week 10: Atlanta
Week 11: at Oakland
Week 12: San Francisco
Week 13: at Atlanta (Thur.)
Week 14: at New York Giants
Week 15: Tampa Bay
Week 16: at Dallas
Week 17: Carolina

Order your 2012 New Orleans Saints Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Joe Vitt is the interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2012, but he won’t officially begin his stint on the sidelines until after his own six-game suspension is over. The Saints will have to tackle the Packers and Chargers in their first six, but otherwise, face four beatable opponents (WAS, CAR, KC, TB). If the Saints get Vitt back sporting a 4-2 mark, Who Dat nation might be postseason bound. The bye week coming during the interim’s interim should also help the coaching staff adapt.

- Vitt and company better get work done early in the 2012 season because the second half, and more specifically the final month, will provide brutal tests. Three of the final five games will be on the road, including road trips to division rival Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants and into Jerry’s Palace to battle the Cowboys. Only once will the Saints have back-to-back home games all season — Weeks 9 and 10 against the Eagles and Falcons.

- The NFC East will be the intra-conference round robin for the NFC South. The season gets started with a visit from Robert Griffin III and the Redskins while Michael Vick brings the Eagles to town for a Monday night showdown to start November. Finally, the Saints have the misfortune of having to face both the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on the road — both within the final four weeks of the regular season.

- The intriguing aspect to the Saints divisional slate in 2012 is how spaced out the schedule is. Not one time will New Orleans face back-to-back divisional opponents this fall. It does have to face division favorite Atlanta twice in a four-week span, packaged around a long road trip to Oakland and a visit from the 49ers. It wraps-up NFC South play facing Tampa and Carolina at home in the final three weeks of the season (sandwiched around a trip to Dallas). This could be the Saints' saving grace if it expects to compete for a division title in 2012.

- The Saints' schedule as a whole looks extremely difficult — as if Roger Godell would have it any other way. But a three-week stretch from Week 12 to 14 could make or break the Saints' playoff hopes this season. After facing Atlanta at home and visiting Oakland, the Saints will have to host San Francisco (Week 12), visit Atlanta four days later (Week 13) before heading north to East Rutherford to take on the Super Bowl Champs (Week 14). Yes, the Falcons will have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night bout with the Saints, but visiting the Bucs the Sunday before will be slightly less strenuous than battling with Jim Harbaugh’s hard-hitting defense.

- In crossover play, the NFC South faces the AFC West in 2012. There are no elite teams out west in the AFC but each has a chance to be improved from a year ago. Kansas City at home is the closest thing to a sure-fire win, but trips to Denver and Oakland won’t be easy. When New Orleans travels to Denver to face the Broncos in Week 8 it will mark the first time that Peyton Manning will face the Saints since tossing his infamous interception in the Super Bowl XLIV loss to Drew Brees and company.

- The two floating games for the Saints couldn’t be tougher — and have to be the toughest of any team in the league. Brees will have to visit Lambeau Field for the second straight season in Week 4 and will host the 49ers in Week 12. Those were the two best teams in the stacked NFC a year ago and likely will have the best records in the conference again in 2012.

- Will any defense face more athleticism at the quarterback position than the Saints? Aaron Rodgers, Vick, RG3 and Cam Newton (twice) will get their crack at the reworked New Orleans defense. Toss in both Mannings, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan twice, and Carson Palmer and the Saints secondary appears to be in for a long season this fall. 

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Oklahoma's biggest rivals.

• What does an Oklahoma State fan do when the Cowboys win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Oklahoma State fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

• What does the average Texas football player get on his SAT?
Drool.

• Did you hear about the new honor system at Texas?
Yes, your Honor. No, your Honor.

• How many Oklahoma State freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
None. That’s a sophomore course.

• How many Texas fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

• Why is Texas replacing the turf in its stadium with cardboard?
The Longhorns always look better on paper.

• Why don’t Oklahoma State fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.

• What do you call 20 Texas fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Texas if:
Someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 00:48
Path: /nascar/truexs-future-newmans-style-and-earnhardts-consistency
Body:

With Toyota extending it’s deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, along with Joe Gibbs Racing and JTG Daugherty, it leads to the question of what will happen to Martin Truex Jr., who is in the final year of his contract at MWR.

Truex enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover sixth in the point standings with seven top-10 finishes in the first 12 races. He turns 32 later this month and with the improvements at MWR, seems set to show what he can do in the prime of his career. Then again, someone else also could be interested in his services.

“I’ll tell you this, I really hope to be back where I'm at right now,” Truex said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I love this team. I love the direction we’re going. And, hopefully we’ll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team and that's where I want to be.

“I feel like we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to where we are. It would be a shame to have to do something different after coming this far. My career has been one of those where it seems like every time things would start going good — something big happened or something big changes and really hurt progress. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time.”

This is Truex’s third season with Waltrip’s team and he’s headed toward his best season with the organization. His four top-five finishes thus far equal how many he’s had the past two seasons combined. His best finish in the points at MWR was last year when he was 18th.

Truex also notes that the extension with Toyota is important for Michael Waltrip Racing for various reasons.

“I think it’s a big thing for NAPA to know that Toyota is behind them 100 percent for the next number of years,” Truex said. “Great manufacturer, great support team — they do so much for Michael Waltrip Racing and really Toyota Racing Development ... has been a huge part of the turnaround and the resurgence of Michael Waltrip Racing. To have that support going forward for the next few years, it obviously has to make Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) and everybody there feel good about the direction the team’s headed.  

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our deal done soon too and kind of coincide with all that and be able to go race and go after wins for a lot of years to come.”


GIVE-AND-TAKE  Ryan Newman often was considered among the toughest drivers to pass during a race. He explains what earned him that distinction and how he’s changed over the years.

“I was never taught to give-and-take,” Newman said. “I was always taught to race hard. Going back to quarter midgets and then especially in the stock cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me (about give-and-take). And I don’t think that they did that back in the ’80s.

“I always had fast-enough racecars that I never had to give. I could always take. And that came back to haunt me I guess for a few years there because I was the one getting turned around because I wasn’t giving it up and rightfully so — probably because I didn’t know and didn’t get taught that. So, I’m trying to be better at the give-and-take thing.

“I’ve had problems with other guys who are just as bullheaded as I am and I’m not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that. We race each other hard every time we got around each other. That’s just how we did it. And it was frustrating to both of us, but we made good out of it. We never crashed each other per se, so it was just the way we raced. So, we don’t do that quite so much anymore. We’ve both learned how to adjust to that a little bit and be faster in the end for both of us.”

Teaser:
<p> Following Kasey Kahne's win in the Coca-Cola 500, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 18:07
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-29
Body:

 

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 29, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Scored six or more runs in seven of last 10 games.

 2. Rangers—25-2 when allowing three runs or less; 5-16 otherwise.

 3. Orioles—Outscored Royals and Red Sox on homestand, but lost 4 of 6.

 4. Rays—Fernando Rodney finally blew a save.

 5. Yankees—Andy Pettitte has found the fountain of youth.

 6. Nationals—Sweep at Atlanta has Nats cruising.

7. Reds—Won eight of nine and next nine vs. Pirates and Astros.

 8. Braves—Tough week drops Braves to fourth, but still squarely in hunt.

 9. Marlins—Can gain ground in East this week.

10. Blue Jays—Lost five straight and Baltimore and Boston visit this week.

11. Cardinals—Losing record outside the division.

12. Indians—Majors best at 10-2 in one-run games.

13. Mets—8-2 when R.A. Dickey starts.

14. Angels—Lookout! Pujols and Angels hitting their stride.

15. Phillies—Roy Halladay’s shoulder is balking.

16. Giants—Melky Cabrera (.369) having a terrific season.

17. White Sox—June schedule lines up well for Sox.

18. Tigers—Must improve defensively to climb in standings.

19. Red Sox—4-8 at Fenway Park vs. AL East.

20. Diamondbacks—Offense better; pitching worse in May.

21. A’s—Bullpen has 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP.

22. Pirates—Third-best ERA (3.23) in majors.

23. Mariners—Starters allowed just 33 homers in 49 starts.

24. Astros—Won seven of nine prior to losing last two at Los Angeles.

25. Brewers—Opponents batting .185 off Zack Greinke at home; .369 on road.

26. Royals—Jonathan Broxton doing nice job as fill-in closer.

27. Padres—Get to play Cubs next.

28. Rockies—Cubs only team in NL playing worse right now.

29. Twins—On pace to have worst two-season stretch in franchise history.

30. Cubs—Scored 18 runs in last nine games — all losses.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-ohio-state-no-6-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Ohio State Buckeyes being named No. 6, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes continue the countdown at No. 6 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Ohio State will finish first in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“It won't take long for Urban Meyer to have the Buckeyes back on top in the Big Ten,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Ohio State isn't eligible for the postseason, but this looks like the best team in the league in 2012.”

Two Ohio State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins both being voted to the second team. In addition, the OSU defensive line unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The secondary was rated No. 5 in the country.

Ten Buckeyes earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Simon, Hankins, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive back C.J. Barnett on the first team. Quarterback Braxton Miller, offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell, kicker Drew Basil and defensive backs Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant garnered second-team honors.

Ohio State Team Preview

Ohio State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Ohio State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<h1 class="ha" style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 12px 1px 9px 0px; padding: 0px 0px 0px 8px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background: inherit; border-right: inherit; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.917969); font-weight: normal; "> <span class="hP" id=":6v" style="padding-right: 10px; ">Athlon Sports Names Ohio State No. 6 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 09:06
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Ohio State Buckeyes check in at No. 6 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Braxton Miller, QB (SO)
Uber recruit Miller did very little to dispel his title of heir apparent in Columbus. While it might have come one year sooner than Bucknuts would have hoped, Miller’s experience in 2011 was invaluable. He showed flashes of brilliance in the second half of the season both on the ground and through the air. Now, he has a coach who knows exactly what to do with the lightning quick 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat dynamo. Meyer’s spread system is the perfect fit for Miller, who will use 2012 as a practice field for potential greatness in 2013.

Trap Game: Illinois (Nov. 3)
The Buckeyes two biggest games of the year should be a road trip to Wisconsin and Michigan at home in the final two weeks of the year. Coming off a tough road trip to Happy Valley and with a bye week looming, the Bucks could be in for a letdown against division foe Illinois as they prepare for their brutal two-game season finale. The Orange Crush is a talented roster and should be dramatically better coached under Tim Beckman. It wouldn’t be the first time a Fighting Illini team went into the Horseshoe and toppled an undefeated OSU squad.

Upset Alert: at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Braxton Miller had one of his worst passing games of the season last fall in the 20-14 home loss to Penn State. He completed only 7-of-17 passes for 83 yards as the Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards. Fans can bet that Miller will be better and the Bucks rushing defense will be better, but if Ohio State isn’t careful heading into Halloween weekend, it could be looking at another upset. The PSU defense will be stout as usual and the Buckeyes will be playing on the road on primetime national television. This game could either carry divisional implications for the Lions — or, if they are out of it, could be considered their Super Bowl of 2012.

Unsung Hero: Jack Mewhort, OL (SR)
On a unit that is lacking for depth, star power and consistency, Mewhort might be the most important. The Toledo, Ohio, native has played at every position along the offensive line and will now be asked to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside. The outside of the offensive line will be the major question mark and it falls to Mewhort to stabilize the edge. Meyer believes that “he is probably our best lineman and he is our most consistent lineman.”

Biggest Game: Michigan (Nov. 24)
The Wolverines could be the only thing any Buckeye is thinking about this fall. With little to play for but respect, revenge and honor, beating Michigan — and, say, knocking it out of the Big Ten title game — would be the sweetest victory Ohio State faithful will taste all season. With nothing else to play for on the final weekend of the regular season, fans can bet that every ounce of energy will be poured into beating that team from up North.

Revenge Game: Nebraska (Oct. 6)
The Buckeyes were up 27-6 in Lincoln last year with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter. But Braxton Miller sprained his ankle and the OSU offense went into the tank. The Huskers ended up scoring 28 straight points and winning 34-28. The Bucks finished 3-4 down the stretch after the loss and will now have a chance get revenge on the title contending Big Red on its home turf.

Freshman To Watch: Taylor Decker, OL
The offensive line is the only major area of concern for Urban Meyer heading into this season. He has had to shuffle players around, switch tight ends to tackles and is banking on two young freshman to bolster his spotty front line. Decker has already, through one spring practice in Columbus, found himself as the third tackle on the roster behind Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel. Expect him and fellow freshman Kyle Dodson to become regulars in the OSU offensive line rotation.

Comeback Player: Nathan Williams, DL (SR)
The senior will battle with sophomore Michael Bennett — and his rehabbing knee — for starting time opposite of John Simon all summer long. Williams missed all but one game last year with a knee injury. The 2011 preseason All-Big Ten selection posted 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks back in 2010 and will be either a starter or top reserve on arguably the best defensive line in the Big Ten.

Defensive MVP: Johnathan Hankins, DT (JR)
John Simon might be the best leader, the most consistent and the strongest force up front for the Bucks, but Hankins is the most talented. The massive defensive tackle has trimmed his weight to 317 pounds and all reports are he is much quicker. In fact, one of the best quotes in the Athlon Sports 2012 Big Ten preview magazine comes from veteran center Corey Linsley. “Hank is now a little bit less of an immovable object and is more of an unstoppable force.” The more explosive Hankins could easily be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft with an outstanding season this fall.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Thomas, WR (FR)
The wide receiving corps has no clear playmaker to speak of heading into 2012. The tight ends are very talented but Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields don’t exactly inspire greatness. While they are solid players, none are elite All-American talents. Thomas, who caught 12 passes in the spring game, has coaches raving about the 6-foot-2, 193-pounders ability to contribute right away. Braxton Miller clearly had no problems finding him on the field this spring.

Season Defining Moment: at Michigan St (Sept. 29)
Does November 28, 2011 count? The day Urban Meyer accepted the Ohio State job may not be eligible for this list but it might be more than just a season-defining moment but a program-defining moment. And Meyer’s impact could be no more evident than in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. If the Spartans can beat Boise State and Notre Dame, they will be 4-0 when Ohio State comes to town. If the Buckeyes can go into East Lansing and beat what will likely be a top 15 team, the rest of the conference will be warned. Especially considering how well the offensive line will have to play to defeat Sparty on the road.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?
The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-football-will-buckeyes-have-best-record-big-ten
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 6 Ohio State. New coach Urban Meyer should bring a quick turnaround to Columbus, especially with sophomore Braxton Miller due for a breakout season. The Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title in 2012.

Will Ohio State Have the Best Record in the Big Ten?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m a believer that Ohio State will be vastly improved -- judging by our top-10 ranking of the Buckeyes, that’s not news -- but I am concerned that improving from 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten to the top team in the Big Ten is a stretch. True, Ohio State’s last six losses were all by a touchdown or less and only two of them were in Columbus. I credit some of those lapses to a rookie coach and a freshman quarterback. Now, Ohio State has Urban Meyer and a sophomore signal-caller who could be a perfect fit in the offense. Let’s face it: Meyer is a miracle worker in year one. He’s never won fewer than eight games in his debut season -- he improved Bowling Green from 2-9 to 8-3, Utah from 5-6 to 10-2 and Florida from 7-5 to 9-3. I tend to believe his first year at Ohio State will be closer to his first year at Florida than his stops in the MAC and Mountain West. Ohio State will have a top-notch defense loaded with upperclassmen and two talented sophomores (cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier), but the offense is a question mark. We just assume Miller is going to be a star overnight. The talent is there as is the coaching, but he’s still a guy who didn’t complete more than eight passes in a game until the last two games against Michigan and Florida. He rarely completed even half his passes after taking over as the starter. Ohio State will be better, but the Buckeyes aren’t going to be the (on paper) Big Ten champion.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will say yes, but since the Big Ten feels so wide open in 2012, I don't feel strongly about it. Ohio State will be dramatically improved in the win-loss ledger simply because the team is finally unified, led by one of the nation's elite head coaches and can only improve from what was the worst Buckeye team since...1988?

The non-conference slate offers some interesting challenges that should be perfect for a developing star quarterback and stellar defense. UCF and Cal are both bowl teams with quality talent but winning at the Horseshoe is highly unlikely. A 4-0 record heading into conference play is all but certain for the Bucknuts. However, Week 5 is where things get interesting. We will know most of what we need to know about Ohio State when they open Big Ten play in East Lansing. The Spartans have the offensive line and defense to challenge the Buckeyes, but do they get the quarterback play needed to beat OSU? If Ohio State wins that game, they won't lose until late November — if at all.

Nebraska, Purdue and Illinois will all be tests at home with the Huskers offering the toughest opposition. Yet, Ohio State was up 27-6 in Lincoln last year when Braxton Miller got hurt and Big Red made the improbable second-half comeback. There is no chance that type of loss happens again under Urban Meyer. Road trips to Penn State and Indiana sprinkled in should be wins as well.

That leaves the final three weeks of the season to likely determine who has the best record in the league. The bye week is perfectly situated in front of a road trip to Wisconsin. The Badgers and Spartans will likely be the two toughest games of the year and I believe Ohio State will slip up against one of the two. Ohio State hasn't lost in East Lansing since 1999 and is 7-1 in the last eight against MSU while it's 1-2 in its last three trips to MadTown.

This, of course, brings us to the season finale against the bitter rival from up North. With nothing left to play for but a chance to ruin it's arch-rival's title bid, I cannot see Ohio State losing at home to Michigan. Last year's 40-34 shootout road loss to Michigan is telling. The worst Ohio State team in over two decades nearly upset the best Michigan team since 2006 on the road. If Ohio State goes 11-1, it will have the best overall record in the league, and, at 7-1, will likely tie for the best conference record as well.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The balance of power in the Big Ten for the 2012 season is definitely tilted in favor to the Legends Division. Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska each have a strong case to be picked No. 1 in the Legends and be ranked among the top 10-15 teams for the upcoming year. The Leaders Division is down, as Wisconsin is not expected to repeat last season’s win total, and Penn State will be in a battle just to get to seven victories.

Considering the strength of the Legends Division, I think Ohio State will emerge with the Big Ten’s best record. The Buckeyes are coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, but the pieces are in place for a big improvement in the win column. New coach Urban Meyer has engineered quick turnarounds at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, and Ohio State figures to fall into a similar path.

Outside of Meyer’s arrival, the biggest reason for optimism in Columbus is quarterback Braxton Miller. He took his lumps as a true freshman last season and should thrive in Meyer’s spread attack. The Buckeyes need the receiving corps and offensive line to jell, but the defense should be one of the best in the nation.

Ohio State should sweep the non-conference portion of its schedule, but could lose at least two games in Big Ten play. Matchups at Michigan State and Wisconsin won’t be easy, while the Buckeyes host Nebraska and Michigan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the champion of the Legends Division and Ohio State finish the regular season with the same amount of Big Ten wins (six), but I think Meyer finds a way to lead the Buckeyes to the conference’s best record.

Mark Ross
Big things are expected in Columbus in Urban Meyer's first year. However, the Buckeyes' regular season success will have to satisfy OSU fans in 2012 since there will be no postseason in Year 1 under Meyer. As long as Meyer and the coaching staff can find a way to keep their players motivated throughout the season, then it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find them with the top conference mark when all is said and done, even if it doesn't result in a trip to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

Wisconsin should be Ohio State's toughest opposition in the Leaders Division and these two will meet up in Madison on Nov. 17. That's a week before the Buckeyes' true season finale, a home game against none other than Michigan. Ohio State also faces another tough back-to-back assignment earlier in the season when it takes on Legends contenders Michigan State (in Lansing, Sept. 29) and Nebraska (home, Oct. 6) on consecutive Saturdays.

If Ohio State can navigate these four games with no worse than a split, than the Buckeyes are looking at no worse than a 6-2 conference record. However, I think Meyer uses the postseason ban to his advantage in firing up his guys, and the Buckeyes bond together to prove a point to the rest of the Big Ten. And just like what happened last season with USC winning its division, but not being eligible to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game, a 7-1 Ohio State team will see to it that the 2012 Big Ten title game includes just one true division winner. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I see the Buckeyes going either 6-2 or 7-1 in league play, so they should at least tie for the best Big Ten record. Ohio State does have to play the three top teams from the Legends Division — Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan — plus travel to Wisconsin. But I think Urban Meyer has the roster to split those four conference games, if not go 3-1. Last season in Columbus involved so much turmoil and change, and I see the Buckeyes going right back to the top of the Big Ten pecking order this year.

The OSU resurgence will start with an excellent defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins as well as secondary members C.J. Barnett, Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant. The Buckeyes were a lock for top 10 in total defense for most of the past decade, and I see them getting back to that lofty standard. On offense, quarterback Braxton Miller could have a breakout sophomore season in Meyer’s dual-threat system and with a year of experience under his belt. Ohio State will not be eligible for the Big Ten Championship or a bowl game, but the Buckeyes are a top candidate for having the league’s best record.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-29
Body:

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

Patience is a virtue. Those who have bided their time with first basemen Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau and outfielder Nelson Cruz have seen their fantasy teams rewarded. Getting Pujols for dirt cheap may never happen again, so if you want to go after the historic slugger, now is the time. His price is rising by the day.

Cruz has the ability to completely dominate the fantasy world when hot – and that Nelson Cruz is so hot right now.

And don't look now, but the White Sox outfield is a pretty good place to find fantasy support if your lineup needs a boost.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/21-05/28):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Melky Cabrera SF OF 11 2 8 3 .414 1.245
2. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 10 3 10 0 .536 1.567
3. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 8 4 10 0 .524 1.868
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 2 6 3 .448 1.122
5. Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 8 3 9 0 .429 1.341
6. Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 8 3 8 1 .370 1.285
7. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 6 4 8 1 .357 1.227
8. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 6 3 11 1 .320 1.106
9. Alex Rios* CWS OF 8 3 9 1 .286 1.012
10. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 6 0 6 4 .409 .935
11. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 6 3 10 0 .357 1.093
12. Justin Morneau* MIN 1B 7 4 10 0 .250 1.017
13. Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.247
14. Jeff Francoeur* KC OF 5 3 4 1 .478 1.457
15. Dexter Fowler* COL OF 6 2 4 1 .533 1.630
16. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 2 5 1 .333 1.127
17. Yadier Molina STL C 3 2 9 0 .417 1.107
18. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 4 2 7 0 .400 1.087
19. Starlin Castro CHC SS 3 2 6 2 .308 .923
20. Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 8 1 2 1 .385 1.038
21. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 3 2 5 2 .333 1.083
22. Quintin Berry* DET OF 6 0 2 3 .360 .869
23. Bryce Harper WAS OF 6 2 4 0 .391 1.220
24. Tony Gywnn Jr.* LAD OF 4 0 6 3 .308 .616
25. David Freese STL 3B 7 2 4 0 .350 1.181

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Outfield Help

Of the Top 25 hitters from last week, 13 of them were outfielders. But most importantly, eight of those 13 are owned in 70% or less of Yahoo! leagues. If you need power Dayan Viciedo, who has been hitting seventh behind Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, should be able to provide some pop — and some ribeye steaks as well. Rios and Jeff Francoeur are what they are but have the ability to deliver over short periods of time — only if you can handle the 2-for-23 runs that generally follow suit. 

I would be more interested in the "post-hype" names on this list, Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus. Fowler is playing at a high fantasy level currently and should be one of the top OF adds this week. Rasmus might need to prove it for another 7-10 days before I give him a shot. 

For what it is worth, I picked-up Viciedo this morning over all other OFers on this list.

DL Watch

- I can't make this up. Brewers stud catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who is hitting .345, was sent to the DL after breaking his hand on his own luggage. While searching for a sock under his hotel bed, his wife somehow managed to drop the suitcase on his hand. It is broken and he will miss 4-to-6 weeks. 

- Jered Weaver has provided the biggest fantasy scare of the week thus far after leaving his Monday start after throwing to just four Yankees. After 12 pitches, the Angels ace left with "excruciating lower back pain." He will have an MRI Tuesday and a trip to the DL is uncertain. It certainly didn't look good. Especially, considering CJ Wilson is questionable for his June 2 start against Texas.

- Roy Halladay is questionable for his June 2 start against Miami. This one is very concerning as his shoulder soreness has led the Phillies' ace to get an examination after lasting only two innings on Sunday. He is having one of his worst seasons, so fantasy owners' worries should be warranted.

- Freddie Freeman is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with an eye issue. He missed Monday's game because of vision problems and Atlanta doesn't seem too optimistic about his long-term availability. Apparently, he cannot make tears. 

- Dustin Pedroia is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Detroit with a thumb issue. The two-sacker left Monday's game with a jammed right thumb, but it doesn't appear to be serious enough to warrant a DL trip. He could miss a few games, however.

- Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is doubtful for Tuesday's start against Kansas City. He is day-to-day due to tightness in his left hamstring. Those are tricky to nail down. The Indians need the shortstop's bat now that catcher Carlos Santana is on the seven-day DL with concussion issues.

- The brittle David Freese had a great week over the last seven days but is questionable for Tuesday's game with a wrist injury. 

- Matt Kemp has begun his Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back as early as Tuesday. The A's Yoenis Cespedes also went 1-for-3 and played left field in his rehab stint and should be back this week as well while pitcher Brandon McCarthy could return to the mound June 2 against the Royals. The Mets' Jason Bay has been DHing and will soon play the field in an effort to return to the Flushing this weekend. 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CWS 19.2 3 28 0.92 0.76
2. Gio Gonzalez WAS 20.0 3 29 2.25 0.80
3. R.A. Dickey* NYM 20.1 2 29 1.77 0.74
4. Kevin Millwood* SEA 20.0 2 14 0.45 0.65
5. James McDonald PIT 20.2 2 24 1.74 0.82
6. Josh Beckett BOS 21.2 2 19 1.25 0.88
7. Justin Verlander DET 17.0 1 19 1.06 0.59
8. Cole Hamels PHI 23.0 3 23 2.74 0.96
9. Andy Pettitte* NYY 15.0 2 17 1.20 0.87
10. C.J. Wilson LAA 17.2 2 15 1.02 0.96
11. Dan Haren LAA 15.2 1 19 1.72 0.70
12. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 22.0 1 12 1.23 0.77
13. Chris Capuano LAD 19.1 2 19 2.33 0.93
14. Adam Wainwright STL 20.2 2 12 1.31 1.06
15. Brandon Beachy ATL 21.0 1 18 2.14 0.90
16. Felix Doubront* BOS 17.2 2 22 2.55 1.19
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 16.0 1 10 1.12 0.88
18. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 13.1 2 9 2.02 0.90
19. Johan Santana NYM 22.0 1 19 2.45 1.00
20. J.A. Happ HOU 18.1 2 20 1.47 1.42

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Chris Sale, CWS: Seattle (Sun.)
The stud Sox youngster has rebounded perfectly after a short injury scare. Struck out 15 hitters on Monday against Tampa and should dominate the Mariners this weekend.

2. Ryan Dempster, CHC: San Diego (Wed.)
Might not be on your wire, but has yet to win a game in 8 starts. This is his best chance yet.

3. Trevor Cahill, ARI: at San Diego (Sun.)
Is walking too many people (12 in his last five starts) but has been solid of late. Will face one of worst offenses in the league.

4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: Minnesota (Sat.)
Has been very wild but if any match-up will get him back into the swing of things, it will be against the Twins.

5. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Seattle (Sat.)
Got shelled the last three outings but has nice 8.0 K/9 and 3.18 K/BB ratio thus far. Will face lowly Mariners at home.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 16.2 1 10 17 0 1.08 0.84
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.2 2 3 23 3 0.00 0.44
3. Santiago Casilla SF 14.1 1 10 13 0 1.26 1.05
4. Chris Perez CLE 12.1 0 10 15 0 1.46 0.73
5. Jim Johnson BAL 13.2 0 9 8 0 1.32 0.51
6. Jason Motte STL 12.1 2 5 10 0 2.19 0.73
7. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.1 2 5 15 2 1.74 0.97
8. Joe Nathan TEX 11.0 0 6 14 0 0.82 0.64
9. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 14.0 0 2 26 4 0.64 0.71
10. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 8 12 0 2.45 1.09
11. Tyler Clippard* WAS 11.2 0 3 15 5 0.77 0.51
12. Jake McGee* TB 12.0 2 0 13 4 0.75 0.67
13. Nate Jones* CWS 15.0 2 0 16 2 0.60 1.00
14. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.1 0 7 15 0 3.18 0.88
15. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 9 0 2.31 1.03
16. Craig Stammen* WAS 18.1 1 0 18 1 1.47 0.82
17. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.1 0 4 8 1 0.00 0.68
18. Brian Fuentes* OAK 11.1 1 4 7 1 1.59 0.79
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.2 0 6 20 0 3.06 1.08
20. Jordan Walden* LAA 12.1 2 0 12 4 0.73 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 29</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:10
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver
Week 2: NY Jets
Week 3: at Oakland
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Philadelphia
Week 6: at Tennessee (Thur.)
Week 7: at Cincinnati
Week 8: Washington
Week 9: at NY Giants
Week 10: Kansas City (Mon.)
Week 11: Baltimore
Week 12: at Cleveland
Week 13: at Baltimore
Week 14: San Diego
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Cincinnati
Week 17: Cleveland

Order your 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Steelers will face the NFC East in 2012 and that delivers no favors for the Steelers. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, while Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington are no easy outs. The East could be second only to the NFC North in terms of depth in a loaded NFC this fall. To top it off, Pittsburgh must face the top two contenders in the East — Dallas and New York — on the road.

- Within the conference, the Steelers will play the AFC West. While it isn’t the strongest division in the AFC, it could end up as the most balanced. The most intriguing match-up will take place in Week 1 when Pittsburgh returns to the scene of the crime in Denver. Now led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos will face a Steel Curtain defense that is sure to test the reconstructed neck of No. 18. Pittsburgh’s season was infamously ended in overtime at the hands of Tim Tebow last year and fans can bet that every member of the Steelers' organization will be ready to compete right out of the gate — which will be a good thing for a team likely picked to win the division.

- The NFL has squeezed the bye weeks into a smaller window over the last few years, starting them later and ending them sooner. But the Steelers will get the first bye week available after playing three AFC games in 2012. Generally speaking, most teams would want the bye to fall as close to Week 8 or 9 as possible to split the season evenly — or just before or just after a key stretch of the schedule. That said, the Steelers are trying to get Rashard Mendenhall back into the line-up and the early bye week could give him one extra game played. The bye week also could benefit the team if there are any growing pains with Todd Haley’s new offensive system that need to be ironed out after three weeks.

- The division slate is very interesting. First, the two games with the rival Baltimore Ravens will take place within a three-week span between Week 11 and Week 13 — generally, the most difficult area of any NFL schedule — sandwiched around another division road game against the Browns. The division crown will likely be decided in that three-week period of time. Second, the Steelers won’t face a divisional opponent until Week 7 when they visit Cincinnati, meaning six of the final 11 games will be within the division. Lastly, the final two weeks of the season will feature two home division games against the Bengals and Browns.

- Notably absent from the 2012 Pittsburgh schedule are what could be considered the top two teams in the AFC, New England and Houston. Missing the rival Patriots and rising Texans could play a huge role in two ways come seeding time for the playoffs. Head-to-head tie-breakers will not be applicable for first-round byes between what will likely be considered the top three teams in the conference.

- Home-road splits are intriguing with this team. Pittsburgh will be forced to play four of its first six games on the road — against four teams that were at least .500 a year ago nonetheless. The flipside of that equation, of course, is finishing the 2012 campaign with three of the last four at home – including back-to-back home divisional games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. An interesting twist comes from Week 6 to Week 9, when the Steelers will have three brutal road games (TEN, CIN, NYG) in four weeks which begins with a short week of preparation for a Thursday night road trip to Tennessee.

- The two floating games will be a home game against the Jets in Week 2 and a road trip to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6.

- As a completely meaningless side note that matters very little to the outcome of anything, Pittsburgh will begin its 2012 season against Denver, the team that drafted Tim Tebow, followed by the Jets, the team that currently employs Tim Tebow.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Minnesota
Week 2: Houston
Week 3: at Indianapolis
Week 4: Cincinnati
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Oakland
Week 8: at Green Bay
Week 9: Detroit
Week 10: Indianapolis (Thur.)
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Buffalo
Week 14: New York Jets
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Tennessee

Order your 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season won’t get started easily for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He will have to face fierce pass rushes from Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago all within the first five weeks of the season before reaching the bye. The Colts and Vikings do offer some respite, but both of those games will come on the road. It feels like 0-5 and 1-4 heading into the bye week while 2-3 would be considered a windfall.

- The Jags will need that bye when it comes around in Week 6. They will have faced some powerful defenses in the first month and then have two brutal road trips following their off week. First, they travel 3,000 miles to Oakland before heading north to face Green Bay in Lambeau in the first two games following the bye. Just to make sure they are tested, Matt Stafford and Megatron come to town the next week.

- The NFC North is the cross-over division Jacksonville will face in 2012 and it could be the top division in a loaded NFC. Three playoff teams could come from this group this fall, including what many consider the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in the Packers. The only comfort? The Jags get Detroit and Chicago at home and Minnesota on the road. Green Bay is a loss either way, so it might as well come on the road. All four NFC North games will take place in the first half of the season, giving the Jags eight straight AFC foes to end the year.

- The intraconference division Jacksonville will face this season is the AFC East. One excellent team, two quality teams and one improving squad makes for another tough draw for the Jags. The real bizarre story line, however, for Jacksonville’s round robin with the AFC East is the timing. Jacksonville will play all four teams from the East in four consecutive weeks starting in Week 13 — on the heels of playing three straight divisional games. The most intriguing story line here, obviously, includes a visit from local legend Tim Tebow. The Jets visit the largest metro area in the lower US in Week 14. Expect a hero’s welcome for No. 15. It could be the biggest crowd of the year for the Jags as they will likely to have to remove some tarps to accommodate the Tebow fanatics.

- Speaking of division play, the Jags will be in a fierce battle with the Colts to see who won't finish last in the AFC South. The intriguing aspect to the Jags' schedule is the peaks and valleys. They will play back-to-back games within the division in Weeks 2 and 3 and won’t face another AFC South team until Week 10 — where they will face three straight. Following their strange four-game run against AFC East teams, Jacksonville will wrap-up 2012 on the road against the Titans.

- The really nice aspect of the Jaguars' schedule are the home and road splits. The 2012 slate is extremely balanced from this perspective as Jacksonville will alternate home-road games over the first four weeks and the final seven weeks of the season. It is a small comfort that it will play back-to-back road games only one time all season long — Week 7 and 8 following the bye week.

- Jacksonville will visit Oakland and host Cincinnati in their two floating games of the year. Not deadly, but not easy either.

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

2012 Athlon Sports NFL team-by-team schedule analysis:

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers


NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-ohio-state-rivals
Body:


Here are some of our favorite jokes about Ohio State's biggest rivals.

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Michigan fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

• Why do Michigan football players like smart women?
Opposites attract.

• How does an Indiana fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4…..

• How many Michigan fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

• What do Michigan fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.

• Did you hear what happened to the Michigan fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home?
He moved.

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Michigan fan?
A tattoo.

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ross-Ade Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

• What do you call 20 Michigan fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Wisconsin if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Ohio State Rivals</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:41
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-usain-bolt
Body:

Q: How fast was Usain Bolt running in miles per hour at his top speed during his world-record 100-meter dash?

— Curt Whitmire, Rockford, Ill.

A: Bolt’s accomplishments are quickly — pun intended — becoming legendary. He’s a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist, and he’s the current world record-holder in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 meter relay (with teammates). Perhaps his greatest personal achievement came at the 2009 World Championships, where Bolt broke his own world record for the 100 meters, re-earning his unofficial title as the World’s Fastest Man, with a blinding time of 9.58 seconds. In taking more than a tenth of a second off his own mark, Bolt posted the largest single improvement in the 100m world record since the advent of electronic timing. As for your question: According to a biometrical analysis of Bolt’s run, he reached an astonishing top speed of 27.45 mph. Just for reference, a white-tailed deer tops out at 30 mph.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Usain Bolt</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:14
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-history
Body:

Q: In baseball, the names of the different positions — catcher, pitcher, first base, second base, etc. — seem to make sense. But what is the origin of the term “shortstop”?

— John Daneluk, Beverly, Mass.

A: There are two theories that appear to have some merit. One is that the player known as the shortstop was positioned there to field batted balls; the other supposes that the player’s primary purpose was to field throws from the outfield.

Considering that most players in the game’s infancy were right-handed hitters, and there were no Nolan Ryan fastball-type pitchers, most balls in play went to the left side of the field. There were players assigned to cover each base, and because most balls were hit toward the left side, players soon discovered that by positioning themselves between second and third they could stop balls short of the outfield. Given the condition of most playing fields, it is easy to assume that most balls that hit the ground were quickly and abruptly slowed by tall, unmanicured grass. Therefore, this position stopped many ground balls short of the outfield.

The other theory is presented well by historian John Thorn as he writes about Daniel Lucas “Doc” Adams, one of the original players for the New York Knickerbockers before 1850. Thorn quotes Adams himself from interviews given when the former player was an advanced age near the end of the century: “I used to play shortstop,” Adams reminisced, “and I believe I was the first one to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered.”

But when Adams first went out to short, it was not to bolster the infield but to assist in relays from the outfield. The early Knickerbocker ball was so light that it could not be thrown even two hundred feet, thus the need for a short fielder to send the ball in to the pitcher’s point…When the ball was wound tighter, gaining more hardness and resilience, it could be hit farther and, crucially, thrown farther. This permitted the shortstop to come into the infield, which Adams did.

So, there you have it. Did the position and name originate as a fielder or a cut-off man? It’s difficult to disagree with Thorn, one of the foremost historians in baseball, but logically, the other theory makes for a better story to the derivation of the name.

— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> &nbsp;Baseball History</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:07
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-numbers
Body:

Q: In what year did jersey numbers first appear on major league baseball jerseys? What team was the first one to use jersey numbers? And did Ty Cobb ever wear a jersey number during his playing days?

— Steven Manowitz, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Some of the details concerning number usage are a little fuzzy, although the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit Dressed to the Nines has filled in many of the blanks. The earliest documented instance of jersey numbers in baseball dates to 1907, when the minor league Reading Red Roses gave their players numbers to help fans identify them, although it’s unknown if the players ever wore them on the field.

The barnstorming Cuban Stars provide the earliest photographic evidence of jersey numbers in baseball history; a 1909 Chicago Daily News account included a photo of pitcher Jose Mendez wearing a 12 on his sleeve.

The first MLB team to take the field with jersey numbers was the Cleveland Indians, who wore numbers on their sleeves for the first time on June 26, 1916, although their experiment didn’t last long. In 1923, the Cardinals tried out jersey numbers on their sleeves at the insistence of innovative manager Branch Rickey, but the numbers were soon discarded. As Rickey later said, “Ridicule followed throughout the country, presswise and otherwise. More particularly, the players were subjected to field criticism from the stands and especially from opposing players.”

Numbers came to stay in 1929, when the Yankees and Indians both put numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Although the Yankees often get the credit, their opener was rained out, allowing the Indians to take the field first sporting the national pastime’s new sartorial standard. The Yankees took their famous jersey numbers from the batting order — Babe Ruth wore 3, Lou Gehrig 4, and so on.

You didn’t ask, but names first appeared on jersey backs thanks to another great innovator, White Sox executive Bill Veeck, who saw the value of player ID as the game entered the television age. He added names during spring training in 1960. Interestingly, the tradition-bound Yankees have never followed suit.

As for your final question — Cobb’s career ended in 1928, just before number usage came into fashion. Like many early Hall of Fame legends, the great Cobb never had a number retired, because he never wore one.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

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<p> Baseball Numbers</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:00

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