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Path: /college-football/college-football-conference-realignment-draft-part-3
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We're halfway through the Athlon Sports conference realignment draft with the first four rounds on Monday and rounds five through eight on Tuesday.

As expected, the most prominent and consistent football programs have been gobbled up. Our commissioners clearly have put value on keeping rival programs together or fostering new rivalries. For some, geography is important. For others, well, their teams will pick up their share of frequent flyer miles.

A refresher on our ground rules of this four-team, 16-round draft: Each commissioner drafts the entire package -- the program’s history, current performance and personnel and long-term potential. Each commissioner will take on an entire athletic program, from football to men’s basketball to lacrosse and gymnastics, the program’s academic reputation, and any NCAA baggage.

Previous rounds: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 5-8

As we look at rounds nine through 12, our commissioners are starting to put more value on robust basketball programs. Although USC, Oregon, UCLA and Washington were selected in the first four rounds, the West has gone all but ignored until today.

We pick up today with Mitch Light and the 33rd overall pick:

ROUND 9

33. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Arkansas
Conference so far: Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia Tech

Arkansas is good in most sports and great in others. The football team has won 21 games over the past two season and the baseball program recently lost in the championship series of the College World Series. The basketball program has struggled of late, but the Hogs were an elite program as recently as the 1990s. The school’s facilities are among the best in the country and athletics generated $91.8 million in revenue (seventh in the SEC and 14th in the nation) from 2006-11 — not bad for the flagship university in the nation’s 32nd most populous state.

34. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Louisville
Conference so far: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Tennessee

I am really bullish on the overall growth and potential of the Louisville athletic department. Especially, if it can keep Charlie Strong around. The ‘Ville has one of the top athletic directors in the nation in Tom Jurich, rakes in huge amounts of cash in basketball and has taken a giant step forward in terms of facilities across the board. Louisville was also perfectly located geographically for my Midwest-Southeast focused strategy.

35. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Cal
Conference so far: Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC

The opportunity to grab another team in California was simply too much to pass up. The Golden Bears will help to anchor my Western edge, along with giving my conference another AAU member. California football hasn’t reached expectations in recent years, but there’s a lot of long-term upside for this program.

36. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Kentucky
Conference so far: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

After picking a handful of solid programs, I wanted to grab a team that’s elite at something. Luckily, Gall took Louisville instead of the Wildcats, who I think is the better pick. Round nine isn’t a bad place to get one of the handful of programs that’s as crazy for basketball as the teams in the first and second rounds are for football. I also like the geographic fit for my league. Kentucky’s closer to Ohio State, West Virginia and Pittsburgh than it is to some SEC schools.

ROUND 10

37. Fox: Stanford
I’ve ignored my Western division for far too long, and it’s going to cost me a foothold in California, now that Lassan has USC, UCLA and Cal. I have to take Stanford just to have any credibility in California. If there’s one glaring weakness in my league is a lack of programs in the big three power states of California, Florida and Texas. All I have is Stanford, a program that recruits nationally anyway. I’m also putting a lot of stock in Stanford continuing to be competitive post-Andrew Luck. A big gamble.

38. Lassan: Georgia Tech
I considered going with South Florida here, but eventually settled on the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech has been solid in football and brings television sets in the Atlanta market. Although I didn’t land Georgia, the Yellow Jackets should be in good shape with rivalry games against Florida State and Clemson.

39. Gall: USF
Like any good conference, recruiting in Florida is paramount for big time success and adding home games in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area was crucial for my league. The Bulls have only continued to grow since being invented from the ground up 15 years ago and are now looking at competing for conference titles in football and regular NCAA Tournament bids in hoops. USF was the last upper-tier program in the Sunshine State, so this was a no-brainer.

40. Light: NC State
I went “best available” with most of my draft, but the goal with this pick was to pair the Pack with Duke (my upcoming pick on the turn in the next round) to add a Tobacco Road rivalry and give the league two strong basketball programs. From a football standpoint, many consider NC State a sleeping giant. The facilities are outstanding, but the product on the field hasn’t delivered on a consistent basis. The Pack has not won an ACC title since 1979. It’s time to wake up!

ROUND 11

41. Light: Duke
Duke doesn’t bring much to the table with football, but the Blue Devils deliver one of the strongest brands in college basketball. Under Mike Krzyzewski’s watch, Duke has won 12 regular-season ACC titles, 13 ACC Tournament titles, advanced to the Final Four 11 times and won four national titles. I realize conference realignment is all about football, but adding an elite basketball program can’t be a bad thing.

42. Gall: Ole Miss
In my “Deep South” Division, I wanted to keep it all in the SEC West family. With Bama and Auburn already on board, Ole Miss felt like a perfect fit. A solid baseball program and decent basketball job were nice, but it was the football fan support, history and tradition that makes Colonel Reb so appealing. To be honest, any SEC team at this point in the draft is a sound investment.

43. Lassan: Kansas
The Jayhawks have experienced some recent success on the gridiron, but this addition helps to boost my Midwest core with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. Kansas will also help my basketball credibility.

44. Fox: BYU
The Pac-12 and Big 12 aren’t interested in BYU, but my conference is. Only three losing seasons (all consecutive under Gary Crowton) since 1974, plus a national following and a quality basketball program? Sign me up.

ROUND 12

45. Fox: Arizona
I would have liked to package BYU with rival Utah on the turn, but my basketball programs in the West are lacking compared to Kentucky, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pitt and West Virginia. With Sean Miller and Rich Rodriguez in Tucson, Arizona could become a solid two-sport program in the coming years.

46. Lassan: Virginia
Once we got into the later rounds of this draft, I wanted to build my presence on the East Coast. The Cavaliers don’t have a standout football or basketball program right now, but this is a solid university and helps my conference reach into the Virginia/Washington, D.C. television markets.

47. Gall: Maryland
Much like Louisville, I think Maryland has loads of upward mobility and potential — if the right people are in place to lead. The basketball program speaks for itself, but with Kevin Plank doing his best Phil Knight impersonation, the Terps have a lot future growth and stability staring them right in the face. The current state of the football program made them a long-term steal at this point of the draft and getting my league into the DC-Baltimore recruiting and TV markets was a huge goal from the onset. Also like Louisville, I had Testudo targeted from the beginning.

48. Light: Purdue
The Boilermakers have been to the NCAA Tournament in each of the past six seasons and won three straight Big Ten titles from 1994-96. Purdue, also, offers some potential in football. The Boilers will never be a consistent power in the Big Ten, but they did average 7.5 wins from 1997-2007 and played in the 2001 Rose Bowl.

Coming tomorrow: The final day of our conference realignment draft. Our commissioners will look at programs short on tradition but long on potential. Teams outside the six major conferences (or new to the six major conferences) also will be scooped up.

Our comments on revious rounds: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 5-8

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap

Rd Mitch Light Braden Gall Steven Lassan David Fox
1 >> Texas Alabama Florida Ohio State
2 << Oklahoma Notre Dame USC Michigan
3 >> Georgia LSU Florida State Oregon
4 << Penn State Nebraska UCLA Washington
5 >> Michigan State North Carolina Texas A&M Wisconsin
6 << Miami Tennessee Oklahoma State West Virginia
7 >> Virginia Tech Auburn Clemson Iowa
8 << Illinois Missouri South Carolina Pittsburgh
9 >> Arkansas Louisville Cal Kentucky
10 << NC State USF Georgia Tech Stanford
11 >> Duke Ole Miss Kansas BYU
12 << Purdue Maryland Virginia Arizona

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 Conference Predictions
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football conference realignment draft: Part 3</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-starting-quarterbacks-2012
Body:

Ranking NFL quarterbacks is difficult and the criterion endless.

Montana versus Johnny-U versus Elway versus Favre? Is winning championships all that matters? What about statistical production and re-writing the record books? What about pure, raw, God-given athletic ability (looking at you Elway)? Or are intangibles and leadership ability more important?

To truly and objectively rank quarterbacks all of the above must be used to evaluate a player. I have attempted to rank all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL season for the 2012 year. This means, I don’t get a 22-year-old Peyton Manning or a 32-year-old Cam Newton.

So I put my general manager's hat on and asked this question:

If my goal is to win the Lombardi Trophy in 2012, who do I want running my offense?

Note: Age is at time of start of 2012 season

1. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay (Age: 28, Record: 41-21)
2011 Stats: 4,643 yards, 45 TD, 6 INT, 257 rush yards, 3 TD

There is little debate on who is the best quarterback on the planet right now. Rodgers came close to multiple single-season NFL records in 2011 until sitting out the final game of the year. Nevertheless, his 122.5 QB rating broke an NFL record and his career 104.1 QB rating is the highest in the history of the sport. He has the arm strength, the athleticism, the leadership, the championship ring and is only 28 years old.

2. Tom Brady, New England (Age: 35, Record: 124-35)
2011 Stats: 5,235 yards, 39 TD, 12 INT, 109 rush yards, 3 TD

The starting record is staggering as Mr. GQ enters his 13th NFL season. He has led the Patriots to five Super Bowls, an undefeated regular season and has turned plenty of also-ran wide receivers into Super Bowl MVPs. He would have shattered Dan Marino’s single-season passing yards record last fall had it not been for Drew Brees, and is the only QB to ever throw 50 touchdowns in a season (2007). Needless to say, Brady still has what it takes to be the best despite turning 35 in August.

3. Drew Brees, New Orleans (Age: 33, Record: 92-61)
2011 Stats: 5,476 yards, 46 TD, 14 INT, 86 rush yards, TD

His yardage total from last year speaks for itself. The Austin (Texas) Westlake product has led the NFL in completion percentage three years running and the has led the league in yards and touchdowns three times each. He has the championship ring and leadership skills to overcome his overall lack of raw physical skills (he is listed generously at 6-foot).

4. Eli Manning, New York Giants (Age: 31, Record: 69-50)
2011 Stats: 4,933 yards, 29 TD, 16 INT, 15 rush yards, TD

He has not been doing it as long or at high a level as his older brother, but Eli is the defending Super Bowl champion – for a second time. He set a career high in yards last fall by nearly 1,000 yards and has proven to be as clutch as any player in the playoffs. When he finally learns to cut down on his interceptions, he could easily find himself atop this list. Additionally, he hasn’t missed a start since taking over as the Giants starter in Week 10 of 2004 — that is 119 straight regular-season starts if you are counting at home.

5. Peyton Manning, Denver (Age: 36, Record: 141-67)
2011 Stats: None

If not for four (that we know of) neck surgeries and a new area code, the elder Manning would be no lower than No. 2 on this list. But there are still question marks surrounding No. 18’s ability to return to his Hall of Fame effectiveness. If he returns to full health, even at 36 years old, he is securely in the Top 3.

6. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh (Age: 30, Record: 80-33)
2011 Stats: 4,077 yards, 21 TD, 14 INT, 70 rush yards

Big Ben is an interesting case study as there feels like a clear drop-off after the Top 5. Statistically, he has never been one of the league’s elite passers, topping 20 touchdowns only three times with only one season of at least 30 scoring strikes. He has also missed five games over the last three years and has only started all 16 games in a year one time (2008). That said, he also is as tough a customer as there is in the game today and has two World Championships to prove it. Oh yeah, he also has won more than 70 percent of his games to this point.

7. Matthew Stafford, Detroit (Age: 24, Record: 13-16)
2011 Stats: 5,038 yards, 41 TD, 16 INT, 78 rush yards

The word projection comes to mind when trying to place Stafford. There are few quarterbacks with as much physical talent as the former Georgia Bulldog and he likely has the biggest arm in the game today. He also has played one full season as a starter — one that saw the Lions make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and was littered with passing and receiving team records. Health is really the only issue surrounding the Lions passer, as he played only 13 of his first 32 possible games before last year's breakout performance.

8. Tony Romo, Dallas (Age: 32, Record: 47-30)
2011 Stats: 4,184 yards, 31 TD, 10 INT, 46 rush yards, TD

Few players are more scrutinized in football than Romo. But after missing most of the 2010 season, he did his best to lead a team that lacked depth and had changed coaches to within one win of the NFC East crown. He posted his best statistical year last fall and feels like a young 32 — having begun his starting career at age 26 back in 2006. He is a classic overachiever, but is as tough as they come and is a quality leader. He needs to add to his one career playoff win to move up this list, however.

9. Philip Rivers, San Diego (Age: 30, Record: 63-33)
2011 Stats: 4,624 yards, 27 TD, 20 INT, 36 rush yards, TD

The word knucklehead quickly crops up when talking about Mr. Rivers. He constantly runs his mouth and sometimes his temper can get the best of him. But he also produces big numbers — four straight seasons above 4,000 yards — and wins a lot of games — he made the playoffs in each of his first four seasons as the starter. Yet, he has never been able to get his very talented teams into the big game and turned the ball over 25 times last fall. A return to the postseason this fall cements Rivers as one of the league’s top 10 signal callers.

10. Matt Ryan, Atlanta (Age: 27, Record: 43-19)
2011 Stats: 4,177 yards, 29 TD, 12 INT, 84 rush yards, 2 TD

When it comes to the NFL’s best it feels like Ryan is consistently overlooked. But his numbers play on any roster and his win-loss record is pristine. He has never had a losing season and has only missed the postseason once (at 10-6 nonetheless). He has improved his touchdown total four straight seasons (16, 22, 28, 29) and has increased his yards three straight years. He is a consummate professional who quietly accounted for 31 total touchdowns a year ago. Ryan has missed two games in his career and is about to enter his prime.

11. Joe Flacco, Baltimore (Age: 27, Record: 44-20)
2011 Stats: 3,610 yards, 20 TD, 12 INT, 88 rush yards, TD

Indelibly linked with Ryan forever as fellow first-rounders back in 2008, Flacco, too, has been the consummate professional. He has never missed a start in four seasons in the league and is the only quarterback in the NFL to have won a playoff game in each of the last four seasons. He has a huge frame, strong arm and put together one of the league’s best performances a year ago in the memorable 23-20 road win over the Steelers (300 yards, TD, 0 INT). He may never be considered one of the league’s elite, but he is much better than given credit for from the national media and is entering only his fifth season.

12. Matt Schaub, Houston (Age: 32, Record: 32-34)
2011 Stats: 2,479 yards, 15 TD, 6 INT, 9 rush yards, 2 TD (10 games)

When healthy, Schaub has proven to be one of the league’s best, but he has missed at least five games in three of the last five seasons. Unfortunately, he had his team poised for its best showing in franchise history before getting hurt in Week 10 last fall. Schaub should post his third career 4,000-yard season this fall and could get his first-ever postseason start, provided the savvy 6-5, 235-pounder can stay on the field.

13. Jay Cutler, Chicago (Age: 29, Record: 41-37)
2011 Stats: 2,319 yards, 13 TD, 7 INT, 55 rush yards, TD (10 games)

The Vanderbilt grad has taken his share of criticism for his mental maturity and on-the-field decisions. And rightly so. He has never been an extremely efficient player — a career 61.1 percent passer — and tends to turn the ball over — 42 interceptions in his first two years in Chicago. But he also has plenty of raw talent, and, aside from one weird NFC Championship game incident, has proven he can take a beating. Still under 30, Cutler’s legacy hasn’t been written in stone yet, but the next few years will decide where he ranks amongst this generation’s best passers.

14. Michael Vick, Philadelphia (Age: 32, Record: 53-37-1)
2011 Stats: 3,303 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 589 rush yards, TD

No one doubts the raw physical talents of Michael Vick. He is the most explosive athlete to ever play the position at the NFL level. And that is what gets him into the most trouble. Vick has played one full season (2006) and has missed seven games over the last two years. He is a career 56.0 percent passer and has topped 20 touchdown passes one time in his career (21, 2010). Overcoming his off-the-field issues is a credit to his work ethic while simultaneously staining his lasting legacy. The next few seasons will determine where Vick ranks in the annals of NFL quarterbacking.

15. Carson Palmer, Oakland (Age: 32, Record: 50-56)
2011 Stats: 2,753 yards, 13 TD, 16 INT, 20 rush yards, TD (9 games)

Not just anyone could walk into Cincinnati and turn the Bengals into a perennial playoff contender but that is essentially what the No. 1 overall pick did in 2003. Cincy lost at least 10 games in five straight seasons before drafting Palmer. By 2005, the Bengals had their first winning season since 1988. In fact, Cincy has three postseason appearances since 1990 and two have come on the strong right arm of Palmer. After a brief six-game hiatus, all he did last year in Oakland (for a lame duck coach) was post his highest yards-per-game total of his career (275.3 ypg). At 32 years old, he still has plenty left in the 6-foot-5, 235-pound tank.

16. Cam Newton, Carolina (Age: 23, Record: 6-10)
2011 Stats: 4,051 yards, 21 TD, 17 INT, 706 rush yards, 14 TD

Newton has a chance to be a special talent long-term. He was a five-star recruit at Florida, a NJCAA Player of the Year and national champ at Blinn College before winning the Heisman Trophy and national championship at Auburn. Clearly, he has been successful at every level. But even a talent like Vick, for example, went from 676 yards and 9 TD in 2010 to 589 yards and one TD rushing in 2011. And the NFL tends to catch-up very quickly with new ideas, talents and skillsets. Newton could be a great player long-term, but he is almost guaranteed to have growing pains in his sophomore campaign.

17. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis (Age: 22, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 3,517 yards, 37 TD, 10 INT, 150 rush yards, 2 TD (Stanford)

The best prospect since John Elway has the unenviable task of replacing a legend in Indy. But Luck has what it takes to be an All-Pro quarterback at this level. He is incredibly intelligent, hard-working, athletic and has a huge, accurate arm. In fact, he is nearly a carbon copy of the last great quarterback to come to the NFL from the Bay Area (see No. 1 on this list). If he comes close to the 3,739 yards, 26 TD and 28 INT rookie season line of the last No. 1 overall pick in Indy, Colts fans will be ecstatic.

18. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati (Age: 24, Record: 9-7)
2011 Stats: 3,398 yards, 20 TD, 13 INT, 152 rush yards, TD

College football experts have known about how good Dalton has been for years. What he lacks in arm strength he makes up for in pure leadership and will to win. He has adequate size and above average athletic ability, but it is his natural intangibles that make him such a sound signal caller. The arm strength could be an issue in the AFC North come December and January, but Bengals fans will take their chances if it means playoff games — something Dalton delivered for his team for only the third time since 1990.

19. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (Age: 29, Record: 17-31)
2011 Stats: 3,832 yards, 24 TD, 23 INT, 215 rush yards

The Harvard grad set career highs last year in completion percentage, yards, touchdowns, attempts and completions. But the positive growth and development that led to the Bills' 5-2 start last fall crumbled down the stretch. Fitz averaged 248.4 yards per game, threw 14 touchdowns, seven picks and completed at least 68 percent of his passes in five games over that span. His yardage totals dropped and he threw 16 interceptions and only 10 touchdowns in the final nine games of the year. Most importantly, the Bills finished 1-8.

20. Sam Bradford, St. Louis (Age: 24, Record: 8-18)
2011 Stats: 2,164 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT, 26 rush yards (10 games)

It isn’t difficult to see the raw talent Bradford brings to the field. But he also brings a long history of injury concens. The question becomes, is this more of a function of the horrific supporting cast he has had in St. Louis or a brittle frame that has dealt with multiple major surgeries? Only time will tell, but the upside of Bradford is still extremely high. Stafford was hurt more in his first two seasons and produced one of the Lions’ finest passing years in history in Year 3. Will the former Sooner turn into Kurt Warner this fall? Of course not, but he should be dramatically improved in 2012.

21. Robert Griffin III, Washington (Age: 22, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 4,293 yards, 37 TD, 6 INT, 699 rush yards, 10 TD (Baylor)

Griffin III is a special player who is very well suited to be an NFL star. But the comparisons to Cam Newton have to stop. RG3 is much more of a pocket passer who will run a pro-style attack for Mike Shanahan. And his running style is dramatically different as he is four inches shorter, 20 pounds lighter and more explosive than Newton. He is not a bulldozer who will pile up short yardage and goalline carries. I fully expect Griffin III to be in the Top 15 by next year, but not in Year 1.

22. Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (Age: 25, Record: 27-20)
2011 Stats: 3,474 yards, 26 TD, 18 INT, 103 rush yards, 6 TD

Sanchez is one of the most intriguing stories in all of football. He has never had a losing record. He has led his team to two AFC Championship games. He is one of only three quarterbacks who have won a playoff game in at least two of the last three years. He has done something most only dream of when he outplayed Tom Brady on the road in a playoff win over the Patriots. He finished second to only Cam Newton in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback last year. He set career highs in yards, touchdowns, completions and attempts last fall. And he is still only 25. Yet, he might be the most scrutinized signal caller in the league and takes entirely too much blame for a roster loaded with knuckleheads and egomaniacs.

23. Matt Hasselbeck, Tennessee (Age: 36, Record: 78-69)
2011 Stats: 3,571 yards, 18 TD, 14 INT, 52 rush yards

The Titans' current starter is about as safe a bet as there is in the league. There is little upside with the aging vet, but he is a dependable leader who makes few mistakes and gives his team a chance to win. He has Super Bowl experience and nearly got the Titans to the playoffs last year. Jake Locker is breathing down his neck and could take the job early in 2012, but Hasselbeck likely gives Tennessee the best chance to win now.

24. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay (Age: 24, Record: 17-23)
2011 Stats: 3,592 yards, 16 TD, 22 INT, 238 rush yards, 4 TD

The massive signal caller regressed as a third-year player and reverted back into the turnover machine he was in college. He threw 34 interceptions and only 44 touchdowns at Kansas State and was even worse last season. Some of that is due to his supporting cast, but Freeman has never protected the football — try 80 INTs over last six years of football and 26 fumbles in three pro seasons — and has never been an overly efficient passer (59.1 percent in college, 60.5 percent in the NFL). He is what he is.

25. Alex Smith, San Francisco (Age: 28, Record: 32-34)
2011 Stats: 3,144 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT, 179 rush yards, 2 TD

Under quarterback whisperer Jim Harbaugh, Smith finally showed something that resembles No. 1 overall talent. While he will obviously never be an NFL star, he was perfectly capable of managing the offense a year ago by protecting the football. It was only his second season of 16 games and he is entering his prime at age 28. Smith could move up this list with another solid campaign in 2012.

26. Matt Flynn, Seattle (Age: 27, Record: 1-1)
2011 Stats: 518 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT, rush TD

The major question marks at starting quarterback begin with Flynn. No player has ever turned one game into more earning potential than Flynn’s 480-yard, 6-TD performance in Week 16 against the Lions last fall. He went toe-to-toe with Stafford and won 45-41. He was a championship quarterback in college and has a Super Bowl ring as well, but his ability to lead a franchise is still relatively unknown.

27. Christian Ponder, Minnesota (Age: 24, Record: 2-8)
2011 Stats: 1,853 yards, 13 TD, 13 INT, 219 rush yards (10 games)

I had my doubts about Ponder’s NFL ability but he was a pleasant surprise last fall for the Vikings. He obviously has much to learn and needs to prove he can stay healthy, but he showed flashes of ability against Carolina, Green Bay and Denver. His upside isn’t as high as Dalton’s or Newton’s, but Ponder could work his way up this list in 2012.

28. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland (Age: 28, Record: None)
2011 Stats: 4,727 yards, 37 TD, 13 INT, rush TD (Oklahoma State)

Few players will ever enter the NFL better prepared to be a professional than Mr. Weeden. He has the frame, the arm strength, the maturity and leadership skills to be successful. And for now, his age (he will turn 29 in October), works in his favor. Should he stick in Cleveland, his age won’t be a factor for another seven or eight years. And Browns fans will take it if it means playoff appearances.

29. Matt Moore, Miami (Age: 28, Record: 13-12)
2011 Stats: 2,497 yards, 16 TD, 9 INT, 65 rush yards, 2 TD

Moore is merely a stop-gap until Ryan Tannehill is ready to enter the starting line-up, but Miami fans could do much worse. One of the more impressive numbers in all of the NFL last year was Moore’s 6-6 record as the starter for Miami. The Fish were 0-4 (and 0-7) before finishing 6-3 down the stretch. There is a chance this stop-gap lasts the entire year and lands a starting spot elsewhere.

30. Kevin Kolb, Arizona (Age: 28, Record: 6-10)
2011 Stats: 1,955 yards, 9 TD, 8 INT, 65 rush yards (9 games)

The injury-prone quarterback from Houston has never started more than nine games in any season as a professional. He is a career 59.4 percent passer and has more career interceptions (22) than touchdowns (20). He has some nasty weapons to use in Arizona, but still has to prove he is an NFL starting quarterback.

31. Matt Cassel, Kansas City (Age: 30, Record: 28-26)
2011 Stats: 1,713 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT, 99 rush yards (9 games)

The story is well-known: Cassel didn’t start a game at USC, sat behind Brady, went 10-5 when called upon in New England and parlayed one year into a big contract. Yet, he is a career 59.0 percent passer, is 18-21 as the Chiefs' starter with 32 interceptions and 22 fumbles over that span and has had major injury issues. Cassel has one more year to prove he is the franchise quarterback in KC

32. Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville (Age: 22, Record: 4-10)
2011 Stats: 2,214 yards, 12 TD, 11 INT, 98 rush yards

The former Mizzou star certainly didn’t have much to work with in Jacksonville, but it was hard to watch him compete a year ago. He never truly had the look of an NFL quarterback and the numbers play that out. He completed a staggeringly low 50.8 percent of his passes with less than one touchdown pass per game (he had five games in which he failed to throw a scoring strike). Until he shows dramatic improvement, and gets some help, Gabbert will continue to look like a deer in the NFL headlights.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: 2012 NFL Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch

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

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Ranking the NFL's Starting Quarterbacks in 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/wildfires-threaten-air-forces-football-stadium
Body:

The Air Force Academy's picturesque setting near the Rocky Mountains makes for a great view during home games each season. However, wildfires in the Western half of the United States are threatening Colorado Springs (and Falcon Stadium), forcing the academy to evacuate some of its cadets. 

There's still time to prevent the fire from spreading onto the Air Force's campus, but high temperatures and dry weather are making this a difficult job for firefighters.

There's some distance between the fires and Falcon Stadium, so it doesn't appear to be in immediate danger. However, the fires are inching closer to campus and will be something to monitor over the next few days.

Teaser:
<p> Wildfires Threaten Air Force's Football Stadium</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 05:56
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Missouri Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/missouri-football-introduction-to-the-sec
Body:

Missouri will officially become a SEC school on July 1, 2012. The Tigers join college football's premier conference as a member of the SEC's Eastern Division.

From a Missouri point of view, here's an introduction for SEC fans on the Tigers' tradition, history and what to expect when fans come to Columbia in the future.

Something tells me fans of The Almighty SEC aren’t exactly panicking about the addition of Missouri to their fine conference.

The SEC, after all, has won the last six national championships. That would be … let me do the math … exactly six more national championships than Mizzou has bagged in 122 seasons of intercollegiate football. Shoot, we haven’t even won a conference championship since 1969 — it was the Big Eight back then — though we did win the Big 12 North (and the opportunity to get spanked by Oklahoma in the conference title game) a couple of times not long ago.

We’re no stranger to the postseason, but we’re usually done by New Year’s Day. Of our 10 January bowl games, nine came before the Beatles split. Except for a Cotton Bowl win over Arkansas (of the SEC!) four years ago, Mizzou has dwelt in the realm of the Independence and Insight bowls of late.

Heismans? Don’t look in our trophy case, though we did have a guy finish third (Paul Christman, 1939) and another guy finish fourth (Chase Daniel, 2007). Then again, Alabama hadn’t won a Heisman until three years ago, and six SEC schools never have. So there.

Fine, the Missouri Tigers’ football history might not measure up to that of the Tigers of Auburn and LSU. But we’ve had our moments over the years — some of which you Southern folk might even recall — and we join the SEC on a bit of a roll.

Under coach Gary Pinkel, who arrived in Columbia in 2001 to rescue a program that had stumbled aimlessly through the better part of two decades, Mizzou is enjoying a seven-year run of bowl berths. We’ve won 48 games over the last five seasons, tied for the 13th-most in the nation in that span. In 2010, we even knocked off a No. 1-ranked team for the first time ever when ESPN’s “College GameDay” came to Columbia (another first), and the nation watched the Tigers beat Oklahoma to improve to 7–0. OK, we lost our next two games, but that was a Homecoming to remember. (Mizzou, by the way, invented Homecoming in 1911. If anyone says otherwise, they’re lying.)

What’s different? Better coaches — Pinkel’s staff has hardly changed since he arrived — and better players. You’ve seen a bunch of them in the NFL — first-rounders Jeremy Maclin, Blaine Gabbert, Aldon Smith, Sean Weatherspoon and Ziggy Hood — and this year Pinkel snagged the consensus No. 1 recruit in the country, wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham. Eat your little piggy hearts out, Razorbacks.

No, we’re not an elite team yet. But we’ve been knocking on the door — particularly in 2007, when we reached No. 1 in the nation for a week before losing to OU in the Big 12 title game. Win that game and we’d have played for the national championship. I kid you not.

As successful as the Pinkel era has been, Mizzou’s glory years were the 1960s, when the Tigers were coached by Dan Devine — yeah, the cold-hearted Notre Dame coach who wouldn’t let Rudy suit up. But we remember him for his 93–37–7 record, two Big Eight titles and near-national championship in 1960.

Between Devine and Pinkel? Ouch. We went to mediocre bowls in the late ’70s and early ’80s, then descended into a netherlands where we couldn’t catch a break. Consider:

The Fifth Down Game (1990). We lost to Colorado when the officials gave the Buffs a fifth down on the last play of the game — a play on which Mizzou actually made the goal line stop, but the refs blew that call, too. Colorado went on to share the 1990 national championship with Georgia Tech.

The Flea Kicker Game (1997). Another whiff by the zebras. On what would have been the last play of the game, a Huskers receiver illegally kicked a passed ball and another Husker caught it for a game-tying score. No flag, though, and Mizzou lost in overtime. The Huskers went on to share the national championship with Michigan.

But those years are behind us, and Mizzou joins the SEC a notch (maybe two) below the likes of Alabama, LSU and Florida, but on no less than even footing with the rest of the league. Led by junior quarterback James Franklin — not to be confused with the Vanderbilt coach of the same name — Mizzou is ready to mix it up with the big boys.

Oh, one last thing you should know about us. We hate Kansas. (It started as a Civil War thing. See: Wales, The Outlaw Josey.) The Hatfields and McCoys were like play pals compared to the Tigers and Chickenhawks, but KU is too scared to extend a rivalry that dates to 1891.

And so we enter the SEC without a natural rival, which probably is what we’ll miss most about the Big 12. Slapping Vanderbilt silly just won’t be the same.

Related SEC Content

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

Missouri Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Football: An Introduction to Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> Introducing Missouri to the SEC</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 05:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas A&M Aggies, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/sec-football-getting-know-texas-am
Body:

Texas A&M will officially become a SEC school on July 1, 2012. The Aggies join college football's premier conference as a member of the SEC's Western Division.

From a Texas A&M point of view, here's an introduction for SEC fans on the Aggies' tradition, history and what to expect when fans come to College Station in the future.

On behalf of the vast majority of Aggies — 50,000 current Texas A&M students, 345,000 living former students and maroon-blooded fans throughout Texas and beyond — thanks for allowing us to build our dream home in your prestigious neighborhood. We don’t plan on moving again. Ever.

Many of us have been enviously eyeing your well-manicured hedges, massive homes and incredible weekend block parties/tailgates for a couple of decades. In 1990, when Arkansas announced it was leaving the Southwest Conference, A&M coach R.C. Slocum and various high-ranking university administrators seriously discussed the possibility of becoming the 12th SEC member — even before South Carolina. “At that time, it was rumored Texas was most interested in the Pac-10,” Slocum recalled recently. “We decided within our little group that the SEC was a better fit for us culturally. I was totally for it.”

Unfortunately, some lawsuit-threatening state elected officials were not, and A&M was essentially forced to move into a less attractive subdivision. The Big 12 was an improvement, but it was not the cultural fit of the SEC. Like so many of you fine folks of the Deep South, we love Southern hospitality, good barbecue, cold beer, women in sundresses, pickup trucks, Saturday night games, dog mascots and dominating defenses.

We made some friends in our old stomping grounds, including our fellow movers from the “Show Me State.” But we had to endure the shenanigans of the most arrogant homeowner in college athletics.

He pushed us too far when he had a fling with Miss ESPN, took over the Big 12 Homeowners Association and flaunted it on his own TV network. He’s looked down his nose at us since 1894, and after about 117 years — we’re not always the quickest decision-makers — we realized it was time to part ways. We’re leaving a dysfunctional situation behind, and we’re extremely excited about the new digs.

We’re well-acquainted with some of you (we’ve played Arkansas 68 times and LSU 50), and we share many common bonds. Bear Bryant did an amazing job in College Station in the 1950s before “going home to Mama.” Emory Bellard and Jackie Sherrill coached in Aggieland before Mississippi State; and Tennessee legend Gen. Robert R. Neyland was a baseball letterman at A&M in 1911.

Former Tennessee All-American Herman Hickman, speaking to a gathering of Texans, once said: “Tennessee gave you Sam Houston and Davy Crockett; you gave us Bob Neyland. Now the score is even.”

Speaking of war heroes, A&M has a proud military history, and this is one of the most patriotic places in the country. But don’t be misled to believe this is still an all-male, military, cow college. 

In 1876, the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas opened its doors as the first public institution of higher learning in Texas. For many decades afterward, participation in the Corps of Cadets was mandatory. That’s when many traditions at the all-male school began, such as yell leaders instead of cheerleaders. But don’t believe the negative recruiters from our old neighborhoods. You don’t have to be in the military or major in farming to attend A&M.

Since World War II hero Gen. James Earl Rudder made the landmark decision to allow female students in the mid-1960s, this 5,500-acre campus has taken on a far more curvaceous beauty. Today, the 2,100-member Corps represents four percent of the student body, while females comprise nearly half of the 50,000 students. The students are football fanatics, as A&M reserves an SEC-leading 30,284 student tickets at Kyle Field.

A&M is also now one of the nation’s top research institutions and a member of the Association of American Universities. And the best days are ahead — thanks in large part to the national exposure A&M is receiving as a member of the SEC.

We know competing in the SEC will be brutal, as A&M hasn’t beaten an SEC school in football since 1995. The Aggies have won national titles in women’s basketball, men’s and women’s track & field, men’s golf and women’s equestrian in recent years, but there hasn’t been a football national crown since “The Grapes of Wrath” was published in 1939.

But the right coach (Kevin Sumlin) may finally be in place, and hopefully the new neighborhood will be mutually beneficial for us all. We’ll bring a big media market (there are 24 million Texans), numerous traditions and passionate fans (2012 season tickets sold out in five minutes in March), and we’ll borrow from the SEC’s brand to recruit the best players in our state to the best conference in the country.

We vow to represent the SEC brand with class, and we look forward to hosting you all soon. It will take you a while to understand our quirky yells, but you’ll undoubtedly appreciate our friendly campus and acres of tailgaters.

Just don’t ever expect to beat us in an Internet poll, and don’t expect the hospitality to extend to the field. We’ve had tough times lately, but when the stars are aligned, Kyle Field — home of the heat index and the “12th Man” — is one helluva tough place for opponents.

Thanks to the new energy from our move to the SEC neighborhood, the stars may be aligning again, which means the Aggies could soon be as tough on the field as we are in Internet polls.

Related SEC Content

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

Texas A&M Aggies 2012 Team Preview

College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 32 Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M is packing its bags and moving from the Big 12 to the SEC.&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 05:34
Path: /college-football/college-football-ditches-bcs-playoff-key-questions-remain
Body:

Goodbye BCS, hello college football playoff. After months of debate and years of fans clamoring for it, college football will finally have a playoff. University presidents, conference commissioners and athletic directors gathered in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to officially stamp an expiration date on the BCS and unveil the basic details on college football’s new championship format.

The bowl system has been a source of frustration for several years. Although the BCS was an improvement on previous formats, a playoff format has been the most desired setup by fans across the nation. And those complaints didn’t go unnoticed, as the BCS will cease to exist following the 2013 season.

Some of the details regarding college football’s playoff are undecided, but here’s what we know:

- The new four-team playoff format will begin with the 2014 season, with the first championship game slated for Jan. 12, 2015.

- A selection committee will choose which four teams are chosen for college football’s playoff. Emphasis will be placed on win-loss record, conference champions, strength of schedule and head-to-head results.

- Six bowls will be picked to rotate as semifinal locations. The semifinals are expected to be played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1. The Rose, Cotton and Orange Bowls appear to be locks to be involved in the semifinal rotation, while the Chick-fil-A, Fiesta, Sugar and Capital One Bowl will be in the mix for the other spots.

- The host city of the National Championship will be placed up for bid.

- The new four-team playoff is a 12-year agreement, which will end in 2025.

The most important takeaway from Tuesday’s announcement has to be college football’s championship matchup will no longer be decided by a formula, but rather settled on the field. Although the committee may look at a BCS-style of rankings, no longer will a computer poll play a major role in selecting which team plays for a national title.   

Although the four-team playoff has been widely speculated for some time and officially announced on Tuesday, some key issues have yet to be resolved.

How will the money be divided?: This issue is expected to be one of the hot topics over the next few months. Expect the six BCS conferences to get the major portion of the money, but how much remains to be seen. What happens to the five non-BCS conferences and Independents like BYU or Army? Some criteria such as academic performance and success on the field have been mentioned as two elements to dividing up the money, but what else will factor into that?

Choosing the Selection Committee: One of the biggest opportunities for controversy has to be the selection committee. Is there really a way to avoid having people on the committee with ties to a school or conference? Adding former head coaches to the committee has been tossed around, but how much are old coaches keeping up with college football each week?

Access for teams outside of the BCS Conferences: The “BCS” designation will go away, but there is no question about the power conferences in college football: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC. Some have dismissed the Big East from that mix, but it is clearly ahead of the Mountain West and Conference USA in the next tier of conferences. The BCS system helped to get Boise State, Utah, Hawaii and TCU into big bowl games – will that access change for teams outside of the six power conferences? Or will this format help? With a selection committee involved in choosing the participants for the top six games, this may help access for some of the teams outside of power conferences.

Some final points to consider about the new playoff format:

Every system has its flaws: Although a playoff will help settle things on the field, anyone who expects this system to be perfect is wrong. No matter who is on the selection committee, it will be hard to avoid discussion about bias towards certain teams or conferences. What will happen the first time a second team (who is deserving) from the SEC gets left out? What happens when an undefeated Boise State is not selected for a four-team playoff? Could this create a bigger division between the six power conferences and the five non-BCS leagues? If you thought a playoff will solve all of the issues in college football, think again. Get ready for more controversy each year.

Will a four-team playoff get bigger?: The 12-year agreement will keep the four-team format in place until 2025. But what happens after that? Could we see eight teams in 2030? Extending the season is a concern for most presidents, while there’s also concern about how an eight-team playoff would impact the regular season.

The Regular Season Stays Intact: Although some of the pro-playoff crowd has dismissed any notion that changing the postseason will impact the regular season, you can’t make a change to something and expect things to stay the same. There’s no question college football has the best regular season of any sport. Why change that? It may take a few years to see the true impact of the playoff on scheduling, but a four-team tournament shouldn’t take away from the regular season. However, expanding to an 8 or 16-team format would create a negative impact on the regular season.

Success or failure?: Only time will tell if moving to a four-team playoff is the right move for college football. However, all signs suggest the new championship format should be a success, especially as teams get to settle it on the field starting in 2014.

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Rankings for 2012
College Football's Top 25 Heisman Contenders for 2012

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

Teaser:
<p> College Football Ditches BCS For Playoff; Key Questions Remain</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 04:58
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-big-ten-2012
Body:

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

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

2012 Preseason Big Ten All-Fantasy Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starters
 

QB—Denard Robinson, Sr. (Michigan)

Last season:  Passed for 2,173 yards and 20 TDs, rushed for 1,176 yards and 16 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Northwestern, Iowa, @ Ohio St

 

QB—Braxton Miller, So. (Ohio State)

Last season:  Passed for 1,159 yards and 13 TDS, rushed for 715 yards and 7 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Miami (OH), UCF, Cal

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, @ Wisconsin, Michigan

 

RB—Montee Ball, Sr. (Wisconsin)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,923 yards and 33 TDs, 24 receptions for 306 yards and 6 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; @ Oregon St, Utah St, UTEP

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Indiana, Ohio St, @ Penn St

 

RB—Rex Burkhead, Sr. (Nebraska)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,357 yards and 15 TDs, 21 receptions for 177 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; USM, @ UCLA, Arkansas St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Penn St, Minnesota, @ Iowa

 

RB—Le’Veon Bell, Jr. (Michigan State)

Last season:  Rushed for 948 yards and 13 TDs, 35 receptions for 267 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; @ C. Michigan, Notre Dame, E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, Northwestern, @ Minnesota

 

WR—Jared Abbrederis, Jr. (Wisconsin)

Last season:  55 receptions for a team-high 933 yards, 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Illinois, @ Purdue, Minnesota

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Indiana, Ohio St, @ Penn St

 

WR—Keenan Davis, Sr. (Iowa)

Last season:  50 receptions for 713 yards and 4 TDs as WR#2 opposite Marvin McNutt.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; No. Illinois, Iowa St, No. Iowa

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Purdue, @ Michigan, Nebraska

 

WR—Demetrius Fields, Sr. (Northwestern)

Last season:  32 receptions for 382 yards and 3 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Boston College, South Dakota, Indiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Michigan, @ Michigan St, Illinois

 

TE—Jacob Pedersen, Jr. (Wisconsin)

Last season:  30 receptions for 356 yards and 8 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; Illinois, @ Purdue, Minnesota

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Indiana, Ohio St, @ Penn St

 

FLEX—Fitzgerald Toussaint, Jr. (Michigan)

Last season: Rushed for 1,041 yards and 9 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Minnesota, Northwestern, Iowa

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Northwestern, Iowa, @ Ohio St

 

K—Brett Maher, Sr. (Nebraska)

Last season: 19-for-23 on field goals attempts, 43-for-44 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Arkansas St, Idaho St, Wisconsin

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Penn St, Minnesota, @ Iowa

 

DEF—Michigan State Spartans

Last season:  No. 6 total defense, No. 10 scoring defense, 8 returning starters.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; @ C. Michigan, Notre Dame, E. Michigan

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Bye, Northwestern, @ Minnesota

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Kain Colter, Jr. (Northwestern)

QB—Taylor Martinez, Jr. (Nebraska)

RB—Silas Redd, Jr. (Penn St)

RB—Jordan Hall, Sr. (Ohio St)

RB—James White, Jr. (Wisconsin)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)
 


Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Fantasy Options in the Big Ten for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 02:39
Path: /nascar/clint-bowyer-wins-sonoma
Body:

Perhaps Clint Bowyer’s win on the road course in Sonoma, Calif., should not have come as a surprise. After all, the seven-year NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran had recorded four top 10s in six starts at the 1.99-mile course prior to Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350.

Still, Bowyer, a Kansas native with Midwest dirt-tracking roots, has never been considered anywhere near a “road course ringer,” as the NASCAR types like to label those who excel when turning left and right.

But Bowyer, crew chief Brian Pattie and their Michael Waltrip Racing crew became the eighth different team to go to Victory Lane at Sonoma in as many visits, fending off a feisty challenge from Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart in the final laps on the 12-turn road course.

“Quietly, we’ve had good runs here,” a beaming Bowyer said following the win. “This is probably, quietly, been one of my favorite racetracks.”

The victory was Bowyer’s first of the season and the first for MWR’s No. 15 team — a group pieced together late last season — and one Bowyer referred to as a bunch of “refugees.”

“Basically, (I) kind of lost my ride at RCR (in 2011), walked into a new program with a lot of unknowns, and I had a lot of confidence in what was going on,” Bowyer said of what brought him to MWR. “I still had confidence in myself. Michael, Rob Kaufmann (co-owner), everybody involved with MWR, paired me with Brian Pattie and paired me with a lot of good people and that’s what it takes to be successful in any good business and NASCAR racing is no exception.”

Pattie’s “refugee” status was not much different than Bowyer’s. A crew chief for Juan Pablo Montoya at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, Pattie was given his walking papers in mid-July with the team floundering at 17th place in the point standings (it was 21st by season’s end. Waltrip came calling in the fall).

“I was in the same boat (Bowyer) was — he lost his ride and I lost my job,” Pattie said. “Last summer was eye-opening for me personally and career-wise. (I) had a lot of supporters call whenever times changed at my previous employer, and I’m just blessed to be here.”

That Bowyer, Pattie and crew have pieced together nine top 10s in less than a half season together, are solidly in the top 10 in points and now have a win in their pocket to fall back on speaks to the immediate chemistry alive and well within the team. And the progress made by the organization as a whole is evident in the other cars in the stable. Martin Truex Jr., in the No. 56 car, sits ninth in points (Bowyer is seventh), while Mark Martin and Brian Vickers have split duties in the No. 55 to the tune of four top 5s.

Bowyer’s move from Richard Childress Racing to MWR was seen by some as a lateral one, at best. But the Toyota-backed company that first took to the Cup Series in 2007 has grown exponentially. Waltrip credits a better working relationship with fellow Toyota team Joe Gibbs Racing as a major reason.

“I give Andy Graves a lot of credit any time I’m asked about where we are today,” Waltrip said. “The reason for that is simple: I went to him in January of 2011 and I said, ‘Are our cars as good as Job Gibbs’ cars?’ And he said, ‘No, they are not, because you don’t trust our process.’

“I said, ‘Well, we are changing directions, and we are going to start following you.’”

While JGR has outclassed MWR in the win column this season, the latter’s consistency and reliability win the day. And Bowyer’s No. 15 team is leading the charge, riding a streak of four consecutive runs of seventh or better. For a first-year group competing against established teams with years of experience together, it makes the bunch a dangerous — albeit unproven — one as the circuit hits the homestretch to NASCAR’s playoffs.

“It’s a long row to hoe before the Chase,” Bowyer said. “Everybody is in this sport because of the Chase and you can’t win a championship without being a part of that elite group.

“I missed it (the Chase banquet in Las Vegas) last year and it sucked to sit at home and watch. I did get to deer hunt a little bit but I would much rather be partying.”

If the post-race scene in Sonoma is any indication, Bowyer and crew have the chemistry to throw the most epic party Vegas has seen in some time.

 

by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter:
@MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
<p> Clint Bowyer wins the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Sonoma.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 18:49
Path: /nascar/kenseths-future-gordons-slump-and-kahnes-strategy
Body:

Points leader Matt Kenseth will leave Roush Fenway Racing after this season and be replaced by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the team announced Tuesday.

Reports state that Kenseth is headed to Joe Gibbs Racing although it is unclear if it will be with a fourth team or in place of Joey Logano, who is in the final year of his contract. 

Kenseth wrote on Twitter: “I’m very thankful to Jack Roush for the opportunities he’s given me over the past 14 years. Together we have enjoyed a lot of success and as a team we are committed as ever to the remainder of the 2012 season and chasing a 3rd sprint cup title for Jack and RFR.

“Although I have nothing to announce regarding 2013, I feel the timing of this announcement gives RFR ample time to get things lined up. Darian (Grubb) and Tony (Stewart) proved to us last year there is no such thing as a “lame duck” team or season. We will continue to go to work and race hard.”

With the move, Roush loses the defending Daytona 500 winner but also a driver who is 40 years old. Taking over the No. 17 car for Kenseth next year will be 24-year-old Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the defending Nationwide Series champion.

“Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has more than proved his abilities on the race track,” said team co-owner Jack Roush in a statement issued by the team  “We feel that he is not only a key piece of our team’s future, but a key piece of the future of the sport. Roush Fenway is an organization with a wonderful past and present, as well as an extremely promising future, and I can’t think of a better candidate than Ricky to usher in the next era of success for the team.

“Of course, I’d like to thank Matt Kenseth for his many years of loyal service. Matt has been an integral part of this organization for well over a decade, and we are extremely appreciative of his accomplishments and contributions to the team, and will always consider him a part of the Roush Fenway family.

“We’re fortunate that we were able to tap into Matt’s potential and bring him on board many years ago, and I’m proud that together we were able to combine the tools and the resources of Roush Fenway with his talent and determination to forge a partnership that yielded a championship at the Cup level and all of his 22 Cup victories, including two Daytona 500 wins. The No. 17 is positioned extremely well this season, and I’m committed to providing the team the best resources to continue their run for the 2012 championship. I have no doubt that Matt will do his part.”

Kenseth has run all but one Cup race in his career for Roush. Kenseth made his debut in 1998, subbing for Bill Elliott at Dover so Elliott could attend his father’s funeral (he finished sixth). Kenseth drove in five Cup races for Roush the following season before running full-time in 2000 when he beat Dale Earnhardt Jr. for rookie of the year honors in the Cup Series. 

Stenhouse ranks third in the Nationwide standings this season with three victories. He has five career series wins in 87 starts heading into this weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway.


CHANGING WAYS   Progress can’t come fast enough at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. As the NASCAR Sprint Cup season heads toward the midway point, Jamie McMurray is 20th in the points and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya is 22nd.

After an offseason of changes, the EGR teams have struggled to put together strong finishes. McMurray has three top-10 finishes and Montoya has two. At this time a year ago, Montoya was 16th in points with five top-10 finishes, and McMurray was 27th in points with two top-10 finishes.

Montoya says one must look beyond the results to see the change taking place after the it hired Max Jones as team manager in December. It was among a number of changes car owner Chip Ganassi started making last season to revamp his competition department and his teams.

“I think we’ve done a lot of progress,” Montoya said. “If you really go to the team right now and see how different everything is working, it’s pretty amazing. We haven’t had the results we want to have, but there have been a lot of really good changes and we’ve been putting people in the right place.

“Just because you put somebody in the right place doesn’t mean that overnight you are going to run better. You want to run better overnight, but things have got to change. Everybody has to adapt and it’s a process. I really feel we made a lot of gains on the car; we made a lot of gains on how the whole engine department is working. We’re definitely making progress I think.”

McMurray said the way the teams have been re-designed, its created better cohesion between them.

“It’s all for the better and Chip is still out hiring people and looking for more engineers and people to make it better than what it is right now,” McMurray said. “I think for us, my guess is somewhere around the last 10 races you’re going to see a lot of the progress. It takes time. There’s different suspensions, different simulations every week and sometimes they don’t always work. It’s kind of testing and trying to get things better. It’s a big difference than where it was a year ago.

“You don’t go from running 15th to winning just overnight. It takes baby steps. But, I feel like we’re heading in the right direction. I kind of say the last 10 races because I think it’s going to take that long to get to where we need to be.”

Earnhardt Ganssi Racing hopes to be the new version of Michael Waltrip Racing in improving its performance.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long talks about Matt Kenseth leaving Roush, Jeff Gordon's continued slump and Kasey Kahne's new Chase strategy.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 18:37
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/athlon-sports-mlb-fantasy-closer-grid
Body:

Athlon keeps fantasy GMs up to date with a complete look at MLB's bullpen situations.

Updated June 26, 2012 at 11:30 a.m. CT

Team Closer Setup Watch List
Arizona J.J. Putz David Hernandez Bryan Shaw, Craig Breslow, Brad Zeigler
Atlanta Craig Kimbrel Jonny Venters Eric O'Flaherty, Christian Martinez
Baltimore Jim Johnson Pedro Strop Luis Ayala, Kevin Gregg
Boston Alfredo Aceves Vincente Padilla Matt Albers, Mark Melancon, Andrew Bailey (DL)
Chicago (NL) Carlos Marmol Shawn Camp James Russell, Manny Corpas
Chicago (AL) Addison Reed Matt Thornton Jesse Crain, Hector Santiago
Cincinnati Aroldis Chapman Sean Marshall Jose Arredondo, Logan Ondrusek, Nick Masset (DL)
Cleveland Chris Perez Vinnie Pestano Nick Hagadone, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez (DL)
Colorado Rafael Betancourt Matt Belisle Rex Brothers, Josh Roenicke
Detroit Jose Valverde Joaquin Benoit Phil Coke, Brayan Villareal, Octavio Dotel (DL)
Houston Brett Myers Brandon Lyon David Carpenter, Wilton Lopez (DL)
Kansas City Jonathan Broxton Greg Holland Tim Collins, Aaron Crow
LA Angles Ernesto Frieri Scott Downs Jordan Walden, Jason Isringhausen
LA Dodgers Kenley Jansen Josh Lindblom Ronald Belisario, Javy Guerra (DL)
Miami Heath Bell Steve Cishek Edward Mujica, Randy Choate
Milwaukee John Axford F. Rodriguez Jose Veras, Kameron Loe
Minnesota Glen Perkins* Jared Burton* Alex Burnett, Matt Capps (DL)
New York (NL) Bobby Parnell Jon Rauch Tim Brydak, Miguel Batista, Frank Francisco (DL)
New York (AL) Rafael Soriano David Robertson Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Mariano Rivera (DL)
Oakland Ryan Cook Grant Balfour Brian Fuentes, Jerry Blevins
Philadelphia Jonathan Papelbon Antonio Bastardo Chad Qualls
Pittsburgh Joel Hanrahan Juan Cruz Jason Grilli, Chris Resop
St. Louis Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Salas
San Diego Huston Street Dale Thayer Luke Gregerson, Brad Boxberger
San Francisco Santiago Casilla Sergio Romo Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez
Seattle Tom Wilhelmsen Brandon League Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor (DL)
Tampa Bay Fernando Rodney  Jake McGee Joel Peralta, Kyle Farnsworth (DL)
Texas Joe Nathan Mike Adams Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers, Koji Uehara (DL)
Toronto Casey Janssen Francisco Cordero Luis Perez, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos (DL)
Washington Tyler Clippard Sean Burnett Craig Stammen, Henry Rodriguez, Drew Storen (DL)

Players currently on the DL are noted above

* - will share the role of closer for the time being. Look for game-by-game situations to dictact who is used in the ninth inning.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports MLB Fantasy Closer Grid</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 11:30
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/titans-kamerion-wimbley-tries-american-ninja-warrior
Body:

Tennessee Titan defensive end Kamerion Wimbley brought some serious game to the American Ninja Warrior 2012 Southeast Regional Semi-Finals in Miami recently. Watch as the 6-foot-4-inch, 255-pound Wimbley makes the crazy obstacle course look like a Sunday stroll through the park. The reality TV show airs Sunday nights on the G4 Network and Mondays on NBC.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 08:41
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-nfl-fantasy-football-whos-number-1
Body:

You have the first pick in your fantasy football draft. Who are you taking? Athlon Sports has Houston Texan running back Arian Foster No. 1 overall in its rankings and on its Big Board, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was an unanimous decision.

Six different Athlon editors and one fantasy football contributor were asked who they would take with the first pick. Foster was the clear-cut choice with four votes, but two other running backs and a certain reigning NFL MVP and cover boy quarterback received one vote each as well. Below are the cases made for each player.

Arian Foster for No. 1

“This guy averaged 3.5 more points per game than anyone else at his position in 2010. He led all running backs in scoring average again in 2011 despite opening the year with a bad hamstring. You don’t need to make a case for him. You need to search for reasons to pick anyone else. So what are they? Ray Rice catches more passes? He didn’t in 2010, when both played a full season. Aaron Rodgers? He was stellar last year... and yet only one point per game better than Drew Brees. LeSean McCoy? His coach says McCoy needs to touch the ball less this year than he did last year. Ben Tate? He didn’t hurt Foster in 2011. The only thing to dislike about Foster is the loss of his right tackle, Eric Winston. Frankly, this back has earned the benefit of the doubt.” — Matt Schauf, DraftSharks.com

“I have always scoffed at those who say you cannot take a QB in the first round. Well, we will see how much that changes this year when Aaron Rodgers is a top three or four pick. We had him at No. 6 overall last year, and he paid off for us. With that said, the question is: Who’s No. 1 in 2012? Arian Foster still gets my nod. He was a non-factor in four games and still had over 300 points for the season. I’m also a schedule nerd, and Foster has seven games against rushing defenses ranked 17th or worst last season, including five of the last six weeks.” — Corby Yarbrough, Athlon Sports (@Corby_Yarborough)

Aaron Rodgers for No. 1

“Last year was a tough call — I voted for Adrian Peterson — but this year is even more difficult. I love LeSean McCoy’s situation in Philadelphia, but can he hold up for 350 touches for a third season? I love Ray Rice’s and Arian Foster’s feature-back status. But in the modern era of running back by committee — which is beginning to have an increasingly volatile relief pitcher feel to it of late — I would have to lean towards the safest player in the NFL, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The league averages at the quarterback position have reached all-time highs, and passing for 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns is almost a low-water mark for success at the position. With the depth at running back and wide receiver this year, my advice is to target an elite passer early and build around him. You can’t win your fantasy league with the first pick, but you can certainly lose it. Rodgers is the closest to a sure thing in the 2012 draft room.” — Braden Gall, Athlon Sports (@BradenGall)
 

Ray Rice for No. 1

“My choice for the No. 1 overall fantasy selection is Ravens running back Ray Rice. The dynamic Rice was the only player in the NFL to gain over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year, the second time he has accomplished that feat in the last three seasons. The concern of other Baltimore backs stealing scoring opportunities was alleviated in 2011, with Rice tallying 15 total touchdowns. Other runners like Arian Foster of the Texans or LeSean McCoy of the Eagles are solid choices as well, but Rice’s consistent running and pass-catching make him the best option at the top of the draft. Additionally, I don’t mind taking a top quarterback like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers or New Orleans’ Drew Brees in the first round, but getting a top running back in the first three or four overall picks will tend to be the better decision for your fantasy squad.” — Patrick Snow, Athlon Sports (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Chris Johnson for No. 1

“Rumors of Chris Johnson’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. The 26-year-old is in his prime, has never missed a game due to injury and has a better single season in the books (remember CJ2K?) than any of his peers. Johnson’s per-season average is 1,768 yards from scrimmage and 11 total TDs; take away the record-breaking 2,509-yard, 16-TD 2009 season, and he still averages 1,521 yards from scrimmage and nine total TDs. Obviously, CJ disappointed fantasy owners last season. Following an NFL lockout and contract holdout, Johnson struggled to find his stride with a new coach, play-caller and quarterback in Tennessee. But it was business as usual over the last eight games, when he piled up 893 of his 1,465 yards from scrimmage and three of his four total TDs. Entering his second year with the Titans’ new regime and coming off his worst season as a pro, the fastest man in the NFL should be the No. 1 fantasy pick.” — Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports

— Published on June 26, 2012

Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Fantasy Content:
Athlon Sports Big Board: Top 150
2012 NFL Fantasy Football Athlon's Top 250
2012 Fantasy Football Mock Draft I
2012 Bye Week Cheat Sheet
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: QBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: RBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: WRs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: TEs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DLs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: LBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: DBs
Athlon Sports Fantasy Positional Rankings: IDP Top 75

Related: Order your Athlon Sports 2012 NFL Preview Magazine Here

You can preorder your award-winning Athlon Sports NFL Fantasy Football preview magazine here.
Teaser:
<p> 2012 NFL Fantasy Football: Who's Number 1?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/acc-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team

First-Team Offense

QB Tajh Boyd, Clemson

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

RB Andre Ellington, Clemson

WR Conner Vernon, Duke

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

TE Matt Furstenburg, Maryland

C Dalton Freeman, Clemson

OL Oday Aboushi, Virginia

OL Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

OL James Hurst, North Carolina

OL Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech


First-Team Defense

DL James Gayle, Virginia Tech

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DL Joe Vellano, Maryland

DL Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

LB Steve Greer, Virginia

LB Kevin Reddick, North Carolina

LB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech

CB David Amerson, NC State

CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S Earl Wolff, NC State


First-Team Specialists

K Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P Dalton Botts, Miami

KR T.J. Thorpe, North Carolina

PR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team
 

  First Second Third Overall
Boston College 0 1 1 2
Clemson 4 5 2 11
Duke 1 1 1 3
Florida State 3 4 3 10
Georgia Tech 1 4 2 7
Maryland 2 2 2 6
Miami 1 2 3 6
North Carolina 5 0 3 8
NC State 2 2 2 6
Virginia 2 2 1 5
Virginia Tech 3 2 5 10
Wake Forest 2 1 1 4


Second-Team Offense

QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

RB Perry Jones, Virginia

RB Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech

WR Rashad Greene, Florida State

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

TE Nick O'Leary, Florida State

C Camden Wentz, NC State

OL Emmett Cleary, Boston College

OL Brandon Linder, Miami

OL R.J. Mattes, NC State

OL Morgan Moses, Virginia


Second-Team Defense

DL Anthony Chickillo, Miami

DL J.R. Collins, Virginia Tech

DL Malliciah Goodman, Clemson

DL Bjoern Werner, Florida State

LB Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

LB Demetrius Hartsfield, Maryland

LB Kenny Tate, Maryland

CB Merrill Noel, Wake Forest

CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

S Rashard Hall, Clemson

S Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech


Second-Team Specialists

K Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson

P Sean Poole, Georgia Tech

KR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

PR Jamison Crowder, Duke


Third-Team Offense

QB EJ Manuel, Florida State

RB Mike James, Miami

RB Kevin Parks, Virginia

WR Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest

WR Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech

TE Brandon Ford, Clemson

C Andrew Miller, Virginia Tech

OL Bennett Fulper, Maryland

OL Seantrel Henderson, Miami

OL Will Jackson, Georgia Tech

OL Laken Tomlinson, Duke


Third-Team Defense

DL Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech

DL Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

DL Kareem Martin, North Carolina

DL Sylvester Williams, North Carolina

LB Christian Jones, Florida State

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami

LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College

CB Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

CB Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech

S Brandan Bishop, NC State

S Matt Robinson, Maryland


Third-Team Specialists

K Casey Barth, North Carolina

P Wil Baumann, NC State

KR Dyrell Roberts, Virginia Tech

PR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

 

Athlon's 2012 ACC Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 ACC Predictions 

Atlantic Coastal
Boston College Duke
Clemson Miami
Florida State Georgia Tech
Maryland North Carolina
NC State Virginia
Wake Forest Virginia Tech

Teaser:
<p> 2012 ACC Football All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 05:48
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Mountain West Team

First-Team Offense

QB Brett Smith, Wyoming

RB Chris Nwoke, Colorado State

RB Robbie Rouse, Fresno State

WR Chris McNeill, Wyoming

WR Matt Miller, Boise State

TE Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

C Weston Richburg, Colorado State

OL Chris Barker, Nevada

OL Jason Kons, Air Force

OL Charles Leno, Boise State

OL Jeff Nady, Nevada


First-Team Defense

DL Michael Atkinson, Boise State

DL Paipai Falemalu, Hawaii

DL John Froland, Colorado State

DL Mike Purcell, Wyoming

LB Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State

LB Travis Brown, Fresno State

LB J.C. Percy, Boise State

CB Leon McFadden, San Diego State

CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State

S Luke Ruff, Wyoming

S Duke Williams, Nevada


First-Team Specialists

K Parker Herrington, Air Force

P Pete Kontodiakos, Colorado State

KR Marcus Sullivan, UNLV

PR Mitch Burroughs, Boise State


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Mountain West Team

  First Second Overall
Air Force 2 1 3
Boise State 6 4 10
Colorado State 5 3 8
Fresno State 2 4 6
Hawaii 1 4 5
Nevada 3 2 5
New Mexico 0 1 1
San Diego State 2 2 4
UNLV 1 2 3
Wyoming 4 3 7


Second-Team Offense

 

QB Derek Carr, Fresno State

RB D.J. Harper, Boise State

RB Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada

WR Josh Harper, Fresno State

WR Colin Lockett, San Diego State

TE Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State

C Nick Carlson, Wyoming

OL Brett Boyko, UNLV

OL Joe Kellogg, Boise State 

OL Tyler Strong, Wyoming

OL Austin Wentworth, Fresno State


Second-Team Defense

DL Reggie Ellis, New Mexico

DL Patrick Mertens, Wyoming

DL Jack Reynoso, Nevada

DL Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, Boise State

LB Art Laurel, Hawaii

LB Alex Means, Air Force

LB James Skelton, Colorado State

CB Jerrell Gavins, Boise State

CB John Hardy-Tuliau, Hawaii

S Nat Berhe, San Diego State

S Phillip Thomas, Fresno State


Second-Team Specialists

K Nolan Kohorst, UNLV

P Alex Dunnachie, Hawaii

KR Mike Edwards, Hawaii

PR Momo Thomas, Colorado State
 

Athlon's 2012 Mountain West Team Previews

Related Content: 2012 Mountain West Predictions

Air Force Nevada
Boise State New Mexico
Colorado State San Diego State
Fresno State UNLV
Hawaii Wyoming

Teaser:
<p> Mountain West Football 2012 All-Conference Teams.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 05:41
Path: /college-football/college-football-conference-realignment-draft-part-2
Body:

Yesterday, the four commissioners of the NCAA (National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities) conferences selected their first four programs of 16 in our realignment draft. Today, we'll continue with rounds No. 5 through No. 8.

Powers like Texas, Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and USC are off the board, but plenty of prizes remain in the field. Where our commissioners -- Mitch Light, Steven Lassan, Braden Gall and David Fox -- often selected the best available programs on Day One of the draft, some of their plans for the structure and values of their leagues are starting to take shape on Day Two.

A refresher on our ground rules of this four-team, 16-round draft: Each commissioner drafts the entire package -- the program’s history, current performance and personnel and long-term potential. Each commissioner will take on an entire athletic program, from football to men’s basketball to lacrosse and gymnastics, the program’s academic reputation, and any NCAA baggage.

Previous rounds: Rounds 1-4

Light selected Penn State with the final pick of the fourth round, so he’ll start on the turn of the fifth round:

ROUND 5

17. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Michigan State
Conference so far: Georgia, Oklahoma, Penn State, Texas
This was my first pick in which a sport other than football played a role. The Spartans have been an elite basketball program for the past decade and show no signs of slowing down. And the football program is seemingly on the verge of accomplishing something that has eluded Michigan State for decades — consistency.

18. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): North Carolina
Conference so far: Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Notre Dame
With a strong foothold in the Deep South and the Midwest, I wanted to extend my league to the eastern seaboard so I took what I think is the most powerful East Coast athletic department in college sports. Arguably the top hoops brand in the nation, a quality baseball team and a football program with loads of upside made the Tar Heels a perfect fit. There is no excuse for North Carolina football not to be highly competitive every year. All it takes is a quality coach — something UNC fans believe they have in Larry Fedora.

19. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Texas A&M
Conference so far: Florida, Florida State, UCLA, USC
After my first four picks, I wanted to branch out and add some teams in the Midwest. Texas A&M (almost similar to UCLA and Florida State) has underachieved recently, but the pieces are in place to win big. The Aggies have a terrific recruiting base, and the facilities are getting a facelift. Also, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a team in the second-largest state. Although relations between Texas and Texas A&M are frosty, I plan on calling Commissioner Light to schedule a non-conference game with his league's Longhorns as soon as possible.

20. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Wisconsin
Conference so far: Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Washington
I briefly considered dipping into the South with Auburn, South Carolina or Clemson, but I’m going to stick with my East-West strategy. The competition for Southern programs is going to be tough, and the Light and Gall conferences have shown little interest in the West. Even with Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan State gone, the Midwest still has some major programs with big followings available starting with Wisconsin.

ROUND 6

21. Fox: West Virginia
I’m starting to stray on my plan a bit here, but I couldn’t pass up the Mountaineers. Several accomplished programs remain on the board, but West Virginia could end up a better geographic fit for my league rather than Miami, Clemson or a handful of quality SEC schools. Like Wisconsin, West Virginia is consistently competitive in both football and basketball with occasional flashes of greatness.

22. Lassan: Oklahoma State
The Aggies needed a partner, and the Cowboys were the top remaining program in the Midwest on the board. Oklahoma State has emerged as a football power in recent years and came within one victory of playing for the national title in 2011.

23. Gall: Tennessee
Since the Midwest and South both had two strong members, I stayed in the “East” by grabbing the powerful, yet undervalued, Tennessee Vols. The football program is underachieving today but won’t be down for long. The basketball program has reached new heights in the last half decade, and the school as a whole has sparkling new facilities across the board. The stadium duo of Neyland and Thompson-Bowling alone provided enough value with this pick. Packaged with North Carolina, the Vols further strengthen my hold over the Southeast TV markets.

24. Light: Miami
This was all about potential. Getting a program that has the ability to compete for national championships with the final pick in the sixth round could end up being a steal. It is also advantageous to have a program located in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the nation. My league now has teams in Texas, Georgia and South Florida. The Canes also bring a top-flight baseball program to my league, with an amazing 23 trips to the College World Series.

ROUND 7

25. Light: Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has yet to break through and win a national title under Frank Beamer, but the Hokies have been remarkably consistent, winning at least 10 games in eight straight seasons. And while Virginia is making strides under Mike London, Virginia Tech is still the flagship program in a state with over eight million people. The Hokies, however, don’t offer much in any of the other major sports. The basketball program has been to the NCAA Tournament only once since 1996.

26. Gall: Auburn
I may have valued the Auburn Tigers more than my fellow commissioners, but I was fine with that in order to have the Iron Bowl under my control every year. The football program is really all you get with this pick, but that is some serious football clout for a program that has as committed a fan base as there is in the nation. How many schools taken this late have true national championship potential?
 

27. Lassan: Clemson
In the same mold of Texas A&M and UCLA, Clemson is a team that has underachieved at times but there’s also a lot of potential. The Tigers don’t add much in the way of a television market, but there’s a good fanbase and another solid Southeast program to add with Florida and Florida State.

28. Fox: Iowa
In this round, I was still considering a branch of my league in the South. With Auburn, Clemson and Virginia Tech gone, I’ve all but abandoned the idea. I’m not particularly excited about this pick in the seventh round, but it makes sense for my league with a rival to pair with Wisconsin. I don’t need the Hawkeyes to be spectacular, but I can live with 10 bowl games in the last 11 seasons.

ROUND 8

29. Fox: Pittsburgh
With Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia, I have my share of passionate fanbases who won’t struggle to sell tickets. Pitt is not in that group. Pittsburgh’s a pro town and lukewarm to the Panthers, not that Pitt has given the Steel City many reasons to get excited over the last decades. Still, West Virginia is no longer on an island as the Eastern-most team in my league. Pitt brings a rivalry game to my league and some untapped potential. That said, I’ve probably overreached on the Midwest/East portion of my conference. I need to address the West in the next two rounds or so.

30. Lassan: South Carolina
Just like I did with Florida/Florida State and USC/UCLA, I had to grab South Carolina to pair with Clemson. The Gamecocks are coming off the best two-year stretch on the gridiron, while the baseball team has College World Series titles in 2010 and 2011.

31. Gall: Missouri
I love the upside of the Mizzou athletic department. Football is achieving at unprecedented levels under Gary Pinkel and is set up for long-term success. The basketball program is one of the nation’s most historical and the baseball team is always strong. Geography also played a key role here, offering not only a centrally located heartland campus but additionally the big TV markets of Kansas City and St. Louis.

32. Light: Illinois
Illinois has had its moments on the gridiron — the Fighting Illini played in the Rose Bowl as recently as Jan. 1, 2008 — but this pick was about two things: eyeballs and basketball. Illinois is home to 12.9 million people, fifth-most in the nation, and Champaign-Urbana is 140 miles from Chicago, the third-largest TV market in the United States. The basketball program has been to the NCAA Tournament 21 times since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Coming tomorrow: Our commissioners move into the second half of the conference alignment draft, where they'll start to look closer at basketball-centric powers and teams on the West Coast.

Comments on other rounds: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 9-12

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap

Rd Mitch Light Braden Gall Steven Lassan David Fox
1 >> Texas Alabama Florida Ohio State
2 << Oklahoma Notre Dame USC Michigan
3 >> Georgia LSU Florida State Oregon
4 << Penn State Nebraska UCLA Washington
5 >> Michigan State North Carolina Texas A&M Wisconsin
6 << Miami Tennessee Oklahoma State West Virginia
7 >> Virginia Tech Auburn Clemson Iowa
8 << Illinois Missouri South Carolina Pittsburgh


Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 Conference Predictions
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football conference realignment draft: Part 2</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 05:39
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-sec
Body:

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

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

2012 Preseason SEC All-Fantasy Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

Starters
 

QB—Aaron Murray, Jr. (Georgia)

Last season:  Passed for 3,149 yards and 35 TDs, rushed for 111 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; FL-Atlantic, Vanderbilt, Tennessee

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Auburn, GA Southern, Georgia Tech

 

QB—James Franklin, Jr. (Missouri)

Last season:  Passed for 2,865 yards and 21 TDs, rushed for 1,145 yards and 15 TDs

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 11-12-13; @ Tennessee, Syracuse, @ Texas A&M

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Tennessee, Syracuse, @ Texas A&M

 

RB—Marcus Lattimore, Jr. (So. Carolina)

Last season:  Ran for 818 yards and scored 11 TDs before suffering a season-ending knee injury in week seven.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; ECU, UAB, Missouri

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Arkansas, Wofford, @ Clemson

 

RB—Knile Davis, Jr. (Arkansas)

Last season:  Missed the entire season with a broken ankle.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 7-8-9-10; Kentucky, Bye, Ole Miss, Tulsa

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ So. Carolina, @ Miss. St, LSU

 

RB—Eddie Lacy, Jr. (Alabama)

Last season:  Rushed for 674 yards and 7 TDs as Trent Richardson’s backup.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6-7; FAU, Ole Miss, Bye, @ Missouri

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Texas A&M, W. Carolina, Auburn

 

WR—Cobi Hamilton, Sr. (Arkansas)

Last season:  Caught 34 passes for 542 yards and 4 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Jacksonville St, LA-Monroe, Alabama

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ So. Carolina, @ Miss. St, LSU

 

WR—Justin Hunter, Jr. (Tennessee)

Last season:  Lost for the season after tearing his ACL in week three (17-314-2).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Georgia St, Florida, Akron

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Missouri, @ Vanderbilt, Kentucky

 

WR—Ryan Swope, Sr. (Texas A&M)

Last season:  Led all A&M receivers with 89 receptions, 1,207 yards, and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ SMU, So. Carolina St, Arkansas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Alabama, Sam Houston St, Missouri

 

TE—Chris Gragg, Sr. (Arkansas)

Last season:  Caught 41 passes for 518 yards and 2 TDs

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Jacksonville St, LA-Monroe, Alabama

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ So. Carolina, @ Miss. St, LSU

 

FLEX—Zac Stacy, Sr. (Vanderbilt)

Last season:  Set the school’s single-season rushing record with 1,193 yards and scored 15 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 9-10-11; UMass, @ Kentucky, @ Ole Miss

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Ole Miss, Tennessee, @ Wake Forest

 

K—Drew Alleman, Sr. (LSU)

Last season:  Made 16-of-18 FG attempts and 62-of-63 extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; No. Texas, Washington, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Mississippi St, Ole Miss, @ Arkansas

 

DEF—LSU Tigers

Last season:  No. 2 in the nation in total defense, scoring, and turnover margin.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; No. Texas, Washington, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Mississippi St, Ole Miss, @ Arkansas

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Tyler Bray, Jr. (Tennessee)

QB—Tyler Wilson, Sr. (Arkansas)

RB—Christine Michael, Sr. (Texas A&M)

WR—Da’Rick Rogers, Jr. (Tennessee)

WR—Tavarres King, Sr. (Georgia)

 

 

By Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site
 

Follow Joe DiSalvo on twitter (@theCFFsite)


Related Content: Athlon's 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Examining the Best Players in the SEC</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 - 04:38
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/slow-play-its-killing-golf
Body:

The United States Golf Association and the PGA of America are fighting an uphill battle against slow play. They say five-hour rounds of golf are killing the game. People are quitting because they don’t have the time necessary to play. The two organizations have come up with all sorts of ideas to speed up play: 12-hole courses and the “Tee it Forward” program, promoting amateur hackers to move up a set of tees to make the game easier, more enjoyable and ultimately quicker to play. 

Unfortunately, all their efforts are eroding thanks to the nonchalant attitude of the PGA Tour, both by the players and the administration. It’s too bad that many everyday amateurs mimic what they see on TV because what they’re seeing isn’t good for golf. 
There are a handful of notorious offenders when it comes to slow play on Tour, notably Ben Crane and Kevin Na. Tour officials regularly warn players that they are moving slowly and to pick up the pace, but there are no repercussions. Too bad they haven’t backed up their message with consequences. A slow play penalty hasn’t been handed out in years. 
The LPGA Tour seems to be taking a more proactive approach. Unfortunately, that tour bungled its opportunity as well. Morgan Pressel was penalized for slow play during a semifinal match against Azahara Munoz in the Sybase Match Play Championship in Gladstone, N.J., in May. The penalty halted her momentum and turned a potential three-up lead in match play into a slim 1-up advantage that eventually was lost. Both players had been warned on the ninth hole about slow play, but only Pressel was slapped with the consequences.
So where do we go from here? Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee cites "golf courses built for home sales, over coaching and tolerance for dawdling in youth" for imbedding the tendency toward slow play. But isn’t it time we all take the blame and do something about it? Slow play should have no place in golf, no matter what level.
"It's not that hard, be ready when it's your turn," Luke Donald tweeted earlier this year. "Slow play is killing our sport."
Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 17:38
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/baseballs-players-week-middlebrooks-heyward-verlander-miley
Body:

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 18-24 — standouts.

AL Player of the Week

Will Middlebrooks, Boston

The Red Sox are confident enough in rookie Middlebrooks that they were willing to part with long-time fan favorite Kevin Youkilis last weekend. The young third sacker hasn’t disappointed and seems to be getting better. Last week he hit .625 with a 2.007 OPS with three home runs and 10 RBIs.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Justin Verlander, Detroit

Verlander still hasn’t pitched a perfect game, but he defeated both the Cardinals and Pirates last week, holding the two teams to 10 hits over 16 innings. The righthander walked only five and struck out 10 in winning both his starts for the Tigers. Verlander’s last four starts (all wins) have come against National League teams.

 

 

 

 

 

NL Player of the Week

Jason Heyward, Atlanta

The streaky Braves rightfielder has been on-again off-again this season, but was definitely on last week during a road trip to Boston and New York to visit the Yankees. He led the National League with nine runs and had seven extra-base hits. He batted .522 with three homers and five RBIs.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Wade Miley, Arizona

The Southeastern Louisiana alum may be the best-kept secret in the big leagues. The Diamondbacks have won seven of his last 10 starts, and scored a total of three runs in the three losses. Last week, Miley defeated the Mariners and Cubs, tossing a total of 15 innings and giving up just 12 hits and one walk. He whiffed 15. He is now 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA for the season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 14:27
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-june-25
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 June 25, 2012.

 1. Rangers—Three players on pace to drive in more than 100 runs.

 2. Yankees—Bronx Bombers bashing way toward top of AL.

 3. Dodgers—Only six homers so far in June; eight players have more.

 4. Rays—Only team hitting below .200 (.196) in seventh inning and later.

5. Reds—Upcoming West Coast trip should be good for pitching stats.

 6. Orioles—Scored 10 runs in last seven games.

 7. Angels—Won seven of 10 but lost ground to Rangers.

 8. Nationals—Lost four of six to Baltimore this season, but still in first place.

9. Giants—12 saves by five different pitchers in June (13 wins).

10. Blue Jays—Jose Bautista finding his power stroke.

11. Braves—NL East shaping up to be fun battle.

12. White Sox—Trade for Kevin Youkilis should improve offense and defense.

13. Diamondbacks—Shortstops are batting .301 this season without Stephen Drew.

14. Cardinals—Much better result vs. Royals this weekend.

15. Pirates—Won 18 of 27 over last 30 days.

16. Mets—Major League-worst 4.84 ERA from seventh inning on.

17. Red Sox—Scored 68 runs in last nine wins.

18. Indians—Batting .266 vs. righthanders, just .215 against lefties.

19. Tigers—Where’s the offense? Scored eight runs in last five games.

20. A’s—Who would have guessed? Lead majors in runs during June.

21. Phillies—Season is slipping away but Ryan Howard to return soon.

22. Brewers—Played five extra-inning games already in June (won two).

23. Marlins—Majors’ worst record and ERA in June.

24. Mariners—Tom Wilhelmsen has been terrific answer as closer.

25. Royals—Unfriendly Kaufman; eight more road wins than at home.

26. Twins—Trevor Plouffe hitting .351 with 10 homers in June.

27. Astros—5.80 ERA in June has been a killer.

28. Rockies—Sure, Troy Tulowitzki is missed, but starters have 6.40 ERA.

29. Padres—Batting just .153 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

30. Cubs—Bright side: Took two of three from Southsiders last week.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 14:19
All taxonomy terms: waiver wire, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-june-25
Body:

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

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (6/18-6/24):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Will Middlebrooks BOS 3B 6 3 10 0 .625 2.007
2. Mike Trout LAA OF 8 1 2 5 .440 1.157
3. Jason Heyward ATL OF 9 3 5 0 .522 1.672
4. Aaron Hill* ARI 2B 7 3 8 0 .462 1.483
5. Justin Upton ARI OF 7 2 11 0 .391 1.119
6. Jason Kubel ARI OF 9 3 7 0 .348 1.233
7. Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 7 4 8 0 .318 1.328
8. Paul Goldschmidt ARI 1B 8 2 6 1 .421 1.478
9. Jimmy Rollins PHI SS 7 3 5 1 .391 1.332
10. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 4 2 8 1 .500 1.515
11. Brett Lawrie TOR 3B 10 2 3 2 .320 1.134
12. Edwin Encarnacion TOR 1B/3B 7 4 6 0 .333 1.262
13. Cody Ross* BOS OF 5 3 10 0 .318 1.212
14. Aramis Ramirez MIL 3B 5 2 7 0 .500 1.577
15. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 6 2 5 0 .500 1.410
16. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 5 2 8 1 .333 1.154
17. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 5 3 8 0 .320 1.134
18. Robinson Cano NYY 2B 6 4 4 0 .286 1.232
19. Matt Holliday STL OF 6 0 6 1 .478 1.169
20. Miguel Montero ARI C 3 1 10 0 .455 1.182
21. Coco Crisp* OAK OF 6 0 0 5 .350 .930
22. Josh Reddick OAK OF 4 2 5 2 .316 1.067
23. Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 1 5 2 .348 .966
24. Chris Nelson* COL 2B/3B 4 2 6 0 .429 1.239
25. Gordon Beckham* CHW 2B 3 1 5 2 .409 1.071

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The Waiver Wire

The middle infield has been a serious point of contention for one of my teams this fall. Names like Weeks, Kendricks and even Brian Roberts were got a shot to hold down my "MI" spot. But Aaron Hill was the add this weekend. His complete roto line plays in any format (35-10-32-6, .291/853). Don't expect his average to stay that high as he is a career .268 hitter, but he has always had pop in his bat. With the way Justin Upton and the rest of D-Backs appear to be playing, Hill could easily get to 20/20 this year. Don't be scared to snag this Rattler.

Chris Nelson needs regular playing time before I add him to my contending roster but Gordan Beckham is making a huge push to be owned. He is the classic post-hype prospect. He has gotten a hit in 24 of his last 28 games and has raised his average from .204 to .249 over that span. And over the last month, only four other two-sackers have more RBI than his 18.  

MiLB Debuts

I cautioned about many potential 2012 debuts coming soon and it looks like two big ones will happen this week. Anthony Rizzo is slated to join the Cubs for his Northside debut on Tuesday against the Mets while Trevor Bauer is scheduled to start Thursday in his major league debut against the Braves. He is a two-start pitcher next week. Both are must-adds at this point. They are both worth the risk. Still no word on Wil Myers as the Royals are apparently shopping some pieces to make room for the MiLB slugger.

The Greek God of Walks

I am not going to lie. Kevin Youkilis is one of my favorite players of this generation. He can play just about any position on the diamond effectively and is a middle of the order on-base machine. Yet, he has dealt with a multitide of injuries over the past few seasons and it has significantly dropped his fantasy value. So after a four-game hitting streak that raised his average from .212 to .233, he has been shipped to the White Sox. He will never be the 91-29-115-3 (.312/.958) roto montster of 2008, but he has plenty of talent. And in that order, his bat should play for the rest of the year. His .875 career OPS over 3,352 at-bats will come around at some point — and can likely be had for very cheap at the moment.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Johnny Cueto CIN 23.0 3 24 0.78 0.74
2. R.A. Dickey NYM 24.0 2 28 1.88 0.50
3. Jason Hammel BAL 17.0 2 18 0.00 0.47
4. Wade Miley ARI 22.2 2 23 1.19 0.75
5. Justin Masterson* CLE 16.0 2 18 0.00 0.63
6. Matt Cain SF 21.0 2 25 1.71 0.71
7. Justin Verlander DET 24.0 3 18 1.88 0.83
8. Ervin Santana* LAA 17.0 1 15 1.06 0.35
9. Michael Fiers* SEA 15.1 1 14 0.59 0.78
10. Ivan Nova* NYY 20.1 2 17 1.33 1.08
11. Clayton Richard* SD 21.1 3 15 1.69 1.17
12. Jose Quintana* CHW 21.1 1 14 0.42 0.98
13. Madison Bumgarner SF 21.2 2 22 2.49 1.02
14. Yu Darvish TEX 16.0 2 19 2.25 1.06
15. Stephen Strasburg WAS 13.0 2 18 2.77 1.00
16. Jake Westbrook* STL 15.0 2 6 1.80 0.73
17. Zach Greinke MIL 24.0 1 18 1.88 0.96
18. Max Scherzer DET 20.0 1 27 2.70 1.05
19. James McDonald PIT 15.0 1 10 0.69 0.77
20. Jarrod Parker* OAK 13.0 1 10 0.69 0.77

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Vance Worley, PHI: Pittsburgh (Tues.)
Has been sterling in last three starts (3 ER, 20.0 IP) and faces worst offense in MLB.

2. Jarrod Parker, OAK: at Seattle (Wed.)
Has this line over the last 30 days: 32.0 IP, 2 W, 24 K, 1.97 ERA, 1.09 WHIP.

3. Trevor Bauer, ARI: at Atlanta (Thur.)
His upside is totally worth a shot in his first-ever major league start.

4. Andy Pettitte, NYY: Cleveland (Wed.)
Finally got hit around a bit this weekend, but has been near Pettitte of old. In AP I trust.

5. A.J. Burnett, PI: at Philadelphia (Thurs.)
Take away May 2 disaster at St. Louis (12 ER on 12 H in 2 2/3 IP) and Burnett is 8-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 11 starts, nine of those being quality starts.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 8 19 0 0.00 0.18
2. Tyler Clippard WAS 11.1 0 10 13 0 0.00 0.53
3. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 12.2 2 5 16 0 0.00 0.63
4. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.1 2 8 14 0 1.59 0.88
5. Ernesto Frieri LAA 13.1 0 8 19 3 0.00 0.90
6. Brayan Villarreal* DET 16.2 3 0 26 1 1.62 0.84
7. Jonathan Broxton KC 12.0 1 10 11 0 0.75 1.33
8. Rafael Soriano NYY 11.0 0 11 9 0 0.82 1.18
9. Jim Johnson BAL 12.0 1 6 6 0 1.50 0.50
10. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 1 6 16 0 2.53 0.94
11. Joe Nathan TEX 12.0 0 6 14 0 1.50 0.83
12. Heath Bell MIA 9.2 0 7 16 1 0.93 1.14
13. Chris Perez CLE 9.0 0 7 9 0 2.00 0.78
14. Ronald Belisario* LAD 14.2 3 0 8 3 1.84 0.89
15. J.J. Putz ARI 9.0 1 4 10 0 2.00 0.78
16. Rex Brothers* COL 10.2 1 0 17 2 0.84 0.66
17. Huston Street SD 7.1 1 6 9 0 2.45 1.09
18. Joaquin Benoit* DET 13.2 1 0 16 7 0.66 0.88
19. Sean Marshall* CIN 12.2 0 1 14 4 0.71 0.63
20. Alex Burnett* MIN 11.1 1 0 4 3 0.00 0.44

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: June 25</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 11:06
All taxonomy terms: AFC, Miami Dolphins, NFL
Path: /nfl/miami-dolphins-qbs-marino-nfl-horror-story
Body:

On January 2, 2000 Dan Marino played his final game in a Miami Dolphins uniform. In the 12 seasons since, the Dolphins’ tale of quarterback woes is a cautionary horror narrative that keeps many an NFL GM awake at night.

Miami has started 16 different players at quarterback since Marino stepped away from football. It has finished in the top ten in scoring one time since (2001) and no higher than 12th in total offense. Only two seasons since, 2001 and 2008, have the Dolphins started the same player for all 16 games. The organization has played in one playoff game since 2001.

Here are the 16 quarterbacks who have started a game for the Miami Dolphins since the retirement of Dan Marino following the 2000 season:

Jay Fiedler (2000-04)
The Darmouth grad gave the Phins an extremely false sense of security with a relatively solid stint in Miami immediately following Marino’s depature. Fiedler started 59 games in his five-year Miami career, including all 16 games in 2001 — the best offensive season since Marino for the Fish. He was 36-23 as the starter and averaged 178.1 yards per game with 66 TD and 63 INT.

Damon Huard (1998-2000)
Huard filled in for Fiedler in Week 12 of the 2000 season after he had previously stared five games during Marino’s 1999 farewell tour. He won his only post-Marino start after throwing for 183 yards and his only TD of the year. The Washington alum went on to start 21 more games over a five-year span for the Patriots and Cheifs before retiring in 2008.

Ray Lucas (2001-02)
The Rutgers Scarlet Knight started only six games for the Dolphins, all in 2002 spot duty for Fiedler. He went 2-4 as the starter, completed only 57.5 percent of his passes for 149.3 yards per game and threw only four touchdowns (against six INTs). Lucas never played football again following that season.

Brian Griese (2003)
As the Jay Fiedler experiment continued to fall off the tracks for various reasons, Griese became the third quarterback to get a start in place of the Ivy League grad. All five career games Griese played for Miami came in place of Fiedler in ’03. He went 3-2 as the starter with five touchdowns, six interceptions and 162.6 yards per game.

AJ Feeley (2004)
The Oregon quarterback, like Griese the year before, played only one year in Miami and got eight starts in place of Fiedler. He lost his first two starts in Week 2 and 3 before returning to the line-up from Weeks 10-15. Feeley was 3-5 as the leader of the Fish, completing only 53.7 percent of his passes with 15 interceptions for his Dolphins’ career.

Sage Rosenfels (2002-05)
In his third season as a Dolphin, the Iowa State Cyclone finally got to start a game when he entered the line-up for the final game of 2004. He completed 42.1 percent of his passes (16 of 38) with three interceptions and one touchdown in the loss. He then started one more game in 2005 (Week 10) when he threw for 14 yards and two picks in the shutout loss to Cleveland. He never started another game and ended his Fish career 0-2 as the starter.

Gus Frerotte (2005)
The real starter in ’05 was Frerotte. And he was mildly effective. He was 9-6 as the starter and nearly topped 3,000 yards (2,996) with more touchdowns (18) than interceptions (13). Numbers that aren’t amazing, but look Hall of Fame-esque when placed next to the other starters from South Beach.

Joey Harrington (2006)
Another year and another starting quarterback experiment. Harrington started 11 games in 2006, winning five while throwing for over 200 yards per game. He also threw 15 interceptions and 12 touchdowns and was an Atlanta Falcon the next year.

Daunte Culpepper (2006)
The Former Viking played his first game with a new team when he started four games for the Dolphins in 2006. He was 1-3 as a starter and tossed just two touchdowns as a Dolphin. The former first-rounder played for four teams in four years from 2005-08. Don't forget, the brass in Miami decided it was a good decision to go with Culpepper instead of Drew Brees.

Cleo Lemon (2006-07)
The Arkansas State grad played four years in the NFL on three different teams. He started eight career games, all for the Dolphins, and won only one time in his entire career. He threw for 168.1 yards per game, completed 56.0 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Trent Green (2007)
Green also only played one season for the Dolphins and failed to win any of his five career starts in Miami. He threw only five touchdowns and seven picks over that span while averaging nearly 200 yards per game.

John Beck (2007)
The second-round pick played one year for the team that drafted him. Beck was 0-4 as the starter in Miami and threw only one career touchdown pass as a Dolphin. He averaged 111.8 yards per game and has never won a game as a starter in the NFL.

Chad Pennington (2008-10)
The soft-tossing Marshall grad likely had the most successful season of any quarterback in a Fish uni since Marino retired. He started every game of the 2008 season, winning 11 and earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. He led the NFL in completion percentage (67.4 percent) and posted a nice 3,653-19-7 stat line en route to a co-AFC East title and playoff berth. However, he started only four more games over the next two years (1-3) before retiring in 2010.

Chad Henne (2008-11)
The strong-armed Michigan grad came to Miami in the second-round of the 2008 draft. He got into the starting line-up in year two and actually posted a winning record at 7-6. Yet, despite statistical improvement in year three, Henne lost more than he won (6-8). He was 0-4 as the starter in year four and has bolted for Jacksonville.

Tyler Thigpen (2010)
The Coastal Carolina product started and lost one game in his Dolphins one-year career. He threw for 187 yards, one interception and lost in a shutout at the hands of the Bears.

Matt Moore (2011)
The Oregon State Beaver was relatively effective last year on a team with a lame duck coach and terrible roster. He actually won six of his 12 starts, threw more touchdowns (16) than interceptions (9) and appears poised to start the 2012 campaign atop the depth charts. At least, for now, until Ryan Tannehill becomes the 17th quarterback to start a game for Miami since Marino.

The Fish aren’t the only NFL franchise that suffered after the retirement of a truly great signal caller. The Bills haven’t been the same since Jim Kelly. The 49ers are the poster children for how to adapt to loss — Joe Montana to Steve Young — and how not to adapt to loss — Young to everyone since then. Those two franchises have combined for six winning seasons in 28 combined years of competition since Kelly (1996) and Young (1999) stepped away.

But hope springs eternal on South Beach as the Dolphins enter their 13th season without No. 13 — and are doing so with their first first-round quarterback since taking Marino in the 1983 NFL Draft. Yes, Ryan Tannehill has the unenviable task of being the first quarterback taken in the first round by Miami since Mr. Isotoners himself joined the club.

While I have my doubts about Tannehill’s ability to succeed at the NFL level, the beauty of the NFL lies in its balance. Teams can go from worst to first and vice versa in a matter of months and new head coach Joe Philbin brings one of the most powerful offensive systems in the NFL to the franchise.

Only time will tell if Tannehill is the next Dan Marino.

Or the next Cleo Lemon.

- By Braden Gall

@bradengall

Related: Miami Dolphins 2012 Schedule Analysis

Teaser:
<p> Miami Dolphins QBs Since Marino: An NFL Horror Story</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-east-football-2012-all-conference-team
Body:

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team

First-Team Offense

QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

RB Ray Graham, Pittsburgh

RB Lyle McCombs, Connecticut 

WR Sterling Griffin, South Florida

WR Alec Lemon, Syracuse

TE Ryan Griffin, Connecticut

C Mario Benavides, Louisville

OL Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers

OL Adam Masters, Connecticut

OL Mark Popek, South Florida

OL Justin Pugh, Syracuse


First-Team Defense

DL Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

DL Ryne Giddins, South Florida

DL Scott Vallone, Rutgers

DL Trevardo Williams, Connecticut

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB DeDe Lattimore, South Florida

LB Sio Moore, Connecticut

CB Adrian Bushell, Louisville

CB Logan Ryan, Rutgers

S Jarred Holley, Pittsburgh

S Hakeem Smith, Louisville


First-Team Specialists

K Maikon Bonani, South Florida

P Pat O'Donnell, Cincinnati

KR Ralph David Abernathy IV, Cincinnati

PR Nick Williams, Connecticut


The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
 

  First Second Third Overall
Cincinnati 2 4 2 8
Connecticut 6 2 4 12
Louisville 4 4 2 10
Pittsburgh 3 3 4 10
Rutgers 4 5 1 10
South Florida 5 2 7 14
Syracuse 2 3 4 9
Temple 0 3 2 5


Second-Team Offense

QB B.J. Daniels, South Florida

RB Matt Brown, Temple

RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville

TE Hubie Graham, Pittsburgh

C Ryan Turnley, Pittsburgh

OL Austen Bujnoch, Cincinnati

OL Zack Chibane, Syracuse

OL Chris Jacobson, Pittsburgh

OL John Miller, Louisville


Second-Team Defense

DL Dan Giordano, Cincinnati

DL Jesse Joseph, Connecticut

DL Marcus Smith, Louisville

DL Walter Stewart, Cincinnati

LB Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers

LB Preston Brown, Louisville

LB Marquis Spruill, Syracuse

CB Kayvon Webster, South Florida

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut

S Drew Frey, Cincinnati

S Duron Harmon, Rutgers


Second-Team Specialists

K Ross Krautman, Syracuse

P Brandon McManus, Temple

KR Jeremy Deering, Rutgers

PR Matt Brown, Temple


Third-Team Offense

QB Ryan Nassib, Syracuse

RB Dominique Brown, Louisville

RB Demetris Murray, South Florida

WR Anthony McClung, Cincinnati

WR Devin Street, Pittsburgh

TE Evan Landi, South Florida

C Macky MacPherson, Syracuse

OL Danous Estenor, South Florida

OL R.J. Dill, Rutgers

OL Quinterrius Eatmon, South Florida

OL Martin Wallace, Temple


Third-Team Defense

DL Levi Brown, Temple

DL Deon Goggins, Syracuse

DL Roy Philon, Louisville

DL Elkino Watson, South Florida

LB Sam Barrington, South Florida

LB Maalik Bomar, Cincinnati

LB Jory Johnson, Connecticut

CB Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut

CB K'Waun Williams, Pittsburgh

S Jon Lejiste, South Florida

S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse


Third-Team Specialists

K Kevin Harper, Pittsburgh

P Cole Wagner, Connecticut

KR Nick Williams, Connecticut

PR Ronald Jones, Pittsburgh
 

Athlon's 2012 Big East Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big East Predictions

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

Teaser:
<p> Big East Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:33
All taxonomy terms: College Football, TCU Horned Frogs, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/tcu-football-horned-frogs-come-home-big-12
Body:

It really wasn’t that long ago when TCU football was barely a topic of discussion around Fort Worth.

For 38 years — from 1960 to 1997 — the Horned Frogs had seven winning seasons and three bowl appearances. Oh, sure, there were a few moments of glory. The ’65 team went 6–5 and earned a Sun Bowl berth. The ’67 team won at Texas. In 1984, after 12 consecutive losing seasons, TCU finished 8–4 and earned a trip to the Bluebonnet Bowl under coach Jim Wacker. But for every high point, there were 20 lows. For a 10-year stretch — from 1974 to 1983 — a third of the Frogs’ wins (five of 15) came against Rice, the Southwest Conference doormat. Otherwise, TCU was the doormat. The Frogs went 1–20–3 in road games from 1979 to 1983.

When Dennis Franchione left New Mexico to take over TCU in 1998, he inherited a 1–10 team. The lone win was Pat Sullivan’s last at TCU, a regular-season finale against SMU in front of 19,000 indifferent fans in a “rivalry” game.

From Albuquerque, Franchione brought with him a little-known defensive coordinator. Three years later, when Franchione bolted for the job at Alabama in December 2000, that coordinator, Gary Patterson, was named TCU’s coach before the Frogs played Southern Miss in the Mobile Alabama Bowl.

Patterson wasn’t a unanimous choice, either. Although his defense led the nation in 2000, he was unpolished, and some at TCU weren’t sure if he was ready for a head coaching job after a less-than-stellar interview. Finally, one major donor spoke up and declared that TCU didn’t need somebody who interviewed well, but someone who knew how to coach. Patterson, then a 40-year-old who had coached at 10 other places before arriving at TCU, was their man.

Now, with 109 wins and 10 bowl appearances since he was hired on a full-time basis, Patterson has become something of a mythical figure in the eyes of Frog fans, who have watched their team go from upstart, to conference juggernaut, to legitimate BCS contender in 12 years. Young fans weren’t even alive when TCU was left for dead when the Southwest Conference broke up in 1995 to form the Big 12.

“The omission, sort of being left out of the club, was a kick in the pants,” says former player and longtime TCU radio analyst John Denton. “It got people’s attention. The alums and the school realized we weren’t as well positioned, nor did we know what was going on. Our reputation and how people looked at us from the outside in was poor, and it wasn’t just football. The entire program needed to be looked at.”

So the school set out on a 12-year conference affiliation odyssey, beginning with the Western Athletic Conference in 1996. TCU joined Conference USA in 2001 and then the Mountain West in 2005. After undefeated regular seasons in 2009 and 2010, TCU accepted an invitation to the Big East, an awkward geographic fit, but no more so than trips to San Diego State and UNLV in the MWC.

When conference realignment started up again in the summer of 2011, an invitation to the Big 12 came to fruition and TCU, finally, was asked back into the club with Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

“I’d like to welcome you home,” Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas told a packed ballroom full of TCU administrators, donors and alumni on Oct. 10.

The return “home” wasn’t just a result of winning, although that undoubtedly had a positive effect. It was also a culmination of a rededication to the football program, including facilities and coaching salaries, that began with the hiring of Franchione.  

Until then, TCU football was given little consideration.

“The entire athletic department was a backburner operation,” Denton says of the ’70s and ’80s. “It was part of the university, but it wasn’t invested in.”

About the time Texas’ Darrell Royal and Arkansas’ Frank Broyles began to ratchet up the importance of their programs in the early 1960s, TCU began to slowly fade to the background, only occasionally fielding a competitive team. In one brutal stretch from 1974-76, the Frogs won two games.

“The leaders of the university just decided they weren’t going to get caught up in the arms race,” Denton says. “Texas and Arkansas kind of took the Southwest Conference to a new level and kind of left TCU, SMU and Baylor behind. They ruled the roost for the better part of 20-25 years starting in the early ’60s.”

A turning point came in Franchione’s first year in 1998. After a 1–10 season the year before, TCU won its last two regular-season games, both on the road, to earn a trip to the Sun Bowl against USC. The Frogs upset the Trojans 28–19 for their first bowl win since the 1957 Cotton Bowl.

In the next two years, TCU continued to improve, winning a share of the WAC title and earning a bowl bid each season. Since taking over, Patterson has led his team to a bowl in 10 of 11 seasons, including two BCS bowls — the Fiesta Bowl after the 2009 season, and the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season. TCU defeated Wisconsin in the Rose to cap a 13–0 season, its first undefeated campaign since 1938.

People are talking TCU football now. The school will unveil its $164 million renovations to Amon G. Carter Stadium during the season opener Sept. 8 against Grambling State. A brand new locker room, training room, and equipment room are set to open in July. A state of the art weight room opened last fall.

The Frogs are the talk of the town again. They sold a record 22,000 season tickets in 2011 and hope to reach 30,000 in 2012. Pretty impressive for a school with an enrollment of about 9,500.

Only two programs — Alabama and Oregon — rank ahead of TCU in average final Associated Press ranking since 2008. Patterson’s next win will make him the all-time leader in TCU history, surpassing Frog legend Dutch Meyer, who went 109–79–13 from 1934-52. Patterson has lost only 30 times and has shepherded a defense that has led the nation five times since 2000.

The move from the Mountain West to the Big 12 will test TCU’s depth and athletic ability at nearly every position. But compared to the travels the team has been on since 1995, the move back “home” feels right.

Patterson often spoke during spring practice of the challenge the Big 12 would pose for his team. After the team’s last practice in April, his encapsulation of his team’s progress stood also as a metaphor for his program.

“We grew the team up,” Patterson said. “We still have a long way to go to be what we want to be, but we’re not where we were.”

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Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
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Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
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Teaser:
<p> TCU football has made quite a climb in recent years.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:26
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The Mountain West will have yet another new look in 2012. The ever-changing conference lost TCU — which went 48–7 during its seven-year stay — to the Big 12 and added Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii from the WAC. Next year, it will be time for another makeover when Boise State and San Diego State make their move to the Big East.

For now, the MW is a 10-team league that features one top-25 team (Boise State), a solid second tier (Nevada and Fresno State), and four other teams (Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and San Diego State) that are good enough to play in a bowl game.

Boise State is in rebuilding mode after losing seven first-team All-Mountain West picks, most notably record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore and first-round NFL draft pick tailback Doug Martin. Still, the Broncos remain the team to beat. Junior Joe Southwick is next in line at quarterback, and he will spread the ball around to a talented group of skill players led by tailback D.J. Harper and wide receivers Matt Miller and Mitch Burroughs. The defense, which returns only one starter, is the biggest concern for coach Chris Petersen’s club.

Nevada, which went 19–4 in its final three seasons in the WAC, will lean on sophomore quarterback Cody Fajardo, who earned 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year honors after throwing for 1,707 yards and running for 694 out of Chris Ault’s Pistol attack. The Wolf Pack have a favorable league schedule, with both Fresno State and Boise State visiting Reno in November.

For the first time since 1996, Pat Hill will not be roaming the sidelines at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are now under the control of Tim DeRuyter, who spent three years (2007-09) in the MWC as the defensive coordinator at Air Force before taking over the same position at Texas A&M in ’10. Fresno State will feature two of the league’s top offensive players — quarterback Derek Carr (26 TDs in 2011) and tailback Robbie Rouse (1,549 yards).

Wyoming was the biggest surprise in the MWC in 2011. Led by true freshman quarterback Brett Smith (2,622 yards passing, 710 rushing), the Cowboys went 5–2 in the league, with the only losses to TCU and Boise State.  After struggling through its third straight 3–9 season, Colorado State fired Steve Fairchild (a former CSU quarterback) and hired Jim McElwain, who picked up two national title rings as the offensive coordinator at Alabama. The Rams’ offense will feature tailback Chris Nwoke, a second-team All-MWC pick last year after rushing for 1,130 yards.

Air Force, as usual, has major holes to fill. The Falcons must replace quarterback Tim Jefferson (a four-year starter) and halfback Asher Clark, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher. A big key for Air Force will be on defense, where it ranked 109th in the nation in stopping the run in 2011. San Diego State is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time as a Division I program. To make it three straight, the Aztecs will need a productive season from quarterback Ryan Katz, a post-graduate transfer from Oregon State who will step in for Ryan Lindley.

Hawaii is now under the leadership of Norm Chow, a longtime offensive coordinator who is getting his first opportunity to run his own program. The Warriors figure to struggle due in large part to the loss of eight players who received either first- or second-team All-WAC honors in 2011. With a 4–21 record in two seasons, Bobby Hauck will need to show some significant improvement at UNLV this fall. The Rebels’ 10 losses in 2011 came by an average of 30.1 points. Not good.

The train wreck known as the Mike Locksley era at New Mexico mercifully ended late last September. It’s up to former Notre Dame boss Bob Davie to pick up the pieces. Davie, who went 35–25 in five seasons with the Fighting Irish, has been out of coaching since 2001.

Athlon's 2012 Mountain West Team Previews

Air Force Nevada
Boise State New Mexico
Colorado State San Diego State
Fresno State UNLV
Hawaii Wyoming

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 101-124

Teaser:
<p> Mountain West 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:20
Path: /college-football/college-football-superconference-realignment-draft-part-1
Body:

Welcome to the 2012 NCAA (National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities) conference realignment draft.

Our esteemed conference commissioners -- Mitch Light, Braden Gall, Steven Lassan and David Fox -- will put an end to the conference realignment madness, which stretched into yet another summer this year, with the first (and hopefully, only) conference alignment draft.

Today, we wipe the slate clean and see where the chips fall if our commissioners could start from scratch. Rather than settle alignments through third parties, backroom deals and non-denial denials, we’ll start with a 16-round draft for our four conferences.

Here are the ground rules: Each commissioner drafts the entire package -- the program’s history, current performance and personnel and long-term potential. Each commissioner will take on an entire athletic program, from football to men’s basketball to lacrosse and gymnastics, the program’s academic reputation, and any NCAA baggage.

It’s up to our commissioners to decide the values and format of the conference.  Our commissioners will decide if regions and rivalries are important, if the league should be well-rounded among all sports and academics or if the league will be a football powerhouse moneymaker.

We’ve allotted 16 spots to draft, but if a commissioner wants to draft eight basketball powerhouses and call it a day, that’s fine. That commissioner, however, might have a league full of angry chancellors and athletic directors who aren’t rolling in the money of the other three football-centric leagues. Draft order was determined by a blind draw.

At the end of the draft, the commissioners will determine their league format, divisions, playoffs or conference championship games.

Starting now, we're on the clock:

ROUND 1

1. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Texas
I considered Florida, but Texas was just too powerful to pass up with the No. 1 overall pick. The UT athletic department has the largest budget in the nation — and the highest revenues. The football team has struggled the past two seasons, but the Horns won at least 10 games from 2001-09. This is a program that will compete for national titles.

2. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): Alabama
Florida and Ohio State were both in the mix for me here with the No. 2 overall pick. I choose Alabama, however, due to the current state of its football program. The Crimson Tide is the best football program in the nation and Nick Saban is the best coach in the nation. Since it is also the most dedicated fanbase in the nation, Bama football won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Even if the top coach in the nation decides to, gasp, retire. A quality basketball coach, solid baseball program and softball national champions didn’t hurt Alabama’s case either.

3. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Florida
It was really a no-brainer to start my conference with Florida. This is a key state for recruiting, and the Gators have won two football national titles since 2006. Florida also brings a solid basketball program and is a member of the AAU (Association of American Universities).

4. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Ohio State
With back-to-back picks on the turn, I’m able to secure two power programs to start my league. USC and Notre Dame are available, but I opted for Ohio State. I’m not too worried about the Buckeyes’ recent NCAA issues. Bringing in Urban Meyer ensures the football program won’t suffer for long. Ohio State brings my league an athletic department that’s normally in the top-10 of the Director’s Cup standings and is financially solvent enough to pay for itself and more.

ROUND 2

5. Fox: Michigan
I started this draft with the plan to maintain traditional rivalries and to build a league that makes sense geographically. If I were picking simply the best available, I might follow Ohio State with USC or Notre Dame, but I like the Ohio State-Michigan tandem to the be the foundation of my conference. I could have gone with USC-Notre Dame or Michigan-Notre Dame and keep rivals together as well, but the Wolverines needed only one season to pull out of the Rich Rodriguez funk while the Irish are still struggling to find their way. With my first two picks, I have two well-rounded athletic programs with massive alumni bases.
 
6. Lassan: USC
I considered taking USC at No. 2 overall, so I was surprised to see them fall to the No. 6 spot. The Trojans are a huge brand on the West Coast and bring a national power in football. The basketball program has experienced some success, but this is all about the gridiron.

7. Gall: Notre Dame
I wanted to spread my conference into the Midwest, where there are more TV sets than anywhere in the country, so Notre Dame was the obvious pick. The Irish brand is arguably the most powerful national brand in college sports today, and, now that Notre Dame is finally in a conference, it will quickly return to national prominence. The overall athletic department is stellar and is guaranteed to attract huge TV dollars. Plus, the idea of an Alabama-Notre Dame showdown every year was too sexy to pass up.

8. Light: Oklahoma
Maintaining one of the nation’s top rivalry games — OU vs. Texas — was a factor, but OU was simply the best football program on the board with the No. 8 overall pick. The basketball program is showing signs of life under Lon Kruger and the baseball team has been to the College World Series twice in the past three years.

ROUND 3

9. Light: Georgia
It was tough to pass up LSU, but Georgia gets my league into Atlanta and gives me an anchor in the deep South. The football program has been solid over the years, but the Dawgs have won only two outright SEC titles since the 1982. With the right coach in place — and Mark Richt could still be the right coach — Georgia should be in the national title picture on a semi-regular basis.

10. Gall: LSU
Getting the LSU Tigers in the third round felt like a steal. After a 30-year hiatus, LSU has returned to football’s upper echelon on the back of quality coaching, elite fan support, arguably the best facilities in the SEC and a tremendous natural recruiting base. Additionally, the baseball program has led the nation in attendance 16 straight seasons and the hoops program was in the Final Four just a few years ago.

11. Lassan: Florida State
I’m a big fan of rivalries, so it only makes sense to pair Florida with Florida State. The Seminoles may have underachieved recently, but this program can compete for national titles. Florida State basketball is coming off an ACC Tournament Championship, and the baseball team is solid.

12. Fox: Oregon
I want my conference to have at least two geographic divisions. Before Lassan took Florida State, I was going to take the Seminoles and Miami to anchor my Southern division. With FSU off the board, I’m looking West with Oregon. I’d rather have USC, but the Ducks are clearly the No. 2 program on the West Coast. I also like the idea of the Ducks’ flash to counterbalance the more traditional elements Ohio State and Michigan bring to the league.

ROUND 4

13. Fox: Washington
I admit it: This is a major reach. There’s no way a program more than a decade removed from its last Rose Bowl should be the 13th team drafted. But like I said, rivalries and regions will be one of the main features of my conference. Oregon and Washington give me two rivals to anchor the Western portion of my league. I drafted Washington too high, but this isn’t a bad Plan B for a Western Division if I can’t have USC.

14. Lassan: UCLA
This was a tough pick. I debated taking Nebraska, but I thought getting the Bruins to pair with USC made too much sense. UCLA should be better in football, and the basketball program has a rich history. And there’s nothing wrong with having two teams in the Los Angeles market.

15. Gall: Nebraska
I was ecstatic to land one of the most powerful football brands in the history of college football with my fourth pick. The Huskers are one of the most technologically advanced programs in the nation and the fan support is virtually unparallel. Few programs can match the staying power and tradition of the Cornhuskers, and, being located in the Midwest, extends my league’s reach into the most lucrative TV market in the sport.

16. Light: Penn State
The program is going through some turmoil, but Penn State football is a national brand with a tremendous following in the nation’s sixth-most populous state. The school ranked sixth in athletic revenue from 2006-11 according to a USA Today study. The one negative: None of the other major sports will bring much to the table. This is a football-only play.

Coming tomorrow: The next four rounds of our conference draft, which includes picks Nos. 17 through 32. Our four commissioners are starting to eye some national names that have gone dormant in addition to some elite basketball powers.

Skip ahead to: Rounds 5-8 | Rounds 9-12

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment

Rd Mitch Light Braden Gall Steven Lassan David Fox
1 >> Texas Alabama Florida Ohio State
2 << Oklahoma Notre Dame USC Michigan
3 >> Georgia LSU Florida State Oregon
4 << Penn State Nebraska UCLA Washington


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Athlon's 2012 Conference Predictions
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football conference realignment draft</p>
Post date: Monday, June 25, 2012 - 05:10

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