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Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-july-9
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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 July 9, 2012.

 

  1. Rangers—Scored fewest runs so far in July.

 2. Yankees—Largest lead in the majors — and growing.

 3. Nationals—Success seems to follow Davey Johnson everywhere.

4. Angels—Lead majors with 13 shutouts.

 5. White Sox—Robin Ventura deserves tremendous credit for team’s success.

 6. Braves—Finished first half with sweep at Philadelphia.

 7. Dodgers—Last in majors with 107 fewer extra-base hits than Red Sox.

 8. Giants—Given up 55 runs in nine games since four straight shutouts.

9. Pirates—Won six of last seven series to end first half.

10. Reds—6-9 vs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh so far this season.

11. Rays—Tampa Bay is 37-7 when scoring four runs or more.

12. Orioles—Terrific managing job by Buck Showalter.

13. Mets—R.A. Dickey should be starting the All-Star Game.

14. Cardinals—World champs had identical 46-40 mark last year.

15. Tigers—Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in top four in RBIs in AL.

16. Blue Jays—Only team with two teammates combined for 50 homers.

17. Indians—Forgotten team in AL Central race.

18. A’s—Bad time for All-Star break, won 17 of last 25.

19. Diamondbacks—Trevor Bauer could be huge boost in second half.

20. Red Sox—Lead majors with 314 extra-base hits.

21. Marlins—How much can Carlos Lee boost offense?

22. Brewers—Trade bait Zack Greinke will make three consecutive starts.

23. Twins—6-13 vs. division leaders; 30-36 against all other teams.

24. Mariners—Only team in AL with as many as 50 losses (51).

25. Royals—All-Star Game hosts are 34-33 after horrific start.

26. Phillies—Entering the break in disarray.

27. Rockies—Rox are 9-22 since early June.

28. Padres—Ended first half with downer thanks to Cincinnati.

29. Cubs—Finally, a break from the cellar, thanks to the Astros.

30. Astros—Rebuilding continues; growing pains may intensify.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 12:59
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-july-9
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 (7/2-7/08):

  Name Team Pos R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 11 3 9 0 .517 1.479
2. Ian Desmond WAS SS 5 4 8 3 .409 1.390
3. Mike Trout LAA OF 6 3 7 4 .364 1.180
4. Tyler Colvin* COL 1B/OF 6 5 10 1 .308 1.280
5. Kevin Youkilis CWS 1B/3B 7 3 10 0 .478 1.484
6. Justin Ruggiano* MIA OF 5 4 8 1 .393 1.290
7. Brian McCann ATL C 5 4 11 0 .364 1.284
8. Neil Walker* PIT 2B 8 2 7 0 .481 1.474
9. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 7 2 10 1 .348 1.247
10. Garrett Jones* PIT 1B/OF 9 2 7 0 .385 1.101
11. Miguel Carbrea DET 1B/3B 6 2 9 0 .440 1.248
12. Michael Bourn ATL OF 8 0 3 3 .423 1.199
13. Logan Morrison* MIA 1B/OF 5 3 9 0 .391 1.332
14. Alex Rios CWS OF 7 2 7 0 .435 1.328
15. Ryan Braun MIL OF 7 2 6 2 .286 .983
16. Matt Holliday STL OF 4 2 7 1 .423 1.198
17. Prince Fielder DET 1B 5 3 10 0 .292 1.122
18. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 5 2 7 1 .370 1.081
19. Delmon Young* DET OF 5 4 7 0 .308 1.090
20. Anthony Rizzo* CHC 1B 5 3 5 0 .414 1.207
21. Rickie Weeks* MIL 2B 7 2 7 0 .346 1.125
22. Mike Moustakas KC 3B 4 2 9 1 .310 .945
23. Andruw Jones* NYY OF 4 4 6 0 .333 1.238
24. Casey Kotchman* CLE 1B 5 2 6 0 .450 1.300
25. Shin-Soo Choo CLE OF 6 2 4 0 .414 1.192

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

The All-Star Break DL Update

Take a breath. Just past the half-way mark, fantasy leagues are still very much up for grabs. Names like Rickie Weeks are finally starting to come around. Drew Stubbs is next, I promise. And others are finally coming off the DL. Reports are that Carl Crawford will likely need surgery on his elbow but will forego any procedures in an effort to return to the line-up. He may never return to his Rays form (until surgery) but he can certainly help a fantasy outfield over the second half. Ryan Howard was 2-for-8 in his return to the Phillies line-up. Don't expect big numbers from Howard, as he will likely be limited in his playing time, but his power threat should help someone in need of pop. Jayson Werth is swinging a bat and will be back by August. It might be time to stash him away on the DL. The break couldn't come at a better time for guys like Dustin Pedroia and Dan Haren, as both hit the DL on Friday. Giancarlo Stanton owners awoke Monday morning to bad news as his "loose bodies" had been removed from his knee. Recovery time is listed as four-to-six weeks.

Waiver Wire Adds

Tyler Colvin is just too hot to ignore. And his situation is obvsiouly very fantasy friendly. He has been solid through most splits (righty-lefty, home-road) and should he keep getting at-bats there is no reason why the 1B/OFer can't help your line-up. Tigers' speedster Quintin Berry is worth a look if you need some speed, as is Milwuakee's Norichika Aoki. Both could provide plenty of run and stolen base support, each without hurting the other categories too much at all. I need more time before adding names like Justin Ruggiano or Alexi Amarista just yet.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Mat Latos CIN 25.0 2 28 0.72 0.56
2. Jered Weaver LAA 21.2 3 13 0.42 0.88
3. Travis Wood* CHC 20.2 3 13 0.87 0.87
4. Jason Vargas* SEA 23.2 1 22 1.52 0.85
5. Mark Buehrle* MIA 14.2 2 15 1.23 0.95
6. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.0 1 27 2.05 1.05
7. Tommy Milone* OAK 19.0 1 20 0.95 1.05
8. Kyle Lohse STL 21.2 3 13 2.49 0.97
9. Paul Maholm* CHC 15.1 2 11 0.59 1.04
10. Bronson Arroyo* CIN 22.2 1 14 1.99 0.75
11. Freddy Garcia* NYY 15.1 2 12 1.76 0.85
12. Ricky Nolasco* MIA 19.2 2 14 0.92 1.17
13. Michael Fiers* MIL 13.1 1 19 1.35 0.98
14. Max Scherzer DET 13.0 2 14 2.08 0.92
15. James McDonald PIT 19.2 3 17 3.20 1.07
16. Drew Pomeranz* COL 12.1 1 7 0.00 0.65
17. Chris Sale CWS 14.1 2 9 1.88 0.91
18. David Price TB 14.0 1 15 1.93 0.86
19. Gavin Floyd* CWS 20.0 2 15 1.80 1.20
20. Hiroki Kuroda NYY 19.2 2 21 3.20 1.12

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

Since this week is only three games long, I will simply toss out my favorite available SPs on my waiver wire:

1. Michael Fiers, MIL: 46.0 IP, 3 W, 50 K, 2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP (season)
2. Jair Jurrjens, ATL: 25.1 IP, 3 W, 10 K, 2.13 ERA, 1.14 WHIP (last month)
3. Travis Wood, CHC: 33.1 IP, 4 W, 21 K, 1.62 ERA, 1.08 WHIP (last month)
4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: 39.1 IP, 2 W, 40 K, 3.20 ERA, 1.22 WHIP (last month)
5. Scott Diamond, MIN: 79.0 IP, 7 W, 45 K, 2.62 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (season)

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 20 0 0.82 0.18
2. Huston Street SD 13.1 1 9 18 0 1.35 0.75
3. Tyler Clippard WAS 12.0 1 8 14 0 0.75 0.75
4. Casey Janssen* TOR 12.2 0 7 16 0 0.71 0.55
5. Rafael Soriano NYY 13.2 0 12 15 0 1.32 1.24
6. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.2 0 6 19 0 1.69 0.38
7. Fernando Rodney TB 11.0 0 8 12 0 0.82 0.73
8. Joe Nathan TEX 12.2 1 6 17 0 1.42 1.03
9. Ryan Cook* OAK 12.1 1 8 14 0 2.92 0.97
10. Ernesto Frieri LAA 12.0 0 7 15 3 0.00 1.08
11. Charlie Furbush* SEA 16.2 2 0 23 2 1.08 0.96
12. Jim Johnson BAL 11.1 0 8 6 0 0.79 0.79
13. Jason Motte STL 13.2 0 10 15 0 3.29 1.10
14. Tom Wilhelmsen* SEA 12.1 1 4 15 0 0.00 1.14
15. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 7 7 0 1.64 1.09
16. Darren Oliver* TOR 11.2 2 0 14 5 0.77 0.77
17. Brayan Villarreal* DET 15.2 2 0 20 4 1.72 0.96
18. Robbie Ross* TEX 17.1 1 0 9 3 0.00 0.81
19. Clay Rapada* NYY 10.0 1 0 14 3 0.00 0.60
20. Addison Reed* CWS 11.1 1 6 11 0 3.18 1.06

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Keep up to date all season long with Athlon Sports' Fantasy Baseball Closer Grid

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: July 9</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 09:42
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-sec-offensive-lines
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the SEC's Offensive Lines for 2012

1. Alabama
Even with the departure of center William Vlachos, the Crimson Tide have one of the top offensive lines in the nation. Barrett Jones earned first-team All-SEC honors last season but will move to center in 2012. Considering the versatility and performance throughout his career, he has to be considered the best linemen in college football. Replacing Jones at left tackle is expected to be Cyrus Kouandijo, a former 5-star recruit. Right tackle D.J. Fluker started all 13 games last year, while Anthony Steen and Chance Warmack are back to man the guard positions. Fluker is on the verge of a breakout season, while Warmack should be in the mix for All-American honors.

2. LSU 
This collection of Bayou blockers could be the best in the nation. Two potential future first-round picks in Alex Hurst and Chris Faulk bookend a line that returns four starters. This group was No. 2 in the SEC in rushing and No. 1 in the SEC in sacks allowed (1.29) last year and could actually get better. The only replacement comes in the form of Josh Dworaczyk, who is a sixth-year player with loads of experience. P.J. Lonergan, who is only starter who isn’t at least 6-foot-6, will be one of the nation’s top pivots and Josh Williford returns at right guard. This group averages 319 pounds up front and is stacked with elite level depth behind them. There are few groups nationally that are as talented and deep as the LSU Tigers front line.

3. Texas A&M
With a new quarterback and offensive scheme, the Aggies may have to rely more on their rushing attack in 2012. The good news for Texas A&M is three starters are back up front, including tackles Luke Joeckel (second-team All-Big 12 in 2011) and Jake Matthews (honorable mention All-Big 12). Both players have All-American potential and should allow this line to rank among the top 10-15 nationally. Patrick Lewis has been a starter the last three years and will provide a veteran presence in the middle. The guard spots are up for grabs, but Jarvis Harrison, Shep Klinke and Cedric Ogbuehi all have experience. This group allowed just nine sacks last year and should be a team strength once again in 2012.

4. South Carolina
This group will have some youth and inexperience, but it also has loads of talent. T.J. Johnson is the elder statesman and lone senior, but will anchor the line at center. A.J. Cann - an elite recruit in the 2010 class who played every game of his freshman season last fall - returns for his redshirt sophomore campaign at left guard. With junior Ronald Patrick lining up at right guard, the interior of the offensive line should be stable. The tackle position is a bit more fluid but the talent has incredible upside. Brandon Shell ranked behind only Jadeveon Clowney in the Gamecocks’ 2011 haul and he should be ready to compete as a redshirt freshman. He will battle with Cody Gibson, who got four starts last year, and Mike Matulis, who was pressed into action last year as a freshman due to injuries. Between the trio of underclassmen, South Carolina feels that it can improve on its 2.38 sacks allowed per game from a year ago (87th nationally). 

5. Arkansas
Running up the middle and off guard to the right should be no issue whatsoever for the Hogs. Center Travis Swanson and right guard Alvin Bailey, who has loads of NFL potential, are as good a center-guard combo as there is in the league. Filling the holes around them will determine just how far Arkansas can go in the SEC West this year. Jason Peacock, who started nine games last fall, will get the first crack at protecting Tyler Wilson’s blindside while uber-recruit Brey Cook will bookend the right side. Expect David Hurd and Chris Stringer to figure heavily in the tackle mix as well. Tyler Deacon and Luke Charpentier will work into the guard rotation with Bailey. Lastly, Mitch Smothers can play anywhere on the line and is a versatile piece on the bench. If Arkansas expects to beat Alabama or LSU, it must get improved play from a line that was 73rd nationally in sacks allowed and 81st in rushing offense.

6. Auburn
Few teams in the nation have recruited as well along the offensive line over the last two cycles. Twelve of the 16 scholarship blockers on the roster were signed in the 2010 or 2011 recruiting classes. Sophomore Reese Dismukes is entrenched at center after only one year of action while fellow sophomore Chad Slade has the right tackle position locked up. One of the few veterans, John Sullen, looks to have the left guard position to himself. Look for an elite group of talented but unproven youngsters, including redshirt freshmen Greg Robinson and Christian Westerman to divide the right guard and left tackles duties up at some point. Freshman Patrick Miller will also get plenty of chances to compete. Gene Chizik has an elite three-year haul of hog mollies, now it’s up to line coach Jeff Grimes to develop and motivate these massive blockers.

7. Georgia
Perhaps the only area preventing Georgia from garnering a top five ranking in preseason polls is the offensive line. Three key players are gone from last season’s unit, including center Ben Jones. Tackles Cordy Glenn (first-team All-SEC in 2011) and Justin Anderson have both expired their eligibility. The cupboard isn’t bare for coach Mark Richt, but there’s a lot of work to be done. Three starters are back, including guard Chris Burnette who started 12 games last year. Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee combined for 16 starts in 2011 and figure to work with the first team once again in 2012. Although three starters are back, the two most important positions on the offensive line – left tackle and center – have question marks. True freshman John Theus will have an opportunity to start at left tackle, while sophomore David Andrews appears to have the early edge at center. If this unit jells, Georgia will have a chance to compete for the national title.

8. Missouri
This unit loses three key players, but is in decent shape heading into 2012. Senior left tackle Elvis Fisher is back after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. Fisher earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2009 and 2010 and needs to quickly find that form in 2012. The guard spots are expected to be anchored by Travis Ruth and Jack Meiners, while Justin Britt shifts from left side to start at right tackle. Sophomore Mitch Morse played in 13 games last year, but has yet to start a game. He is expected to start at center in 2012, and his performance will be crucial to the success of Missouri’s offensive line. This unit allowed 18 sacks in 2011 – a number surely helped by quarterback James Franklin’s mobility – but should be steady once again in 2012.

9. Tennessee
For the first time in a few years, the Vols finally look to have restocked the offensive line with talent, depth and experience. This is due in part to the fact that so many returning starters were forced into action as freshmen and sophomores. The only non-returning starter is Tiny Richardson - who is thought so highly by the coaching staff that Dallas Thomas will be moved inside to guard - steps in at left tackle to protect Tyler Bray’s backside. Ju’Juan James should hold down the right tackle spot. Zach Fulton, Alex Bullard, James Stone and Marcus Jackson — who all have plenty of playing experience — will battle it out for the center and right guard positions in camp (maybe, all season). This offensive line, for the first time in years, has a chance to be a strength rather than an area of concern.

10. Mississippi State
Despite dealing with inconsistency up front in 2011, the Bulldogs still managed to average 4.4 yards per carry and ranked 38th nationally in rushing offense. With a new quarterback and running back taking over, this unit will be under the microscope to perform in 2012. Guard Gabe Jackson has started all 26 games in his career and is a candidate to earn first-team All-SEC honors in 2012. Center Dillon Day is the unit’s only other returning starter, but he could be pushed for time from junior college recruit Dylan Holley. This unit needs Blaine Clausell stabilize the left tackle spot, but don’t be surprised if junior college recruit Charles Siddoway pushes for time in the fall. 

11. Florida
The offensive line has been a major point of contention for second-year head man Will Muschamp. The defense kept them in most games last year but the offense could do little to help out. With new coaches all around the O-Line, upperclassmen like Matt Patchen and Xavier Nixon need to deliver on their five-star recruiting status. Those two will man the tackle positions and should have their best seasons, while junior Jonotthan Harrison will man the pivot. James Wilson, who will be entering his sixth season on campus, will get the first crack at right guard and could also finally deliver on his lofty recruiting potential. Sophomore Chaz Green, and freshmen D.J. Humphries and Trip Thurman could compete right away for important playing time. Like most positions on the Gators roster there is loads of talent and upside — it just needs to be realized. 

12. Vanderbilt
A year after finishing last in the SEC in scoring, the Commodores showed significant improvement on offense. The line was a key reason for Vanderbilt’s offensive gains, as it averaged 4.3 yards per carry and paved the way for 26 rushing scores. While this unit improved last season, the Commodores have a few question marks up front, especially with only two starters returning. Left tackle Wesley Johnson has All-SEC potential, while Ryan Seymour is back after making 12 starts last year. Josh Jelesky and Andrew Bridges are expected to anchor the right side of the line and both gained valuable experience last season. The biggest question mark will be center Spencer Pulley. Although the Commodores rank No. 12 on this list in July, don’t be surprised if this group ranks higher by the end of the season.

13. Kentucky
A combined 87 starts are gone from last year’s unit but Joker Phillips is surprisingly optimistic about this group. Larry Warford is a superstar and anchors the unit from his right guard position while fellow senior Matt Smith returns as the starting center. The left side of the line will be manned by two talented youngsters in sophomore Darrian Miller (left tackle) and freshman Zach West. Veterans Kevin Mitchell and Trevino Woods will battle for right tackle duties. There is a nice blend of youth and experience on this roster, but depth is a major issue. Any one injury for any extended period of time could spell disaster for a team already scratching and clawing to get to bowl eligibility.

14. Ole Miss
With the departures of tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie, along with guard Matt Hall, there are few positives surrounding this group going into 2012. Evan Swindall is a returning starter at center, but four spots are up for grabs around him. Junior college recruit Pierce Burton is expected to start at right tackle, while Emmanuel McCray finished spring as the No. 1 option on the left side. Senior A.J. Hawkins is expected to anchor one of the guard spots, and his experience will be valuable for a unit that lacks overall depth and proven bodies. This unit allowed 33 sacks in 2011 and could be worse in 2012 if four new starters struggle to jell in the fall.

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related SEC Content

SEC WR Unit Rankings for 2012
2012 SEC Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
Introducing Texas A&M to the SEC
Introducing Missouri to the SEC
How Many Wins Does Derek Dooley Need to Return in 2013?

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 SEC Offensive Lines</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 06:14
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-all-american-team
Body:

Picking a college football All-American team is no easy task. Some positions are deeper than others, while it's also difficult to project how a player will perform with the losses or additions around them.

With that in mind, it's time to unveil Athlon's 2012 All-American Team.

Related: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team 

First-Team Offense

QB Matt Barkley, USC

RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin

RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina

WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson

WR Robert Woods, USC

TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame

C Barrett Jones, Alabama

OT Alex Hurst, LSU

OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

OG Alvin Bailey, Arkansas

OG Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

AP De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon


First-Team Defense

DE Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

DE Sam Montgomery, LSU

DT Star Lotulelei, Utah

DT Joe Vellano, Maryland

LB Jarvis Jones, Georgia

LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

LB Chase Thomas, Stanford

CB David Amerson, NC State

CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State

S T.J. McDonald, USC

S Eric Reid, LSU


First-Team Specialists

K Caleb Sturgis, Florida

P Brad Wing, LSU

KR De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

PR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin


Second-Team Offense

QB Geno Smith, West Virginia

RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska

RB Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State

WR Keenan Allen, California

WR Marquess Wilson, Washington State

TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

C Khaled Holmes, USC

OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech

OG Larry Warford, Kentucky

OT Chris Faulk, LSU

OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M

AP Tavon Austin, West Virginia


Second-Team Defense

DE Corey Lemonier, Auburn

DE John Simon, Ohio State

DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

DT Kawann Short, Purdue

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers

LB A.J. Klein, Iowa State

CB Brodrick Brown, Oklahoma State

CB Nickell Robey, USC

S John Boyett, Oregon

S Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma


Second-Team Specialists

K Brett Maher, Nebraska

P Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech

KR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State

PR Jamal Miles, Arizona State


Third-Team Offense

QB Denard Robinson, Michigan

RB Kenjon Barner, Oregon

RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

WR Marqise Lee, USC

WR Kenny Stills, Oklahoma

TE Joseph Fauria, UCLA

C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin

OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina

OG Chance Warmack, Alabama

OT Oday Aboushi, Virginia

OT Justin Pugh, Syracuse

AP Tyler Lockett, Kansas State


Third-Team Defense

DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DE Alex Okafor, Texas

DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida

DT Bennie Logan, LSU

LB Dion Bailey, USC

LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin

LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State

CB Quandre Diggs, Texas

CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State

S Matt Elam, Florida

S Bacarri Rambo, Georgia


Third-Team Specialists

K Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State

KR Raheem Mostert, Purdue

PR Tavon Austin, West Virginia


Related Content

Athlon's 2012 All-American Team as Recruits

Athlon's 2012 All-ACC Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big East Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team
Athlon's 2012 All-SEC Team
College Football 2012 Rankings

College Football 2012 Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Athlon's 2012 College Football All-American Team</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 05:44
Path: /college-football/athlon-sports-2012-all-american-team-recruits
Body:

Recruiting is the life blood of college football. And the rankings of the these prospects elicit responses both positive and negative fitting of a nickname like, say, Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. Fans either live and die by star rankings or totally disregard Top 100 lists altogether.

The truth lies somewhere in between — you will find both five-stars and walk-ons on the Athlon Sports 2012 All-American team. In fact, 11 of the 24 names listed below were ranked as Athlon Consensus 100, or Top 100, prospects in the nation.

Here is how the best players at their position nationally ranked as high school recruits:

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 All-American Team

2012 First-Team All-American Offense:

Matt Barkley, QB, USC (2009) AC100
The Golden Boy from Newport Beach (Calif.) Mater Dei has absolutely lived up to his top billing as the nation's No. 1 prospect by Athlon Sports. He sat atop the AC100 for the entire 2009 cycle and has dominated college football ever since enrolling at USC.

Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (2009)
Ball came to Wisconsin as the 5A Missouri State Player of the Year after rushing for 8,222 yards and 107 touchdowns at Wentzville (Mo.) Timberland. He was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 33 running back in the nation and was a four-star recruit. Ball was the No. 4 player in the state of Missouri by Athlon Sports and the No. 3 player in the Badgers’ 2009 class.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina (2010) AC100
There was little doubt that Lattimore was the No. 1 running back prospect in the nation. The top player in the Palmetto State from powerhouse program Duncan-Byrnes, Lattimore was the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation by Athlon Sports. He has has proven to be the real deal with an absurd 130.5 yards from scrimmage per game average for his career.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (2011) AC100
Few players ever enter college with more hype than Watkins. He was the No. 24-rated player in the nation regardless of position, was No. 8 in the state of Florida and was the No. 4 wide receiver in the nation. The Ft. Myers (Fla.) South Ft. Myers product needed only one year to prove that the hype was warranted.

Robert Woods, WR, USC (2010) AC100
The Carson (Calif.) Junipero Serra was named the Athlon Sports High School Player of the Year when he was a senior. He finished as the No. 1 wide receiver prospect in the nation and trailed only Ronald Powell and Seantrel Henderson nationally as he finished No. 3 overall by Athlon Sports.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (2009)
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger was listed as the No. 24 tight end prospect in the nation and the No. 10 player in the Hoosier State by Rivals. The three-star prospect also had offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Northwestern and Vanderbilt among others. He enters his final year as the Irish’s top target.

Barrett Jones, C, Alabama (2008)
This Memphis (Tenn.) Evangelical Christian stud was the No. 1 prospect in the state of Tennessee (which included Dont’a Hightower), the No. 17 offensive lineman in the nation and the No. 146-rated player nationally regardless of position.

Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin (2008)
The hog molly from West Allis (Wisc.) Nathan Hale was walk-on back in 2008 after going unranked by all of the recruiting services. He has earned two-time consensus honorable mention All-Big Ten status after coming to Wisconsin with zero recruiting hype whatsoever.

Alex Hurst, OT, LSU (2008)
Another Volunteeer State prospect (Arlington, Tenn.), Hurst was a three-star mid-level recruit who ranked as the No. 12 player in the state and No. 59 at his position (OT) by Rivals.com.

Alvin Bailey, OG, Arkansas (2009)
Bailey signed with Arkansas out of Broken Arrow (Okla.) High as a three-star offensive guard prospect. Rivals ranked him 27th nationally at his position and 13th in the state of Oklahoma.

Gabe Ikard, OG, Oklahoma (2009)
This three-star recruit was the No. 15-rated tight end prospect in the nation by Rivals.com. He was the 14th best player in the state of Oklahoma (Bishop McGuinness).

De’Anthony Thomas, AP, Oregon (2011) AC100
Football's version of the Black Mamba signed with Oregon from Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High. Thomas was the nation's No. 1 'athlete' prospect and the No. 5-rated player in the entire nation by Athlon Sports. After 2,235 all-purpose yards and 18 total TDs, it is easy to see why Thomas was such a hot commodity all the way up to this National Signing Day switch from USC to Oregon.

Tyrann Mathieu, PR, LSU (2010)
The Honey Badger was the No. 44 defensive back in the nation and the No. 8 player in the state of Louisiana by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 13-rated cornerback in the nation by Rivals. The New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine dynamo was either firmly committed to Frank Wilson and LSU, or schools were scared off by his attitude, because his offer sheet was LSU, Southern Miss, SMU, Tulane, FIU, Miami (Ohio) and Hampton.

2012 First-Team All-American Defense:

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (2011) AC100
Clowney was the No. 1 overall player in the entire nation in last year's class. The Rock Hill prospect topped nearly every major recruiting service rankings for much of the year and spent little time proving that he could be the most dynamic defensive player in the nation. He earned SEC Freshman of the Year honors after 8.0 sacks and five forced fumbles.

Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (2009) AC100
The Greenwood (S.C.) High defensive end was the No. 43-rated overall prospect in the nation and the No. 4-rated defensive end by Athlon Sports. Les Miles was able to snare the No. 1 player in the Palmetto State away from South Carolina, something Steve Spurrier has rectified with Lattimore and Clowney.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah (2007)
Originally, the Bingham, Utah prospect signed with BYU but didn't qualify. He was a three-star recruit who ranked as the No. 3 player in the state of Utah. He went to Snow College before heading to Salt Lake City.

Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland (2007)
The big nose guard from Albany (N.Y.) Christian Brother was a 6-foot-2, 245-pound three-star prospect back in 2007. He is now a 285-pound All-American. Rivals ranked Vellano as the No. 62 strongside defensive end in the nation and the No. 7-rated player in the state of New York.

Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia (2009) AC100
Originally signing with USC, the Columbus (Ga.) Carver was listed as the No. 6-rated linebacker in the nation, was the top prospect in the state of Georgia and was the 28th overall recruit in the country by Athlon Sports.

Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame (2008) AC100
Trailing only Barkley and Russell Shepard nationally, the No. 3 player in the nation back in 2009 signed with Notre Dame from Laie, Hawaii. He was the No. 1 linebacker in the nation, the No. 1 player from the Islands and the No. 1 defensive prospect in the country. Te’o could post his third straight 100-tackle season.

Chase Thomas, LB, Stanford (2008)
From Marietta (Ga.) Walton, Thomas was a three-star outside linebacker prospect by Rivals who ranked as the No. 26-best player in the state and the No. 27-best player at his position. Thomas led the Cardinal in tackles for a loss and sacks a year ago.

David Amerson, CB, NC State (2010)
A four-star recruit from Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley High, Amerson was a 6-foot-3, 180-pound safety prospect when he signed with NC State. He was the No. 6-rated player in the Tar Heel State, the No. 16-rated safety and the No. 206 overall prospect in the country by Rivals.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State (2009)
From Maben (Miss.) East Webster, Banks was listed as a three-star athlete who finished as the No. 23-rated player in the state of Mississippi by Rivals and the No. 63 overall ‘athlete’ in the nation.

T.J. McDonald, S, USC (2009) AC100
The NFL legacy from Fresno (Calif.) Edison was the No. 9-rated defensive back in the nation and the No. 76-rated overall player in the nation by Athlon Sports. He was the No. 10-rated player in the Sunshine State back in 2009.

Eric Reid, S, LSU (2010) AC100
The Geismar (La.) Dutchtown safety was Athlon Sports' No. 9-rated defensive back and No. 80-rated overall recruit in the nation two years ago. He was the No. 2 player in the Pelican State behind only Auburn’s Trovon Reed.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports 2012 All-American Team As Recruits</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 04:00
Path: /college-football/can-college-football-analysts-avoid-bias-when-covering-alma-maters
Body:

In March 11, 2011, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch columnist Bob Hunter dropped the news — Kirk Herbstreit was leaving Ohio and relocating his family to Nashville. The guy who any serious college football fan knew played quarterback at Ohio State and still contained much love for his Buckeyes found that living in Columbus was no longer bearable.

There was his growing celebrity as ESPN’s face of college football, but something else, too. It turns out that some fans — and this does not just apply to one isolated football program — really are so fanatical about their team they cross over that line separating passion and reason.

To Herbstreit, who like his father before him had been an Ohio State captain, “80 to 90 percent” of fans were great. But he told Hunter: “It’s the vocal minority that make it rough. They probably represent only five to 10 percent of the fan base, but they are relentless.”

This, in an essential way, goes against how we think of sports fandom and root, root, rooting for the home team. It would seem to follow that if there was one place where a nationally known commentator could exist comfortably, it would be among those of his own tribe.

To Christian End, a psychology research professor in Ohio whose primary work involves the brains and metaphorical hearts of sports fans, this parable of the prodigal sports commentator actually makes perfect sense. And lest fans of other college football franchises reach for a stone to cast at fans of Ohio State, know that the available research says we all, as sports fans, are susceptible to the same sort of irrational behavior on behalf of the old alma mater.

End, a professor at Xavier (and huge Musketeer hoops fan), tells about a study done in 1992 — the same year Herbstreit completed 46 passes for 271 yards in a 13–13 tie with Michigan — that tested just how much fans value loyalty and punish any hint of disloyalty.

People were asked to read different articles about their favorite team — some described a tight, thrilling victory by their favorite team and others described a tight, crushing loss by their favorite team. Some of these people were huge fans of the team, some were not. Key to the study was this — some people were told the author was “loyal,” some were told the author was “disloyal.”

The researchers noticed two things above all else. The most positive reactions came from big fans of the winning team reading an article by an author described as loyal to the winning team. The most negative reactions came from those big fans of the losing team reading an article by an author described as “disloyal” to the losing team.

“We do know that fans highly value loyalty,” End says. “That is central to that identity to a sports fan, this sense of, ‘I will be loyal, through thick and thin.’”

If criticism comes from another ESPN analyst, like say a certain former Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan, Buckeye fans might resent it but not with the same intensity they would reserve for a critic with actual Ohio State connections.

“You can see how they might think, ‘Desmond Howard, he’s the Michigan guy, but I don’t expect that from my own,’” End says.

Fill in the blank with a college broadcaster and the same dynamic could apply — David Pollack talking about the Georgia Bulldogs (or the Florida Gators), Todd Blackledge about Penn State (or Pitt).

End tells about one of the most famous psychological studies connected to sports, which dates back to 1951. Titled simply: “They Saw A Game,” it involved a Thanksgiving week college football clash between Dartmouth and Princeton, back when Ivy League football mattered so much that Time magazine featured the Princeton star, Dick Kazmaier, on its cover.

After a game that became famous at the time for its brutality — Kazmaier left the game with a broken nose and concussion, Dartmouth’s star had his leg broken — researchers questioned fans of both teams about what they saw. Later, they also showed fans of each side a replay of the game on film. What they found was at the time seen as a psychological breakthrough: Princeton fans claimed many more penalties and dirty plays were committed by Dartmouth and Dartmouth fans claimed just the opposite.

Writing in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology (which may or may not tell you something about us sports fans), the researchers came to the conclusion that “the game actually was many different games,” and what fans chose to notice and remember differed based on their own connections to the competing schools, according to who they wanted to win.

End says the more broadcasters and journalists are aware of that psychological truth, the better equipped they are to guard against subconsciously projecting bias.

CBS lead basketball analyst Clark Kellogg, another Ohio State alum, seemed to get that when explaining his approach to Sports Illustrated’s media columnist Richard Deitsch before last year’s NCAA Tournament: “I have drank and swallowed the Kool-Aid. I’m Scarlet and Gray. There is no denying that. I’m a Buckeye fan, and we all are fans of certain teams and programs and particularly our alma mater. When calling a game, I am representing CBS and Turner and my professionalism has to rise above where my personal interests lie. Whether people accept or acknowledge that fairly, I cannot control.”

When scandal strikes
On the other end of this spectrum, consider a young sportswriter named Mark Viera, Penn State Class of 2009. Last fall he found himself caught in what he described as “a maelstrom” of events that rocked the proud football program and the legendary coach Viera had covered as an undergraduate just a few years earlier.

Viera helped The New York Times report the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal, a task made somewhat less difficult by two things. One, Viera could introduce himself as a Penn State graduate and win the trust of people weary and skeptical of the media hordes that had descended on Happy Valley. Also, Viera says, he had never become a Nittany Lion fan.

“I did not have those heartstring affections that many people do,” he said. “I never developed this rah-rah affinity for Penn State football.”

That helped Viera, but, as evidenced in the many thoughtful pieces written by media members with Penn State ties, in some cases covering the scandal meant grappling with personal affections that had built up over many years. Malcolm Moran, a Penn State professor who for three decades covered college sports for the Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today, saw some of the school’s finest budding journalists forced to reconcile their still developing sense of professional duty with their embedded sense of loyalty. “Several students had conversations with me on the verge of tears with the thought that their work might be contributing to the downfall of the program,” Moran says. “There was enormous emotion.”

Viera said at times he found longtime university supporters and employees reaching out privately to offer support and encouragement. At some level, even those with the strongest feelings about the Nittany Lion program wanted the truth to come out, whatever the consequences.

Covering the beat
Brett McMurphy is CBSSports.com’s national football writer and a member of the Football Writers Association of America’s board of directors. The issue of objectivity is so important to him that he pays close attention to the colors he wears covering games.

When he covered the University of South Florida for The Tampa Tribune, athletic department officials often implored him to “be positive,” an entreaty most beat writers hear in some form many times every season. When McMurphy reported in 2009 that former coach Jim Leavitt had hit a player, one booster in particular told him he should not have dwelled on that “negative” news. But that same booster, after Leavitt was fired in part because of the incident, asked McMurphy for his ring size because he said Skip Holtz would lead the program to a Big East title.

McMurphy is himself an Oklahoma State graduate, and as a national correspondent, he has been tasked with covering the program’s rise to national prominence. After an article last year detailing the program’s past struggles, in which he pointed out the old condescending “Okie State” term had at times fit the program, some fans suggested he was not positive enough.

So he replied, in part, by pointing out as an alum he had a unique perspective. But as might have been predicted by the sports fan psychologists — or by Kirk Herbstreit himself — that may have only served to anger the most partisan of fans even more.

Root, root ... for the story
Bob Kesling has been paid to observe college sports in general and his alma mater Tennessee Vols in particular from many vantage points.

For years, he was sports anchor for Knoxville’s NBC affiliate, covering the Vols as journalist first. Later he became involved with the regional broadcasts of Southeastern Conference football and basketball games, as a play-by-play announcer. In 1999, he succeeded the legendary John Ward as the radio voice for the Vols.

One thing has remained constant, Kesling says — he always cheers for a good story to emerge.

“Most announcers, they just want a good game — there’s nothing worse than a 54–7 game in football, I don’t care who is winning,” Kesling says.

And when he’s at his best, Kesling is following advice from mentors like Ward and Lindsey Nelson, a UT graduate and broadcast sports pioneer. Like Ward, he considers his first duty to be a reporter. And Nelson always told him, “Tell the story. You are not the story. The story is the story.”

Wes Durham, who has done play-by-play for Georgia Tech now for nearly two decades, has understood that since he was a teenager and his father, Woody, was laying out the story to North Carolina fans as the radio voice of the Tar Heels.

Durham says he knows some Tech fans may wish he came across as more ardently “a homer,” in part because so many fans in Georgia well remember the unabashed fan-in-the-booth persona of longtime Georgia announcer Larry Munson. That’s just not Durham’s style.

The key to connecting reliably with fans, he believes, is just that — be reliable, be consistent, be real. His father told him that he aimed for accuracy but expected anyone listening to understand he called games through “light-blue-tinted glasses.”

“You can dissect how the relationship between the announcer and the fan base works, but they want you to be real — and fans know real,” Durham says.

Consider, as one final example, an exchange on one of the newest of media platforms, Twitter, where “being real” is greatly valued. Desmond Howard had asked his followers, on Easter Sunday in 2011, how they judged a person’s character, and an Ohio State fan snarked that if you are “from Ohio and went to mich” it said a lot.

“Says I made a GREAT decision,” Howard offered. At which point Herbstreit jumped into the fray and offered, “even on easter they don’t take a break. Haha!”

But by the end of the exchange, the Ohio State fan offered the two rivals-turned-colleagues the highest of praise: “College Gameday is the best show on tv. Luv it.”

Being real. Being transparent. Being reliable: It may not please all of the fans all of the time, but for analysts, play-by-play guys and sportswriters, that is usually a winning game plan.

— by Zack McMillin

Related College Football Content

Athlon’s 2012 College Football Predictions
Athlon’s Top 25 for 2012
College Football Realignment Winners and Losers
College Football’s Top Assistant Coach Hires for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Can College Football Analysts Avoid Bias When Covering Alma Maters?</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 03:19
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Big 12, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-top-players-big-12
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 Big 12 in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason Big 12 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—Collin Klein, Sr. (Kansas State)

Last season:  Passed for 1,918 yards and 13 TDs, rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Missouri St, Miami, North Texas

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ TCU, @ Baylor, Bye

 

QB—Geno Smith, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  Passed for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

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

 

RB—Joseph Randle, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 TDs, 43 receptions for 266 yards and 2 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Savannah St, @ Arizona, Louisiana

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

RB—Lache Seastrunk, So. (Baylor)

Last season:  Sat out 2011 season after transferring from Oregon.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3-4; SMU, Bye, Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech

 

RB—Dominique Whaley, Sr. (Oklahoma)

Last season:  Rushed for 627 yards and 7 TDs in seven games (broken ankle).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 8-9-10; Kansas, Notre Dame, @ Iowa St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Baylor, @ West Virginia, Oklahoma St

 

WR—Tavon Austin, Sr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  101 receptions for 1,186 yards and 8 TDs, 182 yards and TD rushing.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

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

 

WR—Stedman Bailey, Jr. (West Virginia)

Last season:  72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; James Madison, Maryland, Baylor

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

 

WR—Terrance Williams, Sr. (Baylor)

Last season:  59 receptions for 957 yards and 11 TDs as WR#2 opposite Kendall Wright.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; Sam Houston St, @ UL-Monroe, @ West Virginia

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Oklahoma, Kansas St, Texas Tech

 

TE—Blake Jackson, Jr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

FLEX—Darrin Moore, Sr. (Texas Tech)

Last season:  47 receptions for 571 yards and 8 TDs, missed four games with injury (knee).

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Northwestern St, @ Texas St, New Mexico

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Kansas, @ Oklahoma St, Baylor

 

K—Quinn Sharp, Sr. (Oklahoma State)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Kansas St, West Virginia, Texas Tech

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  West Virginia, Texas Tech, @ Oklahoma

 

DEF/ST—Texas Longhorns

Last season:  No. 6 rushing defense, No. 11 total defense.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Wyoming, New Mexico, @ Ole Miss

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Iowa St, Bye, TCU

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Landry Jones, Sr. (Oklahoma)

QB—Casey Pachall, Jr. (TCU)

WR—Tracy Moore, Sr. (Oklahoma St)

WR—Kenny Stills, Jr. (Oklahoma)

WR—Eric Ward, Jr. (Texas Tech)

 

 

 

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 Big 12</p>
Post date: Monday, July 9, 2012 - 02:14
All taxonomy terms: MLB, News
Path: /mlb/manager-actually-gets-ump-overturn-call
Body:

Well, here's something you almost never see. It happened during Saturday night's game between Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Indians manager Manny Acta came out of the dugout to complain to the first-base ump after he called Jose Lopez out, despite the first baseman bobbling the ball. Instead of being tossed out of the game, the ump consulted the other umps and reversed the call. Yes, our minds our officially blown. See for yourself.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Sunday, July 8, 2012 - 17:24
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-6
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for July 6.

• The New York Daily News previews this weekend’s Yankees-Red Sox matchup.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben looks at Oklahoma’s chances of winning the league.

100 great rock riffs in 12 minutes? This guy is awesome.

• So the Knicks have an agreement with Jason Kidd, but will they match the Rockets offer sheet to Jeremy Lin?

Mets fans are literally tripping over themselves with the team’s good play this season.

• CBS’ Gary Parrish believes that Indiana’s Cody Zeller made the right decision in forgoing the NBA and returning to school.

• Sports Illustrated’s Phil Taylor catches up with the always-candid Reggie Jackson.

• We all like a quality aged whiskey, but this Missouri man takes it to a new level.

• We usually hear about All-Star Game snubs, but here is an Anti-All-Star team for the first half of the MLB season.

• Many fans and media were critical of the NFL Network’s Top 100 list.

• Check out this minor league baseball footage from the Joliet (Ill.) Slammers last week. The video will be calm for about 45 seconds, and then the weather gets serious as the tarp blows everywhere. Then, the Slammers announcer tries to give a serious account of the happenings while “It’s Raining Men” is blaring on the PA system.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 5

• How will the Steve Nash deal impact the Lakers and the Western Conference?

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Felder looks at the flaws of the media monitoring a college football playoff selection committee.

• Adidas will be providing Andy Murray with some new shorts at Wimbledon, which led to this unfortunate headline.

• Richard Justice looks at Carlos Lee’s time in Houston after the slugger was dealt to the Marlins yesterday.

• Many fans have been disappointed with The Amazing Spider-Man, while others think it is excellent.

• ESPN SEC blogger Chris Low presents an all-league team from the BCS era.

• Check out this young Tigers’ fan catching an Austin Jackson home run.

• Boston’s David Ortiz hit career home run No. 400 yesterday, but the Red Sox were swept in Oakland.

• The NFL Player’s Association has sued the league on behalf of Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita regarding the Saints’ bounty scandal.

• New Arkansas coach John L. Smith is reportedly declaring bankruptcy.

San Diego was supposed to have the usual, big-city fireworks display on July 4th. These shows usually last 15-20 minutes, unless you have technical issues and set off all of the fireworks at once. Premature pyrotechnics — it could happen to any city. Here’s the 30-second display:

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 4               

We hope that everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July. Our Video of the Day shows the famous play by former MLB outfielder Rick Monday, who saved an American flag from being burned in 1976 at Dodger Stadium.


July 3

• Saints quarterback Drew Brees won his grievance regarding the team’s use of the franchise tag.

• Acting legend Andy Griffith passed away today at the age of 86. His incredible television and cinematic career is well documented, but some of his early comedy work like “What it was was football” is priceless.

• When will Dodgers superstar Matt Kemp return to the lineup?

• Check out this brilliant Haiku from a fourth grader.

• ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich has the latest on the league’s new agreement with the Orange Bowl.

• Joe Fortenbaugh examines other purchases that Pacman Jones could have made instead of blowing a million dollars in a weekend.

• Anyone in Michigan getting married soon? You can have a bigger wedding venue than any of your friends.

• CBS’ Matt Norlander looks at the role of seniors in college basketball.

• I know it’s a popular leisure game, but is anyone else a little hesitant on the “Alabama Cornhole Cup?”

• What is the Atlanta Hawks plan with shedding so much salary?

NFL Rookie of the Year Cam Newton recently hosted a prep skills challenge at the IMG Academies in Florida. The Panthers superstar fires up the high school prospects when he loses a bet.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


July 2

• MLB insider Ken Rosenthal looks at this year’s All-Star Game snubs.

• College football fans or just men in general, Erin Andrews is leaving ESPN for FOX.

• From his Twitter account, it looks like Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was Joe Dirt in grade school.

• Tiger Woods won his own tournament, the AT&T National, at Congressional. Is he the British Open favorite?

• Ever caught a 70-pound catfish, with your hands?

• Check out the Urkel-like mug shot of Marcus Jordan, son of you know who. Wonder when the nerdy glasses trend will end?

• The Dwight Howard saga continues in Orlando.

• NBA No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis has already suffered a sprained ankle.

• Former Mississippi State hoopster Rodney Hood is transferring to Duke.

• Missouri and Texas A&M are now officially members of the SEC. How will they compete in 2012?

• Anything with LSU coach Les Miles is pretty damn entertaining. And his new EA Sports NCAA Football 2013 commercial with Mike the Tiger is awesome.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at links@athlonsports.com

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 12:25
Path: /nfl/worst-10-nfl-teams-expansion
Body:

The Seattle Seahawks own the 16-game NFL record for fewest points scored with 140 in 1992. Seattle also own the all-time mark for fewest yards in a game when it totaled minus-7 yards in against the L.A. Rams in 1979. The Tampa Bay Bucs set the modern NFL mark for worst point differential by being outscored by 287 points in 1976. The Baltimore Colts allowed an NFL record 533 points back in 1981. The Houston Oilers claim the NFL mark for most interceptions thrown in a single season with 48 picks tossed in 1962. And the Philadelphia Eagles own the NFL’s single-season sacks allowed mark with 104 back in 1986.

Needless to say, there are many ways to measure NFL ineptitude. So while offensive and defensive statistical production (or lack there of) is a huge factor in mearuring pathetic-ness, wins and losses are still the most important way to evaluate any team.

Who are the worst NFL teams since expansion in 2002?

1. 2008 Detroit Lions (0-16)
Point Differential: -249 (268 PF, 517 PA)
Offense (total, scoring): 30th (268.3 ypg), 27th (16.8 ppg)
Defense (total, scoring): 32nd (404.4 ypg), 32nd (32.3 ppg)

No other team has ever gone winless in the modern NFL era (16-games), which means the Detroit Lions must be considered the worst team due in large part to the massive "0" in the win column. Winning is all that really matters in sports and the Lions failed in truly epic fashion. Top it off with the worst defense of the expansion era as this team fell just 16 points shy of setting an NFL record for points allowed (533). This team posted an NFL-worst four total interceptions on defense, was next to last in sacks allowed (52.0) and finished 14th in the NFC in turnover differential. Dan Orlovsky led a five-man QB platoon that featured 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and a combined 71.3 QB rating.

2. 2009 St. Louis Rams (1-15)
Point Differential: -261 (175 PF, 436 PA)
Offense: 29th (279.4 ypg), 32nd (10.9 ppg)
Defense: 29th (372.8 ypg), 31st (27.3 ppg)

This team redefined the term offensive struggles as its 175 points were only 35 away from the NFL mark set by Seattle (140) in 1992. It is the all-time low for a Rams team that played 16 games while the 261-point differential is the worst in franchise history as well. Marc Bulger was the leading passer with 1,469 yards, 5 TD and 6 INT. The team itself finished with 12 total TD passes and 21 INT and a collective passer rating of 64.0. The Rams were shutout twice and scored 10 or fewer points in nine games. St. Louis also finished 31st in the NFL in turnover margin (-13) and 30th in team sacks (25.0). Steven Jackson was the lone bright spot on a team that one only once — against Detroit. The Rams were one of only three teams since 2002 to win one or fewer games.

3. 2009 Detroit Lions (2-14)
Point Differential: -232 (262 PF, 494 PA)
Offense: 26th (299.0 ypg), 27th (16.4 ppg)
Defense: 32nd (392.1 ypg), 32nd (30.9 ppg)

While the '09 Rams set offensive football back two decades, the '09 Lions continued to show its lack of defensive prowess. While the Rams did defeat the Lions (17-10) that year, but Detroit scored nearly 100 more points over the course of the year and won twice as many games (over Washington and Cleveland). This Lions team also finished dead last in turover margin (-18) and No. 1 overall pick Matt Stafford missed the final six games of the season. The Lions went 0-6 after Stafford was lost. 

4. 2007 Miami Dolphins (1-15)
Point Differential: -170 (267 PF, 437 PA)
Offense: 28th (287.5 ypg), 26th (16.7 ppg)
Defense: 23rd (342.2 ypg), 30th (27.3 ppg)

This version of the Fish lost the first 13 games of the season before winning its only game of the year over Baltimore. Cleo Lemon was 1-6 as the starter, John Beck went 0-4 and Trent Green was 0-5. The trio combined to throw 12 touchdown passes, 16 fewer than the opposition. Ronnie Brown led the team in rushing after playing only seven games (602 yards) while Jesse Chatman actually got the most carries (128). The only shot Cam Cameron has had to be a head coach in the NFL was his one-year, one-win season at the helm of the Dolphins.

5. 2008 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -233 (232 PF, 465 PA)
Offense: 27th (287.3 ypg), 31st (14.5 ppg)
Defense: 28th (371.9 ypg), 31st (29.1 ppg)

The 233-point scoring differential was a franchise record at the time and would still be the Rams worst-ever scoring season had it not been for the 2009 team that came along the next year. This team lost the final 10 games of the year and scored only 18 offensive touchdowns all season (11 pass, 8 rush). In fact, this offense was the most scored upon OFFENSE in the NFL. That is right, the Rams offense had seven turnovers returned for touchdowns, a number that tied for the league lead.

6. 2011 St. Louis Rams (2-14)
Point Differential: -214 (193, 407)
Offense: 31st, (283.6 ypg), 32nd (12.1 ppg)
Defense: 22nd (358.4 ypg), 26th (25.4 ppg)

There is a reason that Jeff Fisher is beginning his first season at the reins of the Rams organization in 2012. And again, if not for the 2008 and 2009 teams, this team would have been the most outscored Rams team in history. The 193 total points scored are the second-worst in team history that played 16 games. Losing Sam Bradford to an injury after 10 games certainly didn't help the offense as the team finished with nine touchdown passes and a paltry 53.2% completion percentage. St. Louis also led the league in sacks allowed with 55.0 while the rushing attack contributed only seven scores of its own. The 28.1% third-down rate was the worst ratio in the NFL as well.

7. 2010 Carolina Panthers (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

The offense did little to contribute to this football team whatsoever. Not only were the 196 total points scored the worst in the 17-year history of the franchise but was also the only time the Panthers failed to reach 250 points. Jimmy Clausen (1-9), Matt Moore (1-4) and Brian St. Pierre (0-1) combined for a nasty 9:21 TD:INT ratio while finishing 30th in 3rd downs (30.4%) and 25th in turnover margin. That said, the 408 points allowed were third worst in franchise history on the defensive side of the ball as well.

8. 2011 Indianapolis Colts (2-14)
Point Differential: -212 (196 PF, 408 PA)
Offense: 32nd (12.3 ypg), 32nd (258.4 ppg)
Defense: 18th (335.9 ypg), 26th (25.5 ppg)

Obviously, without Peyton Manning, the Colts experienced its worst season since 1998, No. 18's rookie year. If not for a torrid 2-1 finish to the year, the Colts were in danger of challenging the Lions of 2008. In the first 13 losses, Indy allowed less than 23 points only one time. The total points scored, which included only 14 total touchdown passes (or 12 less than Manning's career low), and point differential were the worst numbers for the Colts since the 1993 season. The top ball carrier, Donald Brown, led the team in rushing with only two starts all year (645 yards).

9. 2004 San Francisco 49ers (2-14)
Potential Differential: -193 (259, 452)
Offense: 26th (286.6 ypg), 30th (16.2 ppg)
Defense: 24th (342.6 ypg), 32nd (28.3 ppg)
 
Two games worse than every other team in the NFL that year, and, technically, the 49ers were winless in regulation as both wins came in overtime. San Francisco was 0-14-2 in regulation. The Niners were 30th in the NFL points scored and dead last in points allowed while finishing 31st in turnover margin (-19). Tim Rattay (1-8) and Ken Dorsey (1-6) were equally ineffective, throwing for 16 touchdowns against 21 interceptions and completing only 57.9% of their passes. The ground game was led by the great Kevan Barlow, who rushed for 822 yards at 3.4 yards per clip. The Niners finished 30th in the NFL in rushing at just over 90 yards per game. The 452 points allowed were one point shy of the franchise record set in 1999 (453) and 193-point difference was a organizational record.

10. 2005 Houston Texans (2-14)
Potential Differential: -171 (260, 431)
Offense: 30th (253.3 ypg), 26th (16.3 ppg)
Defense: 31st (364.0 ypg), 32nd (26.9 ppg)

There were some bad Texans team and David Carr paid a big price. After getting sacked a league worst 76.0 times as a rookie, Houston once again led the league in sacks allowed in 2005 with 68.0. The franshise has only been around for 11 years, but this group set the benchmark for fewest wins, points allowed and point differential, all of which led to the firing of Dom Capers. Carr started every game and averaged a pathetic 155.5 yards per game, threw only 14 touchdowns to go with 11 interceptions and fumbled 17 times.

The...Worst of the Rest?

2004 Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Began 3-3 before losing nine straight in which they scored more than 15 points only one time. Trailed only the Niners for worst record. The offense was led by Jeff Garcia for 10 games, Luke McCown for four and Kelly Holcombe for two.

2002 Houston Texans (4-12)
The lowest scoring team in franchise history (213 pts) finished last in total offense as well as sacks allowed with 76.0. The first year of the Texans was salvaged by two strange wins over playoff teams (NYG, PIT) and is the only thing keeping this team out of the top ten.

2011 Tampa Bay Bucs (4-12)
The Bucs led the league in turnovers (40) and turnover margin (-16) last year. After starting 4-2, Tampa Bay crumbled down the stretch with 10 straight losses and set a franchise mark with 494 points allowed (keep in mind, that is a Buccaneers franchise record).

2008 Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
This team couldn't get off the field in 2008 as it was the worst 3rd down team in the league (47.4%) and dead last in sacks (10.0). It finished 31st in total defense and the 440 points allowed and -149-point differential are a Chiefs single-season record.

2006 Oakland Raiders (2-14)
The Black and Silver defense was good enough to keep them out of the top ten, but the offense was nearly historic in its struggles. The 168 points scored were 28 away from the all-time NFL mark, it finished dead last in sacks allowed (72.0), turnover margin (-20) and both scoring and total offense. Oakland was also 31st in the league with 23 interceptions thrown.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> The Worst 10 NFL Teams Since Expansion</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 09:00
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-acc-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the ACC's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. Clemson – The Tigers had high expectations for Sammy Watkins last year, and the freshman didn’t disappoint. He quickly emerged as Clemson’s No. 1 receiver, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 scores. An off-the-field arrest in May has clouded Watkins’ status for the season opener, but he is not expected to miss more than one or two games. The sophomore isn’t the only returning weapon for Tajh Boyd, as DeAndre Hopkins is back after snagging 72 balls last year. Jaron Brown, Charone Peake, Martavis Bryant and Adam Humphries will fill out the rest of the receiving corps. Senior Brandon Ford is expected to step in for Dwayne Allen at tight end. He caught 14 passes for 166 yards and two scores last year.

2. Florida State – The Seminoles don’t have the All-American that Clemson has in Sammy Watkins, but there’s a lot to like about this group in 2012. Rashad Greene caught 38 passes for 596 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman last year and should be in contention for first-team All-ACC honors in 2012. Rodney Smith is back after ranking second on the team with 561 receiving yards last season, while Willie Haulstead returns after missing all of 2011 due to a concussion. Adding to depth will be junior Kenny Shaw, sophomore Christian Green and a breakout candidate in redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin. Nick O’Leary is an emerging threat at tight end and should easily improve upon his totals from last year (12 catches, 164 yards and one touchdown).

3. Virginia Tech – Despite the departures of Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, the Hokies are still in great shape at receiver. D.J. Coles is back after ranking third on the team with 36 receptions and 480 yards last year. Senior Marcus Davis averaged 17 yards per reception in 2011 and should contend for All-ACC honors in 2012. This group will get a boost with the return of Dyrell Roberts. He missed nearly all of last year with an arm injury but has 63 career catches for 965 yards and five scores. A player to watch will be incoming freshman Joel Caleb. He ranked as the No. 95 recruit in the 2012 Athlon Consensus 100 and should push for playing time.

4. Duke – Conner Vernon hasn’t received much national recognition, but he is on the verge of finishing his career as one of the ACC’s most prolific receivers. He ranks seventh in career receptions and needs 35 to pass Aaron Kelly (Clemson) for the No. 1 spot. Vernon ranks 16th in conference history with 2,675 yards and needs 843 in 2012 to pass Peter Warrick (Florida State) for first place. Donovan Varner and tight end Cooper Helfet have expired their eligibility, and the Blue Devils need sophomore Jamison Crowder or freshman Nick Hill to help take the pressure off of Vernon. Replacing Helfet at tight end is expected to be Issac Blakeney or Braxton Deaver.

5. North Carolina – In order to make new coach Larry Fedora’s spread attack work, the Tar Heels will need some players to step up at receiver. Senior Erik Highsmith is the first choice to replace Dwight Jones as the No. 1 target. Highsmith grabbed 51 receptions for 726 yards and five scores last year and should see his numbers increase in 2012. Sophomore T.J. Thorpe is ready for an increased role in the offense, while seniors Todd Harrelson and Jheranie Boyd have one more shot to make an impact. Sophomores Sean Tapley and Reggie Wilkins will battle for snaps, but incoming freshman Quinshad Davis could crack the receiver rotation in the fall. Eric Ebron appears to be the likely starter at tight end.

6. NC State – The concern over losing tight end George Bryan and speedy receiver T.J. Graham is lessened somewhat by the return of quarterback Mike Glennon. The senior was solid in his first year as the starter, throwing for 3,054 yards and 31 scores. Running back James Washington is the team’s leading returning receiver after catching 42 passes last year. Tobais Palmer will likely be the new No. 1 target for Glennon and he grabbed 37 receptions for 496 yards in 2011. Bryan Underwood flashed potential as a freshman last year by nabbing 16 receptions for 226 yards. This group will be counting on juniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton to fill the No. 3 and No. 4 roles, while Mario Carter and Asa Watson will battle to replace Bryan as the starting tight end.

7. Maryland – This group wasn’t a strength last year, but the Terrapins also dealt with inconsistency at quarterback and a change in offensive scheme. There’s a new coordinator once again in 2012, but there’s hope for the offense to turn things around. Three of the top four players at the top of Maryland’s catch total from last season are back, and there’s a lot of potential surrounding freshman Stefon Diggs. Kevin Dorsey, Kerry Boykins and Diggs will likely round out the starting receiving corps, while Devin Burns, Marcus Leak and Nigel King are in the mix for snaps. With the struggles of Maryland’s passing attack last year, tight end Matt Furstenburg went largely unnoticed. The senior could be the best in the ACC at his position in 2012.

8. Miami – In addition to the question marks surrounding the quarterback position, the Hurricanes suffered some significant losses at this position. Tommy Streeter and Travis Benjamin combined for 87 receptions and 1,420 yards last year but both are catching passes in the NFL this summer. Allen Hurns is Miami’s top returning receiver (31 catches) and will have to take on a bigger role in 2012. Phillip Dorsett grabbed 14 receptions as a freshman last year and will be in the mix to start this season. Sophomore Rashawn Scott and senior Kendal Thompkins will have to hold off a charge for playing time from incoming freshmen Angelo Jean-Louis, Malcolm Lewis and Robert Lockhart. Clive Walford had a solid freshman campaign – catching 18 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown – and is expected to increase his numbers in 2012.

9. Virginia – There’s no question the Cavaliers are back on track after winning eight games last season. However, to take the next step and win the ACC title, the passing attack has to get better. Quarterback Michael Rocco settled into the job last year and another offseason to work as the starter will help Virginia’s offense. This unit will miss Kris Burd, but junior Tim Smith is an emerging weapon after averaging 17.1 yards per catch in 2011. Darius Jennings turned in a solid freshman campaign, catching 20 passes for 239 yards and a score. Sophomores Dominique Terrell, E.J. Scott and Miles Gooch will compete for time, while tight end is in good shape with Colter Phillips and Jake McGee returning.

10. Wake Forest – Chris Givens emerged as one of the ACC’s top receivers last year but decided to leave a year early for the NFL Draft. Without Givens, the Demon Deacons are counting on Michael Campanaro to have another big season in 2012. He caught 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns last year and will be the No. 1 target for quarterback Tanner Price. After Campanaro is where Wake Forest needs playmakers to emerge. Senior Terence Davis caught 20 passes for 269 yards and five scores last season but must have a bigger impact in 2012. Junior Quan Rucker, sophomore Brandon Terry and freshmen Airyn Willis and Sherman Ragland will provide depth, while tight end is an area of concern with very little experience returning.

11. Boston College – The Eagles ranked a disappointing 11th in the ACC in passing offense last year, but there’s hope for a turnaround in 2012. New coordinator Doug Martin did a good job of improving New Mexico State’s offense last season, and this group returns quarterback Chase Rettig and the top four statistical receivers from 2011. Rettig is a work in progress, but he needs more help from this group. Bobby Swigert led the team with 44 receptions for 470 yards, while Colin Larmond averaged 15.5 yards per catch. Swigert, Larmond and tight end Chris Pantale are a nice trio to build around, but Boston College needs more big-play ability from the rest of the group.

12. Georgia Tech – Considering the Yellow Jackets averaged 12.8 passing attempts per game last season, possessing an elite receiving corps isn’t essential to make the option offense work. However, this unit was hit hard with the early departure of standout Stephen Hill to the NFL, while Tyler Melton finished his eligibility. With those two players departing, Georgia Tech has no receivers returning with any career receptions. Sophomores Jeff Greene and Darren Waller need a big season as the likely starters, while senior Chris Jackson and junior Jeremy Moore will push for snaps. The Yellow Jackets won’t need an All-ACC standout, but a receiver or two needs to emerge as a downfield threat to keep defenses honest. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

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Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 ACC Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-ten-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big Ten's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. Nebraska —In what could be considered the weakest position in the Big Ten, the Huskers claim the top slot almost by default — and upside. Kenny Bell led the team in catches and yards as only a freshman, becoming only the second player to do so at Nebraska. He is explosive and dynamic enough to be used in a variety of ways and has gotten bigger and stronger this offseason. Fellow sophomore Jamal Turner has loads of ability and dynamic potential, but needs to work on being more physical and consistent. Seniors Quincy Enunwa and Tim Marlowe offer veteran experience and both do all of the little things coach Rich Fisher wants from his wideouts. Expect to see Taariq Allen and Tyler Evans receive plenty of time as well. Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed form one of the best tight end duos in the nation. Reed has rare physical talents that need to be utilized by Nebraska and quarterback Taylor Martinez more.

2. Northwestern – The words “absolutely loaded” aren’t used to often in Athlon Sports preview magazines when talking about the Wildcats, but Pat Fitzgerald has more talent at the position than maybe any Northwestern team in history. And this, despite losing Jeremy Ebert to graduation and Kain Colter to the quarterback position. Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones can be special players, and the duo will dominate the slot in Evanston. Speedy Tony Jones returns after missing all of last year with an injury, and Rashad Lawrence is looking to bounce back after a sluggish sophomore season. Without tight end Drake Dunsmore and boasting a a six- or seven-man rotation, expect to see the Cats in plenty of four- and five-wide receiver sets. Juniors Mike Jensen and Drew Moulton and freshmen Pierre Youngblood-Ary and Cameron Dickerson will be waiting in the wings.

3. Wisconsin — While he may not be the most talented or explosive player, Jared Abbrederis is likely the top wide receiver in the Big Ten. He is extremely dependable, leads by example and rarely makes mistakes, and he also is a big-play threat in the punt return game. He could easily lead the league in receptions, yards and touchdowns in 2012. Behind him, however, there is little proven depth. Jeff Duckworth will start opposite Abbrederis, while Manasseh Garner and Kenzel Doe are the only other returning wideouts who caught a pass last year (two each). Isaiah Williams and Marquis Mason could work their way into the starting rotation as well. That said, in a system known for its tight end use and running game, fans can expect to see Abbrederis on the receiving end of most of Danny O’Brien's passes. Speaking of tight ends, Jacob Pedersen is the next great player in a long line of UW TEs. He caught eight touchdowns as a sophomore and will be more of a target this fall. Pedersen is the complete package at tight end.

4. Iowa — Marvin McNutt would overshadow nearly anyone who has played in a Hawkeye uniform having  departed Iowa City as the school’s all-time leading receiver in a variety of categories. However, it appears that Keenan Davis is poised to deliver on his immense talent this fall. He will need to continue to step up his game as he is now the No. 1 option. Sophomore Kevonte Martin-Manley played in all 13 games as a freshman and will likely be asked to do more this season. Steven Staggs and Jordan Cotton give the two-deep an experienced feel. The development of tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a game-changer for this offense if he can live up to his lofty recruiting status. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis says “in 39 springs, I’ve never had a tight end like C.J. with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and stretch the field.” With the top pure passer in the Big Ten under center, Iowa should feel pretty comfortable with its plethora of emerging talent.

5. Ohio State — The leading receiver for the Buckeyes caught only 14 passes last year, but the potential and growth (and overall lack of elite options in the league) give OSU the No. 5 group in the Big Ten. Jake Stoneburner exploded at the start of last year, but went missing after Braxton Miller took over. Expect Urban Meyer to work the talented tight end into the gameplan on a more regular basis this fall. Fellow tight ends Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett will play plenty of snaps as well. On the outside, there is a jumbled mix of undeveloped potential and muddled depth charts. Devin Smith led the team in all three major categories as only a freshman and should be better while juniors Philly Brown and Chris Fields need to turn into leaders. True freshman Mike Thomas, at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, might be the wild card after performing extremely well in spring football. A big-bodied down-the-field threat is what this offense is missing and Thomas could be that for Meyer.

6. Michigan — Roy Roundtree is a bizarre case study. He was an All-Big Ten performer as a sophomore (72 rec., 935 yards), but plummeted back to Earth last fall, (19 rec., 355 yards) while Junior Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon took on bigger roles. Gallon is back opposite Roundtree and offers intriguing play-making skill. Yet, it is Roundtree that could push this unit into the Big Ten’s top tier of pass-catchers. Sophomore Jerald Robinson is a big body that Brady Hoke wants to get involved in the vertical passing game and Jeremy Jackson will get plenty of looks as well. Brandon Moore and Ricardo Miller will take over for the departed Kevin Koger at tight end.

7. Purdue — Junior O.J. Ross and senior Antavian Edison are about as good a 1-2 punch as there is in the Big Ten this fall. The two combined for 77 catches, over 900 yards and three touchdowns with a revolving door at quarterback all season. The trouble for Purdue is depth. Gary Bush, Tommie Thomas, Raheem Mostert and Shane Mikesky need to step into bigger roles this fall. Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes do offer some dependability and upside at the tight end position.

8. Michigan State — This is going to be a huge rebuilding project for Mark Dantonio after losing B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin to the NFL. Tony Lippett and Bennie Fowler have loads of talent, but need to develop into consistent playmakers on the outside. Keith Mumphrey and Andre Sims Jr. also provide plenty of upside. Although there is some potential with the returning receivers, the addition of former Tennessee Vol DeAnthony Arnett to the unit has to make Spartans fans more comfortable with their receiving corps. No returning receiver caught more than four passes last year while Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., posted 24 catches, 242 yards and two scores as a true freshman last year for Tennessee. He almost instantly becomes the most experienced and talented option on the roster. Dion Sims is now an upperclassman and is poised for his best season at tight end. Look for this group to develop quickly and rapidly move up these rankings.

9. Penn State — Only one player returns to the wide receiving corps with at least five catches last season. Devon Smith was expected to start, but he left the team in late June. Justin Brown, who has been a complementary piece, will need to step up and be the deep threat that Derek Moye was, while also emerging as a leader with very little experience around him. Shawney Kersey, Alex Kenney, Allen Robinson and Christian Kuntz will all get a chance to start as well. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien plans to refocus on the tight end position — a la his former employer, the New England Patriots. Junior Garry Gilliam might have the most talent, but he needs to stay on the field after dealing with injury issues, while Kevin Haplea boasts the most experience. Now, if someone could just get them the football.

10. Indiana — Converted quarterback Kofi Hughes may not have the elite game-changing ability Kevin Wilson is looking for, but he will likely be the best IU receiver. He built a tremendous rapport with freshman signal caller Tre Roberson, as his eight-catch, 147-yard performance against Ohio State indicates. He can also be used in unique ways with his ability to run and throw the football from the wideout position. Duwyce Wilson might be the most gifted player on the two-deep, but he has to prove he is healthy after missing spring with a knee issue. Expect Cody Lattimore, Jay McCants and Jamonne Chester to figure prominently into the mix as well. Tight end Ted Bolser can expect the biggest boost from new coordinator Seth Littrell, as the pro-style attack will feature the tight end more prominently.

11. Illinois — Replacing A.J. Jenkins will be a tall order for new head coach Tim Beckman. Spencer Harris is a junior who posted 26 catches a year ago. Darius Millines is also an upperclassman who had 19 receptions last fall, while sophomore tight end Jon Davis posted 22 receptions as a freshman a year ago. These three should be Nathan Scheelhaase’s top targets. The most intriguing development, however, could be the usage of cornerback Terry Hawthorne. The coverman was a star pass-catcher in high school and could be used on both sides of the ball. His raw play-making ability might be too much to keep him out of the offensive gameplan. Ryan Lankford should also see a big role, as a host of talented but unproven underclassmen fill the two-deep.

12. Minnesota — Only one returning receiver has caught a touchdown on this roster - senior Brandon Green. Speed demon Marcus Jones will control the slot but has to stay healthy after dealing with a torn knee ligament a season ago. Former junior college transfer Malcolm Moulton can make plays, but he has to be more consistent while Devin Crawford-Tufts also needs to continue his development in a big way. Freshman Andre McDonald could be a wild card at 6-foot-2 and over 200 pounds, while John Rabe and Drew Goodger are expected to get the reps at tight end. Quarterback MarQueis Gray is a senior and should have his best year, but Minnesota needs players to step up around him for the Gophers to improve in 2012.

By Braden Gall (@BradenGall on Twitter)

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Revisiting Northwestern's 1995 Rose Bowl Team

Teaser:
<p> Unit Rankings: 2012 Big Ten Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kansas Jayhawks, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/kansas-football-will-charlie-weis-second-chance-equal-success
Body:

It didn’t matter that spring practice was just a month away or that the business of rebuilding a team coming off a 2–10 season never closed. Charlie Weis wanted to get home for the game.

The basketball game.

Just days earlier, Kansas’ hoop squad had claimed a highly charged 87–86 win over third-ranked Missouri. Now, two days later, the Jayhawks had traveled to Stillwater for a matchup with Oklahoma State. It’s not like the Pokes were a big threat on paper; in fact, they had a losing record. But after such a draining triumph, a letdown was almost inevitable. Weis wanted to see how KU would respond.

“I love the hoops team,” Weis says. “I got home to see the basketball game, because I wanted to see how (Kansas coach Bill) Self would handle the emotional letdown after a huge win Saturday.”

The Jayhawks were just fine. They earned a 70–58 win over OSU, clinching the Big 12 regular-season championship. From his perch at home, Weis — the new Kansas football coach — had a chance to watch Self at work and see just how far his own program had to go to match its more celebrated hardwood counterpart.

That Weis has taken over in Lawrence is both interesting and surprising. His arrival at Kansas has to stun many who believed that the coach’s inability to make good on his early assurances that he would turn Notre Dame into a national champion contender disqualified him from another BCS job, especially so soon after leaving South Bend (after the 2009 season). It fascinates those who wonder whether this NFL offensive wizard can author a strong second act away from the intense scrutiny he faced while directing the Irish.

Weis certainly didn’t choose a situation that will provide an easy rehabilitation for his reputation. The Jayhawks didn’t simply post a horrible record last year; they were disorganized and undisciplined. Even the players know that.

“For the most part, it was a lot of little things, small discipline things, that can over time grow into larger things,” says senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. “The small things turned into big losses,” adds senior defensive end Toben Opurum.

So, not only must Weis upgrade the team’s talent, find a way to shore up a defense that surrendered 43.8 points per game and improve the team’s passing attack, but he must also tighten up the focus and commitment of his players.

The last task was the first he tackled, and he went about it from two angles. First, he hired Scott Holsopple from Florida to be his strength and conditioning coach. (Weis was the Gators’ offensive coordinator last year.) Secondly, he put more pressure on the players to perform in the classroom by installing himself as the academic liaison for the program.

“I interviewed every kid on the team (one March) Saturday morning, and 90 percent of them said the biggest two differences for them were how much improvement they gained in strength and conditioning and how much more accountability they have academically,” Weis says.

Weis considers himself a “loving father” to his players, and that image seems to be at odds with the personality he displayed at Notre Dame, when he was often caustic and arrogant to those outside the program. To his credit, Weis seems to have toned down the offensive genius shtick somewhat and is focused more on producing a winning team than on polishing his national image.

To that end, he was extremely active in the personnel department during his first few months on the job. He began with the quarterback position, which last year featured Jordan Webb, who completed 63.7 percent of his passes for 1,824 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 picks. Webb wasn’t awful, but he certainly wasn’t a good fit for Weis’ pro-style offense and has since transferred to Colorado. In his place, Weis will likely insert former Notre Dame quarterback Dayne Crist, who left South Bend after an injury-marred career to play for the man who recruited him to ND. If Crist, who suffered two serious knee injuries while with the Irish, can’t go, Weis will turn to Turner Baty, who led City College of San Francisco to the junior college national title. Former BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, once the nation’s No. 1 high school quarterback, has transferred to Lawrence and will be eligible in 2013.

“If you look at our recruiting class of Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and Turner Baty, how can anybody in the country have a better recruiting class than that at quarterback?” Weis says, making a pretty good point.

Under center isn’t the only place on the field you’ll find some experienced newcomers in 2012. Weis brought in a total of nine junior college players, and even signed one — offensive lineman Aslam Sterling — on March 12. Unlike at Notre Dame, which did not allow junior college transfers, Kansas is quite amenable to their arrival, and Weis is delighted to be bringing in a class that has some older hands.

“You can turn around a program like this faster when you can blend a mixture of high school kids and junior college kids and other factors, like fifth-year kids who have already graduated (like Crist),” Weis says. “A lot of these kids are ready to play now.”

Weis makes no secret that he is using rival Kansas State as a template for his program. When Bill Snyder began his second stint in Manhattan in 2009, he faced a similar situation: The team was undisciplined and lacked talent. By the next season, Snyder had the Wildcats in a bowl game, and last season, KSU was 10–2 during the regular season. Snyder’s formula included plenty of transfers.

But junior college imports can backfire on coaches, and Weis has to be careful that his desire for quick success doesn’t create trouble down the road. Kansas football fans may not be as demanding as those who grew tired of Weis in South Bend, but if the Jayhawks don’t show progress, it will be hard to justify keeping him.

“When you come to do a rebuild at a school like Kansas, it’s somewhat helpful that he ­didn’t have all 10- and 11-win seasons,” says KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who describes Weis as having a “great work ethic” and a “great football mind.”

“That sounds like a justification, but he knows how to coach a 6–6 team and a 9–3 team. As you rebound, you’re going to have 6–6 seasons before 9–3 seasons.”

At this point, 6–6 sounds pretty good in Lawrence. Not for the basketball team, but for Weis


This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Preview Annual.
 

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Teaser:
<p> Kansas Football: Will Charlie Weis' Second Chance Equal Success?</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 05:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-examining-best-players-acc
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 ACC in terms of fantasy options for 2012:

2012 Preseason ACC 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—Tajh Boyd, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Passed for 3,828 yards and 33 TDs, rushed for 218 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

QB—Logan Thomas, Jr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Passed for 3,013 yards and 19 TDs, rushed for 469 yards and 11 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 6-7-8; @ North Carolina, Duke, @ Clemson

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia

 

RB—Giovani Bernard, So. (North Carolina)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,253 yards and 13 TDs, 45 receptions for 362 yards and TD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 3-4-5; @ Louisville, East Carolina, Idaho

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Georgia Tech, @ Virginia, Maryland

 

RB—Andre Ellington, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  Rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 TDs, 22 receptions for 109 yards.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

RB—Josh Harris, Jr. (Wake Forest)

Last season:  Rushed for 432 yards and 3 TDs. 

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 4-5-6; Army, Duke, @ Maryland

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ NC St, @ Notre Dame, Vanderbilt

 

WR—Sammy Watkins, So. (Clemson)

Last season:  82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 TDs, 231 rushing yards, 1 KRTD.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

WR—DeAndre Hopkins, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season:  72 receptions for 978 yards and 5 TDs.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

WR—Rashad Greene, So. (Florida State)

Last season:  38 receptions for 596 yards and 7 TDs.  Missed four games due to injury.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida

 

TE—Brandon Ford, Sr. (Clemson)

Last season:  No. 1 rated JUCO tight end recruit chose the Cowboys over Georgia.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 10-11-12; @ Duke, Maryland, NC St

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

FLEX—Michael Holmes, Fr. (Virginia Tech)

Last season:  Redshirted.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 2-3-4; Austin Peay, @ Pitt, Bowling Green

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Florida St, @ Boston College, Virginia

 

K—Chandler Catanzaro, Jr. (Clemson)

Last season: 22-for-25 on FG attempts, 79-for-80 on extra points.

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Auburn, Ball St, Furman

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  Maryland, NC St, South Carolina

 

DEF/ST—Florida State Seminoles

Last season:  No. 2 rushing defense, No. 4 scoring defense, total defense

Best 3-game stretch of 2012:  Weeks 1-2-3; Murray St, Savannah St, Wake Forest

Playoff Weeks (11-12-13):  @ Virginia Tech, @ Maryland, Florida

 

Top 5 Reserves

QB—Bryn Renner, Jr. (North Carolina)

RB—Perry Jones, Sr. (Virginia)

RB—Orwin Smith, Sr. (Georgia Tech)

WR—Erik Highsmith, Sr. (North Carolina)

WR—Michael Campanaro, Jr. (Wake Forest)

 

 

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 ACC</p>
Post date: Friday, July 6, 2012 - 02:19
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-daytona
Body:

Here's hoping all the NASCAR fantasy players out there had a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday. After a week of firework displays around this great nation, the grand finale will come Saturday night under the lights at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400 — let's just keep Juan Pablo Montoya away from any jet dryers, OK?

In all seriousness, this weekend's annual July stop at the beach is one in which drivers are racing with multiple agendas on one of the sport's biggest stages. Each time the series heads to Daytona, nearly anyone in the field has a shot at upsetting the world — or at least scoring a solid finish at a crucial part of the season.

With only nine races left before the Chase field is set, the battle for the wild card spots and the fight for the top 10 in the standings is intensifying.

Perhaps one of the biggest names currently outside the top 10 in points looking to score his first win of the season this is Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards. Last year's runner-up in the championship battle has yet to win in 2012, and currently sits 11th in points.

Edwards had a deceptively strong run going in Kentucky, but a late pit stop for fuel dropped the No. 99 Ford to a 20th-place finish at the end of the night. The finish was Edwards' fifth-straight outside the top 10. To find Edwards' last top-5 finish, you would have to go back to Fontana in March. Edwards did not lead a single lap of competition until Kansas, when he led one, then backed it up at Richmond by leading 206 of the 400 laps. Since then, Edwards has led a grand total of zero.

However, things have been shaken up of late at RFR. Daytona 500 champion and current points leader Matt Kenseth will be leaving the organization at the end of the season with Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. moving up to the Cup ranks as his replacement. With a multitude of sponsorship support behind him and many beginning to ask questions, Edwards is determined to turn his season around at the halfway point.

The driver of the No. 99 has been among the best on the high banks of Daytona in recent visits. He was runner-up to Trevor Bayne in last year's Daytona 500. He entered last year's Coke Zero 400 the points leader, but was turned around while running third early in the race by teammate Greg Biffle, leading to a 37th-place finish. This season, Edwards sat on the pole for the 500 and came home eighth. And if there’s one thing that’s obvious in the Ford camp, it’s that their engineers have figured out how to keep the Blue Ovals running cooler — a major advantage on the plate tracks, circa 2012.

Looking to race his way back into the top 10 in points, earn his first win of the season and turn his year around, Edwards is this week's fantasy favorite.

While Edwards may be the fantasy favorite, the perennial fan favorite is Dale Earnhardt Jr. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has two wins on the 2.5-mile superspeedway, one of which came in the Coke Zero 400 on July 7, 2001. With Saturday night's race coming on July 7 once again, could seven be the lucky number for Earnhardt?

Although he is always counted among the best at Daytona — he finished second to Kenseth in February — Earnhardt's last win on the high banks was in 2004. With one victory already this season, the No. 88 team is eager to add to the win column and start collecting bonus points for the Chase.

Whether or not drivers are willing to admit it, momentum is a hard thing to beat, and right now Brad Keselowski has a lot of it. Coming off a strong performance last week in Kentucky, Keselowski’s three wins lead the circuit. He’s good on all types of tracks (with wins on short, plate and intermediate venues), making him a must-watch.

Based on their recent finishes at Daytona, never count out Edwards’ Roush Fenway Racing teammates Kenseth and Biffle. Kenseth was second in this race last season and won his second Daytona 500 in February, while Biffle was third. The Roush cars are typically strong here, with former driver David Ragan besting Kenseth last July.

Five Favorites: Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle

Like Keselowski, Sonoma race-winner Clint Bowyer proved he can get the job done on any style track — but especially on the high banks of Daytona and Talladega. His average finish of 14.8 at DIS is second-best among active drivers, however Bowyer has yet to score a win at Daytona.

Also like Keselowski, Bowyer has momentum on his side as the series hits the halfway point of the season. A winner two weeks ago on the road course, Bowyer is seventh in the standings and has only two finishes worse than 17th all season (a 30th, Phoenix; 36th, Kansas).

The month of July has historically been good to Bowyer in the past. Of the three tracks the series hits this month — Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis — Bowyer has two wins, a pole, six top 5s and 12 top 10s. Expect him to add to those totals on Saturday.
 

Teaser:
<p> Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkorses for your Fantasy NASCAR team as the series heads to Dayttona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 15:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-july-5
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

First-Half Fantasy All-Stars
The 83rd Annual Major League Baseball All-Star Game will take place in Kansas City next Tuesday, which means after Sunday’s games, everyone will take a four-day break. So as we get ready to take a slight respite from the action on the fantasy diamond, we wanted to present our first-half fantasy all-stars.

As you will see, many of our picks will not be at the midsummer classic next week. The reason for that has nothing to do with San Francisco Giants or any other team’s fans stuffing the ballot boxes either. After all, when it comes to a fantasy all-star, it’s about production and value, or in this case, ADP (Average Draft Position).

For example, Miguel Cabrera is the No. 1 first baseman (and third baseman for that matter) right now in fantasy baseball in terms of statistical production. However, that’s no real surprise, considering he was drafted in the first round and in many cases, was the first player taken overall. So without further ado, here are Athlon Sports’ first-half Fantasy All-Stars:

Note: ADP values listed are according to Yahoo!
UD = Undrafted

Catcher: Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies (ADP 199.5)
With apologies to Yadier Molina, Ruiz gets the nod behind the plate because of his consistent offensive production throughout the first half, not to mention he was 13th catcher drafted in terms of ADP. Ruiz, who was previously best known for being Roy Halladay’s personal catcher, is currently second in the both the National League and majors in hitting with a .357 average. That’s nearly 100 points higher than the career .265 batting average he carried entering 2012. On top of the high average, Ruiz is second among all catcher-eligible players in both runs (40) and RBI (48) and has already hit 13 home runs. His career high before this season was nine.
Honorable Mention: Molina, St. Louis Cardinals; A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox

First Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays (197.4)
This was a close race between Encarnacion and the Angels’ Mark Trumbo, but the Blue Jay gets it in the end because of slightly better run production and a slightly higher ADP. It also doesn’t hurt Encarnacion’s case that he’s a current Top 10 player overall, thanks to a solid .298-22-56 line, along with 52 runs scored and eight stolen bases. That overall production puts him right up there with Toronto teammate Jose Bautista, whose ADP was more than 190 spots higher at 5.3. This means that Encarnacion, who on average went in the 18th round, is putting up roughly the same numbers are Bautista, who went in the first round. Besides, I have a feeling that you will see Trumbo’s name again.
Honorable Mention: Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels; Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

Second Base: Trevor Plouffe, Minnesota Twins (UD)
Several candidates to choose from here, but Plouffe gets the nod over Aaron Hill and Jose Altuve for two main reasons. First, because he’s second only to Robinson Cano in home runs for second-base eligible players and second, because he went undrafted. Plouffe has come out of nowhere to mash 19 home runs in just 212 at-bats. He’s not going to hit for average (.250), but if you were lucky enough to pick Plouffe off of your waiver wire (and you still may be able to as he’s owned in just 75 percent of Yahoo! leagues), you will gladly take the production in the other categories, especially the home runs. It also doesn’t hurt that Plouffe carries eligibility at shortstop, third base and in the outfield too.
Honorable Mention: Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks; Altuve, Houston Astros

Third Base: Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels (192.6)
Ta-da! Didn’t I say you would see Trumbo’s name elsewhere? Both Trumbo and Encarnacion are first- and third-base eligible (Trumbo also has OF eligibility), so it’s only fitting that these two share the corner infield spots on our fantasy all-star squad. Trumbo has been moved all over the diamond – 1B, 3B, LF, RF – by Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia, while also logging some time at DH so he can keep his bat in the lineup. And while he’s spent the most time in the outfield, he gets the nod here at third base, where he’s arguably the most valuable to his fantasy owner. Trumbo is currently hitting .310, which is more than 60 points higher than his career batting average (.249) entering this season, but when it comes to Trumbo the average is gravy. The run production is what you are hoping for, and in the first half, he hasn’t disappointed as he’s already hit 20 home runs and driven in 55, and thrown in four stolen bases for good measure.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins, Jed Lowrie, Houston Astros

Shortstop: Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals (223.0)
Plouffe could lay claim to this spot as well, but in order to spread the accolades around, we’ll go with Desmond here. Besides, it’s not like Desmond’s a slouch in the power department himself. He’s already hit 14 home runs, which ties him for second with the aforementioned Lowrie for the second place among shortstop-eligible players. But Desmond’s value goes beyond his power, as he’s second only to Kyle Seager in RBI (47) and has scored 43 runs to go along with eight stolen bases. Put it all together and it’s a nice package considering Desmond was the 18th player selected at his position in terms of ADP.
Honorable Mention: Plouffe, Minnesota Twins; Seager, Seattle Mariners

Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (245.3)
Oh to be 20 years old and a top-15 fantasy player. That’s what Trout is, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t even play his first game of the season until the end of April. All he’s doing is leading the American League in both batting average (.343) and stolen bases (23), while scoring 52 runs and adding 10 home runs and 36 RBI. The main reason his ADP was so low is no one was sure when he would be back in the big leagues. The only question now is how high will he go next year?

Outfield: Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals (105.8)
Entering this season, no one was really sure what to expect from the 35-year-old Beltran, who was joining a Cardinals line up that wouldn’t include Albert Pujols. Well halfway through the season, the answer so far is a top-five outfielder. Beltran leads the NL in RBI with 63 and is second to Ryan Braun in home runs with 20. He’s batting .304 and has added eight stolen bases. Not bad for someone who was taking on average in the 10th round.

Outfield: Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox (222.4)
Rios gets the nod for the last outfield spot over Melky Cabrera and some others because he was pretty much an afterthought following his .227-13-44 2011 campaign. He’s already driven in more runs (45) in just 79 games so far this season, to go along with 11 home runs, 13 stolen bases and a .317 average. He has gone from a guy who was taken on average in the 20th round to a top-15 fantasy outfielder.
Honorable Mention: Cabrera, San Francisco Giants; Alejandro De Aza, Chicago White Sox; Josh Reddick, Oakland A’s; Jason Kubel, Arizona Diamondbacks

For both SP and RP we will pick one fantasy all-star from each league.

AL SP: Chris Sale, Chicago White Sox (202.9)
Sale has established himself as one of the most dominating starters in all of baseball despite the fact that earlier this season the White Sox temporarily moved him back to the bullpen. The left-hander is second in the AL in wins (10), ERA (2.19) and WHIP (0.95), while striking out 98 in 102 2/3 innings. The only concern with Sale in the second half has to do with workload. He’s already pitched more innings this season than the past two combined (94 1/3). Don’t be surprised if the White Sox limit his starts the rest of the way, especially should they drop out of the playoff race.
Honorable Mention: Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox; Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles; Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers; Jarrod Parker, Oakland A’s

NL SP: R.A. Dickey, New York Mets (251.2)
Is there any real debate here? Dickey leads the majors with 12 wins, while leading the NL in WHIP (0.88) and complete games (three). He’s also third in the NL in ERA (2.15) and second in strikeouts (116), which is very impressive considering he’s a knuckleballer. He’s the clear-cut favorite for the NL Cy Young Award at this point, should get the start for the NL in the All-Star Game on Tuesday, and on average he was drafted in the 23rd round. Any questions?
Honorable Mention: James McDonald, Pittsburgh Pirates; Wade Miley, Arizona Diamondbacks; Chris Capuano, Los Angeles Dodgers; Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals

AL RP: Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles Angels (UD)
Relief pitchers are a little tricky because not all leagues treat them the same, so with apologies to Jim Johnson and Fernando Rodney, who are currently No. 1 and 2 in saves in the AL, my vote goes to Frieri. A situational guy in San Diego, Frieri has made the most of his change of scenery as he has seized the Angels’ closer job by the throat. He only has 10 saves so far, but don’t let that one category take away from his overall body of work. Besides a win and seven holds, he’s also struck out 60 in just 36 innings and has a 0.75 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. That sort of production should play in any league, regardless of format.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Cook, Oakland A’s; Tom Wilhelmsen, Seattle Mariners, Johnson, Baltimore Orioles; Rodney, Tampa Bay Rays

NL RP: Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati Reds (218.2)
He’s hit a bit of a rough patch here lately, but that shouldn’t take away from his impressive first-half performance. Chapman has made the transition from set-up man to closer for the Reds, and has been flat-out unhittable for extended stretches in both roles. Overall he’s put together four wins, nine saves and six holds and has struck out a remarkable 66 in just 37 1/3 innings. His ERA stands at 1.93 and his WHIP is a miniscule 0.78.
Honorable Mention: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers; Tyler Clippard, Washington Nationals; Santiago Casilla, San Francisco Giants

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*The Rangers announced earlier this week that Yu Darvish would not make his final scheduled start of the first half. The team said there is nothing wrong with the 25-year-old right-hander, they are just skipping his spot in the rotation to give him some extra rest with the All-Star break on the horizon. Rookie left-hander Martin Perez will take his place and face Minnesota on Friday.

*Ryan Dempster could be activated from the DL on Sunday to start the Cubs’ first-half finale in New York against the Mets. Dempster has been on the DL since June 18 with a sore right latissimus dorsi muscle and wasn’t expected back until after the All-Star break. However, his bullpen sessions have gone well and he’s hopeful that the team will let him take the mound on Sunday. Even if he does go on Sunday, expect the right-hander to be on a strict pitch count.

*Andre Ethier was placed on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a left oblique injury. The move was made retroactive to June 28 and was done after the Dodgers initially thought it would not be necessary. Ethier has not played in a game since June 27 when he sustained the injury on a check swing against the Giants. The Dodgers are hoping to get both Ethier and Matt Kemp (hamstring) back in the lineup shortly after the All-Star break.

*In other Dodgers injury news, shortstop Dee Gordon suffered a dislocated right thumb in the eighth inning of their 4-1 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday night. Gordon did not return to the game and was scheduled to have an MRI today. It’s not known if he will be able to return to the lineup right away not.

*After getting shelled (6 ER on 9 H in 4 1/3 innings) in his last start on Tuesday in Cleveland, Dan Haren disclosed that he has been dealing with back pain most of the season. The Angels’ right-hander was scheduled to undergo testing on Thursday to find out more and as of right now, it’s unknown whether he will make his next scheduled start, on Sunday at home against Baltimore, or not.

*The Rangers also are expected to activate left-hander Derek Holland from the DL on Saturday to face the Twins. Holland went on the DL in early June due to a stomach ailment and shoulder fatigue.

*Dustin Pedroia was held out of the Red Sox lineup on Wednesday because of soreness in his right thumb. The Boston second basemen has been dealing with the thumb for several weeks now and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. He is scheduled to get the thumb looked at on Thursday and don’t be surprised if the team takes it easy with him so he can get some extended rest with the All-Star break starting on Monday.

*The White Sox have said that Chris Sale will not make his final scheduled start on Sunday. The left-hander has already thrown more innings this season than in the previous two combined, so this will allow him to get some extra rest. It also will permit Sale to be available to pitch in his first All-Star Game on Tuesday in Kansas City. By rule, any starting pitcher that goes on the Sunday before the All-Star Game is not permitted to pitch in the midsummer classic.

*Miami outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was held out of the starting lineup for the Marlins’ Thursday afternoon game in Milwaukee because of soreness in his knee. It marks the third straight game the slugger has missed, but he said he hopes to be back in the lineup no later than this weekend. Either way, this is definitely a situation that bears monitoring. Stanton is part of the NL roster for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Kansas City and right now he’s scheduled to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday.

— By Mark Ross, published on July 5, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: July 5</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 14:49
Path: /nascar/nascar-sprint-cup-contenders-and-pretenders
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Saturday’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway (please don’t call it the Pepsi 400 — Firecracker 400, however, will be accepted) marks the halfway point in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

The year’s third restrictor plate race was once run on the morning of the fourth to beat the oppressive North Florida heat and humidity. “On the track by 11:00, on the beach by 2:00,” was the mantra before lights and night racing. NASCAR’s signature speedway has endured wildfires and truck fires in recent years, as well as Turn Two disemboweling itself in the middle of an event, but all should be solid as we’re knee-deep in the Summer Stretch. And as the championship chase begins to take shape, the contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders. Unless, of course, it’s 2011 and you’re Tony Stewart, stumbling into the Chase like the town lush, but suddenly start running like Tony Stewart once the title fight begins.

But I digress. Let’s review our current top 10 in points, how they got here, and who on the outside looking in has to get their stuff together if they have any hopes of contending for the Cup come September.

1. Matt Kenseth
Wins: 1 (Daytona 500)
Let’s see, Daytona 500: Check. Points leader: Check. Bailing on team mid-season: WTF? Kenseth’s announcement that he is leaving the No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford at season’s end sent shockwaves through the fanbase. His likely destination appears to be Joe Gibbs Racing, although a proposed Andretti Autosport venture into NASCAR with Dodge assistance has been bandied about. It’s bad enough that Jack Roush’s former flagship No. 6 has been mothballed, but now the tried-and-true driver of the No. 17? Tragically coincidental — since it was the original driver of the No. 6, Mark Martin, who sold Roush on Kenseth, convincing him to field the No. 17 Cup ride for him in 2000. The last driver to win the Winston Cup in 2003 has been a model of consistency this year, much as he was that season. Kenseth’s low-key demeanor and approach will likely serve him well during what will prove to be a tumultuous few months in the Ford camp. With a win, eight top 5s and 12 top 10s to his credit this year, if Kenseth and the Wisconsin Mafia can keep the distractions at bay they very well could exit in style, giving Roush his third Cup Series championship. But distractions and fallout associated with being a “lame duck” lurk around every corner.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Wins: 1 (Michigan)
All together now: “JUUUUUNE-YEEERRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!” Finally, after 143 races and four years of futility, Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke into the winner’s circle at Michigan, the site of his last win in 2008. That victory did more for the psyche than the stat sheet, as Earnhardt is what Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket would deem, “Definitely born again hard.” With a win, seven top-5 and an even more impressive 13 top-10 finishes, the No. 88 team has done more in four months than it had in the last … well, forever. Credit Steve Letarte and Rick Hendrick, who essentially put Earnhardt with Jeff Gordon’s former team last season. The Prince of Kannapolis is doing his fans proud, so don’t be surprised to see a lot of old, red No. 8 gear being dusted off and thrust back into service in the coming months. Take heart Junior Nation — you’ve earned it, and your man is back near the top. Junior hasn’t been in a fierce title battle in so long, it’s hard to predict what type of showing he’ll make. But if a late-season slide doesn’t derail his momentum (and with Letarte calling the shots, it shouldn’t), Earnhardt is looking gbetter than he has in … well, forever.

3. Jimmie Johnson
Wins: 2 (Darlington, Dover)
Oh yeah, don’t forget the “other driver” at Hendrick Motorsports. When he’s not cruising around with Mr. H on his windowsill, Jimmie Johnson is just being Jimmie Johnson; going about his business with painful precision and without much fanfare. Like a Glock pistol, he may be short on flash and flair, but he is dead-nuts reliable and never fails when the money is on the line. His nine top 5s and 13 top 10s are the most in both categories, and should serve as a harbinger of things to come in the fall. As in the past, the No. 48 team vets and fetters out the junk and finds what works during the summer months, then sets “phasers to kill” come September. For those who have tired of the “Five-Time” moniker, don’t worry. You may be calling him “Six-Time” by Thanksgiving.

4. Greg Biffle
Wins: 1 (Texas)
Biffle started off the season strong, posting a trio of top-3 finishes in the first three races. He made a mockery of the last half of the April event at Texas Motor Speedway, and led the points from Las Vegas in early March until a 24th-place finish at Pocono, when he surrendered the top spot to his soon-to-be former teammate, Kenseth. A Roush veteran since his 1998 Truck Series debut, Biffle will prove to be the backbone of the team with Kenseth’s impending departure. While the No. 16 team started strong, it has stumbled in recent weeks, posting two sub-20th-place runs in the last four races. It was the No. 16 team that stopped Roush’s win skein in 2010, when the company got off track with misleading data simulation and sucky software on the engineering side. If there is a trend that must be watched with this bunch, it is that Biffle tends to go through crew chiefs quickly. Eight top 5s and 10 top 10s are a testament to his consistency, as well as the effect that current chief Matt Puccia has had for the driver who is in position to be the first in NASCAR history to win a championship in all three touring series.

5. Denny Hamlin
Wins: 2 (Phoenix, Kansas)
What a difference a year makes. This time last season, Denny Hamlin was, to be honest, a mess. With three top 5s and six top 10s, coupled win a number of cryptic comments made during interviews that at best sounded whiney, Hamlin was still suffering the side-effects from his team’s 2010 implosion. Now with a new attitude and re-found mental toughness (and 2011 championship-winning crew chief Darian Grubb making decisive calls), Hamlin has a pair of wins, and eight top-5 finishes. Those runs account for nearly all of his top 10s, and it must be noted that he has two DNFs in his last three races — courtesy of a fiery exit in Michigan and the front bumper of teammate Joey Logano at Sonoma. If Hamlin can keep from getting wrecked or exploding — and a TRD IED does not find its way between the fenders of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota — he will likely find himself in contention to win the title, as he was in 2010. This time, however, he will be better prepared mentally and strategically to contend.

6. Kevin Harvick
Wins: 0
The driver of the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet hasn’t had a lot to brag about this year — but he hasn’t had much to really complain about, either. Usually the first one to ride his crew if they make the smallest of errors, Harvick has achieved his position not so much with poise and audacity, but on reliability and finishing races. A smattering of eight top 10s and three top 5s is decent, but not exactly championship caliber. If Harvick were to have a catastrophic failure in the coming weeks — which would lose him say, 40 points — the impact would be significant, and could potentially drop him out of the top 10 in points. He’s gotten by on a number of eighth- to 14th-place runs, but if he’s to solidify his place in the Chase, the No. 29 operation as a whole needs to step it up on the track, in the pits and in the garage while prepping the car for Sunday.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese runs through the contenders and the pretenders for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 13:57
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /overtime/strangest-non-game-related-sports-injuries
Body:

This week several media sources reported that former South Carolina QB Stephen Garcia injured himself while giving a peace sign. Turns out, it was just a joke, and Garcia's career as a fourth-string CFL quarterback is still on track. But, of course, that doesn’t mean that players don’t hurt themselves doing random, seemingly mundane things. Here’s a list of our favorite ways players have been injured. Most are true, but a few seem a bit suspect. We’ll let you decide. 

 

Wild animal attacks. While Nolan Ryan was playing for the Astros in 1985, a coyote bit him on the hand and forced him to miss a start; no word on whether any Acme products were involved. Former Norwegian soccer star Svein Grondalen was absent from an international match in the late-1970s because an angry moose ran into him while he was jogging. We suspect the moose was a fan of Brazil and vuvuzelas.

 

Eating. The Homer Simpson Award for injuries sustained while eating donuts goes to former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who chipped a tooth on a frozen donut in 1990 (dude, that's what microwaves are for). He had to have a root canal and ended up on the DL. Montreal Expo infielder Bret Barberie got chili pepper juice in his eye and missed a game. Hockey player Dustin Penner of the Los Angeles Kings takes the (pan)cake, though, wrenching his back earlier this year while leaning over to eat a stack of flapjacks. His back spasm caused him to miss one game. 

 

Sneezing. Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa got back spasms from sneezing in 2004 and was never the same player again (he even turned white after he retired). Pitcher Mat Latos tried to learn from Sosa's example on the dangers of the sneeze, attempting to suppress the one he felt coming in July 2010. Latos strained muscles in his left side and wound up on the DL anyway.

 

Vomiting. Most of us feel better after we throw up, but not baseball’s Kevin Mitchell (yes, the same Mitchell from the earlier item) and Josh Outman. Both strained rib muscles while puking and had to be placed on the DL. Mitchell’s injury occurred in 1992, while Outman’s happened in April.  

 

Playing video games. NBA star Lionel Simmons missed several games of the 1991 season from tendonitis suffered while playing his Nintendo GameBoy. Detroit pitcher Joel Zumaya may have been a Guitar Hero, which cost him a chance to be a baseball hero in the 2006 ALCS. He missed three games due to injuries to his elbow and forearm due to aggressive strumming on his PlayStation 2. Apparently he was attempting to play Buckethead on advanced. 

 

Chopping wood – in the locker room. When the Jacksonville Jaguars started 0-3 in 2003, coach Jack Del Rio put an axe and a stump of wood in the locker room and implored his team to “keep chopping wood.” It turns out that his players were still better at football than lumberjacking. Punter Chris Hanson took aim at the stump, but whacked his non-kicking foot instead and missed the rest of the season. Del Rio finally got the axe himself, a few years too late for Hanson. 

 

Participating in the coin toss. Call this one the Anton Chigurh Award for career-ending coin toss. Offensive tackle Turk Edwards’ career was good enough to make the Hall of Fame, but it might have been better if he hadn’t been the Washington Redskins’ captain in 1940. Edwards called the coin toss and shook hands with Giants’ captain Mel Hein, but when he turned toward the sideline, his cleat caught in the turf and his knee buckled. He never played again. 

 

Yelling at teammates. Words hurt, especially when you scream them with such force that you dislocate your jaw, as Manchester United goalie Alex Stepney did in 1975. If you're a python swallowing a deer, a dislocated jaw is an advantage. Otherwise, not so much.

 

Sleeping. All sorts of potential dangers await the slumbering athlete. Former baseball player Glenallen Hill, an arachnophobe, had a nightmare in 1990 involving spiders and consequently tumbled down the stars and slammed into a glass table. He sustained multiple cuts and required a stay on the disabled list. Thank God he steered clear of the bed pillows, or it might have been worse: former MLB pitcher Terry Mulholland scratched his eye on a loose feather in 2005, and Detroit catcher Brandon Inge went on the DL a few years later (2008) when he pulled an oblique while adjusting a pillow. Former Tigers pitcher Denny McLain once awoke from his slumber with two dislocated toes in 1967. Then, there’s "sleeping." Milan AC midfielder Kevin Prince Boateng earlier this year had a muscular lesion on his left thigh. His model girlfriend attributed it to “too much sex.” 

 

Ironing shirts.  This possible injury is shrouded in mystery. As legend has it, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz burned himself back in 1990 while ironing his shirt. But that’s not the weird part. The story goes that Smoltz was wearing the shirt when he decided to iron it and not surprisingly burnt himself. Smoltz, of course, denies that it ever happened. And he’s probably telling the truth. Probably. 

 

 

 

 

by Chris Lee (@chrislee70), publisher of VandySports.com

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 13:52
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-13
Body:

TV coverage, traffic and the racing at Kentucky were on the minds of members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council this week. With the recent complaints about commercials, especially during the Kentucky race, members were asked if Pay-Per-View should be an option. Members also discussed if they were satisfied with the fixes to the traffic situation to go to Kentucky Speedway and what they thought of the racing there last weekend. This is what members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council had to say:


Would you subscribe to a Pay-Per-View channel to watch races without commercial interruption if that was offered?
In light of the complaints about commercials interrupting NASCAR broadcasts, particularly the last couple of weeks, Fan Council members were asked if they would consider subscribing to a Pay-Per-View service to watch races without commercials if that was offered.

64.7 percent said No
35.3 percent said Yes

What Fan Council members said:
• Definitely! Hard to know what would be a fair price ... maybe $300 for the season. The frequency and repetition of ads is out of control. Casual fans, who are not also following scanners, Twitter, etc, are never going to sit through trying to watch an entire race as poor as the broadcasts are now.

• That's a terrible idea and it would just bring the ratings down even further. You will not gain viewers by raising their cable/satellite bill. The race still being shown in the corner of the screen is good. More of that could help.

• I wouldn't just for the fact it would be crazy expensive. If you look at the cost of what it is to actually run a commercial during these races and how the economy is still shaky, it would not be a good thing to do. With Twitter, RaceBuddy (for TNT at least) and streaming car/driver audio on my Sprint phone I actually don't mind the commercials. I can still keep up with the action. Worse case: I will listen to the race on the radio before I would pay for a premium channel.

• I cannot stand commercials. Considering it already costs me money for cable each month as well as two TiVo's, the thought of spending more money to see a race is not high on my list. But most likely I would do it when it came down to it. Now, I TiVo a race and watch it later in the day so I skip the commercials anyway. TiVo has spoiled me ... I find it so hard to sit and watch anything live these days!

• We miss so much of the racing action due to the number of commercials, it would be a great idea to offer Pay-Per-View for Cup races.

• No, because we are already paying for cable, plus that is one of the reasons I have PitCommand.

• TV cable subscriptions are already outrageous. The best solution is watch on DVR and fast forward through the commercials.

• There are many more ways than ever to follow the race live now days, so people should just shut up about commercials and enjoy the racing!

• I pay enough already for my cable subscription. In this economy I can't afford more costs to watch TV. I agree that there are too many commercials, but my complaint is that the broadcast misses important parts of the race during commercials and doesn't catch the audience up when the commercials are over.

• If I had the funds available, I would in a heartbeat.

• I AM NOT gonna pay every week for something I have been watching for free since I was a kid. Besides, the way the racing has been lately, why would I pay to watch that either?

• Yes! I never thought I'd say this, but after this season's broadcasts, I would definitely pay for a season of real racing coverage. I like the DirecTV broadcasts but they tend to have the same four or five drivers on every week — if I could see more of the field, more of my driver, and more racing, I would pony up the bucks.


Would you consider going to a race at Kentucky since traffic was not as big an issue as last year?

51.1 percent said Yes
48.9 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• Not yet. It appears the traffic outbound was still an issue, and some of the improvement inbound was probably due more to less attendance. Needs a few more years of seasoning before I'd consider it. Plus, I’m not exactly sure the track has the most exciting racing.

• I went last year and due to the (traffic) nightmare did not renew for this year. I said “yes,” I would go back. May take me another year or so as it sounds like leaving still has issues.

• Yes, they fixed the problem and it would be a great place to see a race.

• Went last year via backroads; went this year all highway and it was a breeze!

• I would keep Kentucky on the list of tracks I would consider going to since they apparently fixed the traffic issues. The first few years of Texas Motor Speedway were a nightmare for traffic also.

• I really wanted to go this year, but with last year's horrific traffic problem I wanted to wait and see if the changes made a difference. I always go to the Michigan and Road America races. Don't know if, financially, I can go to three races in a row. Guess I better start saving now.

• Went last year, camped and avoided the traffic mess, but it (was) still the most miserable experience I've ever had at a race track. No coolers, no porta-johns in parking lots or campgrounds, boring race, not to mention watching the traffic at a dead stop as the race started, and eventually seeing that same traffic turned around because they couldn't get in. I will never spend another penny at Kentucky.

• I would have gone regardless. Anybody who has been going to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race for the last 18 years can tell you to come early, leave late and have plenty of beer. I read comments from after the race and looks like traffic ran smooth, which is good for Kentucky Speedway. Now, maybe some of those fans that skipped out will come back.

• After last year, it was the last place I wanted to go. Seeing how they improved it so much, I think that I will move it up the list.

• I will consider going back. I had season tickets for several years before this year but had no desire to go back after last year. 


Grade Saturday's Cup race at Kentucky.

59.2 percent said it was Good
27.7 percent said it was Fair
7.5 percent said it was Great
5.6 percent said it was Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Worst race I've ever seen, plain and simple. TNT will have to really outdo themselves to do a worse job broadcasting.

• Had everything. Racing, fuel mileage, changing track conditions, enough cautions to let people fix their cars and come back from bad adjustments. That was about the best racing I've seen this season.

• Too many commercials and not enough racing. Only the fact that Brad won gives it a fair rating.

• At least this race had some drama: Kyle Busch having issues, Kasey Kahne coming back from a lap down to finish second, Carl Edwards and others trying to stretch fuel.

• Clean air was so important — the car out front could just get away. There apparently was some good racing in the field (you could find a little of it on RaceBuddy) but for those of us watching the TV broadcast, it was all about mashed potatoes vs mac 'n' cheese, and that was just TERRIBLE. I actually gave up watching the telecast, switched to social media and was streaming Dr. Who on Netflix instead.

• I graded it fair, because the last few restarts got lively. I don't know which was more boring, Sonoma or Kentucky. Somewhere Pocono is laughing and saying, “Yes, I'm no longer hated!! Thank you for repaving me!!”

• Glad that Brad won, but the race itself, with all the commercial interruptions, was boring. No passing except for Kahne at the end of the race.

• I was there and was bored. I still found myself scrolling through Twitter to stay in touch.

Teaser:
<p> The&nbsp;Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss racing at Kentucky Speedway, traffic issues around the track and TNT's coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup races.</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 10:26
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-big-12-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Big 12's Receiving Corps for 2012

1. West Virginia – With Robert Woods and Marqise Lee returning, USC should own the top receiver duo in college football, but West Virginia can’t be too far behind. The Mountaineers bring back senior Tavon Austin and junior Stedman Bailey, and both players are coming off 1,000-yard seasons. Austin is one of college football’s top all-purpose threats, as he caught 101 passes last year, while rushing for 182 yards and averaging 14.1 yards per punt return and 26.1 on kickoffs. Bailey led the team by averaging 17.8 yards per catch and recorded 1,279 yards on 72 receptions. This group could be even better in 2012 if junior Ivan McCartney improves upon his 49 catches from last year. The final starting spot in the receiving corps could go to senior J.D. Woods, who caught seven passes in nine contests in 2011. Freshmen Deontay McManus, Travares Copeland, Jordan Thompson and Dante Campbell all could figure into the rotation this season.

2. Baylor – Quarterback Robert Griffin and receiver Kendall Wright are gone, but the Bears should push for 275-300 passing yards a game once again. With senior Nick Florence taking over under center, Baylor won’t be rebuilding from scratch on offense. There’s no shortage of capable targets for Florence, starting with Terrance Williams. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch on 59 receptions last year and recorded 11 touchdowns. The senior should contend for first-team All-Big 12 honors in 2012. Senior Lanear Sampson and junior Tevin Reese finished spring practice locked into starting spots, with Reese the team’s top big-play threat after averaging 17.2 yards per catch last year. Sophomore Levi Norwood will likely start at the second inside receiver spot, while Jay Lee, Antwan Goodley and Clay Fuller will provide depth. Tight end Jordan Najvar caught 15 passes last season and will return as the starter in 2012.

3. Oklahoma
The depth isn’t Sooner-esque after Ryan Broyles graduated and Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks were removed from the roster. But the starting talent is all Boomer Sooner. Kenny Stills is an All-American candidate and should be in for a huge year as a junior. Consistency is really the only missing piece to his game. Newcomer Trey Metoyer was an elite signee in the 2011 class but needed a year at prep school. All signs point to immediate contribution from Metoyer in 2012. Junior college transfer Courtney Gardner is also cut from the same big, physical mold as Metoyer and will help with depth right away. A stellar true freshman class, featuring top 100 names Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, will be a welcome sight come fall camp. Derrick Woods should also contribute as well. This is a very talented group with loads of upside but has very little experience and proven depth.

4. TCU
This Horned Frogs group is as deep as any collection in the league and is one of the positions of strengths on the roster. Josh Boyce could be a superstar after 61 catches, nine of which were touchdowns, and coming just two yards shy of 1,000. Skye Dawson and Brandon Carter are outstanding No. 2 and 3 options for Casey Pachall after combining for 68 catches, 852 yards and eight scores last fall. The coaching staff is excited about redshirt elite talent, try 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, LaDarius Brown joining the ranks as well. Each of the four names can offer something unique to the offense and they mesh perfectly together. Corey Fuller and Stephen Bryant will get the reps at tight end.

5. Texas Tech – Darrin Moore was one of college football’s leading receivers through the first two weeks of 2011, catching 21 passes for 339 yards and four touchdowns. However, a leg injury against Nevada limited his effectiveness and he missed the next three games before returning for the Oct. 22 upset win over Oklahoma. Although Moore returned to the lineup, he was never the same until the last two weeks of the season. With the senior back at full strength, and Eric Ward returning after a standout sophomore campaign, the Red Raiders should have no shortage of targets for quarterback Seth Doege. Senior Alex Torres suffered a torn ACL late in the year, but is expected to return in time for opener. Jakeem Grant, Bradley Marquez, Javares McRoy and Aaron Fisher will provide depth, while tight end Jace Amaro is back after catching seven balls last season. This is a solid group, but with the depth at receiver in the Big 12 this year, it’s hard to rank Texas Tech any higher.

6. Texas
This was an alarming stat: Texas went without a 50-catch receiver for the first time since 2006 last fall. Considering the elite level recruiting Mack Brown has done at the position, this is completely unacceptable. Certainly, quarterback play needs to improve but Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis need to continue to develop into the stars most expected they would be coming out of high school. They combined for four total touchdowns last fall and should at least double that in 2012. Marquise Goodwin, John Harris and DeSean Hales also will vie for heavy reps while another talented collection of freshman, led by uber-recruit Cayleb Jones, try to make a name for themselves. D.J. Grant looks like the starting tight end but M.J. McFarland could be a rising star. Like always, there is loads of depth and talent, but Brown and Bryan Harsin need play-makers to step up.

7. Oklahoma State – Not only are the Cowboys losing quarterback Brandon Weeden, but they also have to replace standout receiver Justin Blackmon and No. 2 option Josh Cooper. The good news for coach Mike Gundy is the cupboard isn’t completely bare. Tracy Moore caught 45 passes for 672 yards and four touchdowns last season and was shifted to outside receiver in the spring, which should allow him to be a bigger factor in the offense. Senior Isaiah Anderson is back after catching 28 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns last year, but the breakout candidate to watch will be Josh Stewart. He grabbed 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman last season and will team with junior college recruit Blake Jackson to man the inside receiver spots. Charlie Moore has been quiet in his career (6 receptions) but had a huge performance in the spring game and should factor more into the offense.

8. Kansas State
Chris Harper, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound senior, is as physically talented wideout as any in the Big 12 conference and should be poised for his best season in (Eugene) or Manhattan. He will be the top target for KSU this fall. Tramaine Thompson offers a different skillset and will utilize elite speed and agility to produce big plays. Freshman All-American Tyler Lockett was lost for the season in November but proved his all-purpose skill will be on display for three more seasons. These three are talented but there are few proven options behind them as names like Curry Sexton and Torell Miller try to carve out a role in the offense. Travis Tannahill is a dependable option at tight end.

9. Iowa State
Despite losing leading wideout Darius Reynolds, Iowa State’s cupboard isn’t bare. Transfer Aaron Horne was the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the year after 38 catches for 431 yards. Josh Lenz, and to a lesser extent Jerome Tiller and Albert Gary, provide veteran presence and leadership. Second-year players Tad Ecby, Jarvis West, Quenton Bundrage and Ja’Qaurius Daniels are all going to fight for playing time as well. 

10. Kansas – Charlie Weis’ offensive acumen will be put to the test this year. Getting Dayne Crist as a transfer from Notre Dame is a positive, but the Jayhawks lack a No. 1 receiver. Weis was hoping Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay would gain immediate eligibility, but the NCAA ruled he has to sit out 2012. Daymond Patterson missed nearly all of last year with an injury and his return will help bolster the receiving corps. Seniors D.J. Beshears and Kale Pick are expected to start, while juniors Chris Omigie and Christian Matthews and sophomore JaCorey Shepherd will contribute in the rotation. The Jayhawks will miss tight end Tim Biere, but Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone and junior college recruit Charles Brooks will give Crist two experienced options.
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team

Big 12 Heisman Contenders for 2012

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

The History of Big 12 Realignment

Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12

TCU Comes Home to the Big 12

Teaser:
<p> Big 12 Unit Rankings: Wide Receivers</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:40
Path: /college-football/unit-rankings-2012-pac-12-wide-receivers
Body:

Kickoff for the 2012 college football season is still two months away, but it's never too early to project how the year might play out. Athlon will be taking a look at how each position stacks up in the BCS conferences and nationally until the start of the season.

Each unit ranking was evaluated based upon how it will perform in 2012 - not how the team played in 2011.

Ranking the Pac-12's WR/TE Corps for 2012

1. USC – Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are back to form college football’s top one-two receiver combination. Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 scores last season, while Lee recorded 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Matt Barkley returning for another year at USC, it’s not crazy to think Woods and Lee could improve upon their numbers in 2012. The Trojans’ receiving corps isn’t just Woods and Lee, as the depth is solid with sophomore George Farmer, junior De’Von Flournoy and freshmen Victor Blackwell and Nelson Agholor. With all of the accolades surrounding Woods and Lee, it’s easy to overlook tight end Randall Telfer. He ranked third on the team with 26 catches for 273 yards and five touchdowns last year. Telfer will be joined at tight end by promising sophomore Xavier Grimble.

2. Washington
When a team has to replace two receivers who rank in the top 10 all-time in school history, they normally don’t feel this excited about the unit the next year. But there is good reason for Husky Nation to be fired up about Keith Price’s weaponry. Austin Seferian-Jenkins could be the best tight end in the nation by season’s end after setting freshman school records a year ago. Fellow sophomore Kasen Williams also has All-American-type upside after a 36-catch, 427-yard, 6-TD freshman season. Veterans James Johnson, Kevin Smith and Cody Bruns provide much needed experience and depth. This is as talented a group as there is in a league that is loaded with powerful receiving corps.

3. Washington State
Marquess Wilson is a superstar. He has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as an underclassmen and now has Mike Leach calling plays for him. Oh yeah, it was Wilson, in a league with names like Allen, Woods and Lee, who led the Pac-12 in receiving a year ago. He will be supported in Leach’s spread-it-around offense from Dominique Williams, Kristoff Williams, Bobby Ratliff and Gino Simone. The 250-pound Andrei Lintz is a wideout in a tight end’s body and could pay big dividends in 2012. Leach has never had an issue finding productive pass-catchers and fans shouldn’t expect any issues with this talented collection in Pullman.

4. Oregon State – With Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Marquess Wilson and Marqise Lee returning, it’s easy for other receivers in the Pac-12 to get overlooked. Markus Wheaton caught 73 passes for 986 yards and one touchdown last season and largely went unnoticed. With quarterback Sean Mannion more comfortable in his second season as a starter, look for Wheaton’s numbers to increase. Brandin Cooks turned in a solid freshman year in 2011, catching 31 passes for 391 yards and three scores. Oregon State’s depth at receiver took a hit with the departure of Jordan Bishop in late June, but sophomore Obum Gwacham is a promising player. Senior Colby Prince is expected to start at tight end after catching 12 passes for 66 yards last year.

5. Utah – With quarterback Jordan Wynn sidelined for most of last season with a shoulder injury, the Utes finished last in the Pac-12 in passing offense. With Wynn back under center in 2012, Utah should have a more balanced attack, especially if running back John White rushes for 1,000 yards once again. Senior DeVonte Christopher caught 11 passes for 136 yards and one score in the Week 2 loss to USC but failed to record more than five in a single game the rest of the year. With Wynn returning, look for Christopher to push for 60 catches in 2012. Seniors Luke Matthews and Reggie Dunn combined for 32 receptions last year and return as dependable threats. Sophomore Dres Anderson finished second on the team with 23 catches for 355 yards and three scores last season and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. Tight end is a strength with Kendrick Moeai, Dallin Rogers and Jake Murphy back in the mix. 

6. Oregon
Chip Kelly’s offense hasn’t exactly been a safe haven for wide receivers, but the 2012 group looks to provide new punch to the high-flying offense. Josh Huff, who dealt with a stress fracture in his leg this spring, should be the team’s top target. Daryle Hawkins had a big spring and youngsters Devon Blackmon, Tacoi Sumler and B.J. Kelley are looking to break into the starting lineup in a big way. Rahsaan Vaughn could be the veteran presence that a green quarterback might need, however. Look for sophomore tight end Colt Lyerla to become one of the league’s best after a 5-TD freshman season.

7. California – The Golden Bears rank of No. 7 in the Pac-12 receiver units is really due to one player – Keenan Allen. Take away Allen and California owns one of the worst receiving corps in the conference. However, the good news for the Golden Bears is Allen is back for at least one more season. The junior ranked second in the Pac-12 with 98 receptions last year, while recording 1,343 yards and six scores. Allen will once again be the go-to target for quarterback Zach Maynard, but he needs help. Freshmen Maurice Harris, Darius Powe, Kenny Lawler and Bryce Treggs could inject some much-needed athleticism and ability into this group. Spencer Hagan will start at tight end, but Richard Rodgers will push him for time in the fall. 

8. Stanford
After Chris Owusu’s injuries, the Cardinal’s wide receivers were entirely too unproductive. Now, the only two dependable options, Griff Whalen and Coby Fleener, are gone. Yet, there is loads of talent. Ty Montgomery got much-needed experience a year ago and Jamal-Rashad Patterson and Drew Terrell need to deliver on their lofty recruiting hype. The saving grace is the tight end position, despite Fleener’s departure. Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz form the Pac-12’s top 1-2 punch at the position and both could be playing on Sundays after combining for 10 scores a year ago.

9. Arizona State – Not only are the Sun Devils replacing quarterback Brock Osweiler, but they also have a new scheme and lose three key receivers from last year – Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad and Mike Willie. Senior Jamal Miles is the group’s best returning player, recording 60 receptions for 361 yards and six scores last year. Miles will be a steady threat, but the Sun Devils need senior Rashad Ross to emerge a downfield threat. He caught 18 passes and averaged 14.1 yards per catch last year. In addition to Ross, Arizona State’s coaching staff is looking for a big year from junior Kevin Ozier and senior A.J. Pickens. 

10. UCLA
Three productive names have moved on from the Bruins, but this group could be a sneaky area of strength in 2012. Tight end Joseph Fauria, who has more of a wide receiver skillset than most tight ends, could be one of the nation’s best players at his position. He will make big plays from the slot all season long en route to potential Mackey Award recognition. Juniors Shaq Evans, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. will have to hold off talented up and comers in redshirt freshman Devin Lucien and incoming freshman Jordan Payton and Javon Williams. Payton and Lucien have loads of upside and will press for playing time almost instantly. Senior Jerry Johnson brings a veteran name to the list.

11. Arizona
The Wildcats have to replace three players who caught at least 60 passes for at least 600 yards including star Juron Criner. Yet, in the new Rich Rodriguez scheme, the passing game clearly figures to be featured less than with Nick Foles at the helm last year. Dan Buckner has NFL talent and should be the go-to target this fall. He will be backed by talented sophomores Austin Hill, Garic Wharton, Austin Morrison (who also gets snaps at QB) and Tyler Slavin as well as senior Terrence Miller. Wharton could be the team’s fastest player. This group has plenty of options, however, the offensive system doensn’t lend itself to big production at the position.

12. Colorado – Any chance the Buffaloes had of contending for a bowl game was likely lost in the spring when receiver Paul Richardson was lost for the season with a torn ACL. In his first two years in Boulder, Richardson caught 73 passes for 1,069 yards and 11 touchdowns. Making matters worse for Colorado is Toney Clemons and tight end Ryan Deehan both expired their eligibility after the 2011 season. With Richardson out of the picture this year, it’s up to an inexperienced group of receivers to pickup the slack. Sophomore Tyler McCulloch caught 10 passes last season and will have to be the new go-to target for quarterback Connor Wood. Freshmen Nelson Spruce, Gerald Thomas, Peyton Williams and Jeffrey Thomas will be allowed to compete right away for playing time. 
 

by Braden Gall (@BradenGall) and Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Related Pac-12 Content

Pac-12 2012 Predictions
Athlon's 2012 All-Pac-12 Team

Pac-12 2012 Heisman Contenders

College Football Realignment Winners and Losers

Examining the Rising Cost of Assistant/Coordinator Salaries

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Wide Receiver Unit Rankings&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Thursday, July 5, 2012 - 05:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football, LSU Tigers, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/lsu-football-its-zach-mettenbergers-time-shine-2012
Body:

At the ripe old age of 20, Zach Mettenberger surprised himself. The LSU quarterback figured out the person he had become by going through a season like he’d never experienced in his football life.

The strong-armed Georgia kid overflowing with potential was a spectator as the 2011 Tigers pieced together one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history. A strange thing happened as Mettenberger stood and watched LSU roar to a 13–0 regular season that was capped by a dominating 42–10 win over Georgia — his former school — in the SEC Championship Game.

He enjoyed the ride.

“As a competitor, you always want to play and it definitely hurt to not play as much as I wanted,” says Mettenberger, who appeared in only five games in 2011. “But it made me realize I was patient, and I’m a better team player than I realized I could be.

“Not being the guy for the first time in my life, it showed me no matter how much you’re playing, you have to be supportive of your teammates and that the team is bigger than you. You play the game to win and be a part of something special.”

This is the same Mettenberger who in his freshman season at Georgia in 2009 showed up as a brash 18-year-old who had literally grown up in the Bulldogs’ program?

Yep. And it was also the same Mettenberger whose life on and off the field took an abrupt and potentially irreversible detour on March 7, 2010, when he was arrested and charged with a series of misdemeanors, including two counts of sexual battery after he fondled a female patron at a bar in Remerton, Ga.

His attorney pled the case out, and Mettenberger received two concurrent 12-month probation sentences. But Georgia coach Mark Richt — close to the family for years, due to the fact that Mettenberger’s mother Tammy had been a longtime administrative aide in the football office — had no choice but to kick Mettenberger out of the program.

Just that quickly, a promising career that had kicked into high gear during Georgia’s spring practice when Mettenberger battled Aaron Murray for the starting job was in serious jeopardy.

 “My plan at Georgia was to be the starter for four years,” Mettenberger says matter-of-factly.

“I’m not going to lie. I was really devastated when it was all going down. At one point, I thought I should just give up and quit playing football and go work for my dad and work construction the rest of my life. It took me a while to realize I didn’t want to drive nails for a living. I wanted to play football. I had to realize the sun was coming up on the horizon and that I just had to get through the hard times.”

So Mettenberger got back on his football feet.

Instead of transferring to another Division I program and sitting out another full season (he redshirted in 2009), the one-time rising star went the junior college route and wound up at Butler Community College, tucked away in El Dorado, Kan. Out of the spotlight, Mettenberger rebuilt his image and revived his career. He passed for 2,678 yards and 32 touchdowns, often sitting out second halves as the Grizzles marched to the NJCAA national championship game.

Like Cam Newton the year before, Mettenberger was a hot commodity on the recruiting trail after the 2010 season. He landed at LSU, in part because the Tigers’ coaches were dogged in their pursuit, but more so because of the chance he saw with LSU.

A second chance, but also a chance to be the leader of a program on the cusp of winning a national championship or two while he was on campus.

While Mettenberger was toiling in El Dorado, LSU was plowing through an 11–2 season that culminated with a rout against Texas A&M at the Cotton Bowl. Entering the 2011 campaign, the two quarterbacks who had taken almost every snap since the Tigers’ 2007 BCS National Championship season were seniors. And neither Jordan Jefferson nor Jarrett Lee had ever really distinguished himself as an elite SEC signal-caller, giving Mettenberger the hope he could step in and play right away.

“I wanted the opportunity to play with them and more than anything I wanted to be a winner,” Mettenberger says. “LSU was a great opportunity for me to come to a powerhouse, and I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself where I could play for a winner.

“Anywhere you go you’re going to have to compete to get on the field, and that didn’t scare me at all. I came with the attitude that I was going to start every game last year. It didn’t work out that way because Coach (Les) Miles had a different plan, and that was fine with me. We were 13–1 and I had a great time with my teammates.”

Many of those teammates are back in 2012, and for the first time since 2006 and ’07, the Tigers will be led by an NFL-caliber quarterback.

LSU quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe says there’s no question Mettenberger can take that quantum leap into elite status.

“The biggest thing with Zach, he’s very accurate on deep balls,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s got a big arm. He’s going to make the throws outside the numbers on the hash. He’s learning to become a better passer. Everybody knows he can throw the football, but there’s not a lot of guys who can pass it. His fundamentals have gotten a lot better, and he’s throwing better passes and more catchable balls.

“The one word that always comes to mind with Zach is ‘competitive.’ He loves playing the game, and he’s very hard on himself. I didn’t see that as much last year because he wasn’t getting the same number of snaps and he wasn’t the guy. It’s there now because he wants to succeed and he wants this team to win.”

What was also camouflaged last fall as Mettenberger developed patience and waited for his turn was how much he was learning every day during practice. As the No. 3 quarterback, he often drew the task of working against the Tigers’ physical, aggressive and nasty first-unit defense.

Not only did that fuel the competitive juices, but it also forced Mettenberger to improve. Understandably, the 6'5", 222-pound gunslinger’s confidence is as high as ever after a spring as the Tigers’ leading man.

“When the lights are on and the cameras are on me, that’s when I think I’ll perform the best,” he says. “I’ve prepared myself to be the best quarterback I can be and I think I definitely have the talent and want-to to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and I hope my hard work pays off this season.

“I like the pressure. It feeds me and keeps me motivated every day.”

Sliding into the driver’s seat of an LSU offense that has had its ups and downs the last four years has also thrust Mettenberger into the role of a leader, something he has embraced.

He talked about scrutiny not affecting him, about understanding the microscope a big-time college quarterback operates under and — perhaps most important — about staying level-headed and making the right decisions on and off the field.

“Whether you want to be or not, when you’re the quarterback at LSU, you’re one of the faces of the program,” Mettenberger says. “I have to play that part well.”

So far, so good.

“He’s become a very good leader for our football team,” Kragthorpe says. “He’s embraced the idea that the quarterback has to be the leader, and he knows that people are going to look at him differently.”

Makes sense, because after a difficult road to get this far, Mettenberger is different, even more than he realized when his redirected road led him to Baton Rouge.

“To finally get my shot, I’m really excited for this and I’ve been working my tail off for it,” he says.

“What I’ve been through made me realize I can’t take it for granted. It made me appreciate what I do every day and who I get to hang out with. It reminds me I can’t screw this up because I may never get this opportunity again.”


This story appeared in Athlon's 2012 SEC Preview Annual.

Related SEC Content

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

LSU Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Heisman Contenders for 2012

The History of SEC Realignment

Getting to Know Texas A&M

Teaser:
<p> It's Zach Mettenberger's Time to Shine at LSU.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, July 4, 2012 - 09:11
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-5
Body:

1. Jimmie Johnson  Lost a shot at the win during the final restart in Kentucky when he picked up trash on his tires. Managed to rebound to sixth after a quick backslide, his 13th top 10 of the season.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  Was never a factor for the win at Kentucky, but ran consistently in the top 10 most of the evening before climbing to fourth at race’s end.

3. Matt Kenseth  A classic Kenseth performance, he was invisible all Saturday afternoon, but popped into the top 10 after the sun went down and drove to seventh, retaining the points lead.

4. Tony Stewart  There’s a sizeable gap between the top 3 and the rest of the field. Smoke was the victim of electrical demons in his ignition system and was most likely cursing NASCAR’s EFI system and that damn KFC commerical the rest of the night.

5. Denny Hamlin  Fifth- and third-place runs bookend 34th- and 35th-place showings. When he stays out of the wrecks and the suspension holds up, he’s as good as creamy mac 'n' cheese.

6. Clint Bowyer  String of top 10s ended at Kentucky when Bowyer became the victim of Ryan Newman and Joey Logano’s dust-up on the front stretch.

7. Greg Biffle  Was a 10th- to 12th-place car until he thought his tire went down late. The pit stop resulted in a 21st-place showing and a drop in the point standings, to fourth.

Teaser:
<p> Jimmie Johnson leads Dale Earnhardt Jr. in Athlon Sports' weekly Horsepower Rankings as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Daytona.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:27
Path: /nascar/confident-earnhardt-heads-back-daytona
Body:

The equipment and team help but Dale Earnhardt Jr. says a key reason for his success in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season is crew chief Steve Letarte.

Since being paired together last year, Earnhardt has scored one victory, 11 top-five finishes and 25 top-10 finishes in 53 races.

Thus, since they’ve been together, Earnhardt has finished in the top 10 in nearly half the races. The last time he finished in the top 10 in more than half the races was 2004 when he was fifth in the points.

Earnhardt’s 13 top-10 finishes this season are already one more than he had last season and equal to the number he had in 2009 and ’10 combined.

While Letarte and his crew provide Earnhardt with fast cars, Letarte also has helped his driver’s confidence.

“Steve Letarte has made me calmer and more productive in the car,” Earnhardt says. “He gets more out of me as a driver and brings the best out of me. I’m better at completing races, putting together full races, not getting upset with the car, not getting frustrated and sort of botching the whole deal or sabotaging the race.

“He’s brought a lot of good things out in me and brought a lot more confidence. I’ve got a lot more confidence. Confidence is half the battle when you’re out there competing. If you don’t have any confidence, you just can’t get anything done.”

That is helping make this a special summer for Earnhardt. He’s often struggled in this stretch of races from June to August, but not this year.

He finished fourth at Dover for his first top-10 result there since 2007. He placed eighth at Pocono for his third consecutive top 10. He won at Michigan for his first top-10 run in his last four races there. While he’s never finished in the top 10 at Sonoma, he was 13th until he was collected in a last-lap crash and finished 23rd. He recovered by placing fourth at Kentucky a year after finishing 30th there in the inaugural event.

“We’ve had a pretty good summer so far, so if we can keep that going I’m going to be real excited about the rest of the season,” Earnhardt says.

As the Cup Series heads to Daytona for Saturday night’s race, Earnhardt will be looked upon as one of the favorites. Daytona is fun again for him since tandem racing no longer dominates that event.

“I think things have gotten a lot better with the rules they (NASCAR) made for this particular season,” Earnhardt says about plate racing at Daytona and Talladega. “We’re racing more, we’re not tandem drafting all the time so your race really is in your own hands, and what you do with it and what you make of an afternoon is really up to you and you alone for most of the event. So I kind of like that.

“That’s the way I’ve always thought racing should be. We never had racing where you were so dependent on another car until we had the re-paves at Daytona and Talladega and tandem racing came around. It was OK to watch, and I think some of the drivers probably enjoyed it, but for me it was just the opposite of a driver’s instincts.

“But, the rules have kind of moved away from that a little bit and hopefully that is the way it stays. Hopefully we will keep going in the right direction to get it to where it’s you against 42 other guys.”


NUMBER CRUNCHING   Dale Earnhardt Jr. has completed all 5,027 laps run this season. Matt Kenseth is next, completing 5,026 laps and Greg Biffle has completed 5,025 laps. ... Jimmie Johnson has led the most laps this season at 811. Greg Biffle is next at 527 with Jeff Gordon third at 421. ... Paul Menard has the most consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona entering this weekend with three. He was ninth in last year’s Daytona 500, eighth in last July’s race and was sixth in February. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano each have two consecutive top-10 finishes at Daytona. ... Since winning at Daytona in July 2009, Tony Stewart has not finished in the top 10 in the last five races there. Kentucky winner Brad Keselowski has never finished in the top 10 in Cup at Daytona in six attempts. His best finish is 15th.


PIT STOPS   Saturday’s Daytona race is the 18th in the 36-race Cup schedule, marking the halfway point of the season. ... Bill Elliott will drive the No. 50 car this weekend at Daytona as Turner Motorsports makes its Cup debut and has Walmart as sponsor. ... Joey Logano makes his 100th career Nationwide start Friday at Daytona where he won last year’s event. He’s had 14 wins, 47 top-five finishes and 77 top-10 finishes in his first 99 starts in that series, making his debut in 2008.


by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:
@DustinLong

 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit as the series reaches its midway point at Daytona International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, News
Path: /news/texas-ams-welcome-sec-video-disaster
Body:

There's no question Texas A&M is fired up to be in the SEC. After dealing with the soap opera known as the Big 12, the Aggies finally have some stability in terms of conference alignment.

While it's a good thing Texas A&M is excited to join the SEC, this video is not. It's truly a disaster. The Aggies try to welcome each of their 13 new conference mates by repeating the school's chant and the results is an awkward and rather ridiculous video.

Teaser:
<p> Texas A&amp;M's Welcome to the SEC Video is a Disaster</p>
Post date: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 - 09:38

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