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All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-conference-realignment-draft-final-word

Now that our four commissioners have drafted their 16-team conferences, it’s up to the leadership to fit all the pieces together.

Through our draft, strategies emerged for how each commissioner approached tradition, rivalries and geography.

Explaining every pick: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 5-8 | Rounds 9-12 | Rounds 13-16

Will each conference have championship games? A mini-playoff? What about divisions? How many conference games will each team play?

Our four commissioners explain their philosophy in picking teams for their leagues and how each elected to format their 16-team conferences:

Commissioner: Mitch Light, managing editor (@AthlonMitch)

My approach for the most part was to grab the best programs available with each pick (though I tried to secure some rivalries late in the draft). Clearly, however, I didn’t pay enough attention to geography. Arizona State is an obvious misfit — it’s the only program west of Texas — and I would have preferred to have a bigger presence in Texas and the Deep South.

For football, I’ve divided my league into four four-team divisions:

Continental Division Midwest Division
Illinois Indiana
Kansas State Michigan State
Miami Penn State
Vanderbilt Purdue
West Division South Division
Arkansas Duke
Arizona State Georgia
Oklahoma NC State
Texas Virginia Tech

I favor an eight-game league schedule, but that’s not practical in a 16-team league, so we will go with nine conference games. Each team will play the other three teams in its division every season and play two teams from the three other divisions on a rotating basis.

This might not be popular with all of the coaches in the league, but we will have a four-team playoff to determine the conference championship. The four division winners will meet in the semifinals, with the higher seeded teams serving as the host. The two winners will meet the following week on a neutral site.

The winner of the league title could go on to play 16 games, if it reached the national championship game in the new four-team playoff. That seems like a lot — and it is — but keep in mind that North Dakota State and Sam Houston State, the two finalists in the FCS title game, played 15 games last year.

For basketball, the league will also be divided into four four-team divisions. Two eight-team divisions makes a little more sense, but scheduling becomes problematic. There’s no way to play every team in your division twice (home and home) and play each team in the other division once unless you want a 22-game league schedule. And that is not happening. So we will stick with the four divisions. Each team will play the other three teams in its division twice and play each team in the other three divisions once for an 18-game schedule.

Commissioner: Braden Gall, editor (@BradenGall)

I had a distinct strategy heading into this draft. I wanted to attack the two most powerful and lucrative areas of the country: the Southeast because of the dedication to athletics and the Midwest, where, like it or not, there are still more eyes, ears and TV revenue than anywhere else in the nation. So my first four picks solidified these two areas and I did so with some of the country's most powerful brands in Notre Dame, Alabama and Nebraska. I wanted to completely avoid the Mountain and West Coast regions specifically due to dedication — fan, administrative, etc. There are great programs and fan bases out West, but not like the Southeast, Midwest and Heartland.

The other three areas I wanted to expand to were the Eastern Seaboard and the states of Texas and Florida. With South Florida, North Carolina and Maryland, I have a presence up and down the entire coast — including one program in the heart of the Sunshine State. With three schools in Texas, my league will be playing upwards of 15 games per year within the most talent-rich state in the country. I had the Lone Star State targeted in the final four rounds of my draft and I felt like I landed plenty of upside with Houston, TCU and Texas Tech.

North Division East Division
Louisville Maryland
Missouri North Carolina
Nebraska South Florida
Notre Dame Tennessee
South Division West Division
Alabama Houston
Auburn LSU
Ole Miss TCU
Mississippi State Texas Tech

With a four division "pod" model of alignment, I created some regional and divisional rivalries. Obviously, maintaining complete control of the Iron Bowl and the Egg Bowl was crucial. My league will play nine conference games every year using a 3-2-2-2 model. Every team will play three division games each year and then two alternating teams from each of the other three divisions. This ensures that, even in a 16-team league, that every teams will play every other school in the league every two years. Basketball and baseball will operate without any divisions and scheduling will rotate.

The biggest anomaly within my league will be my championship format. The division winners will be seeded 1-4 based on record (with head-to-head then overall record used as tie-breakers) in a two-week playoff format. Yes, it adds one extra football game for two teams in my league. But guess what, that means extra revenue for my conference. Roy Kramer was completed hammered in the media when he created the "SEC Championship Game" and I am pretty sure that worked out just fine. I am simply taking the next step.

Finally, my revenue allocation model will follow the Big Ten's plan of perfectly even distribution of wealth throughout the league. It is the only reasonable way to operate.

Commissioner: Steven Lassan, deputy online editor (@AthlonSteven)

This was one of the most unique drafts I’ve participated in, so it was hard to pinpoint a strategy before pick No. 1. Initially, I planned on building four divisions of four teams from various parts of the nation, and that plan was on track early with the selections of Florida, Florida State, USC and UCLA. However, my plan was changed midway through the draft as I settled on two eight-team divisions:

East Division West Division
Clemson Baylor
Connecticut California
Florida Colorado
Florida State Kansas
Georgia Tech Oklahoma State
South Carolina Texas A&M
Syracuse USC
Virginia UCLA

My East Division will be anchored by Florida and Florida State, while South Carolina and Clemson head up the next tier. The East isn’t a strong top-to-bottom football league, but could get better if Syracuse returns to its 1990s level. Virginia and Georgia Tech are solid overall athletic programs and good academic institutions.

The West Division stretches from Texas to California and includes rising programs like Oklahoma State and Baylor. I’m leaning on USC to navigate NCAA sanctions without much trouble, while Texas A&M and UCLA need to pickup their football performance. Kansas doesn’t add much in football, but it will help the basketball product in this division.

I missed out on getting any schools from the upper Midwest (Big Ten country), which wasn’t by design. I wanted to grab at least one from that region, but none fell to me in the draft.

Football schedules will feature seven contests within the division and two crossover games. I plan on staging a conference title game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

I went into the draft planning on building a football-centric league, but I ended up with some solid basketball programs. Kansas, Florida, Connecticut and Syracuse all have titles in the 2000s, while Florida State has emerged as an ACC title contender under Leonard Hamilton.

My plan for basketball leagues is four four-team divisions with an 18-game conference slate. Each team will play its three divisional opponents two times and match up against the other 12 teams once each year.

Midwest Division East Division
Baylor Connecticut
Kansas South Carolina
Oklahoma State Syracuse
Texas A&M Virginia
West Southeast
California Clemson
Colorado Florida
USC Florida State
UCLA Georgia Tech

It’s a bit of a strange fit for South Carolina to be in a division with Connecticut, Syracuse and Virginia, but there’s really not a logical scenario. Putting Clemson in the Southeast Division with Florida State and Georgia Tech makes sense considering its history in the ACC.

Commissioner: David Fox, editorial assistant (@DavidFox615)

Before we even chose the draft order, I knew I wanted my conference to have the most engaged fan base. I missed out on all but one SEC program and drafted no teams from Texas, so I’m sure there are a handful of people in those regions who will scoff at a college football conference whose only SEC/Texas representative is Kentucky.

My response: Don’t worry about my conference. I’m not going to have trouble selling tickets. Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Oregon, Iowa and West Virginia all boast active fanbases. Kentucky’s following in college basketball, especially now that the Wildcats are competing for titles again, is unmatched. The Big Ten has its own television network (I have five teams from that league), BYU has one and the Pac-12 (I have five teams from this one) is starting one with many of the same pieces I have in my own conference.

Sure, my league might struggle for wins and credibility against conferences with strong footholds in the Southeast, Texas and California, but it won’t struggle for intrigue.

I want fans in my conference to be able to drive to road games. I want rival fans to bump into each other in sports bars and airports. I think I’ve achieved that within my two divisions, but especially in my Eastern division, which I'm calling the Lakes Division:

Lakes Division Mountains Division
Iowa Arizona
Kentucky Boise State
Michigan BYU
Minnesota Oregon
Ohio State San Diego State
Pittsburgh Stanford
West Virginia Utah
Wisconsin Washington

For scheduling purposes, I’m going to pair teams with a rival/traveling partner:
• Michigan-Ohio State
• Oregon-Washington
• Pittsburgh-West Virginia
• Minnesota-Wisconsin
• BYU-Utah
• Boise State-Stanford
• Arizona-San Diego State
• Iowa-Kentucky (yes, I realize Iowa and Kentucky aren’t rivals and aren’t particularly close, but this is what the process of elimination left me.)

In football, my league will have nine conference games, seven within the division with the “rivalry game” on Thanksgiving weekend. Each team will play a cross country home-and-home game with the other division with its traveling partner. For example, Ohio State/Michigan will play home-and-home games with Oregon/Washington and then flip home and road games the following year.

My format is going to create some competitive balance issues with teams playing five football road games in some years and West teams having to play at Kentucky when another might play at Ohio State, but my coaches are just going to have to live with it. This is also going to cause long droughts between interdivision matchups. That’s part of the cost of such a large conference, but hopefully that will give my conference championship game a little more cachet.

My division winners will meet in a conference championship game the first week of December. Given the structure of my league, it can’t be anywhere else but the Rose Bowl.

In basketball, my league will be similar to the Big East, but hopefully with a little more balance in conference schedules. I’m not going to use divisions for conference standings, but each team will play its seven football division opponents home and away and play four games (two home, two away) against two of the rivalry/travel pairings. For example, West Virginia and Pitt would each play BYU/Utah and Arizona/San Diego State from the West. My conference tournament would follow the Big East template with double byes for the top four teams and single byes for the Nos. 5-8.

The power of the basketball side of the league will be in the East, especially now, but over time, the West should be more competitive. I need Arizona to return to form, but I also need programs like Washington, Oregon, Stanford and Utah to be more consistent.

<p> College football conference realignment draft: The final word</p>
Post date: Friday, June 29, 2012 - 02:06
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/andy-katzs-big-slip-during-nba-draft

Bulging disc is not an easy phrase to say, especially on live television. Unfortunately for ESPN's Andy Katz, he had a bit of a slip up while trying to discuss why former Ohio State forward/center Jared Sullinger could fall in the draft. Sullinger did slip, but was selected with the No. 21 overall pick by Boston.



However, Katz wasn't the first ESPN personality to slip up while trying to discuss bulging disc injuries. Sportscenter anchor Steve Levy fell victim to this phrase in the 1990s, and as you can tell by the video, it's not easy for former ESPN anchor Keith Olbermann to keep it together.


<p> Andy Katz has a big slip up during the NBA Draft.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 22:01
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-kentucky

Over the past three weeks the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has run on new surfaces twice at Pocono and Michigan. While Kentucky Speedway is not a new surface, Saturday night's Quaker State 400 is only the second Cup Series race on the 1.5-mile tri-oval. So while teams will have a slightly better idea of what to expect with the notes built from last year’s event, Kentucky Speedway still presents some unknowns.

One team that was a cut above the rest last year was Kyle Busch and his Dave Rogers-led No. 18 team for Joe Gibbs Racing. After scoring a victory in the Camping World Truck Series at Kentucky, Busch dominated the inaugural Cup event, leading 125 of the 267 laps en route to the win.

Yet, entering this weekend's race, Busch has been forced to swallow a string of poor finishes over the past month. After his Richmond win in April, Busch was able to score three-straight finishes of fourth or better. However, since the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, the No. 18 team has two DNFs, three finishes of 29th or worse with a best finish of 17th, which came last weekend in Sonoma. Busch commented on his poor luck earlier in the week through Twitter, saying he even bit through his tongue while eating lunch. Sometimes when guys have a string of bad luck, it's hard to kick.

Given his performance at Kentucky over the years in various series (and especially in last year's race), I expect Busch to knock the monkey from his back and get back to his contending ways.

If Busch wants to record his second-straight Sprint Cup Series victory at the track, he will have to beat his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Joey Logano. Many expected the driver of the No. 20 Toyota to be a top contender in last year's race, given his previous success on the 1.5-mile track in the Nationwide Series. However, a 14th-place finish was a lackluster showing for the driver that won three consecutive Nationwide races in Sparta from 2008-10.

This year, however, Logano has a renewed confidence with a race win while the rumor mill churns around him. The performance of the No. 20 team has improved nearly each and every week. Despite a wreck in Michigan, Logano and his Jason Ratcliff-led team have three top 10s and one victory in the last four events.

Heading into the weekend, Logano will not be entered in the Nationwide Series event, allowing him to focus primarily on Saturday night's main event. Sitting 15th in the Sprint Cup standings, another solid run (or a second win) would certainly make the Chase a distinct possibility for the 22-year-old driver.

Five Favorites: Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth

When the 2012 season got underway in Daytona, few would have imagined the quiet season last year's title runner-up Carl Edwards is having.

Despite missing out on his first Cup Series title thanks to a tie-breaker with Tony Stewart, Edwards and the No. 99 team have been lackluster at best through the first 16 races in 2012. Sitting just outside the top 10 in points in 11th, Edwards has not had a top-5 finish since Fontana in mid-March.

While he finished fifth in last year's inaugural event, Edwards has victories at Kentucky in both the Camping World Truck and Nationwide series. Looking to make it three-for-three, crew chief Bob Osborne is bringing a chassis that finished ninth at Charlotte and eighth at Texas earlier this year.

Could the news of Matt Kenseth's departure at the end of season give Edwards and the No. 99 team a boost of confidence (and resources) to drive through the summer months? Perhaps we shall see Saturday night in Kentucky.

Much like Logano, Stewart-Haas Racing's Ryan Newman is sitting outside the top 10 in points with one win and hoping for a spot in the Chase by the time the series rolls into Richmond in September. The driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet was fourth in last year's inaugural race after losing a lap and working with crew chief Tony Gibson to use pit strategy to get to the front.

Newman will need a solid showing Saturday if he wants to continue being a part of the Chase discussion, though. After scoring his only win of the season — in dramatic fashion — at Martinsville in April, Newman has failed to score another top-10 finish. In fact, the team's best showing came at Pocono, where they finished 12th on the repaved surface.

“We need to be a little bit better,” Newman admitted. “I think we’ll get things turned around. We’re still in a championship-contending position. We still have great opportunities with another win, and we still have plenty of time to move up in the points and be in the top 10. We just have to do a little bit better of a job.”

Will this be the weekend that Newman and his SHR team turn things around? A solid showing in last year's event seems to point to another good run, but the teams’ struggles over the last few months may be too large to overcome.

Five Undervalued Picks: Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's Quaker State 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 14:43
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-june-28

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

Welcome Back
Two left-handed hitting National League middle infielders – Stephen Drew and Chase Utley – made their long-awaited season debuts on Wednesday. For Drew, it was his first game since last July when he suffered a severe ankle fracture on a play at home plate. The Diamondbacks’ shortstop went 1-for-4 in his first major league game in nearly a year.

Utley, who has missed significant time the past three seasons due to chronic knee problems, made an even bigger splash in his 2012 debut as he hit a home run in his first at-bat. Utley finished the night against the Pirates 3-for-5, and more importantly, made it through nine innings at second base unscathed.

Either of these guys is worth adding to your roster, if available, especially if you are still looking for a viable replacement for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. Chances are Drew, who is owned in 24 percent of Yahoo! leagues, is more readily available on the waiver wire than Utley (74 percent), but anyone expecting to get the 2005-09 version of Utley is only setting themselves up for disappointment.

From 2005-09 Utley was one of baseball’s top offensive players as the Phillies’ second-sacker averaged 29 home runs, 101 RBI, 111 runs scored and 15 stolen bases a season. The past two seasons, however, Utley has averaged only 109 games played and combined has hit 27 home runs and driven in 109. At 33 and with his knee issues, it is clear Utley’s best days are behind him.

Drew has never put up the overall offensive numbers that Utley once did, but the Arizona shortstop has been a reliable producer for the past five seasons. Last season he was on pace for a .263-10-70 campaign with 82 runs and 39 doubles prior to his horrific injury.

The other caveat with either is this, because they are coming back from significant injuries and have missed a lot of time, neither are expected to be everyday players right away.

If Not Them Then…
If you are still in the market for some middle infield help and neither Drew nor Utley are available or appeal to you, here are some possible options. Minnesota's Trevor Plouffe has been one of the biggest surprises in baseball this season, but that’s what happens when you post a .330-10-19 line over the past 30 days.

The only middle infielder with more home runs that Plouffe during that same period is Robinson Cano. Plouffe is owned in 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues, but if he keeps hitting like this, that number will only continue to go up.

Aaron Hill is another second baseman with some pop as he hit 26 home runs for Toronto in 2010. He also hit just .205 that season as batting average has been one of the knocks on him throughout his career. So far in 2012, Hill has managed a .297 average with 10 home runs and 35 RBI, to go along with six stolen bases with the Diamondbacks. He’s owned in 64 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Neil Walker may finally be turning things around. Big things were expected from the Pirates’ second-sacker after he followed up a promising 2010 rookie campaign with a respectable .273-12-83 line in 2011. He struggled in May, producing a .238-2-11 line, but has rebounded nicely in June with a .280-2-14 line to go along with 17 runs scored (he had 9 in all of May) and five stolen bases. He’s owned in less than half of Yahoo! leagues.

DL Watch and Other Injury News

*Clay Buchholz is out indefinitely after landing on the DL due to a case of esophagitis that caused gastrointestinal bleeding and resulted in a five-day hospital stay for the Boston pitcher. The right-hander was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday due to illness and ended up in the ICU because of the bleeding. He was placed on the DL on Sunday and it’s not known how long he will be out as he is scheduled to undergo further testing to determine the cause of his problem and the extent of the damage. Aaron Cook pitched well in Buchholz’s place on Sunday, giving up just two earned runs in five innings in a win over the Braves. However, the veteran right-hander might not get another start with Josh Beckett scheduled to come off of the DL later this week.

*Matt Capps, Minnesota’s closer, went on the DL on Monday after a MRI revealed inflammation in his right shoulder. Capps pitched an inning on Saturday, but felt some discomfort on Sunday, resulting in the MRI and subsequent DL stint. In the meantime, the Twins are going with a closer by committee approach, using a combination of left-hander Glen Perkins and right-hander Jared Burton to finish games.

*Andre Ethier left Wednesday’s game with a left oblique injury. He will undergo an MRI, but a trip to the DL is highly likely. Ethier, who is second in the NL in RBI with 55, could join teammate Matt Kemp (hamstring) on the DL, putting the Dodgers’ two biggest bats on the shelf.

*Mets closer Frank Francisco was put on the DL on Sunday with a left oblique strain. Bobby Parnell will handle the closing duties while Francisco is sidelined.

*Daniel Hudson left his start on Tuesday in Atlanta early after giving up five runs on seven hits in 1 2/3 innings. Initially it was reported as tightness in his right forearm, but an MRI exam on Wednesday revealed a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Arizona placed the right-hander on the DL and his season is more than likely over as Tommy John surgery is a distinct possibility. Hudson (3-2, 7.35 ERA) had struggled all season and had already spent about a month on the DL with a right shoulder impingement. This loss to the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation comes on the heels of left-hander Joe Saunders going on the DL on Saturday with a strained left shoulder. Top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer was called up to take Saunders’ place and he will make his major league debut tonight in Atlanta, while Josh Collmenter will replace Hudson in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation for the time being.

*Texas put Colby Lewis on the 15-day DL with tendinitis in his right forearm. The Rangers’ Opening Day starter, Lewis (6-6, 3.51 ERA) should be ready to return after the All-Star break. He becomes the fourth Texas starter on the DL, joining Derek Holland (sore shoulder), Neftali Feliz (sprained elbow ligament) and Alexi Ogando (strained groin). Roy Oswalt recently joined the Rangers’ starting rotation and the team called up left-hander Martin Perez, its top pitching prospect, from AAA to take Lewis’ spot on the roster.

*Oakland ace Brandon McCarthy went back on the DL on Sunday with a recurring right shoulder strain. McCarthy spent three weeks on the DL in May before returning on June 2. He was extremely effective upon his return, going 3-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three starts, but he was unable to make his last scheduled start on Sunday, resulting in his latest DL stint. It’s unknown when McCarthy will be back on the mound, as the team no doubt will exercise extreme caution with its best pitcher and given his injury history.

*The New York Yankees placed ace CC Sabathia on the 15-day DL on Wednesday with a strained muscle in his left leg. The left-hander (9-3, 3.45 ERA) is expected to miss only two starts, meaning he should be ready to go right after the All-Star break. Freddy Garcia (1-2, 6.91 ERA) is expected to take Sabathia’s spot in the Yankees’ rotation. To make matters worse, the Yankees will also be without the services of another southpaw starter as Andy Pettitte is out for a minimum of six weeks due to a fractured left fibula. The veteran took a comebacker off of the shin in the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Indians. The 40-year-old Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in nine starts since joining the Yankees in the middle of May.

— By Mark Ross, published on June 28, 2012

<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown: June 28</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 12:57
Path: /nascar/matt-kensethjack-roush-split

The divorce of one of NASCAR’s longtime partnerships has raised plenty of eyebrows this week. Matt Kenseth, the current point leader in the Sprint Cup Series, has been driving car owner Jack Roush’s No. 17 Ford full-time for over a dozen years. Only four-time Cup champ Jeff Gordon, driving for Hendrick Motorsports since ’93, has been with a team longer; and only Mark Martin, a future Hall of Famer, gave the Roush organization more victories (35, to Kenseth’s 22). A former Cup Series champion — the only such driver on Ford’s current roster — 2003’s top dog, who captured NASCAR’s Super Bowl, the Daytona 500 in February, has plenty of good years left (at only 40). Talent-wise, there are only a handful of better, more proven, drivers on the circuit.

Too bad that’s not where the real talent needs to be these days. Every charismatic move on-track has fallen flat for Kenseth in the boardroom, losing primary sponsor Crown Royal last year and struggling mightily to replace it in 2012. Patchwork deals for three, six, eight races have failed to provide long-term stability, forcing Roush himself to dip into savings and pay for several races out-of-pocket. So this divorce, like many in sports, isn’t about what happens on the track but off it, a classic case of human nature taking control. Once those bank statements dwindle, insecurity about the future trumps success in the present; at some point, the business side of entertainment has to take charge. We all have that survival instinct inside us, concerns about a paycheck causing desperation in order to salvage, retain or advance a career.

For Roush, putting long-term stability in front of loyalty has always been an easy choice. In 2004, top driver Jeff Burton entered the season without a primary sponsor, a scenario playing out remarkably similar to what we’re seeing now with Kenseth. At the beginning of the year, both sides said they would make it through the season, and then some — but by July, the sobering reality of a lack of sponsorship stepping up full-time had caused both sides to start “cheating” behind the scenes. Before you knew it, Burton left his ride midseason, jumping ship to Richard Childress Racing while being forced out by some young, upstart rookie. You see, Roush hoped that with a fast start (combined with charisma and potential) that replacement could have a better chance of attracting a Fortune 500 company to adorn the No. 99’s hood.

It was a gamble that paid off in spades. Within weeks, Carl Edwards had a multitude of top-10 finishes and a multi-million dollar backer. One year later, he finished the season third in points. His tenure with Roush has included AFLAC once sponsoring his car for the princely sum of $26 million a year. With the move, Roush’s No. 99 went from his biggest expense to his source of greatest excitement; just last season, Edwards and Co. came within one on-track position of a championship.

So here we are, in 2012, and Roush has a young, upstart river with charisma tearing up the Nationwide Series in Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Why wouldn’t he think about rolling the dice a second time?

On the other side of the coin, Kenseth sees how Burton’s career wound up at Richard Childress Racing. There, driving the No. 31, the veteran has four Chase appearances and a handful of wins. But more importantly, Burtin has a seemingly lifetime contract for helping restore RCR to prominence. Burton’s sponsor, Caterpillar, doesn’t care about “young” or “old” and appreciates the type of spokesman Burton can be for the company. When you’re 40, having someone back you until retirement becomes a little more important — and that changes the last career decision you make as an athlete.

Joe Gibbs Racing, if that’s where Kenseth is to wind up, has had a sponsorship relationship with the Home Depot since 1999. With its main rival, Lowe’s, attached to Jimmie Johnson the school of thought is it won’t be headed anywhere anytime soon with the right championship driver behind the wheel. For a driver in Kenseth, a man who pleaded in Victory Lane last year for his former full-time backer to stay on board, the stress relief of knowing the bills are paid takes priority.

As people, we like to see the same loyalty given to friendship, marriage and even your local ice cream shop paid off by the people we admire as athletes. But sports remains the most fragile of careers, where anything from an injury to an insult can fracture relationships to the point of disrepair. For me, the surprise isn’t that Roush and Kenseth are breaking up. It’s that they were able to stay together this long.

by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter: @NASCARBowles

<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines the relationship between Matt Kenseth and Jack Roush and what led to the separation after 13 years together in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 12:19
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/ranking-nfls-best-back-quarterbacks

Having a quality, dependable back-up quarterback is a must for any NFL team. Last year was a perfect example as Chicago, Houston and Oakland each lost their starters at key junctures of the season, while a back-up took over the reins in Denver and led the Broncos to the second round of the playoffs. 

Ranking them can be just as difficult as finding a good one. There are many different ways to look at the back-up. First, raw upside and talent. Names like Tannehill, Locker and Kaepernick have starting potential but are inexperienced. Second, consistent and dependable veteran leadership. This generally comes behind an established star as simply a back-up plan for an injury-prone vet — e.g., Tony Romo, Jay Cutler or Matt Hasselbeck. Finally, the change of pace player who can bring a totally different game plan to an offense — aka Tim Tebow.

Those with the best combination of the three are truly the best clipboard holders in the NFL:

1. Jake Locker, Tennessee (Games Started: 0, Games Played: 5)
The first-round pick’s natural ability won’t keep him on the bench too long. He is extremely talented and will be ready to take over for Matt Hasselbeck in short order — whether the veteran struggles or not. He has a big arm, is a pure competitor and natural leader with above average athletic ability. The big knock has always been accuracy with Locker (53.9 percent passer at Washington), but the flashes of talent he showed against the Falcons last fall has Titans fans excited about the future. There are not too many better options to learn from than the consummate professional Hasselbeck.

2. T.J. Yates, Houston (GS: 5, GP: 6)
The North Carolina product showed in just a handful of games that he likely has what it takes to one day start in the NFL. While Yates is never likely to become a star, he did post a tidy 80.7 QB rating by completing 61.2 percent of his passes and going 2-3 as the starter in place of an injured Matt Schaub. Additionally, he completed 55.0 percent of his passes against the Bengals in the Texans' first-ever playoff win without tossing an interception. How many names on this list won a playoff game as a rookie starter?

3. Shaun Hill, Detroit (GS: 26, GP: 32)
While Hill has no long-term upside like a Locker or Yates, the Maryland product has six years of NFL experience on his resume. This, of course, includes an effective 10-game run in place of Matthew Stafford in 2010. He threw for 244.2 yards per game with 16 TD and 12 INT. He is 13-13 all-time as an NFL starter for bad 49ers and Lions teams. The 6-foot-5, 210-pounder is as safe and steady a back-up as there is in the NFL today.

4. Jason Campbell, Chicago (GS: 70, GP: 71)
Few players have as much upside and starting experience on this list as Campbell. He was a first round pick and led an unbeaten Auburn team back in 2004. Yet, he has dealt with new coordinator after new coordinator for much of his career. He has a career TD:INT ratio of 74:50 and is 31-39 as a starter for putrid NFL teams in Washington and Oakland. He will never live up to his draft status, but at age 30, all Campbell needs is a chance and some stability.

5. Kyle Orton, Dallas (GS: 69, GP: 71)
As only a rookie, Orton led the Bears to a 10-5 record before not playing a game on the 2006 Super Bowl team. He then got another chance to start in 2008, where he went 9-6. He finished with an admirable 21-12 record as the Bears' signal caller. He then played three years in Denver and had better numbers across the board as a Bronco than anywhere else. Yet, he lost games at a much higher rate, going 12-21 in an Orange Crush uniform. He is 35-34 all-time and has a career passer rating of 79.4. Dallas could do much worse than the 29-year old Neck Beard.

6. Chad Henne, Jacksonville (GS: 31, GP: 36)
The strong-armed former Dolphin has as much upside as any name on this list. He showed marked improvement from year one as the starter in 2009 (2,878 yards, 12 TD, 60.8 percent) to his second year under center (3,301 yards, 15 TD, 61.4 percent). And, in fact, was passing at his highest career rating (79.0) last year through four games when a non-throwing shoulder separation effectively ended his Dolphins career. But he is only 26 years old, has a huge arm and could easily take over for Blaine Gabbert should the second-year player struggle early on.

7. Tim Tebow, NY Jets (GS: 14, GP: 23)
Tebow’s value to a football team lies much more in his leadership and work ethic than ever throwing a football. He is a consummate professional who will be as prepared as he possibly can be for anything his coach asks him to do. However, his ability to accurately complete passes down the field against NFL defenses on a regular basis is highly questionable. You simply cannot complete 46.5 percent of passes and keep the starting job. He is a great change of pace player and is a tremendous member of any locker room. His value may end there however.

8. John Skelton, Arizona (GS: 11, GP: 13)
Stepping in for Kevin Kolb a year ago, the 24-year-old passer went 5-2 as the starter. The Fordham grad has a huge frame (6-5, 244) and averaged nearly 240 yards per game as the starter last year. He needs to work on being more efficient and protecting the football, but at his age and skillset, Skelton still has plenty of potential.

9. Vince Young, Buffalo (GS: 50, GP: 61)
Young has never been committed to being a professional athlete. He has loads of ability and has proven to be a winner, as his 31-19 starting record would indicate. And it is virtually impossible to get images of the greatest college football player I’ve ever seen out of my mind. Yet, there are plenty of other not-so-flattering off the field images too. Until Young can prove he is willing to dedicate himself to his craft, he will be relegated to the bench.

10. Ryan Mallett, New England (GP: 0, GS: 0)
Just because he has never taken a snap in the NFL doesn’t mean that the mammoth quarterback won’t be a big success. He has a massive frame, an arm that compares to Matthew Stafford’s and is learning under the most successful QB-Head Coach duo of this generation. He may be behind Brian Hoyer on the 2012 depth chart, but he could easily find himself as trade bait and/or the heir apparent in a couple of years.

11. Rex Grossman, Washington
Not an NFL starter but showed flashes with 3,151 yards and 16 TDs last year.

12. David Garrard, Miami
Has started 76 games and compiled more than 16,000 yards passing while accounting for 106 total TDs.

13. Brian Hoyer, New England
Is technically No. 2 behind Brady and has never started. Dependable but limited upside.

14. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco
Extremely productive athlete in college but attempted only five passes in his rookie year.

15. Ryan Tannehill, Miami
Loads of athleticism and upside but is a rookie who was a wide receiver two years ago.

16. Chris Redman, Atlanta
Only has 12 career starts but has been in Falcons system for four full seasons.

17. Drew Stanton, Indianapolis
Has some upside and he should get some looks with a rookie starter ahead of him.

18. Trent Edwards, Philadelphia
Has started 33 games at the NFL level (14-19). No replacement for experience.

19. Derek Anderson, Carolina
Has 43 career starts but is inaccurate and turns the ball over too much to start.

20. Colt McCoy, Cleveland
Has starting experience and is a hard-working and mature member of the team.

21. Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh
22. Bruce Gradkowski, Cincinnati
23. Chase Daniel, New Orleans
24. Brock Osweiler, Denver
25. Tyrod Taylor, Baltimore
26. Tavaris Jackson, Seattle
27. Joe Webb, Minnesota
28. Charlie Whitehurst, San Diego
29. Graham Harrell, Green Bay
30. Kellen Clemens, St. Louis
31. Matt Leinart, Oakland
32. Brady Quinn, Kansas City

- By Braden Gall


Related: Ranking the NFL's 2012 Starting Quarterbacks

<p> Ranking The NFL's Best Back-Up Quarterbacks</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2012-all-conference-team

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
First-Team Offense
QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
RB Montee Ball, Wisconsin
RB Rex Burkhead, Nebraska
WR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
WR Keenan Davis, Iowa
TE Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
C Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
OL Taylor Lewan, Michigan
OL Spencer Long, Nebraska
OL Chris McDonald, Michigan State
OL Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin

First-Team Defense
DL William Gholston, Michigan State
DL Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
DL Kawann Short, Purdue
DL John Simon, Ohio State
LB Chris Borland, Wisconsin
LB Gerald Hodges, Penn State
LB Mike Taylor, Wisconsin
CB Johnny Adams, Michigan State
CB Ricardo Allen, Purdue
S C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
S Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
First-Team Specialists 
K Brett Maher, Nebraska
P Brett Maher, Nebraska
KR Raheem Mostert, Purdue
PR Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Big Ten Team
  First Second Third Overall
Illinois 0 3 2 5
Indiana 0 0 3 3
Iowa 1 2 1 4
Michigan 2 2 5 9
Michigan State 4 4 2 10
Minnesota 0 0 2 2
Nebraska 4 3 5 12
Northwestern 0 2 3 5
Ohio State 4 6 1 11
Penn State 1 2 0 3
Purdue 3 1 0 4
Wisconsin 7 1 2 10
Second-Team Offense
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
RB Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
WR Kenny Bell, Nebraska
WR Roy Roundtree, Michigan
TE Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
C James Ferentz, Iowa
OL Dan France, Michigan State
OL Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
OL Brian Mulroe, Northwestern
OL Andrew Norwell, Ohio State

Second-Team Defense
DL Michael Buchanan, Illinois
DL Jordan Hill, Penn State
DL Akeem Spence, Illinois
DL Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska
LB Denicos Allen, Michigan State
LB Max Bullough, Michigan State
LB Jonathan Brown, Illinois
CB Micah Hyde, Iowa
CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
S Christian Bryant, Ohio State
S Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern

Second-Team Specialists
K Drew Basil, Ohio State
P Cody Webster, Purdue
KR Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
PR Justin Brown, Penn State

Third-Team Offense
QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
RB Stephen Houston, Indiana
RB James White, Wisconsin
WR Demetrius Fields, Northwestern
WR Kofi Hughes, Indiana
TE Kyler Reed, Nebraska
C Graham Pocic, Illinois
OL Ed Olson, Minnesota
OL Patrick Omameh, Michigan
OL Bernard Taylor, Indiana
OL Patrick Ward, Northwestern

Third-Team Defense
DL David Gilbert, Wisconsin
DL Cameron Meredith, Nebraska
DL Craig Roh, Michigan
DL Marcus Rush, Michigan State
LB Will Compton, Nebraska
LB Kenny Demens, Michigan
LB James Morris, Iowa
CB Blake Countess, Michigan
CB Terry Hawthorne, Illinois
S Jordan Kovacs, Michigan
S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska
Third-Team Specialists
K Dan Conroy, Michigan State
P Ben Buchanan, Ohio State
KR Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
PR Venric Mark, Northwestern


Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Predictions

Leaders Legends
Indiana Iowa
Illinois Michigan
Ohio State Michigan State
Penn State Minnesota
Purdue Nebraska
Wisconsin Northwestern

<p> Big Ten Football 2012 All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-introducing-mountaineers-big-12

West Virginia is packing its bags and moving from the Big East to the Big 12. The Mountaineers will fit in well in their new conference, especially with a high-powered offense led by quarterback Geno Smith.

Not familiar with West Virginia? Here's an introduction on the Mountaineers from a West Virginia point of view:

Consider this a primer on West Virginia athletics for Big 12 fans. A Mountain State 101, if you will. A “Mountaineers for Dummies” guide.

It should prove helpful — because WVU and its fans are different breeds.

Perhaps we should stop right there. If you ever feel inclined to call residents here in-breds or hillbillies, or crack jokes about teeth, outhouses or the state flower being a satellite dish, here’s some advice: Save it. Those here will yawn. We’ve heard it all. The jokes are as old as our hills. “Deliverance” was filmed in Georgia; we have wireless, dental plans and, yes, indoor plumbing.

Just don’t misunderstand. West Virginia isn’t North Carolina. It isn’t Ohio. It is different. Coal is king, yet WVU athletics are the passion, the maypole for the small state’s residents. When times are rough, residents rally around their Mountaineers. And times are plenty rough economically.

You might ask about reports of fans allowing their exuberance to get out of hand. You might ask if those reports are true. The answer: damn straight. There indeed have been couches burned in celebration. A team bus or two might have been shaken. And, yes, Bobby Bowden was hung in effigy and chased out as coach, pushed to Florida State. (How did that work out?)

Yet here’s the catch: Bowden still returns regularly. He loves the place. See, West Virginia is a place where people say hello on the street. Residents are known for their friendliness and hard work — as well as their sports passion.

One can trace much of that back to a man named Jack Fleming. He was the “Voice of the Mountaineers,” but a man you might remember as the radio voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still doesn’t ring a bell? This will: He made the call on the “Immaculate Reception.”

Fleming lived in Pittsburgh but made the hour trek each Saturday to call WVU games. He hated rival Pitt and allowed that to seep into his broadcasts. He hooked listeners with his passion and loyalty to the Mountaineers. On game day, Fleming’s voice echoed throughout the hills. One could walk the neighborhood and not miss a play. Every house was tuned in.

Yet there was something missing: success. In the late 1950s, WVU experienced tremendous hoops success via a skinny native kid named Jerry West. You might’ve heard of him. Dallied around with the NBA and Lakers. Did some modeling, I believe, to become the NBA’s logo.

However, after West became a real-life “Beverly Hillbilly,” Mountaineer fortunes steadily dropped. There was a serious lull. Even Bowden couldn’t pump life into the football program.

And then something happened. Former governor and current state senator Jay Rockefeller (yes, of those Rockefellers) helped WVU build a new stadium. John Denver was flown in to christen it by singing “Country Roads.” (If you live here, by the way, you hear that song as much as the national anthem.)

Also, a Bo Schembechler assistant named Don Nehlen was hired to take over the football program. And WVU sports haven’t been the same since.

At first, there was slow improvement. A team that went 2–9 in 1978 moved to 6–6 in Nehlen’s first season in 1980. The next season, the Mountaineers went 9–3 and defeated Florida, 26–6, in the Peach Bowl. It caught the attention of all WVU fans.

But the real birth of Mountaineer sports in the modern era took place smack in the middle of Big 12 country. In Norman, Okla., to be specific. While WVU was impressive in defeating Florida, the Gators weren’t of the Urban Meyer ilk. The Oklahoma Sooners were.

Set up as an opening day patsy in 1982 for OU coach Barry Switzer and new recruit Marcus Dupree, Nehlen and quarterback Jeff Hostetler stunned all with a 41–27 victory.

For the most part, the good times have rolled ever since. There were down years, but things started to crackle. A dazzling quarterback named Major Harris hit Morgantown and turned the place upside down, leading WVU to its first unbeaten, untied record and a 1988 national championship appearance in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. (WVU lost after Harris was injured early in the game.)

When Nehlen’s magic began to disappear, Rich Rodriguez returned to his home state and picked up the wand. Like Nehlen, he found a dazzling quarterback in Pat White. RichRod unearthed a keeper in tailback Steve Slaton. At the end of the 2005 season, WVU stunned  heavily favored Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. All of a sudden, West Virginia was the darling of a downtrodden Big East. The Mountaineers defeated Georgia Tech the next year in the Gator Bowl.

Then came the highest of the highs and lowest of the lows for WVU football. In 2007, the Mountaineers were on track for another national championship appearance. All they had to do was defeat a sub-par Pittsburgh team at home in the regular-season finale to secure a BCS title game berth.

But on a dark night in Morgantown, the Panthers stunned WVU, 13–9. It crushed the team. It crushed the fans. It is still regarded as one of the biggest chokes, if not the biggest, in college football history. It was a body blow that sent the program to the canvas. Rodriguez announced shortly afterward that he was leaving for Michigan.

A folksy assistant, however, took over in the aftermath. Bill Stewart became a home-state hero by leading the beleaguered team to a 48–28 win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Stewart was given the head coaching job. He led the team to three 9–4 records. And was summarily fired. It wasn’t enough. Stewart’s down-home act, which lifted the program in the Rodriguez aftermath, got stale.

Now, all is different. Oliver Luck, a slick businessman, ex-WVU quarterback and father of wunderkind Andrew Luck, is the athletic director. He hired the new breed of coach, Dana Holgorsen, who installed his “Air Raid” offense.

And the new breed is mixing well with WVU’s different breed of fans. When the Mountaineers scored 70 points on Clemson in last season’s Orange Bowl, Holgorsen became one of The Men.

He is not, however, The Man. There is another: basketball coach Bob Huggins.

While many nationally see Huggins as a grump, West Virginians love the guy. After John Beilein lifted WVU, much like Rodriguez, and then left for Michigan, much like Rodriguez, Huggins saved the day by leaving Kansas State to return to his alma mater.

While Beilein took the Mountaineers to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight, Huggins took them to the Final Four. Today, WVU’s athletic fortunes are as healthy as ever.

How do WVU fans feel about leaving the Big East for the Big 12? Well, thrilled in football and skeptical in basketball.

There is also an unfamiliar feel. Those here haven’t followed Baylor football or Iowa State basketball. It’s, well, weird. No Backyard Brawl? No visits from Syracuse?

But West Virginians will follow their Mountaineers with fervor. That’s a promise. They’ll turn their attention west instead of north and south.

And, yes, if need be, re-position those satellite dishes.

Related Big 12 Content

Athlon's 2012 Big 12 Predicitons
Athlon's 2012 All-Big 12 Team
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 12 West Virginia

Is Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

<p> Introducing West Virginia to the Big 12</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 05:59
Path: /college-football/college-football-conference-realignment-draft-part-4

As we enter the final day of our conference realignment draft, all four commissioners elected to use the entire allotment of picks to build 16-team superconferences.

Through the first 12 rounds, each league established its identity. Some are focused on particular regions, some are focused on being well-rounded among football, basketball and baseball programs.

Previous rounds: Rounds 1-4 | Rounds 5-8 | Rounds 9-12

On the final day, some key programs remain in play -- teams like Boise State, TCU and Utah, which have all gone undefeated in non-Big Six conferences in recent years, in addition to basketball powers Connecticut, Indiana and Syracuse.

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

After selecting Purdue with the final pick of the 12th round, Light begins the 13th round on the turn.


49. Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch): Indiana
Conference so far: Arkansas, Duke, Georgia, Illinois, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, NC State, Oklahoma, Purdue, Texas, Virginia Tech
The Hoosiers’ struggles in football continue — IU went 1–11 in 2011 and was the only team in a BCS conference that failed to beat an FBS team — but Tom Crean has the basketball program in position to compete for a national championship in the 2012-13. With Duke and NC State along with Purdue and Indiana, my league now has two outstanding basketball rivalries to hang its hat on. With my pick of Purdue to wrap up the 12th round, I add a rival for the Boilermakers.

50. Braden Gall (@BradenGall): TCU
Conference so far: Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Tennessee, USF
I had a distinct and orchestrated plan in place for my final four picks and it involved the state of Texas. TCU was easily the best current football program left on the board. With plans coming to upgrade facilities and a coach who appears entrenched, the Horned Frogs felt like an easy pick. Getting into the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was crucial for my Lone Star strategy.

51. Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): Syracuse
Conference so far: Cal, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Texas A&M, UCLA, USC, Virginia
The Orange have won only 43 games over the last 10 years, so it’s important to my football product for this university to return to its 1990s performance. While the football product has slipped, Syracuse is solid in basketball and helps to get my conference into New York.

52. David Fox (@DavidFox615): Utah
Conference so far: Arizona, BYU, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Pairing Utah with rival BYU was a priority here. I was concerned someone would snatch Utah before I could circle back with this pick, so I’m counting myself lucky. The Utes have two undefeated seasons since 2004 under two coaches, plus five 10-win seasons in the last nine years. Given the early results, the Utes also look like they’re going to remain competitive on the Pac-12 level.


53. Fox: Boise State
I know there aren’t many TVs in Boise or in Idaho. In addition, Boise State offers little outside of football. But what a football program Boise State brings to the table. The Broncos are consistently interesting and consistently good, and at least for the first few years of my conference, fans nationwide will be curious if the Broncos can compete at this level on a weekly basis. For the sake of my conference, I hope Boise State is up to it.

54. Lassan: Colorado
I regretted passing on Utah, but the Buffaloes aren’t a bad consolation prize. Adding Colorado should help my conference branch into the Denver television market. Although recent success has eluded the Buffaloes, they did claim a national title in 1990 and four Big 12 North titles in 2000s.

55. Gall: Texas Tech
The biggest, most powerful athletic department still left in the state of Texas is certainly an outlier when it comes to geography. But Mike Leach proved you can win big at Tech and getting my second Lone Star State-based program to package with TCU was clutch. With the right coaching, this school has loads of upside and growth still to come.

56. Light: Arizona State
Arizona State has tremendous potential in football and is one of the top baseball programs in the nation — ASU has been to the College World Series 22 times — but as the only school west of Texas it’s a bit of a geographic misfit in my league. The Sun Devils’ closest “rivals” in the league are Oklahoma (971 miles) and Texas (1,004 miles). The basketball program has only made the NCAA Tournament four times since 1981. That’s not good.


57. Light: Vanderbilt
The Commodores are showing signs of life in football — they have played in a bowl game twice in the past four years and are recruiting better than ever under James Franklin — but this pick was made to strengthen the academic profile of my league and bolster baseball and basketball. The baseball program has been to the NCAA Tournament seven straight seasons and has won two SEC titles since 2007, while the basketball program is coming off of a stretch of four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons.

58. Gall: Mississippi State
I completed by Deep South division by adding The Egg Bowl to my Iron Bowl. Keeping another one of the South’s great rivalries under my control felt like tremendous value at this stage of the draft. Getting a seventh SEC team into my league — one with rich tradition on the basketball court and baseball diamond as well as the gridiron — made this an easy choice. I now completely control the state of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

59. Lassan: Connecticut
It’s going to be tough for the Huskies to compete in football, but this addition was more about giving Syracuse a rival and adding some basketball power to my conference.

60. Fox: Minnesota
I’m down to one team in the East and one team in the West to complete two eight-team divisions. I strongly considered Cincinnati for my last East team. From a purely athletic standpoint, Cincinnati has been a stronger football and basketball program than Minnesota in recent years, but Ohio State dominates this state anyway. Minnesota has a new football stadium and gives me rivalry games with Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa. And what’s college football without trophy games?


61. Fox: San Diego State
I was counting on Arizona State being available to complete my Western division with a rival for Arizona. Why Light reached West for the Sun Devils in his conference is beyond me. Oregon State and Washington State are still available, but I’d like to have an opponent where Arizona fans can drive to road games. San Diego State is one of college sports’ biggest underachievers, a stigma the Aztecs are just now escaping in football and basketball. If San Diego State finally starts to deliver on its potential, my league will have a second solid California program. If not, well, at least it’s a good November road trip for all my fans in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

62. Lassan: Baylor
I already had one team in Texas, but it was hard to pass on an athletic department that has produced a Heisman Trophy winner and a women’s basketball champion in 2012. The men’s basketball program is improving, and the football team is coming off back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1991-92.

63. Gall: Houston
With Tech and TCU already in the fold, and LSU just next door, adding the Houston market to the league was the deciding factor between equivalent programs SMU and Houston. The Cougars have a lot of work to do in order to become a financial windfall, but the potential is painfully obvious. This pick gives me three teams in Texas, allowing my league to play upwards of 15 games per year in the most talent-rich state in the nation.

64. Light: Kansas State
K-State was one of the current BCS conference programs still on the board for the final pick in the draft. The Cats aren’t elite in any one area but are solid across the board. The football program won 10 games last season and appears to have reestablished itself as a force in the Big 12 in Bill Snyder’s second stint in Manhattan. K-State basketball, which is making the transition from Frank Martin to Bruce Weber, has made the NCAA Tournament four times in the past five season — after not making it once from 1997-2007.

Coming tomorrow: Our commissioners determine the format of their conferences -- assigning divisions, staging conference championship games and semifinals, and determining scheduling philosophies.

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap

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

Related College Football Content

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

<p> College football conference realignment draft: Part 4</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 05:50
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-did-the-bcs-get-it-wrong

College football fans finally have what they — we — have all been craving for decades. The playoff era of the greatest sport on the planet is upon us.

And fans are already concerned with selection committees, bowl sites, future playoff expansion and TV revenue. But don’t miss the forest for the trees. Take a second to sit back and truly embrace the fact that we now have a playoff system in college football. And while an eight-team playoff could certainly be coming down the pike soon, the four-team bracket is the only way a champion should be crowned.

Yet, the BCS, for all of its criticism, was a dramatic improvement on the previous system. And in reality, few times did the BCS get it wrong.

Where Did The BCS Get It Wrong?

Ideally, a selection committee will be allowed to use the eyeball test to overcome some obvious discrepancies. In the 14-year history of the BCS, only three times did the BCS get it wrong. Although Michigan fans in 2006 and Oklahoma State/Stanford fans last year have plenty to scream about, most would agree that the BCS got the correct match-up in the national championship game in those two seasons. So the BCS went 11-3 in 14 years. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the three split national titles and controversial unbeaten 1994 Penn State team that college football fans experienced the eight years prior to the advent of the Bowl Championship Series.

2004 Auburn Tigers (13-0)
This team was loaded with NFL talent and absolutely deserved a chance to compete for the national title. War Eagle beat five top-15 teams, including four in the top 10 en route to an unbeaten season. We don’t know that Auburn would have beaten Oklahoma or USC, but I know how I would have picked those games. I got the Tigers over the Sooners and the Trojans over the Tigers. The right match-up, in hindsight, would have been USC-Auburn. The 55-19 drubbing of the Sooners has since been vacated by the Men of Troy, only furthering the idea that Auburn should have been involved somehow. A playoff would have fixed this entire quagmire.

2003 USC Trojans (12-1)
Oklahoma played only three ranked opponents in 2003 but defeated all comers in impressive fashion. But a 35-7 destruction at the hands of Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game makes it hard to think that the No. 1 team in both polls, USC, shouldn’t have gotten a shot at the eventual one-loss champion LSU Tigers. Who knows which one-loss team was the best? The result was the last split national title in the college game. A playoff would have obviously fixed this situation as well.

1998 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)
The Buckeyes were the No. 1 team in the nation for the first nine weeks of the year before a turnover-filled four-point loss to Michigan State derailed the OSU national title train. This team was as talented as Tennessee and was clearly a better football team than Florida State — who faced the Vols in the first-ever BCS title game. This Buckeyes team pounded five ranked opponents and finished fourth in the final BCS standings. An Ohio State-Tennessee match-up would have been a much more fitting way to end the season instead of Marcus Outzen flailing against a stacked Vols defense.

Certainly, the 2001 championship game that featured a Nebraska team that allowed 62 points to No. 3 Colorado in the season-ending loss gets plenty of scrutiny. However, who deserved to be in that game over Nebraska? Tennessee should have played in the game but was beaten in the SEC championship game by LSU. Oregon, Colorado and Florida could make cases, albeit very weak ones, for a bid. The truth of the matter was that the Miami Hurricanes were going to slaughter anyone it played. It might have been the greatest football team ever assembled. And frankly, no team had a strong case to be on the same field as Miami that night in Pasadena.

Did the BCS really squeeze out the Mid-Majors?

The little guy has been screaming about being left out of the national title picture for decades and many pointed fingers at the BCS system. Thirteen teams have gone undefeated in the BCS era and didn’t play for the BCS National Championship game. So the ill-suited BCS completely failed on 13 different occasions to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of a few, right? Not so. Of those 13 undefeated teams, only four landed in the top four of the BCS standings at the year’s end. I’ve documented the 2004 Auburn Tigers, but only Cincinnati (2009), TCU (2009) and TCU again (2010) would have landed in a "Football Four" playoff system.

Both the 2009 teams went on to lose in BCS bowl games, and in the Bearcats case, were demolished. That leaves TCU in 2010, who finished unbeaten after defeating a powerful Wisconsin Badgers team in the Rose Bowl, and Auburn in 2004 who had a rightful claim to some piece of the national championship. So twice, not 13 times, did the BCS “screw a team out of a chance at a title.” Strangely enough, Boise State has gone undefeated four times since 2004 and the highest it has ever finished in the BCS standings was sixth in 2009.

So the argument that the new playoff format will allow for the little guy to compete for a title is technically true — but only twice would a "mid-major" have landed in the top four. That means 54 of the potential 56 playoff teams during the BCS era would have been the “big boys” of college football.

Teams that finished the regular season unbeaten and did not play for the national title:

  • Tulane, 1998 (Final BCS Standing: 10th)
  • Marshall, 1999 (12th)
  • Auburn, 2004 (3rd)
  • Utah, 2004 (6th)
  • Boise State, 2004 (9th)
  • Boise State, 2006 (8th)
  • Hawaii, 2007 (10th)
  • Utah, 2008 (6th)
  • Boise State, 2008 (9th)
  • Cincinnati, 2009 (3rd)
  • TCU, 2009 (4th)
  • Boise State, 2009 (6th)
  • TCU, 2010 (3rd)

The Separation of Haves and Have-Nots

Initially, the BCS only released a 15-team ranking (until 2003). In the 14-year history of the series, only nine different mid-major programs finished in the Top 15 of the BCS. Even worse, only five mid-major programs have ever finished in the Top 10 of the final BCS standings: Boise State, TCU, Utah, Tulane and Hawaii. The other four top-15 finishes were Marshall (12th, 1999), Miami-Ohio (11th, 2003), BYU (14th, 2009) and Nevada (15th, 2010). Only twice, TCU in '09 and '10, did a mid-major finish in the top four. Clearly, the BCS wasn’t looking out for the little guy.

Meanwhile, 14 current “BCS conference” teams, not counting Temple, have failed to finish in the top 15 of the BCS. The SEC and Big East lead the way with four programs each who have never sniffed an elite final ranking. Some names are obvious — Vanderbilt, Indiana, Duke — and some are downright startling — North Carolina, Pitt, NC State. Interestingly, Iowa State has never been ranked at any point of any season in the BCS and the Pac-12 is the only league to have gotten every member into the Top 15 at season's end.

BCS Conference Teams That Have Never Finished in the BCS Top 15:

SEC (4): Kentucky, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
Big East (4): UConn, Pitt, Rutgers, South Florida
ACC (3): Duke, North Carolina, NC State
Big Ten (2): Indiana, Northwestern
Big 12 (1): Iowa State
Pac-12: None

Of the possible 210 slots available in the top 15 of the BCS’ history, 192 of them were filled by power conference teams while only 18 times has a mid-major team landed in that final top 15. In fact, the NC States and Pitts of the world are the type of programs that will be the real winners in the new playoff scheme. The bottom halves of the power leagues are the schools who now have an open door to the national title party. Not the New Mexico or Southern Miss.

The BCS certainly wasn’t perfect but it was a vast improvement on the previous system, and frankly, got it right most of the time. That said, a playoff system is a vast improvement on the BCS and won’t be allowed to get it wrong. Yes, the fifth team will complain about being left out. No, the selection committee isn’t perfect. Yes, it could expand to eight teams in the future due to greedy TV executives. No, the bowls shouldn’t be shoe-horned into the playoff structure. Yes, the little guy has a marginally better shot at a title. No, it won’t win one.

But let’s not forget the key to this whole BCS mess: Four teams are now playing for the national championship on the field.

And the most important piece of the college football machine is the biggest winner of all.

The fans.

- by Braden Gall


Related: Key Questions For College Football's New Playoff
Related: What Should the Selection Committee Look Like?
Related: Athlon's Conference Realignment Draft

<p> College Football Playoff: Did The BCS Really Get It Wrong</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-playoff-whats-biggest-unanswered-question

The BCS is no more, and college football will have a playoff beginning with the 2014 season. Although the new format and structure was officially announced on Tuesday, many questions remain for college football fans across the nation.

What's the Biggest Unanswered Question With College Football's New Playoff Format?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I could start with questions of the composition of the selection committee or how the revenues are distributed and if any of those revenues will go to a player stipend. But all those questions are a little inside baseball at this point. I want to know what a college football season is going to look like once the playoff is in place. Oregon (ranked fifth) essentially was punished in the rankings last season for losing to LSU to open the season, compared to Stanford (ranked fourth, who lost to Ducks by 23 points at home). Will the new system encourage more marquee non-conference games or discourage them? If the system discourages them, what happens to perennial games like USC-Notre Dame or Florida-Florida State and so on? As for the remaining teams in the non-Big Six -- the Mountain West, MAC, Conference USA and Sun Belt -- will those teams be able to schedule enough quality non-conference opponents to make a run at a playoff should they go undefeated? Or will they be further designed to being second-class citizens?

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It won't be the most important aspect for fans — that will be the selection committee, timing, the bowl sites or host cities — but the flow of revenue is easily the largest, most influential decision yet to be made. The 2011 BCS television contract was worth $174 million and the new TV deal could easily triple that figure in two years when this playoff party gets started in 2014. So over the course of the 12-year lifespan of the playoff contract, the TV agreement could be worth upwards of $6 billion dollars. How is that money divided? Who does the dividing? And what criteria will be used to determine where the money is shipped? So while fans will be consumed with the selection process, where games will be played or future expansion, the only thing the decision makers are concerned with is dollars and cents. And it is this flow of cash that will shape the future landscape of college football more than anything else.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The makeup of the selection committee is my biggest concern. Several options have been thrown out for the committee but none particularly stand out. Are we really sure former head coaches are knowledgeable about current teams? When you throw conference commissioners, university presidents and athletic directors onto the committee, bias and objectivity will be a major source of concern for the fans. The selection committee is going to be heavily scrutinized and rightfully so. The people choosing college football’s top four teams need to be knowledgeable about each team, as well as watching several games each week. I’m not sure former head coaches or athletic directors fit that qualification. Although a selection committee will probably work out fine, I think concerns will always exist over this aspect of the new playoff format. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
For me, it's the make-up of the selection committee. I would rather see some sort of formula that combines a poll (or polls) and a computer ranking. But that isn't happening, so it's time to focus on the committee: Who will be on it and how will they go about selecting the teams? This will be a much more difficult task than selecting the 68 teams for the NCAA Tournament in basketball. The sample size is far greater in hoops; you have 30-plus games to evaluate teams. In football, there are 12 or 13 games, and maybe only four or five of those games were against top-25 caliber teams. It will be far more difficult — and the ramifications much greater — to differentiate between teams No. 4 and No. 5 in football than it is to sort out teams No. 68 and No. 69 in basketball. I hope the selection committee is up to the task.

Mark Ross
To me the biggest question that remains is the one that will produce the most debate and scrutiny come December - choosing the four playoff teams. Because in the end, regardless of how the money ends up being distributed amongst the conferences and how the selection committee ends up looking, what matters most, to conferences, schools and fans alike, is which four teams get that shot at a national title?

For all its detractors and naysayers, the BCS system did its job. It identified the top two teams in all of college football using a formula made up of different pieces of information and measurements. One can find fault with the different components in the formula itself, but in the end, the BCS did what it was created to do. Now instead of two teams, the playoff selection committee will be tasked with identifying the top four teams, while also defending their reasoning for not picking the other 120. No pressure, right?

Related College Football Content

College Football Ditches Playoff for BCS
What Should the Composition of a Selection Committee Be?

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

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

<p> College Football Playoff: What's the Biggest Unanswered Question?</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 04:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /news/did-college-football-get-it-right-four-team-playoff

College football will finally settle the championship on the field. No more BCS and computer polls deciding No. 1 vs. No. 2. Although the playoff is expected to be an improvement, is this the right move for college football?

Did College Football Get it Right With a Four-Team Playoff?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
In the barest sense, college football got it right by establishing a four-team playoff. It’s a system that presumably keeps the regular season relevant, enhancing it in some cases, while giving two more deserving teams a shot at a national title. However, I’m concerned about the unintended consequences -- how the selection committee selects its four teams could impact the regular season. Conference realignment already has devastated rivalries and led to awkward geographic partnerships. I worry the playoff may push those trends further. And the process of subjectively selecting four teams to play in bowl games -- the same outdated and sometimes corrupt ventures we've had for decades -- is hardly the ideal solution. A four-team playoff gives twice as many teams a chance to play for a title, but the system doesn’t look that much different to me if it proceeds in the same way the BCS did 14 years ago.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will go to my grave fighting for an NFL-style, six-team playoff that features two bye weeks, two total extra games, home sites for every game with the exception of the rotating National Championship game. But alas, the powers that be in college football haven't asked me yet. So, for my money, the next best thing was a four-team playoff with a seeded bracket that features the four best teams in the nation. This has been our wish as college football junkies for more than a quarter of a century and now we have it. Money, selection process, TV contracts, bowl games, timing and site locations, while very important, are all secondary to the simple fact that we have a playoff in college football. The rest of the process will fall into place and will likely create dissension, but don't miss the forest through the trees. The second your eyes fall upon a Football Four bracket with Michigan-Alabama on one side and Texas-USC on the other, you will instantly understand who the biggest winner was in all of this: The Fans.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I have to admit, I never thought the BCS was that bad of a system. Sure, it had negatives, but what system doesn’t? There’s no perfect format for the college football postseason and controversy will exist every year. However, I think a four-team playoff is a good move. The college football regular season is easily the best in sports and there’s no reason to change that. I have concerns about the selection committee, but the real issues would start if college football expanded to an 8- or 16-team playoff. When you start expanding the field, that’s when the regular season will be devalued – and hopefully college football’s postseason format never gets bigger than four teams. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Well, I would have preferred to see an eight-team playoff, and I am not in favor of a selection committee, so it’s hard for me to say that college football “got it right.” But I believe that this is a big step in the right direction and will add a tremendous amount of excitement to what is already a great sports. If I had to give college football a grade, I’d go with a solid B+.

Mark Ross
Truthfully, I don't know if we'll know this answer until after the initial four playoff teams are chosen. I am very curious to see how the playoff selection committee is put together and what criteria they will use in determining the four-team field. That said, I do think replacing the BCS with a playoff is certainly a step in the right direction.

I am a big proponent of settling things on the field rather than through computer-generated formulas. It remains to be seen how much of a role "human error" will potentially play with the selection committee, but in the end four teams, and not two, will get a shot at winning the national title, and that's a good thing. Personally, I would like to see the field expanded to eight to allow more teams a chance, but four is a good start.

Related College Football Content

College Football Ditches Playoff for BCS
What Should the Composition of a Selection Committee Be?

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

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

<p> Did College Football Get it Right With a Four-Team Playoff?</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 04:43
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-2012-all-conference-team

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

Athlon's 2012 All-Sun Belt Team

First-Team Offense

QB Ryan Aplin, Arkansas State

RB Alonzo Harris, Louisiana-Lafayette

RB Kedrick Rhodes, FIU

WR Josh Jarboe, Arkansas State

WR Javone Lawson, Louisiana-Lafayette

TE Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky

C Sean Conway, Western Kentucky

OL Leonardo Bates, Louisiana-Lafayette

OL Caylin Hauptmann, FIU

OL Zack McKnight, Arkansas State

OL Adam Smith, Western Kentucky

First-Team Defense

DL Isame Faciane, FIU

DL Omar McLendon, MTSU

DL Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky

DL Tourek Williams, FIU

LB Winston Fraser, FIU

LB Nathan Herrold, Arkansas State

LB Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky

CB Jose Cheeseborough, FIU

CB Melvin White, Louisiana-Lafayette

S Jonathan Cyprien, FIU

S Brynden Trawick, Troy

First-Team Specialists

K Jack Griffin, FIU

P Will Atterberry, North Texas

KR John Evans, Western Kentucky

PR Darryl Surgent, Louisiana-Lafayette

The Breakdown of Athlon's 2012 All-Sun Belt Team

  First Second Overall
Arkansas State 4 2 6
FAU 0 1 1
FIU 8 3 11
Louisiana-Lafayette 5 5 10
Louisiana-Monroe 0 4 4
MTSU 1 1 2
North Texas 1 5 6
South Alabama 0 0 0
Troy 1 4 5
Western Kentucky 6 1 7

Second-Team Offense

QB Blaine Gautier, Louisiana-Lafayette

RB Benny Cunningham, MTSU

RB Jyruss Edwards, Louisiana-Monroe

WR Brett Leonard, Louisiana-Monroe

WR Eric Thomas, Troy

TE Keavon Milton, Louisiana-Monroe

C Aaron Fortenberry, North Texas

OL Rupert Bryan, FIU

OL Jonathan Gill, Louisiana-Monroe

OL Cyril Lemon, North Texas

OL Jaron Odom, Louisiana-Lafayette

Second-Team Defense

DL Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State

DL Tony Davis, Troy

DL Gregory Hickman, FIU

DL  Brandon McCoy, North Texas

LB Jordan Hunt, FIU

LB Randell Johnson, FAU

LB Zachary Orr, North Texas

CB Jemarlous Moten, Louisiana-Lafayette

CB Bryan Willis, Troy

S Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky

S Don Jones, Arkansas State

Second-Team Specialists

K Brett Baer, Louisiana-Lafayette

P Brett Baer, Louisiana-Lafayette

KR Brelan Chancellor, North Texas

PR Justin Albert, Troy

Athlon's 2012 Sun Belt Team Previews

Related Content: Athlon's 2012 Sun Belt Predictions

Arkansas State MTSU
FAU North Texas
FIU South Alabama
Louisiana-Lafayette Troy
Louisiana-Monroe Western Kentucky

<p> 2012 Sun Belt All-Conference Team</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 28, 2012 - 04:32
Path: /nascar/nascar-horsepower-rankings-4

1. Jimmie Johnson  It’s a toss up at the top, but J.J. has more wins and, as evidenced by his top-5 run at Sonoma, is a more well-rounded driver than Earnhardt or Kenseth.

2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.   That said, championships are not won on road courses, so Junior’s 23rd-place showing — to be fair, he ran around 15th most of the day — will not hurt his title quest.

3. Matt Kenseth   Can a “lame duck” driver win a championship? We know a crew chief can (see: Grubb, Darian). We’ll find out, as Kenseth leads the point standings but has an eye on new digs in 2013.

4. Tony Stewart   Stewart has always been a somewhat streaky NASCAR driver, and his third-, second- and second-place runs in the last three weeks find him on a hot one.

5. Greg Biffle   Impressive seventh at Sonoma (for Biffle) finds him back in second in the point standings, just 11 points behind his Roush Fenway teammate. Kentucky should be good to him.

6. Clint Bowyer   Prior to his win in Sonoma, Bowyer had clicked off three consecutive finishes of seventh or better. What was surprising was that a dirt tracker from Kansas took his first win at MWR on a road course.

7. Denny Hamlin   Hamlin won earlier this season in Kansas and, let’s be honest, what’s the difference between that cookie cutter and the one in Kentucky?

8. Brad Keselowski  Last season’s Watkins Glen winner only registered a 12th at Sonoma, and was never really in contention. He needs to get out of the 12th- to 18th-place hole he’s been in of late.

9. Martin Truex Jr.   Truex led 15 laps and ran in the top 5 for a large part of the day until contact with Joey Logano on the final lap knocked him from sixth to 22nd. That’s tough to take, folks.

10. Kasey Kahne   Pit strategy wasn’t in Kahne’s favor on Sunday. In fact, he slipped from a certain top-10 run to 22nd only to rebound late and salvage a respectable 14th-place showing.

<p> Jimmie Johnson finds his way back atop Athlon Sports' weekly NASCAR Horsepower Rankings, besting Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 17:43
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-18

The announcement that Matt Kenseth will leave Roush Fenway Racing after this season has been the talk of NASCAR. Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council didn’t hold back on what they thought about the move on if it was good or bad for Roush and how this might impact Kenseth’s title hopes.

The Backseat Drivers Fan Council also weighed in on Sunday’s race at Sonoma, who between 11th and 20th in the points will make the Chase and more. Here’s what they had to say.


68.3 percent called it a bad move for Roush trading a former champ for a Cup rookie
31.7 percent called it a good move, trading a 40-year-old for a 24-year-old in a nod to future

What Fan Council members said:
• Although I hate to see Matt Kenseth go, there are only so many cars that Jack Roush can put out there and if Ricky did not end up in a Cup car, then he may end up there with another team and that would be a bigger loss.

• Stenhouse will be a star. Cheaper for Roush as well. Kenseth can get on with Gibbs (if the rumors are true). WIN WIN for everyone.

• Ricky will never be as good as Matt. Matt is a great driver, has a wonderful sense of humor and he's humble. Put up against Matt, Ricky will never measure up.

• Bad move for no other reason than a continuation of the Roush mentality of abandoning career drivers for others. Nothing but money. Re: Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Kurt Busch. Jack Roush is a businessman that is dedicated to money, not his employees. His counter ego would appear to be Coach Gibbs.

• For the short run, I'd rather have Kenseth, but in the long run, Stenhouse will be an elite Cup driver.

• JACK HAS LOST HIS MIND. WOW what a mistake — just like some of the others Jack has made.

• As a die-hard Matt fan, I think it's a bad move and I blame it on the RFR sales department. Even in a down economy, it shouldn't be this hard to find sponsors for a championship-caliber driver on the track and a class individual off the track. Considering the same RFR sales department couldn't even sign any sponsors for Trevor Bayne after he won the 500 last year, I guess I shouldn't be surprised at their inability to do so (now).

• I can't believe the coldness with which a champion who is leading the points is dumped for a cheap, child driver. This is the same attitude toward employees that is killing this country. I'm sure Fenway had a big say in this.

• The financial environment is unwittingly making NASCAR more and more like major league sports with free agency. There is no loyalty any more, not that the teams wouldn't like to stay together, but because the finances don't work out. For whatever reason, Roush Fenway doesn't seem to be able to sell sponsorships well or at least at a level that permits them to field teams for their talent. Matt's ride this year was barely filled, and undoubtedly they all knew that sponsor commitments (or lack of) would make it impossible for RFR to pay him what his asking price was for next year.

• Kenseth is in position to win the championship and you're going to do that to him? That is beyond ridiculous. Stenhouse is a good driver with a bright future and there is no reason why they don't just bring back the fourth car since he apparently can get sponsorship and Trevor Bayne can't, which I don't understand, either.

• Stupid, stupid move on Roush's part! Wish Kenserh the best though ... as long as he doesn't go to Toyota!

• Nothing against Ricky, but if they cannot get Matt sponsorship for a full season who do they think will come aboard for a rookie with less talent?

• It's the only move Roush could make. Kenseth is going to command a very large new contract and Roush hasn't had a full slate of sponsors for him for a couple of years now. Kenseth can go to Gibbs and Home Depot and cash in and Roush can start his rebuild with a great young driver. I think Stenhouse is going to be a little like Tony Stewart: better in a more powerful Cup car than the Nationwide car. Those dirt guys love all that extra power. I think Kenseth will be a great asset at Gibbs as a calming influence, plus I think he might just have a title or two left in him. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Matt Kenseth noted on Twitter that he doesn't believe that announcing he'll leave the team after this season will hurt his title chances, noting crew chief Darian Gurbb knew he would not return with Tony Stewart last year and they won a title together. Fan Council members were asked what they thought.

51.6 percent said Kenseth’s titles chances will be unaffected
39.1 percent said Kenseth hurt his title chances
9.3 percent said Kenseth helped his title hopes since there will be a greater drive to win the title in the final year with the team

What Fan Council members said:
• I believe as long as his team believes in him and themselves he has just as much chance as anyone else to win the title.

• I think he could still go on to win it. But, just like contract talks, etc., at mid-season even though they "say” it doesn't affect them they always admit when it is over that it did. It has to. A NASCAR driver ain't no fry cook at McDonalds. This is big money and big impact at a high level.

• 1. A crew chief is not as public of a position as a driver. 2. Grubb's move wasn’t made public until AFTER the championship. 3. Grubb and Stewart didn't decide he was leaving until Charlotte IN THE CHASE. You can't tell me Biffle won't get better equipment knowing he'll be there next year. This may help Carl make the Chase now.

• Matt has always said over the years that he doesn't let front office issues (contracts, sponsorships, etc.) affect his racing, so I would like to think that would continue. Being the top-tier driver he is, it's not like he needs to worry about not being able to find a ride next year (even if a JGR agreement isn't already in place).

• Matt has gained the points lead during the most difficult point in his negotiations with Roush and his future team. The announcement has been made and Matt is liberated, free from care and any consternation, free to focus on his goal of winning the Sprint Cup.

• Grubb wasn't announced. It was all internal and there were no "extra" spotlights on Grubb/Stewart. ALL eyes will focus on ANY shift in performance with Kenseth the rest of the year. Stick a fork in his title hopes.

• Can anyone say “Quack, Quack!” This might not affect Matt right now, but once he announces where he is headed and then Roush starts uninviting him to team meetings, that is when you will see the effect.

• Solidarity amongst the entire team is necessary to win a title. What Tony Stewart did last year was super-human. I do not feel Matt Kenseth is of the same caliber of driver as Tony. I feel the driver leaving a team is more troubling than a crew chief.

• I still think the championship is going to come down to Johnson, Stewart and Kenseth this year. It might be tempting for Roush to play favorites and give Biffle some extra attention, but I don't think he will — Matt has been too important to Jack's company for him to do that. I think they will end this relationship in a classy way.

• I think what Matt said is totally right. Grubb knew he was out five races early and still ended up with the title, so it doesn't really matter. It may be a slight issue, especially since Matt's directly involved with where he goes, but not enough to distract him that bad. He is a championship driver still, even as a lame duck.


47.3 percent called it Good
32.4 percent called it Fair
10.8 percent called it Great
9.5 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• My husband and I went to the race. I felt there was a lot of single-file racing, not a lot of action and got kind of bored during the race. Still liked being there, though.

• Typical road racing, very little passing or real racing. The only saving grace was Kurt Busch's valiant challenge near the end. Otherwise, completely sans drama or excitement.

• I had no problem with the race. Some will say it’s boring, but at least there was driving ability and strategy involved in this win.

• The race itself was good — if you don't count my driver's "genius crew chief" finding another way to lose a race. The TNT coverage, however, was an unmitigated disaster, capped by showing the GWC restart through the BACK of the grandstand. Seriously. They did that. I don't know how ANYONE would have found Sunday's telecast compelling.

• I thought the duel at the end between Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer was awesome. The rest of the race was so-so.

• I graded this race as fair just because for some reason there was no excitement. I'm not one that needs cautions or wrecks to have excitement but this race was just plain boring. But then again they all can’t be awesome all the time.

• I was there, and it was AWESOME!!

• Not crazy about road courses, but TNT's coverage just about ruined it all for me. Not quite sure about all that went on as they really showed none of what was happening. The lack of cautions and the bad luck my driver faced is making me rate this race as only “fair.”

• Had really high hopes for this race, but it turned out to be a real snoozer

• This was by far the WORST telecast of the season. Stuff was happening left and right and TNT completely ignored it or did a poor job presenting it. Even later on they would not go back to (or mention) important race happenings. Shame on you TNT. Thank goodness for Twitter so I actually knew what was going on with my driver and with the race.

<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council wieghs in on Matt Kenseth's departure from Roush Fenway Racing, his team's title hopes, the road race at Sonoma and on which winless driver in 2012 will break through first.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 16:43
All taxonomy terms: Big 12, News
Path: /news/west-virginia-ready-its-move-big-12

July 1 is moving day in college football. West Virginia and TCU will officially become members of the Big 12, while Missouri and Texas A&M make the jump to join the SEC. Those moves were the biggest in the latest round of realignment and the July 1 date can’t get here fast enough for some teams.

West Virginia took the Big East to court to leave the conference a year early, and the Mountaineers will be expected to be a Big 12 title contender in 2012.

Work is already underway for West Virginia’s switch in conferences, as the turf at Milan Puskar Stadium is getting a bit of a makeover.

Here’s a look at the new Big 12 logo on West Virginia’s field - Tweeted by @GoldAndBlueZone

Here's a closeup of the new Big 12 logo on the field - Tweeted by @WVIllustrated

And here's a wider shot of the field - Tweeted by @Mountaineers22

Related West Virginia Content

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Preview
Big 12 Football All-Conference Team for 2012

2012 Big 12 Predictions

<p> West Virginia Is Ready For Its Move to the Big 12</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 16:15
All taxonomy terms: Golf, News
Path: /golf/less-more

I think all golf fans would agree by proclamation that the PGA Tour season is too long. So what is the Tour doing to address this problem? That's right. They're lengthening the season. Just what the public was clamoring for — an endless Tour! It's like hell, with wedges and hybrids.

Starting in 2013, the Fall Series events will count toward the 2014 FedExCup points standings, meaning that the 2014 golf season will run from early October 2013 until late September 2014, with the 2015 season presumably starting the week following the 2014 Tour Championship.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is insane.

While technically, this change adds no new events to the schedule, it's a futile attempt to add meaning and drama where none exist. It further saturates a sports marketplace that barely had room for golf to begin with.

You thought baseball season was long; wait until you enjoy 365 days of FedExCup drama. This thing will make the siege of Leningrad seem brief and to the point.

Golf needs contraction, not expansion. With that in mind, I propose the following schedule, one that would enhance the fan experience, boost ratings by winnowing the excess and keep the spotlight where it belongs: on the best events. 

We'll start in March, when spring is approaching and people are actually thinking about golf. We'll end it on Labor Day Weekend, reaching a crescendo just in time to clear the stage for football. 

Here it is: 20 meaningful tournaments, one manageable schedule. 

Hyundai Tournament of Champions—We'll leave Hawaii on the schedule. Spectacular scenery, nice reward for the previous year's winners.

Northern Trust Open—Riviera's historic enough to keep. We'll dump Pebble Beach; the pro-am is just too gimmicky.

Accenture Match Play—Coincinding with March Madness, we keep the Tour's version of bracketology.

Bay Hill—It's Arnold. Enough said.

WGC-Cadillac—Like Riviera, Doral's worth keeping.

The Masters—No comment necessary.

Wells-Fargo—Quail Hollow has earned its stripes.

Byron Nelson—Only to keep Lord Byron's name alive for future generations of players and fans. We'd do the same for Colonial if it had Hogan's name on it.

The Players—We'll let the Tour keep its biggest tournament.

The Memorial—It's Jack; see Arnold above.

U.S. Open—It's a major. We'll put some space around it.

WGC-Bridgestone—The WGC events assemble the best fields. We move this one to June to clear August for the playoffs.

AT&T National—Celebrates the 4th in the nation's capital.

The British Open—Golf's oldest tournament would grow in stature with a shorter schedule.

Canadian Open—We'll throw America's Hat a bone.

PGA Championship—It's a major, so make it the kickoff to the playoffs.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank and BMW—The playoffs take us through the dog days.

The Tour Championship—Finish it on Labor Day, create some tradition, and clear the stage. Football's here.

- by Rob Doster

<p> Less Is More</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 16:07
Path: /college-basketball/2012-nba-mock-draft-tiers-trade-rumors

Athlon Sports’ 2012 NBA Mock Draft (updated June 27, 4:45 p.m. ET) breaks down all 30 picks in the first round, highlighting each “tier” of talent and exploring several trade rumors in the opening round of the June 28 draft.

Potential 2012 Olympian, one-man band headed to the Big Easy.

1. New Orleans Hornets
Anthony Davis, F/C, Kentucky
The “Uni-blocker” enters the league as a Marcus Camby-caliber shot blocker with Tim Duncan-dominant all-around potential. Fair or not, expectations are of the Hall of Fame, multiple-championship variety.

Immediate starters with All-Star upside, minimal downside.

2. Charlotte Bobcats
Harrison Barnes, SF, North Carolina
The direction the dominoes start to fall will be determined by the Cats, who have plenty of options to choose from. The Harrison Barnes “brand” may not be what fans and scouts thought they were buying into, but Michael Jordan likes his fellow Tar Heel; that’s all that matters in Charlotte.

3. Washington Wizards
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF, Kentucky
MKG has a jump shot that looks like Charles Barkley’s golf swing. But he can run, rebound, defend and is a “winner.” The value of intangible toughness and being a good teammate will be pushed to the limit by Kidd-Gilchrist.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers
Bradley Beal, SG, Florida
Graybeard Uncle Drew (Kyrie Irving) would love to have another old head with a grown man’s game to join him in the backcourt. Beal has been compared to Jesus Shuttlesworth (Ray Allen); He Got Game worthy of the No. 2 pick.

5. Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, PF, Kansas
Could go as high as No. 2, but likely won’t fall past the Kings — a team looking to trade former Rookie of Year ball-hog guard Tyreke Evans and build around monster in the middle DeMarcus Cousins. The steady Robinson would be a great fit next to big DMC.

TRADE RUMOR: Look out for Bobcats and Cavaliers swap of the Nos. 2 and 4 picks; potential trade could also include Cavaliers’ No. 24 pick.

Trade territory with two fast rising guards, one big enigma.

6. Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard, PG, Weber State
Portlandia can’t stop smiling about Lillard, who has a small school chip on his shoulder to go along with Derrick Rose size and nearly as much athleticism at the point.

7. Golden State Warriors
Dion Waiters, SG, Syracuse
Outside shooters like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have range from the other side of the Bay. A combo guard like Waiters — who attacks the rim like a pit bull from Philly — would add another dimension to Mark Jackson’s team.

8. Toronto Raptors
Andre Drummond, C, Connecticut
The big enigma has the 6’11” frame, 275-pound size and coordinated athleticism that teams drool over during draft season. Between the ears and on the left side of his chest, however, there are major Kwame Brown-sized concerns.

TRADE RUMOR: If Drummond falls to the Raptors, expect the Rockets — a club with the Nos. 12, 16 and 18 picks in the first round — to rapidly rise up the board via trade.

Solid professionals, eventual starters with room to grow.

9. Detroit Pistons
Meyers Leonard, C, Illinois
The American version of Darko Milicic or another beast down low to pair with Greg Monroe? Leonard is a workout warrior with limited on-court production at Illinois.

10. New Orleans Hornets
Austin Rivers, SG, Duke
Doc’s son thinks he’s Kobe Bryant. And hey, he did hit the shot of the year — with a game-winning rainbow bomb over Tyler Zeller as time expired at North Carolina. Rivers is either a star or a cancer, maybe both.

11. Portland Trail Blazers
Terrence Ross, G/F, Washington
Ross looks the part of an ultra-athletic NBA wing, with dunk contest moves and downtown range. Plus, Paul Allen loves hiring guys from UW.

12. Houston Rockets
Tyler Zeller, C, North Carolina
The Rockets continue their climb up the board, moving Samuel Dalembert and the No. 14 pick to the Bucks in order to move up two spots. Tyler, the older brother of Indiana rising star sophomore Cody Zeller, can run the floor and finish at the rim for the next decade.

13. Phoenix Suns
Jeremy Lamb, SG, Connecticut
Is he about to cry? Lamb’s hound dog demeanor and watery, half-moon eyes have somehow overshadowed the fact that Jim Calhoun has never touted a two-guard who wasn’t pretty good (see: Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Kemba Walker).

14. Milwaukee Bucks
John Henson, PF, North Carolina
Dangerously skinny, pogo stick of a power forward, Henson can swat shots and run. But can he bang for boards or defend anyone in the post.

15. Philadelphia 76ers
Kendall Marshall, PG, North Carolina
Lefty with eyes in the back of his head, Marshall is a pass-first point who could run the show alongside the Sixers’ collection of talented, young ath-a-letes.

16. Houston Rockets
Moe Harkless, SF, St. John’s
Quick riser may sky his way into the late lottery when it’s all said and done — especially if coaches keep watching the tape of the one-and-done’s 30-point, 13-rebound game in an upset win at Duke.

Talented but troubled prospects who should have entered last year’s draft.

17. Dallas Mavericks
Terrence Jones, PF, Kentucky
Texas-sized talent could bring what Mavs wanted from Lamar Odom trade last season.

18. Houston Rockets
Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor
PJ3 is no RG3. Will be a value pick if the Rockets can keep his fuel cell full.

19. Orlando Magic
Jared Sullinger, PF, Ohio State
Big Sully’s bad back was red-flagged by NBA doctors, but his polished below-the-rim offensive moves, good hands, quick feet and track record of production at every level should keep him in the first round.

TRADE RUMOR: The Magic’s Dwight Howard is the biggest name on the trade market, and draft night would be a great time to move the big man who just had back surgery. The Lakers and Nets have long been rumored, but the Rockets now appear to be all-in.

Role players with specific skills or raw projectable talent.

20. Denver Nuggets
Arnett Moultrie, PF, Mississippi State
Physical rebounder with coveted size, can come off the bench and clean the glass.

21. Boston Celtics
John Jenkins, SG, Vanderbilt
Exit Ray Allen, enter Jenkins: the premier sharpshooter in a shooting guard heavy class.

22. Boston Celtics
Festus Ezeli, C, Vanderbilt
Knee injuries are a concern, but 6’11” Nigerian import has shown unbelievable growth as a player since starting his basketball career in 2007.

23. Atlanta Hawks
Will Barton, G/F, Memphis
Versatile scorer needs to add weight, become more consistent shooter; but the talent and work ethic are worth a gamble.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers
Andrew Nicholson, PF, St. Bonaventure
Stretch-four with high basketball IQ and impressive shooting range, would fit in well with fellow Canadian first-rounder Tristan Thompson.

25. Memphis Grizzlies
Marquis Teague, PG, Kentucky
Jeff’s little brother is the latest (and least talented) of John Calipari’s high profile point guard recruits.

26. Indiana Pacers
Jeff Taylor, SF, Vanderbilt
Defensive stopper with elite athleticism, the Swiss Army knife could fill several roles for a playoff team.

27. Miami Heat
Fab Melo, C, Syracuse
Brazilian big man has a short fuse, weight issues and has struggled to grasp the nuances of the game. But the 7-footer has shot-blocking ability and six fouls to give — already a one foul improvement over his limit at Cuse.

28. Oklahoma City Thunder
Evan Fournier, SG, France
The only international prospect being mentioned as a potential first-round talent, the Frenchman is a slasher with a streaky jumper.

TRADE RUMOR: Fresh off a runner-up finish in the NBA Finals, the Thunder have long-term planning to take care of — as far as James Harden and Serge Ibaka’s contracts are concerned. OKC doesn’t need or want any more guaranteed first-round rookie deals on the books and will likely trade out of the No. 28 pick.

29. Chicago Bulls
Doron Lamb, SG, Kentucky
A combo guard glue guy who can shoot from NBA 3-point range, defend, handle and pass, Lamb will help fill the black hole left in the wake of Derrick Rose’s knee injury.

30. Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green, SF, Michigan State
The last guaranteed contract of the night goes to Green — a point forward who lacks a traditional position due to his wide body, lack of athleticism and ability to create as a ball-handler and passer.

<p> Athlon Sports' 2012 NBA Mock Draft, complete with trade rumors and a tier breakdown of the various talent drop-offs in the first round of the June 28 draft.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 13:45
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/carmelo-anthony-scares-wax-museum-visitors

The New York Nicks' Carmelo Anthony celebrated the unveiling of his wax statue at Madame Tussaud's in New York by having some fun with visitors. Carmelo pretended to be his wax figure, scaring visitors who stopped by to look. Result? Awesomeness.


If you'll recall Troy Polamalu played an identical prank last year.

<br />
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Dewayne Wise, MLB, News
Path: /mlb/dewayne-wises-amazing-catch-he-didnt-really-make

In what seemed to be an amazing grab by Yankee outfielder Dewayne Wise last night as he lept into the left-field stands to snag a foul ball, turned out to be nothing more than a great acting job… or gross incompetence by the umpire. The ump, who called it an out, never asks to see the ball, not to mention there's a fan five feet away jumping up and down holding up the ball.

Later, the Indians Jack Hannahan, who hit the foul ball, points out to the ump that Wise didn't have the ball in his glove and the ump tosses him from the game. Hilarious. It'll likely be one of the greatest blown calls of all time. See for yourself.

<br />
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 08:55
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-what-should-makeup-and-process-be-playoff-selection-committee

The BCS is no more and college football is moving to a four-team playoff in 2014. Although many fans are finally getting what they have wanted for years, there are many details still be ironed out, and a playoff is far from a perfect system.

What Should the Makeup and Process Be For a Playoff Selection Committee?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
First of all, the process of deciding the college football playoff must be subject to public and media scrutiny. I’m not opposed to the idea of the BCS rankings on its face. Pulling together a wide group of opinions from across the country combined with objective computer rankings isn’t a terrible idea. The problem is coaches who don’t watch enough games to rank every team, Harris voters who aren’t sufficiently vetted and computer formulas and rankings that aren’t open to examination. I’d like to see a similar mix used in the football selection.

I love the Legends Poll. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. This group should be part of the process in some way -- even if it’s only to provide the committee with a tool to use during selection, similar to strength of schedule or RPI on the basketball committee. Let’s give the committee the composite ranking in addition to individual ballots. Let the committee manipulate the date. For example, if the committee wants to see the poll without Bobby Bowden’s vote on Florida State, let the committee have that tool at their disposal.

In addition, I’d like to see computer rankings, but only as a tool similar to the RPI. The problem with BCS computer rankings isn’t the rankings themselves. It’s that the formulas are secret and even the programmers themselves acknowledge they’re not perfect in part because of the lack of margin of victory. I don’t know how the rankings work, but I’d like the Jerry Palms of the world to be able to test the formulas and comment on their accuracy.

As for the committee itself, I’m fine with a makeup that works in men’s basketball -- perhaps with two athletic directors from each conference who hash out the playoff in a room, then present it to the public. With only four teams in the playoff, this committee must be able to explain why teams are in and why teams are out. Transparency hasn’t been college football’s strong suit, but if the sport is going to go the selection committee route, it’s going to have to be publicly accountable. 

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I am fully behind a playoff selection committee — if done correctly. Which, to me, means industry experts from the coaching, media and administration side from every region of the nation who have no other job description that to watch, evaluate and discuss college football teams. If this is what takes place, then I am in complete support of a selection committee. It allows for the eye ball test to correct for things like margin of victory, injuries, luck or scheduling. A selection committee process works in the other sports and should be just as effective in the greatest sport on the planet. So, where do I submit my resume?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There is really no perfect way to choose the four teams in college football’s playoff system. However, I like the idea of using the BCS standings and a selection committee to choose the teams. The BCS formula needs a few tweaks, including adding in strength of schedule, while exploring to see if it makes sense to add points for quality wins and conference championships. The selection committee can use the BCS formula as a starting point for discussion and adjust any oddities that may occur in the rankings to get the final four teams.

A lot of ideas have been tossed around about who should serve on a selection committee, but I would like to see it composed of entirely media members. Although former head coaches can bring some valuable insight, I think it’s fair to wonder how many games they actually watch throughout the year. Conference commissioners or school athletic directors also make sense, but do they have too much invested in their own school or conference to give an objective opinion?

My solution is simple: Find 12 media members who are watching games all day each Saturday (and throughout the week as necessary). While bias or objectivity concerns could be raised, I think 12 media members who cover college football for 365 days a year make the most sense. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
It’s tough for me to answer this question, because I am anti-selection committee. I favor some sort of formula that would be similar to the current BCS standings — a combination of a poll and computer rankings. But to specifically answer the question, I would form an 10-man committee consisting of five former coaches and five current administrators — either athletic directors or conference commissioners. And I would charge this group with selecting the four best teams in the nation with no specific instructions to include only conference champions. 

Mark Ross
Unlike the NCAA Tournament selection committees for both the men's and women's tournaments, I think conference commissioners and to a degree, athletic directors, have too much invested in determining the proposed four-team playoff field. Therefore, I can't consider them to be objective enough to have a say in choosing the said four teams.

Instead, I propose a 12-member selection committee made up of media representatives. I know that "objective" and "media" are words that rarely go together these days when it comes to public opinion, but the way I look at it is these are the ones who are paid to watch the games in the first place, meaning they will be paying attention throughout the season, and, in theory, they have no dog in the hunt as they say.

I would limit an entity's or organization's, for example ESPN or CBS Sports, representation on this committee to one member and the BCS commissioners and Notre Dame can be involved in the selection process to determine the committee's membership. Once the committee is put together, they will be tasked with evaluating all relevant teams throughout the season and then, similar to the NCAA Tournament committees, would get together at the end of the season to determine the field of four. The committee would be instructed to use all available data, including statistics, rankings, polls, strength of schedule, etc. to pick the four most deserving teams based on their performance during the regular season.

I'm not saying this is the perfect solution, if you will, but if I had my choice, I would rather leave this to the ones who are responsible for covering the playoffs, not those who stand to benefit the most from being in them.  

Related College Football Content

Athlon's 2012 College Football Rankings
Athlon's Top 25 Coaches for 2012

College Football Countdown to Kickoff

Athlon's 2012 College Football Predictions

<p> College Football: What Should the Makeup and Process Be For a Playoff Selection Committee?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-conference-realignment-draft-part-3

We're halfway through the Athlon Sports conference realignment draft with the first four rounds on Monday and rounds five through eight on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

National Conglomerate of Athlon Authorities Conference Alignment Draft Recap

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

Related College Football Content

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

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

Ranking NFL quarterbacks is difficult and the criterion endless.

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

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

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

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

Note: Age is at time of start of 2012 season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- by Braden Gall


Related: 2012 NFL Training Camp: Quarterback Battles to Watch

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

Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New York Jets

Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans

Denver Broncos

Kansas City Chiefs

Oakland Raiders

San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Arizona Cardinals

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

St. Louis Rams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related SEC Content

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

Missouri Tigers 2012 Team Preview

SEC Football: An Introduction to Texas A&M

<p> Introducing Missouri to the SEC</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 - 05:38