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All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/anquan-boldin-start-ravens-receiver-against-eagles
Body:

Where you rank Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin for Week 2 depends on two things: 1) How many plays you believe Baltimore will run its no-huddle offense against the Philadelphia Eagles, and 2) how many times you believe Boldin will line up in the slot — i.e. away from Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

The Ravens ran the no-huddle on 21 of 58 offensive plays in the Week 1 44-13 win over Cincinnati. If Baltimore continues to run the no-huddle and move the ball down the field at a fast pace, it can offset the Eagles’ deep set of pass rushers and keep the standout defensive backs on their heels.

Enter Anquan Boldin. 

Assuming Jacoby Jones and Torrey Smith can handle the outside receiver duties, then Boldin can move to the slot where he is historically a monster. He should also draw rookie defensive back Brandon Boykin in coverage while in the slot. 

That is a 6-1, 223-pound 10-year veteran versus a 5-9, 182-pound rookie.

According to Pro Football Focus, Boldin played 48 snaps and saw five targets in the win over Cincinnati. He pulled in four of the targets for 63 yards and a score. Now, only 16 of those 48 snaps and only two of those targets were in the slot. But the one slot target he caught was for a 34-yard touchdown.

Boykin did hold Greg Little to no catches in the opener last week. But, that is Greg Little and that was rookie Brandon Weeden throwing to him. This is Flacco — never thought I’d type that with such affirmation — and this is a veteran receiver.

If it was not already moving fast enough for a rookie, then what will a no-huddle in your second week of NFL action against a slot veteran mean for Boykin? It should mean good news for Boldin and bad news for Boykin.

Overall in 2011, Boldin was targeted a team-high 105 times and had a team-high 240 snaps and 39 targets in the slot. He caught 23 of them for 354 yards and a score. It is possible that Asomugha covers Boldin in the slot, but of the 540 snaps Asomugha played in coverage last season, only 107 of them were in the slot, according to Pro Football Focus.

Points may be at a premium in this game. Flacco’s time to get rid of the ball may be a premium versus that pass rush in this game. Boldin’s experience and matchup may be just the answer for both premiums.

If I’m picking one Ravens receiver this week it’s Boldin.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:14
Path: /nfl/lance-moore-start-saints-receiver-against-panthers-week-2
Body:

If only Lance Moore could stay healthy and that New Orleans receiving corps could be thinned out a bit. Those were two of the things I was looking for when scouting Moore’s fantasy prospects for 2012. 

Well, both have happened and there he sits on on my dynasty league roster. Now, what do I do with him in Week 2?

Do I look at the 10-target, six-reception, 120-yard, one-touchdown performance in Week 1 and say, I told me so? Or do I say it was all in garbage time in a loss to Washington?

Moore, who played 56 of the 75 offensive plays, was targeted on the second offensive play of the game and it was incomplete. He was not targeted on a seven-play, 80-yard scoring drive on the second series. He was targeted again on the first play of the third series and it was incomplete. Moore then did not see a target again until 11:24 remained in the third quarter with the team down 27-14 — it was incomplete. It took 13 more plays before Moore saw another target — a deep pass that went incomplete.

Then the middle of the fourth quarter came; the Saints were down 33-17. Moore was targeted on the first play and made his first grab for 12 yards. Four plays later, it was Brees to Moore again for an incompletion on third-and-10. Trailing big, the Saints go for it and Brees finds Moore for a 33-yard TD.

Through 56 minutes, Moore had six targets, two catches, 45 yards and a TD in a game that was now 33-25. There’s a 12.5-point day in fantasy right there. 

Until he’s more consistent, Moore is not a WR1 or 2 but is a decent flex. So 12.5 from a flex is OK to get your Week 1 going.

The next drive started with a pass intended for Moore that was intercepted. The Redskins converted it into an Alfred Morris 3-yard score and 40-25 lead.

There’s 3:18 left on the clock. Now it’s garbage time.

Moore is targeted two times, catches two for 34 yards and sets up another player to salvage his fantasy day as Darren Sproles had a receiving TD from the 2.

Moore catches his next two targets for 15 and 26 yards, Brees is intercepted on a Hail Mary and the day is over. Pre-garbage for Moore is 2-45-1; by game’s end it is 6-120-1.

This is a long road to lead you down to say: start Lance Moore as at least a WR2 this week.

Three reasons: Teammate Devery Henderson (concussion) is out. Chris Gamble for the Panthers. The Saints’ passing defense.

Henderson’s absence thins out the receiving corps, thus more opportunities for Moore early and often. 

Gamble is the top corner in the NFC South and just posted a game in which only four passes came his way for one catch and six yards and a TD (Mike Williams with 5:20 left in the first quarter).

New Orleans just allowed rookie Robert Griffin III to throw for 306 yards and two scores on 19-of-26 passing with no interceptions.

The knock on Moore could be his performance away from domes — 76-807-6 to 174-2,096-25 indoors in 24 versus 46 games. But he has also not had the opportunity to be the clear-cut No. 2 WR for the Saints like he has now.

If there was EVER a week to trust Lance Moore, this has to be the week.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 08:10
All taxonomy terms: Brandon LaFell, Carolina Panthers, NFL, News
Path: /nfl/brandon-lafell-carolina-panthers-receiver-could-have-big-week-2
Body:

You cannot call Brandon LaFell the clear-cut No. 2 receiver for the Carolina Panthers, but his connection with quarterback Cam Newton has not faded from a season ago. 

Brandon LaFell was targeted five times in the Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay and caught three of them for 65 yards. Those numbers are nearly identical to Louis Murphy, who was acquired in a trade with Oakland in the offseason. Murphy had five targets, three catches for 63 yards. 

LaFell’s third-quarter, 22-yard touchdown and the fact he played 100 percent of the snaps (52) were the difference between the two receivers in Week 1.

So why would you consider starting LaFell in Week 2 against the visiting New Orleans Saints?

Well, there are a few reasons. 

No. 1 is the health of Steve Smith, who has battled a knee injury this week. No. 2 is the Saints’ pass defense, or lack thereof. No. 3 is LaFell played every offensive snap a week ago.

New Orleans just allowed Washington rookie Robert Griffin III to throw for 320 yards and two scores on 19-of-26 passing with no interceptions. All but two Redskins pass catchers averaged double-digits in yards per catch against the Saints in Week 1.

So the numbers are there for the taking for Carolina’s receivers.

Let us also keep in mind the Panthers were the No. 24 defense against the pass last season. Holding Josh Freeman to 16-of-24 for 138 yards and a first-quarter TD pass in Week 1 is one thing compared to Drew Brees throwing for 748 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions in the two meetings against Carolina a year ago.

Newton was not nearly as productive in his two games with the Saints — 382 yards, three passing TDs and two interceptions. 

However, as most Saints’ games go, expect a shootout. 

If you’re telling me each team allows at least 20 points — something the Saints allowed last week and eight times last season — once to the Panthers — and something Carolina allowed 11 times last season — and in both meetings against the Saints, then give me a receiver that’s going to be a part of that.

LaFell was targeted 56 times last season, pulling down 36 of those balls for 613 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games played and five starts. LaFell also played 27 of his 52 snaps last week in the slot, garnering three targets, two catches and the 22-yard TD, according to Pro Football Focus.

Murphy, in 11 games and one start with Oakland last season, was targeted 33 times for 15 catches, 241 yards and no scores. Murphy had seven of his 39 snaps in the slot last week, was targeted once there and did not catch it.

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 07:53
Path: /nfl/chris-johnson-sit-titans-running-back-week-2-versus-san-diego-chargers
Body:

At what point do we stop starting Tennessee Titans' running back Chris Johnson on the “potential” that he could do something each week?

Unless you are in a PPR league, there is NO way you can comfortably insert Johnson into your starting lineup on a weekly basis. Even as a flex he is questionable.

Yes, you spent the high draft pick on potential. And that was unfortunate on your part. But the theory of “you picked ’em high, start ’em” is flawed. If someone has a better matchup and you know it, you go with the better matchup. 

There are very few RBs that are immune to this theory. 

Johnson used to be one of them; two years ago for sure, last year because we were naïve. Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson, Maurice Jones-Drew, DeMarco Murray, a healthy Darren McFadden and Matt Forte, before Thursday’s injury, all still hold the status of “start ’em no matter what.”

But there is very little through 2011, three 2012 preseason games and one 2012 regular season game — albeit against a stout New England front — that says Johnson is anywhere close to having that status as a reliable starter.

If the four rushing yards on 11 carries in Week 1 were not enough to convince you then how about the fact that he only pulled off double-digit rushing performances on four occasions last season. And those came against the Nos. 30, 25, 6 and 28th ranked rush defenses. 

That was a year ago. After one week, all four of those defenses were ranked 21st or worst against the run.

Johnson, who eclipsed 70 yards rushing just four times last season, had eight double-digit fantasy days altogether in 2011, and four of those were 13.2 points or less. Is that what you want from a top-12 pick? Take away the PPR and he drops to five double-digit days. 

Now it’s on to San Diego and a Chargers team that was 20th against the run last season. All they did was finish the first week as the sixth-best team against the run, holding Oakland’s Darren McFadden to 32 rushing yards on 15 carries.

McFadden, like Johnson, only salvaged his high-pick status in Week 1 by catching a career-high 13 balls for 86 yards. Johnson did the same, countering the 11 yards on the ground with six catches for 47 yards. 

The Titans’ offensive line looked awful against the Patriots and the few chances Johnson did have he danced behind the line of scrimmage. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Stevan Ridley, was aggressive running through any lane created by the Patriots’ offensive line. 

Oh, remember when Johnson was aggressive? But I digress.

There is nothing to suggest that the Titans, who have traditionally been awful on the West Coast — 4-11 since moving to Tennessee in 1997 — can have success running against the Chargers.

Add in that starting QB Jake Locker (shoulder) and starting receiver Nate Washington (leg contusion) are hurting and receiver Kenny Britt (knee/suspension) will be on a limited snap count as he makes his first appearance since Week 3 of 2011 and there are not a lot of positives surrounding the Titans’ camp.

The only saving grace for Johnson will be in PPR leagues as Javon Ringer (elbow) is still out and will not vulture snaps. But if you are banking on starting CJ on just the PPR potential, it’s going to be a long year at your RB1 or 2 spot.

I may be wrong, but I will take being wrong until Johnson can consistently prove he’s right again. I am tired of starting him on “potential” when players like Ridley, Doug Martin, C.J. Spiller, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and even Alfred Morris clearly have better matchups in Week 2.  

—Corby A. Yarbrough @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 07:45
Path: /nfl/detroit-lions-vs-san-francisco-49ers-preview-and-prediction
Body:

Some of the national attention will be on the two coaches when the San Francisco 49ers host the Detroit Lions Sunday night at 8:20pm EST on NBC, but the real story is a solid NFC matchup between two postseason teams with high goals for this season. After San Francisco’s 25-19 win last October, Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers boss Jim Harbaugh had a rather contentious postgame handshake that was played over and over again on the highlight shows. However both coaches say it was overblown, and that the focus belongs on two 1-0 squads with Super Bowl aspirations.

When the San Francisco 49ers have the ball:
The Niners are known for a conservative offensive attack featuring physical tailback Frank Gore, but they did finish 11th in the league in scoring last season. Gore was excellent (16 carries for 112 yards and TD) in Week 1, but quarterback Alex Smith was also huge with an efficient 20-for-26 performance that included two touchdowns. With Randy Moss and Mario Manningham joining Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis on the receiving unit, the San Francisco offense has a very dangerous balance for its opponents.

The Lions defense had a quality outing against St. Louis, holding the Rams to just 250 total yards. It will be a more difficult challenge this week with 49ers power running game, which is led by an excellent offensive line. Detroit must limit Gore’s production, while also hoping that a banged up secondary does not get beat for big plays on the outside. Smith does not turn the ball over, so the Lions must tackle well to get off the field.

When the Detroit Lions have the ball:
After a slow start that included three first-half interceptions, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford finished with 355 passing yards against the Rams in a 27-23 victory. Receiver Calvin Johnson had a routine six catches for 111 yards, while an important contribution was made by oft-injured running back Kevin Smith (62 rush yards and a score plus a touchdown catch). Detroit should look to work underneath routes in order to combat the ferocious Niners pass rush, so Smith, wideout Nate Burleson and tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler will be valuable targets in this game.

The 49ers defense is their catalyst, and their performance in a 30-22 win at Green Bay last week was stellar. The high-octane Packers only managed seven points in the first three quarters and totaled just 45 rushing yards (with 27 by quarterback Aaron Rodgers) for the game. San Francisco’s linebackers group — NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks — can handle the run game and blitzing Stafford, so the secondary’s top priority will be doing whatever it takes to slow down Johnson.

Key Factor:
The 49ers have historically dominated the Lions, and this contest will come down to the Lions ability to stop Gore and force Smith to beat them through the air. Detroit could be depleted with injuries on the back end, but giving up clock-eating rushing yards to San Francisco would be a losing formula. Schwartz will have his team motivated, but Harbaugh’s crew will win at home in the end.

Prediction:
49ers 24 Lions 17


---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers Preview and Prediction</p>
Post date: Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 07:00
All taxonomy terms: Oklahoma State Cowboys, Big 12, News
Path: /news/wes-lunt-injures-knee-oklahoma-state-win
Body:

Oklahoma State starting quarterback Wes Lunt was injured during Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette, and his long-term status for the rest of the season is up in the air. However, early reports have indicated Lunt's injury may not be significant, and he could return for the Sept. 29 matchup against Texas.

If Lunt is unable to return, the Cowboys will turn to J.W. Walsh. The redshirt freshman completed 21 of 30 passes for 347 yards and four scores against the Ragin' Cajuns. He also rushed for 73 yards and one touchdown.

Although Oklahoma State would have liked to get Lunt more comfortable in the offense with Big 12 play coming up, Walsh's performance was encouraging and shows the Cowboys are still a Big 12 title contender even if Lunt can't play for a couple of games.

Oklahoma State also has the potent combination of Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith at running back, while the defense is solid. 

The extent of Lunt's injury probably won't be known for a few days, but as the video below shows, it could have been a lot worse. 

Oklahoma State's next game isn't until Sept. 29, so the true freshman has plenty of time to heal. However, even if Lunt misses time, Walsh showed he is capable of leading the Cowboys to a victory over Texas.

Teaser:
<p> Wes Lunt's Injury A Big Loss for Oklahoma State</p>
Post date: Saturday, September 15, 2012 - 17:20
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/september-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 15:15
Path: /nfl/nfl-picks-against-spread-week-2
Body:

A game-by-game betting preview (against the spread) for each of the 15 games on Sunday and Monday in Week 2. Here are the teams to pick and the ones to stay away from.

Locks of the Week
Ride the hot hands and go with two veteran teams that looked like Super Bowl contenders in Week 1, the reigning Super Bowl champs and the phenom du jour.

Ravens (+3) at Eagles
Baltimore has a short week after a dominant 44–13 win over Cincinnati on Monday night. But the way Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata and the Ravens defense was swarming, Michael Vick — who threw four INTs in the opener — might be in trouble.

Redskins (-3) at Rams
Why not? Ride the RG3 bandwagon until the wheels fall off.

Giants (-7) vs. Buccaneers
The G-Men have had 10 days to prepare for the young Bucs.

Patriots (-14) vs. Cardinals
The biggest number of the week is also one of the safest bets. The home opener in New England will showcase the new faces on the Pats defense — at the expense of whichever quarterback Arizona sends to slaughter.


Blowout Bargains
Don’t be afraid of a big spread. Ten of the 16 games played in Week 1 were decided by eight or more points — including five contests with a margin of 20 or more points.

Bengals (-7) vs. Browns
Bet against Brandon Weeden (4 INTs, 5.1 passer rating in Week 1) every week until his passer rating is at least in the teens.

Texans (-7.5) at Jaguars
Houston had no problem dubbing the Dolphins and should handle the Jaguars with similar ease.


Straight Up Upsets
These underdogs don’t look as good as Kate Upton’s Twitter pics, but they look good.

Seahawks (+3) vs. Cowboys
Tony Romo may not be the holder for field goals anymore, but he’s still the Cowboys quarterback.

Titans (+6) at Chargers
Chris Johnson will need to run for more than four yards in order for Tennessee to pull off the West Coast upset.


Sucker Bets
Stay away completely. These games are meant for local yokels who always bet on their home team, or for degenerates who always have to have action.

Vikings (-1.5) at Colts
Andrew Luck’s home opener pits two of the worst squads in the league against each other.

Raiders (-3) at Dolphins
Oakland’s backup long-snapper is a better bet than this race to the bottom.

Bills (-3) vs. Chiefs
Two teams with goals of approaching mediocrity this season.

Saints (-3) at Panthers
A division showdown between two teams already in panic mode.

Steelers (-6) vs. Jets
Gang Green lit up the scoreboard for 48 points last week after the first team offense failed to score a touchdown during the preseason.

49ers (-7) vs. Lions
Untuck your shirt, jump around and slap your rival on the back, but stay away from this Sunday night fight.


Monday Money    
Another chance to wager for those who have to “get back” or “let it ride” this week.

Falcons (-3) vs. Broncos
Dome sweet dome. Matt Ryan has a 26–4 record in the Georgia Dome.
 

Teaser:
<p> A game-by-game betting preview (against the spread) for each of the 15 games on Sunday and Monday in Week 2.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 12:58
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Links, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-16
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for September 14.

• Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson will not play Saturday versus No. 1 Alabama.

• Jay Cutler and the Bears offensive line failed miserably in last night’s 23-10 loss to the Packers.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee looks at what a victory in the Florida-Tennessee game would mean for coaches Will Muschamp and Derek Dooley.

• Check out this gallery of mascots behaving badly.

• The UConn basketball program is in shambles as Jim Calhoun retires.

• Mark Ennis of Big East Coast Bias details at the struggles of USF and quarterback B.J. Daniels in league play.

• Will the Eagles have any healthy wide receivers against the Ravens?

• The red-hot Orioles have won their last 13 extra-inning games, and Baltimore is ready for postseason baseball.

• Oh those Apple hipsters.

• Can a “no-Luck” Stanford team surprise USC on Saturday?

• You gotta love Dad going Happy Gilmore off the tee.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 13

• The Bears and Packers play tonight at Lambeau Field, and this year's Chicago offense has massive potential.

• Yahoo’s Les Carpenter believes that retiring UConn coach Jim Calhoun changed for the worst in order to win big.

• MrSEC.com looks into the recruiting rumors around Mississippi State caused by controversial “7-on-7 coach” Byron De’Vinner.

• LostLetterman.com ranks college football’s best end zone designs.

• Remember that band guy in high school with the funny name?

• The Oakland A’s and their small-budget payroll have won 12 consecutive road games and lead the American League wild card standings.

• Miami Heat star LeBron James has decided to change agents.

• One Texas football star doesn’t believe the Longhorns’ crowd is very loud.

• The Arizona Cardinals will start Kevin Kolb against the Patriots on Sunday. Adjust your wagers accordingly.

• The Penn State football program has had another player defection.

• Check out the awesome fake on this defensive play by Orioles rookie third baseman Manny Machado. Baltimore is tied with the Yankees atop the AL East and is battling to make the postseason for the first time since 1997.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 12

• The news broke this morning that Notre Dame will join the ACC in all sports but football and hockey. The agreement is expected to begin whenever ND can exit the Big East, and the Irish will play five football games per year against ACC opponents.

• Texans defensive end J.J. Watt says he learned the Dolphins snap count from watching Hard Knocks on HBO. Good luck to the network trying to find a team to do the show next preseason.

• The Packers host the Bears on Thursday night in a huge NFC North matchup. How will Green Bay running back Cedric Benson fare against his former team?

• This seems pretty prophetic with blush wine.

• USC football has banned Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News for two weeks for…reporting the news.

• The Orioles and A’s keep winning as the American League playoff race continues to be a wild one.

• Easy on those touchdown celebrations, kids.

• This two-minute video pretty much sums up the pending NHL lockout.

• It seemed like a great story when Harvard basketball made last season’s NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946, but now comes the news that co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry have been accused of being part of a large academic cheating scandal at the school.

• If you’ve got some extra time on your hands, get up to Maine and help solve this canoe mystery. A gallon of gin could be yours!

• Check out the reaction of Slayer guitarist Kerry King and other musicians to the popular new ESPN commercial that has NFL insider John Clayton wearing the metal band’s t-shirt.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 11

• Ravens safety Ed Reed set a new all-time NFL record for interception return yards in Baltimore’s 44-13 victory over the Bengals.

• Is Angels rookie Mike Trout still the favorite for the American League MVP?

• Check out what happens to Browns’ receiver Mohamed Massaquoi on the new Madden13. That’s gotta hurt.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett looks at the recent struggles of the Nebraska defense.

• Apparently the nation’s top football recruit, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Grayson H.S. in Georgia, is not a fan of the AJC’s Michael Carvell.

• The SEC has unfortunately made a Goodell-like decision in suspending Ole Miss defensive back Trae Elston for a hit that was deemed “a flagrant and dangerous act.” The play did not draw a flag in the Rebels win over UTEP, but Elston will sit against Texas this week.

• The Raiders special teams gaffes were paramount in last night’s 22-14 home loss to the Chargers.

• Is UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin a dark-horse Heisman candidate?

• Ken Pomeroy takes an in-depth look at the infamous USA-USSR Olympic basketball final from 1972 on its 40th anniversary.

• Kudos to Andy Murray for winning an elusive Grand Slam title. He beat Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final to become the first British man to win a singles Grand Slam championship since 1936.

• Does the AMC hit show Breaking Bad need a new open? Here is a worthy candidate for Walter White and the boys.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


September 10

• There is a new excitement around the Redskins with Robert Griffin III at quarterback. The rookie threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Saints in his NFL debut.

• Mike Klis of the Denver Post looks at the “superb quarterbacking” in the Broncos 31-19 win over the Steelers. New Denver signal caller Peyton Manning became the third QB in NFL history to throw for 400 career touchdowns.

• LSU is kicking butt on the field, and so is their fan base with this R2D2 keg.

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post recaps a wild Week 2 of college football.

• FOX’s Jon Paul Morosi calls out the Nationals management for their mishandling of ace Stephen Strasburg.

• The 49ers made a big statement at Lambeau Field yesterday, beating the Packers 30-22.

• Check out this beer koozie.

• Four-time champion Jeff Gordon slipped into the last spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

• Twitter was abuzz on Saturday night as Louisiana-Monroe upset Arkansas in overtime.

• Props to Brent Sutton of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. He found the lost wallet of Rays' speedster B.J. Upton and then tweeted the outfielder to set up a return.

• We're not sure which is worse: Arkansas losing to Louisiana-Monroe or this video made by a very unique Hogs fan.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 12:34
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-predictions-every-game-week-3-1
Body:

College football's third weekend of action is highlighted by Notre Dame’s trip to Michigan State and a huge showdown in the SEC East. Here’s a prediction on every game this weekend.

Friday

No. 78 Washington State at No. 115 UNLV
Mike Leach and the struggling Cougars take their show to Sin City this weekend. Wazzu likely will send out Connor Halliday at quarterback due to a knee injury to starter Jeff Tuel.
Washington State 27-13

Saturday

No. 1 Alabama at No. 34 Arkansas
Arkansas’ loss to UL Monroe last week was a blow to the Razorbacks’ ego, but it’s important to remember that it was not a conference game. However, it’s very difficult to envision a scenario in which a team that lost a 28–7 lead at home (in Little Rock) to UL Monroe is good enough to challenge Alabama and LSU in the SEC West.
Alabama 31-7

No. 2 USC at No. 24 Stanford
Matt Barkley has been nearly flawless through two games. The senior quarterback has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 559 yards with an amazing 10 touchdowns — four more than any other player in the nation. It helps when Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are your primary targets, but Barkley is clearly playing the position at the highest level.
USC 38-24

No. 124 Idaho at No. 3 LSU
Idaho is 0–2 with a 20–3 loss at home to Eastern Washington and a 21–13 loss at Bowling Green. The Vandals have scored one touchdown in eight quarters. They will have one touchdown after 12 quarters.
LSU 48-3

Tennessee Tech at No. 4 Oregon
Oregon is the far superior team, but the best wide receiver in the game will be wearing a Tennessee Tech uniform. Da’Rick Rogers, an All-SEC pick last year while at Tennessee, has caught eight passes for 163 yards and two touchdowns in his two games with the Golden Eagles.
Oregon 54-10

No. 48 California at No. 6 Ohio State
Cal’s defense has been a disappointment through two games, giving up an average of 410.5 yards and 31.0 points against Nevada (loss) and Southern Utah (win). This was looking like a potential upset back in August. Not anymore.
Ohio State 28-14

No. 121 FAU at No. 7 Georgia
After an emotional win at Missouri last week, the Bulldogs return home to face one of the worst FBS teams in the nation. This will be an easy win.
Georgia 38-3

No. 53 Wake Forest at No. 8 Florida State
The betting line, FSU by 24 points, seems a bit high considering that Wake Forest beat Florida State last season and played well last week in a 28–27 win over a well-regarded North Carolina team.
Florida State 30-17

No. 9 Texas at No. 72 Ole Miss
Ole Miss sophomore Bo Wallace has been a pleasant surprise at quarterback for first-year coach Huge Freeze. The junior college transfer has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 438 yards with five touchdowns and one interception and has also rushed for 135 yards and two scores. Those stats, however, were accumulated against Central Arkansas and UTEP. Now, the Tennessee native will test his mettle against a ferocious Texas defense that has allowed a total of 17 points in two games.
Texas 30-10

James Madison at No. 10 West Virginia
James Madison has allowed only one touchdown in two games this season. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns in its only game this season.
West Virginia 44-17

No. 109 UAB at No. 11 South Carolina
Steve Spurrier has been quick to point out that first-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee experienced a ton of success against South Carolina while the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. UAB, however, doesn’t have Tyler Wilson, Knile Davis, Greg Childs, Joe Adams, etc. on its roster.
South Carolina 38-0

Furman at No. 12 Clemson
Furman has lost its first two games by a total of five points, including a 47–45 triple-overtime thriller to Coastal Carolina last week. The Paladins won’t have to worry about a close loss this week.
Clemson 44-7

No. 16 Notre Dame at No. 13 Michigan State
The key for Notre Dame will be its ability to slow down Le’Veon Bell and the Michigan State rushing attack. Andrew Maxwell is a talented quarterback, but the first-year starter made some key mistakes in the win over Boise State two weeks ago. Notre Dame must force Maxwell to make plays down field. 
Michigan State 27-21

No. 123 UMass at No. 14 Michigan
UMass is an FBS team in name only. The Minutemen are 0–2 and have lost their two games by a combined score of 78–6. They are also one of two teams in the nation (joining Iowa) that does not have an extra point.
Michigan 51-0

No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 99 Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s season has been a disaster. The Panthers opened with a demoralizing loss at home to Youngstown State and then looked bad in a 34–10 loss to Big East rival Cincinnati last Thursday night. Paul Chryst needs something to go well this weekend.
Virginia Tech 27-17

No. 17 TCU at No. 84 Kansas
TCU ventures into Big 12 play with a trip to Lawrence to play the worst team in the league. The Jayhawks lost last week at home to a Rice team that gave up 646 yards to UCLA at home in a Week 1 loss.
TCU 34-13

No. 54 Louisville at No. 18 Louisville
The Cardinals are 2–0 after beating Kentucky and Missouri State at home. Sophomore Teddy Bridgewater has been terrific in both games. He’s completed 49-of-60 (81.7 percent) for 576 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Nobody expects him to continue to operate with that type of efficiency, but Bridgewater is emerging as one of the top young quarterbacks in the game.
Louisville 24-20

No. 29 Florida at No. 19 Tennessee
A few months ago, when CBS was selecting its early season schedule, the network passed on the Tennessee-Florida game (for the first time since 1995) in favor of Alabama’s trip to Arkansas. Now, however, after Tennessee’s hot start, Florida’s win at Texas A&M and Arkansas’ shocking loss to UL Monroe, the Vols vs. Gators showdown in the marquee game of the day in the nation’s premier conference.
Florida 24-21

No. 100 Miami (Ohio) at No. 20 Boise State
Ready for a misleading stat? Boise State ranks 120th in the nation in total offense with 206 yards per game. The Broncos have played one game — on the road at Michigan State, one of the best defensive teams in the nation.
Boise State 40-17

No. 101 Houston at No. 21 UCLA
It’s arguably the nation’s most disappointing team (Houston) vs. the most surprising team (UCLA). The Bruins have been putting up Houston-like offensive numbers, ranking third in the nation in total offense (649.5 ypg) and 18th in scoring (42.5 ppg).
UCLA 38-24

No. 103 North Texas at No. 22 Kansas State
K-State is fresh off one of the most impressive victories of the young college football season, a 52–13 win over Miami (Fla.) in Manhattan. The Wildcats will be 3–0 when they head to Norman next weekend.
Kansas State 31-10

No. 65 Arkansas State at No. 23 Nebraska
It should be noted that Arkansas State did a bunch of damage during garbage time in its Week 1 loss at Oregon, but the Red Wolves are averaging 574.5 yards per game. They will move the ball on Nebraska, which has given up over 900 yards total in its two games.
Nebraska 37–20

South Carolina State at No. 25 Arizona
The Wildcats can relax this week before a brutal six-game stretch that features road trips to Oregon, Stanford and UCLA and home dates with Oregon State, Washington and USC.
Arizona 44-10

No. 70 UL Lafayette at No. 26 Oklahoma State
These teams met last September in Stillwater in a game that featured 986 yards of offense (666 by O-State) and 95 points (61 by the Pokes). The scoring might be down a bit this time around.
Oklahoma State 44-28

Portland State at No. 27 Washington
The Huskies need a get-well game after their humbling trip to Baton Rouge. They picked up a total of 183 yards in a 41–3 loss.
Washington 41-10

Northwestern State at No. 30 Nevada
Nevada would be 2–0 with wins over two AQ conference teams if it hadn’t given up two touchdown passes of 50-plus yards in the final three minutes in last week’s 32–31 loss to South Florida.
Nevada 41-14

No. 31 Mississippi State at No. 105 Troy
The Bulldogs have struggled in recent years with some teams from so-called lesser conferences. They beat Louisiana Tech last season and UAB in 2010 by an average of 5.5 points and lost to Houston 31–24 in ’09 and Louisiana Tech 22–14 in ’08. Dan Mullen is well aware of what his team can accomplish this season and will do everything in his power to be sure the Bulldogs are mentally ready to take care of business at the venue formerly known as Movie Gallery Stadium.
Mississippi State 33-14

No. 46 Arizona State at No. 32 Missouri
Todd Graham might not be the most well-liked coach in America, but he’s done a terrific job early in his first season at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are 2–0 with wins over Northern Arizona (63–6) and Illinois (45–14). Now, Graham and the Devils take their show on the road to face a Missouri team that must bounce back — both physically and emotionally — from a 41–20 loss at home to Georgia in the school’s first-ever SEC game.
Missouri 30-24

No. 33 Texas A&M at No. 94 SMU
The Aggies are no doubt disappointed with their loss to Florida in the school’s SEC debut, but they had to like what they saw from redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel. The Texas high school legend threw for 173 yards and added 60 on the ground and did not turn the ball over.
Texas A&M 38-20

No. 37 Virginia at No. 35 Georgia Tech
This is pretty much a must win for Georgia Tech if it hopes to compete with Virginia Tech for the ACC Coastal Division title. The Yellow Jackets are already 0–1 in the league after losing at Virginia Tech in the opener. Virginia is 2–0 but struggled a bit in last week’s 17–16 win over Penn State at home. The Cavs will have to play better to be a factor in the ACC.
Georgia Tech 28-21

No. 36 BYU at No. 62 Utah
Utah’s season hasn’t exactly gone as planned. First, the Utes had a 12-game winning streak vs. in-state rival Utah State snapped. Then starting quarterback Jordan Wynn announced that he was retiring from football after suffering another shoulder injury. BYU will be out for some revenge after getting pounded at home, 54–10, last season by its hated rivals from Salt Lake City.
BYU 24-14

Sam Houston State at No. 38 Baylor
Sam Houston State is 1–0 with a 54–7 win over Incarnate Word. I don’t think Incarnate Word is very good.
Baylor 48-10

Western Illinois at No. 39 Iowa State
Iowa State will be halfway to bowl-eligibility after beating Western Illinois on Saturday. But then the fun begins — a stretch of nine straight Big 12 games.
Iowa State 37-7

No. 40 Ohio at No. 92 Marshall
There was no letdown for Ohio last week after its big win at Penn State on opening day. The Bobcats rolled past New Mexico State 51–24. Their third win should come this Saturday in Huntington.
Ohio 34-20

No. 119 South Alabama at No. 41 NC State
NC State gutted out a 10–7 win at Connecticut last week, but the Wolfpack have to be a bit worried about an offense that picked up only 258 yards.
NC State 41-10

No. 61 Utah State at No. 43 Wisconsin
One team is fresh off one of its best wins in school history. The other must regroup after a surprising loss on the road. Utah State snapped a 12-game losing streak to hated rival Utah, knocking off the Utes, 27–20, in overtime Friday night. I smell upset.
Utah State 24-23

No. 66 UL-Monroe at No. 44 Auburn
This game Saturday features one of the nation’s hottest quarterbacks (Kolton Browning) vs. one of the most maligned (Kiehl Frazier). Browning, a former 3-star recruit (Scout) who had no BCS offers, threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 69 more and one score in the Warhawks’ thrilling overtime win at Arkansas last weekend. Meanwhile, Frazier, a consensus top-100 national recruit two years ago, is struggling mightily in his first season as the starter.
Auburn 30-17

No. 77 Boston College at No. 45 Northwestern
Northwestern in the only school from an AQ conference to open the season with three non-league games vs. AQ conference opponents. The Wildcats beat the first two, Syracuse and Vanderbilt, and should make it No. 3 on Saturday.
Northwestern 30-21

Delaware State at No. 49 Cincinnati
Munchie Legaux was outstanding in the Bearcats’ Week 2 win over Pittsburgh, throwing for 205 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 117 yards on only six carries. Expect more fireworks this week.
Cincinnati 44-10

No. 116 New Mexico at No. 50 Texas Tech
Texas Tech’s soft early season schedule continues with a visit from New Mexico, which lost 45–0 at Texas last week. The Lobos completed only six passes vs. the Longhorns.
Texas Tech 41-14

Presbyterian at No. 51 Vanderbilt
The Commodores have held leads in the fourth quarter in both games this season but have nothing to show for it. They will break into the win column this Saturday.
Vanderbilt 41-0

Charleston Southern at No. 52 Illinois
Charleston Southern is 0–2 and has lost its two games by a total of 56 points. Illinois has some issues, but the Fighting Illini will roll.
Illinois 41-10

Northern Iowa at No. 55 Iowa
Iowa is one of only three teams nationally that has played two games but scored only one touchdown. The Hawkeyes also rank in a tie for second with six field goals.
Iowa 20-17

No. 111 Eastern Michigan at No. 56 Purdue
Purdue fell short last week at Notre Dame, losing 20–17 on a late field goal, but the Boilermakers will be a tough out in the Big Ten. This is team that is capable of winning eight games.
Purdue 37-15

Bethune-Cookman at No. 57 Miami (Fla.)
The Hurricanes have given up 84 points in two games this season. The 2001 Canes, who won the national title, gave up 117 for the entire season.
Miami 38-10

No. 71 Navy at No. 58 Penn State
Bill O’Brien is still searching for his first win as the head coach at Penn State. He should find it this weekend.
Penn State 17-13

No. 59 Louisiana Tech at No. 83 Rice
Louisiana Tech gave up 693 yards last week yet still beat Houston thanks to an offense that scored 56 points and rolled up 598 yards. It will be a surprise if the Bulldogs don’t top 500 yards against Rice.
Louisiana Tech 44-20

Stony Brook at No. 60 Syracuse
Ryan Nassib has thrown for a total of 804 yards and six touchdowns in two games, but the Orange have yet to win a game. They lost to Northwestern 42–41 at home and then dropped a 42–29 decision to USC at the Meadowlands.
Syracuse 37-21

No. 63 UConn at No. 79 Maryland
It’s the highly anticipated Randy Edsall bowl. The not-so-popular head coach went 74–70 in 12 years at Connecticut before bolting for his “dream job” at Maryland. Things haven’t gone so well in College Park, where Edsall has a 4–10 record through the second week of the 2012 season.
UConn 13-10

No. 76 Western Michigan at No. 64 Minnesota
This is a good measuring stick for Minnesota. We think the Gophers are improved, but this will be a nice test. Western Michigan is good enough to win this game if Jerry Kill’s club doesn’t play well.
Minnesota 28-20

No. 102 Western Kentucky at No. 67 Kentucky
After losing its first two games in the series by an average of 36.5 points (in ’08 and ’10), Western Kentucky made the boys from Big State U sweat in last season’s opener played in Nashville. The final score was 14–3, but Kentucky didn’t put the game away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Kentucky 20-10

No. 86 Bowling Green at No. 68 Toledo
Toledo bounced back from a tough overtime loss at Arizona to defeat a solid Wyoming club 34–31 on the road. Bowling Green unexpectedly struggled with Idaho (the Falcons won 21–13) after giving Florida trouble in Week 1.
Toledo 38-30

No. 87 FIU at No. 69 UCF
FIU has been a disappointment through the first two games of the season. The Golden Panthers were blown out at Duke by 20 (and Duke went on to lose badly at Stanford) and then had to go to overtime to beat Akron at home.
UCF 38-17

North Carolina Central at No. 73 Duke
Duke expected to be a bit more competitive last week at Stanford, but the Blue Devils were soundly beaten (50–13) in Palo Alto. They threw for 363 yards but managed only 37 rushing yards.
Duke 37-13

No. 81 East Carolina at No. 74 Southern Miss
We still don’t know too much about this Southern Miss team. The Golden Eagles have only played once and gave up 632 yards en route to a 49–20 loss at Nebraska.
Southern Miss 34-28

Nicholls State at No. 75 Tulsa
Nichols State picked up a grand total of 118 yards in its only game this season, a 9–3 loss at South Alabama. This will get out of hand very early.
Tulsa 48-7

No. 82 Northern Illinois at No. 97 Army
Northern Illinois isn’t usually known for its defense, but the Huskies have only given up two touchdowns in two games this season — an 18–17 loss to Iowa in Chicago and a 35–7 win over Tennessee-Martin.
Northern Illinois 31-13

No. 110 Colorado at No. 85 Fresno State
The optimist points to the fact that Colorado has lost its two games — vs. Colorado State in Denver and Sacramento State at home — by a total of five points. The realist points to the fact that Colorado is not good at football.
Fresno State 30-17

No. 114 New Mexico State at No. 88 UTEP
UTEP is struggling to score points. The Miners have one offensive touchdown and are averaging 283.0 yards per game. It might be time to panic if they have trouble scoring this weekend.
UTEP 28-13

No. 107 Colorado State at No. 89 San Jose State
Colorado State’s Week 1 win over rival Colorado was followed up by a sobering 22–7 loss at home to North Dakota State. San Jose State continues to improve under third-year coach Mike MacIntyre. This is a game the Spartans should win.
San Jose State 24-13

No. 104 Ball State at No. 91 Indiana
I realize that Ball State beat IU on a neutral field last year, but it has to be alarming for Kevin Wilson that his team is only a three-point favorite at home to a middle-of-the-pack (at best) team from the MAC.
Indiana 21-20

North Dakota at No. 94 San Diego State
Ryan Katz, a former starter at Oregon State, is off to a solid start in his only season with the Aztecs. He has completed 24-of-40 passes for 343 yards and two scores and has added 86 yards rushing.
San Diego State 33-10

Cal Poly at No. 95 Wyoming
Wyoming let one get away last week in a loss at home to Toledo. Those are the type of games the Cowboys need to win to reach a bowl game.
Wyoming 34-17

Lamar at No. 108 Hawaii
Hawaii makes its home debut with native Hawaiian Norm Chow as the head coach. The Warriors lost in Week 1 at USC, 49–10.
Hawaii 37-7

Morgan State at No. 120 Akron
Akron showed significant improvement from Week 1 to Week 2. After losing at home 56–14 to UCF, the Zips took FIU to overtime before losing 41–38 on the road. This week, Terry Bowden’s club will break through.
Akron 37-14

No. 118 Middle Tennessee at No. 122 Memphis
For the second straight week, Middle Tennessee is involved in a game that features two of the worst 10 teams in the nation (according to our rankings). Unlike last week, the Blue Raiders won’t win.
Memphis 23-17

Last week: 52–17
Season: 107–28
 

— By Mitch Light

Teaser:
<p> Can Michigan State hold off Notre Dame? Can the Gators survive Rocky Top? Predictions on every game in Week 3</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 09:51
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /nfl/5-conspiracy-theories-changed-sports-history
Body:

Conspiracy theories are a part of America's culture, covering everything from government cover-ups to suspicious murders. But the world of sports also has its share of conspiracy theories. Here are the five biggest, and the impact they had on the history of their sport.

1. 1919 World Series — Chicago Black Sox Scandal

“Say it ain’t so, Joe.”

Eight members of the Chicago White Sox — “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Claude “Lefty” Williams, Buck Weaver, Arnold “Chick” Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg and Oscar “Happy” Felsch — were banned from baseball for conspiring with gamblers and gangsters (notably New York’s Arnold Rothstein) to throw the 1919 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

The plan worked, as the heavily favored White Sox — one of the era’s highest profile teams and arguably one of the most talented squads of all time — fell to the Reds, 5-to-3, in the best-of-nine series.

Strangely, “Shoeless Joe” hit the 1919 World Series’ only home run and led all batters with a .375 average (12-for-32), six RBIs and five runs scores. But Jackson’s implication in the scandal ended his career at only 32 years old, with a .356 career average and three top-5 finishes in AL MVP voting.

As a result of what would become known as the “Black Sox Scandal,” Kenesaw Mountain Landis was named the first “Commissioner of Baseball” in 1920.

 

2. Super Bowl III — New York Jets upset Baltimore Colts

“We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee it.”

Joe Namath backed up his famous guarantee with the New York Jets upsetting the Baltimore Colts, 16–7, in Super Bowl III. But since “Broadway Joe” trotted off the field pointing No. 1 to the sky, there have been more than a few rumblings that the Colts took a dive against the Jets.

The legitimacy of the NFL-AFL merger of 1970 was greatly aided by the AFL’s win in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. The fact that the game was won by New York — a massive media market with a coverboy quarterback — was icing on the cake. In hindsight, it could be argued that the Jets’ win over the Colts was a triumph worth not just millions but billions of dollars for the league.

“That Super Bowl game, which we lost by nine points, was the critical year (for the AFL),” Colts defensive end Bubba Smith famously told Playboy. “The game just seemed odd to me. Everything was out of place. I tried to rationalize that our coach, Don Shula, got out-coached, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know if any of my teammates were in on the fix.”

Baltimore had a 13–1 record in 1968 and dominated the Cleveland Browns, 34–0, in the NFL title game. Meanwhile, New York went 11–3 and barely escaped with a 27–23 win over the Oakland Raiders in the AFL title game — thanks in large part to a fluke play late in the fourth quarter, when the Jets recovered a lateral fumble that the Raiders thought was an incomplete pass.

The Colts committed five costly turnovers, including three interceptions by quarterback Earl Morrall. One interception was particularly suspicious. With Colts receiver Jimmy Orr wide open near the end zone, Morrall checked down to running back Jerry Hill only to throw an errant pass intercepted by Jets safety Jim Hudson.

“I’m just a linesman but I looked up and saw Jimmy (Orr) wide open,” said Colts center Bill Curry, currently the head coach at Georgia State.

Baltimore coach Don Sula — who would later coach Morrall with the Miami Dolphins — may have the most damning non-quote of all. Smith wrote in his autobiography, “Kill, Bubba, Kill,” that he believed the fix was in at Super Bowl III. Shula’s response was the classic husband-caught-cheating reply.

“I think it’s too ridiculous for me to comment on,” said Shula.



3. Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston — “Phantom Punch”

“Get up and fight, sucker!”

Muhammad Ali stood over Sonny Liston shouting at him to get up, while ringside photographer Neil Leifer captured the iconic moment in what many have called the greatest sports photograph in history.

Ali-Liston II was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, 1964 at the Boston Garden. But the fight was postponed after a pre-fight injury suffered by Ali. Rumors of organized crime connections to the fight promotion caused the city of Boston to reject the fight. Then, amid continued fixed fight talk, the city of Cleveland followed suit and also denied the fight.

Finally, on May 25, 1965, the heavyweight championship bout took place at St. Dominic’s Hall in Lewiston, Maine, and was refereed by former heavyweight champ Jersey Joe Walcott. The fight did not last long, however. Liston went down in the first round — as rumors swirled that Liston owed money to the mafia and/or had been threatened by the Nation of Islam.

Worst of all, Ali was reportedly overheard asking his corner crew a crucial question about the so-called “phantom punch.”

“Did I hit him?”


4. 1985 NBA Draft Lottery — Patrick Ewing to the New York Knicks

In 1985, Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was a “can’t miss” NBA prospect. Ewing lived up to his advanced billing, as an 11-time NBA All-Star and member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. He never won an NBA championship, primarily due to the greatness of Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon. But Ewing was the centerpiece of 13 playoff teams for the New York Knicks — a team that acquired the 7-footer via the first-ever NBA Draft Lottery.



After watching the footage, several oddities stand out. When putting the seven envelopes into the drum, the fourth envelope is noticeably thrown against the side of the clear sphere — bending one corner of the envelope — while the other six are simply dropped into the bottom of the drum. Then, Commissioner David Stern lets out a stressful deep breath before diving his hand into the drum, passing over several envelopes and drawing what turned out to be the New York Knicks — Stern’s self-proclaimed favorite team. Along with the bent-corner theory, many have speculated that the Knicks’ envelope had been frozen prior to the drawing.

Since the Ewing scandal, the NBA Draft Lottery has cleaned up its act. The ping-pong ball lottery takes place in a room with no cameras, then the “results” are announced by opening the envelopes on television. Stern is nowhere near the event. Who has been involved? The trustworthy employees of Ernst & Young, whose honest oversight experience also includes the fraudulent accounting practices of Lehman Brothers.

It’s all on the up and up. The Bulls received the right to draft Chicago native Derrick Rose, despite only a 1.7 percent chance of “winning” the Lottery. The Orlando Magic won back-to-back No. 1 picks, including Shaquille O’Neal. The New Jersey Nets won the No. 1 pick in Rod Thorn’s first draft running the Nets, after 15 years of Thorn being Stern’s right-hand man in the league office. The Cleveland Cavaliers got the top pick the year the best player in state history (LeBron James) was available and the year after King James left town. The most recent Lottery was won by the New Orleans Hornets — a team owned by the NBA during the 2011-12 season, before being sold to Tom Benson.

If the real lottery were run the way Stern runs the NBA Draft Lottery, no one would buy a ticket. And the right to draft Ewing, Shaq, LeBron, etc., is worth more than the PowerBall.


5. 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals, Game 6 — Sacramento Kings at L.A. Lakers

Tim Donaghy was an NBA referee from 1994 to 2007, officiating in 772 regular season games and 20 playoff contests. But rumors of fixing games caused Donaghy to resign in July 2007. Concrete evidence presented by the FBI resulted in Donaghy pleading guilty to federal charges and being sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

After being released, Donaghy began telling tales of NBA officiating, gambling and controlling the outcome of games. His legal team even filed loosely veiled allegations against the NBA in U.S. District Court.

Although he does not name team or referee names, it is clear that Donaghy’s attorney is referring to Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers.

“Referees A, F and G were officiating a playoff series between Teams 5 and 6 in May of 2002. It was the sixth game of a seven-game series, and a Team 5 victory that night would have ended the series.

“However, Tim learned from Referee A that Referees A and F wanted to extend the series to seven games. Tim knew Referees A and F to be ‘company men,’ always acting in the interest of the NBA, and that night, it was in the NBA’s interest to add another game to the series. Referees A and F heavily favored Team 6.

“Personal fouls (resulting in obviously injured players) were ignored even when they occurred in full view of the Referees. Conversely, the Referees called made-up fouls on Team 5 in order to give additional free throw opportunities for Team 6. Their foul-calling also led to the ejection of two Team 5 players.

“The referees’ favoring of Team 6 led to that team’s victory that night, and Team 6 came back from behind to win that series.”



To translate:

The referees that May 31, 2002 night were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney and Steve Javie. The Kings led the Lakers, 3–2, in the best-of-seven series. A Kings win would send Sacramento to the NBA Finals, where it would face the New Jersey Nets. A Lakers win would force a Game 7 and keep alive the dynasty dreams of the two-time defending champions.

Kings centers Vlade Divac and Scot Pollard both fouled out of the game. Pollard picked up two fouls in 14 seconds, fouling out with 11:34 remaining in the fourth quarter; Divac fouled out with 2:56 remaining. Kings forward Chris Webber picked up three fouls in the fourth quarter, his fifth foul coming with 3:07 to play.

The Lakers led the Kings in free throw attempts, 40-to-25. In the fourth quarter, L.A. went 21-of-27 from the free throw line, while Sacramento was 7-of-9 in the final period. And in a symbolic display of unfairness, Kings guard Mike Bibby was called for a foul after being elbowed in the nose by Kobe Bryant.

After the game, Ralph Nader called for investigation. But Lakers fans smiled all the way to a 106–102 Game 6 win, a 112–106 Game 7 victory and a four-game sweep of the overmatched Nets in the NBA Finals, en route to a star-studded three-peat led by Shaq, Kobe and Phil Jackson.

“I’m not going to say there was a conspiracy,” said Pollard. “I just think something wasn’t right. It was unfair. We didn’t have a chance to win that game.”
 

Teaser:
<p> The five conspiracy theories that changed sports history, including the 1919 World Series, Super Bowl III and Ali-Liston II.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 08:31
Path: /college-football/college-football-award-watch-post-week-2
Body:

The Heisman Trophy isn’t the only award worth watching on a weekly basis. The Lombardi, Outland, Davey O’Brien and Biletnikoff races are all worth watching and debating as the season goes along.

Throughout the season, we’ll keep an eye on all the prominent position trophies through college football in addition to the Heisman.

If you’re looking for our thoughts on that other trophy, check our weekly Heisman poll.

OFFENSIVE AWARDS
Davey O’Brien (Top quarterback)
Our leader: Matt Barkley, USC
Barkley didn’t have one of his best days in a USC uniform against Syracuse. His 187 yards is the second-lowest total since the start of last season. That said, Barkley still had six touchdown passes, giving him 20 TD passes in his last four games going back to last year.
Others: West Virginia’s Geno Smith, Kansas State’s Collin Klein, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray

Doak Walker (Top running back)
Our leader: Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
Franklin was not a first- or second-team All-Pac-12 honoree last season despite rushing for 976 yards. He’ll eclipse that total easily if he continues at this rate. Franklin had his second 200-yard game of the season with 217 against Nebraska. He added three catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Others: Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore

Biletnikoff Award (Top wide receiver)
Our leader: Marqise Lee, USC
Just another day for Lee: Double-digit receptions and multiple touchdowns. Lee caught 11 passes for 66 yards with three scores against Syracuse. He has 13 total touchdowns (11 receiving, two kickoff returns) in his last seven games.
Others: USC’s Robert Woods, Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin

Mackey Award (Top tight end)
Our leader: Kaneakua Friel, BYU
Friel came into the season with little buzz, but he’s already one of BYU’s key players. The junior added another touchdown catch, his third of the season, last week against Weber State. BYU faces its toughest opponent of the season this week against Utah.
Others: Arkansas’ Chris Gragg, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Outland Trophy (Top interior lineman)
Our leader: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Alabama’s offensive line had a rough day against Western Kentucky, allowing six sacks and blocking for a run game that averaged 3.3 yards per carry. But don’t forget how dominant Alabama was in the opener against Michigan. It would be shocking for Alabama not to show that again during the SEC season.
Others: Michigan State’s Chris McDonald, Virginia’s Oday Aboushi

Rimington Trophy (Top center)
Our leader: Alabama’s Jones
Others: Clemson’s Dalton Freeman

 

 


DEFENSIVE AWARDS
Bednarik Award/Nagurski Award (Defensive Player of the Year)
Our leader: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o picked up his first career interception in Week 1. Jarvis Jones had his first pick against Missouri last week. Jones had perhaps the most dominant individual defensive performance of the season with two forced fumbles, two sacks and a pick as Georgia pulled away from Missouri in the Tigers’ SEC opener.
Others: Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Alabama’s Dee Milliner

Lombardi Award (Top lineman or linebacker)
Our leader: Jones, Georgia
Others: BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, Notre Dame’s Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, LSU’s Sam Montgomery, Cincinnati’s Walter Stewart

Butkus Award (Top linebacker)
Our leader: Jones, Georgia
Others: Michigan State’s Max Bullough,Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Virginia’s Steve Greer, Kansas State’s Arthur Brown

Thorpe Award (Top defensive back)
Our leader: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Banks may start to get his due as one of the premier defensive players in the SEC. His two interceptions against Auburn last week gave him 14 in his career and nine against SEC quarterbacks. Others: Alabama’s Dee Milliner, Texas’ Kenny Vacarro


SPECIAL TEAMS AWARDS
Groza Award (Top kicker)

Our leader: Caleb Sturgis, Florida
Sturgis connected on a 51-yard field goal at Texas A&M on Saturday for his second 50-yarder of the season.
Others: Iowa’s Mike Meyer, Nebraska’s Brett Maher, UTSA’s Sean Ianno

Ray Guy Award (Top punter)
Our leader: Brad Wing, LSU
Wing boomed a 62-yard punt to the Washington 4-yard line in his first punt of the season last week. He finished with an average of 54.3 yards on his three kicks.
Others: Sean Sellwood, Utah, Michigan’s Will Hagerup


OTHER NATIONAL AWARDS
Freshman of the Year
Our leader: Brett Hundley, UCLA
Again, why did Hundley redshirt last season? UCLA’s long-time quarterback troubles may be coming to an end with Hundley, who passed for 305 yards and four touchdowns against Nebraska last week.
Others: Miami’s Duke Johnson, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon

Coach of the Year
Our leader: Jim L. Mora, UCLA
We’ll learn more once conference play starts, but Mora has made a major change in culture at UCLA. The Bruins could have an impressive record by the time they face USC on Nov. 17.
Others: Arizona State’s Todd Graham, Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer

by David Fox

@davidfox615

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College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 2
Post-Week 2 Bowl Projections

Post-Week 2 Heisman Contenders

ACC Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 3 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Big 12 Week 3 Previews and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 3 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 3 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 3 Upset Picks

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
<p> College Football Award Watch: Post-Week 2</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 07:55
Path: /nfl/bears-qb-jay-cutler-underwhelms-against-green-bay-packers
Body:

We fell for it and we could not have been any angrier watching that disaster of a fantasy, er, football game Thursday night as the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears, 23-10.

We fell for Jay Cutler’s Tuesday presser this week where he told us “this is a totally different scheme, a mentality and direction that we’re going offensively.”
 
Why didn’t we just see it right there? 
 
He all but told us he was the same Cutler, just with a healthy thumb now. 
 
Totally different scheme, mentality and direction could have been looked at as where the offense goes from here under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. After all, it’s Tice who was set to get a true ground game going in Chicago and Bates who coached Cutler for three seasons in Denver.
 
In hindsight, it looks like Cutler again placing blame where he always has — elsewhere.
Cutler was cocky and confident on Tuesday. He invited press coverage; he invited man coverage from the Packers.
 
Yes, my heart believed while my mind was telling me: “You know better than this.”
But it was all there for the taking.
 
We saw Green Bay’s last-ranked pass defense from a year ago that showed up at home in Week One and allowed San Francisco’s Alex Smith to throw for a pedestrian 211 yards but on 20-of-26 passing with two scores and no interceptions.
 
We saw Cutler’s two new weapons — Brandon Marshall (6-5) and Alshon Jeffery (6-3) going against smaller cornerbacks Tramon Williams (5-11) and Jarrett Bush (6-0). He even has his old Vanderbilt buddy, Earl Bennett, to run around the middle of the field and make plays. 
 
But numbers are numbers are numbers. We don’t even care that he was 1-5 in six starts against Green Bay; this is fantasy football. However, Cutler had completed just 56.9 percent of his passes for 240.2 yards per outing with 11 interceptions and seven scores going into Thursday’s game. That’s terrible.
 
And if that’s terrible, what’s this?: 11-of-27 for 126 yards, one TD and four interceptions. Well, that’s just “same old Jay” as Packers defensive back Charles Woodson said after the game.
 
Why didn’t it just register in my mind that Cutler was 1-for-10 for 13 yards before elite pass rusher Dwight Freeney went out of the game last week against the Indianapolis? I’m pretty sure 32nd-ranked pass defense or not, the Packers have more to offer in the form of pressure than the Colts do.
 
But there we were, holding out hope much like Cutler was holding on to the ball for….ev…..er.
 
It may be said that Thursday night was a result of his offensive line, the drops from his receivers or that running back Matt Forte went out with an ankle injury in the third quarter. But it’s always going to be something with Cutler. 
 
With this performance fresh in our minds, it is easy to be beyond pessimistic on what Cutler has in store as a fantasy QB the rest of the way. 
 
Next up are the Rams, Cowboys and Jaguars before a bye. He returns to face the Lions, Panthers, Titans, Texans and 49ers. 
 
Call us pessimistic. 
 
Look at the numbers see that Cutler was only a top-10 fantasy quarterback on three occasions last season and a top-12 in only four outings. On three occasions he was 24th or worse. He reached as high as fifth in his last game before the thumb injury but that came a week after he was 31st.
 
That about sums it up, don’t you think? 
 
Cutler will get his some weeks. But with games against Dallas, Detroit, Houston, San Francisco and Carolina, yes, even Carolina where he finished 32nd amongst QBs when he faced them last year, he just can’t be trusted as a weekly starter.
 
Perhaps he will put it together against the likes of the Rams and Jaguars and Titans and you can trust him again. But then fate and Packers rear their heads again as he gets Green Bay again in the fantasy semifinals Week 15.
 
In the words of Jay Cutler this week: “Good luck.” 
 
— By Corby A. Yarbrough,  @Corby_Yarbrough on Twitter
Teaser:
<p> Despite his assurances, Cutler was a fantasy football dud.</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 07:30
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-week-2-start-or-sit
Body:

Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season is here, which means it's time to get those fantasy lineups in order for this weekend’s action. Just like the 16 NFL teams that lost in Week 1, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship if your fantasy team is 0-1, especially if you can get into the win column this week.

Athlon Sports is to help you make those important decisions each week with our Start and Sit suggestions. Keep in mind these are merely our suggestions as the ultimate decision comes down to you, the owner.

Week 2 Positional Rankings

Sneaky Start of the Week
Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco vs. Detroit
San Francisco had the third most rushing attempts in the NFL last season, compared to the second-fewest pass attempts. During the offseason, the 49ers added wide receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham through free agency and drafted A.J. Jenkins in the first round, looking to give Alex Smith more weapons. If the early results are to be believed, it looks like the team is in fact serious about airing it out more in 2012.

Against Green Bay in Week 1, Smith had just six fewer pass attempts (26) compared to rushes (32) by the team, completing 20 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with six different receivers, including four times each with Moss and Manningham. This week Smith and the 49ers open up at home against Detroit and a secondary that’s still dealing with several injuries. If Smith plays like he did against the Packers, I think he’s in for an even bigger week, as he’s also capable of making plays with his legs.

Surprise Sit of the Week
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore vs. Philadelphia
Fewer quarterbacks had a better opening week than Flacco, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing against Cincinnati on Monday night. Uncharacteristically, the Ravens threw more times (32) than they ran the ball (23), as Ray Rice had just 10 carries on the night.

Those who are expecting similar numbers from Flacco this week against Philadelphia are going to be in for rude awakening, I’m afraid. For one, the Eagles defense figures to be a little more difficult to post big numbers against compared to the Bengals. Last week, the Eagles hurried and harassed Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden all game as the rookie struggled mightily in his NFL debut, connecting on just 12 of 35 pass attempts for only 118 yards. He also threw four picks and was sacked twice. Besides the Eagles’ pass rush and secondary, I also think Flacco will be held in check by the Ravens’ own game plan, which I believe will feature a much heavier dose of Rice and the running game.

Quarterbacks
START
Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Big Ben was solid in Week 1 against Denver, but his pass protection broke down late and he threw a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter. Even though it’s the Jets this week, the game is at home, where Roethlisberger always plays well, and the visitors will more than likely be missing their best defensive player. Cornerback Darrelle Revis suffered a concussion in last week’s win against Buffalo and as of Thursday had not yet been cleared to practice. No Revis completely changes the complexion of the Jets’ secondary and defense as a whole, which increases Big Ben’s fantasy appeal.

Christian Ponder (MIN) at Indianapolis
Ponder was very solid (20-27, 270 yards) in the Vikings' win against Jacksonville. He didn’t throw any touchdown passes, but that should change, especially with Adrian Peterson appearing to be close to his usual form after his first game back since tearing his ACL late last season. This week, Ponder and the Vikings will get their shot at a Colts’ defense that gave up more than 400 yards of total offense, including 333 through the air, to the Bears in Week 1.

Kevin Kolb (ARI) at New England
This is a tentative endorsement as you should have better options than Kolb on your roster, but I am curious to see how Kolb does against New England. The high-priced backup entered last week’s game against Seattle in the fourth quarter after starter John Skelton went down with an ankle injury. Kolb completed six of the eight passes he threw, including the game-winning score. Skelton will more than likely be unable to go this Sunday against the Patriots, giving Kolb another shot to show everyone why the Cardinals traded for him in the first place. New England gave up 264 yards passing to the Titans in Week 1, and you have to figure Kolb will get his chances to air it out as the Cardinals will be trying to keep up with the Patriots on the scoreboard.

SIT
Michael Vick (PHI) at Baltimore
The Eagles won, but Vick (completed just 52 percent of passes, 4 INTs) didn’t play all that well even though he finished with more than 300 yards passing. That was against Cleveland. This week it’s Baltimore and the Ravens defense that limited Andy Dalton to 211 yards passing with no touchdowns, sacked him four times and forced two turnovers. It also doesn't help that both of Vick's top wide receivers, DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jeremy Maclin (hip), missed practice on Thursday and their status is uncertain headed into Sunday's game.

Carson Palmer (OAK) at Miami
Palmer completed 32 passes on Monday night against San Diego, with 13 of those going to his running back, Darren McFadden. The Raiders’ wide receivers situation is a mess right now because of injuries and I don’t think it will get markedly better this week as the Silver and Black make the cross-country trip to take on Miami.

Mark Sanchez (NYJ) at Pittsburgh
Sanchez was near spectacular (266 yards, 3 TDs, INT) against Buffalo in Week 1 as Tim Tebow was basically relegated to mop-up duty. This week the Jets go to Pittsburgh to take on a Steelers defense that’s still smarting from the loss in Denver and gets starting free safety Ryan Clark and linebacker James Harrison back. I expect the going for the Jets’ offense to be much tougher this Sunday and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Tebow sees significantly more snaps as the Jets will turn to their version of the Wildcat to keep the Steel Curtain off balance.

Running Backs
START

Doug Martin (TB) at New York Giants
Martin dominated the carries for the Buccaneers in Week 1, getting 24 of the team’s 36, and also caught four passes out of the backfield. The Giants gave up 131 yards on the ground to DeMarco Murray in their opener, and I think Martin will get more than enough touches in this game to be a factor.

Jonathan Stewart (CAR) vs. New Orleans
Barring a late setback, Stewart should make his season debut against the Saints after missing Week 1 because of an ankle injury. The good news for Stewart is twofold: 1) The Panthers rushed for a grand total of 13 yards on 10 carries without him last week against Tampa Bay and 2) He’s going up against a rush defense that gave up 153 yards to the Redskins in Week 1. Stewart also is a legitimate threat as a receiver out of the backfield, further increasing his value.

Jonathan Dwyer (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Isaac Redman got the start and more carries (11 to 9) against Denver, but it was Dwyer who did more damage, finishing with a team-high 43 yards rushing. His solid production was enough to earn him a bigger role for this Sunday’s game against the Jets. Remember, the Jets gave up 169 yards on the ground to C.J. Spiller, who like Dwyer was initially Buffalo’s backup running back, last week. Depending on your other options, Dwyer may be worth taking a flyer on as a RB3 or flex option this week.

SIT
Michael Turner (ATL) vs. Denver (Monday)
Going into the season, the expectation was that the Falcons would cut down on Turner’s workload. That came to fruition last week as he got only 11 carries against Kansas City, finishing with a mere 32 yards. The Falcons seem very comfortable with a more pass-oriented offense and between that and the presence of Jacquizz Rodgers, who got seven carries and is a bigger threat out of the backfield as a receiver, I expect we will see more of the same on Monday night against Denver.

Aflred Morris (WAS) at St. Louis
Yes, Alfred Morris got more than 65 percent of the Redskins’ carries in Week 1, turning those opportunities into 96 yards and two touchdowns. However, that doesn’t mean that this week it won’t be Roy Helu or Evan Royster or even Robert Griffin III with that distinction. Plus, the Redskins will be going up against a St. Louis defense that surrendered a total of 83 yards on the ground to Detroit in Week 1. If you want to jump on the Morris bandwagon, you go right on ahead. I’m just not quite ready to join you.

Kevin Smith (DET) at San Francisco
The good: Smith scored two touchdowns last week against St. Louis, one rushing, one receiving. The bad: He only had 81 total yards (62 rushing, 29 receiving) in that game. The ugly: That came against St. Louis, this week the Lions take on San Francisco, who gave up only 45 yards rushing to Green Bay in Week 1.

Wide Receivers
START

Wes Welker (NE) vs. Arizona
Including Welker here says his three-catch, 14-yard effort against Tennessee last week is the exception and not the norm. I expect Tom Brady will look to get Welker involved early and often this Sunday against Arizona.

Antonio Brown (PIT) vs. New York Jets
Brown’s numbers (4 rec., team-high 74 yards) weren’t bad in Week 1 against Denver; they just don’t jump out at you either. It wouldn’t surprise me to see that change this Sunday as the Jets will more than likely be without All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis. No Revis thins out the Jets’ secondary from the start, and I think Brown is the Steeler receiver who will benefit most from his absence.

Andre Roberts (ARI) at New England
Larry Fitzgerald is the main man in Arizona, there’s no doubt about that, but there’s plenty of room for a No. 2 and right now that appears to be Roberts, and not first-round pick Michael Floyd. Roberts finished second to Fitzgerald in targets in Week 1, turning nine of them into a team-high five receptions. One of those was the game-winning touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb in the fourth quarter. Kolb is expected to start this Sunday’s game in New England.

SIT
Sidney Rice (SEA) vs. Dallas
The Cowboys upgraded their secondary during the offseason through both free agency (Brandon Carr) and the draft (Morris Claiborne) and it held up very well against Eli Manning and the Giants’ pass attack in Week 1. Russell Wilson looked every bit the rookie in his first NFL start last week against Arizona. Don’t expect drastic improvement from the Seahawks’ passing game this Sunday either.

Kevin Ogletree (DAL) at Seattle
Ogletree stole the show a week ago when he starred in the NFL’s season opener, grabbing a game-high eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. Seattle’s secondary will be a much tougher test for Ogletree and the entire Cowboys’ passing game this week compared to the Giants’ injury-depleted corps they faced in Week 1. Ogletree may be productive again, but expectations should be limited to that of a possible WR3, and not along the lines of what he did in Week 1.

Titus Young (DET) at San Francisco
Young caught just one pass in Week 1 as he committed a personal foul penalty that earned him a seat on the bench for much of the game. Young is oozing with fantasy upside, especially if he grabs hold of the No. 2 wide receiver job for the Lions, but just hasn’t been able to get out of his own way. Until he can prove that he can maintain his composure on the field, including practicing with his own teammates, it’s probably best to leave him on your bench.

Tight Ends
Start
Jared Cook (TEN) at San Diego
Cook led all Titans receivers with 64 yards on four catches last week and his workload should only increase as the season goes on. The Titans could have wide receiver Kenny Britt back on the field this week, which should help Cook more than hurt him as Britt’s presence, especially as a deep threat, helps open the middle of the field even more for the athletic tight end.

Kyle Rudolph (MIN) at Indianapolis
It's Coby Fleener’s home debut, but don’t be surprised if Rudolph is the young tight end that finishes with better numbers in this game. The Colts’ linebacking corps is missing its leader as Pat Angerer is still sidelined by a broken foot. Rudolph, who caught five passes for 67 yards last week, should be able to find plenty of room to roam in the middle of the field this Sunday.

Martellus Bennett (NYG) vs. Tampa Bay
Eli Manning found Bennett in the end zone in Week 1 against Dallas and will look for his tight end again this week against Tampa Bay. Bennett’s size is a weapon in the red zone, and Manning has never been afraid to throw to his tight ends.

SIT
Fred Davis (WAS) at St. Louis
Surprisingly, Davis and Robert Griffin III only connected twice during the rookie’s impressive debut against New Orleans. While that could change any given week or as the season progresses, I would consider benching Davis until Griffin starts looking his way more consistently.

Jason Witten (DAL) at Seattle
Let’s give credit where credit is due. I was stunned when Witten played last week against the Giants in the first place. However, it shouldn’t be ignored that he caught just two passes and was only targeted three times. It’s completely understandable that Witten may not be back to 100 percent health for several more weeks. This is also the reason why I would bench the All-Pro, at least until his production is more along the lines of what we have come to expect.

Brent Celek (PHI) vs. Baltimore
Michael Vick did look Celek’s way eight times in Week 1 against Cleveland, but what’s more concerning to me is that Clay Harbor, and not Celek, appeared to get the looks when the Eagles were in the red zone. That coupled with Ray Lewis and co. on the docket this Sunday is more than enough reason for me to bypass Celek this week.

Defense/Special Teams
START

New England vs. Arizona
Arizona should be able to get some yards and points against the Patriots, but their run defense was awfully stout against Tennessee last week and I expect the opportunistic unit to get a score via a turnover or on special teams.

Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
What better way to let your defense get healthy and gain some confidence than to face an offense with a rookie quarterback that did next-to-nothing in Week 1, right?

Oakland at Miami
See above and add to it the fact that the Raiders gave up just one touchdown to the Chargers in five red zone attempts on Monday night. It’s entirely possible that the Dolphins end up with fewer this Sunday.

SIT
New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay
The Giants’ defense yielded both a 100-yard rusher and 300-yard passer in their opener. While the Cowboys’ offense and the Buccaneers’ offense are two entirely different animals, I think Tampa has enough weapons and will get enough opportunities to make the Giants’ defense a fantasy non-factor once again.

Detroit Lions at San Francisco
The Lions’ defense more than held its own against St. Louis in Week 1, but will face something completely different this Sunday in San Francisco. The 49ers attacked Green Bay in Week 1 with both the run and the pass, and I’m expecting more of the same this Sunday in their home opener. The Lions' D relies heavily on big plays and turnovers, but the 49ers have a reputation for protecting the ball.

Kickers
START

Nate Kaeding (SD) vs. Tennessee
The Chargers had all sorts of trouble punching it into the end zone against Oakland, which resulted in Kaeding kicking five field goals. Given their issues along the offensive line and with the running game, I don’t expect much to change this Sunday against the Titans.

Justin Tucker (BAL) at Philadelphia
Baltimore should be able to move the ball and put several drives together against the Eagles, but I think they will have trouble getting into the end zone. This should leave Tucker with plenty of chances to put three points on the board.

SIT
Dan Carpenter (MIA) vs. Oakland
Carpenter’s chances to kick will be limited as long as Ryan Tannehill struggles under center.

Phil Dawson (CLE) at Cincinnati
Dawson and Carpenter will probably remain linked throughout the season as both kickers are relying on struggling offenses led by rookie quarterbacks to provide them with scoring opportunities.

— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 14, 2012

Teaser:
<p> 2012 Fantasy Football: Week 2 Start or Sit</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 06:30
Path: /college-football/college-football-week-3-preview-match-ups-upset-picks-and-storylines-watch
Body:

College football's Week 3 slate is full of interesting action. Arkansas had a surprising defeat to Louisiana-Monroe last week but has a chance to knock off No. 1 Alabama this Saturday. The Razorbacks are heavy underdogs and could be without starting quarterback Tyler Wilson. The action in the SEC isn't limited to Arkansas-Alabama, as Florida-Tennessee meet in Knoxville for a crucial East Division showdown. Notre Dame-Michigan State, USC-Stanford, BYU-Utah and North Carolina-Louisville are some of the other top games to monitor this weekend.

Top Storylines to Watch in Week 3

1. Will Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson play against Alabama?
With or without Tyler Wilson, Arkansas has an uphill battle to beat Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks have lost their last five games against the Crimson Tide, including a 38-14 matchup last season. In addition to preparing for college football’s No. 1 team, Arkansas is still reeling from last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe. If Wilson can’t go, redshirt freshman Brandon Allen or junior Brandon Mitchell will get the start. The offense isn’t the only side of the ball dealing with question marks, as the Razorbacks have to play better on defense to beat Alabama. Even if Wilson plays, this matchup has all of the makings of an Alabama blowout.

2. SEC East Showdown
The Tennessee-Florida rivalry isn’t quite ready to become nationally relevant once again, but it’s getting closer. Both teams are off to 2-0 starts, and the winner of this game could challenge Georgia or South Carolina in the East. The Volunteers’ passing attack (353.5 yards per game) will be challenged by a Florida secondary that has yet to allow a passing touchdown this season. While Tennessee should be able to move the ball on the Gators’ secondary, it needs to establish the ground game and bring some balance to the offense. When Florida has the ball, all eyes will be on Jeff Driskel. The sophomore finished with 162 passing yards against Texas A&M but didn’t throw an interception. For the Gators to win, Driskel needs to be efficient, while running back Mike Gillislee needs to get to at least 100 yards.

3. Can Matt Barkley finally beat Stanford?
The only Pac-12 team Matt Barkley hasn’t defeated during his illustrious USC career is Stanford. The Cardinal have won the last three games in this series and had a convincing 50-13 win over Duke last week. While Stanford has had success against the Trojans in recent years, Barkley should be able to win his final matchup against the Cardinal. Stanford’s secondary is allowing 290 yards a game and has yet to play a passing attack as skilled and talented as the Trojans'. The Cardinal’s rushing attack will test USC’s defense, but the Trojans simply have too much firepower on offense.

4. Can Michigan State remain unbeaten?
With Michigan and Nebraska losing in the first two weeks of the season, Michigan State is the Big Ten’s best shot at reaching the national title. The Spartans had a sluggish showing in the opener against Boise State but as expected, had a convincing win over Central Michigan last week. Michigan State takes on Notre Dame this Saturday, a team it has defeated two times in a row in East Lansing. The Irish handled the Spartans 31-13 in South Bend last year. Quarterbacks will be in the spotlight in this game, as Michigan State wants to see progress from Andrew Maxwell, while this will be Everett Golson’s toughest challenge as Notre Dame’s quarterback. Golson did not finish last Saturday’s game against Purdue but has thrown for 433 yards and two touchdowns on 49 attempts thus far. With two young quarterbacks still finding their rhythm, look for a low-scoring, defensive game. Turnovers will play a large role in determining the outcome of this matchup, while it’s also important for both quarterbacks to get on track early in the game.

5. The Holy War
The Holy War is one of the nation’s top rivalry games and Saturday’s game will be an important one for both BYU and Utah. The Cougars lost 54-10 to the Utes last season and need to go unbeaten to have any shot at a BCS game. Utah is reeling a bit, as it lost to in-state foe Utah State last Friday and lost quarterback Jordan Wynn for the season with a shoulder injury. The stakes are always high when these two teams meet, but there’s an extra sense of urgency. The Utes need a good showing to erase last week’s disappointing effort, especially with Pac-12 play beginning on Sept. 22 at Arizona State. For the Cougars, it’s all about revenge and keeping BCS hopes alive. With both teams ranked in the top 20 in total defense, points could be at a premium on Saturday.
 

6. Intriguing Off-the-Radar Games

Wake Forest at Florida State – This is the first real test for Florida State. Games against Murray State and Savannah State didn’t give much insight into the Seminoles, who are expected to challenge for the national title. The Demon Deacons are a big underdog but are 2-2 in their last four games against Florida State. One area to watch for the Seminoles on Saturday will be a revamped offensive line.

Virginia at Georgia Tech – It’s only Week 3, but this is a crucial game for the Yellow Jackets. With an opening week loss to Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech needs to win to keep its ACC Coastal title hopes alive. With a win over the Yellow Jackets, Virginia would be positioned to be the top challenger to the Hokies.

Arkansas State at Nebraska – After allowing 36 points to UCLA last Saturday, the Red Wolves won’t be an easy out for Nebraska. Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin ranks eighth nationally in total offense, while Tennessee transfer David Oku is averaging 96 yards a game on the ground. The Red Wolves may not win, but will give Nebraska all it can handle.

Connecticut at Maryland – Otherwise known as the Randy Edsall Bowl. Edsall had a messy departure from Connecticut and hasn’t won over all Maryland fans after a 4-10 start to his tenure in College Park. While Edsall facing his old team will be intriguing, the real matchup to watch is the Huskies’ defense against the Terrapins’ offense. Connecticut’s defense has allowed 10 points through the first two games of this year and could make life difficult on Maryland true freshman quarterback Perry Hills.

North Carolina at Louisville – The Tar Heels struggled to stop Wake Forest last week, allowing 327 passing yards to quarterback Tanner Price. North Carolina’s secondary will be under fire once again, as it looks to slow down Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater.

Arizona State at Missouri – These two teams met for a 37-30 shootout last season, and there should be no shortage of points this Saturday. The Sun Devils are off to a fast start under new coach Todd Graham, while Missouri dropped its SEC opener to Georgia last week.

TCU at Kansas – The Jayhawks are reeling, especially after losing to Rice last week. The Horned Frogs easily took care of Grambling last Saturday, but this will be their first Big 12 game in school history. TCU should win without much trouble, but this is a historic moment in the program’s history.

Washington State at UNLV – The Rebels shouldn’t pose much of a threat to the Cougars, especially after losing to Northern Arizona last week. However, it will be interesting to watch Washington State’s offense. Surprisingly, the Cougars have yet to get on track, and will likely have a new quarterback under center (Connor Halliday).
 

7. Five Players to Watch

Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State – Thanks to two strong performances, Miller has thrown his name into the Heisman mix. The sophomore has back-to-back 100-yard rushing efforts, while throwing for 362 yards and three scores. Miller should shine once again against California, but Urban Meyer would like to reduce his carries this Saturday.

David Ash, QB, Texas – Saturday’s game at Ole Miss will be Ash’s second start on the road. Although the competition hasn’t been great, the sophomore has thrown for 377 yards and three touchdowns in two games and has yet to throw an interception. If Ash has another solid performance in Oxford, it would help ease the concerns about the offense going into Big 12 play.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – After sitting out the first two games of the year due to a suspension, Watkins will be back in the lineup against Furman. The Tigers shouldn’t need Watkins to win, but it’s a crucial time to have the sophomore back in the lineup. With Florida State up next, Clemson needs Watkins and quarterback Tajh Boyd to be on the same page.

Kiehl Frazier, QB, Auburn – Auburn’s offense ranks among the worst in the SEC and it may not get much better if Frazier doesn’t improve along the way. The sophomore has thrown for 319 yards in the first two games but has also tossed four picks. It’s important that Frazier gain some measure of confidence before the Tigers play LSU on Sept. 22.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M – Manziel was solid in his college debut, throwing for 173 yards, while rushing for 60 yards and a touchdown. He should get better with more experience and should have a huge day against a SMU defense allowing 532.5 yards per game.
 

8. Desperate for a Win

Auburn (0-2) – With a schedule that features LSU, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the upcoming SEC slate, Saturday’s game against Louisiana-Monroe is a must-win game for Auburn. The Tigers are struggling to find the right mix on offense, but the defense has to tackle better and stop opposing team’s rushing attacks.

Colorado (0-2) – Coach Jon Embree inherited a tough situation at Colorado, but he has done little to show the Buffaloes are on the right track. After losing to Colorado State and Sacramento State, Colorado desperately needs to beat Fresno State this Saturday.

Penn State (0-2) – The Nittany Lions nearly broke into the win column against Virginia last week but missed a last-second field goal for the victory. Penn State gets a Navy team that’s always difficult to prepare for, but the Nittany Lions’ defense should be up to the task.

Pittsburgh (0-2) – The Panthers were a popular sleeper pick in the preseason, but they are off to a disappointing 0-2 start, which includes a 31-17 loss at the hands of Youngstown State. Getting into the win column for Pittsburgh won't be easy, especially with a tough matchup against Virginia Tech this Saturday.

Wisconsin (1-1) – The Badgers have not looked like a Big Ten title contender through the first two weeks of the season, barely beating Northern Iowa in Week 1 and losing to Oregon State in Week 2. Wisconsin faces a dangerous Utah State team on Saturday, and it will be interesting to watch how the Badgers' offensive line plays, especially after line coach Mike Markuson was fired after last week’s game.
 

9. Injuries to Monitor

Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois – Scheelhaase did not play in the loss to Arizona State but is expected to play against Charleston Southern this Saturday.

Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina – Shaw missed last week’s game against East Carolina due to a shoulder injury, but backup Dylan Thompson threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns in his absence. Shaw is getting closer to a return, but the Gamecocks may hold him out until next week’s SEC game against Missouri.

Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State – Tuel suffered a knee injury against Eastern Washington and is unlikely to play in Friday’s game against UNLV.

Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas – Wilson suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Louisiana-Monroe and is questionable to play on Saturday. Even if Wilson plays, it will be tough for Arkansas to beat Alabama.

Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina – Bernard missed last week’s game against Wake Forest due to a knee injury but is back at practice and is expected to play on Saturday.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska – Burkhead missed last week’s game against UCLA due to a sprained MCL and may not play once again this week. The Cornhuskers should be able to establish their ground attack against Arkansas State without Burkhead, so they can afford to allow him another week of rest. 

Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida – Gillislee has been a key factor in Florida’s 2-0 start this season, rushing for 231 yards and four touchdowns so far. He suffered a groin injury against Texas A&M, but it is not expected to sideline him against Tennessee this Saturday.

Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (Ohio) – Harwell is battling a knee injury, which is a concern for the RedHawks’ passing attack with Boise State on tap for this Saturday.

Khaled Holmes, C, USC – Holmes left last Saturday’s game against Syracuse with a leg injury, and his status for this week’s game against Stanford is uncertain. The senior is one of the nation’s best centers, so if he is forced to miss any time, it will be a huge blow to USC’s offense.
 

10. Upset Picks to Watch

Ball State at Indiana (-2.5)
The Hoosiers are off to a 2-0 start, but their schedule has been very soft. Quarterback Tre Roberson was lost for the year due to a leg injury against UMass, which means junior college recruit Cameron Coffman will step into the starting role. Ball State upset Indiana last season, so a victory this Saturday wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Pick: Ball State 31-27

Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (-16.5)
Thanks to their upset win against Arkansas last Saturday, the Warhawks have been in the spotlight all week. Can they make it two in a row? Auburn’s defense is capable of playing better than it has so far this year, which will make life tough for ULM quarterback Kolton Browning. If the Tigers struggle on offense once again, the Warhawks will have a shot at the upset.
Pick: Auburn 30-24

Utah State at Wisconsin (-13)
The Badgers have not impressed through the first two weeks of the season, and coach Bret Bielema isn’t waiting long to make changes. Line coach Mike Markuson was fired, which is yet another change to a coaching staff that went through many personnel changes following the 2011 season. Utah State is coming off an upset over Utah last week and if it doesn’t suffer much of a hangover from beating the Utes, it could pull off another one this Saturday.
Pick: Wisconsin 34-27

Western Kentucky at Kentucky (-7)
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips desperately needs to win this Saturday. The Wildcats were handled by in-state rival Louisville in the season opener and can’t afford to lose to the Hilltoppers this week. Western Kentucky doesn’t have an explosive offense, but its defense picked up six sacks against Alabama last week.
Pick: Western Kentucky 24, Kentucky 20
 

11. Five Games to Avoid

James Madison at West Virginia
This game should be an opportunity for West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith to pad his stats for a run at the Heisman.
Pick: West Virginia 58-7

UMass at Michigan
Even though the Wolverines are allowing 33 points a game, UMass’ offense should pose little threat after scoring six points through the first two contests.
Pick: Michigan 52-7

Idaho at LSU
After losing to Eastern Washington in the season opener, the Vandals played better in Week 2 against Bowling Green. However, Idaho is simply overmatched against LSU.
Pick: LSU 52-3

FAU at Georgia
The Owls barely squeaked by FCS opponent Wagner in the season opener and lost to MTSU in Week 2. The Bulldogs might have a bit of a letdown after winning at Missouri last week, but they will still pull away for one-sided victory on Saturday.
Pick: Georgia 50-7

Tennessee Tech at Oregon
The Ducks haven’t had to sweat much through the first two weeks of the season and should have another breather against Tennessee Tech. The only intrigue surrounding this matchup will be former Tennessee receiver Da’Rick Rogers (now at Tennessee Tech) taking on the Ducks’ secondary.
Pick: Oregon 62-10


by Steven Lassan

@athlonsteven


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Teaser:
<p> College Football Week 3 Preview: Match-Ups, Upset Picks and Storylines to Watch</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 06:06
Path: /college-basketball/jim-calhouns-legacy-his-best-teams-players-and-moments
Body:

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun retired Thursday, leaving behind a Hall of Fame legacy. In the 19 seasons before Calhoun was hired in 1986, Connecticut reached the NCAA Tournament twice under three coaches.

His resume included 873 wins, three national championships and 18 first-round draft picks. Here’s a look back at the highlights of his career.

CALHOUN’S BEST TEAMS
2003-04: National champions (33-6, 12-4 Big East)
Led by National Player of the Year Emeka Okafor, Connecticut won its second national title under Calhoun in 2004 by defeating Georgia Tech 82-73 in the final. The most impressive Tourney win that year may have been in the Final Four over a Duke team that featured J.J. Redick, Shelden Williams, Chris Duhon and Luol Deng. UConn countered with the NBA’s No. 2 draft pick (Okafor) and No. 3 pick (Ben Gordon) plus Josh Boone and Hilton Armstrong as role players.

1998-99: National champions (34-2, 16-2 Big East)
UConn winning a national title was unthinkable when Calhoun took over in 1986, but after several near misses to reach the Final Four, Calhoun put his name with the greats with a title in his first trip to the national semifinals. The Huskies won the Big East regular season and tournament titles that season before Richard Hamilton and Khalid El-Amin led UConn to a victory over Duke in the final.

1997-98: Elite Eight (32-5, 15-3 Big East)
With almost the same cast of characters that would win the national championship a year later, UConn reached the regional final before being vanquished by a North Carolina team led by Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison.

2005-06: Elite Eight (30-4, 14-2 Big East)
The Huskies had four NBA draft picks who would be drafted after the season in Rudy Gay, Hilton Armstrong, Marcus Williams and Josh Boone. UConn spent the entire season ranked in the top three of the polls, but their feats would be overshadowed, though, by an 86-84 overtime loss to George Mason in the regional final.

1995-96: Sweet 16 (30-2, 17-1 Big East)
Led by Ray Allen’s 23.4 points per game, UConn had its best Big East season, record-wise. The Huskies were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament before being upset by fifth-seeded Mississippi State in the Sweet 16. UConn’s only regular season losses that year were to Iowa in overtime at at Georgetown, a loss avenged with a 75-74 win in the Big East tournament final.

Related: What's next for UConn without Calhoun

CALHOUN’S BEST PLAYERS
Ray Allen (1993-96)

A one-time teammate of new coach Kevin Ollie, Allen is fourth all-time in scoring in UConn at 1,922 points, averaging 19 points per game. Allen was the Huskies’ first two-time All-American

Richard Hamilton (1996-99)
Hamilton scored 27 points in the title-game win over Duke to win Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. He finished his career averaging 19.8 points per game

Emeka Okafor (2001-04)
One of the best defensive players in school history, Okafor was a co-national player of the year with St. Joseph’s guard Jameer Nelson. Okafor finished his season with a national title, the second of Calhoun’s career.

Ben Gordon (2002-04)
As Okafor’s running mate, Gordon averaged 19.5 points per game as a sophomore and 18.4 points as a junior. Although Okafor took home more postseason hardware, Gordon set a Big East tournament record with 81 points in the ’04 tourney.

Kemba Walker (2008-11)
Walker almost single-handedly led Connecticut to its third national title in 2011, averaging 23.5 points per game that season. The Huskies were a No. 9 seed in the Tourney that season. Walker led UConn to a 14-0 record in tournaments in 2010-11 with titles in the Maui Invitational and Big East and NCAA tournaments.

Related: Potential long-term replacements

CALHOUN’S MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT
Tate George’s shot.

Connecticut was still a lovable underdog in 1990 when Tate George hit a 15-foot buzzer beater to defeat Clemson 71-70 in the Sweet 16. UConn lost a 19-point lead in that game, but George redeemed himself from an earlier miss with 4 seconds remaining to win the game.

CALHOUN’S NOT SO MEMORABLE MOMENTS
NCAA sanctions.

UConn won’t be eligible to play in the NCAA Tournament due to a poor performance in the Academic Progress Report. And in his final season, Calhoun was suspended for three games due to recruiting violations involving Nate Miles, though the program did not suffer sever sanctions. Earlier, UConn vacated the NCAA Tournament appearance from 1996 when it was found two players accepted plane tickets from an agent.

Prickly demeanor.
Reporters always knew where they stood with Calhoun. He could be quick-tempered and ornery, especially if the questions were, um, subpar. We’re including a response to a question about the state’s budget shortfall, but if you want to see Calhoun at his finest, look up his response to why he didn’t sign Ryan Gomes, who went on to a standout career at Providence. Just make sure sensitive ears are not around.

Teaser:
<p> Jim Calhoun's legacy: His best teams, players and moments</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 06:02
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /college-football/college-football-betting-against-spread-week-3
Body:

Every Friday for entertainment purposes only, I will bring you my top college football picks against the spread. I do not condone, approve or encourage gambling on sports in any way. But if you are a fan of football — college or pro — and you don't think gambling has played a huge role in the growth and popularity of the sport, then you are simply being ignorant. And behind closed doors, the powers that be understand the impact betting has had on the game of football.

2012 Record Against The Spread: 10-7
Last Week: 3-5

Let's just say, Week 2 was not my finest hour. Games that I decided not to include in the final minutes? Western Kentucky +40, Maryland +10, UCLA +5.5, Mississippi State -3 and Florida +2.5. Clearly, I made some bad decisions, but there is no rest for the weary and Week 3 features plenty of chances to bounce back.

Note: All lines are as of date of publication

Virginia Tech (-10) at Pitt
No, Pitt isn't as bad as its 0-2 record suggests. But the reason the Panthers have played so poorly is due to lack of locker room cohesion and commitment. With four different coaches in three seasons, the players clearly lack identity. The Hokies, on the flip side, are a team built on 26 years of Frank Beamer's identity. And Logan Thomas has Va. Tech off to a hot start — something that Beamer and company rarely seem to enjoy at the start of the season. Defensively, the Panthers will find sledding extremely tough as some believe this could be the best Bud Foster unit ever. This one should get ugly very quickly and the line seems considerably off-base. Prediction: Virginia Tech (-10)

Western Michigan (+2.5) at Minnesota
Jerry Kill knows all about Western Michigan when he beat them twice while at Northern Illinois. Now he has a balanced Big Ten attack that rushes for 224.5 yards per game and passes for 220.5 yards per game. The Gophers are 2-0 behind key plays at key times from senior leader Marqueis Gray. He is fourth in the Big Ten in total offense at 273.0 yards per game and is leading the league in passing efficiency. The Broncos played better in Week 2 against Eastern Illinois after rushing for minus-6 yards against Illinois in the season opener. Kill has the Gophers playing better than they have in years, and while Alex Carder could keep WMU in the game, Gray and company should pull away in the fourth. Prediction: Minnesota (-2.5)

Houston (+16) at UCLA
The Bruins are one of the best stories in college football thus far and have been equally effective against the number (2-0). Houston beat UCLA last fall and revenge will absolutely be on the mind of Johnathan Franklin and company. Quarterback Brett Hundley has been near perfect in two career games, Franklin is leading the nation in rushing and this unit is playing with a toughness on defense fans haven't seen in Westwood in years. The Cougars, on the other hand, are 0-2, have allowed 86 total points and give up 521 yards of offense per game. If UCLA could toss 653 yards up on the Black Shirts of Nebraska, imagine what they could do this weekend? Predictions: UCLA (-16)

Texas A&M (-12) at SMU
The Mustangs allowed Baylor to roll-up 613 yards of total offense and 59 points two weeks ago in the opener, 220 of that came on the ground. Texas A&M might boast the best running game SMU will face all season and the TAMU offensive line should have its way with the over-matched Mustang front seven. The Aggies and new head coach Kevin Sumlin lost a gritty battle with Florida and this game should feel like practice after having to block the Gators defenders for sixty minutes. In search of his first win, Sumlin will allow his offense to make a statement. Prediction: Texas A&M (-12)

Boston College (+3.5) at Northwestern
The defensive performance by the Wildcats last week against Vanderbilt was one of the more surprising performances of the entire Week 2 slate. After getting destroyed on that side of the ball by Syracuse in Week 1, Pat Fitzgerald's bunch held the Dores completely in check. It also made Northwestern the only team in the nation with two BCS conference wins thus far. The purple Cats are 2-0 against the number as well and Boston College isn't in a position to challenge for the win on the road. Northwestern has played two totally different games thus far and this one should be somewhere in the middle. Prediction: Northwestern (-3.5)

Texas (-9) at Ole Miss
Had this game been played in Week 1, the Longhorns could have been a three touchdown favorite. Two relatively easy wins over bad competition for Ole Miss has brought this number down under 10. The issue, however, is that Texas has been better than anticipated as well. David Ash isn't turning the ball over, the defense is downright salty (shutting out New Mexico last week) and a host of elite play-makers on offense has Mack Brown's squad thinking Big 12 title. Keep a keen eye locked on freshman No. 27 Daje Johnson. In his first game of his college career, he touched the ball four times for 70 yards and a score. He will be used in a variety of ways and has special big-play talent. Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has played well to start his Rebel career, but has never seen anything like this Texas defensive front. Prediction: Texas (-9)

USC (-8) at Stanford
The Cardinal have won three straight and four out of five, but Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck are both gone. But Matt Barkley nearly upset the Luck-led Stanford team last fall and there isn't a defensive back on the team who can cover Robert Woods or Marqise Lee. Josh Nunes played better and Shayne Skov's returns is a big boost to the defense. But one team is a national title contender and the other may struggle to win eight games this year. This was a bizarre cover last year for Stanford with a two-point conversion in overtime giving the Cardinal the win outright and against the number. It shouldn't be that close this time around. Prediction: USC (-8)

Mississippi State (-16) at Troy
The Trojans of Alabama have had an impossible time getting stops on defense. Against UAB and UL Lafayette, Troy has allowed at least 29 points and 424.0 yards of offense per game. The Bulldogs have been extremely impressive in two easy wins, one of which came against Auburn last weekend. Tyler Russell is playing well, the defense is fundamentally sound and this team sees and opportunity to move up in the SEC West with Arkansas, Auburn and Texas A&M stumbling out of the gate. Hail State will roll big. Prediction: Mississippi State (-16)

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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Teaser:
<p> College Football Betting Against the Spread: Week 3</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 06:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-3-emergency-starters
Body:

The end of the week is upon us and you just don’t have the warm fuzzies about your Week Three starters.  We’ve teamed up with Steven Lassan of Athlon Sports and scoured the schedule looking for some one-week wonders. 

Emergency Starters—Week 3
 

Quarterback

Jordan Rodgers-Vanderbilt vs Presbyterian

Mike Glennon, NC St vs South Alabama

Cody Green-Tulsa vs Nicholls St

Dalton Williams-Akron vs Morgan St

Munchie Legaux-Cincinnati vs Delaware St

 

Running Backs

Adam Muema-San Diego St vs North Dakota

Shontrelle Johnson-Iowa St vs Western Illinois

Jawon Chisholm-Akron vs Morgan St

Leighton Settle-Northern Illinois at Army

Josh Ferguson-Illinois vs Charleston Southern

Rolandan Finch-Boston College at Northwestern

Mustafa Greene-NC St vs South Alabama

 

Receivers

Antavian Edison-Purdue vs Eastern Michigan

Marquelo Suel-Akron vs Morgan St

Myles White-Louisiana Tech vs Rice

Chris Coyle-Arizona St at Missouri

 

Steven Lassan(@AthlonSteven)
 

Quarterback

Steele Jantz-Iowa St vs Western Illinois

Ryan Katz-San Diego St vs North Dakota

Andrew Manley, New Mexico St vs UTEP

Dalton Williams-Akron vs Morgan St

 

Running Backs

DeLeon Eskridge-San Jose St vs Colorado

LaDarius Perkins-Mississippi St at Troy

Jerrell Rhodes-Memphis vs MTSU

Bishop Sankey, Washington vs Portland St

 

Receivers

Alex Amidon-Boston College at Northwestern

Jamison Crowder-Duke vs NC Central

Aaron Horne-Iowa St vs Western Illinois

Marquelo Suel-Akron vs Morgan St

Kenbrell Thompkins-Cincinnati vs Delaware St

 

Joe DiSalvo

The College Fantasy Football Site

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 3 Emergency Starters</p>
Post date: Friday, September 14, 2012 - 00:38
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/rutgers-holder-gets-pinky-mangled-during-game
Body:

During the Rutgers - South Florida game, the Scarlet Knights' holder, J.T. Tartacoff, dislocated (and probably broke) the pinky on his right hand while trying to set up the ball for a field goal attempt. Warning, it's not for the squeamish. 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 23:23
All taxonomy terms: Alabama Crimson Tide, College Football
Path: /college-football/secs-greatest-college-football-rivalries-alabama-vs-arkansas
Body:

Back in 1913, a boy named Paul Bryant was born in the small town of Fordyce, Ark., and about a decade later he picked up the nickname Bear. The football team in his native state wasn’t that great, so Bryant ended up choosing to play at Alabama, where he would later become a championship coach and legend.

For years that was the only connection between the two programs, whose first meeting didn’t come until the 1962 Sugar Bowl. That year, Alabama entered No. 1 and Arkansas was No. 9. The Crimson Tide had a great defense, but the Razorbacks had star halfback Lance Alworth. The Tide won 10-3, with that Razorback field goal being the first points scored on Alabama since October, but Alworth being held to 15 rushing yards. Bryant had enough respect for Arkansas that he said he had “nine heart attacks out there,” according to the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History,” by Marty Mule. But Broyles summed up the game by saying that “we were in it on the scoreboard, but never in it on the field.”

That classic didn’t ignite any desire by Bryant to keep facing the team from his native state. They wouldn’t meet again until 1980, also in the Sugar Bowl, and also with Alabama harboring national title hopes. This time the Crimson Tide were No. 2, while the Razorbacks were No. 6. Bryant was still coaching the Tide, while Lou Holtz had replaced Broyles, who had moved up to athletics director. 

This one featured a bit more offense, as Alabama used its double wing offense – just installed – to jump out to a 14-3 lead. The Tide won 24-9, and won the AP national title when No. 1 Ohio State lost to Southern California. 

Finally, Arkansas joined the SEC and the teams met in the regular season for the first time, on Sept. 12, 1992. The game was in Little Rock, but once again Alabama won, 38-9, on its way to yet another national championship.

Yes, a quirk of this rivalry is the first three times they met, Alabama went on to win the national championship. 

As Alabama began its backslide, the rivalry became more even-matched: Arkansas beat the Tide for the first time in 1995, in Tuscaloosa, and they won in Bryant-Denny a couple more times over the next decade. 

There have been some classic finishes: Twice the games have been decided in double-overtime. 

Then Arkansas began a rise to national prominence under Bobby Petrino, adding more spice to the rivalry. When Alabama visited Fayetteville in 2010, it was nationally-televised and full of hype. Both were unbeaten. The Razorbacks led 20-7 late in the third quarter, but the Crimson Tide scored the game’s final 17 points, punctuated by a Mark Ingram 1-yard run with 3:18 left.

Last year, Alabama left the drama for another time, winning in a 38-14 rout – on the way to yet another national championship for the program. 

There was one year that they never met and were rivals: Both teams were unbeaten after the 1964 season, but Alabama was voted the national champion by the AP and coaches poll. Back then there was no BCS, so they didn’t face each other in a bowl. Alabama lost in the Orange Bowl, and Arkansas won the Cotton Bowl, but there were no further bowls so Alabama still claimed the major national titles – but Arkansas was recognized as the national champion by the Football Writers Association of America. 

The split championship led the AP to change its policy and pick its national champion after the bowl season.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the conference's biggest and best rivalries.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 17:27
Path: /nascar/looking-back-waltrips-passion-nascar-pays
Body:

The following article was published on Oct. 12, 2007, during NASCAR’s Charlotte race weekend shortly after a press conference introducing Rob Kauffman as the newest investor in Michael Waltrip Racing was held.

At the time, Waltrip’s Toyota team was floundering in its, and the manufacturer’s, first season in the Cup Series. He would later admit to being nearly broke just months after the three-car operation debuted at Daytona. Enter Kauffman, at the time the latest in a long line of “investor-types” to buy into Cup teams desparate for additional funding. Many observers were apprehensive, and with good reason: A number of the same investment firms that bought in soon bailed when its shareholders saw the year-end ledger.

Credit Kauffman for being different. Turns out, he really is “a car guy,” as Waltrip told us that day — although I have to admit that at the time, I wasn’t necessarily buying it. With Kauffman’s aid, Waltrip’s passion and Toyota’s loyalty, MWR has defied the odds and five years later is a force in the most elite form of motorsports in North America.

The column you’re about to read (and its subject) drew more than it’s share of criticism and belligerence from readers when published — certainly more than this humble and somewhat dumbstruck author thought it deserved. That said, I’ve pulled it out of the electronic mothballs (something I’ve never done) as MWR prepares to take its maiden voyage into the Chase to highlight what Waltrip and his determined band of racers were fighting through early in the development of the company.

 

Passion Fuels Waltrip’s Past, Present and Future
by Matt Taliaferro
published October 12, 2007

The year was 2001. It was my 26th birthday. My father was receiving the Mayor’s Award of Excellence for community service in our hometown of Owensboro, Ky. Darrell Waltrip was there too, accepting the award for excellence in sports. Each recipient stood and spoke, and while I was very proud of my father and felt him to be deserving it was Darrell’s speech that spoke directly to me.

“Find your passion,” he told us that night. Whether that’s ballet or racing, teaching or writing, the path to being happy and successful is to zero in on what you do well and follow it.

The speech has never left me and I was reminded of it once again today — as I am on most — as I sat and watched Darrell’s younger brother map out the future of his racing organization in a press conference from Lowe’s Motor Speedway. I couldn’t help but watch Darrell who sat, nodding approvingly, from the front row as Michael spoke of passion; passion for what he and wife Buffy had created at MWR; passion for a job he feels lucky to do; passion for the community he is blessed to be a part of; passion for the garage area, which he knows is in his DNA.
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports racing editor Matt Taliaferro looks back on the Oct. 2007, race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, when the fortunes of Michael Waltrip Racing were changed forever.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 17:07
Path: /college-football/secs-greatest-college-football-rivalries-tennessee-vs-florida
Body:

Perhaps the best moniker for Tennessee-Florida would be the Sound Bite Bowl.

No other rivalry in recent SEC history has produced more quips and memorable quotes, especially between coaches. Those who have coached each of these teams have enjoyed getting under each other’s skin.

It started in the 1990s with Florida’s Steve Spurrier and Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer. The pair privately had a lot of respect for each other. But publicly, both of their programs were on the rise, and ended up dominating the SEC East Division.  

But when Florida had the advantage over Tennessee one year, Spurrier made his famous joke that “you can’t spell Citrus (bowl) without UT.” But the next year it was Florida playing in the Citrus Bowl. A Tennessee fan paid for a plane to fly overhead with a sign saying: “How was the Citrus Bowl, Spurrier?”

In the 2000s, it was Lane Kiffin vs. Urban Meyer, despite the fact Kiffin was only at Tennessee for one year. He directed several barbs at Florida and Meyer, and at one point went over the line, alleging that Meyer had “cheated” in recruiting. In fact Meyer had not, and the SEC office reprimanded Kiffin. 

When Kiffin left for Southern Cal, an ESPN camera caught Meyer when the news broke. A sly grin crossed Meyer’s lips. 

All of this helped fuel a rivalry that wasn’t that heated – or even played very often – prior to the 1990s.

Tennessee and Florida first met in 1916, but only played intermittently over the next 70 years. There were gaps of eight and 14 years between match-ups. It was only when the SEC expanded to 12 and formed into divisions that the Volunteers and Gators moved to playing every season. 

And that coincided with each team’s rise to increased prominence. The first 10 East Division titles were won by either Florida or Tennessee.  

“If you had asked Tennessee fans after expansion, they would tell you Florida (was the main rival),” former Tennessee sports information director Bud Ford said. “Based on the fact it became an early-season game. … Normally the team that won the game had a chance to win the division.”

Current Volunteer player Ja’Wuan James put it another way: “The younger fans always talk about Florida.”

Lately, it’s been the Gators with the most right to talk. They have won seven in a row, mostly due to Meyer’s six-year run in Gainesville. That included that one very sweet win over Kiffin’s team. (Although the expectation had been that Florida would trounce Tennessee and run it up, but the Volunteers hung in there and only lost 23-13 in Gainesville.)

Whether this rivalry remains fierce going into the future might be open to question. There will never be another period like the 1990s, when the two dominated the division, thanks to the presence of Georgia, and the resurgence of South Carolina – or even the addition of Missouri. 

But it’s also unknown how each program will fare under their correct coaches. Derek Dooley is entering his third year at Tennessee with a 11-14 record. Florida’s Will Muschamp was 7-6 in his first year as Meyer’s replacement. 

But Florida has too much of a recruiting base to be down for long. If Tennessee can turn it around, perhaps the bulletin-board material will return. 

Teaser:
<p> A look at the conference's biggest and best rivalries.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 16:43
Path: /college-basketball/longterm-coaching-candidates-uconn-0
Body:

UConn named Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the Huskies’ head coach. But Ollie was only given a one-year contract. If the school opts to go in another direction after the 2012-13 season, here are some likely candidates.

Shaka Smart, head coach, VCU
Smart is one of the most respected young coaches in the game. He has an overall record of 84–28 and a 38–16 mark in the Colonial in three seasons at VCU. He is best known for taking the ’10-12 Rams to the Final Four, but his most impressive accomplishment has to be guiding last year’s team, which had to replace four key seniors, to a 15–3 record in the CAA.

 

Brad Stevens, head coach, Butler
He’s considered by many college basketball observers to be among the top five coaches in the game. Stevens led Butler the National Championship game in two consecutive seasons and has an overall record of 139–40 in five years. Butler is making the move from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 in 2012-13, but the program is well-equipped to remain competitive in its new league with Stevens running the show.

 

Dan Hurley, head coach, Rhode Island
Hurley lacks experience — he’s only been a collegiate head coach for two seasons — but he could be a top candidate if he enjoys some degree of success in his first year at Rhode Island. He inherited a Wagner program that went 5–26 in ’09-10 and two years later led the Seahawks to a school-record 25 wins and a second-place finish in the Northeast Conference. He is a New Jersey native who spent 10 successful years as a high school coach.

 

Buzz Williams, head coach, Marquette
Williams has been a consistent winner at Marquette, with an overall record of 96–44 and a 46–26 record in the Big East. He has led all four of his Golden Eagle teams to the NCAA Tournament, including back-to-back trips to the Sweet 16. He has rebuffed overtures from other high-major programs in recent seasons.

 

Steve Prohm, head coach, Murray State
Prohm is entering his second season as the head coach at Murray State. He guided the Racers to a 27–1 regular-season record and then added three more wins in the OVC Tournament. Murray, a No. 6 seed, beat Colorado State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Marquette in the Round of 32.

 

Frank Martin, head coach, South Carolina
Martin recently made the move from Kansas State — which he guided to the NCAA Tournament four times in five seasons — to South Carolina, where he faces a significant rebuilding project. He might be an attractive candidate to UConn if he does well in his first season in Columbia.

 

Anthony Grant, head coach, Alabama
Grant has a decent record in three seasons at Alabama — he is 63–39 overall and 27–21 in the SEC — but has only been to the NCAA Tournament once with the Tide. He did take VCU to the NCAAs twice in his three years with the Rams and had a 45–9 record in the Colonial. He is an outstanding recruiter.

Keep an eye on …
Neither Ralph Willard at Seton Hall or Mike Rice at Rutgers has done enough at their current jobs to warrant much interest from UConn, but either coach could emerge as a viable candidate with a breakthrough season. Both enjoyed success at previous stops — Willard at Iona and Rice at Robert Morris.

— By Mitch Light

Teaser:
<p> UConn named Kevin Ollie to replace Jim Calhoun as the Huskies’ head coach. But Ollie was only given a one-year contract. If the school opts to go in another direction after the 2012-13 season, here are some likely candidates.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 15:04
Path: /college-basketball/jim-calhoun-retirement-whats-next-uconn
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Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun announced his retirement Thursday after winning 873 games with the Huskies and Northwestern. Before Calhoun took over in Storrs, UConn never had produced a first-round NBA draft pick or a consensus All-American. The Huskies had reached the NCAA regional semifinals just three times before Calhoun was hired in 1986.

Calhoun leaves behind a powerhouse program that has won three national championships. He also leaves behind a complicated legacy of NCAA sanctions, a depleted roster and a program in the hands of a first-time head coach, Kevin Ollie.

So what do the next five seasons look like for UConn without Calhoun? Our panel answers.

What’s in store for UConn in the next five seasons?

Nathan Rush:
Kevin Ollie will stick around and succeed.
UConn basketball is in good hands with Kevin Ollie. The 39-year-old starred for the Huskies from 1991-95, despite being under-recruited out of Crenshaw (Calif.) High School. Ollie then worked his way from the CBA to the NBA, where he played 13 seasons — highlighted by a trip to the 2001 NBA Finals as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. During his NBA career, Ollie was known for his defense and dependability. He learned from championship coaches like Larry Brown and Chuck Daly, and played alongside Hall of Fame talents like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Allen Iverson and Reggie Miller. Calhoun called Ollie back to Storrs in 2010. And after two years on the bench, Ollie is sliding over to the big chair as the heir to a three-time NCAA champion. Although Ollie has no prior head coaching experience and his ability to manage late-game situations is still unknown, all signs point to this being a home run hire for UConn. Ollie is a renowned leader who was rumored to be coveted for the "coaching fast track" by Thunder GM Sam Presti — a guy known for his eye for young talent — after retiring from the NBA. And Ollie's work ethic cannot be questioned; he made millions of dollars as an NBA grinder working on a series of one-year deals. The Huskies' hire is a young, energetic UConn alum who has done nothing but overachieve his entire life. The Huskies' proud basketball tradition will continue under Kevin Ollie.

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Ollie is a transitional figure, but UConn’s long-term future is safe.
I view Connecticut’s long-term future similar to that of Arizona. Before Lute Olson, the Wildcats never did much of anything on the basketball landscape before Olson turned Arizona into a NBA player factory and the premier program out West after UCLA. Like UConn, Arizona had a handful of off-court issues and an awkward coaching handoff to Kevin O’Neill and Russ Pennell. All Arizona needed to do was hire the right coach, Sean Miller, to bring Arizona back to prominence. UConn should be an attractive enough job to make a home run hire when Ollie’s one-year contract is up. I’m thinking about Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart, maybe Dan Hurley from Wagner, or even a established major-program coach like Matt Painter or Buzz Williams. Bottom line, UConn should be able to weather this storm and in five seasons be back among the Big East elite.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch):
UConn is not guaranteed a spot atop of the college basketball world.
We have learned in recent years that very few college basketball programs are immune to a bad season — or seasons. Kentucky played in the NIT in 2009, one year after sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as a No. 11 seed. North Carolina played in the NIT in 2010 after winning only five games in the ACC. UCLA has missed the NCAAs in two of the past three seasons. And Indiana just recently snapped a three-year NCAA Tournament draught. The point? Success is not guaranteed in college basketball — even for the so-called elite programs. UConn can’t afford to get this wrong. If Kevin Ollie struggles in his one guaranteed season as the head coach, the school likely will look to make a big splash and lure Brad Stevens from Butler, Shaka Smart from VCU or another big-name coach. That, however, might be very difficult. UConn is a great program that has enjoyed tremendous success, but it has only been great under one man — Jim Calhoun. It’s difficult to consider a program elite if it hasn’t won championships under more than one regime. Big-time coaches who are in comfortable situations might not perceive UConn to be a destination job. It’s been proven you can win at the school, but it’s a not a given. Any competent coach can win to some degree at places like UCLA, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, etc. UConn, however, is a notch below those blue-blood programs. Don’t be surprised if the Huskies slip a few notches down the college basketball food chain in the next decade.

@AthlonSports

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Teaser:
<p> Jim Calhoun retirement: What's next for UConn?</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 14:26
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-chicagoland
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The 2012 regular season may have been put in the books last weekend in dramatic fashion at Richmond International Raceway, and the Chase for the Sprint Cup may get underway at Chicagoland Speedway, but for NASCAR fantasy players the season simply rolls on to the sweeping 1.5-mile track in Joliet, Ill.

While most fantasy leagues will continue without any change in format, the mindset of the 12 drivers battling for the title and the 31 “other” drivers in the field will certainly change.

Although most are reluctant to admit it – you often hear them say, “We’ll keep doing the same thing we have all year,” – there is no doubt that those in the Chase will be gunning for wins and maximum points each and every weekend.

While the Chase drivers will steal the majority of the spotlight the next 10 races, there are a number of those on the outside looking in that can shake up the finishing order week-to-week. Some are looking for redemption for missing this year’s Chase, others are working on setups and plans for the 2013 season, while still others will be out there proving their worth to potential rides and sponsorship dollars.

In essence, the next 10 weeks will be a mixed-bag of agendas with high-intensity racing. It will be tough to top last year’s epic battle to the final laps, but if any Chase class could do it, I bet this one can.

However, before we get too wrapped up Chase talk, it’s time to look at this weekend’s race at Chicagoland Speedway.

After 10 years of hosting NASCAR Sprint Cup races, the 2011 trip to Chicagoland Speedway marked the first time it opened the Chase. Defending series champion Tony Stewart turned his season around then and there by saving enough fuel to score his first of five Chase wins.

Much like last season, Stewart enters the Chase struggling to keep pace with the competition. Since his third win of the season came in July at Daytona, the former champion has just two top 5s and three top 10s – not exactly the type of momentum you want heading into the Chase.

However, if last year proved anything, it’s that Stewart has the opportunity to come out swinging in Chicago. The defending champ leads all drivers in victories at the 1.5-mile tri-oval (three) and at 8.7, has the best average finish among active drivers.

If he and crew chief Steve Addington are able to put the struggles of the summer months behind them, bring a solid setup to the track and play the strategy correctly, it will be hard to bet against Stewart.

That said, once the Chase gets underway it is also nearly impossible to bet against the five-time series champion, Jimmie Johnson. The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet leads the series in Chase wins (20) and has an average finish of 9.0 in the playoffs. With the third-best average finish (10.0) at Chicagoland Speedway — and bringing the car that dominated at both Dover and Indianapolis — Johnson should also be among the favorites this weekend.

With all four Hendrick Motorsports cars in the Chase, perhaps the driver you want to watch out for this weekend is veteran Jeff Gordon. The four-time champion earned the final wild card spot in dramatic fashion on Saturday in Richmond by out-racing Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch when it mattered most.

The 2012 season has been one of up and downs for the No. 24 team, but throughout the struggles and poor luck, crew chief Alan Gustafson and the team have provided fast racecars. Gordon enters the first race of the Chase with his sights set on a fifth title, and with a win and a 10th-place average finish at Chicagoland, he will be tough to beat.

Five Favorites: Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at fantasy NASCAR favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's GEICO 400 from Chicagoland Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, September 13, 2012 - 13:21

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