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Path: /college-football/big-ten-week-11-preview-and-predictions

Week 11 should be a great weekend in the Big Ten. Northwestern heads to Ann Arbor to see if it belongs in the title discussion. Wisconsin visits Indiana in what could be a surprising Leaders Division elimination game. And the contrast of colors in Lincoln when Penn State comes to town should inspire any college football junkie.

Just don't tell any of this to the fans in Iowa City or West Lafayette.

Big Ten's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11:

1. Taylor Martinez mistakes vs. big plays
Martinez is the Big Ten’s leading active passer — the injured Joel Stave is No. 1 — and is No. 2 in total offense behind only Braxton Miller. He contributed a pair of long touchdown runs (71 and 35 yards) as well as the game-winning drive against Michigan State. He also threw three interceptions. The Huskers quarterback giveth (12 TD in last four games) and taketh away (7 INT in last four games), and as usual, Nebraska’s Rose Bowl hopes hinge on their quarterback’s ability to make big plays. T-Mart struggled last year against Penn State (13-of-26, 143 yards, 0 TD, 18 carries, 56 yards) but still managed to eke out a 17-14 emotion-laden victory the first time Penn State took the field following the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

2. Penn State must run for 160 yards and at least one touchdown
One way to keep Taylor Martinez at bay will be for Penn State to run the ball. It seems simple, but when Penn State runs the ball effectively, it wins. In its three losses, PSU failed to score a rushing touchdown and averaged 81.7 yards on 30.7 attempts. Conversely, Penn State has rushed for at least 160 yards in all five Big Ten wins. Moreover, the Nits have scored 14 rushing touchdowns in wins and no touchdowns on the ground in their three losses. This offense goes as Matt McGloin goes, however, the ground game has been the difference between winning and losing for Bill O’Brien.

3. Leaders Division Championship Game
Wisconsin has Ohio State at home and Penn State on the road to finish the 2012 regular season. It is fair to say both of those teams are better than the Badgers. And since Bucky has to play in Beaver Stadium to end the Nittany Lions' season, it is hard to see Wisconsin winning either. Indiana also has to visit Happy Valley before finishing up with Purdue. So assuming UW loses both and the Hoosiers split, the showdown between the two this weekend suddenly becomes the next Leaders Division Championship Game. Should the Badgers win, they clinch the best eligible record in the division and a trip to Indianapolis. A win for IU and they would be a win over the Boilermakers in the regular-season finale from playing in the title game. 

4. Can Wisconsin get any production from the QB?
There has been some talk that the oft-injured but extremely talented Curt Phillips may get some looks at quarterback this weekend. That seems unlikely considering Danny O’Brien is healthy and Phillips' lack of experience. Either way, however, Wisconsin has to get production from its passing game it if wants to win this weekend. The Hoosiers have proven they can score and the Badgers offense will have to keep pace. However, this UW offense has been completely one-dimensional when Joel Stave has been out of the line up. With talented pass-catchers and an excellent running game, the throwing lanes should be available for whoever is under center for Bret Bielema. O’Brien just needs to be more efficient and accurate with the football. 

5. Who will play quarterback for Michigan?
Denard Robinson missed his first career game last weekend when Devin Gardner started against Minnesota. Shoelace is battling a reoccurring nerve issue in his throwing elbow and while he wasn’t needed in the easy win over the Gophers, one has to believe Northwestern provides a much tougher test. Gardner, who should be the starter for Brady Hoke next fall, was productive and efficient in the win. Hoke isn’t tipping his hand as to who will be under center for Michigan, so it has forced Pat Fitzgerald to prepare for both. Either way, Hoke and his quarterback have to get more help from its running game. Thomas Rawls got 16 carries and scored last week and should be worked into the mix more since Fitzgerald Toussaint has struggled this year (3.5 yards per carry on 109 attempts this year). If needed, look for Hoke to mix up his offensive line rotation in an effort to kick-start the running attack. 

6. How does Northwestern win on the road?
Run, run, run and run some more. Since Week 1, each time Northwestern has gotten to 190 yards rushing, they have won (6-0). Both times the Wildcats failed to reach 190 yards, they lost. This team rolled up 349 yards on the ground against Iowa two weeks ago and will turn to its two-headed monster to lead the offense. Venric Mark and Kain Colter both topped 160 yards rushing in the win over the Hawkeyes and both are ranked in the top 11 in the Big Ten rushing ranks. Michigan, after allowing 522 yards rushing in its first two games, has only allowed 109.6 yards per game since. This is where Northwestern can win the game. 

7. Gophers last chance at the postseason
The Golden Gophers finish the season at Nebraska and with Michigan State at home. Minnesota will be hard pressed to win either of those two contests, so Jerry Kill’s search for the postseason may end with the road trip to Illinois this weekend. For an extremely young team, a bowl game — and the extra month of practice time — would be invaluable. Illinois, who has allowed at least 31 points in six straight games (all losses), hasn’t been competitive in league play this fall. The Illini are losing Big Ten games by an average of 26.8 points per game and have not played a single conference game closer than two touchdowns (14 point loss to Indiana). Kill has to view this weekend as the opportunity to tangibly build the future of Minnesota football. A loss could be devastating to a young team.

8. Who survives the game in Iowa City?
No, the fans watching on either side likely won’t make it out of Kinnick Stadium alive. The phrase ‘bored to death’ comes to mind. However, there is some serious intrigue in what could be deemed The Pink Slip Bowl. Barring a three-game winning streak to end the season, it is unlikely Danny Hope returns to West Lafayette next fall. Kirk Ferentz is much safer at Iowa, but giving Hope his first and possibly only Big Ten win of the year will make the already restless fans in Iowa City that much more uncomfortable. With Michigan and Nebraska left for the Hawkeyes, a loss would likely mean a 4-8 overall record with six consecutive defeats to end the year. I’ll take Ferentz to survive what will be an unwatchable game of mediocrity. 

Week 11 Big Ten Predictions:

Week 11 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Wisconsin at Indiana Wisconsin, 30-28 Wisconsin, 31-26 Wisconsin, 34-27 Wisconsin, 21-14
Purdue at Iowa Iowa, 24-20 Iowa, 21-20 Iowa, 27-20 Iowa, 10-7
Northwestern at Michigan Michigan, 30-27 Michigan, 33-24 Michigan, 31-24 Northwestern, 28-21
Minnesota at Illinois Minnesota, 24-20 Minnesota, 27-23 Minnesota, 31-20 Minnesota, 38-20
Penn St at Nebraska Nebraska, 27-24 Nebraska, 31-21 Nebraska, 27-24 Nebraska, 31-21
Last Week: 5-0 5-0 4-1 5-0
Yearly Totals: 65-14 61-18 66-13 61-18

Bye Week: Ohio State, Michigan State

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 11 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 11 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 11 Previews and Predictions

Pac-12 Week 11 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 11 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 11 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Big Ten Week 11 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/pac-12-week-11-preview-and-predictions

The race in the Pac-12 South continues to entertain. Arizona's loss to UCLA was costly, both in the standings and on the injury report. USC's loss to Oregon didn't end their title hopes as the two L.A. schools are now headed on a collision course for Nov. 17. But both need to take care of business this weekend against overmatched opponents to ensure next weekend's game sends the winner to Eugene in December. Otherwise, all eyes should be pointed northward to Palo Alto, where the Beavers come to town, and Seattle, where Utah is fighting for a bowl game.

Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11:

1. Stanford's nasty front against Oregon State's young O-Line
The Cardinal have the best front seven West of the Mississippi. They have allowed a grand total of minus-16 yards rushing in three wins since losing to Notre Dame, twice in a row holding the opposition to negative rushing yards. Stanford is also leading the nation in sacks after taking down the other team’s quarterback 17 times over the last two weeks. No, the Bears, Cougars and Buffaloes don’t offer the same type of challenge as the Beavers, but this will easily be the toughest test Oregon State’s offense will have faced all season. A young offensive line, a back up quarterback, and talented but diminutive skill players make this an awfully tough match up for Mike Riley. There is some good news, however, as…

2. Kevin Hogan makes first start against No. 2 defense
Oregon State trails only Stanford in pass efficiency, rushing and scoring defense in the Pac-12. So Hogan’s first career start won’t come easy as the Beavers have been outstanding at rushing the passer and stopping the run all season long. However, as points will be extremely tough to come by in this one for Oregon State, the pressure falls to Riley’s defense to play perfect football if it wants to get the road win. Hogan was extremely efficient last weekend in spot duty, completing 18-of-23 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and nary a turnover. But that was Colorado — and this is Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer (who should play after missing last week). This will be a physical, blue-collar slugfest. 

3. Revenge on the mind of the USC Trojans
Lane Kiffin’s bunch was 10-2 last fall with wins over Notre Dame, Washington, Oregon and Utah. And a eight-point overtime loss to Stanford and Andrew Luck is nothing to be ashamed of. However, allowing 43 points in a three-touchdown loss to a 6-6 Sun Devils team with a coach in his final season likely hasn’t sat well with Mr. Barkley and company. The USC quarterback had his worst game of the 2011 season against ASU, throwing for 227 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The embarrassing loss to Arizona State last fall, as well as the beatdown the Trojans defense took last weekend, should have this team ready to play. Arizona State has allowed 124 points and 454.7 yards per game during its current three-game losing streak. Best wishes to Todd Graham’s defense.

4. Can Travis Wilson handle Seattle?
Kyle Whittingham officially switched to touted freshman quarterback Travis Wilson four games ago. He kept his team competitive on the road against UCLA (21-14) and Oregon State (21-7) before breaking through the last two weeks. The Utes were scoring 20.1 points per game and were ranked 105th nationally before Wilson led his team to 49 points in each of the last two weekends. Certainly, the ground game has emerged and the defense has improved, but if Utah wants to win a third straight game and keep its bowl hopes alive, Wilson will have to handle the rowdy crowd in Seattle. It’s safe to say the Huskies are a different team at home. They are 4-1 at home with wins over previously unbeaten Stanford and Oregon State and have allowed more than 17 points only once (USC, 24). Good luck youngster. 

5. Oregon shooting for an NCAA record
Fresh off of a 62-point blasting of USC, Oregon sits tied with Oklahoma State (2010-12) and Hawaii (2006-07) with an NCAA-record 22 straight games with at least 30 points scored. LSU was the last team to keep the Ducks under 30 back in the 2011 season opener. Additionally, the Ducks have scored at least 34 points in 18 consecutive Pac-12 games, dating back to, you guessed it, a road trip to Cal in 2010. It was by far the best defensive effort Chip Kelly’s bunch faced en route to the BCS National Championship Game. So even though multiple scoring streaks are at stake, I am positive Kelly would take a guaranteed berth in the BCS title game if it meant another low-scoring two-point win this weekend.

6. Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin must roll on the road
The Bruins quarterback (306.8 ypg) and running back (133.8) tandem trail only Matt Scott (357.4) and Ka’Deem Carey (112.8) in combined total offense in the Pac-12. And since they just obliterated the Wildcats duo 66-10, this could be considered the most productive QB-RB tandem in the league. In fact, only Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel produces more total offense nationally as a freshman than Hundley. With Washington State struggling at unprecedented levels — try 76 total yards rushing in six Pac-12 games — this should be a cakewalk for UCLA’s dynamic backfield. 

7. Matt Scott's health and Arizona’s ability to bounce back
The dynamic play-maker suffered a concussion against UCLA last weekend and is listed as questionable. He won’t be needed in this home game against Colorado, so I would expect to see Rich Rodriguez to play it safe with his star quarterback. Look for Ka’Deem Carey and a host of talented skill players to pick up the slack and abuse the Buffs with or without their quarterback. This will get ugly real quick and the only negative thing that could possibly happen is another injury to Scott. So keep him on the sideline RichRod.

Week 11 Pac-12 Predictions:

Week 11 Pac-12 Games Braden Gall Mitch Light Steven Lassan David Fox
Colorado at Arizona Arizona, 38-7 Arizona, 48-0 Arizona, 55-17 Arizona, 35-10
Arizona St at USC USC, 45-21 USC, 37-23 USC, 45-31 USC, 38-28
Oregon St at Stanford Stanford, 20-17 Stanford, 30-27 Stanford, 24-20 Stanford, 27-14
Utah at Washington Washington, 24-20 Washington, 33-10 Washington, 27-20 Washington, 35-10
UCLA at Washington St UCLA, 41-14 UCLA, 47-10 UCLA, 48-20 UCLA, 31-10
Oregon at Cal Oregon, 41-17 Oregon, 44-17 Oregon, 48-17 Oregon, 49-14
Last Week: 6-0 5-1 6-0 4-2
Yearly Totals: 51-15 51-15 50-16 45-21

Bye: None

by Braden Gall


Related College Football Content

ACC Week 11 Previews and Predictions
Big East Week 11 Previews and Predictions

Big Ten Week 11 Previews and Predictions

Big 12 Week 11 Previews and Predictions

SEC Week 11 Previews and Predictions

College Football Week 11 Upset Predictions

Athlon's 2012 Bowl Projections

Ranking All College Football Teams 1-124

<p> Pac-12 Week 11 Preview and Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-quarterback-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington are all on bye this week.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Quarterbacks

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Tom Brady NE vs. BUF Tom Terrific is 19-2 vs. Bills w/ 49 TD passes.
2 Peyton Manning DEN at CAR Came up just 9 yards shy of 5th 300-3 game in a row.
3 Drew Brees NO vs. ATL Has thrown for 15 TDs vs. 3 INTs in last five games.
4 Matt Ryan ATL at NO Threw for 342 yards, but no TDs (or INTs) vs. Dallas.
5 Ben Roethlisberger PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Only two games with 300+ yards, but 16 TDs.
6 Andrew Luck IND at JAC (Thurs.) Posted NFL rookie record 433 yards last week.
7 Matthew Stafford DET at MIN Only eight TD passes in eight games so far.
8 Eli Manning NYG at CIN Only 2 TDs w/ 4 INTs in last four games.
9 Cam Newton CAR vs. DEN Total TDs after 8 games: 18 in '11 vs. 10 in '12.
10 Josh Freeman TB vs. SD Has 11:1 TD:INT ratio over last four games.
11 Michael Vick PHI vs. DAL Has 11:3 TD:INT ratio in 6 career games vs. Dallas.
12 Tony Romo DAL at PHI Nine of his 13 INTs were thrown in two games.
13 Carson Palmer OAK at BAL Posted fifth career 400-yard game last week.
14 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF at NE Put up 350-4-4 in Week 4 loss to Patriots.
15 Philip Rivers SD at TB Tampa Bay last in league (321 ypg) in pass defense.
16 Joe Flacco BAL vs. OAK Less than 200 yards passing in 3 of last 4 games.
17 Andy Dalton CIN vs. NYG Giants 26th against pass, allowing 264 ypg.
18 Alex Smith SF vs. STL Tied season high with 3 TD passes in last game.
19 Ryan Tannehill MIA vs. TEN Played through injury, put up 290-1-0 vs. Colts.
20 Matt Schaub HOU at CHI Bears are 4th in sacks, tied for 1st in INTs.
21 Jay Cutler CHI vs. HOU Texans are No. 4 against pass, tied for 6th in sacks.
22 Jake Locker TEN at MIA Will resume his starting job, barring a setback.
23 Russell Wilson SEA vs. NYJ Has yet to throw an INT at home.
24 Sam Bradford STL at SF Comes off of bye to face league's No. 2 pass defense.
25 Blaine Gabbert JAC vs. IND (Thurs.) Tied season high with 2 TD passes vs. Lions.
26 Mark Sanchez NYJ at SEA Seahawks have allowed only 3 TD passes at home.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:59
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-running-back-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Running Backs

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Ray Rice BAL vs. OAK Rookie Doug Martin gashed Raiders for 251 last week.
2 Adrian Peterson MIN vs. DET All Day is leading the league in rushing.
3 Marshawn Lynch SEA vs. NYJ Beast mode could be in effect vs. No. 27 rush defense.
4 LeSean McCoy PHI vs. DAL Averaging 96 rushing yards per game over last four.
5 Arian Foster HOU at CHI Faces tough task against No. 6 rush defense.
6 Doug Martin TB vs. SD Rookie has 386 rushing yards, 5 TDs in last two games.
7 Stevan Ridley NE vs. BUF Bills giving up league-worst 5.7 ypc.
8 Willis McGahee DEN at CAR Averaging 20+ attempts over last three games.
9 Frank Gore SF vs. STL Sore ribs shouldn't be an issue coming off of bye.
10 Matt Forte CHI vs. HOU Texans have yet to allow rushing TD.
11 Reggie Bush MIA vs. TEN Titans are allowing 141.6 yards rushing per game.
12 Chris Johnson TEN at MIA CJ (141, TD) lone Titans bright spot last week vs. Bears.
13 Jamaal Charles KC at PIT (Mon.) Has 83 yards rushing in last three games combined.
14 Ryan Mathews SD at TB Bucs are No. 1 in league against rush (77.3 ypg).
15 Michael Turner ATL at NO Posted second 100-yard game vs. Cowboys.
16 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG at CIN Averaging only 56.3 ypg over last three.
17 C.J. Spiller BUF at NE Averaging 7.2 yards per carry.
18 Rashad Jennings JAC vs. IND (Thurs.) Colts allowing seventh-most fantasy points to RBs.
19 Mikel Leshoure DET at MIN Leshoure had just 70 yards, but 3 TDs vs. Jaguars.
20 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN vs. NYG Season-best 91 yards rushing came back in Week 1.
21 Isaac Redman PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Should get another start after 147-yard effort vs. Giants.
22 Vick Ballard IND at JAC (Thurs.) Donald Brown's health dictates Ballard's workload.
23 Shonn Greene NYJ at SEA Hoping to get Ground and Pound going coming off of bye.
24 Pierre Thomas NO vs. ATL His role increases if Sproles (hand) is out.
25 Steven Jackson STL at SF San Francisco is No. 5 in league vs. rush.
26 Fred Jackson BUF at NE Longest rush thus far has been just 13 yards.
27 Jonathan Stewart CAR vs. DEN Broncos are ninth in the league in rush defense.
28 Felix Jones DAL at PHI Saw Lance Dunbar cut into carries last week.
29 Marcel Reece OAK at BAL Should have impact in the Raiders' passing game.
30 Daniel Thomas MIA vs. TEN Averaging 10 carries over last three games.
31 Andre Brown NYG at CIN Bradshaw's lingering foot mean more work for Brown.
32 Darren Sproles NO vs. ATL DNP last week (hand surgery), may be back vs. Falcons.
33 Joique Bell DET at MIN Making an impact as both rusher and receiver.
34 DeAngelo Williams CAR vs. DEN Fewer touches, but scored TD last week on 30-yard run.
35 Mark Ingram NO vs. ATL Saw more carries with Sproles sidelined.
36 Jonathan Dwyer PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Expected to be back this week.
37 Chris Ivory NO vs. ATL His role is dependent upon Sproles' health.
38 Daryl Richardson STL at SF Has gotten 7+ carries in four straight games.
39 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL at NO Has been more active in passing game recently.
40 Danny Woodhead NE vs. BUF Second on team in carries, 4th in receptions.
41 Taiwan Jones OAK at BAL His workload is dependent on Goodson's ankle.
42 Kendall Hunter SF vs. STL Total of 19 carries in past two games.
43 Mike Goodson OAK at BAL Next up after McFadden, but he also has ankle injury.
44 Peyton Hillis KC at PIT (Mon.)  
45 Michael Bush CHI vs. HOU Doesn't get many chances if it's not a blowout.
46 Donald Brown IND at JAC (Thurs.) Listed as Questionable, but played vs. Dolphins.
47 Ronnie Hillman DEN at CAR  
48 Ronnie Brown SD at TB Role has increased over past four games.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Running Back Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:58
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-wide-receiver-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Wide Receivers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 A.J. Green CIN vs. NYG Tied for league lead with 8 TD receptions.
2 Julio Jones ATL at NO Saints have allowed 14 TD catches by WRs.
3 Roddy White ATL at NO New Orleans giving up most fantasy points to WRs.
4 Victor Cruz NYG at CIN Ranks among top 7in catches, yards and TDs.
5 Calvin Johnson DET at MIN Seven-catch, 129-yard effort welcome sight for CJ owners.
6 Brandon Marshall CHI vs. HOU Leading fantasy scorer at his position.
7 Reggie Wayne IND at JAC (Thurs.) Leads league with 837 yards receiving.
8 Wes Welker NE vs. BUF Put up 11-129 against Bills in Week 4.
9 Vincent Jackson TB vs. SD First game against former team.
10 Demaryius Thomas DEN at CAR Seen six or more targets in every game but one.
11 Marques Colston NO vs. ATL Had just 4 rec., but caught sixth TD last week.
12 Mike Wallace PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Chiefs allowing 16.9 ypc to WRs.
13 Miles Austin DAL at PHI Has seen 9+ targets in each of last three games.
14 Eric Decker DEN at CAR No. 7 fantasy WR has 7 TDs in last 5 games.
15 Steve Smith CAR vs. DEN Scored first TD last week vs. Redskins.
16 Brandon Lloyd NE vs. BUF Scored twice in last game, had TD in Week 4 vs. Bills.
17 Andre Johnson HOU at CHI Has eight or more receptions in each of past three games.
18 Denarius Moore OAK at BAL Saw TD streak end at three games in a row last week.
19 DeSean Jackson PHI vs. DAL Produced just second 100-yard game of season last week.
20 Torrey Smith BAL vs. OAK Only one 100-yard game, but 5 TDs.
21 Stevie Johnson BUF at NE Dealing with hip issue, but should play Sunday.
22 Dwayne Bowe KC at PIT (Mon.) Bowe better fantasy option with Cassel at QB than Quinn.
23 Dez Bryant DAL at PHI Hip could be issue, just one catch for 15 yards vs. Falcons.
24 Hakeem Nicks NYG at CIN More swelling in knee, keep eye on status.
25 Mike Williams TB vs. SD Averaging 17.4 ypc, has 5 TDs.
26 Malcom Floyd SD at TB Bucs are giving up second-most fantasy points to WRs.
27 Brian Hartline MIA vs. TEN Posted first 100-yard game since Week 4.
28 Jeremy Maclin PHI vs DAL Has total of 61 yards receiving in last two games.
29 Michael Crabtree SF vs. STL Caught two TD passes vs. Cardinals in last game.
30 Kenny Britt TEN at MIA Dolphins allowing fourth-most fantasy points to WRs.
31 Lance Moore NO vs. ATL Averaging 15 ypc and has two 100-yard games so far.
32 Emmanuel Sanders PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Big opportunity with Antonio Brown (ankle) likely out.
33 Danny Amendola STL at SF Rams, Bradford should get No. 1 option back this week.
34 Anquan Boldin BAL vs. OAK Only TD came back in Week 1.
35 Sidney Rice SEA vs. NYJ Has TDs in three of past four games.
36 Cecil Shorts JAC vs. IND (Thurs.) Colts have allowed 11 TDs to WRs.
37 Nate Washington TEN at MIA Fins have given up second-most receptions to WRs.
38 Jeremy Kerley NYJ at SEA  
39 Titus Young DET at MIN Didn't fare as well in second game as starter last week.
40 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK at TB Averaging 19.1 ypc since return from head/neck injury.
41 Davone Bess MIA vs. TEN Has seen at least 6 targets in every game.
42 Donnie Avery IND at JAC (Thurs.) Dealing w/ hip issue, watch status for Thursday game.
43 Laurent Robinson JAC vs. IND (Thurs.) Put up 9-41 against Lions in first action since Week 4.
44 Golden Tate SEA vs. NYJ Only 24 receptions, but 5 TDs.
45 T.Y. Hilton IND at JAC (Thurs.) Could see more targets if Avery (hip) is limited/out.
46 Michael Jenkins MIN vs. DET Increased role if Harvin (ankle) can't go.
47 Chris Givens STL at SF  
48 Justin Blackmon JAC vs. IND (Thurs.) Rookie caught first NFL TD pass last week vs. Lions.
49 Kendall Wright TEN at MIA Injured elbow last week, but should still play Sunday.
50 Donald Jones BUF at NE Patriots allowing ninth-most fantasy points to WRs.
51 Andrew Hawkins CIN vs. NYG Hasn’t produced much since Week 3.
52 Stephen Hill NYJ at SEA  
53 Randy Moss SF vs. STL Flashed old form on 47-yard TD vs. Cardinals.
54 Brandon Gibson STL at SF Looking at reduced role with Amendola's return.
55 Mario Manningham SF vs. STL Posted 3 or more receptions in every game.
56 Danario Alexander SD at TB Bucs have allowed second-most yards (1,847) to WRs.
57 Brandon Stokley DEN at CAR  
58 Ryan Broyles DET at MIN  
59 Jerome Simpson MIN vs. DET More opportunities if Harvin (ankle) is out.
60 Devery Henderson NO vs. ATL  
61 Kevin Ogletree DAL at PHI Posted best game (3-96-1) since Week 1 breakout.
62 Earl Bennett CHI vs. HOU  
63 Kevin Walter HOU at CHI  
64 Percy Harvin MIN vs. DET Says he's "a longshot" to play vs. Lions.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Wide Receiver Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:57
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-tight-end-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington all are on bye.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Tight Ends

Rk Player Team OPPONENT Notes
1 Rob Gronkowski NE vs. BUF Has caught 2 TDs in each of past two games.
2 Jimmy Graham NO vs. ATL Back in form after missing game b/c of ankle injury.
3 Tony Gonzalez ATL at NO Only one TD in last five games.
4 Jason Witten DAL at PHI Leads all TEs in catches (58), only one TD.
5 Heath Miller PIT vs. KC (Mon.) Second only to Gronk w/ 6 TD catches.
6 Owen Daniels HOU at CHI Has a TD in five of past six games.
7 Vernon Davis SF vs. STL Has just 5 receptions in past three games.
8 Aaron Hernandez NE vs. BUF Should be back this week (ankle), but watch.
9 Antonio Gates SD at TB Only 3 catches, but did have TD last week.
10 Jermaine Gresham CIN vs. NYG Has at least 3 rec. in every game.
11 Martellus Bennett NYG at CIN Has not caught a TD since Week 3.
12 Brandon Myers OAK at BAL No. 7 TE in terms of fantasy scoring.
13 Dustin Keller NYJ at SEA Seven catches in each of past two games.
14 Brandon Pettigrew DET at MIN Has 39 receptions, only 1 TD.
15 Dwayne Allen IND at JAC (Thurs.) Fleener out for second straight game.
16 Brent Celek PHI vs. DAL Five or more targets in all but one game.
17 Scott Chandler BUF at NE Caught 2 TD passes vs. Patriots in Week 4.
18 Greg Olsen CAR vs. DEN Broncos allowing third-most points to TEs.
19 Jared Cook TEN at MIA Inconsistency makes him hard to trust.
20 Kyle Rudolph MIN vs. DET No receptions in 2 of last 3 games.
21 Anthony Fasano MIA vs. TEN Titans have allowed 7 TDs to TEs.
22 Joel Dreessen DEN at CAR Averaging a TD every 5 receptions.
23 Dennis Pitta BAL vs. OAK Has seen sharp decline in targets.
24 Jacob Tamme DEN at CAR Has 29 receptions, but only 1 TD.
25 Dallas Clark TB vs. SD Chargers have allowed 1 TD catch to TE.
26 Zach Miller SEA vs. NYJ Getting a few more looks, but still not many.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

All touchdowns are 6 points
1 point for 25 yards passing
1 point for 10 yards rushing/receiving
Receptions are .5 points
Interceptions/fumbles are minus-2 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Defense/Special Teams

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Tight End Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:56
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-kicker-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Kickers

Rk Player Team OPPONENT
1 Lawrence Tynes NYG at CIN
2 Matt Bryant ATL at NO
3 Stephen Gostkowski NE vs. BUF
4 Blair Walsh MIN vs. DET
5 Sebastian Janikowski OAK at BAL
6 Jason Hanson DET at MIN
7 David Akers SF vs. STL
8 Justin Tucker BAL vs. OAK
9 Robbie Gould CHI vs. HOU
10 Shaun Suisham PIT vs. KC (Mon.)
11 Matt Prater DEN at CAR
12 Greg Zuerlein STL at SF
13 Shayne Graham HOU at CHI
14 Garrett Hartley NO vs. ATL
15 Connor Barth TB vs. SD
16 Dan Bailey DAL at PHI

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

PATs = 1 point
39 yards and under = 3 points
40-49 yards = 4 points
50-59 yards = 5 points
60+ yards = 6 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends
Defense/Special Teams

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Kicker Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy football rankings, NFL, Fantasy, News
Path: /nfl/2012-fantasy-football-defensespecial-teams-rankings-week-10

Each week during the NFL season, we will rank enough players at each position to appease everyone from those in 8-team leagues to 16-team leagues, those that can start two QBs, two TEs, three RBs and four WRs. We cut out the rest, because if you're looking at who the 50th-best running back or the 17th-best kicker is for that week, you need more help than any Web site can give you.

Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay and Washington are all on bye.

2012 NFL Week 10 Fantasy Football Rankings — Defense/Special Teams

Rk Player OPPONENT Notes
1 San Francisco 49ers vs. STL Have shutout Rams in 2 of last 3 played at home.
2 Chicago Bears vs. HOU Have 28 takeaways (17 INT, 11 fumbles) in 9 games.
3 Pittsburgh Steelers vs. KC (Mon.) Chiefs have league-worst 29 turnovers.
4 Houston Texans at CHI Texans are No. 3 in total, pass defense, No. 2 vs. rush.
5 Seattle Seahawks vs. NYJ Seahawks giving up 13 ppg at home.
6 Denver Broncos at CAR Broncos eighth against pass, tied for 6th in sacks.
7 New York Giants at CIN Have only given up 28+ points once this season.
8 Miami Dolphins vs. TEN Dolphins are No. 3 in league against rush.
9 Baltimore Ravens vs. OAK Ravens likely won't see McFadden in backfield.
10 Detroit Lions at MIN Christian Ponder struggling, Percy Harvin hurting.
11 New York Jets at SEA Rush defense (27th, 141.4 ypg) will be tested by Lynch.
12 Minnesota Vikings vs. DET Defense has struggled last two games.
13 New England Patriots vs. BUF Tied for 7th against rush, but 28th against pass.
14 Atlanta Falcons at NO Falcons looking to slow down Brees on road.
15 Dallas Cowboys at PHI Defense has allowed total of 2 TDs in last two games.
16 St. Louis Rams at SF Rams are 13th in both total and rush defense.

Rankings are based upon Athlon Sports' standard scoring system:

0 points allowed = 12 points
1-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 8 pts
14-20 points allowed = 6 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 pts
28+ points allowed = 0 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles recovered = 2 points
Interceptions = 2 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams TDs = 6 points

Additional Week 10 Positional Rankings

Running Backs
Wide Receivers
Tight Ends

Week 10 Waiver Wire

Week 10 Start or Sit

<p> 2012 Fantasy Football Defense/Special Teams Rankings: Week 10</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:54
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-11-emergency-starters

In some leagues, the fantasy playoffs are underway.  Injuries and byes will certainly affect quarterback roster decisions this week.  For those of you in deeper leagues, you’ll want to keep an eye out for our Emergency Starters list being released a little later.  As always, if you have any start/bench questions or need additional insight on roster decisions, please reach out to us via emailor twitter.


Joe DiSalvo (@theCFFsite)


Ryan Nassib, Syracuse vs Louisville

Kain Colter, Northwestern at Michigan

Kawaun Jakes, Western Kentucky vs Florida Atlantic

Cody Vaz, Oregon St at Stanford

Eric Soza, UTSA vs McNeese St


Running Backs

Dareyon Chance, Western Michigan at Buffalo

Jai Steib, Memphis vs Tulane

Ray Holley, LA Tech at Texas St

Jeremy Hill, LSU vs Mississippi St

Johnathan Gray, Texas vs Iowa St



Alec Lemon, Syracuse vs Louisville

JD McKissic, Arkansas St vs LA-Monroe

William Dukes, FAU at Western Kentucky

Jerrod Dillard, Akron vs UMass


For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to[email protected]


Steven Lassan(@AthlonSteven)


Jeff Driskel, Florida vs Louisiana

David Fales, San Jose St at New Mexico St

Dalton Williams, Akron at UMass


Running Backs

Dareyon Chance, Western Michigan at Buffalo

Theo Riddick, Notre Dame at Boston College

Kenny Williams, Texas Tech vs Kansas


Ryan Grant, Tulane at Memphis

Erik Highsmith, North Carolina vs Georgia Tech

Josh Stewart, Oklahoma St vs West Virginia

<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 11 Emergency Starters</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 04:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-using-vegas-odds-determine-best-week-11-plays

In the world of fantasy football, some team owners are relentless in their search for information that will give them a competitive edge over their competition.  Others just simply rely on projections from so-called experts, who try to convince everyone they have devised a computer program that accurately projects player stats by using a scientific formula so complicated that it makes the Drake equation seem elementary.  Eventually, those computer-driven computations prove no more accurate than an old-fashioned gut feeling.  However, in a quest to find a formula for fantasy success, one should just ask the question, “What are the odds?”

Quite simply, Vegas odds could give you all of the necessary insight to make smart roster decisions on a week-to-week basis.  In this weekly article, theCFFsite considers the point spreads and totals(over/under) in order to give our readers a unique perspective into some of the week’s most interesting fantasy matchups.

Week 11


Best Fantasy Matchups(Games with the most fantasy potential)

Baylor at Oklahoma

Line:  Oklahoma -21(O/U-77)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma 49-28

Best plays:

Baylor (QB-Nick Florence, WR-Terrance Williams)

Oklahoma (QB-Landry Jones, WR-Kenny Stills)

Also consider:

Baylor (RB-Jared Salubi, WRs-Tevin Reese, Lanear Sampson)

Oklahoma (RBs-Damien Williams or Brennan Clay, WR-Justin Brown)

theCFFsite projects:  Oklahoma 42-28


West Virginia at Oklahoma St

Line:  West Virginia -7.5(O/U79)

Projected score based on point spread:  Oklahoma St 44-36

Best plays:

Oklahoma St (RB-Joseph Randle, WRs-Charlie Moore, Josh Stewart, K-Quinn Sharp)

West Virginia (QB-Geno Smith, WRs-Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey)

Also consider:

Oklahoma St (QBs-Wes Lunt or Clint Chelf)

West Virginia (RB-Andrew Buie)

theCFFsite projects:  West Virginia 34-31


Marshall at UAB

Line:  Marshall -3(O/U-74.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Marshall 39-36

Best plays:

Marshall (QB-Rakeem Cato, WRs-Tommy Shuler, Antavious Wilson)

UAB (RB-Darrin Reaves)

Also consider:

Marshall (WR-Aaron Dobson, TE-Gator Hoskins)

UAB (QB-Austin Brown, WR-Jackie Williams)

theCFFsite projects:  Marshall 38-24

One-Sided Matchups(Using the odds to find a dominating ‘D’)

Maryland at Clemson

Line:  Clemson -31.5(O/U-55)

Projected score based on point spread:  Clemson 44-12

Stay away from:

Maryland (RB-Wes Brown)

theCFFsite projects:  Clemson 45-14


Louisiana at Florida

Line:  Florida -26(O/U-50.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Florida 39-12

Stay away from:

Louisiana (QB-Terrance Broadway)

theCFFsite projects:  Florida 38-10


Idaho at BYU

Line:  BYU -38(O/U-49)

Projected score based on point spread:  BYU 44-5

Stay away from:

Idaho (WR-Mike Scott)

theCFFsite projects:  BYU 42-7


Must Watch Games(The games with the biggest headlines)

Texas A&M at Alabama

Line:  Alabama -13.5(O/U-56.5)

Projected score based on point spread:  Alabama 35-31

Outlook:  The Week 11 schedule is void of any marquee matchups, but this may be the most interesting contest of the weekend because we are extremely interested in watching Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel against the Alabama defense.  It should be fun for a while, but the Tide will eventually wear down the Aggies in Tuscaloosa before shifting their sites onto the SEC Championship Game.

theCFFsite projects:  Alabama 38-24


theCFFsite in Must Watch games:

2012 Season:  Straight Up (19-13)  ATS: (13-19)

2011 Season:  Straight Up (40-9) ATS: (35-14)

by Joe DiSalvo,

Find us on facebook

Follow us on twitter (@theCFFsite)

Email us:   [email protected]

<p> College Fantasy Football: Using Vegas Odds to Determine Best Week 11 Plays</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 03:40
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Fantasy, News
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-week-11-sit-or-start-report

In some leagues, the fantasy playoffs are underway.  Injuries and byes will certainly affect quarterback roster decisions this week.  For those of you in deeper leagues, you’ll want to keep an eye out for our Emergency Starters list being released a little later.  As always, if you have any start/bench questions or need additional insight on roster decisions, please reach out to us via email or twitter.


Ryan Griffin, QB-Tulane at Memphis

In the past four weeks, Griffin has thrown 14 touchdown passes and is averaging over 400 passing yards per game.

Dalton Williams, QB-Akron vs Massachusetts

Williams should be able to pad his season totals this week against a Minutemen defense allowing 44.1 points per game, second-worst in the country.

Ray Graham, RB-Pitt at UConn

Just when we thought the torch was being passed to freshman running back Rushel Shell, Graham answered the call and is once again must-start material.

Montel Harris, RB-Templevs Cincinnati

Harris has scored a touchdown in four of Temple’s previous five games and is fresh off a 115-yard performance against Louisville in Week 10.

Zurlon Tipton, RB-Central Michigan @ Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan has the nation’s worst rushing defense by at least 5o yards, so we will not hesitate starting a running back with nearly 1,000 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the season.

Jamaal Williams, RB-BYU vs Idaho

BYU closes the season with games against Idaho, San Jose State, and New Mexico St, so Expect Williams to be in the top half of our weekly running back rankings for the fantasy playoff portion of the schedule.

John White, RB-Utah at Washington

We were ready to throw in the towel two weeks ago with White, but after two consecutive 100-yard, two-score games, White is once again a fantasy factor.

David Oku, RB-Arkansas St vs LA-Monroe

Oku hasn’t rushed for more than 100 yards since Week 2, but the junior running back has nine touchdowns on the season and has scored six times in the last four games.

Keenan Reynolds, QB-Navy at Troy

Reynolds has been so productive the past two games that fantasy owners facing Week 11 without quarterbacks like Jordan Lynch, Matt Scott, Kolton Browning, and Chuckie Keeton, have been treated to a nice replacement option.


Terrance Broadway, QB-Louisiana at Florida

Broadway has been a solid fantasy performer throughout the middle one-third of the season, but the Ragin’ Cajuns’ offense will get chewed apart in The Swamp this week.

Johnny Manziel, QB-Texas A&M at Alabama

How can you sit Johnny ‘Football’ with the playoffs on the line?  Well, you shouldn’t leave your season to chance against the Alabama defense, especially if you have quality depth on the bench.

Trevone Boykin, QB-TCU vs Kansas St

The Kansas State defense has been tremendously stingy against the pass the season, allowing only eleven touchdown passes and forcing thirteen interceptions.

Andrew Buie, RB-West Virginiaat Oklahoma St

Buie’s carries have decreased with the return of Shawne Alston, who is more of a short-yardage specialist in the Mountaineers’ offense.

LaDarius Perkins, RB-Mississippi St at LSU

After three straight 100-yard games and seven consecutive games with a touchdown, Perkins has rushed for only 80 yards and has not scored a touchdown over the past two weeks as the competition has stiffened.

Zac Stacy, RB-Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

Teammate Wesley Tate is stealing carries away from Stacy, which has caused the senior running back’s fantasy stock to dip.

Alex Amidon, WR-Boston College vs Notre Dame

We hardly ever suggest sitting one of the better receivers in the country, but something tells us that the Notre Dame defense will be back on its game after last week’s triple-overtime scare.


For Start/Bench advice from Joe DiSalvo, send an email to[email protected]

Follow Joe on twitter (@theCFFsite)

<p> College Fantasy Football: Week 11 Sit or Start Report</p>
Post date: Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 03:39
Path: /college-basketball/big-ten-2012-13-college-basketball-preview

A dozen years have passed since a Big Ten last claimed a national title. Since Michigan State won the 2000 title, four conferences have won at least two national titles. The Big East and SEC have claimed three titles. The ACC has claimed four.

Not that the Big Ten hasn’t been close. The Big Ten has produced eight Final Four teams with three reaching the title game.

Could this be the season Indiana gets over the hump? Indiana is Athlon’s preseason No. 1 team, but the league could be one of the deepest in the country. Four Big Ten teams are in our preseason top 10, and the league has perhaps the deepest crew of coaches in the country.

From Trey Burke to Cody Zeller, the league won’t hurt for star power either.

2011-12 regular season champions: Michigan, Michigan State, Player of the Year: Cody Zeller, Indiana
Ohio State (three-way tie) Best Defensive Player: Aaron Craft, Ohio State
2012 NCAA Tournament teams: Indiana, Michigan, Most Underrated Player: Derrick Nix, Michigan St.
Michigan State*, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin Newcomer of the Year: Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
New coaches: John Groce (Illinois), Tim Miles (Nebraska)  
Realignment: None  
*won conference tournament  
G Trey Burke, Michigan G Aaron Craft, Ohio State G Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan
G Tim Frazier, Penn State G Keith Appling, Michigan State G/F D.J. Byrd, Purdue
F Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State G Brandon Paul, Illinois F Drew Crawford, Northwestern
F Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota F Christian Watford, Indiana F Jared Berggren, Wisconsin
F Cody Zeller, Indiana F Aaron White, Iowa C Derrick Nix, Michigan State

1. Indiana (27-9, 11-7)
The Hoosiers are ranked No. 1 in our preseason rankings: Full preview

After several years of what the Indiana players called “getting punked” by stronger and deeper Big Ten programs, Indiana pushed back last season. This season the Hoosiers should do some of the punking. Cody Zeller is a National Player of the Year candidate, a big man who never stops running. Watford is a 6-9 forward who made nearly 44 percent of his 3-pointers — and showed the maturity to defend and rebound late in the season. Big Ten coaches will tell you that  Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey, the team’s two juniors, changed the program’s mindset. Jordan Hulls, Mr. Hoosier, knows what a Final Four — or national title — would mean to Bloomington and the state. The freshmen are talented, but playing time won’t be available to rookies the way it has been the last four seasons.
Postseason prediction: National champions

Related: Q&A with Cody Zeller

2. Michigan (24-10, 13-5)
The Wolverines are ranked No. 6 in our preseason rankings: Full preview

Michigan isn’t ready for a run at the Final Four, but the Wolverines should be an improved team that can certainly reach the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend. And, if everybody comes back for ’13-14, some real fun can be had. Trey Burke has great potential, and Tim Hardaway Jr. can be a big factor if he plays within himself. The freshman class is talented, and Michigan should be deeper all over the floor. The loss to Ohio was tough, but the future is bright.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight

Related: Zeller, Burke lead Athlon preseason All-Americans

3. Ohio State (31-8, 13-5)
The Buckeyes are ranked No. 8 in our preseason rankings: Full preview

Thad Matta wasn’t able to secure an immediate replacement for Jared Sullinger while on the recruiting trail and is back to operating with a limited roster and just one senior. However, Ohio State has a horse to ride in Deshaun Thomas, and one of the best leaders and defenders in the nation in Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes are a high-effort, athletic outfit, which means they should defend well yet again. But how far they go will depend upon the willingness of young players to properly fill in the cracks.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight

4. Michigan State (29-8, 13-5)
The Spartans are ranked No. 10 in our preseason rankings: Full preview

Michigan State is low on household names, other than Tom Izzo. But team chemistry is good, and Izzo has a penchant for forming blue-collar battlers into over-achieving winners. The Spartans will go 11 deep with guys who will buy in on defense and thrive in Izzo’s transition system. Michigan State will contend for Izzo’s eighth Big Ten title and become increasingly dangerous while developing leadership, rebounding and go-to scorers.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Related: Sparty’s Harris a freshman to watch

5. Minnesota (23-16, 6-12)
A band of underclassmen took Minnesota on a memorable postseason run last season, but the bridge from the NIT championship game to an NCAA bid could hinge on the return of Trevor Mbakwe. The elite power forward should be part of the past, but he became the cornerstone of the immediate future when he was granted a sixth year of eligibility in the spring. What remains to be seen is how the young, scrappy Gophers will play with an established veteran. Things have changed since Mbakwe last stepped on the court. After an up-and-down regular season, rising senior Rodney Williams churned out a postseason of consistent dominance that had never been seen from the Minneapolis native. Andre Hollins went through the freshman learning period and came out on the other end as a legitimate leader in the NIT. Mbakwe’s return to the squad after rehabbing an ACL injury that kept him out for the bulk of 2011-12 will shake things up a bit. A youthful, cohesive team is now being built around a 23-year-old veteran who’s done more rehabbing than playing the past eight months. Roles will change. The style will morph. Positions will likely shift. Minnesota has the capability to thrive in its new identity and hang in the nation’s top 25, or it could come unhinged amidst the changing tides and fall short once again.

Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

Related: Mbakwe a key player returning from injury

6. Wisconsin (26-10, 12-6)
Wisconsin has been the portrait of consistency in the Big Ten, never finishing lower than fourth in the league under Bo Ryan, but that might take a hit this season. Not only is point guard Jordan Taylor gone, but a potential replacement, Josh Gasser, was lost for the season with a torn ACL. The likely candidate to handle the duties at point guard is redshirt freshman George Marshall with sophomore Traevon Jackson vying for time. Center Jared Berggren and forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz are back for their senior seasons after each started all 36 games last season. Berggren and Evans made huge jumps as juniors, particularly on offense. Berggren showed the inside-outside game the staff envisioned and improved his scoring average from 2.4 points per game as a sophomore to 10.5 as a junior. Evans increased his scoring average from 2.8 to 11.0 and his field goal shooting from .311 to .440. In general, he stopped trying to force plays that weren’t available and he became a more efficient player. Bruesewitz provides defense, rebounds and hustle plays.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

7. Iowa (18-17, 8-10)
Fran McCaffery’s second season as coach was a turning point for the Hawkeyes. Iowa finished with a winning record for the first time since 2006-07, won a game in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2006 and won a game in a postseason tournament (NIT) for the first time since 2003. The challenge now for McCaffery is to make Iowa an NCAA Tournament team. Minus leading scorer Matt Gatens, the bulk of the roster returns, including 6-8 forward Aaron White, who made the Big Ten All-Freshman team last season, and 6-6 shooting guard Roy Devyn Marble, who developed into a versatile scorer as a sophomore. Marble could replace Gatens as the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 crunch-time option on the perimeter. At 6-6, Marble has a decent post-up game and he can knock down the mid-range jumper, but he needs to improve as a 3-point shooter.
Postseason prediction: NIT

Related: Iowa among teams that could end Tournament droughts

8. Illinois (17-15, 6-12)
Immediately after he was hired, former Ohio coach John Groce began rebuilding the perception of an Illinois program that stagnated in Bruce Weber’s final five seasons. The Illini have missed the NCAA Tournament three times in the past five years and had trouble in Chicago recruiting circles. Illinois may need to be patient for the program to return to where it can be. Ohio State has been the Big Ten’s benchmark, and much of Groce’s system models the Buckeyes’ — lots of freedom on offense if there’s effort on defense. For now, the Illinois roster he inherited might be too loose with the ball to play as fast as Groce would prefer, however. If his first team finishes in the top six of the Big Ten and reaches the NCAA Tournament, it would be a success.
Postseason prediction: NIT

9. Purdue (22-13, 10-8)
Matt Painter believes he has talent on the new-look Purdue roster. But whether that’s enough to overcome a significant lack of experience and extend the Boilermakers’ 20-victory season streak to seven could be the key question of 2012-13. Painter has nine underclassmen, including four heralded freshmen who will play immediately and will need to handle the pressure of high expectations. Senior D.J. Byrd and junior Terone Johnson are the most experienced returning players, although neither has been a full-time starter. Byrd hopes to add a consistent pull-up jumper to go with his 3-point sharp-shooting (43 percent), but it’s his versatility to play in a four-guard lineup as an undersized power forward that makes him special.Johnson emerged as a scoring threat late last season with an ability to get in the lane, and Painter believes he can be an All-Big Ten player as a junior. The Boilermakers have more size than they’ve ever had under Painter, boasting six players who stand at least 6-8. The group is inexperienced, so Painter still could experiment with lineups. He often went small last season, sometimes out of necessity, but also to gain an advantage in terms of skill. Perhaps he’ll play big if this group shows it can shore up the team’s consistent weakness in rebounding.
Postseason prediction: NIT

10. Northwestern (19-14, 8-10)
Northwestern’s quest to reach its first-ever NCAA Tournament has taken place not only with the burden of history on players’ backs, but with a razor-thin margin for error. Bill Carmody’s roster simply hasn’t had enough talent and size to survive even the slightest injury setback. The burden is still there, perhaps heavier than ever after four consecutive NIT appearances and increased speculation about Carmody’s job security. But the Wildcats’ margin for error is widening ever so slightly because of much improved depth. Northwestern loses an elite player in John Shurna, the program’s career scoring leader, but it should have enough to get by without being so reliant on one star. A veteran core returns, led by third-team All-Big Ten swingman Drew Crawford, sophomore point man Dave Sobolewski and junior guard JerShon Cob. An influx of new bodies, including Louisville transfer Jared Swopshire, gives Carmody options he has never enjoyed before.
Postseason prediction: NIT

Related: Carmody, Tubby Smith on the hot seat

11. Penn State (12-20, 4-14)
Nobody expected miracles in Patrick Chambers’ first season as head coach, and, well, the Nittany Lions delivered. They finished tied for last in the Big Ten thanks to a one-dimensional offense that ranked 11th in the league in scoring, and they made a quick exit from the conference tournament. But with Year 2 approaching, expectations are higher, in part because the ever-effusive Chambers has been hailing the team’s potential, especially that of its backcourt. He’s got some numbers on his side, as the Lions return four players who started at least 16 games last season. They also get back more than 70 percent of their scoring and assists — mostly in the person of senior guard Tim Frazier — and 60 percent of their rebounding.

12. Nebraska (12-18, 4-14)
Tim Miles has proved he can turn around a program. His first Colorado State team — one with two returning scholarship players — went 7–25. His last Colorado State team went 20–12 and earned an at-large NCAA Tournament berth. Can Miles work similar magic at a school that’s never won an NCAA Tournament game, hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998 and hasn’t been part of a conference championship since 1950? Miles has recruiting tools his predecessors could only dream of when they began their NU tenures — a year-old, $18 million practice facility that recruits say is the best they’ve seen, and a $179 million, 16,000-seat arena, set to open in 2013. But that won’t help Miles’ first team, one that must replace five of its top six scorers from a squad that finished 12–18 and tied for last place in its inaugural season in the Big Ten. The Huskers are a good bet to finish in last place in conference play for the third time in four years, and they’ll be hard-pressed to equal last year’s overall win total of 12. In fact, 10 wins may be the limit for a team that will have only one player (senior forward Brandon Ubel) with more than four career starts, and an active roster of eight scholarship players.


More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon Conference Previews and Power Rankings
2. Big East
3. ACC
4. Big 12
5. SEC

7. Mountain West
8. Atlantic 10

9. West Coast

10. Missouri Valley
11. Conference USA
12. Colonial
13. Sun Belt
14. MAC
15. Horizon

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame

20. Florida

<p> Big Ten 2012-13 College Basketball Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 17:26
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-34

Is Sunday still the best day to run NASCAR Sprint Cup races? Or is it time for NASCAR to admit defeat to the NFL and move the Cup races to Saturday as a writer suggested this week? Or what about mid-week races—would that work and would fans attend those events? Members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated those issues and last weekend’s Texas race. Here’s what they had to say:

Should Cup races move to Saturday afternoon to avoid conflicts with the NFL?
Jim Utter of The Charlotte Observer, citing declining TV ratings for many Chase races, suggested that NASCAR should run those races on Saturday to avoid going head-to-head against NFL games. Fan Council members were asked about that idea:

46.0 percent said they’d rather see more Saturday night races
33.5 percent said that was a bad idea: NASCAR’s tradition is Sunday racing
14.8 percent said they’d be for some Saturday afternoon Chase races but not all
5.7 percent said Saturday afternoon Cup races was a great idea

What Fan Council members said:
• Can anyone say “duh”? While NASCAR on a Saturday night would have to fight a premier College FBS game, the decline would be mitigated to one or two regions in the country instead of nationwide.

• The problem is not going head-to-head with football, as they’ve done it before and saw huge ratings and attendance numbers. The PROBLEM IS THE RACING!!!! Why does everyone, especially in the media, ignore this fact? The “racing” is horrendous! F1 has better battles and more drama! I’ve grown up and lived in and around NASCAR and it’s sad that I’m looking more forward to the F1 race in Austin than I am NASCAR in Homestead.

• I don’t think there is any need to do anything too rash until we see what happens with the 2013 car. Regardless, if NASCAR fans are watching NFL games instead of NASCAR races then there is something wrong with NASCAR that isn’t fixed by moving race times around.

• I’ll admit I’m one of those watching more NFL this year than NASCAR. Moving the Chase races to Saturday night would be good in one way, but they would also be competing with the big college football games.

• If you really want to avoid the football conflict, shorten the season so it ends Labor Day weekend.

• Cup racing is a Sunday tradition. Leave it alone!

• Why not try it? Got nothing to lose. But Saturdays has college football, so I’m not sure what is a good time slot.

• That would put NASCAR races up against college football games and honey-do lists. I think that would cut the audience considerably. The average person spends more time outside the home on Saturday than on Sunday. Kids activities, errands, home improvement tasks, college sports and travel often consume the average person’s Saturday. Sunday afternoons are typically devoted to family time and televised sporting events. I believe there’s a better chance to get people to watch on the day of the week there are fewer distractions. I think Saturday night might offer a larger audience than Saturday afternoon, but I believe the audience would be less inclined to watch NASCAR.

• I love the idea. You’d still have college football to go up against, but most people will only watch the great CFB matchups or when their team is on—not near as much competition as the NFL poses. The only thing that gets me thinking is what about the Nationwide race? Would you put that on Sunday against the NFL and have no one watch it? Or have that in the morning/early afternoon and have the Cup race late afternoon/evening?

• Can’t compete with the NFL. Chase or no Chase, Sundays from September to February belong to the NFL. All other sports recognize this, so why can’t NASCAR? Many local tracks are done with their schedules by the time the Chase heats up. Continuing to go head-to-head against the NFL is pointless and as long as NASCAR continues to try and do that, they will always take a back seat to it as far as coverage and ratings.

Mid-week Cup races: Would you be able to attend those if the schedule changed?
Some have called for NASCAR to hold a race or some races during the week instead of the weekend. If the race you were going to was scheduled to be run between Monday-Friday instead of the weekend Fan Council members were asked if they would still be able to go?

66.7 percent said No
33.3 percent said Yes

What Fan Council members said:
• I think it would decrease attendance. Not everyone can just take time off during the week. I use vacation time to go to the race, so it would not make a difference to me.

• If I’m headed to a race I’m all in, taking a week off to really enjoy it.

• Yes, BUT it would drastically decrease the amount of time I could devote to the race event. As it stands right now I only have to use one vacation day from work to enjoy a full race weekend at my local track. If the same events were held during the week it would require at least three and up to five or more days of vacation time. Since I only have a total of 10 vacation days per year, that would significantly impact my annual leave just for my local race. I love NASCAR, but I would prefer to see many races at different tracks with my time off, rather than one or two due to the time requirements.

• Nope. The ratings/viewership would really tank if they went that route. It must be on a weekend to get max viewers and attendance. Most job holders and anyone who attends school/college would be alienated. Not only that, a lot of fans attempt to make a full day or even a two or three-day weekend out of a NASCAR race. Now you’d be asking the fan to take two-three days off from work for a race in this economy? Good luck.

• Top-tier racing has always been on Saturday or Sunday. Races during the week would be a bad idea and cheapen the NASCAR product.

• I think that would be an interesting change. It might be a good idea for NASCAR, and I could see it getting higher ratings.

• Primetime during the week would be AWESOME. Daytona was fun on Monday night.

• Less likely to be able to attend live, but I would watch on TV.

• I live in Canada. Almost any race I decide to attend requires taking time off. With limited holidays, the weekend helps to maximize time off.

• Most tracks that I travel to require several hours of driving or a plane flight. I would not attend races during the week. I don’t mind giving up a Friday or a Monday vacation day for travel, but not several days out of my week.

Grade Sunday’s Cup race at Texas:

46.4 percent called it Good
26.4 percent called it Fair
21.1 percent called it Great
6.1 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• This is honestly the first race I’d rate as “Great” I think for the whole season. Not too many wrecks, and some good old fashioned, hard, honest racing. I really enjoyed (it). Rooting for BK, I, of course, disliked the ending but it still was incredibly exciting to watch. NASCAR’s problem, which is to me the same as hockey’s, is that the sport is much better live than on TV.

• First 3/4 of the race pretty boring. Last ¼ … holly hell, that was great.

• Having the two championship finalists starting 1-2 in a GWC restart is about as “great” as a race can get. Lots of interesting racing going on throughout the pack—but we were there live so it was easier to see it. Not sure what the race looked like on TV.

• How many ways can you say boring?? Just to be sure I remembered correctly, I went back through my Twitter timeline. Not only were fans making jokes at the lack of any fun whatsoever, but the NASCAR media was asking for suggestions on making the race more entertaining. Many of the drivers’ PR people and wives/girlfriends (who usually provide updates) were discussing anything BUT the race. I think that’s a pretty good indication of what kind of race it was. The only race-related tweets were to say someone blew a tire, someone blew up or someone was sent through the grass. No mentions of passing or side-by-side racing or anything else. If there was any at all, not only did ESPN not show it, but the folks who usually tweet it didn’t see it either.

• The ending was amazing. Even if you complained about the first half of the race, you’ll admit you were glued to the TV for the last few laps.

• Unbelievably boring. For the life of me I cannot figure out why TMS has two races. I slept through most of this one.

• Excellent race. Need to make more 1.5-mile tracks 500-milers.

• The end of the race was great. I actually cheered for JJ all the way at the end, and am so grateful for the help he sent to my area for Sandy.

• Side-by-side racing, passing, beating and banging, GWC finish, fuel mileage, pit strategy, tires wearing out over the run—TEXAS is racing!

• Aside from the excitement at the end, this was a real snoozer. It’s amazing to me that we have cars that are supposed to be so close, but after 10 or 12 laps the top 10 are eight or more seconds apart. That, my friend, is not close racing.

The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at [email protected]

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

<p> Dustin Long's Backseat Drivers Fan Council discuss moving NASCAR Chase races off of Sunday to get away from the NFL and grade the racing at Texas Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 15:19
All taxonomy terms: NFL, MLB
Path: /mlb/10-most-overpaid-athletes-2012

In the world of sports it's not uncommon for athletes to command ridiculous salaries. Some are worth every penny; some are not. Here's a look at the 10 athletes in 2012 who are cashing giant checks that their talent can't quite match. 

1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees
2012 salary: $29 million
A-Rod has been A-Fraud of late, with a pinstripe Ponzi scheme Bernie Madoff would be ashamed of. Rodriguez cashed in $29 million in 2012 and will fold over another $114 million over the next five seasons of his contract. If the least popular three-time MVP and 14-time All-Star in history struggled to hit .272 with 18 HR and 57 RBI in his age 36 season, imagine what ages 37-to-41 will look like at the plate. The Bronx Bombers are hoping A-Rod’s playoff performance — when he hit .120 (3-for-25) with two walks and one run scored over seven games — isn’t foreshadowing their future, when the Yanks are bleeding red and lucky No. 13 is inking black.

2. Vernon Wells, OF, Los Angeles Angels
2012 salary: $21 million
How Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos was able to dump Wells’ ridiculous contract on the Halos is still a mystery. The Angels paid $21 million for a fourth outfielder who hit .230 with 11 HR and 29 RBI in 77 games last season. And they’ve got another two years and $42 million left on the deal.

3. Carl Crawford, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers
2012 salary: $19.5 million
The Boston Red Sox paid the majority of Crawford’s $19.5-million 2012 salary before shipping the oft-injured outfielder across the country to wear Dodger blue. Crawford has five years and $102.5 million remaining. But entering his age 31 season, there is still hope for the four-time All-Star, four-time stolen base king and one-time Gold Glover.

4. Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Miami Marlins
2012 salary: $18 million
Big Z was such a cancer that the Chicago Cubs paid $15.5 million of Zambrano’s $18 million salary in 2012 just to ship him to Miami for Chris Volstad. The 275-pound heavy hothead went on to post a 7–10 record with a 4.49 ERA and 1.50 WHIP for the Marlins. Expectations were so low, however, that those numbers were actually better than most expected from the man who spars with Gatorade coolers.

5. Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis Rams
2012 salary: $15.6 million
The former Heisman Trophy winner has better timing on draft day than he does on game day. Bradford was the last No. 1 overall pick before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — which limited bloated rookie salaries — went into effect. As a result, the Rams quarterback is the fourth-highest paid player in the NFL this season, despite completing just 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,797 yards, eight TDs and seven INTs for an 82.4 passer rating through eight games.

6. Carlos Boozer, PF, Chicago Bulls
2012 salary: $15 million
Offshore drilling in Alaska should start with Boozer’s bank account. The German born and Juneau raised big man is a classic case of “looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane.” Boozer was originally signed to take some of the heat off Derrick Rose and push the Bulls over the top as a title contender. Instead, he has averaged just 12.9 points on miserable 42.9 percent shooting in 22 playoff games over the past two seasons.

7. Michael Vick, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
2012 salary: $13.9 million
Vick signed a six-year, $100-million redemption contract that still has $47.5 million scheduled from 2013-15. After making a cool $20 million in 2011, the lefty is taking a pay cut this season. But he’s also having arguably his worst healthy NFL season, accounting for 11 total touchdowns and 14 total turnovers while leading the flightless Eagles to a 3–5 start to the season.

8. Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
2012 salary: $11.75 million
The “Sanchize” restructured his deal before the start of the 2012 season. The Jets have $11.75 million invested in Sanchez this season, from an $8 million signing bonus and $3.25 million base salary. But when the fans are calling for Tim Tebow to start over Sanchez, the money doesn’t add up. Pete Carroll didn’t think Sanchez was ready to leave USC for the NFL back in the day. Sanchez’s financial advisors disagree.

9. Chris Bosh, PF, Miami Heat
2012 salary: $17.545 million
The third wheel of Miami’s two and a half men traveling circus, Bosh will make exactly the same amount of money as LeBron James and even more than Dwyane Wade during the 2012 season. Shaquille O’Neal called Bosh the “RuPaul of big men” and the “Big Three” franchise player contract Bosh signed with the Heat is definitely a drag.

10. Floyd Mayweather, Boxer
2012 salary: $45 million
“Money” Mayweather is the highest paid athlete in all of sports, raking in $45 million for his Cinco de Mayo bout with Miguel Cotto this year. But pound-for-pound, “Pretty Boy” isn’t nearly as valuable as many of his lesser-paid peers. Sure, he carries a 43–0 record along with the WBC welterweight and WBA (Super) light middleweight title belts. But Mayweather won’t fight Manny Pacquiao, which is helping MMA put boxing in a submission hold once and for all.

<p> The 10 most overpaid athletes in 2012, including New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford, Miami Marlins pitcher Carlos Zambrano, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, Chicago Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh and boxer Floyd Mayweather.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 14:05
Path: /nfl/big-east-2012-13-college-basketball-preview

The next two years will mark the end of an era for the Big East.

No more Jim Calhoun this season. No more Syracuse and no more Pittsburgh next season. No more Notre Dame in the years to come.

The Big East will expand again next season with basketball powers Memphis and Temple joining, but it’s fair to say the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden may never be the same.

On the farewell tour through the Big East, Syracuse is poised to be among the league’s elite again and Pittsburgh is poised for a rebound.

But the favorite remains Louisville, which reached its first Final Four as a Big East member last season and is poised for another bid this year.

2011-12 regular season champion: Syracuse Player of the Year: Peyton Siva, Louisville
2012 NCAA Tournament teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Best Defensive Player: Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall
Georgetown, Louisville*, Marquette, Notre Dame, Syracuse, USF Most Underrated Player: Brandon Triche, Syracuse
New coaches: Kevin Ollie (Connecticut) Newcomer of the Year: Steven Adams, Pittsburgh
Realignment: Lost West Virginia (Big 12)  
*won conference tournament  
G Peyton Siva, Louisville G Anthony Collins, USF G Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
G Vincent Council, Providence G D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's G Eli Carter, Rutgers
G Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati G Brandon Triche, Syracuse F C.J. Fair, Syracuse
F Jack Cooley, Notre Dame F Chane Behanan, Louisville F LaDontae Henton, Providence
F Otto Porter, Georgetown F Cleveland Melvin, DePaul C Gorgui Dieng, Louisville

1. Louisville (30-10, 10-8)
The Cardinals are ranked No. 2 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

The Cardinals faithful grumbled louder than they had in years after Louisville lost three of its final four games to finish the regular season 22–9. Eight straight postseason victories silenced the complaints and positioned Rick Pitino to win another Big East championship and plan for another big March. Peyton Siva finally figured out how to play winning point guard. Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan understand the requirements of blue-collar Big East basketball as well as any pair of frontcourt players in the league. Here are three factors that will decide if Louisville will reach its considerable potential — health (especially of Wayne Blackshear), 3-point shooting and the maturation of Russ Smith.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Runner-Up

Related: Siva among All-America picks

2. Syracuse (34-3, 17-1)
The Orange is ranked No. 5 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

Despite losing four players, including three NBA Draft picks, Syracuse will compete for the Big East title in what will be its last year in the conference before leaving for the ACC. The Orange have enough experience in Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland and Rakeem Christmas, but the big keys will be two of the team’s younger players. If Michael Carter-Williams can handle the point and DaJuan Coleman can step in and contribute in the middle, the Orange could emerge as a Final Four contender.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Elite Eight

3. Notre Dame (22-12, 13-5)
The Irish are ranked No. 19 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

Most teams will have difficulty matching up against Notre Dame’s size and depth in the frontcourt. Few will find relief against the backcourt. Mike Brey sees a great opportunity in 2012-13, believing his team can play for a Big East title. He has plenty of options at his disposal, including on the defensive end. Add it all up and Brey can’t help but talk about the possibilities in 2012-13. “We’re talking about a Big East championship and getting back to the Final Four,” Brey says. “Those are really things this program can legitimately talk about.”
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

4. Marquette (27-8, 14-4)
Fifth-year coach Buzz Williams has never shied away from expectations, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this season without reigning Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder and All-Big East guard Darius Johnson-Odom, both of whom are now in the NBA. While Marquette won’t be able to replace the perimeter shooting of Johnson-Odom (77 3-pointers), senior Trent Lockett should nonetheless be a terrific replacement for him in the backcourt. Lockett transferred in from Arizona State, where he averaged 13.0 points and 5.8 rebounds per game last year. At 6-5 and 210 pounds, Lockett brings an athletic, physical presence to a talented group of Golden Eagles guards that includes point man Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue. illiams has sent his share of undersized but talented “switchables” — as he likes to call them — to the NBA in Wesley Matthews, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler and now Crowder. The next in line could be Jamil Wilson, a 6-7, 225-pounder who is arguably the most athletically gifted of the group. After sitting out the 2010-11 season as a transfer from Oregon, the Wisconsin native did a little bit of everything as a sophomore, averaging 7.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-best 1.4 blocks per game. Wilson has definite star potential, and Lockett will have the opportunity to take the reins in his first year with the Golden Eagles.There’s plenty of size, athleticism and versatility on the roster.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

Related: Louisville, Marquette and Rutgers have key transfers

5. Cincinnati (26-11, 12-6)
Cincinnati enters its seventh season under Mick Cronin looking to build on its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2001. The Bearcats no longer have the low-post presence and rebounding ability of four-year mainstay Yancy Gates, but they have one of the top shooting guards in the Big East in Sean Kilpatrick. And senior Cashmere Wright could be poised to emerge as one of the league’s best point guards. With Gates and his big body no longer around, Cronin hopes to use a deep bench and an athletic roster to press and score in transition at every opportunity. There’s a good blend of talent and experience in the backcourt, beginning with Kilpatrick, one of the top 3-point shooters in the Big East last year when he made 37.6 percent from long range. Wright blossomed last year as a junior who learned to blend his playmaking skills with his scoring ability. The frontcourt is the biggest question mark for the Bearcats, who have plenty of options but only a modicum of experience along the front line. Cincinnati has a shot-blocking presence with 6-8 junior Justin Jackson and 6-10 sophomore Kelvin Gaines. Jackson has been an effective player for two years and plays with great energy but must become more polished offensively. Gaines has plenty of athleticism but also needs to refine his offensive skills and learn to stay out of foul trouble.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

6. Pittsburgh (22-17, 5-13)
The uncharacteristic shortcomings of Pittsburgh should be viewed as an aberration, not as a free-fall for coach Jamie Dixon’s program. Precedent tells us Dixon will find a way to reverse the misfortunes of a 2011-12 season that marked the first time in his nine years that Pittsburgh failed to make the NCAA Tournament or to win at least 10 games in the Big East. The rebound should start thanks to newcomers. The Pittsburgh coach landed the highest-rated prospect in program history in 7-footer Steve Adams, viewed by draftniks as a future lottery pick. Newcomers James Robinson, ranked among the top-10 point guards in the Class of 2012, and Trey Zeigler, a talented transfer from Central Michigan, are also expected to enhance a lineup that features three returning starters and seven of the top nine players from a group that jelled en route to the College Basketball Invitational title. Dixon typically eases freshmen into the lineup, but Adams is far from typical. The native of New Zealand is a consensus top-10 recruit who blocks shots, rebounds, is supremely athletic and can score. It is no coincidence that the Panthers went 5–7 after Woodall suffered a groin/abdominal injury early in the season. With leading scorer and former backcourt mate Ashton Gibbs gone, he will be required to facilitate scoring in other areas, notably in the interior, which lacked last season.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament One and Done

Related: Pitt’s Adams a freshman to watch

7. USF (22-14, 12-6)
The Bulls have a solid corps of returning veterans, along with the most decorated recruiting class of coach Stan Heath’s six-season tenure. After a vagabond year of playing off-campus, the Bulls will return to a renovated Sun Dome, which is attached to a sparkling practice facility in its first full season of operation. USF’s fortunes should again center around sophomore point guard Anthony Collins, a member of last season’s Big East All-Rookie Team. Collins’ smallish frame scared no one upon first inspection, but his heady instincts and unflappable leadership ultimately became South Florida’s intimidating edge. The Bulls also must replace two key seniors on the inside, but Heath says center Waverly Austin, a 6’11’’ 275-pound junior college transfer, has the makings of an impact newcomer.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament One and Done

8. Georgetown (24-9, 12-6)
For the second consecutive year, Georgetown coach John Thompson III is facing the task of replacing three starters. Georgetown will be looking to a host of younger players to fill larger roles this season, as the Hoyas’ roster doesn’t include a senior. Expect sophomores Otto Porter, Greg Whittington, Mikael Hopkins and Jabril Trawick to form the team’s nucleus. Despite the loss of Henry Sims (11.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) at center, Georgetown’s frontcourt is overflowing with talent and potential. In particular, Porter could be on the verge of a breakout season. The versatile forward started the last seven games of the 2011-12 season. His 9.7 points per game make him the Hoyas’ top returning scorer. His 6.8 rebounds led Georgetown a year ago. The onus is on Markel Starks to take over at the point in his second opportunity at the position. Starks had just 49 assists to go along with 42 turnovers last season. If he stumbles, Thompson will look to incoming freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a 6-3 combo guard who helped Oak Hill (Va.) Academy to a 44–0 record last year. Don’t be fooled by or get too preoccupied with the Hoyas’ losses. There is a lot of talent at Thompson’s disposal. Georgetown is known for producing centers, but Porter could be the next in a long line of versatile forwards that includes Reggie Williams, Dajuan Summers and Jeff Green. The rest of the frontcourt looks more than ready to handle Big East competition. The big issue is the young, unproven backcourt.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament One and Done

9. Connecticut (20-14, 8-10)
Two seasons ago, UConn won the program’s third national championship. The retirement of Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun late in the offseason, however, means UConn is surrounded with questions. Assistant coach Kevin Ollie was promoted to head coach on a one-year contract on a team reeling from defections and lacking a chance to play in the Big East and NCAA tournaments due to a substandard Academic Progress Report score. Four key contributors left the team — two transferred and two departed school early for the NBA — leaving gaping holes to fill. That said, UConn’s backcourt should be one of the best in the Big East despite the loss of All-Big East standout Jeremy Lamb. Perimeter play will clearly be the team’s strength and focal point. Creative point guard Shabazz Napier is the team’s most experienced player and the top returning scorer at 13.0 points per game. He’ll continue to drive the Huskies’ offense but also will get an opportunity to play off the ball. Sophomore Ryan Boatright, who lost nine games to NCAA eligibility issues last season, forms the other half of what should be an electrifying backcourt. He gives the Huskies another quick ball-handler, dangerous penetrator and potent offensive weapon. Junior forward Tyler Olander, who averaged just 4.2 points and 3.9 rebounds last season, will be counted on to have a breakout year.

10. St. John’s (13-19, 6-12)
From his unique outsider’s perspective last year, St. John’s coach Steve Lavin saw shortcomings in a ballyhooed eight-player recruiting class that weren’t initially obvious: Not enough of a post presence, not enough perimeter shooters and not enough point guard depth. So he remedied those roster flaws even as he was recovering from prostate cancer surgery, which forced him to miss all but a handful of November games. Lavin, who will back on the bench this season brought in three post players who can help immediately, adding shot-blocking specialist Chris Obekpa in June. He also has Texas A&M transfer Jamal Branch, a point guard who will be eligible in the second semester. And he brought in two perimeter threats to a team that was last in the Big East in 3-point field goal percentage (.282). This six-player class should be more than enough to offset the decision by Big East Rookie of the Year Moe Harkless to declare for the NBA after just one season. Obekpa appeared headed to Cincinnati but had a change of heart early in the summer. A top-70 recruit, he averaged 12 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks his final year in high school. His presence enables God’sgift Achiuwa, the lone senior, to slide over to power forward, a better fit for his skill set. The guard rotation looks solid now, led by sophomore D’Angelo Harrison, who averaged 17.0 points and set a school freshman record with 544 points. He was the Johnnies’ only real 3-point threat (36.7 percent) as well. The perimeter woes were addressed with the arrival of 6-6 junior college swingman Marco Bourgault, who shot 42.1 percent on threes last season.
Postseason prediction: NIT

11. Rutgers (14-18, 6-12)

Despite last year’s growing pains, there were two noteworthy accomplishments that hinted at better things to come for Rutgers. One was a pair of upsets of top-10 teams for the only the second time in school history. The other: six Big East victories, the most in six years. With a trio of experienced sophomore guards and plenty of frontcourt depth to compete in the Big East, it’s time for coach Mike Rice to take a big step forward in Year 3. At worst, that means a winning record and an NIT bid. Anything less will have the faithful restless yet again. Because of the decisions by starting forward Gilvydas Biruta and guard Austin Carroll to transfer out, Rice won’t return his entire roster from last year’s all-underclassman squad. But he has experienced guards now. Eli Carter, Myles Mack and Jerome Seagears took Rutgers on the expected roller-coaster ride as freshman guards, with Carter leading the team in scoring at 13.8 (and 3-point attempts at 156) while scoring in double figures 25 times. Seagears emerged as a promising point guard, earning 25 starts and averaging 7.7 points, with the lightning-quick Mack serving as an ideal complement off the bench. As big a blow as it was to lose the rugged Biruta, the only player to start every game last year, Rice’s hope is that 6-9, 245-pound Kansas State transfer Wally Judge will offset the surprising departure of the team’s only reliable post player.
Postseason prediction: NIT

12. Providence (15-17, 4-14)
To Ed Cooley’s credit, he’s working every day to turn Providence’s fortunes around as quickly as possible. Patience, however, is likely needed in Rhode Island. Nowhere is that more evident than with the signing of five-star freshmen Kris Dunn and Ricky Ledo. Dunn tore the labrum in his right shoulder and had surgery in July. He’ll be out until late-November, at the earliest. Meanwhile, Ledo was ruled a partial qualifier. He won’t be permitted to play this season, though he will be able to practice. Sidiki Johnson, a 6-8 forward and former top-100 national recruit, spent only a few months at Arizona last fall before transferring at Providence. His active rebounding and live body are two traits the Friars badly need, but Cooley won’t have him until he’s eligible in December. But to the players who will be active from Day One: The most important piece is Vincent Council, a senior from Brooklyn who led the Big East in assists (7.5 apg) last season and is one of the underrated floor leaders in the country. Council is an excellent playmaker on the run and keeps improving his 3-point shooting. He played virtually every minute of every important game for the Friars for the last two seasons and should do so again. The frontcourt leader is LaDontae Henton, a versatile forward who earned Big East All-Rookie honors after averaging 14.3 points and a team-high 8.6 rebounds. Providence returns a solid core, but the Friars may not hit their potential until next season.
Postseason prediction: NIT

13. Seton Hall (21-13, 8-10)
Whatever hopes Seton Hall had of being a factor once again in March may have been dashed by a ruling in mid-July. That was when the NCAA denied the appeal of Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs, a Jersey-bred point guard who would have filled the Pirates’ biggest need — and solidified the one position separating this team from being a strong NCAA Tournament candidate. The denial means coach Kevin Willard — despite bolstering his roster with three other key transfers — will have to roll the dice at point guard with either sophomore Freddie Wilson or freshman Tom Maayan. Wilson averaged just 8.1 minutes per game last year; Maayan is coming off ACL knee surgery and wasn’t even able to get back into the gym until mid-summer during his recovery. Beyond the uncertainty at the point — will it be Wilson or Maayan? — Seton Hall’s roster is brimming with the type of perimeter players Willard covets. Foremost among them is 6-6 swingman Fuquan Edwin, who flashed All-Big East ability while averaging 12.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a year ago. Edwin has also carved out a reputation as a top-notch defender as well. In the frontcourt, Willard will rely on transfers. Southern Illinois transfer Gene Teague and Georgia Tech transfer Brian Oliver are both in position to start right away.
Postseason prediction: NIT

14. Villanova (15-17, 4-14)
Jay Wright and Villanova didn’t exactly have a year to remember. After seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, Villanova plummeted to a a 13th-place finish in the Big East. This on the heels of a ninth-place finish the year before. The team’s two leading scorers, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, both opted to leave school early — which may not have been such a bad thing for fans on the Main Line. While both were talented, their presence never translated into success for the program. Now Wright is hopeful that chemistry and mental fortitude can make up for the loss of Wayns, Cheek and big man Markus Kennedy, who opted to transfer. Wright’s teams have often been guard heavy, with the Wildcats commonly employing four perimeter players on the court at the same time. But this season will be different. Mouphtaou Yarou is back for his senior season and will anchor the middle for the Wildcats. He isn’t a big-time scorer, but he’s an effective rebounder and a capable shot-blocker. Power forward JayVaughn Pinkston started 22 games last season as a redshirt freshman and nearly averaged double-figures. Freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono and Wake Forest transfer Tony Cheannault are the obvious candidates to fill the void at the point. Arcidiacono is a four-star recruit who can run a team and score. Chennault is a Philadelphia native who received a waiver to play immediately. He started 31 games a year ago for the Demon Deacons and averaged 9.0 points and 2.8 assists per game. This team could be improved from a year ago, but it’s tough to see the Cats winning enough in the Big East to warrant an NCAA Tournament invite.

Related: DePaul’s Purnell on the hot seat

15. DePaul (12-19, 3-15)

Oliver Purnell’s third team in Lincoln Park is by far his most experienced. DePaul returns its top four scorers — including junior forward Cleveland Melvin, the Big East’s top returning scorer (17.5 ppg) — and six of its top seven. The Demons feature a solid core of junior leaders — Melvin, guard Brandon Young and forward Moses Morgan — and good depth at the wing spot. Defense and rebounding are chief concerns, but DePaul shouldn’t struggle to put the ball in the basket. Melvin is a proven superstar and the centerpiece of DePaul’s offense, having averaged 16.0 points and 6.3 rebounds during his first two seasons. But he can’t do it all by himself. Morgan joins Melvin up front and should see his minutes increase this season after an efficient sophomore year (9.0 ppg, 19.6 mpg). Although Jeremiah Kelly departs, Purnell feels good about the point guard spot with Young, Worrel Clahar and incoming freshman Durrell McDonald. DePaul could use Young more at the off-guard spot, to take advantage of his scoring (14.5 ppg last season), while rotating the experienced Clahar and McDonald at the point. McDonald also can play shooting guard if needed.


More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon Conference Previews and Power Rankings
3. ACC
4. Big 12
5. SEC

7. Mountain West
8. Atlantic 10

9. West Coast

10. Missouri Valley
11. Conference USA
12. Colonial
13. Sun Belt
14. MAC
15. Horizon

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame

20. Florida

<p> Big East 2012-13 College Basketball Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 11:20
Path: /college-football/5-reasons-why-jon-gruden-would-be-bad-fit-tennessee

Derek Dooley will lead Tennessee out of the tunnel for Saturday’s match up against Missouri but that hasn’t stopped the speculation about who will be the next coach in Knoxville. Dooley was picked to replace Lane Kiffin after the 2009 season and has yet to deliver a winning record during his three years on Rocky Top. The Volunteers went 6-7 in his first season and followed that up with a 5-7 mark in 2011. Although Tennessee is 4-5 through nine weeks, the Volunteers have a favorable schedule (Missouri, Vanderbilt and Kentucky) and could finish with a winning record.

It’s no sure bet that Dooley will be fired at the end of the season, but if he is, speculation has centered heavily on former NFL head coach Jon Gruden. The former Tampa Bay coach does have some ties to Knoxville, as he spent two years as a graduate assistant with Tennessee in 1986-87. Gruden’s wife is also a key part in the rumor mill, as she was a cheerleader with the Volunteers and is from East Tennessee.

While Tennessee fans are certainly upset about the direction of the program, there’s no guarantee Gruden is the right man for the job. And if a coaching change does happen, it’s not certain Gruden would be even open to leaving the "Monday Night Football" booth to come to Knoxville.

5 Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would Be a Bad Hire for Tennessee

1. Lack of College Experience
It’s one thing to coach in the NFL, but it’s another to win in the college ranks. UCLA’s Jim Mora is 7-2 this season, but Bill Callahan was just 27-22 in four seasons at Nebraska. Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino each had success after spending time in the NFL, but both coaches got their start on the collegiate level. There’s no doubt coaches that come from the NFL can bring a lot of knowledge to a program, however, it’s not always easy relating to the players. Trying to implement a complicated offense is much easier in the NFL, especially since collegiate athletes have fewer hours to spend in the film room. Considering Gruden’s lack of head coaching experience in college, there would certainly be a transition period – and it may not be pretty – for Tennessee. Adapting to the college game takes time and there's very little patience for coaches that don't succeed in the SEC.

2. An Eye to the NFL?
Even if Gruden jumps at the opportunity to coach at Tennessee or anywhere else in the collegiate ranks, what’s to stop him from getting back into the NFL? If the Volunteers do decide to can Derek Dooley after the year, hiring Gruden may not be a good decision for long-term stability. Considering Tennessee has had three coaches in five years, picking a coach that may stay one or two years is a potential disaster. You never know how long a coach is going to stick around, but considering Gruden’s NFL background and how he exited, it’s a safe bet that he wants another shot. Tennessee needs to hire the best possible coach but also needs to find some stability for the next 5-7 years.

3. Recruiting and Building a Coaching Staff
Gruden could probably recruit successfully off of name only, at least for the first two or three years of his college tenure. However, what happens after that has to be a concern. It’s been over 20 years since Gruden had to hit the recruiting trail. And this isn’t just a six-month process – it lasts all season. Gruden is a relentless worker and there’s always the fear he could get burned out after just a few seasons. The former NFL coach would also have to put together a staff that would be good recruiters, especially at Tennessee where there’s not a lot of homegrown talent. Building a staff without many college connections isn’t easy, and a collection of NFL assistants wouldn't necessarily work at Tennessee.

4. The West Coast Offense
The spread and high-scoring offenses are becoming the norm in college football, and there’s always been doubt the West Coast offense can work outside of the NFL. Although Gruden’s offense at Oakland finished three times in the top 10 of scoring offense, his teams at Tampa Bay never finished higher than 18th in the NFL in total offense. Obviously, it’s a different league, so it’s hard to take a lot away from those statistics. However, it’s also important to note 54 of the 124 teams in the nation are averaging at least 30 points a game, with 11 scoring at least 40 points per contest. Even though Alabama owns one of the nation’s best defenses, the Crimson Tide are averaging 38.4 points a game. While Gruden’s background on offense is appealing, implementing a West Coast offense takes a lot of time. Nebraska (Bill Callahan) and Syracuse (Greg Robinson) implemented a similar scheme with limited results. During his time in the NFL, Gruden’s playbook might have been one of the deepest in the league. Although the schemes, plays and formations have worked in NFL, there’s simply no way Gruden can copy that offense in college. It’s not impossible for the West Coast offense to work in college, but Gruden would have to do a lot of simplifying to his playbook and be willing to adapt to more of a spread approach.

5. Difficult to Play For?
There’s no question Gruden would bring passion and energy to the sideline or to any program, but that may not translate well at the college level. Criticism is most player’s least favorite word, but NFLers are more likely to handle it better than college athletes. Although Gruden’s intensity could be a good thing for some players who have underachieved or aren’t putting in the proper hours, it’s a very fine line to walk with college players who don’t have the amount of time NFL players can put into perfecting their game. Gruden could land at a college and work out just fine. However, if he gets the reputation of being too difficult or too demanding to play for, his tenure will go south in a hurry.

by Steven Lassan


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 10 Ranks

College Football's Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections

<p> 5 Reasons Why Jon Gruden Would Be a Bad Fit at Tennessee</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:30
Path: /college-basketball/acc-2012-13-college-basketball-preview

After a long wait, NC State’s hopes for ACC supremacy may be realized. The Wolfpack have not won an ACC regular season title since 1989 and haven’t won the ACC tournament since 1987.

But after two decades of wandering through mediocre seasons, NC State may be ready to contend with Duke and North Carolina this season. As usual, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will be stocked with talent, but their hold on the top of the league may be more fragile than it has been in recent years thanks to the departures of a combined six first-round NBA draft picks since last season.

A year after reaching the Sweet 16, NC State adds a highly touted freshman class to a talented veteran core. And even the Florida schools -- Miami and defending ACC tournament champion Florida State -- have reason to believe they can contend in the league.

2011-12 regular season champion: North Carolina Player of the Year: C.J. Leslie, NC State
2012 NCAA Tournament teams: Duke, Florida State*, Best Defensive Player: Michael Snaer, Florida St.
NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Most Underrated Player: Kenny Kadji, Miami
New coaches: James Johnson (Virginia Tech) Newcomer of the Year: Rodney Purvis, NC State
Realignment: None  
*won conference tournament  
G Lorenzo Brown, NC State G Erick Green, Virginia Tech G Ian Miller, Florida State
G Michael Snaer, Florida State G Seth Curry, Duke G Durand Scott, Miami
F James Michael McAdoo, North Carolina F Kenny Kadji, Miami F Scott Wood, NC State
F C.J. Leslie, NC State F Ryan Kelly, Duke F Richard Howell, NC State
F Mason Plumlee, Duke C Reggie Johnson, Miami F Okaro White, Florida State

1. Duke (27-7, 13-3)
The Blue Devils are ranked No. 9 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

Duke possesses all the pieces necessary to challenge for the ACC championship. The Blue Devils have three experienced senior starters returning in Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee who will provide scoring from the perimeter to the post. Kelly and Plumlee are strong team defenders and rebounders. To reach maximum potential, which at Duke means competing for a NCAA championship, the Blue Devils must find a competent, consistent point guard. They’ll also need scoring and defensive contributions from newcomers Alex Murphy and Amile Jefferson, and Rasheed Sulaimon must prove he can score and defend at college basketball’s highest level.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

2. NC State (24-13, 9-7)
The Wolfpack is ranked No. 11 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

The door’s wide open for NC State to win the ACC’s regular season for the first time since 1989. North Carolina and Duke lost six first-round picks to the NBA between them and are both vulnerable to a veteran team, with new talent, like State’s. But Mark Gottfried’s right. The Wolfpack went 9–7 in the ACC and will  have to make a leap to the 12- or 13-win range . With elite talent like C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, Gottfried and the Wolfpack will have a chance “to do more” during the 2013 season. Just how much more will depend on if the Pack can pick up where it left off after a surprising NCAA Tournament run.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Related: McAdoo, Leslie make appearances on Athlon preseason All-America Team

3. North Carolina (32-6, 14-2)
The Tar Heels are ranked No. 14 in our preseason rankings: Full Preview

The ACC isn’t as strong at the top — or from top to bottom — as it used to be. So this North Carolina team, even with the talent it lost, can contend for the conference championship. A trip to the Final Four, where no player on the current roster has been before, seems less likely. But if the Tar Heels get strong play at point guard, improve their outside shooting and avoid the serious injuries that have short-circuited recent seasons, they’ll find themselves in the mix just as the 2005-06 North Carolina team did. If they come up short in those areas, they could produce a result closer to what the 2009-10 team did.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Related: North Carolina’s Paige one of top 10 freshmen for 2012-13

4. Florida State (25-10, 12-4)
Losing four starters at Florida State used to guarantee a rebuilding year. Four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament — the school’s longest streak ever — has changed that. FSU has turned into a perennial ACC power, a program that is expected to win big regardless of how much its roster changes. Hamilton has four veterans to build around, including last season’s leading guard Michael Snaer, and will be counting on seven newcomers — two junior college transfers and five freshmen — to create depth. Long a shutdown defender, Snaer had a breakout year offensively last season, posting career highs in scoring (14.0 ppg), 3-point shooting (.404) and free throw shooting (.846). The intangibles he brings also add plenty of value. Junior Ian Miller, who emerged as one of the ACC’s top sixth men by averaging 10.3 points last season, will likely take over most of the point guard duties, though Hamilton plans to still use him on the wing some. The intimidating presence of departed big men Bernard James and Xavier Gibson (combined for 126 blocks last season) won’t be replaced, but Okaro White and Terrance Shannon give the Seminoles a pair of experienced 6-8 junior forwards capable of playing bigger roles. The Seminoles will play great defense. That is a constant under Hamilton. It might take some time for the young players to adapt to the Seminoles’ style, but Hamilton can lean on a solid group of veterans who have played and contributed in big games.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament Two and Out

Related: Florida State’s Shannon a key player returning from injury

5. Miami (20-13, 9-7)
With the core of last year’s team back and North Carolina, Duke and Florida State losing its top players, Miami should be in the thick of the ACC race. The extent of Miami’s success could well rest on 284-pound center Reggie Johnson, who missed part of last season with a knee injury then under-performed after an impressive sophomore campaign in which he nearly averaged a double-double. At times, Johnson can look like one of the best big men in the ACC, but in several other games, Johnson was a complete non-factor. Kenny Kadji was one of the ACC’s biggest surprises last season after transferring from Florida. The 6-11 Kadji is only average with his back to the basket, but he’s deadly from long range and is a presence defensively as a shot-blocker. Durand Scott is tough, physical and the heart and guts of Miami’s team. Best when he’s attacking the basket and drawing contact, Scott has also grown into a much better ball-handler and distributor, cutting his turnovers in half between his sophomore and junior seasons. This could well be Miami’s best and deepest team since it jumped from the Big East to the ACC in 2004 and it shouldn’t be a shock if the Hurricanes, who have never finished higher than a tie for fourth in the league standings, make a strong run at the ACC title.
Postseason prediction: NCAA Tournament First Four

6. Maryland (17-15, 6-10)
Mark Turgeon duct-taped a team together last season, somehow won 17 game and gave mercurial sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin — who has since departed — a green light to gun it and lead the ACC in scoring (21.6 ppg) in an offense that simply didn’t have much bite on the block. Point guard/glue-guy Pe’Shawn Howard will be back and youngsters like Nick Faust and Alex Len are a year older and wiser in the ways of the ACC. Moreover, Maryland has had a major influx of talent with a ballyhooed recruiting class that has Turgeon’s Terps ready to rejoin the upper echelon of the ACC. Faust may fill Stoglin’s role of go-to scorer, slashing to the basket to create for himself and teammates. He averaged 8.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists while playing three different positions as a freshman. He has stardom written all over his game at both ends. The muscular Howard, who only played in 14 games last year due to injury, is at the point. Senior James Padgett, who averaged 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and shot 52 percent from the field, is back, and he’ll be even better. His gangly post moves will be more refined, and he will be more of a factor on defense.
Postseason prediction: NIT

7. Virginia (22-10, 9-7)
Tony Bennett plans to stick around. The Virginia coach, who led the Cavaliers to their first NCAA Tournament since 2007, signed a five-year extension following the season. Now, if he can just get his players to stick around with him. After the midseason transfers of K.T. Harrell and James Johnson last year, Bennett is left with just two of the six members of his first recruiting class, which was to be the foundation of his program. Bennett has brought in another five-man class, and at least a couple will have to contribute immediately. That could bode well for the long term. Virginia is loaded with wings — the roster contains six guards listed between 6-3 and 6-6. The standout in the crowd is junior Joe Harris, a career 40 percent 3-point shooter who is the team’s top returning scorer. The steady Harris will need to be more assertive, now that he’ll no longer have the luxury of playing off of Mike Scott, who drew defensive attention that led to open looks on the perimeter. Directing traffic will be senior point guard Jontel Evans, a defensive pest and steady ball-handler who has 94 games and 70 starts under his belt. Like Harris, he’ll be asked to provide veteran ballast to a young team. At first glance, it’s hard to envision Virginia getting major production up front. With Scott gone, the Cavaliers don’t have an obvious go-to player inside, and offense doesn’t appear to be the strength of the group.
Postseason prediction: NIT

8. Clemson (16-15, 8-8)
Asking for patience is justifiable given that second-year coach Brad Brownell is losing his top two scorers from last season in Andre Young and Tanner Smith, and relying on a roster that features a whopping 10 freshmen and sophomores. Brownell has shown in his first two seasons that he was an excellent choice when Clemson found itself looking for a new coach after Oliver Purnell’s abrupt departure for DePaul. He’s done an impressive job of developing players and cultivating substantial improvement as the two years have worn on. But he has no juniors, largely the result of unexpected attrition during and after his first season (three players elected to transfer). And seniors Devin Booker and Milton Jennings, while talented, haven’t inspired abundant confidence that they are the building blocks for rousing success in 2012-13. Booker and Jennings shouldered more of the burden last season and produced so-so results. Now, with Young and Smith gone, these two must take their games to a higher and more consistent level if the Tigers are going to make substantive improvement. There’s a major void at point guard with Young gone. Sophomore Rod Hall will get competition from freshmen Adonis Filer and Jordan Roper — probably more Filer than Roper — for the starting point guard spot. Hall will need to make significant improvement as a shooter to keep defenders from backing off and playing the drive.
Postseason prediction: NIT

Related: Former Clemson assistants among key hires for 2012-13

9. Virginia Tech (16-17, 4-12)
James Johnson has his work cut out for him. Johnson, 40, was finally awarded a head coaching job after 19 years as an assistant, but he inherits a program surrounded by uncertainty after an unexpected regime change in the spring. In the aftermath of the coaching change, Johnson, the youngest head coach in the ACC, is left with only eight scholarship players and the expectations of a fan base hungry for an NCAA Tournament appearance after some agonizingly close calls in the past five years. Guard is one of the Hokies’ strengths, and Johnson hopes to take advantage of that by employing an up-tempo style of offense. Senior point guard Erick Green has improved every season in college and made a substantial jump last year, averaging 15.6 points and 2.8 assists en route to earning second-team All-ACC honors. Lack of front line depth could be an issue for the Hokies this season. After Greenberg’s dismissal, Tech lost two forwards who were both expected to play prominent roles in 2012-13. Dorian Finney-Smith, one of the most heralded recruits in school history and the team’s leading rebounder as a freshman last season, decided to transfer to Florida. And Montrezl Harrell, a 2012 recruit who saw his stock rise during his final high school season, elected to back out of his commitment and sign with Louisville.

10. Wake Forest (13-18, 4-12)
No coach may need wins this season more than Jeff Bzdelik. After two years at Wake Forest, Bzdelik hasn’t won a lot of games (five total in the ACC), and he’s lost a lot of fans. The former Air Force and Colorado coach hopes a seven-player recruiting class will provide the spark. The youngsters will combine with the league’s top two returning scorers, guard C.J. Harris and forward Travis McKie. With the two primary point guards from last year no longer on the roster — Tony Chennault and Anthony Fields transferred out — freshman Codi Miller-McIntyre will be handed the reins of the offense. He will give the Deacons their first legitimate threat to get to the rim and create shots since Ish Smith graduated in 2010. Wake Forest finished second to last in the ACC in rebounding margin, and it lost both of its centers. To say the frontcourt is an issue is an understatement. McKie put together solid numbers but found it difficult to carry the team. Although only 6-7 and able to play either forward spot, he did his best offensive work in the lane. When forced to try to create from the wing, he struggled. Bzdelik is running out of time and excuses. To re-energize the fan base, he needs a team that is competitive, both in spirit and in the ACC race. He’ll have to do it with a squad that is thin at key positions and has only two scholarship upperclassmen.

Related: Wake’s Bzdelik among coaches on hot seat

11. Georgia Tech (11-20, 4-12)
Few will be surprised — perhaps not even Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory — if the Yellow Jackets finish near the bottom of the ACC standings again. Georgia Tech could make considerable progress in Gregory’s second season without a corresponding improvement in the standings. The Yellow Jackets do bring back the core of the roster with the exception of guard Glen Rice Jr. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder continually bumped heads with Gregory, leading to his dismissal from the team. As much as anyone, point guard Mfon Udofia responded to the coaching change from Paul Hewitt to Gregory. Going into his senior season, his jump shot needs to improve, but he should have a much firmer grasp on what Gregory wants out of the position. Udofia had a 1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio in Georgia Tech’s final nine games after a 0.8 rate in the first 21. In center Daniel Miller and power forward Kammeon Holsey, Georgia Tech has a pair of bangers who’ve become a respectable post duo. Holsey needs to take better care of the ball and stay out of foul trouble, but he’s an active defender who is willing to take charges, and he shot 59.0 percent from the field. Miller ranked second in the ACC in blocked shots and finished the season by scoring in double figures in eight of the last 10 games. The Yellow Jackets will also get a boost from the opening of the $45 million McCamish Pavilion, a complete renovation of the old Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Still, Georgia Tech is probably a year or two from breaking through.

12. Boston College (9-22, 4-12)
When Steve Donahue took over at Boston College in 2010, he embarked on a rebuilding plan. The first phase was the demolition, which was swift and thorough. Within a year, there were no holdovers from the Al Skinner era. Such a drastic overhaul was predictably bumpy. The Eagles had seven freshmen in the rotation last season. Despite the lack of a scholarship upperclassman, the large crop of sophomores will be expected to make considerable strides in their development. Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford were thrown into the fire with bigger, stronger, more athletic frontcourts on a nightly basis last season and held up reasonably well. With an offseason to improve their skills and bodies, Donahue is expecting big things from his sophomore big men. The Eagles are going to rely heavily on their two recruits to step into major roles in the backcourt. Olivier Hanlan, a 6-4 native of Quebec, should be the starting point guard from the outset. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by fellow freshman Joe Rahon, a physical 6-2 combo guard. It’s unrealistic to expect the Eagles to transform from an ACC doormat into a contender in one year. Donahue has maintained the view that it will take about 50 games together for this group to start to show major strides. If this sophomore-laden group learns from last year and develops mentally and physically, Donahue expects to see noticeable improvements by the end of the season.


More previews for the 2012-13 season can be found in the Athlon Sports College Basketball annual available in the online store

Athlon Conference Previews and Power Rankings
4. Big 12
5. SEC

7. Mountain West
8. Atlantic 10

9. West Coast

10. Missouri Valley
11. Conference USA
12. Colonial
13. Sun Belt
14. MAC
15. Horizon

Athlon College Basketball Countdown:
1. Indiana
2. Louisville

3. Kentucky
4. Kansas
5. Syracuse
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Ohio State
9. Duke
10. Michigan State
11. NC State
12. UCLA
13. UNLV
14. North Carolina
15. San Diego State
16. Missouri
17. Baylor
18. Memphis
19. Notre Dame

20. Florida

<p> ACC 2012-13 College Basketball Preview</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/who-should-kentucky-hire-replace-joker-phillips

The first major domino in college football's coaching carousel fell on Sunday, as Kentucky's Joker Phillips was fired after a 12-23 mark through three seasons. Phillips led the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first year, but the team never showed major progress in his tenure. Athletic director Mitch Barnhart has a difficult coaching search to lead, especially with the pressure to get it right. 

Who Should Kentucky Hire to Replace Joker Phillips?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
Kentucky’s first calls should be to Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes and Western Kentucky’s Willie Taggart. Dykes is a former Kentucky assistant with direct connections to a successful era for the Wildcats under coach Hal Mumme and offensive coordinator Mike Leach. Between Kentucky’s success with Mumme and Tim Couch -- and now Texas A&M’s success with Johnny Manziel -- we can say this sort of spread offense can succeed in the SEC. And Taggart is simply a program builder, whose Western Kentucky program had had more success than the Wildcats the last two years. If I’m Kentucky, I’m glad to take a branch off the Jim Harbaugh coaching tree as well. If those routes fail because Dykes and Taggart are candidates for better jobs, Kentucky might look at the Vanderbilt route -- hiring a young energetic assistant like Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown or Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
If there is any coaching opening in any conference at any level for any amount of money, my answer will be Bobby Petrino. He is the only proven winner out there who is guaranteed to win the second he steps onto campus. He can be had for dirt cheap and with so many clauses in his contract, he won't be allowed out of the house after dark. I am not hiring someone to grow the leaders of tomorrow or compete in graduation rates. I am hiring someone to score more points than the other team and no one is better at that than Petrino. Tennessee, Cal, Purdue, Auburn and especially Kentucky would be foolish not to entertain the idea. Otherwise, I call one of the quality head coaches already doing good things in the Commonwealth and see what they say.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
I think Kentucky made the right decision by pulling the plug on the Joker Phillips era after Saturday’s game. Even though the Wildcats were playing a lot of young players, the program wasn’t moving in the right direction and was just 4-19 in his three seasons in SEC play. Considering the SEC’s expansion to 14 teams, as well as Vanderbilt’s improvement under James Franklin, this is a crucial hire for Kentucky. The Wildcats cannot afford to fall further behind in the SEC pecking order and need to regain some of the fanbase after lagging attendance in Phillips’ last season. Kentucky needs to be targeting a young coach, especially with a background on offense. Bobby Petrino would be a home-run hire, but he’s not coming to Lexington. After Petrino, the next name on my list would be Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes. In three seasons with the Bulldogs, Dykes has a 21-13 record, and has helped to coordinate one of the top offenses in college football. He also has experience at Kentucky, working as an assistant under Hal Mumme in 1997 and 1999. If Dykes doesn’t want to come to Lexington, the Wildcats need to give a good look at Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury. 

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
My first call would be to Sonny Dykes, a former Kentucky assistant (1997, ’99) who is currently the head coach at Louisiana Tech. In two-plus seasons at Tech, Dykes has an overall record of 21–13 and a 13–5 mark in the WAC. The Bulldogs have made steady improvement since Dykes took over for Derek Dooley — they went 5–7 overall (4–4 WAC) in 2010, 8–5 (6–1) in ’11 and are currently 8–1 overall with a 3–0 mark in league play. They are ranked No. 20 in the latest BCS standings and have wins over Houston, Illinois and Virginia, along with a two-point loss to Texas A&M. Dykes’ teams not only win, they play an exciting brand of football; Tech ranks third in the nation in total offense and second in scoring offense. Dykes would be an ideal fit at a school that has enjoyed pockets of success but has failed to remain consistently competitive. 

Mark Ross: 
Baggage aside, I think Bobby Petrino would be the type of hire that could not only re-energize the fan base, but also give a boost to recruiting efforts. Everyone who follows the SEC knows what Petrino did at Arkansas, especially in terms of the type of offense he ran and how productive and exciting it was. Likewise, everyone knows how things ended with the Hogs, and because of that and other factors, I'm just not sure Kentucky will pull the trigger or be able to pay enough to lure Petrino to Lexington in the first place. That said, I think Willie Taggart would be the next best option. He's done a remarkable job of rebuilding Western Kentucky's program, which includes this season's win over the Wildcats in Lexington. His existing ties in the state should only aid in recruiting, particularly in keeping the top prospects home. Taggart may not have the name recognition that Petrino does, and the SEC and the Sun Belt are two entirely different playing fields, but he's already shown what he can do at one Kentucky state school, so why not give him a shot at turning around the program at THE Kentucky state school?

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I see the No. 1 candidate being Louisiana Tech head coach Sonny Dykes. The former Kentucky assistant under Hal Mumme (a very underrated coaching tree) has proven he can cut it as a head coach with the Bulldogs, and Dykes’ high-octane offense is currently second in the nation with an average of 52.4 points per game. And for any Wildcats fan worried those are just WAC numbers, La. Tech scored 57 points against Texas A&M, 52 on Illinois and 44 versus Virginia. In 2011, the Bulldogs won by 20 at Ole Miss and lost in overtime at Mississippi State. Dykes will have several options this offseason, as multiple SEC schools should show some interest. Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart and Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown are also solid candidates, but UK should pursue Dykes as its next head coach.

Related College Football Content

25 Coaching Candidates to Replace Joker Phillips at Kentucky
College Football's Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat: Post-Week 10 Ranks

Post-Week 10 Bowl Projections

Post-Week 10 BCS Analysis

<p> Who Should Replace Joker Phillips at Kentucky?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:10
Path: /nfl/seven-bold-second-half-nfl-predictions-2012

The second half is here and that means things are about to get interesting in the NFL. So I thought, in true Athlon Sports prognostication fashion, I would put on my predicting hat for the second half. Here are outlandish, outstanding and potentially out of touch bold predictions for the rest of the NFL season:

A rookie running back will lead the NFL in rushing
Doug Martin sits at No. 3 in the NFL in rushing with 794 yards after two huge games against Minnesota and Oakland. Alfred Morris is No. 4 in the league with 793 yards but hasn’t had a bye week yet. Trent Richardson has been solid and sits just outside the top ten in rushing with 575 yards. All three could finish in the top ten and Martin or Morris have a good shot at leading the league in rushing — Martin's 99.3 yards per game is No. 2 in the league. There is certainly a youth movement at the position this season as not just rookies but new starters (Stevan Ridley, C.J. Spiller) have been successful. At the midway point of the year, Darren McFadden, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ryan Mathews, Steven Jackson, Michael Turner and Matt Forte are all outside of the top 15 in rushing. What would be more shocking: A rookie leads the NFL in rushing or Chris Johnson leads the NFL in rushing?

The New Orleans Saints will have a winning record
The schedule is daunting, but the Saints (3-5) are playing their best football at the right time. Winners of three out of the last four, Who Dat nation is feeling cautiously optimistic about the second half. Yes, the Falcons (twice), 49ers and Giants are on the schedule, but two of those come at home. The coaching staff and defense are beginning to finally settle in after Bounty Gate and Replacement-a-palooza and Drew Brees is back carving up defenses. He leads the NFL in passing yards and should keep his team in every game. Every game is a must-win for New Orleans from here on out, but they should be favored against Oakland, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Dallas. A 2-2 mark against the big boys — SF, NYG and ATL — could give the Saints a 9-7 record and a potential Wild Card bid.

A team will win the Super Bowl without a 4,000-yard passer
Last fall, 10 players threw for at least 4,000 yards and 14 threw for at least 3,500 yards. Seven of the top nine passers made the playoffs while five of the six NFC playoff quarterbacks threw for at least 4,000 yards. This fall, 14 players are on pace for more than 4,000 yards and an astonishing 24 are slated to top 3,500 yards. The last time a team won the Super Bowl without a 4,000-yard passer was the Steelers and Ben Roethlisberger in Super Bowl XLIII. The last time a team won the Super Bowl without a 3,000-yard passer was also Big Ben (XL). So with passing records getting smashed every week, it would come as a shock if the Super Bowl champions didn’t feature a high-flying passing attack, right? However, Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco are all ranked 15th or worse in yards per game and none are on pace for 4,000 yards. In case you didn’t notice, other than the Atlanta Falcons, those are the best four records in football.

Andy Reid will be coaching in 2013…in San Diego
The Eagles failed to score a touchdown in five trips inside the Saints' red zone on Monday night and Michael Vick was sacked seven times. Philadelphia moved to 3-5 after the team’s fourth straight loss — Reid’s longest such streak as the head coach of the Eagles. Vick is a huge part of the problem and it will likely cost Reid his job unless he can figure out a way to win games. Which will be hard to do with five games left in the division (Dallas twice, Washington twice, Giants). Unless this team wins at least six of its final eight, heads will roll in The City of Brotherly Love. And since Norv Turner has no business being an NFL head coach, there should be an opening in San Diego as well. With an established roster of veterans, Reid’s 129 wins and nine playoff appearances would fit nicely in SoCal.

A rookie quarterback will win a playoff game
Andrew Luck is special. He has set all types of rookie quarterback records and is already establishing himself as one of the NFL’s best passers — he is fourth in yards — and has his team leading the AFC Wild Card hunt right now. With a very favorable second-half schedule, it will be hard for the Colts not to finish with a winning record. And in the atrocious AFC, where only six teams have a winning record, Luck and the Colts have as good a shot as any to reach the postseason. In the NFC, Russell Wilson has the 5-4 Seahawks positioned to snag a Wild Card berth as well. Both have been much better at home, and although it is unlikely either will get to host a playoff game, both are clearly capable of an upset come January. They are both unflappable leaders who care only about winning.

Randy Moss will catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl
The 14-year veteran wide receiver sat out the 2011 season only to return to the field with the 49ers this fall. Many didn’t know what to expect when the future Hall of Famer took the field this season. While he hasn’t been the explosive weapon fans were accustomed to seeing throughout his career, he has been a meaningful part of the San Francisco offense. He has only caught 13 passes for 235 yards but has scored twice and has been used as a decoy on countless plays. On a team that looks like it could be the odds-on favorite to the win the NFC, Moss has a good chance to reach the big game for just the second time in his career. He caught five passes for 62 yards and a touchdown as a Patriot in Super Bowl XLII. He may not stuff the stat sheet, but Jim Harbaugh would figure out a way to get Moss involved in the offense should the 49ers make it to New Orleans.

Neither the Bears nor the Ravens will win their division
The Bears (7-1) and Ravens (6-2) have a combined record of 13-3 and are both sitting at least one game ahead in the NFC and AFC North Divisions. Yet, there is a good chance that neither will finish atop the standings. The Bears' second-half schedule is daunting and it begins with Houston and San Francisco before tests with Seattle, Green Bay, Minnesota (twice), Detroit and Arizona. Three of the final four are on the road, including the final two against teams that could be fighting for playoff bids (Cardinals, Lions). The visit from the Packers in Week 15 will likely determine the Monsters of the Midway’s fate in 2012. So if it comes down to Aaron Rodgers vs. Jay Cutler, that’s an easy one. In the AFC, the Ravens' defense is simply too depleted and still has to face the Steelers twice, face both Mannings as well as road trips to Washington, San Diego and Cincinnati.

-by Braden Gall


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<p> Seven Bold Second Half NFL Predictions for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:10
All taxonomy terms: ACC, College Football, Miami Hurricanes, News
Path: /college-football/should-miami-self-impose-bowl-ban-2012

With last week's win over Virginia Tech, Miami is now the frontrunner to win the ACC Coastal Division title. The Hurricanes were picked by many to finish fifth in the division in the preseason but have recorded a 4-2 record in ACC play so far and have two very winnable games remaining - at Virginia and at Duke. Although Miami has a chance to win a BCS bowl this year, the looming sanctions from the Nevin Shapiro investigation are hanging over this program. 

Should Miami Self-Impose a Bowl Ban for 2012?

Ryan Tice (@RyanTice),
Miami imposed a bowl ban on themselves last season, and there is absolutely no way they should do that to their players and coaches again this year. It had to be devastating for the players to sit out the postseason after getting to six wins in 2011, and the team promptly dropped their season finale to Boston College after the decision was announced.

This year, they are two conference wins away from clinching a berth in the school’s first ACC Championship game, and they are also on the verge of their first postseason trip under coach Al Golden. An appearance in the ACC Championship game and a big-time bowl, even if it eventually costs a postseason trip in the future — which is no guarantee — can be a boost for the entire program; nothing good can come from a second-straight year of watching the postseason from home.

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
If there’s no deadline, Miami should let the season play out before making a decision. If the Hurricanes are eliminated from their first ACC championship game, go ahead and take the bowl ban, which would likely result in a second- or third-tier bowl anyway. That’s hollow and obvious and a public relations problem, but that’s not a horrible course of action. Impose the bowl ban now, and Miami may cost itself a trip to the Orange Bowl and critical momentum for Al Golden’s program. Don’t impose it at all, and Miami’s just prolonging the inevitable. Do you think Ohio State would have preferred to take a bowl ban last season if there was a chance the Buckeyes would be eligible for this postseason?

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
I am torn on this one. No, the kids out there fighting each and every Saturday to win the ACC Coastal had nothing to do with paying players to go to Miami over the last 10 years (or any of the other atrocities reported by Charles Robinson and Nevin Shapiro). However, the outlandish and garish style with which The U directly violated NCAA rules reeks of something much bigger than one diminutive hanger-on. How could powers that be inside and out of the University not have known about Shapiro? In that sense, watching Miami potentially play in a BCS bowl feels wrong. There isn't a good answer to this one and should the Hurricanes finish with the right to play in the ACC title game, the bowl ban punishment would fit the crime in my opinion.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
With Miami on the doorstep of its first ACC Coastal title, the athletic department and administration have a huge decision to make. There’s no question the Hurricanes are going to get hit hard by NCAA sanctions. The penalties are expected to be announced sometime in the spring of 2013 and a bowl ban is likely to be included. Miami self-imposed a bowl ban last season and it has to be on the table for consideration at the end of this year. Although taking a bowl ban isn’t a bad idea to soften the blow from the NCAA, the Hurricanes should play in the postseason in 2012. If Miami does win its first Coastal title, the players and coaching staff deserve to reap the benefits and play for the ACC Championship in Charlotte. Also, even though most expect the sanctions will be harsh, what if they aren’t? Predicting the future with the NCAA is always difficult, which makes this a tricky situation for Miami. The Hurricanes have to be worried about what happens in the future, but there’s a little momentum building behind coach Al Golden and this year’s team. However, taking a bowl ban would only be another setback for a program that is just 18-16 over the last three years.

Mark Ross: 
If Miami beats Virginia and Duke, the Hurricanes will represent the Coastal in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., and they just need one more win over their last three games to become bowl eligible. Considering any bowl ban for this season would come from the university itself, and not the NCAA, I think the powers that be at "The U" would best be served by deciding against such a strategy. The chances are highly likely that the 'Canes will receive a number of NCAA sanctions and penalties, including some form of a postseason ban, stemming from the investigation into the alleged recruiting violations related to Nevin Shapiro. Even though a self-imposed bowl ban would be an attempt to mitigate the NCAA's pending punishment, I think in this case it would do more harm than good to the program and its fan and alumni base, considering the position the Hurricanes find themselves in. If Miami wins the Coastal, not only would it play in the ACC Championship Game, it would then have a chance to earn a spot in a BCS bowl, and the other benefits associated with that. Even should the 'Canes lose in the ACC title game, they will undoubtedly receive an invitation to one of the conference's better bowls based on their second-place finish. Look, at some point the hammer is going to fall on the football program once more. There's really no reason I see for the school to be the one to swing it first, especially considering how this season could play out.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I do not think so; unless the administration at Miami has a very solid indication from the NCAA (good luck getting a clear picture from them) of how much a self-imposed ban in 2012 would lessen sanctions in the future. The Hurricanes may have an uncertain future with the ongoing investigation, but their current standing is atop the Coastal Division with Virginia and Duke left on the league schedule. Miami has a chance to play in its first-ever ACC Championship Game, and an upset over Florida State or Clemson would equal a BCS/Orange Bowl berth. The Hurricanes imposed a bowl ban last year, and the administration should let Al Golden and his players have a shot at a big-time bowl this season.

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<p> Should Miami Self-Impose a Bowl Ban in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /college-football/nebraska-or-michigan-which-team-wins-legends-division-2012

It has been a difficult year for the Big Ten, especially with only two teams ranked after Week 10. The conference's best team (Ohio State) is ineligible to win the championship, while Penn State is also banned from postseason play. The battle to win the Leaders Division appears to be down to Wisconsin and Indiana, while the Legends Division is a tight race between Michigan and Nebraska. 

Nebraska or Michigan: Which Team Wins the Legends Division in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615):
This seems obvious, doesn’t it? Nebraska already defeated Michigan, and the Cornhuskers finish up with Penn State and Minnesota at home and Iowa on the road. Michigan has Ohio State on the road and two other games. The schedule is immensely favorable to Nebraska, and even if the Cornhuskers get into trouble, they’ve shown they can respond with two Big Ten wins in which they’ve trailed in the fourth quarter and a third in which they’ve trailed in the third. Barring misstep, I’m taking Nebraska.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall):
Each has one game that I feel is a loss. Michigan's is a sure thing at Ohio State as the Buckeyes will be playing their Super Bowl with a chance to completely ruin the Wolverines trip to Pasadena. Therefore, Nebraska would have to loss two games the rest of the way to miss out on the Big Ten championship game. So even if the Huskers slip-up against a very good Penn State team, it would have to lose again to either Minnesota (at home) or Iowa (road) in one of the final two games. Give me Big Red to match-up with...Big Red (either Wisconsin or, gasp, Indiana) in the Big Ten Championship game. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven): 
With essentially a one-game lead (thanks to a head-to-head win), Nebraska will win the Legends Division. The Cornhuskers and Wolverines are tied with one Big Ten loss, but Michigan lost 23-9 in Lincoln in late October. For the Wolverines to win the division, they need two losses by Nebraska. Finding two defeats on the schedule for the Cornhuskers isn’t easy, especially since they play Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. Nebraska could easily lose to Iowa on the road or this Saturday against Penn State, but one loss really doesn’t help Michigan. The Wolverines still have to play at Ohio State in the season finale, which the Buckeyes figure to be favored to win. It’s not impossible, but I don’t see a scenario where Michigan is able to win the Legends Division title. Barring a complete collapse, Nebraska will play for the Big Ten title in December.

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Nebraska basically clinched the Legends Division by beating Northwestern, Michigan and Michigan State in the last three weeks. The Cornhuskers are tied with Michigan at 4–1 but have the tie-breaker due to their win in Lincoln on Oct. 27. The Huskers’ closing schedule is relatively soft, with home games against Penn State and Minnesota and a game at struggling Iowa. Michigan still has to play Northwestern and at Ohio State. This race is over!

Mark Ross: 
I give the edge to Nebraska because the Cornhuskers hold the tie-breaker over the Wolverines in the first place, and the uncertainty surrounding the health of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Both teams sit 4-1 in the Legends Division, but again Nebraska has a game in hand on Michigan thanks to its 23-9 head-to-head win on Oct. 27. Both teams could end up losing this week as the Cornhuskers host Penn State and the Wolverines take on Northwestern, potentially without Robinson. After Nebraska plays Penn State, it has Minnesota and Iowa left on its schedule, while Michigan still has a date in Columbus on Thanksgiving weekend to play Ohio State. Since the Buckeyes are ineligible for the postseason, this will be their bowl game, and an undefeated season may also be on the line for Urban Meyer's team. Michigan already had a tougher road to the Big Ten title game than Nebraska to begin with, and now the questions about Robinson's playing status only increase the degree of difficulty. By virtue of that victory in Lincoln in late October, Nebraska will spend the first Saturday of December in Indianapolis playing for the Big Ten championship and a spot in a BCS bowl. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman): 
I think it’s clearly the Cornhuskers. Nebraska has the tiebreaker with its 23-9 victory over Michigan, and I believe the Wolverines still have a Big Ten loss awaiting them against Ohio State in the season finale. Additionally, NU should be favored by a touchdown or more in its three remaining games versus Penn State, Minnesota and Iowa. The Huskers have won three in a row, and it’s no coincidence that Ameer Abdullah has three consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. The sophomore back has been solid during Rex Burkhead’s absence, and quarterback Taylor Martinez had an excellent rushing game in last week’s win over Michigan State. The defense still has some issues, but nothing that would prevent Nebraska from winning the Big Ten and playing in the Rose Bowl.

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<p> Nebraska or Michigan: Which team wins the Legends Division in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /nfl/2013-nfl-draft-rankings-guards-and-centers

It is never too early to begin looking ahead to next year's NFL Draft. Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft won’t be any different.

Today, we rank college football's best interior lineman prospects:


1. Chance Warmack, Alabama (6-3, 320, Sr.)
War-Daddy is the phrase most used when dealing with Warmack. He isn’t the biggest blocker in the nation, but he might be the most physical and most consistent in all of the nation. Like teammate Barrett Jones (see below), he plays for the best coach in the land and has multiple National Championships. He has paved the way for a host of elite running offenses and will likely be a top ten NFL pick come next spring. There are no weaknesses in his game.

2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (6-3, 310, Sr.)
The big Tar Heel blocker has long been considered one of the top players in the nation at his position. He is an extraordinary run blocker and has the size and make up to contribute at an early stage of his NFL career. He is the only other guard prospect with a shot at landing in the first round along with Warmack and his “luxury” of facing elite NFL prospects every day in practice has to have helped his stock. He is a complete player who is developing nicely as a pass blocker.

3. Larry Warford, Kentucky (6-3, 330, Sr.)
Kentucky has not been good in 2012 but it hasn’t been Warford’s fault. He has elite size and has long been considered one of the top blockers in the SEC. He faces elite defenses each and every weekend, including a few potential first rounders like Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd, and more than holds his own. His teams are generally overmatched, making his efforts even more impressive due to work ethic and toughness.

4. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State (6-4, 320, Jr.)
One thing scouts will love about Jackson is his competition. LSU, Alabama and the rest of the SEC, along with his own elite defensive line in practice, have given Jackson plenty of barometer tests throughout his career. He is a mauler in the running game, consistently gets to the second level and has the size and toughness to play right away.

5. Cyril Richardson, Baylor (6-5, 330, Jr.)
He was listed as the No. 13 offensive tackle prospect in Athlon Sports’ rankings, but should see his stock rise if he lands as a guard. He is a massive prospect with a huge NFL frame that will be most effective in the ground game. He may not be athletic or quick enough to stick at tackle, but his shift to guard has proven to be a productive one for Baylor. He has shown improvement all season long with his new position and could be only scratching the surface on his upside at guard.

6. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee (6-5, 305, Sr.)
7. Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (6-3, 300, Sr.)
8. Blaize Foltz, TCU (6-4, 310, Sr.)
9. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas (6-5, 319, Jr.)
10. Trey Hopkins, Texas (6-4, 300, Jr.)
11. Braden Hansen, BYU (6-5, 310, Sr.)
12. Travis Bond, North Carolina (6-6, 340, Sr.)
13. Jeff Baca, UCLA (6-3, 300, Sr.)
14. Marcus Hall, Ohio State (6-5, 317, Jr.)
15. Hugh Thornton, Illinois (6-4, 310, Sr.) 


1. Khaled Holmes, USC (6-3, 305, Sr.)
If nothing else, scouts should realize how important and talented Holmes is when he didn’t play against Stanford. The Cardinal abused the interior of the USC line while Holmes sat on the sideline and watched. He returned and battled with early NFL pick Star Lotulelei with a bum ankle — winning some and losing some against the Utes' powerhouse. Overall, Holmes has tremendous athletic ability, is a natural fit at center and has a large frame that could carry additional weight. He is a complete player who has started since he was a sophomore and his absence was noticeable along the line in 2012.

2. Barrett Jones, Alabama (6-5, 310, Sr.)
Jones' resume is remarkable. He entered his final season as a two-time National Champion as well as the reigning Outland Trophy winner as the nation’s top offensive lineman. And he is playing his third position, earning All-SEC honors as both a guard and tackle. He still could end up at either guard or center, but his skills will play on the next level regardless. He is extremely intelligent, hard working, versatile and physical. He will need to prove he can handle the massive nose guards to stick at center, but no matter where he ends up, Jones should make an early impact on Sundays.

3. Mario Benavides, Louisville (6-4, 290, Sr.)
Other than a short three-game absence at the start of 2011, Benavides has been a stalwart at the center position for the Cardinals. He is a four-year starter and has watched the team develop from Big East also-ran to a potential BCS bowl team. He has adequate size, tremendous experience and has proven his mettle against NFL-laden defensive lines like North Carolina's. He isn’t a first-round selection, but at a position that normally falls to the middle rounds, he is as safe a bet as there is in 2013.

4. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin (6-4, 330, Jr.)
The burly Badger blocker may also end up at guard like Jones, but has shifted to center for the 2012 season. He has a huge frame, great power and strength and has been productive against top-notch competition. He may not have the overt quickness and athleticism the NFL demands at center. He is an excellent run-blocker who has upside at the position because he is still learning how to play at the pivot.

5. Braxton Cave, Notre Dame (6-3, 305, Sr.)
When it comes to experience against elite level competition, few have the resume that Cave boasts. He was a big-time recruit and has proven himself against the likes of Kawann Short, Mike Martin, Jerel Worthy, Stanford’s front seven, USC and many more. Notre Dame’s schedule is one of the toughest each season and has given scouts loads of film on the slightly undersized center.

6. Graham Pocic, Illinois (6-5, 310, Sr.)
7. Travis Swanson, Arkansas (6-5, 305, Jr.)
8. Dalton Freeman, Clemson (6-4, 290, Sr.)
9. Weston Richburg, Colorado State (6-4, 300, Jr.)
10. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma (6-3, 290, Jr.)
11. T.J. Johnson, South Carolina (6-5, 318, Sr.)
12. Dillon Ferrell, New Mexico (6-5, 290, Jr.)
13. Jonotthan Harrison, Florida (6-3, 300, Jr.)
14. Joe Madsen, West Virginia (6-4, 305, Sr.)
15. Ryan Turnley, Pitt (6-5, 320, Sr.) 

- by Braden Gall


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<p> 2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Guards and Centers</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-football/2012-heisman-trophy-contenders-post-week-10

Each week, the Athlon editors and others who closely follow college football vote on the most prestigious award in the sport. A 13-man conglomerate of college football gurus from Athlon Sports and other publications cast their votes for their top Heisman Trophy candidates. The votes will be tallied and the results will be posted as the Athlon Sports Heisman Watch List every week of the regular season.

Voting: Each first-place vote receives 10 points. A second-place vote receives nine points. So on and so forth with a 10th-place vote receiving one point. Here are Athlon's guest voters:

Barrett Sallee: Bleacher Report SEC Lead Writer (@BarrettSallee)
Jim Young: (@ACCSports)
Blair Kerkhoff: Kansas City Star (@BlairKerkhoff)
Chris Level: (@ChrisLevel)

1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State (12 first place votes)
 133-187, 1,875 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT, 139 att., 698 yards, 17 TD
The numbers weren't eye-popping, but CK7 was still extremely efficient and led his team to a big revenge win over a solid Oklahoma State team. He completed 16-of-22 passes for 245 yards and rushed for 64 yards on 17 carries and one total touchdown. He is now leading the nation in passing efficiency (174.39). Next Game: at TCU

  Last Name Pos. Team Tot. Pts 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th Ballots
1. (1) Collin Klein QB Kansas St 129/130 12 1 - - - 13/13
2. (3) Braxton Miller QB Ohio St 98/130 - 5 2 3 1 13/13
3. (2) Manti Te'o LB Notre Dame 91/130 1 1 4 2 3 13/13
4. (6) Kenjon Barner RB Oregon 90/130 - 5 3 2 1 12/13
5t. (7) Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 63/130 - - - 2 3 13/13
5t. (4) A.J. McCarron QB Alabama 63/130 - 1 2 2 1 12/13
7. (9) Marcus Mariota QB Oregon 48/130 - - 2 - 2 9/13
8. (9) Marqise Lee WR USC 39/130 - - - 2 1 10/13
9. (11) Giovani Bernard RB N. Carolina 16/130 - - - - - 6/13
10t. (8) Matt Barkley QB USC 15/130 - - - - - 4/13
10t. (5) Geno Smith QB W. Virginia 15/130 - - - - - 7/13
12. (ur) Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville 11/130 - - - - - 6/13
13. (ur) Tajh Boyd QB Clemson 10/130 - - - - - 3/13
14. (12) Barrett Jones OL Alabama 6/130 - - - - 1 1/13
15. (16) Aaron Murray QB Georgia 4/130 - - - - - 1/13
16t. (20) Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
16t. (20) DeAndre Hopkins WR Clemson 3/130 - - - - - 1/13
18t. (13) De'Anthony Thomas AP Oregon 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
18t. (14) Jordan Lynch QB N. Illinois 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
18t. (ur) Taylor Martinez QB Nebraska 2/130 - - - - - 1/13
21. (ur) Seth Doege QB Texas Tech 1/130 - - - - - 1/13
2. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
124-218, 1,753 yards, 14 TD, 6 INT, 184 att., 1,166 yards, 13 TD
Miller saw little resistance against Illinois this weekend. He scored three total touchdowns with 226 yards passing and 73 yards rushing. He is leading the Big Ten in total offense at 291.9 yards per game, is fourth in rushing (116.6 ypg) and has two tough games left between himself and an undefeated season: at Wisconsin and Michigan at home. Next Game: Bye Week

3. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (1 first place vote)
Stats: 87 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 5 INT, 1.5 sack, FR, 4 PBU
It was close and it took some lucky "bounces" but Notre Dame stayed unbeaten with the overtime win over Pitt. Te'o posted seven total tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks and broke up a pass. The defense didn't play its best game, allowing 20 points in the first three quarters. Yet, the Irish defense bowed up and shutout the Panthers in the fourth quarter while the offense rallied. It also only allowed two field goals in three overtime possessions, which helped the Irish come away with a 9-0 record. Next Game: at Boston College
4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Stats: 179 att., 1,295 yards, 19 TD, 15 rec., 184 yards, TD
Barner certainly put on a show in the high profile win over USC on the road, rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns. He is now leading the nation in scoring (13.3 ppg) and the Pac-12 in rushing (143.9 ypg). Most argue it is the system that provides the numbers — as well as Chip Kelly's best quarterback and offensive line since arriving in Eugene in 2007 — but it is hard to argue with 40 touches, 347 yards from scrimmage and five scores in the season's biggest game. He has three more major hurdles to clear to get to New York, and possibly, Miami Gardens. Next Game: at Cal

5t. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Stats: 173-269, 2,216 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 117 att., 793 yards, 13 TD
The record-setting redshirt freshman is leading the SEC in rushing (102.4 ypg) and total offense (383.2 ypg) while leading his team to back-to-back SEC West road wins over Auburn and Mississippi State. He threw for his third 300-yard effort in nine career games while rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries in the 38-14 win in Starkville. His showdown with fellow Heisman Trophy hopeful AJ McCarron and the No. 1 team in the nation will eliminate one of the two SEC West passers. 
Next Week: at Alabama

5t. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Stats: 136-204, 1,849 yards, 19 TD, 0 INT, 34 att., minus-44 yards, TD
McCarron struggled for the first time all season during his team's toughest test in Baton Rouge. But when a potential shot at a second straight national championship was on the line, as well as his Heisman Trophy candidacy, he delivered in a big way. He led the Tide down the field with less than two minutes to play and won the game on a brilliant five-play, 72-yard drive spanning 43 seconds. He finished with 165 yards passing and two total touchdowns with nary an interception. Next Game: Texas A&M

7. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
153-217, 1,787 yards, 22 TD, 5 INT, 72 att., 474 yards, 3 TD
Next Game: at Cal

8. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
Stats: 88 rec., 1,286 yards, 12 TD, 23 KR, 677 yards, TD, 44 yards rushing 
Next Game: Arizona State

9. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
Stats: 126 att., 930 yards, 10 TD, 32 rec., 319 yards, 3 TD, 12 PR, 249 yards, 2 TD 
Next Game: Georgia Tech

10. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Stats: 206-316, 2,750 yards, 30 TD, 10 INT, 21 att., minus-62 yards
Next game: Arizona State

by Braden Gall


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Big 12 Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
Pac-12 East Post-Week 10 Power Rankings
SEC Post-Week 10 Power Rankings 

<p> 2012 Heisman Trophy Contenders: Post-Week 10</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 05:00
Path: /college-basketball/top-college-basketball-storylines-november-and-beyond

Football is still in the heart of its season. The NBA is just getting started. And the election was only yesterday.

In other words, it may be easy for college basketball to fly under the radar for the start of its season this weekend.

If it’s tough to pull away from football or other responsibilities in November, we’d like to help steer you the key games, teams, players and trends to watch as the college basketball season gets started Friday.

Early season tournaments and key non-conference games could shape the season to come and perhaps some NCAA Tournament resumes come March. Here’s what we’re watching through the season’s first month:

1. Kentucky’s title defense
The Kentucky-Indiana series is on hiatus, but that doesn’t mean either team will hurt for major matchups early in the year. By Dec. 1, Kentucky will have faced Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame and Baylor with only the game against the Bears taking place in Lexington. With those kinds of matchups, John Calipari should have a pretty good idea of how freshmen Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress, NC State transfer Ryan Harrow and holdover Kyle Wiltjer mesh with enough time before the Wildcats visit Louisville at the end of December. Kentucky is 38-3 in November and December under Calipari, with all three losses coming to NCAA Tournament-bound teams on the road or at a neutral site.
Related: Kentucky team preview

2. Shabazz Muhammad’s eligibility
The NCAA already cleared freshman Ryan Anderson, but the Bruins are still awaiting word on the status for their other star rookie. Even with the investigation into Muhammad’s amateur status crawling along, it may be unlikely he starts the season anyway after sustaining a shoulder injury. UCLA’s first major test is Nov. 19 in the Legends Classic with a possible game against No. 1 Indiana the following day.
Related: UCLA team preview

3. A loaded Battle 4 Atlantis field (Nov. 22-24)
The top early-season tournament will be on an island, but not in Maui. The Battle 4 Atlantis boasts a field deep enough that even the consolation games could feature would-be NCAA Tournament teams. Second-round games between Louisville and Missouri, which would bring a matchup All-American point guards Peyton Siva and Phil Pressey, and Memphis and Duke would be mandatory viewing on the day after Thanksgiving. Minnesota and Stanford, two teams optimistic after runs in the NIT last season, are also in the bracket.
Related: Louisville team preview

4. Aircraft carrier/military base games
Last season opened with North Carolina defeating Michigan State 67-55 on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson. The idea spread for the start of this season with Syracuse-San Diego State in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Midway in San Diego, Florida-Georgetown aboard the USS Midway in Jacksonville, Fla., and Connecticut-Michigan State at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Whether these outdoor games are losing their luster or if they remain a special event, each game this year is a compelling early season matchup.
Related: Michigan State team preview

5. A potential matchup between UCLA and Indiana
Both teams would need to win their opening round games in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Indiana against Georgia and UCLA against Georgia -- to advance to a final. (Both could lose their opening round games and face each other in a consolation game, but that wouldn’t be quite as interesting.) If Muhammad is eligible, the nation’s top freshman class will face the nation’s No. 1 team and potential national player of the year in Cody Zeller.
Related: Indiana team preview

6. Kevin Ollie’s first test against Michigan State (Nov. 9)
For the first time since 1985-86 Connecticut will open a season without Jim Calhoun calling the shots. Calhoun’s predecessor, Dom Perno, started 8-0 that season with the first loss coming to a Calhoun-coached Northeastern team. Ollie’s first game as head coach will be tough against Michigan State in Germany. By Dec. 4, Ollie’s first team will have played in Europe, the Virgin Islands and Madison Square Garden.

7. Duke’s early season schedule
Duke is part of the loaded field in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but the Blue Devils also will be tested beyond the tournament. Nov. 13 will bring a machup between the defending national champion Kentucky and a team that exited the NCAA Tournament with a loss to 15th-seeded Lehigh. Mason Plumlee’s inside game will be tested against Nerlens Noel and MInnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe while freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon will draw an early matchup against Ohio State’s ace defender Aaron Craft.
Related: Duke team preview

8. Tony Mitchell vs. Doug McDermott (Nov. 9)
Creighton’s Doug McDermott and North Texas’ Tony Mitchell both showed up on Athlon’s preseason All-America teams. In the Missouri Valley and Sun Belt conferences, neither will encounter players of their caliber too often. Here’s a key matchup on the first day of the season between two of the best players from outside of the major conferences.
Related: Q&A with Doug McDermott

9. Barometer games in the Puerto Rico Tipoff (Nov. 15-18)
Tennessee and Oklahoma State both have aspirations of reaching the NCAA Tournament after missing the field a year ago. The Volunteers are looking forward to having Jarnell Stokes for a full season, but his frontcourt bash brother Jeronne Maymon is injured. Meanwhile, the Cowboys hope they can build around freshman point guard Marcus Smart for a return to the NCAA Tournament field. Atop the bracket is ACC contender NC State, which adds its own key freshman in Rodney Purvis.
Related: NC State team preview

10. Long Beach State’s brutal early season schedule
Like it did a year ago, Big West favorite Long Beach State isn’t taking shortcuts with its early season schedule. The 49ers start with North Alabama but then the schedule is as follows: at USC, North Carolina, at Arizona, at Fresno State, at Loyola Marymount, Fresno State (again), at Syracuse, at Ohio State, BYU-Hawaii, at UCLA -- all before Christmas. Meanwhile, Long Beach State will have to play part of that without transfers Keala King (Arizona State) and Tony Freeland (DePaul), who won’t be eligible until December. In a similar strech to start last season, Long Beach State only defeated Pittsburgh, which seemed to say as much about the Panthers as the 49ers. Long Beach State still went on to finish 15-1 in conference and win a Tournament berth.

By David Fox


<p> Top College Basketball Storylines for November and beyond</p>
Post date: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 - 04:38
Path: /nascar/nascar-news-notes-week-10

A Goodyear tire test Tuesday and Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway could provide a clue as to how racy NASCAR’s 2013 Sprint Cup car can be.

While the focus will be on tires at the test, NASCAR also will experiment with the car in hopes of making it easier for drivers to run closer together. One of the reasons mentioned this year for the relative lack of cautions was that it was so hard to race close together for a stretch, although Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski showed it can be done late in last weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, said Monday that “there are some things that we are working on that show promise” and could create tighter racing when the cars debut next season.

He noted that officials are experimenting with the car’s underbody, along with the front of it and the rear spoiler.

Andy Graves, Toyota’s Cup manager, notes that when a car is alone in clean air, it has maximum downforce, thus is compressed and as close to the ground as possible. When two cars are running near each other, the trailing car loses some of that air pressure and the car rises.

 “If the car is very pitch-sensitive and very ride-height sensitive, then, unfortunately, you lose more downforce when you’re behind someone,” Graves says.

 “We’re trying to develop from the splitter, the spoiler, studying the data, looking at wind tunnel information that is more advanced than it’s ever been; we’re trying to understand and come up with some characteristics that performance stays the same whether you’re all by yourself or in traffic. That is going to help the racing.”

Pemberton said he’s confident that the new car will be better than when the current car debuted as the Car of Tomorrow in 2007.

“It goes back to us spending more time getting the car closer developed when we hand the car off,” he says. “It will be a far, far, better racing car to start off with and then the teams will take it to the next level.”

Brad Keselowski suggests not judging the car’s performance too early next season, though.

“The odds are that this car is not going to come out of the gate perfect,” he says. “It’s going to take time. But much like if you unveiled a new iPhone and rolled it out and said, ‘In a year we’ll have it working right,’ your customers probably aren’t going to be happy about that. I think we all know that and are braced for it, but we know long-term that this car is going to be part of the solution for getting NASCAR as strong as it possibly can be.”

If everything goes as NASCAR hopes, Graves says the cars should be easier to drive than the current cars but says the driver ability will still matter.

“Making cars hard to drive, that’s not what separates talent on the race track,” he says. “It’s all the other intangibles. It’s operating in traffic from setting someone up for the pass, it’s managing your tires, managing the race, understanding fuel mileage. There’s a lot of different aspects, in my opinion, rather than making the cars hard to drive and say the best driver is going to be the guy that best manages that.”

NEW FAVORITE  At one point during last weekend’s race at Texas, the crowd roared when Brad Keselowski took the lead. He missed that.

“I would have liked to have heard that,” Keselowski said. “That’s one of my biggest regrets of being a race car driver is missing out on those moments. In other sports, like football or basketball or baseball when they do something and the crowd cheers, you really feel it, (but) racing, you’ve got none of that. It’s really a big bummer because I would have loved to have heard that.”

Keselowski knows that he’s gained fans during this Chase as he battles five-time champion Jimmie Johnson for the championship.

“I think I have a lot of Jimmie-hater fans,” said Keselowski, who trails Johnson by seven points with two races to go.

“I’m not sure how I feel about it. I try really hard to engage a very informed and positive fan base. That might not be necessarily along those lines, but I’ll take every fan I can get.”

Keselowski understands why some fans feel the way they do toward Johnson.

“It’s American culture, build somebody up just so you can tear them down, whether it’s the president or sports star,” he said. “It’s just American culture. Maybe one day I’ll be so fortunate as to be torn down.”

CHARGING  Although not a title contender, Kyle Busch has scored 274 points in the Chase, fifth-most among all drivers. Busch is coming off a third-place finish at Texas last weekend, his fifth top-5 finish in the Chase.

“I wish we were in the deal,” Busch said after last weekend’s race at Texas, “but that’s what next year is for.”

TITLE RACES  With two races to go, Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse are tied for the points lead in the Nationwide Series. Austin Dillon is third, 21 points behind them.

In the Camping World Truck Series, James Buescher has a 15-point lead on Ty Dillon with Timothy Peters 25 points back and Parker Kligerman 27 points out with two races to go.

PIT STOPS  NASCAR announced Tuesday that comedian Howie Mandel will host the Sprint Cup Series Awards program on Nov. 30 in Las Vegas. ... Donny Schatz won the World of Outlaws championship driving for Tony Stewart’s team. ... Kyle Larson, a development driver for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, won the K&N Pro Series East championship last weekend with a sixth-place finish in the season finale at Rockingham Speedway. ... Sunday’s Cup race marks Danica Patrick’s 10th and final one of the season. She is coming off her career-best Cup finish of 24th last weekend at Texas. ... Jimmie Johnson, victorious last weekend at Texas, has won 22 races in the Chase. Next on the list is Tony Stewart with 11 Chase victories.

by Dustin Long
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<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long updates on the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup car, Bradk Keselowski's popularity in the Chase and Kyle Busch's bot streak.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 - 18:54