Articles By All

All taxonomy terms: College Football, Texas Longhorns, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/texas-longhorns-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Texas Longhorns check in at No. 11 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Malcolm Brown, RB
The Cibolo native had an outstanding freshman campaign, compiling 742 yards and five touchdowns in just 10 games. Brown was named the AP’s Big 12 Newcomer of the Year last season, and he had 100-yard efforts against UCLA, Oklahoma State and Kansas. If the Horns passing game improves and defenses don’t key on the running game, Brown could have a monster sophomore year.

Trap Game: West Virginia (Oct. 6)
The Mountaineers were a BCS team a year ago, but how seriously will the Longhorns take the former Big East champions? WVU has an electric offense with senior quarterback Geno Smith and two 1,000-yard receivers, and coach Dana Holgorsen is a familiar Big 12 name from his days as the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator. This game is in Austin but is sandwiched in between the Oklahoma State and Oklahoma contests. Texas cannot afford an uninspired performance against the new league member.

Upset Alert: at Texas Tech (Nov. 3)
The Red Raiders do not play much defense, but quarterback Seth Doege leads a Tech aerial attack that can score in bunches. Many Big 12 foes have been upset in Lubbock over the years, and the Longhorns must make sure they play a solid game when meeting their longtime rival. Texas ran all over the Tech defense last season, and Mack Brown’s crew will need more of the same to not get surprised like Oklahoma a year ago.

Defensive MVP: Alex Okafor, DE
The All-Big 12 pass rusher will be a top All-America candidate in 2012. Okafor had 58 tackles last season with seven sacks. He also totaled 17 quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. Along with Jackson Jeffcoat, Okafor is part of one of the top defensive end duos in the country. The defensive line will be excellent once again, and Okafor is major reason the Longhorns will have one of the nation’s top defenses this season.

Breakout Player: Jaxon Shipley, WR
The younger brother of former UT star and current Bengals receiver Jordan will be a favorite target as a sophomore. In 2011 as a freshman, Shipley had 44 catches for 607 yards and three touchdowns in just 10 games. He showed his potential with over 120 receiving yards against Iowa State and Baylor, plus an 89-yard, one-score effort against Oklahoma. Shipley should have a very productive sophomore season.

Unsung Hero: Carrington Byndom, DB
Much of the talk — and deservedly so — when it comes to the stellar Texas secondary revolves around All-Big 12 safety Kenny Vaccaro and the Defensive Freshman of the Year in the league, cornerback Quandre Diggs. However, Byndom is a talent at the other corner and many thought he deserved more recognition than the honorable mention honor from the Big 12’s coaches. He had 58 tackles, 15 pass breakups and two interceptions last year and is a player to watch in 2012.

Biggest Game: Oklahoma (Oct. 13)
You may have noticed this one on the schedule. Besides the usual intensity that goes with the Red River Rivalry, the fact is that the hated Sooners have dominated the Big 12 for a good part of the last decade. There is no denying that the Longhorns have not played on an elite level the last two seasons, but a win over Oklahoma could be a springboard for a 10-win season and a symbol that Texas is back.

Revenge Game: Baylor (Oct. 20)
The Horns won 12 in a row over the Bears from 1998-2009, but the boys from Waco have won this game the last two seasons. Obviously NFL first-round selections Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright had a lot to do with those victories, but Art Briles has raised the level of the BU program. Texas should be ready to go against Baylor, as the Horns do not want to become the first team in school-history to lose three straight versus the Bears.

Freshman To Watch: Johnathan Gray, RB
The electric back from Aledo was ranked the No. 7 player in the country in this year’s AC100. Moore set the all-time national record for total touchdowns with an astounding 205. He rushed for 10,889 yards during his illustrious high school career, while also compiling 1,244 receiving yards. Gray is obviously a scoring threat from anywhere on the field and will form a dynamic duo with Malcolm Brown in the backfield.

Newcomer To Watch: Brandon Moore, DT
The 6-foot-5, 335-pound transfer from East Mississippi Community College could be a supreme run stuffer for the Longhorns. Moore spent two seasons at the University of Alabama where he played under current UT tackles coach Bo Davis. Last year, he helped lead his JUCO team to a 12-0 record and national title. With Kheeston Randall gone, Moore could be a massive solution in the middle of the defense.

Position Battle: Linebackers
Junior Jordan Hicks is the only linebacker on the roster with significant experience after the departure of leading tacklers Emmanuel Acho and Keenan Robinson. The senior duo combined for a whopping 237 tackles a year ago, with 29 of those for loss. Sophomore Steve Edmond had 16 tackles last season, and he has the size and ability to be a playmaker in the middle for Manny Diaz. Speedy Demarco Cobbs should fill the other outside role, but depth and inexperience could be major issues.

Related Texas Content

Texas Longhorns 2012 Team Preview
Texas Longhorns Top 10 Players for 2012

Has Mack Brown Lost His Edge?

The Top 10 Texas Longhorns Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Texas Football History

Texas Longhorns Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Texas Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Texas Longhorns 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-21
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 21, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Won 9 of 11, five of them without Matt Kemp.

 2. Orioles—Closing in on June with best record in American League.

 3. Rangers—Lost four of seven vs. sub-.500 teams.

 4. Braves—In the midst of what could be 41 straight vs. winning teams.

 5. Rays—Scored 13 runs in last five games, but managed to win two.

 6. Nationals—Stephen Strasburg beats Orioles with arm and bat.

 7. Blue Jays—Casey Janssen has three perfect saves.

 8. Yankees—Only 8-11 since Mo Rivera’s last save.

 9. Marlins—Best team in baseball this month.

10. Cardinals—Costly injuries have caused evaporation of division lead.

11. Reds—Ended the weekend within a half-game of St. Louis.

12. Indians—Batting .264 vs. righthanders, just .210 vs. lefties.

13. Phillies—Finally jumped over Mets to get out of cellar.

14. Tigers—Austin Jackson (not Fielder or Cabrera) has Tigers’ best OPS.

15. Mets—Tough luck for Johan Santana: 1-2, 2.89 ERA.

16. Giants—13 players have outhomered the Giants this month.

17. A’s—Josh Reddick is only bright spot offensively now.

18. White Sox—Showed the Cubs who their daddy is.

19. Red Sox—Starting pitching has made an about-face.

20. Diamondbacks—Welcome sight getting Chris Young back in lineup.

21. Mariners—Swept Rockies in Denver without throwing ace King Felix.

22. Angels—Fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher; improved 0.2 runs/game.

23. Pirates—Paltry .254 OBP in May leaves offense in trouble.

24. Astros—Winning record at home, getting killed on the road.

25. Brewers—Ryan Braun swinging hot bat in May (.381).

26. Royals—Irving Falu has 12 hits in seven major league games.

27. Padres—Have two fewer home runs than Josh Hamilton.

28. Twins—Breaking even (3-3) against their own division this season.

29. Rockies—Rockies are crashing and burning.

30. Cubs—Bryan LaHair is fifth in majors with a 1.044 OPS.

Teaser:
<p> Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our&nbsp;MLB&nbsp;Power Rankings for May 21, 2012.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 05:14
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-texas-rivals
Body:

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Texas' biggest rivals.

• What's the difference between a Texas A&M football player and a dollar?
You can get four quarters out of a dollar.

• A man in a bar leans over to the guy next to him and asks, "Wanna hear an Oklahoma joke?" The guy next to him replies, "Look, fella, I'm six feet tall, 200 pounds, and I'm an Oklahoma grad. The guy next to me is 6-2, 225, and he's an Oklahoma grad. The big dude next to him is 6-5, weighs 250, and he's an Oklahoma grad. You still wanna tell that joke?" The first man replies: "Not if I'm gonna have to explain it three times."

• What do you get when you cross Texas Tech with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.

• Why do Oklahoma football players like smart women?
Opposites attract.

• How many Oklahoma freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
None. That’s a sophomore course.

• Did you hear what happened to the Oklahoma fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home?
He moved.

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Texas Tech fan?
A tattoo.

• How do you get an Oklahoma graduate off your front porch?
You pay for the pizza.

• What do you call 20 Texas A&M fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• Things you will never hear an Oklahoma fan say:
I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex. 

Related Texas Content

Texas Longhorns 2012 Team Preview
Texas Longhorns Top 10 Players for 2012

Texas Longhorns 2012 Team Predictions
The Top 10 Texas Longhorns Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Texas Football History

Texas Longhorns Cheerleader Gallery

Has Mack Brown Lost His Edge?

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Texas Rivals</p>
Post date: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 02:23
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-21
Body:

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

Interleague play kicked off on Friday, and while series that pit Arizona against Kansas City or Miami in Cleveland may not do it for baseball purists or even the casual fan, there were still some more appealing match ups on display.

The Cubs and White Sox got reacquainted this past weekend at Wrigley, with the Sox playing the role of rude house guests and sweeping the offensively deficient North Siders, along with the rivalry by the Bay - Oakland vs. San Francisco, and the battle for the Lone Star State between Texas and Houston. Heck, the Beltway Series for once was deemed important because it featured two first-place teams in Baltimore (AL East) and Washington (NL East).

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/14-05/20):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB AVG OPS
1. Mike Trout LAA OF 7 2 4 4 0.444 1.257
2. J.P. Arencibia TOR C 7 4 10 0 0.360 1.305
3. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 5 4 10 0 0.444 1.333
4. Jonathan Lucroy* MIL C 5 2 11 2 0.400 1.244
5. Adam Jones BAL OF 5 4 8 1 0.387 1.230
6. Ryan Braun MIL OF 5 1 7 3 0.444 1.113
7. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 6 4 7 1 0.320 1.157
8. Carlos Ruiz PHI C 6 1 7 2 0.476 1.227
9. Prince Fielder DET 1B 6 2 8 0 0.464 1.326
10. Jose Bautista TOR 3B/OF 7 3 7 1 0.308 1.033
11. Hunter Pence HOU OF 6 3 5 0 0.393 1.219
12. Justin Upton ARI OF 6 1 5 3 0.304 0.887
13. Ian Desmond* WAS SS 4 2 6 2 0.344 0.969
14. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 5 2 4 0 0.625 1.700
15. Matt Holliday STL OF 6 3 6 0 0.308 0.999
16. A.J. Pierzynski* CWS C 5 1 6 0 0.481 1.148
17. Rod Barajas* PIT C 4 3 5 0 0.471 1.533
18. Martin Prado ATL 3B/OF 5 1 4 0 0.519 1.400
19. Alfonso Soriano* CHC OF 4 3 6 0 0.360 1.207
20. Angel Pagan* SF OF 6 0 3 2 0.440 1.108
21. Mike Aviles BOS 2B/3B/SS 4 3 6 0 0.345 1.138
22. Carlos Lee* HOU 1B/OF 4 2 6 0 0.407 1.115
23. Cody Ross* BOS OF 5 2 5 0 0.438 1.488
24. B.J. Upton TB OF 4 0 1 5 0.360 0.848
25. Corey Hart MIL OF 7 2 4 0 0.323 0.957

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Youth Being Served

Interleague play aside, there were plenty of offensive fireworks this past week and over the past seven days, the best hitter on the diamond has been one of its youngest. And no, I'm not talking about Bryce Harper. Anaheim's Mike Trout has settled in nicely into the leadoff spot for the Angels, as the 20-year-old outfielder topped all at the plate last week, thanks to a .444 average, seven runs scored, two home rusn and four RBIs. To put it another way, Trout hit as many home runs last week, in 27 at-bats, then his teammate, Albert Pujols, hit in his first 146 at-bats of the 2012 season.

That's not to say that Harper was horrible last week, as the Nationals' 19-year-old outfielder posted a .269-2-4 line of his own, matching Trout with seven runs scored.  Harper also has out-paced, if you will, his fellow uber-prospect Trout in terms of media coverage and national attention. But to this point, however, there's no question that Trout (.355-4-11, 15 R, 6 SB for the season) has out-performed Harper (.244-2-7, 14 R, 1 SB) where it really counts, at the plate.

And not to be outdone, Adam Jones and Andrew McCutchen, who aren't exactly exactly "old" at 26 and 25 respetively, enjoyed pretty strong showings last week. Jones (.308-14-29) extendced his hitting streak to 12 games on Saturday and has hit four home runs over his last six.

McCutchen on the other hand, has slugged seven in May, including two two-homer games in the last week alone. For the month, McCutchen is hitting .389 with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. McCutchen has been raking against left-handers, as he has collected 10 hits in his last 15 at-bats versus southpaws, after getting off to a 8-for-25 start.

Catchers Showing They Can Also Handle the Bat

Besides Trout, those who enjoyed the most success at the plate these past seven days, are those who take up residence behind it when on the field. Among the past week's top 25 hitters (below), 20 percent of them (five) are catchers. That's right, catchers, and not one of them is named Mauer, McCann, Molina (pick one), Montero (Jesus or Miguel) or even Posey.

Toronto's J.P. Arencibia and Jonathan Lucroy each used one monster game to get them in last week's top five. Arencibia socked two home runs and drive in six against the Mets on Friday, as all of his home runs and RBIs from last week came in a span of three games versus both New York teams. Lucroy, meanwhile, did just about all of his week's damage (3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI) on Sunday against the Twins.

At this point, seeing Carlos Ruiz' and A.J. Pierzynski's names on this list probably shouldn't be that surprising. Ruiz is currently top fantasy catcher according to Yahoo! as he leads the position in average (.355) and RBIs (29), and is tied for the lead in runs scored with 21 and tied for second with seven home runs. Pierzynski is fourth as he has maintained a .301 average through the middle of May, along with six home runs and 27 RBIs. Lucroy, but the way is fourth and Arencibia is currently fifth among all catchers, thanks to their production these past seven days.

DL Watch

- Lance Berkman had just finally got back on the field and in the line up a week ago Sunday after a calf injury sidelined him for nearly a month. Then on Saturday, he lef the game against the Dodgers early with an apparent right knee injury. The early diagnosis is that it's a torn ACL, which will be confirmed with an MRI he is scheduled to undergo later today. If it is a torn ACL, then not only is Berkman's 2012 season over, but the 36-year-old's career could be in jeopardy. He is not signed beyond this season.

- Stephen Strasburg left his start against Baltimore on Sunday with what the Nationals are calling a "tired arm." He went five innings against the Orioles, giving up three runs (one earned) on four hits while striking out eight in five innings and also hit his first career home run in the Nats' 9-3 win. Strasburg was already reportedly under an innnings limit in his his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, so this latest development could result in the team finidng ways to get him more rest between starts, meaning he could be skipped in the rotation here and there. Definitely a situation that bears watching.

- Emilio Bonifacio, who was comfortably leading the majors with 20 stolen bases, was placed on the DL on Saturday after injuring his right thumb in the Marlins' game in Cleveland on Friday. That was just one of several moves the Marlins made this weekend as the team optioned struggling first baseman Gaby Sanchez (.197-1-11) to AAA and recalled outfielder Chris Coghlan from New Orleans.

- Paul Konerko got hit in the face by a Jeff Samardzija during Friday's interleague game, causing him to miss the next two games versus the Cubs with a swollen left eye. He could be back in the lineup on Tuesday, when the White Sox open up a set against Minnesota.

- Austin Jackson hasn't been in Detroit's line up since last Wednesday as he's been sidelined by an abdominal injury. He hopes to be able to return on Tuesday, the Tigers' next game. Jackson is off to a great start at the plate, hitting .331 with five home runs, 17 RBIs, six stolen bases and 29 runs scored.

- Tim Linecum left his start on Sunday against Oakland after four innings because of an apparent thumb injury he suffered in a collision at home plate. He was able to finish the innning, but did not return. The Giants have not said whether Lincecum sustained an injury or not, but it's possible he could miss his next scheduled start on Friday in Miami.

- Chipper Jones injured his calf on Friday against Tampa Bay and missed the next two games. He is questionable for todya's game in Cincinnati. Jones, who's in his last season, has already missed quite a bit of time this season, so this shouldn't come as any surprise. Juan Francisco has received most of the starts at third in Jones' absence.

- Allen Craig, who began the season on the DL, returned there on Friday due to an ongoing hamstring injury. The versatile Craig was hitting .373 with five home runs and 19 RBIs in just 51 at-bats prior to the injury. His health and production will be even more critical to the Cardinals' success this season due to the presumed loss of the aforementioned Berkman.

On the mound, we had Justin Verlander's near no-no on Friday against the Pirates, which was broken up with one out in the ninth. Even though Verlander had to "settle" for the one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts and just two walks, he wasn't even the most dominant starting pitcher over the past two weeks.

That distinction goes to Zack Greinke, who gave up just one run in 21 2/3 innings over his last three starts. Verlander's 12 punchouts weren't even the best performance on his own team. Max Scherzer whiffed 15 Pirates in seven innings on Sunday, a welcome performance considering he was 2-3 with a 6.26 ERA entering yesterday's start.

And speaking of the Pirates, who would have thought that their starting rotation would produce solid fantasy contributors this season? Over the last two weeks, both James McDonald and Brad Lincoln have been among the best in fantasy baseball, while Erik Bedard (3.07 ERA, 44 K in 41 IP) has been sport-start worthy several weeks.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Zack Grenke MIL 21.2 2 24 0.42 0.65
2. Justin Verlander DET 22.0 3 26 1.64 0.68
3. Clayton Kershaw LAD 24.0 2 0 0.75 0.79
4. Carlos Zambrano* MIA 23.0 2 18 1.17 0.91
5. Bud Norris* HOU 13.0 2 17 0.69 0.69
6. Brandon Beachy ATL 15.0 2 12 0.60 0.73
7. Scott Diamond* MIN 19.1 3 13 1.40 0.98
8. Aaron Harang* SD 15.0 2 8 0.60 0.67
9. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 21.1 2 9 0.84 0.98
10. Josh Johnson MIA 21.0 2 16 2.14 0.95
11. Brandon Morrow TOR 20.0 2 25 3.15 1.05
12. Ervin Santana* LAA 21.0 2 16 1.71 1.14
13. Tim Hudson ATL 21.2 2 7 1.25 1.02
14. Brad Lincoln* PIT 10.2 2 11 1.69 0.84
15. James McDonald* PIT 13.2 1 19 2.63 0.80
16. Neftali Feliz TEX 16.2 2 19 2.16 1.20
17. Ted Lilly LAD 19.1 2 13 2.33 0.98
18. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 19.1 1 21 2.33 1.03
19. Yu Darvish TEX 13.0 2 14 2.77 0.92
20. Bruce Chen* KC 19.2 3 16 2.75 1.22

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. R.A. Dickey, NYM: at Pittsburgh (Tues.), San Diego (Sun.)
The knuckle-baller (5-1, 3.75 ERA) shoots to the top of this list thanks to not one, but two, appetizing match ups this week. On Tuesday he will take the mound in Pittsburgh and also is scheduled to go on Sunday at home versus San Diego. The Pirates and Padres have two of the worst offenses in all of baseball as they rank dead last and next-to-last, respectively, in the majors in runs scored and also are at the bottom in batting average. Dickey also has produced a quality start in four of his last five outings.

2. James McDonald, PIT: New York Mets (Tues.)
Snapped his streak of four straight quality starts on Thursday against Washington (5 2/3 IP, 4 H 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 K), but still got the win. He’s won three of his last four starts with a 2.60 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings pitched during that span.

3. Wei Yin-Chen, BAL: Kansas City (Sat.)
The Taiwanese left-hander is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his home starts this season, having beaten the Rangers and Yankees (twice) at Camden Yards.

4. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Minnesota (Tues.)
Prior to getting lit up by the Angels on Wednesday (10 H, 7 ER in 6 IP), Floyd was 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA in his first seven starts. Minnesota one of the AL’s worst offenses, 12th in runs, 11th in batting average and last in home runs entering Monday.

5. Scott Diamond, MIN: at Chicago White Sox (Wed.)
Diamond has won all three of his starts since being called up on May 8. He gave up three runs on eight hits in Friday’s start in Milwaukee, but they were the first runs he had surrendered this season and his ERA currently sits at 1.40. The White Sox have scored the fewest runs and have the lowest batting average (.210) against left-handers of any AL team.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 14.1 1 9 16 0 0.00 0.84
2. Jim Johnson BAL 13.0 0 9 9 0 1.38 0.54
3. Craig Kimbrel ATL 11.0 0 9 19 0 2.45 0.91
4. Pedro Strop* BAL 15.2 2 3 12 5 0.57 0.89
5. Santiago Casilla SF 12.0 0 9 11 0 1.50 0.92
6. Kenley Jansen LAD 11.2 1 5 17 4 1.54 0.86
7. Jose Arredondo* CIN 12.2 2 1 18 0 1.42 0.63
8. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.1 1 1 22 5 0.00 0.83
9. Robbie Ross* TEX 16.2 3 0 9 1 1.62 0.72
10. Ryan Cook* OAK 14.1 1 0 18 6 0.00 0.70
11. Darren O\'Day* BAL 14.1 2 0 14 1 1.26 0.63
12. Joe Nathan TEX 10.2 0 6 12 0 0.84 0.84
13. Chris Perez CLE 9.2 0 8 10 0 2.79 0.83
14. Wilton Lopez* HOU 15.0 2 0 15 4 1.80 0.67
15. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 9.1 0 7 13 0 2.89 0.75
16. Dale Thayer* SD 10.0 0 5 10 0 0.00 0.80
17. Joel Hanrahan PIT 10.2 0 8 12 0 2.53 1.13
18. Alexi Ogando* TEX 16.0 1 0 17 1 1.13 0.75
19. Kevin Gregg* BAL 8.1 2 0 8 0 0.00 0.36
20. Brett Myers HOU 11.0 0 8 5 0 2.45 0.91

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

— by Mark Ross, published on May 21, 2012

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a look at what took place this past weekend on the fantasy baseball diamond</p>
Post date: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 01:00
All taxonomy terms: Miami Marlins, Ozzie Guillen, MLB, Monthly
Path: /mlb/exclusive-qa-ozzie-guillen
Body:

With a few poorly chosen words, Ozzie Guillen nearly lost his dream job.

Quoted in Time Magazine saying he “loved” Fidel Castro, Guillen set off a firestorm in Miami’s Cuban-American community. Angry protestors and grandstanding local politicians alike called for the Miami Marlins to fire Guillen just a few games into his tenure.

His heartfelt apology broke new ground in a speak-first, think-later career. The resulting five-game team suspension also left him chastened, but not fundamentally changed, bloodied but not defeated.

It also left Guillen $150,000 lighter in the wallet.

Baseball’s first-ever “shock” manager spoke with Mike Berardino, sports columnist at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, about a variety of topics, including the Castro controversy for Athlon Sports Monthly:

Athlon Sports: Do you feel like this is a fresh start for you after the Fidel Castro comments or are you on probation with your Marlins bosses?
Ozzie Guillen: I put myself on probation. Me. Nobody else. It’s about growing up and being better and being careful. Don’t trust too many people. That was my problem. I put myself in that situation. To be honest with you, I don’t think I want to put myself in that same situation again with the Latino people. Man, I’m Latino. That’s the worst feeling ever. I felt like, ‘Wow.’ That’s not a good feeling. I don’t want to go through that feeling again. That’s why I put myself on that probation.

Wasn’t part of the problem your sense of humor and your willingness to make light of most subjects? Is that something you’ll have to rein in now that this has happened?
I don’t think I’m going to change. It’s just, ‘Be careful when you use your humor and who you talk to around you.’ That’s all it is. I made a mistake. I’m paying for it, and I’m here to make it better and to win some games and hopefully that happens.

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria spent $191 million on three players this offseason, an unprecedented spending spree on his part. How good can this team be?
The product is out there. There’s no doubt, if I was a baseball fan I would pay to watch these guys play. Look at the lineup we have, the pitching staff we have, how we’re going to play the game. Now the fans don’t have an excuse: ‘The ballpark is too far away. It’s raining. It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s the Dolphins’ ballpark.’ Now we are here and hopefully we play good to make sure those people come back and watch the Marlins play.

How has it been managing Hanley Ramirez so far?
Awesome. For some reason, people couldn’t wait for Hanley to be what Hanley was last year. Even his teammates, media, fans, front office. Everyone was watching Hanley like a hawk. This kid has been great. A lot of people credit me. I’m not going to take any credit because I didn’t do anything to him. I just said, ‘Hey, you’ve got two choices: You’re going to play happy or you’re going to play very upset because you’re playing third base. You pick.’ And I thought he was going to test me a little bit this spring about, ‘I only want two at-bats,’ or ‘I don’t want to make this trip,’ or ‘I don’t want to do this new routine.’ He did everything we asked him to do, and a little bit more, too. I pushed him to see how far he’d go. Now he’s Hanley Ramirez the way we want him to be. Very excited. Happy. Got a smile on his face, playing a great third base. I couldn’t be more pleased.

One of those free-agent acquisitions was Mark Buehrle, who helped you win a World Series with the White Sox. What do you hope these other pitchers will learn from watching Buehrle and how smart he is on the mound?
I don’t think Buehrle’s that smart. That’s why he’s so good. I’m serious. Sometimes people think too much: ‘Who’s at the plate?’ They’re thinking, ‘Oh, my God.’ (Forget) it. I’m going to feed you my best stuff. I don’t care who’s at the plate. That’s all I have. That’s how I’m going to pitch. That’s it. I don’t know why pitchers change.

I got that attitude from (Greg) Maddux and (Tom) Glavine. I played behind those guys in Atlanta. I don’t care who’s at the plate. I’m not going to change because of who’s at the plate. If the best pitch I have is a changeup, I’m going to throw a changeup. If he hits a home run, good. You beat me with my best pitch. That’s why pitchers get in trouble a lot because they try to figure it out. They can’t figure it out.

How about the hidden competitive advantages you now have at brand-new Marlins Park? Your players are raving about the huge upgrades in the video room and the HydroWorx underwater treadmill.
I’m an old-school man, bro. I’m very old school. All those things they have there, good for them. Are they going to help? I hope. That’s why they have them there. But I’m an old-school man. That kind of stuff helps the baseball because everybody has it, but I don’t put that much attention on that.

And the home run sculpture out in left-center?
Mr. Loria made it. It’s beautiful. I hope those (mechanical) Marlins, we overuse them. I hope to see those guys moving a lot and diving and a lot of splashing because if that’s moving, that means we’re doing something good. We expect that. We all hope we’re going to use that statue a lot. It’s pretty nice. It’s different. Everything in this ballpark is different. I went to a lot of ballparks in my career. The colors are different. The seats are different. The Jumbotron is different. The suites are a lot different. And it’s all great. This is maybe the best ballpark in baseball right now.

So you’re feeling pretty good about this year.
We got everything to win, but there’s one thing missing: A good manager. That’s the one thing we’re missing.
 

Teaser:
<p> Ozzie Guillen of the Miami Marlins speaks on a variety of topics.</p>
Post date: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 21:27
All taxonomy terms: Hakeem Olajuwon, NBA, Monthly
Path: /nba/dream-shake-master
Body:

For almost two decades, Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake” move made him one of the NBA’s top go-to superstars.

That signature move — a combination of quick upper-body twitches, show-the-ball feints and pump fakes combined with nimble, soccer-influenced footwork — was as fluid as water, and as difficult to stop as a raging flood. Olajuwon used that move and a feathery shooting touch to score almost 27,000 points, lead the Houston Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and ’95, land a spot among the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players and open the doors to the Hall of Fame.

And almost a decade after his retirement, Olajuwon remains a go-to superstar, and the Dream Shake is still the reason.

Players from around the league — from a classic low-post guy like Dwight Howard to perimeter-oriented threats like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James — have made the pilgrimage to Houston, seeking Olajuwon’s insights on how to build or refine a back-to-the-basket game.

“When I watch games on TV, I see so many opportunities where guys are not aware and (not) recognizing the chances their opponents are giving them,” says Olajuwon, who splits his time between Houston and his family home in Amman, Jordan. “I see them try to make a move and it is cut off because there was not an opening. The first thing you always have to do is take what the opponent is giving you. If he keeps giving it, you keep taking it.”

The beauty of Olajuwon’s mastery of footwork is that his move can instantly morph to deliver whatever is needed for any given situation.

“You are trying to get to the most commanding position,” Olajuwon says. “So when I have made the first move, what I am really trying to do is get to the second move. That’s where the real advantage is. That’s how I am trying to get them to think. One move off the previous move is automatic.”

While it may be unpredictable to the defense, the results are very predictable. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of its effectiveness came in Game 2 the 1995 Western Conference Finals, where the Rockets were facing the Spurs and David Robinson, the newly minted league MVP.
In a play that is probably his most celebrated, Olajuwon crossed over Robinson on the baseline, stopped in the paint, showed the ball, reverse pivoted, showed it again, and when the Admiral finally took the bait and went airborne, reversed once more, ducked under Robinson and gently dropped the ball in off the glass.

“The great shotblockers, guys like David Robinson, they can recover,” Olajuwon explains. “That is when you have to go to three or four moves…Always stay one step ahead.”

Yes, it’s one thing to get posterized by a freight-train dunk, but it’s quite another to get absolutely undressed by such a beautiful combination of skill and finesse.

Plays like that are the fruit not only of instruction, but of intuition and instinct, too. That is why Olajuwon teaches a balance between a physical approach — moves, counter-moves, fakes and spins — and a mental one — sense, intuition and anticipation.

“How do you maneuver? How to you change direction? How do you change speed? Do all the things that give you advantages. They have never even thought about these things before,” Olajuwon says. “Things that to me are all the weapons that you need to execute the offense. You break it down to basics.”

Olajuwon carefully tailors each tutorial to match each pupil’s skill set.

“I am not trying to teach everybody one move,” he says. “I am trying to give you the basics and the understanding. Then it is up to the individual to make it work best for him. With different players I want to examine their weaknesses, but mostly expand their strengths.”

For James, Olajuwon broke down the Dream Shake footwork so it would benefit his unique combination of size, skill, strength and quickness.

“(James) told me that he has been playing outside and he really wanted to establish his post moves,” Olajuwon says. “Almost every night he has an advantage over the guy who is guarding him. So it was about how to turn the outside game into an inside game using all of the same skills and strength. So when I see how he is separating from his guy now, I see easier shots. I see a game all over the floor that is very, very difficult to stop.”

In addition to Howard, Bryant and James, guys like Rashard Lewis, Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith and Hasheem Thabeet have sweated through workouts with Olajuwon.

“The recognition of players reaching out and realizing the importance of the post moves, that’s a huge compliment for me,” Olajuwon says. “And I know also that I can add value to players’ careers. There is no question about that.”

--By Michael Murphy for Athlon Sports Monthly
 

Teaser:
<p> Hakeem Olajuwon passes on wisdom to younger NBA players.</p>
Post date: Saturday, May 19, 2012 - 00:19
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-taking-stock-all-star-break
Body:

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has hit the all-star break this week, with no fantasy racing on the schedule. With the brief break in action, now is a great time to assess your year up to this point in the season, examine a few trends through the first 11 races and look ahead to next week's Coca-Cola 600.

While this year has seen a number of surprises, it’s also been somewhat predictable.

Defending series champion Tony Stewart picked up right where he left off in 2011, winning two races with new crew chief Steve Addington, and currently holding the seventh spot in the championship points. The No. 14 team has been up-and-down from week-to-week, however, with three finishes outside the top 20 to counter his two wins and four top 5s. Stewart is typically a slow starter, coming to life during the summer months and in the Chase, but it appears the defending champion is poised to continue his strong season throughout the entire year.

The Roush Fenway organization has been on its game thus far, with Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth sitting atop the standings, each with a win to their credit and separated by only two points. Last year's championship runner-up, Carl Edwards, has yet to show his full strength, but sits 10th in the standings. Biffle has been the most consistent driver up to this point in the season, with an average finish of 7.5, and is looking to become the first driver in NASCAR history to win a championship in all three touring series.

Fan-favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. has led the charge for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, scoring four top 5s and eight top 10s. While he is still looking to break that ever-daunting winless streak, Earnhardt is third in points and has been one consistently strong throughout the early part of the season.

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson was able to overcome a potentially season-long setback early in the year, when the National Car Racing Appeals Board, led by John Middlebrook, overturned a NASCAR penalty handed down to the No. 48 team after Daytona. Never missing a beat, Johnson is fifth in the standings and scored Hendrick Motorsports' 200th career win last Saturday in Darlington.

After a disappointing performance in 2011, Denny Hamlin has come back strong with new crew chief and defending champion Darian Grubb now calling the shots atop the pit box. Hamlin already has two wins to his credit, along with five top 5s and six top 10s, leading the way for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization.

Michael Waltrip Racing's Martin Truex Jr. has also been one of the more consistent drivers this season, earning four top 5s and seven top 10s in the first 11 races. Still battling a winless streak that dates back to 2007, Truex is sixth in points, in the midst of a contract year, and running stronger than he has in years. This promising start has led to a more confident driver, and thus, big fantasy points.

On the other side of the spectrum, a few teams and drivers have not lived up to expectations throughout the early part of the season.

Jeff Gordon's 20th season in the Sprint Cup Series has been disappointing, to say the least. Despite having strong cars nearly every week, Gordon's season has unraveled, leaving him 24th in points with only one top 5 and two top 10s and seven finishes outside the top 20.

Perhaps most notably, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing's two-car organization with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jamie McMurray has floundered. Team owner Chip Ganassi made some major changes during the off-season to help turn the team around. After a strong 2010, the EGR cars struggled for much of the 2011 season, leaving Ganassi to demand a shake-up behind the scenes. To date, however, those changes have produced few results. Montoya and McMurray are 19th and 20th in the standings, with zero top 5 finishes between them.

Keep an eye on this team through the summer months, though, as tracks such as Sonoma, Indianapolis and Watkins Glen are right around the corner. If the performance does not improve at these venues, perhaps more significant changes are in order.

So, now that we've reflected a bit on the early season performances, what does it mean for our fantasy outlook? Each week, we've listed a number of weekly favorites, undervalued picks and darkhorse drivers. In all, we have eight winners already in the season from those groups.

However, our picks have not always panned out. Our fantasy favorites have also struggled this season at times. Kasey Kahne finished 34th in Phoenix, Kyle Busch was 32nd in Bristol, Jeff Gordon was 21st in Kansas and Brad Keselowski was 15th in Darlington.

This goes to show, anything can happen once the cars take the green flag each weekend. As I try to mention each week, pay careful attention to each practice session and the best 10-lap average statistic before setting your lineup.

Also, at this point of the season, be sure to keep tabs on how many times you are starting a driver. In some leagues, drivers can only be used a certain number of times throughout the season. It can be very tempting to start someone like Earnhardt Jr. (who we have listed as our fantasy favorite three times this season) multiple times early in the year, but remember you might need him in the bank later in the season.

Now looking ahead to this weekend's action at Charlotte Motor Speedway: There are few opportunities in the Sprint Cup Series to get a preview of the action a week before your next race. The Sprint All-Star Race and Sprint Showdown are two events that can show you a lot in terms of what to expect for the annual Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend.

With nothing to lose and $1 million on the line, teams will be pulling out all the stops in preparation for the All-Star Race. This exhibition event allows crew chiefs and engineers the ability to try more aggressive and experimental setups, gaining knowledge and insight into how to make their car fast for 600 miles the following week.

Keep tabs on which teams and drivers are running strong in the Sprint Showdown, as well. Even if they are unable to transfer into the night's main event, fantasy players could learn a great deal for next week. This is where a lot of your darkhorse picks will come from.

So, enjoy this weekend's All-Star festivities. Take the time to examine your fantasy season thus far, take the early-season trends into consideration and keep a careful eye on this weekend's action to stay ahead of the curve heading into the Coca-Cola 600.


by Jay Pennell
Follow Jay on Twitter: @JayWPennell
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Fantasy NASCAR expert Jay Pennell reviews the Sprint Cup campaign as the circuit hits the All-Star weekend in Charlotte.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 14:58
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-west-virginia-no-12-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the West Virginia Mountaineers being named No. 12, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Dana Holgorsen’s West Virginia Mountaineers continue the countdown at No. 12 with two preseason All-Americans and seven players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts West Virginia will finish third in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will lead a prolific passing attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Dana Holgorsen's familiarity with the Big 12 will be beneficial in adjusting to a new league, and the Mountaineers should be in the hunt for the Big 12 title.”

Two West Virginia standouts were named preseason All-Americans. Geno Smith was voted second-team quarterback, and Tavon Austin was named to the second team at the all-purpose position. In addition, the WVU quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 2 nationally and best in the Big 12. The wide receivers group was rated No. 3 in the country and tops in the conference.

Seven Mountaineers earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including Smith, wide receiver Stedman Bailey and Austin at both wide receiver and punt returner on the first team. Offensive lineman Joe Madsen, defensive back Terence Garvin and kick returner Tavon Austin were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Jeff Braun and defensive lineman Will Clarke garnered third-team honors.

West Virginia Team Preview

West Virginia's Top 10 Players of 2012

West Virginia’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names West Virginia No. 12 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 10:39
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-mountaineers-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The West Virginia Mountaineers check in at No. 12 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Geno Smith, QB
After watching film of Big 12 defenses this summer, Smith should be one of the players most excited about West Virginia’s switch in conference affiliation. He threw for 4,385 yards and 31 scores last season, including 407 yards and six touchdowns in the Orange Bowl rout over Clemson. Defense hasn’t exactly been a strong suit in the Big 12, which should allow Smith a chance to shatter last season’s numbers. He also has plenty of help in the receiving corps, as Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will be two of the Big 12’s top wideouts in 2012.

Trap Game: at Texas Tech (Oct. 13)
West Virginia’s inaugural Big 12 schedule is manageable, but it has a huge test on Oct. 6 at Texas. The Mountaineers open conference play with a home date against Baylor, but the matchup against the Longhorns is almost a “welcome to the Big 12” type of game. Winning in Austin won’t be easy, but neither will be making another trip to Texas the following Saturday at Texas Tech. West Virginia should be favored in that game, but the Red Raiders won’t be an easy out at home.

Upset Alert: at Iowa State (Nov. 24)
The Mountaineers should be well aware of Iowa State’s upset potential, as the Cyclones ended Oklahoma State’s national title run on Friday night in November last season. The matchup in Ames occurs after a tough stretch of games for West Virginia, as the Mountaineers play Kansas State, TCU, at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma before closing the year against Iowa State and Kansas. Although West Virginia should be favored, history suggests this may not be as easy of a matchup as most expect.

Defensive MVP: Terence Garvin, S
The Mountaineers have to replace a handful of key contributors on defense, including All-Big East selections in defensive end Bruce Irvin, linebacker Najee Goode and cornerback Keith Tandy. The defense is undergoing some scheme changes, as coordinator Jeff Casteel departed for Arizona, and Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson were hired to serve as co-coordinators. West Virginia will be switching from a 3-3-5 to a 3-4 scheme, which puts Garvin under the spotlight. The senior will play a hybrid safety/linebacker role in 2012, which should help the Mountaineers cover the Big 12’s spread offenses. Garvin recorded 72 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year and needs to be one of the leaders for West Virginia on defense in 2012.

Injury Watch: Dustin Garrison, RB
West Virginia never managed to find a consistent rushing attack last year, but freshman running back Dustin Garrison was a bright spot. He rushed for 742 yards and six scores, while catching 24 passes for 201 yards. However, a good chunk of Garrison’s yards came against Bowling Green (291) and he did not have another 100-yard effort the rest of the year. Garrison suffered a torn ACL in Orange Bowl practices and his status for the season opener is uncertain. If he is sidelined early in the year, senior Shawne Alston and sophomore Andrew Buie will have to pickup the slack on the ground.

Breakout Player: Will Clarke, DE
Clarke isn’t a secret to West Virginia fans, as he recorded 34 stops and two sacks in 13 games last season. With Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin finishing their eligibility, Clarke needs to be more involved with the pass rush and become a disruptor up front. At 6-foot-6 and 269 pounds, he certainly has the physical tools to make life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

Unsung Hero: Joe Madsen, C
The offensive line wasn’t a strength for West Virginia last season, but Madsen played well enough to earn second-team All-Big East honors. He has made 38 starts since coming to Morgantown and will be one of the Big 12’s top centers. Madsen isn’t a household name, but his steady play is a huge asset for an offense that works primarily out of the shotgun.

Biggest Game: Oklahoma (Nov. 17)
With nine new conference mates, it’s certainly going to be a learning curve for West Virginia in its first year of Big 12 play. The schedule has its obstacles, including an Oct. 6 date at Texas and a Nov. 10 matchup at Oklahoma State. However, the Nov. 17 showdown against Oklahoma could decide the Big 12 title. West Virginia can push for a finish among the top three in the conference, but if it can knock off Oklahoma in Morgantown, the Mountaineers have to be thinking Big 12 title and a BCS bowl. 

Freshman to Watch: Jordan Thompson, WR
Is Thompson the next Tavon Austin? At 5-foot-7 and 159 pounds, Thompson certainly resembles Austin, but he is unproven. The true freshman caught 66 passes for 1,117 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior in high school and was rated as a top 100 recruit by the Houston Chronicle. Thompson is expected to contend for playing time at one of the inside receiver spots in 2012 and even if he doesn’t win a starting spot, he will see playing time this season.

Comeback Player: Josh Jenkins, OG
Jenkins hasn’t quite lived up to his recruiting hype, but his return will help bring stability to an offensive line that struggled throughout the 2011 season. Jenkins missed all of last season with a knee injury, but returned for spring practice and participated in the spring game. The senior is expected to start at left guard and could contend for All-Big 12 honors in 2012.

Newcomer to Watch: Isaiah Bruce, LB
The linebacking corps will be a point of focus for new defensive co-coordinators Joe DeForest and Keith Patterson. The Mountaineers are switching to a 3-4 scheme and have to replace first-team All-Big East performer Najee Goode. There’s experience returning, led by Jewone Snow, Doug Rigg and Jared Barber, but this unit lacks a playmaker. Terence Garvin is expected to play a hybrid safety/linebacker role, but Bruce’s emergence is critical to the play of West Virginia’s linebacking corps. The redshirt freshman had a strong spring and will be expected to start this year.

Position Battle: Linebackers
West Virginia’s depth chart doesn’t have many glaring position battles, but the linebacking corps is largely in flux going into fall camp. The coaching staff was pleased with the progress of Josh Francis and redshirt freshman Isaiah Bruce. Sophomore Jared Barber collected 23 tackles last season and is expected to start in 2012. West Virginia has talent, but is also breaking in a new 3-4 scheme. Do the Mountaineers have the depth to make things work at linebacker? Finding the right pieces to fill out the linebacking corps is going to be one of the top priorities for DeForest and Patterson this fall.

Related West Virginia Content

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Players for 2012

Is Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in West Virginia Football History

West Virginia Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About West Virginia Rivals

Teaser:
<p> West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 05:46
Path: /college-football/west-virginia-football-geno-smith-big-12s-best-quarterback
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 12 West Virginia. The Mountaineers are on the move from the Big East to the Big 12, and should own one of the league's top offenses this season. The defense is a work in progress, especially with a new scheme and the loss of a couple of key performers.

Is West Virginia's Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Smith looks like he’ll be the Big 12’s top quarterback, but the answer to that question probably depends on two factors: How will Smith adjust to a new set of defenses in his third year as a starter, and how will Landry Jones perform now that he has an entire offseason to prepare for life without receiver Ryan Broyles. In many statistical areas, Smith would have ranked third in the Big 12 last season – His 337.3 yards per game would have trailed only Brandon Weeden and Landry Jones, his 152.6 pass efficiency rating, 8.3 yards per pass attempt and 31 touchdown passes would have trailed only Weeden and Griffin. Of course, one argument would be Smith did that against the Big East and not the Big 12, though Smith also passed for 463 yards against LSU. But what’s most remarkable is Smith’s low interception rate. He threw only seven picks on 526 attempts. That’s 75.1 passes per interception. Robert Griffin was an extraordinarily efficient passer. He started his career with the record for most pass attempts without an interception. Through the first three games, he had more touchdown passes than incomplete passes. Griffin finished his Heisman-winning season with 67 passes per interception, Weeden finished at 43.4 and Jones at 37.5.  That kind of decision-making is tough to find. I’ll take Smith as the top Big 12 quarterback.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
It can be tough to compare the values of the signal callers in the Big 12 due to the differences in scheme. The Texas quarterback is asked to do something dramatically different than the starter at Kansas State, which is different from West Virginia. If Landry Jones and Collin Klein swapped places, I do not think either would be as effective as they are in their current systems. Casey Pachall is efficient and is a perfect fit for what Gary Patterson wants to do on offense at TCU. Wes Lunt clearly has the skillset Mike Gundy is looking for in Stillwater. And lost in the shuffle is a guy who threw for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in Lubbock last year, Seth Doege.

This is a tremendous league for quarterbacks. Pachall is an intriguing talent with size, efficiency and two more years to play and develop. Jones plays with the best supporting cast and has career numbers that would normally be Hall of Fame-esque if not for turnovers and a 7-8 road record. Klein is the least talented passer of the bunch but is easily the best leader in the conference and likely has the most athletic ability. He is a gritty, tough-nosed performer who wills his team to victory — what else do you want from a quarterback?

But when it comes to raw overall talent, production and winning, it's hard to argue with Smith. He has the strongest arm in the league and one of the best in the nation. He can make every throw in the playbook and has a conference and BCS bowl championship under his belt already. He is efficient (65.8%), doesn't turn the ball over (seven interceptions in 526 attempts) and produces big numbers in the passing game (4,385 yards, 31 TDs). Certainly, his system under Dana Holgorsen is pass-happy and quarterback friendly and can inflate the numbers, but so can every other system in the Big 12. If Smith can eliminate his one weird game per year — looking at you Syracuse — not only will he be the top quarterback in the Big 12, but could push for a conference championship and find himself drafted in the first round next April.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Big 12 has an interesting group of quarterbacks returning for the 2012 season. Proven options like Landry Jones at Oklahoma, TCU’s Casey Pachall and Kansas State’s Collin Klein are back, while the conference has up-and-comers like Texas’ David Ash and Oklahoma State’s Wes Lunt ready to take control of their teams.

A case could be made that Klein, Jones or Pachall is the Big 12’s top quarterback, but my vote goes to Geno Smith. Transitioning to a new offense is never easy, but Smith was outstanding last season, throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 scores. He also torched Clemson for 407 yards and six touchdowns in the 70-33 Orange Bowl victory. Even more impressive was Smith throwing just seven interceptions on 526 attempts, while completing 65.8 percent of his passes.

With another offseason to master Holgorsen’s scheme and the move to the offensive-minded Big 12, Smith should easily surpass last season’s totals. Helping Smith’s cause is a solid group of receivers, which includes likely All-Big 12 selections in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. The offensive line struggled last season, but should be better with three starters returning and guard Josh Jenkins back in the lineup after missing all of 2011 with an injury.

The Big 12 is usually home to solid quarterback play and this season will be no different. Smith may have a few ups and downs as he adjusts to life in the Big 12, but he should be the Big 12’s best quarterback in 2012. 

Mark Ross
Don't get me wrong, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith had an outstanding 2011 campaign, finishing 17th in the nation in passing efficiency with 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions. With wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and other weapons at his disposal, there is no reason to think he won't put up similar, if not better, numbers in the Mountaineers' first season in the Big 12. However, I am still going to go with Oklahoma's Landry Jones as the conference's top quarterback.

For one, it's not like Jones was downright awful last season. He finished 33rd overall in passing efficiency with 4,463 yards, 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, numbers that he put up despite the fact that All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles missed four games. And while Jones' 2011 season would be considered a career year for just about any other quarterback, it wasn't even Landry's best. He threw for more yards (4,718), touchdowns (38) and had fewer interceptions (12) in 2010. It's this experience factor that puts Jones on top for me. He's produced at a high level consistently for three years, while Smith had his first breakout campaign last season.

Jones also is well familiar with the Big 12, while Smith will be facing all of these defenses, the likes of an Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, to name a few, for the first time. Jones will be going up against Big 12 newcomers TCU and West Virginia for the first time in his career, and he will do so on their respective home turfs, but Smith has the steeper learning curve as far as this season goes. In the end, Smith may very well end up with better numbers, but for now, I will go with the Big 12 veteran Jones as the conference's top signal caller.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think Geno Smith should get the nod as the top quarterback in West Virginia’s new league. The senior signal caller threw for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns against only seven interceptions last season, and elite receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey will thrive in the pass-happy Big 12. Head coach and offensive guru Dana Holgorsen has a familiarity with the league from his time at Oklahoma State, and the WVU offense should continue prowess in its new conference.

Oklahoma’s Landry Jones is also a top candidate, but he did throw 15 picks last year and has struggled on the road in his career. Jones struggled late last year after the Sooners lost top wideout Ryan Broyles, and Blake Bell took many of the red zone snaps last year. Jones still has the experience and weapons around him to have a solid season, but I’ll go with West Virginia’s Smith to lead the Big 12’s signal callers in 2012.

Related West Virginia Content

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Players for 2012

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Predictions
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in West Virginia Football History

West Virginia Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About West Virginia Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Is West Virginia's Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 05:38
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-west-virginia-rivals
Body:

 

Here are some of our favorite jokes about West Virginia's biggest rivals.

• What does a Pittsburgh fan do when the Panthers win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What do medical marijuana and Pittsburgh football have in common?
They both get smoked in bowls.

• What do you get when you cross Pittsburgh with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.

• How many Louisville freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?
None. That’s a sophomore course.

• Why is Pittsburgh replacing the turf in its stadium with cardboard?
The Panthers always look better on paper.

• Did you hear what happened to the Pittsburgh fan when he found out that 90% of all car accidents occur within five miles of home?
He moved.

• What do you call a beautiful woman on the arm of a Pittsburgh fan?
A Tattoo.

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Joan C. Edwards Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

• What do you call 20 Pittsburgh fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Pittsburgh if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor. 

Related West Virginia Content

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Preview
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Players for 2012

West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 Team Predictions
West Virginia Mountaineers Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in West Virginia Football History

West Virginia Cheerleader Gallery

Is Geno Smith the Big 12's Best Quarterback?

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 02:38
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-0
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 18.

• Sorry for running late today. I was out day trading my new Facebook shares.

• If the Pacers beat the Heat, would Pat Riley blow up the Big Three?

• There is a new agreement where the champions of the SEC and Big 12 would play in the postseason if neither is in the proposed four-team model to determine the national champion. The SEC champ not in the title game?!

• I’m not one for planning an interesting death, but many around the office think this is a good way to go. Personally, I just can’t see the last three people I talk to being Cinnamon, Jade and Destiny.

• It’s so nice to have Mike Leach — relationship advice, bear hunting, pirate gear, etc. —back in college football.

• The Cardinals lost 7-5 in San Francisco yesterday and made three errors. I think the issue for the World Champions may have been “Bad Tuxedo Day.” Check out these pics.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee says that Steve Spurrier’s plan to award SEC division titles based only on division record will not happen.

• The Cubs' Kerry Wood will retire today. It seems like ages (actually, 1998) since his 20-strikeout performance against the Astros.

• The NFL Combine has well over 300 players looking to be drafted somewhere in the 250+ selections. However here are 37 players who were not invited to the Combine but were drafted, including four in the top 100 picks.

• CBS has the latest on the suspension of MLB umpire Bob Davidson.

• With the Champions League final this weekend, we thought it was time to throw soccer fans a rare bone. And when you combine Hank Williams Jr. and European soccer, it means things are getting pretty silly here on a Friday. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 17

• The Saints offseason has been tumultuous enough. The last thing New Orleans needs is an issue with re-signing quarterback Drew Brees.

• Want your own Super Bowl ring? You can join the auction for New York Giants’ legend Lawrence Taylor’s XXV ring right here.

• Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com details the Top 10 players in the league under the age of 25.

• In Chicago, apparently Metta World Peace is known as “Lakers Idiot.”

• ESPN Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller looks at the league’s breakout players during spring ball.

• Delvon Roe’s promising Michigan State basketball career was cut short with knee issues, but now the former Spartan has a new passion — making a romantic drama feature film.

• The Texas Rangers are looking brilliant so far with their high-dollar acquisition of pitcher Yu Darvish, who just keeps winning.

• The Missouri legislature made an SEC-level move by only allowing Show-Me-State schools to be featured on state license plates. For all of the University of Kansas fans in the K.C. area, the rivalry continues.

• Bleacher Report has a slideshow of NFL veterans who could be cut before the season.

• ACC Commissioner John Swofford believes in his league’s stability and says he’s not been affected by the Florida State defection rumors.

Boston fans are a passionate lot, and it’s nice to see a little daughter watching the Celtics game with her father. The salty language is a tad scary, but she’s precious enough to get away with it. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


May 16

• Did a former NBA assistant plagiarize his ESPN Insider analysis of the Spurs-Clippers series from a message board? Deadspin has the latest.

• The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher with the offense — especially Albert Pujols — struggling. Hatcher had been on Mike Scioscia’s staff since 2000.

• FARK.com led us to this “Drunken Saylor” in Florida. There’s not much more fun around the neighborhood than a 43-year-old, exposed woman with a .194 BAL.

• With the current Florida State rumors not going away, ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben details how the Seminoles have fared against current league schools.

• Will the Jets offense have more discipline under new coordinator Tony Sparano?

• With the Knicks out of the playoffs, Amar’e Stoudemire is now attending college — at the University of Miami.

• Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at the possibility of the Bulls not having Derrick Rose next season.

• Fellas, you may have eyeballed those Skechers commercials with Brooke Burke and Kim Kardashian but hopefully you didn’t buy your significant other any “Shape-Ups.”

• New Penn State coach Bill O’Brien does not want a constant quarterback battle during August.

• Can Colt McCoy still win the Browns starting quarterback job after the team drafted Brandon Weeden?

• In case you missed it, Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays had an unfortunate reaction to some bad umpiring last night. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 15

• Congratulations to this year’s inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame.

• Bears quarterback Jay Cutler may have some new weapons in Brandon Marshall and rookie Alshon Jeffery, but he’s still concerned about the Chicago offensive line.

• Is Ohio State’s only focus on Michigan this season, especially with no postseason for the Buckeyes?

• If you’re heading out on a Bachelor party weekend soon, Mandatory.com has some no-no’s for your trip. Don’t be that guy.

• Can Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy rekindle the UConn-Boston College rivalry after all of the conference realignment politics? Big East Coast Bias has the latest.

• ESPN’s Ryan McGee has sits down with NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick after his organization’s 200th victory. I want to go to “Redneck Disney World."

• Nationals phenom Bryce Harper hit his first career home run Monday night, and he wasted no time getting around the bases.

• SB Nation breaks down the Thunder’s blowout of the Lakers in Game 1 of their playoff series.

• Bleacher Report’s Michael Walsh believes the Orioles can stay atop the AL East standings.

• Gizmodo cannot believe these phones are still for sale in 2012.

• With record-breaking BYU quarterback Ty Detmer going into the Hall of Fame, we look back at the day he probably won the Heisman — the Cougars’ 28-21 win over No. 1 Miami in 1990. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 14

• Florida State to the Big 12 is the rumor that will just not go away. Tulsa World columnist John Hoover looks at the league's future, while Ingram Smith of ChuckOliver.net and Bud Elliott of TomahawkNation.com discuss the Seminoles’ future.

• Adam Kramer has a humorous look at the Big 12 footprint if Florida State joined the Texas-controlled league.

• Bleacher Report’s Barrett Sallee speculates on further SEC expansion — Virginia Tech and NC State — if the ACC loses current members.

• Do people really still have MySpace accounts? We offer help.

• Would the Phillies trade Cole Hamels?

• Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz calls out the Pacers for blaming referees after a 95-86, Game 1 loss to the Heat.

• So Jersey Shore tool “Pauly D” is coming out with a new alcoholic beverage. Does anyone over the age of 21 care?

• Texas A&M’s move to the SEC is already producing wins (as long as Erin Andrews shows up). The Aggies edged out Nebraska to have ESPN’s “College GameDay" shoot a commercial on the A&M campus.

• CBS’ Jon Heyman thinks the Astros roster will be the focus of MLB buyers over the summer.

• Can the Ravens play elite defense without edge rusher Terrell Suggs?

• Matt Kuchar’s two-stroke victory at The Players Championship is impressive on its own. But the fact that he did it playing with the insufferable pre-shot routine of Kevin Na on the final day is remarkable. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> The web's best stories from the NFL, college football, MLB, NBA, college basketball and entertainment.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 20:33
Path: /nascar/kurt-busch-nascar-career-controversy
Body:

“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone, they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.” – Joni Mitchell

Fame and fortune can be a cruel beast: the second it’s taken away, you want it 10-times worse than those who have never had the chance. Kurt Busch, on the precipice of getting himself fired once again, knows that line better than any other on the Sprint Cup circuit. Well, I guess perhaps the only difference is that in his “parking lot” he just rams everyone with a car who tries to find a space.

People will disagree on what happened Saturday night at Darlington, why Busch pulled a burnout through Ryan Newman’s pit and then slammed into the No. 39 car on pit road like a bumper car on steroids. But when it comes to the 2004 Cup Series champ, we can all agree on one thing: he’s frustrated. The 33-year-old is currently driving an unsponsored car with limited speed where even 110 percent guarantees no more than a ninth- or 10th-place finish. His forced aggression on each lap is what the fans want to see but that comes with consequences: he’s now wrecked in five of 11 races, more than any other driver in this year of green-flag, single-file parades.

It’s not easy for a guy used to winning to run the 1995 Honda Accord when everyone else is slim-fitted into a Lexus with 10 engineers by their side plotting out every simulation and aerodynamic advantage. But Busch is not to be pitied — if anything, he’s a role model for children as to what not to do when you’re handed the world on a silver platter. After being nailed with a $50,000 fine for Saturday’s incident (paired with probation), the downhill slide is rolling once again for a man who’s simply a victim of his own choices.

Remember, it was Busch who chose to leave his team less than nine months after winning the first Chase title while in mid-contract and despite no major dip in performance. Know that every Cup champion since 1990, at the time, had stayed with their former team from that point on, as trophies typically breed loyalty. But Busch felt hidden at Roush Fenway Racing, behind the “superstar” presence of Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and up-and-coming Carl Edwards. Even though he had as many titles as all of them combined, Penske offered greater exposure in his mind, a chance to be the star of a smaller team while getting more credit – and control – over the organization. Roush Fenway? The “villain” was privately relieved, freed of a man who in private drove public relations people to the edge. Busch gave them the ability to cut a cord they never could otherwise because of on-track success. The driver could have been at Roush for a decade, but instead, after an awkward confrontation with police at Phoenix, he was sent packing for his next gig two races early.

That brought him to Penske, where Busch was paired with an iconic sponsor – Miller Lite – and the best equipment a multi-millionaire could find. In six years, Busch made the Chase four times, winning nine races while scoring a dozen poles. Combined, those numbers blow rival superstars out of the water during that stretch — even current points leader Greg Biffle would kill for those numbers. Sure, a second Cup title remained elusive, but the current playoff system has proven itself to be defined by luck — two bad breaks, and you’re out no matter how well you do the rest of the way. Busch should know that, considering his championship run in ’04 helped redefine the way teams approach a title.

But for Busch, having the world on a silver platter and enjoying consistent success at Penske wasn’t enough. The team always needed fixing, whether it was faulty engineering, poor pit strategy or the paint guy that left a smudge on the side of the front bumper. Fits of swearing were weekly occurrences, in public and private, while a number of pink slips were forced during a six-year Reign Of Terror.

Yet even after Busch’s Anger Management melted away, expanding from inner turmoil to picking public fights with the media, both Penske and his sponsor stood by him. Following a Richmond confrontation with two national reporters last season, he could have rallied to win the Chase and been guaranteed millions for the rest of his career. Instead, the postseason netted a disappointing 11th-place finish in the final standings, but all the pieces were there for 2012 success. Just look at Penske’s current stud: Brad Keselowski has won twice, sits just outside the top 10 in points and has flashed speed at virtually every track.

Busch could have been his teammate. Instead, he lost his cool at Homestead, in public, with one of the sport’s iconic media figures. Dr. Jerry Punch was appalled, over a half-million saw it all unfold on YouTube, and within two weeks Busch was toast.

His current team, which start-and-parked at times last season due to lack of funding, was a last resort, a forced marriage after Penske was pushed to show him the door when no other options existed. Busch may be beside himself, dealing with “C-level” equipment that doesn’t match his capability, but in this Choose Your Own Adventure game, he’s also responsible for the choices that led him here.

Some have speculated Busch is not fully to blame for Saturday night’s scuffle, where members of Newman’s crew barreled after him to the point a NASCAR official got knocked on a car hood. The driver himself claims hitting Newman’s car on pit road was because “he couldn’t see while taking his helmet off” — an excuse so comical it wouldn’t fool a five-year-old. But even if by some odd series of circumstances Newman is at fault here (I’m just hypothesizing) none of it matters. Busch, in a position where he has no sponsor, knew heading into 2012 that every move, every minute, would be scrutinized by all those inside and outside the garage area. Perfection when it came to behavior was a necessity; anything less and the chance to return to NASCAR’s top tier would disappear in an age where talent needs to be paired with money. Busch, even when provoked, needs to be the better man, similar to what brother Kyle has done during an uneventful but sponsor-pleasing 2012.

Instead, Kurt Busch made a choice again, resulting in a fine so large, any company that might have dared sneak a peek has thrown him in the trash. So don’t pity the man who put himself in this position, just shake your head and wonder why one of the sport’s greatest talents has chosen to become his own worst enemy.


by Tom Bowles
Follow Tom on Twitter:
@NASCARBowles
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Tom Bowles examines how Kurt Busch's poor decisions may derail a successful NASCAR career.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 17:58
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-arkansas-no-13-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Arkansas Razorbacks being named No. 13, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

John L. Smith’s Arkansas Razorbacks continue the countdown at No. 13 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-SEC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Arkansas will finish third in the SEC’s Western Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“The Razorbacks could have another special season with Tyler Wilson leading the way,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “There will be an adjustment with John L. Smith taking over in Fayetteville, but Arkansas has the talent to be in the SEC West hunt.”

One Arkansas standout was named a preseason All-American, with offensive lineman Alvin Bailey being voted to the first team. In addition, the Arkansas quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 5 nationally.

Nine Razorbacks earned preseason All-SEC honors, including Bailey, running back Knile Davis, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg on the first team. Quarterback Tyler Wilson and linebacker Alonzo Highsmith were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Travis Swanson, kicker Zach Hocker and kick returner Dennis Johnson garnered third-team honors.

Arkansas Team Preview

Arkansas' Top 10 Players of 2012

Arkansas’ 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Arkansas No. 13 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 09:33
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-razorbacks-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Arkansas Razorbacks check in at No. 13 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Tyler Wilson, QB
Wilson was the first Razorbacks signal caller to be named first-team All-SEC since the Hogs joined the league in 1992. Obviously his 3,638 passing yards and 24 touchdown throws were excellent numbers, but Wilson’s efficiency in tossing only six interceptions in 438 attempts was also impressive. The Greenwood native will have to find new favorite targets this season but should have a stellar senior season.

Upset Alert: at Auburn (Oct. 6)
The Razorbacks have to travel to the Lone Star State the week before Auburn to take on SEC newcomer Texas A&M, and then head to the always-challenging environment of Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Tigers went through a rebuilding season last year of the national championship campaign of 2010. Gene Chizik’s crew will be improved this season, and the Hogs will have to bring their top game to Auburn.

Trap Game: at Mississippi State (Nov. 17)
Once again, the Hogs will be on the second leg of two straight road trips when they take on the Bulldogs. Arkansas plays a very tough game at South Carolina on November 10 and hosts rival LSU on November 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Razorbacks cannot overlook a Mississippi State that is desperate to score an SEC West win outside of Ole Miss.

Defensive MVP: Alonzo Highsmith, LB
The senior linebacker is Arkansas’ leading retuning tackler, finishing last season with 80 stops, 4.5 sacks and one interception. There was bad news in March as Highsmith missed the entire spring practice period with an injury to his left pectoral muscle. He should be healthy for the fall, and the active backer will need to be the leader of a defense that lost top tacklers Jerry Franklin and Tramain Thomas.

Breakout Player: Cobi Hamilton, WR
Arkansas should have another powerful offense this season, and Hamilton looks like the next star receiver in Fayetteville. With Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Jarius Wright now in the NFL, the 6-foot-3, 209-pound Hamilton will assume the role as top pass catcher. He had 34 catches for 542 yards and four scores in 2011, and Hamilton should be one of the top wideouts in the SEC this season.

Unsung Hero: Tenarius Wright, DE/LB
The Memphis pass rusher has established himself as a solid SEC defensive end over three seasons, but he will make the selfless move to linebacker this fall to help out a thin unit on the defense. Wright had five tackles for loss in eight games in 2011, and his senior leadership and team-first transition to linebacker will be valuable to the Hogs this season.

Comeback player: Knile Davis, RB
The long-anticipated return of Davis will provide a major boost to the Arkansas offense this fall. He became a star in 2010, rushing for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns. In fact, he totaled 1,028 yards and 12 scores in the last seven games of that Sugar Bowl season. A severe ankle injury kept Davis out of action last year, but he should provide great balance to the powerful Hogs passing game in 2012.

Biggest Game: Alabama (Sept. 15)
The Razorbacks have lost five straight to the Crimson Tide, but the defending national champions lost several stars to the NFL. Alabama will always present a tough challenge, but this game is in Fayetteville and could be a springboard for an amazing season. If the defense can keep the Hogs in it, Wilson and company could pull off a meaningful upset.

Revenge Game: LSU (Nov. 24)
The Hogs were leading the undefeated Tigers last year in Baton Rouge, 14-0, in the middle of the second quarter. LSU roared back for a 21-14 halftime lead, and Arkansas only trailed by a touchdown after three quarters before the SEC champions took over late. This year’s game in Fayetteville will be a chance to pay back Les Miles’ bunch, and the Razorbacks were victorious the last two times the Tigers traveled to Arkansas.

Freshman to Watch: Otha Peters, LB
The inside linebacker from Louisiana has the size and strength to play early at Arkansas. Peters was a Tennessee verbal throughout the recruiting process before flipping to the Razorbacks in the final week before Signing Day. With leading tackler Jerry Franklin gone and a spring injury to Alonzo Highsmith, the linebacking group will be looking for help. Peters should get in the mix right away.

Position Battle: Wide receiver
Cobi Hamilton will lead the receiver group and Chris Gragg is a solid tight end, but the Razorbacks offense needs more than one outside threat for All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson. No other returning wideouts caught 10 balls last season. Marquel Wade, Julian Horton, Javontee Herndon, Keante Minor and Maudrecus Humphrey are among the candidates to emerge as a complement to Hamilton and Gragg. However, Wade and Humphrey are suspended indefinitely due to an off-the-field incident in May.

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Arkansas Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?
The Greatest Moments in Arkansas Football History

Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Arkansas Razorbacks Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Arkansas Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 06:06
All taxonomy terms: Arkansas Razorbacks, College Football, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/arkansas-football-can-razorbacks-win-sec-without-bobby-petrino
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 13 Arkansas. Bobby Petrino was fired as the team's coach, prompting John L. Smith to be hired for the 2012 season. The offense is dangerous, but doubts remain about the Razorbacks without Petrino.

Is Arkansas Still a Threat to Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Arkansas seems to think that’s possible as the Razorbacks brought in John L. Smith to patch the coaching staff without rocking the boat too much with an outsider coach or new philosophy. Smith can be something of a punchline at times. But he’s also been successful in spurts, which is pretty much all Arkansas is seeking from him. He turned a 4-8 Michigan State team into a 8-5 team in his first season there. He also led Louisville to an 11-2 season led by Dave Ragone and Deion Branch. At least for 2012, Smith is taking over a more established team. Arkansas’ personnel is good enough to win the West, especially on offense. Tyler Wilson was already the SEC’s top passer, and on top of that, he was on fire during spring practice. If Knile Davis is the same running back he was in during the second half of 2010, the Hogs’ offense will be that much more balanced. What Arkansas may miss most is Bobby Petrino’s play calling. The margin of error against SEC defenses is thin enough as it is, and even last season Petrino, Wilson and Arkansas couldn’t crack 20 points against either LSU or Alabama. It’s going to be tough to expect that to change this season. If there is an advantage, though, Arkansas will face Alabama on Sept. 15, perhaps while the Crimson Tide are still trying to work out the kinks on a defense returning only four starters. The Hogs’ will make up for it on the other end of the schedule with a road trip South Carolina and a home game against LSU in November. Arkansas can win the West without Petrino, but the Hogs don’t have much room for error.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
No. Arkansas will not compete for an SEC title in 2012 now that Bobby Petrino isn't ruling the roost in Fayetteville. Leadership is the only aspect of college football that trumps talent and that is exactly what Petrino had done for Arkansas football in recent years. Despite what most uninformed national media members tell you, the Razorbacks do not have a "top 10 roster". They do not have "elite talent" everywhere on the depth chart. No, Arkansas has finished ninth, 10th and eighth consecutively in the SEC recruiting rankings the last three seasons. There are plenty of nice pieces and this is a quality football team, but it does not boast the same level of overall talent and depth that Alabama and LSU can claim.

If anything, it's a crystal clear testament to the development, evaluation and game day preparation skills of Petrino. He overachieved during his time at Arkansas. The edge with which he works permeated every aspect of the football program and that edge led to victories. Additionally, there are few coaches in the nation who manage the game on Saturday's as well as Petrino. Calling plays, making adjustments and motivating greatness is an innate talent that is largely based on instincts and feel more than anything else. And Petrino can do it with the best in the nation.

Getting Alabama and LSU at home gave Arkansas a chance to compete in the West, but even with Bobby-P, I had the Hogs penciled in for 10-2. The Razorback defense does not operate at the same level as the Bayou Bengals or Crimson Tide, as the 79-31 combined score a year ago indicated. John L. Smith is a solid caretaker who will get this team to a bowl game, but he lost 32 games his last five seasons as a head coach and posted one bowl win in seven career tries. His antics play well at the local watering hole, but not in national primetime against Nick Saban. He will lose two games that Bobby-P would not have — my guess is at South Carolina and either at Auburn, Texas A&M or Mississippi State — and will win a bowl game for a 9-4 mark.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Even with Bobby Petrino on the sidelines, Arkansas was going to have a difficult time passing LSU and Alabama in the SEC West standings. Consider this: The 21 victories by the Razorbacks from 2010-11 was the best two-year stretch in school history. Although Petrino had his shortcomings, there’s no denying he was one of the top coaches in the SEC.

John L. Smith is a good short-term answer for the program and his experience in Fayetteville will allow the assistants to stay in their current roles. Bobby Petrino’s gameplans and play-calling will be missed, but his brother – Paul Petrino – is well-versed in this offense. Quarterback Tyler Wilson is one of the best in college football, and the Razorbacks will get a boost on the ground with the return of running back Knile Davis. Finding replacements at receiver for Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs will be crucial to keeping the passing attack among the best in the nation, but Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg are two reliable weapons.

Scoring points won’t be a problem for Arkansas, but the defense is a question mark once again. New coordinator Paul Haynes has six returning starters, but must replace end Jake Bequette, linebacker Jerry Franklin and safety Tramain Thomas. Linebacker Alonzo Highsmith missed spring practice due to a pectoral injury, but he is expected to return in time for the 2012 season. The Razorbacks have some pieces to work with on defense, but this unit needs to make strides to win the SEC West.

With Bobby Petrino, I think Arkansas would have been ranked in Athlon’s Top 10 for 2012. However, there’s too much uncertainty hanging around this program to expect the Razorbacks to win 10 or 11 games once again. Catching LSU and Alabama at home is a tremendous opportunity, but Arkansas won’t be able to capitalize off of that this season and will finish third in the SEC West. 

Mark Ross
Arkansas will no doubt look different with Bobby Petrino no longer roaming the Hogs' sidelines, but I don't think his absence will have that much effect on their SEC title aspirations. For one, the new head man is John L. Smith, a familiar face who was part of Petrino's staff the past three seasons before leaving (briefly) to take the head coaching job at his alma mater, Weber State.

There also will still be a Petrino on the coaching staff, although he will be up in the press box rather than on the sidelines on game days. Paul Petrino, Bobby's younger brother, is back with the Hogs after serving as Illinois' offensive coordinator the past two seasons. The younger Petrino actually rejoined the team prior to last season's Cotton Bowl and he was Arkansas' offensive coordinator from 2008-09. Between Smith and the other Petrino, there's enough familiarity there that for most intents and purposes, it will seem like nothing's changed to the players.

And in the end, it's the players, not the coaches, who will ultimately decide whether Arkansas will contend for the SEC title or not. To get there, the Hogs will first have to take care of business in its own division, meaning beating defending national champion Alabama and defending SEC champion LSU and rest of the West teams in the standings so they end up playing in Atlanta on Dec. 1 in the SEC Championship Game.

The last time Arkansas played in the SEC title game was in 2006, a game that they lost to eventual national champion Florida. That season, the Hogs beat Alabama, but lost to LSU. In fact, the last time Arkansas has defeated both Alabama and LSU In the same season was in 1998. This season the Hogs get both the Crimson Tide and LSU in Fayetteville, so the schedule appears to be set up for them, now it's up to the players, and not the coaches, to follow through.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not see the Razorbacks contending for the SEC crown after a tumultuous offseason. Competing against LSU and Alabama in the SEC West is tough enough, but the departure of offensive guru Petrino and other off-the-field issues may prevent the Hogs from closing the gap on the Crimson Tide and Tigers. Arkansas will still have a quality team, with quarterback Tyler Wilson leading a potentially potent aerial attack. The offense will also receive a boost with the return of running back Knile Davis, who rushed for 1,322 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010.

The Hogs should have top pass catchers in receiver Cobi Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg, but no other returning wideout caught 10 balls last season. Legal issues could affect the eligibility of Marquel Wade and Maudrecus Humphrey, so a complement to Hamilton will need to emerge. The defense has talent but loses key players in Jerry Franklin, Tramain Thomas and Jake Bequette. It’s not doom and gloom in Fayetteville, but an SEC title looks too ambitious for a program going through a ton of issues at the current time.

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Players for 2012

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Moments in Arkansas Football History

Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Arkansas Razorbacks Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Arkansas Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can the Razorbacks Win the SEC Without Bobby Petrino?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-2012-realignment-breakdown
Body:

College football realignment dominated the headlines last summer and if you thought it was over, think again. More movement in college football could be coming this summer, especially with the mixed messages coming out of Tallahassee with Florida State. Are the Seminoles content to stay in the ACC or are they interested in the Big 12? If Florida State does make the jump to the Big 12, the domino effect will be felt across all of college football. 

It's anybody's guess what will happen with realignment this summer, but a lot has changed since last season. Here's a primer on what has happened for all 11 conferences and Independent teams and what could happen this summer if more moves begin to take place. 

ACC

What’s Happened: The ACC made an early strike in conference realignment last season, plucking Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Big East. The conference is scheduled to become a 14-team league, with the Panthers and Orange expected to join in time for the 2013 season. Pittsburgh will join the Coastal Division, while Syracuse has been placed in the Atlantic.

What’s Next: The first domino in the next round of realignment could fall with Florida State. The Seminoles joined the ACC in 1991, but could be looking to explore membership in the Big 12. If Florida State leaves the ACC, it may not come alone, as Miami and Clemson have also been mentioned as possible Big 12 expansion candidates. If the Seminoles decide to stay, the ACC will proceed with its 14-team alignment, but could look to add Rutgers and Connecticut in the future.

Big East

What’s Happened: The Big East has been a punching bag through this round of realignment. Pittsburgh and Syracuse left to join the ACC, while West Virginia bolted for the Big 12. With those defections, the conference was left with just five teams. The Big East should have expanded in previous years, but secured eight schools to join over the next couple of seasons. Temple was brought aboard for 2012, while Houston, SMU, UCF, Memphis, Boise State and San Diego State will join in time for 2013. Navy is scheduled to join in 2015.

What’s Next: Although the Big East is in a better position than it was in October, the conference could be facing more defections. If Florida State leaves the ACC, Connecticut and/or Rutgers could be targeted to replace the Seminoles. Louisville is interested in joining the Big 12, while Boise State and San Diego State could be forced to return to the Mountain West. Unless the Broncos can find a home for their other sports, they will have to depart the Big East, and the Aztecs will certainly follow. Boise State is expected to apply for membership in the Big West, and if accepted, would guarantee the Broncos play in the Big East for 2013. The conference is also going through a transition period, as John Marinatto is out as commissioner and Joseph Bailey is working on an interim basis. The Big East can’t feel too secure about its future until Boise State’s situation is resolved. Also, the conference is still looking for another Western member, which could be BYU, Air Force or UNLV.

Big Ten

What’s Happened: The Big Ten added Nebraska in 2010 to get to 12 teams and stage a conference championship game.

What’s Next: The Big Ten is in no hurry to expand and isn’t in any danger of losing teams. The conference will always keep a spot open for Notre Dame, but is there a clear 14th team? Unless there is a shift by the other BCS conferences to get to 16 teams, the Big Ten is likely to remain quiet on the realignment front.

Big 12

What’s Happened: Realignment talk has dominated the Big 12 for the last two years. The conference lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-12 in June 2010. The Big 12 decided not to expand after losing the Cornhuskers and Buffaloes, choosing to stay at 10 teams for the 2011 season. Realignment dominated the conference early in the year, as Texas A&M and Missouri bolted for the Big 12, while the conference got back to 10 teams with the additions of West Virginia and TCU.

What’s Next: The top priority for new commissioner Bob Bowlsby is the decision on expansion. Does the Big 12 want to expand to 12 teams or stay with its 10-team alignment? Texas – which has a large voice in the conference – does not want to expand. However, there is interest from the other teams to get back to 12. If Florida State wants to join the Big 12, the conference would have a hard time saying no to one of college football’s top 20 programs. If the Seminoles do make the jump from the ACC, Louisville is a strong candidate to be team No. 12, while rumors around the Big 12 have suggested Clemson and Miami might be interested in the Big 12 as well. Much of the next round of realignment will hinge on Florida State and the Big 12. Even if the Seminoles pass on the Big 12, the conference could look to expand by adding Louisville and BYU. If the Big 12 decides not to expand, realignment talk should quiet.

Conference USA

What’s Happened: Conference USA lost four teams to the Big East – UCF, Memphis, Houston and SMU – which was the league’s first change in football membership since 2005. The Tigers have struggled on the gridiron, but was the conference’s top basketball program. SMU is a team on the rise, while Houston was on the doorstep of playing in a BCS bowl this season. UCF is located in a valuable market (Orlando) and won three East Division titles since joining the conference in 2005.

What’s Next: Conference USA and the Mountain West discussed a merger, but decided to operate as separate conferences. With only eight members in the league for 2013, Conference USA expanded to include FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas and UTSA. UNC Charlotte will join in time for the 2015 season, and Old Dominion has announced its intentions to jump to the FBS level. Conference USA will be a 14-team league once UNC Charlotte and Old Dominion join. 

Independents

Army – The Black Knights’ participated as a member of Conference USA from 1998-2004, but decided to return to Independent status. Although Army could be targeted by the Big East for future expansion, it’s unlikely the Black Knights will give up Independence.

BYU – The Cougars had a successful first season of Independent scheduling, recording a 10-3 record with a victory over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl. BYU was targeted by the Big East for expansion, but decided not to join, at least for now. The Cougars have been mentioned as a candidate for Big 12 expansion, but with the rumors of Florida State’s possible interest in leaving the ACC, BYU could be slipping down the pecking order. The Cougars are content to remain an Independent, but their access to the BCS/playoff system won’t change.

Navy – The Midshipmen will play as an Independent the next few seasons, but will join the Big East in time for the 2015 season.

Notre Dame – Although the Big 12, Big Ten and ACC could try to pull the Irish into a conference, it’s very unlikely Notre Dame will give up its Independence. The new college football playoff requirements won’t force the Irish to join a conference, so barring some drastic change in the next couple of years, Notre Dame will remain Independent. 

MAC

What’s Happened: After playing with 13 teams and unbalanced divisions since 2007, the MAC was set to become a 14-team conference in 2012. UMass is making the jump from FCS and will play a full MAC schedule this season. However, Temple decided to return to the Big East, leaving the MAC with 13 teams once again.

What’s Next: Expect the MAC to explore expansion to get to 14 teams. Candidates could be at the FCS level or could the conference take a look at Idaho? There’s no easy fit for the MAC, so the conference will be selective in choosing a 14th team – and it may not be anytime soon. 

Mountain West

What’s Happened: With TCU, BYU, Utah in the conference and Boise State on the way, the Mountain West appeared on the verge of earning an automatic spot into the BCS. How quickly things have changed. TCU and Utah left for BCS conferences, and BYU chose to go Independent. Boise State and San Diego State are slated to join the Big East in time for the 2013 season, provided the Broncos can find a home for their non-football programs. The Mountain West raided the WAC two years ago, pulling in Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii to have 10 football members for 2012. Utah State and San Jose State will join the Mountain West in time for the 2013 season.

What’s Next: Commissioner Craig Thompson has at least 10 teams secured for 2013 and isn’t in a hurry to expand. If Boise State is unable to find a home for its non-football sports, the Broncos and San Diego State could return to the Mountain West. If both teams stay in the Big East, the Mountain West could revisit adding Idaho and New Mexico State to get to 12 teams, but it’s unlikely either will be extended an invitation this year.

Pac-12

What’s Happened: Aggressive has been the word surrounding Larry Scott’s tenure as Pac-12 commissioner. Since taking over in 2009, Scott has helped the Pac-12 land a solid television deal, while starting up a conference television network. Scott added Utah and Colorado to get the conference to 12 members. He also made an unsuccessful run at Texas and Oklahoma, hoping to create college football’s first 16-team BCS conference.

What’s Next: Oklahoma and Oklahoma State expressed interest in joining the Pac-12 last season, but talk of that has quieted down since things in the Big 12 have stabilized. Scott is aggressive, and at the first sign of changes across the landscape, he will look to add more teams. Boise State could be a possible target in the future, but outside of BYU – which seems unlikely to ever join the Pac-12 – there are no logical fits out West. Unless the Big 12 becomes unstable once again, the Pac-12 should be quiet when it comes to expansion. 

SEC

What’s Happened: An opportunity to expand into Texas and the St. Louis/Kansas City markets was simply too good for the SEC to pass up. For the first time since 1991, the SEC invited new members, as Texas A&M and Missouri jumped from the Big 12 to join college football’s top conference.

What’s Next: The SEC is in no hurry to add any teams. And it may be a while before we see the conference make the jump to 16 members. Whenever the SEC looks to expand, it will be about new markets. NC State and Virginia Tech are possible new teams and markets, but neither has expressed any interest in leaving the ACC. The SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1991 and moved to 14 in 2012. Considering the conference will be very selective with any future membership, it may be 20 years before the SEC expands again.

Sun Belt

What’s Happened: Until recently, the Sun Belt Conference had been quiet on the expansion scene. South Alabama is bringing its upstart football program from the FCS ranks this season, which will give the conference 10 teams for 2012. Former WAC commissioner Karl Benson was appointed as the head of the Sun Belt earlier this year and has been aggressive with exploring expansion possibilities. Georgia State and Texas State will join the conference in 2013, but FIU and North Texas are departing for Conference USA.

What’s Next: The Sun Belt is not finished with expansion. UT Arlington has been rumored as a possible candidate, while Appalachian State is interested in making the move from the FCS ranks, but seems to be aiming for a Conference USA invite. Liberty recently announced its intentions to move to FBS play and could be a target for the Sun Belt. New Mexico State and Idaho previously played in the Sun Belt and could look to join as football-only members.

WAC

What’s Happened: The WAC has been picked apart over the last couple of years and could be entering its final season as a football conference. Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada all jumped to the Mountain West, leaving Idaho, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, San Jose State, Texas State and UTSA as its members for 2012.

What’s Next: With Karl Benson leaving to be the commissioner of the Sun Belt, the WAC is in total disarray. Texas State is slated to join the Sun Belt in 2013, while Louisiana Tech and UTSA are moving to Conference USA. Utah State and San Jose State are joining the Mountain West next season. Idaho and New Mexico State are the only two football schools slated to participate in the WAC next season and both are exploring options with other conferences. The Aggies have been mentioned as a possible candidate for Sun Belt expansion, while the Vandals are still searching for a home on the FBS level. Unless the WAC can convince a handful of FCS schools to move up to FBS play, this conference won’t have a football schedule next year. 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)

Related College Football Content

Athlon's Top 25 Countdown for 2012

Teaser:
<p> College football realignment preview for 2012.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 05:04
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-arkansas-rivals
Body:

 

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Arkansas' biggest rivals.

• What happens when Nick Saban takes Viagra?
He gets taller.

• How many LSU football players does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one, but he gets four academic credits for it.

• What does the average Mississippi State football player get on his SAT?
Drool.

• Did you hear that Ole Miss’ football team doesn't have a website?
The Rebs can't string three "Ws" together.

• Did you hear about the new honor system at Auburn?
Yes, your Honor. No, your Honor.

• What do Alabama fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.

• Why don’t LSU fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.

• What do you call 20 Alabama fans skydiving from an airplane?
Skeet.

• You know you’re from Alabama if:
Someone asks to see your ID and you show them your belt buckle.

• Things you will never hear an LSU fan say:
I’ll take Shakespeare for 1000, Alex. 

Related Arkansas Content

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Preview
Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Arkansas Win the SEC West Without Bobby Petrino?
The Greatest Moments in Arkansas Football History

Arkansas Razorbacks Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Arkansas Razorbacks Cheerleader Gallery

Arkansas Razorbacks 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 02:29
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Fantasy, News
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-17
Body:

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

Kemp Unable to Dodge DL
Back on May 5, Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfielder Matt Kemp suffered a left hamstring strain during a game against the Cubs in Chicago. He missed the following game, pinch-hitting in the seventh, but was back in the starting line up a day later at home versus the Giants.

However, after going 3-for-3 against the Giants last Monday, which pushed his batting average to .406 at the time, Kemp went ice cold. He got one hit in his next 16 at-bats and then left Sunday’s game against Colorado in the fourth inning after apparently reinjuring his hamstring.

Kemp had an MRI on Monday and the Dodgers placed their slugger on the disabled list that night. Kemp, who finished second to Ryan Braun in the NL MVP voting last season, was off to another sensational start in 2012 as he was in the top five of the NL in batting average (.359), home runs (12) and RBIs (28) as of when he went on the DL.

Not surprisingly, Kemp’s absence in the Dodgers’ line up is already evident. In the first three games without Kemp, the offense has generated a total of six runs, losing two of those games in the process. The Dodgers are still in first place in the NL West, holding a six-game lead over the Diamondbacks entering Thursday, but if the team continues to struggle to score, that gap will probably continue to narrow.

As far as the Dodgers go, with Kemp and fellow outfielder Juan Rivera (torn hamstring) both on the DL, recently acquired Bobby Abreu will probably get a lot more playing time. Abreu, who joined the Dodgers on May 4 after being released by the Angels, is off to decent start back in the NL. The 38-year-old is batting .296 with four doubles and four RBIs in his first 10 games. Clearly though his best days are well past him as he has yet to hit a home run in 2012 and can’t be relied on to produce consistently.

Short-term options on the waiver wire could include Boston’s Cody Ross (.252-6-23, 21 R), San Francisco’s Angel Pagan (.293-4-10, 7 SB), the Yankees’ Raul Ibanez (.263-7-22), Tampa’s Luke Scott (.233-7-27), Detroit’s Andy Dirks (.370-3-12, 17 R) or Arizona’s Gerardo Parra (.257-2-3, 18 R, 8 SB) or Jason Kubel (.295-3-15). All of these guys are currently owned in less than half of the Yahoo! leagues.

Finally!
It’s the middle of May, but it appears that some guys who much more was expected from at this point are starting to turn things around. Let’s start with the big guy, “El Hombre,” also known as Albert Pujols.

Pujols didn’t hit his first home run of the 2012 season until May 6. He cranked his second one on Wednesday night, but it’s the overall body of work that has been encouraging. After managing a total of four RBIs in all of April (92 at-bats), Pujols has already driven in 13 in May (58 at-bats entering Thursday). He’s still nowhere close to being the hitting machine he’s been throughout his career, but he’s had at least one hit in his last five games and has five RBIs in the last two.

Better still, perhaps Pujols can call on some familiar foes to help get his bat going. Interleague play kicks off on Friday and the Angels will be headed south to San Diego to take on the Padres. Pujols holds a career .333 batting average, along with 20 home runs and 63 RBIs in 71 games against the Padres. What’s more, his numbers in pitcher-friendly Petco Park (.258-7-17 in 25 G) aren’t that bad, considering that they are better than his current season totals through 37 games.

Pujols isn’t the only slugger starting to get into the swing of things. Alfonso Soriano, who had 340 career home runs entering this season, finally hit his first on Tuesday against the Cardinals in St. Louis. Soriano then hit his second one the following night in Philadelphia.

The Cubs’ outfielder is well known for being a streaky hitter, so now may be an opportune time to take a flier on him if he’s available, possibly even as a fill-in for the aforementioned Kemp. Soriano is batting .292 with two home runs and six RBIs over the last seven days.

The Cubs and cross-town rival White Sox will get reacquainted with one another starting Friday. In his career, Soriano is a .258 hitter with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 63 career games against the Windy City team from the south side.

Others who finally connected for their first home run of the season this week included Kansas City’s Jeff Francoeur (20 HR in 2011) and Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (16 in ’11). Then there’s Bryce Harper, Washington’s passionate 19-year-old outfielder who has already endeared himself to the Phillies’ Cole Hamels.

Harper hit his first career home run on Monday against San Diego and then victimized the Padres again the next night. Harper’s numbers may not stand out (.238-2-5) through his first 63 major-league at-bats, but remember he’s just 19 and to this point, he doesn’t appear to be overmatched either based on his acceptable 13:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

While Harper may be getting the bulk of the attention and headlines, it’s fellow uber-prospect Mike Trout who’s putting up the better numbers. Trout, the Angels’ 20-year-old outfielder is off to a .333-3-8 start since being called up in late April. Trout, who has out-homered teammate Pujols in 90 fewer at-bats (150 to 60), has at least one hit in eight of his last 10 games, with six multiple-hit efforts in that same span.

On the mound, Florida’s Josh Johnson picked up not only his first win of the season, but also his first victory in more than a year on Tuesday. The Marlins’ ace was limited to just nine starts last season (3-1, 1.64 ERA, 56 K in 60 1/3 IP) due to shoulder issues. Johnson looked good during spring training, but the results to this point (1-3, 5.36 ERA, 57 H, 15 BB, 38 K in 45 1/3 IP) have done nothing to quell any suspicions regarding his health.

The good news for those Johnson owners who have been patient with him is there have been some encouraging signs in his recent starts. After giving up 11 runs on 16 hits in a combined nine innings in his last start in April and first one in May, Johnson has produced consecutive seven-inning starts in which he has given up just two runs in each. His next scheduled start is on Sunday afternoon against the Indians in Cleveland. It will be his first time facing them.

DL Watch
*Tampa Bay right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3, 3.38 ERA) suffered a broken right leg when he was struck by an Adam Lind line drive in the second inning of Monday’s game in Toronto. Niemann is expected to be out at least two months as the team has already transferred him to the 60-day DL. Alex Cobb is expected to take Niemann’s place in the starting rotation. The 24-year-old righty went 3-2 with a 3.42 ERA in nine starts for the Rays last season.

*Philadelphia right-hander Vance Worley (3-2, 3.07 ERA) was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday night against the Cubs and was put on the DL with elbow inflammation. The team has since said he will be shut down for a week, but an MRI and other tests have not revealed any structural or extensive damage to his pitching elbow. Kyle Kendrick will take Worley’s place in the starting rotation for the time being and he went six innings against the Cubs last night, giving up just three hits and one earned run in six innings.

*David Robertson, who was pegged as the Yankees’ closer after Mariano Rivera was lost for the season, was placed on the DL on Tuesday with a strained left oblique. Rafael Soriano will assume the closer’s role for now and he picked up the save on Monday against Baltimore when Roberston was unavailable.

*Yankees’ starter Ivan Novoa (4-1, 5.44 ERA), left Monday’s game against the Orioles in the sixth inning after apparently injuring his ankle. Novoa picked up the win in that game despite giving up five runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has said he will take the mound on Saturday, his next scheduled start, but Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi has yet to commit to that. Even if Novoa does pitch on Saturday, he may not be 100 percent.

Weekend Series to Watch

Boston at Philadelphia
Two teams that have struggled out of the gate will get together in this interleague series as Boston travels to Philadelphia in hopes that its recent string of strong starting pitching continues. Daniel Bard (3-4, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound in Friday’s opener against Cole Hamels (5-1, 2.28 ERA). Bard had one of his best outings of the year on Sunday when he surrendered just one run in six innings in a win over the Indians. Bard’s control (20 BB, 23 K) has been an issue all season and could lead to bigger problems down the road if he doesn’t start limiting his hits allowed (38 H in 37 2/3 innings).

Jon Lester (2-3, 3.71 ERA) and Joe Blanton (4-3, 2.96 ERA) will take the mound on Saturday. Lester put forth his best performance of the season on Monday against Seattle, going the distance against the Mariners and giving up just one run while striking out six. Blanton was equally solid in his last start on Monday in defeating the Astros (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 7 K).

Carlos Ruiz (.343-7-24) has been a pleasant surprise for an otherwise plodding Phillies’ offense as the catcher leads the team in batting average and is second only to Hunter Pence in home runs and RBIs. Pence has hit two home runs over the last seven days, but he only has two other hits during this span (.174 average).

For the Red Sox, fill-in outfielder Daniel Nava (.474-1-7, 4 2B last seven days) and catchers Kelly Shoppach and Jarod Saltalamacchia (combined .393-2-6 last seven days) have been doing the bulk of the damage recently, while Adrian Gonzalez (.270-2-20 on the season) is still searching for his power stroke.

Baltimore at Washington
Raise your hand if you had predicted before the season started that this interleague match up would also be a battle between division leaders? The Orioles have been the surprise of the AL thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting. J.J. Hardy has been hitting the ball with authority recently, as he is hitting .381 with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored in his last 10 games. Teammate Adam Jones has four home runs and seven RBIs over the last seven days.

On the mound, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (4-0, 2.45 ERA) has been a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He defeated the Yankees (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) on Tuesday and will be matched up against Washington ace Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Strasburg had one of his rougher outings last time out against San Diego, giving up four runs in four innings in a loss to the Padres on Tuesday. On the season, however, he’s 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA and 56 strikeouts in just 48 innings.

Adam LaRoche (.339-7-29) has shown so far that his pitiful 2011 numbers (.172-3-15 in 43 G) were a direct result of him not being healthy. Health is an ongoing issue for Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, who has yet to get it going at the plate, hitting just .222 with one home run and nine RBIs on the season.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports takes a quick look at the latest news, injury updates and more to get your fantasy baseball team ready for this weekend's slate of games</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 17, 2012 - 01:00
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-7
Body:

Is NASCAR still on a high as Tony Stewart says? What should have been done to Kurt Busch and others for the incidents at Darlington? What about the All-Star Race? Are changes needed there?
Those were among the topics members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council debated this week. And some of their responses might surprise you. Check them out.


DO YOU AGREE WITH TONY STEWART’S COMMENTS ABOUT THE SEASON?
Asked if he was surprised that some people are questioning the racing in NASCAR after the high the sport experienced at the end of last season, Tony Stewart said at Darlington: "I still think it's on a high. The racing has been awesome this year. You look at the whole Richmond weekend, the whole Richmond weekend the races were great. I think it's proof that the sport is still on a high right now.''

Fan Council members were asked if they agreed with Stewart’s statement:

54.4 percent said Yes
45.6 percent said No

What Fan Council members said:
• NASCAR is on a possible competitive "high" but the competition is greater than it ever has been and it is very difficult to get a setup right to win. BUT, NASCAR fans want drama. The fuel-mileage strategies added drama. The Kurt Busch/Ryan Newman wreck with six laps ago was drama. The No. 39 gasman going after Busch added post-race drama. We as fans need more than great competition, we need some drama to stay interested.

• Stewart is NOT the one who are sitting at home watching the so-called "great racing" on TV. A lot of it has stunk worse than Pepe Le Pew.

• I'm not hard to please. If they are racing, I like it.

• I think the racing has been great. I'm a race fan though, not a crash fan. I don't go to the track or tune in on TV to see crashing. Personally I think the fans that do that should just go away.

• Most of what I've seen has been follow-the-leader racing where the only passing came on infrequent restarts or on pit road. That's not racing in my book — that's freeway driving.

• The racing is boring. Maybe you could ask Tony why, if the racing is so great, I changed the channel and watched the NBA playoffs half way through the Southern 500

• I agree with Smoke. The racing this year has been good despite many naysayers.

• It seems that, instead of enjoying our sport, everyone is analyzing it to death. On the broadcast at Darlington, during the long green flag, all that was talked about was the lack of cautions. During a 500-mile race the drivers are always laying back until the end. Are you new here? It got exciting at the end the way all the races do. Just watch the race and enjoy it and shut up!

• It's certainly not on the high it was at the end of last year, but it's still "up" from where it has been.

• I believe the drivers and even the media (to a degree) think the sport is "on a high". I went to the Bristol race and thought the racing was great … because I was there. I don't necessarily think the racing is bad, but FOX is doing a horrible job of capturing the race. Just look at Twitter during a race. FOX has a ton of commercials & the production of the race is poorly done. That gets fans into a negative mood and therefore they perceive the racing as bad.

• Was Stewart giving a sarcastic answer again? I'm not sure why, or what to change, but I don't seem to be as into NASCAR recently as I have been in the past. I still watch the races on a weekly basis, however, I'm not scouring the internet for news articles during the week as I would normally do.

• Yes we are blessed with the best racing in the world.

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on racing at Darlington, Kurt Busch's fine and raises interesting ideas about NASCAR's All-Star Race in Charlotte.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 19:55
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/may-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
<p> <img alt="" src="http://ath-clients.s3.amazonaws.com/athlon/athloncrosswordMay2012solution.jpg" /></p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 11:25
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-nebraska-no-14-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

Athlon Sports, publisher of the No. 1-selling college football magazine, continues the release of its preseason Top 25 poll at www.athlonsports.com. The countdown commences every year in early May and leads to the on-sale date of Athlon's category-leading college football preseason annuals.

To celebrate the Nebraska Cornhuskers being named No. 14, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bo Pelini’s Nebraska Cornhuskers continue the countdown at No. 14 with two preseason All-Americans and 11 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Nebraska will finish second in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Rex Burkhead will lead the powerful Cornhuskers running attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The defense must improve under a new staff, but Bo Pelini's program is a perennial contender and will be in the hunt for the Legends Division title.”

Two Nebraska standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Rex Burkhead and kicker Brett Maher both being voted to the second team. In addition, the Cornhuskers’ running backs unit was ranked No. 6 nationally.

Eleven Cornhuskers earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Burkhead, offensive lineman Spencer Long and Maher at both kicker and punter on the first team. Wide receiver Kenny Bell, defensive lineman Baker Steinkuhler and kick returner Ameer Abdullah were named to the second team, while quarterback Taylor Martinez, tight end Kyler Reed, defensive lineman Cameron Meredith, linebacker Will Compton and safety Daimion Stafford garnered third-team honors.

Nebraska Team Preview

Nebraska's Top 10 Players of 2012

Nebraska’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Nebraska No. 14 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 10:16
Path: /college-football/nebraska-football-taylor-martinez-one-big-tens-top-quarterbacks
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 14 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers return 14 starters, including running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez. The defense returns most of its core, but must replace linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Is Nebraska's Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Let’s consider the field for a moment: Denard Robinson is a clear No. 1 in the Big Ten. After that, who should we consider? Iowa’s James Vandenberg is the next best passer. Ohio State’s Braxton Miller has the most potential. Northwestern’s Kain Colter was a supersub for Dan Persa. Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray is a fantastic runner but still struggling as a passer. Wisconsin’s Danny O’Brien was last seen losing his job at Maryland. Although Martinez struggled to remain in the conversation for the second tier of Big Ten quarterbacks last season, he is poised for a better season in 2012. His numbers regressed in some areas as a sophomore, but that’s not a shock. He was dynamic early in his freshman season in 2011 against weaker competition before returning to Earth in a second half hampered by injuries. In 2012, Martinez will have two years of starting experience under his belt, one year of experience against Big Ten opponents, one of the Big Ten’s best receiver groups, plus all the ability to be one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. All the pieces are in place for Martinez to have a breakout year. Still, Nebraska doesn’t necessarily need Martinez to be an All-America quarterback, since running back Rex Burkhead is the likely centerpiece of this offense. Martinez simply needs to be very good, limiting mistakes and turnovers. That might not be enough to be a national superstar, but it will be enough to keep Nebraska in contention for a Big Ten title. By his junior year, Martinez should be up to the challenge.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Will he be the Big Ten's best quarterback in 2012? No. Can he lead his team to a Big Ten title by playing efficient and composed football within the framework of the offense thus making him one of the best? Absolutely. He had mental toughness and maturity issues in his first season under center back in 2010. And Martinez possibly took too much blame for the public dust-up with head coach Bo Pelini against Texas A&M considering he was a redshirt freshman — and that Pelini has a tendency to blow a gasket. Martinez also showed flashed of brilliant athletic ability and play-making skill. It appears he conquered those woes, as well as mastering the playbook, in year No. 2 as the starter in Lincoln while still exhibiting one of the quickest first five yards of any signal caller in the nation.

Now he faces his biggest challenge yet: Refining his accuracy in order to consistently and efficiently complete key passes in key situations. Easier said than done. T-Magic has never completed 60% of his passes and has dedicated his off-season work to honing his throwing motion and developing proper footwork. No one expects Martinez to be a pocket-passer with perfect drops, but should he simply improve his accuracy and protect the football, year No. 3 under center will easily be his best. It is the next step in his development process and it isn't an unreasonable expectation. Nebraska features one of the nation's elite tailbacks and arguably the Big Ten's top pass-catching corps, so, with his ability to make game-changing plays on the ground, there is no reason Martinez can't simple manage games through the air. If he can do this, Nebraska could be headed to Pasadena.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
There’s not a lot of turnover among Big Ten quarterbacks, but some of the conference’s best (Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson and Dan Persa) are gone. Denard Robinson should be the Big Ten’s preseason first-team all-conference quarterback, but after that is where the debate gets interesting.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is going to emerge as a star in Urban Meyer’s spread offense and even though he didn’t turn in an overwhelming performance last year, he has to be considered for the No. 2 spot. Outside of Miller, Iowa’s James Vandenberg, Martinez and Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray could be the top options to rank No. 3 among the quarterbacks for the 2012 season. Vandenberg is coming off a solid season, but the offensive line is a question mark, while top target Marvin McNutt is gone. Gray showed progress last season, but needs to develop as a passer.

When you look at the field, it’s easy to see why Martinez should be one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten this year. Sure, he’s had his ups and downs, but Martinez is entering his third year as the starter and threw only one interception over the final five games of last season. His rushing ability makes him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, but how much he can improve as a passer will determine how high Nebraska can climb in the Big Ten standings.

Martinez is putting in extra work on his passing skills and drew positive reviews throughout spring. Nebraska also returns one of the Big Ten's top receiving corps for 2012. The lack of other options certainly help Martinez's case, but all of the pieces seem to be in place for the junior to have a career year. 

Mark Ross
In terms of where we stand and what we know right now I would say yes, but in Martinez's case, that distinction is due more to the lack of quality quarterbacks in the Big Ten more than anything else. Michigan's Denard Robinson, Ohio State's Taylor Braxton and Martinez are probably considered to the top three signal callers in the Big Ten this season. All three are similar in style in that they can beat you with their arm or their legs, although with varying degrees of success.

Robinson finished ahead of the other two last season and fourth in the Big Ten in passing efficiency with a completion rate of a little better than 55 percent and despite throwing 15 interceptions compared to 20 touchdowns. Miller completed fewer passes and had a much better touchdown-to-interception ratio (13:4), but he also attempted the fewest passes of the three by far. Martinez had the best completion percentage of the trio (56.3) and attempted the most passes (288 to Robinson's 258), but had 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Of the three, Miller is in a position to make the greatest leap in production this season as the sophomore will be running new Buckeyes' head coach Urban Meyer's spread system, the same system that helped Tim Tebow develop into a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback during Meyer's tenure at Florida.

That said, Martinez also could continue to improve in his own right, but in the end, the fact he is considered one of the Big Ten's best under center in 2012 is probably more an indication of who's no longer around, namely Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, and Northwestern's Dan Persa. That also doesn't mean that Martinez won't be outplayed at his position this season by Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase or Iowa's James Vandenberg or someone else, showing just how precarious the Nebraska junior's top-tier "status" in the Big Ten is, and it's only May.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I think it’s fair to say that Martinez is one of the  best signal callers in the Big Ten, but he will have to become a more efficient passer to reach elite status in the conference and nationally. T-Magic is at his best running the ball, and his speed and athleticism have produced an outstanding 1,839 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons. However, the NU quarterback had a meager completion percentage of 56.3 without enough big plays during the 2011 campaign. If coordinator Tim Beck puts less emphasis on quarterback runs due to schematic decisions or to protect Martinez’ 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, the Nebraska offense could become extremely predictable.

As good as tailback Rex Burkhead is, the Huskers need their quarterback play to improve to contend for the league crown and/or the BCS. In double-digit losses to Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina last season, Martinez completed a combined 30 passes and ran for less than 150 yards total. The NU staff and others have worked with the California native on his passing and mechanics, and marked improvement could lead to big results for Bo Pelini’s team. Martinez will always be a threat on the ground, and I think he’ll become an effective enough passer to be among the Big Ten’s best QBs.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Is Taylor Martinez One of the Big Ten's Top Quarterbacks?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/nebraska-cornhuskers-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Nebraska Cornhuskers check in at No. 14 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Rex Burkhead, RB (SR)
Taylor Martinez might be the most important player, but no one is better in Big Red country than No. 22. Burkhead is arguably the most complete player in the nation. He can move the pile, get to the edge, pick-up the blitz, catch passes as a receiver and, most importantly, lead by example. He is a tireless worker who never turns off the motor. If Nebraska is to compete for a Big Ten title, it will undoubtedly be on the back of the three-down workhorse from Plano, Texas.

Trap Game: at Northwestern (Oct. 20)
It may be tough for the Wildcats to sneak up on Nebraska in 2012 considering what Pat Fitzgerald’s team did in Lincoln last fall. But with the most important two-game stretch of the 2012 season looming — Michigan at home and at Michigan State — directly after the trip to Evanston, Huskers fans can’t help but look past Northwestern. The players, however, better not overlook the Wildcats or they will be on the losing end of Purple Power once again.

Upset Alert: at UCLA (Sept. 8)
The season finale against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium could also fall into this category, considering what could be on the line on November 23, but a Week 2 cross-country trip to face the talented but underachieving Bruins could be tricky. New head coach Jim Mora has built a talented coaching staff to lead his roster full of four and five-star prospects. UCLA played for their conference crown last year and won’t be scared of Nebraska coming to the Rose Bowl. A win over UCLA would be the first step in the effort to make a return trip to Pasadena in 2012.

Unsung Hero: Brett Maher, K/P (SO)
Maybe he isn’t as unsung as others considering he was named Big Ten Kicker and Punter of the Year last fall. But not many kickers or punters contribute as much to their team’s success as Maher does. He drilled 19 of his 23 field goal attempts and averaged nearly 45 yards per punt while knocking 42.4% of his boots inside the 20. His ability to handle both jobs with ease is invaluable in the modern scholarship era of college football.

Biggest Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
The Huskers will be on primetime TV three times this Big Ten season and the third visit to Saturday Night Football on ABC will be the biggest when it welcomes conference favorite Michigan to town. The Blackshirts were beaten and battered to the tune of 238 yards rushing at the hands of Denard Robinson and company last fall in Ann Arbor. But if Nebraska has conference title aspirations in 2012, it will have to close the 28-point gap from 2011.

Revenge Game: Michigan (Oct. 27)
Nebraska wasn’t just beaten by the Maize and Blue last fall, they were embarrassed. Taylor Martinez completed just nine of his 23 passes, Rex Burkhead has his worst game of the season with only 36 yards rushing and Denard Robinson accounted for four touchdowns in the 45-17 destruction in Ann Arbor. The Wisconsin game features a similar story line, but the Badgers don’t play within the division like the Wolverines. Nebraska is undoubtedly focused on revenge against both teams this fall.

Freshman To Watch: David Santos, LB
The Spring, Texas, product added nearly 20 pounds during his redshirt season — which almost didn’t happen at all. Santos was prepared to play a big role as a true freshman last fall until an injury forced him into a redshirt situation. With the loss of superstar Lavonte David, Bo Pelini appears to be leaning toward a by-committee replacement approach. In which case, Santos will get more than a few opportunities to prove his mettle.

Comeback Player: Andrew Rodriguez, OL (JR)
The big hog molly played in eight games last season for the Huskers. Halfway through the season, the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder was slowed by an injury that eventually cost him the final four games of the season. He has been shifted to right tackle where, when healthy, he will be a major force in the powerful Huskers ground game. Again, if he can stay on the field.

Defensive MVP: John Papuchis, DC
Along with new defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski and secondary coach Terry Joseph, Papuchis is the most important member of the Huskers defensive unit. Will Compton or Baker Steinkuhler might be the on-the-field MVPs for this unit, but if Nebraska returns to its Blackshirt way of life, it will be because of the new defensive coordinator. This unit was dominant just two years ago (93.1 rushing yards allowed per game in 2009) but has been less than salty over the last two (over 150 rushing yards allowed per game since). With plenty of talent on all three levels, Nebraska should be much-improved on defense in 2012.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Marrow, FB
The 6-foot-2, 250-pound thumper has a chance to make a name for himself this fall. Whether it’s lead-blocking, catching passes or picking up short yardage first downs, Marrow has a chance to be the unsung hero on this offense. The son of Nebraska graduate assistant Vince Marrow, the fullback signed with Alabama out of Holland, Ohio, before landing at Eastern Michigan. He transferred to the Huskers and sat out last fall, but is ready lay the lumber in 2012.

Season Defining Moment: Wisconsin (Sept. 29)
There may be bigger games later in the season against the state of Michigan, but from a psychological standpoint, how the Huskers perform against the Big Ten’s other Big Red at home to start conference play on national television will be huge. Should they handle the Badgers with relative ease, fans can get excited about a potential conference title run. Should Wisconsin, and its rebuilt two-deep, walk into Memorial Stadium and win, the fans in Lincoln would have to be excited about their fifth nine-win season in a row.

Related Nebraska Content

Teaser:
<p> Nebraska Cornhuskers 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 05:51
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-nebraska-rivals
Body:

 

Here are some of our favorite jokes about Nebraska's biggest rivals.

• What do you call a Golden Gopher in a BCS bowl game?
A referee. 

• What's the difference between an Iowa football player and a dollar? 

You can get four quarters out of a dollar.
 
• What do you get when you cross Minnesota with a groundhog?
Six more weeks of bad football.
 
• Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco?
Michigan State. He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy winner.
 
• Did you hear that Minnesota's football team doesn't have a website?
The Gophers can't string three "Ws" together.
 
• What do Ohio State fans use for birth control?
Their personalities.
 
• Why don’t Minnesota fans eat barbecue beans?
Because they keep falling through the holes in the grill.
 
• You know you’re from Michigan if:
You’ve ever climbed a water tower with a bucket of paint to defend your sister’s honor.
 
• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ryan Field this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.
 
• Things you will never hear an Iowa fan say:
I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.
 
Related Nebraska Content
 
Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 03:20

Pages