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Path: /college-football/ranking-big-ten-quarterbacks-2013

The Big Ten is heavy at the top when it comes to quarterbacks this season, as Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Michigan’s Devin Gardner could all be top-20 passers in 2013.

Miller is one of college football’s leading contenders for the Heisman and should thrive in his second year with coach Urban Meyer. Martinez showed big improvement last season and will be throwing to one of the Big Ten’s best receiving corps in 2013. This will be Gardner’s first opportunity to start a full season but he clearly showed he was ready for the opportunity last year.

The rest of the conference has some uncertainty, as Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue and Iowa all have a quarterback battle expected to extend into fall practice.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article.

Ranking the Big Ten's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013

1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State (JR)
The electric dual-threat talent from Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne was the No. 2-rated quarterback prospect in the nation in 2011. He quickly stole the starting job as a true freshman before enjoying a breakout sophomore campaign under spread guru Urban Meyer. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound dynamo is the unquestioned leader of the Buckeyes and he consistently carried his team to an undefeated season with, at times, complete disregard for his own safety. He finished the year fourth in the Big Ten in rushing (1,271 yards) and was No. 2 in passing efficiency and total offense (Taylor Martinez). With speed, size and smarts, he is a perfect fit for Meyer’s offensive scheme and it means Miller could be the Heisman front-runner in 2013.

2. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska (SR)
Martinez was clearly one of college football’s most-improved quarterbacks last season. In 14 contests, he threw for 2,871 yards and 23 touchdowns and added 1,019 yards and 10 scores on the ground. Martinez topped 300 yards passing three times and had five contests of 100 or more rushing yards. After showing steady improvement in each of his first three years as a starter, Martinez is poised for his best year at Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are loaded at receiver and return three starters on the offensive line. Expect Martinez to be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors and be a top-15 quarterback nationally this season.

3. Devin Gardner, Michigan (JR)
After an injury sidelined Denard Robinson last season, Gardner finally got his chance to start at quarterback for Michigan. The former top recruit waited his turn behind Robinson and saw some snaps at receiver early in the year. However, Gardner showed no rust when he moved back under center on a full-time basis, throwing for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns over the final five games. In the Outback Bowl against South Carolina, Gardner completed 18 of 36 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. His best performance came against Iowa, throwing for 314 yards and three scores, while adding 37 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Michigan needs to give Gardner more help at receiver and from its rushing attack, but the junior is poised to have an All-Big Ten year in his first as Michigan’s No. 1 quarterback.

4. Kain Colter, Northwestern (SR)
Even though Colter is ranked here, it’s essentially the duo of Colter/Trevor Siemian. In 13 games last season, Colter threw for 872 yards and eight touchdowns, rushed for 894 yards and 12 scores and caught 16 passes for 169 yards. Siemian passed for 1,312 yards and six touchdowns on 218 attempts last season. Most two-quarterback systems don’t work, but Northwestern seems to have found the right mix between Colter and Siemian. The Wildcats are coming off of a 10-3 season and the Colter-Siemian duo could lead this team to a spot in most preseason top 25 polls in 2013. 

5. Tre Roberson, Indiana (SO)
Roberson burst onto the scene as a true freshman midway through the 2011 season. The Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central product became the first true frosh to start in IU history when he took over the job against Illinois in Week 6. He tormented defenses the rest of the season with electric athletic ability (426 yards rushing) and had Hoosiers fans excited about 2012. However, after a huge game against Indiana State in the season opener, Roberson was lost for the season with a broken leg in Week 2. He redshirted and is poised to return to action this fall. Kevin Wilson has quickly created a potent passing attack in Bloomington and Roberson figures to be the star of the show in 2013.

6. Joel Stave, Wisconsin (SO)
Danny O’Brien was supposed to be the heir apparent to the great Russell Wilson. But the Maryland transfer looked lost from the start and Bret Bielema made the switch to Stave, a redshirt freshman walk-on from Greenfield (Wis.) Whitnall. Stave, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound pocket passer, totally rejuvenated the non-existent passing game the second he stepped into the lineup. He threw for 1,104 yards and six scores in less than six games, as he sustained a season-ending broken collarbone against Michigan State. The only two games the Badgers lost during the stretch were the two Stave couldn’t finish due to injury (Nebraska was the other), which only further indicates how important he was to creating balance on offense. Counting the loss to the Spartans, Wisconsin lost four of its last six games without Stave. Healthy and now in Gary Andersen’s prolific offensive scheme, look for Stave to flourish in his second season under center.

7. Andrew Maxwell, Michigan State (SR)
After struggling in his first season as Michigan State’s starting quarterback, Maxwell is under pressure to raise his performance in 2013. The Spartans have the talent and the schedule to win nine games this year, but quarterback play has to improve. In his first season as a starter, Maxwell threw for 2,606 yards and 13 touchdowns. However, he completed only 52.4 percent of his throws and tossed nine picks, including two in a key Legends Division loss to Northwestern. Maxwell was able to hold off Connor Cook and Tyler O’Connor this spring, but the battle will continue into the fall.

8. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State (FR)
With Steven Bench’s decision to transfer after spring practice, the battle to replace Matt McGloin in Happy Valley is down to two contenders: Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson. Hackenberg ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 recruiting class but won’t arrive on campus until this summer. Ferguson joined Penn State from the junior college ranks this spring and heads into fall as a tentative No. 1. Hackenberg has the talent, but there’s no need for coach Bill O’Brien to rush him into the starting lineup.  

9. Philip Nelson, Minnesota (SO)
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill decided to remove Nelson’s redshirt midway through last season and inserted him into the starting lineup for the final seven contests. Nelson threw for six touchdowns in his first three games but went three contests without a score, before turning in a solid performance in the bowl game (7 of 16, 138 yards, two touchdowns). Nelson has dual-threat potential, which is the type of quarterback Kill used successfully at Northern Illinois. The sophomore has potential but needs more help from the receiving corps and rushing attack. Nelson should build off of last season’s showing with a solid 2013 campaign.

10. Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois (SR)
Few quarterbacks in the nation have taken as many snaps and have as many question marks as the senior-to-be from Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback has been a team and bowl game MVP (Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) but has also been benched on more than one occasion and has missed plenty of time due to injury. He is a career 60.9-percent passer who threw more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (4) a year ago. His touchdown totals have dropped three straight seasons from 23 as a freshman to 20 as a sophomore and just eight a year ago. And the Illini went from back-to-back seven-win seasons to an abysmal 2-10 mark last fall. Scheelhaase’s legacy will be decided this fall and he has to play more consistent football if he wants fans to remember him like he was as a freshman — when he posted 1,825 yards passing and 868 yards rushing.

11. Rob Henry, Purdue (SR)
A three-star prospect from Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic, Henry has overcome plenty in his Boilermakers career. He redshirted in 2009 before making seven starts as a second-year freshman in '10. Then, after being named team co-captain, he tore up his knee a week before the 2011 season started. He came back again in 2012 and helped contribute behind Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound dual-threat showed flashes of athletic ability with 547 yards rushing as a freshman and should still bring that type of dynamic to Darrell Hazell’s new offense. However, staying healthy will be a key if Henry wants to help Purdue get to the postseason for the third straight season.

12. Jake Rudock, Iowa (SO)
James Vandenberg’s career at Iowa ended on a down note, but he still threw for 5,786 yards and 35 touchdowns during his tenure in Iowa City. With Vandenberg out of eligibility, the Hawkeyes have a three-way battle for the No. 1 job this offseason. And considering none of the candidates have thrown a pass on the FBS level, it’s a wide-open battle that may not be decided until late in the fall. Rudock is believed to have the inside track, as he served as Vandenberg’s backup last year. The 6-foot-3 passer was the Broward (Fla.) County Player of the Year as a high school senior and redshirted in his first season on campus. If Rudock doesn’t win the job, Cody Sokol – a junior college recruit that redshirted last season – and redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard will get a chance to push for the top spot.

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

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<p> Ranking the Big Ten Quarterbacks for 2013</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 07:30
Path: /college-football/syracuse-or-pittsburgh-who-will-have-more-acc-wins-2013

The ACC welcomes two new teams into the fold for 2013, as Syracuse and Pittsburgh join from the Big East.

Syracuse went 8-5 last season but has a new coach (Scott Shafer) and suffered some key personnel departures. Quarterback Ryan Nassib must be replaced, and the defensive has key holes to fill on the line and in the secondary with the departure of safety Shamarko Thomas.

Pittsburgh finally has coaching stability with Paul Chryst, but the Panthers are coming off a 6-7 record in 2012. If Chryst can find the right quarterback – perhaps Rutgers transfer Tom Savage – Pittsburgh could make some noise in the Coastal Division. However, the Panthers need to find a go-to running back, especially after Rushel Shell decided to transfer in the spring.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Syracuse or Pittsburgh: Who Will Have More ACC Wins in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This may be a race to six wins for both teams, but if either team has a chance to get into the seven- or eight-win range, it’s Pittsburgh. Even though the Panthers start at a two-win disadvantage since last season, the Panthers have a more solid nucleus than Syracuse. Paul Chryst has had a year to install his system and style and mend wounds from all the coaching turmoil since Dave Wannstedt was fired. Scott Shafer has the foundation rebuilt by Doug Marrone, but not the personnel. Although Rushel Shell left Pitt, this offense could be OK. Tom Savage may finally have a home after bouncing from Rutgers to Arizona to Pitt. He had an up-and-down freshman season with Rutgers, but he still finished with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Pittsburgh’s defense also has the potential to be pretty good. Aaron Donald and Jason Hendricks, the two best players , are among nine returning starters for a defense that was one three teams in the Big East to hold opponents to fewer than five yards per play.

Jim Young (@ACCSports)
Both Pitt and Syracuse come into the ACC with a lot of questions, particularly at quarterback. I tend to give the Panthers a slight edge over the Orange simply because they have better continuity on their coaching staff and that their expected starting QB, Rutgers transfer Tom Savage has actually, you know, started. But when in doubt, go to the schedule. The Panthers have to play at FSU, at Georgia Tech and at Virginia Tech. Ouch. Add in tough home games against Miami and UNC and that Pitt has to play Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, and I’ll predict that the Orange ends the 2013 season with more ACC wins. But I doubt either team managed to reach .500 in league play.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Both teams should be excited about entering the ACC but only one has legitimate shot at going bowling in 2013. Syracuse watched one of the most productive quarterbacks in school history, a potential first-round bookend left tackle and its overachieving head coach depart for the NFL. Meanwhile, Pitt welcomes back a head coach for the first time since 2009-10 (Dave Wannstedt). Paul Chryst is an offensive wizard and a developing star in the coaching ranks and he has more talent to work with in 2013 than newbie Scott Shafer. With winnable games in the ACC against Duke, Virginia and Syracuse — despite being in the Carrier Dome — Pitt has an outside shot at four conference victories. Florida State, North Carolina and Miami all come to Heinz Field and fans shouldn't be shocked if Pitt wins one of them. The Orange, on the other hand, have winnable home games with Wake Forest, Boston College and Pittsburgh (as well as an un-winnable one with Clemson) but likely won't register a road ACC win (Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State, Maryland). I give Chryst and the Panthers an edge in their debut trip through the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Anson Whaley, Founder and Editor of Cardiac Hill, @PittPantherBlog
If you'd asked me this question a month ago, I'd have easily said Pitt. But that was before the departure of running back Rushel Shell, who is transferring out of the program. I'll still say the Panthers, but it's not as definitive. Pitt is breaking in a new quarterback with the loss of Tino Sunseri. That appears to be Arizona transfer senior Tom Savage, but redshirt freshman Chad Voytik had a huge spring game last week that could make the decision of head coach Paul Chryst a bit more difficult. There's also the loss of the team's leading running back and leading receiver, seniors Ray Graham and Mike Shanahan. That's a lot of production to replace and when you couple it with questionable offensive and defensive lines, there's plenty of reason to be concerned. On top of that, I also think the Panthers have the more difficult schedule. Still, the Orange will have their hands full trying to replace quarterback Ryan Nassib and the team's top two receivers from last season, seniors Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales. Pitt's secondary also has a chance to be special and I expect the defense to be solid with improved play from the linebackers. I'm not convinced either team has a very good year, but I'll say the Panthers have a slightly better inaugural ACC season than Syracuse.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Syracuse and Pittsburgh are solid additions for the ACC, but both teams are entering the conference in a state of transition. The Orange lost coach Doug Marrone to the NFL, and quarterback Ryan Nassib, safety Shamarko Thomas and tackle Justin Pugh have all departed. Pittsburgh finally had an offseason of coaching stability, but running back Rushel Shell decided to transfer, leaving the offense without one of its top playmakers.

Although both teams have some significant question marks entering the season, I think Pittsburgh will finish with more ACC wins. Even though the Orange landed Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen at quarterback, the Panthers should be better under center with Tom Savage getting the edge over Chad Voytik. Pittsburgh could also have one of the ACC’s best defenses in 2013, especially in the back seven where six starters from last year return. The Orange have one of the ACC’s top backfields with Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley, but the offensive line is a concern with Pugh and guard Zack Chibane departing. Syracuse also must rebuild its defensive line and find a new go-to receiver with the departure of Alec Lemon.

Coaching stability is a key aspect of this debate, as this is Scott Shafer’s first go-around as a head coach, while Chryst has one year under his belt. 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Even though Pittsburgh and Syracuse both enjoyed success in their final seasons in the Big East, it will be difficult for either team to build off of what took place in 2012 as they enter the ACC this fall. Both teams experienced heavy personnel losses at key positions, not to mention that Syracuse will be led by a first-year head coach. Even though Pittsburgh opens its season by hosting Florida State, I think the Panthers will navigate Year One in the ACC a little more successfully than Syracuse. The Orange don't play their first ACC game until Oct. 5, but it's against Clemson, a favorite to not only win the conference but also compete for the national title. However, before Syracuse hosts Clemson, the Orange have to get through the Big Ten double-header - home against Penn State, at Northwestern - that they open the season with. This is not exactly the ideal situation to break in a new quarterback and unproven wide receivers. Syracuse may have a slight edge over Pittsburgh when it comes to the depth of their respective divisions in the ACC, but the Panthers have more experience returning on both the field and sidelines and I think they will finish with a better conference record than the Orange this fall. Don't be surprised if this "race" isn't decided until the Nov. 23 meeting between these two in the Carrier Dome.

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<p> Syracuse or Pittsburgh: Who Will Have More ACC Wins in 2013?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-seven-key-stats-kansas-speedway

Kansas Speedway was the site for one of the weirdest races of the year in 2012. On a newly paved surface with an unfamiliar tire compound, the race offered drama (Jimmie Johnson crashing), comedy (Danica Patrick attempting to wreck Landon Cassill, but wrecking herself instead) and action (Matt Kenseth stormed to the front late in the race – there is more on this below – to scoop up the surprise win).

Statistically, one race is really, really tough for information-gleaning purposes, but we can try. There are a few hot drivers leaving Texas, one under-the-radar performer last year at Kansas and a driver with a lot to lose, desperate for a sound Sunday run.

For PEER and other metrics with which you may be unfamiliar, I refer you to my glossary of terms on

56.29%  Kyle Busch is the most efficient passer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a 56.29 percent passing efficiency.

The winner in two of the last three Cup Series races is Busch, who also happens to be the most adept navigator through traffic in the new Gen-6 car. Ironically, Texas, the site of his most recent win, served as the only reliable race in which his pass efficiency was negative — 44.12 percent — but he started on the pole and averaged a 1.58-place running position en route to a fairly easy victory. Two of his three best single-race efficiencies, 56.25 percent at Fontana and 55.91 percent at Las Vegas this season came large intermediate tracks on which high horsepower matters, not totally unlike Kansas.

42.5%  Martin Truex Jr. led his first laps of 2013 at Texas, pacing the field for 42.5 percent of the race (142 laps).

He didn’t get the victory, but it was a strong showing for Truex, who has had a forgettable season thus far, finishing 24th or worse in three out of seven races. He heads to Kansas Speedway this weekend with two consecutive runner-up finishes, coming on both old and new pavement iterations of the track. There’s a caveat to that, though…

10.09  He finished second, but Truex only averaged a 10.09-place running position in last fall’s race at Kansas.

Truex is going to receive a lot of attention this week as a win favorite and a fantasy pick, but is the hype to be believed? He wasn’t nearly as polished on the freshly paved Kansas surface as he was on the old track. That 10.09 was the sixth-highest average running spot in a race that was caution-filled and as jumbled as your run-of-the-mill restrictor plate race. He might very well be a contender for the win on Sunday, but he isn’t nearly the lock as many will suggest.

128  Last fall’s Kansas race winner, Matt Kenseth, didn’t take the lead until lap 128. He led 78 laps on way to earning his only non-restrictor plate win of 2012.

I don’t think anyone expected Kansas to be a 1.5-mile version of Darlington. There were 14 cautions for 66 laps, meaning 24.7 percent of the race was run under caution. Patience was key and Kenseth’s approach to the race proved brilliant. None of the drivers that led in the first 100 laps of that race finished in the top 15. It’s not a guarantee that this kind of craziness will repeat itself, but understand that early leaders clearly aren’t impervious to adversity on this fast, frantic track.

<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the STP 400 at Kansas Speedway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 18:28
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/10-amazing-mlb-stats-week-april-8-14

Just two weeks into the season, the sample size is small, but it’s fun to dissect a few notable numbers from the early going. Here are a few from the week of April 8-14.

20    Walks for Joey Votto
The former MVP of the Reds is on pace for 270 walks this season. He has drawn a walk in every game this season save one. In that lone game, he was 3-for-4. But we know that 12 games is a small sample size, and at some point NL pitchers will find a way to pitch to him. Perhaps even more remarkable than Votto’s 20 walks is that the entire White Sox team has but 16. I guess patience at the plate isn’t such a virtue on the South Side of Chicago.

1.82    ERA for the Atlanta Braves
At the end of two weeks, the Atlanta pitching staff has been downright filthy, clearly the main reason the Braves are off to such a hot start. With an ERA of 1.82, the Braves are so much better than the season’s standard. Only three other teams have an ERA below 3.00.

0    Home runs hit last week by teams from Florida
The Tampa Bay Rays have just five home runs on the season, and didn’t go yard last week as they went 1-4 with one rainout (thankfully). It wasn’t any better in South Florida. The Marlins scored just six runs in six games against the Braves and Phillies, winning one and losing five.

2.78    ERA for Miami starting pitchers
Just how bad is the run support in Miami? Bad enough that a few starters may need to be put on suicide watch. The rotation has a respectable combined ERA of 2.78. Their won-loss record is a combined 1-6.

20.1    Paul Maholm scoreless innings
Prior to this season, Paul Maholm owned a 66-84 record in 216 career starts and a 4.26 ERA, primarily with the Pirates. He has averaged 9.6 hits per nine innings and 5.7 strikeouts. This season he has yet to allow a run in 20.1 innings and has found a strikeout pitch. He’s whiffing batters at a rate of 8.9 per nine innings and allowing just 4.9 hits. The lefthander ended the week with 14.2 shutout innings over the Braves’ division rivals Miami and Washington, both games on the road.

39    Scoreless innings for St. Louis pitchers
The St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching staff recently put together a streak of 39 scoreless innings. A stretch that included a shutout over division favorite Cincinnati and two whitewashes of Milwaukee.

33    Scoreless innings for Milwaukee hitters
Ryan Braun broke the string with a two-run homer off of St. Louis reliever Trevor Rosenthal, a clout that also ended the Cardinals’ scoreless streak.

6.09    Bullpen ERA in St. Louis
Just how badly do the Cardinals miss closer Jason Motte? The reliever is out with an elbow injury that could require Tommy John surgery and the shakeup in the St. Louis bullpen hasn’t yielded great results. The starters are certainly carrying their load with a 1.82 ERA and a combined 7-2 record as of Sunday. The bullpen? Well, that’s been sketchy. Relievers have combined for a 6.09 ERA, three losses, no wins and four blown saves in six opportunities.

1.67    Home ERA for Colorado pitchers
It seems that it may not be too tough to pitch in the thin air of Denver after all. Or maybe it has to do with cold — dare we say, frigid — air. It’s a small sample, but in 27 innings at Coors Field, the Colorado staff has allowed just 24 hits and five earned runs. Jhoulys Chacin, Jeff Francis and Jon Garland all chipped in with a quality start and the bullpen allowed just one run in 8.1 innings. On the road, they seem to be more themselves with a 4.92 ERA.

.632    Prince Fielder’s batting average for the week
The hottest hitter in the majors over the past week collected 12 knocks in six games, leading the majors with 11 RBIs over that span. He batted .632 with nine walks and just two whiffs. He finished the week with a .527 OBP and .833 slugging percentage.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Just two weeks into the season, the sample size is small, but it’s fun to dissect a few notable numbers from the early going. Here are a few from the week of April 8-14.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/big-12-quarterback-rankings-2013

With no clear No. 1 quarterback returning for 2013, the Big 12 has an intriguing blend of potential and uncertainty surrounding the most important position on the field.

Oklahoma State’s Clint Chelf ranks as Athlon’s No. 1 quarterback for 2013, but TCU’s Casey Pachall and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell could make a run at the top spot. Pachall missed most of last season due to a suspension, but if he picks up where he left off, the Horned Frogs will have one of the Big 12’s top passing attacks.

Texas Tech’s Michael Brewer, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Kansas State’s Daniel Sams are three players looking to break out in 2013. Brewer should shine under the direction of coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Sams showed potential in limited work last year.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article.

Ranking the Big 12 Starting Quarterbacks for 2013

1. Clint Chelf, Oklahoma State (SR)
With the departure of Seth Doege, Geno Smith, Landry Jones, Nick Florence and Collin Klein, picking the No. 1 quarterback in the Big 12 for 2013 is no easy task. Chelf gets the early edge over TCU’s Casey Pachall and Oklahoma’s Blake Bell as the No. 1 passer, as the senior has pulled ahead of Wes Lunt and J.W. Walsh in Oklahoma State’s quarterback battle this spring. Chelf was a third-stringer until injuries forced Lunt and Walsh out of the lineup. In the final six games of last season, Chelf threw for 1,537 yards and 14 touchdowns and led the Cowboys to a 58-14 bowl victory over Purdue. He also finished the year with 162 rushing yards, including 63 in the 51-48 loss to Oklahoma. New coordinator Mike Yurcich was an excellent hire by coach Mike Gundy, and the Cowboys’ offense should remain among the best in the Big 12. If Chelf picks up where he left off in 2012, he should be the favorite to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors this fall.

2. Casey Pachall, TCU (SR)
Where to begin? The Brownwood, Texas, native was a highly touted dual-threat prospect coming out of high school in 2009. He took over for Andy Dalton in 2011 and showed fans in Fort Worth why he was such a coveted prospect by finishing second in the Mountain West (to Kellen Moore) in passing efficiency and leading the Frogs to a conference championship. Yet, one month into the 2012 season, Pachall was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and had failed a team-administered drug test. Gary Patterson was forced to suspend his signal caller indefinitely. But the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder’s difficult journey back into the starting lineup is nearly complete after successful substance abuse rehabilitation this offseason. He is a special athlete who will easily reclaim his starting job should he remain on the straight and narrow.

3. Blake Bell, Oklahoma (JR)
Not many quarterbacks check in at 6-foot-6 and more than 260 pounds, but that is exactly what the “Bell-dozer” brings to the Oklahoma offense. Certainly, the Wichita (Kan.) Bishop Carroll monstrosity has much to learn about being an effective passer — he has completed just 10 career passes — but he has a strong nose for the goal line. In his short two-year career backing up Landry Jones, Bell has scored more rushing touchdowns (24) than he has pass attempts (20). With an excellent offensive line and loads of typically talented Sooner skill talent, the stage is set for Bell to take Norman, and the nation, by storm in 2013.

4. David Ash, Texas (JR)
Many have pointed to issues under center as Texas’ biggest concern since Colt McCoy left town. Plain and simple, Ash, the former Belton (Texas) High star, wasn’t very good as a freshman in 2011. He ranked last among starters in the Big 12 in passing efficiency (108.00) while throwing for more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (4). Yet, Ash showed signs of growth last season as a sophomore, finishing fifth in the QB-rich Big 12 in passing efficiency (153.28). He threw eight more interceptions but, this time, accounted for 21 total touchdowns and more than 2,800 yards of offense. The critics have been hard on Ash for good reason, but he is just now entering his first season as an upperclassman and he should be able to take another step in his development this fall. The 6-foot-3, 223-pound quarterback has plenty of ability, he just needs to mature into a leader who holds his huddle accountable.

5. Michael Brewer, Texas Tech (SO)
If you are looking for one of college football’s top breakout players for 2013, look no further than Brewer. The sophomore signal caller takes over for Seth Doege, and high expectations surround the Lake Travis native. Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris tutored Brewer at Lake Travis High School, so stepping into a spread attack like the one new head coach Kliff Kingsbury is installing won’t be much of an adjustment. Brewer only played in mop-up duty last season, throwing for 375 yards and four touchdowns. With Kingsbury calling the plays, along with a solid group of receivers coming back in 2013, look for Brewer to have a monster year in his first as the starter for Texas Tech.

6. Daniel Sams, Kansas State (SO)
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder isn’t revealing much about the quarterback battle between sophomore Daniel Sams and junior college recruit Jake Waters. However, one thing is pretty clear: The Wildcats have two options that could start in 2013. Sams played sparingly as a backup to Collin Klein last season, throwing for 55 yards on six completions. He also added 235 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.3 yards per rush. Waters was the NJCAA Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, throwing for 3,501 yards and 39 touchdowns. Sams likely has an edge for the starting job, and his dual-threat ability makes him a dangerous weapon for Kansas State to unleash in 2013.

7. Bryce Petty, Baylor (JR)
The junior-to-be from Midlothian (Texas) High hasn’t gotten a lot of in-game experience as his 14 career pass attempts will attest. However, he is extremely familiar with Art Briles' system as he just completed his fourth spring practice with the Bears. Both Robert Griffin III and Nick Florence led the Big 12 in total offense each of the last two seasons, so expectations are high for Petty in his campaign as the starter. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder isn’t the same type of athlete that his predecessors were, but he has a big arm and plays in an offensive system that is as QB-friendly as any in the nation. If he can efficiently distribute the football to a host of elite playmakers, Baylor can go bowling once again in 2013.

8. Ford Childress, West Virginia (FR)
Like many of the teams in the Big 12, West Virginia has a lot of uncertainty surrounding its quarterback situation. Geno Smith departs after a standout senior year, leaving Paul Millard and Ford Childress to battle for the No. 1 spot. Millard has the edge in experience, as he has thrown 34 passes over the last two years. However, the edge in talent is on Childress’ side, as the 6-foot-5 passer was one of the top 150 recruits in the nation in 2012 according to ESPN. The Houston native is the son of former NFL defensive lineman Ray Childress and has all of the physical tools to shine in Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack. There’s a good chance Millard starts 2013 as West Virginia’s No. 1 quarterback. However, Childress is the Mountaineers’ long-term answer and should take over at some point in 2013.

9. Jake Heaps, Kansas (JR)
The Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline product is far removed from his recruiting days when he was touted as the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the nation (2010). He originally signed with BYU, but after spotty play in two years, Heaps decided he needed a change of scenery and landed in Lawrence with Charlie Weis. There is plenty of ability in his 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame as he played in all 13 games as a true freshman, throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns for the Cougars. But Heaps has to convince the Jayhawks — and Big 12 defenses — that he is capable of completing passes in big-time situations against big-time competition. Improving his career 57.1-percent completion rate will go a long way to ensuring KU is competitive on the field.

10. Sam Richardson, Iowa State (SO)
Three quarterbacks made starts for Iowa State last season, but the offense heads into the offseason with some clarity atop the depth chart. With Steele Jantz finishing his eligibility and Jared Barnett transferring, the No. 1 job clearly belongs to Richardson. He saw action in only four games last year and started the final two contests against West Virginia and Tulsa. Richardson’s best performance came against Kansas, throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns. Against the Mountaineers, he threw for three touchdowns and rushed for 119 yards. Richardson is an intriguing prospect, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty surrounding him in 2013. Putting up numbers against Kansas and West Virginia wasn’t a problem for most quarterbacks last year, and Richardson struggled in the bowl game. With a full offseason to work as the starter, expect the sophomore to turn in a solid performance this fall.

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

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<p> Ranking the Big 12 Quarterbacks for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 07:29
Path: /college-football/washington-or-oregon-state-who-will-finish-higher-pac-12-north-2013

The pecking order in the Pac-12 North is pretty clear. Oregon and Stanford should be the top two teams in the division, while Washington and Oregon State are likely battling for third place.

Washington had a disappointing 2012 season, as the Huskies had hopes of being a top-25 team. However, despite a much-improved defense, the offensive line struggled, and quarterback Keith Price was never able to get on track.

Oregon State was one of the Pac-12’s biggest surprises last season, finishing with a 9-4 record and spending a good chunk of the season ranked in the top 25.

Both teams could be top-25 teams in 2013 but expect a close race for third place in the Pac-12 North.

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Washington or Oregon State: Who Will Finish Higher in the Pac-12 North in 2013?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
This is tough, mainly because they both have their strengths and their obvious flaws. I’m going to go with Washington, but I don’t feel strongly one way or another. The Huskies’ defense improved dramatically under Justin Wilcox last season, and only one of his top nine tacklers from last season returning. One of those, Shaq Thompson, is a potential superstar. On offense, I’m willing to accept last season’s inconsistency as an outlier. Keith Price, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Kasen Williams and Bishop Sankey are too good for the Huskies to rank ninth in the Pac-12 in yards per play. A healthy offensive line will be key to putting Washington’s offense back on track. Meanwhile, I’m concerned about Oregon State’s quarterback situation. Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz can both win games, but the Beavers would be better off to have one clear answer at quarterback. I also think the departure of Jordan Poyer, a lock-down cornerback, could be overlooked. This should be the season the Huskies’ get out of their 7-6 funk.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Both coaching staffs deserve kudos for huge turn arounds on the defensive side of the ball a year ago. Both the Beavers and Huskies developed into two of the stingier defenses in the league and should both be able to continue that trend, each could contend in the North in 2013. Yet, Stanford and Oregon are still the cream of the crop in this division, so it seems more likely that these two will be left to battle for third place. With similar schedules likely resulting in at least three Pac-12 losses each — against Oregon, Stanford and at Arizona State — both Oregon State and Washington are left to win tricky swing games if they expect to finish .500 or better in the league. Mike Riley's bunch gets USC and Washington at home while road trips to Cal and Utah are intriguing. Steve Sarkisian's squad has to travel to UCLA and Oregon State while Arizona comes to town early in the year. U of W gets a slight schedule advantage overall that is negated by the fact it will have to face the Beavers in Corvallis. This debate will be settled on the penultimate Saturday of the regular season (Nov. 23) where Oregon State will win a close battle against Washington in the friendly confines of Reser Stadium.

Kyle Kensing, Editor at, (@kensing45)
The 2012 season was a return to normalcy for Oregon State. Mike Riley may have been on the hot seat after consecutive losing campaigns in 2010 and 2011, but in winning nine games, last year's Beavers did what Riley-coached teams do best: defy expectations. Oregon State loses some difficultly replaced players, namely cornerback Jordan Poyer and wide receiver Markus Wheaton. However, Riley returns 15 starters. Only three Pac-12 teams return more -- among them is Washington.

Washington is in its own run of consistency, though three straight 7-6 finishes may not be the kind of consistency Steve Sarkisian is seeking. Most anyone following the Pac-12 recently has awaited Washington's breakout campaign. The pieces are there in 2013 for it to finally come to fruition.

On paper, UW is the more attractive pick. The defense improved by leaps and bounds under Justin Wilcox. Bishop Sankey established himself as one of the nation's premiere rushers. If Keith Price can regain the spark he showed in 2011, the UW offense should be among the conference's most exciting.

But precedent favors Oregon State. Riley's continued defying of expectations is tough to bet against. Both teams will factor into the Pac-12 North title race, but OSU finishes ahead of UW. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think Washington and Oregon State both have a strong case to be ranked inside of the preseason top 25 and should have a tight battle for third place in the Pac-12 North. The Huskies return 16 starters from a team that won seven games and lost two contests by three points or less. The Beavers bounced back after a disappointing 2011 campaign, winning nine games and finishing 6-3 in Pac-12 play. Washington has a difficult schedule, catching Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA in crossover play, with road games against Oregon State and Stanford. Oregon State plays Utah, Colorado, USC and Arizona State from the South and hosts Washington and Stanford this year. Even though the schedule is slanted in favor of the Beavers, I think the Huskies will find a way to finish higher in the North Division. A big part of Washington’s struggles last season was its offensive line, which allowed 2.9 sacks per game. However, the offense has too much firepower to struggle in 2013, especially if quarterback Keith Price gets back on track after a subpar 2012 season. The Beavers return most of their core from 2012 but have to replace both starting defensive tackles, receiver Markus Wheaton and cornerback Jordan Poyer. These two teams could finish tied in conference wins next year, but I think Washington edges Oregon State for third place in the North.

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
I think these two teams are going to be neck-and-neck pretty much all season, so it wouldn't surprise me one bit if their head-to-head matchup on Nov. 23 decides who finishes above the other. And even though that game takes place on Oregon State's home turf, I am going to take Washington to finish ahead of the Beavers in the Pac-12 North standings this fall. Both teams have quite a bit of talent and experience returning, but in my opinion, the Huskies have a clear edge at the most important position of all - quarterback. Despite Keith Price's struggles last season, there's little denying the senior's talent and potential. His offensive line was decimated by injuries in 2012 and as long as that history doesn't repeat itself, Price should be able to put up some big numbers this season, especially with the weapons he has to work with. In fact, Washington has a chance to be a surprise team in the Pac-12, if not the nation, as its schedule includes the season opener against Boise State, crossover games in the Pac-12 on the road against Arizona State and UCLA - two of the expected South division contenders -  and a home game against Arizona. There also are the Huskies' back-to-back dates with Stanford (road) and Oregon (home) on Oct. 5 and 12, with the Cardinal and Ducks expected to be in the thick of the national title chase. If Price and the offense can do their part and the defense can continue to improve, Washington should not lack for chances to impress and shine in 2013, including finishing ahead of Oregon State in the Pac-12 standings.

Related College Football Content

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<p> Washington or Oregon State: Who Will Finish Higher in the Pac-12 in 2013?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/ranking-big-easts-quarterbacks-2013

With all of the teams coming and going in the Big East, the conference is clearly one in transition for 2013.

Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater is clearly the No. 1 quarterback in the Big East for 2013 and should be one of college football’s top 10 Heisman contenders. After Bridgewater, there’s a drop-off to the No. 2 option.

UCF’s Blake Bortles and Cincinnati’s Brendon Kay are solid No. 2 and No. 3 options, respectively. And Rutgers’ Gary Nova looks to get back on track after a rough finish to 2012.

The rest of the conference is filled with uncertainty under center, as SMU’s Garrett Gilbert, UConn’s Chandler Whitmer, Memphis’ Jacob Karam, and Houston’s David Piland still have plenty to prove. South Florida’s Bobby Eveld and Temple’s Connor Reilly enter their first year as the full-time starter for their team.

Ranking the Big East's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (JR)
After throwing for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2012, Bridgewater has his sights set high for 2013. Louisville should be a top-10 team this season, and the Florida native is one of the top Heisman contenders. Despite injuries to his arm and ankle, Bridgewater came off of the bench against Rutgers to throw for 263 yards and two touchdowns, which clinched the Big East title for Louisville. In the Sugar Bowl victory over Florida, he threw for 266 yards and one touchdown. With one of the nation’s top receiving corps coming back for the Cardinals, Bridgewater could record 4,000 passing yards in 2013.

2. Blake Bortles, UCF (JR)
In his first full season as UCF’s quarterback, Bortles earned All-Conference USA second-team honors and won MVP honors in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. He threw for 3,059 yards and 25 touchdowns last year, while rushing for 285 yards and eight scores. Bortles tossed only three picks in 2012 and completed 62.9 percent of his throws. Coming off of a strong sophomore campaign, Bortles can only get better in 2013. With a solid supporting cast around him, the junior could contend for American Athletic all-conference honors this fall.

3. Brendon Kay, Cincinnati (SR)
Before the 2012 season, the two-star recruit from Marine City (Mich.) High had attempted eight career passes. But two-thirds of the way through last season, the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder got the call to lead the 'Cats offense and he didn’t disappoint. He started the last five games of the season, winning four of them, including the Belk Bowl win over Duke. He finished the season with 1,298 yards passing, 10 touchdowns, just two interceptions, a sneaky good 306 yards rushing and two more scores on the ground. Switching head coaches from Butch Jones to Tommy Tuberville likely won’t help his dual-threat statistics, but Kay is still plenty capable of efficiently running the new pro-style system to put Cincinnati in Big East — or AAC — contention. Another factor potentially in Kay's favor: Tuberville showed the ability to adapt to his roster by allowing Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege to air it out last season.

4. Gary Nova, Rutgers (JR)
The heady pro-style passer from famed Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J., showed strong growth in 2012 in his first full season as the starter. After getting some starting experience under his belt in 2011, Nova threw for 2,651 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading Rutgers to a Big East co-championship last season. He also lit up an SEC team on the road when he threw for 397 yards and five scores in a win over Arkansas. However, Nova also struggled at times, tossing six interceptions against Kent State and losing the final two starts of the regular season — costing the Knights a BCS bowl berth. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound signal caller should take the next step in his development process in his second season under center in Piscataway.

5. Garrett Gilbert, SMU (SR)
The Austin (Texas) Lake Travis product was the No. 3-rated quarterback prospect and No. 9-rated overall recruit in the 2009 class for the Texas Longhorns. And he showed flashes of elite upside when he filled in as a true freshman for Colt McCoy in the BCS National Championship game. However, his career never materialized for the Burnt Orange and he eventually transferred to SMU. Playing right away after graduating in Austin, Gilbert was solid on the Hilltop in his first year. He threw for 2,932 yards, rushed for 346 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns. He led the Mustangs to a winning record and a bowl game and should be in for bigger things under QB guru June Jones in 2013.

6. Chandler Whitmer, UConn (JR)
The redshirt senior-to-be came to Storrs from Downers Grove (Ill.) South via Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kan. He eventually signed with UConn in 2012 and won the starting job a year ago. He got out of the gate extremely slowly — try no touchdowns and five interceptions in his first three games — but showed positive signs down the stretch by leading his team to wins over Pitt and Louisville in November. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder isn’t overly talented and won’t have the same staunch defense at his disposal in 2013 so he will have to take on a bigger and more efficient role if the Huskies expect to return to the postseason.

7. David Piland, Houston (JR)
The Cougars quarterback from famed Southlake (Texas) Carroll has dealt with loads of turnover in his Houston career. After working with three different offensive coordinators in three years, Piland enters 2013 with some stability around him. The coaching staff is the same and the offense returns entirely intact (10 starters), so the 6-foot-3, 196-pounder should be able to improve on his 2012 stat line of 2,929 yards, 16 TD, 12 INT, a completion percentage of 57.1, along with 190 rush yards a 2 TD. The key for Piland in 2013, according to head coach Tony Levine, will be playing with more consistency.

8. Jacob Karam, Memphis (SR)
Karam was a key pickup for Memphis last season, as he was immediately eligible following a transfer from Texas Tech. In his first year as a starter on the college level, Karam threw for 1,895 yards and 14 touchdowns. He tossed just three picks and rushed for 221 yards and one score. Karam threw for more than 275 yards just once, but he didn’t make many mistakes and was an upgrade for Memphis’ passing attack. The senior faced competition from redshirt freshman Paxton Lynch and junior Eric Mathews in the spring, but managed to hold on to the job. If Karam can take the next step in his development this offseason, Memphis could make a run at six wins in 2013.

9. Bobby Eveld, South Florida (SR)
South Florida’s starting quarterback spot is up for grabs this offseason. Eveld and sophomore Matt Floyd were neck-and-neck in the spring, with Eveld finishing with a slight edge. The senior has played in 13 games in his career and has thrown for 837 yards and three touchdowns. However, Eveld has thrown seven picks and has completed just 54.7 percent of his throws. The Tampa native isn’t going to wow anyone with his physical ability, but he is a good fit under new coach Willie Taggart’s offense.

10. Connor Reilly, Temple (JR)
The Owls struggled to find the right mix at quarterback last season, as Chris Coyer and Juice Granger both received significant playing time. Reilly has yet to attempt a pass in his first two seasons on campus but enters the summer as Temple’s No. 1 quarterback. The 6-foot-3 passer is a good fit in new coach Matt Rhule’s offense but his lack of experience is concerning for a team that also lacks proven weapons at running back and receiver.

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

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<p> Ranking the Big East's Quarterbacks for 2013</p>
Post date: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 07:20
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-april-15

Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2013 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire report every Monday. Our fantasy junkies cover the hottest hitters, best waiver wire pick-ups, top starting pitching spot starts and sift through bellpens from around the league each and every week.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (Apr. 8-Apr. 14):

  Name Pos. Team R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Prince Fielder 1B DET 5 2 11 0 .632 1.891
2. Chris Carter* 1B/OF HOU 7 4 7 0 .440 1.420
3. Robinson Cano 2B NYY 6 3 8 0 .500 1.633
4. Starling Marte* OF PIT 7 1 6 2 .423 1.156
5. John Buck* C NYM 5 4 10 0 .238 1.048
6. Austin Jackson OF DET 10 1 5 0 .394 .909
7. Will Venable* OF SD 5 2 8 1 .368 1.297
8. Hunter Pence OF SF 6 2 6 2 .290 .797
9. Justin Upton OF ATL 5 2 4 2 .375 1.214
10. Coco Crisp OF OAK 5 1 2 4 .333 .929
11. Miguel Cabrera 3B DET 7 1 7 1 .333 .956
12. Brandon Phillips 2B CIN 4 3 9 0 .318 1.106
13. Evan Gattis* C ATL 4 3 9 0 .304 1.153
14. Torii Hunter OF DET 7 1 6 0 .423 1.175
15. Matt Adams* 1B STL 3 3 6 0 .625 2.542
16. Alejandro De Aza* OF CHW 6 2 4 1 .333 1.093
17. A.J. Pollock* OF ARI 5 2 5 1 .316 1.105
18. Bryce Harper OF WAS 4 2 5 1 .333 1.059
19. Andrew McCutchen OF PIT 6 1 6 1 .286 .884
20. Josh Donaldson* 3B OAK 5 2 4 0 .400 1.184
21. Chris Johnson* 1B/3B ATL 4 1 4 0 .481 1.074
22. Adrian Gonzalez 1B/OF LAD 3 2 5 0 .417 1.189
23. Nate Schierholtz* OF CHC 5 1 3 1 .400 1.129
24. Jayson Werth OF WAS 4 1 4 2 .304 .795
25. Brandon Moss* 1B/OF OAK 3 2 9 0 .280 .957

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Weekly Waiver Wire:

Starling Marte, OF, PIT (54% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
If this kid is around in your league, stop reading and go pick him up this instant. He has a ton of speed and more pop than your average National League leadoff hitter. He should help you in all five categories and won't hurt you in the power numbers. He has some dangerous hitters around him — especially if Travis Snider and Pedro Alvarez can start hitting — and should be a useful fantasy play all season. He also is a solid keeper option.

Chris Carter (36%) or Brandon Moss (46%)?
These two AL West sluggers are similar talents with the potential to hit 25-30 homers. They both offer first base and outfield positional help and both play in tough situations. However, both will hurt your team's batting average. Carter is off to a hotter start, but is a career .222 hitter while Moss is only slightly better at .252. Not only is Moss a slightly better overall hitter but his team's offense figures to be much more dependable all season. If you have to, I'd go Moss over Carter.

Matt Adams, 1B, STL (12%)
If you can afford to stash this guy, do so now. He won't get regular at-bats unless the Cardinals are playing in an American League park or when someone needs a rest. But his 250 at-bats this year could be very helpful. He has raked at every level for both power and average, so if you can handle only using a player twice a week, then jump on this slugger.

Outfield Help
Now is the time to snag some surging outfielders. Seven of the top 10 and 16 of the top 25 hitters last week were outfielders and only nine were owned by more than 70-percent of Yahoo! leagues. That means there is plenty to pick through on the waiver wire. Marte is easily my top choice with Alejandro De Aza a close second. A.J. Pollock is an intruiging choice out in the desert while Adam Eaton is on the DL.

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Matt Harvey NYM 22.0 3 25 0.82 0.55
2. Paul Maholm ATL 20.1 3 20 0.00 0.79
3. Justin Masterson CLE 22.0 3 20 0.41 0.82
4. Clayton Kershaw LAD 23.1 2 25 1.16 0.69
5. Clay Buchholz BOS 22.0 3 23 0.41 0.95
6. Hisashi Iwakuma SEA 20.2 2 16 2.18 0.48
7. Cliff Lee PHI 16.2 2 14 1.08 0.60
8. Yu Darvish TEX 19.2 2 28 2.75 0.76
9. Anibal Sanchez DET 19.0 2 21 1.42 0.95
10. Madison Bumgarner SF 20.1 3 17 1.77 0.98
11. Jon Lester BOS 19.0 2 18 1.42 0.95
12. Adam Wainwright STL 22.0 2 24 2.05 1.00
13. Matt Moore TB 11.1 2 13 0.00 0.97
14. Alexi Ogando TEX 16.2 2 17 1.08 1.02
15. Mike Minor ATL 13.0 2 11 0.69 0.85
16. Barry Zito* SF 14.0 2 8 0.00 1.00
17. Jeff Samardzjia CHC 19.2 1 27 2.75 0.97
18. Jhoulys Chacin* COL 18.1 2 11 1.96 0.98
19. Justin Verlander DET 18.1 2 17 1.96 1.15
20. Zack Greinke (DL)* LAD 11.1 1 10 1.59 0.71

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Derek Holland, TEX: at Chicago Cubs (Tues.) 72% owned
Holland is finally delivering on his big potential. At least, thus far in two 2013 starts. He has hasn't picked up a win yet, but has allowed just two earned runs in each of his two starts. Look for him to continue his roll against the Cubs.

2. Jamie Garcia, STL: at Philadelphia (Fri.) 65% owned
Garcia tossed a shutout over seven innings on Sunday but his bullpen (ahem, Mr. Boggs) let him down. He will always allow baserunners but has 19 strikeouts in 19 innings and should win plenty of games.

3. Barry Zito, SF: at Milwaukee and San Diego (Tues., Sun.) 63% owned
Zito has yet to allow a run and should continue his excellent start this week with two solid matchups. He won't offer big swing-and-miss totals but should provide plenty of wins and ratio help all season long.

4. Andy Pettitte, NYY: at Baltimore (Fri.) 66% owned
The aging star keeps seeing his starts pushed back and will now go on Friday against the Orioles instead of against Arizona. He may not be a dependable full-time rosterable player, but he can still help your ratios from time to time.

5. Hisashi Iwakuma, SEA: Detroit (Thur.) 73% owned
Iwakuma has been stellar to start the season (the numbers above prove that out) and he has done so against some solid competition — Texas, Oakland and Chicago (AL). He won't be phased by the vaunted Tigers' lineup and he may be much more than a spot starter for your rotation.

Closing Morsels:

Boston went with Andrew Bailey in the ninth inning on Monday instead of Joel Hanrahan. After entering the game with a one-run lead, Bailey promptly blew the save before Mike Napoli drove in the game-winner in the bottom of the frame. Bailey has loads of experience and is worth rostering if you are desperate, but he won't be closing unless Hanrahan's sore hamstring becomes a bigger issue... Edward Mujica looks like he might be the next option to get a shot at closing for the Cardinals after Mitchell Boggs blew Jamie Garcia's gem on Sunday. Mujica's line thus far in 2013: 5.0 IP, 5 K, 4 Holds, 1.80 ERA, 0.80. It's worth a shot at this point... Kevin Herrera is still ahead of Aaron Crow should Kansas City make a move in the ninth. Greg Holland has allowed four earned runs and 11 base runners in 3.0 innings... James Russell and Shawn Camp appear to be in the lead for the Cubs' ninth-inning duty with Kyuji Fujikawa on the 15-day disabled list. No, don't add Carlos Marmol (for the love of God).

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

<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: April 15</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 15:32
Path: /nascar/penske-racing-awaits-penalties-nascar

It’s hard to believe that last year Kyle Busch went a whole season and won just once in NASCAR’s top three series: Sprint Cup, Nationwide, and Camping World Trucks. Why? Two months into 2013, he’s on pace to win 28 times across the board, lead over 2,000 laps in Cup and shatter any Nationwide Series record he hasn’t already.

But it’s the average start for Busch this season, on the Cup side, that’s making the biggest difference. Armed with a league-leading 5.4-place average start, his latest pole became the crucial difference in a tit-for-tat battle with Martin Truex Jr. at Texas. That first stall, a huge advantage on any stop, got him out first on the race’s final caution and made the last few minutes a coronation for a man who’s come full circle. It was at this 1.5-mile oval one and a half years ago when a wreck with Ron Hornaday Jr. in the Truck Series got Busch parked, left sponsor M&M’s questioning it’s commitment and left one of the sport’s most aggressive drivers at a crossroads with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Now? As we awaken this Monday morning, it’s Hornaday involved in the middle of a Truck Series mess, accused of deliberately wrecking another competitor while Busch is sitting on top of the NASCAR world. Funny how things come full circle, right?

Let’s go “Through the Gears” on what we learned from a weekend in Fort Worth …

FIRST GEAR: Texas + Gen-6 = Tough Sledding
You know when the biggest story of a race weekend is a sponsorship issue that is raised before the start of the event, you’ve got a problem. Texas, while giving us some decent racing back in the pack, was every bit the snoozer Fontana was not. The Gen-6 car, credited for improving racing at intermediates in 2013, seemed to take a time machine that morphed it back into the Car of Tomorrow. The second a driver claimed clean air, it was all she wrote, as Busch and Martin Truex Jr. combined to lead 313 of 334 laps. The aero advantage was so pronounced, Truex admitted afterwards that dropping back to second was too much to overcome.

“The race was over when we got beat out of the pits,” Truex said. “The bottom was so fast for a couple laps and I was really worried, honestly, that I was going to lose second because Carl (Edwards) was on the inside of me. I was just somehow able to run (turns) one and two wide open and get him cleared. Just the guy that gets clean air is hard to get. It’s hard to catch (them) in 10 laps.”

Others, like Greg Biffle, used dreaded race-killer terms like “track position” and “aero” Sunday night on SPEED’s Wind Tunnel when describing their struggles to move through the field. Even a flurry of cautions for what seemed like nothing — only three of the seven were caused by accidents — did nothing to tighten a field that, at the 450-mile mark, had only 15 cars on the lead lap. It’s the latest reminder that the Gen-6 is not an automatic miracle worker; week-to-week, there will be some tracks where improvement takes time.

Texas is certainly one of those, which is unfortunate, considering its grandstand capacity produces a six-figure crowd. Goodyear would be prudent to hold a test there before the fall event in the Chase, to come up with a tire that has more pronounced falloff, produces slower speeds and helps reduce aero dependency. Too many drivers were running the same speed, lap after lap, with little chance of being able to gain on anyone else. That produces the single-file parade witnessed Saturday night that hopefully, fans won’t be victim to much more.

<p> Reaction from NASCAR's weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 14:35
All taxonomy terms: Jackie Robinson, MLB
Path: /mlb/look-back-jackie-robinson-and-baseball%E2%80%99s-slow-integration

Today, MLB celebrates Jackie Robinson Day, honoring the man who broke baseball's color barrier amid tough circumstances in 1947. Perhaps no other man had such a far-reaching effect on the game, and especially future players. But Robinson’s influential life stretched far beyond the game of baseball.

And while Robinson was the first, there were others who came closely behind. Men who endured insults, humiliation and ridicule as well as Robinson, but persevered so that other players previously denied the opportunity to play in the major leagues could enjoy that privilege.

There were few signs in 1947 that this “experiment” by Dodgers owner Branch Rickey would not be a success. So why did it take other teams so long to catch on?

After Robinson had played three complete seasons, just four of the 16 major league teams were integrated. When Robinson was a seven-year veteran, only half of the major league teams had followed the Dodgers’ lead.

Robinson retired after a 10-year career at the end of 1956, and the Philadelphia Phillies, Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox had yet to enlist a player of color at the major league level. It wasn’t until midseason 1959—12 years after Robinson’s debut, and more than two years after his retirement—that Pumpsie Green took the field for the Boston Red Sox, the last team to hold out.

Every April 15, MLB reminds us of some dark times in our nation’s history. But after the heroic stances by Robinson and others, the game—and our country—are much better.

How Each Team Integrated

Jackie Robinson—Brooklyn Dodgers, NLApril 15, 1947

The multi-sport star out of UCLA played first base and hit second for the Dodgers. In his debut, he scored the go-ahead run in the Brooklyn’s 5-3 win over the Boston Braves.

Larry DobyCleveland Indians, ALJuly 5, 1947

The Hall of Famer struck out as a pinch-hitter at Chicago in his first appearance. Unlike, Robinson, Doby didn’t make a single start in the 29 games of his first season in 1947. 

Hank Thompson—St. Louis Browns, AL—July 17, 1947; New York Giants, NL—July 8, 1949

Was 0-4 with an error at second base in his debut with St. Louis. Two years later, he became the first African-American to play for the Giants leading off in the same game that Monte Irvin pinch-hit.

Monte Irvin—New York Giants, NL—July 8, 1949

Drew a walk as a pinch-hitter in his first game, struck out as a pinch-hitter in his second game.

Sam Jethroe—Boston Braves, NL—April 18, 1950

Whiffed in his first at-bat, but later drove in the go-ahead run and homered in his debut, a game in which Hank Thompson of the Giants also went deep.

Minnie Minoso—Chicago White Sox, AL—May 1, 1951

The Cuban Comet made his debut with Cleveland in 1949 and was traded to the White Sox after eight games in 1951. He was 2-4 in each of his first two games with the Sox.  

Bob Trice—Philadelphia Athletics, AL—September 13, 1953

Threw eight innings and didn’t walk anyone, but gave up five runs on eight hits including two homers in the loss to St. Louis. Don Larsen earned the win and took Trice deep in the eighth inning.

Ernie Banks—Chicago Cubs, NL—September 17, 1953

Mr. Cub went hitless and made an error in his debut, but drove in two runs in a win over the Cardinals in the next game. Soon became an all-time favorite in Chicago sports.

Curt Roberts—Pittsburgh Pirates, NL—April 13, 1954

The second baseman tripled off Robin Roberts in his first at-bat. Fluent in Spanish, he is credited with helping Roberto Clemente adjust to life in the majors.

Tom Alston—St. Louis Cardinals, NL—April 13, 1954

Thomas Edison Alston appeared in 66 games for St. Louis in 1954, but just 25 games total over the next three seasons. He was hitless in four trips in his debut.

Nino Escalera—Cincinnati Reds, NL—April 17, 1954

The Puerto Rican singled as a pinch-hitter one batter before Chuck Harmon was called on to bat for the pitcher.

Chuck Harmon—Cincinnati Reds, NL—April 17, 1954

Popped out to first in his debut, but played in 289 major league games, mostly at third base.

Carlos Paula—Washington Senators, AL—September 6, 1954

Struck out in his first at-bat, but doubled in a pair of runs his next time up.

Elston Howard—New York Yankees, AL—April 14, 1955

Howard entered the second game of the season in left field late in the game and singled home Mickey Mantle in his first at-bat. The 1963 AL MVP averaged .296-17-74 from 1958-64 and earned two Gold Gloves.

John Kennedy—Philadelphia Phillies, NL—April 22, 1957

Kennedy pinch-ran for Solly Hemus in his debut. The shortstop played in just five games in the majors, three of them as a pinch-runner.

Ozzie Virgil, Sr.—Detroit Tigers, AL—June 6, 1958

After debuting with the Giants in 1956, Virgil was traded to Detroit in January 1958. He was called up from the minors and was the regular third baseman for a couple of months. He hit safely in his first eight games with the Tigers.

Pumpsie Green—Boston Red Sox, AL—July 21, 1959

Pinch-ran for Vic Wertz in the eighth inning of his debut, finishing the game at shortstop. He had no chances in the field and was on deck when the game ended. He started at second the following day and essentially became the regular second baseman for the remainder of the season.

<p> Celebrating Jackie Robinson Day</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 13:35
Path: /college-football/mississippi-state-or-ole-miss-who-will-finish-more-sec-wins-2013

The SEC West is arguably college football’s toughest division. With Alabama expected to be ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, along with two other potential top-10 teams – LSU and Texas A&M – Ole Miss and Mississippi State will have an uphill battle pushing for a top-three finish in the division.

Ole Miss is riding a wave of momentum after signing a top-five recruiting class, while Mississippi State has made three consecutive bowl games. Both programs are moving in the right direction and won’t be an easy out for the rest of the SEC in 2013.

Considering the offseason movement with both teams, can Ole Miss finish with more SEC wins than Mississippi State this year? Or will the Bulldogs reclaim bragging rights in the state?

The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.

Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May. 

Ole Miss or Mississippi State: Who Will Win More SEC Games in 2013?

Jon Cooper, lead writer and editor Saturday Down South, (@JonSDS)
That’s a loaded Magnolia State question that will cause quite a few black eyes over Thanksgiving dinner, won’t it?

Interestingly enough, these two teams’ SEC schedules are opposite of one another. Ole Miss’ schedule is more front- or middle-loaded, while MSU’s is back-loaded, much like last season. So, for the Rebels, it’s all about how they start out of the gates, and it’s all about how MSU finishes, again.

Ole Miss will wind up with more SEC wins for several reasons. First, they draw Vanderbilt and Missouri in the East and host Texas A&M and LSU in Oxford, two teams they had on the ropes in the closing minutes last season. If the Rebels can survive the brutal four-game stretch of Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and LSU and come out .500, they have a real shot to move into a dark-horse-type situation in the SEC West. Secondly, the Rebels return 17 starters from last year’s sexy turnaround team. The top passer, pass catcher, rusher and defensive players all return, making this more of a veteran and tested team. And let’s not forget the Rebels will upgrade the defensive line with another year of development on the current roster and the blue chip-prospects from the 2013 recruiting class in Lavon Hooks and Robert Nkemdiche. Thirdly, we’ve seen the mystique surrounding second-year SEC head coaches. Urban Meyer won a championship in his second year, as did Nick Saban at Alabama. Will Muschamp posted an 11-win season last year in just his second season. I’m certainly not saying Ole Miss is ready to make a championship run, but I love what Hugh Freeze is doing with this club. He has certainly breathed life into an exhausted fan base and program. What’s not to like?

Overall, the direction and lack of momentum in the Mississippi State camp is concerning. Starting 7-0 and losing five of the last six isn’t exactly finishing strong. MSU also lost the heart and soul of the defense in corners Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay and linebacker Cam Lawrence. The remorseless five-game stretch – South Carolina, Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss – to finish the season would test the will of any team.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This is a great debate that likely won't be decided until Thanksgiving Night when The Magnolia State will be held captive by the Egg Bowl. If all goes according to plan — which rarely happens — both teams are likely to be 3-4 in SEC play entering the 109th meeting between the historic rivals. The Bulldogs have won four straight at home over the Rebels and Dan Mullen is 3-1 overall against Ole Miss, giving Mississippi State a slight edge heading into this year's meeting. Both teams will be solid on offense and both will make a bowl game, but I'll take Hail State to top the Black Bears at home on Turkey Day — and, thus, in the conference standings. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The battle for bragging rights in the state of Mississippi is going to be an entertaining battle over the next few years. Dan Mullen has Mississippi State on the right track after three consecutive bowl games, and Hugh Freeze had an impressive debut at Ole Miss, followed by a top-five recruiting class. Both teams should be ranked among the top-40 this year, but I give an edge to Ole Miss in SEC wins. The Rebels have a tough early schedule, which features road games against Vanderbilt, Alabama and Auburn. However, I think Ole Miss will find a way to get to .500 in SEC play, as it can beat Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and potentially steal one against LSU or Texas A&M. I think Mississippi State will have a tougher time getting to .500, especially with swing games against Auburn and Arkansas on the road. Getting to 3-5 in SEC play is probably the most likely outcome for the Bulldogs in 2013. For now, it appears the momentum in the battle for Mississippi is clearly swinging in favor of Ole Miss’ direction. 

Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
Ole Miss went 7-6 last year, Hugh Freeze's first season as head coach and the Rebels are well positioned to be a better team in SEC play than archrival Mississippi State this year. For one, the Rebels return 15 starters who have already spent one year playing for Freeze, meaning they should have an even better understanding of the offensive and defensive systems and what the coaching staff expects. Secondly, there's the matter of each school's conference slate, namely which teams from the SEC East they play. Ole Miss gets Vanderbilt, who continue to improve under James Franklin, and Missouri, who is still getting used to life in the SEC. Mississippi State gets Kentucky, who has a long way to go under new head coach Mark Stoops and South Carolina, a team that should be ranked in the preseason top 10 and figures to battle Georgia and Florida for supremacy in the East and potentially contend for a spot in the conference championship and national title games. Need I say any more? Oh and Ole Miss is bringing in a top-five recruiting class with players who have a great chance of not only playing, but making an impact in their first seasons. It's still early, but at this point things are looking up down in Oxford, Miss., for this fall.

Barrett Sallee, Lead SEC College Football Writer for Bleacher Report (@BarrettSallee)
Without a doubt, it's Ole Miss. The target is on head coach Hugh Freeze's back now after reclaiming state dominance last season and finishing with a top 10 recruiting class. The good news is that the Rebels return 18 starters from a year ago, many of whom will be pushed by the newcomers in the class of 2013. Freeze know how to get the most from his offense, and the addition of several newcomers including wide receiver Laquon Treadwell should pay immediate dividends.

For Mississippi State, it's almost a make or break year. The Bulldogs are 5-21 against FBS teams that finish with eight or more wins under head coach Dan Mullen, and desperately need a signature win. Mullen has done a lot to raise the floor of the program, but really hasn't done much to the ceiling. They need to win now, because Auburn and Arkansas aren't going to stay down forever. If they drop the opener to Oklahoma State in Houston, they'll finish the season dancing around .500.

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<p> Mississippi State or Ole Miss: Who Will Finish With More SEC Wins in 2013?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 10:55
Path: /college-basketball/early-college-basketball-top-25-2013-14

The Bluegrass State could be on its way to becoming the basketball version of Alabama.

The football championship hasn’t left the state of Alabama four years, with the Crimson Tide winning the BCS in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and Auburn winning in 2010.

After Kentucky and Louisville won the last two basketball titles, the state could grab a third in a row, but which could keep the streak going? Despite a season that ended in the NIT, Kentucky grabs the top spot in our first look at 2013-14 thanks to one of the highest rated recruiting classes of all time. Louisville loses Peyton Siva, Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng, but the backcourt could be restocked by newcomers to keep the Cardinals near the top.

Most decisions for the NBA Draft have been made, meaning rosters have taken shape for the most part. One key recruit remains on the table, though, with Andrew Wiggins deciding among Florida State, Kansas, Kentucky and North Carolina. The addition of the forward from Huntington Prep could strengthen title bids for Kentucky and North Carolina while keeping Florida State and Kansas in the mix for conference titles.

Note: College players can enter their names into draft consideration and retain eligibility until April 16. The NBA's early entry deadline is April 28.

Related: Tracking all conference changes for 2013-14


Key players gone: Archie Goodwin, Julius Mays, Nerlens Noel
Top returners: Willie Cauley-Stein, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer
New faces: Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Marcus Lee, Julius Randle, James Young
Buzz: The loss to Robert Morris in the NIT is a distant memory for Kentucky, mainly because most of the key players for 2013-14 didn’t play in the game. The Wildcats will be back in national title contention thanks to a recruiting class that includes six of the top 15 prospects in the 247Sports Composite Rankings. If Kentucky lands top-ranked recruit Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky would have four of the top five prospects. Even if last season went awry, John Calipari has proven he can win a title with freshmen of this caliber.

Key players gone: Derrick Nix
Top returners: Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Gary Harris, Adreian Payne, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice
Buzz: Michigan State is waiting for Payne and Harris to finalize decisions on the NBA Draft, but if they return, the Spartans will be a national title contender. Nix would be the only one of the top seven scorers gone from a team that went 27-9. Payne and Harris are NBA-type talents, the only question is when they choose to go.

Key players gone: Gorgui Dieng, Peyton Siva, Russ Smith
Top returners: Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell, Kevin Ware
New faces: Anton Gill, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier
Buzz: Replacing the starting backcourt of Siva and Smith will be difficult, but Jones is a big-time junior college recruit who could step into the point guard spot. From Hagrave Military Academy, Gill and Rozier, who didn’t qualify academically for the 2012 class, boost the backcourt. The returning cast of Hancock and Harrell were at their best late in the season, and Behanan had one of his best games of the year in the title game.

Key players gone: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee
Top returners: Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton
New faces: Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Parker
Buzz: The losses of Curry, Kelly and Plumlee are huge, but this is Duke. Sulaimon is the top returner. He stood out on the defensive end last season and proved he could carry the scoring load. Cook was a pleasant surprise at point guard for a team that spent most of the season in the top three. Of the newcomers, Parker could fill Kelly’s versatility and Jones could fill Curry’s role as a shooter. Dawkins, who averaged better than eight points per game in each of his last two seasons, returns after he sat out in 2012-13.

Key players gone: Solomon Hill, Mark Lyons, Keith Parrom
Top returners: Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski
New faces: Aaron Gordon, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell
Buzz: Arizona will miss Hill’s leadership and Lyons’ scoring, but Sean Miller can restock a roster. The Wildcats got a major boost for the upcoming season when they landed McDonald’s All-American power forward Aaron Gordon. Hopes are high for Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell to become a floor general at point guard.

Key players gone: Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario
Top returners: Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguette, Patric Young
New faces: Dorian Finney-Smith, Damontre Harris, Kasey Hill, Chris Walker
Buzz: The Gators’ season looks a bit better with Young electing to return to school, but he still needs to become a more dominant player befitting his size. Wilbekin and Yeguette, who anchored the Gators’ in the defensive end, also return. Much will depend on the newcomers. Hill is one of the top point guard recruits to come to Florida under Billy Donovan. Finney-Smith, a McDonald’s All-American in 2011, was one of the top freshmen in the ACC at Virginia Tech, averaging 6.3 points and seven rebounds. With Chris Walker, Florida will have one of the top front lines in the country.

Key players gone: Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett
Top returners: Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson
New faces: Deonte Burton, JaJuan Johnson, Jameel McKay, Duane Wilson
Buzz: Marquette returns the top three scorers on a team that reached the Elite Eight and captured a share of the Big East regular season title. Vander Blue played some of his best basketball of the season in the NCAA Tournament. In addition to the returners, Marquette may have a new point guard (Wilson) and two major freshmen in Johnson and Burton.

Key players gone: Deshaun Thomas, Evan Ravenel
Top returners: Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Amir Williams
New faces: Marc Loving, Kameron Williams
Buzz: Much of Ohio State’s season will depend on how the Buckeyes’ replace Thomas’ prolific scoring. LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. started to show they were capable of carrying the load near the end of the season, but they need to be ready for bigger roles.

Key players gone: Dexter Strickland
Top returners: Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald, Marcus Paige
New faces: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks
Buzz: James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston have yet to announce their NBA Draft intentions, but if all three return, North Carolina should return to the top of the ACC. The Tar Heels didn’t find their groove until going to a four-guard lineup so it will be interesting to see how incoming freshman big men Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks impact the rotation.

Key players gone: Trey Burke
Top returners: Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas
New faces: Zak Irvin
Buzz: Michigan is going to have trouble getting back to the national championship game without Trey Burke. Most of the optimism around the Wolverines for 2013-14 revolves around Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III returning to school. If two or three of them opt for the NBA Draft, Michigan may be a fringe top-25 team.

Key players gone: Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, Brandon Triche
Top returners: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Baye Keita
New faces: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson
Buzz: Replacing the starting backcourt of Carter-Williams and Triche will be challenging as the Orange move to the ACC. Syracuse is counting on incoming point guard Ennis and shooting guard Patterson, who signed with Indiana before going to prep school, to take those roles. Fair is the only returning player who averaged more than 5.1 points last season.

Key players gone: Sabatino Chen
Top returners: Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie, Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott, Andre Roberson
Buzz: Led by Roberson and Dinwiddie, Colorado’s roster returns virtually intact after the program’s second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Buffaloes struggled down the stretch, but a handful of freshmen played key minutes. This should be Colorado’s breakout season under Tad Boyle.

Key players gone: Malcolm Armstead, Carl Hall, Demetric Williams
Top returners: Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, Cleanthony Early, Fred VanVleet, Jake White
New faces: Kadeem Coleby, Earl Watson, Evan Wessel
Buzz: The Shockers will miss Armstead and Hall from the Final Four run, but don’t forget Wichita State played most of the season without the redshirt freshman Baker. With Early, Baker and Cotton, there’s enough returning to win the Missouri Valley this season. The Shockers should fill their void with two players who redshirted last season -- 6-foot-9 Louisiana-Lafayette transfer Coleby and local 6-5 guard Wessel.

14. VCU
Key players gone: Darius Theus, Troy Daniels
Top returners: Rob Brandenburg, Treveon Graham, Juvonte Reddic, Melvin Thomas, Briante Weber
New faces: Jordan Burgess
Buzz: Five of the top seven players return to VCU, including three who averaged double-figure scoring. Theus’ 2.4 steals per game will be missed in the defensive end, but there’s a lot to like about a VCU team that went 12-5 in its first season in the Atlantic 10.

Key players gone: Jared Beggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans
Top returners: Ben Brust, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson
Buzz: Players come and go, but Wisconsin is pretty much automatic to contend in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament under Bo Ryan. In 2013-14, the Badgers return one of the Big Ten’s most underrated freshmen in Sam Dekker plus a healthy Josh Gasser.

Key players gone: Kenny Hall, Skyler McBee
Top returners: Trae Golden, Jeronne Maymon, Jordan McRae, Josh Richardson, Jarnell Stokes
New faces: Robert Hubbs
Buzz: The Volunteers came together late in the season, but it wasn’t enough to get in the NCAA Tournament. With the core of Golden, McRae and Stokes, plus a healthy Maymon, this should be the year for Cuonzo Martin.

Key players gone: Tarik Black, D.J. Stephens, Adonis Thomas
Top returners: Chris Crawford, Shaq Goodwin, Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson
New faces: Kuron Iverson, Nick King, Austin Nichols
Buzz: After winning a Tournament game, going 16-0 in Conference USA and adding another top recruiting class, Memphis has the most momentum it’s had under Josh Pastner. Now, the Tigers head to the American Athletic Conference.

Key players gone: None
Top returners: Ryan Boatright, Omar Calhoun, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander
Buzz: At 20-10 overall and 10-8 in the Big East, Connecticut had the look of an NCAA Tournament team despite the postseason ban. With nearly everyone returning, the Huskies should be able to realize that goal.

Key players gone: Tony Snell
Top returning players: Cameron Bairstow, Alex Kirk, Hugh Greenwood, Demetrius Walker, Kendall Williams
Buzz: Craig Neal was promoted to coach a 29-6 team that returns virtually intact. The Lobos may be the preseason pick to win the Mountain West, but that Tournament loss to Harvard will be tough to forget.

Key players gone: Remy Abell, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Cody Zeller
Top returning players: Yogi Ferrell, Will Sheehey
New faces: Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams
Buzz: Indiana can’t help but take a step back with all those losses, but the Hoosiers have recruited well enough to stay in the mix in the Big Ten. The pressure will be on the point guard Ferrell.

Key players gone: Elias Harris, Guy Landry-Edi, Kelly Olynyk
Top returning players: Gary Bell Jr, Sam Dower, Przemek Karnowski, Kevin Pangos, David Stockton
New faces: Gerald Coleman, Angel Nunez
Buzz: The front line takes a major hit without Olynyk and Harris, but Mark Few’s backcourt should be solid.

22. UCLA
Key players gone: Shabazz Muhammad, Larry Drew II
Top returners: Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson, David Wear, Travis Wear
New faces: Zach LaVine, Allerik Freeman
Buzz: Steve Alford is set up nicely in his first season at UCLA with Adams and Anderson returning.

Key players gone: Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young
Top returning players: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe
New faces: Conner Frankamp, Brannen Green, Wayne Selden
Buzz: Kansas loses its starting five, but it’s risky to bet against the Jayhawks in the Big 12. They’ll find a way.

Key players gone: Kwamain Mitchell, Cody Ellis
Top returners: Dwayne Evans, Jordair Jett, Rob Loe, Mike McCall
Buzz: Jim Crews has the job full-time and a chance to repeat in the Atlantic 10. Replacing Kwamain Mitchell’s 30 minutes per game will be tough.

Key players gone: Jack Cooley, Scott Martin, Garrick Sherman
Top returners: Eric Atkins, Cameron Biedscheid, Pat Connaughton, Jerian Grant
New faces: Demetrius Jackson
Buzz: Notre Dame is one of the most consistent programs in the country. Even without Jack Cooley, the Irish have enough back to be a top-25 team.

Also considered:
Alabama, Cal, Georgetown, Harvard, Iowa, Maryland, Virginia, Villanova

<p> Could freshman class at Kentucky return Wildcats to No. 1?</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 10:00
Path: /college-football/acc-quarterback-rankings-2013

The ACC has an interesting mix of quarterbacks for 2013. Proven options like Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas should be the conference’s top-three passers for all-conference honors. Miami’s Stephen Morris will have to adjust to a new coordinator to, but he could easily surpass last year’s numbers. Wake Forest’s Tanner Price should benefit from another spring practice to work with a revamped offensive line, along with the return of receiver Michael Campanaro to full strength.

While Boyd, Renner and Thomas appear to be the conference’s top three quarterbacks, there’s a group of wildcards waiting to rise in the rankings.

Florida State’s Jameis Winston and Georgia Tech’s Vad Lee could be breakout performers in 2013, and Syracuse picked up Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen to lead the offense this fall.

College football’s 2013 season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about some of the top players in the nation. With spring practice coming to a close around the nation, Athlon will rank the top quarterbacks in each conference. One important note: This is just a ranking of starters and backups weren’t included for this article.

Ranking the ACC's Starting Quarterbacks for 2013

1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (SR)
Boyd turned down the NFL for one more season in Death Valley. The senior is one of college football’s leading contenders for the Heisman Trophy and is the overwhelming favorite to earn ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. In his first season as a starter in 2011, Boyd threw for 3,828 yards and 33 touchdowns and rushed for 218 yards and five scores. Boyd only got better in his second season under coordinator Chad Morris, throwing for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also became a bigger threat on the ground, rushing for 514 yards and 10 scores in 2012. One of Boyd’s best performances came against LSU in the bowl game last year, throwing for 346 yards and leading Clemson on the game-winning drive in the final minutes. Receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be missed, but the Tigers return Sammy Watkins and four starters on the offensive line. As long as Boyd stays healthy, the pieces are in place for Clemson to make a run at an unbeaten record in 2013.

2. Bryn Renner, North Carolina (SR)
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound quarterback was one of the top five pro-style recruits coming out of West Springfield (Va.) High School in 2009. He has lived up to the billing and has a chance to have a special senior season in Larry Fedora’s system. Renner already owns multiple school records, like the single-season (28) and single-game (5) school passing touchdown records. He capped his second year under center winning seven of his last nine games and throwing for at least 300 yards in each of his last four contests. The senior's supporting cast won’t be as talented in 2013, but he is efficient — he’s a career 66.7-percent passer and tossed just seven interceptions last year — and has a chance at rewriting the North Carolina record books before he leaves Chapel Hill.

3. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (SR)
Initially a top-100 tight end prospect who didn’t want to play quarterback when he signed with Virginia Tech out of Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville, Thomas is on the verge of becoming the most productive Hokies quarterback in school history. The massive 6-foot-6, 260-pounder set the single-season school record for total offense as a sophomore (3,482 yards) and then broke his own mark as a junior (3,500). He has accounted for 57 touchdowns over the last two seasons and brings a big, powerful running ability that is virtually unstoppable in short yardage or goal line situations. However, he threw 16 interceptions last year after just 10 in 2011, and his efficiency needs to improve across the board. If he eliminates the mistakes, he could easily be the ACC Player of the Year.

4. Stephen Morris, Miami (SR)
A mid-level local recruit from Monsignor Pace High School, Morris blossomed as a junior in 2012. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback set a Miami single-season total offense record (3,415) as well as the ACC’s all-time single-game record with 566 yards against NC State. In fact, he threw for over 1,000 yards (1,002) over a two-game span to finish the month of September last year (436 vs. Georgia Tech). Morris proved to be dependable as well, tossing just seven interceptions in a school-record 421 attempts. With the youth developing around him and the running game improving, the Hurricanes gunslinger is poised for a big senior season this fall.

5. Tanner Price, Wake Forest (JR)
After throwing for 3,017 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2011, Price took a step back on the stat sheet in 2012. In 12 contests, he threw for 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns and tossed seven picks. The regression in stats was largely due to a struggling offensive line, along with an injury to star receiver Michael Campanaro. Although the Demon Deacons are still trying to find the right pieces on the line, Price should bounce back in 2013. In his career, the Texas native has thrown for 6,666 yards and 39 touchdowns and is completing 57.6 percent of his throws. Price isn’t going to post huge numbers, but expect him to help lead Wake Forest back into bowl contention in 2013.

6. Jameis Winston, Florida State (FR)
Winston hasn’t played a snap in a regular season game, but there’s no denying his potential. The redshirt freshman was locked into a tight battle with Clint Trickett for the starting job in spring practice, but Trickett decided to transfer to West Virginia in early May. Winston shined in Florida State’s spring game, completing 12 of 15 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. There’s a big difference between a performance in a spring game and actual game action in the fall. However, all signs point to Winston’s becoming a star, and the redshirt freshman should be one of the ACC’s breakout players in 2013.

7. Vad Lee, Georgia Tech (SO)
Lee is the next in line to pilot Paul Johnson’s triple option attack. Like Josh Nesbitt and Tevin Washington before him, Lee’s physicality and athletic ability are a perfect match for the Yellow Jackets’ offensive scheme. The Durham (N.C.) Hillside three-star prospect saw his playing time steadily increase last season, as Johnson got more comfortable going to the sophomore. He got 19 carries and threw nine passes in the first six games but carried 77 times for 358 yards and six touchdowns, while throwing 47 times over the final eight games of the year. His playing time last year should help the 6-foot-1, 215-pound junior-to-be immensely as he takes over as the leader of the Ramblin’ Wreck in ‘13.

8. Chase Rettig, Boston College (SR)
Rettig quietly had a solid 2012 campaign. In 12 starts, he threw for 3,060 yards and 17 touchdowns – all career highs. In three years with Boston College, the California native has thrown for 6,258 yards and 35 touchdowns. Rettig played well under coordinator Doug Martin’s tutelage last season, but Martin wasn’t retained by new coach Steve Addazio. With the change in coaching staffs, the Eagles will operate a different offensive scheme in 2013, which is expected to lean slightly with the run. Rettig is a better fit in a pro-style attack and isn’t much of a runner (-296 yards in three years). Considering he may not be a good fit in Addazio’s offense, Rettig may have trouble matching last season’s numbers. Although Rettig is coming off a solid season, the potential of Florida State's Jameis Winston and Georgia Tech's Vad Lee pushes him down the ACC quarterback rankings for 2013. 

9. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh (SR)
The burly passer from Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O’Hara was an elite prospect when he signed with Rutgers in 2009. Not only did he start as a true freshman but he was the Scarlet Knights’ Most Valuable Player. However, it didn’t translate to success as a sophomore, and eventually, he transferred to Pitt. Offensive whiz Paul Chryst, however, might have found himself a steal with the large 6-foot-5, 230-pound passer. With a void under center, the strong-armed signal caller has all the tools to take advantage of the opportunity to run Chryst’s offense.

10. Anthony Boone, Duke (JR)
David Cutcliffe has built a sneaky good quarterback tradition in Duke with Sean Renfree and Thaddeus Lewis combining for nearly 20,000 yards between them (19,530). The 6-foot, 230-pound quarterback from Monroe (N.C.) Weddington is charged with continuing the Blue Devils aerial success. The redshirt junior-to-be has a big arm and flashed big-time ability in spot duty against Virginia a year ago by throwing for 212 yards and four touchdowns in the 42-17 win. There is no reason to think Boone won’t maintain Duke’s recent run of solid quarterback play.

11. Pete Thomas, NC State (JR)
The race to replace Mike Glennon is a tight battle between Thomas and sophomore Manny Stocker. Thomas started for two years at Colorado State before transferring to NC State. In two years with the Rams, he threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 64.7 percent of his throws as a freshman. Stocker played in five games last season and threw only two passes. New NC State coach Dave Doeren hired a solid offensive coordinator in Matt Canada, and the receiving corps has plenty of proven options. Thomas was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and if he beats out Stocker, the California native should have a solid season.

12. C.J. Brown, Maryland (JR)
Brown was a victim of bad luck last season. The Pennsylvania native was poised to be Maryland’s starting quarterback but suffered a torn ACL in fall practice. After a year of rehabbing his injured knee, Brown is slated to start 2013 as the Terrapins’ No. 1 quarterback. In 10 games in 2011, Brown threw for 842 yards and seven touchdowns and added 574 yards and five rushing scores. Considering he is coming off a knee injury, Brown may not be asked to run much early in the season. And if he struggles, New Mexico transfer Ricardo Young or sophomore Perry Hills could overtake him for the top spot.

13. David Watford, Virginia (SO)
The 6-foot-1, 200 pounder hails from Hampton (Va.) High School in one of the most talent-rich areas of the nation. From the same area as other elite ACC quarterbacks Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor, Ronald Curry and E.J. Manuel, Watford is expected to rejuvenate the Cavaliers offense. He got playing time as a true freshman, throwing 74 passes in 2011, before redshirting in 2012. He will have to hold off former elite recruit Phillip Sims and redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert to keep the starting job in Charlottesville this year. But Watford has some intriguing upside for a team that finished 93rd in total offense a year ago.

14. Drew Allen, Syracuse (SR)
The Orange received a late boost this spring, as Allen chose to transfer to Syracuse and will join the quarterback competition this summer. The San Antonio native is eligible immediately since he graduated early and is expected to start over Charley Loeb and Terrel Hunt. Allen did not start a game with the Sooners during his three years in Norman but ranked as the No. 15 pro-style quarterback in the nation in the 2009 signing class. In three years with Oklahoma, Allen completed 18 of 30 passes for 160 yards and no touchdowns. At 6-foot-5 and 226 pounds, the senior has the size and intangibles to keep Syracuse’s passing attack performing at a high level. However, Allen does not have any starts under his belt and is a wildcard to watch in the ACC quarterback rankings.

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

Related College Football Content

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College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise

<p> ACC Quarterback Rankings for 2013</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 07:25
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2013-georgia-college-football-preview-magazine-cover

For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Georgia Bulldogs cover of our 2013 SEC College Football Preview magazine. Fans can choose between quarterback Aaron Murray and running back Todd Gurley.

Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May. 
<p> Pick Athlon's 2013 Georgia College Football Preview magazine cover</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2013-texas-am-college-football-preview-magazine-cover

For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Texas A&M cover of our 2013 SEC College Football Preview magazine. Two great shots of quarterback Johnny Manziel are available to choose from.

Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May. 
<p> Pick Athlon's 2013 Texas A&amp;M College Football Preview magazine cover</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /college-football/pick-athlons-2013-ohio-state-preseason-college-football-cover

For the first time ever, Athlon Sports is letting fans choose the Ohio State Buckeyes cover of our 2013 Big Ten College Football Preview magazine. Two great shots of quarterback Braxton Miller are available to choose from.

Fans can vote once a day through April 22, with the winning cover hitting newsstands at the end of May. 

Start voting now!

<p> Pick Athlon's 2013 Ohio State Preseason College Football Cover</p>
Post date: Monday, April 15, 2013 - 07:15
Path: /golf/adam-scott-wins-masters

CBS broadcast Ian Baker-Finch summed it up for his elated countrymen: From Down Under to the top of the world.

Adam Scott has his long-awaited first major, and Australia has its long-awaited first Masters, all on the strength of an anchored putter that for much of Masters Sunday had been nothing but dead weight for Scott.

"To make a couple of putts to win The Masters is just an amazing feeling," Scott said in Butler Cabin.

Somewhere, Greg Norman, the star-crossed, tragic figure who let multiple Masters slip away, has to be smiling.

"Part of this belongs to him," Scott said of Norman.

After a weekend dominated by Tiger Woods' unlucky break and unluckier two-stroke penalty on Friday — a turn of events that unleashed a furious social media reaction and threatened to consume golf's greatest tournament in controversy — the Aussies and the Argentine took control on another dramatic Masters Sunday. And after some stumbling and bumbling in the driving rain, we were treated to an electric five-minute stretch at the 72nd hole and a tense, dramatic playoff that totally redeemed the final round, and player who hadn't made anything all day made two hero putts for the ages.

Scott, the author of one of golf's epic collapses at the 2012 British Open, had appeared to find sweet redemption with an electrifying birdie putt on the 72nd hole that unleashed another awkward celebration involving caddie Steve Williams (reminiscent of the Urkel-esque high-five that Williams and Woods shared at the 2005 Masters).

But Cabrera, trailing by one, answered with one of the greatest, clutchest shots in major championship history, a ripped iron approach to three feet that led to the tying birdie.

In Sudden Death, the players matched pars at 18, and after the trip back to No. 10, they matched perfect drives and clutch approach shots. But after Cabrera's putt narrowly missed dropping in the back door, Scott calmly drove home his winning putt, to the considerable relief of an entire nation — not to mention sportswriters who were facing deadlines and worried that darkness might extend this tournament to Monday.

Cabrera came into the 2013 Masters ranked No. 299 in the world — sandwiched between Arnond Vongvanij and Doug McGuigan. But the ungainly, unflappable Argentinian almost grabbed a third major championship, this one even more unlikely than the first two. He remains the only multiple winner whose only PGA Tour wins are major championships

Tiger's Travails
Woods' two-shot penalty following what was judged to be an illegal drop was the talk of much of the weekend. And even after the penalty, Woods entered the final round within four shots of the leaders and one dazzling round away from a fifth green jacket. But a front-nine 37 prevented any sort of momentum, and an inward 33 wasn't nearly enough. "I played well," said the 14-time major champion. "Unforunately I didn't make enough putts and I missed a few shots here and there. I thought if I shot 65 I would have won it outright and it turns out that might have been the number."

Woods' failure to get within two of the leaders prevented a lingering controversy — although some continue to maintain that Tiger should have withdrawn to honor the spirit of golf sportsmanship.

More Masters Heartbreak for Sneds
Third-round co-leader Brandt Snedeker never found his rhythm on Sunday, posting another disappointing Masters finish five years after his final-round meltdown cost him the 2008 green jacket. A crushing 3-putt at No. 10 and a wet ball at 13 ended Snedeker's chances and left lingering questions about his major mettle.

Cinderella Boy
A chubby-cheeked 14-year-old found his way into Butler Cabin as the low amateur and one of the great stories of this Masters. Guan Tianlang dazzled the galleries with his composure and talent and most notably his putter — he didn't three-putt a single green all week. And a slow play penalty on Friday didn't rattle him or detract from his magical performance. "It's not easy to play here, to make the cut and be low amateur," he said. "I think I did a pretty good job this week and can't believe it's over."

• Rory McIlroy came in feeling confident. He left feeling frustrated. "That's what this golf course is, it's frustrating," he said. "I know I've played good enough golf here to win it at times, it's just a matter of stringing it all together in one week."

• Another pre-tournament favorite, Phil Mickelson, played miserably — his word, not mine. "I just had an off year," Mickelson said. "I don't know what to tell you. I played poorly. ... This is my favorite place to be, my favorite tournament, and one I look forward to the day after it ends. And to perform like this is disappointing. I'm disappointed in myself because I expect a lot more of myself, out of my game and so forth this week."

• Cabrera was bidding to become the first grandfather to win a major, but he wasn't the only seasoned citizen to perform well. 50-somethings Fred Couples and Bernhard Langer both made spirited runs, only to be betrayed by aging bodies and faulty putters.

<br />
Post date: Sunday, April 14, 2013 - 20:03
Path: /nascar/nascars-top-12-most-dominant-streaks

Jimmie Johnson’s eighth career win at Martinsville last Sunday highlighted his dominance at that particular track. Johnson has won seven of the last 14 visits to the track and in 23 starts has an average finish of 5.3. While he still has a way to go to match Richard Petty’s mark of 15 wins at the paperclip, it did bring to mind some past performances at other tracks by NASCAR stars who were able to hit on some unmistakable magic. Let's take a look at the top 12 most dominant streaks in NASCAR:

12. Rusty Wallace – Martinsville Speedway, 1993-96  
Some may have scoffed when Rusty Wallace was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame last year, but his performances on short tracks over the years were as impressive as any driver in the sport’s modern era. Dale Earnhardt may have dubbed him “Rubberhead,” but Wallace was rock solid on tracks under a one mile. Credit his Midwest ASA short track roots, as his best facility statistically was Bristol, but it was at Martinsville where he really went on a tear. From 1993-96, he won five times at the track, as well as posted one runner-up and one third-place showing. In 1993, he made a mockery of the event, leading 409 of 500 laps – so much for the good ol’ golden days of the early- and mid-1990s for competition, eh? Fittingly, Rusty would win the final race of his career in 2004 at Martinsville.

11. Kyle Petty – North Carolina Motor Speedway, 1990-92  
Long before he was tearing up Twitter (check out last week’s response to a guy threatening to cut his pony tail) and the highways of North America for his charity motorcycle ride, the heir to the Petty throne was getting his legs under him as a Cup contender in the late 1980s. Once he decided he wasn’t going to take Nashville by storm as a country music singer, he focused his attention to the Sand Hills of North Carolina, turning venerable Rockingham into his own personal concert. From 1990-92, he won five poles in a six-race span and at the 1990 event, put on a clinic leading, 433 of 500 laps (and winning $284,450 in the process — a princely sum by way of some Unocal 76 bonus money for winning from the pole). Two more wins would follow in ’91 and ’92 for Kyle, making “The Rock” the only Cup track where he would score multiple victories.

10. Mark Martin – Watkins Glen International, 1993-95  
For all the talk of road course ringers, it’s interesting that most of the successful Cup Series drivers have rather storied road-race histories themselves. Mark Martin was part of 24-Hours of Daytona class wins with Jack Roush in the 1990s and lists learning to drive on gravel roads around Batesville, Ark., in his father’s lap as part of that training. From 1993-95, Martin’s Valvoline Thunderbird was a force to be reckoned with on NASCAR’s roadies. He won three consecutive events during this time – all from the pole. The ’93 race saw him take the win after Dale Earnhardt and Kyle Petty tangled in the closing laps, though Martin twice had to overcome stripped-out lug nuts on pit stops. In ’94 he led 75 of 90 laps, and 61 of 90 laps the following year. Martin was on the verge of great things at The Glen prior to his three-year streak. In 1991 he spun while passing Ernie Irvan for the lead on the final lap and in ’92 was in contention when the race was called for rain just past halfway. All told, he averaged an amazing 2.7-place finish at the historic road course from 1989-98, never placing outside of the top 5.

9. Bobby Labonte – Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1996-99
In 1996, Terry Labonte was in the process of winning his second Winston Cup title. Meanwhile, brother Bobby was starting to run roughshod over the field at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After Mike Skinner nearly won his first Cup race in Atlanta dueling with Labonte, he half-jokingly lamented about “Bobby Labonte showing up here in his damn Pontiac.” The younger Labonte earned his second career win at the ’96 season finale in Atlanta from the pole and would start a span of seven races that saw him win four times, as well as posting a second- and a fourth-place run with a pair of poles, to boot. He would later add two more wins at AMS, including his last to date in 2003. It should come as no surprise that Kyle Busch’s first win with the Joe Gibbs Racing organization also occurred at AMS in 2008.

8. Jimmie Johnson – Charlotte Motor Speedway, 2003-06
With the number of obscene statistics that Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team have compiled over the past decade, none highlight the dominant nature of their success than the run of results at what was then appropriately titled “Lowe’s Motor Speedway.” From 2003-06, Johnson posted five points-paying wins, a pair of seconds, a third and a pair of wins in the All-Star Race. Johnson went dry for a few years at Charlotte afterward, but returned to win from the pole in 2009 and won the All-Star race again last year for a third time.

7. Darrell Waltrip – Bristol Motor Speedway, 1981-84
Over the last 12 years, we’ve all become aware of DW’s “Boogity, Boogity, Boogity” on Sunday afternoons. Yeah, it might be wearing a little long in the tooth, but behind all of the shameless self-promotion is one of the all-time great drivers (who had an even better catchphrase back in the day with, “Follow me in Tennessee!”). From 1981-84, Waltrip dominated rough ‘n’ tumble Bristol in what some fans viewed as a downright offensive manner. Eight straight wins — three in a row from the pole — with never more than five cars on the same lap highlight the dominance of his Junior Johnson-owned team. Looking back further, it seems Waltip was getting primed for his run, finishing in the top 3 (two wins) in the seven visits prior to the eight-win streak. In ’92, he won his final race at Bristol as well as the Southern 500 at Darlington the following week, the final two triumphs of his Hall of Fame career.

6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Talladega Superspeedway, 2001-06
To say the superspeedway gene runs deep in the Earnhardt family would be an understatement. Back when he was synonymous with “The King of Beers,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. was presiding over his own kingdom of Eastaboga, Ala. Then, the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Chevrolets were nearly unbeatable on NASCAR’s plate tracks, as Earnhardt Jr. drove to five wins over the span of seven races. The two he didn’t win? Both runner-up showings; one to teammate Michael Waltrip, the other under caution to Jeff Gordon, which resulted in the No. 24 car being pelted with a barrage of beer cans. Junior’s last win at Talladega, in 2004, was the source of much controversy. After being told of the accomplishment of winning for a fifth time at the track, his reply to Matt Yocum was the now-infamous, “Well it don’t mean sh*t … Daddy done won here 10 times so I gotta do a little more winnin’!” His exuberance cost him 25 points, a fine levied by NASCAR for cursing on television, in the midst of a title run that saw him taking the points lead after having bounced back from massive burns suffered in a practice crash for a Grand Am race in Sonoma.  

5. Dale Earnhardt Sr. – Talladega Superspeedway, 1990-2000
If you ever get the chance to travel to Talladega, you will notice there are three flags flown: the United States flag, the Confederate flag and a black flag with a white No. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr. may have been penalized 25 points for stating a fact, but it was his father’s success at Talladega that helped give birth to a legend. They say he could see the air. Not really, though – with his seat reclined at a 45-degree angle and wearing an open-faced helmet, he could probably feel the air on his face more than “see” it. That said, the Man in Black owned Talladega for the better part of a decade, winning eight of 22 races, with seven finishes of fourth or better in those he didn’t claim. He swept the events in 1990 and ’99, and his final — and perhaps most memorable — victory was came in 2000, when he drove from 18th to the win in the final six laps. Yeah, you’ve seen it before, but take a few minutes and watch perhaps the greatest superspeedway performance of all time.

4. Bill Elliott – Michigan International Speedway, 1984-89
“Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” is remembered for a number of accomplishments. Chief among them: two Daytona 500 wins, making up two laps at Talladega under green to win, posting the fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR history, winning the inaugural Winston Million in 1985 and claiming the 1988 Winston Cup championship. Overlooked during this decade of dominance was his performance at car owner Harry Melling’s home track, Michigan International Speedway. MIS has always had a reputation as being a Ford track – legend has it the torque curve coming off the corners helped the Blue Ovals dominate there for nearly 20 years. And from 1984-89, Elliott’s No. 9 Coors T-bird won seven poles and seven races, including sweeps in ’85 and ’86.

3. Jeff Gordon – Darlington Raceway, 1995-98  
The mid-1990s was a turning point for NASCAR. Dale Earnhardt was suddenly presented with a natural rival in the form of young upstart Jeff Gordon — Earnhardt’s polar opposite in the eyes of NASCAR Nation. Where the new Wonderboy really excelled, coincidentally, was at NASCAR’s oldest and toughest speedway: Darlington. From 1995-98, Gordon won five races at “The Track Too Tough to Tame,” including four Southern 500s and the ’97 event that saw him banging fenders and blocking (gasp!) Jeff Burton down the frontstretch for a million-dollar payday. Oh, and those two races that he didn’t win? Third- and second-place runs. Gordon’s success at Darlington during these years helped propel him to title wins in 1995, ’97 and ’98.

2. David Pearson – Darlington Raceway, 1970-1980
There are certain tracks that some drivers are forever linked to, and that is certainly the case with David Pearson and his home state track of Darlington Raceway. From 1970-1980 the Silver Fox won nine races, nine poles, three Southern 500s and did so driving for three different car owners – the Wood Brothers, Hoss Ellington and Rod Osterlund, the latter in relief for an injured Dale Earnhardt in 1979. Pearson scored his most wins at Darlington (10 of his 105 triumphs), however it was not the only track where he enjoyed a field day. In 13 races from 1972-78 at Michigan, Pearson nearly equaled his Darlington dominance, posting eight wins, eight poles and never finishing outside of the top 5.

1. Richard Petty – Martinsville Speedway, 1967-75  
You know those memes that pop up on Facebook that picture an accomplishment of some significance, and one victorious line of sentiment underneath? Feel free to draw one up with The King, who won a total of 15 races at Martinsville. From 1967-75, Petty would win 11 times. 1967 was Petty’s second title season, and the one that earned him the nickname “King Richard.” He posted 27 wins that season, including 10 in a row. Two of those wins came at Martinsville. While the Petty persona may be synonymous with Daytona, having won the 500 a record seven times, it’s this Martinsville feat that stands the test of time, and the mark that every driver – even Jimmie Johnson – aspires to.

by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter: @VitoPugliese
Photos courtesy of Actions Sports, Inc.

<p> From Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt to Jimmie Johnson, Athlon Sports contributor Vito Pugliese ranks NASCAR's greatest runs of success at it's most daunting racetracks.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 12, 2013 - 13:45
Path: /nascar/nra-sponsorship-nascar-race-texas-creating-buzz

1. NASCAR finding Texas race sponsor to be questionable fit
When Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage announced the naming rights to Saturday night's race, eyebrows were raised in circles far wider than those just in the NASCAR garage. That'll happen when you allow a political group on one side of this country's hottest political debate to stake it's name to an event broadcast on national TV.

The buzz over the National Rifle Association's sponsorship of the NRA 500 this week has picked up steam once again, and NASCAR released a statement Thursday that seemed to indicate that it will review such sponsorships in the future. Tracks procure naming rights deals themselves, but each are subject to approval from the sanctioning body.

“The NRA’s sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships,” said NASCAR spokesman David Higdon in a statement that also noted NASCAR takes no stand in the gun rights debate. “However, this situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions.”

NASCAR's review of the approval likely stems from how the sport is being viewed by outsiders and, perhaps more importantly, by new fans. But it's a fine line for the sport to walk that has a considerable section of the fan base — especially in Texas — who share the same political views of the NRA.

NASCAR can't afford to alienate both sides of this debate or any other. How it handles situations such as these will be quite fascinating to watch.

Meanwhile, Gossage thinks the scrutiny is overblown.

"The only questions are coming from less than 10 reporters," Gossage said Thursday. "The public isn't asking (us) questions."

2. Let's hope you like the Gen-6
Back on track, NASCAR made another interesting announcement Thursday during the half-day open test afforded to teams as a way to get a better handle on NASCAR's latest model. Basically, don't expect major rule changes on the Gen-6 platform anytime soon.

"I think we're in a fairly good spot," NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said. "The teams — one of the things we've learned over the years is if you keep moving the targets, people have a tendency to … it's harder for them to keep chasing that. We feel like the playing field is fairly level."

After the small sample size of the latest two races for the Sprint Cup Series, shying from changes makes sense. Auto Club Speedway put on a show easily rivaling the best ever at the track for stock cars, and Martinsville Speedway seemed unfazed by the new body style. That's a good thing.

Pemberton's remarks bring the Gen-6 car nearly full circle after the sanctioning body used a test at Texas last fall at the track to narrow down what kind of speedway aerodynamic and mechanical package would be in use with the new car. That day, teams experimented with various levels of downforce and multiple tire combinations. Today's product isn't far from what the drivers tested that day.

"As long as the input is (that) it's still pretty rock solid as far as being positive, they've got plenty to work with. We feel like there's no reason to move the target on them right now," Pemberton said.

As you watch Saturday night's race and judge the Gen-6 on its third intermediate track visit of the season, remember that last year's spring Texas race was the impetus for many to wonder why NASCAR had lost the number of incidents and cautions everyone was used to. The caution flag waved just twice for 10 laps in last year's 334-lap event, both times for debris.

<p> Five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the NRA 500.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 12, 2013 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: NFL, NBA, MLB, Golf
Path: /college-football/athlons-essential-11-links-day

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for April 12.

• Sergio Garcia was your first-round co-leader at The Masters after shooting a bogey-free 66. Probably won't hold up, but in Sergio's honor, here's a picture of one of his ex-girlfriends, tennis player Martina Hingis.

A kid who has probably never shaved shot a 73 at The Masters yesterday and birdied No. 18. Sports makes me feel inadequate sometimes.

Scandal brewing at Augusta National: They've changed the pimento cheese recipe.

• Baseball vied for its share of headlines last night with a Dodgers-Padres brawl that resulted in a fractured Zack Greinke collarbone. To hear the great Vin Scully call the brawl, click here. The confrontation even extended into the parking lot after the game.

• Sometimes blue-chippers just don't pan out. But these SEC 5-star recruits are ready to emerge.

• Reality TV is often the last stop for has-been athletes on their road to oblivion. Here are the most cringe-inducing reality show athletes of all time.

Chadwick Boseman talks about playing the great Jackie Robinson in the movie "42," which opens today.

Did you know that Kobe Bryant tried to launch a rap career? Me neither.

Charging the opposing dugout wielding a bat is no way to prove to the Cubs that you're worth your $30 million contract.

Metta World Peace made a comment that was bizarre even by Metta World Peace standards.

• The Lions have signed YouTube kicking sensation Havard Rugland to a contract. Judging from his video, he's got a shot. Guy's phenomenal.


--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

April 11

• Hello, friends: The Masters is underway. I'm expecting big things from Dustin Johnson at Augusta this week. Which could mean an 18th hole greenside shot of Dustin's girlfriend Paulina Gretzky late Sunday afternoon. Which would have Bobby Jones spinning in his grave.

• Alternately, should Tiger Woods win, we'll get a glimpse of his current companion, skier Lindsey Vonn, already decked out in her Augusta finery.

Let's enjoy this little tradition as long as we can.

• Augusta is all about tradition, but there is something a little different about The Masters this year.

• Today's history lesson: Grantland looks back at GQ's piece on Tiger Woods from April 1997.

• It's no Bubba Watson hovercraft, but Michael Jordan has a tricked-out golf cart.

Kobe's line last night: 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and three steals. How was your night? For the hard-core Kobe lovers, here's video of every one of those 47 points.

• Getting you ready on the outside chance they're our future overlords: 10 bizarre facts about North Korea.

• Also not sports-related: The New York Post-iest headline ever ran today.

The Manning boys have a little fun with ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

• Either a nod to Cubs lore, or some sort of bizarre satanic ritual: Someone delivered a goat's head to Wrigley Field.

• Let's hope this isn't an omen for Rory McIlroy, but his girlfriend/par-3 caddie Caroline Wozniacki proved that she should stick to tennis yesterday.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

April 10

• Somehow, some way, rich professional golfers are able to score some attractive companionship. Coed presents the WAGs of the 2013 Masters, including Kandi Mahan, wife of Hunter and former Cowboys cheerleaders (pictured).

One golfer, Rory McIlroy, is putting his WAG to work. Caroline Wozniacki will be caddying for him at the Par 3 contest today.

This collection of golf trick shot videos includes a nifty Masters tradition: skimming the ball across the pond at 16 during practice. Vijay Singh managed to hole one using this unusual method.

• It's a slow sports day, so I'll throw a little Seinfeld your way: the best Seinfeld character nicknames. Vegetable Lasagna for the win.

The UConn women won their eighth national championship last night, routing Louisville. But you know that eight isn't enough for Geno Auriemma; it only ties him with Pat Summitt.

The case for South Carolina QB Connor Shaw, the SEC's most underrated player.

Last night, LeBron got caught in midair with nothing to do. So he bounced it off the backboard for a self-assist. That's why he's King James.

• In case you missed it: Papa John himself really enjoyed Louisville's win the other night.

• Pay college football players? Bob Stoops says they're already getting plenty.

Russell Westbrook threw down last night. My favorite part of the clip is Kevin Durant's expression. He knows a good tomahawk when he sees one.

Jermaine O'Neal was apparently too tired to play an overtime period, so he just goaltended a potential game-winner.

• Today's video provides ammo to those who say that Denard Robinson is a runner, not a thrower.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

April 9

• As we close the books on the NCAA Tournament, we present Coed Magazine's roundup of the sexy superfans of this year's championship game.

• A lackluster tournament was redeemed by a classic title game. With the dust and confetti settling, Athlon picks the winners — and the losers — of this year's NCAA Tournament.

• A couple of great moments from last night captured in GIF form, courtesy of Deadspin: Rick Pitino thinking he's being shot at immediately after the game; and the best block we've seen this year (that was called a foul).

• That abysmal foul call wasn't the only thing that tainted what was a great game. John Beilein made a colossal coaching blunder late in the final minute of action.

• They can't all be Shining Moments. The best GIFs, photos and sundry stupidity from the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

Four-fifths of the Fab Five watched the game together. Wonder if Chris Webber was screaming timeout reminders to John Beilein.

• This seems dumb, NCAA edition (Vol. 516): Louisville's men's team is not allowed to go watch the women try to win the title tonight. That would be an extra benefit, dontcha know.

• Ever stop to wonder why college football even exists? A fascinating history lesson from Saturday Down South.

• Tonight's the Masters Champions Dinner. We're betting that Bubba Watson picks a better menu than some of these stomach-churning choices over the years.

• Bad officiating is not limited to college basketball. A baseball game ended late last night with one of the worst strike three calls you'll ever see.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

April 8

• We bid a fond farewell to college basketball with this slideshow of the lovely ladies of March Madness. Until next year...

College basketball crowns its champion tonight. Neither Michigan nor Louisville has won the national title since before any of tonight's participants were born. In a few hours, that changes.

• Because I support the troops, I fully support this woman, in her full dress uniform, hilariously mocking Jim Boeheim

• Speaking of Boeheim, he and reporter Greg Doyel got into it at the postgame presser. They later made up, but this is what happens when curmudgeons collide.

• Last night, Blake Griffin took a breakway, went in for the finger roll, then decided at the last second, what the heck, I'll dunk it.

• Head coaches get the glory, but some of college football's most essential work is done by the assistants. Here are the 10 best assistant coach hires in the SEC this offseason.

• Sports movies provide fertile ground for debate. Here's a list of the 50 worst sports movies of all time. Hey, I liked The Waterboy. But I'll let them have Rocky V.

• This weekend, Ohio State mascot Brutus Buckeye got absolutely de-cleated in highly amusing fashion. He needed to have that giant head of his on a swivel.

• It's Masters Week, y'all. Take a pre-Masters tour of Augusta National.

Brandon Crawford's Giants World Series ring looks especially giant on the hand of his baby daughter.

• Prepare your eyes for some salty discharge: This weekend, a 7-year-old cancer patient ran for a touchdown at Nebraska's spring game.

--- Email us with any compelling sports-related links at [email protected]

<p> The best sports links from the NFL, college football and basketball, MLB, the NBA, NASCAR and the world of entertainment.</p>
Post date: Friday, April 12, 2013 - 10:30
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-head-coaches-rise

It seems every college football season has an active coaching carousel at the end of the year. Athletic directors are always looking for the next big thing, and there is no shortage of coaches looking to make the jump to a top-tier BCS program.

Earlier this offseason, Athlon ranked the top 20 coaches on the hot seat for 2013. There’s a good chance most of the coaches on that list won’t return for 2014. Which begs the question: Who could fill those voids? Or which coaches are the next big stars in college football? Toledo’s Matt Campbell, Ball State’s Pete Lembo, Memphis’ Justin Fuente and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Mark Hudspeth are just a few names that should be among the next group of rising coach stars in college football. A few years ago, names like Kevin Sumlin, Hugh Freeze or Mike MacIntyre would have made this list. Now, all three coaches are at BCS programs.

Although Kliff Kingsbury and Dave Doeren are taking over BCS programs, both coaches deserve a mention in this space. Kingsbury isn’t going to leave Texas Tech, but his experience as a coordinator and high-scoring offense should have the Red Raiders climbing the Big 12 food chain in the next couple of years. Doeren arrives in Raleigh after a 23-4 stint at Northern Illinois. Expect Doeren to elevate the Wolfpack after a 40-35 record under former coach Tom O’Brien. 

College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise for 2013

Matt Campbell, Toledo
At 33 years old, Campbell is one of college football’s youngest coaches. The Ohio native was a solid player during his career at Mount Union and is on the fast track as a head coach. After spending time as an assistant with Mount Union, Bowling Green and at Toledo, Campbell was promoted to the top spot after Tim Beckman left for Illinois. The Rockets went 9-4 last season and three of their losses came by a touchdown or less. Toledo has a handful of players departing on defense, but the offense should remain one of the best in the MAC. The Rockets host defending MAC champion Northern Illinois in late November, so all of the pieces are in place for Toledo to win the conference title this year. Campbell should be one of the MAC’s top coaches in 2013 and beyond.

Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State
DeRuyter went 9-4 in his Fresno State debut and has the Bulldogs primed to contend for the Mountain West title in 2013. Prior to coming to Fresno State, DeRuyter served as a defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Air Force, Nevada and Ohio. He was Texas A&M’s interim coach for the 2011 Meineke Car Care Bowl, which the Aggies defeated Northwestern 33-22. All signs point to DeRuyter being a home-run hire for Fresno State, but with the Bulldogs a potential top-25 team for 2013, he could receive interest from BCS programs this offseason.

Dave Doeren, NC State
NC State made one of the offseason’s top coaching moves by hiring Dave Doeren away from Northern Illinois. Although Tom O’Brien led the Wolfpack to four bowl games in five seasons, a 22-26 record in conference play wasn’t good enough. It’s tough to envision NC State consistently beating Clemson and Florida State, but the program can win more than it has the last few years. Doeren looks like the right coach to take NC State to the next level, as he comes to Raleigh after a 23-4 mark in two seasons with Northern Illinois. Although he inherited a good team from Jerry Kill, Doeren took the Huskies to new heights, including a berth in last season's Orange Bowl against Florida State. Prior to his two-year stint as Northern Illinois’ head coach, he served as a defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and Kansas and also spent time as a graduate assistant at USC. Doeren doesn’t have any experience in the ACC, so it may take some time to build connections on the recruiting trail. However, all signs point to Doeren’s hire being a home run for NC State. 

Related Content: Ranking the ACC Coaches for 2013

Justin Fuente, Memphis
Fuente inherited a mess when he arrived at Memphis. The Tigers were coming off a disastrous two-year stint under Larry Porter, which resulted in a 3-21 record. And under Fuente’s watch, the Tigers showed big improvement in 2012. Memphis went 4-8 last season, which included a three-game winning streak to finish the campaign. The Tigers lost three games by 10 points or less and got better as the season progressed. Before taking over at Memphis, Fuente spent five years as an assistant at TCU, including the last three as the co-offensive coordinator. With the move to the American Athletic Conference (new name of the former Big East), Fuente’s job will get a little tougher in 2013. Memphis doesn’t quite have the talent to push for a bowl game this year, but the Tigers will continue to take another step forward under Fuente’s watch in 2013.

Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette
If you are looking for college football’s next rising star in the non-BCS ranks to jump to a BCS job, look no further than Lafayette, La. Hudspeth has recorded back-to-back nine-win seasons and has two bowl victories since taking over the Ragin’ Cajuns. Before coming to Louisiana-Lafayette, Hudspeth went 66-21 and made five playoff appearances in seven years at North Alabama, a Division II member school. Hudspeth served as an assistant on Dan Mullen’s staff at Mississippi State from 2009-10 and spent one year as Navy’s offensive coordinator in 2001. As each of his two head coaching stops have shown, Hudspeth is a proven winner and is ready to jump to a BCS school in the next few years. And under Hudspeth’s direction, expect the Ragin’ Cajuns to win the Sun Belt conference title in 2013.

Kliff Kingsbury, Texas Tech
Kingsbury has been on a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks and lands his first head coaching job at his alma mater. The San Antonio native had a prolific career as a starting quarterback under Mike Leach from 2000-02, finishing his career with just under 12,000 passing yards. Following his collegiate career in Lubbock, Kingsbury had a short professional stint, playing for five different teams in five seasons. Kingsbury joined Kevin Sumlin’s staff at Houston in 2008 and worked his way through the ranks, before becoming the Cougars’ offensive coordinator and guiding quarterback Case Keenum to nearly 20,000 career passing yards. Kingsbury followed Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M and produced a successful one-year stint as the offensive coordinator, which resulted in a Heisman Trophy winner (Johnny Manziel). Kingsbury is young and unproven as a head coach, but he is the perfect fit at Texas Tech. For a program that never really embraced Tommy Tuberville, the Red Raiders are in good hands with one of college football’s rising stars at head coach.

Related Content: Ranking the Big 12 Coaches for 2013

Pete Lembo, Ball State
Thanks to last season’s 9-4 record, Lembo now has an overall winning record at three different programs. In five years at Lehigh, Lembo won 44 games and led the Mountain Hawks to two playoff appearances. At his next stop, Lembo won 35 games at Elon and made one postseason appearance. Ball State showed big improvement in Lembo’s first season in 2011 and won nine games, with an appearance in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl in '12. Lembo should have the Cardinals in the mix for the MAC title in 2013 and as a sharp X’s and O’s coach, will be high on athletic director’s wish lists come December.

Trent Miles, Georgia State
The Panthers quietly made one of the offseason’s best hires by pulling Miles away from Indiana State. The Sycamores were 1-32 in the three years prior to Miles’ arrival but recorded a winning record in each of the last three seasons. Also, Indiana State was the only team to defeat FCS champion North Dakota State in 2012. Even though Miles’ overall record is just 20-36, he clearly improved Indiana State from one of the worst FCS programs to a top-25 team in his final year. Georgia State is another difficult job, as the Panthers transitioning from the FCS to the FBS level. However, the program is located in a good recruiting base (Atlanta) and should eventually be competitive in Sun Belt games. If Miles turns around Georgia State, he should expect to hear from BCS programs in the near future.

Willie Taggart, South Florida
After a three-year stint as Western Kentucky’s head coach, Taggart essentially returns home to take over the top spot at South Florida. Taggart went 16-20 during his three years with the Hilltoppers, including back-to-back seven-win seasons in 2011-12. The 14 victories during that stretch was the best two-year stint for Western Kentucky since 2004-05. Taggart played his high school ball at Manatee in Bradenton, Fla., which is just an hour outside of USF. The 36-year-old coach is clearly one of college football’s rising stars in the coaching ranks and should help the Bulls be one of the most-improved teams in the conference in 2013.

Related Content: Ranking the Big East Coaches for 2013

Matt Wells, Utah State
Gary Andersen did a tremendous job at Utah State, elevating the Aggies from a 4-8 program in his first season to an 11-2 team in 2012. Andersen left for Wisconsin in December, which promoted Utah State to promote Wells to the top spot. The Oklahoma native has deep ties to the program, as he played quarterback for the Aggies from 1993-96 and has served as an assistant under Andersen over the last two seasons. In his only season as Utah State’s offensive coordinator, the Aggies averaged 34.9 points a game and ranked 21st nationally in total offense. Wells has proven himself as an assistant and should keep Utah State near the top of the Mountain West in his first chance to be a head coach.

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<p> College Football's Top 10 Head Coaches on the Rise</p>
Post date: Friday, April 12, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /college-football/college-footballs-top-10-assistant-coaches-rise-2013

The college football season is still months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about which assistants will be atop athletic director’s wish lists to fill open vacancies after 2013.

As with any list of rising stars or coaches, there are always a handful of names that miss out on the list. However, that isn’t a knock on their coaching ability. Coordinators like Alabama’s Kirby Smart or Michigan State’s Pat Narduzzi have been known for a few years now and will get plenty of looks to be a head coach in the future.

Clemson’s Chad Morris is perhaps the hottest name for potential open vacancies after the 2013 season, as the former Texas high school coach has transformed the Tigers’ into one of the nation’s best offenses. Morris is certainly known around the nation, but after interviewing for the Texas Tech vacancy in 2012, he could finally land a head-coaching gig after 2013.

Outside of Morris, keep a close watch on Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco, Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Washington defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and Texas A&M co-offensive coordinator Jake Spavital are a few coaches who should see their stock rise in 2013. 

College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013

Bob Diaco, defensive coordinator, Notre Dame
Diaco was the architect behind Notre Dame’s top-10 defense last season. The Fighting Irish finished seventh nationally in total defense and second in points allowed in 2012, and only two opponents scored over 20 points. Diaco followed coach Brian Kelly from Cincinnati to South Bend, and he worked in assistant jobs with Virginia, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan before joining the Bearcats. Diaco has quietly built an impressive resume and should get a chance to be a head coach soon. With a loaded defense returning to South Bend for 2013, Notre Dame should be one of the top-10 defenses in college football, which will make the New Jersey native a hot commodity in coaching searches once the 2013 season is over.

D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator, Florida
Durkin was promoted to defensive coordinator in mid-January after Dan Quinn left for the NFL. Coach Will Muschamp plays a large role in shaping Florida’s defense, but Durkin’s promotion shouldn’t be overlooked. The Ohio native is highly regarded among coaches in the SEC and worked under two of the best coaches during the BCS era – Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. This is Durkin’s first chance to be a coordinator, but with Muschamp on the sidelines, don’t expect Florida’s defense to suffer much of a drop in production in 2013 and beyond.

Scott Frost, offensive coordinator, Oregon
One of Mark Helfrich’s first jobs as head coach was to promote Frost from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator. The former Nebraska quarterback was regarded for his work on the Ducks’ staff since 2009 and helped to mold the receiving corps into one of the best in the conference going into 2013. Helfrich is expected to call the plays this year, but Frost will have a role in developing the gameplan each week. After a successful career as a starting quarterback at Nebraska, Frost is on the fast track through the assistant ranks, and his ability to pull talent to Eugene will help keep Oregon among the best teams in the nation.

Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State
Urban Meyer has a good eye for finding talent in the assistant ranks, so it was no surprise when he picked Herman to join his staff. Herman came to Columbus after three years directing Iowa State’s offense. The Cyclones didn’t have a ton of talent to work with on offense but averaged over 20 points a game in each of Herman’s three seasons. Before Iowa State, Herman called the plays at Rice and directed the Owls’ offense to an average of 41.3 points per game in 2008. Learning under one of the best coaches in college football should only raise Herman’s profile, and the California native should help Meyer direct one of the nation’s top offenses in 2013.

Chad Morris, offensive coordinator, Clemson
Considering his success over the last two years at Clemson, it may be a bit of a stretch to put Morris in this category. However, the 44-year-old coach will be a hot commodity in coaching circles this offseason, as the Tigers are primed to make a run at an ACC Championship and could be a top-five team in some preseason polls. With quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins back on campus, Clemson will have one of the nation’s most dangerous offenses and could surpass last season’s average of 41 points per game. Morris was a successful high school coach before taking over as Tulsa’s offensive coordinator in 2010, and it’s only a matter of time before he gets a chance to run his own program.

Mike Norvell, offensive coordinator, Arizona State
Norvell was the engineer behind Arizona State’s high-powered offense last season, which averaged 38.4 points a game and ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in total offense. At 32 years old, Norvell is one of college football’s youngest coordinators. However, there’s no doubt he is one of the Pac-12’s rising stars in the assistant ranks. Before coming to Arizona State, Norvell followed Todd Graham to stops at Tulsa and Pittsburgh and started four years at receiver during his playing career at Central Arkansas. Norvell has some holes to fill with running back Cameron Marshall and two receivers departing, but the Sun Devils should once again have one of the best offenses in the Pac-12.

Nick Rolovich, offensive coordinator, Nevada
Rolovich is the lone non-BCS coordinator to make this list for 2013. The California native played quarterback at Hawaii from 2000-01 and had a short professional stint with the Broncos, before spending five seasons in the Arena Football League and one in NFL Europe. Rolovich has been on a quick rise through the assistant ranks, as he spent two years at the City College of San Francisco from 2007-08 and was hired as Hawaii’s quarterbacks coach by Greg McMackin in 2008. Rolovich worked in that capacity until the 2009 season, when he was promoted to offensive coordinator. The Warriors averaged over 30 points a game in 2010 and 2011 under Rolovich’s watch. After Norm Chow was hired as Hawaii’s head coach, Rolovich left to join Nevada’s staff and spent the year learning the Pistol offense under Chris Ault. With his background under two different schemes and success with molding quarterbacks into starters, Rolovich is one of college football’s up-and-coming offensive playcallers.

Jake Spavital, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, Texas A&M
After working with Case Keenum at Houston and Geno Smith at West Virginia, Spavital gets to tutor Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel in 2013. The Oklahoma native has been on a fast track through the assistant ranks, starting his career at Tulsa under Gus Malzahn in 2008, before joining Dana Holgorsen at Houston in 2009. Spavital worked for two years under Holgorsen at West Virginia, serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach. Clarence McKinney is expected to call the plays for the Aggies in 2013, but Spavital’s experience working under Holgorsen and Kliff Kingsbury will help ease the transition for Manziel. Expect Spavital to be a hot name in coordinator searches at the end of 2013.

Justin Wilcox, defensive coordinator, Washington
Wilcox transformed Washington’s defense from one of the worst in the nation in 2012 to rank fourth in the Pac-12 in points and yards allowed in 2013. The Oregon native started his coaching career as a graduate assistant with Boise State in 2001 and worked in that capacity until joining California as a linebackers coach in 2003. After three years with the Golden Bears, Wilcox was selected as Boise State’s defensive coordinator in 2006 and coached in that role until 2009. He served for two years as Tennessee’s defensive coordinator under Derek Dooley in 2010 and took over at Washington in 2012. Wilcox is only 36 years old, but he is ready to be a head coach. However, until he leaves Seattle, expect the Huskies to rank among the best defenses in the Pac-12.

Mike Yurcich, offensive coordinator, Oklahoma State
A few eyebrows were raised when Mike Gundy announced Yurcich as his new offensive coordinator. However, the Ohio native appears to be a perfect replacement for Todd Monken, who left to be the head coach at Southern Miss. Yurcich comes to Stillwater after a two-year stint as Shippensburg’s offensive coordinator. Under his watch, Shippensburg’s quarterback (Zach Zulli) won the Harlon Hill Award for the top player in Division II, while the offense averaged 529.2 yards per game in 2012. Yurcich doesn’t have to make wholesale changes at Oklahoma State, as the offense will largely use most of the same scheme from the previous year. However, expect Yurcich to put his own tweaks into the system, which as evidenced on the Division II level, should work out well for the Cowboys. 

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<p> College Football's Top 10 Assistant Coaches on the Rise for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, April 12, 2013 - 07:20
All taxonomy terms: Guan Tianlang, Masters, Golf
Path: /golf/14-guan-tianlang-handles-masters-pressure

Using a self-taught short game, Chinese teen Guan Tianlang opens The Masters with a 73.

Since Bubba Watson hit that incredible shot around the pine trees during a playoff to win the 2012 Masters, the club has made some interesting history. It admitted its first two women members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore, ending a sometimes-spirited debate. And in November, a different kind of history occurred when Guan Tianlang won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in Thailand by a single stroke when he holed a 5-footer for par on the last hole using a belly putter, qualifying for The Masters.

On Thursday, Guan used that same belly putter to curl in a birdie putt on 18 for a more-than-respectable opening-round 73, 1-over par, beating defending champion Bubba Watson, among other older, more established competitors.

Guan is 14. And he is the youngest player ever to compete in The Masters, taking the distinction from Italy’s Matteo Manassero, who was 16 when he traveled up Magnolia Lane in 2010.

“I’m really proud of myself,’’ Guan said when he had qualified for The Masters. “I think it really helps Chinese golf. They will train even harder. I’m very happy about it.’’

Despite China’s immensity and population base, there are few top-level golfers from the country — yet. Most observers feel it is just a matter of time before the Official World Golf Rankings are dotted with Chinese players. Guan's success is bound to help.

Slowly but surely the Chinese view on the game is changing. And with golf being part of the Olympics starting in 2016, there will be a push to develop players. The dangling carrot of a Masters invite can only help them push to succeed.

“There remains, we believe, an untapped opportunity in Asia and other parts of the world, where amateur golf has its greatest growth potential," Augusta National chairman Billy Payne said at the time of the tournament’s unveiling more than three years ago.

Over the ensuing years, Payne has become more aggressive in his desire to “grow the game.’’ Along with the Asia-Pacific Amateur, there has been considerable assistance, millions of dollars, donated to junior programs. Payne began an initiative whereby children under 16 would be admitted to the Masters for free with an adult.

All of that, of course, caused Payne angst when it came to the women’s membership issue. He was criticized for talking about growing the game while holding back on admitting women to his very private club. Deep down, however, the feeling has always been that Payne wanted to see women members at Augusta National, too.

Now that is no longer an issue, and it makes you pause to wonder what Bobby Jones would think of all this.

The founder of the club was a great amateur himself, retiring from the game in 1930 after completing what was then the Grand Slam by winning the U.S and British Open and Amateur titles.

He might very well have an affection for Guan, having tried to qualify for his first U.S. Amateur at age 14 in 1916 and finishing second at age 17 in 1919. Jones would go on to win the U.S. Open and British Open a combined seven times. Because he played his entire career as an amateur, the tradition was established to make a place in the field for those who have yet to turn professional, a number that is now at six players.

Certainly Guan will get plenty of attention. For someone so young, his English is impressive, his game even more so. He is no stranger to the big stage, becoming the youngest winner of the China Amateur Open in 2011. He also played in the 2012 Volvo China Open, making him the youngest to ever compete in a European Tour event, although he missed the cut.

In July 2011, Guan ran away to an 11-stroke win in the 11-12 division of the Junior World Golf Championships in San Diego.

That is a long way from Augusta National, in both prestige and distance. But it is one amazing journey, and if Guan makes the cut, it will be more amazing still.

<p> At 14, Guan Tianlang Handles Masters Pressure</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 18:09
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/condoleezza-rice-changes-augusta

When the announcement came last summer that Augusta National had admitted its first two female members — Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore — some popped champagne corks, while others grumbled into their whiskey about the venerable club’s caving to political pressure. After more than a decade of protesting, stonewalling, name-calling and wrangling, America’s most famous course — with apologies to Merion, Winged Foot, Pebble Beach and many others — would have women who are actual members walking its manicured Bermuda grass fairways, rather than spouses of made men.

For many, it was the merciful end to a long debate.

“Tell Martha Burk it’s time to go home,” said former PGA Tour member and current ESPN analyst Paul Azinger.

For others, the battle still raged.

“It ain’t over,” said Burk, former chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, who began the fight to get women members on the Augusta rolls in 2002.

Augusta’s move may have quieted things a bit, but it won’t send Burk and others on her side in search of other fights. Rice and Moore are two high-profile, extremely worthy candidates for admission to the club, but adding two women to an institution with roughly 300 male members isn’t going to get it done, at least for supporters of women’s rights. But while the story isn’t over, it isn’t the same tale that was told a decade — and more — ago. Augusta is no longer a stodgy bastion of chauvinism, and not just because Rice and Moore have joined up. Though not quite as progressive as, say, the ACLU, Augusta National’s membership is more 21st century corporate leaders than antediluvian sexists. And those men realize that excluding women from anything is bad business.

The club isn’t afraid of a fight, though. Some speculate, with good reason, that Augusta National would have opened its doors to women earlier, had Burk not begun protesting the all-male policy in 2002. Once that started, Augusta National almost had to hold out. Former chairman Hootie Johnson’s comment that the club wouldn’t admit women “at the point of a bayonet” reflected that attitude. “They didn’t have to cave,” Azinger says.

Well, Augusta National probably did have to “cave.” If it didn’t host The Masters, the most esteemed golfing event on the planet, whether it had women members wouldn’t have been an issue, since there are still some clubs (prestigious Pine Valley among them) that remain all-male. Women — along with many men — would have still wanted to join the club, but there wouldn’t have been the same attention given to their quest.

Because the club makes 10 figures annually from the tournament, and because the PGA Tour mandates now that any course that stages a sanctioned event must have a membership that is not just comprised of white men, Augusta National’s makeup became a target.

“The fact that the club is part of a massive event is the reason it was protested,” Azinger says. “It became political.”

For Burk and many others, this isn’t about golf, especially since Moore doesn’t play too often. (Rice has said she’s about a 14 handicap and is also a member at San Francisco Golf Club and Shoal Creek, among others.) This is more about power. Or, rather, the access to it. A look at the membership list at Augusta confirms that. Big hitters like Warren Buffett, T. Boone Pickens and Bill Gates are among the Augusta National lineup. It doesn’t matter whether they can drive the ball 300 yards or are barely qualified to play the windmill hole at a mini-golf course.

When they sit down to have a drink and chat, big things can happen. Granting women access to those conversations is at the heart of the fight. As women are kept out of high-level, though casual, discussions at clubs like Augusta, so too are they omitted from big dealings on the corporate level.

“When you have a roster of Fortune 500 execs engaging in a mass exclusion, it sends the message to the business community that it’s okay to do that,” Burk says.

The Augusta National stance had been that its private status allowed it to choose anyone it wanted as members. From its founding in 1933, until 1990, those chosen were male and white. In ’90, after the firestorm that enveloped Alabama’s Shoal Creek Golf Club regarding its white-only membership, Augusta admitted African-American members. Twenty-two years later, the club’s trademark green jacket was tailored to fit women.

“Augusta had to be pistol-whipped behind closed doors to let African-Americans be admitted,” Burk says. “This smacks of the same thing.”

When Burk and her compatriots began hammering at Augusta in ’02, then-chairman Johnson — a close friend of Moore’s and a fellow University of South Carolina graduate — said that if organizations like the Girl Scouts, Junior League, Boy Scouts and various fraternities and sororities could have single-sex memberships, Augusta could also. The difference was that Augusta National hosts The Masters every April, and the Tri-Delts don’t. That’s what gave those fighting the exclusion of women ammunition. The Masters is (arguably) a public event, and the club that hosts it was acting as “a de facto public accommodation,” according to Burk, referring to the term used in the Civil Rights Act that prevents discrimination in any establishment open to the public.

Trouble is, the state of Georgia doesn’t have a public accommodation statute. So, when a number of law firms approached Burk and the NCWO about taking the fight to the courtrooms, they found some roadblocks. Big roadblocks.

“When (the firms) got a little into it, they saw some barriers that were not insurmountable, but were very difficult,” Burk says. Since the legal path was rocky, the only way left was through protest, raised voices and as much political pressure as the NCWO and its allies could muster.

“It became a political issue,” Azinger says. “It’s a misnomer that women weren’t allowed there. That’s not the case. Women played there every day.”

Don’t get Azinger wrong. He’s delighted that Rice and Moore have been admitted. “I think it’s great,” he says. And he has company.

“I am extremely pleased to see the decision by Augusta National,” said three-time Masters champion Gary Player via e-mail. “For a club representing the pinnacle of the golfing world, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore are excellent choices to become the first female members and will no doubt do the appointment great justice. Of course, this is a historic change and echoes the importance of women in golf. I can only hope that this will continue to grow female participation in golf throughout the world.”

* * *

The decision to admit Rice and Moore is viewed by some as less a heroic than an inevitable act. Although The Masters lost TV sponsors for two years after 2002, corporate involvement has grown back, and now big timers like IBM and AT&T can be found on the tourney’s web site. But as women gain influence (some say too slowly) in the political and business arenas, staging a prestigious public event like The Masters at a club that refused admission to women was almost impossible. Chairman Billy Payne and Johnson agreed that Moore and Rice would be appropriate as the first women admitted. Although Augusta National’s membership process is extremely secretive, and often candidates don’t even know they are being considered, Payne took the unusual step of announcing their admission.

“This is a joyous occasion as we enthusiastically welcome Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore as members of Augusta National Golf Club,” read the beginning of his statement released last August. (Payne would not comment for this article.)

Payne continued to describe the “deliberate” consideration given each candidate for membership and the “extended period of time” over which any application is considered. That happens at most clubs. There were reports that Rice and Moore were first considered five years ago. Talk about deliberate.

Now that two women are in, can we expect a flood of females in green jackets dining in the Grill Room and sitting on the stately clubhouse’s porch, sipping cool drinks and making deals?

“It’s important for the dinosaurs to die off,” Donna Lopiano says. “You then hope the next generation does better.”

Lopiano is the president of Connecticut-based Sports Management Resources, which helps colleges and universities with athletics-related issues, including Title IX compliance. When it comes to gender equity in college sports, it’s hard to find someone with more experience, knowledge or battle scars.

She wasn’t in the middle of the Augusta skirmish, but she knows the value of the two women’s admission. She also understands that Rice and Moore constitute a good start — and little else.

“Was it inevitable Augusta would succumb to pressure?” she asks. “Yes. Is it enough? No. But you have to start somewhere. It’s the same thing with people of color.”

To comprehend fully the Augusta situation, people have to understand the country club ethos. All over America, there are clubs that practice exclusionary tactics. Some are segregated — gently — according to religion. Many have no, or precious few, African-American members. And many don’t admit many women members. Wives of members can play golf and have the run of the clubhouse — though not the men’s grill. But they aren’t on the membership rolls. Part of that is due to the fact that more men play golf than women. But that’s changing. When Rice and Moore were announced as members at Augusta National, PGA chief Tim Finchem noted that “women represent one of the fastest growing segments in both playing and watching the game of golf” and that their admission “sends a positive and inclusive message.” Just like many other things in society, the country club world is changing.

That the club’s members were all white and male for decades was hardly a shock, given the fact that many other clubs in the country had that distinction. Augusta National’s leadership felt that was its prerogative as a private institution. And in fact, many men who wanted in were stonewalled completely or made to endure a purgatorial waiting period. Gates’ public craving of a green jacket left even him on the outside for a while. To many members, the furor over admitting women was not about sexism; it was about being able to gather with friends to play golf, enjoy a meal and celebrate tradition. Now that women have been admitted, be they two or 200 in number, it’s unlikely that many of the older male members will be inviting females to join their foursomes on the course or share a drink with them after 18 holes, but the younger crowd (and we’re talking people in their 50s here, not 20s) will likely shrug it off as further evidence of progress.

“It was much ado about nothing,” Azinger says. “There still remain a few freedoms in this land. You can still have a private club. The fact that (Augusta) admitted women is fantastic. The timing was right.

“It was never an all-men’s club. Women have always been allowed to play golf there. There were just no single women members at the club.”

Now, there are two. And while it might make things a little awkward at this year’s Members’ Weekend, when 300 or so men and two women converge on Augusta National, it’s unlikely there will be any trouble in coming years. There probably won’t be an annual admission of women, although since Augusta National keeps its membership practices quiet, we won’t know for sure. But there will be more to come. Expect IBM CEO Ginni Rometty to get a call at some point, even though she doesn’t care much for the game, simply because one of the benefits of reaching her lofty perch is an Augusta National invite. Adding Carol Semple Thompson, perhaps the most decorated U.S. women’s amateur golfer, would be a strong move. This is the 21st century, after all, and though the pace may not suit Burk and others, the world is changing.

As for The Masters, don’t expect Rice and Moore’s inclusion to matter very much at all. Players will be asked about it. Some will respond positively. Others, like the 90 percent who anonymously told Golf Magazine in 2011 that they didn’t care too much that Augusta National didn’t admit women, will be non-committal. It didn’t hurt the cause that 2012 Masters champ Bubba Watson told the publication in ’11: “Yeah, I care, and you can quote me on that.” And when Tiger Woods was asked about the move, he was enthusiastic and called it “important to golf.” For the most part, life will go on as usual. Players will rise and fall on the leaderboard, and the TV types will still treat the tournament as if it were High Mass.

Burk, on the other hand, will keep pushing.

“When they finally (admitted women), they did it after 10 years of resistance,” she says. “They haven’t done all that much. It was a small step, a very small step. What happens in the future is more important than one token gesture.”

But you have to start somewhere.



Listen to Condoleezza Rice talk about her game, and she sounds just like any other golfer. Says she’s good off the tee and pretty strong on the greens. It’s that last 150 yards that give her trouble. If she could just handle those better…

Rice does practice her craft, although she has only been at the game for about seven years. In addition to her newly minted Augusta National membership, she belongs to four other clubs.

During an interview last August, she said her handicap was “down to a 14,” while other reports have her at a 16. That doesn’t matter. What does is that she’s a fine athlete who was once a competitive figure skater and an excellent tennis player.
But while her tennis game is receding, her golf game is improving, especially now that she has more time to play since leaving her position as Secretary of State after George W. Bush’s presidential tenure ended.

“She’s a terrific player,” former PGA Tour member and current ESPN analyst Paul Azinger says. “She’s an athlete.”

In a 2011 interview with Golf Digest, Rice spoke of her desire to work on the game, saying she doesn’t do anything just as a diversion and that the “best part of golf is that unlike my tennis game, I can actually get better.”

She now has one heckuva place to pursue that improvement.

—by Michael Bradley

This article appeared in the 2013 edition of Athlon Sports' Golf Annual. Order your copy here.

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Post date: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 16:02
Path: /golf/5-greatest-shots-masters-history

We don’t have footage of Gene Sarazen’s famous double eagle from 1935, but on Masters Sunday 2012, we saw something just as good and just as rare — Louis Oosthuizen's double eagle, the first at the par-5 second hole in Masters history. Later, Bubba Watson joined our countdown with his stunning recovery shot from the pine straw in the playoff. Here are our choices for the seven greatest shots in Masters history.

7. Louis Oosthuizen, 2012
Before Sunday, there had been 19,809 rounds at The Masters, but this was a first: a double eagle at No. 2. Had Oostie gone on to win, his shot would rank No. 1; as it is, he'll have to settle for second in The Masters and seventh on our list.

6. Sandy Lyle, 1988
Lyle had a front-row seat for Jack Nicklaus' charge to the 1986 Masters title. Two years later, he made history of his own with an incredible bunker shot on the 72nd hole, using the slope of the green to set up a clinching birdie. This is great execution for a Tuesday practice round; under Masters pressure, it's one of history's greatest shots.

5. Bubba Watson, 2012
After a day that included a double eagle and two holes in one, Bubba's shot at 10 will be the one they'll still be talking about at the 2050 Champions Dinner.

4. Jack Nicklaus, 1986
Jack’s near hole-in-one on 16 during his final-round 65 was only one of many magic moments that day — but it was pretty epic. As a bonus, this video includes his birdie putt on 17 (the putt that ultimately clinched his win) and his tap-in on 18, as well as commentary from the man himself.

3. Phil Mickelson, 2010
Mickelson’s 6-iron second shot to four feet on the par-5 13th was the kind of hero shot that only he and Tiger Woods would even attempt.

2. Larry Mize, 1987
Playing a few miles from his home, the quiet, unassuming Mize hit the shot of his life, or anyone else’s for that matter, holing an impossible 140-foot pitch shot on the second playoff hole to deny Greg Norman a green jacket.

1. Tiger Woods, 2005
It's a scenario apparently drawn up in the Nike marketing offices — the ball hanging tantalizingly on the edge of the cup, the Nike logo momentarily freeze-framed on our television screens before the ball tumbles into the cup, unleashing an awkward golfer high-five between Tiger and caddie Steve Williams that detracts only slightly from the moment. To answer your question, Verne Lundquist — no, in our lives, we’ve never seen anything like it.

<p> 7 Epic Moments from Golf's Greatest Tournament</p>
Post date: Thursday, April 11, 2013 - 14:00