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All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Kansas City Chiefs, NFL
Path: /nfl/kansas-city-chiefs-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Atlanta
Week 2: at Buffalo
Week 3: at New Orleans
Week 4: San Diego
Week 5: Baltimore
Week 6: at Tampa Bay
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Oakland
Week 9: at San Diego (Thurs.)
Week 10: at Pittsburgh (Mon.)
Week 11: Cincinnati
Week 12: Denver
Week 13: Carolina
Week 14: at Cleveland
Week 15: at Oakland
Week 16: Indianapolis
Week 17: at Denver

Order your 2012 Kansas City Chiefs Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Kansas City opens its 2012 season in Arrowhead Stadium against Atlanta. Then its back-to-back road games in Buffalo and New Orleans before opening divisional play against San Diego at home.

- The Chiefs play both the NFC South and AFC North as its cross-divisonal opponents in 2012. They will play three of their four NFC games in the first six weeks, while three of their four against the AFC North will come in a five-week span from Weeks 10-14. Kansas City's Week 3 trip to New Orleans is the opener of a difficult three-game stretch that also includes consecutive home games against San Diego and Baltimore. The Chiefs also will play the Steelers on Monday night in Week 10 coming off of a Thursday night road game the preceding week in San Diego.

- Kansas City plays San Diego in Week 4 and then doesn't play another AFC West game until Week 8 as Oakland comes to town. Three of the Chargers' final four divisional games are road contests, including trips to Oakland and Denver in Weeks 15 and 17.

- The Chiefs are on bye in Week 7, meaning they will play 10 straight games when they return to the field. Half of the Chiefs' 10 games after the bye are divisional match ups with their AFC West rivals, starting with back-to-back games against Oakland and at San Diego in Weeks 8 and 9.

- Kansas City's floating games are at Buffalo in Week 2 and against Indianapolis in Week 16. The home date against the Colts comes at a good time, as it will break up the Chiefs' final two divisional games —at Oakland and at Denver.

Fantasy Focus: Jamaal Charles finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2010 with 1,467 yards and was third in fantasy points among running backs. Charles tore his ACL in the first game of the 2011 season, but is expected to be healthy and ready to go in Week 1 of this season. Kansas City also added former Cleveland Brown running back Peyton Hillis, who was second in fantasy points among running backs in 2011, to its backfield during the offseason. Whether it's Charles or Hillis, whoever emerges as the primary ball-carrier for the Chiefs could be in line for a big season, and it's possible both will be a reliable fantasy option in 2012. Eight of Kansas City's 13 opponents in 2012 ranked among the teams who gave up the most fantasy points to running backs in 2011. Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indianapolis and Buffalo led the way in this category, with Cleveland (7th-most), New Orleans (8th) and AFC West foes Oakland (11th) and Denver (16th) also finishing among the top 16 teams.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 14, 2012

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Kansas City Chiefs 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The inaugural Big Ten title game featured the teams widely regarded as the league’s best. This season’s race could be less clear-cut. The Legends Division looks rock solid, while the Leaders is filled with more than a few question marks. Michigan and Michigan State both come off 11-win seasons that resulted in bowl victories (Sugar and Outback, respectively). Nebraska, with seven starters back on both sides of the ball, will be formidable as well.

After a transitional year on offense, Michigan should be more comfortable in Al Borges’ system and returns a dynamic backfield in senior quarterback Denard Robinson and junior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Maturity is a big theme for Nebraska after some breakdowns in 2011, and the Huskers will be older and wiser on offense. Quarterback Taylor Martinez returns for his third season as the starter, and Nebraska will be more seasoned at spots like receiver and offensive line.

Michigan State loses more star power, namely three-year starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and All-America defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. But Mark Dantonio’s squad also is loaded with difference-makers on defense — end William Gholston and linebacker Denicos Allen among them — and has built a culture of winning in East Lansing.

The Leaders division is murkier after significant personnel turnover with both coaches and players. Ohio State is banned from the postseason, but the Buckeyes could have the division’s top team. New coach Urban Meyer has energized a program coming off its first seven-loss season since 1897. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman usher in an offense that should help quarterback Braxton Miller, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year in 2011.

Wisconsin likely will be the favorite to return to the Big Ten title game despite losing several key players and six assistants from the 2011 team. The Badgers will count on another transfer quarterback (Danny O’Brien) to lead the offense, but they return a Heisman Trophy candidate in running back Montee Ball and several veteran defenders, including linebacker Chris Borland.

Penn State and Illinois both went through coaching changes, but both teams could make noise in the division because of their defenses. The Nittany Lions return one of the nation’s best linebacker groups, headlined by Gerald Hodges. Illinois must replace All-America end Whitney Mercilus but should once again be strong in the front seven.   

Purdue returns defensive tackle Kawann Short and most of its core pieces from 2011. The Boilers could be a sleeper team in the Leaders. Both Northwestern and Iowa lose several experienced players but could make some noise in the Legends.

Athlon's 2012 Big Ten Team Previews

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

Coaching Turnover

The Big Ten coaching ranks have a dramatically different look after another historic offseason. For the second consecutive year, three league squads made coaching changes, including Penn State, which dismissed the late Joe Paterno in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.

Bill O’Brien’s first head coaching job poses unique challenges, as he tries to establish his vision during a fragile time for the university and win over a Penn State fan base mostly skeptical about his hiring. A strong season in Year 1 of the post-Paterno era will accelerate the healing process.

Although Ohio State won’t go bowling this year, the worst appears to be over in Columbus. Ohio State emerged from all the Jim Tressel turmoil with Urban Meyer, a two-time BCS national championship-winning coach who has Buckeyes fans giddy in his return to his home state. No stranger to lofty expectations, Meyer has set the bar high and inherits a young but talented team in 2012.

One of Meyer’s coaching disciples, Tim Beckman, takes over at Illinois following Ron Zook’s firing. The Illini have recorded bowl wins in consecutive seasons for the first time, but they flat-lined late last season and haven’t built momentum from their Rose Bowl trip after the 2007 season. It’s up to Beckman to foster more consistent success in Champaign.

After relative quiet in 2008 and 2009, the Big Ten coaching carousel has been spinning out of control. This year alone, the league had 40 changes at head coach or assistant coach.

Kirk Ferentz, who enters his 14th season at Iowa, is now the dean of Big Ten coaches, having held his position seven years longer than anyone else. Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, 42, and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, 37, are the league’s second-longest-serving coaches.

Transfer Pass

Three Big Ten teams have bolstered their passing attacks with coveted transfers.

For the second consecutive year, Wisconsin added a quarterback from the ACC to lead its offense. Former Maryland signal-caller Danny O’Brien follows former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson to Madison. Like Wilson, O’Brien has completed his degree, so he won’t have to sit out a season at Wisconsin. O’Brien, who picked Wisconsin over Penn State, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, has two years of eligibility remaining. He’ll enter preseason camp as the frontrunner to win the job.

Michigan State and Northwestern, meanwhile, both added talented wide receiver transfers. DeAnthony Arnett transferred from Tennessee to Michigan State to be closer to his ailing father in Flint, Mich. Arnett, whom Michigan State had targeted in recruiting but couldn’t land, recorded 24 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns for the Vols in 2011. He has been granted a hardship waiver by the NCAA that will allow him to play immediately. The Spartans lose their top three receivers from 2011 and could use a playmaker like Arnett.

Northwestern also added a big piece to its receiving corps in Kyle Prater, a transfer from USC. Prater, one of the nation’s top recruits in 2010, grew up in the Chicago area but headed west to play college ball. He struggled with injuries the past two seasons and wanted to play closer to his family. Prater chose Northwestern ahead of both Wisconsin and Illinois. As of early June, he had not yet heard from the NCAA regarding his request for immediate eligibility.

A Rosey Partnership

After the last round of realignment fever, the Big Ten and Pac-12 decided to strengthen their relationship beyond the traditional Rose Bowl bond. The leagues in December announced a major scheduling partnership across all sports, billing it as a brand-building alternative to further expansion.

By 2017, the leagues plan to have a complete 12-game schedule pitting Big Ten teams against their Pac-12 counterparts. The Big Ten had planned to adopt a nine-game conference schedule in 2017 but shelved the idea when the Pac-12 partnership surfaced. Games will be played in the schools’ home stadiums, and the leagues are also exploring neutral-site contests at certain venues.

In addition to the Rose Bowl, the 2012 slate includes four Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups, and additional scheduling agreements between the conferences — such as Michigan State’s home-and-home series with Oregon — have been finalized since the partnership was announced.

Welcome Returns

The Big Ten returns nine of its top 10 rushers from 2011, including Wisconsin’s Montee Ball and three quarterbacks (Michigan’s Denard Robinson, Minnesota’s MarQueis Gray and Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez). The league returns seven of its top 10 passers, just two of its top 10 receivers, seven of its top 10 tacklers and five of its top 10 sack leaders. 

Related Big Ten Content

Ohio State's Top 10 Players for 2012
Michigan's Top 10 Players for 2012

Michigan State's Top 10 Players for 2012

Nebraska's Top 10 Players for 2012

Wisconsin Badgers Top 10 Players for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Big Ten Football 2012 Predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 05:49
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-tight-end-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.


Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Rank Player Team
1 Tyler Eifert Notre Dame
2 Austin Seferian-Jenkins Washington
3 Chris Gragg Arkansas
4 Gavin Escobar San Diego State
5 Ryan Otten San Jose State
6 Jacob Pedersen Wisconsin
7 Joseph Fauria UCLA
8 Andrei Lintz Washington State
9 Jack Doyle Western Kentucky
10 Luke Willson Rice
11 Crockett Gillmore Colorado State
12 Blake Jackson Oklahoma State
13 Jake Stoneburner Ohio State
14 Levine Toiolo Stanford
15 Philip Lutzenkirchen Auburn
16 Zach Ertz Stanford
17 Jordan Reed Florida
18 Dion Sims Michigan State
19 Brandon Ford Clemson
20 Hubie Graham Pittsburgh
21 Randall Telfer USC
22 Colt Lyerla Oregon
23 Ryan Griffin Connecticut
24 Gabe Linehan Boise State
25 C.J. Fiedorowicz Iowa
26 Kolby Arendse Nevada
27 Kyler Reed Nebraska
28 Michael Williams Alabama
29 Matt Furstenburg Maryland
30 Arthur Lynch Georgia

Teaser:
<p> 2012 College Fantasy Football Rankings: Tight Ends</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 05:05
Path: /college-football/mac-football-2012-predictions
Body:

Conference realignment finally reached the MAC, with Temple departing for its second stint in the Big East and UMass joining the league as it moves up from the FCS ranks. The MAC is coming off its most successful postseason in league history after recording a 4–1 record in bowl games. This year, there is no clear-cut league favorite, but the power still resides in the West Division. The West has posted a dominating 28–11 record (including title games) against teams from the East over the past two seasons, and that trend should continue in 2012.

Traditional powers Toledo and Northern Illinois will once again be strong, but don’t be surprised if Western Michigan sneaks up and steals the West title. The Broncos must replace their entire receiving corps, but they return splendid quarterback Alex Carder and should be very strong on the offensive line.

Toledo suffered heavy personnel losses and will have a new head coach (Matt Campbell), but the Rockets still have enough playmakers to contend. Northern Illinois must replace Chandler Harnish, the most decorated quarterback in school history, but new signal-caller Jordan Lynch and a veteran receiving corps will keep the Huskies in the hunt.

Ball State and Eastern Michigan are two improved teams that may have breakout seasons. Pete Lembo led the Cardinals to six wins and bowl-eligibility during his first season. Ron English continues to work wonders in Ypsilanti, taking a program that was 0–12 in 2009 to 6–6 in 2011. Dan Enos needs to get things turned around quickly at Central Michigan. After winning 38 games from 2006-09, the Chips are just 6–18 on Enos’ watch. 

Ohio, led by veteran coach Frank Solich, is the team to beat in the East. The Bobcats are still beaming after recording their first bowl win in school history and now have their sights set on a MAC title, something that has eluded the school since 1968.

Bowling Green and Kent State look to be spoilers. The Falcons feature standout quarterback Matt Schilz and have a friendly league schedule that doesn’t include Western Michigan or Northern Illinois. Kent State made dramatic improvement late in Darrell Hazell’s first season and is looking for its first bowl berth since 1972.  Miami is the league’s most storied program, and the RedHawks hope veteran quarterback Zac Dysert, who has 8,530 career passing yards and 48 touchdowns, can lead them to their 16th MAC title.

Buffalo, led by talented running back Branden Oliver, could be a sleeper. The Bulls will be improved on the field, but a brutal schedule — they play Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan out of the West — could prevent a big jump in the standings. Tommy Bowden takes over a dreadful Akron program, and he will make the Zips fun to watch — just not this year. MAC newcomer UMass is fortunate to be on the weaker side of the league, but the Minutemen lack the talent and depth to be a factor in 2012.

Athlon's 2012 MAC Team Previews

East West
Akron Ball State
Bowling Green Central Michigan
Buffalo Eastern Michigan
Kent State Northern Illinois
Miami Toledo
Ohio Western Michigan
UMass  

Teaser:
<p> MAC football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 04:57
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-team-defense-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point
Field goals 39 yards and under = 3 points
Field goals 40-49 yards = 4 points
Field goals 50+ yards = 5 points

Defense scoring -

0 points allowed = 15 points
2-6 points allowed = 10 points
7-13 points allowed = 7 points
14-20 points allowed = 4 points
21-27 points allowed = 2 points
28-34 points allowed = 0 points
35+ points allowed = -2 points
Safeties = 2 points
Fumbles/Interceptions recovered = 3 points
Sacks = 1 point
Defensive/Special Teams touchdowns = 6 points

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Rankings Team
1 LSU
2 Alabama
3 Florida State
4 Virginia Tech
5 Georgia
6 South Carolina
7 Ohio State
8 Texas
9 Oregon
10 Florida
11 Michigan State
12 Boise State
13 Oklahoma
14 South Florida
15 USC
16 Rutgers
17 Michigan
18 Nebraska
19 Wisconsin
20 Oklahoma State
21 Utah
22 BYU
23 NC State
24 Stanford
25 Vanderbilt
26 FIU
27 Penn State
28 Notre Dame
29 Miami
30 TCU

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: Team Defense Rankings</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 14, 2012 - 02:14
Path: /nascar/nascar-twitter-omg-and-jerry-springer-coming-cup
Body:

Jerry Springer and NASCAR? A special Twitter page for NASCAR and a unique race at a unique race track. Backseat Drivers Fan Council members had much to debate this week and they didn’t always agree. Here’s what they had to say about this week’s issues:


“THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW” SPONSORING A TEAM?
FoxSports.com reported that Phoenix Racing has had talks with officials from “The Jerry Springer Show” about the program possibly sponsoring the team. Fan Council members were asked what they thought about this possible union:

39.2 percent said it was horrible and would only reinforce stereotypes of the sport and should be nixed.
35.5 percent said it was great to see a potential new sponsor possibly help a team that needs it.
25.3 percent didn’t care about the issue.

What Fan Council members said: 
• Jerry Springer's show represents the very worst of American culture. We don't need that in NASCAR. Our fans represent the best in our culture — love of family, love of God, love of our country and military. Those two don't mix, and we don't need new fans that bad.

• Bringing a new sponsor into NASCAR is always a good thing. If the sponsorship goes well, it could open the door to other sponsors coming into NASCAR. And thinking that "The Jerry Springer Show" will only reinforce stereotypes is already stereotyping “The Jerry Springer Show." Seems like a double standard.

• It is a tacky idea — tackier than the Ricky Bobby car. NASCAR wants to be seen as a world-class sport enjoyed by smart, sophisticated viewers. Consorting with “The Jerry Springer Show" does not sound like a world-class move. 

• Not so much reinforce stereotypes, but just give it a trashy image, after all that's what that show is, trashy. I don't think it's a good idea for the sport.

• Sponsors are REALLY hard to come by right now. I don't think the sport can afford to turn money away. As far as reinforcing a stereotype, let's face it, there is SOME commonality between NASCAR and Jerry Springer. Do you want to alienate ANY fans right now because you think they are "redneck?"

• If “The Jerry Springer Show” can air on regular television, it can certainly sponsor a team in NASCAR.

• I know sponsorship is hard to come by but PLEASE!!!!! This will only serve to reinforce the bad behavior already set forth by Kurt Busch!

• As a sport that is characterized as being only for rednecks and white trash, we should look beyond the money. I'm often told at work that perception is reality. I can hear the pundits laughing at us NASCAR fans already. The stick-and-ball reporters would jump at the chance to ridicule racing rather than learn about it.

• Really I have mixed feelings. On one hand it's a sponsor that I'm sure Phoenix Racing could bring on and it would help their team. On the other hand, I'm certain people will look at the deal and Jerry Springer on the car and the WWE references will start. Probably Kurt Busch can create enough controversy without Jerry Springer's help.

• Any sponsor is a good sponsor! Not really, there is a line, but each car owner should draw their own line. Who am I to tell a car owner whose money he should and should not accept? I get to pass my judgement by choosing which drivers I support.

• Stupid idea. NASCAR already has the reputation of being nothing but rednecks. Add to that Kurt Busch's comments about how NASCAR needs to be more like WWE. Credible sports don't need that.

• Money is money.


TWITTER MADNESS
NASCAR debuted the #NASCAR landing page on Twitter that provided a place for fans to check out various tweets with #NASCAR in it. Fan Council members were asked what they thought of the site.

57.7 percent didn’t look at it.
23.5 percent said it was OK.
11.1 percent were disappointed in it.
7.7 percent really liked it.

What Fan Council members said:
• OMG it was gr8t. ROTFL at some tweets. 

• I already follow who I want on Twitter, so I probably will not use it all that much, but I still think it is a neat idea.

• So sick of hearing about Twitter all the time. I just want to see the race, I REALLY don’t want to see what Timmy in Texas thinks of Jeff Gordon's bad luck on my screen. Way too much Twitter involvement. Please make it go away. #goaway

• They didn't keep up with all the tweets like I had hoped. But still pretty neat.

• It would probably be better for someone who isn't already on Twitter, who wants to get a sampling of the types of things they might see there. Although the sheer volume of tweets was a bit overwhelming. I already follow a variety of media people, drivers and their wives, and team PR people, all told less than 30 people, and the number of tweets during a race in my own timeline can get hard to keep up with.

• It really just looked like my NASCAR list. I thought it was to help fans interact with others, but I didn't see that. It’s a cool concept, but I'm sure it will get better as the weeks go on. Totally not what I thought it would be I guess.

• It was great. Great way to see what was happening all over twitter and not just who I follow. The interaction was great. I am really excited to see where this can go.

• Had more important things to do. Like watch the race.

• The best part of the page is the picture stream. The tweets follow too many teams I'm not interested in, so I'll continue to stick to my personal timeline & lists, and I look at the raw #NASCAR stream if I'm looking for particular reaction to an event or news.

• The first round was a complete failure. There were tweets at the bottom of the page that went back to June 2nd. Meanwhile, in the unfiltered #NASCAR stream, tweets were as hot and heavy as ever. Updates were scarce on the official page and seemed to almost come to a complete stop sometime after halfway. I really wish this would succeed but it needs a heck of a lot more work.


GRADING SUNDAY’S CUP RACE AT POCONO

58.8 percent called it Good
28.9 percent called it Great
8.2 percent called it Fair
4.1 percent called it Poor

What Fan Council members said:
• Best Pocono race I have seen in many years!

• Take away the pass by Logano to take the lead it was a poor race, plain and simple.

• I was dreading this race as I normally do in the summer schedule. However, it was good. The repave, speeding penalties and cautions made this usually boring race watchable. 

• Hubby's first race, and we stood for about 75 percent of the laps! Great competition, great resurfacing job, great turnout!

• Best Pocono race I have ever seen.

• Once we got the speeding penalties out of the way, I loved the race. When the race was over, I was ready for more laps!!

• Yes, this was an odd race. However, the whole speeding penalty thing really showed who was paying attention and it made it very interesting. The race was a good length and there were multiple cautions to help mix things up. Also nice seeing a driver who really needed a win actually get one this season.

• Who knew that Pocono could be that great. Usually even I am fighting the urge to nap during the middle of the race. It was the perfect length and the action was great.

• I rated it "Good." It was actually pretty "Great." I'm just sour that the 88 (car) didn't get it done.

• This was the first time ever I have gave a race a "GREAT" checkmark. It was one of the best Pocono races I’ve ever seen. I had friends that were there and they said it was just as awesome in person. Gotta give props to NASCAR & the track owners for making the race great.


A SECOND CHANCE FOR POCONO?
Last week Fan Council members were asked if they cut four races from the current Cup schedule what four races those would be. Both Pocono races ranked among the ones fans would cut with the Pocono August race rated as the No. 1 race to cut. Yet, last weekend’s Pocono race earned praise from Fan Council members with 87.7 percent of the votes listing the race as either Great or Good — only the Martinsville race this season has received a higher combined percentage (89.9).  Fan Council members were asked if they would reconsider how many races Pocono deserved in a season:

56.1 percent said one race only
39.5 percent said two races 
4.4 percent said zero races

What Fan Council members said:
• I live 25 miles from Pocono and get sick of hearing everybody bitch about it. They deserve two races. They always have better than average attendance and the speedway has gone out of their way to jump through all the hoops NASCAR has asked them to. New paving, pit road, inner wall, fencing, better seats, parking and traffic control. A shorter race made it more competitive. That facility is now right there quality-wise with Charlotte, Richmond or anywhere else. God bless Doc Mattioli, but since his grandson Brandon took over, Pocono is light years ahead of where it was. That is an A-plus facility — I don't care how pissed Dale Jr was about having to be there for five days!

• Pocono is still on the bottom half of my list of favorite tracks.

• I have been to many Pocono races over the years. They were always too long and quite frankly the last three or four were boring. We stopped going two years ago. I picked Pocono as a race to be dropped. After (Sunday’s) race, I have changed my mind. If they can consistently put out a race like (Sunday’s), they deserve to have two.

• It had more action than Bristol, but I still think it deserves one race only.

• I'm still saying only one race. Yes, I enjoyed the race despite certain things, but I think only once a year is fine. Sometimes a race that has two races doesn't always deliver in the second race. Only a few tracks can do that. Talk to me after August.

• I was wrong last week. The new track and shorter miles have made this a much better race.

• No way this track deserves two dates, but I can deal with 1 date because it is a unique track on the schedule.


The Backseat Drivers Fan Council was founded and is administered by Dustin Long. Fans can join by sending Dustin an email at dustinlong002@gmail.com.

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

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council talks the NAScAR and Twitter partnership, a potential "Jerry Springer Show" sponsorship and the race at Pocono.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 18:11
All taxonomy terms: Eric Kelly, Overtime
Path: /overtime/bestworst-boxing-trainer-ever-eric-kelly
Body:

WARNING: Explicit Language In Video

Meet the Don Rickles of the boxing trainers, 2000 Olympic alternate Eric Kelly. He is Wall Strreet’s newest social commentator, who may be the best (funny, honest) or worst (angry guy who offends most of the population while barely helping you) trainer in New York. After a “street altercation” ended his boxing career, Kelly just seems so pissed that he has to work with Wall Street types.

The language is very salty, so this definitely in the NSFW category. A couple of his verbal gems include, “I can’t believe you’re still on this side of the dirt” and “You look like all the nerds just had a convention on your body.”

Enjoy.
 

Teaser:
<p> Eric Kelly: Worst Boxing Trainer Ever</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 17:50
All taxonomy terms: crossword, Monthly
Path: /monthly/june-2012-crossword-solution
Body:

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 16:57
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The SEC is bigger than ever, with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri, but one thing hasn’t changed: The balance of power is still in the West. LSU still has the Honey Badger and a strong defense — and now it may have the quarterback who can take the offense to another level in Zach Mettenberger. Perhaps most important: LSU gets Alabama at home.

Alabama, which is recruiting at a different level each year, is also reloading on defense. The Crimson Tide may return only four starters on defense, but last year’s backups could have started for most SEC teams. And quarterback AJ McCarron showed in the BCS Championship Game that he is more than a game manager.

Arkansas took a big step last year by having a serviceable defense, and if it can stay that way the Razorbacks have a chance to break through this year. Tyler Wilson has a year under his belt, and the offense should be bolstered by the return of tailback Knile Davis. LSU and Alabama also both have to travel to Fayetteville.

The drop-off between the division’s top three and the rest of the group is considerable. Auburn, with two new coordinators, should improve on last season, and Texas A&M has some talent. But if the top three aren’t LSU, Alabama and Arkansas in some order, it will be a surprise. 

Georgia looks like the team to beat in the East, but the Bulldogs do have some issues — a retooled offensive line, two new specialists, suspensions on defense, and the health and behavior of the tailbacks. But Mark Richt’s club still has a schedule gift-wrapped for a second straight division title. The toughest matchups will be at Missouri and at South Carolina, but for a second straight year they don’t have to play Alabama, Arkansas or LSU. And with quarterback Aaron Murray, ample talent at receiver, and a defense returning nine starters, that should be enough to carry the Bulldogs.

South Carolina, meanwhile, has to deal with the loss of several key defensive starters, receiver Alshon Jeffery and defensive boss Ellis Johnson. But the Gamecocks still have Marcus Lattimore (presumably healthy), Jadeveon Clowney and Steve Spurrier. Florida and Missouri are dark horse candidates to win the division. The Gators would need to make a big improvement in Will Muschamp’s second year, and the key to that will be production at quarterback. Missouri’s hopes may depend on the health of quarterback James Franklin.

Athlon's 2012 SEC Previews

East West
Florida Alabama
Georgia Arkansas
Kentucky Auburn
Missouri LSU
South Carolina Mississippi State
Tennessee Ole Miss
Vanderbilt Texas A&M

Expansion talk

The addition of Texas A&M and Missouri was greeted with much pageantry by the SEC. There were big welcome ceremonies, with excited talk about what each school brings to the conference, and how great this was for the SEC.

And then came the details.  The move to 14 teams proved to be a headache for those charged with coming up with a new scheduling philosophy. The conference athletics directors logged plenty of miles flying to meetings, trying first to agree on an overall philosophy and then to hammer out logistics. About the only thing that they ended up agreeing on was to keep the traditional, cross-division rivalries. After some brief worries, Georgia-Auburn and Tennessee-Alabama were saved.

“I’ve been in this league a long time,” says Larry Templeton, the former Mississippi State athletics director who was the SEC’s point man on scheduling. “I think this league has a tendency to do what’s best for the league over the long haul. I think there’s a strong feeling among the league to keep that (Georgia-Auburn) game, as well as a couple other cross-division rivalries.”

The league is also clinging to an eight-game schedule, even as other conferences moved towards nine games. Why so stubborn? Because the SEC sees itself as having some unique factors. The biggest one, as usual, was money: Nearly every SEC school, save Vanderbilt and perhaps Kentucky, can sell out any home game. So why go to nine SEC games, leaving only three non-conference games, and less of a chance to schedule a Sun Belt team for a sure sellout?

Detractors claim it’s more about the SEC not wanting to have more difficult schedules. But Templeton says that if the conference went to nine games, the non-conference game most likely to be jettisoned wouldn’t be that Sun Belt matchup, but one against another BCS conference school.

“I’m an eight-game guy,” Templeton says. “In this league, the game that’s gonna get given up are the big games that we put together, intersectional across the country. Mississippi State’s not gonna play a BYU or Oregon or teams that you’ve played in the past.”

The year of the quarterback

There was a considerable lack of star power at the game’s most visible position in 2011. The conference lost Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, Greg McElroy and Jevan Snead to graduation or the NFL, and South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia was booted during the season.

But the star power should be back in 2012. Both the first-team All-SEC quarterback (Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson) and second-teamer (Georgia’s Aaron Murray) are back. The addition of Missouri brings in James Franklin, who excelled in the spread last year. Tennessee hopes to get a full season out of Tyler Bray, who was an All-SEC candidate before being hurt.

Alabama’s AJ McCarron has a chance to capitalize on his strong finish to last year, including his coming-out party in the BCS championship. LSU is hoping for a strong season from Zach Mettenberger — who might be starting over Murray if he hadn’t been dismissed from the team at Georgia. South Carolina has high hopes for Connor Shaw, who was solid in relief of Garcia last year. And at Vanderbilt, Jordan Rodgers ignited the Commodores’ offense with his ability to run and pass when he took over the starting role in October.

Wilson was an underwhelming choice as the SEC’s top quarterback last season. If he repeats this year, it won’t be because of a lack of good competition.

Progress on another front

Here’s one little-noticed fact about Texas A&M joining the SEC: The conference now has three black head football coaches, the most it has ever had in the sport, and tied for the most of any FBS conference.

Texas A&M hired Kevin Sumlin, formerly of Houston, in December, after firing Mike Sherman. Kentucky’s Joker Phillips is entering his third season, and Vanderbilt’s James Franklin is entering his second. Phillips and Franklin downplayed last year’s game, which was the first in SEC history between two black head football coaches. Their meeting this year, on Nov. 3, will be the only one this year, because neither is scheduled to play Texas A&M.

Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference have three black head coaches. The Pac-12 is the only other BCS league that has as many as two.

Related SEC Content

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive Talks Realignment and Playoffs
Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 2 LSU

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 3 Alabama

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 8 Georgia

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 10 South Carolina

Athlon's Top 25 for 2012: No. 13 Arkansas

Teaser:
<p> SEC Football 2012 predictions.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:20
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC West, Denver Broncos, NFL
Path: /nfl/denver-broncos-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: Pittsburgh
Week 2: at Atlanta (Mon.)
Week 3: Houston
Week 4: Oakland
Week 5: at New England
Week 6: at San Diego (Mon.)
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: New Orleans
Week 9: at Cincinnati
Week 10: at Carolina
Week 11: San Diego
Week 12: at Kansas City
Week 13: Tampa Bay
Week 14: at Oakland (Thur.)
Week 15: at Baltimore
Week 16: Cleveland
Week 17: Kansas City

Order your 2012 Denver Broncos Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Peyton Manning likely analyzed offensive lines, receiving corps, home field advantages, coaching staffs and front offices when making his decision on where to play football in 2012. But the schedule could not possibly have been one of the facets to his choice of the Broncos. There might not be a tougher start to the season than what Denver will deal with this fall. The first five weeks feature four playoff teams, including what could be the top three teams in the AFC (PIT, HOU, NE). In fact, of the first eight games, six will come against playoff teams from a year ago — and that doesn’t include San Diego. The only comfort is that Manning will get three of his first four games at home in Mile High.

- And in case any football fan out there forgot, on Opening Weekend the Steelers will be returning to the scene of the crime last year when Tim Tebow miraculously upset the Steel Curtain on Wild card Weekend.

- Manning and the Orange Crush will be featured prominently, rightly so, on national TV plenty in 2012. However, all three non-Sunday games will take place on the road. A week 2 trip to Atlanta and Week 6 visit to San Diego will be Monday Night showcases while the late-season division road trip to Oakland takes place on a Thursday night.

- The NFC West would not only be easier on the win-loss column but as well as the travel schedule, but playing the NFC South isn’t all that daunting. A road trip to Atlanta in Week 2 will be brutal but hosting New Orleans and Tampa Bay isn’t all that scary. It will be the first time Manning has faced the Saints since his Super Bowl loss. And the storylines for the Broncos-Panthers 1:00 PM ET kickoff in Carolina are too juicy not to appreciate. Manning vs. Cam? John Fox returns to BOA Stadium? What’s not to like?

- Along with an first weekend bout with Pittsburgh, the Orange Stallions will have to face the rest of the AFC North – also known as the best division in the AFC. Road trips to Cincinnati (Week 9) and particularly Baltimore (Week 15) will carry heavy AFC playoff implications.

- The division schedule is evenly spaced out over the course of the year. With the exception of three AFC West tests in four weeks from Week 11 to Week 14 (which will be a key playoff stretch for all teams involved), there are divisional games in each quarter of the season for Denver this year.

- The great news for Fox and Manning is the overall finish to the season. If the first two months will be filled with potential playoff match-ups, the final six games could give the division crown to the Broncos. Other than a road trip to Baltimore, Denver will play five non-playoff teams that could easily all be wins. Kansas City (twice), Tampa Bay, Oakland and Cleveland gives Denver a great shot at locking down the West for the second straight year. Especially, considering the final two games of the year are against the Browns and Chiefs — both at home.

- Notably absent from the schedule is the one game every fan in every city would like to see obviously: Denver and Indianapolis. Not to worry, the AFC West will face the AFC South next year.

Fantasy Focus: With an offense trying to get acclimated to a new quarterback, the start to the 2012 season could be very bumpy for the Broncos. Look for this offense to explode following the bye week (Week 7) and provide huge second-half numbers. Don't reach on Broncos early in the draft, but target them as the first two months play out.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Denver Broncos 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:05
All taxonomy terms: Atlanta Falcons, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/atlanta-falcons-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Atlanta Falcons 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Kansas City
Week 2: Denver (Mon.)
Week 3: at San Diego
Week 4: Carolina
Week 5: at Washington
Week 6: Oakland
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: at Philadelphia
Week 9: Dallas
Week 10: at New Orleans
Week 11: Arizona
Week 12: at Tampa Bay
Week 13: New Orleans (Thurs.)
Week 14: at Carolina
Week 15: New York Giants
Week 16: at Detroit (Sat.)
Week 17: Tampa Bay

Order your 2012 Atlanta Falcons Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Atlanta will play both the AFC West and the NFC East as its cross-divisional opponents in 2012. The Falcons get a heavy dose of the AFC to start their season, opening up with three straight against the West. The Falcons open in Kansas City before hosting Denver in their home opener on Monday night of Week 2. After that it's a cross-country trip to take on the Chargers in San Diego. The home game against Oakland in Week 6 will conclude the AFC part of the Falcons' '12 schedule.

- For their head-to-head dates with the NFC East, the Falcons get both the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and Cowboys on their home turf and will pay a visit to both Washington and Philadelphia. The Redskins are first up in Week 5, followed by the Cowboys and Eagles back-to-back in Weeks 8 and 9. The Giants come calling in Week 15 and this will be the first time the teams have met since the G-Men's 24-2 dismantling of the Falcons in last season's wild card playoff game in New York.

- Atlanta opens divisional play against Carolina in Week 4, but doesn't play another NFC South opponent until it goes to New Orleans in Week 10. The Falcons play five divisional contests in their last eight games. Three of these games are in a row, Weeks 12-14, as a Thursday night home date with the Saints is sandwiched around road games at Tampa Bay and Carolina.

- The Falcons' bye week comes in Week 7, which means they will play 10 straight games following their off week. The bye is preceded by their final game against the AFC West and then Atlanta returns to action with two straight against the NFC East — at Philadelphia and versus Dallas — before returning to divisional play on the road against New Orleans.

- Atlanta's two floating games this season are home against Arizona and on the road in Detroit. Both games are among the Falcons' final seven on their schedule. The Week 11 date with the Cardinals falls between two divisional games, while the game in Detroit is on a Saturday night and follows the Falcons' Week 15 meeting with the Giants. The match ups with the Giants and Lions could both have playoff implications tied to them as all three teams are expected to be in contention for a postseason berth in 2012.

Fantasy Focus: Quarterback Matt Ryan's passing yards and touchdowns have both gone up in each of the past three seasons. Although Ryan is not considered an elite fantasy quarterback, it's possible he could finish the season in the top 10 at his position given he has two legitimate targets in wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, and chances are the Falcons will probably try to reduce running back Michael Turner's workload in 2012. There's also Atlanta's schedule. Of the Falcons' 13 opponents this season, nine of them ranked among the top 16 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2011. All three of Atlanta's NFC South foes — Tampa Bay (3rd-most), Carolina (7th) and New Orleans (9th) — were in the top 10 in this category, and remember the Falcons play each of these teams twice. Oakland (2nd), the Giants (5th), San Diego (8th), Denver (11th), Detroit (12th) and Dallas (16th) also finished in the top half in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season.

— by Mark Ross, published on June 13, 2012

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Atlanta Falcons 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-101-124
Body:

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time conclude the rankings, continuing with No. 101-124. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

101. Western Kentucky
Third-year coach Willie Taggart received a four-year contract extension after guiding WKU to the best turnaround in Sun Belt history. Yet, the sting remains of being snubbed for a bowl invitation despite posting a 7–5 record that included a 7–1 mark in the Sun Belt. Taggart has used that snub to motivate his team in the offseason. The Hilltoppers can no longer sneak up on the rest of the league. Last season proved that WKU is now a program that can compete in the improving Sun Belt. Contending with Bobby Rainey no longer around will be tough, but the Hilltoppers should still be one of the better teams in the league.    

Read the full 2012 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Team Preview

102. Ball State
Pete Lembo admits that his team might have overachieved last year, but he thinks they deserved it after buying in so readily to their new coaches. With virtually the same coaching staff in place for the second year in a row — a first for Ball State’s veterans — the arrow should keep pointing upward as long as the intangibles remain in place. “We won five close games,” Lembo says. “We scored on seven or eight two-minute drives. We were the least-penalized team in the conference. There were a lot of good signs, but we know we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Read the full 2012 Ball State Cardinals Team Preview

103. Eastern Michigan
Last year’s six wins represented the most the program has posted in a single season since 1995. Ron English has seemingly moved past many of the distractions that hindered his team early in his tenure, making it possible for him to focus solely on on-the-field matters. Despite the relative success last year, EMU struggled down the stretch, losing three of its four games in November. All three losses were by six points or less, and all were defined by the missed opportunities that come with the kind of inconsistency English harps on. “As a team right now, we do not consistently do what we’re coached to do,” says English, the MAC’s reigning Coach of the Year. “So that’s going to be the biggest emphasis.” The schedule won’t be as friendly in 2012. There are two road games against Big Ten foes (Purdue, Michigan State) in September, and the Eagles have to play both Toledo and Western Michigan, two of the top teams in the MAC’s West Division. Eastern Michigan might be a better team in 2012 but not win as many games. 

Read the full 2012 Eastern Michigan Eagles Team Preview

104. North Texas
Dan McCarney has plenty of believers, and for good reason. A 5–7 record in a new stadium last season brought optimism. But now the Mean Green must try to be a dominant running team without a proven running back, and they must slow down opposing passing attacks without their best pass-rusher and all four starters in the secondary. Road games at LSU, Kansas State and Houston offer little breathing room. McCarney’s plan appears to be on track, but it will take baby steps, and he knows it. “Thirty scholarship players were out the door last year, so we have depth issues, and we’re still 11 under the 85 scholarship limit,” McCarney says. “But that’s why I’m here, to fix a lot of the problems at North Texas. But we believe in our plan.”

Read the full 2012 North Texas Mean Green Team Preview

105. UTEP
UTEP’s unspoken formula — to win three nonconference games and cobble together three more victories to get to bowl eligibility — is rendered just about impossible by a slate that includes Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ole Miss. On the bright side, the five wins a year ago were more than many predicted in a complete rebuilding season, and 2012 could see the fruits of that in the final year of the 66-year-old Mike Price’s contract. The offense returns most of the key pieces, and the defense seems poised to make another incremental improvement, but the Miners will have to overachieve to put themselves in position to become bowl-eligible.

Read the full 2012 UTEP Miners Team Preview

106. UAB
UAB received a scare in the spring when Garrick McGee was rumored to be returning to Arkansas to replace his mentor Bobby Petrino. That didn’t happen, and the Blazers surge forward with an excitement level from the fan base that hasn’t been seen in Birmingham since the year after UAB played in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl. Playing with a quick tempo will be an emphasis for the Blazers. McGee and offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm have installed an offensive system that should produce a lot of points. But will UAB be able to stop anybody? The Blazers seem to have taken a step forward on the defensive side, but it will be hard for defensive coordinator Reggie Johnson to completely turn things around in one year.

Read the full 2012 UAB Blazers Team Preview

107. Rice
If you believe David Bailiff, the Owls are coming on. Well, they had better be improving, because following up 2008’s 10-win season and Texas Bowl triumph with a 10–26 record over the next three campaigns has made even the most patient Rice fans a little antsy. The offense must become more proficient, especially through the air. Taylor McHargue will benefit from last year’s experience, but if the line doesn’t perform, he could be a target. The defense must get tougher up front, or teams will again gash Rice on the ground and have plenty of time to attack through the air.

Read the full 2012 Rice Owls Team Preview

108. Hawaii
At his introductory press conference, broadcast live statewide, Norm Chow declared he had come home to “chase championships.” But given the difficulty of the move up to the Mountain West, a nonconference schedule that sends Hawaii on the road to USC and BYU in the first month and the amount of retooling necessary to install a new offense, Chow has his work cut out for him. Just getting to a break-even mark on its 12-game schedule, which would assure an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, would be quite an accomplishment in Chow’s inaugural season. 

Read the full 2012 Hawaii Warriors Team Preview

109. Troy
A lot of Trojan faithful want to either forget 2011 or cast it aside as an anomaly. Troy won at least eight games in the five seasons before last year’s collapse, and with a skilled offense and an influx of new talent on defense, there’s little doubt the Trojans should be improved in 2012. Improvement, however, might not be enough to make a big jump in the Sun Belt standings. The league is better than ever, with Arkansas State, FIU and UL Lafayette expected to contend for the conference title. A realistic goal for Troy, in the short term, should be to beat out the likes of UL Monroe, Western Kentucky and North Texas for fourth place.

Read the full 2012 Troy Trojans Team Preview

110. Central Michigan
CMU has put together one of the better home schedules in MAC history for the 2012 season, with seven home games — a rarity in the mid-major world. It features Navy, rival Western Michigan and, most notably, Michigan State. “Just because you’re playing them at home, you’re still playing them,” Dan Enos says, laughing, at the prospect of facing the Spartans. It’s the sort of home slate that’ll put butts in seats and put eyes on Enos’ program, which probably needs a .500 season to take the heat off of the third-year coach. That, however, isn’t likely to happen. The MAC West is loaded, with Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois at the top and improving Ball State and Eastern Michigan not far behind. It will be a struggle for the Chips to escape the cellar.  

Read the full 2012 Central Michigan Chippewas Team Preview

111. Buffalo
A 5–19 record over the last two years is not what the Buffalo faithful expected after hiring Jeff Quinn away from Cincinnati three years ago. The program’s biggest adjustment has been on offense, where players haven’t fully taken to Quinn’s pass-heavy spread. While Branden Oliver is one of the MAC’s premier tailbacks, Quinn is breaking in another quarterback, a position where results so far have been a mixture of wild inconsistency and occasional doses of promise. Defensively, Khalil Mack could emerge as the conference’s best player, and there’s enough talent to keep Buffalo competitive until the offense grows. Nevertheless, this is a critical year for Quinn. Warde Manuel, the man who hired Quinn, is now the athletic director at Connecticut, and new AD (Danny White) probably won’t be enamored with five wins over two seasons. It doesn’t help that the schedule is more challenging than it was last season.

Read the full 2012 Buffalo Bulls Team Preview

112. UNLV
Bobby Hauck hasn’t taken any shortcuts in trying to build UNLV’s football program, sticking almost exclusively to high school recruiting. That has meant taking a lot of lumps with a young squad in back-to-back two-win seasons. Expectations around Glitter Gulch are for a run at bowl eligibility in Year 3. That, however, could be asking for too much too soon. The Rebels will be better, but they could be another year away from returning to the postseason. 

Read the full 2012 UNLV Rebels Team Preview

113. Tulane
What would be a successful season for a Tulane program stuck in neutral since playing in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl? The honest answer would be a one- or two-game improvement over 2011, when the Green Wave went 2–11 and lost their final 10 games. New coach Curtis Johnson has some experienced players in key areas, and the change at the top has created some excitement on the Tulane campus, something that’s been missing for a while. But he’s also a first-year head coach, and anything more than a small step forward would be a pleasant surprise.

Read the full 2012 Tulane Green Wave Team Preview

114. MTSU
Middle Tennessee played in three bowl games in five years under Rick Stockstill before plummeting to last season’s 2–10 record, the program’s worst mark in more than 30 years. The extent of the letdown suggested that there were more issues with chemistry and character than talent. To turn the tide, Stockstill made some staff changes, implemented a new offseason weight program and put positions up for grabs more than in previous seasons. Stockstill hopes lessons of last season have been learned. “We had a sense of entitlement, and that can never happen again,” Stockstill says. “We flushed away 2011, but we can never ever forget it. That was gut-wrenching, and we never want to go through that again.” Aside from all the mind games, Middle Tennessee must correct its horrendous turnover margin of the last two seasons to return to past success. The Blue Raiders will play only five home games, but they can build some much-needed confidence with a soft early schedule against McNeese State, Florida Atlantic and at Memphis. A 3–0 start is not out of the question before the competition stiffens.

Read the full 2012 MTSU Blue Raiders Team Preview

115. Memphis
A former quarterback at Oklahoma and Murray State, Justin Fuente faces the challenging task of resurrecting a program that went to five bowls in six seasons under Tommy West but has won only five total games in the past three years. Fuente also has the added responsibility of bulking up a team that joins the Big East in 2013. Fuente understands that he has taken command of a program in disrepair. The number of scholarship players is low, and depth is practically non-existent. But the first-year coach brings an innovative offensive mind and has put together a solid staff that includes former North Texas head coach Darrell Dickey as offensive coordinator. Fuente also will be helped by a forgiving schedule that makes winning four games a realistic goal.

Read the full 2012 Memphis Tigers Team Preview

116. New Mexico State
The Aggies took a big step forward a season ago. They were a much more competitive team and could have won more than four games with a few breaks. It’s critical that NMSU continues to move forward under coach DeWayne Walker, who’s entering his fourth year at the school. If the Aggies improve as much this year as they did last year, bowl-eligibility isn’t out of the question thanks to a much kinder schedule in a new-look WAC that no longer includes Boise State, Fresno State and Nevada.

Read the full 2012 New Mexico State Aggies Team Preview

117. New Mexico
Bob Davie, who last coached at Notre Dame in 2001, knows what is in front of him. He is taking over a team that ranked 120th in scoring offense and 119th in scoring defense and has had 34 of the 67 players signed in the last three years leave the program. “This is a complete rebuilding job,” Davie says. “No one is going to argue that point. I’m comfortable with that. I feel fortunate to have the opportunity.” Discipline and attention to detail have been the themes since he took over, two areas that were apparently non-existent in the disastrous Mike Locksley era. The Lobos are lacking in personnel to make any sort of an immediate jump, but it is imperative for Davie to make some progress in the statistical rankings and in the win-loss record. He needs to be able to sell his next recruiting class on the hope that the program is headed in the right direction. 

Read the full 2012 New Mexico Lobos Team Preview

118. Idaho
After a pair of disappointing seasons, the pressure is on Idaho to return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009. A watered-down WAC should help, as the Vandals drop Nevada, Fresno State and Hawaii from their schedule and add FBS newbies UT-San Antonio and Texas State. Still, with only five home games and two games at BCS conference schools, the schedule isn’t exactly easy. Idaho will need its offense to improve significantly and for its defense and special teams to carry the load until the offense starts clicking. If things do fall into place, the Vandals could contend for a top-four finish in the WAC.

Read the full 2012 Idaho Vandals Team Preview

119.  Akron
Akron is headed for its seventh consecutive losing season. The 1–11 marks in 2010 and ’11 under Rob Ianello represented the worst two seasons for the Zips since they joined college football’s top division in 1987. That’s a big hole to climb out of, and even the presence of the much-ballyhooed Terry Bowden will not change the fortunes that quickly. The offense has some potential playmakers, but they will get a chance to produce only if the line develops. Chuck Amato must perform some magic on defense for the unit to be successful. Bowden seems to be a good fit for the job, but Zips fans must be patient.

Read the full 2012 Akron Zips Team Preview

120. FAU
Howard Schnellenberger will be long revered in Boca Raton, as he is in Coral Gables, for what he did to establish a program. Yet, while he built what would become a perennial power on the field at the University of Miami, his legacy at FAU will be the field itself. The product on it has slipped over the past five years, and now it’s up to Carl Pelini, who has only been a head coach at the high school level, to reverse the direction. He replaced all but one assistant, and he has tossed out the old schemes on offense and defense. “We have come a long way,” Pelini says. “We still have a long way to go, though.” That will be evident this season, especially in visits to Alabama and Georgia. Some Sun Belt progress would be sufficient. 

Read the full 2012 FAU Owls Team Preview

121. Texas State
After a 5–2 start last season under coach Dennis Franchione — in his first year in his second stint at the school — the Bobcats stumbled down the stretch to finish 6–6 as an FCS independent. Texas State now takes another step forward in 2012, joining the WAC for one season before moving on to the more stable Sun Belt Conference in ’13. The schedule will certainly be more challenging this season for the Bobcats, who will play only one FCS opponent — local rival Stephen F. Austin — after facing nine FCS foes and one Division II school last year. This season’s first two weeks include a Sept. 1 opener at Houston and Sept. 8 home game against Texas Tech. Texas State has been preparing for its move to the FBS ranks and expanded the seating capacity of Bobcat Stadium from 16,000 to 30,000 in the offseason. Franchione took New Mexico, TCU, Alabama and Texas A&M to bowl games before arriving in San Marcos. The Bobcats may eventually find similar success, but there will likely be some growing pains in the short term. 

Read the full 2012 Texas State Bobcats Team Preview

122. UMass
Under the hyper-energetic Charley Molnar, the Minutemen are taking a unique approach to their transition to the FBS. They aren’t scheduling any FCS opponents, and every nonconference game they will play over the next few years is against a BCS conference opponent. On top of that, the Minutemen will play home games in Gillette Stadium, hoping that the allure of playing in an NFL stadium will counter the fact that “home” games will be almost 100 miles from campus. UMass won’t be eligible for a MAC championship or a bowl appearance until 2013 as it completes its transition, but just being competitive figures to be challenge enough in 2012.

Read the full 2012 UMass Minutemen Team Preview

123. South Alabama
After going undefeated in its first two seasons of football, South Alabama went 6–4 last year against a more difficult schedule that included its first games against FBS opponents (losses at NC State and Kent State). South Alabama won’t be eligible for the Sun Belt championship or the postseason until 2013, but the Jaguars will play a full league schedule. They open the season Aug. 30 against recent start-up program Texas-San Antonio, coached by former Miami (Fla.) boss Larry Coker. Joey Jones has built a solid foundation since being hired in February 2008. The Jaguars have a veteran team, with 47 returning lettermen and 13 returning starters, but their first season against a full Sun Belt schedule will be tough. A last-place finish is likely.

Read the full 2012 South Alabama Jaguars Team Preview

124. UTSA
Former BCS national championship-winning Miami (Fla.) coach Larry Coker helped lead UTSA to a 4–6 mark in its first year while playing as an FCS Independent. The Roadrunners don’t count as an FBS opponent until 2013 — when they are expected to join Conference USA after a one-year stop in the WAC — and won’t be a full-fledged FBS member or eligible for a bowl until 2014. Last season, UTSA played tough at eventual FCS national runner-up Sam Houston State before losing 22–7, and beat FCS member Georgia State 17–14 in overtime. Start-up programs traditionally face a tough road, but UTSA is already making some steady progress. Still, it’s a stretch to believe the Roadrunners will be any kind of a threat in the WAC in their first (and only) season in the league.

Read the full 2012 UTSA Roadrunners Team Preview

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Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
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thlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 81-100

Teaser:
<p> College football 2012 predictions: No. 101-124</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 04:09
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-wide-receiver-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Updated: August 12

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Running Back Rankings

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Rankings Player Team
1 Robert Woods USC
2 Marquess Wilson Washington State
3 Sammy Watkins Clemson
4 Nick Harwell Miami (Ohio)
5 Tavon Austin West Virginia
6 Stedman Bailey West Virginia
7 Marqise Lee USC
8 Quinton Patton Louisiana Tech
9 Keenan Allen California
10 Kenny Stills Oklahoma
11 Darrin Moore Texas Tech
12 Terrance Williams Baylor
13 Ryan Swope Texas A&M
14 Da'Rick Rogers Tennessee
15 Darius Johnson SMU
16 Cody Hoffman BYU
17 Cobi Hamilton Arkansas
18 Josh Boyce TCU
19 Justin Hardy East Carolina
20 Rashad Greene Florida State
21 Bernard Reedy Toledo
22 Javone Lawson UL Lafayette
23 Tevin Reese Baylor
24 Kasen Williams Washington
25 Matt Miller Boise State
26 Markus Wheaton Oregon State
27 Tracy Moore Oklahoma State
28 Dewayne Peace Houston
29 Eric Ward Texas Tech
30 Eric Thomas Troy
31 Ronnie Williams Houston
32 Erik Highsmith North Carolina
33 Trey Metoyer Oklahoma
34 Justin Hunter Tennessee
35 DeAndre Hopkins Clemson
36 Tavarres King Georgia
37 Jordan Matthews Vanderbilt
38 Aaron Dobson Marshall
39 Titus Davis Central Michigan
40 Alec Lemon Syracuse
41 Noel Grigsby San Jose State
42 Jackie Williams UAB
43 Keenan Davis Iowa
44 Emory Blake Auburn
45 Julian Horton Arkansas
46 Josh Stewart Oklahoma State
47 Josh Schaffer Western Michigan
48 Michael Campanaro Wake Forest
49 Bryan Burnham Tulsa
50 Jared Abbrederis Wisconsin
51 Shaun Joplin Bowling Green
52 Cody Wilson Central Michigan
53 Jaxon Shipley Texas
54 Eric Monette Western Michigan
55 Kristoff Williams Washington State
56 Odell Beckham LSU
57 Colin Lockett San Diego State
58 Josh Jarboe Arkansas State
59 Taylor Stockemer Arkansas State
60 Conner Vernon Duke
61 Marcus Davis Virginia Tech
62 Demetrius Fields Northwestern
63 T.J. Moe Missouri
64 Uzoma Nwachukwu Texas A&M
65 Malcolm Mitchell Georgia
66 Brandon Coleman Rutgers
67 Kelvin Benjamin Florida State
68 Charlie Moore Oklahoma State
69 T.J. Jones Notre Dame
70 Devin Smith Ohio State
71 DeVante Daniels Notre Dame
72 Deontay Greenberry Houston
73 Roy Roundree Michigan
74 Jamal Miles Arizona State
75 Billy Ray Stutzmann Hawaii
76 Daniel Spencer Houston
77 Martel Moore Northern Illinois
78 Aaron Bradley Nevada
79 Ivan McCartney West Virginia
80 Geraldo Boldewijn Boise State

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Wide Receiver Rankings for 2012</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - 03:55
Path: /nascar/nascar-free-agent-crop-speed-michigan-and-sponsor-search-bodine
Body:

One race can reveal only so much about a season but could Sunday’s event at Pocono forecast the future for some drivers? Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch are among those trying to solidify their status for next season, yet Pocono pulled them in opposite directions.

One of the biggest questions from Sunday’s race is what did the victory do for Logano’s future with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Logano presents an interesting case. For all the talk that he has not fulfilled his potential, remember that he’s only 22 years old and now has two Cup victories. Jeff Gordon didn’t win his first Cup race (the Coca-Cola 600) until he was 22. Gordon’s second win (Indianapolis) didn’t come until days after he turned 23.

Logano’s win Sunday, though, was his first top-five finish of the season and only the second time he’s led a race this year.

“For sure right now my future is not set with anybody,” Logano said. “You need to go out there and win races. To get this win means a lot. It's at a perfect time.

“My hope is to obviously stay with what I’ve got. But you never know. You know, those things go back and forth and switch around a lot, and all I can do is stay focused on my job, and that’s driving the race car.”

Allmendinger, hired after last season to replace Busch at Penske Racing, hasn’t had it as good this season. Foxsports.com reports he’s in a contract year and Sunday’s race typified his struggles this season. He was collected in a crash on the second lap and finished 31st — the third time he’s placed 30th or worse in the last four races.

“In my worst nightmare, I didn’t think the season would go this bad,” Allmendinger said. “You’ve got two options: you quit or you keep working harder. I’ve been six years in this. I’ve experienced bad stuff before in NASCAR, so I ain’t going to quit. We’ll just keep working harder. We’ve got to figure out how to turn it around. It’s tough. I definitely don’t want to be in this position, nobody does.”

And then there’s Busch, who needed to prove he could avoid issues outside the car. That lasted barely a third of the way through the season after NASCAR suspended him a week for verbally abusing a reporter. The incident happened with Busch already on probation for incidents during and after the Southern 500 last month. 

Tuesday, car owner James Finch met with Busch about his future with the team and later announced that Busch will continue driving for Phoenix Racing. 

Those are just a few of the drivers who could switch teams after this season. Ryan Newman’s contract expires at season’s end, as does Martin Truex Jr.’s. The Sporting News reports that Matt Kenseth’s contract is up — but he’s expected to remain at Roush Fenway Racing — as is Jamie McMurray’s at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Regan Smith’s at Furniture Row Racing.

It likely will come down to sponsorship and what drivers companies want. Logano has the opportunity to rise among the free-agent list but he must back up his win with more strong finishes. If not, he could be bypassed for a ride by those also looking for a job next year.


FAST TIMES  For the second weekend in a row, the Cup Series races on a repaved track. This time it’s Michigan International Speedway, where speeds neared 215 mph in a recent tire test.

“I did the tire test there, but it was a very comfortable feeling pace,” Jeff Gordon said. “The cars drove really good. They stuck to the race track. I like the tire that Goodyear brought there. Just like (at Pocono), we just need the groove to widen out a little bit. That is only going to come with laps.”

Points leader Matt Kenseth, who also participated in the tire test, said he’s not worried about the speeds.

“If you go off into Turn 1 and blow a tire at 200 (mph) compared to 207 or whatever we’re running now, I don’t know it’s much of a difference because you’re still gonna hit something pretty hard,” he said. “Other than that, it’s not any harder to drive here. It’s actually probably a little bit easier just because it’s not bumpy and the line is pretty defined where you’re going to run.”


SPONSOR SEARCH CONTINUES   Todd Bodine won the Camping World Truck Series race earlier this month at Dover without a primary sponsor and also didn’t have one at Texas last weekend. Red Horse Racing owner Tom DeLoach recently shut down Daytona winner John King’s team for lack of sponsorship, leaving Bodine and Timothy Peters.

What happens to the two remaining teams will depend on sponsorship.

“My wife Janet is working really hard on getting us sponsorship and she's actually having some success,” Bodine said. “We’ve got some major corporations that are interested in doing things, unfortunately their time frame doesn't work the same as it does in our world. We need it yesterday and they're OK getting it five months from now.

“There’s three different deals, three different corporations we’re talking to and they all three called up and said they wish they were on (at Dover). That's a good thing.

“I can't speak for Tom saying that we're going to continue without sponsorship. But, I think Tom sees the light at the end of the tunnel and knows this is a great opportunity for his race team. Not only for right now, but for the future and when you see that kind of opportunity, there's times when you have to dig deep and keep going. I think that's where we're at.

“All I can say is stay tuned — we have a lot of great things happening at Red Horse Racing.”


PIT STOPS   Clint Bowyer on if he’s surprised by some of the struggles at Richard Childress Racing, his former team: “I’m not there anymore. I guess you never wish bad things upon anybody, but if you’re not there anymore, you don’t really care as long as they are behind you.” ... Jimmie Johnson on his hunger for a sixth title: “That desire is there, and when that desire fades I guess it’s time to hang up the helmet.” Tony Stewart, after Tuesday's tire test at Bristol: "You've definitely lost the top groove. There's going to be less room to race, that's for sure. We've gone from a three-groove track to two grooves."


by Dustin Long
Follow Dustin on Twitter:
@DustinLong
 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long looks at free agent drivers in the Cup Series, excelerated speeds on a re-paved Michigan International Speedway and Todd Bodine's continued sponsorship search.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 17:58
Path: /nba/miami-heat-ready-challenge-oklahoma-city-thunder
Body:

The NBA Finals begin tonight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, and the stars on the court will be plentiful. The dynamic trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden lead the Thunder, while the more publicized “Big 3” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh will counter for the Heat. The teams split in two games this season with the Thunder winning at home, 103-87, and the Heat evening it up in Miami, 98-93.

While the teams will obviously decide who wins the championship, many fans are focusing on the head-to-head matchup of James and Durant. Miami is back in the finals for a second-straight season thanks to another stellar campaign from James, who won his third MVP in four years. Meanwhile, Durant won his third consecutive NBA scoring title this year and has the Thunder rolling through the competition in the postseason. Multiple defenders will guard each superstar throughout the series, and the player who can hit the big shots late in games may decide the champion.

The NBA Finals change to a 2-3-2 format for the home team, instead of the 2-2-1-1-1 formula used in the earlier rounds of the postseason. The Thunder have the home-court advantage in this series and are 8-0 in Oklahoma City during the playoffs. The OKC franchise won its only title as the Seattle Supersonics in 1979, while the Wade-led Heat took the NBA crown in 2006. Durant and company are playing in their first final, while James hopes his personal third shot at a title is the charm in 2012.
 

Teaser:
<p> Miami Heat Ready to Challenge the Oklahoma City Thunder</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 11:48
Path: /college-football/pac-12-football-2012-predictions
Body:

The obstacles were well-documented. USC would be crippled for multiple seasons by NCAA penalties — after all, it had happened before. De’Anthony Thomas’ recruiting defection to Oregon was a program crusher. Lane Kiffin was an overrated coach. For all of the above reasons, impending doom was predicted for the Trojans for seasons to come. But a funny thing happened on the way to mediocrity: SC, under Kiffin and without Thomas, has put its football house back in order with a vengeance — possibly all the way to a national championship.

With 15 of 24 starters returning from a 10–2 team, led by prolific pro-style quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate Matt Barkley and a wide receiving corps unmatched in college football, the Trojans are heavy favorites to claim the Pac-12 title and more after serving hard time for Reggie Bush’s indiscretions. If USC can run the ball effectively and plug a few other holes, it just might run the table and disrupt the SEC’s long-running dominance of college football.

Barkley’s commitment to another college season was unexpected and enthusiastically welcomed by the Trojans who have now accelerated their efforts to reclaim what they once had. “The 2012 team has some serious unfinished business to attend to,” Barkley said in announcing his return.

The Trojans easily should rule the Pac-12’s South Division, keeping top challenger Utah and the league’s best defensive lineman Star Lotulelei at arm’s length. The Utes will be formidable because they have the schedule on their side, not playing North contenders Oregon and Stanford while getting USC at home. Plus, quarterback Jordan Wynn is healthy again from shoulder injuries.

In the North, the first one among the Ducks and Cardinal to find a suitable quarterback replacement for Darron Thomas and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Andrew Luck, respectively, likely wins. Oregon gets the early North nod because of Thomas’ explosive presence in the backfield. Washington will be a factor largely because it has its quarterback issues already resolved, welcoming back the highly productive Keith Price for another season, though defensive shortcomings will keep it from title contention.

With a third of the conference undergoing coaching changes, bringing high-profile and up-tempo leaders to Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State, upsets could be far more prevalent than usual.

The Cougars’ Mike Leach, after inheriting promising quarterbacks in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, plus the remnants of Paul Wulff’s long-term rebuilding efforts, will be especially worrisome for the Pac-12’s upper echelon.

Athlon's 2012 Pac-12 Team Previews

North South
California Arizona
Oregon Arizona State
Oregon State Colorado
Stanford UCLA
Washington USC
Washington State Utah

Playmaker

Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas started only six of 14 games as a freshman running back. Closing out the season, he rushed the ball just twice against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. This is the résumé for a potential Heisman Trophy candidate?

More lightning bolt than workhorse, Thomas made the most of his limited opportunities for the Ducks, scoring 18 times and thus positioning himself among the college football elite for 2012. On his two Rose Bowl carries, Thomas, a player christened “the Black Mamba” as a kid by rapper Snoop Dogg, zinged the Badgers for electric 91- and 64-yard scoring jaunts, the first run ranking as the longest in Rose Bowl history.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a kid who averaged 77.5 yards per carry,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly wisecracked. “I’ll see if (this season) we can get him an extra carry or two.”

Secondary Violations

What’s up with the barren stretch of straightaway Interstate 5 freeway that cuts through Albany, Ore., and pedal-to-the-metal defensive backs?

In February, Oregon State cornerback Malcolm Marable was suspended by the Beavers after he was cited for driving 104 mph in Albany, a half hour from campus, at 1 a.m. while in a 2005 Nissan Altima registered to a family member. A potential starter, he is expected to be reinstated for the 2012 season. Eight months earlier, Oregon’s Cliff Harris, an all-conference cornerback, was pulled over south of Albany, an hour from his campus, for driving 118 mph at 4:30 a.m. He was suspended by the Ducks. His car of choice? A rented 2011 Nissan Altima.

Leach’s Law

WSU’s Mike Leach, who inherited a pair of promising quarterbacks in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday, had them throwing almost exclusively throughout spring practice, far more than the often air-minded Cougars had done in recent seasons. “I had a lot of fun doing it,” says Tuel, a senior. “It’s only going to make us better, and the more throwing the better, for me.”

To prepare the WSU players for his breakneck approach, Leach subjected them to conditioning drills from 10 p.m. to midnight leading up to spring practice, working toward a wardrobe incentive. Cougars were forced to wear pink T-shirts if a subpar performance was turned in during these late-night encounters, gray shirts for average effort and black shirts for above average.

Not His First Rodeo

A rodeo résumé might not be all that unusual for a high-profile player at, say, Texas or Wyoming, but it is at Stanford. Trent Murphy, a 6'6", 255-pound starting linebacker from Phoenix and potential Cardinal defensive mainstay, counts horseback riding, team roping, steer wrestling and rattlesnake skinning among his diverse talents.  Of manhandling a steer, Murphy says, “They’re a little smaller than you think, only about 500 or 600 pounds. The trick is you try to use their momentum against them. As they’re running, you get the right leverage and twist their head right around so they kind of fall over on their back.”

Dan’s the Man

Dan Buckner, Arizona’s top receiver, one-time Texas transfer and resident funnyman, is playing for his fourth college head coach — Mack Brown at Texas, Mike Stoops, Tim Kish (interim) and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona. Yet Buckner should be used to people coming and going in his world: He has nearly 1,900 Twitter followers and roughly 5,000 Facebook friends. He’s a social media maven. He’s definitely his own man, too. “There are good leaders and bad leaders. I just want to be viewed as a positive one,” Buckner said.

Trojan Genes

In the spring, USC toyed with moving Kevin Graf from starting right tackle to the all-important left tackle slot — to replace NFL-bound Matt Kalil — but opted to keep the 6'6", 295-junior on the right side, at least for now. If the staff revisits the plan in the fall, Graf should be more than up to fill the role.

His father, Allan, was a starting offensive guard and member of USC’s 1972 national championship team before embarking on a career as a Hollywood stunt coordinator. Graf’s brother, Derek, was an offensive guard, center and part-time Trojans starter in 2002 before the sibling likewise became a stunt double. 

Related Pac-12 Content

Oregon's Top 10 Players for 2012
USC's Top 10 Players for 2012

Stanford's Top 10 Players for 2012

Washington's Top 10 Players for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Pac-12 Football 2012 Predictions.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01
All taxonomy terms: Green Bay Packers, NFC, NFC North, NFL
Path: /nfl/green-bay-packers-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: San Francisco
Week 2: Chicago (Thur.)
Week 3: at Seattle (Mon.)
Week 4: New Orleans
Week 5: at Indianapolis
Week 6: at Houston
Week 7: at St. Louis
Week 8: Jacksonville
Week 9: Arizona
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: at Detroit
Week 12: at New York Giants
Week 13: Minnesota
Week 14: Detroit
Week 15: at Chicago
Week 16: Tennessee
Week 17: at Minnesota

- The kickoff to the 2012 season will be what many Packers fans believed would be an epic NFC Championship game showdown last year. The Giants obviously thwarted any dreams of a 49ers-Packers title game battle, but these two fanbases will get a shot to start their revenge tour in style. The late Sunday afternoon game on FOX will feature what could be the top two teams in the NFC — with home field advantage potentially determined on Opening Weekend.

- Green Bay then has to deal with an incredibly short week when it welcomes the arch-rival Bears to town on Thursday night. So four days after facing Patrick Willis and Company, Aaron Rodgers will have to deal with Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers and the rest of the Monsters of the Midway. Those could be the top two defenses in the NFC in 2012 and the Packers will face them right out of the gate with a short week of preparation.

- The long trip west to battle Seattle in Week 3 provides the second primetime match-up in three weeks. The Packers will have 11 days to prepare for the Monday night tilt with the Seahawks after their Thursday night bout with the Bears.

- Three of the first four games of the season will be played on the not-yet-frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. However, three straight road games from Week 5 to Week 7 make up for the home-road imbalance. Getting three December home games in four weeks could provide the cold weather home field advantage most Packers fans would prefer.

- There are two small breaks in the round-robin rotation. First, the NFC West will play the NFC North — giving three potential playoff teams from the North a collection of “easy (-er)” games with Arizona, St. Louis and Seattle. It will likely be the worst division in the NFC again this year. Green Bay will have played all four teams from the West by Week 9.

- In crossover play, the Packers get the AFC South. While this creates a brutal road trip to Houston which could be a potential Super Bowl preview, it also means the Jaguars, Colts and Titans are on the schedule as well. Much like the NFC West, this division provides two easy games, one modest test and one physical, nasty throwdown.

- With the exception of the Week 2 Thursday night match-up with Chicago at home, the Packers will play every divisional game post-bye week (Week 10). In fact, four of the final five games of the season will come against NFC North teams. The seven-game stretch to finish the season is not only going to be trying, but could determine a huge chunk of the seeding for the playoffs. Green Bay starts its second half with nasty road trips to the Lions and the Giants. Nothing needs to be said about the storylines of a trip to the New Meadowlands. Green Bay will wrap-up its ’12 season with two road division games and a home game against Tennessee. With the Lions, Giants and Bears (which certainly isn't Kansas anymore) pushing for NFC playoff bids, fans can expect some big-time fireworks in the final seven weeks.

- The two floating games of the 2012 season are New Orleans at home in Week 4 and the Week 12 road trip to the face the Super Bowl champs. Certainly, not many teams will play these type of floating games — and rightly so, considering the Packers might be the preseason favorite to win the NFC. So for two years in a row, the Cheeseheads will host the Saints and visit the Giants.

Fantasy Focus: Many believe James Starks could have a breakout 2012 campaign, but be sure to have other options early in the season. San Francisco, Chicago and Houston provide must-bench weekends for most running games and Green Bay will face all three in the first six weeks of the season. That said, the fantasy-rich passing game should be on cruise control after Week 2.

- by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Order your 2012 Green Bay Packers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Green Bay Packers 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:01
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Cincinnati Bengals, NFL
Path: /nfl/cincinnati-bengals-2012-schedule-analysis
Body:

Scheduling plays a huge role in the outcome of every NFL season. So the Athlon NFL editors will spend the next month dissecting each and every week of the 2012 slate for all 32 teams in the league.

Cincinnati Bengals 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Baltimore (Mon.)
Week 2: Cleveland
Week 3: at Washington
Week 4: at Jacksonville
Week 5: Miami
Week 6: at Cleveland
Week 7: Pittsburgh
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Denver
Week 10: New York Giants
Week 11: at Kansas City
Week 12: Oakland
Week 13: at San Diego
Week 14: Dallas
Week 15: at Philadelphia (Thurs.)
Week 16: at Pittsburgh
Week 17: Baltimore

Order your 2012 Cincinnati Bengals Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Cincinnati begins and ends its 2012 season with a double-dose of AFC North games. The Bengals open with a Monday night game in Baltimore followed by a home game against Cleveland. They end the season with a trip to Pittsburgh and then hosting the Ravens. Cincinnati plays four of its six divisional games in the first seven weeks of the season, and then doesn't play another one until Weeks 16 and 17.

- The other divisions Cincinnati draws this season are the AFC West and NFC East. Of these eight opponents, the Bengals will play seven of them in a row, starting in Week 9. Cincinnati only has to make one long trip, out west to San Diego in Week 13, but that's one of the few breaks the Bengals catch with this season's cross-divisional slate.

- Cincinnati needs to come up with as many wins as possible in their first seven games, because their last nine are pretty difficult. Outside of the season opener in Baltimore and a Week 7 home date against Pittsburgh, the first part of the Bengals' schedule appears manageable. Cincinnati gets division foe Cleveland twice, along with Washington, Jacksonville and Miami. The trip down to Florida to face the Jaguars and the home game against the Dolphins are the Bengals' two floating games this season.

- Cincinnati's bye comes in Week 8, an opportune time considering the Bengals will have just played the rival Steelers in Week 7. The bye also gives them one week to prepare for a brutal nine-game stretch to finish the season, starting with consecutive home games against the Manning brothers. Peyton and the Broncos come calling first, followed by Eli and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. If anything, ticket sales should be brisk for these games at Paul Brown Stadium.

- The Bengals then play three straight games against the AFC West, with road trips to Kansas City and San Diego sandwiched by a home game against Oakland. That road trip out west kicks off what is arguably one of the most difficult closing five-game stretches of any team in the NFL in 2012.

- After making the long trek out to San Diego to face the Chargers, Cincinnati comes back home to take on Dallas before heading to Philadelphia to battle the Eagles on Thursday night in Week 15. Those few extra days between this game and their next one the following Sunday will come in handy as the Bengals close out the regular season in divsional play on the road against the Steelers and then home to the Ravens. All five of these teams are expected to be in the playoff race, not to mention the fact that the Cowboys and Eagles are in the same division, just like the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals. This means Cincinnati's final five games could  have playoff implications tied to them.

Fantasy Focus: Quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green both put up respectable fantasy numbers in their rookie campaigns last season. However, the fantasy expectations in 2012 for the duo should probably be tempered somewhat when looking at Cincinnati's schedule. Besides facing both Baltimore and Pittsburgh twice, the Bengals also have Dallas, Denver, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and San Diego on their slate. Fantasy-wise, Cincinnati's '12 schedule appears even less appetizing upon a closer look. The Bengals have to face the three teams — Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh — that gave up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, and will play each of them twice. Besdies their three AFC North divisional foes, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Washington and Philadelphia also ranked among the top 16 teams in this category. For Green and the rest of the Bengals' wide receivers, the outlook is even worse. Eight of Cincinnati's 13 opponents this season finished among the top 16 teams in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Once again, divisional foes lead the way, with Cleveland and Pittsburgh coming at first and second, and Kansas City (4th), Baltimore (6th), Jacksonville (8th) and Washington (9th) also ranking among the top 10. 

— by Mark Ross, published on June 12, 2012

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

AFC East
Buffalo Bills
Miami Dolphins
New England Patriots
New York Jets

AFC North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC South
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Jacksonville Jaguars
Tennessee Titans

AFC West
Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders
San Diego Chargers

NFC East
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Philadelphia Eagles
Washington Redskins

NFC North
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

NFC South
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
New Orleans Saints
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West
Arizona Cardinals
San Francisco 49ers
Seattle Seahawks
St. Louis Rams

Teaser:
<p> Cincinnati Bengals 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/college-football-preseason-2012-rankings-no-81-100
Body:

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2012, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, continuing with No. 81-100. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2012 season.

81. Kansas
There’s no question the Jayhawks are in better shape entering 2012 than they were during the past two seasons, but better shape does not necessarily mean good shape. As long as quarterback Crist stays healthy, the offense should put points on the board, which is vital in the Big 12. The question that will loom all season is whether the defense can make enough stops to allow that offense to compete. The addition of defensive coordinator Dave Campo, a former NFL head coach, helps, and the KU defense appears to be more disciplined and organized. But unless it can find a way to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, winning conference games could remain a struggle.

Read the full 2012 Kansas Jayhawks Team Preview

82. Southern Miss
Southern Miss is coming off a school-record 12-win season, a league title, a bowl win and top-20 year-end national ranking. New coach Ellis Johnson won’t be expected to repeat that magical run, especially with Nebraska, Boise State and Louisville on the non-conference schedule. Johnson will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and playing without his leading rusher. Also, the defense must replace several key pieces. Southern Miss still has talent — more than most teams in the league. But the Golden Eagles figure to take a small step back in 2012.

Read the full 2012 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Team Preview

83. Marshall
Marshall did not make a big jump from Year 1 to Year 2 under Doc Holliday, but finishing 6–6 after a 5–7 mark the year before meant a bowl berth, and when the Herd won the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, tangible progress was felt. Marshall has a chance to continue that upward trend if the offensive line can allow the team’s talented skill players to thrive, particularly Aaron Dobson. Defensively, Marshall is deeper and better prepared for some of the difficult offenses it will face. Another bowl berth for the Herd in 2012 would not be a surprise, but a C-USA championship still looks to be at least a few years down the road.

Read the full 2012 Marshall Thundering Herd Team Preview

84. Colorado
Colorado will be one of the youngest teams in the nation with a new quarterback and nearly all of its toughest games on the road. It’s difficult to expect Buffalo fans to have any more patience after six straight losing seasons, but the program is at least a year away from being more competitive with the rest of the Pac-12 and reaching the postseason.

Read the full 2012 Colorado Buffaloes Team Preview

85. Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren didn’t need a spring practice to notice the difference between last year’s offense-dominated team and the 2012 edition. “This team is really a flip of last year’s team,” he says. The Huskies return only three starters from an offense that scored 40 points or more in nine games. Jordan Lynch’s progress hinges on the development and chemistry of a revamped offensive line and unproven group of running backs. The defense allowed 30.3 points and 415.2 yards per game last year but should help the offense during an early transition period. The defense is filled with enough talent and depth to carry the team, but it must force turnovers at a higher rate than the last few years. A favorable schedule that includes four of the first five games at home (including the season-opener against Iowa at Soldier Field) and does not include any of the contenders in the MAC East should help the Huskies’ quest for a third straight trip to the MAC title game. 

Read the full 2012 Northern Illinois Huskies Team Preview

86. Boston College
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani won’t be collecting his mail on Chestnut Hill if the Eagles experience a repeat of last season, when BC endured its first losing campaign since 1998. Sitting out the postseason after a run of 12 straight bowl appearances was especially galling to the boosters, alumni and student body, who were clamoring in unison for the guillotine. They may get their wish after the 2012 season.

Read the full 2012 Boston College Eagles Team Preview

87. Fresno State
For 15 years, Pat Hill and his Fu Manchu moustache were synonymous with Fresno State. But last year’s 4–9 mark, on top of years of dwindling attendance, forced AD Thomas Boeh’s hand. Thus the Bulldogs begin their first season in the Mountain West Conference with a clean slate. With Derek Carr and Robbie Rouse, the Bulldogs boast two of the elite offensive players in the league. This should be a good offense, provided the players get comfortable with the new system. Based on a rough spring practice, it’s not down pat yet. The defense, too, should be improved, based on Tim DeRuyter’s track record. Boise State is clearly the class of the MWC. Fresno State is among a group of teams seeking to be the best of the rest.

Read the full 2012 Fresno State Bulldogs Team Preview 

88. Wyoming
In Dave Christensen’s first three seasons, the goals focused mostly on earning a trip to the postseason. The Cowboys accomplished their mission twice, and now — with Christensen receiving the program’s largest contract ever — the expectation level has increased. “I think we’re getting closer now, and where our focus has to be is playing for a conference championship,” he says. Brett Smith could be the top quarterback in the conference, and an experienced, hungry defense could be in for a special year. With TCU moving to the Big 12 and Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore having graduated, the Cowboys could be surprise contenders in the Mountain West.

Read the full 2012 Wyoming Cowboys Team Preview

89. Indiana
Tom Crean needed four seasons to turn the Indiana basketball team around, so it’s unrealistic to expect miracles from Kevin Wilson in Year 2. His most important decision will be at quarterback. Although Tre Roberson provided thrills and some long plays, he’s not a perfect fit for the pro-style passing game that Wilson and new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell prefer. They’ll be tempted to go with Cameron Coffman or Nathan Sudfeld. But Indiana allowed nearly 43 points per game while going winless in the Big Ten. Unless the Hoosiers start to hold their own on either line of scrimmage, major improvement will have to wait another season.

Read the full 2012 Indiana Hoosiers Team Preview

90. Utah State
As Gary Andersen prepares for his fourth season at the USU helm, he is pleased with the work ethic of his team. The goal is a WAC title, which is not out of the question with the departure of Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State to the Mountain West. While two stud running backs are gone, this team still should be able to run the ball. Plus, with two experienced quarterbacks, the offense should be able to score points and keep fans excited. The Aggies had some problems early last season closing out games in heartbreaking losses at Auburn and BYU and a home defeat against Colorado State. However, USU reeled off five straight wins to make the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Winning eight games this year should not be a stretch.

Read the full 2012 Utah State Aggies Team Preview

91. Colorado State
Talk about a leap of faith: Jim McElwain is leaving a program that has won two of the past three national championships for one that produced three consecutive 3–9 seasons under Steve Fairchild. McElwain’s No. 1 goal during the spring was to change the culture and instill an attitude of commitment and accountability. Some players, including some projected starters, departed, but those who stayed bought in and swear by McElwain’s leadership. “Coach Mac brings a lot of passion and excitement,” Nwoke says. “We want to do great things next year, but it’s on us do the work over the summer to get there. Nobody wants to be 3–9 ever again.” The good news is the Rams have a schedule that should be friendly to improvement — perhaps even the first .500 finish since 2008. But with a largely untested quarterback and a defense facing numerous questions, it’s clear that McElwain’s first season will be filled with lots of uncertainty. 

Read the full 2012 Colorado State Rams Team Preview

92. Air Force
Connor Dietz leads an offense that returns only three starters. He must remain healthy, which is a large question considering his reckless style, and he must be more generous. In past seasons, Dietz has been too eager to call his own number on the option. The bigger question is defense. The Falcons averaged 34.9 points in 2011, but their defense — which struggled mightily against the run — doomed them to disappointment. Jamil Cooks and Brian Lindsay must reach their considerable potential if the Falcons hope to record a winning record.

Read the full 2012 Air Force Falcons Team Preview

93. SMU
June Jones says he is happy with the progress of the program, which has been to three straight bowl games. As for this season, he says a fourth straight bowl is the goal, though he admits that early in the season, “we’ll be a rebuilding team, but I think we’ll rebuild pretty fast because we’re going to be pretty good on defense.” Jones has yet to put up the pinball offensive numbers he did at Hawaii, though his teams have set several SMU passing records in his tenure. To him, it boils down to the quarterback, and that is an unknown entering the season. “Until you get one of those quarterbacks that can shoot the lights out, you’ll float around in the top 20 or 25 in passing,” Jones says. “When you get one of those quarterbacks like Case Keenum, (Houston) went from No. 30 to No. 1. We’ve had good production out of the quarterbacks, but we haven’t had a great one yet.” SMU fans are hoping Garrett Gilbert is the first.

Read the full 2012 SMU Mustangs Team Preview

94. Bowling Green
Dave Clawson’s first season at Bowling Green, in 2009, produced a 7–6 record and a spot in the Humanitarian Bowl. Since then, however, the Falcons are 7–17. “We’ve played a lot of young guys the past couple of seasons, and they gained some very valuable experience,” Clawson says. “Now that they have been through it and seen what playing at game speed at the college level is all about, we expect good things from them. Assuming that quarterback Matt Schilz remains healthy, the offense should have little trouble putting points on the board. If the defense, which brings back nine starters, can simply pull its weight, then the Falcons should be in position to battle Ohio for supremacy in the MAC East. 

Read the full 2012 Bowling Green Falcons Team Preview

95. San Diego State
San Diego State has failed to win a conference title in its 13 seasons in the Mountain West and won’t be expected to do so this fall in its final campaign before moving to the Big East. The goal this season is to play in a bowl game for the third straight year, something that has never happened during the program’s 43 seasons in the Division I ranks. For that to occur, Ryan Katz will have to play well at quarterback, Adam Muema must emerge as threat at tailback, and the defense will have find some able replacements in some key spots. 

Read the full 2012 San Diego State Aztecs Team Preview

96. Army
Keeping Trent Steelman healthy is of paramount importance, but Rich Ellerson has placed much emphasis on finding the right parts for the defensive line and improving the play on special teams. “If we stay healthy, then physically we will be more competitive because we have matured with guys getting older and stronger,” says the coach. “It will be all for naught, however, if we don’t have other fundamental issues resolved.” If those things are resolved, the Black Knights could be back in the bowl picture, especially with a schedule that features seven games at Michie Stadium.

Read the full 2012 Army Black Knights Team Preview

97. Kent State
Kent State has had three consecutive 5–7 seasons, but the 2012 edition of the Golden Flashes could be the team to break through and record the school’s first winning record since 2001. Darrell Hazell is a coach on the rise and has brought a winning mentality with him from Ohio State. The offense should be improved, thanks in large part to the running attack that will feature both Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. And an improved ground game will no doubt help Keith and/or Fisher be more productive throwing the ball down the field. The defense, led by Roosevelt Nix, will once again be stout. Ohio is the team to beat in the MAC East, but Kent State is in that next tier of teams that could put some pressure on the Bobcats. A winning league record is a reasonable goal. 

Read the full 2012 Kent State Golden Flashes Team Preview

98. San Jose State
Mike MacIntyre signed a well-deserved contract extension through 2017 after leading the Spartans to a respectable 5–7 finish, a four-win improvement over 2010 that included road wins at Colorado State and Fresno State and a home win over Navy. The Spartans lost three other games by a field goal or less. With a solid nucleus returning that includes four starters who earned all-conference recognition a year ago and a much more favorable schedule in the revamped WAC, look for the Spartans to make a strong run at bowl-eligibility this year. 

Read the full 2012 San Jose State Spartans Team Preview

99. Miami (Ohio)
Don Treadwell, the former Michigan State offensive coordinator who briefly served as the Spartans’ head coach when Mark Dantonio had a heart attack, is counting on a large group of seniors not only to lend experience on the field, but also to school the younger RedHawks in the Miami tradition, of which he is very fond. It won’t make a difference if Miami can’t put together some type of sustained rushing attack that would give Zac Dysert some much-needed space and limit the number of minutes the defense has to spend on the field. The RedHawks defense will face enough punishment in their opener at Ohio State in what will be Urban Meyer’s ballyhooed debut as the Buckeyes’ coach. Visits to Boise State and Cincinnati won’t be helpful going into the meat of Miami’s MAC schedule.

Read the full 2012 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Team Preview

100. Louisiana-Monroe
Hampered by cuts to scholarships and practice time due to previous academic penalties, ULM struggled to get over the hump in Todd Berry’s first two seasons. Now with those penalties in the past, the Warhawks hope to contend. There’s plenty of youth on the roster, but now ULM has a full allotment of scholarships. That should help with depth, but the Warhawks still might be another year away from their first bowl trip. “We had high expectations last season, but we couldn’t overcome injuries,” Berry says. “We still need to be healthy, but we have a deeper team now, and we have a chip on our shoulder because of some close games we lost last year. We had to bite the bullet with scholarships in the past, but we’ve got the team we want now.” Early momentum will be hard to come by with trips to Arkansas and Auburn to start the season and only one home game in the first five weeks.

Read the full 2012 Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Team Preview

Related College Football Content

Athlon's College Football Top 25 for 2012
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 26-35
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 36-45
Athlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 46-60
A
thlon's College Football 2012 Rankings: No. 61-80

Teaser:
<p> College football preseason rankings: No. 81-100</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 05:19
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-running-back-rankings
Body:

Fall college fantasy football drafts are right around the corner and Athlon is here to help win your league in 2012. Rankings will be updated right up until kickoff and expect plenty of tweaks to over the next couple of months.

Scoring system rankings based upon -

1 passing touchdown = 4 points
Rushing/receiving = 6 points
25 passing yards = 1 point
10 rushing/receiving yards = 1 point
1 reception = 0.5 points
1 fumble = -1 point
1 interception = - 1 point

Related College Fantasy Football Content

College Fantasy Football: 2012 Top 200
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Quarterback Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Wide Receiver Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Tight End Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Kicker Rankings
College Fantasy Football: 2012 Team Defense Rankings

Updated: August 12

Rankings Player Team
1 Montee Ball Wisconsin
2 Joseph Randle Oklahoma State
3 Robbie Rouse Fresno State
4 Kenjon Barner Oregon
5 Marcus Lattimore South Carolina
6 Branden Oliver Buffalo
7 De\'Anthony Thomas Oregon
8 Rex Burkhead Nebraska
9 Giovani Bernard North Carolina
10 Zach Line SMU
11 Knile Davis Arkansas
12 Le'Veon Bell Michigan State
13 Eddie Lacy Alabama
14 D.J. Harper Boise State
15 Charles Sims Houston
16 Stepfan Taylor Stanford
17 Ray Graham Pittsburgh
18 John White Utah
19 Andre Ellington Clemson
20 Orleans Darkwa Tulane
21 Zac Stacy Vanderbilt
22 Cameron Marshall Arizona State
23 Chris Nwoke Colorado State
24 Cierre Wood Notre Dame
25 David Fluellen Toledo
26 Silas Redd USC
27 Isi Sofele California
28 Lyle McCombs Connecticut
29 Michael Holmes Virginia Tech
30 Perry Jones Virginia
31 Ka'Deem Carey Arizona
32 Kedrick Rhodes FIU
33 Fitzgerald Toussaint Michigan
34 Onterio McCalebb Auburn
35 Kerwynn Williams Utah State
36 Stefphon Jefferson Nevada
37 Christine Michael Texas A&M
38 Jawon Chisholm Akron
39 Malcolm Brown Texas
40 Jawan Jamison Rutgers
41 Johnathan Franklin UCLA
42 Hunter Lee Louisiana Tech
43 Dominique Whaley Oklahoma
44 Lache Seastrunk Baylor
45 Jyruss Edwards ULM
46 Jahwan Edwards Ball State
47 Carlos Hyde Ohio State
48 Montel Harris Temple
49 Matt Brown Temple
50 Alonzo Harris UL Lafayette
51 Jesse Callier Washington
52 Mike James Miami, Fla.
53 Brandin Byrd North Texas
54 Orwin Smith Georgia Tech
55 Antonio Andrews Western Kentucky
56 Ja'Terian Douglas Tulsa
57 Devonta Freeman Florida State
58 Anthon Samuel Bowling Green
59 Spencer Ware LSU
60 Michael Ford LSU
61 Matthew Tucker TCU
62 Demetris Murray South Florida
63 Kevin Parks Virginia
64 Keith Marshall Georgia
65 David Oku Arkansas State
66 John Hubert Kansas State
67 Latavius Murray UCF
68 Malcolm Agnew Oregon State
69 Curtis McNeal USC
70 Jarred Salubi Baylor
71 James Washington NC State
72 Joe Bergeron Texas
73 Stephen Houston Indiana
74 Mike Gillislee Florida
75 James White Wisconsin
76 Jordan Hall Ohio State
77 Kendial Lawrence Missouri
78 Waymon James TCU
79 Tony Jones Colorado
80 LaDarius Perkins Mississippi State

Teaser:
<p> College fantasy football: 2012 running back rankings.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 12, 2012 - 03:38
Path: /nascar/joey-logano-wins-pocono
Body:

Of all the race tracks to add a little spice to the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season, Pocono Raceway was not expected to be it. A 2.5-mile, flat tri-oval that’s seen its share of strung-out racing, the speedway was also recently repaved — a move that doesn’t lend itself to door-banging action.

Sometimes, though, the racing gods smile on the fans when and where they least expect it.

After a bizarre first half of the race that saw numerous drivers get penalized for speeding on pit road and an event that appeared to be heading toward a fuel-mileage finish, a driver looking to break a 104-race winless skid used a bump-and-run move to get by a respected series veteran. And for the driver in question, a fuel-mileage win was the last thing he wanted.

Joey Logano, his future with the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team highly-speculated, used the ol’ “chrome horn” to scoot by Mark Martin with four laps remaining in the Pocono 400 to earn his second career Sprint Cup Series win in his fourth season on the circuit.

“You work so hard to do this, and them (JGR) teaming me up with Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) has been an awesome experience,” Logano said. “We’ve been growing together a lot lately and able to make our cars better. To get a victory, it meant so much, and pulling the Home Depot car into Victory Lane at a Sprint Cup race and winning it the right way was just an amazing, amazing feeling that you can’t replicate and you can’t explain what it means.”

Logano’s only other win came at New Hampshire in his rookie season of 2009, the result of a rain-shortened finished that saw his team gamble on staying out while others pitted. It paid off, as Logano, at 19-years-old, became the youngest winner in Cup Series history. The Pocono win, in contrast, was won not on strategy or weather, but on speed and pure racing.

“That feels awesome to win one the right way,” Logano yelled on his in-car radio as he took the checkered flag. “No stupid rain!”

Martin held on for second, while Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top 5.

“It’s not how I would have done it,” Martin said of Logano’s bump-and-run move to get by. “But certainly if I’d have had a fast enough car, he would have gotten a return. But I couldn’t quite keep up with him.”

Logano’s move came after a restart with eight laps remaining. Martin, who restarted second, got by Logano and was pulling away. However, Martin’s Toyota wiggled in Turn 3 with five laps to go. The loss in momentum allowed Logano to close the gap down the 3,740-foot frontstretch, and as the two entered Turn 1, Logano nudged the rear bumper of Martin’s car. He sailed by on the low side and quickly scooted away, winning by nearly one second.

Fuel became a concern late in the going. When Kasey Kahne brought out a caution with 22 laps remaining, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who had led 36 laps and was running third, pitted to top off the tank in his No. 88 Chevy.

However, fuel never factored, as an additional yellow for debris waved with 11 laps to go. The drivers that did not pit earlier — namely Logano, Martin, Stewart, Johnson and Hamlin — were able to conserve enough gas under the caution periods to make it to the finish without incident. Earnhardt settled for an eighth-place showing.

Points leader Greg Biffle limped to a 24th-place run after engine issues ruined his day. He surrendered the championship points lead for the first time since gaining the spot after the third race of the year.

Biffle’s teammate, Matt Kenseth, inherits the lead on the strength of a seventh-place finish at Pocono. Earnhardt sits 10 points back, while Biffle falls to third.


by Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter:
@MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
<p> Joey Logano got by Mark Martin to win his first race of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pocono 400.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:46
Path: /college-football/aj-mccarron-vs-tyrann-mathieu-twitter-war
Body:

As if the LSU-Alabama college football rivalry needed any more fuel. 

Monday brought the next chapter in the Bayou Bengals-Crimson Tide SEC epic narrative. Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron and LSU's Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu not only went head-to-head twice last year on the field, with McCarron getting the last laugh, but the two stars have moved their duel to cyberspace. 

The two Athlon Sports coverboys started running their yaps on twitter. To quote McCarron, "this should fuel everything and more now."

It was highly entertaining — unless your name happens to be Saban or Miles, of course. In fact, it looks like someone in both athletic departments got to the two stars to shut them up before it got too out of hand. They both ended the conversation about the same time.

Here is how it all went down:

 

 

 


 

A.J. immediately countered...

 

 

 


 

Honey Badger decided to tell the BCS MVP that it wasn't him who won the title...

 

 

 


 

 

And McCarron was happy to agree...

 

 

 


 

 

Mathieu is clearly ready for November 3...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just called you to the mat Honey Badger. Did you hear him?

 

 


 

 

Alabama wideout Kenny Bell had no problem jumping into the mix...

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCarron got the final word — as the defending National Championship Game MVP should:

 

 

 

 


Anyone else excited about Death Valley, November 3, 2012?

-by Braden Gall

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> A.J. McCarron vs. Tryann Mathieu: Twitter War</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:45
Path: /mlb/baseball%E2%80%99s-players-week-trout-pettitte-kubel-dempster
Body:

 

Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National leagues, and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's—June 4-10—standouts.

 

AL Player of the Week

Mike Trout, Los Angeles—Following teammate Mark Trumbo, who received this honor last week, Trout posted a .520 batting average for the week, leading the American League with 13 hits and 10 runs, which tied teammate Torii Hunter. The 20-year-old outfielder began the week with a 4-for-4 performance against Seattle and ended with eight hits and eight runs in the Angels’ three-game sweep at Colorado.

 

AL Pitcher of the Week

Andy Pettitte, New York—The Yankees thought Pettitte could help the team by logging quality innings and mentoring young pitchers along the way. However, the veteran, who will turn 40 on June 15, has been one of the team’s best starting pitchers since signing earlier this season. Last week the lefthander threw 7.1 shutout innings in a win over the first-place Rays, and he turned in six innings in a win over the crosstown Mets.

 

NL Player of the Week

Jason Kubel, Arizona—Kubel was signed over the winter to bring offense to a suspect lineup, and the leftfielder hasn’t disappointed. Last week Kubel batted .409 and slugged .818 with two home runs. He had 12 RBIs, all coming over a four-game stretch, which included a weekend sweep of the Oakland A’s. Kubel had three RBIs in the Diamondbacks’ one-run win on Friday and added two more in the one-run win on Sunday.

 

NL Pitcher of the Week

Ryan Dempster, Chicago—After a string of 18 consecutive starts without a win (dating to last August), Dempster finally broke through with two wins last week. The Cubs’ righthander tossed 15 shutout innings in his two starts, beating the Brewers on three hits over seven innings and the Twins on four hits and a walk over eight innings. He struck out nine and allowed just eight baserunners en route to posting a 0.53 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:37
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-june-11
Body:

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for June 11, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Won last six games in which they have at least one hit.

 2. Rangers—Won only three of last 10 vs. AL West.

 3. Rays—Convincing sweep over the Marlins.

 4. Nationals—Waltzed out of Fenway with a sweep.

 5. Yankees—May be old, but still team to beat in AL East.

 6. Orioles—Lost 12 of last 19 with three wins in extra innings.

 7. Braves—Followed eight-game losing streak by winning eight of nine.

 8. Reds—Chapman finally appears human in loss to Tigers.

 9. Marlins—Streaky Fish back on the skids.

10. Angels—Only one loss since May 18 by more than two runs.

11. Giants—What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum?

12. White Sox—Paul Konerko making case for MVP.

13. Mets—Lost six of seven since Cardinals left town.

14. Blue Jays—Jose Bautista beginning to heat up a bit.

15. Pirates—Ended the week tied for first place.

16. Diamondbacks—Making a charge to defend their title.

17. Indians—Brash Chris Perez keeps saving games.

18. Cardinals—Redbirds need starting pitching and bullpen help.

19. Red Sox—Lost six of seven.

20. Phillies—Dropped two nail-biters at Baltimore over the weekend.

21. Tigers—Ended the weekend at Cincinnati on high note.

22. Brewers—Road trip to Kansas City and Minnesota this week.

23. Mariners—No-hit the best team in the National League.

24. Royals—Still bullish on future, but present not too bright.

25. Twins—Won nine of 12, won 15 of 17 in June 2011.

26. Astros—Won four of Lucas Harrell’s last five starts.

27. Rockies—Outscored by 27 over last five games — all losses.

28. A’s—Lost 14 of 18, now facing NL West.

29. Padres—One positive: Closer Huston Street is back and healthy.

30. Cubs—On pace to lose 108.

By Charlie Miller  @AthlonCharlie

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 13:04
All taxonomy terms: College World Series, News
Path: /news/stony-brook-beats-lsu-advance-college-world-series
Body:

The little school — only playing Division I baseball since 2000 — from Long Island traveling to meet the six-time national champion program from the SEC. An easy prediction, right? Not this time, as the slipper fit perfectly for the Stony Brook Seawolves in topping powerhouse LSU. Matt Senk’s club took out the heavily-favored Tigers in the super regionals and will now advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Stony Brook’s attendance was 5,800 for the year, while LSU averages over 10,000 per game. However, the Seawolves were unaffected by the massive crowd in Baton Rouge and took two of three from the Tigers.

The signs have been there all season that Stony Brook had a special team, but no one was expecting the America East champions to flourish against SEC and ACC foes. The Seawolves finished the regular season at 52-13, with all nine regulars batting above .296. The team average for the year was a staggering .335, while the pitching staff’s ERA was an impressive 2.99. Leadoff hitter Travis Jankowski was the 44th overall pick by the Padres in the MLB Draft after hitting .422 with 36 steals. Third baseman Willie Carmona, a Phillies draftee, supplied the power with 12 home runs and 72 RBIS. Ace Tyler Johnson, an Oakland A’s pick, led the squad with a 12-1 record and a 1.94 ERA.

After winning three straight elimination games in the Miami regional, Stony Brook lost a painful Game 1 to LSU after repeatedly giving up late leads. But the Seawolves pitching would stifle the Tigers bats in Games 2 and 3, and now Senk’s club will be the talk of the town in Omaha. Stony Brook may have the goods to win the College World Series in what would be one of the better underdog stories that collegiate sports has ever seen.
 

Teaser:
<p> Stony Brook Beats LSU to Advance to the College World Series</p>
Post date: Monday, June 11, 2012 - 12:37

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