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All taxonomy terms: New Orleans Saints, NFC, NFC South, NFL
Path: /nfl/new-orleans-saints-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.

New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule:

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

Order your 2012 New Orleans Saints Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- Joe Vitt is the interim head coach for the New Orleans Saints in 2012, but he won’t officially begin his stint on the sidelines until after his own six-game suspension is over. The Saints will have to tackle the Packers and Chargers in their first six, but otherwise, face four beatable opponents (WAS, CAR, KC, TB). If the Saints get Vitt back sporting a 4-2 mark, Who Dat nation might be postseason bound. The bye week coming during the interim’s interim should also help the coaching staff adapt.

- Vitt and company better get work done early in the 2012 season because the second half, and more specifically the final month, will provide brutal tests. Three of the final five games will be on the road, including road trips to division rival Atlanta, the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants and into Jerry’s Palace to battle the Cowboys. Only once will the Saints have back-to-back home games all season — Weeks 9 and 10 against the Eagles and Falcons.

- The NFC East will be the intra-conference round robin for the NFC South. The season gets started with a visit from Robert Griffin III and the Redskins while Michael Vick brings the Eagles to town for a Monday night showdown to start November. Finally, the Saints have the misfortune of having to face both the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys on the road — both within the final four weeks of the regular season.

- The intriguing aspect to the Saints divisional slate in 2012 is how spaced out the schedule is. Not one time will New Orleans face back-to-back divisional opponents this fall. It does have to face division favorite Atlanta twice in a four-week span, packaged around a long road trip to Oakland and a visit from the 49ers. It wraps-up NFC South play facing Tampa and Carolina at home in the final three weeks of the season (sandwiched around a trip to Dallas). This could be the Saints' saving grace if it expects to compete for a division title in 2012.

- The Saints' schedule as a whole looks extremely difficult — as if Roger Godell would have it any other way. But a three-week stretch from Week 12 to 14 could make or break the Saints' playoff hopes this season. After facing Atlanta at home and visiting Oakland, the Saints will have to host San Francisco (Week 12), visit Atlanta four days later (Week 13) before heading north to East Rutherford to take on the Super Bowl Champs (Week 14). Yes, the Falcons will have a short week to prepare for the Thursday night bout with the Saints, but visiting the Bucs the Sunday before will be slightly less strenuous than battling with Jim Harbaugh’s hard-hitting defense.

- In crossover play, the NFC South faces the AFC West in 2012. There are no elite teams out west in the AFC but each has a chance to be improved from a year ago. Kansas City at home is the closest thing to a sure-fire win, but trips to Denver and Oakland won’t be easy. When New Orleans travels to Denver to face the Broncos in Week 8 it will mark the first time that Peyton Manning will face the Saints since tossing his infamous interception in the Super Bowl XLIV loss to Drew Brees and company.

- The two floating games for the Saints couldn’t be tougher — and have to be the toughest of any team in the league. Brees will have to visit Lambeau Field for the second straight season in Week 4 and will host the 49ers in Week 12. Those were the two best teams in the stacked NFC a year ago and likely will have the best records in the conference again in 2012.

- Will any defense face more athleticism at the quarterback position than the Saints? Aaron Rodgers, Vick, RG3 and Cam Newton (twice) will get their crack at the reworked New Orleans defense. Toss in both Mannings, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan twice, and Carson Palmer and the Saints secondary appears to be in for a long season this fall. 

-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> New Orleans Saints 2012 Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-rivals
Body:

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

• What does an Oklahoma State fan do when the Cowboys win the BCS championship?
He turns off the PlayStation.

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Oklahoma State fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

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

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

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

• How many Texas fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

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

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

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

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

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Oklahoma Rivals</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 30, 2012 - 00:48
Path: /nascar/truexs-future-newmans-style-and-earnhardts-consistency
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With Toyota extending it’s deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, along with Joe Gibbs Racing and JTG Daugherty, it leads to the question of what will happen to Martin Truex Jr., who is in the final year of his contract at MWR.

Truex enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover sixth in the point standings with seven top-10 finishes in the first 12 races. He turns 32 later this month and with the improvements at MWR, seems set to show what he can do in the prime of his career. Then again, someone else also could be interested in his services.

“I’ll tell you this, I really hope to be back where I'm at right now,” Truex said last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I love this team. I love the direction we’re going. And, hopefully we’ll just have to see how everything lines up. My heart is with the team and that's where I want to be.

“I feel like we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve worked very, very hard to get to where we are. It would be a shame to have to do something different after coming this far. My career has been one of those where it seems like every time things would start going good — something big happened or something big changes and really hurt progress. Hopefully, that won’t be the case this time.”

This is Truex’s third season with Waltrip’s team and he’s headed toward his best season with the organization. His four top-five finishes thus far equal how many he’s had the past two seasons combined. His best finish in the points at MWR was last year when he was 18th.

Truex also notes that the extension with Toyota is important for Michael Waltrip Racing for various reasons.

“I think it’s a big thing for NAPA to know that Toyota is behind them 100 percent for the next number of years,” Truex said. “Great manufacturer, great support team — they do so much for Michael Waltrip Racing and really Toyota Racing Development ... has been a huge part of the turnaround and the resurgence of Michael Waltrip Racing. To have that support going forward for the next few years, it obviously has to make Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kaufmann, team owner) and everybody there feel good about the direction the team’s headed.  

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to get our deal done soon too and kind of coincide with all that and be able to go race and go after wins for a lot of years to come.”


GIVE-AND-TAKE  Ryan Newman often was considered among the toughest drivers to pass during a race. He explains what earned him that distinction and how he’s changed over the years.

“I was never taught to give-and-take,” Newman said. “I was always taught to race hard. Going back to quarter midgets and then especially in the stock cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me (about give-and-take). And I don’t think that they did that back in the ’80s.

“I always had fast-enough racecars that I never had to give. I could always take. And that came back to haunt me I guess for a few years there because I was the one getting turned around because I wasn’t giving it up and rightfully so — probably because I didn’t know and didn’t get taught that. So, I’m trying to be better at the give-and-take thing.

“I’ve had problems with other guys who are just as bullheaded as I am and I’m not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that. We race each other hard every time we got around each other. That’s just how we did it. And it was frustrating to both of us, but we made good out of it. We never crashed each other per se, so it was just the way we raced. So, we don’t do that quite so much anymore. We’ve both learned how to adjust to that a little bit and be faster in the end for both of us.”

Teaser:
<p> Following Kasey Kahne's win in the Coca-Cola 500, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 18:07
Path: /mlb/2012-major-league-baseball-power-rankings-may-29
Body:

 

Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 29, 2012.

 1. Dodgers—Scored six or more runs in seven of last 10 games.

 2. Rangers—25-2 when allowing three runs or less; 5-16 otherwise.

 3. Orioles—Outscored Royals and Red Sox on homestand, but lost 4 of 6.

 4. Rays—Fernando Rodney finally blew a save.

 5. Yankees—Andy Pettitte has found the fountain of youth.

 6. Nationals—Sweep at Atlanta has Nats cruising.

7. Reds—Won eight of nine and next nine vs. Pirates and Astros.

 8. Braves—Tough week drops Braves to fourth, but still squarely in hunt.

 9. Marlins—Can gain ground in East this week.

10. Blue Jays—Lost five straight and Baltimore and Boston visit this week.

11. Cardinals—Losing record outside the division.

12. Indians—Majors best at 10-2 in one-run games.

13. Mets—8-2 when R.A. Dickey starts.

14. Angels—Lookout! Pujols and Angels hitting their stride.

15. Phillies—Roy Halladay’s shoulder is balking.

16. Giants—Melky Cabrera (.369) having a terrific season.

17. White Sox—June schedule lines up well for Sox.

18. Tigers—Must improve defensively to climb in standings.

19. Red Sox—4-8 at Fenway Park vs. AL East.

20. Diamondbacks—Offense better; pitching worse in May.

21. A’s—Bullpen has 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP.

22. Pirates—Third-best ERA (3.23) in majors.

23. Mariners—Starters allowed just 33 homers in 49 starts.

24. Astros—Won seven of nine prior to losing last two at Los Angeles.

25. Brewers—Opponents batting .185 off Zack Greinke at home; .369 on road.

26. Royals—Jonathan Broxton doing nice job as fill-in closer.

27. Padres—Get to play Cubs next.

28. Rockies—Cubs only team in NL playing worse right now.

29. Twins—On pace to have worst two-season stretch in franchise history.

30. Cubs—Scored 18 runs in last nine games — all losses.

Teaser:
<p> A look at the best and worst baseball teams in the league.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 11:38
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-ohio-state-no-6-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Ohio State Buckeyes being named No. 6, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes continue the countdown at No. 6 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Ohio State will finish first in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“It won't take long for Urban Meyer to have the Buckeyes back on top in the Big Ten,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Ohio State isn't eligible for the postseason, but this looks like the best team in the league in 2012.”

Two Ohio State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with defensive linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins both being voted to the second team. In addition, the OSU defensive line unit was ranked No. 6 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The secondary was rated No. 5 in the country.

Ten Buckeyes earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Simon, Hankins, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive back C.J. Barnett on the first team. Quarterback Braxton Miller, offensive linemen Jack Mewhort and Andrew Norwell, kicker Drew Basil and defensive backs Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant garnered second-team honors.

Ohio State Team Preview

Ohio State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Ohio State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<h1 class="ha" style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 18px; margin: 12px 1px 9px 0px; padding: 0px 0px 0px 8px; color: rgb(34, 34, 34); background: inherit; border-right: inherit; background-color: rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.917969); font-weight: normal; "> <span class="hP" id=":6v" style="padding-right: 10px; ">Athlon Sports Names Ohio State No. 6 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></h1>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 09:06
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-buckeyes-2012-team-predictions
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The Ohio State Buckeyes check in at No. 6 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Braxton Miller, QB (SO)
Uber recruit Miller did very little to dispel his title of heir apparent in Columbus. While it might have come one year sooner than Bucknuts would have hoped, Miller’s experience in 2011 was invaluable. He showed flashes of brilliance in the second half of the season both on the ground and through the air. Now, he has a coach who knows exactly what to do with the lightning quick 6-foot-2, 210-pound dual-threat dynamo. Meyer’s spread system is the perfect fit for Miller, who will use 2012 as a practice field for potential greatness in 2013.

Trap Game: Illinois (Nov. 3)
The Buckeyes two biggest games of the year should be a road trip to Wisconsin and Michigan at home in the final two weeks of the year. Coming off a tough road trip to Happy Valley and with a bye week looming, the Bucks could be in for a letdown against division foe Illinois as they prepare for their brutal two-game season finale. The Orange Crush is a talented roster and should be dramatically better coached under Tim Beckman. It wouldn’t be the first time a Fighting Illini team went into the Horseshoe and toppled an undefeated OSU squad.

Upset Alert: at Penn State (Oct. 27)
Braxton Miller had one of his worst passing games of the season last fall in the 20-14 home loss to Penn State. He completed only 7-of-17 passes for 83 yards as the Nittany Lions rushed for 239 yards. Fans can bet that Miller will be better and the Bucks rushing defense will be better, but if Ohio State isn’t careful heading into Halloween weekend, it could be looking at another upset. The PSU defense will be stout as usual and the Buckeyes will be playing on the road on primetime national television. This game could either carry divisional implications for the Lions — or, if they are out of it, could be considered their Super Bowl of 2012.

Unsung Hero: Jack Mewhort, OL (SR)
On a unit that is lacking for depth, star power and consistency, Mewhort might be the most important. The Toledo, Ohio, native has played at every position along the offensive line and will now be asked to protect Braxton Miller’s blindside. The outside of the offensive line will be the major question mark and it falls to Mewhort to stabilize the edge. Meyer believes that “he is probably our best lineman and he is our most consistent lineman.”

Biggest Game: Michigan (Nov. 24)
The Wolverines could be the only thing any Buckeye is thinking about this fall. With little to play for but respect, revenge and honor, beating Michigan — and, say, knocking it out of the Big Ten title game — would be the sweetest victory Ohio State faithful will taste all season. With nothing else to play for on the final weekend of the regular season, fans can bet that every ounce of energy will be poured into beating that team from up North.

Revenge Game: Nebraska (Oct. 6)
The Buckeyes were up 27-6 in Lincoln last year with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter. But Braxton Miller sprained his ankle and the OSU offense went into the tank. The Huskers ended up scoring 28 straight points and winning 34-28. The Bucks finished 3-4 down the stretch after the loss and will now have a chance get revenge on the title contending Big Red on its home turf.

Freshman To Watch: Taylor Decker, OL
The offensive line is the only major area of concern for Urban Meyer heading into this season. He has had to shuffle players around, switch tight ends to tackles and is banking on two young freshman to bolster his spotty front line. Decker has already, through one spring practice in Columbus, found himself as the third tackle on the roster behind Jack Mewhort and Reid Fragel. Expect him and fellow freshman Kyle Dodson to become regulars in the OSU offensive line rotation.

Comeback Player: Nathan Williams, DL (SR)
The senior will battle with sophomore Michael Bennett — and his rehabbing knee — for starting time opposite of John Simon all summer long. Williams missed all but one game last year with a knee injury. The 2011 preseason All-Big Ten selection posted 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks back in 2010 and will be either a starter or top reserve on arguably the best defensive line in the Big Ten.

Defensive MVP: Johnathan Hankins, DT (JR)
John Simon might be the best leader, the most consistent and the strongest force up front for the Bucks, but Hankins is the most talented. The massive defensive tackle has trimmed his weight to 317 pounds and all reports are he is much quicker. In fact, one of the best quotes in the Athlon Sports 2012 Big Ten preview magazine comes from veteran center Corey Linsley. “Hank is now a little bit less of an immovable object and is more of an unstoppable force.” The more explosive Hankins could easily be a top ten pick in the 2013 NFL Draft with an outstanding season this fall.

Newcomer To Watch: Mike Thomas, WR (FR)
The wide receiving corps has no clear playmaker to speak of heading into 2012. The tight ends are very talented but Philly Brown, Devin Smith and Chris Fields don’t exactly inspire greatness. While they are solid players, none are elite All-American talents. Thomas, who caught 12 passes in the spring game, has coaches raving about the 6-foot-2, 193-pounders ability to contribute right away. Braxton Miller clearly had no problems finding him on the field this spring.

Season Defining Moment: at Michigan St (Sept. 29)
Does November 28, 2011 count? The day Urban Meyer accepted the Ohio State job may not be eligible for this list but it might be more than just a season-defining moment but a program-defining moment. And Meyer’s impact could be no more evident than in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. If the Spartans can beat Boise State and Notre Dame, they will be 4-0 when Ohio State comes to town. If the Buckeyes can go into East Lansing and beat what will likely be a top 15 team, the rest of the conference will be warned. Especially considering how well the offensive line will have to play to defeat Sparty on the road.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?
The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:56
Path: /college-football/ohio-state-football-will-buckeyes-have-best-record-big-ten
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 6 Ohio State. New coach Urban Meyer should bring a quick turnaround to Columbus, especially with sophomore Braxton Miller due for a breakout season. The Buckeyes are ineligible to play for the Big Ten title in 2012.

Will Ohio State Have the Best Record in the Big Ten?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
I’m a believer that Ohio State will be vastly improved -- judging by our top-10 ranking of the Buckeyes, that’s not news -- but I am concerned that improving from 6-7 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten to the top team in the Big Ten is a stretch. True, Ohio State’s last six losses were all by a touchdown or less and only two of them were in Columbus. I credit some of those lapses to a rookie coach and a freshman quarterback. Now, Ohio State has Urban Meyer and a sophomore signal-caller who could be a perfect fit in the offense. Let’s face it: Meyer is a miracle worker in year one. He’s never won fewer than eight games in his debut season -- he improved Bowling Green from 2-9 to 8-3, Utah from 5-6 to 10-2 and Florida from 7-5 to 9-3. I tend to believe his first year at Ohio State will be closer to his first year at Florida than his stops in the MAC and Mountain West. Ohio State will have a top-notch defense loaded with upperclassmen and two talented sophomores (cornerback Bradley Roby and linebacker Ryan Shazier), but the offense is a question mark. We just assume Miller is going to be a star overnight. The talent is there as is the coaching, but he’s still a guy who didn’t complete more than eight passes in a game until the last two games against Michigan and Florida. He rarely completed even half his passes after taking over as the starter. Ohio State will be better, but the Buckeyes aren’t going to be the (on paper) Big Ten champion.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
I will say yes, but since the Big Ten feels so wide open in 2012, I don't feel strongly about it. Ohio State will be dramatically improved in the win-loss ledger simply because the team is finally unified, led by one of the nation's elite head coaches and can only improve from what was the worst Buckeye team since...1988?

The non-conference slate offers some interesting challenges that should be perfect for a developing star quarterback and stellar defense. UCF and Cal are both bowl teams with quality talent but winning at the Horseshoe is highly unlikely. A 4-0 record heading into conference play is all but certain for the Bucknuts. However, Week 5 is where things get interesting. We will know most of what we need to know about Ohio State when they open Big Ten play in East Lansing. The Spartans have the offensive line and defense to challenge the Buckeyes, but do they get the quarterback play needed to beat OSU? If Ohio State wins that game, they won't lose until late November — if at all.

Nebraska, Purdue and Illinois will all be tests at home with the Huskers offering the toughest opposition. Yet, Ohio State was up 27-6 in Lincoln last year when Braxton Miller got hurt and Big Red made the improbable second-half comeback. There is no chance that type of loss happens again under Urban Meyer. Road trips to Penn State and Indiana sprinkled in should be wins as well.

That leaves the final three weeks of the season to likely determine who has the best record in the league. The bye week is perfectly situated in front of a road trip to Wisconsin. The Badgers and Spartans will likely be the two toughest games of the year and I believe Ohio State will slip up against one of the two. Ohio State hasn't lost in East Lansing since 1999 and is 7-1 in the last eight against MSU while it's 1-2 in its last three trips to MadTown.

This, of course, brings us to the season finale against the bitter rival from up North. With nothing left to play for but a chance to ruin it's arch-rival's title bid, I cannot see Ohio State losing at home to Michigan. Last year's 40-34 shootout road loss to Michigan is telling. The worst Ohio State team in over two decades nearly upset the best Michigan team since 2006 on the road. If Ohio State goes 11-1, it will have the best overall record in the league, and, at 7-1, will likely tie for the best conference record as well.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The balance of power in the Big Ten for the 2012 season is definitely tilted in favor to the Legends Division. Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska each have a strong case to be picked No. 1 in the Legends and be ranked among the top 10-15 teams for the upcoming year. The Leaders Division is down, as Wisconsin is not expected to repeat last season’s win total, and Penn State will be in a battle just to get to seven victories.

Considering the strength of the Legends Division, I think Ohio State will emerge with the Big Ten’s best record. The Buckeyes are coming off a disappointing 6-7 season, but the pieces are in place for a big improvement in the win column. New coach Urban Meyer has engineered quick turnarounds at Bowling Green, Utah and Florida, and Ohio State figures to fall into a similar path.

Outside of Meyer’s arrival, the biggest reason for optimism in Columbus is quarterback Braxton Miller. He took his lumps as a true freshman last season and should thrive in Meyer’s spread attack. The Buckeyes need the receiving corps and offensive line to jell, but the defense should be one of the best in the nation.

Ohio State should sweep the non-conference portion of its schedule, but could lose at least two games in Big Ten play. Matchups at Michigan State and Wisconsin won’t be easy, while the Buckeyes host Nebraska and Michigan.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the champion of the Legends Division and Ohio State finish the regular season with the same amount of Big Ten wins (six), but I think Meyer finds a way to lead the Buckeyes to the conference’s best record.

Mark Ross
Big things are expected in Columbus in Urban Meyer's first year. However, the Buckeyes' regular season success will have to satisfy OSU fans in 2012 since there will be no postseason in Year 1 under Meyer. As long as Meyer and the coaching staff can find a way to keep their players motivated throughout the season, then it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find them with the top conference mark when all is said and done, even if it doesn't result in a trip to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

Wisconsin should be Ohio State's toughest opposition in the Leaders Division and these two will meet up in Madison on Nov. 17. That's a week before the Buckeyes' true season finale, a home game against none other than Michigan. Ohio State also faces another tough back-to-back assignment earlier in the season when it takes on Legends contenders Michigan State (in Lansing, Sept. 29) and Nebraska (home, Oct. 6) on consecutive Saturdays.

If Ohio State can navigate these four games with no worse than a split, than the Buckeyes are looking at no worse than a 6-2 conference record. However, I think Meyer uses the postseason ban to his advantage in firing up his guys, and the Buckeyes bond together to prove a point to the rest of the Big Ten. And just like what happened last season with USC winning its division, but not being eligible to play in the Pac-12 Championship Game, a 7-1 Ohio State team will see to it that the 2012 Big Ten title game includes just one true division winner. 

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I see the Buckeyes going either 6-2 or 7-1 in league play, so they should at least tie for the best Big Ten record. Ohio State does have to play the three top teams from the Legends Division — Michigan State, Nebraska and Michigan — plus travel to Wisconsin. But I think Urban Meyer has the roster to split those four conference games, if not go 3-1. Last season in Columbus involved so much turmoil and change, and I see the Buckeyes going right back to the top of the Big Ten pecking order this year.

The OSU resurgence will start with an excellent defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins as well as secondary members C.J. Barnett, Bradley Roby and Christian Bryant. The Buckeyes were a lock for top 10 in total defense for most of the past decade, and I see them getting back to that lofty standard. On offense, quarterback Braxton Miller could have a breakout sophomore season in Meyer’s dual-threat system and with a year of experience under his belt. Ohio State will not be eligible for the Big Ten Championship or a bowl game, but the Buckeyes are a top candidate for having the league’s best record.

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Ohio State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 05:55
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-29
Body:

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

Patience is a virtue. Those who have bided their time with first basemen Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols, Justin Morneau and outfielder Nelson Cruz have seen their fantasy teams rewarded. Getting Pujols for dirt cheap may never happen again, so if you want to go after the historic slugger, now is the time. His price is rising by the day.

Cruz has the ability to completely dominate the fantasy world when hot – and that Nelson Cruz is so hot right now.

And don't look now, but the White Sox outfield is a pretty good place to find fantasy support if your lineup needs a boost.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/21-05/28):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB BA OPS
1. Melky Cabrera SF OF 11 2 8 3 .414 1.245
2. Paul Konerko CWS 1B 10 3 10 0 .536 1.567
3. Mark Teixeira NYY 1B 8 4 10 0 .524 1.868
4. Jason Kipnis CLE 2B 7 2 6 3 .448 1.122
5. Troy Tulowitzki COL SS 8 3 9 0 .429 1.341
6. Giancarlo Stanton MIA OF 8 3 8 1 .370 1.285
7. Albert Pujols LAA 1B 6 4 8 1 .357 1.227
8. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 6 3 11 1 .320 1.106
9. Alex Rios* CWS OF 8 3 9 1 .286 1.012
10. Michael Brantley* CLE OF 6 0 6 4 .409 .935
11. Dayan Viciedo* CWS OF 6 3 10 0 .357 1.093
12. Justin Morneau* MIN 1B 7 4 10 0 .250 1.017
13. Brandon Phillips CIN 2B 7 3 8 0 .348 1.247
14. Jeff Francoeur* KC OF 5 3 4 1 .478 1.457
15. Dexter Fowler* COL OF 6 2 4 1 .533 1.630
16. Carlos Gonzalez COL OF 8 2 5 1 .333 1.127
17. Yadier Molina STL C 3 2 9 0 .417 1.107
18. Adrian Beltre TEX 3B 4 2 7 0 .400 1.087
19. Starlin Castro CHC SS 3 2 6 2 .308 .923
20. Joe Mauer MIN C/1B 8 1 2 1 .385 1.038
21. Colby Rasmus* TOR OF 3 2 5 2 .333 1.083
22. Quintin Berry* DET OF 6 0 2 3 .360 .869
23. Bryce Harper WAS OF 6 2 4 0 .391 1.220
24. Tony Gywnn Jr.* LAD OF 4 0 6 3 .308 .616
25. David Freese STL 3B 7 2 4 0 .350 1.181

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Outfield Help

Of the Top 25 hitters from last week, 13 of them were outfielders. But most importantly, eight of those 13 are owned in 70% or less of Yahoo! leagues. If you need power Dayan Viciedo, who has been hitting seventh behind Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and A.J. Pierzynski, should be able to provide some pop — and some ribeye steaks as well. Rios and Jeff Francoeur are what they are but have the ability to deliver over short periods of time — only if you can handle the 2-for-23 runs that generally follow suit. 

I would be more interested in the "post-hype" names on this list, Dexter Fowler and Colby Rasmus. Fowler is playing at a high fantasy level currently and should be one of the top OF adds this week. Rasmus might need to prove it for another 7-10 days before I give him a shot. 

For what it is worth, I picked-up Viciedo this morning over all other OFers on this list.

DL Watch

- I can't make this up. Brewers stud catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who is hitting .345, was sent to the DL after breaking his hand on his own luggage. While searching for a sock under his hotel bed, his wife somehow managed to drop the suitcase on his hand. It is broken and he will miss 4-to-6 weeks. 

- Jered Weaver has provided the biggest fantasy scare of the week thus far after leaving his Monday start after throwing to just four Yankees. After 12 pitches, the Angels ace left with "excruciating lower back pain." He will have an MRI Tuesday and a trip to the DL is uncertain. It certainly didn't look good. Especially, considering CJ Wilson is questionable for his June 2 start against Texas.

- Roy Halladay is questionable for his June 2 start against Miami. This one is very concerning as his shoulder soreness has led the Phillies' ace to get an examination after lasting only two innings on Sunday. He is having one of his worst seasons, so fantasy owners' worries should be warranted.

- Freddie Freeman is questionable for Tuesday's game against the Cardinals with an eye issue. He missed Monday's game because of vision problems and Atlanta doesn't seem too optimistic about his long-term availability. Apparently, he cannot make tears. 

- Dustin Pedroia is doubtful for Tuesday's game against Detroit with a thumb issue. The two-sacker left Monday's game with a jammed right thumb, but it doesn't appear to be serious enough to warrant a DL trip. He could miss a few games, however.

- Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera is doubtful for Tuesday's start against Kansas City. He is day-to-day due to tightness in his left hamstring. Those are tricky to nail down. The Indians need the shortstop's bat now that catcher Carlos Santana is on the seven-day DL with concussion issues.

- The brittle David Freese had a great week over the last seven days but is questionable for Tuesday's game with a wrist injury. 

- Matt Kemp has begun his Triple-A rehab assignment and could be back as early as Tuesday. The A's Yoenis Cespedes also went 1-for-3 and played left field in his rehab stint and should be back this week as well while pitcher Brandon McCarthy could return to the mound June 2 against the Royals. The Mets' Jason Bay has been DHing and will soon play the field in an effort to return to the Flushing this weekend. 

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Chris Sale CWS 19.2 3 28 0.92 0.76
2. Gio Gonzalez WAS 20.0 3 29 2.25 0.80
3. R.A. Dickey* NYM 20.1 2 29 1.77 0.74
4. Kevin Millwood* SEA 20.0 2 14 0.45 0.65
5. James McDonald PIT 20.2 2 24 1.74 0.82
6. Josh Beckett BOS 21.2 2 19 1.25 0.88
7. Justin Verlander DET 17.0 1 19 1.06 0.59
8. Cole Hamels PHI 23.0 3 23 2.74 0.96
9. Andy Pettitte* NYY 15.0 2 17 1.20 0.87
10. C.J. Wilson LAA 17.2 2 15 1.02 0.96
11. Dan Haren LAA 15.2 1 19 1.72 0.70
12. Kyle Kendrick* PHI 22.0 1 12 1.23 0.77
13. Chris Capuano LAD 19.1 2 19 2.33 0.93
14. Adam Wainwright STL 20.2 2 12 1.31 1.06
15. Brandon Beachy ATL 21.0 1 18 2.14 0.90
16. Felix Doubront* BOS 17.2 2 22 2.55 1.19
17. Clayton Kershaw LAD 16.0 1 10 1.12 0.88
18. Ryan Vogelsong* SF 13.1 2 9 2.02 0.90
19. Johan Santana NYM 22.0 1 19 2.45 1.00
20. J.A. Happ HOU 18.1 2 20 1.47 1.42

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Chris Sale, CWS: Seattle (Sun.)
The stud Sox youngster has rebounded perfectly after a short injury scare. Struck out 15 hitters on Monday against Tampa and should dominate the Mariners this weekend.

2. Ryan Dempster, CHC: San Diego (Wed.)
Might not be on your wire, but has yet to win a game in 8 starts. This is his best chance yet.

3. Trevor Cahill, ARI: at San Diego (Sun.)
Is walking too many people (12 in his last five starts) but has been solid of late. Will face one of worst offenses in the league.

4. Ubaldo Jimanez, CLE: Minnesota (Sat.)
Has been very wild but if any match-up will get him back into the swing of things, it will be against the Twins.

5. Gavin Floyd, CWS: Seattle (Sat.)
Got shelled the last three outings but has nice 8.0 K/9 and 3.18 K/BB ratio thus far. Will face lowly Mariners at home.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Fernando Rodney TB 16.2 1 10 17 0 1.08 0.84
2. Aroldis Chapman CIN 13.2 2 3 23 3 0.00 0.44
3. Santiago Casilla SF 14.1 1 10 13 0 1.26 1.05
4. Chris Perez CLE 12.1 0 10 15 0 1.46 0.73
5. Jim Johnson BAL 13.2 0 9 8 0 1.32 0.51
6. Jason Motte STL 12.1 2 5 10 0 2.19 0.73
7. Kenley Jansen LAD 10.1 2 5 15 2 1.74 0.97
8. Joe Nathan TEX 11.0 0 6 14 0 0.82 0.64
9. Ernesto Frieri* LAA 14.0 0 2 26 4 0.64 0.71
10. Joel Hanrahan PIT 11.0 1 8 12 0 2.45 1.09
11. Tyler Clippard* WAS 11.2 0 3 15 5 0.77 0.51
12. Jake McGee* TB 12.0 2 0 13 4 0.75 0.67
13. Nate Jones* CWS 15.0 2 0 16 2 0.60 1.00
14. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.1 0 7 15 0 3.18 0.88
15. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 9 0 2.31 1.03
16. Craig Stammen* WAS 18.1 1 0 18 1 1.47 0.82
17. Casey Janssen* TOR 10.1 0 4 8 1 0.00 0.68
18. Brian Fuentes* OAK 11.1 1 4 7 1 1.59 0.79
19. Alfredo Aceves BOS 17.2 0 6 20 0 3.06 1.08
20. Jordan Walden* LAA 12.1 2 0 12 4 0.73 0.89

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

@bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 29</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:10
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC North, Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
Path: /nfl/pittsburgh-steelers-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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Denver
Week 2: NY Jets
Week 3: at Oakland
Week 4: BYE
Week 5: Philadelphia
Week 6: at Tennessee (Thur.)
Week 7: at Cincinnati
Week 8: Washington
Week 9: at NY Giants
Week 10: Kansas City (Mon.)
Week 11: Baltimore
Week 12: at Cleveland
Week 13: at Baltimore
Week 14: San Diego
Week 15: at Dallas
Week 16: Cincinnati
Week 17: Cleveland

Order your 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The Steelers will face the NFC East in 2012 and that delivers no favors for the Steelers. The Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, while Philadelphia, Dallas and Washington are no easy outs. The East could be second only to the NFC North in terms of depth in a loaded NFC this fall. To top it off, Pittsburgh must face the top two contenders in the East — Dallas and New York — on the road.

- Within the conference, the Steelers will play the AFC West. While it isn’t the strongest division in the AFC, it could end up as the most balanced. The most intriguing match-up will take place in Week 1 when Pittsburgh returns to the scene of the crime in Denver. Now led by Peyton Manning, the Broncos will face a Steel Curtain defense that is sure to test the reconstructed neck of No. 18. Pittsburgh’s season was infamously ended in overtime at the hands of Tim Tebow last year and fans can bet that every member of the Steelers' organization will be ready to compete right out of the gate — which will be a good thing for a team likely picked to win the division.

- The NFL has squeezed the bye weeks into a smaller window over the last few years, starting them later and ending them sooner. But the Steelers will get the first bye week available after playing three AFC games in 2012. Generally speaking, most teams would want the bye to fall as close to Week 8 or 9 as possible to split the season evenly — or just before or just after a key stretch of the schedule. That said, the Steelers are trying to get Rashard Mendenhall back into the line-up and the early bye week could give him one extra game played. The bye week also could benefit the team if there are any growing pains with Todd Haley’s new offensive system that need to be ironed out after three weeks.

- The division slate is very interesting. First, the two games with the rival Baltimore Ravens will take place within a three-week span between Week 11 and Week 13 — generally, the most difficult area of any NFL schedule — sandwiched around another division road game against the Browns. The division crown will likely be decided in that three-week period of time. Second, the Steelers won’t face a divisional opponent until Week 7 when they visit Cincinnati, meaning six of the final 11 games will be within the division. Lastly, the final two weeks of the season will feature two home division games against the Bengals and Browns.

- Notably absent from the 2012 Pittsburgh schedule are what could be considered the top two teams in the AFC, New England and Houston. Missing the rival Patriots and rising Texans could play a huge role in two ways come seeding time for the playoffs. Head-to-head tie-breakers will not be applicable for first-round byes between what will likely be considered the top three teams in the conference.

- Home-road splits are intriguing with this team. Pittsburgh will be forced to play four of its first six games on the road — against four teams that were at least .500 a year ago nonetheless. The flipside of that equation, of course, is finishing the 2012 campaign with three of the last four at home – including back-to-back home divisional games against Cincinnati and Cleveland. An interesting twist comes from Week 6 to Week 9, when the Steelers will have three brutal road games (TEN, CIN, NYG) in four weeks which begins with a short week of preparation for a Thursday night road trip to Tennessee.

- The two floating games will be a home game against the Jets in Week 2 and a road trip to the Tennessee Titans in Week 6.

- As a completely meaningless side note that matters very little to the outcome of anything, Pittsburgh will begin its 2012 season against Denver, the team that drafted Tim Tebow, followed by the Jets, the team that currently employs Tim Tebow.

-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> 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 03:00
All taxonomy terms: AFC, AFC South, Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL
Path: /nfl/jacksonville-jaguars-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.

Jacksonville Jaguars 2012 Schedule:

Week 1: at Minnesota
Week 2: Houston
Week 3: at Indianapolis
Week 4: Cincinnati
Week 5: Chicago
Week 6: BYE
Week 7: at Oakland
Week 8: at Green Bay
Week 9: Detroit
Week 10: Indianapolis (Thur.)
Week 11: at Houston
Week 12: Tennessee
Week 13: at Buffalo
Week 14: New York Jets
Week 15: at Miami
Week 16: New England
Week 17: at Tennessee

Order your 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Athlon Sports NFL Preview magazine

- The season won’t get started easily for second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert. He will have to face fierce pass rushes from Houston, Cincinnati and Chicago all within the first five weeks of the season before reaching the bye. The Colts and Vikings do offer some respite, but both of those games will come on the road. It feels like 0-5 and 1-4 heading into the bye week while 2-3 would be considered a windfall.

- The Jags will need that bye when it comes around in Week 6. They will have faced some powerful defenses in the first month and then have two brutal road trips following their off week. First, they travel 3,000 miles to Oakland before heading north to face Green Bay in Lambeau in the first two games following the bye. Just to make sure they are tested, Matt Stafford and Megatron come to town the next week.

- The NFC North is the cross-over division Jacksonville will face in 2012 and it could be the top division in a loaded NFC. Three playoff teams could come from this group this fall, including what many consider the favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl in the Packers. The only comfort? The Jags get Detroit and Chicago at home and Minnesota on the road. Green Bay is a loss either way, so it might as well come on the road. All four NFC North games will take place in the first half of the season, giving the Jags eight straight AFC foes to end the year.

- The intraconference division Jacksonville will face this season is the AFC East. One excellent team, two quality teams and one improving squad makes for another tough draw for the Jags. The real bizarre story line, however, for Jacksonville’s round robin with the AFC East is the timing. Jacksonville will play all four teams from the East in four consecutive weeks starting in Week 13 — on the heels of playing three straight divisional games. The most intriguing story line here, obviously, includes a visit from local legend Tim Tebow. The Jets visit the largest metro area in the lower US in Week 14. Expect a hero’s welcome for No. 15. It could be the biggest crowd of the year for the Jags as they will likely to have to remove some tarps to accommodate the Tebow fanatics.

- Speaking of division play, the Jags will be in a fierce battle with the Colts to see who won't finish last in the AFC South. The intriguing aspect to the Jags' schedule is the peaks and valleys. They will play back-to-back games within the division in Weeks 2 and 3 and won’t face another AFC South team until Week 10 — where they will face three straight. Following their strange four-game run against AFC East teams, Jacksonville will wrap-up 2012 on the road against the Titans.

- The really nice aspect of the Jaguars' schedule are the home and road splits. The 2012 slate is extremely balanced from this perspective as Jacksonville will alternate home-road games over the first four weeks and the final seven weeks of the season. It is a small comfort that it will play back-to-back road games only one time all season long — Week 7 and 8 following the bye week.

- Jacksonville will visit Oakland and host Cincinnati in their two floating games of the year. Not deadly, but not easy either.

-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> 2012 Jacksonville Jaguars Schedule Analysis</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:59
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-ohio-state-rivals
Body:


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

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Michigan fans?
Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

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

• How does an Indiana fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4…..

• How many Michigan fans does it take to change a flat tire?
Just one . . . unless it’s a blowout, then they all show up!

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

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

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

• The Foo Fighters are playing at Ross-Ade Stadium this fall.
They're 10-point favorites.

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

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

Related Ohio State Content

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Preview
Ohio State Buckeyes Top 10 Players for 2012

Ohio State Buckeyes 2012 Team Predictions

The Greatest Players in Ohio State Football Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Ohio State Football History

Ohio State Buckeyes Cheerleader Gallery

Will Ohio State Have the Big Ten's Best Record in 2012?

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Ohio State Rivals</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 - 02:41
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/ask-athlon-sports-usain-bolt
Body:

Q: How fast was Usain Bolt running in miles per hour at his top speed during his world-record 100-meter dash?

— Curt Whitmire, Rockford, Ill.

A: Bolt’s accomplishments are quickly — pun intended — becoming legendary. He’s a five-time world champion and three-time Olympic gold medalist, and he’s the current world record-holder in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 meter relay (with teammates). Perhaps his greatest personal achievement came at the 2009 World Championships, where Bolt broke his own world record for the 100 meters, re-earning his unofficial title as the World’s Fastest Man, with a blinding time of 9.58 seconds. In taking more than a tenth of a second off his own mark, Bolt posted the largest single improvement in the 100m world record since the advent of electronic timing. As for your question: According to a biometrical analysis of Bolt’s run, he reached an astonishing top speed of 27.45 mph. Just for reference, a white-tailed deer tops out at 30 mph.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Usain Bolt</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:14
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-history
Body:

Q: In baseball, the names of the different positions — catcher, pitcher, first base, second base, etc. — seem to make sense. But what is the origin of the term “shortstop”?

— John Daneluk, Beverly, Mass.

A: There are two theories that appear to have some merit. One is that the player known as the shortstop was positioned there to field batted balls; the other supposes that the player’s primary purpose was to field throws from the outfield.

Considering that most players in the game’s infancy were right-handed hitters, and there were no Nolan Ryan fastball-type pitchers, most balls in play went to the left side of the field. There were players assigned to cover each base, and because most balls were hit toward the left side, players soon discovered that by positioning themselves between second and third they could stop balls short of the outfield. Given the condition of most playing fields, it is easy to assume that most balls that hit the ground were quickly and abruptly slowed by tall, unmanicured grass. Therefore, this position stopped many ground balls short of the outfield.

The other theory is presented well by historian John Thorn as he writes about Daniel Lucas “Doc” Adams, one of the original players for the New York Knickerbockers before 1850. Thorn quotes Adams himself from interviews given when the former player was an advanced age near the end of the century: “I used to play shortstop,” Adams reminisced, “and I believe I was the first one to occupy that place, as it had formerly been left uncovered.”

But when Adams first went out to short, it was not to bolster the infield but to assist in relays from the outfield. The early Knickerbocker ball was so light that it could not be thrown even two hundred feet, thus the need for a short fielder to send the ball in to the pitcher’s point…When the ball was wound tighter, gaining more hardness and resilience, it could be hit farther and, crucially, thrown farther. This permitted the shortstop to come into the infield, which Adams did.

So, there you have it. Did the position and name originate as a fielder or a cut-off man? It’s difficult to disagree with Thorn, one of the foremost historians in baseball, but logically, the other theory makes for a better story to the derivation of the name.

— Charlie Miller, Editorial Director

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> &nbsp;Baseball History</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:07
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /mlb/ask-athlon-sports-baseball-numbers
Body:

Q: In what year did jersey numbers first appear on major league baseball jerseys? What team was the first one to use jersey numbers? And did Ty Cobb ever wear a jersey number during his playing days?

— Steven Manowitz, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Some of the details concerning number usage are a little fuzzy, although the Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit Dressed to the Nines has filled in many of the blanks. The earliest documented instance of jersey numbers in baseball dates to 1907, when the minor league Reading Red Roses gave their players numbers to help fans identify them, although it’s unknown if the players ever wore them on the field.

The barnstorming Cuban Stars provide the earliest photographic evidence of jersey numbers in baseball history; a 1909 Chicago Daily News account included a photo of pitcher Jose Mendez wearing a 12 on his sleeve.

The first MLB team to take the field with jersey numbers was the Cleveland Indians, who wore numbers on their sleeves for the first time on June 26, 1916, although their experiment didn’t last long. In 1923, the Cardinals tried out jersey numbers on their sleeves at the insistence of innovative manager Branch Rickey, but the numbers were soon discarded. As Rickey later said, “Ridicule followed throughout the country, presswise and otherwise. More particularly, the players were subjected to field criticism from the stands and especially from opposing players.”

Numbers came to stay in 1929, when the Yankees and Indians both put numbers on the backs of their jerseys. Although the Yankees often get the credit, their opener was rained out, allowing the Indians to take the field first sporting the national pastime’s new sartorial standard. The Yankees took their famous jersey numbers from the batting order — Babe Ruth wore 3, Lou Gehrig 4, and so on.

You didn’t ask, but names first appeared on jersey backs thanks to another great innovator, White Sox executive Bill Veeck, who saw the value of player ID as the game entered the television age. He added names during spring training in 1960. Interestingly, the tradition-bound Yankees have never followed suit.

As for your final question — Cobb’s career ended in 1928, just before number usage came into fashion. Like many early Hall of Fame legends, the great Cobb never had a number retired, because he never wore one.

— Rob Doster, Senior Editor

Have a question? Email us with any sports-related questions at editor@athlonsports.com
Please include first and last name, plus hometown.
 

Teaser:
<p> Baseball Numbers</p>
Post date: Monday, May 28, 2012 - 23:00
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-michigan-no-7-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Michigan Wolverines being named No. 7, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Brady Hoke’s Michigan Wolverines continue the countdown at No. 7 with one preseason All-American and nine players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Michigan will finish first in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Brady Hoke has returned Michigan to prominence and has the Wolverines looking like the favorite in the Legends Division,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Heisman candidate Denard Robinson will lead a high-scoring offense once again, and the defense should continue the improvement it showed last season under coordinator Greg Mattison.”

One Michigan standout was named a preseason All-American, with quarterback Denard Robinson being voted to the third team. In addition, the U-M quarterbacks unit was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The offensive line was rated No. 10 in the country.

Nine Wolverines earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Robinson and offensive lineman Taylor Lewan on the first team. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and wide receiver Roy Roundtree were named to the second team, while offensive lineman Patrick Omameh, defensive lineman Craig Roh, linebacker Kenny Demens and defensive backs Blake Countess and Jordan Kovacs garnered third-team honors.

Michigan Team Preview

Michigan's Top 10 Players of 2012

Michigan’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Michigan No. 7 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 10:26
All taxonomy terms: MLB, Overtime
Path: /mlb/stanton-nearly-decapitates-morrison-throw
Body:

During last night's Giants-Marlins game, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton threw a rocket toward home plate, but nearly took off the head of teammate Logan Morrison in the process. OK, we exaggerate slightly, but check out their reactions in the video below as Morrison ends up on his butt.

Teaser:
<br />
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 08:33
Path: /college-football/michigan-football-will-denard-robinson-be-heisman-finalist
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 7 Michigan. Quarterback Denard Robinson is back, but the Wolverines must replace center David Molk. The defense must replace tackle Mike Martin, but should be solid in the back seven.

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Robinson has nearly all the trademarks for a Heisman finalist according to HeismanPundit.com’s 10 Heismandments. He’s a senior quarterback for one of college football’s elite programs. With a nickname like Shoelace, he’s likable. His games are mandatory viewing and on just about every play he has a chance to set Twitter ablaze -- a fair amount of those pundits out there, of course, are Heisman voters. Even if he has one underwhelming game -- say, against Alabama to start the season -- he’ll have Notre Dame to recover. Or Michigan State. Or Nebraska. Or Ohio State. Or the Big Ten championship game. What’s holding Robinson back is consistency. He had some serious lapses last season in throwing up a pass and hoping for the best. Against Notre Dame, it worked. Other times, it didn't. Still, there’s plenty of reason to believe Robinson will improve. He threw nine of his 15 interceptions last season in the first six games. Then, he threw six picks in the final seven, never more than one in a game during that stretch. That’s not good enough to be Heisman-worthy, but it’s at least a sign of progress. If Robinson marginally improves to become a 60 percent passer and throws only 10 interceptions (after completing 55 percent of his passes and throwing 15 picks), Michigan may be the national title race. And that’s not even counting the breakaway runs he’s sure to have throughout the season. To win the Heisman, Robinson may need a career year, but career achievement alone might be enough to get him to New York.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Yes. Barring any major injuries — which is certainly possible with Robinson's playing style — the Michigan quarterback should be the Big Ten's representative in New York City come December. With no disrespect meant to Montee Ball or Rex Burkhead, who should both have stellar senior seasons, there's no better situation for a Heisman run in that league than the guy under center at Michigan. And it all starts Week 1 on primetime national television against the defending national champions in the biggest football stadium in the world.

While he needs to show improved efficiency and decision making, all of the needed factors are in place for Shoelace to make a serious run at the stiff-arm trophy. He plays the quarterback position, and 11 of the last 12 Heisman winners have played under center. He is the leader and engine of the potential Big Ten champions and will play in marquee match-ups against the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan State and Ohio State. He is unequivocally the single-most electrifying athlete playing the quarterback position in the entire nation. And statistically, there may not be another player in the history of the sport who can match D-Rob's production when his career is all said and done.

He is the only player to ever top 2,500 yards passing and 1,500 yards rushing in one year. He is only the fourth player in history to go for 2,000-1,000 twice in his career and could become the only player ever to do it three times. He already owns the NCAA single-season quarterback rushing record with 1,702 yards, and with 1,252 yards on the ground this season, he will pass Pat White to become the top rushing quarterback in NCAA history. Robinson has all the necessary pieces laid out in front of him for a forceful Heisman run — as long as he can stay healthy.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The battle to win a spot to New York for the Heisman ceremony will be an interesting race to watch this season. Barring injury, you can go ahead and write in USC quarterback Matt Barkley for one of the five spots. Although Wisconsin’s (and 2011 Heisman finalist) Montee Ball won’t repeat last season’s numbers, he should be in the mix for a trip to the Big Apple once again. After that? It’s anybody’s guess.

West Virginia’s Geno Smith should improve on last season’s totals in the second year of Dana Holgorsen’s spread attack and is a potential darkhorse candidate to get to New York. Other top preseason candidates have question marks, including Clemson’s Sammy Watkins with a potential suspension, while South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is coming off a torn ACL.

Considering the question marks with some of the other top candidates, I think Robinson will be a Heisman finalist in 2012. There will always be a couple of off-the-radar candidates that emerge, but the senior quarterback seems to be in good position to earn a trip to New York at the end of the year. Although Robinson needs to be a better passer, his rushing ability will give him another opportunity to record over 3,000 yards of total offense.

As long as Robinson stays healthy and Michigan is in the mix to win the Big Ten title, he will remain a frontrunner for the Heisman. However, should the Wolverines struggle or Robinson miss a couple of games due to injury, he will fall short of finishing among the top five in voting at the end of the season.

After Barkley, the battle to get to New York for the Heisman ceremony is up for grabs. However, I expect Robinson to be one of the five finalists in early December. 

Mark Ross
Robinson burst on the scene his sophomore season in 2010, when he finished sixth in the Heisman voting after rushing for more than 1,700 yards, passing for more than 2,500 and accounting for 32 touchdowns. He had another productive season in 2011, earning second team All-Big Ten honors and accounting for more touchdowns (36) than the previous season, but he also saw his total offense drop by by more than 900 yards.

The fact that Michigan should be a strong contender for a return to a BCS bowl, not to mention the Big Ten title, certainly helps Robinson's Heisman chances in 2012, however, it also should be noted that in 2010, when Robinson was a near-Heisman finalist, the Wolverines won just seven games. Last season, Michigan won 11, including an overtime victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, thanks not only to Robinson's production, but also a much-improved defense and the emergence of 1,000-yard rusher Fitzgerald Toussaint.

Robinson is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and arguably the best in the Big Ten, but the fact that Michigan is a more complete and balanced team actually hurts Robinson in terms of Heisman consideration. In 2010, he was basically a one-man show, which was a large reason for his lofty numbers and subsequent Heisman votes.

And although he is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, he's still not an extremely polished passer as he has completed less than 60 percent of his throws and holds a 40:30 touchdown-to-interception ratio entering his senior season. The Wolverines' offense, and the team for that matter, is no longer a one-man show. I just think it will be too hard for Robinson to put up the numbers necessary to compete, if you will, with other expected Heisman-contending quarterbacks like Matt Barkley, Tajh Boyd, Landry Jones and Geno Smith, to name a few, and finish the season as a finalist for college football's most coveted honor.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not think Robinson will be one of the top five players in 2012, but he has a great shot to receive an invitation to New York in December. The key with the always-political Heisman is late momentum, something that has eluded Michigan’s quarterback for the last two seasons. If the Wolverines can win the Big Ten for the first time since 2004, then D-Rob almost seems assured of a trip to the Big Apple.

Robinson should put up solid numbers with his elite speed, but it’s tough to build a Heisman campaign around a 55-percent passer with 15 interceptions. Those 2011 numbers will need to improve this season. While D-Rob is an electric playmaker on the ground, his TD-INT ratio for his career is 40-30. If Michigan continues to spread the running yards around, Robinson could see his rushing yards decline once again. Plus the Wolverines add Alabama to the schedule this season, and it’s difficult to see Robinson producing the same type of numbers that he did against Notre Dame and Ohio State a year ago. While Robinson will still make plenty of highlight plays, I’m not sure that he will put up the consistent numbers to be a top five player. But if Michigan wins the Big Ten, he will be invited to NYC.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions

Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Michigan Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will Denard Robinson be a Heisman Finalist this year?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/michigan-wolverines-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Michigan Wolverines check in at No. 7 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Denard Robinson, QB (SR)
How could it be anyone else? The statistical resume is downright historic. And if the Maize and Blue win their first Big Ten title since 2004, it will be because of Robinson’s electrifying play-making ability. There is no more explosive athlete under center in the nation, so improved decision-making could send Shoelace to New York in December this fall.

Trap Game: Iowa
One could argue that every game played the weekend before the Ohio State game should be considered a trap game. This year the Hawkeyes’ come to town to attempt to upset the division favorite while they are supposedly looking ahead to the Buckeyes. Back in 2001, Michigan led this series 37-8-4 all-time. Since then, Iowa has won five of seven and three straight, including the 24-16 win a year ago and the 38-28 victory the last time they visited The Big House.

Upset Alert: at Purdue (Oct. 6)
The Boilermakers have been known to pull an upset or two in West Lafayette and they are coming off their first bowl season since 2007. Should Purdue stay healthy, it is certain to pull more than one upset this year. Purdue has only beaten Michigan four times since 1985, but two have come in the last four years and three of those have come at home.

Unsung Hero: Craig Roh and Jibreel Black, DL
Roh may never live up to his lofty recruiting status, but he has consistently showed up to play every Saturday. He has missed only one game in his three-year career (37 games) and will be playing his fourth position (strong-side end) in as many years this fall. Black, too, will be playing a new position as he slides inside to the 3-technique nose tackle position. This D-Line is the biggest area of concern and solid play from these two will go a long way to alleviate the loss of three starters.

Biggest Game: at Ohio State (Nov. 24)
Alabama may define this season early on, but there is no mistaking which game is the most important. And in 2012 it carries even more weight than usual. A Legend’s Division championship, subsequent Big Ten title game berth, BCS bowl, Heisman Trophy or more could all be riding on the trip to Columbus to end the season. Throw in the fact that it is guaranteed to be the Buckeye’s season finale, and, that these are likely the league’s top two teams, this rivalry game should realize its potential for the first time since 2006.

Revenge Game: Michigan State (Oct. 20)
The story is well documented: The Spartans have spanked the Wolverines four straight years (only one by less than a touchdown) en route to a Big Ten title as well as the league’s first Legend’s Division championship. The fact that Michigan State now annually boasts the league’s top defense and has thumped big brother from Ann Arbor by at least two touchdowns in three of those four wins only adds to the motivation for Michigan.

Co-Freshmen To Watch: Ondre Pipkins, DT and Joe Bolden, LB
There is a plethora of talent to choose from in what turned out to be a top ten recruiting class nationally for Brady Hoke’s Freshman to Watch. Should Pipkins reach his potential, few will play as imperative a role as the massive nose guard from Missouri. He is as game-ready as there is in the nation and the Athlon Consensus 100 prospect will be asked to stabilize the reworked defensive line — which could be the difference in a Big Ten title or not. The linebackers need depth and will likely be asked to lead this defense this fall. Bolden could push Kenny Demens outside or slide into a reserve role. Either way, expect both names to get a lot of playing time this fall.

Comeback Player: Roy Roundtree, WR (SR)
If completely disappearing from an offense counts as an injury, then Roundtree is a perfect bounce-back candidate. In 2010, Roundtree was the team’s top receiver, catching 72 passes for nearly 1,000 yards en route to second-team All-Big Ten honors. Last year, the milk carton special totaled 19 receptions for 355 yards, despite starting all 13 games. The senior should be poised to become Denard Robinson top target once again in 2012.

Defensive MVP: Blake Countess, CB (SO)
In only one short year, Countess has established himself as arguably the most talented defender on the roster. He will lock down one side of the defense which will free-up veteran leaders Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens to make more plays — which will be needed considering the weaknesses up front on this defense. The domino effect of Countess’ emergence last fall may not be measurable.

Newcomer To Watch: Jerald Robinson, WR (SO)
Technically, Robinson played in 11 games as a freshman last fall. But since he failed to record a statistic of any kind, he will be considered a newcomer. Offensive coordinator Al Borges has had plenty of glowing things to say about the 6-foot-1, 206-pounder this spring. He could be the best vertical threat on the roster — something that this Wolverines offense will be looking for all season long.

Season Defining Moment: Alabama (Sept. 1, Arlington, Texas)
Yes, the Big Ten title means more. Yes, the game against that team from down South is the biggest. But a win over the defending national champions could do more than simply define a season. If the Michigan defensive line is capable of slowing the Tide’s elite rushing attack and Robinson is able to move the football on the lightning fast track of Cowboys Stadium against the totally rebuilt Nick Saban defense, then the ceiling for this team will go up a few floors. A win over Bama in Week 1 puts Michigan directly on track for South Beach.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Michigan Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 05:30
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-michigan-rivals
Body:

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

• What happens when Urban Meyer takes Viagra?
He gets taller.

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

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

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

• Where was O.J. headed in the white Bronco?
Michigan State. He knew that the police would never look there for a Heisman Trophy
winner.

• Why is Michigan State replacing the turf in its stadium with cardboard?
The Spartans always look better on paper.

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

• How do you get a Michigan State graduate off your front porch?
You pay for the pizza.

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

• Things you will never hear an Ohio State fan say:
I have reviewed your application.

Related Michigan Content

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Preview
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Denard Robinson Be a Heisman Finalist in 2012?
Michigan Wolverines Top 10 Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan Football History

Michigan Wolverines Cheerleader Gallery

Michigan Wolverines 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Jokes About Michigan Rivals</p>
Post date: Friday, May 25, 2012 - 02:11
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day-1
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 25.

Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla is glad to see the Tim Tebow circus leave town.

• New Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin is ready for the SEC, telling Will Muschamp to worry about his own team after the Florida coach criticized College Station.

• We saw the Cardinals' "Bad Tuxedo Day" last week, and now the Rays have become "Nerds!"

• Veteran NASCAR pit reporter Dick Berggren will retire after next weekend’s race at Dover.

• The Mark Sanchez-Tim Tebow Jets QB dynamic will be crazy enough in New York, and the incumbent’s agent is already stirring the pot.

• Should the ACC follow the Big 12 and form a bowl game with the SEC?

• The controversial Warren Sapp will not be back on Inside the NFL.

• The rumor that Charlie Sheen bought Lawrence Taylor’s Super Bowl ring is apparently not true.

• The Heat won three in a row to close out the Pacers, with play almost as scorching as Dwyane Wade’s pants.

• The red-hot Reds take over first place in the NL Central.

• We are all appreciative of those who have served in the military. On this Memorial Day weekend, we look back at a sports hero who became an American hero — Pat Tillman.

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 24

• The New York Daily News has the Big Apple buzzing with the report that the Steinbrenners could sell the Yankees.

• Kellen Winslow Jr. has many critics for his out-of-control ego and “soldier” rant back in the day. Now, the man who was just released by the Buccaneers is being sued for trashing a $9,000-month rental in San Diego that had “a putrid stench of animal waste.”

• Mandatory.com has a great slideshow of the craziest places the Stanley Cup has traveled.

• Ohio State will already not play for the Big Ten title or in a bowl game this season, but are there more NCAA violations on the way?

• CBS’ Tony Barnhart discusses facing SEC defenses with Missouri and Texas A&M coaches.

• Gizmodo says beware of buying these gadgets right now, including the iPhone.

• Arizona football will already change significantly this fall with Rich Rodriguez taking over. But copper helmets?

• It’s amazing how many bobbleheads look nothing like the celebrities they represent. When did the Philles’ Roy Halladay get weird teeth and an Ervin Santana chinstrap beard?

• Clemson’s board of trustees will meet today to discuss conference affiliation. The ACC-Big 12 rumors have taken over the offseason.

• Check out Ben Wallace’s ride, a “T-Rex.”

• I think more people have seen “Uncle Drew” than saw Cavaliers games this season. “Don’t reach young blood” — here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 23

• Olympic hurdler (and major hottie) Lolo Jones tells HBO’s “Real Sports” that remaining a virgin is much harder than graduating college or training for this summer in London.

• Raiders cornerback Ron Bartell tells the Contra Costa Times that he will not wear the league-mandated knee and thigh pads in 2013.

• To celebrate Robert Moog’s birthday, Google gives us a synthesizer to play.

• Did TCU athletic director confirm the Big 12’s expansion interests?

• Speaking of conference expansion gone wild, could we see a six-day Big East basketball tournament? CBS’ Gary Parrish hopes not.

• Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer has some humorous ideas for other schools after Stanford renamed its offensive coordinator the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense.”

• Some early NFL win total propositions have been set in Vegas. The Packers and Patriots lead at 12 victories, while the Colts, Jaguars and Browns bring up rear at 5.5.

• CBS’ Mike Freeman has some interesting thoughts from Saints players who feel they are being “railroaded” by the NFL.

• Maybe golf is not the game for certain Redskins like offensive lineman Trent Williams.

•Could longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan return to the NBA bench with either the Magic or Bobcats?

• It’s difficult to find Cubs highlights this season (they’re getting an early start on that “Completely Useless By September” thing), but this Tony Campana dive into third base is awesome…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 22

• Mitch Vingle of the Charleston Gazette has a moving piece on the passing of former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart.

• Michael Felder remembers Stewart at his brightest moment, WVU’s convincing 48-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

• How much of the MLB season will Phillies slugger Ryan Howard miss?

• CBS’ Jeff Goodman has the story of Dick Vitale raising millions of dollars for cancer research.

• John Hoover of the Tulsa World has an interesting column on Eric Dickerson. The star runner says he would have gone to Oklahoma, but his mother did not trust Barry Switzer.

• You may have heard over the weekend that NASCAR is the first professional sports league to partner directly with Twitter. What will trend worldwide first: #shakeandbake, #spidermonkey or #DaleJrWins?

• David Shaw was already the “Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football” at Stanford, and now offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton has changed titles to the “Andrew Luck Director of Offense.”

• Dave Teel of the Daily Press in Virginia details how his state’s ACC athletic directors believe in the stability of the conference despite national rumors.

• Reds’ reliever Aroldis Chapman was arrested for driving 93 MPH and for driving with a suspended license. Don’t the police know that 93 is slow for Chapman?

• Oh to have expensive lawyers on your side. The Jets’ Kenrick Ellis will serve 45 days in jail this summer, but that sentence will be perfectly situated between the team’s minicamp and training camp.

• Being the ball boy at an MLB game seems pretty cool, unless you miss a play and fall victim to a sunflower seed shower from Braves pitcher Livan Hernandez . Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 21

• The oldest-known Babe Ruth jersey nets over $4 million at auction, breaking the record for a piece of sports memorabilia.

• Speaking of auctions, Giants defender Osi Umenyiora falls short on Twitter followers and does not buy Lawrence Taylor’s Super Bowl XXV ring.

• Could a Florida State move to the Big 12 cause the ACC and Big East to get poached by the powerful SEC and Big Ten? Clay Travis of Outkick the Coverage thinks so.

• How’s your Facebook stock faring?

• The Angels fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, but CBS’ Jon Heyman says that longtime manager Mike Scioscia should not be next.

• Dave Miller of the National Football Post looks at five college football players who had breakout springs and could become stars in the fall.

• Former Bengals runner Pete Johnson guarantees that Ohio State rookie Daniel "Boom" Herron will start at running back in the first game of the season for Cincinnati.

Mandatory.com brings us some awful celebrity tattoos, including the Nuggets’ Chris Andersen and Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.

Pro Football Talk has the latest on Ray Rice and a possible contract extension from the Ravens.

• Could the new SEC-Big 12 bowl agreement affect Notre Dame?

• Perhaps inspired by Will Farrell’s character, Ashley Schaeffer, from Eastbound and Down, Lakers star Pau Gasol gives Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka a “love tap” in an interesting place. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 

Teaser:
<p> Sports links from the NFL, College football and basketball, MLB, the NBA and entertainment</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 20:54
All taxonomy terms: Tim Tebow, NFL
Path: /nfl/5-questions-surrounding-tebow-0
Body:

There may be no pairing in the history of sports with more explosive potential than New York and Tim Tebow. Not LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Not T.O. and, well, anybody else. Not even Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner.

Take a team struggling to recover from a disappointing season that featured poor play and late-season drama, add in a new backup quarterback with a rock-star following and pour it all into a 24/7 media cycle in the world’s most supercharged city, and you get the potential for an unparalleled spectacle.

But what does it all mean, really? From the pages of Athlon Sports Monthly, Michael Bradley has the answers to some of the more intriguing questions surrounding the Jets-Tebow marriage.

1. Would Tebow have still been the main man in Denver?

It’s possible that the Broncos would have been able to attract better quarterback talent than Caleb Hanie, Adam Weber and draft choice Brock Osweiler to challenge Tebow, had Peyton Manning not chosen Denver as his landing spot. But it wouldn’t have been easy.

The Broncos could have taken a serious run at former Packer backup Matt Flynn, but even though Flynn was great against the Lions last year, he is unproven. Seattle signed him, but the Seahawks guaranteed Flynn a relatively modest $10 million over the three-year duration of his contract and then showed limited faith in the quarterback by drafting Russell Wilson in the third round. The Dolphins, who desperately needed a passer (and ended up selecting Ryan Tannehill in the first round of the draft), low-balled Flynn, demonstrating that the market for a two-time starter might have been soft.

There is no secret that Denver executive John Elway and head coach John Fox were not staunch Tebow supporters, and judging by some of the comments by Broncos in the wake of Tebow’s move to New York, some of his teammates weren’t too thrilled with him, either. But two factors — besides the lack of available challengers — point to Tebow’s being the 2012 starter in Denver, had he stuck around.

First, he did win in 2011. Denver entered the season as a huge long-shot to sniff the playoffs, and the Broncos not only reached the postseason but also did so as the AFC West winner, which guaranteed a divisional round home game. (Denver beat the Steelers in OT on an 80-yard TD pass from Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.) Say what you want about Tebow’s numbers, but he won, and that is the bottom line in the NFL. He would have entered training camp as the starter and would have competed hard to keep his job.

Second, the city loved him. If the Broncos had pushed him aside for Flynn or some other unproven commodity, there might have been an insurrection. And insurrections cost money. Unless Tebow was horrendous in the preseason, he would have started the Sept. 9 rematch against Pittsburgh.

2. Is Tebow merely an insurance policy in New York, or a legitimate option to start?

Tebow may be spouting all the right things about wanting to help the team and that he’ll do whatever he is asked, but make no mistake about it: He wants to start. That’s the best news the Jets could hear, because it might just force Mark Sanchez to step up and become a reliable producer.

Everybody wants to know why the Jets went after Tebow, when Sanchez signed a three-year extension in March. A closer look reveals that while Sanchez will earn a guaranteed $20.5 million in 2012-13, the next three years come in at a modest $12.5 million, making him easy to trade or cut. In other words, if the Jets want to go with Tebow, they can.

But will they? It’s unlikely they’ll do it in the short run, unless Sanchez is absolutely awful. New York is recommitting to the ground game in 2012 (the Jets had 443 rushes in 2011, down from 534 in ’10 and 607 in ’09) and will depend less on Sanchez to make plays. It’s clear Sanchez isn’t the type of passer who can throw for 300 yards every week, so asking him to air it out consistently makes no sense.

Tebow comes to New York to fill a Wildcat role, provide some excitement for a team that must contend with a city rival that won the Super Bowl and remind Sanchez that nobody’s job is safe in the NFL. But he is not in Gotham to replace Sanchez.

Yet.

3. Can a two-quarterback system work in the NFL?

Go ahead and recite the list of teams that have thrived in the NFL with a two-quarterback system.

Maybe you remembered Miami’s “WoodStrock” combination of David Woodley and Don Strock that brought the Fish to Super Bowl XVII. But that was 29 years ago.

Teams that try to make it through a season with two quarterbacks are courting disaster. It’s one thing to have a Wildcat package that throws a changeup at defenses and forces them to prepare for something extra, and quite another to succeed every game without a set starter.
Denver’s decision to jettison Tebow was to avoid any controversy at the quarterback position. Even though Manning is a legend, his recent injury problems have made him susceptible to a slow start. Elway and Fox were not interested in having fans chant for Tebow, nor did they want to start a carousel under center.

Going with both Tebow and Sanchez in anything other than a starter/Wildcat format will do more than just go against historical precedent; it could also mess with Sanchez’s delicate psyche, which has been well documented. If Tebow is going to do anything more than take a few snaps a game at quarterback, the Jets are courting disaster.

4. Pardon the interruption, but how will Tebow’s presence affect the dynamic of the Jets’ locker room?

Last season ended for the Jets with wideout Santonio Holmes nearly getting into a scrap with offensive tackle Wayne Hunter during the finale against Miami, and Holmes and Sanchez sniping at one another — and the Jets’ missing the postseason. The defense feuded with the O. And the Rex Ryan Show, which seemed so fun in 2009 and ’10, appeared to have jumped the shark.

Even though Holmes and Sanchez have been offseason BFFs, going to Knicks’ games together (and getting booed) and working out in Orlando, all it will take is a game or two when the passing attack struggles for that conflagration to reignite. Bringing in a divisive character like Tebow, who can segment a locker room in so many ways (performance, religion, celebrity), can’t be a positive. Even if he becomes a great Wildcat weapon in Tony Sparano’s offense, Tebow could well cause big problems simply by being there.

The Jets’ offense ranked 25th in the NFL last season, and the rededication to the run, coupled with Sparano’s Wildcat musings, is supposed to invigorate things. But a splintered locker room, not to mention an impatient fan base that could turn on Sanchez after his first preseason incompletion, could give Ryan a huge headache. And let’s not forget that Sanchez’s feelings are easily bruised; witness the flap last November when Ryan gave backup Mark Brunell some practice reps with the first team.

The decision to trade for Tebow seems to have come from above, not from Ryan’s mind. He can deal with that. If the Jets need a P.R. boost to fight the Giants’ success, so be it. But if this is a nod to Sparano’s presence on the staff and his need to have a top-flight Wildcatter (hello, jump pass), then that could be worse for Ryan, who will now face an assistant with a little too much power. No matter what, Tebow’s arrival will create more commotion, something Ryan definitely does not need.

5. Bright Lights, Big Drama: How will Tebow respond to New York?

It can be safely assumed that half of New York (and New Jersey and Connecticut) will dislike Tebow, simply because he isn’t a Giant. That’s what happens in a two-team town.
But Tebow’s troubles are likely to be less about his green-and-white uniform and more due to the expected media eruption once he starts playing ball. No matter how crazy things were in Denver, Tebow was still somewhat insulated from the real media furor. That won’t happen in New York, where the convergence of local and national outlets will create a daily avalanche. Already, Big Apple newspapers are discussing assigning individual reporters to cover Tebow and only Tebow, much like what ESPN did in 2010-11 with the Miami Heat. His progress will be charted, dissected and analyzed, and any possible controversy will be celebrated.

Thanks to his strong religious roots, it’s unlikely Tebow will crack under the enormous expectations and start hitting the town with a Namath-like vengeance. The impact of the furor will likely be more subtle and could impact his play, as he tries to live up to the high expectations that will arise. Since he’s the backup quarterback, it’s likely he’ll be pretty popular among the fan base, but should he get onto the field as a starter, either due to injury or Sanchez’s poor play, Tebow will be scrutinized heavily, and if he struggles to produce magic, he will feel the full force of an angry fan base and carnivorous media.

Want more Tebow? Check out Athlon Sports’ exclusive slideshow of the QB through the years.

Teaser:
<p> How Will Tim Tebow and New York Get Along?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 20:47
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-charlotte
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A happy Memorial Day weekend to all the fantasy NASCAR racers out there. This week it’s the most demanding 600 miles on the schedule, the prestigious Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The annual tradition dating back to 1960 tests the best of driver, equipment and team. Coming one week after the All-Star Race, the Coke 600 also marks the next phase of the NASCAR season.

Teams have ebbed and flowed thus far over the season, but with a week of practice under their belts on the 1.5-mile speedway in Charlotte, this Sunday’s 600 miles provides an opportunity to make a statement, maintain consistent finishes, or turn a difficult season around before it is too late.

One team that certainly made a statement in Saturday night’s All-Star Race was the No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports. Driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus knew if they won the first of the five segments, the night would fall into their laps.

Starting from the sixth spot, Johnson was able to make his moves to the front in the first 20-lap segment. After taking the caution flag for the break, it was all about avoiding trouble in the back of the pack and making adjustments to the racecar throughout the night. Restarting in the lead for the final 10-lap segment, Johnson powered out front on the green flag and never looked back.

While the format of the All-Star Race is dramatically different from the one we'll see Sunday afternoon and evening, there are a lot of things that will transfer over. Primarily, the fact the No. 48 is the team to beat.

Coming off an historic 200th career win for Hendrick Motorsports in Darlington, the No. 48 team beat the two-time defending champion No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew for the 2012 Pit Crew Challenge. That momentum carried over into the All-Star Race, where the 48 Chevrolet was the dominant car on the evening.

Enjoying the extended time in the Charlotte area these past two weeks, Hendrick Motorsports enters the Coca-Cola 600 weekend with a ton of momentum, loads of confidence, and the rest of the field looking up at Johnson.

All told, Johnson has six career wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including three consecutive Coca-Cola 600 wins from 2003-05. However, Johnson has not found Victory Lane at Charlotte since 2009.

The win Saturday night gives the No. 48 team confidence heading into Sunday's marathon race, but Johnson knows it will not be easy.

“Even though we won the race, I saw a lot of strong cars tonight,” Johnson said following his third All-Star Race win. “I think track position at the end of the 600 is going to be key. Two or three pit stops from the end, being in the right position, having the right strategy, if it's fuel, two tires, four, none, whatever it might be, that’s going to be key.”

While Johnson will be this week’s fantasy favorite, also keep an eye on a few guys that had solid cars in Saturday's All-Star Race.  

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 14:37
Path: /nascar/oh-brother-where-art-thou
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On Tuesday, Toyota became the latest manufacturer to unveil its 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup racecar. It is the second generation of the Car of Tomorrow, which debuted in the 2007 season to jeers and sneers — that is until Michael McDowell walked away from a head-on impact at 200 mph, tumbling down the three stories of banking and emerging unscathed. Since then, most have been on board with the new car, more so following the early 2010 refresh that saw the spoiler and the splitter going the way of the Convertible Division.

Toyota also confirmed that it has inked extensions to be the engine provider and car make for Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and JTG-Daugherty Racing for the foreseeable future. You can cross out these teams as potential candidates for Dodge, which is scrambling to find a team — and an engine provider — for 2013 and beyond. Toyota, in fact, is poised to add more teams to the fold, though not necessarily more organizations.

“We’re happy with the guys we’ve got,” Toyota Racing Development president Lee White says. “I would hope the economy turns around a little bit and we very easily could get back to eight or nine cars.”

One of the teams that Dodge was rumored to have been interested in was that of Joe Gibbs Racing. Gibbs had fielded Chevrolets and Pontiacs since its arrival in the sport 20 years ago, its first win coming one year after its debut in the 1993 Daytona 500. JGR’s move to Toyota in 2007, in part, set the stage for a departure by then two-time champion Tony Stewart. Stewart’s replacement was a driver who many had predicted would be the next Jeff Gordon: Joey Logano. To date, Logano has one race win in the iconic No. 20 Home Depot machine — compared to five championships by the other big-box home improvement chain retailer, Lowe’s.

It has long been a point of contention with the HD brass that Sliced Bread isn’t exactly cutting the mustard in the results department; cutting the cheese is more like it.

With the manufacturer side of things sealed up for JGR, which no longer has to worry about manning an engine shop with TRD now the sole supplier for all Toyota Cup teams, might Coach and J.D. be looking to test the free agent market for a replacement for their No. 20 machine? After all, it was about a year ago that many had penciled in Carl Edwards to be the heir apparent to the No. 20, but after Ford Motor Company scratched a big check and a ton of stock for Edwards, Logano received a reprieve. Logano currently sits 15th in points, however the No. 20 has finished no better than 16th in points since Stewart jumped ship following the ’08 season.

Following the departure of long-time JGR crew chief Greg Zipadelli to become competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing — while monitoring the progress of Danica Patrick in her limited Cup appearances — the performance of the No. 20 seems to be slowly picking up. But will it improve enough to retain Logano, or will the sponsor wield the whip hand and demand a change be made with one of the available free agent drivers for 2013?

Ryan Newman has been mentioned as a viable candidate for the No. 20 car, which is an ironic choice following his run-in with Logano at Michigan in the August 2010 event. The timing makes a bit of sense as the Senate Armed Services Committee this week added an amendment to next year’s spending bill that would ban all military sponsorship of motorsports — which includes Newman’s US Army affiliation — leaving a sizeable hole to fill at SHR. Would Stewart forsake his friend and fellow Hoosier, Newman, if a supplement to the Army sponsorship does not materialize?

With Patrick waiting in the wings, expecting to announce a full-time 2013 campaign in the Cup Series shortly, it may come down to dollars and common sense. If SHR does not have the funding to prepare a third team for Patrick, the GoDaddy.com colors might only end up on the No. 10 next year, keeping the organization at a two-car level.

That leaves one other option on the table — one that could be deemed “The Nuclear Option.” Kurt Busch.

The stars have aligned seemlessly with this one. Busch is a free agent, serving his penance in post-Penske purgatory, driving on a handshake deal for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team, an 18-employee independent team that receives cars and engines from Hendrick Motorsports. Think of it as a poor-man’s Stewart Haas Racing. A damn-near-broke man’s Stewart Haas Racing. For the most part, Busch has kept his legendary temper at bay, until a self-inflicted flat tire in the closing laps of the Southern 500 at Darlington dashed any hopes of a top-10 finish.

Might Busch be JGR and Home Depot Toyota material?

Think back to 2011 and the biggest story of the summer stretch: Busch and Jimmie Johnson feuding following some last-lap dicing at Pocono. Busch had been taken out by Johnson at Pocono a year earlier in a vicious backstretch crash, as well as at Sonoma and Chicago in ’09. That sort of anti-48 sentiment might play well with Home Depot, which has been less-than-pleased watching Lowe’s garner the lion’s share of the championships over the last six years. In fact, Smoke’s last two titles bookend those by Johnson, the latter with a different Depot on the hood.

Kurt’s brother Kyle is currently in the No. 18 at Joe Gibbs Racing, and having migrated his Kyle Busch Motorsports team to Nationwide this season, helped his brother out by essentially splitting the schedule with him in his No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota — an appropriate sponsor given their struggles with respective inner green-rage monsters.

The matte black Toyotas have been fast, with Kyle narrowly clearing the last-turn pile-up at Daytona before getting hooked into the outside wall, and Kurt capturing the team’s first win at Richmond just a few weeks ago over the other JGR pilot, Denny Hamlin. Hamlin had his own run-in with the No. 48 team two years ago, and chucked his own bottle of water at his No. 11 in frustration following a fuel mileage foul-up at the penultimate race at Phoenix that prevented him from winning his first Cup title. Think back to Busch throwing a bottle of water of his own at the Miller Lite Dodge at Bristol in 2009, when he declared there were 41 other driver’s he’d rather finish second to, rather than that No. 48 car.

Might JGR be the perfect home for Busch — and, more important, Home Depot the ideal sponsor?

HD was more than patient with Stewart during his most volatile and petulant years. The sport had much more attention back then, and though Stewart nearly lost his ride at JGR during a tumultuous 2002 campaign, winning his first Winston Cup title went a long way to cure those ills. This was during a period when Stewart had to be physically restrained from going after NASCAR officials, kicking reporter’s tape recorders under trailers and allegedly pushing a fan. Kyle Busch faced a similar fate last season after turning Ron Hornaday Jr. head-on into the wall during a Truck Series race (albeit in a KBM rig, not Gibbs equipment); NASCAR sat him out for the Sunday Cup race.

It left the younger Busch reeling, wondering if he would even have a job in 2013. Message: delivered. And received.

Kurt went through a similar situation with both Roush and Penske Racing. An incident involving a traffic stop for suspected impaired driving on race weekend in Phoenix in 2005 saw Roush suspend Busch for the final two races of the year, even while being a Chase driver, while the team issued the release that Roush Racing was “done being Kurt Busch’s apologists.” Busch was noticeably moved by the incident, barely holding back legitimate tears when interviewed about it. What followed at Penske Racing were six seasons of salty salutations over the team radio, indicating everyone from the crew chief, engineers and the owner himself, addressing revered team owner Roger Penske not be his well-known nickname, but rather as “Dude.”

The Captain did not abide.

Things came to a head during the 2011 Chase with Busch melting down during driver intros and issuing a terse response to ESPN reporter Jamie Little en route to his car — a car that did not pass tech inspection initially — at Loudon. He followed that up with the now famous YouTube video of Busch being less than cordial with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch following an early exit at the season finale at Homestead. Actually, everything got off to a poor start as soon as the 2011 Chase began. Following the final race of the regular season at Richmond, Busch went after NASCAR.com reporter Joe Menzer in the garage, slapped away a member of his PR camp, and then got into it with AP writer Jenna Fryer, tearing up a Dodge press release in the media center following a disagreement over a quote about getting inside Jimmie Johnson’s head.

The real question is, could Joe Gibbs get into Kurt’s head the way he has his brother, and the way both Roush and Penske were unable to? There are already signs of cracking on the surface after the incident on pit road at Darlington, as well as a colorful meeting with the press outside of his hauler at Charlotte last week.

This is not meant to pick apart Busch with the well-documented history of a short temper and manic outbursts. He remains a championship-winning (and contending) driver, who clearly gets more out of the equipment than virtually anyone else in the series — short of his brother. His one step forward/two-steps back anger management program seems to stall out every few months, and the new dynamic of a smaller team this season was to be an audition to prove to the racing world that he is a changed man, not the acid-tongued driver on the verge of meltdown.

His Nationwide ride with KBM has provided him with some brotherly love and proved that he’s still a race winner — not that it was ever really in doubt. Could a partnership with Gibbs, an owner well known for being both a man of faith and having the patience of a saint, provide Kurt with just the place to be born again?

It very well might be the type of environment that he needs to get back to the form that saw him win the first Chase in 2004.

Now if only the sponsor would sign on …


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:
@VitoPugliese 

Teaser:
<p>  </p> <p class="p1"> As Kurt Busch works to rebuild his image and NASCAR Sprint Cup career, there may be an opening with a team and a sponsor that helps him come full-circle.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 13:18
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-georgia-no-8-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Georgia Bulldogs being named No. 8, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Mark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs continue the countdown at No. 8 with two preseason All-Americans and nine players selected as All-SEC performers. Athlon Sports predicts Georgia will finish first in the SEC’s Eastern Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Aaron Murray and one of the best defenses in the nation will lead the Bulldogs this season,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “As long as the running game is sound, Georgia will be the team to beat in the SEC East.”

Two Georgia standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with linebacker Jarvis Jones being voted to the first team and defensive back Bacarri Rambo to the third team. In addition, the UGA linebackers unit was ranked No. 1 nationally. The quarterbacks unit was rated No. 4 in the country and best in the SEC. The defensive line was tabbed No. 7 in the nation, while the wide receivers unit was voted No. 8 in the country.

Nine Bulldogs earned preseason All-SEC honors, including Jones, Rambo and quarterback Aaron Murray on the first team. Running back Isaiah Crowell, wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, offensive lineman Chris Burnette, defensive lineman Abry Jones, linebacker Alec Ogletree and defensive back Shawn Williams garnered third-team honors.

Georgia Team Preview

Georgia's Top 10 Players of 2012

Georgia’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> <strong><span>Athlon Sports Names Georgia No. 8 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</span></strong></p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 09:15
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Georgia Bulldogs, SEC, News
Path: /college-football/georgia-bulldogs-2012-team-predictions-0
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The Georgia Bulldogs check in at No. 8 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: QB Aaron Murray
Last season Murray posted his second-straight 3,000-yard campaign, while setting the Georgia single-season record for touchdown passes (35) and touchdown responsibility (37). The junior was a second-team All-SEC selection as he finished second in the conference in passing yards and fifth in passing efficiency. Murray is already third on Georgia’s career touchdown passes list with 59 and fifth in total offense. He needs just 14 touchdown passes in 2012 to break David Greene’s career mark for touchdown passes and another 3,000-yard season would place him third all-time in Bulldogs’ history in total offense. If Murray needs to improve in any area, it would be to cut down on his interceptions. Besides leading the SEC in touchdown passes in 2011 by a wide margin (Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson was second with 24), he also led the conference in interceptions with 14.

Upset Alert: at Missouri (Sept. 8)
Missouri would like nothing better than to beat Georgia in its first game as a member of the SEC. It’s the second game on both team’s schedules and a win for the Tigers would not only serve as “proof” that they belong in the SEC, but it also would give them an early leg up on the Bulldogs in the East Division standings. The Georgia defense will be missing a few key players in its secondary due to suspension, so Missouri’s offense, which ranked No. 12 in the country in 2011, is not the ideal opponent to face. It also doesn’t hurt the Tigers’ chances that the game is in Columbia. Since 2005, Missouri is 35-8 at Memorial Stadium under Gary Pinkel, and the Tigers are 11-1 at home over the last two seasons.

Revenge Game: at South Carolina (Oct. 6)
Georgia went into last season’s game against South Carolina coming off of a disappointing opening loss to Boise State in the Georgia Dome. The Gamecocks then proceeded to add to the Bulldogs’ misery by capitalizing on three turnovers in a 45-42 win in Sanford Stadium. The back-to-back losses had everyone talking about head coach Mark Richt’s job security. Fortunately for Richt, those conversations stopped after the team rolled off 10 straight wins to capture the SEC East crown and a trip to the SEC Championship Game. Still, Richt and the rest of the Bulldogs remember all too well how last season’s meeting was decided and would like to return the favor to the Gamecocks on their home turf the first weekend in October. If the Bulldogs want to leave Columbia with a win, the defense will need to do a much better job against the run. In last season’s contest, South Carolina rushed for 253 yards, 176 of those courtesy of Marcus Lattimore, which was the most Georgia gave up in a game in 2011.

Trap Game: vs. Georgia Tech (Nov. 24)
Unless Georgia Tech emerges as the top team in the ACC’s Coastal Division, Georgia will have more on the line by the time the two in-state rivals meet up Thanksgiving weekend. If all goes according to plan, Georgia will head into this contest knowing that it has another game the following Saturday – the SEC Championship. If that’s the case, then the Bulldogs’ BCS fate will be decided by the outcome of their next game and not this one against the Yellow Jackets. However, there’s also the possibility that Georgia could head into the SEC title game undefeated or with just one loss. Under that scenario, the Bulldogs would not be able to afford a loss to Georgia Tech if they wanted to even remain in the national title discussion headed into the SEC Championship Game. A Yellow Jackets’ win under these circumstances would be the epitome of a “stinging” loss for Georgia fans, no?

Biggest Game AND Season-Defining Moment: SEC Championship (Dec. 1)
If all goes according to plan this fall, Georgia should come out on top in the SEC East and make a second straight trip to the conference championship game. If that happens, the Bulldogs will be presented with a golden opportunity to put the struggles of 2009 and ’10 and the disappointing end to the ’11 campaign behind them if they are able to knock off the best of the SEC West, presumably LSU or Alabama. Besides defeating one of the nation’s top teams and being crowned as the champion of the nation’s toughest conference, Georgia would secure no worse than its first BCS bowl invitation since the 2007 season. In fact, if everything were to fall into place (see Trap Game), a win in the SEC Championship Game could potentially result in Georgia getting the opportunity to win its first national title since 1980.

Defensive MVP: LB Jarvis Jones
Jones had to sit out the 2010 season following his transfer from USC. If his 2011 campaign is any indication, he was well worth the wait. In his first season at Georgia, Jones wreaked havoc on the SEC as he became the school’s first position player to be named a consensus All-American since 2005. Jones also was a Butkus Award finalist who led the SEC and finished fifth in the nation in sacks per game, while also leading the conference in tackles for loss (16th nationally). Jones’ total of 13.5 sacks in 2011 was a half-sack shy of David Pollack’s school single-season record of 14, which he set in 2002.  And he did all of this as a sophomore. The good news for the rest of the SEC is chances are he will only be around for one more season, as he considered leaving early for the NFL this year. The bad news is he will be around for one more season.

Unsung Hero: DE Abry Jones
Georgia’s other Jones went from a part-time starter in 2010 to a full-time starter in 2011 and certainly produced like one. The senior posted career bests across the board last season, finishing with 48 tackles (28 solo), seven tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups and a forced fumble. At the conclusion of the season, Jones was named one of the recipients of the team’s Most Improved Player Awards on the defense. Jones’ presence on the defensive line and his production from his defensive end position was one of the reasons why the Bulldogs finished fifth in the nation in total defense and 11th in rushing defense in 2011.

Newcomer to Watch: TE Jay Rome
Rome has seen more action on the basketball court rather than the football field to this point, but that figures to change this season for the redshirt freshman. Rome played in seven games for Georgia’s basketball team last season, during which he scored a total of two points, pulled down seven rebounds and two steals in 17 minutes of court action. The production coaches are hoping for this fall is in terms of catches, yards and, hopefully, touchdowns as Rome and junior Arthur Lynch will get the first crack at replacing the production of Orson Charles. Charles, who earned first-team All-SEC honors and tied for second on the team with 45 catches and five touchdown receptions in 2011, was Georgia’s lone early entry into this year’s NFL Draft. The Cincinnati Bengals took Charles in the fourth round and now quarterback Aaron Murray is hoping Rome or Lynch will be able to develop into a reliable target in the Bulldogs’ passing game. Lynch may have more experience than Rome, but he has caught a total of two passes in his two previous seasons, whereas Rome was a highly regarded in-state tight end prospect coming out of Valdosta High School. Perhaps as a sign of things to come, Rome hauled in a 66-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Christian LeMay in the spring game.

Comeback Player: OL Kolton Houston
Houston sat out last year due to NCAA “eligibility issues” and entered spring practice fighting for playing time at one of the guard positions on Georgia’s revamped offensive line. By the end of spring practice, however, the sophomore from Buford, Ga., was the starter at right tackle. Offensive line coach Will Friend apparently saw enough from the former Under Armour All-American to not only switch him from guard to tackle, but to also tab him as the presumptive starter headed into fall practice. Whether Houston is able to retain the starting assignment by the time Georgia opens its 2012 season against Buffalo on Sept. 1 remains to be seen. However, given the fact that the Bulldogs are looking to replace three starters, all of whom were taken in this year’s NFL Draft, the opportunity is clearly there for someone to emerge and lay claim to one of these jobs. And it appears Houston is already on his way to doing just that.

Freshman to Watch I: RB Keith Marshall
Even though Georgia is returning four of its top five rushers from last season, led by reigning SEC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Crowell (850 yards rushing, five TDs), don’t be surprised if Marshall gets his share of touches before the 2012 season is finished. Marshall was one of the top running back prospects in the nation coming out of Millbrook High School in Raleigh, N.C. He enrolled in January to participate in spring practice, but suffered a hamstring injury that limited his involvement and kept him from participating in the spring game. However, Marshall, who rushed for 1,891 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior, still figures to be a part of what should be a spirited competition once fall practice begins. Besides Marshall and Crowell, others vying for carries in the Bulldogs’ backfield in 2012 include senior Richard Samuel, junior Brandon Harton, sophomore Ken Malcome and incoming freshman Todd Gurley. Gurley, like Marshall, is also a highly regarded recruit from North Carolina, and it was actually Marshall who helped convince Gurley to sign with Georgia.

Freshman to Watch II: LB Josh Harvey-Clemons
Georgia’s top recruit on the defensive side, Harvey-Clemons was rated one of the top linebacker prospects in the nation and one of the top players in Georgia after starring at Lowndes High School in Valdosta. The Bulldogs are in great shape at linebacker with All-American Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson and others, but the coaching staff is already thinking of ways to get Harvey-Clemons on the field, despite the fact that he hasn’t even arrived on campus yet. There has already been talk that the talented freshman will see time at both linebacker and safety on defense, and perhaps even make an appearance on offense lined up as a tight end or receiver, especially once the Bulldogs are in the red zone.

Position to Watch: Offensive Line
Georgia saw three offensive linemen — Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones and Justin Anderson — taken in April’s NFL Draft, which means there will be several new faces along the line come this fall. Combined those three made 125 starts for the Bulldogs, meaning quarterback Aaron Murray and the running game will be relying on a relatively inexperienced unit in 2012.

The returning starters are juniors Chris Burnette (right guard) and Kenarious Gates (left tackle). After that is where things get interesting as evident by the fact that sophomore Kolton Houston, who missed all of last season due to “eligibility issues,” is currently penciled in as the starter at right tackle. Another sophomore, David Andrews appears to have an early hold on the starting assignment at center.

There is no lack of candidates for the final spot, left guard, including juniors Austin Long and Dallas Lee and sophomores Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler. There’s also incoming freshman John Theus, the No. 2 offensive lineman prospect in the nation by Athlon Sports.

Whoever the starting five end up being come Georgia’s Sept. 1 opener against Buffalo, the coaching staff is hoping that it’s a unit that can come together and do its part to help the Bulldogs reach their goals for the 2012 season, namely a SEC championship.

Related Georgia Content

Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Team Preview
Georgia Bulldogs' Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Georgia Win the SEC Title in 2012?

Georgia Bulldogs' Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Georgia Football History

Georgia Bulldogs Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Georgia Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Georgia Bulldogs 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 24, 2012 - 05:51

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