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Path: /college-football/conference-usa-football-2013-predictions
2013 C-USA Predictions    
East Division C-USA Overall
1. Marshall 6-2 8-5
2. East Carolina 6-2 7-5
3. MTSU 5-3 7-5
4. UAB 4-4 5-7
5. Southern Miss 4-4 5-7
6. FAU 2-6 3-9
7. FIU 1-7 2-10
  West Division    
1. Tulsa 7-1 10-3
2. Rice 6-2 8-4
3. Louisiana Tech 6-2 7-5
4. UTEP 4-4 5-7
5. Tulane 2-6 4-8
6. North Texas 2-6 3-9
7. UTSA 1-7 1-11
  C-USA Championship  
  Tulsa over Marshall    

With the departure of Houston, UCF, Memphis and SMU to the American Athletic Conference, the landscape of Conference USA has changed for the 2013 season. And get ready to get out the eraser again next season, as Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane depart, with Western Kentucky and Old Dominion sliding into their place.

While the depth of the conference took a hit with the departure of two teams that played for the C-USA title over the past two years, it’s also a new opportunity for some teams.

Marshall has yet to match its run of dominance from the 1990s in Conference USA, with its last season of more than seven wins coming in 2003. The Thundering Herd is Athlon’s pick to win the East Division this season, especially since they host East Carolina on Nov. 30 and return 14 overall starters, including quarterback Rakeem Cato. The big question mark for Marshall is a defense that allowed 43.1 points a game last year.

Much like Marshall, East Carolina returns a standout offense (31.5 points a game in 2012), but the defense is a question mark. Coach Ruffin McNeill switched coordinators, hiring Rick Smith to improve a defense that ranked 10th in the conference against the pass last year.

Outside of Marshall and East Carolina, the rest of the East Division is up for grabs. MTSU rebounded from an opening week loss to McNeese State to finish 8-4 last year. The Blue Raiders are a slight favorite to edge UAB and Southern Miss for the third spot. However, the Blazers and the Golden Eagles are trending in the right direction. FAU and FIU bring up the bottom of the East Division, and both teams have significant question marks going into 2013.

Defending Conference USA champion Tulsa must replace nine starters on defense, but the offense is loaded thanks to the return of quarterback Cody Green and running backs Trey Watts and Ja’Terian Douglas. The Golden Hurricane must play the top two teams from the East in the regular season, which could play a key role in deciding homefield advantage for the conference title game.

After finishing 2012 on a five-game winning streak, Rice should be Tulsa’s top challenger in the West. The Owls return 18 starters and won’t play Marshall or East Carolina during the regular season.

Louisiana Tech and UTEP are neck-and-neck for the No. 3 and No. 4 spots. The Bulldogs suffered a plethora of personnel losses, but welcome Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young at quarterback. The Miners also have a transfer at quarterback – Jameill Showers from Texas A&M - but return only three starters on defense. Both teams have a new coaching staff, with UTEP under the direction of former player Sean Kugler, and Louisiana Tech led by former USF and Connecticut coach Skip Holtz.

Tulane, North Texas and UTSA round out the West Division predictions. The Green Wave should show some signs of improvement in 2013, and the schedule is favorable enough to expect a run at bowl eligibility. North Texas is also making progress under third-year coach Dan McCarney, but expecting a huge jump in win total is unlikely for 2013. The Roadrunners went 8-4 in their first season on the FBS level last season. However, the schedule is very challenging, and coach Larry Coker needs another year or two to build depth in the program.

2013 Conference USA Team Previews

East Division West Division
East Carolina Louisiana Tech
FAU North Texas
FIU Rice
Marshall Tulane
MTSU Tulsa
Southern Miss UTEP

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<p> Conference USA Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, June 10, 2013 - 07:40
Path: /college-football/campus-quarterbacks-best-friend

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The tight end position has evolved into a highly sought-after commodity at the NFL level.

A lot of that has to do with the type of athletes who are suiting up and honing their craft in college. The really talented ones are an integral part of any offensive scheme and bolster a quarterback's confidence when dropping back in the pocket.

Here is a list of the top tight ends at the FBS level in 2013:

AUSTIN SEFERIAN-JENKINS (Washington): While position rankings can be subjective, that isn't the case at tight end. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Seferian-Jenkins is a nightmare for opposing defenses to handle and is without a doubt the top player at his position in the country. He was named to the All-Pac-12 second team and was a finalist for the Mackey Award in 2012, hauling in 69 balls for 850 yards and seven touchdowns. He doesn't have the straight-line speed to blow by defenders, but he uses his size to his advantage and adjusts for the ball in flight. The only thing that could derail an All-America campaign this season outside of injury is Seferian-Jenkins himself. An off-season arrest for DUI has left the talented playmaker suspended from team activities, and until the case plays itself out in the court system, Seferian-Jenkins is in football limbo.

COLT LYERLA (Oregon): He may not have put up eye-popping numbers in Oregon's prolific offensive attack, but there is no mistaking Lyerla's enormous talent. This 6-5, 246-pounder can do it all on the field. Chip Kelly made sure to showcase that last year, as Lyerla finished with 25 catches for 392 yards and six touchdowns. He also added a seventh score on 13 carries. A prep standout at running back and linebacker, Lyerla is perhaps the most athletic tight end in the country, something the NFL is looking for at the position. Kelly is no longer calling the plays in Eugene, but the script won't change that much for Oregon going forward. The playmakers on offense will continue to shine, and Lyerla has as bright a future as any Duck on the roster.

ERIC EBRON (North Carolina): Another supreme athlete at the position, the 6-4, 245-pound Ebron is evolving into a complete player in Chapel Hill. The junior is extremely fast, explosive after the catch and doesn't mind blocking. A second-team All-ACC selection as a sophomore in 2012, Ebron finished with 40 receptions for 625 yards and four touchdowns. UNC's workhorse tailback Giovani Bernard has moved on to the NFL and North Carolina could get more vertical in its offensive play-calling as a result. That could mean big numbers for Ebron, who will undoubtedly be one of Bryn Renner's top targets in 2013.

C.J. FIEDOROWICZ (Iowa): This Iowa Hawkeye isn't the greatest athlete at the position, but he is as reliable as they come. A huge target at 6-7, 265 pounds, Fiedorowicz knows how to take advantage of smaller defenders. He earned All-Big Ten honorable mention a year ago, finishing with 45 receptions, for 433 yards and one touchdown. He also may be the best blocking tight end on this list, a skill set that will help bolster his NFL stock when draft time comes around.

XAVIER GRIMBLE (USC): On a team that featured two All-Americans in Marqise Lee and Robert Woods on the outside, it wasn't easy for this Trojan to earn recognition as a viable receiving threat. However, that was a common mistake for USC's opponents, as the 6-5, 250-pound Grimble made plays when on the field (nine starts last year), finishing 2012 with 29 catches for 316 yards and five touchdowns. The Trojans are stock-piling at the position with Randall Telfer and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick fighting to earn playing time, but it is Grimble who has been the most productive. Another big target with above- average athleticism for the position, Grimble will continue to produce in USC's offensive attack.

JACOB PEDERSEN (Wisconsin): The 6-4, 240-pound Pedersen gets better with each year in Madison. After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2011, he was an All-Big Ten first-team member as a junior in 2012. He finished last season with 27 receptions for 355 yards and four touchdowns, but his modest numbers were more a product of a heavy emphasis on the run (Montee Ball) and subpar quarterback play than anything else. While new head coach Gary Anderson has a defensive pedigree, he will maximize his offensive talent in his debut season with the Badgers and that is likely to include Pedersen.

NICK O'LEARY (Florida State): The 6-3, 238-pound Seminole is a bit undersized at this time, but he has shown flashes of brilliant play over the last two seasons and has some real potential. A receiving threat who can line up outside and make plays down the field, O'Leary finished last season with 21 receptions for 242 yards and three touchdowns. It marked the most TD catches by a tight end at FSU since 1994. With some added bulk and dedication to blocking, O'Leary has the chance to really make a name for himself in 2013.

ARTHUR LYNCH (Georgia): Relegated to backup duty until last year, the 6-5, 260-pound Lynch showed enough in 14 games (13 starts) to land on this list, finishing with 26 catches for 448 yards and three touchdowns. He has great size and is probably a better blocker than most on this list. The Bulldogs have supreme talent at the skill positions this year and Lynch certainly could take advantage with a seasoned quarterback, Aaron Murray, who wants to go out with a bang.

CHRIS COYLE (Arizona State): A special teams ace his first two seasons in Tempe, Coyle burst on the scene as a legitimate vertical threat in Arizona State's passing game last year, finishing with a team-high 57 receptions (a school record for a tight end) for 696 yards and five touchdowns. He falls into the "tweener" category, with marginal size (6-3, 238) for the tight end position, but that didn't stop Coyle from becoming a key target in 2012.

KANEAKUA FRIEL (BYU): The 6-5, 250-pound Friel took time off from football to do mission work in Africa, but got right back into the swing of things in 2012, finishing with 30 receptions for 308 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. He provided glimpses of strong play last year and is a competent blocker, but will need to be a more consistent offensive threat in 2013 to bolster his draft stock.

HONORABLE MENTION: Asa Watson (North Carolina State), Jordan Najvar (Baylor), Jace Amaro (Texas Tech), Ted Bosler (Indiana) and Ben Koyack (Notre Dame).

<p> The tight end position has evolved into a highly sought-after commodity at the NFL level.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 7, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/most-shameful-college-football-games-2013

Everyone likes to win on Homecoming. A quick warm-up game to start the season isn’t bad, either.

The problem is, every program has to pay the bills, too. Guarantee games, in which major programs shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for games against overmatched opponents from the lower levels, are one of the downsides of college football.

Not all of these games are awful. Every year a few FCS teams, despite fewer scholarships and resources, step up to beat a major program (right, Michigan?).

But most don’t have a chance. These are the games both sides should be embarrassed to play.

This season, Miami and Al Golden receive top honors in this category, though it was a tough call. Oregon will fly a Louisiana team all the way up to Eugene just for a warm-up for two non-conference games against AQ opponents. But Miami gets the nod after we saw last season what happens when Savannah State faces a major conference team (or two).

A few things to establish:

• A shameful game is a proven, major conference program hosting a bad FCS team. And a bad FCS team isn’t just a team with a poor record last year. These are teams that have been the worst of the worst in lower Division I for a few seasons.

• Extra shame points go to teams bringing a bad FCS team across state lines and time zones. If a big-time FBS team is going to crush an overmatched opponent, giving an in-state or regional team a brief taste of major college football is the least the big brother can do.

• Lastly — and this is very important — we do not care why this game was scheduled, and we do not care what other games are on the schedule this season. Last year, Florida State picked up Savannah State because West Virginia backed out of a non-conference game last year. Seminoles fans still wasted time and money to watch a 55-0 beatdown.

So take our advice, skip these games. Don’t buy a ticket. Don’t watch on TV. And athletic directors on both sides, have a little dignity and stop scheduling these opponents.


1. Sept. 21: Savannah State (1-10, 0-8 MEAC) at Miami (team preview)
Welcome back, Savannah State. A year ago, Savannah State earned $860,000 just for losing by a combined 139-0 to Oklahoma State and Florida State to start the season. Mike Gundy practically apologized for not being able to stop his team from running up the score, but at least Florida State failed to cover the 69.5-point spread by winning 55-0. Last year, Savannah State was ranked 243rd among 247 Division I teams in the Sagarin ratings, earning its only win over Edward Waters of the NAIA. Miami coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger once said he’d play anyone, anywhere. This was not what he had in mind.

2. Aug. 31: Nicholls State (1-10, 0-8 Southland) at Oregon (team preview)
Generally, Oregon does a good job with its non-conference schedule. In recent years, the Ducks have faced LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Boise State and Fresno State with a handful of those games coming away from Eugene. Offsetting those games have been FCS guarantee games: Tennessee Tech, Missouri State and Portland State in the past three seasons. This year, the Ducks open with Nicholls State before facing Tennessee and Virginia. Oregon will bring the Colonels all the way from Thibodaux, La., to Eugene; a team that has gone 2-20 the past two seasons. And it doesn't look to get much better. After losing to Oregon State 77-3 in the final game of 2012, Nicholls State will face four consecutive FBS teams by visiting Western Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette after Oregon.

3. Sept. 21: Idaho State (1-10, 0-8 Big Sky) at Washington (team preview)
Like Oregon, Washington isn’t afraid of stepping out of the Pac-12 for a big matchup. The Huskies have faced LSU, Nebraska, BYU, Boise State, Oklahoma and Syracuse in recent seasons. Washington opens with Boise State and Illinois before facing Idaho State, but as we said, that’s no excuse. Idaho State has gone 6-50 in the last five seasons and hasn’t won more than two games in a year since 2007.

4. Nov. 16: Idaho State at BYU (team preview)
Even if finding games is tough for an independent, BYU doesn’t get a free pass for scheduling the Bengals, either.

5. Sept. 14: Lamar (4-8, 1-6 Southland) at Oklahoma State (team preview)
Lamar didn’t play football from 1990-2009, but now the Cardinals find themselves playing in Stillwater four years after resuming the program. A signal of perhaps how this game could go: Lamar lost 54-2 for Hawaii’s only win before Thanksgiving last season.

6. Aug. 31: Austin Peay (2-9, 1-7 OVC) at Tennessee (team preview)
Butch Jones was the coach at Cincinnati in 2011 when the Bearcats defeated Austin Peay 72-10. Now, he gets to do the same as Tennessee’s coach. Austin Peay has had one winning season since 1984 and didn’t return to scholarship football until 2006.

7. Oct. 12: Western Carolina (1-10, 0-8 Southern) at Auburn (team preview)
As bad as Auburn was last season, the Tigers could handle the FCS and the lower levels of FBS. In 2012, Auburn defeated New Mexico State and Alabama A&M by a combined score of 93-14. Meanwhile, Western Carolina has gone 12-66 the last seven seasons which includes shutout losses to Florida, Florida State and Vanderbilt.

8. Aug. 29: Presbyterian (2-9, 0-6 Big South) at Wake Forest (team preview)
What should make this game more shameful for Wake Forest? That Presbyterian won two games last season with one over a Division II team that went 2-9? Or that the Blue Hose lost to Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 117-3? Presbyterian is 12-44 in the last five seasons and ranked 240th in Sagarin last year.

9. Sept. 7: Tennessee Tech (3-8, 1-7 OVC) at Wisconsin (team preview)
Even with former Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech went 3-8 last season, including a 63-14 loss to Oregon. Interesting factoid: Provided Tennessee Tech defeats NAIA Cumberland University in the opener, coach Watson Brown against Wisconsin will “earn” his 191st career loss, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the all-time record (tip of the hat to Athlon’s Rob Doster).

10. Sept. 7: South Dakota (1-10, 0-10 MVC) at Kansas (team preview)
Kansas had better win this one, that’s for sure. South Dakota went 1-10 last season in the first season under Joe Glenn, who was fired at Wyoming in 2008 but was successful in the lower divisions at Northern Colorado and Montana.

11. Sept. 21: VMI (2-9, 1-5 Big South) at Virginia (team preview)
Keeping the guarantee money in state is one thing, but this game is egregiously bad. Better to treat this game as a financial transaction than a source of entertainment. VMI is 19-80 since 2004 and was ranked 238th in Sagarin last season.

12. Sept. 7: Southeast Missouri State (3-8, 2-6 OVC) at Ole Miss (team preview)
Ole Miss just signed the nation’s No. 1 recruit, while SEMO is 6-16 the last two seasons with one winning season in the last decade.

13. Nov. 16: Chattanooga (6-5, 5-3 Southern) at Alabama (team preview)
Chattanooga is a mediocre FCS team, but Alabama has been proto-NFL for the last five seasons.

14. Sept. 14: Western Illinois (3-8, 1-7 MVC) at Minnesota (team preview)
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has made the rounds at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. Maybe he’ll show a little compassion for a Western Illinois team that scored 17 points in its final five games last season.

15. Sept. 7: Missouri State (3-8, 3-5 MVC) at Iowa (team preview)
There’s no shame in losing big to Kansas State and Louisville as Missouri State did last season, but the Bears have not won more than six games since 1996.

<p> Which major powers should be embarrassed for these guarantee games?</p>
Post date: Friday, June 7, 2013 - 11:00
Path: /nascar/pocono-key-denny-hamlins-nascar-chase-hopes

1. Denny Hamlin needs Pocono more than ever
A crash last Sunday at Dover International Speedway after a flat tire dented Denny Hamlin's hope of a strong run and probably didn't feel the best for a guy just weeks removed from a pretty serious back injury. Hamlin, however, seems to be worried about one thing: Making the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

One of — make that two of — the best things Hamlin his in his uphill climb to the redemption of entry into NASCAR's playoff system is a pair of visits to Pocono Raceway. You may remember that Hamlin won his first Cup race at Pocono in 2006 even after he cut a tire and crashed one-fourth of the way in. Since, he has four wins and sits just two behind Pocono active wins leader Jeff Gordon.

"We were certainly disappointed with the way Dover ended for us, and now it’s up to our FedEx team to dig down and capitalize on some of our better tracks coming up," Hamlin said.

Hamlin's continuing climb starts this week from 26th in Sprint Cup points, some 224 points behind the leader Jimmie Johnson. To get to 20th and become eligible for one of two at-large bids, Hamlin needs to make up 74 points on Ryan Newman (currently 20th) between Sunday and Richmond in September. And he’ll need, at the very least, one win.

A victory this weekend — and season sweep of Pocono, if he's really feeling greedy — would be immensely helpful.

2. Drivers appreciate Pocono's shift work
Plenty of scenes in Days of Thunder feature an oddity that Sprint Cup drivers never use: shifting mid-corner or mid-straightaway as a device to find more speed while already racing at normal pace. It won't be exactly how Cole Trickle does it in the movie this weekend at Pocono, but drivers will get to at least act like they are during each green flag lap.

Pocono's odd three-corner layout demands slow speeds in two corners that lay ahead of two extremely fast straightaways. The contrast bogs a car's engine in a low RPM range if just one gear for an entire lap is being used, which in turn depletes peak acceleration. Since the track opened in 1971, most drivers shifted between third and fourth gears to maximize performance until a new gear rule unexpectedly made that impossible in 2005. The gear rule changed again in 2011 and brought shifting back.

"It’s a fun race track and with the shifting it’s a really tough racetrack. It’s almost like a road course, it’s really tough on the cars and it’s a mentally challenging racetrack," said Carl Edwards.

"It's like a three-cornered, left handed road course, making it a lot of fun to drive," said Paul Menard.

<p> Geoffrey Miller highlights the five storylines to follow as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Friday, June 7, 2013 - 10:09
Path: /college-football/sun-belt-football-predictions-2013
2013 Sun Belt Predictions SBC Overall
1. UL Lafayette 6-1 9-3
2. ULM 5-2 7-5
3. Western Kentucky 5-2 7-5
4. Arkansas State 4-3 6-6
5. Troy 4-3 6-6
6. Texas State 2-5 4-8
7. South Alabama 2-5 3-9
8. Georgia State 0-7 1-11

Much like many of the other conferences in college football, realignment has changed the Sun Belt’s team lineup for 2013.

FAU, FIU, MTSU and North Texas left to join Conference USA, leaving the Sun Belt with just eight teams for 2013. However, the Sun Belt is facing another round of changes next season, as New Mexico State and Idaho will join the conference, while Western Kentucky is headed to Conference USA. Georgia Southern and Appalachian State will make the move from FCS to FBS next year to compete in the Sun Belt. 

In time, the moves should provide the Sun Belt with some stability. However, it may take some time for the league's new members to become a yearly title contender. 

While realignment has dominated the Sun Belt over the last few offseasons, the race to win the conference title should be an entertaining four-way battle between UL Lafayette, ULM, Western Kentucky and Arkansas State.

The Ragin Cajuns’ are a slight favorite to win the league, but the Warhawks return 16 starters, including quarterback Kolton Browning. The Nov. 30 showdown between the Ragin’ Cajuns and Warhawks in Lafayette, La. could decide the Sun Belt crown.

Chasing UL Lafayette and ULM is Western Kentucky and Arkansas State. The Hilltoppers made one of the offseason’s top hires in former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino and return running back Antonio Andrews (1,728 yards in 2012). The Red Wolves will have their fourth coach in four years, but the personnel is among the best in the league.

Troy could have one of the best offenses in the Sun Belt, but the defense is a major question mark after allowing 443.6 yards per game last year.

Texas State, South Alabama and Georgia State round out the Sun Belt predictions for 2013. The Bobcats have the most upside out of this trio this year, and their hopes of getting to a winning record are bolstered by transfers Michael Orakpo (Colorado State) and D.J. Yendrey (TCU). South Alabama were competitive last year and return 15 starters for 2013. Georgia State made an excellent hire by pulling Trent Miles away from Indiana State, but the Panthers have a lot of ground to make up on the rest of the Sun Belt in their first season on the FBS level.


2013 Sun Belt Team Previews

Arkansas State Troy
Georgia State UL Lafayette
South Alabama UL Monroe
Texas State Western Kentucky

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<p> Sun Belt Football Predictions for 2013</p>
Post date: Friday, June 7, 2013 - 07:50
All taxonomy terms: high school, MLB, NBA, NFL, NFL, NBA, MLB, High School
Path: /nfl/greatest-high-school-classmates-sports-history

Some high schools have only one big man on campus. Others have a whole gang of future stars running the hallways. These are the 10 greatest high school classmates in sports history.

Robert Nkemdiche and Austin Meadows
Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.)

The class of the Class of 2013, Nkemdiche and Meadows were this year’s consensus top prospects in football and baseball, respectively. Nkemdiche is a chiseled 6’5”, 260-pound defensive end, while Meadows is a 6-foot-3, 200-pound five-tool center fielder. Nkemdiche has stardom ahead of him at Ole Miss while Meadows was selected ninth overall by the Pirates in the MLB Draft.

Randy Moss and Jason Williams
DuPont High School (Belle, W.Va.)

One of the greatest jump-ball receivers in NFL history was one of West Virginia’s best-ever high school dunkers, catching alley-oops from a mop-topped “White Chocolate” in the mid-1990s. Jerry West may be the greatest prep player in Mountain State history, but Moss and Williams were so fun to watch that their highlights were later turned into a Nike commercial.

John Havlicek and Phil Niekro
Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Ohio)

“Hondo” was an eight-time NBA champ with the Boston Celtics. “Knucksie” was the godfather of the knuckleball, most notably for the Atlanta Braves — for whom he pitched a no-hitter in 1973. They lived on the same street, went on fishing trips together and were high school classmates in the late 1950s. Now each is a member of his sport’s respective Hall of Fame.

Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw
Highland Park High School (Dallas, Texas)

Before becoming an NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick quarterback and NL Cy Young-winning starting pitcher, respectively, Stafford and Kershaw were childhood buddies who grew up playing on the same basketball and soccer teams before becoming a dominant pair of arms — righty and lefty, to boot — at the top of Highland Park’s pitching rotation in the early 2000s.

Jason Segel and Jason Collins
Harvard-Westlake School (Los Angeles, Calif.)

The first openly gay NBA player teamed up with the comic actor best known for his work on the cult classic Freaks and Geeks and CBS hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The Collins twins (Jason and Jarron) were McDonald’s All-Americans. Segel, however, was a high energy “low budget Mark Madsen” who even won a dunk contest back in the day.

Victor Oladipo and Cyrus Kouandjio
DeMatha Catholic High School (Hyattsville, Md.)

Fun names to say, Oladipo and Kouandjio. Oladipo was a high-flying Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year on the hardwood at Indiana, while Kouandjio is a national championship-winner on the gridiron at Alabama. Two physical freaks and future millionaires — Oladipo is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and Kouandjio is a preseason All-American penciled into the top 10 of every 2014 NFL Draft mock.

Marv Albert and Neil Diamond
Abraham Lincoln High School (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Yessshhh!!!! The leather-loving NBA announcer was a classmate of the seventh-inning stretch “Sweet Caroline” soft rocker. Two of the best voices in sports attended the same high school that Jesus Shuttlesworth played for in Spike Lee’s “He Got Game” — not to mention ballers Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson, and legendary authors Arthur Miller and Joseph Heller.

Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz
Long Beach Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.)

Don’t act like Snoop and Cam aren’t in the world of sports. Snoop Dogg coaches pee-wee football and gave Oregon speedster De’Anthony Thomas his “Black Mamba” nickname. Diaz was a cheerleader, played an owner in "Any Given Sunday" and stole the show by feeding A-Rod popcorn at the Super Bowl. But back in the late-80s, these two owned the halls at Long Beach Poly.

Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker
Mount Carmel High School (Chicago, Ill.)

Before McNabb was dry-heaving in the Super Bowl and Walker was shimmy-ing following yet another bad 3-point attempt, the duo teamed up in Chi-town. McNabb played football, ran track and hooped with Walker — as well as future NFL star Simeon Rice. Despite having three future pro athletes on the same court, Mount Carmel failed to win a state championship during the mid-1990s run.

Bill Belichick and Buzz Bissinger
Phillips Academy (Andover, Mass.)

Classmates with Florida governor Jeb Bush, the three-time Super Bowl winning coach and Friday Night Lights author are just two of the seemingly endless list of distinguished alumni from Phillips Andover — which also boasts the likes of both Presidents George Bush (H.W. and W.), John F. Kennedy Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock.

<p> Greatest High School Classmates in Sports History, including Robert Nkemdiche and Austin Meadows, John Havlicek and Phil Niekro, Matthew Stafford and Clayton Kershaw, Randy Moss and Jason Williams, Jason Segel and Jason Collins, Victor Oladipo and Cyrus Kouandjio, Marv Albert and Neil Diamond, Snoop Dogg and Cameron Diaz, Donovan McNabb and Antoine Walker, Bill Belichick and Buzz Bissinger.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 17:49
All taxonomy terms: Austin Meadows, MLB, Monthly
Path: /monthly/classmates-austin-meadows-and-robert-nkemdiche-are-top-prospects

When Austin Meadows tries to balance what’s left of his high school experience with the demands of being one of Major League Baseball’s next great center fielders, he’s got a sympathetic ear just down the hall at Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga.

Meadows is classmates with Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s top overall college football prospect for the class of 2013. Meadows is a 6'3", 200-pound left-handed outfield prospect whom some analysts have projected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB Draft (June 6-8). 

“We’re both really blessed to be going through these situations right now. We’re each doing our own thing, but we’ve talked about how special it is,” Meadows says.

Meadows is currently wrapping up his senior season at Grayson amidst the constant presence of MLB scouts and baseball media from across the country. But it’s nothing new around Grayson, as Nkemdiche’s talent made the campus a preferred destination for a who’s who in college football coaching over the last two years.

“I think it made me a little bit more prepared for what was coming with Austin,” Grayson baseball coach Jed Hixson says. “Every day on campus you’d pass Kirby Smart or see Nick Saban. When it came time, I met with Austin’s parents and talked about the scouts and attention, and what to expect. He’s responded to it great. Austin’s one of the most humble kids I know.”

Grayson High School and the greater community of Gwinnett County are a fertile crescent for athletes in 2013. Nkemdiche’s recruitment became a national storyline for well over the standard year-long recruiting cycle. Originally a verbal commit to Clemson, Nkemdiche was courted by every major program in the country for his rare combination of size (6'5", and a “raw” 260 pounds before college conditioning) and speed. Unlike game-changing South Carolina defensive end and likely 2014 NFL Draft No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, Nkemdiche was also a proficient running back for the Rams.

During a nationally televised press conference at Grayson on the morning of National Signing Day (Feb. 6), Nkemdiche chose to join his older brother Denzel at Ole Miss.

“It’s a relief that it’s over now, but I had fun in the process,” Robert Nkemdiche says. “Now it’s all about focusing on what’s ahead and proving myself.”

While both players are considered among the absolute best in their age group in their respective sports, their wooing has differed greatly. Nkemdiche and his family were largely in control of the recruiting process, selecting which schools the game-changing strong-side end would visit and consider.

Meadows, who is committed to play at Clemson, is at the mercy of MLB team needs and his landing spot is still unknown.

“I don’t really like getting caught up in all the evaluations. I just stick to playing baseball and keeping a level head. Different people might criticize me but that just makes me work harder,” Meadows says.

That has included working on his bat speed and his throwing. Meadows says that he’s worked extensively with coaches and his father, a former punter at Morehead State, on creating “comfort” throwing from the outfield.

“I’ve said to him, ‘Stay positive. Keep your nose clean and stay humble, and put God first.’ That’s what I go by,” Nkemdiche says.

Hixson credits the land-rush style settlement of the greater Loganville area in the last decade as well as a strong relationship between the area’s public schools and parks programs as the reasons why so many top-tier athletes are coming through the Rams’ various athletic programs. 

“The prospects we’ve had here create a chain for kids to come. They’ve brought more and more exposure and that helps the players following them,” Hixson says. “It’s been kind of cool to have the attention Austin has brought for other kids in the program. Certainly some burdens are expected, but they’ve been outweighed by the exposure he’s brought to his teammates.” 

One thing is for certain: Meadows and Nkemdiche are considered pinnacle prospects at their respective games, but there won’t be any Bo Jackson cross-sport action from either student. If there’s a downside of too many top-tier athletes in the same high school, it revealed itself when Meadows, once a running back at Grayson, had to attempt to block Nkemdiche in practice. “It was just one time in practice, I had to block down on him, thankfully, but he went right by.”

For his part Nkemdiche said he wouldn’t want to run against Meadow’s arm in the outfield. “I’d probably be out,” he admits.

by Steven Godfrey

<p> Classmates Austin Meadows and Robert Nkemdiche are Top Prospects</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-big-12-early-rankings

The Big 12 enjoyed one of the best offseasons of any major conference. Or at least one that will help the league enter 2013-14 with some degree of renown.

First, point guard Marcus Smart elected to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season, turning the Cowboys into a potential top-15 team. Baylor’s Isaiah Austin followed suit by staying in school as well. Then, Bill Self landed mega-recruit Andrew Wiggins, prying him from Kentucky, North Carolina and Florida State.

Kansas and Oklahoma State will enter the 2013-14 season as frontline teams in the Big 12 with Baylor knocking on the door.

Iowa State and Oklahoma have enough personnel returning -- and arriving via transfer -- to keep those schools competitive. In the bottom half of the league, Texas and West Virginia were once consistent NCAA Tournament teams, but both are continuing to rebuild.

Here’s a quick look at the comings and goings in the Big 12 for 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
Big East
Big Ten
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others

1. KANSAS (31-6, 14-4, NCAA Sweet 16)

Key players gone: Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young

Top returning players: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe

New faces: Tarik Black (transfer from Memphis) Joel Embiid (freshman), Conner Frankamp (freshman), Brannen Green (freshman), Landen Lucas (redshirt), Wayne Selden (freshman), Andrew Wiggins (freshman)
Kansas lost all five starters, but the Jayhawks had as good an offseason as any team. Kansas added the nation’s No. 1 prospect in Wiggins, a 6-8 wing who could be an elite defender on the college level. Moreover, Wiggins’ signing boosted a recruiting class that was already one of the nation’s best with three other top-50 recruits. Kansas also added coveted Memphis transfer Tarik Black, a solid big man who will add experience to the young roster. The Jayhawks also will expect a breakout season from Ellis, who averaged 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 13.6 minutes last season.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: ACC

2. OKLAHOMA STATE (24-9, 13-5, NCAA round of 64)

Key players gone: Philip Jurick

Top returners: Markel Brown, Michael Cobbins, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy, Le’Bryan Nash, Marcus Smart
New faces: Stevie Clark, Detrick Mostella (freshmen)
Before Wiggins picked Kansas, Oklahoma State looked like a clear favorite in the Big 12. With Smart’s surprising return to school, Oklahoma State will still have an edge in experience over Kansas. Smart will be a player of the year candidate and has the supporting cast to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament with fellow McDonald’s All-American Nash plus Brown and Forte. All four averaged at least 10 points per game.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

3. BAYLOR (23-14, 9-9, NIT champions)
Key players gone: Deuce Bello, Pierre Jackson, A.J. Walton
Top returners: Isaiah Austin, Gary Franklin, Rico Gathers, Brady Heslip, Cory Jefferson 
New faces: Allerik Freeman, Johnathan Motley, Ishmail Wainright (freshmen)
Baylor has the roster to be a top-25 team and Big 12 contender, but the Bears continue to confound. The return of the 7-foot-1 Austin was a major boost for Baylor’s 2014 prospects along with the presence of three seniors (Franklin, Heslip and Jefferson). The frontcourt should be a strength, but Heslip needs help on the perimeter. The good news? Baylor has reached the Tourney in each of the past three even-numbered years.

Related: Top recruiting classes since 2000

4. IOWA STATE (23-12, 11-7, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Chris Babb, Anthony Booker, Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee
Top returners: Melvin Ejim, Percy Gibson, Georges Niang
New faces: DeAndre Kane (transfer from Marshall), Monte Morris (freshman), Matt Thomas (freshman)
The top two scorers, Clyburn and McGee, are gone along with the point guard Lucious, but coach Fred Hoiberg will find a way to get the most out of his roster. The transfer pipeline to Ames continues with Kane, who averaged 15.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in three seasons at Marshall. With Niang (12.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and Ejim (11.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg), Iowa State is a lock for another 20 wins and NCAA appearance.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

5. KANSAS STATE (27-8, 14-4, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Jordan Henriquez, Montravious Irving, Rodney McGruder, Angel Rodriguez
Top returners: Thomas Gipson, Shane Southwell, Will Spradling, Nino Williams
New faces: Neville Fincher (prep school)
Bruce Weber did a great job with the returning cast -- at least before an early Tournament exit. Without the top two scorers (McGruder and Rodriguez, who transferred to Miami), Weber’s job is a little tougher. The returning cast of Southwell, Gipson, Spradling and Irving all saw plenty of work last season.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: American

6. OKLAHOMA (20-12, 11-7, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Andrew Fitzgerald, Sam Grooms, Amath M’Baye, Romero Osby, Steven Pledger
Top returners: Isaiah Cousins, Cameron Clark, Bobby Hield, Je’Lon Hornbeak
New faces: D.J. Bennett (junior college transfer), Ryan Spangler (transfer from Gonzaga)
Lon Kruger again proved to be an expert rebuilder, leading Oklahoma to its first winning season and NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009. In 2013-14, the Sooners lose their top three scorers, all of whom averaged double figures. The rising sophomore class of Hield, Hornbeak and Cousins played plenty of minutes last season and will be expected to take a bigger role. Newcomers Bennett and Spangler, a pair of 6-8 forwards, give OU a little bit of size the Sooners sorely need.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big East

7. WEST VIRGINIA (13-19, 6-12)
Key players gone: Jabarie Hinds, Deniz Kilicli
Top returners: Gary Browne, Eron Harris, Terry Henderson, Aaric Murray, Juwan Staten
New faces: Remi Dibo (junior college transfer), Jonathan Holton (junior college transfer), Elijah Macon (prep school), Devin Williams (freshman)
West Virginia lost seven in a row to seal the first losing season for Bob Huggins since his first as a Division I coach at Akron in 1984-85. Losing Kilicli is a big loss, but two freshmen and two junior college signees will look to fill that spot in the frontcourt alongside Murray. Williams will help on the glass while Macon, who committed to West Virginia out of high school before going to prep school, can shoot from outside.

8. TEXAS (16-18, 7-11, CBI first round)
Key players gone: Jaylen Bond, Myck Kabongo, Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan
Top returners: Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes, Prince Ibeh, Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Ioannis Papapetrou, Cameron Ridley
Texas is coming off its worst season under Rick Barnes, and answers don’t seem to be immediate. The top three scorers -- which included Kabongo in only 11 games -- are gone. Perhaps this will be addition by subtraction, but Texas’ recruiting prowess has diminished in recent years. The Longhorns bring in no top-100 recruits in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

9. TCU (11-21, 2-16)
Key players gone: Nate Butler Lind, Cornell Crossland, Garlon Green, Adrick McKinney
Top returners: Devonta Abron, Kyan Anderson, Charles Hill, Jarvis Ray
New faces: Amric Fields (injured last season), Karviar Shepherd (freshman)
Aside from the shocking upset of Kansas on Feb. 6, TCU was as overmatched as expected in its first season in the Big 12. The Horned Frogs might not be a Tournament team, but they could be better in 2013-14. The leading scorer Anderson is back, and Fields, the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year as a sophomore, played only three games last season due to injury. TCU also signed a top-50 recruit in Shepherd.

10. TEXAS TECH (11-20, 3-15)
Key players gone: Josh Gray, Ty Nurse
Top returners: Jaye Crockett, Dejan Kravic, Dusty Hannahs, Daylen Robinson, Jordan Tolbert, Jamal Williams
New faces: Aaron Ross (redshirt)
Texas Tech had one senior on last season’s team, but assist-leader Josh Gray left for junior college. Tubby Smith inherits some experience in his first season at Texas Tech, but the Red Raiders aren’t ready to compete in the Big 12.

<p> Who's gone and who's back in the Big 12 for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 10:40
All taxonomy terms: Overtime, Overtime
Path: /overtime/pro-tennis-player-shows-worlds-least-subtle-car
We know pro athletes have big egos, but Ukranian tennis player Alexandr Dolgopolov is taking it to a whole new level with his car. Dolgopolov, nicknamed "Dolgo" (The Dog) by fellow players, recently posted a picture on Instagram of himself behind the wheel of a nearly unrecognizable Nissan GT-R, which has been customized into a giant, chromed-out crap sandwich. Woof!
<p> Ukranian tennis player Alexandr Dolgopolov shows off world's tackiest car.</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 08:40
Path: /college-football/big-ten-football-2013-predictions


2013 Big Ten Predictions    
Leaders Division
Big Ten Overall
1. Ohio State 8-0 13-0
2. Wisconsin 6-2 9-3
3. Penn State 4-4 8-4
4. Indiana 3-5 6-6
5. Purdue 2-6 4-8
6. Illinois 1-7 4-8
Legends Division    
1. Michigan 6-2 10-3
2. Nebraska 6-2 9-3
3. Northwestern 5-3 9-3
4. Michigan State 4-4 7-5
5. Minnesota 2-6 6-6
6. Iowa 1-7 4-8
Big Ten Championship    
Ohio State over Michigan    

2012 was not a banner year for the Big Ten. Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible to compete in a bowl game, leaving Wisconsin at 8-5 overall representing the conference in the Rose Bowl.

While 2012 was a shaky year for the conference, 2013 is looking better.

Ohio State is a national title contender and ranks as the No. 2 team in Athlon’s Top 25 for 2013.  The Buckeyes are led by a Heisman candidate in quarterback Braxton Miller, and the defense should be better in the second year under coordinators Luke Fickell and Everett Withers.

Wisconsin is Ohio State’s biggest challenger in the Leaders Division. The Badgers are under the direction of a new coach in Gary Andersen, and despite the departure of running back Montee Ball, should have one of the Big Ten’s top backfields with Melvin Gordon and James White.

Penn State is ineligible to play in the postseason once again, but the Nittany Lions should have a winning record in Bill O’Brien’s second year in Happy Valley.

Indiana is making progress under coach Kevin Wilson, and the schedule is favorable enough to expect a bowl appearance.

Purdue and Illinois round out the division, as both teams have a lot of holes to fill in 2013.

While there’s a clear pecking order in the Leaders Division, the Legends is a much tougher one to predict.

Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern each have legitimate conference title hopes. The Wolverines have a rising star in quarterback Devin Gardner, and the defense should be steady despite the departure of a couple of key performers. Michigan State’s offense is a huge question mark, while Nebraska returns only four starters on defense. Northwestern is loaded on offense, but the Wildcats feature a tough crossover schedule with games against Ohio State and Wisconsin.

Inside the War Room: Key Questions That Shaped Athlon's 2013 Predictions

What gave Michigan the edge over Nebraska in the Legends Division?

Both teams have some solid talent, but both teams are flawed. Michigan is breaking in three new starters on the offensive line and is looking for playmakers at wide receiver. In addition, the Wolverines must replace key personnel on each level of their defense. Nebraska should be terrific on offense, but the Huskers’ defense is a concern. Remember, this team gave up an average of 53.5 points and 595.0 yards in its four losses last season. Nebraska, which doesn’t play Ohio State or Wisconsin from the Leaders Division, has the easier schedule. But in the end, we went with Michigan for two reasons — the Wolverines host Nebraska in November, and the Huskers are tough to trust; they have had some puzzling losses in the last two years.

Was there any thought to not picking Ohio State to win the Leaders Division?

None. The only discussion about Ohio State was about how high we would pick the Buckeyes in the national rankings. And after a brief discussion, we put Ohio State No. 2, right behind Alabama. This isn’t a team with elite talent at every position, but the Buckeyes should be very good on offense, and they have a proven commodity in head coach Urban Meyer. The schedule isn’t overly taxing, either. Aside from the season-finale at Michigan, you could make a case that Ohio State’s toughest game could be the early October trip to Northwestern. Even if the Bucks don’t navigate the regular season without a loss — as we are predicting — it will be a huge surprise if they don’t win the division and play in the Big Ten Championship Game.

How can Michigan State be picked fourth in the Legends with a schedule that doesn’t include Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State?

This was a huge topic for debate as we tried to settle on our third-place team in the Legends, Northwestern or Michigan State. The Wildcats, on paper, have the better team. They return almost every key piece from a team that won 10 games — and held double-digit second-half leads in the three games they did not win. But Northwestern’s schedule is not kind; the Cats have to play Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders and also travel to Nebraska. Michigan State, on the other hand, was handed a gift from the scheduling gods — no Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State. And for that reason, it was tempting to pick the Spartans ahead of Northwestern. Last year, much was made of Michigan State’s close losses. The Spartans lost five games by four points or less, but they also won four games by the same margin. And while there is a lot to like about this team — the defense will once again be stout — the offense remains a huge concern. So even with this relatively kind schedule, we don’t believe Michigan State will finish ahead of Northwestern in the league standings.

Is Indiana showing signs of progress under Kevin Wilson, or are the Hoosiers simply of a product of the soft second tier of the Leaders Division?

It’s a little bit of both. There’s no doubt that IU will benefit from playing in the weaker of the two divisions in 2013. The Hoosiers also have the added advantage of hosting the three most “winnable” games against its division foes — Penn State, Purdue and Illinois. But this program no doubt took a significant step forward in 2012, Wilson’s second season in Bloomington. The Hoosiers led the Big Ten in passing offense and ranked second in total offense en route to a 4–8 overall record and a 2–6 mark in the league. The offense should once again be among the best in the league. If the young defense can make the progression from bad to mediocre, Indiana will be in position to take advantage of its schedule and return to a bowl game for the first time since 2007.

Big Ten Team Previews

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

Big Ten Notebook

Coaching Shuffle 
The Big Ten carousel didn’t spin quite as much as it did last year, when there were an unprecedented 40 total changes at the head coach and assistant levels, but the league had another long and active offseason of transactions. Wisconsin’s hiring of Jeff Genyk as tight ends coach/special teams coach in early March marked the 32nd and final (we think) coaching change in the Big Ten for the 2013 season.

Only two teams — Wisconsin and Purdue — hired new head coaches, but Darrell Hazell brought in an entirely new staff with the Boilers, and Gary Andersen retained only two assistants (Thomas Hammock and Ben Strickland) with the Badgers. Illinois kept Tim Beckman after a 2–10 debut, but Beckman had to replace more than half (five) of his assistants, four of whom left voluntarily.

Three Big Ten coordinators — Michigan State’s Dan Roushar (offense), Indiana’s Mike Ekeler (co-defense) and Penn State’s Ted Roof (defense) — left for other positions. Iowa welcomed in three new assistants for the second consecutive offseason, continuing a staff overhaul for a program that had seen tremendous continuity for much of the Kirk Ferentz era. Michigan saw its first coaching change of Brady Hoke’s tenure, as defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery left for Oklahoma.

The winter also featured two cases of intraleague coach poaching. Michigan State swiped Jim Bollman from Hazell’s staff at Purdue about a month after Bollman arrived. Hazell responded by hiring Jim Bridge — who had been at Illinois for about a month — to coach the Boilers’ offensive line.

Four Big Ten coaching staffs — Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern and Ohio State — remain fully intact for the 2013 season. Minnesota and Northwestern are the only FBS teams without a staff change for the past three seasons.

Welcome Returns
Quite a lot of firepower returns around the Big Ten for 2013. Thirty all-conference selections are back, the most since the 2005 season. The league also brings back the most first-team All-Big Ten selections (18) since 2005.

Eight of the 13 individual award winners from last season also return, including Ohio State’s Braxton Miller (Quarterback of the Year), Michigan’s Taylor Lewan (Offensive Lineman of the Year) and Penn State’s Allen Robinson (Wide Receiver of the Year).

Miller is the fourth consecutive Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year to return the following season. Seven of the top 10 rushers from 2012 are back, although the top three — Le’Veon Bell, Montee Ball and Denard Robinson — depart. The Big Ten also returns its top 10 receiving yards leaders from last season, led by Penn State’s Robinson.

Schedule Surge 
More Big Ten teams are moving out of cupcake city and strategically scheduling for the future college football playoff. Ohio State recently added home-and-home series against Oregon, Texas and TCU. Nebraska renewed its rivalry against Oklahoma with a home-and-home, and Wisconsin, often criticized for soft non-league slates, scheduled a blockbuster season opener in 2015 against Alabama at Cowboys Stadium. Other exciting future series include Michigan State-Oregon, Michigan-Arkansas and Northwestern-Stanford.

Name Change 
The Legends Division isn’t so legendary after all. The Leaders are forsaking some of their leadership.

The Big Ten will ditch the much-lampooned division names in 2014 when Maryland and Rutgers join the league. Instead, the league will follow the lead of the SEC and Pac-12 with geographic divisions.

The East Division will feature Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. The West will include Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin. All of the East teams are in the Eastern time zone, while every West team besides Purdue is in the Central time zone. Starting in 2016, the Big Ten will play a nine-game conference schedule.

Killer Crossovers 
The third year of division play means the crossover schedules flip for every Big Ten squad. That means good news for Michigan State, which doesn’t play Ohio State, Wisconsin or Penn State. Nebraska misses both the Buckeyes and the Badgers, while Wisconsin won’t face Michigan, Michigan State or Nebraska during the regular season. The crossover schedules get much harder for teams like Northwestern and Iowa, both of which get Ohio State and Wisconsin back on the schedule. Illinois plays three of the projected top four in the Legends division — Nebraska, Michigan State and Northwestern — and skips only Michigan.

Coordinator Carousel


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Chris Beatty, Bill Gonzales; New: Bill Cubit
Beatty was fired after the 2012 season. He is now the wide receivers coach at Wisconsin. Gonzales left Illinois to become the wide receivers coach at Mississippi State. Cubit was fired by Western Michigan after eight seasons as the Broncos’ head coach. Previously, he was the offensive coordinator at Stanford, Rutgers, Missouri and Western Michigan. 


Defensive Coordinator
Old: Doug Mallory, Mike Ekeler; New: Doug Mallory, William Inge
Ekeler left Indiana in late February to become the linebackers coach at USC. Inge comes to Indiana after serving as an assistant defensive line coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2012. Previously, he was the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for two seasons at the University of Buffalo.

Michigan State

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Dan Roushar; New: Jim Bollman, Dave Warner
Roushar left Michigan State to become the running backs coach with the New Orleans Saints. Bollman had accepted a job to be the offensive line coach at Purdue under new coach Darrell Hazell but left to join the Michigan State staff. In 2012, he was the offensive line coach and running game coordinator at Boston College. Prior to that, he served as the OC at Ohio State for 11 years. Warner has been on the MSU staff as the quarterbacks coach for the past six seasons.

Penn State

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Ted Roof; New: John Butler
Roof left Penn State after one season to become the defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, his alma mater. Butler was promoted to DC after serving as Penn State’s secondary coach in 2011.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Gary Nord; New: John Shoop
Nord has not landed a new job. Shoop was out of coaching last season. He previously served as the offensive coordinator at North Carolina from 2007-11 and also has a stint as the OC of the Chicago Bears (2001-03).

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Tim Tibesar; New: Greg Hudson
Tibesar was not retained by the new staff and was hired to coach linebackers by the Chicago Bears. He worked for new Bears coach Marc Trestman in the CFL. Hudson was the linebackers coach at Florida State from 2010-12. He was the DC at East Carolina from 2005-09.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Matt Canada; New: Andy Ludwig
Canada is the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at NC State. Ludwig served as the offensive coordinator at San Diego State for the past two seasons. He has also had stints as the coordinator at California, Utah, Oregon and Fresno State.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Chris Ash, Charlie Partridge; New: Dave Aranda
Ash and Partridge both followed Bret Bielema to Arkansas. Ash will be the Razorbacks’ defensive coordinator, and Partridge will coach the defensive line. Aranda was the defensive coordinator at Utah State last season, working for new Badgers coach Gary Andersen. Prior to that, he spent two years as the DC at Hawaii. 

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<p> Big Ten Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 07:26
Path: /college-football/mac-football-2013-predictions
2013 MAC Predictions    
East Division   MAC Overall
1. Bowling Green 7-1 8-5
2. Ohio 6-2 9-3
3. Kent State 4-4 6-6
4. Buffalo 4-4 5-7
5. Miami (Ohio) 4-4 4-8
6. Akron 1-7 2-10
7. UMass 0-8 1-11
West Division      
1. Northern Illinois 7-1 10-3
2. Ball State 6-2 9-3
3. Toledo 6-2 8-4
4. Western Michigan 5-3 6-6
5. Central Michigan 2-6 3-9
6. Eastern Michigan 0-8 1-11
MAC Championship    
Northern Illinois over Bowling Green    

You can’t blame the MAC for not wanting 2012 to end after the league enjoyed its most successful season ever. Not only did the MAC send a team (Northern Illinois) to a BCS bowl for the first time, but league teams also combined to win a record 18 games against FBS opponents in non-conference action and had four different schools nationally ranked at some point during the season.

You could make the argument that last season the MAC was the second best non-AQ conference in the nation after the Mountain West.

Don’t expect another BCS bowl qualifier in 2013, but the MAC has a chance to be just as strong overall.

Northern Illinois is the favorite to repeat in the West thanks in large part to the return of dynamic quarterback Jordan Lynch. As a junior, Lynch ranked fourth in the nation in total offense with 3,138 yards passing and 1,815 yards rushing and a combined 44 touchdowns. Six other starters return on offense, including tailback Akeem Daniels and speedy wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Defensively, NIU returns only three starters, one on each level.

Ball State and Toledo will be the biggest threats to Northern Illinois in the West. The Cardinals are loaded at the skill positions, with the return of quarterback Keith Wenning, wideouts Willie Snead and Jamill Smith, tight end Zane Fakes and running back Jahwan Edwards. Third-year coach Pete Lembo has done a tremendous job rebuilding this program. Toledo, like Ball State, will be explosive on offense but has issues on the defensive side of the ball. Only two starters returns from a defense that allowed 473.2 yards per game in 2012. The Rockets will be tested early with a Week 1 trip to Florida.

No team in the MAC has done less with more over the past few seasons than Western Michigan. As a result, there is new leadership in Kalamazoo, with former Northern Illinois star P.J. Fleck, 32, talking over for Bill Cubit. Central Michigan hopes to build off its surprising late-season run that was capped off with a win over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Zurlon Tipton is one of the most underrated tailbacks in the nation. Eastern Michigan has not had a winning season since 1995 and will struggle again in the rugged West Division.

Bowling Green is searching for its first division title since 2003. The Falcons will be outstanding on defense, even with the loss of tackle Chris Jones and linebacker Dwayne Woods. If the offense (11th in the MAC last season) improves, the Falcons will be the team to beat in the East. 

Under Frank Solich, Ohio has been the most consistent team in the division, but the Bobcats have yet to deliver in the MAC Championship Game. The return of quarterback Tyler Tettleton and tailback Beau Blankenship will keep the Ohio offense humming.

Kent State boasts the best one-two punch at tailback in the league with speedster Dri Archer and 250-pound bruiser Traylon Durham. Expect the Golden Flashes to be a run-oriented team once again as they break in a new quarterback under first-year coach Paul Haynes.

Buffalo played well down the stretch in 2012, winning three straight before losing by 14 at Bowling Green in the finale. With 15 starters back and a soft MAC schedule — no NIU or Ball State from the West — don’t be surprised if the Bulls make a move in ’13. Miami will rely on its speedy playmakers to overcome the graduation of QB Zac Dysert, a four-year starter who threw for 12,013 yards and 73 TDs.

Akron coach Terry Bowden had a rough first season in his return to the FBS ranks, but the Zips showed improvement and should be better in 2013. UMass struggled mightily in its first full season in the league — though the Minutemen did beat Akron in early November to avoid an 0–12 campaign.

2013 MAC Team Previews

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

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College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125

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<p> MAC Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, June 6, 2013 - 07:25
Path: /nascar/fantasy-nascar-picks-pocono-raceway

To help guide you through the 2013 Fantasy NASCAR season, Athlon Sports contributor Geoffrey Miller will be offering his best predictions for each race. And because Yahoo's Fantasy Auto Racing game is arguably the most popular, he’ll break down the picks according to its NASCAR driver classes — A-List, B-List, C-List. The main picks are designed to make optimal use of Yahoo!’s 9-start maximum rule over the course of the season. The “also consider” section ranks unmentioned driver strictly by expected result without consideration of start limitations.

NASCAR makes its first of two visits to Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania Sunday for the Party in the Poconos 400. With a race name like that, Clint Bowyer would appear to be the early favorite, right? Not so fast, says the following stringent analysis. Jump in, make your picks and, hopefully, make us look like we know what we’re talking about.

A-List (Choose two, start one)
Denny Hamlin
After blowing a tire at Dover and smacking the wall, Hamlin’s summer scramble to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup felt the pressure intensify just a bit more. Good thing he’s coming to Pocono, where in 14 starts he’s moved to second in Pocono wins among active drivers. Expect Hamlin to both start (average 5.6) and finish (average 10.7) up front Sunday — especially after the blemish on his Pocono resume handed down in July last year when he was caught in Jimmie Johnson’s late-race crash. In total, Hamlin has led right at one of every four laps that he’s run at Pocono. That’s stout.

Jeff Gordon
Gordon has plenty of glowing career statistics that aren’t so reflective of how well his No. 24 has performed in recent seasons. Such is the break of his astounding period from roughly 1995 to 2002. But stats enhanced long ago muddying the current waters isn’t the case for Gordon at Pocono. Three of Gordon’s last nine wins on the Sprint Cup tour have come at Pocono, and four of his last five starts have resulted in top-10 finishes. The five-race rate bests a career top-10 average at the 2.5-mile triangle of 70 percent.

Also consider: Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth

<p> Fantasy NASCAR tips for the Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 17:56
Path: /mlb/baseballs-all-time-all-steroid-team

Steroids are as synonymous with baseball as hot dogs or cold beer. It's an unfortunate era of the game that fans of all ages must accept. Are the use of performance-enhancing drugs terrible for the body and a form of cheating? Yes, and this country should work diligently to combat their growth. But steroids are a part why the game survived during the '90s — aka the 1998 home run chase — and, unfortunately, don't seem to be going away any time soon.

ESPN's "Outside the Lines" has learned that MLB will look to suspend upwards of 20 players related to the Miami-based clinic run by Tony Bosch. Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun are the marquee names but Gio Gonzalez, who is coming off of his best season, and Everth Cabrera, who is having his best year in '13, also stand out. Other big names like Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera are mentioned as well. Many believe that baseball is looking for 100-game suspensions for several of the players reported to be associated with Bosch's clinic.

Should steroid users be in the Hall of Fame — alongside plenty of other great players who bent the rules? Who benefits more from PEDs: Hitters or pitchers? Will there ever be confirmation of who used what when? Since there will likely never be a definitive answer to these questions maybe baseball should build a “Steroid Wing” in Cooperstown and just lump everyone from 1990 to 2006 — when Bud Selig finally created the Joint Drug Prevention and Blunt Treatment Program.

How would that roster look? Here is the all-time steroid team made up of names who have been connected in one way or another to some sort of PED at some point. The starting lineup is a murderer’s row and the rotation has one of the all-time greats fronting it.

C: Pudge Rodriguez (1991-2011)
Key Stats: .296/.798, 2,844 H, 311 HR, 1,332 RBI
Awards: All-Star (14), Gold Glove (13), Silver Slugger (7), MVP

He is one of baseball’s all-time greatest catchers. He has more putouts (14,864) than any other catcher in history by a wide margin as his 21-season career would indicate. He hit over 20 home runs, however, just five times. They all came in consecutive seasons with the Rangers after playing three years with Jose Canseco. His 35-homer, 113-RBI MVP season is a clear outlier as Canseco claimed to have personally educated Rodriguez about steroid use. He never topped 30 home runs or 100 RBIs in any other season. Following the release of Canseco's inflammatory book, Juiced, the 215-pound catcher showed up at Tigers camp at 187 pounds and never hit more than 14 homers the rest of his career. Honorable Mention: Mike Piazza, Javy Lopez

1B: Mark McGwire (1986-2001)
Key Stats: .263/.982, 583 HR, 1,414 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (3), Gold Glove (1), Rookie of the Year

McGwire is one of the few who has openly admitted that he used PEDs during his playing career. In fact, he dates his use of steroids back to as early as 1989 when he and Canseco won the World Series in Oakland — the modern birthplace for steroids. The Big Mac would have been a big bopper no matter what drugs he took, but breaking Roger Maris’ single-season home run record two years in a row seems highly unlikely. Especially considering he did it at age 34 (70 HR) and 35 (65). Honorable Mention: Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Bagwell

2B: Bret Boone (1992-2005)
Key Stats: .266/.767, 252 HR, 1,021 RBI
Awards: All-Star (3), Gold Glove (4), Silver Slugger (2)

Boone’s career stat sheet is one that steroid haters point to on a regular basis. How could a 5-foot-10, 180-pound second baseman who hit a total of 62 home runs in his first six seasons somehow blast 37 dingers and lead the league in RBIs (141) with a .331 average at age 32? His .950 OPS that year dwarfed his career .767 mark. In eight of 14 seasons, Boone hit 15 round trippers or less. But from 2001 to 2003, he hit 96 of his career 252 homers. Once again, it was Canseco’s book that fingered Boone as a potential steroid user. Honorable Mention: Brian Roberts, Chuck Knoblauch

3B: Alex Rodriguez (1994-present)
Key Stats: .300/.945, 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 318 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (10), MVP (3), Gold Glove (2)

Playing in Seattle and Texas, two steroid hotbeds, AROD tested positive for PEDs in 2003 and eventually confessed to his use of banned substances from 2001-03. He has also seen his name mentioned prominently with more recent accusations hailing from the aforementioned Biogenesis clinic based in South Florida. He was an elite player with elite skills but his 40-40 season, multiple MVPs and historic numbers have all been called into question by his decision to cheat. His legacy is very much on the line as a result of his association with MLB's latest investigation in Miami. Honorable Mention: Ken Caminiti, Mike Lowell, Gary Sheffield

SS: Miguel Tejada (1997-2011, '13)
Key Stats: .285/.793, 306 HR, 1,289 RBI
Awards: All-Star (6), Silver Slugger (2), MVP (1)

Tejada was arguably the top shortstop in the game during a five-year stretch from 2000-04. He hit over 30 home runs in four out of five seasons, led the majors with 150 RBIs in 2004 and won the 2002 MVP as a key cog in the emergence of the "Moneyball" era in Oakland. But like many Bay Area players, the Latin star was fingered for steroid use by a variety of people. Rafael Palmeiro accused him of giving him tainted B-12 shots. Canseco accused him in his book. And then his name was featured prominently in the Mitchell Report. It all eventually led to a somber confession in 2009, as he was facing federal perjury charges, leaving little doubt that his career is tainted. Following a one-year absence in 2012, Tejada returned to the majors this season and is currently a utility player for the Royals.

OF: Barry Bonds (1986-2007)
Key Stats: .298/1.051, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 514 SB
Awards: All-Star (14), Silver Slugger (12), Gold Glove (8), MVP (7)

The most high-profile steroid user in the history of baseball also just happens to be its all-time home run champ. Everyone knows the number 755 but few know Bonds’ 762. This is all, of course, due to his miraculous late-career power surge. He never hit over 50 home runs in a season until he blasted 73 in 2002 at age 36. He hit over 40 dingers only three times in his career before topping 45 in five straight seasons from 2000 to 2004 — his 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th seasons. He was at the center of the BALCO scandal playing in a roided-up city during the peak of the steroid era. This one is a no brainer and it’s a shame, because he might have been one of the greatest hitters of all-time if he hadn't cheated. Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun, Gary Sheffield

OF: Sammy Sosa (1989-2007)
Key Stats: .273/.878, 609 HR, 1,667 RBI, 234 SB
Awards: All-Star (7), Silver Slugger (6), MVP (1)

This should be the only stat you need to know about Sosa and the steroid era: The Cubs' slugger broke Maris’ single-season home run record three times (1998, 1999, 2001) and never once led his league in homers. Think about that? He was a power hitter despite his 6-foot, 165-pound frame before 1998, but his numbers spiked dramatically during his historic home run chase with McGwire. He hit 207 HR in his first nine seasons and 292 long balls from 1998 to 2002. His 2005 Congressional hearing performance was one for the ages and he was fingered by The New York Times in an article stating Sosa tested positive for PEDs in 2003. Seriously, Baseball-Reference has him listed at 6-foot and 165 pounds… and he has 609 home runs? Honorable Mention: Jose Canseco, Juan Gonzalez

OF: Manny Ramirez (1993-2011)
Key Stats: .312/.996, 555 HR, 1,831 RBI
Awards: All-Star (12), Silver Slugger (9)

There weren’t many better right-handed hitters in all of baseball than Man-Ram in his prime. But that all came crashing down when he tested positive in 2009 for testosterone levels and was suspended 50 games. He then tested positive again in 2011 for a banned substance. All of this after he was fingered as a user back in the infamous 2003 drug test that reportedly also implicated Sosa, A-Rod and others. He was an elite hitter who delivered in the clutch and led his team to four different World Series. But he also quit on his team and earned the "Manny Being Manny" moniker after bizarre and often inexplicable on-field behavior. Honorable Mention: Brady Anderson, Melky Cabrera

DH: David Ortiz (1997-present)
Key Stats: .285/.928, 401 HR, 1,326 RBI
Awards: All-Star (8), Silver Slugger (5)

Big Papi has a strange career boxscore. In six seasons with the Twins, Ortiz slugged just 58 home runs — or less than 10 per season. But paired up with Man-Ram in Beantown for an organization that is willing to do anything to win and he became the greatest hitting DH of all-time. He has averaged 34 home runs per season in 10 full seasons with the Red Sox and topped out at a league-leading 54 in 2006. Ortiz, like so many others on this team, reportedly tested positive for steroids in 2003, information that finally came to light in 2009. To Ortiz' credit, he has maintained his production at the plate since the disclosure, as he averaged 30 home runs per season from 2009-11. Honorable Mention: Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui

SP: Roger Clemens (1984-2007)
Key Stats: 354 W, 4,916.2 IP, 4,672 K, 3.12 ERA
Awards: All-Star (11), Cy Young (7), MVP (1)

The Bonds of the mound, Clemens used PEDs to match the slugger's MVPs with seven Cy Young awards. He led the league in ERA seven different times, including a sterling 1.87 mark — his career best — at age 42 while pitching in a notorious steroid town (Houston) in 2005. The change in his career dates back to his move north of the border. After four middling years in Boston from 1993-96, he signed with Toronto and went 41-13 in 498.2 innings with a 2.33 ERA and 563 strikeouts — at age 34 and 35. He was then traded to New York and made more than $97.8 million from age 37 to 44. His name came up 82 times in the Mitchell Report and he has been fingered by former trainers and even teammates as a possible rule-breaker. Honorable Mention: Andy Pettitte, Kevin Brown, Jason Schmidt

RP: Eric Gagne (1997-2008)
Key Stats: 187 SV, 643.2 IP, 718 K, 3.47 ERA
Awards: All-Star (3), Cy Young (1)

Gagne was magical when he was at his best. He converted an MLB-record 84 straight saves and closed 152 games with 365 strikeouts and a 1.79 ERA in just 247.0 innings from 2002 to 2004. In his other seven seasons combined, he closed 35 games total. However, pitching on the West Coast during those years will raise major question marks and he was named prominently in the Mitchell Report complete with extremely incriminating evidence. He was never the same pitcher following his Tommy John surgery in 2005. Honorable Mention: John Rocker, Guillermo Mota

Note: This is simply for fun and not intended to cast official judgment of anyone named above nor is it investigative journalism.

<p> Major League Baseball's All-Steroid Team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 11:15
Path: /college-football/elijah-hood-recruit-flushes-letter-alabama-notre-dame

Despite winning back-to-back national championships, not every elite recruit wants to play at Alabama. No, seriously.

One of the nation’s top running back recruits for the class of 2014 – Elijah Hood – poked a little fun at Alabama on Tuesday night. On his Vine account, Hood flushed one of the recruiting letters sent to him from the Crimson Tide and closed the video with a Roll Toilet – a humorous take on Alabama’s usual Roll Tide motto. His closing to the video also sparked the #RollToilet hashtag on Twitter.

Hood is committed to Notre Dame and ranks as the No. 13 national recruit by

Needless to say, if the Fighting Irish continue to improve under Brian Kelly, and Nick Saban stays on the sidelines in Tuscaloosa, Hood should have a chance to matchup against Alabama in one of college football's top bowl games in the near future.


<p> Notre Dame Commit Elijah Hood Flushes Alabama Recruiting Letter&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 08:15
Path: /college-football/american-athletic-conference-football-2013-predictions
2013 American Predictions    
    American Overall
1. Louisville 7-1 11-1
2. Cincinnati 6-2 9-3
3. Rutgers 5-3 7-5
4. UCF 5-3 7-5
5. South Florida 5-3 7-5
6. UConn 3-5 5-7
7. Houston 3-5 5-7
8. SMU 3-5 4-8
9. Memphis 2-6 4-8
10. Temple 1-7 4-8

The conference formerly known as the Big East is still one in transition for the 2013 season.

There’s a new name and logo for 2013, along with more changes in the lineup of teams. Pittsburgh and Syracuse departed for the ACC, but the American Athletic Conference welcomes UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis into the league for 2013. Louisville (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) will leave after this year, but the conference has already secured Tulsa, East Carolina and Tulane to join the league for 2014.

While the transition has cast a large shadow on this league, the American Athletic Conference does have a legitimate national title contender for 2013 – Louisville. The Cardinals return 14 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Louisville needs to fill a couple of key voids on the offensive line, but Bridgewater and a solid defense should carry the Cardinals to the league championship.

Louisville’s biggest challenger appears to be Cincinnati. The Bearcats have a new coach (Tommy Tuberville), but the pieces are in place to push for 10 victories. Brendon Kay stabilized the quarterback spot in the second half of last season, and the defense should have the best linebacking corps in the conference for 2013. Cincinnati also hosts Louisville in the regular season finale, which could be a huge opportunity for the program to knock the Cardinals out of the national title picture.

Rutgers and UCF round out the top four in Athlon’s projected American Athletic Conference standings for 2013. The Scarlet Knights suffered some key personnel losses on defense, and need to get quarterback Gary Nova back on track after a disappointing finish to the season. The Knights could surprise this year, especially if the defense fills a few key voids in the front seven.

Behind new coach Willie Taggart, South Florida should be one of the most-improved teams in college football. The Bulls have an All-American caliber defensive end in Aaron Lynch, along with a transfer quarterback in Steven Bench to bolster the roster for 2013. The Bulls should benefit from a weak bottom of the league to get bowl eligible this year.

The final five spots in the conference are a tossup. Connecticut had one of the nation’s top-10 defenses last year, but the Huskies managed only 17.8 points a game. Coach Paul Pasqualoni hopes new coordinator T.J. Weist can push the right buttons on offense this year. If the Huskies are slightly better on offense in 2013, getting to a bowl game isn’t out of the question.

Houston and SMU could easily be switched in our projections, especially after the Cougars lost running back Charles Sims. Houston also needs to address a defense that ranked last in Conference USA in yards allowed last year. The Mustangs return quarterback Garrett Gilbert, but the defense must replace a couple of key performers, including end Margus Hunt.

Memphis and Temple round out the American projections for 2013. However, both teams appear to be on the right track. The Tigers showed big improvement under Justin Fuente last season, and Matt Rhule was a popular hire among the Temple fanbase.  

2013 American Athletic Conference Team Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut SMU
Houston South Florida
Louisville Temple
Memphis UCF

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<p> American Athletic Conference Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 07:50
Path: /college-football/mountain-west-football-2013-predictions
2013 MWC Predictions MWC Overall
Mountain Division    
1. Boise State 8-0 12-1
2. Utah State 6-2 7-5
3. Air Force 4-4 6-6
4. Wyoming 4-4 7-5
5. Colorado State 3-5 5-8
6. New Mexico 1-7 4-8
West Division    
1. Fresno State 6-2 10-3
2. San Jose State 5-3 7-5
3. San Diego State 5-3 7-5
4. Nevada 5-3 6-6
5. UNLV 1-7 3-9
6. Hawaii 0-8 1-11
  MWC Championship    
  Boise State over Fresno State  

One of the underrated winners of the recent wave of conference realignment has been the Mountain West. Not only did the league keep Boise State and San Diego State after both schools flirted with — and even temporarily joined — the Big East, but the Mountain West has also poached four programs from the WAC in the last two years (Fresno State and Nevada after the 2011 season and San Jose State and Utah State after the ’12 season). These additions helped mitigate the losses of TCU, Utah and BYU.

Boise State is the best team in the league and the overwhelming favorite in the Mountain Division, but the balance of power — at least in the short term — is in the West Division. Fresno State, which quietly went 7–1 in its first year in the league last fall, is the pick to win the division thanks to an explosive offense that features elite talent at quarterback (Derek Carr) and wide receiver (Davante Adams). The race for second figures to be tight between San Jose State, San Diego State and Nevada. Both the Spartans and Wolf Pack are under new leadership, with Ron Caragher taking over for Mike MacIntyre in San Jose and Brian Polian now in charge in Reno.

There is quite a bit of fall-off after the “Big Four” in the West as UNLV and Hawaii might be two of the worst FBS teams in the nation. Bobby Hauck needs to show significant progress at UNLV after winning exactly two games in each of his first three seasons. Norm Chow’s first season at Hawaii did not go well — the Warriors went 1–7 in the league — and the prognosis for 2013 isn’t much better.

After taking a small step back last season, Boise State should be back to its usual explosive ways on offense with the return of quarterback Joe Southwick and a veteran offensive line. The Broncos’ toughest league test will be a trip to Fresno State for a Friday night showdown in late September.

League newcomer Utah State could be Boise’s biggest challenger in the Mountain Division. The Aggies lost coach Gary Andersen to Wisconsin but welcome back quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Air Force, as usual, is a bit of a mystery with so many new faces, but the Falcons will once again be a tough out in league play. Wyoming is poised to bounce back from a disappointing 4–8 season — if the Cowboys can keep talented junior quarterback Brett Smith healthy. Dave Christensen, entering his fifth year in Laramie, needs a strong season to stay off the hot seat.

Colorado State returns 15 starters from a team that won three of its last five games under first-year coach Jim McElwain. The Rams are getting better but are probably a year away from being a factor in the league race.

New Mexico won only one league game last year but showed marked improvement in the first year of the Bob Davie era. The Lobos, however, will have a tough time escaping the Mountain Division basement in 2013 unless they can find a way throw the ball with some success. Last season, UNM completed a total of 79 passes in 13 games.

2013 Mountain West Team Previews

Mountain Division West Division
Air Force Fresno State
Boise State Hawaii
Colorado State Nevada
New Mexico San Diego State
Utah State San Jose State
Wyoming UNLV


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<p> Mountain West Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 07:45
All taxonomy terms: College Football, Oklahoma Sooners, Big 12, News
Path: /college-football/top-10-oklahoma-football-teams-all-time

Oklahoma has one of the richest and most successful college football traditions in the nation. The NCAA's all-time longest winning streak, four coaches with at least 120 wins at the school — although, Bennie Owen's teams are ineligible for this exercise — and one of the classic gameday atmospheres in history. Clean uniforms, a simple, yet effective fight song, arguably the greatest rivalry game in college football and, of course, plenty of championships make the Sooners one of the sports' bluest blue bloods.

But how would Roy Williams and Torrance Marshall do against Billy Sims? What about a head-to-head battle between Lee Roy Selmon and Adrian Peterson? The Sooners have won at least a share of 40 conference championships and claim seven recognized national championships since the AP era began in 1934. But which team was the best? The fact of the matter is no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in Crimson and Cream history is virtually impossible. But we're going to try anyway.

1. 2000 (13-0, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Few teams were more complete than the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners. Offensive whiz and Heisman finalist Josh Heupel led the offense at quarterback while one of the most talented defenses ever assembled posted arguably the best BCS title game performance in history. Starting No. 19 in the preseason polls, OU won road games against No. 2 Kansas State and No. 23 Texas A&M while defeating No. 1 Nebraska at home. Three neutral field wins over ranked opponents — No. 11 Texas, No. 8 Kansas State and eventually No. 3 Florida State — led to Oklahoma’s first national championship since 1985. Roy Williams, J.T. Thatcher, Torrance Marshall and Rocky Calmus are just a few of the standout names on the historic ’00 Sooner defense.

2. 1974 (11-0, 7-0)
Head Coach: Barry Switzer
The first of Switzer’s three national championship teams beat all but one opponent (Texas) by at least 14 points after starting the year as the preseason No. 1 team in the nation. The team boasted eight All-Americans and a stacked backfield that included Steve Davis, Joe Washington and Jim Littrell. This team set an NCAA record for rushing attempts as the Wishbone attack averaged 73.9 rushes per game and scored more than 60 points three times. The other side of the ball was led by the Selmon brothers, Lee Roy and Dewey, as well as All-American Rod Shoate and Jimbo Elrod. As the lone unbeaten team in the nation, OU claimed its fourth national championship.

3. 1955 (11-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bud Wilkinson
The middle team of the magical Wilkinson run in the mid-50s won games 20-30 of the famed 47-game winning streak. Led by NCAA Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald — who shockingly led the Sooners in passing, rushing AND receiving — Oklahoma went on to claim the national championship by dominating opponents. This defense pitched five shutouts, including four straight to end the regular season and a combined score of 73-0 against archrivals Texas and Oklahoma State. Beginning the year No. 3 in the polls, Oklahoma worked its way to No. 1 by Week 7 and defeated No. 3 Maryland 20-6 in the Orange Bowl to claim the national title.

4. 1956 (10-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bud Wilkinson
After winning back-to-back national titles and entering the season on a 30-game winning streak, Oklahoma went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the nation. The defense pitched six shutouts, including a combined 138-0 thrashing of Notre Dame, Texas and Oklahoma State. This team allowed 51 total points in 1956, gave OU its third consecutive national championship and pushed the Sooners' winning streak to 40 games. Quarterback Jim Harris took over admirably for Tommy McDonald and National Lineman of the Year Jerry Tubbs finished fourth in the Heisman voting.

5. 1975 (11-1, 6-1)
Head Coach: Barry Switzer
As the defending champs, Oklahoma entered the season ranked No. 1 in the polls and proceeded to destroy both Oregon and No. 15 Pitt 108-17 to start the year. This team, which boasted eight All-Americans and an Outland Trophy winner in Lee Roy Selmon, defeated four top-five opponents in Colorado (No. 2), Texas (No. 5), Nebraska (No. 2) and Michigan (No. 5) in the Orange Bowl as well as three other top-20 teams in Missouri (No. 18), Oklahoma State (No. 19) and Pitt. A bizarre 23-3 loss at home to Kansas was the only blemish on the ’75 resume and it took losses from both No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas A&M in their bowl games to give OU its fifth national championship.

6. 1985 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Barry Switzer
The Sooners began the season No. 2 in the polls and with Troy Aikman as the starting quarteback. However, after a loss to Miami in Week 4, Aikman was lost for the year. Jamelle Holieway took over and, with the help of a stacked roster, led Oklahoma to the national championship. He was surrounded by elite talents like Keith Jackson and Lydell Carr on offense and three All-Americans in Tony Casillas, Kevin Murphy and Butkus Award winner Brian Bosworth on defense. This team allowed more than seven points just four times all year and capped the season with a convincing 25-10 victory over No. 1 Penn State in the Orange Bowl.

7. 2008 (12-2, 7-1)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
When it comes to overall talent, few rosters in Oklahoma history can match the ’08 squad. Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy while leading Oklahoma to the Big 12 Championship and the BCS National Championship Game. Ryan Broyles, DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, Jauquin Iglesias, Jermaine Gresham, Manuel Johnson, Trent Williams and Phil Loadholt also started on an offense that set the NCAA record for points scored (716) by a wide margin (Hawaii, 656). The defense wasn’t far behind on talent either, as Gerald McCoy, Jeremy Beal, Auston English, Travis Lewis, Nic Harris and Dominique Franks all started on that side of the ball. Even a 10-point loss to No. 5 Texas in the Red River Shootout wasn't enough to keep the Sooners out of the BCS title game. However, once Oklahoma got to Miami Gardens, Fla., it was a physical Florida Gators team that handed the Sooners a 24-14 defeat that ended OU’s hopes of an eighth national championship.

8. 1987 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Barry Switzer
A third consecutive defeat at the hands of No. 2 Miami and former assistant Jimmy Johnson in the Orange Bowl kept the Sooners from the national championship for the second straight year. On a team stacked with elite players like All-Americans Rickey Dixon (who also won the Thorpe Award), Mark Hutson, Keith Jackson, Dante Jones and Darell Reed, the Sooners rolled through the regular season unbeaten. The offense led the nation in seven statistical categories but was held to just 255 total yards in the heart-breaking 20-14 loss to Miami.

9. 1986 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Barry Switzer
For the second straight year the Sooners lost to No. 2 Miami, except this time it cost Switzer his fourth national championship. Led by Brian Bosworth, Steve Bryan, Dante Jones and Paul Migliazzo on defense, this team pitched five shutouts and led the nation in rushing, passing, total and scoring (6.8 ppg) defense. Keith Jackson and Spencer Tillman spearheaded the offense and Tillman capped the year by rushing for 109 yards and two scores in a forceful 42-8 drubbing of No. 9 Arkansas in the Orange Bowl.

10. 2004 (12-1, 8-0)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
Led by legendary true freshman tailback Adrian Peterson, the Sooners rolled through the regular season unbeaten and were poised to face the only team ranked ahead of them in the polls all season in USC in the Orange Bowl. The passing game featured Heisman winner Jason White (2003) and wideouts Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley and Travis Wilson. Stoops featured four future head coaches in Kevin Wilson (co-OC), Bo Pelini (DC), Chuck Long (co-OC) and Kevin Sumlin (TE) as well as Brent Venables (DC). A 55-19 beatdown at the hands of the No. 1 Trojans soured the season in the Orange Bowl to end the year.

Related: Top 10 Notre Dame Fighting Football Teams of All-Time
Related: Top 15 Alabama Crimson Tide Football Teams of All-Time
Related: Top 10 Oklahoma Sooners Teams of All-Time 

The best of the rest:

11. 1954 (10-0, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bud Wilkinson

Not many teams feature a Hall of Fame two-way lineman who finished second in the Heisman like the nasty Kurt Burris did for the unbeaten national champs in 1954. Oklahoma beat three ranked teams in Cal (No. 12), TCU (No. 20) and Texas (No. 15) to win the title. This team won games 10-19 of the famed 47-game win streak.

12. 1950 (10-1, 6-0)
Head Coach: Bud Wilkinson
Despite a loss to No. 7 Kentucky in the Sugar Bowl in the season finale, the Sooners claimed a share of their first national championship in school history. The offense was led in rushing and receiving by Billy Vessels, who would eventually claim the Heisman Trophy two years later.

13. 1973 (10-0-1, 7-0) Barry Switzer
14. 1979 (11-1, 7-0) Barry Switzer
15. 2003 (12-2, 8-0) Bob Stoops

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Post date: Wednesday, June 5, 2013 - 07:35
Path: /nascar/nascar-numbers-game-6-amazing-stats-pocono

Dover International Speedway, a high-banked one-mile concrete oval, and Pocono Raceway, a 2.5-mile asphalt triangle with three wildly different corners, are two tracks that shouldn’t warrant much comparison.

Tony Stewart, who slumped through the first third of this year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and broke out with a victory last week at Dover, hopes that the contrary is true. The manner in how he won last Sunday emulates a lot of his past success at Pocono, including his two most recent outings on the “Tricky Triangle.” If Stewart can translate what worked at one place into working at another, all of a sudden his flash-in-the-pan win last weekend (it wasn’t undeserved, but he’d be hard-pressed to duplicate the feat) becomes the ignition of a summer hot streak.

How big of a shock was last week’s win? How did he do it? And do his numbers suggest a second consecutive victory?

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

41st  Prior to his win at Dover, Stewart ranked 41st out of 47 drivers in Production in Equal Equipment Rating (PEER) at the mile track.

In the five races leading up to the weekend, Stewart didn’t earn a finish at Dover better than 20th. Suffice to say, his win was a bit of a shock. Considering he averaged a 15th-place running position for the afternoon, the victory wasn’t one that seemed a foregone conclusion for those at home watching the race. One of the reasons that he pulled off the victory was because he dialed back the clock and found an element of his repertoire that made a younger Tony a Stock Car superstar.

54.05%  Stewart’s single-race pass efficiency at Dover was 54.05 percent, above his season-long efficiency of 48.44 percent.

The three-time champ’s minus-passing for the year (“minus” is anything below 50 percent) has hindered his plodding approach at success in most races this season. Passing is a large part of what makes Stewart a future Hall of Famer, and what allowed him to surge from 12th to first in the final 40 laps to secure his first win at Dover since 2000.

Stewart fans might take comfort in the fact that one of his best racetracks is next on the schedule.

5.500  Stewart ranks third in Cup Series PEER at Pocono with a 5.500 rating. He is the only driver that secured top-5 finishes in both races there last year.

2012 was the first season that saw Pocono’s new pavement put to use. Historically, Stewart doesn’t fare well on new surfaces or new tire combinations. Pocono was different. Similar to his run last week at Dover, Stewart improved on his average running position by 10 spots in the spring race (from 13th to third) and eight spots in the summer race (from 14th to fifth). Can he capitalize on superb passing and a plodding approach once again? If last year was any indication, it is possible. He earned a 59.38 percent pass efficiency on 256 encounters across both races there last season.

44.9%  Jimmie Johnson led 44.9 percent of last summer’s race at Pocono, but ultimately finished 14th.

If it wasn’t for a hurried rain-imminent finish that prompted Johnson and Greg Biffle to collide and take them out of the running for the win, it’s likely that the No. 48 team would have kept cruising.

In spite of that result, Johnson ranks fourth in Pocono-specific PEER with a 5.000 rating. A driver that probably should have two top-5 finishes on the new surface could right his perceived wrong from Dover — he was penalized for jumping the final restart — this weekend.

<p> David Smith crunches the numbers and finds the key NASCAR stats for the Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 22:39
Path: /mlb/16-amazing-mlb-stats-week-may-27-june-2

Dom Brown finally goes off for the Phillies, Nationals can’t support their pitchers and the Tigers and Pirates struggled for runs. Another installment of some amazing numbers from MLB for the week of May 27-June 2.

7    Home Runs by Domonic Brown last week
The long-time, seemingly underachieving, prospect of the Phillies finally had a breakout month. After a .233-3-11 April with a .681 OPS, Brown responded to hit .319-13-29 with a 1.055 OPS over his next 30 games. Could the Phillies finally have the next anchor of their lineup?

17-13    Nationals record when they allow 1, 2 or 3 runs
The pitchers in Washington are getting the job done, it’s just that the team has a little trouble giving them any runs to work with. They are 7-1 when allowing just one run. But that drops to 7-6 when giving up two, and only 3-6 when allowing three runs. Put in layman’s terms, the Nats could maintain a 2.00 ERA and win about 92 games at this rate.

5    Pitchers who made six starts in May with a sub-2.00 ERA
Lefties Cliff Lee of Philadelphia, Jeff Locke of Pittsburgh, Mike Minor of Atlanta and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers joined righty Stephen Strasburg of Washington to comprise the quintet of hurlers with six starts and an ERA below 2.00 in May. The aggregate record of the group is 14-3 with 13 no-decisions in their 30 starts in May.

11-5     Phillies record vs. Mets and Marlins
With a three-game set against Miami this week, the Phillies have an opportunity to improve that mark. They are 16-25 against everyone else, including 2-4 vs. the Braves and Nationals, their other two NL East rivals.

5    Straight wins for the Astros
Houston finished the week with a five-game winning steak, including a sweep of the Angels in Los Angeles, but remains four games behind next-to-last in the AL.

14    Hits for Chris Davis last week
Lest you believe that Davis’s start this season is somewhat of a fluke, his bat has yet to cool off for the Orioles. He produced 14 hits last week, including four that left the park, and scored a majors-best 10 runs in leading Baltimore to a 5-2 mark for the week.

0-4    Record in May for James Shields
The Kansas City Royals’ righthander was winless in May despite a 1.08 WHIP and 2.92 ERA in his five starts.

3-1    Record in May for Jason Hammel
The Baltimore Orioles’ righthander won three games in May despite a 1.70 WHIP and 6.44 ERA in his five starts.

3    Singles by the Pirates to start an inning but didn’t score
On May 30, the Pirates touched Detroit pitcher Doug Fister for three singles without plating a run in the bottom of the fourth. Neil Walker singled, then was caught stealing. Andrew McCutchen and Garret Jones followed with base knocks before Russell Martin whiffed and Travis Snider flied out to left. No big deal, but…

4    Singles to start the fifth by the Tigers without scoring
The next inning, the Tigers did the Bucs one better. After the speed-challenged Matt Tuiasosopo and Bryan Pena opened with singles, Avisail Garcia lined a single to right and Travis Snider gunned out Tuiasosopo at the plate while holding Pena on second. Pitcher Doug Fister singled, but Pena was held at third. Two ground balls later, and Pittsburgh hurler Jeff Locke was safely out of the inning. Oh, the Pirates won 1-0 in 11 innings.

0    Shutouts by the Brewers this season
The Milwaukee Brewers’ lineup is formidable, but the pitching staff? Well, it’s pretty bad. The Brew Crew is the only staff in baseball without a shutout this season.

5    Walk-off losses this season for the Brewers and Marlins
Milwaukee and Miami lead the majors in being walked-off.

19    Home runs in 169 at-bats for David Ortiz when playing first base since 2005
While the debate over the DH rages, Ortiz continues to produce whether DHing in American League parks or manning first base in NL parks.

8    First inning run support for St. Louis pitchers’ debuts
Three youngsters made their major league debuts in the St. Louis rotation in May, and the Cardinals’ offense staked each to a lead after the first inning. The offense produced three first-inning runs for John Gast against the Mets on May 14. Tyler Lyons was also given a three spot against San Diego on May 22. Then Michael Wacha, the most heralded prospect of the three, was given a pair of runs against the Royals on May 30.

.409-6-21    Average, home runs and RBIs for Wil Myers in last 10 games at Triple-A Durham
The Rays would love to avoid Myers earning Super 2 status with extra service this season, but it’s time to give the prospect a call. Over his last 10 games at Triple-A Durham, he’s batting .409 with six home runs and 21 RBIs.

.433    OBP for Matt Carpenter since being moved to the leadoff
St. Louis manager moved Carpenter to the leadoff spot permanently on May 2 and the former TCU standout is batting .339 with 21 runs in 27 games. He has started at second, third, first and right field during that stretch, and St. Louis is 19-8.

-Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)

<p> Dom Brown finally goes off for the Phillies, Nationals can’t support their pitchers and the Tigers and Pirates struggled for runs. Another installment of some amazing numbers from MLB for the week of May 27-June2.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 13:55
Path: /news/7-reasons-tim-tebows-nfl-career-over

The Tim Tebow saga may be coming to a slow, painful end.

Reports surfaced recently that some in Tebow’s camp are admitting that the former Gators, Broncos and Jets “quarterback” is coming to grips with the reality that his career may be coming to an end.

Nothing is official and there has been no retirement letter filed with the NFL, so he may still be holding out hope.

But after two NCAA BCS National Championships at Florida and a miracle run with the Broncos two years ago, why has Tebow’s NFL career come to an end so abruptly?

Here are the top reasons why Tebow’s career is over:

1. He can’t complete passes
This is the main reason Tebow won’t be taking snaps from an NFL center anytime soon. He has been and will always be an inaccurate passer. It doesn’t matter how big, strong, fast, hard-working, dedicated or tough you are, if you cannot accurately pass the football, your career as an NFL QB will go the way of the Ryan Leaf bird. The bottom line is Tebow is a career 47.9-percent passer. That’s not getting the job done.

2. The media circus is too much
A professional sports locker room is an extremely delicate balance between trust, cohesion, respect, tension and talent. Outside distractions can cripple a team and its chances for a championship in any sport on any level. What Tebow brings to a locker room — leadership, commitment and work ethic — doesn’t outweigh what his persona brings to an organization. The media circus that follows his every move is too much for most teams to even consider hiring the polarizing player.

3. He refuses to change positions
Quarterbacks are egomaniacs and prima donnas just like head coaches. Tebow may not be an egomaniac but he has refused to switch positions in an effort to prolong his career. Could he be a H-back, tight end, fullback or even pass-rusher? Could he contribute on special teams? The odds are yes — he is too big, fast, strong and athletic not to make plays. But he thinks of himself as a quarterback only… and it will end his career.

4. Shahid Khan is stupid
Okay, Khan isn’t actually stupid as his $2.5 billion net worth would indicate. However, the Jaguars owner not offering Tim Tebow at least a roster spot years ago was just bad business. As tarps cover seats and TV blackouts abound in Jacksonville, the Jaguars have been looking for some sort of spark to inspire fans for years. The local boy who played high school and college football just down the road could have been a perfect remedy. Well, financially, at least.

5. Urban Meyer coaches at Ohio State
Meyer coached Tebow at Florida to two national championships and a Heisman Trophy before taking a year off from coaching. He resurfaced at Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to a perfect 12-0 record in his first season in Columbus. However, had he taken an NFL job instead of the Big Ten one, fans can bet Tebow would be on an NFL roster. Even if he is just a third QB — or designated locker room speech giver.


Everyone hates Skip Bayless
In an effort to remove Skip Bayless from the sports media, NFL executives are doing mankind a favor by not signing Tim Tebow. Once Tebow disappears from the NFL landscape, Bayless won't have anything to talk about. In fact, Tebow is only furthering his image as a man of the people by selflessly stepping away from the game. Ideally, this unified move from the NFL and Tebow will force Bayless to “fade into Bolivia.”

<p> 5 Reasons Tim Tebow's NFL Career is Over</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 12:45
Path: /college-basketball/2013-14-college-basketball-early-rankings-acc

Even before adding the 2013 national champion, the ACC could reclaim its spot as the nation’s premier basketball conference.

In 2013-14, the ACC adds another bona fide basketball powerhouse in Syracuse, plus consistent Big East programs Pittsburgh and Notre Dame to expand to 15 teams. And that’s before Louisville takes the spot of Big Ten-bound Maryland in 2014.

As the ACC gears up for Syracuse playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium and North Carolina heading north to the Carrier Dome, it may be tempting to forget that the Florida schools — Miami in 2013 and Florida State in 2012 — won the last two ACC tournaments.

Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse should be on top again, but teams like Virginia, Maryland and even Boston College return enough parts to be surprise squads in 2013-14 as Notre Dame and Pitt help build the depth in the league.

Here’s a quick look at the ACC with who’s back and who’s gone for the new 15-team league in 2013-14.

Other conference snapshots:
Big East
Big Ten
Big 12 (June 6)
Pac-12 (June 11)
Mountain West, A-10, MVC and others (June 13)

1. DUKE (30-6, 14-4 ACC, NCAA Elite Eight)
Key players gone: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee
Top returners: Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee, Rasheed Sulaimon, Tyler Thornton
New faces: Rodney Hood (Mississippi State transfer), Matt Jones, Semi Ojeleye, Jabari Parker (freshmen)
The losses of Curry, Kelly and Plumlee are huge, but Duke will be fine. The backcourt will be among the deepest in the country. Sulaimon stood out on the defensive end and proved capable of carrying the scoring load. Cook was second in the ACC in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio. The freshman Parker, a 6-8 wing, will add some versatility to the lineup. Hood averaged 10.3 points at Mississippi State in 2011-12, and Dawkins averaged better than eight points per game in each of his last two seasons before sitting out in 2012-13.

Related: Realignment tracker for all college basketball moves

2. NORTH CAROLINA (25-11, 12-6 ACC, NCAA round of 32)
Key players gone: Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland
Top returners: P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald, Marcus Paige
New faces: Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks (freshmen)
McAdoo and Hairston both elected to return to school after North Carolina struggled to live up to expectations last season. The Tar Heels didn’t find their groove until going to a four-guard lineup, so it will be interesting to see how incoming freshmen big men Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks impact the rotation. The Tar Heels’ hopes hinge on the development of McAdoo and Paige.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big Ten

3. SYRACUSE (30-10, 11-7 Big East, NCAA Final Four)
Key players gone: Michael Carter-Williams, James Southerland, Brandon Triche
Top returners: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Baye Keita
New faces: Tyler Ennis, Ron Patterson, Tyler Roberson (freshmen)
Replacing the starting backcourt of Carter-Williams and Triche will be challenging as the Orange move to the ACC. Syracuse is counting on incoming point guard Ennis and shooting guard Patterson, who signed with Indiana before going to prep school, to take those roles. Fair is the only returning player who averaged more than 5.1 points last season. He’ll contend for ACC Player of the Year honors.

Related: Syracuse, Melo among top recruiting classes since 2000

4. NOTRE DAME (25-10, 11-7 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Jack Cooley, Scott Martin
Top returners: Eric Atkins, Zach Auguste, Cameron Biedscheid, Pat Connaughton, Jerian Grant, Tom Knight, Garrick Sherman
New faces: V.J. Beachem, Demetrius Jackson (freshmen)
Mike Brey’s program at Notre Dame is as consistent as they come, winning between 21 and 27 games in each of the last seven seasons (the flip side is no Sweet 16 appearances in that span). Cooley, who averaged a double-double, is gone, and the Irish will have some long road trips into the Southeast and Tobacco Road. But the Irish return their leading scorer Grant among seven of the top nine regulars from a year ago.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: American

5. VIRGINIA (23-12, 11-7 ACC, NIT quarterfinal)
Key players gone: Jontel Evans, Paul Jesperson
Top returners: Justin Anderson, Darion Atkins, Joe Harris, Teven Jones, Akil Mitchell, Evan Nolte, Mike Tobey
New faces: Anthony Gill (transfer from South Carolina)
Virginia had too many bad losses to get into the NCAA Tournament last season. Perhaps a year of seasoning for Harris, Mitchell, Anderson and Tobey will bring more consistency. If so, the Cavs could finish among the top teams in the ACC. A major question mark may be at point guard, where Virginia adds two freshmen at the position.

6. PITTSBURGH (24-9, 12-6 Big East, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Steven Adams, J.J. Moore, Dante Taylor, Tray Woodall, Trey Zeigler
Top returners: Durand Johnson, Lamar Patterson, James Robinson, Cameron Wright, Talib Zanna
New faces: Michael Young (freshman)
Adams will be a high draft pick, but he averaged only 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds in his lone season at Pitt. The bigger loss is Woodall (11.5 ppg, 5.1 apg). Moore and Zeigler also left via transfer. That means Patterson and Zanna will need to carry the Panthers in their new league. The point guard Robinson averaged 3.5 assists in 26.6 minutes as a freshman, so he’ll be expected to take a jump with Woodall gone.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: Big East

7. MARYLAND (25-13, 8-10 ACC, NIT semifinal)
Key players gone: Logan Aronhalt, Pe’Shon Howard, Alex Len, James Padgett
Top returners: Seth Allen, Shaquille Cleare, Nick Faust, Jake Layman, Charles Mitchell, Dez Wells
New faces: Roddy Peters (freshman), Evan Smotrycz (transfer from Michigan)
Len’s departure for the NBA draft hurts, but the Terrapins could have a squad ready to play in the NCAA Tournament. A handful of freshmen played last season in supporting roles, but Wells and Faust will be the leaders in the backcourt. The Terps’ prospects will be much better if the freshman Peters can hold down the point guard spot.

8. FLORIDA STATE (18-16, 9-9 ACC, NIT first round)
Key players gone: Terrance Shannon, Michael Snaer, Terry Whisnant
Top returners: Boris Bojanovsky, Devon Bookert, Montay Brandon, Ian Miller, Aaron Thomas, Kiel Turpin, Okaro White
New faces: Xavier Rathan-Mayes (freshman)
Florida State likely would have been a top-25 team had the nation’s top recruit, Andrew Wiggins, picked the Seminoles on May 13. FSU loses a go-to shooter in Snaer, and Shannon (VCU), while Whisnant (East Carolina) also elected to transfer. White (12.4 points per game) is the only returning player who averaged more than seven points per game, but the Seminoles have brought in three top-70 recruits in the last two recruiting cycles.

Related: 2013-14 Conference Snapshot: SEC

9. BOSTON COLLEGE (16-17, 7-11 ACC)
Key players gone: Andrew Van Nest
Top returners: Ryan Anderson, Dennis Clifford, Oliver Hanlan, Patrick Heckmann, Lonnie Jackson, Eddie Odio, Joe Rahon
New faces: Alex Dragicevich (transfer from Notre Dame)
In three seasons, Steve Donahue has rebuilt the Boston College roster, yielding one of the ACC’s youngest teams the last two seasons. That comes full circle in 2013-14. The Eagles return every player who averaged at least 11 minutes per game last season. Boston College could approach the .500 mark in the league.

10. NC STATE (24-11, 11-7 ACC, NCAA round of 64)
Key players gone: Lorenzo Brown, Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie, Rodney Purvis, Scott Wood
Top returners: T.J. Warren
New faces: BeeJay Anya, Anthony Barber (freshmen), Ralston Turner (transfer from LSU), Kyle Washington (freshman)
NC State is more or less starting over, which may not be a bad thing after the preseason ACC favorite finished fourth in the league and lost its first NCAA Tournament game. Warren (12.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) is the top returner on a team that brings in another talented group of freshmen. Warren will be the clear leader here, but Turner (12.3 ppg at LSU in 2010-11) is another veteran.

11. GEORGIA TECH (16-15, 6-12 ACC)
Key players gone: Brandon Reed, Mfon Udofia
Top returners: Chris Bolden, Robert Carter, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Kammeon Holsey, Daniel Miller, John Morris
Georgia Tech hasn’t won 20 games since 2009-10, but the Yellow Jackets should get closer to that benchmark in Brian Gregory’s third season. The top four scorers are back, though none averaged more than 10.8 points per game. The frontcourt should be a strength with Carter, Holsey and Miller returning plus 6-5 wing Georges-Hunt.

12. MIAMI (29-7, 15-3 ACC, NCAA Sweet 16)
Key players gone: Julian Gamble, Reggie Johnson, Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Trey McKinney Jones, Durand Scott
Top returners: Rion Brown
New faces: Garrius Adams (redshirted last season), Angel Rodriguez (transfer from Kansas State)
No ACC team loses more than the defending conference champs. With Larkin heading to the NBA Draft, Miami lost its top six scorers. Brown proved capable of a 20-point game here and there last season, but he’ll need to do that more regularly. Adams, a point guard, was injured all of last season, while seven-foot center Tonye Jekiri needs to play more as a sophomore. Rodriguez will be a key addition if he receives a waiver to play immediately after averaging 11.4 points and 5.2 assists as a starter at Kansas State last season.

13. WAKE FOREST (13-18, 6-12 ACC)
Key players gone: Chase Fischer, C.J. Harris
Top returners: Arnaud William Adala Moto, Tyler Cavanaugh, Madison Jones, Travis McKie, Codi Miller-McIntyre, Aaron Roundtree III, Devin Thomas
New faces: Coron Williams (transfer from Robert Morris)
Wake Forest quietly won more ACC games (six) last season than it had in Jeff Bzdelik’s first two seasons combined (five). The bulk of last year’s team returns, minus leading scorer Harris. Williams was a three-point sharp-shooter at Robert Morris before transferring to Wake Forest as a graduate student.

14. CLEMSON (13-18, 5-13 ACC)
Key players gone: Devin Booker, Milton Jennings
Top returners: Adonis Filer, Rod Hall, Damarcus Harrison, K.J. McDaniels, Jordan Roper
Clemson lost 10 of its final 11 games, including seven in a row, for the Tigers’ first losing season since 2003-04. In Booker and Jennings, Clemson loses two of its top three scorers and top two rebounders. The remainder of the roster will be sophomores and juniors in 2013-14, so this could be the first of two key seasons for Brad Brownell.

15. VIRGINIA TECH (13-19, 4-14 ACC)
Key players gone: Robert Brown, Erick Green
Top returners: C.J. Barksdale, Christian Breyer, Jarell Eddie, Will Johnston, Cadarian Raines, Joey Van Zegeren, Marshall Wood
Virginia Tech won only four ACC games with the league’s top scorer, but now Green is gone. Brown, the Hokies’ third-leading scorer, transferred to UAB, so the expectations won't be great in James Johnson’s second season.

<p> Who's gone and who's back in the ACC for 2013-14</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 12:00
Path: /college-football/sec-football-2013-predictions
2013 SEC Predictions SEC Overall
East Division    
1. Georgia 7-1 10-3
2. South Carolina 6-2 10-2
3. Florida 5-3 9-3
4. Vanderbilt 4-4 8-4
5. Tennessee 3-5 6-6
6. Missouri 1-7 5-7
7. Kentucky 1-7 4-8
West Division    
1. Alabama 8-0 13-0
2. Texas A&M 6-2 10-2
3. LSU 5-3 9-3
4. Ole Miss 4-4 7-5
5. Mississippi State 3-5 6-6
6. Auburn 2-6 6-6
7. Arkansas 1-7 5-7
SEC Championship    
Alabama over Georgia    

The SEC looks to close out college football’s BCS era with an eighth consecutive championship.

Alabama has won two in a row and is a heavy favorite to claim the title in 2013. The Crimson Tide return 14 starters, including Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback AJ McCarron and running back T.J. Yeldon. The defense ranked No. 1 nationally in 2012 but must replace cornerback Dee Milliner and lineman Jesse Williams.

Chasing Alabama for the No. 1 spot in the SEC will be a trio of teams. Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M appear to be the Crimson Tide’s biggest challengers. The Aggies return reigning Heisman winner in quarterback Johnny Manziel, but the defense is a big question mark. Georgia’s defense has to be revamped, while the offense could be the best in the SEC. South Carolina didn’t suffer any huge losses from last year, but receiver Ace Sanders and end Devin Taylor, along with the linebacking corps won’t be easy to replace.

In addition to Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M, Florida and LSU should be among the best 15 squads in the nation. The Tigers suffered some heavy departures on defense, but LSU always seems to reload on that side of the ball. Florida also suffered some key losses on defense, and the offense needs to find a spark in the passing attack.

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt rank just outside of Athlon’s top 25 teams for 2013, and both programs are steadily improving behind two of college football’s rising stars at head coach in James Franklin (Vanderbilt) and Hugh Freeze (Ole Miss).

Tennessee, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas will all break in a new head coach this year. All four programs should benefit from the coaching change in 2013 over the next couple of seasons. However, each still has a ways to go before climbing into SEC title discussion.

Inside the War Room: Key Questions That Shaped Athlon's 2013 Predictions

Three teams were discussed for the top spot in the SEC East. Why was Georgia the pick?

It was a tough call, but Georgia got the nod over South Carolina and Florida because of its prowess on offense. The Bulldogs feature an elite quarterback (Aaron Murray), two All-SEC-caliber tailbacks (Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall), a deep collection of wide receivers and a veteran offensive line. The Bulldogs, assuming the key players remain healthy, will score a ton of points this fall. Georgia must replace some outstanding players on defense, but the Dawgs still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball and there shouldn’t be too much drop-off. South Carolina should be very good on both sides of the ball and would be a worthy pick for No. 1, but we were a bit concerned about the lack of proven playmakers on offense. The concern for Florida is an offense that ranked 12th in the SEC last year with 334.4 yards per game. The Gators must become more balanced to emerge as a national title contender.

Alabama was the unanimous No. 1 pick in the SEC and the nation. Is there any reason to believe the Crimson Tide will stumble?

Not really. Alabama has recruited so well over the past five years and is so well-coached that it’s tough to find a reason not to pick the Crimson Tide to win yet another SEC title. The biggest cause for concern is the offensive line, which must replace three All-SEC first-teamers — Barrett Jones, D.J. Fluker and Chance Warmack. However, the two returning starters — Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen — are preseason All-SEC picks, and there are plenty of talented players ready to emerge. The biggest hurdle on the schedule is a September trip to Texas A&M, but Alabama still won the SEC title last year despite losing to the Aggies in the regular season.

Most teams that suffered the type of personnel losses that LSU did would get penalized more heavily in the preseason rankings. Do the Tigers get the benefit of the doubt?

It’s fair to say we might make some assumptions about a program like LSU — which has been so good for the past decade — that we don’t make about other teams with less of a track record. This year’s team must replace nine key players on defense. That would cripple most programs, but LSU is not like most programs. The Tigers have been so consistently strong on defense that we can assume there will be enough quality replacements to keep the defense among the best in the league. Now, we don’t expect LSU to be as dominant as it’s been in the past three years, but we’d be surprised if the Tigers didn’t finish in the top-five in the SEC in total defense. Having said all that, we did pick LSU third in the SEC West and No. 12 overall — not exactly among the elite of the elite. That, however, has as much to do with our concerns about LSU’s rather ordinary offense as it does the exodus of talent on defense.

Vanderbilt is picked ahead of Tennessee in the SEC East for the first time ever. What was the rationale?

Vanderbilt was clearly the better team last year, and based on the personnel returning to both programs, there’s no reason to believe the 2013 season will be any different. The Commodores went 5–3 in the league last year and outgained their SEC opponents (plus-5.3 yards per game) for the first time in at least four decades. Tennessee stumbled through a 1–7 SEC record and was outgained by 80.3 yards per game. Despite suffering some key losses on offense — quarterback Tyler Bray and their top four pass-catchers — Tennessee should be improved under new coach Butch Jones. Vanderbilt, however, should still finish ahead of the Vols in the standings.

Are you projecting Auburn to bounce back?

The quick answer: Yes. The tougher question: How much? This was hotly debated in our meeting. We ended up picking the Tigers to finish sixth in the SEC West (up from seventh) and project a 2–6 league record (up from 0–8). We believe this team will be vastly improved, but it’s tough to find too many wins on the league schedule.

2013 SEC Team Previews

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

SEC Notebook

Talking Some Trash
You know Nick Saban is “The Man” on the SEC pedestal when multiple coaches take shots at him in the offseason. And you know Saban is feared enough that those coaches quickly take it back.

First, Vanderbilt’s James Franklin referred to the Alabama coach as “Nicky Satan” during a speaking engagement. He later apologized to Saban, and Franklin said he had been joking. (Which clearly he was.)

Then Arkansas’ Bret Bielema caused a stir by telling a local Razorback Club that “I didn’t come here to play Alabama. I came here to beat Alabama. You can take Saban’s record when he was at Michigan State and when he was a coach in the Big Ten and put it against mine, and it can’t compare.”

Bielema was technically correct: He was 68–24 overall and 37–19 in the Big Ten while at Wisconsin from 2006-12, while Saban was 34–24–1 overall and 23–16–1 in the conference at Michigan State from 1995-99.

But Bielema still felt the need to take to Twitter and say: “Alabama quotes were a joke to a question from a fan at pep rally. #wow.”

Saban didn’t respond publicly to either slight, which seems to be following a recent pattern in the SEC.

And the Bielema jabs weren't the last comment lobbied in Saban's direction this offseason. Florida offensive line coach Tim Davis referred to Saban as the "devil himself"at a booster club meeting in May.

Remember how Steve Spurrier and Phillip Fulmer threw verbal volley back and forth in the ‘90s? (Mostly Spurrier towards Fulmer.) And then how Lane Kiffin’s one year in the conference resulted in a memorable verbal war with Urban Meyer, and even Spurrier on one occasion?

The SEC has a rich history of coaching trash talk, but the tendency lately has been to turn the other cheek.

Take last year, when Spurrier was quoted as saying he was unhappy his game with Georgia was moved to later in the season because the Bulldogs usually had players suspended for the first two games. Georgia’s Mark Richt laughed off the shot, saying, “That sounds like Steve.”

It did sound like Spurrier, but in this day and age the fun and quotable coaches are becoming more and more rare. And Spurrier probably won’t be on the scene much longer.

But perhaps if Bielema and Franklin stick around the conference long enough, and enjoy a high level of  success, the bulletin board will fill up a bit more.

The New World

This marks the final year of the BCS era. So why would the SEC, having won seven BCS championships in a row, have led the fight for a four-team playoff?

Because there’s nothing to suggest the conference won’t dominate the coming format, and make even more money in the process. SEC teams went 6–3 in bowls last year, and since 1996 the conference has a .614 bowl winning percentage. The only bowl season it had a losing record was 2002.

Yes, there have been some duds for the conference. Those have usually involved games against upstarts from outside the five major conferences: Florida losing to Louisville last season, Alabama falling to Utah in January 2009.

But the SEC is not only unbeaten in the last seven BCS Championship Games (not counting LSU losing to Alabama in 2012), but the conference has won four out of the past five Capital One Bowls, nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls and three of the past four Outback Bowls. Those are the SEC’s top bowl tie-ins after the BCS. (SEC teams have lost three of the past four Sugar Bowls, but prior to that the league had won six of the previous seven.)

Given all that, the SEC is pretty confident it can still dominate the new system. That’s why it also pushed to de-emphasize conference affiliation when it comes to picking the BCS bowls that don’t involve the four-team playoff. Last year’s final BCS standings (prior to the bowls) had six SEC teams in the top 10.

So if that many teams potentially could have been in BCS bowls, but only two made it in the BCS last year, what reason did the SEC have to keep the old system? None, that’s why Mike Slive and company led the charge for change.

Third Time's A Charm?

Georgia is obviously hoping to get back to the SEC Championship Game, and will be favored by many to do so. But if the Bulldogs get there and lose again, they will have a strange distinction: The first team in major conference history to lose three straight championship games.

Alabama is the only other SEC team that has lost it twice in a row, 1993 and 1994. (The Crimson Tide also lost in 1996 and 2008.)

But Georgia is also seeking to become just the third SEC team to reach the championship three times in a row, and the first since Florida and Alabama met in the first three SEC championship games. (Florida made it five in a row, winning it from 1992-96.)

Coordinator Carousel


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Paul Petrino; New: Jim Chaney
Petrino is now the head coach at Idaho. Chaney previously served as the OC at Tennessee, with one year under Lane Kiffin and three under Derek Dooley.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Paul Haynes; New: Chris Ash
Haynes is now the head coach at Kent State, his alma mater. Ash spent the previous three seasons on Bret Bielema’s staff at Wisconsin.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Scot Loeffler; New: Rhett Lashlee, Dameyune Craig
Loeffler, who was only at Auburn for one season, landed on his feet as the offensive coordinator at Virginia Tech. Lashlee was the offensive coordinator under Gus Malzahn at Arkansas State last season. Craig was the quarterbacks coach at Florida State. Malzahn will call the plays.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Brian VanGorder; New: Ellis Johnson, Charlie Harbison
VanGorder returned to the NFL as the linebackers coach with the Jets. Johnson was fired after one season as the head coach at Southern Miss. Harbison was the co-defensive coordinator at Clemson for the past four seasons.


Defensive Coordinator
Old: Dan Quinn; New: D.J. Durkin
Quinn is now the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Durkin previously was the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Florida.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Randy Sanders; New: Neal Brown
Sanders is now the running backs coach at Florida State. Brown, a Kentucky grad, had been the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech the past three seasons.

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Rick Minter; New: D.J. Eliott
Minter, not retained by the new staff, is now the linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. Eliott previously was the defensive ends coach at Florida State, where he worked for new Kentucky coach Mark Stoops.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Greg Studrawa; New: Cam Cameron
Studrawa, the offensive coordinator at LSU the past two seasons, will remain on staff as the Tigers’ O-line coach. Cameron was the OC with the Baltimore Ravens from 2008 through Week 14 of the 2012 season, when he was fired.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: David Yost; New: Josh Henson
Yost resigned under pressure in December after Missouri averaged 356.4 yards per game in 2012 — the lowest at the school since 2004. He was hired in January by Washington State as the inside receivers coach. Henson had been Missouri’s co-offensive line coach since 2009.

Mississippi State

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Geoff Collins, Chris Wilson; New: Geoff Collins
Wilson was stripped of his title as co-defensive coordinator and then left the school to take the a job as defensive line coach at Georgia. Collins had been the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.

Ole Miss

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Dave Wommack, Wesley McGriff; New: Dave Wommack, Jason Jones
McGriff left after Signing Day and is now the secondary coach of the New Orleans Saints. Jones had been the cornerbacks coach at Oklahoma State for the past five seasons.


Offensive Coordinator
Old: Jim Chaney; New: Mike Bajakian
Chaney was not retained by the new staff, but landed as the offensive coordinator at Arkansas. Bajakian was previously the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati (2010-12) and Central Michigan (2007-09).

Defensive Coordinator
Old: Sal Sunseri; New: John Jancek
Sunseri is now the defensive ends coach at Florida State. Jancek was the defensive coordinator at Cincinnati from 2010–12. He previously served in the SEC from 2005-09, as a linebackers coach (’05-08) and a co-defensive coordinator (’09).

Texas A&M

Offensive Coordinator
Old: Kliff Kingsbury; New: Clarence McKinney, Jake Spavital
Kingsbury is now the head coach at Texas Tech. McKinney was the Aggies’ running backs coach last season. Spavital had been the quarterbacks coach at West Virginia the previous two seasons. He was a grad assistant at Houston in 2009 under Kevin Sumlin.


Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Fooball Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 101-125

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

College Football's Top 30 Tight Ends of the BCS Era

<p> SEC Football 2013 Predictions</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 10:15
All taxonomy terms: Bye Week, Fantasy Football, NFL, Fantasy
Path: /nfl/fantasy-football-2013-nfl-bye-week-cheat-sheet

Whether you build your draft strategy around them or pretend they don't exist, bye weeks are just as much a part of fantasy football as the waiver wire or setting up your starting lineup each week. As a fantasy GM you have two choices when it comes to bye weeks - pay attention and plan accordingly or simply ignore them and accept the consequences from playing someone who can get you no points.

This season's bye week schedule runs from Week 4 through Week 12. There are only two weeks (8 and 9) with six teams on bye, but either week could turn out to be a pivotal one in your league. For example, in Week 8 alone Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson and Ryan Mathews are all on bye, not to mention Andrew Luck, Brandon Marshall and Andre Johnson, while in Week 9 those who have Peyton or Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick will have to turn to a backup to carry them to victory. Who says bye weeks aren't important?

Pre-order your Athlon Sports 2013 Fantasy Football Preview magazine

2013 NFL Bye Week Schedule:

Week 4: Carolina, Green Bay

Week 5: Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington

Week 6: Atlanta, Miami

Week 7: New Orleans, Oakland

Week 8: Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee

Week 9: Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York Giants, San Francisco

Week 10: Cleveland, Kansas City, New England, New York Jets

Week 11: Dallas, St. Louis

Week 12: Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Seattle

2013 NFL Bye Weeks by Team:

Arizona Week 9
Atlanta Week 6
Baltimore Week 8
Buffalo Week 12
Carolina Week 4
Chicago Week 8
Cincinnati Week 12
Cleveland Week 10
Dallas Week 11
Denver Week 9
Detroit Week 9
Green Bay Week 4
Houston Week 8
Indianapolis Week 8
Jacksonville Week 9
Kansas City Week 10
Miami Week 6
Minnesota Week 5
New England Week 10
New Orleans Week 7
NY Giants Week 9
NY Jets Week 10
Oakland Week 7
Philadelphia Week 12
Pittsburgh Week 5
St. Louis Week 11
San Diego Week 8
San Francisco Week 9
Seattle Week 12
Tampa Bay Week 5
Tennessee Week 8
Washington Week 5

<p> Fantasy Football 2013 NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 10:10
All taxonomy terms: College Football, News
Path: /college-football/college-football-2013-preseason-rankings-101-125

The start of the 2013 college football season is still a few months away. However, Athlon Sports is already counting down the teams for the upcoming year.

Alabama is Athlon’s pick to win the national championship, with Urban Meyer’s Ohio State Buckeyes expected to finish No. 2 nationally.

Athlon finishes its release of its college football rankings with a look at teams No. 101-125.

With the completion of Athlon's college football Top 25 for 2013, it's time to take a look at the rest of the rankings, beginning with No. 26-4041-6061-80, and 81-100. 

Note: Ranking is where team is projected to finish at the end of the 2013 season

College Football 2013 Team Rankings: 101-125

101. Kent State
Kent State won a school-record 11 games, captured its first title of any kind (MAC East) since 1972 and spent three weeks in the BCS rankings. Expectations are high once again in 2013.

On offense, running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham must produce, especially since the Flashes will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. The offensive line, a major asset last season, must develop in a hurry. On defense, the line and secondary are deep and talent-laden. Defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix is a force who changes game plans. Much will depend on finding linebackers. Special teams should be strong once again.

The schedule provides Kent State with little help. In non-league games, the Flashes travel to LSU and Penn State in back-to-back weeks. In the league, they play two of the top teams in the West (Northern Illinois and Ball State) and must travel to Ohio. Repeating as East champs will be difficult, but Kent State should reach bowl-eligibility for the second straight season. 

2013 Kent State Golden Flashes Team Preview

102. Western Michigan
For eight seasons, the Broncos produced exciting offense and tantalizing moments under Bill Cubit, but never quite put it all together. Alex Carder’s hand injury early last fall led to a 4–8 season, the worst of Cubit’s tenure.

P.J. Fleck has fewer years on earth than Cubit does as a coach. But he’s made a number of stops in a short time — coaching in the MAC, at the BCS level and in the NFL. The former All-MAC wideout at Northern Illinois is selling to his players that he’s been exactly where they are and where they want to be.

“We’ve got to prove to them why we should be trusted, why this scheme will work for us. It’s a two-way street,” Fleck says.

Trust is only part of the equation. Like with most of Cubit’s teams, there are a few big-time weapons on the roster. But depth and defense are in question.

2013 Western Michigan Broncos Team Preview

103. Buffalo
For the last 10 seasons, Buffalo rarely has had a lack of athletes on the field. The biggest problem for the Bulls has been putting it all together, and in 2012, that didn’t happen until late last season. After a 3–9 season in 2011 — including a win over East Division champion Ohio — the Bulls took a slight step forward in 2012, and Jeff Quinn was rewarded with a three-year contract extension. With a solid returning group and a year of experience, the Bulls could take a another step forward in the MAC East.

2013 Buffalo Bulls Team Preview

104. UNLV
Many eyebrows were raised when former UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood brought back Bobby Hauck for a fourth season following back-to-back-to-back two-win seasons that included home losses to FCS teams Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. Hauck has tried to rebuild using mainly high school recruits and finally has some experience with 14 returning starters and solid depth on both sides of the ball. He likely needs to get to six wins and a bowl game to be invited back for another year.

The schedule, which features two well-positioned byes, is favorable for a momentum-building quick start with four of the first six games at home and another at rebuilding New Mexico.

2013 UNLV Rebels Team Preview

105. Arkansas State
Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn set a high bar for Bryan Harsin, the former offensive coordinator at Boise State and Texas. They didn’t leave the roster barren, either. David Oku, J.D. McKissic, Ryan Carrethers, Qushaun Lee and Sterling Young are among the Sun Belt’s best at their positions.

A coaching transition is nothing new for the Red Wolves, who are on their fourth head coach in as many seasons, but they haven’t lined up without Ryan Aplin since the middle of the 2009 season. Finding an adequate replacement at quarterback is the key to their hopes of earning a third straight bowl bid and making a push for the Sun Belt title.

2013 Arkansas State Red Wolves Team Preview

106. Troy
Larry Blakeney has 169 career wins at Troy, more than the rest of the current Sun Belt coaches combined at their respective schools. But the last two seasons have been very un-Trojan-like, especially after Troy had won or shared the league title the previous five years. Troy surrendered 29 or more points nine times in 2012 and was last in the league in red zone defense, prompting a retooling of the defensive staff and scheme.

With Corey Robinson’s arm, the Trojans will be a threat on every offensive possession, but they won’t be in title contention unless the defense makes a quantum leap forward.

2013 Troy Trojans Team Preview

107. UAB
UAB will be better in Garrick McGee’s second season as the head coach. Will that show in the win-loss column? It should, even though the Blazers’ non-conference slate includes trips to SEC members LSU and Vanderbilt and in-state rival Troy during the first four weeks of the season. If the Blazers are healthy after that stretch, they could threaten to finish in the upper echelon of the revamped Conference USA. If not, then it could be another difficult season.  

2013 UAB Blazers Team Preview

108. Southern Miss
Not only does Todd Monken inherit a team that was winless in 2012, but he also faces an early season challenge with consecutive road games against Nebraska, Arkansas and Boise State. Expect Monken to quickly restore some credibility on offense, where the Golden Eagles managed only 19.7 points and 322.8 yards per game a year ago. And expect the return of David Duggan as defensive coordinator to address deficiencies there. The Eagles allowed a very un-Southern Miss-like 37.8 points and 426.5 yards per game in 2012.

2013 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Team Preview

109. Tulane
Curtis Johnson was 2–10 in his maiden season as a college head coach. It was a difficult year, even discounting the 10 losses, since the toughest thing he faced was the terrifying spinal cord injury suffered by senior safety Devon Walker. Johnson had to hold his team together while working through his own grief over Walker’s devastating injury.

Now Johnson prepares for his second season with a roster that should be improved. If Nick Montana or Devin Powell plays well at quarterback and Orleans Darkwa remains healthy, the Green Wave could double their win total from a year ago.

2013 Tulane Green Wave Team Preview

110. North Texas
The schedule sets up reasonably well. North Texas plays its season opener at home for the first time since 2001, as Idaho comes to Denton. And in their first year in Conference USA, the Mean Green will play three straight home games against Texas schools with late-season contests versus Rice, UTEP and UTSA.

“The first game being at home is a big deal,” Dan McCarney says. “Every offseason, we sell our program and all the excitement around it, and then the first thing we do is get on a plane to play somewhere else. But this year is our 100-year celebration. We have intrastate rivalries starting up. And the program is getting where we want it to be. There are good vibes in the air here.”

Regardless of the optimism, UNT remains a solid yet unspectacular team. The Mean Green went 4–8 last season and have shown moderate improvement under McCarney, and they seem to be on the same steady path in C-USA this season.

2013 North Texas Mean Green Team Preview

111. Central Michigan
In early November, it looked like Dan Enos might not see a fourth season as CMU’s coach. The Chippewas were 3–6, coming off of a home loss to rival Western Michigan, and appeared headed for their third losing season under Enos. Then, improbably, CMU won three straight and snuck into the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, where it upset Western Kentucky.

Suddenly Enos had a four-year contract extension. “It was a great thing for our program at the right time,” Enos says of the late-season run and bowl victory.

The vibe is now about taking the next step, rather than rebuilding. The schedule, though, isn’t kind. After a rare seven-home-game slate in 2012 (followed by an in-state bowl game), the Chippewas only have five home games this fall — with two of them coming against MAC West powers Northern Illinois and Toledo. A return to the postseason is unlikely. 

2013 Central Michigan Chippewas Team Preview

112. Miami (Ohio)
Significant strides have been lacking in Don Treadwell’s first two seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, and the climb is shaping up to be steep again in 2013, the 125th season of Miami football. After completing 12 consecutive winning campaigns, the RedHawks have finished below .500 in six of the last seven seasons. The non-conference schedule seems to be a little easier, with Kentucky and Illinois replacing Ohio State and Boise State.

Quarterback Austin Boucher proved his raw talent in 2010, but he’s going to have to quickly knock off the rust to get the most out of his one season at the helm. He might end up among the team’s rushing leaders again unless one (or more) of the top three returning ball-carriers shows dramatic improvement. The running game will be better, but not eye-popping.

Defensively, good health will go a long way toward overcoming inexperience issues.

2013 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Team Preview

113. Army 
There are a few new faces and several revamped job descriptions on the coaching staff. Still, the most anticipated change will be at quarterback. An occasional shotgun look will allow A.J. Schurr to utilize his strong arm and give opposing defenses something to think about beyond the option. The defense has nowhere to go but up, which it will do if enough of the young players who were forced into action in 2012 emerge as difference-makers in 2013. If they fail to do so, it will not matter how Schurr — or any other quarterback — performs.

2013 Army Black Knights Team Preview

114. Akron
The second year of the Terry Bowden Era likely will produce the program’s eighth consecutive losing record. Road games at Michigan and UCF can dim anyone’s lights, and the MAC crossover games are against Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ball State — which could be the best three teams in the West.

The offense was exciting last season in a move to the spread and likely will be a fun to watch again. Kyle Pohl must follow Dalton Williams’ example  — get the ball to his playmakers while limiting turnovers. Jawon Chisholm needs to approach (or surpass) the 1,000-yard mark, and it would be nice if one or two receivers separated themselves from the pack. The defense is generally undersized and may only be better if some of the returnees improve drastically or are pushed aside by newcomers.

2013 Akron Zips Team Preview

115. Texas State
Coming off a 6–6 campaign as an FBS independent in 2011, Texas State opened its second year under coach Dennis Franchione (in his second stint with the school) with an upset of Houston but finished 4–8 overall and 2–4 in conference play in the program’s only season as a WAC member. This season the Bobcats are on the move again as they join the Sun Belt.

This year’s schedule could be a challenge as Texas State will play five bowl teams, including road games against Texas Tech, New Orleans Bowl winner UL Lafayette and two-time Sun Belt champion Arkansas State. The Bobcats hope to build off last season when they had six losses to bowl-eligible teams.

Franchione is optimistic Texas State will have a breakout season after adding eight 3-star recruits (according to Rivals) and 11 junior college transfers. For the Bobcats to improve, they must answer questions at quarterback and running back and make big strides defensively.

2013 Texas State Bobcats Team Preview

116. FAU
Prior to replacing program patriarch Howard Schnellenberger, Carl Pelini served as the defensive coordinator for Nebraska. Still, he didn’t inherit anywhere near the same talent that he had in Lincoln, and the progress of the defense proved uneven in 2012. The offense was uneven, too, as Wright was limited in what he could do with Wilbert.

Now Pelini has a few more of his players, bringing in a recruiting class widely regarded as among the best in school history. FAU appears to be moving in the right general direction in some areas — its penalty yardage, for instance, was way down in Pelini’s first season. The out-of-conference schedule, while still including an opener at Miami, isn’t quite as brutal as in 2012, when the Owls faced Georgia and Alabama on the road in consecutive weeks.

Yet the move to Conference USA, a year ahead of schedule, could make the ride bumpy, as could the inexperience at quarterback.

2013 FAU Owls Team Preview

117. South Alabama
The USA program, which played its first game in 2009, is now eligible for the for the Sun Belt title and a bowl bid. But it will be difficult to compete for either, unless the newcomers are fast starters. A 2–11 record last season included five losses of 10 points or less, but Jones warns that USA must move beyond moral victories.

“If our players think those close losses are suddenly going to flip into wins the next year, they are sadly mistaken,” Joey Jones says. “We have Sun Belt experience now. We’ve been competitive, and that’s good. But now we need to win.”

USA has one win over a full-fledged FBS member in its two seasons of transition to the highest division, but it could be aided by turnover in Sun Belt membership. Texas State and Georgia State will be the newcomers, instantly promoting USA’s status in the league. Most teams making the FBS transition suffer during roster turnover. USA’s evolution will be determined by how much the junior college transfers contribute.

2013 South Alabama Jaguars Team Preview

118. FIU
Last season was a downer, with FIU falling well short of expectations. Still, the dismissal of the popular Mario Cristobal — who ended up at Alabama after a brief stop at Miami — was not well-received by many Panthers backers, who felt he’d done enough to elevate the program that he should have gotten another shot. Now Ron Turner, who won Big Ten Coach of the Year back in 2001, takes over during a transitional time, with the move from the Sun Belt to Conference USA, a low number of starters returning, and a rather small recruiting class.

The Panthers had better beat Bethune-Cookman early on, or else they could be 0–4 before the bye. Then it will be even harder to bring back the enthusiasm that was prevalent around this program only two years ago.

2013 FIU Golden Panthers Team Preview

119. Hawaii
Norm Chow’s first season as Hawaii’s head coach was a struggle, and the schedule only gets tougher for 2013. Chow  used the offseason to shake up his coaching staff on the offensive side with the addition of line coach Chris Naeole, coordinator Aaron Price and quarterbacks coach Jordan Wynn. It’s imperative that Hawaii shows significant improvement on offense after scoring 14 points or less in six of its 12 games last season. The Warriors must also start to win the turnover battle; they ranked 110th in the nation last year. 

The schedule won’t allow for Chow’s team to ease into the season. The first five games are against bowl teams. Hawaii will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the new MWC West division.

2013 Hawaii Warriors Team Preview

120. Eastern Michigan
After going 6–6 overall and 4–4 in the MAC in 2011, Eastern Michigan appeared to be on the verge of a breakthrough last fall. Didn’t happen. The Eagles slumped to 2–10 in 2012 and won only one game in the league.

With some chemistry issues that hurt last year’s team apparently solved, there is plenty of desire to right the ship in 2013. Desire is one thing. Talent is another. There are some bright spots — the running game should be strong and the secondary has a chance to be solid — but there are too many hurdles for this team to climb. The Eagles will have a tough time finishing out of the basement in the always tough MAC West.

2013 Eastern Michigan Eagles Team Preview

121. UTSA
Larry Coker, who won a national championship at Miami, needed only one season to work his magic at UTSA. On the heels of the program’s 4–6 inaugural campaign, the Roadrunners went 8–4 overall and 3–3 in the WAC to finish fourth in the league. All four of their losses were to teams that were bowl-eligible.

Coker now leads UTSA into the new-look Conference USA. The Roadrunners will not be a full FBS member and bowl eligible until 2014, but they are experienced (51 returning letterwinners) and have intriguing non-conference home games against Oklahoma State and Houston. The schedule will be challenging. After facing four non-FBS opponents last year, UTSA will play no lower-level schools and five teams that were bowl-eligible in 2012. The Roadrunners could surprise again, but the offense must continue to thrive and the defense must do a better job limiting big plays.

2013 UTSA Roadrunners Team Preview

122. New Mexico State
These Aggies should be improved in 2013, if for no other reason than they’ll have a more effective gameplan offensively. While there is talent on defense, a new scheme is in place on that side of the ball as well, and there could be growing pains. Doug Martin has brought in a breath of fresh air and a positive outlook since taking over in February.

After the implosion of the WAC, New Mexico State will play as an Independent in 2013 before moving to the Sun Belt (for its second stint in the league) in 2014. The schedule features four games against BCS conference opponents plus tough dates against San Diego State, UL Lafayette and Rice. It’s hard to find more than two wins for the Aggies. 

2013 New Mexico State Aggies Team Preview

123. Idaho
This is a true transition year for the Idaho program. It will play as an FBS Independent before moving to the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The good news for Paul Petrino is that he’ll have a number of young players who’ll get experience and exposure to his system, which should help the Vandals when they make the move back to the conference they called home from 2001-04.

Without a conference championship to play for or an automatic bowl tie-in, Idaho must find motivation from within to make this season meaningful. The schedule features four games against teams from AQ conferences as well as three games against a trio of non-AQ schools (Northern Illinois, Fresno State and Arkansas State) that combined to win 31 games last season. The Vandals could struggle to win more than a game or two.

2013 Idaho Vandals Team Preview

124. UMass
This is UMass’ first season where it’s eligible to qualify for a bowl. But with Wisconsin, Kansas State and Vanderbilt on the non-conference schedule and the MAC coming off its best year ever, playing after November seems like an extreme long shot for the Minutemen.

2013 UMass Minutemen Team Preview

125. Georgia State
There is no question that coach Trent Miles faces an uphill climb in Year 1 with the move from FCS to FBS and the Sun Belt Conference. Georgia State struggled to compete in the CAA last season, finishing 1–7 and losing six of those games by at least 20 points.

But Miles is no stranger to rebuilds. Indiana State was the worst FCS program in the nation when he was hired in 2008, with a 1–32 record in the three seasons prior to his arrival. He struggled early, but went 19–14 (13–11 in the Missouri Valley) in his final three seasons. The guy clearly knows how to coach.

2013 Georgia State Panthers Team Preview

Related College Football Content

College Football's Top 25 Teams for 2013
College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 26-40

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 41-60

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 61-80

College Football Team Rankings for 2013: No. 81-100

College Football's Top 50 Quarterbacks of the BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Running Backs of BCS Era

College Football's Top 50 Wide Receivers of BCS Era

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<p> College Football 2013 Preseason Rankings: 101-125</p>
Post date: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - 07:35
Path: /nascar/will-nascar-dover-win-save-tony-stewarts-season

A quick look at the leaderboard, 140 laps through Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover gave you a clear indication of who would be winning this race … or so it seemed. Kyle Busch was first, Matt Kenseth was second and the rest of the field was on another planet. For a good hour that duo swapped the point while only a handful of drivers, between cautions, remained within 10 seconds of contact. Meanwhile, the trio of Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya remained far back, dealing with various handling and track position issues that made a push for victory seem like a virtual impossibility.

Fast forward to the final 20 laps, perhaps the time you woke up from a mid-race nap once Busch and Kenseth’s pairs ice skating routine lulled you to sleep. The top 3, heading down the stretch, were none other than Montoya, Johnson and Stewart, until the No. 48 got a black flag for jumping the final restart. Suddenly, a heavyweight battle was at hand between the remaining duo, there was an on-track pass for the lead in the final five laps and one of the deepest slumps in the garage — Stewart’s 30-race winless streak — was torn to shreds at a track where he typically runs like a tow truck driver. For those who missed those hours in between thinking Busch and Kenseth were going to run away with it, three letters came to mind when looking at the final results sheet: W, T and F. (You can figure this one out.)

That’s a good thing for the sport, even though the quality of racing from NASCAR’s Gen-6 chassis left something to be desired at Dover. For if the drivers can’t battle side-by-side for position to captivate an audience, at least you want to create an aura of unpredictability — that the guys you see running up front on lap 200 aren’t going to be the ones there at the finish. So far this season, NASCAR’s last five winners (Harvick twice, David Ragan, Matt Kenseth and Stewart) have led an average of 11 laps during their respective trips to Victory Lane; to me, that means mission accomplished.

Now, if only we could get this Gen-6 running right everywhere, a problem Mr. Stewart still faces as we go up through the gears after the Monster Mile.

FIRST GEAR: What does this win do for Stewart?
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s clear even Stewart knows this surprise victory, stolen with what was probably a 10th-place car, won’t suddenly make his self-owned team a pack of title contenders. Indeed, on the same day he was sitting there celebrating, teammate Ryan Newman was in hiding, leaving without comment after blatantly dumping David Gilliland on-track, wrecking both drivers out of the event. Danica Patrick, by comparison, nearly took out the field twice within the first 25 laps before a series of unscheduled pit stops to fix handling problems that left her well off the pace and on a “test session” the rest of the day.

“Just making the Chase, that’s not good enough,” said the three-time champ, who put himself in “wild card” position with the victory. “I would rather miss the Chase and be in the process of building our program. I want to get this whole program turned around to where all three drivers are feeling like they have an opportunity to go out and have a good result.”

Smoke’s got the right attitude for his team, and — aside from a brief rebuke at a media member surrounding rumors about possible crew chief changes — left Sunday in a picture perfect frame of mind. Sunday’s race, in which crew chief Steve Addington used pit strategy to work Stewart up through the pack, could be a turning point for a duo who’s had their share of hard luck. The summertime is typically when Smoke catches fire anyways, with the lion’s share of his 48 career victories occurring after June 1. They’ve got Hendrick chassis and horsepower, (and know-how, as HMS has proved to have mastered the Gen-6 with Johnson atop the points) and the resources and quality of personnel are there to at least turn the No. 14 into a success story.

“I think, as an organization, we have a lot to be proud of,” Stewart continued. “It gives Ryan and Danica and I confidence as a driver (that a Stewart-Haas car won). It gives the three crew chiefs confidence that we are making forward progress.”

Keep in mind we’re also in early June. The last time Stewart won a title, in 2011, he stumbled through July and August, barely made the Chase field and looked like he was going to embarrass himself in the postseason. Instead, he left holding the hardware. It’s the mark of being one of the sport’s great drivers: you can never count him out.

SECOND GEAR: Johnson’s botched restart … and Knaus’ cryptic code.
The debate from Dover is whether Johnson jumped the final restart of the race. Check out the footage for yourself. It’s clear the No. 48, against NASCAR rules, made it to the finish line first, despite restarting second and then never gave the position back to Montoya. Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton claims it’s an open-and-shut case, a Grand Canyon-like divide from where the No. 48 team was on the issue.

“I was half-throttle for the whole frontstretch,” Johnson claimed. “And at some point, I gotta go. NASCAR has the judgment to decide if you jumped it or not. But I’m like, he’s (Montoya) is not even going. So I’m not sure if his car broke or if it was off power or he spun the tires … I don’t know. So I’m running half-throttle down the frontstretch waiting for him and he never comes. And then, we were called on it. So, a bummer way to lose a race.”

Johnson had some support from fellow drivers, coming up to him after the checker flag and expressing their displeasure. Chad Knaus also chimed in, via radio to make their position clear: “They (NASCAR) don’t want you to win this race. You know that.”

But the winner, Stewart (who in a sense is a de facto teammate of Johnson) had no issues with how Montoya brought the field down.

“I feel bad for Jimmie,” Stewart said. “He didn't deserve to be in a situation at the end, but at the same time, he knows what the rules are, and he knows that the leader has to cross the start/finish line first. Juan is smart enough to not let the second place guy take advantage of the restart, and that's what he did.”

Stewart said a possible solution to the controversy would be to widen the restart zone, allowing the leader more leeway in when they accelerate and lessening the advantage for second place so they don’t get out in front. But in this case, I think it’s a combination of Montoya’s savvy and a little cheerleading from Knaus that went to Johnson’s head. Check out this transmission I caught just before the final restart:

“You're a lot faster than Montoya, we’ve seen that ... he's just a pain in the ass to pass. Get out there and check the f**k out.”

Johnson, back to second after Montoya beat him off pit road, might have been a little overeager. And the Colombian, not used to being up front, might have spun the tires or even intentionally stayed slow once Johnson jumped knowing if the No. 48 never gave the position back, he’d be black-flagged and the race would play out in his favor. Either way, it’s no harm, no foul for the points leader; he’s got a 30-point edge, is solidly in the Chase and showed he had the car to beat for the return visit to Dover in the fall. I’d forgive, forget and chalk it up as a lesson learned.

THIRD GEAR: Toyota’s engine woes … How will the affect things going forward?
For the second time this season, Matt Kenseth was in position to win until the motor in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota went kaboom. Out before the race’s midpoint, after having dominated up front with Kyle Busch, he was soon joined in the garage by fellow top-5 runner Martin Truex Jr. of Michael Waltrip Racing. It was a rough day for the Camry powerplants, which have blown up at a rate nearly six times that of rivals Ford or Chevrolet.

“I mean I feel like JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) has three of the strongest teams in the garage,” Kenseth said. “It seems like we got the best cars out there — or equal to the best. But, you know you have to finish these things. Obviously, there’s been some issues in that department.”

The veteran’s done a great job at keeping his composure, the perfect role model for teammate Kyle Busch as they hurtle towards the Chase as top contenders. But the 11 percent failure rate for JGR this season has to be alarming. That’s roughly one out of every nine races, meaning in the postseason they’re guaranteed to give up 40 points to a blown engine. It’s a mulligan they can’t afford, especially against a Hendrick opponent known for ironclad equipment.

The problem Sunday was a valve-train issue, but at this point it’s irrelevant. What Toyota needs are solutions for these things, and they need them now.

<p> Reaction from Tony Stewart's unlikely win in NASCAR's FedEx 400 at Dover International Speedway.</p>
Post date: Monday, June 3, 2013 - 13:36