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The Virginia Tech Hokies check in at No. 16 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Logan Thomas, QB
A 1,700-yard running back who was the ACC Player of the Year (David Wilson), the top two wide receivers in school history (Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale), and four fifth-year seniors on the offensive line are all gone, so this is clearly Thomas’ team. The junior showed what he was capable of in his first year as the Hokies’ starting quarterback, but now all eyes and opposing defenses’ attention will be squarely fixed on him. Despite all the personnel changes on offense, Virginia Tech’s goals remain the same – win the ACC Coastal Division, win the ACC Championship, and play in and win a BCS bowl game. As good as the defense is, the offense will certainly have to do its part too, and whether that happens or not depends largely on Thomas’ continued development under center and his production on the field in 2012.

Trap Game: at Miami (Nov. 1)
Virginia Tech has won its last three meetings against Miami, and at this point the Hokies appear to have the edge over the Hurricanes headed into this season’s contest. However, Miami gave Virginia Tech all they could handle last year in Blacksburg, Va., as the home team needed a 19-yard TD scamper by quarterback Logan Thomas with less than a minute remaining to defeat the Hurricanes, 38-35. This game also precedes Virginia Tech’s match up against Florida State the following Saturday, so there’s the risk of the Hokies overlooking one team from the Sunshine State for the other, which is always a dangerous mindset for a team to have, especially on the road in conference play.

Upset Alert: vs. Cincinnati (Sept. 29)
The last time these two teams met was in the 2009 Orange Bowl, which Virginia Tech won 20-9. This year’s contest will also take place on a neutral field, FedEx Field in Landover, Md., and the Hokies better not look past this Big East opponent, even as an Oct. 6 date in Chapel Hill against ACC divisional foe North Carolina lies ahead. Last season, North Carolina State traveled to Cincinnati to play the Bearcats on a Thursday night, with a conference game versus Georgia Tech looming on the horizon. The Wolf Pack got destroyed by Cincinnati 44-14 and then proceeded to fall at home to the Yellow Jackets 45-35 that next Saturday.

Biggest Game: vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 3)
It’s the season opener for both teams as the two ACC Coastal foes will meet on Labor Day night in Blacksburg, Va. Besides this not only setting the tone for the start to each other’s 2012 seasons and conference slates, consider this: the winner of this annual match up has gone on to win the Coastal division the past six seasons. Both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech each will play seven more conference games after this, but if recent history has shown us anything, this game could once again determine who plays in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte, N.C., in December.

Revenge Game: at Clemson (Oct. 20)
It’s pretty simple, Clemson came to Blacksburg, Va., last Oct. 1 and embarrassed Virginia Tech on its home turf 23-3, handing the Hokies their first, and what turned out to be their only, loss during the regular season. The two met again on Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C., to decide the ACC Championship, and the result was the same again as the Tigers manhandled the Hokies 38-10. Both teams went on to BCS bowls (and lost), but Virginia Tech would like nothing more than to get some payback on Oct. 20 in Death Valley. A win at Clemson would not only take some of the sting away from what happened last season, it also could potentially derail the Tigers’ hopes of playing for a second-straight ACC title and getting back to a BCS bowl.

Defensive MVP: Bruce Taylor, LB
They say the quarterback of the defense is oftentimes the linebacker and that’s certainly the case for Taylor. The fifth-year senior led the team in tackles in 2010 and was named honorable mention All-ACC last season despite missing the final six games after suffering a Lisfranc foot injury. Virginia Tech’s defense is expected to be among the nation’s best this coming season. In order for the unit to reach its true potential, defensive coordinator Bud Foster needs a fully healthy Taylor to not only wreak havoc from his inside linebacker position, but also provide leadership both on and off of the field.

Unsung Hero: Dyrell Roberts, WR
Roberts is a fifth-year senior who played in just three games last year after sustaining a broken arm returning the opening kickoff against Arkansas State. Roberts also had his 2010 season end prematurely, after being injured during another kickoff return, which resulted in him having surgery and missing the Hokies’ final five games. When healthy, Roberts has produced both on offense and special teams. Entering this season, Roberts has caught 63 passes for 965 yards (15.3 ypc) and five touchdowns. He also is already Virginia Tech’s career leader in kickoff return yardage with 1,577 yards on 61 returns, good for an average of nearly 26 yards per return. As long as he can stay on the field, Roberts should have a big impact in 2012 as the Hokies are without their top two receivers and No. 1 kickoff returner from last season.

Newcomer to Watch: Michael Holmes, RB
Holmes redshirted last year as the Hokies relied heavily on David Wilson. Now Wilson, the 2011 ACC Player of the Year, and his 1,709 rushing yards have gone on to the NFL, giving Holmes a golden opportunity to establish himself as Virginia Tech’s next great running back. Holmes (5-11, 208) is not the biggest or strongest of backs, but he was a two-time state player of the year while at Harrisonburg (Va.) High School and apparently has earned the first shot at replacing Wilson thanks to his hard work this spring and all-around ability.

Freshman to Watch: Joel Caleb, WR
Rated by many recruiting services as one of the top prospects in Virginia, Caleb is considered the jewel of Virginia Tech’s 2012 signing class, as he chose to stay in state rather than going to Ohio State or West Virginia. The 6-3, 205-pound receiver from Midlothian, Va., definitely has the size that will allow him to make an immediate impact in the passing game. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring lost three of this top five receivers from last year’s team, so as long as Caleb shows to the coaching staff and his teammates that’s he ready, the true freshman should see some playing time this fall behind veterans D.J. Coles, Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts.

Comeback Players: Tariq Edwards, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Bruce Taylor, LBs
Virginia Tech’s linebacking corps is considered to be the best in the ACC, but all three projected starters are coming back from injuries that could impact their performance this fall. Taylor, the Hokies’ leading tackler in 2010, and Gouveia-Winslow both went down with serious Lisfranc foot injuries that shortened their 2011 seasons. Taylor got hurt against Boston College, costing him the final six games, while Gouveia-Winslow was injured two weeks earlier, ending his junior season prematurely. Edwards, who was third on the team in both tackles and tackles for loss last season, was the only one to play in all 14 games in 2011, but had surgery in Marchto place a steel rod in his left fibia to relieve pressure from a stress fracture in his shin.

All three missed spring practice as a result of their injuries, but are expected to be ready to go by the fall. The best-case scenario for Virginia Tech is that all three hold up for the entire season, but if injuries continue to keep them on the sideline or limit them when they are on the field, the Hokies’ defense will certainly look different, and quite possibly, play different, this fall.

Related Virginia Tech Content

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Preview
Virginia Tech Hokies Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Virginia Tech Win the ACC in 2012?
Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 06:01
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-virginia-tech-rivals
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Here are some of our favorite jokes about Virginia Tech's biggest rivals.

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

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

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

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

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

• How does a Duke fan count to 10?
0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4...

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

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

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

Related Virginia Tech Content

Virginia Tech Hokies 2012 Team Preview
Virginia Tech Hokies Top 10 Players for 2012

Will Virginia Tech Win the ACC in 2012?
Virginia Tech's Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Virginia Tech Football History

Virginia Tech Hokies Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Virginia Tech Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team.</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 01:33
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy, MLB, Fantasy
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-bests-busts-and-waiver-wire-may-14
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Stay tuned each week to Athlon Sports for a 2012 Fantasy Baseball Weekend Waiver Wire every Monday and a Weekend Rundown every Thursday.

As I stated last week, we will no longer analyze the current season-to-date Top 25 players will instead look at the Top 25 hitters and pitchers based on last week. This way, each week you fantasy owners know exactly who are the hottest players in the game. This comes with a warning label, however, in the form of Joey Votto. 

Votto had the fifth-best week of any hitter in baseball over the last seven days. Votto has been solid, walking a ton (31 BB in 113 AB so far) and has been hitting for average (.296 before yesterday). But after his 4/5, 3-HR, 6-RBI, 4-R day agains the Nats, he finished last week as the No. 5 hitter in the game. He had three runs, no homers and two RBI in the first six days of the week. 

So while this chart can certainly tell you excatly who to target on the waiver wire, it can also deceive from time to time. The lesson? Do your homework before dropping, adding or trading players.

Top 25 fantasy baseball hitters of last week (05/17-05/13):

  Name Team Pos. R HR RBI SB AVG OPS
1. Josh Hamilton TEX OF 10 9 18 0 .467 1.962
2. Carlos Beltran STL OF 8 6 13 0 .360 1.648
3. Nelson Cruz TEX OF 9 1 7 1 .500 1.313
4. Josh Reddick* OAK OF 7 3 8 1 .417 1.375
5. Joey Votto CIN 1B 7 3 8 1 .429 1.586
6. Dustin Pedroia BOS 2B 8 2 9 1 .393 1.205
7. Andrew McCutchen PIT OF 5 3 6 1 .524 1.600
8. Rafael Furcal STL SS 4 1 3 2 .667 1.506
9. Allen Craig* STL 1B/2B/OF 5 4 9 0 .348 1.318
10. Elvis Andrus TEX SS 10 0 4 1 .419 1.002
11. Raul Ibanez* NYY OF 5 4 8 0 .353 1.539
12. Will MIddlebrooks* BOS 3B 6 3 9 0 .308 1.126
13. David Wright NYM 3B 6 1 7 0 .481 1.258
14. Nick Markakis BAL OF 4 3 7 1 .333 1.240
15. Elliot Johnson* TB 2B/SS 5 1 3 2 .500 1.279
16. Ryan Braun MIL OF 6 2 3 1 .429 1.348
17. Brandon Inge* OAK 2B/3B 3 3 12 0 .286 1.080
18. Danny Espinosa* WAS 2B 4 2 5 2 .304 1.012
19. Adam LaRoche* WAS 1B 4 2 7 0 .450 1.477
20. Jemile Weeks* OAK 2B 4 0 0 4 .389 .920
21. Melky Cabrera SF OF 5 1 4 0 .500 1.288
22. Austin Jackson DET OF 7 0 2 2 .364 .919
23. Roger Bernadina* WAS OF 3 2 5 2 .286 .967
24. Andy Dirks* DET OF 5 1 4 0 .500 1.304
25. Mike Trout* LAA OF 4 1 5 1 .421 1.184

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Middle Infield Help

If you needed MI help this week, or next, you should have plenty of options on your waiver wire. Allen Craig, Elliot Johnson, Brandon Inge, Danny Espinosa and Jemile Weeks all boast some sort of middle infield eligibility and all had Top 25 weeks. Most importantly, all of them are owned in less than 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Weeks and Craig are less likely to be available and both have the most long-term potential. But while Evan Longoria is on the shelf, Johnson has some intriguing value as he can contibute across the stat box and has the coveted "2B/SS" moniker.

Espinosa might be the top name to watch, however. He likely has the most raw talent and nearly got to the 20/20 mark a year ago (21/17). He will never help your team's batting average, but there is no weakness in his counting stats. Just be prepared for streaky ups and downs.

DH or No DH

Keep an eye on your DHs out there as Interleague play begins this week. There are some names out there who will either A) lose at-bats because they cannot help the team enough in the field or B) will gain eligibility somehow (fingers-crossed David Ortiz owners). Other platooners who need more at-bats in the NL could find some easy plate appearances as a DH. Keep your eyes peeled.

DL Watch

- Uber-star Matt Kemp has a tweaked hamstring and many believe (and want) to see him protected from himself with a quick DL stint. Kemp himself refuses to admit he will visit the DL. As the top player in the game, fans need to keep a close eye on this one. A week or two off doesn't seem like a bad idea.

- Arizona OF Chris Young is expected to start his Class A rehab this week. Keep a close eye on the young Diamondback.

- Cuban import Yoenis Cespedes is going to miss a few weeks after finally being placed on the 15-day DL with his broken hand.

- The Braves' Chipper Jones is questionable with "soreness." This may be the case for the rest of his swan song.

- The Cubs placed closer-turned-set-up man Carlos Marmol on the DL with a hamstring issue. Am I the only one that has "conspiracy theory" flashing in bright lights in the back of my head?

Rickie Weeks is questionable with a hand and wrist issue after missing a few games. That isn't the only thing wrong with the .158 hitter.

- Scott Rolen was placed on the DL over the weekend with a shoulder injury.

- Outfielder Dexter Fowler is questionable this week with an eye injury.

- The Royals Mike Moustakas missed a couple of games with a hamstring issue, but it doesn't appear to be serious.

- The Halos' Dan Haren is questionable for his Monday start against Oakland.

- The Mets' Ike Davis missed some time with an illness but should be back while Jason Bay's rehab is taking longer than expected — also with an flu-like illness.

- Erik Bedard is questionable for his May 16 start against Washington with a back issue.

- The Nationals' Wilson Ramos appears to be out for the season with a brutal knee injury.

As far as pitching goes, to accurately analyze who is hot and who is not, all pitchers need to be graded on an equal playing field. We will use every two weeks to breakdown the mound, since most every starter in the game will get three starts in every two week period of time. It makes for a very interesting Top 25:

Top 20 fantasy Starting Pitchers of the last two weeks:

  Name Team IP W K ERA WHIP
1. Carlos Zambrano* MIA 23.0 1 21 0.39 0.87
2. Brandon Morrow TOR 15.0 2 18 0.60 0.73
3. Jeff Samardzija* CHC 19.2 2 20 1.37 0.86
4. Scott Diamond* MIN 14.0 2 10 0.00 0.71
5. Chris Capuano LAD 14.0 2 10 0.64 0.64
6. Bud Norris* HOU 18.2 2 19 1.45 0.96
7. James McDonald* PIT 22.0 2 25 2.05 1.05
8. Brandon McCarthy* OAK 13.2 2 14 0.66 0.88
9. Justin Verlander DET 21.0 2 21 2.57 0.90
10. CC Sabathia NYY 16.0 2 15 1.13 0.94
11. Cole Hamels PHI 21.0 2 19 1.71 1.05
12. Paul Maholm* CHC 13.0 2 7 0.69 0.69
13. Matt Cain SF 21.0 1 22 2.14 0.90
14. Lance Lynn STL 17.2 2 20 2.55 1.02
15. Felix Hernandez SEA 22.2 1 25 1.99 1.10
16. Max Scherzer* DET 13.1 1 18 2.03 0.83
17. Johnny Cueto CIN 16.0 1 9 0.56 0.81
18. Brandon Beachy ATL 19.1 2 13 2.33 0.93
19. Jason Vargas SEA 14.1 1 11 1.26 0.77
20. Joe Blanton PHI 15.2 1 13 2.30 0.70

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

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

1. Ervin Santana, LAA: Oakland (Tues.)
Coming off three quality starts in a row. Also gets the Padres on Sunday.

2. Doug Fister, DET: Minnesota (Thur.)
Has been excellent since returning from the DL and faces lowly Twins.

3. Max Scherzer, DET: at White Sox (Tues.)
Has 18 Ks and 2 BBs in last two starts. Also gets the Pirates on Sunday.

4. Colby Lewis, TEX: Kansas City
Two poor starts in a row (12 ER) but had 12 Ks against Orioles last time out.

5. Ryan Vogelsong, SF: Oakland (Sat.)
Two earned runs allowed in last 14.1 IP. Gets Oakland this weekend.

Top 20 fantasy Relief Pitchers of the last month:

  Name Team IP W SV K HLD ERA WHIP
1. Pedtro Strop* BAL 15.0 3 2 16 3 1.20 0.80
2. Fernando Rodney TB 14.0 1 7 14 0 0.64 1.07
3. Jim Johnson BAL 12.0 0 8 9 0 0.75 0.67
4. Chris Perez CLE 11.0 0 10 8 0 2.45 0.82
5. Brett Myers HOU 11.2 0 8 7 0 1.54 0.69
6. Jonathan Papelbon PHI 11.0 0 8 13 0 2.45 0.82
7. Wilton Lopez* HOU 16.2 2 0 15 3 1.62 0.60
8. Santiago Casilla SF 12.0 0 7 9 0 1.50 0.83
9. Kenley Jansen LAD 12.2 0 3 19 6 0.71 0.79
10. Darren O'Day* BAL 14.2 2 0 16 2 1.23 0.75
11. Alexi Ogando* TEX 13.0 1 0 12 3 0.00 0.46
12. Aroldis Chapman CIN 11.2 1 0 20 2 0.00 0.69
13. Craig Kimbrel ATL 10.0 0 8 19 0 3.60 1.30
14. Jose Arredondo* CIN 11.2 2 0 17 0 1.54 0.69
15. Jason Motte STL 10.2 1 4 11 0 1.69 0.84
16. Logan Ondrusek* CIN 10.2 2 1 8 3 0.00 0.75
17. Robbie Ross* TEX 13.2 4 0 10 1 2.63 0.95
18. Steve Cishek* MIA 11.0 4 0 13 1 2.45 1.27
19. Rafael Betancourt COL 10.0 1 4 11 0 2.70 1.00
20. Joe Nathan TEX 9.2 0 5 10 0 0.93 1.14

* - less than 70% owned in Yahoo! leagues

Closing Carousel

Casey Janssen and Dale Thayer have been clean (so far) in their week-long stints as closers for Toronto and San Deigo respectively. Sergio Santos and Huston Street should be back at some time, but for now these two seem safe to use in your desperate chase for saves.

Brian Fuentes has been named the Athletics' closer. He has plenty of experience in the ninth inning but plays for a bad team and has been anything but a sure thing over the course of his career. Keep an eye on this one.

Frank Francisco got off to a great start finishing games for the Mets, but has been terrible — 5 ER in 0.2 IP in his last two outings — of late. Jon Rauch has experience and the inside track while Bobby Parnell has the whiff-stuff needed to close.

This has been easily the most volatile and unexpected year of the closer I can remember. Prices for formerly concerning names like Chris Perez and Jason Motte continue to rise. Owners are going to be waiver chasing or paying premiums this season. 

Keep this link handy as Athlon keeps its Closer Grid up to date all season long.

-by Braden Gall

 @bradengall

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Bests, Busts and Waiver Wire: May 14</p>
Post date: Monday, May 14, 2012 - 01:00
Path: /college-football/college-fantasy-football-2012-mock-draft-rosters
Body:

Athlon Sports College Fantasy Football 2012 Mock Draft: Complete Rosters

12-team, 20-round serpentine draft

Click here for the complete round-by-round breakdown

Mock draft based upon a standard scoring system:

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

Starting lineup: 3 QB, 3 RB, 3 WR, 1 Flex (WR or RB), 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF, 7 bench spots

  1. Steven Lassan, Athlon Sports
1. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
2. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
3. Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
4. D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State
5. Darrin Moore, WR, Texas Tech
6. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
7. Jordan Lynch, QB, Northern Illinois
8. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
9. David Fluellen, RB, Toledo
10. Anthon Samuel, RB, Bowling Green
11. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
12. Eric Thomas, WR, Troy
13. Rio Johnson, QB, East Carolina
14. Brandin Byrd, RB, North Texas
15. Matt Schilz, QB, Bowling Green
16. Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan
17. Eric Stephens, RB, Texas Tech
18. Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA
19. Oklahoma DEF/ST
20. Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas
  2. Nick Humbert, CFFL
1. Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State
2. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
3. Nick Harwell, WR, Miami (Ohio)
4. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
5. Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan
6. Colby Cameron, QB, Louisiana Tech
7. Kedrick Rhodes, RB, FIU
8. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
9. Tracy Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
10. Chris Gragg, TE, Arkansas
11. Cody Green, QB, Tulsa
12. LSU DEF/ST
13. Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana-Lafayette
14. Emory Blake, WR, Auburn
15. Josh Schaeffer, WR, Western Michigan
16. T.J. Moe, WR, Missouri
17. Chip Reeves, WR, Troy
18. Javonti Greene, RB, Eastern Michigan
19. Keith Wenning, QB, Ball State
20. Akeem Shavers, RB, Purdue
  3. Nathan Rush, Athlon Sports
1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
2. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
3. Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
4. Isaiah Crowell, RB, Georgia
5. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
6. Curtis McNeal, RB, USC
7. Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee
8. Josh Jarboe, WR, Arkansas State
9. James White, RB, Wisconsin
10. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
11. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon
12. Jaxon Shipley, WR, Texas
13. Storm Johnson, RB, UCF
14. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
15. Texas DEF/ST
16. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
17. Joey Iosefa, RB, Hawaii
18. Dayne Crist, QB, Kansas
19. USC DEF/ST
20. Nick O'Leary, TE, Florida State
  4. David Fox, Athlon Sports
1. Joseph Randle, RB Oklahoma State
2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
3. John White, RB, Utah
4. Seth Doege, QB, Texas Tech
5. Titus Davis, WR, Central Michigan
6. Chris Nwoke, RB, Colorado State
7. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri
8. Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech
9. Corey Robinson, QB, Troy
10. Jyruss Edwards, RB, Louisiana-Monroe
11. Philip Lutzenkirchen, TE, Auburn
12. Joe Southwick, QB, Boise State
13. Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
14. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech
15. Georgia DEF/ST
16. Spencer Ware, RB, LSU
17. EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State
18. Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
19. Gabriel Marks, WR, Washington State
20. Brett Maher, K, Nebraska
  5. Patrick Snow, Athlon Sports
1. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
3. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia
4. Cierre Wood, RB, Notre Dame
5. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
6. Keith Price, QB, Washington
7. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
8. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia
9. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
10. Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor
11. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
12. Waymon James, RB, TCU
13. Florida State DEF/ST
14. Tavarres King, WR, Georgia
15. John Hubert, RB, Kansas State
16. Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
17. Matthew Tucker, RB, TCU
18. Noel Grigsby, WR, San Jose State
19. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
20. Andre Heidari, K, USC
  6. Alex Esselink, CFFL
1. Robert Woods, WR, USC
2. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
3. Charles Sims, RB, Houston
4. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
5. Dominique Whaley, RB, Oklahoma
6. James Franklin, QB, Missouri
7. Bryan Bennett, QB, Oregon
8. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
9. Trey Metoyer, WR, Oklahoma
10. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
11. Dewayne Peace, WR, Houston
12. Clint Chelf, QB, Oklahoma State
13. Eric Monette, WR, Western Michigan
14. Frankie Jackson, RB, Arkansas State
15. Michigan State DEF/ST
16. Florida DEF/ST
17. Sadale Foster, RB, Texas Tech
18. Terrance Owens, QB, Toledo
19. Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
20. Bryan Davis, K, Arkansas State
  7. Todd DeVries, College Football Geek
1. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
2. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas
3. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
4. Cody Fajardo, QB, Nevada
5. Ray Graham, RB, Pittsburgh
6. David Piland, QB, Houston
7. Cameron Marshall, RB, Arizona State
8. Isi Sofele, RB, California
9. Javone Lawson, WR, Louisiana-Lafayette
10. Ryan Otten, TE, San Jose State
11. Nick Florence, QB, Baylor
12. David Graves, QB, Hawaii
13. Daniel Spencer, WR, Houston
14. Brice Butler, WR, San Diego State
15. Jawan Jamison, RB, Rutgers
16. Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston
17. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami (Fla.)
18. Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
19. Dustin Hopkins, K, Florida State
20. Penn State DEF/ST
  8. Braden Gall, Athlon Sports
1. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
2. Ryan Aplin, QB, Arkansas State
3. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
4. Keenan Allen, WR, California
5. Matt Brown, RB, Temple
6. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
7. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
8. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
9. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska
10. Jacob Pedersen, TE, Wisconsin
11. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
12. Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
13. Virginia Tech DEF/ST
14. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
15. Stephen Houston, RB, Indiana
16. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
17. DeVonte Christopher, WR, Utah
18. Dan Buckner, WR, Arizona
19. Caleb Sturgis, K, Florida
20. Danny O'Brien, QB, Wisconsin
  9. Zeke Smyczynski, The CFF Site
1. Collin Klein, QB, Kansas State
2. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon
3. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
4. Darius Johnson, WR, SMU
5. Jesse Callier, RB, Washington
6. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
7. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
8. Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)
9. Jawon Chisholm, RB, Akron
10. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
11. Erik Highsmith, WR, North Carolina
12. Alabama DEF/ST
13. Alec Lemon, WR, Syracuse
14. Jonathan Perry, QB, UAB
15. Demetris Murray, RB, South Florida
16. Jahwan Edwards, RB, Ball State
17. Charlie Moore, WR, Oklahoma State
18. Chandler Catanzaro, K, Clemson
19. Josh Harris, RB, Wake Forest
20. Trayion Durham, RB, Kent State
  10. Joe DiSalvo, The CFF Site
1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
2. Zach Line, RB, SMU
3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
4. Fitzgerald Toussaint, RB, Michigan
5. Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt
6. Stepfon Jefferson, RB, Nevada
7. Blaine Gautier, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette
8. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
9. Lyle McCombs, RB, Connecticut
10. Hunter Lee, RB, Louisiana Tech
11. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
12. Brandon Ford, TE, Clemson
13. Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky
14. Marquel Wade, WR, Arkansas
15. Josh Stewart, WR, Oklahoma State
16. Tony Jones, RB, Colorado
17. Boise State DEF/ST
18. Quinn Sharp, K, Oklahoma State
19. Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern
20. Rickey Galvin, RB, Washington State
  11. Mitch Light, Athlon Sports
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
2. Branden Oliver, RB, Buffalo
3. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
4. Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
5. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
6. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
7. Raymond Maples, RB, Army
8. Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida
9. Bernard Reedy, WR, Toledo
10. Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
11. Jordan Rodgers, QB, Vanderbilt
12. Malcolm Agnew, RB, Oregon State
13. Trey Watts, RB, Tulsa
14. Ryan Katz, QB, San Diego State
15. South Carolina DEF/ST
16. Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers
17. Chris Boyd, WR, Vanderbilt
18. Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn
19. Wes Lunt, QB, Oklahoma State
20. Drew Alleman, K, LSU
  12. Mark Ross, Athlon Sports
1. Rex Burkhead, RB, Nebraska
2. Tyler Tettleton, QB, Ohio
3. Orleans Darkwa, RB, Tulane
4. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
5. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
6. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
7. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State
8. Kasen Williams, WR, Washington
9. Michael Holmes, RB, Virginia Tech
10. Riley Nelson, QB, BYU
11. Ronnie Williams, WR, Houston
12. Latavius Murray, RB, UCF
13. Matt Miller, WR, Boise State
14. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke
15. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State
16. Blake Jackson, TE, Oklahoma State
17. Mike James, RB, Miami (Fla.)
18. Ohio State DEF/ST
19. Ja'Terian Douglas, RB, Tulsa
20. Matt Weller, K, Ohio

— Published on June 15, 2012

Related College Fantasy Football Content

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

Teaser:
<p> College Fantasy Football: 2012 Mock Draft Rosters</p>
Post date: Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 12:31
Path: /nascar/dodges-precarious-nascar-predicament
Body:

As Brad Keselowski celebrated in Victory Lane at Talladega, it was a scene both bittersweet and conflicting. Dodge had just won at Talladega for the first time since 1976, and yet there was precious little for the manufacturer to celebrate.

Two wins by Keselowski, coupled with teammate AJ Allmendinger — who’s been in position to win in the closing laps at both Martinsville and Talladega (before causing a massive wreck driving in a straight line) —indicate that Penske Racing will become (or already is) a force to be reckoned with throughout the balance of the year.

It also gives pause as to why in the hell it is jumping ship to ditch Dodge and join forces with the Ford Motor Company.

The Mopar mutiny was presented as a way for Penske to better benchmark itself against the competition, and felt that the Blue Oval brigade was that measuring stick. Considering how a Chevrolet has taken home the Cup crown every year since 2005, I’m not quite sure how that math works out just yet. It took nearly two years for the Ford camp to figure out that its simulation software sucked, and it was the Roush Fenway satellite team of Richard Petty Motorsports that helped rescue it from the depths of despair and fundamentally flawed front-end geometry.

Last season was a rebound year for Ford, which retained the services of marquee driver Carl Edwards, who ultimately tied Tony Stewart for the championship — but lost in a tie-breaker to Stewart’s four wins to Edwards’ lone triumph at Las Vegas (a race, ironically, that Stewart’s team threw away on botched fuel strategy). For 2012, the two longest-tenured Ford drivers — Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle — have been a force to be reckoned with, while Edwards has had his share of struggles, including being caught up in a wreck at Talladega and the controversial restart penalty at Richmond which denied him his first win in well over a year.

Dodge, on the other hand, has been a microcosm of Chrysler’s struggles, and its most recent brush with mortality. With Clint Eastwood cutting Chrysler commercials at halftime of the Super Bowl and a number of tug-at-your-heart-string ads that have recently been rolled out, it appeared Penske and Dodge were positioning themselves to pick up where things left off in 2011.

Unfortunately, Kurt Busch completely lost his faculties twice in nine weeks during the 2011 Chase — including going postal on a respected reporter while in earshot of a smartphone. The result was Busch being booted from Penske’s No. 22, and AJ Allmendinger replacing him as a last-minute pickup from the driver waiver wire. The 2012 season started with a disappointing Daytona 500, with late-race wrecks and an incident on pit road sidelining the two-car operation. Speedweeks, in general, was a bit of a bust aside from Keselowski’s tweet heard ’round the world.

More distraction and impending doom, however, was looming, as Dodge was prepared the unveil what appears to be the baddest-assed looking racecar to roll out since Richard Petty’s Roadrunner and David Pearson’s Gran Torino did battle 40 years ago. The new generation CoT for 2013 has a number of refinements, chief among them something resembling cars the manufacturers actually manufacture. Image that: a stock car that legitimately looks like a stock car — something that has been missing from the sport since the late ’80s.

Undercutting Dodge’s presentation of its new piece in early March while in Las Vegas was word that its flagship (and sole) team was pulling up the tent stakes and taking its lugwrench to Dearborn. Not good news for a manufacturer that put all of its chips on Penske and doubled-down on a driver, in Keselowski, that is on the verge of stardom and who grew up just outside of Detroit, to boot.

Keselowski has matured greatly since joining Penske Racing in Novemeber 2009, becoming a leader following the vacuum left by the departed Busch. Keselowski’s family was instrumental in the resurgence of Chrysler’s involvement in stock-car racing, with his father Bob piloting a LeBaron in the early 1990s in the ARCA Series, and then a Ram once Dodge returned to NASCAR in the Truck Series in ’95. With Keselowski in the fold and seemingly flipping a switch after a testing crash at Road Atlanta last summer, Dodge finally had an up-and-coming young talent with one of the finest organizations in motorsports.

A few weeks into the 2012 season find that picture suddenly a lot less rosy.


Meanwhile, half a continent away…
Word came out recently that Furniture Row Racing has reached out to former Penske driver Busch to gauge his interest in driving a possible second car for the Denver, Colo., based team with Richard Childress Racing connections. Perhaps more interesting is that Dodge has issued overtures to the same team to suspend its Chevrolet affiliation and become a full-factory backed Dodge operation. The main obstacle — and one that will likely become a theme with Dodge — appears to be just who will build the engines for the team that is based 2,000 miles away from the hub of NASCAR (and from anybody who could possibly build engines for a manufacturer that still relies on a racing family from its storied past, in Arrington Engines, for much of its support). Penske Racing has also said it would still be interested in the business of building Dodge engines, despite the move to Ford. Isn’t that a bit like a Democratic strategist saying they will be assisting with the Mitt Romney campaign?

For Busch, it’s likely a welcome reprieve, as his current gig has him driving semi-sponsored cars manned by a team of 18 warm bodies and pictures of mountain cats on the hood from six-year old movies. Not to bag on Phoenix Racing — it’s astounding the level the rag-tag band is able to compete considering its resources — and also a testament to the true talent of Kurt Busch. Yeah, he might fly off the handle and vent for 500 miles, but as with his equally-mercurial brother, you will find no one who argues his ability to drive a racecar. And let’s be honest: it wasn’t until he completely lost it at Richmond last spring that things started to turn around for the Penske organization and, low and behold, they got both cars and two-thirds of the Dodge contingent in the Chase.

To his credit, Busch has kept his trademark temper under control thus far in 2012, and even managed to keep the big green rage monster caged after inadvertent contact from his former teammate and eventual race-winner Keselowski at Talladega. While Busch has had discussions with Furniture Row, there is also speculation that he may be headed to RCR. That would be an interesting combination, as team owner Childress beat up his brother in the garage area just a few months ago.

While being engaged by a six-time championship winning car owner is obviously heartening for Busch, it may prove downright depressing for Dodge. It may be in position to reclaim a championship-caliber driver and bring a mid-level team (which just happens to be the defending champions of this weekend’s Southern 500 at Darlington) to the next level. However, nothing is concrete and the clock is already ticking on 2013.

If the Busch connection at FRR doesn’t pan out, who else might Dodge be able to court?


What’s old is new again?
You can eliminate the heavy-hitters like RCR, Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing right off the bat. Joe Gibbs Racing has re-signed with Toyota, having suspended its own engine-building operation to source powerplants directly through TRD. The Michael Waltrip Racing renaissance is well underway, and there is next to no chance it wants to upset the applecart at this stage. It was rumored that Richard Petty Motorsports may well be a prime candidate to become the factory-backed Dodge team, but it may prove difficult as it is essentially an assembly company, getting chassis, engines and engineering support from RFR.

However, a potential Petty move would be a dream come true for many Mopar fans simply for the nostalgic value. And it would be mutually beneficial for Petty and Dodge.

RPM is not performing at nearly the level its car and engine provider (RFR) is this season, and sponsorship remains an issue for the operation that has whittled things down to the No. 43 driven by Aric Almirola and the No. 9 of Marcos Ambrose. Former JGR crew chief Mike Ford has recently come on board, bringing knowledge and the perspective of a championship-caliber team.

The engine supplier issue, though, still looms large for RPM if it were to make the switch back to Pentastar power. Should Ralph Gilles and company elect to put a Dodge in their garage, the only two with experience building them (besides Penske) are Joey Arrington and “Chief” Maurice Petty. Dedicated engineering support and being the sole-focus that accompanies the only-child-status of Dodge’s NASCAR endeavors could help revitalize RPM, which is still suffering a bit of an identity crisis since Petty Enterprises stopped being a racing organization and started being a museum in Level Cross.

If Dodge is unable to find a team with enough potential and existing infrastructure, its involvement in NASCAR may very well end up being limited to a space in that same museum.


by Vito Pugliese
Follow Vito on Twitter:
@VitoPugliese 

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contrbutor Vito Pugliese examines Dodge's NASCAR predicament — and explores which drivers and teams may be on its wish list.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 16:13
All taxonomy terms: Overtime
Path: /overtime/minnesota-twins-season-summed-one-gif
Body:

Man, the Minnesota Twins have taken sucking to a whole new level. In the fourth inning of yesterday's game the Blue Jays' Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-out pop-up and, well, this happened. 

Teaser:
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 10:44
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-wisconsin-no-17-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Wisconsin Badgers being named No. 17, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Bret Bielema’s Wisconsin Badgers continue the countdown at No. 17 with five preseason All-Americans and eight players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Wisconsin will finish second in the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Heisman candidate Montee Ball will lead the vaunted Badgers’ running attack once again,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The loss of Russell Wilson is big, but Bret Bielema's program is a perennial contender and will have a good shot at a third consecutive Rose Bowl.”

Five Wisconsin standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Montee Ball and offensive lineman Ricky Wagner being voted to the first team. Punt returner Jared Abbrederis, offensive lineman Travis Frederick and linebacker Chris Borland were selected to the third team. In addition, the Badgers running backs unit was ranked No. 2 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The offensive line was rated No. 6 in the country and tops in the Big Ten, while the linebackers unit was tabbed No. 5 in the nation.

Eight Badgers earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including Ball, Wagner, Frederick, Borland, linebacker Mike Taylor and Abbrederis at both wide receiver and punt returner on the first team. Tight end Jacob Pedersen was named to the second team, while defensive lineman David Gilbert garnered third-team honors.

Wisconsin Team Preview

Wisconsin's Top 10 Players of 2012

Wisconsin’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Wisconsin No. 17 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 10:17
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-football-will-coaching-attrition-catch-badgers-2012
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 17 Wisconsin. The Badgers must replace quarterback Russell Wilson, but return running back Montee Ball and a solid defense. 

Will the Coaching Attrition Catch Up to the Badgers in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The bigger cause for a drop off probably will be the fact Danny O’Brien is not Russell Wilson. We tend to compare the two because they’re ACC quarterbacks who landed at Wisconsin as one-year transfers, but Wilson was far more established than O’Brien, who lost his job last season at Maryland. O’Brien probably will be fine this season, but I’m interested in seeing how the offense develops without the tandem of Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad. I like new offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who was successful in two stints at Northern Illinois and was offensive coordinator of Indiana’s bowl team in 2007. New offensive line coach Mike Markuson is a veteran assistant, who spent his career working for Houston Nutt. At least at Arkansas, he proved he can set the table for a punishing run game. But can he replace the architect of so many great offensive lines for the Badgers? Chris Ash is entering just his second year as the defensive coordinator, but new linebacker coach Andy Buh has proven himself at Nevada and Stanford. Those are only a handful of the new coaches in Madison over the last two seasons, but possibly the most important ones. Coaching staff attrition catch up with any program – even Florida started to take a dip when assistants like Dan Mullen, Billy Gonzales and others left before finally Urban Meyer left, too. Wisconsin has hired a good mix of veterans and new blood to remain consistent, but Bret Bielema would be well-served to keep this group together for a few years. When players start working under three different coordinators or position coaches in four or five years, that’s when problems seem to arise.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
There are many reasons that fans and analysts should be bullish on the Badgers in 2012. Wisconsin has a Heisman Trophy running back returning, two All-Big Ten pass catchers returning and yet another powerful front line paving the way. The defense has one of the best linebacking tandems in the nation and a defensive line that should be improved at stopping the run. And possibly the most imperative aspect for defending its Big Ten title? Ohio State's inability to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

However, there are also many reasons those same fans and analysts should be weary of Bret Bielema's attempt at Wisconsin's first-ever Big Ten three-peat. Three first-team All-Big Ten blockers have departed. The greatest quarterback in the history of Wisconsin football is also no longer calling plays and taking snaps. But the biggest void Bielema had to fill was left by six assistant coaching changes, most notably offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.

Chryst, who graduated from UW in 1988, is largely responsible for the greatest offensive era in Wisconsin football history.  During Chryst's seven-year tenure as the play-caller in Madison, Wisconsin went an astonishing 70-21 overall with five 10-win seasons and a pair of Big Ten titles. Seven of the top 12 highest scoring teams in Badgers history, including the best four all-time, came under Chryst's leadership. His 2011 offense led the Big Ten in rushing, total and scoring offense. His 2010 team was the highest scoring team in the league. The 2009 edition of the Big Red offense also led the conference in rushing, total and scoring offense. The top five single-season passing seasons in school history were engineered by Chryst. Numerous All-Americans, a Heisman Trophy finalist, an Outland Award winner and a Unitas Award winner dot his resume as well.

Matt Canada appears to be capable of leading this new era of Badger offense, but having to replace coaches every year, including six in one off-season, will eventually impact of the overall effectiveness of the program. The value of Russell Wilson and his departure will play as big a role in the immediate future, but there is no way Wisconsin can maintain its current level of offensive success without Chryst's innovative play-calling.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Losing a coach or two isn’t much of a concern, but replacing six assistants is a different story. Bret Bielema has led the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances, but losing top assistants like offensive coordinator Paul Chryst and offensive line coach Bob Bostad will have an impact on the program.

Anytime there is a mass exodus of coaches from a program, it certainly raises some questions. However, credit Bielema for finding solid replacements for the departed coaches. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada did a good job at Indiana and Northern Illinois, while Mike Markuson is a respected offensive line coach. Andy Buh was a solid pickup to tutor the linebackers, while receiver coach Zach Azzanni is a rising star.

In addition to hiring some quality replacements, which team is going to challenge Wisconsin in the Leaders Division this year? Ohio State is the best team in the division, but is ineligible to play in the postseason. Illinois and Penn State would seem to be the biggest threats, but both are breaking in new head coaches. The Fighting Illini has the talent to push Wisconsin, but needs to find a spark on offense and replace end Whitney Mercilus. Purdue is a sleeper to watch, but needs more from its offense.

Although the coaching turnover is a long-term concern, it shouldn’t hurt the Badgers in 2012. Without a clear challenger in the Leaders Division, Wisconsin should make a return trip to Indianapolis in early December. I don’t expect the Badgers to win the Big Ten Championship, but they are clearly the favorite to win the Leaders Division with Ohio State banned from postseason play.  

Mark Ross
Wisconsin has seen a fair number of assistants leave the past few years, but Bret Bielema is still in Madison, and in my opinion, that's the key as it relates to the coaching aspect here. Don't get me wrong, coaching continuity is great and a wonderful luxury to have, but a big reason why all these assistants have left is because the success they had at Wisconsin opened doors to other opportunities. That success, from a coaching standpoint, starts with the head coach, who is responsible for hiring and overseeing all of his assistants. In Bielema's case, the numbers speak for themselves - 60 wins, two Big Ten titles and back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances in his first six years.

As great a job as Bielema has done at Wisconsin, let's not forget the players. In 2012, it certainly doesn't hurt Bielema and his "new" assistants that they have the likes of Montee Ball, Chris Borland, Mike Taylor, Ricky Wagner, etc. on their roster. No matter how great the coaches are, it's up to the players to execute the game plan on the field.

Wisconsin's goals this season are no different than any other year - win the Leaders Division, win the Big Ten title game, win a BCS bowl. Ohio State is probably the biggest threat the Badgers will need to contend with in their division, and remember the Buckeyes are ineligible for the postseason. That said, no worse than a second-place finish in the Leaders Division to the Buckeyes certainly seems doable for this year's Badgers team. Outside of the Nov. 17 showdown with Ohio State in Madison, the only other tough tests on Wisconsin's Big Ten slate appear to be cross-over games at Nebraska and a home date with Michigan State.

Coaching attrition aside, I think this Wisconsin team is simply too talented and its conference schedule is too manageable for them to slip too far from last season's results. Change, is a good thing, especially when it leads to more success.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The loss of offensive guru Paul Chryst, as well as line coach Bob Bostad, is definitely significant in Madison. The Badgers running game has been dominant under their leadership, and we saw an elite attack last season with the addition of talented quarterback Russell Wilson. Even with the coaching changes, there is enough talent on the Wisconsin offense ­ — Heisman candidate Montee Ball at running back, receiver Jared Abbrederis, tight end Jacob Pedersen and linemen Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick — to win double-digit games this season. New coordinator Matt Canada will have to develop UW’s second-straight ACC transfer at quarterback, Danny O’Brien, to reach the lofty status the Badgers have enjoyed recently.

The defense should be solid, with an excellent linebackers group led by Chris Borland and Mike Taylor. That unit finished 13th in the nation in scoring defense a year ago, although defensive backs Aaron Henry and Antonio Fenelus will be missed. Wisconsin has a fairly pedestrian non-conference schedule, but league games against Nebraska, Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State will be tough. The coaching attrition is a concern long term, but this year’s Badgers have the talent to win the Leaders Division and compete for a third-consecutive Rose Bowl appearance.

Related Wisconsin Content

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Preview
Wisconsin Badgers Top 10 Players for 2012

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Predictions

The 10 Greatest Players in Wisconsin Football History Since 1967

Wisconsin Badgers Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Wisconsin Football History

Jokes About Wisconsin Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Will the Coaching Attrition Catch Up to the Badgers in 2012?&nbsp;</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 05:35
Path: /college-football/wisconsin-badgers-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Wisconsin Badgers check in at No. 17 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Montee Ball, RB 
333 touches. 2,229 yards from scrimmage. An NCAA single-season record 39 touchdowns scored. That is all that Ball did a year ago. The Heisman trophy finalist posted the most productive season in Big Ten history, but did so as the consigliore to quarterback Russell Wilson. Now, Ball must carry an offense that replaces three first-team All-Big Ten blockers as well as top wideout Nick Toon. He will be new quarterback Danny O’Brien’s best friend.

Trap Game: At Purdue (Oct. 13)
The Boilermakers have been known to pull an upset or two at home in West Lafayette and this game will be a test for the Big Red. Coming off two tough games against Nebraska in Lincoln and Illinois at home, Wisconsin has to win a road game like this to return to the Big Ten title game. With home visits from archrival Minnesota and budding new-age rival Michigan State following the trip to the Hoosier State, Bret Bielema’s bunch cannot overlook the Boilers.

Upset Alert: At Penn State (Nov. 24)
Wisconsin will be coming off a brutal home contest with the Ohio State Buckeyes in the penultimate game of the regular season before traveling to Penn State. Depending on how the season shakes out, the Badgers should enter the final game as the favorite. Yet, a trip to the Big Ten title game should be on the line — be it for the Nittany Lions or Illini or Boilermakers — in the season finale. And a trip to Happy Valley is never an easy one.

Biggest Game: Michigan State (Oct. 27)
The Spartans-Badgers rivalry has quickly become one of the most heated – and most important — rivalries in the Big Ten. After two historic contests a year ago, both have eyes set on returning to the Big Ten title game. Yet, both teams have major obstacles to overcome if they expect to get to Indianapolis. Big Red has a much easier path to the title game and a win at home against Sparty would all but assure a return trip to the Championship Game.

Revenge Game: Ohio State (Nov. 17)
Since the Badgers already got revenge on the Spartans in the form of a Big Ten Championship game victory, the Buckeyes are next on the revenge Bucket List. Russell Wilson led a miraculous comeback in the Horseshoe last season only to be undone by the second straight last second touchdown heave. This head-to-head match means little to the Buckeyes due to NCAA sanctions and Wisconsin may already be in control of the division by the time OSU visits, but there is no love lost between these two division rivals.

Freshman To Watch: Vince Biegel, LB
The 12-man Badger recruiting class was easily the smallest in the Big Ten and one of the thinnest in the nation. This is due mostly to the incredible depth already enrolled at Wisconsin — there are nine listed seniors on the roster currently. But the 6-foot-3, 225-pound in-state linebacker was one of the most highly-touted prospects in the class and could become a key reserve behind two very talented but injury-prone linebackers.

Comeback Player: Devin Smith, DB (Sr.)
Smith had played in 29 straight games for Wisconsin before suffering a season-ending leg injury in the second week of the season last fall. He made 85 total tackles and deflected 13 passes over the two previous seasons and was expected to have his best season to date in 2011. With the loss of two key defensive backs, Antonio Fenelus and Aaron Henry, Smith will be counted on to be back at full strength in 2012.

Defensive Co-MVP: Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, LB
The top two returning tacklers in the Big Ten will be playing five feet from each other in Madison. Taylor, who led the conference with 150 tackles, has dealt with knee issues throughout his career but is the consistent, stabilizing force in the heart of this defense. Borland, who has had his own shoulder issues, is a big play threat on every possession who stuffs the stat sheet — he has 10 forced fumbles, 31.5 tackles for a loss and 8.5 sacks in his career. These two form arguably the best 1-2 punch at linebacker in the Big Ten.

Unsung Hero: Jacob Pedersen, TE 
Wisconsin has quickly turned into TE-U. Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and now Jacob Pedersen all excelled in Paul Chryst’s offensive scheme. As only a sophomore, Pedersen caught eight touchdowns and finished as the second-team All-Big Ten selection. He is a complete player at the position and his blocking skills will be called upon as much as his ability to catch passes now that three first-team All-Big Ten lineman have departed.

Season Defining Moment: Big Ten Championship Game (Dec. 1)
Wisconsin appears to be the overriding favorite to make it back to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis this fall. With Ohio State’s sanctions keeping it from playing in the title game, the Badgers need only to beat Penn State, Illinois and Purdue to win the division. UW beat those three teams, who combined for 16 losses a year ago, by 94 total points in 2011. Whether its Michigan or Nebraska in the title game, the Badgers figure to be an underdog, so should they pull the upset in Indy, it would give the program its first three-peat in school history. Otherwise, 2012 will be known as the year that UW lucked into a Division title by default.

Newcomer To Watch: Danny O’Brien, QB 
It is a risky strategy, but Bret Bielema has turned to a transfer to lead his offense for the second straight season. O’Brien comes to Madison from Maryland and will undoubtedly be better suited for success behind a quality offensive line and Montee Ball to carry the load. He is a major upgrade over any other options on the UW roster and should be the deciding factor in the division this fall. However, it would be wildly unfair to compare the former Terrapin to Russell Wilson — who last year set an NCAA record for passing efficiency and posted the greatest passing season in school history.

Related Wisconsin Content

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Preview
Wisconsin Badgers Top 10 Players for 2012

Will the Coaching Attrition Catch Up to Wisconsin in 2012?
The 10 Greatest Players in Wisconsin Football History Since 1967

Wisconsin Badgers Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Wisconsin Football History

Jokes About Wisconsin Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Predictions.</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 05:31
Path: /college-football/florida-state-football-should-seminoles-leave-acc-big-12
Body:

Is college football about to undergo another round of realignment? The Big 12's decision to stay at 10 teams after landing TCU and West Virginia to replace Missouri and Texas A&M has left the door open for more expansion rumors. Florida State and Clemson have been mentioned as possible Big 12 expansion candidates, but only time will tell if there is anything to the rumors. 

Should Florida State Leave the ACC and Join the Big 12?

Bud Elliott, Tomahawk Nation
It depends. Florida State needs to make whatever move it can to secure its long-term financial future. Whether that is a move to the Big XII, the SEC, or leveraging a potential move to gain concessions from the ACC, I can't be sure. What I am sure of, however, is that FSU is going to struggle to compete with neighbors Florida and Georgia if SEC schools are earning roughly $100 Million more than the Seminoles over a ten-year span. And that may be a conservative number.

Many will trumpet arguments about academics, tradition and travel; but all of those factors pale in comparison to what could happen if FSU gets left in the dust financially by its major competitors. Florida State does not have a rich or deep alumni base, as it is still a fairly new school compared to most. I don't think a move to the Big XII would hurt FSU's academic prestige, and the vast majority FSU fans traveling to current Northeastern conference games from Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Miami are doing so via plane, not car, so a slight increase in travel mileage really isn't that big of a deal. And if Florida State goes go the Big XII, I assume Clemson and probably Miami will as well, which means FSU would be bringing its top ACC rivals with it to the Big XII.

If the Big XII offers Florida State the chance to increase its revenue stream by 50 percent, as seems likely, then the school must accept an offer if one is extended. 

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
The rumors and hypotheticals aren’t going away, are they? I could see the move making competitive sense, at least compared to other conference moves. And the move would create a bit of symmetry by having a Florida school in the Big 12 with a Texas school now in the SEC. FSU wouldn’t even be the Eastern-most team in the Big 12. I suppose there’s also a sense the Big 12 would be a better athletic fit as the ACC expanded North and improved its already strong basketball standing with Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the Big 12 has only one traditional basketball program (Kansas) on par with North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse. The ACC won't be the mess the Big East is/was with football schools and basketball-only schools, but there's certainly a deeper division between the football-central and basketball-centric schools compared to other power conferences. As always, the conference moves come down to money, which Florida State somehow doesn’t have enough of, according to Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com. That itself strikes me as a problem bigger than conference alignment. Should Florida State athletics (read: football) ever face a budget shortfall? My guess is the rumors are just rumors at this point. The next domino to drop will be the format of the new football postseason and the television contract that follows. Once that is decided, the conferences and schools will attempt to align themselves in a way that gives them greatest access to the playoffs.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Superiority, stability, geography, academics, athletic competition and overall cultural philosophy all point to Florida State never joining the Big 12. The primary reason Texas A&M bolted for the SEC is it's inferiority complex surrounding Big Brother Texas. Right now, Florida State is still THE premiere program (no offense, Virginia Tech) in the ACC. Why would it risk taking a back seat to Texas and possibly Oklahoma? With Syracuse and Pitt scheduled to join the league in the very near future, the ACC also offers an incredibly stable 14-team battlefield for the Noles. Unless the Big 12 adds Louisville and three other teams, it won't be considered a safer situation. Additionally, sending its fans west of the Mississippi on a regular basis will alienate itself from its cultural core — the Southeast. Despite being a national brand, Florida State is a Sun Belt university, not a western power. This is something that a program like West Virginia has to do to survive, not FSU. Academically, the ACC is a superior conference to every other league in major football — and it's not even close. Highly-touted academics can create significant overall advantages for a university — whether the athletic departments ever publicly admit it or not.  And finally, while football might be stronger in the Big 12, the ACC offers a higher level of athletic competition across all sports - hence, the new $3.6 billion TV contract extension with the mothership. Anyway you slice it, it feels like a horizontal move for Florida State. 

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, the Big 12 was on the verge of breaking apart, but the outlook has completely changed heading into this summer. The conference landed a great television contract, and the teams committed their media rights, so there’s a feeling of stability. The Big 12 also made a great hire, pulling away Bob Bowlsby from Stanford to be its new commissioner. 

Even though the Big 12 has indicated it is happy at 10 teams, expansion rumors have persisted for several months. Louisville still remains a viable target, and BYU has been mentioned as a Big 12 expansion candidate as well. The rumors about Florida State and Clemson have been hanging around for a while and certainly don't seem to be going away. 

Considering the budget issues at Florida State, jumping to a conference that could create more revenue certainly makes sense. However, I think it would be a mistake for the Seminoles to leave the ACC. Although the ACC is considered a basketball conference, Florida State has a chance to be the biggest fish in the pond. The Seminoles have yet to dominate the ACC on the gridiron, but all of the pieces are in place to be an annual top-10 team. Jumping to the Big 12 would mean Florida State takes a hit in the pecking order. The Seminoles would have to contend with Oklahoma and Texas, along with rising programs at Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia. There’s no question the schedule would be tougher in the Big 12, which would only hinder Florida State’s quest to return as an annual national title contender.

It seems the rumors about conference realignment will continue throughout the summer, but I would be very surprised if Florida State left the ACC for the Big 12.  

Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Florida State to the Big 12 seems a bit odd, but often when there is smoke there is fire. And there has been some smoke of late. There is only one reason why the school would consider the move. And it’s a big reason — money. But from a pure football standpoint the move doesn’t make any sense. Yes, the Big 12 is a strong conference, but the ACC is good enough to allow Florida State to compete for national championships.

As long as the Noles continue to play at least one marquee non-conference game each season, their schedule will be strong enough to keep them in national title chase — assuming they win enough games. It’s not like in the Big East, where a team could run the table and still find itself on the outside looking in (at the BCS National Championship Game or a four-team playoff).

This year, Florida State had non-conference games vs. West Virginia and South Florida on its schedule. WVU pulled out because of its impending move to the Big 12, but let’s assume that the game was still on — and assume that future FSU schedules will look similar. If the Noles navigated an ACC slate that featured Clemson, NC State and one or two of the better teams in the Coastal Division (Miami, UNC, Virginia Tech, etc.) and also beat a quality non-conference opponent, they would undoubtedly be ranked among the top two or three teams in the nation. And from a football standpoint that is really all the schools should be looking for — an opportunity to play for a national title.

So FSU, please rebuff any overtures that may be coming from the Big 12. The money might be attractive, but it would not be in the best interest of your football program. The grass is green enough in the ACC.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
A move to the Big 12 does not make sense for Florida State athletics and its fan base. The only reason for joining a league where you are not part of the geographic footprint is obviously money. However, I’m just not sure that the money would be significant enough long term to justify alienating the fan base. The Big 12’s new contract last year patched up some major holes in the league, but four schools – Nebraska, Colorado, Texas A&M and Missouri – left the conference because of instability generated by the University of Texas’ greed. How long before the Longhorns want different terms or another separate deal? There may be a little more money for Florida State per year in the short term with a move, but the Seminoles would pay in many ways.

First of all, the exit fee from the ACC would cancel some of the Big 12’s short term increase in dollars. We all know football is the decision-making sport, but the Noles have an outstanding athletic program across the board. The ACC is big time in basketball, baseball, etc., and the additional travel costs and step down in competition would not be beneficial. There are some Northern schools in the ACC, but the majority of the league is closer than any Big 12 school. I think that fact would hurt in growing the FSU fan base and the money those fans represent. It just doesn’t make much common sense for the Seminoles to be an outlier in the South.

With budget issues, many leaders make short-sighted and selfish decisions to pad their own interests instead of being a steward of the firm, school or organization. The ACC is a solid conference where Florida State fits well, while the Big 12 has two football pillars, no FSU rivals and a ton of uncertainty. Changing leagues has major ramifications, and I think Florida State would regret the move long term.

Related ACC Content

10 Teams That Could End the SEC's National Title Streak
Clemson or Florida State: Which Team Will Win the Atlantic in 2012?

Ranking the ACC Running Backs for 2012

Ranking the ACC Quarterbacks for 2012

Ranking the ACC Head Coaches for 2012

Teaser:
<p> Florida State Football: Should the Seminoles Leave the ACC for the Big 12?</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 03:23
All taxonomy terms: College Football, jokes, Wisconsin Badgers
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-wisconsin-rivals
Body:

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

 

• What does a Minnesota fan do when the Gophers win the BCS championship?

He turns off the PlayStation.

 

• What do medical marijuana and Iowa football have in common?

They both get smoked in bowls.

 

• What's the difference between a litter of puppies and Ohio State fans?

Eventually puppies grow up and stop whining.

 

• Did you hear that Minnesota's football team doesn't have a website?

The Gophers can't string three "Ws" together.

 

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

 

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

He moved.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

• Things you will never hear a Minnesota fan say: I have reviewed your application.

Related Wisconsin Content

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Preview
Wisconsin Badgers Top 10 Players for 2012

Will the Coaching Attrition Catch Up to Wisconsin in 2012?
The 10 Greatest Players in Wisconsin Football History Since 1967

Wisconsin Badgers Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Wisconsin Football History

Wisconsin Badgers 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Friday, May 11, 2012 - 01:48
All taxonomy terms: College Football, College Basketball, NFL, NBA, MLB
Path: /college-football/athlon%E2%80%99s-essential-eleven-links-day
Body:

This is your daily link roundup of our favorite sports posts on the web for May 11.

• After the Lakers Game 6 loss, Kobe Bryant calls out Andrew Bynum in an interview with Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

• Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman tells the Orlando Sentinel that the Seminoles are committed to the ACC and not looking at the Big 12.

• The Cardinals will retire former manager Tony La Russa’s No. 10 tonight in St. Louis.

• Bud Withers of the Seattle Times has some interesting thoughts on the Pac-12 North.

• Big East Coast Bias recaps a “turbulent” week in Big East news.

• How much does Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett care about the team?

• Pacers coach Frank Vogel says Miami is the “biggest flopping team in the NBA.”

• The SEC is looking into using wireless communication for its officials this season. The new system would not affect that Alabama is never called for holding.

• Could Boise State stay in the Mountain West instead of leaving for the Big East in 2013?

• Just like we all predicted, the Orioles-Rays series this weekend will be for AL East supremacy.

• As we prepare for Mother’s Day (go get that card now!), check out the intensity of Denver big man Javale McGee’s mom during the Lakers-Nuggets series. She could give George Karl some minutes off the bench. Here’s our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


 May 10

• Have you ever typed in “Find Chuck Norris” into Google? Here’s the result.

• Could Tiger Woods hit a golfing low point tomorrow?

• Bob Nightengale of USA Today examines Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton’s potential deal in free agency.

• ESPN Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett is correct in questioning Terrelle Pryor’s credibility after the troubled quarterback’s latest interview.

• Last September it was beer and fried chicken issues for Boston Red Sox hurler Josh Beckett. Now it’s a controversial golf outing.

• Is everyone else freaked out by this week’s Time cover like I am?

• Could former Big 12 boss Dan Beebe be returning to another authoritative post in college football?

• So two West Virginia football players were arrested for allegedly stealing Doritos and Gatorade. Gotta wonder about that offseason training?

• The momentum in Minnesota seems to be heading in the direction of the Vikings getting a new stadium.

• Would Razorbacks fans really want to own Bobby Petrino’s former motorcycle?

• You probably heard about the Heat announcer saying Amar’e Stoudemire was “extinguished” from the game when he fouled out. But check out what the Knicks forward does to Shane Battier in our Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
 


May 9

• Bleacher Report has an interesting slideshow ranking all 16 four-home run games in MLB history after Josh Hamilton’s amazing performance on Tuesday night.

• So it looks like Keyshawn Johnson may still be getting fined these days, and it involves the Kardashian sisters.

• CBS’ Bruce Feldman ranks college football’s “freakiest” athletes.

• ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill details the tragedy-laden story of the 1994 San Diego Chargers.

• It looks like Coby Fleener of the Colts can join the media if the whole “NFL” thing does not work out.

• Vikings great Cris Carter admits to putting bounties on opponents during his NFL career.

• The always-dramatic Osi Umenyiora of the Giants comments on the player safety and the NFL.

• The NCAA is looking into the recruitment of Kentucky signee Nerlins Noel, but his former principal says “they didn’t ask me any investigative-type questions.” 

• The SEC has a scary number of top defensive ends, and Barrett Sallee ranks them.

• Andray Blatche of the Wizards has an interesting explanation for teammate James Singleton’s jumper.

So apparently Harvard baseball players like to choreograph their road trips. Just can’t see the Winklevoss twins doing this. Enjoy the Video of the Day…

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

---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)


May 8

• CBS’ Tony Barnhart says any college football playoff should involve the four best teams, regardless of conference.

• ESPN Big East blogger Andrea Adelson thinks the league’s new commissioner should put football first.

• SportsGrid thinks the best attraction at the Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto fight was the champ’s girlfriend.

• It’s always nice when the first hit of your MLB career is a pinch-hit three-run homer off an All-Star closer. Well done, Jordany Valdespin of the Mets.

• T.J Simers of the LA Times looks at the inspiring play of the Clippers’ Chris Paul.

• Jon Heyman states that Andy Pettitte’s contradictory testimony in the Roger Clemens trial will cost him a Hall of Fame vote.

• The Big Lead has photos of Tom Brady and Tim Tebow at the same black-tie function. Can the internet handle this?

• ESPN SEC blogger Edward Aschoff looks at the league’s top defenses.

• Will the Minnesota Vikings get a new stadium?

• Jim Young of ACCSports.com takes a detailed look at the hiring of new Virginia Tech basketball coach James Johnson.

• Every MLB fan wants to catch a home run ball. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well for this unlucky couple at a Rays game in our Video of the Day…

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


May 7

• CBS’ Brett McMurphy has the latest on the ouster of Big East commissioner John Marinatto and some possible replacements.

• Deadspin has the video and story of a strange woman walking onto the court during the Nuggets-Lakers playoff game.

• Chadd Scott of ChuckOliver.net dispels the Florida State to the Big 12 rumors.

• The New York Daily News summarizes Eli Manning’s performance on Saturday Night Live.

• Check out Notre Dame’s cleats for the season opener in Ireland against Navy.

• Missouri football marketing now has a footprint all over the South.

• Where will the first-place Washington Nationals turn to replace injured right fielder Jayson Werth?

• Ben Buchanan of Over the Monster says the Red Sox have hit a new season-low after losing to the Orioles, 9-6 in 17 innings, with DH Chris Davis getting the pitching victory.

• ESPN Big 12 blogger David Ubben continues his look at the Bedlam Series and its effect on the Big 12.

• The 49ers are working with quarterback Alex Smith to correct mechanical flaws.

• Rookie phenom Bryce Harper of the Nationals becomes the first teenager since 1964 to steal home. ESPN breaks it down in our Video of the Day…

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

Teaser:
<p> Sports best links from the NFL, college football, MLB, college basketball and the NBA</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 20:09
Path: /nascar/pennell%E2%80%99s-picks-fantasy-nascar-trends-talladega-3
Body:

In honor of Mother’s Day, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the “Lady In Black” for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. On the schedule for 62 years, Darlington is steeped in NASCAR history and is one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.

One crew chief called Darlington “the most unique track” the series runs at throughout the year. The egg-shaped 1.366-mile oval has one of the most unique grooves in the sport, and with nearly every driver earning the well-known “Darlington Stripe” the crews will have the bondo and hammers on hand.

More than any track in the sport, drivers will truly have to race the track and not the competition to be successful Saturday night under the lights. The pit crews will have to get the job done on pit road as well, especially leading into next week’s Sprint Pit Crew Challenge.

Be sure to keep an eye on the best 10-lap average stat after both Friday practice sessions before setting your lineup. That stat didn’t matter too much last weekend at Talladega, where Brad Keselowski pulled away on the final lap to score his second win of the season. Leading on the final lap with Kyle Busch tucked behind in tandem, it appeared Keselowski was a sitting duck to Busch. However, Keselowski was able to disconnect from Busch’s car and had the race in hand off Turn 4.

Making his 100th career Sprint Cup Series start, Keselowski heads to the Track Too Tough To Tame as this week’s NASCAR fantasy favorite.

With two wins in the first 10 races of the season, the Penske Racing driver is confident he will be in the Chase as a championship contender and feels “the shackles are off” in the remaining races before the final regular season race at Richmond. In layman’s terms, he’s focused on adding more trophies to his collection as opposed to “point racing.”

Keselowski also considers Darlington one of his favorite tracks. He currently holds the second-best average finish (7.3) behind Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (6.5), but is without a win at the legendary facility.

Series points leader Greg Biffle certainly knows the joys of winning at Darlington, with back-to-back Southern 500 wins in 2005 and ’06. The Roush Fenway Racing driver comes off a fifth-place finish at Talladega, his sixth top 5 and seventh top 10 of the season.

Despite his two wins, Biffle has only two top 10 finishes in the five Darlington races since his victoreis. However, he has momentum on his side heading to this weekend’s race, making him another fantasy favorite.

Another driver entering this weekend’s race with “the shackles off,” as Keselowski put it, also happens to have the best average finish among active drivers at Darlington. Hamlin and crew chief Darian Grubb have been solid together throughout the first 10 races, and Hamlin has one win at Darlington, so expect the No. 11 team to be a strong contender Saturday night.

Five Favorites: Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch 

 


Regan Smith enters this weekend’s race as the defending winner, earning his first official NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory last May on older tires over Carl Edwards. That win was one of only two top-10 finishes up to that point in 2011. This season, Smith heads to Darlington with zero top 10 finishes, suffering through a disappointing stretch of races.

An engine failure last week dropped the Furniture Row Racing’s driver to 27th in the standings. Looking to break his slump and kick-start his season before the All-Star break, Smith is a solid pick for this weekend’s race. Despite his poor start to 2012, Smith and his team will walk through the garage the defending champions for the weekend. That confidence boost could go a long way for a team that is looking to turn things around.

While Smith is the defending winner, Edwards goes into Darlington with three top-5 finishes in his last five starts — two of those being second-place showings. Searching for that first victory at Darlington — as well as his first of 2012 — look for Edwards to be among the front-runners on Saturday. 

If there is one group of drivers that the Lady In Black favors, it is the veterans. Therefore, consider Jeff Burton,Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon as well. They have a combined 11 Darlington wins. 

Five Undervalued Picks: Regan Smith, Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports contributor Jay Pennell looks at favorites and darkhorses for Saturday's Bojangles' Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Darlington Raceway.</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 14:39
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-michigan-state-no-18-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Michigan State Spartans being named No. 18, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Mark Dantonio’s Michigan State Spartans continue the countdown at No. 18 with nine players selected as All-Big Ten performers. Athlon Sports predicts Michigan State will finish third in the Big Ten’s Legends Division. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“The Spartans will be led by their talented defense and running game this season,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “Despite the loss of quarterback Kirk Cousins, Mark Dantonio and staff have the program ready to compete for another Legends Division title.”

Nine Spartans earned preseason All-Big Ten honors, including offensive lineman Chris McDonald, defensive lineman William Gholston, cornerback Johnny Adams and safety Isaiah Lewis on the first team. Offensive lineman Dan France and linebackers Denicos Allen and Max Bullough were named to the second team, while running back Le’Veon Bell and defensive lineman Marcus Rush garnered third-team honors. In addition, the Spartans linebackers unit was ranked No. 3 nationally and best in the Big Ten. The secondary was rated No. 4 in the country and tops in the Big Ten, while the defensive line unit was tabbed No. 8 in the nation.

Michigan State Team Preview

Michigan State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Michigan State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Michigan State No. 18 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 09:21
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-football-what-will-spartans-division-record-be-2012
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 18 Michigan State. The Spartans are the defending Legends Division champs, but must replace quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy.

What Will Michigan State's Record in Legends Division Play Be in 2012?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
In looking at Michigan State’s foes in the Legends division (reminder: They are Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota), the swing game looks to be the date with Nebraska at home. By the time of the Nov. 3 game with the Cornhuskers, we’ll know where both teams stand, but that could be the defining game in the Legends should division favorite Michigan falter. I know others are optimistic about Michigan State in 2012. The Spartans will be strong along both lines, they’ll have a solid running game and potentially one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. The question is how Sparty will replace Kirk Cousins plus all his receivers. I also wonder how losing a dominating presence like Jerel Worthy on the line will impact the rest of the defense. In facing Ohio State and Wisconsin from the Leaders, Michigan State is going to have a tough time competing for a spot in the Big Ten title game. Michigan State will be able to win some of those games, but the Spartans probably will have to grind out those match ups with the run game and defense. That’s going to be enough to defeat Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota, but probably not Michigan in Ann Arbor. That leaves the home date with Nebraska, who defeated Michigan State 24-3 in East Lansing. I’d expect Nebraska’s second season in the Big Ten to go a little smoother and for Taylor Martinez to continue his development into his junior year. I’ll take the Cornhuskers in that matchup, leaving Michigan State with a 3-2 record in the Legends.  

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Michigan State might be the most intriguing team in the Big Ten heading into the summer of 2012. Mark Dantonio has elevated his program to levels not seen in East Lansing in decades and it means that the Spartans can watch some of the program's greats — Kirk Cousins, Jerel Worthy, BJ Cunningham — depart and still be in the mix for a conference title. This defense is still stacked on every level, the offensive line will be a strength and all signs point to Andrew Maxwell being capable of leading this program to victories.

Yet, after the only two 11-win seasons in program history, Dantonio will have a much more traditional Spartan team this fall. The offense will be more vanilla and wins will come from the defense on a team breaking in an entirely new receiving corps and new quarterback. Michigan State has reached a level where games against Northwestern, Iowa and Minnesota should be wins. But a three game stretch in which Sparty visits Ann Arbor and hosts Nebraska (sandwiched around a trip to Madison) will determine if this team is a conference title contender or is in true rebuilding mode. Michigan will be focused on removing the four-year in-state monkey from its back and it is hard to erase the memory of the 24-3 performance in Lincoln last year. Without the greatest quarterback in school history, Michigan State will finish 3-2 within the division this fall. If Sparty is anything better than that, Mark Hollis needs to draft a lifetime contract for Dantonio as soon as possible.

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska all capable of winning the Big Ten, the Legends Division could be one of the most difficult in college football. Although Iowa, Northwestern or Minnesota likely won’t rank in any preseason top 25 polls, none will be an easy out for the top three teams in the division.

The Spartans are the defending champs, but it won’t be easy to repeat without quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. New quarterback Andrew Maxwell looks like a solid replacement, but he does not have any starts under his belt. The receiving corps is largely unproven, and it’s uncertain if Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett will be granted eligibility for 2012. Worthy’s presence had a huge impact on the defense, and he is no longer around to command double teams from opposing offensive linemen.

Although losing Cousins and Worthy is a huge blow, the cupboard isn’t bare for coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans can lean on a much-improved offensive line and running back Le’Veon Bell to carry the offense until Maxwell is ready. The defense is loaded with NFL talent at each level and finished first in the Big Ten by allowing just 277.4 yards per game last year.

Michigan State did not catch an easy road to repeating as Legends Division champions. The Spartans open Big Ten play with Ohio State and have back-to-back road trips in October to Michigan and Wisconsin, followed by a home date against Nebraska on Nov. 3. Michigan State finished with a 4-1 record in Legends Division play last year, but I think it’s more likely this team goes 3-2 in 2012. Although the Spartans have won four in a row over Michigan, the Wolverines should have the edge in their meeting on Oct. 20. I give a slight edge to Nebraska over Michigan State for their meeting on Nov. 3, but could see that game going either way. And don’t overlook the season finale against Minnesota – the Spartans won by just seven points last year. 

Mark Ross
Michigan State went 7-1 in the Big Ten last year, earning them a trip to the inaugural conference championship game, which the Spartans lost by three to Wisconsin. To help get them to the title game in Indianapolis, the Spartans went 4-1 against their fellow Legends Division foes, losing only to Nebraska in Lincoln, albeit by 21 points.

This year Michigan State will get Nebraska at home in November, but first it has to go the Big House in Ann Arbor to play in-state rival Michigan on Oct. 20. These two are clearly the teams that should be the Spartans' toughest opposition in the Legends division, so as long as they find a way to split these two games, then another 4-1 divisional record is entirely possible.

To that end, the defense, which should be among the Big Ten's best, is certainly going to have to be at its best against the Cornhuskers and Wolverines. On the other hand, Michigan State's offense will be green, and that's not just because it's the color of the uniforms. Only four starters return on that side of the ball and they are all offensive linemen. That is a good thing as the Spartans will have Andrew Maxwell at quarterback. However, even though Maxwell is a junior, he enters 2012 with no career starts under his belt as he has played in a total of nine games.

The Spartans will have experience in the backfield in junior Le'Veon Bell and senior Larry Caper, but that's not the case with the receiving corps. Last season, Michigan State receivers caught a total 288 passes, those who are back in 2012 caught 66 of those, or 23 percent, and Bell and Caper account for more than two-thirds of that total (45 receptions combined). Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett will have an impact in the passing attack as a wide receiver, but no one should be surprised if this season's Spartans' offense isn't as productive as it was last year when it finished third in the Big Ten in scoring offense and fourth in total offense.

When it comes time for Michigan State to test its mettle against Michigan and Nebraska, the Spartans can't go in thinking they can match either team when it comes to offensive firepower. They should have the edge on defense though, so if the offense can hold onto the ball and maintain some long drives that produce points, they should be able to manage a split of these two games. If not, I don' think Michigan State's offense has the weapons to win any type of shootout. And if the Spartans lose to both the Wolverines and Cornhuskers, then I wouldn't advise Michigan State fans to make any travel plans for Indianapolis in December.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I see the Spartans going 3-2 in the Legends Division, although they could win it again if the passing attack develops quickly. Obviously stars like quarterback Kirk Cousins and receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin will be missed, but the running game and defense will make MSU a contender to get back to Indianapolis. Andrew Maxwell was developing as Cousins’ replacement but had to miss the spring game because of a sprained knee. He will rely on a solid group of running backs led by Le’Veon Bell, as well as four offensive line starters returning. The defense loses Jerel Worthy up front, but defensive end William Gholston is as talented a defender as you will see in the Big Ten. The linebackers unit is the best in the conference with Denicos Allen, Max Bullough and Chris Norman, and the secondary has stars in Isaiah Lewis and Johnny Adams.

While the defense should keep the Spartans in every game, the offense may struggle with a lack of playmakers in the passing game. MSU has defeated rival Michigan four years in a row, which will make the trip to Ann Arbor very difficult this season. Nebraska handled MSU easily last year, but the Cornhuskers do travel to East Lansing this year. Mark Dantonio’s bunch should defeat Iowa, Northwestern and Minnesota, but at this point I would forecast close losses against Michigan and Nebraska.

Related Michigan State Content

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Preview
Michigan State Spartans Top 10 Players for 2012

Michigan State's 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan State Football History

Michigan State Cheerleader Gallery

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Predictions
Jokes About Michigan State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> What Will the Spartans' Division Record Be in 2012?</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 05:43
Path: /college-football/michigan-state-spartans-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Michigan State Spartans check in at No. 18 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Andrew Maxwell, QB
That is, Spartans fans need to hope that Maxwell can be the MVP. If he possesses half of Kirk Cousins’ leadership skills, his raw talent should give Michigan State the ability to win most weekends. Maxwell has patiently waited his turn and learned from arguably the best quarterback in school history. The time is now for the 6-foot-3, 215-pound signal caller.

Offensive MVP: Chris McDonald, RG
With a new quarterback and new receiving corps, the leadership of this offense will fall to the big hog mollies up front. It will be their job to protect Maxwell, give him time to throw and open up lanes for the backs. McDonald is a three-year letterman with 26 starts under his belt and will be, along with Dan France, the stabilizing influence in the Spartans huddle.

Trap Game: Iowa (Oct. 13)
The divisional home test against the Hawkeyes comes right on the heels of a road trip to Indiana and one week before the Spartans head to in-state rival Michigan. With interesting match-ups with Boise State, Notre Dame and Ohio State in the first five weeks, Michigan State will be plenty tested when it faces Iowa. However, will it be looking ahead to back-to-back road trips to Ann Arbor and Madison?

Upset Alert: Boise State (Aug. 31)
With a brand new quarterback, a completely new receiving corps and one massive void on the defensive line, could Sparty be primed for an upset in the first week of action? Boise State is replacing even more than Michigan State, but Mark Dantonio’s bunch will be at its weakest point in Week 1. It’s better to get them early and a Friday night primetime match-up with a team that has lost three games in four years could be tougher than expected.

Unsung Hero: Dion Sims, TE
After missing the entire 2010 season, Sims returned to the field in 2012 to catch three touchdowns. In fact, Sims will be the only Spartan returning in 2012 with more than one touchdown reception on his 2011 resume. He posted a solid freshman line (11 rec., 133 yards, 3 TD) and as Michigan State breaks in a quarterback and a totally new set of receivers, Sims could turn out to be a quality safety valve.

Biggest Game: At Michigan (Oct. 20)
After losing six straight to the Wolverines, Michigan State has dominated its in-state archrival for the last four years. Following a BCS bowl win over Virginia Tech and renewed recruiting fervor, the Maize and Blue are considered the Legends Division favorite. With a tough early schedule, will Michigan State be battle tested or beaten-up when they head to Ann Arbor in Week 8? Bragging rights and a division title could be on the line.

Revenge Game: Notre Dame (Sept. 15) and Nebraska (Nov. 3)
The Spartans lost in embarrassing fashion on the road to both the Fighting Irish and the Cornhuskers by a combined 55-16. The visit from the Big Red carries heavy Big Ten title implications while the rivalry with Notre Dame has featured no love lost of late. You can bet that Dantonio’s bunch has both of these contests circled and underlined.

Freshman To Watch: Aaron Burbridge, WR
The unanimous top recruit in the state of Michigan, Burbridge brings excellent play-making ability to the top position of need for the Spartans. The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder was a two-time first-team All-State selection and is the top-rated recruit in this class. If he can grasp the offense quickly, he should be able to contribute to the depleted receiver corps in short order.

Comeback Player: Larry Caper, RB
After 120 carries as a freshman, Caper seemed poised for a breakout career in East Lansing. Yet, he dealt with minor injuries over the next two seasons, missing three of the Spartans final five regular season games last fall. With Edwin Baker moving on to the NFL, Caper should slide back into the No. 2 role in the backfield behind Le'Veon Bell.

Defensive MVP: Max Bullough, LB
Along with Denicos Allen, Chris Norman and Taiwan Jones, the Spartans boast a deep and versatile linebacking corps. But Bullough rules the middle of the defense and leads the team in tackles (89). The 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker is a third-generation Spartan legacy and has never missed a game in his 27-game career.

Newcomer To Watch: R.J. Williamson, FS
The redshirt freshman safety is in a heated battle with sophomore Kurtis Drummond for the starting free safety position. While the first-year letterman may not win the starting job, he certainly will play a prominent role in nickel and dime coverages. Watch out for the Middletown, Ohio, native in 2012.

Newcomer To Watch II: Juwan Caeser, WR
With no depth whatsoever at the wide receiver position, Michigan State fans can expect many new faces to make an impact in the passing game. While Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphrey will likely earn the starting jobs, it appears a healthy Caesar could work his way into the three-wide packages. Any help Dantonio can give new quarterback Andrew Maxwell will be huge.

Season Defining Moment: October
The final two weekends in October will feature back-to-back road trips to Michigan and Wisconsin before the Spartans host Nebraska on November 3. If MSU can somehow make it through October with only one or two losses, it could be in the mix for a second straight Legends Division title. If it limps into the home game against the Cornhuskers, spoiler is all Sparty will be playing in final month of the season.

Related Michigan State Content

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Preview
Michigan State Spartans Top 10 Players for 2012

What Will Michigan State's Record in Legends Division Play Be in 2012?

Michigan State's 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan State Football History

Michigan State Cheerleader Gallery

Jokes About Michigan State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 05:37
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-michigan-state-rivals
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

• Things you will never hear a Michigan fan say: I just couldn’t find a thing at Walmart today.

Related Michigan State Content

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Preview
Michigan State Spartans Top 10 Players for 2012

What Will Michigan State's Record in Legends Division Play Be in 2012?

Michigan State's 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

The Greatest Moments in Michigan State Football History

Michigan State Cheerleader Gallery

Michigan State Spartans 2012 Team Predictions

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 01:41
Path: /mlb/fantasy-baseball-weekend-rundown-may-10
Body:

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

Forget about the curve ball, Ricky. Give him the heater!

The closing situation around baseball seems to be even more chaotic this season than its usual level of high volatility, especially with the awful news that future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera will miss the rest of 2012. The Yankees stopper has been a model of consistency for years, and that is a quality that can be pretty tough to find in the ninth inning this year. Injuries (Mo Rivera, Brian Wilson, Ryan Madson, Drew Storen, Joakim Soria, Kyle Farnsworth, Sergio Santos, Andrew Bailey) and ineffectiveness (Jose Valverde, J.J. Putz, John Axford, Alfredo Aceves, Heath Bell and Javy Guerra have ERAs over five) have made saves a tough category, but the game of musical chairs also gives you an opportunity to find a solution. Here are some interesting closing situations currently in flux:

New York Yankees – With Mo out, David Robertson has received the opportunity to close. He got a save against the Rays on Tuesday night, despite giving up two walks and a hit. On Wednesday night, Robertson was awful in allowing four earned runs in 0.2 IP. You have to think Joe Girardi will give the more experienced Rafael Soriano (90 career MLB saves) a chance to be Rivera’s successor. Robertson had a phenomenal 2011 campaign, but Soriano may have the better ninth-inning temperament.

Miami Marlins – Ozzie Guillen’s club has been hot lately, so saves will be available for the replacement to Heath Bell (10.24 ERA, 2.69 WHIP!). Edward Mujica (two saves in the last week) has been solid in May, while Steve Cishek has better numbers (4-0, 1.17 ERA) but blew a save opportunity on Wednesday night. Both pitchers should get ninth-inning work, and Mujica has much more experience. However, Cishek may be the correct pickup with his better strikeout rate and the fact that he has only given up one home run in over 74 career innings.

Chicago White Sox – If you wanted to argue that Pale Hose decision makers are all over the map with their pitching choices, I would have no argument. But with Hector Santiago’s struggles (5.73 ERA, 2.00 WHIP) and Chris Sale’s elbow MRI, there should be an opportunity here for Addison Reed to take finally over the job. Before the season, Reed seemed to be known as San Diego State’s closer when Stephen Strasburg was there. He’s carving out his own identity now, with a 0.00 ERA and 14 Ks in 10 innings pitched this season. Reed is the short- and long-term answer on the South Side.

Cincinnati Reds – Sean Marshall is still the closer for now, but Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman has been almost unhittable this season. The Reds may want to leave Chapman (0.00 ERA, 27 Ks and five hits allowed in 15.2 IP) in his current role where he is dominating, but Marshall’s numbers (0-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) are below average this season. If it gets worse, Dusty Baker may have to make the decision to test Chapman in the ninth inning.

Chicago CubsRafael Dolis and maybe James Russell will get opportunities to close with Carlos Marmol off to such a terrible start (5.06 ERA, 2.16 WHIP). Dolis has two saves over the last week, but you have to wonder if he can keep it up with such low strikeout numbers (five Ks, eight BB in 19.1 IP). Russell has been excellent in 2012 (0.73 ERA), but he was pedestrian in 2010-11 and has no professional saves. The inconsistent Marmol may also get another chance. Ride Dolis for now, but don’t be surprised if this situation is all over the map throughout the summer.

 Worth a Look

These hitters are owned in less than half of Yahoo! leagues, and they are definitely worth consideration for your team.

Chris Johnson – Houston
At a weak fantasy position like third base, the Astros may have an answer in Johnson. He’s batted .326 with a 1.032 OPS over the last 13 games, while belting four homeruns and 13 RBIs.

Kyle Seager – Seattle
There was more buzz about his UNC and Mariners teammate Dustin Ackley, but Seager has been solid this season. He’s hit .298 with an .827 OPS this year and has valuable 3B/SS eligibility.

Josh Reddick – Oakland
The A’s outfielder has four homers, 11 RBIs and 11 runs scored in his last 12 games. He’s hitting .306 with a 1.005 OPS during that span.

Jed Lowrie – Houston
The former Boston infielder also has 3B/SS eligibility, and he has been on fire lately. In his last 15 games, Lowrie has four homers and 11 RBIs while batting .345 with a 1.010 OPS.

Jon Jay – St. Louis
The Cardinals offense is stacked this year, and Jay has been important cog for the defending champs. Over the last 11 games, the centerfielder has batted .409 and scored 10 runs.

Scott Van Slyke – Los Angeles (NL)
Andy’s son crushed the ball in the minors in 2011 (.348, 20 HRs, 92 RBIs in AA) and this season (.336, 8 HRs, 25 RBIs in 32 AAA games) as well, and he had an RBI single in his MLB debut this week.

Weekend Series to Watch

Atlanta at St. Louis
Beware Braves pitchers. The Cards lead the National League in runs scored, batting average and home runs. Rafael Furcal, Carlos Beltran and Davis Freese have been excellent this season, while surprise producers like Jon Jay and recently Allen Craig just add to a loaded lineup. The Braves have hit well too, so expect to see some runs in Busch.

Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee
The Brewers are not scoring many runs in May, and they will face both Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija over the weekend. With the exception of Ryan Braun, the Brewers have been a severe fantasy disappointment this year. The Cubs starters have been solid, but the lineup (outside of Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro) is still struggling.

Seattle at New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers face the stellar Felix Hernandez on Friday, but then Hector Noesi (6.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) and Blake Beaven (1-3, 4.32 ERA) are scheduled to take the hill over the weekend. Look out. While the Yanks lineup should produce big numbers, the big story will be the return of Andy Pettitte on Sunday.

--Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman on Twitter)
 

Teaser:
<p> Fantasy Baseball Weekend Rundown</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 20:18
Path: /nascar/backseat-drivers-fan-council-6
Body:

Talladega always leaves fans with something to talk about and last weekend was no different from Danica Patrick’s bump that sent Sam Hornish Jr. into the wall after the checkered flag in the Nationwide race to the Jeff Gordon’s woes and the type of racing fans saw.

There was much to discuss after Talladega and members of the Backseat Drivers Fan Council tackled some of those subjects.


SHOULD NASCAR HAVE PENALIZED DANICA PATRICK FOR HER ACTIONS AFTER THE TALLADEGA NATIONWIDE RACE?
On the final lap of Saturday’s Nationwide race at Talladega, Sam Hornish Jr. squeezed Danica Patrick into the wall and Patrick retaliated after crossing the finish line by tapping Hornish, which sent him into the wall. Hornish said afterward he had a right front tire going down, which made it difficult to control his car. NASCAR did not call either driver into the hauler after the race — but will talk to both this weekend at Darlington. Patrick later apologized to Hornish. Fan Council members were asked if NASCAR should have penalized Patrick for her wrecking Hornish after the checkered flag flew:

41.4 percent said Patrick should be put on probation for the next few races
41.0 percent said Patrick should not be penalized in the era of “Boys have at it”
9.4 percent said Patrick should be put on probation until the next Nationwide plate race (Daytona in July)
8.2 percent said Patrick should have been suspended for at least the next Nationwide race

What Fan Council members said:
• If Busch gets tossed for wrecking Hornaday under caution, she should miss a race for wrecking Hornish on a cool down lap. FINED, at the very least. 

• I don't think a warning is inappropriate. People were comparing that incident to Kyle vs. Hornaday at Texas, but I watched that with a stopwatch and Kyle was on Hornaday's bumper for five seconds under the caution, while Danica hit Hornish but didn't push him around the track like Kyle did.

• For me it was a racing deal. Sam said he had a tire going down and got into Danica. Danica felt she was run up the track and into the wall on purpose. She made her feelings known to Sam that she didn't like what happened. I have seen this happen before with other drivers and NASCAR didn't really do anything to them. It was not the extreme as it was with Kyle Busch plowing into Ron Hornaday at Texas where NASCAR had no choice.

• Yes, probation at the very least! You don't wreck drivers on the cool down lap, bottom line.

• Let it go. It's over and was clearly boys (and girls) have at it.

• No, I do not think she should be penalized. She is NOT KYLE BUSCH and intentionally wrecking anyone to affect the outcome of the race.

• I choose that she should be put on probation but that's such a meaningless penalty. I know they'll be talking to her at Darlington but I think they should have called her to the NASCAR hauler right after the race. Waiting a week makes it seem like they're only talking to her because fans were upset.

• I love “boys have at it” but there still has to be some policing of the drivers, Danica should at least be put on probation. This is nothing like the Kyle Busch/Ron Hornaday incident last year, but she still turned Hornish head on into the wall at over 100 mph, and given what took place with Eric McClure earlier in the race, there's no place for retaliation to that magnitude. 

• While we are in the era of “boys have at it,” that doesn't extend to yellow flag or post-checkered flag car issues. If she wanted to punch him after the race, that's fine, but no retaliation with her car. I think a warning is a good first punishment. Kyle Busch was suspended because of a pattern of this type of behavior, she doesn't have the pattern (yet!), so a probation that lasts through the next plate race seems fair.

• Aren't we getting just a tad worked up about all things Danica? If this had been any other driver, it wouldn't be making headlines. Evidently NASCAR didn't see a problem with it. Get over it and stop scrutinizing everything she does.
 

Teaser:
<p> The Backseat Drivers Fan Council weighs in on plate racing, the Danica "no-call" and if Jeff Gordon has a chance at making the Chase.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 18:59
Path: /mlb/rangers-josh-hamilton-joins-4-hr-club
Body:

On Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton hit four home runs off Baltimore pitching.

How rare is that feat?

It’s been accomplished only 14 times since 1900; 16 if you go back prior to the turn of the century when rules were different. That’s four fewer than the number of perfect games during that time.

The list of the 14 players to accomplish it spans from Pat Seerey, who had a nondescript seven-year career and finished with 86 career homers, to Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig, two of the greatest to ever put on a uniform.

Gil Hodges is on the list, Duke Snider is not.
Lou Gehrig did it, Babe did not.
Seattle’s Mike Cameron made the list; Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. didn’t.
The Cardinals’ Mark Whiten, yes; The Cardinals’ Mark McGwire, no.
Willie Mays, uh-huh; Hank Aaron, nope.

Before Tuesday night, it had been nine years since a four-homer game. While that seems like a long span, it’s just the fifth-longest between quadfectas. There were 15 years between Willie Mays’ four shots in 1961 and fellow Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt’s clouts in 1976. Another 10 years passed before Bob Horner put four in the seats for the Braves in 1986.

15 Miscellany Facts About Four-homer Games
1. Only once has a team lost when a player hit four home runs. That was Horner in 1986. The Braves forgot to keep the Expos from scoring and lost 11-8.

2. Shawn Green holds the record for most total bases. In addition to the 16 courtesy of the homers, he added a single and double for 19 total bases.

3. You must hit in the middle of the order to do this, evidently. Only Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 hitters have accomplished it. Spots 1-8 have hit three in a game, but table-setters and the bottom third have never gone deep four times.

4. Only twice has a team failed to score in double figures. The aforementioned Braves in’86 and Chuck Klein’s Phillies in 1936 defeated Pittsburgh 9-6.

5. Stereotypical offensive positions do this. Only outfielders and corner infielders have done it. Every position except pitcher has pulled off a trifecta.

6. The shortest time between four clouts is 21 days. Mike Cameron hit four on May 2, 2002 and Shawn Green followed that on May 23.

7. Three franchises have had two players pull it off. But only one franchise, the Philadelphia Phillies, called the same city home. Klein and Schmidt were the two Phillies to do it. Gil Hodges did it as a Brooklyn Dodger, Green as an L.A. Dodger. Joe Adcock was with the Milwaukee Braves, Horner was with Atlanta.

8. No one saw Horner’s four clouts on live TV, although Ted Turner’s Superstation TBS broadcast every game. But during the Goodwill Games — a brainchild of Turner’s — in 1986, TBS delayed Braves’ telecasts.

9. Adrian Beltre has the distinction of belting home runs in two games in which a teammate has hit four. He hit in front of Green (and Beltre laid down a sac bunt in the first inning to get the Dodgers’ offense rolling), and also hit a home run hitting behind Hamilton.

10. Fans rarely have gone home completely happy. While most fans are thrilled to see the rare event, only twice have the home fans witnessed their team accomplish it AND win the game. Gil Hodges thrilled the fans in Brooklyn and Carlos Delgado made the Jays’ fans happy with a come-from-behind win.

11. Eleven of the 14 times it has been accomplished by a visiting player.

12. Two stadiums have been the site of two feats. Shibe Park was the site of two of the first three occurrences. Gehrig did it there against Philadelphia in 1932, and Jim Seerey of the White Sox broke the Athletics’ spirit with four in 1948. It’s happened twice at Baltimore, Chicago and Milwaukee, but in different stadiums in each city.

13. Connie Mack, the long time owner/manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, is the only manager to watch his pitchers allow an opponent to hit four home runs in a game twice.

14. No pitcher has ever given up four home runs to the same hitter in a game. Only three times on this list has one pitcher allowed three of the four.

15. Were there any close calls for a fifth? Only three times have hitters come to the plate with a chance for a fifth home run, twice by the same player. The first, Lou Gehrig hit a rocket to deep center field for an out in his sixth at-bat after hitting four home runs. The only other was Mike Cameron. He actually made it to the plate twice. The first ended in him being plunked by Mike Porzio (imagine that). It may or may not have been intentional —it was on a 1-1 count — as Porzio gave him one pitch to hit. Cameron came up again in the ninth and hit a liner that backed up right fielder Magglio Ordonez for an out.

The complete list (since 1900)

Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees
June 3, 1932
New York 20, at Philadelphia 13
The Athletics’ George Earnshaw is one of only two starting pitchers to give up three of the four home runs. Yankees third baseman Tony Lazzeri also deserves some accolades for hitting for the cycles that day. Not to be too overshadowed, Babe Ruth also went deep, but only once.

Chuck Klein, Philadelphia Phillies
July 10, 1936
Philadelphia 9, at Pittsburgh 6
The Pirates (with three Hall of Famers in the lineup) tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, which gave Klein an extra at-bat in the 10th.

Pat Seerey, Chicago White Sox
July 18, 1948
Chicago 12, at Philadelphia 11
Like Klein, Seerey also needed extra innings to hit his fourth. Seerey’s solo shot in the 11th provided the winning margin.

Gil Hodges, Brooklyn Dodgers
Aug. 31, 1950
Brooklyn 19, Boston Braves 3
Hodges’ first blast came off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. The Dodgers’ first baseman had nine RBIs. Pitcher Carl Erskine had five hits and Hall of Famer Duke Snider also went deep.

Joe Adcock, Milwaukee Braves
July 31, 1954
Milwaukee 15, at Brooklyn 7
Lew Burdette was the winning pitcher with 6.1 innings of relief. It was a banner home run day for the Braves, as Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews hit two out and Andy Pafko hit one. Hank Aaron did not go deep, but had a double and a single. By the way, Gil Hodges hit one out for the home team.

Rocky Colavito, Cleveland Indians
June 10, 1959
Cleveland 11, at Baltimore 8
Colavito followed Tito Francona and hit in front of Minnie Minoso, who also homered. Indians pesky second baseman Billy Martin also went deep. Colavito is the only player to hit four home runs in a game and have a win as a pitcher. (Colavito was the winning pitcher in relief of for the Yankees against the Tigers in 1968.)

Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants
April 30, 1961
San Francisco 14, at Milwaukee 4
There were seven home runs hit by Hall of Famers that day. In addition to Mays, Hank Aaron hit two and Orlando Cepeda hit one. Giants Felipe Alou hit one and Jose Pagan hit two of his 52 career homers. The Giants’ ninth inning ended with Mays on deck as Jim Davenport grounded out to second.

Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies
April 17, 1986
Philadelphia 18, at Chicago Cubs 16
In no doubt the wildest affair on the list, the Phillies were once down 12-1. Hall of Fame lefthander Steve Carlton lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed seven earned runs in the worst start of his career. The Phillies took a 15-13 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Cubs sent it into extras. Schmidt hit number four in the 10th to break the tie. The game ended with the tying run at the plate. Schmidt is the only player on this list to hit home runs off brothers in the process. Rick Reuschel allowed the first two before his brother, Paul, gave up Schmidt’s fourth.

Bob Horner, Atlanta Braves
July 6, 1986
Montreal 11, at Atlanta 8
The Expos’ starter Andy McGaffigan gave up three blasts before closer Jeff Reardon, who recorded a save, yielded the fourth.

Mark Whiten, St. Louis Cardinals
Sept. 7, 1993
St. Louis 15, at Cincinnati 2
Whiten heads the list with 12 RBIs and is the only player to include a grand slam among his four round-trippers. First baseman Gerald Perry scored in front of Whiten on all four homers.

Mike Cameron, Seattle Mariners
May 2, 2002
Seattle 15, at Chicago White Sox 4
After Jon Rauch (yes, that Jon Rauch) gave up Cameron's first as the starting pitcher, reliever Jim Parque gave up his second, also in the first inning. Parque proceeded to give up Nos. 2, 3 and 4 as well, becoming the only reliever to give up three of the four. Hitting in front of Cameron was Bret Boone, who hit two homers of his own that day. That had something to do with the fact that all four of Cameron’s clouts were solo shots. Cameron had two chances for a fifth. He was hit by a pitch in his next plate appearance, then lined out to deep right.

Shawn Green, Los Angeles Dodgers
May 23, 2002
Los Angeles 16 at Milwaukee 3
In perhaps the greatest statistical day ever, Green had a double and single to go with his four dingers giving him 19 total bases. Adrian Beltre, Green and Dave Hansen went back-to-back-to-back in the ninth.

Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays
Sept. 25, 2003
Toronto 10, Tampa Bay 8
Delgado is the only player to hit four homers with just four plate appearances in the game. His fourth tied the game in the eighth before the Jays added two more for the comeback win. His final two clouts had a Republican slant coming off Joe Kennedy and Lance Carter.

Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
May 8, 2012
Texas 10, at Baltimore 3
The former AL MVP hit four two-run shots surrounding a double, giving him eight RBIs. Hamilton ended the night with a .406 average, 14 home runs and 36 RBIs, leading the American League in all three categories.

Teaser:
<p> The rare feat of hitting four home runs in one game has been accomplished just 14 times since 1900.</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 16:17
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /news/athlon-sports-names-oklahoma-state-no-19-2012-preseason-top-25-poll
Body:

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

To celebrate the Oklahoma State Cowboys being named No. 19, AthlonSports.com will devote an entire day to the program, including a look at the Top 10 Players for 2012, the Greatest Players since 1967 and a Team Preview. (Direct links are included below.)

Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys continue the countdown at No. 19 with two preseason All-Americans and 10 players selected as All-Big 12 performers. Athlon Sports predicts Oklahoma State will finish fourth in the Big 12 Conference. In the five year period from 2007-11, Athlon Sports was one of the most accurate preseason magazines in prediction accuracy.*

“Top running back Joseph Randle and an aggressive defense will be the key to helping Oklahoma State through an early transition,” says Athlon Sports Managing Editor Mitch Light. “The Cowboys lost some big-time offensive stars, but Mike Gundy has built them into a perennial Top 25 program.”

Two Oklahoma State standouts were named preseason All-Americans, with running back Joseph Randle being voted to the second team and defensive back Brodrick Brown to the third team. In addition, the Cowboys running backs unit was ranked No. 9 nationally and best in the Big 12.

Ten Cowboys earned preseason All-Big 12 honors, including Randle, Brown, offensive lineman Lane Taylor and Quinn Sharp at both kicker and punter on the first team. Linebacker Shaun Lewis was named to the second team, while wide receiver Tracy Moore, defensive lineman Nigel Nicholas, linebacker Alex Elkins, safety Daytawion Lowe and Justin Gilbert at both cornerback and kick returner garnered third-team honors.

Oklahoma State Team Preview

Oklahoma State's Top 10 Players of 2012

Oklahoma State’s 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

 *Stassen.com analysis of college football preseason publications.

Teaser:
<p> Athlon Sports Names Oklahoma State No. 19 in 2012 Preseason Top 25 Poll</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 10:06
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-football-can-cowboys-repeat-big-12-champs
Body:

Athlon's College Football top 25 countdown for 2012 continues with No. 19 Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are the defending Big 12 champs, but must replace quarterback Brandon Weeden and receiver Justin Blackmon.

Can Oklahoma State Repeat as Big 12 Champs with a True Freshman Quarterback?

David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Mike Gundy, with some help from T. Boone Pickens’ bank account, has turned Oklahoma State into a program built to last. Two years ago, the departure of Zac Robinson, Dez Bryant and Russell Okung was reason for concern. Then it was the departure of offensive coordinator Larry Fedora a year later. By 2011, the names and faces had changed but the results were among the best in school history with Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and offensive coordinator Todd Monken leading the way last season. I believe in Oklahoma State’s ability to replace talent in offensive personnel, but starting a freshman quarterback may be pushing the limits of the system Gundy has built in Stillwater. For the last four seasons, Oklahoma State has had the benefit of starting juniors and seniors at quarterback (Weeden and Robinson). Gundy hasn’t started a freshman since his first season in Stillwater, when the Cowboys went 4-7. The quarterback rotation in 2005 didn’t end until 2006 when Gundy benched Reid and settled on the sophomore Robinson. During the offseason, selecting Lunt after the spring clearly is a more decisive outcome than what Gundy had in his early years, but that doesn’t mean Lunt is going to put up results like Weeden and Robinson did as veterans, particularly in a league where he stands to be the only freshman starting quarterback. The Big 12 projects to have five senior starting quarterbacks and one junior. Only two of those six (Baylor’s Nick Florence and Kansas’ Dayne Crist) are not returning starters, but they still have starting experience in previous seasons. Oklahoma State will be a bowl team with a freshman quarterback. The Cowboys, however, should adjust their expectation level as Lunt goes through some early bumps.

Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
Not a chance. The good news is Oklahoma State is close to entering "reloading" status rather than "rebuilding." But in a league with elite coaches and so many quality football teams, it seems virtually impossible for the Pokes to repeat. This is a solid football team with eight- or nine-win potential, but replacing Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon and the majority of the offensive line without missing a beat is a tall order. Mike Gundy has his offensive installed and transitioning from one quarterback to the next has proven to be possible. But Wes Lunt is almost a decade younger than Weeden was when he took over for Zac Robinson. The transition won't be nearly as smooth.

Key swing games against Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Iowa State all come at home. But that is as daunting a home slate as there is in the league, so running that gauntlet unblemished seems unlikely — something I feel the Cowboys would have to do in order to win the Big 12. The road schedule, with the exception of the Bedlam Series, is very manageable as Okie State visits Kansas, Kansas State and Baylor along with Oklahoma. A 4-1 home mark and a 3-1 road record feel like the maximum upside for this team. The great news for Oklahoma State football fans is that, thanks to Gundy's coaching and hefty financial contributions from one major booster, this team is in a position to replace a handful of the greatest players in school history and still target a 7-2 league record. A remarkable statement for a team coming off its first outright conference championship since winning the Missouri Valley in 1948 (co-champs of the Big 8 in 1976 and the MVC in 1953).

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It’s not easy winning a Big 12 title with a true freshman quarterback, but I think Oklahoma State can certainly contend in 2012. The Cowboys have won at least nine games in each of the last four seasons, including 11 with a first-year starter (Brandon Weeden) in 2010.

A factor working in Oklahoma State’s favor is the rest of the conference. Oklahoma is expected to be the preseason favorite, but the Sooners finished 2-2 over the final four games of last season and must replace receiver Ryan Broyles. Texas is climbing back into contender status, but can the Longhorns get consistent quarterback play? West Virginia will be a factor in its first year of the Big 12, but its offensive line is a question mark, and the defense is breaking in new co-coordinators.

Another positive for Oklahoma State is the return of eight starters on defense. Sure, the Cowboys might give up some yards, but led the nation in takeaways last year. The line needs to find replacements for ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, but the rest of the defense is solid. And with a true freshman quarterback, the defense may have to carry the team early in the year.

While Lunt will have his growing pains, he will be surrounded by a solid supporting cast. Running back Joseph Randle is one of the best in college football, and Tracy Moore, Josh Stewart and Isaiah Anderson form a quality trio at receiver. Replacing Levy Adcock and Grant Garner on the offensive line won’t be easy, but there’s enough experience to keep this unit playing at a high level.

The schedule also sets up favorably for Oklahoma State, as it has winnable games against Savannah State, Arizona and Louisiana-Lafayette in the first three weeks. After a bye week in Week 4, the Cowboys host Texas in Stillwater, then have an off date in Week 6, followed by games against Kansas and Iowa State. The schedule is backloaded with TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma in the last half of the season, and that should give Lunt plenty of time to get comfortable as the starter.

Even though Oklahoma State suffered some key losses, I wouldn’t write this team off from contending for the Big 12 title in 2012.

Mark Ross
So it looks like coach Mike Gundy has decided to go with true freshman Wes Lunt as the successor to Brandon Weeden under center for Oklahoma State. No one can expect Lunt to do what Weeden did last season (4,727 passing yards, 37 TDs), especially with electric wide receiver Justin Blackmon having joined Weeden as first-round picks in last month's NFL Draft. But have no fear Cowboys fans, Lunt doesn't need to put up Weeden-like numbers this fall because your beloved team has all the pieces it needs to repeat as champions of the Big 12.

On offense, the running game should be pretty strong with Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith leading the way. The duo combined for more than 1,800 yards and 33 TDs on the ground alone in 2011. The Cowboys also bring back plenty of experience along the offensive line and in the receiving corps to help Lunt settle into the starter's role. Even without Weeden and Blackmon and some other key players, the offense should still be able to point a fair number of points on the board, although it probably won't result in nearly 49 points a game like last year's team produced.

The 2012 team's strength may actually be the defense, which has not been the case in Stillwater in recent years. The Cowboys return eight starters on defense, including all but one from its back seven. Cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert, safety Daytawion Lowe and linebacker Shaun Lewis are the standouts on the defense, which also has plenty of depth up front. Stopping the best offenses in the Big 12 is next to impossible, but sometimes all that is needed to turn the tide in your favor is to slow them down. This Cowboys' defense appears to have the horses to do just that, but can the unit do so consistently?

The true tests for this team will come when the offense is matched up against one of the conference's better defenses like Texas (Sept. 29, Big 12 opener) or Oklahoma (in Norman on Nov. 24) or when the defense is tasked with slowing down the Big 12's most potent offenses. To that end, the Cowboys' 2012 title hopes may come down to how well the defense holds up in November when it has to face West Virginia, Texas Tech (both at home) and the aforementioned Sooners on consecutive Saturdays. 

Last season, the Oklahoma State offense finished near the top of the Big 12 in the major offensive categories, including first in both total and scoring offense. On the other hand, the defense finished fourth or lower in the major defensive categories, with the exception of pass efficiency defense (2nd). With a true freshman running the show on offense, no one should be surprised to see the Cowboys' rankings fall on offense.

The key, however, will be with the defense. If the defense capitalizes on its experience and plays up to its potential, the unit's improvement should be reflected in the conference rankings. As long as the defense finishes in the top half of the conference in a majority of the defensive categories then I think the Cowboys have a pretty good shot at making it two Big 12 titles in a row, even if their starting quarterback is 16 years younger than last year's.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
I do not see Oklahoma State repeating in the Big 12 with any of the quarterbacks on the roster. Wes Lunt may be a star one day, but the Cowboys lost too many stars to contend for the league crown this season. Mike Gundy does have several returning starters and has built OSU into a perennial Top 25 program, but players like Justin Blackmon, Levy Adcock, Brandon Weeden and Markelle Martin were on an All-America level. That attrition, along with the loss of all-conference performers Grant Garner and Jamie Blatnick, projects the Cowboys to take a step back from the 11- and 12-win seasons from the past two years.

Gundy and staff have instilled an expectation of winning in Stillwater, and there are still All-America caliber players at Oklahoma State like running back Joseph Randle and cornerback Brodrick Brown. The offense has solid potential, and the defense did a great job of forcing turnovers last year despite finishing 107th in the country. I see the Cowboys finishing anywhere from third to fifth in the Big 12 in 2012.

Related Oklahoma State Content

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma State Cowboys Top 10 Players for 2012

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Predictions

Oklahoma State Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Oklahoma State Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma State Football History

Jokes About Oklahoma State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Can the Oklahoma State Repeat as Big 12 Champions in 2012?</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 06:00
Path: /college-football/oklahoma-state-cowboys-2012-team-predictions
Body:

The Oklahoma State Cowboys check in at No. 19 in Athlon's college football 2012 top 25 countdown. Here's a look at our predictions for the most valuable players, games to watch, breakout candidates and other key categories for 2012.

Offensive MVP: Joseph Randle, RB
With quarterback Brandon Weeden moving onto the NFL, the focus of the offense will shift to the rushing attack. Randle was superb in his first season as the starter last year, rushing for 1,216 yards and 24 scores. He was also a major factor in the passing game, catching 43 passes for 266 yards and two scores. Randle was a threat to score each time he touched the ball and will be expected to handle 220-240 carries in 2012.

Trap Game: Texas Tech (Nov. 17)
Oklahoma State has an interesting schedule, as it has off dates in Week 4 and 6, while playing eight consecutive games to end the 2012 season. The Cowboys have a loaded back half of the schedule, especially with dates against TCU, Kansas State, West Virginia and Oklahoma starting in late October. Oklahoma State is a better team than Texas Tech, but the timing of the matchup could leave it vulnerable. The Cowboys host West Virginia one week before playing the Red Raiders and have a trip to Norman to take on Oklahoma on Nov. 24. If Oklahoma State is looking too far ahead, Texas Tech could sneak out of Stillwater with a victory.

Upset Alert: Louisiana-Lafayette (Sept. 15)
This will be the third consecutive season Oklahoma State has matched up against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cowboys won 54-28 in 2010 and won 61-34 last season in Stillwater. Although Oklahoma State was in control of last year’s game, the Ragin’ Cajuns picked off Brandon Weeden three times and returned two of those for scores. Louisiana-Lafayette should be one of the top teams in the Sun Belt this year and won’t be a pushover on Sept. 15. The Cowboys should win this one, but a sluggish start would allow the Ragin’ Cajuns to build some early confidence. It’s a longshot to suggest Louisiana-Lafayette will win, but this is not a team that should be overlooked.

Defensive MVP: Brodrick Brown, CB
It’s not easy being a cornerback in the Big 12. Five teams averaged at least 290 passing yards per game last year, and new conference members West Virginia and TCU will certainly throw the ball around in 2012. Brown has been a steady performer at cornerback and he enters 2012 with 28 consecutive starts. He earned first-team All-Big 12 honors last year and recorded 68 tackles with five interceptions and 15 passes broken up. In a conference dominated by offense, Brown will give up some plays. However, he’s also a reliable cornerback and should be one of the best in the Big 12 once again in 2012.

Breakout Player: Josh Stewart/Charlie Moore, WR
Justin Blackmon is gone to the NFL, leaving Oklahoma State with a void in the receiving corps. Stewart played well as a true freshman last season, catching 19 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. At 5-foot-10, the sophomore isn’t the biggest option for Oklahoma State quarterbacks, but he should thrive in one of the inside receiver roles. Charlie Moore has just seven receptions through the first two years, but turned in a monster performance in the spring game and will be a factor in the passing attack.

Unsung Hero: Lane Taylor, OL
Grant Garner and Levy Adcock garnered most of the attention on the offensive line over the last few years, but now it’s Taylor’s return in 2012. The senior has 36 career starts and will start at right guard this season. Taylor earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors last year, but is expected to challenge for first-team accolades in 2012.

Biggest Game: at Oklahoma (Nov. 24)
You could point to a number of games on Oklahoma State’s schedule to fill this category. However, the Sooners will likely begin the year as the preseason favorite in the Big 12. If Oklahoma State wants to repeat as Big 12 champions, it needs to go on the road and win in Norman. Beating Oklahoma away from Stillwater has been rare, as the Cowboys have just one win in Norman since 1998.

Revenge Game: Iowa State (Oct. 20)
The only blemish on Oklahoma State’s schedule last season was a costly one. The Cowboys were upset 37-31 at Iowa State, which likely cost them a shot to play for the national championship. The Cyclones won’t be a pushover, but Oklahoma State will be out for revenge.

Freshman to Watch: Wes Lunt, QB
Replacing Brandon Weeden is no easy task. During his Oklahoma State career, the former minor league baseball player threw for 9,260 yards and 75 scores. Although Weeden will be missed, coach Mike Gundy has done a good job of replacing successful starting quarterbacks in Stillwater. Lunt ranked as a four-star prospect by rivals.com and enrolled in time for spring practices. Although he was an underdog to win the starting nod, Lunt outplayed J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf to emerge as Oklahoma State’s No. 1 quarterback. There will certainly be some growing pains, but Lunt appears to be a future star in the Big 12.

Comeback Player: Jonathan Rush, OL
With three starters gone from the offensive line, Rush’s return will help ease the transition for new quarterback Wes Lunt. Rush was lost in the fourth game of last season due to a knee injury, but is expected to return at full strength in 2012. The senior had made 16 consecutive starters prior to his injury and is expected to start at left guard this year.

Newcomer of the Year: Blake Jackson, TE
At 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds, Jackson isn’t exactly a receiver and he’s not exactly a prototypical tight end. However, he raised eyebrows with his performance in the spring and is expected to claim one of the four starting receiver spots. Jackson is a transfer from Scottsdale Community College and earned first-team NJCAA All-American honors last year.

Position Battle: Defensive Line
With Lunt taking an early lead in the quarterback derby, the focus turns to the defensive line for Oklahoma State in the fall. Coordinator Bill Young has moved some players around, shifting Nigel Nicholas from tackle to end. The Cowboys must replace ends Jamie Blatnick and Richetti Jones, who combined for 12 sacks last year. Finding players who can keep the pass rush going is going to be critical for Young in fall camp.

Related Oklahoma State Content

Oklahoma State 2012 Team Preview
Oklahoma State Cowboys Top 10 Players for 2012

Can Oklahoma State Win the Big 12 With a Freshman Quarterback?

Oklahoma State Top 10 Greatest Players Since 1967

Oklahoma State Cheerleader Gallery

The Greatest Moments in Oklahoma State Football History

Jokes About Oklahoma State Rivals

Teaser:
<p> Oklahoma State Cowboys 2012 Team Predictions</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 05:50
Path: /college-football/jokes-about-oklahoma-state-rivals
Body:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Teaser:
<p> Because sometimes it's good to make fun of the other team</p>
Post date: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 - 02:36
Path: /nascar/keselowskis-win-biffles-lead-and-ambroses-tough-start
Body:

The Long and Short of It


Brad Keselowski’s victory in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega did more than put him in position to make the Chase again, it reaffirmed his position as one of the sport’s top drivers.

Over the past 26 races — the length of the “regular season’’ in the Sprint Cup Series — only Tony Stewart has more victories than Keselowski. Stewart has seven; Keselowski four. No other driver has more than two in that span, which dates to Pocono in August 2011.

Keselowski’s victories during that stretch have come at Pocono, both Bristol races and Talladega. He’s finished second twice.

Keselowski has done more, too. He has finished in the top 10 in 14 of the last 26 races and placed in the top five in 11 of 26 races as well as led at least one lap in 18 of 26 races.

“He’s matured a lot,” car owner Roger Penske says of Keselowski. “He’s been a tremendous asset to the team, not just for Brad Keselowski, for Penske Racing. You can see when he comes in the shop, he’s spending a lot of time. I wouldn't trade him for anybody right now.

“He came to me before he went to work for us, he said, ‘I’d like to come to Penske Racing and help build a winning Cup team.’ He’s certainly demonstrated that from the driving ability. His chemistry with (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and that whole team has made a difference.

“This is not about the driver, the car, the sponsor — it’s about the whole team. He's the real package. What we're trying to do is give him everything we can to make him a winner.”

Keselowski made the Chase via a “wild card” entry last year with three victories. Discounted as a title threat, he climbed to third in the standings and was 18 points out of the lead with four races to go. He was in position for a top-10 finish at Martinsville until he was wrecked in the final laps and finished 17th. That dropped him to fourth in the season standings, 27 points out of the lead. Keselowski and Wolfe were more aggressive with their strategy after that and it backfired as Keselowski ultimately finished fifth.

What he and the team learned last year could make it a stronger contender this year. With two wins in 2012, he seems sure to at least take a wild card spot again.

“I refuse to label this year a failure if we don’t win a championship,” Keselowski says. “Part of what defines a man is what code you live by. One of my codes — it’s probably my strongest code — is to be better today than I was yesterday, and to be even better tomorrow than I was today.

“We’ve shown that we’re better here at this point in the year than we were last year, at this point in the year, and we were better last year at this point in the year than we were the year before. You know, that’s my code. I'm surrounded by the proper people to execute it.”

It’s worked so far.
 

Teaser:
<p> Following Brad Keselowski's win at Talladega Superspeedway, Athlon Sports contributor Dustin Long takes a spin around the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.</p>
Post date: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 18:27

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